Cali – Part I

overhead-bins

Seth and I have very different travel styles. Granted, I’ve traveled the world, and he still doesn’t see any reason to ever leave our state, so differences in travel styles were inevitable. But I am of the opinion one should, you know, pre-book hotel rooms and rental cars. And maybe think about transport to the airport sooner than the night before departure. And possibly pack one’s bags sooner than six hours before a 7AM flight.

Nevertheless, we survived the 4:30AM drive to the airport and landed safely in LA. When we hit the runway, Seth advised me that he takes a while to deplane, so he encouraged me to grab my bag and go on ahead. Confused but opting not to ask any questions, I got off the plane and waited in the terminal near our gate. One minute went by… then two… then five… just when I started to get concerned, Seth appeared in the gate door and made his way to me, duffel bag in tow.

“What happened…?” I started to ask, but Seth put his hand on my back and ushered me forward. Only after we were a safe distance away did he explain.

“I knew I should never come to California. California is already letting me know I don’t belong here.” My conservative, old-fashioned cowboy sighed, half-laughing, and went on, “I don’t like to push ahead of people – older ladies or moms with kids – so I tend to wait a while in my aisle on the plane while I let other people get off. When there was finally a gap, and I felt like I had time to get my bag and deplane, I stuck my hand in the overhead bin without looking and grabbed what I thought was the handle of my bag.”

I nodded, wondering where this was going, and he continued, “It turned out it wasn’t my bag. It must have been some woman’s bag that she hadn’t zipped all the way shut, because when I pulled on the handle, a laptop fell out of the bag and landed on the head of the person in front of me -”

I gasped, and he nodded, adding, “It gets worse. Then – then! – tampons started raining down on everyone. This woman’s bag was full of tampons!”

I was laughing now as Seth continued the story. “I started shoveling tampons back into this bag as fast as I could, not looking up to make sure I didn’t make eye contact with whoever’s bag it was. It was so bad. California is rejecting me already, and we just landed.”

Still smiling, Seth and I made our way outside to where the rental car shuttles would pick us up and take us to our choice of offsite rental car company location. Seth was confused as to why all of the rental car options did not have kiosks right next to each other in the airport itself. He’d wanted to book in person so he could walk up and down the aisle and price check each one. That’s what online booking is for, honey.

I had in fact looked online and found that either Fox Rent-a-Car or E-Z Advantage were the cheapest options, and I made the mistake of mentioning that to Seth. I say it was a mistake because, once Seth knew those were the cheapest options, he was determined to stay and wait for one of their shuttles. Unfortunately, since they are cheap options, their shuttles only came once per hour instead of every five minutes.

After waiting for about half an hour, Seth and I finally agreed to get on a shuttle headed for one of the more mainstream rental car companies. The total bill came to a little over $300 instead of the $200 it would have been had we booked in advance online. Lesson learned. 

The whole trip was a lesson in compromise for both of us. As our first major trip together, I had to die to my natural tendency to plan and be in control, opting instead to take on the mindset of spontaneity and flexibility for Seth. Meanwhile, Seth was slowly realizing that life is a lot easier when you tap into the planning strengths of your more organized partner. We both actively tried to be considerate of the other, and the result was the best weekend we’ve had as it relates to dominance and control.

Seth had specifically told me ahead of time that he wanted to spend time in the mountains, not the beach, but that first day we landed, he suddenly wanted to check out the LA beaches. Thankful I’d thrown a swimsuit into my suitcase last-minute, I sighed and chunked my nature hiking itinerary, and we went to the beach instead of the forested walk to a waterfall I’d planned. We drove up Highway 1, found ourselves in Malibu and actually ended up having a great time walking the shoreline and looking for shells before Seth bravely dove into the frigid water in search of some time in the surf.

As that first day wore on, Seth continued to jokingly find examples of why he didn’t belong in California. When he fought his way out from the shoreline to a sandbar, one of the surfers out there asked if he was drunk. Apparently no one without a wet suit and surfboard attempts to wade out so deep. Later when we got smoothies, Seth made a face at his first sip. “This is the worst smoothie I’ve ever had!” I tried it and laughed. “That’s because it’s an all-fruit smoothie with no added sugar.” He shook his head in distaste and ranted in a teasing voice, “Why would anyone ever make such a disgusting smoothie? And sell it to unsuspecting customers?! California is the worst.”

That night, we stopped at the exact La Quinta I’d looked up online weeks before, but they only had one room left at the $99 rate. Granted, the room had two queen-sized beds, but – determined to sleep in separate bedrooms and maintain our commitment to physical purity – Seth declined the room, and we drove on to a sketchy Knight’s Inn that hadn’t been updated (or cleaned) since about 1969.

The large man in line ahead of us at the registration desk (if it could be called that) was trying to book a room by paying in cash only, but when the clerk refused, the man took his wad of cash and left. Between the rapist vans in the parking lot and the tattered, moth-eaten draperies behind the counter, I was ready to bolt, but the Knight’s Inn had two separate rooms for $75 each, so there we stayed.

Seth later acknowledged that we should have booked the La Quinta in advance. And booked the rental car in advance. And thought through more of the trip logistics. I appreciated his admission, and I acknowledged that we did make some great memories and have some fun adventures when I let go of my plans and just lived in the moment. Overall, this trip was a good lesson in compromise, valuing one another’s strengths and actively seeking the good of the other person in the relationship.

Authentically Aurora

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He’s the Sweetest. Period.

army-chaplainOver the weekend, I agreed to go out to dinner with an Army Chaplain who is stationed at a fort near my city. When he initially asked me out, I threw up all kind of barriers, trying to make myself sound as undesirable as possible.

I am a wounded animal, desperately trying to give myself time to heal. I thrash about any time someone gets close, seeking to keep away potential suitors, but I am bleeding out in the process.

When Steve expressed his interest in me, I immediately told him about my emotional baggage and how I think maybe I’m due for a season of singleness. I made every effort to push him away and ensure his affection for me would subside.

“If you’re interested in me,” I told him, “Be my friend. Pray about us. I will have dinner with you, but I make no promises beyond that.” So Steve drove three hours to take me out to dinner.

I quickly discovered that Steve is sweet and kind, decisive and confident, perceptive and attentive. He has a great smile and deep laugh lines around his eyes. He loves to laugh. And listen. And encourage.

I let Steve hold my hand to pray over our dinner, and by the end of the evening, he had pulled me into his lap. He has a gentle spirit, and I found him likable and easy to trust – good character qualities for an Army Chaplain. “And for a boyfriend,” I thought absently.

Near the end of the evening, I got up from his lap and, at the same instant, we saw the blood on his khaki shorts. My blood. From my period. It had overflowed, running through my shorts and onto his. And I was absolutely mortified.

Alternating between stuttering apologies and hiding my face behind my hands, I felt a flush creep into my cheeks. With a hint of sardonic humor, I thought to myself, “Well, I don’t have to worry about trying to push him away anymore!”

But Steve didn’t react the way I expected. He sat calmly, looking up at me with surprise. “Why are you so upset? It’s okay. I’ve had blood on me before.” He’s been deployed to Afghanistan and has done medical training, too. “But it’s period blood,” I thought. “Guys freak out about that.”

But Steve didn’t freak out. In fact, he soothed and calmed me as I had a meltdown, living every girl’s worst nightmare. I hadn’t just bled through my shorts. I bled onto his shorts! Is there anything more horrifying?!

Ironically, we’d talked about “most embarrassing moments” earlier in the evening. After Steve reassured me over and over that he was honestly okay and not weirded out, I quipped, “Well, I guess now I have a new ‘most embarrassing moment’!” He laughed, and I had the pleasure of seeing those deep laugh lines crinkle the corners of his eyes again.

Steve continued to sit calmly on the couch – covered in my blood – while I went to clean myself up. He insisted that I use the bathroom first. Only after I was changed did Steve put on the baggy athletic shorts I offered him so that I could wash his khakis for him to wear home.

I was stunned by Steve’s poise and astounded by his kindness. Steve has a maturity and emotional fortitude I haven’t seen in many of the men I’ve dated. I still think I should consider taking some serious time away from dating, but now I know at least one Army Chaplain who is fervently praying for me to be whole, healed and ready to date again.

Authentically Aurora