On Tuesday night, I had the honor to attend my first book release party. With a rain and thunder storm percolating over Athens, Georgia, my dearest friend and I car pooled to our favorite college town for this exciting event. Having worked together for the past ten years, that car ride was not filled with the tink, tink, tink of rain drops on a car hood but instead with a stream of consciousness conversation that bounced around like a tennis ball in a dryer. From health and healing (she just had her gallbladder out, a surgery I know all too well), current colleagues, former colleagues, former students, books we’re reading, books we’re wanting to read, her kids, our pups, and of course, full analysis of season seven of Game of Thrones, and just like that, we were in Athens.
We arrived just in time for the sun to part the clouds leaving us dry in a surreal September breeze. My friend parallel parked (like a champ!), and we hopped out for a quick walk down the street to a hipster vegetarian joint where I stuffed myself with a crispy chickpea falafel, all the while continuing to catch up on what we’ve missed in each other’s lives.
After a long day on the road in Stephens County, I almost backed out of attending this event. I was tired. I had tons of work to do just from my two meetings that day, and Jason was at home sprawled out on the sectional under a down comforter with a cold. Clearly, I had excuses. But excuses are the enemy to whimsy. Not supporting your friends is the enemy to whimsy. Choosing work over hipster eateries, independently owned bookstores, and book launch parties is clearly, again, the enemy to whimsy.
My prayer life is a lot like my running life.
Did I mention slow?
However, just like my running life, my consistency equals my expectation. In 2015, my year of “adventure,” I ran a half marathon 8 out of 12 months. I completed a full triathlon one month, and another month a really horrible marathon attempt.
You would have thought that I was fast. You would have thought that I was fit. The answer to both? No. Because of that key word: consistency. During that season, Jason and I were living at the affectionately named “tiny house experiment” while our newly purchased home was under flood reconstruction. I was beginning my first run with fertility treatments (and not handling the emotional roller-coaster well). And I was in a new position of leadership at my job that I thought would be a natural fit. So, to sum it up. I was lost. The rug was literally, figuratively, and spiritually pulled out from beneath me.
What do you do when you’re lost? You hit up your Google Maps app. That first map led me to Beth Moore’s devotion, Whispers of Hope. For probably the first time in my life, I made an appointment with God on a pretty-regular schedule and began seeking Him in a way that my entire life in Christ had taught me to seek Him, but my apathy always kept me from completing.
So, by the time 2016 rolled around and we were settled in our newly reconstructed home, my appetite continued for more direction. That adventure that I had been seeking transformed into a spiritual adventure that still continues. Even though 2016 was my year of “restoration,” it was also my year of non-fiction. That restoration was literal with our home, it was also spiritual with my soul. I am now calling that “year” a “season” of non-fiction since I’m still in it. In a lot of ways, I’m still lost. I’m still searching, still running slowly, painfully, desperately, towards the will of my Father.
I love that people are becoming more open to talk about their pain with me. It’s usually strangers or acquaintances. Somehow God ordains a moment and the next thing I know we are both sharing stories of loss and desire. At a coffee shop in Clarksville. At my yearly physical in Oakwood. At the grocery store in Cornelia. It is an honor to hear these stories. It’s a blessing to fill their isolation with commonality. And it’s a responsibility and God’s calling for me to speak when my gut begs me to be silent. To play it safe.
What I don’t like is when people say “You’re so brave. You’re courageous.” Again, they don’t really know me. They don’t know that I’m a bundle of fear, nerves, and insecurities. Always theorizing and projecting how something won’t come to pass in the way that I desire it would.
This theme of courage and fear has been on the forefront of my mind for months. I’ve written about it (not published). I’m read about it. I’ve dreamed about it. And in pure Natalie fashion, I’ve pushed it to the back of my mind and filed it under “Too Busy to Deal With.”
Professionally, I’m in a really awesome season of busy. My new job has been a breath of fresh air, metaphorically and physically. These past few weeks I have been traveling around God-created Northeast Georgia popping in and out of schools helping with a skill I feel confident in, with something that I know has value, in an area where there are really too few of us to understand. Every day feels like extending a life preserver, a hand, and sometimes even a hug to individuals who just want to do right by their schools and communities. That is exactly what I desire to do as well; do right, be authentic, and extend a hand (and a hug when in person).
It was scary to leave a career and identity after ten years. It’s scary to explain to people my new job, because no one really gets it. It’s scary to enter a school where no one knows me. Turn a corner hoping to see a friendly face. Will they be glad to see me? Will I have the answers to their questions? Will I be able to support them in a way that makes their school better? Their own lives better?
Two weeks back on a beautiful Friday morning, God put my heart to rest. I left my home around 7am and drove from Habersham to Downtown Clarkesville, through artisan Sautee Nacoochee, through alpine Helen, around the misty mountains on Unicoi Turnpike where the temperature kept dropping and the sun just began to rise. I had my podcast running through my speakers playing Malcolm Gladwell’s Revisionist History but I listen just as much for his soothing, cadenced narrative as I do for the historical implications. When my yellow Mini crested the highest peak of Unicoi Gap my podcast suddenly stopped. No signal. But I didn’t even notice. What I did notice was the most glorious sunrise. Having hiked that mountain before I know all too well what an early morning sunrise and those mountains can do. They heal. They restore. They confirm. On that misty, 64-degree morning, I began speaking out loud to my Savoir. Thanking my Heavenly Father for that very moment on Unicoi Turnpike. For His sunrise. For His grace. For His abundant mercy. And for being the very definition of whimsy; placing a broken girl on a curvy road on a mountain top where she tangibly felt His presence. It was truly a perfect day where I ran into some cherished old friends unexpectedly and met some very dear new ones.
I’ve already taken this career leap. It’s not like I was going to back out. But like most of us, we just want a little confirmation that we were on the right path. Some of us need it. God filled that day with confirmation after confirmation.
But even since that day I’m still scared. My morning prayers often filled with praise through tears. I’m afraid of being forgotten. I’m afraid of missing out. I’m afraid my life will never be more than this.
This week I have been in contact with so many students. Some of those left behind at school miss me, say they need me. Some feel abandoned. Some just at a loss of what was once familiar. Most of my graduates have already moved off to college. Some without a word of goodbye. Some chose to have lunch with me, to seek advice or just to reconnect. Those small meals have a big impact on me. They have no idea how much I love them. As best as I can. How a mother loves her children. But I know the reality is, it will never be like this again. In a few years’ time, they will have their own rhythms, their own lives, relationships and they will one day stand in front of an alter and I may or may not be in the crowd. I don’t blame them or judge them. I know this pattern all too well. I used to be “Mrs. White;” teacher, adviser, mentor, and sometimes mother. I’m now just “Natalie,” floating in and out of schools without those relationships to ground me, give me identity, and hold my heart together.
I know this is why God keeps putting scripture and truth in my sight about courage, faith, and fear. God does not desire us to live in fear. He desires us to recycle our adversity and turn it into a ministry.
It’s been 200 days since I declared 2017 my “year of Whimsy.” 200 days focusing on life, adventure, joy, passion, and action. That also means 200 days mindfully pushing away from fear, insecurity, inadequacy, and complacency. There is so much that I envisioned 2017 to be. And in God’s remarkable nature, He answered so many prayers; those realized, spoken, and softly whispered in the security of my spot. And yet He also answered the unspoken, those prayers and desired not yet realized. Tucked away behind the chanting of the enemy.
As I warned back in February, “when you proclaim a theme, be ready for The Holy Spirit to grab that theme by the celestial wings and make a way.” Well, my own words continue to feel prophetic.
I had no idea that in late 2016 when the word whimsy was springing to life on the pages of works that I thought were coincidental at best, that God was preparing the road that my feet now trod.
I had no idea that God would provide a new doctor, a new fertility plan, a new pregnancy. I also had no idea that God would use whimsy to also create a new me. One that feels more deeply, yet softer around the edges.
These past few years can be divided into two seasons; one where I cry almost daily, and the other where I’m all dried up. Surprisingly, even with all the change, May was dry, while June and July have been all wet. I don’t cry tears of pity or mourning, I simply cry out to God. I cry out in the safety of His presence most mornings while sitting alone in my office, reading His word, snuggling my green fuzzy blanket, embracing my first cup of coffee (and sometimes a Quigley).
Restoration in 2016 took the form of nonfiction and knowledge. That flame has continued to burn in 2017 with new authors and new works. I have also discovered that five minute devotionals don’t cut it. At least not for me. I can’t just read and walk away. I’m an educator after all and also a lifelong Type A student who needs implicit instructions and insight. So, I follow the path my devotional lays out making sure to indulge in long, lengthy chapters with even longer analysis. I hunker down and uncover truths that have never been obvious or apparent at first glance. And when I’m done reading, highlighting, and annotating (again, student here), I just sit. Sometimes physically sensing the minutes ticking by. I just don’t know how to respond to God. Yeah, I’m in awe. Yeah, I feel completely unworthy and at the same time completely full of grace. But I just don’t know what to say. Finally, when the words are just about to form and I open my mouth to speak, (because I have to speak to Him out loud) tears fall instead of words. In these reoccurring moments (that these days happen more often than not), I hit play on my Spotify “praise” playlist and allow the words of others to fill in my gaps. And in that sacred space, He shows up. And the tears fall. And I feel loved. And safe. And healed.
You know, I have some really cool friends. They come from really cool, diverse backgrounds. They do really cool things, personally and professionally. And when you put us all together, we are the most unlikely cast of characters. I think that is my favorite thing about friendships; the unlikely transpires the likely.
For instance a few years ago, I made an unlikely friend. In fact, it took me years to even put his name and friend in the same sentence. He was arrogant and demanding, well read and well spoken. His presence commanded proficiency and focus and he brought out just about every professional insecurity I had ever had. Thankfully, he worked at another school and we only had to work together a few times a year, mainly in the summer.
I was still a relatively young teacher, maybe five years in, but I had found a rhythm with Ninth Grade Literature and so had he. We were paired up together to help create some professional development for other teachers in our county. What I didn’t tell him at the time (or even now) is that he really challenged me. Why did I teach that a certain way? Why did I choose that text over the other? Why is that my approach to that content? I would leave each work session exhausted and annoyed. One day in some not-so-professional angst, I’m pretty sure I called him a jerk and said, “I feel sorry for your wife.” Without even flinching, he responded, “You know, you and her would probably be friends.” “Yeah, right,” I thought.
Little did I know, he was right. Dang it, I hate it when he’s right! That wife of his would later become one of the most transformative friends in my life.
A few years after our professional partnership had ended, I heard a rumor that my principal had hired his wife. “What?! Great. Is this going to be awkward? Did she know that I thought her husband was a jerk?” I guess only time would tell.
Whenever we talk about that first encounter, we remember it oh so very differently. She remembers me being warm and friendly. I remember being anxious and on edge. But like I said, he was right. She is chill and stylish, has fun tattoos and a hip Bohemian style. She’s a quoter of Shakespeare and of Monica Gellar. And she’s the only person I’ve ever met who has DJ Shadow on her iPod. (Anyone? Yeah, I didn’t think so). Like I said, she’s cool and we became instant friends.
We share a lot in common; our love of Anthropologie (but never the price tag), Starbucks (I’m a latte, she’s all Chai), French inspired foods and markets (Paris Market, Savannah GA), and women’s conferences celebrating Jesus Christ (we’ve attended three now together).
In four quick years, I’ve stayed at her parents’ house twice in Savannah where her dad never fails to entertain and her mom’s hospitality is only matched by her warm hugs. But my favorite thing about this dear friend is how much she teaches me without ever really knowing it. In fact, pretty much every cool thing I have come to learn and love these past few years has come from her. Let’s face it. She’s on the forefront and “in the know” and I’m like “hang on, what is that?”
I could literally make a list of authors, products, companies, and nonprofits she has introduced me to. But instead, I want to share my latest obsession and maybe even provide a little whimsy into your summer inspired by my dear friend.
“Do you listen to podcasts?” she asked last spring while driving to the Atlanta Brunch Festival. Just two weeks post D & C, here’s another reason why I love her. She made me get out of the house and do something fun.
“Uh, not really my thing. I guess.” Maybe that was my response, but that was at least what I was thinking. I didn’t really even know what a podcast was but just the thought of listening to someone talk at me did not remotely tickle my fancy.
Eventually she taught me that purple podcast button on my iPhone served a purpose and that what lied beneath were stories waiting to be told.
I wasn’t an instant fan. The addition began slowly as I’m sure most do. However, what started with listening to a few episodes of one show (The Happy Hour hosted by Jamie Ivey) while getting ready for school a few days a week turned into a rabbit hole that I hope to never climb out of. I now have a slew of podcasts that I struggle to keep up with. Some are inspirational. Some are geared towards writers. I’m even listening to some now regarding business. But I must confess, the majority are a different genre altogether. I’m almost embarrassed to say it but . . .
Whew! I’m exhausted friends. Whoever coined the phrase, “I need a vacation from my vacation,” was so right. Having flown home late last night, I still feel like I’m on Vegas time. This morning my body couldn’t decided and I woke up at 5:30 am on Georgia time which would have been 2:30 am Vegas time. Regardless of lack of sleep, I am so glad to be home, to be back on my routine, to control my own meals, to sleep in my own bed, and to snuggle with my rowdy puppies.
Before I jump right in, I want to take a moment to sincerely express my gratitude for allowing me to share my heart and my story with you last week. I realize that is might have been too raw, too exposing but I have never felt such an incredible outpour of love and sympathy. I have a running list on my Notes app of those who have walked my shoes of miscarriage and infertility. During my prayer times, I pull out the list and just say their names aloud to our Father knowing that He knows their plot, their needs. When I began this journey of miscarriage, that list was small and intimate with just four names. With now months of writing about loss, grief, and hope, I now have 41 names on that list. How crazy is that?! Forty-one courageous women who have reached out to me letting me know that my words are their words. At times I wonder where this blog is going. What is my purpose? What is His plan? But every time I read that list, I know its purpose. It’s for those forty-one and whom else God calls to add to my list.
For those of you who have been following along, you know that not every week is so exposing. Sometimes we need a little whimsy mixed in with the heavy. So that’s what I aim to provide this week.
When my in-laws told me we were forgoing our traditional summer beach trip for a family adventure in Las Vegas, I thought, “Great, they’re taking a potentially pregnant (before I knew) woman to a densely populated city known for drinking, debauchery, and gambling with 100 degree temperatures. This will be great! (sarcasm).” But then the loss came and I thought, “Maybe I’ll just get drunk and will deal with the pain that way.” (No, I’m serious). Oddly enough I just didn’t want to. I drank once. I gambled once. And as a family, we took every tour, hit every show, and walked until my feet literally blistered in my adorable but not orthopedically sound Anthropologie sandals. I think the distraction was helpful, maybe even healing.
I still took my Bible and my Beth Moore devotional on David and sat on my 35th floor balcony every morning (minus the 5am Grand Canyon morning) and read aloud. If New York is the city that never sleeps, Las Vegas is the city that is never silent. Yet even over the blaring music, rowdy street goers, and consistent sirens, I knew that God could hear me. He always hears me. It is I that struggle to tune the rest of the world out to hear Him. I asked God to keep us all safe. I asked God to sanctify this time with my husband and my in-laws. I asked God to speak to me over the noise and the grandeur. He answered all my prayers and I’m sure a lot more.
So what did God say to me in the city that is never silent? Well, here are four things He not only said but proved.
To say that the month of May was emotional is the greatest of all understatements. I turned 33, celebrated ten years of marriage, resigned from teaching after ten years, packed up my classroom, hugged my colleagues, hugged all my kids (some for the very last time), and lost a pregnancy.
Yeah, I know. I should probably back up and hit rewind. After months of testing, and re-testing, and calling around to every doctor that Jason and I had seen regarding trying to start our family, my new doctor in Atlanta was finally ready to meet once again. With a patient file as dense as a 90s phone book, we sat in his office where he literally sketched out a plan on a plain white sheet of computer paper. This number shows this. This lab shows this. This is what we’ve tried. This is what we haven’t tried. “Ok, let’s get started. Today.” He ended the conversation so matter of factly. Jason and I looked at each other in amazement. We like this guy. He’s direct, straight to the point.
We moved across the hall to a pre-treatment ultrasound and consultation. Hormones began the next day. So May began with hope. May began with anxiety. Already knowing that I needed to meet with my principal about my resignation, I would now meet with her on hormones . . . great! This was also yearbook week, with the always-emotional yearbook banquet the Thursday night before distribution Friday where I would tell my staff of my departure as well. And I would be on hormones.
In case you don’t remember how hormones previously manifested in me, go back and read restoration. They make me a hot mess. A crazy, irrational, overly sensitive, emotional, hot mess. And’s that putting it gently. Thankfully, I was not training for a marathon this time and would not subject my running partners to monsoon meltdowns on unsuspecting downtown streets.
But there was no monsoon. No tornados. No hurricanes. No scattered thunderstorms or even summer showers. In what I can only attribute to God controlled, this round of triple dose hormones instead filled me with optimism, excitement, and even energy. When I stood before my students on Thursday night at our banquet space at Mellow Mushroom, all I could do was beam with joy. When I told them I was leaving, I couldn’t shed one tear because deep in my heart I was hiding the greatest secret of all; hope.
Having just told my principal the day before, she cried and I couldn’t. I was fearful she thought I was heartless but I was just really overcome with actual hope. Maybe I was finally getting everything I ever wanted? Still the week continued with a bundle of stress and excitement. Every day during lunch I was self-testing looking for a positive LH surge meaning I was ovulating. All I needed was one positive result and I could schedule the artificial insemination the following day. I kept praying that I wouldn’t miss my last yearbook day and God answered that prayer. With no positive surge indicated, my doctor ordered me a shot that I self-injected to force my body into action. So after the most emotional week of my career, after my last yearbook banquet, my last yearbook day, I drove home exhausted and shot myself up. Jason and I were scheduled back to Atlanta both Saturday and Sunday mornings for two rounds of IUI, intrauterine insemination.
Without going into the awkward details, we emptied our savings and poured out all our faith. Before leaving on Sunday, I asked my doctor the dumbest question possible. “So, what percent of pregnancy am I now looking at?” Without missing a beat, he responded “Oh, about 15%.” Wait?! What? Like 1-5-%? “That’s correct,” he smiled. With a pat on my shoulder he told me to have a good weekend and good luck.
For the second time that weekend, Jason and I drove the 55 miles north in a haze of emotions that even this writer can’t fully put into words. For next two weeks we waited. We held our breaths and we prayed. I told my core group of friends and our families, of course. That might have been a bad idea since I felt like all eyes were on me for the next two weeks. Well, was she, or wasn’t she?
Jason and I were planning our ten-year anniversary get-a-way. We would spend this weekend away to celebrate our first decade as husband and wife and we would also test to see if there was another reason to celebrate. Mother’s Day was the weekend prior. In years’ past where I would hold up in my fortress and avoid, this year I smiled. This was the perfect timing and this feeling in my heart told me that God was granting our desire. My everyday prayers became more and more like chants for life and for hope, stream of consciousness conversations with the creator of all life. I ended every thought with Thy Will Be Done.
The Thursday before we left to go out of town, Jason’s great uncle passed away at the age of 95. Instead of spending the weekend away, we would spend it with family honoring the legacy of a faithful follower of Christ and faithful husband of 64 years.
Before the long Saturday of funeral arrangements, I just had to know. Did I have a reason to mourn or a reason to rejoice? At 5am on that Saturday morning, I peed on a stick, set it down, and walked away. Forcing myself not to wait, I made my cup of coffee and headed toward my spot. I would pass the time waiting with my Father. In prayer. In song. Through tears. I sat in my office begging God for the one thing I could not hustle my way through. For all my achiever tendencies, accomplishment driven traits, He is God and I am not.
I was a horrible teacher my first year. And maybe even my second year too. To all my 2007-2008 students; bless your hearts. I didn’t know what I was doing, how I should be doing it, or why whatever I was or was not doing even mattered. (Remember, I had a publication degree, not an education degree). But somewhere around year three, I found my rhythm. I figured out for myself that I couldn’t do what everyone else was doing. Their classroom management style was not my management style. Their instructional strategies were not my strategies. Their relationships with students was really not the way I formed relationships with my students. I’m also pretty sure that you could write a book using my ten-year career as an example of what not to do when in comes to public education, I mean I gave out my phone number to my yearbook staff and this was 2007, not trendy 2017.
But like I said, somewhere around 2009, something profound changed my teaching, how I interacted with my students, and my life. Her name was Katie and as a high school senior, she was pretty much doing life on her own. I’m not going to go into details about Katie’s life. That’s her business. But on December 4th, 2009 Katie took a risk and walked through my front door. With two bursting-at-the-seems suitcases and one Yamaha piano, she chose to make us her family. This kid, who never wanted to be touched, much less hugged, had just unknowingly joined the most hipster, over-sharing, all-in-each-other’s-business-but-we-do-it-with-love family.
With what was promised as a five month respite for Katie before moving off to college on her own the following June, turned into almost five years of this petite brunette as a permanent fixture in our family. At every function. With her own Christmas stocking. Hugs required.
At just twenty-five years old, Katie taught me the greatest lesson of my life. A lesson that regardless if you’re a teacher or not, is transformative and I would like to share this little golden nugget with you. Are you ready for it? It’s short, simple, and easy to remember (Yep, I’m quoting Captain Jack Sparrow again). But here it is.
Talk about a #flashbackfriday. Having just graduated with my Master’s Degree, this photo is exactly eight years old. Still newlyweds in my book with only two years of marriage life under our belts, the education had truly just begun. Now ten years of “schooling” completed, we were scheduled for a quick and oh-so-needed getaway but unfortunately life, or rather Heaven intervened.
This morning at 4am, Jason’s great uncle, the father figure to his mother for most of her life went home to be with our Savior. At 95, Great Uncle Marion was happily married to the love of his life, Mrs. Ruth, who passed away before we were engaged in 2004. Their marriage spanned over SIX decades. Sixty-four years to be exact. Every time we would visit his home in downtown Decatur, he would hold my hand then look directly at Jason and tell him to cherish me. His warmth and aphorisms remind me a lot of Morrie Schwartz (if you don’t know who this is, pause and order Tuesdays with Morrie . . . like, right now).
Before the passing of endearing Uncle Marion, Jason and I still continued our conversation from last week. We have kept this ongoing text conversation about not only what I have learned in my ten years of marriage but what Jason has learned as a lawfully wedded husband. And in true Jason fashion, his perspective is a mix of satirical, poignant, and heartwarming lessons. So, keeping it short and sweet (just like my husband himself), here’s Jason top 10 lessons from the past ten years (with of course, my own bit of commentary).
1. Women can’t drive.
Jason says I’m too slow. Too sassy. Too swerve-y. But, I really am a good driver just clearly a lot slower than the Whites, who are all notorious for their lead feet. And yes, I have been known to swerve, but only if I’m sleepy. So babe, don’t carb overload me then ask me to drive all the way home from dinner and a movie in Buford. Deal? You drive.
2. Sleepy people can still yell at you, in fact, they are probably more likely to yell at you.
So clearly there is a theme here. Yes, I “sleep yell” at Jason, not sure if that is a phrase but I just made it one. The barking dogs, the explosions occurring on the surround sound that make me feel like I’m living in apocalyptic times, all these things are contributing factors. No worries. You know I never mean it. I don’t even remember it.
3. You can go your whole life and never see the end of a movie.
Jason, we get it. I like to sleep! BUT, I also like to get up early, Like 4:00, 4:30 early. So I have plenty of time to sip my morning coffee and finish whatever movie you watched the night before. See, it’s a balance.
4. Hair is a big deal.
No explanation needed.
5. Remotes can out smart even the smartest of people.
Well, when you have six machines all connected to one TV, do you blame me?! I mean, Blue Ray, DVR, Satellite, X-Box, Regular DVD player, Surround Sounds. Sometimes it’s just easier and a time saver if you just walk me through it one more time.
6. Some people will never master the art of putting toilet paper on the roller.
In defense of all women, statistically, we will always use more toilet paper than men. I might underestimate the amount left but you know it makes you feel useful to keep restocking the supply. So, you’re welcome babe. I never want you to feel unappreciated or unneeded.
7. Female to male ratio for bathroom magazines: 70 to 1.
I’m a reader! Nuff said.
8. Blankets are required no matter the house or outside temperature.
For years I’ve been saying that my need to blanket, or butt tuck as Jason calls it, comes from mom swaddling too tightly but who knows if that’s true or not. I just love the security of a blanket, and I have thin skin (undiagnosed of course) so I need the extra warmth. Neither Jason nor I are snugglers so my blankets are merely practical.
9. Pajamas are an outfit.
In recent years I have become a fan of matching pjs. If that’s my biggest vice, then we’re good!
10. You can marry your best friend.
STOP! Now I’m going to cry. Combined with the passing of Uncle Marion, the last day of school, AND my uncontrollable love for my husband, it’s almost too much! But it’s so true! I truly feel that is the secret to our wedded bliss. We not only love each other but respect each other. He makes me better and I have a feeling that I make him better too.
With just one week left in the school year, I am preparing my heart for, you know, all the things. This last graduation will be emotional times ten. I truly feel like a senior getting ready to graduate. I’m anxious! I’m excited! I’m scared! So do me a favor, friend. Check back in on me next week for this teacher’s final lesson.
Blind dates seem to be a thing in my family. My mom and dad met on a blind date in October 1978. He was a local boy, firefighter/ EMT; she was a nurse moved north after graduating from Georgia Baptist. My aunt and uncle met on a blind date on May 8th, 1976. I know this date with a certainty because 8 years later, I was born. My South Georgia grandfather began courting my California-by-way-of-West-Virginia grandmother from a blind date. Even my brother met his wife Emily on a blind date, set up by her own brother. But in 2001 when I was asked to go on a triple blind date with a college freshman from Banks County, I didn’t think this chance encounter would lead to anything significant.
You see in high school, I wasn’t very datable. I wasn’t the prettiest, the smartest, the most talented, or the most athletic. I was ridiculously average at best. True, I had a really awesome core group of friends but for the most part, we were all average, often overlooked.
In 8th grade, I thought I had blossomed. I had cool friends. We did cool things such as Skate Country every Friday night (I still never learned to backwards skate) but that didn’t last long. I was not good at keeping friends. Easily influenced, tricked, and used as a scapegoat, I quickly realized that being one of the cool kids was just not in the cards for me. I had my first true crush in 8th grade. He gave me his band pin! (Apparently, pins were still a thing). He was smart, good looking, and athletic. His friends quickly helped him see the error of his ways and we took the summer before high school to “meet new people.” He is now a professional CrossFitter with a beautiful wife and family and works for the Harvard Business School . . . No joke! (I’m not a stalker, we’re Facebook friends!) But clearly, we took different paths!
By my junior year, I caught another fella’s eyes. He was Bad News Bears all the way around; attentive but arrogant, hardworking but lacked ambition and direction, charming but deceptive. By the end of my junior year that relationship ended just as traumatic as it started. Praise be! That young man was clearly not husband material (let’s just leave it at that).
So by the time I was a senior in high school I was already pretty jaded regarding relationships. I’ve always been surrounded by amazing marital role models. No matter how upset my parents could get at us or each other, they were always unified. My dad could make my mom crack a smile even in the midst of the most serious scolding (him or me). But like any dramatic high school senior, I thought that love was just an illusion, something that someone so very average like me would have to settle for.
But in walked Jason White. Well, not literally. His friend Robert did though, through the doors at Sears. I was working my first job. There I made a great new friend, Morgan. She was a senior at the city high school and was someone to be envied. She could talk so easily to customers and even easier to boys. She was beautiful and bubbly and clearly not average. She caught Robert’s eye and somewhere down the road a triple blind date was formed; two girls from Gainesville, one from Oakwood, with three boys from Banks County.
We agreed to meet in the parking lot of the Gainesville mall. Not sure what time but the sun was still high in the sky when a new custom Pontiac Firebird with the T-tops out pulled up. It was blaring Nelly’s 2000 album, Country Grammar and I thought to myself, these guys can’t possibly be sons of farmers. Well, I was a third right. Only knowing what Robert looked like, I saw the other two guys hunkered down real cool and thought, no thanks (sorry, friends!). I resigned myself to just having a good time with my girlfriends because love was already off the table. We followed the typical Friday-night-in-Gainesville-early-2000’s-protocol and ate at Applebee’s before heading back to the Gainesville Mall theater. We saw Joy Ride. One hour and thirty-seven minutes of newcomer Paul Walker and 2000’s star LeeLee Sobieski, running for their lives from a psychotic Mack truck driver. Not my cup of tea but I sat there with my friends, enjoying my Coke icee just the same. And that was it. The triple blind date came to an end with the only real romantic spark between the already talking couple; Mogan and Robert.
I didn’t think twice about the other two guys and I’m assumed they didn’t think twice about me. But several weeks later I received a phone call from an unknown number on my cell. “Hello,” I answered. “Hey, this is Jason,” a young man on the other line responded. “Jason, my cousin Jason?” I asked puzzled. “No. Jason that you went on a date with a few weeks back” he responded. “Jason, Jason,” I thought to myself probably for longer than I was supposed to. Before I could respond he continued, “I guess you go on a lot a dates with a lot of Jasons. (Right there his sarcasm got me). He continued, “But I wanted to take you out on another if you would let me.” After explaining that he was given my number from Morgan when they bumped into each other on her date night with Robert, Jason was given the go ahead that I was expecting his call. Yeah, Morgan forgot that little detail of telling me that. Oh well, the following weekend we were all back out to our dinner and a movie routine which we carried on for months. Usually at least two or three couples were in the mix but we kept the routine steady for Friday nights. Jason and I didn’t date just the two of us. After all, he hadn’t met my dad, it was hunting season of course so his weekends were booked. But we talked and texted and became great friends.
Well as the story goes, he quickly won my heart with his honesty, loyalty, and ridiculously witty humor. To this day, no one makes my family laugh more than Jason, including my 85-year-old grandfather in South Georgia. Whenever we go home for a visit, I am guaranteed at least two times when Jason makes Papa laugh to tears. He’s just magnetic that way.
Which brings me to today. Today I am proud to celebrate ten years of marriage. We met on October 12th, 2001 and were married six years and six months to that date; May 12th, 2007. Jason makes me feel anything but average. Anything but overlooked. He sees me; blatant faults and all, and loves me still. Nothing is more exposing than marriage. I mean, when you pee with the door open, all secrets are out!
The Big Bang Theory, Series 03 Episode 23 – The Lunar Excitation