Epic Shit. 2018 Edition.
This blog post has proven to be one of my favorites and based on your feedback it seems to be yours as well, so let’s get to it!
Epic surprises could cause a heart attack
In the Spring Blaze and I took a short trip North to the frozen tundra where I grew up. Yes, it was cold as hell. No, I’m still not “used to it” nor is it likely I will ever be. My brother and sister-in-law knew we’d be coming home but kept it a secret from our Mom since it was also her birthday surprise. We waltzed through the front door and into the kitchen with flowers and big smiles thinking we’d really pulled off a fun surprise. Upon seeing Mom’s face I immediately thought it’s a good thing Blaze and I both have some medical training because it looked as though we might need it. I think she was happy to see us, right after her heart started beating regularly again and she got done being a little pissed off for not telling her – either way we had a great time. We heard the story of Ferdinand roughly 285 times and enjoyed far too much food. Why is a trip to the arctic tundra Epic? Well first, the look on Mom’s face was unforgettable, although I promise not to do that again, Mom. Second, it was the first time Blaze was able to meet my brother and, as it turns out, was also his opportunity to ask the Bro a very important question. Keep reading.
The story of a particularly over-extended yet Epic 31 days of May.
Blaze and I decided to eliminate the drive time between our houses and move in together. We spent months scouring real estate websites and identifying potential options. Every weekend began with a list of open houses to check out and nearly all ended with “well, if we just knock out all the walls…” and “what on earth were they thinking here.” One afternoon we happened upon a house that I INSTANTLY fell in love with. It was straight out of Chip and Joanna’s Fixer Upper archive. We looked the place over thoroughly, made small-talk with the realtor, and had even met a neighbor whom we’d preliminary planned a dinner party with after we move in (it was THAT good) but when the inspection came back unfavorable we walked away from the contract. Devastated. A few weeks later we met our agent to see a single story, brick house on a corner lot in a beautiful tree-lined neighborhood. It was perfect. We put in an offer and all I could think was, “fortheloveofgawd Erika, under NO circumstance should you get excited about this and do not, I repeat, DO NOT start mentally-moving-in until we know it’s a sure thing.” BTW, blocking your joy so you can avoid any potential pain later is a terrible coping mechanism… I digress. Absolutely nothing went according to plan but a few weeks later, there we were (soaking wet because the ocean fell out of the sky that day) signing a mountain of papers. It was ours! I’ve purchased several houses but this one was different, this one was a home. The Epic part is FEELING the distinct difference.
I volunteer for an organization that is near and dear to my heart, the Junior League of Collin County. I was honored to serve as the Vice President of Communications for the 2017-2018 year. It was hard. Like, reeeeeeeally hard. I wanted to scream and/or cry a million times but kept my eye on the WHY and told myself one important thing: I can do hard things (thank you Love Warrior for this mantra). I failed errrr, I mean, learned a lot of lessons but with the trust and support of an incredible team I grew in ways I didn’t know possible. In May I led the last meetings with this team of spectacular women whom deserve every ounce of credit for the accomplishments and successes. It was bittersweet – I was ready for the end and yet sad because I knew I’d deeply miss this team and our bond. The Epic part: a few months later I was named as the facilitator of the largest house wide shared governance council at my day job. WOW am I glad I had that JLCC experience! Everything happens for a reason and in its own perfect timing. Just trust the process.
Blaze mentioned flippantly one day that he’d never had a surprise birthday party. Challenge Accepted! With the help of my Tribe, we planned and successfully pulled off an Epic surprise birthday party with a couple dozen of our closest friends and family. The party was planned to be just a few days after we’d closed on the new house and I’d been out of town for meetings. I got home and suggested to Blaze we should go to dinner, but he wasn’t feeling it. In my head: “Ummmm – you need to get your happy-ass in the shower because we’re going to dinner, mmmkay.” In real life: call in reinforcements in the form of a friend who text him at juuuuuuuuust the right time asking if we’d like to all go to dinner together. Blaze agreed – thank GOD. As we rounded the corner to the private section I’d reserved at the restaurant he saw a room full of people yelling SURPRISE! If you know Blaze you know he will ALWAYS do for others what he wouldn’t do for himself. I wanted to give him an unforgettable experience – this time it was all about him. Based on his sweet smile I think we did it.
As if buying a home, belongings in three different zip codes at one point, meetings upon meetings upon meetings, and a shit-load of secret birthday planning wasn’t enough, it was ultimately ME who had the surprise of a lifetime. One year, to the day, that Blaze handed me a bag of Caramel Popcorn that led to our first date, he orchestrated an EPIC Caramel Popcorn Day proposal. A full-day scavenger hunt including a half-dozen important locations from the previous year of dates, lots of friends surprising me along the way, and a final destination where everybody was in on the surprise except me. We’d certainly talked about our life and our future together but it didn’t occur to me that we’d need to get engaged (yes, I was an idiot) so to say I was shocked when he got down on one knee and asked me to marry him would be a massive understatement. It was perfect in every way. The single most thoughtful expression of love I’d ever experienced. That trip to the tundra in the spring, Blaze voiced his intentions to marry me in a private moment with my Brother. Apparently he got the go-ahead and Caramel Popcorn Day 2019 will mark the beginning of our adventure as husband and wife.
We hosted our first dinner party and an exceptionally important holiday for me, Thanksgiving, in our new home. I’d long wished for a pretty dining room table filled with smiling faces and stories upon stories that lasted for hours. I got it all. There are family members by blood and there are family members by choice. Both are welcome at our table anytime but it was especially sweet to enjoy our first Thanksgiving with nearly 12 hours of table talk, laughter and food with the “Framily”. For those of you wondering, my contribution to any feast is generally limited to dinner rolls and booze – two of my favorite things. Good thing somebody else also brought rolls too because I may or may not have forgotten they were warming in the oven. Whoops! This is why I’m not in charge of any cooking.
I attended my first funeral for a fire fighter. These funerals are ripe with tradition like the Last Call and crossed ladders with the American flag blowing in the breeze along with a crystal clear understanding that the brotherhood of a department is thicker than blood. A coordinator ushered me to sit in the “wives section” at the church which I found particularly frustrating because I was there to support my future husband and from my seat I couldn’t even see his face. Instead I made small-talk with women I’ve never met before and tried to pretend like I knew exactly what to expect. It was clear there were several in this special section whom it was not their first rodeo, and I was grateful for their kindness and to follow their lead. When it ended we were (finally) able to join our partners outside. I didn’t cry during the service but the piercing sound of pipes and drums leading the procession that included a flag draped casket as it was removed from the church made it nearly impossible to keep it together. I never met the man we were honoring but it didn’t matter. The 100+ men and women from his and surrounding fire departments all stood in perfect formation, at attention, in their crisp dress blues to salute he and his family one last time. It was Epic, but for very different reasons. I know every third day when Blaze leaves home there is inherent danger and an unspoken sacrifice he, every member of his department, and their families are making. Their courage, commitment and dedication is truly remarkable.
Courage Over Comfort
My last blog post, The “D” Word, really struck a cord with many of you. I received countless DM’s in the days following and nearly every one shared the same theme “I thought it was just me.” Epic Lesson: talking about things that make you ridiculously uncomfortable, feel exceptionally exposed, and vulnerable as hell may also prove to be the thing that connects you to others. This post created the most engagement and support of any “truth” I’ve ever told before. If you do nothing else in 2019, choose courage over comfort at least once. I promise it won’t kill you! If you are battling Depression, scared to talk about it, or feel alone and that no one will understand, please reach out. If the word-vomit of that blog post resonated with you, lets talk.
It wasn’t all fun-and-games. There was some adulting too like buying a refrigerator (why are there so damn many options), putting new tires on the car (Betty’s done some traveling), getting a cavity filled (not cool, enough said), a ridiculous amount of traffic (remember I had to buy new tires), and Botox (because, well…just because). However God’s perfect timing, unending gratitude, and a love story that continues to inspire me bring us to the end of 2018 and certainly looking forward to the Epic list of 2019.
Thank you for sharing the journey with me!