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I have been so overwhelmed with emotion since our wedding. As a little girl whose favorite movies were Cinderella and Ever After, I can’t remember a day when I didn’t hope for my own Prince Charming to come and sweep me off my feet. I grew up believing in fairytales, and am now living one of my own. The best part? It is not the end. There is no “fade out” on the final photo to a happily ever after. This is the beginning of the rest of our lives. And what a beautiful beginning it was.

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To Cody — Thank you for loving me, for choosing me. And not only when you asked me to be yours for the rest of our lives, but every day. You choose me even when I’m difficult, emotional, irrational. You love me, in spite of my imperfections. You love me because of them. I’ve never met anyone so understanding, who gets me like you do. You are my match in every way. There are no words to adequately describe you or our love. It is a love unlike I’ve ever known, one that I fall deeper into each day. I will always cherish you, respect you, and put you first. I promise to keep dating you, to make you laugh, to take too many pictures so when we’re old and gray we can look back and smile on this beautiful life we had together. You are the best husband, friend, and lover I could ever ask for. You are my favorite person to share a bottle of wine with, to go on adventures with, to have a fancy meal with, to be completely and utterly ridiculous with. I can’t wait to have your babies and love you for the rest of my life. Thank you for making me the luckiest girl on this planet. I hope to love you as deeply as you love me.

To the ones who raised us — Thank you for shaping us into the individuals we are today. Thank you for loving us, for showing us what unconditional love is. You’ve seen us grow up, allowed us to make our own decisions, and supported us. We wouldn’t have got here without you. Thank you for believing in our love story, and walking alongside us as we made this commitment. We couldn’t be happier to not only find each other, but to grow our family in the process. It has been such a blessing to get to know each of you, to find another place to call home.

To our wedding party — Thank you for standing by us, before we knew we were meant to be, while we were trying to figure it out, and now that we have. To my ladies especially, you have been there through relationships not even worth mentioning. You have seen me at my worst, and I couldn’t be more thankful that you believed in me enough, loved me enough, to stick around for my best. You are the sisters I never had, and I am so blessed to have friendships that feel like family. Thank you for standing by my side. Thank you to all of you. You made our day so special. Whether it was dancing the night away, laughing amidst photos, or hiding out for a Bud Light break, simply being there was more meaningful than we could ever put into words. You know us in a way a lot of people don’t, and through that, have built relationships we know will last a lifetime. Thank you for being a part of our lives and supporting our love.

To Bill — Thank you for sharing your wisdom, your insight, and your experience. Thank you for reitterating the importance of a Christ-filled marriage, and walking us through making that a reality. You are more than a pastor, or a counselor, you are our friend. Thank you for sharing in that relationship, in both times of seriousness and simply sharing life together. We are so thankful to have you and Nancy as a part of our lives.

To Riley — Thank you for sharing your gift with us and capturing our love so beautifully. Thank you for being there, not just as a photographer, but as a friend. I have been so blessed to know you over the years and am so thankful for a friendship that has grown even through our live’s varying stages. It is one I will continue to cherish for years to come. Thank you for being such a huge part of our day, our story. We all know how much I love pictures, and yours have brought me to tears more than I need to share. Thank you for everything. It’s more than I can say.

To our family and friends — Thank you for sharing in our love. Thank you for traveling, for planning to be there, for loving us enough to show up. It truly leaves me speechless. What other time is there for all your nearest and dearest to be in the same space? That is a gift unlike any other. The most special gift we could have recieved. To get to share our best day with you. Thank you for supporting us in that way and for the many roles you have played in our lives. Our day wouldn’t have been the same without you. From the bottom our hearts, it meant the world to have you there.

To Marek’s DJ Services, Timeless Rental, Esteemed Events, Vanessa at Mystique Edge, Victoria’s Garden, Bakehouse, Recreational Springs, The Black Tux, BHLDN, and Emma & Grace Bridal — Thank you for listening to my vision, and working with that vision to make it a reality. You each played such an important role, from finding me the most important dress I’ll ever own to the best looking suits and bridesmaids dresses I saw in the entire planning process. From the perfect decor to the “keep this party going” music, to maintaining the flow of the day, and creating such a beautiful display. From the delicious treats, to the gorgeous backdrops, to our picture perfect hair, and the breathtaking flowers. Cody and I couldn’t have asked for or planned for a more perfect day, and it was truly my honor to work with each and every one of you. The puzzle wouldn’t have been complete without you each sharing your gifts, talents, and expertise to make it our best day ever. I’d do it all over again in a heartbeat.

Our wedding day was a dream come true. One our best days, and one I am certain we will treasure for the rest of our lives. Thank you for helping us create a lasting memory and believing in our once in a lifetime love.

Hey Auntie,
How are you? How’s heaven?

Boy, I sure do miss you. A lot has happened since you left, and I can’t tell you how many times I wish I could just call and talk to you. Or come over to your house so we could play Monopoly and eat potato bread with butter. I’d even be willing to sleep on that old cot next to your bed again. Just to be next to you. Hold your hand till I fall asleep, like I used to when I was little. Have you draw on my back and say, “It’s something that runs across the road…”

Sometimes, if I listen hard enough, I can almost hear you say, “Hey, Kar.” Almost.

I hate that we don’t get to hang out. It’s been almost 10 years and sometimes it still feels like yesterday. Grief is a tricky thing, you know? Life goes on, but at the same time, we’ve all lost something. You were a huge piece of my puzzle, and most days, I can see the whole picture. But some days, the hole is so big I don’t know how to fill it.

Today is one of those days.

There is so much I want to tell you! I’m engaged. His name is Cody, and he came along when I least expected it. Guess that’s what love does, right? Shows up when you think you’ve sworn it off forever — becomes more than you’ve ever hoped for. I know you’d really like him. I think that’s what really gets me, you know? That you’ll never meet him. That he’ll never get to meet you. I have these moments, and he holds me. And all I can think is, this sucks. Two of my favorite people in the whole wide world and they don’t get to meet? How fair is that?

I want you to be at the wedding. I want you to be there when we have kids. I want you to be there to make cut-out cookies with your great nieces and nephews. (Okay, maybe not plurals but you never know! Verdict is still out on that one.) I want you to be here so we can have a glass of wine and really chat about life. I want to go for a walk with you, the way you and my mom used to. I want to take a drive in the hills. Or make a big bowl of popcorn and watch a cheesy Hallmark movie together. I want you to be here so I can hear your voice again – really. And give you a great big hug.

I want you to be here.

God, I wish you were.

It’s hard for me to watch or read anything associated with cancer. Sometimes I cry — at times just a little, other times a lot. It makes me so sad to see that kind of suffering, to be reminded that’s why you’re gone.

But I’m glad you’re with your best friend. I’m sure you guys are up there having a grand old time. And while I have some things I’d still like to do down here (more like a lot) I find comfort in knowing we’ll be together again someday. For God is not a God of destruction — but of hope and of love. He loved us enough to give us that gift, and He loved me enough to give me you.

I feel like I was so young when you died. Of course, at the time I thought I could conquer the world. Graduating high school? I was an adult for sure. But, the truth was, I didn’t know what that all entailed. I had a lot to experience. Places to go. People to meet. Heartaches to have. Growing up to do. Hard lessons to learn. I am far from the girl I was when you were here. But, I have held onto the important parts. Parts like you.

You were the mom I needed, when I didn’t like my own. Which is easy to do when you’re a teenager. You’ll be happy to know my mom is my best friend now. And we miss you together. I wish you and I had the chance to have the same kind of mature, honest, relationship now. But I want you to know you changed my life. And you will forever be that person. My role model. My crying shoulder. My hideaway. You let me be myself, and you were always there for me no matter what. You loved me unconditionally. You loved me like a daughter. You took me places. You made me feel valued. You made me feel special. You helped me believe in myself. You showed me that God should always come first — to have love in order to give love.

I’ll always remember you and Danny’s Bibles sitting open on the kitchen table. You planted seeds in my life, just by being you.

I want to thank you for loving me. For being my Aunt. For being the kind-hearted, caring, person you were. For laughing. For farting. For playing Christmas Trivia in the car. Pretty sure we knew every answer to Carols and Songs. For playing Scrabble with me. For making cut-out cookies with me, even when you were leaving for Christmas. For spending Thanksgivings with us. For your homemade pumpkin pies. For giving me a home away from home. For coming to my piano recitals, choir concerts, soccer games, and track meets. For seeing me off to prom my junior year. For taking me places — calling me on a whim and asking if I wanted to go shopping in Loveland for the weekend or ride with you to Sioux Falls. For playing cards with me. For being that cool Aunt who wanted to hang out with me. No matter how young or uncool I probably was. For taking me to church. For singing me songs. For rubbing my back. For listening. For laughing. For filling my life with happy memories I will never forget.

I love you so very much. And as much as I wish you were here, now and in the future, I am forever grateful for all the time we got to spend together. You made an ever-lasting impact on my life. Who I was, who I became, who I am, and who I have yet to be. I won’t ever forget you. I hope I’m half the woman you were “when I grow up.”

Now you are among the angels, and forever one in my heart.

A Hearty Cup of 2016

This year was like an exceptional cup of coffee — The fragrant aroma that lends itself to a close your eyes, inhale deep, kind of breath. The bright and lively flavor. The sharp, yet delicate, way each sip dances on your palette.

I got engaged to the love of my life, experienced two job changes, and in the process, was able to get to know “me” better than I ever have.

At the end of each year, it seems people are inclined to do away with the old and focus on what is yet to come. The promise of new beginnings, unknown adventures, hidden opportunities, a clean slate. And while I am excited for what 2017 has to bring, I have learned that every day is a chance to discover something new about yourself, to fall deeper in love, to cherish time with family, and to invest in the friendships you couldn’t live without. Sometimes, I am so overwhelmed by the people I am blessed to know and the opportunities I have been given, it brings me to tears.

That moment I get to look in Cody’s eyes and say, “I can’t even tell you how much I love you.” It’s one of those too good to be true kind of feelings, except it’s never been truer than it is now. Love has never been like this — this real. this vulnerable. this transparent. this joyful. this safe.

We have chosen each other this year — as best friends, partners, and lovers. To be by each other’s side through all of life’s adversities and it’s joys. To accept who we are and who we’ve yet to become. To complement each other as we face this life together. To put each other first and trust in God to guide our future.

I prayed for this my whole life, and often wondered when God was going to deliver. And while it was definitely a lot later than I hoped, I have to say what I have always known to be true — God’s plan is perfect. He reminds me of that every day as I have to continually learn to trust in Him.

I took a leap of faith this fall and transitioned in a job based primarily on commission. It was challenging, emotionally draining, and yet, very rewarding in my quest to discover my passion. I discovered how amazing flexibility and working from home can be, at the same time, had to surrender some of my independence with the loss of a steady income. My brokenness is also my comfort — turns out I can’t do everything alone, as much as I wish I could. And there is a humbleness that comes from not getting to expect what comes next. To trust that God is our Provider. And I have so enjoyed the freedom rest and reflect. It has been such a blessing to spend time on me in the midst of all the changes this year has brought. I look forward to continuing to carve out that solace as I go back to working full time.

My family continues to be my foundation, and while we’ve all experienced some trying times this year, the guarantee we have is always each other. My parents are two of my best friends — the couple Cody and I spend the most time hanging out with. We do “Survivor” nights every Wednesday — watching Survivor when it’s on TV, and always enjoying a meal and a bottle of wine together. It is time I treasure, and am blessed that Cody loves that tradition as much as I do. It’s amazing how the older I get, the closer me and my parents become. Too bad high school me didn’t figure it out sooner — they’re pretty amazing individuals. And my little brother, although he lives in Sioux Falls, is the link that ties us all together. Getting to spend a week together over Christmas was not long enough. It’s hard to say goodbye every time, as I wish he could be here to hang out with on a regular basis. We all have each other’s back. We cry together, laugh together, and face every obstacle as a family.

And my friends — where do I begin? In planning this wedding, it’s been such a joy to ask my nearest and dearest to be a part of our special day. And while they’ve said yes to standing by my side, I really have to thank them, as well as a handful of others, for being there for me for many years past. There is something to be said for people who have seen you at your darkest and believed in you enough to not only help you find your way, but continue to be there no matter how long it takes. I wouldn’t be who I am today without my friends. You are my extended family, my lifeline, my heart.

And so tonight, as I have the privilege to celebrate with some of those friends as we say goodbye to 2016, I will hold all of these things close. To taste the complexity of this past year, the changes that are yet to come, and constants I will carry with me when they do. This is a full and abundant life. And I couldn’t be more grateful.

Something for Someone.

This has nothing to do with the price of tea in China.

This has everything to do with things we’re too afraid to say. The memories we’re not supposed to miss, or at least as much as we do. The loves we’ve lost. The regrets we’ve learned from. The dreams that were misplaced somewhere along the way. The lies we tell ourselves and everyone around us. The facade we create to feel better, to feel something.

Everything happens for a reason. What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger. It’s better to have loved and lost than never to have loved at all. Actions speak louder than words. Ignorance is bliss. Better safe than sorry. It’s not about the number of breaths we take, but the number of moments that take our breath away. Live every day like it’s your last. Laughter is the best medicine. You can’t judge a book by it’s cover. Life goes on.

Bullshit.

Sometimes, life fucking hurts. It’s not fair. There is no reason to explain why.

Just because you felt something doesn’t mean it was enough.

There is a life size doll sitting in the corner of my room at my parents house, wearing a dress I used to wear when I was little. Most people that see it for the first time think it’s creepy. All I see is Big Doll downstairs at my Aunt Karen’s house. Standing in the corner by the bed I used to sleep on for sleepovers when I was older. The quilt. The space heater. The green and blue coffee trays older than me. All I see is a photo of me dancing in that dress in my Grandmother’s living room. The broken straw hat. The girl with barely any hair. The safety of having two homes beside my own.

This has nothing to do with the price of tea in China.

This has everything to do with what it feels like to lose someone before you should have. Because every day it happens — to mothers, fathers, sons, daughters, uncles, aunts, nieces, nephews, grandmothers, grandfathers, cousins, wives, husbands, friends, and lovers. But don’t worry… life goes on. Or some other incredulous bullshit like that.

Life is just a role that we play.

My God, may we play it well.

Stop worrying about the election, the price of gas, how many likes you have on Instagram, the latest fashions, the weekend, how much money you make, whether or not you have pimples, the latest celebrity gossip, the top of the charts, what people think, what things you have, what you didn’t do, who you should have been.

What if all you had was today?

What role would you play?

Who would you spend it with?

What memories would you make?

There is no guarantee.

Stop acting as if you’re entitled to one.

This has nothing to do with the price of tea in China.

This has everything to do with making an effort to be the best version of yourself, day in and day out. To commit yourself to making the people you love a priority. To stop selfishly waiting for someone else to make the first move. To act as if you give a damn. To not allow your fears to control your life. To wake up every morning with a purpose. To believe in God. Or something. Yourself, for starters. To stop feeling entitled to second chances and treating people as though it’s the only shot you got. To tell the truth. To love like crazy. To travel. To stop waiting for tomorrow. To stop planning so god damn much. To put pride aside and be there.

Be present.

It’s all we’ll ever have.

I had just graduated college with an English/Creative Writing degree, when I landed a job at one of the largest banks in the United States. It was an entry level teller position, but I fell in love with the company’s core vision. I spent hours reading about what they stood for before my first group interview. They valued their people. They valued their customers. They stood for honesty and integrity. I felt personally drawn to those values and decided I wanted to be a part of that story.

I spent almost four years dedicating my time, my heart, my tears, and my stress to a company I thought would be my long-term career. In that time, I had earned three promotions and was waiting for an opportunity to the next.

When I lost my job, I was the number one Service Manager in the district.

I didn’t realize then losing that career would turn out to be one of the best things that has ever happened to me.

In the desire to climb the corporate ladder, I had lost track of who I was. I had immersed myself in a culture no where close to that of which I had read about before applying. Every day was full of new stresses, every day was another deadline of sales goals, every day I came home feeling like it wasn’t quite good enough. We had to be the best. I had to be the best. And, I was. But, it came at a cost. The cost of not realizing life is a lot more than a means to an end. If your people are who matters most, then that means valuing who they are before what they can do for you.

I lost my job, and felt as though who I was meant nothing. My success did not matter. My ability to lead a team did not matter. My time did not matter. My honesty did not matter. I was as replaceable as any other person.

But the truth is, nobody is replaceable. Every single one of us has dreams, aspirations, personal triumphs and struggles. Those characteristics make us who we are, influence how we work, and determine our futures. It is the heartbeat inside of us, not the amount we’re getting paid, that makes us strive for more.

I may have lost my job, but that’s all it was. A job. It was doing nothing to better who I was as a person or encourage my heart. Day after day, I came home feeling like I could barely breathe. I was constantly stressed. And I complained about it all the time. The saddest part is, I felt like it was worth it. To be the best. To make the money. To influence others to do the same. In reality, it was harming my personal happiness, my real dreams, and my heart.

Since moving on, I have had countless people tell me how much happier I am. How I’m like a completely different person. I have also had other friends move on from the same company to other avenues only to be told the same thing. Funny isn’t it? How you can be so bought into an certain way of doing things that you forget what matters most.

Managing where I am now, I have the opportunity to hire people based on who they are and the personality they add to our team, instead of how much I think they can sell. I have the privilege to interact with customers and get to know their story because I want to, not because I have to in order to uncover a clue leading to another product sale. It’s still a business, and it’s still necessary to sell things to make a profit. But I get to do it in a way that feels right. My boss genuinely cares about who I am, my well-being. And in turn, I get to care about my employees personal lives in addition to our work relationship.

And, isn’t that what matters to all of us? To be known for who we are. To have the opportunity to do what we do best every day and feel like it matters.

Yesterday, I found out that I got a writing position with a private magazine.

The amount of gratitude I feel is beyond words. I now have the privilege to follow my dream as a writer, on top of already loving what I currently do. The craziest thing is, I never would have ended up here if I had stayed where I was.

I believe God allowed me to lose my job in order to find something so much better. The loss, as hard as it was, was not near as great as what I have gained because of it. Not only for my career path, but my own personal well being.

I am not just as good as the day. I am not the worth of one accomplishment. I am not the product of one promotion. I am not the value of one sale. I am a human being. I am the desires of my heart. I am my dreams. I am my aspirations. I am my hopes for the future. I am whoever God wants me to be.

So, thank you to the individuals responsible for my loss of a job. You gave me my life back.

Paris and Privilege

Over 100 people lost their lives today in Paris, France. Over 100 people that were just out trying to live life, enjoy things they love. A stadium. A restaurant. A concert hall. Regular activities for regular people who didn’t know tonight would be their last. My heart goes out to them. Their families. Their friends. Their co-workers. My heart goes out to the entire nation in this treacherous act of terrorism. How many times has this happened in our world’s history? And how many times do we begin to understand why? The answer is none. And it is in these unfathomable circumstances, that you realize life is a lot less complicated than you make it out to be. We are all just people. One human to the next. Trying to live our lives the best way we see fit. And yet, in these moments of injustice, we realize the world is not our own.

Still, we create it out to be. As a twenty-something growing up in modern day America I will admit that we are a selfish generation. We are a generation that thrives out of get it now satisfaction. The tabloids scream that you can have it your way… be as pretty as you want, as rich as you want, as skinny as you want, as tech savvy as you want. Get it now. Feel something. And, if you don’t like it, there will probably be another option on the marketplace shortly. You don’t have to live with your choices for long. We have become a generation capable of buying things because we want them, not because we need them. In turn, we have shaped who we are and how we encounter life.

We feel so entitled to the privilege of choice, we too often forget those choices can be taken away from us.

And, now, for a moment, we remember. Over 100 people lost their lives today in Paris, France. It was not their choice. Somebody else’s, maybe. But the life we so often take for granted can be gone in a blink of an eye.

Then you realize it is not about the get it now lifestyle. Maybe then our lives can become more than a moment of temporary gratification. If we stop for a second, we could see that our problems are often so small in comparison. We have the ability to choose life each and every day. To appreciate the world around us, and everyone in it. There will always be other opportunities out there, other adventures. There will always be another thing to spark your interest, another fad to try. But it is the simplest things that take up the most room in your heart. The people that love us. The people that have gone out of their way to show us we are not alone. The roof over our heads. The food on our plates. The gift of today.

May we live today for all those people who no longer have a tomorrow. May we stop for a moment to think about all the people who have impacted our lives, all the ones near and dear to our hearts. Thank them. Hold onto them. Fight for them. Life is too short to give up on those we love. We think we have all the time in the world, but sometimes, we don’t. These moments remind us time is a gift. One we so often take for granted.

I may only be twenty-six years old, but if I could do a few things over I would. Give more time to the people who have proven they care, and less time to the people who don’t. I would try to remind myself every day that there are no guarantees. I would try to remind myself to embrace every chance I’ve been given. To make life less complicated. To enjoy the simplicity of treasured friends and family, and the moments shared that will never be forgotten. The memories that shape us and carry us through when times are hard.

It is a privilege to be alive. May we make the most of the days we have, so that we leave no regrets for tomorrow.

I know I’ve written to everyone but you. I know you’ve had to endure too many stories of guys that came before you. I know that it’s not fair. I have strung you along like a yo-yo, up one day and down the next. I don’t deserve you, and I probably never will. For you are the opposite of everything I used to love. You are kind, even when I’ve hurt you. You are comfort, those arms I already miss, the afternoons spent curled up in them lying on your couch. You are laughter, a sure excuse to let go of any bad day and just breath. You are considerate, the desire to make me feel valued. Which you did, always. It’s been a long time since I’ve felt like I really mattered. My opinions. My hurts. My struggles. My weaknesses. My dreams. You listen with an attention I know is real. You look into my eyes and I know you care. Thank you. For doing that, for being there when I least deserve it. For wading through all the bullshit of my past, to give me hope for a future. Even if it’s without you. You have given me more than you will ever know. Beautiful memories that actually are beautiful, instead of just a imaginative version of what was. I don’t remember the last time I felt so safe. A place to be myself, instead of who I think you might want me to be.

All of this makes letting go of you so very hard. I jokingly said you’d move on before I did. I wish I hadn’t been right. I wish it hadn’t been her. And the hurt and anger I feel stems back to everything that happened before you. The reality of being just an option, instead of the only one. I guess I’ve always loved with my whole heart. It is this flaw that keeps me from moving on. It’s hard to understand when people don’t do the same. I sit at breakfast with another man, and all I can think of is you. I wonder if I’ve just made the biggest mistake. And, I think about all the reasons why. The missing feelings. The uncomfortable nights spent trying to understand what went wrong. The disconnect I wish I never felt. I have to hope I made the right choice, even now as I write this in tears. Is it jealousy? Am I selfishly trying to hold onto you? Is it real? Is it now just making sense?

The reality is, you deserve more than what I gave you. I’ve taken the person I can’t stand, and become him. Someone who can’t commit. Someone who can’t deal with their demons to love the way you should be loved. Someone who wants you, but not enough. And, I’m sorry for that. I wish I could figure things out, give you the answer you deserve instead of this back and forth game we play. I wake up in your bed, and it feels right. I leave your apartment, and it feels like the last time.

I don’t deserve you, not now and maybe not ever. I just hope that she does. I hope she looks in your eyes and feels the same way you do. That she wants to be with you as much as you want to be with her. I hope she appreciates your tender touch, the way you never made it just about you. I hope she does things for you, because she wants to. I hope she meets you half way. I hope she gives you what you deserve. The relationship I never could. And, I promise I’ll try to be supportive. I promise I’ll try not to show you how much it hurts. To see you get everything I always wanted, everything I never gave you.