Category Archives: The love of my life.

The Intersection of Death and Marriage.

_DSC2702 bwOn March 2nd, 2013, Kellan promised forever to a woman that neither of us knew.

Three impossibly short days before I put on my white dress and walked down the aisle, I’d held my little brother’s swollen hand as he died. The girl that left her brother’s body alone in room 17 of the ICU that day was profoundly different than the one Kellan had been dating for two and a half years. Neither of us knew who she was.

We tightly held each other’s hands as we promised “I do”, then boarded a Jamaica-bound plane. One week later I found myself standing beside a casket. My Daddy could tell that I wanted to see my little brother one last time, and someone opened the lid for me. Quietly, I kissed my fingers and laid them on Ian’s cold chest as my little sister watched. She slowly did the same.

That evening I trembled in the white dress that in another life, I’d carefully chosen for my rehearsal dinner. As eight hundred wide-eyed people sat watching, I willed my legs to walk towards a stage, and spoke at Ian’s funeral. I’d spent a week staring at an ocean, mentally composing my little brother’s eulogy. I had everything and nothing to say.

Kellan and I were the first to arrive back home from the funeral. Night hung heavy, and sweet friends had left glowing candles lining the stairs leading up to my parent’s front door. I sat numbly on the yellow couch while Kellan rented a U-Haul to be picked up the next morning. And just like that, the very next day we found ourselves driving a truck to New York. A fresh mound of dirt reminded me that Ian was gone, and two rings on my finger reminded me that I was a wife.

I hear a lot of couples talk about how their wedding day was the happiest day of their lives. It’s a sweet sentiment, and I wish I could share it. My wedding day and every newlywed dream that I didn’t know I had shattered the moment that Ian stopped breathing. Our marriage began in the midst of crushing grief, the two so deeply intertwined that it was impossible to tell where one ended and the other began.

I am almost afraid to admit it out loud, but in the spirit of more authentic marriages in the world I want to tell you that more of my nights this yearJCP_3983 have ended in tears than laughter. Kellan and I recently mentioned to some friends that we were about to celebrate our one year anniversary, and they made a crack about the honeymoon phase almost being over. We looked at them as though they’d just sprouted horns and announced plans to summer on Pluto.

The honeymoon phase? Please explain. With visual aids and an outline, if possible.

Kellan and I promised each other for better or for worse in the midst of “for worse”. No girl makes wedding Pinterest boards devoted entirely to adorable seating charts thinking that will be her story, but it’s ours. I can no longer remember what I thought being a newlywed would be like before cancer. I simply know what it has been, and it’s been harder than I’d ever dreamed possible. We have slogged through the neck-deep mud of the death of my brother and the death of the people that we used to be before Kellan and I vowed to become something new together. Each painstaking new step has been painful, worthwhile work.

Over the past year, I have watched my husband honor his vow to love me no matter what on days when neither of us recognized who I was. With no one watching or applauding, Kellan has chosen to love me when the very bravest thing that I could do was get out of bed and stare blankly at our living room wall. He has chosen to love me when I dissolved over closet space [read: missing Ian] and when I couldn’t get off of the bathroom floor. He has chosen to love me on the days that I have been very, very angry about everything that I lost. And after one impossibly heart-wrenching year, I am quite certain of one thing: when Kellan Dickens looked me in the eyes on a Saturday in March and promised for better or for worse, he meant it. Even when it is exhausting and thankless and horribly unglamorous, the past year has taught me that my husband is going to wake up each new morning and make the choice to honor his vow.

Since the day that Ian died I have wrestled with both grief and marriage, and quite unexpectedly, they are teaching me the same simple thing: I need to do what my Mama always told me to and make good choices. In the midst of pain, I need to choose to believe that God is good. I must fight to cling to what my mind knows to be true when everything in my aching heart screams false. And in much the same way, I need to choose to love my husband on the days when it does not spring up naturally in me. Choosing truth is painfully simple and unromantic and often really, really hard—but there is no other way. My heart will not win every battle, but if I have consistently preached truth to myself my mind can win the war.

 

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Filed under God's faithfulness, Grief, Marriage, The love of my life.

Top Ten Nuggets of Newlywed GOLD.

JCP_4509 bwKellan and I celebrated a year of marriage on March 2nd. My sweet husband planned an incredible surprise weekend in New York City, and we lived it up because hallelujah we made it! Reflections on our first year of marriage are coming later.

Today, in honor of one whole year, we’ve compiled a list of valuable pieces of information that NONE OF YOU MARRIED PEOPLE bothered to share with us before we said “I do”. [And here I thought we were friends!] On our wedding day, Kellan and I were blissfully ignorant of, oh, just about every pertinent thing that we needed to know about married life. Engaged friends: I want to spare you that same fate. So without further ado, I give you…

OUR TOP TEN NUGGETS OF NEWLYWED GOLD.

  1. Kellan discovered, much to his chagrin, that not all haircuts cost $9.95. Gentlemen, over the course of your married lives, there will be a great many things worth fighting about.  Look me in the eyeballs: this is not one of them.
  2. Bathrooms. Brace yourselves friends, this one is not for the faint of heart. Let’s just say that ONE of us is consistently indignant at a left-up toilet seat and pee-pee splashes, and ONE of us can’t see the counter top underneath piles of makeup and hair products. Our bathroom looks like it’s home to a horde of dirty, angry hobbits with a curious obsession with Clinique products.
  3. Kellan came to the rather startling realization that dishes don’t magically clean themselves. My darling husband grew up with a magical dish-fairy that I like to refer to as his mother. He was deeply upset when he discovered that she hadn’t followed our U-Haul to New York. [Come to think of it, so was I.] Free nugget: ladies, tell your husband that watching him do the dishes is the SINGLE HOTTEST THING THAT YOU HAVE EVER SEEN. You play your cards right, and you’ll never wash so much as a spoon again.
  4. Kellan was positively baffled to learn that dinner does not have to come from a can, box or packet. Related: ovens are not merely counter tops for microwaves, and can actually be used to cook. [This is not a joke. Before we got married, Kellan’s sad little microwave sat heroically perched atop the stove that he had never once turned on. At the time, I thought it was endearing. Now, I understand that the UNIVERSE WAS TRYING TO WARN ME.]
  5. I was alarmed to learn that there are people in the world that need something commonly referred to as “alone time.” Repeatedly checking on your spouse to see how their alone time is going will only prolong the whole, miserable ordeal. I’ve discovered the hard way that they probably don’t need snacks, water, or updates on current events.
  6. My sports-loving husband was both surprised and dismayed to learn that a magical button on our remote control could take us to TV stations other than ESPN. Also, in a rather disappointing turn of events, it turns out that “Cupcake Wars” does not, in fact, involve any bloodshed.
  7. Kellan made nice with an old friend that I that I fondly refer to as “baggage claim”. Oh, they’d parted ways years ago in the name of “efficiency”, but after a year of traveling with a woman whose hair products do not come in “travel size”, he and baggage claim are well on their way to becoming BFFs again. Engaged men, wrap your minds around this: for any kind of extended trip, she’s going to check a bag, son.
  8. Bless his heart, Kellan discovered that when he orders food, he needs to mentally prepare himself for me to eat any/all of it. And fries? Fuggedaboudit.
  9. We’ve decided that excellent husbands keep an emergency stash of chocolate. Y’all. This is Kellan’s SINGLE BEST nugget. Our earliest married days were a dizzying blur of late-night chocolate runs. Gentlemen, your wife won’t always buy it when she shops. She will earnestly tell you that she doesn’t want it in the house, and she will mean it. [And with Target photo-shopping the lady-parts off of poor, unsuspecting swim suit models…who can blame her?] BELIEVE THIS AT YOUR OWN PERIL. She will exhibit laudable self-control at the grocery store, turning up her nose at every double-stuffed Oreo and box of brownie mix that she passes by. It is YOUR job to understand that her remarkable resolve will inevitably crumble somewhere between 7:30 and 11:59 at night. And then? Well, joke’s on you, because nobody’s getting any sleep until that craving is gone.
  10. Finally, now that we’ve covered Kellan’s best nugget, I’m going to let you in on mine. OhmyLANTA. If I could tell a newly engaged woman only one thing, I would grab her by the shoulders, look her dead in the eyeballs and implore her to GO BUY A KING SIZED BED. I don’t care if you have to beg, borrow, or sell a kidney on the black market, you need to make this happen. This is, without a doubt, the best thing that Kellan and I did before we got married. I think a lot of engaged couples assume that they’re going to fall asleep snuggling every night, an idea so deplorably naive that I’m not going to dignify it with a response. When I fall asleep at night, the very last thing I do is a “bed angel” [think “snow angel” but on sheets] to make absolutely certain that I can’t touch Kellan. If my leg so much as brushes his, I kick until he rolls over to the six inches of allotted space that I have graciously bequeathed to him. Back of gentlemen: he found me first!

Married friends, what would you add? Don’t be shy—share for those poor engaged couples that still think that all of those little quirks are JUST SO ADORABLE.

Bless their hearts.

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Filed under Marriage, The love of my life., Then I found $5.00, Uncategorized

An Announcement Not About Babies.

photo (4)Things have been rather quiet around my blog lately because quite frankly, I haven’t had a hot second to sit down and THINK.

However, the show must go on and inquiring minds need to know, so here it is: we bought a house! A real adult house with our very own yard and our very own Home Alone basement that I shall refuse to enter for the duration of our time in New York. I can hardly believe that we actually took the plunge, given that I still feel like I am totally faking my way through adulthood. This is related but not limited to the fact that yesterday, my lunch consisted of frozen chicken nuggets in assorted shapes of small woodland creatures. Which is related but not limited to the fact that I am skimping on our food budget so I can buy a cute pair of earrings I found online at Anthropologie.

But really, if you think about it, food only lasts for a minute [unless we’re talking about Indian food, Lord help us all], but dangly earrings are FOREVER. I just know you understand, unlike my indignant husband whose heart happens to be made of COLD BLACK STONE. Fear not—every time he complains that he’s hungry, all I hear is, “You look ravishing, darling. I cherish you.

We’re actually pretty far along in this home buying process—we close tomorrow! And it’s not a moment too soon, because I leave at dark thirty on Thursday morning to go to the Dominican Republic with HOPE, conveniently leaving Kellan to fend for himself and move the rest of our things without me by Friday night. As soon as they place those keys in our hot little hands, we’re going to bid apartment life a bittersweet adieu and begin the arduous process of schlepping our worldly possessions across town. Hallelujah for that, because the little two bedroom number we’ve called home since we said “I do” is beginning to look like a pack of drunken water buffalos held a kegger in our living room, and if there’s one thing that I can’t stand it’s a mess.

Which, of course, bodes well for the upheaval of the next month of our lives.

Y’all come see us up here!

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

Androgynous Marshmallows.

Well, it’s happening.

We all knew it would, of course—but nothing could have prepared me for November snow flurries. When I was a little girl, every time the air grew frosty outside my third grade teacher would confidently declare that it was “snot freezing weather”.

Y’all. IT IS SNOT FREEZING WEATHER.

Once upon a time when I was just crazy in love enough to delude myself into believing that snowy New York sounded JUST FREAKING MAGICAL, [a year ago], I asked for a new coat for Christmas. I understood that the flimsy little North Carolina jacket I’d been skating through fifty degree weather in wouldn’t cut in in the arctic north.

My Mama and I drove to the mall where I picked out a feisty little pink number, because if pink is good enough for Elle Woods it’s good enough for me. Also, nothing says WHAT’S UP Y’ALL like a pink pea coat wandering into a sea of black puffy-coated, disgruntled New Yorkers.

[Black is the new black around these parts.]

Two days after that fateful Christmas, Kellan and hopped an Albany-bound flight to go apartment hunting. I deboarded the plane, happily belted my brand new pea coat and waltzed out of the sliding airport doors…

…and died a thousand deaths. It took approximately three tenths of a second for the bloom to rub off of New York and panic to set in—cold like this was INHUMANE. Meanwhile Kellan took one nervous look at me, scooped me up into his arms and carried me over a snowbank towards the waiting car.

Great in theory, except the aforementioned car was BURIED UNDER A MOUNTAIN OF SNOW. If not for one defiant little rear view mirror bravely peeking out on the left hand side, we might still be wandering around that parking lot!

I got the vapors and channeled Tiny Tim as I stood shivering violently in the frigid cold while Kellan dug the car out. The car which, I kid you not, died in the middle of the highway ten minutes later.

Welcome to New York!

It was clear that my darling pink coat wasn’t going to cut it. I would be forced to join the androgynous, marshmallow ranks of puffy coated New Yorkers everywhere—a dismal inevitability that my color-loving personality abhorred. [Kellan once informed me he needed sunglasses to look into my closet. This, from the man that carefully rotates four pairs of socks.]

After packing up my life and moving to Albany, I began asking around. The ugly coats you people wear—where do you buy them? [And yes, I’m making SCORES of friends up here. Why do you ask?] Everyone told me to head to the mall, and so on Saturday Kellan girded his loins and bravely accompanied me.

I think God knew that this one needed to be as swift and painless as possible, because it didn’t take long to find a knee-length, down, puffy number for 35% off. The impulsive addition of a sassy pair of striped socks served as the proverbial sugar that made the medicine go down, and ten minutes later I was the indignant owner of a marshmallow coat. Kellan gushed about how I “looked like a French model”.  I shot him a look that could have melted all of the snow in New England, and in a voice that sounded eerily like Simba’s criminal Uncle Scar, calmly told him to stop. trying.

Mama told me there’d be days like this.

New York, I’ve caved and bought your uniform. But I’ll have you know that every time you see me waddling around in my black coat, I’M WEARING COLOR UNDERNEATH.

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Filed under First World Problems, Marriage, My ghetto-fab life, The love of my life.

Jazz Hands Will Set Me Free!

The love of my whole life was supposed to arrive back home at 11:30 last night.

I spent the whole day walking on sunshine. He’d promised to take me to brunch the following [read: this] morning, a delightful prospect that sent me straight over the edge because if I could choose one meal of the day to run away with forever, it would be brunch. See you later dinner–brunch and I will be sipping mai tai’s on a beach in Bermuda if you need us!

Given that my sweet husband doesn’t particularly care for breakfast, brunch is not an extravagance that we indulge in very often. Kellan would prefer to simply eat Quaker’s Apple Flavored Reduced Fat Instant Oatmeal Packets—a soggy concoction that I am utterly convinced will usher in the fall of human civilization as we know it.

To each his own.

The anticipation of seeing that boy I married AND eating eggs benedict can only be described with this:

I’m sorry, but that is the best thing I’ve seen on the internet since FOREVER. It’s got an addictive quality that I just. can’t. shake.

Alas, brunch was not in the cards for us. I bid hollandaise sauce and happiness a teary adieu when Kellan texted to inform me that he had missed his connection and was stuck in Atlanta for the night. Consolation prize? His boss was sending him to a Holiday Inn IN A LIMOSINE. And if that’s not the height of irony, my last name [on Facebook] isn’t Dickens!

I wilted just a little bit, and made a beeline towards our [fine. MY.] emergency stash of brownie mix. Brownies for one? Can’t stop, won’t stop.

I graced Kellan’s voicemail with an impassioned rendition of “All by myself”, and did this.

photo (9)

Try not to be intimidated by my glamorous life.

Kellan is slated to arrive home early this afternoon, and I may share with him if there are any left. Which, let’s be real, is a total crap shoot.

Hold my calls!

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

I am not a Lima Bean.

photo(5)

Well, it’s started.

I can’t be entirely sure what did it. Maybe it was watching me throw up my hands and moan about not even being able to make fried rice. Maybe it was the fact that I’d unpacked BOTH of our suitcases while he’d been at work, or the lemon-fresh smell of Lysol wafting through the air because I’d deep-cleaned our already-sparkling apartment. Again. Maybe it was the Craigslist job page defiantly glaring at the world from my laptop screen like some sort of bubble gum snapping, acne faced, petulant sixteen year old. [A friend told me to peruse Craigslist for jobs. I think my alleged “friend” wants me dead.] Whatever it was, with a glint of determination in his dreamy brown eyes, Kellan told me that he would have time that night to walk me through some of the job search ideas he’d been wanting to share with me.

Surprisingly, I pounced on the idea because I would rather repeatedly scrape my gums with an ice pick than deep clean my freaking kitchen one more time. In the immediate aftermath of a wedding and a funeral and twelve hours in a Budget truck, I had zero emotional or mental energy for anything more complex than a box of Lysol wipes, and that was okay. However, a couple of months later I think I’m ready to rejoin the great big world, and my brilliant husband and his left brain will be an instrumental piece of that.

Taken aback by my unexpected enthusiasm, Kellan seized the moment and ran to his office. [AKA our guest room/storage room/laundry room. Let’s be real.] Before I knew what had happened, a blur of husband, white board and rather ominous looking black folders was running towards our bedroom hollering don’t come iinnnnn!

Ahem. Come again?

Baby. I need to get ready for this, and if you see it before I’m done you’re just going to get overwhelmed and then one or both of us will end up breaking into the wine and eating our feelings.

The man and his left brain know me. Preemptively overwhelmed, I decided to channel my nervous energy into whipping up a chocolate pie. Chocolate pie is the antidote for a world of evil, which was what I suddenly had a sinking feeling I was in for.

I walked into our bedroom, and this is what I saw:

photo(4)

Okay, first? Precious. Kellan had spent an hour consolidating all of his notes and the hours and hours of lectures and workshops he’s attended over the years to get as good as he is at this whole job hunt thing. The man loves me.

Second? TERROR. Blue markered categories taunted me from the white board. Self-Assessment. Skills and talents. Accomplishments.  I don’t know about you, but there is nothing like an empty white board with space to prove to the world that I am worthwhile to make me believe I have all of the potential of a lima bean. My right brain doesn’t do white boards and flow charts—it’s much too busy coloring outside the lines and wondering what shade of orange joy is. Meanwhile back at the ranch, the rest of the world is compiling excel spread sheets and doing their taxes. Bless them for it.

Several years ago, flow charts and I reached a gentleman’s agreement that they would leave town and never return, and yet somehow I suddenly I found a laughing stack of them maniacally staring up at me. The imperialist propaganda was BACK. I saw a category labeled What is your brand? and died a thousand deaths, because RIGHT BRAIN. I wasn’t sure what my brand was, but I was fairly certain it would involve a song and dance number and HOW DO I GET THAT ON A WHITE BOARD.

Taking a deep, shaky breath I sat down and opened the black legal pad Kellan had given me for note taking, because sometimes being brave is rushing into a burning building, and sometimes it is staring at a white board.

Alright babe, what are your skills?

As I fantasized about boiling Kellan alive in a giant vat of chicken broth, my mind was suddenly a vast desert wasteland with not even shriveled up cactus ideas. My mouth dried and my heart began to race, and while I wish I could tell you that I was NOT thinking about a spelling bee that I won in third grade, that would be a lie. I have no skills. Oh dear God, I’m SKILL-LESS! I’ve been FRITTERING away my whole LIFE! Is my CPR certification still good? Damn the devil, that expired. WHY did I quit figure skating lessons?!

Sensing that his audience was already reaching the end of her rapidly fraying rope, Kellan got the ball rolling. I blankly stared at him as he began to write, effortlessly coming up with a list of areas he believes that I’m gifted in. Before I knew what had happened, I’d timidly begun to chime in and suddenly we’d filled each category. I was excited again, at the hopeful prospect of finding something to do that I will love. In fact, after we were done I made up a song about how excited I was and danced wildly around the apartment while my amused husband treated himself to a giant slice of pie. [I had to dance the flow charts out of my soul.]

It’s a sweet thing to know that somebody really believes that you could do anything, and thinks you have more potential than a lima bean. Husbands are great like that.Y’all can pray though, because tonight is round two: LinkedIn and Resumes.

…and Lord help us, we’re down to half a pie.

 

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Filed under Marriage, My ghetto-fab life, The love of my life., Then I found $5.00

Washed.

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.

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