Saturday, June 11, 2016

Not Just a Baylor Problem: A Look at the Brock Turner Rape Case

I graduated from Baylor University with my undergraduate
and Masters degrees in social work in 2014 and 2015 respectively.
I sat in the stands almost religiously as Art Briles led our
bears to win after win, and I felt a sense of pride that our
university had a high profile leader like Ken Starr.
Im a highly competitive person, and watching our
football team rise from being the joke of the Big 12 to
being a National power house was intoxicating.

I would give up all of those wins now.

If you exist on the internet it has been difficult to miss the
reporting on the sexual assault scandal that has rocked 
the university. Several Baylor student-athletes were accused
of rape and sexual assualt, and the evidence suggest that the
athletics department and the university as a whole knew about
these accusations and either ignored or intentionally made 
efforts to cover them up so that these players could 
continue to dominate out on the field. In incidents
involving non student athletes, the university was accused of
failing to implement Title IX procedures appropriately by 
failing to provide support in the form of counseling and 
class accomodations to victims, and also faced accusations
of failing to properly investigate accusations and discouraging
victims from moving forward in the reporting process.

As a result of this, Baylor hired Pepper-Hamilton,
an independent law firm, to conduct an investigation into
Baylor's handling of sexual assault allegations on campus.
While the full report has yet to be released, the summary of
findings that was released following the news of the university
firing Art Briles and removing Ken Starr as president 
(he was kept on as Chancellor, but would later resign)
is damming. University administration was found to be
knowledgable of these assaults and did nothing about them.
The athletic department was found to have intervened in 
investigations by contacting victims and their families.

Much of the coverage of this scandal has focused specifically
on the reporting about the athletic departments involvement,
and has accused the university of prioritizing the glory of 
our athletics department over the saftey of the general population.

This same message has been resonating from another high profile
case that has been highly publicized in the media:
The Brock Turner Sexual Assault Case.

For those of you unfamiliar with this case,
Brock Turner, a student-athlete at Stanford, was found guilty
of 3 felony counts of sexual assault a few weeks ago.
Two students witnessed him on top of a naked and unconscious
woman behind a dumpster, and tackled and held him until
authorities could arrive.

Despite eye witness testimony, 
and 3 felony convictions, Brock was sentenced to
just 6 months in county jail, which will be reduced to 3
with good behavior.

The sentencing in this case is nothing short of a slap in the
face to the victim herself and victims everywhere, and the media
reporting and sentencing itself have been flooded with the 
undertones of "student athletes are above the law."
Many articles about this case discuss in more details
this man, A CONVICTED RAPIST's, swimming times
than they do the autrocity which he commited that
shot him into the public eye to begin with. 
Rather than a mug-shot, many articles are posted
with his face beaming in a suit from his school 
year book photo. 

In this country, it is estimated that more than 
half of rapes and sexual assaults go unreported to authorities.
If you look at the reporting of both the Baylor scandal and the 
Brock Turner case it is not difficult to see why.

Reporting is an incredibly exhausting experience for survivors,
as you can see detailed in the Stanford Victims impact statement.
SANE exams are incredibly invasive, with photos taken of your
most private areas, while being swabbed and prodded for
evidence. Then there are the police interviews which are 
historically not met with the most sensitivity and often 
can lead to more trauma for the victim, when faced with
questions like 

What were you wearing?
Were you drinking?
How much did you drink?
Could you have done anything to make him 
think you wanted to have sex with him?
All of which have the undertone of 
what did you do to bring this upon yourself?

But in the Stanford Case we had a victim who did 
everything right. She endured the medical examinations,
police interviews, and over a year long trial process, and 
STILL it wasn't enough.

I am happy with the cries for justice I have seen from social
media in the past weeks, but am distrubed by the response 
to the in-house scandal by my Baylor family.

Many people have been outraged at the removal
of Art Briles from the position of head coach,
praising him as "the best thing to happen to the
athletic department in decades" which is hard to deny,
but if you are making these cries, demanding his return,
you still don't get it.

In any other situation, 
someone who was found to be complicit in
rape and sexual assault would not be hailed as a hero
with hundreds begging for his return.
He would be in jail.

In any other situation,
someone caught in the act of sexually assualting
an unconscious woman behind a dumpster would
not have people jumping to his defence and 
mourning the promising future he had infront of him.
He wouldn't have recieved a slap on the wrist
of 3-6 months in county jail,
he would be in prison for years.

As long as we continue to keep the focus on
the achievements of these men, we continue to
silence survivors. We continue to tell women that
their experience doesnt matter because its not worth
points on a scoreboard or a shiny trophy.
We tell them that they don't matter as much as our
own entertainment and desire to win do.
And we should all be ashamed of this.

I will admit the outcome of the Brock Turner case
and the findings of the Pepper-Hamilton report have been
deeply troubling me since I first read them. The only
way I know how to describe what I feel is
unharnessed rage. Deep, consuming rage.

I am outraged by the posts I see crying more
heavily for the football teams future than for justice
for our students at Baylor.

I am outraged at letters posted by Brock Turners
father and friends, crying out for "20 mins of
action" to not define the rest of his life, when those 
20 minutes will impact his victim irrevocably for the
course of hers.

I am outraged that we live in a society where a judge
can hand down a sentence of 3-6months in a county
jail for 3 felony charges that carry up to 14 years in 
prison because "a heavier sentence would have
a severe impact on [the perpetrator]."

Because I dont give a damn about the impact on the perpetrator
or the football team or the university administration.

I care about the impact on the victims,
on their lives which have forever been changed, and are
now being met with indifference.

I have never been so happy that the teenage women
I work with do not have access to the internet, because I know
in my heart that I could not look them in the eye,
too many of them survivors themselves,
and tell them that a 3-6month jail sentence is all 
that their suffering is worth to our society. That the 
loss of the person they were before, who many survivors grieve
in the aftermath after realizing that they can never be the
same person again, is not valued in our society over
athleticism and glory. That their pain is worth nothing
in comparison to the futures of our young men.

Im not usually one to write on the social media battle
of the day. I dont care to argue about a lion, or a gorilla,
or any of that nonsense, but justice for our women is worth
throwing my hat in the ring. 3-6 months is not justice.
A few football losses is not penance enough.

And if we cant see that, we are just as much
a part of the problem as those handing down rulings
like these. 


Tuesday, June 7, 2016

4 Dogs and a Blog: A Beginners Guide to Having WAY Too Many Pets

Hello!
And welcome to 4 Dogs and a Blog: A Beginner's
Guide to Having WAY Too Many Pets.
I am glad you have decided to embark on this journey
of owning a borderline-irresponsible ammount of 
animals with me.

Step 1: Get some animals

First, you're going to need a dog.
I started with Walter, a german shepard mix.

Next, you will realize your dog is getting lonely while
you are gone, so go ahead and get him a sibling.
We chose Willow, a Great Dane.

BONUS ROUND!
Get a cat.
We got Juvie Cat,
who my husband found at the juvenile justice
center.
Realize that your cat typically spends
his days plotting your demise.
Regret everything, then, when 
you're ready, come to a place of acceptance.

A few months after this, you're going
to realize that your first dogs younger sister isn't
really the "little sister" he hoped for...

So go ahead and get him a suitable sized 
play mate!

We got Whitley, some sort of undistinguishable
mutt found in the juvenile justice center parking
lot like Juvie Cat.

Only a few weeks after this, realize
that 3 is a crowd, and a weird number of dogs.
Feel bad for the dog that is always left out,
and go ahead and get another one.
This is Yeti! A Great Pyraneese.

Bonus points if you announce new pets creatively.
.

STEP 2: Prepare Your Home

Buy a house, because all of the dogs
you've collected no longer fit in a one bedroom apartment.

Make sure you get a big couch, 
your dogs are never going to listen when you tell
them they aren't allowed on it anyways.


Make your house so dog friendly that
its almost no longer people friendly.

This is Willow and Whitley, sitting in
the chairs in our dining room that they are
not allowed on, despite it being next to the giant
dog bed that has taken over our dining room that
they ARE allowed on.

Invest in dog food. Like A LOT of dog food
.
We keep two garbage cans full, and always
have a few 55lb bags on backup.

Also, invest in cleanning supplies
We like to keep a ridiculous ammount of Clorox
Wipes at the house, because pretty much 
every surface of our very dog friendly house gets
covered in drool daily.

STEP 3: Adjust Your LifeStyle

Get a personal trainer. You're going to be lifting
a 6 gallon drum of water every day because your
dogs drink a lot (and spill even more) and improper
lifting technique leads to injury.


You might as well accept that you will never
pee in peace again while you're at it.

(its ok, the ammount of squats your new trainer makes you
do will make you not want to sit down for long anyways)

Put your dogs outside in the morning before you get dressed for work.
If you don't, you WILL arrive covered in dog hair, and you can't afford
to get fired because you need money to support your dogs.

Keep some spare clothes in the car.

Inevitably have those end up covered in fur too because the
dogs love car rides, and end up wearing bear pants to work
because they're the only thing not covered in hair.
(Asked my co worker for a picture of my bear butt,
she was glad when she noticed the pants had bears)

Prepare for holidays in advance. You now have
a (or several) dog to get dressed for the occassion too!

Make your dog wear embarrassing Halloween costumes
(Left: Walter as a lion. Right: Walter as fluffy the 
three headed dog from Harry Potter)

Feel bad that he looks so ashamed, and make your
husband dress up too.
(Hagrid and Fluffy)

Then, realize that HE also looks ashamed,
so make it a family ordeal.

Everyone gets Christmas Jammies, even grumpy Willow.

Find a way to relax. Your house is going to be
a little more energetic with all these fur babies!

I suggest wine.

Like A LOT of wine.

Step 4: Realize You Wouldn't Want it Any Other Way

No one is going to be as excited for you when you 
graduate college as your dog is.


And theres no better road trip partners than your
furry family...

Its ok if you secretly have a favorite

because he will be the most excited when you marry his dad

And at the end of the day, you will live
in a house where no one judges you when
you want a nap.
Because lets face it, 4 dogs and a cat require
a LOT of energy to care for daily.

Monday, May 16, 2016

You're My Favorite

So by now I am sure you have seen that Matheus and I
finally had our wedding after over a year of planning.

I was never the one who was super
excited about wedding planning, and despite
my loud personality, I don't like being in the spotlight.

Seriously, I giggle uncontrollably when people
are staring at me because I get so nervous, as those of 
you who attended the wedding can attest to, 
as I giggled throughout the
entirety of the ceremony. 

Our wedding was perfect though, and though
I am sure all brides probably say that, I 
firmly believe it is true of ours.

It wasn't perfect because everything went according
to plan- the cake flowers were wrong, and my veil 
didn't make it down the aisle with me after getting
caught on a doorway, then again on a chair before
it was abandoned halfway down the aisle. 

It was perfect because we were surrounded by so
many people that we have loved throughout our lives.
My best friends from every walk of life were standing by
my side, while so many other friends and family traveled from
across the country to show their love and support for us.
I would get stared at for an eternity to get to experience
that again.

And then of course, it was perfect because I got to
marry the most wonderful human being I have ever known.
During the ceremony, my husband surprised me
by going off script and saying a few words about our
relationship and his feelings for me. 
I didn't have any idea this was happening, so I 
said something quick on the spot as I had no
time to prepare.

I didn't think well on my feet, so
I would like to say now what I would have liked
to have said then had I known we were going
off script. So now, infront of everyone we 
care about, even if through a computer screen,
I would like to tell my husban this:

It sounds so cheesy to say, but my whole life I have
been searching for someone like you, even when I didn't know it.
I have a way of going through the world that has led many in my life 
to describe me as "a handful" and they aren't wrong. Im 
loud and opinionated, and I say exactly what I am thinking
unapologetically the majority of the time. I can be moody
and anxious, and for the larger part of my life this has
always made me think of myself as somehow broken. 
I've just always felt different from most people.
So I set off into the dating world looking for someone to fix
this brokeness that I have always felt, to turn me into someone "normal."

 And then I met you,
and for the first time in my life I realized that I was not looking
for someone to fix me, but instead for someone who did not
think I was broken. I have found that in you. You are endlessly
patient and kind even when I am a hurricane of chaos.
You know who I am at my core, and embrace every part
of that. You sit by my side and laugh at my 
weird ramblings, and support my wildest ambitions.
You not only accept and love who I am, but encourage
me to stay true to who I am, exactly who I am, always.
You have changed my life in remarkable ways from
the day that I met you, and I only hope that I can be
as loving and supportive of you as you have always been of me.
You're my favorite. I love you, always.

Monday, February 22, 2016

To Parents, From Your Child's "Young" Therapist

For those of you who don't know, I am
a social worker, and I am currently employed as a
therapist on an inpatient psychiatric unit for teenagers.
I predominately work with teenagers with behavioral
issues that also have some sort of mental
health diagnosis, and more often than not, 
a history of trauma.

I get a lot of questions about my job, and often
times when I tell people what I do, they comment
on what type of "special person" it takes to work
with these kids, and what a tough job it must be.

My job is hard, and some days I drive the 45mins
home wondering what I am doing or if what I am
doing even matters in the long run, but most days
I drive home happy. I love my work. I am passionate
about what I do, which is a rare blessing that
I know many won't get to experience. I love the
kids and the families I get to work with, and the 
variety of experiences I get to walk alongside them
through.

I think it takes a specific kind of person to 
do the job I do, but I don't think it takes a 
"special person" to impact the lives of youth.
I think everyone who interacts with teenagers
has the capacity to help build them up, and my
hope is that one day we will all feel the weight
of how important that truly is.

Being in my 20s and working with teenagers,
I often walk into family therapy sessions and can
immediately read the look on the parents' faces:
You're a child yourself, how are you supposed
to help me with mine?

I understand that reaction. Im in my early 20s and
have been mistaken for a fellow patient by more than
a few of my kids when I first met them.
It is true that I don't know what its like to have 
a child of my own, or to deal with the stress of caring
for one day in and day out, long after the work day is over.

I don't envy the position of the parents I encounter 
trying to raise children in a world so full of chaos,
where technology has brought the heartache and the
danger of the outside world into their homes.
One of the most terrifying aspects of my job is the
number of sexual assault survivors I encounter.
I am not scared by the sheer number of them,
but by how young they are and how they have
come to believe that things like that are just a
normal part of growing up these days. 
My heart breaks for them.

More and more frequently, I am finding
kids in treatment for behavioral problems that
involve the internet, most commonly, girls contacting
and being contacted by older men. As much as the adult
in me says I don't understand this behavior, the human
female in me says I do.

Sure, I am young, but the benefit of that in my
line of work is just that- its not a stretch for
me to remember what it was like as a teenager growing
up in this world. Unlike most of the parents that I work with,
I went to high school after the invention of the internet,
in a time when everyone had cell phones. I remember
logging on to Facebook to see that my friends had gone
and done something fun without inviting me, or that 
the boy I liked seemed to like anyone else.
I remember how vicious teenagers can be when the
anonymity provided behind the keys of a cellphone
makes them feel invincible to say whatever hateful
things they wanted. I had more than a few emotional
problems and struggles of my own as a teen, and I
remember what it felt like to think that awful feeling 
was going to be forever.

So I understand how these girls can look to a
perfect stranger online for acceptance.

So parents,

I can't tell you how to raise your child on the day to
day, how to cook them their favorite meal, or what tricks
help them remember the key points they will need to 
succeed on their history test.

But I can tell you how to safeguard their emotional health,
and my advice to you is this:

Tell them they are worthy,
of good friends treating them like good friends should,
and of being loved by the right people at the right time.

Tell them they are valuable,
far too valuable to throw away at the first sign of attention 
from a boy full of promises or a stranger on the internet
who doesn't exist in a reality beyond a screen.

Tell them they are beautiful,
because no matter how they look, society never will.

Tell them they are deserving,
of accomplishing the goals they set for themselves
and that there is a difference between not being ready
now and not being good enough ever.

Tell them that they are enough,
just the way that they are, and that the people
who seem to be so important and matter so much in
highschool will one day just be names in their Facebook
friend list that they struggle to remember their connection to.

Tell them they are brilliant,
maybe not at math but the million other
things they do with their time that matter just as much.

Tell them to be kind,
to themselves and others,
and to not give into the idea that words in a 
text can be deleted from someone's mind and heart
as easily as they can be deleted from a chat thread.

Tell them that its ok to feel how they feel now,
and remind them that those feelings aren't forever. 

I am proof of that.

Sincerely,
The "Young" Therapist Working with Your Teen

Tuesday, January 19, 2016

I Am The Worst.... Sort Of

I think its time you all hear the true story of
my engagement. 

For those of you who have heard the story, I
have seen your looks of disappointment and 
confusion at the "official story" because its
quite anticlimactic, I know.

The "official story" is that Matheus asked
me to be his wife at our home after a night
out with some of my friends. We were laying
around, and he asked me when I least expected
it because I knew the ring existed, and had taken
it upon myself to take it from its place of hiding
and wear it while watching the Bachelor while
he was not home on several occasions.

Here's the thing: when I told you that story
I myself believed it to be true.

The thing is, 3 days before we got engaged
via the "official story", I was at my internship
when I received a text from one of my best
friends that read "the thing that you seek is
in the place that you should be, but never are."
I asked her what in the world she was talking about
and she said that Matheus had not elaborated,
but that he had told her to send me that message.
Of course, I immediately thought I was about
to engage on an engagement scavenger hunt
that would of course end with the most amazing
man and a planet sized rock on my hand.

During my lunch break, I sped home,
heart beating rapidly in my chest.

I figured that the clue had to do with
the laundry room, as laundry is my household
chore (he does dishes) and, naturally, I never do it.

So I calmly, and rationally
TORE THE ROOM APART.

I looked in the machines, on top of the
machines, inside boxes of dryer sheets, and
every other place I could think of in the laundry
room but with not luck.

I then considered the possibility that his message
may have meant the kitchen. Knowing him,
it could have been a slightly sexist joke about
the fact that I rarely cooked at that time in our lives.

SO I TORE IT UP TOO.

Then, after finding nothing,
TORE THE REST OF THE HOUSE APART
FOR GOOD MEASURE.

And found nothing.

At this point, I was pretty upset. I texted Matheus
who told me that of course he would never do
something as cheesy as an engagement scavenger hunt.
He told me that the clue had been a decoy, to get
me off the scent of the ring that I had so cleverly found
every day for over a week.

I was livid. I felt stupid, and
more heavily, felt that the man I loved
was making a joke of a moment that should
be very important in both of our lives.

So fast forward to about a month ago.
We were watching some TV show or movie,
I can't remember which one now, but in it
there was an engagement scavenger hunt, and I
of course, got all the feels.

Matheus was confused as to why I thought
it was so cute. I told him that I found that type
of proposal adorable, because of all the planning
involved, and how fun the adventure is.

His reply?

"Im really confused now, when I tried that
you didn't like it."

At this point I was very confused, but
explained that a fake scavenger hunt and a ton
of effort searching for something that never existed
was a little different than the real thing.

His response?

"Its not my fault you are bad at clues!"

Yes, ladies and gentleman, it turns
out the scavenger hunt proposal was real,
and even more, it turns out that my original
hunch of looking in the laundry room was correct.

BUT

Matheus being who he is, and never doing anything
half-assed, placed the clue BEHIND THE
WASHING MACHINE AND DRYER.

Thats right, in order to have found the clue,
I would have had to move two appliances
weighing several hundred pounds a piece.

So why did I not find additional clues
in my tearing the house apart?
Surely the entire scavenger hunt couldn't
have been that complicated, right?

Wrong.

The second clue was in the kitchen, which
I also searched, but it was inside a box of
pasta in the back of the pantry.

The following clue was under the
insole inside of one of my boots.

Then why did he say he would never
do something that cheesy?

Well, because im an ass. He knew I 
was upset having torn the house apart, and
believed that I was upset because I thought it
was an engagement scavenger hunt and that
I thought the idea was stupid. So he bailed on
the plan and three days later asked me in the no
frills way of the "official story."

So sure, I may have ruined an adorable
proposal by being bad at clues and a bit
grumpy when im frustrated, but I would
argue that he is equally bad at clues because
what person in their right mind thinks to move
an appliance to look for a clue?!

The man im marrying is the only one 
I can think of.

*When I read him this post, his response was 
"clearly you didn't tear the room apart enough."
My future, ladies and gentleman.

Wednesday, March 4, 2015

Time Warp

"Its just a jump to the left
And then a step to the right
Then your phone breaks down
And you try to restore it all night"
-Time Warp, Rocky Horror Picture Show

At least thats how I think the song goes.
Either way, I woke up in a time warp
and the date is now February 2013.

What happened was that I plugged my phone
in last night to go to sleep, and woke up to a pixelated
screen with a shape that vaguely looked like the apple
logo on it. My phone wouldn't turn off or reset itself,
it just sat shining the apple logo at me.
I plugged it into my computer and after quite a long
ordeal I was able to reset it to factory settings.

The great thing about technology is that your phone
can restore itself to exactly how it was the last time
you backed it up.

The bad thing about me is that I never back my phone up,
so when my phone restored, it restored to a version from
February 2013. All of my recent text messages
were over 2 years old, with the exception of a few
from early 2014.

Looking through these messages was a really
bizarre experience. It was honestly quite
shocking to see how much my life has changed
in the past two years.

At the time my phone died, I was in the
middle of a conversation with a girl I used to be
quite close with, but have recently decided
to no longer associate with because the friendship
had gotten really nasty on both of our ends, and we
both just felt like it wasn't worth it anymore.

In the most recent text I now have from her,
its 2014 and she was coming to my house to
 discuss a really difficult time that she was going
through, and we were promising each other that
we would always be there for one another.

In the current version of my phone, the most recent
text message I have received is from my ex boyfriend
telling me he loved me. My fiancé, on the other hand,
doesn't even exist yet on my phone.

In the current version of my phone,
my dad and I are talking about
what we want to do when I come home to visit
for Christmas. My phone doesn't know yet that
he will die 3 days before I am supposed to be home.

There are texts from friends from undergrad who
I haven't seen or heard from since we walked across
the stage last May.

There are friends from gradschool who dont exist yet.

Falling into this weird iphone time warp has shown me
three things.

1. Life can change in a second.

Looking at text messages from my dad has been
a really weird experience. I could read them until Im
blue in the face, and I still would have never known
how little time we had left together. I see those texts
and think of all the things that should have been said
that now can never be, and its quite humbling.

2. Its ok to let people go.

When I look at the text messages from my old
boyfriend and the girl I used to be friends with, I think
about how much my life has changed since these people
fell out of my life, and its been overwhelmingly positive.
Even in the texts from "happier times" there are still
the signs of unhealthy relationships. There are cracks
starting to form, and things being said that can never
be taken back.

But if I hadn't learned to let him go, there would
have been no room in my life for the man who is
now my fiancé.

If I hadn't let her go, id still feel like im being
constantly dragged down by negativity, and like
I am staying in a friendship out of obligation,
not because we make eachother better or treat
eachother well.

It is ok to let people go who bring nothing positive
into your life anymore. Not every relationship is
meant to be forever. People come and go, and that's ok.

3. The future is what you want it to be.

In 2013, I was anxiously waiting to hear
where I would be placed for my senior year
social work internship. I had a love that I thought
would last forever. I had a group of friends that I thought
would never change.

In the next two years, I would get my dream internship.
I would be accepted to my dream graduate school, then
change my mind at the last minute and go somewhere else.
Love would leave, making room for an even better love,
the right love.
I would meet some incredible people, and lose touch
with some equally great people.
I would cut some of the poison out of my life, and
learn that I am so much happier without dragging around
people and habits that never brought me any joy.

And all of these things happened because of choices I made.
Had I chosen a different grad school, I would
not have met some of the incredible people who have come into
my life this year.
If I had aimed for a different internship, I might have
found different areas of social work that I am passionate about.
If I hadn't let go, I wouldn't be planning my wedding right now.

Life is what you want it to be.
Make tough decisions.
Distance yourself from negative people and things.
Chase what you really want.
Let people know that they matter to you,
because you don't know if the opportunity will
still be around in two years.

Oh. And backup your phone more than once
every two years.

Monday, February 9, 2015

Im Getting a Sister!

Just so that nobody asks my mom based on the title,
No, my mom is not pregnant.
 
BUT I AM GETTING A SISTER!
 
This past weekend my older brother asked his incredible
girlfriend to marry him and she said yes!
 
And I LITERALLY could not be more excited.
 
My brother and his fiancé are the most incredible couple.
They met in the 8th grade and have been dating ever since.
Its the type of story that is so cute it makes you want to throw up.
My youngest brother and I accepted a long time ago that
no matter how adorable of a situation leads us to finding our
future spouses, we will never top the glory of Phil and Mer.
And we are so ok with that.
 
Mer has been a part of our lives for the last 10 years.
She loves our family, and has never made my younger
brother and I feel like part of the package that comes with
dating our older brother, but treats us like we are already related.
She shows genuine interest in our lives and goes out of her way
to spend time with us. When I was still in highschool and looking
at colleges, Mer offered to have me come stay with her at Florida State
for the weekend. We had so much fun I came back multiple times.
As far as we are concerned, we've been sisters for years now, only
now its going to be official.
 
Mer is driven, when she wants something she wills it into existence.
She works harder than anyone I have ever met to achieve
her goals, and does it with a smile on her face.
This May she will be graduating from Florida State University
College of Law with incredible grades, despite the time commitment
of working while in law school.
 
I want to tell you a story about what kind of a person
my new sister is.
 
 
My family has a weird list of Christmas traditions that we have
been doing for as long as I can remember, including getting tacky
matching Christmas pajamas on Christmas Eve every year.
One of our favorite family traditions is Christmas morning breakfast.
We always have the same meal of sausage and egg casserole with
a butter streusel coffee cake. It is probably the most magical part
of Christmas at the Hammock household because it is so freaking
delicious.
 
Unfortunately, last Christmas break my dad died, so the holidays
were very weird to begin with. We went through the
motions of being cheerful and did what we could to make
everything feel as normal as possible despite the reality that
things would likely never be the same type of normal again.
To top off an already bummer Christmas, we could not find
the coffee cake anywhere. We checked every store in the
Orlando area and it was no where to be found. Christmas
would be one member and one tradition down.
 
Or so we thought.
 
Christmas morning Mer showed up at our door,
homemade coffee cake in hand. Mer knew that eventhough
Christmas was going to be weird and different that our
traditions were important to us and went out of her way
to make sure that our family at least got that part of Christmas.
That is how much she cares.
 
Honestly I could go on for pages about what an incredible
woman my brother found, and how lucky we are to have her
in our lives, but even then I could not do them justice.
 
Mer and Phil's love is something incredible, that I have
been fortunate enough to witness for almost half of my life.
They show me every day that the people we love are worth
fighting for, and that we ourselves are deserving of love
exactly the way we are. Phil has shown me how a woman
deserves to be treated by the man she loves. Mer has shown
me how to love someone and support them through the most
difficult times in their lives. Their love never gives up, never
quits, and never lets go.
 
Phil and Mer, I could not be happier for the two of you.
Phil you are such an incredible brother and man, and have
found your match in the gorgeous and intelligent Mer. You have
both shown me what I should be striving for in a future spouse,
and your love makes me truly believe that love can conquer all things.
I am so glad that you two found eachother and feel incredibly lucky
to get to be a small part of your story. I am looking forward to
all the years you two have ahead of you and can not tell you
how happy I am for you both.
 
And Mer.
We're finally going to be sisters for real!