My Beloved.

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I remember the first time I met Trav.

He was tall, lanky, freckled and his bowl-cut-hairstyle swished in an “only in the movies” halo motion when he walked. His electric blue eyes and mischievous, lopsided grin defiantly pulled you in, holding this notion that he held secrets–the kind you suddenly found yourself pining to be in on.

The setting was youth group at our local church. For several weeks, I tagged along with a friend on Wednesday nights–probably more intent on hopefully seeing Trav, than seeking God. (Sorry, Jesus. It was the hormones.)

One evening, group was cancelled (okay, honestly…we skipped—sorry parents) and my friend and I, along with Trav, crossed the street to the convenient store adjacent the church. Trav bought us Surges and we walked back, kicked rocks in the parking lot and drank our overtly caffeinated sodas. Oh, the innocence.

To this day, I can still remember hanging on to his every word the hour we all spent together. And looking back, I think in return, I mostly giggled like an idiot and only managed to speak two and half words total the entire sixty minutes. “Um. Th-thhhank. You.”

Instead of talking, I embarrassingly stared a not-so-secret hole into him, while mentally envisioning our future wedding. Or I made “I love him” or “dibs” eyes at my friend, while Trav wasn’t looking. He had to think I was strange.

Regardless, I went home that night (and ripped down all my Justin Timberlake and Backstreet Boys posters) and, in the most eloquent, bubbly handwriting I could master, scribbled “Sarah Black” or “Sarah loves Travis” on every piece of paper I could find until my hand cramped six hours later. The next morning I awoke nearly drowning in a sea of decorated notebook paper and pledged myself the sole follower of cult Travis. My mother might have thought of committing me when I started hanging the sketches I made of our future children on my bedroom wall. **sidenote—I have never claimed to be sane.

Needless to say, I was irrevocably mesmerized by Trav.

Like. School. Girl. Crushing. Hard.

Just call me a shameless fanatic.

When I transferred schools the beginning of junior high, I nearly combusted seeing Trav walk down the hall. There he was, my idol. We “went out” for a week in 7th grade and then he broke up with me (that whole scene: have your friend call, with you on three-way, and break up for you. I cried into my pillow for weeks). It probably went south when I started naming our imaginary, future children on day 2. (I’m kidding…a little)

We were great friends (and frenemies too) through junior high. But it wasn’t until we were fifteen that it would all come together. (think I put a spell on you…)

Really, though (he totally pursued me and said I love you first)…it just clicked and the rest is history…

We were crazy in love. And when we decided to get married straight out of high school it was hard for people to accept. “Are you pregnant? You’re not pregnant?  Then why are you getting married at seventeen, you crazy person?!”

The disbelief was strong and overwhelming, but nevertheless we clasped hands and jumped: said our “I do’s” and shoved our meager belongings into the smallest U-haul they made and hit the highway headed to the big City.

We arrived on the doorstep of our much too expensive apartment with sizable dreams and deflated, empty pockets. We probably held the belief as newlyweds that our love was tangible, capable of paying for the electricity and putting food in our bellies. Actually, I’m positive we did.

That very first month, when our first bills started to arrive addressed with our newly conjoined names stamped in a depressive font on the front, we found that love does not keep you cool in the summer, nor buy ramen and hot dogs (no, not even the chicken kind. Ew.)

We were so naive, silly, and broke…

Fast forward to today, three days shy of celebrating twelve years of marriage and our naiveté is mildly corrupted and we’re still eating ramen, thankfully, by choice. And I still find myself swept up in my desire for Trav; the fangirl within me is still alive and creepy, staring at him long before he wakes.

Only now, I’m caught up in the sight of this beautiful man, no longer the boy I relentlessly desired to make mine, who is the father of my daughters, the partner I’ve built a life with, a man who shares in the legacy I will leave one day.

Those teenage memories, so many years gone, are easy to recall, because desire is the easiest part of a relationship–strictly because desire only recognizes the most alluring attributes of a person.

But loving someone, truly loving them, ah…that’s the hardest part. (After a few years of marriage we learned why most are cynical, warning you of the hardship of marriage, which we completely scoffed at–with a definite eye roll for good measure–when we were seventeen.)

In the beginning, we couldn’t imagine not making it. Marriage was going to be cake—the strawberry kind with double icing and chilled to perfection.

Little did we know that we’d metaphorically shove that cake in each other’s faces during year one, two, three, four…you get the idea. And the best, most simple advice we received, a week before we got married that we totally did not take seriously either, from the very man who married us (and shares the same anniversary date as Trav and I) would come to be our marriage’s saving grace.

He said, “At some point, today, tomorrow, years from now…one or both of you are going to want to give up, but the key is that you don’t do it at the same time.”

It’s been a hard learned lesson, in maturity and pride, that loving someone demands the most noble part of you—because truly loving someone is a pure, selfless act. It’s putting them before you despite living in a world that leads with instant gratification and self-centeredness.  It’s not becoming victimized by the wayward belief that if we are not “always” being made happy than we deserve better.

Some days, I really don’t want to give Trav the last piece of jerky and it might secretly pain me to watch him eat it–this is a lie.  This never happens because he always gives me the last piece.  On others, I want to shout from Kilimanjaro how much I love him and our life feels like a Polaroid taken from the most beautiful Insta account ever.  And yes truthfully, I might have even had days where I thought about dressing him in a straight jacket and throwing him off the side of a cliff.  Yep, that’s anger for you.  Shit gets real.

Truth is nothing is ever all good, or all bad.

Over the course of our twelve years of marriage, we’ve been through the teenage years, college life, become parents four times over, moved nine times, continue to have over a decade career in one of the most cut-throat businesses, had family judge our marriage and us as people, dug through the lowest of our depths and the highest reaches of our triumphs, had money, lost money; we’ve failed and honored, fought and loved, and in short–walked the line for more than a mile about calling it quits.

This is our truth—it is a seamless union of all things grisly and gorgeous, because marriage is hard. It’s even harder than math for me (and we all know how hard that is…). Nobody is perfect at marriage, because being human is even harder.  And loving someone in such a self-serving world is the hardest.

But at our core, being human is also the most beautiful part of life. We all are able to choose: to fight for who we love, to forgive who we love, to better ourselves for who we love and the life we live together.

To write this in honor of our twelve-year anniversary feels like an accomplishment, a victory, a testament to our love for one another; despite the struggles of life, we are still choosing together–two imperfect, flawed people fighting to protect the boy and girl who fell in love at 15, so innocently mad for one another, who signed every handwritten note with “always and forever,” and safeguarded the belief that they are meant to be together…

“Choose your love, then love your choice.” –Unknown

To my man (my best choice in life), who has evoked immeasurable happiness in my life, my most treasured and favorite person, my beloved…

Happy 12th Annie, I love you…with a love that shall not die.

 

Therapy: The Music Kind.

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A month ago, I went searching my through my binder—the kind that holds hundreds of cd’s. If you’re a millennial, you know what I’m talking about.

I even had the “cd visor” too. I sported that baby proudly in my black Ford Taurus (with fuzzy, zebra print seat covers).  I was legit.  More so, I miss those days.  Strictly because cd’s do not run out of battery, unlike my iPhone constantly knocking on death’s door.  It’s literally a running joke between Trav and I.

Trav: “I called, but it went straight to voicemail.”

Me: I can’t help but to laugh as I confess, “sorry, my phone died…again.”

Trav: Rolls eyes, before muttering, “shocker!”

I was on a mission, surfing through my collection, created and collected between the ages of 12-17 years-old, in search of Deana Carter’s “Did I Shave My Legs for This?”

Know it?  If not, iTunes search it, now. It is gold, at least when I was twelve I thought so (okay, I still do. And to this day, I can lip sync every word from that album).

Back then, I lived on an air force base and ran around with several girls from the neighborhood.  We had a club that met in a backyard playhouse and we even had club dues.  The last summer we spent together, we vowed (in blood—I’m kidding, it was probably fruit juice or red nail polish) when we turned sixteen, we’d get together and drink “Strawberry Wine”—the best song on the album.

Side note, we were 11. But even now, at the age of 29, listening to that cd makes my face split in two, my grin chasing after my ears.

My oldest daughter just turned ten. She is a year younger than I was that summer.  The realization makes me stop for a minute and consider how fast this life moves. Be. Still. My. Heart.

After I found that cd, I continued to rifle through my case.

Confession: I have a slight obsession with music. It fuels me. I listen to it while I get ready in the morning, while I drive (and secretly get annoyed when people want to talk in the car–just let me listen to the music, okay), and mostly when I write. I am a lover of words, which makes me also the person, who tells you, “listen to the lyrics…” and then I will stare you down making sure you are “listening” to the words. I’m insane, okay.

As I flipped page after page filled with pocketed cd’s, I was so overcome with eye glistening nostalgia.  Most of the cd’s I own were created, or bought by friends. Some of those friends, a decade and a half later, are still my great friends, some I haven’t seen in years and others, well, the cd living in my case is the only lasting proof of an old friendship long expired.

I was completely swept up in a heap of emotion because these plastic circles are more than cd’s with various music sealed in them; they are memories of my adolescence.

Nearing the end of my case, I was caught off-guard when my eyes landed on a red cd. If I were to pick one cd from that time in my life, that means the most to me, it would be this one.

Linkin Park: [Hybrid Theory] Try to remember your most angst filled moment of your teenage years—this cd encompasses that for me. I was fourteen, the age when you are awkwardly stepping into teenagedom, when this cd was given to me.  (I might have even borrowed it from my friend and later refused to give it back.)

At the time, my parents were moving on from their divorce, dating new people and I was lost somewhere in unchartered territory. These songs, loud and angry, connected to what I felt then.

After I found the cd and stared at it for longer than a reasonable amount of time, I raced up to my daughter’s room. I grabbed her Hello Kitty cd player (in the age of iPods and such, it’s the only cd player my family owns) and rushed down to my closet. I locked myself in there, not wanting the beauties listening to semi-mosh pit lyrics, and listened and half-cried, like an emotional lunatic, to a few songs on the album (and later that same day, my brother and his girlfriend came over and I made them listen to it, too).

I cried remembering that time in my life, when I truly felt like life was mean and dark. When I believed that love was all about taking and that people leave–even the ones you thought would stay. It was a time in my life when I felt broken, but these songs, this album in its entirety, gave me an outlet to place my hurt in to. It was cheap therapy.

And I listened to that cd for a solid year.  I probably scared my little sister, who shared a room with me.

I couldn’t see it then, like I can now, but I am thankful for the friend, who gave me Hybrid Theory (or loaned and I never gave back…).  Sometimes, friendships, whether they survive or end, serve greater purposes–leaving a withstanding impact on you, or just being a solid fixture when life seems so very heavy and scattered.

Reflecting I know, even if it felt incomprehensible at fourteen, that darkness does not last forever.  God is gracious and merciful.

And music is a priceless haven, a keeper of recollections both lost and found, a balm to confused, burning wounds, a non-judgmental companion and an eternal friend.

Just Call Me Dorothy…

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Do you think “change” has a sound?  Or is it more of a sense?

Hear me out…

Awhile ago, I was standing at my kitchen island. It felt like a regular, normal night (if normal night—or any given day–means navigating the ever-changing, chaotic territory of children…think uneven terrain dotted with unlimited emotional land-mines and quicksand).

I stood talking to my husband, Travis, who was casually leaned against the counter adjacent me in the kitchen.

Over the past few minutes, Trav and I had maintained a steady conversation despite being interrupted by the beauties at least 88 times. One by one, the beauties came forth to ask questions to which we either don’t know the answers to, already answered, or straight refuse to answer. (Did I mention, by this time, it was past bedtime? Like, they were already in bed.)

**Side note: I truly believe when the clock strikes bedtime, the beauties morph into Seals, the Navy kind, and very covertly escape their bedrooms—with fluid, soundless somersaults and expert hand codes. This tactical unit of beauties secretly meet at the rondevu point, one of their bedrooms—probably the baby’s. I can see it now, the bed a conference table used to secretly plot their attack on Trav’s and my patience.**

Trav stood there, in the kitchen, his forearms slung over the backrest of the barstool, staring deep into my eyes (trying his best to pretend to be interested in whatever I was talking about—think lots of long head nods).

Just as our conversation stilled, a small break in my incessant talking (God Bless Travis’ soul), his phone chimed. It sounded louder than normal. He shot me a forgiving look, before pushing off the chair to retrieve his phone from the other room.

A minute later, he came back to the kitchen, retaking his perch against the barstool. Visually, everything shifted back just as before, but instinctually, something felt different.  In an effort to sate my confused mind, I couldn’t stop trying to read his face as his eyes spilled over his phone.

“What?” I felt my mouth explode.

“Nothing.” His voice was impartial. My eyes assessed his facial expression three times over, but it too, was indifferent. The man is in the car business; he has the ultimate poker face, but I felt it. Something.

“Tell me.”

“I’m not sure I want to say anything, yet…” He lobbied back at me. This is a dangerous line to say to someone who tends to air on the “overreact” side. (so in lieu of his cliffhanger, basically, I tightly pursed my mouth before jutting my hip so far out that it probably pushed into the state of Texas and the rest of my body stretched out sumo-wrestler style and I flexed my index finger in the air, directed straight at him and said real slow and stern, “MAMA, said TELL. ME. DO NOT MAKE ME SAY IT AGAIN.”

And he laughed. Apparently, I’m not that intimidating (to a thirty year old man, the way I am to a pack of beauties).

After he’s done laughing, he looks at me strangely before dropping a small bomb.

“You open to moving to Kansas?” His eyes are a challenge. I think he’s testing the depth of my willingness to play supportive wife. But then, he reads his phone again and looks back up at me, the playful look gone. He is dead serious.

Cue jaw drop…

And then I start to stutter… “Like leave O.k.l.a.h.o.m.a? Leave the state and live in another state? Move, like Uhaul move?!? Wait, you are going to have to spell it out for me real slow…” I’m sure I was red-faced and huffing short, exasperated breaths, because he started to look worried.

And fast-forward to now, right now. We are moving to the sunflower state in 14 days. I don’t think a phone chime will ever sound the same again. And aside from being both equally, a nervous wreck and excited, I’m also in awe…my husband is fearless; his drive and ambition to conquer his career is a magnificent sight.

And I’m renaming our dog.  His name will no longer be Camo, it will be Toto II.  And I’ve demanded that Travis now call me Dorothy–it was part of the “get your wife to move” package.  Dorothy Black, has a ring to it, huh?  I’m serious.

p.s. If you’re familiar with Kansas will you share your knowledge with me? Family activities, outings, best lakes, must eat here places? I’d really appreciate it.

p.p.s.  This life is once.  Chase your dreams, friends.