When I wrote a blog post on HuffPost Divorce, "Top 10 Rules For Dating A Single or Divorced Mom," I never expected to meet the love of my life. But that's exactly what happened. A single dad who read the post, Mike Darter, sent me a response I could not ignore... and, fast forward two years later, we are getting married in June.
Three months and 29 days until I am your wife. Yes, I geeked out, at age 44, downloading an app that tracks our wedding to the second. I look at it at least once a day...sometimes repeatedly, in the spirit of a stalker.
I can't stop thinking about crafting my vows for the ceremony. All I can tell you for sure is that I am going to need some sort of sedative to convey the depth of my feelings without ugly crying. My mind wanders as I am idling at a traffic light, preparing dinner, sneaking a shower during my over-scheduled day. I see you, immaculately dressed in a tuxedo with clean lines, your tranquil, sea-blue eyes looking through me with ease, and I am overcome with emotion.
Phrases, memories, vignettes dance in and out my brain in a natural rhythm. I am constantly texting myself, scribbling notes on frayed pieces of paper, napkins, backs of envelopes. There's simply so much to say. Too much.
I am going to start today with 10 pre-vows to you, to spare our kids — who will already be crimson-faced enough watching us kiss in front of a crowd on our wedding day. I don't want our guests throwing up in their mouths either, so pre-vows are a win-win.
1. My mom died before she got a chance to know you, but that doesn't stop you from trying to get to know her. You sprinkle her name in conversations, unprompted, unsolicited... but not unnoticed. You ask rich, detailed questions about her, and delight in my answers. You know all the lyrics of my trigger songs, the ones that make me miss her desperately, and reach for my hand when they come on the radio. You always deliver her favorite flowers and a heartfelt card on the anniversary of her death. When I asked if it was time for me to try to take a few photos of her down, you encouraged me to put more up.
You envelop me in your curative arms if you catch a glimpse of misty eyes. Instinctively, you know my look of grief, and you never look the other way when you see it... even if it's inconvenient. You could be running late for work, refereeing our two boisterous boys, or carrying bags of groceries. It doesn't matter; you'll just stop. If I need you, you stop.
I vow that this relationship is not a drive-by. I will always stop when you need me, too.
2. I wake up to your tender forehead kiss every morning. At night, you welcome my daily dose of freezing feet, hands, nose. Mere mortal men —including my own son! — recoil in horror at my reptilian extremities, but you ask for them when I lay on your strong chest. I know being my personal furnace is a thankless job, but I have come to rely on your warmth.
I vow to curl up next to only you, ice-cold, every night for the rest of my life.
3. On days when our two bottle flipping fiends' play room resembles a crack den (half-full bottles strewn everywhere), or homework anarchy reaches fever pitch, or I have been labeled "the worst mom ever" for demanding showers, I wait to hear your keys in the door. You calm me, center me, support me. When you come home, everything's alright.
I vow that you will always be my home, and I will always be your home.
4. You make me feel beautiful, even when I am not... and I see you through the same googly-eyed lens. You are the most handsome man in any room. There's no one who's more magnanimous, more fascinating, more brilliant. I am completely transfixed.
I vow that no man—past, present, or future—is remotely in your league. You forever have my full attention (minus the time the kids demand!)
5. When I was suffering from some unidentified stomach plague recently, you refused to leave my side. I was cranky. I was stubborn. I was insufferable. Still, you refused to go. You delivered plain Cheerios in bed the next morning, at my request, but formed them in the shape of a heart...which is quintessential you.
I vow to take care of you, and to let you take care of me. I heart you.
6. Even in my non-mom-of-the-year moments, when I am covered in flour making last-minute birthday cupcakes at midnight, swearing up a storm, you look at me like I've got it all together. You don't stand in judgment, complaining that it will be a long night because I couldn't get it done that day. You applaud me for my effort, dust the flour off my nose, and wait for the cupcakes to cool so you can help me frost and decorate.
I vow to always see the good, like you do, even when we have to endure the bad.
7. Whether we're screaming at the TV cheering for opposing football teams (sorry not sorry mine won the Super Bowl this year) or cuddling on the couch watching This Is Us, you are my favorite. There's no one I would rather be with cooking in the kitchen, driving on a road trip, or walking on the beach. You are my best friend, my soulmate, my Jack (who's got nothing on you, by the way).
I vow that you will always be my person.
8. You started a tradition of leaving love notes in unexpected places. The fridge, the shower, my makeup bag, on mirrors, behind doors, in cabinets, on my steering wheel, taped on my laptop screen, in my suitcase. It's a repeated demonstration of love that I cherish.
I vow to leave you love notes, and to inspire a lifetime of your love notes.
9. Life with you has been one of unabashed sarcasm, belly laughs, and endless smiles. You showcase your dimples when you laugh at my jokes, and you know I am a sucker for your dimples. I think you're hilarious. You are my accomplice if the joke's on our boys. We know how to tickle each other's funny bone with just a look, speaking a language only we understand.
I vow to generate new material—but never forget the old—as we grow in love together.
10. We have created a perfectly imperfect parfait of a family, "blending" two spirited little boys who are distinctly individual. The day-to-day is not easy, but there are many beautiful moments. I see our kids sitting on the bus together, because they want to, not because they have to. I hear them call each other the "best brother in the whole wide world." The "he did it!" mayhem, the smackdowns, the eye-rolls, the "it's mine!" madness, the messiness, the impossible pace of keeping up with them is all worth it. We have given them the greatest gift in us, and in each other. Our boys now have an example of what being in love is, witnessing us interact, and will experience life with parents in a joyful, fulfilling marriage. They now have someone who will have their back after we're gone, too.
I vow to stay true to our family, to love and nurture everyone in it, and to put the health, prosperity, and unity of it at the epicenter of my world...for you and the boys are my world.