Sunday, October 3, 2010

We're all OOHKAY

Before I started this blog, I participated in a community site called “Pearl Soup.” Kelly introduced me to it and some of my other blog friends listed to the right were contributors as well.

Pearl Soup’s members submit written entries called “pearls” and other members can comment and critique. There are also forums for various discussions.

Unfortunately, I encountered some real weirdos who were part of Pearl Soup (none of those I just mentioned, of course) and one of them even tried to pick fights with me online! Heck, I don’t like to fight with people in person, much less via cyberspace, so I disassociated myself from that community site and started my own blog, over which I have more control.

In December 2007, while I was still participating in Pearl Soup, a pearl popped up from a new member named “oohkay.” This was her initial entry:

I am home from college for the Christmas holidays, once again fulfilling my role as the stereotypical twenty-something daughter. It is a role I generally enjoy, aside from the questions that always seem to leap to the forefront of every conversation I have with any older adult, whether parent or friend:

“When are you graduating?”

“What do you want to do after school?”

And worst of all, “Do you have a boyfriend?”

Oh, what a dreaded interrogation. Over the years, even when I have been in a committed and happy relationship, I have always answered this last question with trepidation. Growing up in a wealthy and conservative Southern town, it is often expected that one will find one’s spouse as soon as possible, preferably while still in college. I can’t say I am appalled by the idea. Like many girls, I have been planning every minute detail of my “big day” since the age of four. I know exactly how the cake will taste, what color the bridesmaids’ shoes will be, and most importantly, how my soon-to-be husband’s face will look as I walk down the aisle. Alas, I am a ripe twenty-one years old with no husband to be found. Not a tragedy in my eyes, but close to one in the eyes of many in this Southern town.

I unexpectedly faced this reality during this break. Seeing my college graduation looming closer and closer in the distance, I decided it was time to make a run to the bookstore to prepare to take the GMAT. I have always considered myself a high achiever, a woman who, although she will choose to stay at home with her 2.5 kids and white picket fence, could support the family if necessary. Therefore, I decided to apply to graduate school, and furthermore, I decided it was best that I prepare to be accepted to such a school.

As I scanned the standardized test preparation books, I faced the stark opposite of my reality in the same squared-off nook as myself. A slender, blonde girl, no more than a few years older than me, was pulling wedding planning books off the shelves with her diamond-adorned left hand. She handed each one to her mother as they giggled and glowed over her recent engagement. I immediately felt the sting of jealousy and forced myself to pay attention to the reason I had come to the store. I compared the soft floral covers of the books she was flipping through to the harsh bright colors and complex equations sprawling the covers of my own. Where did I go wrong? Why was I not living every girl’s dream? I could feel my neck tensing with envy.

As I gathered my books to walk away, I glanced at the girl and she gave me a warm, accepting smile. At that moment, God gave me a gentle reminder that His plan far supersedes any plan I might have for my own life. He does not fit His works into the philosophy of a small town. He has phenomenal gifts in store for me.

I walked away feeling proud. I was preparing myself for a brighter future. One that would not only better myself, but one that would be more beneficial in sharing with someone else, should that be in God’s plan for me.

I enjoyed this entry and thought it was well written. I appreciated her very mature perspective. I did not, however, post a comment on it at the time.

Months later Oohkay posted another entry on Pearl Soup in which she referenced something that had happened at Auburn University where, at the time, Older Son was a senior and Daughter a freshman.

I told both Older Son and Daughter about this entry. Older Son replied that he was aware of it, and that it had been penned by a friend of his – one whom I had in fact met, a fellow Auburn student from the suburban Nashville community just south of the one where we live. He had told her about Pearl Soup and had given her the name I used on the site. She had read several of my entries there and decided to join herself.

When I learned Oohkay’s identity, although I did not know her well at the time, I went back and commented on both of her entries. As to the one I have shared here, I assured her, as did several others with the benefit of age, that there would be plenty of time for marriage and she was wise to relax and leave that to her Heavenly Father.

Older Son graduated from Auburn in May 2008 and Oohkay graduated the following August. Both moved back to their respective homes. I have gotten to know Oohkay much better since then. She has continued to be the high achiever she described herself to be in the Pearl Soup entry.

Not long after graduation, as she was working temporary jobs while looking for more permanent employment, her mother was in a terrible auto accident that rendered her unable to walk for about six months.

Oohkay devoted herself fulltime to helping her mother during her lengthy recuperation and to being a support to her dad. Both of her parents have said that they don’t know what they would have done without her during those months. Happily, her mother fully recovered and is doing fine.

In the spring of 2009 Oohkay was accepted into a highly competitive teaching fellows program. She was placed in an at-risk urban elementary school where she is paid a fulltime salary with benefits. She also received a grant for graduate school.

She has been living on her own and supporting herself for some time now. She is teaching during the day, which she loves, and going to grad school at night. She will complete requirements for her Master’s Degree in May.

She obviously knew what she was talking about when she wrote in her Pearl Soup entry that she was preparing herself “for a brighter future.” She is beginning to see some of her dreams come true.

And oh yes, there’s one other detail about Oohkay’s life that’s particularly exciting. It pertains to her other dream, the one that involves “exactly how the cake will taste, what color the bridesmaids’ shoes will be, and most importantly, how (her) soon-to-be husband’s face will look as (she) walk(s) down the aisle.”

It looks as if that dream is coming true as well. I am delighted to report that, just yesterday, Older Son asked Oohkay to be his wife, and she graciously accepted. Sometime next summer Oohkay will become my daughter-in-law.

And I can tell you, unequivocally, that I am completely “oohkay” with that.

(My next post will include highlights of the wonderful engagement celebration that took place at our house last night).


Redlefty said...


quid said...

This is a really wonderful story!

Congratulations to all of you. Really serendipitous that pearlsoup was involved!


Kelly said...

How wonderful, Bob!! Congratulations to all involved.

...and I remember that Pearl vividly!!

Debby said...

I love this story! I just love this story! Congratulations to all of you. Thanks for the e-mail!

Pam said...

Oh WOW, indeed!!!! I have chill bumps after reading this!!! Congratulations!!!!!! What a wonderful story!

I'm grinning from ear to ear as I type this!

Again, congrats to older son, Oohkay and you and the wife!!

Bob Barbanes said...

Wow! Corny, I know, but appropriate! How great! Loved reading this, Bob. I look forward to reading more as this progresses.

pro said...

Nice blog! I like your writing way. I'm doing practice GMAT here: . I hope it's useful for GMAT test takers.

A Novel Woman said...

Lovely, lovely story!

Hal Johnson said...

Wow. This post just makes my day.

Annie said...

Goose bumps here. Wonderful, heartwarming story. Best wishes o the couple!

Pencil Writer said...

OOHKAY! I was tingling with anticipation that this would be the direction your EXCELLENT post was heading. Can you please tell your excellent, soon-to-be daughter-in-law that I just love her! What a wonderful example of young womanhood! We need more young women like her--I'm sure she's able to teach not only by word, but her God given example.

How thrilled you, your wife and lucky son must be! She's joining a great family with excellent (am I using that term too often?) Christ-centered family she's joining!

Pencil Writer said...

I was so full of excitement I didn't proofread my comment. I hope you can make sense of it.

Maggie said...

I've read this about 10 times now...can't wait for OOHKAY to be my sister in law :)

Pencil Writer said...

Bob, I still just tingle with excitement when I re-read this post. Would you mind if I post a link to it on my blog? I'd like to have such a wonderful story of faith and hard work available to any other single young women out there--all 1 or 2 that might possibly read my blog or perhaps their moms or grandmas.

Bob said...

Of course, PW. I would be honored.