Lucky #13

December 30, 2005 was a snowy day in Salt Lake City, Utah. So snowy that it was pretty miserable weather for a wedding. But, it was my wedding day and it was going to take place no matter how yucky the weather was.

Despite the unfortunate weather, it was an incredible day for Jess and I. Not everything went according to plan, but it didn’t ruin my day because when it all came down to it I was still marrying the man I loved.

Those who know me well, know that I am an incredibly emotional person, and I can pretty much cry at the drop of a hat. When Jess and I were in our wedding ceremony, I found myself so overwhelmingly happy that I could not cry, but my sweet Jess (who rarely cries), was a sobbing mess. The love I felt for him seeing his raw emotion further solidified for me our bond was true.

So here we were, two kids getting hitched after a year and a half of meeting. A lot of people thought we were crazy, but the love we felt for one another was undeniable and we thought “Why wait?”. Thirteen years later, and he is still my very best friend and our love is stronger than ever.

Not All Sunshine and Rainbows

Don’t get me wrong: marriage is HARD. I was not naive thinking that it would just be a happily ever after for us once we said “I do”. I went into our marriage knowing that it would be work, and that we would need to figure out a good balance and way of life so that we wouldn’t go nuts.

Take our honeymoon for example: I got sick on the plane to St. Maarten and was sick the first day and a half of our trip. And by sick I mean diarrhea and vomiting at the same time and pretty much sleeping on our hotel bathroom floor. Jess and I waited until we were married to make love so, pretty much the mystery and romance I had been imagining was horribly sabotaged. I was a hot mess!

Thankfully, Jess handled it like a champ and took excellent care of me, and when I was feeling better our honeymoon was amazing the rest of the time! So was this some huge disaster? Of course not: this was real life! You never know what’s going to happen, but as long as you are solid with your partner and really hold true to your vows you’ve made, then when these unexpected bumps in the road happen you deal with it and move on.

Communication Is Key

I have had several friends comment to me that they admire Jess and I and feel like we have things “figured out” with marriage. I really take that as a compliment but I have to let you in on a little secret: we don’t have ANYTHING figured out!

When we were first married, I rarely told Jess what I was feeling when something pissed me off. I’m not sure if I was just afraid to speak up, or felt like I needed to pick my battles. But whatever the reason, it was not good for us. I would hold on to things and stew and then eventually break down and we would have a huge fight. It wasn’t until a few years into our marriage that I finally figured out that the issue was ME not speaking up. Now, when I am upset I tell him and we talk it out and then figure out a solution. No, this still may not be an easy process, but the key is that I am communicating how I feel instead of holding back.

While we are on the subject of anger, that old quote “Don’t go to bed angry”, is not something I live by. Go to bed angry! Sometimes, hashing out your issues when you are angry makes things worse! When you speak in anger it only ends up with you saying things you don’t mean and will regret later. I suggest instead, to wait until you cool off a little, take a step back and assess the situation, and then go into the conversation. No, it doesn’t have to be the next morning, but WAIT until the anger subsided because a lot of the times it blinds us and makes us say hurtful things. I promise you, your issues will be easier to solve once anger is removed.

You really cannot have a good relationship with someone if there is no communication. Jess and I have now gotten to a point where we are so comfortable with one another that we can talk about anything- even the painful stuff. But we love each other enough to talk about it and then work through it. We only got to this point because of the mistakes we have made and what we learned from them.

Growing Pains

Like I said, marriage is hard, but it’s also pretty amazing. You really have to suffer through the bad moments to truly appreciate the good ones. Jess and I have had our fair share of bad moments, and things we wish we could take back, but at the same time it has made us who we are today and solidified our love.

One of the things I am most grateful for that we got married young, is that we essentially got to grow up together. I was 20, and he was 24 on our wedding day, and even though I felt pretty grown up, let’s be honest I was a baby!

Jess and I have been able to go on this journey into adulthood together, and have had some crazy adventures along the way. He has helped me become the woman I am today, and I know the same is true for him about me. Then, when we became parents, an entirely new spectrum of adulthood was thrown at us and we had to rely on one another and teach each other in ways we hadn’t before. We now have three beautiful kids who enrich and bring so much joy to our lives, but who are constantly testing us with new issues as they get older. It hasn’t all been easy, and won’t be in the future I am sure, but having him by my side helps ease the anxiety for me just knowing he’s there with me.

So here are some of my “words of wisdom” with marriage that I have learned:

  • Say sorry- even if it takes a day or two. Do it.
  • Call just to say “I love you”. Texting is good too, but letting them hear it is better
  • Say thank you and let them know you appreciate them
  • If you like or don’t like something SPEAK UP
  • Try new things, change it up, spice it up!
    Don’t become complacent- put in the work! Let them know they are worth it and that you are too
    Help each other.
    Don’t go one day without telling them how much you love them. Even if it’s just a short phone call like listed above. It makes a difference

I am not a specialist, (obviously), but these are my two cents from my experience these past 13 years. All I know is, that despite all we have been through, I still feel that same love, (only stronger), as I did the day we got married. I feel extremely fortunate that I would not hesitate to say “I do” to him today if we were to get married. He is still my best friend and the one I want to be with forever thirteen years later and 70 years from now too.

I love you baby! Happy lucky number 13!

Photo by Ashley Dehart Photography

XoXo

Heather

The Raw Brunette

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Holidazed

Pretty much the day after Halloween ends, the Christmas season begins. Or at least in every store it does! I feel like the Christmas decor starts sneaking out earlier and earlier, and it makes me a little mad. Thanksgiving hasn’t even happened yet- can we just Ho-Ho-Hold on please?

The holidays seem to go by fast enough on their own, so why do we feel like we need to rush on to the ones that haven’t even happened yet? Slow down people! Let’s savor each holiday and actually enjoy them for once!

Buy! Buy! Buy!

I’m gonna be honest, I have found myself relating so much to Cindy Lou Who in the Jim Carrey version of ‘The Grinch’ so much in the past few years. At the beginning of the film, (which my kids have been watching on Netflix since like May), she is with her Father Christmas shopping and holding an enormous stack of presents. She is watching the chaos around them as people are hurrying to buy as much as they can in the rush before Christmas. Cindy turns to her father and says:

Everybody seems to kerbabbled. Isn’t this just a little superfluous?

I agree. 100%. The stuff, all the stuff really isn’t so important. It is, in fact, superfluous. What IS important is making valuable memories with your families, and remembering the real spirit of Christmas which is giving and love. I loved my presents of course as a kid, but the magic of the holidays and our family traditions were what I looked forward to and remember most fondly. Some of my most favorite memories as a kid? Going to cut down our tree, baking cookies with my mom, decorating our tree, having our holiday celebrations with our adopted family the Quinns, Mannheim Steamroller on repeat, and going to see the Wanamaker’s Christmas Light show in downtown Philly. The stuff? Although of course meaningful at the time, is all but forgotten now.

My husband and I have been trying to be more conscious of giving our children more useful gifts. We get them at least one of their “wants” from their lists, (come on we are not monsters!), but then try to give them something educational. The past two years we have gotten various Smithsonian encyclopedia books which have been a huge hit, and last year we got a huge box of geodes that they could smash open themselves. We also make it a point that Santa brings us new board games and card games we can play as a family. Game nights are big in our house, and it’s a great way for us to spend time together and connect in a fun way. He also always brings the kids each a new book- reading is big with us too!

This year, we have also been trying to do more “experience” gifts like classes or tickets to events or performances. Getting out and experiencing something to me is far more meaningful than a toy. I am in no way parent shaming anyone. We still get our kids plenty of toys, but we are really trying to focus on what would be the most beneficial for our kids too.

Blue Christmas

Unfortunately this season of joy can also trigger really strong emotions. Depression, anxiety, and any other mental illness can be exacerbated tremendously. There always seems to be more and more pressure to have the best Christmas ever. We are constantly bombarded by movies, ads, signs, and social media telling us: our holiday decor needs an upgrade, reminding you how you’re still single, that your life isn’t where you want it to be, that you need to lose weight for the new year, how much your cooking sucks, and that you have to buy presents to show everyone you love them. I mean, I could go on and on.

This evening as my husband and I were putting up our house lights outside, he asked me a question that has been floating around my mind ever since. He said:

“What’s the point of all this? Don’t you think in a way that we have all taken the holidays to this extreme and we have lost sight of what it’s really about?”

I think this is true, but that you also need a good balance. For instance, I think the decorations and lights help make this season so magical for my kids! I love pulling out my boxes every year and watching the kids eyes light up as they re-discover favorite ornaments or nativity scenes we have. The magic needs to remain, but don’t go overboard and become Clark Griswald or anything.

For the second year, the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints has installed giving machines in some major cities around the US and the world. They sort of work like vending machines, but you are paying to give to people in need. It can be as small as glasses or socks, and as big as a cow! Your money will go towards buying what you choose and someone here or abroad will be given that special thing. I think this is such an amazing idea and gives people an opportunity to spread love.

Photo by R Scott Lloyd from Lds.org

Let’s just remember to be extra kind to those who need it this season too. Reach out to people who are single and maybe bring them some homemade Christmas cookies or invite them for dinner. If you have someone you know that struggles with their mental health, make sure they know they are loved this time of year too. A little love goes a long way.

Keeping the Memories Alive

For me, Christmas is especially hard without my mom. Everything reminds me of her, including most of the decorations I now have in my home that were hers. I have found myself this past week particularly missing her, and getting an ache in my chest as I wished she was still here.

The best thing we have done and will continue to do, is keep her memory alive by keeping traditions going.

Mom started these candy sleigh races when we were in high school when she was a seminary teacher. It was a fun game to keep her students motivated early in the morning, but it also became a favorite family Christmas time activity. The object is to create a sleigh out of candy- a large bar is the base and two candy canes are the runners. You can add as much or little candy as you want to try and make your sled faster. The names of the sleighs are always fun too. Then we turn a table on its side so it slopes down and we have heats and race them until there is a winner. My kids and my brothers kids look forward to it every year!

My stepmom has been really sweet and continued this tradition with our family, and has even started doing it with her own kids!

When I find my heart feeling heavy this season because I feel like I am not doing enough, or that the pain of missing my mom is too much, I will really try to spread some love instead. I have always found that helping others gives me so much joy. I want my kids too to understand how privileged they are and to remember to give back because they can. The reason for the season is not the stuff, it’s love. Christmas is about celebrating the birth of our Savior, not the presents under the tree. We need to remember to spend time and make memories with our loved ones, or give back to those who are less fortunate.

So, thanks to Cindy Lou Who and her inspiration – I won’t find myself kerbabbled this year!

XoXo,

Heather

The Raw Brunette

What If?

‘What’ and ‘if’ are generally very non-threatening words when on their own. But, when put side by side they suddenly become a very loaded question.

“What if?”

Suffering from anxiety, I fall victim to the constant “what if?” battle. It has gotten so much more controllable for me to handle since I started therapy and medication which has made a world of difference for my quality of life. But let’s rewind to just over a year ago when I was at my worst. Back then, the struggle of the “well what if this happens, and then this happens because of that?”, would send me snowballing into panic oblivion.

Now, if I find myself slipping back into the “what if” cycle I can talk my way out of it thanks to the things I have learned from my therapist. But, that’s not to say that I still don’t give in to it now and again. We all do, because we are human.

A Bumpy Journey

In general, the what ifs of our lives tend to hold us back from opportunities and adventures. I know that I have on many occasions been held back by them.

My entire life I felt held back by my fears of what other people thought of me, or the fear of failure. My anxiety and OCD which i have talked about before did not help this. I truly cared what people’s opinions were of me, and after being the subject of some pretty cruel bullying in my delicate middle school years, it was, “What if they make fun of me?” that I feared most. All I wanted was to fit in; standing out to me was bad.

By the time I graduated high school I had more confidence in myself, but it would be short lived as during my freshman semester at Utah State University I would be a victim of sexual assault mere weeks after starting school. The trauma of that incident, coupled with the persecution and threats I received afterwards by people who I thought were my friends made me feel like I was to blame. This spiraled me down a very dark path for a while. I once again had no self confidence and zero drive to take any risks. I wanted no chance of standing out. What ifs once again ruled my life.

Marriage, Motherhood, and Medication

One of the reasons I loved Jess so much from the start is that I never once felt judged by him for anything I had done in my life. When he and I met, I was still quite a mess from my freshman year at Utah State. He made it easy to be myself, and not be fearful of what he thought of me. Pretty early on in our relationship I felt my walls come down, and for the first time in a long time, I felt safe with someone.

He was just what I needed to “get my groove back” that summer, but I never dreamed we would end up getting married a year and a half later. It was a decision though, I have never questioned or regretted. There were zero of those pesky “what ifs” with him.

Three years later, our first child was born and I was plunged into motherhood. I love being a mom, despite how hard it has been for my mental health. My anxiety came back with a vengeance when I was pregnant, and I suffered postpartum anxiety like nobody’s business. It got increasingly worse with each pregnancy, and by the time my youngest was born, and he was rushed to the NICU because he was turning blue I suffered a nervous- breakdown in the maternity wing. It’s not my best moment, I’ll admit. I had come unhinged to a spectacular degree. My body physically shook for 8 hours afterwards.

That night taught me a lot about how connected moms are to their children- even just hours after birth. My doctor came and checked me over and heavily sedated me so I could calm down. He then advised that I be discharged and would recover easier at home. I joke with Jess to this day that they didn’t want to handle my crazy anymore so they sent me home!

I love my children and have been very blessed that I have not had to work and can stay home with them. Being a mom though, is not easy and it’s natural to compare yourself to other moms. I found myself doing this, and those little “what ifs” crept their way in. “What if I’m not doing a good job?”, “What if my kids aren’t learning enough?”, and “What if they grow up to resent me?” were all questions I would ask myself. These what ifs did nothing but make me feel inadequate which of course was not the case.

It’s easy to compare ourselves to others. I have come to realize though is that we as moms do what we can for our kids. Our best, even though it may not feel like it, is enough and our kids love us no matter what.

What If It Was a Good Thing?

The what ifs of life are inevitable. A valuable change of perspective that I have learned is that what ifs can be positive! Here’s an example:

“What if I try and fail?” (Negative)

“What if you try and learn something new about yourself?” (Positive)

Like in the example, it’s easy to fear failure. Putting yourself out there is so scary. If you choose to switch the focus from on how it didn’t work out this time, to what went right or what you learned, it will be a much different experience.

I have always loved this quote:

“What if I fall? Oh but my darling, what if you fly?”

It’s such a great reminder that the failures will be inevitable, but we should focus on what could go right instead of what could go wrong. Changing your paradigm to a positive one no matter what will be a life changer. I know it has been for me.

Being a blogger and an influencer has been scary for me. Like I’ve said, putting yourself out there for the world to judge is scary. There are plenty of what ifs that have tried to hold me back. “What if no one reads my blogs?”, “What if I’m just not as popular as other influencers?”, and “What if people think I’m a joke?” are just a few. There also have been, and will be trolls who live to tear others down. I’ve experienced my share of them already, and it’s extremely hurtful if you allow it to hurt you.

I chose to be brave and put myself out there despite all these doubts and fears. It’s still scary for me, but I have learned so much about myself from pushing through and doing what I really want to do. My what ifs have started to turn positive. “What if my blog helps someone who’s struggling?”, “What if I inspire others?”, and “What if I actually succeed?”.

Honestly, you’ll never know the answer to any of those what ifs unless you take that leap of faith and try. Go ahead, you may just surprise yourself.

XoXo,

Heather

The Raw Brunette