What’s in a name?

Because the days are going faster and faster here lately, it seems, I will go ahead and declare this post the last blog post I will make as Monica Spees.

As a kid, I didn’t hate having an odd last name, but I didn’t love it either. As you can imagine, having “pees” in your name doesn’t always yield kindness from your classmates. I also didn’t like having to sit there and wait quietly during roll call while everyone else’s name was called. What was worse was when the teachers would line us up alphabetically for something fun like recess or ice cream (in those cases, I ran faster than everyone else when we were finally set free on the playground, or I was stuck with strawberry ice cream instead of my desired chocolate). Nor did I enjoy having my name mispronounced (Sees, Speers, Spez, Seeps, etc.). It’s only five letters, and four of them are the same. How hard can it be?

I often found myself longing for my wedding day simply so I could have a normal last name. If no one would marry me and if I grew up to be a writer, I would use the pseudonym Alice Baker.

It must have been in high school when it hit me that I was the younger daughter of two daughters, the older of which had already gotten married and received a new last name. In other words, my last name would disintegrate with me.

The harsh-sounding German “Spiez” was the original name, as I learned at a family reunion when I was about 15 years old. Perhaps it came from this little Swiss town. When some Spiezes immigrated to the United States, the name evolution began. As the family grew and split, other variations cropped up, and Spees became one of the Americanized versions.

I began to entertain thoughts of keeping the Spees name no matter what. But what would that solve in keeping the name alive? If I got married and had girls, statistically speaking, they would change their last name when they got married, and that would probably be their father’s last name anyway. Sons wouldn’t be likely to take a hyphenated name. And with kids, it’s hard enough to get them to write a few sentences in elementary school – those formative years when they’re learning writing habits – so no boy or girl would want the hassle of writing out their first name and long hyphenated last name. This rabbit hole of thinking had me feeling sorry for putting any undue stress on my fictitious children.

In college, my last name became my first name. Any of my college buddies reading this who are responsible for that, you know who you are! One of my college roommates’ mother asked her, after she and I had been friends for almost two years, where my parents came up with such a unique first name: “Spees.” That’s all my old roommate has ever called me.

I was never the kind of girl to write my first name preceding my boyfriends’ last name over and over in my notebook with hearts and sparkles around it, but as I got older and the possibility of marrying someone I dated became more feasible, I would roll the combo over in my mind. Did I like it? Could I live with it? Would it look weird written down? (I never did the latter because I was afraid of jinxing the relationship.)

As more and more of my friends got married off, out of necessity as the single girl, I grew more attached to the weird Spees name. Unlike in elementary school, I found myself proud to instruct befuddled cashiers and hard-of-hearing interviewees on the correct pronunciation and spelling. Not everyone’s last name gets so much attention.

Then I met Cory. Cory Ramsey. A man with a normal last name, something I had dreamed of as a child.

When we first met, I didn’t intend to stay with him long (nor did he intend to stay with me), so I figured on keeping my maiden name until it became an old maid name. But the longer our relationship went on, the more I started to wonder if it was going to end at all. Still, he totally surprised me when he gifted me with a ring in December 2015.

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A year and five months. Approximately 532 days. That’s how long our engagement has lasted, and that’s how many days I have had with my last name since I found out I was going to part with it.

Some women don’t change their last name when they get married. Reasons could include the over-complication of changing every account or official record their name has ever appeared on, feminism or simply liking their name the way it is. I don’t begrudge anyone for what they choose to do about their name upon marriage. That’s their business.

For me, I don’t view taking on the Ramsey name as killing my old Spees name. I don’t view it as Cory lording his domineering masculinity over me and keeping me in my place as his inferior wife. Because he isn’t taking Spees from me; I’m giving it. My last name is symbolic of where I rank this marriage in my life. This marriage is above my past, it’s above the hassle of going through a name change. Giving away my last name is my way of saying to Cory, “I’m giving you every part of me.” It’s also my way of acknowledging that we truly are one.

Some of you may be saying, “You say he’s not keeping you in your place, but what does he give up?” I won’t speak for Cory, but I can tell you he has given up his share to show me where our relationship ranks in his life. Any number of the things he has sacrificed could be symbolic to him, but he hasn’t told me what that is. Time, money, self-sufficientness, the fluidity of being unattached, etc. Sure, I’ve given up some similar things in our relationship, but I know there’s something that’s significant to him that he has given for me. I know that because I know he loves me.

None of this means that getting married is all doom and gloom and giving up fun and freedom and so forth. Rather, it means that we are exchanging some of those things for richer, more valuable things in our life together. Our individuality doesn’t fade away altogether, but instead combines to make each of us stronger people and a stronger couple.

In matter of days, “Spees” will disappear from my driver’s license, Social Security card, credit card, debit card, business cards, work email address and a bunch of other places of which I’m keeping a list. I’ll have to reteach myself how to write a capital “R” and lowercase “y” for my signature. I expect to accidentally write the wrong last name for several months until I get the hang of it.

But I’m looking forward to it. I want to take his name because it’s one way I show him I love him and that we’re a team.

But I know my college buddies will never stop calling me Spees. And I’m okay with that.

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Sometimes it’s okay to be nosy

Some of you may be familiar with that show “What Would You Do?”  It’s aired since 2008, and the premise of every episode of this hidden camera show is to stage awkward or scary situations in public and gauge people’s reactions. Basically, they test the waters of where human kindness and decency lie.

If you’re like me, you’ve watched a few episodes and thought to yourself, “Sure, a person eventually stood up and said or did the right thing in that moment, but what would I do? What if I misread the situation and get all up in somebody’s business for no reason?”

In 2017, we like to leave people alone, and we like to be left alone. But, as the TV show illustrates, that’s not always beneficial.

I’m starting to ramble, so I’ll get to the point. The other day, I left my apartment for work. When I locked my apartment door, I noticed that my neighbor across the hall had his door open. I didn’t think anything of it, but I just glanced in as I walked by to be cordial and wave to him if he was sitting in plain view. He wasn’t, so I walked out the front door.

I got maybe 15 yards from the front of the building when I heard someone shout, “Hey!”

I turned around. It was my neighbor. He stood in the doorway and motioned for me to come closer. I smiled and walked to him, figuring he had a question for me about who the new tenant will be in a few weeks when I move out or something related to that.

“What’s up?” I said.

He didn’t return my smile. “Are you okay?” he asked.

These days, when someone asks me that, they’re usually referring to how my sanity is holding up with the wedding planning. Assuming that’s what he meant, I just sighed and said, “Yeah, I’m good, I guess.”

“No, you’re not,” he said.

I tried to put on my best smile and began to think I just looked really sad and that was the reason for his insistence that I wasn’t okay. “No, really. I’m doing fine.”

He shook his head and pointed to my aviators.

“Take off your sunglasses.”

Okay, so now I’m totally confused. The last time someone ordered me to take off my sunglasses, I ended up engaged to him. But I decided to comply because I couldn’t imagine what he was going to say next.

I removed my glasses, and a look of realization passed over his face.

“Ohhh! That’s your makeup,” he said. When I didn’t say anything, he explained. “I just barely saw you as you walked by the door and I thought I saw a bruise on your cheek.”

My blush. He meant my blush. I had to laugh at that. I reassured him again that everything was fine.

“But, seriously, thank you for looking out for me,” I said.

“For sure,” he responded. “I just wanted to make sure you were all right.”

Was that conversation slightly awkward? Yes. Was his assumption right? No. But you know, I’m glad it happened.

I often heard the negative term “busybody” when I was growing up. I quickly learned that was not a title I wanted. When I’ve seen “What Would You Do?” I always think, “What would I do? Nothing. I’d be like those people sitting in the nearby booth who plainly show shock and outrage at the scene before them but leave the restaurant before anything worse happens.”

My neighbor is the other type of person. Sure, some people might label him a busybody, insist that it’s none of his business and that, if my fiance was truly beating me, I’d eventually have enough and go get help myself.

Maybe. Except that, statistically, one in three women (and one in seven men) have been victims of physical violence by their partner in their lifetime, and only 34 percent of people who are injured by their partner receive medical care for their injuries. Even if there aren’t bruises, nearly 50 percent of both women and men have experienced at least one psychologically aggressive behavior by a partner.

Are there flaws in the system? Yes. Do people make false reports? Yes. Does that mean there isn’t a problem? No.

Thankfully, my neighbor doesn’t care about being a busybody. Because even though he was wrong about me, he’ll be right about someone else. And that may make all the difference.

 

I realize this is a deviation from my usual topics on this blog, but since that conversation happened this week, it just brought it to the forefront of my mind, and I felt that it was important to share. If one in three women (and one in seven men) has been physically abused, that means several women (and men) reading this could have gone through that or are still going through it and don’t feel they can speak up. I would be remiss if I didn’t take the opportunity to be one more person who urges a victim to seek help.

If you are experiencing physical, psychological or emotional abuse, call 911 or the National Domestic Hotline at 1-800-799-SAFE.

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Who’s on first?

The LORD God said, “It is not good for the man to be alone. I will make a suitable helper for him.”… So the LORD God caused the man to fall into a deep sleep; and while he was sleeping, he took one of the man’s ribs and then closed up the place with flesh. Then the LORD God made a woman from the rib he had taken out of the man, and he brought her to the man. The man said, “This is now bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh; she shall be called ‘woman,’ for she was taken out of man.” That is why a man leaves his father and mother and is united to his wife, and they become one flesh. – Genesis 2:18, 21-24

Certain times in life demand a serious conversation of which neither party involved wants to be a part. As a big life change heads my way (and Cory’s way, and my parents’ way, and Cory’s parents’ way, and other family members’ ways), timing demanded I have such a conversation a few weeks ago.

I debated whether or not to share this intimate moment, but after thinking about how difficult this topic is for most people, I decided to go for it, hoping it might help someone else in the same transitional period I’m in.

My mom was in town visiting, and before dinner one evening, we started talking about how things might change after Cory and I are married. It started with little things like, “Parent visits to our home will probably be limited to just weekends unless it’s a special occasion,” and, “I probably won’t be visiting Paducah very much anymore.”

Okay, so maybe those weren’t little things. They’re things that represent most parents’ dreaded future: their child entering a new phase in life that means less of a presence of Mom and Dad.

We danced around the hard truth for a few minutes, and as uncomfortable as that was, I knew I had to make it more uncomfortable by plainly stating what is going to happen in June.

A brief silence precluded the heavy, gray lump of reality I was about to drop in her lap and make us both look at.

“After I’m married,” I told her, “Cory comes first.”

Oh, folks, it hurt to say that to my mom. I had to look at the woman who marveled at my little round cheeks on an ultrasound, taught me how to ride a bike and a car, did my hair for prom and helped move me in and out of college all four years and apartments as an adult and tell her she can’t come first in my life anymore. I had to sit there and watch her hold back tears and try not to cry myself. As much as it hurt me to say it, I know it hurt her more to hear it. But I knew I needed to say it, and I knew she needed to hear it.

Because the day my marriage begins is the day my mom has prayed for my entire life.

She prayed that I would find the man who would love me as God commands men to love their wives.

She prayed that I would find the man who would stay by my side through anything.

She prayed that I would find the man who would complement me, who will truly be my other half.

She prayed that I would find the man who will still be there for me after she and my dad are gone.

Basically, she prayed that I would find the man who would come first in my life.

Although my words saddened her, I could tell that she knew this day would come – and had desperately wanted it to. The true definition of bittersweet.

“I know,” she said.

As you may have gathered if you’ve followed my blog for any period of time, I am a religious person, a Christian. I was raised in a Christian home and attended church every Sunday morning, Sunday night and Wednesday night, and still attend church as an adult. My parents know that passage I posted at the beginning of this post from the biblical book of Genesis as well as I do. Including the part about leaving our mother and father and being united to our spouse.

This must be an important illustration for humans to follow, because God ordained that it come in the second of 1,189 chapters of the Bible (not that the Bible was always divided into chapters, but I believe the all-knowing God saw the chapter divisions coming). A wedding happened at some point in the beginning of time. Not a wedding like we think of today, but a wedding nonetheless, because God – the Father – brought the woman to the man. Walked her down the aisle, you could say. And immediately after the man’s “vows,” the Bible says a man – or a couple, really, leave their parents and become one flesh. “Cleave to” each other, as some translations put it.

The time is approaching for Cory and me both to leave our parents and be united together. We come first in each other’s lives after that. Not our mothers, not our fathers, not anyone or anything else.

Now, is this all to say that we’ll ignore our parents from now on? No, of course not. But in situations where it comes down to whose wants or needs are at the top of our list, his name will be at the top of mine and my name will be at the top of his. We will still love and respect our parents, but it will be together. If we are to “become one flesh,” then that means we value each other as much as we value ourselves individually. If we’re one flesh, our main concern is always going to be for that united body. And if someone or something happens to come before that united body at any time, then it will be because that body has decided it (which really wouldn’t put that person or thing first, anyway).

As someone who abhors the thought of coming across as selfish or self-centered, this topic pains me. But what I’m trying to learn is that my discomfort does not necessarily indicate wrongdoing. If all Cory and I are doing is trying to live as we believe God has said married couples should live, then we may just have to deal with some growing pains.

I’m just glad to be growing with him.

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The accidental treasure hunt

For those of you getting tired of wedding posts, this entry will be a welcome break because it’s only indirectly related to my and Cory’s upcoming wedding. (Sorry, I can’t totally remove myself. It basically consumes my life right now.)

To prepare for the wedding, which will be behind my parents’ barn, we had to do a little housekeeping when we were in town last weekend. The barn that my mom’s dad built about 65-70 years ago is NOT a wedding venue barn. It is an honest-to-goodness barn. When my grandparents stopped raising cattle more than 15 years ago, the barn became a storage facility for some of my grandpa’s tools and equipment. When we had a big clean at our house, we decided to store some of our stuff in the corn crib of the barn.

And there that stuff has stayed – mostly in black garbage bags – for at least a decade.

Our main objective last weekend was to clean out the corn crib and get rid of stuff. Going into that, I was confident I could cold-heartedly toss any childhood memorabilia aside with the ambitious notion that it was all for The Best. I waited until Cory texted me that he had knocked down the barn swallows’ nests and it was safe, then I made my foray into the corn crib.

I yanked the lid off a nearby tote, prepared to chuck useless items into a waiting garbage bag.

But then I saw my Corduroy bear. And then my Madeline doll. And then my stuffed dalmatian with the pink bow.

I held each one up and brandished it to my mom. “Aww! Look! You remember this little guy?”

She stood there and smiled, gloved hands holding open the garbage bag, dust floating around her in the rays of sun slicing through the slats of the wall. I knew she was more sentimental than I am and that she was not only trying to hold back tears, but also refrain from swaying my decision of whether or not to pitch these things.

So then I held it out to Cory. “Look at this! I used to take this thing everywhere!”

He smiled too. Going through old stuff and taking those token trips down memory lane are like drugs to him.

I uncovered old board games my sister and I used to play, Barbie hairbrushes, a notebook I’d kept as a diary for four days, pacifiers, Cracker Jack prizes (when they were still cool prizes), a plastic picnic set and more.

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The escalator was always my favorite thing about this game. Other than that, I remember being a little miffed that the game got to tell me where I was going in the mall.

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I don’t remember the phone that came with this ever working properly, but I liked the idea.

Bottom line, it was hard to go through this stuff. It was hard to hold something in my hand that I held in my 3-year-old hand, my 6-year-old hand, my 11-year-old hand and just let it fall into a trash bag. The whole time, I had to keep in mind a variety of factors: Is it ruined? Would I display it? What would I do with it? Do I have a place to put it? Can it be salvaged? Could I sell it? How important was it to my childhood? Is a defining moment attached to it?

The day before this sorting started, Cory and I talked generally about going through old things.

“I wonder why it’s hard to get rid of some stuff,” I said. “If nothing can be done with it, why keep it?”

“I think it’s because those are tangible things we associate with a memory or a time in our lives, and we think if we get rid of those things, we’ll forget, we’ll also get rid of the memory,” he said.

That’s exactly how it feels.

Throughout the few hours of remaining daylight we spent cleaning, I had to remind myself that I needed to only save the essentials, because there was a bigger reason to clean out the corn crib than just to purge. The long-overdue cleaning was a necessary step in improving the barn, and improving the barn is a necessary step in preparing for the wedding, and preparing for the wedding is a necessary step in having the wedding, and having the wedding is a necessary step in the joining of Cory’s life and mine, legally, physically and spiritually.

Okay, yes, we could have just gone to the courthouse – and don’t believe we haven’t entertained the idea – but I think you get my point here.

Even though I felt a pang of sadness at throwing away sweet mementos of my childhood, I know it had to be done eventually. And chances are, I won’t even think about most of those things ever again. Just because I won’t doesn’t mean the memories with them didn’t happen or contribute less to who I am today, it just means I had to make some hard decisions.

Because an upcoming joyous day depends on it.

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Crying over cookies

Let me tell you something pretty embarrassing. You can laugh, it’s okay. I laughed at myself. But yeah, so I cried over some cookies on Friday.

The setup: Three other people in my office building and myself organized a bake-off. We’ve had a chili cook-off four years running, and this year we wanted to add another fun event for our coworkers. The four of us spent weeks planning. We had to ask three folks in the building to be judges, we had to come up with parameters for the event, we had to decide on an entree for people to eat, we had to set up a judging scale, we had to make sure we had enough supplies and paper goods, and on and on. This all took place via email when we had snippets of spare time during our day. But when bake-off day arrived, we were ready. And of the four of us planners, three of us submitted a dessert to be judged.

I spent a total of three/three-and-a-half hours the night before making Sea Salt Brown Butter Nutella Chocolate Chip Cookies (yes, they are as delicious as they sound). Let me tell ya, I was a nervous wreck because I hadn’t made these cookies in more than two years. All night, questions and insecurities bombarded my brain. Had I scorched the butter? Had I let the dough chill too long? Will the Nutella ooze out? Was that too much salt on top, or not enough? Were the cookies too big? Did I burn them?

My anxiety seems silly, since this bake-off was all in good fun. But I couldn’t help it. I’ve felt a little cursed lately, and my cookies being a disaster would have been par for the course.

I’ve touched a little on wedding and new house stress in some previous blog posts, but I’ll briefly recap what’s been going on in my life.

  • The bridal store hadn’t ordered my veil, though I thought they had, so it’s not scheduled to come in until just a couple weeks before the wedding, and I just pray it’s not late.
  • Someone hacked my and my mom’s phone numbers and purchased four new iPhones, which resulted in our phones being turned off and us having to contact AT&T and take security measures to prevent this in the future.
  • While I was at the gym one afternoon, someone (apparently in a white truck with a ball hitch big enough to puncture the back end of my car) backed into my Camry and left the scene.
  • When meeting with our caterer, I realized I have NO IDEA how to make a reception look good, and just kept answering the caterer’s questions with, “I don’t know.”
  • Cory’s best man found out he can’t make it to the wedding.
  • Our first wedding shower was rescheduled last minute because of a death in the church congregation. (Please don’t read that as me complaining about someone dying, because that would be, like, villainously cold-hearted of me. It just frazzled me because last-minute stuff always frazzles me.)
  • Our new home’s hot water heater doesn’t seem to last longer than 10 minutes, and the guys who checked it said there’s nothing wrong with it.
  • The guys who checked the hot water heater ran into our mailbox with their truck.
  • We bought hooks to hang up our curtains, and realized when we got home that we’d purchased tie-backs instead. We just left it that way.
  • I’m in a state of limbo because I don’t really live anywhere right now. Some of my stuff is at the new house, and the stuff that isn’t there is still at my apartment, and I can’t completely move until late May right before the wedding.

I could go on, but I won’t. That’s just a taste.

So yeah, I wanted my cookies to turn out. If they didn’t, that was quite possibly going to push me over the edge.

On the day of the bake-off, we had eight entrants. There were cupcakes, sweet crackers, cake, cobbler and some other tasty stuff. When we tallied the judges’ scores, we found there was a tie…between me and one of the other women who had helped organize the bake-off. I realize that looks fishy, but I promise there was no underhanded stuff going on. All entries were presented to the judges anonymously.

One of my coworkers went back to the judges and asked them to break the tie. They ruled in favor of my Sea Salt Brown Butter Nutella Chocolate Chip Cookies.

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I’m not one to get real excited in front of coworkers, though I kind of wanted to about taking home Best Recipe at the inaugural Great State Street Bake-Off. I just kind of pushed my excitement aside for the rest of the day and commented on how good everyone else’s entries tasted.

But then something happened when I was in the car with Cory later that night. I was looking out the window, thinking about how cool it was that my cookies won, and then – here’s that embarrassing thing I mentioned earlier – I started crying.

At first, I felt stupid. Like, Come on, Monica. Crying over some cookies? Really? But I quickly realized why I was crying. Those cookies and that bake-off had symbolized something more than the conglomeration of sugar and eggs and emails. They had symbolized something finally going right. They symbolized the reminder that sometimes hard work and time and care put into a project yield a desired outcome. At the same time, like yin and yang, they reminded me that those things don’t always yield a desirable outcome, which makes the desirable outcome that much sweeter.

Pun intended.

Something else could go wrong this week. Maybe the kitchen counters will fall off the wall. Maybe I’ll forget about a bill and get a late fee. Maybe the tux place will lose Cory’s groomsmen order. Maybe a variety of other things that I dare not even speak aloud will happen. It’s possible.

But it’s also possible that things will go right. And it took some cookies to show me that.

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The definitive list of concert-goer personalities

Last week, Cory and I took in a Dwight Yoakam concert at the downtown performing arts theatre. Yes, I know Mr. Yoakam hasn’t been exactly a superstar lately, and I think I could name two songs he has sung. But Cory and I had to go because Dwight Yoakam is partially responsible for why we’re together today.

It was in that light-hearted, feel-good film Slingblade that Yoakam played a lovable and easygoing surrogate father. (If you haven’t seen that movie, you should know right away that the preceding sentence is a joke.) When I first met Cory, I thought he favored Billy Bob Thornton, the star of the film, and when he referenced Slingblade at the end of our first date, I knew we had something in common. On that day (and nearly every day since), he and I have repeated Yoakam’s final line in the movie: “Karl?”

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At 60 years old, he still wears the tight pants and still dances.

Anyway, that was a side note. I’m actually here – for the first time in weeks – to talk about the concert. Cory and I have been to so many concerts that we are able to identify the cast of characters that regularly appears at these events. I’ll list them below. *I should note that Cory and I typically only see performers who haven’t had a hit in at least 30 years and are probably on heart medication, so these types of people may not be seen at all concerts.*

  1. The middle-aged/nearly senior adult female who is out for a night on the town and is dressed like all the young gals dress these days, with the shoulders and/or the sides cut out of her dress.
  2. The grizzled old man who saw the performer(s) on their 1981 tour and is wearing the holey T-shirt to prove it.
  3. The group of ladies making a girls’ night out of this thing and bought brand new snakeskin cowboy boots to wear that they obviously haven’t broken in yet.
  4. The teenage kid who likes this music and is just hoping none of his/her friends from school find out about this.
  5. The fortyish-year-old guy whose perceived friendship with the bass guitarist becomes more real to him with every beer.
  6. The couple who got these tickets free from a friend and have no idea who’s performing tonight.
  7. The elderly couple who are only here because they’re season ticket holders.
  8. The person sitting either directly in front, beside or behind you who knows every word to every song and wants to sing loudly enough that the performer can hear him/her from the stage.
  9. The couple or pair of friends who only clap occasionally and just want to sit and take it all in.
  10. The girl who just absolutely cannot hold her liquor and constantly “paints the sky,” dances provocatively, paws at her boyfriend, hugs her friend and holds up her third/fourth/fifth/ninth beer after every song.

There you have it, folks. I’ve been MIA for a few weeks with all this wedding and house stuff going on in my life, but I wanted to pop in for a quick blog post. If you know of other characters you’ve seen at concerts, tell me about them in the comments. I like to people watch even in my mind.

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Wedding Planning: The registry

As someone who can’t always take compliments well and shies away from attention she didn’t deliberately bring on herself in the moment, the most awkward time of wedding planning has come: making the registry.

Or, as my brain calls it: asking people to give me stuff.

Cory and I feel the same way about this, but we realize it’s nothing to be ashamed of. People want to celebrate with us and express their congratulations in a variety of ways, and one of those ways is giving us something they know we’ll use and appreciate as a newlywed couple. So we’re going to push through and try to avoid thinking of it as us being selfish, greedy tyrants demanding dishes and bath towels from our loyal subjects.

Which brings me to the point of my post today. Last Friday, Cory and I visited Bed, Bath & Beyond to start our registry. Allow me to pause here to emphasize that there are two kinds of grooms: those who have 7,631 questions and want to be super involved with picking everything out, and those who have a hard time deciding if making a wedding registry or stapling their toes together is a more a painful way to spend an evening. Cory falls into the latter category.

In his defense, the saleswoman who helped us set up the registry is probably used to dealing primarily with what the brides want, so she talked solely to me most of the time, and only addressed Cory when she needed his information in the computer system. She handed me the scanner and turned us loose in the store. We began in the kitchen section – my  favorite – and I stopped to carefully survey every shelf.

It didn’t take more than seven minutes for Cory to comment, “Gah-lee! I could have had this whole store scanned by now!”

(Side note: Cory reads these posts and usually rolls his eyes when he sees that he’s made it into my blog once again. I’m sorry, sweetheart, but I just love writing about you xoxoxo.)

He chatted with the saleswoman for a few minutes to pass the time, and I overheard him mention, in not so many words, how absolutely stone-cold bored he was while I examined plastic food storage containers and ice cream scoops.

“Well, what sorts of things are you interested in?” the woman asked. “Do you like to cook?”

Guys, I couldn’t stop myself. Laughter burst forth from me like a volcanic eruption, rumbling through the kitchen section and probably into the cleaning and home decor sections. Cory and the saleswoman whipped their heads around to stare at me, Cory glaring (in jest, I think), and the woman expressionless (probably because she thought she was about to witness a domestic dispute right in the middle of the store).

My man is loving, funny, sweet, handy and a multitude of other wonderful qualities, but a chef he is not. Any time I’ve seen him “make dinner” for himself, it’s been either sprinkling salt inside two cans of tuna or something as complex as slapping a hunk of meat on the skillet and eating it a la carte. Still, perhaps my reaction was over-the-top.

Anyway, Cory asked the saleswoman if he could have his own scanner, and I didn’t see him for about 40 minutes. I think most women know that, much like with a dog or a toddler, when your male significant other grows silent in the other room or disappears, some crazy stuff could be happening without your knowledge. However, I remained optimistic and meandered my way through picture frames and bed sheets.

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This was the second picture we took. The first one he snapped when I had just raised up from looking at something on a lower shelf and had my glasses on. This one is better.

When we finally met back up, Cory was all too eager to show me some of the things he had scanned. I felt a comical sense of dread when we passed the trademarked Squatty Potty and he said over his shoulder, without stopping, “I put one of those on there.”

A Squatty Potty. On our wedding registry.

*sigh*

Moving on.

Honestly, everything else he showed me was cool. Monogrammed hand towels, Kentucky coasters, wall decor with Bowling Green’s longitude and latitude, even a cute little old-school white cow creamer. We’ve both already got a lot of stuff from living alone, so it was good that he found some unconventional things that gift-givers can choose from, in addition to the more traditional items I found.

All in all, I’d say it was a good balance. That’s not to say it’s not incredibly obvious who registered for what. When I opened up our registry online and saw the vinyl albums of Journey and Bruce Springsteen and one duffel bag, well…I can tell you that wasn’t me.

I’m certainly not embarking on a dull life with this guy.

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‘But the greatest of these is love.’

I’ve never been fully pro- or fully anti-Valentine’s Day. Some people have strong opinions either way, but I’ve simply used the day as an excuse to enjoy myself with friends or a significant other. The core purpose, for me, is that love be exchanged. I don’t beg for a $200 dinner, two dozen roses or a diamond necklace so heavy I can’t lift my head. All I want on Valentine’s Day is to show someone – or someones – my love, and (I hope) receive a gesture of that person’s love as well.

This year marks the third Valentine’s Day Cory and I have shared, and the last we’ll share before becoming husband and wife. But I actually prefer saying that we will “become one,” not two completely separate entities. Yes, we will still be individuals with different opinions, likes, dislikes, wants, needs, etc., but because Cory and I are Christians, we believe that God designed marriage for a man and woman to be joined together as one as a symbol of Jesus Christ and the church, but also joined with God as a symbol of the Trinity (God, Jesus and the Holy Spirit).

I’m going somewhere with this, I promise.

Many of you may be familiar with the oft-quoted Bible verses at weddings, 1 Corinthians 13. You know, the whole “Love is patient, love is kind” stuff. Confession time to you from this Christian gal: I don’t want that Scripture read at our wedding. It’s been used so much that home decor has latched onto it as simply another inspirational saying, and hardly anyone knows the context and what Paul was writing about. He wasn’t talking about marriage (though the principles can certainly apply). He was trying to get the church in Corinth, and thus the rest of us down through the ages, to turn away from divisive behavior among ourselves and love one another.

And that’s what I choose to highlight on Valentine’s Day: love for everyone. Grand or simple gesture. My goodness, even just a Valentine in the mail yesterday from a good friend of mine totally lifted my spirits. (Thanks, Melissa!) I’m not her husband, but she still showed me love.

If I speak in the tongues of men or angels, but do not have love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal.

I can write *thought-provoking* blog posts all day long, but if I’m a jerk to you in person, what difference does a blog make?

…and if I have a faith that can move mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing.

If I go to church every time the doors are open but I’m not willing to pick up some ice cream for Cory when I know he’s had a bad day, what have I accomplished?

If I give all I possess to the poor and give over my body to hardship that I may boast, but do not have love, I gain nothing.

Who cares if I consistently tithe just so I can feel good about myself and like I’m “doing Christianity” better than someone in the pew next to me?

And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love.

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Cory and I just bought a house. That’s a big chunk taken from both our bank accounts. We’ve both been a little stressed, mainly because all this home ownership business is new to us. And I’ll be honest, I’ve snapped at Cory over little things lately. I really didn’t mean to, and after it happened a few times (to him and to my mom), I realized I had to get a hold of myself and start showing some love.

For the past two years, Cory has gotten me jewelry for Valentine’s Day. About a month and a half ago, as we neared the closing date for the house, I suggested we just do dinner at home together for Valentine’s Day. I recognized that Cory has probably had more stress than I have because he’s actually living in the house by himself until I join him in June. He’s had to move, and without my stuff there, the house is half-finished, and I know he feels out-of-sorts.

So, to make Valentine’s Day relaxing and private, I’m making hamburgers, one of Cory’s main food groups. Nothing fancy, pretty simple, but it’s how I want to show him love.

Please don’t take this as me tooting my own horn and directing a spotlight onto my ~humility.~ I just know there can be a lot of pressure surrounding Valentine’s Day – to make it perfect, to make sure that special someone knows how much you care, to prove that money is no object when it comes to love – but there doesn’t need to be.

I don’t care if it’s your husband, your girlfriend, your best friend, your coworker, or the Burger King cashier. Just show someone some love today.

Love never fails.

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She’s still got it, and so do you

Believe it or not, a 63-year-old woman is filling some pages in the new Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Edition, set to come out Feb. 15.

Okay, yes, it’s Christie Brinkley – a woman who has long been considered gorgeous – but still, she’s literally a senior citizen, and she gets to be in SI again, 38 years after her first appearance.

I’ve got to take a moment and hand it to SI. They’ve been busy the past two years breaking some societal barriers, such as using plus-sized model (I know that term is becoming a bit trite and negative, but I can’t think of another term at the moment) Ashley Graham on the cover last year. Although Brinkley is a tried-and-true swimsuit model, her age is a big factor here.

She’ll appear with her daughters, Alexa – with ex-husband Billy Joel – and Sailor – with ex-husband Peter Cook. Here’s the photo:

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Courtesy of Sports Illustrated

When you look at Brinkley, you might think it’s no big deal that she’s posing in a bathing suit. I mean, she is Christie-freaking-Brinkley, after all. She has graced college boys’ dorm room walls and been the forbidden fruit to Clark Griswold. She’s Billy Joel’s Uptown Girl, for crying out loud. Even if she’s over 60, what insecurity could she possibly have about her body?

According to this article, Brinkley was immediately insecure about her age. In fact, she figured swimsuit modeling after 30 was pretty much out of the question. But, by golly, she jumped in there and did it. Why? I’ll let her tell you:

“In a country that’s very ageist, people love to put you in little boxes… Women feel very limited by their numbers. On a personal level, I thought, if I can pull this off, I think it will help redefine those numbers and remove some of the fear of aging.”

You hear that? Christie Brinkley, a woman whose looks tell us, by society’s standards, she doesn’t have a care in the world, feels the very real pressure of aging and supposed fading beauty. And she’s using her status to quell other women’s fears.

This isn’t the first time Brinkley has combated unrealistic standards. Although I can’t remember what show I saw it on, several years ago, Brinkley gave an interview in which she discussed how difficult it was, particularly early in her modeling career, to look the way agencies and publications wanted her to look. I specifically remember her saying she sometimes got rejected for being too “athletic-looking.” In other words, not a stick figure. She also talked about how she reacted when she asked the French models how they stayed so thin.

“It’s sex. I just have lots of sex all the time! Just sex every day.”

To which Brinkley replied, “Well… Guess it’s back to the gym for me!”

Even though Brinkley’s career has been based entirely on her outer beauty, I commend her for continuing to put herself out there, even when some people might say she shouldn’t, and I commend SI for letting her do it.

 

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Sweets for the (not always) sweet

Everyone told me the day would come. That day when, for the first time, my beloved would push me over the edge.

“Did he burn down your apartment?” you ask. No.

“Did he gamble away all your savings?” you ask. No.

“Did he kick your dog?” you ask. No (not that I currently own one, but I hope to, which is another blog post for another time).

“Did he murder your entire family and make it look like an accident and flee to South America to rendezvous with his secret mistress?” you ask. No.

But it’s worse, friends. Much worse.

Friday afternoon, I got off work early and went home to eat a late lunch. Because I typically treat myself on Fridays, I decided to partake in a candy bar that had sat patiently atop the microwave waiting for me to devour it all week: a Hershey’s Caramel Cookie Layer Crunch bar.

This particular Hershey’s Caramel Cookie Layer Crunch bar had an interesting past, enriched with love. My cousin Jason, who often gets samples of companies’ merchandise through his work, heard I was visiting my parents the weekend before the forthcoming atrocity I’m about to reveal to you. Upon my arrival, he gifted me with two Hershey’s Caramel Cookie Layer Crunch bars, specifying one as being for me, the other for Cory. We had a good laugh at his insistence that I share, because why would I ever eat something that was designated for Cory? I shared this news with Cory when I returned to Bowling Green and giggled at his exaggerated look of shock when I told him only one was for him. He scarfed it down soon thereafter.

Back to Friday afternoon. I tossed the garbage from my lunch into the trash can and prepared to lift my eyes to the top of the microwave and see the Hershey’s Caramel Cookie Layer Crunch bar greeting me.

Instead, a crinkling wrapper disturbed by my lunch refuge beckoned to me from the trash can. I looked in. And I saw it.

An empty wrapper, brown in color. Its missing contents included chocolate, bits of cookie and, yes, caramel.

Only one person had been in my apartment the day before. My betrothed, my intended, light of my life: Cory.

The man to whom I am preparing to pledge my life had done the unthinkable. He had stolen my chocolate and blatantly left the evidence for me to discover.

My thumbs flew in a rage across my cell phone, typing words that I hoped conveyed my feelings of betrayal.

Did you eat my Hershey’s Caramel Cookie Layer Crunch bar?!

That was MINE. Jason gave me one and you one. You already ate yours!

I am not happy.

You’re buying me another one. Tonight.

And thus my insanity reared itself.

I settled on gorging myself on chocolate covered pomegranates until Cory arrived at my apartment so we could go switch the utilities over for our new house (another post, another time, I promise). When he got there, without a word, he brandished a plastic bag upside down over me where I sat on the couch and showered me with not one, not two, not three, not four, but FIVE Hershey’s Caramel Cookie Layer Crunch bars.

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The precious…

In the interest of full disclosure and not wishing to be an unreliable narrator, I’ll tell on myself. I was still so miffed about Cory eating my candy the day before without my knowledge that I declared, “I’m not sharing ANY of these!”

I thank God that He sent me a man who will laugh at me when I don’t have sense enough to laugh at myself, because that’s exactly what Cory did after my mini-tantrum.

After I’d calmed down, I asked him what could have possessed him to take something that belonged to me. (Like it usually is with us ladies, fellas, an argument or our anger is never about what it seems to be about; it’s about the principle of the thing.)

“Did he say he didn’t think you’d notice?” you ask. No.

“Did he say you need to lose a few pounds anyway?” you ask. No – he’s still alive, isn’t he?

“Did he say he had temporary amnesia and thought he was in a place where any and all chocolate was communal?” you ask. No.

He said, “I thought they were both for me.”

Ladies and gentlemen, the accused may not be innocent of the crime, but he is simply forgetful. Cory may be a lot of things, but malicious is not one of them.

So what’s the moral of this story? There could be several. Such as, “Hide your valuables better,” or, “Don’t pitch a fit when you’re 26 years old.” But I think the moral I like the most is, “Don’t get so worked up over the small stuff that your partner eventually thinks you’re crying wolf every time you get upset.” It hit me afterward that flying off the handle over relatively insignificant matters – or matters to which I don’t yet know the whole story – does me no favors as my relationship with Cory continues.

As my mom and other married folks have warned me, there will be times when I am truly upset, just beside myself, and not in the tongue-in-cheek, hyperbolic way in which I’ve crafted this post. There will be times when I’ll need Cory to understand how upset I am and why, and if I’ve wasted my energy for years on stuff like missing candy bars, what reason would he have to believe me? That’s not saying anything against him. That’s on me.

I’m not a perfect person, and neither is he, but there are things I know I can work on about myself – effort I can put into this relationship and soon-to-be marriage – that will strengthen us.

Oh, and I did offer to share the Hershey’s Caramel Cookie Layer Crunch bars after all.

 

*Disclaimer: The Hershey Company has neither offered nor given the writer any form of compensation for extensive use of its name and product, and any appearance of such action is purely coincidental; though the writer would enjoy being paid in chocolate at such time the Hershey Company sees fit to do so.

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