Wednesday, September 21, 2016

The Jumbled Mess That We Call Life



I signed a DNR  (do not resuscitate) order for my dog, Molly, yesterday...

Life has gotten so messy and complicated so quick, it's a bit staggering. One minute we're having the time of our lives in Ireland and Northern Ireland and the next, the shit is hitting the fan. It's almost like the world is playing a cruel joke on us by saying, 'Here, go have the time of your lives, but be prepared because I am going to chew you up and spit you out when you get home!"

The reality is though, the world (or God) isn't playing a cruel joke on us, that's just life: highs, lows, and everything in between, all mixed up into this jumbled mess that one minute has you laughing and the next, has you crying.

As previously mentioned, shortly after we returned home, we got some disturbing news about a member of our family. And then we got hit with some unexpected financial expenses. Can someone please tell me why dental work and car tires cost SO much?? But, my husband and I still had our heads above water.

For me, my head started rapidly dropping below water when I went to my orthopedic appointment yesterday morning and I was told there are no other options to treat a severe problem (an osteochondral defect...if you have experience with this, e-mail me!) with my left ankle, except for surgery...a surgery that has a recovery period of up to six months-three months before I can even work or do anything resembling normal day-to-day physical activity.

I signed a DNR order for my dog, Molly, yesterday...

Surgery is a nightmare for me. I had my gallbladder out last year and I cannot believe I even have to consider the thought of going through that again. To start with, I will have to come off the low-dose naltrexone I take for my Sjögren's symptoms because it cannot be mixed with narcotics. And we all know I am definitely going to need narcotics, at least short term. Secondly, there is my previous history of blood clots. I am guessing that a pending surgery will require discussion with my hematologist, especially since I will be in a cast post-op and my blood clot risk will be high. And that means blood thinners, frequent blood work, and a lot of worry for me.

So I am doing what every patient who is trying to avoid surgery is doing: postponing scheduling the surgery until I can get a second opinion. Hopefully that will come soon since walking is quite difficult at the moment.

I signed a DNR order for my dog, Molly, yesterday...

This morning's doctor appointment had me subsequently going to the hospital for multiple x-rays of my back. Right after we arrived in Ireland, I started getting episodes of numbness on one side of my upper back. That was in addition to the pain I've been getting in my tailbone and sacrum for months now. Pain that the doctor keeps telling me will eventually go away. We went back and forth about cortisone shots this morning. She wants me to get more shots, this time under fluoroscopy, so we can get deeper into the small areas around my tailbone. I want an MRI to see if we can find out if something scary is going on in there. She says no. But, she does agree to x-ray the part of my back having numbness and sends me off to physical therapy to try and straighten my crooked sacrum out.

I don't have the energy right now for physical therapy.
But, I'll go because I think it might help.

So many decisions to make.
So many complicated conversations to have.

Does anybody appreciate how hard it is to stay focused in these long medical conversations when one is feeling overwhelmed? I know some of you certainly can.

But see, I can typically handle all this medical drama. And I can handle it pretty well, with a lot of grace. I am warrioresque like that.

I'm out of grace this week.

Why?

Because I had to sign a DNR order for my dog, Molly, yesterday...

Two nights ago I was sitting on the couch with my husband watching TV. Molly came over, put her head on the couch, and looked at me in a way I haven't seen before. A look that said, "something is wrong with me."

She's fifteen years old. I was told about five years ago that she has a leaky heart valve, tricuspid valve I think it is. My husband and I both knew that she hasn't been feeling so hot recently. She gets more fatigued on her walks and the heat/humidity we have had lately here in New England has been tough on her. She was panting more than usual. But overall, she looked content and I had made a promise to her, and myself, that I would not go to extraordinary measures to keep her alive at this point.

But what exactly does "extraordinary" even mean??

Yesterday morning I woke up and noticed my husband and Molly weren't in the bedroom. I got up and my husband, Chuck, came upstairs with Molly. He had taken her down to our spare bedroom during the night to sleep because she was breathing too heavily and he was up most of the night with her. However it was one of those things where it came and went.

Because I had that doctor's appointment about my ankle I could not miss and he had to go to work, he took her to work with him. She initially looked better, but then every time he took her outside, she would be short of breath and excessively panting again.

I met him at his work after my appointment and called the vet. She was in surgery all day and I was told to bring her in the next morning or if I thought she couldn't wait, to take her to the E.R.

And that was where I spent the rest of my day.

It was hard, really hard.

They took her right in and checked her out. I got to fill out forms while I waited. I took my forms, sat down, and saw the form where I have to decide if needed, if I wanted her to have CPR. But at least they respectfully put the price of the CPR in parentheses next to the word "resuscitate." There are different prices depending on how much life support you want them to perform.

You have to be kidding me.

And then the tears came. I knew we were going to face this eventually, but no matter how much I have tried to mentally and emotionally prepare myself, my heart started to slowly shatter into little pieces. A kind looking woman handed me tissues. Her gentle act of kindness was enough to help me pull myself together long enough to check the box for DNR.

Breath, Chris, breathe.

You promised you wouldn't let her suffer or keep her alive just for your own sake.

Have I mentioned Molly has been my constant companion for twelve years and one of the two loves of my life?

About an hour later I got an update. The doctor thought her breathing was stable. She didn't see the breathing distress that my husband and I had witnessed. I told her it comes and goes. She tells me her oxygen levels and vital signs are good. Can she have my permission to start an IV, just in case? I give it to her. She also asks for permission to do a chest x-ray and some blood work. I give her that as well.

How much is too much?

When do we decide enough is enough?

I sit there and decide we need to know what is going on and what we are facing. Maybe this is simply a case of pneumonia that can be adequately treated with antibiotics. Yes, let's do the chest x-ray and labs...see what happens. Maybe even a cardiologist to further figure out what exactly is wrong so we can make her as comfortable as possible with medications. But it's OK I tell myself, it won't come to that. The doctor said her physical exam was unremarkable.

It comes to that.

Three hours later, I am brought back in. I am shown the x-rays. Her heart is enlarged, very enlarged. Possible congestive heart failure is mentioned. There are shady areas on her lungs, not tumors, but possibly pulmonary hypertension. I'm a nurse. I know what terms are bad and which ones still contain a shred of hope. To add insult to injury, the doctor took a quick peek at her heart valves. They don't look none too good either, but I am told that they only way to know for sure is to see a cardiologist and have an echocardiogram done.

How much is too much?

This doctor is amazing. She explains everything in a way that I think should be a model for every doctor and vet in this country. She is not overwhelmed with my questions. She is patient. And she is kind. She asks me about starting Molly on two different medications for her heart and I agree. That was pretty much the point of me bringing her in, to make her comfortable.

I run through my checklist in my head. I developed this checklist sometime last year when I saw how much Molly was slowing down. It's a guide of sorts to help me (us) determine when we are at the endpoint...

* Is she in pain or distress? No to the pain and the heart meds should help with the breathing distress.
* Is she eating? Yes, very well.
* Can she walk well? Yes.
* Does she enjoy something in her life that she's always done? Yes, playing with her babies, going for car rides and to the park, spending time with us, cuddling.
* Can we afford her vet bills? Yes, despite the fact they are a killer and we will have to re-prioritize some things.

So, a plan is developed and we are homeward bound, both of us much more fragile than when we arrived. As I am driving home I think about one of the owners and his dog who were in the waiting room with me. I am pretty good at reading people and the read on this man was that this dog was everything, and everyone, to him. You could see it in the way he handled him. There are infants that I haven't seen handled so gently and talked to so lovingly. If I couldn't see and was in another environment, I would have thought it was a baby he was talking to.

I overheard the man talking to another woman. I couldn't believe the amount of serious diagnoses the poor dog had. He sees NINE different specialists. Then I looked over at the dog and I actually had to watch for his breathing because otherwise you couldn't tell he was alive. He was so listless and it appeared to me, he was barely existing.

Certainly not my place to judge, but it made me realize that was not the condition I wanted Molly to live in. She sees a cardiologist Friday and I am hoping she does the echocardiogram the same day so we can get a handle on knowing what is going on and so we can have conversation and make some decisions what how far we want to take her and at what point we will say enough is enough.

That is life, one big jumbled mess. You never know what the next day, or even hour, is going to bring you. It may bring you to the most beautiful mountains and valleys of Ireland. It may bring you to the heart wrenching decision of checking off that DNR box. Sometimes, you just have to hang on tight and pray your way through the day. Or, stay present in the moment you are in and remember to do the next right thing.

Life can hit us in a way that requires us to weave through it one important decision at a time....one moment at a time.

As I finish this up, I realize that after  a ten hour day, I am done for today. There is nothing else so urgent that it cannot be looked at tomorrow. So I am doing my next right thing for myself and curling up on the makeshift dog bed in the living room with Molly. And, I am going to hang on tight.


Saturday, September 17, 2016

Leaving the "Me" Out of Facebook.


Photo Courtesy of Myers Creative Photography

It's a BEAUTIFUL day here in New England. We woke up to chilly weather in the 40's and 50's (love it!) and the high today is supposed to be 70 degrees, with lots of sunshine. Of course today is the day that my body has hit the wall, especially my already messed up ankle. I can't complain really; I have definitely been active and enjoying my share of nice weather lately. But the second I got up and tried to put weight on my ankle this morning, I knew I was in trouble and would have to stay off it as much as possible today.

Luckily, we have a recently redone, large deck in our backyard. I improvised one of the Adirondack chairs to accommodate the back problems I have been having and I have to say, it is so peaceful and beautiful out here, I don't even mind anymore that I am restricted on my activities this weekend.

My husband and I have been on the go a lot lately since we got back from vacation on August 26th. Some of it has been fun stuff we've had planned for a while and then of course, there is work for my husband, some volunteer work for me. While my Sjögren's symptoms have been relatively quiet, I have a couple of somewhat significant medical issues going on that I have been trying to push to the background of my life until my specialist appointments, which start this week. I am more than a bit concerned about two of these issues, but it would appear that I have finally gotten a good handle on my health-related anxiety and while the issues remind me every day they are present, I have been able to carry on with my day-to-day life without that sense of impending doom.

In addition, we received some upsetting news within our family about a week after we returned from Ireland. You know, the kind of news that you never see coming until it is actually here. Possibly life changing news, but it is still unfolding, so we deal with it as each day comes. Because it is not my news to share, I will leave it at that, but I would appreciate it if you keep our family in your thoughts and prayers.

Because of all this, I have been looking for some encouragement online, mostly through social media outlets like Facebook. I follow a LOT of  Facebook groups whose mission it is to inspire optimism and all things good and encouraging, which is very necessary for me because lately, there is so much negativity on Facebook regarding politics, athletes protesting during the national anthem, racism, etc. My brain can only process so much of that stuff and it seems like since we got back from Ireland, my tolerance for the negativity, arguing, and bullshit on social media has dropped significantly. I do think these issues are important, VERY important actually, but I just don't see much good coming from all these posts, even the ones that I put out there in the world. I guess I am more of a believer in action rather than reaction and to me, action is best done out in the real world, rather than on social media.

However, over the past few days, as I have been looking for some inspiration and encouragement, it dawned on me that I am finding the most inspiration from many of my Facebook friends and some of the updates they have been posting. You guys, I am surrounded by some very strong people-some I have known my whole life, some of whom are newer in my life, and some I only know through the online world. There are all these little, and sometimes big, acts of heroism going on each and every day.

Then I got to thinking, what if I changed the way I use my personal Facebook page for a while? Personal meaning my own private account, and not my blog one. What if instead of taking about myself and MY life, I talk about all these amazing, strong people that exist around me and talk about some of the awesome things they do in THEIR lives...the things that they do and write that inspire me?

So that is what I have decided to do. I have decided that for a while, instead of talking about myself, I am going to focus on other people. The only exception will be the two photo albums I have left of Ireland to post.

Each day, my status update will be about somebody who inspires, motivates, or touches my life in some way. I won't be able to do this for everybody that positively affects my life because not all of them are on Facebook and just as importantly, some of them are very private with their personal lives and don't want to be discussed on Facebook. So, I will try to honor and respect that. I plan on only sharing details that people themselves share on Facebook. And sometimes, I probably won't share any details at all. I also have intentionally decided not to do this on my Thoughts and Ramblings blog page because that page is public, whereas my personal one is more private.

I am curious to see how this little experiment goes and if it changes anything for me personally. If it does, I will report back to you. Because let's face it,social media can definitely become an "all about me" kind of place for all of us. It's important to take care of ourselves,work on becoming a better person, and all of that stuff, but what would happen if we all spent some more time on other people? It could just make the world a better, more loving, place.

Thursday, September 8, 2016

Graveyard Adventures

Photos Courtesy of Myers Creative Photography

About fifteen or sixteen years ago, I started doing genealogy research on my dad's side of the family, surnames Molloy and Menkalis. I was mostly interested in the Molloy genealogy because I had this borderline obsession over all things Irish and wanted more than anything in the world to someday go to Ireland.

I really got into the whole genealogy research thing for a few months there. I never researched my mom's French-Canadian roots because well, my very meticulous grandmother had already done that. I had a whole packet of genealogy lines tracing all the way back to 1651 in France. I appreciated my grandmother's efforts and all the information that was passed down to to my generation, but for me, the fun part of genealogy was the process of discovering all these ancestors and relevant facts about them. I wanted to be part of that process.

After a while, I got stuck in my genealogy research. I found some information, but I couldn't get any further back. However on a website called Ancestry.com, I had actually located a woman living in California (I live in Massachusetts) whom I was related to. Her grandmother and my grandfather (Molloys) were siblings. It was pretty exciting at the time! We were able to exchange information, but as time went on, we lost touch.

Fast forward to this past summer. I was getting ready to finally make my dream trip to Ireland and I pulled out all those genealogy notes from fifteen years ago. I did a little poking here and there online. I knew that the Molloy surname originated in County Offaly, Ireland. When we went to Ireland, we did go to Co. Offaly and visited the genealogy research center there. I was able to purchase two books that mention the Molloy surname and I got some information on how to follow up with a researcher there who may be able to help me more in my genealogy quest.

A few days ago, I came across some information on the free version of Ancestry.com and I decided that it would be worth my while to purchase a membership on Ancestry.com. However, life has been a little hectic since we came home and I decided to wait a little longer so that I could maximize my investment for when I had more hours to spend on the website.

During that evening of searching, I was getting confused about my great-grandfather Molloy. I had some legal documents about him I had gotten back in 2001, but I realized that maybe it was for the wrong Joseph Molloy. It dawned on me that some of the documents I had may be for his son, my great uncle. The clue that tipped me off was that there was a different wife's name than the gravestone I had gone to see in Millbury, MA in 2001.

So I decided that it was worth a trip back to Millbury to check out the stone again. Maybe I had written down the wrong date or maybe there would be other information on the stone that would help me. Maybe the document place had sent me the wrong information. When I went to Google search the address for the cemetery, I came across a website called "Find A Grave". In my search for the Molloy name, I came across my grandmother's (Menkalis) grave information. I have visited her grave many times, so I know where it is, the dates on it, etc., but the important part is that HER father's name, Julian Menkalis, was listed with a link. I clicked on the link and it brought me to HIS grave page. I read it and was astounded...

My great grandfather, Julian Menkalis, was buried in a cemetery ONE TOWN OVER! Literally, about ten miles from my home. Now I had known that my grandmother was born and raised in this next town over, but I had never pursued it beyond that. Life got busy and my health needed tending to. I didn't have much time for genealogy research.

But now that I had this newfound information, I just had to get myself to this cemetery. While there was a number assigned to his grave on the website, I had no clue where it was. But let me tell you, I was certainly determined to find it.

I unexpectedly had a few extra, unplanned hours this afternoon so I drove the ten or so miles to the town next door. It was pretty much an impulsive move. I had very little water with me and I was in heavy capri jeans because the temperature had been much cooler this morning. It was cloudy and overcast when I got there, so I figured I would be good to go.

The size of the cemetery was a bit daunting. I needed a plan. At first I thought I could scan the front of the gravestones four to five rows at a time. Shortly thereafter, I realized that there were a lot of grave markers that were cement plates in the ground. It became obvious to me that I would have to go row by row, grave by grave.

When I say that there were roughly a thousand grave sites, I am not even kidding. There were probably even more than that.

About ten minutes into my search, I panicked because there were a few older stones that were unmarked. And then I noticed that there were some that were so old, I could not read them. Since I had my phone with me, I went back to that grave website and checked the birth and death dates of Julian Menkalis. Then I checked the dates on some of the headstones. Nope, my great grandfather wouldn't have a stone so old that I couldn't read it. However since he died in his thirties, leaving a wife and three young kids, he might be in an unmarked grave.

Those unmarked graves made me sad. Just a little block of cement resting on a patch of grass. No name, no dates, nothing to mark the fact that someone, who once upon a time meant something to someone else, was actually buried there.

I didn't let this stop me though. I continued on, grave by grave, at almost race walking speed, slowed down only by the rolling hills that seemed to characterize this particular cemetery.

Then the sun came out. I checked the temperature and it was now 85 degrees. And humid. I knew I was walking on thin ice. Because I have Sjogren's syndrome, extreme heat and sun can make me sick  much faster than the average person. I went back to my car, mopped my head, drank the water I had left, and let the air conditioning of the car work its magic. I did consider going home and coming back another day. I also considered possibly calling the church to find out where exactly the grave was located.

So why didn't I?

Well, that would have ruined the discovering process for me.

There's no adventure in getting the information over the phone.

I decided I would press on, with the stipulation that I had to go back to my car every twenty minutes for some air conditioning time and I would drive from one section to the next as much as possible.

I continued my search for about an hour and a half. I was so determined to find this grave! I could feel the anticipation building up in me as I passed each grave marking that was not my Lithuanian great-grandfather. What a great feeling it was going to be when I finally come across the grave marking that read, "Menkalis."

This is the part in the story where you guys are expecting me to wrap up my little adventure story with a tidy ending. Yay, she found the grave!

I did not find the grave.

As I walked by the last several headstones and ground plates, I could hardly believe it. I never expected to NOT find my great grandfather's resting place. I thought I surely would, if for no other reason than because I had put so much effort into my search.

I drove home with heavy disappointment, but realized that the search was not over yet. I could still call the church. They must have the plot information for where he is buried and maybe they could point me in the right direction. I also could possibly find out more information once I registered on Ancestry.com. The important part as that I TRIED to do it myself and in the process, got a heck of a lot of exercise; never a bad thing for me!

A little while after I got home, my mom called and I told her of my afternoon adventure. I could hear her talking to my dad in the background, telling him how I spent all that time trying to find his grandfather's grave. I had talked to my dad the other night on the phone about his Molloy relatives and my dad had told me that he didn't know a lot of information about his extended family. Part of that was because my grandparents were a lot older than the norm when he was born and a lot of his relatives passed on when he was young. He also told me that they just didn't really mingle much with his extended family.

So after my mom relayed today's adventure to my dad, she also asked him some questions about his grandfather's grave. Apparently, surprising to me, my dad HAD gone to that cemetery to visit his grandfather and also his grandmother, who was buried right next to Julian Menkalis. He said he wouldn't remember now how to find it, but he DID remember that they had an unmarked grave in the very literal sense: no blank stone, no nothing. They had no money and were literally buried underneath the grass with no marking. My dad also said that it was the church who had directed them where to go to find the gravesite all those years ago.

So the good news is, I probably walked right over my grandparents. The bad news is, I spent a lot of time today looking for something I wasn't going to find on my own.

I don't feel that it was a waste though. It was still a small adventure for me and I have to be honest, minus the sun and heat, I find cemeteries very relaxing and peaceful; I always have. Now I know that my next step needs to be contacting the church and hopefully, I will find the graves of my great-grandmother and grandfather. But this time, I am going to bring something along with me. I'm not sure what yet.

But something.

Some type of item that marks the spots where their remains lie.

Something that states that somebody important lies beneath those spots.

Something that says, "these are my people"

My immigrant Polish and Lithuanian ancestors.

Friday, September 2, 2016

Becoming Us

Photo Courtesy of Myers Creative Photography

To say I have been going through a dry spell with my writing would be a gross understatement. I just took a peek and saw that my last blog post was over THREE MONTHS ago. I have some suspicions about why that happened but I guess what is most important is that I started writing again while we were away in Ireland on vacation. I actually filled up an entire travel journal about our trip and on the flight home, four of the six hours was spent furiously writing in my journal. The other two hours was dedicated to watching the movie, The Departed. Love that one!

Anyways, I feel like I have my writing mojo back, at least I hope so. The words have been running into my brain faster than I can write or process them and that is always a good thing.

Over the past few days I have been acutely aware that Labor Day Weekend is coming up. Six years ago, Labor Day became my favorite holiday weekend and as the weekend approaches every year, the memories of that weekend always resurface. Many of you will recognize this story, but it's been a few years since I've blogged about it and my perspective on it has shifted some, so bear with me.

In August 2009, I FINALLY moved out of the home I shared with my ex-husband. I moved into an apartment and my only roommate was my pooch, Molly. It was truly one of the best times of my life and over the course of the next year and a half of living there by myself, I personally grew in leaps and bounds. After years and years of living with an emotionally abusive alcoholic, I was on the path of reclaiming myself. I felt so free.

I dated on and off. I wasn't looking for a serious relationship; I wanted to know what it was like to just date someone...no strings attached. For the most part, that didn't typically go too well for me. I had also become friends with this man who lived in another state (Ohio) and after almost a year of talking on the phone, we realized we had romantic feelings for each other. We met in person, it went fairly well, but once I returned home, the shit hit the fan. I ended up hospitalized due to my Sjogren's symptoms, he pretty told me I was too much trouble, and that was the end of that. I wasn't going down that road again. I knew I deserved better.

That event showed me that I was done with dating. When I was having better days physically, I wanted to use my energy on spending more time with my friends and maybe doing some more volunteer work. I had also come to realize that I really didn't need to be dating, or have a partner, to feel complete. Once you realize that, the fact that you can be happy all on your own, your life takes on a whole new meaning.

At this time in my life, I was very active in my church. I was there just about every single Sunday and I was active in a lot of volunteer work with the church. I had made a lot of friends there, most of whom also became my friends on Facebook. This is one of the nicer things about Facebook, you get to better know people you already know and see in person every week.

Right after my hospitalization, one of those friends started regularly chatting with me after church. He knew, from Facebook, that I had been in the hospital and wanted to see if I needed anything. He asked me about my writing and even though we didn't appear, on the surface, to have much in common, we could talk comfortably in a way that made it feel like that fact didn't matter at all.

As the summer waned on, I began to realize that I REALLY started looking forward to church more than I usually did. It was obvious to me that this man's presence in my life meant something more to me than my other male friends from church. However, I was determined to stay off the dating scene and be this strong, independent woman who was happy being by herself. Because in all honesty, I WAS happy. And I wasn't willing to give that up again for someone else. Too much had happened to me. Too much had been lost.

What I didn't realize at the time was that this man from church was having feelings for me and by the end of the summer, it was obvious that the half hour we spent together talking after church just wasn't enough. And on the Sunday of Labor Day Weekend 2010, he asked me if I wanted to take Molly and go for a walk with him the next day. I said yes because really, what harm was there in that?

So on Monday, we went for our walk.

And then proceeded to spend the entire day together.

When he dropped me off at home, I knew, with certainty, that my life would never again be the same. I knew that I needed this person in my life every day, without exception.

I make it sound easy, but in many ways, it wasn't. I was incredibly anxious about the whole situation...about opening up my heart again and about the possibility of losing the independence I had worked so hard to achieve. But I also knew that I could not deny what I felt and while at that point I didn't know for sure that this man felt the same way, I suspected he might. I decided he was worth the risk.

Our relationship snowballed from there. We went on that walk on Labor Day. On Columbus Day, he told me he loved me. The week later, he asked me to move in with him.

I said no.

Even though I was certain at this point I wanted to be with him forever, I wasn't ready to leave the safe sanctuary I had built for myself. I needed more time.

I lasted until January.
Hey, what can I say?

As I'm sure you have guessed by now, this gentleman from church is my husband, Chuck.

So why am I telling this story again? Well, it is my favorite story for starters. But, it's more than that. I've been thinking a lot lately about how much things have changed for me over the past six years; for Chuck as well. I've been thinking about a lot of the decisions we both had to make in order to be together and make this work. I've been thinking about our differences and about how on the surface, we would seem an unlikely match; you know, the 60's hippie marrying the 80's girl thing. And that's pretty much just the tip of the iceberg.

But over the past six years, it has become obvious that our differences actually make us better partners for each other, mostly because when you get down to what really matters in a relationship, we are more similar than different.

I've had many people tell me how lucky I am to have Chuck in my life. Do I know how fortunate I am that a man like my husband exists in this world? Absolutely. But the thing is, luck didn't have much to do with it at all. I do believe that God certainly did play a part in terms of us both being in the same location at the same time, specifically our church. I also believe God worked through our former pastor as he was the one that brought Chuck back to our church after many years of being away. There is no way to deny that God wanted us together.

But the rest of it? Definitely not luck either. It was a series of very conscious choices that we both made in order to be together. It was a choice on my part, as a child of God, to not settle for any man treating me in a way that was less than what I deserved. I am the one who decided what my worth was and refused to settle for anything less than that. That's hard stuff.

I see postings on social media all the time about how terribly women are treated by their spouses. Or how terrible children are treated by their parents and vice versa.I read about how people settle for friends who view them as disposable. If you don't hear anything else I say in this entire blog post, please hear this...

I don't care who you are.
You are NOT disposable.
You deserve love and respect just as much as nobody and don't EVER let anyone tell you differently.
I really wish someone had told me that when I was married to my first husband.
So I am telling YOU now.

If you have people treating you less than the precious gift God intended you to be, you need new people. Like now.

There were other conscious choices my husband and I made as well. Some of them minor, some of them much more important.

I found out long after we got together that my husband was interested in me long before I thought he was. I thought his romantic interest in me grew from the time I got out of the hospital until that Labor Day Weekend. What I didn't realize was that he was interested in me for almost the whole time he was back in church. I'm guessing that was at least six months, if not longer. But he saw, from Facebook, that I had gotten involved with the man from Ohio and he waited.

He waited.

That's the kind of love we all deserve.
Someone who is in it for the long haul.
Someone who thinks you are worth waiting for.

Luck certainly had nothing to do with us being together one week in 2011 when I realized I needed to make a decision about whether I was going to stay or leave Chuck. There was no fight, no argument. We didn't even really have a disagreement. No raised voices. What we did have was a discussion that made it glaringly clear that there was an insurmountable obstacle between us, a deal breaker so to speak. Nothing that he did wrong, nothing that I did wrong....just two very different wishes for our future. There were a lot of tears that week and a lot of soul searching. There was a difficult decision to be made.

I obviously stayed.
And I've never looked back.

So why do I mention all this? Because I think that people look at us, use the term "lucky" in describing our relationship, and sometimes think that a relationship like ours is unattainable. I'm hear to tell you it is not. But, it is a lot of hard work. You don't see our hard work. Well, maybe a few of you do. Our hard work is the day to day stuff that makes our marriage stronger each and every day. You won't see it on Facebook. You will actually NEVER see a negative post, sarcastic comment, or passive-aggressive statement from one of us about the other on Facebook, or any other social media site. That is part of our covenant to each other. That is part of our hard work together.

I think that is part of why I love this time of year and looking back at the story of how our marriage came to be. It reminds me to not take the hard work for granted, It reminds me of our beginning and how special it truly was. It reminds me that your past hurts do not have to define who you are or where you go in life. And finally, it reminds me that in life, sometimes you just have to take a risk and  grab onto your happiness when it is right in front of you.