Just So You Know…


-loving life in the world’s coolest city (Austin, TX–in case you weren’t sure)

I am a writer.  A very wise person (whom I married) once told me, “You call yourself a writer, so write.”  That’s the point of this.  There is only so much a person can learn in college.  An inherent talent for something can only take you so far.  Things that are learned must be applied and talents must be developed.  To become a great writer, or even a good writer, you must write.  So that’s what I hope to do.

Published in: on March 8, 2011 at 1:57 pm  Comments (2)  

How Bulking is Teaching Me About Faith and Love

So I’m told by my fellow fitness freaks that everyone has a moment during bulking where they feel like the hulk: feeling MASSIVE, from muscle, yes, but also fat. I had that moment yesterday after seeing some pictures of myself from this weekend.  And I noticed that it was okay.   This pursuit is doing SO MUCH MORE for me than just changing the way I look.


One month in.

It is a mental feat to spend your entire childhood and teen years being told how fat you are (even though you are just a normal, healthy kid), only to deal with it by going through periods of willfully starving yourself as a young adult and twenty-something, and then realize after lots of research and conversations with people who actually know something about health and fitness that, no, you are not fat. You have actually been very thin for a long time and ended up at a perfectly healthy weight, and could even stand to gain weight.  You are actually at a pretty advanced level of fitness compared to most people.

It takes a huge amount of faith to listen to these experts and decide to change your eating habits and lifestyle to purposefully gain weight for four months, when, just weeks before you believed you needed to lose ten pounds.

In a world OBSESSED with instant results, it is a mental battle to embark on a process that is slow and long and requires you to do something that you perceive to be going backwards, moving further and further away from what was your previous goal.  You learn to develop trust in yourself, your body, and scientific research that tells you this process will give you the ability to stop stressing over something as basic as the food you eat, and enjoy life, no longer mentally crippled by the fear of the scale and what it says about your body’s relationship with gravity.

The most profound thing I’ve learned is how the process of changing your body in a long-term, sustainable way takes a long time.  You can’t get fat from indulging for one meal or even one weekend of it.  Likewise, you can’t achieve permanent results from a 30 day exercise challenge or a magical pill or smoothie or body wrap. It takes changing the way you live, and changing it forever.

Why am I doing this? Yes, I want to look better.  Most people are preoccupied with looking better. Mostly, I want to be able to feel fit and strong, and not feel like I have to restrict myself from enjoying life by constantly worrying about getting fat from the food I enjoy. I am a foodie!  My whole family is, my husband is and we enjoy our gastronomic adventures.  In order to do this, I need more muscle mass to support a higher food intake.  Actually, I need more more muscle mass because I starved it away over the years.

I have a ways to go still, more weight to gain before I can start peeling back the bit of fat that inevitably comes with adding muscle. I’m looking forward to when the layers SLOWLY come off, revealing this thing that I’m working so hard to build and knowing that I get to keep it without having to starve or restrict myself from something as normal and necessary as eating.

Is what I’m doing right for everyone? No. Am I attempting to evangelize others into joining me on this pursuit? Absolutely not. There is no one-size-fits-all solution to health and fitness. Every person has to figure out their own way and what is right for them.

For me, what started out as my latest attempt to get a cute figure, has turned into something that is healing 30 year old mental and emotional wounds so that I can move forward with love for myself and the ability to enjoy my life. I am becoming free.


Published in: on June 9, 2014 at 12:57 pm  Leave a Comment  

I just want to …

I just want to put this out there as was thinking about it last night. I think EVERYONE should at some point seriously do maintenance or bulking macros for a period of time despite of where they are in there journey, maintenance for sure. Getting your calories to as high as you possibly can without gaining, or even gaining a small amount of weight. Just for mental sanity when you need to cut! Realizing how much you can actually eat without gaining a pound helps you not be ridiculous with your calories when you need to cut. Never in my life would I have thought I could eat this much food and will never again need to “think” I need super low calories to drop weight. This experience of bulking is doing wonders for my mentality about it all and has changed things forever for me.

–Sarah A.
IIFYM Women Group | IIFYM Logic and Motivation

Published in: on April 9, 2014 at 12:13 pm  Leave a Comment  

Go Ahead, Blog. Heal Me. I Dare You. | A Traumatic Moment

On Valentine’s Day, my dad sent me a recording of a radio show entitled, “Life After Loss: How to Reshape, Move On, and Let it Go.”  I’m not a fan of the title.  Don’t presume to tell me what to do with my grief.  Don’t presume to tell me what to do AT ALL.  However, that’s an unrelated topic.  Moving on.

The theme of this particular episode focused on using writing to cope with loss–which is why my dad sent it to me.  Because, you know, I’m a writer, dammit.

Along with the link, he said to me, “Rachel. You are a writer. People who like to write wait for their muse to call them and then they write. Writers call their muse by writing.  It comes to you like flight to a bird. It’s not just what you do. It’s who you are.”

I digress.  Again.

To summarize, using their words, “The act of simply writing, or typing, allows us to find an avenue of thought surrounding the story of the traumatic event that will make sense and tie it back into the scheme of the larger narrative of our lives.”

I have experience with externalizing internal feelings for the purpose of emotional healing.  Five years ago, the battery of chaotic events that made up my twenties came to a head in a thoroughly dramatic fashion.  I was able to scrape together the smithereens of my even theretofore broken life, building it back up into an imperfect, yet beautifully fortified mosaic that truly represented me.  It was suggested by some that I needed psychiatric help and pharmaceuticals in order to function as a normal human being, however, I managed to sort everything out by simply talking to a friend for one hour a day, once a week, for a couple of months.  I learned from the whole experience that the only way to keep sadness and suffering from eating you alive from the inside out, is to put your thoughts to words.

With all of that said, I’ve tasked myself with writing about the moment I learned that Tim died.  This is supposed to be a therapeutic experience.  We’ll see.

It was a Saturday in the second week of November.  I live in Austin, Texas so it was game day.  I can’t remember who we were playing, or how we were doing.
Joe’s cousin, Eric, and his wife, Jessica, had come over to hang out and watch the game with us.

It was a really good day. I remember I had randomly decided to start using the word “cheeky” to describe everything. Roy is not quite two, so we are thick in the middle of a “Thomas and Friends” obsession, and subsequently hear the word “cheeky” often.

I was sitting in the armchair with Roy on my lap, trying to entertain and distract him enough so that he would allow us to keep the football game on. To my relief, I saw that my mom was calling, I figured, to talk to Roy.

“Look, Roy!” I said with excitement. “Grammy’s calling! Let’s talk to her.”

I answered the phone with my signature, singsongy, “Helloooooo??”

Rachel!!!” Her voice was pinched and urgent, in the way it only gets when I’m about to hear very bad news. Life-altering, horrible news. For a microsecond, I found myself praying it was just Cleo, her dog, or one of the cats

“What happened?” I demanded.

“(muffled speech) DEAD.”

5,000 pounds of panic and adrenaline settled firmly on top of me.  Suffocation.  It could only be one of two people to elicit such a tone from my mom.  My brother or my stepmom, Margaret.

More muffling and noise.

“What!? WHAT! WHO?! I couldn’t understand you!”

“Tim is dead. Donna is dead.”

I’m silent. I bury my face in my hand and shake my head, fury building. I can hear my mom whimpering.

“What happened.” I say, flatly.

“He wrecked the truck. They were driving back to Austin and hit a tree.”

Deep exhale.

In the midst of this phone call, I was semi-aware of everyone else in the room reacting to my reaction. My mom started talking to the police officer who had delivered the news and was still collecting information from her and my stepmom. I turned to Joe and spat out the words as if they were poison in my mouth.

“Tim and Donna are dead.”

I think he explained to Eric that Tim was my brother and Donna was his fiancee, but by then I was trying to listen to what the officer was saying to my mom.

A gory horror film was playing in my head. I saw Tim choking and sputtering blood as he attempted to draw a final breath, and suffer for way too long before collapsing into the mangled steering wheel.

My mom was talking to the officer.

“So are you sure they are. . .”

“Yeah. . .” he said, slowly.  “The fire pretty much destroyed everything.”

I think he was trying to be gentle.  My mom must have called me almost immediately if she was asking those types of questions.

There was more talking that I couldn’t really decipher, but then I heard him asking for Donna’s address.

“I have it,” I said, briskly.  I searched through text messages from the girl who would never get to become my sister-in-law.  I rattled it off to the officer.

Angry.  Angry.  Angry.

“What the f*** was he doing that caused him to crash?”  I thought to myself.  “I bet he was f***ing around with his stupid iPhone and driving 5,000 miles per hour.  Dumbass.”

I heard my mom sighing and Margaret talking to the officer, now further away, it sounded.  I bet mom was pacing around the house.  She started crying.  I couldn’t understand what she said to me at first.

“What?”  I asked, more gently.

“Do you think Tim is with Nana?”

“Of course he is.  Of COURSE he is, momma!”  I told her, believing it, as if it was the Gospel itself.  The lump finally formed in my throat.  “He is with Nana, and Auntie Beth, and Stephanie.  And they are all so happy to see each other. ”

I think we talked for a minute about who was going to tell my dad.  She decided to.  I said I would text his number to her when we got off the phone.  I told her to call me later.  She told me to hug Roy and please don’t cut his hair.  (Joe and I had been kicking the idea around that day.)

The rest of the evening was filled with phone calls from family, text messages from friends, so on and so forth.  I almost never swear, but I used quite a few choice words that night.  All I remember is how angry I was.  I felt sick.  But I didn’t cry.  Not yet.

I had to tear myself away from the situation and back to reality.  Jessica had graciously taken Roy upstairs in the midst of the chaos so he could play with his trains.  It was way past his bedtime, and mine too, so I ushered him off to the tub.

I was grateful for some time to be alone.  I put Roy in our tub and started to turn on his white noise in preparation for bedtime.  As I scrolled through the music files on my tablet, I saw Tom Petty’s “Learning to Fly” and felt compelled to listen to it.

Well some say life will beat you down
Break your heart, steal your crown
So I’ve started out for God knows where
I guess I’ll know when I get there”

Apropos.  I felt lost.  I felt broken.  I felt numb.  I didn’t know how to feel.  I went back into the master bath to sit with Roy, but stopped for a minute.  My chest felt tight.  I stepped into my open closet and reached up to hold on to a few of my shirts, bracing myself as if the emotions were an earthquake that I could sense about to unleash itself and swallow me up into the pit of the earth.

I sobbed.  I hugged my clothes and buried my face into them in an effort to muffle the wailing.  No more than two minutes.  That was all I needed, all I had.  A good, cleansing cry.  I gathered myself and sat down with Roy, who was happily splashing.

“Roy,” I said.  “Do you remember Uncle Tim?”

He stared at me for a second, smiling blankly.  He nodded slowly.  He likes to nod as much as most toddlers like to say “no.”  I don’t know that he really meant yes or not.

“Well, he loved Roy a lot.”


Uncle Tim and Roy at the State Fair of Texas, 2013

Published in: on February 27, 2014 at 1:38 am  Comments (4)  
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Two Months Later

Two months.

Grief causes you to do funny things in an effort to cope.  For instance, I stumbled upon the FB pages of A.B. and Suzette Quintanilla (Selena’s brother and sister) and strangely found comfort in the fact that they still regularly post about their sister in such a lovingly, sweet way.  She’s been gone for almost 14 years and they keep her memory alive and present in their lives by reminiscing and having old photos of her around them.

I have been doing better each day, but find myself telling Tim in my mind, “I’m still missing you, but I know you wouldn’t want me to mope around about the fact that you’re gone all the time.”  It’s a really cliché thing to say, “they wouldn’t want us to be sad,” but now that I’m experiencing it first hand, I can say definitively that it’s quite true.  Tim and Donna would both be very touched by the fact that they were loved and their lives mattered a great deal to those of us they left behind.  It doesn’t change the fact that we are sad and wish and plead and bargain, hoping on some level that it would bring them back.

I have so much happiness and many good things going on in my personal life that I am so excited about.  My little family’s future is so bright, and I know Tim would be/is so happy for me, but I honestly wish he could be here in person to share it with us.

Ugghh…  It’s all just so obnoxious and hard.

I miss Tim. He was a brat sometimes and we bickered and were mean to each other as we were growing up (siblings, duh), but the reality of the situation is that he was my first friend and a friend for my whole life, and now I have to figure out how to go on knowing I’ll never see him again until after I am dead.  It sucks that I only got one year with him as a non-f***ed up adult.  Annoying, to say the least.

And that’s all I have to say about that.

Published in: on January 9, 2014 at 9:55 am  Leave a Comment  
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The Odd Things You Notice

I was looking through Tim’s Facebook last night and found this:


Eerie, strange, and pretty ominous in retrospect.  Comments on the last status he posted. Tim was kind of like a cat with nine lives.  The lives do eventually run out.

This was when he was hospitalized randomly for diverticulitis when he happened to be in Austin, ten minutes away from my house. Then he was released for being essentially fine the next day.  I bought him a charger and Roy and I hung out with him in his hospital room for a bit.  Before we left, he asked me to pull his pant legs down because his ankles were showing and it was driving him crazy.  So I did, and we said goodbye and see you later and we left.

That was the last time I saw him.


Carrie Underwood | See You Again

“Said goodbye, turned around
And you were gone, gone, gone
Faded into the setting sun,
Slipped away
But I won’t cry
Cause I know I’ll never be lonely
For you are the stars to me,
You are the light I follow

I will see you again,
This is not where it ends
I will carry you with me,
‘Til I see you again”

Published in: on November 29, 2013 at 12:22 pm  Leave a Comment  

For Tim

“The saints are the sinners who keep on trying.”  Robert Louis Stevenson


Timothy Evans Oliver was a sweet, kind, loving little boy, who got hurt a few times as a child, then set off down a dark, destructive path as a teenager, went off the deep end as an adult, who ultimately hit rock bottom and rebuilt his life through earnest effort and hard work.

For the past week, I have been randomly going over in my head what I wanted to say today.   I thought I might try to get ideas by chronologically listing memories I had of him.  But then, after thinking for a little while, I realized trying to pick out memories of him, would be like trying to pick out memories I had of one of my arms.   You don’t really have memories of something like your arm, because it’s just always there.  You remember all these things you did in life, and your arm was an integral part of those things, because it was a part of you.  A part that is so much a part of you that it doesn’t even occur to you that it may not be there one day.  Nobody really goes around expecting to lose their arm prematurely and without warning.

Nobody goes around expecting to lose their brother.  I didn’t.

But just for nostalgic purposes, allow me to share a couple of the more notable ones.

Of course, I have to tell the story about when I busted my knee on a rock.  The Manley cousins were visiting and the six of us had found this half-built tree house in the undeveloped brush in our neighborhood. We were on spring break so we spent every day out there, along with a neighborhood friend of ours named Brigitte. One particular afternoon, Brigitte was up in the treehouse working on something, and tried to pass a hammer down to my sister, Ashley. Unfortunately, the hammer slipped and dropped onto Ashley’s arm, who started crying. I thought her arm had broken, so I picked her up and started running through the woods back to the house. At one point, I tripped and landed with my knee smacking into some limestone that was peaking out of the ground. Blood everywhere. Me and Ashley screaming. Tim heard us and came running. He saw the blood and picked me up and tried to carry me home. However, we weighed about the same and he was unable to carry me, so he helped me hobble back. He was always trying to take care of his sisters, perhaps not during times when we really needed it, but his heart was in the right place.

Tim was also very much a goofball.  We always had a lot of fun being stupid together.  Some of y’all may hate me for this one, but I have to go there.  We used to drive to the TCU campus on game days, windows rolled down, singing “The Eyes of Texas” at the top of our lungs.

Tim was the type of person who would give you the shirt off his back–literally.  I remember when he and I were working at KCM at the same time, and he wore this jacket to work one day.  Like he had it on in the car while we were driving there, and then when we were driving home, he didn’t have it.  I asked him, “Where’s your jacket?” and he said, “I gave it to this guy.”


“Well, he told me he really liked my jacket, so I wanted to give it to him.”

Whenever Tim had something, he always wanted to give some or all of it to someone else.  My dad tells this story about how one day my mom took the three of us to a McDonald’s drive-through for lunch, an exceedingly rare treat because we were pretty poor during that time period.  When we made it home, mom realized they had shorted the order by mistake, and in that circumstance he gave up his burger to either me or Ashley without hesitation.

He was also an incredibly gifted performer and speaker, from a young age.  The Manley kids might recall a certain home movie that featured RB, Drew, Tim and “Spotty Pup” performing Kriss Kross’s “Warm it Up”.  I really wish someone could find that and figure out how to get it on Youtube.  Seriously, the world needs to see it.  Anyway, many people here today were introduced to Tim because of his love of and talent for acting.  His last great “performance” was this truly epic speech that he made in July at Grandpa’s 80th birthday party.  I told him the night before that it was his job as the oldest grandchild to speak at the party, and all night long and into the next day, he was freaking out and asking me to help him think of what to say.  So I gave him a little prompt and said it didn’t have to be anything major, just say what Grandpa means to us.  When his turn came to speak, he got up there and after one or two sentences, had everyone laughing, and by the end of the speech, he had most of the room crying.

He also loved kids. LOVED them. He loved my little boy so much. He was a wonderful uncle. There are a few things in my life that I will never forget and one of them was the first time they met. Roy was about seven months old and we had come to visit for the first time since he’d been out of prison. The two of them just smiled at each other and Roy kept touching Tim’s face. It was truly sweet.


Tim was a really great guy.

But I’m not going to stand up here and talk about Tim as if he was a perfect person.  Just because he died suddenly and tragically doesn’t erase the mistakes he made in his life, and he made quite a few.  Haven’t we all?  Tim battled addiction for many years.  He traveled a very dark path for a large portion of his adult life.  He did a lot of awful things that were fueled by the desperate desire and cravings brought on by addiction.  The road he was traveling ultimately landed him in prison, and that became the saving grace that caused him to turn his life around.  It’s funny the things people will bond over.  

As we grew into adulthood, we first bonded over our substance abuse tendencies and later over our recovery.  Back when Tim and I were in our early twenties, our favorite thing to do was to watch football and drink beer.  Usually not just beer, though.  I don’t really need to go into the details, as most of you were either there or heard about it at the time.  So yes.  We would get drunk and get into trouble and that is what we did for a couple of years.  There is a tendency in our immediate family toward substance abuse.  During those years, I drank like a fish and so did Tim, but he also delved into harder drugs.  Pretty bad stuff.  I heard from him at one point that there was probably not a single drug that he could think of that he had not at least tried.  He told me that one time he was awake for 60-something days straight.  Not hours.  DAYS.  Without sleeping.  I told him I didn’t even think people could live that long with out sleeping, and what exactly did you do with all of that time and madness?  He said mostly just play pool and figure out how to get more drugs.  I don’t know all the details of this sordid period in his life, I just know he stole things in order to get money to get more drugs.


The insane thing about this life he was living was how truly unrealistically lucky he seemed to be, in the sense that he was living so dangerously and nothing ever happened to him.  He never got killed or caught or anything like that until the final straw that landed him in prison.

I found out he was going to prison about a month before my wedding.  To say that I was disappointed was an understatement.  I was crushed.  My heart’s desire was about to be fulfilled and all I wanted was for my family to be there, including my big brother.  It was very hard to think about Tim being in prison.  Every time I would read his letters, I felt like my heart was being stabbed.  But I kept reminding myself that he made a series of choices that put him exactly where he was, and he had to deal with the consequences.  My alcohol abuse had landed me in similar, albeit much less severe, territory a couple of years earlier, and I learned a lot about myself, about addiction, about toxic relationships, and I wrote to him about these things.

As we exchanged letters, I could see positive changes in him.  He was finally owning mistakes he had made, apologizing for things he had done, even his spelling and writing were improving.  He was speaking a language that is only learned through the process of addiction recovery.

When he was about to get out of prison, we all had mixed feelings.  The best indicator of future behavior is past behavior, so we were nervous that he would fall back into old habits.  In terms of criminal behavior, the rate of recidivism for prisoners with a history similar to Tim’s is in the range of about 70%, so the odds were not exactly in his favor.

But, his behavior and language pointed to a changed person, so we believed and hoped that he would be able to maintain this change for the rest of his life.

And guess what?

He did.

He decided on a trade and after a couple of setbacks (which, by the way, made me very proud to see his determination to make this goal happen and work through those challenges) he got into  school and started learning how to be a welder.  While he was in school, he worked.  Sometimes two jobs.  For the first time in his life, he was going to work on a regular basis.  Yes, he picked up smoking again, which bothered me, but honestly, who gives a crap?  He was clean and sober for a whole year.  He probably hadn’t been that way for a decade.  When he got discouraged or frustrated, we would talk on the phone.  I would tell him to look at everything he has done.  He’s beaten the odds that were stacked against him, without relapsing and using destructive coping mechanisms.  I told him to keep on keeping on and to do right.


Early this year, Tim started seeing Donna and in her he found the love for which he had been hoping.  Tim always talked about finding his penguin, and she was it.  He always loved so fully and so unreservedly, that he was left heartbroken and disappointed a few times.  But Donna was his girl.  She loved him with the same great passion that he had for her.  The both of them came from a difficult background and were working tirelessly to create a good, honest life together.  They had made so much progress together and personally that there was every reason for them to believe that the best was yet to come.

Sometimes we forget that life is not just about what will happen someday, especially if there are exciting things that we are looking forward to. It’s really important to remember that life is also what we are doing right now.  Fortunately, for Tim and Donna, they lived in the moment together.  Their “someday” was actually “today”.  Their “someday” was last Saturday.


If there is any silver lining to this whole situation, and trust me I have had a REALLY hard time finding one, it’s that they went together.  As someone who was fortunate enough to find the other half of my heart, I think a life without him would be a fate worse than death, and I know for a fact that both Tim and Donna felt that way.  Both of them had experienced such heartache and struggle, that one surviving without the other would have had almost equally devastating consequences.  To me, it is the mercy of God that they got to go on together.  Soul mates.

The desire of Tim’s heart (I believe, at least) was to find his person.  I know that he wanted kids and to do the whole family thing, but honestly what he had always truly hoped for was to find the person who would fully reciprocate the love that he was willing to give.  I am so thankful that he didn’t leave this earth without receiving it.

Tim was a very special person and loved by many.  He made mistakes, but one thing is more prevalent than anything else and that is what a kind and loving person he was.  He was a friend to everyone he knew and ever met.  All week long I have received message after message from people, telling of how he touched their lives.  I witnessed this kindness on many occasions firsthand, so I know for a fact people are not just saying this stuff to be nice to me or my family in the midst of our grief.

So Mom.  Please know that your sweet boy was loved.  Not just by all the people in this room, but by so many others who wanted to be here, but couldn’t for one reason or another.


For all of his faults, I’m thankful that Tim was my brother.  I’m thankful for the time we had together.  I always believed in him.  I told him often that I believed in him.  His life is not defined by the poor choices that he made.  The legacy that he leaves behind is one that says, It doesn’t matter how many times you screw up.  As long as you have breath in your lungs, you have the opportunity to make it right.  Even if you don’t make it right until the 100th time you screw up.  What matters is, you did it.

And Tim did it.

I love you, brother.  You did right.


Published in: on November 11, 2013 at 11:30 pm  Comments (2)  
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Write Your Own Love Story

I just watched the 25+ minute long “Justin and Emily Proposal”.  This is the latest in over-the-top engagement videos to go viral, causing women to swoon and men to roll their eyes and/or feel extremely pressured to step up their game. If you haven’t seen it, you can watch it here: Justin and Emily Proposal

We live in a world where every major and minor happening in our lives are broadcast to the world via Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, YouTube, or {insert your social network of choice here}.  Whether we realize it or not, each of us is engaged in a virtual popularity contest.  We hope that people are impressed by our lives, which is why we only posted the good selfie, or we only talk about the fancy weekend getaway to an exotic location, or we make sure all of our friends see the brand new Coach bag that we just got.  What we don’t show anyone are the 15 other selfies that made our nose look big, the weekend we spent sitting on our rear ends catching up on our DVR full of TV shows for two days straight, or the fact that the brand new purse racked up a massive credit card bill that eventually goes delinquent and ends up taking two years to pay off.

I’ve heard the analogy many times, “Don’t compare your everyday life with someone else’s highlight reel.”  That’s what social media has done.  What you see of your Facebook friends is mostly their highlight reel.  This has created a mentality of requiring completely unrealistic expectations of yourself and your life.  And this brings me back to Justin and Emily.

Justin created a first class cinematic experience for his proposal to Emily. It is clear that a great deal of planning, time, talent, and money went into making it happen.  I’ve seen two or three other similar proposal videos, and there’s a reason you don’t see these every day:


The trouble with videos like the Justin and Emily proposal is that it can create an expectation in single women and young girls that most likely never can and never will be fulfilled.

I think I first started seriously dreaming and thinking about the proposal and wedding I wanted when I was about 17.  I had yet to have a boyfriend up until that point, so I figured that I would inevitably find someone soon (hopefully?).  In addition to that, I went to a couple of weddings that year, the first that I was really old enough to appreciate what was happening.  One of these weddings was that of one of my cousins, during which I ended up catching the bouquet.  I was told by everyone that meant I would be the next to marry.  Apparently being “the next to marry” is a very vague term, since it didn’t actually happen for another ten years after that.

Nevertheless, I hung the bouquet upside down in my room and looked at those drying flowers as the tangible hope of a dream that was being built inside my head and heart.  I watched wedding shows and bought bridal magazines and looked at engagement rings and started piecing together a picture in my mind of what it might be like.

All the while this was happening, everyone I knew was getting engaged and married. I was in my early twenties and it just seemed to be the thing to do. Naturally, all of the real-life proposals played into my fantasies.

Would he take me on a long romantic weekend somewhere and pop the question over a candle lit dinner? Or maybe he would plan a picnic out in a pretty setting and ask me there. Or what if he invited all of our family and friends to show up randomly wherever we were at a particular moment and–SURPRISE–ask me to marry him. I had at least 50 or more scenarios, all of them completely over the top and well-scripted, and obviously well-financed because each one ended with a large 1+ carat diamond solitaire on my finger.

The only trouble was, he was still largely fictitious. I had managed to snag a boyfriend by this time, but the poor guy was a perpetual victim of me projecting all of my hopes and dreams of proposals and weddings onto him. In reality, I was far too young and messed up to marry anyone, and he wasn’t interested in marrying me. It took me a good half a decade to realize that “he” was not the he that I had dreamed of, and finally moved on.

My dreams had been dashed and my expectations came largely into line with my reality.  I was now well on my way to my thirties and had wasted the crucial years of my early twenties dreaming of a marriage proposal and wedding that would never exist.  I had a host of emotional issues that needed to be dealt with and all the financial woes that responsible parents warn their children about.  I hadn’t finished school, had no direction, and nothing to show for the 26 years that I had spent on the planet.

Where are all the viral YouTube videos about THAT?  There are none.  Why?  It’s not good television.  It doesn’t warm anyone’s heart and make them want to forward the story to their friends and coworkers, saying, “OMG THIS IS THE SWEETEST THING I’VE EVER SEEN!!  Crying now!!  Must watch!!”

Please understand that I’m not putting down Justin’s efforts in any way.  The only reason he made that elaborate movie for Emily is because he LOVES her.  He loves her so much that he wanted to do something special for her, in his own way.  He wasn’t trying to garner attention or get YouTube views or Facebook likes (if he was, that’s a blog for a different day), he just knew that his proposal was going to be a once-in-a-lifetime thing for them and he wanted to put his special touch on it.  For him, it involved production and planning on par with that of a Hollywood movie.  But that was Justin.  What about the other amazing love stories that have less-than-exciting beginnings?

What about Kristen and Jon?  She took the bull by the horns because she was tired of waiting and asked him.  Two awesome boys and nearly ten years later they are living their dream in beautiful Colorado.

Carina and Keith have been happily married for eight years, but things didn’t exactly start off the “traditional” way.  Keith was in the military and about to deploy and for very realistic, logistical purposes needed to marry Carina before he left.  He asked her over the phone and she, having to hang up and weigh the options, called him back to say yes.

Don and Susan Hutchins* kicked off their love story with a casual conversation in the car:

“You know I love you, right?”


“You know I want to marry you, right?”


“OK, good.  I think this spring would be nice.”

This coming March they will celebrate a whopping 40 years of love, commitment, and a genuine, honest, real-life, better-than-fiction love that most people never even approach.

The word proposal means  a plan or suggestion, put forward for consideration or discussion by others, typically with preparation to collaborate on a project.  That is exactly what it is.  Someone inviting someone else to join them to create something, and in this case, that thing happens to be a life together.  It is a formal invitation to create a love story that has never existed before and will never be replicated.

I hope when young girls and single women look at the Justin-and-Emily proposals, they see the heart of what really matters in that moment.  My dad told me once, “There are really only three things you have to say: ‘I love you. I want to spend the rest of my life with you. Will you marry me?’ That’s it.”  That IS it.  How he (or she!) does it will depend on who they are and how they genuinely communicate their love for you.  That’s what truly counts.  The rest is just the fluff that populates your Facebook news feed.


Oh yeah.  And I did finally get my proposal after all those years.  A native Texan boy drove this native Texan girl out to a little town in the Hill Country one summer night.  There, all alone in the town square while they were soaking up the last little pink rays of sunlight, he asked her a question he already knew the answer to.


*Alias used

Published in: on November 8, 2013 at 5:12 pm  Comments (2)  
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Forever and Ever Amen

Grandma is really only about 5’6″.  Give or take an inch; I’ve never asked or measured her.  However, she is slender and has this way of standing that is so elegant and posh that she appears to be at least 5’10”.  (Although, the four inch heels she always wears might have something to do with the creation of this optical illusion.)

Being musically talented runs in my family, and as far as I know it began with Grandma.  Decades after her dreams of becoming a famous singer had been completely dashed, she settled in to the piano bench at the front of Grandpa’s church and has been at home there for as long as we can remember, belting out a never ending love song for her Savior. Beyond the four walls of the tiny church, her love of music has been perpetually present in the house she and Grandpa have called home since the mid-1970s. No family gathering was complete without an impromptu jam session on the rickety, slightly out of tune piano that is cozied up next to the fire place in their living room.  When we were still little, our parents, aunts, and uncles made the rounds, singing anything from Christmas carols to golden oldies.

We grew up, as children tend to do, and all of my little cousins became the ones crowding the piano, taking turns filling the hundred year old house with music and warmth.

So it was only appropriate, when we gathered to celebrate our beloved patriarch’s 80th birthday, that music be the central element of our festivities.

My uncle took the stage along with three of my cousins and they gave us a medley worthy of the Grand Ole Opry.

At one point, they coaxed Grandma up onto the stage, because–let’s face it–Grandma belongs on the stage whenever one is available.


So there she was, swaying and dancing, with larger than life gestures that have always been her signature.  She accompanied my cousins in a sweet rendition of “Forever and Ever Amen,” singing to Grandpa.

“I’m gonna love you forever
Forever and ever, amen
As long as old men sit and talk about the weather
As long as old women sit and talk about old men
If you wonder how long I’ll be faithful
Just listen to how this song ends
I’m gonna love you
Forever and ever
Forever and ever, amen.”

Around the third chorus or so, as I was bouncing Roy on my hip, singing and dancing along, I got a little choked up.  I realized this was one of those moments that you have to hold onto forever.

My grandparents are probably not going to be around much longer, and this moment was a gift that we would all be able to keep long after they have left us.

These are the valuable things.

This what life is all about.

Published in: on September 11, 2013 at 11:19 am  Comments (3)  
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Mother’s Day Number Two

This is technically my second Mother’s Day.  Roy was exactly one month old on Mother’s Day last year, so I was still new at mommyhood.  Because of that, this year feels like my first real Mother’s Day.

Years ago, before I was married or even thinking about marriage or my future or anything, I would tell people that I didn’t want kids.  There are a number of reasons I felt that way, including, but not limited to, a history of crappy relationships, mental illness in the family, the inability to believe that I would find someone worth procreating with, the belief that my hard living had rendered me physically unable to get pregnant, the self-centered desire to pursue my own dreams and goals, just plain fear, and so on.

I was brutally honest with myself about it on one occasion and I came to the conclusion that if I had a baby, it would literally break my heart.  I’m an extremely emotional person by nature and I feel everything at an insane level of intensity.  I knew nothing about what it would be like to be a parent, but I had enough common sense to deduce that becoming and being a mom is a highly emotional experience for anyone–which meant it would be exponentially worse for someone like me.  I believed that the emotions would be so intense that they could very well kill me.  No exaggeration.


Happiest little one year old in the world!

So when I finally did become a mom, I, naturally, spent a good three months crying over nothing.  I found out from some of my mommy friends that this is totally natural, and that made me feel better.  The circumstances under which Roy was born had an added level of emotion attached to them with my Nana passing on the same afternoon, so that most assuredly added to my fragile emotional state.  However, as time marched on, I began to settle down and get a hold of myself and stopped crying at the drop of a hat.

Now, with a year and almost one month of being someone’s parent under my belt, I can say definitively that motherhood did break my heart–though not in the way that I had believed.  It has been the most wonderful heartbreaking experience of my life.

You see, there isn’t enough room in the average heart to contain all of the emotions that come with motherhood.  There is so much love and joy that I have experienced over this past year that my heart had to break in order to accommodate all of it–my cup, quite literally, runneth over.

Mother’s Day has different meaning to me now, as a mom.  I always thought it was a day to do something nice for moms to say thanks for all they do.  After all, they (we) are responsible for the fact that any of us are here in the first place.  Instead, Mother’s Day is a day that I personally reflect upon how thankful I am for my child, for my husband, for the cherished opportunity to have this awesome privilege of experiencing the greatest love in existence.  Mother’s Day is like Thanksgiving multiplied by 100.

So before I go off the mushiness deep end yet again, let me wish all of my fellow moms a very happy Mother’s Day.  May you be consumed with this love and joy every day of the year.

Published in: on May 9, 2013 at 11:48 pm  Leave a Comment  
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Documenting the Postpartum Tummy: Installment 2

A post yesterday and one today!  Wow, I am on a roll!

Not really.  Amidst my preoccupation with my size four jeans yesterday, I realized it had been a month and a half since I posted an update to my mommy tummy chronicles.  In that month and a half, we have had Thanksgiving, wedding anniversary number two, Christmas, and New Years Eve.  I have not been to the gym, not been out on the trail many times, and have definitely not been watching what I’ve been eating.  And guess what?! I have lost about 8 1/2 pounds!  Gotta love exclusive breastfeeding beyond the sixth month.

Anyway, the size six Levi’s have become very loose and very comfortable, and as a result, they are now my sloppy, schlumping-around-the-house jeans.  A good pair of jeans to wear for sliding around on hardwood floors, since our baby has recently taken up crawling.  I should mention that they are made of 99% cotton 1% spandex, so they don’t look as loose as they are, but I think side-by-side with the previous picture will illustrate the change quite clearly.  I think with my next update I will start including a picture of the size four Gap jeans so we can watch the magic happen with those babies as well.  If you’re keeping track, I am now at 143.2 pounds–13.2 pounds above my pre-pregnancy weight.


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