Monday, October 31, 2011

My True Love Story

Author's note: Please don't let my writing about my beliefs alienate (or bore, or offend) you if you aren't a member of my church. These stories are really about a young girl figuring out who she is and who she loves. We all have to do that in one way or another! :) Thanks for reading!

Where Do You Look To Find Yourself?
Day 2,140ish

I know one place that I look. It’s a little town in Southern Utah and it’s called Beaver. I don’t know why it defines me so. It might be because I spent two crucial, transitional years there, seventh and eighth grade. It might be because my first real interactions with boys took place there. It might be because it’s a small town where everyone knows each other and most are related, but they eventually accepted me as one of them. It might be because of the traditions they have in that little town that are different from anywhere else that I know. The all-out way they celebrate the fourth of July, the way they spend their summers at co-ed 4-H camp and putting on summer plays in a quaint little playhouse, or the way they end their summers with an ice-cream sundae party that turns into a food fight, and then a late night swimming party at the local pool. It might even be that I moved away, and when something ends prematurely we romanticize it until we remember it more wonderful that it even was. But ah well, I like doing that.
J went to the same college that I did. I’ll never forget registration. I don’t think I’ve ever been so overwhelmed in my life. I was staring blankly at lists and lists of classes and it could have been a foreign language. I didn’t know what I wanted to be, or even what path to start down. The excitement of escaping my regular life and embarking on the college adventure was quickly being replaced with cold, hard reality, and bleak, shuddering fear. My parents helped all they could, but it was a little like when the math homework finally got so advanced that they didn’t know how to explain it anymore. I felt distanced from the others that were here with me from Emery County. None of them were someone I’d feel comfortable going to and saying, “I’m in over my head and so afraid.” I didn’t know where to turn for help.
After awhile, we muddled through the actual registration, and then my parents and I left the others and went to campus to sign paperwork for my apartment and some other things. We pulled into a giant parking lot and there, walking just a few feet from where our vehicle was facing, I saw someone so familiar I’d swear I’d known him longer than just this life. It was J. Seeing him was like cold winter nights when I’d put a flannel quilt in the dryer until it was toasty all over and then I’d wrap it around myself and completely shut out the chill in the air. I jumped out of the car without thinking, and called his name. It was a blessing to have run into him on this huge campus, filled with hundreds of people, none as wonderful as he was. Hearing his name called out randomly startled him and he looked in my direction. I ran to him and threw my arms around him in a relieved hug, even with my parents looking on. He reciprocated, startled but happy. After that moment, college stopped feeling quite so lonely.
Now, months later, months of college experience that leave me just as desperate for the dryer heated quilt experience, I visit him at his dorm room. “J, my college apartment makes me feel like I’ve been cast on an episode of MTV’s ‘The Real World’, and I’m the conservative Mormon girl that is pitifully sheltered and na├»ve.”
J is a great listener. He just turns up one corner of his mouth signaling that he hears me, but also that my dramatics entertain him, which only comforts me because if he thinks the concern is small enough to be amused by, then it must be.
Two of my roommates are from Chicago, and they’re all pierced and tattooed and they like to go to clubs and go dancing. They’re really nice, though they look at me like they think I was not born, but rather just sort of wandered out of a corn field one day. Then I have my Japanese roommate, who cooks huge, foreign smelling Japanese meals for her friends in our kitchen, and fills the room with indecipherable chatter and the sink with even less decipherable dishes that don’t get clean as quickly as any of us would like. I have the roommate who has recently fallen in love with the boy from the apartment across the parking lot, and they are so in love that the parking lot has become too far a distance for them to be separated. At night, he cuddles into her bed, and in the daytime, he stores his milk in our fridge. The roommate I share a room with is beautiful, accomplished and headed in the direction of world domination. I met her when I competed against her at Miss Utah State Fair. What I wouldn’t give to have her confidence. The look in her eye and the shade of her lipstick says, “Bring it on world.” She gives me great make-up tips, fashion advice and life advice, but I feel a little like a small girl playing dress up. There is one other roommate who seems to love the small town life, as I do. She’s less afraid than I am though, and she has a gift for laughing even when she feels like crying. It’s a magnetic trait and I find myself drawn to be laughing alongside her. She’s writing to a missionary as well, and it’s given us a starting off point for a great friendship.
“I don’t know what I’ll do without you when you leave for Australia,” I tell J. He’s received his mission call, and I’m really pumped about the idea of him acquiring an Australian accent.
“You worry too much,” he tells me, and he has a way of making the remark sound like a compliment. “Are you going to make it to my farewell?”
“I wouldn’t miss it!” I say.
It seems like the next thing I know, I am there, hearing his farewell talk and being not at all surprised by its insight, intelligence and humor. Australia is a lucky place, and speaking of places, I spend the rest of the Sunday looking around the small town of Beaver with a dreamy look in my eye. This town is straight out of a storybook… instead of the reality show I feel trapped in. It’s been the scene for a lovely part of my story. Late night high school football games, my young, teenage hand clutched in someone else’s. Night games, one of which ended with me stepping on a rusty nail. My eyes always searching the streets for that shiny, red Toyota truck. My first experiences with the phone ringing and the person on the other end being a boy, calling for me. Hugs that I was sure were more of a thrill than any kiss ever could be.
You know what I’m learning? There isn’t just one place that you’re “meant to be” in. There isn’t just one person that you’re “meant to be” with. We don’t have to go through life searching for the one right answer. We can choose between so many good things, and we can make any of them into a happy life. I used to believe in destiny, but now I believe in pro-activity. I believe we can make our happy ending anything we want it to be.
Dear Elder Leonhardt,
I’ve made a big decision this week. I’m going to spend the summer at home and attend Snow College in the fall. The atmosphere just seems to fit me better. I’ll explain it all one day when you get home. I’ve had some major answers to prayer, and for that I will be truly, eternally grateful. I’ve found that sometimes we have to swallow up our fears and do as it says in Proverbs 3:5-6, Trust in the Lord and lean not unto our own understanding because even when things are falling apart, our Heavenly Father can comfort us. He knows so much more than I do, I hope I can learn to trust Him and turn my whole life to Him.
President Ezra Taft Benson said, “Men and Women who turn their lives to God will find that he can make a lot more of their lives than they can. He will deepen their joys, expand their vision, quicken their minds, strengthen their muscles, lift their spirits, multiply their blessings, increase their opportunities, comfort their souls, raise up friends and pour out peace.” Those are some beautiful promises aren’t they?
There is so much more I want to say, but I’m out of time. I can’t wait for your next letter, sometimes I live for them. I’m so glad the Lord blesses me with your friendship.
Love, Amie

Dear Amie,
Moving can be another thing we experience together, but separate. I’m being transferred to a new area this week. There’s so much to do before I go. I have to pack everything up. It’s like moving away from home every two months.
I pray for you every day. Prayers are so important. I have found that I am nothing without communication with God. I just bought four study guides for the four standard works. I want to know all that I can. I want to become as Jacob is in Jacob 2:2, a man who when he talks, everyone listens, and I see myself slowly doing that.
It’s March Madness right now. I haven’t seen a basketball game in four months, but for some reason it doesn’t bother me at all. Remember when I would make a huge bracket of all the college teams and have a betting pool? You filled one out, and you were a pretty good guesser.
I’ve been doing a little genealogy on P-day. It is really fun. My Great, Great Grandpa Jacob Fredrick Leonhardt was the first to join the church in my family, so the first boy will be named Jacob?
Love, Elder Leonhardt

Elder Leonhardt,
Jacob huh? Hmmm… let me search MY geneology awhile and then I’ll let you know. ;)

Monday, October 24, 2011

A Modern Day True Love Story

Day So-close-to-forever-that-it-no-longer-matters :)

I sat and stared at the computer screen forever last night. Then I wrote a paragraph. Then I erased it. Then I wrote three paragraphs that I thought were good, but didn’t seem right for the story I wanted to write. Then I got a little bugged that ESPN was on in the background. Then I went for a drive. Then I came home and still didn’t have my story, so at 10:30pm I gave up and watched old episodes of ER until I fell asleep. Like I said in the last post… things are all mixed up right now, and when things are taxing my mind I can’t always write! So I’ve decided the “My True Love Story” for the week will just be a little peek into the current life of Ryan and me. (By the way, I hate “Ryan and me”. That sounds so wrong. Why does Microsoft Word tell me that “Ryan and I” is wrong? I know. It’s because I wouldn’t say “take a peek into the life of I”. Still, it seems very wrong.)
So I’m stressed about a lot of things right now. Some are huge, and you wouldn’t think I was being a drama queen, you would say, “Wow. That really is huge.” Some are PTA responsibilities and kid responsibilities and laundry and Halloween and searching out which garbage can smells funny, and having our parents over for dinner tonight, and needing to seem like I keep a perfect house and make a perfect meal for that, and…. well, you get the point.
I was furiously scrubbing the kitchen table this morning as Ryan was getting ready for work. The Fruity Pebbles had already dried on and stuck. You people with kids too grown up for this… cherish it! CHERISH IT I SAY! So I was scrubbing and the phone was ringing and the kids were whining and my mind was reeling and I said, in a breathless voice, “I just don’t have time for the nervous break-down that I deserve!”
Ryan hates comments like that. He truly is allergic to negativity. It makes him physically ill. So he said, much to my consternation, “Don’t say things like that.”
Not. A. Good. Move.
I decided he needed to learn a lesson about his wife and when to let her negativity fly. So I got the spray bottle full of water. I walked down the hall calling, “You can’t get away with your non-supportive nature this morning!”
I came around the corner to the bathroom doorway like a woman on a mission, turning the nozzle so that my hit would be forceful and direct. I startled him. His eyes grew large. Time slowed as I pulled the trigger. My aim has never been anything to brag about, so I didn’t really bother aiming, just went for his general direction. I was smiling until I saw the water missile, in its seeming, slow motion trajectory shoot straight for his left eye. My smile faded a little and my eye brows rose up to join it in an “oops”.
I watched as the water, quite of its own volition (and through very little fault of my own) shot, with some force, right into my husband’s open eyeball. The residual droplets sprayed the whole left side of his face.
After he huffed and yanked the towel off the rack, dried his face and blinked the wounded eye a couple of times he used his this-is-somehow-my-fault-for-marrying-a-crazy-woman voice to ask, “What the heck did you do that for?”
I resumed my served-you-right attitude for long enough to get my point across and then I just flopped over on our bed and laughed long and loud until tears were coming out of my eyes. WAY better than the nervous break-down that we all deserve, but none of us have the time for. Hopefully you can just get a chuckle from my experience and then you won’t have to shoot unsuspecting people in the eyeball.
The end. Have a great Monday!

Saturday, October 22, 2011

In The Quiet Moments

Things have been a little mixed up lately. I guess I’ve been missing my Dad. Fall is all about my Dad. It’s strange to see the leaves change without him here to point out how pretty they look. He’d be out on the mountain with my brothers, even if he was here, and sick, that’s how they’d celebrate their October birthdays (his and the twins’ are just a day apart). We wouldn’t even get to Thanksgiving before he’d be scheming about how to get away with spending more money than he should on us for Christmas.
I’ve been on a kick since he passed away, talking about how life is mostly hard. Which is just a basic fact. Day to day, there are mostly challenges and setbacks, annoyances, diets, reasons to cry, reasons to zone out and distract ourselves with TV and computers so that when we turn them off we can face reality again for a little while. My argument is usually that every once in awhile there is a magical little moment. Something like you hearing your kids laughing in the other room, during one of those rare occasions when they’re playing amongst themselves instead of thinking of demands for you to fulfill. My theory states that those moments, by some miracle, make the tough moments (numerous as they are) all worth it.
My sister in law, Tasha, and I were discussing the theory the other day on the phone. She said, “It’s true. Life is mostly hard. But what do you think about in the quiet moments? Do you think about how hard everything was that day?”
I said, “No, I guess I don’t.”
She said, “My mind automatically goes back to how cute my kids looked doing this or that, or how much fun something coming up is going to be. I don’t find myself thinking about the hard stuff.”
Today I was looking through old pictures, trying to find one of Luke when he was a pirate, so that I could convince him that it’s okay for boys to have make-up on their faces if it’s Halloween, especially if it’s to create a beard.
I found the pictures of him when he was a newborn. I remembered being pregnant with him. I was really sick for the first months, and no sooner had that ended than I got two severe cases of the flu, seemingly one right after the other. Ryan went to Christmas parties without me while I lay in bed next to a garbage can, sweating, uncomfortable and massive and sure I’d never live through it. I hated not being well enough to take care of my kids. I hated pleading with God to make me well and still feeling sick. I tried to think of the “something that I’m supposed to learn from all of this”, but I couldn’t think of a darn thing.
I thought of Tasha’s words. “What do you think about in the quiet moments? Do you think about how hard everything is?”
I looked at our smiling pictures, holding baby Luke.

I looked at one Ryan took of me, after I fell asleep while praying because I was so tired that I couldn’t get on my knees and stay awake through my prayer. I can even smile and chuckle at that one now.
I looked at a picture of my Mom, trying to figure out the camera so that she could take a picture of my Dad holding the baby… and I wasn't sad.
Maybe life isn’t so hard after all. I think what matters most is what settles into your heart and mind… in the quiet moments.

Luke and his cousin Dax.

My Dad and Luke.

Monday, October 17, 2011

My True Love Story

Words Written on Pages

Day 2,042ish

Pink lid guy... what? I can’t give them all masculine colored lids. A girl’s got to color co-ordinate. Pink lid guy lives in a dorm full of Utah Utes fans. I am a BYU fan by association to Ryan, therefore it was my duty to taunt them. The taunting didn’t seem to bother them, quite the opposite in fact. I wonder how Ryan would feel knowing he’s given me flirting ammunition.
Pink lid guy is blond haired, blue eyed and a little rough around the edges. He almost always wears a baseball cap. We went to church together once, and he cleaned up great, in a stylish dress shirt and tie, but even then you could tell he wasn’t in his natural state. When I hang out at their place with him and his friends, I feel like I’m doing something just a little bit shady. Maybe it’s that I’m away from home with no parental supervision as a safety net or maybe it’s that these guys ooze “playerhood” and I’m afraid I’m out of my cockpit of control. Whenever I’m here, I can practically hear my conscience screaming “Mayday! Mayday!”
Pink lid guy is sitting next to me in the dorm’s common room on a couch that is so ugly I doubt it’s ever even seen better days, different shades of scratchy brown yarn woven around each other, intermingled with bits of college boy grime. His roommates and friends are teasing him about me openly. He vaguely enjoys their banter, but focuses lazy eyes on me… feeding me lines with a practiced sincerity that I’m sure has worked marvelously in the past. It’s with an astounding amount of contrived embarrassment that he manages to both hesitantly and determinedly admit to me that he writes a little poetry. “Nooo,” I say, playing my part in this little skit, saying a word that slews of girls have said before me, and they probably said it with true enthusiasm. To be honest though, I’m starting to believe that I can’t be with a boy poet. I’m the emotional poet in my relationships, and I can’t imagine there being room for more than one.
“I could… show you one of my poems… if you want,” he offers.
“I’d love that!” I say, and I am very curious what sort of poems pour out of that baseball cap clad brain.
“Come with me,” he says, “It’s upstairs. I wrote it in my friends’ yearbook.”
“Upstairs?” I say. Mayday. Mayday. “You mean, upstairs where the bedrooms are?”
He looks at me like I’m a little girl, speaking little girl talk that’s hard to understand.
“Come on,” he says.
I follow him, but I linger in a small kitchen area while he goes to rifle through old yearbooks. I stare, riveted, at the monopoly game board that’s hanging on the wall. The boys have acquired it from McDonald’s, and are doing an admirable job of filling it with the game pieces that they accumulate by eating there. He comes out and places the book in front of me on the kitchen table, saying, “I mean, I don’t know if it’s any good, but it made a lot of people laugh and it kind of became famous around my school.”
Now I’m more interested. A poem that made people laugh? This I can see genuinely coming from the attractive boy in the baseball cap. I read the poem, scrawled next to a humorous sketch of a cow in a field. The poem is written in the words of the cow, and it makes me laugh out loud. I’m thoroughly impressed. I see a new dimension to pink lid guy, and I praise him appropriately for his cleverness.

Before long, snow falls over the campus and it’s time to go home for Christmas break. I wonder what life is like for a missionary at Christmas time. I wonder what presents I should get for all of the people on my list. I wonder why I’m still seeing pink lid guy when the truth is, he makes me uneasy. I know he isn’t right for me, but I’m the worst at ending relationships. The very worst. I can’t instigate a non-happy ending! It goes against everything I stand for.
Being home is so welcome, my memories of it are all sunny and warm, even the ones at Christmastime, for some reason. Beautiful, comfortable, warm, sunny home. Thank you Mom and Dad, for giving me a place like this. I’m lying on my stomach on the living room floor. (I would never lie on the floor at college. Ewww. The years’ worth of nobody knows what that’s gone on atop that college apartment carpet.) Next to me there is a stack of comics, straight from the weekly newspapers. My Uncle Devear and Aunt Virginia like to save them for us and give them to us in stacks. They like to do little things for us kids, little thoughtful things that they hope we’ll enjoy.
I like to peruse the comics and cut out my favorites to send to Ryan. We don’t often write of our feelings, a rare paragraph here and there. A good chuckle is about the best thing I can send him across the miles.
Dear Ryan,
It’s Christmas Day and I’ve found a new way of driving my family crazy. About every fifteen minutes I say, “Just think, Ryan could be on the phone with his family right now!” Then they all moan and wish, like I do, that I was at your house talking to you too. Two years ago yesterday, you sang my song for me, the one that you wrote about me. Remember? And last year I wasn’t speaking to you at Christmastime.

Dear Amie,
Thank you for the Christmas package. I sleep on the blanket every night, and I look at the pictures of you too much. Sometimes I let my mind wander and think of us in the future. It really does make me happy to think about that. I hope you like the ring I sent. I wore it for a day or two to warm it up for you. I like that it says, “Best Friends Forever” because I believe that’s what we are. Remember when you said that someday I would feel sorry about how I treated you? Well, I really do. It makes me sick to even think about it. I hope you don’t still think about it, because I truly am sorry.
How is it that Ryan is still making all of the other boys look bad? Even with just words on a page? Even with just those rare paragraphs every couple of letters, where he tells me that he thinks of me “too much”. I guess it’s because something inside me is telling me that they aren’t just words. They’re truth, and truth is powerful.
So I try to send truth back without distracting a missionary from his work, and I try to entertain him with a little humor. Some of my favorite comics are the Far Side comics with their laugh out loud observations about life. As I flip through the big, awkward pages of the newspaper comics, I suddenly see one that sends me springing from my relaxed position on my stomach to my knees, my chin jumping out of its restful place on my hands and jutting forward for a closer look.
I see a caricature of a cow, standing upright on his hind legs in front of an audience of other cows, a word bubble coming from his mouth. What, you might ask, is the cow saying? He’s reading a poem, a very funny poem. A very familiar poem... one I read in a yearbook recently. And last I checked, Pink Lid guy doesn’t write the Far Side comics.

Pink lid guy just instigated a non-happy ending, so that I don’t have to.
It’s a blustery night, my first one back at college after Christmas break. Pink lid guy called and asked me to come over. My hands are stuffed in my pockets, along with a small, square comic, cut from a newspaper, as I walk into the common room of his dorm. I ask him to sit on the couch, the boy-germ infested one, and I pull out the comic. I hand it to him and wait quietly while he reads it. He must wonder at his bad luck that I would stumble upon his fib and forgery just a couple of weeks after he had delivered it to my impressionable mind. “You lied to me,” I say. “You didn’t write the poem.” How can one respond when confronted with a lie that is so blatant, it’s published in a newspaper? You can hum and haw, you can even claim that Gary Larson must have stolen the idea from your high school yearbook. If the girl who’s accusing you is heart-broken and scorned, it could get pretty messy, but I’m kind. Because the truth is, this isn’t the reason I won’t be seeing him anymore. He’s a good guy… for someone else. I hope his future involves being happily married to a stunningly beautiful and agreeably, gullible girl. He’s going to write her poetry. Words like, “Near…far… wherever you are, I believe that my heart will go on.” She is going to blissfully pretend that the poem wasn’t stolen from the theme song of the movie Titanic. I wish them well.

Monday, October 10, 2011

My True Love Story

First Letters

Day 2,014ish
Dear Amie,
Here I am writing to you from the MTC, as I am looking at your picture. I haven’t heard from you yet. You’re married already aren’t you? I knew it would happen, but I didn’t think it would be so fast! I keep thinking I only saw you two weeks ago, but I miss you so much already. I just took a picture of me writing to you with your picture at the top. I will send you one.
The MTC is so awesome. I have grown more spiritually in the last few days than I have in the years previous. We have three meals a day and 2 classes a day, the classes lasting 3 hours each. The spirit is in every one of them and I can’t wait until I’m in the mission field and I can feel the spirit that strong 24 hours a day.
I got to lead the singing in a huge meeting and that was awesome.
Everyone here is pretty cool. They all think that I have an accent, and now that they tell me I do, I kind of notice that I really do. Our district leader is from Maryland, and his companion is a Canadian who really thinks I have an accent. I made a good friend here named Elder Landers and he also has a girl writing to him. We really enjoyed eating some OTHER guy’s, girlfriend’s cookies yesterday.
Love, Elder Leonhardt
P.S. I have gained seven pounds already. I’m getting chunky. (yeah, right)

Dear Elder Leonhardt,
You didn’t think I had forgotten you, did you? For one thing, I didn’t even have your address for most of these days! I’m pretty amazing, but I’m not quite good enough to get a letter to you without an address. Now that I have your letter, and that ever important address in the upper left hand corner… here it is: my first official letter.
I went to visit your family the other day and something shocking happened. I had one of those famous “den talks” with your Dad! You know, I always wanted to do that… just once--- never again! :) Just kidding. Actually, I think I must be tougher than the rest of the family, I survived it with ease. Maybe he went easy on me because he likes me better than the rest of you. ;) What have you been learning at the MTC about humility? Please share.
I bet you’re wondering what your Dad talked to me about. Well, too bad. These den talks are private business. ;) Just kidding. He asked me what our arrangement was and I told him the whole thing. No commitments. Me dating. Me not writing about me dating. He thought that was wise. He did say, and this part was my personal favorite, that he would “like nothing more than for me to marry into the family”. I promise! He really did say that! Pretty cool, huh? I thought so.
Anyway, that’s quite enough of all this non-mission paraphernalia. Don’t let me distract you from what’s really important right now. I’m amazed at you, and the decision you’ve made to give your mission your all. Knowing you, and the way you excel at the things you set your mind to, you’ll be the best missionary in the whole world- though I’m still glad you aren’t going to Cambodia.
Love, Amie

What I’m NOT saying is that it wasn’t the lack of address that kept me from writing. For heaven’s sake, I should have called his Mom immediately, daily, hourly, until she had heard from him and then gotten the address and written (probably daily and hourly) for whole first week he was in the MTC! Nevermind. That’s an unhealthy exaggeration, but what my letter is NOT saying is that I keep pushing thoughts of Ryan away, still under the mindset of trying to get over him. I’m fighting so hard not to get hurt, that it doesn’t even occur to me that he needs to hear from me. Needs. I’m not used to him needing me. The concept is foreign after the past year. I always knew I’d be great at writing to a missionary… under ideal circumstances, but like Ryan said, I have the memories of him as the dark sorcerer.
I ask around. People tell me that time in the MTC is so much longer than real time. You’ve left your family, said goodbye for two whole years (pretty much) and been thrown out into the real and sometimes cruel world with no promise of going home for a home-cooked meal or for your Mom to do your laundry. This is serious. College makes me melancholy at times and homesick, but home is only about a three hour drive away. There, my parents will envelope me and take care of me and pretty much solve any problems I have. Still, Ryan is stronger than I am. I believe he’s ready to solve his own problems. All I need to do is write to him… and bake some cookies that will make that “OTHER guy’s girlfriend’s cookies” taste like dirt clods by comparison. I’m on it.

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

I Can Totally Handle a Challenge! (Please Don't Give Me any More)

If nothing else, read the story at the very end. It will make your day a little better. :)

My Mom moved away from my home town (where she had been living without any family, since my Dad passed away almost 8 months ago). She moved to my neighborhood. She is tending the kids overnight tonight while Ryan and I go out for his birthday. My kids can get off at a little earlier bus stop any day after school and go to her house for milk and cookies (which she keeps on hand even though she doesn’t eat sugar). When she and I go shopping together, an hour can disappear like a minute… it’s almost creepy. I’m realizing how many traits, that I kind of like about me, that I got from her.

There have only been two major things to adjust to.
When Mom lived in Ferron there were large portions of the day when I could push away the idea that my Dad wasn’t there with her anymore. I could go about my busy routine, and almost pretend that things were normal everywhere else in the world. With her here, there isn’t a minute when I don’t have to open my eyes to the realization that Dad is someone we miss now. It’s okay though. It seems like there’s a fine line between going on with life, and forgetting people. I think I’m closer to the good balance between the two now.
My Dad’s last words and gestures were a repeated request that we take care of Mom. Really. Like… even cooler and more heroic than you see in the movies. He was a selfless man, and so many other things. Ryan says, “I can’t talk about your Dad to people who didn’t know him. It’s too frustrating that they could never understand how amazing he was.”
The adjustment comes in knowing what I can do and should do to help Mom. I see Dad asking us to take care of Mom in my mind every day. I don’t want to disappoint him. Mom is still my Mom though, and ends up helping me more than I feel that I’m helping her. We have almost a daily, good spirited argument about who should pay for things or who owes whom dinner. “You helped me paint… yeah, but you watched the kids… You’ve been having me over too often for dinner… Mom, I cook for an army and you eat like a bird…” etc. Many a cashier has had to witness these debates.

Mom in front of the live orchestra, her favorite part about the play we went to. We sat on the front row! It was so much fun!

Adjustments are happening, and as always I stand back amazed at how much we can handle. I’d still never choose a challenge, but when a challenge finds me it seems I can manage it. So maybe the next giant challenge I face- Oh please, I’ll still whine like it’s the end of the world, and be no more confident in my ability to handle it than I was with the last one. I will handle it though… I bet. None of them have killed me yet, and I’m only partially insane.

Mom's house before:

Mom's house now. She insisted on having my brothers cut down the "straggly" pine tree on the right, and she pruned the heck out of all of the bushes. You cannot slow that woman down. Looks pretty great, right?
This is her living room before:

Mom likes bright and neutral and warm. So she had to paint over the blue. (I have nothing against blue. My living room is blue, but I like it that Mom is in a place where she can do what she likes with her house.) It's hard to see the color in this picture, but it's actually tan and looks sophisticated and classic and yes... warm.
The men from our church that helped her move in were scratching their heads at all of the manly possessions belonging to this woman who lives alone. They really wondered when they unpacked her blow torch. We all get an occasional chuckle at the ways Dad is still here with us... in our hearts and in Mom's garage. :)

This is Mom's kitchen before. I haven't taken after shots of it yet, but her decorating is looking great!

This is her dining room before. We all agree that her best addition to it is the flat screen TV she has hanging on this wall now. :)

This is Mom the day she moved in. She has committed to be positive about this change and she has made a conscious effort. She is brave. So brave to start a new life instead of hiding her head in the sand. She is a great example to her kids and grand kids.

She has all of the little stresses and challenges that life brings. Here a grumpy co-worker, there a pushy salesman. She also has grief. The other day she went to the cemetery, knelt at Dad's graveside and cried. She was there for her parent's 60th wedding anniversary, something she and Dad will never get to celebrate. She was sobbing and pulling up a few small weeds from around the headstone when a little boy about 10 years old rode by on his bike. He asked, "Is there anything I can do to help you?" That really impacted Mom. It really did help her. I think she feels that people are angels on this earth, the hands of God, here to help each other. To that boy's parents I want to say, "You must be doing something right." To the little boy I want to say, "I have a 10 year old daughter... and I'd like you to marry her." ;)

Monday, October 3, 2011

My True Love Story

I deleted my ramblings and "possible excuses" from the top of my last post. Apparently it made things seem like they were going to be a lot worse than they actually were. This was told to me by several very good friends and I took it as a compliment! Always better to be less inappropriate than expected! :) Also, apparently, (as with absolutely everything in my life) my most riske writing is not as big of a deal as I make it. Teehee. Still, I'm thrilled to present this week's story with absolutely no innuendo whatsoever so that I don't have to feel nervous all day. Thank you all for your comments! They mean SO much to me. Thanks for even just visiting and reading, I can see my counter go up about 100 visits every post and it just thrills me, so thank you!

The Reckoning

Day 1,980

“Guess what? I got my call!”
“You did? Oh my goodness!”
“Yeah! I’m going to Northern California! The Roseville, California Mission.”
“California? You’re kidding me! I actually have some idea where that is!”
Ryan laughs on the other end of the line. “My letters will only take a few days to get to you,” he says.
“That is a really good thing. A really, really good thing.” I smile, sink onto a couch and let the phone slump against my shoulder.
“I’m gonna walk to the library and look up all of the information on Northern California that I can find. You wanna come?” He asks.
“Sure. That sounds great. Come and get me!”
When I hang up the phone, I look around my living room. The sun is lighting and warming the room, fall colors and smells are filling me up like a creamy soup. Ryan is going on a mission to California and one of the first people he told about it was me. This is exactly how it was supposed to be from the moment we got locked in the church closet together in the ninth grade. From the moment we danced together in the snow under the streetlight.
But I don’t believe it.
We walk to the library, the cool breeze, the gently falling leaves, the comfortingly empty streets still adding to my surreal feeling. Ryan is glowing and bouncing with his contagious enthusiasm, so excited about his call, so ready to go anywhere he’s asked. He’s suddenly so ready to stop kissing girls and shrugging off school with his untouchable friends, and strutting around thinking of nobody but himself.
But I don’t believe it.
We go into the quaint, small town library, one of my favorite little getaways, now and forever. We find books and maps and information. I’m encouraging and happy for him. He’s happier than I’ve seen him in a long time, and loves sharing it with me.
But I don’t believe it.
On the walk home, he tells me, “I’ve been reading all of these articles and talks about how to be a good missionary. My favorite one is called ‘Total Faith and Dedication’. It’s about obeying every rule, being totally focused and-“
I can’t take it anymore! The supreme happiness and goodness! The recent saying and doing all of the right things! It’s making it so hard to keep hating him and holding a grudge against him.
“Don’t.” I say, interrupting. My feet stop on the gravel pavement of the small, quiet road. “Don’t do that. Don’t try telling me that happily ever after is possible. Not now. Not after everything you’ve done.”
I start walking again, briskly. Leave him standing there in a bit of stunned silence, before his longer footsteps bring him back to my side.
I’m still ranting. “I dreamed of this day! I’ve always wanted it, and you’ve always known I have! But then you dashed that dream on the lips of a hundred other girls. You’ve dated my best friends! You were cocky and heartless and I vowed you wouldn’t be able to do this! Just change in the nick of time? Suddenly it’s time to serve a mission and you’re just ready to go be the best missionary the world has ever seen? It isn’t fair.”
“Geez, Amie. You make it sound like I transformed into a dark sorcerer over the last year.”
“Yeah… and what would be missing from that scenario? The deceptive, hypnotic spells or the undiluted evil seething from you?” I ask.
“I was an arrogant high school kid, which I suppose could easily be mistaken for a dark sorcerer, but I didn’t do anything that’s keeping me from serving a mission, Amie. I did some bad things; I avoided a lot of worse things. A lot of worse things. And I’m sorry I hurt you, because I kissed a lot of girls… but you’re the only girl I want to keep on kissing.”
He steps in front of me now, forcing me to stop walking. He looks at me, takes both of my hands in both of his.
“I’m just scared,” I say. “This is too good to be true.”
“It’s not too good to be true. Not when you have all of these terrible memories of me as the dark sorcerer,” he says, winking. “It’s just good enough to be true." He faces forward again, keeping one of my hands so that he can hold it as he walks. "Besides… you really think I believe in happily ever after? I still think I’m going to come home to Amie Gee Smith, happily married and three months pregnant.”
I shake my head, still melancholy and not so much as smiling at his conjecture about my future. “I’d wonder. If I got married while you were gone, I’d always wonder.”
“Nah. You don’t have to feel that way. We’ll always be friends. One day, we’ll go out on a double date. You and your husband, me and my wife.”
“That sounds wretched.”
“You’ll be jealous of course… because my kids will be better at basketball than your kids.”
He’s right. Probably about his kids being better at basketball than my kids, and definitely about the jealousy. Sitting across the table from a happily married Ryan and his wife is less believable than a fairy tale. I’ll write to him on his mission, and take my chances.