Where Do We Go From Here?

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In light of Sunday night’s events, I feel the need to write and get all of my thoughts out to make sense of what happened. It seems as though every year we go through the same old song and dance that highlights that what we’re doing now is broken, it doesn’t work. Last year, we saw Pulse Nightclub brutally attacked. The year before, San Bernardino was targeted. And Sunday, Las Vegas was the center of the most devastating shooting in US history. How is our leadership okay with this? How can we, as citizens, be okay with a gunman marching into an elementary school and taking the lives of 20 innocent children? How does “more people with more access to guns” help in this situation? How many times do we have to have this conversation, and how many more people have to die before we do something about it?

I’m not at all advocating for taking guns away (my household has two) , but I do think there should be more steps in place to prevent people who shouldn’t have access to guns from getting them. It’s harder for a woman to get an abortion than it is for someone to get a gun in this country: there’s a 24 hour waiting period, they must be made aware of adoption alternatives, as well as have only 400 clinics within the US to get it done. Of course, abortions aren’t a right written into the Constitution, so it’s not an apples to apples comparison, but it’s the best one I’ve got.

We need to open the dialogue and have this discussion. Advocates of less gun control, what are your thoughts? I am in no way excluding anyone from this conversation. Please, tell me what you think the right solution is, because no matter the side of the issue you stand on, we can all agree there is a problem. Now, how do we solve it?

To the victims of this senseless tragedy and their families: my heart goes out to every single one of you. To anyone who has lost someone, we are here with love and support. I understand that hearing those words are the last thing you want to have to hear, I know nothing will quiet quell the ache in your heart, know we hurt for you.

And to the legislature and leadership of this country: help us. Do something so we can stop being reactive in these situations. Let’s do something proactive. Please. Anything. Just a conversation will do for now.

 

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How to Argue in a Relationship

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Avery and I have never explicitly discussed how we would handle our relationship and what we put out into the social media realm. But we do have a sort of unspoken rule to just not post badly about the other. Believe me, there have been times where it would have been so easy to tweet out something nasty about him or an argument to have random people tell me I’m right in the situation. But every time I get the urge to do so, I stop and think about it. Sometimes I even write it out in a tweet and save it in a draft. Every single time, I end up deleting before I even send it out or forgetting about it in my drafts folder. Sure, it may feel good in the moment when you’re heated and ready to win at any cost, but when you’ve cooled down enough to want to talk it out, you not only have to talk about the initial argument, you also must talk/apologize for the way you handled it.

People often feel more confident online than they do in real life. Not every thought needs to be broadcast to the entire world via the internet; some aspects of a relationship should remain private. That’s not to say you can’t vent to your best friend about your relationship, but it’s a different ballpark when you decide to invite strangers to have a look into intimate parts of your relationship.

I’m sharing this becasue I know everyone has arguments, big or small. I’m in no way saying that the following suggestions are necessarily the right way for everyone to handle their relationship spats, but here are some healthier ways we can work towards settling an argument.

  1. Take a step back.

Not to say you should let the issue fester about for days, but sometimes you need a minute (or an hour) to gather your thoughts and think about what is truly the issue. I find that 99% of the time when I truly think about the issue, it’s very , VERY stupid. (Don’t ever say this to your partner because it may just exacerbate the actual problem.)

  1. Listen to what the other person is saying.

Even if you don’t agree with an ounce of what the other person is saying, give them the floor for a second. Just listen and don’t say a word. Sometimes, this is just as important as offering an apology.

  1. Offer an apology.

Don’t stay mad just because you don’t want to be wrong. Sometimes, even if you’re wrong, you need to take one for the team. There are sure to be times in the future where you’re wrong but can’t admit it, and it would feel nice for your partner to give you an out by apologizing. Very few arguments in a relationship are worth the anger and resentment.

  1. Try your very hardest not to keep fighting the same fight.

This is one of the hardest steps on this list because it requires communication and finding lasting solutions to our problems. A lot of us like to avoid having tough conversations, so it’s easier to keep fighting. This isn’t healthy and eventually one of you will get tired of it. Work on having good communication when you’re not having an argument, so that way it’s easier to be honest when you are having a fight. Solving issues the first time, will lower the chances of repeating the same fight again. (Sorry Avery, but I have a feeling you’re always going to have to remind me to run the garbage disposal, unless you want to take over dish duty.)

 

If you have any tips you would like to add to this list, please do. Or if you disagree with any of my tips, please leave a comment below.

Life Update: We’re Building Our New Home!

Avery and I have been looking at building a house for over a year now. But we moved to Florida so it wasn’t the right time. Before we made any kind of decision, we wanted to look at as many home builders and home sites as we could so we would have a good idea of what we were looking for and what we wanted to spend. We made lots of visits to model homes and spoke to many salespeople. It took us over a year to really nail down what we were looking for/compromise on a floor plan (He wanted a two story with way more space than I thought was necessary since we don’t have kids/ don’t plan to have kids for a while).

Here’s some things I’ve learned since starting this whole process:

  1. Where I had previously believed that Avery and I are opposites on many design aspects, our core design concepts are not so different. We both like to keep things simple and clean. So this was a good starting point for most of our choices. We didn’t want to go extravagant with any of our design decisions. Keeping hardware and colors simple was an easy decision with us.
  2. Everything seems to fall into place once you make the decisions most important to you. We decided to spend money to upgrade the kitchen options. We went with dark colored maple cabinets and beautiful quartz countertops. And then from there, the rest of our decisions were based off the color combo of the countertop and cabinet colors and what we thought complimented those choices.
  3. There’s a lot of paying the waiting game. We didn’t have our first design appointment until almost two months after we signed the papers and put down the earnest money to save our lot. In this time, we were in contact with the loan company and heard back once or twice from our salesman as he checked in with us. Since our design appointments though, we have seen the city go out and set up temporary electrical and our salesman has said that they should start working on the foundation this week. So, things are finally moving. And the waiting isn’t getting any easier.
  4. It adds up. Fast. I can see how some people can get caught up in adding every option possible. That’s why Avery and I focused on the big-ticket items that we wanted to roll into our mortgage and left other things to upgrade in the future. We didn’t bother with any of the add-ons that we could easily change in the future like door knobs, light fixtures, faucets, or doors.

The process of building has been great so far. I absolutely can’t wait until they’re finished. We still have months to go, but I have a feeling it’s going to fly by and move in day will be here before we know it. Then I will have the pleasure of shopping for furniture and home decor…

Dear Roxy,

For those of you who have not lost a pet, it’s harder than you can imagine. I didn’t think it would hurt as much as it does. In the couple of days since, I’ve been mostly okay and then I’ll suddenly think about her and start crying. It really is like losing a member of your family because she was family. She was always there. And now, she’s not.

I wish I had more time to say goodbye. From the time I found out to the time when she put down was only an hour. Afterwards, I asked Roland, my brother, if she had been medicated when I got there. He said no, she was just that sick. Becasue of that, I’m glad she can rest in peace now, but it still aches.

If I could talk to her just one more time…

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Dear Roxy,

If there’s one positive thing that comes from this whole experience, I hope you are finally feeling better and free of pain. We knew you were sick, but we thought you were finally going to be getting better. You leaving was so sudden, we were all blind-sided. That’s what hurt the most, we were given hope and the next day you were gone.

Sitting in that room, while you took your last breath, was awful. I’m very grateful that you were surrounded by all of us, but that was one of the hardest, most emotional things I’ve ever had to endure. If I’m being completely honest, watching you go was a little traumatizing. I don’t think I’ll ever be able to do that again.

I will never have another dog quite like you. You were definitely the dog version of myself. We both liked naps more than could be normal. And we both liked to snack more than we should. Maybe we were too alike and that’s why you never felt inclined to listen to me when I told you to do sit or lay down. We’re both too sassy for our own good. You were definitely more human than dog sometimes.

Many days filled with tears are ahead for all of us. It’s hard to even think about you not being at the house when I bring Stella over. I didn’t want to tell mom, but she definitely looked for you when we visited yesterday. She walked around the kitchen and living room and sniffed your bed. She’ll definitely miss you, not sure you would return the sentiment.

May you spend the rest of eternity sitting on a recliner with an abundance of snacks being fed to you at your beck and call. Take a nap for me. I’ll be seeing you again.

I love you,

Marissa

The Best Way to Spread Christmas Cheer

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Image courtesy of: Toys for Tots, www.toysfortots.org

Growing up, I always had the best Christmases. I never wondered if there would be presents under the Christmas tree. I realize,  as an adult, how extremely lucky and blessed I was to not know that feeling as a child. And because of this, I could look forward to Christmas morning.

For the past few years, I have chosen to donate toys to Toys for Tots. Toys for Tots is a non-profit organization run by the US Marine Corps as a way to provide hope to underprivileged children through gift-giving. They provide toys and gifts to children ages 0-12. I believe it is one of the best, large non-profits out there. According to Charity Watch, 80% of its funds go to its programs versus overhead costs.

Every year, I look forward to going out and buying toys. My mom is the one who began donating to this charity and inspired me to do the same. I usually try and buy toys that I either played with or would have liked to have as a kid. I spend months leading up to the time when I can actually go out and buy toys getting excited to shop for those kids who wish for an amazing Christmas. I get so much joy walking up and down the aisles, I feel like a kid again. I love the feeling of knowing that the Toys for Tots kids will at least have one toy to open on Christmas day.

If you are like me and had a privileged childhood, please think about donating a toy this year. Or if you were once a kid that could have benefitted from this non-profit, consider being responsible for the light in a child that was once you, and donate a toy if you’re now able. Even one toy can change a child’s Christmas. (With Black Friday approaching, now would be the perfect time to buy. Also, Target is having 30% off all toys this Saturday, November 19th, so check it out!) Look for a drop site to donate here. Or click here to give monetarily. We could all stand to spread a little Christmas cheer.

I’m getting a little old and a little out of touch on what’s popular, so if you have a young one, give me some ideas on what to buy this year by commenting below.

 

Women Are More Than Fodder for Locker Room Talk

 

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Credit: Ezra Jeffrey, https://unsplash.com/photos/PoUyJRDqkU0

DONALD TRUMP’S DEMEANING VIEWS OF WOMEN

Everyone who has a social media account has seen Donald Trump’s leaked footage of him talking about women in a vulgar, demeaning, and derogatory manner. He defended his words by noting that it was “locker room talk”, that the leaked audio is from over 10 years ago, and by deflecting the situation back to Bill Clinton’s alleged misdeeds. Let’s address these issues one by one.

LOCKER ROOM TALK
All people need to be treated with respect: women and men, gay or straight, young or old. The defense “locker room talk” should not be a defense. If you wouldn’t say it to someone’s face, it should not be said in the confines of a male locker room. Ten times out of ten, a man wouldn’t have the audacity to say this in front of their mothers, daughters, or sisters.

TIME
Time can actually be a valid defense. This defense can be used if a change for the better has been seen in the individual after the initial incident. The case for Trump is bleak. He has treated women much the same since this audio was filmed. He has not redeemed himself through his actions since his 2005 conversation.

DEFLECTION
Actions of others have absolutely no bearing on what you, as an individual, do or say. Humans are autonomous. Bill Clinton’s previous actions do not have anything to do with what Donald Trump said ten years ago. Bill Clinton’s previous actions do not give Trump permission to say what he did. (I am not defending Clinton.) If Trump were genuinely apologetic, he would focus entirely on his actions and sincerely ask for forgiveness.

RESPECT: THE IMPORTANCE OF TREATING WOMEN LIKE HUMANS

I don’t want to talk about the politics of this situation. I want to talk about the character, or lack thereof, with the situation. If you haven’t yet heard Trump’s conversation with Billy Bush, to sum it up, he acts as if women are objects at his disposal and speaks about them as sexual beings only.

Respect has been lost for women for a very long time. In popular media and Hollywood, women are often depicted as less than men if given any attention at all. We are more than sexual beings. We are intelligent, thoughtful, important, and a necessary part of society. We are not property. We are not objects.

Men: learn to respect women for what they bring, and what they are capable of bringing, to the table. Women: learn to respect yourself for who you are, and find a man (or woman) who makes you feel respected. Should you choose to have children, instill in them a core respect for others. Do not be a Trump. Do not continue to act as if words do not carry weight in our society. Do not perpetuate the idea that women are disposable to men. It can only serve to separate rather then unite us together.

Why Laughter is the Best Medicine For Relationships

Laughter requires the movement of muscles, meaning your heart rate increases, and more oxygen enters our tissues. Laugh more, and you can exercise less because laughter burns calories.1 The release of endorphins that is caused by increased blood flow lowers stress levels. 2

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Avery is probably one of the funniest people I have ever met. I tell him multiple times a day that he’s not. Gotta keep his ego in check, ya know? He likes to make up his own lyrics to songs that are absolutely ridiculous. And he’s not afraid to be undeniably weird in front of me. I love that he’s able to be so comfortable with me. I think it definitely took some time for us to be completely relaxed in front of one another. It was nothing like “we were completely comfortable with each other right away” crap you hear all the time. While that may be the case for some couples, I would say a majority of us have some reservations when getting to know someone new.

LAUGHTER MAKES IT EASIER TO TALK TO ONE ANOTHER
Communication is so much easier when it’s not serious all the time with every single conversation. That’s not to say there isn’t a time and place to be completely serious, but most of the time, it’s way easier to talk to someone when you know you can be playful, yourself, and laugh at one another. Communicating your feelings with someone who has the power to hurt you emotionally is daunting. But knowing you can laugh and connect with them makes it easier when you have something serious to relay to them.

LEARN TO LAUGH AT YOURSELF
For the longest time, I was so uncomfortable laughing at myself. I have this self-conscious need to be flawless, or to appear so to others. I don’t like to fail, so it was hard to laugh at myself and my mistakes. With Avery, I wasn’t afraid to show him that I wasn’t perfect all the time. And he taught me that it was okay to laugh at myself every once in a while. And when you’re able to laugh at yourself, it doesn’t matter what others say about you. This is one of the best things that has come out of my relationship with Avery, and I thank God every day that he was able to show me how amazing it is that I’m not perfect.

CONNECTS US
What’s so funny about Avery and I is that we are very much the “opposites attract” couple. He is very outwardly personable, while I am an introvert through and through. He makes friends easily and I much happier not being put in situations of meeting new people. He likes to have a plan and stick with it. To me, having a plan is nice but things don’t always happen the way we want them to, and I am perfectly fine with that.
The one thing that brings us together as a couple is laughter. Anyone who doesn’t like to joke around with his or her significant other needs to find a new partner. Laughing is universal, and it allows us to connect with each other.

So laugh a little more, stress a little less, and know everything will be okay.

  1. http://www.webmd.com/balance/features/give-your-body-boost-with-laughter
  2. http://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/stress-management/in-depth/stress-relief/art-20044456

Living Life Compassionately

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When was the last time you did something selfless? When did you last see the opportunity to do something amazing for someone other than yourself? For someone you did not know? Did you take it? There are countless ways we can support the lives of others and make their lives better. By bringing others up, doesn’t mean we bring ourselves down. We can all rise together.

The other day, Avery called me a bleeding heart. The definition of a bleeding heart is “a person considered to be dangerously softhearted”. (I won’t get into the reasons why he called me a bleeding heart because I don’t want this post to be about what specific things I’ve done in the past but rather what we can all do moving forward.) I don’t view myself like this whatsoever. I think about all the times that I could have done more to help whether the recipient would have been another adult, a child, an animal. When I see people out in the hot, Texas sun selling water to raise money for some cause or event, I want to buy it all. I have this constant, nagging need to help. In my mind, why should I have this nice car, sitting in air conditioning, with the ability to go down to the store and not worry about having more than enough money to buy myself food when I know others are doing their very best and are still struggling?

I’m privileged. I may not feel privileged every second of every day because we all have our own problems and bumps in the road, but when I sit down to really think about my life and how I’ve been brought up, I am very grateful for the life I have been born into. I didn’t ask to be born healthy. I didn’t ask to be born into a family that never had to struggle to put enough food on the table everyday. I didn’t ask to be born with the opportunity to go to college. But others who aren’t born healthy or who don’t have a promised meal everyday or who never had the opportunity to go to college, they also didn’t ask to be born with these problems.

No one asks for the life they’ve been given. This is the perspective we need to use when learning that we all have something to give. Whether it’s time or money or gratitude, we can all stand to show a little more humility in the life we have been handed. And we can all stand to show a little more kindness and understanding to one another. This world has more enough evil; we need to fight it with the love in our hearts.

(photo credit: Aaron Alexander, https://www.flickr.com/photos/asalexander/3190479939)

September 11 Thoughts

When us Americans (and probably abroad as well) talk about 9/11, our thoughts immediately jump to the Twin Towers. We forget about the attack on the pentagon and Flight 93 headed for the White House but was brought down in a field by passengers. I think it’s important for us to fully understand what happened on 9/11 and why in order to honor everyone whose lives were taken on this terribly tragic day.

I’ve watched so many documentaries and movies that depict what this day was like for these people. We all know the aftermath: increased security in airports and government buildings, a cry for the executions of many innocent American Muslims, the destruction and vandalization of mosques on American soil, and most notable, the War on Terror.

I don’t remember what I was doing on September 11, 2001. I know I was in the second grade. I can infer I was in school. I doubt I was allowed to watch the news coverage at the time. Or I did and didn’t really comprehend the enormity of what happened. Looking back, I’m slightly grateful I was allowed to remain innocent to the evils that happened on 9/11 even for only a little bit longer.

Avery and I were able to visit the memorial for all of those who lost their lives on that day at the site of the towers at Ground Zero. Standing there in the exact spot where thousands of people lost their lives was incredibly heartbreaking and humbling.

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Where were you on 9/11? What were you doing?

Working Out for the Unenthused

I ran for the first time last night in about four months. I didn’t run far, and I didn’t run fast. By the end, I felt like I was having an asthma attack. I’m writing this full of embarrassment. For over a year, I have been going through phases of running and then going weeks and months of not running and then deciding I want to start once more. I’m hoping one of these running phases never ends. So far, I have been unsuccessful.

I’ve never been gung-ho about exercising. At times, I’ve tried to convince myself that I am. It works for a while and then I decide I would rather gorge myself with ice cream and skip the gym, and do it again the next day, and the next day. And then soon, I find I haven’t been to the gym or exercised in months.

Back to the run I had last night, I went with Avery, who is far more physically adept than I. His long legs can easily run twice as fast as mine. So by the end of our run, he was breathing easy while I was huffing and puffing without the ability to speak for a couple minutes.

I know I’m capable of getting back in the game. I was once running up to three miles a day a few times a week. But I fell off the wagon because life happened, and I got busy. But I shouldn’t ever be too busy to be healthy. Diabetes and obesity and high blood pressure can be prevented in many cases with exercise and diet. (The diet thing is going to take some work.)

It’s all mental. Obviously telling myself that I’m enthusiastic about exercise and fitness doesn’t work because I know that’s a lie. I need to try something else like, “Exercise or you will lose ten years off your life span”. Or “Exercise now and you can live easier when you’re elderly.” And maybe one day I will grow to love fitness. For now, I will huff and puff my way back into daily exercise.

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