Saturday, June 11, 2011

Living My Fairytale...

Several months ago, Ashleigh and I were talking about how we should write out our "love stories." She held up her end of the bargain about a month ago (check out her blog - it's awesome), and even though I do think it would be great for me to sit down some time and write out a detailed account of the past (almost) 20 years of Chris and mine's adventures, I thought today of all days would be an appropriate time to at least give a "snapshot" (and I use that term loosely) of how Chris and I got where we are today. Today marks 7 years of being married to my best friend! We now have reached the number of years being married that we dated .... and this fall will be 20 years of being best friends.

Let's start at the very beginning .... Chris and his family moved to Stafford, VA the summer of 1991 (he was 9 and I was 10). We met at Mount Ararat Baptist Church sometime the fall of that same year. Chris can still remember what I was wearing (crazy ... remembers where I was sitting in the chapel, too) the first time they visited the church. We didn't meet on that first night. We eventually met sometime that fall - and probably became fast friends because of our competitive natures. After church each week, we would always race outside from one side of the building to the next. I always won. Of course, I also was about a head taller than him (again, Chris was 9, I was 10). It's funny when I think about how much I "liked" him back then. It seems so strange to look back and think about it, since I was only 10 - and what 10 year old even understands what it means to LIKE someone, but whatever it meant in my 10 year old mind, I had it.
Chris wrote me a "love letter" on January 5, 1993 - 18 years ago. It was the first love letter I had ever gotten, and of course I kept it - not knowing how special this would be 18 years later. Here is it ....
My favorite parts are "this is kind of a love letter" .... and I REALLY love how he wrote "signed Chris Ashinhurst" instead of Love (after he had just written 5 sentences expressing his love) ;-)
Then, March 9, 1993 ... birthday card from Chris. I was 12. He was 10.
I really could write for hours and hours and posts and posts of childhood memories together. Here is a picture that was taken after one of our soccer games. See, I'm about a head taller than him (of course the HORRIFIC perm doesn't help)!!
As I go through my journals in middle school, there are plenty of entries written about Chris. However, we went to different schools, so we mainly only saw each other at church and went through phases of "liking each other" and "not liking each other" - but always remaining friends! We were laughing just this morning about the VBS skits we did when we were in 6th and 7th grade. Also, even back then I would make it to a few of his baseball games ... and a couple of his track meets in middle school. I wasn't introduced to his wrestling matches until high school (ha - thank goodness)!
When I was in 9th grade, and he was in 8th..... I had now started going to North Stafford High School, and he was at A.G. Wright Middle School. One of his buddies was in my 1st period Geometry class - and then would head back to A.G. Wright for the rest of his school day. Matt spent many of his days passing notes back and forth between us. Chris would send them with Matt to give to me during 1st period ... and I would send one back for Matt to give to Chris when he saw him later in the day. What do middle schoolers/high schoolers send these days?! Just text messages? It sure would save a lot of space. I have literally hundreds of letters I've kept that Chris and I have written back and forth to each other over the past 20 years. Can you believe that I have some letters as long as 4 pages from Chris?????? Those were way back in the day, though ;-)
So, middle school ends for him - and it is the summer before Chris and I are finally about to go to the same school .... finally! Here's one of my journal entries (and keep in mind, my journal entries are prayers to God, so I start them all as "Dear God," ...). This was August 1996.

(I'm not sure whether to be laughing or embarrassed that I just shared that)

Sept 23, 1996 we started dating (his 9th grade year, my 10th). Now our lives were intertwined enough to make a relationship really work, since we saw each other at school AND at church. This is a picture of Chris and me with the first teddy bear he gave me. It makes me laugh so hard for so many reasons, but here are 2:
1) That Chris even posed for a picture with a teddy bear (he must've really liked me)
2) That baggy clothes were "in" .... why why why!!!
This is the ticket stub from the first movie Chris and I saw together in the theater. We had older friends, so we got a ride from them, since neither one of us could drive yet. I have every ticket stub from every movie we ever saw while dating ... high school and college. All 30 some of them. Julianne would call that obsessive - ha :-) I call it sentimental :-)
I wouldn't necessarily say that Chris is a natural romantic, BUT he has his moments, for sure. For Valentine's Day 1997, he took me to Paris. He drove me around blindfolded, and we ended up at his house. He had made "french" bread pizza and salad with "french" dressing. He even had painted a picture of the Eiffel Tower and the French flag. Still have that Eiffel tower painting, actually....
Moving right along, though .... here is the receipt from our first date with Chris driving (keep in mind this was a little over a year after I got my license) :-) Good ole' Durangos!
I had to throw this picture in there, b/c of the "Uick" in the background .... my first car. It was a Buick w/o the "B". That car sure did get us around, though.

This picture was taken at summer camp Centrifuge. So much of our relationship revolved around church. It's where we met ... it's what we based our foundation upon (God, that is ... not the institution of church). Still do.
Chris and I found time to hang out in between football, wrestling, baseball, basketball, youth group, and other extra curricular activities. We went to homecomings and proms ... and talked for hours on the phone (right, Jenn)?! ;-) BUT ... then I graduated and left for college, and he was still a senior in high school, and it just wasn't right anymore. It was time for things to end. It really wasn't the most pleasant break up (but why go into that, right)?! This was my journal entry 3 days after we broke up ....
Like I mentioned, we didn't have the best break up, so we pretty much went from constant communication while dating to zero - no friendship, nothing. That was hard - because Chris and I hadn't only dated for 3 years, but we had been best friends for 8, so even though hindsight being 20/20 it was the best possible thing for our relationship in the long run, we didn't break up with a "dot dot dot" attached. It was final. In fact, thanks to my Mom, I still actually have that first love letter, b/c I was ready to dumpster it all - but she just packed it up and put it in the basement (thanks, Mom). There was no way that Chris and I would get back together. That's how we left it. Period. It's at least how I left it.
So, that's how it was. We didn't talk hardly at all my whole freshman year of college - maybe I would have an instant message from him every once in a while, but no real communication. He dated, I dated .... case closed. Then, my grandmother died in April 2000. I remember picking up the phone to call him, b/c he was the first friend I thought to call who would know how important Mema was to me, but before it rang on the other end, I hung up. What was I thinking??! I couldn't let him know that he was who I would call. Plus, I hadn't even had a real conversation with him for 7+ months. A few days after I got back from Mema's funeral, I had a letter from him in my mailbox. It basically just said he had heard my grandmother passed away and he knew how important she was to me, and he just wanted to let me know that he was thinking and praying for me and my family. That was all there was to it, but it opened up the door for our friendship again. Still, no intention of getting back together. That just kind of randomly happened. Chris was going to be leaving for the Naval Academy in June (aka JAIL), so there was no point in trying to start up a relationship again. Why would we want to add long distance to a college relationship? Obviously, the Lord had other plans for us, because some how it was just right. We decided days before he left that we would give the relationship one more shot, because we wouldn't want to ever look back with regrets. We basically both had an agreement that if it didn't work out, it didn't work out ... we weren't going to do the "on again off again" thing. It was either all or nothing. Thank goodness we gave it one more shot. I especially was pretty hesitant entering back into a relationship. BUT.... I'm sure glad I put the reservations aside, put my heart on the line ... and went for it :-)

Another peek into "romantic Chris". This was on an instant message conversation we were having while at our separate colleges. Apparently, I liked it enough to print it out .... and save it. Good ole' sentimental me ;-)
Then, his junior year and my senior year came around ... and the dreaded changes were staring me in the face. I was loving college, our long distance relationship was (and had been) working well, despite how frustrating dating someone at a military academy can be. What was my motto? Oh yes, "No plan is final until it's actually happening." Come to think about it, I'm pretty sure that's my military-life motto now, too :-) No one could ever say I wasn't prepared for this lifestyle. The below instant message he wrote to me at one of my "breaking points". Some plan had fallen through, and I was just feeling overwhelmed ... but honestly, when I read this, I realized that what we had was definitely worth fighting for - and no sport schedule or military academy was going to mess that up for us ;-)
Oooops, an out of order picture, but this was taken August 2000. This was right after Plebe Summer - and right before Chris started his first year at the Academy, so I was about to start my sophomore year at JMU.
Back to "real story" time, this was Ring Dance at the Academy, May 2003. Chris was finishing up his junior year, and I had JUST graduated from JMU. So, I guess I was in the "real world." I loved this dress, too - and it got ruined in our move from VA to California :-( I always thought it would be perfect to wear to a Marine Corps Ball .... I haven't been able to find one like it since (you know me with black and white = favorite)!
I graduated May 2003, started working for a contracting company supporting the FBI at Quantico, and Chris was about to start his last year at the Academy. We got engaged August 2003.... on a beautiful, summer evening :-)
I'm not sure WHAT we really were thinking/doing with these "engagement" pictures - or what I was wearing?!!! I posted it for the humor value, but if you have one of these in your house, PLEASE REMOVE asap. Thanks. Replace it with anything .... just destroy this picture :-) How young do we look, though, right?!
Wedding date was set for June 11, 2004. 2 weeks after Chris would graduate from the Naval Academy. We were going to make it all 4 years dating through the Academy ... talk about something that makes a relationship stronger. If you can make it through dating at the Academy when your boyfriend plays 2 sports, you're pretty much ready for anything (yes, even deployment ... although I would much rather NOT have done deployments or have to do any more) :-) I digress, though. I spent 10 months planning a wedding - and finally .... I was able to actually MARRY this man that I had grown up loving. Grown up loving. If it was ever evident that the Lord constructed a relationship, it was ours. I would need a whole blog to explain that, but trust me .... God led Chris to Allison way back when we were 9 and 10. So, on June 11, 2004, I was about to marry my best friend - literally my best friend! There is no one else ever that I could've imagined spending my life with .... and I THOUGHT I loved him back then. I didn't even know yet. It just keeps getting better....
Here are our wedding programs....
AND some wedding pictures (I really need to download more to my computer, though, b/c I'm pretty sure I post these same pictures every year). It rained on our wedding day - people will still mention that when the day is brought up .... how it just down poured. It's funny, though - I barely even remember ... not sure I even noticed. Nothing could've washed that SMILE off my face on that day.

My favorite favorite favorite picture of our wedding (and I was being lazy and not scanning it into the computer, which is why it's pretty blurry).
Honeymoon!!! Think another one needs to be planned for Anniversary #10.
So, honeymoon ended .... Chris is a Marine, I'm still working .... he coaches football at the Naval Academy for 6 months and then heads to TBS at Quantico for another 6 months.
May, 2005 .... about to finish TBS, and he comes home to tell me we have orders to 29 Palms, CA. Ummmm, where??? You know it's a bad sign when you're going to a place where your husband wants to drive you in at night so you can't fully see everything around you. BUT hey, I was ready for the adventure. Here is what we were passing for the last 2 hours before entering 29 Palms, CA. Desert, Desert, Desert .... nothing, nothing, nothing!
29 Palms was a huge adjustment, but a huge adventure. I wouldn't change 1 thing about getting stationed there. It stretched my INDEPENDENT self in ways I didn't even know I could stretch. When we left 29 Palms, Chris informed me he had been around for 6 months out of the 3 years we were there. Wow. So, pretty much all that time at the Naval Academy and all of that long distance had just been the Lord preparing me. Hmmm.
October 2006 ... this is moments before Chris hopped on a bus for his first deployment for Iraq. Talk about the worst day of your life. Blah! Let me hurry and just get to the homecoming....
I got these 2 days after Chris had left for Iraq. There wasn't a country song that didn't make me cry :-) BUT .... like everything else, even deployments are adventures, and I made lasting friendships throughout those 7 months. I spent 7 out of 7 evenings of the week with Danika and her boys. Since our husbands were both deployed, we had the flexibility to hang out all the time ... and we did ... and it made those 7 months - bearable. Besides the time period when Chris and I had broken up, this time frame was the worst communication we had ever had in all the years of knowing each other. I could go several weeks without so much as hearing anything from him. Ahhh, deployments - they STINK!!!!!
BUT let me tell you .... there is NO FEELING - NONE .... like the feeling of seeing your husband/loved one get off a bus SAFELY and walk into your arms. NOTHING like it. NOTHING. It was by far one of the best days of my life. April 29, 2007.
Then, of course came another one of the best days of my life..... 9 months later = Jake Adam Ashinhurst. He has brought a whole new wonderful element of adventure to our lives!
Chris deployed for his 2nd time 2 months after Jake was born. We went back to VA this time to spend time with grandparents while Daddy was gone. I wouldn't change that decision, either. I'm so glad both Jake and family had that time together - especially since we continue to be all over the place these days.
October 31, 2008 .... Chris came home from this deployment. Jake and I were back in California, and Jake was sick for the first time - and Chris got home at 3:30am. I hate to say it was a little more anti-climatic than the first time, but it was - mainly because our 9 month old was puking, it was the middle of the night, and he was supposed to have been home 8 hours earlier, so at this point.... you were just trying to stay sane. However, still so nice to see him walking my way SAFELY after being gone for 7 months. There are no words to describe how thankful and how proud I am of Chris .... for so many reasons (would need lots and lots of blog posts for that).
Jake getting re-introduced to Daddy....
Not sure what is going on with my hair here, but one of our first pictures together as a family after Chris got home from Iraq.
We immediately move from 29 Palms to Parris Island, SC.... and a year later, January 5, 2010 - enter Cole. My active, doesn't like to sleep, precious, precious COLE!
January 2010 .... one of our first family pictures at home.
And about a year and a half later .... here we are ... still in SC, but about to head on to our next adventure of Ft. Benning, GA.
I feel like I am living my fairytale. I'm married to the man of my dreams - who is perfect for ME! We are perfect for each other .... I feel like we balance each other out with our different strengths and weaknesses .... and we just enjoy doing life together. So, today marks 7 years being married, preceded by 7 years of dating .... and a total of almost 20 years of friendship. Hopefully our story is just in the beginning phases, though. Oh, how I can't wait to go on so many more adventure with this man. Just like I said at the beginning of this how when I was in 5th grade, I barely knew what LIKING someone meant, but I knew I had it for him ..... I imagine that when I'm 80, I'll be writing saying, "Back when I was 30, I LOVED this man .... even though I barely understood what Love meant back then." It sure does just keep getting better!

(ps. if you read all of this, you are a rock star. Now, go get a life.... haha - kidding)!

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