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September 20, 2016

As you are.

I vow to love you, always, as you are.

As you are.

Two years ago today Ben said these words to me, in a room full of our family and friends and white flowers and two enormous sweets tables. He made this promise and he has kept it. He made this promise to someone who, to this day, to this moment, continues to fight the need to change, to be less of this and more of that. 

The Universe woke me up and sent me this man and his daughter. I fell in love with and married a man who said, "I want and love you as you are." 

As you are.

What a gift this is: this man, these words, this promise. He lives it every time I say I want to be something other than what I am. "You are perfect as you are."

As you are.

This is what I waited so long for. This is what I never found and was never going to find in the ones who came before him. People I could never breathe with. People who said I was too much, of everything. It took time to see that those people were not my people; they were not my tribe.

Making a life with Ben and Eva has felt like coming home. These are my people. Some days it is really really hard, when outside forces try to wear you down. Even with the hard and heavy every day feels holy. 

Two years down and forever to go.

Previous wedding/anniversary posts can be found here and here.

May 8, 2016

Dear Eva.

Dear Eva,

Today is my second Mother's Day as your stepmom. Thank you.

I wish I could have ten thousand more Mother's Days with you.

Lately it feels like the days are blurring together. I was told it would be this way.

You have no idea how fast it will go.

I wasn't told how hard it would be: to feel all of the feelings for you, for life with you, for your future, every single day. Joy, sadness, exhaustion, confusion, fear. To feel them at the same time several times a day. To feel like I've been your stepmom forever. To have it feel effortless and impossible at the same time. To feel lost. To feel happy to the point of tears. To feel exhausted to the point of tears. Lots of tears in the bathroom.

Every day, more and more, I see you becoming yourself. You have opinions and a voice and every time you use it, really use it, I want to stand on a chair and clap and scream, "This! You must always remember to do this, to use your voice, when you're five and fifteen and fifty-five. The world will do everything to silence you. You must listen to yourself above all else and you've got to learn this now." 

I will never stop asking you how things make you feel. It is the most basic and exhausting question. It look me too long to figure this out and I do not want that road for you. But should that be your road we will navigate it together. 

Three weeks ago you turned five. You'll be driving next month. This is how it feels-like I cannot keep up. We just registered you for Kindergarten. I sat at a large round table covered by a red plastic tablecloth scattered with crayons and coloring sheets and it didn't feel real. To be looking at papers that say, "Kindergarten Supply List." We filled out one dozen forms and watched you go into another room with one of the administrators for mandatory testing. You didn't even look back. You have no fear. This is what I want. This is what I dread.

It is devastating and amazing because it all goes so fast.

You are magic, Eva.

The way you say, "That's a problem" whether it's because we're out of milk or because the friggin' cat won't stop chasing you. It's hilarious and sweet and makes you sound forty years old.

The way you said, "Happy Mother's Day!!!" to me ten times the past few days.

The way you sometimes yell, "Rhiannon!!!" when you wake up from your nap and want me to come get you.

The way you ask questions, lots of questions. I hope you are always this curious.

The way you use your voice.

Eva, thank you for the past two years, for every moment. I couldn't imagine life as a mom could be this good. This scary. This exhausting. This fun. This full. Life with you is all of these things ten thousand times over.

You make everything brighter.
You make everything better.

Being a mom is hard. It is the biggest job. It is an honor.

I love you forever.


p.s. Last year's letter to Eva.

November 5, 2015


I cried in the back of a cab tonight. It's been a long time since I did that.
I cried because today was the kind of day in which nothing "happened" even though it felt as if everything happened. In my work-life it did. In my life-life it did. Today felt like a marathon and it wouldn't let up. 
It was one day, a whopper of a day yes, but one day. A bad day does not equal a bad life.
I left work late, ran to a cab, and sat in traffic that hardly moved for fifteen minutes. I called Ben and we talked about our days and how much can change in one afternoon, in one email. And I cried. I cried because life will not stop and so many things are undecided and almost decided and not decided by us and I don't have time for it. I don't have energy or patience or forgiveness for it. I cried because I am tired and that is my constant.
I caught every red light. 
I missed my train.
I had to wait thirty-three minutes for the next one. 
Thirty-three minutes I could've spent with Eva. I cried because I miss so much and tonight, sitting in the back of a cab on a street where nothing moved was a smack-in-the face reminder. Time with her is gold and it's fleeting. 
It's never enough.
Even on the hard days when I feel like I have no energy and no patience and I'm not enough for her there's never enough time. 
In those thirty-three minutes I walked to a tiny sushi restaurant near my train station, a restaurant I went to during graduate school simply because it was a block from my class. I remember the twenty-six year-old who used to sit in that restaurant. A young woman so sad and lonely she went to crowded restaurants just to feel less alone, to feel a part of things. to hear noise and people talking with one another. Twenty-six, before Ben, before Eva, before marriage and parenthood. Before the hard parts and the heavy parts and the magic.
I cried because being a parent is hard. Being a step-parent is hard. I forget this. Because the bulk of my time with her, my life with her since she was fifteen months old has felt easy.
I know I was born to love this girl and her father. 
I cried because there will never be enough time. 

Q: G, why do you cry so much?
A: For the same reason I laugh so much. Because I'm paying attention.
-Glennon Doyle Melton

September 20, 2015

One year.

Today is our first wedding anniversary. One year as husband and wife. One year as Eva's stepmom. One year as a family. 

I've learned a few things. 

I've learned that a lot of the cliches are true. 

Marriage is wonderful.
Sometimes it is hard.
It goes by faster than you expect.
You have to "fight" fairly. I've learned that when you hear, "do you want to be right or do you want to be happy?" in your head you better pay attention.

The fun/lightness of saying "my husband" or "my stepdaughter" or "Mrs. Buehne" has not worn off. One year later, hearing and saying those things still makes me happy. I feel a lightness when I say them. I've felt a lightness every day since the day I met Ben at that Italian restaurant. The Italian restaurant we brought Eva to today,. "Because it's our special day?" Yes, sweet girl. Because this is our special day.

p.s. Eva, I hope you marry your best friend. I hope you find someone who supports you in every thing you do, who knows when/how to carefully call you on things you do that are detrimental to your soul. I hope you find someone who is careful with you, respects you, encourages you, loves and honors you. Makes you laugh and shake and cry the good kind of tears. Who constantly reminds you of how lucky and smart you were to marry them. Who never makes it feel like work, even when the world beats down on you. Because this will happen. Marriage is not supposed to be easy, but it's not supposed to feel like work either. Marriage is a job, yes. For me it is a job I feel like I have done forever. I feel like I have always known Ben and Eva and that I've always known what to do. Being this man's wife and this girl's stepmom is the most natural thing. This is how it should be. Please don't ever settle for less than this. It is out there.

But the best friend thing. It is a total game changer.

I love you, Benjamin. One year down, forever to go.

p.p.s. Our wedding day was one of the best of my life. I'm so glad I made this list.

May 22, 2015

this is how you love yourself. say the hard things.

While on the train, use the notebook. Tell your stories. Speak the truth. Speak your truth, out loud.

I didn't want to come here because I don't want to think about these things in a concentrated setting for an hour.

Laugh because you know that statement is crap. It's partly true and partly false and nagging at you, always. That's life.   

I am tired of thinking about these things, this person, this problem, this fear. I am tired of feeling this way all.the.damn.time.

Then stop. Make a different choice.

Everything we do is a choice. It took a lot of therapy for me to accept and understand this. A lot of time in a dark green leather chair and then a lot of time on a dark brown leather couch in a different man's office.

You can choose to follow a thought or acknowledge it and say, "Not today, not tomorrow either. Go away."

The truth needs to be told. It needs to be shared. It's the only way it becomes less heavy. We're all carrying too much. Learning to travel this world lightly is an absolute game changer. Not everything needs to be held with clenched fists. There is zero shame in asking for help, zero shame and 1,000% humanity. The shame is what weighs us down, what keeps us from talking about it, whatever your it is. We can't grow without going through the hard stuff first, without saying the hard things.

I didn't want to come here because I don't want to think about these things in a concentrated setting for an hour. 

So I took two weeks off. I told myself, I need to sit and not run from place to place to talk about this crap for an hour. (This is exactly what I need. The talking part, not the running around part).

I went back. And it felt as good as I knew it would be. The things we resist the most only get bigger and heavier if we don't talk about them. Talking heals. It's scary as hell, but it heals. Our fears lose their power when we face them. And talk about them in concentrated settings for an hour. 

When we take a step and another, this is where growth and change happen. Lighten your load. Say the words to anyone who will listen, truly listen. Listen to yourself. This is how you love yourself.

May 10, 2015

a love letter to eva, on my first mother's day.

Dear Eva,

I've been your step mom for nearly eight months. We've been a family for nearly eight months. They have been wonderful and hard and more fulfilling than I'd imagined.

I have a lot of wishes for you, basic things like only fall in love with people worthy of you, find a great job with amazing benefits that makes you happy, keep a journal, floss-seriously, travel, travel, travel, and never be hurt by anyone. Ever. Small things, nothing major. I wanted to share some of the big ones today, a day full of reminders that I'm a mom. Better than anything, I get to be one of your moms. I will never take this for granted. I love you so.

Find things that bring you joy, emphasis on things. As many as possible. Right now you love to draw and color, dance, and help me cook. I hope you hold onto these things. Maybe five years from now you still will. Maybe you'll find new things and then come back to these and change your mind ten more times. Who knows? That's the maybe. There is power in maybe. Power and possibility. I hope you remember how good and full these things make you feel while you do them. I hope you are brave enough to stop doing anything that no longer feels good.

Please know life is actually shorter than everyone says. It's painful and frustrating how true this is.

You will not understand how vital it is to love yourself until the first time you realize you do. Or you realize you don't. Maybe not until you're twenty-five and someone asks why you don't. The sting of that question will stay with you. I hope you always love yourself and part of my job is to teach you how, to remind you, to show you by example-which some days feels like my own personal Everest. Because I see you watch me and you notice everything which is the biggest blessing shake-me-wake-me-up-call.

I pray you stay as caring and thoughtful as you are today at age four. Yesterday we were talking about London and you asked if we could go there. In the car this morning you told us you missed Sloth, out of nowhere. You talked about missing him and loving him. Hold onto that, even when it hurts and makes you vulnerable, which it will. Life only works this way.

I am always on your side. I love you.

March 4, 2015

I believe.

The first song you play in the morning sets the tone for your day.
There are bigger fish to fry than people who cheat at "Words with Friends." Shake it the heck off.
When you let the little things annoy you everything else will too.
It helps to start with lists, no matter what "it" involves.
When in doubt follow instructions.
When in doubt choose the fancy earrings.
Use your vacation days. All of them. For the love.
When your child asks for one more book at bedtime say yes.
Always carry a pen, notebook, and snacks. Be prepared for life, things like two hour train delays.

December 31, 2014

Our Wedding-things I always want to remember

A few weeks ago I read something from a a former grad school classmate, Laura. Her post on what she hopes to never forget about her wedding inspired me to do the same.

Ben and I have been married a little over three months now. I love it. I feel exactly the same as I did the day before our wedding. But now I get to say "wife" and "husband" and "stepdaughter." September 20, 2014 was perfect, thanks in huge part to the love and support our family and friends showed us. These are the big things I hope I don't forget. All photos below were taken by our phenomenal photographer, Kelsey Jorissen.

1. At the hotel the night before, Eva too excited to sleep because Reese was there. Laughing at the fact that I packed her skeleton pajamas, which glowed in the dark.

2. How relaxed I was while getting ready. I got up early to work out in the hotel gym. Came back and got Eva up, had pumpkin coffee, a turkey bacon sandwich and watched several episodes of "The Pioneer Woman" while reading my Oprah magazine and watching the girls get their hair and makeup done. I just stayed in bed all morning until it was my turn. How relaxed I felt the entire day. People laughing at just how calm I was.

3. The Comic Con-type convention happening at our hotel that weekend. Seeing Ghostbusters and other creatures at breakfast the next morning.

4. Reading Ben's card at the hotel. And crying. As we grow closer during the trying parts of our we drift apart only to grow closer yet we learn to love and forgive each other's flaws as well as our own...we create a beautiful symphony of life. I have an energy for our life and to, in the moment, live the life as truly ours. 

5. How I felt in my dress. It was the second one I tried on at the shop and I knew.

6. How full our Church lobby/bride's room were, how many people came to wish us well even though we couldn't invite them. I felt love every moment of that day. How this is our family: big, loud, full of love.

7. Our twin ring bearers, Michael and Alex, who were beyond precious. Is there anything better than toddlers in tuxedos?

8. Seeing my flowers for the first time. Thinking, "Gail nailed it!" Then thinking, "These are heavy."

9. My dad kissing my hands as he gave me away.

10. The sight of Ben's ring on his hand. Still not old, probably never will be.

11. Hearing Mr. and Mrs. Buehne for the first time.

12. Dodging/embracing the rain to blow bubbles outside the Church. Hearing thunder and just going with it, one of the biggest lessons Ben has taught me.

13. Hugging Mary Lou, our Deacon's wife. From marriage mentoring classes to our wedding day, they were so supportive.

14. Being so thankful for the breeze outside while taking pictures.

15. How good the food was, especially the chicken. How Eva only wanted bread and the lemon rice soup. How she put my napkin on my lap for me.

16. White wine and champagne, and kiddie cocktails for the kids.

17. Sharing our vows at the hall. More crying. Ben saying, "I vow to love you, always, as you are."

18. Chris's toast-how warm and funny it was. How the whole room laughed. You felt it.

19. All of the surprise toasts. I loved them. My godfather gave us a bottle of wine my Grandma Dee and Grandpa Larry picked out to be given to me on my wedding day. When he handed it to me, he whispered, "Don't drink it." And I laughed, even though it made me sad that Ben and Eva will never get to meet them.

20. Our parents sharing a speech my Dad wrote. Crying on Christmas when he gave us a framed copy of it.

21. When our song came on, thinking, "I am so in love with this moment. I hope it goes slowly." It sort of did. And bawling, completely bawling on Ben's shoulder.

22. Dancing with my dad, him singing in my ear, seeing my sisters crying at the head table.

23. Table #3-my cousins and their spouses, my godparents, clinking their glasses every two minutes. Clinking and hollering. That's my family. I love them.

24. Running outside just before sunset so Kelsey could get photos. How her timing was perfect.

25. Our cake topper. How it personified Ben, who found it: full of love.

26. Ben and Eva's dance-how he threw her in the air and she couldn't stop laughing.

27. Eva and Reese's rendition of "Let It Go."

28. Tyler in his suspenders. Seeing him and Reese, my niece, run back and forth across the dance floor. Feeling so happy to have a niece and nephew.

29. Singing Whitney Houston's "I Want to Dance With Somebody" with my bridesmaids, sisters, cousins, and cousins' husbands. Amazing.

30. My father-in-law asking me to dance.

31. Our insane sweets table, which was actually two. And the two dozen cannolis my godmother got us.

32. Getting so caught up in dancing to "Single Ladies" with Eva I forgot to toss my bouquet. Ben had to tell me it was time. And then when I tossed my Chicago Bears garter-being so glad Fred caught it.

33. Eva and Reese wanting to hold my train-for almost the entirety of photos at the hotel.

34. Ben's air guitar with his best friend Fred's cane. How he would

35. My dad handing out cigars to nearly everyone.

37. My sister-in-law calling me Sis the next morning.

38. Our photographer. Who just killed it.

39. The love I felt the whole day. The hugs, kisses, Congratulations! So much love.

December 19, 2014


This year has been a weird one. Full and stressful and hard and wonderful. Sometimes on the same day.

I married my best friend this year.
I became a step-mom this year.
I turn(ed) thirty today.
Plus lots of big, awful things I can’t talk about, not yet at least.

I’m ready for a new one. December has been particularly exhausting, not the “so tired everything feels funny” tired. More like the, “tired down in my bones where everything hurts.”

But I’m back. With a new beautiful website. Chicago Girl Moves On is no more. She moved on. There are still some things to work out, but I’m so excited for this “face-lift.” And I can think of no better post to come back with than “What I know now.” I’ve done it the past two years at 28 and 29. So here is what I know today, after this year, on the cusp of turning thirty.

Stay in your own lane.

The laundry can wait.

Patty Griffin, Taylor Swift, Mary Chapin Carpenter, Beyonce: women with something to say. People resonate with this. Because we all have something to say.

Some people truly need something to pick on and put down. Don't be one of these people. 

I cannot change anyone but myself. (Still hard for me to accept, probably always will be.) I cannot change the people who affect so many parts of my life. What I can do is pray, cry, scream when I’m angry, write down why I’m angry/anxious/scared/hopeful. And try harder the next day to save my energy. I can try harder to not feed the psychic vampires in my life.

Don’t assign labels. I am a parent, not just a step-parent. People outside my story do not know my story; they know the pieces I choose to share.

The pieces are not the whole.

I know how I feel when I’m tired or hungry: depleted, not myself. So I always keep the following in my bag: snacks, book, pen, paper. These are the things that fill me up. And maybe some dark chocolate.

Find what fills you up.

When the state of my purse matches the state of my mind it's time to stop. And clean both.

Everything is a sign.

Use the pretty dishes. You deserve pretty dishes.

Buy yourself the flowers.

Whenever possible, take a walk if you start feeling all the feelings at once. The feelings will still be there. Walking helps settle them.

Find what heals you: walks, shows on Bravo, a solid hour of Pinterest, a solid hour of silence.

Do not underestimate the power of silence. A nap. Pink lipstick. A good eyelash curler. 

Go for the good stuff: dark chocolate chip gelato over the candy bar. 

You cannot say "I love you" enough. 

If you do not allow yourself to be happy you will never be happy.

Take lessons from children. "What do you want to do today?" "Play and dance."

"I don't know" means "I'm not ready." Means "at least not right now." This is okay. 

Take lessons from anyone who snaps at and belittles other people in public. Don't be that guy. 

Lighten the fuck up.

Saying no is freeing. And hard. So is asking for help.

Pen, paper, prayer. Repeat. 

October 9, 2014


Life has been incredibly hectic the past few months. Part of that is because I got married September 20! Life is good, even when it's not. I will share more of my favorite photos soon. I promise.*

(photo by the wonderful Kelsey Jorissen Photography)

*I promise to try to remember.