An Inspirational Wedding Story – The Family that Attended

October 4th, 2014, I married my Soulmate.

hurricane rita wedding2

There’s a catch…

I’d been married once before in 2005 to a Marine I’d met at the Defense Language Institute, aptly called the  Desperate Love Institute.  I’ve jokingly called my first wedding my $12,000 mistake for many years, as that’s what it cost, and that’s what it was. He’d proposed to me the weekend before I deployed to Iraq, and I’d said yes, sure that was the right, romantic move for our three years of long distance yearning and phone calls. Yet after a year overseas, I returned from war feeling like I needed at least three feet of space at ALL TIMES. I felt obligated to go through with the wedding for several reasons, none of which made it feel like the “right” thing to do.

The thing I most remember about that wedding was how much fun I didn’t have with my new husband. I’d been concerned about everyone else who was there. The celebration was for them WAY more so than it was for us. Ultimately, it was NOT an inspirational wedding.

The dress, the makeup, the decorations, the music selections, the food…all for them. All for the “appearance of happiness” in the absence of true ease and comfort. The flowers, preparations, pictures, venue, decorations, favors, etc…

All for them.  I felt empty, and it felt slightly fake.

I was giddy that my family and friends had come. It was the first time I with all four of my siblings at the same time, yet…I still felt empty about the act…about the day.

When just a scant year later, I gathered my courage and asked my husband to move out, I made a promise to myself that I assumed would keep me single for the rest of my life…or at least most of it.

“I will never get married again until I know it will be the happiest day of my life NO MATTER who comes to the wedding.”

I knew that “it” could exist. It being the satisfaction with simply celebrating love… without the fan fare of putting on a show for others, and I wanted that, only that, or nothing.

When John and I finally began our journey together, it was a result of his decision to simply tell me on October 5th, 2011 that he wanted to be in my life, and would wait for me if I wasn’t ready. That night, I had a decision to make. I asked him to stay the night with me, and he did.

He remained by my side through the ABSOLUTE WORST NIGHT OF SLEEP I’D HAD ALL SUMMER LONG. I woke up, sitting straight up in bed numerous times, absolutely frantic. I kicked him, gasped, and even cried out a few times in horror and dismay.

He stayed.

I woke up, warm in his arms. I found out later that morning when I looked at the calendar that it was my 2nd Bomb Day, and the reason for my horrible night of nightmares was simply a physiological response to the rapidly approaching anniversary.

Regardless, he stayed.

72 hours - Rita


We spent a year honeymooning, living in abundance, enjoying sunrises, snotting on each other, laughing, loving

We went up and down the west coast, back and forth across the country, living in the back of a Rav4 with two pups.

He stayed.

In 2012, we returned to AK, and on August 29th, my father took his own life, and I cried harder than I’ve ever cried in my life.

He stayed, held me, and told me I was beautiful.

Five weeks later I flew to Fiji to compete in 72 Hours on our year anniversary. Thirteen days later I began my fight with the hospitals to be admitted. Finally, three weeks later after five separate attempts to be admitted, I was…and the fight for my life truly began.

I couldn’t lift myself out of my own fecal matter.

He stayed.

He stayed in the hospital nearly every moment I was there. He was even given a bed in my room at the CLC2 (nursing home/rehab area). He fed me, gave me water through a straw, carried me, combed my hair, bathed me, pushed my wheel chair, and helped me learn to walk again by attending my physical therapy with me, taking notes, and then helping me with the exercises later. The nurses joked that he deserved a paycheck.

He truly did.

John encouraged me when I tried to give up.

Let’s be honest, paralysis sucks. Nerve damage sucks. 

He lifted me when I fell, and gave me hope when mine ran dry.hurricane wedding laughter

Every single day he’d wheel me behind the hospital to sit at the duck pond and throw bread to the ducks. He’d take me to the rose garden so I could feel “nature” and smell the roses. White roses are my favorite.

The woman formerly known as Mom intentionally tried to hurt him by sending gluten filled cookies to us for my birthday and not telling us *he’s allergic big time.* It took nearly a month for his rash to clear up.

He stayed.

He gave me my life back by having patience with my situation. He did yoga with me nightly, side by side to a DVD. We watched the same pose guide over and over. It should have taken 30 minutes, but every time I needed to switch positions, he’d pause the DVD so I could catch up. Sometimes it would take us over an hour to get through a session!

He stayed, encouraged me, and expressed his faith in my success.

The day we chose to be married was the eve of our third anniversary. We wanted to do something for us, something WE could enjoy and share with those who chose to attend. I posted a photo album on my Facebook account and began to take epic photos of beautiful Moab vistas in October 2013, and labelled the photo album as such:

We moved here on the 11th of October. Yep, PO Box and everything. This place is MAGICAL! We are having a wedding here on Oct 4th, 2014. We still haven’t decided which mountain it will be on or at what time, but the date is set, so save it. If you wonder if you are invited, you are. ♥ ♥ ♥!!! Here are some pics to motivate you to stop making excuses and do something awesome in October 2014. Let’s celebrate life and love!!!!

I invited everyone, then simply waited to hear who would take advantage of the advance notice, save a few hundred dollars, and come celebrate love with us after my lover saved my life (with the help of doctors and medication), of course.  At first it seemed like I wouldn’t have to worry about my promise. The only person who I absolutely knew a year in advance would refuse to come was my step mother, who had given me back everything I’d ever given her after my father’s suicide and my subsequent paralysis, locked it out of the house along with my father’s ashes (which she left in a hand cooler), changed the locks, and disappeared to Maui with her newly gained life insurance money, disconnecting from me on every possible level.

He stayed while I processed this loss from my life (That wasn’t all sunshine and butterflies).

I still remember when I was 6 years old, and she and my dad had called me into the living room. They gave me an ultimatum: either I called that woman Fran for the rest of my life or Mom.

I chose Mom.  She chose Daughter…until Dad chose to move on…Then she chose silence after blatantly celebrating his death in an attempt to hide her anguish.

I repeated my saying, “I will never get married again until I know it will be the happiest day of my life NO MATTER who comes to the wedding,” and realized that her failure to deal with her trauma is her issue, and it was absolutely possible to be happy without her there. Matter of fact, it became apparent quickly as the plans were drawn that I would be HAPPIER without her attendance.

The biggest challenge came to me by text message. My older sister texted John’s phone to tell us that she wouldn’t be coming. Then she sent me a NASTY, judgemental, absolutely misguided email trying to justify her simple decision to not save money for the event.

THAT challenged me.

She bashed my sickness, my nightmares, my father’s choice to enroll me in Milton Hershey School, my running, my military service, my combat experience, my father’s suicide, Fran’s choice to no longer have a step daughter…then closed it all neatly with a quote from an ex-boyfriend of mine from FIVE YEARS AGO, who said we had wasted time together in a cry out for support on Facebook, while agreeing…***’s right. What a waste.”

(That part, honestly made me laugh sans mirth, since I was inviting her to my WEDDING).

John and I have a running joke about the situation. Our entertaining interpretation of the situation goes like this:

“I’m not coming to your wedding and I feel like sh*t about it, so F**K YOU! YOU SUCK and THAT’S WHY I’M NOT WASTING ANY MORE OF MY PRECIOUS TIME WITH YOU ANYMORE!!!”

I repeated my saying, “I will never get married again until I know it will be the happiest day of my life NO MATTER who comes to the wedding,”  and recognized the Universe’s challenge.

Nobody that I expected to be in my life at that moment was going to be there, except my lover and our family.

hurricane rita wedding3If there’s anything that hardships teach you, it is that you are always going to be stronger than you think, AND you can create family anywhere.

Family is not blood. It is not marriage. Family is a choice to be connected… to remain connected. Family is why I’ve sent hundreds and hundreds of post cards to people over the years of my travels.

The family at our wedding was THICK!!!

So many people took advantage of the opportunity to share love with us, that we were blown away by the support! Folks flew in from as far as Afghanistan! Military family, hippie family, river family, Milton Hershey School (Milt) family all came. John’s family came, and accepted me openly as a new member of theirs.

Folks floated into town on the Colorado River, drove, and flew. When their planes were cancelled, they drove. Family REFUSED to miss the event of a lifetime.

You only get to marry your soulmate once after being paralyzed and learning to walk again.

Well, I think daily I rededicate my soul to the cause just to keep it fresh and full of genuine appreciation for a man as beautiful as he. I certainly do hope I don’t ever have to learn the mechanics of walking all over again.

The beauty of fully embracing my saying was that while we planned the day, I openly recognized that not a single member of my blood or married family was going to attend, and we got to create a beautifully epic and fun day that would make it cater to the happiest day of our lives on our own terms, knowing that our connection and celebration mattered above and beyond the attendance.

With that, I’ll leave you wanting the details. 😀

Stay tuned to read about the float trip, camping, ceremony, celebration, hike, etc!

Remember, live, laugh, love…and marry your soulmate.

hurricane eyes closed












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5 Responses to An Inspirational Wedding Story – The Family that Attended

  1. DANO October 23, 2014 at 6:38 AM #

    FANTASTIC That you got married Rita, CONGRATS. Hope the two of you have a long healthy life together.

    • Hurricane Rita October 23, 2014 at 7:27 PM #

      Thank you, thank you, thank you!!! 😀

  2. Tracio October 25, 2014 at 8:53 AM #

    Congratulations Rita. You are truly an inspiration. Wishing you two a lifetime of love and happiness.

    • Hurricane Rita October 27, 2014 at 2:20 PM #

      Thank you, thank you for your kind words! Love and happiness…I think we can manage that. 😀 The health, we send super bright vibes towards! 😀 😀 😀

  3. Jenny May 5, 2015 at 1:06 AM #

    Love you both! You always make me smile.

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