Hi There

Long time, no talk to. I just wanted to stop by and say hi and say I’m sorry for being MIA here. It’s not you, it’s me. It was 2017, it was politics, it was anxiety, it was exhaustion, it was everything. I had and still have a lot to say about the things that transpired last year, but whenever I sat down at my blog to write, I found myself tired. Unmotivated to share. Unwilling to talk.

Believe me, I had those conversations in person, but not often and not with everyone, because honestly, I just didn’t have the stamina. There was so much about last year that bothered and hurt me and kept me so angry and scared. Personally, it was a wonderful year; I taught my two classes, had a lot of fun with family and friends, and really cemented my bond with my husband after a shaky first year of marriage.

But the world, man, the world just grinded me in its teeth and I felt all the negative emotions.

I donated, I read, I got off of social media for about 8 months (except for Instagram). I did the small things I could to keep my sanity, but every time I even briefly looked at CNN or Washington Post or NY Times or BBC, I just felt my resolve crumble and I would have to build myself up all over again. So I just stayed focused on my small world and turned inwards.

I know the cycle of life pretty well by now: personally and professionally, those waves usually don’t coincide because when one is up, the other is down. Not so this past year! My relationship with Timmy made amazing strides forward and now I can finally see what people mean when they say marriage is fun. It is now and it’s definitely something I treasure more than anything. Professionally, I made even more strides towards my overall career goals, and as soon as I felt myself start to lag or bore with my routine, fate intervened and has provided me with even more amazing pathways.

I won’t share it all right now because it hasn’t all transpired and I don’t want to jinx myself, but let’s just say, if things go the way I would like (and have planned for), god, 2018 may be my best year ever, which is hard to say after my 30th year.

So I guess what I wanted to say is I’m sorry I cut you out. It really wasn’t you, it was me. And in 2018, I’m going to use this blog how it was intended: to fill you in on our lives in FL, and the quirky, ridiculous, fun, infuriating, amazing things that happen to Timmy, Floyd, and I on a constant basis. Stay tuned my friends, and let’s make 2018 a fantastic year (which let’s face it, after 2017, can we say there’s no where else but up?)

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♥, VB

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Demos and Renos

Things are good. Things are much much much better. Life is now at an excellent place, both personally and professionally, after months on end of merely existing and praying that this space would arrive again in our lives. We can finally breathe in, expand our lungs, and breathe out again.

So what better time to tell you about our new house??

Yeah, at some point I’ll get around to recapping the wedding weekend, but those are much longer stories for another day. I figured that everyone loves a before and after, so let me fill you in on our renovating and where our house is now. Sprinkled throughout are tips that we learned throughout this super stressful, incredibly anxiety-ridden process that can hopefully help and spare you the pain and fights.

But if we’re being honest, no matter what I share with you, you’re gonna eventually duke it out at some point over tile choices or something as equally dumb. It’s a fact of life, like taxes and death.

Tip #1: If you’re planning on renovating a house, get a prescription for you and your partner for an anti-anxiety medication or medical marijuana.

Holy crap you guys. No matter how prepared I try to be for situations, like renovating a house (for which my only reference is HGTV and the DIY network), this is one of the most stressful things I’ve ever dealt with (and in the same year as our wedding, so it’s a miracle I didn’t end up institutionalized).

I’ve never been more stressed out in a year’s time than this past year.

With the wedding planning, purchasing, renovating, design, Timmy’s travel schedule, my work, and moving, I lost it many, many, many times. The house hunting was incredibly frustrating since Timmy wanted a turn key home, but I knew that at our budget, we wouldn’t be able to find a turn key home unless it was over $400k. We HAD to find a house that could use some renovations in order to be able to afford it in the first place. Eventually, after about 4 months of house hunting, we found one that had all the things we were both looking for that actually felt like our home the second we stepped in it.

But it was butt-ugly inside. Early 90s, butt-ugly. With features suitable for a wheelchair-bound person (of which we are not…one day, probably sooner than later, yes, but not now).

We agreed early on that renovations were a must. However, like with all financial crap that goes along with buying a house, the things you don’t know will end up haunting you later. We didn’t get the mortgage structured the way we needed to in order to complete renovations without having to take out another loan. And if you attempt to take out a loan so soon after purchasing a home, you don’t have enough equity in the house yet, so the amount you can get approved for isn’t going to be the amount you need to complete the renovations.

Taking out another credit card or personal loan were not options with their interest rates. And we are the dumbassess who began demolishing everything before we had the funds in place. We had absolutely no other option than to renovate because we had torn the kitchen and two bathrooms completely apart. So we had to borrow from Timmy’s brokerage accounts in order to pay for the renovations, which caused him an unbelievable amount of stress because he’s the most strict about paying into his retirement accounts.

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Financial discussions had been had by us many times, but it seemed like during this process, things we said were forgotten easily, so who was paying for what and where was this money coming from and when did this thing need to be paid for were issues that had us fighting nearly every day. Not to mention that every decision that goes into renovating and designing a kitchen and 2 bathrooms isn’t just ONE decision, it’s a million little details.

Like I’ve stated before on this blog, Timmy and I do not make decisions the same way. Timmy needs time to analyze and compare; I don’t. Timmy’s travel schedule for work meant that he couldn’t get to some decisions in a timely manner, and no matter that I involved him from beginning to end, our decision-making styles and abilities to remember all the big and little things just didn’t sync up.

When I say we had fights, I mean we had FIGHTS. The biggest, baddest, worst fights of our relationship.

Looking back, I wish I had been medicated for a large portion of the renovations. It would’ve helped me keep my cool and remain patient in situations where all reason had left the building.

Tip #2: Be really, really, really, BRUTALLY honest about the things you can DIY and the things you should hire professionals to do.

I watch HGTV and DIY quite a bit. I, like most people, after watching those shows think to myself, “That doesn’t look so hard! I can totally do that!”

Those channels are big, fat, fucking liars.

Anything you watch on those shows takes you 2-5 times longer to accomplish in real life. Demolishing a wall doesn’t take you 20 minutes, it takes you an hour. Removing tile from the floor with the exact same tool they use on that show doesn’t take you 2 hours, it takes you 7 hours. Plus all the time you have to stop, catch your breath, rehydrate, return the tool to the Home Depot rental store so you don’t pay overages, then going back to rent it again the next day.

I seriously thought things like removing cabinet doors, demo-ing walls and floors, removing countertops, etc. would go as easy as it does on those shows. But if you don’t have a saw to remove the countertop/backsplash from around outlets without electrocuting yourself, you have to pay someone else to do it. You can open up a wall that is seemingly empty and find that all of the electrical wiring from your entire home to your breaker box is in that one random wall. You can remove a double sink countertop from the master bathroom but without a new spinal injection, you don’t have the strength to carry it downstairs to have hauled away so you just leave it in the middle of the living room.

We had to replace our water heater, clean out our vents, and have our AC unit serviced because it began to leak water, which set off our water leak detector from the old water heater. If you’ve ever heard this detector going off, it is deafening. Since I didn’t even know we had the detector, I thought it was the smoke detector. Since my efforts to silence the alarm weren’t working, I called the fire department who ended up informing me of this detector and making me feel like the dumbest person who ever existed on earth.

I assumed we could do the tiling. But you have to measure correctly, know how to mix tile and grout, be able to cut tile down that doesn’t fit, make sure all the tiles are lined up, all with working a full-time job, teaching class, and traveling out of town. We simply couldn’t accomplish a lot of the things we had originally decided to DIY because it would’ve set our timeline back 4 months.

Since we found metal studs in some of our walls, the option of mounting our TVs all of the sudden became a daunting task and one that I was not willing to tackle since I don’t know the first things about mounting anything with metal studs. So we hired someone to mount 3 of our flat screens TVs (and he did a better job than I ever could considering he hid all the wiring and they are beautiful!).

So what were we able to do? Well there was stuff we could realistically accomplish that we didn’t have to hire anyone to do. We were able to paint the bathrooms (which required a dual paint job because Timmy hated the paint colors our designer picked out originally), the living room, and the 2 bedrooms. We put together all the Ikea vanities and cabinets. We put together bed frames, installed new handles on our cabinets and drawers, and painted our old kitchen cabinets. We sanded and restained/sealed our deck.

Because Timmy’s work schedule kept him traveling most of the time, a lot of the updates had to be done by me after work or on the weekends. I was able to replace our dining room chandelier, hallway sconce light, closet light fixture, outdoor motion detector light, and 4 ceiling fan light kits. I installed new garage door sensors, garage remote key pad, and changed the code for Timmy’s garage door opener and remote. I repainted our garage doors, our front door, spray painted our house numbers, hung our old cabinets from the kitchen in the garage, organized our garage, hung our bikes, and replaced our automatic outdoor lights. I’ve replaced showerheads and door handles, put together our deck furniture and new dining chairs… it just never ends.

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Old disgusting hallway sconce

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New and improved hallway sconce

Our next major projects are to have our 2 decks re-screened because our current screens have big, gaping holes in them and to repair a few roof tiles that are cracked.

We are hiring people for those jobs.

It’s one thing after another. You get some work done, only to find out that the rest of it can’t be completed by you so you have to stop and figure out how much it’ll be to have a professional do it. And that’s how it adds up, little by little, driving both you and your budget out-of-control.

Tip #3: Don’t live in a reno zone if you can help it.

Living in a renovation zone after the year we had was NOT an option. I have no doubts that Timmy and I would’ve separated before the year was done if we’d gone that route.

Timmy and I had worked out that if we were able to purchase a house by August or September, we could have 3 months of solid renovations going and completed by the time we had to move out of our apartment in January.

We almost made that timeline.

For the most part, renovations didn’t begin until the end of October. Our contractors and designer rushed to get the majority of the bathrooms and kitchen completed before we left to go home to Atlanta for Christmas. We cut our trip home short because there was just too much to do in St. Pete, so we didn’t get to see anyone except family that trip. Once we returned to St. Pete, we immediately began packing for a January 3 move.

Unfortunately,  Timmy didn’t schedule his pod (the one with all his stuff from his Lake Mary apartment that he moved out of back in January 2016) to be delivered to the house until nearly 2 weeks later. And both my move and the pod unpacking were done without his presence since he decided to go to the Sugar Bowl and then had a work trip planned.

The Sugar Bowl trip, while I wish he had been a tad more thoughtful, actually worked in my favor since he was out of the house and I could just focus on putting stuff away on my own. I was the one who had encouraged him to go so he could 1) hang out with friends and have a good time and 2) stay out of my way on a very stressful day.

We decided late in the game to order glass shower doors for our master bathroom, so those were delivered, but then the company had to reschedule due to an injury. So for two weeks, we had HUGE glass doors taking up large amounts of space in our master bedroom that couldn’t be moved anywhere else since they weighed too much. Not to mention, that we slept on a mattress and boxspring alone in the guest room for close to two weeks before that.

For a few weeks we lived with unpacked boxes all over the place, until finally I was able to unpack everything and move the unneeded items to our garage storage. And then we could relax and actually enjoy the space we had worked so hard to create.

Tip #4: If you don’t care about something, don’t care about it.

During a renovation, it is imperative that you pick your battles. Simply put, if you couldn’t care less about what goes on the walls, or the grout color, or the exact handles for cabinetry, stay not caring about it. If you have an opinion on everything, that person should be the main decision maker and only bring the other person in for big stuff.

If you and your partner try to make a joint decision on EVERYTHING, you will both lose. Your patience, your time, and your sanity.

Tip #5: Once it’s done, move forward.

“But you didn’t ask me what I thought about this!!!” “I hated that color!!” “You are so selfish!!”

Once the renovations are done and you’re in your house, let it go. You get resentful, angry, and disrespectful when stress is at an all-time high. Whatever you did, whatever you said, you have to be able to move forward if you’re to enjoy the new spaces you’ve created. You can’t relax when you’re constantly reliving everything that pissed you off during the reno. Leave it in the past, and come to a new place in your relationship.

Hey, you just survived a renovation! It’s time to celebrate!

Next time, those before and afters I promised you…

♥, VB

One Day at a Time

Ok, so it’s obvious that I have kinda given up on blogging. Life since getting married suddenly picked up speed and lately it has felt like I’m on a runaway train and it’s taking me everything I have to stop for milliseconds to look up and glance fleetingly at my surroundings.

It’s all going by so fast.

And we’ve decided to take on even more major life choices since our wedding, which has only lended itself to making me feel like I’m participating in my own life through fogged up goggles and ear muffs. It’s the weirdest feeling, to be making super adult decisions yet inside feeling like, huh? what? where? who? what are we doing?

Is this what happens for everyone after getting married? Because if this was some big secret that married couples have been keeping a secret from everyone, I’d like to send a big F you to y’all for leaving me so unprepared for and unaware of the next steps.

This blog was the first to get the ax for a while there. I have so much that I want to share (and at the same time, don’t want to share) but I just didn’t have the time or energy to put it all out here like usual business. So now, I’m going to try to retrace my steps and keep you in the loop of our lives here in St. Pete.

It’s been a doozy of a few months to say the least.

Timmy and I have now celebrated nearly 4 months of marriage. We’ve seen each other in person about half that time. His job takes him on the road to Atlanta, Jacksonville, Pensacola, Miami, and anywhere else in GA and FL just over half of the month. Our only real time is the weekends, which used to consist of us frolicking at the beach with beer and football throwing followed by seafood and sleep. Those weekends have since been replaced by hour after hour of demolition at our new house in south St. Pete.

Work has been really crazy for me, which is unusual, because in the almost 4 years I’ve worked at USFSP, I haven’t once felt like my plate was too full. But now, I’m teaching my class, working full time, advising my student group, and at the same time preparing to co-chair a strategic planning committee for our entire division, grade papers, see students for consultations, and preparing to teach a 2nd class in the spring.

Needless to say, we’re exhausted about 120% of the time.

And it’s been a struggle for us to maintain a sense of connection when nearly every night, we wait so long to Skype each other that we’re too tired to really talk and catch up. The majority of our marriage has been: “Hey love, what are you doing?” “Driving and then I have to…oops, I have a call from [insert name here]/I have a meeting to go to. Gotta go!” “OK love you.” “Love you.”

But honestly, I married this person because of the lifelong challenges he and our decisions together would have me face, in order to make me a better person. And all the decisions we’ve made up until this point have absolutely had the “is this is the right decision for us” question right at the heart of them. So while for now, our life seems like chaos, all day, every day, and we’re like passing ships in the night, afternoon, and morning, we’re going in the right direction.

It all started with our wedding weekend, which now, looking back, seemed awfully dramatic and hectic. While every moment I could control was filled with hope and laughter and honest joy at the thought of marrying Timmy, the other moments were also filled with other people behaving badly. I have since gained enough time away from that weekend to realize that I can selectively filter out those moments and remember only the love.

There was so much love. It makes me happy to remember it that way. And it was so much fun because there will never be another time we can have those people in the same room at the same time ever again. Not to mention our photos and videos are the BOMB.

Where are the photos, you may be asking right now. I know, I know, I’ve only shared about 4-5 photos out of the almost 1000 we got back. I have gotten MANY requests to share those photos. There are a number of reasons why I made the executive decision (and yes, it was just me and not Timmy and I) to not share them, but the main reason is this: I don’t want to. Ok hear me out…

Don’t get me wrong, that weekend was crazy fun. But it was also a weekend that happened to spin a little out of my control and left me feeling like the most private moment of my life happened in the most public way possible. At least, what I had wanted to be private turned out to be shared with nearly 280 people, lots of whom know me not at all.

So the jokes I cracked in my vows, only a small percentage understood them. The super personal declarations of love and our ability to rise beyond our history was only really understood by even fewer who knew about that time in our lives. And the rest of our audience didn’t have a real sense of our lives because they hadn’t lived it with us. Not by anyone’s fault, but simply because that’s how life is.

So for that reason, I choose to keep the photos private. They’ve been shared with the people that matter, the people that spent hours and time and money on us and our weekend, but that’ll probably be about it. I may choose to share a photo here and there, but don’t expect much.

And that’s that.

We haven’t been able to sort fully through the wedding videos, because while time kept moving for us, it didn’t for one of Timmy’s groomsmen. James unexpectedly passed away in his sleep about 2 months after our wedding. And it has only added to the feeling of our lives being one step ahead of us and we’re just running after the train, trying to get back on it.

Timmy has been struggling. I’ve been struggling. Adjusting to the death of a friend is difficult (to put it lightly), but something has shifted since being in our 30s and this death has taken on a new significance and sadness. It’s just different losing someone in your 30s than your 20s or younger. Sure it affects you back then, but you’re just a baby. You have no real concept of life, of how wonderful it can be, or how much life can surprise you if you let it.

You get it in your 30s. You’ve seen enough of life to understand that you can rise above the hardships and get lost in the wonder. When you lose someone now, it’s sadness on a level you didn’t know you could go. When Jake passed, we at least had time for closure. We knew his death was coming for a long time, so when he did die, it wasn’t this huge sense of shock. There was almost a sense of relief at him being released from the pain of cancer.

James just passed. Period. End of sentence. No opportunity for goodbye. None. Timmy didn’t handle it well. And I wasn’t handling this new space of marriage well. And it was all I could do to just let him be in the middle of grief and give him space to move through it. He’s doing slightly better, but there are still moments of tears, moments of true sadness as he misses his friend.

So thank you to everyone who reached out to the both of us, expressing your condolences and sadness. Although we couldn’t get to everyone, it meant the WORLD to us and especially to Timmy to know that you also thought James was ridiculous in the best way possible. Know that your love to Timmy was felt and appreciated.

And did I mention that we bought a house? Yea, how much can we pile on??? Our lives at this moment remind me 100% of this scene from My Cousin Vinny.

Except our lives right now are about 1/3 as funny.

Anywho, that’s about it for right now. Next time, I WILL RECAP OUR REHEARSAL DINNER. I’m screaming that to myself to keep me accountable.

Till next time!

♥, VB

 

Italy, the Last Day: San Sano, Siena, and Life Changes

I’ve been putting off writing this post because it makes me sad. Sad to think our week in Italy is already THREE WEEKS AGO. At the time it didn’t feel like the week was moving fast, which Timmy and I commented on a number of times since we were so afraid the days were going to speed by without us knowing it. But each day passed normally and at an even tempo, allowing us to enjoy every minute of every day, but still, poof, it was over like that. Writing about our last day makes it crystal clear that this trip is ever so quickly becoming in the past.

Our last day in Italy was my second favorite day. After I’d gotten over the puking and drunkenness of the day before, we decided to take our time this day. Originally planning to go to Bologna and Prato, we decided earlier in the week to use our last day to sleep, relax, and take our time. We woke up, finally learned how to work the coffee maker in the villa (believe me, this was a freaking ordeal the entire week. I finally found the instructions, and it still took me a day to work it correctly), and sat outside to enjoy the beautiful morning.

San Sano, a town so small you can’t even find it on Google Maps, even when you zoom all the way in, is absolutely adorable. The town had a monastery that was converted into villas, with a small restaurant (that we only ate at once, unfortunately), a little store, a church, and vineyard. That was it. We were surrounded on all sides by grapes and olive trees. It was beautiful. We spent the morning walking around and enjoying this beautiful town. Warning: I tried to narrow down the pictures to include in this post, but I just couldn’t. The pictures don’t do this town justice; the views were unbelievable.

After touring the cuteness of San Sano, we took about a 15 minute drive to Castello di Brolio on a recommendation from the Muriccis. It was incredible, and we realized later, funnily enough, it ended up being a recommended spot in our guidebook for wine tastings! Apparently, the original owner of this castle, which overlooked miles and miles and miles of Tuscan hills, was the original creator of the Chianti wine recipe. Pretty cool huh? The property also had its own church, which was small but beautiful.

The castle itself was pretty, but the views…holy shit, I can’t even explain. These were the types of views you can only see in your mind’s eye. To see it in person was just unreal.

My favorite pictures came from this part of our day. Timmy wanted to recreate a picture he loved of his father, and I think it’s one of the best I’ve ever taken.

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I also snapped an excellent one of Timmy taking a selfie. 🙂

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After our trip to the Castle, we had a free wine tasting with our tour tickets, bought some wine, and headed to Siena, about 30 minutes away. My mom told me the Duomo in Siena was one of her favorite places in Italy she’d ever seen, so I was super excited to get there and see what she meant. The town itself is on a ginormous hill; Timmy and I took one look at the climb, and we almost decided HELL NO. But, cleverly enough, there were escalators that took you up the hill, so thank god for that transportation relief.

Once we got there, we were amazed. This small medieval town was so cute and so beautiful. We walked towards the Piazza del Duomo, with Santa Maria di Scala across from the entrance to the Duomo. The façade of the Duomo was unbelievable. The sun was starting to set, so we sat outside and took it all in.

We got tickets to see the major sites (Duomo, Museo dell’Opera del Duomo, the Baptistry, and the Crypt). When we entered the Duomo, I don’t think I’ve ever been more overwhelmed at the beauty of something in my entire life. Timmy said later that he got emotional inside the Duomo as well. We totally got why my mom loved it so much.

I’ve never seen anything like it. It was constructed with black and white marble, there was art everywhere, including the floors, ceilings, and walls, with carved busts of all the popes lining the entire interior of the cathedral. It was enormous. They had planned on making this cathedral the largest in the world, but ran out of money, which was lucky because they realized after that the foundation could never have supported the additions anyway.

If you go to Siena, this had better be a stop for you. I can’t imagine trying to do this in the summer because of the crowds, so try to go when you have time to wander and not feel pressure or anxiety. It’s worth every second.

I tried to keep the photos to a minimum on this post, but believe me, they don’t do this Cathedral any justice.

Afterwards, we went to the Piazza del Campo, home of the famous Palazzo Publico, Torre del Mangia, and the Palio di Siena, a twice-annual horse race that gives me anxiety just thinking about it. The sun was about to set and cast the most incredible light on the Piazza, so we sat down for our last dinner in Italy at Alla Speranza, while a group of singers sang songs on the other side of the Piazza. It was magical.

The day, from start to finish, was perfect. So many memories from this week, I don’t think my heart can contain them all without bursting. This was truly the trip of a lifetime. Thank you to the Sacinos for donating your villa and being so generous. Without you, we would never have had an opportunity like this to make these experiences a part of our lives.

Oh, I almost forgot to share our life changing moment, in case you were wondering…

We got engaged at Castello Di Brolio. 🙂

More on that story later.

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♥, VB

Sad Today, Sad Tomorrow

Today I am sad. The kind of sad that fills up every space in your body and mind, the kind of sadness you can’t let go of unless you cry it out. When I cry, it feels like I’m unplugging a full tub, and the water slowly starts to empty out until it begins to rush out.

Jake, our friend, our guest of honor for “30 Years, 1 Wish“, the man I knew since the 6th grade, passed away on Friday night from colorectal cancer. At 31 years old.

I keep going back and forth between emotions, between disbelief and just pure sadness, sadness for the life he won’t have now, sadness for the dad his son Aiden won’t get to know, the husbandly love he won’t get to show, the son and brother he won’t get to be. I’m sad for Timmy, who just lost another best friend. And I’m sad for myself.

This is now the 5th friend I grew up with that is gone. Saying things like, “Gone too soon” or “They were so young” just don’t quite capture the true tragedy that their losses have been in my life and in others. When Kyle, Lindsay, and Tommy passed away over the course of 8 months when we were 20 years old, I was of course sad. When they passed, it was devastating. I had never experienced death that close before, and their deaths were quick and totally unexpected.

Shortly after Lindsay, one of my best friends, passed away, I began experiencing debilitating panic attacks whenever I had to fly. I was convinced I was going to die, and any hint of turbulence would cause me to white knuckle the arm rests and cry until we landed. I was unprepared to deal with grief, and when it manifested as panic attacks or long spells of complete lack of concentration, I felt lost and confused. And I felt alone, at NYU, experiencing loss by myself.

I was sad because I missed them, especially Lindsay, who I will never ever meet another one like her in this lifetime. It wasn’t until 2 years after her death when it occurred to me that I hadn’t thought about her on a daily basis. It was knowing that they were done with life, already, and we hadn’t even graduated college. They weren’t going to explore their 20s and figure out who they are and how they want to affect the world. They weren’t going to fall in love again, then fall out of love again, get their first sucky entry-level job, and make mistakes, then make memories. They weren’t going to eventually figure out that their parents weren’t that bad and that they were more blessed than they had ever given thanks for in the past.

When Clay passed away a few years ago, it was clear a long time ago to many of us that it was the path in life that he had been destined to go down. Having battled addiction many times over the years, he unintentionally overdosed. I had known Clay since the 2nd grade and he was my boyfriend during that amazing memory of my life, also known as getting kicked out of school. When the rest of us turned our lives around, he was stuck and never quite got free. When I heard of his death, I was sad that he wasn’t able to fight his demons and come out victorious. I was sad for his family who had tried to help and had failed. I was sad because his life was also over, already, and we were all really just getting started.

But Jake passing, at 31, is a completely different story for me.

At 30 years old, I get life in a way that I didn’t get when I was 20. I’ve lived an extra 10 years than they did, and I experienced so much. I’ve experienced things I never thought I had in store for me and was able to accomplish nearly every single goal I had set out for myself after that year of hell at 20 years old. At 30, I understand my place in life, what I’ve been put here to do, and who I ultimately answer to at the end of the day. I have a sympathy for people that I didn’t necessarily have when I was a selfish 20 year old, and I see now that what I do has to affect others in the most positive way possible. My parents and I are close friends, which at 20, was a laughable notion, if not completely hopeless.

I understand the good qualities I have and the ones that I want to have. I see myself as a future mother and am proud of myself as a partner to an amazing person, committed until the end, having been tested more than I thought possible. I still have another lifetime to live, and I have lived what I got so far to the fullest ability.

I am sad because Jake won’t get to fulfill more goals. I am sad that he had to live in such pain, for so long, which no one deserves. He doesn’t have any more time to get shit done, and see how his amazing legacy affects his son. How his son will take the best parts of Jake and be an even better example of humility and strength than Jake was (even though I don’t know if that’s possible). How we will take what he taught us, how to be strong, how to shut the fuck up and stop complaining, how to be humorous when all humor is gone, how to work your ass off even in the midst of complete pain and agony, and pay it forward. How even though he stayed out of touch for so long, those 3.5 years we had with him meant more to us than he’ll ever know.

I am thankful that our party gave him another boost, another chance to reconnect with people and touch their lives the way he touched ours. I’m thankful that seeing him at our party is the last memory they may have of Jake, one that is strong, fighting, and respected. I’m thankful that we were able to give his family another network of people who supported them in this fight, who wanted to help them any way they could.

We may not be able to attend the memorial services this Saturday because my family and I have a trip to Spain coming up to celebrate my grandmother’s 100th birthday. That’s right, her centennial. It’s a hugely big deal, 1) because she’s the last grandparent standing for both Timmy and I; 2) I missed her 90th birthday because I missed my flight in college; and 3) that’s an effing long time to live. I’m trying my best to remind myself to be present on Sunday, mentally and emotionally, as we celebrate an amazing milestone in an amazing life.

Because of this though, I’m sad that I won’t be able to pay my respects to the family who included us in every major part of Jake’s journey these last few years. Even though I know they know we love them, that we loved Jake, and would’ve done anything we could, it still means the world to be there at the very end.

I’m sad that loss exists at all. I’m sad that I have to see my blessings through the prism of death, knowing that I am truly grateful for being alive because they are not. I’m sad for these lives that could have been, the lives that could have changed so many more, but won’t get to. And I’m sad because I don’t understand it, any of it, why it has to happen to the best people, and why the pain of loss never ever goes away.

I’m writing this down because I have to get it out, the words that are cluttering my head and my heart. I want others to know that tragedy happens to us all, and what we have to do is make the best of it. Turn those downfalls into uplifting futures. Tell their stories and share them far and wide. Never forgetting that our time here is limited and it’s what we do and how we treat others that matters. In fact, the only thing that matters in the end, the only thing that people remember, is whether you were nice or not.

I’ll never forget what these people taught me about becoming a better person, a better friend, a better human being. I hope they know that. I hope they knew that they were loved, and they are still missed.

Jake, I know that you knew that we loved you. We would have done anything, and we tried, to make your life better because you deserved it. You should have been here for a long time because you were just awesome. You fought as hard as you could to stay here, and Aiden will know that. We will make sure he knows that you were amazing and that if you had had a choice, you would’ve stayed. We will tell him that you cursed perhaps worse than us, that you were funny, dedicated, loyal as hell, and that you were the definition of a good friend. We will make sure he doesn’t go to UF, that he respects his mom, and that he wants to grow up to be just like you.

♥, VB

You will always be missed.

You will always be missed.