Wednesday, November 27, 2019

The most beautiful day of your life.

"Let's go for a drive," he said.

The new bypass opened in our town. This is big excitement for us. We are old.

It's okay though. It's okay to be old. It's okay to be excited by little things.


During the ride he tells me three stories about various things he's seen on television. He sings me a song he made up for me while I was at Zumba. He tells me two things that I told him last week, but he says them both in a way that I know he truly believes he is giving me brand new information. His memory is not so good these days.

He reminds me that in a few weeks we will have known each other for twenty years.


"Can you believe it?" he asks me.

I can't.

I breathed one breath and it's been twenty years.


He says, "I need to tell you something that I didn't want to tell you" and then he has another story for me. This one is about his doctor. His doctor whose brother has epilepsy. Had epilepsy. The brother died. They checked and it wasn't a drug overdose and it wasn't a heart attack. It was Sudden Unexpected Death in Epilepsy.

It was my greatest fear.


You can't worry, he tells me. It's going to be alright.


We talk about the assault, about that awful, terrible night that our lives changed forever. I hold out no hope anymore that the man will be caught. It's been four years: the anniversary was what prompted the conversation. Things will never be the same. There will never be justice for what happened to him or for what was taken from us and our family.

Yet.

Our life together is actually quite beautiful.

When a traumatic event occurs you can fall apart, or you can fall together. We fell together. Professionally I just had the best year of my life. My stress is down 900 percent. I genuinely love what I do for work. We have our routine down. Financially things are better than they've ever been. Our family is intact and strong. We laugh a lot. A lot.

Sometimes the stress and the fear and the worry of it all get to me. Sometimes I sit in my car in the garage for a minute and finish up a cry before I come inside.

Usually when I come inside, he's at the stove, finishing up dinner. "How was your class?" he'll ask. "I missed you," he'll say.

It's really lovely.

It's not what I intended, but it's where I'm supposed to be.

"Life is hard," he tells me. "This has been a tough year."

I nod, silently. It has been a hard year. Hard years can be good years. It can be both. This year has been very hard on him, very hard on both of us.



"I really have had a charmed life though," he says. "I know I've had some hard times, but really. I'm the most blessed person alive."


And oh.

He isn't though.


But I think I am.








Tuesday, July 16, 2019

16 ways to stay married for 16 years

Another anniversary has come and gone. Sixteen now. Sixteen years.

After we'd been married about five years, people started asking me for marriage advice. I found this hilarious at the time, and I still do. Even after ten years I thought to myself, "We're just getting started! We're still figuring this out!" Now we are at sixteen years (almost twenty if you count the time dating). I have stories. I have examples. I still think we are just babies at this though. I still think we have so long to go, so many years, so many miles.

Anyway.

So here's how we did it. It might work for you. It might not. But here's what we did.


1) Marry someone you actually like. 
This sounds really stupid, right? Of course you would like the person you were marrying, right? Why would you marry someone you didn't like?

Guess what? People do this all the time. Seriously.

"I love him, but I don't like him"
"I love her, but I hate that she does XYZ"

Or my personal favorite:
"He's an ass"

I mean, everyone's an ass sometimes. There are moments I've looked at my husband and thought, "You are a fool with a double side of nonsense". I'm sure he's thought the same about me.

Overall though, I genuinely like my husband and he genuinely likes me. There is nothing that he does that I consider a deal breaker (like, kick dogs or be mean to little old ladies or whatever). Even when he does something boneheaded, I still know he's a good person. He knows I'm a good person.


2) Don't do everything together.
Jason and I do a lot together. Based on conversations with my friends, I think we probably do more together than most couples. That being said, we also have completely separate hobbies and activities. I could not get him to do half the stuff I do on my own (if you ever see Jason running, you should start running too because there is probably a bomb about to explode) and he could not ever convince me to do some of the things he enjoys. That's okay. We don't have to do everything together. We don't want to do everything together.


3) Agree to disagree.
There are many topics that Jason and I debate. There are many topics on which we agree, fully. There are several other topics that we disagree on. We are both respectful of one another's points of view. That being said:

4) Never marry someone who disagrees with your Hill to Die On.
Everyone is going to have a different Hill to Die On. Personally, I have a few and mostly they involve children. If Jason did not feel the same way about my Hills I would not have married him. Full stop. We might disagree on the way to execute certain things, but if he ever said something to me like, "I don't think my tax dollars should go to make sure school children have lunch during the day" or ever used the term "boot straps" when it came to children, I absolutely could not be married to him. (Also, not at ALL the topic of this blog, but I pay an absolute asston of taxes every year and I would gladly give even more of my hard-earned dollars to make sure that every child in this country had good food and good schools, because children are our future, dammit. Anyway. Moving on)


5) Before you get married, talk about really hard things.
Do you want children or nah? If you do, how do you want to raise them? Where do you want to live? How are you going to earn a living? What about religion? Politics? Family crap? Talk about it. Talk about it again. Talk about it some more. Think up every single what-if scenario you can think of and TALK. ABOUT. IT.

6) After you are married, keep talking about hard things.
Jason and I were mere babies, only twenty-seven years old, when we said "I do". I've admitted this before, but I honestly didn't think about things like the logistics of having two kids in college at the same time and what would happen if one of us got an incurable illness. These are shitty, difficult, painful conversations and you absolutely must have them. You must. Even when they hurt, even when they are hard, even when you would rather curl up in a ball and cry instead. You have to talk about this.

7) You have to change.
The biggest concern it seems that people (okay, mostly men) have about marriage is that they don't want things to change. They say, "I'm happy with how things are! I don't want things to change!"

Well...tough titties.

I mean, people change. You can't stay the same. You cannot remain stagnant. You are not the same person you were at 22 when you are 42 (God, let's hope not anyway). You are going to change. Period. The end. If you want to stay together you have to change together.

(Now, if your spouse decides they want to change into a Nazi or bring in a Sister Wife or something, then feel free to reject that change and walk out the door.  I'm talking about like normal, growing up, getting older type changes, not being radicalized or whatever)

8) Be insanely stupid with each other.
Not a day goes by that we don't make up a ridiculous song and loudly sing it to each other. We're considering starting a YouTube channel for which we'll record ourselves watching videos from the 1980's and reacting to them. We talk to the dog like she's a person.
These are all good. I can't be nearly as stupid with anyone else. It's nice.


9) Say yes as often as you can.
I tell my husband, frequently, he is the neediest person I've ever met. I say this lovingly, of course, but he does ask for whatever he'd like from me whenever he would like and frankly sometimes this is exhausting. However, it also makes me happy because he feels 100 percent comfortable in communicating what he wants and needs to me. (Even after this many years, this is something I'm still working on, not just with him but with everyone). He knows he can be open to me. If I say no, he's fine with it. He's never, ever made me feel bad about saying no.

So if he says, "Will you rub my back?" or "Can we get coffee?" or "Will you get me the special ice cream with the chocolate fish in it?" I try to say yes. Sometimes I'm tired and don't feel like rubbing his back. Sometimes I think to myself, good God his coffee costs $5. Sometimes the ice cream that's his favorite is way more expensive than the other ice cream.

Sometimes I just say no.

But for every time that I say yes, he says, "You're the best wife ever!" and he does things like leave me love notes all over the house, and send me text messages in the middle of the afternoon to say he loves me. He tells everyone how proud he is of me. He genuinely, sincerely appreciates everything I do and I know it. I feel it.

So I say yes whenever I can.



10) Dream the biggest, most stupid, most impossible dreams together.
Last year Jason and I were out on a walk and we were talking about our careers and our future. I told him, "It's my goal to make X amount of dollars every year". He immediately said, "That's a lot" and  then immediately after that he said, "I believe you can."

This year, I will make that amount of money I said that day on that walk. He is so proud of me  that when I opened my offer letter for my current job while we were standing in the Einstein Bagel in the Seattle airport that he started crying (so did I!). Here we were, two hillbillies in the middle of Seattle, crying in the line of the Einstein Bagel and we couldn't even stop it. He kept saying how proud he was of me and I knew it. I felt it. He believes in me the way no one ever has, and I believe in him the exact same way.

We have goals. We have dreams. They sound dumb sometimes. Ridiculous, especially for two people who grew up as poor kids. We work together though and believe fiercely in each other's abilities.

Plus, it's just fun to dream about living on the side of a mountain or owning a restaurant or whatever crazy thing you can come up with. Even if it never happens it's okay!


11) Pivot.
 So you have the  goals and you have the dreams and you have the plans and you've  talked about everything, so you're good right? Well, hopefully. Sometimes though, life has a different plan and comes along and knocks you on your ass.

Someone is going to lose their job at some point, or get sick, or get depressed. Your dog is eventually going to die (and oh, how I wish they could live forever). Your parents will get old. Your kids will grow up. Things are not always the way you plan, no matter how carefully you plan.

So you pivot. You don't fall off course completely, you keep going. Together.

Jason has said to me several times, we are in different seasons of our life. Things change, and a lot of really unexpected things have happened to us. It's okay. Someday we'll look back on this as just another season of our life. We can't let everything fall apart because of the unexpected.

12) Do not talk to anyone in your extended family about your problems.
NO GOOD CAN COME OF THIS. JUST DO NOT DO IT.
You know what happens when you tell your mom about the problems with your husband? She gets pissed at your husband and even when you get over it, she doesn't. Next time you all come over to dinner and you've made up and you're sitting there making goo-goo eyes over the mashed potatoes, she's thinking to herself, "That son of a bitch".

Just don't do it.

Andalsoplus, you are grown people. Resolve that stuff with each other. Don't tell your mom. Don't tell your dad. Don't tell your sister or your brother or your grandma. Tell each other. 

If you ABSOLUTELY MUST tell someone when you are pissed at your husband and don't have a good friend, a priest, a therapist, a parakeet, your dog or cat, a houseplant, or your pet rock then tell his mother. She will forgive him anything he does and she doesn't believe you are all that great anyway.

(I'm just kidding about that last part and have literally never told my mother-in-law anything private about my marriage. She doesn't think I'm that great anyway though, that part is actually accurate.)



13) Laugh all the time.
We laugh about the most stupid things. These are the best things to laugh about.

Watch funny shows together. Go see comedy (we LOVE to see comedians live). Read funny things online to each other. Text each other memes. Have inside jokes (ours is Dennis Franz and I literally just laughed typing his name). Laugh about EVERYTHING!




14) Say I love you as much as you can.
I told Jason when we got married that I never wanted to get complacent about that. That, yes, he knows beyond a shadow of a doubt that I love him, but I wanted him to hear it every single day for the rest of his life.

So I say it. I text it to him. I tell him I love him before he falls asleep at night, before he goes to work, just for no reason whatsoever. He never doubts how I feel. I never doubt how he feels. It's just really, really nice to hear it, even when you know it.

15) Believe that you got a catch.
People used to tell me all the time how lucky I was that I met a man who was accepting that I had two little babies.

They were correct.

Also, he was really lucky to get someone as nice and smart and hard-working as I am. People didn't say that as much, but it is just as true.

So he's a catch. I know this. He thinks I'm a catch too. He tells me this. I tell him this. We both think we are the lucky one. We both ARE lucky.

I tell him all the time how handsome he is. How hard-working and gentle and kind and loving he is. How lucky I am. How much I appreciate him. He does the same for me (not handsome, that would be weird, but the rest).


16) Give 100 percent, even when you don't feel like it.
People sometimes say marriage is 50/50. I think those people are wrong. Marriage is 100/100.

Now, in case it's not obvious from this list, I absolutely adore my husband. Also? He exhausts me sometimes. Wears my ass out. Sometimes I just want to sit on the bed and watch endless episodes of the Teen Mom program, and here he comes asking my opinion on things or wanting to tell me about his day or whatever. Sometimes he wakes up me up earlier than I want to be woken up. Sometimes, I'm just cranky as Hell. Let's be real.

He's more important. Yes, even more than Teen Mom or extra sleep.

So I give 100 percent. Sometimes I don't want to listen or make dinner or buy the special ice cream, but he's more important. Sometimes I talk about my day and his eyes start glazing over and I know he has absolutely no idea what I'm talking about, but he listens. He asks questions. He cares.

He gives 100.
I give 100.

It's as simple and as complicated as that.



So that's marriage. So far.  We still have so much to learn. I know this.


I can't wait.

Tuesday, July 2, 2019

What we don't say

Everyone is struggling.

Nobody wants to talk about it.

I'm more of an Instagram person than a Facebook person these days. Facebook is full of mean, hateful people who regularly call me an idiot because I think or act or vote differently than them (just a day or two ago I also learned I'm brainless, so that's great I guess). Facebook isn't fun anymore. Instagram is where it's at for me.

I post a lot about what I eat and my exercise (and lots about my dog because she's the best) and I follow a lot of people who post about what they eat and how they exercise. I've noticed some of my friends don't follow me anymore, and that's okay. They don't care how I eat or what exercise I do, I guess. It's probably pretty boring, but for some reason lots of people find it interesting and ask me questions. I learn a lot too, like recipes and stuff. New exercises. New people to follow. New products. I like Instagram.

It's perfect though, and shiny in ways that other social media platforms aren't. I've often wondered to myself (and probably aloud), "Who are these people sitting by the pool at 10am on a Tuesday?" "How do these people just fly to Dubai whenever they want to?" and (because again, what I eat and exercise are my main topics of interest), "How do these people just afford eleven pounds of steak on a random shopping trip? What is this life?"

I see a lot of people who are losing weight every month, who are rocking workout routines, who are never having setbacks, who are posing (some of them every.single.day) alongside old pictures of themselves showing every change they've made in their bodies. I cheer for these people and I support their endeavors. I guess it sounds really strange but I am super proud of so many people that I've never met.

What I almost never, ever see is someone saying, "Hey, I'm having a really hard time."

I mean sometimes you can tell. Sometimes people just stop posting or they keep posting insisting that everything is okay, but you can tell that the pounds are creeping on, or they are posting things about having a lazy weekend every single weekend or whatever. But rarely, almost never, does anyone say, "This is hard. I'm not motivated. I'm struggling. This is real life."

Almost no one says, "My husband is sick and I'm increasingly isolated and alone". No one says, "Hey I've lost over 200lbs and maintenance is the hardest damn thing I've ever done in my life." I have never seen anyone say, "I constantly worry about my job, my future, and where I'll be in ten years."

No.

We say, "I'm on an egg fast this week!" or "Here's everything I ate today!" or "I made bulletproof coffee this morning" or any number of things that really don't matter in day-to-day life. We take picture of the gym, or the numbers on the treadmill after we finish, or our Garmin to show how many steps we took today. We don't show the bloody blisters or how bad our ankles hurt or how we had to practically bathe in icy hot because we're forty-three and running is hard.

We don't talk about our fears, our doubts. We don't talk about how this isn't getting any easier, even though by now we were positive it would be. We don't talk about the changing relationships with our children or our parents. We don't talk about the antidepressants we take to just feel normal. We don't talk about how scared we are.


It's all pretty and shiny and perfect. Well, my feed isn't because I'm a horrible photographer and boring. Really boring.

Probably because I don't talk about anything very real.


Wednesday, June 5, 2019

Everyone comes with scars, but you can love them away.

A lot of you already know this story, but I'm telling it again.

When I was twenty, I got married. The man I married on August 24th, 1996 is not the man I am married to today.

When I was twenty-one, almost twenty-two, I found out I was pregnant with twins. The biological father of those twins is not the man I am married to today.

On Thanksgiving Day, 1997 the biological father of those twins, the man that I married in 1996, told me he didn't love me. He had never loved me. He didn't want to be married to me. He didn't want to have a family with me. He was done, it was over.

I had just turned twenty-two years old, and it was over. My marriage, my dreams for a family, my life. Everything was over.

Except...it wasn't.

I was devastated. I do not have the appropriate words to describe how devastated I was. I would have done anything, literally anything, to get this man back.

Don't believe me? Once, I was convinced I had won $25,000 in a contest (I didn't. Did I mention I was twenty-two years old? Not very smart? Not very worldly? I was dumb. It was a scam and I figured it out pretty quickly, but still). For a few brief, shining hours I believed I had an extra $25,000 and instead of paying off my credit card debt or saving it for my children's futures or buying a 4-door vehicle, or securing housing for many years to come, I was going to buy my then-husband a truck. A really nice, big truck. He knew a lot of people who had really nice big trucks and even though he literally had zero need for such a thing I was going to buy it for him, so he would be happy. So he would realize I was good and worthy and he would want to be with me.

Did you get that? I was completely willing to forgo my own happiness, my comfort, and my security so he would be happy.

He wouldn't have been happy anyway. I mean, maybe the truck would have temporarily made him happy, but he wouldn't have been happy with me. He would not have had some magical realization that I was good and worthy. He didn't love me.

It's hard for me to type those words, all of these years later. Twenty-two years later I am still struggling to admit this:

He.
Did.
Not.
Love.
Me.

Typing this does not make this less painful. Time does not make this less painful. It's still, and will forever be a hurtful thing that someone that I promised to love, honor, and cherish did not love me back.

People say, they always say, "He just loved in you in his own way!" or "He DID love you, he just didn't know how to show it."

No.

He did not love me.

It's okay to say that he did not love me. We all do asshole things to the people we love from time to time. I'd be embarrassed to recap some of the arguments that Jason and I have had through our many years together and I imagine every single couple out there would say the same. There is a difference in occasionally behaving like an asswhistle to someone you love and not actually loving them. There is a very distinct difference. I promise.

People who love you do not actively  try to destroy you. People who love you do not try to convince you that you are worthless. People who love you do not tell you that no one loves you, that your life has no meaning, that you will never be a good wife, a good mother, or a good human being. That is not love. There is nothing close to love in those statements or those actions.

I was twenty-two and I had to fight for my family.

I lost that fight, but...I won that fight.


What I won? Was so far beyond what I had and what I was trying to fight for.





There was a time that I'm certain I would taken my ex-husband back. I would have "forgiven"  him. Forgiven is in quotes for a reason. Would I have ever been able to trust him again? Probably not. Would I have worried every time he left the house? Probably. Would I be who I am today? ABSOLUTELY. NOT.

Is who I am today better than who I was in 1997? Better is a relative term I guess, but I'm certainly stronger, braver, wiser, more kind and loving, and I 1000% like myself a Hell of a lot better than I did twenty-two years ago.

He did not find me good or worthy, but he was wrong. He thought my happiness, comfort, and security were not important, but he was wrong. He didn't love me, and that's his right. I didn't love me, and that was wrong. I was wrong for accepting less than I deserved. I know that now, and while that lesson came with a lot of pain (some of which I'm still trying to work out, thanks therapy), I get it. My daughter gets it and should she ever have a daughter, that child will likely come out of the womb getting it, and that, my friends, is how I won my family back.



I married Jason on July 12th, 2003. It was miserably hot. I didn't know it on that day, but I had absolutely no idea how to be married. Literally none. As I mentioned, we've had some arguments that bordered on insane over the years (someday I am going to document the "Attractiveness Hierarchy" and every single woman will totally agree with me). He's always loved me. I've always loved him. It's different.

I love me now too and that is also different.

That is also more important, way more important, than I realized in 1997.

Monday, May 13, 2019

Feelings suck

I understand now that how I feel has never mattered much.

It does, but it doesn't.

Feelings make you weak and there is no place for weakness in what I have to do, what I have to conquer.

Feelings are fleeting. Feelings can change.

And yet.

I'm wrapped up in feelings. Mired in them. Turned inside out and upside down, drifting.

Well-meaning people say, "Your feelings are valid. Your feelings count". They do, but not in the ways I need them to. They are valid, they are real. They remind me of past hurts. Of things I've tried so hard to forget.

Actions. I always thought actions were more important than thoughts. Than feelings. Than emotions. Be strong. Be brave. Don't talk about things. No one wants to see your tears, no one wants to hear your fears.

This is fine, I guess, until the feelings come back.

Until you realize, they never went away.