Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Deciding to Stay Home, Part One

It's not often that I write solely biography-type posts. But this one is that, fully our story. It's our story of who we were, and how I became a stay-home mom.

Long ago (well, 12 years ago), in a country (the US) far from the one where I have lived these last 4 years, I was in college, and things were going well. I'd applied for, and been granted, an internship in the office of then-Governor of Arkansas, Mike Huckabee. And I was our Sophomore Class President, known on campus as the gal to talk to to get things done. I was ambitious and excited about the future, dreaming of running state and local campaigns in the short-run, and being a U.S. Senator in the long-run. I had a plan for how the future would go, and it all started right in the spot I was sitting, as an intern for this up-and-coming Republican Governor.

That Spring ('99), I'd wake up early, get over to the school cafeteria for breakfast with a friend of mine, and hightail it to Little Rock for my internship a few days each week. Little did I know that there, at that cafeteria table, intimidated by my suits & heels, was my future husband.

Doug was quiet and reserved, & sat by his old youth group friend Erica, a good friend of mine. But he always sat several spots down at the table, and quite literally said nothing that I can remember, so I had no idea who he was. I think I had a vague inkling that he knew my friend, but that was the extent of things between us.

During that semester, I met then-Senator Blanche Lincoln, monitored committees for the Governor's office (including one that had Jim Bob Duggar as a committee member-- even then, with something like 7 or 9 kids, he was an attention-getter amongst staffers and lobbyists in the Capitol Building), and to be honest, I just knew I was going places.

I met the Governor a couple of times, but primarily, my function there was keeping tabs on committee happenings, and occasionally writing and editing briefing papers. That semester solidified my commitment to my third (and final) college major: political science. (I'd started out as a Vocal Performance major, spent a semester or two as an English major, and settled on Political Science during that Soph. year... why do they make us declare so early?)

The next year, Doug & I went to Wal-Mart at the start of the year with Erica (my roommate that year) to stock up on supplies for our dorm room. As we sat in the back of the car chit-chatting, I learned that he drove a VW (which delighted me), that he was wry & hilarious, and he learned that I wasn't an uppity girl in suits, noted that I liked to dance (and that he liked the way I danced), and we spent time laughing together. The next day or two, I saw him memorizing Scripture on a bench on campus and found myself even more drawn to him. In the weeks that followed, we had a blast getting to know each other as friends.

[There is a side-tangent I could go on about a long-distance dating relationship I ditched shortly into knowing Doug, but for the sake of the main point of this story, let's keep going.]

During the Fall, we became inseparable. I'd never been able to stand any guy for even 2 months, and yet with Doug, I couldn't get enough... I never wanted to be apart from him! Soon, we realized we both felt the same way, and so we got engaged in the Spring, and set our wedding for that Fall (2000).

It worked out for me to graduate a semester early, and so I graduated in December, just 2 months after our wedding, and I spent the Spring of what would have been my Senior year working for the 2001 AR legislature as a committee staffer. During those months, I heard former President Bill Clinton speak in the Arkansas Statehouse (regardless of politics, he & Huckabee are two of the most dynamic speakers I've ever encountered!), and Doug & I began tossing around the idea of moving to Washington, DC.

He was finishing up a degree in Art, with a focus on painting, and I was going great guns in the political sphere. What better place to combine the two, we thought, but Washington, D.C.? Soon enough, with the help of a very-politically-active relative of Doug's, and my sharp editing skills, I'd put together my resume & a few dozen cover letters, and had a great list of leads for my job hunt. Essentially, the plan was this:
  • Blanket the Hill in DC with resumes
  • I'd get a job that would cover the bills enough for us to move up there by summer
  • Doug finish up his remaining half-dozen or so class hours in the DC area, while working any old job he could find
  • I could move up the political food-chain, he could go to grad school
So we sent out the resumes, and I flew up to DC for a weekend. After about a dozen interviews with various congressional and political affairs offices, and one call-back interview, I received a few job offers. One job offer was to do routine mail responses for a Senator (i.e., write "happy Birthday" letters to constituents), another was for doing legislative research for briefings for a Congressman.

But from the place where I'd had the call-back interview, I got a job offer that knocked my socks off. Because many top Texas political workers had transitioned into working in the Bush White House, there was a huge gap in the Texas intergovernmental affairs office located there in DC. I'd applied there for an entry-level political issues job, where I would monitor issues on the Hill & report back to various Texas agencies. Instead, after seeing my writing & editing skills (thank you, former-English major classes!), she offered for me to come in as the Associate Director of the office, the #2 slot! Not only that, but I'd have variety-- be doing a little bit of everything... monitoring political issues, overseeing office affairs, hiring & firing, writing & editing all official communications, and serving as her assistant and advisor. The woman who gave me this amazing opportunity would later become the Assistant Secretary of Education for President Bush.

It was surreal. This was no entry-level job. My starting salary was more than double that of the other jobs I was offered, I had an office 2 blocks from the Capitol building, and a full wall of windows that overlooked a grassy area. We secured an apartment near to the metro line, I had an incredible job in DC, and the future looked bright.

...to be continued.



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