terrible, horrible, no good, very bad day

I like to think of myself as an optimist.  Generally speaking, I hope for the best, believe people can change, assume that the next day will be better than the one before.  I have trouble admitting to myself or anyone else that I’ve actually had anything along the lines of a “bad day”. 

Wednesday was a bad day.

There are a lot of elements to it, most of which I probably shouldn’t put out on the Internet for public consumption.  Before the day was done I think I cried approximately 9 times, which even for me is a record.  Granted, I tend to be weepier these days than usual, but even so…

Let me tell you the thing that sent it over the edge.  The part that sends my day into the status of urban legends.  The event that finally caused me to give and admit that indeed, my day was going rather poorly.

I needed to run a few work-related errands, so I drove my car – Lauren, a 2002 silver Mercury Mountaineer – to the student union building.  I went upstairs to check my mail, of course got distracted, and ended up going over to the theater with fellow RLC Scott so we could check out a space we wanted to use for PA training.  As we were wrapping up, I got a call from the Res Life office, which I ignored, thinking I’d be back over there in a minute or so.  Then Scott got a call, which he ignored.  Then the theater director got a call, which was unrelated.  Then new RLC Jenn came running up the stairs, a little out of breath, and said:

“Paula, I’m so sorry, but someone just hit your car.”

Seriously?

My cry count was already at 8; an unpleasant conversation with my boss, less than stellar news about my best friend’s new baby girl, and now someone had taken it upon themselves to run into my parked car.  Awesome.

I jogged over to where I’d left my car parallel parked on the side of the road.  I immediately saw that the bumper on the back left side was not where it needed to be.  Ok, breath deep, not that big a deal.  Whoops, it’s shoved up into the tailgate.  Fine, fine, it can be fixed.  Oh, what’s this?  The back left tire, one of four tires that I had purchased not even two weeks ago, had come apart from the wheel, which may have also been scratched when it had been shoved on top of the curb.  And…yup, that’s definitely a broken axel.

Crap.

So a guy had been pulling out of the bookstore parking lot, had looked both ways, and had pulled out, hitting another car, which in turn hit me.  Luckily both of the guys had stopped, and one of my coworkers in the row of office windows overlooking the parking lot had recognized my car as the victim and had come to find me.  And the guy pulling out of the parking lot kept claiming responsibility, which made me feel bad for him.  He’s newly married, from Texas, his wife just starting grad school, very polite.

But at the same time, I spent the better part of 4 hours trying to get the whole thing sorted out.  Called my insurance company, talked to our security officer, waited about an hour on SPD to show up and take a report, and managed to secure a rental car before they closed at 7pm.  In case you were wondering, I’m not driving a lovely Kia Sorento (read: not a PT Cruiser, like every other rental I’ve ever driven).

So Wednesday was rotten.

But as is my tradition, I found myself looking for the bright spots:

  • Those guys could both have easily driven off and left my car for dead…but they didn’t.
  • Turns out my insurance company is uber-helpful in the event of an accident, although I’m not sure how they would react if the accident was my fault.
  • In the midst of all this chaos, I was able to call my fiance, who was here as soon as he could be, and who generally made me feel a whole lot better about everything.
  • I’m not driving a PT Cruiser.

So I decided that I get to claim Wednesday as a bad day, but at the same time, it could have been a whole lot worse.  I could have been in my car when it was hit.  I could have been driving and been found at fault.  I could have still had Arkansas insurance, which would have made the whole thing a lot more complicated.  I could have gone through all of that and had no one to call and cry to.  I could have ended up with a PT Cruiser.

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the beginning of the end

For the last three days I’ve been on an RLC staff retreat on Blakely Island.  SPU owns a good portion of Blakely, including a field station that is primarily used for science classes, but also used as a retreat center when the facilities are not otherwise occupied by students.

Blakely has been our retreat site for 3 of the last 5 years, and every time we go I eat too much good food, take long naps under the warm skylights in the atrium-like sitting room, and generally spend three days in complete disconnect from the rest of the world.  With the exception of the 20 minutes we spend on the ridge watching the sunset, we get no cell phone reception, and for the first time this year we had a wireless signal.

Retreats at Blakely have become my favorite thing about RLC training.  Although Camp Casey (SPU conference facility) is equally beautiful, it doesn’t come close to a Blakely Island experience.  There isn’t the same sense of isolation, the same quiet, undisturbed beauty, or the same endless flow of homemade cookies available at any hour, day or night.

Today was our last day at Blakely, and at some point during the day, it occured to me that it was truly my LAST day at Blakely.  I won’t be coming back.  Unless, by some provedential series of events, I end up at SPU next year, I won’t be returning.  With that thought came the realization that I was in the midst of my last RLC training, at least as an RLC.  I had experienced my final first day.  It was the beginning of the end.

As soon as this hit me, I started taking pictures.  I tried to capture the essense of what this all means, of what it means to me to be a Residence Life Coordinator at Seattle Pacific University.  Up to this point in my life, it has meant everything.  I left my home, my family, everything that was known in Arkansas to move to the Northwest when I accepted this job.  I never expected it to last this long, or to feel so good, while at the same time being the hardest thing I’ve ever done.

And now I sit in the end of my time in Ashton Hall, and I realized I’m joyful.  I’m not joyful because I’m leaving, but I’m joyful because of where I’ve been, and where I’m going.  It feels very right to be here, while at the same time it feels very right to be ending.  It’s like my job has a senior year, and while I’ve loved the experience of my freshman, sophomore, and junior years, I know my final year will be the best, and when it’s over I’ll leave without regret, without longing, without looking back.

I’ll be the first to admit that my impending marriage is a good part of the reason for these feelings.  I think if I were leaving this job alone, this job that has been such a part of my life and my identity and my being, I would be in a slight state of panic.  I would be trying to figure out my next job from day 1.  But the way things stand right now, I’m excited to have Joel share this part of my life that has been all-encompassing and important, but I’m even more excited to leave residence hall life – for the first time in a decade – and start something new with him. 

So I suppose what I’m trying to say is that God’s timing is perfect.  Some people are married younger than we would like, some older that we would have guessed, but in all of that God works, and he takes us from one place to the next, protecting our hearts, without us realizing it until the van is pulling away and you don’t have a chance to look back on what was.

the score

List of things that I love:

  1. my dishwasher
  2. Joel
  3. my new Tempurpedic pillow
  4. tiramisu from Tutta Bella
  5. Cabernet Sauvignon
  6. my Sony Bravia 40-inch HD TV
  7. Tivo

List of things that Joel loves:

  1. coffee
  2. me/cottage cheese (at the moment we’re tied for 2nd)
  3. (space reserved for loser of 2nd place race)
  4. his 2007 Jeep Rubicon
  5. Gentleman Jack
  6. our new king-sized Tempurpedic bed
  7. his 1996 Mazda Miata

This is subject to change at a moment’s notice, including tomorrow morning when Joel reads this and reminds me that no, we already decided that I’ve pulled ahead over cottage cheese.

something I need to remember

My best friend Julie told me I needed to write this down so I don’t forget.  I have some of the more intimate details recorded in a special place for Joel and I to share, and I’m excited to tell you the rest.

Last Sunday, August 10th, Joel and I decided to go for a hike.  We’d been back from our Seattle-Arkansas-Seattle Best Roadtrip Ever for a week, and during that time Joel had probably spent a total of 10 hours in his house.  It was a mess when he left it, and that had only been amplified by our time away.  I think I’d seen mold in his sink when we briefly stopped there on our way to my house.  So, we both agreed that he needed to spend the weekend disinfecting, and rather than drive into Seattle and back out to North Bend, we decided that I would head to church alone and pray for his salvation, then meet him at his house around 4p.

As I was leaving church around noon, I got a text from one of my coworkers that read, “Hey, can you still hold the pager for me this afternoon?”  Well, no, I can’t, but I will, because I told you 2 months ago that I would.  I called Joel, rather upset, because this was going to be the last chance I had to be all the way out in North Bend before I had to hold the pager more permanently, covering for this coworker who was going to be on maternity leave.  Besides that, I hadn’t seen Nikki in nearly a month, and I was ready to be out of Seattle, and I was frustrated because I’d been so careless.

Joel, on the other hand, seemed to barely care.  The small bit of disappointment I did hear in his voice I interpreted as irritation at the thought of driving out to Seattle AGAIN, as he had done the entire week before.  (Note: I think we’d go to his place more if he also had HDTV.  Or cable.  Or if his sister would stop stealing his DVDs.)  In the end, though, he said he’d be fine heading out to me.  I made a few calls, though, and found another coworker to cover for me, and headed out to North Bend, stopping on the way to look for a bridal magazine.  No, I wasn’t engaged, but a girl needs to prep, right?

I arrived at 4:30p (read: half an hour late) and we packed up and headed out for our hike.  Rattlesnake Ledge happens to be located in Joel’s backyard, and we had talked several times about making the trek together.  In fact, I vaguely remember this particular trip being my idea.  In fact, as I sit here, I remember sitting in the Dairy Queen parking lot near Yakima, WA after using the bathroom a week earler on our way home, and telling Joel we should hike the trail the next weekend.  Of course, he claims that this was all part of his plan…

Anyway, we headed out on the 45-minute hike a few minutes after I arrived.  Joel carried our pack, and it soon became apparent to me that the 2 1/2 weeks spent in the car and in the South had not done much for my physical fitness.  He finally had me lead after I asked him to slow down severaltimes, although this has become a rather common request, seeing as how he is one of three people I know who has a longer stride than I do.  We stopped about halfway up for water and dried mangos (yum!), and we had the following conversations on the way up:

Me: “What are we going to do for dinner tonight?”
Joel: “We’ll have chicken.”
Me: “Are you craving chicken?”
Joel: “No, but you are.”
Me: “Am I?  What makes you say that?”
Joel: “You’re from the South, it’s in your blood.  You always want chicken.  And you’re going through withdrawals, ’cause it’s been at least a week.”
Me: “First of all, I had chicken yesterday…”

And…

Me: “Hey, yesterday was our 8 month anniversary.”
Joel: “Yeah, I thought about that.”
Me: “Happy anniversary.  So that means it’s been 6 months since our first kiss, and that it’s been three months today since you told me you loved me.  Happy I-love-you-versary!”
Joel (after 30 seconds of silence): “Hey, happy I-love-you-versary.”
Me: “I just said that.”
Joel: “Well, you are very funny.”

Around this time we were approaching the ledge lookout.  Now, on the way up, I’d had a passing thought that gosh, wouldn’t it be special if Joel proposed at the top of the ridge.  It was our anniversary, it would be romantic…of course, I’d been waking up every day with the thought, “maybe it’ll be today, maybe it’ll be today,” running through my head on repeat since we’d gotten back from Arkansas.  So as soon as I had the thought, I replaced it with the logical reminders that Joel had been completely calm when he realized he might have to come to Seattle, he wasn’t showing the smallest sign of anxiety as we hiked, there was no way he’d had time to get a ring, there was a good possibility he’d propose at the Neil Diamond concert we were going to in September…basically I was going through the same self-talk I went through every time I had thoughts like, “Gosh, we’re sitting here eating chicken tacos and watching David Hasselhoff on America’s Got Talent.  This would be a great time to propose.”  But as it turns out…

As soon as we got to the top of the ridge Joel started to rip off his backpack.  I’m thinking wow, he must be warm, because he just had to carry that big pack all the way up here, and he was so sweaty he was steaming when we stopped for water.  I walked past him a few paces, and about fifty feet in front of me I saw a woman about my age peering through some bushes.  That in and of itself wasn’t strange, because the hike is popular and there were several families wandering around, but we made eye contact for several moments as I thought to myself, “Gosh, that looks like Joel’s sister.”  She smiled, and at that moment I felt Joel grab my hand and turn me around.

He was down on one knee.

I heard one of the mommy hikers: “Oh, look at that!  How sweet!”

My first thought: “That is totally Joel’s sister.”

My second thought: “Who else is up here that I know?”

But those thoughts only took milliseconds, or must have, because I know I heard Joel’s words as clear as anything.

“Paula Rebecca Green.  You are my best friend, and you are the love of my life.  Will you marry me?”

He was laughing, I was crying, and as I said yes I awkwardly tried to grab the ring as he fought me off and put it on my finger.  I think my first words, after “yes,” were “Gosh, it’s so BIG!”  In fact, I think I said that several times.  He stood up, I buried my sweaty face in his sweatier shoulder, and as we stood there hugging I said,

“Joel, did I just see your sister?”

As he describes it, she stood out as this odd, disembodied head as we came over the ridge.  She and her boyfriend had arrived an hour before to set up a picnic and position themselves for pictures.  They came over to congratulate us, and then went to guard the food.

Our dinner: one of our favorite wines (NXNW Cabernet Sauvignon, which we had a Pogachain Bellevue the night we saw Cirque du Soleil), brie, crackers…and chicken.  

Joel, this is surely scary, and overwhelming, and life-changing, and I know that other people are starting to stress us out with their opinions and suggestions.  Or maybe just me, and you by extension.  But it doesn’t matter, because I will forever remember the look on your face as you asked me that question, and I will always feel better when you remind me that I’m the love of your life, and your best friend.