Saturday, October 17, 2015

Jason & Brenna - A Love Story {Part II}

See {Part I} here.

Where were we? Ah, yes. The breakup...

There are some important logistical factors to understand here. I am originally from Saginaw {east side of Michigan} where Jason was going to school, but he is originally from Temperance {southeast Michigan} and I was attending school in Grand Rapids {west Michigan}. There is a 2-3 hour drive between each of these places.

We had been dating for three months in the Fall of 2004. I was home for Thanksgiving break. He was home for Thanksgiving break. We were frustrated with the situation and with each other and the giant triangle between all our separate homes. It was the Saturday after Thanksgiving and we were having a tense conversation about not seeing each other or being able to spend the holiday together. I had still never met his family and my family had very little opportunity to get to know him. Things just did not seem to be in our favor. I can't remember who brought it up or how the conversation actually ended up there, but we decided to break up.

Later that night I went to a friend's house with a group of people, including my roommate, Katie, who knew more about Jason and I than anyone. I told her what happened and confessed how much I hated it. I realized then that I wasn't ready to be done with our relationship, but didn't really see how it could work, especially if he was ready to be done.

I tried to sleep that night, but ended up awake watching Pirates of the Caribbean and crying about our breakup. Halfway through the movie, Jason called. 

We spent the rest of the night talking about how we both sort of regretted it coming to this, but also decided that we must have broken up for a logical reason, since neither of us were the emotionally dramatic type who would dump someone in the middle of a fight just because we were upset. We decided to continue talking, but to stay broken up so that we could figure out what we really wanted.

For the next month we tried to give each other space, but I'm not sure how well we did since it turned out we both just really wanted to be together. Jason had a wedding to go to right before Christmas and asked me to be his date. I of course said yes. I wore a Claddagh ring every day back then, which, when worn with the heart facing out means you're single, and if the heart is facing in toward your heart, it means you're taken. When Jason picked me up for the wedding, he gave me white roses and asked me to turn my ring back toward my heart. So, we were officially back together. {Whew! Aren't you relieved? I know you were worried...}

We spent the next three years becoming really good at our long distance relationship. I was kind of a stressed out mess in college and Jason proved to be my steadying ground, as he continues to do eleven years later. I filled my time with friends and school, he had baseball and his own friends and school. Looking back I recognize how being content in our own separate lives made it much easier for us to be content with each other and our relationship, too. We also accepted that keeping score was never going to make this work, so we tried our best to keep the tallies about visits and phone calls at bay. It definitely was not easy, but there was a whole lot of trust and a whole lot of patience involved to get us through.

Jason proved to be the master of surprises. One rainy night I had class late and missed the last bus back to my apartment, so I called Katie to come get me. Ten minutes later, Jason pulled up, all suave and stuff, as if it was perfectly normal for me to see him on a Wednesday evening. One year on my birthday, I got home from class to find him sitting outside my apartment. Those surprise visits were the best.

I tried my hardest to reciprocate them.  By year two I finally had a car and could contribute some weekend visits. On Halloween, my roommates and I were in Ann Arbor for the night. Jason was at his parents' house about an hour away and thought I was heading back to school the next day. Instead, I drove down in the middle of the night to surprise him and stay the weekend. Unfortunately, he was sound asleep and didn't hear his cell phone ringing 200 times when I arrived. My choices were: sleep in my car in the driveway and just see him the morning {but he was right inside!}, drive back to Ann Arbor and try again in the morning {I was broke and gas was expensive}, or ring the doorbell and hope he woke up before his parents {ugh. This seemed like the best option}. I'm still embarrassed about scaring his mom and dad out of their bed while Jason was sound asleep in the basement and I learned that I am not awesome at surprises.

When Jason graduated in 2006, he moved back to Temperance and started working while I still had a few semesters left to go. I studied in Ireland that summer and after living across the state from each other for two years, being across the ocean didn't feel that different {except that I was, you know, in Ireland}. By this point we had talked about our future and knew that once I graduated we'd be getting married.

In Summer of 2007, I was still living in Grand Rapids, finishing an internship and working while he was also working/looking for a different job {though options were limited and he started to consider going back to school. A story for another time}. In August Jason was coming for a visit to celebrate our 3-year anniversary. I was working in an office with my roommate, Kendall's, boyfriend, who had told me all about his plan to propose to her that weekend. I was so excited and kept telling Jason updates about it - "her ring is so pretty!"- and when he came to pick me up to go to dinner and my other roommates, Katie and Sarah, stood on the porch waving excitedly and breaking into some sort of tap dance, I was somehow oblivious to something else going on.

He surprised me {again with the surprises} by taking me to a swanky restaurant by the river in Grand Rapids. We had the most delicious, most expensive steak I've ever had before taking a walk along the river. As the sun was setting, Jason told me to turn around and when I looked down he had the ring out and he asked me to marry him. I said yes {did you figure that out already?} and, once Jason got over his fear of the ring falling into the river, he let me put it on. We spent the rest of the evening calling family and friends to tell them the news. Our parents already knew since he had driven to Saginaw to ask them for their blessing {my dad's initial response was, "you know she's still in school, right?" which remains one of my favorite stories ever} and his mom had found a picture of the ring he had saved up for that year. My roommates also knew, hence the tap dance as we drove away. And it turned out that Kendall and her now husband got engaged on the same day, which Jason knew would happen because of all my gabbing about their proposal.

I graduated that December and moved to Toledo, Ohio, down the street from Jason. For the first time in 3.5 years, we lived in the same town and were planning our wedding for October 18, 2008. Luckily, it turned out that we still really liked each other, maybe even more so, when we saw each other daily and didn't have to plan the next weekend visit. Yay, love!

Thursday, October 15, 2015

Jason & Brenna - A Love Story {Part I}

Jason and I are celebrating our 7-year wedding anniversary this weekend. I've been wanting to write down our story for a long time and this feels like a good year to finally do it. So, here is the first installment...

It was the end of my senior year of high school and I needed to find a second job for the summer before I moved across the state for college. A friend of mine recommended a local 9-hole golf course, so I applied and got the job along with another good friend of mine. It was sort of the perfect gig - working with friends, flexible hours to make time for my other job, laid-back owners who didn't really care how much pop or cookies I consumed, a TV in the clubhouse, downtime to read in between customers, and a bunch of guys who worked outside, one of whom was suuuuper cute.

I actually remember the first time I saw him. I was at the cash register, probably getting the cart key for an 80-year-old regular, when a guy walked in dressed in dirty blue sweatpants, a Cardinals Baseball t-shirt, and sort of messy blondish hair. He was tan and cute and....didn't say a word to me. I found out his name later by snooping through the time cards and figuring out, by process of elimination, who he was.

All the employees at the golf course had to help at a kids' league every Thursday morning {never mind the fact that most of us knew nothing about golf}. The owner, Bud {his name really sums up who he is}, would pair up the employees and send us out with a group of kids to play. I was usually paired up with my friend, Jessica, and spent the entire time talking about how cute that Jason guy was while she gave me tips on what I should say to him or how I might get him to talk to me. At the end of the day, everyone ended up back in the clubhouse to eat and make sure the kids didn't break anything. One day, Bud paired Jason and I together {I think he prided himself on matchmaking his employees} and I was straight up terrified. Here's what I knew about him: he was a college guy, he played baseball at Saginaw Valley, he was quiet, and I had no idea what to talk to him about. I'm sure most of our conversations were sort of lame. I mostly remember him bickering with a little boy named Peter who teased Jason for being a Yankees fan. I also remember the day I chipped one in from the green {according to one of the kids I "eagled" that hole, and I still have no idea what that means} and Jason said he was very impressed. So, I was clearly catching his attention with my confidence and charm.

We started to sit by each other in the clubhouse after golfing and played cards a few times. He taught me how to play Rummy, which we would come to play a lot over the next decade. After a couple weeks of this, I somehow got up the nerve to ask if he wanted to, "I dunno, go play putt-putt or something, sometime, maybe?" He said something along the lines of, "Yeah," and wrote his number on the Rummy scorecard and I tore off a piece and gave him my number, too.* 

*This is a good time to point out that there remains contention about this part of the story since a certain someone refuses to confess that it was, in fact, the girl who asked the boy out first. My blog, my version, dear.

He called that night {fluttery stomach!} and asked if I wanted to hang out that weekend. We decided to meet up the next night at the tennis court, which was a big nighttime hangout spot when I was in high school since there were lights on as long as you put a quarter in before they went out. I don't remember that much about playing tennis, though Jason maintains that he dominated the court and won me over with his natural athleticism. Come to think of it, he may have referred to himself as Andy Roddick a lot. What I do remember about that first date was sitting by my car {actually, no, it was my mom's car because I had been in a bad accident that Spring on my way to the golf course, so I had no car. Minor detail...not important...but, my blog!} in the parking lot after playing and just talking for a long time. We decided to go out again soon, and so began our little summer fling.

If I could go back and watch some of our first dates play out, I would probably hate how terribly quiet I was. On our second date we went to Outback Steakhouse and I ordered a salad {Seriously? Order a steak, girlfriend!}. And I barely spoke. This is true in both versions of the story - Jason had to carry the conversation that night. And if you know Jason, especially the younger Jason, you'd know that was not his comfort zone. I guess he really liked me though since we continued to go on dates for the rest of the Summer. The first movie we watched together was Tommy Boy and he grabbed my hand for the first time and held it during the rest of the movie. I know, I know - so cliché! Who doesn't think of that movie and have some romantic story to go along with it?

As the summer was coming to an end, I was getting ready to move across the state for my freshman year of college and really didn't know what would happen. I liked him a lot, I knew he liked me, but I was about to start this brand new phase of life and really didn't expect to be starting a relationship at that point. But, alas, the day before I moved away, Jason asked if I wanted to be his girlfriend. I didn't even hesitate before saying yes. And so, mere minutes before I said goodbye and moved 3 hours away from him, before considering what being in a long distance relationship meant or wondering if it was maybe not the greatest idea, Jason and I became an official couple. 

Here's one thing I'll say for dating long distance, especially in a brand new relationship: it forces you to talk A LOT. I didn't have a car and both of us were busy with school, so we were limited to the weekends Jason could come visit me, which didn't happen very often. We wrote emails. We talked over AIM {throwback!}. And we talked on the phone. A lot. His family maintains that this part of our relationship completely boggled their minds. The fact that he could talk on the phone to me for hours had them stumped. Have I mentioned that Jason was very quiet when we met? 

This went on for a couple months - the emailing, calling, talking. I missed him and really wanted to live closer to him. But I also loved college and was making good friends and was excited about this relationship and everything going on in my life. It was all really good. Until Thanksgiving when we broke up...

To be continued....