Ivan Utomo, Ninja in Residence

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Anna even baked him a ninja birthday cake!

Ivan is a ninja. He enters and exits my parents’ condo undetected. Mom once checked out behind him at Costco without spotting him. He’s pushed, pulled, lifted, dragged, and (insert any other word for “toted”) me in and out of various locations without attracting so much as a startled glance.

Ivan revealed his ninja nature quite some time ago – Thanksgiving 2017, in fact. Some of you would remember the initial seizure saga reached a crisis around that time. None of you would remember that Ivan picked up an apple pie and brought it (and me) to my parents’ house for dinner that Thanksgiving. Apparently dinner went well, but our five minute drive back from my parents’ condo to our apartment complex did not. Most of that night is fuzzy (I was fading in and out of awareness between seizures), but I have one very high-definition snapshot of Ivan pinning me to a concrete wall with his left hand to keep me from falling. He was holding that pie high above his head with his right. Somehow (I have no idea how) he got me down a flight of stairs, across the complex driveway, through a hallway, and into our apartment…in between my full-body seizures. He never dropped the pie.

It’s January 2019, and Ivan is still a ninja. When asked if he wanted me to include his feats of stealth in my last post, he opted for silence. “Maybe later…” he conceded.

Well, it’s later.

If y’all remember, we hit the road to Itzhak Perlman after I’d had five seizures and taken a rescue drug. “Hitting the road” entailed Ivan wrangling me, my wheelchair, our sandwich-bag supper, a latte, and a Frappuccino into our tiny blue Yaris. Nothing was spilled, nothing (including me) was dropped, and no cars were harmed in the making of that production. Once installed, I sat for most of the drive with my eyes closed to avoid more light triggers. This required some expert driving on Ivan’s part so I wouldn’t get motion sick from the starts, stops, and bumps that come with a Bay Area rush hour. Upon arriving in downtown San Francisco, Ivan prowled for the unicorn parking spot that was wheelchair friendly, near the concert hall, and unlikely to attract unsavory attention – a tall order given SF’s parking reputation. Somehow he snagged a handicap spot that was curbside to the front doors at Davies’ Symphony Hall.

But this ninja’s mission was far from over. Ivan stood next to my wheelchair for almost two hours just waiting for the doors to open. He haggled with ushers to prove that we had indeed purchased ADA seats, that no I couldn’t abandon the wheelchair and navigate a staircase in the dark, and that  yes I would most likely need direct access to leave the hall during the performance (my brain is still easily overstimulated by noise). Ivan is possibly the most non-confrontational person I have ever met, but somehow he got exactly what he wanted from a potpourri of ushers in a potpourri of moods. He even talked one into clearing out a ladies’ room since I was too unsteady to go wandering through a crowded, tile-floored bathroom on my own.

The ultimate ninja test was yet to come, however. As the usher deposited us near Mr. Perlman’s green room, both Ivan and I spotted a giant problem. Stairs. The green room was up a flight of stairs. Unfortunately this particular usher felt his civic duty was complete, and so he retreated back from whence he came…without any parting words of staircase wisdom. Silently, Ivan leaned me up against a wall with his left hand, raised my wheel chair high above his head with his right, vanished, and was back again before I had time to process. I couldn’t place its source at that time, but I suddenly had a strong sense of deja vu. Where has he done this before??  It was the pie. Ivan did it during the pie incident. Unfortunately for Ivan’s sweet tooth, this time involved a wheelchair instead of baked goods. Mr. Perlman must’ve been a decent recompense for the absence of pie, however, since Ivan whisked me up the offending staircase and into my wheelchair in record time. It has since occurred to me that whisking someone who wobbles is scientifically impossible. Nevertheless, Ivan whisked.

Ivan, Mom, Dad, Anna – all four work overtime to keep me up and running every week. All four say they rely on the grace of God. All four are also fastidiously low-profile, and none better than the resident ninja. But sometimes, ladies and gentlemen…sometimes even ninjas get spotted. 😉

Ivan: I’ve read and watched all of Naruto.

Perlman-Perfect Monday

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Picture of a Lifetime!

Yes, this is Itzhak Perlman. This is also me and Ivan. This photo is less than twenty-four hours old.

This is one of the hardest posts I’ve ever written. Writing involves staring at my right hand and not at the picture above, you see.

You might remember my post last May about our pilgrimage to hear Mr. Perlman in concert – the consummation of 15 years of my trying to find a performance that was 1) in my area and 2) not too expensive. Our trip last spring verged on medically disastrous, but we did it nonetheless. Seeing him onstage was probably my finest post-accident moment.

That blog post on Itzhak Perlman found its way to…Itzhak Perlman. Hence the photo last night.

Mr. Perlman was in the Bay Area again last night for a concert experience called In the Fiddler’s House. The program celebrated music from several Jewish traditions, performed by the legend himself with a cohort of traditional instrumentalists and singers. Some email conflab with “the powers that be” established that if I could successfully attend the concert, I could also successfully meet my violin idol afterwards.

[Side note: If concert-going were still attainable – which it supposedly is not! – the program’s rich cultural offering would have tempted me to attend, even sans incentive. We embarked on a musical tour from centuries-old eastern European wedding music to more current Shabbat and/or Hasidic melodies. Apologies to all who are familiar with this music and might be laughing at my botched description! ;)]

Every journey has its beginning, so I will now rewind to yesterday morning at 10am. Ivan and I had “perfectly” engineered my activities so I wouldn’t  get triggered before we hit the road at 3:45pm. Driving on the freeway is enough of a seizure death trap as it is. Apparently Murphy’s Law did not get that memo, because one of our apartment lights flickered a bit before noon and sent me into a decently bad seizure cycle. One rescue drug later found me dozing in bed while Mom played babysitter/nurse. Those pills knock me out for at least a couple of hours, and often irritate my brain for the rest of the day. We were past the point of no return as far as Mr. Perlman was concerned, however, so Ivan still rolled me out to the car and the car still rolled out into the rain at 3:45 as planned.

Somehow we made it into San Francisco without further incident. I may or may not have been blindfolded to cut out all light triggers, but a girl’s gotta do what a girl’s gotta do. I also may or may not have consumed a cappuccino at lunch and then a latte on the road, but who’s counting espresso shots? A girl’s gotta do what a girl’s gotta do. Caffeine staves off the TBI symptoms that are inevitable after seizures and/or a rescue drug. We pulled in front of Davies Concert Hall excessively early, but we desperately needed that curbside handicap space. A girl’s gotta do…you get the picture. Ivan rolled me into the lobby and I tried to doze with my eyes covered and my noise-canceling earbuds in place until the doors opened at 7pm.

The open doors revealed a contingency we had not counted on: our ADA spots (read wheelchair space next to caregiver seat) had been double-booked. My internal moan turned into an internal smirk since…guess who got installed in a box in the orchestra section instead? Ladies and gentlemen, I’d assumed that any exclusive seating area was not in the cards for me…ever…much less a box! Not a bad trade.

Labeling last night as “concert of a lifetime” is no overstatement. At one point, some (read “mostly all”) those in the main floor seating area got swept up by a medley of traditional wedding music and started dancing in the aisles. I kept my eyes shut for most of the concert because of possible light triggers, but Ivan says that people rushed down from the upstairs seating areas to join them. Apparently it took a few non-wedding songs to convince everyone to sit back down/go back up.

My brain survived til the end of the concert only by God’s grace. I did have some seizures, but they weren’t nearly as bad as those from the morning…most likely since the rescue drug was still in my system a little bit. It didn’t hurt that the klezmer program was shorter than a traditional symphony concert, and much quieter. Add some noice-reducing earbuds, covered eyes, lobby naps and…well folks, we made it!!!

I suddenly realized I had nothing intelligent to say when I was about thirty-six inches from reaching Mr. Perlman backstage. Thankfully he’s played thousands of concerts and met who-knows-how-many admirers throughout 60 years as a concert violinist. He knows my violin professor from my late high school and early college years, which was a useful icebreaker, and I gave a brief recap of who I was and what had happened to me. Parking wheel chairs as close as possible added a dash of comic relief, then – snap! – the (no-flash) photo you see above. I’m currently counting how many different walls on which I could hang said picture.

But you know what the best part is, my blogging friends? He signed my sheet music for the violin solo from Schindler’s List. The same sheet music Mom bought me when I was 12 years old. The same sheet music I practiced for my very first solo with a grownup orchestra. Now that‘s a keeper for a lifetime.

 

 

To Date or Not To Date?

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Our social media debut was obviously candid…

I’d like to close out our blogging year on a romantic note! ❤ As you may (or probably may not) know, Ivan and I got married on December 30th, 2015. I spent our first anniversary in the hospital, and Ivan spent our first anniversary moving us into a handicap-friendly apartment. We saw each other for less than an hour that day.  Anniversary #2 was another bust since I was still recovering from yet another hospital stay. This year finds us 0 for 2 on romantic December 30th’s, but it’s looking like anniversary #3 might actually be a go!

In honor of this (hopefully) momentous occasion, I will grace y’all with the story of when Ivan asked me out for the first time and I said no.

It was a dark and stormy night…well, I think it was raining…maybe.

November 2013 was halfway through my second semester at CBU, and halfway through Ivan’s seventh. I’d “liked” him for most of the previous semester – as did a surprising number of other girls in the choir and orchestra where he and I both played. Since he never seemed to notice me playing violin in his line of vision every single concert, I decided he must not be the one for me. I mean, there were other cute, godly guys out there, right? Right??? Moving on maturely must not have been too appealing since I distinctly remember telling Mom two things that summer: 1) I would never date Ivan Utomo and 2) I would never find a boyfriend among the available selection at CBU. Bitter, much?

Anyway, skipping ahead to the afore-mentioned November 2013. Ivan had finally spotted me sitting across the piano…unbeknownst to me. I was preparing to solo with the orchestra at the fall concert, and I remember getting a couple of super nice texts saying how good I sounded in rehearsals. How Ivan had my number I did not know. I also did not bother to find out since I was so over my Ivan “thing.”

What I didn’t count on was him inviting me to go with him to the school play. I had invited a group of friends over for a game night a couple of weeks before (Mom had made me put him on the Facebook invite), and this play seemed like his super awkward way of trying to pay me back. I told him several times that he really didn’t have to, that hanging out was no big deal and I was glad if he’d had a good time, etc. He still bought the tickets. Now he was making me feel really awkward about the whole affair, and I remember one extraordinarily unfortunate episode where I tried to pay him for my ticket right before a choir rehearsal. Mercifully I didn’t realize that we’d attracted the attention of the entire choir, who proceeded to make bets about who would win and whether or not going to a play meant we were “together.”

Those who bet on Ivan won. I didn’t pay for my ticket.

The play fell on the day after my orchestra concert. I hadn’t devoted much time to thinking about it since I was focused on preparing for my performance…oh, and because I was so not going down that “liking Ivan” road again. Ivan (and God!) had other plans. Somehow he found me backstage a few minutes before the performance and invited me to dinner before the play the next day.

I said no.

The school dining center was too expensive. I didn’t have a meal plan. It was fine, thanks, I’d just catch him at the theatre. He blinked sheepishly before wandering off.

My only excuse for this heartless and/or extremely naive behavior is that I was trying to get “in the zone,” and he had just played some serious interference. Preparing for a major solo performance is a lot like preparing for a major sporting event. You need those last few minutes to focus, run through important parts of the music in your head, try to get into “character” for the mood of the piece. Walking up on someone just before they step on stage is NOT helping them out in any way. Hence my rebuttal. I was already in character, not allured by the idea of spending student worker wages to eat with a guy I was trying desperately not to be interested in again, and completely unaware that he had just upped our “friendly-get-together” status to “dinner-and-a-show” date status.

All of the above occurred to me after I finished my solo. I returned to play in the orchestra for the latter half of the concert, so I had a Beethoven symphony’s worth of time to wallow in remorse. What should I do??? I’d definitely hurt his feelings, and probably embarrassed him, too. No poor guy wants to be told “no” within earshot of people who would most certainly embellish his unfortunate moment in the retelling. But what should I do?? I decided apologizing was the torturous but probably called-for end to our encounter. I then prayed that God would show me some way to patch things up without tracking him down the same night (not a very selfless prayer, I admit).

Finding no alternative to the apology, I hunted for Ivan after the concert – and hoped he’d already gone home. As providence would have it, he had not gone home. Now it was my turn to look sheepish, but at least I had the presence of mind to steer us out of reach of prying eyes and ears before I began. “Umm…” I had never noticed that intricate gold pattern on the carpet before. ‘”Umm…I just wanted to say it was really nice of you to invite me to dinner.” The pattern was really fascinating. “Well, umm, I guess you’ve probably got other stuff to do before the show tomorrow, too, but…I guess I could meet you at the dining center if you’re still up for it.” This was the unfortunate moment where my eyes had to part ways with the pattern. Now it was his turn to say “No,” but he didn’t.

He smiled and said “Yes.”

That one “Yes” was just the beginning..

Altars

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So we’ve heard about the Little Drummer Boy, but…

 

Good morning, everyone! It’s been a little bit since I’ve written, but between Christmas excitement and getting over all that brain testing, blogging hasn’t exactly felt like a strong point.

That’s what I want to write about today: how do strong points (or not so strong ones!) relate to our “God with us” meditations this Christmas season? Taking human form is God’s inconceivable offering to us. God gives Himself to light our darkness and lead us out of the mess we’ve created. Usually we associate the word “offering” with something we give to God, and not the other way around. Why should the living God willingly humble Himself to make His own offering? Because He loves us. 

So what happens for Him at Christmas? We celebrate God loving us, and I can’t think of a better truth to celebrate. What I do wonder is how best to celebrate it, though. In the Old Testament (the part of the Bible that covers Israel’s relationship with God before His incarnation), altars were essential to all parts of worship. Placing a sacrifice on His altar demonstrated everything: thanksgiving, repentance, and even freewill gifts. An authentic sacrifice was always the best a worshiper could give.

As I think about Christ sacrificing Himself for me, I realize I have several sacrifices that belong on my altar to His love. I don’t need to earn my salvation thanks to the totality of His redemption, but I think Christmas is a meaningful time for offerings nonetheless. Over the past two years, there are so many outcomes I’ve begged God for. Some have come true, and some haven’t, but they all belong on my altar.

Thanksgiving: walking, talking, taking care of myself, watching God care for my family as they cared for me, maintaining relationships with family and friends (often online!)…These are just a few of the items on my list. How often did I say “thank you” but then take the gift for granted later?

Repentance: This is a category I’d  prefer to leave off the World Wide Web entirely, but a “catch all” area I could grow in is humility. An extra dose of humility might cut down the times I give myself too many extra pats on the back, or those times I catch myself feeling like I deserve better than I get.

Requests: I’d love to go out again, to be strong enough to meet with people again, to not close my eyes and “listen” to movies instead of watch them, to be 100% confident I’ll make it to my parents’ condo down the road in spite of whatever headlights lurk outside our garage. God knows how loudly I cried out for my left hand last year when it still had a fighting chance. But He deserves my best on His altar, not a whiny Santa Claus list. My best is “I have so very many things I want, but if they’re not on Your list for me, I know You are still good.”

And now we get to the nitty -gritty part. The freewill offering. Can I sacrifice my favorite strength (writing!), and say “Thank you, God, but it still belongs to You. My left hand belonged to you, my music belonged to you, and this does too. Sometimes You give, and sometimes You take away. Blessed be your name.” Can I do that? I wish I was shouting YES at my laptop screen, but I’m not. And that writing/music offering is not all. Can I sacrifice my “dearest” request and say “Here’s my brain, God. If You had healed it completely, all my other requests would be fixed by now. But thank you for giving me back more skills than I should have. You’ve given me back so much! And You’ve taken away so much. But blessed be Your name no matter what.”

So there’s my Christmas altar for you, in all its glory – or lack thereof! I wish I could say all my offerings were already neatly arranged with some candlelight and tinsel and soft carols playing in the background. If I’m honest I’ll say I’m sooo not there yet. The freewill part is especially killer! But I’m trying.

What will be on your Christmas altar this year?

God with Us (And those TBI Results)

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All ready for that early morning testing!

God with us.

Most of us (religious or not) spend December counting down to the 25th. What’s not to love about all the sparkly festive magic that only comes once a year? I couldn’t wait for “permission” to crank up my Spotify, pull out our Ikea tree with its box of quirky ornaments, and douse both of us in peppermint hot cocoa – starting Black Friday at dawn. Missing out on most of the Christmas season two years in a row just about quadrupled my excitement for Christmas 2018 (!!!!)

But more importantly, I’m excited to count down to the moment God became “God with us.” I grew up with this Christmas saying like most Christian kids, but that was about what it was – a nice Christmas saying. Which is why my accident did not happen on December 3rd by mistake. My family was suddenly living “God with us” literally hour by hour in December 2016, and I lived it hour by hour with them in December 2017. (If you missed last year, you can check it out here.) “God with us” has grown real to me in a dimension I literally can’t describe, and this December promises to be no different.

As many of you know I had the final evaluation of my traumatic brain injury (TBI) about a week ago. The testing fell on the day before Thanksgiving, which is just how things would work out for me 😉 A 5 hour test (with only 5 minute breaks) left me mentally decimated the next day…and the next…and the next…but Mom was sweet enough to run us over two plates filled with all those Thanksgiving fixings so Ivan and I could still have a Thanksgiving Date. “Romantic” is not the first word that comes to mind for the last Thursday in November, but it is also a word for which I’m ALWAYS thankful 🙂 ❤

And now…drumroll please…the TBI results!

God has blessed us with so much healing since that December 2 years ago, and the tests were an excellent witness. There were several categories in which I scored normally for my age, and I even scored an exceptionally high verbal IQ compared with other healthy, graduate-level twenty-five year olds. (My competitive side was jumping for joy on that one.)  There were also some lower scores, though. I still struggle with visuospatial skills, a minor attention deficit, and a significantly impaired processing speed. “Processing speed” is the energy I use to take in information through talking or reading, make sense of it, and then respond. Hopefully that explains why I still only do very short social visits. I promise I like hanging out with you…really! 😉

God with us. God didn’t give me back a perfect brain, but He gave me back a pretty remarkable one considering how damaged it was. God was with us to preserve my life, He was with us to promote my healing, and He’s with us now to move forward with my finished picture. Considering most specialist checkups will fall in or near December each year, I think I’ll always have an extra reminder to celebrate “God with us”…

For which I am very thankful!

“Is That Your Final Answer?”

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First cup of cocoa since the accident! 🙂

Happy Saturday, everyone! Yes indeed, that is my first cup of hot chocolate since the accident. Growing up I absorbed it incessantly during the holidays, but alas, my two past Thanksgivings/Christmases have been spent either in and out of the hospital or completely in the hospital. It feels SO good to be kicking off Thanksgiving week like the good ol’ times! 🙂 ❤

I actually have a new brain update to share this weekend, as I’m scheduled to do a final analysis of my traumatic brain injury on Tuesday. My family and I were told that it takes about two years for traumatic brain injuries to heal. Not all brain injuries heal completely, but the two year mark is when doctors decide which parts have healed completely and which might have residual deficits. I’ll be in Redwood City this Tuesday to do a 4-5 hour test with a neuropsychologist. It will take a week or two for them to evaluate the exam, and then we’ll meet back with the doctor to discuss my results.

It might be an odd one, but my request for this test is that my days leading up to it would be as “typical” as possible. Seizures and fatigue cause my mental abilities to fluctuate depending on what happens on a given day (or what’s happened during the past few days) so it would be good to be neither at my best nor at my worst on the testing day. This will give us the most accurate information. Thank you all for your prayers, and we look forward to sharing our results with you when we receive them.

I may not be about to become  millionaire, but I am looking forward to a final answer!

Surviving…a Latte!

 

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At least we got those holiday cups!

 

“Fall Backward” is everyone’s favorite Daylight Savings Time. Resetting clocks might be a pain, but who doesn’t enjoy that extra hour of sleep?

Ivan and me, apparently.

It’s Sunday morning. Our trusty iPhones switched automatically and woke us up at our traditional time, but on the updated schedule…which brings us to the first lame moment in my story. Instead of popping up unusually refreshed when Ivan’s alarm went off, we both groaned and drifted back to sleep. My alarm rang a few minutes later, but produced the same effect. I dragged myself to a seated position thirty minutes later, mumbling something about breakfast.

At this point we’d gotten an extra hour and a half of sleep but still felt like we were being dragged out of bed an indecent amount of early. You might think this is just normal “weekend mode” – except that it’s not. We never sleep in. (Yay for medication schedules!) The second lame moment in this story is all me. I started feeling funny right as I mumbled “muffins..breakfast…” As providence would have it, “breakfast” is a very powerful word in the mind of Ivan. Recently-baked pumpkin muffins motivated him to open his eyes, which he did…Just in time to watch me have a seizure. Poor Ivan was now very much awake without pumpkin muffins. I was even more not awake after a second seizure, but getting up was a must at this point. No medicine could happen until after muffins, and I needed muffins. Medicine, that is. 😉

I’m often unable to walk after a seizure episode, but Ivan guided a wobbly me to the table on my own two feet since I’d “only” had two seizures. He glanced at the clock after I sat down and then grabbed his phone. They were an hour different.  We’d just missed Daylight Savings Time! This brings us to the third lame point in our story. I’d just had fatigue seizures. Any time I have a seizure that’s not triggered by light, it’s been triggered by extreme tiredness. Apparently I was that tired – after sleeping in an hour and a half!

Last week had been an experimental week. We didn’t feel like I was strong enough for in-person visitors again, but I had a couple of necessary phone calls to make to Riverside. Two phone calls shouldn’t be a big deal, right? Both calls lasted longer than I expected, and I found myself exhausted on Tuesday and Thursday. I tried to proceed with my normal activities on the other days (I’m always surprised at just how far adrenaline, will-power, and a little caffeine can take you!) but I finally burned out on Saturday. I lounged around in pajamas feeling like I had the flu, which I knew I did not. What I did have was fatigue seizures the following morning. (Side note: Ivan’s excuse for being so tired on Sunday was less medical but still justifiable. He’d spent Saturday afternoon corralling Junior High kids and their parents for a school event, and then helped me around the house after he got home.)

Salvaging our Sunday became our shot at salvaging Ivan’s only day off that weekend. We ate all the pumpkin muffins, drank multiple pots of coffee throughout the morning, but only bolstered our status to half awake. Ivan ran across the street to Starbucks a little before 3 pm. At least it was a Bonus Stars day if you ordered lattes.

The fourth lame part of my story is mostly Ivan. Ivan is from another country, and is the master of making trans-Pacific flights sans jet lag. Case in point: In  June 2015 he touched down in LAX after a music tour in China, spent the night at a friend’s house, and then drove me up to see his parents the following day…in the Bay Area! It’s a seven hour drive. For the record, I did offer to drive part of the way so he could sleep, but he said “no” like a true gentleman. My true gentleman mustered even more energy to take me into San Francisco proper and propose a mere three days after our arrival.

All this to say, a measly one-hour time change should NOT take Ivan down along with it. My going down is a bit more plausible 😉

I’m sad to admit that church was not part of the Sunday we’d planned – or the Sunday we actually lived! The Lord’s admonition to “not neglect meeting together” (Heb. 10:25) is a command Ivan and I take very seriously. On the other hand, the Lord also created the human body and calls it the temple of the Holy Spirit. He instructs us to use His temple respectfully  (1 Corinthians 6:19), and we take that command seriously as well. Our church attendance remains an ongoing conversation, but for now we feel that keeping my body (specifically my brain) safe as much as possible is the right choice. We look forward to resuming our weekly visits as soon as we are able! In the meantime, we’re trying to make the best of our extended hiatus with all the sermons, worship music, etc., that are now easily accessible online. We’re grateful for God’s provision in that regard, but still realize that God wants good community as well as good content whenever possible – hence the importance of church.

But anyway…To everyone else who missed the boat last weekend…we’re right there with ya! We just hope you didn’t have to drink three servings of coffee and two shots of espresso before 3 pm.

Tumbled from Grace…

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All’s well that ends well 🙂

The Disney princess sweeps into an ornate ballroom, her prince an elegant step behind her. She does not tumble down a flight of stairs and into the stupefied guests below. Her prince does not fall in love with a fish. I wish someone had mentioned all this before the food tasting for our wedding.

Ivan and I stepped into the lobby of the Mission Inn, both salivating for the tasting banquet that August night. The Inn is a historic landmark and boasts the stunning chapel where Ronald and Nancy Reagan said their vows so many years ago. Said chapel is also completely booked year round. We only “got in” by choosing a Wednesday morning wedding slot between Christmas and New Years! Even the wedding food tastings run on a schedule, so we were delighted when our turn for the tasting banquet finally arrived. The word “gourmet” was embossed neatly on the reminder card in the mail.

So, returning to our evening. The banquet would begin after a cocktail hour for couples to nibble hors d’oeuvres and taste various wines, marking their choices on an elegantly-scrolled index card. Ivan and I dressed appropriately – well, appropriately for 22 year-olds on limited budgets – and arrived at what I estimated to be just the right amount of late. The other bridal guests eddied around cocktail tables and a mini bar, just outside the grand ballroom and right at the foot of a magnificent staircase.

Ivan and I proceeded through the lobby (I hoped people would notice that we were headed to the coveted tasting banquet downstairs) and paused for a moment at the top of the staircase so I could absorb the scene. One glance told me that we were probably 10 years younger than the rest of the bridal couples, and that our clothing insinuated we would be the kind of couple to take that Wednesday morning slot – or some other slot of the kind. I turned around and raised my eyebrows at Ivan. He seemed completely unaffected by the discrepancy, so I grinned and decided I could at least make a graceful entrance to compensate for our other deficiencies. I was suddenly very thankful that I’d worn my dressiest set of heels.

And then I fell. Not a wobble on the top step, not a stumble through the first couple of steps, not even a brief go-down-and-then-hop-up-like-nothing-happened fall. I fell and rolled. “My Prince” reached out to rescue me, but his arm was a tenth of a second too late. Twenty heads rotated in unison to greet me at the bottom with thunderous silence. We not only looked like babies. We acted like them, too!

I grasped for some some remnant of poise as Ivan set me on my feet, but I could only stumble to a corner table. My rarely-worn, three inch heels pinched mercilessly. A waiter tactfully offered crackers swirled with goat cheese and an olive, alleviating some of  our awkwardness, and then the doors to the banquet hall swung open before we had more time to cringe at our side show…

Our side show was soon swept under the table. The most gorgeous table-for-two I’d ever seen, that is. In a vintage lounge to the ballroom’s right was a buffet laden with entrees, and I’m sure all the ladies gained five pounds just glancing at the dessert table peeping from the corner. Ivan and I may never experience such a luxurious meal again during our lifetime. We knew we’d already selected a simple roast chicken with French green beans before attending the tasting, but that didn’t deter us from tasting all that might have been. 🙂  I pretended not to notice that my leg and foot were inflating under the table. The waiter pretended not to notice that we declined each of the three champagnes he offered. We weren’t underage, even if we looked it, but I did work at a Baptist school.

What I couldn’t pretend not to notice was Ivan beginning an affair. With a salmon. I’m sure my fall from grace earned me no brownie points, but I had never seen Ivan’s face glow with the same pure, undiluted joy as it did upon his first bite. I have not seen that radiance a second time. (The day I elicit that look from his eyes is the day I add “cum laude” to my Bachelor’s in Wifing.) The salmon was superb, but I confess that I was more fascinated with this new “Ivan in love” scenario than the fish.  Part of me wished we could add it to our reception menu just on his account. Part of me rejoiced that we could not. No bride wants her thunder stollen by a fish.

The “old Ivan” returned promptly after our plates vanished into the kitchen. “Old Ivan” was also tasked with assisting his limping fiancee back to the car. He executed this chivalric duty with customary affection, but I was suddenly aware of how needy and un-succulent I was compared to the fish. Hobbling through the lobby, one arm around Ivan’s neck, the other positioning my purse so that guests couldn’t see how black my leg had turned – that was not the Disney-esque exit I had planned. Our fairytale parody heightened as Ivan swept me off my feet (out of necessity) to carry me the rest of the way to the car. I hoped he wasn’t remembering the seductive salmon as he bore me in his arms. I did not ask, and I do not know.

What I do know is that my leg and foot healed from the tumble (my self-esteem healed more slowly), we had a gorgeous wedding, the roast chicken was delicious, and Ivan appears to have a more balanced relationship with salmon. Although we can’t be completely sure of that unless he faces the Mission Inn salmon a second time…

 

 

An Answer for Papa

Me and Paps
My last picture with Papa ❤ He was 88 and I was 18.

“Be good now, d’ya hear?” Papa always said goodbye like that: on the phone, at the airport, even when our car pulled out of his driveway that time we hazarded the 1200-mile drive to Savannah. He wanted me – wanted all his grandchildren – to “be good.” He’d wanted Mom and her siblings to be good, too. That was his way of taking care of everyone.

And I was good. I was good at school. I was good at music. I was good at college. I remember calling Papa every couple of weeks when I lived in New York, hearing how proud he sounded on the phone. He was even proud that I remembered his admonition to “be good and don’t go dating any of those Yankee boys.” Honestly, none of those Yankee boys asked me out, but somehow I never got around to telling him that part.

I’m glad Papa didn’t live to see the day being good didn’t work for me. I’m glad he doesn’t know that I waited for my crossing signal, looked both ways twice like a good girl. And almost died. I’m glad he doesn’t know that I’ve been good at therapy and good at following doctors’ order for almost two years…and I still have to spend most of my days resting at home. No, Papa. Being a good girl doesn’t always work out. I wish I knew why.

Now what? I’m only twenty-five. I don’t have the wisdom of a man who lived eighty-nine years – including through a stint as a ski trooper in WWII. I absolutely don’t have the wisdom of a book that’s still relevant 2,000 years after it was written. One life is not enough to suggest being good is the wrong answer.

Now what? I’m not alone. It would be comfortable to call myself a unicorn and believe everyone else who is good leads a happy life. But many good people lead far worse lives than mine. Still, even thousands of lives are not enough to prove being good is the wrong answer.

I’ve told you what I am, what I’m not, and what I don’t have. But I left something out. I left out God. That 2,000 year old book I mentioned has been read by millions of people, and what does it say? God is good, and God has answers when things aren’t good. God provides a way out of our mistakes (Jesus), when we aren’t good. It’s easy to imagine all those millions of people throwing their book against a wall when they read that God was “good” but didn’t always fix their broken lives. But there are a lot of copies that never got thrown. Mine didn’t. If you read long enough, you’ll hear Him say that because He is good, His plan is good, and His good answers will more than satisfy our “why’s” when He finally reveals them. Faith is waiting for something you don’t see yet. Anyone in my family can tell you I hate waiting for things – especially for anything involving Christmas or birthday presents. 😉

An answer to our “why-ings” would be a giant present for me, for you, and absolutely for the millions of sufferers who have gone before us. As usual, I hate waiting on my answer. As usual, our good God will give us the faith to keep waiting when we ask Him for it.

And as for Papa, I’m glad he’s not waiting on his answer any more ❤

 

Q&A Video 3: Bible, Then and Now

 

It’s Friday! And it’s time for that final video in our 3 part Q&A series! We’re wrapping up with two questions:

  1. Has the accident changed the way you read the Bible?
  2. Was Ivan and/or Grace thinking about going into ministry before the accident?

Thank you so much for watching (and,) as always, walking) with us!  Check back next week for a post in our good ol’ blog-writing format 🙂