Thursday, June 30, 2011

The New South

We pull into a gas station off the highway. The green sign at the corner reads Sweetwater City Limit.

We have been driving for hours and my mood seems to be dropping with the thermometer read out on the dash. The view from the passenger side of the minivan window since we left our home in San Antonio surrounded mostly by neon signs, rolling hills and Mesquite trees has gradually changed to a flatter, drier landscape. Even the junk food in the gas station is unfamiliar. I sit stubbornly in the car as my husband stands shivering while pumping gas. When my three boys return noisily from the convenience store, they grumble about the dirty bathrooms and their vain search for Takis Fuego, Lucas Palucas or tamarind candy covered inchile powder, complaining that the counter display boasts only bins of fresh dried beef jerky.

I look again at my cell phone and I silently pass the hand sanitizer to the back seat. The display shows that the text messages I have sent over the last thirty minutes or so are still pending. I receive another error message from my phone company that the texts will be waiting until we reach a coverage area, making me feel even further away from everything comforting and familiar.

We are headed to Lubbock, to spend the Christmas holiday with my husband’s family, but theSweetwater sign has taken me to a darker place in my memories than even the usual stresses from last minute shopping and family holidays can evoke.

Before my husband pulls the van away from the gas station, I ask him to stop so that my children can see the sign. They read the sign aloud and wait patiently as they stare at me with three pairs of eyes in varying shades of blue, so different from my own brown ones. The eyes come, most directly from their father, but also from my mother, Sylvia. Only my oldest son has met my mother, and even he was too young to remember her. My father died when I was 12, and a tight budget has prohibited a family trip to my childhood home in New York, so they have never met his family. They know only because I tell them often that their broad shoulders, deep laugh, full lips, creativity, and gentle spirit come from my father and his brothers, tall handsome black men, descendants of slaves and sharecroppers who were raised in my grandfather’s Baptist church in Harlem.

The story of Sweetwater is their story, and as I sit in the car staring at the sign, I share it with my children. I tell them about how my parents drove through this town, on their way from California to New York in my Daddy’s brand new Cadillac. When they got to Sweetwater, they were warned that my mother should sit in the back seat, and pretend that my father was her chauffeur. I know that for my three sandy haired, vanilla latte boys raised near a military base in the “New South”, the version of reality in my story is more distant and harder to imagine than Harry Potter’s Diagon Alley.

Obama will be the first president in the conscious memory of my six year old. Hip Hop is the universal language of music for my preteen and his peers. My high school son’s friends think his dreadlocks are just a really cool hair style. The Civil Rights movement is something that happened a long time ago, even before their mom was born. Beyond the fact that no one they know actually attended a legally segregated school, they have no idea what it is like to be the only child of color in their class. Forget about “Whites Only” signs. They have never experienced the stares and the weird feeling like we got from the waitress when my brother and I went to the “wrong” restaurant with my mother. I have never had to play Nina Simone and explain why they weren’t invited to a birthday party sleep over. I have never had to warn them why it’s not a good idea to stop and get gas in certain small towns. Although I am eternally grateful for this, and for the fact that my family can without thought stop at any gas station along the highway, even in the smallest of Texas towns; I am also thankful for the gentle reminder that came with that Sweetwater sign.

I am also thankful

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Potter's Tell

It was a dark and stormy night…Just kidding (although it really was, lol!). The rain was the reason we didn’t head home after the midwife told us that I was not in labor. There were no more clients at the birthing center so she told us we could hang out there until the rain subsided. She lived just five miles away so she bid us adieu. I wouldn’t have driven all that way (again) to the birthing center if I didn’t believe that (this time) I really was in labor.

I sat in the darkened room confused and disappointed. Granted, this was my first drug free birth, although not my first baby, but just because I wasn’t screaming and writhing in agony didn’t mean that I wasn’t in a lot of pain.

My husband was stretched out on the bed, peacefully snoring. I was flitting from chair to chair to bed trying to find a perch that was comfortable. FYI, no such place exists when you are nine months pregnant.

The pains increased but the time between them remained steady at about two minutes or so. I didn’t want to wake my husband up if there was nothing he could do; we had spent all of the previous night and early morning in the emergency room for one of our other children. We were all exhausted. As it got closer to 11 pm, I found myself increasingly paralyzed by the contractions. My stomach was queasy. If this WASN’T labor, something else was wrong so I shook my husband awake.

“Call the midwife,” I panted. “I feel so sick.” I motioned for the wastebasket and he got it to me just in time. Exhausted from the sleepless night and morning, the contractions and the vomiting, I dragged myself to the bathroom, while my husband nervously paced around calling the midwife who instructed him to call the birthing assistant.

Perched on the toilet, I could barely hear him, but I felt relief for the first time in hours. It seemed to me that for whatever reason, that position took away the pain. I sat in the cool darkness of the bathroom, eyes closed, breathing deeply, grateful for the reprieve.

My husband flew into the bathroom, phone in hand. “Get off the toilet, now!” he bellowed. I was startled but resolute. “No, this is a good spot for me,” I assured him.

“You have to get off!” he said frantically.

“I’m not moving,” I murmured. “This feels OK.”

“Get off the pot now!” he shouted, tugging on my arms to pull me up. I plopped down. “You are having the baby now!” he said.

I remember thinking, “I think I’d know if I was having a baby.” But to humor him and reassure myself, I reached down for a quick feel.

Sure enough there was what could only be, a head.

My husband pulled me up and tried to lead me to the bed. I could only make it a few steps before the overwhelming urge to push came over me.

“I can’t do it. And I have to push….”

My husband dropped to his knees, his hands outstretched. “I see her,” he said. “Push again.”

And there she was, so tiny, in his giant hands.

There we were. Me, him, and her.

There was no sound. The room was dim. Her eyes, as they are now three years later, huge. She looked at us, still having not uttered a sound.

I wanted to make sure she was breathing so I poked her. She let out single momentary wail. We grabbed the sheet from the bed to wrap her in and looked at each other in wonder as we waited for the midwife. I stepped over the cord still attached to me and sat on the bed next to my husband and our brand spanking new daughter. We barely spoke save for giddy nervous laughter and the occasional “wow.”

When the midwife arrived some ten minutes later, the place was aflutter with activity. Lights flipped on, she barked instructions to the birthing assistant and to me. My husband caught my eye and we locked in on each other.

This was not how we envisioned the birth of our child, but it was perfect. When I think back on that day, and I often do, the quiet envelops me. I see her serene precious face and the awe in my husband’s face. On that day, we were immersed in God’s splendor and fully present for his wonder.

immersed in God's splendor

Thursday, June 16, 2011

The Saving Suicide Scene

“We rarely do the suicide scene. It only works if we have an overly dramatic actress,” my brother in law said when I asked him which acting parts are available in our church drama. He wasn’t supportive of me auditioning for the play, but I knew this one was set up by a Heavenly Agent.

When I heard Reality Ministries was coming back to our church to put on the drama 'Heaven’s Gates and Hell’s Flames' I trembled with excitement. I had always loved acting and was disappointed that my night shift job had kept me from being in the play the other times we did it. But this time I had a day job that would allow me to participate.

However less than a month before the production came to our church, I changed jobs and found myself back on the night shift with no promise of getting time off. So I prayed, “Lord, if You want me to do this as much as I want it, You’ll have to do something about the schedule.” Then I left it at that.

My first answer to prayer came when I ended up with a week of daytime orientation that happened to be during the exact week the drama was at our church. My evenings were free. So there I was reading lines for a part in the play. The directors took a lunch break and asked us to pray that they would cast the right people in the right parts. So we did.

After lunch they began handing out scripts, calling us by name. But each time they didn’t say my name, my heart sank a little deeper. “Lord, if all you want me to do is pray for the others I would be glad to do that. Sad, yes, but willing to…”

My second answer came as a voice broke through my silent prayer. “Pam, the suicide scene.” As the director handed me my script, I cringed, “Does that mean I am overly dramatic?”

I read the script to myself and threw it down. “Oh no, no way, I am NOT doing this scene,” I muttered. My heart pounded and my hands grew sweaty. The character was a lady who had become an alcoholic causing her husband to leave her for another woman. Desperate and broken, she rejected Jesus and pleaded for her husband to come back. When he wouldn’t she decided to let him live with the guilt of her suicide. This scene was much too familiar. It hit too close to home. Icouldn’t do it.

Nearly eleven years ago I had been rejected and abandoned by my husband. I had tried hard to deal with the hurt and anger on my own. I thought maybe I was over it all, but as I read the lines, that hurt and anger resurfaced and I wept. Ready to quit, a silent tugging at my heart caused me to persist. I knew my Heavenly Agent had picked exactly the right part for me, I just wasn’t sure why.

I soon found out. When I went onstage to perform, I became the woman in the play. I wasn’t me anymore but a character in a play.

As I screamed, cried and delivered my lines, something miraculous happened. A warm, soothing balm flowed over my aching heart as I recited the words on my script: “I don’t want Jesus, I want Mike back.” I instantly realized I no longer felt that way. I didn’t want the man who had hurt me; I wanted Jesus! Amazing. My heart didn’t hurt as much.

How could it be that in the eight minutes it took to perform my small part in a church drama that God would instantly heal a broken heart I had tried for 11 years to fix myself?

Simple: I prayed. God answered.

instantly heal a broken heart

Thursday, June 9, 2011

Simple Minds - Alive And Kicking

The Student is The Teacher

“Real success is finding your lifework in the work that you love." --David McCullough

The quote above sums a lot of what my story is about and that is finding my passion in work. I still don’t know what I want to do. Well… if I were honest with myself, I probably do know. I just don’t feel at peace with it yet. I still can’t believe that I am suppose to be a teacher. Most people would say that this is noble profession and well-appreciated. On good days, I feel that way. On bad days I say to myself, “I could be making so much more money and still get the same amount of job satisfaction.”

I think I am a teacher because of a combination of my personality, my God-given gifts, and my environment. On good days, I am thankful that God made me who I am. I can’t imagine being anything else. On bad days, I wish I had the creative gifts to be an artist, jewelry designer, or even a gift shop owner. Those jobs just sound more fun to me. How cool would it be to wake up each day and create a necklace or painting? The problem - I lack the gifts and personality to make it happen successfully. Instead, God gave me humbleness, patience, understanding, empathy, knowledge-seeking, and problem-solving skills. Great, these are perfect for a teacher. So, why can’t I be at peace with this?

At the root of the problem is probably my upbringing. No, I am not going to blame my parents. They were fine. The problem is that I grew up the majority of my life in an upper-middle class neighborhood where people looked at houses, cars, and clothes. They were important and reflected status. We always belonged to a country club. My sisters and I knew how to behave in social settings. It was important to make a good impression. Parts of my family are still this way. I am not this way anymore. It creates too much drama and makes me discontent with what I do have. Also, being a teacher doesn’t allow for much of this.

How does this relate to me not knowing what I wanted to do when I grew up? Because I spent the majority of my young adulthood not focusing on what I was good at or trying to find what I was good at. Instead, I spent the majority of my time thinking, “What could give the most money? How can I maintain the lifestyle my mom and dad gave me?” Instead of taking liberal arts classes, I would take business classes. I hated them. I hated economics, finance, business math, and accounting. I hated going to school. I did poorly. Instead of saying to myself, “Hey, this isn’t your strength. You should reconsider.“ I said, “Hey, you are not very smart. You need to try harder.” At one point, I considered switching majors to education. My dad talked me out of it. He said that was a “Gee whiz” job. So, I stuck out business. I got my degree in Marketing and never used it.

During my last two years at college, I interned at General Motors. I did this during the summer. I made a lot of connections. Can you believe that when I graduated I never contacted them for a job!? I never ever contacted them. Why? At the time, I just said “I don’t want to move to Michigan.” Oh really, Michelle. You don’t want a well-paying job at a big company. I guess not. But, I thought I did. Isn’t that why I chose a business major? Isn’t that why I even wasted two summers interning? Now, I am not going to try and get a job there? What sense did that make? Wow - I was really screwed-up.

After college and for the next three years after that, I worked at the following places: a retail store, a downtown catering business, a hospice, a personnel company, and a software company. And guess what? I hated all of my jobs for one reason or another. I didn’t hate my job at the computer company as much as I was so VERY bored with it.

What finally changed? Two things happened in my life. I was commuting to work one day. I was stuck in Houston traffic on the way to work and I said to myself, “Why I am doing this? I don’t even want to go to work. It is meaningless and boring. I need a job that has more meaning to it. What could that be?” So, while I was stuck in traffic I began to play the “What job would I still want to do even if I won a million dollars?” The answer was teacher. The seed had been planted as well as another one. I found out I was pregnant with my daughter. It was time for me to figure this whole work thing out. I wanted to be settled so that I could care for her and be of sane mind. When I decided to just become a teacher, I felt an overwhelming sense of peace inside. After Alexis was born, I went back to school. It was a program for people who already had degrees but wanted to be a teacher. It was called An Alternative Certification Program. After one year of course work, I was able to get a job being a teacher. I still had to finish a year of teaching so I was on a probationary period where I still had to met regularly with the school professor.

The problem was that I started my teaching career in the hardest of all possible schools. I didn’t even have a chance to catch my breath before I was dealing with problems and issues that I didn’t even know existed. It was tough to say the very least. After three years, I had to leave the school; too much heartache and drama. The next 4 years have been better, much better. Without me realizing it, I have become a language arts guru. I didn’t plan on this. I never woke up and said, “Hey, I see this need and I am going to fill it.” I just did what was required of me and somehow, BAMM, I am considered the one to go to for language arts.

One would think this would be the end of my story, I have a job that allows me to spend time with my husband and daughter. I get to see my daughter everyday at school and have all holidays off with her. I get to go to Michigan to see my family each summer. But, guess what? I am still not at peace with it. I don’t know why it’s so hard for me to accept that this is my life’s work. It seems too easy. But, it hasn’t been. It’s meaningful. Yes, but the pay is smaller than I’d like and sometimes the parents and students are disrespectful. But, the kids love you and your daughter loves having you at school with her. Yes, but next year, my raise will be $200.00 and I am taking on more duties. How am I going to afford to fix up the backyard? You get to see your sisters and mom every summer for two weeks! Yes, but today Johnny was so difficult to deal with…And the thoughts in my head go on and on and on…

find your lifework 

Thursday, June 2, 2011

The Infinity

The cold misty November morning engulfed us as our pure joyful bliss warmed us to the core. I never even felt the cold around me or the moisture touching my skin as my heart pounded like a big bass drum pumping raw emotion through my body. “Remember your vows! Remember your vows! And for GOD’s sake whatever you do, do NOT be sick from nervousness. Not here, not now.” These thoughts played over and over in my head as the time got closer for us to bring this entire relationship to fruition. I heard the words coming from the minister as I held my bride’s hands tightly. She is a cool, calm and collected customer to most but I know her better than most. I could feel her nerves through her fingertips and could notice the rhythm of her heart beating intensely through her blouse. Yeah, I felt a little more at ease knowing she was just as excited and as nervous as I was; one more thing that we seemed to be in sync with. The perfect bride on a perfect day; what could possibly go wrong? Just then, it was time for me to recite my vows. I gathered my emotions and opened my mouth but I paused for what seemed to be an eternity. “Oh my GOD, I think I forgot what I am supposed to say!” As I thought of what to say, my entire time with this phenomenal woman replayed in my head at the speed of a hummingbird’s wings. It was almost like those stories you hear of people saying about their lives flashing before their eyes in split seconds but feeling like it lasted forever. Time paused for a moment as I saw, US.

January 18th, 2010. Another MLK Holiday to most people but for me it was also another work day. The office was quiet and I was the only one there. I got my systems up and running and was ready for another awesomely, exciting day as a real time energy trader. Ok, so that was a weak attempt at sarcasm but I think we all can relate to a job we do really love but have some boring days we try to make more exciting. Anyhow, everything was running smoothly and the TV showed nothing but boredom. I decided to do what most of us U.S. workers do at work, yep that’s it; I logged into facebook.

I had been on for a few minutes when I found myself on a friend’s page commenting on a thread. As I read through various comments, I noticed responses within the thread left by this gorgeous woman. She had eyes that were so deep that her picture appeared to look right into me. “Who is this beautiful woman?” I thought to myself. I had to attempt to at least find out a little more about her as my curiosity peaked. I posted on a common thread. You know; to be cool about it and not seem “stalkerish.” One of my phones rang as I had to do the old work thing for a few minutes. All the time I kept checking back to see if there was a reply. A few minutes later there was a message awaiting my response on my facebook chat from this woman who had instantly intoxicated me with her essence. Literally I thought to myself; “OH SHIIIIIIII*!!!”

We chatted getting to know each other for a few minutes. “A few minutes???” It was more like we chatted the entire day away. It was almost ten straight hours of chatting back and forth getting to know each other; finding out that we both were in parallel lives going through breakups of equally dissatisfying marriages. We discovered that we grew up less than ten minutes away from each other and shared a ton of friends from the same high school. Hell I know I had said that the year 2010 would be a serious year of change but I had no idea what was about to happen to my life.

We spent the next month chatting back and forth online via facebook and skype as well as lengthy phone conversations before we decided to meet up face to face to really see how things would progress. I was seriously excited. I mean for me that was a big thing because in my first marriage I had grown to become almost robotic with no emotions involved other than anger. On my way to meet her, I felt my heart beating and my palms getting sweaty. Hell I felt like a high school boy going on his first date and not knowing how to act. This woman enticed my senses into an awakening of sorts; and I loved every moment of it.

I got to her place and nervously I approached the door. I dried my palms and took deep breaths. I did the “smellit” test. You all know what that is, right? Cup your hand and blow your breath into it covering your nose to see if you can “smellit.” It was all good. Now it was time to make this happen. I knocked on the door and took another deep meaningful breath. A second or two passed before the door began to open. Everything suddenly went into slow motion. The door opened and there this woman stood as gorgeous as I could have ever imagined. Her hair was long and perfectly in place. Her smile that was so warm and inviting etched into my mind. Her tall beautiful figure was enough to make a grown man fall to his knees. Luckily for me I was too nervous to fall to my knees or that would have been a disaster. I couldn’t do anything but revert back to what I had done for the previous 16 years of my previous marriage; I acted. I gave her a big hug and walked in and started conversation. We talked like we had talked for the past month. Nothing seems awkward at all. We had great chemistry and everything was going well but something was bothering me. I had it all in my head as to how things would be when we first met and to be honest, this wasn’t how I saw it at all. I had to do something about it. I had to stop acting and be me. It was time for a mulligan of sorts but how in the world do you get a chance to make a first impression, a second time? It was time for the real me to come through and hopefully she would follow along.

I got up and asked her to come to the door for a second. I stepped back outside of the door and told her that I needed to start this over again, so please just bare with me and play along. She stood there with her sly smile on her face and an expression of approval. I think she loved the fact that I was a little nervous and was trying something perhaps she had never experienced. I closed the door; her on the inside and me on the out. I paused and took a deep breath; then ran the “smellit” test again. I knocked on the door with a little more confidence and determination that I knew was inside me waiting to come out

This time when the door opened, I walked up close to her assuring to purposely get into her space and have her in mine. We looked into each other’s eyes deeply with full meaning and really SAW each other. We got closer and closer as I could feel the vacuum of our passion sucking every bit of noise and motion completely out of the room. Our lips touched and it was everything I imagined and much more. We kissed passionately exploring each other as if we already knew every little aspect of each other’s mouth. I backed her against the wall and held her hands in mine extended tall above our heads assuring that our lips never lost contact. I have to admit I had never kissed anyone with this much passion. All I can say is it took this phenomenal woman to bring it out of me. We slowly backed our lips away from each other’s slowly while staring into each other’s eyes. Both of us gasping for breath as this kiss really gave our cardiovascular systems a good work out. We smiled with serious approval at each other and giggled with excitement as we gathered our things to head to a nice dinner together.

From that night on, we counted the minutes until we could see each other again. It was a reoccurring thing each and every week. I looked forward to seeing her every time I was off from work. It was almost like the anticipation of a long needed vacation every few days. I worked and lived in Austin TX as she did the same in Houston. Luckily I have a work schedule that afforded us plenty of time to share with each other. Weekly trips back and forth kept our passion growing beyond our wildest dreams. It wasn’t very long into our growing relationship that I knew that this woman would indeed be my wife one day.

We committed ourselves to each other in our relationship and searched for a way to solidify it. We did this by deciding to get a tattoo that represents us. We wanted something to signify our infinite love and respect for one another. We decided on an infinity symbol to be tattooed on our wrists. It was perfect! Now not only could we feel our love within each other, but we could also see it physically on each other. The infinity symbol was now us. It was our way of saying and showing what we felt for one another. We continued to say “I love you” to each other but it just never really expressed our feelings to each other in its totality. Now, we had a word that was ours to fully explain to one another our true love and respect for each other. INFINITY!

We spent the spring and summertime planning all kinds of events to see how we would be able to work as a family. After all, we both had kids from our first marriages. The key would be to see how they (the kids) would all get along. The kids loved the thought of their possible additional siblings. They played hard, they all ate hard and they all fought hard. It was comical seeing the little spats followed by intense play sessions. As the summer passed, they all became inseparable. Everything was going perfectly. Our passion grew stronger and stronger and our kids noticed every bit of it. The “married” comments started to be tossed around by the kids as they expressed their interest in us being married and becoming a family.

By September 2010 we were both finally divorced from our first marriages and engaged to be married to each other. Talk about a whirl wind romance. Everything happened at such a fast pace that it was PERFECT for us. We knew exactly what we wanted in our soul mate and we had found those qualities within each other to share it with. We decided we would be married in Houston and we selected Nov ember 13th to be our special day. Only our really immediately close family members knew the date as we preserved the actual ceremony to be shared with our kids. We decided it would be perfect to keep it really low keyed and to have our kids in the ceremony being we were uniting us all to become one family.

It was exciting picking out colors for the kids to wear and organizing our small ceremony that we were in control of. No pushy family members telling us what we should do or where. No friends telling us when or how big it should be. This was just me and my bride calling all the shots on the joining of our family to become one. I loved every second of this planning and the anticipation of being able to share every day of the rest of my life with my best friend. I bubbled over with joy finally realizing that this entire year was real and was blossoming into what I thought I would never ever feel in life; true love.

We pretty much had everything set and ready to go by the middle of October. We still had three to four weeks remaining before the big day. The time on the clock started to move slower and slower. The previous seven months had flown by so fast and now time was moving as slow as it possibly could. We continued to enjoy each other every week as we had done since first meeting in person in February. It was pretty amazing realizing that once we met in February we hadn’t missed one week of seeing each other. Our dedication and initiative was strong in moving us to travel to each other every single week without fail to just simply be in each other’s presence. This had to be fate.

I woke up that November morning in the same manner as I had so many mornings before. My beautiful lady by my side, the birds chirping outside the window and the hustle and bustle of the kids running through the place playing as hard as they possibly could. As much as I tried to tell myself this was another day to just be with my best friend, my body knew that so much more was about to happen in a few hours. 30 minutes later we were in full preparation mode. The girls were getting their hair ready and getting dressed. I once again was reciting my vows to myself flawlessly but still feared I would forget them under the pressure of having to say them when it counted. Time picked up her pace and started to fly by now. It seemed as though it were only minutes before we were all in the car and on the way to unite as husband, wife and family.

We selected the Houston water wall as our location to be married. It is a beautiful structure that stands tall with lots of straight lines that demands your attention with its beauty within its fluidity throughout itself. The perfectly manicured grass running long ways to the base of the steps to the wall gave the structure depth that would make for awesome photo opportunities. The mist in the air softened the pictures to give them a cloud like appearance that added another layer of beauty to be seen. It was the perfect place for us. I wasn’t nervous one bit as we approached the wall with our minister and meeting our friends there to witness the ceremony. There was lots of laughter and anticipation of the event. Smiles were on everyone’s faces as we approached hand in hand, eyes clear and hearts full ready to take the next step into our beautiful relationship. Today was our future and we gladly welcomed her with open arms.
We took our places and took a deep breath as we began our ceremony. I heard the words being said as if they were raining down upon me from the sky. I stared off in the distance at the Williams Tower and the sky as I tried to take in the moment hoping I would never forget what I am seeing and feeling at this moment as long as I shall live.

Time paused for me so that I could take this all in. It was as if everything stood still for the opportunity for me to study it all. I stood away from myself to look at us. We are so happy and blessed. Our kids were full of smiles and excited to become brother and sisters. Our friends were beaming with joy as they had witnessed our relationship explode from the very beginning and couldn’t be happier at the outcome.

My beautiful wife stood there looking at me and it melted my heart. Her eyes explained every emotion she was feeling and she for once and for all was not afraid to let it show to anyone that noticed. She is reserved that way in being private and not to let too many people into her world of what she is thinking. Today was not such a day as she let her thoughts be seen proudly. She is the most beautifully amazing, phenomenal woman I have ever met and God has so blessed me to be her husband. Me? Of all the men on the planet, it was me that she had chosen. Eat your hearts out fellaz!!!

Again, I stood there seeing us when all of a sudden I felt my heart pounding and could finally see motion and hear sound again. I stood there looking at the minister as she expressed with her eyes that it was my turn to say something. I finally snapped back to myself and realized I was standing there with my mouth open replaying the past ten months in my head awaiting the words to come out. My vows to my new wife were supposed to come out and I had paused to take in the moment. Finally I began.

“I come here today before our family and friends to give myself to you. Our hand in hand and heart to heart, I promise to always love you. I promise to always respect you as an individual. I promise to always remain faithful to you. With you I will walk my path understanding our strengths and learning from them as well as recognizing our weaknesses and overcoming them together. On this day and every day, I choose you; Jeanne-Marie Listl to be my wife.” The vows started to come out of me with no hesitation except for an occasional dramatic pause as I fought off emotions trying to make me cry. I mean I could never do that. I am way too “RTD” (rough, tough and dangerous) for all that to happen (wink). I completed my vows and took a deep breath as my body just wanted to collapse with raw emotion exhausting me. Jeanne said her vows back to me and made me excited with the thought that we were moments from becoming husband and wife.

We placed our rings on each other’s fingers as we beamed with joy. After hearing “You may now kiss your bride,” we embraced for the most loving kiss that I have ever experienced in my life. We were now husband and wife. And I couldn’t be any happier in my life.

It has now been a couple of months since that wedding day and we are now living together in Austin, Texas. The kids are adjusting quite well and really enjoying every moment they have together. We’ve even enrolled them in soccer and are awaiting the upcoming soccer season in a few weeks.

Happiness is something that I thought happened to other people. It took me a long time to realize that we are those “other” people. Happiness is ours to have but we have to accept it and run with it when given the opportunity. We ran with our opportunity and it has become our infinity. Most stories of this nature are written in an anonymous fashion but I love this woman so much, that I don’t care who hears or reads our story.

I hope that we continue to inspire people as many have come to us saying that our story has touched them in many different ways. One thing I can say is that I, Alton Matthews, love my wife, Jeanne-Marie Matthews and she is definitely my INFINITY!!!


The love that we share knows no bounds. Saying “I love you” never will do our feelings true justice.

Together we will make history as our hearts beat as one. Living, laughing and enjoying our lives is our priority.

As we continue to love each other forever, our love is our “Infinity.”

Alton and Jeanne

November 13, 2010

Update: We often give the kids a chance to tell us what they would like to do for a day or a weekend or whatever, so a recent trip to Target for shopping was a kid’s outing for us. We strolled through the store while the kids looked for items to buy with their gift money. Shoes, toys, toys and oh yeah, TOYS!!! We strolled from one section to another when I heard our youngest saying something to Jeanne. As we continued on I heard “tell daddy” from Jeanne to our little one. The pitter patter of little steps fast approached me from behind before I felt a tug on my hand. I looked down to a beaming face with a big smile, minus a few baby teeth. I mean this child really knows how to work her cuteness. She gives you just the right look and just the right tone to often get her way and whatever she wants. She cleared her throat and in her “I’m going to get what I want” tone, these words rolled off her tongue and through her lips; “Daddy? I want a little brother…”

happiness is ours to have; we got this!