2 years down and a lifetime to go

It’s crazy that JR and I have only been married for two years.  We’re coming up on 9 years together, and in some ways our wedding feels like so long ago.  But I can remember so many wonderful details of that day that it sometimes feels like it was only yesterday.

We used the Doubletree Hotel in downtown Columbus for our wedding room block.  Because of that, JR and I were able to book a two-story suite for ourselves.   It was a huge, gorgeous room and we had it for 3 nights.  After our rehearsal dinner, we invited guests back to our room to continue the fun.  It was nice to have extra time to hang out with our family and friends because many had traveled from out of town, and in some ways it was also the start of a farewell as we knew we’d be in DC and then overseas within the next year.

In the morning, JR was going golfing with some of his family and bridal party.  He forgot his phone charger in our room, so he texted me pretty early and then wanted to stop by to pick it up.  Since we’d agreed not to see each other, I stayed upstairs and tossed the phone charger over the balcony/loft area for him to catch below.

I was then wide awake and not sure what to do. I didn’t want to start getting ready too early because my hair stylist wanted my hair wet when she arrived.   I went downstairs and saw a card underneath the door.  It was from my mom – a Taylor Swift card that played “Today was a Fairytale” when I opened it up.   It was beautiful and perfect and made me cry.

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Photo credit:  Azar Photography

Since I was already feeling all emotional and had time to kill, I crawled back in bed and pulled out my laptop.  I started searching YouTube for old videos of Nick and Jessica.   Specifically, I wanted to see the opening from Newlyweds to relieve the moment that Nick sees Jessica walking down the aisle (something I’d mentioned to JR for YEARS).  I wound up watching all sorts of clips and old videos of them and literally sobbing in my bed.  I mean, if they couldn’t make it, what hope did anyone else have?!

You should watch the whole clip, but if you’re in a time crunch, start at the 00:55 mark.  I can’t even.

Seriously, goosebumps and tears watching it to this day.  Sorry Vanessa and whatever-his-name-is, those two were meant to be.

I texted Elizabeth to tell her what I was doing and she arrived shortly after that to help me pull myself together.  We had so much fun getting ready with the rest of my bridesmaids and my mom.  I was so, so nervous on the way to the church.  Not about getting married, but about tripping down the aisle and just standing up there in front of all of our friends and family.  The wedding coordinator advised me to walk the aisle very slowly, but when those doors opened I booked it as fast as I could!  All the pictures of my dad and stepdad walking with me show them lagging behind because I’m basically running to the altar.

And then we were married and it was wonderful and I couldn’t have asked for a better day.  Even better than our wedding is the fact that I married a really great person.  He makes me laugh every day.  He vowed to laugh and cry with me, to cherish our friendship, and to love me faithfully.  He’s done all of that and more.  Seeing him with Abigail has deepened my love in a way I didn’t realize was possible.

I watch our wedding video more than a normal person should, and when I watched it most recently I cried all through our vows.  JR – as I promised 2 years ago, what may come, I will always be there.

Here’s to us, babe.  Love you.

Romance in Paralia?

No.  The answer is no.  But our hotel room really was intended for L-O-V-E.  Check out this bedspread in our suite!

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We decided to visit Paralia, Greece for the 4th of July weekend.  Paralia is pretty much the closest decent beach for us, about a 4 1/2 hour drive going through two borders, Macedonia and Greece.  That drive can be a bit longer if you make 3 2 wrong turns.  (I’m directionally challenged and we’re buying a GPS with a European chip).  Luckily for us, Abigail continues to be an excellent traveler.   We made a pit stop to feed and change her, and then continued on our way.  And to my absolute delight, the gas station in Macedonia sold Snicker’s Ice Cream bars!

The weather was beautiful and as always, we love the beach.  It was extremely crowded but still nice to get away!  This was the view from our hotel balcony.

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Oh, and there was a man selling donuts on the beach.  Let me repeat that for you.  This fellow (and many more just like him) walked around the beach selling fresh baked, big-as-your-face donuts for 1.50 euro.  Aces!

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On the recommendation of the hotel staff, we went to a restaurant a few blocks away called Poseidon.   We had a nice family dinner on the beach.  If you can’t tell, Abigail is hidden away in the carrier and she let us have a peaceful meal, for which we are very grateful.

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This was our first beach experience as a family and it was quite different than what JR and I are used to.  Usually JR and I are out all day enjoying the sun, water and drinks with a possible break in the afternoon for a short nap before dinner.   Like everything else now, Abigail dictates our schedule and we only stayed out a few hours during the day and underneath the umbrella for most of it.  Even though it was a very different experience, we loved sharing the beach with her for the first time.  JR took her to get her feet wet in the Aegean but got a little excited and put her in up to her chest.  She didn’t enjoy it as much as JR did, so the experience only lasted about 20 seconds.   We’ll do better next time.

And a few more cute pics of Abby at the beach.

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By the time we got home on Sunday, she was tuckered out.  But she can’t wait to visit Greece again!

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Vaux le Vicomte

This post is pretty gushy, so just a warning if you want to click out and pretend you never saw it.

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I loved studying French in high school. I think 2 years was required, a third year was recommended if you were headed to college, and French IV was completely optional. There were maybe 8 of us in the French IV class. By my senior year, I had enough credits that I could leave school at noon and be done for the day. The problem was that French IV was only offered 8th period. Faced with that choice, I left school every day at noon and went to one of my part time jobs for a few hours (waitressing for the lunch crowd at a cafe) and then returned to school faithfully every day (okay, almost every day) for 8th period French class. I loved the class, and I absolutely adored my teacher.

I’m not certain if it was in French III or IV, but we did projects on a location in Paris, and I either picked or was assigned Vaux le Vicomte. It’s a chateau located outside of the city, built from 1658 to 1661 for Nicholas Fouquet, the superintendent of finances for King Louis XIV. Unfortunately, the good man Fouquet tried to impress the King and others with his fancy chateau and instead wound up making the King jealous, and suspicious of how he was paying for it all. Fouquet hosted a grand party to celebrate the chateau, and while the King celebrated with him publicly, behind his back he made plans to have him arrested for using public funds. Shortly after the party Fouquet was arrested and imprisoned for the rest of his life (19 years), and the King confiscated furniture, tapestries, and even the orange trees from Vaux le Vicomte. He was so impressed with the chateau that he also had the team that built Vaux Vicomte get started on his own, slightly more famous palace, Versailles.

So things did not turn out well for Fouquet. But this beautiful home was built and I was in love with it. My 18 year old self firmly believed that I could get married there some day, and my independently wealthy husband-to-be would fly all of our family and friends to France to join us there. Clearly, it didn’t work out for me, although Eva Longoria pulled it off. (Sort of. She’s divorced now so I’m not sure if it counts).

The point of this story – because I swear there is a point – is that I loved this place and dreamed about seeing it in person. Yes, my dreams were a bit far-fetched. But only 10+ years later, it happened! When JR and I first began making travel plans, I asked him if we could take a day trip to see the chateau and he was excited about it.

Not only did I finally see Vaux le Vicomte in person, but I just felt so lucky to be there and to be living this life that we’re living. There is really nothing in my life that is how I pictured it might be, back when I was daydreaming in school. Well, that’s not true. The specifics are way different (I don’t know that I knew what a Foreign Service Officer was back then. Or where to find Kosovo on a map.) But the big picture stuff – I’m married to a truly wonderful person that I love with all of my heart, I have amazing friends and family, and I’m going to be a mom soon – that stuff all came true, even though the road to get here has been very different than I imagined.

While we were walking around the grounds, I just kept thinking of this quote from Sweet Home Alabama.

It’s funny how things don’t turn out.
…Yeah, it’s funny how they do.

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525,600 Minutes

That’s how long we’ve been married. Happy Anniversary to my wonderful husband JR!

A few wedding pictures:

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We spent the day yesterday doing some of our favorite things. For me, that meant sitting poolside with my friends, drinking a strawberry margarita, and discussing celebrity gossip. JR hung out with his friends and learned how to bottle homebrew. Everybody wins!

Although we didn’t plan it this way, we are considering our anniversary gift to be the plane tickets we bought for our next big trip to be our gift to each other. We’re going to Paris over the holidays!

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From Legal Writing to Kosovo

When we told friends and family about our upcoming move to Kosovo we were often met with confused looks and/or blank expressions. What usually happened next was a short geography lesson (understandable, considering I had to check the map myself after our assignment). And a lot of people asked us “why?” Why are you moving overseas, and why Kosovo. Totally logical questions. For us, it was the start of an adventure we’d wanted for a long time.

JR and I met during orientation our first year of law school. We were randomly assigned to the same 4 person group for a project in our Legal Writing class. As we became more than friends, it was clear that he had dreams and goals that would take him outside of Ohio, and if it worked out the way he hoped, outside the country. I was thinking if we stayed together his plans would somehow transform into my plans for us – to never leave Columbus. It’s rare, but sometimes I’m wrong. 🙂

During our third year of law school, JR spent a semester working overseas with the Department of State, and he started focusing on a future in the Foreign Service (FS) as a Foreign Service Officer (FSO) (it’s the government – they LOVE acronyms). Getting a job as an FSO is no easy task, but JR kept trying. Meanwhile, we graduated law school and both found work as attorneys in Columbus. Life was pretty good, but he was still hoping for something more.

In August of 2011, he received an e-mail notice for an interview in DC. It turned out the job he would interview for was one he had applied for in August 2010 – an entire year earlier! We didn’t know what to think or expect.

The next several months were part excitement, part torture. There were still many hoops to jump through after he had passed the interview portion, and no guarantee of a job at the end of it all. There were reference checks, security clearances, medical clearances, and a lot of waiting – it was big year for us. It’s hard to plan for your future when so much is up in the air, but we figured, why not really challenge ourselves? So we added an engagement and wedding into the mix. Go big or go home.

Finally (I’m crying as I write this, because I just remember it so clearly and I’m a person who cries a lot), one morning in March JR walked into my office and handed me a letter. It was his official employment offer and start date. Holy cow, this was happening. We celebrated that night, and it was exciting and emotional. I was, and still am, so incredibly proud of him for his perseverance and commitment to his dreams.

Since we had less than two months to make plans until he had to move in May (also not to mention, we were still right in the middle of wedding planning), we drove from Ohio to D.C. for a short weekend to go apartment hunting. After getting over the initial shock of how much we’d be paying to live in D.C. (it’s ridiculous!), we chose a small 1 bedroom apartment that could barely fit 2 people and one portly cat. Our plan was for JR to move first in May, and I would join him after our wedding that August or September. (As I’m writing this, I’m realizing August has always been a big month for us. It was the month we first met too!)

It was a strange summer apart, filled with the anticipation of getting married and moving to DC, and knowing our time in DC would be short. JR was in training for his job which included language training and once that was complete, we’d be moving overseas for our first tour. We were very fortunate that for JR’s job, his supervisors gave everyone a list of the available assignments and countries, and asked that we rank our top 5. We were told they would try to take our preferences into consideration, but there were no guarantees. We ranked Kosovo #1 for many reasons – we’d heard great things about the work the US is doing here, the Kosovars are friendly and welcoming to Americans, and the location in Eastern Europe.

And here we are! After one year in DC (well only 9 months for me), we find ourselves in Pristina, Kosovo, starting our great adventure.