my valentine tradition

let's get it onValentine’s Day is coming up, and I wanted to share what has become one of my favorite traditions. In need of both art for my bedroom wall and occasional cards for my husband, a few years ago, I started buying him fun handmade cards that, after exchanged and read, can be framed and hung up on our wall. Sometimes I make the cards/art myself, other times I buy from Etsy, but over time, many of these cards have become part of a gallery wall in our bedroom. One in particular that says “Let’s Get it On (I’ll just brush my teeth)” (by Linocut Boy, no longer available) hangs in our bathroom– I thought it was a funny joke on long-married romance. I like that these little pieces of our love story get to hang around and add beauty and sweetness to our days long after the holiday that necessitated their purchase.

In case you, too, are interested in frame-worthy Valentines, I decided to round up a few here. If you click each image, you will be taken to the card’s listing on Etsy, and each shop name is also a handy link to the shop itself.

by larkpress.
by echoletterpress.
by larkpress.

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sisterly love

A small, huge thing happened yesterday when I dropped Claire off for preschool.

I was taking her out of her car seat as usual, and she turned to her sister and waved and said, “Bye bye, sissy!” as usual. And she blew a kiss, as usual. And then… she told Etta, “I love you!”

Mark it down in the baby book blog: it’s the first time I have ever heard either one of them say “I love you” to the other one. Sure, they show it– they like to hug and kiss and hold hands, and I sometimes find one in the other’s bed, but this was the first instance of verbal love between the two of them. It exploded my heart.

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feeling the love

Yesterday afternoon, something I’ve waited actual years for happened:

My child said “I love you, mama.”

Claire faces
This beautiful funny girl with these adorable curls LOVES ME! How lucky am I?!

Etta and I had just picked up Claire from preschool, and we were driving to the gas station when she looked up from her snack (peanut butter cookies), caught my eye in the rearview mirror, and said, “I love you, mama.” Pure. Magic. I tell her I love her all the time. I sing her a little song that goes, basically, “I love my Bear Bear, my Bear Bear loves me.” But I’ve never coached her to put those words together, wanting it to be truly her idea when she finally said it. And then she did. And I melted into a puddle and seeped onto the floor and still somehow managed to type a blog post.

I know it will be a while yet before my Etta girl puts those magical words together, as she’s been on her own little path, speech-wise and has only just recently started putting words together into phrases. Some notable Etta utterances lately: “Uh oh, I broke it” (her perfect first sentence), “Trolley, where are you?”, “My hands are dirty,” and “Otter, come here.”

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I just love the things they say, and I’m high on the love from my Claire Bear, especially.

I’m also feeling the love because my husband and I will be celebrating our 8th wedding anniversary on the 29th and are headed out of town this weekend for a little getaway road trip, just the two of us. My bags are packed, and I am so excited to get to have this time together. I’m feeling the love all the way around. I just love this little family of mine.

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real beauty is a revolution, not an ad, man

Last night I posted this to Facebook:

Screen shot 2013-04-19 at 7.26.47 AMIt was in response to the latest Dove video, which you can see here:

And look, here I am writing about it anyway! (Just as I have before about earlier Dove ads.)

As far as the video goes, I absolutely agree with the seeming diagnosis that many women have a kind of body dysmorphia. They focus on the qualities they hate rather than the qualities they like, and this causes them to perceive themselves as vastly less attractive than they are perceived by others. However, I think this video suggests the wrong treatment for their diagnosis. They suggest that beauty, physical beauty, “couldn’t be more critical to happiness.” And they suggest focusing on the things you do like about yourself, and, presumably, buying Dove products to help you mitigate and feel better about the stuff you don’t like, like your armpits, for example.

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I literally can’t get my mind around “beautiful underarms” as a concept. Underarms are just underarms. If someone is scrutinizing yours, the problem is THEM.

Like I said, I absolutely agree that there is an epidemic of low self esteem in our culture. I would say, however, that the underlying cause is not that we don’t value our physical beauty enough, but that we put too much stock in it altogether– that we make it “absolutely critical” to our happiness.

If the strangers in that video thought the women they met were more beautiful than the women saw themselves, how much more beautiful are those women to the people who know and love them? Think about the people whom you love most in the world. They’re gorgeous to you, right? There are moments with them that simply take your breath away. And it’s because the truest beauty we see and love in others, the kind we need to see in ourselves, comes from love. When you look at people through the eyes of love, they become beautiful to you, a beauty that is pervasive and total and has nothing to do with the shape of their jaw and everything to do with the shape of their heart.

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I just loved this vow from mooshinindy, seen on Instagram. It’s part of what kicked off my thinking about seeing my babies and myself through the eyes of love.

One of the most mind-exploding aspects of becoming a mother has been the way it has utterly changed how I feel about beauty. Into my life have come these two absolutely gorgeous, utterly and totally beloved little creatures. They take my breath away. Daily, their beauty brings tears to my eyes and a pang to my chest. There is not a bit of them, not even their underarms, that needs to be made more beautiful.

And here’s the truly mind-bending part: I came into this world the same way. I took my parents’ breath away. To them, I am heart-stoppingly beautiful. And I am that way to others who love me as well. And even crazier, bigger, more mind bending? I am beginning to see that I am that beautiful to the One who created me as well. And if that isn’t enough to revolutionize our thinking, what is?

The Beatles say, “You’re talkin bout a revolution, well, you know, you oughta free your mind instead.” The Bible says, “Do not be conformed to the ways of this world, but be transformed, by the renewing of your mind” (Romans 12:2). Freeing and renewing our minds can’t be done when we accept consumerist culture’s premise that beauty is external. It can’t be accomplished by cheerleading brands for ever-so-slightly widening the cultural beauty standard. It can only be done by trying to get our heads around just how deeply we are loved, and seeing ourselves and others through the eyes of Love.

Now, I know this is a much more difficult premise than simply obsessing over parts of ourselves that we like, or buying a cream. Learning to love yourself is tough stuff. But it doesn’t happen if we’re simply focusing on another aspect of our physical appearance. It can only come from the amazing, crazy, transformative power of an encounter with Love. For me, that’s the Love of God. For you, it may be simply meditating on the way you deeply love someone in your life, and trying to see yourself through those same eyes. But this is the revolution folks. You gotta free your mind.

my valentine

Mush alert. But hey, there’s more maternity pics ahoy, so…

photo by Christen Byrd.

Happy Valentine’s Day, to everybody, but most especially to My Favorite. We don’t tend to do a lot for Valentine’s Day. Sometimes we go out for a nice dinner, sometimes I buy him his favorites, Hot Tamales and Reese’s Pieces, sometimes I bake something elaborate, and sometimes he sends me flowers. But my favorite part is always a handwritten expression of love inside a card, and that’s what we always do. I put on my red fuzzy robe this morning, and, slightly hungover from Tylenol PM, limped out to my recliner to find a card from My Favorite, who had to go to work at an ungodly hour this morning. It made me smile just like he always does.

I have no grand theories or pronouncements on love. I have no relationship advice to give. I met the love of my life when I was 18 years old, and I don’t just love him, I like him a LOT. He’s my favorite person to hang out with. There is literally nothing about my life that isn’t better for him being in it. Being with him makes me insanely, ridiculously happy. And even though this pregnancy thing is hard, and even though the twins thing is often largely terrifying, the only way I know how to face anything is with him holding my hand. So I’m going to keep on holding on.

Photo by Christen Byrd.

*If you like the photos, hire Christen Byrd to take some of you!

my baby just cares for me

Mush alert.

Being pregnant has given me the warm fuzzies for my husband. I feel closer to him because I know we’re basically jumping off a cliff together, and because I know that we’re making something beautiful together, and because there’s no one else in the world I’d be willing to take this kind of adventure with. But I’m also feeling the love because he’s taking excellent care of me.

I shouldn’t be surprised– he’s always taken great care of me. When we were dating, we were in a car accident one Thanksgiving. I was driving us to my grandparents’ house on a wet road and hydroplaned while trying to grab my ringing cell phone (don’t phone and drive, kids!). The car spun into a ditch, and the airbag did a doozy on me. It turns out, thanks to mild scoliosis and an extra mutant vertebra that’s shaped like a wedge, I had a perfect spot for a compression fracture of my spine, and to this day am a quarter inch shorter on my left side as a result. After the accident, when deciding whether I would go back to college or go home with my parents or stay with him, he was adamant that he would take care of me. And he did– he fed me my pills on schedule, let me sleep in a recliner, and kept me supplied with my favorite ice cream until I felt well enough to go back to school.

A year into our marriage, we moved to Charleston, SC, where he was doing his residency in pediatrics. I had a hard time with the move, far away from everyone I knew and loved, in a strange new place, working a job I didn’t really like much, and for the first few months I was pretty much a mess. One day, I attempted to go for a bike ride with our dog Bessie, and she pulled me off and I scraped up my knee really bad. Bleeding and hysterical, I called Jon. I’m sure it sounded awful on the phone, because he biked all the way home from the hospital, bandaged up my knee, which was really not as bad as my hysterics made it sound, held me, hugged me, kissed me, and then biked back to work. He never said anything about how crazy I’d acted about that skinned knee. He knew it was just an emotional catalyst that broke the dam that had held back my sadness and depression about the move, and he loved me through it. Eventually we made friends and settled in, and when it came time for us to leave Charleston, I was sad then too.

Last winter, I got the flu. People who tell me they think they have the flu, I have one response for them: “Do you feel like you’re dying? Do you think maybe death would be preferable to the way you feel right now? OK, maybe then you have the flu.” It was the sickest I’ve ever been. I had a fever of 102 for 8 days straight. I coughed so much and so hard that I bruised my ribs and was sore for a month afterward. All told, I was sick the entire month of December. Jon was working lots of shifts in the ER, and, in between, when he should have been sleeping, kept me dosed on meds, made sure I was fed, and prevented our house from falling apart. He held me as I coughed and cried and promised me I’d feel better one day, even though in the middle of that illness, I didn’t really believe him.

Now he’s dealing with me, hopped up on a double dose of twin hormones, admittedly acting insane a lot of the time, the kind of pregnant person they make jokes about. While he did jokingly reassure me that my insanity isn’t a new development for him to deal with, he has made me feel so cared for. He encourages me to nap when I’m tired, he picks up the slack that I’m leaving in all the things to be done around the house, he bought me Miralax and reminds me to take it (and he’s not grossed out by talking about gross pregnancy symptoms like constipation!), and he helps me find things I’m willing to eat. He gets me wet washcloths and anti-nausea medicine and holds my hand as I sit next to the toilet and cry, because even throwing up makes me cry these days.

In other words, he’s doing what he’s always done: taking amazing care of me. Just like I know he will take amazing care of our babies. And maybe I’m hormonal and mushy and this whole post is making you want to barf (hey! welcome to the club!), but telling the story of this latest adventure would be incomplete without a little insight into the awesome partner I have along the way. This whole thing would be entirely too terrifying without him.

now we’re 5

Because we were in Costa Rica for our anniversary, I didn’t get to do a post like I usually do on July 29th commemorating 5 years of marriage to Jon. But, we got to be in Costa Rica for our anniversary, so that’s pretty awesome. We constantly talk about the kind of life we want together “someday” when he’s finally done with medical training and I’m finally done with school, and in looking at the kind of goals we set for ourselves: simple living, being generous with others, living in a way that is good to the environment, we’ve realized that the people we were 5 years ago wouldn’t be having these sorts of dreams for the future. We’ve changed a lot in our time together, which I guess is to be expected when I met my true love at the age of 18 and got married at the ripe old age of 21 (Jon’s 5 years older). I think we’ve both changed each other for the better, and I’m sure there’s lots of change still ahead of us. I’m sure glad we can keep growing together, forever. I know I can face anything as long as I’ve got my best friend by my side.

On a bench in a park in downtown San Jose. Everywhere we looked, couples were making out in public. That's not quite our style, so this was our contribution.

 

Ignoring the cheesy images, here’s a song to dedicate to the one I love, “Loving a Person” by Sara Groves, a favorite of mine:

8 years of summer lovin’

8 years ago, I got a call from the summer camp where I’d been a camper, saying they were short on counselors, and even though I was technically a year too young to be a counselor (they want college freshmen, I had just graduated from high school and wasn’t eligible til the next summer), and I hadn’t even applied for a job, did I want to work there for the summer? I jumped at the chance for a summer of fun, and my first day there, met the hottest guy I’d ever seen, no lie. It turns out he thought I was pretty cute, too, and within 24 hours, we were smoochin’ and smitten. 8 years later, he’s still the hottest guy I’ve ever seen. I’m so glad he’s mine.

Summer 2003.

 

These days.

the worst valentine’s gifts ever

This story is sorta like “The Gift of the Magi” if those characters had been sorta jerkish instead of altruistic and self-sacrificing.

Some time before our first Valentine’s Day together (at which point we’d been dating like 8 months), I was hanging out at Jon’s house watching TV when a Hallmark commercial came on. It was advertising whatever their cute plush Valentine stuffed animal was that year. I think I said something like, “Why would a dude EVER get an adult woman a stuffed animal for Valentine’s Day?” Jon’s face fell a little and he said, “You better be careful what you say!”

A few days later, on Valentine’s Day, Jon presented me with the gift he’d already bought *before* we saw that ad: a stuffed animal that looked like a chocolate lab puppy. He reminded me what I’d said, and of course I felt like a jerk. The truth is, I thought the stuffed dog was adorable. I named him Jack, I spritzed him with Jon’s cologne, and I slept with him every night because he smelled like Jon, who at the time was going to school 100 miles from where I was going to school. I still have him and sometimes sleep with him when Jon’s working the night shift.

Maybe a year after that, a few weeks before Valentine’s Day, I noticed that Jon’s wallet was totally falling apart, so I bought him a new one. A few days before V-Day, we were walking through the mall when we passed a special Valentine’s Day wallet display. Jon said something about how wallets are intensely personal and how they get better with age as they conform to the perfect fit for a man’s pocket. My face fell a little.

On Valentine’s Day, a few days later, I presented him with the already purchased wallet and reminded him of what he’d said. I bet he felt a little like a jerk. But the thing is, he liked the wallet. Years later, he’s still carrying it.

These days we don’t give each other gifts at all. It works out better that way.

rekindled flame

"Campfire" image via flickr user gmmail, Greg Morgan, under a Creative Commons license.

The night I met my husband, we sat around a campfire and talked late into the night.  We saw shooting stars (or were they fireflies?), were startled by a tail-less cat, and started the fall into love.

The day my husband proposed, he took me back to the site of that campfire and asked me to marry him, and then we sat there and talked about our life together.

Not too long ago, we hit a bit of a rough patch. Trust was damaged, hearts were hurt, and things got hard.

This weekend, we went camping with a group of new friends. We sat around a campfire, talking into the night. We debated the influence of the Beatles (why anyone would dispute their status as the single most influential band ever is beyond me), we laughed at the puppy snoring in my lap, and we got to know each other.  I caught glimpses of my beloved in the firelight, looking just as sexy as he did that night we met.  I smiled when, asked about his top 3 favorite movies, I guessed every one.  We walked through the dark to our tent, where we snuggled for warmth, heads under the sleeping bag, exhaling deep, hot breaths to heat the air inside.  He wrapped his arms around me and told me how thankful he is, how lucky he feels that we have each other. That we get each other. That we love each other.  I think that spark of gratitude might just be what we needed to get back into full flame.

Today’s post is inspired by the lovely Kyran Pittman’s question on her brand new blog, Planting Dandelions.

Side note: I’m in the middle of writing an epic paper on 14th century mystic Julian of Norwich, and it’s taking up a lot of my time. Please excuse my sparse posting as of late.