Only Counting Up from Here

3/24/18 was a beautiful day for a wedding.

His Vows: (the ones that were beautiful and inspiring from the moment he wrote them)

I vow to listen carefully to what you say and honor your silence,

to keep your dreams alive and our love aflame,

to keep your treasures safe and time appreciated.

I vow to hold you through nightmares and tragic days,

to rub your feet and pull your hair.

I vow to remember that being kind is more important than being right,

to clean when you cook and fold when you wash,

to take you to concerts and movies I don’t necessarily like.

I vow to play scrabble and binge Netflix.

I vow resilience and fortitude even when no one is watching.

I vow sincerity, hope and humor.

I vow to guide our children by example,

to strengthen and defend their hearts and minds

to offer freedom to make their lives an adventure.

My Vows: (the ones that took some time and a few drafts and ultimately were finished the night before the big day in the wee hours.)

I vow to listen with patience and respond with kindness,

to care for you when you’re sick and impossible,

to have the conversation even when it’s hard.

I vow to make fires to warm us when it’s cold,

to cook for you as long as you dance with me in the kitchen.

I vow to drive to destinations near and far as long as you sing along with me,

to save our money and invest in adventure.

I vow to laugh at your jokes even when no one else does,

to be your big spoon when you’re little and little spoon when you’re big.

I vow to lead in times of need and follow when your heart is sure.

Do you, Jay, come here today of your own free will, to promise to support Mandy in all that she does? Through happy and sad, good diets and bad, dislocated shoulders and daughterly disputes? And to consider her as part of yourself in all that you think and all that you do?

Do you, Mandy, come here to day of your own free will, promise to have Jay’s back where ever life leads him? Through sickness and health, sunlit beaches and darkened alleys, dive bars and dragon-cons? And to consider him as part of yourself in all that you think and all that you do?

And do all of us promise to welcome the marriage of Mandy and Jay into our own lives, individually and as a community, through bliss and sorrow, turmoil and calm, backyard barbecues and late night dance parties for as long as they both so wish?

BOOM!!!! And then we walked into the forest together– and eventually wound up here!

It’s official. There’s no turning back now. This man married me, and I married him. No more days left to count down– only counting up from here.

Here’s to day number one.

THIS IS HAPPENING

It was a full one. I began the day just like any other day– had three really amazing sessions, one Pilates, two energy work. Then I moved into three-days-before-my-wedding-day mode. The time-warp happened again. Leaving the studio I had exactly a half an hour before needing to pick up my maid of honor from school to take her to her dress fitting– exactly enough time to go by this super sweet shop a few blocks from my house and buy some wedding gifts.

Time opened up for me just as it had done the day before. I spent what felt like a huge amount of time pouring over all the different jewelry and sundries in the shop and made two perfect selections, one for my maid of honor the other for the flower girl’s mother and a dear friend of mine. I left without stressing about the time and picked up my little lady. We headed to the shop and she donned her newly-altered dress which now fit her like a glove. It was the first time I’ve ever seen her wearing something that fit her so well. She seemed to age five years in two seconds. She looked beautiful.

Dress procured, we moved on to a few more random wedding errands and arrived home about an hour later to surprise visitors, my soon to be in-laws. I don’t think I hid the shock well– immediately thinking of the catastrophe that is our house and the fact that they were inside of it– but no time to dwell on that fact. It was great to see them and they both seemed to easily grasp my getting-married-in-three-days-with-a-ton-of-stuff-to-do state and didn’t stay long. To be clear– there was a communication breakdown somewhere between me and my partner around their arrival. It’s as if the two of us have some massive life event happening in JUST THREE DAYS…

I moved on to my continued mission of cooking meat for the taco bar, and sent my partner off to get needed taco-cooking supplies. About a half an hour later the arrivals continued as his brother walked into our chaos with the supplies I had requested. I greeted him with a hug and they left me to my mission(s). I tasked my maid of honor with preparing our den for the arrival of my best friend and nephew. (She did a bang-up job). I CONTINUED TO COOK. (Making large quantities of mango salsa is labor intensive.)

Around 8 pm, still cooking and listening to love songs in the kitchen by myself, I started to feel like the one thing that was missing in my wedding frenzy was my MAN. I texted him to let him know that– and he and his brother arrived home shortly thereafter.

At 9 pm I left the house, accompanied by my man-child and our best man, ready to experience the long-anticipated arrival of my best friend. On the drive to the airport we talked about his girlfriend and the fact that he wouldn’t see her for five days (she’s headed out of town early in the morning), his friends and my relationship to them, and my wedding stress– among other things. It was nice to have the time to just settle in with my boy– those times are few and far between these days. Circling the airport several times, finally we spotted her and her sweet boy waiting on the sidewalk. She got teary later when she recounted him getting out of the car to greet her and give her a hug. He’s her first baby too.

Our guests arrived hungry– so we did another successful taco tasting around 10pm, the whole family cramming into the tiny little living room amongst the wedding detritus. It was a sweet scene, my son sat down saying “well, it’s nice to have you guys here,” and my partner echoed his sentiments, “so this is the crew for the next few days.” Family. Slowly everyone filtered away. The boys went downstairs, my daughter adjourned to her room. The three of us, me and my two soul-people hung out on our massive king size bed, giggling and recounting stories. Heavenly.

My best friend began feeling the three hour time difference and shuffled off to bed with her boy. My man kept me company in the kitchen as I continued cooking our wedding feast, love songs blasting, new wedding vows running through my head– begging to be written. Love poured into the food I was cooking, just as I imagined. I thought of all the people gathering in just a few short days to celebrate with us. We danced and sang into the wee hours– filling the kitchen with the acknowledgement of our love.

THIS IS HAPPENING.

So many orbits are intersecting at this junction. The vision I had back in the Fall of our wedding is beginning to take shape. All of the love that surrounds us is coalescing into our space. We are gathering it all up and bringing it together in acknowledgement and support of our union. This sacred bond that grew out of consistency over a period of time is asking to be honored and acknowledged– and we are obliging.

Just THREE days and counting…

It’s getting REAL.

Next time you’re thinking about coming home at 4 am, DON’T.

Yesterday was bachelor party #1. (Yes, that’s right, he’s having 2– I’m sure at some point in the next 13 days we’ll get to that). And I’m going to be totally upfront about this: I was jealous. I am and really always have been “one of the boys.” Usually when there’s boy fun to be had, I’m front and center– often the one lady in the mix. I don’t know why that is exactly… I mean, I could surmise. I would say from a very young age I identified with the guys because that felt like the place of power. I was always wanting to compete with my brother, and father and therefore assumed a more masculine role. It has only been very recently, as a fully grown woman that I have realized and become more comfortable with power of my femininity and have begun embracing the watery feminine. But I’m still one of the boys.

I do of course understand that the idea of a bachelor party is that the dude who’s getting married is taking one last night and getting away from the ball and chain. My partner and I are just so far from that ball and chain dynamic… but I intellectually completely understood why I was not included in the bachelor party process. This did not keep me from feeling jealous about the whole thing, however.

It was fine, I was having a girly day of cupcake making with my favorite little lady. I dropped my partner off at his friend’s house around noon. The party was an all day affair. I told him to let me know if he needed me to pick him up. Then I went off to my baking adventures. I didn’t hear anything from my partner for the rest of the day.

Around 10 pm I was sitting on the couch writing about adventures in cupcakes with a rather foggy brain courtesy of those cupcakes, and I found myself wishing my sweet man were sitting next to me– or at least somewhere in close proximity. I texted a friend of ours who had been at the party earlier in the day and tagged out around 7:30 to do parenting duty. I asked him if he knew the evening’s itinerary, trying to gauge when I might expect my man home. He did not. I let it go and continued writing. Around midnight I realized that because of the wonder of daylight savings time, it was actually 1 am and I should probably hang it up and go to bed. I needed to wake up at 8 am the next morning to teach a class at 9 am. I considered texting him goodnight and then thought better of it. This was HIS night to be a bachelor and not have to be bothered by his lady. I figured that he would probably be staying over at his friend’s house at this point, his keys were hanging by the front door, and it was 1 am.

I gathered up the six pillows on our bed and made them into a nest just for ME and settled right into the middle of the bed. I read one page of the book I had just purchased for myself earlier in the day– and then settled to sleep quickly and easily. I slept soundly until I was awoken at 4:15 by the sound of the back door, which is right outside one of our bedroom windows. I bounded up out of bed instinctively, opened our bedroom door and saw the face of my love plastered up against the square window of our back door. I was in the middle of a deep sleep and bewildered at his 4:15 arrival. I opened the door, not really looking at him and immediately fell back into bed.

He didn’t come into our bedroom right away. I heard him moving through the house and then the sound of the shower turning on. I was no longer in a deep sleep. I was AWAKE. VERY AWAKE. He finished showering and came into our room, plopping into the bed next to me asking if I was awake. I grunted at him. I was not feeling conversational and was rather annoyed that he had risen me out of my 4:15 am slumber. He slung an arm across me and thirty seconds later was snoring like a buzz saw– louder than usual, and probably magnified by my annoyance. Several minutes into the saw symphony I attempted to roll over at which point he whined at me and tightened the grip with his arm. I was not feeling the warm and generous love that is so often in my heart for him. Rather, I was feeling annoyed and put out– and neither of those things was helping me fall back to sleep, not to mention the symphony of snores. I lay there for several more minutes and then said, “baby, you’re snoring really loud.”

He awoke for about fifteen seconds, shifted his position slightly and settled back into his symphony. I was done. I wriggled out from under his arm, grabbed two pillows, a big rose quartz stone, and my phone (alarm clock) then headed out to the couch in the living room, the one right underneath our constantly ticking, rings-every-30-minutes clock. I thought for a moment about stopping it and then decided against it. I arranged my two pillows, got two blankets and placed the rose quartz inside my shirt on top of my heart. I looked at my clock– it read 4:48 am. I rolled my eyes in annoyance and snuggled up and fell asleep immediately. I slept soundly, the chimes of the clock never waking me.

My alarm went off at 8 am and I awoke aware that I had dreams of conflict with my man, but unable to recall the details. I got up and gathered my pillows, knowing that he had no idea I had slept on the couch. I opened the door to our room and he opened his eyes. I looked at him and plopped the two pillows on the bed. I sat down on the bed and said (luckily he recalled my words perfectly and recounted them to me this evening) “Next time you’re thinking about coming home at 4 am, DON’T.” He said he wasn’t sure whether to giggle or look sheepish. He did the latter. I then told him he was snoring really loudly so I slept on the couch. I snuggled up to him, asked him if he had fun and if he wanted me to set an alarm for him to get up. I gathered my clothes and got myself ready for the day. I found his phone in his coat pocket, set the alarm for 10 am and set it next to his side of the bed before leaving. He was back to sleep, or at least pretending to be. I headed off to work.

I sent him a text when I finished working telling him I loved him. He responded “thank goodness” and then we proceeded with more silliness from there. When he got home in the evening we laughed about the events of the morning– he quoted my 4 am statement and then reenacted me opening the door for him, which was hilarious. He recounted the events of the night to me and told me that the one thing it was missing was Mandy Lou (that’s me). And I guess while that’s not something I needed to hear, it was really nice to hear it anyway.

My partner and I have a rare and special bond. He’s my very best friend. I relish the time I spend with him and most of the time we spend together is full of smiles and laughter. We are two fully formed, healthy adults who happen to enjoy each other’s company immensely, and are lucky enough to have figured that out.

In 13 days I’m gonna marry the crap out of him.

 

 

My international man of mystery

IMG_6015My partner and I just completed a meeting with our friend who is marrying us, discussing details of our rapidly approaching wedding ceremony. When I began having visions of our wedding back in the Fall, there were a couple of things that were crystal clear about it. The first was that it would take place on 3/24/18– five years after our first date. The second was that our dear friend who introduced us would be the one who married us, because in my partner’s words: “this is all his fault.”

I first met my soon-to-be husband six years ago on a random day in February. I was at my studio around midday. I wasn’t in a session, but sitting at the front desk, when the studio door opened and in walked my friend with a handsome and mysterious stranger. The stranger had a blue bandana on his head and a scruffy face. The second he stepped into my space my eyes were riveted to him– and alarm bells in my head began sounding loudly. My friend sauntered in casually, stranger in tow, as if midday stop-ins were something he did all the time. (In actuality he had never before stopped by my studio unannounced). He introduced the stranger, giving absolutely no context for who he was or what he was doing there.

We stood in the entrance to my studio talking for several minutes. To be honest I have absolutely no idea how much time passed– it could have been five minutes, it could have been forty five. All I know is that I was singularly focused on this human being who had just walked into my sphere from out of nowhere with absolutely no warning. And he was having a profound affect on my entire nervous system. I found myself talking to my friend about I-have-no-idea-what while Mr. Mysterious talked to my friend and colleague who was also in the the studio at the time. I was aware of the tenor of his voice as it rose and fell in conversation and I felt literally drawn magnetically towards him. It was all I could do to resist the force of the attraction, and I’m still unclear on how I was able to maintain a conversation. The details are blurry, the gestalt is what is crystal clear.

At some point conversations wrapped up and my friend and Mystery man left the building. I IMMEDIATELY texted my friend: “Who IS he?” (As in, give me some context for this handsome stranger, please.) His response was “He’s an international man of mystery.” EYE ROLL. Really??

That evening I decided that we needed to take some of my daughter’s dresses over to my friend’s new baby– Mr. Mystery’s god-daughter and the reason for his visit. I was determined that I would see this beautiful, magnetic man as much as possible in the indeterminate amount of time that he was in our fair city. I packed up a bunch of baby clothes and my two children, who were 5 and 9 at the time and headed over to our friend’s house for a “casual drop in” just like the one my friend had staged earlier. (Again, this “drop in” was unprecedented.) I soaked up as much as I could of Mr. handsome while my children ran wild around my friends’ living room– a joyful representation of what these new parents had to look forward to.

I managed to see Mr. International again the next night at a party. (I completely arranged this– it was not random.) This was probably more social interaction than I had had in months– I was a single mom and a complete introvert. It was during the party that I casually arranged for us to do a bodywork trade while he was in Portland. BOOM.

I worked on him first. Putting my hands on his body was intense. He was completely stalwart throughout the session– saying next to nothing and maintaining complete external composure. But I felt his internal energetic monologue and it was far from composed. There was a storm brewing just beneath the surface of this mysterious man which despite his best efforts he could not hide from me. I made him a flower essence at the end of the session, sitting right next to the table and again I felt his gravitational pull tugging on me. I wanted to settle into him. (I realized this was inappropriate and resisted). He worked on me the next day. His hands were firm and strong and somehow familiar. I fell into an ease with him that was unlike anything I had experienced before.

We talked a bit about his plans and where he was headed next– ultimately back to Thailand. And then he was gone. We exchanged emails a couple of times over the next year and chatted over the computer. I read his blog and was immediately turned off by the grammatical and spelling errors. (curse of an English major). And then a year later I received an e-mail that he had moved into town and he wondered if I wanted to start up a bodywork trade.

ALARM BELLS!!!!!!!!!!!!

When he first reached out to me I was in the midst of a long-distance whirlwind romance with an old flame from high school. I remember thinking– what? now? Mr. Mystery? “WHY ARE YOU TOYING WITH ME UNIVERSE??” And then my old flame abruptly ended our long distance affair. I saw Mr. Handsome for a couple of trades and then decided what the hell and asked him out on a date. My kids were away for Spring break in California with their dad– and I realized I had nothing to lose.

On 3/24/13 Mr. Mystery and I hit the town and painted it red. The days and weeks and years to follow have been a consistent process of building and strengthening a massive foundation of trust, friendship and love. He did not walk easily down this path in the beginning– for years he fought me– but some things are worth fighting for. “Consistency over a period of time” is how he first defined love for me– and that’s how we have ultimately defined this relationship. It is consistent and it continues to stand the test of time. Whatever comes our way I know he’s got my back as no one else ever has or will.

15 days from now I’m marrying an International Man of Mystery…

And I can hardly wait.

 

 

It was a YES from the moment I stepped out of the dressing room

In just 18 short days I will be married.

That’s not a word I necessarily thought I’d ever use to refer to myself again. I’ve taken the ride on marriage train once before. My partner has also had his own previous experience with said train. Neither of us felt particularly motivated to jump back on any sort of quickly moving vehicle. Rather we’ve taken a very slow and steady walk hand in hand towards this ceremony of matrimony. And now I need to find a dress.

This is not to say that I have put off getting a dress until eighteen days before my wedding– because I have not. Back in January (WAY ahead of schedule if operating under my usual parameters) I procured a wedding dress for myself.┬áIt was a 60’s knee length silk brocade* (more on this later) with a matching knee length jacket. (think Trinity from the Matrix, but in white silk brocade*). It was a YES from the moment I stepped out of the dressing room. The only slight problem with it was, it was white, not the blue that I had envisioned myself getting married in.

I bought it anyway. It was too close to perfect not to– and it was on sale. My rationale was, either I get married in white, or I have my best friend (a seamstress, artist, designer and all around bad-ass who lives in Asheville, NC) dye it. No big deal. It’s silk*, it’ll dye fine. I took a few days and hemmed and hawed over whether to dye or not to dye and ultimately realized that yes, undoubtedly the dress needed to be dyed to fulfill my vision. I sent it to North Carolina along with a love letter to my lady. A few days after she received it alarm bells rang loud and clear when she sent me a text with a picture of a few swatches she had dyed which barely registered any pigment.

She explained that there were a few reasons the fabric could not have taken the dye– maybe it was a blend, perhaps there was some sort of chemical on the fabric– she had solutions lined up, not to worry, everything was going to be fine. I proceeded with picking out the dye colors and she ordered the dye along with the solution she needed to wash the dress in. She also ordered a blue dye that was specially made to dye polyester, “just in case” my beautiful silk brocade* was actually, not.

The dyes took their sweet time but finally arrived. Shortly thereafter my best friend found herself stirring over a boiling blue-watered pot for over an hour, laboring in love as only a best friend can, because, you guessed it, my silk brocade* was actually a classic 1960’s polyester. She used the one blue dye available for polyester and boiled my dress and jacket in it. Then she pressed them, attempting to shape them back to their former glory. She sent me a picture of the blue, (I will say the dye job is beautifully even). She sounded stressed when I talked to her on the phone that night. In retrospect, I’m certain the dress must have been at least a small factor in that.

Yesterday morning I found the dress at my door, complete with a love note from my lady. The hour of boiling really took its toll. There are probably very few things that can withstand boiling water for an hour without having some very tangible alterations occur. My lovely silk brocade* wedding dress is no exception. The fabric is drastically different– thinner, the “brocade” has faded into the background, and the one shade of blue dye available for the dying of polyester eerily resembles the bright blue of the mats in my Pilates studio.

So, after talking to my best friend on the phone this morning– and getting her blessing to leave behind this labor of love, I find myself in the market for a wedding dress. This is not exactly where I thought I’d be eighteen days from my wedding– but I’m actually pretty excited about it. I no longer have any clear vision for my dress, I just know that I’ll know it when I see it (and that moment will be magical). And I am perfectly clear about that fact that whatever color it is the day that I buy it will also be the color it is the day I get married in it.

I don’t necessarily have a metaphor for what this dress is in the process of my wedding countdown– but I do know that I appreciate when the universe throws what might be considered adversity at me. It always feels like an opportunity to dig down a little deeper. A younger version of me would have “made due” with a dress that I didn’t love and didn’t feel good in because of the labor of love put forward by my best friend. I would have felt “obligated” to wear it because of her sacrifices. Now I understand that her labor of love was the gift, not the dress. The process and the story are the important things, not the product that came forth. My best friend doesn’t want me to wear a dress that is anything other than absolutely perfect on my wedding day.

And now I get to find a new DRESS!! Tastes like lemonade to me.

*polyester