Dear Boys: A Letter On Love From The Original Keeper Of My Sons’ Hearts

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Right now, you two think I am annoying, nagging, and bothersome. I am invading your space and spoiling your free time with my mundane requests. Long before I am ever ready to let go, it will come time for you to leave my nest and build one of your own.

I hope when you finally spread those wings to soar, all the lessons I have lost much sleep over and salted my stale, reheated coffee to teach you, become transparent. That they stick to your ribs like the gumption you currently have for Call of Duty.

You are simply too enthralled with the discovery of your own egos to see past the hormone-inflated, phantasmal factualism of presumptuous assumptions you bellow before slamming your bedroom door.

And that is perfectly okay for the moment. I know when the time is right, you will discover the treasure chest I have so carefully filled for you over the years. There are some things in life I cannot teach you about directly. So listen up now, because I need to tell you a little something about love before you go.

Some day soon, you are going to discover what it’s like to fall in love. It could be the one and only time, but it could also be the first of many others. It could be puppy love or kismet. You will never fully know until it has already happened and nothing more can be done to change the fact. If you are anything like your mother there will be many loves, but you still have to go into each relationship as if it’s the only one you’ll ever have… because in that moment with her, or him, it truly is the only relationship you have and should be cherished as such. You have to continuously nurture your partner if you want to grow together –  and it must be done of your own conviction for your selfish delectation or else it will have been in vain. You shouldn’t stop taking care of your own needs, by any means, but a true partnership is strongly committed to staying conscientious of one another throughout the relationship. I promise you.

The efforts you have been forced to make at being conscientious of your three younger siblings will pay off later on – when you and Sleeping Beauty are bills deep and three kids into your happily ever after trying to trim the budget for the third time in six months.

There will also be plenty of occurrences in which you mistake simple attraction for true love; especially when you are young and inexperienced still. The butterfly tummy, skin tingling, firework kiss, tent pitching effect is not love, a sign of love, or a guaranteed precursor to love. You are simply horny because your body’s arousal system was activated on a hormonal level. It is perfectly fine to act upon it for the moment of pleasure it’s worth. Always follow these three hookup rules religiously:
1. Always be up front and honest of your intentions for relations of any kind- now and in the future. Never lie. You will avoid flipping many a girl’s ‘crazy’ switch if you are straight forward from the get-go. (And, while we’re here, let’s squash any misconceptions you may have gotten from your bruahs. EVERY girl has a ‘crazy’ switch. There is no ‘type’. We ALL have the ability to turn into your worst nightmare.) 
2. Treat every girl with the same respect. A girl who is willing to play with no-strings-attached as you asked her to do when you laid your intentions out in rule one, has the same value as a girl who only wants you in the boundaries of a committed relationship. Everyone is at a different point in their lives and wants different things where they’re at. If it is acceptable for you to want to satisfy only your physical needs without recourse, so can a woman. Don’t use words like slut, whore, or *shudder* cunt. (You are never too old for me to put soap in your mouths.)
3. When a girl says “No”, she means it! And you better respect it! If I have to actually be reminding you of this right now… then I haven’t done a very good job as a mother thus far in raising you.
**While I talk about the rules from a heterosexual point of view, they still apply if you choose to be in a homosexual relationship. No matter to me, as long as you get the opportunity to love someone with all your heart.

Love fully, live freely, and just be yourselves without restraint. Don’t waste too much time trying to mash yourselves into a box of social constraints that fail to meet the one-size fits all requirements of real people.

The pressures of social expectations will try and keep you from loving a woman gently, wholeheartedly, and dedicatedly- because it doesn’t fit with the unrealistic portrayal of idolized masculinity.

None of that hoopla matters, though. When all else is gone at the end of the day… when the shops have all closed down, when all the work has been finished, when the streets have been emptied out, and the house is finally quiet and still with the dark… all that will be left for you in the loneliness of the night, is the one you love. Not one other soul out of the rest of the world. Just the one you love. They will be the only one willing to stand both back to back and toe to toe with you all in the same moment, without hesitation. Not every love will be meant for you. Or meant to stay forever. The strain of the world will test whether or not your love will survive the fate bestowed upon you almost daily at times. Not every love can withstand the path you have been chosen to follow. Sometimes you have to lose a love several times and gain them back a few times over more, before figuring out what the deal is between the two of you and if they are meant to travel beside you forever. Letting go is a painful but necessary lesson to accept. Very few are lucky enough to meet their soul mate the first time they fall in love but, like I said before, you really don’t know with love until you actually know.

Love is such a mysteriously unpredictable, breathtakingly splendiferous, consumably beautiful, and painfully humbling thing. It is so much more than a simple emotion. Whatever you two do in your lifetimes- do not let yourselves stop loving. Give love all you’ve got every single day. You cannot be lazy with it. It’s not a mess that can wait until you feel like messing around with it. It does not and will not ever take care of itself. Love will only give you exactly what you put into it. Tomorrow is an un-promised gift everyone takes for granted more oft than not.

Make sure you take the time to fulfill the needs of your hearts while you’re out there in the great wide world chasing your dreams. Love is worth more than any of the riches you might make or possessions you might own – for it is what you were born of to begin with.

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Until your flying feathers finish molting and I am forced to let you fly off and find my successor,
Your Mother – The Original Keeper Of Your Hearts

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Until You Awakened My Love – UYW February

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Long ago, I used to be, an extraordinarily lonely little girl. I devoured the world around me – seeking purpose and direction in the actions of the people I inconspicuously studied, all the while, taking in every bit of knowledge my mind could gather.

My imagination ran wild, overflowing my glass with tales of love yet to be, from an incredibly young age. Daydreams and fantasies painted themselves across my consciousness, as sweet as lollipops, the instant my eyelids fluttered closed for even the briefest of seconds, disintegrating the moment my lashes untangled; like fingers once intertwined, slipping away from the lover’s hand with a fleeting grip. Endlessly searching for wonders to challenge… entice… inspire… my ever constant drive towards something greater than the tried and true of before.

Fairy tales were only my stepping stones into intense, intricately detailed worlds, hidden deep within me, in the darkness I was dared never to go.

A hopeless romantic before I ever knew what love was, lost and broken before I ever had the chance to embrace life as a whole, and cast into the great divide beckoning for the one fated to her soul. As I continued to grow up, as time continued to pass, ever so painfully, the passions burning within me, multiplied. Puberty added fuel to the already blazing flames within my soul; setting off an explosion within my core. My newfound sensuality brought an new sense of awareness, as my sexuality matured. My lonely, whirlwind, mind craved connections with others – first emotionally, then, physically, but never could I find them happening at the same time.

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I was driven to seek out the one who would ignite all of me aflame, at once, awakening the magic I could feel buried dormant in my soul. The one who would meld against the jagged edges of the hole, sealing my heart and healing my wounds. There were many connections made; tried and failed, lost along the way. Many more never managed to even make a single, wimpy spark- our flicker of commonality fizzled out like a dud, before it ever had began. Some connections I made were simply drawn to the vessel of my being, attempting to fake the emotional and physical bonds necessary for gaining my full attention. I despise those kind of people, wish I could harpoon them, keep them as trophies. There have been, though maybe less than a handful my entire lifetime, of those, whose souls have actually collided with mine, on impact Fusing us, as one, with a fiery burst of emotional recourse. Yet, the pressure which once propelled us together, would eventually pushed us apart, back into orbit.

And, here I am, still searching. Still fighting. Wanting the love I know is out there – the love destined to light up my life as it encompasses the darkness, washing it all back down with a shot of Jack Daniels burning my core.

Thirty-three years of crying myself to sleep listening to the great love songs of the eighties and nineties, wishing on the first star I see at night, and bedtime prayers wanting an angel to hand deliver my price charming-knight in shining armor-rescuer of this damsel in distress.

Rereading epic tales of star-crossed lovers, with pages full of insignificant characters finding their happily ever afters without even trying. Watching sappy romance films of love lost, dying chances, and desires never fulfilled. Images and lyrics penetrate my thoughts, bringing them to life every time I blink.

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I was living with reckless abandonment, teetering on the brink of possibility… vulnerability. Putting myself in bad situations, just because I needed to escape the aching desire torturing my soul to fill in the missing piece so it could finish growing. Looking in all the wrong places for love, fulfillment, and  satisfaction, coming up empty, time after time. Always wondering if it will ever be my turn to fall madly in love and have my dreams come true. Find the missing piece. Awaken the magic.

Until you.

Until you walked into my life – turning it inside out, upside down, and back rightside in, again. Colliding into my soul with voracious force. Awakening the paragon of nirvana buried beneath my soul, dormant for far too long. The waiting is finally over, I can sign with relief. The time has come, at last, to surrender myself to the one engraved upon my core, where we were divided by kismet, once upon a time ago. Separated…ripped apart, as our spirits were cast unto this earth, leaving us empty of our eternal soul mate. Left to wander this barren world, teeming with lust and despair and depraved of rapturous, fervent fidelities. Lost and incomplete without the one, until now.

Until you.

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My body is heightened with the fullest senses it has ever felt. Heart-racing butterflies have broken through time capsule chrysalises, waiting all these years to complete their transformation. My ears tuned to every buzz and beep, hoping for the one alerting me that my presence is strong on your heart and rampant in your mind.

The melody of your words wrapping me in comforting familiarity like my favorite lullaby sang to me as a child. Shivers of lightening race across my skin, anticipating the slight of your hand brushing tenderly across the small of my back, down my hips, then, taking my hand, softly but firmly.

Leading me. Pulling me. Ravaging my thoughts, my aspirations, my virtues – satiating my thirst and quenching the yearning plaguing me for eternity.

The runaway piece of my soul has finally been found – in you. My darling husband, the keeper of my stars, the missing puzzle piece with whom I share my steady heartbeat’s rhythm. I was just an extraordinarily lonely little girl, lost along the midnight journey, weak and weary, looking over her shoulder leery about love…. until you. Until you stepped into my life and brought the universe to my knees. You, my love, complete me.

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~

Today’s post was a writing challenge. This is how it works: participating bloggers picked 4 – 6 words or short phrases for someone else to craft into a post. All words must be used at least once and all the posts will be unique as each writer has received their own set of words. That’s the challenge, here’s a fun twist; no one who’s participating knows who got their words and in what direction the writer will take them. Until now.

My words are: (Found in bold and underlined in the piece)
Harpoon ~ Tried and true ~ Straight ~ Lollipop ~ Glass ~ Jack
They were submitted by: The Bergham Chronicles           

Links to the other “Use Your Words” posts:
Baking In A Tornado

The Bergham Chronicles

Spatulas on Parade  

The Diary of an Alzheimer’s Caregiver

Dinosaur Superhero Mommy

Southern Belle Charm

Not That Sarah Michelle

Never Ever Give Up Hope

My Brain on Kids

Confessions of a part time working mom

Climaxed

Someone Else’s Genius

By: Kristina Hammer, aka, The Angrivated Mom

My Angrivated Journey to the Altar

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My journey to marriage happened in the blink of an eye. Literally. I was engaged within three months of meeting my Prince and married three months after that. That’s a true to form whirlwind courtship, if I do say so myself. Both my husband and I can look back, as we come upon our ninth anniversary, and agree that it probably was the biggest mistake we both made in our lives. It definitely wasn’t the smartest decision we’ve ever made, either. It is, by far, the best decision we’ve made thus far, all at the same time.

When we met and began dating, I was in the middle of major life changes as I had recently separated from an extremely abusive guy who also happened to be the sperm donor for my two sons. He was playing games, using my innocent babies as pawns to hurt me with, and really wasn’t looking for love. Hefound me anyways. Ryan was a true knight in shining armor, ready to carry me through the mud while pulling my babies free from the clutches of douchery that is my ex. He wanted to protect all of us, right from the get-go, even though I wouldn’t even let him actually meet those boys of mine, because I was afraid of confusing them with any more people going in and out of their lives. Every waking moment that I could spend with him, I did. Just as he couldn’t get enough of me, I couldn’t seem to get enough of him. Every court appearance I had to face my ex at, Ryan escorted me, though keeping a respectfully safe distance once there to prevent any more drama from cropping up. He was a rock that I could lean on for support while I fought the battle of my life for the two peces of my flesh and blood life had gifted to me. Despite all he selflessly was giving to me, he asked for nothing in return. Refused my repeated offers and attempts to “reciprocate” the giving, in the only mannerism I was quipped to give at the time. Sure, we made out. A Lot. But he never allowed it to go any farther, because he thought it was taking advantage of me when I was in a vulnerable state of mind going through the custody battle and what not. Three months into our relationship, we were getting pretty comfortable in our routine together and I was finding myself questioning if it was time to actually bring Ryan into my sons’ lives, let him be a part of it. The universe ultimately would decide that action for me.

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At the time, I was working for my dad’s security guard business. Sperm donor douchebag had the boys for what was, unbeknownst to anyone at the time, for the last weekend visitation he would ever have with them when I dropped them off that morning going to work. I was assigned to monitor the construction site of a new city hall building, making sure that only the appropriately authorized people entered and nothing was stolen, so it was a boring eight hours of endless walking back and forth throughout the perimeter of the place. It wasn’t long into my shift, maybe only half an hour, that I started to feel a little sickly. Since I’ve always been a morning pooper, I just chalked it up to rushing around this morning to pack the boys up along with me, stressing me out so I didn’t fully relieve myself. Usually, after a bit of tummy-rumbling gas, I’ll end up having to go again and all will be right. Yet, on this totally random day, that wasn’t the case. I certainly ended up back in the bathroom for a follow-up session, only, I unintentionally opened the flood gates for something far worse. As soon as I went to button my slightly too small black dress khakis, my stomach cramped up badly, doubling me over with the pain. I did my best to ignore it and go on with my security duties. For the next seven hours, I spent my day carefully calculating my perimeter scans around the bathrooms that had been finished and okayed for use just so I could stop in each one along the way, to prevent any, ah…uhh…hmm…ugh,  accidents. Let’s just say, for the sake of grossing my own self out, that it was like I was peeing outta my butt. You can’t hold in liquid by clenching your cheeks; for that problem, only a plug will do.

The pain began burning all throughout my abdomen and lower back, down into my urethra and vajayjay. After having birthed two babies already and watching a lot I Didn’t Know I Was Pregnant episodes on TLC, I started to fear that maybe I was mysteriously in labor or having an ectopic pregnancy. My mind had nothing better to do but create a hundred different nightmare scenarios in my head, washing me over with anxiety and paranoia as I battled my concious thought process with rationality, trying to maintain control. It would help for you to know that I’m a stubborn jackass of a fool for pain, injury, and illness, a medical know-it-all and doctor-wannabe, persay. Simply put, I’m ineligible for any sort of frequent flyer program offered by my physician’s office. Self -diagnosis and treatment are my specialty. I took my sick butt home after my shift ended, drenched from feverish sweat as if I had just spent the past eight hours swimming in my clothes. Stripping down to my underwear, I called my dad at work to tell him I was sick then called Ryan to come over and to let himself in. After which I curled up in the fetal position on my bed and waited to see who got to me first.

It wasn’t too long before I heard my dad’s new, third wife hobbling around upstairs in their bedroom, probably drunk as usual, by the sounds of it. She’d just had foot and calf surgery couple months prior and was still walking with a stabilizer boot, but she preferred to binge drink her pain away. Just imagine the bull being the rodeo clown, trying to duck and dodge nimbly on his hind legs. Regardless of her state, I thought that since she was a mother herself, with shared custody of her daughter and son who were just 14 and 11 back then, that she would go full out mother hen when she caught sight of me. With those hopes, I heaved myself back up out of bed, threw on a T-shirt and sweatpants, and half-dragged half-crawled my way up the basement stairs. It surprised me how quick my strength had dissipated since coming home. At the same time, I began having searing, white-hot pains shooting through my vulva into my stomach. By the time I reached her bedside, I felt like I was going to puke. I leaned against my dad’s bureau and let out a moan before I managed to find my voice and say, “Excuse me, Michelle.” She took one look in my direction and slurred “I hope you’re not contagious.” After explaining a dozen different ways that I was just in pain, because it wasn’t worth the added trouble in my state, and to call my dad home because he didn’t answer my call, she started rummaging through the garbage piled knee deep along her side on the bed. A few minutes that felt like an eternity in hell later, she found a prescription bottle that rattled as she lifted it from the depths of about twenty other stay prescription bottles, echoing loudly with the sounds of the last few pills inside reverberating like echoes in my head with. heightened senses from the pain. Michelle silently opened the bottle, tossed a pill across the room at me, and went back to digging through the mess to get into the drawers built into the base of the waterbed, which must’ve been the insane noises I had heard before. As I turned to leave, I thought better enough to ask what she had just given me, since it obviously wasn’t no OTC stuff, but also assuming it would be an antibiotic to prevent post-op surgery. “Just chew it up and you’ll sleep the sick off”, was all she managed to say with her heavy, incapacitated speech before she stumbled back into lala-land again.

Not trusting this lush bitch, I pocketed the pill and somehow ended up back in my bed. Even more amazing yet, is that I passed out, or fell unconscious, I’m still not sure which. I don’t know how long I slept for, but I awoke to Ryan wincing in pain from the heat emanating from my skin as he felt my forehead for fever. He then held out his gifts for me- an ice cold Gatorade, an OTC packet of Motrin, and some chicken noodle soup from a nearby restaurant. Plus a pack of cigarettes cuz, like I told you already, I’m bull-headed, so you should’ve known that I wouldn’t give up my smoking for the likes of anything like sickness or pain. Just then I remembered the pill and dug it out to show him. He went online and verified that it was Vicodin, not the antibiotic I had hoped for. He said it would do more good than harm to take it with the amount of pain I was obviously in, and I wasn’t in any shape to argue. After helping me to sit up and take both of the medicines, Ryan suggested we had to the ER, but all week we had been eagerly awaiting the second game of the Detroit Tiger’s World Series run, so I convinced him I was just being dramatic and could hold out until the game was over. We were still at the peak of the lovey-dovey, combining chemistry magic, newbie relationship status phase where everything’s sunshine and hormones with a side of horniness, and I couldn’t bear the idea of wasting the few hours I got to see him every night on the ER. Besides that, I had pretty much concluded that with the increased burning and constant sensation of having to urinate though being too dehydrated to actually output anything, all the symptoms I had had throughout the day were caused by a bad urinary tract infection taking

At this point in my memory the details are a bit hit or miss. I can remember trying to cuddle up to Ryan, pay attention to the game, and take comfort in his presence, but I was dipping in and out of sleep followed by extreme fiery lightening bolts shooting through my entire pelvis and marked by the urgency to piss air. By the sixth inning, I was so clammy and pale on top of everything else, that Ryan picked me up and carried me to his car without saying a word. I couldn’t even muster a protest, let alone, put up a fight. All I did do was give him directions to a small, outdated emergency room that I knew of hidden in the harbor district. It used to be a fully functional, busy hospital from the fifties through the mid-eighties with the budding availability and affordability plus constant innovations, made Lac Sainte Claire, better known as Lake St. Clair to it’s residents, the non-Great Lake connecting two of the real Great Lakes. As safety measures and education increased along side better laws and enforcement, the amount of water-related emergencies rapidly dwindled, leaving the hospital unable to compete with newer, more modern facilities, so they replaced the inpatient admitting part into a long-term rehabilitative facility, changed the inpatient surgery into an outpatient/same-day surgery unit, and maintained the ER as best as possible, with restricted ambulance calls and transfers to those competitive modern hospitals, of any walk-ins above their care level. My self-diagnosis of a simple, but severe, UTI would only require a simple urine sample test to look for microscopic traces of blood, proteins, and bacteria, plus PH balance. Maybe even some bloodwork to check to see if my white blood cell count (WBC) is elevated which would mean I was fighting an infection, just to bill my insurance a little extra. Then I’d be sent home with a prescription for a bladder numbing medication called Pyridium and another for Ciprofloxacin, a common antibiotic for those allergic to Penicillin’s- like myself. See? Told ya I knew what I was talking about. Easy-peasey.

The hospital registration clerk took one look at me and grabbed a wheelchair and told Ryan to wait there with my purse then whisked me off, straight into an exam area. Within fifteen minutes I was being poked and prodded, hooked up to IV’s and examined up down and all around. I don’t think I’d ever seen so many medical personnel in one place before. A CAT-scan and pelvic ultrasound were ordered and then everything went black. I briefly woke up in complete darkness, startled by unfamiliar surroundings, and called out for Ryan. My hand felt the familiar touch of his grasp mine gently, stroking the back of it gently with his thumb. He said something to me, but the heaviness of the blackness in my head swallowed me back into unconsciousness. Next thing, I’m coming to under really bright lights, with the sensation of being on an old, rickety wooden rollercoaster. There’s a strange male face staring at me like I’m just a mannequin or something. I started to notice that there was two latching doors straight ahead with no windows and drawered shelving units encompassing the surrounding three walls above the the top half to the really, really low for a house….because I was in the back of a freaking ambulance! OMG! I’m.being.transferred! Transferred! Holy Mother of Jee….“Ma’am? Hello? You are being transferred to St. John’s Medical Center for Full Renal Blockage and need to be prepped for Lithotripsy of those Calculii. You’re about to fall back asleeee……” The blackness then turned into a paralyzing, auditory-based dream that went on for what felt like eternity. No matter how hard I fought the heavy layer of unconsciousness to wake up, something seemingly felt like it was holding me down and trapping me there.

Later on, after being awakened by some strange lady poking my skin while taking directly in my ear, I would realize it was the surgical anesthesia messing with my subconscious, processing everything I was hearing and transferring it into my dream-state level of drug-induced coma. First, though, my brain needed to process it’s surroundings and figure out why my body still felt heavy and disconnected. This woman with horrible collard green, garlic, and brown mustard smelling breath burning my eyeballs and nostrils, finally seemed satisfied that I was awake enough for her liking and started talking a mile a minute, “Honey, I’m sorry to wake you, but I have to test your alertness to be sure the anesthesia is wearing off the right way. Are you feeling pain? Well, I have a pain shot for you anyway, so lemme just get that into your IV. Okay, now let’s get your heart rate checked out, don’t mind the cold stethoscope. Do you know what’s going on? You’re fresh out of surgery, sweetie. Doctor said had you stayed home another hour, you wouldn’t have made it. Never seen anyone in septic shock so bad. That means you were poisoning yourself with your own waste. Had 100% blockage to your left kidney and 96% in your right. Kidney stones real bad, plugging you up. Can’t get rid of them until you’re stabilized and out of shock, so the Dr. put stents, which are just fancy word for balloons, in your urinary tract to open the passageway from your kidneys so they can drain. Ooh, that was a mighty big yawn, girlfriend. Feeling sleepy again? Because you should. Go on, dear. You get yourself some nice rest there. That’s a good….”, and I was out cold again. This time, back into the dreamless, pitch black tunnel of emptiness I originally awoke from when this whole ordeal began.

All of a sudden I felt startled, my brain shaking off the anesthesia all at once, like a wet dog drying itself after getting soaked. You know that panicked feeling you get upon waking when you laid down intending on a short little catnap, and the next thing you know, it’s pitch black in the room and you realize you’ve been dead asleep for over four hours? Yeah, that one. Imagine it on steroids, realizing you’ve lost a whole entire day, not just a few hours. As my eyes opened to the harsh fluorescent lights shining down on me, the sounds of the IV machine beeping next to me went straight to my head causing it to start pulsating with throbbing pain as if I had been dropped on my head from a three-story balcony. Feeling started to return to my body, racing down nerve pathways from my brain to the tip of my toes, bringing back the sensations of being alive again. As my body began responding to commands, all those feelings bombarded by brain. Pain, soreness, burning, and itchiness everywhere all at once. Then I heard a small chuckle, familiar to my heart. I turned my head and was met by the sight of Ryan kneeling next to my bed, just inches from my own face.

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“Hey Beautiful. You’re awake! You scared me. I thought you were going to die. You could’ve died!”, he said softly, in a baby talk voice.
“I’m scared. I just want to go home! Did I really almost die? That’s not true. It was just a UTI!”, I coughed out, not realizing how sore and painful my throat was going to be.
  Ryan held a cup with a straw to my dry, cracked lips. “Here, take a sip. The nurses said you would need to drink. You had a trachea tube thingy in for surgery.”
  I took a sip of icy water, which felt AMAZING. (If you know me well, you know this in itself was it’s own miracle. I absolutely hate drinking water.) Just then, a nurse came into our room. “Good morning, sunshine! You’ve had a rough few days, so let’s get you checked out.” She proceeded to go through her exam with the precision of a Swiss timepiece, obvious that she could do this in her sleep. When she was done, she looked over in Ryan’s direction and nodded. I looked at him, confused by what I thought was a flirty display right in front of me. He was now on one knee and taking my hand with one of his.
  “Kristina, I know we’ve only been together just a little bit, but when they told me how close to death you were, I started thinking about losing you. I don’t want to. It hurts me somewhere deep inside to think of my life without you in it. Will you be my wife, marry me?” With that, he opened the hand that wasn’t in mine and presented me with a ring. “It’s not much, I had a hard time finding anyone open on a Sunday night while you were in recovery, because I couldn’t leave the hospital at all until you were out of surgery. We can get you something else later if you want, I just didn’t want to do this without a ring and I didn’t want to even leave the hospital at all, so I hope this is okay….”
I had to cut him at this point, because he wasn’t going to stop explaining his false perception of self-failure a hundred different ways from Sunday. “Honey. Sssh! Yes! Yes, I will marry you! And I love the ring. Owww, you’re pulling my IV cord!”

While floating on cloud nine for the next few days, I endured another surgery to laser blast the kidney stones away and another round of stents to make sure the microscopic crumbs leftover from blasting didn’t stick together and make new stones. Then they finally released me back into the world, with an outpatient surgery date a couple weeks later to remove the stents for good. Immediately, I went straight to pick up my baby boys and break the news to my ex that I would be getting married. For real. To a man who not only wanted to make a life with me, but my children, too, without calling them burdens and buzz-killers. Who didn’t live with his mother just so she could raise his kids when it was his turn for visitation. Everything had changed course in my life, faster than weather changes in the Midwest Great Lakes region, and it was all going to change even more.

Bringing my boys home was an exciting moment, because they were going to be meeting Ryan, my fiancée, their future stepfather, for the first time. The little voice in the back of my head tried to psych me out and question whether this could all be too good to be true. Does someone really get proposed to straight out of surgery because they almost died? Could Ryan really want for a ready-made family with me? He hasn’t even met the boys yet! What if he thinks they’re ugly retarded who are spoiled rotten baggage? How could someone with bad intentions decline plenty of aggressive advances to go all the way in bed, because he thinks I’m too vulnerable? What kind of perfect guy like him isn’t already taken at 28? My thoughts raced the whole drive back to Ryan’s to pick him up and take him to my dad’s with the boys, where we were living. If I ever thought that the meeting between Ryan and I that night at the bar was love at first sight, I was wrong after seeing the boys that were my lifeline and sunshine meet the man of my dreams. Bonds were forged instantly between their shared timidness and light-hearted nature’s, and newly collaborated alliances over wooing me with their charm for their benefit were cemented from the start. Things only came together more as my ex- never returned a call regarding his designated visitation again. I was told through the grapevine that he never wanted those kids of mine and he was glad that I was getting married so someone else could be dad for him. No skin off my back.

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Over the next few weeks, Ryan and I had to rearrange our work schedules to accommodate having the boys with me full-time. I didn’t have any help from my family, couldn’t even get my dad or brother who were home at those times, to babysit the three days a week that my schedule overlapped with Ryan’s by two and a half hours, so I was forced to take them to daycare. We quickly fell into a routine of the typical married with children 2-parent working family. That’s a lot of stress on a fresh relationship newly committed to the idea of a lifetime together. Since we were still working on getting a plane together, big enough for our future family status, Ryan was able to go home after I got off work if wanted to go get away and de-stress for awhile. And de-stressing he was, more than he let me in on, drinking away his overwhelming feelings with a pint or two…or three…or four. It wasn’t until one fateful night on a snowy, icy, late January night, that I found out just how much he had been drinking, when he crashed his truck and was arrested for DUI. The report stated that his blood alcohol level was 2.9, ridiculously high and over triple the legal limit, yet accordingly, he was fairly lucid and walking with barely a wobble. It was a huge reality check for the both of us, that made us really think through what we were doing with each other. This wasn’t Ryan’s first taste of trouble. He was a wild child that found trouble for awhile there, every corner he turned. It had been quite some time since he had last been in trouble, finally growing up somewhere in his early twenties, but the courts still wouldn’t see that as anything but negative. He had a strong chance of being sentenced between six months and a year in county jail. Now the universe fated to separate us again.

There were so many sleepless nights after his arrest. Both of us would lay silently together in each other’s arms, presumptuously assuming the other was asleep, and contemplate the pros and cons of this relationship. I was between a rock and hard place, unsure of where to go next in my life. There was no one I truly had to turn to for help or guidance, never having had any deep-rooted, long-lasting relationships with even the likes of my own parents before. The oldest of my two sons, only 2½ yrs old at this time, was calling him Daddy. He was always responsible for the children and respectful of his role in their life. If he could go off and do this without telling me about his problems first, what else could he hide from me? Would I be willing to wait a whole year for my future husband if it came down to that? My mind would swirl and swirl with questions and concerns, benefits and justifications. I know now that he was lying there doing the same thing. By late-February, Ryan’s first court date had arrived and we sensed that the countdown to the final showdown had begun. We were going to have to decide what we wanted to do if he was sentenced to jail time, before it was too late.

Back and forth we went, with our emotions on a rollercoaster ride from Hell, fighting and crying, blaming and proclaiming at every waking moment. D-Day loomed nearer and nearer when it dawned on us one night that we weren’t fighting with each other at all. The discord between us was only us fighting true love because we were scared. Neither of us knew what the future would hold and we were making so much more out of that unknown than need be. Life is all but certainty and still, we all find our way through it regardless of the titles, rings, promises, and chains binding us together. So with that in mind, we started figuring out how to get married. Neither of us had a clue as to how to do it. Nor did we have an extra dime to our name. When both of us told our families that we were ready to be wed, they didn’t offer help, tried talking us out of it, actually. Without anyone on board, there was no point in trying to do something we couldn’t do, so we called the court house (thankfully, Ryan had been in trouble the next city over, so there was no conflict in magistrates), and set a date just a week away and before his sentencing date. The nice clerk explained to us how to get a marriage licence from the county and gave us directions and cost of, as well. We felt like such blundering fools. And we were.

The giddiness and nerves were running high that whole week. Ryan and I evaluated our entire relationship up to this point, justifying our destiny as soulmates based on our fated true love, believing we were creating our own modern day fairy tale, like the stupid, naive, twenty-something year old idiots we were. We had the rest of our lives to live happily ever after in a house full of sunshine, rainbows, and giggling children running sweetly like a summer wind. Even if he had to go to jail for a while, we saw it as just a small fraction of the time we would have together in marital bliss after his release. I had no idea what addiction was. I had no idea what affect my own mental illness played on my character, thinking, behavior, and decisions at this time, either. I was uneducated in these grown-up issues, never having had to experience anything like it before. Since Ryan had gotten into legal trouble, I assumingly believed that he had learned his lesson and realized with this relapse, as he referred to it, that he just couldn’t drink like normal people and needed to learn self-control. Never did it dawn on me, having come from functioning alcoholic families, that one simply could not drink alcohol at all. So in my “let’s live this Knight Saves Broken Family fairy tale” excitement, I thought it would be nice to gave a few drinks together the night before the eve of our wedding since we were going at this alone. We ended up getting at each other’s throats all night, the alcohol fueling the doubts our family and friends had weaseled through the cracks of our foundation. We were spinning wildly now, going in the same circle we’d been tumbling along for the past few months. Do we? Or don’t we? Don’t we? Or do we? Then one of the boys woke up and called out for “dah-da”.

You only live once, right? YOLO. That damn,  annoying as your kid’s fifty billionth rendition of “Let It Go” motto was about to be born, and we were a few years ahead of the game. Honestly, it’s probably the ONLY thing I’ve ever been early to for my entire life. We found ourselves at the mall after work the next night, the eve of our wedding, picking out clothes to get married in. We were so broke, that after using our spending money for the week on our wedding rings, marriage license, and magistrate rental fee, we were writing checks with fingers crossed in hopes they’d clear after our pay checks hit two days later. After I did the typical girl thing of trying on a dozen dresses and outfits, crying because I looked fat in everything, hating on the store for not carrying a large selection of white in March, long before Memorial day in May signals it’s acceptance back into our wardrobes, I finally settled on my outfit of choice. A white lacey shirt with dark gray dress pants. Now we had everything. This marriage thing was really happening! We parted ways that night, too follow at least one tradition so we wouldn’t curse our marriage worse than it already probably was going to be.

The next morning I woke up with full level anxiety. I had the boys and myself to get ready, and a father to beg to attend, if for nothing more than providing a witness signature to the marriage licence. I popped half a Xanax to keep from flipping out with nerves. I’ve never dealt well with pressure. I also knew that even though the mature, grown-up side of me (what little there was of it) knew that I had made this choice myself, the little girl I mostly still was, would rise to the surface at some point. It wasn’t easy coming to terms with the fact that I was forsaking my lifelong girly-girl dream of a big, fancy, real-life fairytale wedding in exchange for this shotgun courthouse wedding because of true love, and that little girl was bound to overpower the grown-up in me if she wasn’t controlled from the start. Hence, the Xanax. Somehow I managed to dress the boys in their little baby polo shirts and sweater vests while curling my hair and doing my makeup. Those two hours felt like days passing by, and I was chain-smoking and staring down a bottle of wine in the kitchen with a few chugs worth left in the bottom the whole while I was running around like a chicken with it’s head cut off. It would’ve helped my cause had I actually prepared the night before, laying out clothes in one pile and packing diaper bags full of snacks and distractions. True to myself, I waited until the very last minute possible to get anything done, losing half a dozen necessities along the way. I don’t even remember in all my bustling around, how I ended up convincing my dad to go, nor do I remember how I even got to the courthouse. That part remains a blur from my whacked-out scaredy-cat state of panic over taking the plunge.

My dad had worked for our city’s police department for over thirty years, so he was more than familiar to the staff at the courthouse, knowing everyone personally. When we arrived, my dad had managed to make it a few minutes ahead, well, actually like twenty minutes ahead, on time unlike us. Yes. I was late for my own wedding! (Now can I have my diamond-encrusted crown for being the ultimate Queen of Procrastination?) One of my dad’s long time friend’s walked right up to Ryan and said, “Run. You’re marrying into the Sopfe Family. Don’t do it, son. *wink. wink.*”. We both still laugh over that fruity display of winking today, because the guy just looked so absolutely ridiculous! Ryan’s mom showed up just then, causing the little boys to get rambunctious over their new favorite playmate’s arrival, reminding the rest of us, to get the show on the road before the road took off in a fit of giggles straight into a courtroom actively in session. Everyone shuffled into our assigned Judge’s courtroom, the boys squealing with delight as they ran between the rows of benches in this cool, new room. Our judge was at his podium, without robes, shuffling through a pile of files while trying to eat a sandwich. Immediately noticing the familiar face, he welcomed my father, asking to what he owed the pleasure of his presence in his courtroom. Scanning the rest of the us, his uncanny abilities honed from years of prosecutorial and magisterial experience put two and two together, figuring out that we were his wedding appointment for the day. The air in the room thickened uncomfortably, as the wonderment of the situation settled stifling the energy with the unspoken confusion. With such a charismatic and admirable reputation beyond his respected ranking as a Sergeant Detective, I’m sure it was a mystery as to why his oldest child and only daughter, was getting married in such a fashion as this.

Ignoring the obvious, my dad acted as if this was all just a casual drop in, for no other purpose than a friendly visit. It stung me to know that he was dismissing me as his daughter among his fellow peers, like I wasn’t good enough for an ounce of recognition or pride from the man responsible for my very existence. This, unfortunately, was nothing new to me, having spent my entire life thus far trying to prove myself good enough for my father, so despite the unavoidable temporary air of discomfort rolling past, I held my head high focusing on my purpose for being there. The guys made small talk about this, that, and the other thing with the Judge, ending up on the topic of schools, somehow. Soon it was known that my hubs and he had attended the same all-boys Catholic secondary school, just a handful of years apart, sharing the same disdain for a particular teacher. I paced around, watching the boys climb over and duck under while chasing each other in and out of the rows with my future mother-in-law. My mind wandered, daydreaming naively of the Stepford life we would easily make for ourselves in no time at all, showing my dad that I was worthy of his pride, after all. Once we moved into our own place, we would be the stereotypical television-sitcom-like family and live happily ever after. Ahhh, to be barely but 24 years old again… I was snapped from my fantasies when I heard my name being said, looking up to find everyone looking at me. “Sure,” I replied, “let’s do this.” Ryan and I walked up to the front of the Judge’s bench, nervously holding hands. The Judge chuckled and motioned for us to come over into the much larger open space between the prosecutor’s and defendant’s tables. “You two aren’t here to be arraigned on any criminal charges, are you?”, the Judge joked around with us. “A wedding mustn’t be formal in the judiciary sense of the term, it is a declaration of eternal love and we should all be comfortable while we perform the official ceremony.” And, with that, we began the official prelude to the ceremony of paperwork presentation, signing away our availability status for the rest of our lives, confirming the pronunciation of our given names, and checking to see if we had any special requests for which version of vows, or if we had written our own, that we wanted to use. After all the nitty gritty stuff was taken care of, the ceremony swiftly got under way, as the clock was ticking down on the scheduled starting of the afternoon docket and people were going to begin showing up.

Throughout the whole production I starred intently at Ryan’s face, searching for something, a sign perhaps, that he was or wasn’t truly in love with me. Whether I was making the biggest mistake of my life or the best decision in the history of all the decisions decided upon in the world. I needed to know that this was what I was supposed to be doing, especially with the rest of the world against us even after fate forcefully brought us together. All I found on his face, after scrutinizing his every blink and twitch, was the look of heart-throbbing, butterflies in the tummy,  awash with warm, gushy, tingles of pure love, along with a few stray tears trying to escape from the corners of his eyes. The most beautiful sight it was, one that I still hold onto with all my might, to this very day. The ship I had sailed upon dubbed with my maiden name, inherited by my birth, was sinking deep into the bottom of the ocean of life, as I said my “I do’s”. My white flag was answered as my husband was told to kiss his bride, welcoming me aboard this new vessel inherited of our marriage. This ship newly named after the man I joined in union with, the vows we made sealed for all of eternity by the rings we placed on one another. The two young boys, barely old enough to stand taller than our knees, brought the ceremony to a close, letting us know that they, too, approved by banging the gavel in succession with giggles that could’ve melted the iciest of cold-hearted snakes. Not only was I officially Mrs. Ryan Hammer, but we were officially The Hammer Family.

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Life has done it’s thing, continuously moving on at lightening speed and taking no hostages. It only took 6 months to fall in love, get engaged, and get married, but those months have grown into years. Nine years this marriage has survived now, and not without lack of fighting to do so. Nothing has been easy. Nothing has been comparable to that sitcom-esque family of my childish, immature, blissfully ignorant fantasies. But it’s been the GREATEST sail of my lifetime. It’s a way better of a trip than those fantasies could’ve ever factored in, because for all that fight and hard work that we’ve put into making this marriage grow, there’s been plenty more learned, accomplished, made, endured, and celebrated. Our family has grown in size, just as well. Two girls, plus a handful of pets, to keep us balanced and grounded. Bringing us even more joy and love than we could have ever imagined or wanted for. Ryan ended up with just probation at his sentencing, that time. Addiction, recovery, mental illness, and diagnosis of long-term disorders and diseases have continued to pop in & out of our lives, putting us through hell. Every time we’ve come out closer, more in-love, than before. Every thing designed to tear apart most others, seems to keep bringing together, giving us the strength to face another day. I wouldn’t want my life any other way. This is OUR angrivated marriage, OUR angrivated family…. and it all began with one hell of an angrivated journey to the altar to be wed.

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Nine Tidbits From Nine Years Of Marriage: My Advice To Newlyweds

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Just a couple of weeks away is my ninth wedding anniversary. 9th! My mind is totally blown over that. It’s gotten me thinking in all different ways about how it was then and how it is now, how I thought it would be and how it really turned out. I’ve been thinking about the little girl dream I had of marriage and the reality of the marriage I am in now. It’s a mysterious wonderment as to how we’ve made it this far. Especially with some of the seriously intense trials and tribulations that we’ve endured as a couple, the kind where many others can barely find the strength to rebuild their own life after facing, yet we’ve managed to rebuild ourselves and our marriage. With all of this reflection, I thought I’d share some of the tidbits of advice I’ve realized that have kept the hubs and I going strong in-love. Here’s what I’ve gathered from this reflective journey back through the chapters of my marriage:

1. THERE’S NO SITCOM IN REAL LIFE MARRIAGE. Nothing will ever happen like it does on TV. Not even the so-called reality TV shows. Get all of those preconceived notions of absurd fantasy -written by someone’s own dream-like ideal of what a marriage, family, friendship, and/or any other imaginable relationship should be like- outta your head now. You will never have fights that are filled with insults that are clearly just satirical untruths that will be laughed about for years to come. Words will sting. Feelings will get hurt. Apologies only happen if the parties are willing. Assuming they’re even able to face responsibility for their own actions in the  argument. Forget all about those magical moments of romance where fireworks que overhead just as your lip touch with a kiss under the full moon. Romance is not scripted. It’s not perfection, either. True romance is sloppy, clumsy, and full of last-minute details falling apart. You’ll fall for your spouse again and again in the most unusual of circumstances- the way they saved the day after you burnt the roast for the holiday feast without chastising you for your lack of kitchen skills, the way got covered in grime from a burst pipe that happened as they were getting ready to leave for a work meeting and all the while managing to stay happy and crack jokes throughout the entire repair, or the way they sing softly as they rock the colicky baby in the wee hours of dawn despite having slept a wink themselves.

2. LOVE DOESN’T COME FREE AND IT AIN’T CHEAP EITHER.
There’s no love lost when you’re working for it. You have to rekindle the fire to keep it burning through the night. If you don’t make the time to think about your spouse and what makes them feel good about themselves, your going to end up with an unhappy coupling. The world today makes it so easy to get lost in our own self-centeredness and drown out the needs of those around us. There’s got to be a conscious effort to find a  balance of consideration to keep things aflame. Lots of compromising. Lots of stepping out of your own comfy shoes and taking a walk in your spouses. Keeping in mind all of the little things that light up their world is hard work, but the unconditional love in return is well worth it. Everyone has their own thing and you can’t expect the little words of affirmation that make your day be the thing that makes them happy. Be aware. You can’t play if you don’t pay. And she’ll most certainly be more likely to play with him if you pay her… literally. No wife would be stupid enough to pass up a bargain for her bedroom services in exchange for a salon date, kid-free shopping experience, kitchen cleaning, or uninterrupted bath time.

3. MONEY IS THE ROOT OF ALL EVIL.
You have to set financial goals, reasonable ones that come in baby steps, for a successful marriage. They don’t need to be set in stone, because life changes with the winds of your betrothed’s lower cheeks after a long night of binge drinking. They just have to be informed and agreed upon at all times. A system of checks and balances will develop over the course of a few years, so be forgiving of one another’s overspending incidences and misinterpretations of budget designations. They will happen often at first, as you work out who’s best with what role in maintaining the finances. There’s no right way to do things, and there’s no wrong way either. Fights will ensue at some points along the way, but you just gotta take responsibility and move on. Money will devour the closest of blood relations without hesitation, marriages are merely an appetizer for it’s insatiable appetite for souls.

4. SHIT HAPPENS….GAS, BLOOD, PUKE, AND SNOTS, TOO.
Every human body has the same intake/output system. Every.Single.One. There’s a lot of possibilities for that system to go array and it will happen. Sickness, drunkenness, injuries, and just plain old malfunctions of the inner mechanisms will cause all sorts of incidences that are far from attractive. You’ll see your spouse in ways you never could’ve imagined before in your wildest of dreams. Forget any sort of real privacy, either. It’ll never be the same. You will have full blown discussions about dinner choices, in-law gift options, and WE due bills as you do your business, no shame in the game. And forget considering private parts private anymore. If you’ve got an in-grown hair in your ass crack that needs digging out, need to wax hard to reach places, or apply ointments to rashes you’re too grossed out by to touch yourself, your spouse is the one suckered into the deal. They’ll see all, hear all, and touch all the nastiness that comes along with being human and you will, too. Get used to the idea of it all now. Those internal systems only continue to malfunction as we age, there’s no getting around it. Invest in gas masks and Bio-Hazard suits now.

5. MEN NEVER GROW UP OR GROW OUT OF BAD HABITS AND WOMEN NEVER STOP COMPLAINING OR GIVE UP CRYING OVER SPILLED MILK.
It doesn’t seem to matter how old they are, men will smack their girl’s ass and squeeze her boobs at random until the day they croak. Their hands will never come out of their pants and the jokes full of sexual connotation will never stop coming. Men never grow out of leaving toilet seats up and dirty boxers on the floor next to the hamper. Forget about throwing anything away, consider it a blessing actually, if garbage makes it to the counter next to the garbage can. And they’ll never give up ogling over the female species despite being fully satisfied by their beloved wife, it’s like a drug addiction and the more you deny them their golden eggs, the more annoying to you they’ll behave. Yet, on the other hand, women will never get past those sudden bouts of waterworks over sappy and adorable nonsense that will gag you with it’s extreme girly-girl overload. Your wife will make sure you know exactly what you’re doing wrong, what you haven’t even thought about doing yet that’s going to be wrong, and what is still going to turn out all wrong even after twenty other things were first done right. You’ll be reminded of reminders for little thing deemed important by her, don’t question her methods. You’ll be given explicit instructions that you’ll never hear the end about if you tweak the process even just a tiny bit. For a successful marriage, you each have to come to terms with these gender specific idiosyncrasies as the unchangeable quirks they simply are, relishing in that fact.

6. LAUGHTER REALLY IS THE BEST MEDICINE OF ALL.
This part seems like a given, but honestly speaking, it takes just as much work as keeping the love alive. There are times where it’s going to feel like a smile or a hug is going to take too much effort, but it’s an effort you must make. Life is not all sunshine and roses, regardless of how much you prepare for it ahead of time. There will be some really crappy times where you’d rather just hide under a rock for the rest of it instead of face whatever it is. That’s okay. Just laugh a little to yourself about how you ended up living like Patrick Star and then send the joke on to your better half written on the white flag of truce. If you can’t laugh with your spouse after their bodily fluids have been upchucked all over the backseat of your rental car on your first-ever vacation after having kids or catching them blatantly staring at some ostentatiously perfect aberration of the opposite sex, then there’s a high probability that the marriage will fall apart. If you can look back on any of the rough patches or depressing times you’ve endured as a couple and together find the funny in it then make it an inside joke to last a lifetime, then you’re golden as a couple.

7. JUST BECAUSE I LOVE YOU DOESN’T MEAN I HAVE TO LIKE YOU.
At some point along the way, we all go through periods of self-growth, awareness, and change, which can be really disruptive to a relationship who’s quality revolves around it’s maintaining of balance. When the boat gets rocked, it’s very easy to come to dislike the person rocking it. It’s normal. As long as your heart remains in the right place. There’s been plenty of days where life has been so overwhelming that I can’t stand the thought of playing nice with my hubs. But I still love him deep down and he knows it, so he gives me my space and loves me from afar. Just like I really can’t stand him during the World Cup Tournament or College Bowl Week, because his enthusiasm for his favorite teams winning at sports makes me wanna throat punch anyone who even glances my way. My heart still belongs to him and the minute the last game clock signals it’s all over with, I’m right back to finding him tolerable enough to cuddle up against and maybe even initiate a make-up out session. Until he starts his infamous death bomb farting, that is!

8. THE MORE THE MERRIER IS NOT TRUE.
A successful marriage is personal. The more people you bring into the mix, the less likely you’ll look at each other as best friends. Not that you should drop all your friends and push your extended families out of the picture the moment you get married, but you have to have boundaries and limitations. There’s got to be some distance between your relationship and the company you keep. Details shouldn’t be shared among your clique, despite the intense urge to gossip. They’ll never see what you see in your spouse. They’ll never understand the dynamic between you and your spouse. They’ll never support your role as a spouse. Friends are friends because they take your best interests into consideration not the best interests of your marriage, which can cause way more problems than help. You can’t choose each other’s friends, even if you’d like to. Something strange attached you two together in the first place, that same strange something is what also connects friends, so don’t question why your spouse has chosen the friends that they have chosen.

9. STOP TO SMELL THE ROSES BUT NEVER FORGET THERE’S ALWAYS (AT LEAST) TOMORROW.
Life does nothing but speed on by, faster and faster with each year gone, leaving you wondering what the hell happened to yesterday and how it could possibly be today. What seems to feel like the end of the world-worst thing to ever happen to me-life is over and there’s no getting over it-what did I ever do to deserve this at such an inconvenient time is just a very minuscule fraction of the entire lifetime you will spend together. Whatever it is that gets both of your panties in such a tight bunch, will be long forgotten and completely insignificant years down the road. Enjoy, no… rather, cherish, every part of your journey together. The ups and downs, the good times and the bad ones. There may be years and years worth of struggling necessary before accomplish the right balance or find financial goals are finally being met, you can’t just give up and call it quits because nothing lasts forever! There’s always going to be something ahead down the road that brings you two together in a way that boosts the love you’ve worked hard to keep burning just as there will be obstacle courses and speed bumps on the way to get there. It’s so much more enjoyable to stick around for the long haul, there’s too much to discover yet.

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