Old Blue

Let me tell you a story. That is what this space is for, yes? The main character of this story is not one of my children and it’s not my husband and it’s not me. The main character of this story is a member of the family. Sort of. This character was here before there was a Kate & Cort.

Meet Blue. Or Old Girl. Or Old Blue. Or The Blazer.

I met her in August of 2003. It was the same day I was offered my teaching position in Wyoming (that is the school district, not the state). I had had an interesting, long, challenging summer. That is a story for another time. The thing to know is that Cortney was there the whole time–as my friend. The person who made sure I was eating and leaving my house with some regularity. Anyway, he bought The Blazer the day I got my first teaching job.

He let my news overshadow his even though he was thoroughly excited about his truck. He let me gush. He let me celebrate. I also noticed, upon my first ride in her, that Cortney had taken a “K” sticker I had given him earlier in the summer (I have no idea anymore why I gave it to him) that he had in his car and moved it to his new truck. But you know, I didn’t think anything of it.

It is now in a frame by his side of the bed. Aw!

What can I say? Sometimes the rear-view mirror is clearer than the windshield.

Anyway, that was all almost fifteen years ago. Now the Old Girl has been scrubbed and shined up because it’s time. Time for a new home for her. Watching Cort polish her up brought back all the memories.

Shortly (very shortly) after Cortney brought Old Blue home, we started dating. I guess he meant what he said at that concert after all.

The Blazer became our main mode of transportation. We took it whenever we went out together anywhere. When I would see him pull up, the sight of that blue truck with the Pearl Jam Alive guy on the front gave me butterflies because I knew Cortney would be walking through the door. Shoot, it still makes my tummy flop over when I see it on the road.

We were engaged in less than eight months. That summer the Blazer took us to Buffalo, Niagara Falls, and Rochester, New York. The next summer it took us on our honeymoon to Myrtle Beach. We have driven to Chicago and back countless times in Old Blue. Cortney and I quickly fell in love with road tripping together. He drove, I navigated. We talked. We were quiet. We sang along to the radio. And we laughed. A lot.

Someday I’ll tell the story of those trips because they were great.

Not every trip in Old Blue was happy. She took oncologist appointments for Cortney’s dad, family prayer meetings for Cortney’s dad, and the church for Cortney’s dad’s funeral.

She also took us to that doctor’s appointment in 2007 when I found out I was pregnant. And the one where I found out I wasn’t anymore.

She took us back out to Rochester, NY to visit friends and do a little wine tour of part of the Finger Lakes. Then, in the summer of 2007, she took us out to Montana via North Dakota and home again via South Dakota. It was on that trip that Cortney had his last cigarette. He quit smoking in Old Girl which means he’s been a non-smoker for a decade.

In 2009 she carried us to the hospital as I labored with Eddie. Four days later, she carried Eddie home for the first time. She did the same for Charlie in 2012.

She has taken us camping and canoeing and cottaging. She has taken us to the beach and across bridges and through mountains both literally and figuratively.

She has been part of our marriage longer than we have been part of our marriage.

And now we are saying goodbye.

She is old. She is not as reliable as she once was. She is not big enough for all five of us to ride in at once. It’s a good thing that Cortney got a different vehicle.

But it’s weird to let something that has always been there go.

She was part of our beginning.

It’s a good thing to let those things go because it means we are trucking through this life and getting on and getting by and loving into new years of our marriage. It’s good to get to a point that you have been together longer than the stuff you’ve had.

If that makes sense.

It’s still a strange thing to let part of our beginning go, but that means we are now moving away from beginning. We are in the middle.

I think I like being in the middle.

A Dozen Down

 

Hear the sirens.
Hear the sirens.

Hear the sirens,
Hear the circus so profound.
I hear the sirens
More and more in this here town

Let me catch my breath to breathe
And reach across the bed
Just to know we’re safe
I am a grateful man

The slightest bit of light
And I can see you clear
Oh, have to take your hand
And feel your breath for fear this someday will be over

I pull you close, so much to lose knowing that nothing lasts forever
I didn’t care before you were here.
I danced in laughter with the everafter
But all things change
Let this remain

Hear the sirens
Covering distance in the night.
The sound echoing closer.
Will they come for me next time?

For every choice, mistake I’ve made, it’s not my plan
To send you in the arms of another man
And if you choose to stay I’ll wait, I’ll understand

Oh, it’s a fragile thing
This life we lead
If I think too much I can get overwhelmed by the grace
By which we live our lives with death over our shoulders

Want you to know that should I go
I always loved you, held you high above, true.
I study your face, and the fear goes away.

It’s a fragile thing, this life we lead.
If I think too much I can get overwhelmed by the grace
By which we live our lives with death over our shoulder

Want you to know that should I go,
I always loved you, held you high above, true.
I study your face, and the fear goes away,
The fear goes away,
The fear goes away,
The fear goes away.*

*I didn’t have words this year, so I chose Pearl Jam’s “Sirens” lyrics instead.
They say what I feel.
Thank you, Cortney, for holding my hand and making the fear go away.
Every time.
Happy anniversary.

It Started With an Email

I was working as a long-term substitute with my own computer log in when the email came through: “Hey. Is everything Ok?”

I stared at the computer screen and then minimized my email, turned to the incoming students, and went about teaching for the morning because no, everything was no Ok. Nothing felt Ok.

When I had a minute to collect myself, I re-read the email. It was from my friend, Cortney, who shared an apartment with my boyfriend-now-ex-boyfriend. He was concerned because I had come over on Sunday and rather than using my key, I had knocked. I then disappeared into my boyfriend-now-ex-boyfriend’s room and he could hear serious discussion going on.  And my boyfriend-now-ex-boyfriend had seemed tense and weird and when Cortney asked him if everything was Ok, his answer was, “no,” and that was it.

So he emailed me because he couldn’t stop worrying about us.

I ended up spilling the entire sad sack story of the weekend and how it ended in the demise of my boyfriend-now-ex-boyfriend’s and my five-year relationship.

His response? “Don’t take this the wrong way, but that is actually a relief. I thought you were pregnant.”

Thanks, yo.

From there, we emailed back and forth sporadically for the rest of the school year. He had a tendency to worry about me–we had been friends for years, after all–and he wanted to check in to make sure I wasn’t making destructive choices (I was) and that I was eating (I wasn’t) and that I wasn’t holing up in my house feeling sorry for myself by crying to the cat (I was).

For awhile I only responded to his emails and didn’t initiate any threads because thinking about him made me think about my ex-boyfriend and it was just too much. But once school got out and I didn’t have a regular job to go to anymore, Cortney and I started emailing more often. He would stop over after work with a pizza to hang out–his way of making sure I got a decent meal since he knew I was broke and living on vodka and Doritos if left alone to make my own choices.

It wasn’t my proudest moment in life, Ok?

After my summer of wallowing, I ended up getting the full-time teaching job I am in now, and shockingly (to us anyway) Cortney and I started dating. The emailing did not stop; in fact it increased now that we weren’t seeing each other all the time due to my actually having to go to work. If I could look back on those emails, they were probably so sweet and carefree. It makes me smile to think about how young and starry-eyed we were back then.

We still email back and forth every day and I have been in this job now for almost fourteen years. One of us will start the daily thread with a “Good morning!” or “Hope you got in Ok!” Some days–like when my students are working on a test independently and Cortney is at his desk all day, we will go back and forth rapidly exchanging silly jokes or thoughts about anything from what next week’s dinners should be, when we should have our own date night, or even what is going on with our kids. Some days we only have the morning check in and then not much for the rest of the day because I am on my feet with students all day or he is out of the office or busy with calls.

Some days the topics get pretty serious. I tend to write out my feelings better than verbalize them, so there have been times I have spent my lunch period on my email typing out long messages about my mental health or other serious topics that I need to make sure I get my words just right. He will do the same. It has always been a way to give each other our thoughts and then let them sit before we respond either with another email, or in person later that evening.

We don’t do everything right as a married couple, but one thing I am proud of is our communication. Long before that first email, Cortney and I were friends who shared with each other and empathized with each other. We celebrated the great things, but we also cried about the bad things. His reaching out to me that day was just an extension of that.

We still reach out to each other every day. When Cortney was traveling for work recently, the loneliest I felt was during my work day when there were no emails coming through. After fourteen years of check-in’s and random banter, going a few days with complete silence was hard.

People who know us sometimes like to give me a little grief about how “chatty” Cortney and I can be–how we tell each other everything and send each other photos. When I was in Atlanta, Cort and I texted constantly, and my friend The Pastor’s Wife teased me a bit of being like a teenager. I know she was kidding and that it was actually out of love for us that she said what she did, because really, it’s that goofiness that has carried us for this long. It’s the easy way we communicate with each other that has made our relationship not just survive the past fourteen years, but actually build it up.

Future Days

If I ever were to lose you
I’d surely lose myself 

Thursday afternoon Eddie and I were driving home from basketball camp. The song “We Are Going to be Friends” by the White Stripes came on the radio. I looked in my rear-view mirror as I sang quietly along in time to see Eddie bobbing his head with the tune.

“Ya know, Eddie…this song always makes me think of you.”

“Why, mom? Because it’s about school?”

“Yeah. A little. I don’t really know why. School I guess. And being friends. You’re a good friend and I hope you always are. Plus you were my first little dude and I hope we always have these talks.”

“I like that, mom.”

Everything I have found dear 
I’ve not found by myself

We wordlessly listened to the rest of the song. The next song was a Pearl Jam song. One of my favorites. I sang along, and Eddie thoughtfully listened.

Try and sometimes you’ll succeed
To make this man of me 

When it was over Eddie said, “That was nice. I liked that one too.”

“That song makes me think of Daddy, you know. Every time I hear it.”

“Is it because it sounds like Daddy singing?”

“What? Oh! Ha! Is that what Daddy sounds like when he sings?”

“A little. Yes. Actually a lot. Yup.”

“I never thought of that. Actually the words make me think of Daddy.  Well, me and Daddy.”

“Because you love each other?”

“Yup. It’s about being with someone forever.”

“I like that.”

“Me too, bud.”
All my stolen missing parts 
I’ve no need for anymore

Today is eleven years since we said, “I do,” but I realized that this past May officially marked twenty years of friendship.
I believe 
And I believe cause I can see 
Our future days
Days of you and me 

I’ve written about our story…about how are paths were so twisty and overgrown with other stuff that we couldn’t see that they were leading to each other. That both of us prayed and wished and hoped for someone to not just marry, but someone to love and laugh and cry with forever and ever.
Back when I was feeling broken 
I focused on a prayer 

In fact, we even did this wishing and hoping and praying many times together. Until all that was left was the two of us: looking at each other and just knowing.
You came deep as any ocean
Did something out there hear?

Every time I question God or prayer or faith or grace, I think back on how we are even here together. How we never saw it coming, and how now we can’t imagine it any other way.
All the complexities and games 
No one wins but somehow they’re still played

We are not perfect. We still get annoyed with each other. We quarrel. We snip at each other. We get on each other’s nerves with our “quirks” and bad habits.
All the missing crooked hearts
They may die but in us they live on 

But we also laugh. We laugh so much. We laugh through and into and around our tears. We suck in our breath and pray through our fears. We listen to each other talk, but more importantly, we listen to each other’s silence.
I believe
And I believe cause I can see
Our future days 
Days of you and me 

Sickness, death, pregnancy loss, job loss, sanity loss…we have been through all of it, and yet…
When hurricanes and cyclones raged
When winds turned dirt to dust
When floods they came or tides they raised
Ever closer became us

It’s not easy. People have said we make it look easy. I think that is because we were…ARE…such great friends. I wasn’t a cliche when I said I married my best friend. I really did. And it still surprises and delights me.
All the promises at sundown 
I’ve meant them like the rest 

Even though my depression and anxiety lie and say I don’t deserve any of this that we have built together as a team, I know we are both in it until that death do us part thing. And even then…
All the demons used to come round 
I’m grateful now they’ve left 

One of my favorite quotes about love going on forever is from the YA novel, Wonder: “You don’t need your eyes to love, right? You just feel it inside you. That’s how it is in heaven. It’s just love, and no one forgets who they love” (227).
So persistent in my ways 
Hey Angel I am here to stay 
No resistance, no alarms
Please, this is just too good to be gone

So we’ve been married for eleven years, but I believe that our future days…and the ones after we are no longer on this earth…are days of you and me.
I believe 
And I believe cause I can see 
Our future days 
Days of you an me 
You and me
Days,…
You and me

Happy anniversary, my love. I’m sorry I forgot to buy a card.

future days

*Lyrics from the song “Future Days” by Pearl Jam

Ten

When the album Ten by Pearl Jam was released in  August of 1991, I was but a child on the verge of entering eighth grade. Cortney was about to enter seventh grade at the same middle school.

We had not officially met each other yet let alone gotten ourselves swept away by Eddie Vedder’s croony voice and Mike McCready’s mad guitar skills. We were both incredibly awkward, scrawny, and pretty much mostly neck and pimples.

But by the time that school year would end, both of us would become friends with a sibling pair that would lead to our meeting, our love of Pearl Jam, our close friendship, and yes, a wedding, babies, etc.

Our story is not only one I didn’t think I would get, but one I didn’t think I wanted. Yet it’s the most lovely example of why I just cannot believe in coincidences.

Today we celebrate our tenth wedding anniversary.

Pointing is Groovy

It was my favorite day.

As much as I can point to the births of all three of my children as life-changing events, my wedding day is my most beloved memory. It was the most fun and I felt the most beautiful and we smiled and laughed. There was dancing and laughing and hugging and kissing.

Plus it was the day Cortney and I officially took our status as “best friends” to the next level in front of everyone we loved. We said out loud all the promises we knew in our heart.

It was an amazing day.

Yet we had no idea what was ahead of us.

There has been a lot of struggle and challenge in the past ten years, but you know what? We never ever stopped the laughter.

2015-06-13 18.35.40

This past weekend we decided to take a quick, 30-hour trip without the kids. On our honeymoon we daydreamed about coming back to Myrtle Beach and staying in a super fancy pants hotel for our tenth anniversary. Or going somewhere with a swim-up bar. Something much fancier than the meager road trip to the Mystic Sea Resort (Pro-tip: “Resort” does not always mean “resort”.)

That wasn’t in the cards this year.

We just had a baby for one thing, and for all the other things…well…let’s just say it wasn’t in the cards.

But we knew we needed to get away and just be with each other for longer than a dinner. We needed to be alone and laugh and be on our own schedule, even if just for a day.

So we drove three hours to Six Flags and rode rollercoasters and giggled about how it has been almost sixteen years since we rode a rollercoaster together.

We said stupid stuff and laughed about it.

We giggled at farts without having to tell anyone that “toots are not appropriate”.

We had more than one cocktail with dinner.

2015-06-13 19.45.57

We listened to the Pearl Jam channel on sirius XM a LOT and sang along and reminisced about the shows we’ve seen and how, in high school along with our friends, we would pile in someone’s car in search of the latest Pearl Jam “bootleg”. We heard tunes from Atlanta: The Day Before, and laughed about how hard to get that was at one time.

Pearl Jam has ten studio albums out to date.

 

I feel like “ten” is lucky.

I can’t wait to laugh and rock through our next ten years. For now, I’ll just go dig up a wicked awesome version of “Porch” and jam out to the guitar solo.

Did I say that I need you?
Did I say that I want you?
Oh, if I didn’t I’m a fool you see
No one knows this more than me
(lyrics from “Just Breathe” by Pearl Jam, of course)

We’re On Each Other’s Team

Cortney and I have a really great relationship and strong marriage. It’s one of the things I am most proud of in this world and feel so grateful that such a wonderful friend ended up as my life partner.

We get asked a lot what they secret to our marriage is and if it’s really as awesome as we make it look online.

As someone who as dated her fair share of turds (and nice guys, but mostly turds), I wasn’t sure if there really was a guy out there who could make me feel like we were a true team.  Then Cortney and I found ourselves together.

I guess our secret is our teamwork.

There are other factors like that we are true friends, we have our own interests as well as shared interests, etc, but the big thing is teamwork.

And most of the time it’s as awesome as we make it look on social media.

Anyway, I am writing about that teamwork over at Mommy Miracles today. I’d be honored if you would give it a read.

some kind of wonderful

Last night he held me while I shook with sobs.

He didn’t say it would be fine or that everything would be good in the end.

No.

He knows better.

After nine years of marriage, we both know better.

But he held me and told me I was wonderful.

This is why we are together…why nine years has flown by despite all the loss and struggle.

We hold each other.

And remind each other of our wonderfulness.

us

Happy anniversary, Cortney. I love you.

Thank you for being wonderful.

a boring present

Last week Monday I took a personal day so I could take Cortney to the hospital for a scheduled, routine procedure: a colonoscopy.

Now don’t worry I know, I know. He’s way too young for a colonoscopy. He had an issue. He has family history of crappy stuff. Ipso facto he went in for the procedure just to make sure things were fine. And they are.

Things are fine.

I brought him in at 8:45am to get him all set up and ready for the 9:45 procedure. He was sick of not eating and doing the prep and he just wanted it done. We listened to all the nurses and doctors about how it would go and what I could expect him to act like when he came back from the procedure (loopy and out of it).

Eventually they wheeled him out and I settled back to get some work done while I waited.

When he came back, he was indeed loopy. In fact, he wasn’t really totally awake yet at all. It was more unsettling to see than I was prepared for.

In the ten years we’ve been together, Cortney has had one surgery: his appendectomy. His dad had died early that day and by the time I drove Cort to the ER I was in survival mode myself. That day is a blur of forgotten and acutely remembered moments. I didn’t see Cortney until after he had been in recovery and woken up, albeit still acting silly and flirty with the nurses.

This past Monday he was still not actually eyes-open-awake yet when I saw him.

He mumbled some things about football and licked his dry lips a few times. I figured he must super thirsty since he hadn’t had a sip of anything since 6am and it was almost 11am.

His eyes struggled to open and he said in a low voice that he was just so tired.

I held his hand. The one with the IV in it, and something punched me in the chest.

Project 365

I’m not entirely sure how to describe it other than to say it was like when people talk about their life flashing in front of their eyes. Only, it wasn’t my past life that flashed, it was our future.

Simultaneously all the still frames of his dad’s sickness flipped through my consciousness like a Rolodex on speed.

It was like one of those nightmares that is terrifying and extremely vivid while it’s happening, but the second you wake up it starts to go away from your visual memory, but lingers in your feelings memory.

I clutched his heavy-hand and forced myself to be calm and swallow down the anxiety. I slowly rubbed the back of his hand with my thumb and said gentle little things to him.

I refused to let myself close my eyes because I knew the images were there. The ones where we are old, but not old enough. Never old enough. Where I am holding a wrinkled and grayed version of that strong, soft hand. The visions that have me wondering how I will go on without him.

The images being there were startling and disconcerting and very much blended with his dad’s last days in the hospice bed.

I gasped at the realness of it. My eyes burned.

But before I could lose my breath completely, a doctor or nurse came in, and Cort became a bit more lucid, and the moment passed. We moved on with what came next. Cortney requested apple juice and the proclaimed it to be the best damn apple juice he’d ever had.

The moment had passed. Because that is what it was: a moment. All the feelings and visuals and possible heartache happened in less than a minute, and just like that it was gone. We were in the present again.

When the doctor gave us the boring news we were expecting, I could have hugged him. We were expecting there to be nothing, and there was nothing.

But that brief moment in time–that flash of past and future–made me so very grateful for a boring present.

Not Who You Married

It’s not easy being married to me; I know that.

I don’t want to be told what to do.

I want my decisions made for me.

I want to be involved with all our friends and family.

I want to hide in our room away from all of civilization.

I have BIG ideas to do BIG things all the time.

I try to do too much.

I want you to listen and not try to fix my problems.

I want you to fix everything.

I want to be hugged and cuddled.

I want to be left alone.

I want you to know when I want attention and when I need to be left alone…without my telling you.

I want flowers and surprises.

I don’t want to spend money on frivolous things.

I want to be told I’m pretty.

I want to know the truth.

I want to be lied to about being pretty.

I want to give all our money to other people.

I want to buy all the selfish things.

I want to take time for myself without feeling selfish.

I feel selfish.

I want to smother you in awesome.

I don’t know how to do that.

I want to spend all my years and months and days and hours and minutes with you.

But not all the time because I want to be alone for minute too.

I’m afraid of time leaving us and missing moments with you.

I’m afraid I’ve already missed too many moments.

I trust you completely.

I get mad over things you didn’t even do because I imagined that you might have.

I worry about things out of my control.

I cry about being overwhelmed when I do it to myself.

I’m not a good listener…unless you’re telling me what I want to hear.

I don’t take compliments without thinking of a reason you are wrong for complimenting me.

I make small annoyances into huge dramas.

I want to be alone with you.

Not being alone with you makes me crabby…at you.

I know that 90% of the time I don’t make sense.

I know that I am not the same girl you married.

I also know that you are perfect for me. You are perfect for our boys.

My hope is that although I know I have changed, that I am still your Special Lady.

That I am still exactly who you need.

thank you to the lovely Missy of mLphotography for taking our SIXTH fall family photo. The first one was in 2008 when Eddie was just a blip in my tummy. And now we are all this!

thank you to the lovely Missy of mLphotography for taking our SIXTH fall family photo. The first one was in 2008 when Eddie was just a blip in my tummy. And now we are all this!

being forward

We had had the conversation, but had not acted on anything since it had been left sort of open to interpretation.

We went on as we normally did: he came over a few times a week for pizza and beers and hanging out.  Sometimes we sat outside, sometimes we watched TV, sometimes we sat at my kitchen table.

One night we were sitting next to each other on my couch watching TV. I don’t know what we were watching or even when it happened. That whole summer was a blur. What I know is that at some point his hand found mine.

Fingers intertwined. His thumb softly rubbing my my thumb.

There was none of the awkwardness that comes with holding hands for the first time.

No sweaty palms.

None of that thing when both of you are afraid to move so your hands just sit there, losing blood flow to your finger tips.

If someone had to shift, she/he shifted.

Fingers tightened around the new hand and released.

If someone left to get a drink or go to the bathroom, without a word our hands re-found each other upon return.

No one spoke about this new action in our relationship. No one had to.

And then…the weight of my day and my feelings and all that was going on fell on me and I drifted off to sleep on his shoulder.

He continued to hold my hand.

And gently glide his thumb over mine.

I don’t remember him leaving that night, but I know he did. He had to work early the next day.

When I finally got up in the morning and logged into my email, there was one from him…just like every day.

“I’m sorry if I was too forward last night. Please forgive me.”

All he had done was hold my hand, but he was concerned he had taken advantage of the situation and of me.

That is the moment I fell for him.

Cortney still holds my hand almost daily. If it’s not while we sit on the couch or while we are walking somewhere, it’s as we fall asleep at night.

His thumb still lightly rubbing mine.

on our honeymoon...where he held my hand a LOT.

on our honeymoon…where he held my hand a LOT.

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