Wednesday, July 27, 2016

5110 Days

I will have the normal weekly post up tomorrow. we are moving ahead a few hundred years and talking about Moses. However, today marks 5110 days since the happiest day of my life and I want to talk just a little bit about my favorite love story.

It was sometime in May of 2001; I worked closing shift for a local TV station and often didn’t get home until 2:00am or later. I was never usually able to fall right to sleep, so I would stay up and kill time on the Internet until my eyes were glazed over. There was no Facebook or Twitter, so I would usually play online games or search aimlessly. One particular evening, as I was killing time on the Internet, I discovered some local online personal ads and I was really getting a kick out of them. Some were very cheesy; some were clearly designed to be seductive, while a few I actually found to be intriguing. I decided I would respond to some of the more intriguing ads; c’mon what’s the worst that could happen…

Alas, Yahoo did not allow you to respond to any ads unless you had posted one yourself. So, that’s what I did. I spent the next few minutes trying to put together a clever but not super cheesy online personal ad, once it was finally done, I was tired and I went to bed.  Several days passed and I gave no more thought to the ad I had placed that night, nor did I ever contact any of the other people who had posted ads. Finally one night I was up late again, and I remembered the personal ads. I laughed and thought let me go see if I can find someone I want to respond to. To my surprise, someone had actually responded to my ad.

There was only one response and it was not super cheesy, nor did it seem provocative.  I could almost read the nervousness in the response as I read it. The words were kind, and funny, but they were laced with a lack of confidence. She claimed she had responded because of a bet with her roommate but that I seemed nice.  We wound up sending messages back and forth for a couple of weeks, sometimes multiple times per day. I began checking my Yahoo account almost constantly. I couldn’t wait for the next sweet, funny email from this young lady that I had not yet met. We got to know each other pretty well. We discussed our hopes, dreams and our lives up to that point. The more I learned, the more I wanted to know.

Finally, after about a month, we exchanged phone numbers. I was a little nervous the first time she called me. I wasn’t sure if I would hear some high-pitched shrill birdcall or some deep voiced man who had been tricking me this entire time.  To my pleasant surprise, the voice I heard on the other end was sweet and soft and music to my ears.  The first time I heard her laugh my heart skipped. I think we spent half of our days on the phone with each other. When we weren’t talking, I was looking forward to the next time that we would.

After about a month of talking on the phone, we finally agreed to meet. I am sure she was just as nervous as I was, if not more so. I had never met anyone like this before. What if she is grotesque? Seriously, I think I had already fallen for her before I ever saw her, but what if it had all been a ruse.
She lived on the coast. I lived in Hattiesburg. We were about 1.5 hours away from each other. We made a plan to meet on the coast for our first date.  Our story isn’t typical… It was the day before we were supposed to meet and I found myself with a day off. We were talking on the phone, as usual, when I jokingly made an offer to move our date up by a day.

“So, I know we are supposed to meet tomorrow night, but you should go ahead and come up here tonight. I am off work, Senor Frogs has quarter drinks all night and I have $2.00 with your name on it”

Yes, it was super cheesy! No, I didn’t think she would actually go for it. Somehow, I must have been a good salesman, because she said yes!  I was so nervous the rest of the afternoon. I was hoping she was half as cute as I had imagined her being and I was hoping she wouldn’t see me and be repulsed.  There was also this weird nagging fear in the back of my mind that she could actually be a psycho killer.

We agreed to meet at a restaurant. I made a loop around hoping to catch a glimpse of her before we actually met. To my surprise, she was not as cute as I was hoping; she was in fact breathtakingly beautiful!  She had these beautiful kind eyes and the most wonderful smile I had ever seen.
It was July when we met. The next few months were a whirlwind. We went to museums, theatres, and football games. We got to know each other’s families and friends. We even donated blood together after the 9-11 terrorist attacks. I remember our first movie, our first song and always our first kiss. It didn’t take me long to know I was in love!

A few months later, it was November of 2001 and I had come to realize that I absolutely had to spend the rest of my life with this incredible woman. She made me laugh, she made me smile, she made me want to be a better person. While I worked at the TV station, I worked behind the scenes. I sat in a dark room and pushed buttons to make sure the right thing was on TV when it was supposed to be. I decided that if I wanted this amazing woman to spend the rest of her life with me, I needed to be bold!

I approached the sports director and I asked him for a favor. I visited a local jeweler and placed a custom order.  I called her mother, told her my plan, and I asked for her blessing.  On a Saturday night, during a local football show called Sports Journal, the sports director allowed me to sit in front of the camera like a deer in headlights. I had written a very romantic statement, but I couldn’t remember any of it. All I know is I asked her to marry me.  Somehow I must have been a good salesman, because she said yes!   She said YES!

In January of 2002, I found another job; I moved to Yazoo County and worked in Jackson. She stayed behind in Hattiesburg, but we made plans to see each other often. We began planning our wedding. I even introduced her to all the crazies in my family.  The next six months were pretty tough for me. I wanted to see her every day. I wanted to hold her every day. We would talk every day, but I missed her like crazy! Finally, in May, school was out and she began to spend more time close to me. I cherished every moment.

It was July when we got all of our family together for the first time. We wanted them to all know each other and know they would be spending the next 100 years as part of our ridiculous love story. We had planned a big wedding, but we changed our minds.  Arkansas had no waiting period and it wasn’t that far away. After a little bit of an Internet search, we found the quaintest little wedding chapel in the mountains and it was only 20 Minutes from Branson Missouri, so we decided to forego all the hoopla, took off one weekend, and got married.

It was July 27, 2002. We drove all the way to Harrison, Arkansas and got checked in to the “Honeymoon Suite” of the Holiday Inn Express. We then had to drive several miles out of town to get our premarital counseling from the preacher that was to perform the ceremony. He agreed that we were ok to get married and he sent us about 20 miles into the mountain to have the county clerk sign our marriage license. When we arrived back at the little chapel, the minister asked us what color we wanted and if we had a song preference. He provided both.  He then slipped a robe on over his Hawaiian shirt and we were getting married. The ceremony was sweet and unique, but it was certainly not anything extraordinary. In all honesty, it didn’t matter. I didn’t care about the flowers, or the mountains, or the colors, or the song, or what the preacher was wearing; all I cared about was that I was marrying and getting to spend the rest of my life with the most wonderful person I had ever met.  My wife was the only person that I had ever met that made me smile every time I thought of her; and I couldn’t stop thinking about her.

Our wedding dinner was pizza from a gas station and Dr. Pepper. We spent our honeymoon as the youngest people in Branson. I could not imagine ever loving anyone more than I loved her at that moment!

Over the next few years, we had our first child – a sweet girl with a big heart. We moved from Mississippi to Lubbock, Texas, then from there to Little Rock, Arkansas. Every morning I woke up and I thanked God he was so generous to bless me with such a wonderful woman. Even on days when the world wasn’t right, I still felt that I was more blessed than I deserved.  Through a confluence of events, I did one of the craziest things I have ever done; I quit a very good job. Hurricane Katrina had just happened and my wife needed to be in Mississippi helping her family recover, while I stayed behind to work.  At work, I was in a tiny little office that I shared with a boss I couldn’t stand.  Miserable at work, lonely at home, I quit my job with no plan in mind other than, we are going to move to Mississippi; it’s where my wife wanted to be.

I packed 3 suits into a rental car and spent 3 weeks plastering south Mississippi with resumes; however, so soon after Katrina there just were not a lot of jobs available. I took a job selling phone and internet service and decided we would make the most of it. Nine moths later, since I wasn’t making any sales, the company decided to let me go.  I was 32 years old, I had an MA degree, and I took a job stocking groceries at Winn Dixie.  You would think I would have gotten down on the situation, but my wife’s sweet smiling face kept me going. Every time I would get down, she would support me and lift me up. She was the primary breadwinner for a few months and she never openly complained at least not to me.  I was getting to know not just her sweet kindness but also her strong resolution.

During this same time, my mom passed away. I tried to stay strong. I had to be strong for my brothers, my grandmother, and for my daughter. I couldn’t have been as strong as I needed to be without my wife holding me up.

Doctors told us to be grateful that we had one child; we would never have another. In August of 2009 they were proved very wrong. The sweetest most spirited little girl you ever met arrived on the scene.  She struggled at first and spent 8 excruciatingly long days in the NICU. It was a very hard week. We paced, we cried, then finally we rejoiced!

After the new baby was born, we decided it made more financial sense for my wife to stay home to take care of our 2 precious little girls. We also made the decision that she would homeschool the girls. On top of all of her other amazing traits, my wife is a leader. Seeing a need in the homeschool community, she started a Christian based home school support group that is still thriving nearly 6 years later.

Being a one-income family meant we had to make some sacrifices, but my sweet, smart, funny, resolute wife was also resourceful. She became an expert couponer and even began showing others how to save hundreds and thousands of dollars using coupons. She was even featured on the local news!

When I got a promotion and we no longer had to be as dependent on coupons, she discovered another way she could help provide income for the family while still being able to stay home with the girls.
She started out baking cakes for family and friends and has turned into one of the most requested bakers in the area.  She is extremely talented!

It’s been 15 years since I met her. It’s been 14 years since she officially became my wife. The night we got married, I thought there is no way I can ever love anyone more than I love this woman right now, but I was wrong. Reagan Collum, you are the most wonderful person I have ever met. I still call home, just to hear your sweet voice, I still crack stupid jokes just to hear your amazing laugh, my heart still skips a beat every time I see you, I still love to look into those big brown eyes, and I still thank God every day that I get to wake up next to you. I love you more today than I did 14 years ago and I am quite sure that I will love you more tomorrow.

I sometimes forget to let you know I much I admire you, how special you are, and thank you for being so amazing, but you truly are a great wife, an awesome mom, and your love and support means the world to me. You are kind, caring, smart, strong, resolute, resourceful and quite simply amazing!

I loved you before I ever saw you, I love you even more now! I will love you with all my heart for the rest of my life!

Thank you for 5110 Incredible Days! Here's to at least 20,000 more!

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