If Only You’d Known…….

If I could go back to age thirteen, I would tell myself to enjoy the last few years of childhood. Don’t wish for time to speed up. Before you know it, you will have more responsibility than you ever imagined. The only thing left of those younger years will be the memories. Experiences that you will pass down to your children, as lessons in life.  The adventures you had, and those that you wish you had been brave enough for. If only you’d known….

I would tell myself not to worry if you’re in the “popular” kids group. This means nothing after the school years, or during, really. When they hardly notice you, ignore you, or scoff and turn away, let it go. They are not important in your life.  You will never forget the good times you’ve had with your group of friends, and that’s all that matters.  Be kind to the quiet kids, or the ones who seem to disappear into the background. Say “hello” and give them a smile, many of them have very little self-confidence. They need reassurances just like you. Everyone needs a friend. Later, you will think of these kids, and wish you had noticed them more. You might feel like you treated them almost as badly as that other group treated you.  If only you’d known…..

Don’t worry about whether you have designer clothes, or the latest electronics. There is plenty of time for new toys in your future. Later on you will learn that those things don’t bring happiness anyway. At least not long-term. When those things are gone, they are gone for good. Spend your money on experiences. Memories last forever. Even when they are over and done with, they are never forgotten. They will always bring a smile. If only you’d known………

Don’t be afraid to step out of your comfort zone. Be brave. You will never regret trying. Don’t worry about what others think. The only ones who will remember later, are you, and those you inspired to do the same. Later,  you will reflect on the times that you did, like when you joined track in tenth grade. You were terrible. You lost every race, even to an injured runner, but you have never once said, “I shouldn’t have done that.” It will be a lesson for your future children. It will be a story told many, many times. You will wish you had stepped out of that box more frequently. If only you’d known…….

There will be times in life that will be really difficult. You will question why God is doing this to you? Why He is letting it happen. This is normal, and understandable, but then remember that there is a reason, even if you don’t know it yet. There are many tests in life. Learning from them, and growing from the experience, is how you know you passed. You will rely on God far more than you realize. He will bring you comfort that you never thought He could. If only you’d known……

The greatest moments in your life will include kindness, compassion, confidence, trust, love, belief, growth, learning, honesty, and a bit of risk. Are you being KIND and COMPASSIONATE?  Do you have CONFIDENCE? Are you TRUSTWORTHY? Do you TRUST the people around you?  Do you LOVE? Do you FEEL LOVED? Do you BELIEVE in yourself? In a higher-being? In the life you are leading? Do you continue to GROW as a person? Do you continue to LEARN from your experiences? Your mistakes? Are you being HONEST with yourself? With others? Do you take a RISK now and then? A leap of faith? Something that scares you just a little. Or a lot.  I think being able to answer “yes” to these questions,  means you are working hard to be the best person you can be. Experiencing life to the fullest. A sure path to inner peace, and I hope, happiness. I wish I had asked myself these questions when I was younger. I wish I had realized that these few questions would help me get through the more difficult years. If only I’d known……

 

Thank You……A Letter to God

Thank you, God, for all the blessings you have given us.

Thank you for my husband. For the life we share. The adventures we have taken. For making him the thoughtful, smart, funny, loving man that he is. For helping us find each other. For helping us make it through tough times together, and continue to grow closer.  For a love so deep, I can’t even find the words to describe it. Thank you for Billy.

Thank you for our parents. Without them, we wouldn’t exist. They kept us safe through childhood. They shaped our personalities. They gave us the tools we need to succeed in life. They love us unconditionally. They are always there when we need them. Thank you for keeping them on this Earth with us for as long as possible. Thank you for our moms and dads.

Thank you for our three beautiful children. For showing us the  love that fills a parent’s heart. For trusting us with their well-being. For keeping them safe. For everything about them. Even the rough moments. Without those, we would take the happiest times for granted. Those difficult patches will help our children grow into strong, independent adults. Thank you for Ethan, Brennan, and Carleigh.

Thank you for our siblings. Without them childhood would have been a much lonelier time. Thank you for giving us someone to play with, and learn from. Someone to fight with. It is through our interactions with them, that we learned many valuable lessons in life. It is them we  turned to in tough times. It is them we continue to turn to. Thank you, for our sisters and brothers.

Thank you for our friends. They help us through the day-to-day. They are like family. They join us to celebrate the good times, and mourn the bad. They are a shoulder to lean on when we need it, and to prop up when they do. We learn from them. We grow with them. Thank you for the friends you have blessed us with.

Thank you for the home we live in, the clothes on our back, the food in our cupboard, the water that flows out of our faucet. Health. Love. For my husband’s job, good schools for our children, and the transportation to get to them. Thank you for giving us everything we need, and more.

Thank you for the sun and the moon. For the green grass and trees, the blue sky in day, and the starry night. For the sound of birds, the smell of flowers, and the feel of a cool breeze. For our oceans, lakes, mountains, and valleys. For rain, snow, and fluffy white clouds. For the occasional rainbow. For glorious  sunrises, and vivid sunsets. For those little, yet big, things that inspire us, and give us hope. Thank you for the beauty of Earth, and the galaxy around it.

Thank you, God, for the life you have provided us. It has been far from problem-free, but the good far outweighs the bad. We have learned from our experiences, and grown because of them. We would not be who we are today without them. Thank you, God, for the all the blessings you have given us.

 

 

A Soft Place to Fall

We live in a small community. Our town is a mere 2.6 square miles of densely packied houses, within a huge metropolitan area. It is where we bought our “starter” home. We said we would be here about five years, and they told us that many people say that, but few leave. We have been here 18 years. For us, it has become a soft place to fall.

We have added on to the house, and made many improvements. It has grown with us. It exudes who we are. It is a virtual rainbow of colors, some bold, some subdued. Wood floors and plantation blinds. Paintings, photographs, knickknacks, and furniture from all of our adventures. All these touches bring warmth, comfort, and character to it.  It’s not a very big house, only 1600 square feet, but it’s just enough for me. I have told friends for years that I like a house that “hugs” me. It feels safe. It is a soft place to fall.

We moved to China for four years, but we always came back twice a year. Christmas and summer were spent here. It was home base.  We didn’t rent it, or move our things out. We left most of our possessions here. When we walked back in, we felt like we had never left. We have friends and neighbors who have been here with us for many years, through thick and thin, good times and bad. They are like family. They are here when we return. It is a soft place to fall.

Our community is chock full of young families, but it wasn’t always that way. When we first moved in, it was mainly retirees. The “downtown” area was dated, and although it had a bank, post office, grocery store, gas station, and a number of other small businesses, it wasn’t the kind of place that people would come to hang out on a weekend. I had a feeling in my gut that was going to change. It was a great location, and a better value than the areas around it. It is now full of unique gift shops, restaurants,  pubs, spas, and coffee shops. Many of the old houses have been torn down for new builds. Others have updated existing homes. There isn’t a day you won’t find people wandering around the area. Walking dogs. Pushing strollers. The local ice cream shop has a line going out the door every day. I see people I know every time I go out. It is a soft place to fall.

This morning, I was woken up before 7am to a child hollering up the stairs…”There is a fire truck at the next door neighbor’s house!” I rushed outside to find our neighbor standing outside his house, surrounded by emergency vehicles and personnel. There seemed to be every available officer from our town and several from the next town over. We are lucky to not have many crimes,  or emergencies in our community. Not much happens here. They come out in large numbers when something does. There were at least 6 police cars, two fire engines, and an ambulance. They had arrived no more than two minutes after his call. They are looking out for us. We are safe here. It is a soft place to fall.

The events of this morning reminded me of the things I love about our town. Standing outside talking with neighbors about what was going on. Being there for one another. Our hometown heroes, our police officers, taking the time to chat with us, while they waited for the electric company to come. Accepting the coffee I offered. There is truly nothing better than having a small town feel, within such a large metropolitan area. It is our little slice of heaven. A soft place to fall.

We stumbled upon our town while looking for this house. It is small enough that I had hardly ever heard of it before then, much less known where it was, or imagined that I would spend so much of my life living in it.  It was unexpected. A pleasant surprise. A blessing from God. It is OUR soft place to fall.

 

Bloggers Are Writers, Entertainers, and Inspirationalists

I love to write. I blame it on my hIgh school English teacher, Mama Lon. She was strict. We were going to learn in her class even if it killed her.  We would learn about the classics, and write lengthy papers that she could take her red pen to……with vigor. She didn’t let her students get away with much. She called people out in front of the class for any reason she saw fit. Mama Lon was also hilarious, and made the hour fly by. We all loved her. Still do. She has a huge student following on Facebook.

When we flew to China to bring Carleigh home, I started a blog to keep friends and family informed of what was going on during our trip. When we moved to China, I started a second, to chronicle our adventures, again for friends and family. I found that I still really enjoyed writing. As a stay-at-home mom, it discouraged my brain from turning to mush. It helped me realize the blessings in our life. It forced me to learn about and focus on the differences in cultures, and to appreciate them more. Once, I sent an email to Mama Lon with a link to the blog. She “red penned” it. Always the teacher.

In January, I began the current blog. This time,  I made it public. Why? Because I love attention?! Of course! Who would start a blog that didn’t like even a little attention? For me though. It is about three things. The first, I’ve mentioned… my love of writing. The second is to entertain. There is, most likely, not a single entertainer out there that does not like a least a little attention. Especially when the are doing something they love. Actors, actresses, singers, comedians, dancers, writers. Do they like the attention?! Yes! Why else would they be doing it? The money is nice, but if they hated it, they would probably move on. They are doing what they love.

The third reason is my hope that I may inspire someone along the way. To encourage people to take a leap of faith and step out of their comfort zone. To see what the world has to offer.  For those who are going through a rough patch, to find strength in themselves to carry on and, in time, thrive. To see that even though they may not know why misfortune has come to them, in the end, no matter how much it hurt, they will look back and think……. “I get it.” “That really sucked, but I’m not sorry it happened,  because I learned from it, and it made me a better person.” I hope to inspire everyone to find beauty and peace in the little things. Blue sky, white clouds, the fresh cool breeze. Mountains, flowers, the sound of children playing. The snuggle of a spouse, baby, dog or cat. To slow down for a minute to appreciate the world around them.

So to those who don’t want to read blogs because they are written by attention-seekers…..turn off your TVs and radios, throw away your books, CDs, computers, tablets, and iPhones.  Go back to the old fashion flip phone with no entertainment capabilities. DO NOT, I say, DO NOT go see a movie. They are written by, produced by, filmed by, performed by, and have music created by……….attention-seekers. Enjoy your entertainment-free, inspiration-free life. You win………..NOT.

 

 

You Can Sleep When You’re Dead

Earlier,  I was thinking about what I would write about today. I was laying on the sofa, looking out the window at the brilliant blue sky, and freshly budding trees. There was a gentle breeze flowing through the house, and the birds were chirping outside. We had just returned from church, and there was plenty of day left. I starting thinking about the beauty of a good nap……..and I fell asleep.

It was perfect napping weather, and since we were very busy yesterday, we had no big plans for today. I was still enjoying the peaceful feeling I get from the mass we had just attended, was surrounded by my family in the comfort of our home, and the weather was gorgeous. What better reason to enjoy a little refreshing slumber?! After I awoke, we spent much of the afternoon on the deck. We grilled up some dinner, listened to a baseball game, and started a bit of light work on the backyard. It was a perfect day.

Not to mislead, I think almost any day is good for a nap, but not all result in a perfect day. Rainy and snowy days are also great for a snooze. Many times, days like these make me feel tired just because they are overcast and glum. However, there are also pro-sleep factors that occur, as the  pitter-patter of rain on the house is a soothing sound, and the cold that comes along with snow, makes curling up under a warm blanket all the more tempting. The weather creates little desire to go outside, so a pajama day, along with a movie or TV series marathon, is always a treat. If only we didn’t have obligations to attend to, on a majority of those days.

For those who are not yet experienced in the art of a good nap, there are several rules required to be successful. If you haven’t already discovered your favorite napping spot, then you’re already behind in this game. I suggest you start testing potential locations immediately. I find the sofa to be most comfortable, but many like a reclining chair, or a wide-seated chair with an ottoman. I make sure I always have the mobile phone within reach, in case someone calls (getting up to answer it will completely ruin the napping experience), or for using the alarm. Make sure a blanket is nearby for an easy pull-down-and-cover maneuver, if needed. Let the dogs out beforehand, so they do not sit by you whining to go out, then make sure said dogs, and any interested cats, are comfortably positioned around you. Now lay down and relax. If you have any skills in this sport, you should be dozing within minutes.

A few other helpful tips would include never taking a long nap after 3PM. You’ll just feel messed up for the rest of the night. A twenty-minute cat-nap may be just enough to help you make it through till bedtime. If you don’t set an alarm, and sleep longer, you’ll probably regret it. I always do. Two words. STAY AWAY. My favorite time is right after I take the kids to school. The house is quiet, the dogs are snugly, and when I wake up, I’ll still have plenty of day left to do the things I have to do.

If only we could convince children of the beauty of a daily nap. I mean, seriously, they have no idea what they are missing! And whoever said “you can sleep when you’re dead,” obviously never experienced a glorious nap, in beautiful weather, on a perfect Sunday.

 

A Letter to my “Otherly-Raced, Religioned, or Abled” Friends

I am not racist. If you are a good person. Kind. Caring. Thoughtful. Honest. Polite. You will always be my friend. I don’t care what color you are, or what religion you believe. You are my friend.

I could never say that I didn’t notice your color, because I did. Just like my red-headed friend, or my really tall friend. I noticed, but I will not treat you differently than any other friend. If someone asks something, where I have to point you out as an area of reference, like “it’s over there next to the tall, red-headed girl.” I will. I may refer to your color: “See that Asian girl? It’s to the right of her.” But that means nothing about how I feel about you. We all have differences. I am short, and a little over-weight. Feel free to point that out. I don’t care. It’s who I am.

I don’t care if you go to church, synagogue, or mosque. Believe what makes you the best person you can be. What gives you hope. What makes you get up every day. Don’t try to change who I am, and I won’t try to change you, but help me grow as a person. I enjoy learning from my friends, or anyone for that matter. I love other cultures, and experiencing them.

I don’t mind a good debate. Don’t get mad at me if I don’t agree though. I will do the same for you. Mutual respect for differences is important. I have lived in an area that is populated by many, many people who have political views that are not the same as mine, for most of my life. That is not a problem for me. Again, if you are a good person, believe what helps you to be your best you. What makes you happy. What makes you thrive. I will never hold your beliefs against you.

If you have a disability, please don’t be offended if I say that word. It doesn’t mean I look down upon you, or think you are any less than me. It’s just a word. My friends are full of gifts to give the world. You contribute to society in many ways. You contribute to MY life in many ways. I don’t care if you can’t walk, talk, see, hear, or anything else for that matter. It doesn’t mean anything to me, so don’t be offended. It implies nothing, except  maybe a closer parking spot.

If you are not a good person, I don’t care what color you are. Bad people come in all colors, religions, races, and abilities. If I have a friend who is not who I thought they were. If I find out that they are not the kind, thoughtful, honest, and polite person I thought they were. They won’t be among those I call friends.  I surround myself with people who I feel have a positive effect on the world, and humanity. I don’t care what color you are, or what god you believe in.

Good people come in all shapes, sizes, colors, and religions. I will take all the friends I can get. They are blessing from Heaven. Be a person to be proud of, and I will call you friend.

 

The Reminders of Spring

I love Spring. The fresh air has finally arrived. It smells like life renewed. The trees are budding, the bulbs are beginning to bloom. The world around me is becoming colorful again.

There is so much joy in my heart for the simplest of pleasures. An open window, the sound of a light breeze. A blanket to ward off the slight chill in the air. A cup of coffee. A book. A dog snuggled up on my lap. Comfort clothing. For me, this is a sweatshirt and shorts or capris. The sweatshirt keeps me warm, while I can finally rid myself of longer pants and socks. Although it doesn’t seem like much, after a long winter, it feels freeing.

Even the dogs enjoy the change in the air. They stand, or sit, in sunny spots on the deck, lifting their heads to the oncoming breeze. Closing their eyes. When I open the door to call them in, they look at me from their cozy place. They don’t move. The cats sit on their perch by the open window, leaning into the screen to get the full benefit. Or stand by the door when I open it, to take a peek outside.

The sounds of the neighborhood coming back to life. People coming out of their winter hibernation. Lawn mowers whirling, the smell of fresh-cut grass.  Children playing. Dogs bark as walkers pass by. Strollers and wagons come out of storage. Laughter and conversation, as people return to their patio sets. Birds.

At this time of year, I am always reminded of God’s wonderful creations. God’s love. Hope, faith, joy. That after every storm, after dark times, there will always be light. Growth. Renewal. Color. For this, I am forever grateful.

 

 

Elvis is IN the Building

Elvis is IN the building. At least that’s what he said. On Sunday, April 12th, Bill and I had our vows renewed by Elvis. Well, not the real one. I’m in the group that believes he’s actually dead.

We were in Vegas, and it seemed like the cheesiest, and most awesome thing to do. It was. It was hilarious. Fabulous. Perfect. We got ready at the hotel, and headed down to our limo. A beautiful, white, stretch limo. Our driver was very friendly, and as you all know, I can make a friend anywhere. He was from South Africa (and had a beautiful accent), so I asked him why he moved to the States. He told me his daughter is an actress, and they moved here for her. She got a big break, and is a lead character in a currently running, and very popular show. Seriously. Awesome.

On the first speed bump we hit, in the hotel parking lot (didn’t take me long) I spilled my wine, uh, I mean soda, right down the front of my dress. Unfortunately, it was red grape….soda. We were headed for a big time cliché wedding. All the better. Once arriving at the “chapel”, and yes, I use that word loosely, we headed into the Doo Wop Diner, which we had chosen for our vow renewal. It seemed appropriate for Elvis. We had a 30 second rehearsal, and we were ready to go.

We registered as Billy and Liv. Bill has called me Liv for years. The photographer begins the live internet feed, and Elvis immediately starts calling me “Lin.” I, now, have a huge grin plastered on my face. Could this get any better?! This is a dream come true. Cheesiness at its finest. Then, he starts the song music…on his ITouch…..good grief. Seriously?! It’s the wrong music, so he has to start again. Sometime, in the middle of our quick “ceremony,” right before he starts the second song and hits the wrong song AGAIN, Bill whispers to him that my name is “Liv.” As he starts to sing, he pulls a little yellow sticky note out of his pocket to check the names. Classic. I’m not complaining. It couldn’t have been any more perfect. The best. We thought having an Elvis wedding would be enough. We didn’t even consider the cheesy flaws that could make it better!  We will never forget it.  I’m still smiling about it.

After our renewal, we had the limo driver drop us off at an Italian restaurant for dinner, and later we saw the Criss Angel Believe show.  Tickets we had gotten by attending a time-share presentation that morning. We did one of these in our first year of marriage, and now on our twenty-fifth. This time the gift was better though.  The last time it was supposed to be a TV, but they gave us a “shower spa.” Regardless, I hope we don’t do it on our fiftieth anniversary.

On Monday, we took a trip to Death Valley National Park and enjoyed God’s Beauty. And HEAT. We were lucky though, as it only hit about 103-104F. It was a beautiful day for a drive, and we took some gorgeous pictures. Bill has been on many business trips in the area, and he has always wanted to share it with me, so it was wonderful to experience it with him. We even saw a few dust devils, and tumbleweed. Wild West. Thankfully, we weren’t there on Tuesday, when we had a sandstorm in Vegas. I can’t imagine what that would have been like in Death Valley!

Tuesday was our actually anniversary, and we enjoyed a mellow day at the hotel. The winds were very high, so we couldn’t  use the pool as planned, but it was nice to rest and relax. We ate dinner at The Golden Nugget. Vic and Anthony’s Steakhouse was highly rated, romantic, and had a beautiful old-time steakhouse decor. It was the type of place you would imagine seeing a few mobsters, or members of the Rat Pack. The food and wine were fantastic.

After dinner we went out onto Fremont Street. I love the old school Vegas lights. Thanks to the fact that they have made it into a walking street with a covered roof, we were semi-protected from the wind and cold, and the ceiling lightshow was a nice addition. You could have your picture taken with all sorts there. Super hero, Chippendale, naked cow girl, a multitude of Elvis’. I spent five dollars on the penny slot machines.  It was the perfect venue. I made a few dollars, then lost it all, but I smiled the whole night. It was a great ending to an unbelievable vacation with my man.

Elvis is IN the building.

The Best Day of My Life- A Letter to my Husband

Marrying you was the best decision I have ever made. That day changed my life forever. I would not be the person I am today, if it weren’t for you. I wish you believed me when I say…… it was the best day of my life.

Did I ever tell you that you are everything I ever wanted in a husband? That as a little girl, when I thought of my future husband, it was you. A gentleman. Smart, loving, kind, giving, thoughtful. And funny. I still laugh when I think about the “hats” you used to make out of towels, when you finished your shower, in our younger years. Those silly games you made up, that were meant to drive me batty, like “I Got Your Pinky Toe.”  I would be sitting there, minding my own business, and all of a sudden you would be holding my feet up by my pinkie toes. Or when I was reading on the bed, or watching a show, and you’d flop on to me like a fallen tree. You called it, “I’m a Bull Seal.”  Where did that stuff come from?! I love that now and then, you remember, and I find myself trying to figure out how to escape your game. I can’t help but smile and laugh, even though I am stuck, at least until I can convince you to free me. I love you for that. Thank you for teaching me to be lighthearted.

You’ve spent our entire marriage making big plans for us. You started talking about adoption from the day after our wedding, until the day we did. I never thought it would happen. I didn’t think we could ever afford it. You talked about living abroad, long before I had the nerve to do it. You make me believe in things I never imagined. You make the impossible, possible. You fantasize about what we will do in our retirement years. I hope they come true. Thank you for teaching me to dream.

Thank you for taking care of me during my Crohn’s years. For seeing me through those miserable days. For staying by my side. For doing things I’m sure you didn’t want to do, during my recovery from surgery. Thank you for not looking at me differently once I had my Ostomy bag. For loving me just as much. Or more.

You’ve taught me to live a life where fear does not control me, or my decisions. A life where I don’t worry about what others think. That it is okay to do something spur-of-the-moment. That prior planning is not always necessary, or preferred. Thank you for suggesting we take an unplanned trip to Seattle, just for fun, to see my brother, with 12 hours notice, a three-year old, and a newborn. You showed me how to feel carefree. You’re the one I want to spend my wild and crazy days with. Thank you for teaching me to be spontaneous.

Thank you for holding my hand, when we go to sleep. Or snuggling up behind me. For always being close to me at night, no matter how far to the side of our king-sized bed I lay, so I can keep my feet out of the covers. Thank you for holding my hand when we are at the mall, or walking down the street. For opening my car door. For pulling the car up so I don’t have to step in a snow drift, or through the mud. For always making sure the street is safe to cross, even know I’m completely capable of doing it myself.  I love how you protect me. Thank you for showing me how much you care.

Thank you for all the little things you do. For taking the kids to their activities on those days that I can’t stand to get in the car again, even know you’ve had a full day at work. For bringing me coffee in bed. For spending hours making homemade bread. For making that amazing Thomas the Tank Engine cake for Ethan’s 2nd birthday, when I was too sick. Thank you for taking care of the kids by yourself for two weeks, so I could help my parents in Arizona after that medical emergency. And for doing it again, for five weeks, the next year, without hesitation. Thank you for the big things, too.

Thank you for your love of music. For walking into a room blaring a happy song, on a dreary day. For smiling and dancing. For wanting me to sing for you. Or dance with you. For listening to the same song, over and over again. Thank you for “theme songs.”  For almost 30 years you have burst out in song, based on a current situation, whatever it may be.  This skill is now ingrained in my brain. I can pull an appropriate, and timely, “theme” song out of my head at the drop of a hat. Thank you for reminding me to sing and dance.

Thank you for every minute of our life together. The good, and the bad. They have made me who I am today. I don’t regret a single second. Thank you for giving me every bit of you. You are amazing. Inside and out. You are God’s gift to me. You are my everything. Thank you for loving me. Thank you…….for the best days of my life.

 

 

 

 

Rags to Riches- in Marriage

When I think back to where Bill and I began, and where we are now, I am in awe. We have come so far. Farther than we ever imagined. We never knew the blessings that life would bring us, and although we are more financially stable than we were back then, the riches I refer to, lie in our experiences. In sharing our life together. Today, I am focusing on the beginning.

We went on our first date, when I was sixteen years old, and a junior in high school. He was in Navy boot camp, and 18 years old. We had our whole life ahead of us. We had no idea that we would be married less than 5 years later, and we would never have imagined that 23 years to the day later, we would be standing at the top of the Shanghai World Financial Center. The second tallest building in the world at that time. We would never have dreamt that we would have three beautiful children. That we would live in China.

Although there is no big story behind the proposal, Bill did ask my dad for permission beforehand. He has always been such a gentleman. His mama did good. We were married in a park in downtown Charleston, under the “wedding tree.”  It was a huge, old oak tree with more thick, long branches than I had ever seen on one tree before, or since. The park had been partially destroyed by Hurricane Hugo, but the tree still stood proud. Nearby, a man-made pond with a bridge crossing over it. I wore a dress I ordered through the JC Penny’s catalog, and made all the bouquets myself with silk flowers from the local craft store. We were married by the Navy Chaplin, under God’s natural beauty.

Our reception was at a Holiday Inn on Folly Beach, which we were chauffeured to in our friend’s 1960’s era Camaro convertible. Cherry red. The hotel had also suffered damage from the hurricane, but mostly exterior. It provided the beautiful ocean view we wanted, and was fairly inexpensive, so it worked for us. We had invited about 50 people to the dinner, and a bunch of the guys from his boat (a submarine) afterwards.

A few of Bill’s Navy friends hired their favorite local band, as a gift to us, and another friend deejayed as well. When I caught my veil on fire on a candle, the DJ played “Burnin’ Down the House” by Talking Heads. Bill forgot the tape with our wedding song on it, so it became whatever the band knew that worked. “Wonderful Tonight” by Eric Clapton. We had a cash bar.  We didn’t do a receiving line, and we forgot the father/daughter dance (that part broke my heart when we realized it.) Our photographer was either new to the profession, or doing it for fun, so for $100 she handed me a large stack of 4×6 prints. We couldn’t afford a honeymoon. The whole event cost us less than $2,500. Too much for us at the time.

Twenty years later, at the 40th birthday party that Bill threw for me at a local Marriott, he made sure that daddy and I had that dance. He knew how much I had regretted missing it at the wedding. Twenty-five years later, we are finally getting that honeymoon. We have only ever taken two trips by ourselves since the kids were born. A weekend in Chicago at 12 years, and a long weekend in San Francisco a few years ago. This year, we will be gone for nine glorious days. Making more memories.

We began our marriage in a one bedroom apartment. We had a day bed for a couch, a hope chest coffee table, a mini-fridge side table. A mattress on the floor in the bedroom, and a red milk-crate bedside table. We had what appeared to be drug-dealing neighbors. The nighttime people-traffic to their door terrified me on the nights when Bill had to be on the boat, and I would sleep with the lights and TV on. Barely getting a wink. We had strange peach spots on our carpet that seemed to be from something seeping up through the floor, and a shower with a wall that glowed a pinkish-orange. I tried to convince myself that maybe this was due to light coming in from the neighbor’s bathroom. It was one of those big, plastic shower inserts, not tile.  Maybe there wasn’t a wall in between?  I generally only saw it glowing in the middle of the night, when they didn’t have a light on, though. When it happened once during the day, I had that neighbor come over to see. She ran out of our apartment as fast as she could. I was trying not to freak out about it. That didn’t help. We never did figure out what it was.

Bill received his honorable discharge in 1991, and we moved back to Michigan. Bill was starting his college degree, and I was finishing mine. We lived with his grandfather for the first couple of years, as we were paying for two college educations. It worked well for all of us. Grandpa liked the company, and we could help him out when he needed it. He was helping us out by saving us rent. And from glowing walls and seeping floors. We were on the next step in our young lives.

It is when I think back to our beginning,  those two kids, blind to what was to come, just trying to survive, that I am in awe. I am proud of us. We don’t live in a huge house, we can’t buy everything we want, we can’t fly off to an exotic locale at a moments notice, or a year’s notice for that matter.  We still have bills, we still have to budget. We are not dollar rich, but when I think about how far we have come, how much we have experienced together, I realize…….we are marriage rich. I wouldn’t have it any other way.