Salem: Part Three

As of recently, I have been experiencing an internal dilemma that I had never really felt before. The idea of being codependent and not being my own person has always been a fear of mine, but I started wondering why I stopped doing things that I have always wanted to do. I realized that if I didn’t have someone to experience certain things with then it wouldn’t be worth experiencing, and that is when I came to the conclusion that I was giving myself an injustice. I can’t tell you how many times I wanted to go somewhere or do something but my husband or my best friend didn’t want to experience it with me, so I would just drop it and move on. Suddenly I realized that I have been unaware and oblivious to the fact that one of my biggest fears was coming true. I was allowing others to be in control of my happiness, and that left a pit in my stomach and soul. 

I need to come clean about something. For years I have been allowing my fear and my 

comfortability control what I do with my life. It started when I lived in Dallas. I was virtually alone the majority of the time, and I became used to that feeling. The only time I would ever leave my apartment was for work or doctor appointments, and it became so bad that the idea of going grocery shopping alone would give me an anxiety attack. Even if I needed something I would purposely try to hold off going to get it until the weekend so that my husband could go with me. I don’t think I was approaching agoraphobia or anything, I just think that I had severe social anxiety and it prevented me from doing anything alone. I still have issues with that, but it is not nearly as bad as it once had been. 

My mindset was preventing me from living the life that I so desperately desired. Doing things on my own was never really something that I accepted as a possibility. So for all this time when I could have been doing things to give my life purpose, I just have been easily dropping them when others didn’t want to do them with me. Thinking about that mindset now actually makes me kind of sick to my stomach. How could I have ever been so reliant on other people for experiences or happiness? How could I have ever thought that that was normal or okay? 

All it took was one moment for my mind to switch. It was just one teeny-tiny little moment where I thought: “What the fuck am I doing?” That singular moment in time is the moment that is responsible for changing my life. I realized that I was no longer going to accept that I can only follow through with my dreams and goals if I had someone by my side. I have said this before and I will continue to say it, I am now at a point in my life where I will no longer be placing my well-being in the hands of others. Just because I am in a marriage doesn’t mean that I am living our life. No. I am living my life and he just happens to be a great part of that. Even when it comes to my best friend. I love doing things with her, but there are things that I want to do that she doesn’t and vice versa. I will always want to experience and go through things with both my husband and my best friend, but there comes a time where you stop caring if others want to do things with you. And that time has come. I am open and ready to start living my life the way that I want to live it. I am going to do things even if others don’t want to do them or if they don’t understand them. Living your life with people can be great, but living your life for you is exhilarating. And that is one of the first lessons that Salem has taught me. 

When I had that moment of clarity I didn’t just want to think about it. I wanted to live it. I wanted to dive in and I wanted to dive deep. I wanted to push myself to test what I was capable of. Something that I always talk about is traveling, but I have never been in the financial position to be able to do it. Plus, all of the places that I wanted to experience my husband didn’t, so that put a damper on things. With that being said, things have changed. I have some money now, not a lot but enough for a small trip. And I no longer care if my husband wants to do something with me or not. If something is possible for me to do then I am going to do it. So I thought what better way to push myself than going on a trip, somewhat far away, alone, to a place that I have always wanted to go to that nobody else I knew would be interested in. That’s where Salem came into play. 

Although I wasn’t going to be in Salem for long, I still wanted to make sure that it would be okay with my husband. If I am going to be honest, I already knew that despite what he said that I was going to go, but I also wanted to have that respect for him and let him know what I was thinking. He was okay with me going, which made me happy, so I booked my ticket and hotel and planned my little heart away like the type a personality that I am. 

I am not going to lie to you guys. I was super excited all the way up to the morning of my departure. Then when my stepdad picked me up to take me to the airport I started feeling doubt. I was worried about leaving my furbabies and leaving my husband and all of that fun stuff. Luckily, that worry was short-lived. The moment I felt the plane take off all of my excitement and eagerness came rushing back, and I was so ready for this adventure. When I landed in Boston and made my way to Salem my mind was in a whirlwind. I just couldn’t believe that I actually did this. I couldn’t believe that I actually traveled to a place that I have never been to before by myself. Then that disbelief turned into something that I very rarely feel about myself. I became proud of myself and this step that I had taken. I don’t really feel like anyone should have to justify why they might be proud of something that they have accomplished whether it is a big or small thing. Accomplishing any sort of dream or goal is something one should feel pride in. So I feel like some people might think “You went on a trip by yourself. Big whoop.” But for me, this was huge. The only time that I have ever traveled alone was when I would go back and forth from Dallas to Chicago, and even then I still did stuff with people every day. With Salem, I was in charge of making all of my own decisions, getting to the places that I wanted to see, feeding myself, etc. Everything was all on me. At first, I thought that the notion of me being solely responsible for myself would be terrifying, but it was actually the complete opposite. 

I have never felt more liberated in my entire life. Being completely on my own gave me a sense of freedom and happiness that I never have experienced before. Every moment was intoxicating, and I craved it. I woke up each morning eager for the day to begin, and that is something that I don’t really ever feel. It is such a crazy feeling that not too long ago I couldn’t even go to Target alone without experiencing severe anxiety, and now here I was all alone on the other side of the country. I was talking with strangers and making new friends. I was appreciating the history and background of the beautiful city that I was in. I was self-reflecting and figuring out what self-love really meant. I truly was thriving. I was able to get to know someone a lot better. Someone who I have known for twenty-six years. Me. 

When you put yourself in a small bubble of what you think you are capable of you are doing the worst thing possible for yourself. Because of my assumptions about myself I have missed out on so much living. I have bypassed opportunities and possibilities that would have given me purpose and brought me joy. It is sad to me to know that the feeling that I felt in Salem could have been a feeling that I have felt all along, but I have decided that instead of dwelling on what could have been I am going to focus on what I am going to do about it.

I am going to make a list for myself, and I want to do everything possible to make these things happen. Salem was a dream of mine for so long and I was able to do that, so the way that I see it is that Salem was just the tip of the iceberg for me. I have realized that I am self-sufficient and capable of being the person that I want to be, and I am going to do everything in my power to continue this path of independence.

It is funny how when you have a significant other you think you have to live your life with them. I thought that for so long, and it couldn’t be farther away from the truth. I have figured out that I have dreams and goals for my marriage, but more importantly, I have them for myself. And to me, it is more important to accomplish your own individual goals and dreams rather than the ones that you share with your partner. I know that that might sound selfish, but if you think about it, is it really? If you are longing to do things for yourself that your partner doesn’t want to do then you most likely will expect to see good ole’ Uncle Resentment knocking on your door, and everyone knows we try to avoid him as much as possible. I don’t want to look at my husband one day with hatred because I never was able to live my life the way that I wanted to. What kind of partner can I be to him if I was unhappy with my life and my choices? I feel like in order to be a good enough partner to him I need to be good to myself. So I regret to inform my loved ones, including my husband, that they have all been pushed down on my priority list because I have finally placed myself at the top. 

I do have one bit of bad news that has resulted from my first ever solo trip. As much clarity as I have found, I have also found equal amounts of confusion. I am questioning if I made the right decision by getting married and being in a committed relationship so young. I went from living with my parents to living with my husband, and I never had that alone time to really learn about myself. I went from relying on my family to relying on my husband, and I never learned that I am capable of being on my own. I feel like I am needing more time for self-discovery. I am yearning for it. I miss Salem, but I miss my alone time more. This scares my husband. He thinks that I have one foot out the door. But this is not what this is. I am leaving. But I am not leaving him. I am leaving the old version of me. I am leaving that girl that was scared and dependant on others. I am leaving the girl who easily gave up on her goals and dreams. I am leaving the girl who put literally everyone else’s happiness before her own. I feel reinvented. I feel like for once in my life I am in charge of myself. I feel incredible. One of my biggest takeaways from Salem is that I can take care of myself both emotionally and physically. I can live a life alone and still feel tremendously happy and fulfilled. I don’t need my husband, my best friend or my family. If everyone was out of my life I would be fine. 

That statement is not a bad thing. I have learned that the people who are in your life shouldn’t be in your life because you need them. They should be there because you want them there. And believe me when I say, I want them all to still have a part in my life because they do bring me so much joy. But it is refreshing to know that I don’t need others to still have a beautiful and magical life. I am capable of providing that for myself. And I have never felt so empowered.

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Friendships

Do you find your self worth by the number of people who are actively involved in your life? Does the number of phone numbers in your contact list define how likable you are? I used to question this frequently, but the more I have grown as a person, the more I have realized it isn’t about the amount of people I have in my life but how special my relationships are with the people that I value. 

I have never been one to have a lot of friendships. I wouldn’t say that I am necessarily a “loner,” but I do think I enjoy solitude more than the average person. I have this tendency of feeling overwhelmed when I am with people for a large amount of time, to the point where I almost feel suffocated. I find it incredibly uncomfortable and awkward to try to maintain conversations with people who I don’t know well or strangers, or even family members who I don’t have a relationship with. I know this is going to sound terrible, but I also find it anxiety inducing and off putting when people start asking me personal questions. I have recently been informed that I come across as cold to people who I don’t see very often, and although I was slightly insulted at first, after some self-reflection I have realized that that is true. I have put myself in an internal barricade that prevents others from getting in, and boy is it industrial strength.

With that being said, there are a handful of people who I cherish with every ounce of my being. Caille, my best friend, is someone who will always be a significant part of my life. We have been close for well over a decade, and I truly feel like we will be best friends until we are grey-haired sassy old ladies just counting down the days until our eventual death. She knows every little thing about me, including the number of times I defecate in a day, and I have never felt so close to anyone in my entire life. (Other than Stephen of course.) Joel is another really good friend of mine, and he is also Caille’s fiance. I have known Joel for eight years and I am so grateful that he and Caille are together because they both bring each other so much happiness. Joel is incredibly funny, logical, and I love our debates and talks. I also can fart in front of him which brings me a lot of bliss. Then of course there is Stephen, my husband, who I love so incredibly much. Stephen is my partner, my absolute best friend, and the love of my life. We laugh so hard together, we tackle hardships together, we stare in awe at our animals together, and life is just good when I am living it with him.

My friendship “group” is minute, but words cannot describe how fulfilled I am. Caille, Joel, and Stephen all bring different things into my life that fill my heart with joy. When I think about the people in my life I am able to sigh with relief because I truly don’t know what I did in my past life to deserve the friendships that I have. With how amazing these people are I have a slight suspicion that I saved a town or even a city from destruction. If you can sit back and reflect on the relationships that you have and feel like you don’t need anything else from anyone, then you know that you are fulfilled. That is how I feel. I love my family, I love and cherish my friends, and I don’t feel lonely. All the love that I could ever need is being given to me every day, and for that I am grateful. 

Now just because I am happy and fulfilled by the few people that are in my life doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t seek out a large amount of acquaintances or friendships, but what I think is important is to figure out who lifts you up, who you can trust, who is genuine, because those are the people that bring value and light into your life. Friendships with people who don’t value you as much as you value them should be given a second thought, because at the end of the day we involve people in our lives who have a huge impact on us and I would rather beam with joy than sulk in sadness. 

Just remember: quality over quantity.

Social Media

Back before social media became a big thing, I primarily only used the internet for my school work. I didn’t care what other people were doing, and other people didn’t care about me. Those were the days that were a lot simpler, and those are the days that I sometimes wish still existed.

Back when I was young, the platform that was primarily used was Myspace. Myspace was so much fun, but it basically sucked your soul in. I used to spend hours changing my background, finding the perfect picture to put on my wall, and deciding what song would play on the background of my page. I used to look at other peoples pages, look at their pictures, and look at what people had to say. I would choose my top friends list meticulously, and if you were on the list that meant that you were in my good graces. Myspace was kind of my social media gateway drug, and if I could turn back time, I would have stayed far away.

In high school, I kind of graduated from Myspace and went on to Facebook. Facebook was a lot more sophisticated than Myspace. You couldn’t personalize your home page, and it was just a lot less work to maintain. With that being said, Facebook ultimately became my mind. I know that sounds weird, but allow me to explain. As many of you know, Facebook allows you to post statuses, and in the status box it says “What’s on your mind, Brookana?” And boy, I let everyone know what was one my mind. I would share anything and everything, from going to out dinner, hanging out with my friends, and going to see the gynecologist. (Telling the world that I was going to the gynecologist was one of my more regrettable statuses.) Looking back, I hate the person that social media turned me into. I constantly wanted to show off my pictures so people thought that I was living a thrilling life, I posted statuses about my life so that people would know about it, and I was just completely consumed in the world of the internet.

I kind of figured out why I became obsessed with sharing my life, and I think it was because I wanted attention. Every like, every comment, and every view was just another notch on my self-esteem belt, but little did I know, it was starting to have the reverse effect. Every time I posted a status or a picture and I didn’t get attention from it I would start to question myself. Was I not funny? Was I not wise? Was the selfie that I posted not as pretty as I thought it was? I would refresh my page to see if someone finally paid attention to what I had to say, but every time I would not have a notification it would sting my heart just a little bit more. My self worth became wrapped up in social media, and it wasn’t until recently where I finally realized how unhealthy my relationship with the internet had become.

Listen, I am going to be honest about something. I have 390 “friends” on Facebook, and I maybe have an active relationship with about twenty of them. Most of the people that are on my list are people who I haven’t seen or spoken with in well over five years, and I don’t even know who they are anymore. There are some people who are complete strangers to me and who I have never met, some people that I don’t give two shits about, and some people who I lack the desire to have any kind of relationship with. I know for a fact that I am in those categories with other people as well, so why did I always find it necessary to allow these people into my life? I think it is because I just wanted that attention, and I just wanted people to see me. I never really made an effort to have a plethora of friends, especially since Stephen and Caille had always been more than enough for me, but I still wanted people to like me. I still wanted people to think that I was funny, that I was pretty, and that I was a good person. I just wanted people to care. Looking back at it now, I think it was extremely silly how much I wanted others to care about me, because you can’t force people to like you.

I think the beginning of the end of my obsession with social media was after the last presidential election. I’m not going to get super heavy on the topic, but I’m not a Trump person. I disagree with a lot of his viewpoints, and I was unhappy that he was elected. But the thing is, he was elected, he is our president, and now it is just something that we have to deal with. For about a year after he was sworn into office, everything online was about Trump and Clinton and the election. People were fighting about politics non stop, and people would cut deep with their insults. I sat there and saw people tear each other apart without any mercy because of their opinion, and honestly, I couldn’t take it anymore. I am happy that there are people who are passionate enough to fight for what they believe in, but there is a difference between being passionate and being violent, and people no longer saw that line. Political debates happened within my own family, hell Stephen and I just had one yesterday, but when you are constantly seeing it and watching people go at each others throats every second of every day, you kind of start saying enough is enough. So I slowly backed off of social media because of that, and I am grateful for that because it isn’t that important to me anymore.

I care about what people think about me, but it is the people who matter to me the most whose positive opinion is what I strive for. My family and my friends, those are the people that I want to be proud of me. I sincerely hope that everyone who is on my friends list is living an amazing life and that they are flooded with bliss, but at the end of the day, how much do we all actually mean to each other? I don’t really post much on Facebook anymore, but when I do, I do it for me. Whether people like what I have to say or show them no longer will define my self worth, because my self worth will come from how I perceive myself.

Social media can be a wonderful thing, but before you allow yourself to get completely sucked into it, just be warned.

Marriage- Part Two

When you are in a committed relationship, you are constantly learning how to compromise. Although Stephen and I have been together for a decent amount of time, we still have to work at our relationship every day. There are things that he does that bother me, and there are things that I do that bother him, so learning how to find that balance can be a little bit of work.

One of the things that we are constantly trying to work on is communication. I grew up in a family where we always spoke up about our feelings. My family is very touchy feely, and we really don’t have any boundaries. My family knows mostly everything about me, because I don’t really find it  necessary to keep anything from them. Stephen grew up a little differently than I did. It was actually pretty comical when he met my family because he was kind of taken aback by how talkative they all were. Stephen said that when he was growing up nobody really talked about feelings or opened up about much, so when it comes to communication we come from two different backgrounds. Because we grew up differently in that aspect, it has definitely made an impact on our relationship. Anytime I do something that annoys Stephen he is always reluctant to bring it up, but the thing that I am slowly trying to get him to realize is bottling up things like that is not healthy. Eventually he could start to resent me, and it will ruin our relationship. I want him to have open communication with me so that we can work on the tiny issues so that they don’t become big issues, and luckily he is starting to feel more comfortable with that. Expressing emotion doesn’t make you a weak person. A part of humanity is feeling things, and in my opinion, it is better to talk about what is on your mind rather than letting things stew.

Another thing that I want to talk about is sex. To me, sex is so important for a relationship because it brings that added connection. Sometimes in a relationship, one partner may have a higher sex drive than the other partner and that can cause an issue within the relationship. Other issues that come with life such as finances, family issues, and stress can also affect your sex life, but it is still important to try to make time for each other for that activity. Stephen and I have had talks about what we both need from our sex life, and when we have had those talks we not only worked on our sex life but also our communication. After we had those talks we understood each other better, and it allowed us to work on that aspect of our relationship.

Like I have talked about in the past, Stephen is a very calm and laid back person. He would be perfectly content with staying home and just chilling on off days, whereas I am always looking for an adventure. I don’t mind staying home for the most part, but there are times where we will be sitting on the couch and I am bored out of my mind. We usually end up doing something fun at least once a month, and I feel like that is a good compromise for the both of us. I still get to do something different with the person that I love, and Stephen can still have his free weekends to do whatever he pleases. We absolutely love going for walks. We have found one trail in particular that we tend to gravitate to, and it feels great to get out and just enjoy being outside. We also are always looking for activities to get us out of the apartment. We usually go to the Dallas Arboretum and the Dallas Zoo four or five times a year, but we recently found out that the Fort Worth Arboretum has a free admission, so we have taken advantage of that. We go to malls and walk around, and somehow we always end up browsing the aisles at Target. Just getting out and doing something together always boosts our mood.

Something that I have had to put a lot of effort in is talking to Stephen in a respectful manner when he does something to make me angry. I used to yell, I used to name call, and I would let my anger take over me. What used to upset me is how we both handle our anger. I am the type of person that pretty much knows what I am going to say and how I am going to say it immediately, but Stephen needs a little bit of time to process what he had just heard. I used to find that annoying because I would want a response right away from him, but I have learned to give him a minute or so to figure out how he wants to respond. I used to take the time that he needed to process as a gesture that he didn’t care about what I was feeling or what I had to say, but in reality he didn’t know how to respond. The longer you are with someone, the more you can learn about who they are as a person, and you can make adjustments that will be better for both of you. Now when Stephen and I have arguments, I can better control my anger to get my point across better, and it allows Stephen to have better responses so I know that I am being heard.

Marriage isn’t all fun and games. When you are combining two lives from different backgrounds, sacrifices are going to have to be made from both parties. Even though you may not always be happy with the compromises and adjustments that you have had to make with your significant other, it always ends up being worth it because you create your own beautiful life together. When I look back at my life with Stephen, we both have helped transform each other into better people, and I have come to love Stephen for all that he is, because he is pretty fucking incredible.

Marriage

Marriage, to me, has never been about a piece of paper. It has never been about legally connecting two souls together, it has never been about taxes, it has never been about anything other than love. Stephen and I didn’t have a formal proposal, it was more of a mutual decision. One night, as we laid in bed, we discussed our plans for the future, and we both knew that marriage was something that we both wanted. We never really wanted a wedding, we just wanted something small where the day would truly be about us and our love for each other, so on March 11th, 2016, we went to the courthouse and got married.

The day was perfect. Our appointment to get married was in the afternoon, so we had the whole morning to do whatever we wanted. We spent most of the morning doing laundry and other chores, and the rest of it relaxing. It only took me about a hour to get ready, and off we went. I wasn’t nervous heading to the courthouse, in fact, I was excited. Stephen and I had already been together for six and a half years, and we had lived together for about three, so it already felt like we were married. Along with being excited, I was also in disbelief that we were actually doing this. We had been talking about marriage for quite some time, and the fact that we were going to be married within the hour was a feeling that is indescribable. When we arrived at the courthouse, there was a staircase that lead to the area where we would say our vows. While we were walking up, another couple was walking down with their friends and family, and the bride asked if we were getting married. After I said yes, she grabbed my hand, and said congratulations. I, of course, said congratulations back, and as odd as this may sound, it was probably one of my favorite moments of that day. Even though she was a complete stranger, I found it to be an incredibly powerful moment between two people who didn’t know each other. Plus, you could see the genuine joy that was radiating off of her, and I felt so happy for her. Seeing her in that moment also was a reassurance for what Stephen and I were about to do. Once we made it to the top, we had to pay for ceremony and then we just waited for the Justice of the Peace to come and get us. We sat in a waiting room, talking and giggling and looking at Facebook, waiting patiently for the man who was about to change our lives.

When he finally came and got us, I was surprised  by his demeanor. I thought that he wouldn’t really care that much about Stephen and I because I am sure he does dozens of marriages a month, however, he was incredibly happy for us and was asking us a bunch of questions about our relationship. He always had an authentic smile on his face, and he really gave off a peaceful vibe. After a couple of minutes of pleasantries, it was time to get married. So there we stood, and while Stephen and I held hands, we said our vows. I thought that once we were pronounced husband and wife it wouldn’t feel different, but it was a lot more powerful than I had anticipated. I felt a rush of emotion rush through my body, and although I didn’t cry, I was just overwhelmed with happiness. This man, who I love with every ounce of my being, was my husband and I was his wife. We were partners in life, and it was a beautiful feeling. Our first kiss was magical, and it felt like the official seal of our marriage.

After the ceremony was over, we spoke to our parents to let them know that we were officially married. Our parents were happy for us that we were finally married, however, they were all disappointed that they weren’t there to see it. I think that Stephens parents were especially disappointed because they were actually coming down to Dallas the following day, but as much as we love our family, we wanted this day to be just for us. It was so special, and we really wanted to enjoy our first day as husband and wife with just each other.

The rest of the day was pretty laid back. We went back home after the ceremony and hung out for a little over a hour, then we went out to dinner. After dinner we went back home and spent time together. To others, how Stephen and I got married probably sounds boring, but to us, it was perfect. We were given the opportunity to really just appreciate each other, and there is not any part of me that wishes that we did things differently.

The next day, Stephens parents, my new in-laws, came down to visit. That was also the day that our marriage really hit me. We went to a mall to do some shopping, and I wanted to get an iced tea from Teavana. There was a coupon on my phone, which Stephen had, and that was the first time that I actually acknowledged Stephen as my husband. All is said was: “oh whoops, my boyfriend, I mean my husband, has my phone with the coupon.” Let me tell you something about that. It may not seem like that big of a deal, but it felt fucking crazy saying that. I don’t really know how to describe it, but at first it didn’t feel natural to call him my husband. I don’t know if that’s bad or not, but it was just something that I had to get used to.

After a couple of months, being married was our new norm. Saying that Stephen was my husband did become natural, and life kind of fell back to what it always was. Then, one day, my mom expressed to me that she really wanted to have a reception for Stephen and I. At first, Stephen and I were slightly reluctant. We loved our wedding day and we felt like we didn’t need anything more, but after thinking about it we thought that it would be special to celebrate our marriage with the people that we love. Also, I am my parents only daughter and Stephen is his parents only son, so we thought that we owed it to our parents to do something. After Stephen and I agreed to have a reception, my mom took off full blast on planning it. The reception was in northern Illinois, and I was in Dallas, so I didn’t see anything until the day of our reception. My mom would consult with me about the decisions that she was making, but even if she didn’t I knew what my mom was capable of and I knew that it was going to be gorgeous. And boy, I was not wrong.

We held the reception at a local winery in December, so it was breathtaking. The winery had decorated for Christmas, so along with the decorations that the winery provided as well as the decorations that my mom had purchased it was mind-blowing gorgeous. The night was perfect, with the exception of the major snow storm that prevented some relatives from being able to attend. That night we ate food, we conversed with everyone that we don’t get to see that often, and we had the time of our lives. By then end of the night, we were exhausted. Stephen and I decided that we were going to stay with our friends that night because that was the only night that we were going to be able to see them, so we had a long drive back to their place. Once we arrived, I realized that I was starving. I, unlike Stephen, hadn’t eaten much of anything that night. So as I ate left overs from the reception, Stephen and I went through the cards that we had received. After making our list of thank you cards that we were going to need to send out, we passed out. I slept so hard that night, but boy, it was the end of a perfect day.

I still do not regret getting married the way that we did. And even though our parents weren’t exactly thrilled with our choice to get married with just the two of us there, we were still able to celebrate with our friends and family. A wedding is not a marriage, so it won’t make a difference what kind of wedding you have as long as the love that you and your partner share is strong.

Furbabies

I consider myself to be extremely fortunate for many reasons, but one of the biggest reasons is because I am a furmommy to three beautiful furbabies. When Stephen and I first moved into our apartment, Stephen was working third shift. So he would work from eleven at night until about eight in the morning, then he would come home and sleep until five or six. For a solid few months he had to work mandatory overtime, so he would work every single day. I was appreciative of how hard he was working, but I was lonely. I don’t really have any friends in Texas, so I spent most of my waking hours by myself. Stephen and I always talked about how we wanted to adopt a dog as soon as possible after we moved into our own place, but the fact that I felt so alone made us decide that we wanted to adopt even quicker than we had originally planned.

We spent a good month going to different shelters and adoption events looking for a dog that we had a connection with, and even though we thought that all of the dogs that we saw were adorable, we didn’t feel that instant draw. One day we saw a puppy at a shelter down the road that was as cute as could be. She was a pit-bull mix, and she still had her puppy personality. She was so happy and playful, and showered us with affection and kisses. We spent about a hour playing with her, and although I felt that connection, Stephen did not. The dog that we were going to adopt was going to be primarily for me, but it was important for both of us to feel that draw. I was crushed. In that hour that we spent with her I already felt close to her, but I knew that we had to move on. That night I was looking into more shelters near us when I came across a no kill shelter. I was looked at their list of adoptable dogs and begged Stephen for us to go the following morning. We had a couple of dogs that we had picked out from when we were looking online, and we were so excited to meet them all. When we got there, they pulled up the application that I had filled out the night before, and set us up with someone who would help us see a dog if we found one that we were interested in. She then explained to us where all of the dogs were, and then we were off. The first room that we looked at was the medium dog room. All of the dogs looked surprisingly happy and content, and we wanted to adopt them all. We found most of the dogs that we had wanted to see, but then we came across a dog that wasn’t online. Her name was Angel, and she was a Golden Retriever/German Shepherd mix. She was one year and two months old, and she was gorgeous. She was shy, but she was still intrigued by Stephen and I. She kept smelling us and attempted to get closer to us, and I think instantly we both knew that she was going to be the one.

We decided that we were going to look at the small dog room as well as the big dog room, and although all of the dogs were adorable, we still had Angel on our minds. After we were done looking at all of the dogs, we told the lady that was helping us that we wanted to spend quality time with Angel. So they took her out of her kennel and put her on a leash, and off we went. We went to the back of the shelter where they had a beautiful trail as well as blocked off sections for play time. First we took her for a walk, then we went to a play section. When we were in the play section was when I officially knew that she was going to come home with us. She had a playful yet calm temperament, she was already being affectionate, and she was a really good listener. So we told the lady that we wanted to adopt her, and that was when we found out that Angel had actually just arrived at the shelter from Houston the night before. Apparently everyone who worked there all said that Angel was going to be adopted quick, and they were all sad to see her go. I guess this is one of those instances where “everything happens for a reason” becomes a true cliche. The day before when I felt that connection with the puppy and Stephen didn’t it actually worked out because Angel was on her way to us at the very same second. We knew the whole time that Angel was not going to stay her name, so while we filled out the adoption paperwork Angel became Luna. The day of Lunas adoption is still one of my favorite days in the world, and every day my love for her grows.

We adopted Luna in March of 2016, and by November 2016 we knew we wanted another furbaby. This time though it wasn’t going to be a dog, it was going to be a cat. So we knew that we wanted to adopt a kitten, but the issue was that in December we were going to go back up to Chicago to have our wedding reception with our friends and family. So we didn’t want to have a newly adopted kitten that we would have to board in Dallas while we went back home for a week. So we called the no kill shelter where we adopted Luna, and asked for information for adopting kittens. The person that Stephen ended up talking to was fostering a long haired kitten, and she was trying to find a family that would adopt him. His name was Odin, and he was about two months old. After sending us a bunch of pictures and videos of him, we knew that we just had to meet him. So a couple of days before we left for Chicago, we set up a meeting at the shelter to meet Odin. He was the cutest kitten that I have ever seen. He was so teeny tiny, had long stripped hair, and those huge kitten eyes. The moment he was in my arms, I fell in love. He was so calm, and just sat there. Eventually he fell asleep, and Stephen basically had to rip him from my arms. After spending a good amount of time with him, we told his foster mom that we wanted to adopt him. She was so ecstatic for us, and had zero issue with keeping him for an additional week. It worked out anyways because he had an appointment to be neutered three days before we officially adopted him. The following day that we got home from Chicago, we ran to Target (not literally) and purchased most of the kitten stuff that we needed. Then we went straight to the shelter and officially adopted Odin. Just like Luna, Odin did not stay Odin. Odin became Lupin. Lupin is such an incredible cat. He is still down to earth, but when he wants to play, he plays hard. He likes to be touched, but only when he wants to be. He likes to follow you around and wrap his paws around your legs, and sometimes if you’re  not paying attention he likes to jump from the counter tops onto your back. That kind of hurts because we decided against declawing our cats, but that’s okay because he is just trying to get some attention. He is beautiful and wonderful and we love him so much.

With that being said, Lupin needed another cat to play with. So in July of 2017, we adopted another kitten. I had always wanted a black cat, so I had been looking at the shelters around our area for a black kitten. I finally found a two month old black kitten at a different animal shelter from where we adopted Luna and Lupin, and the following day Stephen and I went to meet him. We weren’t able to physically touch him yet because he was a new in-take and they were giving him medicine, but they told us that if we came back in a week that we would be able to play with him. That was such a long week, but then the day arrived where we were able to go and see him. We got there right when they opened, and there he was. He had just gotten neutered a couple of day prior to then, and he looked like he was kind of out of it, so I felt really bad. We saw another cat that wasn’t there last time, so we also took sometime to play with him. This cat was super sweet, but there was something about that little black cat that we were once again just drawn to. While I was filling out the paperwork to adopt him, I was actually able to name him because he didn’t have a name. So the little black cat became Gimli. Gimli was super shy and would hiss at us when we got too close to him, so we were really worried. But as I was filling out the information, the lady that was helping me told me that Gimli had had a rough start. Apparently a little over a week before Stephen and I adopted him, he was actually adopted by another couple from a different shelter. When the couple adopted him, they put him in a box that was cut in half, and while he was in the car he escaped from the box and they weren’t able to find him. So the next day, they went to the shelter where we had adopted him to adopt a different cat, and when they were leaving with their new cat they heard some meows. That was when they found him under the hood near the engine. They decided that they no longer wanted Gimli and wanted to keep the new cat that they had just adopted, but that’s okay because their loss is our gain. After about a week, Gimli was comfortable with Stephen, Luna, Lupin and I. When I tell you that he is the sweetest cat in the world, I mean it. Gimli gives us non-stop kisses, loves to cuddle, and loves constant affection. I will make a kissy face to him and he literally bops his little mouth on to mine to give me a kiss. He is such an amazing little guy, and we are so lucky to have him.

I think every pet owner thinks this about their animals, but I am pretty convinced that Stephen and I have the three best furbabies that have ever existed. They are all so loving and happy, and every time I look at them my heart explodes with love and happiness. I am absolutely in love with our little family of five.

Caille

There is a saying that if you have been friends with someone for seven years then you most likely will remain friends forever. I would have to agree with that statement. I have known by best friend, Caille, since we were in fifth grade. We were friendly, but we weren’t super close. I remember her always being goofy and easy going, and I never had any bad things to say about her. Little did I know the girl that I was acquaintances with would become my best friend soul mate.

Throughout middle school, we never really had any conversations. I think once we were in eighth grade is when we started talking more, but still it was just basic conversation. It wasn’t until either the summer before freshman year or right in the beginning of freshman year until we became friends. I had a really close friend that Caille was also close with, and the three of us hung out a couple of times. I remember our mutual friend had a birthday party at her house, so we hung out there. The three of us also went homecoming dress shopping together, where we were involuntarily given the nickname “Three Little Dollies” by a stranger. The more and more time I spent with Caille, the more and more I really liked being around her. So one day I randomly decided to invite Caille for a sleepover, and that was the day that I think we truly became friends.

We became extremely close super fast. There is a simple test that you can participate in that will be a definite sign if you are best friends with someone or not. This test not only tests the strength of your bond, but also how comfortable you are with one another along with seeing if your sense of humor aligns. This test is called: The Flatulence Test. It really is simple. If you can fart in front of someone and not feel like a garbage person afterwards and the other person doesn’t care you know that you might just have yourself a best friend. If my memory serves me correctly, we passed that test super early into our friendship. We have been best friends for well over a decade now, and to this this day if one of us releases a gas cloud we both break out in laughter. It is a solid test.

Let me take a brief moment to describe Caille. Obviously she is one of the funniest people that I know. She is incredibly witty, clever, intelligent, organised, caring, selfless, laid back, and loving. If something comes up and you need her, she will drop everything and figure out how to be there for you. If you need advice, she is the one to go to because her advice is gold. If you need someone to boost your self-esteem, she will tell you how great you are until she is blue in the face. She will never lie to you, and you can trust her without ever doubting anything that she says or does. She’s beautiful inside and out, and she is truly one of those rare people that truly are extraordinary. That is just a couple of reasons why Caille is my best friend, but you get the idea.

In high school, we were pretty much inseparable. If I wasn’t at her house, then she was at mine. My favorite memory is that during the warmer seasons we would just walk around the block for hours, just talking and laughing and having a good time. We would even walk to the elementary school that was across the street from her neighborhood and swing on the swings and play on that spider web dome thing. Then we would also do questionable things. We would make random videos on her computer, talk to strangers on Omegle, or drive to Meijer really late at night for snacks. One of the best things about Caille and I is that we don’t need to be doing something in order to have a good time. I can’t tell you how many times we would just sit and talk or just watch movies. We have always had a very easy and natural friendship, and those kind of friendships are the best.

That’s not to say that we haven’t fought. There have been a couple of bigger fights, some arguments, some misunderstandings, etc. But the thing is, if you are mature enough you can get over that stuff pretty quickly. If Caille says or does something that bothers me, I will let her know in a respectful way, and then we can have a quick and painless talk about it and then it’s over. And it’s vice versa as well. If you care about someone, drawing out unnecessary drama can and should be avoided.

There is another perk of having a long term best friend, and that is being super close to each others families. I love Cailles family so much, and I have always felt super close to them. I can’t tell you how many times I have had deep conversations with them, and they always have just given the best advice. Cailles parents are hilarious, thoughtful, incredibly smart, welcoming, and just awesome. The times where Caille and I would hang out with them were always so much fun, and they will always remain some of my favorite memories. My family also loves Caille. My parents ask about her all of the time, and my dad and her actually have their own little inside joke where my dad calls her “Fred.” It is nice when you feel welcomed into your best friends family, because it’s more people that you get to be close with.

As we got a little older, we started to get into relationships and that was a little worrisome in the beginning. I think that we both had to learn how to balance our boyfriends with our own relationship. With Stephen it was simple because Stephen already knew how close Caille and I were before we started dating, so he was always understanding if I wanted to spend time with Caille. Cailles first relationship was a rocky one, but when she met her current boyfriend, Joel, I was so ecstatic. Joel and Stephen are a lot alike where they are both laid back, understanding, kind, etc. So whenever Caille and I want to spend time together, Joel has zero issue with that. Caille and I always talk about how lucky we are for being in relationships with our men.

So anyways, a lot of my favorite memories are the ones that include Caille. For example, there was that one time where we were driving home from Woodfield Mall and Caille almost killed both of us when she stopped on the train tracks with a train heading our way. That was super fun. Or the time that we randomly got tattoos. One of the best times was when we flew to Boston for five days and got to hang out with her sister. All of the times that we ever got drunk and made crafts were a blast. I’m telling you, every single time we are together is always amusing.

What is crazy to think about is that Caille and I have lived farther apart from each other longer than living near each other. After high school, Caille went to school five hours away from our home town, and I stayed home. After Caille graduated, she moved back home, but then Stephen and I decided that we wanted to move to Dallas. Being in a long distance friendship can be difficult and it does take more work, but with Caille and I, sometimes I forget that there are a thousand miles that separates us. We text basically every day, all day long. We Facetime, and we also will call each other and then spend hours having a conversation. I try to fly back to Chicago every three to four months where I will stay with her for a couple of days. Although we have this distance between us, nothing ever feels different. Whenever we are back together, it feels like we just saw each other the other day. We are so close that nothing will ever crush that bond.

Caille is more than a best friend to me. She is family. We have grown up together, experienced things together, gone through shitty things together, and after all of these years, I feel closer to her than ever. She truly is my best friend soul mate, and I don’t think a better best friend exists in the universe.