Thursday, September 27, 2012

I Meant What I Said When I Said I Would Rearrange My Plans and Change For You: Marrying a Turner Girl

Lately I've found myself wondering what the 2006 or 2007 version of myself would have thought if I told him he'd be married in 5 years.  He probably would have laughed in my face and told me I was crazy...He isn't going to get married for a while, he'd say.  He wants to travel and be able to just worry about himself for a while before he settles down, he'd say.  Besides, 30 is the new 20, he'd arrogantly point out.  I'd just smile, nod, and say well, we'll see, I guess.  Then he'd chuckle, unconvinced, shrug his shoulders and sarcastically agree with me.  

I never planned for this.  For virtually my entire adult life I knew I would probably take a different path than the rest of my family.  I was going to be a late bloomer, in a sense.  I was going to wait to marry, not really because I was afraid or avoiding it, but because I just wanted to put off that responsibility for a while.  I wanted to be able to live my life at a moment's notice.  I wanted to be able to do what I wanted, when I wanted, and get all of that out of my system before jobs, kids, and raising a family took over.  

Then I met Adrienne, and all that stuff I had planned for seemed increasingly foolish and trivial.  The only plan I had after that was to be with her.

It just doesn't make sense that my wedding is a mere week away.  I've been looking forward to it since the day I proposed to Adrienne, but in a "It's going to be so great when the day comes" kind of way.  It's strange how things we anticipate like that always seem to feel so far away, and even if we count down the days, are still able to sneak up on us like an old friend surprisingly grabbing our arm on a crowded street. 

I've gone over every possible scenario in my mind, played it out from start to finish over and over, although I know any preconceptions I have about it won't do it justice.  I can't really imagine what it's going to feel like standing at the alter, watching the love of my life walk towards me in her beautiful gown, the music playing, and a few hundred sets of eyes fixed directly on her.  I almost feel jealous, like all those eyes don't deserve it...That moment should be just for me...For us.  But, I also know how ridiculous that is, because she will be sharing that moment, that day, with her mother and sisters.  When I remember that, the silly jealousy fades away and turns to excitement because I'm glad her family and mine will all be there sharing in our joy with us.  And I wouldn't have it any other way.

You see, I knew exactly what I was signing up for when I decided I wanted to spend the rest of my life with Adrienne Ross Turner. 

The Turner Girls are a unique breed, and it takes very little time to realize that.  They all exude a quiet confidence that, when pushed to do so, boils over the surface like a pot on the stove that's been filled just a bit too much...Slowly, but suddenly.  

They all have a contagious and addicting sense of humor, and an uncanny ability to laugh at their own faults.  Poking fun of one another is both acceptable and expected, but God have mercy on the poor soul that crosses that line from the outside.  

They all look at life and the daily challenges that accompany it with a sense of joy and exuberance that almost seems fake, but is laced with more sincerity than most people can apply to anything.

They all tell stories about the husband, father, teacher, and friend that left such an indelible mark on so many lives with such vividness and love that the listener might as well be standing in the room at the moment the recollection happened.  I love watching their faces brighten when they speak of him.

They all love the little piece of land off Highway 90 in Waterview, that no matter where they go, will always be home.  Not that I blame them...Pulling up the driveway makes me feel like I've been sucked into a Ken Holland painting.  And I always feel like I'm home when I go there.

I've witnessed a stronger bond between the Turner Girls and some horses and dogs on that farm than most people ever find with another person.

None of them are perfect, and each would be the first to tell you that.  Sure, they're confident in themselves, but they fail to cross the fine line between confidence and arrogance.  Despite their noticeable confidence, Turner women are built humble.

And stubborn.  That innate stubbornness leads to disagreements and the occasional heated argument, just like in any family.  I would prefer to stay out of them, but if push comes to shove, Adrienne will always be right (sorry, Jackie, Liza, and Leigh).  But no matter the topic of disagreement, or the severity, there is always forgiveness on both sides.

They each have their own preferences, interests, and styles, but influences from all the others can be easily seen.  I've never seen a group of people so different and so similar at the same time.

And above all else...The bond that has been forged in them by blood and experience is absolutely unbreakable.  There will never be anything more important to them than family, and that has been abundantly clear since the very beginning.

So what does it mean to be marrying a Turner Girl?  Well...

It means I have a new-found responsibility, not only to Adrienne and our future family, but to her family too.  It means I have a new family that has welcomed me with open arms, and, despite all my faults and short-comings, has somehow come to grips with the fact Adrienne chose me.

It means I know my kids will grow up with an amazing support system from both sides.  They'll see great examples of the love, devotion, determination, and hard work from my family AND Adrienne's.  It means the stereotype of "dreaded in-laws" doesn't exist for me.

It means if I ever screw up and hurt Adrienne in any way, I not only have to answer to her and her family, but also about 6,000 Cumberland County residents.

It means the woman I get to spend the rest of my life with is a strong, confident, smart, and loving woman built upon a foundation as strong as the one I grew up with.  Adrienne and I talked about how similar our families were very early on, and is one of the things I like the most about mine and Adrienne's relationship.

It means I get to spend the rest of my life with the woman of my dreams.  It means I owe a huge debt of gratitude to the rest of the Turner Girls for helping mold Adrienne into the unbelievably incredible woman she is today, and to Liza for introducing us in the first place.  Without the Turner Girls, I'd have nothing.

I guess above all else, it means I got really damn lucky.

Monday, September 24, 2012

A Chip Off the Old Block

My dad has always been pretty talented when it comes to wood-working.  For a guy with little to no formal training, and with nothing more to go on than his own creative intuition, he's actually really good.  Take a short walk around my parents' house, and you'll see several examples of his simple, yet elegantly useful work.  There's a window on the back wall of my childhood bedroom corralled on either side by shelves and a desk he constructed to provide me with storage and a workspace I spent hours at as a kid.  At Christmas, there is a collection of wooden reindeer, each with a name hand-painted on the bottom, sitting atop the entertainment center in the living room.  While at first it was just Mom, Dad, Lensey, and I, when Lensey and Josh got married, Dad made a new one for him.  And I'm sure Adrienne's will appear up there this Christmas.  Behind the house, at the edge of the yard where the grass slowly fades into the leafy carpet of the woods, Dad built a storage shed a few years ago.  And hanging on the outside wall, are five decorative wooden plates: one with "Edwards" carved into it, and each of our four names dangling beneath.  The plates hung against the brick on the front porch for years, and despite the need for a sanding and fresh coat of stain, Mom decided to recycle the decoration for the shed.

Perhaps his most impressive project, though, is the set of corner shelves he built for the living room.  Over the years they have held dozens of mine and Lensey's sports trophies, a collection of Encyclopedias, old yearbooks, examples of Dad's NASCAR models, random family photos, and other knick-knacks families feel the need to keep at an easy reach, despite barely remembering they're there.  Those shelves have been integral to the feng shui of the living room, and I spent countless hours as a child looking at memories I made on the sports field, or learning about Mom and Dad's high school antics (Dad's lucky he had enough brain cells left to read once he got to college).  Since Lensey and I have both moved out, the trophies have mostly made their way to the basement, and Dad's book collection has slowly grown to take up most of the space.

One glance at the books gives you a pretty good idea of my dad's primary interests: virtually all of them are historical in nature, and a large number deal with local history in some way.  One of his favorite pastimes is just driving around forgotten back roads, looking at historical landmarks, or exploring old homeplaces, where little remains other than a crumbling foundation, or vine-covered planks forming the faint skeleton of an old house or barn.  When I was a kid, we used to take hikes into the woods in the LBL, where we'd stumble upon a long-forgotten plot of land with an old family cemetery, almost unreachable because of fallen tree limbs and overgrowth.  To this day, anytime we pass an empty lot with two big shade trees conspicuously placed, Dad will comment "I bet there was an old homeplace there."

Over the years, as much as I've likely made fun of Dad for being so "nerdy," it has become unmistakably clear that I am my father's son.  I've slowly grown into the same kind of person.  Last spring, I was walking Liza's dogs one afternoon and spent almost an hour exploring the exterior of the old Marrowbone School.  I climbed up the staircase at the entrance and looked in, the floor sunken in, chalkboards still on the wall in the old classrooms.  I walked around to the side of the building and looked into the old gym, now a storage space for the mill that calls the old building home.  The rims and bleachers were still in place, scoreboards still mounted on the walls, and I found myself picturing the place packed to the gills with spectators, watching the Cardinals take another win.

Adrienne and I spent Sunday afternoon at Natural Bridge in the Red River Gorge, and I was overcome with a feeling of solemnity for those that came before us.  I found myself picturing what it must have been like for early pioneers, in a totally foreign place, trying to hack out survival in an unforgiving landscape.  I sat in awe at the sight of the towering rock formations, cut out of the land slowly by millennia of Nature doing Her work.  I stood on top of the bridge, looking out over the gorge below me, and truly lost myself for a moment.  In some strange, intangible way, it made me miss home.

I never gave Dad credit for opening my eyes to the incredible and interesting history that lies so close to home.  I liken it to the way history used to be passed down from generation to generation.  Stories collected from ancestors over the course of centuries were handed down orally, likely losing a bit of fact to the more interesting exaggerations that human nature is so prone to use...Like a game of Telephone on a massive scale, taking decades to complete.  It might not have been the exact same technique; Dad's way of exposing me to history was a bit modernized, and more tangible, but effective all the same.

I was watching a documentary on KET last week (something I witnessed my dad do dozens of times throughout my childhood) discussing the massive wave of death brought on by the Civil War.  What we hear about from textbooks and lectures are the numbers, and it's easy to say "Damn, that's a lot of people."  But what we don't hear is how people dealt with it.  How it affected the friends and families of those lost, many left to rot on sun-baked fields or hastily tossed in mass graves.  We don't think about the fact that Gettysburg, a town of roughly 2,000 people, was left to deal with the aftermath of some 8,000 deaths.  I found myself totally enthralled...Not because I'm a nerd for Civil War history (I am)...But because those stories were unknown to me.  They were human...They were reality.  

There's something about exploring old relics of our history that brings those days back to the present, even if our imaginations might be totally inaccurate, and even if we don't have any direct connection to it.  But, I don't really think that matters.  What really matters is that we do those things; what matters is that we try to remember.  So many stories and histories get lost to the turning pages of time...Stories that deserve to be heard, deserve to be told. 

I owe my dad a debt of gratitude for instilling in me a sense of respect for those that came before me.  Perhaps it was his influence that led me to pursue a study of history when I was in college.  I think it was.  But, even if that weren't the case, I'm very fortunate to have a father that knows how important it is to remember the past...If for no other reason than to ensure we don't make the same mistakes twice.

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Bears, Beets, and Battlestar Galactica

Up until just a few years ago, I was never a huge "fan" of any television show.  I mean, don't get me wrong, I had my favorites growing up...Home Improvement, Boy Meets World, Family Matters, The Wonder Years, and more recently Family Guy and Justified, which I watch religiously.  But, I never got involved with a series.  I never connected to the characters in a way that made me truly feel like I was a part of the story.

I mean, I'll watch reruns of Friends occasionally when I'm bored, but I couldn't have cared less about what happened between Ross and Rachel, and I wasn't one of the millions of people tuned in to watch the series finale.

I didn't really understand all of the hullabaloo about how The Sopranos series finale ended in mid-sentence.  In all honesty, I've never seen a full episode of the show (HBO is expensive).

But, this spring when NBC finally pulls the plug on The Office, I will be watching.  Just as I've done every other Thursday night for the past 6 years.  I can honestly say, without question, I will have watched that entire series from beginning to end (yes, I was a couple of seasons behind, but I watched the first two seasons in three days in preparation for the third season premiere).  And despite the hours of syndicated reruns you can find every week on TBS and Fox, I will still be genuinely saddened when the show goes off the air. 

There is something inherently joyful about watching The Office, even when the storyline in a particular episode is a sad one.  I always feel like I'm watching my own life (in some strange, not really at all similar way) unfold from episode to episode.  I see quirky little similarities between Jim and Pam and Adrienne and I.  I know what it's like to work for a boss that is a complete and utter moron.  And I know how it feels to go to work everyday, genuinely despising every second you're there.  That connection with the characters on the show, mixed with the hilarious scenarios that play out, always leaves me smiling even if I've seen the episode a dozen times.

I think the main reason I fell in love with the show was the way the characters developed, especially early on in the series.  Dwight Schrute went from being an eccentric, almost alien-like freak, to an eccentric and very strange human that cared about other people, even if he had an odd way of showing it.  As popular as Jim Halpert is on the show (everybody likes him, except for Dwight), if I worked with a guy like that, I would want to hate him so badly, but would end up being friends with him.  In the early seasons, Jim was a lazy, wise-cracking douche bag that got credit for essentially doing nothing, but he was so cool and laid back and friendly that it was easy to overlook the other stuff.  I began rooting for him and Pam by the second episode of the show.

And then there's Michael Scott...The bumbling, uncouth, painfully awkward idiot of a boss that you just cannot help but love/despise/feel incredibly sorry for.  I really don't think there's ever been a character in a television show that inspired so many conflicting emotions as Michael Scott did throughout his run on the show.  Despite the attention the Pam and Jim storyline received (for good reason), Michael Scott was always (and even now that he's gone, still is) the star of the show.  There have been instances where you wanted to crawl into the scene and give him a hug, times you wanted to punch him in the face for being so offensive and stupid, and times where you genuinely had trouble watching (despite knowing it is fiction) because something was so painfully awkward.  Just as one example...From literally hundreds to choose from...

When Michael Scott left the show in the 7th season, it definitely lost it's luster.  Michael Scott had been a constant since the pilot episode, and was the driving force behind every storyline the writers chose to pursue.  The humor, awkwardness and the real, human elements that made the show so fun to watch for so long was embodied by Michael Scott.  And while the show still remains entertaining to a degree, when Michael Scott left Dunder-Mifflin to move to Colorado, the show should have quit too.

Despite the lackluster storylines that have followed the gut-wrenching departure of Michael (I literally almost cried watching that episode), I'm still looking forward to the 9th and final season that premieres tomorrow night.  Although Kelly and Toby will no longer be on the show, I'm interested to see how they tie up all the loose ends.  Will Angela and Dwight finally end up together once she comes to grips with the fact her husband the senator is gay?  Will David Wallace buy Dunder-Mifflin and put Sabre (and Robert California) totally out of business?  How long will Andy and Erin last?  Are Pam and Jim going to move onto greener pastures?  And...For the love of God...Are they going to bring back Michael Scott for the finale?  I guess I'm just really hoping for a good ending.

My Top 5 Office Episodes:

5. "Dunder-Mifflin Infinity"--Dunder-Mifflin launches a new website making it easier for customers to buy paper.  Michael believes in good, old-fashioned, personable service and goes to great lengths (hand delivering baskets of food) to win back old clients.

4. "Niagara"--Jim and Pam's long and tumultuous courtship finally culminates in their destination wedding at Niagara Falls.  Michael spills the beans about Pam's pregnancy in front of her grandmother at the rehearsal dinner, Andy has to get stitches after injuring area, and Dwight seduces a bridesmaid.

3. "Weight Loss"--Probably the most anticipated episode I remember.  The Season 5 opener let us finally witness Jim pop the question to Pam in a rain-soaked gas station parking lot.  Meanwhile, Dunder-Mifflin participates in a company-wide weight loss initiative, and Kelly uses a diet of water, lemon juice, and maple syrup to try and lose the most weight.

2. "The Job"--In the Season 3 finale, Michael assumes he will be hired for a job that opens at corporate, and holds a Survivor-like contest at Lake Scranton to find his replacement for manager of the Scranton branch.  Jim and Karen (who are dating at the time) also interview for the job.  After Jim's interview, he drives back to Scranton (leaving Karen in New York) and asks newly-single Pam on a date.

1. "The Dinner Party"--Arguably the greatest episode of any TV show in the history of mankind...Michael, after dozens of failed attempts, finally tricks Jim and Pam into coming over to his house for a dinner party.  The rocky relationship between he and Jan comes to a boiling point at the party...Jan thinks Pam has a thing for Michael, Michael tries to get Andy and Jim to invest in Jan's scented-candle company, and Jan and Michael explode in an argument culminating in the police being called.  The painful awkardness that makes the show so fantastic is on full, genius display throughout this classic episode.