Monday, August 31, 2009

Waiting for The One

The following is cross-posted on Sonja Cassella's blog, Fort Worth Renaissance. I am honored to have had the opportunity to be a guest blogger on Sonja's blog. If you haven't had a chance to check it out, I hope you will. I'm sure it will quickly become a favorite of yours,as it is mine. Fort Worth natives (and those who would like to be) will enjoy her unique perspective of and beyond.

Waiting for The One

I’ve met many women who tell me that the reason they spend so much time sitting across the table from uninteresting men, laughing at jokes that aren’t funny and eating a dinner salad when what they really want is a big juicy steak topped with bacon with a side of bacon is that these dates, no matter how horrid, help them create a checklist of they are looking for in a mate.

- Bob may have been obnoxious but he had great teeth.

Number One [Division Of Laura Lee]

Image by occhichiusi via Flickr

- Seth had bad breath but he held the door open for me.

- Tyler slurped his soup, talked about his ex-girlfriends all night, tried to grab my breasts when we got in the car, and ate my cucumbers, but he has a job.

- James dresses great, talks to his mom three times a week, loves musical theater, has never been married, offered to take me shopping, give me a make-over, and set his roommate Brian up with my best friend . . . wait a minute.

I view dating from a different perspective. I believe dating allows you to create a list of things that you don’t want in a life-long mate. Once you find someone who doesn’t match that list, you know he (or she) is the one.

Since this may be a new concept for you, let me illustrate with my personal example. Other than my husband, I’ll use descriptors rather than names. However, it is important to keep a couple of things in mind.

- These examples are 10-15 years ago (I was very young when I started dating).

- Most importantly, just because I (or you) place something on this type of list, it does not make the associated person bad or flawed (barring physical or verbal abuse). It just means they weren’t The One. When it comes down to it, most of my ex’s could list a flaw or two of mine (I’m not eliciting a challenge).

The Things I Didn’t Want In The One - As Learned From My Ex-boyfriends

- High School Obsession – Drank too much.

- Long Term High School Boyfriend – Didn’t get my sense of humor.

- Short Term College Boyfriend –More interested in my body than my mind.

- Long Term College Boyfriend – Wanted me to be a mild mannered, size 4, blond, Southern Baptist vegetarian.

Then I met Richie and he wasn’t all of the things I didn’t want.

We met in college, so I won’t tell you we didn’t enjoy a few cocktails on occasion, but there were distinct differences between him and my High School Obsession. First, he was 21 not 17. Second, he knew the difference between having a drink, and drinking to get drunk.

Not only did he get and appreciate my sense of humor, he made me laugh.

Richie and I both majored in Communication Studies, which provided a common interest, but even outside the academic realm there never seemed to be a shortage of areas for discussion. I won’t say he wasn’t interested in my body, but he always respected my decision to wait until I was married to have sex.

Richie and I were friends before we started dating, which has its advantages, one of which is by the time we started dating he had already seen the real me. The loud, silly, bacon loving, frizzy haired, charismatic, size 8. That is the girl he fell in love with.

The advantage to creating a checklist of traits you don’t want as opposed to a never-ending list of must haves is that you enable yourself to see your potential mate for who they really are and not who you want to make them into. Because the truth is, as much as you may believe you can, you cannot change another person, no matter how much you love them or how much they love you. That is why, whatever your expectations, if a potential partner does not meet them, you will both be much happier if you cut your losses and move on than if you spend the next ten years trying to change that person. I tell you that as someone who spent three years a very miserable size four, blond vegetarian.

But, then it happens! You find someone who isn’t all the things you don’t want. It may be someone you have known for years or it may be someone you just met. All you know is that this is the person you want to spend the rest of your life with. And you should. Because when you know, you know. And when that happens, I promise, you won’t need to date one more person to figure it out. Because your list will be complete.

How did you know he or she was The One? Share your thoughts.

Thursday, August 20, 2009

The Perfect Walk

I wasn't the type of girl who spent hours dreaming about my wedding day. Maybe it was because most of the time I was in the backyard digging holes, or fishing, or lighting my brother on fire (only once and he asked me to do it). So to those who knew me, it was no surprise that when I started planning my wedding it didn't include a fancy church packed with 400 people watching me walk down the aisle wearing a hand stitched wedding dress with a 28 foot train as live trumpeters played The Wedding March followed by the release of 12 white doves as my husband and I ran through the church and were carried off in a horse drawn carriage to a country club serving a gourmet dinner with foods that I still can't pronounce.

Because if you know me at all you know that I would have tripped over the dress, been scared of the doves (because I don't care what anyone says they can poke your eyes out) and sadly, I would have asked for a side of bacon with my chive blini with caviar and creme fraiche.

There were only a few non-negotiables when it came to my nuptials. Since my dad is a pastor, I wanted my him to marry me. And since my dad would be performing the ceremony, I wanted my brother to walk me down the aisle. And eventually, I knew who I wanted to marry.

Ten years ago today I took the perfect walk that ended with saying "I do," to a man who has been true to every vow we said on that day.

We often joke about how many things went wrong on our wedding day. In fact, people who believe in bad omens wouldn't bet that we would make it to our first anniversary, much less our tenth. Let me give you a brief overview.

- Our photographer was two hours late.

- The AV tech was late. All of the microphones, the cd player and AV equipment was locked up. The wedding party (including me) was walking out to music on a CD because my brother (who was also playing the music for the rest of the wedding) was walking me down the aisle. At 3:50 my dad came into the bride's room (where the photographer was still frantically taking pictures to make up for being late). He said, "Kristen, don't panic, but the AV guy isn't here yet." I said, "Dad, I don't care if everyone has to stand up and hum Here Comes the Bride. At 4 o'clock, I am walking down that aisle and getting married." The AV guy showed up five minutes before the ceremony, which started exactly at 4 p.m.

- Richie's cousin, who was singing the song during the lighting of the unity candle, learned a Steven Curtis Chapman song. Unfortunately, he learned the wrong Steven Curtis Chapman song. Luckily we discovered this during the rehearsal (albeit at the very end), so we turned the solo into a duet with one of my bridesmaids who knew the right song and it turned out to be very lovely.

- The unity candle wouldn't light (photo on left). Lesson learned - If you are getting married, or know someone who is, tell them to light the unity candle during the rehearsal. Otherwise the wick is still covered in wax from the factory and you have to burn that off before the candle will stay lit.

- At the reception, the band was two hours late (do you see a theme here?). Again, the sound system was locked up, so we had two hours with a dance floor but no music. We ended up dancing our first dance an a cappella version of Shania Twain's From This Moment sung by one of my best friends in the whole world. (The very same one who sang the duet). Our friends and family circled the dance floor and the sound of Kim's heavenly voice filled the ballroom. To this day, it was the most perfect dance of my life.

- Time for the champagne toast and you guessed it, no champagne. We decided to just use punch. They were out of punch, so we opted for water, straight from the drinking fountain.

The thing is, if I had it to do all over again, I wouldn't change a thing. The best memories from my wedding are centered around the things that went wrong. With all of the wedding day craziness, when the doors opened and I started walking toward my future husband, his eyes were locked solely on me. The look on his face told me that if the whole world came crashing down around us we would be okay.

And sometimes it does. And we are.

During the past 10 years, we have been richer and poorer, in sickness and health. Through better and through worse. And what I have found is this. It isn't the days where you are rich and healthy and better that you find out what your marriage is made of. The days you know that the man or woman you married is the one you want by your side til' death do you part is when you are poor and sick and worse. It is when there is no champagne and the band is late -

and you dance anyway.

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Chapter 2; Pg.1 - The Mommy File

August 3 of this year marked the fifth anniversary of my mommyhood. We celebrated, as most people do, with a party in honor of my daughter's birthday, as opposed to a day of margaritas and manicures celebrating the fifty pounds I gained, stretch marks on my thighs, 14 hours of labor culminating in a grand finale of pushing a little bundle of squished up mush, ten fingers, ten toes, black hair on a little round head topping what I'm sure were the biggest shoulders ever out of someplace that shoulders should never be pushed out of.

Because I believe that motherhood should be a lifelong celebration, I not only carry with me joy, love, overwhelming pride, and wallet size photos, but also 7 post baby pounds that I vow to never loose that remind me of how precious my children are to me. See how I made that about my maternal calling and not my undying love for Ben and Jerry's. Feel free to go ahead and use that for whatever you need.

Anyway, for the past five years, my life has been described by two words that are probably familiar to many of you; working mom. For those of you who don't know, a string of health issues led me to resign last week, making this the first time I haven't worked outside the home since I was 16. In addition to our five year old we also have a 16 month old, so staying at home with them is definitely a full time job. My daughter starts kindergarten this year and I have already volunteered for several committees, which means I am already laying out plans to make the elementary yearbook will be better than most high school books with an accompanying website, blog, and flash video.

Monday was my first full time mom day. Some of you may know that I actually haven't been back at work since April when my "routine surgery" went awry. However, there was something different about being off on leave and actually not having a job to go back to. If I was going to be a full time mom then I was going to rock at it. It was somehow okay for me to just sort of scrape by as a mom when I was working 50 hours a week, but if this was my only gig then I better knock it out of the park.

Even after a couple pain killers and an Ambien sleep would not come Sunday night. Maybe it was the seven day migraine I was battling or the relentless abdominal. Or maybe it was the fact that I had just resigned from my job of eight years, wasn't sure if I could qualify for disability, and didn't know when we could schedule the surgery that supposedly could fix the stuff first one screwed up. Either way, my insomnia left me plenty of time to plan my first day in my new career as a full time wife, mom and writer.

First on the list was to get up with the kids and make their favorite breakfast - pancakes and scrambled eggs. Then turn on the tunes and spend a little time cleaning up the wreckage left over from the swimming party we hosted the night before.

However, when the alarm went off at 6 a.m. my pain told me that this day might not be all that I had hoped for. No worries. The kids weren't up yet and I had time to take some pain medicine before the pitter patter of little feet was outside my door demanding food. By 7:15 my daughter's face was 6 inches from mine asking me if it was time to get up yet. After my attempts to convince her it wasn't failed (darn the sunrise), she was ready for breakfast.

Although the pain meds had kicked in and so had the drowsiness that the bottle warns you of. So, when my daughter asked me if she could have a Pop Tart for breakfast, I said sure. In fact, I didn't even get out of bed to get it for her. Dreams of homemade (or even microwaved) pancakes were quickly replaced by Pop Tarts in front of the TV.

Okay - regroup.

I told myself that breakfast aside, I could still get the house cleaned, load the dishwasher, put the laundry away, write a blog post, go to the grocery store, and make dinner. I had illusions of making that play dough out of flour and baking soda (or salt, or something) that my grandma used to make for us when we were kids, but those dissolved somewhere during the hour (or two) that the Disney Channel was raising my children for me.

I quickly learned that working at home is a lot like working the office. I had a "To Do"List" that seemed to get longer instead of shorter even though I was busy all day long. On the above list, I managed to find the living room floor, but not vacuum it, load and run the dishwasher but not unload it, and put one load of laundry in the washer, but on the dryer. If you note the date, the blog post is a week late, and the clean laundry has been in a pile on the floor for six days. I did make dinner, but instead of a pecan crusted salmon with steamed broccoli and cornbread I whipped up a deluxe banquet of Manwhich and Cheetos.

Added to the To Do list were several games of The Littlest Pet Shop Game (which, by the way is the most confusing game ever), dancing, dress up, races between of the Batmobile and Barbie car.

I was in bed by 8:30.

As exhausted as I was, I still didn't sleep well. My mind was swimming with questions and realizations from this first page of the new chapter of my life. Was I ready to give up a full time career as a successful PR professional to spend my days changing diapers and playing The Littlest Pet Shop Game (even if I did get to be the ferret)? Was I a bad mother to even have these feelings? The day, although exhausting, had made me realize how wonderful it was to spend time with my children without the pressure of work hanging over my head. It was literally the first time I had ever been able to enjoy being with my kids without worrying about a deadline, a board meeting, a looming crisis, or an upcoming event. I wrote a speech the day I brought my daughter home from the hospital from crying out loud.

As I lay there waiting for the Ambien to kick in I thought about my last five years as a working mom and aboth this new chapter in my life. I thought about the things I missed along the way the last five years while I was doing my corporate To Do list. I thought about the things I would miss while doing my mommy To Do list. I made a decision right there in my watermelon pj's not to regret any of my choices, in past or present chapters. Those choices made me who I am, and more importantly, they made my kids who they are and after spending a day with them I confirmed what I had guessed all along; Our kids are pretty cool people.

So whether you are a mom working outside the home or a mom working at home please share your tips, tricks and ideas because, let's face it, some days are Pop Tart days for all of us.

Photo credits: You guessed it, those are my beautiful, fun, smart, and incredibly talented kiddos.

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Monday, August 10, 2009

Closing a Chapter

When I was growing up I aspired to be four things things; a country singer, a hair dresser, Ms. America, and the first female President of the United States. My mom had somewhat dif

Reba album coverImage via Wikipedia

ferent plans for my life. As early as I can remember - somewhere around, oh I don't know, birth, she would tell me, "Kristen, you are going to grow up, graduate from high school, go to college, graduate from college, fall in love, get married, and then have a baby."

When I would share my dreams with her, she would explain that while I was a wonderful singer (I sounded remarkably like Reba McEntire thanks to my dual cassette player), it would be hard to achieve that dream because country singers have to sing in bars (my dad was a preacher, so that was out). She said that if I still wanted to be a hair dresser after I went to college and got my degree, then we could talk. She didn't really address the Ms. America issue, but I was only 5'4", and Ms. Montana never made the top 25, so who were we kidding. She did, however, believe that I could be the first female president, which is why she didn't vote for Hillary.

My mom got most of it right. I did graduate from high school and college, although I must admit I fell in love before I graduated. We waited until we graduated to get married. Aside from a few kareoke stunts, (all in bars) I haven't made it big in the country scene. Aside from a few botched haircuts (sorry Richie) I really haven't made it big in the hair stylest scene.

Nowhere in my plan did I end up in Texas working in school PR.

For the past 12 years I spent five days a week dedicating my life to spreading the good news about Texas Public Schools. It may not be as glamorous as Nashville, but it has been the most fulfilling job one could ask for. Public schools have long been a whipping board for people who usually have a political agenda and probably have not set foot in one in the past 30 years. Almost everyone will say that education is their number one priority and yet very few people will step up to the plate when it comes time to actually vote to fund that priority or to volunteer to make those schools a better place.

Public schools accept all students, regardless of ability, income, race, limitations, special needs, language spoken, parental support, or even if they have a home to go home to. We are very aware that many of our students eat their only two hot meals when they come to our schools. What you hear is that public schools these days aren't safe. What you don't hear is that for many of our students, school is the safest place they go all day. It is an escape from their life on the street, a life of abuse. It is the only chance that they have. It is the only place they go where someone believes in them. You don't hear the stories about the teenage mother who goes back to school and works to graduate while the district pays for her child to be in daycare. If not for that success story of public school, we would have a single mother with no way to support her daughter.

And still, with all of these challenges, Texas public schools are succeeding at a higher rate than ever before. Test scores are rising, even with ever increasing standards. More students are graduating and going to college or getting certificates that will allow them to go into the workforce with a skill. There are more success stories than ever before.

I encourage you to visit a public school near you. If you haven't been into a public school in the past ten years you will be amazed what you find. You will see dedicated teachers utilizing technology and the latest teaching methods. You will find incredible diversity in even the most suburban districts. You will see challenges and you will see successes.

I closed the chapter on my time in school PR last week. I resigned from my position as the Director of Communications for Eagle Mountain-Saginaw ISD for health reasons after nine years in the district. But as I move on to a new chapter in my life I will continue to be an avid supporter of public schools. I hope you will take another look at our public school system. I realize it isn't perfect, but I am certainly proud to have been a part of it.

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