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Social Media Envy

Today is the best day to make a statistical analysis of all of your social media friends. You can find the ratio of bitter, lonely singles to happily coupled people quickly. You can spot the people who think being anti-valentine’s day is deep and those who really just don’t want to drop $50 on flowers. You can tell who’s really happy with Jesus alone and who is eating a gallon of ice cream straight out the container while watching Love Jones or When Harry Mer Sally on repeat. It’s an amazing study in human nature.

Looking at what people write on their social media, though, doesn’t necessarily give you a true view of what’s really going on in their lives on a regular day, let alone a holiday. I once posted on my Facebook about people being such Scrooges at Christmas and got reamed for being insensitive because it’s not necessarily a happy time for everyone. I was referring to people trying to be deep and “hate on” the holiday, those annoying people who say things to get noticed rather than because they really have an issue. Celebrate or don’t, but stay off my page.

We all sign a social contract that says we can say what we want, but we have to respect everyone else’s right to say what they want. This is sometimes a very difficult thing to remember when someone expresses their disagreement with our opinion. We don’t, however, agree to divulge everything about ourselves or always state how we really feel.

We can put cute messages of live to our spouse on Facebook today and not relate how we “went upside their head” the day before. U can talk tough about independence and cry into my ice cream about not having a man. I can run my ex down on twitter and jump back in the bed with him without anyone being the wiser.

Why am I saying this? I want you to get real with yourselves. Be happy with where you are in life. Not mourning the past or anticipating the future, but content right now. Because that person whose twitter life you idolize might be worse off than you are. Because you only have right now. Because you are responsible for your own happiness.

What never ceases to amaze me is how many people don’t realize that their is no life achievement or person that will make you happy once for all time. Diamonds aren’t magic agents of change. Children will get on your nerves. A high paying job will need you to work a day you won’t feel like going in. Sustained happiness is a choice.

People may make fun of those single women who say they are married to Christ and waiting on God’s timing for a husband, but many of those women are happy and well adjusted to where they are in life right now. When your real life happiness matches your online happiness, then you have something to write about.

My absolute favorite blog is my favorite because of how real the writer is about her life. Some posts show her asking for advice on a parenting problem; others talk about a rough fight with her husband. I read about her grief in the loss of her father, and her decision to choose joy. If I saw her on the street (which is a possibility), I would feel like I knew her. Not just her awesome sense if humor or her perfect family photos, but her.

I say all of this to encourage you to take social media for what it is on days like today–a stage where everyone is auditioning to be the voice that tells you how you should feel, think & be. Cast your own life accordingly. That’s my two cents, anyway.

What is your social media envy? Is it personal finance blogs (my personal social media envy), fashion & beauty websites, super parent blogs, über religious twitter personalities, or celebrity Facebook fan page?

FYI: the new site is coming! I have the name picked out and am working with Tech Support (aka Mr. Perfect) on the finer points. I am buying the domain today, and will give it out via twitter tonight (@2blu2btru). I will have a grand reveal blog party tomorrow!

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Design of (Half) a Decade

Some of you may think this has already happened because of my harping on the number in my decision2012 posts, but today is a special day. Today marks my five year dating anniversary with Mr. Perfect. In the past five years, I have: graduated college, almost paid off two cars, found a great job after a few mifits, lived in three apartments, wrote countless blog posts, lost four people very close to me, survived at least three awkward Thanksgivings, and just about finished the first book I will publish…and Mr. P. has been along for the whole crazy ride.

The intent of Decision2012 was to bring the focus back to our relationship as we evaluate if we want to get married or move on. The crazy thing is, though, is that God had already provided the avenues by which we could critically evaluate this before I put my little hands on it. In December, my church had a big marriage and family workshop. They decided to continue to have these forums the fourth Wednesday of every month of this year. This started before devision2012. I don’t know the need at our church for such workshops or who the intended audience was, but it’s definitely helped me.

Along with this has been the more personalized approach of premarital counseling. We have had to think deeply about aspects of marriage as they relate to us. We get to examine and investigate ourselves just as much as each other. Instead of me looking at everyone else getting engaged, getting married, and having babies while our lives pottered along lost in questions of where to eat or do we want to go to the movies, I was able to take a good look at my relationship and decide if this relationship is the one I want to progress towards marriage. We had discussed marriage before, but very vaguely. “I think we could possibly be progressing toward seriously considering marriage” has been replaced with seriously considering marriage.

The last five years has not been without their ups and downs for us both individually and as a couple. I think that we have done the work necessary to make a decision. I was watching an episode of Dr. Phil where a couple was contemplating divorce. Dr. Phil told them that they hadn’t done the work to get a divorce. He said they had to really work on their marriage and relationship to get to a place where either they would continue to be married and moving in a positive direction together or to a place where they had some peace about the relationship and could move forward as an individual knowing that they weren’t making a rash decision. Either way, there was some emotional work to do to get them to a place of wholeness and peace as individuals so that they could make adult decisions. I feel like we’ve done that work.

Our relationship has been mostly good. We don’t argue very often. We have many of the same interests. We have the same values. We seem to want the same things out of life. We make each other laugh with our pop culture references and bouts of silliness. We encourage each other in our times of sadness. We make each other reach for the better. Through this relationship, I’ve learned to be a better communicator, to commit random acts of selflessness, to accept another person’s opinion, to put someone else’s needs first sometimes. I’ve been able to see the impact of my faithful, optimistic outlook on life on someone else, to see how my living testimony has inspired someone else. I’ve known what it was like to have a partner and a support to help with things I want to accomplish. We have grown in maturity and grace in the last five years.

There are still a few more weeks left in pre-marital counseling and this year. We still have one more trip left in us (to New Orleans next Thursday). One more holiday season before decisions have to be made. It’s at times like this you may wonder if I’m regretting things–either the past five years of my relationship or my decision to either get engaged or go our separate ways at the end of this year. The only answer I can give to both of those is “no.” For whatever else it turns out to be, our relationship has been a learning and growing experience for me that is invaluable to my life going forward, in whatever form “forward” takes. Perhaps if God hadn’t allowed there to be so many convenient ways for us to focus on marriage and what His word says about it; if we hadn’t had the opportunity to explore what marriage would look like for us without the commitment of being engaged; if we hadn’t had the opportunity to talk to so many people with so many different marriages; maybe then I would be hesitant over Decison2012. But the essentials to make the decision have been graciously provided to us. I have been in prayer my attitude towards marriage, asking for clarity and wisdom to make the right decisions. I’ve prayed for Mr. Perfect and his process of deciding what he wants to do, that it will be in line with God’s will for him with or without me. I’ve done the work.

Being the romantic that I am, I have always wanted getting engaged to be…effortless. I wanted flowers and sweet words. Somehow I, who never seems to have her nails done, would have perfectly manicured nails with which to take “look at my ring!” pictures. There would be a photographer hidden away capturing the moment for posterity. I’ve written proposals Shakespeare would be proud of in my head to mark the occasion. I would love to be taken by surprise and swept off my feet, but I’ve honestly enjoyed our process. I have felt relieved to look at rings and gently guide him towards something more my style. I like having discussed many of the possible hiccups after the honeymoon stage. I like feeling sure that this could work apart from all the warm fuzzies of a proposal. Perhaps it will leave me free to feel only happy bubbly emotion at the time of a proposal. Hopefully, I will still get to be surprised in some way.

This post is not the post I intended to write, but it’s the one I felt needed to be written. Later on, I will write my usual “Happy Anniversary” post, filled with the highlights of our year together. But for now, I am just being a bit introspective (and long-winded). Don’t let me get maudlin; tell me some happy relationship stories!

XOXO

2blu2btru

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Playing Wifey, or “Did I Shave My Legs for This?”

Consider this horror shot a before picture. Mr. Perfect and I at the Castillo de San Marcos in St. Augustine.

The one thing that is odd to me about doing premarital counseling before being engaged is the idea that I am preparing for something that may never happen. It’s really weird to me because I have a strict line for things pre-engagement/marriage and post-engagement/marriage that I don’t like to cross or blur. There are just some concessions I am not willing to make for a boyfriend and certain privileges not available to any less than a husband. Meanwhile, one of our more recent sessions was about how two become one, a session in which I was called upon to do something on the other side of the line.

We finally had the session where we talked about our lists about a week ago. The point of this exercise, I concluded, was to see how we could compromise and work towards making each other happy. In order to share this story appropriately, I have to tell which undesirable we discussed and the ensuing miscommunication disaster that followed, both of which are very personal. So, bear with me.

In our session, we talked about one of the undesirables that I wrote down for Mr. Perfect. I’ve been trying to think of a word that better fits what I meant, but I have to admit I’m a bit stuck on a poor substitute. The word I wrote down was “vain.” Mr. Perfect is not vain in an absolute since. What I meant was that he is very concerned with looks, both his and his future wife’s. I find this to be an undesirable because it can often feel like a requirement, sort of a “you have to be this fine to enter this marriage,” if you will. At least that’s how I saw it. While talking to Brother Drummer, Mr. Perfect was asked why this was important to him, and I was asked to voice my opinions on it as well. In an effort to sum things up, he felt that it was important for him to have a wife he was attracted to both because of health reasons and as an aid to helping him stay faithful. Basically, he wants a wife he can lust after instead of lusting after random women. All men want a woman that other men would want, someone they can be proud to show off; I get that. What I wanted was for it not to be a requirement. I wanted acceptance and unconditional love. Brother Drummer did a great job of showing how taking either one of our views to the extreme or to the exclusion of the other would be a mistake and gave us a challenge. He asked us to take on the other’s view, really embrace it and work towards trying to make the other happy.

My issue with this (because you knew there had to be one) is that I have been a slave to how other people have wanted me to look, and it has taken me a long time to be happy with myself. I had no intention of changing how I look to please anyone but a husband. I mean, at that point, my body is his and vice versa. I didn’t want anyone who hadn’t made a commitment before God and aforementioned opinionated relatives to love me as I am having any say so in my looks. I didn’t want to change all this about how I look only to be single again next week. No. But after reflection, I figured it wouldn’t hurt to see if I could look the part, a dress rehearsal, so to speak. So I decided to embrace this exercise a little bit.

I got up early and went walking for some exercise. This wasn’t too hard the first two days, but a front and change in the weather meant the last few mornings I’ve been walking/jogging in 40 degree weather at 7:30 in the morning. Then I took another step and actually shaved some things I haven’t shaved in years. That’s right; I shaved my arms.

I never shave my arms, just my armpits. I don’t have a lot of hair on my arms. But I figured I would fine tune my look. I shaved my arms (which still feels weird), plucked stray hairs on my face (which is painful!), trimmed up hairs, perfumed and oiled down everything, and took time over my face. I felt great. Then I spoke to Mr. Perfect.

Mr. Perfect knows a few things about me as a result of a nearly five year courtship. One of those things is that I am a stickler for being on time. We hadn’t been on time the last few Sundays for church. Since I had taken my morning walk, shaved everything in creation, washed and oiled and powdered everything not nailed down, and took my time picking out an outfit, I knew we would be late again. I wasn’t going to sweat it this one time. But Mr. Perfect didn’t realize I’d decided that trying to live up to embracing his wish to have a PYT on his arm was worth being a little late. He thought that I would try to rush him now that we were running late and somehow make it all his fault. So, not only did he not notice all the pains I took getting ready, he was downright angry. I tried (really tried) to not say anything, to make it his fault, but after one too many comments I didn’t like, I had to tell him that I thought that me taking the time to look nice was what he said he wanted. *Cue half the day argument*

At the end of all of this, we learned a few things. We know each other, just not the way that we thought we did. We are always changing and the rules can get switched at any time. Secondly, neither one of us is a mind reader. I should have made it clear that I was going to try to embrace his way of thinking and make some changes (which was the first thing we were told to do, LOL), and he shouldn’t have assumed that I would blame him for being late. We were both looking for verbal and non-verbal cues to confirm what we already thought, which only made it worse. Third, it is impossible to figure out anything when you’re trying to defend your position instead of working to understand each other’s position. Once we were able to stop defending ourselves and listen to the other person, it was obvious that we weren’t even mad for the same reason. I was feeling vulnerable because I’d put myself out there and gotten snubbed, not made because we were going to be late; he was made because he thought I was mad that he was making us late when I’d taken a long time to get ready. We are getting better at communicating, but we still haven’t perfected it yet.

Through all of this, I have come to realize that while I still believe some things should be reserved for marriage and some privileges only given to husbands, there are some things it wouldn’t kill me to show and prove I’m willing to do. It’s hard for someone to take your word on everything and gamble on forever. It’s equally as hard to put yourself out there with no guarantees. I’ve no idea what the next couple of months holds, but either way no one can say I didn’t try.

XOXO

2blu2btru

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Thoughtful Thursday: Balanced Thinking

One of the MANY pictures I took in St. Augustine. This is at the Old Jail.

There are few things that people both critically overthink and fatally underthink in equal amounts. One of those things is the idea of commitment, of forever.There’s a saying that goes “marry in haste, repent at leisure.” Sometimes we are too quick to pull the trigger on major decisions and make mistakes we can’t take back. Sometimes, however, we face a bit of the opposite struggle.

As you all know, I am under a bit of a deadline in my relationship. Mr. Perfect and I will be at five years of dating in early December 2012. Our relationship could be in preschool, have started and finished undergrad (or a five year master’s program), paid off a car loan, or completed Insanity or P90x approximately 60 times. In the past five years, many, many friends have met and married and had babies. They’ve moved to new cities and started completely new careers. I’ve gotten to be deliriously excited about at least ten engagements, five marriages, and two babies of people I really know and interact with, not to mention countless facebook friends. While I’ve enjoyed everyone else’s happiness and success in the relationship arena, I do wonder if I’m in the remedial love class. I mean, if you can’t either seal the deal or decide it’s not going to work in five years…

I am at the point that I may be overthinking things when it comes to marriage and family. I am at the tipping point, so to speak. The content of this blog is not the extent of the relationship work and knowledge that I’ve acquired in the last three plus years I’ve been writing it. I’ve read so many books about relationships and marriage it is unreal. I have followed the blogs and taken the tests. I should be certified in relationship coaching. Still, I have NO idea what marriage will really be about for me. There are some things you just have to do to know, you know? I have a surplus of knowledge and no experience. In the current job market, you can’t get hired on that.

The key to this commitment issue, of course, is balance and perspective (OK, so maybe that’s two keys). This is why I decided to stick to my original plan of giving this five years (a really generous amount of time, IMHO). Any more time would be uncivilized. Anyone who’s ever even seen gambling on TV knows that there’s a time you have to place your bets and let it ride. Once Regis asked, “Is that your final answer?” there was no turning back. You have to lock it in. But how do you know when you have enough information to make an informed decision? When you have looked at it from every possible angle and ignored all the impossible ones. A balanced perspective.

If you haven’t been following my personal blog What I Wanted to Say (and why haven’t you, get on that!), then you are perhaps unaware that Mr. Perfect and I have started Pre-Marital Counseling. No, we are not engaged; it was something Mr. Perfect wanted to do before deciding on engagement. So far, we aren’t discovering too much; we have talked about nearly everything that’s been said over the last five weeks in six session by one mental health counselor and one minister and one book (huh? Yeah). Forever is such a far reaching decision that it requires a lot of thought and attention. However, at some point you have  to make a decision. The trick is to make a decision based on what you have learned and observed of yourself and your relationship, not other people.

Don’t play the even Miss Independent is getting married (which is true, and I’m beyond excited for her!) card, or the it’s been five years card, or the I’m awesome and you need to marry me card. In fact, just stop playing cards. Don’t pull straws or eeny meenie minie moe it, either. Make an informed decision.

I know many of you think that my sticking to a hard and fast deadline is silly. I don’t get the point of pre-marital counseling for a pre-engaged couple of five years, either. But we all have to do what gives us a level of comfort that we’ve explore all viable options and possible angles without overthinking and possibly missing out on something wonderful.

That’s my two cents anyway. Leave yours in the comments section

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Never Just for a Ring: Bad Reasons to get Married

Whenever I talk about being married, it’s easy for some to get carried away thinking about the process or the possible benefits and not the actual marriage. Many people today are wedding-minded and not marriage minded. I’m sure at some point all women who intend to get married have suffered from this.

I remember reading “One Perfect Day” nearly a year ago and saying “I’m never going to be spend that much money on that” or “why would anyone pay for that?” Now, when I try to envision a wedding, I realize I have some pricey words in my vocabulary. We all know some pricey wedding words: elegant, modern, personalized; it was featured in The Knot or Bride Magazine; Martha Stewart or David Tutera made it; Monique L’huillier, Maggie Sottero, Amsale, Pnina Torné (sp?). Weddings can be the most financially expensive mistake you make in life.

That’s not to say that people running to the courthouse to be married have a better idea of what matters. No matter how you go about tying the knot, there are several reasons that are not good reasons to base such an important decision on. I want to cover this in detail in my book, “It Takes One to Know One,” so I’m only going to give a few of those reasons here. We hear these things over and over, but it never hurts to be reminded.

  • Because she is—There’s nothing like comparison to make a woman get all in her feelings. She can be at a place in life where she doesn’t even want to get married, but then she’ll see that the girl who slept with everyone is getting married and looking respectable, and something inside her will start to whisper “why hasn’t anyone asked me to marry them? I mean, somebody is marrying her. She can’t be getting married before me!” We can think because we  feel someone “deserves” to be married less, because they aren’t as awesome as we are, that we should beat them to the altar. We don’t know if they are in good relationships or what they did to get that ring, but they must have did something because, well, it’s her. I’ve had to check this impulse a few times, the need to compare myself and my relationship to someone else’s. I’ve done the “they’ve only been together x amount of time and I’ve been with Mr. Perfect nearly FIVE YEARS!” But I’ve checked it. If getting married were a competition, I would have been left in the dust and declared the loser a LONNNG time ago. God’s timing is perfect. In the fullness of time. Blah blah.
  • For the benefits–please don’t ever take a job solely for the benefits. You will be a miserable person. I love the benefits I receive at my job, but just recently, they have changed a bit. There are now restrictions that weren’t there before, some things may cost a little more, etc. If I was only working there to receive those benefits, recent changes may make me start looking elsewhere. The same thing can happen in our relationships. If we are in it to split bills or have sex, what happens if someone loses their job or is no longer able/willing to engage in sexual activity? Having someone to help with chores sounds great, but what if that person becomes injured and needs to be taken care of? There are so many ways your asset can become a liability. It’s important to examine whether or not you will still be as committed if you don’t get everything you think you will.
  • For the wedding–Some people can’t wait to have the party of the year, see all of their old friends, receive a bunch of gifts and money, and be the center of attention.  Some are willing to spend a large sum of money they really don’t have to impress others with how much style they have and what a great party they can throw. They begin planning well in advance. Some are buying dresses and other things without a fiancé. A man is only another prop in the day; he is a plug and play and can be anyone. These same people pay little attention to the marriage. After this one day is over, they don’t have the skills to sustain a marriage, nor the money to maintain a household. It’s hard to go back to just being you without all of that attention you’ve been getting, and the diva complex you’ve acquired cannot be satisfied by the love and devotion of your husband.
  • Just to be married—it’s important to make sure you are marrying the man and not just the institution. I have known for a long time I wanted to be married, much longer than I’ve been with the boyfriend. The real question is do I want to be married to him? Marriage is great when you marry the right person and both are committed to making it work. It doesn’t help to be sure about marriage and not about your potential spouse. Marriage is more than a title or a state of being; it will be a major part of your life. In the vows, they ask do you take the person in holy matrimony, not the idea of marriage. Do you want this person? If not, then it’s not the time for you to marry.

There are, of course, many other reasons that aren’t valid for taking that walk down the aisle, many of which I will be discussing in my book. But right now it’s your turn: what are some bad reasons to marry? What are the good ones? Did you marry for the right reasons?

As always, you can leave your two cents in the comments section, or email me personally at 2blu2btru4u@gmail.com. You can also tweet me @2blu2btru or message me on the Indigo Moods Blog Facebook page.

XOXO

2blu2btru

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Thoughtful Thursday: Nothing You Can’t Give Back

Over the years, I’ve heard (and given) a lot of advice on how to navigate the dating waters. I think the piece of advice that has stuck with me the most was shared a few months ago from the pulpit. Bro. Drummer, in his usual fashion, had somehow taken a detour to talk about relationships, and was sharing a piece of advice he had given to his son. He said that he told his son never to take anything from a girl that he couldn’t give her back if the relationship didn’t work out. Hmm…

I sat thinking about this for a while, especially in light of my book (queue the *she’s talking about her non-existent book again?! groans) and my current relationship. Even being as intentional as I have been about not dating until I was “ready” to be married and not dating anyone who wasn’t “marriage material” for me, there’s no protection from being wrong about someone or it not working out. The reality is you may break up. Breaking up is hard to do, but there are things you can do to lessen the blow.

Taking nothing you can’t give back is integral to my approach to dating in theory. Of course, there are always things you can’t really give back. For example, I won’t be repaying all the money Mr. Perfect spent on food, parking and gas during our nearly five years together. I’m equally positive I wouldn’t see a return on all of the meals I’ve cooked for the two of us either. But the really important things, the things that create such soul ties to one another, haven’t been exchanged.

There’s a decided lack of chemical bonding due to lack of a sexual component to our relationship. We don’t have a child together. We haven’t purchased any property together. I haven’t even made that scrapbook of our relationship yet (which I’ve been threatened to complete and given a deadline on, LOL)!

But you know, there are a few things that you can’t give back that you can’t prevent giving or receiving. For example, memories and experiences. A LOT of memories have been created the past…four years and nine months (o_O). We have shared a lot of laughs, discovered shared loves of a lot of things, served at church events together, taken a trip or two together. We’ve met a lot of each other’s family members and spent time bonding with them. I can’t give back my love for Grandmother Perfect or the time we explored an old battleship in Mobile. Those are mine to keep.

Relationships are an investment, and every investment has a risk factor, however tiny. It’s one of the things we must evaluate and pray about as we begin to imbark on them, in every relationship area of our lives. I’ve had some pretty painful break ups with friends–people that I’ve trusted, shared secrets with, thought were in my corner. It can be difficult to emotionally recover from having your trust violated, or having your vision of forever meet up with a hard reality.

In any case, I think this piece of advice is valid. The one who makes the concrete commitment of marriage should be able to receive certain gifts, gifts that can only truly be given once. This necessitates an examination of our motives and ultimate goals that “seeing where it goes” does not. I like the thought of being heart whole and happy again one day soon after a break up, eventually being able to smile about the memories and not be a bitter fruit on the tree.

What’s the best dating/relationship advice you’ve received?

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Growing Up Geared Up

There are many set questions that I love to ask people in my marriage kit interviews. One of the most interesting is the question “What were you taught about marriage growing up?” I tend to think that most people take me a bit too literally when they try to answer this question. They usually look for specific things that people said to them or blanket observances like “if you got pregnant then you had to get married.” Don’t get me wrong; I think that these are valid observances. However, when I put this question to myself, I came up with a bunch of little incidents that I could recall over my life that gave me notions about love and marriage that I probably wouldn’t think influenced me all that much. Somehow, though, they influenced me so much.

Hopefully you won’t mind me sharing some of them with you as I psychoanalyze myself and look deeply into my heart on this. I’d like to start with a memory that explains a little bit about my stance on cohabitation vs. marriage. I give you “Ball of Confusion.”

When I was a little girl, a few of my family members lived with us at some point or another, so I got the opportunity to see quite a few family relationships up close. Even though a few of my aunts and uncles and even a lady I wasn’t the slightest bit related to by blood but was “family” had lived with us over the years for varying periods of time, I only remember us staying with a family member once.

We stayed with my aunt Chloe* when I was about eight or nine years old. I wasn’t really a fan of this, as I was an only child used to having my own room until I was eight, but I bore with my pallet on the floor and sharing a room with a cousin because I knew we would be moving out again soon.

I missed the normal timbre of our house: my stepdad playing his keyboards in the basement with me sitting on a makeshift stool of milk crates while he taught me how he played chords; my mother cooking in her big brown pot and the black caste iron skillet, swaying along to her own music on the big radio I wasn’t allowed to touch. That was the life, the home that I was used to. I was used to taking my plate on a tray to the basement to eat with my stepdad, watching Nascar (even though I didn’t understand the appeal of watching what seemed like hundreds of cars go around in a circle really fast hundreds of times) or football or basketball (my favorites) with him while he yelled to my mom that I was downstairs and wasn’t bothering him. I wasn’t allowed to hang out with the adults when his friends would come over and they would have a jam session, but I could listen by the steps. That was the music of my life–jazz in the basement, chicken frying in the kitchen, R&B in the dining room–and I couldn’t wait to hear it again.

When we finally moved out, I thought the new place was a little small. In all honesty, I don’t remember much about that house at all. It was my least favorite house of the four I lived in growing up. I remember I got roller skates and the Anne of Green Gables series for Christmas while we lived there, and that my stepdad took my mother to see Candyman for her birthday, but other than that, I only have one other memory of our time there.

At some point, my mother and stepfather had some sort of falling out that led to a brief split. Suddenly, there was no stepfather in the basement teaching me chords or explaining the thrill of Nascar. Suddenly, there was Rob.

Rob was a guy my mother had dated before my stepfather. I didn’t remember him at all, but he apparently remembered me. My stepfather was barely out the door before he started to come around. He bought me little things and talked to me like a little kid, crouched down to my level, something I hated. He drove a semi-fancy car and called me cute all the time. He bought ice cream and all of that “I’m trying to get in good with your mother” stuff, but I didn’t like him. He wasn’t my stepdad. Who does this guy think he is?

I distinctly remember he came over one day to visit my mom and stayed almost all day. It was close to my bedtime and I had to go in my room and lay down, but I didn’t feel comfortable leaving him hanging around my mom, nor did I trust him. He wanted to come and help tuck me in, but I put my foot down. I probably said something rude, too. After they went out, I propped my black and white 13-inch TV in front of the door so he couldn’t sneak in. What I thought he would do, I don’t know. I turned the volume on the TV down and watched Valley of the Dolls after I was sure my mother had shown him the door and went to bed. She may or may not have yelled “He’s gone; now cut that TV off and go to bed” on her way to her room.

When my mom and stepdad finally patched things up, I was relieved I’d never have to see Rob again (I was wrong about that one). He was a disruption in my well ordered, happy child world, an interloper who seemed to like rap more than jazz. It didn’t take too long for things to get back to normal.

Looking back, it wasn’t until this time that I realized that, unlike Pink Susie and her husband, my mom and stepdad weren’t necessarily permanent. There was nothing anywhere that said they had to stay, or even that there was anything more to be done than just leave. Not being married meant your union wasn’t secure. It was as secure or temporary as each individual chose, day by day, or even moment by moment.

After this skirmish, my stepdad and mother stayed together until his death in 2009, for a total of 22 (or 23?) years. I have a little brother who was 16 at the time. They lived and worked together to raise a family and supported each other through health issues and etc. until the end. In the end, my mother got…nothing.

That’s the other thing I learned from this whole thing. Legally, in this life you can only be three things relationship wise–single (never married), married, or divorced. No one cares about your “man” “boo thang” “baby” “hubby” (when used by singles who aren’t married to anybody), or “lover.” Common law used to help you, but they fazed that out for anyone who hasn’t been together since the sixties in just about every state. So, despite twenty-something years, (effectively) two children, and a dependence on both incomes, my mother received no insurance, social security, or anything Granddad wouldn’t have let her keep. Without your paperwork, you are just being a wife for free, working a job with no pay, no benefits, and no retirement plan. I’m not into that.

I realize that my mother and stepfather were very happy for the most part. There were mostly laughs and good times in our house, along with the struggle. I was one of those kids who didn’t realize I was poor for a very long time (ahem, little brother, ahem). I was raised to value education and strive to do better than they did. I was given just about any book that I wanted and encouraged to write. I knew I had that base of family support if I didn’t have anyone else. But legally, none of that was real.

Kids need security, and adults (or maybe just this adult) need it, too. I couldn’t feel completely comfortable without a legally (and spiritually) binding commitment. I know all marriages don’t last, but at least divorce gives you a recourse should the marriage terminate. What do you get as a single? Sometimes not even the things with which you came into the relationship.

That’s the first thing I learned about relationships that I’ll be sharing. Stay tuned…

XOXO

2blu2btru

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Performance Review

On Tuesday, I had my mid-year performance review. This is the performance review that does not involve a pay review, just an opportunity to evaluate your performance and say whether or not you are on target with performance goals. This reminded me so much of Mr. Perfect’s State of Our Union discussions that I almost laughed after I left the review.

It’s essential that we all have the opportunity to review our performance in various areas of our lives, including our relationships. I look back over the years of my relationship and see so much growth and change in myself as a person. Definitely being in a relationship has caused me to notice and improve aspects of self that I wouldn’t have recognized needed improving without someone to point them out. Any type of relationship you have should push you to be better.

Mr. P and I haven’t really done a state of our union in a while. It’s about time for another one. If you need some help conducting one, stay tuned! I’ll share some tips/advice on preparing for and conducting one soon!

XOXO
2blu2btru

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What Would You Do?: The Break Up Edition

I asked this question on Twitter, but I didn’t get much of an answer, so let’s see what happens here. When you go through a break up, what do you do? How do you get yourself together, or do you even need to get yourself together?

I haven’t been through a real “break up” before, so the closest I can come to it is to losing a loved one (which is probably way worse, depending on who it is, right?). I found out my stepdad died on a Tuesday evening. The next day, I got up and went to work. When I told my boss (where I was not a permanent employee) that I needed to take some time off for the funeral, he asked me if I wanted to go home. “What for?”

You see, I like to be busy when I have to deal with bad things like this. I will go to work, cook, clean, serve folks. That’s what I did then. I went home and I served plates and refilled drinks, I helped the children, I cleaned the house for my mom, I supported her through the funeral. I turn all that frantic energy into something focused. I pray, whenever I can get my wits together for long enough to, the entire time. Cleaning and being busy helps me think clearly.

I know other people who aren’t like this. I know people who like to call me (go figure) and cry out every detail (in confidence, of course). They just have to tell someone their side of the story, what happened, how they feel. They want to know what I think they should do. Then they ask someone else…and someone else. Eventually, I guess, all this retelling begins to take the sting out of it.

Some people like to be alone with the ice cream like in the movies, or they cut their exes out of pictures. Some disappear into self-improvement. I’m sure some damage cars and personal property of the no-longer boo.

So, what do you do following a break up? How do you get yourself over the hump emotionally and begin to move on with your life? Leave a comment in the comments section or email me at 2blu2btru4u@gmail.com.

XOXO

2blu2btru

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A Fitting Mother

My mother’s birthday was Sunday. It was interesting, then, when the sermon, “It is Fitting” veered into talk about what is fitting for mothers and women of age in the church. It wasn’t surprising to me that my mother was a fit mother; it is surprising to me how many of the women who bear children, both then and now, are NOT fit to rear them.

When I think about a real mother, I think about my mom. My mother always had on clothes that weren’t revealing. Even when she had her hair done and some makeup on, she always looked like someone’s mother. Even though she was in her early twenties when I was born, and still quite young in my earliest memories, I don’t remember her ever dressing like women my age who have children (even though some of my friends mothers did).

My mother cooked 90% or more of our meals. We always had some sort of vegetable, a starch, and a meat with dinner. I wasn’t allowed to drink soda or Kool-Aid whenever I wanted. I wasn’t allowed to eat at too many other people’s houses. We sat at the table, said grace and ate. It didn’t matter what was on TV; we were at the table. The table we sat at had placemats with the alphabet and numbers on them; later, it became Presidents or the United States.

I didn’t get to spend the night at just anyone’s house. A lot of my friends spent the night with me, but I never even saw the inside of their homes. My mother was very selective of who I hung out with and where I went. She wanted to meet my friends parents. No amount of pleading would change her mind if she didn’t think someone was appropriate. “I’m never going to have any friends,” I would whine. “You don’t need any friends; I’m your friend. Now go wash your hands so we can eat.”

There was no parade of men in and out of my home. My mother was home when we went to bed unless she was at work. We had a set list of eligible babysitters. When I was little, my mother walked me to the bus station and waited with us until the bus got there.  There was no reason for me to feel like anybody else came before me and my brother.

My mother was/is a no nonsense, hardworking person who takes her responsibilities seriously. I don’t remember her having a bunch of new clothes or shoes, but I did. My little brother did as well. I remember her straightening my hair instead of getting relaxers put in it. There were only select people ever allowed to do my hair. I didn’t go to a salon until I was a freshman in college; my mother did my hair for every occasion.

There were a lot of times when I felt like my mother “had her foot on my neck.” “I never get to do anything!” was a favorite lament of mine. Yet, I really didn’t need to do the things I wanted, and someone needed to tell me no. Despite what my mother would say, she wasn’t my friend; she was my mother. That’s what she was supposed to be, what a lot of women with children today don’t understand. It’s not about you and what you want, nor is it about being your child’s best friend. It’s about taking care of them and teaching them how to be adults.

Now, my relationship with my mother is more like a friendship, but she’s still Mom. You don’t talk to her any kind of way you feel like. There’s still a level of respect and gratitude that doesn’t allow her to ever be anything as casual as a friend. But I can talk to her about anything. I can expect her to be honest with me. I can even expect her to disagree. I know, whatever she says, it’s what she thinks is best for me.

I wouldn’t be able to be the well adjusted woman I am without having a mother I could look up to that exemplified the qualities of a real woman and taught me how to acquire those qualities. I look around me and see all the things that make me different from most women I know, and I can say it’s largely her influence. I have been to college. I know how to cook and keep a house. I don’t feel the need to expose my body in outrageous outfits to get male attention. I keep myself clean and neat. I am a stickler for being on time. I have no problem going to work. If I get married, great; if not, I can continue taking care of myself by myself. In other words, I have a great mother.

Happy birthday, Mom! I pray that you are blessed with many more!

What has your mom taught you about becoming a woman? What are the characteristics of a good mother? How are you teaching your daughters to be good women?

Note: I am not reading any blogs, facebook posts, or tweets as part of my first stop/start. Please comment in the comments section or email me at 2blu2btru4u@gmail.com.