On a Learning Curve

Life may not be easy, but it's always an adventure.


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17 Years

It’s that time of year again: Saturday was our 17th wedding anniversary. As is our custom, Ryan and I celebrated in different states. This year he sat on reserve in New York, and I stayed home in Virginia. That’s just how life works when you decide to marry a pilot.

But he’s a smart pilot, a faithful husband, and a good listener. He sent me these gorgeous flowers, which is proof that he remembers the part of the conversation we had where I told him that no woman is serious when she says she doesn’t want anything for her anniversary (or birthday). Isn’t he sweet?

20150912_172716In return, I thought it was time to write something in response. Here is my tribute to 17 years of marriage.

1: A clueless couple who said, “I do,” way back in 1998.

We're flinching because my brother (top left behind Ryan) was lobbing bags of birdseed at us.

We’re flinching because my brother (top left behind Ryan) was lobbing bags of birdseed at us.

2: Hurricanes that we actually evacuated. Brett in ’99 and Ike in ’08.
3: Apartments that we’ve rented. We lived across the street from a runway in Pensacola, within walking distance to the Gulf of Mexico in Corpus Christi, and in converted WW II officer barracks on MCAS Cherry Point. There’s nothing like being able to read by the light of the tennis courts from the inside of your apartment. Or waking up to early morning PT in your side yard.
4: Times Ryan deployed. Afghanistan, the Persian Gulf, Iraq, and Bahrain.
5: The number of states we’ve called home: Florida, Texas, North Carolina, Maryland, and Virginia. Coincidentally, it’s also the total number of bones our family has broken in the past 17 years. (2 collar bones, an elbow, one rib, and something in Ryan’s foot.)
6: Our children: Seth, Owen, Grace, Sarah, Lucy, and Hannah.
7: Years we lived in North Carolina. That’s the longest I’ve ever lived anywhere in one stretch.
8: Different addresses we’ve written in the upper left-hand corners of envelopes. I can’t begin to remember our different phone numbers.
9: Not including invertebrates, this is the number of pets we’ve cared for. Greta, Clara, Popcorn, Brownie, Oreo, Pepper, Beanie, Mocha, and Latte. Do you sense a theme?
10: The current age of our car and truck. Much to the embarrassment of our 12-year-old, we don’t drive cool, late-model vehicles. At least I don’t.
11: Trips we’ve collectively taken to various emergency rooms; however, Ryan remains the only one to have gotten a helicopter ride.
12: It’s a tie between the number of years Ryan served on active duty and the number of years I’ve been teaching since we married. Neither one of us wants to trade jobs.
13: Will be the number of candles on the next birthday cake. It’s official: G will become a teenager in 4 weeks.
14: States that Ryan and I have actually visited together. At the same time.
15: Hours it took us to drive from Norfolk to Pensacola on our honeymoon. We stopped in Anderson, SC, and learned that you couldn’t buy beer on a Sunday. Fortunately the bed and breakfast where we stayed had an enormous 8-person hot tub in the middle of our room. I just can’t make up stuff like this.
16: Times we’ve packed and unpacked cardboard boxes. It’s like a bad habit that we can’t quit.
17: H’s blood sugar at birth. She arrived 4 weeks early, and this was a full year before Sarah’s diagnosis with Type 1 diabetes.

That’s 17 years in a nutshell. By the grace of God, we’ve made it this far, and I’m sure the next 17 promise to be equally full of adventure.

Happy anniversary to us, Ryan!

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15 Years: A Brief History

Ryan and I have reached another milestone together. On September 12, we will celebrate 15 years of marriage. I didn’t say wedded bliss because that just doesn’t cover the past 15 years. Perhaps roller coaster or soap opera would be a better description, but I am also reminded of the classic children’s line from Ludwig Bemelmans: “They smiled at the good and frowned at the bad and sometimes they were very sad.” (That’s from Madeline.) Here are the highlights of our 15 years together.

September 12, 1998

September 12, 1998

Year 1: Honeymoon on the road as we drove from Norfolk, Virginia, to Pensacola, Florida. Somebody had to start intermediate flight classes on Tuesday. Two months later we headed farther south to Corpus Christi, Texas. Ryan earned his wings of gold in July 1999; then we moved to North Carolina where Ryan joined VMGR-253 and I started a new teaching/coaching job.

Outside our 2nd apartment with our 2 puppies

Outside our 2nd apartment with our 2 puppies

Year 2: Life revolved around Ryan, me, and our 2 dogs. We had no idea how easy things were!

Posing for family photos in my father-in-law's courtroom

Posing for family photos in my father-in-law’s courtroom

Year 3: Excitement over our first pregnancy was followed by heartache after Seth and Owen arrived too early at 23 weeks on February 24, 2001.

IMG_0015

Year 4: A hard year for both of us as we put our lives back together. Ryan deployed to Afghanistan, and I changed high schools. Here we are enjoying a rare vacation in Charleston, SC.

Charleston, SC, with Ryan's family

Charleston, SC, with Ryan’s family

Year 5 began with great joy: Grace arrived on October 12, 2002. Ryan deployed for 6 months on the USS Iwo Jima, and I navigated single-parenthood.

The sweetest moment for a mom

The sweetest moment for a new mother

In Year 6, we decided to buy our first house. That made our third move just in Havelock, NC!

Ryan lays sod on a (rare) snowy day in Havelock.

Ryan lays sod on a (rare) snowy day in Havelock.

Sarah arrived on December 1, 2004, as we began Year 7, and Ryan left for Iraq. That was a long 7 months for everyone.

picking berries

The girls go berry picking.

Ryan returned home, Year 8 began, and I was pregnant again. (Are you seeing a pattern yet?) As we prepared for a move to Corpus Christi, Lucy arrived stillborn on April 12, 2006. A month later, Ryan contracted viral encephalitis and was helicoptered to an ICU unit. We un-rented our home and stayed in NC so that Ryan could recover. Here we are during a much-needed beach week on Topsail Island.

topsail beach 008

Year 9 eventually brought us to Corpus Christi again, and we rented a house within walking distance to the beach on Padre Island. Ryan pinned on major–despite his wedding promise to me that he wouldn’t stay in the Corps long enough to need $1000 worth of new dress uniforms. And Hannah arrived a little early but in perfect health on May 3, 2007. Our family was complete.

I have no idea how to caption this shot.

Our 3 girls. I have no idea how to caption this photo.

Year 10 was a struggle for us in so many ways. I had postpartum depression, we had 3 small children, and I decided to homeschool Grace for the remainder of our time in TX. Ryan learned what it was like to go through ground school with a newborn, but life got even harder over Easter weekend. Sarah was diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes.

My favorite Marine Corps Birthday Ball picture of us, November 2008

My favorite Marine Corps Birthday Ball picture of us, November 2008

We celebrated our tenth anniversary in separate states due to a mandatory hurricane evacuation. Ryan enjoyed golf in New Mexico while I drove the girls and dog to a crowded ranch-house outside San Antonio. During Year 11, however, we found our new normal. Normal meant finger pricks, insulin injections, and carb counting,

The only ballerina with an insulin pump!

The only ballerina with an insulin pump!

As Year 12 began, we committed to homeschooling indefinitely. Ryan did some soul-searching and resigned from active duty. In a great leap of faith, he accepted a job offer from a government contractor in Maryland. We put our NC house on the market and left Texas–first to stay with my family in Virginia and then on to California, Maryland.

Ryan's last active duty flight

Ryan’s last active duty flight

During Year 13, I was thrilled to be back on the East Coast, even if our address is California. Ryan stayed busy commuting between his day job and a reserve job flying for VMGR-452 in New York. The girls and I visited family and friends and took advantage of our proximity to the Smithsonian.

Team Sarah at the 2011 JDRF Walk to Cure Diabetes

Team Sarah at the 2011 JDRF Walk to Cure Diabetes

During Year 14, we settled into the routine that comes with three growing girls, a homeschooling mom, and a dad who works two jobs. Busy best described our days as Ryan racked up flight hours and I somehow kept my sanity in between school subjects, soccer practice, doctors’ appointments, and co-op classes.

A windy hike in Shenandoah National Park.

A windy hike in Shenandoah National Park.

And that brings us to Year 15. Ryan comes and goes and wishes he had more free time to devote to his golf game. I’ve returned to coaching, but running is my true passion now. All three girls are thriving in their schoolwork and daily delight/test us in innumerable ways.

Celebrating my first 39th birthday.

Celebrating my first 39th birthday this year

That is the abbreviated version of our marriage. We’ve lived in 3 apartments and 4 houses; and we’ve owned 2 dogs, 2 hermit crabs, and 3 hamsters. We’ve celebrated our 20th high school reunions, and one of us has turned 40. We’ve been a part of 3 churches and 4 squadrons. We’ve had 6 children together and have the gray hair to prove it. We bicker with each other, but we laugh together, too. We know each other’s faults, but we love each other anyway.

Many of you reading this already know our story. Some of you just know parts of our life, but I want all of you to know that if we can stay faithful to each other for 15 years, anyone can. We like to joke that it doesn’t seem like 15 years; it seems much longer. Our days are full, and we sometimes spend weeks apart due to Ryan’s work. But our marriage works. It’s by no means perfect, but it is solid because we are committed to each other and rooted by the vows that we made before God, our friends, and our family.  I am reminded of the verse that “With man this is impossible, but with God all things are possible” (Matthew 19:26). And so we will continue to smile at the good, frown at the bad, and sometimes be very sad. And we will do it together.