Friday, December 25, 2015

Christmastime Happenings

Here's a smattering of what I've been up to since last time I posted...

I am currently in my third week of being an engaged woman, and I still am getting used to it! I often find myself referring to Thomas as my boyfriend, then immediately realizing that he's now my fiance! We have done a few wedding planning-type things, but nothing too much yet. The biggest reason stems from our one big choice...the date! After a little bit of thought, we've settled on July 15, 2017 as the big day!!! Yes, I know, July in Oklahoma is borderline insane, but it'll be just fine! We've also pretty well picked out our wedding party. Although I easily could have picked more, I've settled on six bridesmaids. A good part of having a full Catholic wedding Mass is the fact that you get to include even more friends/family because you need lectors/altar servers/gift bearers/Eucharistic Ministers/etc. That alone made my bridesmaid choice a little easier! I like that we have a longer engagement, because the chaos will be more spread out, but I also find myself wanting to hurry up and get lots of stuff figured out. I'm in a weird in-between time of it being too soon to book some things or to go dress shopping. Wedding planning will most likely be in full swing once school is out in May! 

In a similar vein, telling people about our engagement has been lots of fun! The days immediately proceeding our engagement were filled with phone calls, long conversations, and an onslaught of social media attention. I LOVED getting to tell our family members and our St. John's friends who have fully seen Thomas and I's relationship come to fruition. (Fun fact: Many of our SJ friends secretly wanted Thomas and I to date long before we realized it...sometimes, you just know!) Letting my students know was also fun, but I never directly told them...I waited for them to notice my ring :) It turns out that high school students are much more observant of those things than I gave them credit for! All but two of my classes picked up on it on the first day! 

Speaking of students, I'm officially done with my first semester of teaching! It was a whirlwind, but I'm still surviving! Semester testing left me fairly unscathed, and I had all of my grades in by the time I left for break! Woohoo!!! (Let's temporarily disregard the fact that I still have lessons to plan for all classes within the next week...we don't need that kind of negativity!) I'm not looking forward to next semester, only because it is absurdly busy between extracurriculars, testing, and everything else. 

This past weekend, I took the train down to Dallas to see Thomas and my future in-laws! I had a great time getting to be in the big city, which really helped to get me in vacation mode! Highlights of this trip included Thomas's middle school reunion (yes, that really happened), an engagement party of sorts (thrown by Thomas's parents!), a Christmas light "tour", dinner with two of Thomas's cousins, and lots of fun relaxation! The engagement party was great because it allowed me to meet lots of Thomas's family friends/neighbors who I always hear about but have yet to meet. As always, the trip went much too quickly, but Thomas will be making his way down here tomorrow for our Christmas festivities :)

Ah, yes, Christmas. I really haven't been much in the Christmas spirit this year. At first, I attributed it to being busy with the end of the semester and whatnot, but once I finished school, I realized that I just wasn't feeling it as much this year. I mean, I've purchased my gifts, wrapped them, listened to every version of almost every Christmas carol, but I still just didn't feel right. It wasn't until yesterday when I was out finishing up my shopping that I got to the root of my issue. I miss Mimi. A lot. 

I like to think I've handled her death pretty gracefully so far, knowing that she couldn't live forever and that she was in no condition to keep living the way she was. Starting work, people's birthdays, and even Thanksgiving wasn't as difficult as I anticipated it to be (until Aunt Carol died that day). But yesterday, I really hurt. I found myself crying through the opening verses of "O Come, All Ye Faithful" at Mass last night (that's always one of my favorites). I saw a "Dennis the Menace" Christmas special on TV and practically lost it. I guess I never truly realized how big of a part Mimi played in my Christmas traditions until now. 

Christmas Eve for the past five or so years has consisted of me picking Mimi up from her house, bringing her over for a nice three-course supper of salad, roast or salmon, and chocolate pudding dessert (foods she enjoyed but rarely ate). We'd always have the classic TV show channel playing and one year in particular, I remember seeing that same "Dennis the Menace" special while she was there. I remember proudly walking into church with Mimi in tow, sitting next to her and holding her hymnal while we gleefully sang the Christmas carols. I remember everyone flooding us after Mass to tell her hello and wish her a Merry Christmas. I remember taking her home, when she'd sometimes get her Christmas gifts from us. Mom would usually find her a nice Alfred Dunner outfit or a pajama set. She'd always cry tears of joy becuase of how beautiful her new outfits were, a trademark of people who grew up during the Depression. We'd leave her after she was ready for bed, and we'd gleefully tell each other, "Merry Christmas!" Going home was very serene. 

This is Christmas Eve to me, and it will always be that way in my mind. This year was different, and I'm sure new traditions will come about through the years, especially after Thomas and I get married and start a family. Even so, my heart hurts right now. Not only do I miss Mimi, but I also miss Uncle Joe and Aunt Carol. I miss going to Uncle Joe and Aunt Genevieve's beautiful home and enjoying meat that he smoked especially for the occasion. I miss telling him about all that I've been up to since the last time we spoke. I even miss him trying his hardest to convince me to be an engineer like he was! I miss seeing and laughing with Aunt Carol when we celebrated Christmas at Mimi's house. I miss her big hugs and her booming laugh. I miss it all. 

I know it's not right to dwell on the past because it keeps us from enjoying the present, but right now it's one thing that brings me a little bit of solace, even if it still makes me sad. I know death isn't the end and that they're all waiting for me and that love transcends death. I get it. I'm still sad, and I still miss them, but life goes on. 

On a less depressing note, we're having our Christmas festivities tomorrow. Because we love non-traditional Christmas food, we're having a collection of soups, salads, and breads. I'm also making a coconut cheesecake, just for Scotty! Thomas will even get to join us! :) This will be my first time to have someone here with me for a Hladik Christmas! I'm really excited!

The weather forecast isn't looking too promising for this weekend, which bums me out a little bit. I don't mind some snow, but I really hate ice and sleet, which is what they're mostly predicting. Fingers crossed that they're wrong and that our electricity stays intact for the duration!!!!! 

Stay warm, and have a very Merry Christmas! 

Sunday, December 6, 2015

The Power of Yes (A Love Story)

At some point in each person’s life, you’re placed in a situation where you have to make a decision that seems relatively small at the time, but ends up playing into every other aspect of your life. For me, I’d say the best example of a choice like this was when Thomas asked me to go on a date with him initially.

Here’s the thing: Thomas and I had known each other and had been friends for almost 1.5 years at the time. His asking me on a date was COMPLETELY unexpected. I had no idea what to think. Honestly, it didn’t seem all that appealing at the time. I wasn’t really interested in him, I thought we were too different, and I really just wasn’t sure what would happen. But there I was, hearing the man with the deepest, most resonant voice I know tripping over and stuttering out the words to ask me on a date. I could tell this meant something to him. I could tell he didn’t want to just go on a date and call it good. He had intentions. The good kind. Even with all of my apprehensions, I was bowled over by his sincerity and boldness. With all of the fear in my heart, I said yes to the date. We agreed to discuss it further through the week, but went our separate ways from there.

Through the week, I told a few of our mutual friends about what happened. As I told the story more and more, I could feel my heart softening and becoming more receptive. As I laid out a few of my concerns, they managed to quell each of them and tell me little tidbits about Thomas to put me at ease. The more I learned about him, the more I realized that I was hasty in my initial assumptions. The more I learned about him, the more I realized that we just might be more similar than I ever could have anticipated. The more I learned about him, the more excited I was about our upcoming date. I realize now that God really worked through everyone I told about it to help prepare and open my heart for what was ahead.

Finally, the big night came. He picked me up at St. John’s, and we headed to dinner. We talked more about where we grew up, our families, our majors, our goals, and just about everything else under the sun. As we talked more, I could feel something changing deep inside. After dinner, we decided that the night was too young to call it quits, so we went to Boomer Lake, a man-made lake on the north edge of Stillwater. We decided to start walking around the lake and talking. We didn’t realize it, but it was a LONG walk, easily a mile or two. We filled the entire walk with stories from our younger years or other tidbits about our families. After we finally made it back around and to an open park bench, we were happy to sit down. As we sat down, we happened to notice a big, bright shooting star right in front of us, something we both internally hoped was a harbinger of good things. Our conversation on the bench made me realize that we were scarily similar on many things. I was so happy I said yes to the date! Eventually, the cool December air was too much for us, so we walked back to the vehicle. During this walk, we decided that a) since we had known each other for so long, and b) since it was going so well, that we were ready to start dating each other exclusively.

Maybe we should have waited to make that decision, but we didn’t. From that point, we had about a week together before Thomas had to go home to Texas for a month. That month was super challenging, but really what has made our relationship what it is now. There’s nothing like finally having a boyfriend and not being able to see him. Early on, we started calling each other most every night, much to our families’ chagrin, admittedly. That time apart really allowed us to get to know each other more deeply. It also cemented the fact that we shared a deep admiration for one another, and we didn’t want that to change. I wouldn’t trade that month for the world.

From the time he returned, our relationship was a whirlwind of excitement and adventure. We spent 
countless hours talking, laughing, crying, studying, planning, supporting, traveling, and just being together. Over the past year, Thomas has become one of my best friends in the whole world. He understands me in ways I never dreamed possible. He exceeds my wildest expectations of what I thought my next relationship would be. He makes all of the sadness, heartbreak, loneliness, and emptiness I felt in so many other “relationships” worth every second. He shows me God’s love each and every day. He helps me to continually grow into the person I aspire to become. He is the answer to so many prayers.

I love reflecting on the many facets of and experiences from our relationship. As of late, it has become interesting because Thomas has been doing a considerable amount of job hunting, as most college seniors do. He’s considered all sorts of positions in all sorts of locations, but he has made the decision to accept a job with JB Hunt this coming summer! I am beyond proud of him and all that he has accomplished thus far. It’s going to be an interesting transition for us, but hopefully we’ll adjust well!

Oh wait…there’s more!

You see, once Thomas began job hunting, we began feeling a call on our hearts from God that our relationship was called to something different than we anticipated. Albeit much sooner than we anticipated, we started discerning whether we were called, as a couple, to the vocation of marriage. Through a few months of prayer, deep discussion with our families, and lots of time weighing our options, we made a decision.

On Friday, December 4th, after attending the Waukomis HS basketball homecoming festivities, Thomas took me to my favorite place in the world—the Shrine of Our Lady of Fatima at my church in Bison. After spending a few moments together in silent prayer, we were about to leave when Thomas dropped to one knee, pulled out a ring from a box in his pocket, and asked me to marry him!!!!!!!!!

Amid shrieks and tears of joy, I said yes!

I can’t wait to spend the rest of my life with this amazing man!

Today, I’m BEYOND grateful that I put aside my selfish concerns and was open to God’s will for my life. Today, I’m BEYOND grateful that I didn’t let fear get in the way of the rest of my life.
Today, I’m BEYOND grateful for the love Thomas and I share.
Today, I’m the happiest woman in the world!