Roller Coaster


I cannot even begin to describe the way this week has taken my emotions, thrown them bodily into a seat, strapped them to a lap bar, and propelled them through twists and turns unnatural to the normal, everyday stresses to which I am accustomed. We have been building gradually to the culmination of 21 months of dedication, focus, perseverance, and motivation. I am weak; I am human. While I was the one sweating and slaving, my friends and family were there to push me, to make me keep going when I wanted to curl into a ball and quit.

That was more frequently than I was previously willing to admit. Now that it is over, I can be honest.

The week between the last day of class and graduation was one of the longest weeks ever. It was amazing to have Matt’s family and my family here to spend time with us, but after hard-charging for almost two years, I did not know what to do with myself with so much time at my fingertips. Looking back at the week now, I am sure I could have accomplished more than I did, but the break was welcome. I lamented the boredom and the extra time, but I decompressed and unwound myself from the tense creature I had become.

Matt’s parents arrived on Monday. After a failed attempt to wander around Downtown Disney, Matt and I took them to see the Blue Man Group. I had seen the show before, but it would be a first time for Matt and his parents. The event was glorious. We left the show with banana in our hair and on our clothes, ate dinner at Bubba Gump’s — which does not serve Dr. Pepper, by the way — and closed the evening by displaying our hula-hooping skills.

My mom and Eric arrived on Wednesday and we took them to Longhorn Steakhouse for dinner with Matt’s parents. It was a nice, relaxed evening.

Thursday is when my sister, Edgar, and their kids flew in. The plan that night was initially an all-you-can-eat lobster place for my sister’s birthday. It is a tradition in our family to have the birthday boy or girl pick the restaurant. The issue with this was that the restaurant was quite a distance from my apartment, and I knew I had an early morning before me. Graduation was not until 1045, and I did not need to sign in until 0945, but the Army has made me very nervous about being late. This means I was expecting a 0600 wakeup so I would have plenty of time to get ready and sit around chewing on my fingers until it was time to go.

True, Amanda fashion. Hey, at least I am never late.

So I whined about getting up early and offered my suggestion: The Cheesecake Factory. It is a favorite of mine and Matt’s, and most of our family members had never been there. I also know that it is one of those restaurants that will do a cheesy display or song for a birthday. It was not strange to me that various members of our party of eleven got up at random intervals. I figured they were arranging the song or cake or whatever for my sister. When the waiter finally did come — with a candle and a birthday wish on MY cheesecake — my sister got up quickly, shushed him, and sent him on his way.

She said it was not her birthday that night.

After that I noticed some people standing, and Matt getting eerily close to me. He had been sitting on the other side of the table from me. Then he said he wanted me to watch something and handed me a cell phone.

This is the point where I will get vague. My sister had been working with Matt for a while compiling pictures from friends — both hers and ours — and Edgar had been making a slideshow of the images they received. The video was a mashup of people holding signs, snapshots of text messages, people painting their children or pregnant bellies, screenshots of World of Warcraft players, images with teddy bears, and so many more. They all said the same thing:

Amanda, will you marry Matt?

Faced with this epic Youtube video and Matt interrupting it to spill his heart onto the table, things did not click for me until he got on one knee and pulled out a ring.

No, do not go searching for the video. It is private in its current form and it was not until I said yes — did you think I would type all of that out if I had not accepted?! Come on, guys! — that I realized almost everyone in my family was filming my reaction. So my sister has decreed that I will not show anyone until they have edited the proposal and my reaction into the slideshow that I was watching. Patience, friends and followers, I will notify you when it is on Youtube and in a public form.

Ugh, more than 800 words already. Brace yourselves. This one is going to be a long one.

Friday morning found me up, dressed, and chewing my fingers right on schedule. I had an hour or two to sweat the end of college, the upcoming “future” and “real life” I kept hearing about, and the speech I was supposed to be giving on behalf of my degree program. I welcomed the crowd — public speaking is comfortable for me — and I welcomed the next step. After verifying the mailing address for our diplomas and awards, we lined ourselves in a hallway and waited for our entrance to be announced.

It moved very fast from the time we sat down in the Full Sail Live Venue and the time my degree program got to walk the stage. I do not remember a lot of the before and after, but I do remember the pride in the face of each of my instructors. I knew I had won multiple awards, but hearing them announced and then having the crowd cheer when my name appeared on the huge screen behind the faculty took my breath away. I remember walking up to the podium to talk and realizing that it was nearly as tall as I am.

Oh well, if they could not see me, they would surely hear me.

After I completed my speech, there was cheering and yelling. My biggest fear was the polite, “that’s nice dear” applause that would inevitably signal a failure on my part. While not rambunctious or standing ovation worthy, I did great.

I’m a good job.

I feel the need to step in here and mention that I said the previous sentence purposefully and it is written as I intended it to be. I try to make a habit of being a decent writer, so something so blatantly… weird… would be targeted quickly by anyone I have ever asked to spot-check my work.

After a proposal, a wicked-awesome graduation, and a picnic with my graduating peers, their families, and the friends who have constantly supported us, I was soaring through the air on a kite of awesome…

…and then my mom called and said they were taking my 14-month niece, Haven, to the emergency room because she had been seizing for more than fifteen minutes. It is a scary thing to see my little niece tied at the wrists — she was thrashing and would likely remove the breathing tube — and connected to IVs and various monitors. So flight plans are changing. My mother and Eric cannot continue their anniversary vacation knowing that when Haven is released from the ICU, she will still likely be very sick. So Heather and Edgar are staying longer than planned, and mom and Eric are leaving early.

The plans changing sucks, but it works out for me because I will be home to them in a week.

There is a lot of medical flimflam involved with Haven and the seizure that put her into the hospital. Because of my obvious lack of a medical degree, I will leave it at what the doctors speculated it was: a febrile seizure. You will have to follow my sister or my mom to find out the more complete and likely more accurate details. Three days later, Haven is still in the ICU, but has had the breathing tube removed. She is breathing on her own, although it is very weak. She has pneumonia, but recognized my mother when she came to visit this evening.

There is hope in this world, but I welcome prayers and good thoughts for this little girl.

My niece before they removed the breathing tube.

Happy hunting, ladies and gentlemen. I hope the post next week is shorter. As Matt and I are driving to New Mexico this week, it is looking promising.

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