Gay marriage inspiring me to live a more loving life

Today, I was going to write about the a-maz-ing concert my hubby and I just got back from. I was going to write about the crowd, the dancing and the pure showmanship of it all. And then I got on Facebook. There were hundreds of little red equal signs staring back at me. That’s when I realized my ode to Josh Ritter’s concert would have to wait–I was just too grateful for all the support that love was getting.

Human rights marriage equality sign

Human rights marriage equality sign

As we wait to hear the Supreme Court’s ruling on DOMA and Prop 8, I am grateful for how far we as a nation have come. When I was growing up (and remember, I haven’t even yet had my 10 year high school reunion), kids at my school used “gay” as a synonym for “stupid,” “bad,” “annoying.” My parents never allowed that sort of speech in our house, and would immediately correct my friends if they used the word in a derogatory way. I’m grateful I was raised in home that had no room for hate speech, but I’m even more grateful that an ever-increasing number of other homes are not allowing hate to reside in them. More and more parents are accepting their children for who they are, regardless of gender identification. I’m grateful that total love and equality are becoming the norm rather than the exception.

Most of all, I’m grateful that we recognize we still have a lot to do. Even if the Supreme Court does rule in favor of gay marriage, injustice and bigotry still exist. Hours after I changed my profile picture to the marriage equality sign, a former classmate of mine wrote, “If we start allowing gays to marry, who’s to say we can’t allow polygamy, incest, and bestiality? I mean, it’s all in the name of “love” right?”

To that person, let me say this: My definition of marriage is an equal agreement two people come to in love and respect for one another. In the slippery slope argument of allowing polygamy, incest and bestiality equating to permitting gay marriage, your definition of marriage must be an incredibly unhealthy one. Two men can love each other, treat each other with respect and have an wonderfully happy marriage. A polygamist, on the other hand, tells his wives that, while he may have sex with however many women he chooses to marry, they may only sleep with him. He has the control. He holds the power, thereby negating the equality.

So do all marriages fall into what I’ve described in my definition? I wish they did, but if that were true, domestic abuse wouldn’t be such a prevalent problem in our society. What I can say is that I have seen some beautiful relationships, healthy relationships, between two people of the same sex. And I’m grateful for that, because it gives me hope in marriage as an institution.

So today, I’d like to thank everyone I know who strives to live in love, rather than hate. Whether you’re gay, straight, bisexual, transgender, or still figuring it all out, thank you for choosing to live with respect. You inspire me.

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Coming full circle, Part III

I stared at him, kneeling in the sand, holding a glittering diamond ring… and started laughing. I’m not talking a giggle. I’m talking a deep-bellied, whole-body-shaking, tears-streaming-down-my-face, LAUGH.

I had to sit down on a piece of driftwood to regain control. A yes squeaked out at some point, because soon he was placing the ring on my finger, causing even more laughter. Forcing myself to take deep breaths, I looked around us. We were sitting on the Flaggy Shore in County Clare, Ireland and it had all come full circle.

It had started with a poem, then took me to independence, and now was giving me the gift of complete and total happiness. This journey had been five years, two trips to Ireland, and countless readings of “Postscript” in the making.

My then-fiance, now-husband chose the Flaggy Shore very carefully as his spot to propose. He knew it was a place I had claimed as my own, but he wanted to share it. Not take it from me, but share it. It was also an important part of his own history, as his ancestors had immigrated to America from County Clare. So he knelt on one knee and endured my guffaws on that little stretch of coastline because he knew that marriage was about two histories coming together to create a new, combined history, a better history.

There have been only a handful of times in my life when I felt the universe was pointing me in one direction. As we walked back along the mostly deserted path, I experienced one of these instances. There was a woman ahead of us, walking a little brown and white dog. “Bingo!” I called. The dog stopped, cocked its head at me and trotted over.

“How did you know his name?” the woman asked.

“I met him a few years ago, when I was here for the first time. We walked together.” I felt tears, happy tears swim in my vision as I watched them walk away. Something about seeing that little dog again, my companion on my first journey to happiness, told me I had just embarked on another.

Every day I am grateful for the poem, the dog, the country, the shoreline, and the love that brought me full circle. And happy St. Patrick’s Day to you all!

Rainbow across the Burren

Green with gratitude

There’s a wall in our apartment that I’m especially fond of. It’s an accent wall, painted olive green, contrasting the cream color of the surrounding walls. It’s a nice color, but what I love about it is hidden between the paint strokes. If you look closely, you’ll see a story of a couple coming together as a team.

It took my husband and I five months after moving in together to paint the wall. I had wanted to add a splash of color since day one, but my husband-then-boyfriend balked at the idea. Living together was one thing. Decorating a home together? Um, no thanks. It became the source of many arguments and more than once made me question our relationship. Silly, I know. But in my mind, I kept thinking, If we can’t even choose a paint color, how are we ever going to plan a wedding?

Enter his friends and some mojitos. We had a handful of the guys over for dinner and drinks one night and I managed to get everyone just buzzed enough to agree that that wall needed to be painted. Luckily, one of the friends there was the manager of the paint store just down the street. We all ran down there, mixed a can of paint, and lugged it back up to the apartment. By this time it was nearing midnight and we’d all had a bit to drink. In other words, we were about to have a painting party. To this day, I find new paint spots on the ceiling and wood floors.

The transformation in progress.

      The transformation in progress.

 

The end result

The end result

Somehow, I don’t mind those little reminders in the form of smudges and splatters. It wasn’t moving in together that was really our first big step as a couple. Moving in together was a smart financial decision, since we no longer saw the point in paying two rents. No, our first big step was made that night when, finally, with the help and support of some friends, we chose a paint color. It might not seem as important as getting our dog together, our very romantic proposal, or getting married, but it at least laid the groundwork for those things to happen. Painting the wall was our way of saying this was our home, together, and that it was a home worth decorating.

So every evening when I settle down to write, I look at that wall and give it a little salute of gratitude. Cheers, my friend.

Need time to breathe? Syrup can help with that.

My dad is in the kitchen, mixing and measuring, pouring batter onto the waffle iron. I’m eight years old, and my feet swing from  my chair at the kitchen table. I giggle as I read the Sunday comics and read some out loud to him. He laughs along with me, not because they’re particularly funny, but because he wants to take part in my happiness. Meanwhile, the timer dings and he places a waffle on a warm plate in front of me.

“There’s maple syrup in the microwave too,” he says. “Want some?”

I nod, and he brings it over, carefully drizzling it over the waffle. One by one, my mother and brother make their way into the kitchen and the four of us eat our waffles in shifts as the timer dings and a hot breakfast is put on a plate. This is our family routine every Sunday: my dad makes waffles, we all laze about for a while, then rush to get ready for church. Even as a child I wanted to hold onto that hour or so when everyone took the time to breathe deeply and laugh at comics that weren’t really all that funny.

Sunday morning waffles. That’s my source of gratitude today. Even though I haven’t lived with my parents in nearly a decade, I still get to have my Sunday morning waffles. Before he left for the Peace Corps, my brother gave us the offspring of his sourdough starter, and now, every Sunday, my husband and I sit down to sourdough Belgian waffles while we read the comics and listen to the radio. It’s our time to breathe deeply and laugh at things that might not be funny to anyone else. It’s our time to just be with each other, happy in the moment.

And it’s a tradition we’ll keep up when we do start our own family some day. That way, when our children are adults, they can have that comfort food that takes them back to a time when their feet swung from chairs. It will be a good reminder to breathe deeply.

How I found lifelong happiness hiding in a cup of joe

Mmm… coffee. The aroma, the chocolatey taste, the key to love swimming in its murky waters…

That’s right, the key to love, tucked quietly into everyone’s favorite drink. Or at least it was for me. Let me explain.

I was fresh out of college when I started working as a barista at the local coffee shop. I had just started dating this guy I met through some friends, so I was not interested in the flirtation of customers. And believe me, there is a lot of flirting that goes on at coffee shops. If any behavioral psychologists out there care to enlighten the rest of us on the subject of flirtation in the service industry, I’d love to hear it. But I digress–back to my story.

So I was not looking for love when I started my stint as a barista. I already had a boyfriend and thought I was reasonably happy with him. At least, I thought that for a few months before he became much less charming, much less interesting and much less intelligent. Okay, he probably didn’t becomes less intelligent, but I finally caught on to the fact that he was the most brilliant person I’d ever met. 

While that relationship was crumbling, I was building new friendships at the coffee shop, not only with my co-workers, but with customers as well. A few of them are still some of my closest friends, and one of them is now my husband. A family friend of the shop owners, he was a regular who, rather than becoming less of all the qualities I listed above, became increasingly more: more charming, more intriguing, more intelligent, more attractive, more fun. 

One night as I was closing down the shop and washing dishes, I glanced over at him sitting at a table, working on homework. I’m going to marry him. The thought snuck into my mind and announced itself with a giant exclamation point. I nearly dropped the mug in my hands. I let my eyes stretch back to where he was sitting and felt myself calm down. I was going to marry him, and that was a great thing.

About two weeks later, the boyfriend I was still clinging to for no apparent reason dumped me. Another six weeks later and I was on my first date with my husband to be.

Today, and every day, I am grateful for coffee. I’m grateful for the little conspirators in our lives that push us towards a happier, more fulfilling life, all while we think we’re just making lattes.

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Want more? Give more.

I work in fundraising for a non-profit, and today I had the opportunity to witness a whole lot of gratitude. Surprisingly, it wasn’t from someone who needed our services, but from someone who was supporting our services–a bride and groom who were “registering” with our organization for their wedding.

That’s right. Instead of heading over to Crate and Barrel or Macy’s, this couple decided to request that their wedding guests make donations in their honor to the non-profit where I happen to work. The bride and I sat down over a cup of coffee this morning and hashed out a plan to get their guests really inspired to give. I was falling all over myself, thanking her for everything their support could do for our organization. But I don’t think I was the most grateful one at the table. She couldn’t stop talking about how excited she was to be involved with our non-profit, and how excited she was to get their friends and family involved.

That’s when I remembered the secret to instant gratitude: Give more! Don’t believe me? Check out this article from a few years back: http://www.nytimes.com/2010/01/17/opinion/17kristof.html?emc=eta1&_r=0

See? When we give more of ourselves, we feel grateful for what we’re able to contribute, and that equals a heaping helping of happy. Giving–whether it’s financially, through volunteering, or emotionally–makes us realize we are part of something bigger. It gives us an instantaneous dose of the warm fuzzies, and encourages us to build community. Though being grateful for the things we have might seem easy, it might just be a whole lot easier to be thankful for the things we give away.

Now, just because I write the word “wedding” and think back to my own wedding, please indulge me by allowing me to share my favorite shot from our wedding last summer:

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Yeah, we were feeling the gratitude that day. Thanks for giving me (haha, get it? Giving?) that moment of self-indulgence. Now back to our scheduled programming.

When have you been grateful to donate your time or efforts to something? Let’s share our ideas with one another and spread some gratitude opportunities!

Cooking up some love

It takes a real man to be comfortable in the kitchen, and I am most definitely married to a real man. Before I started dating my future husband, I could make three things well: chocolate chip cookies, Annie’s mac and cheese, and a grilled cheese sandwich. As an aside, I was about ten pounds heavier than I am now with weekly menus like that. To say my culinary skills were lacking would be an understatement.

So when, for our second date, my husband-to-be made the most delicious manicotti I had ever tasted, I fell in love. The next day, I called my mom and told her, casually, that I thought I had met the man I would marry. She started dreaming of grandkids while I started dreaming of elaborate meals cooked for me every night for the rest of my life.

Here’s a little feast he surprised me with one summer evening early in our relationship:

Summer surprise

It’s funny how dreams rarely parallel reality. After 4+ years together, I do the bulk of the cooking in our house, but I’m okay–nay, grateful–for that because I finally know how to cook and cook well. What’s more, I enjoy it. Once or twice a week I’ll take the time to cook something a little fancier. A few nights ago, it was homemade manicotti, just like he had cooked for me all those years ago. I poured myself a nice glass of California red and started sauteeing the onions and garlic. I turned up Adele and sang along in my off-key voice.

When my husband got home from work, the apartment smelled like a Florentine restaurant. He began quizzing me on what I had added to make the filling so creamy and complimented my handiwork. Cooking has become something we share, rather than a way for him to spoil me. And as much as I like to be spoiled, I prefer sharing.

What activities has your partner helped you grow in? What new skill have they taught you?

In with the in-laws

Last Friday, I went out with two of my girlfriends to a local wine bar. We imbibed a few cocktails and took turns sharing humiliating stories about ex-boyfriends. It was your standard girls’ night out, but with one caveat: these women were my sisters-in-law, not just my girlfriends.

I grew up with one sibling, a younger brother, and had always thought it would be nice to have another girl in the family. Well now, thanks to my husband’s traditionally gigantic Catholic family, I have four sisters, three of whom I would definitely be friends with even if I hadn’t married their brother. We workout together, shop together, make dinners together and get everyone gathered for Apples to Apples tournaments. I finally have sisters, and I love it.

The following night after the girls’ night out, my husband’s parents treated the two of us to a dinner with them. That’s right, I’m using “treated” in a completely non-sarcastic, non-ironic sense of the word. It really was a treat to sit down with the two of them and hear about the construction project my father-in-law is managing and the trip to Israel my mother-in-law took a few years ago.

I know that many people have difficult relationships with their in-laws, so I’m extremely grateful for the enjoyable one I have with mine. I’m grateful not just because it makes my life easier (we all live in the same time, so it could be rather hellish if things were tense between us), but because it gives me insight into my husband as well. He is not one to offer up his feelings or past experience without plenty of prodding. When I listen to his siblings or parents tell stories about him growing up, a few more pieces fall into place.

Gratitude for family who are friends. That’s what I’m feeling today.

Just the two of us

Today, I’m grateful for not having something in my life: children.

Okay, wait, hear me out. I love kids. Really, I do. Despite the fact that I have a career, I still babysit on the weekends just because I have so much fun playing ninjas and tag. On top of that, I mentor a middle schooler every week. Someday in the not-too-distant-future, I’d love to have a couple kids of my own. Just not right now.

Right now, I’d rather soak in that special brand of marital bliss that only comes (or so I’ve been told) in the first year of a marriage. The newlywed glow and all that. Last night when my husband got home from work late, the two of us uncorked a bottle of wine, heated up some leftovers and plopped ourselves firmly on the couch to catch up on each other’s days and on the latest episode of New Girl. We didn’t worry about anyone but each other for the next three hours before we turned out the lights. Instead, we talked, laughed, and yes, even flirted a bit. I know romance doesn’t end when you have children, but right now it’s nice to focus solely on the romance and communication in our relationship. I know it will make us that much stronger when we do take the plunge into parenthood.

So my gratitude reminder for today is this: At whatever point you are in your life, it is absolutely worth celebrating. While you may not have it all right here, right now, it’s on its way. So sit back and soak up today. And maybe flirt with your spouse while you’re at it.

What future goal are you happy to not have attained yet? Owning a house? Finishing a degree? I’d love to hear your thoughts.