My kind of broken

img_1069Kelly Clarkson has this song called ‘Dark Side’ that I really love. It’s not as well known as some of her other hits but I think it has a lot of truth to it.

The gist of the song is that we all have a ‘dark side’ and she wonders if we can be loved despite that.

“Everybody’s got a dark side, do you love me? Can you love mine? Nobody is picture perfect, but we’re worth it, you know that we’re worth it.”

I think there’s this subconscious myth out there that in order for us single people to meet someone and have it work out, we are required to have it all together.

Emotionally, spiritually, intellectually and physically we have to be ‘good enough’.

We are told by well-meaning individuals to use this time to work on ourselves.

Accomplished, in shape, out of debt, well-traveled, an excellent cook…there’s a long litany of things we can (and ‘should’) achieve during our singlehood. Until then we are vastly insufficient, which is why Mr. Wonderful is nowhere to be found.

Okay so yeah, I think self-improvement is a good thing – scratch that – an essential thing.

Isn’t the point of life pretty much to be a  better person day in and day out?

What I would like to challenge is this misconception that you’re single because you’re not good enough…You need this time to become better. Everyone else has already obediently achieved perfection (gee, what’s taking you so long?).

Not so, you want to use this time to become better. And all the time – even long after the right person has wandered into your life (took them long enough!).

No matter how hard you work right now on yourself, you will never be “done”.

Kelly Clarkson knew what she was talking about when she said we all have a dark side.

Insecurities that run as deep as our blood, hurts that still sting, jealousy, greed, vanity, selfish tendencies…these are vices we will be fighting our whole lives. And as soon as we feel we’ve improved in one area, ten other places that need some help will make themselves evident.

In fact, I believe that a lot of our “garbage” isn’t even apparent until someone tries to get a little too close. Struggles we didn’t even know we had come out of nowhere and slap us across the face as someone attempts to know us intimately.

Yes, we should certainly and continually strive for self-improvement – but this isn’t what makes us lovable or worthy of being in a relationship.

We’re already there, friends.

The question isn’t, ‘are we good enough?’ The question is the one KC poses: “Can you love me, even with my dark side?”

Sometimes the answer will be ‘no’, and that’s okay; it is heartbreaking and devastating too, I know. However dating is a discernment, and the question of ‘can I carry this person’s wounds?’ is one much better asked before marriage than after.

We only need one person to say this for the rest of our lives.

We all deserve to be with someone who will see us – brokenness and all – and say:

“this is my kind of broken.”

There are wounds that take a lifetime to heal, bad habits that we are perpetually ridding ourselves of.

The right person won’t ‘fix’ us, they will support and understand our journey toward healing and growth.

We have a responsibility to work on ourselves, to try and try and try again even if we fail 100 times before seeing a minuscule amount of progress. But this responsibility doesn’t go away once we are in a committed relationship – if anything it increases since we now want to be better not only for our own sake but for this person so dear to us.

You are not single because you need to work on yourself; you need to work on yourself, that’s it.

And, so does the person you date/marry.

The beautiful thing is that we are lovable right now, in our brokenness. And for the right person, we will be the right kind of broken (as odd as that may sound).

I know that there is so much that I want to work on, my dark side is dark. I also know that doesn’t stop me from being able to be loved and known intimately.

“Love is never defeated”

Saint John Paul the Great

Love, love and keep loving




Monday 5: Perspective & other things I’m excited about this week


Happy Monday everyone! I hope your week is off to a great start.

This weekend was really a good one. Friday evening I had the privilege of hearing Immaculée Ilibagiza speak and it was truly inspiring (more on that later).

Saturday morning my brother and I hit up the local upscale thrift shop and a little later I got my hair cut!! There’s nothing like leaving the hair salon afterward, I always feel like a movie star. #bestdayever.

Saturday afternoon the Charleston pipe band played at a brewery near my house and it was so cool (and so loud). They were wearing kilts and everything, it was awesome (also, Ghost Monkey Brewery is my new favorite).

Saturday evening the Cundiffs went with me to their first oyster roast! We went to the Sullivan’s Island one that supports the fire station. It was a little chilly but not too bad. The oysters were so good and it was fun to watch the Cundiffs as they experienced it all for the first time.


Sunday was the Superbowl, obviously. We watched it with the youth group teens and even though I didn’t watch the game that much, had a great time. We played multiple games of foosball and ate a lot.

All in all a wonderful weekend.


Having said all of that, here are some things I’m excited about this week!

Seafood soup recipe

I tried this last week and it was delicious. The chef Nancy is a friend of my mom and my aunt Carrie’s and her recipes have been hits in our family. Her goal is to make healthy eating yummy which is good for me since I’ve been known to have chocolate chip cookies for lunch. Anyway, this South American inspired seafood soup was easy and yummy, I highly recommend it.   



This weekend my brother and I are helping lead a teen retreat together! It’s been a bit since I did this kind of weekend venture and I’ve definitely never done it with him. I’m excited to get away for a couple of days (we’re going to a retreat center called Camp Saint Christopher) and to have a weekend of service, which is always refreshing (and exhausting at the same time). It’s nice to have opportunities like this to be involved in the community, and to do so with family!



In Immaculée’s talk, she shared her story about surviving the Rwandan genocide. She spent 91 days in a 3X4 foot bathroom with 7 other women; not knowing if the that day would be her last. She came out three months later only to learn that her family and friends had all been killed. It was an incredible story of faith, strength and willingness to forgive. Sometimes I get so caught up in my struggles, my problems and difficulties that I forget how good I really have it; we all go through tough times, but they certainly aren’t all as bad as what Immaculée Ilibagiza had to go through. This kind of perspective is really necessary when you feel especially frustrated and discouraged. If she can survive 91 days of agony, waiting to meet her end, the death of her friends and family and the journey to forgiveness, then I think I can get through my own trials too. It could be so much worse; and even in the worst of it we know ‘this too shall pass.’



I’ve really been on a brewery kick recently. This weekend I went to two new ones I hadn’t been to before. The first was a brand new brewery on Daniel Island called Dockery’s. It is huge, which is kind of a nice change of space from the often crowded, smaller spots in Charleston. The beer was great and I loved the chic, rustic vibe. On Saturday I checked out Ghost Monkey which was awesome. It’s the opposite of Dockery’s in that it’s a tiny spot on the outskirts of Mount Pleasant. It has a very down-to-earth, no frills atmosphere that invites people to just have a good beer and a good time – no sophistication necessary. I’m not sure what it is about breweries that I like so much, I think they have a bit of a different feel than bars – they just seem more wholesome and cozy to me. In any case, I’ve very much enjoyed trying the different spots in the area.


Corinithians 13:4-7

Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. Love never fails.

Recently this verse has been on my mind a lot. To me it kind of answers the question of ‘what is love?’ Is it a feeling? A sentiment? A chemical reaction? Regardless of whether or not you are religious, I think these few sentences are a good starting point, something to keep in mind when we struggle with what it really means to love. It’s not always easy and it definitely doesn’t always feel good, we just have to hope that the effort will be worth it in the end.


Monday 5: Grace & other things I’m excited about this week

For possibly the first time in over a year, this past Friday night I made zero plans. I went to bed at 9pm and woke up almost twelve hours later. It was amazing. Saturday was also very restful with a tiny bit of productivity mixed in there (yay for errands). My friend Juliana came over and we made empanadas (a Latin American dish similar to enchiladas…but not the same. It’s not the same, people).

We had so much fun catching up (she lives in Connecticut during the school year) and we went dancing after! Nicholas joined us for that which made it even better.

Sunday was fun since my sister was home briefly so the gang was back together for brunch before church. Love love love.

I hope your weekend was fun and restful! Oh! And happy MLK day!!! Hopefully most of you have Monday off and will enjoy that too.

Apart from a long weekend, here are a few other things I’m excited about this week.

Dance classes

I am so glad I can finally talk about this! For weeks I’ve had to keep it a secret and now I can finally share! For Nicholas’ Christmas gift I got us dance classes! We went to our first private lesson Tuesday and Wednesday we had a group class and a ‘social’ afterward. I was a little nervous at how he would react (I don’t think many guys ask Santa for dance classes with their girlfriend) but he was pleased! It was fun (if a little awkward) and super helpful to have someone give us instruction. I think dancing is a good analogy for relationships in general. Sometimes it is awkward and it takes a lot of practice. Learning to navigate the steps with someone is really similar to learning to navigate the ins and out of being in relationship with another person. It is a skill that can be acquired if one is willing to put forth the time and effort necessary; and the result can be beautiful. We have another lesson this week which will be our last, hopefully our increased confidence will encourage us to go and dance more often!

Sleep spray

This may seem a little silly, but one of my Christmas gifts this year was a ‘Deep Sleep Pillow Spray‘ that I’ve been using and love it. It smells soo good! And relaxing. My sleeping recently has gotten a lot better (such a relief) and this spray has made me look forward to bedtime even more. I am a huge advocate of good rest and I think anything that makes it more enjoyable/attainable is a great thing.

Afternoon tea

Mom and I are planning a mother/daughter date to go to high tea! Growing up it was such a treat when we went to one of the nicer hotels that hosted an afternoon tea and I’ve been wanting to do so again for a while now. Dressing up, eating tiny sandwiches and drinking hot tea is such a nice way to spend an afternoon every now and then. I started watching the Crown too which has rekindled my love for everything British..including afternoon tea!


A rather humbling experience I had this weekend was attending my first Zumba class. I was so lost 99% of the time but enjoyed it nonetheless! I have basically zero hand/eye coordination but I’m hoping this will help me improve as well as get a better feel for feeling the beat of the music (another eternal struggle). I love the instructor at the class we go to and the Latin music makes it even better. It’s a fun, different way of getting exercise and I’m really excited to keep going Saturday mornings!

Year of Grace

Pope Francis declared 2018 the Year of Grace and I am so grateful. Something I’ve become uncomfortably aware of this past year is how often I need others to extend grace to me. And how often I need to show grace to myself. Making mistakes -sometimes the same ones over and over- is an inevitable part of life. The faster and more lovingly we can forgive ourselves and others, the more we can empathize and show compassion, the more our capacity to love grows. I can do very little without supernatural grace; especially loving myself or others. 2018 is going to be the year for us to practice receiving and sharing the grace that is available to us; something that improved our lives immeasurably.

Here’s to being just a little more grace-full today.




Monday 5: Obedience & other things I’m excited about this week


This weekend included the first lazy Saturday I’ve had in a while and it was amazing. We also got drinks with friends Friday evening, I had my first bachelorette party Saturday night and yesterday we paddle boarded all the way to Shem Creek! It took us a couple of hours, between the ride there, the drink we got there and our ride back. But it was so cool paddleboarding at night under the stars! Nicholas admitted he was worried about sharks for the last bit, but we made it safely without running into any finned friends.

We also decided to try Husk Sunday evening, one of the more well known upscale restaurants in Charleston but backed out at the last minute (it was so fancy) and decided to just try the bar food instead (like the peasants that we are). We ordered a basket of 6 pieces of fried chicken (which ended up being double of what we needed) and a side of lima bean salad. It was very good and we both enjoyed the outdoor patio scene, but it wasn’t amazing. Next time we’ll have to try the real deal and see if it’s actually worth the hype.

In any case, it was a great weekend and I feel a lot more well rested than I have in a while, and that is definitely something to be excited about! In addition to that, here are five more things I’m excited about this week.

Family visiting

Nicholas’ mother, sister and brother arrive here tonight! We are so excited (Nicholas especially, obviously) to see them and to show them around Charleston. We spent a fair amount of time yesterday afternoon putting together a tentative schedule of fun things to do while they are here! Additionally, my sister comes back from school for her Fall break Wednesday, and my dad will be here this weekend! I love when family gets together, especially when you live in a place that has so many opportunities for outings. The weather is supposed to be a little cooler too, so that is exciting!!


Anxiety can be super tricky. It creeps up on us and convinces us that are worst fears are becoming reality. It also becomes habitual, making it harder and harder to see things clearly. Our bodies become addicted to the chemicals released by the sympathetic nervous system when we feel fearful. This complicates matters further when we want to overcome anxiety because our bodies crave that rush of norepinephrine and adrenaline. There are medications out there I know are helpful for dealing with this, however I’m really trying to avoid that by relying on meditation instead. Mindfulness meditations have been shown to be successful in healing people of anxiety and increasing health and well-being. While I initially hated making time to do even just an 8 minute meditation, I’ve grown to really appreciate that time to just be and I’m hopeful that it is helping me make progress in my goal of being a calm, peaceful person. If you struggle with anxiety at all or are remotely interested in this, I highly recommend reading this book and doing the guided meditations that come with it.

This gyro recipe

Nicholas and I have been talking for a while about trying some Greek recipes, and last week we finally did! I loved this recipe for chicken gyros, it was simple and delicious. I will say gyros involve several steps, it was great doing it together but I know if I had done it alone I would have needed more time, so just a heads up. But it was so good! And a cool variation from our typical meals. I doubled the recipe for the five of us (three of which were men) and there were leftovers, which is always exciting. I plan on trying more recipes from this site soon!


As adults, obedience may not be something we think about often. After all, we’re adults, we do what we want…isn’t that the point? We don’t have to listen to teachers, parents, or older siblings who want to tell us what to do! However, I think obedience is actually still highly relevant even as we get older, especially in relationships. This article gave some interesting perspective on obedience in marriage and how it actually helps us to love more. It’s not about being a doormat or being walked all over, but it is about sacrifice and gift of self. Mutual obedience can actually lead to a deeper, more beautiful love than if we are constantly trying to push our own agendas…who would have thought?!

This quote

A couple whose family I spent vast amounts of time with for a few years in my childhood recently celebrated their 23rd wedding anniversary. I love this family, not only for inviting me into their home, but also because of the example they set for marriage and parenthood. They were very well known in our community, partly because with 6 kids they were hard to miss, but also just because of their strength as a family unit. It was awesome to see a family so involved and so fun. I think there is such stigma with ‘settling down,’ but this family showed us that family life is supposed to be just the beginning of an amazing adventure, not what you resort to when you’ve checked everything else off your bucket list. For their 23rd anniversary, the wife posted this quote which I thought was so beautiful and so true! Something to think about as we move forward this week.

“We all bring our ‘garbage’ into this union, but if we have the courage and the heart to love even the weakest parts of each other, well, what happens is nothing short of miraculous!”




What we can learn from the evolution of Taylor Swift


I still remember where I was when I heard one of Taylor Swift’s songs for the first time. I was riding in the back of a neighbor’s minivan and my friend showed me the CD case of her debut album as we listened to ‘Teardrops on my Guitar.’ I liked her music right away and from then on was an enthusiastic ‘Swiftie (Swifty?).’

Most of Taylor’s early tunes involve her liking someone, longing for them, enjoying and admiring them, or breaking up with them. As a fourteen year old, I related to her thoughts quite a bit. Even as I got older I continued to enjoy her songs and got so excited each time a new single or album was released. I remember freshman year of college gushing about ‘Red’ with my friends and two years later listening to ‘1989’ on repeat.

Over the years, you can definitely notice a shift away from the country style she started out with to a more pop sound. Not only that, but as Taylor got older, her lyrics also lost some of their hopefulness and sweetness that are so prevalent in her early songs like ‘Love Story’ or ‘Fearless’ or ‘Hey Stephen.’

Her song ‘Blank Space’ made this especially evident as she mocks the reputation given to her by the media of being a psycho man eater who preys on a guy any chance she gets. I remember watching the music video in a music class junior year of college and being in awe of the dark humor we hadn’t really seen before.

This change of tone was also clear in her song ‘Bad Blood’ with a threatening music video to accompany it; now the difference is especially vivid with her newest release, ‘Look What You Made Me Do’ which would give a younger me nightmares.

Taylor Swift certainly knows what she’s doing as an artist. Everything she does she does very well, she clearly has a vision and carries it out faithfully. Her tunes are catchy and communicate clearly what she wants to say with each song and video…it is admirably intentional. Not only that, but especially the last two albums have been sensational, meaning they have created a sensation. People talk about it, whether you like her, hate her, think she’s overrated…you’ve probably had a conversation about her newest release.

While I admire her work and can enjoy her latest hits, this last album especially has made me nostalgic for the sweet, romantic Taylor we first met. I think growing up in the spotlight has to be really tough, and I think her experiences have made Taylor Swift a lot more jaded. Even behind the scenes you see her joking around, playing it cool, not wanting to take anything too seriously.

Seeing her change you could say that this is what happens to all of us as we get older. We realize that life isn’t always peachy, we get hurt, we learn from it, we become more realistic…we grow up.

Maybe you can say that 27 year old T-Sizzle is a lot more mature than her 16-year-old self, and I’m sure you’re right; but I wouldn’t say that her outlook on life is somehow superior now than it was 10 years ago.

Her songs now express a hurt that has been caused by friends who turned on her, criticisms she’s received and repeated heartbreak. We see this in her lyrics that denounce romance and instead pronounce relationships as little more than games to be played (Are You Ready For it).

I think to an extent we all experience these sort of wounds over the course of our lives, but I guess I’m not sure becoming hard and cynical is the answer. I think as children we’re really good at trusting, we’re highly dependent on others. As we get older we become more independent and often reluctant to rely on others for anything. We have our own dreams, our own goals, our own needs and wants that don’t require someone else’s help. As long as we can get the job, buy the house, run the marathon, travel…we’re satisfied, complete, invulnerable.

I wonder, though, if those ‘acquisitions’ are enough to fulfill our desire for intimacy. I wonder if we let someone in, we could someday prove that the new Taylor Swift isn’t 100% right in denouncing love. I wonder if our dreams and goals are things we can share and work toward with another person. I wonder if maybe the young Taylor had it right and just got a little misguided on her rise to fame. I wonder if that’s what happens to all of us (minus the fame).

Maybe Taylor Swift isn’t as cynical as her new songs imply, I hope that is the case. Being open to loving and being loved by other people is possibly the most important part of our lives, hurt is inevitable but I don’t think we would ever want heartbreak to have the final word.

Recently I’ve been listening a lot to singer/songwriter Alanna Boudreau. In her song ‘I’ll be your Woman’, she says:

“Keep your affection in boxes, keep your heart free, that’s what they told you those sly foxes but that don’t faze me.”

Isn’t that so true though? We are told that, whether it’s by Taylor Swift, media, our friends or family or even our own experiences…we’re told to be on guard and I think that may be causing more harm than good. If we’re always looking out for ourselves we’ll miss the opportunity to experience the joy that comes from deep communion with others, from self-gift and from really knowing and being known by another person.

I may sing along with Taylor Swift’s newest, catchy hits, but I hope I live my life a little more like the teenager who sung about dancing in the rain and eyes that are like the jungle.



*Picture taken on our way to Sullivan’s Island while listening/singing along to some old school Taylor*


Unprotected: Why contraception isn’t enough


Today we we’re generally very safety oriented. Speed limits, hand sanitizing stations, screen protectors, phone codes, childlock, birth control…prevention prevention prevention.

All these precautions have the good intention of protecting us from potential danger, and most do this effectively. Birth control is somewhat of an anomaly in that it does prevent (generally) women from getting pregnant, but it doesn’t really protect us. In fact, it actually has the opposite effect.

The reason is that there are ramifications to sex that aren’t pregnancy, or even STD’s, and a pill or condom is simply not enough to cover all the bases.

The weird thing about sex is that even though it’s a physical thing, it very much affects us emotionally and psychologically as well.

The human person is so integrated that it’s impossible to separate the physical from the emotional or the emotional from the psychological. Think about how much better you feel when you are working out regularly and eating well, your mood improves and you think more clearly. When you’re sleep deprived you’re a lot more likely to break down in tears because you feel stressed and overwhelmed than when you’ve had a good night’s rest.

Sex is an excellent example of how united we really are. There is a connection or bond that forms in sex that lasts beyond the act itself – a bond that isn’t merely physical. We know this because it has been studied a fair amount.

In the book that is linked we learn how a campus counselor witnessed the damage ‘safe sex’ is doing to our young women. Intelligent, driven, beautiful women are being overwhelmed by depression and anxiety that is largely due to the attachment resulting from detached sex. Birth control does not provide safety from the pain resulting from the tearing apart a unity made in a sexual act by someone who is not truly committed to that unity.

Just to be clear, the attachment itself is in actuality a very good thing because within marriage, that bond is essential. If we are to be with someone for the rest of our lives we certainly want to be connected to them in an intimate way emotionally and physically. We don’t just want to chat with them the way we share with our girlfriends, it has to be more than that, more complete.

Sex is inherently a wonderful thing, it is also extremely powerful. But like any good thing, it can also be dangerous (similar to a jar of Nutella in the pantry).

The problem arises when we form this bond with someone who is not around for the long term. As a necessary result of sex we can feel intimately connected with someone, and when they are no longer in our lives, we suffer a deep loss as a result. Our judgement can become clouded because we feel so close to someone and will do just about anything to protect that relationship (again, something that is so essential in marriage); without knowing if they will choose us for the rest of our lives or whether we should really be with them.

Birth control makes this attachment outside of marriage a lot more feasible. If we’re not worried about getting pregnant the ‘risk’ of having sex is seemingly minimal. And you may say that people sleep with their boyfriend or girlfriend and break up down the road and survive…no damage done.

Humans have the ability to become desensitized; to weird smells, annoying background noises and even to the powerful effects of sex. And unfortunately, though you may think this solves the problem, it actually creates a different one. The reason is that when someone who has had past attachments repeatedly broken, if they then do get married, that bond which is so necessary in a spousal relationship isn’t as effective. 

If someone makes a promise to you and then breaks it, you’re less likely to believe them the second time around. Similarly, our bodies intelligently form a defense mechanism to protect us from suffering that can result from bonding. Therefore, when we really need that bonding to come into play, we have difficulty forming that deep bond because it has been broken so many times before.

Yes, birth control ‘protects’ us from pregnancy, but it doesn’t prevent us from attaching to someone that maybe we shouldn’t have that level of attachment with. And it doesn’t stop that bond from losing it’s strength when we most need it. Contraception is considered to provide us with ‘safe sex’, but to me the safest sex is the kind that is with the one person you have vowed to be with ’til death do you part.

To most of us the idea of waiting util marriage to have sex is outdated at best and comical at worst. We have become increasingly cynical of marriage and so we resort to sleeping and living together as a pseudo-married life. I wonder what would happen if as as individuals and as a society we started to value sex as something beautiful and necessary, something precious to our families. I wonder if we would have more faith in marriage if more of them lasted because we’re bonded to our spouse in a special way.

I wonder if we saw that contraception just isn’t enough to save us from the risks of something as powerful as sexual intimacy, how we would benefit from treating it as the incredible gift that it is.


Monday 5: Relationships edition


The first picture I ever posted of Nicholas and me was shortly after our first date when we met up in Raleigh, NC six months ago. It was a great date, especially considering we had only hung out a total of 3 or 4 times before then and hadn’t seen each other in three months.

While cute, the picture didn’t quite depict the whole…picture. On the way to the train station (where the pic was taken) I had broken down into tears when Nicholas told me he was excited about our relationship…#irrational. Moments after we took the pic, I got on the wrong train…oops.

As an avid social media user, I can be the first to admit that our Instagram or Facebook posts can make everything look so peachy and mysteriously leave out the messy or unpleasant parts of our lives. I don’t post photos of my crying when I take something Nicholas says or does the wrong way, there’s no Instagram story of the stony silences that occur when we’re upset with each other, no captions voice the concerns or doubts or disagreements we’ve had.

I say all this not to give the impression that our relationship is actually awful but because it’s real…warts and all (figurative warts of course…we both have perfect skin thankyouverymuch).

In celebration of the past six months, here are the top 5 things I’m excited about regarding our relationship (and relationships in general). Not all of it is ‘Instragram worthy’, but that’s kind of the point.


At least four or five times a week I have to sincerely apologize to Nicholas for something. Whether it’s being too quick to judge, or not giving the benefit of the doubt, or assuming the worst, or being a little too brutally honest…there have been plenty of occasions for me to gulp down my humble pie and for Nicholas to practice the virtue of forgiveness. Similarly, I have had to forgive Nicholas when he makes a careless comment or hurts my feelings in some fashion which happens frequently since I am the most Sensitive Sally. It’s been cool to see us forgive each other over and over again. Reconciliation has become one of our strong suits and I have a feeling it will come in handy often.


‘You do you’ has become such a common saying today, and despite it’s casual nature, I think it can be a dangerous mindset. We really shouldn’t just do us. If love is willing the good of the other then there isn’t room for us to simply pick what we prefer…someone else’s well-being is at stake. There are so many times that I have to choose what is best for him over what I want in that particular moment. Whether it’s something trivial like talking to him in the car when I really want to just listen to music, or something more serious, I often have to give up what I want for him. As ‘woe is me’ as that may sound, where rubber meets the road in love is sacrifice and self gift…and I know he often has to do the same. I also think it comes more naturally over time…fingers crossed.


Each month Nicholas and I celebrate our ‘monthaversary’ as well as the day we became exclusive without having gone on any dates – we call it Charleston-Cleveland (or CC for short) Alliance Day. On those days we make sure to do something special, whether it’s wearing our Ohio Against the World t-shirts, or going to dinner or just grabbing a beer. I keep pictures of random days we spent together as well as special occasions in a scrapbook to commemorate our good times. I think celebrating these little, seemingly meaningless milestones adds so much joy to our lives and reminds us to focus on the good.


An important goal for the two of us from the beginning has been that of personal growth. It’s so easy to get comfortable and become complacent in our physical, emotional, intellectual and spiritual lives; so we try to avoid that by reading stimulating/inspiring books together, exercising, making time for prayer….things that are easy to let slide if we don’t hold each other accountable. When we have this goal that is bigger than ourselves, it adds meaning to our relationship and helps guide our decisions in a healthy way.


One of my favorite parts of our relationship is our shared life together (in the context of what’s appropriate for dating). We started texting each other every couple of weeks or so when we first became friends, then texting every week, then almost every day. From there we moved to daily phone calls (often 2-3 a day) and Facetime sessions. Finally we got to visit each other and spend time together for days at a time. Now living in the same town, we aim to see each other every day; whether it’s visiting friends or family, working out, grabbing a beer, eating dinner…we strive to stick together. There are things we can’t do together (coffee dates with my girlfriends, tennis with his buddies) but generally we try to make each other a priority and share in our thoughts, memories, opinions, hopes and experiences.

I feel incredibly grateful for every minute of the past few months (even the painful, crying ones). The photogenic moments of our relationship are vastly outnumbered by the hard, painful, uncomfortable, tense, awkward and boring ones, but it brings me a lot of peace knowing that we are not choosing this because it is easy, but because we both genuinely hope it could be worth it.

Here’s to relationships that aren’t nearly as perfect as the pictures that depict them.




If I could write a love song: My response to Maren Morris


When I was seven or eight, I had an altercation with my BFF (shout out to Maria in NYC!) and decided to write a song to her explaining how I felt.

It didn’t end well. Unlike Mozart or Lil Romeo I was not a young musical genius and so my music writing efforts didn’t result in much.

However, I’ve always enjoyed music and loved expressing myself that way. I played violin through college and have always loved listening to music too. Early on Taylor Swift was my girl (she sings about boys, what else do you care about in middle or high school?). Even now I love coming across a song with lyrics I relate to and a sweet tune.

Recently, country singer Maren Morris’ song ‘I could use a love song’ has been stuck in my head. I think she really hits the nail on the head as to how a lot of us feel today in regard to relationships. Despite overwhelming cynicism in our generation, a part of us longs for romance and the kind of love that lasts a lifetime. As much as we fill our lives with work and friends and hobbies and a date or two, part of us is longing for more.

Having been in a committed relationship for the past few months, I’ve learned a LITTLE bit (just a tiny bit) about what it really means to love someone…and unfortunately it’s not in any of T-sizzle’s catchy tunes. If I could write a love song, Maren Morris, I would. But I can’t because it would be terrible. But if I could, here are some things I would want to say:

Love doesn’t feel good.

Okay, sometimes it does. Sometimes you’re smiling and laughing and feeling warm and fuzzy. But a lot of times it’s a lot less like the Notebook and a lot more like a documentary that’s a little too real or even slightly boring. Loving someone isn’t just a feeling, it’s choice that you make over and over…even when it’s hard. There are times when you’re both really tired and just sitting there next to each other has to be enough. There are times where you go out with their work friends and feel a little awkward and left out. There are times where you disagree on sensitive topics or even really little things like whether gages are cute or not (they’re not…just so we’re clear). There are times where the person will disappoint you; whether it’s something they did now or yesterday or when they were in college…none of those times feel good. But the good news is that love isn’t a feeling. That is good because when these discomforts arise – which they will because we’re HUMAN and not a Hollywood film – we can still choose the other person.

Love takes work.

Somehow movies tend to end when the couple gets together…we never see what happens after the ‘happily ever after.’ Falling in love is just the beginning. A lot of divorces happen because people stop ‘feeling it.’ They slowly move farther and farther apart as they get caught up in other priorities (work, children etc) and neglect their relationship. Regular date nights, reconnecting daily, playing together, sharing in each other’s interests…these are all necessary to maintain a healthy and loving relationship with your significant other. Also things like keeping a lark journal or photo album are helpful. I think it’s easy to get comfortable with the ones we love and then complain when the ‘spark’ is gone. Fortunately the ‘spark’ is something we can work on. It just takes…work. Love needs to be nurtured and protected, not taken for granted.

Love is healing.

We all have wounds from loved ones. Whether it’s our imperfect parents, previous romantic relationships or some traumatic event, we have hurt that stays with us. Love is healing. In healthy and loving relationships we re-learn (or un-learn falsehoods) about what it means to love and be loved. Today a big movement out there is telling us to be independent; as counter cultural as it may seem, I’m saying you’re not and never have been. We’re born reliant on others and though we may learn to provide for ourselves, love is something we can only learn in relation to others. That doesn’t mean it has to be a romantic relationship; we can learn this from family or friends as well, but it does mean we need others. To trust and be trusted, to give and receive, to be vulnerable, to be intimate…these are only things we can learn outside ourselves, regardless of your ability to feed yourself.

Love demands sacrifice.

It just does. Loving someone requires time and energy and effort. You can’t continue to live your life exactly how you want. You begin to take the other person into consideration and think about how your decisions affect them. You think about what makes them happy instead of only what pleases you. You eventually begin to put the other person before you…that is what love does, it makes you selfless. We’re born inherently selfish, (did you as an infant ever think about whether it was convenient for your mom to feed you or not?) out of necessity. Our goal as we grow up is to unlearn that. Loving another person is a wonderful wake up call that can sometimes feel like a slap in the face. We’re no longer just looking out for ourselves and it’s painful. Every instinct tells us to focus on self-preservation, meanwhile we know that we don’t have room for selfishness in relationships. Love is ultimately gift of self, a sacrifice.

Maren Morris could use a love song and I think a lot of us are in that boat. Maybe they aren’t being written as much because we’ve lost sight of what love really looks like. How can we write (or sing) about something we’re not familiar with? Love is hard, and we don’t want that. We’re looking for the easy way out and coming up empty; empty hearts and empty playlists. But we’re missing out, because love is wonderful and absolutely worth fighting for…maybe if someone would come out with a song we would realize that.





What the Beast teaches us about our wounds


Even if you haven’t seen the newest rendition of ‘Beauty and the Beast’ with Emma Watson and Dan Stevens, you’re most likely familiar with the fairy tale that has been around for quite a while.

Fairy tales are powerful, not necessarily because of the beautiful protagonists, singing animals or happy endings but also because of the truths they relate. When a story tells us something about human nature, we know it shouldn’t be discredited (despite other, more unrealistic aspects like fairy godmothers and dancing teapots).

An example that I can think of starts with this quote I came across this week on Instagram via Made in His Image:

The broken will always be able to love harder than most. Once you have been in the dark, you learn to appreciate everything that shines.

– Zachary K. Douglas

These words really struck a chord with me; I’m not sure if it’s completely true (how can you really know something like that) but I think there is a lot of wisdom in it.

I always see traumas, past hurt and lasting wounds as disadvantages. They get in the way of peace, joy and most importantly, love.

For example, the Beast is cursed years before Belle meets him and is still affected by the consequences of the curse. Obviously there are the physical effects – mainly his Beastly-ness – but there is also a deeper hurt caused by a fear that he won’t be loved again. His ability to relate to and become intimate with others is inhibited by his physical disfigurements that resulted from the curse.

Similarly, when we are hurt by a person or situation in a deep way, we become something unnatural…we’re wounded.

The Beast struggles to become close to Belle and has occasional outbursts of anger because his fear of being unloved and unwanted rears it’s ugly head. This then pushes Belle away…causing a vicious cycle.

Going back to the quote, the important takeaway to me from that is the idea that our hurt can be used to make the world a better place. Once in the dark we have a fuller understanding of how good and how important the light is. We can try harder to be in and experience the light which we know is so good and so essential.

We see the Beast use his strength and beastliness to protect Belle; we see him overcome his fear and move closer to her and we see Belle respond lovingly. I wonder if part of the Beast’s ability and choice to cherish Belle comes from intimate experience with crippling loneliness?

I think when bad things happen there are two responses: despondence/apathy or passion.

It’s easier to not care and to withdraw…but it is also unnatural, it goes against the heart of man.

Injustice also has the power to instill great hope and aspiration for how things should be. We know how disordered it can be and we know how important it is so we strive so much more for the ideal. Once we’ve seen the bad we love the good more.

I don’t know if it’s fair to say that people who have been hurt deeply are more capable of loving…but it is possible that we try harder. Part of that is out of necessity because of anxiety that has been created which affects our ability to love and be loved…our relationality. But part of it too is out of sheer appreciation of the light. It’s also possible that we don’t try at all, because we don’t think there’s a way out of the darkness.

The Beast could have locked himself away forever and sent Belle home because of fear of rejection…fear that the underlying belief that he was unlovable was true. But he didn’t; and I think (even though it is a fairy tale…I do know that) we should learn from this. Most people won’t leave life unscathed, and while painful, we can use this to build an even stronger world by striving for and being the light. In a way, we have a responsibility to others to avoid putting them through whatever we have been through. If we don’t use our hurt for good then it’s just hurt. If we use it to help ourselves and others it becomes redemption.

I’m probably reading too much into it but…who knew so much could be found in a children’s story, right?


What Coldplay & co. got right in ‘Something Just Like This’


As I mentioned in this week’s Monday 5, recently I’ve been perusing Aziz Ansari’s ‘Modern Romance.’ I’m only a few chapters in but it has definitely been an interesting read so far. In his funny-but-serious book, Aziz addresses some of the questions and challenges we are facing in today’s dating world.

Aziz starts out by comparing our dating habits to those of the generations before us. He brings up the fact that with our dating apps and the internet and just how much easier traveling has gotten, our pool of options is much greater than that of our parents or grandparents. The funny thing is, despite the plethora of choices, we are taking longer to get married and divorcing a lot more than previous generations.

Aziz attributes this to a few things including the phase of life that has become more important called emerging adulthood and the fact that we are now more picky about our choice of partner.

Aziz goes on to explain that our parents and grandparents largely simply wanted someone to settle down with, whereas we want much more…we want a soulmate.

Because we are looking for true love, it takes us longer to find the right person.

While I am certain that there are people before us who got married for the wrong reasons (financial security, social norms…etc), I don’t think it’s fair to assume that all marriages before us were somehow inferior to our generation’s relationships.

The concept of a soulmate is a tricky one and definitely one I grapple with. Believing there is one right person out there for us can be a comforting thought…but as our generation is discovering, it can also be a daunting one. What if we choose wrong? And how do you know if someone is your soulmate? Is it because they make you laugh? Or you never fight? Is it because you have the same hobbies? Or because you have the same values? Or maybe it’s more of an ‘opposites attract’ thing?

Lot’s of questions.

It’s no wonder we’re being plagued with analysis paralysis. There are so many people at our fingertips and any of them could be the right one…but only one is. Yikes.

I certainly don’t advocate for getting married for reasons other than love. Love is where it starts and should be a primary motivator. However, I do want to challenge the idea that there is only one person we could possibly love for the rest of our lives…that there is only one ‘right’ individual out there that you have to find.

And by this, I am not advocating an open marriage/relationship (love means exclusivity + permanency), however I am saying we can like, chill, a little bit.

We don’t have to find the perfect person.

As Coldplay says in their new song ‘Something Just Like This’ (along with The Chainsmokers). We don’t need a superhero, we don’t need Hercules or Achilles or some other mythical character that somehow completes us. We want someone we have a connection with, someone we’re attracted to and someone who shares our goals (especially that of becoming a better person).

Butterflies are nice, attraction is good, commonalities are good. Ultimately, though, we choose to love someone. Sometimes we’re gonna feel it and sometimes we’re not. The ‘right’ person doesn’t mean that it won’t be hard at times, that there won’t be times we’re not feeling it, that there won’t be hurt or fear.

That is inevitable, unfortunately.

But the good news is that we don’t have to wait for the stars to align to love someone. We can find someone who isn’t quite perfect and love them anyway. Someone we can “turn to”, someone we can miss, someone we can kiss…that is a lot easier to find than someone with the “superhuman gift” of being our perfect match.

I’m not saying to grab the next person off the street and marry them, but I do want to help a generation a little bit by saying it’s okay to not know if someone is your soulmate…I’m not sure if that is a real thing anyway. We’re not lowering our expectations by not looking for that, we’re admitting that love involves choice…not just fate.

Coldplay and the Chainsmokers got something right when they said there is a risk…love by nature is risky. The idea of a soulmate can make it feel less so, however the truth is that ‘perfect’ person could still reject or hurt us.

I challenge the idea Aziz presents that generations before us had it wrong and we know what’s up. I think we just face different challenges than those before us. However what remains the same is love. Love involves gift of self, which involves choice. That much we can always count on and that is what we should remember next time we feel overwhelmed by all the choices out there and the pressure to find the perfect match.

Love is patient, kind and often unglamorous…but it is not perfect; and that is kind of a relief to me.