It’s really not about you.

As the official start of “wedding season” approaches, I thought this would be an appropriate time to share a few thoughts I’ve been carrying around since the Mister and I tied the knot almost four years ago.

(Four years?? Wait a minute, that can’t be right…)

I saw this article on Facebook today and thought it hit the nail on the head. I wish we had registered for fun things we would actually use. I wish my dress had had a Scarlett O’Hara-esque skirt. I wish we had done photos together BEFORE the wedding, tradition or not, so that the Mister and I could have spent the majority of our day together instead of him spending it in a bathroom while I walked from place to place.

Those things are important, and I would suggest them to anyone I know who’s getting married, but there is one more important thing that still nags me to this day.

I don’t know who was there.

Wait… what? What do you mean? How could you not know who was there?

I mean, I was so wrapped up in May 19th being MY day – a day where the Mister and I could do whatever we wanted and ONLY what we wanted and ONLY with the people we thought mattered the most.

We were selfish. (And by “we” I mainly mean myself.) Looking back I can see that now, and it is definitely my biggest regret.

We have all kinds of pictures with our family and our wedding party, but we don’t have any photos with our guests. Those people who weren’t chosen to stand up with us, but who made the trip to see us anyway – sometimes from 12+ hours away.

Three groups still haunt me today.

An old high school friend and her sister that I hadn’t seen in more than six years came. I didn’t expect them to care that much, but they came all the way from Knoxville to see me get married. They pulled me aside and congratulated me and probably wanted a picture, but I greeted them quickly and moved on. I haven’t seen them since and don’t expect to ever see them again. I could have gotten a picture.

A group of the Mister’s friends from the university judging team where there too. They stood in a huddle in the lobby for most of the reception, waiting to catch us for a photo. I was so busy hurrying back and forth, checking off the list of must-do things, that I didn’t even realize that’s what they wanted. We have pictures of the whole group at other weddings, but not at ours. I had other things to do.

Third, and worst, I feel, were an aunt and uncle who traveled from out-of-state to be there. I saw them waiting in the hall as we left for photos and, to be honest, I didn’t recognize them at first. We don’t see that branch of the family much, so I didn’t know who they were until I had passed by. I waved when they did, but I didn’t stop. I figured they would wait until we returned. After all, it was all about us.

I didn’t know they had started their 12+ hour drive in the middle of the night, arrived just in time for the ceremony and were leaving as soon as I passed them to head home. They weren’t there when we came back from taking photos. I haven’t seen them since. All I can think about when that moment passes through my mind is that they made a mind-numbing 12-hour drive through the mountains, and I didn’t even stop to acknowledge them. I don’t know that that horrible feeling will ever go away.

So I say all of that to say this to all the brides and grooms and hopefuls out there: your wedding day is not really about you.

Let me say that again.

Your wedding day is not really about you.

Sure, it’s the day you start a new life joined to your husband or wife, and it’s a huge commitment. You should put effort into making the festivities reflect who you are and who your spouse is and who you will be together. But really, when it comes down to it, you will be just as married at the end of the day as you would have been if you’d gone to the county courthouse in your pajamas.

What it’s really about is the people who love you and who have made an effort to be there and witness such a happy occasion in your life. It’s about those people who have had your wedding invitation on the refrigerator for months; those people who spent weeks making handmade gifts that you’ll probably never use, but that you appreciate anyway; it’s about the people who fill all those delicate matchstick chairs and sit in the uncomfortable sunshine to see your smiling face and hear your “I do’s.”

Because without them, you would be standing in an empty room (probably not even decorated, since I’m sure they helped with that too).

So don’t get wrapped up in the check list. Stop to take pictures with the people who are there. Make them part of the memory and let them share in your joy. They want pictures to remember the day you got married just as much as you do. Don’t take that away from them.

Thank them, not just for coming but for being a presence in your lives. Even if you don’t know all the guests from your spouse’s side of the hall – take pictures with them too. They might not be important to you, but you are important to them or else they wouldn’t be there.

If you look through your guestbook years down the road and didn’t even know most of those people were there, you did something wrong.

But if the cake cutting was a little off schedule, and maybe you didn’t throw the garter or blow the bubbles, but you have an album full of photos with the people who loved you most on the happiest day of your life, that is something you won’t ever regret.

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Dear Diary: I’m in love!

Dear Diary,

Now, I know I haven’t written anything in a long time, but I have such exciting news that I just couldn’t wait to share it. I’m in love, I’m in love and I don’t care who knows it!!

I used to think every day would always be the same: stare at mommy until she wakes up, check the yard for squirrels, and then spend all day sleeping on the couch and guarding the house until daddy gets home from work. But now, NOW there is something wonderful to look forward to in the evenings. After mommy and daddy are done with their dinner (which always smells so much better than mine and I don’t know why they don’t share), we go outside. And if we stay outside long enough, sometimes, if I am lucky, HE comes outside too.

They call him Tyson, and he is wonderful.

He likes to dig, just like me! We dig and dig and dig. Tyson’s holes are bigger than mine though, because he uses his mouth like a shovel and moves more dirt that way. Those are my favorite days – the days when I get to dig holes with Tyson. Maybe one day he will look up from his holes and see me as more than just the girl down the driveway. Someday… But for now we will dig our holes and play chase and I will teach Tyson how to catch squirrels. If he can catch a squirrel, then he will love me and we will be friends forever.

But he cannot have my favorite ball, or touch my people. I don’t share my people.

Love,

Meera

Ohana

“Ohana” is a Hawaiian word introduced to most of us non-Hawaiian people through the movie Lilo and Stitch. In a dictionary it means family, in an extended sense, and includes “chosen family” as well as blood relations. However, I think Lilo explains it best when she says, “Ohana means family, and family means no one gets left behind or forgotten.

I have a wonderful biological family and an equally wonderful in-law family, and I’ve had many sets of “chosen families” over the years, the closest being the group of young women I lived with in college. However, it wasn’t until one night a few weekends ago that the true meaning of “ohana” really sank in deep.

I was with a group of friends laying out by a pool at midnight looking for shooting stars, listening to soft music and laughing about whatever was funny at the moment. There was a long moment of silence as we all scanned the sky and it occurred to me that we are a group born of desperation. We are a cluster of people that probably would never have been friends if we’d all gone to our chosen stateside schools. We likely never would have met. We didn’t come together simply because we lived in the same dorm or happen to go to the same school; we bonded out of nervousness and fear of the great unknown that was this unfamiliar place and have formed an unlikely bond that – quite possibly – is stronger than anything else. We are ohana. We are each other’s closest companions and strongest rocks in the storms of St. Kitts life.

We consist of two Floridians, five southerners (some more so than others), a girl from Michigan and a girl from Oregon. We have pessimists, optimists and who-cares-ists. The youngest is 22 and the oldest is about to be 30. We have two married couples, one engaged couple, two single girls and one with a boyfriend back home. We are Greek, Hispanic, Native American and just plain who-knows. We come from all sorts of family and religious backgrounds and don’t always see eye-to-eye on everything, but the innate knowledge that we are all we have keeps us together regardless of our arguments.

Yet we are the same. We are all working toward the common goal of becoming veterinarians (six of us students, three of us spouses). We are all far away from home – many for the very first time – and we have all been separated from all the people, places and things we hold dear and tossed onto this rock hundreds of miles from real land. I think the RUSVM bond is probably greater than that of other vet students at stateside schools because they at least have the familiar, the knowledge that home is a car trip or a short flight away; but us… we only have each other. Sure, we all have friends and family waiting for us back home, but when something happens here and help is needed, we don’t have the luxury of a visit from Mom with hot chicken soup; we don’t always even have the ability to call home. Without each other, we would flounder; but together, we’ve learned how to swim.

We started out with our original orientation group from first semester, when nobody knew anybody or where anything is or how anything works here. We stuck together because we were required to. Now we’ve added a few stragglers from other orientation groups and picked up a former Black semester. The Mister isn’t in the same classes anymore, after having had to repeat a semester, but we’re still together every chance we get and they are always quick to offer him any advice or materials they have to help him succeed. No one is left behind or forgotten.

I write this long, sappy post to say this – I am eternally grateful for the ohana we have found here; for those we have chosen and for those who have chosen us in return. I don’t know where we would be or how we would get through this without them, and I hope they know they can count on us as well. The saddest part about repeating a semester is knowing we will not finish this journey with them, that we will have a semester on this island alone after they have moved on to greater things. But I have a feeling we will find each other again along the way, whether in clinicals, at professional conferences or at weddings and other special events. We will find each other, because we are ohana, and no one will be forgotten.

And so the journey begins

Well it’s been a rollercoaster week for the Nut House. We left my parents’ house at 5:30 a.m. last Saturday, with me not having slept in 48 hours from nerves and stress. Our plane left Nashville at 8 and then our connection left Charlotte, NC, at 11 without any problems. We actually got to the island a bit earlier than planned, even though the flight was long and boring. We did end up sitting next to a very nice lady and her husband who were headed to the island on vacation, and got to talk to several other new Ross students while waiting in the immigration line. The airport here is just a tarmac and one room where you wait to go through customs.

From there our orientation leader (Caitlin, who is wonderful, by the way) took our orientation group to the grocery store to pick up some snacks and a few basic things for our new apartments. On the way there, Caitlin advised us to check the expiration dates on everything, open cereal boxes to check for bugs in the bags, and remember to divide by three to estimate the US dollar value of items. That was definitely a culture shock. We had been warned that shopping would be expensive, but when the sticker by the toilet paper says 32.75 for six rolls…. that was a shocker. Granted, that’s about 10 US dollars, which is better than 32 but still very expensive. (Prices are all listed in Eastern Caribbean dollars, which are about 2.6 to one US dollar.) Then our group went to dinner and saw some of the other groups out as well, which was very disheartening because everyone here drinks. A LOT. The Mister and I are not drinkers, so that has made for several uncomfortable meals since we’ve arrived.

Sunday we were not able to go to church services, since we don’t yet know how to find addresses here or how to navigate the public transportation. We hope to start attending somewhere in the next week or so once we can figure all that out. Instead, Sunday was IT day, where all the students got their electronic devices set up on the school wireless network. This was the first instance where I realized that my status as a VIP (a spouse, child or significant other) is very different from the Mister’s status as a student. I had been told I would be able to attend all the orientation sessions with him and move through the process as a couple. Well, that is not entirely true. The IT workers were not able to add my laptop to any of the wireless networks because I am not a student, and I had to beg them to add my iPad. Even then, I’m not allowed to have my own log in information; I have to use the Mister’s student information.

This has been true at all the orientation sessions I have attended. The school employees have, for the most part, been nice to me, but that doesn’t change the fact that I am constantly hearing, “This is not for you,” “You can’t do that,” “You can’t use this building,” etc. I know there must be other VIPs here with students, but I have only met one in passing. He is a fiancé to a student and was running against many of the same walls. So at least it’s not just me.

I did have one unpleasant encounter though at the immigration table. All the students were able to process their student visa paperwork at “one stop” on Monday, and I had never been told I couldn’t process my paperwork there as well. (I will not have a student visa, but I do have to apply for a visitor’s extension.) I had all my paperwork filled out, signed and in the order listed in our welcome packet. I approached the table and let them know I am a VIP, and the woman asked for the paperwork from my packet when I arrived on the island. I gave her the forms I had filled out that morning, and she insisted that I did not have them all. However she would not tell me which form I was missing so I could look for it in my stack. Then she saw my other paperwork and started yelling that none of that was for me, I had done everything wrong and I hadn’t read any of the instructions. Which is not true, I followed the instructions backwards and forwards. So when I finally convinced her that I did have everything in order, she yelled at me to pick up my papers and stop cluttering her desk (I only had my one neat pile). Apparently VIPs can’t be processed until next week. She could have just told me that instead of making me feel and look stupid in front of a whole line of people.

Unfortunately this is the same woman who runs the VIP program. Needless to say, it was not a good first impression. Maybe she will make up for it at the meeting next Monday.

I have had fun on our two trips to various beaches this week, however. I am adjusting to the presence of sand on everything and have even managed to avoid much of a sunburn. Which for me is a small miracle in and of itself. Last night our group met the other groups on “The Strip,” which is a length of each where all the beach bars are, and played sand volleyball until the sun went down. I like volleyball, but I chose to walk along the beach and recharge my solitary batteries instead; but the Mister’s team won the orientation group tournament. We have gotten to know and like the members of our group pretty well, and we generally have fun together.

Right now I am in our apartment while the Mister is in some sort of leadership training seminar. I’ve been going to the orientation seminars for fear of missing some important piece of useful information, but so far nothing has applied to me. Hopefully this will improve next week when I’m able to meet other VIPs and start making friends who don’t talk about emergency surgery procedures all the time. It’s definitely a downer to be the only person at a table of eleven who doesn’t understand what the conversation is about.

Prayers for both of us are appreciated. The Mister starts classes on Monday and receives his white coat and takes the veterinary oath that night, a ceremony which will be broadcast live over the internet. Anyone who is interested can go to http://www.rossu.edu, select ross veterinary school across the top, click the academic events calendar on the left, and then look for “white coat ceremony” under Monday, May 6 from 4-6 eastern, 3-5 central time.

The future prepares us for who we will be, but the past has made us who we are.

It’s been a long, hard week at the Nut House. We are excited about the adventure ahead, but unfortunately that involved leaving behind a lot of the people, places and things that have helped us both come into our own these past few years.

I had originally planned for this to be a long, sappy post – a tribute to all the most important people and places in our lives – but no matter how hard I work to find the perfect words, I know I will never be able to properly describe and thank all those people I hate to be leaving behind. The friends who have built us up in hard times and been there to laugh and cry with us through everything; the coworkers who gave us our first chances out in the real world and always believed in our abilities; the places where memories were made, promises kept and new beginnings started… I could never do it all justice.

So after loading up our first married home (it somehow took five hours to load the uhaul trailer and three vehicles crammed to the brim), sorting our belongings three times for storage, having two complete emotional breakdowns and one last long, exhausting trip back to Middle Tennessee, we are finally (almost) ready to start this next leg of our journey. We spend this week with the Mister’s family and next week with mine, and then we leave.

**On that note, the Mister did find out today that he has been moved up to be a regular first semester student, instead of having to take the vet prep program first! So we’re saving thousands of dollars in private loans, three months on the island and lots of extra headache, so that’s the good news in all of this.**

Martin will never be the same again, but the memories we’ve made and the people we’ve known there will continue to shape us and the choices we make through the rest of our lives.

In the words of one of my favorite Broadway plays:
“I’ve heard it said that people come into our lives for a reason, bringing something we must learn, and we are led to those who help us most to grow, if we let them, and we help them in return. Well, I don’t know if I believe that’s true. But I know I’m who I am today because I knew you…

It well may be that we will never meet again in this lifetime, so let me say before we part, so much of me is made from what I learned from you. You’ll be with me like a handprint on my heart. And now whatever way our stories end, I know you have rewritten mine by being my friend…

Who can say if I’ve been changed for the better, but, because I knew you, I have been changed for good.”
“For Good,” Wicked

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