Friday, January 24, 2014

All You Need Is Love

When Mike and I got married, we created our own ceremony.  We wanted something unique and individualized.   I scoured the internet for various types of unity ceremonies that weren't just candles and sand.  We decided on using a handfasting ceremony, based on pagan wedding traditions from long ago, which worked perfectly for us since neither one of us are religious.  I modified the ceremony to modernize it and make it less "Mother Earthy".   I loved everything about that day.  Every piece of it makes me happy.  I could really write pages and pages about that day and share all of my pictures, but I shall refrain for now.

A good friend of ours, who was a notary, agreed to officiate.  Before the wedding, she asked Mike and I to send her our thoughts on Love so she could incorporate them into her opening remarks.   Recently, another friend of mine needed some help organizing her own wedding, and in looking through some of my old files, I came across what I sent my officiant.   It's just as true today as it was then - and it will continue to be true for years to come.   

Love is comforting.  It’s like a blanket on a cold night or a cool breeze on a hot day.  Love is what you need when you need it –and  because you need it.  Love is slipping into a hot bathtub that has just the right amount of water, bubbles, and support.  It fits around you. 

Love is a partnership.   It can not truly exist without two halves working together.   Love is thinking of what’s best for the whole before considering what each part wants.  Love is compromising me for you and then you for me.   Love is looking out for the other person and recognizing that this other person is on your team and wants what is best for the team.  Love is BEING a part of that team willingly and unconditionally.

Love is trusting.   You place your heart in someone else’s hands and they place theirs in yours.  You trust in them to take care of your heart.   To hold it softly and carefully.  To protect it from harm.  You trust in them to do this job without fail – and you do the same for them.

Love is passionate.   Love creeps into your thoughts even during the most mundane parts of your day and stirs up excitement.  It quickens your pulse when you least expect it.   It sweeps you off your feet and carries you away.  And you let it – because where would you be without it?

Love is timeless.  True love creates butterflies throughout the years, not just at the beginning.   New love is easy to feel.  It’s the “settling in” love that you have to pay attention to.  It’s subtle, but still there.  That tingly feeling you get when you’re around the other person.   It’s a familiar tingle, but it’s a spark still strong enough to start a fire if we let it.

Love is growth.   You change and grow in the face of love.  Who you were before love it is not the same as who you are during it, or who you will be after it.   Love changes you – and you change for it.   Love is growing with each other, for each other, and because of each other.    Love is knowing neither one of you is the same person as when you first met, and that’s okay.  Love is having a solid appreciation for who the other has become, and what they have helped you become.  Love is being excited for how each of you will change and grow together.    Love is knowing life is not stagnant, and you should not be either.  Every day should be a new opportunity to make yourself a better person.   Love is two people becoming better together. 

Love is daily.   It is important to make time for each other in the day to day routines of life, even if it’s just 5 minutes to talk about one thing that made you smile, made you sad, made you angry, or made you think.   You have to set aside time to nurture your relationship, to talk to your partner, to connect with them.  Sometimes, it’s a fantastic date night.  A dinner, a movie, and…whatever else comes your way.   Sometimes, you might get lucky and get a whole weekend of togetherness…or GASP…an entire week of vacation.   Those are important traditions  to keep going.  Weekly, monthly, yearly as needed.   But, a connection must be made EVERY day.  Whether it’s a long walk, a short talk, or a post-it on the fridge that says “I love you.  Have a good day”.   Connections don’t just happen.  You have to put forth the effort to make them happen – to continue to make them happen.

Love is all you need.   Well, not quite.  In addition to love, you need the desire to keep it going.  You need the willingness to navigate around the potholes of life as well as the willingness to take the time to celebrate your triumphs throughout the journey.    You need the humility to recognize that no one is perfect all of the time, including you.   You need the strength to recognize that love is not butterflies and moonbeams all the time.  Love is not just rose petals and sunsets, strawberries and champagne.   Love is late nights at work to put food on the table.  Love is stopping at CVS for cold medicine and someone’s favorite ice cream. (Chocolate Chip cookie dough, BTW)   Love is cutting coupons, making beds, and doing dishes.  Love is work.  Love is sacrifice.  Love is tough.   Love is worth it.  Love is mine.

Mike, being a man of few words, sent her basically the same sentiment, but in a much shorter format.  Thinking back to my wedding day, it was a wonderful day not just because it was uniquely mine - and not just because it was also a rockin' good time - but because it was the moment my heart had been waiting for my entire life.

I have learned more about myself, my beliefs, and my surrounding circle over this last year than in any of the years leading up to it.  Almost everything in my life is completely different now than it was less than 12 months ago.  Except for one thing - my view on what it means to love someone.  When faced with tragedy, you are shaken to the core.  As you rebuild, you either keep or discard the pieces of yourself that have fallen apart.   The pieces you choose to keep may be tattered and torn, but they are sturdy and strong and true.   That's why you keep them.  They become the corner stones of your new self.   The piece I wrote for my wedding shows probably the only remaining part of the "old" me that still exists today.   And I am so very glad that has not changed.   

Friday, January 10, 2014

Let's Hear it for The Boy

All of my posts are mostly about me, Kenley, or Bean, but there is another very important part of my life who I think deserves a little bit of a spotlight. Mike.  

To truly appreciate the type of guy he is, you have to know a little bit about who I am - or at least who I was before I met him.   I didn't really hit my stride as a confident young woman until I was about 25.   Up until then, I was very self conscious, especially around guys.  It's safe to say, I didn't date much - if at all.   Around 25, I finally came into my own and was ready to take on the dating world.   The only problem was...I was extremely particular.  I didn't have an actual written checklist or anything, but I knew who I was and what I wanted and I wasn't going to settle for someone who didn't fit the bill.   I caught a lot of flack for that.  People would ask me about my love life, and when it came up empty, they would tell me I was too picky.   They suggested I change my standards.  That I make compromises.   If I went out on a first date, but not a second one, people would insist I wasn't giving guys a chance and that I couldn't possibly know if a guy was for me after just one date.  But I did.   After one date, I knew that those guys weren't what I was looking for in the same way you know after taking a bite whether or not you like a certain food.  It wasn't rocket science.  

When I met Mike, I was almost 31.  The first time we met was at our friend's birthday party.  The second time was out with that same group of friends on New Year's Eve.   He was handsome and smart.  He made me laugh, and I liked him instantly.  We went on our first official date a few days later.  What began as a lunch date extended into bowling, then a movie, then dinner, then talking for several hours.  I think he went home sometime after midnight.  And I knew.   I knew this one was different.  I knew he was the one for me.  I didn't need another date.   My decision was made.  When he told me less than two weeks later that he loved me, I wasn't surprised - and I wasn't scared.  This is just the way it works.  When you know - you know.

Everything about our courtship came as naturally as breathing.  He's open and honest and easy to talk to.  I never felt like I couldn't trust him, and I knew that he trusted me completely.  We don't keep secrets any bigger than what we get each other for our birthday.   We have the same quirky sense of humor, the same morals and values, and similar personalities.   We just fit.   

When Kenley died, our relationship was tested.  Not in the sense of being in danger of falling apart - but in that we had to find a way to get through this pain together.  Men and women grieve differently.  For the first time in our four years of being together, we struggled to understand how the other was processing what was happening.  We needed different things at different times, and it took a while to figure out how to best be there for each other.  But, our love and affection for each other never wavered.  Our devotion to our relationship did not diminish.  If anything, it became stronger.   We were more determined than ever to be the partner the other one needed.

There is an intimacy you share with your spouse that no one else has access to.  A private room inside your heart where only they are allowed.   A room where you feel safe and secure and loved.   A room where you are your true self, vulnerable and exposed, but valued and understood.   This is the room where love resides, where trust is cultivated, where two become one.  

Never once has Mike's devotion to me faltered.  Never once has he not been there waiting for me in that room when I run for sanctuary.   If I need a hug, he is there with open arms.  If I need space, he slinks away quietly.  He goes with me to every doctor's appointment (both Kenley and Bean).  He's there for every group therapy session (even though he hates them!), every charity event, every after school function.   I know, without a doubt, that he would be there for me through anything.   He already has been.  

We like to joke around that it's a good thing we found each other since no one else would put up with us.   Without being too insulting to either of our crazy selves, I'm sure that's pretty true.   We just fit.   He is the yin to my yang.  The peanut butter to my jelly.  The frosting to my cupcake.   And while he's not without fault - neither am I.   But, love isn't about being perfect.   Love is about finding someone who's imperfections compliment yours in such a way that you cease to be two imperfect people and become a couple perfect for each other. 

If you've made it through this sap, congratulations.  Thanks for sticking it out.  I just wanted to let you know what a wonderful man I married - and how happy I am to be his wife.

Thursday, January 2, 2014

Dear Kenley

Dear Kenley,

It's a new year. If you were here, you'd be 10 months old. We would have just celebrated your first Christmas. You'd be crawling around the house, maybe pulling yourself up to stand against the couch - no doubt scaring the pants off the dog. We would be a happy family of three, blissfully unaware of the tragedies that can befall us. But, that's another lifetime, Little Ninja. A universe where I cannot reach, no matter how hard I try. In this universe, I miss you every second of every day. There is not a moment where you are not on my mind or in my heart. But now, there is someone else in those places too. Now, there is your little sister, and I am trying so hard to balance my love for you both. But it's not easy.

When I first found out about Bean, I knew immediately this meant things would have to shift, and I wasn't sure how I was going to do it. I knew I would have to sort through your nursery and your clothes. I would have to decide what to keep sacred and what to use again. Over the last few months, I have been pulling an item or two at a time. A onesie. A stuffed owl. A blanket knitted with you in mind. I have tucked them away inside an old toy chest my uncle made me when I was little. I have slowly, slowly, slowly been removing you from your own room. Each time, I felt like I was stabbing myself in the heart. Each time, I felt like I was betraying you by hiding you away in a trunk. Yesterday was the coup de gras. Yesterday, I took the last remaining owls out of your room and we rearranged the furniture. With each push of the crib or twist of the dresser, I felt myself breaking for you again. And now, it's not your room anymore. It's Bean's. And I'm so sorry. Oh, baby girl, I'm so, so sorry. I'm sorry I can't keep it the same. I'm sorry I can't prepare for her without pushing you aside. I wish I could have you both, but I can't. I wish I could love you both without feeling guilty or torn. I suppose that will come with practice.

This morning, when I walked by the nursery, the changes were jarring. Really, it's just furniture in a different place, but it's a very obvious reminder that you are not here to use it. You will never be here. A room lovingly crafted for you will not be graced by your presence. Instead, we shift our lives and our hearts to make room for your sister. I am trying to get used to the new room because Bean will be here in a few months, and I need to associate that room with her - and not you. I need this room to be Bean's room. While I prepare for her, while I re-wash the clothes I'd first washed for you, while I reorganize the changing table that was supposed to be yours, I feel so divided. I am so happy to be carrying your sister in my belly, but I am still so devastated that you are gone. I feel like by getting ready for her arrival, I am somehow slapping you in the face. Like I am moving on and leaving you behind. But I'm not. I could never to that to you. You were my firstborn. You were the one who made me a mother. I will always love you. I will always think about you. But, it's so hard to be so conflicted all the time.

Your sister is just now starting to kick and twist. Every time she does, I smile because it reminds me she is still alive. And then, immediately, I remember your flips inside me. I remember our lazy Saturday mornings where you'd poke me and I'd poke you back. I loved those times. Being pregnant again so soon means that I remember the last time very clearly. I wear the same clothes. I even have leftover cocoa butter and Tums. Sometimes, I forget it's not you in there. I forget for a split second...and then it all rushes back in. This is another baby. Bean is not you. And when that makes me sad, I feel like I have betrayed Bean.

People have told me that many mothers struggle with their second child - figuring out how to make both children equal. They assure me that it's not that hard. But then, I really don't think the comparison is accurate. When a woman has two living children, those children are always visible to everyone. Each has a personality and a life to carve for themselves. You do not. You are not here to remind people that you matter, that you existed. That falls on me, and it's a pretty heavy load, but one I will gladly carry. People also tell me that when Bean gets here, I won't feel so conflicted. But, they are telling me how to walk in shoes they've never worn themselves. When your sister is here, it will be even more a reminder of the fact you are not, not less.

I want you to know that there is no amount of time that could ever pass that will make me love you less. I struggle with my preparations for Bean because my love for you is so great. I don't want to feel like loving her means I am not thinking about you too. This is so hard. I don't know how to handle it, but I am trying.

Moving you out of the nursery was the hardest thing I've done in a while, but it had to be done. Even if Bean weren't on her way, it would have become a necessary event to face eventually. But, turning that room into hers does not change where you belong in my heart. As she grows, she will know who you were. She will know that it was you who first shaped me into a mom. It was you who prepared me to be the best mother for her. It is your life, and your death, that has made me who I am. I will forever be grateful for you and for the brief time we had together.

You are not here, and I can't change that. All I can do is move forward - with your father by my side, your sister in my belly, and you in my heart. Whatever I need to do to get ready for her arrival, and then her life, please know I do it all not in spite of you but because of you. I love you now and forever, and I miss you just as much. You are not forgotten. You never will be.




On New Year's Eve, I took your sister to see your tree. This is a picture of the two of you.