Wednesday, July 29, 2020

20 Years

1 | On this day, July 29, 2000, I thee wed and took you as my wedded husband in good times and bad, in sickness and in health, for richer or poorer and until death do us part.  We've had all of those and lots in between.  In the midst of it all, the ONE thing I know for sure is that . . .

In a crowd of thousands, I'd find you again!
When you love someone you'll do anything;
you'll do all the crazy things that you can't explain

you'll shoot the moon; put out the sun
when you love someone

you'll deny the truth; believe a lie
they'll be times that you'll believe you can really fly
when you love someone

when you love someone you feel it deep inside
and nothing else could ever change your mind

when you want someone
when you need someone
when you love someone

when you love someone you'll sacrifice
you'd give it everything you got and you won't think twice
you'd risk it all no matter what may come

when you love someone you'll shoot the moon; put out the sun
when you love someone
(Bryan Adams)

2 | Our love story is really a tale of TWO states, Georgia and Louisiana.  But during our 20 years of marriage, we've lived in two states, Louisiana and Mississippi.

3 | And THREE of the best things about these last 20 years are Mason, Hannah Kate and Ellie. We are outnumbered, but I wouldn't have it any other way.  I mean, can you believe they are ours?!  (Well, not OURS exactly, but entrusted to us.)  I love watching you be a Daddy to our children.  They cannot wait for you to walk through the door at the end of the day.  And they really don't like it at all when you're working out of town.  You are definitely the "fun" parent!
4 | 
After FOUR years of marriage, I became pregnant, and we welcomed Mason Louis on July 13, 2005.  It's so hard to remember what life was like before the children.  And we had almost five years together before Mason was born!  I remember going to the Blockbuster on Friday nights and renting enough movies to last the weekend.  I still have our old Blockbuster rental card.  Other than that, I have no idea what we did with all of our "free" time!
5 | We've called FIVE different places home over the past 20 years.  I loved our first apartment.  It was the perfect little spot for us, all 750 square feet of it!  We lived there for two years before moving to a bigger apartment.  We weren't there long before we bought our first house.  I loved that house because we worked so hard to make it our own.  It's funny to me that we've brought home a baby to each of the three houses we've owned.  Mason came home to that one.  I loved our neighborhood in Madison, and Hannah Kate came home there.  And then we built our house here and brought Ellie home.

6 | During our SIXth year of marriage, we sold our house and moved to Mississippi for you to take a new job within the company.  And then, as soon as we got there (or so it seemed), we were getting ready to move back because of another job change.  The children and I made some really good friends there, and we LOVED our church.
7 | In 200SEVEN we got the biggest surprise of all our years of marriage when I became pregnant with Hannah Kate.  We had just moved to Mississippi, and that wasn't part of the plan.  I cried.  And I was scared to tell you.  But then I was so very sick that I absolutely had to tell you.  Mason met you at the door wearing his "big brother" shirt when you came home from work one afternoon.  
I was so nervous that day.  I think you were pretty excited though.  And our Hannah Kate ended up being one of the best blessings of our marriage!  She is definitely a Daddy's girl, and the two of you share a special bond.
8 | 

9 | During our NINEth year of marriage, we built our house.  It was fun, but it was A LOT of work.  Nearly everyone discouraged us from building, saying that it would cause a lot of disagreements between us.  But I honestly can't remember even the first disagreement during the entire process.  I'd definitely do it again!
10 | We have been living in our current house for TEN years.  Half of our married life together.  And, like everything else after ten years, it was in need of a little face-lift.  We spent this spring and summer tearing out the front walkway for a new one and landscaping the entire length of the front of the house.  All of the kids spaces upstairs have been re-painted.  And now we're getting ready to paint the downstairs and exterior doors.  Barry and Ashley gave us a couple of pecan trees to plant the year we moved in.  So we did.  But I really didn't think they'd make it.  Somehow they've survived these ten years, but I also doubted they'd ever produce pecans.  We were outside working in the garden beds a few weeks ago, and something caught my eye when I just so happened to turn around.  Pecans!  Granted, we only have enough for one per person in this family, and only one tree is producing right now, but we will still harvest our first pecans this fall!  Look closely, and you'll see them.
11 | During our 20 years of marriage, we have visited and/or vacationed in ELEVEN different states . . . Texas, Arkansas (remember that one when I somehow scratched my cornea, and was in so much pain that you had to take me to the doctor, and I ended up wearing that eye patch?!), Colorado, MontanaWyoming, Tennessee, Florida, Mississippi, Alabama, North Carolina and Kentucky.  Of course, I didn't include Georgia and Louisiana since those are our "home" states.  I also didn't include Idaho, Missouri or Ohio because we just cut the corners of those states on other trips, and I don't think that counts.  (I also didn't include Jamaica because I really needed this list to be eleven!)  This year we returned to Wyoming and took the kids with us.  They got to fly for the very first time.  It was THE BEST, and we're already dreaming about our next destination.

But, really, this list wasn't supposed to be at eleven this year.  It was supposed to be at thirteen.  I really wanted us to celebrate big for our 20th so I was planning an anniversary trip to Italy.  But last fall right before I was about to book everything, I had a check in my spirit and waited.  Now we know why, and I'm so glad I did!  It's 2020.  So then I started planning a state-side trip to another destination on our bucket list.  We were going to fly into Boston, spend a day in the city and then take a road trip up the coast of Maine to Acadia National Park.  I wanted to tour lighthouses, take a boat ride in the harbor, eat lobster rolls at a seaside shack overlooking the ocean.  But that trip is currently on hold because the travel restrictions in Maine aren't very friendly to us right now.  I'm sad that we aren't there.  But I know we will be some day!

Instead, we will celebrate at home eating Chinese takeout on our wedding china (because the traditional gift for a 20th wedding anniversary is china!).  But as disappointed as I am, I am mostly excited just to be with you no matter where that is!  Even Grosse Tete.
12 | And then, in 20TWELVE, we had the joy of expecting our Ellie girl and welcoming her into our family.  It was so much fun anticipating the birth of a baby for nine months, not knowing if she was an Elizabeth or if he was an Elijah.  I think we can all agree that she's the life of the party over here.  I'm so very grateful the Lord knew we needed her in our family.
13 | We had an exciting year in 20THIRTEEN.  Mason accepted Jesus as his Savior and Lord on Christmas Eve 2012, but it wasn't until January 2013 that he was baptized.  That was such a special day watching the first of our children be baptized.
We also took our first family trip to Disney in 2013.  That was a fun trip that came at a time when we needed some fun.  Mason was finishing up what had been a most difficult 2nd grade school year and had begun private therapy to remediate the learning challenges inherent with dyslexia.  Looking back on those pictures at Disney reminds me what a joy it was watching Mason and Hannah Kate experience the magic for the very first time.  And then we went again in 2016, and Ellie got the magic experience (since she obviously doesn't remember the first trip).
14 | 
There are two things that happened in 20FOURTEEN that I will NEVER forget.  Ellie broke her arm.  So far, she's the only one of the children to have a broken bone, the only one to spend the night in the hospital and the only one to require surgery.  She just had to go all out.  That night in the hospital with her was the longest night EVER.  And then the surgery.  And she was only 20 months old.
Later that year, Mason graduated from private therapy.  Oh, those days of therapy were, I think, some of the hardest, longest days in our 20 years.  Or at least they were for me.
15 | 
One of my most favorite memories with you was our trip out west.  We celebrated our FIFTEENth wedding anniversary with a road trip through Colorado, Wyoming and Montana.  I'd never seen the Rocky Mountains before or that part of the country at all.  I'm so glad I got to do that with you!  It was so, so good to go back this year and take the kids with us.

16 | It seems that 20SIXTEEN was quite a big year for us.  There were so many celebrations that year.  Mason killed his first deer.  At this rate, it's probably also his last kill!  I don't think he's been back since.  He's "been there done that."
We did a little reno project in the house so Ellie could have her own bedroom, and the girls didn't have to share anymore.
Hannah Kate accepted Jesus accepted Jesus as her Lord and Savior, and she was baptized!
I already mentioned this, but we took our second trip to Disney (I mean, seriously, don't you think it's about time to go back?!  I'm just kidding.).  I think it's also worth noting that we were both taller than Mason in 2016!
And, last but certainly not least, you crested the hill and started making your way down, and I managed to surprise you with a very small surprise 40th birthday party.
17 | Oh, this one was easy!  In 20SEVENTEEN, we experienced something that we never had in our 17 years (at that point) of marriage . . . SNOW in LOUISIANA!  (And, just in case you're wondering, our current street address adds up to the number 17, too.)

18 | Another year that stands out is 20EIGHTEEN.  It really was all about one dude in the house.  When Mason started playing baseball as a five year old, I always thought he'd be the kid sitting the bench, the back-up.  It wasn't until a few years later that he found his sweet spot at first base and began hitting the ball a little better.  After nearly five years, we finally had a little ball player on our hands and a really fun baseball season.  And then it happened.  Mason was an All-Star, and he played summer ball.  I think he made all your dreams come true that summer!  And, I'll admit, it wasn't all that bad.  (But one All-Star season is definitely enough for me!).  That was also the year we entered (for us) unchartered territory as parents.  We had a teenager in the house.  And, just think, that teenager is scheduled to take driver's ed in September.  And, come December, we'll have TWO teenagers in the house.
19 | So I struggled with this number.  I mean, what is NINETEEN anyway?  I never have cared for odd numbers, and I think 19 has to be the oddest of the odd numbers.  Except for maybe 17.  If I'm being honest, I'd say 19 just wasn't a great number for us.  It was such a hard year, especially between your job and my first year serving as the Teaching Leader for my BSF class.  I spent most of the year just wishing it was over already and really excited for 2020 because I knew what was coming (actually, I had NO IDEA.  I only thought I did).  I mean, 2020 was going to be OUR year.  And maybe it still will be.  Maybe it already is!  

But if I HAVE to say something about nineteen, and, of course, I do, it would have to be football.  I mean, whoever in the world saw that coming?!  Your team had a perfect season (sigh), and mine did not.  But whateves.  We're past that now.  Even though "they" are the 2020 National Champions, it's all because of the 2019 season.  So there.  That's nineteen.  Gag.  (Maybe that should've been an indication that 2020 wouldn't be all it was cracked up to be . . . just kidding.  Kind of.)
20 | Well, here we are.  I promised you forever on that day twenty years ago, and I meant it.  There were times I didn't think we'd see twenty years.  There have been many, many times I haven't been what or who I should for you and for us, but you have steadily loved and forgiven me regardless.  I don't think we've done anything any different or better than anyone else.  I just think the Lord has miraculously and faithfully held us together with His love, grace, patience and peace.  He has been so, so good to us, and I am so very grateful.

"He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn over all creation.  For by Him all things were created that are in heaven and that are on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or principalities or powers.  All things were created through Him and for Him.  And HE IS BEFORE ALL THINGS, AND IN HIM ALL THINGS CONSIST."  ~Colossians 1:15-17  

Our story is my favorite story.  Thank you for loving me and fighting for US in the midst of the hard and messy and sad and happy and oh so good . . . ALL of it.  You have been my adventure of a lifetime, and we aren't finished yet.  I wouldn't want to do this with anyone else.  I love you so!

Baby last night was hands down one of the best nights that I've had no doubt
Between the bottle of wine and the look in your eyes and the Marvin Gaye
Then we danced in the dark under September stars in the pourin' rain
And I know that I can't ever tell you enough that all I need in this life is your crazy love
If I never get to see the Northern lights
Or if I never get to see the Eiffel Tower at night
Oh if all I got is your hand in my hand
Baby I could die a happy man
Baby and that red dress brings me to my knees
Oh but that black dress makes it hard to breathe
You're a saint, you're a goddess, the cutest, the hottest, a masterpiece
It's too good to be true, nothing better than you in my wildest dreams
I don't need no vacation, no fancy destination
Baby you're my great escape
We could stay at home, listen to the radio or dance around the fireplace
And if I never get to build my mansion in Georgia
Or drive a sports car up the coast of California
Well if all I got is your hand in my hand
Baby I could die a happy man

I told you the other day that it's my goal to make all your wishes come true.  And I meant that!  Because you are the man of my dreams, the one who makes all mine come true!  I look forward to every day with you, the moment you walk in the door, the next adventure.

"My beloved is mine, and I am his."  ~Song of Solomon 2:16 

Tuesday, July 28, 2020

Family Vacation 2020: Yellowstone Day 2

We were up early and headed back into Yellowstone because we had a full day planned.  We were on our way to Mammoth Hot Springs, but we spied this beauty and had to stop.  This is Gibbon Falls.  It drops 84 feet.

I was most excited about visiting Mammoth Hot Springs because this was an area that Seth and I didn't have time to see on our first trip.  We walked the entire boardwalk and trail of the main terrace and upper and lower terraces.  This area was absolutely fascinating to me!
We came to the Mound and Jupiter Terraces first.  A network of fractures and fissures from the plumbing system underground allows hot water to reach the surface.  The heat sources for Mammoth Hot Springs is still somewhat of a mystery, as scientists have proposed two difference sources.

We began walking around the Upper Terrace until we came to Canary Spring.

The different colors here were just amazing.

As we headed back south on the Grand Loop, we stopped at Roaring Mountain.  Do you see the steam escaping from the middle of the mountain behind Mason?  That's a fumarole.
We had visited Artist Point on the south rim of the Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone the day before, but I wanted to go back and hike down to the Lower Falls on the north rim. 
The hike was literally straight down for a half mile.  And, what goes down must come back up.
But once we got to the bottom, it was totally worth it!

The hike back up was exactly like I thought it would be, but I was so proud of the kids.  They did it!  See the look on Ellie's face?  That's exactly what I felt when we finally got back up to the top of the trail.  We stopped to rest for a minute and then continued walking a bit farther.
The grandeur of the Canyon is just overwhelming!

I mean, look at this!

We finally left the falls and slowly made our way towards Old Faithful.  But next up was the Lower Geyser Basin.  We saw the Fountain Paint Pots, fumaroles and several geysers.  This hydrothermal area is full of colorful hot springs, mud pots and small geysers.
The geysers were quite active while we were walking along the boardwalk.

Our next stop was one I couldn't wait to return to.  Before our first trip in 2015, the Yellowstone feature that most caught my attention was the Grand Prismatic Spring.  You can find tons of beautiful, bright pictures of the oranges, yellows, greens and blues of this hot spring.  But I was so disappointed when I saw it "in person."  It just wasn't the vibrant hues that I'd seen in all the pictures.  After our trip, I continued seeing all of these beautiful, bright pictures so I was convinced I had missed something.  First of all, the sky was very overcast that day, and it was misty and rainy.  I read that the brightness of the sun oftentimes magnifies the colors of the spring.  And, second of all, this area was very crowded when we visited so I felt hurried.  Needless to say, it wasn't busy on this trip.  And the weather was absolutely perfect with the sun brightly shining.
You come to Excelsior Geyser first.

We were finally getting closer to Grand Prismatic.
And oh. my. goodness.  It nearly took my breath away!  It was just like all the pictures I'd seen but hadn't experienced the last time around.  (None of the pictures I've posted have been edited with a filter.  They are all exactly as we saw them.)

Grand Prismatic is Yellowstone's largest hot spring at more than 121 feet deep and up to 330 feet wide.
By this time, the kids were pretty tired of all the pictures.  But they didn't complain not once.

After we left Grand Prismatic, we went to Old Faithful.  On our last trip, we drove around the massive parking lot for 30 minutes looking for a parking spot.  It was a miracle Seth stayed because he isn't the most patient person in the world.  But I told him was absolutely had to wait as long as it took because when in Yellowstone!  Seth asked me if I remembered what it was like the last time.  I told him I did and that it didn't matter.  We'd drive around for 30 minutes again if we had to.  Because WHEN IN YELLOWSTONE.  When we rounded the curve into the parking lot at Old Faithful, we didn't have to wait even a minute for a parking spot.  The huge lot was only a quarter full, and we had our choice of parking spots.  So we parked and then got a front row seat to wait on Old Faithful's eruption.  We had about a 30 minute wait.  We hadn't been there very long when another geyser across the way began to erupt.  One of the park rangers came running over and told us that was the Beehive Geyser and that we were really lucky to see it erupt because it wasn't predictable and didn't even erupt daily.  So that was a fun treat.
And Old Faithful is as faithful as ever!

By this time it was late in the afternoon so we began the drive out of the park to our accommodations in Jackson Hole.  We came alongside this big fella on the way out.  He was so close I could nearly reach my hand out the window and pet him!  Our second day in Yellowstone was so very full and one of the best days I think we've ever had!