Does It Really Matter?

An acquaintance of mine who saw my Project Wednesday posts on social media sent me a note congratulating me and complimenting my honest, raw writing style. Attached to that note was an almost comical, backhanded compliment.

“Do you think you and your life hostage will get married? I mean I guess it could work this time for you guys.”

Ouch. Insert pause for my 30 second bounce back rate. Spend a whole day trying to figure out how that could be taken as anything other than rude. Then wait for my Chicago temper to flare. Who the hell do you think you are?

I guess we can call this post Lessons in Acceptance, Version 2.0. Clearly this person got the message about support but missed the part about respect or it not mattering what they think.

Do I think we’ll get married? Does it matter? Honestly, does it matter to anyone but us? Neither of us wear a ring on our fingers, but that doesn’t mean we don’t know where the other person’s heart lies. Maybe we will get married in a huge traditional wedding complete with a princess ball gown, maybe we’ll run off to Vegas and be married by Elvis, maybe we’ll go to the courthouse on a Tuesday at 3:00 p.m. Maybe we’ll be like Brangelina and raise a blended family outside of wedlock, maybe we’ll have our 2.3 kids and live a normal, white picket fence suburban existence, maybe we’ll be barren. But again, does it really matter?

Here’s what does matter. We love each other. Our families love us and we them. Does it matter that I’m not technically the nieces’ aunt? No, they still kiss me goodbye and text me pictures of their newly pierced ears. I’ve heard my parents repeatedly use the term “our kids” when referring to me and my life hostage. Does it matter we’re not technically married? No, he’s family to them. In the spring, I was in the ER. My life hostage’s brother sat by my side all day. Does it matter that I’m not technically his blood? No, he still supported me.

Will this relationship work? Hell if I know. I don’t think any of us can honestly say with 100% certainty that we ever know if a relationship will work out, romantic or platonic. We have no way of looking to our Magic 8 crystal ball to see the future. Sure, nothing has worked out for either of us in the past and we’re both divorced, but hey it only takes one and we could be the absolute loves of each other’s lives, which clearly we feel we are. But again, whether it works out or not, does it matter to anyone but us?

Social media is a blessing and a curse. We get this wonderful platform on which to instantaneously share our lives with others – family, friends, those we went to high school or college with or we’ve met in the professional world, sometimes people we barely know. It truly is a great way to keep in touch if used correctly. But it also gives people a misplaced sense of entitlement, that they’re entitled to judge your life because you’ve shared it. Not how this works kids.

I love sharing my Project Wednesday work and the work of those who write on Project Wednesday with me; I’m blessed to be in the company of a collective group of extremely talented individuals and I think I can speak for them all when I say we count ourselves grateful for having the privilege to write on such an amazing platform!

Life is not one continuous narrative from beginning to end, there are all kinds of ups and downs, each with their own stories, along the way. I want to hear your stories the same way we share ours. But let’s make a deal, let’s keep it positive. And above all let’s remember, these stories do matter. Mine matter to me and yours to you. Let’s respect that.

The acquaintance? Well they’re not an acquaintance anymore. That is one of the beauties of social media – removing negativity in the world of social media only requires two or three clicks.

A hot mess held together on a daily basis by dry shampoo and a Cliff bar, Rachel is still trying to figure out what she wants to be when she grows up but for now is a communications professional by trade. A true Chicagoan through and through, she is an East Coast transplant trying to set down roots. As a proud Dayton Flyer, and soon to be a Penn State Nittany Lion, Rachel is on a mission to change the world one pair of high heels at a time.

Lessons in Acceptance

Accept (v): 1 to take or receive something offered with approval or favor, 2 to agree or consent to, 3 to respond to or answer affirmatively.

On paper, such a simple word with a straightforward set of definitions. In reality, the concept of acceptance is anything but. Good on paper, difficult in practice.

I have an incredible group of friends who are truly more than that, they’re my people. One of my people is married to an African American man. She’s white. Shortly after they got married, the comment was made, in hushed tones of course, “Did you know she’s married to a black man?” My reaction: “He’s black?” Legitimately, I was not being a smart ass. Alright, I was only half being a smart ass. It’s just that he’s not black to me, he’s one of my people.

My ex husband and I had a considerable age difference. I can’t even begin to tell you the comments that were made about that fact, to our faces no less. Cradle robbing, gold digging, daddy issues. My life hostage is older than me. When I told my therapist that, she joked, “What’s with the old men?” Then she proceeded to get beet red and apologize multiple times.

My future sister in law and I were in Crate & Barrel a few years back purchasing a gift for our Aunt and her wife, a ring dish that read Mrs & Mrs. The lady ringing us out looked both of us over several times before questioning, “This says Mrs & Mrs, you know that right? Surely this isn’t what you meant to pick up.” At which point we asked her to gift wrap it.

I could keep going but I don’t know that I have to. If you take five minutes, I’m sure you can easily come up with three examples of your own. Times when acceptance was lacking in a glaring way. For f-ks sake people! Anyone who knows me has heard me say a time or two that I can’t wait to be an old lady without a filter. But good grief I hope I still have enough marbles to remember basic human decency.

My married friends? Ridiculously happy even though their skin tones are not the same. My ex husband and I? We were in love minus cradle robbing, gold digging, and daddy issues. Just as my life hostage and I are now. And our two aunts? They cried when they realized they both get to use the title Mrs from now on.

Growing up in a Catholic grade school, I remember hearing on a regular basis the phrase, people who live in glass houses shouldn’t throw stones. As a child, I wasn’t always 100% sure what that meant or how to apply it. Now as an adult who witnesses what I view as atrocious acts of hypocrisy and disrespect regularly, I get it. Everyone has their own glass house. Don’t be knocking down mine and I won’t knock down yours, capeesh?

I’m not perfect. And for anyone who has read even one of my posts, you know I don’t profess to be. I am truly the definition of a hot mess and I’m damn proud of it. Life rolls me over and I get back up. Sometimes I kick life in the teeth and I float on air for a while. I don’t agree with every choice other people make. I don’t have to, it’s not my life. But I do speak the universal language that unites us all. I speak human.

Here’s the truth, it doesn’t matter what you think. That sounds harsh. And it’s meant to be. (And, frankly I don’t care – see that lack of filter I’m practicing?) But truly it doesn’t matter what you think. Every person is entitled to make their own decisions and live their own lives. And the only thing that matters is how you treat them, with respect and support. You don’t have to like their choices, you don’t have to live their choices, but you do have to treat them like human beings.

A hot mess held together on a daily basis by dry shampoo and a Cliff bar, Rachel is still trying to figure out what she wants to be when she grows up but for now is a communications professional by trade. A true Chicagoan through and through, she is an East Coast transplant trying to set down roots. As a proud Dayton Flyer, and soon to be a Penn State Nittany Lion, Rachel is on a mission to change the world one pair of high heels at a time.

No Carnations For Carl

My life hostage’s uncle passed away last month. This was the first time we’ve dealt with a family death as a couple and it brought up conversations at dinner I don’t think anyone ever wants to have. Conversations that made our niece exclaim, “Can we be done with this please!?!” Which made me think, is a conversation about the end of life ever really done?

Anyone looking for my life hostage post mortem needs only go as far as my shoe collection. That’s where we’ve decided he will be. In a shoe-box, marked simply like my other shoe boxes, with his name in sharpie. You think I’m kidding but that’s what he wants and my belief is that this is the last major decision a person can make in life so I will bend over backwards to honor that for him.

No carnations for Carl? Done. Mom wants to wear her Blackhawks sweater? You got it. A backyard BBQ for Steve? Perfect. Grandma wants everyone to do Rumchata shots? We can talk about that. Do you know what you want?

It may seem morose to think about these conversations and it was clear none of us were fully comfortable having them, as we did turn almost everything into a joke that night. But the next morning, over breakfast, we had a conversation that took a more serious tone, to a degree.

What if I go first? It’s unlikely but what if? I want to go with you. Sweet but unrealistic. Do you want a funeral? I don’t know, should we let the families decide that? What happens to our ashes once we’re both gone? Do they get knocked down with the house? Maybe that’s why people have kids – death and taxes. You can see even our serious conversation went off the rails a bit. In the end though, I feel more prepared than I was if something were to happen to him. As prepared as one can be.

During his uncle’s eulogy, my life hostage’s cousin opened by saying he told everyone over and over again he was prepared for this day but the truth was he had lied, he wasn’t ready. I truly believe that’s a lie we all tell other people and ourselves. No matter how much we prepare, we’re never really ready. It was a blessing. They’re in a better place. They have no pain. That’s what the logical side of our brain says out loud. Meanwhile inside, our selfish heart is screaming. I want them here with me. This was not supposed to happen this way. What am I supposed to do now?

If you’ve never read the book Tuesdays with Morrie, I urge you to pick it up. It’s worth the read and accompanying tears. In it, Mitch Albom writes: Everyone knows they’re going to die, but nobody believes it. So we kid ourselves about death. But there’s a better approach. To know you’re going to die, and to be prepared for it at any time. Do what the Buddhists do. Ask, is today the day? Am I ready? Am I doing all I need to do? Am I being the person I want to be?

I know my life hostage and I are going to die. Will either of us be ready? I can’t speak for him, but I’m pretty sure they’ll have to sedate me when he goes. That’s my selfish heart speaking. My logical brain? Well, I’m keeping an eye out for a shoe-box befitting of my partner in crime.

A hot mess held together on a daily basis by dry shampoo and a Cliff bar, Rachel is still trying to figure out what she wants to be when she grows up but for now is a communications professional by trade. A true Chicagoan through and through, she is an East Coast transplant trying to set down roots. As a proud Dayton Flyer, and soon to be a Penn State Nittany Lion, Rachel is on a mission to change the world one pair of high heels at a time.

Block the Nonsense and Always Choose Kind

Many times when I’m watching television or a movie, in church listening to a homily, or reading an article from the NY Post, I try and apply the learnings or message to my own life.

Recently, I finished the Netflix series 13 Reasons Why. By finish, obviously I mean I binge watched it in a weekend. I’m not even sure I showered.

For those who haven’t heard about this freshman series, it is adapted from a 2007 novel and follows the story of Hannah Baker, a teenage girl who commits suicide after being bullied at school. Prior to taking her own life, she records a series of cassette tapes that detail the 13 reasons why she ended her life. When I first began watching the series, I was truly disturbed by the behaviors I saw on screen, knowing that these actions are not far fetched from what happens in real life. By the end of the series, I was downright depressed.

My life hostage has two nieces so by proxy, I have two nieces. And they are exceptional young ladies. When I watched 13 Reasons Why, I thought of the nieces and I wanted to cry. I was absolutely sick at the thought that something like that could happen to anyone, let alone two pumpkins I love. And I think what made it worse is that I know it does happen. All the time. Every day.

I am extremely lucky to have crossed paths in my life with many talented and amazing individuals. Colleen O’Malia Stine is one of those people. Colleen and I didn’t know each other in college except to say hi once in awhile, but have since become Facebook friends and I can honestly say, I truly admire her.

Colleen is your typical Midwest gal – bubbly, sassy, and wears her heart on her sleeve. She is a mom to five adorable children ranging from 2 to 13, two of whom were her nephews before she and her husband Doug adopted them after their own parents were taken from them in an unimaginable act of domestic violence. Finally, Colleen is a girl-boss of an outstanding company, Mama Said Tees. She and her business partner are on a mission to build a kindness empire and I know in my heart of hearts they won’t stop until they do.

Kind Is The New Cool. Be The Leader. Addicted To Caffeine and Kindness. Be True To You. When I browse through the Mama Said Tee portfolio of phrases, I’m always struck by the hopeful, positive nature of their messages. Too often I think all of us get bogged down by the glass is half empty day to day doldrums. Negativity is abundant and seems to exponentially multiple. But it doesn’t have to.

What if Hannah Baker had one friend who was a leader, who stood up and was true to themselves? What if they took the message of kindness to heart and instead of becoming a reason why she chose to end her life, became a reason why she decided not to?

Last year, one of my friends made a New Year’s resolution not be negative. To keep above the fray and try to look for the good in everyone and everything. He said it was harder than trying to lose weight. Should it really be that hard? Shouldn’t the golden rule of treat others as you want to be treated be second nature?

I’m not asking you to go out today and completely change the world, but if you take nothing else away, remember this: life is too short for nonsense. Smile at your neighbor, even when their dog decides your lawn is the best bathroom on the block. Teach your children kindness through your own actions so that they can mimic that same kindness to their peers. Stand up to those gossips in your workplace, no one needs to know whose static cling panties fell out of their slacks.

Life is too short. Colleen knows it. I know it. And I’m positive you all know it. Block the nonsense and always choose kind.

A hot mess held together on a daily basis by dry shampoo and a Cliff bar, Rachel is still trying to figure out what she wants to be when she grows up but for now is a communications professional by trade. A true Chicagoan through and through, she is an East Coast transplant trying to set down roots. As a proud Dayton Flyer, and soon to be a Penn State Nittany Lion, Rachel is on a mission to change the world one pair of high heels at a time.

When relationships are f-ing hard…keep loving.

I am difficult to love. I know that. And I’m pretty impossible to live with. Trust me, I recognize that too. I’m stubborn, have high expectations, and I can be a smart ass. Luckily for me, I fell in love with someone with the exact same qualities. Clearly everything goes smoothly in our house on a daily basis. I’ve never found myself saying, “Do you even know what a toilet bowl brush looks like?” And I’ve certainly never heard things like, “We really need to fire the maid, she’s not good at the whole laundry thing.” Add in that equation my sensitivity and his indecision and welcome to a typical night at our house. We signed up for this?

I’m going to say that thing that people don’t like to face: relationships are f-ing hard. It’s the truth. They are not the fairy tales you see in every romantic comedy on the Hallmark Channel. My life hostage and I are entering what I’m fondly referring to as the terrible twos. Parents you know exactly what I’m talking about and for all the non-parents out there, talk to your mom and dad, maybe bring baked goods.

In the beginning of any relationship, everyone wears rose colored glasses. Talking until you shut a bar down to learn all the ins and outs of one’s personality. Telling yourself one more kiss, until one more becomes 3 a.m. Anticipating text messages and phone calls with butterflies in your stomach. It’s passionate, it’s adorable, and it’s all so exciting.

Then you begin to move past the honeymoon stage. Maybe you move in together. Now you have all the daily responsibilities of life and you’re sharing new responsibilities with someone. You’re still learning their personality but in different ways. The passion and excitement are still there but they have to be balanced with bills, DIY projects, juggling schedules, and the age old question, what are we going to do for dinner?

It seems like lately we can’t make a decision without an act of Congress. We talk it to death. And then we probably get into at least one disagreement on it, likely two or three as we usually circle back around a few times before we fully beat the dead horse. And how do those disagreements end? With each of us in self imposed time out. I told you, terrible twos.

When this phase first started, I kept telling myself it’s because we’re both stubborn and have a certain level of impatience. But then a few weeks ago, in the midst of a disagreement, I realized something that almost bowled me over. What it really boils down to is that we’re both just trying to bend over backwards to make the other person happy. Neither of us are going anywhere and we only want to see the other one smile. We want to be the reason they smile.

Since then, in those moments of disagreement, I try to take a moment and reflect. Because he does make me smile. I smile at the start of every day when he bounces into the room with the energy of Tigger and proceeds to explain the thought process behind what he’s wearing that day. I smile when I hear his text tone on my phone, it still gives me the butterflies. I smile when he’s my biggest cheerleader, building me up in ways that make me blush from the tips of my ears to the balls of my feet. I smile when at the end of every day he makes sure we’re touching when we fall asleep. He is the reason I smile and he does make me happy.

One of our favorite Brad Paisley songs talks about how he continues to fall in love with his spouse even though he thought he already loved her as much as he could. That’s the kind of love I’ve always dreamed about, my fairy tale. Relationships are f-ing hard and they will test you long before and long after the terrible twos. My advice, for whatever it’s worth: find your fairy tale, whatever that looks like and constantly fall in love with your spouse, even when you think you already love them. Fall in love when they make you happy, fall in love when they make you smile, and even fall in love when it’s not exactly what you thought you signed up for.

A hot mess held together on a daily basis by dry shampoo and a Cliff bar, Rachel is still trying to figure out what she wants to be when she grows up but for now is a communications professional by trade. A true Chicagoan through and through, she is an East Coast transplant trying to set down roots. As a proud Dayton Flyer, and soon to be a Penn State Nittany Lion, Rachel is on a mission to change the world one pair of high heels at a time.