Thursday, July 12, 2018

Love finds a way

Let it be known: I was not supposed to ever live in North Carolina.

It was early 1997 and my parents moved. That's not what is supposed to happen, right? The kids are supposed to grow up and move away and the parents are supposed to stay in the exact same spot for the rest of their lives and everyone comes and visits and grandma bakes cookies and all that noise. I was sure of it, because that's what I had always seen on television.

My parents moved though, to this little town in North Carolina. 

Which was, to be honest, really pretty when I visited. Different. The sky was so big and so blue (and, as my dad helpfully pointed out, really no bigger than the sky anywhere else, just not blocked by the mountains). Lord knows I could barely understand a word anyone said, but to be fair I'm sure "East Tennessee" isn't the easiest to understand either.  It didn't matter, North Carolina was not my home.

Until it was, through a series of really painful experiences that I currently have not the strength to rehash. Things had to change, for a lot of reasons, and part of that change was North Carolina.

Where, through a series of painful and sometimes hilarious experiences, I met Jason. 

Who I definitely was never going to marry.

Until I did. That was fifteen years ago,  today.


*Not a picture from the actual proposal, but so darn cute I had to share.

A lot of things have happened in the last fifteen years. Some really, really good and some really, really bad. That's life, of course. No one expects anything different. 

What I didn't expect, I guess, is that I would love this man as much as I do.

That sounds weird, I guess, but honestly the day I married him I was so in love with him I could not imagine spending one second of my life without him. Now, fifteen years later I can fully acknowledge there have been moments during which I thought, "UGH. GET AWAY", and at the same time, I cannot imagine spending one second of my life without him EVEN HARDER. EXTRA. WITH CHEESE.

*14th anniversary. I promise Jason was not as alarmed as he looks.

I can't even explain it. Well, I could try to explain it, but I think I would probably fail.
*13th anniversary after a really sweaty hike to a waterfall. Why on EARTH did we not get married in November? Holy crap.

Love is weird, I guess. In good ways and bad ways. I've always steadfastly maintained that he is not my best friend, because best friend seems to denote someone you can be fully comfortable with. I am comfortable with him (very), but I always want to try for him. I want to look nice for him. I want to make effort for him. I never leave the bathroom door open when I pee. That might just be a personal thing though.
*12 anniversary at the waterfront in New Bern. After that we went to Pepsi museum and no I'm not kidding.
 

 At twenty-seven, I didn't really see the future. I mean, I did in some ways. I had a job and a house and whatnot, but I didn't think about aging and our health and our careers and the places life would take us. I swear I never thought about what it really means to have two kids in college at the same time, what would happen if one of us got sick. I still cannot think about what would happen if one of us died, what would be left behind. I can't. 

Not today anyway.

Today I will think about how I loved this man so much, I let him be my family. 








 
And how somehow a boy who grew up in Connecticut and a girl who grew up in East Tennessee just happened to be in North Carolina at the same time. Just happened to meet each other. Just happened to fall in love and just happened to decide, yeah. This is it. This is what love is supposed to feel like. This is what family is supposed to feel like. I really mean this. This man is the truth.





I don't know if we'll ever move away from North Carolina. Maybe away from this town, maybe to the cooler, more mountainous side of the state, but there is a certain something that draws us back here. Something, perhaps that drew us here in the first place. Fate? God? I don't know. 

All I know is I love. this. man.

Now, forever, no matter where we live, no matter where we move, no matter what illness happens, no matter how much medication costs, no matter what our job situation is, no matter what. 

It's him. It's me. It's us. It's not perfect, but it's exactly what it's supposed to be.

Thursday, May 3, 2018

This ordinary life

One day, in retrospect, the years of struggle will strike you as the most beautiful.- Sigmund Freud

Looking in: things have been less than beautiful as of late.
Looking ahead: we will see it. Oh, we will.

Speaking to a friend the other day and she asked, sincerely, "How have you been?"
I told her, I'm okay. I'm better than I was the last time we spoke.
Her reply was sympathetic, "You've had a rough year so far."

My thought? 

Sister, you don't know the half of it. I haven't even shared some of the worst of it.

So many things are so hard. So painful.
So, so beautiful.

In the pain, I am clinging. Sometimes I feel like I'm just clinging to my sanity in general, but in reality I am clinging to my sweet husband and the beautiful, loving marriage and family we have built. I am clinging to my children, who I have grown even closer to it in the last few months. I have tremendous appreciation for my constant, most faithful companion, My Ginger, even as a I see her slide downward. The five of us are like a small gang, fiercely protecting one another from each and every storm.

I have grown closer to my sweet parents, who are always willing to share a meal and a conversation. It's such a blessing to be looked after, especially when you have to do so much looking after of others. It is so nice to have conversations that aren't laced with anger and/or pain.

I have the most amazing, precious group of female friends who know what I need even if I don't say a word. Who continually check in and look out. Who say, "I got you" when I don't even realize I need it. Who sustain me, who love me unconditionally, and who guide me with the most beautiful, blessed wisdom that only a group of women can provide. 

They are beautiful and our friendship is beautiful. They know the raw, ugly parts and they love me even still. 

There are blessings in the pain. In every hurt. 

I have drawn ever closer to my Jesus. Every morning in my quiet reflection and prayer. He is my steering wheel, not just my spare tire. My gentle guidance, the hand on my shoulder. Twice in recent weeks I made decisions that I almost felt uneasy about. Like I was going to go somewhere and I felt so, so strongly that I shouldn't go. Hours later I realized that God was looking after me, keeping me safe. It was so scary and yet, it was so powerful. 

I forget sometimes that I am so loved. 

Even in the storms. I am so, so loved.


My whole life I wanted to be ordinary. I guess that sounds funny, right? My brain isn't ordinary though, and I always knew that. I always had something about me that made me weird. Then as an adult I was obese and my body was weird and people made fun of me (those people sucked). I had problems that I felt like made me really weird. I hadn't done everything I needed to do and that was all just weird and terrible and I was a freak.

I prayed for an ordinary life. A husband who loved me, children, a decent job, and pretty white house with black shutters and a red door. Well, actually, when the children were babies I prayed for a little  two-bedroom row house on a tiny piece of land because I thought that was all I could ever hope for. I didn't know then, I didn't even dare to dream it.

I got the husband. Last night we were listening to comedy on the radio (because, apparently, we are one thousand years old) and the comedian was telling the typical marriage jokes. If you listen to comedians I  guess you would think, "Why would anyone want to get married?". Jason said, "I laugh because it's funny, but I don't feel that way about you". I don't feel that way about him either. He became my husband and then he became my family. It didn't happen immediately, but when it did? It felt exactly like I always knew it was supposed to. 

In addition to the husband I got the kids. One boy, one girl. The dog with one pointy ear and one floppy ear. When I bought the house it was white with black shutters and I replaced the black door with a red one. My job, while sometimes soul-sucking and challenging, pays the bills. More than that it has brought so many wonderful, kind, hard-working, sweet friends into my life. When you're all going through Hell, you keep going...together. 

The Girl, my Megan, is graduating from community college in five days. My son, my Jon, has already graduated. She's been accepted at  her next school, he's already there. Soon, too soon, they won't be in my life every single day. Soon, too soon, Ginger will no longer be snoring at my feet. This house with it's beautiful red door already seems big...Jason and I have been looking at mountain houses with big windows and hiking trails. A simpler life. A quieter place. Maybe a life a little less ordinary.

We will see.

Right now from the outside everything seems pretty chaotic. You get bitter or you get better and I'm choosing better.




Two weeks ago on Saturday, Jason made sure I went outside. I don't have to say I'm struggling for him to know I am and when I am he leads me. In the woods, where I'm happiest, where I feel closest to God. We came across a little bench that was clearly made for three.

"One day we'll have a bench like this in our yard," he told me. "We will have a little grandchild and the three of us will sit together and say crazy things and laugh."

One day, Jason and I will sit together in our little bench and smile at each other over our grandchild's head. One day we'll snuggle up in bed and say, "Do you remember back in 2018 and all that crazy stuff?" We'll wonder, then, how did we survive? We'll say, "Man, that was so hard."

We'll talk about all the moments, all the little glimmers of love and hope and joy, that kept us together. That remind us that the hard stuff is so tough, but so are we. 


We'll be thankful, just so thankful it's an ordinary life. 

Just an ordinary, beautiful, precious life.




Wednesday, March 21, 2018

Twenty

I don't know how it's possible, since I'm pretty sure I'm only twenty-seven or something, but today you are twenty years old.

We made it through infancy, the toddler years, the abject horror that is middle school, and now? We've made it through the teen years too.

We survived.

We thrived. Don't tell me otherwise.

Hopefully, you've forgiven me for being so young and stupid and reckless when I had you. I had nothing, absolutely nothing to give you. Nothing of any value. Just love, love, love. So much love. So many laughs. Just my big, silly heart.

You took it and you loved me. You loved me for exactly the stupid, crazy, insane fool I was. I am.

We all grew up together, the three of us. We're all still getting to where we need to be.

Now, in so many ways, the two of you are the guides.

This world that you are navigating is not the world I grew up in. People talk so much smack about the people your age (if I hear one more word about Tide Pods I'm going to scream, I swear), but I see you and your whole generation so differently. You all are so much more, in so many ways. So open-hearted, so generous, so kind, so accepting. You have so many ideas, and so, so many dreams. You and your friends are good people. You are examples for us all.

You are hope.

You are my hope.

You make me so proud, every day of my life. I can never tell you enough.

It's not perfect. None of it. It never will be and I would never trade one second of the life I've had with you. For anything, ever.


Happy Birthday, babies.

Wednesday, February 14, 2018

So this is love...

So this is love, hmm
So this is love
So this is what makes life divine
I'm all aglow, hmm
And now I know
The key to all heaven is mine
My heart has wings, hmm
And I can fly
I'll touch every star in the sky
So this is the miracle
That I've been dreaming of

That's really pretty, isn't it? It's from Cinderella. I'm not a Disney person, but I do love that song.

I was a weird kid (as probably evidenced by the fact that I'm also a weird adult). I never dreamed of a Prince Charming type fellow. I dreamed that I would marry a loud Italian man and we would live in a city in an apartment with a stoop. I would sit on the stoop and talk smack with all the other wives while drinking coffee.

I'm 100% serious about this, this was my goal in life between the ages of about 4-10 years old.

It's so funny to me because honestly I didn't know ANYONE who lived in an apartment (or a building as they sometimes called it on PBS) and it sounded super glamorous. Everyone I knew lived in a plain old house, or a trailer...none of this fancy "APARTMENT" stuff. Sharing walls? SIGN ME UP. I don't even know where I picked up the Italian guy stereotypes that I clearly had...we didn't know anyone who wasn't basically exactly like us: lower middle class, white, and lived in the country. I don't even know what it was within me that made me want something different...or even how I got in my little brain that something different EXISTED.

It's where I've always been, I guess. Somewhere different. Something more.

As I got older, my feelings changed. That happens to most of us. I was talking with my son last night about careers and what he'll do when he graduates and he just seems completely flummoxed by this. In his mind getting the degree is the challenge. What comes after is just perplexing.

"How do people know?" he asks me. I don't have a good answer. I told him I knew four different people who said from the time they were in High school that they wanted to be a veterinarian and they all ended up being a veterinarian, so maybe the key was saying you wanted to do that.

He wasn't amused, by the way. He rarely is anymore.

Some people just know. Most of us don't.

I think love is the same. You meet someone and it's all fireworks and stars and magic. This is love. The biggest, best love you can ever imagine. Everything is going to be perfect forever.

Except until it isn't.

Humans are very...human. Most of us are naturally selfish and maybe a bit of a dick. It's hard to live with someone else. It's hard to share space, money, decisions. It's hard not to just say, "Screw this, I'm quitting this horrible job!" because you are the one that carries the health insurance and everyone would be boned if you got your way this time.

It's hard to love someone when their breath stinks or when they snore and keep you up all night. When they get a speeding ticket or lose their temper. When they forget your birthday. Again.

It's easier to be selfish, really. It's much easier to hang onto the fantasy of the loud, Italian guy and sitting on the stoop smacktalking.

Love is not easy.

Love is sometimes illness, disability, or death. Love is talking things over when you just feel like crying. Love is accepting that this person won't always look the same, or act the same. Love is knowing that changes are part of growing together and that being stagnant is not good for anyone.

Love is for better or worse. Even when the worse goes on and on and on.  Love is being a friend, a supporter, and a partner even when you just want to go to bed and forget every awful thing in your life.


Love is a family, no matter what that looks like to you. You are allowed to decide.

Love is acceptance, kindness, and friendship even when you don't feel like it.


Love is patient.
Love is kind.

Love isn't roses and candy and flowery cards. Love is holding someone when they cry. Love is laughing at the same stupid crap over and over.  Love is private jokes and shared history. Love is forgiveness, even when you don't feel like it.

Love, real love, is worth it.


And I had a townhouse once and sharing walls was for the birds. I'm just saying.



Happy Valentine's Day.


Friday, December 22, 2017

Things I learned in 2017

1) Parenting never gets easier

That's a really dramatic statement, isn't it? Maybe one of the things I should have learned in 2017 is to be less dramatic.

For real though, this parenting ish? Holy crap y'all. I thought getting them to adulthood would be the hard part, but...no. Navigating the early adulthood years is really similar to navigating the "mother of twins at the age of 22 with no freaking idea what she's doing" years. I just have more gray hair and a better car. Otherwise? Same.

I try to mitigate these fears by telling myself I've never raised children, I've been raising adults all along. To be fair, my kids are pretty nice and do things like "have jobs" and "go to college" and "not bring home a biker named Thor to Thanksgiving dinner" (no offense to any bikers named Thor as I'm sure you are lovely people and while I would gladly feed you Thanksgiving dinner...I'm just hopeful my daughter's first serious boyfriend will be a bit more tame). I generally like them and think they are doing okay, but every now and then one of them does something so boneheaded I just think "HOW COULD I HAVE RAISED THIS NONSENSE?!!?"

Again. Dramatic. I'll work on that in 2018.

2) You can't parent two kids the exact same way

I've always been obsessed with fairness when it comes to my children. I want things to be fair and equal, always, and I think that was really exacerbated by the fact that I had twins. People continually referred to them as "the twins" or "the babies" and I was like, "Noooooo! They are two different people just born on the same day!" (See also: dramatic) This was less of an issue as they got older and people didn't automatically recognize by their size that they were twins. In fact, most people who have met me within the last few years actually have no idea they are twins unless it comes up in conversation.

The problem now? Me.

I realized over the last year or so that despite all my protests about treating them like different people, I wasn't doing a great job with this. They are actually very different and what would be no big deal to one of them might send the other into a shame spiral lasting for days and days. They have extremely different coping mechanisms. They usually care about the same things (for example, graduating college) but they care about it in different ways (one is a straight A student, the other is an average student with more of a balanced social life and both of these are absolutely fine and what is right for that individual). We're in a growth phase (not physically, thank God. If Jonathan gets any taller I don't think pants will even exist for his measurements), all three of us. I'm figuring this out along with them. I'm trying to be the mom they need, each one of them, even if it means that I have to be a very different mom based on who I'm dealing with. My goal is to never be a mom (or a person) who says, "This is just the way I am!". I have to be able to adapt to what the person in front of me needs, whether it's a strong lecture or a gentle hug. (My other goal is more hugs, always).

3) A "like" is meaningless

I could say this about social media in general, but let's talk about The Facebook.

In days of yore, you could only "like" things on Facebook. There weren't the "sad" and "angry" and "love" options we have today. This meant that sometimes people would "like" things which were, in effect, horrifying. I am certain this was in an effort to say, "I read this and I care", not because everyone is a big dickface.

I've noticed lately that there are people who literally slap a "like" on everything, sometimes to the point that I want to email them and say, "Please stop liking what that person posts and maybe they'll stop posting insane nonsense and tagging me in it, okay?" I'm guilty of this too...scroll, scroll, scroll, like. Move on with your day. Don't think about it again.

That wasn't the goal, was it? It was about connection and community and now it's just...not.

The other thing I'm really guilty of is hate-following people. This is a thing and it happens a lot on The Instagram. I follow a lot of people that, in reality, I would not like in real life. I mostly follow them because I am appalled by their behavior and like to watch the dumpster fire unfold in real life.

That's...just so awful, isn't it? I feel actually ashamed of myself as I type it out and even more ashamed when I think about the fact that some of  these people have some serious problems (as evidenced by the things they post) and they are feeding off of the attention of people like me.

It's gross. I'm not doing it anymore. I unfollowed a ton of people on Instagram because that's is not who I want to be. I want people to be well. I want people who need help to get help. I don't need to be a spectator in their bad decisions and I feel just awful that I've done this for so long.

Just because the world is on fire does not mean I have to stand there pouring gasoline. I want to be better than that.

4) If I am continually hard on myself my children might mirror that

My son said something the other day about how he didn't know much about history and I nearly fell out of my chair because seriously that kid knows how many times George Washington farted in any given year. The more I talked to him the more I realized that he is so very afraid to say he's good at something because he thinks it makes him look like he's full of himself and he (sadly) has low self-esteem.

I started explaining to him that it's totally OKAY to say you are good at something. It's not bragging to take pride in the things you do. A former boss of mine once told me that God gave me talents and gifts for a reason and it was a GOOD thing to get paid for your talents and gifts. As I was banging on about all of this I realized that I was fighting myself internally to say the words, "I am good at giving presentations".

I have caused my kid to feel this way, because of my own inability to praise myself.

I said it out loud though. It felt weird, but I said, "I am good at giving presentations. I don't necessarily like to do it, but I am good at it. It's one of my talents and gifts."

I am also excellent at making baked goods.
I am a good dog mom and Ginger is very happy.
I love my husband deeply and work really, really hard to meet him where he is when he's trying to work things out.
I try really hard to do my best at everything and even when I fail I know I've tried.

All of this is okay for me to say. I'm not saying this because I think I'm any better than anyone else. I'm saying it only because it's true. It's okay to be good at things and it's okay to say you are good at things and not just constantly talk about what you need to improve on.

5) I have to stop thinking I have time

Maybe I do, maybe I don't. I just don't know.

2017, in general, has not been the best year. A lot of things have happened that I'm not yet brave enough to talk about. A lot of things have happened that aren't really my stories to tell. Some of those stories will just never be told, and that's okay. I have learned to guard my heart a little more and I have learned that not everything needs to be said. Both of those are good lessons.

I'm writing again, though. Every day. Some stories do need to be told and frankly, I'm just tired of waiting for the right time to tell them.

There is never a right time. There will always be more work than time, parenting will never end, travelling is always hard. It's all excuses. When I lost weight for real, it was because I was tired of waiting. Finally tired of it. Sick of just fiddlefarting around making "efforts". It was a process, like everything else, and it is for the rest of my life, like everything else that's worth doing.

Writing is the same. It's a process. It's for the rest of my life because it can't be anything else.

I don't know if I have time, but I know I have stories to tell you. Blogging won't ever be the same as it used to be. Bad reviews will still (always) hurt me to my core. I'm not funny, if I ever was.

Still.



I'm going to be better with the time I have left. If it's a minute or fifty years. It doesn't matter.

There is so much I have left unwritten and that just won't do.