A few weeks ago J-Mo and I traveled to his hometown on the border of eastern Montana and North Dakota. I showed you a little from our driving around the countryside and told you a lot about my troubles with United Airlines. What I didn’t really talk about much was the reason for such a last-minute trip, mostly because I was unable to really sort out how I felt about the whole thing, and partly because it was all so fresh and raw my eyes will fill with tears every time I started typing and I couldn’t see my screen (or the keys, or my fingers) clearly enough to continue.
A few days prior to our trip J-Mo’s childhood best friend, R, and R’s 3-year old son died together under terrible, tragic circumstances. Their small hometown community was shaken, hundreds of phone calls and texts went out from this tight-knit group to all those who had moved away. Over the next several days friends and family traveled hundreds of miles from all over the country to attend the funerals, offer desperately needed support to each other, and grieve for the double-loss of their son, grandson, nephew, brother and friend.
When your grandparent or great-aunt passes away it is sad, your heart wrenches open, you deal with loss and grief, but on some level you knew that, eventually, this would happen. Several years ago my maternal grandma passed away after a several-years-long battle with a myriad of diseases. In her final days her family gathered to support each other, celebrate her life, and say their last goodbyes. A few years later my other grandmother, Bub, passed away with absolutely no warning. She didn’t feel well one Sunday and decided to take a nap instead of go to church, an hour later my grandpa came home to check on her and she was gone. Of course, I was heartbroken both times, but for me the feelings associated with grief are very different when you have had several weeks, months, or years to mentally and emotionally prepare yourself for the loss as opposed to receiving a phone call one Sunday afternoon. For the first I was sad, but functioning; for the second my knees buckled and I literally collapsed to the floor in tears. Does that make one harder than the other? In some ways yes, but in most ways no, it doesn’t. Grief is grief and loss is loss and the heart must go through a very painful process to come to terms and deal with both.
R and his son’s death came with absolutely no warning; there was no way to prepare for the loss. There was no chance for his family or friends to mentally steel themselves for the emotional turmoil ahead. J-Mo was out-of-town for work, I can’t imagine anything worse than hearing such terrible news all alone and hundreds of miles from any loved ones, trying to understand what happened in an empty, desolate, impersonal place. The only thing comparable is, perhaps, being the girl on the other end of the phone, listening to his heart-break in half and not being able to do or say a damn thing to make it better. I couldn’t offer soothing stories about the good times or the old days, I couldn’t talk about R because I had never met him. I couldn’t give J-Mo a hug and tell him it would be okay, all I could do was cry with him, frustrated that there was nothing more I could say, nothing more I could give to somehow alleviate his hurt.
Over the next few days as we all collected in his hometown, J-Mo was able to see and talk to family and friends who knew and loved R and that little boy. They were able to talk about their hurts and frustrations on the circumstances of their deaths, and to remember so many good times from growing up together. This is part of the grieving process, and I felt so privileged to be able to sit on the fringes of this community as an outsider and still feel the healing power of friends and loved ones being together during their hardest times. I also was able to learn more about R, as he will be remembered by his closest friends. There were good stories, crazy stories, and mountains of memories about R’s humor, his teenage antics, and the various levels of trouble this group of boys got into and out of in the small, rural town where they became men. Through their conversations I came to know a man who I would have been lucky to meet, I would have laughed at his jokes, cringed at his daredevil stunts, and thanked him repeatedly for the good deeds and kind words that came straight from his enormous heart.
As I sat back and listened I also learned how important it is to filter the information we receive. By that I do not mean that we need to simplify or water-down the information, I mean we need to look at it in a broader, more whole perspective. Instead of making snap-judgments on the character of someone from this news bulletin or that headline, we need to remember that we do not know the entire story. A major news outlet very rarely will share the whole story or heart-breaking circumstances when a bullet point blurb and 30 seconds of the grisly details will bump their ratings. We have so much aggregate information at our fingertips, we must learn to be careful with how we process and respond to it. That person in the grim or shocking headline is someone’s son, someone’s grandson, nephew, brother and friend. If you knew him as they knew him, if you understood his circumstances as they have tried to, you would feel more compassion, more sympathy, and your heart would break for the hurts of strangers. Be not so quick to pour out your condemnation, remember that he (or she) could very easily be your son, your brother, or your friend.
Last week J-Mo and I went to his hometown which is on the border of eastern Montana and North Dakota, and I mean right on the border. While we were there, J-Mo showed me the house where he grew up, the schools he went to, the back roads he took around the countryside, and I heard dozens of stories about he and his buddies having fun, being crazy, and staying out of and getting into trouble. I also got my country on: country tunes (don’t judge, J-Mo loves them so I love them), country roads, and country past times.
My sister-in-law just bought herself a horse, and she volunteered to take me out for a ride. You guys, I was ecstatic, although I tried to play it cool and find something in my city-girl carry-on wardrobe that went with pony. I only marginally succeeded, but I don’t think the horse minded too much. When I was a kid my across the street neighbors had horses and I’d help brush and groom them on Saturday mornings in exchange for weekly horseback rides. I love horses, always have, although I haven’t been on one in over a decade. I was excited, but also a little nervous.
Meet Brenda, a sweet and sassy chestnut-y mare who loves to have that white stripe between her eyes rubbed.
Mel and I, these few hours at the corral were the happiest I spent this weekend, I couldn’t wipe the smile off my face. When I wasn’t on that mare I was curled up in a hammock with a book, a shaggy Golden Retriever and a gray, spotted Great Dane. You guys, it was the perfect morning.
Yep, more happy. I’m afraid 20 minutes on a horse has ruined me. Sorry J-Mo, but a pony is on my list of things that I
want need. You know, some day. (wink)
J-Mo’s great-uncle still runs a cattle ranch and farm in North Dakota, it is calving season. We drove across the river so I could continue my country life immersion.
As soon as J-Mo and I got out of the pick-up we were shuffled into a baby range rover and Uncle Ronnie took us on a tour. I swear J-Mo’s uncle was driving crazier than usual just to hear me sqeal, I was unaware that little Mars Rover machine could do so much off-roading, sharp turns, and general “reckless” driving. We were heading out to the pasture to see if any new calves had been born in the last few hours. Ronnie said he’d already had seven born that day, and would probably have several more before he went to bed.
This little girl was only a few minutes old when we drove up, she was still all slick and half-covered in a slime sac. Ronnie clipped a tag on the calf’s ear with the same number as her mother to keep all the little black and white babies straight. The cows are still branded but not until they are a little older. I actually got to see this little girl take her first, very wobbly steps. Oh my goodness, she was so cute!
This is another brand new calf taking his first steps. They start walking within 10 minutes or so of being born. Can you imagine giving birth to a toddler? A toddler who nurses as much as a newborn? Yeeeep, it makes the mind reel…and it makes my girly parts hurt a little. Yowch.
I was surprised at how beautiful the country side was in eastern Montana and North Dakota. Even now before there is any new green grass or crops or anything. The rolling hills are covered in long grasses that glowed golden brown in the afternoon light. Farms are spread out with farm houses and barns surrounded by thick tree rows of cottonwoods and evergreens to block the wind and snow. Pick up trucks are parked in rows at the high school, and at the church, and the grocery store, and the gas station. Tractors are lined up in small, medium, large, and absolutely enormous sizes. This area has changed a lot in the last two years, an oil boom has brought in thousands of workers in the oil fields and hundreds of thousands of big trucks hauling water, housing and equipment to supply the oil wells dotting the horizon. I’ve got more stories coming up this, stay tuned!
Check out the full Flickr set.
J-Mo and my wedding was a little over a month ago, and I still have only seen a half-dozen photos of myself from the actual day, many are blurry or grainy and taken from far away. Our photographer should have a disk to us in another 6 weeks or so (she isn’t behind, that was her time frame up front, I just didn’t realize I wouldn’t have any other photos to look at!). However, since I am feeling particularly amorous today I decided to post some pictures from our engagement shoot back in November. My Dad, Lurch, actually took all these shots in the courtyard of the Grand America hotel. I’m pretty sure it was one of the very few places that still had greenery and growing, living flowers in the outside beds over the Thanksgiving holiday. Click on any of them for a larger image.
This one was used as our announcement photo.
I don’t think I need to explain why I love this one so much!
That last one is perhaps my favorite from the day, it is framed and hanging where I will see it every single day. And every single day it makes me smile and feel so incredibly lucky that I found and snagged such a wonderful, amazing man.
There is something about road trips, something deliciously free and leisurely. J-Mo and I drove down to Phoenix this year for the booksale (which was awesome, in case you missed it). Now, the road from Salt Lake to Phoenix is either 650 miles of desert with a brief, glitzy moment in Las Vegas, or 650 miles of desert with a brief, glitzy moment in Kanab…oh wait, there is no glitz in Kanab. (Although, there have been more Westerns filmed in and around Kanab than in any other location except for Hollywood, earning this small, dusty town the nickname of “Little Hollywood.”) But, about 75 miles south-eastish of Kanab are the Vermillion Cliffs which explode on the horizon after a winding climb through rather high, snow-covered mountains. You come around a curve and BAM! Vermillion Cliffs.
These cliffs are stunning, they are tall and sheer with thick layers of sediment in different colors. Highway 89 threads along those cliffs for several miles before crossing the canyon and heading farther south to Flagstaff.
But first, you get to experience what I discovered as I scrolled through the photos I snapped from the mountains.
Me? I am a very pale girl. Whatever, when I’m 40 I’m hoping this paleness thing will pay off.
A few miles south of the Vermillion Cliffs is the Navajo Bridge. I have been to the bridge before, but going with an engineer nerd like J-Mo was awesomely fantastic. See, J-Mo knows about trusses and beams and…the rest of the stuff that is required to make this giant hunk of steel balance between two cliffs and seem like it is growing out of the sheer rock face. I love listening to him talk about it, and watching him geek out about it.
There are actually two bridges, one for cars and one for pedestrians. And believe me, if you happen upon this bridge you will want to get out and stretch your legs. The structure is incredible and the views are fantastic.
I love the colors of the West, the reds and the blues jutting up against each other. I love the texture of the rocks next to the clear glass of the river, or the sky. To many people this kind of scenery seems desolate or, I don’t know, death-inducing. But to me, it’s home.
Again, I’m a very pale girl. I wish I could blame this on February, or the bright blue sky, or the stunning red rocks…but no, I’m this pale in July too.
Right after Thanksgiving J-Mo and I went to Bryce Canyon National Park in Southern Utah, and I don’t think I really mentioned it here, let alone wrote about it properly. And by “write” I mean “share some of the most gorgeous pictures I’ve ever taken.” J-Mo and I were only in Bryce for two days, and one of those days I had absolutely debilitating cramps, which meant me curling up in the fetal position at the lovely Stone Canyon Inn (highly recommended!) and taking a lengthy nap. Even with that damper, J-Mo and I managed to see a lot of the canyon, driving the entire length and wandering around on a few short hikes. If you go, I highly recommend the following: stay at Stone Canyon in Tropic, UT, you won’t be disappointed and Dixie, the owner, will make you a fantastic breakfast and give you her best tips on hiking. Don’t shy away from Clarke’s restaurant, also in Tropic. Yes, it is crowded between a grocery store and a motel/hotel of the same name, but the prices are low and the food is surprisingly good. Do NOT eat at Ruby’s Inn, the biggest hotel in Bryce Canyon. Their buffet is basically a pared-down version of Sizzler, and perhaps even less tasty (if Sizzler could ever be defined as “tasty”). Don’t do it. You’re welcome.
I only took about 500 pictures, I’ve picked my favorites to post here.
Scenic Byway 12, my first view of the gorgeous red rock near Bryce and a teensy little taste of what was in store for me the next two days.
Scenic Byway 12 goes through several man-made arches, carved right out of the sandstone. J-Mo took a dozen photos of me here, mostly because I was absolutely freezing–despite the sunny skies–and making all sorts of really awesome faces.
The entrance of Bryce Canyon, goodness, I adore that handsome boy there on the right. (I promise I’ll stop gushing about him–at least for a moment–and gush about the gorgeous scenery instead.)
Our first stop was Sunset Point, one of the more famous lookouts in the park. We arrived at about 4:30 and the sun was dropping in the west, illuminating the hoodoo’s and flooding the canyon in the most gorgeous light. I haven’t edited any of these photos except for a crop here and there, Bryce Canyon is one of those places where photos absolutely cannot do the place justice.
Sunset Point, after hiking west from the parking lot to the canyon rim.
The sun was so low that it actually shone through the red rock, making it look like it was on fire. I took a hundred photos (ok, maybe twenty) trying to capture the effect, I doubt I did, but hey, I tried. For you. Because I’m a good blogger like that. (This is the part where you ignore/forget that I am almost two months late in posting said photos.)
Sigh. I want to go back already. Although, perhaps when it’s not quite so cold, the wind at the canyon rim is absolutely murder.
The rock formations in Bryce Canyon are called hoodoos (or fairy chimneys, which I think is a much better name). They only appear in a few places in the world, and nowhere else in North America. They are the weathered remnants of large finns of sandstone, and in Bryce they are these towering formations with hundreds of alleys and trails weaving in and out of them. Many of the trails were closed for the winter, and many of the trails are never open because it is easy to get lost in such a place where everything looks the same and you cannot see any way out.
Before the sun was completely gone, J-Mo and I wanted to see Inspiration Point, so off we went, deeper into the canyon.
Inspiration point was absolutely breathtaking. The wind was bitter cold at this point, but J-Mo and I hiked around a little anyway.
There I am, probably the happiest I’ve ever been in my whole life, smiling at my sweetheart. (I know! I said I wouldn’t gush about him anymore! I lied, okay!?)
Getting fancy with the waning light, the more I look at this pic the more I love it.
This pic has already been posted here, but it’s one of my favorites of us and definitely the best from the weekend.
Ten years ago today I met J-Mo.
Yep, that’s right. Ten. Granted, I was 18 and he was married to someone else and the only thing that was exchanged was an introduction. But yes, 10 years ago I met the love of my life at my best friend’s wedding; I was a bridesmaid and he was the best man. We definitely were not suited for each other then (hello teenager + married man), and without the experiences we’ve both had for the last ten years there isn’t any way we would be suited for each other now. That being said, I am so grateful that we ended up where we did.
I wish I could go back and warn 18-year-old me that the next decade would really really suck in many ways, but that it would turn out alright in the end. Before I arrived at the church for the ceremony, I had just spent several hours on the phone with my brother who was in the ragey part of a divorce. My former sister-in-law had done some truly heinous things and my brother was pretty anti-The Whole World But Love In Particular. This conversation was the first I’d heard of his divorce, I don’t even think he’d told our parents yet, and I remember being surprised, but my world was not particularly rocked. I remember thinking “People get married, and then they get divorced. It’s just how things go.” I remember walking down the aisle of the wedding of my best friend, Sara, wondering what on earth she was getting herself in to. Wondering why she was choosing to make this particular step. My parents had split a decade earlier, and now my only married sibling was drowning as his own marriage imploded. It seemed, that marriage may not be the greatest idea.
I am pleased to report that my dear friends who married 10 years ago are still happily married with three adorable kids. They have figured out not only how to make a marriage work, but how to make it work well. I am sure it was not without a lot of growing pains and heartache, but in many ways they are a shiny example to me of making a commitment and sticking with it, no matter what. I am also pleased to report that my own views on marriage have changed drastically in the last ten years. I went from seriously doubting the whole idea of marriage, to making the leap myself, to filing for a divorce, to hating men all over again, and in the last few years to coming to the conclusion that with the right man, marriage would be wonderful.
Dear Sara and Jared, Happy Anniversary. I certainly hope the next 10 years are even more happy and amazing than the last. Love, heidikins. (Also, thank you for hooking a girl up with such a hottie. You both clearly have excellent taste in friends.)
In ten days, I will stand up in front of family and friends and marry that hottie, he is the love of my life. The last two weeks have been particularly full of wedding arrangements, and the more things I cross off that To-Do list, the more I am looking forward to the morning after when we have the rest of our lives stretched out before us full of adventure and promise and love and happiness. Yes, and heartache and hard times and the rest that comes with making a life with someone. But I cannot wait to get past the details about shoes and bowties and program printing and just focus on my relationship with this amazing, caring, sweet, wonderful man.
You and me, my love, just you and me.
This post was written in segments over the last few months.
September 26, 2011
For a few weeks now J-Mo and I have been talking about getting married. It’s been a half-whispered dream-idea that has been bounced around a little without really sticking on any given conversation. It’s been giggled about, smiled about, insinuated and dreamed about. But it hasn’t been delved into too much in any given conversation. Until yesterday. On a beautiful, sunny afternoon drive J-Mo and I started talking fairly seriously about spending the rest of our lives together. We were listening to some of our favorite country love-songs (yes, now I listen to AND enjoy country music. I know. It surprises me too), we both giggled and smiled and asked half-believing questions that mostly came out as “Really? I mean, really?” I may have blushed a bit and I definitely swooned. But, admittedly, I was also a little nervous. Not about J-Mo, I want nothing more than to be with him, to love him, to grow old with him. I want to come home to him and have him come home to me, I want to take care of him and I love how passionate he is about taking care of me. But getting married? That’s a big deal. And I was perhaps a little more nervous about the conversation than I thought I’d be.
Even so, we curled up on the couch that evening and started exploring some logistics and asking more questions and trying to get a better understanding of what we were both feeling. The nervousness was still there, but only incidentally. This morning any lingering nervousness is gone. This is the man I will marry and I couldn’t be more excited about it. (And yes, perhaps a bit nervous about the “Wow, this is only the biggest decision you will make in your love life, no pressure!” but that’s normal, right?)
October 2, 2011
J-Mo told his parents that we are looking at January for a wedding. I could hear his mom squeal through the phone. I am excited and happy and (reportedly) a little more glowy than usual, but I don’t feel any different. I don’t feel SuperExtraRidiculouslyOverTheTop EXCITED!!!11!! In the last few months I have come to the decision that I just want to be with J-Mo, I want to spend my life with him. Sometimes I get all teary when I think about it. But I am not squealing or obnoxious, I am just here, happy, like I have been for months. It seems like a natural progression to me, nothing completely out of the blue, it’s not a surprise, it’s just the obvious next step. In talking with my recently engaged friend, A., I expressed a little concern because I wondered if I wasn’t giddy enough, if there was something wrong because I wasn’t bouncing off the walls and telling anyone who would listen. She talked me down from whatever ledge I’d left myself on and reminded me that it was perfectly normal I was more excited about spending my life with someone (the marriage part) instead of jumping up and down over the idea of a gorgeous white dress and a towering fondant cake (the wedding part). I couldn’t care less about the white dress or the towering fondant cake. Or the flowers. Or the invitations. Or the food. Or the favors. Or the 5,389 other “required!” bits of weddingism that I will be skipping over completely. I don’t want a reception, or a big fluffy white dress, or fancy-pants announcements or flowers or monogrammed cocktail napkins. I just want to be married.
October 8, 2011
Even though I don’t have a ring yet, I introduced J-Mo to an old friend I rarely get to see as “my fiance.” And then I squee’d. “Fiance.” As in, pre-cursor-to-husband. (Husband…wow. I’m going to have a husband.) (Which leads one to presume I will also be a wife…Wife.) (My mind is exploding with both of these, I thought “fiance” was exciting, the husband-wife thing is making me light headed.) (Yes, I have thought this out, but usually in terms like “I will be with him forever.” and “We’re going to grow old together.” Both of which sound lovely and are true, but adding that husband-wife–eep! there it is again!–label is a whole new level of…something. Commitment? Happiness? Labeling? I’m not sure, but it brings a new level of squee.) (/parantheticals.)
October 15, 2011
We went ring shopping this afternoon; I have never done this before and am a bit overwhelmed by all the sparkle and shine and by how little I actually know about real jewelry. Also, the idea that J-Mo and I are actually getting hitched is starting to set in. I am giddy for no reason. I smile constantly. I am experiencing some kind of never-talked-about “nesting” phase where I want to clear out half of my apartment to make room for him. (My roommate is getting married in December, so I will politely wait until she moves out before I start measuring her bedroom and dreaming up new furniture arrangements.) (Except I’m already dreaming up new furniture arrangements. Sorry, D.) J-Mo wants to surprise me with a ring, so we mostly shopped around to find what I like and what I don’t. Turns out, I like white gold or platinum, art deco styling, princess-cut/square diamonds, a lot of filigree and pave diamonds. I don’t so much care about carat weight or the size of a center stone. I mostly want it flat on my finger.
October 16, 2011
I am going to marry this man. Cue: ridiculous amounts of swoony-ness. Apparently the giddy swoontastic feelings that were missing when J-Mo and I first started talking about getting married have hit me full force. Or, at least two-thirds force. It’s good for my soul that I am more and more twitterpated though; “twitterpated” is not a normal state of being for me, but I think it’s a good look. I am still dreading the idea of actually planning a wedding. My swooniness ALL comes from the idea of being with J-Mo, of being married to him. When I think about the stress and energy and money of a wedding I actually get a little queasy. I just want to be married. If I had my druthers we’d email our families and let them know what time to show up at the court house and then go have Mexican food afterwards. (Wait, can I actually do that? I can, right? Right?)
October 29, 2011
J-Mo went to talk to my Dad today. I am a bit anti-traditional in most aspects of my life, but the more I think about this the more I love that J-Mo had a man-to-man conversation with him about his intentions. Over the last couple of years Lurch has been such a tremendous support to me, the last 5 years have been pretty rough–tedious jobs, unemployment, tough breaks, horrible car accident, bad boyfriends–and my Dad has made sure I knew he cared. He has picked me up, dusted me off, and cheered me on in countless ways and I can guarantee that without that parental love and support I would not be where I am right now. I’d probably be living in a cardboard box, charging a 10-cent admission to see my shoe collection. At any rate, I love that J-Mo went over to my Dad’s house and promised that he’d take care of me from now on. I love that J-Mo was nervous. I love that while my Dad didn’t give him a terribly hard time, he let him know what he expected. I know Lurch (and J-Mo) are very aware that I can and even prefer to take care of myself, but it is so sweet to me that they had a heart-to-heart conversation about making sure I was always okay. Perhaps this “Tradition” thing isn’t so bad after all.
…but I still don’t want a fluffy white dress.
November 3, 2011
I got a manicure, you know, just in case. And scheduled another for the next week, just in case. And also perhaps the week after that. I like to be prepared, okay?
November 5, 2011
J-Mo asked me to marry him in the sweetest possible way. I said “yes.”
In our super-cyber age there is no Emily Post directive on how to announce via a blog, Twitter, and/or Facebook that you are engaged. My guts told me that there was a cadre of family and close friends who deserved a visit, phone call, or email, and I tried to get that done before mentioning a thing about it online. I’ll take my gold star for Adulthood now, thank you. (On the off chance that you are still in the dark, um, Surprise! I’m engaged!) I have been completely overwhelmed with the collective Squee’s and Congrats’ and other expressions of happiness from around the Interwebs after publishing this post and the subsequent Twitter and Facebook announcements. Thank you for being happy and excited for me! For us! (I’m an “us!” I love that!)
Would you like the rest of the story? Why am I even asking this, of COURSE you want the rest of the story! If you didn’t you’d be checking ESPN or BoringStuff Weekly or something instead of reading this blog. If you don’t care about my One True Love asking me to be his for ever and ever…well, then you can clickity-click-click that little box in the corner of your screen with the “x” on it and go do something else. For the next 8-ish paragraphs it will be strictly Engagement Story.
Last Saturday was a fantastically relaxing day followed by a delicious afternoon nap. When we woke up I asked J-Mo if he wanted to make dinner at home or go out and grab something. We had a wedding reception to attend and as we would be all dressed up for that in the first place (new dress for me, new stripey shirt for him) he decided that we should definitely go out. It would be fun to be all gussied up and out to dinner, something we hadn’t done in quite a while. He took me to Sawadee, one of my favorite Thai restaurants and the dinner-location of our first date. We’ve been there several times since we met, so I didn’t think anything of it (although I did make a remark about how I was wearing the same pair of boots I had worn on our first date last February. Kismet? Providence? Pure awesome? You decide.) Dinner was delicious –and I didn’t shatter my water glass like I had the first time we dined there–the wedding reception was lovely, and as we were leaving he tells me that we have to be back downtown by 8:00 to go to a show. I asked him if we were going to a movie. “No.” A comedy show? “No.” Are you going to tell me? “No.” Okaaaaay, fine.
We ended up at the Planetarium for a laser show—also an activity from our first date—and I started to get a little suspicious. From the bathroom, I texted my roommate and my BFF that I thought I was on a duplicate of my first date with J-Mo, and something might happen, and that I was perhaps a little nervous, but mostly really excited. (Yes, J-Mo, that is why I was in there so long.You’re not the only one who can be sneaky.)
And nothing. He does nothing, says nothing, makes it all completely normal and unremarkable, just dinner and a show–it’s not like we haven’t done that a hundred times before–although with more snuggling and hand-holding and sweet little kisses than on our first date where there wasn’t any snuggling. After watching lasers and trippy graphics set to the tunes of Led Zeppelin we went to the same frozen yogurt place from our first date where I opted for a Nutella-banana crepe, thinking it would probably be the best part of the night (it was pretty amazing, but no, not the best part of the night). At this point I was positive that he was doing this whole “take you on our first date all over again” thing just to throw me off. I knew he had already had a man-to-man conversation with my Dad, but was unsure if he had a ring yet. I thought it would take at least another week for that to happen.
After chatting over frozen yogurt and Nutella I hypothesized (in my inside voice, not my outside voice) that if he were going to propose that night he would probably drive up to some lovely vantage point with a beautiful view of the city. Nope, we went back to my house like the end of any other date. Up the stairs, nothing happening, I was sure he was just being sneaky and would surprise me the next weekend with a proposal. I unlock my door and start thinking about changing into pajamas and busting out the DVR because clearly I am a hip, happening girl at 9:30 on a Saturday night. We get inside and I head towards my room to take off my shoes and find some yoga pants. He caught me by my arm, turned me back around and said “Hold on. Ten months ago when I dropped you off at the end of our first date I didn’t know what else to do, but I do now.”
And he pulled out the ring box he’d had in his pocket THE ENTIRE LIVE-LONG DAY! Not “date,” D-A-Y. All day long that thing had been hiding in his jacket and he didn’t say a WORD.
J-Mo told me that this ring has been around a long time–we think it’s from the 1920′s but it could be earlier–and has stories that he will never know. It’s been through a depression and survived wars and hard times and who knows what else. He said he went back and forth trying to decide if he wanted to buy this antique ring, or get a shiny new one instead. Ultimately, he opted for the antique. It’s not perfect, there are some scratches and dents, and the diamond in the center has a chip in it. He could have had the scratches buffed out and the diamond replaced, but in the end decided to leave it as it was. It has character. Only a trained jeweler’s eye and a microscope would be able to pick out such flaws. He said, “The thing is, Heidi, you have your own scratches, dents, and even a few chips, and I know that you worry about being ‘broken.’ ” (It’s true, I do worry; it’s one of my greatest fears.) He continued: “But you’re not broken. When I look at you that’s not what I see, all I see is this gorgeous, perfect woman. And when you look at this ring, you don’t see the flaws, you just see something whole and incredibly beautiful. I want you to remember that is how I see you. I love you for who you are. I don’t have to know your back stories, I don’t need to have you re-live all that hurt; the important thing is that we start our own story, together. Just you and me.”
Then he got down on his knee and asked me to marry him, right there in my living room with all my mascara running down my teary face. (Note to self: buy waterproof mascara.) It was perhaps the sweetest moment of my entire life, and every time I glance down at my left hand I hear his voice telling me all those heart-melting things all over again. I’ve had permanent happy-tears, I’ve been smiling constantly, and I don’t remember ever being this happy and content.
I’m yours forever, my love.
The following questions and answers are part of my “Interview A Blogger”/”Please ask me questions to provide blog fodder” mini-series. I’ve tried to break up the questions into bigger categories and this is the last of them. I hope you’ve enjoyed it as much as I have!
Question: How old were you before you had your first boyfriend?
Answer: While I went out with a lot of people as a teenager I was actually already in college before I dated anyone seriously enough to call them my boyfriend. The relationship was kind of crappy and lasted far too long, and now that particular x-boyfriend is my cousin. Yep, true story, one that I’m sure has a moral but I’m too busy gagging over this x-boyfriend-is-my-cousin fact that I can’t think of it. Don’t worry, I’ve made up for a slower start in dating over the last decade with a double handful of relationships–some great, some bad, some down-right terrible–and thousands of dates. I feel like I’ve put in my time on the boyfriend front.
Question: Tell us about your first kiss. From Lisa at Books, Lists, Life.
Answer: My first kiss is really quite a boring story. I was 14 and my junior high had just put on a production of Anne Frank where I had really enjoyed being a stage manager and working on props and costumes. We were having a cast party after closing night where there were 4 boys and about 748 girls present; (most of) the girls were dead set on playing Spin the Bottle. This was the first, and last time I ever played Spin the Bottle. I don’t even know WHY people play Spin the Bottle. It’s a terrible idea. Spin the Bottle is just public kissing with people you probably don’t even like IN FRONT OF people you do like who now know you kissed someone else and so what if they don’t like you anymore? I mean, you know, if they even knew you existed in the first place. Who invented this game? Morons. That’s who. Anyway, I kissed B.A., another techie who was always nice to me before and after our very awkward smooch in somebody’s unfinished basement. He had red hair and freckles I always thought were cute and a severely lazy eye that always creeped me out just a bit. The kiss was just a peck, but it was in front of 50 people and with someone I didn’t even like.
Question: How long have you been dating J-Mo?
Answer: After several months of chatting and flirting and never being in town the same weekend, we started dating at the beginning of February and became exclusive shortly thereafter. Mind you, he could have asked me out months prior to our first date…a fact I try to remind him of on a fairly regular basis. I know, I’m terribly mature.
Question: I want to know more about your man. From Briana.
Answer: Not technically a question, but I shall respond anyhow. J-Mo is not perfect, but he is perfect for me. In addition to being kind, smart, a bit geektastic, and and terribly handsome (hello, do you see that smile? It kills me every. single. time.), he is sweet, considerate, and loves me more than I ever thought someone could love a person. On the flip side, I love him more than I have ever loved anyone, or ever even thought I could love someone. It’s like fairy tales and happy endings all over the place. The other night I was chatting with him and remembered something quite hilarious from the very early days of us dating. Unbeknownst to me when I agreed to go out with him, the Mo Family have a genetic predisposition to be extra charming. Seriously, the Mo-Men Charm is an actual thing, it is talked about at family functions and J-Mo’s Mom says it is what made her fall for his Dad. Okay, so Charmingness: J-Mo has it in spades. On our second or third date he pipes up with this warning, “Just so you know, you will probably fall in-love with me. You’ve been warned.” He explained the Charmingness disease and I told him that if I did, in fact, fall for him I was going to place all blame squarely on his charming shoulders. Ha. Touche, life, touche.
Question: What about your first kiss with J-Mo? What’s the story there?
Answer: I think it was our third or fourth date, we had gone to dinner and were watching a movie at my house. I had already decided I really liked him, so I curled up next to him on the couch and tucked my arm through his, my head on his left shoulder. After a few minutes he turned his left hand over and held it towards me to hold, confident and adorable and…well, I was hooked. (A guy who doesn’t play games? I am absolutely interested in that.) We watched the rest of the movie holding hands, me curled up next to him. When it was over I looked up at him, really really hoping he would kiss me. He did, and it was amazing. A-May-Zing. It was the kind of kiss that makes your heart race and your breath catch in your chest; I’m pretty sure he audibly ManSwooned.
(Can I tell you a secret? Well, two secrets, actually. Secret 1: The kisses have only gotten more amazing since then. Swoon! Secret 2: The above photo is not our first kiss. Shocking, I know. You probably thought I was the kind of girl who always documented that sort of thing, just in case.)
Question: What do you like the most about J-Mo? From K over at Two Adults, One Brown Baby
Answer: I had to think about this question quite a bit, actually. I love so many things about J-Mo, but when I had to narrow it down I came to two things that mean the most to me.
Thing 1: J-Mo is kind, he is one of those people who is just nice. He is polite and friendly and goes out of his way to help others. He is the kind of man who cares about people, and it shows. Babies and little kids flock to him and my niece, age almost-3, asks about him every single time I see her and runs up to him for a hug any time he’s around. He is sweet to me, he has yet to raise his voice or even speak to me with any kind of anger or disrespect. Sure, we’ve had disagreements and differing opinions–it’s not like he kow-tow’s to me or anything like that–but we can disagree without it turning nasty. Even on big things, even on emotional things, he is always kind.
Thing 2: J-Mo sees me as I really am, flaws and all, and he loves me anyway. He has not put me up on a pedestal where I feel I am unable to be myself, he does not roll his eyes or get bothered or miffed when I have my less than stellar moments (and believe me, I have them). He has this amazing ability to encourage the best of me and simultaneously, he is not disappointed or embarrassed or put out when I am just my regular, normal, not-best self. I am geeky and goofy and silly and quirky without worrying that he will think less of me. I have baggage and issues and unbloggable things that affect me in really horrible ways. I am snarky and sassy and feisty and stubborn–and sometimes downright pig-headed–but even on my bad days, or bad weeks I know that his feelings won’t change. (And yes, after those bad days and bad weeks I admit my pig-headedness, apologize and ask to try again.) J-Mo encourages the best parts of me to grow and develop, but he does not demand I change or insist that if I just tweak this or that, or get over this hurdle or that, or, you know, completely re-prioritize my life so he can really love me and then we can be happy. He loves me just the way I am; he is happy with me, and I with him, just as we are.
This last question is from the charming and swoontastic J-Mo himself.
Question: Heidi, will you marry me?
*Included with this answer were laughs and smiles and hugs and kisses and tears and more smiles and more tears and more kisses.
**No, this question was NOT submitted via blog comment or email, he’s far too classy for that. Stay tuned for the rest of this story. If you’ll excuse me now, I have to go kiss his face off. Again.
In early October a pretty wicked cold front hit Utah and as I drove south to Cedar City for the Shakespeare Competition on what would have been a nice, easy drive through gorgeous canyons with changing leaves turned into a white-knuckle blizzard with crawling freeway speeds and white-out conditions.
Because I am a ridiculously dedicated* blogger, I carefully–and safely–documented it for you. (*Ha! Riiiiight, sure I am. Pay no attention to the weeks and weeks of paltry posting.) Don’t worry, this wasn’t the scariest part of the drive, not even close. Imagine this plus two more inches of snow and about 100 feet less visibility…that’s when the white knuckles came out. Timestamp: October 6, 2011, approximately 6:00 pm.
<<Insert weekend of bossing around teenagers in iambic pentameter.>>
After the competition was over, I had planned on staying an extra day in Southern Utah to do a little exploring, and with only a little bit of cajoling, J-Mo met me down there. Immediately following the awards ceremony on Saturday evening, all I wanted to do was find a hotel that was not inhabited by buses full of teenagers and sleep for
a week a responsibly healthy, 9-hour, uninterrupted night. Some people say they can’t sleep in hotel beds, I usually sleep just as well, if not better than when I am at home. This weekend was no exception. Besides, there’s nothing like a weekend full of parking lot rehearsals until 1:00 am with a bunch of teenagers in SEVENTEEN DEGREE weather to make you sleep for 13 hours straight. (Cold snap, I shake my fist at you! *Shake, shake*) The next morning after brunch at a fabulous local diner, Dede’s, J-Mo went off to explore some of the gorgeous vistas in the surrounding mountains.
Tiny little problem: the road to Cedar Breaks was closed because of a massive avalanche/landslide due to the storm. I was a little bummed, I’ve always wanted to see that particular view. Instead J-Mo and I took the first turnoff we found with a very vague sign leading to Kolob Reservoir. The road looked like it climbed up the mountain and probably had some good fall foilage, plus perhaps a pretty lake. So off we went.
Excellent choice, we drove for miles and miles, up and down mountains, through canyons and snow fields and cattle ground and forests of aspens. The leaves were beautiful, the snow was much deeper than I had anticipated, up to 8 inches in some places! And this was two or three days after the storm.
October! This is October. Gorgeous with the green and yellow leaves, the snow…it was beautiful. After a lengthy drive on wrecked dirt roads we finally made it to our destination.
Kolob Reservoir (yes, we hie’d), it was full of fishermen and surrounded by campers. The lake was much larger than I had thought it would be and much less snowy.
After meandering around the lake for a while, J-Mo and I decided that instead of heading back the way we came, we’d see where this road went. There were Honda Civic’s in the parking lot, surely it wasn’t going to be as rough as the last two hours of road. So, he hung a left towards what we hoped would be St. George. After a few miles we passed a dirt road turn-off and when I turned around to read the old, wooden sign detailing where the road led to, all I really caught was “West Rim Trail.”
“West Rim Trail? Isn’t that in Zion?“
Who knows, but it was reason enough to check it out. J-Mo immediately flipped around and off we went, bumping down the dirt road. A few miles later we came across Lava Point Look Out, we stopped and walked the 200 foot trail to the edge of the plateau, and were greeted with this:
You should definitely click on these next few landscape shots to get the full effect. You’re welcome.
That, my friends, is the western edge of Zion National Park and a view I didn’t even know existed. Remember a few months ago when J-Mo and I hiked the crazy-high cliff, Angel’s Landing? Yeah, that precipice is hidden behind the furthest ridge of those white plateaus. This view was spectacular. Actually, spectacular hardly seems to cut it but I seem to be suffering again from the inability to properly describe something that shakes your soul and turns your brain inside out. It’s like the first time you looked at those optical illusion posters that looked like TV fuzz and suddenly, WHAM! Suddenly all you see is a family of hedgehogs having a tea party. Totally didn’t expect that. Kind of don’t have the words to explain it. (Ok, this vista wasn’t exactly a snacking family of miniature rodents, but even so, it was a gorgeous surprise.)
Firstly, on the left side of that photo the canyon that makes up Zion National Park converges into The Narrows. The scope from this look out was incredible, I couldn’t stop staring, wishing my camera could better capture the incredible view.
(Secondly, I swear J-Mo and I are not so cutesy that we purchased and then wore matchy-match hoodies on purpose. They were bought at least 6 months apart, are different brands, from different stores, and I had completely forgotten he had his when I bought mine. Just so we’re clear. The fact that we both wore them the same weekend? Well, that is just how it played out, I suppose.)
After a short while we decided to get back on the road, if we were as far south as Zion National Park we had quite the drive to get back home that evening. We didn’t have a map–and I had sadly left my Zion guidebook at home–so we just got back on the road and hoped for the best. Again, we were not disappointed. The road we took wove in and out of Zion National Park for probably 30 miles. J-Mo was patient with my more and more frequent squeals and picture pit-stops. But, you guys, the views! Like families of tea partying hedgehogs!
This was the first towering red rock cliff we came across, but it definitely was not the last as we wound down the plateau near Kolob Canyon.
I think sometimes I take this kind of gorgeousness for granted, it isn’t until I happen upon it on accident that I can truly recognize the incredible beauty of Utah.
Long before Mormon settlers arrived in this area, Native American tribes held these places sacred. Upon discovering these breathtaking canyons and plateaus, the Mormons named them after the heavens and the place where God resides. Sometimes I forget that minor detail, but this part of the world really is one of the most beautiful places on earth, and I’m lucky enough to have it in my backyard. Note to self: travel south more often. Preferably not in a snowstorm.
See the full Flickr set here.