that time we got engaged

(Kara)

Y’all. She has asked me to marry her hundreds of times. Hundreds. The first time was in her closet when I was visiting Texas (I know…so many jokes). Then on the beach in Washington.

And then again in Texas, this time in Sundance Square by a little jazz club we’d visited together; she arranged music (her friend playing Perfect) and an actual photographer. We danced. She asked. I said, “Yes.” We had popsicles. (There was also a homeless man wearing a Jesus shirt, but that’s a story for another day.)

After that, which we refer to as the “real” one, she asked me with the help of all of our kids.

And then later with a book of love songs for the piano. And still, at least three times a week, she looks at me with those eyes and says, “Marry me?” And I’ll never get tired of it, of telling her yes forever and ever.

(Amber)

So I asked her to do this forever. To go to sleep and wake up together forever. To help me take care of all these babies, and share all the hard and good things forever. To give me all her tears, and gosh those sunshine smiles forever. To take care of each other’s hearts, and let ourselves be taken care of forever. To listen to all the stories, and share in all the crazy and the joy and the grace forever. To let this Love be enough and trust me forever. To see how God’s worked all this out since forever. And she said yes. She said yes.

And I’ll keep asking her forever and hoping she keeps saying yes forever. I can’t imagine not getting to love her for the rest of time and even that seems like not long enough.

Kara Kara Kara Kara Kara. Thank you. I love you I love you I love you.
-A

wordswordswords

When I was in college, my dad called me one night and said he’d found something that he wanted me to have – an old notebook that he and my mom used to use for writing each other letters, making notes, and keeping grocery lists. My mom passed away when I was eleven, and they divorced when I was three…the keepsakes and relics from their marriage and our brief time as a family are few and far between.

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This notebook sits on my bedside table now, next to a new one…a journal that we purchased together last summer and are filling with our own letters and poems (and even the occasional phone call notes and doodles). There are a million things that I love about this life with her, but our notebook is easily one of the things I love most. There are words from the first days after we combined our families, from days when we were exhausted from all the fallout of being together, and quick notes reminding us that even on the hard days this life is worth fighting for. Maybe one day, decades from now, one of our kids will find it and treasure it the way my mom and dad’s has been.

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 xoxo, k

beach cups

If these little beach cups could talk…

They were bought for us the weekend we fell in love on Kure Beach in North Carolina. We filled them with mixed drinks and shoved them down in the sand while we napped in the sun to the sound of waves crashing.

They were a gift of sorts from someone who then decided that this love was all wrong, that it wasn’t real, and that I was so terrible that she couldn’t be friends with either of us anymore. The first of a few friends to decide they thought this was wrong. And that’s fine I guess. Grown ups get to make their own decisions and judgements, but damn.

I fought for a while to convince people that this was real, that we were both safer and happier, feeling more loved and free than we’d ever been. I’ve begged more than a few times to be seen and heard by people I’ve known and loved more than half of my life. To no avail. I guess it’s tricky business saying you’re caring, accepting, listening, and open minded but being convinced you’re always righter than others about their own lives.

Oh well.

I posted a silly quote from Dirty Dancing on Kara’s Facebook wall: “I’ll never be sorry.” It was a joke mostly and it’s cliche as hell, but it’s true. I wouldn’t trade this with her for anything. It’s the best…the literal, actual best thing that’s ever happened to me. At least ten times a day I want to cry happy tears at all the healing and grace.

And I’m so done trying to convince anyone it’s not just ok, it’s the sweetest thing. So done. Goodbye and farewell to all the folks who can’t even.
xoxo, k

here’s to bravery…

If there was one thing we didn’t foresee in all of this, it was the number of relationships that we would lose because we fell in love with each other. The fallout started almost immediately, with one of our closest friends choosing to not have a relationship with us anymore. It was jarring in the most heartbreaking way, and I’m still not sure that we understand it or have gotten over that loss. In a lot of ways, it’s been like grieving a death, being abruptly cut off from someone you talked to daily, claimed her kids as your nieces and nephews, and loved like a sister. Since that first one, there have been countless others…friends, family members, and casual acquaintances who have all decided not to speak to us.

We’ve tried to create space to grieve all of the lost relationships, both for ourselves and for our kids. There are still hard days, and I’m sure we will always miss some of the people we’ve lost, but the joy and happiness and laughter definitely outweigh the sad. We’re finding our people, we’re loving them hard, and we’re taking care of each other; our kids have new aunts and uncles and friends, they’re experiencing unconditional love, and their smiles are all the proof we need that we’re all going to be okay.

Life can be really hard, but it can also be really wonderful. A friend recently told me, “It’s brave to imagine your life in different and better ways,” and it is.

Here’s to  bravery…and the happiness and love that follow.

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xoxo, k

part 4, amber

Falling in love was not on the agenda. Is it ever? Maybe it is. I think it was on the agenda when I met my husband. I needed a husband and he needed a wife, and well there we were. I’d spend six years trying to be the best wife I could to the worst husband I could imagine. I guess you could say we tried, but I’m not even sure he would say that about himself on a good day. I tried, he railed against me and every ounce of love I gave him. It was exhausting. It made me want to stop feeling to be so wrecked and abused every time I gave voice to any emotion. And a week before this girls trip, he’d shoved me and tackled me in front of our four-year-old, berated me into the ground and asked me to apologize when I had to comfort my crying children and call the police. It was over, maybe long before then, but definitely then.

I’ve talked to so many people about how I thought I talked more about how hard things were with him. About why I didn’t… I was scared we’d be isolated, or that anyone would think I was wrong to marry him (it’s probably mostly that, let’s be honest). I don’t wish I hadn’t, even now. It was hard, harder than anything I’ve ever done, loving him while he hated me, and talked openly about trying to get me to divorce him with neglect and abuse, while he scared my children and me regularly with more rage and abandonment than I ever knew was possible in a marriage. (And while most people who found out were bewildered that such a “good man” could possibly…)

I’m not sorry I celebrated the good moments big and publicly. If I have regret it’s that I wasn’t more open about all the pain and heartache, about the police reports and fleeing. I’m sorry I wasn’t more honest, not because I wish I’d outed him as an abuser sooner, but because that was our truth and hiding it made our story so fragmented even now, for all the people I thought I was sharing with.

But. But I’m glad I tried my best to love him. I hold on to a little hope that some of it got through, that the scared little boy in him that pushes people away felt a little of it.

And I’ve talked to so many people about how scared I am that this will look like that did to some people. Just a sharing of the good moments, a bending of the truth. I’m scared that some people will miss the all the healing in this, all the beauty and the wonder and the grace. Damn I’m more scared of that than I’d like to admit. And I really want to say that I’m scared of that because I don’t want anyone else to miss out on their own healing. Here’s the honest truth of that though- I hate that there are people out there that would miss out on seeing *my* healing. I hate that there are people who *are* missing out on my healing. Because they’re still grieving my marriage, or because they think This, with her, is wrong. Or because they feel lied to with the way I kept all the truth, and now they don’t know if they can trust what they’re seeing in all these photos and words.

Listen I know, I know, most people aren’t even paying that much attention to me or us. But that’s the thing when you open yourself up wide on the internet or anywhere else- it’s as chock full of vain insecurity as it is mending. So here we are. I’m committing to sharing more of this journey than the last one. And more of the last one as I can. Not because I want to justify my actions (God knows that’s futile), but because maybe, (God, maybe) the healing won’t be just for me.

(I never shared these photos because we took them weeks before we were ready to talk about any of this, when we were still calculating how many losses we’d have to count for loving each other. Turns out the number was higher than we thought and matters way less.)

Love is love and the price we’re paying for years of keeping quiet about broken marriages and hearts is too high.

part 4, kara

The trip home was eight hours of trying to figure out what to do next. I think we were both hesitant to admit exactly how we felt, afraid that words like “love,” and “forever” would scare the other one off. I mean, we *were* both married, and there were eight kids to consider, and again…we weren’t even gay. We danced around the options, all of the possibilities, except the one we were both quietly hoping for: rearranging our entire lives to be together because how could we even breathe without the other one?

When I dropped her off at the airport, I knew…not being together was not an option. I felt like part of me was missing and I didn’t know what to do. So I sent her this while she was on the plane and when she landed and replied it was like finally taking a deep breath after barely breathing for three days, and we both knew:

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The days that followed that second trip to North Carolina were spent navigating how to completely turn our lives upside down to accommodate each other and this love. They were scary and hard, but full of so much joy and certainty. Not being together just wasn’t an option, and when I tell you that mountains moved for us to be able to make a smooth transition into each other’s lives, well, that might be an understatement.

Our husbands were supportive (not to say that they weren’t also angry, confused, sad, and a host of other emotions…they were), weary from years of just surviving marriage and happy to see their wives finally genuinely happy. There was heartbreak for sure, I think there always is when relationships end, even the unhealthy and borderline toxic ones. We made arrangements for where we would live, how we would support our giant family, and how we would tell our friends and family. We made a timeline for moving, planned a few trips, wrote each other millions of words and spent a lot of hours on FaceTime.

part 3, amber

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The second trip to North Carolina was a whirlwind of trying to figure out big feelings and then acting on those feelings. That part was reckless and careless and it’s something that’s hurt a lot of people. We’ve both lost friendships over that choice…big, important friendships that we didn’t think would be so easily shaken. That part was messy and heartbreaking. Even with the mess, I’m not sure either of us would have made a different choice on that trip. When I look back on our friendship, I think every single moment led us to *that* moment…the one that would change everything in the most disruptive, beautiful way.

Monday, March 27, 2017
when love and like and lust say
throw all your beliefs out the window
burn it all down
and laugh at the ashes because
damn she’s beautiful

i’d trade way too much
to wake up to
that sunshine smile

for now the only trade
we have to make is
before i held her in my arms
and ever after

right and wrong are relative
the only truth i know
Jesus loves me this i know
when she moans

part 3, kara

Fast-forward nine years from that first beach weekend…we found ourselves back in North Carolina for another beach weekend, this time because we needed a break from real life. We met at Bridget’s house, which was a grueling 8-hour drive for me. I arrived around 3:00 on Thursday afternoon, and when Amber opened the door, something shifted inside of me. We had been distant friends since the first beach weekend, keeping track of each other via social media and the occasional phone call, sending well-wishes when one of us had a new baby and meeting for coffee if I happened to be in Texas. And when the Thing happened, she shared some wisdom and strength and hope. I valued her friendship for sure, but we were certainly nowhere near falling in love…I mean, we weren’t even gay.

Loving a woman was something I had never really considered. It wasn’t that I held any firm religious beliefs that loving a woman would be wrong or unnatural…I just had never done it or even thought it was something I might want to explore. But then the door opened, and there she was, and all of the sudden I didn’t know anything and I knew everything; all of those Hollywood love stories and whirlwind romances were about to be my reality.

dancing in summer rain (amber’s beginning)

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“Kara, Kara, Kara, Kara, Kara” rings through my head like a school girl since the day that door opened full of sunshine and her. Every moment I never even thought about loving her turned into ten years worth of knowing coming back to me in half a blink because there she was. And here we were. We both smiled wide eyed what-just-happened smiles and she walked in with her bags, kids scurried around us and I sat down to catch my breath.

That moment…it felt like sneaking out to dance in summer rain, heart racing, face full of water, and body full of warmth, feet spinning, arms wide and the whole world a dizzy wonder.

Ten years…how had I known her ten years and not spent every second madly in love? That regret tugged at my heart for about a minute only to be replaced inexplicably with all the certainty in the world that we were meant to be together since forever and now we would. I wasn’t worried much about forever right then though; if I’m honest I was much too distracted by the more present and pressing concern – “How do I get my arms around her?”

A girls’ weekend, that’s what I’d signed up for, well the three of us had. All in separate but equally shitty times of our lives, we’d decided an off-season getaway to the beach would cure what ailed us, or at least soothe it for a bit. We’d spend Thursday night at Bridget’s and drive out Friday to spend the weekend catching up and soaking up the sun while the ocean crashed on the shore. There would be drinks, there would be laughing and late night conversations, maybe some dancing and all the other good things girls’ weekends normally entail…