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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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

Sometimes You Just Have To Say “I’m Sorry”

IMG_0980I have never been good at saying sorry. Not because I don’t think I’m ever wrong. Often times I will know I’m wrong. But saying “I’m sorry” out loud is acknowledging to OTHERS that I’m wrong. That is difficult and embarrassing and hard. Despite that, people who want healthy relationships need to learn how to say sorry.

I like to hold grudges. Or I used to. I held onto my anger and let it control my actions. This is just not a healthy way of dealing with problems especially in a romantic relationship because relationships require communication. My punishment of choice is the opposite of communication: the silent treatment. And I never liked to admit when I was wrong.

Saying sorry in a relationship is important, though. It allows for healthy dialogue to take place. I am very proud of the way that I have learned that saying sorry isn’t showing weakness rather it shows strength and a willingness to work through problems rather than casting them aside and hoping they get better by ignoring them (this NEVER works, by the way). It’s a sign of maturity.

We need to make a conscious decision to say sorry more often. Mistakes need to be tolerated because no one is perfect. All relationships, in fact, are imperfect. And this is why “I’m sorry” is so vital. It may take a while before you are able to recognize that you aren’t being tolerant enough of your partner and their faults. But it should always be a goal to talk things out, let it go, and say I’m sorry.

I’m learning, and I still have a long way to go. Avery, stick with me. And I promise to do the same with you.

How We Got Engaged

I had absolutely no idea I was going to get engaged. I had wanted to go to NYC during December and being the persuasive person I am talked Avery into the trip as well. We planned everything out about a month before our vacation. I determined all of the bigger outings like the Statue of Liberty and Central Park. But the one place I was determined to go to was the Christmas tree in Rockefeller Center.

We left Austin right after my last final of the semester and got to NYC around 9 pm. I didn’t think this next fact was a big deal, but looking back, it definitely should have been a red flag. The entire time we were travelling, Avery asked three or four times if I was going to do my makeup. I knew we were going to try and walk around after we checked into our hotel. Turns out, he was planning to propose that night, but it didn’t end up happening because we got into the city too late. And the reason he kept asking if I was going to do my makeup was because my mom told him to make sure I looked good for pictures or I would be upset (she was right).

Cut to the next night, we went to dinner at John’s Pizza (best pizza ever, btw). And afterwards we walked to Rockefeller Center. While we were walking there, Avery started acting very strange. I can’t recall exactly what he was doing or saying, but I distinctly remember him acting odd. This led me to thinking, “Oh my God, what if he’s going to propose?!” I promise I had no idea, before that moment walking to see the Christmas tree, that he might be proposing.

It was confirmed in my mind when he asked me if we should ask the police officer to take our picture in front of the tree. I told Avery something to the effect of “No, wtf, why him?!” I don’t know if he didn’t hear me or didn’t care, but he went and gave this cop his phone anyway.

He came back, got down on one knee and proposed. Don’t ask me what he said because I have no idea. Had I been more prepared for it, I might be able to remember a detail or two. I was absolutely in shock. We had talked about marriage before this trip. But definitely nothing that indicated he would be proposing in the near future. Of course I said yes, after getting over my initial shock.

So on December 16, 2014, we got engaged. Avery later told me how nervous he was which would explain his weird behavior. Another red flag I should mention and should have noticed, but I’m oblivious, is my brother calling that day asking if I had specifically gone to see the tree yet. I didn’t think anything of it until after the fact. Avery had gone to talk to my mom a couple weeks before. So my whole family was anticipating it while I obliviously thought I was just about to have a nice, normal trip to NYC.

Here are some pictures of our trip and of the proposal:

I Don’t Regret Eloping

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I’m not going to lie, I wanted the big wedding with the huge cake, white dress, and a first dance. Well, my dress wasn’t white, we didn’t dance, but I did get my cake! (In my eyes, that was the most important part.) Before Avery left for basic training, we set a date about a year in the future.

But things changed when he left. I didn’t cry until I got my first letter a week after he left. I hadn’t even opened it yet and I was bawling. Every day he was gone was just a check on my calendar. About three weeks before he was set to graduate I got to talk to him on the phone. And we talked about eloping. And once it was out there, we couldn’t stop thinking about it.

It was actually very easy. Much easier than I expected. After his graduation, we drove to the courthouse where we met up with our families. I had been in contact with Donald Lang who has been helping military couples for many years. He met us at the courthouse to help walk us through the whole process. Immediately after we got our marriage license, we walked to his little chapel across the street and had a small ceremony with both our families. It was short and sweet.

I absolutely, positively do not regret eloping. It was probably the best way we could have started off our marriage. Here’s why:

  1. We didn’t spend a lot of money. The most we spent was on our rings, which to me, is a wise investment.
  2. The day was about the two of us because we didn’t have any frills. There was no anxiety about decorations or food. No worrying about anything other than making it to the courthouse.
  3. Our family was there to witness it. Of course we would have loved to include a few more people, but the most important people in our lives were there.

Maybe one day we will have a ceremony to renew our vows with all of our family and friends, but if we don’t, I will be completely content with our wedding day.

What I’ve Learned From Getting Married Young

PEOPLE WILL DOUBT YOU

We’re young. Only 21, closer to 22 now. Although no one has said this to our faces, I’m sure we had a lot of doubters when we said we were engaged, and we probably still do a year into our marriage. I’ve heard through my mom and some friends what others have said to them about us. That we’re “too young”. (Well, we’re of legal age, so no, we’re not too young.) Or “what’s the rush?”. ( Why wait? I get to spend my life with my best friend, why wouldn’t I want that?) Or “Is she pregnant?”. (No, I wasn’t pregnant when I got married, I’m not pregnant now, and we don’t plan on it for at least a few years. Not that it’s any one else’s business, even if I was.)

PEOPLE WILL JUDGE YOU

When I tell some people that I’m married, they get this look of shock that morphs into a fake enthusiasm. They’ll then ask about Avery and when we got married and a myriad of others details on which to judge us. I won’t lie. It’s hard to know that people will judge me based on the fact that I chose to be tied to one person for the rest of my life at a relatively young age. Some act as though my life as I know it is ending. I used to feel like I had to prove that my love for Avery was real enough. And when I feel that way, I remind myself that my marriage is between me and Avery and no one else.

YOUR PARTNER WILL PISS YOU OFF

Avery does this thing where he asks me to do things that he’s more than capable of doing. Like we’ll be sitting on the couch and he’ll ask me to get him a water bottle or heat him up some food or get his work boots from the room or any other small task that wouldn’t normally bother me, but when I spend all day running around doing these small things, it really grinds my gears. What makes him incapable of doing any of these things?! Nothing! And I tell him this every few days. And then I get over it. Because IT’S NOT A BIG DEAL. Certainly not worthy of the energy it would take to fight about it.

AND THEY’LL MAKE YOU HAPPIER THAN YOU EXPECTED

I do a lot of the cleaning around the apartment. (Avery, you know it’s true. Don’t argue with me.) And it’s fine with me because I don’t like having the place a mess. So today when I found that Avery had folded the towels without me having to ask, I was beyond grateful. Not because I wouldn’t have to do it, but because I know that folding laundry is his most hated household chore. The fact that he took the time to do this to help me out despite the fact that he despises it (and is terrible at it) shows me he cares. Who knew I’d be so happy over some folded towels in a laundry basket?

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