When I asked my girls’, “What should I write about this week?” Both responded simultaneously, “Tell us how you fell in love with Daddy”.
So at my girls’ request:
It wasn’t love at first sight. How could it be? I was eleven. He was twelve. And we had never spoken a single word to one another, let alone made eye contact. And yet every day after lunch, I literally held my breath as he would pass by my class where I would be waiting outside with my peers for our teacher to let us in. I knew nothing about him other than he checked box 1 on my list of “must have qualities” when his reeling attractiveness found in those incredibly beautiful hazel eyes and dark hair strutted by. I spent insurmountable time thinking and dreaming of him, and even ducked into the girls’ bathroom to freshen up my cherry flavored Lip Smacker and enormous bouffant, I called bangs, with super-hold Aqua net Hairspray. I suppose I thought if he noticed me, I would stand a chance. What I didn’t know then that I know now is that any girl simply attracting a boy with her looks might not attract the quality guy she desires and vice versa.
I thought of him off and on over the next couple of years, but rarely saw him once he moved onto high school. However, in 1990, about 4 years after my initial stocking encounter, during his senior year and my junior year, we ended up having a class together. By this time, I didn’t really like him, but my heart didn’t get the message and still skipped a beat when our paths crossed– and I still carried my Aqua net for just such an occasion. He had made quite a reputation for himself as the star relief pitcher for our school’s baseball team. His ego preceded him; he was downright cocky–and that squashed the initial attraction I had for him. However, box 2 had been checked, because being athletic—‘nough said. I guess in some small way; I was still hoping there was more than meets the eye with him. Deep down, I felt there was. What I know now that I didn’t know then is that sometimes people over compensate to hide their inadequacies or pain. How a person appears to be in one setting is not necessarily who they are on the inside.
Ironically, it was the two of us always getting into trouble in the class we had together. He was the class clown and I was the only one caught laughing! Check box 3: I love a guy who can make me laugh! Between having to do push-ups and sit at a banquet style table pushed up against the blackboard at the front of the class as a consequence for our disrespectful behavior, I realized I was, in my awkward way, flirting with him. I wouldn’t have gone out with him though. Worlds colliding—introvert, hot-mess-me and cocky-popular-seeming extrovert him—it would not have worked. What I know now that I didn’t know them is that opposites attract and if you are meant to be it will work out, even if it comes at a high cost and a lot of work.
He was awarded a scholarship for baseball (still loving that box 2 is checked) and went to an out-of-state college. That was that. I dated, fell in mad like with someone I thought I would marry and your dad did not cross my mind for a full year. The next fall, I started classes at a local college, and because it was local, I looked around to see if I would know anyone. And there before my eyes, stood your dad. And again, my heart skipped a beat. I walked over to him and hit him—don’t worry, it was one of those playful, flirty hits we girls do from time to time. He looked me in the eye and smiled. He smiled– and my heart melted. Check box 4: A contagious smile—it didn’t matter that his teeth were jacked up; it actually made his smile all the more lovable. He asked how my summer was and I proceeded to talk all about how I had replaced the alternator in my 69 Chevelle SS (love me some muscle cars!). His eyes glazed over, so I kept talking (this is why people don’t believe I’m an introvert). What I know now that I didn’t know then is that not all guys are into cars and when a girl works so hard to impress a guy, she might be over compensating for her own inadequacies.
Your dad did not sit next to me in class and I knew I blew it. I spent my first class of college learning a lot—just not about Psychology—well, maybe it was Psychology, just not from the instructor’s lecture. What I know now that I didn’t know then is that real life experiences will often teach you more than a book (but don’t discount the beautiful truths found in books—a good many have changed my life)!
Unexpectedly, your dad called me two days later and asked if I wanted to study for an upcoming test. Check box 5: My guy must spontaneous! I could hardly speak. I agreed to the non-date-study-date for Saturday and looked forward to wooing him. Writing my genuine thoughts here for you, I am asking myself, “What the hell is wrong with you? Woo him? It was a study date for Pete’s sake—and remember you don’t even really like him”! (Also, I might be the last person on the planet to use the word “woo”) Friday after classes, I was walking down the steep hill to the lower-parking lot, lost in deep, reflective thought as the sun shone down on me, adding to the all-over warmth I was feeling that day, when all of the sudden my moment of tranquility was disrupted by what some would call music. All I heard was bass! Bass, my dear children, is only one—count it—one–part of music! I turned to look who had such god-awful taste in music and there…wait for it…was your dad wearing his Ray Bans with one wrist draped over the steering wheel of his low-rider truck. I hoped he wouldn’t see me and I started to turn away when he gave me the ‘sup-nod. I wondered in that moment if a date, study-date or otherwise, was just a waste of time. Clearly, we were not a good match. What I know now that I didn’t know then is that we are often closed minded and judgmental of the things we see and hear and assume our way is best and right.
Though I didn’t think your dad and I would end up together, I was incredibly intrigued by him; so much so that I couldn’t get him out of my mind, so I left our study-date in place. Saturday came and I cleaned grandma and grandpa’s house, literally scrubbing the floors on my hands and knees. I then showered, did my hair and make-up, but then chose to wear sweats. This was very intentional. Very. I wanted to look my best, but not appear like I was trying too hard. What I know now that I didn’t know then is when we are focused so much on our outer appearance, often we are not working on the inner aspects of our heart. I was not emotionally and spiritually working to be the best God desired me to be for my future husband. However, I rocked a good pair of sweatpants—if that’s even possible!
I was not the only one trying too hard to look casual. Your dad showed up wearing a mamba sock, which is the 90’s version of a do-rag. He had his ear pierced and was sporting (I use that verb so loosely here) a huge earring of…prayer hands. Was it cool, you ask? Uuuuuhhh not in the slightest. I am dying laughing as I recall this image that he dawned for quite some time—which literally caused your grandpa to run out of the house to warn grandma about the hoodlum their precious baby girl was “entertaining”! My list had a box labeled “fashion sense”. I am certain I don’t have to tell you this box did not get checked. What I know now that I didn’t know then is that sometimes boys try too hard, just like girls and that the image we work so hard to achieve is often not the image of Christ.
I heard your dad arrive before I saw him. Know how? Bass! I rolled my eyes and thought, “Here goes nothing”. As bizarre as I found him to be, I also knew there was something worthwhile there. I ran out to meet him and before we even walked back into the house he turned to me and said, “Hey I’m hungry. Can I take you to dinner?” Check box 6: My guy needs to be generous. So we went, the two of us in his low-rider; he in his mamba sock and I in my sweats. We were the definition of “hot mess” before that term even came into existence. I wish we had thought to take a selfie. Oh, wait! Those didn’t exist—or cell phones—or even email. Though that dates us, it does not change what a journey toward love sometimes looks like. We talked about this and that for hours, literally hours, (check box 7: good conversationalist and stellar listener) when he finally approached the subject that terrified me most: music! Flash backs of just the day before flooded my mind and I pensively squeaked out “I love music, just not rap”. He listed group after group; groups like The Smiths, Talking Heads, The Beautiful South, Ten Thousand Maniacs, etc. most of which I was unfamiliar with. He saw the doe-eyed girl sitting across from him, evaluated her, maybe took pity on her, and slowly eased her into his love for all genres of music, starting with the Beautiful South, which I loved. (Check box 8: sharing his passions with me). We talked for hours like we had known each other forever. What I know now that I didn’t know then is that there is a whole world to be learned through the perspective of others. Our perspective is often incomplete.
I’m sure you’re dying to know about our first kiss. It was…uneventful to say the least. I wish I could say that the skies parted and angels sang as sunbeams bounced off our embracing bodies (don’t say, “Eeww”), but instead, I was on the phone, mid-sentence, when your dad leaned in for a quick kiss. You’re familiar with my gigantic horse teeth, right? Well, so is your dad! I quickly hung up the phone and we had a do-over. This is where you could say, “Eewww” because it was damn near magical. I didn’t actually write this on my childhood list of “must-haves”, but heck, check box 9 for obvious reasons. I asked your dad later why he chose that moment to kiss me. He said he had been watching my lips for some time and he just couldn’t wait a second longer. Almost sweet. More impulsive though, which is the exact opposite of who you know your dad to be! What I know now that I didn’t know then is that reality rarely matches our dreams and sometimes your first kiss is bad. God’s grace landed us a pretty great second kiss though! Another thing I know now that I didn’t know then is that it’s really hard for guys to take the lead and we need to be both patient and gracious.
Over the next four months we didn’t study a bit! That first study date was all about biology, but not the kind you find in a text book or under a microscope! I was smitten with your dad and fell for him so quickly it scared me. I didn’t want to lose him. I would do anything and everything for him, even sacrificing little things like sleep and big things like my self-respect. (read between the lines, my loves). What I know now that I didn’t know then is that true love really does wait. Girls that feel they have to compromise their morals and values or let go of them all together either by pressure or by their own initiative are not in a healthy relationship. Our choices remain with us forever.
On my 19th birthday, he sent a dozen roses to my workplace. Having worked at the town’s grocery store, people asked me about them all day long. I literally gushed and blushed all day, and honestly, the more I talked about him, the more I loved him. The next day, the day after this romantic gesture, he took me to Lookout Point, better named “Make-out Point” a place known for…hummm…how do I say this tactfully for my sweet children…a little nooky. No nooky took place, no hand holding, no kissing. Instead, confusion and tears filled that little low-rider as I sat listening to him break my heart. He said he thought he loved me, but he wanted to take a break to see if what he was feeling was really love or just infatuation. I rolled my eyes, but had to accept his words. I was devastated. I felt my heart would never be the same again. What I know now that I didn’t know then is that guys are really stupid sometimes. Wait! I knew that then! What I know now that I didn’t know then is that even guys struggle with their feelings and need time to process! I also learned that a broken heart is never wasted when we learn more about who we are and what we genuinely need in another person. Some guys are worth waiting for.
Time passed and I was stuck sitting next to him in assigned seating. I can’t believe I passed my classes, because I am pretty sure I didn’t hear a single lecture due to my wildly nervous heartbeat. I wrote your dad a poem a few weeks after our breakup. (Yep—that’s the kind of hot-mess I was back then–kind of wish I was still that girl), gave it to him at the end of class, and ran to my car, like a little girl. It was practically the equivalent of the “Do you like me? Yes, or no?” notes we wrote in third grade; though slightly more romantic. Slightly! I drove home, biting all my fingernails off, praying that he wouldn’t reject me again. He called and asked if I would come over. I can only point to the fact that my Chevelle’s awesomeness got me there in record time. When I arrived, he opened the door, and just like you might see in the movies, he boldly said, “If you take one step into this house, you’re saying yes to forever!” Check box 10—romantic! Me in my overalls, because I was still working that angle, took the most pronounced step ever over the threshold and said with the biggest smile, “OK”. And that was that! What I know now that I didn’t know then is that if it is really meant to be, it will come back around.
We dated several more months, incessantly talking about every topic under the sun. Your grandma even remarked how we talked more than teenage girls—and we did. Daily, for hours and hours at a time. Then one day, it dawned on me that we had never talked about what we were going to school for. I was pursuing my teaching certification in special education and he…wanted to be a pastor! A what?!!!! Well, that did it. I was not cut out to be a pastor’s wife. And, my goodness, he definitely was not cut out to be a pastor—I mean don’t you have to take a polygraph test and be holy and pure and— this was not the life I wanted. We argued and in tearful frustration, I yelled, “Well, don’t ask me to marry you, because I will say no”. Don’t get me wrong, box 11 had been checked a long time ago when I learned that his faith was genuine and that he loved the Lord, but marrying a pastor…that was a box some other girl had on her list, not mine. What I know now that I didn’t know then is that God has given each one of us a gift, and a dating couple should talk in depth about the compatibility of those gifts early on.
The next day was Thanksgiving of 1992 and your dad brought me to grandpa’s church, the church we attended, which was completely empty (and cold). He suspiciously locked me out of the room, which totally upset me and brought to mind the argument we had had just the day before. What I didn’t know for several minutes (and it was minutes) was that he was struggling to light the candles he had brought. Once he did, he unlocked the door and grabbed my hand as he escorted me to where the candles were arranged among a dozen pink roses and a white box tied with green yarn (green yarn!!!! Is that not totally endearing all on its own?!). I smiled and thought, “There is that sweet surprise element of his again”! Then I cringed because I had not thought to get him a Thanksgiving gift. I reached for the box and began to pull the green yard off the box, but he stopped me to ask if I had smelled the roses. Glancing up at him, I responded, “Yes, they’re beautiful, thank you”. While keeping my eyes locked on his, I bent forward and smelled them again for good measure. I began to pull at the yarn and again he interrupted, asking, “But did you smell this one?” It was as odd as it sounds and as I looked up at your dad, I could see he was trembling—like really, trembling. It was cold in the church, but not so much to warrant such trembling. To humor him, I exaggerated my smell of the rose he was pointing out and there nestled inside a pale pink rose was a solitaire engagement ring. It was my turn to be impulsive and so before he could even say a word, I jumped up and yelled over and over again, “YES! YES! YES!”. He reached for my hand and said, “Wait! I haven’t even asked you yet”. He then had me sit and he slowly kneeled, seeming to compose himself a bit, and proceeded to tell me everything he loved about me and how we would always talk things through and how it would be hard, but it would be worth it, and I believed every word he said. I had forgotten all about the box with green yarn until he handed it to me several moments later, saying “This is actually something for both of us. It’s going to be hard, but I believe in us and will do whatever it takes”. Inside the box was a workbook titled, “Saving Your Marriage Before It Starts”. Check Box 12: hard work doesn’t scare him; in fact, he embraces it. What I know now that I didn’t know then is that God’s plans are bigger and better than ours. He can take our differences and make them beautiful. Your dad and I complement each other, complete each other in the most remarkable ways. I also learned that marriage is work and the sooner you start working on it, the better!
I was over-the-moon in love and happy and looking forward to a bright and beautiful future as Mrs. Dennis Wellman Schneider. On August 20, 1993, box 13 was checked—as your dad promised to love me as long as long as we both shall live. He isn’t afraid of commitment or hard times because He trusts in God’s sovereignty and knew long before we said, “I do”, that a marriage made of three strands is not easily broken. I could write about the 23 years that have followed thus far, but I don’t think I have to tell you how the story ends! He’s my happily ever after, my lobster, my love you more. What I know now that I didn’t know then is that praying together is the best way to bond two hearts together and when God is truly in the center of a marriage it puts everything into proper perspective.
I’ve learned a whole lot of lessons; most I never saw coming primarily due to my naivety, and many I could have avoided if I had taken the time to cultivate the person God designed me to be before diving into a relationship. I’ve learned that not all boxes will get checked. I’ve learned that some boxes will appear that I didn’t even know I needed. Your future spouse is not something you order from the GoodToGod Catalog (you like that, don’t you?). Creating a checklist is not such a bad place to start— for yourselves, beginning with Proverbs 31. Ask the Lord to nurture those qualities in you so that when the right guy comes along, you’re not starting behind the eight-ball, like your dad and I did. I sit here praising God for His merciful grace over our marriage and hope so much that when you look to us, you see Him there too and are encouraged to weave a tapestry of three of your own one day