Archive of ‘Family’ category

Stormy

My husband bought a boat.

It came as only somewhat of a surprise to me the day it went down. You see, when he met me, he turned his every thought, every focus to ME. Everything he did was for or with me. And when he “got” me, his focus began to even out.
What I’m saying is…it’s not like I didn’t go into our marriage knowing about his ability to obsess.
He’d been flipping through boat brochures non-stop for a month. He talked about boats incessantly. He asked me a hundred questions about what I wanted in a boat. He tried to purchase one in particular but the financing fell through (apparently it’s difficult to finance a boat when you own your own business?!) and, yet, the obsession was not quelled. Not even a little.
Then one day at a oyster roast downtown we came upon…you guessed it…a boat show. We walked around for a while, had some oysters, listened to music, and on our way out he bought a boat.
I’m not kidding. Just like that. That’s how it happened.

It took almost 2 weeks to actually get said boat and when he did, it was delivered in the middle of a rain storm. The next night, our first boat date, it poured again. The third day, our boys were both home. The sun was shining. The water was flat. And we scooted on down the river to a great seafood joint on the water. Finally, perfect boating weather and his dream come true: taking our family on the boat to dinner.
The boys immediately took off to play the ring toss and find other little adventures on the dock while we ordered drinks on the deck of the restaurant. Boat-type drinks.
We all sat at the table a little while later waiting for our food when my husband started to cry.
I’m not kidding. Just like that. That’s how it happened.
No warning. No trigger. The boat was fine. I was fine. The boys were focused on other things. I said his name, completely confused, and finally he whispered across the table, “Stormy is being moved to hospice.”
Oh. 
He continued to cry for a while, right there at the dinner table; even while our food was being delivered. He cried a little bit after dinner, too. I didn’t know what to say. I wasn’t even sitting next to him so I couldn’t put my arm around him. Abe said that he hoped Bear felt better in between drawing an elephant and the new boat, and Cub leaned his head on him. It started to rain. Really hard.
We took a long, wet, cold boat ride back home. And that night Bear told me he wanted to go visit her.

Have I mentioned yet that I don’t know Stormy? At all?

When Bear was young, late teens, he met a girl. He liked this girl. Lots. And she liked him back. They were friends for a while until dating officially commenced. Then he met her family.
I didn’t know about his relationship with her family. (I really didn’t know much about his relationship with her because it was 20 years ago.) I’d heard him talk about her and them, how he needs to visit her family more often, but I didn’t realize how much love was there. How could I? I’ve only been in the picture for three and a half years.

I also didn’t know was how close Bear was to his the girl’s sister, Stormy, and how he played a huge role in her kids’ lives. He described himself as their “big brother” and told me stories before of how they were always climbing him and asking him to play soccer outside (and he did). I had not a clue about why this change in Stormy’s health was such a gut-punch for him or why he kept murmuring, “Those babies. My poor babies,” on the dinner deck.

Being the amazing wife that I am, I suggested we go up together to see Stormy in hospice.

I also immediately regretted this suggestion after I made it.

Bear eventually got engaged to his girlfriend and lived with her family for almost 7 years. That meant I would be walking into a room with a family of people I don’t know and an ex-fiance whose HEART he broke who undoubtedly had since healed but I mean geez and also a woman whose health is in tremendous peril who I’d never met but was visiting in hospice and then I’d just be sitting there for hours trying to remember who was who and praying to God that there was no drama for my being his wife and this being his ex-fiance’s sister…my brain became a run-on sentence.
But I know my husband’s ability to obsess. I know what it would have done to his focus if he went the rest of his life having never said goodbye to Stormy (if this was, in fact, goodbye) and how he would feel if I never met her. I hopped in the truck for the 6-hour drive up to Atlanta and said little of my concerns because, as much as it’s hard to believe, not everything is about me and OH MY GOD THIS IS SO WEIRD AND UNCOMFORTABLE FOR ME.

Here’s the thing, though: When we arrived at the hospice center, we walked into a little blue and tan room where two red-headed women (the cousins) greeted me like I was their long-lost family member. One almost-regal woman, Stormy’s mom, hugged me extra-long. Another young woman with dishwater blonde hair hugged me like it was a PLEASURE for her that I’d arrived. And Stormy. Stormy sat up in bed and called my name. She seemed to barely open her mouth and her voice was raspy, but my name was clear. “Yes!” I rushed to her bedside, feeling like I was in a small tornado of southern women, and she hugged me. I mean really, really hugged me. The tornado stopped. When she finally pulled away she grabbed my hands in hers and said, “Your writing. I love your writing. And your videos. And I just love your blog. You’re so wonderful and inspirational and I’m so glad you’re here!”

Keep in mind – this woman is in hospice hooked up to machines and fighting for her life, has never met me, and she’s telling me she loves my blog.

It was everything I had to keep it together and we’d just walked in the door.

Bear held her hands and chuckled with her when she was able to, and fed her ice chips when she asked for them, and stroked her hair. Occasionally she’d ask him a question, or she’d just stare at him and smile and he ask, “Need anything, darlin’?” And she wouldn’t answer. Just smile or go back to sleep.

I sat next to her daughter, the dishwater blonde, and listened to the other women in the room. They joked and quipped with each other in such a traditional southern style you’d have thought we were INSIDE Steel Magnolias.
“Has her skin always been that perfect?” I asked.
“ALWAYS,” her mama said. “She always had that beautiful skin. I think she wants ice chips, Bear…”
But it was the stories the women told about “Bear did this with Stormy’s kids” and “Remember when Bear took Stormy’s kids to the…” and “Remember the condo in Panama City Beach” and “Oh, that one trip we took to Disney World…” I listened for hours to these stories. It painted a whole new side of the picture of a man I thought I knew. I had no idea that little dishwater blonde depended so heavily on Bear as a male figure. I had no idea he had this whole other family who loved him so tremendously. I…I just had no idea.
Bear fed her ice chips while her mama watched. After a few moments she whispered, “Can you believe this is our Stormy?” Bear shook his head.

We sat in the room, trading chairs and stories in between long, silent moments when we all seemed to remember why we were there simultaneously.

“Erin,” Stormy whispered. I jumped to attention and grabbed her hands. This didn’t feel like a woman I’d never met. “You’re an angel. An angel from heaven. A diamond. Take care of him the way he helped me take care of my kids. I don’t know what I would have done without him. Promise me.”
I stared into her glassy eyes before I answered because I didn’t want my voice to crack.
“I promise you.”
I think she went on to say something about having no place to park her airplane. But she also told me I could wear any of the dresses in her closet. The medications she was on began to take effect and she dozed off.
When we left that night, we stopped in the parking lot to cry. Both of us. He for this woman who meant so much to him, and me for this woman who now meant so much to me.

We drove back to the hospice center the next morning to spend a better part of the day before driving home. Stormy was sleeping, her daughter perched in the seat next to her, the women in their chairs where they were the night before. Stormy opened one eye whenever she heard Ryan’s voice.
People I didn’t know filed in and out to see Stormy. I could tell the people who were there to offer their energy and love to her and those who were just visiting to say they did – simply by the way Stormy reacted. Obviously, her reactions weren’t grandiose in any occasion, but she seemed warm and tried to smile when she noticed people visiting because they were lifting her spirits with love. The ones who weren’t didn’t seem quite worth waking up for, let alone conjuring up a memory to share before the visitor walked away 15 minutes later (and they all left after 15 minutes).

Stormy’s dad came in that day, too. He was short, grey, wrinkly, and full of spunk, I could tell. He played a major male role in Bear’s life, too. He got him a job, fished with him, did projects around the house with him…he smiled a very genuine smile when he saw Bear and gave him a long, hard hug. He gave me a hearty squeeze as well. I was really getting a sense, at this point, of where Bear learned so much of what he knows by seeing all these puzzle pieces come together.

Her doctor paid a visit just before lunch. She couldn’t have been more than 40 years old, but looked 20 on account of her porcelain skin and long, light brown hair. Her huge, southern blue eyes dropped when she saw Stormy. She walked to her bedside and told Stormy she had to get better so she could come back to the office and have some more “appointment parties.” Stormy smiled and held her hands. When the doctor stood up and thanked the family for letting her visit, Stormy attempted to give the doctor a hug. She leaned back down to oblige…and she couldn’t hold it together anymore. She wept the kind of tears the look like they hurt coming out. She got down into Stormy’s face. “Stormy. You’re going to be ok, honey, ok? You’re going to keep fighting. I love you Stormy. You can do this.” I think we all cried watching this doctor give what felt like a pep talk.

It was after lunch when Bear suggested it was probably time to head back. I began hugging the people in the room, one by one, and when I got to Stormy, Bear stood next to her bed with his head on her pillow. She wasn’t awake and I told him to wake her, that he’d regret not waking her.
“Stormy, honey. It’s me. I’m leavin’ now.”
She opened her eyes and sat up immediately. She hugged him so tightly and told him how much she loved him. When she noticed me on the other side of the bed, she hugged me. I hugged her as long as she’d let me, and I didn’t let go first. I tried not to cry because it felt wrong to cry when it wasn’t me in the bed. I gently laid her back down when she pulled away, and I kissed her cheeks again and again. She held my hands to her chest and wouldn’t let go, not even when she began to fall asleep. Bear stood arm in arm with Stormy’s daddy, tears streaming down his face.
“It just don’t make no sense, do it?” Stormy’s dad asked.
“No. No it doesn’t,” Bear sniffled.
We hugged everyone else a few more times before we made the 6-hour drive back home. We hadn’t even been in Atlanta a full 24 hours and we were leaving. We drove home and both went back to work.

I’m not kidding.
Just like that.
That’s how it happened.

 

Epilogue
Stormy is still in hospice. I’m reluctant to share more than that as I wouldn’t want to share details her family prefers remain private, but it’s been a harrowing six months for Stormy. I’m just praying everyday that she keeps fighting to be here with us. I haven’t gotten enough time with her yet. She is fun and smart and bossy and amazing. I really, really love her.
If you’re the praying-type or the good thoughts-type, please send all of those to her and her family. They deserve nothing less than a miracle and I’m fervently devoted to that miracle. I believe it can happen. Like Stormy’s mom said, “I don’t need to know how. I don’t need the doctors to know how. I just need her to get up and come home.”

 

 

 

 

 

We Are Still Here

A year ago today we closed on our home. It was unreal. We never thought it was even POSSIBLE. I remember walking through it at about 7:00 that night, all big and empty, looking at the floors like…woah. We have floors.

In the year leading up to that purchase, we paid off three major debts, one of which was a surprise debt neither of us knew existed. And when I say major, I’m talking nearly $20,000 between medical, credit card, and surprise debt. We thought we were at least a year away from being able to own a home. But one day, whilst on the toilet (sorry Bear), Bear told me he didn’t want to wait to buy a home, he didn’t want a starter home either, and he wanted us to start looking now. Bear tends to be a little more impulsive than me. (That’s a nice way to say it, isn’t it?) I humored his sentiments from the other side of the bathroom door and didn’t think twice. Within 4 months, though, we were moving in. (His impulses are usually right.)

Five days after we purchased our beautiful home and moved in, Bear was let go from his job as a construction project manager due to “overhead.” He was already in the interview process for another job, so that process just sped right up and he was due to begin in two weeks. That’s only two weeks between jobs!
A week after that, Bear was informed the new position was being vetoed by the executives and he no longer had that job.
Luckily, on his way out of that disappointing meeting, he met someone else who asked to interview him. A week later he was awarded another position.
I bought steaks. It was a great relief.
We started 2016 with Bear in a new job, our family in a new house, and me desperately wanting to have a job within a school or an office somewhere so that I could contribute more financially. I wanted to know that if Bear lost his job again in the future, I could take care of us.  My writing and virtual assistant jobs just wouldn’t cut it. I applied for no less than 15 jobs, all of which deemed me “overqualified” (never include your Masters Degree on an application for a desk job) or “lacking in experience” (never get a Masters Degree and then have a child two years later). I was shocked. But Bear was working full time and while he was incredibly busy/stressed/tired, we were doing just fine.
Until that one day in May when one of his co-workers decided Bear was no longer welcome back and the next day his boss fired him. A reason was never actually given.
It was riiiiiight about then I couldn’t repeat the “It’s all happening for a reason” mantra anymore.

Bear immediately created his own business, applied for a tax identification number, and began bidding jobs as though this is what he’d been doing all along.
Two weeks later, we got married.
The day we got married was the day he received his Articles of Incorporation. He was an official business. We were officially married.
It was official.
We were on our own.

It felt like floating in space, no tether.

The summer of 2016 was one of the worst of my life in terms of anxiety. I never knew from week to week if we would have enough money to pay for groceries, to pay for things the kids wanted to do, to pay for our phones! The mortgage terrified me. We OWNED this house now. It wasn’t like we could just move to a less expensive rental or ask our landlord for an extension each month. I was in a state of panic and fear and overwhelm 100% of everyday. I got depressed, I slept as much as possible, and when I was awake I struggled to function.

Bear landed his first contract in his new business in August, exactly 2 days after he came down with the flu. He was forced to work outside in the 100 degree heat for 4 days with a fever and brain fog. But he did it.
He was soon awarded another job. He hired a guy to help him with that job (our first employee!) who promptly worked for one day, texted Bear and said he couldn’t work anymore, and then left with $600 worth of brand new tools. Never to be seen again.
Bear finished that job himself.

“Are you sure owning your own business is the right plan?” I asked.
“Positive,” he said. Impulsively.

I found extra work a little at a time. By about September, I realized that I was (in fact) paying the bills. Nothing was late! After only going through about half of our savings, I was scraping enough together to keep us functioning while Bear continued building the business. I gained a little bit of pride.
Bear continued to make contacts and land contract after contract, making enough on one job to buy himself a work truck so he didn’t have to drive his own truck (which we were afraid he was about to run into the ground before he could pay it off). He gained some pride, too.

We continued to work our butts off the last three months, Bear keeping the business afloat and me keeping our house in our name.

In between all of that, the laundry room exploded, I found out I might have breast cancer (I didn’t), and…

You guys. 2016 was hard.
Really hard.

But here we are, one year later, and we made it. What have I learned…
I’ve learned, once again, that things do have a way of working out. It doesn’t mean that you can sit back and let your faith be enough. It doesn’t mean that it will be easy or obvious or fun. I just view the last two years as a sort of spiritual clean-up. We knew what we wanted (a stable life together in a home of our own) and it took about two years between us and God to tie up all the loose ends, prepare us for the next steps, and get clear on what the future looked like. The path is now clearer, and my new ability to see that everything is temporary leads me to believe that I can handle these kinds of things differently in the future.

This morning at about 6:30am, my husband rolled over and whispered in my ear, “Happy Housiversary”. I grunted at him (because I don’t like speaking before 7:30am). But today is more than just a celebration of buying our home. It’s a triumph. We are still here.

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A celebratory shot, one year ago today.

 

If you haven’t already joined me in a daily exercise of smiles, thoughts, and life, head over to my group Mind, Body, Peas. 🙂 We do life nice there.

 

 

Adopted

I wrote my first blog in a while last week, and it was a doozie. I wasn’t nervous, per se, to reveal what I felt like was a pretty personal experience. I was….sad. Embarrassed. And then I was afraid people would think I was writing that blog from a place of, “Hey, look at me!! Look how hard it’s been!” It actually took me a few days to realize I was writing it because sharing my own garbage quiets it down, and also gives other people the chance to look at their own garbage and say, “See?! You’re not so loud, stupid garbage.”
Then, as the Universe would have it, I was almost immediately met with a vibration equal to the one I was practicing when I shared that blog. The very next morning at 7:45am, I got a phone call.
“Hey. Ms. Salem? You’ve been matched.”
No, I have not reapplied to be on “The List.”
But I did forget that three weeks ago, Bear and I applied to be on “A List.” We offically became foster Boxer parents. So that phone call, less than 12 hours after I published a blog revealing my sadness over the little boy that was to be mine, I was gifted another little boy.

His name is Frazier.

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The timing was astounding, as timing always is when you let it be. A two-year-old Boxer baby was being surrendered by his owner because he couldn’t keep up with this guy’s energy. I was absolutely thrilled, and so were the boys. A new, albeit temporary, member of our family.

Like every new experience or relationship, it started out roses. We were almost long distance, Frazier and me, exchanging pictures and texts before we first met. Of course, like any intelligent woman in this day in age, I did a background check. No diseases, no aggressive behavior, no past owners dead of “unknown causes.” He was a perfect fit.

Then. He got here. And let’s just say while Frazier and I hit it off quite well, the other two dogs will a little bit pissed.
Charlie, our older Boxer, just stared at me. “Why in the hell would you do this to me?”
Bella, our younger (but still older) Boxer immediately staked her claim and showed Frazier where she kept her teeth.
There was a good bit of running and leaping through the back yard, and a fair amount of Bear pulling Frazier off of one of the other dogs. In total, it was about an hour’s worth of, “What the hell have we done?”

Today, though, he’s been an angel. A wild, bucking, adorable, completely-unaware-he’s-more-than-just-a-head angel. And nothing (major) has been broken. I even got a call today from a prospective family who is looking to adopt him. And who wouldn’t?! Look at that face.

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I love that the Universe shows me what life would be like with more moving parts; the moving parts I think I want or think I need to be happy. He shows me and then he creates a way for me to release those moving parts safely and with love in order to dig in deeper to all the gratitude floating around my brain for what’s already here. I am loving having Frazier in this family, but two dogs is probably enough. I know I would have loved the little guy who might have joined my life 3 years ago, but I didn’t know yet that I already had two boys, and two boys is definitely enough and totally awesome. (Besides. I don’t want to have an actual drinking problem…) So here’s to the Universe giving me exactly what I need exactly when I need it, as if to say, “Don’t worry. I’ve got your back. And wait ’till you see what I’ve got up my sleeve next!”

Notice my dogs wont even look at him.

Notice my dogs wont even look at him.

5

I began writing Abraham a letter…one for each month of his life until he turned one and then a subsequent letter for each year. They’re all in the archives, and someday I hope to bind them all together and hand them to him on his 18th birthday.

Dear Abraham,

Today, you are 5 years and 2 days old. I wanted to write this letter on your actual birthday, but we were so busy. 🙂

When I ask people about you, like teachers and family members and friends, they have answers. You’re a PERSON who people know now. It’s not just, “He’s so cute,” or, “What a sweet kid.” You have grown into a little boy with personality traits people associate with you! Do you know how cool that is?
To name a few:
1. You’re a total ham. You love to entertain the people you love with songs, dancing, and jokes! Your laughter is infectious, if not sometimes manufactured to encourage other people to laugh. I think you’re like me, in that way.
2. You talk. So much. But you ask questions and you remember the answers. Your vocabulary is incredibly. You only have to hear a word and its meaning once before it becomes a part of your lexicon. You might consider learning how to listen sometime this year, but for now we’re all very proud of how well you communicate!
3. You’re smart. And you love to share or apply what you know. Whether it’s telling us about a new bird you read about in school at the dinner table (loudly) or showing me different letters around town and on signs, there’s no place that doesn’t contain knowledge you want me to know that you know!

Beyond what other people know about you, I know that you are resilient. Your dad and I divorcing was the worst thing I ever went through. This past year, you rebuilt our life with me. You seemed to intentionally bond with me, you strengthened me, and I am very grateful for that. But this year and all the other years of you life, it’s so important to me that you know you are not in charge of mommy being happy. I will always take care of YOU, and you will always be massively loved by your dad and me.
I know that you never forget anything, including where they used to keep the Fruit Buddies in the grocery store and where they keep them now.
I know that you are NOT afraid to misuse or downright butcher the English language. I am humbled by your brave attempts, and how detached you are from your failures. It’s inspiring.
I know that you adore other people, kids, and animals. If you could always be in the middle of 20 people or more, you would. You did not get that from me.
I know that sometimes your discovery of a new experience is magical to watch. Your eyes get so big and shiny, your face so soft. One of my favorite things to watch is you seeing or hearing something for the first time.

Every night that you are at my house, I watch you sleep. (Not in a creepy way, but honestly it’s just sometimes the only way I can really look at you when you’re not talking.) I kiss you and I whisper to you how much I love you, and I often whisper apologies for my failures as a mom that day. I will probably do that until the day you grow up and move away.
Every morning that you wake me up at 7am, I am grateful that you improve upon your techniques from the morning before by adding a kiss or a “how was your sleep” or a smile in my face before you begin rattling off breakfast requests. And I love that you know mommy needs coffee before she can help you.

I vividly remember someone telling me when you were about two months old that life returned somewhat to normal when her son turned 5…I remember thinking that was so far away. But here we are, and I can promise that our life is anything but normal. I adore the glorious being you are, I am honored that God chose me to be your mom, and I cannot remember what life was like without you.
I love you more than all the words in all the books in all the world.
Love,
Mommy

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Hi. I’m Bear’s fiance.

c15778933da363a6bec8bdb6abae1307At a party a few weeks ago, a friend of mine introduced me to his new girlfriend.
“Jean, this is Bear’s fiance, Erin.”
She immediately frowned before saying…
“Don’t you just hate it when men introduce women as ‘someone’s wife’ or ‘someone’s girlfriend’?! I’m sorry, but I’m a whole lot more than this girlfriend!!” She all but held up her beer for me to cheers her.

When I moved in with Bear, I gave up a lot. I gave up clean kitchens and clothes in the hamper. I gave up sinks without hair trimmings in them and nights without CONSTANT snuggling (don’t lie, you know you need your space, too). I gave up having an opinion all the time, doing things “my way” all the time. I knew this was the deal, though, when I agreed to commit to him.
He gave up a bunch, too. He gave up being able to ask, “How was lunch?” and receiving a less-than-20-minute answer. He gave up toothpaste squeezed from the bottom and toilet paper rolling OUTWARD. He gave up setting down an empty glass and finding it there in the same place 5 minutes later. He gave up spending the entire weekend on his boat and leaving for an out-of-town trip at the last moment.
He knew that was the deal, too.

So when this woman helped me to feel offended for the fact that I was labeled as “someone’s fiance”, I couldn’t help but run through all the things in my mind we’ve both given up for each other in order to earn that label. (And I kinda wanted to smack her.) I’m all for feminists and whatever; do what you do, boo. But I don’t think I can actively commit to a partner without who I am, or at the very LEAST what I do, changing a little bit. Pastor Steven Furtick once said in one of his sermons, “Marriage is the best thing, but it’s not the easiest thing.” It’s HARD! It’s HARD to understand how Bear appears to physically melt from the front door to the bedroom if you follow the trail of shoes and clothes. It’s HARD to just be ok with my garage looking like a homeless commune. It’s REEEALLY HARD to accept the fact that I will never again be driven somewhere by my significant other without a detailed and sometimes offensive spray of “let me tell you about you” aimed at the cars here in Jacksonville who “DON’T KNOW HOW TO EFFING DRIVE.”

(Probably he doesn’t understand a few things about me, but this isn’t his blog…)

Partnership is about what you can give to the other person, not what you can get. And it’s certainly not about your individual ego’s reign. When you commit to be part of a union, you give up a little of what makes you comfortable. Bear says, “Bedrooms are only for two things.”
Which is why we don’t have a TV in our bedroom.
This.
This makes me very uncomfortable.
But so it is.

“Oh,” I responded to her without lifting my beer up to clink hers. (Who “clinks” beer cans  anyway?! They don’t even clink. They just awkwardly slap together as you try not to dent your can.)
“Right?!” she said, Arsenio-Hall-ing her own statements.
“Oh, I AM Bear’s fiance. We are partners. Give and take. I help to carry his load and he helps to carry mine.”
She just stared at me.
“I don’t feel slighted in the least when someone calls me Bear’s fiance. I feel really proud, actually. I’m also proud to be Abe’s mom and my mother’s daughter. You know?”
More staring. I couldn’t tell if she was disgusted by ME or with her own interpretation of what it meant to be introduced as someone’s partner. I didn’t stick around to find out. Because not only do I wanna be Bear’s wife, I wanna be his TROPHY wife! (Aaaand all the feminist’s heads just exploded.)

Y’all. Seriously. If someone else giving you a label threatens who you are as a person (especially when the label is TRUE!), rethink some stuff…

Are we all as deeply saddened by Ben Affleck and Jennifer Garner’s divorce as I am?!

Are we all as deeply saddened by Ben Affleck and Jennifer Garner’s divorce as I am?!

Ok. Truth be told I’m deeply saddened by any divorce. I hate divorce. I hate what it does to people, what it turns them into. It makeimagess people selfish, entitled, judgmental, downright MEAN. It made me weak, pathetic, so depressed I couldn’t get out of bed. I felt like my ex-husband and I had a TOTAL handle on what divorce would be like, and we didn’t. I had no idea how awful it would be. It’s still awful, quite frankly. I still hate it. When I think about it for more than a few minutes, I feel like I’m back in bed on a sunny morning praying that no one would ever find me.
I’ll learn from that experience forever.
Divorce taught me the most about relationships. Bear and I have both been married once before, we both have boys, and neither of us want to get divorced again. On a certain level…we both get it. At least we get it in a way that we didn’t the first time around. We get that a wedding is adorable and expensive and basically a big fun party for other people. We get that loving each other is not enough. We get that passion doesn’t just sustain itself. And we get that the growing, the working, the whole HUMBLING experience that IS partnership and marriage isn’t meant to be fun all the time anymore than your job, being a parent, or eating your favorite food isn’t fun ALL THE TIME. But as we quit our jobs, watch our children eventually grow up and move out, and choose a different food, we stay married. Forever. That’s the idea.
Why isn’t every newly-engaged person being asked to consider eating the same breakfast every day in the rest of their lives?? WOULDN’T THAT HELP?
Bear and I get that we will NOT like each other every day.
We also get that there are days we love each other so much that it is physically PAINFUL.
We get that it is his job to take out the trash but that I am here in this relationship to love and serve him, and so if I know it will make his life easier, I take it out. I don’t keep score after that, either. I just do it.
We get that we have different styles of parenting, budgeting, and decorating. We get that compromise is a long, tedious process. We also get that it’s sometimes just easier to give up the thing we want SO much just so we don’t have to deal with the big, long Compromise Conversation. (We also often get that we didn’t care near as much as we thought we did…)
We get that we don’t get each other sometimes. He has NO idea why I just want him to sit and listen to me cry and do NOTHING to help me. And I don’t get why traffic makes him so cotton-picking angry.
We get that we will both change and grow into new, sometimes altogether different people. And that when we decided to commit to each other, we committed to all of those people, too.

I knew none of this when I got married the first time. I’m sure people told me. I’m sure someone said, “It’s not a fairy tale blah blah blah.” But it’s nearly impossible to hear that when you’re wedding dress shopping and choosing brides maids and cake-testing. I almost think we should be REQUIRED to be married for 5 years before we get a wedding.
AND THEN when we DO get the wedding, we should be required to pay for it ourselves. Because how badly are we setting newlyweds up by paying for their LAVISH weddings and then SHOWERING them with money and gifts and then sending them off into the shocking real world of, “No one cares.”
HELLO? GIFT THEM A BUDGETING CLASS.
The wedding will be a practice in working together to invite ONLY THE PEOPLE THE COUPLE WANTS. As a team, as partners, they decide who they want celebrating with them because they’re going to create a brand new boundary…THEIR OWN.
Oh, and the colors? The flowers? The dresses? Also decisions they must make together. Because if you think choosing guest lists and hors d’oeuvres together is difficult, try choosing a parenting style.
Here’s my point: it’s a set up. Marriage is a set up. It is both the greatest and HARDEST thing you’ll ever do. And I know because I did it once and we screwed it up.

I have no idea if Jennifer and Ben tried super hard to save their marriage or if they knew all these things before they got marriage. I’ll bet that it’s just the most awful thing either of them have ever been through, though, and I’m just so sorry they have to experience it. I do kind of appreciate what their tarnished little “fairy tale” highlights for everyone else: marriage ain’t a fairy tale. And as I go into this next phase of my life, I do so blessed and humbled that I am so loved and cherished by the hardest working man I’ve ever met…and I also do so blessed with the experiences God gave me that I pray have enhanced my wisdom and understanding of what marriage truly is.

 

I Don’t Know What I Expected

So. I did it. I took the plunge. After a year of dating, I moved in with Bear.

This was a terribly hard decision for me. Heart-wise it felt very easy. Brain-wise…well, my brain is super proud of it’s ability to scare the shit out of me, raise What-If Monsters from the dead, and completely squash any hopes and dreams my sweet little heart might be dreaming. I didn’t want my son feeling as though I was forcing him into my relationship, nor did I want him feeling like he was less than the very most important person in my life. I figured it would be a good thing to ask him how he felt about moving in with Bear, so I did.
“Abe, how would you feel about moving in with Bear?” I said it in a really excited way.
“When?”
“I’m not sure. Soon? Maybe in a few weeks?”
“Ok.”
He wasn’t really seeming to care, or get it, so I went on. “We would move all of our things there and then we would live there, not at mommy’s house anymore. How would you feel about that?”
“What about my toys?”
“We bring them.”
“What about my trucks?”
“We bring them, too.”
“What about my clothes?”
“Everything. All of our things come with us.”
“I want to bring my rocks.”
“Ok.”
“Ok,” he said. It was quiet for a few seconds.
“So, Abe, I’m asking how would you FEEEEEEEL about moving to a new house and living with Bear?”
“I’m hungry.”

This is literally how the conversation went. I desperately wanted to have some kind of deep, connecting conversation about how he felt about moving in with this man and he wanted to make sure he got to bring his stuff and then told me he was hungry.
He’s 4. I don’t know what I expected.


I moved all of our stuff with the help of a few friends over the course of a weekend while Abe was with his dad. When I picked him up from school Monday afternoon, I brought him back to Bear’s house expecting a LOT of questions. I mean, the child asks 100 questions about the microwave when it beeps. I was prepared for an entire night devoted to questions about this move. And so we walked into the house, I gave him a snack, and he went into his new room and played with his toys.
That was it.
Oh, and then when it was dinner time? He came out of his room and ate dinner at the dinner table.

As usual, all that fear and concern I had for the well-being of my son was for naught. He couldn’t care less. We’ve been here in Bear’s house for several weeks and it’s like nothing changed. Things are just as normal as normal can be. I am both grateful and baffled. And I suppose occasionally I could take a lesson from the four-year-old in my life that as long as I have my rocks and I’m hungry, life is moving along just fine.

 

I’ve Got a Secret

Dear Women,

I have a secret I’ve learned this past year.
I’m going to tell you the secret now.
It’s kind of changed my life.
You might already know the secret, but indulge me since I just learned it.
Your boyfriend/husband/partner isn’t in charge of making you happy.
Ever.
At all.
Right but he/she DOES make me happy!
Well then that’s just an added bonus my friend.

d1a5a591bed6e2e0ea4778ddaeb38206I listened to one of Pastor Furtick’s podcasts the other day and he announced, “Newsflash! Your joy is your job.” I think that perfectly and succinctly sums up what I’ve been learning. I can rely on everyone around me to make me happy, but OH will I be disappointed. Someone else might be able to make me happy for a little while in that, you know, romantic period. But then after a while I will once again feel disappointed by the person who is supposed to be making me happy.
BECAUSE IT’S NOT THEIR JOB TO MAKE ME HAPPY!
In my recent blog, I told you I heard the phrase, “Like what you like.” It is important, but SO much more important when you are in a relationship. How quickly do you give up the things you like because the other person you’re dating likes something else and so you try to like that thing too? IT’S BECAUSE YOU’RE NOT MAKING YOU HAPPY! You quit doing all the things you like, the other person didn’t, and now you’re trying to figure out why in the world he/she isn’t making you feel happy anymore. IT’S BECAUSE YOU’RE NOT MAKING YOU HAPPY! That’s why it’s SO damn important to know how to make YOU happy before you can build/continue to build a life with someone else.
I happen to be in a relationship with someone who sees this flaw of forgetting to like what I like within me and he reminds me (thank you, Bear). He reminds me by continuing to like what he likes and also sometimes skooching me towards the things he knows I like but am not doing. He knows I’m not here to MAKE him happy. And now I know he is not here to MAKE me happy. There is an energy between us with a momentum we both love. We love each other for exactly who we are. We’ve seen each other at our UGLIEST, and even in the moments of flaring rage or paralyzing fear or agonizing pain, we choose to love each other. We make sacrifices for each other. We re-orient our lives to benefit each other. We intentionally spend our time helping each other reach goals or stand back up. It’s not exactly “work”, but it does require attention and INtention.

Rob Bell wrote, “Your marriage is only as healthy as the least healthy person in it.” You cannot be a whole, healthy person if you’re waiting for someone else to do something for you. Here’s a perfect, real-life example: If I ask Bear to take the garbage out, I mean I want him to take it out RIGHT NOW. He says he will, and 3 hours later it still isn’t done. I have two choices: be disappointed that Bear failed to MAKE me happy by taking the garbage out OR decide that my happiness doesn’t hinge on whether or not he takes the garbage out. My happiness, in this instant, hinges on the garbage going out so the cans aren’t overflowing. So I make MYSELF happy and take the garbage out (without some passive aggressive jab or dig at him). I can make the issue what it’s really about: taking out garbage. Because that’s really as deep as it goes.

The next time your happiness hinges on what someone else does or does not do, refocus. What do you like? What can you do to make YOU happy? Rob Bell also said, “It’s those everyday moments when you’re processing life with someone, that’s actually where marriage is.” Replace “marriage” with relationship, union, partnership, friendship and it still rings true. Stop relying on someone else to bring you joy. Take responsibility for yourself. Your joy is YOUR job. So get to work.

Love,
Erin

Fast

Here’s the thing I’ve learned about diet and exercise…or really any healthy habit:

I’ve learned that I love to control things.

Anytime I can control the shit out of something I will do it. Measuring out food, getting my workout in, watching the number of ounces of water I drink…It’s all control. And because of that Phaeton Level 12 Control I’ve reached, I’ve always just figured I’m really good at diet and exercise.

But diet and exercise, or any choice you turn into a habit, aren’t supposed to be about proving how much you can control. They aren’t supposed to be about willpower or strength or personal stamina. To me it’s supposed to be about your intention. What’s the INTENTION behind my awesome diet and exercise habit?

Welp. It’s control. My intention is to control the few things in life I think I can control because there’s so much I can’t. Maybe yours is to look good naked or a really pure reason like being an example to others so you can help them. But mine is control.

I only just freaking figure this out today.

Today is the first day of a 21 day fast that many churches ask their followers to participate in. When I first heard our Pastor mention this yesterday I was all…Nope. Fasting for 21 days? During the run of a theatre production? Amen and amen? Nope, and nope again.
Then, of course, I learned I wouldn’t be subsisting on water and rice cakes for three weeks. The suggestion of the church is that I fast consciously and with intention from anything I feel called to abstain from. The church recommends choosing what’s known as the Daniel Fast, because in the bible Daniel ate vegetables and water to protest King Nebuchadnezzar. I am going to try this kind of fasting, but I’m not going to be all rigid and freakish about it.

Why?

Because then I would be fasting to prove I was in control. To prove I could do it. I wouldn’t be fasting with the intention of staying conscious throughout my day, making decisions based on where and how I feel led to serve and based on what’s best for those around me. And that’s what I really want to do. My daily rituals and routines are all great, but IF the intention behind them is simply to prove I can do them…well then what good are they?

Soooo….

This week, I’m cutting out all meat except eggs. And I will continue to cut other things out of my diet as I go along until I’m fully vegan by the end of the 21 days. My experience will be mine, one of humility and honesty, just me and God. I won’t be sharing with everyone how well I’m doing, letting everyone know if I fell off the wagon to prove how “human” I am, nor will I be documenting each and every meal I prepare and eat. This will be my own little journey and it’s only me I have to face in the mirror every morning to answer the question, “Am I doing this all for the right reason?”

This is the last you’ll hear me speak of it.

If you can think of something you might give up for 21 days WITH THE INTENTION of gaining focus in your life, getting conscious with your choices, and whatever else fasting opens up for you personally, just know that silently I am right there with you.

This is the one and only time I will post a picture of the vegetables I've eaten over the next three weeks. So soak it up.

This is the one and only time I will post a picture of the vegetables I’m eating over the next three weeks. So soak it up. (I already want a cookie.)

Winter Stewp

Rachel Ray coined the term “Stewp”. Thick soup, soupy stew…It’s Stewp.
This is the Stewp I throw together every time someone get sick or it gets cold. Our recent apocalyptic cold snap here in Florida has resulted in MUCH needed Stewp.

I start with what’s left after Bear has demolished a rotisserie chicken. I put it in a big pot, cover it in water, boil it and then leave it on low for as long as possible. This time I let it go for almost 24 hours. At least 3 hours is preferable. (Using the store-bought rotisserie chickens with the leftover skin also helps flavor the broth.)

Strain the broth, but not directly down the kitchen drain. Strain it into a big bowl. (Admit it. One time or another you've drained your broth right down the drain and were left with a LOVELY colander full of neck bones and gizzards.)

Strain the broth, but not directly down the kitchen drain. Strain it into a big bowl. (Admit it. One time or another you’ve drained your broth right down the drain and were left with a LOVELY colander full of neck bones and gizzards.)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Get your broth back on the stove! Warm it up, it's cold!

Get your broth back on the stove! Warm it up, it’s cold!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Now add the hard veggies, in my case carrots and celery. (I like the leaves so I leave them in the pile.)

Now add the hard veggies, in my case carrots and celery. (I like the leaves so I leave them in the pile.)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Dig up some parsley and rosemary from your garden and whatever other herbs you like.

Dig up some parsley and rosemary from your garden and whatever other herbs you like.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Strip the leaves off the stems and put the stems in your Stewp.

Strip the leaves off the stems and put the stems in your Stewp.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

(What?! Why?!?! Because they will flavor it so well, they're easy to dig out, and if you add the leaves themselves at this stage they'll get all smoosh.)

(What?! Why?!?! Because they will flavor it so well, they’re easy to dig out, and if you add the leaves themselves at this stage they’ll get all smoosh.)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Once they're all in there, happy and splashy, add in lentils. How much? How many? Oh, about a cup. I chose to execute four, graceful, beautifully executed palm-full dumps.

Once they’re all in there, happy and splashy, add in lentils. How much? How many? Oh, about a cup. I chose to execute four, graceful, beautifully executed palm-full dumps.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Now add your dry rice. DON'T. GO. CRAZY. If you have a standard soup pot going, I wouldn't add more than 1/2-3/4 of a cup. It's so easy to eyeball rice and turn your soup into...well. A large pile of rice.

Now add your dry rice. DON’T. GO. CRAZY. If you have a standard soup pot going, I wouldn’t add more than 1/2-3/4 of a cup. It’s so easy to eyeball rice and turn your soup into…well. A large pile of rice.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

If you're adding quinoa, add about the same amount as rice. EXCEPT. Let it soak in some water for 20-30 minutes, strain it, and then add it. Quinoa can be bitter and give your soup a weird after-taste.

If you’re adding quinoa, add about the same amount as rice. EXCEPT. Let it soak in some water for 20-30 minutes, strain it, and then add it. Quinoa can be bitter and give your soup a weird after-taste.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Let all that goodness bathe on medium for as long a it takes you to go pick up you kids from school. (That’s 30-45 minutes if you’re me.)

When you get home, add a giant hunk of garlic. (I added 2.)

When you get home, add a giant hunk of garlic. (I added 2.)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Add lots of veg now. I got a big bag of vegetable stir fry and gave it a good chop. This saved me tons of time.

Add lots of veg now. I got a big bag of vegetable stir fry and gave it a good chop. This saved me tons of time.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I introduced the veg to all the other Stewp party participants and turn up the heat just a touch. It won’t take long for everyone to get dinner-worthy. If you aren’t in a hurry, then turn the heat DOWN and let it hang out longer.

Right before you serve, add your frozen veg. I added peas because I add peas to everything because they're delicious, OK?

Right before you serve, add your frozen veg. I added peas because I add peas to everything because they’re delicious, OK?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Then I added my herbs. Let everything warm up and through before you serve.

Then I added my herbs. Let everything warm up and through before you serve.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

What you’re left with is dinner-worthy for one, big, hunky, hungry Bear and is a delicious yum-yum nom-dinner for one, adorable, four-year-old Abe. Not to mention…it freezes REALLY well!

Have a beautiful, yummy, WARM weekend. 🙂

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