Thursday, February 16, 2012

A Post-Valentine's Day Letter

To all the guys who ever broke my heart,

Thank you.

Thank you for never calling me even though you promised you would, for forgetting my name a thousand times, for cutting our date short and not even being gentleman enough to walk me to my door.

Thank you for falling in love with my roommate.

Thank you for deciding, after two semesters of leading me on, that you'd probably just better stick with your girlfriend.

Thank you for finding someone new when I was away at school.

Thank you, when I wouldn't give in to your advances, for deciding that I wasn't easy enough for you and moving on to some floozy whose standards weren't quite so high.

Thank you for all those Valentine's Days spent without a Valentine.

If it weren't for all of you breaking my heart, I never would have met the man who is now my husband. The man who will never ever break my heart. If I had known back then that I would marry such an amazing man, I would have spent a lot less time crying over you.

So thank you. Because of all those lame dates and lonely Friday nights and slow dances spent on the wall, I now have the best Valentine ever.

I owe it all to you.

The Brown-Eyed Girl

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Summer Romance

The summer before I graduated from college, I wanted to do something different. Something besides lounging around my parents' pool, working on my tan. I'm not sure why. A summer spent lounging around the pool sounds pretty good to me right now.

I guess it was because my roommate had told me all about the ranch she had worked on the previous summer, all the cowboys she had met and the fun she had had. A summer full of horses and cowboys was right up my alley. With divine help, I found this place called Ensign Ranch that was looking to hire a couple wranglers for its summer season. I immediately applied and got the job.

A few months later I was on a plane to Seattle, my head full of visions of the handsome cowboy who would steal my heart somewhere between the long, leisurely horseback rides and the late nights roasting marshmallows around a crackling bonfire. I was sure I was headed toward a summer that would change my life forever. Romantically, I hoped.

But when my parents dropped me off at the quiet ranch just outside of the tiny town of Cle Elum ("Easy Thru Access," the signs boasted), what I discovered was not what I expected.

There were no cowboys in sight. Well, unless you count the soft-spoken ranch manager who was old enough to be my father. Ensign Ranch is owned by The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, and most of its staff consists of missionaries, both older couples and nineteen to twenty-one year-old young men. There were five (later six) young missionaries working at the ranch that summer. Five hard-working young men who had dedicated two years of their lives to serving the Lord. Five young men who were were strictly off-limits.

My parents and I were ushered into the dining room where I had my first taste of our cook's amazing food. But I moped over my plate. When my parents left, I lugged my stuff up the stairs to my little apartment above the front office and sighed deeply, disappointed that my dreams of a summer romance had been shattered so quickly.

I didn't have long to feel sorry for myself. A couple of the missionaries came knocking on my door, asking if I was ready to go meet the horses. A few minutes later we walked between rolling green pastures to the barn, and it didn't take me long to realize that the friendships I was going to make while working in this beautiful place would surely make up for any lack of romance.

With that realization, I dove right into work. The ranch became my refuge from the world, even when I was trudging through sloppy mud trying to catch elusive horses or cleaning up after messy teenage girls in the bathrooms. The only day I actually stood in front of a mirror and did my makeup was Sunday. Most of the time my hands were covered in dirt and scrapes. And I couldn't have been happier.

My dream of summer romance still lingered at the edge of my mind, though, and the lack of available men at the ranch made me a little boy crazy. I found potential love interests wherever I could, from the returned missionary from Russia who asked for my phone number and never called me, to the Schwan's ice cream man making his weekly rounds, to ranch guests who came on our trail rides. My future husband could be anywhere, I reasoned with myself. I had to keep my eyes open for him.

It was during a trail ride one hot Saturday morning that a particularly tall, handsome young man caught my eye. Later that afternoon, when my fellow wrangler and I were working at the Trading Post down by the lake, renting canoes, I had the blessed luck of seeing him again. As he and his group put on their life jackets and got ready to go out onto the lake, he returned to the window and asked for a place to keep his money.

I smiled, cranking up my powers of flirtation. "If you trust me," I said sweetly, "I can hold it for you."

He readily agreed and handed me a wad of cash, which I tucked away into a safe place, batting my eyelashes the entire time. He started to walk away, then turned back. "Oh, can I get a wristband?"

My lips started to hurt from smiling so much. "Sure."

"Actually, make that two, one for me and one for my wife."

My smile disappeared, my heart sinking like a rock in the lake. My sweet tone lowered into a grumble as I replied, "Okay." I handed him his wristbands and he walked away with a tall, frizzy-haired girl that I now knew was his wife.

It took about 3.5 seconds for my disappointment to subside, but I fumed all afternoon that he hadn't even had the decency to wear a wedding ring so love-starved girls like me, marooned on a ranch all summer with only horses and missionaries for company, would know he was off-limits and not waste their time flirting with him. By the time he and his wife returned from their canoe trip, I was feeling feisty and just a little mean.

When he came back to the Trading Post window and asked for his money, I looked him straight in the eye and asked, "What money?"

You should have seen the look of panic on his face.

It made all the wasted flirting worthwhile.

Happy Valentine's Day!
The Brown-Eyed Girl

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Prayers Are Answered

The Lord works in mysterious ways.

Ever since I met him, Mr. Brown Eyes has wanted to be a firefighter. In fact, that desire is what brought him here to Arizona and into my life. His uncle used to work for one of our local departments and offered to help Mr. Brown Eyes through the fire academy if he moved to Arizona. One of my very first dates with Mr. Brown Eyes was his fire academy graduation.

Mr. Brown Eyes worked his butt off to get hired (not literally, of course. That would be a tragedy). For five years he went on ride-alongs, worked reserve in a nearby town, studied, tested, interviewed, and prayed. He even furthered his education by taking an intense six-month Paramedic course the first year we were married. But no matter how hard he worked or how many departments he applied for, Mr. Brown Eyes could not get hired. I can't count how many times we both got our hopes up only to have them dashed to dust, how many times I felt so sure "This time he'll get it," only to hear that someone else got the job. Someone far less qualified than my amazing husband, in my completely un-biased opinion.

Mr. Brown Eyes was hesitant to start our family before getting hired with a fire department, thinking, I guess, that it would allow him to better provide for us. I convinced him (and deep inside, he already knew) that the Lord would bless us for having faith and starting our family before the perfect job came along. Three months later, I was pregnant. We had done our part, and I knew that the Lord would do His. As my belly swelled bigger and bigger, I was sure that it was only a matter of time before Mr. Brown Eyes got his dream job.

But Baby Brown Eyes came, and still the firefighting jobs eluded us. Finally, just a few months ago, when the perfect job slipped through Mr. Brown Eyes' fingers for what felt like the millionth time, he decided that he had had enough. He had already started going back to school, and he felt that the time was right to set his firefighting dreams aside and pursue a different career path. So that's what he did.

Until just last week, when the chief from the little department where Mr. Brown Eyes used to work reserve called him up and asked, "Do you want a job?"

"Um, yes?"

And just like that, no studying, no testing, no stressful interview, Mr. Brown Eyes is a firefighter.

The answer to our prayers did not come right away, nor did it come in the way we had imagined it would. But come it did, just as answers to prayers always do.

And now I am the proud wife of my very own firefighter.

The Brown-Eyed Girl