Category Archives: Love


Processed with VSCOcam with t1 presetWell, we did it. A week and a half ago, Kellan and I picked up the keys to our new house and said goodbye to apartment 1304. Closing the front door on the first eleven months of our marriage was bittersweet.

The morning after Ian’s funeral, we packed up a Penske truck with a couple of duffel bags and SO MANY BOXES of sweet wedding gifts, and started the fourteen hour trek towards New York. Or as I like to call it, the Trail of Tears because WHY AM I MOVING TO NEW YORK. My Mama ran out to the truck wildly waving my Grandma’s red-handled rolling pin in the air as we were pulling away, and thrust it through the passenger side window. Here, take this! You’ll need it for pie.

Priorities, people.

A cancer diagnosis a month after our engagement had left precious little time for premarital counseling. [Read: WE HAD ZERO CLUE WHAT WE WERE GETTING INTO.] I remember after we crossed the New York state line, Kellan glanced over at me and hesitantly offered, “…well, I guess we should talk about chores?”

Given that we were a mere four hours away from the 1,000 square feet that we were about to call ours, I graciously acquiesced. Yeah, how were you thinking we’d divide things?

Kellan paused, looking for all the world like he was mentally composing a peace plan for the middle east instead of attempting to determine the best way to tell me that he had absolutely no intention of ever picking up a mop. Well babe, I was thinking I would take care of outside stuff, and you could take care of inside stuff.

Yes, because our apartment complex is going to need a lot of mowing and hedge-trimming. Good heavens, I do hope you can find time to sleep.

As we journeyed on in our chores discussion, my newly-minted husband casually mentioned that he had NEVER CLEANED A BATHROOM. Color drained from my newly-tanned face into my pedicured toes, and my hands grew clammy. I willed myself not to dry heave while contemplating throwing myself out of the truck and tucking and rolling onto the highway because ARE YOU KIDDING ME.

[Kellan says in the spirit of fairness, I need to inform you that I have never mowed a lawn. In my defense, that is mainly because I don’t want to.]

It was raining when we pulled up to our new apartment building. Kellan carried me over the threshold into our freshly-painted apartment, and just like that, I lived with a man. I proceeded to spend the next several days unpacking a veritable mountain of boxes while he went to work, and every spoon unwrapped and dish carefully placed in a cabinet was a sweet reminder that we were deeply loved by the friends and family we had just said goodbye to.

Our first night in the apartment, we collapsed into an exhausted heap onto Kellan’s suede brown couch [I know. Commence dry heaving: round two.] to watch tv, and several minutes later I began to itch. We leapt off the hideous monstrosity masquerading as seating only to make the rather startling discovery that tiny little bugs were biting us.

Try not to be intimidated by our glamorous lifestyle.

[The bug-infested couch was gone the next day.]

We ate our meals on the tile kitchen floor for the first month when we didn’t own a table. Or chairs. Or really, anything except for one black recliner with a glaring rip in the faux-leather arm, and even that was the benevolence of parents. Our existence was very Little House on the Prairie, with fewer Indian raids and the welcome addition of indoor plumbing.

That little apartment taught us a lot. It’s where we learned that high heats will shrink oxford button-ups and make your husband look like Spanky from the Little Rascals, and turning off the heat in the dead of a New York winter while you’re away will make your pipes freeze. We learned to fight without entirely dissolving, and when all else fails, to dance in the kitchen. We learned to meet in the middle and buy “some pulp” orange juice. And I think more than anything, we learned that marriage is a whole lot of hard, unglamorous work that nobody but Jesus will ever see or applaud you for—but goodness, is it worthwhile.

Even if your spouse doesn’t clean the bathrooms. ;) 

[FINE, or mow the lawn.]


Filed under God's faithfulness, Love, Marriage

The Ugly Place.

JCP_3649 bwY’all. MY HUSBAND.

We spent the weekend on a North Carolina lake watching the last vestiges of summer flicker and fade into fall, and Monday morning found two bleary-eyed Dickens hopping a dark-thirty flight back to Albany.

As I mindlessly scribbled a grocery list into my planner between flights, it hit me. Honey. Today is our six month anniversary!

Kellan grinned. I remembered.

Oh. Um, cool. Me too.

That evening, I made celebratory pie [my motives were one percent noble in that technically, Kellan does enjoy chocolate pie…and ninety-nine percent selfish because PIE.] and as we sat down, Kellan grabbed my toes.

Babe, you’re beautiful, but I’m worried about your feet. And gosh, your HANDS. I think we need to do something about this.

…come again?

Beaming, he pulled out a card. The chocolate pie of selfish-shame taunted me from the kitchen counter as I read the precious PS:

Those nails look like they need a little stylin’ to match the rest of you.

Y’all. That sweet man had called a local spa and spent HALF AN HOUR on the phone with a bewildered receptionist named Erin as he attempted to explain that he wanted to surprise his wife, and she liked “nail stuff”.

It’s hard to schedule a mani-pedi when you haven’t got the foggiest idea what in the world they are.

Kellan laughingly recounted how utterly baffled he’d been as the receptionist had explained a thousand different spa options [whatever a “french manicure” was, that was CERTAINLY out because AMURICA], and I melted into the floor because six months later, I love that man more than I could ever have imagined on March 2nd.

During our time at the lake, sweet friends made passing comments about our “honeymoon phase” status. Confused, Kellan and I mulled it over one night, and came to the unavoidable conclusion that we’d never really gotten a honeymoon phase. During one of our first evenings in our new Albany apartment as we unpacked boxes of clothes, we began to discuss how we ought to divvy up our closet. Before my wide-eyed, newly-minted husband knew what hit him, I was doubled over, wracked by uncontrollable sobs that seemed to have no end.

While I feel VERY strongly about having enough space for my shoes, clearly it had nothing to do with the closet.

Kellan was married to a woman who just missed her little brother. Who ached so badly and so deeply that she wanted to crawl into bed and stay there forever. There was no giggling, elated, blushing start to our marriage—we were rudely thrust into the raw ugly of it all from day one. Cancer had seen to that.

It has been precisely there, in that ugly, raw, aching, vulnerably helpless place, that I have fallen more deeply in love with my husband than I could have imagined on our wedding day. Before we were married, I fell in love with the man who made my heart flutter when he picked me up for dinner after I’d spent forty-five minutes carefully curling my hair. I have since fallen in love with the man who has held me on the bathroom floor as mascara poured down my face. The man who has stayed awake with me on long nights when nightmares left me too afraid to fall back to sleep. The man who spends time with Jesus first thing every morning, and prays for me last thing every night. I have fallen in love with the man who has learned to just ache with me over Ian’s death, because six months ago we became one person and Kellan signed on to hurt with me forever. And on the days when the lie that God is not good whispered, the truth of His goodness always rang louder because evidence of it stood in front of me sheepishly holding flowers.

Please don’t get me wrong—our marriage isn’t perfect. There’s nothing more defeating than reading about another perfect marriage, and if that’s what you’re looking for you need to find another blog because there’s no perfect to be found around here.  If your marriage needs a good fight, we can certainly give you some pointers. It’s probably the only marital advice we’re qualified to give at this point of our lives! But Kellan Dickens is such a very, very good gift to me. The way God loves me makes so much more SENSE to me than it did six months ago, because my husband mirrors it every day.

Now, if you’ll excuse me, there’s a dashingly handsome man that is stealing me away for breakfast before a confused manicurist does something very American to my nails. I’ll keep you posted. ;)


Filed under Grief, Ian, Love, Marriage, Uncategorized

Becoming a Dickens.

Last week, I took my life and my old social security card into my hands, and made the trek to the Schenectady social security office.

Y’all. I really expected better from you. You KNEW I had to do this—and not one of you bothered to warn me!

I thought we were friends.

I cheerfully walked into a dirty gray room on the 8th floor, and my blue eyes widened because HOLY CROWD, BATMAN. The waiting room looked suspiciously like a third world three ring circus, with one very bored blue-uniformed officer [Officer? Officer of WHAT, pray tell?] attending a mass of rather suspicious looking reprobates. The aforementioned “officer” and I were the only native English speakers in the room, a commonality that got me approximately nowhere when I falteringly asked her for help. Barking, she ordered me to check in at an outdated computer, where a flickering blue screen unapologetically informed me that my case would NOT be served in the order in which it was received.

Oh, good. Because that makes sense.

I was going to be there as long as they felt like keeping me there. Which, unhappily, turned out to be for HOURS. I was one of those line-waiters that other line-waiters are deeply concerned about, and also deeply afraid to speak to lest they become emotionally unhinged. I began sending a flurry of angry texts to my friend Nancy, who sympathetically reminded me that if I managed to escape the social security office alive, I would still have the DMV, my passport, my credit card, my frequent flier miles, and eleventy billion other scraps of my life as “Ashley Peterson” to change.

So you’re telling me I have nothing to live for.

I called Kellan, and in a voice strangely reminiscent of Simba’s criminal Uncle Scar indignantly informed him that if he didn’t come home holding something that started with “molten lava fudge”, he didn’t need to bother coming home at all.

I could hear him grinning over the phone. Honey, you’re becoming a Dickens!


Filed under First World Problems, Love, Marriage


photo(3)The wedding was breathtaking.

ASHLEY was breathtaking. The woman that knows things about me that would bring a screeching halt to any presidential aspirations that I’ve ever had looked like something out of a fairy tale. Brides like her are the precise reason that little girls carefully put on their very fanciest princess dresses and throw a sheet over their heads to practice the slow step-by-step of walking down the aisle with their daddies. It was such sheer joy to watch Ashley walk down the aisle towards the love of her life after having walked together through our respective engagements over the course of the past year. Up until my wedding, we slept in bunk beds [our lives are very glamorous] and would often find ourselves chatting into the wee small hours of the morning, comparing notes and thanking the good Lord that we lived together as we quickly determined that we’d both conclude that our relationships were irreparably dysfunctional if not for the other. [Being engaged is hard, y’all.]

One of the most beautiful moments of the whole weekend was the morning of the wedding, when both families and a couple of close friends gathered to watch Ashley and Dan wash each other’s feet. Tears pricked at the back of my eyes as the symbolism washed over me—watching a man and a woman committing to honor and serve each other, KNOWING that neither of them would deserve it. Understanding that after the tux has been returned and the dress has been preserved, when the flowers are hopelessly buried in a landfill and nobody can remember whether the cake was pumpkin cream or chocolate raspberry, when programs and twinkle lights and music sets and carefully choreographed dances are all impossibly hazy memories, the one thing that will remain is that sacred vow to wash each other’s feet. For better or for worse, when careless, tired words have wounded and hearts throb, when life crumbles and they walk with an aching longing for the comfortable familiarwhen they are confronted with the festering, gangrenous selfishness in each other and in themselves, with tears they will fall back on that vow. They will fail a million times over, and still choose, by the power of a God that had already washed their feet, to try again tomorrow. And it will be the hardest, best thing that they had ever done.

Weddings are good for my marriage. I’ll confess that Kellan and I were none too thrilled with each other for the first little piece of Ashley’s wedding day [on account of me being exceptionally terrible at the whole I will wash your feet thing], and the reminder of our own vow was sweet. We held each other’s hands and remembered for better or for worse. And I was so grateful, all over again, that I get to be married to Kellan Dickens.


Filed under Love, Marriage, The love of my life.

Got Milk?

DSC_0011Confession is cathartic and this is mine: I have a highly illogical but very real fear of running out of milk.

I mean that quite literally—there are few things in life that make my heart race and bring me closer to the brink of losing my ever-loving mind like an almost-empty milk jug.

The explanation is deceptively simple: I stir skim milk into my Carolina-blue mug of caramel truffle drip coffee every single morning.  If you’re the kind of person that channels Snow White when you rise with the sun and greet the day by cheerfully  singing songs to small woodland creatures, I salute you. My Mother used to be one of you, and when I was a little girl she’d often wake me up by singing to me. I recognize that this ought to have been one of those precious moments that people make Hallmark cards about, but I’ll have you know that the second I figured out how to start locking my door at night, I did. And we owe our present loving relationship to that sage six-year-old decision of mine.

Y’all. Until my first cup of coffee in the morning, I am hanging on to this world by a gossamer thread and the hopeful gurgle of my coffee pot is my proverbial light at the end of the tunnel. I stumble out of bed convinced that my name is Phyllis, and often refuse to respond to anything else despite the trivial little detail that nobody has yet been notified of the change.

The bottom line here is that coffee is critical to life as I know it. No milk in the morning=no caramel truffle coffee=Ashley behaving something like Cruella Deville from 101 Dalmations. Normally I love a good puppy, but sans coffee I am entirely capable of skinning a small army of them and promptly proceeding to prance around my apartment in my new puppy fur coat singing “Baby I’m a fiiiirreewooorrrkkk!”.

I might recommend staying away from myself before cup number three every morning.

The milk thing is easy enough now that I’m married, given that I do most of the grocery shopping and thus get to decide how much chocolate pie we’re going to eat on any given week [answer: at least one] and whether or not it’s rational to buy two gallons of milk at a time. [It is.] This was NOT always possible when I had roommates who rotated buying milk with me, and didn’t always share my dedication to milk in the mornings. [The HUMANITY!] Kellan and I had a coming to Jesus moment about milk early on in our marriage [though who are we kidding-it’s going to be “early on in our marriage” for quite a while, still], and my heart melted just a teensy bit when I discovered two jugs in our fridge upon my return to Albany on Tuesday.

The man gets me. What can I say? I think it’s one of the sweetest things about marriage, thus far—someone knowing all of your little idiosyncrasies and neuroses, and loving you without a single “unless”. To be both known and loved is beautiful.

Wedded bliss had a close call yesterday afternoon when my husband almost had to hop a plane for an impromptu business trip. Mercifully it was postponed until next week at the last possible second, and so date night is saved! With milk in my fridge and my husband at home, I think we can already declare this weekend a winner. :)


Filed under First World Problems, Love, The love of my life.