When I was a girl, I thought I would never marry. After watching my parents have an unhealthy marriage and an emotionally traumatizing divorce I wasn’t interested. Knowing that my great-grandmother, grandmother and mother, who also are first born daughters, were divorced, I thought it was something that you could pass down from generation to generation and in my heart I vowed I would never take the plunge.
It was easy to avoid it. I was raised to serve my family, my job and the god I was taught in church. I grew up to be a workaholic and a cynic. My God has always been at work in me, though.
Since I was 5 and he came to introduce himself to me, when I was in back yard playing by myself, I had always known he was there. There were times that I knew that he was the parent that taught me the most because my parents were busy with work or my sisters. It was easy to leave me alone; I was strong, stubborn, responsible and always seemed to know what I was doing. But I was also afraid, too sensitive, too emotional and anxious and even though I think I told them I was having trouble, it was always God who would tell how to do things…if I wasn’t caught up in my emotions and unable to hear him.
When I was 25 I said something different to God. I had failed with trying to work with doctors and counselors. Medications didn’t work to take away the things that tormented me. So finally I realized I was a twenty-year-old Christian that acted like a toddler. I started measuring my hangups, fears, emotions and expectations by my death in Christ.
I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I now live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me. Galatians 2:20
I have to tell you this is the best drug I have ever tried! The best because it wasn’t a drug or a person with a degree that didn’t understand how complicated I was physically, spiritually, and emotionally. It was me and God going through the old filing cabinet and clearing out some of the junk to make room for greater realization of my salvation.
The sometimes mean, selfish, angry and suicidal woman was going away and she was being replaced with someone that listened, showed compassion, cared about people, wasn’t so greedy and wanted to live…
Then I met Karen.
It was October 8, 2003 and I had just been hired at Professional Communication Services; an answering service. During my orientation I walked into the call center and there was this wild-eyed, exuberant black woman with a pick stuck in her hair, who looked like she wanted to attack me…at least that is what I thought. After she was reprimanded by our boss, who didn’t want to lose me, she toned it down and we started becoming friends.
We have gone through a lot with each other. In 2006 I had the worst breakup of my life, which threw me back into some of my old coping skills, but I still graduated with my AA in Business Management because as I was about to throw in the towel, Karen had an aneurism. Great friends had enough sense to take her straight to Vancouver instead of bringing her to our less than the best hospital in Longview. The doctors there were able to bring her back to life. This is what fueled my continuation of the journey I had been trying to make for 13 years. Karen wanted me to have that degree more than I did and I thought if she had anther episode and couldn’t be brought back, I wanted to make sure she knew that I wanted her to be happy.
In 2008 I had landed what I thought would be my perfect job as a website designer at a company in Longview. I was happy about this because building websites is what I really loved to do. I got training on the job, which was important because Longview really has trouble keeping up with technology and even the college didn’t have what I needed for this profession. PCS had recently been sold to a corporation and I was miserable there; I had never been a number before and the management hated my opinions. Karen was with the company only a short time too before she was let go…they didn’t appreciate people with passion and ideas. The people that owned the marketing company I worked for also owned a small newspaper and they hired Karen on as a salesperson…she needed more freedom than they could give her so that didn’t last long either…
In 2010 Karen shared with me that her dad was dying. After all the years we had been friends, she really hadn’t told me much about herself. She was content with listening and being excited about my ideas and I was still a little too selfish to shut up and let her talk. She had never really talked a lot about her family, but she finally had a reason to go home. I notified our friends and we all chipped in to pay for her flight home to North Carolina. She changed during that visit home.
Karen finally told me her dream. My friend wanted to become a videographer.
What is a videographer? Someone that shoots people and events with a camera and then makes it into something spectacular. Karen had a partner in mind. They were already working together; but they didn’t have money to start up. I had been able to miser away some savings so I decided that I would invest and become a silent partner. My silence lasted for about 2 days.
Exclaim Media Video & Marketing was begun in October 2010.
The next month I heard that it was voted into law that it was illegal for people to camp in Longview. It tore me up inside because homeless people don’t disappear at night. With all the services available in Longview I also felt there was a lack of connection and relationship that was really hurting us. Living Ministries was founded in November 2010.
Both businesses, which we have always called our kids have grown into something we could never have imagined. That other partner went away. The original board of directors disbanded and we got new ones…but Karen and I were always side by side. When I would want to throw in the towel she would encourage me. I have watched people watch us. I can see in their eyes that we are force to be reckoned with when we are working together.
We have been asked for years if we were a couple and both of us would smile and tell them we were best friends and business partners. We wanted the same things out of life so it was easy to spend every day together. Plan a future together. We talked about what we would do if either of us met the man of our dreams; knowing he would have to be amazing because our hearts had been trampled to dust and really never came back. We were happy with being old maids together.
Karen comes to all family events with me. My nephew Casey asked if he could call her Auntie Karen years ago…and all the kids followed suit. She was adopted into my family as my friend and she embraced their craziness and passion with all the same gentle, caring ways she had used with a younger Summer and the Summer that is writing this blog.
Since we began our companies, Karen had technically been homeless more than once; I would have been homeless too if my mother had not allowed me to stay with her. We had started something on an impulse and as with every jump we make, we had learned to roll with the punches and most of the time we were broke.
She and I have been through so much together and each trial has brought us closer. We felt our greatest strength was that we always knew the other one would be there. Even our ministry with our community thrives on our love.
Karen probably thought she knew everything about me but there was one thing that I had never told anyone. Being someone that was always alone, who didn’t know how to trust, when it came to my health I just dealt quietly with things, knowing that God would sustain me until it was time to go to heaven. Every decision I made as co-owner and founder of two businesses and even in my friendship with Karen were based on the idea that I would be dead in a few years.
In the summer of 2004 I had found a spot on my ankle. It hurt. It seeped. It burned. I was afraid. Although God had told me several times through the years to go to the doctor I couldn’t. Every human that was supposed to help me, had failed me and I couldn’t admit to another person that I had failed. I felt that because my body couldn’t heal on its own I had become a failure. After a certain number of years my pride also stopped me because I didn’t want to admit to anyone how long I had known about this problem. I wore long skirts all the time so no one noticed the swelling. I had always been a little compulsive so it was easy for me to tell people that I needed to cover up. It had always hurt to be touched; this wasn’t a lie.
I had gone through so much healing with God on an emotional, mental and spiritual level that I knew that anything that wasn’t of him was going to be hard to get rid of…the stuff we have carried for our whole lives is hard to put down since we can’t imagine life without them. I had told God, here and no further regarding my body. If he wanted me healed, he would have to do it himself.
The last week of January 2014 I got the flu. The worst flu I have ever had. I was super sick for over 10 days. Somewhere in there I realized that something was really wrong with my leg because I had to remove my toe ring. The spot on my leg had always been on my ankle but it seemed to be traveling up my thigh and taking over my foot. I couldn’t hide it anymore and Karen, who had been coming to care for me every day noticed…and my mom noticed.
It was Wednesday January 29th when the problem was becoming too big to handle. On Saturday my mom was starting to freak out. On Sunday she insisted I was going to the hospital on Monday. I prayed to God as I realized that I was going to lose this fight. God told me to go to Legacy Salmon Creek on Wednesday February 5, 2014. This decision was unacceptable to my family who decided to call the police and have me removed against my will to the hospital because my mother thought I was suicidal.
I knew I wasn’t suicidal I just had a few things I needed to deal with with God before I took the scariest trip in my life. Luckily I never lost my head and the guy from Lower Columbia Mental Health and the police officer did not have enough proof that I was trying to kill myself and the paramedic that I allowed in my room was impressed with the broccoli and yogurt I had been trying to eat…suicidal people don’t eat food like that…they also don’t care how many liters of water they drank that day and cover every wall in their bedroom with mementos and pictures of their amazing life…so they all left and my best friend was the only person allowed in my room until I went to the hospital on Wednesday…of course the conversation of an LLC was now more than just an idea…
The next two days are a whirlwind in healing. I was praying constantly. I would have night terrors that led me to wake up making declarations of my freedom from this or that that had plagued me my whole life. When I wasn’t praying or crying I found myself telling Karen every secret I ever had. I couldn’t pull the wool over her eyes, now, if I wanted to.
On Wednesday I woke up and my leg was the worst it had ever been and it felt like it was on fire. I had stopped taking anything for a few days because I had heard the word Cellulitis in my head and had researched and found at that NSAIDS could make it worse. My leg was three times its normal size and looked like I had covered it is rich, dark, pizza sauce. I was sitting on the toilet and asking God why he had let me wait till Wednesday. I was so scared. I thought I would lose my leg.
He said, “You won’t pay extra for this. I had to heal some other things before you could go.”
So my best friend showed up and made me some broccoli and eggs for breakfast. I took some Ibuprofen and a shower and we got ready to leave. Before I could leave, I had to do something I had never done. I showed Karen my leg. She was the first person to see my naked leg in years. She didn’t even flinch, however a tear did dance in her eye.
She never left my side while I was in the hospital for 4 days. She held my hand through every painful moment. I had to threaten to stop eating just to get her to go to the cafeteria to get food for herself. When it was time to go home she told me that the doctor had said that patients usually are in the hospital for 10-15 days with a case of Cellulitis like mine, but I was there 4 days.
When we got home, Karen was there for me then too. My family had never come to the hospital. They called and spoke with Karen, while I was out of my mind on drugs to kill the infection and get my body to start fighting back. My family is not hands on with me. They did buy things I needed but were glad to let Karen take care of me.
In the past I had tried medications to help me deal with Anxiety Disorder but they always made me suicidal. After this big change in my life a bottle of lavender and my best friend’s hand was the best medication. I was healing in so many ways fast. We were walking and eating less and more healthily. We were starting to focus on getting back to work, while Karen was always cheering me on.
On April 26, 2014 my best friend and I were watching a movie after a long day. Somewhere during that movie I had grabbed her hand. Neither one of us had tried to let go for the entire movie. The next night was similar, except this time we had hugged each other and never let go. I was nervous because I didn’t know what this was and Karen was not able to answer my question. On April 28, 2014 we shared a kiss and my best friend asked me to marry her and I said yes. In two days I felt things fall into place that had always been wrong. We had talked about how a change in our relationship would affect lots of people: our families, our friends, our community, our ministry.
On Friday May 9, 2014 I married my best friend. My family was not there. Most of our friends were not there. Just our friend Debra, who officiated, our friend Lynn and her daughter who were witnesses, our friend Amanda who was our photographer and this great couple, Dennis and Audi who own the Thyme Square Bistro in Cathlamet who we invited that day when we stopped for lunch after grabbing another load of my things from my mother’s house. It was private, unplanned and perfect for us.
We don’t know what will happen in the future but we will conquer it together and continue making as much JOY in life as we can. In the back of my mind I always thought if I married it should be to my best friend…I too was surprised that I would marry a female friend. I hate labels so straight, gay, heterosexual or homosexual are weird to me. But if people want me in that box and it helps them feel safe, or better I will be fine with it. My older step-sister said I would lose some people in my life, that I would be condemned by some, that I would be embraced by some. She was right. But as long as Karen is holding my hand, loving me out loud, I am ok with that too.
Please leave your comment below. Warning, it wont be visible until we have deemed it wont cause trauma to others.