17
Jan

Respect

Lovies, there is a secret that I really really hope I have kept from you. Even though we're not allowed to keep secrets, I kept this one...again, I hope. If you ever decide to read this blog and learn about us and you and me and dad and marriage and our life through my second chance, well, here's something I fought hard to keep from you.

I have always and forever hated the way that I look. Always and forever...always always and forever.

And, I have tried SO HARD. The one and only thing I can say is that Anna, once I laid eyes on you, I tried even harder to fix this and I also tried even harder to keep this part of myself hidden (only from you two) because I could not even think of passing this insanity down to you.

And that's just what it is, insane. I see beauty in every shape and size. I adore women with confidence in their bodies. I aspire to be just like them, they inspire me to be better. That's how I know it's insane. I can see someone that looks like me and think she's stunning and then with me, I think it all looks wrong.

I have no idea why in all of the healing I have done, this one lingers and keeps at me. But, what else can I do or think or say that I haven't already done or thought or said? I know those that know this about me are very much over it too. Hearing me complain, me constantly asking how it looks, should I wear it, what does this part of my body look like. They aren't going to tell me the truth anyway so what am I doing? So, I can continue to blame "them" and say "I know where it comes from and they still make awful comments about my body" but the truth is, I am 43 years old as I write this. Forty-three years of age. I have zero excuses. I either figure this out or I don't. I either figure it out, or I don't. Just me. No more them, me and me alone.

So last week, I posted a picture of myself on social media. A picture that I stared at for days and thought, should I, shouldn't I? So many judgemental thoughts running through my mind and I thought, ok, this is it, one more shot at trying to just stop this insanity.

So, I wrote the story and I hit post and now it's out there.
Me. After three years of lifting. A very different version of myself.

The craze in my mind is I have actually worked so hard to look like that picture. I just didn't realize my body was going there while doing it. I'm working hard every single day, as I have always done, but lifting is different and it changes your body so much.

The craze in my mind is that I call all the other amazing women strong and I see how clearly their strength shines through. But I don't see it for me, all I see is thick and different.

The craze in my mind is that my numbers are scaling up and that's never happened to me...the girl that's terrified to know the numbers because it messes with her head too much.

The craze in my mind is my coaches love it, encourage it, want more of it. Do not care what it should be, they want to redefine it.

My whole life, I have tried to "fix" this part of me. Trust me I know how unhealthy and how damaging it is to think of yourself and your body this way. I know how devastated I would be if my daughter had even one of these thoughts. I know how angry I would be if my son thought this way about any woman ever.

So I tried to prove myself...to me.
But the harder I tried, every time I "failed" I would feel like a failure.

I ran a marathon but hit a wall at mile 20. My body failed, I failed.
I had a baby but my body gave out and I couldn't deliver her. So I had a c-section. My body failed, I failed.
I had another baby, a planned c-section, but I couldn't heal. My MS wouldn't allow my nerves to heal for three awful months. My body failed, I failed.
I do yoga, but because of my hips, I always look "off", never graceful. My body failed, I failed.
I run half marathons but because of my hips, I look like a duck, awful form and that form can cause actual problems. My body failed, I failed.
I have done triathlons but I didn't learn how to swim until I was 36 so I'm awful at it. My body failed, I failed.
I'm slow, I'm not the strongest, I always have the wrong form. And I feel like a failure.

I'm not even going to pretend that this new workout routine has fixed any of this in my brain, but my best girl told me something that did make me think differently.

I just don't spend any time thinking or worrying about my body. I can either go down that rabbit hole, or I can spend my energy in other places.

Who would have thought that was even a possibility? Not thinking about how I look. Just give it the respect it deserves by not constantly thinking about everything I want to change.
So instead of trying to get to a place where I am "fixed" and love everything about me, what if I spent my energy differently?

Immediately after I was hit with three gorgeous women that shared little snippets of self-love.

I am changing the definition of beauty.
I am in love with the woman I've become because I fought to become her.
I am thicker and I love it, I mean, why else are we going?

And the one thing I do not keep as a secret is that I do think there are moments when the universe is trying to tell me things or give me things. So, yes, I will try and listen.

I am changing the definition of beauty.

I know it has nothing to do with a look, a specific look. I believe that, fully believe it. So just as I see everyone else change the definition of beauty, can I try to for me? Somewhere I got the idea that beauty for me meant being lean. Why do I even want lean? What is the look? What is the number? How thin is enough? How lean? Right now, all I see is thick and my body is no longer lean...anywhere. I can no longer make lean my definition. I am not representing beauty by being lean.

I write about #StrongIsTheNewPretty and no matter how much muscle I have or don't have, this family is strong. And I have overcome a lot to be exactly where I am, which is exactly where I want to be. This little life I lead, it is really gorgeous and I'm so so lucky.

I am in love with the woman I've become because I fought to become her.

I have fought hard for this woman. Really hard. I've been fighting since I was 8. I put down my fighting gloves years ago and then in 2020, I stopped proving I can do hard things because I can.

I hit a wall at mile 20, but I ran 20 miles and I finished a marathon. I fought hard for her.
I had a baby via c-section, but I had a healthy baby. I labored for 23 hours, and then I had surgery and I had a baby. I fought hard for my baby girl to come into the world and she is here. I fought hard for both of us.
I had another baby, a planned c-section, but I couldn't heal. My MS wouldn't allow my nerves to heal back together but eventually I did and during those three months, I mothered. I mothered a new born and a toddler. And I fought through my MS, like I have been for almost 20 years. I fought through and I fought hard for my babies and my body and I fought hard for me.
I do yoga, I do not look graceful, but I do it for me. I find my breathe and I sink into the floor, and I feel it getting better. I feel my body feeling better. I show up and fight for me.
I run half marathons and when I run, I do look like a duck. So much so that strangers stop me in town to ask if I'm the woman that runs on their street, I make that much of a scene. But, I run without music or noise. I run in silence and I listen to my awkward feet hit the pavement and I take in where I am. I fight for those runs and I fight for me.
I have done triathlons and I learned how to swim at 36 for them. Every time I felt like I was going to sink, but I always kept going. I fought for that finish line.
I'm slow, I'm not the strongest, I always have the wrong form. But I keep showing up and I keep going and trying. I fight for who I am.
I have fought hard for the woman I am, it's time I show up for her and give her some respect.

I am thicker and I love it, I mean, why else are we going?

My coaches, the other members that go, my sister, they cannot get enough of how much their bodies are changing.
That's why we're doing it.
But I didn't know when I first started and again, my crazy definition had to do with being lean. So as things started to get bigger, thicker, as the numbers climbed and things started to feel different, I panicked. A lot. I really really freaked out. And they just kept encouraging me and telling me, we're not done. Your strength is all we care about. Your health and your ability. You living up to that ability so keep going, keep working, keep trying and keep coming. And I am so I guess that's my decision. I'm in this. I'm doing this. On purpose, paying to look like this. So enough with caring about anything other than showing up and loving my time there and letting the rest...rest in peace.

This year, I'm going to work on respecting this body. Not loving it, but respecting it.
I'm going to work on better confidence. Not loving it, but appreciating it.
I'm going to work on spending my energy on other things, not obsessing over it, but respecting it.
Respect to you 43 year old.

14
Jan

Five Minute Friday - determine

Every Friday we unite for five minutes. Only five minutes, that's all we get, that's all we have. And then, right where we are, no edits or second-thoughts, we publish those words. This week, we write on determine.

Go.

When you determine that it's time to move on.
When you determine that it's time to dig in.
When you determine that it's time to let love, life, laughter, and kindness back into your heart, your home.
When you determine your priorities and what you need to make come first.
When you determine what you want this life to look like, but as a parent, not just for you, but for your littles too.
When you determine what you want your life to look like because even as a parent, there is still a you, separate and apart from them.
When you determine what you want your work to look like.
When you determine what you want your marriage to be, how often that changes, and how you have to work on growing together, growing with, growing.
When you determine what you want to be spending your time on, and who you want to be spending it with.
When you determine you have to unravel a lot of your world so you can slowly, calmly, kindly, and gently...put it back together, this time with scars and cracks.

When you determine that life in your 40s is different and you are growing farther and farther away from that 20 something that was just there yesterday.
When you determine that the 30 something that helped build this life is also looking less recognizable.
Because life in your 40s IS different.
It comes with kids, not babies.
It comes with aging parents, and you in the middle like an awful sandwich.
It comes with magic you have to create, it's not just naturally there anymore, you have to make it happen.
It comes with second chapters and different careers and different life priorities.
It comes with determining that this is our life...right now...so what are we going to do with it?

Stop.

10
Jan

What a thing...

What a thing...to be a parent.
What a thing...to be a kid.

We make you, create you, first in our minds, then here you are, little bits of us.
We think of you, day in and day out.
We wonder what you are wondering about.
We wonder who and how you will turn out.

We worry, we worry some more, and the older you get, the more worries that come.
We worry about the things we are doing wrong.
We worry about the things you will remember and the things you will forget.
We worry about what you are worried about, we worry for you, about you, we worry.

We embrace it all...and there is so much to embrace with parenting.
All of the changes and all of the time, and the days, and sports, and lessons, and friends, and personality changes, and we embrace it all.
We embrace the baby that wakes us up, and the toddler that keeps us moving, and the three-year-old that won't stop crying.
We embrace the child that starts to make decisions and the pre-teen that is coming into her own.
We embrace the past and where we are and what is to come.

What a thing...to be a parent.

You are made and given these people that tell you how much they love you.
You are made to think that we know what we are doing.
You are made to think that if you have a question, we have the answer.
Here's a secret you won't believe until you do this one day...no one has a clue and we're all just making it up.

You are given these people that tell you how much they love you.
They work to show you, they make sacrifices for you that you don't even realize.
You hopefully are made to feel safe, in their home, in their arms.

You are given these people and told they are your family, your forever and ever.
And the truth is, you get to decide if that too is different. Oh, how I do hope I am your forever and always, how I do hope that you will always think of the love and time we have shared. How I do hope you will continue some of the foundations we have set, how I do hope you build off of it, not have to tear it down to start over.
Oh, I do hope.

You trust. You trust us with your entire life. You trust that you are most important, you trust that we always have your back, you trust that we are there for you, will always be there for you, and you trust that we will always make the right decision for you. You trust with all your heart that we are yours.

What a thing...to be a kid.

Sometimes at night, I stay up thinking of adult you. What you will be doing, what could possibly hurt you.

What a thing...to be a parent.

Sometimes at night, you crawl into bed wanting to feel safe, knowing you are with us.

What a thing...to be a kid.

Sometimes during the day, I think of you sitting at school, being you in this place I've never seen you interact, but where you are you outside of me.

What a thing...to be a parent.

Sometimes during the day, you reach out to me and send me messages, hoping to grab my attention, knowing you are my most important thing and knowing I am always right there.

What a thing...to be a kid.

What a thing...to be a real family.

10
Jan

Five Minute Friday - important

Every Friday we unite for five minutes. Only five minutes, that's all we get, that's all we have. And then, right where we are, no edits or second-thoughts, we publish those words. This week, we write on important.

Go.

I had a friend that once talked to me about the difference between something being important, vs it being an emergency. The point was to say that if you focus on things that are important, you'll have fewer emergencies come up. The problem is, she was talking to someone that makes everything in her life important, nothing slips through the cracks.

And I really do feel like that allows me to not have crazy emergencies, but damn, it's also kind of heavy sometimes. There's just always a lot to think about and a lot to do and a ton to manage. But, it helps keep a home running and a business functioning, and a life going.

There are definitely times when I am able to only function and work on 3 things for a week or two, and I can see it, the house starts to break down and things do not work. And before we know it, "emergencies" start popping up.

But today NY had a little ice storm on a Sunday (because Friday got away from me so I couldn't get my five min in to write). The weather made things slow down and our Sundays are already slow. I couldn't run any errands, I couldn't go for my Sunday run, tutors got canceled, and we spent the day taking down holidays decorations, getting things organized and put away, cleaned and ready for our week.

It seems like a lot, but it was so slow and everyone was involved and we were all together and that, right there, that's all that is important. My daughter and I read together today. We watched one of our shows together. My husband watched his football team win the division. My dog got to snuggle in beds and in front of fireplaces. My son played indoor basketball. We all read our "happy hearts" of gratitude for 2021. We wrote our first happy hearts for 2022.

We got to all that was important. Each other.

Stop.

2
Jan

Comfort and joy

It's going to look like candles lit.
Baths on cold winter and fall nights.
Outdoor showers during the summer.
Using my dipping pool with a cool glass of wine.
And using our outdoor fire pits.

It's going to look like friends in my home.
It's going to look like so many family movie nights
and comedy standups that make me laugh so hard it hurts.
It's going to be a more intentional and organized home - cleaner, more balanced.

It's going to look like walks and yoga and finding a way to come back to my breath at night.
Sunday mornings in my robe and slippers.
Cozy clothes all of the time (because that's my new normal).

It's going to look like warm coffee and tea, all year round.
It's going to be less worrying, or a healthy amount of worry because who am I kidding.
It's going to be about opening myself back up, finding love in the world again.
It's going to be being there for those that I love.

It's going to be Sunday night dinners and grateful hearts.
It's going to be vacations with those that make me smile too hard.
It's going to be dancing more with my kids.

It's going to look like a lot of reading and reading dates and snuggles on the couch together.
It's going to be a lot of sports and running around to get them to their games.
It's going to be watching them be incredible teammates and friends.

It's going to be naps and second sleeps.
It's going to be smiling and feeling the joy in my bones.

It's going to look the same and different.
It's going to look sweet and sour.
It's going to look cozy and uncomfortable.
It's going to have joy and some heartache.
It's going to be another year that we take it day by day.
Another year that we walk slow.
Another year that we talk instead of scream.
Another year that we listen instead of talk.
Another year that we shut out the noise instead of welcoming it into our home.
Another year of quiet and loud.
Another year.

Lovies, all I ask is for some comfort and joy.


27
Dec

Dear 2021

You started with such hope, such promise.
You started with my letter to Joe, my promise to love, my promise to myself.
We had so much planned for you. We were all getting vaccinated, we knew vaccines for the kids were soon to come.
We had a trip of a lifetime planned, 2 solid weeks in Hawaii. We were going to spend the summer being stupid happy, drunk with happiness. We were going to surround ourselves with friends, we were going to have experiences, the kids were beaming, Anna couldn't stop chattering about all that was to come.

We settled into January and felt so cozy.
Cole was back in school full time, Cory too.
Anna and I had this amazing groove. I brought her to school two days a week, she worked with me at home three days a week. Pearl never ever left her side. We took breaks to walk her or run to get a bagel downtown. We really made the absolute best out of her virtual learning.

We were so happy with the pace of our life. And the "hardest" part was picking up Cole by 3 and waiting in that forever line to bring him home. That was the most frustrating part of my whole day. It really felt good.

Come spring, we were still on top of our game, nothing sinister around the corner. My business was flourishing, I was really busy but able to keep up. I was adding more and more services, I had plans and strong partners to turn to and ask questions of. I was loving my work, so happy I found this, thrilled I had made the move.

We all were really just walking slowly and again, stupidly happy. The only thought of concern was holding out hope for our trip, that COVID would allow us to go. But, even that felt so shallow to "worry" about. Postponing a trip was nothing. We would figure it out.

We saw friends all of the time, we were each other's everything, life was feeling quite wonderful.

And then, out of nowhere, things started to break down. And fast. So, 2021, I could list all of the ways you turned on us. How the light quickly went to darkness, but would good would that do? And, a lot of the stories I have to share are not mine to tell. So, I will say this...

By the time I arrived in Hawaii, I was a mess. I was crying and feeling regret and guilt leading up to the trip and on my first day, I woke up to devasting news that would change a life that I love forever and always. I spent the first three days feeling so heavy and really screaming at myself to just be here.
Be here, in Hawaii...but I couldn't.
If there was anywhere to breathe, it was here, but I couldn't.
If there was anywhere to feel your breath, it was here, but I couldn't.
I tried...
to remember this is their only time here,
our only time here, but I couldn't.

The day that we came home, the hits kept coming. More and more people that I loved and cared for were being taken down. I couldn't keep up. I was putting things on my busy calendar and thinking, maybe I'll be able to be there, most likely not. I kept having to explain myself...canceling meetings, canceling with prospective clients and staff, canceling my appointments. I wasn't sleeping, or I was too much. It all just ran into each other and it was a lot at once.

Ok, so 2021, you brought on a shit storm and you brought it quickly and made sure to keep it flowing, but here's some of the amazing that it was able to do...

Just us four.
We leaned hard on each other. But like really hard. Like my husband having to pick me up in a hospital parking lot unable to breathe from how hard I was crying hard. But he was crying too, and still carried me home and put me to bed. And my kiddos, we did so much crying and hugging together. And I think they got it, that we are important to each other. But, they also had a lot of crying to do and a lot of questions that I didn't have answers to. And my 12 year old stepped into the role of compassion and my son stepped into the role of innocence and we hugged each other all of the time.

My extended family.
It's no secret that our relationship has been complicated. Heavy. Filled with stress. I have done so.much.healing. Throughout the years, I have put a lot behind me but never forgotten. So I always knew that I wasn't completely done. This year brought the complications and memories back up, made me scream them out loud, made me say things to them I never thought I would, and made me put them to bed. And you know what, we're in a different place now. Oh, we're still very much us with undertones of "don't start that conversation" and "don't start...I'm serious, don't" but in a much different place. For the first time ever, actual priorities are priorities. Things that are supposed to matter do, and things that don't, they still do too, but in a different way. I cannot explain it, but it's different now. At the end of this all, we can say that we've said all we've needed to say, we've been honest, we've been loving and we were there for each other. That is an accomplishment so we're going to be ok.

My marriage.
It's also no secret that Coach is the absolute love of my life. I think about him and us all of the time. I think about our start, I think about where we are and I think about where we're headed. It's also no secret that we have been trapped in an eternal fog. A fog that lifts and crashes back down for years. A fog that was at its thickest and then cleared and then got mucky again and then, this year, had a breakthrough. And my house is different. We scream less. I'm less worried. We find a different way. We finally started listening to each other and when we hit a road that asked us which direction we're going in, we answered...I'll follow you anywhere. The kids are happier. Dinner together is different. Talks are different. Our daughter shares so so much and just talks about nothing until it is something. My son is just himself and we're all very happy with that. We look at how much joy he brings, even if it comes with a storm of tornadoes.

My body.
This year has come with some significant changes. My body has had some significant changes. From a workout that is doing more for my spirit than my waist, to the start and end and start again of PT, to minor surgery that is driving me nutty, to stress making me forget things...this body is changing. But, I am proud of myself for slowly, painfully, in my own tormented way, changing with it. There are so many things about myself I do not recognize anymore and I, of all people, am getting there. This is a breakthrough for my mind, my image, my thoughts. I will never ever be the type of woman that is all in on herself, but this has been a huge change.

My squad became each other's lifeline.
Friendships changed.
My life looks different.
My heart is different.
Some parts are healed, some parts are broken.
Sometimes it feels this joy and release, sometimes it feels such sorrow and weight.
My trust is shaken but my ability to love in the way I do has been heightened.
My house is quieter, but maybe we all could use some shh...
I sleep when I'm tired...but sleep hard and fast.
My puppy and I walk and walk, we have a really good rhythm.

It's all very different because of you 2021. I do not think 2022 will be a fresh new start, I think it will come with its challenges and changes too. I think it will come with more complications, more mourning, maybe healing, more joy...but I also think that this is the life of a 40 something. The changes we all go through, the heartache, the role reversals, the pain, the joy, your children age, your parents' age, you age.

So when I say goodbye to you 2021, I won't be filled with the same promise and hope for 2022. I won't welcome it as I did you. I've aged and I'm different now. I'll accept the new year, live my life, feel my feelings, love how I love, create what I want to forever keep, remove what hurts, keep going. It's all different now.

19
Dec

Five minute Friday - announce

Every Friday we unite for five minutes. Only five minutes, that's all we get, that's all we have. And then, right where we are, no edits or second-thoughts, we publish those words. This week, we write on announce.

Go.

Like so many, each year, I try and pick a phrase, a word, a guiding light for my year.
They have ranged from
More and less
Peace
All is calm, all is bright
Change and different

I have also tried different monthly additions, ad-ons, ways to connect.

This year, I'm landing on comfort and joy.

I'm not ready to talk to you yet 2021, it's coming, but I'm not ready today. I'm gathering up my thoughts on you and what you have brought. I'm trying to reconcile it all. I'm working on it. Because although so much happened in this year, and the pain, the heavy was so noticeable, I also need to remember that this is life. Life has pain which means it has joy which means it has love which means it has loss which means it has meaning.

So, I'll get there 2021...I'll get to a place where I can talk through our days together.

But, 2022, my hope and my wish, the reason I announce a phrase/word/saying/feeling/goal is because I need comfort and joy this year. I need laughter, I need snuggles, I need a little taking care of, I need a little hand-holding.

Please universe...hear my wish, please take this announcement and know that I am asking, I am in need.

Comfort and joy.

Stop.

19
Dec

Flaws

"So flaws can be good too?"
"They're the best part."

-SATC

The way wood has bumps and scratches.
The way cooper patinas.
The way dishes have chips.
Flaws can be good too.

The way a house creeks.
The way walls can have finger prints.
The way rugs can have stains.
Flaws can be good too.


The way I can be so stubborn.
The way you are so absent-minded.
The way we can be hard on each other.
Flaws can be good too.

The way anxiety can push a person to keep working.
The way anxiety can push a person to rest.
The way anxiety can push a person to be both.
Flaws can be good too.

The way people can be childish.
The way people can be dependent.
The way people can be impatient.
Flaws can be good too.

The way a woman's body looks after birth.
The scars and marks and healing she needs to go through.
The way it feels like it's hers but also feels so foreign.
Flaws can be good too.

The way I can be so judgemental.
The way you can be so forgiving and understanding.
The way we're both right and wrong.
Flaws can be good too.

The way my face is aging in front of my very eyes.
The way our bodies are changing.
The way aches and pains just are.
Flaws can be good too.

The way love stories write their final chapter.
The way love can also hurt.
The way love means you hold that person inside forever.
Flaws can be good too.

Actually, "they're the best part".

12
Dec

Five Minute Friday - behold

Every Friday we unite for five minutes. Only five minutes, that's all we get, that's all we have. And then, right where we are, no edits or second-thoughts, we publish those words. This week, we write on behold.

It's a good time of year to take stock of all of the beauty in this world.
It's a good time of year to remember that we are all very lucky.
It's a good time of year to take a look around you and say...behold...

I have a loving family.
I have a dog that I get to see all day long.
I have a job that allows me to live well.
I have a home.
I see sunsets and rises.
I get to work out every day and move my body.

Behold...

I get to walk my puppy and she freaking loves it.
I get to spend my days with the love of my life.
I get to have my two babies still sleeping under my roof, in my home, walking up and wanting to be with me.
I get to make amazing traditions.
I get to introduce my daughter to amazing shows that I loved growing up.
I get to watch movies with my hubby.
I get to travel.

Behold...
I get to love and lose and hurt and cry and laugh and feel...feel all the feelings.
I get to embrace and smooch.
I get to hear music and dance.
I get to be.
I get to make misakes and be.

12
Dec

Where our story begins

There is something so beautiful about the beginning of a love story. Something so sweet, so pure. You can't stop smiling, your heart rushes, something happens in your toes. You can't get enough and you can't picture anything different. And no matter what happens to your story, holding on to that feeling is just so important. In fact, I once read that you can tell if couples in therapy have a fighting chance by the way they talk about the start of them. If they fumble through the story and giggle and remember the joy or if it's all about how it all went wrong and feel as though it started with contempt.

I am so lucky to have so many gorgeous love stories and more for me than you, I want to share them. I wanted to honor them and I wanted to remind you that happy endings look so different. There is no need to mention names, those who know already know. Some are people, or pets, or places/cities. But the who is something I will keep just for me.

When I first met you, I was 14 years old and still desperately trying to figure out how to get through this part of my life. I had my goals and my life planned out, but I was too young to be this angry. You kind of got it, you understood, and you validated how awful this was. You made me a teen with crushes and late-night talks. With an obsession with the phone, notes being passed, talks about boys, first kisses. You made me young and happy.

When I first met you, I was dating someone else and you came on strong. You wrote me letters, poems, you wrote about me. You read my writing and you were amazed that we shared this secret language that we shared with no one. You made me feel so special, so seen. You were my first young love. You made me feel like me and okay with that.

When I first met you, it was way later than I should have. Everyone else had done visits and tours of their choices and made an informed decision. I saw you through brochures because I wasn't allowed to see you in person. But when I did, when I did, it was everything I wanted. From the moment I laid eyes on you, you felt like a warm blanket, ready to take care of me. You were gorgeous, absolutely stunning.

When I first met you all, we were crazy young, a little nervous, but so so happy. We were all trying to figure out what this important part of our lives was going to look like but one thing was for sure, we were going to take care of each other, be there for each other, we created a home, a framily. Years and years and years later, we have been through heartache, heart breaks, first adult loves, weddings, babies, raising kids, taking care of aging parents. We have held on to what we created.

When I first met you, I met my heart, my forever person. Your background was so similar to mine and you understood me in a way most couldn't. Your family was so loving, so caring, so there and supportive and that's exactly what you became. What you have given me is my forever and ever family. Watching our kids become who we were, what we still are, is the highlight of life. Loving your husband in the way that I love you, knowing you love mine as deeply and meaningfully. You fill me full, you are my one week a year and you so beautifully know and accept me. You so lovingly appreciate how crazy the four of us are, and you teach me...you fill me full.

When I first met you, it was my very first night of college and we stayed up all night talking. We sat on a wall and talked the night away about where we came from, what brought us here, our families. Our stories were so different. Within months, you became my first college boyfriend. You made me laugh, you made me have fun, you made me dance, you loved music as much as I did. You let me be with my girls, and you made me happy.

When I first met you, I was taking a class that I needed to check off my list. What I found was an amazing love of the subject, a deep sense that I needed to learn more and more and that I could not get enough of you. What I found was the beginning of my love of education, no longer my have to, but my actual love and desire.

When I first met you, you were seven and you changed everything about me. You and your family had me believe in a loving home filled with laughter and healthy fights and warmth. You gave me a future to believe in and a career that would change my entire life.

When I first met you, you were the funny guy downstairs. We bonded over our love of Pearl Jam and our friendship drove us both mad and crazy. It still does to this day. You make me laugh and think differently. You opened my eyes to the world, you were protective, you were inspiring, you were a real and amazing friend.

When I first met you, we were playing a game at one of your house parties. You leaned over and kissed me and took me by such surprise, but that kiss sparked something, years of something. You had a way of taking care of me, even though I was trying to scream that I didn't need to be taken care of. You had a way of making me feel special, even though I felt like I didn't deserve it. Ultimately, you were what helped me realize what I did deserve and what I needed to be looking for.

When I first met you, you were in a little ball in a cage waiting for your family to find you. As soon as we laid eyes on each other, we were locked in. The day I brought you home, you sat next to me like my little co-captain in this life. And you held that role, most times taking the lead but just a nudge, but always always being there. You became my reason, my heart, my family. You brought dad to us, you made him fall in love with us. You were soft and gentle and cute and smelled so good. We took such good care of each other. And for all of the years of love and moves and changes and life events, I have no regrets. I know I loved you as hard as I possibly could and I know you knew how much that was. You were my reason.

When I first met you, I was renting a movie, your smile immediately drew me in. I met my family, and I was home. All that we have created together is remarkable. Our decades together have meant something. Our future is still so unknown, but solid. Even through our darkest and hardest of times, you keep us...you keep us. I want to thank you for never ever giving up, for listening, for moving in the directions we needed to move. I want to thank you for your undying support, a real true partner. I want to thank you for picking up what I have needed to drop. I want to thank you for knowing how important my work is to me, but also bringing life back to us and them. I want to thank you for falling in love with puppy kisses and being patient with my mothering. I want to thank you for insisitng I become a mother, something I love so much. I want to thank you for loving me and growing with me.

When I first met you, it was different. Two little lines told me you were coming and in that instant, our connection began. I can't explain it, but when I placed my hand on my belly, you whispered that you were a girl. Months later you told me your birthday and months and months later, you were here. A person. Half me, half dad. You made us walk into parenthood so gently and lovingly. You were so easy, so easy to care for, so easy to love, nothing was ever hard those first three years. You slept, you ate, you got sick, you got better. You cried, you were serious, you laughed, you danced, you fell in love with puppy kisses. You were the daughter I was always afraid of, but exactly what I never knew I always needed.

When I first met you, well, it was love at first sight. They put your little head up to me and we gave each other our first "little guy" kiss, something we do to this very day. You looked at me differently, like I was your world...your moon...your stars. I just could not believe the way my heart felt. But today I realize that my heart was feeling what your heart feels. Because your heart is something that dreams are made of. You have such a loving and caring and affectionate soul. Your heart is always on he outside of your body...always. You feel very deeply, you love so naturally. You are a good friend, sibling, son, student. All there is to know is that you will be loved in this world and the world needs to change to accept your love. You do not need to change to meet the world, your love will be the change this world needs.

When I first met you, I was a mom in the thick of it and so lonely. I was in the middle of my marriage fog and desperate for family. I asked for you, and you showed up. My heart was insatntly connected to yours and your family. My soul was full. You were exatly what I needed at exactly the time I needed you. We raised our babies together. We struggled together. You walked me through years of heartache and change. You helped me to see my husband's side of the story. We watched our boys go from parellel play to actual best buds. We saw how complete opposites they were, we laughed at all of the ways they need each other, but drive each other nutty. I fell for you, you taught me so much. You made me a better mom and person and you helped me see balance so differently.

When I first met you, all I saw was a picture and turned to dad and said, this is her, this is our girl. We have to go and get her. There was a lot of back and forth but the day came that we finally got to take you home. You were a bundle of floopy skin and so shaken. Strangers opened up a car door and I turned to our littles and said, she's here, this is our new girl. You instantly warmed to us and we started on our lover of love adventures. A puppy that wants love, and smooches, and caring for more than food or potty breaks. A puppy that is my running and walking buddy, but also my snuggles and fireplace lover. A puppy that loves a nap and a tasty snack but hates the rain or being wet and dirty. A puppy that loves to run looks so natural doing so, a puppy that lives for us, shakes her cooley at us with excitment for just being home. The ray of light we all needed at exactly the right time we needed it. Our perfect, precious ray of light and love. A reminder that time heals and love moves on.

The beginning of a love story is so precious, so wonderful, so caring. It feels so right, exactly what you needed when you needed it. No matter how the story ends, what new chapter you write, just hold on to the feeling of love that you were a part of. Thank the universe for bringing it to you, making you feel that way, that special, that needed right back. Thank them for their part in it. Because love stories come and go. But knowing all of our hearts, we never let the love die.

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