The Gravity of Granting Permission.

Father's Day DadI’m not one to write a post for a particular day such as Easter, Thanksgiving, or Christmas, and especially not Father’s or Mother’s Day. I don’t even acknowledge it on Facebook or change my profile picture to include the appropriate parent.

I know – I‘m a social media pariah.

I get my cynical anti-bandwagon genetic makeup from my father. He and I are very much alike – we don’t express our deep sentiments too freely and especially not in public.

So the fact that I’m about to actually write a Father’s Day post should be noted as monumental. And also should not be expected to have a sequel. Ever. But I was overcome this morning with the urge to tell one story.

I got engaged at 18, and we set our wedding date for six months later when I would be the seasoned age of 19.

Chris had not only asked my Dad’s permission to marry me (and endured two weeks of complete silence before he received an answer), but had also asked his permission to date me a year earlier. Or, as he worded to my dad, “May I date your daughter with the intention of marrying her?”

Upon that first questioning, after spending an afternoon mulling over his own opinion (we’re also both mullers), Dad came to me and said “I’m fine with it, but do you want to date him? Because if you don’t I’ll tell him no and then you won’t have to do it.”

I had known I was going to marry Chris for at least three months (way before Chris realized it), so I was agreeable to date the guy. But I was fairly surprised that my Dad was skippy about the whole thing – after all, he’d spent seventeen years frightening away any potential suitors with his intimidating silence and vague illusions to loaded weapons. I’d never dated anyone, and Chris, although fantastic in every way, was twenty-three years old. A freaking adult.

But this story happened after the second permission granted by my Dad, and after Chris and I got engaged.

Within a month, I started battling crippling anxiety. The kind that would make me have to leave work because I couldn’t quit crying. I realized that this anxiety was centralized around my upcoming wedding when I couldn’t sleep one night until I hid my veil in the closet.

Being an analytical person, I had to understand why, because I certainly wanted to marry Chris with all my heart. I began to realize that I was terrified of making this decision. Nineteen-year-old me loved Chris and desperately wanted to be with him. However, this was a decision – the decision above all decisions – that would affect the rest of my life. What made me qualified to make this decision for every other iteration of me that there would ever be? And most crucially, was I absolutely positive that this was God’s will for my life? Because above everything, that was what I needed to know – the assurance that I was entering into this because God wanted me to, and not just because I selfishly desired it. If I had that, then I knew the future would be okay.

It was October, my wedding was in March, and during the next two months my anxiety steadily increased. I went from being a nearly unemotional person to a constant mess. And when I wasn’t anxious, I was anxious about becoming anxious. I told my parents and Chris about my inner struggle. I prayed. I cried. I searched the scriptures for reassurance. But God was silent.

Chris, meanwhile, was terrified, although he didn’t tell me this for several years. On the outside he was supportive and steady, but he thought I was working toward breaking up with him.

My anxiety ruined the holidays for me, and nearly halted my wedding planning because thinking about it filled me with an unbearable fear. (Maybe that’s why I was still arranging my cake plan forty days beforehand.)

Finally, on the evening of New Year’s Day, I broke down with my parents. In between ugly, hiccuping sobs, I told them, “I just need to KNOW. I need to know that this is the right decision! I can’t keep going on like this.”

And my Dad, who had always been reserved with his words and certainly had never shown any glee about giving his only daughter to another man, said,

“Look at me. You know how long I’ve prayed about this and that I spent two weeks agonizing over it before I gave Chris permission to ask you. Do you really think that I would have said yes if I wasn’t absolutely convinced that it was God’s will for you?”

The effect was immediate.

The burden disintegrated and I knew with my entire heart that he was right. This was the word that I had been looking for, assurance that I wasn’t even sure was possible, and now I was completely confident in my decision.

Although I still struggled with chemical anxiety until after the wedding, it had nothing to do with the upcoming marriage. My assurance never faltered again, and I was able to enter into marriage with an undoubting heart that was full of anticipation and joy. And my Dad seemed pretty happy, too.

Wedding Picture With Dad

In the thirteen years that have followed, I have never, ever questioned my decision.

Because of the gravity my Dad took in helping me make that crucial choice, I now have a magnificent father for my own children – a father who takes on their upbringing with just as much passion and responsibility.

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(And a good bit of whimsy.)

So for all of the times that my Dad scared the crap out of me about associating with unsavory men (geez – I got grounded one time just because I was with my older brother and he didn’t call before we went somewhere else, so there was no way I was going to hang out with anyone worse than a not-call-homer), I am eternally thankful.

It was never many words, but the ones he did say shaped the rest of my life.

A Tiny Writer’s View of Her Year.

For her past five birthdays, I’ve been writing her birthday posts for her.

But she’s seven today. And after keeping a diary for over a year, Ali is now a prolific writer (and, as the year went on, became a creative illustrator) in her own right.

(After all, she did tell the bat story better than me.)

So I felt it only fair to let her write this year’s recap herself, with some of my favorite pages out of her diary – giving a somewhat three-dimensional view of the growth of the world in her eyes and mind.

January 2013

01
She had a great birthday. And fell in love with the Curlz Font.

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She also vlogged with friends and lost body parts.

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we mad vidios
I lost my secint toth.

And her flood renovations made progress.

IMG_6382(I totally think that awesome should be spelled “osm” all the time. Because in the south, awesome often rhymes with possum.)

February 2013

02

Some things don’t deserve deeper explanation. Or an osm.

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She got to help my Mom with her Valentine’s Cubbies Party. It was marginally exciting.

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March 2013

03

Her ballet career seemed to be waning.

IMG_6388Today is ballat day today.
O. I am not exided.
Basids hers the box for it.

(A checked box is certainly the ultimate mark of sincerity.)

April 2013

Her recital dress and makeup(!!) helped rekindle her excitement – at least for a day.

04

And the prospect of Spring rejuvenated her.

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May 2013

05

Her renovations were complete, and she approved of her new flooring pattern.

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June 2013

06

After finishing a long year of Kindergarten, we took a complete educational break. As such, no entries were made in June.

July 2013

07

She realized the fun of illustrating for the first time, as well as in-text sticker placement.

IMG_6391We went to the bech.
And playd seshels.
And more.

August 2013

08

We took a trip to the neighboring states of Jorja and Tinase/Tinasy, started school, and had a couple lazy diary entries.

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September 2013

09

She realized that it’s much more fun to illustrate your brother going to the doctor than yourself.

IMG_6393Today we did math handwriteng rideng 1C helth and histore.
Noah hed to go to the doctor today.

October 2013

10

Ali had fonder memories of the pumpkin patch disaster than I. And also remembered the pumpkins to be quite larger than reality.

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She lost her head over a long day.

IMG_6398Friday me and Daddy went to Daddy’s work together!
It was fun!!! Then me and Daddy went to chocy ches and at pizza.
Then came home and watcht a movee for playtim.
Satrday me and Daddy went to football!
Today we went to Kids Church.
Lolng Day.

(For the record, that was the weekend that Noah and I went out of town. Hence the only reason she got to go to Chuck E. Cheese again.)

She illustrated my sunset stalking.

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And depicted perfectly the pastime of meeting new neighbors.

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And she depicted me rather creepily giving out candy to children at Trunk and Treat.

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But her biggest leap forward in October was the ability to portray suspense and intrigue.

IMG_6416Today suprise!
Mommy tacs us to lunch with……
Daddy!!
And and we get sucrs.
Then we go to Micls
And I spind my alawins.

November 2013

11

We had a school field trip where we got to meet our favorite weatherman, James Spann,

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In her illustration of our field trip, Ali gave James Spann a generous amount of hair (because he told them it hurt his feelings when people made fun of his lack of hair), and apparently all of the children dressed identically and clapped manically.

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In “A Christmas Story”, Xed out eyes meant death. In Ali’s stories, they apparently mean intense excitement.

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She also reported on the fact that on some days, our house is a revolving door.

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Also? Compared to January’s entries, she got a LOT more loquacious.

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Wensday we went to Nabeel’s.
We hed Thanck’sgiving.
Shosday we watcht the parade!
The day before that
we made plasmats!
hehehehe that rims. hahahaha.
We helpet Daddy with Crist-mas lights!
Amanda helpet with decorating the Christmas tree!
We hed a fotball party and Grandmamma Pop and Nick came to our home!
We went to Church Sunday and we had a difrint Daily News!
Jessy came Monday to babbysit.
Today Gramamma is cuming during qiit time cus she neds my help with cubes craft’s.
he hu ha he he.

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December 2013

12

She accurately depicted our family portraits, but conveniently leaving out the fact that she dirtied her knees before a single shot was taken.

IMG_6430Today we get pictshr and if we be good we get my 4th favrite candy…
sawer-patch!!!
Eneyway
on with the story.
To um yestorday
Noah did not want to try my
that rims te he
So my 4th favrit food and got as dancing.

I’m sure all of that made perfect sense to her.

Anyway, on with the story.

Most of her posts in December had to do with candy.

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Or candy and TV. Because I’m the best of Moms.

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I felt like her illustration of Santa was on par with the actual events,

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And her excitement over her brother’s birthday was quite touching.

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But her real illustrative talent didn’t show through until this extraordinarily graphic entry. Which is my favorite diary entry in the history of the world.

IMG_6446Today Mommy me and Noah feel sooo sick.
I relley did not feel like eating and I did not eat much.
I pewey! I jest hed a big toot.
Mommy lad dawn a lot.
And Noah has big poop’s.

(Dear Sixteen-Year-Old Ali: Let the record reflect that I had your full permission to post these entries.)

(And you were quite proud of them.)

She did a great job of portraying mine and Chris’ great illness in both font, picture, and her spelling of Saturday.

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And she continued documenting as my illness wore on. I told you I’ve always cried ugly.

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But thankfully, everyone found the joy in their hearts in time for Christmas.

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Happy Birthday, dearest Ali, and thank you for chronicling the year with more flair than I could ever hope to have.

The Date, The City, The Cure.

Any date that contains a moment like this is clearly a most remarkable one.

Birmingham, After the Storm

But it didn’t start out that way.

On Thursday, I was fighting a losing battle with anxiety. Thanks to my over-analytical personality (disorder), anxiety is something that I struggle with in varying intensities from time to time. And it’s not like I had anything legitimate to be anxious about – my mind was just set on being anxious. And every time I solved its problem, the stupid thing would latch onto something else that wasn’t worthy of worry.

At some point in the afternoon as I was praying through Philippians 4:6-7, I realized that I was really good at the NKJV translation of the first part of that passage: “Be anxious for nothing.”

Yup, that was me. Super anxious, and for nothing.

I needed to move onto the ESV translation: “Do not be anxious about anything.”

To give myself something to look forward to and focus on, I texted Chris and asked him out on a date for the next night. He agreed, then immediately seized the planning.

He wanted to take a ten mile walk. And eat casually afterward (while still sweaty). And did I mention ten miles??

He’s been wanting to take me on a walking tour of his favorite running route for a while, and although I did want to see it, the idea of walking ten miles did not sound like the date I was looking for.

But I recognized that sometimes he knows what I need better than I do (and I didn’t have a better idea,) so I agreed to his plan and mentally prepped myself for passing out somewhere atop Red Mountain.

But it rained, stormed, and flash-flooded all morning Friday. I second-guessed his usually immaculate planning.

Text

As Chris arrived home and the babysitter settled in, the sun came out for the first time, giving the wet world a beautiful glistening shimmer while leaving it oddly cool for an Alabama June.

We started out at Jemison Park, and I was once again feeling anxious – and feeling anxious about feeling anxious on our date.

Chris let me talk it out for the first few minutes of our walk, then he announced that our date would involve a lot of selfies – apparently he wanted to poke a bit of fun at the fact that last weekend, two bloggers he knows well road-tripped together and didn’t take a single photo of themselves.

So I submitted, and we took our first selfie in front of a beautiful landmark: the waterwheel house.

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(Can you see the skepticism in my eyes?)

But it was cheery in a ridiculous sort of way, and so I took off running, surprising myself by not slowing for nearly a mile.

After stopping for a shoe/rock removal,

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we took our next selfie in the Rose Garden at the Botanical Gardens, the sun shining mercifully on our walk.

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Chris then took me on some extraordinarily obscure trails deep in the Gardens. By then, the endorphins were starting to set in (and here I thought I was immune to those,) and I was beginning to understand the brilliance of his plan.

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Anxiety? What anxiety?

Then began the uphill (upmountain, really) trudge. But spotting these stunning hydrangeas (are they hydrangeas? I’m horrible with nature) helped stretch my euphoric attitude.

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We passed through English Village and out the other side as I was starting to pant a bit. My legs ached, but I knew we were almost to the peak of the mountain (and he did promise all downhill at some point,) so I stayed positive.

Until Chris said it.

“Stratford Road is as high as I go on my run, but there’s another road to the left* that’s even higher. Let’s go see what’s up there.”

I mentally calculated that we still had at least 5 miles to walk to get back to the car.

Eek.

But I trusted him (after all, he’d been right so far), and we headed up a winding road.

The houses lining the street had a beautiful Old-Birmingham charm, with overgrown stone paths and paint-chipped wrought iron gates. I was already imagining the family photo shoot we could have on this street. Until we turned the corner.

And all of my thoughts flew away.

My beloved city like I’d never seen her before. Wrapped in Kudzu, covered in a thick blanket of rising mist, and subject to the warm, rich glow of the setting sun.

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Admittedly, my first reaction was “Oh, if it were only a clear day!!”, but then I realized the beautiful effect of the mist, and shut up.

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The houses that were facing the city were nearly as magnificent as the view,

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So I attempted a panorama.

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The kudzu-lined wall was too tempting for me to not experience, so I hopped up.

Then Chris took my phone away and told me to be very, very still. He took two photos with my HDR app – one from each side.

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Birmingham Mist

We knew we had experienced a magical moment with our city, as it was enshrouded in an evaporating storm.

But we didn’t forget to take our selfie – even my index finger got in the action.

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Before we left, I had to sit cross-legged on the wall for a few minutes, taking one more picture, then again immersing myself in the beauty of the moment.

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Meanwhile, Chris was trespassing in the yard above me,

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Once again taking my photo.

Birmingham The City

(This was also when I discovered that Kudzu has its own species of freaky spotless ladybugs – zillions of them on every branch.)

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(It wasn’t long after this discovery that I was ready to move on.)

Our next stop was our traditional city view, Stratford Road:

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(Aren’t our heads so fabulous when masking a beautiful city view? If you want to see the actual view, it’s in Chris’ running post.)

Then Altamont Park, home of the somewhat sketchy cannon aimed at downtown:

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(That’s Chris’ “it’s time for another selfie” expression.)

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And finally, his promise came true: downhill.

Glorious downhill.

Down a windy dangerous hill with no sidewalks, but I didn’t care.

Somebody on that road had a magnificent wooden driveway-bridge over a beautiful creek,

Wooden Bridge

…which screamed for a selfie-stop.

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We made it to Crestline Village, where the most unattractive upshot selfie of all had to take place – for the sake of the Clock Tower.

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(Oh! My Jowls!)

Because of my insistence on having a longer break at the lookout than he planned, the sun was setting fast.

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And the selfies grew in graininess.

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The creepy misty golf course beckoned for a photo op, and was the catalyst of the death of my phone battery.

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The last selfie of the night happened at Mugshots, who blessedly allowed us to eat despite our sweaty, odorous, yet overly-romantic aura.

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Of the ten mile tour, I ended up running about 1.5 miles of it, or 15% of the amount Chris typically runs. My legs still feel like they crossed the Sahara, but my mind is refreshed, and even euphoric.

And it was the best date of my life.

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* I did not include the road name in this post out of respect to its residents. And mainly because I don’t want them to ban us from the street for life. But feel free to ask if you want to visit.