Chapter 11: Weekend of Surprises

After classes for both the boys and me on that Friday afternoon, we loaded up the little car; and around 4:30pm, we were headed off to Ft. Smith Arkansas (about a 1 1/2 hour drive…..for me any way πŸ˜‰
Mike had booked our rooms (at the Four Seasons, I believe was the name ).
The drive was exciting for the boys and they were wound up. The closer we got to Ft. Smith, the more I started thinking about the evening; so I decided I better establish some rules and have a “mommy” pep talk with my little guys. I had them dressed super cute in their stone washed jeans and cute long sleeved polo shirts. Of course I had not cut any corners on looking my best as well; it was a big night after all. We had never stayed anywhere there was an indoor pool, and just the excitement of that was enough to put the boys over the top. The more rambunctious they got in the car, the more intense my mom talk was πŸ™‚
They were good, polite little boys, but they were ALL boy and I wanted them to make a good impression, not scare him off. Ha
As I drove and finally had their attention, I told them in a very serious “mom tone” how important it was for me that they would be on good behavior and show my friend what good boys they were. I told them how he was paying for our little trip and how they should be thankful for it and those type of things. Yes, I had quite a long list of items…..don’t interrupt, eat with manners, don’t ask to swim a thousand times, no wrestling, do not be loud, wait your turn…..you get the picture:). Finally at one point Caleb asked, “Mommy, what CAN we do?” to which I responded, “Not much!” haha
I started on lighter topics as soon as I was sure they knew I meant business.
My stomach was full of butterflies like I hadn’t experienced since our first date. I felt a ton of anxiety, wanting things to go well; but really it was out of my control. I could feel my hands trembling as I pulled into the area where you drive through at the hotel. I still remember the boys craning their necks around saying, “Where is he mom?” looking in all directions, with those big brown eyes of theirs searching for this guy that mom said was important to her.
I had barely put the car in park when I saw Mike walking out of the office where he had checked us in. I kind of froze. I didn’t know how to do this introduction. Should I quickly get them out? Should I just wait? I opted for getting out myself and meeting him close by the car. I was met with that smile that immediately calmed me down. We walked back towards my car where Charley and Caleb were poking their heads out of the back window they had rolled down. I introduced them to Mike. As big, huge smiles greeted him, they said hello in their best mannered voices, just like we had practiced on the car drive. Haha
Mike could sense my nerves, I think; and so he said, “Are you guys hungry? How about we all go out to dinner and get to know each other a little bit?”
I parked the car, we quickly climbed into his car, and off we went to begin our get acquainted weekend. “Denny’s ok”? I hardly heard him because I was so intent on what the boys were doing in the back….. but I agreed and it was a very quick drive. The boys were fairly quiet but popping with excitement.
We were seated in a sort of corner booth as I recall, sort of a small semi circle. I can’t remember the seating at all (my nerves blocked it out I guess) but I do remember Caleb was sitting next to Mike and staring up at him a lot. If I know my Charley, I’m sure he was by me watching over me. I’m sure they were picking up on how stressed (in a good way) I was.
We ordered, and made small talk. The boys were SO good and well mannered, I was very impressed, and I could tell Mike was too. So the longer that continued, the calmer I became. I could feel myself relaxing and starting to really enjoy myself. We were only there for a short while when little blond-haired, brown-eyed Caleb puts his hand up on Mikes shoulder and says (in his famous southern accent),”Hey….my momma’s gonna buy me a ‘tep-daddy.” I felt the heat rise from my chest up my neck into my face and my heart thumping loudly. In my head, all I can think is, “Did he really just say that? Surely this is not happening.” I mean you have to remember, we had not even mentioned the word “love.” I felt my heart beating in my head as I shifted around in my seat hoping I would realize this didn’t happen any minute. Mike, I’m sure, sensed my embarrassment and tried to act like he didn’t hear him; so Caleb, thinking he DIDNT hear him, continues to tap on his shoulder and repeat himself 2-3 more times. I wanted to crawl under the seat, disappear, run, hide, anything. “What must Mike be thinking?” I wondered. “This will scare him off.” I felt like time stood still, and all I could hear was Caleb’s sweet little voice . At this point, we were only 10-15 minutes into our get-acquainted weekend. Out of the corner of my eye, I see Mike sort of pat Caleb on the shoulder and smile at him. To my relief that was all Caleb needed, just to be heard and acknowledged. “Wow,” I thought, “not how I planned on this weekend getting started,” and “Why, when I covered my very very long list of “not to do’s” did I not think of covering that possibility?”
Mike was so quiet it was impossible for me to read him, so I decided to take a deep breath and act like it never happened. I wanted to forget it, but it would be brought up again….that very night!

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Chapter 14: Will You Marry Me?

Our phone conversation on Tuesday evening lasted for hours; probably about half that time was actual talking, the other half just sitting in silence while I studied for school with neither of us wanting to hang up. πŸ™‚
It was decided that night that I would come to Tulsa the following Friday October 26,1990. He told me the first thing he wanted to do was buy me an engagement ring. I could hardly wait!! We talked about possible wedding dates. With me in school and not wanting to quit and move until finished, we threw around the idea of a spring or summer wedding. I would be finished with nursing school in August so that seemed to be a great plan. I had already had the “big wedding” thing so I was way over that; however, I wanted Mike to have a wedding of his choice since it was his first marriage. Mike is extremely quiet and a bit of an introvert, so the last thing he wanted was a big wedding. We casually talked about possibilities of maybe just family, or family and a few friends. He had told his family about me, but I had only met his brother Jim and his wife Gail (my sister’s friend who set us up πŸ™‚ and their little girl Jamie. I’m sure everyone was shocked that Mike was telling them we had decided to eventually marry; like I said in an earlier blog, this was not in his personality to be impulsive.
Between October 19/20 (the weekend of his proposal) until we would see each other again on October 26, it seemed like a life time. Seriously, that week felt like a month because of all the changes and planning. I had decided not to say much or really anything about marriage to the boys (or anyone else) until I had a ring to show them. With every day that passed, I grew more and more sure of my decision. I still had moments of fear (especially when I wasn’t with him), but just a phone call and hearing his voice was calming and reassuring. I could hardly focus on anything there in Mena. It was all I could do to keep up my grades in nursing school, but I did somehow. A few times before the proposal, but several times afterwards, Mike would ask to help me financially in some way, just to remove some pressure from me. I was so funny/weird about it, I just would not accept anything. With the exception of our weekend in Ft Smith, I always insisted I pay for my own gas to go to Tulsa! Even calling him collect (long distance was extremely expensive back then) was just something I couldn’t bring myself to do. When I was the one calling he would insist I hang up and let him call me back. I’m still not sure what I thought I was proving, but I’m sure it involved my wall of defense and self preservation. He was always so kind and offering to help in any way even though I felt I could not accept.
The boys talked about nothing to anyone but their fun filled weekend in Ft Smith. They always wanted to talk to him on the phone when he called, and he took time to talk with them both as long as they wanted. What a fun, light-hearted time in life it was for us all; worries seemed like a thing of the past. Heartbreak was all but forgotten, and I had not cried in months. In fact, I would go several years without crying at all which was so strange, because I wasn’t hard-hearted. I honestly think I had just ran out of tears, and nothing about my life was telling my body to replenish the supply πŸ™‚
Friday could not arrive soon enough! After saying my sad goodbyes to the boys for their weekend visitation, I headed out as quickly as I could for Tulsa. Everything about this trip felt so different. I can still remember the feeling so vividly….the mix between butterflies and tranquility that comes with knowing you’re loved and that someone is just as excited to be with you as you are with him. He was crazy about me; and he always made sure to remind me of that, always made me feel like the most beautiful woman in the world. He just thought I was flawless. I kept saying, “I’m afraid you’re going to be let down at some point when you realize I’m not as perfect as you think,” but he would always remind me that every day those feelings were stronger and he had no doubts of the kind of woman I was. No one has ever made me feel the way he did…..ever πŸ™‚
When I pulled into the neighborhood I was immediately picked up and we were off to dinner. We were so comfortable with each other by this time; I loved everything about him, including his quietness. For some reason it was so refreshing to me. I had never met someone so quiet. He was very confident (not at all shy), but his silence spoke volumes to me. He listened like no one I had ever met; and even though he wasn’t a talker, he never seemed to tire of listening to me. πŸ™‚ I knew I loved him but I also was so aware of how much I respected him…so honest, so giving, so selfless. For me, he was everything; and I wanted to be with him forever, yet it still made no sense.
We decided to wait until the next day (Saturday) to ring shop. I had been looking at every married woman’s ring I came across, trying to decide what type and style I wanted.
He picked me up from my sisters house early that Saturday morning and we went to my nephew’s soccer game first. By then it was around 11:00 am, and we were officially ring shopping. We ended up at Moody’s (by Woodland Hills Mall) where Mike insisted I not look at the price but just pick out the ones I liked the most. Oh my, this was so hard for me. All my life I have always managed to like the most pricey things, so I was paranoid that I would pick something over the top. Obviously I knew the bigger the diamond the higher the price, but I also knew in upscale jewelry stores even the smallest diamonds were not cheap. Eventually I narrowed it down to liking the round stones which were very popular back then. Mike could tell I wasn’t comfortable picking out the size of the diamond so he did that for me and it was the most beautiful solitaire diamond ring I had ever seen. It was more than I had ever dreamed of wearing, and I was speechless for a moment. The size was perfect as well, so while they did a last minute cleaning and polishing on it we went ahead and picked out the bands that we liked. I picked out the wide gold band that went so well with the solitaire back then; and for Mike, we picked out a gold band that had sort of a basket weave look to it. Wow, my heart was full! This was really happening. I was going to be able to tell everyone I was engaged (I had waited to announce that until I had a ring). I snapped back into reality as I heard the lady who had helped us say “Well, Mr Feeley, here you go; here’s the beautiful ring. He took it from her, we were both all smiles and she was genuinely excited for us you could tell. Mike took the ring box, opened it, sort of grinned and said, “I guess I’m supposed to put this on you,” in a tone somewhere between a statement and a question. I just smiled as I felt myself blush a little and put my hand out toward him. He took my hand, slipped the ring on my finger and we didn’t say a word. It felt like a moment too big for any words. In that few minutes time stood still, and I cherished each and ever second.
Then there was a quick kiss, accompanied by lots of stares from people in the store, which helped make it quick. If there’s ever been a perfect moment in time, it was then. I had no idea how the end of this day would turn out; I could have never imagined! By now it was late afternoon; and we were headed to his nephew’s football game, where I would be meeting his oldest brother. It was a night of showing off the ring numerous times; but by the end of his nephew’s football game, everything had changed.

Psalm 126:5
Those who sow tears shall reap joy.

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Chapter 15: Forty Four Days

Who knew a middle school football game could hold so much excitement? But it certainly did on that Saturday night in late October. Mike and I had known each other for a total of 43 days and yet here we were, engaged, a sparkling diamond on my left hand to prove it to me every time I thought I might be dreaming. It’s certainly not something I go around advising people to try; but I’m also non judgmental when I hear of how serious someone is becoming, relative to time. Obviously it’s not something you would see often; but for us, it was just perfect. Two hearts brought together by God. The more about Mike I learned, the more I loved and respected him. He was very funny, with a dry sense of humor, 6’3″ (yes very important), he was on a men’s volleyball league and was very in shape and athletic. I’ve never met a more intelligent man, even to this day. He was raised Catholic and in Catholic schools, but became a Christian at a concert in Anaheim, California when he was 17. He had moved to Tulsa about 6 years before we met to start a business with his brother because it seemed to be the perfect city for it. He was six months younger than me; we were both 26 at the time. I’ll never forget the crisp feeling in the air that night, maybe partly from the excitement of the day; but it was magical, for lack of a better word.
We were at his nephew’s game, so naturally I was introduced to a few more family members for the first time such as his older brother Ron (it was one of his son’s game.)
Jim (brother and business partner) Gail (the one responsible for the match making) and Jamie (their little girl ) were also there, but of course I had already been able to get know them a bit in the few weeks before.
Mike’s sister and parents were yet to be met. Mike’s parents lived out of state, and his sister and her family lived on a ranch not far from Tulsa.
It was a light-hearted conversation during the game that became slightly more intense as the game ended and we all made our way to the parking lot where we would stand and continue the talk for another half hour or so….mostly going back and forth with when we should get married, where, etc. etc.
I had told him to decide the “where” and “when” since this was his first marriage. Mike said something to the effect of, “I’m already tired of trying to figure this out.” πŸ™‚
I didn’t really want a big wedding at all, and Mike was no fan of that either. Ron, Jim, and Gail were helping us think through some dates that might work when one of his brothers (Jim I think) said, “What are you waiting for?” They were all suggesting that if we didn’t want a wedding then don’t stress over it. One thing led to another, with Jim saying something like, “Just hurry up and do it so you can get some work done at the office!” haha
Following there was some joking around that we should just run off. They all agreed that everyone would understand and not be surprised…..more comments, more discussion, and basically they helped talk us into something so bazaar, so off the wall; but the more we talked, the more positive we were that that’s what we wanted to do. After a little bit of nervous laughter and last minute advice we all went our separate ways. Mike and I headed back to his house to finish discussing all we had just talked about. At one point we looked at each other and it was like, “Let’s just go for it!” The next few hours are almost a blur.
He dropped me off at my sister’s and went on to his house to make calls on airlines. If my memory is correct, I believe Gail made some calls for us too, trying to find flights. I asked Mike to drop me off at Pam’s so I could tell her our plans and then call my parents and tell them. They had not met Mike but knew we were fairly serious. My sister was probably the hardest one to tell; she was understandably extremely hesitant to be OK with it all. She felt a ton of responsibility because she saw herself as the main reason I had met him. She felt a huge burden of, “What if this doesn’t work?” I knew where she was coming from. She didn’t want me to be hurt, and she sure didn’t want to be left feeling responsible if I was. We both cried a bit. Just like at times before my heart was saying, “Yes,” and my brain was saying,”YOU ARE OUT OF YOUR MIND!” but my heart kept winning. I hadn’t expected the relief in my parents’ voices, but I didn’t want to go get married and not let them know. I didn’t tell the boys, feeling that I really couldn’t without putting them in an awkward and unfair position since they were on their visitation weekend. Besides, this news was not something I wanted to share over the phone with them.
Lots of feelings were floating around in my heart and head; it was truly like being in a dream. Of course I could only follow my heart, and I had no guaranties I was making the right decision; but I did have that peace that would sweep back over me and calm my thoughts and fears down. Love is always a risk you take, no matter how long you have known or think you know the other person; but the fact that I was taking this risk after being so devastated and disappointed in love was a miracle in itself. There were many times I thought I would never love and trust again. Of course I still would battle trust and vulnerability issues, but the fact that I was willing to take the chance at all was amazing. At that point in my life I would say definitely my heart was healed, but even after you heal from anything there remain scars for sometime. In some ways I was stronger than I had ever been, but I was still pretty fragile.
We would not be able to fly out of Tulsa until 7:00am the next morning, October 28, 1990.
Then, there we were at the airport, with excitement that can’t be described; and soon we were boarded on the plane and headed for Las Vegas, Nevada. I had flown before but not often and not in a very long time, so even that was exciting. We had lots of talking to do as you might imagine, going through all the details about figuring out where to go once in Vegas. He had visited there a few times with his family and even on business, but this was not the typical trip by any means. We really weren’t sure how everything would unfold.
After a layover in Salt Lake City , we arrived in Vegas where it was still morning because of the time change, probably around 10:30-11:00am.
I never saw any nerves at all from Mike until we were about to land and it hit him, no second thoughts just a big reality jolt. It didn’t help when he suddenly remembered his drivers license had just expired and he had not had time to renew in all the busyness of our last couple of weeks. Because he had forgotten, we couldn’t rent a car. I certainly didn’t want to drive in Vegas! This was not the only issue as we suddenly realized we might not be able to be married with an expired identification . Wow, what are we going to do?
We decided to get a taxi first. When we were in the cab, Mike told the cab driver that we were here to get married and asked for any suggestions or help he might give us with the process? I’m guessing he had been asked that before, because he gave us a chuckle and said, “Well I better take you to the courthouse first and let you get your marriage license.”
Here it was Sunday morning and the courthouse was open; welcome to Vegas!
He pulled up in front of it and said he would wait. “Wait, you don’t think it’s going to take very long?” we asked. He replied, “I doubt it on a Sunday.”
As we walked up those steps, we were both pretty nervous, just not knowing what would happen with Mike’s drivers license. Would there be a waiting time before we could get married? Blood test? We had NO idea.
We walked in and there was a sign that said Marriage License and a couple people lined up, but after what felt like 2 minutes tops, we were there at the counter where it was our turn. We were given a paper to fill out which was general info type thing…..in only 3-4 minutes and we were back at the counter with it. The lady took it and said, “Thank you very much and good luck.” We just looked at her like, “That’s all?”
All that concern about his license not being current and we didn’t even have to show ANY ID
We had a good laugh over that for awhile.
From the time we stepped out of our cab to the time we got back in, couldn’t have been more than 8-10 min (closer to 8 I’d say).
So back in the cab we go to procure some more free info from our cab driver who was our friend at this point πŸ™‚
He suggested a couple of nice chapels and told us the ones that were famous for who married there.
He dropped us off in the area where we went ahead and booked a room in the “Frontier,” which is no longer there. We carried our luggage in and sat down to make a plan. I didn’t want to get married in the middle of the day (didn’t seem as romantic I guess). Besides, I wanted to look my best; and we had been traveling for hours. We decided we would get married that night after dinner (not sure who thought eating first was smart ha).
I had nothing to fix my hair with, because when I went to Tulsa to see him I always stayed at my sisters and borrowed her blow dryer, curling iron etc.
So that became our afternoon activity, to shop for me some hair equipment πŸ™‚
The only place we could find was a mall, and so he bought me a blow dryer and curling iron in Dillard’s. They don’t have the best hair tools; but it beat none, except for being pricey! Again, I had trouble letting him buy it for me (ridiculous, I know).
Then he told me he wanted to buy me something special (like a wedding gift) and so we ended up at the perfume counter where he bought me my first bottle of expensive perfume, a bottle of “Red” by Giorgio Beverly Hills (yes I still remember).
We walked a lot just looking at Vegas, the strip, it was all very new and exciting for me.
Finally it was late enough to start getting ready for the evening.
We both wore fairly casual clothes. I mean I didn’t know I was going to get married, or I would have packed differently! I had on some casual pants and cute top, while Mike wore corduroys and a casual polo shirt. With a spritz of my new perfume, we were off to dinner.
As you might imagine we didn’t eat much, just talked more. I felt some big time fear slipping up on me; but Mike just reassured me over dinner once again that he would love me for ever and ever, and I would never be sorry I gave my heart to him. I believed him!!
Around 7:00 that night, not long after the sun had gone down, we took a taxi with marriage license in hand to the closest little wedding chapel “Candlelight Wedding Chapel.”
It was lit up so beautifully. We stepped inside to find a very tastefully decorated sanctuary of sorts, decorated with gorgeous flowers, complete with pews and everything a small church would have. We were met by the minister who after finding out that we did indeed wish to be married, had us sit with her for a few minutes. Interestingly she talked with us about what an important covenant marriage was with God and how it should be taken very seriously . She talked about the beauty of a loving marriage and that we should be sure we were ready for a lifelong commitment. She called in another person that worked there (a younger woman) that was to stand with us as witness/photographer. Then we all went to the front and began the ceremony.
It was not what you might expect from Vegas; it felt very reverent and intimate. There we were, just Mike and me along with two people we had just met; but the most important One there was the One who ultimately had brought us together, our Heavenly Father. Those moments were frozen in time for me, looking at this man who had swept me off my feet, knowing he loved me and I loved him…nothing has ever felt so right, so “meant to be,” as we stood there and committed our lives to each other for ever, for better or worse, richer or poorer, in sickness and in health…I knew this was something very special. It was more than his kind eyes and handsome face. We were connected much deeper than that; we were two souls drawn together to love each other, to build a family. Just like a beautiful painting, our lives were planned out and put together color by color, moment by moment, and the painting would have details added to it as the years went by until someday it would be a master piece of God’s plans. The painting of our lives had just started, but it was already so beautiful. I knew it was a day I would never forget. Just Forty Four days after we met, I was Mike’s wife.

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