Friday, May 3, 2013

Married in 19 Days: 7 Years Later.

For 6 years of our marriage, we have always said, "We were married in 2 weeks!" because it just felt like 2 weeks I guess... and then last year my mom said, "It was 20 days, not 14!" and Shawn insisted it was indeed 14, and I was thinking more like 16... so I dug out my journal... and I counted them up. All 19 of them.

I started this post a week early with the deadline of our anniversary, May 3rd. There is so much to unpack here and I have no idea how it's going to come out. I do, however, know one thing. It will not, in any way, be short.

This is probably the most vulnerable subject I have to speak about in my life thus far. Although I am a key player in the story, I don't have all of the answers. One answer I do have, and always go back to is, "I have no idea!" Because at times, peoples' questions on the subject have overwhelmed me, and that answer always kills a conversation. On certain days, having to come up with answers like that has made me wish for a normal "how-we-met-and-married" story to fit the mold...which is weird... because I've never fit the mold, or even wanted to!

Shawn and I were acquaintances who met at a church where we both served as leaders in High School Youth ministry. Acquaintances is even a strong word. We saw each other one time a week for a year. And I think he once asked to use my cell phone, to which I said, "This is my brand new Razor...please don't break it." (He reminds me of this often). He had a girlfriend and I had a boyfriend, there was quite honestly no reason for us to mingle.

Around that time, I decided to register a co-ed soccer team. So, like any normal 25-year-old woman (?), I contacted a bunch of my ex-boyfriends who also played soccer, and we signed up. We named ourselves "My ExGirlfriend's Team." We had full blown uniforms with a logo and everything. I'm sure I have a pic around here somewhere to prove it, oh shoot- I think it was on my shut down MySpace.

Anyway... I still needed more guys and so I randomly asked Shawn one day at church if he was a soccer player. His exact response: "I'm just athletic babe, good at everything..." I wanted to punch him in the throat he was so cocky. But instead, because I was desperate, I asked him to play. So one month before we were wed, the "My ExGirlfriend's Team" roster consisted of the following people: a slew of ex's, a few of my besties, my sister, my boyfriend and Shawn and his girlfriend. Twisted.

Fast forward: Shawn and his lady break up. A month later, my boyfriend and I break up. Fate? Probably... maybe... Again, I have no idea.

I had been trying to break up with my boyfriend for a while, and in case you haven't heard of the movie line, "Stage 5 Clinger!" that's what he was. God bless him. I hope he never stumbles upon this blog. Because I'm sure he hates me and we have no mutual friends, I think I'm safe... unless I become famous- in that case I will have to edit this. I mean I am kind of in the process of building an empire here?

Anyway, we finally broke up and a few of my girlfriends said, "Girls' Trip! Santa Barbara! This weekend!" I think there were 5 of us total. It was last minute, it was one of those trips you are happy you have great girlfriends for. We went to forget that I'd just wasted the last 8 months of my 25th year of life.

{Side note. Year 25: Prime marriage year, if you're not already married. I mean, no "normal" Christian woman is supposed to be single at 25. I was so sick of hearing, "Why are you single? You're too cute to be single!" FYI: it's NOT a compliment even when the word "cute" is involved- all the single person hears is SIN-GLE... and much louder than you're actually saying it.}

Back to Santa Barbara... on our way there, my friend Natalie said, "Let's meet up with my friend Eddie in Oxnard!" Quick history lesson: once upon a time there was a couple of friends called Sheddie: Shawn+Eddie. This means Shawn gets the call that a bunch of girls are headed to Eddie's house. Of course he makes the 2.5 hour trip up to Oxnard... I mean, he was nursing a broken heart too... I don't blame him.... a bunch of Christian chicks, a couple of them still single, count me (as in him) in.

He gets there, we hit it off... talk all night. Talk, that's it... we spend the entire weekend of my "Break-up Trip" getting to know each other, and I find myself saying things like, "He's my new guy BFF, like a brother really!" Really, Kenna. Brother? That's just weird!

So after Santa Barbara, and for the next 17 days, we got to know each other- hanging out every.single.day. Talking life. In a jacuzzi... I mean if you can't fall in love in a jacuzz, you're dead inside. The entire 17 days I wrote in a journal about it, daily. How cute is that? I was totally falling in like... but nothing in me was expecting a proposal... or whatever that was where Shawn convinced me to marry him...

It was a Sunday night when Shawn randomly "popped the question"... We were hanging out in my cute little Old Town Torrance neighborhood for the 2nd night in a row, alone. We met at my apartment and walked to Dairy Queen for dipped cones all the way talking about "traveling the world in an RV" and other crazy dreams we'd been chatting about the last few days. (We bought a 1978 RV after 4 years of marriage... it broke in a year, but that is beside the point).

I was really feeling like this was the night we would DTR {DEFINE.THE.RELATIONSHIP}. Prior to hanging out alone we'd hung out with another couple and went to the horse races and then out dancing, like dancing together- I was convinced we were doing some weird version of Christian dating, but I had to know what we were calling it. I was really starting to like him and he was totally confusing me- we hadn't even officially hugged! Seriously... here I am bringing it in my bikini in that jacuzzi (this is pre-kids people!), and I was so confused if he liked me- or if he was just really buying that whole, "he's like a brother" crap I'd dished out a couple of weeks before... who says that? Holy awkward, I must have been raised in a church.

Anyway, we got back to my place and talked a ton more and that's when I decided I couldn't take it anymore. I went all feminist and blurted out, "What ARE we?! Are we like dating OR WHAT?!" He barely even flinched, like he was expecting it or something. He then said something, even I, the most unpredictable woman in the world wouldn't say, "I'm done with dating, let's get married." I laughed a HUGE laugh for like 2 hours and then, according to my records (aka journal), 6 hours later put a game plan together with him.

I loved the idea of a good wedding story. And while I didn't quite love him yet- I felt like I definitely could. I have always been a little off-beat; I hate everything about life's cliches. And the thought of dating for "2 years then being proposed to on a beach with a hidden photographer and then having a year long engagement".... It sounded awful. I wanted something unique, something crazy. I mean I'd recently picked up and walked away from a super-steady career. I was having an impulsive year, ok?

So, it was a Sunday night when he proposed and Wednesday when we got married.

I spent the next 2 days going through the details of our talk with my best friend and trying on all the vintage dresses I owned to see which one would be my "wedding dress." I was broke. I could barely afford rent let alone a real wedding dress. And I wasn't going to ask my family for help- they'd think I was nuts! And who'd have blamed them?

On Tuesday, May 2nd we went to get our marriage license and booked our appointment for our marriage ceremony the next morning at 9:15. We held hands in the court house. Still no kissing. We'd told one person each of our plans. No family. People usually want to know why we told no one, and as I mentioned before, my response is usually, "I have NO idea." But if I was to be completely honest, I know the answer is, "They'd have tried to stop us and we were set on getting married." I mean, it doesn't take a genius to put that one together. We were both a part of a church big on mentoring engaged couples and... ehhh... neither of us had time for all that dating crap. We'd been there, done that. We were sure we'd found our soul mates, duh. Obviously! Or why would we be getting married? We just wanted to be married our way. And soon.

On Tuesday night I literally kidnapped my 18-year-old sister from my parents' house and told her the plan. We're an odd family, so stuff like this doesn't even really phase us. She said something along the lines of, "Whoa, cool!"

The next morning I woke up early and got beautiful. My sister, my best friend and I drove to the Norwalk Courthouse (an hour from my home) to meet Shawn and his friend, uh the Best Man I guess? We chose Norwalk because Shawn was in his 2nd year of his Masters program at the Talbot School of Theology in La Mirada, close to Norwalk- and he had a big paper due. He was like super smart... a selling point for sure.

We married in a sweet ceremony by Judge Yolanda Purdy who really brought some soul to the service. We shared our first kiss, took a few pics with the famous balloon animal flower bouquet Shawn had twisted up for me, stopped by the school to drop off his paper and then headed to Sizzler for a reception. I mean, in my family if you went to Sizzler- things were happening. You didn't just go to the home of the best salad buffet for nothing. They gave us free champagne and I was stoked. Those were probably some of the most exciting few hours I've had in my entire life, besides birthing the kids and all...

We both started calling our friends and spreading the news. Peoples' reactions might have been an omen for the next few years of our lives... but we were so lost in a bubble of excitement we just smiled those stupid smiles and hugged and kissed and never thought about how one person might fold the towels in a way the other has never.even.seen.

We headed back to our hometown after Sizzler, made a few calls to home and planned to meet up with our families, one at a time. I had no idea how my family would take it. I mean, my family isn't your average family... so I knew they'd either be stoked or devastated... one thing I KNEW was that my mom loved a good story, and this, my friends, was a story for the ages... We met with them first. I asked them all to sit down and then I unraveled the last 19 days. Brother was pissed. Mom was relieved to have her younger daughter back (as I told you, I kidnapped her). Dad was stoked to see Shawn drove a 59' wagon. It went pretty well, I mean... the best it could, minus my brother grilling Shawn a bit- nothing I wasn't expecting. I was just trying to get out of there to be honest. I just wanted to honeymoon on the beach!

Next was Shawn's family. I can't get into too many details here... but let's just say: Not as stoked. One thing I didn't know before marrying Shawn was this: he is crazy close to his family. Like best friends, let's-take-dance-lessons-together close. Interesting... this might have been good to know. They were meeting me for the first time and already having to look ahead at their future with me. I would kill Cormac if he did this to me. I mean, take away from me the planning of a child's wedding? No, I can't even go there. Shawn's grandmother (who Birdie is named after) quickly dug up Shawn's great grandfather's ring for Shawn to wear (which he wears to this day) and we planned to get mine designed because I had a little something in mind.

We honeymooned at Sunset Beach in the OC for a day and a half, came home, packed up and then left for Puerto Nuevo, Mexico on Cinco de Mayo. Fitting, right? I just wanted out of our town as we weren't really receiving calls of congrats... more like calls of, "Are you two NUTS?!" I wasn't nuts. Was he? I didn't think so, but what did I know?

We had a wonderful week away, full of getting to know each other. No cell phones, just us. I cried for the first time in our marriage because our camera was stolen on our last night with all of our honeymoon pictures on it. We bought a silver ring for me from a street vendor and it was my wedding ring for 1 month until we got my real one... We danced every night, ate lobster often (which I'd never had- not even at Sizzler), stayed at a dive hotel, stayed at a resort, bought and wore Lucha Libre wrestling masks and talked about our future as husband and wife.

We got home and for two months we battled life together. We had so much going against us. At age 23, Shawn was in school full time working towards his Masters and working nights making balloon animals as the "Balloon Dude" (trademarked and licensed). I was making no money, but fulfilling a dream of owning a store. Oh dreams don't pay bills? Bummer. We were living in a studio apartment with no ventilation. Our families were still ultra confused. But somehow we marched on, giving similar answers to questions, agreeing to some "post marital" counseling, and relishing in our "awesome wedding story!"

Then reality set in. We had a reception to plan (something we'd promised ourselves, friends and family we'd do), rent to pay, bills to pay, opinions, more bills... and lots of unmet expectations. Money problems and unmet expectations: marriages winners! We were totally falling apart. At the 3-month mark I was wondering what we had done and why. I missed being single. He missed spending money on... oh wait, he didn't spend money. On anything. Another problem... especially when your new wife kind of likes to shop?

To be honest, the next 4 years were hard. We both wanted to give up an endless amount of times. I can remember not even speaking to him for days on end. But we had that reception and put on that smile. We moved into a bigger apartment. Started serious counseling. I started working at Starbucks at 4 a.m. every other day for insurance. We found a new church that was "ok with our story." We moved again, into Shawn's grandma's because we couldn't afford our apartment. We got pregnant with Cormac. Moved again. New jobs. New city. New church. More money. More responsibility...

Moving to Orcutt was supposed to be our saving grace. I mean, Shawn was becoming a pastor- we had to be perfect. I mean, aren't pastors perfect? We were cute, young and had a baby on the way, it all looked so perfect! We'd moved 3 hours up the coast and were both hoping for a new life with a new start to marriage. But we were both still in that life we had put together... so a new start was a crazy idealistic thought. So we started counseling again. We persevered. Ran that race.

I am not and have NEVER been a quitter. I'm as stubborn as they come. But before it got better, we hit some low lows where I thought it was the end for us. We were somewhat open about it, and close friends and family came alongside us to rally us on.

It was in year 4 that we started to turn a corner. It wasn't sudden by any means. It was slow and organic and took time and patience and prayer beyond prayer from lots and lots of people. But I started noticing that I was being my old silly, playful self again. All of the reasons I "fell in like" with Shawn in 19 days were now a part of our marriage in a way they weren't in the first four years. I looked forward to our counseling sessions, and I felt that with every one we made a new stride.

Looking back, it's still unimaginable that we made it. I am crazy proud to say we are happily married, have 2 kids, a dog, a fish, 3 chickens and a 17-year-old foreign exchange student named Mo.

We are FAR from perfect. Ask our closest friends. We bicker all the time. We disagree on a ton. He wears things that mortify me. He SAYS things in public that mortify me. We still do not fit the mold- and I never want to fit the mold. Our marriage probably looks like a train wreck to mold fitters. But we love each other and I cannot picture being married to anyone else or having any other marriage story. And that took me years to be able to say, let alone share with all of you.

So here is my public service announcement:

If you're struggling in your marriage, get counsel. You cannot do it alone. Trust me, you DO NOT have all of the answers. I've yelled at our counselor, written letters about how "unfair" she was in our last session, skipped sessions leaving Shawn alone to "get council himself" (good one, Kenna). Through all of that, we stuck with it and took every little step forward with pride and gratitude. All I wanted, was to be able to say, "I have done everything in my power to make this marriage work- for the sanctity of the oath we made and for our son" and that I know we did.

Happy 7 years, Shawn. Love you and love our crazy life.

                                                           Miss Party Mom (aka: your wife)

PS- This is your gift because we're still broke from that road trip to Texas. But please take me to Sizzler tonight.

Arriving at the Norwalk Courthouse, all smiles...

Some pre-wedding hor d'oeuvres...
Judge Yolanda! We tried to put her in the middle and she insisted we never let anyone come between us. Amen, sister.


Celebrating being idiots!
The reception, 3 months post wedding...
JUST was crossed out to say STILL, classsic...
An ode to the RV we spoke about early on....
...and the American Clipper... our baby...
Beach pictures with the wedding party... all 1,000 of them... hey we're popular...what can I say?
I had a rainbow wedding (uh hem: reception) before the trend hit! An event planner in the making...
I guess it was love at first sight after all... crazy....

Who woulda thought.

37 comments:

  1. What a wonderful story of love and great wise words!!!!

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    1. Thank you! Seriously, who would have thought!

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  2. such a bitchin story....I am honored that i could be apart of it, your family inspires our family. Congrats, I love you guys...oh and by the way Shawn borrowed my white pants and my hawaiian shirt for your wedding and I never got it back....

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    1. Well Dave... I can tell you one thing, them white pants definitely don't fit anymore- so they're all yours! ;)

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  3. sheesh. you make me laugh, you make me cry. I love your story and that you were brave enough to put it out there…and NOT just the fun parts.

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    1. Thanks friend. I'm not sure if I ever told you all of this- but I'm so grateful I can now just point people to the blog! A marketing tool for sure...?!

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  4. Kenna, what a story! Wacky, yes, but the best was your commitment to walking it out to the other side. Thanks for sharing it and for pressing on!

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  5. the paperwork by my laptop is soaking wet with tears. love you guys and am so grateful to know "real married people". xxoo

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    1. Oh we're REAL baby... and thank YOU for being one of those people who rallied me along. I'll never forget our talk with me yelling at you... and I love you for letting me.

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  6. Great retelling of your and Shawn's story, Kenna, love it. :)

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    1. Thanks Abs... the Break Up Trip to visit Abigail... and like fall in love or something...

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  7. Loved you as neighbors from the beginning of moving to Orcutt. I'll always remember the first time I saw Cormac.

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    1. Miss being neighbors Marlene, we'll always have fond memories of you and Clarence!

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  8. Kenna...very, very cool !
    Cowabunga!!

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    1. You sound like Shawn, Lou! He's always yelling out Cowabunga! Ei Yi Yi!

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  9. Kenna, you are really such an inspiration to me, I love reading your blog and seeing your real life right there. I so appreciate you honesty and insight. Thank you for your inspiration!! God Bless!!

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    1. Thank you Rhonda! Crazy thing, because you're an inspiration to me to- and you know why! One day I hope to do what you are doing with Kori!

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  10. Happy Anniversary!!! Thank you for sharing this post with me! May God bless you all with many many more!!!
    Blessings,
    Pamela

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  11. Kenna, I love you guys. When me and my ex split up with a kid, it was, small town life, big news/embarrrasing.I knew in my heart God put me together with Mark, with God to raise our kids. Against certain odds. To this day, I don't doubt his path. And 7 years is a major accomplishment. Congrats and we love you guys xo. Here's to many more!

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    1. Yes Laurie, He has a plan for all of us! Thank God we are ultimately not in control! Because I'm controlling enough, lol.

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  12. What an awesome story.. It literally made my eyes water for many reasons. Thank you for sharing and for reminding me that a marriage does not always have to be perfect and that there will be periods of trial.. XOXO

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    1. Thanks Corinne, Love that I have an old friend reading my words- I'm glad you enjoyed it. I cried writing it so I'm glad people are teary reading it! ;)

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  13. Love your story and that it's really just beginning. Two little kids, 3 chickens, etc, there is so much more to come! So thankful we get to do it alongside each other. Aaaand so glad God brought you up to Orcutt and you're never leaving btw. love you!

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    1. Meee too... I don't know what I'd do with out you... and all of the dinners you cook for us ;)

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  14. obviously this story is the coolest story ever! I read the entire thing and I have no time! THATS HOW COOL. you guys inspire me! thanks for not fitting into the mold. i appreciate you guys for who you are... and am so thankful for your honesty, because a perfect marriage sounds rather boring!

    love you. S

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    1. Thank you girl. I love that: "a perfect marriage sounds rather boring". Amen to that.

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  15. Wow. First, thank you so much for your openness and bravery to share that. I have a VERRRRRRRY similar story and experience and 7 yrs later, I am just really coming to terms with my decision and being ok with making it. We are still navigating a rocky road but, looking back, I am starting to see the beauty peeking through the cracks and the puzzle is starting to become a picture. You really can't know how reading this has blessed and encouraged me. Blessings on you and your family and may your marriage be a beacon of hope and possibilities to others. :-)

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    1. Thank you for the comment, it means a lot to me. I wish I knew more of your story, I can't believe it's something like ours! How crazy. Hoping for happier days on the horizon for you and your husband.

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  16. thank you SO much for posting this! it was really encouraging, you have such an awesome story and it was EXACTLY what i needed to hear after two and a half years of wondering what the heck were even doing (i mean, james and i met on hollywood blvd. not exactly a traditional love story either). thank you.

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    1. That's what I'm hear for babe... to let the world know it ain't all sunshine and rainbows...

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  17. Great Clipper!

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  18. Hey Kenna. By sharing this story, you have set an inspiration for all couples. My husband and I read your post together and we really had happy hours reading it. Thanks for sharing your story.

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  19. Kenna... I love you and remember being apart, for a VERY SHORT time, of the "ex-girlfriends" team.... I thought you were crazy but perfect for one another. :)

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