Tag: surviving divorce
The end of 1989 was extremely difficult and those few months seemed like years to me.
Depression wasn’t as understood back then; so I thought I was just physically sick and went to the doctor. I was so blessed to have a physician’s assistant that spotted my problem right away. Even though he didn’t know the “why,” he did explain to me depression and how situations can bring it on and make you feel the way I was feeling. He prescribed an anti-depressant for me to try. He let me know I wouldn’t have to always be on the medication, but just until things were better. It took several weeks to kick in fully. I was still very sad and depressed, but now I could at least function. I still cried a lot but instead of crying for days I would have shorter times of intense sorrow and grieving; then I could dry my tears and do whatever I needed to do. With the medical help I was better able to care for my sons and do more than just exist.
One of the heart wrenching memories I have is of my boys seeing me cry so much and so often. One day little 2 year old Caleb said,”Mommy, please don’t cry anymore, ok?”
They needed their mom to be whole and healthy and that didn’t happen overnight.
Somehow I made it through Thanksgiving and Christmas. I felt like I never got warm that winter…..I felt hollow, unwanted, and just plain sad, cold through and through.
About a month or so after the divorce was filed, the reality began to sink in that I had to get a job and get a car (I didn’t have my own). I began to open up my heart to a few people and was met always with open arms and compassion. Depression loves the isolation. The more you reach out, the less power it has over your life.
As I told the story in my earlier post “A January from the Past,” the thought of finding a job was overwhelming, not just because of my depression but also the fact I had no college education or career. I knew I would have to leave my boys with others while I worked and that was hard as well. I pulled up to the Sonic Drive In in Mena, Arkansas that cold January day; and somehow I knew after many stops at other places with no success, I would be offered a job there. That’s exactly what happened.
I was barely 26, but I felt like I was 126…..no confidence, no self worth, empty and sad .
When I left there I cried in my car because it was not the job I wanted, to be honest. Back then only 16 year olds car hopped and I felt silly as a woman with 2 children to be a carhop….but I had to work, I had no other options; so I did what I knew was necessary.
My Sonic job holds many sweet memories as well. I would have never imagined I would ever look back on that time as anything but humiliating; however, I always smile when I pass a Sonic 🙂
I didn’t know at the time that people tipped at Sonic. I was so surprised when I started getting tips. I was not only the oldest car hop in history (in my mind, ha) but I also became the highest tipped one. I made more in tips and salary than I could have ever made at -say, the bank or a more glamorous place. I also was able to pick my hours every week, which helped with scheduling around times my boys were taken care of. Added bonuses were I was forced to be outside walking (a lot), fresh air and human connections, all of which are so good in fighting depression. At first I wanted to hide when I would see someone pull up that I knew. I hated feeling the stares, knowing what the talk inside the car was; but I had to face them, no room for pride. I slowly realized that I needed to do my job and not worry about people and gossip. Before you know it, I was in full swing as a car hop. Not long after I got the job, I found a car for sale. With the help of one of my aunts and uncles who were willing to co- sign for me, I was able to buy it. It was nothing fancy, a little maroon and silver/white Chevy Spectrum 😁
Another reality during this same time frame was that I could no longer live in the house where we had lived as a family; I simply could not afford it, not even slightly.
A wonderful energetic minister’s wife that I had known for years and still adore, took me under her wing and said, ” I’m coming with you and we are going to find you a place to live.” A couple of days later she and I were pulled up in front of the Polk County Housing Authority (government subsidized housing), and again I felt that same feeling as I had when offered the job at Sonic.
I filled out the paperwork with her encouraging me all the while, reminding me this wouldn’t be forever; but it was the next step. I was almost relieved when they said there was a waiting list and it would take possibly a couple of months or so. The thought of leaving my home with all the memories, the boys’ tire swing in the big tree, sand box, my flower beds I had worked so hard in; everywhere there was a connection. Less than a week later I received a call from the office and was told that, amazingly, a little duplex had just opened up and would be ready to be moved into in a matter of days. I remember a hint of excitement rose up in me, because I knew this could only have been possible through God when it was supposed to take months. The excitement was short lived as the reality sunk in that I was moving, not to a cute little house or adorable apartment, but to a government housing duplex. Not where I wanted to be; but just like Sonic, it was exactly where I needed to be.
About a week later, truck after truck of loving friends from the little church I was attending pulled up to my house and loaded all that I owned (which wasn’t much) and moved Charley, Caleb , and me to our new little duplex. It smelled a little funny but it was now home. Everyone helped me unload everything and got things set up for me …..the quietness of the evening settled in; and as I lay there in my bed, I felt one of the first real feelings of peace in a very long time. The beautiful country moon that had shown over my home in the country was replaced by a street light. The solitude I knew there was now the fact that I lived in a duplex with total strangers who were just a wall away, but still there was undeniably a trace of peace. It was just right for us, really; and the boys and I could live here for 32.00 a month, rent was based on salary. Soon with the help of the scented candles and other touches I brought to this new home, the funny smell was gone, a few pictures began to be hung, and the beautiful trees that budded and surrounded us later that spring gave us a new beauty, a new hope, a new beginning. This was our little house, and even though it had a few bugs that came out at night at times, it was ours! Little did I know I would find a greater peace than I thought possible while living there.
As spring began and I was able to plant a few flowers in front; the beauty of the wooded area on one side of the complex was very inviting…..color, warmth, freshness that only spring brings. Looking back I see how in my life the same process was starting. It was slow in my eyes; but just as spring had brought things to life, my life and that of my little boys was ever so slightly beginning to bloom again. I just could not see it at the time. In my dark, dark tunnel of depression…..around this time , if I looked very close every now and then, I would catch a glimpse of a flicker of light, just a hint of hope; and every now and then, I would smile.
Though sadness still ruled my life for the most part, it would not always….I was starting to heal. A few of those shattered pieces of my heart were lovingly being worked on and cared for awaiting the day that each piece would be restored without a hint of a fracture….it was beginning to happen, I just didn’t know.
The Lord is my shepherd;
I have everything I need.
He lets me rest in fields of green grass
and leads me to quiet pools of fresh water.
He gives me new strength.
He guides me in the right paths,
as he has promised.
Even if I go through the deepest darkness,
I will not be afraid, Lord,
for you are with me.
Your shepherd’s rod and staff protect me.
You prepare a banquet for me,
where all my enemies can see me;
you welcome me as an honored guest
and fill my cup to the brim.
I know that your goodness and love will be with me all my life;
and your house will be my home as long as I live.
It was a very hot summer in that brick duplex. It faced the west, no trees in the front yard to block the fierce sun. Seriously there were days we needed to go outside to cool off 🙂
We had a couple of small oscillating fans loaned by a couple of sweet friends,; but unless you stood by them with your hair wet, you only felt a warm breeze. Of course this was probably a blessing, making working out in the heat everyday easier to handle.
My heart was mending and by summer had, surprisingly, only the scars left to show where it had been shattered. One of the scars was my fear of trusting and loving again, traces of insecurities that come with divorce; but on the other hand, I had never been more secure in myself and what I was capable of with God’s help. I felt pretty tough.
I began to love my life again and accept it for what it was, but I never wanted to be comfortable staying there. I wanted a better life for my sons and I, so I began to take steps to bring it about.
I worked a lot of hours (mostly all weekends and sometimes double shifts) at Sonic that summer, rolling in the tips and walking with a spring in my step. During this time it was amazing how many people decided I needed to date again; and they just happened to have an uncle, cousin, brother, neighbor…..you name it. They would send them up to Sonic so I could meet them. Wow, I remember thinking more than once, “Do they really think I’m desperate?” (Haha). Let’s just say they were less than attractive to me. They came in all ages and sizes and brought to Sonic with them many awkward moments. We did have some good laughs over it at Sonic, for sure.
Every-time I thought I might consider dating, I had a reality check that there was no one around I was interested in; and I was not going to bring guys around my boys and mess with their little heads. I couldn’t see myself with anyone; but I knew if I ever could be, it would be different than before. Consequently, my weekends were spent working hard in the hot summer and letting my young 16 year old fellow car hop friends do the dating 🙂 I have such warm memories of that summer. That’s truly when my life began to change quickly, with every day better than the day before.
I signed up for nursing school (and was accepted) which was a huge confidence boost. I had been depression free for a few months at this point and had learned to be ok with being alone. I missed being loved; gosh, that felt like forever since I had.
One miracle after another happened in my life, such as a gift of money that was given to me, interest free and not to be repaid until after my graduation from nursing school. That loan completely paid off my car, bought me a washing machine, and the boys school clothes for the fall. This gift was given me so that I could quit my job at Sonic and go to nursing school full time. What a blessing! I still tear up when I think of the fact that God loved me enough to have someone help me like that.
Another thing that happened that summer was a lot of swinging done by Caleb and Charley on the (less than safe looking ) neighborhood swing sets. They were a ways down from the house through the back yard, and oh how they loved to meet their little friends down there and swing and play. I remember they had to come back every ten to fifteen minutes to let me know they were ok :). Some of the little kids were less than cared for and a bit more street smart than my boys, but they managed to hold their own. Caleb had just turned three and what an adorable three year old he was. Dark brown eyes and white blond hair, with a summer tan. He’s always been the singer of my kids (still is). It was only after my parents came for a visit one afternoon and my dad walked down with the boys to swing that I realized just how much singing Caleb did while swinging. Dad told me later how Caleb would swing and sing a special song over and over with only a few simple words….”I want my daddy to come home.”
My dad was so touched by this, as was I when I heard it. How my heart ached for this little guy. My dad decided at the time he would talk with Caleb about his song (which by the way I feel was a prayer). He asked Caleb about it, and Caleb explained that was what he wanted. My dad asked him if he had ever heard about step daddys? Caleb said, “Noooooo,” but his interest was peaked!! “What’s that?” he asked. So my dad explained and Caleb’s little face lit up with excitement. From that day on he never sang that song because he had a new song that he sang loudly in his famous little southern accent, “My mommas gonna’ buy me a ‘tep-daddy. ” I guess he figured that’s why we didn’t have one yet; maybe I didn’t have enough money saved. hahahaha I know God heard his prayer and he had someone in mind that would suit Caleb just fine as well as Charley. Charley was my little man, always looking after me and checking on me. My little elderly neighbor lady told me once that Charley had come over not long after we had first moved in and knocked on her door. There stood my handsome little Charley and he said “Miss Hazel, please start praying, my moms in the bathroom crying again.”
Every time I think of that my heart just breaks. I wish they hadn’t had to go through all they did, but I’m thankful God filled in the gaps that I sometimes left when I was so heartbroken.
Not all was sad; we ended up having a great summer, laughing, playing, working and healing…. preparing for our future. The boys started school the same time I started nursing school, kindergarten for Charley and head start for Caleb. Caleb would cry every morning and say,”Momie, I don’t wanta’go to ‘kool”. But he soon adjusted and Charley thrived.
Life had changed so much; our little house felt like home, because to us it was. It felt like I was seeing in color again after black and white. I would sometimes let myself think about the fact that maybe there was someone out there who was going to love me, and my boys…..I began to dream and hope and even pray that it would be possible. I wasn’t sure I could trust again, love without walls of protection, but maybe I thought, just maybe. One night in the late quietness, alone with my thoughts, I suddenly realized I couldn’t remember the last time I had cried. I was happy again, fully content, just loving the peace in my heart and mind. I too was singing a new song!
He has set the right time for everything. He has given us a desire to know the future, but never gives us the satisfaction of fully understanding what he does.
I woke up early and packed our picnic lunch. Before I knew it, Mike was at the door to pick me up.
We visited for awhile and then headed out around 10:30 am. We stopped at Sonic for our drinks to take with us and then headed up Rich Mountain Drive. The fall colors were spectacular, such a beautiful background to such a special weekend. I had been on that drive so many times, but this time it seemed to be at the peak of its beauty. It was a rather warm October day even when we arrived on top of Rich Mountain at the state park for our picnic. We laughed and talked and learned more and more about each other. I talked about Charley and Caleb a lot (I always did). He had numerous questions about them and mentioned that he would love to meet these other guys in my life that were so important to me.
We took a hike down Lovers Leap and back, soaking in each and every moment together.
The more I found out, the more I was drawn to him; I wanted to know more. He was the best listener I had ever met, and I found myself talking comfortably about my life and some of the experiences I had been through. I had his undivided attention, and of course he had mine as well. Interesting how many things we talked about but never ran out of topics. There were also moments of silence, but not the awkward kind; for some reason even the quiet moments felt so comfortable.
Later we would return to Mena and go into Walmart to look around for something he had forgotten. I don’t recall that forgotten item, but I do remember we ended up buying a Lionel Richie “Truly” cassette tape 🙂 To this day if I hear one of those songs I’m immediately there again in my mind, and I get that same warm feeling. We also received a TON of stares from people, haha. I was constantly seeing someone I knew and introducing him. He was really intrigued by that part of a small town.
We drove out to the lake and parked the car while Lionel Richie sang to us :)…as we sat on the hood of his car. We spent the rest of the afternoon there until time for dinner, talking about dreams and plans we both had, and more about my boys. We laughed a lot but also had some serious moments, but not too intense. I felt like we had always known each other.
I would eventually find out that during these moments together by the lake, Mike realized he had fallen in love with me, even though he never mentioned a word of it to me. I also felt our hearts connect in a different way; for me it was a bit frightening. I was feeling vulnerable, part of me screaming, “Yeah,” and the other part screaming, “RUN!” Just went I would feel the unsettling thoughts, he would slip his arm around me and pull me close, almost like he was reading my mind.
We decided to go out to the Fishnet for dinner with, of course, more people to meet there as well.
A funny memory I have of that day is Mike asking me where an ATM was in town. I had no idea what that was and apparently I wasn’t alone in that because we drove by every bank in town (I think there were just two banks back then 🙂 and soon found out there was no such thing in Mena. Mike was so amazed at that….I can’t remember what we did for cash but we brainstormed something. I think he felt like he had stepped back in time a few years. Ha
Most places in Mena didn’t even take credit cards at that time much to his shock as well. We had some good laughs about it. Growing up in California, he had already been imprinted with the notion that people from Arkansas and Oklahoma, too, for that matter, were all missing teeth and wore overalls.
Dinner was over and we were back in his car, too early to part ways; so I suggested we go up to one of the lookouts on the Rich Mountain Scenic Drive, spots where you could pull over and park. Now I know what you locals are thinking, 🙂 but Mike didn’t know the town secret so he didn’t think anything (or expect anything ); he was always so respectful of me. We pulled onto the lookout area and rolled the windows down and sat outside of the car again while Lionel Richie played in the car. Typical of warm October days, as soon as the sun dipped behind the last mountain and darkness fell there was a definite chill in the air. He kept his arm around me and I couldn’t help but think how it felt like a perfect fit. He told me how it bothered him that I had gone through such a hard time, and that he was impressed how I had made the most of it. He told me later that he noticed I didn’t have negative things to say or dwell on, and he said it was obvious to him I was not bitter, which stood out to him. Of course I wouldn’t know that for sometime.
He told me I was the most beautiful woman he had ever known; and he said, “The more I find out about you, the more I want to know.” He asked a lot about Charley and Caleb. I told him all about my little men, how precious they were and how important they were to me.
Before we knew it, it was very late (around 11 I think) and it was VERY chilly at this point up on the mountain; so we started talking about heading back down when Lionel Richie suddenly quit playing in the car. We both looked at each other with the same look as it dawned on us what had just happened. We had the windows down and the music playing softly that whole time on battery mode. We laughed and tried to think of what to do….of course no cell phones back then. By now we were pretty cold and we couldn’t even roll the windows up (electric). I was thinking what a very long walk back down the mountain that would be, but we could do it. I was about to mention it to Mike when he interrupted my thoughts by saying,”Hey, there’s a truck over there on the far end of the lookout; maybe they have some jumper cables? I’ll go ask them”. I started laughing so hard and he just looked at me like, “What”? “Well, I need to tell you something about the mountain and it’s reputation, haha.”
He said he figured that was probably the case but we needed to get the battery jumped so off he headed toward the truck. The closer he got, he could hear music blaring inside of it; and of course the lights had been off the whole time they had been there. He said he was prepared for most anything when he knocked on the window, but much to his surprise when the window was rolled down an elderly man with an obvious hearing loss (by the way his country music was blasting) looked at him and said, “What can I do for ya?” Of course he had jumper cables and gave us a jump start. We laughed all the way home about how glad Mike was to see that guy. 🙂
We headed back now as it was really late, and we were going to church together in the morning. He walked me in for a few minutes. A couple kisses and hugs later, he was headed out.
My heart was full…..I was falling in love. I knew I was, and little did I know Mike was thinking the same thing as he headed to his hotel. The weekend was passing by too fast. I wanted to freeze time and make it last forever. These were beautiful moments I would cherish the rest of my life, that we would both cherish.
We didn’t know yet….but we were God’s perfect plan 🙂
“I don’t think the way you think.
The way you work isn’t the way I work.”
“For as the sky soars high above earth,
so the way I work surpasses the way you work,
and the way I think is beyond the way you think.
Just as rain and snow descend from the skies
and don’t go back until they’ve watered the earth,
Doing their work of making things grow and blossom,
producing seed for farmers and food for the hungry,
So will the words that come out of my mouth
not come back empty-handed.
They’ll do the work I sent them to do,
they’ll complete the assignment I gave them.
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 😉
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 🙂
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!
After dinner at Denny’s, we headed back to the hotel and a much anticipated swim in the indoor pool for the boys.
When we arrived back we went our separate ways with the plan that the boys and I would meet Mike by the pool after the swim suits were on. I’m pretty sure the door was barely closed before the boys were dressed in theirs. The excitement was building as they tried to patiently wait for me by the door. I’m not sure how many times in that few minutes I said the words, “Hold your horses!” Haha. Even though we were slow, from the boys view, we still beat Mike to the pool. I’ve posted a picture at the bottom of them waiting in the chairs for him to arrive. I’m SO glad I took pictures that night, since it wasn’t as handy as it is now with cell phones; but I had managed.
What a fun hour or so (I don’t recall how long) but from the pool to the hot tub to the pool and so on, I watched as they interacted with Mike and got rid of some of their energy. He was very patient with them, and I could tell he was genuinely having fun. They were talking to him non stop and laughing and saying (about a million times each), “Hey, watch this!!!”
They were trying to impress him, and it worked; he was very impressed. As you can imagine, we didn’t get to talk much during this time; but that was ok because this weekend was about him and the boys more than anything, or at least that was the plan 🙂
Around 10:00pm we finally talked them into drying off and heading back to the room. They were intent on wanting Mike to hang out with us longer, and I wasn’t about to argue against it. After all, I still wanted to visit with him as well. I knew eventually they would fall asleep and I would have him to myself, but until then I was perfectly happy and enjoying watching him with my little guys. So he headed to his room to change and we did the same after he accepted our invitation to come back over and hang out with us in our room.
The boys were starving after such a fun swim. Mike took them to the vending machines when he came over and even that was such fun for them.
I was very proud of them with the exception of Caleb embarrassing me half to death at dinner with his proclamation of, “My momma’s gona’ buy me a ‘tep-daddy” …..it had gone very smoothly. There was a connection between Mike and the boys that could not have been fabricated; it was amazing to watch, and I remember thinking how good he was with them.
I felt like the boys were starving for a “daddy” to be honest, and this was a gift to them. I watched this play out that evening, and I was drawn to Mike even more than I had imagined. It really scared me because for the first time, I KNEW I loved him and that made NO sense to me. “How could I possibly love him?” I thought to myself, and then refused to think about it again; but within a few minutes those thoughts would come back in my mind, and I seemed to be powerless over them. I felt vulnerable, scared, full of doubts, almost panicked. I felt the walls I had built up so strong for protection against any heartbreak, being chipped at…..little by little….”But what if he doesn’t love me? I mean really love me…;” but then I’d catch his eye, and we would exchange smiles and my insecurities would vanish (at least for awhile).
We tucked the two very tired little boys into bed and then went back into the living room area and sat on the couch together. I think we had planned on watching TV together for awhile but somehow instead we sat there talking for hours.
Almost from the first few minutes of quiet, our time seemed different than any other times we had spent together talking. We talked about a lot of things that night; in fact, we talked until almost 2:00am. Eventually our conversation came back around to Caleb’s comments at dinner, and we laughed. Somehow it didn’t seem as big a deal as it had earlier to me in the restaurant. All he had wanted was to be heard; and when Mike patted him on the head and smiled, it was all Caleb needed. In fact I guess it was all Mike needed as well. For it was that very night, after hours of talking, that he would look me in the eye and tell me for the very first time that he loved me. I found myself telling him that I felt the same, even though all the while my brain was screaming, “No, it’s too soon, what are you doing?” After all we had only known each other a total of 36 days. Yes that’s not a typo: 36 days… and the boys he’d only known for a few hours…”This is crazy,” I thought. “I’m setting myself up to be hurt; I can’t do this.” He held me close and told me he had never felt this way before, and promised he would never hurt me. By this time I had shared enough on different occasions that he knew the insecurities I held; he knew about my wall of protection that I had spent time building up. I’m sure he knew my heart (though for the most part healed) still showed signs of trauma. The scars were still there, even though not as visible as at one time, still there as a reminder of rejection and heartbreak. It felt like Mike could see all of that, but could also see past all of that, and what my heart could look like if it was given to him.
What I didn’t know till later was that during the same time frame when I was being served with divorce papers, almost a year earlier, Mike had decided he wanted to find someone that he could love and eventually marry. He had been so busy with his business he never dated any one girl more than a time or two.
So during that time he asked God to give him a wife and a couple of kids :)…..which I just happened to have:)
He realized soon after meeting me, that I was the answer to his prayer.
How special this night was as we talked. I felt like every prayer I had ever prayed was being answered in those gentle, quiet moments with him.
So you see when Caleb told Mike earlier in the evening, that I was going to buy him a ‘tep daddy, I could not have imagined before the night was over, Mike would tell me he loved me for the first time; but that’s not all…..he would also ask me to be his wife…or as I always like to put it, “He asked US to marry him.” After all, we were a package deal, and it was just the family package Mike had prayed for, as well as the “‘tep-daddy” Caleb had prayed for in his little song.
And I am certain that God, who began the good work within you, will continue his work until it is finally finished on the day when Christ Jesus returns.
I’ve never felt so safe, yet so afraid. He just kept telling me, “I’m not like that; you can trust me.” I wanted to… more than anything I wanted to put all caution aside and dive in; but when you’ve been through divorce, you’re never quite the same…..not for a long time anyway and possibly never. There are just a lot of gray areas, unknowns. It’s difficult to give your heart away again; but that’s the BEAUTY of love, taking the risk, opening that door, and eventually holding out your heart to someone you’re willing to entrust with it, and in return accepting the responsibility of loving them as they deserve and desire to be loved.
For those of you who don’t know Mike and me well, (or at all)….I must tell you that we are both very cautious decision makers. Everything about this proposal from Mike was completely out of his character but that’s how much he knew I was the one he wanted to love forever.
There were so many thoughts and feelings that night and not enough hours to talk everything through. Eventually we had to get some sleep, so he headed back to his room.
I didn’t say yes or no to his proposal, just kept bringing up the “what ifs”…… so many things to weigh out. I was in nursing school which I still had several months left to complete; then there was uprooting the boys, the moving. I was overwhelmed, but Mike was patient and completely understood why I couldn’t say yes at that moment.
I am not sure either of us got a wink of sleep, but it’s funny how during times of great excitement your body just doesn’t require much (it also helps to be 26 years old).
The boys and I met Mike fairly early for breakfast so we could plan out our day, and a fun day it was. Chuckie Cheese, was one item on the agenda. It was a beautiful warm Saturday in October; that made the park a perfect place to spend the afternoon. While the boys ran and played, Mike and I had a few more moments to talk; but this was not really the place to continue our marriage conversation. Even in these quiet moments, our hearts were speaking a thousand words to each other. I didn’t want our time to end, because everything felt so perfect when he was near me.
The boys were absolutely crazy about him and he them! As I watched them play in the park together I couldn’t help but wonder if Mike was really ready for such a major change in his life….I mean from bachelorhood to a family of 4, and it would be so instant. I decided to put all those thoughts and fears aside and just enjoy our last few hours together before we parted ways once again.
The boys slept all the way home, exhausted from all the fun and thrills, and I knew I had a lot of thinking to do. Could it be this easy? Should it be this easy? I was not ready to tear down the wall that had been protecting me. I had spent months building it up with all levels of defense and I couldn’t risk living without its security, not yet. I was not about to quit school. I had determined long before to never be dependent on anyone again, with the exception of God, but certainly not a man. I would not put myself in that position, I had promised myself that over and over during the previous year.
Mike returned to Tulsa and had a long talk with one of his brothers. Whatever was said just seemed to firm up his decision.
The week was filled with flowers and phone calls that lasted for hours. I think I made it to Tuesday evening before telling him, “I’m scared but everything in me is screaming: Yes marry him, trust him.” I decided I was willing to take the risk. I had the strangest peace in my heart that came over me between Saturday and Tuesday, peace that could have only come from one source, and that was God.
Just as I had instantly fallen out of love with my ex husband many months before, I had just as instantly fallen in love with Mike. I explained to him that I had to continue living in Mena until I finished my nursing school. He was very understanding and said if that’s what you need to feel secure then we will just be together on weekends till it ends. I assured him that’s the only way I could feel OK about it. I had to have that security; it was a major part of my wall of protection. He constantly reassured me that he would show me through time and love that I could eventually trust him and that we would take those steps together. He always seemed to know when I needed reassurance and he would say,”I’m not going anywhere.” He told me he had never been in love with anyone. I can’t even put words to the way he loved me with the words he spoke to me, the way he respected me, admired me. Mike had my heart in a way no one had ever had it before. It was as though I was falling in love for the first time. I knew everything would be OK; I can’t explain how I knew that…..I just did.
1 Corinthians 13
Love never gives up.
Love cares more for others than for self.
Love doesn’t want what it doesn’t have.
Love doesn’t strut,
Doesn’t have a swelled head,
Doesn’t force itself on others,
Isn’t always “me first,”
Doesn’t fly off the handle,
Doesn’t keep score of the sins of others,
Doesn’t revel when others grovel,
Takes pleasure in the flowering of truth,
Puts up with anything,
Trusts God always,
Always looks for the best,
Never looks back,
But keeps going to the end.
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. 🙂
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 🙂 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 🙂
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 🙂
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. 🙂 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.
Those who sow tears shall reap joy.
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.” 🙂
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 🙂
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 🙂
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.
Not long after the wedding I was able to meet Mike’s sister, Sheri, and her family as well as his parents, Bob and Alice. His entire family completely welcomed Charley, Caleb, and me with open arms as part of the family. They accepted and loved us and made us feel like we had always been in the picture. I still feel so blessed with that fact! The first year was filled with lots of “first’s,” including a honeymoon trip to Cancun in June of ’91and then a family vacation to Disney World in September. We also bought a new house that July. Mike taught the boys how to swim right away (in our very fun indoor pool), and they both started playing soccer.
They loved their school, Grace Fellowship, and continued to attend there for several years. Our church home became Victory Christian Center, where we still attend.
Around 5:50 a.m., July 26, 1992, we welcomed a beautiful little baby girl into our family. Our 7lb. 14oz. Stephani Lynn arrived very quickly for me after only 7 hours of labor. Mike practically had to deliver her, because she came before the nurses or doctor could get things ready. I finally enjoyed my first epidural and loved it of course! 🙂
Stephani was such a little princess; I couldn’t believe I finally had a girl, and she had two very proud big brothers. I was wondering one day (as moms will do) if in their minds they might think Mike loved her differently?! One of the boys had been told by another child that Stephani was only their half sister, and man did that ever cause an argument. Ha! So I decided to have an impromptu talk with them one day about the whole dynamics, and most likely made it a little more complicated than I should have. I had never for a moment sensed a difference in Mike around the boys; he truly loved them as his own, but I went ahead and took the opportunity to ask them. I finally got to the point and said, “Sometimes in these situations where there is a new baby, children might feel like their step parent loves the baby more.” They looked at me with big brown eyes full of mostly interest but also dipped in little confusion. Before I made my closing statement about how that wasn’t true and all…..I asked, “Do you boys ever feel like Dad loves baby Stephani more?” I assured them that they could tell me honestly.
They looked almost startled and Charley (who was now 8) looked up at me and in the most matter of fact voice said, “Oh…..I think he loves US the most,” to which Caleb nodded in agreement. I can assure you that was the truth in their little hearts, and that describes the type of dad Mike was (and is) to this day.
January 9,1995, we welcomed our second daughter, 8 lb. 2 oz. Jessica Lynn, (both girls share the same middle name with me) into our family. Jessica was the first of my labors that I felt no pain at all from start to finish, and I loved it!! Now we had two princesses, each one playing such an important role in our lives. We had become a family of 6, two boys, two girls….everyone had a buddy 🙂
Our children have always been close, and we cherish each one of them!
Life’s road has taken many turns, as it’s known to do; but I have been abundantly blessed, and I’m forever grateful.
This year Mike and I will celebrate our 24th anniversary. It seems so hard to believe that he was ever not a part of my life.
The past year we became “empty nesters,” and we love this part of our lives just like we have loved every season through the years. This is quite different for us, however, because we were never “just us two;” but how we treasure our alone time together…..making plans, being grandparents, we just never get enough of each other.
My heart still skips a beat when I hear the garage door raise and know he’s home from work. He still tells me I’m perfect (which I know I’m not :), but it always makes me smile. He loved me right through those first few years when my insecurities and fears would creep up, always being faithful and true to me, never giving me any reason to doubt him or lose trust. He’s never made me cry (except in a good way:), never spoken a harsh word or shown any anger towards me. We cherish each other, and not one day goes by that I don’t stop at least once (often more) and thank God for my husband and this Plan B that I’m living. Sometimes things don’t turn out like you planned……sometimes they turn out BETTER!
Only a couple more chapters left……
I’ll show up and take care of you as I promised and bring you back home. I know what I’m doing. I have it all planned out—plans to take care of you, not abandon you, plans to give you the future you hope for.