Thursday, September 19, 2013

To Beau, as you enter fatherhood

Some people come into your life on a chance, and upon meeting them, you know they are going to stick and be there for good. Well, I guess if I am going to be honest, one of my dearest friends, Beau, didn't initially fit that bill. We met on a whim. One night I was hanging out with his friend Jacob when he heard that Beau was in the hospital with a broken leg. So, we headed to where Beau was and thus, I met him for the first time or more accurately, stood awkwardly by his gurney/ hospital bed.
After that, I saw him more and more, and to be truthful, I am not exactly sure when Beau crossed over to being my own personal friend and not a friend of a friend. We hung out like crazy senior year and especially the summer afterward. My dad met Beau on a church trip and instantly fell in love with him. He and Beau were on kitchen duty, making breakfast, and my dad asked Beau how much milk he had put in whatever it was they were mixing and his reply was, "oh, just a few mouthfuls." I remember my dad saying, "I really like that Beau guy."And from then on, it was almost like he became a pseudo brother to me and my family. One time my mom swore she was going to claim Beau on her taxes. He would come over on the weekends and bring a movie, and we'd both end up asleep before the trailers were done. My parents would walk through the living room in the middle of the night, find us asleep, and just throw a blanket on each of us and go back to bed. One time Beau had fallen asleep at our house when my cousin Sam was visiting. Her mother Phoebe called early one morning and Beau, still asleep, woke up to the phone ringing answered, "Simmons residence." My Aunt Phoebe asked for my dad. Beau took the phone to my father and my aunt questioned, "Patrick, who in the world was that guy?! And why is he at your house so early?" His response, "Oh, that's just Beau. He's here a lot. What's up?" Ha. We've seen each other through a lot over the years, and there is more to come.

Here is a nice little montage of us throughout the years...

Beau's 19th birthday at Shoguns

One of the many times he just showed up to my sister and my first house. 

That one time when Jacob let us roam around Channel 11's studio (where he works), to which we quoted Anchorman with vigor.

When I took a weekend trip up to Fayetteville to visit Beau while he lived there, working on his doctorate.

When Beau lived in a huge old house with a million boys.

When Beau and I got tattoos together, his first one.

Hanging out on Dickson Street

His going away party when he went to Africa with the Peace Corps

 Beau's 25th birthday

My 23rd birthday

Beau coming back from the Peace Corps

Probably the first photo we took together. We were on a church trip doing a team building exercise. My mom snapped this of us with my dad. It is one of my favorite photos.

 The night of his 25th birthday, this awesome girl showed up with this chocolate cake with chocolate icing and two Barbie dolls, mud wrestling atop. And wouldn't you know it, a few years later he married her and now they are having a bebe.

Some of my favorite memories include Beau:
  • him taking me on a tour of UCA my senior year and the class I happened to be walking in was doing a debate about pornography. Yeah, that will pretty much seal any friendship, just fyi.
  • the one time that he and Jacob (mentioned above) rode Beau's scooter on what would have been a 12 minute drive to my house by car, in the middle of the winter. They nearly collapsed upon arrival and my dad threw a blanket in the dryer for a few minutes, then threw it on them. It was just like that scene from Dumb and Dumber, without the snot.
  • the time we went on a spontaneous trip to Dallas to see Saves the Day and when he picked me up, neither one of us noticed the condom which had been stretched over his back wiper...then he got pulled over (and the look on the cop's face.ha), then he had a flat. But I experienced Whataburger for the first time with him while we got his tire fixed. And we even made it to the concert on time. :)
  • the one time his tire just completely flew off after we saw John Mayer in Little Rock. He had gotten my sister and I tickets for our birthdays. And driving down Chenal, his tire literally flew off and was never to be seen again. Him calling his mother, "Mom. It's Beau. I'm fine but my tire just flew off."
  • when we road tripped to California the summer after Freshman year.
  • him teaching me how to knit in college.
  • The one time I was taking him out for his birthday Freshman year to Shogun's and was beyond naïve and only brought my checkbook, which they don't accept, so he ended up having to pay for his own birthday dinner.
  • Getting tattoos together my senior year of college. Mine took 7 minutes, his took HOURS.
  • When he tried to teach me how to drive a stick shift on a gravel road in Judsonia. Yeah...that was good times.
  • The times he would randomly just show up without warning. Once in Crossett: showed up at my apartment door step. I had nothing to eat at my apartment so we went to Taco Bell, and the woman serving us had a huge neck tattoo that said "Steve" and when she went to get our food, he quietly said to me, "Gosh, I sure hope there is a guy named Steve out there with a neck tattoo that says 'Tina'"
  • Aaaand the time he took me as his date to a random African wedding in Dallas that was 5 hours long after the reception, and we drove straight back to Arkansas...and I taught the next day. Oh, to be young again..

  • Most importantly, the time when my father died, and Beau spent every night with me, holding my hand until I fell asleep. He drove to and from Conway every day for at least a week, and even after that, he saw me very often. Once he invited me to stay with him at this huge house he lived in with all these boys in Conway because I had to be in Arkadelphia early the next morning. My father's death was still very fresh, and I remember the cool white sheets on his bed and the light from the moon casting through the windows, and the sound of the fan. And I remember how I tried to be as quiet as I could as I wept during the night but on the other side of the bed, he seemed to know and before I knew it, he enveloped me in his arms and held me in the most unselfish way. In that comfortable way, like your family. In a way that everyone should be held at least once in their life.
We have seen each other through many great times. He has definitely seen me at my best and my worst. I am so happy that any minute now he and his wife are expecting their first child, a girl named Molly Kathryn. I couldn't be more happy for them. I had the great pleasure last year of shooting their impromptu wedding, and not too long ago, I got to shoot their maternity photos in their house.

Beau, I just couldn't be happier for you and where you are in life. I am thankful for all of our memories together and for our futures. Thank you for allowing me to be a part of your journey, and thank you for being in mine. I pray you and Sydney enjoy every minute of Molly and that she knows every day just how lucky she is to have parents like you. You already are a terrific father.

Sunday, September 1, 2013

in honor of one year: a PSA for all you lovely single ladies

When I was in high school I was pretty much a jock. I wouldn't really describe myself as a "jock jock;" however, if there was a sport to participate in at my school, I, at one point or another, was part of that team. My main two were basketball and softball. Even though I went to a small school, I remember the kind of rush that came when the teams were formed after try-outs, especially in those younger grades when EVERYBODY wanted to play, so EVERYBODY tried out. There were always so many feelings after the teams were revealed. Girls hugging other girls who didn't make it. Girls who were excited and relieved to have been "on the list." A mess of high fives and tears. Luckily, going to a small school, there weren't thaaaaat many students who didn't make it. Then again, is that luck or does that sting hurt worse? I don't have that perspective because I always made the team. I was that kid who did what the coach told us to do. Always. I remember in 10th grade running over Christmas break with my boyfriend, Matthew, because my coach had told us that she expected us to be in shape after the break. I don't know if it was obedience or fear that moved me. But deep down, I knew there were so many girls who had tried out for teams at my schools and other schools who felt like they did everything right, yet they still didn't. make. the. cut.

Let's fast-forward to a couple years ago, I was a bubbly teacher with a great job in a great school district. By many respects, I had it all going for me:  Great job. Had a car I had paid off. No student loan debt. Never owned a credit no credit card debt. Described by many as witty with a charm. ;) Plus a love for fashion and individual style. A craft for cooking and baking in a house that I HAD BOUGHT BY MYSELF. Add to that a love for people and my God, and I had  W I F E  M A T E R I A L  Sharpie markered all over me. Yet, I had been single for quite a while. Sure, I had gone on some dates: some good, some bad. I had a few kisses here and there. In the mix, I had even had a premature proposal by a fella I had only been dating a couple months (yes, his mother's ring and all. so sad). But I didn't have a gazillion guys rushing to my door trying to knock it down to get me, at least those who fit my standards. By society standards, I was a total catch. I felt like I had all the skills to make the team, but I hadn't I made it. WHY? I mean, I had all the basics down. Had I messed up somewhere and wasn't aware?

If any of you reading are single and part of a church in the south, I am sure you have heard some version of the following:
 "You are such an awesome woman. I can't IMAGINE why no one has snatched you up. YOU ARE A CATCH! Someone somewhere doesn't even know how lucky they are yet because HE IS OUT THERE, GIRL! You just have to bee. lieve. he is."

Vomit, right? Vomit in my mouth...all over the floor. EVERYWHERE. VOMIT VOMIT VOMIT. Sadly, this happens all the time to good, respectable single women. And for that, I am so sorry, girls.

Here is why this is vomit to me:
I got some version of that speech loads of times, and it always seemed to happen at school and at church. I would even sometimes get it from students. (*Side note: my first year of teaching I had an 8th grade girl tell me I needed to get on finding a man because I didn't want to be the oldest mom in my group of friends, did I? Yes. This girl almost forwent marriage and went for my unborn children. I was 23). And the deliverer of said speech always had this pitiful look on his or her face as their head was cocked to the right side, and it was like their voice just got more hopeful as it rose to the finish of some mumbo jumbo about how I JUST HAD TO BELIEVE. I always had to bite my lip, smile, thank them for that and walk off. Instead I just wanted to say curse words and ask that they leave me alone with their unsolicited advice. But, my mother always taught me to be a lady (Thanks, Mom). What I think some married people don't get is how it comes across to unmarried women. I have no doubt that those people had some of the best intentions; however, it got me to thinking about marriage as a club that was so exclusive that not getting an invite meant that there was something wrong with me, and everyone who was "in" had fit some sort of requirement. Luckily, I snapped out of that really quick but struggled for a while with the "what ifs."

I love that we live in a world where no one's journey is alike. For me, I didn't have the atypical college experience of meeting my husband and getting married a couple weeks after I received my diploma. While I have known of my husband since the first grade, eight years of our adult lives we didn't even know of or where each other were. We "re-met" when we were 26, and we were married at 27. By many standards in the South, I could've very well been an old maid (to all my northern friends reading, I can already hear your chuckles as these words leave my fingertips, and I love you for it).  I grew up with parents who met when they were 12, started dating at 16, got married at 17, then had me at 20, and were crazy in love for their entire life together. While that was their story, it wasn't mine.

My point is this, single ladies. I get where you are coming from. Single men don't receive the pitiful looks you get; it seems to always be reserved for the women. I get that you have people pressuring you to find a mister and that they have a great nephew who is purrfect for you. I get that you probably cringe, as I did, when you got asked that dreaded question at church or large family gatherings, "so...are you seeing anyone special?"...usually followed by pitiful glances and loads of compliments I suppose to make you feel better about being single. I get those times when you feel like you have hit a low because you are eating ice cream for breakfast with a fork because all of your spoons are dirty and you haven't been to store in a couple weeks. I get those lonely nights of wondering if there really is someone out there for you after watching a rom-com by yourself. I get how it sometimes stings when people tell you how lucky you are that you are single because relationships are hard and you have all that free time to yourself. I get that our society for some reason has put your life on a timeline when you didn't ask it to. I get it, and I am ON YOUR SIDE. I don't look down at you. I don't think you are worth less than any other girl around. My prayer for you is that you will find deep in yourself a pride of who you are and who you are growing into. I am not going to feed you more clichés that you've been thrown. I will say this, deep down we all want some part of the American dream, even the strong independent types like myself. And there were times when I had a few Charlotte from Sex and the City moments:
"I've been dating since I was fifteen. I'm exhausted. Where is he?!" 
Part of me likes to think she was so exhausted from other people constantly asking her about her love life and trying to dictate her next move. :)

So girls, I don't want to feed you unsolicited BS advice, so I am not going to. But hear me when I say this: KEEP DOING YOU. You have worth. You have meaning. You are lovely. Don't allow yourself to be broken to something that "needs fixing" because in my limited experience, throwing in just any man just so you can" be like everyone else" is not going to solve anything. Know that if you feel like you are doing everything right, but you still aren't "making the cut," it really doesn't mean that there is some major thing with yourself you have to fix. Be confident in who you are because life can be surprising and throw you a curveball when you aren't looking, and in my experience it happened to be one of those way-too-close-for-comfort curveballs that make you hop back a spell and utter a simple, "whoa."

Where is all of this coming from, you may ask? Especially from a notoriously infrequent blogger such as myself. Well, today marks the one year anniversary of my Heath getting on one knee,  inviting me on a journey of life with him by my side. It was earnest. It was lovely. It is a moment that I will forever cherish because it is so sacred because there was no one there but us. My mentor in high school got married in her late 20's, and I always sat by and admired her for being fiercely independent and not settling for crumbs (and many other reasons as well). One afternoon when we were sitting at a coffee shop for discipleship, she told me something that made me view marriage completely different: "Jordan, when I get married. I want it to be someone who isn't running ahead of me, holding my hand and pulling me. I want it to be me running toward my goals and looking beside me and there being someone there who is running the same race. Someone who is cheering me on. Someone who giving me water when I need it. And someone who I can, in turn, encourage. I want someone who I simply cannot imagine my ministry and my life not sharing."

Today, I count my blessings for a year of life with Heath. Next month marks our one month wedding anniversary, and I feel like I am busting at the seams with love. Heath, thank you for this amazing year of home with you. I can say that all of those lonely nights of doubt and fear that I was always going to be "the single friend" were worth it all and then some to be your bride. Thank you for always encouraging me to be my own person and allowing me to express myself so freely. Thank you for adoring me with all of my flaws, all of the things that I find unattractive. Thanks for making me feel like the center of your world, even when we are apart so often.You have been a true Barnabas in my life, my very best friend. I look forward to our continuing journey, my darling. Thanks for choosing me.
^minutes after he popped the question