My Dad

In our house everyone alwaNielsen Family 021ys referred to my Dad as Father. Even the Mothers called him Father, at least when us children were around. So it was natural that as a small child of about three years old I thought Father was actually his name. One night as I lay in bed my brother Marcus was in the same room with me. “Want to know a secret?” he asked me.

Yeah

“Father’s name,” he paused for dramatic effect, “isn’t really Father!

You’re lying! I said Yes it is,

Not its Ivan

“Ivan, I said the word over to myself and suddenly had recollections of hearing people call him that. I knew Marcus must be telling me the truth. I felt betrayed. My parents had lied to me and told me that his name was Father. That is one of my earliest recollections about my dad.

I vaguely remember him taking me and my sister Liz to the park next door to our house. I remember having his 50th birthday party and how excited I was for that. I remember him always whistling as he came through the back door after work. I remember him finishing his breakfast in the morning and taking off the bib that he always wore when he ate folding it up and crossing the ties on top. Then he would settle his hat on his head and do a big wave and say see you later alligator! Then he would do a little jig as he walked down through the long kitchen to the back door in the playroom.12303_10150150985230344_1710961_n

My dad rarely if ever spoke of his feelings for us. I don’t think I ever heard him say I love you until just recently. But we all knew. I think every one of us knew without question that he loved us. He was my hero and was and still is in my eyes pretty near perfect. One of my friends, after meeting him, described him as a mix between an apostle and Santa Claus.

One day I was getting ready to go to Japan. In the weeks leading up to my departure it had seemed to me that every time I saw my dad he had something mean to say to me. “Isn’t it almost time that we get to get rid of you?” He would say to me at dinner time.

Or do you think we could pay those Japanese to keep you?”

It hurt my feelings. One day I realized that it was only his way of covering up his tender feelings of love for me and his having a hard time letting me go so far away. I went to the family room where he was sitting in his chair. I sat on the arm of the chair and put my arm around his shoulders. “I’m sure glad that I understand when you say things like that to me that it’s just your way of saying you love me. Otherwise I might get my feelings hurt.” He was quiet for a minute but I saw tears brimming in his eyes. “Yep”, he finally said “its a good thing you know that.”

I remember one day I was throwing a fit of some kind and mother had about had it with me. She took me to Father. “I know exactly what she needs” he said, “she needs a little sugar to sweeten her up.” And he pulled a box of ding dongs from the closet and gave me one. then he let me climb up on the bed next to him and cuddle while we watched tv. 149692_449132820657_467824_n

I think my dad always knew that if he showed me he trusted me my guilty conscience wouldn’t allow me to disappoint him. I loved him so much that the thought of disappointing him was worse than any punishment I could be given.

I was never a touchy feely kind of person. I didnt like hugs except from my dad and because he was the only person that I would accept hugs from I wanted them all the time. He would always ask me how I was doing on getting my quota of hugs for the day. One day I was about 20 years old I was working in the kitchen when my dad came to me. He put one arm on each shoulder and looked me right in the eyes so that he had my full attention. “One day I’m going to die,” he told me. I started to protest but he cut me off. “You will come to my funeral and see me all laid out in the casket in my white clothes.” He walked me through the whole funeral finally he said, ” when you are standing at my grave side I want you to wait and when everyone has gone I will be there and I will give you a hug.”Thats my dad. I love him with everything in me. He is my rock.

1002636_767888493221636_1477277037_nAs I grew up and I made choices different than what he would have wanted me to make I have worried that I would disappoint him. One day we were riding in the car. He had had a stroke and the doctor had told us that he could go at any time. we were driving and he told me ” Im glad that we get to spend some time together, I know ive never said it much but I wanted to make sure that you knew that I love you.”

I do know that. I told him. But I worry that I have disappointed you in some of my decisions.

He knew exactly what I was talking about. Vilate, he said, You decided to be a Mormon, so just be the best Mormon you can be and I will never be disappointed in you. unnamed

AS my dad’s health continued to decline I worried that he would never see me get married, never get to meet my children. But he has continued to hang on, continued to pull out of each stroke that he has had. When he came in the room just an hour or two after my baby was born and held him I thought my heart would burst. When he knocked on my bedroom
door later that night because he wanted to tell us goodnight I was touched at his sweet affection for us. I smiled when he held Preston in his arms and called him puddin head. It had been awhile since I had heard him call anyone that.

I know that one day my dad will leave this life, and leave me behind. But until that day I will enjoy every minute I have with him. I will tell him how much I love him, I will enjoy watching my baby play with him and I will know that when he goes he isn’t very far away. I love you Father!wykDibs6NOvmOTTC3Ie7KV3eCo3zUGcmahsy_M-G4Yk,3dCQrrcEuJYpMAneLr7gi3dqsuzXu7FqPZ6qNxlGerw

 

My Husband

You know when people post those sappy I have the best husband in the world comments on Facebook? yeah this is going to be one of those. So if that’s not really your thing feel free to pass this one by. Last night my husband said some pretty sweet things to me and I wanted to save it somewhere. Since I haven’t really kept a journal anywhere since I started this blog I decided that I want to save that here, share it with any who care to read and also, I know that there are a number of people who have questioned why after only knowing him such a short time I was willing to change my life so dramatically and marry Joseph. This should answer that question.

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Last night as Joseph and I were skyping he saw a picture of one of my friends on Facebook. “You are prettier than she is” he admitted to me. I laughed, “well since I am your wife I’m sure glad you think so I told him”

“No,” he sounded a little defensive, “I’m not saying that because I’m your husband, I’m saying it because it’s true”

“Well, I’m not sure her husband would agree” I answered.

Then I fished a bit for further compliments…because well, I guess I’m just like that.

“So what if you met a girl who is prettier than I am?” I asked him

Of course the correct answer to this is “No one is prettier than you are!” and I would know that it was only half-true, and that he was only saying that because it was in fact the right answer.

But true to the Joseph that I know he didn’t give the right answer, he gave one much better. “well if she was prettier than you I would have to ask myself what she has to offer,” he said.

My feelings started to get hurt…

“I would ask myself, would she be as patient as you have been? Would she be as willing to be a mother? Would she be as supportive of me in my work, my callings, and my dreams? Would she be as good at planning and at conversation as you are? Would she love me and sacrifice for me the way you have. Would she love the Lord as purely as you do? and the answer would always be No.”

I started to interrupt but he stopped me.

“I was promised that I would receive a handmaid of the Lord, and that’s what I got a “hand-made” of the Lord, A girl who was molded and carefully prepared to be perfect for me.”

I wanted to cry. Once again he had given me the perfect answer to a dumb question.

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Communication is sometimes difficult. Cultural and language differences do play a part. Like the time I showed him an adorable little shirt that my sister bought for baby Preston. It said “Chicks dig Chubby Dudes” He didn’t even crack a smile. Don’t you think its cute? I asked,

“well, he responded it is cute. But I want our son to feel proud of himself.”

Or the time that my dad threatened to take me back and keep me as his daughter if Joseph didn’t hurry and come and Joseph thought he was serious.

Sometimes those things are funny, and sometimes through the misunderstanding we hurt each other.

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Joseph and I don’t have a perfect marriage. Before I got married I knew that married couples argued but I couldn’t imagine what there would ever be that I would argue with my husband over. I looked forward to finding out. And boy did I find out! I was surprised at how easy it is to get your feelings hurt when you love someone like you love a husband. I was surprised at how angry I would get over somewhat little things, how sometimes, I would be angry at him just because he wouldn’t get angry back!

It was hard for him to adjust to married life, to not being able to just do what he wanted when he wanted. There were times when I cooked dinner and waited in our empty house alone for hours while the dinner got cold and he didn’t show up. It was hard for me to adjust to someone else having an opinion that mattered, especially when that opinion differed from mine. Marriage is NOT easy.

There were even times when I wondered why I had gotten myself into this.

But I always remembered the answer to that question. It was because I KNEW that Joseph was a good man, who loved the Lord, who was always willing to change, who knew how to say I’m sorry, who was honest with me even when I wasn’t going to like it. I knew I could count on him to lead our family, I knew his devotion to me, to the gospel, and to our marriage was unshakable, I knew that he had similar ideals and standards that I did. I also knew that his dreams, his plans, and his path in life paralleled mine and that we would be better walking that path together than apart.

When I knew that Joseph loved me, I felt that if we married I would be marrying up. I would be marrying someone where I would be getting the better part of the deal. And the best part was that I knew he knew the worst things about me and that in spite of them he felt the same of me. I knew he felt that he was the one actually getting the better part of the bargain.

and so, when he showed he was ready to move forward, by asking me to marry him

and when I felt peace and contentment, trust and respect at the thought of a life with him.

I said yes.

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THIS is how it Should be.

I’ve been feeling sorry for myself lately. Feeling sorry about all the things that I DON”T have. For years now I have been watching my friends and seeing all the things, and opportunities that they have and feeling bad that I haven’t had the same. I had one room-mate who got to participate in all kinds of sports and extra activities throughout college and high school. I did high school alone in my bedroom without even a teacher. Even in college I was supporting myself, working, and couldn’t afford to do anything except just what I needed to do to graduate.

I wished I had, had the same opportunity that she had through those experiences.

I had another room-mate whose parents paid to put her through all of her schooling including graduate school so that she could just focus on classes and grades. She had time to cook meals, sit at home and read books just for fun, and had a nice relaxing schedule with out the stress of worrying about how she was going to make the rent or her car payment. She had money for nice clothes and all the extras.

I wished I had, had that. But I had to accept that my past was different from theirs. My family was different from theirs. And it was ok because I had things they didn’t have. I knew my way around a kitchen because I had done so much cooking when I lived at home. I knew what if felt like to have dozens of brothers and sisters that I would do just about anything for. I had experiences and memories that were different from theirs but no less meaningful. In fact I wouldn’t have traded them for the world.

Know one else got a family like mine.

Know one else got a family like mine.

My family knows how to play together.

My family knows how to play together.

But I thought my future would be different.

One by one I watched my friends get married. They each had the beautiful wedding dresses, were married in the temple, were greeted by cheering family and friends when they came out. They had beautiful receptions and romantic honeymoons. And I thought that one day I would have all of that too.

I imagined myself marrying a handsome, return missionary, with a degree, and a good job. I imagined settling into our own home and starting a family. I imagined Sunday dinner with the in-laws who would probably get on my nerves by being a little too involved in our lives. I imagined coming out of our bathroom one morning and announcing to my husband that we were expecting a baby and seeing the surprise and joy on his face. And it didn’t seem too far out there.

Then I fell in love and got married. I got married in Uganda. No one in my family was present and none of my friends were there. We were married in a chapel instead of the temple because that is the way it is done in Uganda. The wedding, the reception, everything was beautiful and I was so happy but it was nothing like I had imagined.

After the wedding we went back to Joseph’s apartment and he went back to work. There was no honeymoon, in fact in that first week it seemed I rarely saw him before 9 pm. Next thing I knew I was squatting in a dark dingy outhouse trying to pee into a tiny dirty cup while keeping a terrified eye on the many cockroaches by the light that the small crack in the door afforded. I prayed the test would be negative. Not because I didn’t want to be pregnant but because I didn’t want to find out in this way.

“Hey!” the doc shouted from the other room. “Do you guys want to know the results of the test?” Joseph and I stood by expectantly. “It’s negative, there is nothing there.” the doctor said callously. “Now where is my money?”

Joseph paid and we left.

We found out later that we were in fact pregnant and the situation surrounding that test was much better. As I became sick and then returned home to carry the baby and prepare for its birth here I started feeling really bad about all the things that I didn’t have.

I watched my friends with their husbands and it didn’t seem fair. As the pregnancy progressed and I heard the heart beat, saw the ultra sound all with out Joseph, I felt sorry for myself. When I continued to get bigger and the weeks went by one at a time and I realized that Joseph was going to miss all of it. I wanted to cry. When we passed our six month anniversary I felt cheated. I wanted to spend my first year of marriage with my husband. I wanted him to get to experience all these things with me and I wanted time with him before our baby was born. I see my pregnant friends resting and focusing on taking care of themselves and their babies, and I am doing 13 credits of school and working trying to support myself, prepare for our baby, pay visa fees, and plan for our future on my own.

When we were denied the visitors visa and I realized that I would give birth to this baby without him and might not see him in a very long time I felt abandoned and a little angry.

But today I don’t feel any of those things. I realized today that all those things are hard because I am comparing my circumstances to others. I am looking at what other people have and assuming that somehow I deserve the same things. I realized that it’s all part of a package. I can’t demand all the same things my friends had growing up without giving up my own upbringing. And I wouldn’t trade them for the world. All the financial support and extra curricular activities in the world would never match up to what my family gave me.

You can't replace family.

You can’t replace family.

And they mean the world to me.

And they mean the world to me.

I couldn't possibly trade any of it.

I couldn’t possibly trade any of it.

The path I am walking now with Joseph comes as a package as well. Our experiences in Uganda, the sweet love letters that my husband and I write to each other on a regular basis, the strength and experience we have gained from this separation, everything about our marriage and our lives together is ours. It all comes together, the good with the bad.

Joseph and i chose to start a life together.

Joseph and i chose to start a life together.

And when you stop looking at others and thinking about what SHOULD be. You can start to see the beauty of what IS. So when I do see my husband again, and have the opportunity to place our first-born child in his arms, I will know that this is OUR experience and that THIS is how it SHOULD be.

God Bless America

I love America, I always have. I love everything that it stands for. I love the stories of bravery and incredible integrity of those men and women who made America something to be proud of. I love the stories of courage and sacrifice from men and women who understood what it meant to be free both in terms of rights as well as responsibilities. I loved the stories of people who believed that they could stand up against tyranny and succeed. Even when that tyranny came from their own king and country.

I didn’t always appreciate every aspect of it, I didn’t always know just what it meant to have the freedom of the press and just how important that right was. I never really understood the significance of certain laws and rights that I took for granted.

Then I volunteered to spend three months in Uganda, working to help bring jobs, education and better living conditions to single women there and I started to see. I started to gain a deeper understanding of what my country stands for and what those rights means. Mostly I gained an understanding for how important the system is that keeps these rights in check, the systems of law and order that made my world a safe, mostly predictable place to live.

When during that time in Uganda I met and married a Ugandan man, my world changed and my understanding changed with it. Gaining a better understanding of the protections and the rights that I had as  US Citizen, seeing by contrast what his were in his own country scared me. When I returned back to the United States I sobbed when my feet finally touched the ground and I felt a certain peace and security that I had always taken for granted. There is security in knowing that there are laws and rights and resources to go to when laws are broken or questioned. I’ve always felt protected by the system.

We knew when we married that it wouldn’t be easy to get a visa for Joseph. We knew it would probably mean being separated for a time. We did everything we knew to prepare for that and to make it as simple as possible. We crossed every T and dotted every I. I learned more about the immigration laws and system than I ever thought was possible. We were prepared to follow the path, and work through the red tape. We were prepared to utilize every resource at our disposal but we knew that in the end it would be hard. We looked forward with a sigh of sadness and with great excitement to the day that Joseph would leave his own beloved country and become a citizen of the United States. In his words he would be stars and stripes all the way.

When we applied to the United States Embassy in Kampala for a visitors visa so that Joseph could be with me when our baby is born, we were hopeful. The law says that since we had a pending spouse visa it wold be assumed that Joseph intended to stay in the US. That was understandable. Who wouldn’t want to stay with their wife and new-born baby.  We were informed that it would be up to us to prove during an interview that he intended to return. This could be proved by providing documentation showing strong ties to Uganda. Things like family, work, owning property etc. could be used as proof that he would return.

We went to work gathering documents, showing that Joseph owns a business in Uganda, in fact he had just renewed his business license for another year, we gathered documents showing that he was the president of a non-profit organization that provides help for the disabled, we had documents showing that he was contracted to do work for a company for two months following his return to Uganda, he had a speaking engagement scheduled for after his return, he had exams and a letter from a dean at the University stating as much, vouching for his character and recommending that Joseph be given a visa. His entire family is still in Uganda. We were hopeful because we had all the evidence that one could ask for. I sent a letter of invitation and bank statements showing that we could support him while he was here, and just to be sure my parents sent the same as well.

Joseph paid the $160 fee (this amount could easily have paid three months rent for us in Uganda) and excitedly boarded a taxi for the three-hour journey to Kampala to the embassy for his appointment. This visitors visa would give us a chance to spend 90 days together at the time when I would need him most, it would give him a chance to be there when his first-born child, enters this world. It would allow him to hold his new-born son before he is already walking.

His interview lasted all of about 1 min.

The letter denying him the chance to visit had been drafted before he even arrived. You were unable to provide sufficient evidence that you intend to return to Uganda at the end of your visit… was the reason he was given. He protested that he wasn’t given a chance to prove it and was sternly told to leave the embassy NOW! He was told that there could be no appeal, but that he was welcome to reapply if he wanted, he could pay the fee again and see if they would treat him fairly the next time.

As he left the woman’s office he encountered another man in the waiting room ready to fight because he too had been denied a chance to visit his wife who was delivering their child in a months time. He talked to him, calming him down and explaining that fighting would get him nothing. And they left the embassy.

Joseph’s first interaction with the United States government shook his faith in the Land of the Free and the Home of the Brave. He had always seen America as an example to be followed. Democracy, liberty and Freedom as something to aspire to. Now he saw them as predators, stealing from innocent Ugandan civilians their hard-earned money and their hope. He saw them as a land without concern for right or laws.

So, now we wait. we contemplate leaving America to find another country that will allow our little family to be together while we wait for the slow wheels of bureaucracy to turn in our favor. I console myself by knowing that I am not alone in this. How many soldiers wives, give birth alone, in the early days of our church how many missionaries left their wives pregnant and sick to go on missions only to return to a two-year old child and a wife stronger for having had to do so much on her own.

I tell myself these things and yet those women can also tell themselves that their husbands are doing it for a cause. For freedom, for liberty of our country and others, for the eternal welfare of a soul. I get to do it because someone had a bad day, or decided that they didn’t want to do an actual interview, and no one thought it was worth doing anything about. So when I am tired and sick, lying in bed alone aching for someone to rub my feet or help me up to go to the bathroom yet again, when I am lying in that bed holding my first child, my newborn son in my arms and marveling at the beauty of it all and the miracle of life I can console myself in the fact that my husband is 9000 miles away because someone didn’t want to take time to look at some papers and it will make me feel so much better.

I still love America. It will always be my home. I still sing our National Anthem and my eyes still fill with tears at the heartfelt passionate lyrics

O beautiful for patriot dream
That sees beyond the years
Thine alabaster cities gleam
Undimmed by human tears!
America! America!
God shed his grace on thee
And crown thy good with brotherhood
From sea to shining sea!

In fact if anything I love her more. Because I see how fragile America is and how quickly all that was fought for can be lost. And I will pray that God WILL Bless America because she is my home that I love and she needs all the prayers she can get.

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My Whirlwind Romance Part X My Wedding Day! “Its not over, its just the beginning”

When I decided to join the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. It was a long hard year making that decision. On the day of my baptism as the meeting ended, I stood at the bottom of the stairs in the chapel, my hair still wet from the font and I shook hands with one of the most influential people in my life. “Well, I did it. It’s over I said.” Brother B looked at me with something in his eyes, I saw happiness, I saw that he was proud of me, I saw support and tenderness, and I could swear I saw a glint of humor. Was he laughing at my stupidity? Smiling at my naivete, or just smirking with the knowledge that he knew something that I didn’t?

“Vilate he said, It’s not over, it’s just beginning.”

I planned my whole wedding down to the tiniest detail when I was about 10 years old. Sure my opinions and desires changed over the years, but I kept it updated I was prepared at any given moment to put on the wedding of my dreams in about two weeks flat. I had everything primed and ready, like dominoes all set so that when the time came all I would have to do is push that first one and things would fly into motion.

That wasn’t because I wanted to plan my wedding in two weeks. It was just because I was so excited for it that I couldn’t help but do everything to prepare that could possibly be done before you’ve actually met the man of your dreams. That and that I’m a planner. I just enjoy the whole process.

So when Joseph and I decided to change our plans and get married before I left Uganda, I felt I was up for the challenge. It actually meant that I would be planning the wedding in two weeks, but I was ready. Since the wedding would be taking place in Uganda it meant some minor (cough, cough sputter) changes to my plans but nothing I wasn’t prepared to handle.

What I wasn’t prepared for was Joseph’s family. they had ideas, they had traditions, and they had culture that COULDN’T be messed with. Normally I am the kind of person that when I am told that I “shouldn’t or can’t” do something…well thats the first thing I am going to attempt to do. And I usually succeed… or fail depending on how you look at it.

Before I had a chance to say “boo” they had taken the whole affair into their hands, and the wedding was planned.

We had tents set up in Uncle’s yard, there were tables and chairs with embroidered cloths, there were ribbons and decorations. There was food prepared, and the word was spread. Literally before I hardly knew what had happened the whole thing was planned.

It was a little hard, seeing it all taken out of my hands, and I wanted to protest, and did a couple of times, but realized that by this time I needed to just let it go.

As the plans progressed Joseph begged me to be sure. He sensed my hesitation and fear at the step we were about to take. “Vilate, he told me one day, my family is starting to travel in from all over Uganda to be here for our wedding in just a few days, if you are going to change your mind, please do it now.”

I didn’t know what to say, I felt good about progressing I felt good about the steps we were taking, I knew I loved Joseph, but I still didn’t “know” that it was the right thing for me. We met with the new Mission President and begged for counsel. “The only person who can answer your questions is the Lord,” President Chatfield told us. You need to take it to him and that’s all I can tell you.

He left and Joseph and I knelt, he took both of my hands in his and we prayed. As we did, I felt like a little girl again, listening to the deepening tones of my dad’s reverent voice as he prayed. I felt so loved and protected and like I could face anything that could come my way. I felt trust and love for Joseph like I had always felt for my dad. I thought about having children with him and how I felt confident that my children would look up to him with love and respect the way I had with my own father, and I knew that I would trust and respect him and support him in that role as well.

I felt peace completely surround me. And then I thought. I am getting married in two days to a man I have known for a matter of weeks! A man who no one in my family and none of my friends had ever met, I was marrying him in Uganda, in a strange country, completely alone and with out support. I was marrying a black man! In spite of how I had always felt and what I had believed about them. I was marrying a man much younger than I was, from an entirely different background and culture. Even his first language was different from mine. I had every reason to be panicked. I had every reason to feel overwhelmed and lost. But I didn’t. I felt loved, protected, secure, and filled with peace. I knew those feelings could only come at a time like this, so powerfully as to over come all other feelings, from one source. It was the final answer that I needed. The Lord approved, he was here in this very room helping me at this moment. And I knew everything would be ok.

When Joseph finished the prayer I looked into his eyes hugged him and told him that I was ok. I knew we were making the right decision and that I was not going to back out.

The day before the wedding I only saw Joseph for a few minutes in the afternoon. He took a break from setting up tents and chairs and making arrangements to come be with me for an hour or so. When we first started dating Joseph and I had set a couple of firm rules for ourselves to help us to make sure that we kept the standards that we believed in regards to physical intimacy being saved for marriage.

Some of these rules were that we would never kiss lying down, we would save passionate kissing and necking for after marriage and we would never spend the night together in the same home by ourselves. It was so nice to be approaching our marriage the following day knowing that we had stayed true to our convictions and had kept the rules that we made for ourselves. We had told no one of these rules and there was no one to judge if we broke them, but we knew and it felt good.

That afternoon as we spent our last few moments together still “limited” by these rules and yet aware that our marriage the following day would change everything, we spoke to each other with loving words and I felt that my heart would burst with Love for him. I had no desire to do anything that would damage the special feeling that “waiting” had created between us. We held each other, talked of our plans for the future, and savored these final moments together as single people.

Later that night, Joseph’s sister Tinah met me at the hotel where we would be spending the night. She brought, my wedding dress with her, and all was set.

The following day after a much-needed and incredibly enjoyable hot shower, Melissa, my only friend from the states who was there came and did my hair for me. I went to a salon and got my nails done and then waited patiently for the car to arrive to pick me up. I had warned everyone that my wedding would start on time! When the time came for the car to arrive to pick me and my brides maids up to take us to the church I was ready and waiting. No car showed up and the minutes ticked away.

Finally I gathered my full skirts in my hand and told Tinah, “Im leaving. If I have to take a boda boda (motorcycle taxi) to the church I will but I am going to the church right now!” Tinah was frantic, you can’t do that she told me!

“Watch me I said cause I’m doing it.”

She tried to call Joseph as I headed down the hallway squeezing my dress between the narrow doorways.

When I reached the curb the car was just pulling up. We piled into the car, and headed to the church. The page-boy and flower girl, Joseph’s niece and nephew sat on either side of me. They were enthralled with the idea of having a new white “mother.” In Uganda the children refer the their aunts and uncles as mother and father. So I was now Mommy Vilate (although when the children said it, it sounded a lot more like Mommy Violent, and I hoped it wasn’t a prediction of the kind of mother I would be!) 1148794_10151529135790658_775137388_n

They wanted to touch my hair and my skin, they sat quietly and shyly next to me. We arrived at the church about the time the wedding was supposed to start and I was like a crazy woman trying to get in to the chapel to make sure things happened just the way I wanted. Life rarely happens the way we want, you would think I would have figured that out by now and quit trying to control every little detail, but for some reason I wasn’t willing to just sit back and let this day happen. I wanted it to happen the way I wanted it to be. DSCF1427

Joseph and I met in the hallway, My veil was over my face and through it he looked fuzzy and white. And oh so handsome in his dark suit and yellow tie. His eyes glowed in appreciation as he looked at me and he didn’t need to say anything, his eyes said it all. We posed for a few pictures together and then went to the chapel for the wedding. DSCF1431

Every seat in the chapel was full, and some were even standing, but I didn’t notice. I was frantically trying to get my family on skype and get things ready so that we could start. I was way too excited that my wedding day had finally arrived to be shy or nervous.

JInja Chapel, where Joseph and I were married.

JInja Chapel, where Joseph and I were married.

I finally got my family on skype and after a quick wave to their sleepy faces (it was 3 AM their time) the ceremony started. They started by singing a song that had always been a sore spot with me. And was especially so on this day.

trying to get my family on skype

trying to get my family on skype

Families Can Be Together Forever

I sat there trying not to think about my mom and my sisters watching silently over skype as I took this step. I tried not to think of the spiritual, temporal and physical separation as what I was doing further widened the gap between my family and I. I tried not to think of my own father who I loved so dearly, not even able to be there on this most important day for me. It didn’t work and before I knew it I was sobbing and gasping for breath in my fitted dress. My whole body was shaking uncontrollably.

Finally the song ended and the branch president spoke for a few minutes. When he finished he asked Joseph and I to stand, we stood facing each other and holding hands. Joseph’s head was down and I longed to see his eyes. I wanted to see if he was still sure, I wanted to see the love that I knew would be reflected there. He didn’t look at me. As the Branch President spoke I leaned down a little trying to catch his eye. It worked for a second, just long enough for me to see that he was really nervous.

When it came time for him to say Yes, he did and when it was my turn I said it, wishing it was a longer word, or that there was some way to capture the significance of the moment. Then, it was done we were married, Joseph kissed me for the first time as his wife and we headed for the door with his family and friends yelling and shrieking behind us in the unique way that women in Uganda celebrate the marriages of their loved ones. DSCF1438

As we stood outside the church taking photos with friends and family, I couldn’t stop smiling, the peace and contentment that I had felt in the last few days leading up to this day remained and was intensified by the contentment of knowing that I was finally married. I didn’t feel a rush to get through the reception, I didn’t feel anxiety about anything. All I felt was utter and complete contentment in that moment. Joseph squeezed my hand and I wondered if I would ever again need to see any face besides his.

Joseph's family

Joseph’s family

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When the pictures finished we moved on to the reception. DSCF3281As the day progressed there were moments of surprise when something didn’t happen the way we wanted it to, there were moments of frustration where too many people were telling us what to do, where to stand, where to look, too many hands were pulling, hugging, fixing this or that. Music was playing to loudly and too long And for a few seconds I thought I would scream. Then the moment would pass and the contentment would flood in again and I would remember that it was my wedding day, a day that would never come again, a day I had waited 32 long years for. DSCF3288

This cycle of feeling frustrated and overwhelmed and being so in love and reveling in the joy and the beauty of the day continued. As Joseph and I sat front and center at a table beautifully decorated for us, surrounded by hundreds of people who had come to celebrate with us, I felt that life couldn’t get any better, and as my head pounded with the noise and the craziness of the day as the hours wore on I turned to Joseph, “I can’t do this, anymore” I told him. DSCF3297 DSCF3341

“You have to deal with it, its as simple as that” he answered, smiling yet again as someone else hugged us and someone else pulled on our arms trying to tell us that we need to speak, or take a picture, or accept a gift.

we had out first dance together

we had out first dance together

we said a few words to our guests

we said a few words to our guests

and we cut the cake

and we cut the cake

Finally I had truly had enough, The music was pounding in my head and all around me and my large personal space bubble had been invaded one too many times. I wanted to scream and run away from it all. Someone was yelling in our ears, trying to be heard over the music, telling us what to do and someone else was contradicting them in the other ear. I gathered my skirts in my hands and walked as fast as I could toward the road, leaving Joseph and everyone else behind.

I didn’t know what I planned to do when I got out of the yard and to the road, I just knew that I couldn’t take one more minute. Joseph ran up behind me, shouting for someone to bring the car. He seemed angry with me. We are going right now he told me. We got in the car with three of Joseph’s friends and drove out of the yard. Just as we were pulling out on to the road I remembered that my clothes, everything except my wedding dress was in a suitcase with Tinah. Joseph, we have to go back, I said, I need my suitcase. Again he seemed upset but drove back. I tried to get out of the car to go get it. Joseph told me to stay put and he would get it for me. I couldn’t very well tell him in front of his friends that I needed Tinah’s help to help me out of my dress and into something more romantic underneath for our wedding night. And Joseph wasn’t listening besides. “Would you just stay here!” His voice was harsh and angry sounding, something I had never heard from him before.

I was mad that his friends were in the car with us, mad that the reception had ended the way it had and madder still that my husband had been gruff with me.

I sat on my side of the car with my dress piled around me. Ignoring Joseph and his friends as they talked. They unloaded our gifts at our apartment and then took us back to the hotel where we would spend the night. We unloaded our things and they left. I sat on the bed furious and near tears.

Joseph came into the room after seeing the boys off. His smile back on his face and his eyes happy as though nothing had happened. He walked to me and put his arms around me. I pushed him away. He was not going to pretend that nothing had happened!

Before I knew what was even happening I was seated on one side of the bed and Joseph on the other, our backs were to each other and the gulf between us seemed unbreachable. I looked around to see if there was a tree near the window, thinking ironically of the scene from 7 brides for 7 brothers where Millie dooms her new husband to sleep in the tree on the night of their wedding. Is that how this night was going to end?

I felt stuck and I didn’t know who to even blame! Technically the only thing Joseph had really done to make me angry was to get a little short with me. The only thing that anyone else had done to make me angry was to try to make my wedding day perfect. I didn’t know why I was so mad and I didn’t know how to fix it. I wanted things to be good between Joseph and I but I felt like just ignoring how I was feeling would just put a band-aid over the issue.

I closed my eyes and said a little prayer. Father, I prayed, I feel like this is my fault. Can you show me how to fix it?

“You can start by getting on the same side of the bed.” The thought came clearly to my mind and should have been a no brainer. Joseph, I said, meekly. Will you come sit by me?

He did, his head down and tears brimming in his eyes. “I wanted this day to be perfect for you, I worked so hard to make it perfect, but I failed.”

I couldn’t lie and tell him that it had been perfect. I was too honest a person for that and he would see right through me and it would mean nothing. I sat silently for a few minutes. I thought again of another story, this time from a book instead of a movie. In the work and the glory, shortly after a young couple marries, the husband is feeling dejected because he sees the conditions his wife is living in and feels that he is putting her through too much. She sees what her complaining has done and fixes it by finding things to be grateful for and the two end up laughing over their own difficulties. It gave me an idea.

“I loved seeing your face when I first walked into the church” I told him. “And I loved that I got to make my own wedding cake, I loved that there was some African culture and tradition in our wedding as we walked through the little arbor decorated with ribbon and flowers and cut the ribbon that symbolized the official beginning of our wedding reception.” What did you like best? I asked DSCF3287 DSCF3290

He looked at me a little confused. ” I liked when the Casperson’s gave us a picture of the Joburg temple and the letter confirming the dates of our sealing” DSCF3338

“Oh and I loved when your mother told me that I was her daughter now!” I said, the feeling of making a game out of this catching on.

We layed back on the bed looking up at the ceiling and recounting our favorite parts of the day. Soon we were laughing and it didn’t feel fake anymore to pretend that everything was alright. It was in fact truly alright. Whatever petty things had left me feeling disgruntled about the day were gone. I turned to Joseph, as far as I see it there are only three things that needed to happen today to make it perfect, I said. You and I need to have made covenants with each other, you need to be happy and I need to be happy. As long as those three things happen, this day is a success in my opinion. So the first one happened. And I’m happy, so how about you? I asked, “Are you happy”

“I am” he smiled then you succeeded, you made our wedding day, perfect. I told him, meaning every word.

He kissed me and bridged the final steps in the huge gulf that had separated us just moments before.

And so my whirlwind romance turned into a marriage. A marriage that would see, difficult times, a few arguments here and there, a baby sooner than anyone could have expected, and a separation that would only increase our love for each other.  Who knows what still lies in store for us. Because just as Brother B had told me years before, this is not the end, it is only the beginning! DSCF3325

MY Whirlwind Romance part IX “I won’t leave her”

Leaving Rwanda wasn’t nearly as easy as it had been to get in. You see Rwanda, in an effort to encourage tourism, doesn’t charge a fee for a visa. So when I entered, I simply had to get my passport stamped. Uganda’s policy is different. They require a $50 fee and since every penny I had was stolen I had no way to pay the fee.

We stood pleading with the immigration official, explaining our situation to no avail. You simply can not enter Uganda without paying the fee, he told me. I am sorry for what happened to you but we can make no exceptions. “What should we do then?” We asked, desperate for an answer out of this impossible situation.

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He turned to Joseph, “since you are African you don’t have to pay, you can go. Leave her here and you go get the money to pay her fee.” The idea was unthinkable, it would take him two days at best to get back to Uganda, get the money and get back to me. In the meantime I was in a no man’s land between borders. I had no way to get back to the city and no place to stay if I did make it back, I had no money and nothing to eat. It was simply out of the question. “I will not leave her” Joseph said adamantly.

“Then find someone else here who will give you the money” the immigration official said callously before moving on to the next person in line.

We decided to try the bus driver, we found him loading passengers back on the bus, they were getting ready to leave and we literally had minutes to figure this out. We explained the situation to him and asked him to loan us the money until we got back to Uganda. We can pay you as soon as we get there we assured him.

He refused.

We approached the conductor on the bus (this is as assistant of sorts to the driver) We asked him and he also refused. You will not pay he said, people always say they will pay and then when we get them back they leave and never bring me the money. “I will leave something with you, I promised, something that I will have to come back for. When we give you the money you can give it back to us.”

He thought about this for a minute. What will you give he asked. I searched through my belongings looking for something that would do and my eyes rested on the shiny new engagement ring on my finger…

I hesitated, I will give you my ring, I told him.

“No” It came out in perfect unison from both Joseph and the Conductor. I was a little relived.

“My camera, then” I said suddenly remembering that I had a camera that might be worth something to him. He agreed, took my camera and gave us the money. We were the last people back on the bus. My heart was beating and I felt like crying.

Also not my picture although it is an actual picture on the bus route that we traveled from Kigali back to Uganda

Also not my picture although it is an actual picture on the bus route that we traveled from Kigali back to Uganda

As we drove a sales man stood up and began putting on something of a show advertising his healing products with magical capabilities. He spoke fluently in five or six languages, none of which I could understand. Finally he turned to me and asked in English, “do you understand what I am saying,” I shook my head.

Do you speak any language besides english?

I admitted that I didn’t

He had a playful smile on his face, and I knew I was about to be the butt of one of his jokes. See that man sitting next to you? He asked, “say to him Nkwagala” he told me. (that word means I love you in Luganda) I laughed to myself. I may not know Luganda, but I knew that word. People around us were watching and snickering to see if I was going to fall for his joke.

I turned to Joseph and took his face in both hands, Nkwagala Nyo I said, adding emphasis on the Nyo (very much) I said it with my sweetest sappiest, love-sick voice I could, so that everyone would know that yes, I knew what that word was and yes I DID very much love him and the joke was on the salesman. The bus erupted in laughter.

“If you want to see what love looks like, look at these two,” he told the passengers.

We arrived home just in time for fast sunday and we decided that our fast would be devoted to Joseph getting a visa so that we could have our planned wedding in the Salt Lake Temple in Oct.

All day we went without food and prayed for our request. By evening as I went to bed, I felt so uneasy that I couldn’t sleep. I got up and started researching the visa process. Everything I read terrified me. People who had been separated for years as they waited for a visa, reports of complications and difficulties in obtaining a visa. The feelings that I had as I stood at the border being told that Joseph would have to leave me, and feeling so loved and reassured as he refused. We had found a way and we would do it again. But I knew one thing…I couldn’t leave him either.

I finally fell into a restless sleep and woke with one thought on my mind. Call the man who left you his number in the taxi several weeks ago. I had met a man who was a government official. He had given me his number and told me to contact him if I needed anything during my stay. I didn’t know what he could do to help but I called him.

Turns out he was just a few minutes away from where I lived passing through on his way to Jinja and he agreed to stop and talk to me. He did and I explained my situation. Just marry him here and then wait together for the visa he told me. You can wait here until he gets it and then you don’t have to leave him.

It would mean marrying outside of the temple, it would mean marrying without any member of my family present and no friends of mine would be there. It would mean giving up on all the dreams and plans I had for my wedding. But it would mean that I wouldn’t have to leave him. It was the only option. I thought it over all day and that night when Joseph came to Lugazi to see me I sat him down.

“I’ve been thinking about this a lot and I think we need to change our plans” I told him. His face looked weary, hesitant and slightly scared at what I was going to say next. His normally smiling face was serious.

I paused, for dramatic effect and swallowed hard, knowing that what I was about to say was going to make him so happy.

“I don’t think we should get married in October,” I told him. ” I think we should get married here, at the end of this month!”

He looked at me as though he wasn’t sure he had heard me right. I explained my thought process to him, but before I could even finish he had crushed me in a bear hug. Joseph normally has a radiant smile, but his smile that day was like something I had never seen before! We talked about our changed plans, it felt good, it felt peaceful, I knew it was fast but it didn’t feel fast. It felt right.

The Proposal I Waited my Whole Life For

 

I met Joseph at the Space Café, a little tourist place that had great food. I was excited to tell him that I had “slept on it” and had an answer for him. The out door setting was secluded and romantic. We found a corner table with comfortable whicker chairs and sat down and ordered a milk shake and samosa.

“I’ve been thinking about what we talked about the other night,” I told him. “And I think I’m ready to take a step forward. I think we should get engaged.” I don’t know what I expected from him but the huge smile and the bear hug that I was soon engulfed in took me by surprise. I laughed and moved over to sit on his lap. We sat that way unaware of anyone else and just talked through our plans.

“This isn’t official though until you propose properly with a ring and everything,” I told him. “And you have to make it a good story. I’ve waited a long time to be proposed to and I’ve always wanted a good story. If you need help, coming up with something I can give you my friends phone number and she can help,” I told him, feeling quite sure that he wouldn’t have the first idea where to start to plan the kind of outrageous proposal that would live up to all my day dreams of how that moment should go. He insisted that he could do this on his own and that he didn’t need help, he could make it special and romantic.

“One more thing,” I added, “about the ring, I kind of know exactly what I like and what I don’t like. But I want you to pick it and I want it to be a surprise…so I could maybe show you some pictures and then you would know what to look for…” I told him. He assured me he would work something out.

We talked then about our plans, we would start the fiancée visa application right away, and then when August arrived and I headed home I could start planning the wedding. He would join me as soon as possible and we would be sealed in the Salt Lake Temple.

We called the temple and set the date. October 11th.  It seemed everything was falling right into place. Our evening was perfect.

A few days later he called to ask me if I could go look at rings with him. I thought we would just look to give him an idea of what I liked, but when we got there, there wasn’t much of a variety to choose from and we quickly found one that suited our purposes. And since it really was the only option as far as I was concerned, we bought it there on the spot.

The cashier put it in the little velvet box and handed it to Joseph. He handed it to me, You keep this for now he told me and make sure you bring it with you when we take our trip to Rwanda.

We were planning a trip to visit Rwanda that weekend. I laughed a little. It was a bit un conventional and not at all what I had in mind but, what did it matter now. I begged Joseph to let me wear the ring for just a little while. He agreed and we had lunch and then headed back to Jinja.

Finally the weekend arrived. I wondered what Joseph had planned, as I packed the ring in my bag. I hoped it would be good. In the taxi on the way to the bus station, I talked to Joseph about something that had concerned me. I was very open about my concerns, never realizing that it might look to him as though I was questioning our decision to marry. Somehow it ended up in an argument.

Both of us were very emotional and I felt he wasn’t listening to me and being understanding. I have no idea what he felt but when I looked over at him, he had tears in his eyes as they looked straight ahead, he didn’t seem to want to look at me. I was frustrated and didn’t know what to do. I had told him of my concerns because I wanted him to comfort me, not the other way around!

Giving a new meaning to bumper to bumper...

Giving a new meaning to bumper to bumper…

The taxi was stuck in the bumper to bumper traffic like nothing you will see anywhere except Kampala streets and as the minutes turned to hours we knew we were about to miss our bus if we didn’t do something quick. Finishing this conversation would have to wait. We exited the taxi and found a couple of boda boda drivers. We need to get to the bus station Joseph told them and we need to make it in 20 minutes no matter what. Can you take us there. They spoke among themselves for a few seconds questioning if what we asked was possible. Ok they told us we can take you but hang on tight and don’t let go for anything, we will not be stopping if we are going to take you.

In order to make what we had planned possible we would take two separate bodas. Normally the drivers wanted you to hang on to the bike and not them but this time the driver told me to put my arms tight around his waist and get ready. We zoomed in and out of traffic sometimes coming so close to the cars on either side that I worried that my feet would hit them as we passed. When the cars closed up around us the driver whipped up over the curb and took the sidewalk, sometimes using his feet to help balance and sometimes using his hands on passing cars as we squeezed through small spaces. I clung to him for dear life and tried to keep an eye on Joseph’s back just ahead. In almost exactly twenty minutes we whizzed into the parking lot where our bus stood waiting. It was dark outside and the lights where on inside the bus, we could see that most of the passengers where already seated. I grabbed our things paid the boda men and raced up into the bus.

It wasn’t until we were safely in our seats and the bus was on its way that Joseph chose to resume our discussion from before. This time however, everything was different. We were seated in our two chairs side by side in the dark bus as it rumbled along down dirt roads, our chairs reclined just a little to allow us to sleep as the trip to Rwanda was going to take all night. Joseph raised the arm rest between our two seats to allow us to be closer and then he put both arms around me and cradled my head on his chest. “Im sorry, he whispered to me, There is just nothing that frightens me like the thought of losing you. Hearing you talk like that made me think that you might go home and I would never see you again..

Tears streamed down my cheeks. “I love you Joseph, I said, I would never leave you. I just wanted to be able to share with you some things that were hard for me. I wanted to hear you reassure me that it was all going to be ok. That’s all I really wanted.” His hand stroked my hair and down my back as we whispered lovingly to each other until we both fell asleep.

We had survived our first fight.

Morning arrived, although it was still dark outside and for the first time since I had come to Uganda, it was cold. Joseph informed me that we were very near the border, in a place called Kabale, It was here that we would be required to get off the bus and cross the border on foot.

We exited the bus, I wrapped up in my blanket to try to keep from shivering, As we stood in line to declare our possesions and obtain permission to pass into Rwanda we snacked a little on Mendoza ( a type of deep fried bread) and Fanta. Finally we finished the requirements to enter the city, changed some Uganda Schillings into Rwanda Francs and walked across the border to reboard our bus.

As we continued our journey the sun slowely came up to reveal the beautiful country side, that one pictures when they imagine going to Africa.  The red sand, open saces, and funny little trees off in the distance kept me captivated.  I marveled abit at how I had come to be here.

I had always wanted to live a life of adventure but I never imagined I would be sitting on a bus watching the sunrise as I entered Rwanda with my future husband by my side. I felt like I was living in some kind of dream. I struggled to wake from this dream and realize that it was in fact reality so that I could soak it all in, enjoy every second of this magical journey that had surpassed all my imaginings..

Finally we reached Kigali, the capital city of Rwanda. It was so interesting to know the recent history of this place and yet to find myself here. Where stories that I had only read about took place, seeing and being greeted by adults who no doubt had been present, a witness to, if not a participant in the genocide that took place there. We took a taxi to a hotel, paid for our rooms and settled in to look around.

Kigali (pronounced Chigali) The Capital City of Rwanda)

Kigali (pronounced Chigali) The Capital City of Rwanda)

Our room…two rooms really, separated by a half wall. Each room with a small cot against one wall and one room with a sink attached to the other wall. A small table sat in the room that would be Joseph’s.

Joseph, on his side of the room.

Joseph, on his side of the room.

 

 

We unloaded our belongings and headed out to get some breakfast. We stopped on our way at an ATM only to discover that it wouldn’t take a visa so we went in search of another that would. We tried another and when it wouldn’t either we decided to just head to the mall to get something to eat and we would find a place to change more money later. I stuffed my small coin purse with all of our cash and my credit cards back in the backpack that Joseph carried on his back and we headed to the mall.

When we arrived I reached in expecting to feel the coarseness of the bark cloth coin purse only to feel nothing. We put the back pack down and searched every possible pocket taking everything out of it in our desperate search. I was near tears realizing that more than likely it was really gone.  We retraced our steps back to the last ATM homing against hope that we would find it along the way, but the purse was gone.

We better report it to the police, Joseph told me, see if they can help us. I was near tears, not sure what we were going to do without that money and completely at a loss for how I was going to survive the rest of my time in Uganda without access to any of the money in my bank account. Assuming of course that whoever took our purse didn’t get everything out of it before I could call and cancel the card.

I was frantic, Joseph and I stood looking at each other, just inside the mall entrance. I didn’t know what to say to him, I was a little afraid that he would be start blaming me for not putting the purse in a pocket that had a zipper as I now realize that I should have done.

I looked at him, he looked at me and then he started to grin.  Joseph this isn’t funny I said, this is really serious. We have nothing! And no way to get home until the bus leaves in another three days!

We will be ok, he told me, and think of the stories we will have to tell our grandkids.

I looked at him not sure if I should be angry with him for not taking this situation more seriously or to hug him for being such a good sport about it all and for reminding me of something that I should have remembered. This was just another adventure, and if nothing else it would make a good story later. I knew from past experience that often when things go horribly wrong, the make the best of memories years down the road when you can laugh at the craziness.

“You’re right I said, we will be fine. It might even be fun. I said with a twinkle in my eye. It won’t be the trip we planned but Im quite certain it will be an adventure. He hugged me then and we sat down to assess our situation.

Just then a couple walked by, obviously tourists as they were white and spoke with an Australian accent. They had twin daughters, one of which was in her mothers arms and the other was trailing behind the couple. She looked at us and without a word walked straight to Joseph and lifted her arms to be picked up.

Joseph stood unsure of what to do. Her little face, framed by blond curls, looked up at him, her blue eyes so peaceful and sweet demanding his attention.

He picked her up and walked toward her mother who stood watching, looking slightly unseasy. When Joseph reached the mother he held the girl out to her only to have her little arms wrap tenderly around his neck and she turned her face to hide in his shoulder.  He spoke to her for a minute and encouraged her to go to her mother. She finally did while her twin looked on quietly sucking her thumb.

I stood watching the whole scene in amazement. To me Joseph shone with kindness, his smile radiated goodness and I saw it from the moment that I met him. To see this child react to that confirmed to me that President Jackson’s words to me that day at the wedding were more true than even I imagined. Joseph really was everything that I thought he was. Even a child could see that and loved him.

I imagined him holding our child in his arms.

After the little family left we gathered up all the loose change and any bills of any kind that we had on us. We changed them into francs and discovered that we had just enough left to take a taxi back to the bus station with a little extra. We went to the grocery store to see what we could find. We bought a loaf of bread, a jar of peanut butter, a knife and a carton of milk.  It wasn’t much but at least we wouldn’t starve.

It was a holiday so most places where closed, and Joseph and I were unable to report our stolen wallet to the police as the station was desereted.

We went back to our rooms and sat on the bed. We read to each other and talked for sometime. Later that evening, we sat talking and Jospeh asked me if I knew what day it was. I did. It was the fourth of July. I knew everyone back home would be celebrating with fireworks and good food. But I was happy right where I was with my peanut butter sandwhich.

My bed, in our fancy hotel!

My bed, in our fancy hotel!

Did you bring that thing I asked you to pack? Joseph asked, referring to my engagement ring. I laughed knowing what was coming. I did, I told him.

Well we are going to need it now, he told me. I scooted off the bed and went to my side of the room to get the little black velvet box, this was so inconventional and so not what I had imagined. I brought it back and gave it to him. Ever since I got home from my mission, I have been praying and looking for a girl that would commit herself to me and to the gospel, he told me. I wanted to find a girl that I could trust to raise our children in the church, to have family home evening with me, and who would support me in my callings, he told me.

When I met you I was amazed by your goodness and I knew without a doubt that you would make a great mother, the more I got to know you I saw that you were committed to the gospel. I have told you some of the reason’s why I love you.  He said, but the biggest reason I love you is because it is so clear to me that you love the Lord. He promised to send me a handmaiden of the Lord and when I look at you, that is what I see.

Joseph, I interrupted, knowing what was coming and knowing that it couldn’t happen with both of us seated on his bed. Joseph, you know you can’t do this sitting down right? I asked not sure if he knew that he should be down on one knee.

Oh, ok lets stand up he told me, we stood and he continued, I have never been more sure about anything than I am about the fact that I want to spend the rest of my life with you…

Joseph, I enterupted again, you know you can’t do this standing up right? He looked at me confused. You have to get down on one knee. I told him laughing a little at how this was all turning out.

No problem! I will get down on two knees, he told me and he started to get down on the hard concrete floor.

No Joseph, Ilaughed again, its done on one. In America when you propose you get down on ONE knee. He seemed confused at why two wouldn’t be better but he did as I asked.

Finally he finished, look around you Vilate, this room, this place is nothing fancy, this trip is probably going to be a little bit hard. We don’t even have anything to celebrate with except more peanut butter sandwhiches. Our life will probably be something like this, full of unexpected adventures, difficult times and trials, but I love you and I promise you that if you will marry me I will do everything within my power to make you happy and to be a good husband and father.

Our room number...I didn't want to forget anything about that day.

Our room number…I didn’t want to forget anything about that day.

I gulped, still trying to grasp at the reality of this moment that I had waited almost 32 long years to experience. Nothing was the way I had imagined it. I looked around me at the cold bare walls, at the hard floor and the dirty sink in the corner and I realized that his proposal couldn’t have been more perfect, that he and I couldn’t have been more perfect. It would never have done to have him show up with roses and a cute little proposal, that just wasn’t me, or him. What could have been more appropriate than the way this had all happened. I said “yes” and Joseph slipped the ring on my finger.

I also had imagined that I would be a bucket of tears, that my hand would shake as he put the ring on my finger and that I would be so overcome with emotion that I wouldn’t hardly be able to stammer a yes. I felt none of those things. I felt peaceful, it felt normal, and I was happy. Over the last 16 years or so I had imagined every possible scenario in which this moment would happen. I never once imagined this one and once again life managed to throw me a surprise, an adventure and a curve that I never could have seen coming. Once again life had proved unpredicatable,… just the way I liked it.

Right after he proposed.

Right after he proposed.

And yes...neither of us even noticed that the ring was on the wrong hand!

And yes…neither of us even noticed that the ring was on the wrong hand!

My Whirlwind Romance Part VII ” This decision is easy”

It was Sunday and after church Joseph and I went to his uncle’s house. This was the house that Joseph grew up in.  As the boda boda pulled into the yard, and I saw the expanse of grass surrounded by tall trees, the little house at the center surrounded by out buildings, I could just imagine Joseph living and playing here as a child. It had a homey feel. It reminded me of Aunt Hannah’s place, where I had grown up working and playing in the big yard surrounded by trees and protected from the outside world. It was a place teaming with memories and it reeked of home and family. I loved it immediately. I think that day was the first time that I began to see myself married to him.

I didn’t really think about it then, but looking back I remember imagining our future together and somehow tying his life growing up in this home to mine and thinking in terms of we instead of I. I do remember being so in love with him that I couldn’t hardly see straight. We played with his nieces and nephews, visited with his uncle and aunts and cousins.  They all accepted me as part of the family and loved me so readily.

This pictures was taken that day under the large mango tree in Uncle's yard.

This pictures was taken that day under the large mango tree in Uncle’s yard.

Joseph’s brother and his wife and just had a new baby girl and I held her and sang her a song until she fell asleep and then I found the perfect spot in the crook of Joseph’s arm and she and I took a little nap together while his family, had a family meeting in Luganda.

The following week Joseph stopped to see me on his way to Kampala to visit with the mission president one last time before he left the mission. I had been thinking a lot about him, about our situation and about the growing feelings I had for him. We went for a walk and had a very “logical” conversation.

I reminded him that I would be leaving in about 6 weeks and that it was impossible for this relationship to go anywhere in that amount of time. If he was able to get a visa to come to the US for a visit we could potentially continue to date then and see what happened but we were kind of staring at a dead-end. I told him it just didn’t make sense for us to get serious about each other or really even continue seeing each other when it was all bound to end in six weeks time anyway.

I don’t know what I expected or even what I wanted because at that moment if he had suggested that we not see each other any more I would have been terribly upset. I simply was expressing to him the impossibility of our situation without really thinking about a conclusion or wanting him to come up with a solution.

He seemed a bit down when he left, I went to work at Musana and one of the women there taught me the Luganda word for I love you. I thought I could surprise Joseph by saying “Nkwagala Nyo” to him when I spoke to him next time over the phone.

That night Joseph stopped by again, this time on his way home from his visit to see President Jackson. I had been at Susan’s house (One of the Musana women) teaching her how to make crepes. I had brought Nutella and bananas and the hot crepes were just coming off the flat surface of the charcoal stove when Joseph arrived.

I met him at the door and excitedly dragged him in for something to eat. I was so excited to show him what I had made and to have him taste the delicious treat that I didn’t even notice his hesitancy. I pushed him into a chair and then sat on the arm of the chair, feeding him bites of crepes and purposely smearing chocolate on his face, so that I could clean it off when Susan wasn’t looking.

Finally it came time to go and Joseph said he would walk me home. When we walked outside it was dark, the stars where out in all their brilliance and the warm breeze made the evening perfect.

Let’s just sit here and talk a minute” Joseph said, he seemed hesitant to take me home, for the first time that night, I noticed that he seemed a little on edge. We sat on the edge of the porch, I hugged my knees to my chest and waited for him to say something.

“I had a good visit with President” he told me

“Oh what did he have to say”

Joseph talked for a while about this and that, about his calling, about other things that he had discussed with President Jackson, after a few minutes his conversation suddenly turned rather serious. He sighed a big heavy sigh and I came down off the porch and knelt in front of him. “Whats the matter?” I asked. He didn’t answer so I put my arms around his neck and just hugged him. He started talking then and I could feel his breath on my neck.

“I love you,” he told me and I promise you that I will take care of you. I will do whatever it takes to provide a good home for you. I promise to be a good husband and father and to love you always as I do now.”

My body started shaking uncontrollably.

He continued, President Jackson told me that this decision is really pretty easy and doesn’t take even six weeks. Either you are the girl for me and I am the guy for you or not. That’s the only decision we have to make. It’s as simple as that. I think he is right and I know you are the girl for me if you will just say you will marry me.

I couldn’t believe it. I didn’t know what to say. I couldn’t say yes and yet try as I might I couldn’t say no either. I thought of President Jackson’s council to me to follow as closely as I could what my heart would tell me. I tried to shut out all the thoughts, and the ideas buzzing like so many mosquitoes in my brain. I knew then what I had to do. I had to do what I had been doing with Joseph all along. I would take it one step at a time.

“I think…” I said, hesitating and trying to make sense of my own thoughts before I spoke them, “that its probably ok… for us to get engaged. I need to sleep on it, and I can’t say for sure that I can marry you but I think you are right and we have to take a step forward.”

Joseph hugged me so tight I couldn’t hardly breathe, not that I could have taken a breathe anyway at that point. My knees where still shaking, my legs felt like Jello and my head was spinning. Did I just agree to get engaged!

He walked me home and kissed me goodnight. It was so hard to let him go and I stood at the gate and watched him walk down the road toward the taxi until he turned and waved and then was gone.

By morning I knew the only possible answer to his question. I was going to marry Joseph. I thought of everything that had led me to this point. The craziness of the whole plan that had led me to Uganda. I remembered telling my friends back home that the Lord must have something wonderful in store for me there because I had never received such clear direction to do anything in my whole life.  I knew from the moment I saw the ad for an internship, that I was meant to go to Uganda. Now I knew why. I was terrified beyond words, I was happy, I was in shock. But my Joseph was finally going to REALLY be MY Joseph. My life started to fit together like pieces to a puzzle and a sense of peace over came me. I couldn’t wait to see Joseph to tell him the new word I had learned I couldn’t wait to say to him Nkwagala Nyo!

My Whirlwind Romance Part VI “Riding off into the Sunset”

*Warning: This one gets a little romantic….if you can’t handle it you may want to stop now.

Joseph wanted to take me to meet his family.  It had been precisely two weeks since our first date. I was excited to meet them. He told me that he had never before taken a girl home and that they didn’t believe that he was about to now. As we rode in the taxi his mother and his sister each called him several times, not really convinced that he was actually coming nor that he was in fact bringing a girl with him.

The taxi ride was long but Joseph and I talked the whole way and a few hours flew by like minutes. We arrived in Kampala at Joseph’s aunt’s house where his Mother and Sister were currently staying.

This was NOT the day I met Joseph's mother. In fact it was taken on the day of our wedding.

This was NOT the day I met Joseph’s mother. In fact it was taken on the day of our wedding.

Joseph taught me the respectful greeting for his mother. We entered the little house to see Joseph’s mother sitting on the floor. She held out her hands to us with the biggest smile on her face. “Eladay Niabo” I said, surprising her with my limited knowledge of Luganda. We sat and soon Joseph’s sister Tinah entered the room.

Tinah, but also not from the day we first met.

Tinah, but also not from the day we first met.

Tinah had been assaulted and robbed in her home a few days before and the intruder had slashed her fingers with a machete. They were bandaged and broken.  She joined us and after awhile when Joseph asked if I would be ok if he left me with them for a few minutes I agreed. “Gende, Gende,” I told him shooing him away. “We have girl talk that you can’t be here for.” After he left Joseph’s mother got very real with me. “Do you love him?” she asked me rather pointedly. I assured her that I did. “Never before has he been interested in a girl like this she told me. When he first met you he called me and told me that he had just gone on a date with the woman of his dreams. Joseph wouldn’t say that unless its true, he has been looking for some time and has had many opportunities to marry and he has never found the right one. You must promise to marry him!”

I chocked a little on the dry cake that I was eating. I stammered, not sure what to say to this mother.

“When you get married,” I said, “the preacher says until death do you part. In my religion, we believe that marriage is much more than that. We believe that when you marry it is not only for time but for all eternity as well. Eternity is a very long time and deciding who I spend it with is a big decision. It’s not one that I can make after knowing someone for only two weeks.” I told her hoping she would understand.

She accepted my answer and we continued our visit. “What is Joseph like when he is angry” I asked her being just as direct with her as she was with me.

She thought carefully about her answer.

“He is very quiet, and when he gets that way you have to ask him what is wrong and show him that you care so that he will tell you what is bothering him.” She told me.

That sounded like the Joseph I knew. So far I wasn’t uncovering much on him that he hadn’t already told me himself.

Joseph’s other sister,

Asha, (this totally doesn't do this beautiful girl justice.

Asha, (this totally doesn’t do this beautiful girl justice.

Asha joined us, She was very friendly, beautiful and sweet. She sat next to me and held my hand and insisted that I call her Mulamu (sister-in-law)

Both girls giggled when I obliged them and gladly called them Mulamu Tinah and Mulamu Asha.

When it came time for us to leave all three of them walked us back to the taxi. They said goodbye with big hugs and we promised to come visit them again. “Marry my son.” His mother told me as she hugged me goodbye. “I always knew he would one day marry a white woman and move away from us. He was never meant for Uganda.”

I had to agree with her on one point. Joseph did not belong in Uganda.

We rode the taxi back to JInja and then we took a boda boda to Sister Gertrude’s house where I would be spending the night.

It was dark when we got back to JInja and as we flagged down a boda driver I decided that I was going to try riding as the Ugandan women did. Side saddle with both legs on the same side of the motorcycle. I got on and with Joseph behind me it was easy to keep my balance. One hand rested on each of his legs and I turned to talk to him. It was easier to see his face as we rode this way and I decided that the Ugandan women had a good thing going.

I only had to turn my head a little to be able to talk to him, as I did he playfully stuck his tongue out at me and instead of pulling away as I am sure he expected I would I leaned toward him. I had learned a thing or two about teasing from my brothers and I knew better than to give him what he expected. He also must have known a thing or two as well because his response wasn’t what I expected either. He kissed me, long and hard as the world flew passed us. I forgot about the boda driver, about everything except the two of us.  Finally fearing that we would both lose our balance and fall off the motorcycle we stopped. I giggled a little as I looked at him, feeling a little sheepish. I had no idea who might have seen us.  But with the stars twinkling over head, and the cool night air racing passed us. I felt like the moment was everything I had dreamed of as a child and more, and I didn’t care.

Why I am Grateful for Challenges

1450150_10152040021336584_15891125_nYesterday I left work just as the sun was going down.  With the daylight savings time it gets darker earlier and I wasn’t used to it seeming so late when I leave work. As I drove I was listening to my sisters piano music and humming along. I put my hand on my stomach where the slightly noticeable baby bump now sits and waited hoping to feel something move. I felt so happy.

I remember another day, very similar circumstances. It was exactly one year ago. We had just turned our clocks back then too. And as I left class at UVU I wasn’t prepared for the cold wind and the darkness already settling in on campus. I walked to my car feeling more alone than ever just knowing I was going home to an empty apartment and a cold bed.

My roommate and best friend had just gotten married, it seemed all my friends had gotten married and left me behind. I ached with loneliness. I remember wondering how I was going to survive the winter without drowning in the cold darkness.

I went home and pulled up facebook. There, bright as day for all the world to see was a picture of Ryan, my ex boyfriend who I was still so in love with that I couldn’t breathe at the thought of him. He was with a girl and he was engaged.

My stomach heaved and the room started to spin. The hurt and betrayal that I felt left me helpless in my agony. I thought I would never be happy again. After all I had given him, all that we had experienced in our two years together and he was capable of walking off without looking back and marrying a girl he had only known a few months. I thought of the last time that I had seen him just a few months before. He had held me in his arms for hours and promised me that he would stay in touch, that he would give me a little warning before he started to date someone so that I could get used to the idea of him having a girl friend. We had promised we would not let our friendship die just because the relationship had.

Anger formed a tight ball in my throat and then as it dissolved I started to cry. I sobbed for hours until the sun started coming up and morning was fast approaching and I knew somehow I had to face the day…

Funny how much can happen in a year. As I drove I marveled at the peace and happiness I was feeling.  I marveled at the contrast of how I felt on that day and how I felt now. I had just received a phone call from an immigration attorney. We had discussed our case looking for every possible way to speed up the agonizingly slow process of bringing my husband to the United States. At the end of the conversation we had no solutions. The estimated time of more than a year seemed to be the only way to get through the system.

I thought of Joseph, the feel of his arms when he hugs me, I thought of how much I wanted to just look into his eyes and to see his smile when it wasn’t fuzzy and contorted by the poor internet connection. I thought of our baby, and of the approaching day that I will give birth…possibly without him here. I tried to think of who I could ask to be with me at that time if he doesn’t make it and my mind came up blank. I JUST WANT JOSEPH! And yet, I feel peaceful. I feel happy. I can hum along with the music and I even feel joy. I wondered why and then the answers poured in so fast I couldn’t hardly contain them.

Joseph loves me, infinitely, eternally, and passionately. He is so committed to me, to our marriage and family, and to the gospel that it almost frightens me. Somehow I found a man who was everything that I ever wanted, and miraculously he wanted me too. And in finding that kind of love the loneliness not only faded, but the memory of it faded also. All those years since I was a 16-year-old girl watching my sisters and my best friends get married and wishing it was me, through the long lonely days and nights during the interminable 16 years that followed seemed but an instant, now that I had found him.

The heartache, disappointment, despair and betrayal from past relationships faded into the background and all I feel, all I know, is that every second of it all was worth it because it brought me to Joseph.

I used to tell my roommate that all I needed to be happy was a ring on my finger a marriage certificate on my wall and a baby in my stomach. Now I have all three, but I have something else too. I have a good man who leaves me speechless with his kindness. And most importantly I have a KNOWLEDGE that God has a plan and he is working it. He hasn’t forgotten me and he WILL and HAS blessed me.

So if Joseph doesn’t make it in time for the birth of our first child. I will take a deep breath, I may shed a few tears, but I’m going to be alright because I know that any sorrow that I feel now can be made up so quickly and so fully that even the memory of it fades into the background. This time that we spend apart, even if it’s a year or more, won’t be so hard because even 9,000 miles away with an ocean between us I know that I have a husband, who is faithful, and devoted. I know that since he isn’t here with me I have a Heavenly Father who I know will step in and fill the void. So we are going to be ok and that’s why I can smile, I can sing, I can listen to our babies heartbeat for the first time and feel only joy.

But I wonder if I could feel such peace, if I could have such trust in Heavenly Father, if I could have such love for Joseph if I hadn’t experienced something else first. What if I hadn’t loved someone who could not or would not commit to me? Would Joseph’s devotion mean as much? What if I hadn’t felt loss, anger and heartache in relationships before? Would the happiness I feel now be as poignant? If I hadn’t struggled and pleaded with Heavenly Father for so many years wondering in moments of weakness if he had forgotten me, would I still marvel at the beauty of his well crafted and perfectly executed plan when it unfolded before me and would I have learned a meaningful lesson about trusting him with every detail of my life?

I think not. I think everything happens for a reason, and I KNOW that nothing can hinder Heavenly Father’s perfect plan for me. If Joseph needs to be here for the birth of our first child, he will be and the how doesn’t even matter. US immigration is not so powerful that God can’t touch it and make things happen according to his will. And if Joseph doesn’t make it…

Well it wouldn’t be the first time that I longed for something that I didn’t get or had to wait for and I am confident that in future days I will look back with gratitude at all that we learned from the experience and marvel at how our Father knew what was best for us. I know he loves me. I am his daughter, and as I carry this child inside me that often recited phrase is coming to have much deeper meaning.