The 4-Foot Photographer

I have always been one of those people who love to take pictures. I think it began as a safe way to ensure I was never in front of a camera, but over the years I have learned to love photography and my camera has become my faithful friend, never far from my side. It has also become a means of income as my hobby has slowly turned into a paying gig, so I am rather protective of my camera. That being said, when 4-year-old asks to use it to take a picture, the answer is obviously “no”.

But 4-year-olds are persistent little boogers. So persistent, that you blink and they suddenly become 6-almost-7-year-olds asking to use your camera. So a couple of weeks ago when Dex asked, yet again, to take a picture, I had a moment of weakness and handed him the camera.

I was expecting him to hold it in the wrong spot, bump the lens on something, or even have trouble getting it to take a picture at all. I knew it was coming, so I was right next to him, ready to jump in and take the camera back before he destroyed it.

But that time never came. He put the strap around his neck, got down on one knee and started shooting.

“Do you need help?”

“Nope, Mama, I got it.”

“Do you know how to zoom in?”

“I just turn this part right here, right?”

“Yep. That’s the one. Do you need help with the button?”

“NO, Mom, I think I can take a picture!”

And that was it. There was no stopping him after that.

From landscape to portrait, from wide angles to zoom, he was snapping photo after photo as though he had been using that camera his whole life.

“We may have finally found his ‘thing’,” I thought to myself. He’s obviously interested in it, he’s been asking to do it for almost 3 years. Most of the time he gives up after I tell him ‘no’ one too many times. But he stuck with it, and guess what? It didn’t kill me or my camera to let him use it.

Too often, I think we tell our kids ‘no’ because we assume they are too young to try something, and, let’s be honest, it’s just easier that way. But how many things are they missing out on because we’re unwilling to let them try? Tiger Woods was 2 years old when his father first put a set of clubs in his hands, and by the age of 11 he beat his dad in a round of golf for the first time. What if he had assumed a 2-year-old was too young to play golf and that he’d just end up damaging the clubs? I know if I put myself in his shoes, I probably wouldn’t have even thought to let my kid step on a golf course until he was 11, forget having 9 years of experience under his belt by that time.

My point is this. While our kids are young, they may not know exactly what it is they’re going to love doing. They might not have any idea what sort of hobbies they’ll stick with, or what dreams they’ll follow into adulthood. But it’s our job, as their parents, as role models, as teachers and friends, to allow them to explore everything, within reason, that they show an interest in. Yes, there may be a broken camera or a couple of bent up golf clubs along the way, but if it opens the door to the very thing they excel in, it’s worth every replacement part, every repair bill, every single dime. When they discover what they’re good at and it becomes what they love, they’ll be equipped to change the world.

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Super Summer Shenanyagans

I know the date on my last post might make it look as though there have been no shenanyagans going on around here the last few days, but, on the contrary, there have been so many shenanyagans the last three days, there just hasn’t been enough time to write about them. (Or take pictures of them, apparently, so enjoy my cell phone photos.)

School starts tomorrow. I’m not sure where the summer went, really, but it’s gone. We didn’t take a fancy vacation, we didn’t read like we should or practice our math facts, we didn’t go to Chuck E. Cheese or the zoo, we pretty much didn’t accomplish anything we set out to do when this summer break started. So this weekend, being our last official weekend of freedom, had to count for something. And count for something it did!

The festivities started Friday night, quite unintentionally, as we got wrapped up in watching Batman until 1 o’clock in the morning. Saturday morning, in turn, came much more quickly than usual, but we hit the ground running. The Canadian made a 7am run to the fabulous Missy’s Bakery for the greatest donuts in the world, which were quickly devoured by two half-asleep boys. By 11:00 we were on the road to cram as much awesomeness into one day as we could.

We hit up Curly’s for lunch, where we found the longest curly fry ever in the history of curly fries! (Just go with it, it’s easier that way.) Once we had full bellies we headed for the movie theater to watch The Smurfs. And let me just say, as a lifelong fan of the little blue guys, I was pleasantly surprised by how much I loved the movie.

But I digress. On with the adventures.

After the movie, we headed for Orange Leaf. The boys had never been before, and they were pretty sure they had walked into some sort of frozen yogurt heaven. They immediately informed me that we would be returning. Often. We waddled out of Orange Leaf and headed for Wal-Mart to pick out movie snacks for home. Turns out, picking out snacks when your belly is full doesn’t work so well. We had to make a run to the gas station for more later when things actually sounded good again. Then we headed home and watched Rio right in our living room. Even poor buster fell victim to the party and ended up wearing a coffee filter for a hat. Once the movie was over, it wasn’t long before we were all ready to crash.

Sunday morning always involves church at the crack of dawn. We are those “8:30 service” people, but only because that means we’re napping by 11:30. Church is usually followed by breakfast at Braum’s, grocery shopping, and then a well-earned snow cone. (Grocery shopping is hard work when you’re only 6 and 8.) But this week, the boys skipped the grocery shopping and headed to the OSU Botanical Garden with their Poppa and wore themselves right out. All of this was followed by a magnificent 4-hour nap and a relaxing evening of television and games.

Whew! You’d think we would be drained after that. You’d be right. But we only had two more days of freedom, there’s no time for rest at that point!

We headed off to see the fabulous Julie for one last big adventure.

There are no words for how much those kiddos love her, so they’ll follow her anywhere. They spent the whole afternoon riding a zip line, causing trouble, exploring through canyons and making me feel old and fat while I tried to keep up. They spent the first half of the car ride home giving me 500 reasons why it was the “most awesome day of the whole summer” and the second half sleeping it off.

It didn’t take much to talk them into going to bed last night, and they slept hard until almost lunch time today. I’m guessing bed time won’t be met with as much excitement tonight, and tomorrow morning…well…that will be a different beast. But for now, we have squeezed out every drop of fun this summer break had to offer, so bring on the school year!

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The Toad Who Misses Everything

After what seemed like eleventy billion days of 100+ degree temperatures, yesterday began with a few glorious summertime thunderstorms, and ended up a gorgeous, cool and breezy day. We spent almost our entire day in the back yard sitting on the porch, playing some baseball, fishing bugs out of the pool, you name it. We weren’t about to be cooped up in the house all day when there were so many other things we could be doing.

The rain brought some critters out of hiding, and it wasn’t long before we noticed we had some company on the back porch.

He looked like the happiest little toad, sitting there taking a break in some fresh rainwater. We of course had to stop long enough to take some pictures of him. (It’s the only thing that keeps Dex from picking them up and trying to keep them forever.) But then I told the boys to leave him alone so he could venture out and continue on about his froggy business. We played for another hour or so and went inside to have some lunch.

When we came out an hour later, there he sat, right in the same place. Three hours after that, when The Canadian got home from work, he still hadn’t moved. He wasn’t taking a break at all. He had found a safe place, a comfort zone if you will, in the broken bumper of a toy car, and he didn’t seem to have any immediate plans to leave it.

I can’t say I blamed him, it did look pretty cozy and secure. But what he couldn’t see is that literally two feet away from him were the biggest, fattest, juiciest grasshoppers I had ever seen, a steady stream of other random bugs crawling across the concrete, and an old kiddie pool with three times as much of that fresh rainwater he seemed to love so much. Yet he was missing it all, because he refused to leave his safe place.

He and I have a lot in common. I’ve missed out on a lot of things in life by being unwilling to leave my comfort zone. And now, I have no right to complain about what I don’t have or what I haven’t accomplished because I made the choice to fall victim to my fears instead of pursuing the things I really wanted.

Mr. Toad finally left his bumper late in the evening when the chaos of a rowdy game of tag scared him away. It wasn’t because he was finally brave enough to venture out, it was only because his comfort zone wasn’t so comfortable anymore. The sad thing is, when you have to make a running escape, there’s no time to enjoy what’s been around you all that time. I don’t want that to be me. So every day, I’m making very deliberate moves toward stepping outside of my box, voluntarily, before I’m forced out in a dead run, missing out on everything around me in a desperate search for the next safe place.

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Kid vs. Tree

As we’re nearing the end of summer break, and 3 months at home with my children, I have become painfully aware of how often they completely ignore what The Canadian and I tell them. Oh we’ve had all the talks, the “We tell you no because we know what’s best for you” chat,  followed by the “We’re saying this because we love you” lecture, along with the frequent time-outs, the removing of toys and privileges, and anything else we can think of. But lately, and I hope I’m not outing myself as a horrible parent here, it seems like they never listen. And not only do they not listen, they have gotten old enough that none of our usual punishments seem to be enough to deter them from disobeying over and over again.

Sometimes, you just reach that point of desperation where you’ve tried everything, sat them in a corner, turned off the television, taken away every toy they own, and still just want to throw your hands in the air and give up.

And that, my friends, is where I was today, when a power bigger than I stepped in to run interference and save my sanity.

I posted earlier this week about the storms we’ve had, and while we didn’t get a lot of damage, there was a lone tree in a neighboring lot that couldn’t stand up to the winds. The boys spotted it lying on the ground shortly after the rain had passed and they’ve been dying to go see it ever since. We told them to get ready for church this evening, and that The Canadian would take them over to investigate before he went to drop them off.

“Don’t go over there without your dad. There could be snakes or you could get hurt.”

Famous last words.

You see, Roenick is just like his father, and his grandpa, and…well…pretty much every man on the face of the planet, in that his way is the best way, or at the very least, better than your way. There seems to be some confusion as to whether or not his brother told him they had permission, but either way they ended up at that fallen tree, all by themselves.

Literally three minutes later, Roenick burst through the front door…

…looking like he had been in a fight with a bear. But there was no bear, not even an angry raccoon, he had just climbed on the tree and promptly fallen off.

(The best part of this whole situation? Roenick yelling as I took his picture, “This better not end up on Facebook!! Oh mom, I know you’re gonna put this on Facebook!” At which point I assured him, “No it won’t. It’s going on my blog.”)

It was one of those moments where I didn’t even have to tell him he was in trouble, he knew it as soon as his face met the tree on the way down. So I walked him to the bathroom, cleaned him up, made sure he was okay and, like any good mother, I laughed at him.

Okay, so he may have gotten pretty mad at me for laughing, but it was worth it. He had finally learned his lesson. Mom and Dad really do tell us things for a reason, and when they say it’s because they love us, they might actually mean it. You can tell them those things until you’re blue in the face, but nothing really drives that point home quite like being attacked by a tree.

Kid vs. tree? Tree wins. Every.time.

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Whatever You Do

This post will be a repeat for some of you, as it was originally written when I was contributing to Testify. But I was reminded of it today while I tried to work on two different jobs, keep the kiddos fed and occupied, and try to come up with a blog post. My work wasn’t finished until 8pm, the kids were thoroughly bored most of the day, and the blog post never happened. I *know* that I need to take a few irons out of the fire, but every time I do, I just end up putting new ones in. I needed a refresher on this one, and I bet I’m not the only one. 

________________________

If you could read my mind right now, it would look something like this:

“I really need to get some work done. Oh but I have a blog post to write. Hey, it’s time for my favorite show! Okay I’ll watch that and then I’ll work. No, I should probably write that blog post first.  What? There are new Angry Birds levels in the App Store? I’ll just download it, but I won’t play until I’ve written that blog post. Oh wow, that first level was easy! Maybe I’ll just play one more, and then I need to write that blog post. If I don’t get that blog post written I’m never going to have time to get my work done tonight. Oh crikey, 30 levels completed? I could probably just finish these levels and still have time to write that post. Oh that other show I wanted to see is on! What time will it be over? Will that be too late to get everything finished before bed? Okay I’m putting the Angry Birds down and I REALLY have to start writing!”

And guess what? Three hours have gone by and I have nothing to show for it.  I only devoted half my attention to those shows I wanted to see so badly, I flew through those Angry Birds levels and didn’t even take time to enjoy them, I haven’t touched my work, and I’m just NOW starting this blog post! I haven’t really finished a thing, and what I HAVE managed to do wasn’t done with any level of quality.

While playing Angry Birds or watching television aren’t exactly of great importance, I have realized that this is pretty representative of my thought processes lately. Whether I’m playing with my kids, organizing an event, or proofreading a transcript, I’ve got so many other irons in the fire that I’m not giving 100% of my effort to any of them. The worst part is, my prayer life, my Bible study, my time spent serving, you name it, are all suffering from my lack of attention as well. So not only am I taking on too much at once, I’m trying to do it all on my own rather than putting God at the top of my list and letting Him help me through the rest.

Colossians 3:23 says, “Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for men,”

Go ahead and read that again. “Whatever” is a pretty powerful word, isn’t it? “Whatever” tells me that no matter what I’m doing, now matter how important or even insignificant it may seem, I am called to do it with all my heart, not half of it. The second half of the verse tells me if I’m working at it for the Lord, I could probably significantly shorten my to-do list, because a lot of those irons I have in the fire are for me and not for Him, and certainly not because I’ve sought His will before I jumped in and started yet another new thing.

My prayer this week is that the Lord will show me where I need to be focusing my efforts, and that once I see that, I will have the courage to say “no” when necessary, and the willpower to put the more selfish desires on the backburner while I take care of what’s important.

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It’s So Good To Be Wrong

If you live in Oklahoma, or you’ve watched the news at all, you know that we are in the midst of one heck of a drought. Add to our lack of rain some miserable, record-setting high temperatures, and you’ve got one nasty summer. There have been several times this season when a little round of thunderstorms would pop up and we’d get our hopes up for some rain, but I am not exaggerating when I say every.single.time they came our way, the storm would either split right in half and go around us, or it would dissipate just before it got here. It happened again as recently as Saturday, and I have to tell you, it’s getting really really old.

So last night, when I got a severe weather alert on my phone, you can imagine how excited I was to see this when I checked the radar:

There we were, right in the path of a line of storms longer than our entire county. There was no way it could miss us this time! I may have even smarted off on twitter, something along the lines of, “If this one misses us, you know God is punishing this town.” A joke, of course, because I was confident we were about to get some serious rain.

And then, wouldn’t you know it, as soon as that storm hit the county line it split right in half and we didn’t get a drop of rain. AGAIN. I couldn’t believe it! We were so disappointed. That is, until the reports of storm damage started popping up all over twitter and facebook. That very storm I had prayed wouldn’t miss us had taken the roof off of several homes, blown silos across pastures, taken down massive power poles, and completely destroyed a Sonic Drive-In in a neighboring town. So what if it came with rain? When the roof of your house is gone, rain just adds insult to injury as it soaks everything inside.

“Okay, God,” I thought, “You were right, I was wrong. We didn’t want that storm. Thanks for not giving me what I asked for!” Huh. Me, wrong. Who knew?

No sooner than I had uttered those words under my breath, (I didn’t need The Canadian knowing I was wrong, I have a reputation to keep!), there was a flash of lightning and the sound of rolling thunder. I checked the radar again, and there, right behind that raging storm, formed a new thunderstorm, heading right in our direction. And then it finally happened. The heavens opened up and it began to pour!

(Rain is very hard to capture with a cell phone camera, in case you were wondering.)

It rained, and it rained, and it rained some more. Gorgeous, soaking rain with very little wind to speak of. Nothing compared to what the first storm had caused elsewhere. It was just what we needed, without the damage we didn’t want. Yes, we were without power for a few hours, but I don’t think any of us cared as long as we could still smell the rain.

When the storm had passed, we stepped outside to enjoy the cooler air and were greeted with the ultimate reminder that His ways are best and He’s still taking care of us, just like He promised.

So the next time you pray for something, and it seems like the only answer you get is “no”, just wait a bit. There may be something better on the horizon, and even when it’s not exactly what you want, it will always be exactly what you need.

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Doing Nothing Counts For Something

As soon as the school year ended in May, we went into work mode. We always have visitors from Canada during the summer, and it usually takes a few weeks to recover the house from school time chaos and bring it back into a presentable state for guests. So for the first month of summer break, we worked. Even when we stopped to take a break, we were feeling guilty for not working. That’s an exhausting state of mind. You sit down, you think about what you should be doing. You sleep, (or not), and think about what you should work on the next day. It’s never ending and absolutely draining.

Then the guests arrive. And, even though it’s family, you never feel like you can really relax. You feel the need to entertain, to make the kids behave better than usual and to actually, you know, plan dinners rather than play short-order cook when everyone gets hungry at 6-ish.

But a funny thing happens when the guests are gone. We all stop and breathe for the first time since, oh, last August, and we do absolutely nothing. It takes about a week for us to stop feeling like we need to be up working constantly, so we may accomplish a few things during that time, but the next week all bets are off. We aren’t doing anything.

I realized this today when I was sitting here, staring at my screen, trying to think of something to write. I thought back over the last two weeks, just sure we had done something worth telling you about, and came up with zilch. I started to feel guilty. “Two weeks, totally wasted,” I thought.

But then it hit me. The living room wasn’t spotless, the dishes weren’t done and there were toys strewn all over the back yard. We hadn’t done anything about any of it. But what we did do was play board games together, spend an hour in the pool every evening, make our own snow cones and watch movies on the couch in our pjs while we ate popcorn and ice cream. And we did all of it totally guilt-free. The two weeks we’ve spent doing “nothing” have been the most relaxing, most fulfilling time we’ve spent together as a family all summer.

We are trained from day one that we need to be busy. Constantly on the move, always working, dragging our kids from one activity to another, keeping a spotless house and having perfectly scheduled lives. When you can pull that off and continue to maintain the outward appearance of having it all together, then society deems you successful. But while we’re working toward succeeding at all of that, we are failing, miserably, at just being together and spending quality time with one another.

Most of your to-do list that’s nagging at you right now can wait until later, or tomorrow, or even next week. Take some time to just hang out with your family or your friends. Really stop to breathe, take it all in and actually enjoy doing nothing for a moment. Because when you do that, even “nothing” counts for “something”.

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Defeating the Distance

If you’ve been reading here for a while, you’ve heard a lot about my mom. Now I want to introduce you to the other most important woman in my life: my sister, Marsha.

To you, this may look like your typical cell phone picture, snapped while we were at a restaurant. To me, this is one of my favorite pictures in the world. Why? Because I don’t have many pictures of my mom and my sister together. Partially because my mom is just as skilled at hiding from a camera as I am, but mostly because my sister has lived halfway across the country for the majority of my life.

I have a few memories of her before she got married and moved away. Mostly things like me being the typical little sister and trying to play with the things in her room. Specifically a fuzzy pencil and a puzzle that looked like a can of sardines. Why those two things captured my attention, I have no idea. I pestered her, we argued like siblings do, and I looked up to her because she was my big sister. Then, when I was 5 years old, she got married, my parents packed her things into a U-Haul trailer, (My tv included, right in the middle of a Scooby Doo episode that I didn’t get to finish until I was 25. Not that I’m bitter or anything), and off she went, with her husband and her daughter, to the most God forsaken part of Idaho you can imagine.

My brother-in-law was in the Air Force, so after Idaho (and the birth of my second niece) they went to Alaska, and after Alaska came California. The chances of any of us having a close relationship were pretty slim.

But against the odds, we are as close as two sisters could ever be and my nieces know us just as well as if they had grown up across the street. We are a tightly-knit family and my mom deserves all the credit for that.

You see, the key to making sure we all stayed connected was the effort she put into it. For years my mom sent them care packages every month. It wasn’t always something big, sometimes it was photo albums with pictures of our town, pictures of our family, and anything else that would give those little girls a glimpse into our lives here in Oklahoma. We talked on the phone several times a week. Every summer that we could afford it, we made a trip to visit them, wherever they lived at the time, and, when I was old enough, I’d spend a few weeks of my summer breaks with them all by myself. Thanks to all of those things, we grew incredibly close, we made great memories together and the distance between us didn’t keep us from being a part of each others’ lives.

It wasn’t easy by any stretch of the imagination. It took work, it took time and effort, but it was worth it all to build the relationships we have today.

The thing is, this applies to every relationship we have in life, be it with friends or family. Relationships take effort and commitment. You get out of them what you put into them. They have to be a priority if they are going to grow into something meaningful and continue to thrive. And the distance isn’t what matters, it’s just as easy to grow distant from a friend who lives next door as it is from one who lives on the other side of the world. No, what matters is what you are willing to pour into it. If you don’t have those meaningful relationships because you haven’t put forth any effort, you have no one to blame but yourself.

Your closest friend lives an hour away and you haven’t talked in months? Your fault. Your best friend from college moved to another state and you’ve lost touch? Your fault. Your grandkids live thousands of miles away and barely know you? Your fault. Your brother got married and moved to a different country and you hardly even know his family? Your fault.

Sure, you can sit back and blame the other person for not reaching out, it works both ways, afterall. Or you can do something about it yourself. Pick up the phone, send an email, write a letter (yes, people still do that). Sure, your life is busy. Newsflash…everyone is busy. But keeping in touch now is easier than it has ever been. There’s truly no excuse but your own laziness to keep you from it.

Twenty years from now you’ll either have a life full of people you love, or a life full of regret for not valuing the relationships you once had. The choice is yours, and it’s one that has to be made now. What are you going to do?

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Cheese Fries vs. The Early Bird Special

We were sitting in Eskimo Joe’s one afternoon when we noticed the wait staff moving tables and chairs around, preparing to seat a large group. It’s not an unusual occurrence, there’s always a group of high school kids, a bus full of band members, a team of baseball players, or a whole crew of Special Olympics athletes and their families. Eskimo Joe’s is the place to go when you’re visiting Stillwater, so we didn’t think anything of it.

Until we saw the group, that is.

By the time they were all seated, there was a group of about 30+ Seniors. Definitely not your typical Eskimo Joe’s group. It made me chuckle because my dad, who is younger than everyone at those tables, doesn’t like Joe’s because he doesn’t like the atmosphere and the noise. I’m pretty sure we won’t catch him eating there in another 15-20 years. His attitude about the place is probably closer to what would be expected from a group like the one in the picture.

But that word…”expected”…sometimes I hate it. Who decides what’s “expected” of us, anyway? Maybe those folks should be at some dinner buffet at 4pm for the early bird special instead of hanging out at Joe’s and ordering cheese fries. That’s what’s expected of them. But why? Because they’ve had a certain number of birthdays?  It sounds silly when you say it out loud, but isn’t that the only difference between me and them? I love the lady in the middle of the picture, head tilted back, fully involved in the heartiest belly laugh. They are obviously having a lot of fun, doing something so unexpected. A lot more fun than the early bird special at the local cafeteria. Fun they’d miss out on if they worried about doing what others “expected” of them.

The truth is, we spend most of our lives trying to do what’s expected of us. We go to a certain college and get a certain degree, because that’s what’s expected of us. We work a 9-5 job, with a regular paycheck, because that’s what’s expected of us. We get married and have two kids, because that’s what’s expected of us.

Why? Why not go to the college you prefer and study what you’ve always wanted to study? Why not forego college altogether, if that’s not what you were cut out for? Why not start your own business, or be a full-time artist and opt for personal fulfillment over that regular paycheck? Why not stay single and travel the world, or pursue that career you’ve always dreamed about? Why not choose to not have any kids at all?

Because, oh the horror, we might disappoint someone. Forget our own happiness. Forget the fact we’d be more fulfilled and more accomplished if we were pursuing the life we were passionate about. The ultimate goal is to do, and become, what is “expected” of us, no matter how miserable we may be. There’s no risk involved there. There’s no chance that we fail in our pursuit of our own dream and have to face the people who told us to stick with what was expected. Sure, there’s a certain security in having the safe degree, the normal job, and the textbook family. But is that really living? How much more could you achieve, what kind of a difference could you make in the world, if you stepped out of the box and went after the unexpected?

I’ve always strived for what was expected of me. I haven’t achieved most of it, and even though it wasn’t what I may have wanted for myself in the first place, I feel like I have failed because I haven’t met those goals. I’m ready to let it go and start trying to live up to my own expectations. The irony is, your expectations of yourself are usually much higher than those of others, and you’ll find yourself exceeding what others expected of you anyway.

Start really evaluating what you’re doing, and your motivations behind it. Are you doing it because it’s what’s expected of you? Or are you doing it because it’s what you really want for yourself and it’s the best thing for you and those who depend on you? I think I know how most of you will answer that. So start doing whatever it takes to make the unexpected happen, start taking the necessary risks to live the life that is right for you instead of everyone else.  Start today. I’ll meet you at Joe’s in 40 years and you can tell me all about it.

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13 Years Post-Canadian Invasion

The year was 1997, my browser was Netscape, I had email but there was no such thing as instant messengers. I was a Freshman in college at Oklahoma State University, along with my best friend since Kindergarten. We were bored, so we spent most of our waking hours doing homework or surfing the net. One afternoon on a library computer, she introduced me to a chat room she had discovered. And yes, in those days, you had to work to find those chat rooms. You had to work even harder to find the kind where people had normal conversation and didn’t ask you what you were (or were not, as the case may be) wearing.

We spent many…many…hours in that chat room. We both met some lifelong friends there, we also met the kind of people you can’t forget fast enough, but most importantly, it was there that I met The Canadian.

Over the next several months, we spent most of our free time chatting with each other. We graduated from html chats to PowWow to Babble to ICQ, each seemingly groundbreaking technology at the time, of course. Whatever was available, however it was that we talked, the point was we talked. And we talked a lot. The funny thing about internet relationships is you have no choice but to talk. There are no dinners, no movies, no mini golf or bowling dates. Because of that, you get to know a lot about each other in a fairly short period of time. Well, that’s assuming one of you isn’t a hairy 40-year-old man pretending to be an 18-year-old girl.

Annnnyway.

We had gotten pretty close, so The Canadian came to visit that summer. Then Christmas break rolled around and I went to visit him and meet his family. He proposed during that trip, and the wedding planning began.

If you’ve ever planned a wedding, you know how stressful it can be. It’s all-consuming and makes you want to rip your hair out. Take that experience and add the United States government into the process and you’ve got one heck of a mountain to climb. We started filing paperwork for  visas, making trips to INS offices, paying fees, fees, more fees and a few more fees, and waiting. The waiting was the hardest part. Time passed, forms didn’t arrive, and the wedding date was fast approaching.  So fast, in fact, that the Canadian had to leave the country without his fiance visa papers. Someone from the INS department assured us that all we’d have to do is take his papers to a point of entry and have them processed after the wedding.

August 1, 1998 came and we finally had our wedding. Other than the fact that it was 105 degrees and the Canadians were about to melt right inside their tuxedos, I don’t remember much of it. Is that normal? But I do have pictures to prove that it happened. Ridiculously embarrassing pictures. Pictures no one should ever see. But what’s the fun in that?

I swear I look like I could eat him for a snack. Like David and Goliath got married, and Goliath just happened to be in a wedding dress.

Then there’s the ever popular marriage license photo.

Little did we know just how amusing that photo would become a few days later.

His papers finally arrived, so we made a drive to the closest “official” point of entry into the country, the Dallas airport. Everything went smoothly until we tried to get the papers signed. The catch? They have to be signed as you enter the country…as a single person.

Well that’s a problem now, isn’t it?

To make a really long story a little shorter, we went back home, had our marriage annulled, put The Canadian on a plane back to Toronto, let him cross the border as a single person, got his papers signed, flew him home and got married, again, in my parents’ living room on August 23rd. That’s right. We were married twice in the same month. (Sad thing is, even with two chances, most years we both forget our anniversary.)

I’d like to tell you it was smooth sailing after that, but that would be the lie of the decade. The very next month, on Labor Day weekend, our apartment burned down. We moved in with my parents while we waited for The Canadian’s work visa to come through and the next May their house blew away. That would be followed by a raw sewage flood in our next apartment, and a near-fatal gas leak in the one after that. All the while I was a college student and we were trying to get to know each other. Because, while you get to know a lot about a person online, that definitely does not prepare you to live under the same roof. His snoring, had I known about it, may have been a deal breaker and I wouldn’t be writing this post today.

I’m kidding.  Sort of.

The important thing is, we made it. Today marks 13 years since I dragged the unsuspecting Canuck across the border and forced him to live in this wretched oven we call Oklahoma. It hasn’t been easy by any means, but we have a beautiful family to show for it, and I wouldn’t trade any of it for the world.

Happy Anya-versary, Jasson! Can’t wait to see what the next 13 years have in store.

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