Meet Chris, everyone!
If you've seen some of my catch up entries, you already know we've been friends for more than 15 years. You know he's handsome, you know he's brilliant, and you know he's great with the boys.
He's also a car enthusiast, knows more about various aircraft than the whole of Boeing, and could probably beat MacGyver at MacGyvering. *Grin*
He's always been ridiculously intelligent. His childhood was spent tinkering with everything thanks to his parents who not only encouraged it, but took him to workshops and programs that would actively teach him how! He's a natural sponge for information and somehow keeps it all pristinely locked away for recall at a moment's notice.
Long before we ever made googly eyes at one another, we engaged in the most entertaining, thought-provoking conversations. While the rest of the group would drift into debates about comic characters or video games, we'd be off into the weeds discussing politics, social constructs and philosophy. We've always enjoyed deep conversations with one another, and somehow there's always new fodder for us to attack.
Since pairing ourselves up, we routinely watch programming that grapples with complex problems or interesting historical quandaries. We'll share current events, play devil's advocate, or listen to interviews with prominent philosophical contemporaries. I'll ask an outlandish question that forces him to pull the brakes and really yank at the underpinnings of his belief set, and then he'll drop an atom bomb into my lap that has me spiraling off into tangents for DAYS. Through it all, we learn, we laugh, and we grow in our understanding of the world, each other, and ourselves.
I cannot overstate how much I appreciate that intellectual stimulation.
Then there's his natural propensity to fix everything... he's an engineer by trade, so he is a professional (and highly skilled) problem solver. Whether the problem is mechanical in nature (fixing a broken appliance) or situational (the kids aren't doing what they're supposed to be doing), he's able to effectively diagnose it and figure out efficient steps that rectify whatever is amiss.
He also relishes his role as step-father. Since signing on, he's put so much time, thought and energy into parenting them properly. Just last night, we had a talk about Vincent's unique challenges, specifically stemming from a marked increase in verbal/auditory stimming. He's invested in helping them both succeed as men, and that manifests in a million different ways.
Last weekend, he let Nate help him build a shed in the backyard which made Nate swear he was a professional architect. Ha ha! He's so patient with them, but isn't afraid to come down hard if necessary to keep them on the straight and narrow. I take so much comfort in him as their role model for masculinity. I worried so much for their prospects as adult men before Chris arrived, but now that he's taken on the task of showing them what a true man looks like, I feel genuine relief for their futures.
He is a true partner. I swear he's more supportive of me than I am 90% of the time! Whether it's getting off the couch to help me up while I'm a pregnant turtle, offering to pick up groceries to knock something off my to-do list, or sneaking out in the morning (and thus, forgoing the morning coffee and lunch I'd make for him) so I can catch up on sleep, he is outlandishly thoughtful. Just as I recognize all that he does for our family, he recognizes all I do by not waiting for me to ask for help but offering it when he sees the opportunity present itself.
My favorite is him not complaining when I order out these days because I can't stand to be near an oven. Uuuuugh, I'm really looking forward to having Nico OUTSIDE of me...
Anyway, I could wax on forever about how wonderful he is. It still amazes me that we ended up together. A couple days ago, I was smiling up at him like an idiot and he laughed asking, "What?"
I answered, "If you'd have told me that you and I would end up together, I would've laughed you off a cliff. I sometimes still can't believe it. It's insane." He agreed. It really is insane when you think about it. But when has God ever made a lick of sense to us mere mortals?
That said, I'm genuinely glad God's the One in control, because there's no better husband, father, or friend that I could have chosen for myself and my children. I always go back to that photo I shared in this entry about God banishing fear:
It still rings 1,000% true. I was holding a tattered, germ-ridden teddy bear and God was holding Chris behind His back. Ha ha! Luckily, I was blessed with the gift of Faith and an unshakable trust in God's desire to care for each of us individually, so I had no real problem handing over the trash bear. I just had no idea that the prize bear was someone I already loved and respected so much.
So that's Chris in a large nutshell. At 6'4" and a delicious amount of muscle, a large nutshell is the only one I can fit him in. *Grin*
Trust God, friends. I cannot emphasize that enough. If you learn nothing else from my story, learn this: the same God who cares for the birds in the sky and the flowers of the field cares infinitely more about you than those birds and flowers (Matt 6:26-30). He cares so much that He came to dwell among us, taking on our humanity to elevate it to the Divine. He wants your joy and happiness and cannot be outdone in love. So love Him, trust Him, and recognize that short-term pain falls away and becomes background noise as the life He created you for unfurls into eternity.
He's got you, friend. He's got you.
She poured her heart and soul into EVERYTHING, and while stitching everything together, she would pray for whoever would end up using whatever she was making:
When I finally realized she was serious, I cried. I felt so overwhelmed with gratitude, unworthiness, and awe that I couldn't respond to her e-mail for more than a week. Every time I would try, words would fail me and I'd just begin crying again. To think that she would not only WANT to do this, but consider it a personal honor... guys... I'm tearing up again just thinking of how wonderful she is.
Karen lives out in Ohio, so she asked that I send her my measurements. She asked if I had anything in mind, and I didn't. My only request was that she use lightweight lace because I'd be married in May. She sent me a photo of a style she thought would be perfect for me and I immediately approved. Of course she'd pick out something perfect. SHE is perfect.
I didn't hear much from her in the months that followed. To be fair, I was inundated with changing plans around due to the impending pandemic, moving Chris home, and trying to sort out virtual learning for the boys. She was very clearly busy, too, because the day we finally got Chris home, a package was waiting for us when we arrived. It was the dress!
Upon opening it, I could hardly contain myself. It was more stunning than I had anticipated. The lace was SUPREMELY soft and for as large as the dress was, it was super lightweight. I'm not entirely sure how she managed that.
She included a cathedral length veil that was trimmed in the same lace she used to make the dress. I didn't end up using it due to COVID, but I still have it tucked away with the dress. She sent me the sweetest letter ever with the dress, assuring me that every stitch was offered as a prayer for our marriage. And now I own an original piece of artwork from one of my most beloved artistic friends. I cannot overstate how much I appreciate this grace.
So to Karen, I love you ridiculous amounts. I cannot ever thank you enough for giving so freely of yourself to ensure that I had something so beautiful to wear. I cherish it, just as I cherish our friendship. You are a saint, my friend, and I hope to be much, MUCH more like you when I "grow up."
And yes, Chris absolutely wiped a tear from his eye when he saw me in it. Even he was blown away by your ability to clean me up. *Grin*
Love you, friend. Thank you.
While I recognize 2020 was a challenging and frustrating year for so many people, I am grateful that it turned out to be a year of incredible blessings for my family and I.
Chris and I kicked off the New Year together. He was still living in Kansas, and hadn't had any job offers in the area. We were able to celebrate Christmas with the boys and welcome 2020 with hopeful expectation.
He was to begin as soon as possible!
The biggest hurdle of all had finally been overcome. He had been searching for so long to find something suitable back home, and finally, God had opened the door, just as I knew He would.
When he flew back home, we had a plan in place that would get him home in time to start his new job in April.
Vince and Nate were doing so well, too! Vince was excelling in 4th grade and Nate was growing by leaps and bounds. While they can certainly bicker, they're usually pretty good together. Nate still worships Vince and Vince enjoys lording around his baby brother. We had all settled nicely into our new house and everyone was excited for Chris to finally move home for good, especially because Chris was such a fun playmate for them!
When March arrived, the first inklings of COVID-19 were starting to make their way to us. My wonderful friend (and then-boss) started warning me against traveling out of state. My brother was SUPER adamant about me not flying down to Kansas to then drive through multiple states to get him home. It seemed like the entire world had suddenly gone crazy.
There was *no way* I was going to leave Chris stranded in Kansas when we FINALLY had the ability to get him home. I was on pins and needles the week leading up to my flight because some airlines were closing, some states were shutting down, etc.
Finally, I was able to board and get to Kansas. We spent a few days packing, and then began our 1,200 mile road trip home. Knowing we'd need to have things to look forward to, I planned a few socially safe excursions between Kansas and New Jersey:
We split the drive over three days. We left after having breakfast on Saturday morning, stopping for fuel every 2.5 hours or so. While I had been worried an 18 hour drive might be daunting, all the excursions helped give us quirky fun to break it all up. The drive blew by, and before we knew it, we were HOME.
That meant we FINALLY got to build out the guitar wall I had devised the moment I stepped foot into the new house... we put it together that weekend and I am STILL over the moon for it, much like everyone else who has come through our door since!
April saw the lockdown was in full swing. It appears we got him home just in time! However, both of us are considered essential workers, so we were both going into the office regularly. Vince had swapped to remote learning. Nate was home for about 2 months before the state began re-allowing daycares to reopen. In that time, he really started to struggle. My little extrovert was beside himself not having his little peers to play with daily. While Vince LOVED not having to go into school every day, Nate was genuinely getting depressed. The day he was finally allowed back into daycare, he cried. He actually cried tears of joy because he missed everyone so much.
In the meantime, though, we did what we could to give them things to look forward to. We joined a few car parades, went up to do a drive-by of Mom-Mom's house, Uncle Ray's house and Auntie Mary's house, learned how to polish gemstones, make Jell-o and build AMAZING forts. We even set up a pinata in the backyard for them to take their frustrations out on!
All this time, Chris and I were supposed to be planning our wedding. We had sent out invitations, chose menus, and my gorgeous dress (which will get its own post) had arrived. Things were in the air due to COVID, and we were told multiple times (by many, many people) to just postpone until things returned to normal. There's no way, after all, we'd be able to make it happen with so many restrictions.
Telling me I can’t do something is pretty much a guaranteed way of ensuring it gets done because I’m a spiteful sonofagun who is creative, capable, and hella good at talking people into following my lead. I convinced the pastor to allow us to have the service by agreeing to cut our numbers to match the allotted funeral capacities (10 people). I then sorted things out with the county in order to get us virtually approved for licensing (which was tricky since Chris' license was still listed as out-of-state due to DMVs being closed).
Finally, we let everyone know that we were downgrading the ceremony and reception to match capacity. I organized a videographer to be present to stream the ceremony live so that those who could not be present could still feel as though they were. I also made sure to livestream throughout the day via social media to give people a glimpse into the fun!
All in all, it was PERFECT. Everything- every single thing- was utter perfection. The weather, the people, the love... God is so good, people. Just trust Him; He always provides a way.
From there, we found ourselves in the middle of summer. Restrictions were beginning to ease, and the boys were back to enjoying their peers in camp (for Vince) and daycare (for Nate). Chris was keeping them entertained and learning with his many hands-on science projects. Rockets, experiments with arduinos, and Nerf wars were becoming commonplace. It was and is so gratifying for me to see them so enamored by Chris. Likewise, he relishes their affection and enjoys the opportunity to help them learn and grow.
When the school year arrived, I was proud of the diocesan schools for making the decision to reopen with safety protocols in place. Nate had graduated from daycare and started as a kindergartener which was great for Vince. He was excited to show Nate around and dutifully took him to his classroom every day. He even began enjoying aftercare now that he had his brother to play with.
As for me, I work in nonprofit Development. My biggest source of fundraising revenue tends to be from in-person events. With COVID throwing a wrench into that, I was forced to get super creative in terms of meeting financial goals with my hands and both feet tied behind my back. That said, God is good and once again provided the way. Chris taught me how to cut videos together, I took several virtual seminars, and applied for every grant under the sun. Not only did I end up meeting all the financial goals of my nonprofit, I ended up exceeding expectations. Chris was doing stellar in his job and I was blossoming as well!
Again, God is good!
Unfortunately, we were not immune to tragedy.
Chris' wonderful father, Peter, passed away after a brief fight with cancer. He had begun complaining of pain, and by the time doctors were able to sort it out, it had spread too far.
Before he passed away, however, God granted Chris the very special grace of being able to share news with him. In early August, we discovered that we were going to be welcoming a grandchild for them. Being able to share that he was to be a grandfather... I am so grateful that Chris had that opportunity.
Peter is deeply missed, most especially by his wife of almost 50 years, Diana. It was terribly hard for her and for Chris to face the holidays without him this year, so we did what we could to lighten the burden.
So yes, dear readers, I am once more expecting a little miracle. Vincent and Nate were VERY excited to learn that they'd have a new addition to the pack. Vince had his heart set on a sister, and Nate didn't care what the baby turned out to be because he's just thrilled he's not the youngest anymore. However, we found out that we were expecting a little boy who we decided to name "Dominic." We're already calling him "Nico" for short, and we are over the moon with anticipation for this little munchkin to arrive. And because God's awesome like that, He's finally giving me my May baby!
Christmas rolled around and while it was subdued, it was still blessed. We trimmed the tree, had fun decorating special presents for family, and built gingerbread houses and ate cookies. So many cookies. We were able to attend Mass on Christmas Day, and while I've been exhausted on account of pregnancy, I've had Chris to help with... everything.
My husband... a true and unparalleled partner in all the ways. I am so beyond blessed I'm honestly at a loss as to how any of this fell into my lap.
So that's my 20/20 on 2020. Were there challenges? Sure. But overall, we had so very much to be thankful for. The new life growing within me is proof enough to be optimistic for what tomorrow brings. In all things, God is good.
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