31.8.12

Our Wedding | Invitations

"open in the name of the king!
an urgent message from his imperial majesty"
cinderella receives an invitation to the ball
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Call me "Georje Bahnks, Georja BAHNKS," because I feel like I'm walking through my allegorical wedding "mess."  Cue the fizzing champagne bubbles.  "I used to think a wedding was a simple affair."    As thrilled as I am to be living as a wife and as happy as I am about the great adventure of life before us, I can't help but play through our last few days of engagement and our wedding day.  We had a truly wonderful time planning our wedding.  The hardest week, was also the fastest week, and was also the last week ;)  I love being a wife more than being a fiance' or bride, but I loved both of those roles.  In every way.  
So now?  As I wait to see my own wedding pictures from Shannon, I'm going to unveil little bits of our day.  Today is our invitations!  I talked about our wedding inspiration in the spring and I'm thrilled with how our ideas turned into real products we could touch and keep.  Here's a little refresher on the feel we were hoping for (that whole playful-yet-royal, childlike-yet-elegant vibe? Remember?):
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We made our invitations ourselves, and I knew exactly what I wanted them to look like (well, almost exactly.) I designed the invitation-wording in photoshop.  I can't tell you how many slim sans-serif fonts I looked through!  And as much as I would have loved to have hand-calligraphed invitations, I found a very budget-friendly solution!  Calligraphy by Hilary hand wrote our names and then sent me the jpeg file over e-mail.  I loved having custom handwriting (instead of a script font) - it felt very Cinderella to my heart ;)  Two colored card stock squares and thread finished off these babies!
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She also hand wrote and then made a stamp with our return address.  This was also so nice because we didn't have to worry about printing on the letterpress envelopes and something feels satisfying and old-fashioned about stamping from ink pad to paper!
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The inner envelope was a spanking gold vellum with confetti-glitter band.  Double sided tape for the win. (Special thanks to my new mother-in-law for hand punching all the confetti for me!)
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The final product!
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We ended up using five or six different colors of card stock.  I couldn't make up my mind and just pick two! Haha!
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A close-up of the stamp.  When it went well... it went really well.  When it was messy, it was REALLY messy.  I don't even want to know how many envelopes we had to toss ;)
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A few thoughts (tips? lessons?) if you make your own wedding invitations:

1 // Have my friends.   
Starting with Caleb, then to my mother, then to my Aunt Pam and Becca, Janet, Lydia, Katie... they helped, worked, tied, cut, counted and breathed these into existence.   It got a little frustrating at times (printer formatting, blade-breaking, wrong measurements, etc), but the crew didn't give on me!
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2 // The details are worth it.
Once we started the project we weren't sure if we had to have the bow.  Or if we had to include the gold glitter.  But I'm so glad we pressed on and did those extra steps... even at 11:30 pm in a Florida hotel room the night before my entire family moved back to Maryland.  I wish I had planned better?  But I don't wish we had skipped the "little things."  I love how they added to - possibly even made! - the whole look.
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3 // Buy your own paper, but let someone else print and cut it.
Unless you have a commercial printer, heavy duty paper cutter and warm comfort food on hand, I do not suggest doing this part yourself.  After a few days of printing/cutting, uh...haha, fun?, I finally took the invitation file and white card stock over to FedEx office.  An hour and $12 later everything was perfectly cut and crisply printed.  I should have done that from the start.  The paper there is a little pricey, however.  So go do your good amazon.com or coupon/sale/deal hunting and bring your paper to them.  So worth it.
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4 // Have fun with the wording.
I loved writing out the invitation and choosing the words very carefully.   Joyfully.  Celebration.  Respondez S'il Vous Plait.  I say: say what you want to say, not what "the websites" tell you to say.  Does that make sense?  Use words you love and make it your own.  I say.  You say.  We all say for ice-cray!
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5 // Invite me to your wedding.
I just love weddings - more than ever.  So I want to come.
;)

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I was so pleased with how these turned out.  Especially because I think they complimented the other paper goods (the bridesmaids books, the programs, the table cards) but they also gave such a perfect introduction to our wedding.  And after all his grumpy, doting dad-ness, George was right: getting married is a NOT the same as "having a wedding."  And we girls do love our weddings... and the perfect "welcome" to the wedding really matters sometimes.

30.8.12

Baby Autumn | Daily Life Portraits

"love the girl who holds the world in a paper cup."
danny's song - anne murray
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For some reason, being a child in a big family prompts unusual family-planning questions.  As a little girl I was frequently asked "Do you like being in a big family?"  Well.  I liked being in my family.  And it was big!  So, yes!  I did like being in a big family.  "Do you want to have a big family someday?"  "Yes, I would!" (I wish I would have responded with "Do you like being in a small family?  Do you want to have a small family someday?" but I never did.) Sometimes people remarked that I might change my mind when I got older, or that they just wouldn't be cut out for that.   But over the last decade as I've heard and answered that question, the most common response has been:  "You must love children, huh?"  I was always a little confused by that question ("You mean, there are people who don't love children?") but I always answered my third "yes" of the dialogue.  [I have more to say about this paragraph, but that's not for right now.]

As I've gotten older, I've spent more time studying, researching and thinking about children than any other topic.  Whether it be scripture, TIME magazines, internet forums, conversations with friends (or strangers), various books or my own thoughts - I've had plenty to mull over.   I've watched adults interact with children in public and private settings.  I've watched their reactions to an annoying or angry child.  I've watched their responses to a pretty and "good" child.  My little radars shoot up when children are around.  I watch closely - the children themselves, and the people around them.

In all this time, I'm not sure if I've encountered a better sentence about my heart towards children, said by the author of Goodnight Moon, Margaret Wise Brown: “I don't think I'm essentially interested in children's books. I'm interested in writing, and in pictures. I'm interested in people and in children because they are people.”  

In my house, and therefore in my world, children were people.  I don't mean that anyone thinks infants and toddlers are dogs, or matter, or subhumans.  I know we all "know" they are people, but, even subconsciously, many put them in a different category.  "Children are so difficult!"  "Children are so funny!" "Children are a lot of work!" "Children are expensive!"  Well, yes.  But people are difficult, and funny, and work, and expensive.  Some people I enjoy very much, others kind of get on my nerves - that includes newborns to the very elderly.  But no matter what they're like, or much effort it takes, I, with all my heart, believe that everyone should love children.  Because I believe that everyone should love people.  

Obviously there are a variety of personalities and "strengths" that sometimes do better with different kinds of people ;)  I honestly am not the best with kids.  I love being around them, but I think my kid-skills were so much stronger when I was 17 and 18.  Part of how I know this is because of my little sisters.  Shannon and Lauren are nine and eleven years old and could probably care for a 6-month old completely on their own for 24 hours.  And they have lived a life without infant siblings.  They are so good with little people.  

For two days we've watched a girl named Autumn.  It's been fascinating to see my family made up of elementary school children, pre-teens, college students and 50-somethings, transform for this little person.  Everyone wants a turn to hold her, to feed her, to dress her, to play with her.  Even the boys.  I don't think she's been put down since she's arrived.  We all squeal at her funny faces, re-tell stories about "what Autumn did today," work hard to keep her safe and happy.  She has brought joy to our home - and mess, and noise, and smells, and "work," I guess.  But, who cares about that?!  She's an incredible person.  And she has made our daily life sweeter and better.   

She's helped me love my sisters more - they honestly are capable beyond their years.  She's helped me love my brothers more - they have such a doofy soft side that she brought out.  She's helped me love my parents more - mom always knows what to do with her!  She's so experienced and gentle.  Dad is so funny with his "baby voices" and quirky insights.  "She is 98% eye-ball.  This isn't a baby, it's a life support system for two eyes!"  She's helped me love my husband more - he was so patient when she cried at 3:00 am last night, and so sweet as he got ready for work as quiet as possible so she wouldn't wake up.  

You are loved, little A!  Come back and visit us soon.  You're one of our favorite people!
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Her Happy Food Dance ;)Photobucket
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She was trying to "share" her sweet potatoes with Kevin.  Kind soul ;)
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29.8.12

Enjoy Writing | Oh My My My | Part 10

you act like you’re hip to their tricks 
and you’re strong
but a virgin-wurlitzer-heart never once

had a song
josh ritter | kathleen
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part 1 | part 2 | part 3 | part 4 | part 5 | part 6 part 7 | part 8 | part 9
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His trip to Maryland had been wonderful, and the wonder hazed over me for a few days. My affection towards him remained positvely-fickle, but my respect only grew.  When I felt, I felt hard.  And when I didn't feel, I was wicked scared.  I really wanted to turn my brain off and stop.thinking.about.this.SO.MUCH.  I wanted to enjoy getting to know him!  I wanted to feel no pressure!  I wanted to be relaxed and calm!  I wanted to look forward to my future, and not dread it!  But I couldn't seem to sustain that desire for very long.  I was so emotional.  This wasn't a mess like "oh, I spilled the Cheerios and now I need to sweep them up."  This was a "someone dumped milk and maple syrup and bread crumbs on the carpet" situation.

Looking back, I really often wonder why I didn't just stop talking to him.  I try to think about what it was that kept me going.  And I can come up with some guesses, I suppose.  But after all my attempts, all I can say is that there was something.  I couldn't stop.  I couldn't walk away.  I couldn't give up just yet.  Maybe it was stubbornness, pride and a desire to avoid being embarrassed.  But that would be weird for me, because I had a history of ending "talking" with guys - guys I knew liked me - when I just didn't feel the same way in return.  I knew the difference between flattery and true interest.  I knew that attention always felt good, but that I wasn't a performer in a show.  I tried hard to treat men kindly and respectfully. I had made the hard decision, multiple times, to be honest and not continue something (even a casual something) when I knew where I stood.   My dad didn't have the conversations for me.  I had to uncomfortably squirm in my seat, and look in his face (or avoid his face), or dial his number and say some hard things. I knew I could do it.   I just didn't want to that this time!  I wanted to keep talking.  I wanted to figure out this blonde puzzle.  The best word I can use is: drawn.  I was drawn to him.  And his Maryland trip only reenforced that with steel and iron.

January came to a close, like our phone calls: eventually and after a long time.   He seemed more comfortable with me.  He laughed more.  Had more stories to tell.  Came to our phone calls with questions for me.  He was sweeter and sillier.  He was more candid.  The little pauses in-between topics slowly disappeared.  (You know how it is when you're first trying to know and impress a person.  Before you speak you gather up a brainful of conversations and questions in a little mental basket to divvy out as needed.  Then the moment comes!  The moment of silence!  And it seems that the basket must have been eaten by some hungry grizzly bears, or carried away by a swarm of bees, or at least dumped out in the grass and strewn all about.  And instead of listening to what the Person To Impress is saying, you're balmy over what to say next.  We were past that point... mostly.)

I liked our routine.  I liked that he'd never miss a call.  I liked when he'd slip up and tell me more than he meant to about how he felt about me.  It was just so nice.  I felt a little like a-Laura-Ingalls-Wilder-girl at the General Store talking to Henry or Benjamin while purchasing string and peanuts for a nickel.  It was the simple, good life!  And very curious, too.

"When is this boy going to ask me out?  I'm not going to sit around here, being 'taken' but not 'taken' forever.  And I'm never going to know how I really feel about him until we can spend some quality time together... and I'm sure not going to be chasing HIM around this country.  I've clearly already done my fair share."  But then an idea crossed my head.  I would be flying to Las Vegas for a photography convention the last week of February.  I already had my tickets bought, but SouthWest is a dear and lets you change your itinerary for free after you've paid for flights.   I casually mentioned to Caleb that I could maybe stop in Oklahoma for a few days "on my way." (Psh. On my way.  Hahah.)  His voiced glowed when he told me I had to come.  "It's not a choice!  You're coming."  Within a few hours his mother texted me that she was going to have her annual Valentines Party the weekend I was coming.
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"Hm.  Valetines.  A little cheesy, but certainly the perfect time for him to ask me out."  Once I knew I was going to see him again - soon - my heart and belly got more and more excited.  Don't worry, I spent days working on my outfits.  Janet, Becca and Audrey even came over one afternoon to let me try on everything for them.  They helped me find a new shirt to go with the wide-leg trousers and three-quarter sleeve blazer, and new shoes to wear with my "ha-so-unpremeditated-and-easy" cardigan and jeans.  I lost a few pounds.  I highlighted and trimmed my hair.  I bought new make-up.  I used fake-tan-goodness.  I even made plans to cook lunch for over 30 people on Saturday (Caleb promised he'd help me...but come on, how impressive does it GET?!)  I had the recipes, the shopping list, the spices in little baggies all arranged in my suitcase.  And then the day before I was supposed to leave, I had a freak-out-blah day.  "I feel NOTHING.  What happened?  Where did everything go?!"  I actually even told Caleb that I didn't want to talk for the day... which I kind of can't believe I told him?... but he went with it!  I said that I needed to have some time alone, I needed to pray and it'd be a good "break" to help us anticipate seeing each other (at least I hoped.  And isn't that an awful thing to say to someone?!  He should have karate-chopped me through the phone.)

On February 17, 2011 I flew to Oklahoma, for the third time in five months (remember when I swore I'd never go to Oklahoma again? That was so cute).  I think I mostly remember being worried.  I don't remember ANY specifics of the day until I saw him.  I landed at night and Will Rogers Airport is usually deserted, but it especially was now.  All of the stores were closed.  I rounded the corner to the escalators and there was that cowboy, just as childlike as ever.  He was pacing in his jeans and grey OSU shirt.  He looked like a little boy telling a story to his mom while she's busy in the kitchen - in his own little world, moving all over the place, and sweet as the perfect strawberry.  The Feelings woke up from their nap.

He started to run to me, then slowed down, but then I had started to run to him, so now I was running and he was walking, so I slowed down too... and eventually we tumbled into a nice, efficient hello hug.  Man it was good to be with him.  We walked and talked and he was very proud of himself that he knew exactly how to get from the baggage claim, to the parking garage, to the highway, to home.  "I know my way around here.  These are my stomping grounds."  I could smell his cologne and fresh breath and dryer-sheet-clean shirt.

And he was staring, again.  The Caleb Stare was in Red Alert, even while he was driving.  We teased and flirted the whole drive.  I couldn't tell if he was staring at me just to egg me on ("AAAh! We're going to crash! STOP staring!  Look at the road!  I'm going to hide in the back if you don't focus on driving!") or if he really was so distracted that he couldn't help but look at me.   Within a few minutes of driving and almost-crashing, I assumed my favorite car-riding position:  rolled up with my feet flat on the airbag/glove compartment area.  "How can you do that?!  You're so tiny!"  Alright, mentally noted: I love when he calls me tiny.  "I can put my feet dow..." "Oh no!  Don't.  I like it when they're like that.  You seem comfortable.  And... you.  I've never seen a girl do that before... and you just jump right in and put your little feet up... haha, yeah."  He'd look over at me with those movie-moment eyes and I'd starting screaming that we were going to get in an accident, while my heart rear-ended my ribcage.   It was one of the happiest hours of my life.

Once on the farm, we hugged and hello-ed his wonderful family.  We stayed up way too late talking and staring and kind-of leaning on each other.  The kids asked oh-my-gosh-SUCH-awkward questions like "Cib, are you gunna date her?" or "Do you want her to be your wiiife?"  We'd laugh and say "Oh no, we're just friends... just friends."  And then he'd keep staring at me.  Oh boy, I was a-fluuuuuter as I fell asleep.

The next day was Friday, and the day of the Valentines party!  The boys had to go to work all day (but of course Caleb snuck into my room to say "good morning!" before he left) and I had some shopping to do!  The oldest Morris girls, one of their friends and I spent most of the day at the mall and grocery store.  By the time we arrived back on the farm, we had to get ready!  I helped blow-dry, curl, tease, pin and spray hair.  I kept watching the clock, knowing that Caleb, my un-Valentine, should be arriving home any minute.  I hurried to get dressed and look super-duper-cute.  It was a glowing hour of buzz in a tiny girls bedroom, lined with wooden bunkbeds.  I was beginning to fall in love with these people and their home.  I never wanted to leave.  I just loved being with them - animals and all.

By the time guests started arriving to the party, I was excitedly wearing my new red Calvin Klein dress and my favorite navy heels.  I felt like a little girl window shopping at an expensive doll store.  I came out from the room and everything was so beautiful.  Hearts and lights and candles were everywhere.  Pasta sauce tickled our noses and teased our stomachs.  Fresh, warm bread was being sliced.  The wait-staff (all Morris children) were filling up glasses with cold drinks.  Caleb stood up wearing a crisp white shirt and silver tie.  I wouldn't have known the difference between Bingley's White Ball and this party.  I was enthralled.
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Caleb and I stayed glued to each other's sides all night.  We had fine conversation with the other couples at our table.  We played ridiculous games that we did horribly at.  Caleb would "run into" my shoulder every few minutes.  I began to crave those "bumps."  It was splendid.  But at one point in the evening, while Caleb was taking out the trash or in the restroom, one of his good friends pulled me to the side and asked me some blunt questions.  "So, what are you thinking?  You like Caleb, huh?"  Being a girl who "knows when to hold 'em, knows when to fold 'em, knows when to walk away, knows when to run" (at least that's how I tried be) I was not about to spill my carefully kept feelings to Caleb's friend.  "If Caleb wants to know, he can ask me...out."  "But if he asked you out, you'd say yes."  My smile was giving everything away, but I tried to hold my ground.  "He hasn't asked me out."  The friends eye glimmered knowingly.  "That ol' dog needs to step up!"  "I'm not waiting around for him," I reminded.  Even though I had no one else on my mind or in my heart.  I just had to say that... to sound... tough.  Besides, he was far more smitten than I was.  A big conversation had to be coming.
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After the beautiful party came to a close, Caleb and I did dishes and bumped shoulders and flirted.  Then we began to prep for the big Saturday lunch.  Caleb cut the meat, while I cut the vegetables... we worked until almost 2:00 am.  And before I knew it we were doing The Mexican Hat Dance in the family room.  Dad Morris came out more than once to tell us we were going to regret not getting some sleep.  We promised him we'd go to bed soon.  And then we were talking about, oh, wild hogs or generations of children promised to Abraham, or something.   But we kept our promise and did, eventually, go to sleep.  The next morning I popped out of bed like a piece of done toast.  I took a shower, straightened my hair, put my make-up on, wore my new t-shirt my un-Valentine had given me the night before and waited for MisterMister to wake up.  We had some lunch to prepare!  Another large family had made plans to drop by the Morris' for the day.  With about 23 children and seven or eight adults, this meal couldn't afford to be a disaster.  We pulled out our  marinated meat and produce and spent nearly an hour just skewering them.  Caleb seemed a little quiet  but hey! he's a quiet guy and we didn't sleep much at all.  He was still staring, bumping and shaking up my insides like a pro.
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bang beef kabobs, hawaiian chicken kabobs and rice + corn salad.   i just... really outdid myself ;)  (with too-tough beef and under-cooked chicken.  oops!) 
Right on time, the talented Lindsey family arrived after a long day or two of travel.  All 13 of them spend significant time performing across the country.  These musicians were in the middle of one of their family tours and pit-stopped for the weekend.  I felt like I had just started to get my bearings with the 12 Morris kids, but all of a sudden the cute faces and noise level doubled.  Don't get me wrong, I'm very comfortable with large groups and big families!  But I was feeling the pressure of serving fully-cooked, tasty food.  And all I wanted to do was stick by Caleb's side.  Of course I was introduced as "our friend, Kristen."  It was starting to get a little annoying.  Maybe we just need to have some time alone?  Maybe he wants it to be special, and not in the middle of so many people?  But I didn't have long to dwell on my ideas, for boys and men and girls and babies and moms needed to eat!
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After lunch the Morris family wanted to show the Lindsey's the twins' property and start of their homes.    As everyone started making their way to vehicles, I found a big, grumbling diesel pick-up with the keys in, engine antsy and no driver.  Ha, I'm not going to be this clingy "friend" that can't stand on her own two feet!  I'm adventurous and brave, not measly and timid!  I slid into the passenger seat, and, of course, Caleb was right behind.  "What do YOU think you are doing?"  I smiled flirtatiously as I buckled the seat belt.  Soon hoards of other children were coming to see "the city girl" drive a truck.  Guys, I learned how to drive on a Suburban!  I drive the school's bus for basketball!  This is nothing! Calm down!  I secretly loved how impressed and shocked everyone was that I was driving.  I loved that Caleb's cheeks were a little red over there in the passenger seat.  I loved that he leaned as far over to me as physically possible without actually touching.  I just loved this.  I loved the happiness, the together-ness, the kindness, the hospitality, the people - "Good heavens.  People!" - I loved the feeling of home that was beginning to wrap me in it's arms.  I couldn't have been further from my real "home" but I really felt like I belonged, in my un-farm-educated, "high maintenance," sarcastic, "city" kind of way.
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osu, caleb's house and "the stare" - a good summary of our weekend.
The more myself I acted, the more Caleb hung around.  The more Caleb hung around, the more I liked him.  The more I liked him, the more I wondered what he was thinking about "us."  Or rather, how soon he was going to make "us" official.  This trip was more than I had hoped it would be. Anyone who has ever gotten to know someone long-distance knows how important those days together, in "real life" are, and I was blissfully surprised with how well it all was going.  I nearly started crying when we went to Caleb's land.  He took me for a tour of his property on the four-wheeler.  He knew every bump and hill and pathway of those 20 acres.  He took me to his favorite hill in the woods and he described in poetic detail how the red buds look when the sun sets there in the spring.  He told me that he almost built his house on this hill, that someday he'd like to put a gazebo here instead.  I'll be honest, I was very distracted and had a hard time listening.  I just wanted to tackle him or kiss his nose.  I didn't though.  I didn't even put my arms around him on the 4-wheeler.  I held on tight to the back handles.  But I felt tipsy and almost sleepy.  Maybe dreamy is the word.  This was the best.  Caleb would look over his shoulder after all the big bumps to check on me and smile.  I don't know which I loved more.
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After a day full of teasing, talking and feeling, Caleb announced that he was taking me out!  Yes!  This is it!  Finally!  Then I found out that he was taking some of his brothers and sisters with him, with us.  When his mom said "You can just go alone...?" he refused.  He insisted that Josiah and Hosanna come along.  It confused me slightly, but I couldn't help but appreciate his gentlemanliness and his love of his brothers and sisters.  Because, after all, we were not going to a sweet old fashioned diner in Guthrie.  Oh no.  We were going to a Monster Truck Rally.  It was... hilarious.  Besides that fact that you have to wear earplugs the entire time, so we couldn't talk at all, it was THE most "red-neck," country-bumpkin, cowboy-central event I'd ever been to in my life.  I was thoroughly amused.  After the rally was done, it was getting close to 11:00 pm and Caleb asked if I wanted to go see a movie.  I saw the little sleepy eyes walking with us and felt bad keeping them out so late.  But when they heard "movie" they perked up too.  It's not often that a 6 and 8 year old get to have such a late Saturday night ;)  "Gnomeo & Juliet" was playing, so the four of us bought tickets.  Oh. And. Haha.  Caleb carried me on his back from the parking lot to the theater.  Don't ask how that happened.   Okay, I'll tell you how it happened.  WE LIKED EACH OTHER! A LOT!  Hosanna strikingly declared while we walked "Cib, you don't give piggybacks to 'frieeeeends.'  Just sisters or..."  Siah elbowed her to stop.  She looked back at us and shrugged, "Just say-eeng."
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ohhhhhklahoma where more than just wind comes from the plains ;)
I hopped down off his back and knew she was right.  After the movie we arrived home late and had to wake up early to go to church.  After church I found Caleb out front on the phone.  I was pretty sure he was talking to my dad - just to get final "go-ahead" from him.  He's an honorable, humble guy.  He wouldn't have it any other way.  I pretended not to notice, and when he returned from the call he seemed a little jittery and aloof.  So cute, so obvious.   We enjoyed another large lunch at a friends home, and by 4:00 we were headed to the Morris farm.  I had to leave around 5:30 am the next morning, so my final 12 hours with Caleb were closing in on us.  We were exhausted and giddy, sweet and ready.
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"photoshoot" in the back of the car on sunday afternoon.  look how cute and charming i was wearing his baseball cap.
After the drive home, the rest of the kids jumped out of the car.  Caleb and I stayed in the backseat and poked each other, or something.  It got quiet and Caleb stared right into my eyes.  Oh my gosh. He smiled at me.  Oh. My. Gosh.  "Well," he started, "I want to be in a relationship with you."  Little Disney-fireworks of "yeeeeee-hawwwww!" started in my middle section and left heel.  He was talking slow, and seemed nervous.  I was trying so hard to be quiet and not just BLURT out "YES! I DO! I WILL!"  Up until this point I hadn't even told him I liked him, and now I was just unbelievably ready to get it out.  This trip was an answer to prayer.  The peace from God, the confirmation that we were right, the feelings I was so worried about, the incredible character and love on display in a simple family home.  I wanted it, badly - and the fact that I did was an answer to prayer in and of itself!  "I never knew how incomplete I was as a man, until I met you."  If any other man said that to me, I would have rolled my eyes and replied with a sarcastic pick-up line and immediate walk-away with nnnooOoo looking back.  But when Caleb said it, he meant it.  He meant everything he said.  He didn't play games or even really know any pick-up lines.
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"photoshoot" continues...
"But, I'm scared."  YE-... hmmm? What?  "I'm not sure if I'm ready to, you know.  I don't know if my feelings are where.  How do you know if you're supposed to, how do you hear from God and know His will?" WHAAAAT?  "I don't know if you're 'the one' for me.  I like you!  But I'm not in love with you."  Oh my word.  We started on a multiple hours long conversation about Caleb's statements.  How you don't have to be in love in order to start dating.  How you actually probably *shouldn't* know someone is 'the one' before you start dating.  How the point of dating is to see if someone is 'the one.'  How dating is fun, pressure-free, exciting and a chance to build friendship and romance, not engagement.   All of a sudden I found myself talking him into dating me.  I spilled out that, yes, I like you! And you like me!  And we love God.  That's enough!  We can date!  "But I don't know if my feelings have grown for you."  Hmmm. Come again?  "What do you mean your feelings haven't grown?  Like, during this trip?"  "Oh no, like, since I met you."  Oh.  That's so nice.  That's good.  Very good.  "But you said you wanted to be in a relationship with me?  Why did you say that?"  "Well, I want to want to date you.  I want to know if it's what I'm supposed to do."  I was shocked.  I was embarrassed.  I was completely blind-sided.   He told me he just needed more time.  He knew we had so many good things, but he wasn't ready yet.  Could we still be friends, though?

He went on and on about his fears and concerns about being in a relationship.  He used the phrase "not at peace" frequently.  He repeated over that he didn't want to hurt me or "take a piece of my heart."  He said he didn't know how to hear from God.  It was a vicious cycle of confusion.  But one thing it was not: sweet.  Or romantic.  Or at all ready to date me.

We talked until it was dark, and then eventually came inside.  I still couldn't resist being around him, so we obviously spent the rest of the evening together.  We awkwardly ignored our major DTR, and just talked about anything else.  Before we went to bed we gave each other a big hug - a hug I'll never forget as long as I shall live.  It was a hug that gives angels their wings, give children their laughs, gives stories their climax, and gives hearts their beat.  It wasn't particularly long, but it was powerful.

The following morning I packed up, said good-bye to everyone and was chauffeured by my friend to the airport.  I wasn't sure what to say, but I knew I was still crazy about him.  Even though I didn't understand his thinking, actions and words.  He stared at me the whole time he drove.  Road, me, road, me, road, me, road, me.  He parked and helped me with my suitcase.  He walked with me all the way until the security line.  Before I went through he hugged me again.  I looked up at him and said "You're going to figure all this out?"  His eyes got teary and he said "I'll try."  He stayed put until I made my way through security and walked toward my gate.  We did our traditional "click's" to each other and I left.

I called my parents and told them everything.  I was trying to be optimistic.  "Maybe when he comes in March he'll be ready."  "Oh, he's not coming in March," my dad didn't-joke.  "This is ridiculous.  You don't need to be persuading him to date you.  He needs to be a man.  Does he like you?  Enough to date you? Then do it. He has enough information about you.  He knows what you're like and how he feels.  And he's certainly led you to believe that he had strong and growing feelings for you.  No, you need to stop talking to him.  This is the opposite of being a man."  I knew Dad was right.  But I didn't want to stop talking to him.  What a difference four days makes!  At the beginning of the trip, I asked to take a break from talking, and now I was devastated to realize that we had to stop talking!

To use the princess and knight in shining armor analogy:  I felt like I was the dear, prized princess up in the tower, and the knight was coming to slay the dreaded dragon and prove his love and win my heart! But as the knight approached, he cowered his head and tried to hide from the fearsome beast.  The princess began to call from the castle, "Hey!  Young knight!  If you wait until the dragon is asleep, you can sneak through this passage way and get to me safely!"  And then the knight called back "But what if he wakes up while I'm trying to do that?  I don't know how I feel about all this!"  So there I was, coaxing my "brave" man to come whisk me away, and he was retreating and terrified.  No, I couldn't keep calling from the tower, hoping my pleas would change his mind.  I needed to leave the window, shut my mouth and walk away.  I wanted someone to fight for me.  To face the fears of dating and relationships and hearts with courage and conviction.  Ha, I certainly did NOT want a guy who was so unsure of his feelings for me.  But... I just don't understand?  Why did he call all the time?  Why did he stare?  Why did he buy my presents? And tell me he missed me?  And that he was incomplete until he met me?  Why did he do that if he didn't have feelings - at least strong ones?  I did not expect this from him. I thought I could trust him.  I did trust him.  And now I feel stupid, lonely and quite rejected. But I really, really like this DUMB boy.  

I knew I needed to call him... soon.  I needed to tell him I was done and that I wasn't in a place where I could wait for him to figure it out.  I knew I had to mean it when I said it.  I knew I had to be willing to move on and walk away from this... this hard-working, tall, handsome, family-oriented, loving, amused, sweet, listening, generous man.  I sat at my gate in despair.  Then I looked up and saw a Southwest sign,  "It's hard to move on if you're standing still."  I don't even know what that has to do with airlines or the Southwest company, but it's like it was made for me.
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God speaks in mysterious ways...?
I slept the entire plane ride, dreaming of happier things than my current circumstances.  Thankfully I was busy when I arrived in Vegas, so I was forced to do something, and not just sit in my hotel room and cry.  Caleb texted me "Headed to volleyball.  Man, do I wish you were here too."  WHY DOES HE WISH I AM HERE TOO?  WHY IS HE TELLING ME THAT?  Little liar.  WHY DON'T YOU WANT TO DATE ME?! DON'T YOU KNOW I COMPLETE YOU?!  I waited a while to respond.  When I did I wrote a cold "Fun."  When he wrote later that night I kept my answers one-word or less if I could.  I ended the texting conversation and told him we needed to talk in the morning.
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my depressed view from my vegas hotel room ;)
And the next morning, I did it.  I called him and told him what every part of my heart didn't want to say.  I told him I was so sorry, but that I didn't think things were working out.  I felt like he had led me to believe he was very interested, when he apparently wasn't.  I told him that I didn't think it would be a good idea to keep being "just friends" and to talk the way we'd be talking.  I worked hard to not be overly emotional.  I said that I wasn't angry, just a little confused and hurt.  I said that at this point I was not interested in seeing if we could be in a relationship or anything "more."  The more I talked, the more I realized that the idea of him may have been so much sweeter than the reality of him.  He really was so confused, so unable to initiate, so stuck.  He had God-issues he needed to work through and learn, and I was not going to be his teacher.  It wouldn't be right.  I was the first girl he'd ever called on the phone.  That sounds charming at first, but comes with some glaring side effects.  I said good-bye.  He cried.  He agreed.  He was mostly quiet.  And that was the end.  In a broken fog, hung up the phone.

And all of a sudden, I was officially single and not "talking" with Caleb Morris anymore.