Category Archives: life

The Seven Days of Chalica

I am coming out of blogging silence to share today’s inspiration.

Each December, Unitarian Universalists celebrate a relatively new holiday known as Chalica.  It is held from the first Monday of December through the following Sunday (7 days) and honors and celebrates the 7 principles of the UUA.  I posted a status update on Facebook today and mentioned that it was the 5th day of Chalica.  A friend commented: “on the 5th day of Chalica, my true love gave to me…

That got me to thinking what the end of that sentence would be, and what the other verses (1st day, 2nd day, etc) would be.  I decided to give my creativity a try and came up with words to The Seven Days of Chalica, sung to the tune of the 12 Days of Christmas, with each verse about the principle for that day.  I am thinking it might catch on!

The Seven Days of Chalica
Sung to the tune of The 12 Days of Christmas

On the 1st day of Chalica, the UU gave to me
Inherent Worth and Dignity.

On the 2nd day of Chalica, the UU gave to me
Kindness to All and
Inherent Worth and Dignity.

On the 3rd day of Chalica, the UU gave to me
Spiritual Growth,
Kindness to All and
Inherent Worth and Dignity.

On the 4th day of Chalica, the UU gave to me
Free Search for Truth,
Spiritual Growth,
Kindness to All and
Inherent Worth and Dignity.

On the 5th day of Chalica, the UU gave to me
De-mo-cra-cy,
Free Search for Truth,
Spiritual Growth,
Kindness to All and
Inherent Worth and Dignity

On the 6th day of Chalica, the UU gave to me
A Peaceful Free World,
De-mo-cra-cy,
Free Search for Truth,
Spiritual Growth,
Kindness to All and
Inherent Worth and Dignity

On the 7th day of Chalica, the UU gave to me
The Earth Which We Value,
A Peaceful Free World,
De-mo-cra-cy,
Free Search for Truth,
Spiritual Growth,
Kindness to All and
Inherent Worth and Dignity

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4 years? Where has the time gone?

I received notice from WordPress that today is my 4 year “blog-iversary” – I can hardly believe it!  So I decided to look back over my (122) posts.  I did the math (you are welcome) and over 48 months, I am averaging about 2.5 posts per month.  That is pretty pathetic, but if you realize that the first month, I published 12 posts (some were poems written long before I began blogging), and start with the 2nd month, the average per month drops to 2.3.

After the 1st year, it gets even worse.  During December 2010 (my first year blogging), I was posting nearly every day with a “Month of Gratitude”.  Granted the posts were short, but it raised my average considerably.  If I just do the math for the last 3 years, I posted a total of 52 times over 36 months.  Barely over once a month!

I started this blog to chronicle the journey I was traveling as the daughter of an Alzheimer’s patient – focusing on the “Spirit Within” both him and me.  It has been an outlet for me to express both gratitude and sadness, joy and grief, frustration and silliness.  But I am not sure there is much of a theme to it.

I read other blogs and am impressed by the writers’ ability to convey their message, whether it is sharing information, detailing their struggles, or offering humor.  I follow quite a few, and enjoy reading about the lives of people – some I have things in common with, others I feel I learn a lot from, many who make me laugh.  I don’t have many followers myself, the number of views I get for each post is limited, and I am not sure I am really contributing to the blogging world.

I am sitting here pondering the last 4 years, during which Dad passed away, and thinking there isn’t much more to say.  I may decide to start a different blog – if I find myself with something to share – but for now, I think I will just let this one fade into the void of the interwebs.  I’m not going to shut it down, but I am going to say good bye.

A heartfelt THANK YOU to the handful of you loyal readers and commenters – I’ll be in touch if I decide to start a new blog so you can decide if you want to follow it!

When I remember Grandmommy’s house…

When I remember Grandmommy’s house, it’s always Summer.  Or maybe Spring.  It’s at least warm enough to be outside.  We played outside a lot.  I have memories of poking underneath her azalea bushes, looking for Easter eggs with my cousins; running to the front yard with a dime clutched in my hand, trying to catch the ice cream truck as it made its way down the block; and catching fireflies after dark, putting them in an old mayonnaise or pickle jar with holes poked in the lid.  I suppose we visited other times of year, or perhaps it would be raining, because I also have memories inside the house, although this particular story took place on the brick patio outside the kitchen door.

Current view of Grandmommy's house courtesy of Google Street View (it hasn't changed much at all!)

Current view of Grandmommy’s house
(it hasn’t changed much at all!)

When we would visit, there was never a need to bring our own toys – Grandmommy had things for us to play with.  There was the stuffed dog – long, like a dachshund, but with blue velvet around the middle – I liked to sleep with my head on his middle part.  And the babydoll with a squishy belly and hard rubber arms, legs and face – I carried her around all the time, giving her bottles and rocking her to sleep.  It was the babydoll that got me in trouble one time – the only time my grandmother ever got mad at me.

The family next door had 3 girls – two, a few years younger than me, and Susan – a couple of years older.  Susan was tall, pretty, and most importantly the oldest.  She often decided what game we would play.

One time, I took the doll outside and met them in Grandmommy’s side yard.  Susan wanted to play operating room – she would be the doctor and her sisters and I would be the nurses.  So we got a butter knife, some Band-Aids, and a permanent marker.

Susan laid the doll on the patio table and pretended to cut her open with the butter knife.  When she was done, we put bandaids on her belly, and then drew scars and stitches on her arms and legs.  With the permanent marker.

When Grandmommy found out what we had done, she got mad – angrier than I had ever seen her.  She sat me down on her red kitchen stool – the kind with the steps that folded up underneath the seat – and scolded me for what felt like a long time.  She told me I was not allowed to play with the babydoll any more, and couldn’t take any toys outside.  I was more upset that she was mad at me than that I was being punished – I hated disappointing her.   But I’ve always wondered if Susan got in trouble too, since it was her idea!

Mixed Emotions

We are coming up on 2 important anniversaries.  Tomorrow is the 1 year anniversary of my father’s death.  I think about him every day, and miss him more than words can say.  Fortunately, when I look back on my life, I have many special memories of our time together – riding in the car on road trips or just to his farm in Maryland, dancing to big band music at the officers’ club on a ech college gradnearby military base, moving me into my college dorm, the smile on his face when I graduated, and the hug he gave me the last time I saw him.  I am grateful for those.  They usually bring a smile to my face, albeit often with tears in my eyes at the same time.

I know I am lucky to have had him in my life for 48 years.  His life was a long, successful, happy one.  He worked hard, provided well for his family, and loved me unconditionally.  I know it is selfish to want him back, but I do.  Even with the Alzheimer’s robbing him of his memory and his intelligence, I miss his gentle smile and warm eyes.  But then I remember that several of my students over the past few years have lost fathers to cancer or heart attacks or other tragic causes, and I feel terrible for feeling so sad about my dad.  At least he got to see me grow up.  He got to know me as an adult.  And I got to know him too.  My loss isn’t easy, but it isn’t as tragic as these other men who were taken from their families, their daughters, too soon.

I know I will miss Dad every day, but I don’t want to go through the rest of my life as sad as I have been.  The problem is that I don’t know how to miss him without feeling sadness too.  I think I am afraid that if I let go of the sadness, it will feel like I don’t miss him enough.  I try to focus on the fact that he would not have wanted to go on in his condition at the end.  But it is still hard to let go and move forward.

Moving forward is what the 2nd anniversary is all about – processing inSunday will be my first wedding anniversary!  I have mixed emotions about that too. Don’t get me wrong – I am beyond thrilled to have married the love of my life!  It was a long time coming.  I am just sad that it didn’t happen years before, when my dad was still able to travel and could have been there to give me a hug and to welcome Jeanne into the family as my wife.

Recently, I have become obsessed fascinated with the idea of a medium being able to channel loved ones from the “other side”.  I am beginning to believe that the spirits of those who have passed remain with us, sort of like guardian angels, hovering over and keeping tabs on what we are doing.  The one positive thing I can hang on to about my dad passing away 3 days before our wedding is, as our Best Woman put it, that was the only way Dad could be at the wedding with us.  It isn’t quite the same thing as if he had been there in body, but I do hope that he was there in spirit – and was as happy for us as we were for ourselves.

Never Say Never!

Memphis, Marriage, and Mocha – the lesson we have learned from these 3 things is to never say never.

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A way to honor those who gave unselfishly

Heroes are those who go above and beyond. They put their lives on the line for others, sacrifice much for the good of all, show courage when most of us would run from danger.  I am no hero.  I’m not sure I would run into a burning building or charge down an airplane aisle to tackle a bad guy.  I never served our country by joining the military (although I have family members who did and I am extraordinarily proud of them).  But I can try to go above and beyond.

I heard about the 21-day kindness challenge on another blog that I follow.  The blogger, Jane, says this about doing random acts of kindness:

Admit it. When you give someone a gift, big or small, and it makes them smile, you feel pretty good about yourself. Am I right? In a way, this seems a bit selfish. Doing nice things for people in order to make you feel good. And it is selfish. But in a good way.

I have done small things for people – paid a toll for the person behind me, offered to drive a friend to an event, helped someone load groceries in their car when they had a child with them – and it does make me feel good.  But as Jane wrote on her blog, these random acts have been few and far between, occurring when it was easy and convenient for me.  I pulled out an extra dollar when paying my own toll, was going to the event anyway, had the time to help.

This 21-day challenge will involve a more deliberate effort, as well as some creativity, to find opportunities and come up with ideas of how to brighten someone’s day.  But if it brings a smile to someone’s face, or encourages them to “pay it forward”, it will be worth the effort.  And maybe, just maybe, I will develop a habit that will change the world for the better.

Are you in?  Let’s honor those who gave everything 12 years ago by giving just a little now.

Road trips make me nervous

I love road trips.  I love everything about being in a car on the open road.  The scenery. The music on the radio.  The time to visit with each other without having a million interruptions.  But road trips make me nervous.  I usually have the nagging worry at the back of my head that something is going to go wrong.  Because it always does.

The very first road trip that Jeanne and I ever took together should have been a sign.  We always end up having adventures when we travel.  Over the years, we have had some crazy things happen.  One time we had to sleep in the car when we couldn’t find a single vacant hotel room for 400 miles.  Another time, we were caught in a hailstorm that left dents on the hood of the car.  And there was that time we had rented a car for the trip. We had mechanical trouble before we even got to our destination, had to trade the car in, and then were rear-ended on the way home, so ended up in a 3rd vehicle before the trip was over. But the first trip – the one we’ll never forget – is the story we still tell when we get talking about weird travel stories.

My mother had won 3 nights at a hotel in Nashville, and knowing we both loved Country music, offered the certificate to Jeanne and me.  She even offered to let us use her car for the trip, but mine got better gas mileage, so we didn’t take her up on it.  That was our first mistake!

I was teaching in Northern Virginia at the time, so we hit the road during my spring break. Our first stop was Atlanta to visit a cousin of mine; from there, we made our way towards Nashville, by way of Chattanooga and a couple of famous distilleries (to take a tour and see how the whiskey was made).  After visiting these tourist stops, we got back on the interstate headed for Music City.  All of a sudden, we heard a popping noise, and then smoke started billowing out of my engine.  We pulled over, knowing something was terribly wrong.  Not having any idea what we were looking at, we raised the hood and decided we had better see what we could do about getting some help.

Keep in mind, this was long before either of us owned a cell phone!  Fortunately the next exit was within view and at the top of the ramp, we could see a service station.  We locked the car and started walking.

When we got to the gas station, the mechanic asked what he could do for us.  We pointed down to the side of the highway and said – see that car?  We need to get it towed up here because something is wrong.  He didn’t have a tow truck but he did have a phone for us to call AAA and arrange for one to come.  The closest one was located 20 miles north of where we were, had to drive past where the car was to get to the next exit and turn around, and then could tow the steaming car about ¼ of a mile up the exit ramp.  When it finally got delivered to the mechanic, he told us the water pump had blown, that he would have to get a part from another town and that he couldn’t have the car ready until noon the next day.

He then directed us to a motel down the road – the only one within walking distance.  The Smoke House was more than just a motel.  It was a restaurant, gift shop, motel … and wedding chapel!  Over the course of the next 24 hours, we took advantage of all of these – except the wedding chapel, of course.  We had only been dating about 3 months at that point!

I googled the Smoke House recently.  The motel is still there – it is now a Best Western, and I don’t see the wedding chapel mentioned on their website, but the restaurant and gift shop look exactly the same.  The rooms, though, have been updated.

19 years ago, when we walked into our room, the first thing we noticed was a floor to ceiling mural on the wall in front of us.  Larger than life, it depicted a bottle of Jack Daniels next to a glass of whiskey on the rocks.  The rest of the room décor also seemed to remind us of our earlier stops.  For one thing, the bedside table was a whiskey barrel!

There wasn’t much to do, since we were without transportation, so we spent a lot of time in the gift shop and restaurant.  Once we had looked at every knickknack on sale and eaten lunch, dinner, and breakfast the next day in the one restaurant, we still had some time to kill before the car would be ready, so we decided to walk across the street to the local winery.  Their sign advertised tours of their operation – we have always enjoyed learning about the manufacturing process, whether it is the CocaCola museum in Atlanta, the Budweiser brewery in St. Louis, or in this case, the Monteagle winery in Tennessee.

The tour cost the lively sum of $3, which we figured was a bargain for something to do that day.  We were hoping it would help the time pass quickly and that we could get on our way soon.  We waited with a few other “tourists” by the head of a flight of stairs.  When the employee opened the gate that was blocking the way, he indicated it was a self-guided tour and we should just proceed down the steps.

We reached the landing at the bottom and quickly realized that we had overpaid for this particular “tour”.  Standing on a landing with windows on either side, we were facing a handwritten sign on the wall in front of us that told us to look to the left to see the pressing process and look to the right to see the bottling process, and “thank you for touring the Monteagle Winery”.  The only saving grace was that we were given a free wine tasting when we got back upstairs.

Whenever we get ready to go on a road trip these days, we always know there will be an adventure awaiting us along the way.  Some good, some not-so-good.  But if nothing else, we know we will get a story out of it!

Some day, I’ll tell you about the year I went looking for a new job and had a story to tell after each interview.  It would be almost enough to fill a book!

How do you show your love?

Today is that overly-sweet, hearts-and-flowers, you-can-only-show-your-love-by-spending-oodles-of-money, “Hallmark Holiday” known as St. Valentine’s Day.  In the 19 years we have been together, I can count on one hand the number of times that Jeanne has given me a gift for this occasion.  I know she sent flowers one year, and a “candy bouquet” another.  I think she gave me my favorite moisturizer one time, but if there were other gifts, I have forgotten them. And that is OK.  I don’t need a gift to know she loves me.  When I left for work this morning, she told me I looked pretty – that was gift enough for me!

We usually buy each other a card at least, although this year, we are trying to cut back on unnecessary expenses, so we are going to do what some friends do.  Go to the card store, browse the racks of pink and red sentiments, choosing just the right one that expresses our love, show it to each other and say “Honey, this is what I want to say to you today.”  We’ll put the cards back, walk out of the store, and congratulate each other on saving $5 on a card that would end up in the trash can in a week.  And then go out for our annual tradition – Chinese food!

May you be surrounded by love today and always.

Feeling thankful…

In 2010, I posted a gratitude per day on my blog.  Last year, I tried to do it on Facebook, but couldn’t keep up.  This year, several friends are participating in the Facebook meme of posting something they are thankful for as their status every day. The month is more than half over already and I haven’t jumped on that bandwagon!  Since Thanksgiving is just a day away, I thought I would just write one blog post about being thankful.

Despite having lost my Dad a couple of weeks ago, there is a lot to be thankful for this year.  First, I am extremely grateful for the care he received, both last year in Memphis and this past year in Delaware.  The staff at Cadbury, particularly the nursing staff, was amazing, caring for his physical needs while treating him with the kindness and respect that he deserved.

I am thankful that I was able to see him as many times as I did this past year.  The cost of travel, especially by air, can be quite prohibitive, but my mother made sure I was able to get there several times by paying for my tickets.

I am incredibly lucky to have a job that, first of all, allows me to have time off in the summer and secondly, offers family medical leave during the school year so that I can spend time with my parents when they need my assistance.

I am always grateful for my loving wife (I can say that for real, now!), who loved my dad almost as much as I did and who supported my need to spend time with him.  She has been my shoulder to cry on when the grief threatens to overwhelm me.

I am thankful for my brother.  Even though we don’t have a lot in common and rarely talk, we know we have each other’s back and that counts for a lot.  I hope he knows how much I love him.  I am also incredibly thankful that he met and married his wife.  She has become one of my dearest friends – I can call her any time, day or night, and know that she will listen, offer advice when asked, keep my confidences if I need her to, and give generously of her time and talent.

I am also grateful for my students, who teach me something every day, if only how to be a better teacher.  They are kind, smart, interesting, caring, amazing young women who will help shape our community and our world in the years to come.

I am thankful that I am making healthier choices (most of the time) when it comes to what I eat and the activities I participate in.  Over the past year, I have made many positive changes and hope to continue in my journey towards fitness and health.

I am thankful that I have found a family of choice so far from my family of origin.  Without relatives closer than 800 miles, it could be very lonely here in the south.  But I have some wonderful friends who treat me like family and for whom I would do just about anything!

One of the best parts of this past year was the privilege I had of marrying the woman I love.  I am extraordinarily grateful for the members of the LGBT community and all the allies who have fought for marriage equality over the years.  Without their hard work, we would not have been able to legally declare our love and commitment.  As it is, we still have work to do, but I am so thankful for the opportunity to be a part of history – I have faith that some day (soon), we will be able to look back and say we were there.  And that the next generation will be able to look back and think “what was the big deal?”

As we head into the frantic holiday season, filled with TV ads, mailbox-filling catalogs, and incessant Christmas music from every conceivable corner of retail locations, I took a moment today to just sit.  Sit in silence, looking out at the water in Lewes, DE, and contemplate all that I have to be grateful for.  That includes you – my readers.  Thanks for reading about my life here in this little corner of cyber space.

A play-by-play of our wedding day

Last week was the worst week of my life and the best week of my life.  On Wednesday evening, my Dad passed away (a blog post for another day).  On Thursday, I left for Iowa to get married.  Jeanne and I had been planning our wedding since the end of September, and since the date for Dad’s funeral is up to Arlington National Cemetery and may be several months off, there was no reason to change our plans. We had planned for it to be a very small affair anyway – just us and 2 attendants – so we decided to go ahead and leave.  Between the original plan and the date of the wedding, we did add one guest – a cousin who lives close enough to drive to the location we had chosen.

Jeanne & I, along with our dear friend Lorena, drove about 1/3 of the way the first day.  We got back in the car Friday morning, arrived in Davenport at 2:15 pm, and met up with my sister-in-law who drove in from Wisconsin.  We got there in plenty of time to pick up our license at the court house, check into the Bed & Breakfast we had found, and get to the church for a 4 pm rehearsal.  All went smoothly that day, and we went to bed early to be well rested for the big day.

Saturday – our wedding day – was almost perfect.  The day began with sleeping in (which we all needed), followed by a yummy breakfast casserole, cinnamon rolls and a trip to the mall to get our nails done.  My color matched my flowers and Jeanne’s color matched her blouse.  It had been sprinkling as we walked into the mall, but when we left, the sun was shining – yay!  After a quick bite at Panera to make sure we all made it through the afternoon, we returned to the Beiderbecke Inn to get ready.  Jeanne was ready first and went downstairs to wait.  My cousin Michelle arrived and kept her company while our 2 attendants helped me get into my dress.  Michelle then came up to see me and give me two tokens to have with me during the ceremony – a hankie that was her mother’s and a pin that was one of Dad’s other sister’s.  The pin belonged to my godmother, and was a silver shamrock with a pearl at the center.  Both gifts were very meaningful and gave me a sense of having part of Dad with me on this special day.

When I was finally ready, I came down to meet Jeanne.  As I rounded the corner in the staircase, I could see her waiting at the bottom – her mouth hanging open as she saw my dress for the first time.  I was so happy she liked it!  We took tons of photos, inside and out, and then headed for the church, the Unitarian Universalist Congregation of the Quad Cities, a UU congregation very similar to our home church of Neshoba.

When we got there, several cars were already in the parking lot.  Our minister in Memphis had emailed the minister in Iowa to suggest that he invite members of his congregation to attend, since we couldn’t have our church family with us.  When we went inside there were already 2 families and a couple of other people.  More arrived before the start of the ceremony – we were amazed at how many people came to see 2 strangers get married.  One couple, Dana and Betty, told us that they had been married over 2 years ago, and when they had their ceremony, they had also been together 19 years.

The ceremony itself was lovely.  The minister said a few words of welcome, and talked about love.  One phrase that stuck with me was he told us to “knock gently on each other’s hearts, and open them to each other in gladness”.  Our friend Lorena, who we gave the title of “Best Woman”, read the chalice lighting words. Lori, my sister-in-law, who was the “Matron of Honor”, read a passage from Robert Fulgum.  Following that was a prayer that Lorena and Lori read together.

Then came the vows – we had each written our own and not shared them at that point.  I was already a bit teary because Lori & Lorena had each teared up a bit during the readings.  I went first because I didn’t want to cry at Jeanne’s and then not be able to get through my own.  Turns out I cried during mine anyway.  But I got through it.  Jeanne’s were touching as well, so I was glad I had a hankie in my pocket!

We exchanged rings and then all of a sudden we were married!  Our recessional was “Can I have this dance” by Anne Murray, so we danced for a bit in front of everyone, and then walked down the aisle.  As everyone left, we stood by the door thanking them for helping us celebrate.  Several of them gave us cards, and one woman actually gave us a gift.  It was a small figurine of 2 people (of indiscriminate gender) embracing – we found out later, it was crafted by a famous local artisan, Isabel Bloom.

We took more photos, went to the minister’s office to sign the paper work, and then went outside to take even more pictures.  Our Matron of Honor, Lori, is a wedding photographer by profession, so she knew just what poses to capture and how to take advantage of the light.  Most of the photos were taken on her camera, so we will get those after she has a chance to upload and edit them.

A few photos were taken on iphones. This one turned out well!

It was quite breezy on Saturday, so that presented a challenge, but Lori is experienced in dealing with challenging situations, so I have no doubt the pictures will be amazing.  As we got into the car to leave the church, the rain started up again – just a sprinkle, but we were thrilled that it waited until we were finished with pictures.

We returned to the Beiderbecke to put our feet up and visit for a while.  Michelle had brought Prosecco and sparkling pear juice, so she, Lori & Lorena toasted us and our marriage.  We opened gifts from Michelle and Lorena, opened all the cards from the members of the church, and then got ready to go to dinner.  Fortunately, the rain had stopped again!

We had a 6 pm reservation at Biaggi’s, a wonderful Italian restaurant that has locations around the country, but none in Tennessee, so we hadn’t heard of it before.  I just found it the way I did most of the parts of this weekend – searching on the internet for “Fine Dining in Davenport”.  The atmosphere was warm – literally and figuratively. We were seated near a fireplace in a back room – a round table set for 5.  Lorena sat next to Jeanne, Michelle was next to me, and Lori was across the table from us – perfect vantage point for the photographer!

The waiter, a nice young man named Angel, informed us that the manager wanted to provide a bottle of wine for our celebration, so we went with Prosecco again.  For appetizers, we ordered calamari fritti and lobster artichoke dip, shared around the table. Then it was on to soup and salad – I had a Caesar and Lori & Lorena shared a beet salad and a bowl of lobster corn chowder.  The soup was passed around also so we could all taste it.   Everyone agreed that the food was all delicious.  Then came the main course.  Jeanne ordered a seafood pasta bowl that included shrimp, scallops, muscles, and clams in a tomato sauce.  I had shrimp & crab cannelloni in a lobster cream sauce.  Michelle had chicken piccata, and Lori & Lorena each ordered a ½ order of a pasta dish – the cannelloni and a black fettucini with lobster and wild mushrooms – and then shared them.   We should have all gone with 1/2 orders – Michelle, Jeanne and I all had leftovers, while Lori & Lorena cleaned their plates!

Finally, it was time for dessert.  Lori had brought a stunning cheesecake made at a Wisconsin bakery, Simma’s.  Besides being beautiful, with swirls and plum-colored dots that matched my dress, it was the most delicious wedding cake any of us had ever tasted!  It was two-tiered, and we used the figurine given to us by the member of the UUCQC as a cake topper – it was the perfect size for the cake.

We had to say goodbye to Michelle after dinner, but it had been a wonderful day and we were so grateful she was able to be there to help us celebrate.  Lori, who was doing triple duty as witness, photographer, and driver, got us all back to the B&B for a relatively early night.  The drive home the next day was going to be long, so we retired to our respective rooms by 9 pm.

Even if our marriage is never recognized by the state we live in or by the federal government, we are so happy we made this trip.  We have hopes that it be legal everywhere one day, but in the meantime, we know in our hearts that we are legally married and that we will continue to love each other … at least one more day than we have so far.