Wait, what weight? Oh, that weight. Just you wait and see!

Sometimes, I felt too tired to even make it in the house without a nap and would nap in the car for before going inside. After dinner, I would shower and go straight to bed. I was super happy with my life, but my body felt miserable.

Better Together

Faith’s Thoughts:

Terry and I married in March of 2017.  On that day, I felt beautiful and regal. I wasn’t self-conscience of my weight or my looks. My clothes were tight and uncomfortable during my honeymoon, but the food was good.  So, I just loosened a button and ordered dessert. I remember telling my sister Hope how much weight I had gained in a short period of time, she said jokingly, “Oh that’s just ‘happy weight’.”  I was happy, but the weight wasn’t making me happy. The weight was making me tired. I have always been a fan of a naps, but naps were becoming a necessity to get through a work day. I would eat my lunch at my desk in between customers so that I could take a full hour nap in the car during my lunch break. I would wake up tired after 8 hours of sleep. I would come home from work and take a nap before dinner. Sometimes, I felt too tired to even make it in the house without a nap and would nap in the car for before going inside. After dinner, I would shower and go straight to bed. I was super happy with my life, but my body felt miserable.

I knew that I needed to make some lifestyle changes, but I also knew it would be difficult for me to change my behavior.  I felt so sluggish that the thought of exercise overwhelmed me. My strategy would be to lose 30 pounds with healthy eating, then start exercising after I lost those initial pounds. I had lost weight previously through the Atkins Diet and I wanted to go back to that because I knew I could lose a significant amount of weight with or without exercise. Terry was opposed to Atkins and suggested a more balanced approach to eating. I had tried Weight Watchers multiple times in the past and I wasn’t successful because I wasn’t accurately tracking my food and I wasn’t fully committed to changing my eating habits. So, when I decided that I would join Weight Watchers this time, I didn’t want to tell anyone. I felt so out of control with my eating that I feared that I would fail again. That strategy didn’t work very long because Terry does the cooking at home. It just made more sense to tell him.

Terry has always been supportive and loving concerning my weight. He has never given me a reason to feel self-conscious about my size. When I told Terry my plans to lose weight, he was just as supportive as I had expected. He immediately started searching Weight Watchers recipes so that dinner would be points friendly. Terry even downloaded the WW app to his cell phone so that he could see how many points I had left after lunch. The support didn’t stop with eating. Terry would be my walking partner many nights. Because of his support for me, Terry also lost weight, albeit at a slower pace.

One of my biggest struggles was eating out. In my childhood, eating out was only for celebrations. Celebrations usually mean over-indulgence. Terry and I were eating out multiple times a week. I couldn’t afford to over-indulge every time we ate out. When I shared with Terry that eating out was a problem for me, we cut back (which helped both our pockets and our waist lines). When we did eat out, Terry would let me choose the restaurant, which I would chose by checking the WW app first. At first, I thought his support would be intimidating, but it became motiving. Even though he was not an official Weight Watcher, he’d let me discuss with him the things I learned in my meetings and when I had a weekly weigh in, he’d ask how I did. If I told him I lost, he’d respond “I’m so proud of you”. If I had gained, he’d say, “It’s just water weight”. After a few weeks of not losing, I’d be frustrated and say, “don’t say it’s just water weight.” To that he would respond, “It’s because you are gaining muscle.” LOL.

To date, I’ve lost 60 pounds on WW with another 40 to go. The weight isn’t coming off as fast as I would prefer, but I’m focusing more on health. I’m measuring my success by my energy level, self-discipline, and activity. I figure that no matter what happens on the scale, if I eat for fuel, refuse to over-eat and move my body, then results will follow that winning formula. For the first year and a half, I went to weekly meetings which have been a tremendous help. I leaned so much from other members and the weekly topics. I learned about some of my unhealthily eating triggers and how to combat them. I learned how to maximize my water intake and how to find ways to incorporate activity into a busy schedule. I recently switched to a fully online plan instead of weekly meetings which made me a little nervous. I asked Terry if he would join online too so that I could have a “meeting” at home. Weight Watchers has a saying that we’re better together which certainly is the case for us. I’m glad to have a partner at home on this journey. Many ladies talk about not having the support at home and I couldn’t imagine how hard that would be to have your partner discourage and belittle you instead of encouraging you and blaming the weight gain on the water 😊. We are certainly better together.

-Faith

The Weighing Game

Terry’s Thoughts (T2):

When I was a kid, I was not what you would consider “thin” by any stretch of the imagination.  Every summer, the Sears catalog would arrive in June and my mother would allow me to choose a few items out of the “husky” section while she chose the rest of my clothes.  We would go to the store in Augusta and place the order.  In 4-6 weeks, we would get a card in the mail stating that my order had arrived at the store and we could come pick it up.  As we would walk to the order by mail section of the store, I would look at all the clothes that were there in the store and try to see if they added a “husky” section so I could be like the rest of the kids.  For years, this was not the case and it would be years (high school) before I could go into a store (thank you JB White for Men) and purchase clothes off the rack.

When I got to college, I started working out with my friends and started to get more muscular and bigger.  I was lifting weights continuously and was getting more and more fit.  Although I didn’t have a washboard stomach, I could look down and see my feet without it getting in the way.  I was fit and in shape.  Yet, over the years as I discontinued working out, the girth that I had gained continued as I started to trade lifting weights to lifting my fork.

One of the advantages of being well versed in cooking and not being dependent upon anyone to prepare my food, I could cook and eat whatever I had the taste for.  The only limits that I had were the time of the year that certain foods were available and what was in my bank account.  This was my Achilles heel: I was my own worse enemy as I could really cook and eat what I wanted.  At my largest, I was 298 lbs. and I was walking several miles every day at work.

One of the things during my courtship with Faith was that everyone in her family would say the same thing, “I hope you like lasagna.”  My response would always be the same, “I do, but I also know how to cook and will be doing most of the cooking.  Do I look like I missed a meal?”  Yet, something bothered me when one day Faith said that she was going on the Adkins diet.  I had done some research about the long-term success of the diet and was not impressed with what I found.  Another thing that I recognized was that what she was used to eating was not balanced and not beneficial to long term healthy living.  I had started losing weight by going back to basics: balanced eating along with portion control.  Yet, I had to convince Faith that my philosophy concerning weight loss was better for her long-term health than Adkins.

Faith had previously had success with Adkins before, but I didn’t feel that it was a sustainable lifestyle for healthy living long term.  So, I began to do the research and began to prepare to make my case to my bride that she shouldn’t do Adkins just to lose weight, rather we would make a lifestyle change together and lose the extra weight.  To my pleasant surprise, she agreed to my plan, but she had a twist: she wanted to do Weight Watchers.  Ugh!  That’s what I grew up watching people I knew go on!  It was my kryptonite and bane of my existence.  Since I had convinced Faith that balanced eating was the best method for us long term, I listened to her make the pitch to me about joining her.  I said I would support her and cook anything that she needed to be successful, but I was NOT going to meetings.

So, I combined my philosophy with the knowledge that she gained from her meetings and we added exercise to the whole thing.  Thus, the Bryant weight war had begun.  In the beginning, it was crazy purchasing things that would help make this war successful for both of us.  Even though I was not “officially” on the program, I was by proxy due to the fact that I had to cook everything that would be compliant with her plan and still learn the lessons to make sure that she could eat what I prepared and not have any setbacks.  Over the next few weeks, I began to notice that there was a little less of me and a little less than Faith than it was before.  A few weeks later, my health insurance company introduced a “diabetes prevention program” (read: weight loss program) that supported the ideas of portion control, exercise and many of the things that I learned through Faith in her groups.  So, another program and front opened up to help us with our goal to be better and healthier people.  Yet, there was something else that would help motivate me to keep losing weight along with my bride: my grandson, Keylan.

Those who have younger children know that they can be a bundle of energy and require a bundle of energy to keep up with.  As we continued to lose weight, we recognized that our energy level was increasing daily and weekly and I noticed that I wasn’t getting worn out when playing with him.  I had always been told that a child can change how a person looks a life and Keylan helped me refocus myself on ensuring that Faith and I would be there for him in later in life as well.

As Faith continued to move forward with her path, I slowed down and didn’t stay structured as I was in the beginning.  Yet, I didn’t become a barrier to Faith and continued to support her.  She continued to lose and lose.  Even when it didn’t show on the scale, it was showing in the clothes that we both wore.  Eventually, I would “get back on the horse” and recover the desire to get to my desired goal.

So, a few weeks ago, Faith asked me to join her as she was going to stop going to the meetings but wanted a partner that would help her remain accountable.  So, with the meetings no longer in play and having supported my queen on her journey, I joined her officially to get to my ultimate goal: get back to my weight in 1990 (don’t ask, you’ll find out when I get there.)  This was the year that I was (in my opinion) at the peak of my physical conditioning and weight.  Thus the “weighing games” have begun and in a few short months, we are both going to have a very intriguing reveal.

In closing, the one thing that we both recognized during our journey is not to base our success on what others may think or feel, rather how we feel about ourselves.  We also recognized that our desire to be more fit has improved our total quality of life and has given us the confidence to do things that we may not have done before.  This includes our blog.  So, we continue to look at ourselves and say, “what can I do to make myself a better person so that I can help more people.”  Losing weight is just one step in the process of fulfilling our calling and we hope others will see that being healthier is just part of a bigger process in fulfilling your calling in life.

-T

The Tune Up

Just like a high-performance sports car, due to the high tolerances in the machining of the engine and its internal parts, it requires more frequent review and “tuning up.”  I learned that as both a husband and a partner in a strong marriage, no matter how good things are going, it can always be better.

A Weekend to Remember

Faith’s Thoughts:

Terry and I registered for an event with the LOVED marriage group at our church. LOVED stands for Living Our Vows Every Day. We planned to both go, but Terry had a work commitment at the last minute which meant that he couldn’t come with me. I almost didn’t go to the LOVED event because I didn’t want to attend a marriage night without my husband. I’m glad I went because that night we won tickets to a Weekend to Remember® event. The LOVED marriage group has long promoted the Weekend to Remember®, so I was familiar with the name. I was excited to win the tickets and very grateful that Terry also wanted to go. It’s important to me that Terry is open to learning and growing as a husband and man.

We originally scheduled our weekend to remember as an anniversary get away in Ponte Vedra, FL. We couldn’t attend during our original date, so we had to reschedule. We ended up attending the event located in Orlando, FL at the Rosen hotel. The hotel and the conference room were great. There are so many couples there at many stages in their marriage and relationship. We learned later that some couples were on the verge of divorce and that weekend would either make or break their marriage. There were engaged couples and couples who were married for 40+ years who attended every year. There was even a couple who were married for just a few hours and decided to spend their honeymoon at the Weekend to Remember®.

The schedule was packed with couples’ sessions, sessions for husbands and wives separately and homework. The homework gave us discussion prompts and we were assigned to write out a game plan for pressing issues. There was an assigned date night. Terry and I went to BB King’s House of Blues which was right across the street from the hotel.

Terry had been married for over 20 years, but not to me. I had been married before and my parents were married throughout my childhood, however I had not seen a healthy marriage up close. When I did see a glimpse of what I thought might have been a healthy marriage, I was cynical about it. That’s why it was important to me that Terry was open to learning how to be married to me. My experience as a single mom most of my life made me very independent and a bit distrusting. Those are not qualities of a submissive woman and honestly, I was okay with that. The “For Women Only” session at the Weekend to Remember® was exactly what I needed. There we learned (or relearned) some things that husbands really need from wives. At the top of the list is: R-E-S-P-E-C-T (in my Aretha Franklin voice). I thought I respected Terry as a husband, but I learned in that session that some of the ways I communicated with him were demoralizing. It certainly wasn’t overt, Terry didn’t even complain about it; but I was convicted during that session to make a commitment to change. What I’m referring to is sarcasm (my second language).  I had to repent for disrespecting Terry with my tone. Even though Terry didn’t complain about my sarcasm, I know it’s disrespectful in nature. I learned in that session that unconditional respect is for men what unconditional love is for women. It’s safety and comfort. It gives you something to look forward to and it makes the place where it’s being given your favorite place to be. I want our home to be Terry’s favorite place to be and I want to be the person Terry wants to be around.

The Weekend to Remember® was exactly what the name says it is. A wonderful, memorable weekend growing closer to your spouse and recommitting to oneness. I hope that Terry and I can attend every year.

-Faith

The Tune-up

Terry’s Thoughts (T2):

As someone who has a hidden love of mechanical devices, the one thing that I have learned over the years is that eventually, anything that runs will need eventually need a tune up.  The same thing can be said about a marriage; from time to time, it needs a tune up.  One of the first things that our marriage counselors (Kim and John Freeman) recommended was to participate in a Weekend to Remember® event shortly after our marriage or within the first 15-18 months of our marriage.  They insisted that the event would not only help strengthen our relationship, but it would also help us to see where we were and what we needed to work on moving forward.

I did some initial research into the program and was noticeably impressed on what I had read regarding the curriculum.  Yet, there was a part of me that was saying “I don’t need to do this.  I already know what type of husband I am and what type of wife Faith is.  We got this.”  I think everyone goes through a period of confidence (or over-confidence depending on your point of view) after getting married.  I was very confident that we had what it took to have a lasting marriage and we were still in the honeymoon phase.  All was good…or so I thought.

The moment we finally decided to go was after we won free admission to an event.  We had talked about it off and on over the past year.  We were originally scheduled to go in April of that year, but due to a last-minute change in the arrangements that we had made for Momma Liz, we had to reschedule for the event in June.  It worked out that the delay occurred in the same month that my mother passed, and we had plenty of challenges that we needed to face in the following months.  These challenges placed strains on our relationship that we did not expect to have to face for years to come.

When it came time to get ready for the event in June of that year, I was ready to get away from it all with my bride and to see what we needed to work on to improve our relationship/marriage.   The event was scheduled for Father’s Day weekend and was located in Orlando.  I felt that our marriage needed the additional attention that the event billed itself to be able to provide.  One of the things that I thought about the reason for going into the event was that we needed a tune up.   Not because we had been married for a long time and began to lose sight of each other, rather because we had been through an extremely stressful period in our lives and wanted to make sure that our “love engine” was still in perfect working order.

Just like a high-performance sports car, due to the high tolerances in the machining of the engine and its internal parts, it requires more frequent review and “tuning up.”  I learned that as both a husband and a partner in a strong marriage, no matter how good things are going, it can always be better.  Boy, was I ever correct in my evaluation of our situation!

We headed to our hotel room, checked in and prepared to go to the event.  The event was located at a conference center in a hotel on International Drive (I-Drive) and was the perfect location to be able to walk or a short drive to anything that we could imagine we could need (or want) to go.  Upon entering the conference center, we recognized that there were couples of various levels marriage.  From newlyweds (there was a couple that had gotten marriage a few hours before the event began) to couples that had been married 40+ years and had been coming to the event for a very long period of time.  There were couples whose marriages were in a state of despair/disrepair and this was their last chance to restore their relationship, to marriages that had been humming along since the beginning.  I knew that we were about to go back to school on how to have a great marriage.

As we went through the various sessions and exercises, I realized that although we had a good marriage, there were things that we could work on to go from good to better to excellent.  I was very surprised that over the course of the entire weekend, that we would learn things not only about each other, but ourselves.  We not only learned that there was so much more to being a great spouse but recognized that our faith in God was paramount to ensuring that our marriage would continue to be the best that He wanted it to be.  By the time Father’s Day arrived that Sunday, we became true believers in the benefits of the conference and made it our mission to help other couples experience the same joy and excitement that we experienced.  So much so, that we created our own group to help couples save on the cost of the conference.

In the end, I realized that no matter how much I had learned and experienced in my first marriage, I would need to refine my skills, faith and belief in God to help continue to elevate our marriage to the place that He wants it to be.  To this day, I continue to tell people how it impacted our marriage and relationship in such a positive manner.  For those who are interested in experiencing the Weekend to Remember®, please go to https://www.familylife.com/weekend-to-remember/ and search for the event closest to you.  If you use the registration code: 2ndTimeAround, you can save $100 on the registration fee.  Believe me, it is worth the time and money to help take your marriage to the next level.  I promise, you will not be disappointed and you will find your marriage taken to a new level.  If you take your vehicle to get a tune up regularly to keep it running smoothly, don’t you think your marriage is worth going to a Weekend to Remember® to keep it running smoothly as well?

-T

The Education of Faith B

One of the things that bothered me was that Faith would say from time to time “I want to finish my degree, but….”  I got tired of hearing her say those words, but I knew that she needed a little nudge to get started again. 

The Nagging of A. Terry Bryant

Faith’s Thoughts:

When I graduated high school in 1997, I did not want to go to college. In my parents’ generation, high school completion was enough to have a successful career. I felt like if I wasn’t aspiring to become a lawyer, doctor or engineer, college was unnecessary. I figured I would get a job, work hard, then move up in the company.  After graduation, I was hired at a staffing agency as a front desk person. I liked my job. I worked hard and learned as much as I could.  When I would apply to move up in the company, I kept reaching a ceiling.  I was told I couldn’t get promoted because I didn’t have a bachelor’s degree. That wouldn’t have been so bad, but then I was told that I had reached a ceiling in my pay as well.  What that meant to me was no matter how hard I worked and how much I learned, I would be stuck at the same pay for rest of my career without a college degree.  That was the motivation I needed to “want” to go to college.  I was out of high school for 4 years by then and I was a divorced mother of 3 children.

Once I got back into a learning environment, I realized that I loved learning.  I enjoyed college way more than high school.  After a few semesters at Miami-Dade College and Broward College, I moved to Daytona Beach and enrolled into Daytona Beach Community College (now Daytona State College).  I found it easier to focus on school in Daytona Beach because the cost of living was lower and there were fewer distractions.  After 2 years in Volusia county, I completed my Associates of Art Degree and I immediately enrolled into a 4-year program.  After a few semesters, I had to stop going to school.  Work had become demanding.  My kids’ schedules were full, and I was not being a focused student.  Learning stopped being fun and my grades suffered. I decided to focus on my kids and work.  I kept a job throughout my time in school and I kept being denied promotions because I lacked a bachelor’s degree. To make ends meet, I always worked a second job.  3 kids and 2 jobs meant school was the last thing on my mind.  I set my focus on my kids graduating and going to college.

Davion graduated high school in 2012.  To my delight he went straight to college avoiding the path I took of starting a family young.  Nicholas graduated high school in 2016 and went straight to college as well.  Nick was blessed to be able to play college football which helped with much of his college cost.  When Nick left for college in 2016, that’s when I started thinking about going back to school to complete my bachelor’s degree. That’s also when I found out that I was no longer eligible for any financial aid, not even loans. So, completing my degree would require more than just a time investment, it would require an immediate financial investment.

When I started dating Terry, whenever we would talk about my desire to go back to school, he would always encourage me to do so. He didn’t just encourage me though, he nagged me. “When are you going to enroll in school” he would say often.  It was annoying.  I thought he was telling me that I wasn’t educated enough for him. But what I learned was if you tell Terry that you want to accomplish something, he will encourage (nag) you to do what you say you want to do (which makes him the perfect alarm clock).  I finally told him that I didn’t qualify for any financial aid and I couldn’t afford to pay for my classes as I was sending money to 2 kids in college. Terry’s response: “How much do you need for your classes?” I knew then that he fully supported me going back to school.  Not because he didn’t think I was good enough without a degree, but because he knew I was good enough and he wanted to support me.

I started working for Daytona State College in January 2018. Terry fully supported my career change. A part of my motivation to switch careers was the academic benefits of working for a college. I planned to resume taking classes in July after I had more time to learn my new role at work. But, a series of events made it advantageous for me to speed up my enrollment date 4 months sooner than planned. In March 2018, I enrolled in school after a 9-year hiatus.  I was nervous because my last few semesters (many years ago) were difficult. I felt like such a failure because I couldn’t focus on school at all.  I didn’t even properly withdraw from classes, I just stopped going.  I was so embarrassed while talking to the academic advisor. I didn’t want anyone to see my transcripts. It didn’t help that she was my co-worker; I had to work with her and she saw all those F’s on my transcripts.  After reviewing my transcripts and doing a degree audit, I found out that I was just 9 classes away from completing my bachelor’s degree.  I had spent 9 years out of school. I could have taken 1 class a year and been finished. But I couldn’t look back anymore, only forward. I had the support of my husband and my employer.  I couldn’t waste any more time with regret.  My plan was to take 1 class a semester.  I wanted to ease into it. I thought Terry would agree with one class a semester since we would have to take money out of our budget to pay for the class and the book.  But in typical Terry form, he “encouraged” me to take more than 1 class a semester.  I was actually upset and with Terry for suggesting I take more than 1 class at a time. I didn’t think I could handle it, I didn’t want to use our hard-earned money and fail again.  I was having anxiety about it.  Terry sat down with me and reminded me that I wasn’t a single mom of 3 kids anymore. I had the support of my husband and not just financial support.

I agreed to take a full course load and Terry followed through on his promise of support. He would wash the dishes and take care of the household chores so that I had time to study after work.  He even read my text book with me so that he could be my study partner.  The first semester back, I made the Dean’s list!  That gave me the confidence I need to keep going.  Every semester came with its own set of challenges, but we made it through them with great grades.  As it turns out, I never lost my love for learning!  It had just been buried by responsibilities of life.  This past December, I completed my final class of my undergraduate program, 16 years after starting it.  My degree came in the mail this month and Mr. Bryant framed it and put it next to his on the wall the same day. Now he’s nagging (encouraging) me to go to grad school.  Not because he doesn’t think I’m good enough with a bachelor’s degree, but because he knows I am good enough for grad school and he knows it’s what I want.

– Faith

The Education of Faith B

Terry’s Thoughts (T2):

In the months leading to our wedding, Faith and I talked about my upcoming graduation.  I had previously talked about travelling to Washington, DC to walk for my MBA. Yet, we decided not to go and would have a virtual graduation ceremony here at the house. One of the things that bothered me was that Faith would say from time to time “I want to finish my degree, but….”  I got tired of hearing her say those words, but I knew that she needed a little nudge to get started again.  I had just spent 5+ years completing both my Bachelors and Masters degrees.  I knew that sometimes people need a little “nudge” to get started.  With that in mind, I decided to “nudge” Faith into completing her Bachelors degree.

In the beginning, Faith wanted to start slow…really slow.  I knew that if she started working on her degree one course per semester, the length of time needed to complete it could potentially discourage her.  So, we sat down and charted how many courses she needed to finish her degree.  During this time, it became apparent that we (this was a partnership, so we were in this together) were going to need about 15 months to complete everything.  I encouraged her to speak to an academic advisor to make sure that our calculations were correct.  After she spoke with the advisor and set the plan in motion, I knew what I needed to do…become a coach/cheerleader.

Many people don’t realize that when someone they care about goes back to school to complete their journey after an extended period of time, they may need someone to help them stay focused on the task ahead.  I understood that as in my past, I had people who continued to encourage me while I worked. It would now be my turn to pay it forward with Faith.  When Faith first moved to Daytona, she came with the intention of completing her Bachelor’s degree, yet, with the duties and responsibilities of rearing three children, she was only able to reach the halfway point: an Associates degree.  I too only had an Associates degree prior to working on my next level and had an extended time between the completion of my Associates degree.  I knew the trials and temptations that would come as she got closer to completion of her degree.

With that in mind, we began the process of completing her degree.  Now, my goal as coach was to ensure that she remained on track with her assignments both daily and weekly.  My other task as a cheerleader was to keep her encouraged when those moments of frustration and aggravation that I knew would come up from time to time.  Especially those classes that required “group participation” (Ugh!)  The best part of having recently completed a similar journey, I could truly empathize with her during these moments and know what she needed to hear to keep motivated and dedicated to completing her task.

I knew that the kids would be behind her, especially Davion, who was in the final leg of completing his degree.  She was determined to be completed before Princess graduated from high school.  This meant that she would have to go all out and remain focused on the prize: completion of her journey that started over 14 years earlier.  The difference between the start of her journey and as she was heading into the second half of the journey was simple: she now had a helpmate that would be there to help her stay focused and encouraged until completion.  I’m not that important to the process, but I knew that my encouragement and coaching would tap right into her love language: words of affirmation.  By encouraging her and affirming that she was doing the right thing in completing this task, she would know that I loved her and loved that she was going to complete the journey that she started so many years ago.

Once Faith started working on her classes, it became a battle of wills: will Faith want to choke someone for not participating in the group activities and pull out her retired “card” or will she remain the calm, professional Faith and help motivate the team to do what they were supposed to do.  In the classes that required group participation, she did a marvelous job keeping everyone engaged and working as a team.  I admired her dedication and focus to keeping the team together to “get that ‘A’”.  I know the few classes that I had requiring group participation, I did NOT have the patience that Faith did, but I did do what I needed to do to keep them engaged so that I wouldn’t get a failing grade.

When she reached her capstone class (the last class that was needed for her degree), she went to apply for graduation.  Upon applying for graduation, we found out a very nasty surprise: the academic advisor gave her incorrect information and she needed 3 more classes after the capstone class.  Faith was initially disappointed and let down, but I reminded her that the classes that she needed to complete were not upper level classes and that she had the necessary tools to complete them.  After getting over the initial disappointment, she buckled down to complete the task that was ahead of her: the capstone.  Once she got into the capstone class, she tackled it like she tackled any other challenge in her life; she took control and made it submit to her will.

Once she completed her capstone class, we were in the final stretch.  I realized that now would be the time that the coach in me would have to take the lead rather than the cheerleader.  She would need to take these classes just as serious as the upper-level classes and I needed to help her remain focused on the prize.  We have a saying, “short-term sacrifices for long term success.”  There were many times during the final months that we could have travelled or done something that would have taken her away from her studies, but in the end, it was more important for Faith to complete her classwork.  This was one of several “short-term sacrifices” that we made to ensure that the long-term goal was reached.

When she submitted the final coursework assignment, there was a sense of relief and reflection.  We were relieved that it was over, but we reflected on the entire journey.  She knew that she had the capability to complete the work, but the added support from me allowed her to focus on what needed to be done to get it completed.  One of the benefits of having a helpmate is the fact that when one needs support, the other one should be there to give them the support that they need to reach their dreams and goals.  The joy that I had watching Faith complete the task that she had started all those years ago filled me with pride in her accomplishment.  It was not that I had a major part in her completing her degree, but my joy was watching the woman that I love recognize that the dream and desire that she had was coming to fruition.  This joy and satisfaction that I had could not be contained, but this wasn’t my victory lap, it was Faith’s.

Once her final grade was posted and her transcript showed that her degree had been conferred, the waiting game began.  We had to wait for that little piece of paper to arrive in the mail.  I had so many things that I wanted to do to celebrate her accomplishing her goal, but I had to wait for it to arrive in the mail.  Not UPS or FedEx, so that it could be tracked, but plain old first-class US Postal Service mail.  It’s hard to plan a surprise when you don’t know when something is going to arrive or when it was shipped.  ARGH!!!!!  Eventually, it showed up in the mail.  My concern was that it was going to be shoved into the mailbox, bent, damaged and I would be bent with the mailman for damaging my bride’s prize.  Faith was out walking on a Saturday morning and when it arrived, the mailman brought it to the door with a smile.  When she got back, I told her “You’ve got mail” in my best imitation of AOL (if you don’t know what I’m talking about, YouTube it.)  She didn’t want to open it, but in my excitement, I told her that she NEEDED to open the envelope right then and there.  She eventually relented and then put it down on the end table.  She went back out to another obligation and then I went to work.  She didn’t know where her degree was going to be hung, but I already had a place set aside for it: right next to mine.

I measured the degree and off to the store to find a frame that was suitable for such an accomplishment.  I searched the store aisles to find one that would convey both the strength of the accomplishment and the journey that the degree represented.  Once I located the frame, I came home, placed the degree in the frame and then placed it where she could see it prior to being placed in its new home.  When she arrived, I could tell that she was pleased, but still didn’t know where it was going.  When I showed her its new home, a smile came over her face.  She contained her excitement but already she started thinking about her next goal: Master’s degree.  Guess I’m going to have to make room again.

-T

 

The Wedding of Team M-Squared

I didn’t want to get up there and be incoherent, but that’s exactly what happened.  I started the prayer with “Thank You! Thank you, God, for this day, for this opportunity to come before you….”  I tried to say other things, but my eyes welled up with tears, my voice began to shake and my heart took over.

M-Squared Wedding

Faith’s Thoughts:

Last year was eventful. I started a new job, Terry and I celebrated 1 year of marriage, I returned to school full time, Terry unexpectedly lost his mother and my first-born son got married. Those are just some the events that happened from January-July.  I had a hard time remembering what year it was because everything was happening so fast.  I kind of lost track of time. I remember some of the moments of 2018, but the year seems like a blur.  With all the events from 2018 that occurred, one of the happiest moments was Davion’s wedding!  In the past, I prayed for that day. I had prayed for Davion’s wife and from the day that I knew I was carrying life, I prayed for Davion. I won’t go into detail in this post about how wonderful of a son Davion is.

He was a sophomore in college when I began to fervently pray about Davion’s love life and the woman who would be his wife.  My single moms small group at church had just finished studying “Fervent”, a book on prayer by Priscilla Shirer.  Whenever I asked Davion why he wasn’t dating, he said that girls didn’t like him because he was “too nice.” So, this mama started fervently praying for Davion’s love life.  One of my mentors taught me years ago to pray that my son would find a woman who would be “bone of his bone, flesh of his flesh” which is a reference to Genesis 2:23-24. I also prayed for a woman who would honor Davion and appreciate who he is.

The church’s single moms small group decided to host a prayer breakfast as culmination on our study about prayer strategies.  We planned it for the weekend of Mother’s Day 2016 and invited other single moms to attend.  It was a beautiful event.  We had a professional photographer donate family photos to the moms, prepared a delicious brunch for the moms and had wonderful gifts for everyone.  It was beautiful!  I told my kids the only thing I wanted for Mother’s Day that year was for them to help me with the event.  Davion came down from Jacksonville that weekend to help with childcare.  He first laid eyes on the woman would eventually be his wife as she was dropping her son off for childcare so that she could attend the single mom’s prayer breakfast.  She was a beautiful young woman and a great mom with a (very) charming little boy, Keylan.  Davion and Keylan bonded in the nursery during the prayer breakfast while I prayed for a wife for Davion and Keylan’s mom prayed for a husband.  He learned her name as she was picking Keylan up from childcare: Faith. Her name was Faith! Davion was smitten and intrigued.

It was very enlightening to watch Davion fall in love with Faith.  Honestly, watching Davion pursue Faith taught me a great deal about relationships.  Through observing him, I learned that when a man wants a woman, she doesn’t have to wonder about his interest. I watched Davion plan out dates and work out babysitting arrangements.  I babysat Keylan for their first date.  I was very happy that he and Faith were dating: 1) because I had prayed for a woman just like Faith; 2) Faith lived in Daytona and went to the same church as me and 3) Davion came home more often and went to church 😊. I continued to watch him grow in love for her and Keylan.  I met Faith’s mother, Iana at Faith’s graduation from cosmetology school. We exchanged numbers that night without our kids knowing and began to pray weekly for Davion and Faith’s relationship. Seven months later, Davion proposed to Faith.

Terry was very supportive throughout everything.  The couple decided on a dessert reception. I volunteered Terry and I to provide a candy bar for the reception (I’m still learning to not offer us to do things without talking to Terry first).  I started obsessing about the candy. Terry helped me to figure out my vision and ordered the items.  He was there to help set up the church and there to help tear it all down. He even ironed handkerchiefs for Iana and I in anticipation of our tears.

Davion and Faith became husband and wife on July 14, 2018. The ceremony was beautiful. I remember sitting in the rehearsal thinking, “I don’t think I’m going to make it through the ceremony without crying.”  A part of Davion’s vows were to Keylan as he promised to be his dad and honor his vows to Faith.  Davion and Faith asked me, Iana, and their premarital counselor Dina to pray over them during apart of their ceremony.  I rehearsed some things that I wanted to pray over them.  Some of the things that Iana and I had prayed over them weekly as we continued to pray after the kids were engaged, I wanted to repeat in my prayer over them in public.  I didn’t want to get up there and be incoherent, but that’s exactly what happened.  I started the prayer with “Thank You! Thank you, God, for this day, for this opportunity to come before you….”  I tried to say other things, but my eyes welled up with tears, my voice began to shake and my heart took over.  All I could say was “Thank You.  Thank you, God for allowing me to see this day.  To see my prayers over my son being manifested in his life.  Thank you for choosing me to be his mom and strengthening me to raise him.  Thank You, God for the people You placed in my life to help me raise him.  Thank you for this wonderful woman Davion was marrying and this precious little boy he loved.” All I could say was thank you.  July 14, 2018, my first born became a husband and a father. Terry and I became grandparents and “in-loves”. After that I kinda lost track of time.

Faith

 

The Big Day – Team M2

Terry’s Thoughts (T2):

The period after my mother passed was a mixture of thanksgiving, fatigue and sadness as I had to take care of my mother’s affair.  Yet, there was something that was coming that forced me to change my mindset and my attitude: the wedding of Davion and Faith.  One of the best things about being in a blended family (at least for me) is the fact that some things that people have to wait decades to experience happens in a matter of weeks or months for me.  In less than 3 months, I was going to have a daughter-in-law and a grandson.

Davion and Faith had been dating prior to me marrying Faith.  They both played an integral part in our wedding ceremony and they caught the garter and bouquet (yes, it was a setup, I admit it).  These two seemed destined to be together, yet it was a surprise that a few months after Faith and I got married that they announced that they were getting married in 2018. In my time around these two, I recognized that they not only loved each other and appreciated each other’s company, but knew that despite the differences in their backgrounds, they were going to allow God to be the head of their lives.

As the months to the wedding came closer and closer to occurring, I had to focus on one person: my wife, Faith.  Davion is her first born and her first son.  As the first born and first son of my parents, I understand the expectations from some people, but especially my mother.  The great thing about Faith and FM2 (this is the nickname that I have for Davion’s bride to differentiate the two when they are in the same room) is that they had and have a great relationship.  Yet, this was her first-born and there was something that Faith needed to do to ensure that this marriage would last: Pray.  Faith is and always has been a prayer warrior and she enlisted FM2 mom, Iana, as an ally early on in their children’s relationship.  These two would send up “timber” weekly concerning their children and their relationship.  From the time that they got serious in their dating, through the announcement of their engagement to the impending wedding, these two prayer warriors set faith in motion to ensure that their children would start and continue down the correct path.

As the wedding date got closer and closer, Faith became more and more “Momma Bear” and I needed to make sure that “Momma Bear” didn’t rip anyone’s head off if they tried to upset the wedding.  Although there were no major problems that could not be taken care of, I made it my mission to make sure that both momma bears did not rip anyone’s head off their body for making any move that threatened the success of the union.  I knew that I would need to run interference for Davion, FM2 and both moms, so I took half the week off from work so that I could be available.  Looking back, I laugh at the things that were said between the two when things would try to come up and my response would always be the same “what do I need to do to make it better.”

The day of the wedding, I was running around playing chauffeur, gopher, designer, roadie, point-man and whatever I needed to be to keep people from being incinerated by laser beam eyes due to people not doing what was asked of them.  For me, it was a labor of love that these two were putting their trust and faith in God that they have heard from Him on who would be the person that they would share the rest of their lives with.  Having spent half of my life in marital bliss, I understood the importance of knowing that the person that God placed in your life would be there for you for better or worse can have on your heart, mind and spirit.  I wanted to do what I could do in the natural what the two mothers have done in the spirit realm through their prayer: help get these two complete their journey to becoming one.

During the ceremony, they had several things that were unlike anything that I had ever seen before.  They requested that certain people (especially the two mothers) pray for them, their marriage and have certain people come and lay hands on them during the prayer.  As always, the protector in me came out and I placed myself strategically near Davion and laid hands on him and prayed within myself that he would have the strength to be the husband and father that God has called him to be. While I was praying this on the inside, Faith was praying for them like she had never prayed before.  The love for her first born and his bride and the success of marriage came out in a prayer unlike I have ever heard before.  Of all the timber that had been sent up before the wedding could not match the amount of timber that was sent up a that moment.  If a foundation for their successful marriage was laid that day, that prayer was a significant portion of it.

When the vows had been exchanged and the pronouncement of their union made, I was HAPPY!  Happy for the new couple, happy for the mothers, happy for the families and happy that no one had to be taken out because they acted stupid (you know there’s always one).  My thoughts turned to the events that I just witnessed and experienced and memories of my own wedding a little over 15 months earlier.  I was happy that I was able to play a part in ensuring that the couple had a great start to the rest of their lives together and could be a witness of their union before God and man.  Most of all, I was happy because I went from being Mr. Terry to G-Pop to my newly minted grandson!

-T

 

Marriage Counseling: How We Got to Look at Each Other Without the Rose-colored Glasses

I look forward to the day when we’ll look back at our “beautiful day” (the wedding) and say, “It’s also been a beautiful life as man and wife.”

Pre-Marital counseling

Faith’s Thoughts:

It was important for me that Terry and I go through premarital counseling. I’ve been a big advocate of counseling since my divorce. I was 21 with 2 kids and pregnant with my third child when my divorce was finalized. I was working full time and I didn’t have any friends whom I could confide it. I had friends and family, but I felt so ashamed that I didn’t want to share with them what was going on in my head. I tried to keep it all to myself. I tried to manage motherhood, pregnancy, divorce and a demanding job all by myself. I wasn’t managing any of it very well. Actually, I was cracking. I was horrible to work with and I’m pretty sure I wasn’t much better to live with. I worked with mostly men and I remember one telling me, “I’m not your ‘baby daddy’. You can’t keep taking this out on me.” That was harsh, but it helped me to realize that I wasn’t managing this situation.  It was getting worse and I needed help. I took advantage of my company’s EAP program and I was connected to a counselor. Those sessions of counseling were so impactful! Some of the tools I learned in those sessions, I still use 18 years later to help me manage tough situations. There have been other occasions throughout my life when counseling was very beneficial for my children and I. Whenever the situation called for a professional, I called a professional (no shame). Many people place a stigma on counseling, but I’m so thankful that I had it available to me and I didn’t have to try to figure out those tough seasons with (my) limited knowledge.

When Terry proposed to me, I let him know how important pre-marital counseling was to me and I was so thankful that he was willing to go. I didn’t know if Terry was just doing it because he knew it was important to me or because he knew Florida offers a discount on marriage licenses if the couple completes pre-marital counseling. At one point, I feared that Terry wouldn’t take pre-marital counseling seriously because he had a successful marriage for over 20 years. I thought that he would think he didn’t have anything to learn. I remember our first “spirited fellowship” came because of my fears. We had a homework assignment to do for our session and I felt that Terry was rushing through it. Instead of saying what I feared, I just got angry and shutdown. Thankfully we had homework to do for counseling, so we had to talk it out.

I remember when I sent the email to request the pre-marital counseling. I was nervous. I knew some people had reservations about if Terry could be ready to take such a big step so soon with me. I wasn’t sure what response I was going to get. I did not want to make a hasty decision. I recognized my need for wise counsel concerning the matter, but I really wanted to share my engagement news with someone who would gush with me instead of taking a deep breath and then sigh. Kim did not take a deep breath nor sigh. She was honest and insightful and helped me to be more at ease. She assured me that this process wasn’t to beat neither of us up about our decision but to help us to build on a solid foundation. Kim spoke about marriage with an excitement that I had either never heard before, or (always) ignored before. It was very refreshing and helped to ease me nerves about this role I was preparing to fill. WIFE!

I really enjoyed the format of our counseling. We started with a compatibility assessment. Our counselors went over our results. We were assigned a book/workbook to read, discus, and complete homework activities. Some of the activates included a family budget, holiday planning, family planning. The book challenged us to ask tough questions and discus tough issues. We were forced to spend some time out of our “love bubble” and talk about the issues which can cause division within marriages. The book we used had a section added to every chapter for those who were remarried. There are special challenges for those remarrying and our pre-marital counseling book encouraged us to create a plan for success for those challenges instead of hoping our “love bubble” was strong enough combat the inevitable. The pre-marital counseling tasked us to create a game plan for our life together. Some things that I had previously thought were small like “how much we’d spend on gifts for family and friends?”  I’ve learned that even things like the price of a gift for someone else could lead to big arguments if there are strong opinions on the matter. The pre-marital counseling encouraged us to talk about expectations about intimacy which can surely lead to discord if not addressed. Because I’m a divorcee with minor children, the book encouraged us to create a strategy for communicating with my ex-husband and what role both Terry and I would play as it relates to the kids’ needs. Those were things Terry and I had already discussed, but the pre-marital counseling challenged us to think about things which we had not previously considered. I learned that I still have much to learn. I learned that submission is not a prison of do’s and don’ts. Submission is a beautiful protective shield.

I am learning that a marriage relationship can help sharpen and mold both husband and wife into better versions of our previous selves. Pre-marital counseling helped me define my role and better understand Terry’s needs. Our pre-marital counseling was about 6 weeks long. We were in the midst of wedding planning, working and all sorts of other responsibilities, but counseling was a priority. Terry made it a priority. We would read and do our homework during our lunch break and discuss the chapters after work. We were choosing caterers and figuring out our household grocery budget. More than focusing on the wedding day, we focused on our impending marriage. The wedding day was beautiful! The memories will last a lifetime, but our lifetime will be made up of days, dilemmas, discussions, decisions, do’s and don’ts. Strategies we learned during pre-marital counseling and tips we pick up along the way will help us get to our goal of a lifetime of happiness.  I look forward to the day when we’ll look back at our “beautiful day” (the wedding) and say, “It’s also been a beautiful life as man and wife.”

-Faith

 

Marriage Counseling: How We Got to Look at Each Other Without the Rose-colored Glasses

Terry’s Thoughts (T2):

Marriage counseling was something that I had already gone through once before and had a good idea of who I was and what type of husband I would be to Faith.  Because we had been so upfront with each other in the beginning, I had a very good idea of the type of person that she was and my expectations on what type of wife she would be for me.  We talked about EVERYTHING.  When I mean everything, I mean everything from finances to education, children, past relationships, etc.  Neither of us wanted to go into a relationship with any hidden agendas or secrets about their past and we did a good job talking about things that we thought needed to be addressed based on our previous relationships.

Although this was a good start for us to get an idea if we should move forward as rapidly as things were progressing or should we slow things down, we knew that marriage counseling was something that we needed to go through.  I have always looked at marriage counseling as an opportunity for an independent third party to look at the relationship that I was in and say “Hey, you two SEEM to be ok in your relationship, but have you thought about this and how it could affect it?”  I have always been open to evaluation (whether self or third party) and welcomed the opportunity to “show my stuff” to others of how great a husband I would be to Faith.  Part of me wanted to go in and say “See, I told you I am going to be a great and wonderful husband to Faith.  Now you can tell everyone I was right.”  Boy, was I in for a rude awakening.

I knew our counselors, John and Kim Freeman, from another wedding I was a part of a few year before.  They were very personable, and we got along very well from the beginning.  A few months after Mia passed, I saw them coming out of service and Kim said, “Don’t make any decisions for at least a year.”  Ha!  Too late!  Faith and I had already started getting to know one another and I knew that she was the one that God had placed in my path.  She was my “good thing.”  Faith had a relationship with them as well as set up the counseling sessions.  When we first met, they were very upfront with their initial reservations about my decision to move forward.  I respected them highly for making their reservations known upfront and even asking how we reached this point.  The one thing that I have not been afraid of is the truth.  If there is something that you want to know (that I don’t mind sharing and isn’t out of bounds), I don’t mind telling people about it in a one on one situation.  Many people make assumptions (you know what that can make of a person) rather than asking and the Freeman’s asked and they got the truth.

During our first few sessions and assignments, I said to myself “this is a breeze.”  I was wrong again.  We delved into some topics that Faith and I either didn’t think about or didn’t spend a lot of time talking about as we had already ‘thought’ we knew what our past mistakes were and had vowed not to make those same mistakes again.  Now, I know some people are reading that previous statement and are saying “but you said you had a good marriage prior to your wife passing?”  Yes, I did, but there are always things that you can look back on and say to yourself that if you had an opportunity to improve the marriage, you would either not do something or do something better.  If you think you are perfect, then you should be standing outside waiting for that heavenly chariot to come pick you up and take you onto Glory.  We had an opportunity to review our past relationships, our role in them and have in depth conversations about what was good, bad and ugly and our responsibility in creating that environment.

The guide/workbook that we had to read and the assignments that we had to complete were very thought provoking and made us both take a long hard look at ourselves and the future that we had planned on having with each other.  Although it did not discourage us as we had done a LOT of praying and talking to each other, I recognized that it was important for our relationship foundation be shaken now to see what falls off before taking our vows than to be sitting with them after the wedding and saying, “I didn’t know she was like this!”  This was the beauty of the relationship that we developed with our counselors.  They challenged us to challenge our relationship and ourselves to make sure that we weren’t doing things “on the rebound” or “loneliness” as some people thought we were doing.

By the end of our sessions, we had a deeper appreciation of who we were as a couple and individuals and what things we had to commit to on a daily basis to ensure that our relationship would not become boring and stale, rather full of energy and love.  Our love and devotion to ensuring that we would not make the same mistakes from our past and our commitment to each other were so evident that our counselors believed that we were in a good place to move forward with our desire to become husband and wife and were pleased to give their “seal of approval.”  I recognized the tests and trials that we had to undergo and appreciated the ferociousness and dedication to ensuring that we had a strong and solid foundation to have a successful marriage.  I came out of the sessions being thankful that there were people like John and Kim who were called to help strengthen marriages by challenging couples to do what is necessary to be a success.

Too many times people think counseling is for couples that have things that are going bad.  We learned that counseling can be used when things are going good as well.  I compare it to getting a tune up before problems start arising in your vehicle.  Sometimes, replacing that older spark plug with a new and improved version can make that engine run smoother than ever before with more power and better efficiency.  Even replacing the wires with newer wires (lines of communication) can make those spark plugs run more efficiently as well.  There are so many things that counseling can do when things are good, that it can reduce, if not eliminate the need for counseling if things go bad, because you have been proactive and don’t allow it to get bad in the first place.

So, with that in mind, if you are in a serious relationship and are seriously contemplating marriage, counseling (especially by John and Kim) would be the start of a positive self-evaluation of your relationship and where you are headed.  It is far better to slow down and make corrections at the beginning of a relationship than it is to be fully committed and trying to salvage a relationship after damage has been done.  We evaluated our relationship, our faith in God and each other in regard to our impending marriage and recognized that we were hearing from Him and that He did place us together.  Now for the most intriguing part of this journey: planning the wedding.

-Terry

The Blending, Part 3: The Children

One of the things that I was aware of with all the children, but especially Princess,was that they needed to see that I not only loved and cared for their mother, but openly demonstrated this love and compassion despite what others may think or say.  It was during this time that I decided to show the “princess” how the “queen” would and should be treated.

The Blending, Part 3: The Children

Terry’s Thoughts (T2):

Many people asked me when Faith and I were dating “Well, what about her children?”  My response was “What about them?”  The line of questioning was not one of concern about how we would blend the families together, but rather was it negative questioning if I wanted the children to be in our lives together.  This would irritate me to no end, but I would patiently explain to them that the children would be an integral part of our family.  Having never fathered children of my own and was in the process of adopting 2 girls when Mia passed, the idea of having an expanded family was very exciting and intriguing all at the same time. There were several things that I had to consider when contemplating and praying on how we should proceed in the process of blending:

  1. The children were not “kids.” Davion and Nicholas were both in college and Faith (aka Princess) was a sophomore in high school.  They understood what our relationship could possibly mean to their relationship with their mother.
  2. Their father was an integral part of the co-parenting relationship that Faith had established. I never wanted to be a “replacement” father figure for them, rather an additional resource with a different point of view since I was older than both of their parents.
  3. They had already had relationships with other step-parents, but I was going to be the first step-father that they would have. It was very important that they understood that I had expectations from them to be respectful of me and my household, just as I was respectful of them and their familiar relationships.

The “Boys”

As I previously stated, Davion and Nicholas weren’t ‘kids’, rather young men that had been reared primarily with Faith as the main guide in their lives.  She did a remarkable job in making sure that they did not take things or people for granted as well as understanding what and how a young man should treat their significant other.  I had met the boys a few years earlier at a small group function when they were helping Faith clean up after the event.  They were very respectful and well mannered (which was to be expected considering who their mother is.)  The next time I had any substantial interaction with them was December 2015 when I was asked to “volunteer” to be one of the three wise men at the church.  Nicholas was “voluntold” to be a wise man and he took it all in stride.  It was his senior year in high school and he was preparing to play football.  Davion, on the other hand, had traveled from Jacksonville to help aid and was fashionably late to avoid being a wise man (thus I was “volunteered”.)  While trying to change into costumes that were NOT made for people over 250lbs and/or over 6’ in height, Nicholas and I struck up a conversation on what his future plans would be.  After our “performance”, Davion joined us, and he and I talked about his future plans after he graduated from college.  I found both to be very engaging and conscious of their place in the world.

After Faith and I started dating each other, Davion was the first of the children that I would begin to develop a relationship with.  As he was the oldest and had a more mature view of how the relationship his mother and I were developing, Davion was supportive and was intrigued at the idea of having a stepfather.  I was extremely impressed at his view of the world and how dedicated he was that he and his siblings would ensure that their mother would be happy and safe.  In many ways, he reminded me of myself and my mother when it came to make sure that my mother’s heart would be safe.  Over time, we would gradually learn to appreciate the differences and experiences that each other had and would grow to respect one another.

Nicholas, on the other hand, is not only the youngest of the boys, but he is also the middle child.  It doesn’t help that he is also the largest physically (both in stature and girth) of all the children.  Yet, considering that he plays football, he is not your stereotypical jock.  Nicholas was very observant and respectful.  He understood that Faith and I were in a relationship, but the idea that “Mom” was about to get married was something completely different.  I reminded him of our meeting in 2015 as the three wise men and the conversation we had that day.  Fortunately, he remembered the conversation and it help allay some of the apprehension that he (and I) had when we became reacquainted with each other.  He was just entering his freshman year in college and was transitioning from being a high school student to an independent young man.  The thought of another male entering the family dynamic was not something that was on his radar.  I understood that there could be challenges, but I was prepared to do whatever was needed to ensure that Nicholas would understand that he isn’t losing his mother, but gaining a new family that would be there to support him as he continued to transition into adulthood.

“Princess”

While I was able to develop a relationship with Davion and Nicholas due to their proximity to Faith and me (they were both in school in Jacksonville), there was one member that was going to be difficult to establish a consistent rapport with: the youngest and only girl of the group Faith (aka “Princess.”)  Princess was living with her father in Atlanta and Faith would have her during the holidays.  Since Faith and I were seeing each other, and Faith would have Princess during the holidays, we decided to make a trip to Atlanta to help with the transition prior to the holidays.  Faith had begun preparing Princess for the meeting/introduction the weeks leading up to our visit. One of the things that I was aware of with all the children, but especially Princess, was that they needed to see that I not only loved and cared for their mother, but openly demonstrated this love and compassion despite what others may think or say.  It was during this time that I decided to show the “princess” how the “queen” would and should be treated.

During our time together during the holidays, I would demonstrate how a gentleman should treat a lady and made certain that she waited until I came around to open the door for her just as I did with her mother.  There are times when words are good, but actions are better.  By demonstrating the actions and beliefs that I have regarding how a lady should be treated, I began to lay the ground work to help Princess understand not only how her mother would be treated, but what she should expect in a young man who attempted to show his affections.

It was during this first trip as well as subsequent trips for Thanksgiving and Christmas that year that I was able to begin to forge a growing relationship with her and the boys.  Realistically, I knew that my work was just the beginning of a journey rather than the end.  As 2017 came and Princess’ 16th birthday party came closer, I chose a path that some people may have found unusual: I stepped back.  Faith and her ex-husband jointly brought her from a young girl to a young lady.  Some people would have taken this opportunity to show that they were the one who needed to be in charge.  Sometimes, stepping back and allowing the spotlight to shine on someone else can show how confident you are.  By stepping back during the planning and providing support and feedback when necessary, I was able to show all three children that I was not threatened by their relationship with their father and was not going to demand to be included in everything just because I was dating their mother.

In the end, my relationship with each of the children is one that continues to grow and evolve at different rates.  Yet, I am hopeful that in the long term, they will understand that I do love and care for them and their welfare.  Not because I am married to their mother, but rather because they are now a part of something larger: being a Bryant.  Whether its via blood or marriage, being a Bryant is something of significance.  Bryant means “strong in the Lord.”  It is my desire that they have a relationship with Christ that they understand that they are strong in the Lord and that no weapon that is formed against them will prosper.  This does not diminish who they are.   Just as we are adopted into God’s family through our relationship with Jesus, I pray that they understand the power and authority they have within themselves and be an example of how being a Bryant can better prepare them for what the world will try to challenge them each day.  By being ‘Bryant’, prayerfully they will implement the things that have been placed into their spirits since childhood and use them as weapons of warfare as adults.  Thus, our children have Faith to be Strong in the Lord.

– Terry

 

Faith’s Thoughts:

I hadn’t dated in 7 years when I changed my Facebook status to “In a Relationship.”  I didn’t date because I was so scared of giving my heart to anyone. I was even more scared of the possibility of yielding parental control to a man who wasn’t my kids’ father. I thought the most practical thing to do was just not date. Once my sons reached a certain age, I thought it would be too difficult for them to adjust to a new male authority figure in the home. That wasn’t my ‘professional opinion’, just my own personal fears. Once my daughter reached a certain age, I was too protective of her to even consider having a man in the house. I already had trust issues and I had heard so many horror stories about people entering into their child(ren)’s lives. That was all the motivation I needed to focus totally on the kids and give love a chance after they left the house.

When Nick (my middle child) graduated high school, I had initially anticipated it being myself and my daughter Princess. She was entering the 10th grade and I figured I hadn’t dated for 7 years, 3 more wouldn’t be hard at all. Princess (my nickname for my daughter), decided that she wanted to finish her high school career in Georgia with her dad. So, I ended up with an empty nest a little earlier than expected. She’s was still a minor, so technically I didn’t have an empty nest, but for the first time in 22 years, I would not have a child in the home to distract me from that “scary” thing called dating.  I realized early into our relationship that Terry wasn’t the bachelor type.  He wasn’t looking to play the field and I wasn’t necessarily stalling anymore. Now, my concern shifted to, “how will I tell the kids” that I was in love.  Terry and I prayed every night that the kids would be accepting.

My oldest son, Davion, was one of the first people I told that I was in love and considering marriage. I was a little scared that he would be skeptical. He was instead very excited. He had this huge sigh of relief. He said, “Oh my goodness mom, I’m so happy for you! I was afraid that I would have to take care of you forever.”  Davion was happy because Terry relieved him of his “responsibility” to “take care of me”.  I don’t know where he got the notion that I needed him to take care of me. I was a little insulted about that, but more relieved that he was supportive.  I was expecting this long conversation with lots of explaining to do, but it was nothing like I expected.  At that point, Davion was in his junior year of college, he had lived on his own since high school and payed his own bills. He didn’t see my marriage as having a huge impact on him or maybe he did and he welcomed the impact of a good man in his mom’s life.

My middle child, Nick, was also happy for me.  Both the boys trusted my judgement and knew that I wouldn’t be contemplating marrying a “scrub”.  All my children are very well-loved, but Nick has had more undivided attention than anyone else.  Nick’s last 2 years at home was just him and me. He probably won’t admit this, but I think he became a little attached (some say spoiled) during that time. I think in his mind; 1) Terry would be my husband,2) he would be my baby boy, and 3) Terry would be a non-factor in his life.  Nick was more standoffish with Terry. He was respectful, but watchful.  He was 18 and living in the dorm at school. He went to school for one semester and came home on Thanksgiving break to his mom talking about marriage.  It was a big transition.  When I told him, he smiled and gave me a hug. “I’m happy for you mom”, he said.  He meant it, although I don’t think he really considered the implications. 2 kids down, 1 to go.

You would think that the boys would be harder on their mom’s suitor, but Princess was a little more skeptical than the boys.  Maybe not skeptical, but she, more than the boys, recognized that my marriage affected them even though they weren’t living at home. Princess was living with her dad in another state, but I traveled to see her every time that I had an opportunity. Terry and I went to see her, so she could meet him.  She said she was happy for me, but sad for herself.  She was sad because she realized that things would be different when she came home. She was nervous about how my relationship with Terry would affect her relationship with me.  Princess could not remember seeing me date. As far as she could remember, it was just them and I.  I didn’t want anyone sad, especially not my “Pretty Princess Girl.”  The boys were in Jacksonville, which was only an hour away from home.  Terry and I could spend more time with the boys than with Princess.  When she was with us, however, she could see how well he treated me and her.  I remember her saying, “I can tell you are happy, so I’m happy for you.”

I considered all three of the children in every aspect of my decision.  I always told single moms that when considering a mate: 1) choose someone who you would be proud of your son(s) becoming like; 2) you would be proud of your daughter(s) marrying someone like him and 3) model a relationship that you would be proud of your children emulating.  Terry fit the bill in every aspect.  I was a little ignorant about what marrying Terry would mean for the family dynamic.  I had fantasized in my mind that waiting until the kids were out of the house meant we would not have issues with family blending.  It was just a fantasy.  Now I believe it’s not just a matter of where the kids lived, but a matter of if they were ready. Even then, there were still issues to be dealt with.  You can’t prevent issues.  I was reminded recently that trust is built from dealing with issues.  The key is to marry someone who will be mature and loving through issues. Someone confident enough to know their role and not be intimidated by the kids’ role.  I always said, “the man I would marry had to be both strong and gentle.”  A man that’s strong and secure in who he is, but gentle in the way he leads.  That’s my husband.  His strong, yet gentle way was one of the indicators that he was the one for me.

– Faith

The Blending, Part 2 – Meet the Parents

My dad on the other hand had been trying to marry me off for years. Every time I saw him in person, I knew my dad was going to ask me, “Have you ever thought about giving love a second chance?”

Faith’s Thoughts:

By the time Terry and I met each other’s parents, we were telling them we wanted to get married. We received mixed reactions from the parents:

• One parent said we should wait a year so that people would be more accepting.
• One parent was ecstatic and ready to “put the broom down” for us to jump right away.
• One parent was extremely cautious and protective.

Terry took me to South Carolina to meet his mother. He didn’t tell her that I was coming. He didn’t even tell her that he was coming until we pulled into the driveway. That was nerve wrecking. As a mother of grown men, I can imagine what she was thinking meeting this woman she had never heard of as her (recently) widowed son told her that he wanted to marry her. It was awkward, but she was kind. Terry’s Godmother was more direct. She was probably asking the questions that she and his mom had discussed; but she was the spokesperson for the mother/Godmother duo. Terry’s Godmother said, “Don’t get married for the sex.” LOL. Sounds like something I would say to my son. I love talking to older ladies; they don’t have time to beat around the bush. She didn’t ask me this directly, but privately, she wanted Terry to assure her that he had remained faithful to Mia and I wasn’t his “side piece”. I don’t mind direct questions. It was however uncomfortable feeling like I was getting the “side eye” from people.

Terry’s family and friends didn’t know me. They were protective of him. I was a single mom with 3 children. Terry was an honest, kind, giving widower 8 years my senior. So, without knowing anything about me or who I am, I can see why people were protective. I just wasn’t accustomed to being scrutinized. I remember a moment when we were out to eat, Terry left the table and his mom asked me how I felt about him. I responded with, “He’s nice, he’s a great man, he’s sweet”. I don’t know why, but I was nervous. The rest of dinner, I kept admonishing myself for not saying how I really felt for Terry. It wasn’t until we were getting ready to leave to travel back to Florida that I set the record straight. I pulled her to the side and said, you asked me how I felt about Terry and the truth is, “I love him.” She smiled and gave me a hug. She said, “That’s what I wanted to hear.”

As I stated in a previous post, Terry and I were (well) aware of how grown we were. I had “grown woman” responsibilities which included supporting two grown children through college. Terry had “grown man” college debt from putting himself through college. We didn’t NEED anyone’s approval but there were some people whose support was vital to me. My mom was one of those people. My mom has loved me through every stage of my life. Even stages that were hurtful and embarrassing for her. She didn’t waiver in her love for me or faith in my future. When I gave birth to my first child at 15 years old, she lovingly and patiently helped equip me to be Davion’s mom. When I got pregnant with my second child at 18, she helped prepare me to be a mother of 2. When I got married and almost immediately started having marital problems, she coached and prayed me through that season. When I found myself divorced and pregnant with my baby girl, she loved and prayed me through a very dark season. I knew that she (more than anyone else in this world) had my (and her grandchildren’s) best interest at heart. She wasn’t afraid to tell me the truth and I knew she would see anything I may have missed. When I told her that I thought Terry was ‘the one’ she said, “We’ll see”.

My dad on the other hand had been trying to marry me off for years. Every time I saw him in person, I knew my dad was going to ask me, “Have you ever thought about giving love a second chance?” Every time! My dad is a man of repetition. He has a lot of crazy sayings that he repeats. To know my dad is to know what he’s about to say. I knew my dad would love Terry. I knew because Terry loved me. The moment my dad saw how Terry treated me, I knew he’d be a fan. Plus, my dad knows me. He knows that I was independent and extremely protective over my heart. He saw a good man with good intentions and he was ecstatic for me. I needed that! I needed to have someone as excited as I was. He doesn’t know it, but I would call him when I felt (particularly) beat up and his enthusiasm about Terry and me would calm me. My dad is the best cheerleader ever! I love that man.

Although I cared very much about how my parents felt. My parents have known me long enough to know that once I set my mind to do something; they might as well figure out a way to support it. Terry has a similar tenacity. May we both always set our minds to do the same-something. I had set my mind to marry Terry, so having Ms. Liz, Terry’s mom, and my parents’ support was a wonderful blessing and an answer to our prayers.
– Faith

Terry’s Thoughts (T2):

My introduction to Faith’s parents was a combination of “Meet the Browns” and “Criminal Minds.”  Faith was the first person that I ever dated whose parents were divorced, but were still cordial with each other.  In my family, most of the marriages ended “‘til death do you part” and most of the people that I dated when I was single either had intact households or one parent was completely out of the picture. This was unfamiliar territory for me as I couldn’t relate to the dynamic that she and her siblings lived with regarding their parents’ relationship.  I could try relating, but I would ask questions of her about how her parents would possibly react to me once they met me.  I was always taught to “Be Prepared” (yes, I was a Boy Scout) and “prepare for the worst and expect the best.”  When dealing with parents, one must not be too over confident or be too passive.  One must be balanced.

Yardman Ned

Faith is from Broward County, FL and everyone I met that was from there would tell me “I’ll cut you if you hurt her” or some variation of this phrase.  Initially, I would just laugh it off, but after a while, the “2-5/NY” in me started to come out and my responses would be a retort that would be along the lines of “yeah, but my knife is bigger” or “I would hate to use the red dot.”  Most people would smile and laugh at my response as they began to recognize, I was not a wimp and won’t back down to a challenge.  But there was one person who decided to test me in his own unique way: Yardman Ned.

Faith would refer to her father from time to time as Yardman Ned.  This is because he owned a lawncare business and had very catchy slogans that he would use to gain the attention of potential clients.  The first time I met him, he and his wife came to Palm Coast to travel with us to Jacksonville to see Nicholas play in a football game. (Nicholas is the middle child.  More on him in another post.)  I was cautioned that he was a big practical joker and amateur comedian along the lines of Mr. Brown.  Boy, did she hit the nail on the head with that description.  The FIRST thing he says to me when he pulled up into my yard after getting out of his car was “Well, I got a knife that I hope I don’t have to use.  Nice to meet you.”  Game on.  My response was classic Terry “Nice to meet you, but my knives are bigger, and I have red dots.”  That invoked a smile on his face as he knew I wasn’t afraid of him and the moment was not too big for me or him.  Dominant Male Territory Marking 401 in progress.

As we traveled together, we talked about several topics.  As a Dolphins fan, he had to recognize that I was NOT going to change allegiance from the Steelers.  If anything, I was trying to get him to come to the right side.  As the day progressed, we continued to talk about additional topics that ranged from faith and biblical studies to deer and other wildlife in Palm Coast.  I recognized that he was trying to see what type of person I was.  Yet, when he wasn’t talking (which wasn’t that often), he was observing.  He was watching the interactions between myself and Faith and how we treated each other and cared for each other.

After the game, we went to eat dinner and hung out in Jacksonville until it was time to return to Palm Coast.  On the trip back, we continued to talk and establish a report with each that was growing deeper and deeper with respect by the minute.  It was during this time that I informed him that I was going to ask his daughter for her hand in marriage and wanted to get his blessing.  To my (pleasant) surprise, he gave me his blessing without hesitation and told me that he could tell that we were happy together and he believed that we would be great with each other.  Whew.  Stereotypically, fathers are extremely difficult and guarded about their daughter’s heart.  I said to myself “This was easy.  Her mom should be easy.”  Boy, was I wrong.

Ms. Mae

The month of November was the month that we had planned on meeting her parents and my mom and godmother.  After meeting “Yardman Ned”, my confidence was through the roof.  I knew how to prep Faith for the meeting with my mother and godmother, but I was going to meet Faith’s mom (and half of her family) on Thanksgiving Day.  Me, Faith and the kids all piled together in the Avalanche and off to Tampa we went.  I was forewarned about the various aunts, uncles and cousins that would be there and the intense “interrogations” that I would be subjected to during the course of the day.  Bring it on!  I was confident and ready for anything.  Yet, I was not prepared for the tactics of Ms. Mae.

Faith introduced me to everyone in her aunt and uncle’s house and eventually introduced me to her mother, Ms. Mae.  She smiled and was polite, but I noticed she kept her distance.  I recognized that look before: she was observing me.  For several hours, she would engage in small talk from time to time and then go back to talking with other family members.  Just like the behavioral analysts from ‘Criminal Minds’, I felt as those I was being observed by many people and they were going to eventually try to circle me and pounce.  I was ready and confident in who I was and true to my feelings about Faith.  Nothing could change that.  About 6-7 hours pass and the ‘interrogation’ that I had been forewarned about by Faith never came.  All I could think was “That was it?  This could be a set up.  What just happened (or didn’t)?”  Ah, the psychological game was just entering the second phase.  Phase one was complete.  I was completely off guard and didn’t have the slightest idea where the questioning would come from or when.

Eventually, Ms. Mae grabbed me by my hand and led me to the backyard to talk.  She was polite and direct all at the same time.  I was ready for any question with an answer from my heart.  She expressed her concern about the speed that our relationship was going.  I understood and respected that she didn’t beat around the bush and was very direct in both her statements and questions.  She asked me my intentions concerning Faith.  As I told her father, my intensions were to make her my wife, when the time was right.  She politely let me plead my case and said nothing and revealed nothing either verbally or via facial expressions.  Just like an interrogator, she didn’t let her emotions or thoughts be revealed.  I was not ready for that in this setting, yet I respected her for it.

When we finished talking, I asked her about her thoughts.  She said, “I’m still deciding.”  I thought I plead my case and defended myself very well and knew within my heart of hearts that I had won her over.  Whether or not I did or did not, she was not prepared to tell me.  It had been a long time since I had to defend myself, my emotions and my intensions to a mother.  This was NOT going to be the slam dunk that I had with her father.  This one was going to take some time.  The rest of the evening, we had limited contact with each other until time for us to leave.  I didn’t know what to think and asked Faith if her mother had given her an insight on what her thoughts were.  Faith did try to get the 411 from her, but just like she told me, she was still “deciding.”

I would later find out that Ms. Mae came from a long line of praying women in their family.  This is where Faith got her dedication to prayer.  She wasn’t holding out on me, she was going to pray about it and get her “decision” from the Ultimate Interrogator.  It would be through prayer that she would determine whether or not she could trust that my words and my actions would truly withstand the winds of change and time or was I just “talking the talk.” All I could do was continue to be myself and allow my Advocate, the Holy Spirit, to speak to her on my behalf.  It would be several days later that I would receive word from Faith that I was accepted, but she was still watching and praying.  I wouldn’t have expected any different.

Mom and Godmomma

Between meeting Faith’s father and mother, we took a trip to visit my mother and godmother.  I don’t call my mother “mother”, I call her either “ma” or “mom.”  I didn’t clue my mom into the fact that we were coming as it was a surprise. The one thing that my mom likes to do when I come into town is let everyone know I’m coming.  Even when I am coming to spend time just with her, she wants everyone to know I was coming.  This was one trip where discretion was definitely needed.  Mom knew I was seeing Faith, but didn’t know how serious we were with our relationship.  She knew from my history, I only brought those whom I considered to be “potential marriage material” to the house to meet her after I had been dating.  I called her from the driveway and told her to come to the front door.  She was doubly surprised: 1) I snuck up on her and 2) I had Faith with me.  She did NOT see this coming.  I introduced her to Faith and told her to get her clothes on because we were going out to dinner.

We went to the restaurant and ate.  Faith and mom talked when I was away (we went to a buffet).  While Faith was away, I asked her what was her thoughts.  She thought Faith was nice and she asked me was I going to marry her (told you she knew my M.O.). I told her yes, it was my intention to marry Faith.  She was concerned that I was getting married “on the rebound.”  It was during this time that I revealed just how long Mia had been sick and what I had been through.  As my father was sick the majority of my life and understood the “waiting for the other shoe to drop” she understood what I had been through.  I had put my future life in God’s hand and trusted that He would lead me to the right person.  My mom respected my decision, but asked that I keep it quiet for a little while longer.  I told her that we had decided to wait until late December or early January to announce that we were going to get married.  Then she asked if I was going to see my godmother.  Of course, I was.

My godparents were the people that I could always go to in order to get a non-biased opinion on ANYTHING.  After my godfather passed, my godmother was still there to give me the straightest and non-biased answer or opinion. She was a God-fearing woman for as long as I can remember and if I ever needed a prayer and expected to hear from God concerning a subject, she was my number one go to prayer warrior.  So, on our way back to Florida, we stopped to see her.  She knew we were coming as my mom had let her know I was here with “this woman named Faith.”  It was time for the final spiritual check of Faith.  I knew what I heard from God, but I also knew that if there was something that was affecting my spiritual hearing about the timing of this relationship, she would hear it.

When we arrived, I introduced her to Faith and we sat down to talk.  I told my godmomma how we met and how our relationship grew so quickly.  She listened to me and she gave us some advice: “Don’t get married for the sex.  It’s not worth it.  As long as you are hearing from God and want to be with each other for more than sex, then you will have a long and happy marriage.”  Wow, I had heard many things from my godmomma, but never had she talked to me about sex.  That was my godfather’s domain.  Since he wasn’t around, she wanted us to know that no great relationship should be built on the premise of getting married in order to have sex so as not to be in spiritual condemnation.  We let her know that sex was not the reason that we were wanting to get married, but rather that we had been praying and our hearts and spirits were connected to one another.  She was happy to hear that and gave us her blessing.  I thought it was over, but there was a surprise waiting for me a few weeks later.

Two weeks later, I got a message on my answering machine (yes, I have an answering machine and a house phone) to call my godmomma when I got home.  When I got the message, I called her immediately as my godmomma doesn’t call long distance as she doesn’t have unlimited long distance (yes, she’s that old school) so I knew for her to call and leave a message, it was important.  When I called her, she asked me one very simple and direct question: “Were you two seeing each other when Mia was alive?”  I knew this question was going to come from someone, but from my godmomma? I was not expecting it from her.  I told her very quickly that no, we were not in a relationship with each other before Mia passed.  My godmomma always knew when I was telling the truth or lying even when my mother couldn’t tell when I was a child just by the sound of my voice.  When she heard me say “no”, she said “I didn’t believe that you two were together before, but I needed to put my soul and mind to rest and I wanted to ask that question.”  I respected her for asking that question as I also knew she was asking that question for my mom as well and would give her the good news.  Sometimes the hardest questions to ask are answered with the simplest answers when God puts things together.  This wasn’t a matter of whether or not I was telling the truth, rather it was a time to show the enemy that people don’t have to be tipping around and being on the ‘down low’ in order to be brought together.  It was a testament to the dedication to the vows that I had observed over 22 years before and to the vows that I would take a few months later

-Terry