I have written down that my one of my goals today is to take stock of the past 21 years being married to Paul and put it on my FamilySearch account. I also have a goal to complete 100 blog posts, so I am going to kill two birds with one stone. Here goes!
Yesterday was our 21st wedding anniversary. 21 years. What does that even mean?
I remember when I was much younger, looking at couples our current age and thinking they knew it all. I admired the way they worked together, laughed at each other’s comments or jokes without having to finish what they were saying, and I especially loved how they looked at each other. I wanted that. I yearned to have that and hoped Paul and I could have that sooner than 21 years of marriage.
But the truth is, you must earn it. THAT look, that laugh, that togetherness doesn’t come from just loving each other deeply – it comes from living every single up and down together and sticking it out . . . NO MATTER WHAT!
Last year was a HUGE milestone for Paul and I. We had survived living in Costa Rica for almost a year and a half and it was time to “go back” to Utah for a much needed visit. It hadn’t dawned on us that it would also be our 20th Anniversary until a few months before our trip. It also didn’t dawn on us that I would need emergency surgery, removing a major organ. So our plans to traditionally celebrate our 20th anniversary had to take on some major changes.
Instead of letting these changes stop us from doing anything at all, putting our anniversary celebrations off until I felt better (which would not have happened for 9 – 11 months), we decided to stay at the Temple Square Marriott for a night and go reminiscing down memory lane to the places that literally helped shape the people and couple we are today. Rather than focusing on how we spent our weekend, I want to focus on the places we visited, from the beginning to the last, and how they each helped to shape us!
This the building where Paul and I first met. Paul was a busser at what once was “Robintino’s of Holladay.” I had come with my two youngest siblings for a pizza but I was nervously waiting for my mom to come in time to pay for our meal, before the restaurant closed. I noticed that this kid from High School was keeping a close eye on us. It made me feel embarrassed, I was completely stressed out, not knowing what to do. But I found out that this guy was only concerned for us. He kept offering to refill our sodas on the house.
Thankfully my mother arrived, only minutes before closing, and paid our bill. I hoped to never see that guy again because I was so embarrassed. A few days later I was at school and found myself alone in the hall, hearing someone whistling a “woot woo” whistle. I totally assumed it wasn’t for me but when I heard it again, I turned around to see where the whistle was coming from and saw THAT GUY! He was all alone as well, and smiling a GREAT BIG SMILE at me (just like the one above in the photo). I pointed to myself, like a dork, and he nodded his head yes and waved at me. It felt GREAT!
I ended up working at this same restaurant with this guy and got to know him as a smug Senior who got to leave work first, while I was asked to stay late to help close the restaurant. I suppose I was only jealous because he actually had somewhere to be, where as I didn’t, but I did need the extra money. So all was well that ends well. Then one day, the guy quit working at Robintino’s to serve a mission for the same church that I was an inactive member of. I thought I would never see him again.
Just a few years later I was enrolled at Salt Lake Community College and attending the LDS Institute Program there. Ironically, I had signed up to be in an LDS sorority with my best friend Jaime. One night, at one of our sorority meetings, the leaders had us sit in a circle and pass a flashlight (to replace a candle that was NOT allowed in the building) around and share if we had a missionary and where they were serving.
I was COMPLETELY AGAINST this activity and felt it was exclusionary and ridiculous. Out of all of the girls who were saying they had a missionary, how many would actually marry said missionary. I was also not comfortable that my friend Jaime would be excluded so easily, so I decided to do something about it. Just that week, I had learned through a rather embarrassing experience how to say the country Chile (Chee-lay). I also knew where that guy from Robintino’s was serving, which was Chile, so I felt I could simply state that I too had a missionary, because I had just as much a chance to marry this guy as I could marry any of the missionaries these girls talked about.
So when it was my turn, I didn’t pass on the flashlight but held onto it and was asked who my missionary was. I simply said, “Paul Whitchurch.” The leader looked at me with doubtful eyes and said, “Really? Where is he serving?” I said, with FULL confidence, “Chile.” The leader was dumbfounded but had to believe me. My friend Jaime was freaking out, whispering that I was a liar. I didn’t care. I didn’t think this was right for them to do this. Well . . . be careful what you lie about!
A few weeks later, EVERYTHING changed for me. I had just lost my sister Ashley to an auto/pedestrian accident in November and was feeling lost and without direction. Thankfully I had received my Patriarchal Blessing that October and it had encouraged me to be “looking” for the ONE (yes, I am one of the few that had “the one” to look for). Thankfully I had a great group of friends that helped me do just that!
The SaltAir – outside and the infamous dance floor.
It was almost New Year’s Eve and my friends asked me to attend a multi-STATE dance at The SaltAir with them. I thankfully said I would. The story goes like this: My friends wanted to use the restroom but the line and crowd in the bathroom was too much for me, so I waiting for them near the speakers. I had just made myself comfortable, sitting on one of the speakers when the crowd literally parted. On the other side of the room stood THAT GUY from Robintino’s. I was SHOCKED but also intrigued!
You see, I had this other guy at the dance that I had been TRYING DESPERATELY to notice me but he just didn’t get the hint that I liked him. He just so happened to be standing near THIS GUY, and I thought that if I got THIS GUY to dance with me, that it might make this other guy (Sean) jealous. So, with all the confidence I could muster, I waltzed up to Paul and gave him my BIGGEST and BEST hello, how have you been.
He loved it!
When Paul and I visited the SaltAir, we decided we should at least walk out to the water. BAD IDEA! Boy did it smell and the sand/mud/swamp water ruined my brand new shoes. YUCK! Before we started our walk, I had felt sad that my kids weren’t with us. On our return, I was grateful they didn’t come too.
We got talking and then he asked me to dance. My plan was going perfectly. I looked over at Sean and I saw that he was watching me dance with Paul. My next plan was to ask Sean’s older, single brother to dance. If this didn’t get his attention, I didn’t know what would? After the song was over, I politely began to end our conversation when Paul asked if he could have my number. WHAT?!? This is even MORE perfect! I knew this guy wouldn’t actually call me, because most guys ask for your number and either “lose it” or just don’t call.
Sadly, we only had a paper gum wrapper to write my number on. Paul took it and promised he would call. Ya right, I’m not holding my breath, and I walked off to move onto the next stage of my perfect plan. Well, Sean didn’t really get the hint but my friend’s thought that a couple more moves like that might get him to wake up and notice I was interested in dating him. So my friend Jaime invited him and his friends to come to her house for New Year’s Eve that Sunday night, 2 nights away. I loved the way things were working out!
The next day I was home relaxing when the phone rang. It was THAT GUY – Paul. He sounded really nice and confident on the phone and asked if I would like to go out. I thought, “Ya right. He is only calling because he said he would and he knows that I know people he knows so he is concerned I am going to give him a bad name. So he is only calling to be true to what he said. But asking me on a date, come on, don’t you think that is a little much?”
So I said, “Sure. When do you want to go out?” – totally thinking he would say like 2 weeks from now and then cancel, never having to see me again. “How about tonight? Are you free?” WHAT?!?! Was he totally serious? Well, I didn’t have any plans, so why not? He is a nice guy, I used to work with him and I have all those people we both know that will keep me safe, in case the guy is crazy or something. “Okay,” I said, “What time?” We made a date for 7:00 – dinner and a movie. Perfect. This would TOTALLY bug Sean at the party tomorrow night!
Paul came to pick me up in worn out cowboy boots, an Alpaca coat from his mission to Chile and sea-foam green pants with matching patterned long sleeved, button-downed shirt. Who was this guy? Is this honestly the nicest outfit this guy owns? But the vehicle was even better than his clothes. His car was a beater . . . the family called it “The Hud” and it was! It was a pile of metal, melted into the shape of a car and had a motor in it to make it move. The passenger side floor had a whole it in, that they covered with a board. Seriously, who was this guy?
He did take me to the Olive Garden in Sugarhouse for dinner, which just happened to be one of my favorite restaurants at the time. I was REALLY excited to eat my meal, so I asked Paul the typical question of “Tell me all about your mission.” But he said, “I don’t just tell that to anyone, it is sacred to me.” WHAT?!?! Who was this guy? And how was I supposed to eat my meal if he wasn’t doing all the talking?
Somehow that question spun our date from “typical” to spiritual, because the only thing I remember is opening up ALL of my heart to Paul. Not because I found him attractive or wanted to earn his respect, but because I found him to be someone I could trust, I could ask my deepest questions to, and someone who seemed to know Heavenly Father in a way that I did as well.
We actually skipped out on our movie and instead walking all over Temple Square, ending up in a lobby of a hotel, talking over very spiritual matters. For the first time in my life, I felt like I could talk to someone about anything and they didn’t have anywhere else to be. I loved every single minuted I spent with him.
I honestly never expected to hear from him again. I felt he had done his duty to help a struggling “sister in the gospel” and that would be that. But it wasn’t. Paul called the very next day, Sunday, and ended up inviting himself to my friend Jaime’s New Year’s Eve party. Yes, I still had the plan to make Sean jealous, but Paul had plans of his own.
Within a matter of months, Paul and I were FINALLY engaged! (that is another story for another day) This is the very place I asked Paul if we could “talk about life.” It was a very sacred experience for the both of us and I am VERY grateful it occurred inside Paul’s parent’s home because I can still remember those precious moments to this day, each time I step into their home.
On July 23, 1996, Paul and I were sealed to each other for time and ALL eternity in the Salt Lake Temple. It truly was a miraculous day for making it to that day seemed like it might not happen. Trial after trial hit us but Paul handled them with grace and confidence.
I had sadly thought that making it to the temple meant “Happily Ever After” – thankfully our Preparing for Celestial Marriage class helped us learn that our marriage was the BEGINNING, not the end. And that it truly was!
We held our wedding reception at The Old Meeting House on Highland Drive and 4120 South, near my childhood home. I had ALWAYS dreamed that IF I ever got married, that my reception would be here. That dream came true. I decided on the “traditional” wedding line and had the wedding party wear “hot pink” and blue. It was awful but I had NO IDEA what I was doing. We are truly blessed that our family and friends still talk to me. Especially since we chose the cheapest package and only served eclairs and brownies with a fruit smoothie frappe at the reception. EVERYONE was starving! Especially Paul and I.
Thankfully Paul and I stopped at the Training Table for a bite to eat before our reception. No one warned us that people would be hungry on our wedding day. We laughed at the error we made but turned it into a positive by eating at the Training Table almost every Thursday while we were newlyweds. It was our one FOR SURE date night each week with busy college/university classes and jobs to help pay for our tuition and living expenses.
During the first year of our married life, I worked at this building. It used to be a call center – Access Long Distance. I actually really disliked this job and used to lock myself in the bathroom stall, praying with tears streaming down my face that I could quit. But I did find the reason I was to stay at this job – I met my dearest friend Jenny Starley. We have been sisters from another mother ever since! Isn’t life just like that? I do believe that our lives are more than work or activities, it is about the people we are meant to meet.
Thankfully I was prompted to quit the call center and worked temporarily at Perdue Plumbing, trying out my accounting skills. That job was where I realized I didn’t want to have anything to do with accounting. So I tried my hand at something I thought I might love . . . working in a Dental Office. I loved the way I felt when I visited my Orthodontist and I LOVED pretending to play secretary as a child, so I combined the two and found this job. It turned out to be another place that I needed in my life, for my co-workers became more like family to me.
I wanted to rent an apartment, like all the “cool couples” did but Paul insisted we stay AWAY from apartment complexes. My mom had thankfully heard that my old bus driver, from when I was in Kindergarten, had an empty basement apartment for rent. Paul said YES without even seeing it. It was a super cool, shag carpeted 2 bedroom full basement with decent kitchen and LARGE living room. We had plenty of storage, a carport to park our car under and a tub/shower bathroom. It was perfect for us.
The apartment happened to be in the same stake I grew up in; the ward next door to mine. The 6th ward became a place of MANY firsts. Many of those firsts came in the form of church callings – Primary Chorister being the MOST significant and impactful calling of all my experience working in the church. I also got to have my dream calling – Young Women’s Camp Assistant. I LOVED that experience and cherished the bonds I made with those young women.
We also had our first baby and our first BIG trial in this ward – her passing. The Winder 6th Ward embraced us and loved us through this difficult time of our lives. The women of this ward truly wrapped their arms around me and served me in only the way the Lord knew I would need. They showed me what “Relief Society” truly meant by word and action. I will forever cherish this precious time of our lives.
(July 1996 – May 1999)
Soon after Paul and I were married, Paul had the opportunity to change his job. He was working for Tuck Landscaping but found it to be too challenging with his school schedule and being a newlywed. He was able to find a job with Alamo Rent-a-Car being a Spanish speaking reservations sales agent. This would be his first step in using his Spanish ability to bless his family.
When Paul and I were married, we came to the marriage with only my Nissan 200sx that my father and step-mother had given to me. After a few months we realized we NEEDED a second car, so we found a $3000 Subaru GL Wagon with over 100,000 miles. Not our best decision but we LOVED that car. We were even blessed when Paul was in a car accident and the insurance company “totaled” the car, which gave us the ability to pay off the loan faster, making us able to not have a car payment. Paul was able to completely fix the damage that had been done. Another one of my FAVORITE gifts Paul has – mechanic.
A year later, my 200sx fell apart and we were back to having one car. Then we scraped up enough money to finally cover a 2nd car payment and bought us a Subaru Impreza, just in time for me to have Kayleigh. We also bought our first green Pathfinder from Tom, which led us to a love of the Nissan brand.
Soon after Kayleigh’s birth, Paul and I started the process of moving into our first home. My father had started to help us with the idea of building our own home, but it didn’t feel right. After Kayleigh passed away in March, my mother called in May and said she was moving. I was SO HAPPY for her and felt this was a WONDERFUL decision, but then I felt the most fervent feeling that “I” needed to buy and live in my childhood home. I was dumbfounded, to say the least.
I refused to consider the idea any further but that didn’t stop the Spirit, for Paul received the very same prompting, telling me that this was another MUST in my life. So I agreed to obey and we moved into this home on Lanebrook Lane in May of 1999. This home not only provided a loving environment for our next 2 children but it also provided a safe place for my 3 siblings. Much healing, peace and unity was formed in this home.
I also was able to heal from my past experiences in this neighborhood/ward and came to love my neighbors in a way that I never knew was possible. We were given some incredible opportunities to serve in the Winder 5th ward. Paul was Executive Secretary while I was the Young Women’s President. I also got to serve in the Relief Society Presidency as 2nd counselor and my favorite callings, Primary Chorister and Webelos Leader. This ward and the members who lived here at this time, have a very special place in our hearts.
Paul was still attending the University of Utah when we moved into this home and we celebrated his graduation in the backyard. It was a FANTASTIC party, complete with a chocolate ganache cake and karaoke. One of our favorite guests was Paul’s grandfather Paul Swensen.
Soon it was time for our family to make another change and we moved to another home in Holladay, Utah – only a few streets away. This is the home where our last 2 children joined our family. It is also the place where Paul made a HUGE career change from the IT world with Perot Systems into International Marketing with Dialogue Marketing. This job took Paul back to the hemisphere of his childhood homes – South America. He was also blessed to use his Spanish language gift on a daily basis and this brought him MUCH joy!
After our family was completed, Paul realized part of his Patriarchal Blessing stated that he was to continue in education, so he returned to the University of Utah to complete his Executive MBA. This gave him the educational experience he needed to make another HUGE change in his life . . . moving our family to Costa Rica.
I am AMAZED that Paul and I were able to walk down memory land in only a few hours together. We thoroughly enjoyed our drive and even indulged in some fun treats and foods along the way.
We finished up our night eating at a favorite and almost iconic Holladay, Utah restaurant – Tres Hombres. Thankfully I think I can make it this good in Costa Rica – but not the refried beans. No pinto beans in Costa Rica. Hum.
Although Paul and I didn’t get to “get away” for our anniversary, I think “coming home” was even more powerful for us and our future years together. For within these last 21 years, we have helped shape lives, as well as our own.
We began a family of little ones, while welcoming our siblings to be a part of our daily lives.
Now my siblings are having their own kids, allowing my children to be a part of their lives, which is preparing Paul and I for a time that . . .
our children will do what we have done the past 21 years, which will hopefully give us the opportunity to be a part of their lives too. I look forward to the next 21 years and what they will bring. Yes, there will be heart ache and sorrow but there will also be SO MUCH JOY!
That is WHY we are here on earth in the first place: to learn, to love, to laugh and to keep on trying again and again. Here’s to the BEST 21 years with THAT GUY! I love you Paul. Thank you for helping me become who I never imagined I could become but also the very woman I hoped to be. You have made my dreams come true.
All my love,