I’m Your Valentine

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Adalynne with jazz hands wildly fluttering at her ears and a grin that depicts the excitement of Christmas morning exclaims, “Dad, I have a boyfriend!”

I’m pretty sure that not only our entire house heard her, but also our next door neighbors, too. She is next level excited. Forget Christmas morning. This is Christmas, birthday, and a brand new puppy—the trifecta of excited. (I’m not sure whether to drop to my knees and pray or guzzle wine because she’s 9 and currently losing her ever-loving mind over a boy.)

Silence ensues, and I think every muscle on Trav’s body tenses as he blankly stares into the kitchen counter probably mentally rewinding the memories of his daughter straight back to birth before he shakes his head and decides nope. Not today, satan.

“You aren’t allowed to have a boyfriend.” It’s a declaration. His voice is level meets intense like his resolve on the matter is capable of solving all the worlds problems. It’s the simplest thing.

Two words: Ain’t. Happening.

Don’t forget the third word: Period.

Adalynne’s smile falls, splattering on the floor and her jazz hands are now palms up at her sides—they hang the way hands do after something has failed to be caught and lies broken at your feet. And I can tell by the way her jaw hangs and her eyes bulge that the proverbial crap has hit the fan. That was definitely not the response she was looking for at all.

“You just want me to be alone on valentines?” She shrieks. And I’m certain the entire neighborhood has heard her now. She’s no stranger to dramatics. I nearly split at the seams. It’s so over the top, even for her. I can’t. Lord help us because this is her at only age 9!

“I’m your Valentine.” Trav smiles, completely unfazed. This is the Dad version of My Best Friend’s Wedding and Trav is Julia Roberts. Pick me, love me. I almost snort or cry.

Adalynne looks horrified. “Ugh. (Insert dramatic eye roll and add another one for more dramatic effect) No, Dad.” It’s like she’s Cher from Clueless saying, “As if.” Again, I can’t.

Before Trav can say, “what am I, chopped liver” Adalynne squeaks, “it took a lot of courage for me to ask him to be my valentine.”

Insert all the awes. Even Bella, who’s 4, looks sympathetic.

“Fine. What does he do for a living?” I know where Trav is going with this. He’s going to launch into how this third-grade boy doesn’t have a job (because he’s 9–I know this because she told me earlier before Trav got home) therefore he can’t support his daughter, but he forgets who he is dealing with. This is Adalynne. And if there were ever a female clone made of Trav, it’s Adalynne.

“I don’t know. He hasn’t told me yet…”

Trav smiles, and then laughs realizing he’s lost round 1. #yallprayforhim

Be my Golden?

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A few weeks ago, Trav and I were in our sunroom probably hiding from our children. He was sitting in his chair with our beloved golden, Bailey, curled into his side and his attention held by work emails on his phone. Sitting opposite them, my eyes were tethered to Trav. There is such beauty in the mundane, I thought as I quietly observed him. It was the middle of the afternoon and the warm sunshine in the middle of January was wholly welcomed strictly for its rarity. Its pull felt visceral, migrating us to the room just off our master that we haven’t sat in weeks due to a record-breaking cold winter.

Reading, his blue eyes quickly moved right to left like a paper in a typewriter, never breaking rhythm as he sipped his coffee.  In his mug was Folgers, Classic Roast, brewed in a $10 pot he refuses to upgrade. Either creäture of habit or simply a man content with his brew, I’ve yet to decide.  Often, I want to tell him that life is too short to drink ground Folgers, and I usually do. Regret, hooked on a short leash, usually trails behind my words, too. Trav’s not-extra-self is a steady comfort. And that comfort has strangely translated into a metaphor (because I’m a sucker for them): I’m his coffee and he won’t upgrade me… (he’s going to laugh when he reads this and will certainly tell me its the latter—he’s content—because he’s not only a smart man but wants to live, too.)

Warm and intrigued, the composition of my surroundings was besotting. The small room dressed in paneling filled with a glow of natural light from the wall of sliding glass doors that flanked my right side. It was a photographer’s dream, urging me to secretly capture with my iPhone (that won’t do it justice). There is just something about a man with his dog at his side. The image played my heartstrings like a skilled harpist.

The urge to bring up the “let’s get another Golden” topic felt hot in my throat. I was hostage by dog fever. Truthfully, I’d been suffering for the better part of a year. And if you’ve met Bailey, you’d feel the same. People have valiantly tried to dognap her. She’s that great of a dog. And over the past couple of weeks, I was almost certain I’d nearly convinced Trav that another puppy was absolutely necessary (after all, there is only so much begging the man can take before he concedes).

“We have a lot coming up in the next few months,” I announced. Don’t be fooled.  I had a clear plan.  Prefacing with an ice-breaker before I made my real motive known and started adorably begging for another puppy, again. “Like your birthday, Avayah’s birthday, Valentine’s, Spring Break…” (getting a golden puppy, I almost said.)

Trav set his phone in his lap and glanced up at me and smiled. “About Valentine’s Day—”

“Ugh–” the groan ripping out of my mouth, interrupting him, was involuntary, surprising us both. It was bound to happen, I thought. The annoyance I felt bubbling under the surface had turned from a simmer to a rapid boil over the last several weeks. (The culprit? The countless ads telling me that if I don’t get a bouquet of flowers, jewelry, or even freaking meundies—yes, those underwear ads they are subjecting my ears to on XM—the love I believe in is not validated. It’s so much pressure, and I’ve I literally fought gagging at every commercial or ad I see.)

“What?” Trav asked the minute after the shock sloughed off his face and confusing quickly took its place. He looked like he’d entered a minefield and was trying to gauge where to step or move at all.

“Valentine’s Day is SO commercialized. I don’t even want to celebrate it. It’s so full of expectation. Just imagine how many people are disappointed because they’ve been subjected to this fictitious idea that some grand act of love is only meaningful if it’s monetary. Nobody can live up to that because it isn’t real.”

Trav laughed and the words “tell me how you really feel” was on his lips, even if he didn’t say it. I know it. “Really? I didn’t know you felt that way. No grand acts of love. Got it.” His voice was so sincere like the soapbox I’d just hit him over the head with was validated, my eyes almost watered.

“You’re sure?” He asked, his voice soft. His face mixed with his gentle voice reaffirmed how validated I felt all over again.  The man was collecting brownie points faster than I could bake them.

“Definitely.” I pledged.

“Okay.” He replied, and then paused a moment. “Whew, that’s a relief. I already contacted a breeder to get you another Golden, but now that I know how you really feel about Valentine’s Day and its over-commercialization that saves me so much money.”

Hold my wine…

I’m not sure how long my jaw hung on the floor, but I managed to pick it up and then made Bertha the hamster dressed in too-tight leather pants with a muffin top (because she’s a feminist who says to hell with Spanx) set down the sugar rimmed margarita in her little-clawed hand and start feverishly turning the wheel inside my head.

With my foot down my throat, I practically shouted amidst a gag, “Did I mention that Valentine’s Day is my FAVORITE holiday?” #igotagoodheartbutthismouth

T-Rex Adventures

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In high school, it never crossed my mind that being mathematically challenged could elicit physical pain, lest blisters. During the torture of math class, I often thought to myself, “when am I going to use this once I graduate?” My goading subconscious that prompted me to cheat off my unknowing neighbors (because Trav was in AP math classes 🙄) was quick to always answer my rhetorical question with a laugh before shouting, “NEVER.”

How I now see the irony.

I had believed that “never” till this past weekend (mostly because I have Trav who solves all my math problems still to this day). Trav and I stayed at a local downtown Wichita hotel and I’d researched diners for Sunday brunch. With rave reviews, Doo-Dah Diner was the place to go. And according to Google, it was 0.5 miles from our hotel. A 3-minute drive it said.

Me (in my head): We can walk 0.5 miles. It will be fun! It was vivid, like a memory already made—a romantic scene straight out of the movies. There we’d be…Trav and I, hand in hand, strolling down the sidewalk, surrounded by historical buildings in the middle of a concrete jungle, sharing occasional glances and grand smiles, we’d snap a few pictures of the local flare you only find in urban landscapes, laugh crossing the streets because the countdown on the crosswalk never feels long enough, maybe even stop at the corner and he’d kiss me senseless. It was going to be grand, y’all.

Have I told you that expectations are real-life trolls?! Because they are. Seriously.

Reality went like this…

“Are you sure you want to walk there?” Trav’s question came after he’d taken a long perusal of my shoes. “We can drive.”

“Not a chance. It’s only 0.5 miles, babe. That’s cake.” There was no way he was going to talk me out of making my expected scene die a quick death in the span of a three-minute car ride.

“You’re sure?” Trav cleared his throat. “In those shoes?” Disbelief sat on his shoulders as he pushed his hands into the front pockets of his jeans, standing by the door of our hotel room. I knew his play. He was going to patiently wait me out. (We’ve been down this road many’a times. One word: math.)

“Ha, I’ve got this. It’s a half a mile.” I said marching toward the door with a smile. Looking back the smile splitting my face was asinine. And I was definitely a little idiot, too.

Friends, do you know how many steps are in 0.5 miles?

Roughly a 1,000. (Google did the math for me, okay.) To anyone, a thousand steps doesn’t seem too much or even alarming, right? But to someone who lives the extra life, like me—the lady in the 5-inch wedge booties (that have no platform under the toe) who’s entire weight is balanced on the balls of her feet—it’s about 930 steps too many.

“Are you okay?” Trav looked genuinely concerned not even a full block into our walk. We are hand in hand but I’m discretely trying to offload part of my weight into the palm of his hand. Clearly, I wasn’t discreet, nor is the act of using someone as a crutch romantic.

“Me?” I say like someone else is with us. I might have even briefly glanced around (refer to the prideful little idiot part). “Oh, yeah. I’m great.” I can feel my face fighting a grimace, but the mantra ‘fake it till you make it’ is a loud chant inside my skull.

A little over a block in, I’m starting to fall behind. I want to be all dramatic and tell Trav to save himself. Just leave me. By God get a good breakfast. Live a good life, take care of the beauties because I am dead on my feet. But I dig deep and grind my molars while wearing an I-hate-myself-for-wearing-these-shoes-made-straight-from-the-fiery-pits-of-hell-grin.

A block and half later, Trav’s shoulders are shaking. He wants to laugh so bad he looks like someone fighting hypothermia. “Babe, I can go get the truck.”

“No, it’s okay.” For the record, I’m not okay. It’s bad. So bad. My ankles are about to break off, I’m fighting not one but two Charlie horses, the balls of my feet are numb—the scary kind that gives you deep blisters—and I’m terrified to look down because the inferno my calves are creating surely have caught my pant legs on fire. I’m even considering taking off my shoes and saying to hell with any disease I might pick up walking barefoot downtown!

I. Am. Dying. And we’re only about 430 steps in. But it’s halfway, too late to turn back. My pride still has a heartbeat, albeit it’s two seconds from flatlining. Even as sweat gathers on my brow—a chain reaction to fighting pain, I’m not going to admit that I’m dying. The urge to ask Trav for a piggyback is real, weighing heavy on my tongue. You can make it, Sarah—I tell myself over and over. I’m no longer even paying any attention to Trav. I’m stranded on an island of pain. I’m just trying to survive.

It only took 3 blocks and ten steps to break me. I was counting. I’m weak. So weak. I may love the extra life, but walking 1,000 steps in 5-inch heels ain’t for me. Experience says I’ll now take orthopedic shoes paired with any outfit any day!

Once I concede to a full whine fest, hobble a few steps before leaning all of my weight on Trav, basically making him drag me like I’m a fallen soldier the rest of the way, he can no longer silence his laughter. He cackles like a hyena. It screams I told you so, you little idiot.

Before I black out, we make it to the diner where I drown my sorrows in banana foster waffles and the best biscuits and gravy I’ve ever tasted. Next to our table is an older couple who smiles at us several times before the woman leans toward us. “Oh honey, we are at the same hotel. We saw you two walking. We nearly stopped to give you a ride.” She stares down at my shoes with fear in her eyes.

I laugh. It’s super loud and Trav launches into how he’d tried to drive here…but you know how it goes, he says looking at the husband. 🙄

Nearly finished with our meal, Trav tells me, nearly choking on laughter, that I looked like T-Rex stalking down the street in my killer booties. I want to be offended, but I mostly want to cry thinking that I’m going to have to walk the 1,000 steps back to the hotel. I have to do it even though Trav is offering to walk back solo to get the truck for me. I’ve learned I am three times as stubborn as I am dramatic. I refuse to have my husband remember our supposed-to-be romantic walk with him strolling thru downtown Wichita holding hands with T-Rex.

Trekking back to the hotel, I nearly blacked out again, but we laughed like hyenas most of the way, and I even committed to a full T-Rex prowl through the streets of downtown which felt so ridiculous, but it made us both cry through fits of laughter. I hope that he remembers that most. 🖤#levityisessential #expectationswillrobyoublindifyouletthem