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The Dirty Little Secret That Engaged People Don’t Talk About: How I Realized I Needed More Grace Than Ever!

2 Sep
While our photographer captures beautiful moments, no one knows the story of how Mark repainted my nails right before this or how we were totally stressed out driving to Newport Beach that day, or the fact that parking was a nightmare...the truth behind the engagement pics! :)

While our photographer captures beautiful moments, no one knows the story of how Mark repainted my nails right before this or how we were totally stressed out driving to Newport Beach that day, or the fact that parking was a nightmare…the truth behind the engagement pics! 🙂

I recently read a blog from a friend, Stephanie May, where she made a terrific point about relationships that then turn into engagements. No one talks about how hard it is. I’m not complaining and saying “Oh whoa is me, I’m about to be married.” I’m just wanting to publicly recognize that being engaged and making no less than three major life changes at once is really tough. At times, trying to figure it all out, trust God, keep my physical, emotional, and spiritual needs in check, and enjoy the process is not nearly as easy as everyone makes it out to be.

 

When I was single watching others do this, I heard some horror stories and saw a few knowing looks exchanged between recently married couples that I really didn’t quite understand until now. But I’m starting to realize that engagement doesn’t equal immediate bliss, happily ever after, fun and games. It’s hard. It’s work. It’s trying at times. There are tears and frustrations, words that can’t be taken back, tension headaches, and at times I just want to elope to avoid all of these decisions!

 

I love Mark very much and I can’t wait to be his wife, his teammate, and the person closest to him who gets to witness first-hand who God is creating him to be. I seriously can’t wait! But the part where I have to plan a wedding living 100 miles away from him, figure out finances, and apartment shop with him has been trying. I’m not going to lie.

 

Before we were engaged, Mark and I would squabble about little things like where to eat or logistics of navigating a long distance relationship but mostly, we just enjoyed hanging out and being together. We had new adventures every weekend and while it was annoying trying to figure out the 100 mile distance, it wasn’t impossible. Now that we’re engaged, we fight about the usual stuff and everything else in between. Our words are sharper. We are more on edge. And although we’ve always both been very genuine about who we were from the beginning and we’ve been dating for 16 months, we’ve both wondered at times during this engagement process if this person we’re marrying is actually a total stranger!

Sometimes the word “bridezilla” takes on a whole new meaning to me, even though it’s really not as much about the wedding as it is about all of the emotions that go into quitting my job, moving 100 miles south away from my amazing community and friends, and moving in with a BOY! I seriously had a nightmare the other night about learning how to share a bed…

But before you swear off marriage all together or dismiss me as ungrateful, let me explain what good is coming out of this process.

I’m realizing how much I have to grow.

Every time I say something harsh to Mark, I feel it. I know it like you just know when you’ve done something wrong. It sticks with me, like a little pin. After awhile, the pins have built up and it becomes really uncomfortable. I realize how wrong I am, and how much I’m hurting the person that I’m marrying in less than 50 days. It’s completely crazy.

 

I think: “Why am I doing this? Did I REALLY just say that? When did I become so mean? Why am I so defensive? Mark’s not the bad guy! “(I’m so thankful that I was in counseling for so long so that I could learn some of these techniques). So when I find myself engaging in this process, I try to stop, take stock of the situation, ask myself what I’m really upset about, and breathe. Sometimes, it actually works. Especially when we’re face to face. Other times, we hurt each other, there are tears and then forgiveness, and I’m reminded again how much grace I need and how much I need to extend.

In these moments, Tim Keller’s book, “The Meaning of Marriage” comes alive and I recognize it when he says,

“Here is why you can say to your spouse who has wronged you, “I see your sin, but I can cover it with forgiveness because Jesus saw my sin and covered it.” It is because the Lord of the universe came into the world in disguise, in the person of Jesus Christ, and he looked into our hearts and saw the worst.  And it wasn’t an abstract exercise for Jesus– our sins put him to death.  When Jesus was up there, nailed to the cross, he looked down and saw us, some denying him, some betraying him, and all forsaking him.  He saw our sin and covered it.”

 

I start to understand my own sin. My own fallenness. And I remember that God loved me first, and out of that place, I can choose. Do I hold tight to my conviction that I am right or do I let go and love Mark where he is at? Do I say what’s on the tip of my tongue or stop and let that little jab stay where it should until I’m reminded that I shouldn’t say that to my future-husband who I love and am about to pledge my life to?

 

Ah the days when dropping my ice cream was my biggest concern! :)

Ah the days when dropping my ice cream was my biggest concern! 🙂

How did engagement do this? Is it the refining process? Is it a way that we’re tested before we make the biggest committment we’ll ever make to one person? I don’t really know, but I do hope and pray that on the other side of this when Mark and I are hanging out in our apartment after the wedding gifts are opened, the champagne has lost it’s bubbles, the dress is sold on Craigslist, and we are just us trying to figure out how to love each other well that we’ll look back on this time of testing and know that we are stronger because of it.

 

Until then, it’s time to find wedding bands, pick the DJ list, plan a move, get me a new job, and do our best to work together to navigate these uncertain waters. We will both have harder choices than these in the next 47 days. Will we choose sacrificial love? Grace? Words that will build up and not destroy? I hope to. I really do.

 

Quitting, Leaving, New Beginnings, And All Of That

22 Aug

Beach walkWell, I did it. I quit. Why did I quit my job, you ask? With less than two months before I get married, it’s time to make this transition and fully focus on the bittersweet process of leaving my old life and starting my new one. Some of you I’ve told in person, others may be finding out for the first time…I’m sorry if I haven’t had the chance with all of the craziness to talk to you all one on one, but at the end of September, I’m moving to San Diego County. I’m not going to say this has been the easiest thing for me. In fact, it’s been incredibly hard. But I think it will be good for many reasons. And it’s not like I’m moving to Djibouti.  It’s two hours away.

I’ll soon be entering into the unfamiliar territory called marriage and in order to do that well, I need to give myself time to process my life here in LA and all that this has meant for me. I need time to fulfill this bucket list of things that I’ve never done but have always wanted to do. Taping of Jeopardy anyone? A visit to Sprinkles? Touring some of those incredible looking churches on Wilshire I drive by sometimes? Also, most importantly to my soul at this point, I need to not sit on the 405 for three hours a day anymore. So, I’m leaving my job.

I’ve been in LA since 1998 and I’ve wanted to move to here since I was 10 years old and had the dream of becoming a “performing artist”, as I liked to call it. I even did a report on this when I was in 7th grade. My freshman year of college at USC, I made part of this dream a reality and I moved out here. Then I fulfilled another dream  of learning about film and television and got into USC’s film school. Not knowing what to expect, I fumbled my way through my freshman year as a Midwesterner public school kid in a California private school. I figured out how to write college papers, made some surface friends and then later some real friends, and learned a ton. I also became a Christian, which completely changed my priorities.

Upon graduation, I had several fun but crazy jobs in entertainment, I co-wrote a screenplay, wrote a play, worked on several TV shows, and realized that what I wanted most in this crazy city was a place of belonging. So I joined a women’s life group and a church and faced the world, relationships, breakups, unemployment and disappointments with others by my side.

I love LAI’ve grown to LOVE Los Angeles in many ways. I know it. It’s familiar. I’ve lived here longer than I’ve lived anywhere. It’s eclectic, diverse, interesting, never boring, urban, suburban in parts, and it’s the city where my dreams turned from superficial ones where I would become the female Steven Spielberg to where I learned how to follow Christ with all my heart, love justice, be a friend, serve, love, be broken, and be rebuilt again. It’s where I learned that money wasn’t everything, friendships could be fought for, and sticking to my true values in romantic relationships was more important than the feeling of being loved that I was so desperately chasing. LA has shaped me. I have so many memories here. As my time comes to a close, I hope to write about some of them and share what I’ve learned. I hope to end this chapter well and on my own terms so that I can enter my new life with a healthy outlook, spiritually grounded.

When I joined ChristianMingle and “smiled” at Mark, I did not know where San Marcos was. I thought it was a lot closer until I looked it up on a map.  We’ve been doing the 100 mile drive almost every weekend since April 2012. That’s a lot of miles. We’re both ready for that to be over and can’t wait to actually come home at the end of the day and get to be together.  With that happy possibility looming, it’s making my departure from the LA life brighter. I have hopes for the future. I want to be able to drive to the beach in 15 minutes. That will be awesome. I’ll hopefully be able to go to Mission Bay frequently and meet Shamu, finally. I hope for new friends, a new dream, and to fully launch my writing career that has been birthed out of my time here in LA.

Lots to do. 58 days till my wedding. 10 more work days, 20 more commutes. I’m doing this!

Taylor Swift Thinks We Should Fall Into Love. Without Being A Cynic, I Disagree

25 Oct

Goofy picture. Really goofy. My idea. Good one? I look ridiculous.

I recently became a high school leader at my church’s youth group on Wednesdays.  Last night, I had the distinct privilege of getting to hear thoughts on love from a group of smart, in-tune, and vocal 14 year old girls while they discussed our culture’s idea of romantic love.

I’m not an ageist but the girls’ remarks were surprisingly self-aware and wise!

What I learned from this conversation, took me years of counseling and several dead-end relationships with unrealistic expectations (on my part) to discover and they are only 14. I was impressed.

While I don’t remember the exact quote, I do remember the girls excitedly talking over each other about how popular culture tells them that love means ball gowns, princesses, and “forever”. One girl reminded me that Sleeping Beauty got married after one kiss.

“ONE KISS!” she cried. “And she was asleep!”

Another girl assured me that she’s been through “all of that” (love) and believe it or not, it’s not the way it turns out. What?! What the heck was I doing at 14? Oh yeah, still playing house.

While I was intrigued by the girls’ realization about romantic love in this day and age, I realize that knowing something in your head and then following it through in your actions are two different things.

These same young girls who seem to know that Disney princesshood is not real also read Twilight and scream when a Taylor Swift song comes on.  And who could blame them? I have an annual pass to Disneyland and I like TSwift just as much as the next girl. I sing her songs at the top of my lungs in the car with my roommate. I’ll probably sing some tonight since my roommate just bought “Red.”

But I have to call TSwift out.  Taylor’s philosophy on “love” is a little off the mark:

“The way I look at love is you have to follow it, and fall hard, if you fall hard. You have to forget about what everyone else thinks,” she said in a Rolling Stone interview.  “It has to be an us-against-the-world mentality. You have to make it work by prioritizing it, and by falling in love really fast, without thinking too hard. If I think too hard about a relationship I’ll talk myself out of it. …I have rules for a lot of areas of my life. Love is not going to be one of them.” –Taylor Swift

Oh Taylor, Taylor, Taylor…you’ve done so well to make millions off of these beliefs. I give you credit for being someone who has profited more off of failed relationships than just about anyone I can think of. You’re only 22. I felt like you did when I was 22 but I’m not sure you realize what you’re doing to your soul when you buy into that methodology. Or what you’re doing to the souls of your followers, 14 year olds worldwide who may not be as wise as my young friends.

I’m all about giving yourself to something you believe in, but going into love blindly is just stupid. I say this because I’ve done it. My  friends have done it.

You can’t just check your brain at the door when it comes to love, or you’ll end up hurt and embarrassed quite possibly making decisions you regret for the rest of your life.  

If Taylor doesn’t believe me, then why does she get so freaked out when Ellen parades her ex’s pictures in front of her?

If anything, you need to start thinking MORE when you decide to get in a relationship. I’m not talking about neurotic insecure overthinking that women especially can sometimes tend to do.  I’ve also been that kind of girlfriend.

You need  to think about the kind of relationship you’re getting into before you fall into it. Is it wise? Do you have friends and family keeping you accountable to staying grounded? Are you a better person when you’re with the person or without them?  Does this person treat you well? How do you treat them? Are you even ready to be in a relationship or do you need to maybe take a break and try to determine what patterns you have when it comes to dating? Are you making being in a relationship an idol, believing that a guy/girl will make all of your dreams come true?  A song about these questions might be boring but most of us are looking for healthy relationships, not a serial dating history.

I just found out that Taylor and Conor Kennedy are kaput. Am I surprised? He was a high school senior, only 18. She was jetsetting around the world making a ton of money on songs about her ex-boyfriends. It wasn’t really going to work out anyway, was it?

Friends and Taylor (if by some crazy chance you’re reading this). Take stock. Sit with some of these questions. You need to ask the hard questions if you want to have a healthy, lasting, and mature relationship.  That’s part of becoming and being an adult.  You have to think about your decisions and ask yourself, “Is this wise?” If it’s not, don’t even go there.

My young friends don’t need more examples of fairytale endings that aren’t realistic or breakups that could have been prevented. They need examples of good, solid, low-drama relationships full of love, acceptance and grace.  But that might not sell records. And I’m okay with that.

It’s Not About The Pants!

25 Oct

I got the opportunity to guest blog for “A Beautiful Mess” awhile back. Many of you read it, but I thought I would post a link here in case you missed it! Thanks for reading!

Read it HERE!

He Does Not Complete Me…Nor Should He OR The Unfortunate Role Of The Golden Calf In A Dating Relationship

15 Aug

Couple-dom looks great and it IS! I just don’t want to make this guy my end all be all and he doesn’t want to make me his either!

If I’ve learned one thing about dating it is this: there are no guarantees. I’m not trying to say this to sound cynical, it’s just I’ve seen many friends (myself included) start out in seemingly amazing relationships only to sit with them months later as they try to process what went wrong after it’s ended.  Just because something starts out good (what new relationships don’t),  doesn’t mean it’s going to be a good fit and that it’s going to end in couple-dom, marriage, kids, and (insert your dream here). And yet it’s easy for us to hope, dream, and do about anything to make dead-end relationships work.

Once upon a time in the not so distant past, I was the desperate girl trying to get a guy to love me. Maybe it was my own personal need for validation. Perhaps I wasn’t able to fully see what I was worth.  Chalk it up to insecurity, neediness, wanting so badly to be in a successful relationship that I would gloss over major problems. Maybe I was sick of waiting on God for a good fit that I just tried to trailblaze my own path…again and again…and yes, again.

Consistently, I would find myself in a position of dropping everything, developing new hobbies just because of a guy, forgetting about friends, putting my dreams on hold and trying to cobble together mine with his…basically changing my whole life so that it revolved around him all in hopes that I would obtain the secure and unchangeable fact that he wanted me and only me.  Despite my greatest attempts, this did not work. Why?

Why doesn’t it work when you throw yourself at someone and do everything he/she wants, just for the sake of validation? Why doesn’t  it work to just let yourself fall head over heels in love and stay there permanently?

It doesn’t work because that’s not the way that it’s supposed to be.  Certainly it’s not all bad.  Love is amazing. And relationships do take compromise, time, and energy. They aren’t just easy street. The problem comes when a relationship turn into idolatry.

Human relationships aren’t supposed to complete us because they can’t.  The operative word here is human.

We are messy and flawed.

We disappoint. We fail. Only one relationship can ever complete us.

Yep, been there, done this. Maybe it wasn’t a golden calf but still…

Only one god is meant to be worshiped by us and he’s not our boyfriend/girlfriend.

A few years ago, I heard a great sermon series about counterfeit gods.   No matter how we go through life, we follow something. We may not realize it, but we’re constantly putting something on an altar and worshiping it.  It may not be a golden calf  but maybe takes the shape of entertainment or technology. Food or beauty. Money. Fame.  Politics. Fitting in with our friends. Our favorite sports team. And sometimes it’s actually another person.  I know because I’ve done it.

I’ve stayed in relationships too long wanting the other person to fix me. I’ve hoped they would love me for me. I’ve stayed because I wrongly gave them parts of my heart and soul that didn’t belong to them and I felt that the knowledge they had of me would surely translate into a long-term love.  I’ve begged, sold my values down the river, traded “wait” for NOW, and so many other things.

I learned the hard way. But the point is, I’ve learned.

If we’re dating, we need to ask the hard questions. Am I worshiping this person or perhaps the idea of them? Am I being realistic? Am I staying in this relationship for the wrong reasons? What expectations do I have of this person and are they fair?

It’s hard to answer these questions without taking a sober look at our lives and patterns. When we do admit that yes, we may be putting this person or what they do for us on a pedestal, then what? How do we change? Is this salvageable? While it depends on the situation, I think there are some things we can do to help in the event that our significant others become idols to us.

1) Get a life! Seriously. When I have other plans with other friends,  a softball game to go to, work outs scheduled, or family commitments, this helps me realize the guy I’m dating is not the center of my world. In turn, he can actually miss me when I’m not around and I can stay true to things that were important to me before he came into the picture. If you don’t have hobbies outside of your relationship, really think about something you’ve always wanted to do and go try it! Can’t hurt and it may even make you seem even more interesting to the person you’re dating. Keeping your life while you pursue a relationship is only logical. The person you’re dating didn’t fall for a robot who follows them around, they fell for YOU. The you who has a fulfilling, great life in addition to them.

This is a trip I took with my friends. Sans boyfriend. When I came back from the trip, we really missed each other. Still glad I went though!

2) Keep Accountable.  I try to talk to my girlfriends, mentors, and wise family members who know me about my problem of making the guys I date into idols. I’m not perfect, but I’ve grown a lot. They will tell it to me straight if I’m spending too much time on the guy I’m dating. Plus, my boyfriend understands that I need my own time for me. I actually don’t want to make him the center of my life because that would be really boring. By not knowing everything he’s doing/thinking /feeling every day all day, it actually gives us something to talk about when we do get together.  And I give him time to process our relationship on his own, which almost always benefits me.

3)   Spend some time alone (preferably outside in a pretty place). I’ve found that these times of solitude and prayer were invaluable to me. When you can become aware of who you are in your relationship and actually have time to think about your behavior and how it’s working for you, you may realize some unhealthy patterns that have developed. Being silent and still as well as learning to journal out my feelings has almost always left me more invigorated and better able to communicate with God about these feelings and tackle my issues head on.  Also, there’s something about being alone in nature that makes me realize how small I am and how big God is.

4)  Be committed to growth. For example: If you start working with a charity or people group you’re passionate about, your world will grow.  Suddenly it won’t be about you and your relationship, it will be about serving others around you, seeing outside of yourself, and you may even realize how much you need God in the midst of that.  A few years ago, I ended a relationship just as I was growing very passionate about abolishing modern-day slavery. Putting my energy into that passion helped me realize that I had outgrown my relationship and it made me less afraid to end it knowing that there was more left in the world to do if the relationship didn’t work out.  It was one of the better realizations I could have had at that time in my life.

There’s no easy fix to this issue. My guess is, we battle some form of idolatry our entire lives. We are constantly asked to choose and we have a myriad of choices. How do we keep putting God in his rightful place whilst also pursuing relationships and dating? It’s not easy. I’ve only grazed the surface of this one. I’d love to hear your comments if you’d so choose to share. What’s worked for you? What hasn’t? Leave a comment below.

What Veruca Salt, That Guy Who Cut Me Off In Traffic, And My “I Want” Syndrome Have Taught Me About Love

23 Jul

Love is patient.

Wait until the clock strikes 12.

I’ve been reading a lot about love this week. It’s funny because at this prayer series we’re doing at church, we’re studying 1 Corinthians and I was asked to read 1 Corinthians 13 aloud to everyone in the group. I smirked.  This was a week after being inundated with everyone’s opinions about what “love” is everywhere I go. Through a new song from one of my favorite band’s (Stars), I’ve heard “Hold On When You Get Love and Let Go When You Give It.” Or, from another song introduced to me by Love and Respect Now, I’ve been pondering the question, how do we not idolize romantic love or the thought of feeling known in community? (Another blog to come).

Or, another idea of love from one of my favorite ministries, The Living Room:

“Love is more than words spoken from our mouths. It must be lived out in the patterns and actions of our lives.”

According to the Bible, to love means to be patient. I find that interesting that it’s mentioned as the first characteristic of love. Maybe because patience is so difficult for us?

Patient is: “bearing provocation, annoyance, misfortune, delay, hardship, pain, etc., with fortitude and calm and without complaint, anger, or the like.”

Two of my favorite kids wait in anticipation for a wedding ceremony their father is performing to begin.

Wow, I can honestly say I haven’t figured this out yet. At all. I want what I want and I want it now. I want people to know me, I want things to work the way I want, I want my boyfriend to read my mind, I want work to be fulfilling, I want to live happily ever after, I want my friends to think I’m awesome, I … I want, I want, I want. And NOW.  (On bad days, I’m kind of like that girl from Charlie and the Chocolate Factory who wants the golden goose.) My “I wants” have become insatiable of late… More food, sleep, time with loved ones, meaningful moments, recognition at work.

Waiting isn’t easy, as I’ve mentioned here before. It’s tough and most of the time, I fail at it. But I’m learning. Last week in traffic I didn’t swear at all when I got cut off! It was a small victory, considering a few weeks ago I actually made my hand into fist and almost raised it yelling something about picking a lane and the fact that driving a Ferarri under 60 on the freeway should be illegal.

Who would want to hang out with this girl? Thus, learning patience is a top priority.

So what about this patience? What does it look like? Here’s what I think:

-It looks like waiting for an unfulfilled dream even if you doubt you can muster even a little seed of hope.

-It looks like being patient with a child that has overwhelmed you, when you’re tired beyond belief.

-It looks like trusting that although you might not be in your dream job, you can keep praying and actively looking without just jumping into something else without cause.

-It is not putting the cart before the horse in romantic love, letting a relationship grow and develop. Trusting that with patience, much will be revealed at the perfect time.

-It’s about not trying to have control, but instead giving ample time to those who might not go as fast whether that be in traffic or in life.

-Patience means hearing someone else out, not interrupting, not needing to be first. Having it not be all about me and instead letting others shine even when I have the bright idea first.

-Patience is sacrificial. It might mean not getting your own way. It could look like delayed gratification (another area I struggle with) or believing that something good could come out of the time spent.

-Patience could mean acceptance that things have not gone the way you’ve planned. Getting back up when you’ve fallen and trying again, knowing that you’re not quite there yet, but you’re getting closer.

-For me right now, patience means knowing that I don’t have all of the answers and that question marks are okay for now. It’s being aware of the fact that I’m in limbo in some areas. It’s not trying to force a false sense of closeness or intimacy with friends, family, community, or in close relationships, but instead letting them play out and being present to a greater reality that I am not in control.

If patience is an action, I may have a lot to learn. So in those moments when I feel the need to control or give up or move too fast or break down, I stop. I ask the question, am I being patient right now? And I remember that I’ve grown in this. There is grace for me. I’m not perfect. I don’t have to somehow master patience. But I can move closer to trust. And to a God who knows me and my impatience and loves me anyway.

What about you? Do you think love is patient? How has this played out in your life recently?  Feel free to leave a comment. 🙂 I’ll be continuing this series on what love is in the coming days.

The Kiss That Changed Her

1 Jul

I submitted this story to a writing contest and got “Runner Up.” I wanted to post it on here, so my regular readers could enjoy!

The Kiss That Changed Her

Her seventeenth summer, as she pinpointed later, signified the transition from girl to woman. So desperate to give away the last piece of her childhood, she fully and defiantly embraced what the world had been telling her about boys and decided to kiss one she didn’t know. She chose her catalytic moment and her companion carefully. He was a nice Jewish boy from New Jersey while she was a WASP from the suburbs of a Midwestern city. He was taking AP Spanish and a slew of other smart sounding classes in the fall and they bonded over milkshakes at a local soda fountain on the Fourth of July. She met him at a summer program where kids from all walks of life became students in various artistic disciplines. He was smart and had a radiant smile that completely cemented in her a strict requirement of straight teeth for the rest of her dating career, long after he was a distant memory. He was sweet and smooth. She was awkward and unsure but loved the attention.

It started with a movie screening. The entire group of students in their program went to the local mall, off of the university campus where they were living to see the latest summer blockbuster. Something about little green men. She didn’t pay much attention because she was too busy plotting how her life would change forever with one Kiss. To be sure, she was idealistic. To a fault. He had shown interest. She related well to him and yearned to see his smile up close. After careful maneuvering and plotting with a new friend eager to see some relational fireworks before the real show that evening, somehow she was sitting next to him. Would their hands brush? Would he notice her playing with her hair and smiling out of the corner of her mouth? Would their eyes lock? Would he have enough gumption for a seventeen year old to make his move? She wondered this throughout the movie, not really watching it, instead sneaking short glances at him. His eyes crinkled when he smiled, making him look like an old happy man. His dimples came out, a surprise moon cresting on the horizon. His eyes laughed. He smelled like Old Spice deodorant and whatever cologne seventeen year old boys employ to gain the attention of young girls. It was working. He had her attention.

It wasn’t until later, when they finally found some time alone to escape to the local Burger King where it was rumored that people got robbed where she really got to know him and decided that by the fireworks she would have her Kiss and her Change. He made small talk. She didn’t know much about him but his JCC shirt intrigued her. She wondered why the East Coast had JCC’s and wondered why she didn’t see them in the suburbs where protestant churches were on every street corner. By the time they made it to the soda fountain next door, he had flirted but didn’t make an attempt to hold her hand. Conversation flowed. He smiled easily. Any minute now.

When they arrived back at the soccer field where the requisite Fourth of July BBQ was taking place there was only one option for both of them: Soccer. She hadn’t played since she was ten. She hoped it wouldn’t show. He was a natural, moving in and out of the opposing players as a knife slides through hot butter. His technique, impressive. Her interest, piqued. They played for hours until it was time for a photo. A picture together made these few moments a memory. Time for charbroiled hot dogs, potato salad, and Coke. Too many people, not intimate enough. Night was falling soon.

It wasn’t until they made their way to the lake fill for the fireworks when she knew the Kiss might actually be a realistic possibility. She procured a blanket and lingered back, keeping him well within her sites. What a plotter she was for seventeen! He took the bait and caught up. They were both sweaty but the cool air off the lake was washing away any signs of finished soccer games. They were a world away. Suddenly it was just the two of them. The rest of the gang had gone ahead. He didn’t want to be with them and surely she did not, although in her cocky seventeen year old mind played out a fantasy. Suddenly having all the girls see her with him would have allowed her to finally put to rest her fears of inadequacy with all the boys back at her suburban high school. But who needed high school when she was playing the role of “student” living out life at a university near a lakeshore on the Fourth of July when fireworks were about to begin?

He sat down gingerly, a momentary blip in his confidence. She saw it and breathed for the first time all day. Was he as nervous as she was? As cute as he portrayed himself to be, he must have kissed a lot of girls, right? No matter, she was on a mission. She sat down next to him. Too close? Too close. She moved away immediately, nervous. His hand was next to hers. There were murmurs in the crowd as one firecracker popped, echoing above the lake sending streams of light streaking across their faces. The anticipation was killing the crowd. A wave of cheers. His pointer finger brushed the top of her hand. Electricity. She stopped breathing. Was this really happening? Just as she had planned? No. Way. She wasn’t that girl. Things like this didn’t happen to her. How? Music. Someone turned on a radio. John Phillips Sousa. As the piccolo played, her heart raced along, in synch. He looked at her. She stole a look, expecting to see the side of his face. Her palms were sweaty. He kept his eyes fixed on her. It was getting darker by the moment. She couldn’t quite determine the emotion behind his warm brown eyes. Excited? To kiss her? Really? He leaned in closer, revealing that boyish grin. She couldn’t help but smile back. Intoxicating. Little girl no more. The moment she had been waiting for.

The fireworks began.

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