Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Our Story: Part 1

So I finally wrote down our story...
I've been meaning to do this for a while, because as time goes on the memory gets a little softer around the edges. I want to try to capture the early "story of us" as much as possible before it's just a distant wisp of feeling that is swept away by the broad stroke of time. 

Our first year of knowing/dating each other was unexpected, fun, exciting, overwhelming...and hard hard hard. I honestly don't know what I would have done without the support of my dear friends and the wise words and unconditional love of my family. It's been such a good exercise for me to look back and pull out all of those feelings and memories because it's a huge blessing to see what we went through and where we are now. I don't want to forget our journey, because it's a very clear picture of redemption and grace. I learned a lot about prayer and forgiveness and myself and relationships. Maybe what we went through wasn't necessary, maybe we took the harder road, I don't know...but honestly, I wouldn't choose anything different if we had a chance to re-do it because out of the pain and struggle came something SO beautiful and I'm not sure we would be where we are today if we hadn't gone through that fire. The beauty of it is twofold: 1) it is in our rear-view mirror and we are stronger because of it; and 2) it has prepared us for when we will undoubtedly go through more difficult times together because it gives us a reference to look back on and remember "we made it through that, we can do this too".  

When I look at where we are today, it's hard to believe what we went through to finally get to the point where we knew we wanted to be together and move towards marriage. It's difficult to remember that it was once so hard and so painful, because where we are today is so far from that. And we are thankful. SO thankful.

So here we go...Our Story. I've divided it up into 3 parts that I'll be posting over the next few days, because, well, it's just long. Here we go!


The background, the “before-we-met” story, is really the best part. God truly does go before us.

It all started with one of my best friends in college (and still to this day), Cameron. She went to high school with Z and was very close with him and his family. Cam remained close with Z through college, visiting him at West Point and staying in touch over the miles. Z didn’t date very much in college (understandably; WP keeps you busy) and after graduation he started desiring a relationship and thinking/praying about what that might look like. Because he’s a very wise man, he reached out to a few women in his life that he trusted and whose opinion he valued (his mom, Cameron, etc.) and asked them what kind of girl they thought might be a good fit for him.

Cameron responded via email and recalls that as she was thinking and typing about this girl she pictured Z with, she had an epiphany: “I KNOW this girl!” and so began the plan to introduce us. This was the summer of 2008, and while I remember Cameron mentioning that she wanted us to meet and thought we’d really hit it off, I didn’t think much about it. Our paths wouldn’t cross until almost 6 months later.

We officially met at Uncle Julio’s Mexican Restaurant in Atlanta sometime in late December of 2008. Cameron had tried to get us together a few times in the previous months, but it never worked out, and honestly I was enjoying dating around and wasn’t particularly motivated to meet another guy.

When I tell the story, I never count that first meeting. I say we met on New Year’s Eve. Its way better that way. Really though, we met a few days before NYE. A group of my college friends were together celebrating a birthday. Z wasn’t actually invited and just “stopped by” as we were finishing up at Uncle Julio's. Later I learned that he came because he was told I was there and it was an opportunity for us to finally meet. He was in town for the holidays and days away from heading across the country back to Seattle.

I don’t count the first meeting because, well, it just didn’t go that well. I remember seeing him for the first time and thinking that he was a good looking guy, but it was a weeknight, I had work the next morning, it was late and I had a 45 minute drive standing between me and my bed. I just wanted to get out of there yet he sits down and starts telling some story that just went ON and ON...ugh. I didn't want to be rude, but seriously. Wrap it up. I've got a bedtime to make.

When Zach recalls this first meeting, he will say that I was completely unimpressed and couldn’t wait to get out of there. And I thought I was so subtle. Woops.

It’s funny to look back now, because I remember almost every detail of that night…what I was wearing, what Z looked like…but at the time, it was just another evening out with friends. I had no idea how much that night would change my life and now I smile every time I see pictures from that night. I also smile because these girls are some of my favorite people in the world and I hope we will always be a part of each other’s life, even though distance has separated many of us. I tear up just thinking about it.


Whew…ok back to our story.  At the time, I didn’t think twice about the night or about meeting Cameron’s friend Zach. I was too busy working and getting excited about spending New Year’s Eve with my favorite people at a friend’s lake house. Cameron is a sneaky one, so when she talked to Zach about his plans for the night, she invited him to join us at the lake house and gave him MY number to call for directions/details/etc.

He called as my friend Stephanie and I were driving up to the lake. I flirted shamelessly but harmlessly as he hemmed and hawed over whether he would make the drive from Atlanta to Hartwell for a few hours before he had to turn right around and make his EARLY morning flight back out to Seattle. “Oh just come, it will be fun!” and finally he was convinced.

He didn’t show up until much later that evening as the party was well underway, but once he was there, we stuck pretty close. It’s a little fuzzy now so I don’t know if HE stuck close to me or I stuck close to him, but I do remember really enjoying him and our conversations. Mostly though, I was just enjoying the night with my friends and this fun, interesting guy that I thought I’d never see again. 

Here's one of the only pictures of us that night. I love it for a few reasons: 1) I have a chip in my hand while I'm saying something that had to be important, otherwise the chip would have been in my mouth; and 2) Zach is looking really intently at me and I think that's sweet. Also, as I typed this up, I'm wearing that same tshirt I had on in the picture. We were such party animals, in our pjs probably before midnight. Not much has changed. 


Midnight came and went and a few hours later Z had to leave. As he was saying his goodbyes, he made eye contact with me and said (smoothly) “hey, come walk me out”. Looking back now, it really defies all logic that I agreed because it was FREEZING COLD that night, I was already in my pajamas, and we all know how I feel about being cold. No sir.

But I went out with him and leaned on his car as we talked for a few more minutes. He hugged me to keep me warm and then said something totally cheesy about re-doing midnight and getting a New Year’s kiss. And then he counted down, said “Happy New Year!” and kissed me. (You can’t unread that, Mom and Dad. Sorry!)

It was totally cheesy, but I loved it and it makes me smile to this day. My favorite part about the whole thing was that all of my friends who were in the house had gathered around the windows to spy on us, even going as far as turning off the lights inside so they could see us better in the darkness on the driveway. Needless to say, I faced a lot of ribbing when I walked back into that house.

I truly thought that was the extent of my interaction with Zach. I chalked it up to a fun night and that was it.

Until that wasn’t it.

Z called me a few days later and then just kept calling. A few weeks later, he came back to Atlanta and took me out on a real date and we spent some quality time together. I later learned that the trip was planned solely to spend some time with me in order to determine if there really was SOMETHING THERE behind our phone conversations and if it was worth pursuing. At the time he told me he was coming back to see his family. I didn’t question it. We had a great time that weekend, but I had still JUST met him. I went along with things because I genuinely liked him and enjoyed our conversations and it was fun getting to know him…but in the back of my mind was always the fact that he lived in Seattle and he was in the Army. And in my opinion, those were both show-stoppers.

To be continued...


Monday, October 29, 2012

Latest

A few important updates ... 

First of all, what did I tell you guys?  Yeah, remember that?
BEHOLD:


We still have not decided on a prize for The Winner (which is how I wish to be addressed from here on out), but I'm ok with that because now I just tuck it away for when I need it most. Like when we're out shopping and I find something irresistible but unnecessary (according-to-my-husband)...that would be the perfect opportunity to remind Z that a bet must be settled. 

Secondly, Z and I have a brand new, less-than-a-week-old nephew and we got to Skype with him (AND his parents--such a happy time) last night and it was THE BEST. He was completely asleep during the entire conversation, but I'm confident we've created a strong bond. I've been telling him that I'm his favorite aunt since he was in the womb, so I'm pretty sure it's only a matter of time before he believes it. He'll just grow up KNOWING that I'm his favorite aunt and he won't recall having ever made a conscience decision about it. And that's ok. His other aunts just need to accept it and be ok with it because they live way closer than we do and will get to see him way more. COMPROMISES, people. 

So that's the latest and greatest on our end. It continues to be cold and dark and dreary. 

We press on. 

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Eeyore days

So I've started running again, because, well, German beer. And because when I've had a rough day, I usually resort to shoveling gummy bears in my mouth and suddenly, woops that was the whole package and why don't I feel good? So many gummy bears. But also because I need the extra endorphins and energy to help me get through these rapidly shortening and almost always gloomy days. Now that's starting to get dark around 6:30, I find that I'm ready for bed at around 6:45. This poses a lot of problems...there's the whole we-need-to-eat-dinner issue, for starters.

Also because this is what the weather looks like most days. 


I KNOW, right?! Total downer. A fog basically descends over the whole area in various degrees...sometimes (mornings and evenings) it's really thick and heavy and you don't want to be outside due to vampires and werewolves. Other times it's lighter and higher but still just kind of hanging there like a giant, melancholy Eeyore and you're thinking about how getting out of bed is a complete waste because WHY?! Cruel world.

On the rare occasion when the sun does break through, I feel a great sense of urgency to get out there and soak. it. up. It was starting to get awkward that I was just going out into the backyard alone and standing there, so I figured, hey, running! Although if I try to plan my run around when the sun comes out, I'll really only get out about once every ten days...also, by the time I put my shoes on, the sun is normally gone again anyways.

It's just that I'm the kind of person that is really affected by gloomy weather and the changing seasons, ESPECIALLY the end of Daylight Savings Time (here in Germany we fall back a week earlier than the US, which is disappointing since I was under the impression that Germany didn't DO Daylight Savings). As soon as it gets dark outside, I get tired and sad and mopey and feel like it's time for bed...even if it's only 7pm. And I feel like a sad zombie after days and days of dreary grey skies. 

(Side note, if you were to ask Z about the weather, he would say that it's sunny every day. Because maybe the sun comes out for a few minutes every day. MAYBE. But this just shows the difference between a person the weather DOES affect (me) and a person unaffected by weather (Z). He does not feel the weight of this dreary weather the same way that I do, so he is mostly baffled by my gloom-induced lethargy.)

So...running. So far so good...at least until the temperature drops and then, well...more gummy bears.

Thursday, October 18, 2012

Desperation, Thy name is Facebook

I just need to address something here, because I feel like ... I don't even know, but it's bad. Am I compromising myself? Have I reached a new low? IS THIS WHAT IT'S COME TO?!

Let me explain...

It's hard to make friends here. Like, really hard. And there's a laundry list of reasons why it seems to be so difficult... I have a full-time job, we don't have kids, we live in a town with a very small Army community, I don't really like people...and so on. But we do live in a progressive era where social media brings people together, so in times of need such as this I find myself turning to Facebook. 

There's this AMAZING Facebook group for Army wives stationed at the same post here in Germany. I mean it is really stellar. It's been such an incredible community to be a part of for so many reasons, the most important being a reference for answering questions like "is there any place that does eyebrow threading around here?" and "where can I get a spray tan?" And then the less important things like "where is the closest ER" and "who do I call if I get locked out of my house?" 

This group is a lifeline to hundreds of Army wives here. There is information on EVERYTHING, from dentists and doctors in the area to places that deliver food to childcare references and on and on and on. Any time I have a question about something, I check the wives page first. If I can't find the answer, I post my question and usually have a response within the hour. It's really awesome. It was especially useful as I struggled to navigate through the process of becoming a registered citizen in my town so that I can officially work in Germany. All that to say, I'm thankful for the people who created it and all of the wives who contribute to it every day. 

So then this happened. This morning one of the admins posted "Let's do a role call! Add a little bio about yourself!" And I'm all "oh whatever" and move on with my day. But then curiosity got the best of me and a few hours later I went back to check if anyone had participated. Turns out there were more than 80 posts, so I started reading through them and suddenly I'm all "oh! You sound nice! Oh man, I could be friends with you!" and I'm sucked in. Darnit. So now I'm like, "ok, I'm reading this and finding people that I might connect with WHO ARE WANTING TO CONNECT WITH OTHER WIVES, so I should post something and maybe someone will want to be my friend!"

So I start to write up a few sentences and I'm sitting here agonizing over what to say because its like...how do I make myself sound like the best friend anyone could ever want? This is intense. This is like online dating...FOR FRIENDS. I only have a few sentences to essentially pimp myself out to a group of ladies that I don't know and all we have in common at this point is that we're stationed in the same part of the world with our Army husbands and we're all looking to make some friends. THIS. IS. STRESSFUL. And I don't even know how it works...is it like sorority rush where you're being evaluated and paired with the group most suited to you? ("On Wednesdays we wear pink") Is it like Match or eharmony where you get linked up with people who share your interests and then you meet to see if it's going to work and you want to move forward with the relationship? I DON'T KNOW.

And I can't just be honest...because if I'm just honest it would read something like "moved here in June. 1st official duty station. works full time. no kids, yet. DESPERATE FOR FRIENDS. Seriously, pick me. You won't regret this decision. I'm so nice. I will make you laugh. I'm a good listener. I make really good scones and I will bake some for you, I promise. Living off post, but a mere 25 minute drive through the peaceful and serene countryside, so don't let the distance put you off. Too far for you? Don't worry, I'LL COME TO YOU. Seriously, I'll drive an hour to hang out. Message me, I will reply within seconds and be way overeager. Can't wait to be your new BFF!"

So I had to figure out how to get my message across without sounding like a Stage 5 Clinger (should I change my profile picture? Do I look friendly enough in this picture?!). I finally put together a few sentences that summed me up without making me sound like I would be waiting on your front step with scones 25 minutes after you friend-request me on Facebook. Because that wouldn't be weird. I held my breath and pushed "post". Someone immediately "liked" my comment so I feel like I accomplished my goal. (phew)

But I also feel like I sold out. I feel like, really? is this how it is now? I'm trolling a Facebook group for potential friends? 

Sometimes reality is harsh. This IS how it is. I AM trolling a Facebook group for potential friends. Granted, it's a "safe space", a friendly group with a bunch of women all finding ourselves in this same situation where we know we have to get a little outside of ourselves to make friends. And for me, getting outside of myself means reaching the level where, yes, I will solicit friendship on Facebook. And you know what? I'm kind of ok with that. Because desperate times call for desperate measures. And I do mean desperate. 

It will be 100% worth the mild humiliation and disappointment in myself that I feel right now if I get just one friend out of this experience. 100% worth it.

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

But I do like winning...

It's taking a lot more work to get out of bed each morning these days. Germany was really cute, showing off with gorgeous sunny days when my parents were here. I can only imagine this is what it will be like with our children one day...while the grandparents are here, everyone is in perfect form. Good manners, pleasant attitudes, a joy to be around...then BAM! You suckers, anyone can pull that off for 4 days...welcome back to the other 361 days of reality. That's what Germany is doing right now. Goodbye, crisp Fall days. Goodbye, warm sunshine. Auf wiedersehen, stunning Autumn leaves. 

Hello, cold, wet, dreary, dark, grey, nasty days. (Sigh)

It takes about three cups of a tea and usually one to two cups of hot chocolate to get me through a typical day. And that's a conservative estimate. 

So it's happening. I'm about to experience my first German winter...and right now I'm thinking we're only about three weeks away from our first snow. Z and I actually have a bet on it. He thinks it won't snow until Thanksgiving. He is going to lose. We haven't decided on the stakes yet, but it will be something amazing because I want to win something amazing. Right now we just talk broadly like "oh man, you're going to be so jealous when I win something amazing!" or "I hope you won't feel bad when I have something amazing after I win this bet". 

It lacks...conviction. But as soon as we figure out what winning this bet entails, it will be a fierce competition wrought with nail-biting hourly checks of the weather apps and thoughtful "Those sure look like snow clouds" commentary. But let me just present you with the facts...yesterday the high was 45 AND it was cloudy and rained most of the day. And this is October. SURELY those temperatures will dive below freezing by the beginning of November. 

Not that I'm excited about that. Because I'm not. But I do like winning. So there's that.


Wednesday, October 10, 2012

1st Anniversary

I really just can't believe how quickly this past year has gone and how much has happened. But here we are. Celebrating our first anniversary in Prague.

We had a WONDERFUL anniversary trip. The best thing about traveling with Z is that we are like-minded tourists. Well, for the most part. At one point Z was carrying around our biggest 800 page Complete Guide to All of Europe, Volumes 1 through 3 with Appendix and Full-Size Color-Pull-Out Maps and I'm all, can you put that away? This is embarrassing. Also, smart phones...

We did manage to find a more portable, tourist friendly map. But this is what Z looked like for most of the day. Note the encyclopedia-sized book he carries. I'm impressed he's able to palm it like that; certainly it's too heavy to carry in just one hand.

ANYWAYS, we are like-minded tourists in that we like to experience cities the same way. We aren't big on spending a ton of time inside museums. We like to figure out our own way and wander. We'll consult maps and try to hit the main things, but we move at our own pace without much of an agenda. This has many upsides in that we can stumble upon things we would otherwise not see, but a lot of downsides in that we usually don't really know the significance of what we're looking at. Thankfully, Z is quick to fill in any gaps with made-up facts and dates, so I still feel like I'm culturally enriched, albeit with false information. 

For Prague, we're planning a return trip where we'll cave to the pressures of tourism and take an actual guided tour of the city...preferably by Segway, because if you're going to go "tourist", go all out. We are fortunate that Prague is a quick two hour drive from our house, so we can easily make a weekend out of it at any point (seriously, come visit us. We'll thrown in a trip to Prague). 

But this trip was more about enjoying the city and enjoying each other while celebrating our year together. It was somewhat surreal to sit in the center of this European city with my husband. I could have never imagined this would be my life, but oh I'm so thrilled that it is!

We wandered the streets of Prague, enjoyed wonderful food, took tons of pictures (although our new camera was not charged so they were all iPhone pictures...sigh) and enjoyed looking back over the last year and looking forward to many, many more. I am overwhelmed with gratitude for Z and the past year (as crazy as it's been) and so, so excited that we get to do life together. It still blows my mind that we're spending our early years of marriage together in Europe...I know that we will cherish the memories of our time together here for the rest of our lives. 

Here's some pictures from our trip...

The restaurant in the bottom left corner is where we had our anniversary dinner; it has a gorgeous view of the Charles Bridge and the cathedral on the hill, which was lit up beautifully at night. 



 I love the architecture...







We found the signs less-than helpful...





Two of my favorite shots...



 Look at this stud...

I love that the outdoor restaurants provide blankets to keep warm!







 STUNNING cathedral...
















And finally, our anniversary dinner when we got home...our wedding cake of course didn't make it through the two moves this past year, so we had cheesecake for dessert, and enjoyed using our wedding flutes and fine china for the first time.

And this is just a picture of the pretty tree outside our house. Fall in Germany is beautiful! I love celebrating our wedding during such a beautiful season...

Monday, October 8, 2012

Bittersweet

I just waved goodbye to my parents and trudged up the stairs to strip the sheets off the guest bed, fighting tears and bullying myself about it. "You're a grown up. You're married, you have your own family, this is your life now. You can't be crying every time you say good-bye to your parents again. Pull it together." Z took my parents to the airport and I stayed home, since I have work today. Part of me is really sad to not see them off and have that extra time with them in car, and part of me is really thankful I had an excuse to stay home because, really, is there anything worse than that long, quiet, lonely drive back to an empty house after you've said goodbye to someone you love? It is the worst drive.

Of course the sheets were already off the bed and down in the laundry room, because that's exactly what my mom would do. And that made me even more sad because you know what? It's just really hard to be away from your mom...maybe no matter what age you are. Maybe that will never change. I don't want to live next door or anything, but sometimes it would be nice to pop over for dinner every few weeks or make a phone call just to chat without calculating the time difference. There's really nothing quite so isolating and sad as knowing it will be another 6 months before you're with part of your family again. Today is a sad day and I plan to mope around and eat a bag of Goldfish and probably have Easy Mac for dinner (sorry, Zach). I already ate a bag of gummy bears and really the only thing that accomplished was to make my stomach feel sad too. I wish it were an appropriately dreary day, but it's beautiful and I'm annoyed by that. Let me have my pity party, Weather. You're such a show-off with your sunniness and your perfect Fall crispness. Knock it off. I'm trying to mope over here. 

*deep breath*
Anyways.
It has been a whirlwind few weeks and that explains the lack of blogging. But can we agree that it's ok to not blog in favor of actually living life? I think so. That's the rule here. Live first, blog later.

Our visit with my parents was wonderful...although there was a bit of miscommunication that led to me waiting at the train station a week earlier than my parents were scheduled to arrive, followed by a few "did you miss your train?" texts and a little bit of worrying that my parents were lost in the German countryside. It was a huge letdown to know our dates were off...first, because I had a fridge full of food (most of which went into the freezer and re-appeared a week later), a clean house and I was REALLY excited. And second, because I was already booked to travel for work during one-and-a-half days my parents would be here the following week. Cue massive meltdown and a very sweet and concerned Zach trying to console me, knowing there was nothing that could be done. I was ill over the fact that I would be gone for part of my parent's brief stay with us. It's one of those times when life seems very cruel and you contemplate doing something drastic in return, like quitting your job. 

It all worked out though, as it usually does. Z and I went to Prague for our anniversary (that's another post entirely) and were able to meet up with my parents for dinner on Sunday before we left and as they were just arriving. That was a fun experience...who would have known that a short year after our wedding we would be having dinner with my parents in Prague?! It helped eased the pain of knowing I would be gone later that week when they arrived in Germany.

Then I was off to Denmark again and Z was left to play host to my parents for part of Thursday and Friday while I was gone. It was mostly terrible to be sitting in a conference room in Denmark, discussing software and workflows, knowing that my parents were in my home, seeing my town, getting a taste of our German life. But then I was home (after running through the Hamburg airport and being escorted onto my flight as THE LAST PERSON TO BOARD) and we were all together and it was wonderful.

I can't explain to you how much we enjoyed having family here. Right now, Z and I are all each other have, and that's good in a lot of ways and really hard in a lot of ways. So it warmed my heart to have people in our home, people we love and are comfortable being around. And it was so, so wonderful to finally be able to show them our life here because actually EXPERIENCING and SEEING it is way different than trying to explain and understand via Skype or email. It really made me so happy to have them share a few days of life in Germany with us. 

And it's hard to sit here in this quiet empty house now. Their visit went by way too fast, as we knew it would. And now we settle back into our routine and that's good. But right now, it's really sad that they're gone. And it's really sad that I won't see them for another six months. 

And Germany feels really, really far away from everything and everyone that we love and miss and care about so much.