Friday, September 6, 2019

A Love Story Part 4: An Engagement

After I spent the summer in Virginia, Farmer Man and I knew we wanted to continue to be together and that I would eventually move to be with him. I was starting a new school year so we would have to go back to long-distance dating for 10 months before I could make the move. With such a big step, naturally we also talked about our shared desire to get engaged/married within the next year to solidify that we were fully committed to being together.

Fall and winter came and went and before we knew it spring was here. At the beginning of March, Farmer Man and I were talking about the move and making future plans and the topic of marriage came up once again. I knew I wanted to get married in Maine (and Farmer Man was open to that) and we knew that we wanted to get married sometime within the year. We weren't even engaged yet but somehow the wedding plans were already being made! We ended up picking the venue and subsequently the date of our wedding a month and a half BEFORE we were actually engaged!

During April vacation I went to Virginia to spend the week with Farmer Man. Since we had already made the wedding plans, a proposal was just a matter of time! I was really hoping this would be the week he would propose but really had no idea where or how he would do it. At the start of our week together we drove down to Charleston, SC to visit some friends and I thought maybe it would happen there since there are so many beautiful and romantic spots. On the other hand, I really couldn't picture him proposing in front of other people and thought maybe he wanted to do it somewhere closer to home in a place that was special to us.

Toward the end of the week, we were back in Virginia and the proposal hadn't happened yet. I was beginning to wonder if he was going to do it at all! On the day before I was going to head back to Maine, he said a couple of his friends wanted to meet us for dinner that night at one of our favorite restaurants in one of my favorite little nearby towns. As we were getting ready for dinner that night, he said his friends cancelled and it would be just the two of us going to dinner. We parked and were walking down the street toward the restaurant and I commented that it was a bit chilly so he ran back to the car saying he would look for a jacket (little did I know but he was actually taking the ring out of his glove box)!!

We had a lovely dinner together and as we were walking back toward the car he stopped me on the street corner in front of a bed and breakfast, pulled me close, kissed me and told me he loved me. Then, he got down on one knee and asked me to marry him! I jokingly said 'OK, how bout July 5th?' since that was the date we had already picked for the wedding. He put the ring on my finger and told me he knew how much I loved that little town and now we would have to come back each year and stay in the bed and breakfast to remember the night we got engaged! It was sweet, thoughtful, romantic, private, and understated- just very 'Farmer Man'!

The proposal was on the street corner just behind me in Smithfield, Virginia

The ring design is something we both love- a very simple and classic style. What makes it special and unique, however, is that the center diamond belonged to Farmer Man's grandmother! It would serve as my 'something old' on our wedding day.

Before I left to go back to Maine, we took a few engagement photos on the farm so we could finally make our happy news known to the world! Our wedding was only 2.5 months away so as soon as I was back in Maine, the planning was in full swing (along with getting my house ready to sell and preparing to leave my teaching career of 15 years)! Needless to say, it was the most hectic few months I've ever experienced!

Coming Soon...
A Love Story Part 5: The Wedding

Other Parts of This Series
A Love Story Part 1: The Single Life
A Love Story Part 2: Unexpected Double Date
A Love Story Part 3: Long Distance Relationship

Thursday, August 22, 2019

A Love Story Part 3: Long Distance Relationship

After our awesome first/second dates in Maine, Farmer Man went back home to Virginia. I cried when he left because there's was so much uncertainty about what would happen at that point and I knew he was someone special. He called me on his drive back home and we chatted for a while but still, what was next for us?

I asked him if I could come visit him as I'd always wanted to visit Jamestown and Colonial Williamsburg, both 'bucket list' places for this social studies teacher! He told me he'd love for me to visit and so I planned a trip to see him at the end of March (which was about six weeks agonizing wait)!

In the meantime, we chatted on the phone every couple of days, sent funny texts, which often referenced our common love of The Office, and got to know each other more with each conversation. We discussed early on what each other's goals were in terms of a relationship because neither of us were interested in wasting the other person's time. I was very clear that I wanted marriage and kids and told him it was OK if those weren't things he was ready for, he just needed to be upfront with me.  I'm 5.5 years older than him and was definitely in a place where I was looking to settled down with 'my person'. He said he was open to both and I said that if things ever worked out between us, I'd be open to moving since he was working on turning his family's land into a farm & campground and I could theoretically teach anywhere (more on that decision in another post).

The end of March arrived and I went to visit Farmer Man for the first time. We were both a bit nervous because we had only spent 1.25 days together and hadn't seen each other in about 6 weeks. But, we had a great time together and made plans to see each other again the following month. At that point, I'm not sure either of us knew what was going to happen between us since dating long distance is complicated, we just knew that we liked being together and spending time together so we continued to make plans to see one another over the next several months.

              Our first photo together, on a ship at Jamestown during my first visit to see Farmer Man

                                                       Long weekend in Rhode Island

By the beginning of June, we decided that I'd spend my summer vacation in Virginia so we could spend more than just a long weekend together once a month. It would be our 'make it or break it' trial period to see what the future would bring for us. At the end of the summer, we would either decide to end things or we would decide we were in it for the long haul, having to endure long distance for a whole school year as neither of us were ready for me to move that first summer but I couldn't up and move in the middle of a school year so if we stayed together, we would have to wait until the next summer for me to move.

 With Baby Daisy on the farm last summer

Camping with my Farmer Man

The summer months went by quickly and by the end of August, we were both 'all in' and knew we wanted to be together. I went back to Maine to start my 15th year teaching and Farmer Man stayed in Virginia. It was really tough to go back to long distance dating after spending every day together for two months. We talked on the phone every day but some days/weeks were really tough to be apart. Our communication styles are very different, which made staying connected pretty difficult at times. We've been asked what the 'secret' is to making it through a long distance relationship and both of us agree there really isn't one- it pretty much sucks and the only way through is a common commitment to the end goal- which is the day that you will actually be together without any distance between you.

 Suffolk, Virginia Peanut Festival

 With my very handsome wedding date 
(I officiated the wedding of my very good friends)

 Our first Thanksgiving together at my home in Maine

The only photo we got of our first Christmas, waiting for our flight from Maine to Virginia in the Portland Jetport

Celebrated our anniversary in February and went back to the restaurant where it all started!

For the next 10 months, we saw each other about every 4 weeks, give or take, me going to Virginia or him coming up to Maine, spending holidays together with our families, spending time with each others friends. We knew for sure that I would move at the end of the school year and we knew that we wanted to be engaged before that happened...turns out, not only would we be engaged but we would be MARRIED before I moved that summer!

Up Next...


Thursday, August 15, 2019

A Love Story Part 2: Unexpected Double Date

Part 1 of my "love story" was all about single life and this post is the next chapter, how I met the guy who would become my husband! Here goes...

Shortly after I ordered 100 calling cards in an attempt to shake up my dating routine, I got back on a few dating apps, including Tinder. If I'm being honest, my time on that app was mostly unpleasant, filled with many guys who did not seem genuine and didn't share the same reasons for being on the app as me. Still, I just looked at it as a numbers game- the sheer number of people using the app meant eventually I'd match with someone interested in developing a relationship. I had met nice, sincere guys on dating apps before so I knew it was possible, I just had to wade through all the crude photos and people just looking for hookups (no judgements of those who use the app for that purpose, it just wasn't what I was looking for, to each their own...but word to the wise, fellas, no lady wants to see unsolicited pics of your junk...but that's another post entirely).

One Friday evening at the start of school vacation in February 2018, I was mindlessly swiping on Tinder when I came across the profile of a cute, interesting guy with not a shirtless selfie in sight- such a novelty!! When reading his profile, I learned he was from Virginia and almost didn't swipe right (right= I like him, left= no thanks). Lots of people come to Maine for vacation and I wasn't interested in starting anything with someone who didn't live near me and in my experience, the people coming from out of state and using Tinder were usually looking for something casual. But, this farmer/beekeeper/world traveler from Virginia seemed intriguing so I made the fateful decision to "swipe right" and we matched (which means he "swiped right" on my profile as well).

(one of Farmer Man's online profile pics...that smile!!!)

We ended up chatting on the app for about 20 minutes that evening, where he told me he was in Maine for an annual ice fishing trip with a high school buddy and would be going up North for the rest of the weekend. I said goodnight and honestly didn't think it would go any further than that conversation. Still, the next day I decided to send one last message (knowing he probably didn't have cell service where he was and I probably wouldn't hear from him for a few days if at all) suggesting we meet up for dinner or drinks when he was back in southern Maine.

To my pleasant surprise, a few days later he sent me a message and we made plans for a dinner date. He asked if he could bring his friend with him since it was his last night in Maine and he didn't want to ditch him. Normally, I would never have bothered to go out with a guy who lived so far away and who wanted to bring his friend along (kind of awkward), all on a weekday evening BUT I was on February break and something in my gut just told me to go for it! What did I have to lose?

*This is the part where I advocate for safe dating practices so I will point out that we met in a very public restaurant and I was sure to tell some close friends where I was going and who I was meeting and sent screen shots of his profile information. 

I got to the restaurant first, as I always tried to do when going on a first date, and sat down at a table facing the door. Then came the nervous waiting to see if the person in the profile was the same in real life. In walked Farmer Man, his friend, and luckily his friend's girlfriend, which would even us out and turn it into a little double date! My first thought was how handsome Farmer Man was and that he looked just like his photos (apparently he thought the exact same thing about me and his friend jokingly commented "as advertised" after he saw me in person, ha ha)!

(the local of our double date)

The four of us had a really great time and I just remember laughing a lot that evening and thinking even if this went nowhere, I had had a really fun date! Farmer Man walked me out to my car, kissed me goodnight, and said "I know I'm supposed to go back to Virginia tomorrow but if I stay another day, will you go out with me again?". Luckily, this gal was on vacation from school and had a pretty open schedule so we made plans for another date in Portland the following day.

We spent all day together, walking around the Old Port, hitting up museums, window shopping, eating & drinking, and just getting to know each other. Although it was February in Maine, we had a rare 70 degree day, which only added to the awesomeness of the experience! I told him about the calling cards I had made and pulled one out to show him. He took it and laughed, seemingly impressed with my creativity, then put it in his wallet (where it still lives today). Even though we met online, I still believe those calling cards played a little part in helping him fall in love with me!

When he finally left to drive back home to Virginia, I remember crying and wondering why this awesome guy was sent into my life and yet he lived so far away! Little did I know it then but my life was about to change in bigger ways than I could have imagined. I'm so happy I said yes to a double date with three strangers on a cold winter Maine evening!

Sunday, August 11, 2019

A Love Story Part 1: The Single Life

Last month, at 38 and a half years old, I got married. I wasn't sure if real, long-lasting love was in the cards for me. By nature, I'm a pretty independent and industrious person, happily going through my twenties and thirties, building a successful teaching career, tackling ventures in house flipping/renovating, and maintaining an active social life with a wonderful group of friends. I felt accomplished in many respects but also felt the longing to build a life and a family with a loving, devoted partner. Being in a relationship and wanting marriage and children is not for everyone, and there's absolutely nothing wrong with being single, but I've always hoped for the former.

To that end, I actively put myself out into the dating world for 20+ years, going on more first and second dates than I can count. Blind date fix-ups through friends, well-intentioned co-workers offering up their male relatives, online dating before it was popular or mainstream, and eventually hopping on board the 'swipe left/right' apps, all in the hopes of finding 'the one'.  During that span there were a couple of relationships but for most of my life I've been single. As frustrating as it was to be the perpetual third wheel or to have yet another fruitless first date that wouldn't end up going anywhere, in retrospect I can see that being single for so long allowed me to accomplish so much on my own, providing a great sense of pride and accomplishment. Silver linings all around.

(One of my most fun and exciting accomplishments, 
the cover of Maine Women Magazine's DIY issue)

Still, there were many times that I was fearful that I'd spend my life alone. I heard many times "I can't believe you are single" and "just give him another chance" and "you should go out with my friend's cousin's roommate from college because he's single too", as well as so many pieces of advice. One person would tell me to put myself out there more while another would tell me to "just stop looking and then you'll find him when you least expect it"...two completely contradictory, yet well-meaning pieces of advice.  

I was told many times that I was being too picky, but in my gut I always just felt that I'd know it when I found it, as cliche as that may sound. As with most important decisions in life, but particularly when it comes to spending your life with someone, settling for anything less that what you feel is right for you and that is anything less than what you deserve will never end well. I was never looking for "perfect" in a partner but I was looking for someone who was perfect for me- which are two very different ideas. As much as it hurt sometimes to be alone, settling because I was afraid of being alone was just never an option for me.

In the fall of 2017 I went through a break up and subsequently a depression. It wasn't that particular guy that I was so upset about but rather that residual fear that I was going to spend my life alone. On top of that, I was about to turn 37, which can be troubling for any single woman who would like to try and have biological children. I had a rough couple of months, but after allowing myself to wallow a bit, I rang in New Year's 2018 with a commitment to work on my physical and emotional health and take active steps to pull myself out of my funk. I worked out faithfully, ate well, filled my social calendar, talked to a therapist, started journaling & meditating, planned a solo vacation, and found comfort in the company of dear friends.

During this time one of my friends encouraged me to read a really inspiring book called "The Universe Has Your Back" by Gabrielle Bernstein. In it she asks you to picture what your life would be like if you lived from a place of faith rather than a place of fear. That idea became my mantra and by mid-February I was feeling so good- strong, happy, and optimistic.

After taking a few months off from the dating apps while I worked on "me", I decided to put myself back out there. I even designed and printed 100 'calling cards' (very Victorian, I know) so that if I saw someone interesting while I was out, I could hand him a card with my contact information. I figured I had nothing to lose and a creative strategy for meeting people couldn't hurt! Little did I know then but I would only end up giving out one card to one guy- and that guy would eventually become my husband (we met on an app but he got the one and only card on our first date)!

(the front of the calling cards I designed)

Monday, February 25, 2019

Why I Love Teaching Financial Literacy

Six years ago my department leader came to me and asked if I’d be willing to take on the challenge
of creating the curriculum for a new semester course in personal finance that all seniors would need
to take before graduating. As any educator knows, teaching a new course can be daunting because
many hours will be devoted to finding, creating, and implementing quality curriculum. My department
leader buttered me up a bit by saying she thought I had the ‘creativity and energy’ needed to get kids
excited about financial literacy- so how could I say no to that? As it turns out, six years and 12 semesters
later, teaching financial literacy has been one of the best experiences I could have wanted as an
educator, and here’s why:

Teaching Practical Skills is Rewarding
As much as I enjoy teaching U.S. history or other topics that fall under the umbrella of ‘social studies’
there’s just something incredibly satisfying about being able to teach practical, hands on skills that I
KNOW my students will use immediately. I’ve never heard ‘when will I use this’ or ‘why do we have to
know this’ from any student in my personal finance classes, no small feat coming from a room full of
(sometimes) ornery teenagers! They can use the skills learned in class immediately in their everyday
lives and when I receive messages from former students who tell me they are using the information
learned in class out in the ‘real world’, it’s incredibly rewarding.

Personal Finance is Fun and Engaging
The topic of financial literacy allows for incredible engagement from students because most are already
earning and managing their finances to some extent. They naturally have lots of questions during class
and genuinely want to know more about each topic presented, which is such an exciting opportunity as
their teacher to build upon that natural curiosity. Whether it’s creating a real budget based on their
current earnings, participating in an ‘apartment renting’ simulation, or trying to guess ‘name brand or
store brand’ during a taste test activity, teaching personal finance also allows for so many fun and
engaging lesson ideas.

Financial Literacy Improves the Community
With student loan debt now in the trillions and financial literacy skills on the decline, it’s now more
important than ever to have quality financial literacy courses in every community. When students learn
how to make smart decisions with their finances, understand the consequences of various financial
decisions, and see the ‘big picture’ of how individual choices can also impact the community on a
broader scale, we all benefit from this increased knowledge of personal finance. My students take what
they’ve learned in class and bring it home to their families, engaging in meaningful conversations about
smart financial choices. As a financial literacy educator, it’s rewarding to know that I am making a
difference in not only the lives of my students, but inadvertently working toward improving the economic
climate in both my local and broader communities.

Self-Improvement Opportunities Abound
I can honestly say that teaching, in general, makes me a more patient, more knowledgeable, and more
well-rounded person. Having the opportunity to teach financial literacy has made a difference in the
management of my own finances. Being asked to teach this course has required that I do a great deal
of research, inevitably improving my own understanding of a wide variety of financial topics. Providing
the best quality education I can for my students has also given me opportunities to hear from a variety
of community members, from investment bankers to insurance agents, each experts in their own fields.
When my students don’t understand something or have questions to which I don’t know the answer, I
expand my knowledge base once again by finding the answers and engaging in meaningful
conversations. I’m constantly being given opportunities to learn and grow by teaching personal finance.

To any teacher who may be presented with the opportunity to teach personal finance classes, I would emphatically say ‘DO IT’!! Although it may seem daunting at first, you will be a better person for it and your students and community will thank you!