Friday, November 30, 2012


I woke up this morning to one of my favorite things.

"Hey, wife?"

Chris and I got to bed later than we meant to, so today, I was the one reduced to monosyllabic grunts. This left Chris to be the one to tell me that the alarm had already gone off and we needed to get going.

Some things about this week have been really hard. As much as we desperately needed Thanksgiving break, school holidays always leave us wondering if it wouldn't be better to plow through to the end. It's hard to regain momentum, and easy to get discouraged.

Other things about this week have been wonderful. I've baked so much that we're out of white sugar. Chris continues to be sweet and self-sacrificing, even when I'm not very good at vocalizing my needs. And I've realized that, perhaps for the first time ever, my pathological perfectionism is waning.

I don't have to look at the whiteboard to know that there are several things I need to do today. I can already tell you: several of them won't get done. As I sit here, listening to Christmas music, it's hard to care.

This morning, I pulled Chris' arm around me as he leaned on the doorframe, looking at something on his phone. I put my face in his neck and breathed in.

"What's wrong?"

I shook my head.

"Nothing is wrong?"

I nodded.


What he didn't know, and what I couldn't articulate, was that I wanted to have a moment to carry with me today. The weight of his arm around me, the feel of his skin on my cheek, his particular scent, the warmth of his love -- no matter how much I get done today, I'll think of that and be grateful.

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

our story, pt. 6: four little days

The following day was a Thursday. July 7th, to be precise. Chris and I had seen each other every day since Sunday, for as many hours a day as we could spare. And I was pretty hooked.

Not that I was pushing for being in a relationship right away. I mean, four awesome days is still just FOUR DAYS. But I could tell we had understanding at this point, and that was enough for me, at least for a little while.

And then we went to Institute.

I'd been going to Institute regularly. Institute brightened any of my mid-week doldrums by exchanging uplifting scriptural insights with friendly, intelligent people, and Chris was no exception to that. When he came in and made a beeline for the seat beside me, I was awfully pleased.

I remember turning, just slightly, so that my knee was against his. I thought it was a pretty low-key gesture, just reestablishing the broken touch barrier. No big deal. It was fun, paying attention to him and not feeling like I was being completely ridiculous, like so many other times when I'd had a crush on someone and felt like I needed to play it cool. Whatever, I'd decided. This is who I am and if someone doesn't like it, they don't have to hang out with me. I glanced from Chris, to our touching knees, back to Chris. I felt a little smug.

I was not prepared for what happened next. The class had settled into its usual rhythm. Brother Nichols had posed a question, class members were answering. I was content to listen, so I rested my hand in my lap rather than raising it.

And then Chris took my hand.

After the initial reveling, I was livid! What do you mean, 'he's holding my hand??' He DARN WELL better mean something by it! I mean, hello, he's holding my hand in front of my ENTIRE DATING POOL! If he's just messing with me, just holding my hand for fun...oh man. Oh man. I am so mad. So mad. It's time for a Conversation, stat! I wasn't gonna push things, but he is NOT allowed to hold my hand in front of EVERYONE IN THE WARD unless he means business!

Chris and I had already discussed that, after Institute, he would be helping me unload luggage from my  car. I was going to be dog-sitting for the next two weeks, and could use the help. When we were finished, I wasn't eager for him to leave -- we needed to have a Conversation, after all -- so I invited him to come downstairs. "Dude, you have to see their fancy 'man cave.' It's got a giant projector and everything." He obliged.

In their basement media room, we sat on the couch. "It's freezing down here." I scooted close to him.

We got talking, but that eventually devolved into Chris' right arm around me, tickling my right side. I grabbed his hand with my left, but he was undeterred: he started tickling my left side with his left hand. So i grabbed that one with my right hand.

I hope you're getting the proper mental picture here. My arms, crossed over myself, holding both of his hands in a paltry attempt not to get tickled. Flirting 101, my friends, and we were both scoring A+.

But then the silence crept in, and there we were, snuggled on the couch, holding hands. It was no longer about tickling, or even flirting really, but the simple fact that we were that close, and okay with it. The silence stretched thin, and we broke it at the same time.

"So I think we need--"

"I wanted to talk to you--"

We laughed, nervously, and I let go and turned a little to look at him. "Go ahead," I said.

In what has become classic Sara-and-Chris style, we actually got off on a tangent, then, of all times. Something about how funny it was to refer to a conversation as a DTR while said DTR was actually in progress. (It stands for "defining the relationship," in case you didn't already know.)

Then Chris rambled for a while, about how he would only be around for the summer, and he'd totally understand if I didn't want to deal with that, not to mention how he was sure I could do better, and he'd see if I felt like it was a waste of time, but...

I couldn't take it anymore. "Chris. Are you asking me to be your girlfriend?"

He blinked a few times, clearly baffled by this incredibly forward girl he barely knew. The clever, energetic one with the big eyes and the fearless smile. The one he knew was going to be important to him, though he didn't know how or why. "Yes."

"Good, because the answer is yes."

And that was that.

Four days was all it took, and then Chris and I were exclusively dating.

It's a running joke in our marriage now, how I took all of the initiative, how I plowed ahead and didn't look back, how he would have done something if I would have just waited a cotton-pickin' second.

But any of my friends can tell you I'm a terribly impatient person.

I'm just glad that Chris didn't mind.

Sunday, November 18, 2012

our story, pt. 5: texting

As I write this, I realize all over again how important texting was to the early stages of our relationship. I think I'm okay with that, for a couple of reasons.

One, I think dating, in the initial stages at least, is supposed to be more casual. Why would you call some girl you hardly know on the phone when you much more readily text all of your best friends? It's just kind of unnatural, and dating doesn't need any help with the weirdness factor. It's got plenty of that all on its own.

Two, I think that some infiltration of technology into social interactions is inevitable. A few generations back, people probably felt a little weird about getting phone calls instead of hand-written letters. Someday, texting might seem really formal and adorable, the way a hand-written letter is now.

Three, well...texting worked for us! We're married now! I'm sure not gonna complain. Especially because Chris has sent me some really adorable text messages over the last year-and-three-months. The one he sent me the day after our second date probably still ranks as my favorite.

I was at work, and had just finished spilling all of the juicy details of the night before to my co-workers. From the break room, I heard my phone go off.

"That could be him..."

"Go, girl, go!"

They didn't need to tell me twice. I dashed to the breakroom and opened up my phone. Lo and behold, it was Chris. "I've been trying to come up with a good excuse to see you today," the text read, "but the only one I could come up with is that I simply just want to see you today. If that is not too lame of an excuse, please let me know."

Cue freakout. I'm so glad he wasn't there to witness all of this.

"OMIGOSH that's like the cutest thing everrrr! Guys, look at what he just sent me! So sweet! Eeeeeeee! Oh, hey, guys? HOW DO I EVEN RESPOND TO THAT?!??"

Fortunately, after I got it out of my system, I was able to play it cool. "It's an okay excuse, I guess." Wink. (Ah, texting.) I told him I'd be busy prepping the blood drive that evening, but if he wanted, he could come over and use my GRE prep book to study.

So he came over, and, surprise surprise, we didn't get anything done. We ended up on the couch, just talking, again. We shared backstories, intimate information about our lives and histories that would definitely affect our relationship, if we chose to have one. We mourned with each other.

I think I came away from it feeling a little more crazy for how fast things were going, and strangely, a little less crazy too. We weren't perfect, and this would be a lot of work if things kept going, but we could at least empathize with each other, knowing we needed empathy just as much ourselves.

And maybe, just maybe, all this would be okay.

Friday, November 16, 2012

our story, pt. 4: songs

I have about 50 other things I could be doing right now, rather than blogging. The missionaries are coming over for dinner tonight and I haven't even touched the crock pot. I need to move laundry over to the dryer, not to mention load the dishwasher. I haven't even worked on my novel yet today. 

Funny, how a song makes all of that not matter.

Let me start by saying, I'm not a full-blown Taylor Swift fan. I think her style can be a bit...juvenile? And there was a long time when I couldn't listen to any of her music at all because it would just make me sad. However, I think every girl knows there is at least one Taylor Swift song (more likely several) that describes her life, uncannily and undeniably. And something about that just makes a girl feel a little bit better. Those are the songs you play while you do your hair in the morning, or blast in the car on the way to work. They become a part of your Life Playlist.

I found a song like that today, and it reminded me of another special song...

Last July, it sort of amazed me how comfortable I was with Chris, this man I barely knew. I'd already been painfully honest and immensely forward with him. And yet there he was, picking me up for our second date, opening my door, and giving me that perfect dimpled smile. We rode out to the fairgrounds to see the fireworks, and it was kind of a long drive. We chatted as we drove, and his iPod played songs on shuffle.

"I should warn you," I told him, "I almost always sing along with the radio. Will that bother you?" 

He shrugged. "Nah." 

The sense of ease he conveyed stuck with me, and when "American Pie" came on, I started to sing with it. After the first verse, he started singing too, quietly to begin with, but by the end of it, we were exchanging grins and putting our hearts and souls into the refrain: 

Bye-bye, Miss American Pie
Drove my Chevy to the levy but the levy was dry
Them good ol' boys, drinking whiskey and rye
Singing "This will be the day that I die,
This will be the day that I die..."

Sitting next to him on the freeway, belting Don McLean lyrics into the dark, I was a little in awe. I'd been interested in Chris, yes, absolutely. Nothing serious though, nothing with real intention.  

After that, however, the only thing I could think was, "Um. Wow. I really want to date this guy."

Truth be told, it could have all gone south shortly thereafter. As we neared our exit, fireworks began to go off just above the treeline. 


I panicked a little, I confess. "Oh no, I must have gotten the time wrong. I'm so sorry, Chris. I feel really bad!" And, like always, I wasn't so much mortified by my misinformation as worried how other people -- like my date -- would respond to it. Be annoyed? Think I was stupid? Feel disappointed and never quite forgive me for it?

But Chris just shrugged again! "It happens. Do you want to park somewhere though? We can talk until the traffic clears out."

I'm certain I gave him a look that bordered on adoration, mingled with relief. "That would be great."

And that's exactly what we did -- pulled into a little parking lot and just talked. For hours. By the end of it, I was more than a little freaked out.  Does he ALWAYS say the right things? Is he just so good at this dating stuff that he knows what a girl wants to hear? Maybe he's been stalking me! ...Or can he just read minds?! The answer, of course, was none of the above. It's just that I was catching the first crazy inklings of a fact that now defines my life.

He's perfect for me. 

Everything had changed.

I'm so tremendously grateful that I get to spend my life with this man. I am so not good at this marriage thing, not all the time. I feel like I get annoyed with him on a daily basis, which, as I have told him, says much more about how easily annoyed I am than it does about anything he's doing. 

This is the kind of thing I might spend my whole life working on, especially to minimize the adverse effects it will have on our children. For their sake, as well as mine, I am so glad that I married a man who expends his energy on being easygoing -- even if it means he doesn't always have a lot of energy left for his homework. I am so grateful he's the kind of person who can just shrug and say, "it happens." 

Because I'm really not that kind of person, not yet. When I grow up, if that ever really happens, I really hope I am more like my husband. He's the kind of guy that changes lives for the better. 

After all, he sure changed mine.

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

our story, pt. 3: the first date

On Independence Day of 2011, work was dead. By mid-morning, I clocked out, and as it neared midday, I reminded myself that I was just trying to be friendly to the new kid, and made a gutsy move.

" I have a thought," I texted Chris.

"What's that?" The response came within a minute or two, which made me smile.

"I actually DON'T work today, and I would rather not sit around the apartment all afternoon by myself. My follow-up thought to that was that you might be bored at home too. Catching my drift...?"

"I think I am," he responded. The smiley face he included was beautifully reassuring.

...And at this point, I think it's only fair to include a little of Chris' side of the story.

Chris thought he was going to do an internship in the summer of 2011, but no dice. As much as he tried, all of his attempts were foiled and foiled again. Chris was bemoaning this to his sister Ruth (they're close, both in age and friendship) and she promptly replied, "Come visit me in North Carolina instead!"

Suddenly, and although he thought an internship was a much better idea, he somehow knew it was exactly what he was going to do.

When he arrived at the townhouse, Ruth (and Jeff, her husband) promptly began haranguing Chris about dating while he was there. Apparently, Ruth even went all missionary-commitment-pattern on him by his second week there. "Chris. Will you ask out a girl in your ward by this time next week? I promise you will have fun and be really glad you got out of the house in order to make new friends."

"Okay," Chris replied. "I have someone in mind." ME!!!!

So basically, if I would have gone for a walk with him the night before, he totally would have asked me on a date.


However, being easygoing and resourceful person that he is, Chris instead took my "drift" and ran with it. Did I want to go swimming? Had I eaten lunch? Did I want to do that, and then come back and play board games with his sister and brother-in-law? I planned on going to the ward activity that evening, right?

"And what's your address, anyway?" he finally asked.

"Well, I still need to finish getting ready, so I'm not telling yet!"

"Tease." He's called me a few times in the last year and a half.  Every time, I'd say it's been warranted.


Anyway. He picked me up at Dani's apartment, where I'd been staying that week, and we proceeded to explore Franklin Street in Chapel Hill, in quest of a place to eat. Over lunch, I learned that Chris was born rather deaf but as a little kid, had this miraculous healing after a priesthood blessing. I thought that was pretty dang cool.

And as for Chris, I thought he was pretty dang cool too. He held doors, paid for things like it was the obvious thing to do on a date, and was easy to talk to. Like, really easy to talk to. The day before had not been a fluke. He was just so...nonthreatening. I liked that, but the absence of obvious threat put me on the alert for less obvious red flags.

After lunch, we went to his sister's. She was normal, and nice, and seemed fond of her brother. No red flag.

We played board games. It was competitive, in a funny way, and they were very patient about teaching me a new game or two. No red flag.

We briefly discussed, and decided we ought to hit the grocery store before going to ward FHE, so that we had a contribution to make to the pot luck. No red flag.

In fact, the scariest thing about the day was at the store, I had to remind myself that I really didn't know him that well, and therefore, probably shouldn't stand that close to him. Just out of politeness, or at very least, social norms. People have a bubble.

But with him, I just felt so comfortable.

We spent most of the day getting to know each other and bantering argumentatively, so it wasn't surprising that I was worn out by the time the ward pot luck rolled around. I admit, once we got food and chatted with the crowd a little bit, I hid! It of course meant my friends found me, though. "Did you come with Chris? Are you guys on a date? Do you totally like him? Where is he, anyway?"

"Yes, yes, and I don't know yet! Cut me some slack, geez. And he was wearing me out, so I ran away!"

Chris patiently accepted my introversion line, again, when he found me later. We sat with Dani and her roommate Laurelin, and when the leadership broke it to us that fireworks were cancelled on account of rain, we all opted to go back to the apartment and watch a movie.

When Chris tried to take the chair instead of sitting with us on the couch, I knew it was time for another strategic risk.

"You're really going to sit all the way over there?" I demanded.


"Dude, come sit on the couch!" As far as I was concerned, we were still on a date, and it was just dumb for me to sit with Laurelin and Dani when my cute, charming date was in the room. Duh.

I don't even remember what movie it was now, probably because the end of it marked tactical move number two. I'd been on dates before with guys who were mostly just friends. On one in particular, I seriously considered putting my head on my date's shoulder, just to see what would happen to the dynamic. It's a nice little way of saying, "hey, I kinda like this. What do you think?"

Besides, Chris and I had just spent about 12 hours together. It didn't seem like that big of a deal.

So I did it. I put my head on his shoulder on our very first date. After a few minutes, his arm went around my shoulders and I smothered a smile.

Well, okay then, I thought.

Suspicion confirmed!

Saturday, November 10, 2012

our story, pt. 2: the game night

All through our church meetings that fateful Sunday, the leadership kept talking about the pot-luck our congregation was having that afternoon.  I knew if I were brand-new to the ward, I would want to go, but, not knowing who I'd sit by, I'd be too chicken to actually show up.

So I texted Chris. "Hey, are you going to break the fast?"

The answer was yes. And then we started talking about what we food were bringing to share, and it just kinda kept going. Finally I teased him, "if your blondies bomb, you could theoretically blame me for distracting you. But I will deny everything!!"

"LOL, don't worry, I would never do that! I choose to be distracted, and no matter how they turn out, I chose well."

I didn't even know what to say to that.

After texting each other for a total of three hours, we also sat together at break the fast. All my friends made fun of us for being so wrapped up in talking to each other that we ignored everyone else. This was true to a point -- when they started talking in front of Chris about the game night to happen in a few hours, I noticed, and thought it was a little rude. So I invited him to come, and he did.

We kept talking at the game night, or at least tried. I leaned my head on the back of the couch, drowsy and a little glum.

"Are you okay?" he asked finally.

"Just tired," I told him. "Believe it or not, I'm an introvert, and I've just had too much people-ness today. It makes me feel worn out." I considered, and made a deliberate tactical move, just to test the waters. "Maybe I should go on a walk or something. But it would be dumb to go alone, in the dark..."

"Well, I could go with you?" Hook, line, and sinker. Which was great, but now, it was time for a solid dose of honesty.

"Actually," I laughed a little, "I think it's mostly talking to you all day that has made me so tired!" The man positively gaped at me. "It's nothing personal, I promise! It's just that new people wear me out especially."

"I guess I can understand that."

"I just hope I sleep okay, since I have to work tomorrow. On the fourth of July!" There was a collective boo, hiss! from the group. "Do you have any plans tomorrow?" I asked him.

"Just the ward FHE activity."

I nodded. "Yeah, I'll be there too. There's soccer on Tuesday, as well."

"Soccer?" His eyes lit up. "They didn't mention that at church."

"Oh, no, it was the ward e-mail list. Text me your e-mail address later and I'll send you the link."

Which he did, along with a little note. "Thanks for helping me get acquainted with people from the ward and for getting to know me. You're a Godsend." I remember thinking something along the lines of either this guy just has a way with girls, or I'm a total sucker for flattery.

Maybe both.

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

our story, pt. 1: the new guy

Dani and I sat in the cushioned pews of the second biggest room of our church building. Courtney, our energetic and lighthearted Sunday School teacher, had just invited the class (basically our entire congregation!) to get into small groups to discuss a question she'd posed.

We exchanged knowing glances with the people sitting nearest us. You'll be in our group, the looks said. And then guy I'd never seen before ambled over to our huddle and asked if he could be in our group. He said his name was Chris.

I'm the type of girl that always sizes up new guys, so this was no different. He was tall with dirty blond hair (my favorite combination.) Though he seemed a little reserved, he wore a slight smirk that belied either a slightly arrogant streak or an ironic sense of humor.

I decided I was going to be his friend.

The next week, Dani and I caught Chris sitting by himself. "Hey! You're not allowed to sit by yourself. Come sit with us. We don't bite." The reserved smirk appeared again, dimples and all. Dani and Chris got chatting. Dani is charming and thin and pretty and perky, after all. So I just shrugged it off.

The week after that, however, I invited Chris to sit with us again. I was still determined to make him feel welcome. "I know what it's like to be the new kid," I told him, handing him a hymn book. "We'll be your friends."

We sang "Love One Another," and I tried (and failed) to smother an appreciative grin. "As I have loved you, love one anothow," Chris sang. His speech impediment was adorable. And later in Sunday School, he shared the most insightful comment. I quickly pulled out my journal and wrote it down, adding a few thoughts of my own. By the time I was done, the lesson was wrapping up, so after the prayer I turned to Chris. "Thanks for sharing that comment. I really needed to hear that."

Our conversation from there was so engaging that we hardly noticed the room emptying around us. "It's just challenging," I concluded, "since I feel like I've spent my whole life taking care of everyone else, and now I'm at a point in my life where I can't. I have to let other people take care of me, and I'm still learning how."

"That's interesting," Chris replied, a little disbelievingly, "because I feel like everyone has always looked after me, but now I'm finally at a point in my life where I can look after other people. He hesitated. "So, I mean, if I can do anything for you..."

It was the sort of thing someone would say, somewhat insincerely, to a person they already mostly knew. Not what a guy would say to a girl he just met. Not unless he meant it.

So I believed him.

"Actually," I laughed, "I'm in charge of this blood drive on Friday. If you wanted to come and offer some manpower, that would probably be really helpful!"

"Yeah? What kind of stuff would you want me to do?"

"I'm not sure, to tell you the truth." I grimaced apologetically. "Tell you what, why don't you give me your number, and I'll let you know what kind of help I'll need?"

"Sure." We pulled out our phones, exchanged numbers, and a little sheepishly, parted ways to arrive very late to our separate classes. As I walked away, I couldn't help laughing a little to myself. Technically, although I didn't really mean anything by it...

I just got a guy's number.

Monday, November 5, 2012

our story, preface: the new girl

I've changed wards several times in my life.

As I've gotten older and accumulated more practice, I've learned there's a few key points to making it a successful transition.

One, go to everything. Every Sunday meeting, every weekday activity, every service project. Seeing new people many times helps them feel less new (and scary,) and with the familiarity comes confidence and opportunities to strike up conversations.

Two, befriend the leadership, whether that's the bishop, Relief Society president, Sunday School teacher, or best yet, all of the above. These people are the people who know everyone, plus it's part of their job to be friendly. Their smiles and enthusiastic how-are-yous and introductions will help you maintain a minimum level of socialization while you find your niche in the ward.

Third, and related to the second, is to ask for a calling. Service is an excellent way to address loneliness, as it takes your focus away from your own needs and allows you to serve with others, thereby building the relationships and making the new ward feel like home.

My belief in these concepts solidified in the spring of 2011, and have served me well ever since. I had graduated from BYU-Idaho a few months previously, and I missed interacting with people my age with increasing desperation. Even though the women who had been my mentors growing up were just as friendly and helpful as ever, it just wasn't cutting it.

So, I started going to the singles ward. Within a few weeks I didn't feel much like "the new girl" anymore. I felt like I'd be missed if I didn't show, in part because I had responsibilities, but also because (faster than I could have hoped!) a circle of friends had formed around me. For being new, I felt awfully blessed.

This translated toward a magnanimous spirit as other new people came into the ward. Dani (the new new girl) and I quickly became officially-unofficial-best-friends, for the sake of having someone cheerful and sympathetic to sit by.

At the end of June, our sweet, perky Sunday School teacher invited us all to get into small groups to discuss a passage of scripture, with the idea that we were going to share the best insights from our group from the class. It's a very typical setup, and honestly, what happened next is pretty typical too.