Monday, July 31, 2017

Wedding Week (Part 3/3)

We were finally coming to the end of what had already been a marathon week. All of the fruits of our labor were slowly, but surely coming together for good. Since we had made such big headway all through the week, we were able to do exactly as we had hoped for Friday--relax and prepare! All of us girls (Mom, my sisters, and I) headed to Enid to pamper ourselves and get our nails done! Aunt Pat even joined us for her first-ever mani-pedi! :) It was wonderful to be so relaxed. After we finished at the nail salon, Emily dropped me off at Thomas' hotel, from which he and I left to greet Heather, my bridesmaid from Florida who was my missionary friend who I met back at OSU. She was staying at Liz's house, so we figured it'd be nice if we were there when she arrived so that it wasn't awkward for anyone. We talked with her for a bit, while waiting for Liz to get home for her lunch hour and unlock the house. Liz gave Thomas and Heather a tour. Afterwards, Thomas, Heather, and I all went to lunch at Katy's Pantry. Heather loved it every bit as much as I had anticipated she would. Thomas loved getting to know her a little better, as it had been a long time since they'd last talked in person! I loved getting to spend some downtime with her! Of course, we had to share a sugar cookie...when in Rome, ya know!

After lunch, Thomas stopped by his hotel room to grab his rehearsal clothes, and we headed back to my house, where we got ready for rehearsal. It seemed oddly surreal to be at that point! Emily came and did my makeup, as promised! Before we knew it, it was time to head to the church! Thomas and I arrived at the church an hour early, anticipating early arrivals. To our surprise, one of Thomas' groomsmen, who is notorious for showing up late, who Thomas may have told that it started a half hour earlier than it really did in anticipation of his tardiness, was waiting for us at the church upon our arrival. He had been there for at least 20-30 minutes already. Eventually, Thomas broke the news to him that the rehearsal actually started at 6, not 5:30 like he originally told him. They shared some laughs!

I busied myself as much as I could, only to ford off my nervous energy. Little by little, everyone filtered in to the church. We were in full-on host(ess) mode at that point. My usual center of attention awkwardness that I've told you all about already set in, yet again. Once Fr. Ed arrived, we got started. It still felt surreal! The only members of the wedding who didn't show up were the pianist and one of Thomas' groomsmen who was just returning to DFW from a business trip, so I'd say it was a success.

Highlights of the rehearsal included Liz realizing that her escort (the aforementioned groomsman) wasn't there, so she had to walk in alone. One of my flower girls having a nervous breakdown (the older of the two, surprisingly). Side note, it was kind of adorable. This flower girl (Natalie) was walking with Cole, who was a very dutiful ring bearer. In her nervousness, Natalie walked down the aisle at a snail's pace. Cole was concerned for her, and kept pace so he didn't abandon her. We eventually had to instruct them to pick up the pace a little. I was a little concerned about how this would work once we came to the real deal. The groomsmen struggled a little to figure out how to enter their pew. (That was fairly comical, if a little painful, to watch!) We successfully made it through all three run-throughs and were completely finished, when Kyle came up to me with a concerned look. I could tell he'd been trying to get a point across to multiple people, to no avail, so he had to approach me. Andy was not far behind him with the same concerned look. They informed me that they (the candle lighters) were the only people who hadn't yet been instructed of their exact duties and when they were supposed to process up the aisle. Up to that point, I had a lurking feeling that we had forgotten something, and that was it. I repeatedly thanked them for alerting me, and we worked quickly to fill in that detail. I felt awful, but I knew they understood. I was also slightly nervous that they hadn't done an actual run-through, but Deacon Jeff assured me that he'd help them through and/or come to their rescue in the event of a catastrophe! We all milled about the church for a little longer, as the restaurant where our dinner was held that evening wouldn't be ready until 7:30 at the earliest. (We finished rehearsing around 6:45...Fr. Ed doesn't mess around!)

Once it was time to head to Enid, lots of people realized that they had NO idea where the dinner would be held (understandably, since almost no one was from Enid). So Thomas and I led a caravan to the restaurant. It reminded me of the old trucker movie "Convoy", so naturally, we had to listen to the old C.W. McCall song of the same name. It was great. During our trip, we assumed no one knew where it was, and we were also informed that that stretch of highway was thick with law enforcement, so Thomas (the usual lead foot) drove the speed limit. Suddenly, we were overtaken by Fr. Stuart, who zoomed past us! Obviously he knew where he was going! (No, he didn't get pulled over, thanks for your concern!)

We arrived to the restaurant, which was already full of people from our group. (They were closed to outside business that night, in case you wondered how it wasn't packed on a Friday.) I immediately started pouring sweat upon entering the restaurant. I asked Steve if they could do anything, but the owner told him that the building was old, and its HVAC system was at max capacity. We had an open bar for the night, so Thomas immediately grabbed me a drink to calm my nerves. After a brief while of appetizers and socialization, the blessing was said, and dinner was served. It was incredible. The only thing that could've possibly made it better was if it was about 15 degrees cooler in there. (I may or may not have used the "reserved" card on our table as a makeshift fan. Classy, I know.) Everyone mixed and mingled. It was perfect seeing all of our close friends and family hitting it off so well! At the end of dinner, Steve offered a toast, during which time the waterworks commenced for me. Then my sisters led us over to a laptop that had been set up, ready to play a video slideshow they had created out of pictures of Thomas and I through the years. I cried even more. (I think lots of people did, actually!) Apparently, during this time, my younger flower girl, Lakely (about 4 years old) was very concerned as to "why Miss Amanda was crying". Her mom gave her a quick lesson on happy tears, which of course, did nothing to quell her concerns.

After the slideshow, since I was already good and emotional, Thomas and I passed out gifts to the wedding party. We gave small introductions to all of the bridesmaids, groomsmen, flower girls, and ring bearers. Why yes, I did tear up during almost all of my introductions. (Of course I'd cry whilst speaking in front of a crowd of about 65 people. Story of my life.) We also passed out small gifts to the remainder of our wedding party. It was a lovely time, I promise. After that, everyone continued to mingle and enjoy the night. It was everything we'd hoped it'd be and more! Perfect in every way possible!

Eventually everyone went their separate ways. Thomas dropped me off at home, and my sisters came over for our sleepover. (Side note: Emily decided that since the three of us had spent the evening before everyone's wedding together, we should continue the tradition for mine. Granted, Gina and I still lived at home when she was married. Emily happened to come over with Cody who was 9 months old who fell asleep at our house the night before Gina's wedding...I still lived at home, of course. This time was an actual sleepover!) They came over in their pajamas, and we all (Mom included) did clay face masks right before going to bed. Of course we all crashed on the couch before they forced me to wash off my face mask and go to my actual bed. It was comforting having everyone there, just like the old days!

The next morning, I was awoken by my sisters who greeted me with phone cameras, snagging pictures of me. We quickly packed up and proceeded to head to Enid for our respective hair appointments. Of course, everyone's hair turned out to look perfect! The fact that I didn't go to bed until about 1 AM was helped by my hair stylist offering me coffee (with creamer, because she's awesome), to help perk me up! From that point on, I was a bundle of positive energy! We headed back over to Liz's house, where Joe and Vickie, with the help of their friend Kendra, had prepared an AMAZING brunch for us! I loved having all of my favorite gal pals there. We cranked up all of our favorite throwback tunes and sipped on mimosas. (Side note: coffee plus a mimosa equals a very relaxed bride!) From that point, we headed upstairs to begin working on makeup. We had such a great time together! My source (Elizabeth) told me that Thomas was a huge bundle of nerves and tension. She told him that I was having the time of my life, so he should relax, too.

Before we knew it, it was time to head down to Bison to get dressed. I rode with Tonisha, as we reminisced about all of the good times we'd had up to that day. I loved getting to ride with her! Upon our arrival, we were greeted by my flower girls, who just finished having their hair done. They were absolutely precious! Soon after, the florist arrived with our flowers, and the photographer arrived to start grabbing pictures of everyone. We all had our sights on 4 PM, when Thomas and I would be doing our first look. Slowly, everyone started getting dressed from that point. It was REALLY surreal. I think that was the only point at which I felt even slightly nervous. Of course, that was when I called upon Heather to pray over me, to help ease my tensions. I love having friends who'll do things like that :)

All of a sudden, it was time for me to get dressed. Once I was dressed, Lakely was absolutely enamored with me. She would randomly come back to my room, and just peer at me with a look of pure admiration and joy. I loved sharing those moments with her...I like to think she'll carry those memories with her for the rest of her life. It was perfect. (Natalie was busy talking to her new bff, Cole, who she thankfully warmed up to at the rehearsal dinner the night before.) Kyle and Jakub (who was LOVING his suit) periodically came back to chat with me. They too looked at me with admiration I don't usually receive! I think Kyle was starting to realize that I would soon be leaving them for Texas, so he was trying to soak it all in. For all of his orneriness and peskiness, it was a welcome change to see him being so loving and sincere. I also cherish that time we spent. W

Then, it was time for the first look! I was led out to Thomas, who was standing outside of the beloved shrine. I greeted him, and we shared our pure joy. It was nice having a few quiet moments with him before being inundated with everything and everyone. We shared a prayer, thanking God for getting us there in that moment. From then, we started our photography session. By some miracle, we accomplished all of our necessary pictures and had plenty of time to spare, so I was whisked away to the commons to sit, while guests arrived and were seated.

In all reality, everyone was pretty calm in the Commons. I mean, all of the necessary pictures were done up to that point, and everything was completed. We had nothing to worry about. Then, moments before we were instructed to start lining up, Jakub rammed into a wall and was inconsolable. He who was (as of the day before) handling his ring bearer duties quite well, was having a meltdown. (I probably would have too had I been in his shoes.) Scotty, one of his favorite people, came to the rescue and calmed him down. He was fine as we processed along the sidewalk to the front doors of the church. Everyone was in their respective places. I peered through the windows on the church doors to see that it was PACKED, no spots left open whatsoever. I haven't seen my church that full in a long time. Honestly, I think the last time I saw it that full was for a funeral. We were all ready!

Jakub, who had all but recovered from his sudden head trauma, was tapping at Gina's legs, saying something about his feet being sweaty. (He was wearing cowboy boots and long socks as part of his ringbearer attire.) We all kind of disregarded it, until we looked down and realized that he had taken one of his boots off and his red Paw Patrol socks (a gift from Thomas) were showing! Gina quickly gave him a "pep talk" could probably guess what was said!

Everyone processed in without a hitch. My cousin Jakub (one of little Jake's namesakes) played a beautiful accompaniment line to "Trumpet Voluntary". It literally brought me to tears. Natalie summoned her big-girl courage and calmly walked in, assured that her mom would be awaiting her once she made it to the front. She and Cole managed to make it down the aisle at a much quicker speed than the night before! Jakub and Lakely went up, just like they had practiced, except Jakub decided to plop down at Gina's feet, unlike how he'd practiced the night before. Instead of immediately processing to his seat where Jeremy was awaiting him, Jeremy had to intercede and walk him over. Leave it to kids to provide much-needed levity! :)

Finally, the big moment: my dad and I walked in. It felt like a small eternity as we waited for Fr. Ed to invite the crowd (no exaggeration) to stand and for the music to start. I wanted to let my pianist play for a bit, because I wanted to enjoy my processional song, "St. Anthony's Chorale" by Haydn. It was unique and absolutely beautiful! I kissed my dad bye as he handed me off to Thomas. I was teary-eyed, of course.

Our Mass began. Both of our lectors and our deacon did a fantastic job proclaiming the words of Sacred Scripture. Our vocalist's voice was angelic. Fr. Stuart won everyone's hearts with his heartfelt homily, talking about the journey Thomas and I took to get there, interspersing with his well wishes for our marriage. I sniffled off and on, in awe of everything. We exchanged vows and rings, and Mass continued. Finally, we were at the end of the ceremony, and Fr. Ed, in his usual dry humor said, "I think it's time for a kiss! Go ahead, Thomas!" We sealed our covenant with a kiss, as Eston (our pianist) dazzled us with his rendition of "On Top of the World". Why yes, we left the church to an Imagine Dragons song! Fun fact, that was the song that was playing the first time Thomas and I said that we loved each other at Thomas' first TEC retreat! We thought it was only fitting that we play it again! As we entered the narthex, Thomas picked me up and spun me around, in celebration of what we'd just accomplished! We quickly walked back, so that we could sign our marriage license and finish up a few other pictures. In making our wedding day timeline, my photographer and I played it safe and assumed we wouldn't make it to the reception until about 8 PM. (Our wedding started at 6 PM.) We were walking in the reception around 7:15! We loved that we didn't have to be quite as rushed at the reception and that she could get plenty of candid shots!

We were quickly whisked into our first dance, "Swaying to the Music" by Johnny Rivers. It was the perfect slow, sappy love song that wasn't overused! Shortly thereafter was the father-daughter/mother-son dance, "Teach Your Children" by Crosby, Stills, Nash, & Young. From there, our best man, Nick was kind enough to have made Thomas and I plates of food, so we sat for a moment and scarfed food down so we could start socializing! It turns out that socializing at your own wedding reception is incredibly difficult. You can't make it more than a foot or two before you see someone you want to greet or being stopped by someone to talk or for a photo op. We made an earnest effort to try talking to everyone there, but of course that didn't happen. Such is life!

We cut our cake soon thereafter. As per Thomas and I's previous agreement, there was no "funny business", as Thomas called it. He did NOT want cake smashed in his face, nor did I, so we were nice and civilized. The cake was absolutely beautiful and delicious. After the cake was cut, Nick the best man toasted us, as did my sisters. Somewhere in there, I was tired of missing out on all of the dancing, so I hit the dance floor. Sometimes Thomas danced with me, sometimes he didn't. I had fun either did he!

All of a sudden, I saw Thomas' sister Elizabeth emerge, wearing a flat-billed OSU ballcap backwards on her head. I had no idea what was coming, but I knew something was about to go down. It turns out that not long after we were engaged, she took the initiative to start writing a song parody toast to us to the tune of "Ice Ice Baby", which happens to be one of my favorite 90's throwback tunes! It was pretty impressive, to say the least. She put a LOT of time and energy into it, and we absolutely loved it!

We also had our bouquet toss and garter toss. I know, they're cheesy, cliche, and painful for the single crowd. Oh well, we still did them! When Thomas did the garter toss, he decided to have a little fun and throw out a large pair of women's underwear. Naturally, the men all split apart. When he flung the garter back, it didn't go far at all, but his cousin/groomsman, William caught it! My bouquet toss ended with my good friend from St. John's, Hannah, catching it! It turns out that those things are slightly more anticlimactic when you're the ones involved, but it was still fun nonetheless!

We socialized and danced quite a bit, until it was becoming apparent that Thomas was losing steam quickly. We scheduled to have a limo available to us from 11-2:30. We really didn't plan to have a "grand escape", but we did anyway! My dad had the foresight to procure 150 party poppers, so they were passed out to everyone who made a tunnel for us to run through on our way to the limo door! We entered the limo, covered in streamers and confetti, as we rode off into the night!

We had a perfect ending to our perfect wedding day! We really couldn't have asked for a better celebration! We're immensely grateful for everyone who celebrated with us, who helped us, who offered prayer for us, on and on and on! We're so blessed!

Saturday, July 29, 2017

Wedding Week (Part 2/3)

We all slept in a little more on Wednesday, and with good reason. We'd earned a little rest at that point. Mom headed back to Bison in hopes that the window cleaners would show up. Dad and I slowly got ready to head to OKC to pick up his suit from Men's Wearhouse. The whole way there, I prayed fervently that his suit would fit well and that it wouldn't require multiple trips to get everything correct. Dad and I had a nice talk, and he enjoyed not having to drive to OKC. (Mom made us go alone for that purpose...she knew we needed that time. She's so smart!) I knew Dad didn't feel all that comfortable in Men's Wearhouse. Let's face it, most farmers who do well to wear slacks to church on Sunday (instead of their nice Wranglers) don't have tons of experience with suits or formal wear. God bless the guy who helped Dad, that's all I'm saying!

Dad emerged from the fitting room, announcing that the jacket sleeves were a little short and that his tie straps were askew. (It wasn't an actual tie.) By some small miracle, they had the same suit jacket in the next sleeve length up, so they swapped those out and fixed his tie strap. Dad still wasn't sure about sleeve length, but we assured him that he looked much better with the new jacket. We left, and headed home, no more than thirty minutes after arriving. Meanwhile, Mom was happy to see that the window cleaners showed up, as promised. Even better, they did a great job!

We all came home, loaded up the remainder of our things to take to the hall, and caught our breath for a bit. I received yet another gift from Dillard's in the mail. (I've been receiving packages off and on since May.) This package contained a Fiestaware butter dish that was supposed to have a cover. Of course, it didn't. I called customer service, where they worked quickly to resolve the situation. I was emailed a shipping label and was instructed to take the package to FedEx and ship it back to the warehouse, where they'd send me the complete butter dish, at no cost to me. I also had to run a few other errands, including making an exchange on one of the cans of spray starch that didn't have a spray nozzle, bought during our ill-fated Monday night Walmart trip. (Mom and I decided that we should've just got up early on Tuesday and went. Everything about that trip, besides the time we spent together, was fruitless.) Running errands alone was good for me, as it was a nice outlet for my nervous energy. The rest of the day was fairly anticlimactic, minus Thomas finally arriving in Oklahoma! I was SO happy to see him!!!

Although the last few days were busy, Thursday was probably our most full day of preparation. It began with Thomas and me heading to Enid to procure our marriage license from the courthouse. While there, we had to wait a bit for it to be printed. From that point, we headed back to Bison, where my parents, Cody, Kyle, Gina, and her boys were all stationed. Upon our arrival, we got right to work unloading vehicles. Since we had a significantly larger volume of people around, it took much less time than we expected. It also helped that Dad brought a dolly for us to use. After unloading, Dad decided that he needed to go pick up his Jeep from the dealership where it was undergoing some maintenance (a story for another time.) It wasn't really the best timing for that, but Dad, Thomas, and Kyle all left. We decided that the remaining kids could go over to the church playground to get some energy out. We lathered them up in sunscreen, and sent them on their way.

I'd like to say that they were over there for an hour, and we accomplished a lot in that time. I'd like to, but that was NOT the case. They all ran back over after about ten minutes, informing us that the lot adjacent to the playground, where the family raises lots of show animals that are only contained by a single-wire electric fence had a rogue rooster that was accosting them. We still accomplished a little bit, but not a lot. Thankfully in their time out and about, Dad returned with sandwich supplies, chips, and drinks for the kids. It was all a welcome sight! Dad also decided to go up to Enid to pick up the fruits and veggies. Along the way, Dad discovered that the problems that caused his Jeep to require service in the first place were not resolved. As soon as he came back with produce, he headed back to the dealership to have them fix it again.

Once our produce arrived, we could get to work on food prep. At various stages, tensions were incredibly high. Thankfully, we persevered and turned it all around! All four of the older boys (and us adults) were all given a carton of grapes and a metal bowl with the task of de-stemming them. It was beautiful to see how well we all worked together with a common purpose. The boys loved getting to be involved (especially after hearing for days that their help was not needed). After grapes were de-stemmed, we moved on to various other tasks. Once again, everyone was given a very specific task to complete, and we worked in assembly-line fashion. As the old saying goes, many hands really do create light work for all. Somewhere in there, Thomas' parents and sister arrived. I was a little edgy at various phases, and I like to think that that was when I was at peak bride-zilla mode. Once everyone settled in, we realized that we had accomplished all of our produce prep, and no one was left out of the mix. (Amazing things can happen when 11 people are working together with a common purpose!) Little Jakub even managed to stay busy, entertaining himself with a Swiffer! The walls, the floor, everything was Swiffered, thanks to Jake!

Dad came back right about the time we finished produce prep. Of course, jokes were made that he was dodging work! All of the men started work manning the meat slicers to get all of our hams and turkey breasts sliced up. Gina and Elizabeth worked to organize the end product. Somewhere in this time, Jeremy and Scotty showed up, as well as my mom's cousin, Cheryl who was going to assemble all of our fruit, vegetable, meat, and cheese trays for us the following day.

Tonisha and her niece Jela also showed up, ready to help. At this point, we were in a holding pattern at the hall, as meat was still being sliced. I still needed to mop the church and do a couple other small tasks there. Since there wasn't much we could really do to help at the hall, Tonisha, Jela, Kyle, and I absconded to the church to do work over there. Jela and Kyle were happy to run the dust mops, while Tonisha and I got to work mopping a different area. When they finished their job, the kids saw some of the other boys outside and decided to go play with them. (They may or may not have had a vendetta against the rooster at this point. I assure you that the rooster was in no real danger, despite what the boys may have said they wanted to do.) Tonisha and I worked quickly to finish mopping the main body of the church.

Let me say this now, you know you have a good best friend when she'll show up and help you do manual labor right before your wedding. Just saying! I loved getting to have that one-on-one time with her, and I helped familiarize her with the structure of a Catholic church. I was also able to answer her questions and give her a heads-up of how things work during a Catholic Mass. At some point, Mom and Diana ventured over, floored by how much we had accomplished in a relatively short time.

Before we knew it, we were done. Everything that needed to be done at the hall was finished. We decided that we were ready for dinner--Dad's treat. The Lieses, my parents, Tonisha, Jela, Thomas, and I all headed down to Rooster's for fried chicken. It was well-earned for all at that point. Eventually, we all split ways for the evening and rested up. It was a good day after all!

(To be continued...again!)

Friday, July 28, 2017

Wedding Week (Part 1/3)

I'm back, and I'm finally a married woman!!! Because everyone loves a good wedding story, I had the foresight to outline the events of the week leading up to the wedding so I could come back and regale it all!

We'll start with the Friday before the wedding, July 7. One of the main highlights of the day was a trip with my parents to Sam's. We set out with the sole purpose of buying all of the wedding food, minus the produce. A few weeks prior to that day, my mom and I had made a trip to Sam's during which we were less than impressed with their inventory. We went in with an extensive list, and came out with about two of those items. Thankfully, this trip was much more fruitful, as we found everything we needed and then some! The trip home was fairly anticlimactic, minus me realizing that my throat had been hurting persistently for about a day. My hypochondriac side starting worrying that I was coming down with strep throat a week before the wedding. The clouds were also darkening to the north. After a few calls from Emily notifying us that they put our vehicles into shelter, we made it home. We were greeted by a News9 Storm chaser pickup idling at our corner, which is incredibly reassuring! No sooner did we pull into the garage, the storm hit, bringing about an inch of rain within an hour and lots of wind. Thankfully, the hail that was predicted had died out by the time the storm arrived. Once the rain left, we had a pretty sunset to follow.

The following day (Saturday, July 8) began with me wondering if I really needed to go to an urgent care clinic, since my throat didn't hurt as bad as it did the day before. (It still hurt a little bit, though.) Mom insisted that I go for my peace of mind, so I did. A few minutes into my visit, my suspicions were somewhat confirmed. The nice P.A. told me that I had some sort of an infection in my throat (not strep or tonsillitis), and a Z-pack was in quick order, because I had no business dealing with that the week of my wedding. I also was ordered to get some rest so I could heal and go back to normal. I spent the rest of my day taking sporadic naps, then making enough of a turnaround to help make supper and clean out a freezer. (We also found out that a cow we took to the butcher for processing a week or so earlier needed to be picked up on Monday. Yikes.)

Sunday started off with a bang. We went to church, then headed over to the hall to set up tables and chairs. That had its tense moments and lots of "creative differences". All in all, we ended up with an arrangement that satisfied everyone. By the time we finished everyone was sufficiently hot, tired, and more or less hangry. Dad improved the situation by calling in an order for us at Rooster's in Hennessey. After feasting together, we went back home to rest for the better part of the afternoon. The last part of the day consisted of Dad making his Chex mix for the reception, as it keeps well. I finished cleaning out a freezer. Mom continued working on some table coverings for tables at the church. We knew that the coming days would be long, but worth it.

This brings us to Monday (the 10th) which was largely spent putting out small fires. Dad was off work all week, so he was home with Mom and me. We also had Cody and Kyle in tow to help Dad accomplish some yard work. In the meantime, I got in touch with all of the business people involved with the wedding. That took a little bit of doing, but I accomplished that task. We also found out that Cole, Jakub, and my Dad's suits all arrived to their respective pickup locations a few days earlier than expected! That was great (and welcome) news to us! However, we also had to go back to the somewhat unwelcome news from a few days ago...we had to drop everything to go pick up beef from the butcher. It seems like we always get beef on the hottest day of the summer, which only adds to the urgency of transporting the meat before it thaws. (At least our butcher is only about 10 miles away. We used to travel upwards of 50 miles one way, so it's really not that bad.) Putting beef away was every bit as hectic, chaotic, and stressful as I remembered it. Thankfully you have to work quickly, so it really didn't take that long. After the dust settled from getting our new beef, I went to work making supper so that Mom and I could make a quick evening trip to Walmart to get a few necessities for the coming days. We had a great trip, just the two of us. We made it home much later than anticipated, but it was worth it. Until we realized that we couldn't find one of my mom's bags. It was almost midnight by that point, so we opted not to contact the store until morning. Such is life.

Tuesday morning came with a bang. Mom called the store, where they verified that she, indeed, left her bag containing AA batteries, Q-tips, and 2 different types of safety pins at the store. Have no fear, my dad decided that he (and Kyle) would go retrieve it later in the morning...

Let me pause for a moment and explain the significance of this statement. My dad loathes the Enid Walmart. The new one was built in the mid 2000s and up to this point, he had entered it a whopping three (3) times. (One of which was to use the bathroom whilst waiting for Mom and I to finish shopping.) Dad doesn't go to the Enid Walmart, period. So we just knew that this would bode well for us.

I digress...back to Tuesday. A few weeks ago, my mom contacted a company about professionally cleaning some of the tall windows in the church that no one could safely reach on a ladder. She wanted to have that completed before the wedding. Upon contacting the company and having them give us a good estimate, we scheduled a time for them to work us into their schedule. They told us they'd be in on Tuesday, July 11th. (7/11, as I distinctly remember my mom saying...) They told her that they'd arrive at the church between 9:30 and 10 AM that day. So we arrived at the church around 8:45 to do some last-minute rearranging. Thankfully, we had cleaning to do, so that wasn't our sole purpose for being at church that early. I say that because 9:30 came, no window cleaners. Ten o'clock came, no cleaners still...same story at 10:30. Finally Mom became concerned and called the company to see what was happening. Apparently there was a communication breakdown along the way, and the cleaners wouldn't be coming until Wednesday. We were annoyed, but carried on nonetheless. In the midst of this realization, Dad called to inform Mom that her bag at Walmart had already been restocked, so he had to go retrieve everything throughout the store. (See my above disclaimer about Dad and Walmart.) My dad obviously had NO clue where anything was, so my mom had to stay on the phone with him to walk him through the store. (It was every bit as painful as it sounds, I promise.) Kyle was with him, and he goes to Walmart all the time, so I like to think he helped a little. Eventually, my dad emerged with everything and promised that he'd grab something for lunch on his way back to Bison. Meanwhile, my mom, Cody, and I were cleaning like mad and getting fairly hangry. Dad showed up at the church a while later, informing us that the A/C in the pickup he was driving wasn't working. (It's July in Oklahoma...obviously that's not a good thing.) We were all a little disheartened, hot, tired, and generally frustrated. Morale was definitely at an all-time low. After lunchtime, my mom's sister (Aunt Pat) and her husband, my uncle Paul showed up and saved the day! We redirected our energy to the hall, where we had some MAJOR work to be done ironing tablecloths. (We had upwards of 20 tables to be covered...) Aunt Pat gave Mom a good morale boost and some creative inspiration. Uncle Paul chatted with Dad and lifted his spirits also. We were so grateful for them showing up! Dad and Cody managed to slip away back home around 4 PM. From that point, Mom and I (Kyle was with us, too...) decided to knock out tablecloths. It took a long time and lots of spray starch, but by 8 PM (yes, almost 12 hours after we arrived in Bison) we loaded up to go home. We were weary, but had a renewed sense of accomplishment after finishing that huge task.

(To be continued...)

Saturday, July 8, 2017

At Long Last

I’ve dreamed of getting married for my whole life, you probably know that.
For years, I tried in vain to find “the one”.
I had lots of failed attempts to make things work with the wrong guys.
I knew what I wanted, but I knew changes needed to happen first.
I left my home and started a new journey in Stillwater.
It was tough, as I knew almost no one.
I didn’t think I wanted to, but I went to church.
It was the best thing I ever did.

I made a myriad of friends, Thomas being one of them.
I can’t remember our first conversation (neither can he!)
He was a friend, but we weren’t close.
We were too different. (so I thought)
I was interested in other guys. He was interested in other girls.
Nothing worked for either of us, but we persisted.
We continued trying in vain to find “the one”.
I felt hopeless. So did Thomas.
Each of us just wanted someone to give us a chance.

Then one day, something changed.
Thomas saw a light in my eyes that sparked something in his heart.
He had his own “what ifs”.
He was scared. He felt hopeless.
He just wanted something to work. He wanted to feel love in his life.
He confided his feelings to a friend.
She told him to go for it.
So he did.

He sent me a Thanksgiving day text.
I was utterly confused (and disappointed).
We came back from break, and he sought me out.
With a trembling voice, he asked if I’d go out for coffee…or frozen yogurt…or ice cream.
On Friday, or Saturday, or even Sunday. (He would be there all weekend!)
I didn’t want to, but I said yes to Friday.
He left, promising we’d secure our plans on Wednesday.
I left, lamenting about my weekend plans to Rebecca.

She told me it was just a date. (She dated him once herself!)
She told me a date doesn’t equate marriage, just an evening of my time.
I told a few other friends.
They sang his praises.
I reconsidered.
I changed my attitude. God softened my heart.
I got excited.

God turned my sorrow into joy.
I felt hopeful for the first time in a long time. (So did Thomas!)
Friday came.
We went to dinner.
We talked the whole time.
It was too early to part ways.
We went to the lake (it wasn’t that cold outside!)
We walked and told our stories.
We saw a shooting star, and internally hoped it was a good sign.

I still had my fears, but I shared them.
He didn’t care. (He kissed me to show he didn’t!)
We made it official right there!
Life was great!

Then we were apart for a month.
His grandpa died.
Mimi was slowly dying.
We talked nightly.
It sustained us through that month of longing.
It set us up for our future.

He helped me through student teaching.
I helped him through his tough class.
Then Mimi died.
He stayed with me that night to comfort me so I wasn’t alone.
I knew then that I didn’t want to lose him.
I got a job.
I graduated, and I didn’t know where the summer would take us.
He found something close to me. (I couldn’t believe it!)
He loathed the job. But he loved getting to see me.
We made the best memories that summer.
He learned more about my life and my family.
I was certain we’d make it.

 He started his senior year.
I started work.
I hated being away from him during that time, but the weekends were great.
We continued making memories.
Then reality hit—he needed an adult job.
I promised my support of whatever he pursued.
We knew we could make it.
We knew we were ready.

He got a job, but it’d take him to Arkansas. Somewhere else eventually.
I didn’t want that. I wanted him close. I was mad.
He wanted a good future.
I knew he would thrive. I supported him wholeheartedly.
It was tough, but we did it.

That cold night in December, much colder than the year before.
He took me to the Shrine. I knew what was to come, but I said nothing.
He asked me the question I’d waited forever to hear.
I cried. I shrieked. I was in shock.
I said “YES!”
Life was good.

Then we spent another month apart.
Mother Nature conspired against us, lessening the time we’d spend together.
I was in a wreck. He hated being away from me.
Somehow I survived.
He came back, and we eventually celebrated his graduation and my first year of teaching.

He moved to Arkansas.
Reality set in again.
We were the farthest we’ve ever been from each other for the longest amount of time.
Weekends sustained us.
So did nighttime phone calls.
Arkansas was good to us.
I loved it more than I expected.
I was happy for Thomas.

School started again, and the stress returned for me.
Dallas beckoned, and Thomas accepted.
I wasn’t happy, but I knew it’d be okay.
We trusted each other, but we trusted God more.
He moved, again.
I reluctantly bid Arkansas adieu.

We found a new normal, yet again.
This time, it meant more time apart than ever before.
Nightly calls continued.
School continued, punctuated by events reminding me of all that awaited us.
We were showered by love (and gifts) so many times.
We found our first home (an apartment).

Now school is done.
I found a job, though not what I expected. (God provides, right?)
Thomas is in the apartment.
Everything is getting closer.

The white dress, the flowers, everything.
It’s all for us.
It’s our time.
The two will become one.
The distance will end.
Nightly phone calls will end.
Living separate lives will end.

Our marriage, at long last, will soon begin!

Wednesday, July 5, 2017

Pre-Wedding Updates

I thought I’d drop in and leave a quick update, because who knows when I’ll get back here next! The wedding is scarily close…less than 2 weeks away! WOW. After waiting for over 1.5 years, it’s finally almost here!!!

Last time, we were about to move into our apartment, so I’ll pick up there. I like our apartment a lot. It’s way bigger than Thomas’ Arkansas apartment, so it currently feels like a palace! It is set up well and flows nicely. We’ve gotten most of our shower gifts unpacked. Even better, we’ve been able to use quite a few of them already! I’m especially loving our Fiestaware. It’s beautiful, simple, and fun to use. (Who knew it was possible to have fun using plates?! I think I’m officially an adult now…) So far, I’ve only found a couple small downsides to our apartment. The first is that we are situated on the third floor, so it makes unloading vehicles full of groceries or wedding gifts a little more challenging than we’ve been used to. Also, every time I’ve wanted to go swimming in the complex pool (yes, we have a pool!) I have been foiled by rain, unseasonably cool weather, or inadequate time. That bums me out a lot more than you’d think, but I know I’ll have all the time in the world after I move down, right? Also, I figured out a workable solution to help us unload vehicles. I decided that it’d be useful to keep canvas tote bags in each vehicle, then load those up with grocery bags. That helped quite a bit and saved Thomas and me having to go up and down all the flights of stairs 4 times.

Quite a bit of my time this summer has been devoted to toting some combination of my nephews to some sort of day camp, whether it was for basketball, baseball, or Totus Tuus. They’re all done with summer camps for now, so it’s back to their carefree summers!

A few weekends ago, the Liese side of Thomas’ family had a reunion in Georgetown, TX. Although it seemed like a long drive down there due to traffic and construction, it didn’t stop us from having a great, relaxing weekend. Truth be told, it was like a mini-retreat from wedding planning. Friday was a travel day for everyone, so most of our activities were slated for Saturday. We kicked off the day by visiting Thomas’ great-grandparents’ original home. The current owner was sweet enough to let us invade her home, which was surprisingly well-preserved. She took a lot of pride in explaining the history of the house and comparing notes with the grandchildren who still had vivid memories of the house. During our tour, Thomas ended up winning a large bag of pecans that came from the trees his great-grandparents planted many years ago. We were quite excited about that, because we both love fresh pecans. (Store bought pecans taste like cardboard in comparison with fresh pecans…just saying!)

After the tour, our smaller group (us, his parents, his sister, his aunt Jean, and his uncles Jay and Mark) all went down to the Georgetown square to look around and grab lunch. It was typical of most historical small-town squares, as it was packed with antique stores, and other novelty stores. It was nice to roam around with Thomas, as it was the most carefree time we’d spent together in quite a long time. My favorite place we stopped on the square (besides getting lunch) was the chocolate shop. It was a little family-owned shop, and we had the privilege of having a good chat with one of the owners. He was a kindly older gentleman who was celebrating his 50th wedding anniversary that day. He gave us his blessings for a happy marriage and told us the short history of their family chocolate shop. To make things better, their chocolate was absolutely amazing! We met up with our group after some time, when Thomas was gifted an antique nut cracker, found by Jay and Mark at the only antique store that Thomas and I didn’t go into to look for one.

We capped off the day by swapping photos and stories in one of the hotel meeting rooms and dinner at a quaint German restaurant in Walburg, which was a stone’s throw away from Georgetown. The food was comforting to me, as it is quite similar in flavor to many of the foods my family makes or has made. We ended the night out the in the beer garden behind the restaurant, just talking and enjoying the cool evening in the shade of the trees, listening to a polka band that gave us their best rendition of AC/DC songs. (I never imagined that I’d hear “Highway to Hell” with an accordion harmony line…)

We finished the reunion by traveling to some of the area cemeteries to visit the burial sites of various Liese ancestors. It was an interesting history lesson that was diminished for me only for the fact that I incurred a sunburn on my shoulders, thanks to the fact that I didn’t realize we’d be outside for so long, and, let’s face it, cemeteries usually don’t abound with trees. Oh well, story of my life! The highlight of our trip home was getting to stop at the Czech Stop in West, TX and get kolaches. They were heavenly, just like the ones my family makes. Did you know that in certain places, they call sausage rolls (pigs in a blanket) kolaches? For shame. They are wrong, but they’ll never admit to it, so life somehow goes on.

Since then, I’ve been in OK working on tying up loose ends for the wedding and soaking up my last bits of living here. In the time from then to now, we’ve had a fun evening talking wedding plans at Liz’s house. (They recently moved into a beautiful new home and have volunteered their home for a wedding day bridal brunch! They’re the best!) I grabbed lunch with my teacher friends and met the teacher who’ll replace me. (She seems nice!) We also had an impromptu dinner with my immediate family and a few cousins and family friends. It was such a nice evening!

The million-dollar question these days seems to revolve around people wondering if I have all the plans done and if everything is ready. The overwhelming answer to this is a resounding “kind of.” I’ll give you a run-down of what I’ve accomplished!

I had my pre-bridal pictures taken last week. This helped me to have a run-through of my hair, makeup, and pictures. (Fun fact: Liz has been so sweet to volunteer herself to do my makeup for the wedding. Have I mentioned lately that she’s the best?) I’m anxiously awaiting the text from my photographer letting me know that she has finished editing my pictures! This past weekend, I celebrated my last shower and bachelorette party with some of my favorite ladies! My sisters, Mom, Liz, and Tonisha did an amazing job putting everything together and making it happen! It was absolutely perfect! Ladies, if people tell you that you have to have an all-out booze fest/wild night for your bachelorette party, know that they’re wrong. We ate at a Mexican restaurant and went to a painting studio and consumed absolutely no alcohol in the process. After the painting studio, everyone went their separate ways. I was with my mom and sisters, so we went to Target (extra crazy), and capped off the night with appetizers, dessert, and a drink from TGI Friday’s. It was the perfect night! During my events, besides the people I already mentioned, I also got to see Sierra and Rebecca (my St. John’s bffs), Mary (my other high school bff), Laura and Aimee (my teaching bffs/classroom neighbors), Robyn and her girls (my flower girls who I used to babysit), Aunt Pat, and my cousin Tim’s wife, Silvia and their daughter. Everyone had a blast together, and I loved getting to see/talk to everyone!

Speaking of my flower girls, I have to giggle a little bit, as one of my flower girls pulled the classic little girl stunt—I don’t want bangs anymore, so I’m going to take matters into my own hands and actually prolong having bangs. (Long story short, she cut her bangs.) Surprisingly, I wasn’t concerned by this at all. It happened almost a month ago, and they’ve grown out alright. Life goes on, and hair grows back.

We also put in our flower order with our florist. We opted not to use one of the bigger florists in Enid, so we went with a smaller florist. I’ve come to realize that the only downside of utilizing small businesses is that they are prone to greater instability since they aren’t backed by a larger corporation or copious amounts of money. About a week after ordering flowers, it was announced via social media that the shop was being put on the market to be sold. I wasn’t too concerned since it never came up in conversation during our ordering session, but to be safe, I called and checked in with the owners. It turns out that there is nothing to worry about, as they are slowly starting to step away from accepting new jobs, but will fulfill everything they’ve signed on to date. All things worked out well, no crises here!

Last week, my mom and I were fairly productive. Our crowning achievement for the week was that we finished making up our punch. Since the recipe calls for the punch to be frozen, it can be made quite a while in advance. It was nice to cross that item off of our list!

The last item of note is that I am currently without my beloved engagement ring, as Thomas repossessed it yesterday. I say that, but really, he’s taking it to the jeweler to have it cleaned and to have my wedding band soldered on to it. I won’t be able to wear it again until the wedding, so I’m going to miss it quite a bit over the next two weeks!

Today (I guess now I have to classify it as yesterday) was a good Fourth of July. It was much simpler than our celebrations in most years (for obvious reasons). We assembled wedding programs, then Scotty grilled delicious hamburgers for us. After dusk, the older boys headed out to the pasture and set off our fireworks. We also were able to see displays for miles around us in all directions. It was a simple, perfect night with my family. I really love nights like these :)

I’m hoping to get at least one more post in before the wedding (which could be a tall order to fill), but if I don’t, the next time you hear from me could be after I am a married woman! Here we go!