Today marks a decade of JZSquared. On this day in 2011, I met Justin. I’m sure most people already know the story. But I’ll retell it anyway in case somebody does not. I lived in NJ and had flown to Texas for a friend’s New Year’s Eve Party with her then-boyfriend. At the time, she was pretty serious about the boyfriend and was convinced he was the one and they had been together for about four or five years by then and lived together. Therefore, I had to meet him. So I flew down for their annual NYE party. I was just getting over a really bad sinus infection. I felt pretty much okay when I landed in Texas, but then just before the party started I completely lost my voice and got laryngitis and couldn’t talk at all. I couldn’t drink at the party either because I was on sinus meds and they don’t mix with booze. I was only able to communicate with people by writing notes on a piece of paper with a pen and having people read them.
Shortly after the party started, my friend introduced me to this guy named Justin and told me that she thought he might be autistic but she thought we’d hit it off because we were a lot alike. I think she meant we were both extremely perverted. When I met Justin, I didn’t like him. I was pretty sure he was wasted off his ass. He was playing Yahtzee at a table with some people and obnoxiously shouting out obscenities. I wanted absolutely nothing to do with him. I walked away from him and started playing scrabble with my friend instead.
A little while after, the hosts of the party decided it was time to play Cultist, which is basically like werewolf or mafia, but with different characters/creatures. [Think of it as early Among Us with cards before Among Us became a thing]. My friend and I teamed up since I couldn’t really talk and one hundred percent participate in the game. Justin played too. Justin was the first person voted out because that’s just a thing that’s continued to this day with more current games. My friend and I were one of the cultists. But SHE had an awful poker face and we got voted out shortly afterward thanks to her. For the next round, I decided I didn’t want to partner with her because she had an awful poker face, and I decided to team up with Justin instead thinking that maybe together we could NOT get voted out early. I’m pretty sure we still got voted out first, if not, we were voted out second or third. Anyhow, after the rounds of Cultist ended, I started “talking” to Justin a lot more because he had sobered up by then and was NOT as obnoxious. By “talking”, I mean I had to write notes on a piece of paper and he had to read those notes aloud and respond to them. It turned out he was actually kind of cool. We had a lot in common, we both liked Doctor Who [though his favorite was Tennant and mine was Eccleston, this still has NOT changed, though I admit that Tennant was an excellent doctor, 10 just wasn’t as dark as 9, and I like darker and angrier doctors] and hated Matt Smith. We also talked a little bit about Star Trek and video games. We stayed up together and talked for most of the night until I finally crashed around three am, after being up for like 24 hours to catch several flights to Texas that day.
The next morning, my friend whisked me away to see her parents. [She used to live in NJ but moved to Texas, and I had known her and her parents since college]. We spent the next day with her parents and then came back. When we got back, her boyfriend told me that one of his friends wanted to know if I was single. I was single, at the time, but conflicted because I wasn’t sure if I was interested in anyone, at the time because I had just gone through a really shitty relationship and breakup, and on top of that, my grandfather had died that summer, and I still wasn’t quite over his death. In fact, the only reason my parents had agreed to buy me plane tickets to Houston for NYE was that I was so depressed and mopey after papa died combined with the breakup, and had no motivation to do anything. By process of elimination, it was pretty obvious that it was Justin. Without my permission, my friend’s boyfriend had invited Justin to spend the night with us and hang out with us for the next few days. I was conflicted. It was nice to have someone to talk to and hang out with for the remainder of my time in Houston because my friend and her boyfriend really made people feel like a third wheel, but at the same time, I thought it was kind of rude for her boyfriend to invite some guy, who seemed interested in me, to join us without my permission.
Luckily Justin and I really clicked. I had had my voice back by then thanks to a lot of tea and cough drops. We went out for pizza at this place called Boondoggles with some of their other friends. I don’t even remember who else had come with us that night. Justin and I talked the entire night and shared a pizza. We liked a lot of the same music, had “instant sparkles” as I referred to it at the time, and ignored everyone else who was there. We went back to the house and watched some anime that my friend and her boyfriend were really into, at the time, and eventually, I went to bed.
The next day we wandered around Houston. We went to the Flying Saucer [a place we still frequent when there’s no COVID, but we prefer the one in Sugarland because they have better parking and a lot of outdoor seating] and the zoo. We ended up getting lost in the zoo because while we were there, a Houston storm came in suddenly, the entire zoo was dark and it was pouring rain and we could not find our way back to the entrance.
That night we went to a birthday party for one of their friends at a bar with old-school arcade games, and then we came home and played apples to apples. Justin kept on picking all the cards I put down thinking somebody else had put them down and I ended up winning the game. It was my last night in Texas, and before Justin left to go back to his apartment, we exchanged phone numbers and hugged goodbye. The next day at the airport, I texted all of my close friends in NJ and told them I might’ve met a really awesome guy while I was in Houston.
At the airport, I also texted Justin and told him I had a really good time with him and hoped we could stay in touch. It took over a week for him to finally answer my text message. I vented to all my friends about how I thought I met this awesome guy and he couldn’t even bother to text me back. Eventually, he did though, and well he still sucks at answer texts and texting people, even ten years later. That’s just him. We texted almost 24/7 for a few days and we were really clicking. Eventually, we switched to talking over instant messenger. Then about a month after we started “talking” he texted me and told me that “we needed to talk” and NOBODY likes those words, and I was freaking the fuck out wondering what I did wrong. I had really thought we were hitting it off and now he wanted to talk to me and I was like WTF? He eventually texted me to ask if he could call me, I was like okay. He called me and told me that he was hiding in a supply closet at school so we could talk. He ended up asking me if he could be my boyfriend. He said he knew I probably couldn’t move to Texas for a few years, but that was okay with him, he just wanted to be a part of my life. I said “Yes.”
The first time I saw him after we were “official” was in March of 2011. I flew down to visit him and he took me to my first-ever rodeo along with my friend and her boyfriend.
Justin had even bought all of my favorite foods. He had a bowl of jelly belly jelly beans in his car for me to eat. He had code red mountain dew, potato chips, and sour cream at the apartment. All of the snacks that I said were my favorite. Besides going to the rodeo, we also spent some time with some of his other friends, played some games, and just enjoyed spending time, in person, with one another. I stayed for about a week.
He flew to NJ that summer to meet my friends and family.
And that’s pretty much how we spent the first year of our relationship. I worked three different jobs to save enough money to move to Texas. I babysat almost every night, I worked as a TA in a special needs middle school class, and I tutored at Huntington Learning Center. Justin was teaching in TX and since the TX and the NJ school calendars are very different, I’d either fly to him or he’d fly to me for a week. We saw each other maybe every 6 weeks or so, and we’d talk every night. We’d video chat on skype, text all day, or talk on instant messenger.
And now onto A Decade of JZ Squared.
I took Justin to see New York City for the first time and to see his first Broadway play, which was Jesus Christ Superstar, which is one of my favorites. We also spent our first Christmas together and went back to my friend’s ex-boyfriend’s New Year’s Eve party [They had broken up over the summer] though there was drama for reasons I won’t get into, it had nothing to do with us though. Then in July, Justin flew to New Jersey, and we road-tripped from New Jersey to Texas with all of my shit in my car. We went to our first two national parks, Shenandoah National Park and Great Smokey Mountains National Park. While we were at Shenendoah, Justin got his job offer from the current district he still teaches in. He did his interview by phone while we were driving through Pennsylvania. We lived in our first apartment together in Montrose. We adopted our first two cats: Ajani aka Cujo and Sorin, and I officially signed my contract to be a first-grade teacher within days of moving in.
2013 was a pretty shitty year. Not so much for us, just living in Houston was hard. I was really homesick for NJ and all my friends in NJ. I knew nobody here and was really lonely and depressed all the time. I had an asshole principal, who took pleasure in bullying me and making me cry. I ended up getting a tonsillectomy in March because my tonsils were causing sleep apnea, and I DO NOT recommend that surgery to ANYONE as an adult. It was so painful. It was also really hard just learning to be an adult. I questioned everything about moving to Texas. There were some highlighters. We went to our first ever Festival of Lights at Moody Gardens, which is now a yearly tradition, except for this year because of COVID. Two of our friends got married. My college roommate Abie married Mike in October. Travis and Flor got married in Houston in November. We visited San Antonio for the first time and visited Schlitterbahn. And Justin proposed to me at the end of the school year.
Unfortunately, 2014 was even shitter. This was the year I got diagnosed with uterine cancer. I had to get a hysterectomy to fight cancer. I would never be able to biologically have a kid. Justin and I even went through IVF treatments to try to freeze an embryo that a surrogate could carry. A few years later, when we found a willing surrogate, it turned out the embryo was genetically a mess and missing chromosomes and probably wouldn’t implant, or even if it managed to get born, it wouldn’t live long. It was a boy. We still want a kid even though we’d need an egg donor and/or a gestational carrier, but it will probably never happen because I can’t think of anyone we know that would be willing to carry a child for us and it would be too expensive to go through an agency. [I mean just for the record, if we FOUND a willing gestational carrier, we WOULD pay them, there just wouldn’t be any agency fees, which would be the expensive part]. The hysterectomy completely fucked up my life. I gained 40 lbs, my boobs enlarged like three sizes, I developed hypothyroidism and my menopausal symptoms were SO bad that I could NOT sleep. I had night sweats, bad insomnia, and it was awful. They were a thousand times worse than when I used to get PMS. I developed severe depression after everything happened. It’s completely fucked with my self-esteem and my self-image, and I regret it every day. Like I understand I needed the initial hysterectomy to get rid of cancer, but there was no reason to take the ovaries too. The cancer wasn’t even out of the uterine lining. They could’ve just kept the ovaries and let us try more IVF after the hysterectomy and only removed it if needed. My life would be a thousand times between if they had done that, but my oncologist refused to compromise and just the shock of getting cancer was enough to fuck with my mind. 2014 was one of the worst years of my life. But despite everything that happened and the fact that I never will be able to give Justin biological children, he still stayed by my side and supported me. Justin’s dad also passed away that year.
On a cat note, Gandalf the White joined our family this year, after I found him at my school.
2015 was the year we got married and had our wedding on super pi day aka 3.1415. Our wedding was amazing. Our entire wedding party took over a hotel, and there was room to room drinking, video-game marathons. The wedding itself had SO MUCH DELICIOUS FOOD and an entire room full of desserts. Our wedding was Alice in Wonderland themed, we had a rock band, so the dance floor was more like a concert pit than a dance floor and it was the best day. There was also tons of drama but it didn’t involve us, at least. We also had a pretty epic road trip on the way back from the wedding to Texas, driving with Justin’s entire groom cake in the car because the wedding venue forgot to serve it, and we visited Washington DC and Asheville, NC. I also took Justin to his first Wawa. was also one-year cancer-free. In summer, we went on our first ever epic road trip and visited tons of places and national parks. Highlights include Petrified Forest National Park, Grand Canyon National Park, Yosemite, Yellowstone, Crater Lake, Rocky Mountains National Park, and Olympic National Park. We also went to Las Vegas, which is where Justin won a lot of money playing roulette, Seattle, and Disney Land. It was an amazing trip and cemented our love for national parks and our desire to visit all 50 states in the US and all the national parks within the continental US.
2016 was a pretty shit year. That was the year my car drowned in a rainstorm, and also the year that my principal at school decided it was fun to bully me again. Justin and I did start house hunting this year. And in kitty news, Litty joined our family.
A lot happened in 2017. We bought our house. I voted in my first ever Texas presidential election. [Technically in Fall 2016, but as a teacher, a year to me is August through June, and fall counts as 2017 in my brain though it’s technically 2016] We went to Alaska over the summer on a cruise, which was really fun. We had an epic road trip from New Jersey to Texas for the one week we had spring break. We spent our 2nd anniversary in Wisconsin at Wisconsin Dells at an indoor waterpark. We bought hundreds of dollars worth of cheese from Wisconsin to take back to Texas and it was quite an adventure keeping the cheese cold. We went to Chicago and did a very quick Dresden Files book verse tour. We got caught in Super Storm Stella and drove through TONS of snow. I had also finally transferred to a different school and started teaching special education preschool, so despite the fact I didn’t get along with my sped coworkers [now ex sped coworkers, they all quit after my first year there] it was already an amazing year because I had gotten out of my old school and escaped bullying. In cat news, we adopted Espie in May 2017. Hurricane Harvey also hit Texas in August 2017, and we were lucky enough that we didn’t really get any damage or flooding from it, but school delayed starting until after Labor Day.
2018 was the year we finally went to Disney World to bring in the new year. It was an amazing time. We somehow got really lucky because there was a huge cold front in Florida, and the temperatures were like 20 degrees cooler than usual and very rainy, so we really did not have a lot of people at the parks, during what is usually a very crowded time! We got trapped on Splash Mountain for over an hour when the ride broke down. We also rode Splash Mountain like 8 times in a row because it was freezing cold out and nobody wanted to ride a water ride and it was amazing. We also went to universal and did a VIP tour and got to ride every single ride without waiting in line because of the VIP tour and I finally got to experience Hogwarts and get my Slytherin scarf. Justin got a Ravenclaw scarf. I also got a breast reduction in the summer of 2018 and it completely changed my life. Justin was also the teacher of the year at his school. We also visited Big Bend National Park and Guadalupe Mountains National Park and camped out in freezing cold weather in New Mexico. In cat news, Hammy joined the family in fall 2018, but unfortunately, Espie got really sick and we had to put her to sleep in summer 2018.
2019 was the year that Trump pretty much ruined our vacation with the government shutdown. We had planned a tour of the Utah national parks, over a year before, and then when it was finally time to go, the government shutdown. But we still made the best of it and visited all the Utah National Parks. We almost died driving to Zion because we got caught in a blizzard on the Mt Caramel highway. Luckily we did make it down the mountain. We did some amazing hikes in Bryce and Capitol Reef. Unfortunately, we barely got to spend any time in Arches because of snow and no funding to plow roads, and we almost killed ourselves driving on a snowy and icy road to try to get a picture of Canyonlands National Park. We also visited Saguaro National Park in Arizona. And in the fall, we revisited Guadalupe Mountains National Park and visited Carlsbad Caverns for the first time.
We started 2020 at Dry Tortugas National Park camping on an island with maybe ten other people if that. By March, there was a pandemic, and everything shut down and we finished our school year teaching from home. We didn’t even really get to celebrate our five-year wedding anniversary because of COVID since it happened right as everything shutdown. We’re finished 2020 at home, having a socially-distant virtual NYE gaming party with friends. Being stuck with Justin during COVID lockdowns has just strengthened our relationship.
It’s been an amazing decade full of adventures, and I cannot wait to see what the next decade and all the decades after that will bring. So here’s to ten years of adventures, and to many more years of adventures. Justin, I love you <3 and thanks for making the last ten years of my life an amazing journey.