Friday, May 30, 2014

Constant vigilance, or how holding the line can make you cry.

I’m sitting here shaking a little bit inside.  It’s a familiar feeling, one that comes after I’ve stood up for myself and the girls, and even though I’ve done it with the recommendation of my attorney and support of my therapist, and attorney friends (see how badly I need validation?), I am still shaking, tears welling up. 

I think it might be plain weariness at the effort, consideration, second-guessing, worrying.  At how every decision, every conversation transforms into a battle of wills.  How a random act of kindness is rewarded by email bombardments, disguised as “business of parenting” transactions, but demonstrations to needle and pick at my bones.

Yesterday, my darling, wonderful, loving, sweet, smart DD1 was honored at her school assembly—she received a “citizenship medal.”  I remember when she brought home the invitation a couple of weeks ago, she’d run into the living room to get her homework out, and then leaped into the kitchen and yelled, “Surprise, mommy!” proudly holding out the announcement and proceeding to tell me that she was going to be awarded a medal.  I was so happy at her infectious happiness (and of course mommy proud to boot), and dutifully informed her father about it via email, the date/time, etc. 

The morning of the assembly came and being the early bird that I am, I was gathered outside the cafeteria doors with other proud parents, waiting to be let inside, and miraculously getting a front row seat.  Okay, I admit it, I dropped off DD2 at preschool and raced back to get there an hour early so I could hang out and get a good seat.  One by one the students rolled in and sat in organized heaps by grade level, and I had the awesome luck to have DD1 just two rows ahead of me.  When she was called to the stage, she leapt up like a little firecracker, grinning proudly, and stood patiently as all the other awardees were called, and smiled for the cameras that ensued.  Afterwards, DD1’s teacher came up to me to hold DD1’s certificate and offered to take our picture; my seatmate (DD1’s BFF’s dad) offered to take a picture of the “three of us.”  I thought he had meant the “three” of us including DD1’s dad, who appeared, but I realized later, he meant the teacher, DD1, and me.  At any rate, I invited dad to be in the picture with our sweetheart daughter and teacher and later texted him the photo—and while I later realized my bumbling mistake with DD1’s BFF’s dad, I accepted it and was glad it happened, because I know one day DD1 will look back and want photos of herself and her parents, at least that’s what I’ve been told by other adults who lived with divorced parents.  (In fact, I wish I had some of my own when I was a kid, some remnant of me and my divorced parents together, now that I think about it.)

The backdrop to all of this is the emotional manipulation that I’ve been describing about dad ‘feeling sad,’ and DD1 especially worrying about him and wanting to “make him feel better.”  Also speeding along in the background is his strategic request for summer vacation, which ends up exceeding the time frame allotted by the decree and ends in a turn-around that delivers them again to his house for a long week end due to the holiday, with barely a transition in between.  While not completely egregious, I recognize the manipulation, the push of the boundaries, and after consultation with my attorney and co-parenting mediator, attempted a conversation about possible changes to the schedule.  Which of course was met with accusations rather than reflections, with ‘it’s not fair you have more time and I don’t,” kind of thinking.  Our children are small, they are not even tweens, and at this point, I think it’s best to ensure they have a smooth transition between the long term visits at his house.  In fact, the latest and greatest advice my attorney had given to me was—that family has a crazy dynamic (high conflict amongst themselves), so if you can minimize the time the children are exposed to it, the better.  And I know from experience that was very good advice to give.

So after careful consideration, I drafted a second response, which I’m sure will be met with the same dismissal and rebuke, and the only reason I put it out there is to have my concerns in writing.  Because at the end of the day, I have to decide which battle to fight.  I have to save my strength for another nitpicking battle that he has started, one that will protect my boundaries and privacy and will be coming up soon.  So when he responds in the negative, again (dare I hope he won’t?), I will focus on that next conversation.

I’m weary and tired.  I’m afraid he will change the ground and disturb the landscape into a mini earthquake.  I know I should be glad he can’t do that in my own home, but he certainly does everything he can to do it as close as possible, which is why I’m spending time to write this down now.  To get out my fears and worries and hope for the best.  To brace myself and let it go at the same time, so I can enjoy my time with my sweetheart precious daughters and put the stress and worries here, instead of holding them in my heart, for a little while.

Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Dinner Party!: Or, how I’m really an introvert disguised as an extrovert and bumble it up fantastically.

So last night I went to a big ole dinner party and had lots of fun, reconnected with some acquaintances that I’ve known on and off for many years (holy crap I’m getting old), where I made some awesome social blunders that I fully embrace with embarrassment. (Which, by the way, I do realize cannot even begin to compare to the larger context of a 25 year old pregnant woman getting stoned to death by her own f-ing family in Pakistan or the death of one of my favorite artists and inspiration in literature.  Maybe by making fun of myself, I can somehow manage my  anger and pain over THAT, because my brain and heart clearly can’t handle that harsh reality at the moment).

So onward to embarrassing myself.  It was actually a beautiful farewell and aloha to one of our group, who is packing up all her stuff, moving to another country for 1-2 years, embracing our shared past in discovering where we all came from.  There were more people there than any event I’d attended over the years, some familiar faces, some friendly, some strangers, but all collegial.  Except maybe I got a little too collegial with one couple that I saw.

Blunder Scenario #1:  seriously sweet and loving gay couple--one of whom is a long time member of the group, P, who is funny, liberal, has hilarious FB postings, etc.  Standing next to them were myself, an awesome, sassy young woman, M, and a metro type guy who outwardly is a typical alpha male douche, but inside is a softy because he is also a single parent of two girls (which is why I still hang out with him), J.  M, J, and I had all gotten “secretly” married—in that we eloped on the sly with no real fanfare, then did the, ‘Surprise everyone!  We’re married!’ on social media thing.  Well, J is still technically under wraps because he’s having a big ole wedding in a few months with his wife's family who lives far away, but still, it was news to half the people in the room who were congratulating all of us.  Anyway all these secret nuptials happened within a few months of each other, which was in it of itself kind of funny and hilarious that we were standing next to each other.  So, considering gay marriage is now legal where we live and has been for a time, cue awkward conversation:

Me to P:  So!  Have you guys gotten secretly married like the three of us?
P (Awkward and slightly annoyed look at his partner):  Um, no, not secret, we’ve been “out” for like ages.
Me (realizing lame ass awkward joke did not come across at all): Awesome!  
Me (embarrassing walk back to my table).  Le sigh.  How could he know that I was attempting to come from a loving place—that my father and his partner died of AIDS in the 90s, when “civil unions” let alone “gay marriage” were less likely to happen than hell freezing over…?   Yep, not my best moment.  Because even though I have this particular tragedy as part of my story, I cannot assume that I know or can make light of another person's story, or that it gives me a free pass to be cool, i'm down with gay people card,  or presume to know what it's like to be a gay couple and marginalized in that way.  Le sigh, again.

Blunder Scenario #2:  An acquaintance, K, who I hadn’t seen for over two years arrived, and I greeted her with a hug.  She was one of the people who was ‘surprised’ on facebook by the sudden announcement of the nuptials.  Back three years ago, when I was initially separated, we had taken the girls to the beach a few times—she has one daughter about a year younger than my DD1.  Over the course of the dinner, she kind of shouted across the table at me, i.e.

K:  OMG, did you get married?
Me <laughing>:  Yes!  So did M & J!  We’re the secret married crew! 
K<not really smiling or laughing at all>: So how did you meet your husband?
Me<picking up a weird vibe, not sure where direction is heading, so being a bit protective of my privacy>: Oh, through friends of friends.

To lighten the mood, I shared a couple of initial wedding photos that we had gotten from the photographer—and because of the lighting and beautiful day, it looked like an almost fake background—the colors of the sky and beach and ocean are so wonderfully intense.

Me:  Seriously, the way they're shot, they look fake!
K: OMG, these pictures look fake!
Me: I know, right!  Like, 'sure, sure, you really got married on a beach'  <laughing>
K:  So how long have you been together?  It’s kind of fast huh? <looks across the table at another acquaintance, eyebrows raised>
Me <quizzical>:  Oh we’ve been together for a year and a half, he proposed at Christmas and we got married on May 17th.  <smiling profusing> 
K <serious look on her face>:  Well, you know, this time, you better just stick with it.  No matter what.
Me (suddenly triggered, wow, did she really just say that?  Has she any idea what it’s like to see your 6 lbs dog choked by your husband and thrown across the room, or to see your husband knock around your kids, one not even a year old,  swear at them and make them cry so hard they are throwing up, break dishes and destroy your children’s toys?  Has she ever experienced death threats leveled at herself and her child?  Really?  Have I even seen her for the last two years?  WTF?? not sure how to respond--smile still frozen on my face, probably due to the beer):  <slowly shaking head and still somehow smiling> oh girl, you really, really don’t need to go there.
K (not really registering—I think—what I said, or maybe thinking i'm joking because of the smile?):  <smiled back>.

Everyone continued eating, not sure if anyone really heard the exchange anyway—the restaurant was clanging with busboys clearing tables and replenishing the side dishes, bustling with sizzling food cooking on the tables and ringing conversations bouncing around each table--our party was so large, we took up four long tables.  When we said our goodbyes, everyone hugged and acted normal so perhaps I’m just reading into it too much.

Conclusion:  I emailed P, apologizing for my social blunder.  Who knows, maybe he wasn’t offended, but one thing in my ripe old age that I’ve learned is to reach out if you think you’ve done something stupid or offensive, take full responsibility and apologize.  Don't make excuses, just say sorry in sincere manner.  Maybe I embarrassed myself further by doing so, but at least I can be sure I did my best to show that I hadn't meant to be a complete and utter asshat (thanks @Betty Fokker! Love this term!).

Regarding K, I know this is my trigger/PTSD issue.  People who matter, they understand and are supportive.  Others, like, K, acquaintances who happen to pass through my orbit but do not linger, will make commentary they think is appropriate because they simply don’t know.  So I shouldn’t get upset—her questions/comments were from her perspective.  Yes it felt judgy to me, maybe she is judgy or maybe not, but I’m not close enough to her to find out.  What I can do is manage my anxiety and recognize that these kinds of questions bring up triggers for me.  I wonder what would be a good response to commentary like that.  If I figure it out, I’ll write it down.

So--not entirely proud of myself but at the very least, I got to eat a fabulous dinner with friends who do know my story a little bit better, and laughed a lot and hugged a lot and was able to say farewell to our good friend moving across the world.  And then I made it home to my husband, who was taking care of the house and who had his own impromptu dinner party last evening, and we were both so happy and relieved to be home after a long day.

Thursday, May 22, 2014

Well, crap: Or, when your Ex manipulates your daughter and how to handle it the best that you can.

The girls came up with a special name for their stepdad, something that is of course NOT dad or daddy or father. At any rate, DD1's first idea was shut down by her father months ago, because it made him feel 'uncomfortable' so because she is a sensitive soul, she felt uncomfortable, and after consulting with my therapist and the girls' therapist, i agreed to support her 'change of mind,' poor thing, because it put her in the middle.

Then a month or so ago, DD1 asked me what dad meant in another language (my native language, even though i'm adopted, i spent a year in my birth country working as a teacher and learning the language long ago--anyway, the girls are half me and half dad's ethnicity).  To remain somewhat anonymous, i'll just refer to it as 'aaa.' Anyway, DD1 LOVED the idea of calling him that when we got married.  This week end, since our beautiful ceremony, they've been profusely and cheerfully calling him that. Cut to last evening, after an overnight at dad's house--and again, dad is a completely different 'race' than me, has his own native tongue (not that they use it), so my birth language has nothing to do with them.

So at dinner, DD1 asked 'aaa' to cover his ears because she wanted to tell me something.  This came up before when DD1 shared something troubling her from dad’s house—usually a sign that dad has told her something that he doesn’t want either me or my husband to hear, so my husband dutifully covered his ears, while of course, we were both riveted to our seats.  DD1 went on to tell me that her dad had a long talk with DD2 and her last night about how just because they have a stepdad it doesn't mean 'he disappears,' and she said dad was very sad. She said dad was really uncomfortable with "aaa" because it means dad in a different language.  Then she said she was uncomfortable with “aaa” now and wanted to revert to calling stepdad a word that we used for him prior to getting married, a friendly word used generally here for any familiar neighbor or from the bank teller to the bagger at the grocery store, to the mailman, etc.
I responded that I was sorry dad was sad (remembering advice from our play therapist), and that dad is right that at dad’s house there is only dad and no “aaa” (advice from mediator on this matter).  From DD1s reaction—feeling less alarmed, a little more calm, I can see how these kind of statements make DD1 feel validated and less in the middle.  I also assured DD1 she will always have her real dad, that’s why we don't call “stepdad” dad or daddy.  I told her at mom’s house she has a stepdad who is “aaa,” and it's ok to use “aaa” at mom’s house because that is the special name we decided together and because he loves us and we love him. But just because we have an “aaa” doesn't mean her real dad disappears, he is at dad’s house. 

DD1 seemed to feel better but also seemed worried because dad is sad. I told her I'm sorry dad is sad, and that even if he is sad, it's not her job to be sad for dad, too.  She actually seemed a little relieved and gave me a big hug.  She is still hesitant on aaa and I won't push it, although DD1 still happily says aaa. 

So 1) I’m working through being PISSED OFF: “aaa” means nothing to the ex or his family, they are a different race altogether, and their native tongue is completely different, not that they use it, since they are fourth generation.  

2)  It was an idea that came from DD1, just like her initial name for stepdad was her idea, which we nixed when it was causing her to be upset from dad making her upset.  So I’m doubly pissed that Dad is making DD1 feel bad about her ideas and making her feeling sorry for dad.  She is SEVEN years old.  RAWR.

3)  I then consulted the play therapist, attorney, other single parents who have crazy conflict with their exes, and some attorney friends I know.  I don’t know what else to do.  They have concurred that how I handled the talk with DD1 supports her feelings and lets her come into her own in her own time.  I just find it so ironic that a lot of these parents really stick the knife in our guts to control our reactions and do the right thing by not putting our kids “in the middle” or “pressuring them,” and our exes just say whatever, whenever, with themselves in mind before the children.

4)  And I am worried about my husband—who is being an adult about this and came into this marriage with eyes wide open about the machinations and manipulations of the ex and the knowledge of what we suffered in the past.  It is hurtful for him to see us go through these things, and he wants to rush in and fight and take care of it.  Yet, I am the one who needs to be the gatekeeper and protector of our family.  I think he understands that—that it is my job to be the captain in instances like this, and also allow him room to vent and make opinions and incorporate those opinions, too, but it’s tough for him to remember that at times, because he gets so fired up about it, too.

5)  This just in:  now I have learned that DD2 added more to the story, that dad told them about a dog that had died, and if we changed the name of the dog that had died, wouldn’t that make them feel hurt and sad.  ?? Granted that is coming from a pre-schooler, but I am just ready to throw my hands up into the sky.

Conclusion:  I will talk to DD1 and let her know that since we came up with “aaa” together, that we (me, DD2, and aaa) will continue to call him “aaa.”  I’m hoping this will normalize the word at our house, and remove the ‘stigma’ that dad has placed on it.  Then I will give DD1 the choice to call him “aaa” or something different and not push her to choose—let her be empowered and considered in her choice and I think one day, when she is strong enough, she will come around in her own time.

Monday, May 19, 2014

A beautiful day, or, how to elope with your fiance and your children

We did an ‘elope on the beach’ package, which was perfect for our little family.  My daughters and I were already up bright and early when the hair and make up artist came to the house, and the girls were so excited to see my curls, they wanted to do something with their hair, too (which was the sneaky, goal, lol).  DD1 decided to have curls, and DD2 opted for two little french braids.  Then, two hours later, we all loaded up into the limo, which the girls adored and couldn’t help climbing all over, and rode through the stormy rain (rain! Not on our wedding day, gasp!) from our house, until we left the clouds behind and arrived to the beach.  The photographer and videographer were waiting for us just as we piled out of the “lo-o-o-o-ng” car, as DD2 called it, and which was perfect, because they were so excited about the limo, I was hoping they’d get a photo with the girls near it!

It turned out the reverend who met us at the drop off is married to our wedding coordinator, and they have grandchildren, so they knew exactly how to relate and hang with the girls.  It just made my heart swoon to see they had mini bouquets ready for them, and haku leis (flowers made into a crown), and not only that, but they also gave them brightest and sweetest blue and pink bamboo umbrellas that the girls got to KEEP—this is how it works here, just lovely added bonuses that aren’t itemized on an invoice, include just because.  The girls were thrilled and loving it all up, smiling and skipping along the wooded path for pictures, eventually leading us to our ceremony spot, which was nestled between the ironwood trees and a large, shady naupaka bush, right on the sand.  The wedding planner had spread rose petals to make an aisle that led to a small heart for us to stand and say our vows—with two bamboo stanchions topped with orchids and ginger as a frame.

Of course when we got there, DD2 suddenly had a case of the grumpies, which was quickly remedied by a spam musubi, and with spirits restored, along with two giant baskets of flower petals, both girls led the procession down the aisle, and without further ado we were in front of the reverend, ready to say our vows.  Which, I wish, I wish, I wish I could write down verbatim.  I know we said we would love and cherish and honor each other, and so many other kind things.  My now husband teared up as he said them, which made me tear up, and then the tears were just rolling down my face, I was bursting with so much happiness and emotion.

One of the phrases we said to each other that I do remember is:  to never walk behind you or below you or above you, but to always walk beside you.

Our reverend said he would send the vows to us, but also some of the phrasing he simply “added” to the script because of how we interacted with one another.  It makes me smile to think that we somehow inspired him to think of a few choice words for us—and yes he’s probably used them before in his years of experience, but for whatever reason he decided to use them in our ceremony.  He mentioned that after all this time, he is still moved when he sees tears, because he knows it’s a sign of deep emotion. <3

After the ceremony, we did some romantic posed pictures, but also silly, fun ones, like everyone holding hands and jumping on the beach, how I hope that one turns out!  The girls helped the coordinator set up and decorate our little cake with white orchids, and we cut it and fed it to each other—in fact the promise of cake inspired some of the smiles we captured on camera in the family photos, ha ha ha!  DD1 had never had sparkling apple juice before and decided it is now her favorite.  I think she has good taste, ha ha ha!

And when it was finally time to pack up and go, we just decided to pay an extra hour for the limo and jump in the water, play in the sand, ride our boogie board, hold hands and laugh and laugh, until it was time to shower and go home.  It was really, just absolutely the perfect day.  I will never forget how easy it felt, how full of love and laughter, and how with our two little girls, everything felt ‘in the moment’ and fun and easy and effortless.  How lucky we are to have wed in our beautiful and lovely state, and how lucky we are to be a little family.

Thursday, May 15, 2014

A letter to my fiance, because we're getting married in a few days!

Dear A,

In a few days we will be getting married—a secret-not-so-secret elopement on one of the most beautiful beaches in the state.  I am so excited to be married to you and to blend our little family, one that has already made room for you in our hearts and accepted your kindness, love, chivalrous and dashing and hilarious manner, one that has already forever changed by your thoughtfulness and intelligence and presence in making our lives better.  The girls long ago embraced you as someone to love, and every time they ask you for anything, like the “flip-over,” or run to hug you, it makes my heart grow that much larger.

So I thought I might write down some of the things you have taught me so far about what it means to be loved.  Lessons that may seem to be normal and run of the mill to many, because they know these things like the back of their hand, but for the many adventurous twists and turns of my life, I didn’t get to learn until I learned them with you.  And while I still feel the giggly, starry-eyed way about you the way I did on our first date, what I’ve learned through the turbulence of the past is to value equally the big picture, the big stuff, along-side the glowing stars.

Love means listening and responding, offering help without paying a price:  You have done so many things for us, from the simple kindness of remembering to pick up an extra jar of mayonnaise or loaf of bread or conditioner, to the thoughtful purchase of the family pass to the zoo so the kids can see their favorite animals and get discounts on our favorite snacks (chicken fingers!), to getting us the new car because I got in a fender bender with my old one.  And you do these things, with thoughtful consideration, i.e. saying that the car was 14 years old and falling apart, so maybe it’s just a sign to get a new one—without blinking an eye, without getting upset that we ran out of bread, or exploding in anger that I got in an accident (thankfully no one was hurt!), and you offer your kindness and help for this very simple reason: because you love us and want to take care of us.  I see this in all of your actions, in our decisions that we make about our life now and in the future, how you incorporate what is good for us simply because you love us so. *swoon*

Love means that it’s okay to have any kind of emotion--even anger--and it doesn’t have to be dangerous:  Through our time together, we have already gone through periods of conflict, much of it due to my ex, but some of it, just general, normal differences of opinions that come up when people get closer to each other.  Emotions have run high and voices have been raised, but even in those moments, there are breaks of humor, sincere attempts to listen, acceptance of each other’s side, and genuine efforts to compromise—even if it means we agree to disagree.  And I’ve learned it’s okay to be angry, and it’s okay to be upset, and that we can work through those feelings together without the house erupting into lava and crumbling into ash.  Instead, you say we become stronger for these lively discussions, that sometimes you are thankful that we go through conflict, because it means we really care and we prove our commitment to each other by coming to a resolution together.

Love means letting me love you:  You have made remarks that you’ve never been loved and treated the way you have been by me; that you’ve never felt as comfortable with anyone in your life.  You say you have no anxiety, no worries keeping you up at night—you are at peace.  And you aren’t used to that, and sometimes it makes you crazy, makes you look for something to worry about to ‘balance’ it out.  And yet, instead of walling me off because these new feelings make you uncomfortable, you invite me closer, you share your worries and concerns, you let me love you and touch you and become closer to you every day.

Love means facing the things we are uncomfortable with and we’re okay anyway:  There is a lot of conflict external to our relationship—complicated dynamics with our families, especially with my ex, but we long ago decided we will face them all together, out of love for one another.  You have commented how you have broken bonds with your family, and yet you have made avenues for your family to embrace me, and I’m making every effort to include them in our lives going forward. 

My own family has complicated dynamics and we are doing the same with them—hoping to build stronger relationships and opening a two-way path.  We are facing these complications so that maybe we can heal these broken bonds, or maybe it might be that we can’t, but at least we will always know we are trying to mend these relationships—together.

Love means loving us just as we are and striving to make our lives better.  I am a feminist, working mom of two, with stressors and pressures coming at me every which way, and the one thing you love most about me is my brain—which includes my feisty thoughts on social injustice, on parenting, politics, on feminism, on dealing with conflict.  You are an intelligent, liberal, creative person, who lives on the metro side of manhood (which I love and find endearing) and while you came from a bit of a silvered spoon background, at the same time you have the capacity to understand socioeconomic disparities and are one of two people who embrace Obamacare at your workplace chock full of rich republicans—citing this reason:  so now a million children can have healthcare. 

We are both working on making our bodies healthy, and your dedication about health and wellness, while partly tilted towards vanity (looking good for people ‘our age’ or any age for that matter, lol), it is mostly tilted towards the simple and somewhat difficult goal (especially in our consumption society of America)—to being healthy for health’s sake.  Because being healthy means we have the best chance at living out a long life together. 

We are also facing the parts of ourselves we have difficulties with—anxiety, fear, doubt, which have for both of us been years in the making, and which also have at times become seeds for conflict.  These are the very same things we have chosen to actively improve on.  And we are doing that together, too.  I’ve seen changes in how you deal with anxiety, and I’ve seen you apologize and mean it when that anxiety sometimes hurts both of us.  I have also taken measured steps to improve on my anxiety and to minimize the impact on us.  No easy feat that, but something that we’re both determined to do—and you’ve shown me with actions, not just words.

I remember once reading an article refuting the “if you can’t accept me at my worst, you don’t deserve me at my best,” phrase—which basically said, fix your worst!  Because the people who love you deserve better than being treated by what might be your “worst.”  Many people disagreed with the article, because of the parallels made about participation trophies and such.  But I do agree with this basic premise and see that you and I—we are doing everything we can not to “settle” on who we are, but to be better in the ways we need to be better, to “fix” the parts of us that are hurtful and can be hurtful.  And yet at the same time, accepting and loving each other for all our good and not so good parts.

Intimacy is a conversation that grows and flourishes:  I once joked with a fellow divorcee, that after all we’ve been through and after all we’ve suffered, we are just simply too old for bad sex.  Ha ha ha!  And it’s true, sex with you is amazing—a passionate conversation that leaves me breathless and wanting more, and the more we “do it,” the more amazing it becomes.  People might think it’s gross or crazy to want to have sex when we’re all old and wrinkly, but I have this distinctive feeling that no matter how old we are or how wrinkly we get, we will find joy in physical intimacy with each other.  Because right now, in our ‘middle age,’ we love loving each  other physically—not just because of the physical, sexiness of it all, but because our sexiness is based on passion, comfort, and emotion.

So let me close this letter, my darling, with a wish for us to remember how we feel now, in the days leading up to our wedding day—yes there are some stressors in our lives at the moment, work and blended family responsibilities, but there is so much hope and love and kindness, too.  You have taught me that it’s safe to open my heart again, and not only that, together we’ve grown our hearts to be five sizes larger than they once were.  I am looking forward to the many years to come where we keep growing, living, loving, sharing the years out together that we are so lucky to share with each other.

I love you. <3