New Neighbors – Part 1

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About a month ago, I moved to a new apartment to be closer to where I’ll be teaching this fall. It’s a nice place, built like a townhouse with a garage on the bottom level and my living area stacked directly above it on the second floor. I have granite countertops and a patio, and – because it’s so far outside of town – this awesome unit costs $400/month less than my last place.

Seth helped to move me in. Actually, he insisted on it, pressuring me to let him be a good boyfriend rather than hiring movers. My compromise was to let him move all of the boxes but hire movers to move the furniture. That way, Seth would get to do the manual labor he loves so much (think country boy stuck in the city), and I would still have an intact boyfriend (and furniture) when I finished getting moved.

I made the mistake of giving Seth the keys to both my old and new apartments while I ran to a baby shower I was hosting. And when I got to my new place later that afternoon, I discovered that Seth had decided to move my couch by himself when I wasn’t there. Something about proving to me that I really shouldn’t have hired movers… That’s what I get for dating a manly man.

Anyway, while we were unloading boxes from the back of his pick-up truck, we both stopped short at the sight of a familiar face across the walkway from my garage. My new neighbor is kumquat Joe.

Authentically Aurora

Sense & Sensitivity

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Seth and I have been dating for a few months now, so we are entering that season of trying to find our groove; to figure out the new norm for our relationship now that the “getting to know you” season is coming to a close.

Over the past three months, we’ve learned each other’s backstories as well as one another’s hopes and dreams for the future. We’ve experienced one another’s hobbies and have explored our (thankfully shared) political and religious views. We’ve met each other’s families, friends, coworkers and have started double-dating with now mutual friends.

There aren’t a lot of “softball” questions left to ask (“What do you like to do for fun?”), so conversation tends to either be about the present (“How was your day today?”), the near future (“What are you up to this weekend?”), or a topic that is deeper, more intense, and suggestive of the longer-term future (“What are your thoughts on adoption?”). We try to keep that last one to a minimum for now. After all, Seth’s longest relationship ever is only 4 months, and I am all too aware we are creeping up on that timeline.

Seth has become a student of me, and I of him. We are still learning each other, but we have just enough knowledge to be dangerous. He has moments of being indescribably sweet and moments of being a stereotypical man. I’m sure he feels the same about me in all my womanliness.

Just yesterday, we were talking after work on our way to meet some friends for dinner. Seth had spent the weekend in the pasture, and his time in the sun had dotted his tanned face with a sprinkling of freckles. Enjoying the look of them, I smiled at him suddenly and said with a soft smile, “I really like your freckles.”

He looked back at me and said with a straight face, “I really like your pimple,” nodding to a new blemish that just showed up on my left cheek. About five minutes earlier, I’d been telling him about the rough day I’d had at work and had confessed I was feeling a bit defeated and insecure. So I laughed, but I also added through the laughter, “Uh, didn’t I just get finished telling you how insecure I’m feeling today? Please tell me more about how ugly I am.” He took the hint and wrapped me in a hug, saying, “Oh, Aurora… you know I’m just teasin’ with ya.”

Two hours later, driving back from dinner, I got a (perhaps needed) reminder of what a great guy Seth is. We were at a red light and got stuck behind a beat-up, old car that wouldn’t start when the light turned green. Rather than honking and veering angrily around the stalled car like some of my exes would have done, Seth turned on his hazard lights, told me to sit tight, and hopped out of the truck to knock on the door and see how he could help.

The driver ended up being an elderly woman, and Seth got her to put the car in neutral while he pushed her to a corner gas station. Meanwhile, I slid across the bench seat to Seth’s driver seat and followed behind the stalled car in his truck, shielding them from traffic.

That is the kind of man he is. That is the kind of team we make. So when he teases me about my acne or ogles at the number of brownies I eat or tells me my laugh sounds like a turkey, I just remind myself about his kind heart and stalwart character.

He is a typical, occasionally oblivious man, and I am a typical, occasionally sensitive woman. So as I tell Seth all the time, I am learning to hear the words of his heart and not his mouth. And he is learning not to say stupid things.

Authentically Aurora

Perks of Frugality

Seth TextWhen Seth took me to his ranch a few weekends ago with a group of mutual friends, he and I were tasked with grocery shopping for the group, so we threw a couple of ice chests in the back of his truck and went for an honest-to-goodness grocery run in town.

After picking out produce together, Seth sent me off to find some mustard. Eager to get back to him, I scanned the shelves, grabbed a small value brand mustard and hurried back to where he stood by the deli meat. Seth took the mustard from me and started to throw it in our cart, but he did a double-take at the label and cried in dismay, “Organic?! What in the world are you doing buying organic mustard?!”

He marched me back down the condiments aisle, replaced the distasteful container and, two shelves down, picked up an almost identical mustard by the same value brand. “80 cents. That’s more like it. Your fancy organic mustard was $1.20. We just saved 40 cents by not going organic.”

“Wow. I guess you can really treat me on our date next week!” I teased with a nudge.

Having thoroughly learned my lesson, I took extra care with my personal grocery shopping last week. When Seth came over to make stuffed bell peppers together – bringing meat from one of his family’s own bulls – I nodded at the bell peppers I’d purchased for us earlier in the day.

“You may notice that all of our bell peppers are yellow and green,” I said casually. Seth paused chopping the onions to glance over at me, sensing that I was about to say something of note.

I shrugged in mock nonchalance, continuing, “That’s because these were two for a dollar, whereas the red bell peppers were $1.25 each.”

In an instant, Seth was at my side, arms wrapped around my waist and face just inches from mine. “You are so attractive to me right now,” he told me in his low drawl before he lowered his lips to mine, rewarding me for my frugality.

Authentically Aurora

He’s American as Apple PI

Apple PiThat memorable Sunday when Seth and I became reacquainted was in early March, a few weeks before my birthday and well before the end of my dating fast. I felt myself drawn to him and had a sense the feeling was mutual, but I had no way of knowing for sure.

In mulling over those unexpected interactions we shared while sitting cross-legged on a purple mat surrounded by children, I felt simultaneously frustrated and thankful to have nearly a full month before a potential end to my break from dating. One of the more practical benefits to not dating, I discovered, was a built-in check on my expectations. Thank God, I thought, because even with tempered expectations, my emotions were all over the place.

That first week, I didn’t hear from Seth on Monday or Tuesday, but – true to his word – Seth sent me a Facebook message on Wednesday afternoon asking me for the time and location of my bible study so he could visit our group.

Excited to see him again, I touched up my makeup after work that Wednesday and allotted a few extra minutes to be sure to get to bible study on time. But Seth showed up late and settled himself far across the room from me when he arrived. My heart sank. He was situated such that I couldn’t even see him around the heads of the people between us.

Disappointed, I tried to focus on the discussion going on around me, but I was distracted by my confusion. Seth already had a bible study group – in fact, he taught his Tuesday night group from time to time – so why had he decided to visit mine? I’d thought it was to spend time with me, but he hadn’t made an effort to sit by me, which left me unsure of his interest.

At the end of bible study, Seth came over to say hi, and I started to hope again, especially when he decided to leave at the same time as I did. We walked out into the rainy night together. Seth had parked far down the block, so I offered to drive him to his vehicle. We climbed into my sporty BMW and drove to the truck he indicated,  his calloused finger pointing to it through the downpour.

Glancing over his truck, I decided it suited him. Like Seth, the rugged truck showed the effects of years of hard work, but it also looked solid and dependable. I’d anticipated Seth would want to sit and talk with me for a few minutes before getting out, but as soon as my Beemer rolled to a stop beside the muddied truck, Seth hopped out, thanking me for the ride and closing the door almost before I could respond with, “You’re welcome.”

Stunned, I drove away, comforting myself that I wasn’t dating anyway, so his hasty exit was probably for the best. But I found myself feeling disappointed again the next Sunday when Seth walked right past me in the hallway of church and didn’t seem to notice me or my bright pink sundress – one I’d chosen specifically for its happy hues. I’d spent three days looking forward to running into him at church, but Seth didn’t even so much as give me a second glance.

However, on Monday afternoon I was pleasantly surprised by a message in my Facebook inbox. Our bible study group – full of engineers – had discussed hosting a Pi Day (3/14) celebration at Roy’s house. Having heard the discussion on Wednesday when he’d visited, Seth wrote to me that he was interested to know if he was welcome to join our group’s party. Smiling to myself – heart full of hope again – I encouraged him to attend, so he did, asking for my phone number in case he needed help finding the house.

The Pi Day celebration ended up being epic. People brought all sorts of pies – chocolate and blueberry, store-bought and homemade – and after sampling all of the delicacies, Roy’s roommates broke out their assortment of party games: Code Names, Two Rooms & A Boom, Four on a Couch and the like.

Throughout the evening of laughter and fellowship, multiple girls asked me (with gleeful, teasing grins) how long Seth and I had been dating. Each time, my eyes widened in surprise. “We’re not dating,” I’d tell them, adding mentally with a hopeful smile, “yet.” But everyone evidently observed the way Seth watched me make my way around the room, serving drinks and hugging friends. He seemed captivated by me, and I caught him looking at me several times.

As the evening grew late, I gathered up my purse and glanced over my shoulder to find Seth moving my way through the crowd. “May I walk you out?” he asked. I was immensely glad.

We said our goodbyes to the others and made our way out to my car. Telling myself to release any expectations in light of his quick departure the prior week, I gave Seth a quick hug goodbye and started to fish in my purse for my keys, but to my surprise, he leaned against my car and struck up a conversation.

Half an hour later, still deep in conversation about our families and hobbies, the wind picked up and whipped my bangs around my forehead. I reached into my purse for a rubber band and put my long hair up in a ponytail to get it off the back of my neck and keep it from flying into my face. Still leaning against my car, Seth reached out his hand to gently squeeze my shoulder as he told me about his latest carpentry project.

My neck and shoulders were sore from yoga, so I subconsciously sighed gratefully, and Seth stepped closer to work out a knot in my left upper trap while he described the way he likes to fill holes in mesquite wood with turquoise stones. When he finished, I nestled into his chest, and he wrapped his arm around me, both of us smiling shyly at our joint reflection in the car next to mine.

Two hours later as midnight approached, I told Seth I should probably get to bed. It was, after all, a work night. He agreed and hugged me goodnight, telling me he needed to go get a run in anyway.

“A run?” I asked incredulously. “At midnight?!”

“Yeah, probably just a four-miler,” Seth said with a shrug. He has run a couple of marathons.

“Why would you go for a run this late?”

“Sometimes I go for a run when I get a little too amped up,” he told me.

“What has you amped up?” I asked in genuine innocence. Was he stressed about work?

He chuckled, dropping his eyes before looking back up at me and saying in his low drawl, “Oh, I don’t know. Talking to a pretty girl late at night will do it.”

Oh! My face burned, and he laughed in response. “You totally went fishing for that one!”

“No, I didn’t!” I countered with an embarrassed grin. “You’re the fisherman, not me!” He’d gone fishing the prior weekend and came home with some fresh catches.

Seth just laughed in reply and gave me another hug goodnight, leaving me with his woodsy scent and a longing for the next time I’d see him again.

Authentically Aurora

The Dater’s Dilemma

Sweet Home Alabama trioHave you ever seen the movie “Sweet Home Alabama”? It follows Reese Witherspoon as she tries to decide between two men:

  • Andrew Hennings, the suave, wealthy son of the mayor of NYC (who, by the way, proposes to her at Tiffany’s and tells her to pick out any ring she wants!), and
  • Jake Perry, a good ol’ Alabama boy with a fun-loving, playful sense of humor who drives a pickup truck and sports rugged good looks.

If you haven’t seen the movie, I won’t spoil it for you, but suffice it to say that Reese really struggles because she loves her life in New York, working as a fashion designer and living the high life, but then she goes home to Alabama surrounded by old friends and family and says, “This fits, too.” Both men are equally wonderful in their own ways. And she has a decision to make.

In the past week, I have realized that I am living my own version of “Sweet Home Alabama”. If you’ve been following my blog, you know that I unexpectedly uncovered an indescribable connection and chemistry with Flynn on a camping trip a couple of weeks back. And you also know that I recently (and equally unexpectedly) found myself being courted by Bryan, the intriguing and wealthy gentleman who took me out for ice cream in his Aston Martin.

Jake PerryFlynn is a good ol’ Louisiana boy with a thick Southern drawl and a black pickup truck. He’s a 34-year-old mechanical engineer and former Army Ranger who plays acoustic guitar and has a rugged, roguish charm about him. He’s a bible study leader at church, and he makes me laugh constantly (throw-your-head-back kind of laughter). But he has a girlfriend.

Andrew HenningsBryan is an independently wealthy, 36-year-old electrical engineer who is a practicing Christian with a dream of opening an orphanage in Haiti. He is cultured and intelligent; laid-back and adventurous. I enjoy his company, but I wonder if our attraction is purely intellectual, without any emotional element to the connection. He also doesn’t see himself staying in one place for long, so life with Bryan would be one of perpetual instability.

So what’s a girl to do? Allow Bryan to continue courting me to see if sparks develop? Pray for Flynn to become available? Cut them both loose? Decisions, decisions…

Fun fact: I met Bryan at Flynn’s Thanksgiving potluck for their church group. Yes, they know each other and have several mutual friends. Isn’t life full of interesting twists?!

Authentically Aurora

That Ain’t No Way to Treat a Lady

Girl in a Country SongAs a woman who loves old school country music and clever lyrics (especially if they involve stirring the pot), I absolutely adore Maddie & Tae’s hit single “Girl in a Country Song”.

The new “Bro Country” sub-genre of country music has been gaining popularity for years, arguably at the expense of any semblance of moral fiber in today’s society. These days, rampant sexuality is touted in country just as much as in rap or pop music. And in Bro Country, it’s always the woman who gets objectified in the celebration of moonshine-saturated tailgate parties and sleepless nights in the back of pickup trucks.

Maddie & TaeBut 18-year-olds Maddie & Tae have offered the world of country music a different perspective. These two girls, fresh out of high school, have burst onto the country music scene with their first hit, which expresses the perspective of some of the women sung about in country songs these days. Some of their playful lyrical jabs may be lost on those who don’t normally listen to the country genre, but more seasoned listeners will pick up on the fact that these brave young girls didn’t shy away from poking fun at big names in country like Blake Shelton and Chris Young.

Have a listen, and see if you can pick up on their references to these song lyrics:

Chris Young Aw Naw“Aw Naw” by Chris Young

Aw Naw, do you hear that song, the one that just came on… It would be so wrong if we didn’t dance once, show off those jeans you painted on, aw naw.”

David Nail Whatever She's Got“Whatever She’s Got” by David Nail

“She’s got the blue jeans painted on tight, that everybody wants on a Saturday night… And when she moves every jaw’s gonna drop, and I do but I don’t want her to stop… I want whatever she’s got.”

Cruise Florida Georgia Line“Cruise” by Florida Georgia Line

“When I first saw that bikini top on her, she’s poppin’ right out of the South Georgia water, thought ‘Oh, good lord’, she had them long tanned legs!”

Luke Bryan Drunk On You“Drunk on You” by Luke Bryan

“Girl, you make my speakers go boom boom, dancin’ on the tailgate in a full moon. That kinda thing make a man go mmm hmmm. You’re lookin’ so good in what’s left of those blue jeans.”

Billy Currington Hey Girl“Hey Girl” by Billy Currington

Hey girl, what’s your name girl, I’ve been lookin’ at you and every guy here’s doin’ the same girl…So hot, gotta give it a shot, gotta get a little bit of what you got.”

Jason Aldean Take a Little Ride“Take a Little Ride” by Jason Aldean

“I’m just ready to ride this Chevy down a little backroad. Slide your pretty little self on over. Get a little closer…put your pretty pink toes on the dash, lean your seat back, Man I swear there ain’t nothing looks better than that. Sweet tan little thing with nothing to do. I want to take a little ride with you.”

Randy Houser“Runnin’ Outta Moonlight” by Randy Houser

Come on baby, don’t you keep me waitin’, I gotta go, I’ve got a reservation… Come on baby let me take you on a night ride, windows down, sittin’ on my side.”

Boys Round Here Blake Shelton“Boys Round Here” by Blake Shelton

Red red red red red red redneck. Yeah, the girls round here, they all deserve a whistle. Shakin that sugar, sweet as Dixie crystal.”

Get Me Some of That“Get Me Some of That” by Thomas Rhett

You’re shakin’ that money maker, like a heart breaker… Love the way you’re wearin’ those jeans so tight… I never seen nothin’ that I wanted so bad. Girl I gotta get me some of that.

Luke Bryan That's My Kind of Night“That’s My Kind of Night” by Luke Bryan

“You got that sun tan skirt and boots. Waiting on you to look my way and scoot your little hot self over here. Girl hand me another beer, yeah.”

Jon Pardi Up All Night“Up All Night” by Jon Pardi

“I’ve been a thinkin’ about breakin’ in the weekend and not doin’ any sleepin’ So get in. Let’s take a ride. Baby, let’s go take a dirt road.”

Jason Aldean My Kinda Party“My Kinda Party” by Jason Aldean

“Baby if you’re in the mood and you can settle for a one night rodeo, You can be my tan-legged Juliet, I’ll be your Redneck Romeo.”

Authentically Aurora

Stability or Adventure

Aston MartinLast night, Bryan left his pickup truck at home and picked me up in his Aston Martin instead. Apparently his third vehicle is a motorcycle. I haven’t seen that one yet.

I’m still trying to figure Bryan out.

He is a 36-year-old electrical engineer who is getting ready to retire. He has spent the last decade traveling the world as an engineering consultant and project manager. He’s lived in London, Paris, Nigeria, South Korea, Qatar, Iran and multiple states across the US. The result? He speaks four languages, is worldly wise, and has had a lucrative enough career to retire before age 40.

Bryan sees every emotion that flashes across my face. He doesn’t think I’m stoic. When I told him that I am often perceived as having a stoic persona, he actually laughed out loud. I had to remind him that not everyone is as perceptive as he is.

In his retirement, Bryan plans to write memoirs of his international adventures, publish a photo book, do long-term mission work in Haiti and work on his golf game. Like me, Bryan gets bored easily, so he is always looking for his next adventure. It sounds like he’s never in the same place for long, which makes him a very interesting date and conversation partner, but perhaps not such a great husband or father of my children.

I still haven’t decided if I’m romantically interested in Bryan. He’s a good looking guy. He’s physically fit (just finished a Triathlon) and wealthy (retiring before age 40). We met at church, and he’s a godly man with strong family values and good work/life balance despite being so wildly successful in his career. He’s brilliant and perceptive and interesting and adventurous.

He ended his last text to me with Bisou, which is French for kiss. It is “a warmer, more playful, and more familiar version of bise. It can refer to a kiss on the cheek or on the lips, so may be used when talking to lovers and platonic friends.”

Stability or AdventureI think I need to ask myself two key questions:

  1. Is our attraction purely intellectual, or is there more to it than that?
  2. Do I want stability or adventure?

Authentically Aurora