For *MY* Toby


Charming.  Charismatic.  Goofy.  Funny.  Hilarious.  Naughty.  Smart.  Competitive.  Brave.  Strong.  Sexy.  Alive.  Energetic.  Compassionate.  Selfless.  Magnetic.  Inspirational.  Those are just a few of the words that I think of when I think of my sweet Toby.  There is nothing more perfect in my life than our imperfect relationship and my connection with a man so much bigger than anything I could have dreamed of.

I am sick.  We don’t know what’s going on, we’re getting more blood work and pushing paperwork for OHSU and a neurologist in Boise.  It is so difficult to get an appointment anywhere.  I have been laying around sleeping, mostly, for a few days.  So not me.  I’m not sure what to do.  If I listened to my body, I’d be asleep a lot.  But, if my body is goofed up, do I listen to a goofed up self or just push through it and do what has to be done?  Is that attitude of just doing it anyways actually hurting me?

Yesterday I got outside to breathe nice air.  I shoveled the driveway.  I am able to start okay, but I can’t do much and my arms are dead.  It took me a couple different times of trying, and finally, Quincy offered to take over.

The biggest concern right now and the scariest – I’m having swallowing, chewing, talking difficulties.  We’ve noticed it here and there over the past six months, but right now, it is more evident. Still somewhat sporadic, but seemingly progressive.  I am an eater by design.  I love eating.  It takes a lot to make me not eat.  I’m finally surrendering.  Yesterday was mostly liquidish meals.  Everyday is something different.  Every.  Single.  Day.

My Toby is such a brave little soldier.  I know he is so scared.  He has been watching his wife deteriorate since our engagement 13 years ago.  13?  I love 13.  I really hope it is 13.  It’s Christmastime and we are opening presents with our seriously crazy roommate Brian.  He was amazing!  I love him.  He tolerated me.  Toby got me this humongous gift.  It was time to open it and he brought it in front of me.  It was a box of styrofoam peanuts.  It had to have taken me several minutes to get them out.  There was a paper stuck to the bottom of the box.  Nice.  I pull this paper off and it says, “Turn around.”

I’m like, “Turn what around?”  So, I flip the box over and try to figure out if I missed some other paper or something.

“Dana!  Turn around!”  It was Toby.  On his knee.  With his grandmother’s ring.

I said yes.

What an adventure.  I don’t think I have ever loved and hated and wanted and detested and liked and been frustrated with anyone as much as Toby.  None of it is negative.  Even the negative stuff.  Because, two negatives make a positive, or something like that.  I’ve complained a lot about him.  Verbally or in my mind.  I made a choice awhile ago not to do that anymore.  It really helped.  I think the Lord used that to help protect me from bitterness and envy.

It is so hard to be married to someone so very amazing as Toby.  In his shadow.  He gets reports from his boss and they are perfect.  Refrigerator worthy.  He gets raises and bonuses and belts and medals and he does it all while being an amazing, hands-on, in yo’ face dad and husband.  Seriously.  Who does that?

When I met Toby, his messy spiky hair and that naughty twinkle in his eye…  within minutes of sitting down at the table at Denny’s…  seeing him across the floor.  I knew.  I told my friend Shaun that I had come to coffee with…  Okay, I’ll back up.

I’m in college.  BSU.  My boyfriend had just broken up with me.  I was heartbroken.  Seriously.  I thought I loved him and he thought he loved me, I think.  My dad actually had kicked me out of his home, so I think the break-up with this boy wasn’t so devastating because it was the boy, but because I cringe at any form of rejection.  So, my girl friend Shaun and I are supposed to go see the play, “A Doll’s House.”  Me, in my infinite wisdom, tell Shaun, “Let’s just skip it.  I totally know this from high school.  Let’s go play.”  So, we did.  I am so naughty.  We ended up at Denny’s and we passed by a table of three boys and one chick.

I saw Toby.  I told my friend Shaun that was the one I wanted.  In a few minutes the chick at the boys table came over to us.  She asked us if we wanted to come and join their table and meet her guy friends.  We talked about if privately and finally went over. I’d like to say that the first day we met we fell in love, and maybe we did, but here’s the thing…

The chick that came over to our table to bring us to her guy friends, was actually Toby’s girlfriend.  Seriously.  One week.  He broke up with her in a week.  In the great big land of Boise we lived down the alley from each other off of River Street.  A 30-second walk, at most.

We made out constantly.  Ha.

Toby told me where he’d been.  The life he’d led – drugs, girls, arrested, jail, and more.  I should have ran.  Here’s the thing:  when I come into the picture, I see a thriving, joyful, muscle man of potential in Toby.  He was working at HP.  Through a contract employer, but he’d just received a significant promotion.  At 19 he was rubbing shoulders with adults twice or three times his age.  And he was shining.  That takes some balls, people.  It takes something so amazingly special to get out of the depths of where he had been and into the life that he was now leading.  i just knew.

I don’t know if there is another man in the world that can love me as big as Toby.  He tolerates me on days when I am angry and mean to everyone simply because I don’t feel well.  He has never doubted me.  Not once.  With all of the doctors telling me they don’t know, to go to another specialist, to take a pill, to get to a psychiatrist IMMEDIATELY… through all of the collections, debt, financial struggle that this has caused…  through sacrificing what he wants to do because he has to do my chores around the house.  For years.  He doesn’t complain.  Ever.  Instead of saying, “I need a break.”  He says, “Can I get you anything, doll face?”

I am so blessed to have this Christmas and many more with you, Toby.  I’m looking at our tipped over tree, no presents underneath, so thankful that our love and the love we have for our children cannot be displayed once a year, wrapped with a bow.  We have a relationship rich in detail, memories, laughs, connection, and togetherness.  Thank you for asking me to marry you.  Merry Christmas.

The Christ Who Stole Grinchmas!

I don’t know if it’s being 33, perspective, or circumstances, but the spirit and season of Christmas have changed in our home.   I love it.  When Toby and I were young and stupid we tried to express our love with money and gifts.  Which is lovely, but it was more stress than it should have been.  It was fueled by the desire to share our love, but we missed the big picture.  We’re finally getting our Grinch on and we’re getting real with what this holiday is about.  

I love making thoughtful gift choices.  I like that tingly feeling in my tummy when that magical moment of giving and receiving collide.  God’s fingerprints.  


We purchased more gifts for Quincy’s 1st Christmas than she could ever have played with.  We thought that’s what we were supposed to do.  Time, money, and Tate changed all that!  By the time you get to number two, the money is divided and so is time, energy, and patience!  We wound up with two overly spoiled girls, nonetheless.  Lots of experience, several years, and a baby boy later…  the essence of gift giving in our home is precious to me and has nothing to do with the price tag, quantity, or demand.

The meaning of Christ’s birth and the representation of the gifts to the King is well taught in our home.  We celebrate both with that sentimental “Hallmark Holiday” tradition as well as a spiritual joy for our Savior.  I think Santa is amazing and I love that we can enjoy a magical season of childhood with our kids as we plan their gifts.  

Our oldest, Quincy, is an avid crafter and designer of all things.  Our sweet neighbors…  they are so generous!  The husband is a high school educator and taught art for 25 years.  He has been giving Quincy art lessons on Monday afternoons after he gets off of work.  I am so thankful.  My heart is bursting with joy for her.  He was *MY* art teacher in high school.  What a precious sacrifice he is making for her.  

Toby and I chose to get her a starter sewing machine.  She is temporarily focused on being a fashion designer.  Quincy is such a hands-on learner and I’d like to think that she inherited some of her mama’s craftiness.  I am so excited to see the expression on her face and the amazing creations she will make.  I chose a loom and scarf making supplies for her stocking.  I am seriously grinning at the computer as I type this.

Our sweet Tate has decided that she is a Master Chef.  She loves the Food Network.  She plays “Tate’s Restaurant,” “Top Chef,” and “Chopped” regularly.  We were able to use some points Toby had of some kind of get a kitchenette for her, totally free!  Our friends and family have bought her a chef’s hat and coat.  Her stocking will have some simple plastic cookware for her kitchen.  She was blessed with an Easy Bake Oven from a sweet friend…  Toby will be blessed enough to try all of her edibles!  I will volunteer to judge the dish presentation!  It’s a two part score and we each have to do our part, Tob.

The little man in the house received a great big box a couple months ago.  I ordered his present early, it showed up, on the porch…  the girls saw it.  Santa couldn’t have brought that present early!  Duh!  So, Toby was sent to fetch a small red tricycle on behalf of the fat guy in the red suit.  As for the great big box;  It’s one of those plastic, smaller rideable rollercoaster thingamajigs.  Five star reviews everywhere you look.  He is so active, he will love these toys!  I snagged a SpongeBob Toothbrush and Toby found a plush Spider Man for his stocking.  I know Tripp will be so happy.  And, it will all be enough.  No matter what.  

I still have my Toby, my mom, and my sister to shop for.  I want to and have to get them something.  After that, I hope I have extra dinero to buy some fun gifts for the friends and family that I love so much.  But, if I don’t, I’m totally okay with that and I’m sorry if you aren’t.  BAHAHAHA!

For several years we have gone to the Christmas Eve service our church holds.  It’s normally a candlelight service.  I don’t think it’s a “vigil” is it?  The first year, we had to work (florists do not get holidays off!), and showed up a few minutes late.  We walk into the room and my Tate, who was like 4’ish, walked to the lights and turned them on because it was dark.  That was a moment wrecker.  

I think we may have had real candles that year, too, which made me real nervous with the kids, but they did great.  I love that we all go around and say something like one big family.  Sometimes it’s what you are thankful for or sometimes it’s a spiritual sentiment, but it is now more important to me than anything else on Christmas Eve.  It’s special.

Ya know, I couldn’t imagine being divinely impregnated, in a stable, ready to give birth.  And Joseph, props to that guy for sticking with Mary.  That couldn’t have been easy.  It’s such a perplexing, mysterious, and interesting story – the birth of baby Jesus.  I think I heard somewhere that when the wise men would have arrived to give Christ their gifts, he would have been close to age two.  Tripp is two.  I couldn’t imagine giving him frankincense, myrrh, and gold.  I wonder if Jesus was a real baby boy or a super baby boy.  

Speaking of which, our baby boy is grown up and in his own big boy bed *and* room now.  Yes, he is almost two.  Don’t judge me.  I loved having him close.  All of my kids, I like keeping them close.  Society says it is expected for them to go out into the world and someday I’ll be ready for that.  But, for now my heart says to keep them close.  I cannot explain it, other than a spiritual conviction to keep them close.  Something tells me that this time and experience is valuable.  That makes me all the more excited to share this season of Christmas love!

Merry Christmas!  

This picture is a close up of our family “Grinchmas Tree!”