Sunday, November 21, 2010

Moving on...

Last week my husband and I took a vacation to celebrate our one year anniversary. It was so great to get away from all the responsibilities of life and have fun with each other, without having to worry about what time we had to go to work the next day, what we were going to make for dinner, or what bill was due. We just relaxed. Well I'm not sure if you can call walking up and down the hills and streets of Seattle, coming home with our legs sore relaxing, but it was just what we needed.

Anyways, I'm not writing this to tell you about the details of our trip, but rather the sole searching that happened while we were away. Like I said in my last post I have been having panic attacks for over a year now, and being away helped me evaluate some of the important things in my life as well as the things I need to let go of. I'm sitting here trying to muster up the courage to describe what I am really going through, and to do my best not to just rant to the whole world (wide web).

Here is the truth, the honest to goodness I couldn't sugar coat it if I wanted to truth... I am hurt. I am going to repeat something that I quoted from my very amazing friend Sara in my first post, "When you get married you realize who your true friends are." I guess I just now realized how true this is (even though I wrote about it five months ago) or maybe I just realized how much that affected me. When Alex and I got married, there were many people who had their own opinions about it. There were people telling us we were making a mistake, that we didn't understand what we were doing, and then there were people who just abandoned us and decided not to talk to us anymore. I am an incredibly relational person, and to lose good friends is probably one of the hardest things for me to deal with. I have had a lot of really close friends over the years, and I have lost nearly all of them. Some have ended badly, some moved away, and others where we just grew apart. For awhile I wasn't ready to let go, I thought maybe these friendships could be salvaged. I tried very hard to defend our marriage because I thought when people realized that we hadn't made a huge mistake then they would begin to accept us as a couple and be able to move past their opposing opinions.

After many painful months I have decided that it is time to stop trying so hard to hang on to something that is no longer there. That doesn't mean I wont talk to old friends or even hang out, it just means that I think it is time to let them be what they are. I think I just began to lose site who I really am because I was trying to fit into the mold of what these "friends" wanted to me be. In this process I think I have missed out on the opportunity to make new friends and to just let myself be who I am. I just wanted to be somebody who was liked, but instead turned into something that I have never wanted to be. Paranoid, self conscious, judgmental,  anxious, dramatic. This is not me. I like to "go with the flow" as my dad always says. I am a laid back person, I don't like to argue about stupid things, and I don't like to worry about who wants to be my friend and who doesn't.

After listening to one of my good friends who is having similar problems, I took her advice (though she doesn't know that she was giving me any) and have decided that my real friends are the ones who actually want to spend time with me. This could sound incredibly mean or selfish or whatever. I don't mean that I will never ask another friend to hang out, I mean that I'm not going to ask people to hang out over and over again when I know that they may never make time for me and cannot accept my new lifestyle. That is just stupid and it is obvious that we aren't actually friends anymore, and maybe we never were to begin with. I am not going to harbor bitterness and resentment towards them, just that I am going to allow life to take us in different directions. If life happens to bring us closer again someday, great! If not, that is great too.

On a much lighter note, since I have discovered that I need to let this go I haven't had any panic attacks! I have driven on roads that I thought I would never drive on again, and worked out more than I have in almost a year and a half. There is still some fear of having another panic attack left, and I am still working through this letting go thing. However, I feel a huge weight taken off my shoulders. I am learning to be comfortable with who I am. That means that sometimes I am going to be in a big crowd of people and not say a word. Not because I am shy or because I am uncomfortable but because sometimes I just don't have anything to say. When I do, trust me, you'll know. It has been a rough year, but I think I am finally understanding that I'm not who everyone thinks I am, and maybe it is time to let my true self out. If people aren't accepting well, I know that my best friend will always love me and think I am the most amazing woman in the world. I love you babe, and I wouldn't take back one second of our life together!

Just as a side note, please don't assume that this post is about any one person in particular. It applies to many people so don't take it offensively. If you do have a problem with anything I have written please talk to me personally.

Saturday, October 2, 2010

Today I simply write about life...

This afternoon I am sitting around my messy house in my sweats, with many unfinished projects and chores to attend to, and yet I am content. This is life. It isn't about how cute I can make my house look or how many possessions I can afford.
Earlier I found a blog that I really fell in love with. Not because this woman had a beautiful home or because she was an excellent writer, but because she was real. She didn't pretend to have her life in order, actually many of her posts were about how upset she was and how little things in life don't go as planned. Her and her husband took a risk and bought a home, and it actually ended up being a really terrible decision. They have basically lost all of their life savings. It is truly an unfortunate situation, and yet at the same time I find myself so inspired by this woman. Simply because she can be real with herself, and the world, and say that she is broken.
I guess this just really hit home with me because I am tired of everyone (including myself) pretending that life is perfect and wonderful, because it isn't. I'm not trying to be depressing or say that I am not happy with my life. Honestly, I don't want to have a perfect life, where is the fun in that? If something is going wrong in your life it seems as though it must reflect on the character of who you are and not simply that we are just human beings, learning and making mistakes as we go. Why must making a mistake mean something bad about who we are? I don't know about you, but I am far from perfect. My life hardly ever goes "as planned", and even when it does that "plan" isn't always as glamorous as I thought it would be. Sometimes when we stick to our own plan for our life we miss out on so much more that we could be experiencing.
I met this woman the other day that really inspired me to be less concerned about where this life is going and more concerned with what I am going to do with the day ahead of me. She told me a story of how she went to a foreign country (I think it was the Congo but I can't remember) on a missions trip, to teach people about Jesus. Apparently most missionaries do not return form this trip because they are killed for speaking about Jesus. So, naturally, before she left all of her friends and family warned her not to go, saying that she would be killed and never return. Do you know what she said to them? "So what? Let them kill me, I don't care! But before they kill me you better believe I am going to tell them about Jesus." Not only am I inspired by her abandonment for God, but also by her confidence. There is really something that can be said about a person who would willingly give up their life for something or someone else. They are saying "Even if I am not able to accomplish anything else, my life was a success." How many of us can say that? Who can say they are content with the level of success that they have achieved at this very moment, so much so that if they died they would not have a regret? And why must we go half way around the world to feel like this?
I believe whole heartedly that this is the life Jesus is calling us to. Not to become missionaries, but to a life of fearlessness, abandonment, and confidence. It is possible to do that in everyday life. Just being real and being honest about your problems can be an act of fearlessness.
There are always different seasons of our life. Sometimes we can feel incredibly confident, knowing who we are and that we are capable of everything. Other times we can feel unsure of ourselves, and fearing what others think of us.
For a very long time I was the most confident in myself that I had ever been. I knew who I was, what I wanted to be, and how I was going to get there. Then one day my whole life changed. Suddenly the confidence that had become such a huge part of me began slipping away. While Alex and I were working out nearly a year and a half ago, I experienced my first panic attack. Since that time I have experience dozens more, mostly when I am driving, running, or in the grocery store. I have sifted through every negative experience and emotion that I can possibly think of to try to explain why this would be happening to me. I have researched and found vitamin deficiencies, organ malfunctions, and diseases that could be causing this and taken dozens of vitamins and pills ( no anti-depressants/anxiety pills) to bring me back to myself again. All of this just leading to one conclusion, I have no idea why this is happening to me. I really truly deeply love my life, husband, family, and friends. I didn't have a terribly traumatic childhood. These panic attacks have left me feeling paralyzed and as though my life will never be normal again. I can't even drive on the freeway, or any other high speed road. It is truly one of the worst things I have ever experienced. I would take physical pain over this intense fearfulness and loss of control.
Slowly but surely I have decided that I will gain my confidence back. Even if I have to fight for the rest of my life. I will not abandon the virtue of feeling at peace once again. Everyday I have started asking myself, what is the worst thing that could happen? I could either die or be humiliated. So what! If I die then I can be with Jesus, and I don't have to be humiliated if I don't want to be. I will never lay down and just let life happen to me. This life will be what I (and my husband) make it, and that's that!

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Table, Part 2

Finally! My table is done almost done. I am way too impatient to wait until it is finished, but in the pictures it will probably look the same. We fixed all the problems we previously had, wood glue and wood filler were our saving grace in this project. No wobbly legs, no gaps between the boards! I was really frightened that it was going to be a complete disaster turning our first project into our last project. Thankfully that did not happen. The only thing we have left to do is potentially put another coat of paint on the legs and then seal it with polyurethane.
Also, those chairs that I was working on the other day... I just finished them yesterday. I've been working on a lot of random things so it takes me longer to finish each project. I also have a bad case of going to the fabric store and finding five different fabrics I want, buying at least two and then don't ever start the project. I'm pretty sure I got that one from my mom. (I love you mom!)

Well, here is the semi-finished product...
I love it!

This picture hardly captures the actual look of the wood or the color. Again, I'm working with a cheap camera.
Now we just need to work on getting rid of that monster shelf next to it. Not sure if you caught a glimpse of those old windows behind it, those are a current work in progress (will hopefully have a post up about those soon).
Since my last post I also made these flowers to spruce up my lamp:
Just used some left over fabric I had from the recent pillows I made for our couch.

And will soon be working on this:
There's Bret, he couldn't handle being left out.
Replacing these purple pillows for white ones. I went a little crazy with color in my living room, we also have some turquoise blue that isn't shown in this picture. It was all becoming too much for my eyes to handle. Also I soon hope to be doing some upgrades to this futon chair, the cats are driving me crazy with this thing. I am going to attempt at making it just a regular chair and attaching the cushion so it doesn't sag any more. I will also be covering it with some pretty fabric and potentially painting it again.

Well, that's all I've got for now. Thanks for reading today!

Monday, September 13, 2010

If you didn't know, I also like to draw...

My whole life I have LOVED drawing. Sometimes, while I am cleaning my house, I find old note books that my friend Kelly and I would draw in. We would always do a make over on an "ugly person" we had drawn. Kelly's were always way better than mine, but still I loved to draw. There are a few times over the years where I would be getting ready for bed and suddenly have some urge to draw and would end up staying up a few extra hours working on some drawing that I just had to finish before I went to bed.
This is a drawing I did before I took any classes, it is from a magazine cut out that I copied.
When I got into college I began my first term with my first college art class, painting. It was amazing and gave me a whole new medium to explore. That is when I learned, even if you think you are a terrible artist you can be very pleasantly surprised by your talent. There were so many people in that class that had never painted a day in their life, and by the end of the class they came out with some amazing paintings. It was a really wonderful class and I learned so much about painting, and my true passion for art. I loved it. I would just go to class and paint for hours and by the end feel like I had taken a week long retreat, I was refreshed and ready to conquer the world.
After the painting class I took a short break from art classes and then spring of my sophomore year I took a drawing class. Again, loved it. It is hard to take art classes every term if you are not majoring in art because each class can be anywhere from three hours to eight hours. Eek, that is just hard to fit into a class schedule. Unfortunately, I wasn't very motivated to be in school and decided to drop out. I ended up failing that drawing class because I was unable to drop it from my schedule. However, my failing grade was in no way a reflection of my desire to be in the class or my effort toward it. I learned some good stuff and got one of my favorite pieces of work from that class.
I did this while in my first drawing class. It looks better in person because the light didn't hit the graphite pencil the right way and made some of it glow.
This last year I began taking classes again and during summer term I retook that drawing class, through Chemeketa instead of Western Oregon. The class really helped me master drawing things realistically. However... I hated it! Ugh, it was awful. Every Monday and Wednesday evening I dreaded going to class, sometimes hoping I would be sick just so I didn't have to go. It wasn't the worst class that I have ever taken and I am glad I took it, but I am SO glad that it is over. The previous painting and drawing classes that I had taken were so laid back and relaxing. Unlike the one I just took, which was stressful and really hard tedious work. Uh, so happy it is over.
Anyways, I write this to say that now I have so much more free time! It is amazing. I am starting to feel motivated to have a normal life again. I've started reading books, my home is cleaner, I've had time to spend with friends, andddd I'm getting some projects done (which is very fulfilling for me).

Well here are some of my "masterpieces." They aren't anything too special, but I am pretty proud of them. Also, the picture quality isn't very good because I don't have an amazing camera, so you will just have to imagine that they are sharper images.

This was one of our early drawing. It is a contour drawing, done by picking up the pen from the paper as little as possible. It was done with a very fine point pen that didn't bleed.
This is also a contour drawing, but we were able to pick up our pencil while we did it and was done with line variation. Done in graphite pencils.
Three more drawings done in contour line variation.
This is kind of boring, but we were learning to add value. This as well as the rest were done with soft vine charcoal and compressed charcoal.
More value...
This was done covering the whole page in charcoal and then erasing out the apples and adding darker value with compressed charcoal.
This is a horse skull.
This is on a light blue charcoal paper, and along with black charcoal we used a white compressed charcoal. This is probably my favorite from that class (although I'm not in love with my knife).
And Finally...
This was our final drawing... It was so hard and took forever! I wasn't sure I was going to finish.  I am just happy that my face didn't end up having a pig nose. This was also done on a light blue charcoal paper which you cant see in this picture.

Well... that's all I got. My friend Jamie took this class with me, and she is amazing! I wish I had some pictures of her work. She hasn't ever taken a drawing class and wasn't even a fan of drawing before this class. She turned out to be the best one in the class (in my opinion). Just goes to show that you never know what you are capable of until you try.

Monday, September 6, 2010

Lazy Labor day...

After my last post about our new table top my older sister called me "Little miss HGTV" which I will take as a compliment! And, I got featured on My Repurposed Life's Featured Followers Friday, which I was very excited about! That gave me the motivation to actually finish my table, so we started working on it again yesterday, but it is still not finished. We are planning on finishing by the end of the week and I am excited to finally have my kitchen back in order.

After driving all over the place yesterday, spending lots of time with family, and working on our table I am trying to make today a productive but relaxing day (which probably means 15 minutes of productivity for every 3 hours of relaxation). So to be slightly more productive (and avoid the huge pile of laundry) I decided to work on recovering my chairs to go with our new table. Easiest thing I have ever done, and basically free! I already had all the supplies I needed. We bought these chairs a few months ago at a garage sale for 10 bucks for the whole set, which is such a bargain! They are nice chairs, but I just thought they could use some sprucing up. At another garage sale back in June we found about three or four yards of fabric for only 1.50! I had been looking at this exact same fabric at the fabric store not too long ago for close to $10 a yard, so I had to get it. After a while of trying to decide what to do with this fabric, I finally decided to use it to recover my dinning room chairs. It is very busy fabric so I thought for anything else (like throw pillows) it would probably be too much, but it works perfectly for my chairs

These are the chairs before... and my messy kitchen (which I blame on table construction).

First I unscrewed the chair cushion from the frame.

Then I cut the fabric, it was so easy I didn't even have to measure.

My cats insisted on bugging the crap out of me while I did this

Then I stapled the fabric to the cushion, with my handy staple gun that I got for a dollar at a garage sale. I like garage sales...

Then I just put it all back together. I wasn't sure I was going to like this fabric, but I think it looks good. It should match our farmhouse inspired table.

I have only done one thus far, I am taking my 3 hour break. Hopefully my table will be done soon and then we can start working on the buffet to replace our huge shelf...

Tuesday, August 31, 2010

First Project... part 1

This post has been in revision for awhile because I was waiting to finish this project before I posted, but it is taking far too long so this will just have to be part one of this post.

When I started this blog I told myself I would not be writing about my home decor projects. Mostly because at the time I didn't have any home decor projects and there are so many out there that I didn't feel the need to. However, despite my resistance, I have caught the DIY bug... I think it is a young wife thing. Well, obviously not all young wives catch this bug, but pretty much every DIY person I have found is a wife and many of them are newly married. So I was doomed. Okay, I don't want to sound all anti-DIY or home decor, I actually really really love it. You could even say I've become obsessed with it. So let me tell you about our latest project...
I had already done some small projects around the house, but this week Alex and I started on our first BIG project. Okay, it wasn't really that big, but we are young and inexperienced at this whole thing so it was big for us. Lots of lessons to be learned. We made.... A TABLE! A pretty nice table, if I do say so myself.
After browsing around my new favorite blog, Remodelaholic, I found this amazing table. That is where it all started. I decided, "Hey! If someone else can make their own table why can't I?" Plus it looked pretty simple. Alex and I had been looking for a new table for months. I bought our current table at a garage sale for about 20 bucks. It was pretty ugly when we got it, but we spray painted it black and it was pretty cute... for a while. That was until the paint started chipping off and for the life of me I couldn't make that table look clean. Anyways, like this person did, we saved the legs of our table and just made a new table top.
So, after we did some measurements and calculations we headed off to Rick's Bargain Bin for some cheap 2x4's. The first lesson to be learned, 2 x 4's are not actually 2 inches by 4 inches. What? they are more like 1.5" x 3.5". So after we bought our 1.5 x 3.5's 2 x 4's we had to redo all of our measurements.
This is our first furniture making project so you could probably guess that there were a few snags along the way. Obstacle #1: We live in a small apartment so our first question to ourselves was, "Where the heck are we going to build a table?!" We are also on the second floor so as far as outdoor spaces goes, all we have is a tiny deck. Obstacle #2: After building our table on our tiny deck, trying to fit the table through our sliding glass doors after we built it. Obstacle #3 Apparently stain has a much stronger smell than paint, so staining inside the house was probably not my brightest idea (I feel like a bit of an idiot for attempting that one). Obstacle #4 Wobbly legs... So our table would have been finished by now if it weren't for the fact that we have never built a table (or any other piece of furniture that didn't come in a box). So right now we are figuring out a remedy for the legs being so wobbly, oh and that we now have quarter inch gaps between our boards on the table top... sigh. We have completely deconstructed the table and are in the process of rebuilding. Oh well, It is an adventure and we are learning a lot about how to actually build furniture.

Well I have some pictures of our progress thus far.

This is the before
picture, notice
the chairs don't push
in all the way.
(Ignore the cat on the table)

This is in progress
building on
the deck...

My handsome Husband helping me :)

Tada! All the chairs push in! (we didn't plan that).

Monday, August 2, 2010

What to do, what to do...

Let me tell you what has been going through my mind recently. Just for a brief list, in the last two week I have decided to: run a marathon; build a bunch of furniture for our home (thanks to this amazing site!); bought a sewing machine; thought about finishing my schooling with a degree in health promotion (or nutrition), accounting, business, journalism, art, interior design, or psychology; trade in our car; do a missions trip; move across the country... Just to name a few.I'm not announcing anything, I'm trying to say that I have no clue what I am doing with my life. Don't get me wrong, I am happy, but there is so much more to life than just being happy.
Probably the biggest dilemma I have come to is, what road do I take now? I have so many options! Unfortunately I have been cursed with an interest in just about anything. No really... health, fitness, psychology, art, design, writing, business, ministry, travel. I'm not sure how much more diverse it can get. So how does one pick from a list like this? What I typically hear from people is that they have one thing that they have always been interested in and then they do the other things they like to do for fun. What if there isn't something that I always come back to? What if what I would love is doing ALL of those things?
I know, I know! I'm still young... I have so many options... I have so much of my life left... blah blah blah. Yeah, I'm a little impatient. I just want to know what I'm doing, start on the path to get there, get whatever certification I need, and voila! Life is accomplished!
I suppose more than anything in life I just want to follow God's will. I'd love to make Him proud and help change people's lives along the way. After talking with my good friend Carissa, I remembered that sometimes following God's will is a lot easier than we make it out to be. Sometimes it isn't about choosing the perfect path, sometimes it is just about choosing a path and trusting that God is going to be there with you and has the ability to work through you regardless of where you go. Carissa said something that was very meaningful to me, she said that the bible asks us to be like Christ in all that we do and as long as we are striving for that then we are in God's will (or something to that affect). This completely changed my motivation. I didn't take this to mean that I need to start doing things now that later on will give me the characteristics of Christ, but that right now I need to start displaying and practicing these characteristics in everything I do.
I think so often we "Christians" try to punish ourselves because we believe that that is the only road that God could possibly be calling us to. Yes, God does often call us to make the more difficult choices, but not just for the sake of being miserable. Sometimes the difficult decision just leads to the most fruitful outcome. Our God is not a miserable God, He is a joyful, happy, loving God and wants that for his people too. He just wants us to abandon own comforts and fight for Him and His people.
As long as my motivation is not selfish and my heart is for God then my life can go in any direction that I desire. With that said, Alex and I now have a tentative plan for our life. It could change and adapt and we are willing to give up any of it if we feel called to something else, but for now we feel very peaceful knowing that we have a plan and that God stands behind us!

I know I don't talk about God much and this is not where I intended this blog to go. I am not ashamed of my love for God, He is a huge part of my life. I don't talk about it more so because I want to live the kind of life where people don't have to ask and I don't have to tell people, it is just known. However, that doesn't mean that I won't talk about it at all or that I have any shame in sharing this part of my life.

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Running the Race, Literally

Here are some goals I would like to accomplish in my life time:

1. Finish college
2. Own a home
3. Have at least one piece of my art displayed in a gallery (even if it is the school gallery)
4. Run a marathon before my husband and I have children
5. Write a book

They are large but achievable right? I don't just say these as some abstract idea of something that I would like to accomplish but has no part of my life. I am currently in college working toward my bachelor's degree, my husband and I are building our credit to be able to get a home loan some day, I am currently in an art class to help refine my drawing skills, and I am training to run a marathon... I will be training to run a marathon... I really want to train to run a marathon, that's it. And, let's just not talk about the book thing right now.

About three years ago I took up the sport of running, so you could say I'm fairly new to the world of running. Soon after I started my journey my goal was to run a marathon, maybe even train to run one within a year... that didn't exactly happen. Not only have I not run a marathon, but I actually haven't run steadily in about 10 months... or so (I don't want to say a year because that sounds much worse). Lately it has really been plaguing me, the desire that is. I say plaguing because A. I am dying to run regularly again B. I don't really want to get off my butt and actually run, and C. I am terrified to actually commit to running a marathon... even if it is months or years in the future.

I go through this cycle about ever few weeks or months where I decide I am going to start running regularly again and then I will start to train for a marathon (as soon as I am back in shape). All of a sudden life will be perfect and the motivation that I need to run a marathon will appear out of thin air because I decided that it will. Obviously I have never run a marathon but, I have a feeling that it takes a lot more than that.

I have heard that the first step toward actually running a marathon is signing up for one. Finding a real life marathon, paying the fee and signing up. I decided I'm not quite ready for that so I'm going to start at square one, a 5k run/walk. That's right, Alex and I have signed up to run our very first race on September 11th of this year! For some a 5k (a whopping 3.1 miles) can sound like a marathon, and others it can sound like a warm up. For me it is somewhere in the middle, not extremely easy but achievable. We started training about two weeks ago and I am remembering why I fell in love with running in the first place. I can't really describe to you what is so great about it; I just feel... empowered, I suppose. We will spend the next 11 weeks in training, which consists of varying running distances, yoga, swimming, pool running, and some walking.

I am not writing this to say "look at me! I'm so fit and I am going to run a 5k!" I do not want to run a marathon to get really fit and lose a bunch of weight. There isn't a cause that I personally am extremely passionate about that I want to raise money for (you have to be pretty passionate about something to be willing to run 26.2 miles for it). The real reason? I want to prove (to myself) that I can accomplish something so much bigger than I have ever dreamed. I want to get to the place where I think I can honestly go no further, and then discover that I have so much more left to give.

I have so many aspirations in life and it is time to finally start going after them. If I want to run a marathon, then I should run a marathon. If that means that I must start at the bottom then that is what I am going to do. If anyone would like to join us in the 7th Annual Dayton Fiesta Run please do!

My new goal: to run a marathon before I turn 26... I have a little over two and a half years to accomplish that. I'll keep you updated.

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

A topic near and dear to my heart... Marriage

My husband and I have been married for nearly 8 months. Thus I am a complete expert on the subject of marriage... not really. However, in my little experience this is what I have learned:

The biggest struggle that I have faced as a new wife is learning how to ignore those who are waiting to see us fail, and resist the pressure to be the perfect couple. Recently a dear friend of mine said something that I think sums up what I am trying to say very nicely, "When you get married you find out who your true friends are." I think we can agree this is true for any major change in life. You can tell when someone's happiness for you is genuine or fake. Thinking maybe I was the only one who felt this way I started listening to what people were saying about other couples getting married (I even listened to the words coming from my own mouth). I listened to other brides vent their frustrations of friends not sticking by their decision. That is when I realized that this truly is a common theme for us newlyweds (or soon to be). For some reason, as human beings, we have decided that we have a right to judge other peoples actions and motives.

The truth is, I guess I am writing this because I don't want to be the perfect couple and I am tired of feeling pressured. I have recently discovered that we newlyweds try to compare ourselves to each other... but why? There really is no newly married couple that I look up to, and I don't think any others look up to us. Not because I don't believe that any of us do or do not have a wonderful marriage, but because as newlyweds we have little to no experience (let me just say that I have many newly married friends that I love and respect and I enjoy sharing our experiences and learning from each other). The marriages that I look up to are the ones who have been married for 10, 15, 20 years, and still have a deep appreciation for each other. The ones who truly know what "for better or worse" means. These are the ones that astound me. I cannot compete with that, and I don't want to. We have so many years left to grow and understand.

For a few months I fought to keep the "spark" in our marriage, because I thought then we would become like those older married couples. Then I realized, we cannot recreate the feelings we had while we were dating, but that doesn't mean there are no "sparks". Most of the time these "sparks" don't show up as overwhelming feelings at all, but rather as things I have come to appreciate. I have learned that going out on dates isn't the highlight of my time with my husband. The things that I appreciate the most are much more simple than that, like the fact that he often makes me breakfast in the morning even though I have the day off and he doesn't. That he doesn't care if the house is messy for a week or two even though I have had plenty of time to clean it, and then that he helps me clean it even though he works all the time. That I can say anything I am thinking and he never thinks I am stupid. When we get in a fight he is always ready to apologize much sooner than I am ready to forgive (or when he isn't even the one that did anything wrong), and he always, without question, forgives me. These are the types of things that make me think, "I could not have asked for anyone better."

Before deciding to get married I thought that if its the right person then everyone in my life would be supportive. Then I got engaged... that is when I found out you can't win 'em all. I realized that ultimately the only person who knows for sure you are making the right decision is yourself. There will be many people giving you their own opinions about how you should find the right person, how long you should date before you get engaged, how long you should be engaged for, what you should do on your wedding day, how to be the perfect wife or husband, the list goes on... and on. The fact of the matter is, you will only be happy if you make decisions based on your own convictions. And isn't the point of marriage not to be the happiest you have ever been, but to make a life long commitment to someone?

I love my husband with all that I have and not a single day do I regret my decision to marry him. I am thankful every day that he is in my life, teaching me how to be less selfish and more caring. However, I never want to claim that my marriage is perfect, or even that it is better than any other. To all of my friends I have talked to about this, thank you for allowing me to be sincere and for being sincere in return. And to the couples I look up to, thank you for setting a wonderful example and, most of all, being truthful about your struggles and hardships. I truly value your wise words.