Thursday, January 20, 2011


It's time I write about another man in my life.

Here he is.

Yes, he's a horse. But not just any horse. He was a gift from my parents for my thirteenth birthday. I'd cried and pleaded and prayed for a horse my whole life up until then. Honestly, I can't say what made my dad finally buckle and buy one for me. He's such a penny-pincher that pennies everywhere are afraid of him.
Whatever it was, a few months after my thirteenth birthday we trailered home a beautiful bay Arabian gelding. I introduced him to his pasture, fed him carrots, and named him Sultan.

I got Sultan at that awkward time in my life when I was transitioning from a child into a teenager, when I hated my nose, wanted nothing more than to be popular, and thought that Titanic was the greatest movie in the world. As I learned to ride, Sultan became my refuge from all the agonies of growing up. Everyday after school we went for long rides down tree-lined trails, galloped through dusty farmer's fields, and explored roads I had never traveled on foot. During many nights of adolescent heartbreak I would throw my arms around his neck and let my tears soak his fur. He was my best friend, there for me when I felt like I had no friends at all.

Although changed, my relationship with Sultan has lasted through the years--through a sad goodbye when I left for college, through me getting married and moving into a small apartment, through the birth of my first child. Once Mr. Brown Eyes and I bought our first house, Sultan came to live in our lush green pasture, and once again he and I were riding down farm roads and into the mountains, our new home full of new places to explore. Even pregnancy didn't stop me from riding. I  knew Sultan so well I completely trusted him with me and my unborn baby.

Over the summer Mr. Brown Eyes and I decided our pasture was too big for one horse, so we bought a horse for Mr. Brown Eyes. She was a tall chestnut American Saddlebred we named Harley, only four years old. Friends and family came over to see her and gushed over how pretty she was. Then they looked and Sultan and smiled. "Oh, he's so sweet! And old!"

Old? Since he'd entered his twenties I knew Sultan was past his prime, but no one ever believed me when I told them how old he was, he was so spirited and energetic. He was always the horse people gushed over, as shiny as a brand new penny, his head held high as he pranced and cantered through the pasture, showing off.

But suddenly...he looks his age. Instead of cavorting through the pasture he ambles slowly, hanging his head. His brown coat isn't quite as shiny. His hip bones are more prominent because it's harder to keep weight on him these days.

Sultan is old. Next to Harley's youthful vigor I've been forced to admit it. And it breaks my heart to think that the friend who was there for me all through my teenage years won't be around forever. But even though we're not riding into the sunset together every day, there are still plenty of adventures left for us to enjoy.

Like introducing him to Baby Brown Eyes.
They're best buds already,
The Brown-Eyed Girl

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Eat My Dust

I was the only car on the freeway this morning that had the nerve to pass the cop. He was going slow. Under the speed limit, in fact. So while all the other cars hung back, afraid to risk the cop's wrath, I flew past him at 70 mph, laughing maniacally and shouting, "Losers!" to the cars in my rearview mirror.

Then I quickly slowed back down to 65.

What can I say, I'm a rebel.

Within reason.

It sure did feel good, though,
The Brown-Eyed Girl

Friday, January 14, 2011

The Bum and the Bicycle

If you couldn't tell from the title, today's post has nothing to do with my love story. Well, I guess every post I write is connected to my love story somehow, but today's does not involve any smooches or confessions of undying love. Not that I don't love writing about those things, but if I did it all the time I'd have to rename my blog something like The Brown-Eyed Girl's Man or Kissy Kissy Huggy Huggy and I don't really want to do that.

So today I will tell you a funny story about our house.

Mr. Brown Eyes and I had been looking for a house for several months before we first laid eyes on the one we now call home. We fell in love at first sight, and how could we not? The porch was scattered with golden autumn leaves, the grassy yard shaded by willow and mulberry trees, one of which sheltered a tree house high in its branches. The huge garage in the backyard was big enough to accommodate Mr. Brown Eyes' boat and four-wheeler, as well as five tugboats. No kidding. And the yard was big enough for a pasture, big enough for my horse and then some.

And it was a log cabin.

Yep. A log cabin in the Arizona desert. Step through the front door and it's as if you've been transported to a ski lodge in the Rockies. A stone fireplace takes up most of one wall, wooden beams soar to the peaked ceiling, and the walls and stairs are composed of smooth logs. It's absolutely beautiful.

My problem with house-hunting is I get attached. Really easily. Like, we walk through the front door and I'm already envisioning a night of cuddling on the couch in this living room, or our family seated around the dining table in front of that window. That's all it took. I'd fall in love with  bay windows, vaulted ceilings, gleaming wooden staircases, and lofty balconies. If all the houses we looked at were suitors, I'd be a bigamist.

Therefore it was not wise for us to look at houses we couldn't afford. Even if it was just to look. I'd lose my heart to some French door and be bummed the rest of the day knowing the house could never be ours.

So, yes, I loved the log cabin at first glance, but my heart sank, thinking we could never afford something so beautiful. The scenic front porch, the view of the pasture from the kitchen, the sunny dining room--I turned to Mr. Brown Eyes in despair. I could tell he was thinking the same thing I was.

Then our real estate agent told us the price the house was listed at.

Our hearts lifted. Maybe the log cabin wasn't such an impossible dream after all.

Right then I looked out the living room window at the wooden swing set nestled against the trees, and I tell you I could see my future children out there playing, could hear their laughter drifting on the wind. The Spirit filled my heart with peace. I knew this house was meant to be ours.

I will spare you the drama of the back and forth offers, the eternal waiting, and the never-ending paperwork that came along with buying the house. Let's just say the house was unofficially ours one spring afternoon when my sister and her husband were visiting from out of town. Mr. Brown Eyes and I wanted to show them "our house." We probably should have taken our agent with us, but we had the lockbox code (through a series of events that I will not describe here, in an effort to protect the innocent), so what did we need him for?

We knew something was wrong when we found the front door unlocked. With less caution than I should have exercised, I ventured inside, glancing around the living room. Everything looked normal except...

"Someone left a bike here," I announced, perplexed.

"What the..." Mr. Brown Eyes started, and I realized that something was very wrong.

The fireplace was black with soot, a half-full can of hominy sitting among the ashes. The blades on one of the ceiling fans were bent, drooping like a wilted flower. Splinters of wood were scattered over the carpet.

Someone had been in our house.

With sinking hearts we searched the other rooms. The cabinet doors and drawers in the downstairs bathroom were gone, as were three drawers and two doors from the kitchen. The bum who broke in must have used them for firewood. The idea made me feel sick. My house--violated.

Thankfully the damage was minor. We called our agent and he told us to take pictures and get out of there, to get an estimate on the damaged cabinets and the real estate company would pay to repair it. We followed his instructions, unceremoniously dumping the bike outside next to the road.

Eager to get "our house" fixed, we called a carpenter and arranged to meet him at the house the next morning to get an estimate. The carpenter and his partner arrived while Mr. Brown Eyes was checking something on the other side of the yard, so I let them in the house, tucking the key from the lockbox in my pocket.

While the cabinet guys tinkered and measured and muttered in the kitchen, Mr. Brown Eyes and I talked in the living room, surveying our dirty and misused fireplace. As we talked, a black SUV pulled up in front of the house and idled there.

"Is that anyone we know?" Mr. Brown Eyes asked.

I shook my head. "No."

The car sat there for several minutes. No one got out. "Maybe I should go talk to them..." Mr. Brown Eyes began. But right as he was saying it, a cop car pulled up behind the SUV.

"Uh oh," we said together.

"I'll go talk to them, " Mr. Brown Eyes said, hurrying out the door.

My heart fluttering in panic, I ran into the kitchen to see if I could hurry the cabinet guys along. They were done. I sighed in relief, my mind flashing just one thought: Let's get out of here. As they packed up their tools, I heard the front door open. A pistol-packing police officer strutted in, his hair short-cropped, his face unsmiling.

"I need you all to leave immediately," he barked.

The cabinet guys looked surprised. I wondered if the thought crossed their minds that maybe Mr. Brown Eyes and I were criminals and we had just swept them into our illegal activities. I wished I could explain. But I didn't get the chance.

"None of you have permission to be in here," the cop continued.

"Not even the homeowner?" one of the cabinet guys asked, gesturing toward me.

"She is not the homeowner. Not yet. Now get out."

The cabinet guys were compliant. A little too much. They were talkative and submissive. I started to wonder if maybe they were already on the wrong side of the law.

The cop herded us outside, where Mr. Brown Eyes was waiting. I closed the door, indecision itching the palms of my hands. I had to put the key back in the lockbox, but how, without Officer Sunshine seeing me? I tried to be discrete. I locked the door, stuck the key in the box and quickly closed it, spinning the numbers on the lock with fumbling fingers. I heard the cop's voice behind me.

"You have the lockbox code?"

Sickened, I bowed my head. What could I say? I could lie, but really, there is only one way to get into a lockbox for a girl unaccustomed with the intricacies of burglary, and that is having the code. "Yes," I muttered.

"How did you get it?" he demanded.

Geez, he didn't have to talk to me like I was some sort of criminal. "Our agent gave it to us."

"He gave it to you?" the cop asked as if he didn't believe me.

That's what I said, isn't it? "Yes."

I gratefully reached Mr. Brown Eyes' side, away from the cop's piercing eyes that had probably already labeled me as the perpetrator of the violence against my own house--even though it wasn't really my house yet.

The cop asked for our IDs. As we handed them over to him, he grunted, "You know, I could have had you taken out of the house by gunpoint."

I kind of wished he had. That would have been a story for the grandkids.

The lady in the SUV came out to greet us. She was the real estate agent over the property, and once she was told we were the homebuyers she was exceedingly apologetic for calling the police on us.

"I just saw the unfamiliar cars in the driveway and didn't know what to do," she gushed, her friendliness easing our distress. "I had no way of knowing who it was, and knowing the house had recently been broken into...I'm so sorry."

The cop returned our IDs. I noted with relief that the cabinet guys didn't appear to have any outstanding warrants for their arrest. They cheerfully waved goodbye and drove off.

"We didn't mean to scare you," Mr. Brown Eyes apologized. "We're just a little excited to get our first house, I guess."

It turned out to be a blessing in disguise, as a survey of the damage to the house led the real estate agent to authorize a few extra repairs that had occurred before the bum broke in. And our agent managed to finagle his way out of any discipline he might have received for giving away the lockbox code.

"You should have just lied to the cop," Mr. Brown Eyes told me as we got into our car.

"Yea, lie to a cop. And what would I have told him? I just flipped the numbers on the box randomly and--hey!--I got it right?"

As we backed out of the driveway we pulled up next to the cop, who was busily trying to ID the bike to see if it was stolen.

"I can't find anything on it," he told us. "It's yours if you want it."

Well, he was awfully friendly all of a sudden, wasn't he?

Neither of us wanted the bucket-of-bolts bike the bum rode. So the cop left it hanging on the fence. The next time we visited the house, the bike was gone. As long as he doesn't come back, I told myself.

But even now, years later, I am still suspicious of every dirty, grizzled old man I see riding down our road on a rusty bike.

I hope he enjoyed his hominy.

Not a criminal,
The  Brown-Eyed Girl

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Love Story Part V

WARNING: Those who get squeamish reading about hugs and kisses and mushy, gooshy love (you know who you are) should probably not proceed to read this post. Don't say I didn't warn you.

The day Mr. Brown Eyes got home from Oregon I ran up the terminal and tackled him. You could say I had missed him a little bit.

Now that I'd realized my love for him, our relationship surged forward. We were closer than ever. I had never been happier. And suddenly it no longer mattered that he was my first boyfriend. I didn't want to date anyone else. Driving with my mom in the car one day I said, "I think I just might marry him," and my mom, who had scared me spitless by asking me, after one or two dates, if I thought Mr. Brown Eyes was "the one," just smiled. She had known all along.

Heavenly Father, knowing me so well, eased me into the idea of marriage with little nudges. I would see a mother with a baby and feel a tug at my heart, a desire to have that for myself, and not just with anyone. With Mr. Brown Eyes. Holding Mr. Brown Eyes' hand I would think, out of the blue, "I could spend forever with him." When I prayed about our future together, all I felt was warmth and peace.

Fast forward a week to our ward Halloween party. Mr. Brown Eyes and I had planned elaborate costumes as Indiana Jones and his blonde heroine. From the moment Mr. Brown Eyes lifted me into his truck (because my dress was too tight for me to climb in by myself), I felt a strange giddiness inside, a desire to express something to him but I wasn't sure what.

After the party we went to dinner with some friends, and Mr. Brown Eyes and I, as was our tradition, tied our straw wrappers in knots and then each pulled one side like a wishbone. Whoever got the side with the knot got to make a wish. Mr. Brown Eyes got the winning side this time. I let him make his wish and didn't think another thing of it until later that night, as we were saying goodbye outside my house.

"Do you want to know what I wished for tonight?" he asked between kisses, his arms around me.

"Sure," I said with a smile.

His eyes softened and his lips curled upward into a little half-smile, the way he does when he has something sweet and romantic to say. "I wished that you'll know sooner rather than later whether we should get married."

There was that tug in my heart again. Every nudge Heavenly Father had given me in this direction for the past week flooded over me. Suddenly I knew what it was I felt I needed to say to him all night.

I smiled and caressed his cheek. "I know," I whispered.

He caught my hand, his eyes brightening the way they had when I first told him I loved him. "Really?"

I nodded.

He pulled me closer. "You want to marry me?"


He swept me into his arms then, and we laughed and embraced and danced in the middle of the starlit street. It would be several hours later when we finally said goodbye. We were too busy planning our life together, trying out the sound of my name with his, imagining what it would be like when we didn't have to say goodbye every night anymore. We were going to get married. And there was no terror for me in the idea. I had never been so sure of anything in my entire life.

I woke up the next morning for work after a very short night's sleep, but I was so happy I literally skipped through my day, humming a song under my breath, smiling at everyone, even the grumpy coworkers I didn't usually talk to.

Keeping me on my toes, Mr. Brown Eyes didn't oficiallly propose until almost a month later. He took me hiking on the same trail we'd started on our first date, leading me down to some rocks where he'd strategically placed a basket full of gourmet sandwiches, chocolate-covered strawberries, Martinelli's, goblets, and a picnic blanket. (I'll skip the part about how clueless I was even when I saw the basket. Seeing it perched on a ledge above us I gasped, "Maybe there's a baby inside! Let's go see!" Mr. Brown Eyes thought I was joking. Let's pretend I was.)

As we enjoyed our (alas, baby-free) picnic, Mr. Brown Eyes asked me to get him a water out of his backpack. As I unzipped it, I caught sight of a little red Helzberg Diamonds box. My heart pounded.

"What's this?" I squealed, flipping it open.

I beamed.

Then I frowned.

Instead of a glittering diamond, there staring back at me was a green rubber spider ring, its spindly legs sprawling out in every direction.

I scowled at Mr. Brown Eyes, who I realized was recording me with his camera. "I'm going to push you down the mountain," I vowed. But it was a good-natured threat because I realized if he had the box, the real ring couldn't be far.

He thought it would be funny to take pictures of him proposing to me with the spider ring, so he told me where to stand and positioned his camera on a rock. While I absentmindedly scratched my nose and gazed off into the distance, he pulled the real ring out of his camera case and dropped down onto one knee in front of me.

"Will you marry me, Rachel?" he asked.

I can't count how many times I had dreamed of this moment. Long before I met Mr. Brown Eyes, when the man proposing in my dreams was just a blurred face I would fill in according to my current taste (or current crush). There were days I thought this moment would never come. Now, as I breathed, "Yes!" and threw myself into his arms, his tender kiss and solid arms told me that this most definitely was not a dream.

We have it all on camera, and I thought about posting the video here, but it's just a bunch of smooching and most of you probably don't want to see that. And Mr. Brown Eyes claims at the beginning I am picking my nose, but I swear to you I am scratching it, NOT picking it. I just wanted to set the record straight, for posterity's sake.

I still have that spider ring somewhere,
The Brown-Eyed Girl