Ever After

This MIGHT be the first time I’ve sat down since last Thanksgiving.

Slight exaggeration ๐Ÿ˜‰ But it certainly feels that way some days. To say that the past few months following my move from Texas to Florida have been breathtakingly whirlwindish would be an understatement, which is why I feel that this little social media cubby hole of mine deserves a full scale update.

Over Thanksgiving weekend last year, Zack and I road tripped from Dallas to Apollo Beach with Biscuit and a carload of my belongings in tow to move me into his condo. I’m still asked frequently if I like it here and my answer could not be a more emphatic “YES!” I love the sunshine, the palm trees and the laid back air of beach bumming at its finest. I love the warm, salty breeze and how fantastic it has proven for my health – Since relocating, my PFTs have increased significantly and I haven’t had one single episode of hemoptysis. The only thing missing from this beautiful new life is my mom, who visited over the Christmas holiday and fell in love with it, but hasn’t been so easy to uproot. (One Jedi mind trick at a time…)

In January, Zack and I launched Team Debo vs Cystic Fibrosis, a social media project close to our hearts with the goal of sharing our combined knowledge of fitness and nutrition with the CF community to help improve quality of life while battling the illness. The wanderlust bug bit hard in February when we hopped a plane to his hometown in Ohio, where we visited his grandmother over our birthday weekend, then returned at the end of March when she passed away from cancer. Two weeks later, we trekked to New York for Lyndsey’s TLC Foundation‘s final Booze Cruise benefiting Cystic Fibrosis transplant patients, returned home for a whopping 72 hours and set out again to Texas for Zack to ask my mom (and dad!) for their marital blessing. And last but not least, in May, we stayed insanely busy with four separate fundraisers toward Team Debo’s first Great Strides Walk in Tampa, which successfully brought in $6500 toward the cure.

farrel debaltzo ever afterOn May 21, the day of the walk, my life changed for the even better when Zack dropped to one knee in front of our team of 50 friends and family members and asked me to make Team Debo officially official with him this summer ๐Ÿ˜ The next eight weeks were spent singlehandedly coordinating the beach wedding of our dreams – From venue shopping to planning and organizing each detail to hand-crafting all of our own decorations to graduating premarital counseling with our pastor with flying colors – And on July 16th, the one year anniversary of our first date, we said “I do” on Anna Maria Beach in front of 110 of our closest friends and family members as it lightly rained on our heads. Our reception followed at a small art studio just steps from the beach with a pizza buffet, brownie sundaes in lieu of cake, loads of dancing and tearfully touching toasts; and ended with a late-night trip back to the shoreline for an after-party of drinking and playing in the sand with everyone who wished to join. I will never forget that night and the overwhelming sense that at any moment, while listening to the crashing waves and chatter between new and old family and friends from all over the country, my heart was sure to burst with the deepest of gratitude and joy.

farrel debaltzo ever afterBeing such a music junkie, quite possibly my favorite touch was how perfectly balanced our music choices were between upbeat fun and sentimental tradition. For the ceremony procession, all of the guys and my girls led our walk down the aisle with “Marry You” by Bruno Mars, which I followed with my entrance to “Live Like You Were Dyin'” by Tim McGraw. For the reception, the bridal party was announced Jock Jam style to 2 Unlimited, which was followed up with “Die A Happy Man” by Thomas Rhett as Zack’s and my first dance; Cole Swindell’s “You Should Be Here”, where my cousin George stood in for my dad; and “Lady” by Kenny Rogers, my mom and dad’s first dance song at their 1981 wedding, for the mother-in-law/son dance between Zack and my mom. My bouquet toss brought the ladies onto the floor with “Just A Girl” by No Doubt, and Zack, not to be outdone, wrapped my garter around a football and tossed it to the Monday Night Football theme. Our general playlist, we left up to our DJ Brandon, who couldn’t have done a more phenomenal job.

Our wedding was not fancy. It was not expensive. To be 100% real, parts of it weren’t even organized. (Perks of acting as bride, planner, coordinator and one-fifth of the decorating and janitorial committee the day of ๐Ÿ˜œ) But it could not have been more authentically us and it will forever stand as the second best day of my life, surpassed only by the day that I gave my life to Christ. I will never forget our friend Elizabeth’s text to me when we returned from our honeymoon: “My friends and I always joke that all weddings are the same. We can’t say that any more after yours.” Happy sigh ๐Ÿ˜

farrel debaltzo ever afterThe remainder of the weekend was spent on the island with family and friends who made the trip in from various parts of the country to be with us on our day. Afterward, Zack and I headed off on a road trip honeymoon first to the Florida Natural Caverns, then Nashville for two days and ending in the mountains of Gatlinburg for three more. In August, our time in our condo in Apollo Beach came to an end, and another gorgeous condo was dropped into our laps in Bradenton, just three miles from Anna Maria Island and fifteen minutes from the beach where we began our lives together. We moved the first week of September and since then, Zack has been steadily piecing together a gym in our garage to not only continue his own CrossFit training, but to take on personal clients with me alongside him as his nutrition advisor. We are also concentrating on building new aspects of Team Debo, which remain largely behind the scenes for now, but we hope to launch soon. And my newest endeavor: A book! ๐Ÿ˜ After years of being prompted by those who know my life story to share it, I’ve finally decided to listen. I began writing two weeks ago and aim to release it sometime in late 2017.

In an age of skepticism thanks to Fakebook false identities and lives, Zack and I are regularly asked, “Are you guys really THAT happy?” And with complete authenticity, I can answer, “Absolutely”. I stand in awe most days at the life my God has been orchestrating for me since before I was even a thought in my parents’ minds. A life that has had far more pain in far fewer years than most, but a life lacking in no less beauty because of it. The world that we live in would love to convince each of us that there is no good left in it, that no love remains, but that is simply not true. As each day passes and our world grows darker and darker, happily ever afters grow harder and harder to find, but I promise you, they ARE out there. And they begin with the choice to be one yourself.

Weigh In!