Friday, March 14, 2008

Iowa, no wonder it's corn country

Having finished my first trip to Sterling City with the sole purpose of meeting the family of my newly "engaged" beauty, Kendra and I had to plan a time for us to go to Missouri to meet "my family." This would not be nearly as traumatising since my family...well-- the recognized family, could all meet at one table in the back room of Olive Garden. Finding the time and shaking free from our lives in Oklahoma City was the problem. Kendra had met my Mom, smiled and said, "Hi...I'm Kendra nice to meet you." to my Dad who, full of profound wisdom and non-stop talking said, "Hi." And she had also met my Sister, although not officially.
Unannounced to me, since I"m completely and totally clueless when it comes to the advances of women, Kendra had a "crush" on me for quite some time. I just thought she was really nice...really, really nice. She had and has this electrifying smile that I would rather watch than any fireworks display because it's more sparkling. Her smile couple with her laugh are all it takes for the cares of this world to completely melt away and seem for an moment to not exist. I love to see her smile and I love to hear her laugh, it's two of my favorite things about living on this third rock from the sun. Many of our friends were getting married to the point that it seemed like every weekend we were getting an invitation to a wedding for someone we knew. That coupled with the fact that I worked for THE most beautiful Church of Christ in all of Oklahoma City meant a lot of wedding were planned there. To make extra money I would do custodial work (you usually got $3-500) for the weekend weddings and for two day work that wasn't half bad.
Kevin Billips and Chaney Luke were getting married at Mayfair and I was doing the custodial work. Sis had come down for a weekend and she was hanging out in the office while I was scraping the watermelon off the driveway. That's the down side to working college student weddings, their friends think it's funny to put watermelon rinds under the wheels. You see when you try to drive off--you don't and the tires just spin...and spin...and spit chunks of hot molten melon rind onto a concrete circle drive used my every elderly lady of the church...who would notice a melon rind riddled circle drive and go into orbit because the beautiful pristine Mayfair was marred--with a fresh melon scent. Kendra was hanging out, with Karen, in the office talking to my sister. After I was done and ready to leave I went into the office and chatted for a minute with Sis and Kendra and Karen and then Sis and I headed off. "That Kendra you know her." "Yeah, we're friends." "She's really, really nice and I think she likes you. You should ask her out." "Whatever, we are just friends she'd never go out with me I'm not athletic or jockey and she's a total athlete." "You should listen to your Sissy, she likes you--a lot." "Whatever! Let's just do eat and talk about something else." "OK...but she likes you" "SIS!" I really hate it when my sis is right.
My roommate, Jeff had asked his girlfriend, Sharon to be his bride to which she enthusiastically said, "YES!" and they had asked me to officiate the ceremony. This would be my very first ceremony to officiate. Not scraping melon rind of a circle drive---old hat! I had never paid attention to the words of a ceremony..too busy watching all the action of weddings. They are great places to gawk at folks. Sharon had told me she wanted something traditional, timeless, the trend was to be non-traditional and uber cool ( I blame it on the Young & Restless weddings). I had this book of weddings and such from like 1947 that I thought timeless. After all it's nearly 50 years old! That would work it had to work because I didn't have any other options.
The wedding was in DesMoines, Iowa. Kendra and I planned to drive up there since we were both good friends with Jeff and Sharon. I'd never been to DesMoines, had a vague idea how to get there and figured that a whole entire state couldn't' be that hard to find. Needless to say I made it as far as Kansas City before getting ridiculously lost! It was in Kansas City that I encountered my first gas station where the attendant was encased in Plexiglas. I was wishing I had a plexiglas case because that part of town was scary. "Sir.." "You must be lost. What are you doing here?" "We are looking for DesMoines do you know where it is?" "Iowa." "Ok...where's Iowa?" The attendant told me how to get back to, "my side of town" and on to I-35 which took me straight North to Iowa. It was a little over two hours. I think all total it was like six hours of driving one way, not too bad.
Iowa is an odd state. It's been 13 years since I've been there, but it's a funky state. The city of DesMoines (the capital building is beautiful incidentally) has a lot of highways running through it and you exit these highways to the side streets. The odd thing is you exit left and each of these exits have stop lights! What's up with an exit ramp having a stop light? I still don't' get that. Of all the things I remember about that trip, driving wise--that was it!
We found our hotel got settled in[STOP! Kendra and I each had our own room.] and began to meet people we would never meet again...all of Jeff and Sharon's family. Jeff's Mom, Dad, and sister were in town and hosting the rehearsal dinner. The wedding was that night and we all went off to the church. This church was typical church of Christ, but built on a hill and quaint. It smelled like it had been shut up for twenty years...all musty and old. The auditorium sat about 150. I had never conducted a ceremony before and was totally winging it. We practiced the walking in and seating and such, all as planned. When everyone felt comfortable about the ceremony we went to the basement for the rehearsal dinner.
Jeff's parents wanted to bring a little Texas to Iowa (they were from Houston) and so they had decorated the tables in Texas. Jeff's sister brought all of her cowboy boots that she had worn through the years and thought it would be cute to use them as centerpieces! These old, worn, dirty boots were on top of a table I was supposed use for food! In the boot were plastic bluebonnets and some other flowers. I just looked at Kendra and rolled my eyes. We could not believe dirty boots. Kendra leaned over to me and said, "Look they brought a little Texas terd with them." That was all it took for me to lose it! The boots had crap on them! Turns out barbecue joints in Iowa have no clue about doing Texas style barbecue. Amazingly they do Iowa style barbecue. Never heard of Iowa style barbecue? There's a reason.
After the dinner we went to a casino to gamble and part all night. Kendra and I were less than impressed and spent our allotment of "crazy cash" and went back to the hotel to get some rest. We were whopped and had a gut full of family we didn't know.
The next day the mood was decidedly tense. Everyone was nervous and on edge. Weddings do that to people, they get all keyed up. There is really no reason to be keyed up at a wedding because as long as they say, "I do" it's a success. Just don't catch anything on fire! One of the lines of the ceremony which I was using from a nearly fifty year old, timeless and traditional wedding book, went something like this, " you take forward and reverse blah, blah, blah." I didn't go into the words of the ceremony at the rehearsal because I thought it more important to get who was going to stand where. Seemed like a good plan to me.
Jeff, the groomsmen and I all walked into a song and stood there, this was after all of the family had been sat. Jeff's sister was one of the bride's maids and they were all in. The Maid of Honor was going to walk in to a song, Sung by Jeff's sister, then Sharon was going to enter. The song Jeff's sister sang sounded like the National Anthem at a baseball game! So much so that when she was through singing all of the groomsmen said, "Play ball!" It was met with mixed reviews. I just stood there smiling. As Sharon rounded the corner she was a vision--all brides are beautiful on their wedding day. Sharon was so nervous, she was crying the whole way down the aisle. Jeff had a, "what have I gotten myself into" look on his face. As she stood there sobbing, holding her Dad's arm I asked who was giving her away and such. Then Jeff took her arm and she stood with him. Jeff was a joker and rarely took things seriously, "Sharon...pull my finger." That one comment took her from crying to laughing. Laughing uncontrollably. She managed to get herself under control until I launched the forward and reverse torpedo at her and she lost it. I vowed never to use that line again. It was really bad, really, really bad. I've since adapted a pretty good ceremony that I like to use.
The wedding reception was in the foyer of the church. The 100 plus guests didn't fit into the foyer very well. The cake, from the local grocery store, was just barely placed on the table and the gal from the bakery was still touching up the boo boo's when we all walked in to the foyer. The long tables were covered in white cloth with sheer white tuleing. The cake topper was a Precious Moments Bride and Groom. There was the typical nuts, pillow mints, cheese cube tray, veggies with the dip (not in a pretty bowl, but in the container it came in) typical wedding punch...but this...this I've never seen in my life! I have yet to see this either. Where you would typically see a grooms cake there was...a huge punch bowl full of Gardetto's Mix. Kendra and I both just stood there in awe. "Is that trial mix? For a groom's cake?" "I think so, honey." "We are not doing that at our wedding." "Ya think?" We couldn't wait to get back home.
The drive home we talked about our wedding and how we wanted it to be, mostly about how we didn't' want it to be. We set the date on the way and got more and more excited about our wedding. WE HAD A DATE! It was actually going to happen and be a reality. It was really fun planning our wedding. We decided to stop in Missouri and spend the night with my Dad and Peggy (they had only been married a year) to meet the family and then head back to OKC on Sunday afternoon.
Dad and Peggy had just built and moved in to a beautiful house in the country. It was a great house. We got to Dad's about 11:30, he had been in bed for a good three hours by the time we got there. I knew we would be late because the wedding would go long and the drive was long. I asked Dad not so set the alarm, but he didn't listen. "Just use the code." I had no experience using an alarm pad and didn't really know how to work the dang thing. As Kendra and I stood in the hall trying to punch numers--BLAM!...BLAM!....BLAM! The alarm went off. My Dad busted out of the bedroom in nothing but his underwear, "What are you doing." "Hey Dad, just trying to get this thing to shut off." He turned off the alarm and went back to bed. Kendra was frozen! She had gazed into Medusa's eyes and was frozen. Actually the sight of her future father-in-law in nothing but his underwear had the same power as Medusa.
This was our first trip to Joplin since the engagement. So Kendra spent the whole day Sunday with her hand extended. She never stopped smiling. I'm surprised she didn't get a cramp in her cheeks from smiling. My Grandmother came to the house for lunch after church. "Grandma, this is Kendra Rushing. She and I are engaged and planning to be married in March." "Mrs. Spoon, I'm Kendra it's nice to meet you." "Uh-huh." That's all my Grandmother said, "Uh-huh." Meaner than mean, my Grandma is, but I still love her. "What's wrong with your Grandma?" "Nobody knows...nobody knows." My sister overheard us, "she's a mean ol'witch, that's what's wrong with her. See the wart." There's no love lost between my sister and my Grandma. She actually did have a war on her head! We still laugh about that. It's since been removed, but for our entire childhood and up until about six years ago was there.
Having met both sides of the family, warts and all! We still decided to get married and build our own life together. I was looking forward to the next several months and more foreword to my new life. A life not lived in loneliness. I had been lonely everyday of my life up until Kendra and I fell in love. Just knowing we were together, and planning to get married, the thought of having someone who wanted to be with me, and enjoyed my company, laughed at my ridiculous humor, and loved me--Me was just more than I could take. I didn't know how all this married stuff would work out, but I knew it would be OK because I had that smile!

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

The Courtship of Kendra Rushing Part Deux

Have you ever looked back over the chapters of your life and asked yourself, "how did I ever get here?" That's exactly how I feel now as I am reflecting our Kendra's and my 12th anniversary. How did I get her to say yes? I really don't know what I did or didn't do to get her to say yes--if for sure wasn't drugs--FOR SURE!
I knew Kendra was the girl for me (even though she was the only girl I ever dated--except for one ill-fated failed attempt at a date) and that I wanted to spend the rest of my life with her and no one else. She was the girl for me. I don't really remember us shopping around for rings as we were getting more and more serious in our relationship. We spent every possible minute together and really couldn't think of doing anything else, but just hang out. She came over to my condo for dinner at least three times a week and after dinner we would listen to a Vince Gill CD on my boom box and just be together.
Through our limited conversations about rings and such IF we were to get married, I had a pretty good idea about what kind of ring she wanted. I wanted to pick the ring out for her on my own since it was my symbol to her of my pledge to her for our union. I landed on wanting to purchase the ring set from Bailey Banks and Biddle which is the place I had purchased my first gift of jewelry. I really liked that store and especially the guy that worked there named Doc. Doc was a straight talking New Yorker who didn't cut any punches and was free to tell me how every other Jewelry store in the mall was "*%$^%&$" DELUXE. Of course I believed him. I found this pear shaped diamond engagement ring which was set into a ring guard. The ring guard had 1/2 carats of baguette diamonds which gave the total diamond weight of the ring 1 carat. It wasn't too big, she didn't want something gaudy, and it wasn't too plain, it was just like my gal--simple, beautiful, timeless, and elegant. I had one credit card with enough credit to buy the ring. $5,500 was a lot of money to spend on the ring, but she was going to wear it her whole life and I wanted it to be nice. I really wanted to spend more, but just couldn't.
With the ring in hand I had to hide it until the big day of..."the question!" Most guys I know use the top drawer of their dresser for hiding valuables. It just so happens to be my underwear drawer and my safe! I stashed the ring into the very back corner under my shorts and felt safe in knowing she would never find it there. That brings us to the big controversy of our relationship. Since this is my blog and I'm the one typing I'm going to tell my version of what I think happened and you must believe me you simply must. It's true, exact, non-fiction, real time accounting from my mind which is like a steel colander!
Kendra was coming over to my condo and cleaning up my place and doing laundry to help me out and I think to show me how awesome she would be as my wife, taking care of me as any madly in love wife would do fer her man. I was loving it, the clothes on my floor around my full hamper would magically be removed and placed back in the drawer or closet clean and I wasn't doing a thing about it! That was awesome!
Kendra's and my friend, Karen, was a stick tight and hung out with Kendra all the time. She was also one of the people who kept pushing us to date and "hook up." Karen was a hoot and we did have a good time when we were together. Well...Karen was constantly asking us when we were going to get married. "For Pete's sake Karen we just started dating!" "[please read with a heavy west Texas drawl]Karen...he's not gonna ask me to marry him this took him three months to kiss me." That was true, what they both didn't know was I had a ring in my underwear drawer and was waiting for just the right time to pop the question.
What I didn't know is that Karen and Kendra were tearing my house apart looking for a ring. A ring which they say was happened upon as Kendra was putting away my clothes. A ring which they spun around in a circle screaming over when they found it. A ring which they did tell me they knew was in my underwear drawer until a year after we were married. Women are tricky. I contend, and hold to being a fact. That this CSI search was going on all the time. The neatly folded and stacked pile of underwear which hid the ring was underwear I didn't wear so It would never have to be disrupted or disturbed. I contend that there was mashing and poking going on in ALL of my drawers in search of the ring.
I wanted the big day...the big question to be a special time and a special occasion. Something memorable and meaningful that we would both love to tell our friends. That's where the problem comes in--I hate and can't keep presents in stow for more than a month because I would implode. The big question came on a night after Vince Gill had finished singing to us and she was about to go home, the part I hated--going home. She was about to go, we were saying goodbye and talking about our plans for tomorrow when, "wait right there. I'll be right back." "Where are you going?" "Hang on!" I ran into my room (it was three steps into my room from the living room) opened the safe and retrieved the box. Opened the lid and got onto my knees. As I crawled into the living room on my knees Kendra just looked at me with that look that I still get today, "What in the sam hill are you doing!" "Kendra...before you leave I just want you to know that I love you more than anything. I can't really imagine how I could live my life without you because I love you so much." "Awww...I love you to." "Well...hang on....Kendra I was wondering if you would be willing to spend the rest of your life with me as my wife?" That's when the ring was presented (which she knew was in the safe). She's not a very good shock faker, "Of course...oh I love's beautiful." Needless to say, we didn't say goodbye for little bit longer. She kept looking at her finger and staring at that ring.
Next stop...Des Moines, Iowa