Thank You for Making Valentine’s Day Meaningless

Todd Shelnutt Sevier,

You should know that every time you hit snooze on your alarm so we can spoon for nine more precious minutes before getting up…Every time you sneak up behind me while I’m doing my makeup and kiss the back of my neck…Every time you send a text during the middle of my workday with a gif of two otters holding hands or a surprise greeting card from Curly Girl Designs…Every time you come home with a cheerful “Hey boo-boo!” and a generous hug…Every time we go out for a spontaneous date night and sit at the bar so we can be close…Every time you hold my hand as we walk back to the car from dinner…Every time you patiently tell me every last detail of your day because I won’t stop asking you to…You teach me how to celebrate love. Not just in grand gestures on holidays, but also in every little moment of every other day of the year.

So I just want to say thank you for making Valentine’s Day meaningless in the best kind of way. And, of course, I love you. Yesterday, today, forever.

<3 <3 <3

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Troo Love

I’m a dog person. I love a leg-slap by a happy tail. I love wiggly butts waiting for me at the door. I love joyful barks and big ol’ toothy grins and the uninhibited affection that only dogs can offer.

I’ve always been a dog person. And that’s exactly why I struggled with Roo, the Chihuahua-ish mix that Todd adopted right before we started dating.

At first glance, you’d probably say Roo was a dog. Although we all agreed, she looked more like the lovechild of Dobby from Harry Potter and Yoda. She had ears that stuck out from the sides of her head, oversized bulging eyes, a pink nose, and a tongue that seemed far too long for her mouth.

Despite her perplexing appearance, Roo was in fact a dog. A very, very peculiar dog.

She never barked. Or learned a single trick. She looked irritated and incredulous when scolded. She hated the cold. And the rain. And the outdoors. She didn’t care much for food. Or chew toys. Or other dogs.

What Roo did care for was sleep. She slept with us in bed—under the covers—every night. And she growled if you happened to nudge her while shifting your position.

While our two pit bulls pounced on our faces at 6:00 a.m., Roo preferred to stay tucked beneath the blankets, snoozing the day away. We’d have to pull the covers off her and coax her out of bed when it was time for us to go to work.

Roo also differed from other dogs in the things she liked: going to the vet, bath time, and wearing cable-knit sweaters. If we could have heard her voice, Todd and I imagined Roo sounded something like an old, crotchety British professor.

She loved to play, but only in 15 second increments—and only on her terms. She loved our other two pups, as long as they were quiet, still, and keeping her warm. She loved being held, but of course, she hated being picked up.

It never failed that as I tried to sit down on the couch, Roo’d hop into my lap before I could even get settled. I’d be trapped awkwardly holding her 22-pound physique asking Todd to pass me my glass of wine so as not to disturb her.

Roo also had a funny way of greeting me when I’d get home each day. She would prance up to me, struggling to squeeze in among our two bigger pups. She’d curl her lips around her teeth in what most people would clearly call a snarl, but I knew it was just her strange, excited hello.

Weekend mornings were Roo’s time to shine. After we’d let the other pups out to play in the yard, Roo would crawl her way to the top of the bed, roll over on her back between Todd and me, and bask in belly rubs. Then she’d give the sweetest little kisses for as long as our faces were within her tongue’s impressive reach.

The people who met Roo either loved her instantly or didn’t get her at all. I hate to admit that for a long time, I was the latter. I was a dog person. And Roo didn’t act like a dog.

But my hesitation didn’t affect how she treated me. When Todd and I moved in together two years ago, she adopted me as her owner with full confidence. Todd hates to admit it, but she loved me the most—and without ever wanting anything in return.

It took me a while to figure out, but Roo’s unconditional love made her more of a dog than tail-chasing or squirrel-hunting ever could.

I’m a dog person. Roo was my dog. And last week, we had to say goodbye.

I’ve never had a pet that’s so completely irreplaceable, and I doubt I ever will. My little Roo-Bug was dearly loved and will be greatly missed.

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another silent night

four years is an eternity.

four years is an instant.

while most days are easy,

today is impossible.

and so i remember her—

always with love

and sometimes with peace.

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“Our Lady of Guadalupe,” one of my mother’s paintings 

Honoring Mom

“Do you want to take a photo to honor your mother?”

That’s the question my thoughtful, compassionate photographer asked me on my wedding day.

The dress was on. Hair and makeup, done. Chandelier earrings dangling by my cheeks.

I didn’t know what to say. I didn’t say anything at all.

Todd had decided to take a portrait holding his mother’s cowboy hat across his chest. Perhaps I wanted to do something like that?

“Maybe in front of one of her paintings?” the photographer offered.

I stared at my hands. I tried to focus.

It wasn’t that I hadn’t put plenty of thought into how to honor my mom at my wedding. I’d considered empty chairs and photographs. Special songs and moments of silence.

None of it felt right. None of it felt like her. Or me. So, I’d let it go.

“That’s okay,” I replied. “I don’t think I need to do that.”

Now I look back at the pictures from that day, and I know I was right. In shot after shot after shot, my face shows nothing except unbridled joy.

And that’s how I honor her.

By being happy. By finding the best partner for me. By living life fully. And always, always, always overflowing with love.

 

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I choose you,

as my husband and partner,

my companion and friend,

my forever and always.

Because I love you just as you are today

and I’m excited to see who you become.

I promise to always support and snuggle you,

to challenge and cherish you,

And to be honest and adventurous,

so that our love will not grow old, even as we do.

The Love that Built This House

When I wear white,

there will be no church or chapel.

Just the sanctuary we created—

a simple plot of fertile ground

where a sacred love could grow.

At the end of the aisle, we’ll plant our feet.

Hearts beating like two hummingbirds,

captured in cages of bone.

There we’ll test the limits of human joy—

pledging words that no one else has said.

Because we wrote them.

Together.

As we invite others in to join

the unending celebration

that began when we first met,

my heart will be as full as the moon overhead.

Standing beneath oaks that have lasted for centuries

and hoping—always hoping—

for a love that lasts just as long.

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Disprespecting the Dead

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Photo Source: Steve Marcus / Reuters

Do you know what’s actually disrespectful to the 59 people who were murdered in Las Vegas on Sunday evening?

Pretending it couldn’t have been prevented. Silencing a conversation that could have saved their lives. Believing that the right to bear arms is more important than the right to live.

The same people who say the national anthem is not the time for protesting racial inequality are the ones saying this national crisis is not the time for a discussion of gun laws.

And I’m here to tell you that kind of thinking has led us to exactly where we are.

Maybe if we’d had a discussion about gun laws back in 1999, when 12 were slain in a high school. Maybe if we’d opened up a conversation in 2007, when a boy with an assault rifle killed 8 at a mall. Or after 12 died at the movies in 2012. Or when 26 were slaughtered in an elementary school later that same year. Or once 9 were murdered during a Bible study in 2015. Or when 49 were killed in a night club in 2016. Or after countless others died in mass shootings somewhere—anywhere—in between…

Maybe if we had talked about it then, maybe if we had pushed for stronger legislation, maybe if we hadn’t been silenced by an outspoken minority group who cares more about an ideal than it does about the actual problem it creates, maybe then a disturbed 64-year-old man wouldn’t have been able to get his hands on semi-automatic weapons and unlimited rounds ammunition.

Maybe that country music festival would have run until completion—with applause and ovations and encores. And maybe everyone would have gone home to their families and friends—safely, wholly, happily.

But we were told it was not the time. And the conversation was muffled and muted. Again. And again. And again.

Now we have another black mark on our calendars. Another day of the year when our flags will fly at half-staff. Soon enough, those Stars and Stripes will stop seeing the top of the pole altogether.

You can keep sending your thoughts and prayers. You can pause as long as you want for a moment of silence.

But if you’re unwilling to recognize this country is broken…Our gun laws put our people at risk…America has a mass shooting epidemic that doesn’t exist in any other developed nation…

If you’re unwilling to fight for change…If you’re trying to silence those who are, your thoughts and prayers are not only disrespectful to the dead—they’re a complete hypocrisy.

Liberty is precious. But so is life. It’s time we find a way to protect both.

So, let’s talk about it.