Thursday, December 07, 2017

NeenaLoveCooks: Beef Stew In 90 Minutes or Less

I was at work utterly bored with building a database. As I looked out onto the beautiful view from my office, I couldn't help but notice the thick rain clouds that had gathered. Within minutes, the rain began to fall and I was immediately craving a nice hot bowl of beef stew and rice. Beef stew is definitely one of my comfort foods. My father makes really good stew and my mom did too. I carry the tradition on with my own cooking skills.

I don't normally follow a recipe. I "eyeball" everything and then taste my food often while I'm cooking. For the sake of this post here is a list of the ingredients I used:
-2.85 Pound Boneless Chuck Roast
-Water or Stock
-2 Pounds of Potatoes
-1 Pound of Carrots
-6 Celery Stalks
-1 Large Round Onion
-5 Cloves of Garlic
-6 Stems of Fresh Thyme
-1 small can of tomato paste
-2 TBSP All-Purpose Flour
-1 TBSP Vegetable Oil
-Salt and Pepper to taste

The great thing about stew is that you can mix up the quantity of the ingredients. Use what you have on hand. If you only have 1 pound of meat, adjust the other ingredients to your taste. I don't really like carrots so when I make stew for just me, I omit the carrots and increase the potatoes. I also LOVE garlic so I will use an entire head of the stuff instead of five cloves.

In the video, I go over the instructions on how I make beef stew. This is meant to be a quick stew. Normally, when I make stew it is an all day process. I cut everything in large chunks. In this recipe,  however, everything is cubed into smaller pieces so that it will cook quickly. This stew will be done in less than 90 minutes.

-Cut beef into roughly 1/2 to 3/4" cubes and dust with 2 TBSP of flour and salt and pepper
-Peel and slice onions
-Peel and slice garlic
-Clean and slice celery into 1/2" slices, diagonal
-Clean and chop carrots into 1/4" slices, diagonal
-Clean and cut potatoes into the size of half a golf ball

-Heat up a large pot with one tablespoon of vegetable oil
-Brown beef
-Add garlic and onions
-The juices from the beef, garlic, and onion should be thick. Add either stock or water to cover the meat.
-Let cook on med-high to high for 45 minutes.
-Add celery and carrots and cook on medium for 15 minutes.
-Add potatoes and cook on medium for 15 minutes.
-Reduce heat to low and simmer for 15 minutes.

And that's it -- you're done. You can do variations by adding ingredients that you like. For instance, I usually add a couple of jalapenos. That is always yummy but I know that the people I'm dining with this evening do not like a lot of spice. You can add green chile, which is another one of my favorite flavor profiles. It's really up to you. I have seen people add green beans. I have seen clams in the mix also. There is nothing you can do that would be wrong. Eat Up!

Friday, December 01, 2017

Hello December - Easy Holiday Wreath DIY

Since moving here to South Carolina, I have so much time on my hands. All my side hustles from my former life are UNKNOWN here in South Carolina and for right now, I need it to remain that way so I can concentrate on my writing. However, it is the holiday season and there's just something about Christmas that compels me to express my creativity.

Thanksgiving weekend, the girls and I did a lot of shopping/window shopping. One of our stops was at the craft store Michaels. I love that place. All the Christmas blooms were 50% off. I was attracted to this blush color and inspired by it. White, gold, and silver accented it beautifully. The girls decorated the mantle and prompted me to round out the decoration with a matching wreath.

When selecting your own things to use in a wreath, it should be things that inspire you. This particular wreath just happened to be flowers but you can use anything to make a wreath. You are only limited by your creativity. You can look online or even in the stores to see the kinds of wreaths that are available. I see wreaths covered with ornaments and ribbon and mesh. I have seen feathers and toys. Really, it's up to you and the theme you're going with. Here's a wreath that I saw at Michaels. This is a 12" wreath. With all the added fluff, it looks larger. If you look at the price tag, they are selling that thing for $69.99. Isn't that crazy? And you can look at the wreath and know that NO LOVE went into making that. I'm just pointing out the obvious.

As with any craft, it takes practice to get to a place where you're happy with your creation. That can only happen if you do it all the time. Practice. Practice. Practice. People think they're not creative but give them some time, beautiful materials to work with, a little shove in any direction and the results are fantastic. Don't forget some inspirational music... my inspirational music today was BEYONCE. To be more specific, Drunk In Love. The pulsating beat had me bobbing my head and singing as I made this wreath. Do what makes you happy and NEVER GIVE UP.

Happy Holidays, fam!

Thursday, November 30, 2017

Spontaneous South Carolina Adventure

The house was silent and empty last night. The dark of evening falls upon the land at about 5:15pm. Before I could second-guess myself, I decided on a spontaneous adventure. The adventure led me south east of my current location, about 140 miles away. The ride along i20-East was quite uneventful. Interstates are the best way to travel if you're in a hurry somewhere. Me? I like the scenic route - the route that's laden with a hint of danger like.... deer dashing across the road way and wrecking my car type danger.

After about forty miles of interstate (I20), I switch up to traveling on the single lane in each direction, county highway. There are no street lamps here in South Carolina. The road is only lit up by the headlights of vehicles and the occasional home. I am not sure how true this is but in the small towns, if you want a lamp pole on your street or in front of your house you have to pay to run the electrical lines, pay for the pole itself, and maintain the electricity. Thus, no street lights. I think it's fabulous for several reasons, the main one being that one can look up in the sky and see the true brightness of the stars without the interruption of manufactured light. The second reason, it must mean less taxation on citizens even though general excise tax here is at 8% and I'm mad about it.

I love driving on the mainland. For the most part, especially what I've experienced here in South Carolina, there is rarely any traffic on the country roads. The interstates are a different story and when you're in the city, it gets a little congested but nothing like I experience in Hawai'i.

I made my way south east of Columbia, SC. The darkness of the highway, the emptiness of the roads, and the silence was very relaxing for me. About half way to my destination, the fog appeared. It one particular section of highway, it rested just a couple of feet above my vehicle for several miles. It was mesmerizing to see the car lights reflecting off the moisture in the stark white of the fog. It moved and danced just above my car and was very distracting because of its beauty. The further south I drove, the thicker the mist became and I was not afraid -- only intrigued.

I arrived at my destination just after 730p. Why I found myself so far away from home is a story for another time. That's not what this post is about. When I woke in the early a.m. it was still chilly and the fog had not lifted at all. As I made my way back north, I was able to capture some of these beautiful images along my drive. I really feel grateful to experience this. The way the fog blankets the landscape is so beautiful in the early morning; the way it hugs the fields and the trees. My mind always seems to revert back to how people experienced this beauty before cars and modern roads. I think of the slave era. My fascination with American greed/slavery has been an obsession since I was a little girl. I cannot explain why I identify with it but I do.

I was thinking that maybe this weekend, I will find another adventure to get caught up in. If Hilton Head wasn't so far away, I would make my way there. I was reading up about things to do there and there are things that I have NEVER experienced that I have always been interested in. Back in the late 90's I read a book called Mama Day by Gloria Naylor. This book is set on a fictional island off the coast of Georgia and South Carolina. It mentions the Gullah people and some of their traditions. Thus, my interest in visiting Hilton Head  and Gullah culture has a lot to do with having read that book.

What might be simpler to do is to head back to Charleston. I visited there the weekend before Thanksgiving. It's less than a two hour drive and probably even shorter because the majority of the drive is on the interstate meaning I can "step on it." There were things that I wanted to do that I wasn't able to get to, places that I wanted to eat at, and pictures I wanted to take. Well, I think this weekend just might be my opportunity to go back and explore. On the other hand, it might be a chill weekend of lounging and writing and cooking and eating my favorite foods. If I were at home and it was a weekend like this, I would invite everyone to come over and eat. I'm in one of those moods. The holidays always tend to bring it on.

Happy Weekend everyone.

SIDE NOTE that I always feel compelled to talk about:
I am so fortunate to have so many people around me wanting whatever I want for myself. Everyday I wake up in extreme gratitude for the people in my life. Nobody really knows how difficult this past year has been for me. I do put on a facade very often so that others are comfortable around me. Very rarely do I let down my facade and have a good cry in front of people. My agony has been experienced privately and with my closest family and friends. Even when my mother passed away, I only cried with my now ex-husband. It would be in the dark while we were lying in bed. He wouldn't say a word to me. He would wrap his arms around me, let me cry, and wait for me to fall asleep. Ironic now that he is the source of my pain.

Tuesday, November 28, 2017

Just One Of Them Dayz

This PMS thing just drains the heck out of me. I don't know how we, as women, do this all of our adult lives. It seems to get worse as I approach menopause or maybe I'm menopausing? I don't know. It's just so taxing and draining from the crazy food cravings to the cramps, the headaches, and the damn mood swings. Sorry for whoever has had to deal with me today. I have not been a happy camper.

Monica's 90's R and B anthem, Just One Of Them Days, rings truer now than it did back then for me. The older I get, the worse it seems to get. And then once the "event" arrives all the mood swings are gone and the stupid headaches and food cravings just magically disappear. The cramps will still be there though.

Some days I'm not sorry but today I am. I have been a little mean and grouchy and just plain moody. If I could, I would crawl into a cave for the next week until this "storm" passes. I feel restless but really I need to just chill this weekend and stay in bed all day long, write, watch some good movies, and just kick back.

A certain someone was heavy on my mind this morning. I like to think that I was on his mind also but I don't know if we still have that connection or if he thinks I'm a flake. I don't know but I am good where I'm at and don't need to complicate my life by reaching out. 

Thanksgiving Weekend I hung out with my two "nieces" from back home, Penina and Pu. They are both in college near me and I was so happy to have them. We're in the store getting snacks for our pending movie night and I am grabbing oreos and ice cream and chocolate cupcakes. Of course, it's obvious that the food cravings are taking over and we have a good laugh about it. While we're riding in the car Pu asks me if I heard the song, Time of the Month by Swiss. We find the song on Amazon Music Unlimited and I just about die laughing at the lyrics. The catchy reggae-esque chorus repeats:
It's the time of the month
When my baby goes crazy
Out of her mind
And she's telling me she hates me
I give her a little time
Cause in a few days she'll be fine

I guess it's a universal experience for straight men who deal with us crabby women at that time of the month. I did go ape this morning and I apologized for it. All should be well, right? Nope... I don't feel better and I just want to disappear for a week. Ugghhh... My boss is going to be out of the office until next Wednesday. Can't I just escape to Baltimore or Dallas for the week? Oh well -- it is what it is.

I hope I feel better tomorrow.

Monday, November 27, 2017

Thankgiving 2017

This year has flown by. It's been full of so many changes. I can't believe that I've kept up. I have had some bad days, some bad weeks but overall I am content where my life is right here and right now. I am still hungry to achieve the goals that I have set for myself. They are coming along slower than I expected but I am still on track. Inspiration still hits me in waves rather than a constant flow but I am working on that.

I can say nothing negative about my life here. My arrival in South Carolina has really been the path of least resistance. The hardest part was making the decision to leave Hawai'i. Once I did make the decision though, the path here opened so wide and easy that there was no other choice but to move out here. I am so grateful for all the support I have had with this move. Now that I'm here, I'm digging in and really building my own life and actively working on all the things that I wanted to but couldn't because of my commitment to my marriage and my family. This life now is ALL ABOUT ME and only me.

Thanksgiving weekend was a whirlwind with two of the three Sao sisters. I had my fun with sister number one (she's the oldest) before I left Hawai'i. It is always a "thing" when you grew up in the same neighborhood and find each other on the mainland. We hung out all week long and ate and ate and ate. I threw down in the kitchen even though all of us are light eaters. I'm still eating leftovers and am not sick of yet. We did Black Friday shopping at the Charlotte Premium Outlet mall. It was crowded and it took us a good ten minutes just to find parking. There were deals everywhere. Saturday - we drove out to Augusta, Georgia to partake of some Hawai'i grinds. It was really good especially being all the way out here - to be able to get poke and laulau - heavenly! And it was good too. A little fact - the owner and operator of Hawaiian Style BBQ is from my hood in Hawai'i. He is a graduate of Kahuku, Class of 2000. In fact, his dad and my mother worked together back in the 80's. Red Raider Nation ain't no joke.

The following photo collages are from Thanksgiving Weekend. I picked up the girls from Rock Hill, South Carolina on Wednesday. We had a blast. They are such good girls. Their parents should be extremely proud of them. The girls came to my office at the University of South Carolina to "house warm" my office. They wanted to decorate it for Christmas but I didn't have any. I took them to take a picture with "Cocky" the USC mascot. So cute. We shopped and explored Columbia. Main Street in Downtown Columbia has the cutest boutique shops. I really enjoyed walking around. Every shop was geared up for Christmas with the most beautiful decorations. It really put me in the holiday spirit. I was sad to drop them off early Monday morning but was happy to have been able to spoil them while they were here.

Friday, November 10, 2017

Redefining Love Relationships

All of my life, especially at the foot of my mother, I have been taught the following about love relationships:

Marriage is between a man and a woman.
Sex happens after marriage.
Children happen after marriage. 

And for all of my life, I believed that. I believed that love relationships progressed from love to marriage between a man and a woman to sex to children. I did not necessarily obey the "sex happens after marriage" part but I certainly believed that those were all excellent guiding principles for living a happy life.We live in an ever changing world whose values are shifting all the time. Marriage is being redefined. Gender roles - redefined. Bathroom entrance - who can use the bathroom and where - redefined. The world is shifting.

Here I am at age 42 and the result of the guiding principles is that I have two failed marriages under my belt. I'm not attributing the "guiding principles" as the reason that I have two failed marriages. I'm just saying that those principles did not really have an effect on the outcome. So here's what I'm thinking I want to do moving forward. I am nixing the whole marriage requirement. I don't think I ever want to be married again. My heart just can't take another round of giving my all only for it to end in divorce. I don't want to do that again. EVER. Of course, that's me talking right now and who knows what's in store for the future. My commitment to my mate DOES NOT need to be "sanctified" by the State. I can commit to him in front of God and vow fidelity and respect all the days of our lives. Why do I need to add the contractual certification from the State?

I am reminded of the scene in the movie Braveheart where William and Muron marry secretly in the cemetery. The priest meets them and they cite their vows to one another and the Church sanctions their union. William chose this route because "the State" at that time was the English under the direction of Edward Longshanks. According to the movie, Longshanks ordered the practice of prima nocta. This allowed the English Lord of the town or village the right to sleep with a new Scottish bride on her wedding night. The desired effect was to breed the Scots out of existence. Heinous and absolutely uncivil but this is why William chose to marry his love in secret.

Now I'm not saying that my refusal of state-sanctioned marriage fixes my relationship problems. That is not what I'm saying. What I am thinking, though, is that I don't want the hassle of marriage. I want him to live in his place and me in my place and on occasion, we meet for the weekend. He can attend special events with me. I can go with him. But to co-habitate and get bills and mortgages together? I don't want it. To have to cook and clean up after him, I can do without it. Well, I take that back, I actually enjoy cooking and cleaning. I just don't want to be tied down EVER again. I don't want to ask for permission to do anything! I don't want to ask permission on spending my well-earned money. I don't want to ask permission to go on a girls trip if I wanted to. I don't want to answer to anybody!

So then, this logic begs the question -- is my newly defined love relationship just about sex and physical satiation? Companionship, love, are those things no longer important to my new definition of a committed relationship? And if that be the case, am I just a creature of physical lust, animalistic in nature? I don't know what this new approach means. I am not sure how it will even play out. I don't want to appear as a bitter woman because I don't feel like I am. In fact, I am the exact opposite. I love life. Heck, my hashtag for the last year has been #iStillBelieveInLove because I do. I believe that I will experience blissful love again. I look forward to it. This time, though, it will be on my terms.

Tuesday, November 07, 2017

Happy Divorce Anniversary : Year One Is Complete

1 year ago today, Honorable Judge Na'unanikina'u A. Kamali'i ordered, adjudged, and decreed that "a decree of divorce is granted..." You can go back and read my posts from a year ago and feel the sadness that I experienced. I never go into a relationship to give up and I know I sound like a broken record but two men have found it better to be alone than to be with me. That messes with me from time to time because, well, it makes me wonder if I am unfit to be loved. Of course I know that I am lovable but some days when I think about the crazy loves I have experienced through adulthood, I have to question how good of a woman I think I am.

My first husband was my first love. I met him when I was just 18 years old. I didn't know shit about love but I swore I did and as soon as I met him, we moved so quickly and effortlessly into love. I was like a pitbull when it came to him. I locked my jaws onto him and was not going to let him go until he gave me what I wanted. And all I wanted was HIS professed love. We married after I turned 21. Six years later we divorced. My second husband was everything my first husband was not -- he was present in every single moment, in my face with love and affection, and wanted to be a part of every facet of my life. We traveled the world together. We were best friends. We bought our first house together. There was a bunch of firsts with him. He was so much fun. I will always hold on to our good times because there was a lot of them.

Having said all of that there is one thing I have made peace with and that is that I don't want to move backwards. All the pining I have done for my exes is just too much already. I just need to move forward and not look back. Everyone that matters to me has said as much. Even though I shared so much of my life with both men, there is just no way that I can put the hurt behind me. We can be friends, maybe. But partners or mates again? I'm not so sure. And the friend thing is questionable also just because I feel a sense of irritation just thinking about "helping" my ex with anything. Whatever value he sees in me that he would want to keep me as a friend, it was all his when we were married. And... well.... we're not married anymore and any value I might add to him is no longer available to him. It's time for me to move on and actually, it's time for him to move on as well. This is what you wanted - divorce. There is nothing that binds us together. We don't have children so let me go and you go on your way too!

When I think about the condition of my heart and the broken-ness and sadness of the past, I want to move ever so quickly toward something else. When it comes down to it, I love the butterflies that accompany new love. The anticipation and the magic that happens is so nice. There's no sadness or heartache associated with new love and I cherish the beginnings. I want it to stay just like it is in the beginning of the budding romance. I feel like I never want the relationship to develop past that beginning stage. I mean, because, what happens after the beginning? Usually one person is pushing for it to develop to something more, which usually means moving in together or marriage. And what happens in that type of relationship? The butterflies disappear. The honeymoon phase fades and the relationship becomes a shadow of what it was in the beginning. We forget how much we couldn't live without each other. We forget the instant attraction that happened in the beginning. We forget to love each other and to cherish each other. In fact, we find ourselves dreading the monotony of our lives. It doesn't have to be that way but it usually happens that way. Some people can manage it and push to work through those difficult times and some just throw in the towel. I suppose one is not better than the other, it all depends on your value system. So give me the fireworks of brand new beginnings.

I subscribe to relationship commentator, Derrick Jaxn. I love his videos. Some of them are really funny and truthful and it comes from the man's perspective. He talks about how women should approach relationships. I mention him just because he has been like the voice in my ear for the last year, reminding me that I need to know my own value. Thank you Derrick Jaxn! This video is one of my favorites. It's not very old. I think he posted it a month ago. I want my ex to one day realize what a gem he let go of when he gave me my walking papers. Maybe that day will never come and him divorcing me might turn out to be the best thing he ever did. Whatever happens though, I will be okay. Right now, I know that it's already TOO LATE. If he came to me tomorrow and said he wanted it all back, I can't. I'm done.

Truth be told, I feel so free right now. I will be even freer as soon as I no longer have joint debt with my ex. We don't need to be in contact. My feelings for him are still so raw. Any of our encounters since we split has been difficult for me. I will never show him that raw emotion again, the way I did when he first told me he wanted a divorce. He will never see me fall apart again. In fact, my rise is meteoric. He can watch me from afar.

So happy divorce anniversary. I will celebrate this weekend in Myrtle Beach, perched on a balcony overlooking the Atlantic Ocean. And hopefully I will find some good seafood to munch on as today, of all days, I am craving a poke bowl.

Monday, October 23, 2017

I'm REALLY Moving to South Carolina

It's really real.
I am really moving.

I don't know where this road is going to lead but I can say with certainty that NOTHING has unfolded this easily before my eyes. NOTHING. The events and circumstances that lead me to South Carolina can only be defined as a fated road; the path of least resistance pushing me in a clear direction where there is no denial of where it is I need to be. I cannot explain how or why I have moved with such swiftness. My visit in January followed by my visit in June and here I am in October making the move with a job already in place and a "hellafied" support system like no other!

I am extremely grateful for all the moving parts that is making this transition so easy. From my friends and family here in Hawai'i that have put up with me for the last year to my cousins in South Carolina, "my soft spot to land," and all the friends and family from California to Utah to Texas and to Maryland that have dealt with my bouts of sadness and erratic behavior. They are the true MVP's in my world. I don't know the wreck I must have looked like just a year ago but I sure don't feel like that today. And with the job offer I accepted in South Carolina and the adventure that awaits me there, life is only getting better and better. I untangle myself from anything that causes me sadness or causes me to second guess my self worth. Surely if you couldn't recognize my value in the past when it was all yours to have, why should I believe that you see it now?

Who would have ever thought that this island girl would fly away to such a foreign place. South Carolina. I think of it and a smile creeps across my face not just because of the memories that I have already made but because of the new experiences that await me. I feel like I am moving to live in a Nicholas Sparks novel (all of his love stories are set in the Carolinas). **cue romantic music** It excites me and fills me with wonder.

I am going toward living my wildest dream. I am speaking my future into existence. It is already a reality (inside my mind) - I am a published author telling the stories about love and about culture, about relationships romantic and familial. I am writing the memoir that every broken-hearted woman needs to read to see themselves in me and to find their own strength to overcome any sad reality.

Yes. I feel this pull to South Carolina and it represents freedom from my past. It represents me being my most authentic self. It represents new beginnings. I have craved this and longed for it, it seems, all of my life.

Here we go!

Monday, October 16, 2017

Talking To Myself : Random Love Thoughts

Love has dictated all of my adult life.

the pursuit of it
the wanting
the needing
the search for a partner to compliment my soul

This past weekend, I came to a quick realization that I deserve everything my heart desires.

The next time love finds me, it will be without effort, without having to overcome insurmountable odds just for our relationship to exist. I will never have to wonder if he loves me because it will be apparent. His pursuit of me will match or exceed my efforts and I will be in competition with NO ONE.

I have come to realize that I am worthy of a love that is big and sincere. It is not my job to prove to anyone that I am a good woman. Even though I categorize myself as the realest ride-or-die chic, I am not the poster child for all good women.Why should I continue to portray myself as this loyal partner when it goes unappreciated? My display of loyalty and honor and respect for my partner has me sacrificing my own needs. I compromise so much of who I am to be "that girl" for my man. I'm done with that.

Some of my closest friends tell me that I should wait for my ex-husband, wait for him to want me again. I think it is so degrading for me to wait around for him. If I wait for him, I'm telling myself that he is more important than my own needs, that my heart is not as important as his love. It's been a year since we split. I still adore him but I am tired of being sad. I am tired of carrying around my broken heart and if there is love for me on the horizon, may it be pure and free from any pain and heartache.

I don't want to associate new love with any pain or broken hearts. Some say that the pain adds to the the depth of the relationship but I don't need it. I want it to lift me and push me to the highest heights. I want to laugh uncontrollably in his arms and feel the aching in my belly that comes from laughter. I want to feel butterflies every time I think of him and see him. I want to feel him gently supporting my every endeavor no matter how stupid it may sound.

I never want to worry about another broken heart. Thinking of trusting my heart to another man scares me. Is it unrealistic to have an expectation that a man could love me for life? True, faithful, and full of genuine love and affection not just for a couple of years but for life, forever? What I really want is to put all of my broken hearts behind me and never look back. I know I speak about forgiveness and having no malice in my heart but I don't think I can let go of the pain of my broken heart.... at least not yet.

I don't know what tomorrow brings. All I know is the condition of my heart right now. It's a little bruised up and not ready for anything serious. I don't know when I will be ready again. I take it one day at a time. Some days I feel good. Some days it takes everything in me NOT to fall to pieces. Songs normally trigger a reaction. Billy Ocean's "Love is Forever" will have me a complete and utter mess. And, well, I'm tired of the emotion. I am tired of the bouts of sadness. Don't get me wrong though, I love to be in love. Heck, my moniker as of late has been hashtag-i-still-believe-in-love. I do! I really do... just not for me at this very moment.

i am hopeful
i am optimistic
i am moving forward

Monday, October 09, 2017

Ready To Move

Time is just flying. I have just about two weeks left at my job. After this, I will be making my way to South Carolina. That will be home for at least the next year. I am extremely excited to start a new chapter in my life. Though I move forward with trepidation I am also very aware of how blessed I am that I have such a wide circle of close friends and family who help me to move ahead with nothing but my best foot forward. It's amazing how much has happened in the last year. I am grateful that I am not the girl I was just a year ago. When I was going through the break-up, I was very sad for several weeks. Sometimes the sadness creeps up now and I cry my eyes out until I feel some relief. I pick myself up and keep moving forward. One day I will be able to talk about this without all the pain. For right now, I will just have to cry through it.

When the ex and I split last year, he moved out first. Eventually, I moved out so that we could prepare the home to be sold. I downsized considerably. We sold almost everything. He took one bed and I sold the other. He took the big TV and I sold the other one. We sold all the other furniture. I downsized my library of books considerably. I don't like to think of how many books I donated to Goodwill because each book was so precious to me. I had to detach from my relationship with the words on those pages and yet I still have tons of books that I kept.

Throughout the past two weeks, I have been combing through my stuff again. This time, I am downsizing for my move to South Carolina. It is unbelievable the amount of paperwork that I was able to throw out. I have had to decide what to keep, what to shred, what to send back to my ex, etc. etc. I came across our marriage certificate. We got married in Illinois right outside of St. Louis. I remember that it was a very cold and wet November day. I also came across our divorce decree. My own hand wrote out every single detail on that decree. How did I have the strength to separate the material things of our lives in that application for divorce. It is not even what I wanted and yet my handwriting is all over it. Normally, if you go through an attorney they draw up the paperwork and draft a formal decree separating the details of a couple's life. We did it on our own, without a lawyer. It's cheaper (for him) and I am not an idiot where I can't figure out the paperwork. I tear up just remembering that day. My stomach was in knots all morning long as I sat there in our living room filling out paperwork before the courthouse opened. I distinctly remember the clerk at the court looking at us as so strange because we weren't crying or fighting at her window. That doesn't mean that I didn't want to cry, it just means that I maintained a calm decorum so as not to embarrass myself or him.

Yesterday, as I was going through a bin of stuff, I came across a birthday card from my ex. It brought tears to my eyes and almost thwarted my efforts to pack my belongings. I am not surprised at the emotion that it stirred in me. I will always be a sentimental fool. It is probably one of my trademarks. I have held on to pieces of clothing, material, letters, pictures, broken jewelry all in the name of sentimental value. In fact, I just parted with a gold hoop earring that I received from my ex. He brought the pair as a gift for me while he was deployed to Iraq. I was so bummed when I lost one side of the pair on a trip to Europe.

I don't remember what year he wrote the card to me but it had to have been during one of our happy years because of what he wrote.
"To the best wife a man could have. I love you."
I remember when he used to feel like that about me. Like I was the best thing that ever happened to him. Like I complimented his life. Like there could never be another that he would ever love. Like his world started and stopped with me. And I don't regret anything that has happened - not our meeting and falling madly, deeply in love or our private nuptials all by ourselves in Illinois (we eloped), or our wedding dinner at Olive Garden - just the two of us. I don't even regret our break up. Of course if I could choose, I would have selected to stay together and work on our relationship. I did not know I had driven him to the point where he just did not want to be with me any more.

None of it matters and yet all of it matters. All of it contributes to the ever evolving me. It makes me who I am - this deeply feeling woman. The falling in love and the broken heart adds facets to my life that eventually will glow and shimmer in the light just like a diamond. The more facets, the more light I reflect. I love that my heart is so weathered and has so much mileage on it. Truly, one day I will sparkle even brighter than I do now. And though I do not wish this pain on anyone, I am so extremely proud of my ability to rise above the hurt.

I am ready for this move to South Carolina. I am more sure about this than anything I have ever done before. I am so ready to do what makes me happy and so ready to live out my wildest dreams. It is so exciting to move in a direction that frees me, liberates me, and pushes me to be the best version of myself.