Sunday, June 26, 2011

After Six Months He Deserves a Medal

...or a cheesy mug with a trophy on it. :)

Last Thursday was my six-month wedding anniversary. And although six months may not seem like a long time, I wanted to take the time to expound upon how amazing my husband is. These six months have most likely felt like six years for him.

Only one year ago, he and I met at a single adult church activity. He was less than enthusiastic about attending, and I showed up as a last-ditch effort to turn a disastrous relationship history into something good (the clock was not on my side...biological, or any other kind). And yet, somehow, the timing was perfect. We crossed paths at the end of what would have otherwise been a less-than-inspiring speed dating activity, and the rest was history.

But wait, there's more. The thing that made my husband a man wise and capable beyond his then 25 years was his maturity in giving me a chance. Sure, I wasn't completely unfortunate to look at (I was enjoying the smallest dress size of my post-pubescent life), and that scored me a first glance and a first activity invitation. He invited me to listen to him play/sing a solo gig he did now and then at his apartment. After much deliberation on my part (I was 29, divorced, and had a three-year-old...I wasn't exactly in my element hanging out with singles in their early or even mid-20s) I decided to make an appearance.

There were dozens of other girls lining the perimeter of the apartment, gazing at Nate with stars in their eyes (or I guess they could have been dollar signs...he had just finished his first year of law school at BYU). And throughout the course of the evening, as he serenaded the audience, I was gradually lulled under a lovely spell that wouldn't be broken. I was hooked, I was petrified, and in that moment I was especially mortified. I liked him. A lot. He was handsome, talented, smart, and funny. A glance around the room confirmed that I wasn't alone in my sentiments. I immediately felt out of place. What was I doing there? What was I thinking? Why would someone like him ever be interested in dating someone like me? He could choose to be with any of a million girls. Girls without baggage.

After he finished playing, he paid me a fair amount of personal attention, but sort of ushered everyone out of his place a little early (he explained this later...he had a lot going on and was exhausted). My friend Natalie had been kind enough to tag along with me so I didn't have to brave the unknown alone. She let me vent and analyze the whole situation till there really wasn't much else to say. I felt foolish. Why in the world would I think someone four years younger than I was, in such a different place in life, be interested in dating me? It was settled. I would not be venturing into the world of younger men. Ever. Again. I was certain I would be limited to older divorced men, with children—you know, people like me. The feeling followed me like a rain cloud the rest of the weekend. I felt silly and just plain stupid. Looking back now, I know it was a very adversarial feeling. Something—or someone—didn't want me to feel loveable or confident enough to be with someone great—wanted me to feel that I didn't deserve to be happy.

And so, I was completely floored to get a phone call from Nate the next day. He wanted to take me to dinner. And here's the best part—one of the realities of living in the digital age is the easy access to information, including information about people. I had a Facebook page, I had a blog, therefore I opened myself up for investigation. And so he knew. He always knew who I was and what my life consisted of. Sure, it took him a few dates to get used to the idea. Heck, it took me a few dates to feel comfortable opening up (I actually didn't tell him about my divorce or Halle until our fourth or fifth date). But he always knew. I didn't know he knew (that's another story), but nothing deterred him from at first focusing on just me. At 25 he was willing to put aside everything that haunted my past and complicated my present and give me a chance. And for that I will be forever grateful.

Don't get me wrong, I overlooked a few missteps on his part (the story of our first date, although hilarious, will be saved for another post). But in the months that followed, he drove from Provo to Bountiful 3-5 times a week just to spend a few hours with me. He made room in his heart for a three-year-old girl who fell in love with him as quickly as I did and who needed him in her life desperately. He helped me move to Provo and let me vent about the challenges of starting a brand new job. He married me in the temple and gave me the most incredible in-laws a girl could ever ask for. And he continues to weather the raging storms of hormones that have accompanied a very difficult pregnancy. And it's only been one year since we met—six months since we made it official. He is the most wonderful, patient, loving, Christlike man I know. I'm so lucky to get to celebrate an endless number of anniversaries with him.

And just as an endnote: I hope anyone reading our story feels hope. I hope you know that anything is possible. Great things happen when you least expect it. Our little family is living proof.

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Sunday Nights

Caution: This post may be perceived as sort of a downer. But it’s as real as it gets for me. And one of the purposes of this blog, for me, is to share the ups and downs of my particular path in life. And I guess I’m hoping that by getting it out, maybe I’ll somehow feel at least a little bit better.

I'm sure everyone would agree that we all have our own challenges in life. Sunday nights are mine. Following a weekend that is, no doubt, the best part of my week, the 8 o’clock hour always rolls around, no matter how much I wish time would just stop. I lovingly, yet begrudgingly, buckle my heart into the back seat of my car and drive 30 minutes—blinking back burning tears and swallowing the huge lump in my throat the whole way (because, you see, my heart is watching me intently the entire time in the rear-view mirror). I try to make cheerful conversation, to hopefully make our trip less daunting. More often than not my heart says nothing—often nodding off to sleep, I can only pray finding some comfort in the consistency of the routine. I’m usually happier for the silence. The times filled with words are tinged with protest, leaving me to wonder if my heart is damaged by the trip, or is on the verge of breaking. So I try not to think about it. I just watch the fiery colors of the sunset in the west and avoid contemplating the inevitable.

The moment always comes and goes. I release my heart in a grocery store parking lot. Just like that. I hand my heart over to someone else. Not just anyone—someone who once chose to break my heart…a long time ago. I watch my heart walk away, climb into another car, and instantly settle into another life. In less than 30 seconds—she’s gone.

And I wait. Sometimes it overcomes me, like a terrible wave and I gasp for air through a flood of sobs. Sometimes it just bounces around inside me, like the remnants of an echo in a stony ravine. Sometimes it stings as it smolders, a slow burn—resigned. But always, there’s pain.

I do my best to, again, drive 30 minutes. And somehow I walk around for the next three days. 72 whole hours without my heart. I still have my brain, so I wonder if she’s happy, I worry that she’s not getting what she needs, I rack my brain again and again for any solution I can think of to fix the situation, to make it different. Then I remind myself—of course I would make it different in less than a second…if there was any way I could. For now, there is not.

This is our reality—hers and mine. Somehow we try to make the best of what life brings, even when we’re left to deal with the consequences of others’ decisions. Even if it's for years.

Most of the time, she actually shoulders the back and forth much better than I do. I guess it makes it harder that I don’t get to be home with her during some of the days she's “mine.” Instead I go to work, so she can eat and have a place to live. But I think about her every second I’m away. And I would do anything to be home reading Amelia Bedelia and playing hopscotch instead. So for about 92 hours of each week, I know someone else is getting to raise her, hold her, and teach her. Not me.

So I do my very best to squeeze every last drop out of the time I have with her. It’s most certainly the greatest challenge in my life. Yet she is my greatest blessing. She is my heart. 

I am aware that, most of the time, I clearly do not take a “glass half full” approach to my situation. I do the very best I know how. Because really, I guess that’s how Sunday nights and the 92 hours away from her each week feel for me. Empty.

I’m honestly still figuring out what I’m supposed to learn from this stretch of my path in life. But I hope she learns something. I hope she knows that I always did the very best I could for her because I love her more than my own life. I hope she learns to be strong in a world that grows more challenging and evil every day. I hope she learns to be flexible because heaven knows life asks that of all of us more than we would like. Most of all, I hope that as she is passed around to and from so many different sets of arms, she gets more hugs and she feels more love.

Monday, June 13, 2011

I've Been Bitten

This will not be me in 10 years.
It's always been a goal of mine to someday figure out how to really stretch my budget. So, I finally decided there's no point in putting it off any longer. I've officially become....a coupon lady (the kind of woman I was intensely annoyed by as recently as two months ago). Nate has a paid clerkship with a law firm this summer, so we're saving, saving, saving for when baby girl comes in October. Finally, after five and a half years of waiting (not always patiently), I'll be able to be a full-time mom and part-time instructional designer (I enjoy what I do and I'd like to keep working just a few hours a week to keep my skill set current). But I want so much for the transition to be as financially smooth as possible. So I've started looking for any way I can save even more money in the coming months.

I used to think I didn't have time to clip coupons, so I'd just try to hit Walmart for what we needed when we needed it. I think it was finally the dismal abyss that is the Orem Walmart that pushed me to hunt for deals elsewhere. It's only been a couple of weeks since I've started paying close attention to weekly store ads and collecting whatever coupons I can. I do have one rule...I refuse to fill my house with stores of random things I really don't use or need--even if they're free. But, I've saved way more money than I expected. Just today, I scored $65 of groceries for about $20. And I'm officially addicted. It's a great outlet for my obsessive-compulsive tendencies and my brain is constantly on the prowl for the next great deal.

However, it's definitely been a learning process. It's not exactly as glamorous as the TLC promos would have you believe. When you start couponing, here's what nobody tells you:

1) Those other coupon ladies mean business. Rather than having it delivered, it's cheaper to just go get your Sunday newspaper(s) from one of the little boxes on Sunday morning...HA...that's if you think you can actually FIND a Sunday paper in ANY box anywhere in the Provo city limits and get a full night's sleep. So far, I've managed to find what I need, but I have to get up at the crack of dawn (or Nate does--oh, how I love him) and drive all over town scrounging for the leftovers.

2) Did I mention those other coupon ladies mean business? Occasionally, you can use coupons to find an uber-amazing deal on something, something that's totally free, or sometimes something that even makes you money. This is where working full-time leaves me choking on "extreme coupon lady" dust. By the time I get to the stores at the end of my work day (on the very first day of the new sale, mind you...I'm not extreme, but I'm not complacent, either) all of the really good stuff is gone. Shelves completely cleared.

3) To get the really good deals, you very often have to instruct the checker to scan each item you want to purchase as a separate transaction. All of you fellow coupon ladies out there know that this is the best way to get the coupon discount plus all of the in-store discounts. BUT, this makes you very unpopular with the growing line of disgruntled customers behind you, most of whom just want to pick up a Pepsi or a carton of cigarettes (basically the people who had previously never even had a second thought about coupons and now hate them because I make them wait 10 more minutes to get their nicotine fix).Yeah, I'm now that lady.

Good thing getting to be at home with my babies is the best kind of motivation. Otherwise, this would all be way too much hassle.