Monday, March 14, 2016

Love and Marriage: Dana's Story

Hi everyone! I am continuing our love and marriage series this week! I hope you all have been enjoying this series. I certainly have! I love Love Stories - so this is totally my happy place-  to be writing about my very own Love Story.

My story is slightly cliche to the outside world. Many people ask how Sam and I met - and I say, "We met in high school." Which is then followed by, "Oh! You were high school sweethearts- how sweet!" Early on in our marriage and whenever the question was asked- I would say "No, not really. We just met there." But then it got complicated and so now I just nod my head and smile. I don't consider us to be high school sweethearts because we only dated for a month while we were both in high school and we had a relationship that was far beyond the typical high school relationship.

So - what is our story? To begin, I must share some backstory for you to truly understand who I was as a teenager. It is important to the story, I promise.

I was a closet girly girl. I had TONS of guy friends, and a handful of great girl friends, but I was much more comfortable in the guy world because I was so much more accepted there. However, I secretly was insecure about the fact that no one would ever like me. I thought I was much too tall (being six feet tall is the worst as a teenaged girl), I didn't think I was pretty enough, and I hated my body. To the outside world I seemed confident, but I was still so unsure of who I was. The Spring before high school, I was with a friend who had an older sister and she was getting ready for Prom. I was mesmerized by the gorgeous dress, the flowers, and how stunning she looked. I made a vow then and there that I would go to Prom all four years. I wanted to feel the way that she looked - amazing and beautiful.

Ok - so now you are ready for the story - get excited. It's a good one.

Let me just preface this with - I was a total nerd in high school. I know it. I am totally okay with it....now. I moved here when I was fourteen and I found my immediate group of friends in the eighth grade band room. My freshman year, still in the band, the guy I was dating convinced me to join marching band - so I did. He was an upperclassman, so for the two years we dated, I go to go to prom as a freshman and a sophomore. I was on track to go all four years, yet I still felt the same about myself. We broke up the summer before my junior year. At the time, I thought he was it. He totally broke my heart and I totally did not take it well. I was mad at the world and begrudgingly going to band camp that summer wishing I had never even joined.

A few days before camp, my director called me in his office and "asked" if I would switch to Tenor Saxophone that year. I didn't really have a choice- so I said sure. The first day of camp came and I meet my section leader - Sam Kadwell. He had gotten a haircut so I didn't quite recognize him without his long blonde hair. But he was cute - and I was a little taken aback by it. We hit it off right away. We had a few odd birds in our section and we felt like the only normal people at times who didn't find it all to be life or death. We laughed, a lot. I found him easy to talk to, and easy to be around. It didn't hurt that he was also friends with some people I had become friends with years before.

That year, I started dating another guy and Sam and I were just friends. I actually helped a girl who I worked with and who also had a MASSIVE crush on him pick him out a birthday present. I remember her talking to me for hours about him. I didn't get it. He was nice, he was cute- but I didn't see him that way. He hung out with me on our entire trip to Disney World. We would go to our friend's house and hang out. I would go see his band play (yes - they were totally awesome!). But, I never saw that he liked me. I just assumed we were buds. He will tell you a much different story that he liked me for quite awhile before I caught on.

A few months before Prom, I broke up with my boyfriend. It was the easiest and most awesome break up ever because we realized we had turned into really good friends and had no chemistry. It was great. But I was left in a slight panic that Prom was a few months away and I had no date. This was worse than any possible situation I could be in. I needed a date. I was still searching for that feeling of being beautiful.

I remember lamenting over this fact to my friend Lisa and she said, "Sam's cute, and he's tall!" Huh- she was right. He was cute, and tall. It didn't hurt that he was really nice. So, I pursued him. I made a point to hang out more and to create situations where he would have to call me to get plans for that night. We would end up on the phone for hours. I mean 4-5 hour long conversations. We talked about everything and anything. Lisa finally clued him in to the fact that I wanted him to ask me to Prom - and he did! A few weeks after he asked, we went on our first date to the Ice House. I had mentioned how much I loved ice skating, so he took me. We skated for maybe 30 minutes and then sat in the cafe and shut the place down. Now- to be honest, I did not want to really date him. I just needed a Prom date. Prom was perfect and I felt the most beautiful when he looked at me in my homemade (!!) dress. The adult version of me realized that the moment I had been searching for was not something any guy could really truly fill for me. It was purely knowing that I was loved - and the best person that could ever love me was myself. Sam showed me that.

I decided he was more than just a date to the Prom. How boring would this be if that wasn't the case? I started second guessing my plan and realized that I actually really liked this guy. So I let go. I let myself fall for him. Oh my goodness did I fall hard for this boy. I mean, totally blindsided by the love I had for him. It was scary and exhilarating. It was then that I realized my first boyfriend never broke my heart because he never had it. Sam had it - all of it - and it was terrifying.   I remember being so scared that he did not feel the same way. I was so nervous he would break up with me that summer as he went off to college. He finally pulled me aside and said he was here to stay - he wasn't going any where.

Few weeks after we started dating - we are babies!

And he didn't. My Senior year was one of the hardest of my life. My dad had moved back to Florida and was commuting every two weeks. My sister was getting married and moving out. And my mom was on the start of a very bad few years with her health. To make a super long story short, she had a procedure done that was done by an incompetent surgeon and she ended up having a brain stem stroke. She was in the hospital from October to about March. I was in high school, basically on my own. I would go to school, go to swim team practice, then drive to the hospital to see Mom. Some nights the nurses would just let me stay and I would go to school from there. Some nights, I just couldn't do it. I was too tired and I would ask Sam to go visit her. One thing that was affected from the stroke was her short term memory. So, every day I would go and she would be angry at me because "I never came to see her." She just never remembered that I did. However, she always remembered Sam coming and would recount all their adventures in rummy and tell me how he was just the perfect person and why couldn't I be more like Sam?

It was hard. Mom came home and I was her sole provider. I woke up every fours hours to give her the meds she needed. I learned how to give full body massages to help relax her. She would keep the house at 80 because she was so cold. I did it - not for any reason other than she was mom - anyone would have done it. The kid part of me struggled. I never had a parent at a swim meet- even when I made States. I never had anyone at my track meets or school things. My 18th birthday came and went with no one remembering other than a few friends and Sam. I was lonely. I was falling into a very dark time and the only person that kept me afloat was Sam. I leaned on him in ways that I never expected and he always held me up. He sacrificed so much for me that year. When I think back at how young we were (17 and 18) and the things our relationship endured- it just shocks me that he didn't just turn away running.

We had our ups and downs while we were in college. We were growing up, and we had to constantly re-evaluate who we were as individuals and as a couple. Luckily, the people we turned into were people that we still loved. There was a point when it all changed, and I don't know when it was exactly, but I stopped looking at Sam as my boyfriend, but as my partner. I knew that he was the one that I could spend the rest of my life with. There were times that I could not get enough of him. We would spend an entire day together and I would be the most pathetic thing leaving. I just wanted to be with him all the time. He had (and still does) this way of looking at me that changed the way I looked at myself. Every time he saw me he looked at me like I was the most beautiful thing in the world. He slowly changed my insecurities into something that I loved. I loved that I was tall. I loved my body. I loved my odd brown/green eyes. He saw so much beauty in me in a way that no one else every had. He saw who I was - how deeply I felt, how strong willed I was, how terrified I was of failing. He never backed away. He found my oddities to be beautiful and I learned to embrace who I was.

The spring of junior year of college, I told Sam I was ready to get engaged. We had grown up a lot in the last four years and I was ready to take the next step. I wasn't sure he was. I, of course, gave him an ultimatum. I wanted to be engaged by the end of May. If not, we would have to rethink our relationship.

The end of May came, and no ring. I knew he had one- so I wasn't too upset about it, just a little disappointed. I think it was his way of making me trust him and be patient. Two things I am terrible at. He did not make me wait too very long. He proposed June 16th and totally surprised me. I had to work that night and he had come over to eat dinner with me. He walked me to my car and then went off like he was walking to his. He actually just went back to the house with my roommates to set up the proposal. When I got off, I called him and he made it sound like he was at his house. I got home and all the lights were off. Clue #1 something was off. My roommates never turned out the lights nor did they ever turn the TV off - even when they left. I didn't think anything of it at the time. I go upstairs and there is a note on the door. It was a poem he had written. I go inside and there are balloons that are numbered. I think I stood there for a minute and said out loud. "I don't get it." Then I realized that I was supposed to pop them in order. I get to the last one which made me have me back to the door and when I turned around, there he was on one knee with the ring. Now- It was super romantic - but in that moment, my heart literally stopped and I almost kicked him. I thought I was home alone- and the sudden appearance of a man scared the crap out of me. But after the initial scare - I realized what was happening and I was so excited.

Love this photo - this is so us- me laughing at Sam being ridiculous. This was taken around the time we got engaged. 

We got married July 1st, 2006 at a little Presbyterian Church in Fuquay-Varina. It was the best day. I just remember being so happy and smiling so much my face hurt.

On our Wedding Day! I still love that dress!
I loved the first few years of marriage. Everyone always told us that the first year is so hard. But it was seriously awesome. We knew each other so well, that we didn't need much adjustment to living together. Sure, we had our fights, but all I remember of that time is so much joy. Joy about our life together, excitement about our future, and gratefulness for what we had.

Ada Jane came along on 2010 and then Henry in 2012. Watching him be a Dad has made me love him more than I ever thought I could. I still get butterflies when I think of him in random moments. I still love spending the day with him. I still love that he thinks I am the most amazing thing in this world. He is my soul mate. He is my partner. I can not imagine a more perfect person for me. He challenges me, supports me, and loves me so unconditionally. Our marriage isn't perfect - but it is so perfectly us.

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