Filling in the Calendar

Austyn had flown to Colorado prior to Christmas to spend time with Brian and his family. They flew into Chicago on Christmas day. Raun had spent a few days in Wisconsin visiting Pam, a friend from high school that he had reconnected with but was home Christmas Eve.

Most of our family is still in Wisconsin. Looking ahead we realized that our trips back to Wisconsin would be few and far between. We took a few days to drive up and make the rounds. It may be the last time we would all be there for a while. We would spend the first night with Jeff’s parents and the next day with my mom. My father had passed away in June of that year so this was Mom’s first holiday alone.

Jeff’s sister and her family joined us the first night. My father-in-law has set up a small meeting area in his garage. Table, chairs, refrigerator, wood burning stove are all surrounded by his fishing equipment. This small room has been named The Safety Building. Evenings in the Safety Building are full of conversation, laughter, joking, a fire and really bad Wisconsin food and beverage. All elements were in line this night. Raun had informed us that his friend Pam was going to join us later. Hmmmmm, we couldn’t help but wonder if this was more than reconnecting with an old friend.

The next morning I forced Austyn to sit with me at the dining room table and fill in our 2008 Calendar. January was filled with preparation; designing the wedding invitation, food for the reception, plans for the receptions in Colorado and Chicago. What about family and friends in Wisconsin? That list is potentially larger than the Chicago group. Why not, let’s have three.

February included some final decision making. Not only details about the wedding but the condo needed to go on the market by March 1. This would require completing any house projects to be completed in February.

In March the house would be listed, two months of For Sale by Owner before we contracted a realtor. There is a 5th member of the family. She is a 4 year old, 70 pound Lab Golden Retriever mix. Any time the house would be shown we would have to be there to remove the dog. In addition we still had Austyn living there and she was acquiring wedding gifts, items for her new apartment along with all of her photography equipment. No realtor would walk into our place and not say we would have to get rid of stuff, which was not an option until she moved in May.

Mid April Austyn was officially done with classes.

May 3 Brian graduates and May 4 Austyn graduates. Up until that moment I had not considered Raun’s graduation in June. We didn’t have one college graduation in ’08 we had three; son, daughter and soon to be son in law. Austyn would plan to move just after graduation and if the condo had not sold we would list with a realtor.

June was Raun’s graduation and THE WEDDING. July would include the receptions, yet to be determined. Somewhere in there could and would include a move cross country which also includes finding a new home and purchasing all the essentials life required when one moves out of the city. We are true city people. At that point in our life we didn’t own a car. The bus, train and taxi’s are our form of transportation. We were faced with a move to an area that requires automobiles. We will need to purchase them.

Three college graduations, a wedding, a daughter moving to Colorado, a son looking for a school to obtain his masters and a move cross country. All events that should be experience one at a time and we find ourselves facing them in 6 short months.

There will be great challenges with this year. You see, I love to be organized but I can’t plan this one. I can’t even estimate it. Everything depends on something else. I can only make each day count. Sometimes the effort to not get overwhelmed is harder than allowing you to get overwhelmed. The calendar is full, what else could possibly fit. I want to write in SLEEP from July to December. Can we fit anything else into the mix? Time will tell, but Raun seems to be falling fast and this new relationship is moving at light speed.

Austyn had finished filling in all the dates we were aware of. We made a general ‘to do list’ for each month and closed the calendar. I couldn’t help but feel that what we had just written down was simply a guideline. Only God knows what this year will look like. Only He can see where we are going and I am unable to control it. I will have to muster up all the faith I have to walk through each day and not run to the finish end.

This year could make a great book!


The following week Jeff was actually not at the office, he was opening a store so had very little face to face interaction with the leaders of the new company. He was dependent on phone conversations with co-workers filling him in on their take of the situation. Reviews were mixed. Jeff flew home on Thursday night. He was back out the door at 5:30am heading for the office. There was only a small window of time allowed since flights back to California were scheduled for that afternoon. The offer time line was simple. Two week and everyone would have their offers.

We spent time on the Internet looking at real estate in Nashville. Great prices compared to what we saw in Chicago. Jeff did not like the idea of Nashville. He was not excited at all to make the move. During the discussions about relocating, Nashville had been the only option.

The process took much longer than expected. Thanksgiving came and went with no offers. The week before Christmas the actual offer to purchase the company was solidified. Next would be the offers. Wednesday morning phone calls came. I was meeting some friends and had plans to be at Jeff’s office around 3:00. I glanced at my phone around 12:30, 7 messages from Jeff. I called him back immediately. “They want me in California” was all I heard.

San Luis Obispo, CA, I couldn’t pronounce it. We were in shock. There were moments during the next 4 days that we would look at each other, one would laugh and the other shake their head. I woke up in the middle of the night practicing my pronunciation. After much thought and a few conversations to the west coast, Jeff accepted the offer.

My great idea for having a family vacation in October at a beach was now obsolete. If we ended up in San Luis Obispo, the family vacation would simply be coming to our house on the coast. Neither of us had ever imagined living on the west coast. It wasn’t a dream. It was nowhere on our radar. This was new territory.

2008 was filling up quickly, a graduation, a wedding and now a total change of life. California bound sometime in 2008.

Family Vacation

Several years ago as our children were beginning serious relationships, I had a dream. I wanted to set the third week in October as our family vacation. Jeff and I would make the arrangements, of course it should be on a beach. The kids and their families would come for as many days as possible. This would become our Thanksgiving and perhaps our Christmas.

When our kids were small we lived a thousand miles from Grandpa and Grandma’s. This allowed us to created our own traditions. It was our family’s time. As they grew we made a few trips home and eventually moved closer and lost some of those traditions. To this day the best holidays we have are when it’s back to just us. This idea of family vacation took any pressure and guilt away from trying to figure out where to spend the holidays. By keeping our family activities a distance from the holidays we would be able to spend time together and when the holidays arrive, be where you want to be, not where you feel you should be.

October 2007 was the first time it really worked. We had rented a place in Florida and everyone could come. Plane tickets purchased, week’s rental on the condo paid.

The breakup occurred the week before the vacation. Not only did we have questions about the wedding but what about Florida? Raun would come alone which meant fly alone, something he had not done. Not only was he dealing with the break up but had been experiencing panic attaches for the past 9 months, this much change and the anticipation of the vacation only enhanced his sense of panic.

With a few flight changes he would arrive earlier and spend the majority of the week with us. Austyn and Brian would arrive mid week. This year we had invited my side of the family to join us. We had people flying in and out daily. The week was full of great conversations, cousins getting caught up on each other’s lives and a ton of cooking. It was great.

On Friday afternoon as we sat by the pool, I realized that Jeff had been on the phone for quit a while. Who’s he talking to? No one knew for sure. As he made his way to the cabana I noticed an unusual expression.

“Well,” he said as he stood next to me, “the company’s been sold.” The company Jeff had been employed with for the past 18 years was struggling and we knew that there needed to be a change or there would be no company at all. This could be a good thing, however it would require a move.

All that was going through my mind was the fact that we have a wedding; I don’t think we can handle a move. I was finding it difficult to breath.

“It’s either Nashville or somewhere in California”

Well isn’t that exciting? It was getting more difficult to breath. Jeff loved living in Chicago. We had moved downtown almost 4 years ago and he felt as if he had found his home. We had a small 2 bedroom condo in a 100 year old building. It was a three story walk up and we had joked that we would be there until we couldn’t take the stairs. A move was not anywhere in the plans, but neither was being jobless.

The following week there would interviews and discussion with the new company. We would have to wait until then.

The Break Up

Austyn’s wedding party consisted of two, a boy and a girl. Her only bother and sibling Raun would be her bridesmaid and his girlfriend of 3 years would be her maid of honor.

Raun’s girlfriend and Austyn had become very close. They were sisters already. They shared the same creativity, ideas and even thoughts. When the two were in the same room it was a burst of energy that lasted for hours. They became best friends quickly.

Mid October the relationship came to an end. We were all effected, Raun most of all. For him this was the rest of his life. This was the one. For Jeff and I we as well had fallen in love. We thought this was it and we were not at all concerned. They seemed perfect for each other. For Austyn it was very complicated. She was loosing the person she had thought would be her only sister, she was loosing her best friend and she was probably loosing her maid of honor.

A decision could not be made for several weeks. Emotions were all over the place and everyone needed time. As the dust settled it was very apparent to Austyn that she also needed to sever that relationship. Raun was dealing but it was painful and Austyn knew that her relationship and involvement in the wedding would continue to infect those wounds. The outcome unpredictable, Austyn and Brian made the call. There would only be one attended for each. Raun would be the Maid of Honor. Austyn would be the only girl in the party and way down deep she found that to be exciting.

Wedding Plans

Our vacation at Holden Beach, NC
Our vacation at Holden Beach, NC

Austyn is very creative. She also is very sensitive and the two were at war in her mind. She was having a very difficult time with all the questions and suggestions she was being inundated with. She felt some sort of responsibility to listen to everyone and felt helpless when it came to thanking them and walking away. I learned early on how to balance the two. “Tell me what you see for the reception?” I would ask. That opened the door to her creativity. She would rattle off the picture in her mind to the smallest detail. She knew exactly what she wanted.

Holden Beach, NC would be the place. We were to have a family reunion there several years ago, however the family part kept decreasing to my parents, my elderly aunt and uncle and Austyn and I. The entire week we were there we looked at each other making comments about our choice of vacation spots with the elderly. Austyn fell in love with the beach and proclaimed that she would get married there. Several years later it was still at the top of her list.

We knew that this location would prevent family coming for just the day. They would be making a vacation out of it or not come at all. We could schedule the wedding anytime during the week.

“I’ve always wanted to get married on a Tuesday,” Austyn commented. Really? Tuesday? It took me a while but Tuesday seemed to work just as well as any other day.

Tuesday, June 24th 2008. Receptions were the next topic. A small reception following the wedding for the family who were there and two later in the summer; one in Colorado and one in Chicago. We had time to make those arrangements.

Between Austyn’s school schedule and my work schedule we did not have much time off together. We found a free morning and headed to a bridal shop. Very overwhelmed, we selected a few dresses and Austyn tried them on. In the next three weeks we had looked at all types of dresses from evening gowns at the department store to catalog wedding dresses. Austyn made an appointment at a little boutique. The night of the appointment (which had actually been rescheduled several times) we made our way over. Both of us thought this was one of those fun events that brides and moms were expected to do.

We walked into the boutique. The sales person was finishing with another party and we began looking through the dresses. She selected a few and made her way into the dressing room. The first dress was beautiful but too big for a beach wedding. Back in the dressing room for number two. As she exited the dressing room she was beaming. This was it. I had never believed in the idea of the perfect dress. A dress is a dress and most important factor is that it is comfortable. But this one shouted something completely different. Austyn danced around the room.

We were given the important information; price, timeline, etc. We wanted a few more opinions before we made the decision. We made a few phone calls; one to her maid of honor and one home to dad. We would be back at 7:00 with the crew.

We ran home, had a bit to eat, put our coats back on and headed out the door again. Jeff was a bit reluctant. At one point he asked, “Do dads do this? Should I be going?” I had decided early on that this was not my wedding and I wasn’t carrying the load. We would share this experience and at no time did I want Jeff to feel like he was out of the picture.

I cringe when I hear dads say, “I don’t know what’s going on, this is their thing.” This was going to be our thing and I wanted his input and support the entire way. No, I don’t think that all dads do this. I don’t even think that most dads do this. I do think that dads who don’t miss out. I also think that most daughters would be thrilled to have their dads take the time to be a part. Writing checks is easy, investing time is an entirely different realm.

The dress transformed her again. As she danced around the room the audience of 4 was caught up in the moment. It was perfection.

We had the date, the place and the dress. This was going smoothly. 2008 would be a full year.

The Engagement

Tuesday July 8, 2008

It’s an on going contest in our family to see who will have the biggest paragraph in Mom’s Christmas letter. The good, the bad, the traumatic will somewhere along the line get measured to all the other events that have occurred. The biggest, the worst, the most fun, it’s inevitable that you will hear someone say, “this will definitely get you the biggest paragraph”.

This year in my small family of four deserves much more than a paragraph. This past August I received a text message from my daughter’s boyfriend asking for my husband’s cell phone number. Austyn was in Colorado visiting her boyfriend Brian. She would be there for three weeks, the longest they had been together since they started dating. There could only be one reason why Brian wanted to talk to Jeff.

I text him back and immediately emailed my husband to inform him that Brian was looking for him. Hmmmm, what could this be? A short time later I happened to answer the phone at work, it was Jeff. I quickly transferred him to my office and ran back to catch it. This was it. Brian had asked permission to married Austyn.

“So what did you say?”, I asked. Jeff laughed. “I’m not sure what all I said. Except I did tell him I would ask you and if you had any objections I would call him back.” It was the first time in 27 years of marriage Jeff had ever used me as the escape goat.

We had no objections. The relationship was solid and from outsiders looking in we watched Brain watch Austyn and it was meant to be. He was everything we could wish for in a partner for her.

Austyn had taken a year out of school to attend Bible school in England. She had registered at the last minute and was accepted to Capenwrey, a Touchbears School. The plan was to be in England until spring and on to Austria for the last quarter. While in England she became friends with a young man from Colorado and had a chance to meet some of his family members as well.

Austyn called me one day to inform us that she had a change of heart. She had already been looking into the possibility of finishing the year at the Estes Park campus. Everything seemed to work and before we knew it she was on her way home to repack and head to Estes Park. The connections she had made in England gave her a family to be with on weekends and holidays. During these family visits Austyn and Brian were introduced and over the next year they relationship grew.

Brian called on a Monday but did not purpose until Wednesday. When we finally got the call from Austyn she could not get the words out fast enough. All I remember of her conversations was “Brian asked…..but you knew all that already”. Jeff and I made plans to join them in Colorado the following weekend, meet Brian’s parents and celebrate.

The wedding plans began. A date, we need a date. School was the only issue. Austyn was attending Harrington School of Design in Chicago and would finish the end of April and Brian was in an Aeromechanics program in Boulder, which would end in June. June seemed to be perfect. I emailed our oldest son, Raun. He was a senior at DePaul University in Chicago to ask when classes ended. His reply “DePaul’s graduation is June 15th.” I was shocked. His graduation was June 15. How did I forget that?

Raun had attempted collage 3 times and four years ago when he enrolled at DePaul it worked. He successfully stayed on the Dean’s List all four years. He would be graduating after 4 years with a double major; Biblical Studies and Catholic Studies. This was a huge millstone for him and it could not be over shadowed.

End of June would be perfect.