Sunday, May 8, 2016

A Letter to My Ten Year Old

Dear Carter Dean,
Ten years ago I was terrified that I wouldn't have enough love to go around. I was so afraid of becoming your mother that I thought I’d have to love Jaedyn less in order to love you more. Boy was I so wrong. You came into this world, and you grabbed onto my heart and never let go. 

 I can’t help but think, how did we get here? How it it possible that now you are 10 years old? How did 10 years pass so darn fast? I have loved being your mama. Guiding you and loving you and letting you teach me all about life. I know you are not perfect, but I think you are so amazing. 

I know I don’t always get it right either. I yell too much, swear too much, and talk too much when I should just be quiet and listen.  My standards may sometimes be too high, and I often scold you for not being quiet or behaving when you are just being a kid. I am easily frustrated, short-tempered, and cranky, especially when I hear a hint of whine.  I’m working on it.  Some days I get it right, others I fall way too short of the mark.
But despite my shortcomings as a person and as your mom, I hope you never spend one day of your life ever doubting my love for you.

These next 10 years will go by even quicker than the last, but these will be the years that you will learn all the hard lessons and truths about the world. I want you to maintain your caring heart. Your heart will hurt. You will feel pain. The world and people will let you down and you will feel discouraged. But I beg you to not lose yourself on things that are meaningless. Do not allow life's mishaps to harden your heart. Pour yourself into things that are really, truly important and are capable of making a difference, even if it’s a small difference. Love people deeply and forgive them quickly. Keep finding the good in everyone, even in those who are overlooked. Don’t get caught up on things that are of this world and don’t measure your success by money. You are much more than what the world tells you you are. God wants to do great things through you. I know your loving heart will be capable of making big things happen. Your dad and I truly believe in you and your capabilities. You were given an immense amount of talents, so don’t compare yourself to others. It is really a killer of joy. Don’t be too quick to overlook the small miracles happening all around you, like a beautiful sunset filled with magnificent wonder. And always know that you have grace, that God always forgives and always loves you. Always.

Carter Dean, as you embark on the second decade of your life, I hope that you will never forget that you are indeed loved for exactly who you are right now and for the young man you are growing into.  We are your family and you will always be loved no matter what. This is the soft place you can land where you will always be OK, where you will always be welcome and you will always be loved — no matter what.  You are one of the most kind hearted and amazing individuals I have ever met and my love for you is unconditional, forever, and always. Happy Birthday buddy! You are so very loved.


Saturday, May 7, 2016


Eleven years ago on this day, we said I do. On a hot spring day, in a church filled with many of our friends and family we committed to love each other no matter what. Legally, we were adults, but looking back on that day, we were still kids. We had no clue what we were in for, but we knew that we were in it together. Dan had already seen me through some of my worst life experiences- losing a grandma, parents getting a divorce, and (then as a newfound friend) getting out of an engagement with a boy who helped me bring my daughter into the world. He had seen some pretty dark days and decided to jump in anyways.

He was sweet and kind, considerate and caring, protective and selfless, and I was certain he was the right one for me. He loved my daughter and knew from day one that dating me meant dating both of us. Jaedyn would always have to be part of the equation. Anything we did centered around what was best for her. So on May 7, 2005,  I left my life with my daughter and stepped into our life with our daughter. Little did we know how much work marriage would be. We weren't just playing house, we were building our life together. Life. Singular. We were one unit. Three souls.

I had no idea what marriage entailed. I'm certain Dan didn't either. Marriage is one of those things, as I've found with teaching, that can't be taught or understood until it is lived. It needs to be felt and breathed. Sometimes it brings lots of happiness and other times it hurts. A lot.

In the first many years of our marriage, and even still sometimes today, it was easy to compare our marriage to those that "seemed" perfect. Social media, while great for many reasons, can also steal your joy if what you use it for is to compare your entire life to someone else's highlight reel. Nobody's complete story is plastered on Facebook or Instagram. Even if others want you to believe they have it all together, chances are they don't.

I struggled with the notion of a completely storybook marriage. One where both parties are always madly in love with no seemingly large issues. It seemed as though our marriage was an oddity, as we were so far from that picture perfect union. Today, however, I'm starting to feel like the marriages that last are the ones that are more similar to ours rather than the ones that seem perfect from afar.

Because we are used to swimming through tumultuous waters. We've even survived a few hurricanes. Despite near drowning fatalities, we've desperately continued to tread water and keep our heads above the surface. It isn't a pretty picture, but perhaps it's more realistic. Perhaps it's what keeps us together despite the storms.

Eleven years ago on this day, I married the man of my dreams. Is he still the man of my dreams? Well yes and no. Am I the woman of his? Well yes and no. We are far from perfect. So far from perfect. But we are perfect for each other. He's perfect for me because he shows up. He's seen me in my darkest moments and loved me anyways. He's tolerated me in my most unlovable moments and continued to hold my hand the next day. He supports my dreams and aspirations without fail and propels me forward when I'm ready to throw in the towel.

He makes me smile. Always. Even when I'm not in the mood. He's taught me that life doesn't need to be taken too seriously. His spontaneity has filled my memory bank with some of my most cherished experiences. He's continually modeled a positive, grateful life and taught me more about forgiveness, gratitude and love than I ever could have imagined he would. He's taught me how to roll with the punches of life and is able to say I love you in moments when I can't.

Our marriage has endured its fair share of ups and downs. We've had fights that are explosive, ones that are needed, and some that were embarrassingly petty. We've loved hard and fought harder. We've fought to keep our marriage alive. We've fought to make sure we didn't lose each other amidst the earthquakes of our life.  We seem to glide along seemingly well and then all of a sudden a storm will hit, and we fight, not to love, but to pass through the dark tunnel without letting go of each other's hand. We keep swimming. Keep paddling. Keep showing up. Sometimes it's me. Usually it's him. Sometimes it's both of us. But we don't give up. Sometimes I want to. Sometimes I need him to be my anchor and tell me that giving up isn't an option. No matter what though, we don't let go. We don't quit.

Being a mom and a wife have required me to let go of the word my and replace it with our. I've learned that people are more important than things and circumstances, and while it is very humbling, it is still a beautiful thing.

We are different from the kids we were eleven years ago. Our hobbies and interests have changed a little. We are constantly learning new things and becoming different people, but marriage isn't about being the same person. It's sharing our life together and knowing how to give each other space to grow and do things that fulfill their own individual part of the equation. It's messy and confusing. It makes sense that this marriage gig is a hard job.

Happily ever afters exist. It's just that, unlike the fairytales, you actually have to put in the work. Just like anything else in life that's worth it, you reap what you sow. My hope for our marriage is that we are still holding each other's hand 50 years from now, showing up every day and not giving up.

Dear Dan,
If you are reading this, know that I am incredibly thankful for your love and your selflessness. Thank you for showing up every day, when there are more days that I don't or can't show up for us. Thank you for listening to my needs and taking action even when my needs seem silly or small. Thank you for rolling over in the morning to hug me before you get up because you know I need that reminder that even though you aren't a morning person, you still love me. Thank you for coming to Sioux Center when our kids have activities so that we can be together as a family, even though I'm sure you'd rather be at home enjoying some quiet time. Thank you for promising to still love me when I get early onset Alzheimer's and pinky swearing that you won't put me in a home until I'm at least 80.

Thank you for being my anchor. My arrow that propels me forward when I'm stuck at the bottom. Your sacrifice and love is unwavering. It's steadfast. It's constant. It's everything that I never knew I wanted eleven years ago. I'm sorry I don't say I love you enough. I know there are many moments that I'm hard to love. I'm sorry I don't give you my best on a daily basis. But rest assured that I love you to the moon and back. That even when I'm at my most unlovable, I recognize what you do for this family and how much you love us with every fiber in your being. Thank you for being exactly what my soul needs.

Happy Anniversary to us.