Dinner Tables and Love Stories.

The counselor at our church told us that we should remember our love story. He said that we should be intentional in remembering the time we spend together. He looked at us and the other couples in the room on Thursday night, each of us seeking the same thing: marriage; and he warned us that it wasn’t going to be easy. He warned us and told us again to hold on to memories, because they would remind us what intimacy looks like and feels like. And maybe if we held tightly to the feelings these memories brought, we would all be happier.

This reminded me of a meal I had shared at my grandparents house as I child. I remember specifically sitting at their dinner table one afternoon in a late summer of my youth. The sun was bright and in my eyes, so my grandmother had pulled the drapes closed. They were heavy drapes that let dust onto our dishes, and even when they were drawn the sun would sneak through the dimples, casting rays of light through my grandfather’s cigarette smoke. (It was the nineties then and no one put their cigarettes out; not even at the dinner table.) My grandmother would dishes of food to the table from the kitchen as we fought over the coveted seat next to grandpa. When she placed them on the table, he looked at her and smiled, saying “thanks babe.” This made my sister and I giggle. Later we asked my mom if she knew that he called grandma “babe”, because “isn’t he too old for that?” She told us that he wasn’t and we giggled again. There are some lessons that take twenty years to learn.

When Sean and I came home from our pre-wedding counseling, we sat at our small table sharing a late dinner. I hadn’t felt like cooking and Sean was too tired to mind the frozen pizzas I prepared. When I placed it on the table he looked at me and said, “thanks bug” then pulled down the curtains in our dining room.

Like our dining room and wedding bands I believe that life is circular.  A babe or a bug, we all develop our own levels of consistent intimacy. There isn’t a right answer for marriage and love, there’s just the answer we are willing to give. And maybe our love stories are more than just our own relationship memories. Maybe they’re deeper in the well, swallowed by our grandparent’s love, waiting to be drawn and brought to the surface. Maybe if we pour our drinks from this water and offer a cup to our loved ones, we will feel these stories transcend into our beings, quenching the intimacy we thirst for in our lives.

Sean  D Christmas Eve 2013

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Memories of the Sun on a Cloudy Day

It’s hard in the winter. You start to go a little nuts. You start to think Michigan is a terrible place. The only thoughts that consume you are negative. But that’s not good for the spirit. And it’s also not entirely true. The reality is that what is NOW, will not always be. So we have to hold on to hope and try to make the best of it. There is sunshine in people and conversations, warm soup and dark beer, in a Christmas tree still decorated for the season and lingering traces of wrapping paper beneath. There is sunshine in coffee and friendships, and sunshine in pictures, too, that hold the memories of a season long past. So we hold on here in Michigan and we love a little extra, because more than anything else, there is sunshine in our love.  She Knew Right Away

My Favorite Things… Giant Metal Chicken Chalkboard

When I saw the giant metal chicken chalkboard in the store front window, I wanted to take him home. But I didn’t. It was winter and snowing and the thought of having to haul him upstairs was too much work for me. So I left him there. I kept my eye on him, though. I would wander in and say “hello giant metal chicken chalkboard” from time to time. He always wanted to come home, but I didn’t bring him home. Then, I would get home and be sad. I would wonder if he liked the darkness of the shop once the shoppers were gone and the shop keeper had turned out the lights, eager to go home and eat dinner with her family. Perched in the window sill he would watch the people wander down the sidewalk at night. Was he watching for me? Waiting for me to come get him? Probably, I would tell Sean, “Probably giant metal chicken chalkboard is looking out that window thinking “”where’s Danielle?”” Sean would just shake his head.

Then, over a squash and pepper pizza dinner with Sean in early August, I went on and on about the giant metal chicken chalkboard again; about how perfect he would be not only in our apartment, but also as a decoration for our picnic wedding. This was different diatribe than I had before, because I had the added the use of “for our wedding”. I thought it was an original idea to incorporate my love of chickens into our picnic themed wedding. I thought how cute to put my chicken collection all over the farm. I thought, if I love all my chickens that much, shouldn’t they be at our wedding?  What I didn’t think was that Sean was listening to me.

But he was.

When I came home the next day there was a beautifully written love note on top of a big flat box in our entry way. It was a hot day and I had burst into the apartment, sweating and exhausted. Seeing that note turned my day right around. I went into the kitchen where Sean was drinking a smoothie and listening to reggae, gave him a kiss and called him a  sweetie pie. He kissed my forehead and said, “but you didn’t even open it,” as he lifted the flat box and brought the gift into the middle of our living room. Much to my surprise, inside the package was my giant metal chicken chalkboard. I did a little dance around our apartment, saying “isn’t he just the cutest!?” and “aren’t you happy to finally be home giant metal chicken?” Sean said probably he was.

chx 1                         (Pardon my dirty floors).

The manager of the store where the giant metal chicken formally resided happens to be a close friend of mine. Later that night she called and said, “I love your fiance. You are one lucky girl.” To which I said, “I know,” because I really do know just how lucky I am. And now the chicken is lucky, too. Because he has a new home, with us.

chwx 2Welcome to family giant metal chicken chalkboard. We’re so happy you’ve joined us.

Planning Our Wedding::: Searching for a Venue

The day after Sean proposed, I went a little crazy. I started drawing pictures and printing images I’d long ago saved on my computer. Some people dream about their weddings for a long time and know just what they want once they are engaged. I am one of those people. The moment I started compiling these images was when I realized: holy crap! This is my wedding, not someone elses. And after always being the bridesmaid many times, I was ready to start feeling like a bride.

So I drew a simple picture of what I wanted our ceremony to look like. And I have been carrying it in my purse since then, wondering if I would ever find the place out there that matched it. And the good news is, I did. And I found it at our first stop!

We went to visit our venue, a farm and winery in Northern Michigan, which happens to belong to a friend’s family. We tasted their wines and ciders as my good friend and their wedding coordinator, Kendra, told us the history and details of the property. When at from behind the bar she grabbed a handful of pictures that had been taken from a previous wedding. As I took my last sip of blueberry peach cider, and Kendra she asked, “what do you want, Danielle?” I grabbed my picture from my purse. Placing it on the bar, next to a photograph she had given me,  we gasped, “It’s exactly the same picture!” (But of course my Dad pointed out, there were no stick people in the real photograph). And we went outside to tour the property.

barn porchceremony site side of barnd and s at DV garageAnd as we toured the property, the picture in my mind and on that crinkled piece of paper, came to life. I saw Sean and me getting married there, I imagined myself in a white dress, I felt large, red butterflies flying around my stomach and I couldn’t stop saying, “we’re getting married!” Because sometimes when you’re excited, you can’t help pointing out the obvious. I just can’t wait to marry Sean, and I especially can’t wait to marry him HERE, in this place, next summer.

Our Time at Pickerel Lake

To us, Pickerel Lake has always been perfect. Last summer, before Sean went traveling through India and Nepal, we dedicated an entire day to each other, which meant first we ate too much lemon pie and then we hiked around Pickerel Lake. It was on a bench half way around the lake, with a handkerchief on my head and tears in my eyes that Sean and I both realized, we absolutely, positively could not live without one another. Pickerel Lake Photo of Us

Last week, Sean was adamant that we go hiking on Friday after he was done with work. I wanted to have cocktails with the girls, but he really wanted to go hiking, so I told the girls I’d see them later, made a batch of burritos to fill the picnic basket and off we went to Pickerel Lake. We wound around the lake, talking and holding hands. I made up fake conversations between the birds we heard and we both wondered aloud, “Why does no one else come here. It’s perfect.” As we neared the bench from last summer, Sean started talking about the last time we were here; about how so much has changed, but yet nothing at all. I grabbed his hand and sighed, “I’m so glad you aren’t leaving for six weeks tomorrow,” as we neared the bench to eat our burritos.

Hopping on the bench, I pointed at a nearby fisherman and Sean suddenly couldn’t sit on our bench anymore. What a strange thing for Sean to care about, I thought as I led the way down the path to a fallen log. Sitting down, I reached behind me for the picnic basket, but when I turned back, Sean was no longer next to me. He was down on one knee, holding both my hands in his own, looking up at me with big eyes and a smile.

And this is our engagement story. Another day at Pickerel Lake, sitting on a fallen log, agreeing to spend the rest of our lives exploring this world together. To us, Pickerel Lake is still perfect.

Wandering Smiles and Bus Conversations

Thoughtfully I had chosen my spot on the bus that rainy day as it rode back to the city. It was March and the air was unseasonably heavy. The clouds hung on my eyelids, weighing me down after an entire day on campus. I looked over at Sean, feeling happy and nervous, and altogether too tired to express either of these emotions. We had only shared a handful of insightful conversations with one another and knowing there was a limited time frame on the opportunity for another, I suddenly felt a wave of life brush over my skin. Looking at him made me feel alive for the first time all day. I listened as he spoke of the months he lived in Hawaii. He reminded me of what it was like to leave home and only have yourself to rely on. Our lives, we found, mirrored a gypsy path and only recently had we both come back to Grand Rapids, returning to start before we went around the board again. As the bus neared our stop I remember looking up at him, seeing the way his body leaned into the bus as held the rail above him. Feeling small in comparison to him,  I swayed with the turning bus, as well.”Aren’t you afraid?” I asked just then, only to have him stare blankly back at me.

“Scared of what?” he asked, furrowing his eyebrows.

“Of living like this. Of always going and never stopping. Of never being able to shake this inner need to go.”

And I remember his response, because I think of it often when things are harder than they should be, when I need to feel comforted, when I remember why it is I fell in love with him and why I continue to be amazed with him. “Nah,” he replied, as he rang the bell for our stop. “I’ve given up worrying. future. And anyway, this part of me isn’t anything to be afraid of.”

My time to answer him ended as the bus driver opened the doors. Letting me off the bus first, Sean crossed the street and looked back me. “Have a good night,” he smiled. And like always, when I see his smile, I had to smile back.Sean Michaels Wandering Smile

happy birthday, sean

Happy birthday, Sean! You’re quite possibly and honestly one of the most amazing men I have ever crossed paths with.

So who is this elusive character in my blog? This Sean that I write vaguely of? Well, to answer that I would need a lot more space and time, but since it’s his birthday, I’ll gladly dedicate an entry, just to him.

You might remember how I told you Sean and I met for the first time in this post. But on his birthday, here are some little-know Sean-isms that I haven’t mentioned about him before. Sean Playing Guitar

Sean…

Reaches for his guitar after dinner each night…

Ends all of our “discussions” by making me laugh…

Enjoys Indian food…

Looks at me like no one else has before…

Loves to wear tank tops…

Is terrible at finding missing items…

Possesses an uncanny and witty mind…

Seldom speaks without intention…

Shares his beer with me, even though he doesn’t want to…

Listens to reggae music as much as a person possibly can…

Prefers to be in the woods than the city…

Always makes me smile…

Is possibly weirder than I am… Possibly…

sean posing on the beach(But not likely.)

I always tell Sean he is the best part of my day. And he is. I have a sneaking suspicion, he might always be. Sean driving to MilwaukeeSean Michael at PJ on Beach

Aren’t we all just looking for someone to come home to and smile with each night? I’m so glad I found that– I’m so glad it is Sean. Happy birthday, love. May we always be as excited for dinner together as we are today.

Our Love Story// Two Year Anniversary

I met Sean on a bus. Well, kind of.

In reality, I met Sean the first day of winter semester two years ago. Some months before that fateful day I had quite my job and life in Charlotte, NC and moved back to Grand Rapids, penniless, jobless and heartbroken. Thankfully my best friend, Crissy, took me into her home and suggested I go back to school to get my teaching certification. I agreed and off to Grand Valley State I went, again, two years after the first time I had graduated.

As I was sitting in class, feeling quite old and out of place, a guy walked in late. I turned around, annoyed. Who walks into class late on the first day? But when I saw him, tall, wide eyed and wearing a brown stocking cap, I literally had air sucked out of me. I’ve never been blown over by a person like that before. I had to meet him. The voice in my head whispered something to me and I knew this guy would be in my life. Unfortunately he didn’t take the empty seat next to me and I left class that day without talking to him.

To my surprise, I walked into another class three hours later and there he was again! I was so nervous I didn’t know what to do. So I sat in the back and looked at him. He was beyond cute.  We did a first day of class mixer and I stumbled over to him mumbling, “uh yah, we have another class together too.” To which Sean replied. “Huh, don’t remember you,” and I was crushed. How could he not remember me? Then I felt determined! I wasn’t about to be ignored by this guy. He may not have remembered me the first time, but now, I wasn’t going to let him forget me.

So, I followed him out of class that day and on to the bus. I know what you’re thinking: stalker. But sometimes a girl has to do what a girl has to do. Unfortunately he didn’t sit by me, either,  so instead of talking to him in person I spent the bus ride plotting ways to get to know him. When we got off at the same stop, I rushed home to Crissy’s house and told her I had met a guy in my literature and even though he didn’t want to talk to me, he would someday! She thought I had completely lost it, which I had, but for the first time in months, I was inspired to live again, to date again, to smile again. Life was getting better.

Eventually, Sean and I started talking in class. Mostly because I forced him too. And when I showed up at the bookstore to buy er, what did I come in here for? Oh yah, pencils, we really got to chatting. And finally after two months of strategically placing myself next to him on the bus, we got off at the same stop and he FINALLY asked for my number. I was through the roof! I raced home again, singing to Crissy that he was going to take me on a date.

And he did. One week later. We walked down and got a drink at a local brewery. Then we had dinner a few nights later. And we stayed up late writing term papers and reading and okay, kissing, too. And from then on whenever we got on the bus he was sure to sit by me. And the rest was history. Even though I knew early on that Sean was the guy for me, in the two years we have been together, he hasn’t stopped surprising me.On the Beach on Christmassean and d at bluffsTraverse City Picture

I couldn’t imagine my life with anyone else by my side. Thank you, Sean. I think I’ll keep you.

Our feet in the sand

The Center of the Universe// Sunshine in November!

This morning, when I woke up & saw this streaming across my floor:

I knew that it was a sign for me to get up, get going & get outside!

The sun has been pretty scarce around here this week, so it was a might blessing to discover it so early on my day off! Off I went, Sean’s camera in tote, taking the long way to the Farmers Market.  Do you ever see those people walking & smiling to themselves and you wonder what are they so happy about? Well I can tell you what they are happy about because today, “they” are me; and today I am happy about life & feeling pretty fortunate to be here: in the Center of the Universe, because if it’s one thing I have learned in this life it’s that behind every dark shadow is sunshine.

Then back home again, for a day of cleaning with the windows open. And so, despite having to do things around here, I am happy to have the company, even if all it can actually do is peek through the windows.