Taking Her For “Granite”

February 14, 2011

Early 1992

It wasn’t long after acquiring my BA in English from BYU that I noticed I’d become something of a stickler about the proper use of the English Language.  Hearing people say that a point was “mute” instead of “moot”, that they were doing “good” instead of “well”, or that they’d taken a person for “granite” instead of “granted” about drove me up a wall.

I’ve gotten better about it in the past nearly twenty years, but from time to time, I still end up finding myself correcting others.  Not that I don’t think they should learn the proper way to use their native tongue, I’m just not sure they should have to learn that lesson while they’re waiting for their table at Chilis.

Earlier this year, sitting somewhere hoping that Kolette could get better faster, heal more quickly, and get out of the hospital, I heard someone talk about how they’d taken their loved one for Granite.  As I worked to suppress the desire to correct them, I thought aboutt what they were saying  and learned that I felt the same way.

When you take a person for granted, your assuming that they are just always going to be there, and that since you believe they’ll always be around, you don’t nurture or take care of them.

Now there’s no doubt that I take Kolette for granted–I try not to, but I know that I do, and that I probably have in some form or another since the middle of October 1991 when we went on our first date.

But, I do believe I take her for “granite” too.  Granite is one of the hardest rocks in the world.  People build on and with the stuff all over the world, because it’s strong, sturdy and beautiful to boot.  This last year, when Kolette was so sick, and there was talk about her not making it, I was scared to death because I began to realize how much of my life was built on her indomitable strength.  Those who know her, in person or through the net, know what I’m talking about.  What’s more, is she has a way of sharing that strength, so that just by knowing her you find yourself stronger than you ever thought you could be.

She’s also the definition of sturdy.  She’s confident.  She know who she is, and isn’t afraid to let you know. That kind of courage is difficult to find.  And Kolette has a way of making those around her feel more confident and sturdy about who they are as well.  That sturdiness also translates to a dedication that’s unparalled. When Ko decides she’s going to something, you’d better get on board, or get out of the way.

But, as strong, and sturdy as Kolette is, she’s even more beautiful.  Both inside and out she is simply the most beautiful person i’ve ever know.  I love to be around her.  I can truly say, that I have never been in a place, or experienced a day that wasn’t more beautiful because she was in it.

I love her, and that’s the truth.  In fact, even with my BA in English I still don’t have the words to describe how much.

And on this Valentines Day, I’m going to try not to take her for “granted” and enjoy her strength, be grateful for her sturdiness, and revel in her strength instead.

In short, I’m going to take her for “granite”

I love you Ko,

Jason

 


Go With What You Know

April 1, 2009
Jason Hall and Kolette Coleman Spring 1992

Jason Hall and Kolette Coleman Spring 1992

Seventeen years ago today my life changed. Seventeen years ago I asked Kolette to marry me. As I think about this day and what it means to me I think about what led up to that day and how decisions I made then make me the luckiest man in the world.

In 1992, as we approached mid-March Kolette and I were in two different places when it came to marriage. We spent every open waking minute together. I picked her up every morning for school and from that point to the point I dropped her off at night we are together. This togetherness brought with it an ample amount of kissing. As far as I was concerned all was well with the world. I liked seeing Kolette and loved kissing her and figured we could just stay put in our little bubble of time forever.

Kolette on the other hand had enjoyed our time dating but felt that the time for moving on to the next step had come. Both then and now Kolette has been a woman of checklists. And as far as engagement went, her pencil sharpened and she was aching to fill the empty box.

As has usually been the case she was right. Not that there is any specific timeline on how long a couple should date, or that we had dated for an excessively long period of time, but we had spoken often about how marriage was our next step.

On a side note, I think it’s interesting how this subject gets broached by most couples. It seems like generally it happens the same for everyone. First, in conversation you start saying things like, “If we were ever to get married, not that we ever would, but if we did then we would…” Then it begins to turn to “If we were ever to get married, not that we would for a long time, then we would…”

Not long after this is a part of regular conversation, the sentence seems to evolve further to something like, “When we get married, not that that wouldn’t be for a long time, but when we did, then we would…” For me, this was the sentence that seem to have the shortest lifespan. As before I knew it, we were saying just regular old, “When we get married.”

The first time we went to look at rings I was so nervous I didn’t even set one foot in the store. Kolette looked at rings with the salesman who, knowing that I was the buyer, shouted through the store so that I could hear him while I was sitting just outside the doorway.

This went on until one day I dropped Kolette off at school and she had a look on her face that broke my heart. Her eyes told the whole tale. They said, louder than any words ever could, “We are never going to get married.”

That was it. I knew I had to make a decision. I had to decide whether I was going to ask her to marry me and move forward, or simply break things off. Staying where we were at and causing her that kind of disappointment was not an option.

I packed my bag full of books written by wise men on the subject of living life well and headed to a local hotel. I checked into the hotel with the help of a bellman. The bellman took my bag, unpacked the books, helped me order dinner through room service and left. When he did, I shut the door so I couldn’t leave, and dropped the remote on the floor so TV was no longer an option. This way, it was just me, my books, my God, and my big decision.

(In case you’re wondering, my cousin who had a date that night with his future wife, agreed to come to the hotel and lay me down around one o’clock. I know there are some out there thinking that if he was locked in his hotel room how did he ever get out. My cousin also stayed the night and help me get up the following morning.)

I ate my dinner and began some deep reading and heavy prayer. Not long into the evening I called my dad to get his advice. He said he couldn’t understand what I was doing since it seemed to him I already knew the answer.

I remember thinking, “Thanks a lot, Dad!” and went back to reading and praying.

The more I read and the more I prayed the more I realized my Dad was right. I already knew the answer to my question before I even went up to the hotel. As I thought about it I knew she loved me, and I knew I loved her. But, I let doubt and nerves get in the way of that knowledge. Luckily, what my fear questioned, my heart had figured out a long time ago.

I loved her.

I called the bellman, had him bring up some dessert, open the door and hand me the remote. My decision was made and all that was left was the asking.

I returned home put together a plan and with the help of a lot of family and friends pulled off this extravagant plan. I was able to rent a place at Sundance, convince Kolette that we had a meeting with the president of the University (I had just been elected BYU’s Student Body President), get her to wear my favorite dress, get a candlelight dinner set up in the room at Sundance, and get the ring (a few weeks earlier I had actually found the courage to go into a jewelers with Ko).

On our way up the canyon, from Provo to Sundance, Kolette asked me if I had made any headway on getting the ring. She knew that there was no way I was going to be able to afford the ring we had looked at without some help. I was just a poor college student. I told her that I was going to meet about financing on the following Monday. Her face got all sad and frustrated because she knew that once I met with the people about financing it would take at least a week to get the money for the ring.

She told me that she had a conversation with her Dad earlier that day and he was beginning to wonder if I had commitment issues. What she didn’t know was a miracle happened just days before and not only had I ended up with a check for nearly the entire cost of the ring, but that the ring was waiting for her up at Sundance (I knew I wasn’t going to be able to pull the ring out of my pocket when I asked her so when they set up our candlelight dinner I had them set the ring box open on the table).

We got to Sundance and it was great. She was right with me believing the whole thing. She had taken the bait and bit hook, line, and sinker.

We opened up the door to the room and with romantic music playing in the background I led her to the table and in front of the candlelight dinner took her hand and said, “Kolette, will you marry me and make me the happiest man alive?”

She looked at me and quizzically asked, “Are you kidding?”

I remember thinking that this was not the response I expected. My mind raced and I wondered if I’d read the whole situation wrong. I thought maybe the best answer was, “Yeah! Ha Ha! Funny Right?” But, as often happens my mouth got in front of my brain and I exclaimed, “No, I’m not kidding. the ring’s right there.”

She looked at the table and saw the ring that she had missed before and said, “Yes.” Immediately after I started to breathe again and we kissed.

If I remember right, we kissed so long the food got cold. But, we were in love and none of that mattered. The next day we went to school and told all of our friends that we were engaged.

There’s not many days that aren’t good ones for asking the one you love to marry you. But, the 31st of March is one of those days. For, the day that follows is April 1st more commonly known as “April Fools’ Day.” This made it difficult to convince many of our friends that we actually were engaged. But on April 2nd everyone knew we were telling the truth in nearly three months later we were married.

It’s been the ride of a lifetime. Any happiness that has been a part of my life since that day is in some way or another a direct result of Kolette. She is the love of my life and the joy of my journey. She is my best friend and my heart is hers forever.

When I think about all the good that has come into my life because of Kolette I think about how it would have all been lost if that day in the hotel room had I decided to doubt things I knew were true. It’s like I was over thinking and under feeling–so worried I was going to make the wrong decision, I was making no decision at all. Fear that I might fail, or be wrong kept me in a holding pattern. Those emotions of anxiety and apprehension cause us to hesitate moving forward with answers we know to be right.

We have to do all the we can do to get the best information out there. We have to study and learn to gain wisdom and understanding. But there will always be more to learn and more to understand. We have to get all the knowledge we can crammed into our head, but at the end of the day that won’t be enough. Our gut has to be included in the conversation, our heart has to be given a place at the table. Along with the knowledge we gain we have to have the courage to act, the courage to trust what we know in our heart is right. There is a reason God gave us not only a head, but a heart to go with it.

There is little question that we’re at our best when we use all the tools at our disposal. When we use our heads with our hearts we gain the courage to go with what we know.

Jh-

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Garcia’s and Kolette’s Hand

October 21, 2008

Somewhere around the middle of March 1992 I decided that Kolette was the right one for me and I was going to ask her to marry me. I have been raised in such a way I knew before I could ask Kolette her opinion on the matter, I needed to get her fathers permission.

One afternoon in between classes at BYU, I called Gary Coleman (Kolette’s dad) and tried my best to make some small talk. Once we had reviewed everything happening with the local sports teams and there was nothing else to review, I asked him if he wouldn’t mind meeting me at a restaurant for lunch (as if he had absolutely no idea why we were getting together).

Kolette’s dad was a man of some note in our community, and someone I have a great deal of respect for. Therefore, I was at the least a little fearful and at most scared out of my shorts to have such a meeting. It wasn’t anything that he had done, he had always been genuinely kind and easy to talk to when we had spoken before. But, this was a different matter altogether and I was nervous that he might not think I measured up.

I picked a restaurant called Garcia’s.  It was about halfway between where he and I lived. I was too anxious to go one-on-one with him at his house where he would have home-field advantage, and so I tried to pick a place that was more of a neutral site. He agreed to location and now all I had to do was try to find a way to sleep until the day of the meeting arrived

Finally, the day came. I got in my handicap accessible van and made the trip to the restaurant. I’m not exactly a person known for his punctuality, but that day was no ordinary day and I was not going to be late. I arrived at the restaurant a half-hour before we were scheduled to meet. Sitting in my, van feeling like my brain could explode, I thought it would be a good idea to take my mind off the situation. Trying to do so, I used the car phone in my van to call a man interested in helping me with a writing project. This was a big project for me, and I was sure that it would take my mind off the matter at hand.

What I didn’t know, was that the man interested in helping me was also quite a talker. This was great for the first 25 minutes, but as time continued to move on my nerves came back times ten. The clock kept inching closer and closer to our meeting time and I could not get him off the phone. Eventually, the man I hoped to convince to be my father-in-law pulled up. He got out of his car, saw me still sitting in my van and began to walk over to where I was parked. Still, I could not get this man off the phone. Mr. Coleman was now standing outside my window looking at his watch. I made one more attempt at getting the man off the phone and when that didn’t work I simply hung up. I figured he’d understand.

We went into the restaurant and for reasons that I cannot explain I was scared silly, and sweating profusely.  I couldn’t do a thing to stop it. It seemed as though my nerves opened every pore in my body and released the floodgates. Even though it looked like I had just been dropped in a dunk tank at the local carnival I kept wiping my brow hoping he wouldn’t notice.

The hostess sat us at our table, gave us our menus and left.  Normally, I’m a pretty talkative person. People who know me would not describe me as someone who quietly kept to themselves. But sitting there across the table from this man I couldn’t think of a thing to say. So, I did what any normal person would do and asked him what he thought about the graphic design work on the menus.

I told him that I felt the work was incredible. Not sure where this was going, he halfheartedly agreed. I couldn’t believe the words that were coming out of my mouth. I was trying to tell this man I wanted to marry his daughter and the best I could come up with was the artwork on the menus. I knew if I was going to have any real chance I had to come up with something better than that, so I began to ask him about his family.

I started with his wife and then asked about every child from oldest to youngest. Not quite ready to broach the subject of Kolette I skipped her altogether. Mr. Coleman gave me an odd look wondering if I had forgotten about the very daughter he thought we were there to talk about (although at this point I’m sure he was rethinking why we were there at all).

Finally, I knew it was time to get to the point. The look on his face told me that if I brought up the decorations on the wall I might lose the deal completely.

I mustered up every ounce of courage I could put together and said, “Mr. Coleman, I love…” And before I could even finish the sentence, a waitress came up and asked if we are ready to order. I gave her the dirtiest look I had given any one in a long time. “I was there,” I thought, “I was almost finished.” But, knowing that things were tenuous already, I placed my order.

This was something I had given a lot of thought to. Without the use of my hands I often require help when I eat at restaurants. Sometimes, if the dishes particularly large or messy I need someone to cut up the food or reposition the meal. And, because I was here trying to convince the man across the table that I could take care of his daughter I didn’t think having him reach over at the table to cut up my food would set the right tone.

When the waitress asked, I ordered a cheese quesadilla and asked her if she would have the people in the back cut it up for me. It would be hard for me to spill a cheese quesadilla, and if the waitress cut it up before she brought it out than I could eat it all by myself.

She took the order and I knew that it was now or never and I blurted out, “Mr. Coleman, I love your daughter and I’d like your permission to marry her.” It seemed like an eternity before he answered. I sat there for what I’m sure was at least two seconds, waiting for his answer.

He looked at me with his kind eyes and told me that he and his wife had been expecting this for some time. He told me that they were excited for the news and that I had his blessing. You can imagine the weight that was lifted off my shoulders. All I had to do now was make it through the rest of the meal and I can ask my girlfriend to be my fiancé.

As we talked about our future plans, and what types of things filled my hopes and dreams, the waitress brought out the food. The quesadilla had been cut exactly as I asked. She placed the plate in front of me she warned me that it might still be hot. My future father-in-law began to dig into his food and so I did the same.

I stuck my fork into one of the corner pieces and began to lift it to my mouth. As I did I realized that the waitress wasn’t lying, and that the plate was in fact hot. It was so hot that it had melted cheese in the quesadilla back together. When I went to lift the single bite to my mouth I picked up the entire plate of food.

I had done everything in my power to avoid it but now I had no other option. I had to ask Mr. Coleman to cut up my food. He agreed and as he leaned over the table to slice up my food like I was four years old I remember thinking in my head, “Sure I can take care of your daughter, but, will you purée my food?”

The meal was finally over, and I remember thinking that if I had any brains at all I would get the check and get out of there before anything else could go wrong.  The waitress brought the check and when she did Mr. Coleman offered to go Dutch and pay for his half of the meal. I told him I wouldn’t hear of it. This was my meeting, I had invited him, and an effort to show that things in my life were financially sound, I would pay.

I reached behind my wheelchair to grab the black bag that holds my wallet, and much to my dismay, it was gone. Just before I left, my roommate borrowed my black bag to grab something out of my wallet, and had forgotten to put it back. I didn’t have a penny to my name. I wondered how long it would take someone who could not move their hands to wash enough dishes to pay for our meal.

Knowing this wasn’t an option, I turned to him and explained what had happened, apologizing profusely and committing to him that if it were the last thing I ever did I would pay him back.  He agreed, and the waitress picked up his credit card with the check.  He paid the bill, and it seemed as though lunch was over. I was so excited I would’ve done a backflip if I could have.

Because I was still sweating, my mouth was parched. And so before we left, I reached out to get one last drink. I steadied the glass between my two hands, lifted up and began to salivate as the water looked so crisp, clean and refreshing. Then, just before I put the cup to my lips I lost control of the glass and spilled water all over my lap. I couldn’t have aimed worse if I tried. Sitting there, I looked as though I had just wet my pants.

We left the restaurant, and as we stood in the parking lot at about to go to our separate cars, I looked up at him and said, “It’s not too late to change your mind.”  He chuckled, and told me that everything was fine.

As I think about that day I think about the many opportunities that I had to quit, to give up, and just try again some other time. From the very beginning to the very end everything went awry. There are regular days in our regular lives they go the same way. Nothing goes right and everything goes wrong. On those days, we have the same choice that I had on that fateful day at Garcia’s asking for Kolette’s hand.

If we quit, there’s a good chance things will get easier. But at what cost? There’s little question that my day would have been easier had I left when I couldn’t get the man off the phone, started sweating, reviewed the menu, had to have my food cut up, forgot my wallet, or spilt the water. Quitting anywhere along the way would have saved me a lot of embarrassment, and a ton of discomfort. The cost however would have been unthinkable.

The years that I have been married to my wife have been the best years I have spent on the face of this earth. She makes every day brighter, every color more beautiful, and every experience more sweet. She truly is my reason for living. Giving up that day in that restaurant across from her father might have cost me Kolette.

Similarly, when we endure the difficult days that present themselves as we move through our lives when we think of giving up we have to also consider the cost.  Who knows what experiences await you through the adversities each day brings.

So move forward and remember that the rewards that await you are worth the struggle. Who knows, without Garcia’s I may never have had Kolette’s hand.

Jh-


Turn The Dirt

September 29, 2008

I remember waking up more excited than usual to meet a new day.  My father in law was involved in a local groundbreaking, and had been able to procure us to front row seats. People may find it hard to believe that someone could get excited for a simple groundbreaking, but, this groundbreaking was for a unique building that had a particular significance to our community. Dressed in my suit and tie, my wife Kolette and I headed to the build site for the ceremony.

We arrived, were directed to VIP parking, and an usher escorted us to our seats. On the stage, sat local, state, and national government and ecclesiastical leaders. Both video and print news representatives were on hand to report on the event.

The ceremonies began. There are musical numbers from a local choirs and comments from the leaders on the stand. Then the moment arrived and the highest ranking leaders grabbed gold shovels and broke the ground. The media closed in to get just the right shot. After the highest-ranking leaders had done their job, it was time for officials like my father-in-law to follow suit.

As they invited him to come up and grab a shovel, my father-in-law encouraged me to join him.  We approach the dig site, and he handed me a shovel.  I looked at the shovel and tried to figure out how I was going to “break the ground.”  Without the use of my hands, or full use of my arms one could say without much hyperbole that I’m not real strong with a shovel. But, in front of the crowd I did my best to do my part.

With Kolette’s dad in front of me, and with the crowd watching on, I grabbed the shovel.  I clasped the center of the shovel with my left hand, slid my right hand above the top of the shaft and tried to see if I could get that shovel in the ground and turn some dirt. The head of the shovel made it into the ground, but as I worked to move the earth, the top of  the handle slid out of my right hand.

With cameras rolling and flashes blazing, my shovel flew forward with impressive speed nearly smacking my father-in-law square in the head. A look of terror slowly encompassed my face, and as I turned to retake my place in the crowd hoping to avoid any further embarrassment, I saw Kolette.

Without being asked, and without drawing any more attention to an already tenuous situation, she quietly made her way to my side.  Kolette picked the shovel up from off the ground and invited me to make another attempt with her help.  Together, we were able to get the head into the ground and successfully turn the dirt.

So often through the course of our lives we work to do things that seem easy at first only to find failure. Even knowing my limitations I never would have guessed that simply participating in a groundbreaking I would’ve nearly turned my father-in-law into the headless horseman in front of hundreds of people and major media. But it happened, I failed. Then, I was taught a powerful lesson.

When we see others fail, like Kolette, we need to jump up and help to make things more steady. We can’t just stand idly by assuming people would rather fail alone then succeed with help.  If we do, more people will fail than need to. They will fail and without saying a word take their seat back in the crowd hoping to avoid further humiliation, just like I would have done at the groundbreaking. However, if we will stop when we see those around us frustrated with their inabilities, we have an opportunity to help.  A chance to let others see that with li.ttle help they can turn their near failures into genuine successes. I was so grateful that day that my experience didn’t have to end at experience with failure.

No one wants to fail. Everyone wants to succeed, even if it’s with a little help. So watch for those in your lives whose shovels may be getting a little out of their control. Then, without being asked, and without fanfare, go to their side, pick up their shovel, and help them, “turn the dirt.”


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