1. When I was 11 years old and she was 13, Lolly gave a talk in sacrament meeting that changed my life. It was so genuine and so powerful--about how she received a witness that the Book of Mormon is true--and she was radiant, and I remember thinking "I want to know what she knows. And I want to be her friend."
2. Not long after that, we served at a wedding together. We laughed the entire time.
3. I turned 12, and went to mutual for the first time. She hung out with me and helped me feel comfortable in my own skin.
4. At 13, I was going through one of the most difficult years of my life (to date). Many factors combined to make this particular year indescribably hellish. But on the first day of school that year (8th grade) I saw Lolly, the student body president of the school and a grade ahead of me, eating lunch with all her friends and I thought "I bet she'd let me sit with her." She did. Every day. For the entire year.
5. That was the only safe place I had that year.
Laurel Shea, Student Body President of Jefferson Junior High
7. One of them was one time I saw that she was chewing gum and...
I asked her for a piece. She was like "I don't have any. Well, unless you want the piece in my mouth." And I was like "Okay." And she was like "are you serious?" and she pulled it out of her mouth as kind of a challenge, and I nodded yes. And she handed it to me, and she and all her friends gasped when I popped it in my mouth. I remember how impressed she looked, like I had done something that really got her attention.
8. Another was the time she and I both mentioned that we really liked the Janet Jackson song that was popular at the time, and when someone asked which song, we broke out singing the most memorable line together "Making love to you, oh it felt so good and, oh, so right..." while her mostly puritanical LDS friends looked on in horror that we had said the word "sex" with such abandon.
9. Probably the most important memory I have of that year was an afternoon when she wasn't there. The next day, we all asked where she'd been, and she explained that she had been to a funeral. And that it was the funeral of her grandpa. And that he had had to be cremated. And that he had had to be cremated because he'd died of AIDS. And that he'd died of AIDS because he was gay, and had left her grandma when Lolly was one. Something clicked in me when she told me that. This conversation occurred a few months before I had outed myself to my parents, and I remember feeling the distinct sense that "this girl will be someone I can talk to about..." but I couldn't finish the sentence yet because I'm pretty sure I hadn't ever formulated the words "I am gay."
10. When she moved to Oregon after that school year, I was really sad. I walked up to her in church before she left and said "hey, will you write me?" And she said "well, I think I'm gonna just write the people who write me first. So if you write me, I'll write you back."
11. I started a letter to her, but being my ADD self never finished it or got it in the mail. I'd love to see that letter now but it's on the hard drive of some trashed computer.
12. Two years later, I moved to Aloha, Oregon. The exact same suburb of Portland Lolly had moved to. We stayed with her family while we looked for a house. Lolly and I stayed up and talked until five in the morning. I loved talking to her. A lot.
13. Not long thereafter we went on our first date where I outed myself to her. The original coming out post tells this story, if you're new here. So does this post (minus the coming out part).
14. Hours and hours and hours and hours and hours and hours of talking and talking and talking and talking and talking and talking...
15. I love that for so many years she wouldn't even consider marrying me (not that I was asking her--it was all just hypothetical conjecture) because sex was so important to her.
16. I love that instead of being excited for her wedding as a teen, Lolly was always talking about her excitement for her honeymoon.
17. I took her to prom. She drove. We got to the dance late and got bored quickly. We ended up parking on the side of the road somewhere and talking for hours. For a change. (<--- did anybody else's dad say "for a change" sarcastically all the time growing up? Because mine did.)
18. Ricks College of Champions. She was my best friend by this point and had been for years, and people would say "you guys are going to end up together," and we'd look give each other a knowing wink and a smile and say "nah, I don't think that's gonna happen" and then people would say "no, you will. I can tell. You are in love. Just you wait. You'll see..." and we'd continue to disagree because we had Insider Information. We were so smug and thought we were so smart...
19. Falling in love. The summer of 1999. Letting it happen, no pressure. Loving every minute of it--the butterflies, watching as a deep friendship became something more. Trip to the Oregon coast. Discussion of wanting to go Europe someday. The realization that we wanted to be it for each other, but that if God had something better in store for us, it would have to be pretty awesome.
20. A distinct memory: I weighed almost 300lbs when Lolly and I fell in love in 1999 because I had gained tons of weight due to anxiety about going on my mission. My ADD was horrible. I was homosexual. I did not feel very good about myself as a male, as a person, as a potential missionary, as a potential husband. One afternoon, Lolly and I went on a walk, and we walked in a neighborhood filled with beautiful houses. She hugged me and looked into my eyes and told me why she loved me. I was skeptical--I didn't see much in myself to love, and I questioned her reasoning. She grabbed my face and looked me in the eyes and said "Josh, nobody else seems to see who you really are, but I can see it. I see it. I see you the way God sees you. I know who you are, and I can see your potential. You are going to do amazing things. You are a diamond in the rough, Josh Weed. I don't make mistakes about this kind of thing. You are something special. You will make an amazing father and husband. You will do important things." She said it with such conviction that it broke through my insecurities--she saw through all the outward foibles to the person beneath. I've spent every day since trying to be the man she saw in me that day.
21. Saying goodbye as I went on my mission. Putting it entirely in God's hands saying "if this is right, it will work out, but in the meantime date other guys and don't hesitate to get married if you find someone else..."
22. Getting the letter six months in that said that Lolly had gotten a blessing from her (other) Grandpa which said 1. that she should go on a mission and 2. that she already knew who her husband was supposed to be.
23. Getting home from my mission and freaking out about marriage and deliberating over it for days even though it was the thing I wanted most. Having the most direct, clear revelation of my life--a literal voice that said "Ask her to marry you," as we lay side by side at my parents house. Not trusting it, and saying internally "can I hear that again?" Hearing it again. Louder and clearer.
24. Asking her to marry me and feeling the sweetest most profound peace of my life permeate my entire body.
25. Married life--living in Puerto Rico, moving on to the BYU years, loving our time in Provo, studying at the same time, loving each day together, even when life was difficult.
26. The birth of Anna. The joy we felt. The newness. Helping her nurse. The time the nurse threatened to give Anna an enema if she didn't pass meconium--the two of us praying hard we wouldn't have to watch our sweet baby suffer that discomfort, and then rejoicing at the little tar-like splotch that emerged from her tiny haunch.
27. The move to Seattle. Living with her parents and then next to her parents. Building family ties. Realizing that the ward and neighborhood we had moved into thinking it would be a transitional place was exactly where the Lord wanted us, and seeing miracle after miracle keep us there when there was no WAY it should have happened.
28. Our little Viva. Watching as she delivered her so calmly. Feeling our mutual terror in her state of ultimate vulnerability. (Thank you, Lolly, for bringing our children into this world.) Loving our sweet Viva so very much.
29. And then Tessa--the difficulty of the pregnancy. You being on bed rest and getting so severely depressed. And the horrible labor and delivery with the nurse from hell. And then coming to know our Little Miss T and knowing it was so, so worth it.
We become a family of five
30. Starting private practice together even when it made no sense, simply because we felt like it was right. Surviving lean, lean months. Fasting and praying for confirmation we were doing the right thing. Getting distinct confirmation that it was right and that something big was going to happen. Having no idea what it was, but feeling assured for a few weeks until we ran out of money (again) and we started worrying that we were literally insane. Repeat. And repeat.
31. And repeat.
32. Writing the scariest blog post of our lives describing the deepest secret of our marriage and not knowing why we were doing it, but knowing without a doubt that we were supposed to. Pressing publish side by side. Me saying, in all seriousness, "I hope at least a few people comment so it doesn't get all awkward after a revealing post like that."
33. Getting home from The Blue Man Group to see that, indeed, a few people had commented. Spending the last few months explaining, sharing, defending, and championing our story--this story--in so many ways with so many people.
34. You turning 34 today, my sweet, sweet Lolly Shea, and me being so incredibly glad that you are mine. Forever.
(I cheated and backdated the post to last night because it was done yesterday but I wanted to make sure Lolly was the first one to see it. She cried. Which is good because I cried while writing it. We are cheesy.)