The Story of Us

June 21, 2015

I watched as my Dad finished writing out the last of the checks for the wedding of my dreams. It was almost midnight on the night before my wedding and I was sitting at the dining room table with my parents. We were talking, laughing and reminiscing about the events of the day. We had the rehearsal earlier that evening and everything had gone according to plan including the wonderful rehearsal dinner with all of the wedding party plus the multitude of family that had flown in for the event. I was born in Maryland, grew up in California and now lived in Indiana so many of our family and friends had to travel a very long distance to join us for the celebration.

Yes, everything was going along as I had planned it and that was just the way I liked my life to go. I am a strong “J” on the Myers-Briggs personality test which means I am a planner. I love lists and I thrive on organization and planning in advance. Planning my wedding had been a huge undertaking, but I loved every minute of it. I had checklists from every bride magazine I could get my hands on. I would revise and edit and re-do the lists as the wedding got closer. I probably went a little overboard on the lists, but I just wanted to make sure that I didn’t forget anything important and didn’t want to leave anything up to chance.

While we were sitting there at the dining room table my mom and I started writing out our “to do” list for the next morning. Make up, hair, flowers for the sanctuary, centerpieces for the reception, bags to pack for the honeymoon, etc. There was so much to accomplish that I contemplated not even going to bed. However, I am not a very happy girl when I am sleep deprived and I didn’t think my fiancé, Dwight, would appreciate a scowling bride walking down the aisle towards him. The advice my dad gave to Dwight before we got married was “If she’s grouchy she either needs food or sleep … or both”. My dad knew from years of living with me that this advice would come in handy to Dwight. So whenever I am grouchy Dwight just hands me a cookie or suggests that maybe I need to take a little nap. Because Dwight, like most husbands, had realized there is a lot of truth in the saying “happy wife happy life”.

My father was a minister so he was not only giving me away but was also performing part of the ceremony. He was co-officiating with Stan Banker, the pastor of the church where I had met Dwight. We were both in the youth group there and had started dating when I got the nerve up to ask Dwight to the winter formal at our school. It was a Sadie Hawkins dance where the girls were supposed to ask the boys. Being shy and new to the school I was nervous to ask Dwight because I feared rejection and wanted to make sure he would say “yes”. So, I had a mutual friend of ours, Matt McGraw, do some investigative work to see if Dwight was interested. Matt reported back to me that Dwight would say “yes” if I asked him – all I had to do was ask. I was still a bit apprehensive about asking him so I decided to take the easy way out and write a note. Dwight sat behind me in Mrs. Wood’s history class so I wrote a note that said “Will you go to Winter Dance with me?” Below that I put a check box for “yes” and a check box for “no”. I carefully folded the note up, made sure the teacher wasn’t watching and tossed it over my shoulder so that it would land on Dwight’s desk. After what seemed like hours, but in actuality was only a few minutes, Dwight tossed the note back to me. I slowly unfolded the note to see that he had not checked the “yes” box or the “no” box but that he had made a new box that said “Yes, definitely, of course, I’d love to”. I smiled and felt my heart skip a beat.

The years since that day had flown by. Dwight and I finished High School and went onto college. Dwight was my high school sweetheart and although we had broken up a few times over the years I always knew we would end up together and I couldn’t imagine spending my life with anyone else.  We talked about our hopes and dreams for the future: graduating from college, finding wonderful jobs, getting married and having kids. We even picked out names for our future children and talked about what we imagined they’d look like and who’s personality they’d inherit. We knew they would be adorable, funny and very smart – perfect in every way. Of course, we had no idea that our hopes and dreams for our family and our idea of “perfect” might not be what God had in mind. In the years to come we would learn more about what it means to truly trust in God and have Faith even when things may seem hopeless.

I vividly remember the night Dwight proposed to me. He had taken me to Olive Garden for dinner and then we had gone for a walk on the boardwalk near our college campus. There on the boardwalk, underneath a starry sky, Dwight asked me to marry him and to become Mrs. Dwight Elliott. After I said “yes” he told me that he had gone to my parents earlier in the day to ask their permission to marry me. I didn’t know which amazed me more – the fact that he had thought to ask my parents’ permission or the fact that my mom had been able to keep it a secret. My mom has trouble keeping secrets … she gets so excited that it’s just hard for her not to share. I have realized that I may have inherited that trait from my mom because I also find it extremely hard to keep a secret and the more exciting the secret the harder it is to keep! I think Dwight knew that it might be hard for my mom not to share this news with me so that is why he waited to ask my mom and dad for their permission until just a few hours before he planned on proposing.

IMG_7502As my Dad closed his checkbook and my mom and I finished up our list I remember thinking that this wedding had been much more expensive and time consuming than I ever imagined. The last 9 months had been a blur of bridesmaid dresses, flowers, photographers, and reception details.   Even though I was having what I considered to be a “modest wedding” it still ended costing more than I ever imagined. I was shocked at how fast everything added up. “Wow”, I remember thinking, “no wonder some people just elope. Think of all the time and money that could be saved!” However, I had been like most little girls and had dreamed of my wedding day for as long as I could remember and I would never have been happy to just run off and get married at the courthouse or even on some romantic island. I wanted a wedding in a church with bridesmaids and all my family and friends in attendance.

The next morning I awoke with excitement and anticipation. I was just sure everything would go perfectly and the wedding would be one that everyone would talk about for years to come. The wedding was not until 2:00 pm, but the morning flew by and before I knew it I found myself standing beside my Dad at the back of the church listening for my cue to walk down the aisle to marry my best friend. Everything went perfectly during the ceremony and we were introduced as “Mr. and Mrs. Dwight Elliott”. We walked out of the church as husband and wife to the music of Harry Connick, Jr. singing “It Had to Be You”.   There was a limo waiting for us outside the church to take us to the reception.   I had never been happier in my life and the future was full of possibility. I could hardly wait to begin this new chapter in my life and looked forward to the life Dwight and I had planned together.

That was 22 years ago and we have been through a lot since then. As Dwight and I celebrated our anniversary last week I looked back over all that we have been through together. Things have not always been easy and life has not gone as perfectly as the wedding ceremony. (I guess I learned it was a lot easier to plan a wedding than to plan our lives!) However, I know there is no one else I would rather have by my side, in the good times and the bad, through the happy times and the sad. Happy Father’s Day to my sweetheart and best friend! Thanks for being such an awesome Dad to our four children and a wonderful husband!

IMG_5766

Airport Adventure

February 22, 2014

I was tucking Ethan and Caleb in for bed the other night and as I kissed Caleb goodnight I asked, “What time is it?”

“Bedtime.”  Caleb replied as he snuggled down in the covers.

However, Ethan jumped up and shouted his answer at the same time, “It’s adventure time!!”

“No. No, it’s not adventure time.” I said to Ethan, “Caleb is correct, it’s bedtime.”

As I left the room I smiled as I thought back to my childhood and the fun adventures I had playing with my sister, Leslie. When we were little we enjoyed playing Barbie’s, making cookies, and playing games. In high school we spent many hours laying out by the pool, working on scrapbooks and doing each other’s hair and make-up.  I loved having a little sister and miss those times as we have both grown up, gotten married and had children of our own.  We live several hours from one another and it’s hard to find time to get together. On the rare occasion that we do see each other it’s usually at family holiday gatherings where there is so much chaos with all the kids that it can be hard to carry on a conversation.

IMG_6804Last weekend Leslie and I traveled back to our hometown of Bakersfield, CA for our grandfather’s 95th birthday party.  It was a great celebration and I loved seeing our grandparents, aunts, uncles and cousins. However, my favorite part of the trip was spending quality time with my sister talking, laughing, and reconnecting.  When it was time to fly home I was excited to see my husband and kids but a little disappointed that I didn’t have more time to spend with Leslie.  The weekend had gone so fast and I really didn’t want it to end.

IMG_6880

We got up at 4:00 am Monday morning and my dad took us to the Bakersfield airport to start our trip home. The plane they put us on was “quaint and charming”, as our stewardess called it. I called it “teeny tiny” and I was amazed at how bumpy and loud the flight was.  We flew from Bakersfield to San Francisco to catch our connecting flight to Chicago and then home to Indianapolis.

However, when we got to the gate we were told the flight out of San Francisco was delayed. Apparently the Captain’s chair needed to be replaced. At least that is the reason they gave us over the loud speaker. First it was delayed 15 min, then 25 minutes, then 55 minutes. At this point we knew we would not make our connecting flight in Chicago since we only had an hour layover.

IMG_6884We decided to make the best of it and do what we always do when we are stressed – eat!  Even though it was only 9:00 am we had been up for hours and hours so we decided to go for a burrito with chips and salsa.

As we were enjoying our burritos and discussing what to do about missing our connecting flight, we looked up and saw the pilot and co-pilot walk off the plane with their rolling suitcases trailing behind them.

“That’s not a good sign.” I said to Leslie. “I guess we may have an interesting day ahead of us!”

The agent at the terminal desk came on the loud speaker again to let us know that the flight had been indefinitely delayed. She advised that if we had connecting flights it would be very unlikely that we would make them so they would suggest that we go to the customer service desk to re-book and find an alternate flight to our final destination.

I am not one of those go-with-the-flow type of people. I am a planner and I can get stressed when plans change unexpectedly. However, I found myself laughing uncontrollably as Leslie and I finished off our burritos and speculated on what went wrong with the replacing of the Captain’s chair.  A few minutes later we headed towards the customer service desk to see if they could help us get back home.

As we approached the desk we saw the line was very long and the faces in the line were not very happy. Leslie and I got in line and again found ourselves talking and laughing while we waited for over an hour in the line. The other customers in line were griping, complaining and getting angry and rude with the airline employees. Leslie and I decided we’d get a lot further by being nice since we both know what it’s like to be on the other side of that counter.  Not that we have worked at an airline as ticketing agents, but we have both worked in customer service and public service jobs and know how exhausting it can be to deal with upset and angry customers all day long.

While we were waiting in line my husband, being the awesome guy that he is, had researched and found a direct flight home that was leaving at 1:30 pm.  We needed to try and get on that flight since the next available flight out would not leave until 10:30 pm and had several connections on it’s way back to Indy so we would not arrive home until 10:30 am the next morning.  As we wound around in the line closer and closer to the ticket counter a stewardess came along offering all of those in line cookies, juice and soft drinks.  It was a nice gesture on the airlines part and it did seem to help bring a few more smiles to those waiting in line with us. As Leslie and I finished our Diet Cokes and cookies we finally made it to the front of the line.

We walked up to the ticket counter together and politely explained to the gentleman behind the counter that we both needed to get back to Indianapolis for work the next morning.  Leslie told him that we had looked online and saw there was a flight leaving at 1:30 pm and how perfect it would be if they had 2 seats available for us on that flight. She also threw in that she thought the stewardess should be serving steaks to the ticket agents since they were the ones working so hard – that seemed to bring a smile to his face.

The ticket agent typed some information into his computer and said, “It looks like we have 2 seats together on that flight in the economy plus seating so I will upgrade you to that level at no extra charge.  Do you have any bags you need switched over to that flight with you?”

Leslie and I had both checked suitcases and so we handed him our claim tickets and with a few clicks of the mouse he had re-routed our bags to accompany us on the flight home.  “Wow, that seemed to go really smoothly!” I thought to myself. I just hoped the rest of the trip home would be that easy!

We called our husbands and texted our mom and dad and let everyone know of our new flight information.  We still had a couple hours until our flight so we went and got some ice cream for $4.00 a scoop and sat down to enjoy it.  Although our trip hadn’t gone as planned we both said how thankful we were that it was just us, and not us plus all our children, stranded at the airport.  Not only would it have been a lot more stressful, but it would have also been a lot more expensive. With the high cost of food at the airport it would have probably costs us $100 for lunch!

IMG_6883The rest of the trip home was pretty uneventful. We enjoyed the extra leg room in the economy plus seating and passed the time watching Baby Momma on my iPad, talking, and reading books and magazines. Before we knew it we were landing in Indianapolis. The captain came on for his landing announcement and told us the current temperature was 9 degrees in Indianapolis and we shivered just thinking about the shock our bodies were about to experience! As we walked down the tunnel from plane to the gate we felt the frigid air against our faces and actually saw ice that had formed on the floor inside the tunnel. Welcome home to the frozen tundra of Indiana!

We were impressed that our suitcases were actually waiting for us on the baggage carousel. We grabbed our suitcases and braved the cold as we left the airport and headed for the car.

IMG_6793What an adventure we had been on!  It was an adventure that we could never have planned, but one that we will never forget. It’s funny how an unexpected change in plans can provide us with some of the most memorable moments in our lives. So next time your plans change or you have unexpected delays try to stop and enjoy the moment and remember that we all need a little adventure every once in a while.