Thirty-two Years and Counting

Today Steve and I celebrate thirty-two years of marriage.  We started dating as our high school graduation approached and married one week after graduating from college.

This is what we looked like in our dating days (circa 1980).

The boy I fell in love with
The boy I fell in love with
Me way back then
Me way back then

Our family grew in 1985 with the birth of our son Chris and expanded again in 1987 when our twins, Jon and Matt, were born.

The family in 1989
The family in 1989

We took our first cruise in 2006 to celebrate our twenty-fifth anniversary.  With us in the picture is our amazing server Virginia.

Celebrating our 25th anniversary with a Caribbean cruise
Celebrating our 25th anniversary with a Caribbean cruise

In recent years our family has grown rapidly as both twins married and became parents.

Our family today (Christmas 2012)
Our family today (Christmas 2012)

God has truly blessed us and our family.  We are grateful that God is the head of our household and that we can look back together on thirty-two incredible years as a family. We can’t wait to see what the coming years hold.  Through the good and bad, we will face all of life’s challenges together with God’s help.

Happy Anniversary, Steve.  I love you with all my heart!

Celebrating 30 years in 15 days: Days 13 and 14–Moose and Caribou and Bears, Oh My!

 

For days as we traveled around Alaska, we had watched for moose.  We had seen lots of evidence of moose in the area (moose droppings) but no moose.  That all ended as soon as we arrived in Denali.  As we drove into the park we were greeted by a moose at the entrance.  We stopped the car and headed a bit nearer for a better look, staying a safe distance away–we thought.  A ranger alerted us that we were in fact to close for comfort and warned us to stay at least 75 feet away.

We were greeted by this moose upon our arrival in Denali.
 
Susan and the first moose of our trip.

After a few minutes of munching on shrubs, the moose wandered off and we continued our trip into Denali.  We were expecting to see wildlife as we drove the 15-miles that tourists are allowed to travel into the park; however, nothing prepared us for the sight of a grizzly bear walking down the road toward us.  Steve stopped the car and took pictures as the bear meandered by the car.  He was nearly close enough that Steve could have reached out the window and petted him as he walked by.  We held our breath and prayed that he wouldn’t decide to attack the rental car.  Fortunately, he had no interest in us and kept going on his way.

Grizzly bear walking down the road toward us.
We had a close encounter with this grizzly bear.
 

We continued on our way but didn’t get far before we saw more cars stopped.  In the field were three caribou.

Caribou in Denali
 
 

On our way out of the park we passed a couple more moose.  After seeing so much wildlife on our own, we weren’t certain that we really needed to get up at 4:30 in the morning for our 8-hour tour which started at 5 a.m.  But thankfully we did get up and go on the tour.  During our tour we saw several more bears and caribou as well as Dall sheep, Arctic hare, and a marmot.  It would have been perfect had our bus not broken down. We ended up sitting for nearly 2 hours until another bus could be dispatched to rescue us.  It was a long day, but all-in-all it was a wonderful day spent in a great nature preserve.

This Dall sheep seem to want to hitch a ride on our tour bus.
Another sighting of a grizzly bear.
 
Mt. McKinley, as viewed from Denali National Park 30 miles away.
 

Celebrating 30 years in 15 days: Days 11 and 12–Talkeetna

After two days in Seward we  headed north to Talkeetna, passing through Anchorage on the way.  The drive from Seward to Anchorage was beautiful, with waterfalls, rivers, and amazing views everywhere we looked.

Upon arrival in Talkeetna, we took a plane flight for a better view of Mt. McKinley.  Steve was permitted to ride in the co-pilot’s seat.  Our plane landed on the Kahiltna Glacier near Mt. Foraker and dropped off supplies for climbers preparing to ascend Mt. McKinley.  The glacial ice showing through the snow was a brilliant blue.

Brilliant glacial ice
Base camp for climbers preparing to ascend Mt. McKinley.

Talkeetna was my favorite of all the towns we visited.  It was filled with locally-owned shops and restaurants. I enjoyed shopping for handmade items created by local residents.  Among my purchases were a seal skin thimble, salmnberry jam, and a birchbark candle.  We ate at The Roadhouse, which was featured in an episode of ‘Man versus Food.’

Steve's blueberry pancake was larger than his plate.
Sunrise at Talkeetna, about 3 a.m.
We stayed at the beautiful Talkeetna Alaskan Lodge.

Celebrating 30 years in 15 days: Days 9 and 10–Seward

Our cruise ended in Seward, Alaska.  While there we visited Exit Glacier, went on a dog sled ride at Iditaride Dog Sleds, and toured Resurrection Bay.  While hiking up the mountain to get close to the Glacier, we encountered a jack rabbit and saw evidence that moose were in the area.  Unfortunately, we did not see a moose in Seward.

Me at Exit Glacier, Seward, Alaska.

Mitch Seavey, winner of the 2004 Iditarod, trains dogs in Seward and owns  Iditaride Dog Sled Rides.  I first heard of Mitch when his nephew and nieces were my students at Fredericksburg Christian High School.  It was neat to visit their training facility and, we had a blast being pulled on a wheeled 6-person cart by a team of their racing dogs.  Afterwards we got to play with the puppies.

Iditaride Dog Sleds, Seward, Alaska
View from the dog cart
Steve and me on the dog sled
 
The puppies were adorable.
 
Our tour of Resurrection Bay took place on a chilly day.  The animals were out in full force, however.  We saw several mountain goats, including two mothers with twin babies, puffins, dolphins, a sea otter, and numerous sea lions on the rocks.  We lunched on grilled salmon and king crab.
 
Sea lions in Resurrection Bay
Mountain goat and twin babies

Celebrating 30 years in 15 days: Days 6 – 8–Juneau, Skagway, and Hubbard Glacier

Cruising the Inside Passage, there were magnificant sights everywhere we looked.  Whether  it was the snow-capped mountains on both shores or humpback whales swimming passed the ship, I could not help but thank God for His wondrous creation. 

Inside Passage between Icy Point Strait and Juneau

In Juneau we went to a salmon bake in a beautiful, remote setting.  The salmon grilled on the open fire pit was delicious.  The waterfall and river were stunning. 

 

This was our view at the salmon bake.
 
 
 
Waterfall in Juneau

 

   We also took a tram ride and were greeted with incredible views.  We ended our day in Juneau by visiting Mendenhall Glacier.  What a glorious day in Alaska’s capital city!
Mendenhall Glacier
 
Skagway was exactly what I envisioned when I thought of a typical small Alaskan town.  The town flourished during the gold rush days.  Today it boasts a year-round population of 902.  We spent the morning roaming through shops owned by the local residents.  In the afternoon we took a van tour through the mountains and into Canada.  We passed more hundreds of waterfalls.
 
Skagway
 

Steve and I at the Canadian-Alaska border near Skagway
 
There aren’t words to describe the immensity of Hubbard Glacier.  We were several miles from the glacier when we began to pass the large chunks of ice that had broken from it.  The captain brought our ship to within 2 miles of the massive glacier.  Even from that distance, it was impressive.  It was impossible to get a feel for how far away we were or of the glacier’s massive size.  A ship’s officer told me that the portion of the glacier visible above the water was twice the height of our 12 -deck ship.
 
Chunks of ice from the Hubbard Glacier
 
Hubbard Glacier

Celebrating 30 years in 15 days: Day 5–Whales, Whales, Whales

Whales at Icy Point Strait, Alaska

We spent Day 5 of our 30th anniversary trip at Icy Point Strait.  We visited the fishing village of Hoonah and ate fresh snow crab before embarking on a whale watching trip. What a glorious day!  As you can see from Steve’s pictures, the ship captain knew where to find whales.

 
We spotted whales by looking for the spray from their blow holes.

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Two whales surface together.

 

Celebrating 30 years in 15 days–Days 2 – 4: Inside Passage and Ketchikan

The cruise got underway on a beautiful clear Friday afternoon 10 days ago.  We sailed out of Vancouver and headed north toward Ketchikan.  Steve and I spent much of the first two days searching for telltale signs of whales.  We saw a few dolphins and some seals, but no whales.

 
View of Vancouver from the ship

 

Beautiful Alaskan coastline

On Sunday we docked in Ketchikan.  We spent the morning walking around this quaint gold mining town.  We ate fresh king crab for lunch before taking in the Lumber Jack show.

 
Creek Street, Ketchikan, Alaska
Me and the American lumberjack team
 

Celebrating 30 years in 15 days–Day 1: Vancouver

Steve and I are in the midst of a 15-day trip to Canada and Alaska in celebration of our 30th wedding anniversary.  So far Steve has taken 782 pictures.  I promise I won’t post them all, but I will share a few of my favorites. 

We began our trip last Thursday by flying to Vancouver, Canada, by way of Chicago.  I’ve heard horrors stories about O’Hare; however, our experience was wonderful.  We arrived 30 minutes ahead of schedule and more than our hour before boarding began for our flight to Vancouver.  We had plenty of time for the short walk to the gate and to get some breakfast.  We arrived in Vancouver shortly before noon local time.  We had a bit more than 24 hours to explore Vancouver before boarding the cruise ship that would take us to Alaska.

Vancouver skyline from our hotel room window

Vancouver is a beautiful city, with a mix of hundred-year old buildings and new, modern skyscrapers.  The city is very clean, and they take their recycling seriously.  Steve got fussed at for not properly deciphering the instructions on a series of recycling bins at the McDonald’s where we ate breakfast Friday.

After checking into the hotel, we ate lunch at an authentic Irish pub a block from our hotel, and then bought a pass for a “hop on, hop off” bus tour around the city.  Because we bought our ticket late in the afternoon, we were allowed to use it the following day.  We stayed on the bus for both of its routes Thursday, and on Friday we took the bus to Stanley Park.

River Walk at Stanley Park, Vancouver, Canada

We hopped off at the first stop in Stanley Park intending to spend 30 minutes exploring the area before hopping back on and riding to the next stop.  Things do not go as planned.  We walked about half a mile downhill to visit Beaver Lake, then we decided that we did not want to walk back up the hill to catch the bus. Rather we decided to walk to the next stop.  Thirty minutes later with the stop nowhere in sight, we realized that our reasoning had been faulty.  We  eventually made it to the stop, having walked about 3 miles through the park. 

3 nurse trees growing from one stump, Stanley Park

Stanley Park is beautiful, and I highly recommend spending time there if you have an opportunity to visit Vancouver.  We were particularly intrigued by the nurse trees which root themselves in dead tree stumps.

Our hotel was located next to Canada Place where the 2010 Winter Olympics medals were handed out and about 2 blocks from the Olympic cauldron.  We visited the site and made a quick trip to the Canadian Mountie store before boarding the ship.

 

Olympic cauldron
 
 

Canadian Mountie store

We were off for our Alaskan adventure! 

 

Valentine’s Day Reflection on Meeting the Love of My Life

Celebrating our 25th anniversary with a Caribbean cruise

I had lunch after church yesterday with the love of my life.  As I sat across from my husband in the booth at one of our favorite restaurants, it occurred to me that we had been coming to this restaurant for 33 years.  The memories of eating fish, fries, coleslaw, and hush puppies here together go all the way back to our freshman year of college.  They’ve remodeled the restaurant a time or two and tweaked the menu, but it’s in the same spot and I’m still coming with the same guy.

I vividly remember the first time I met Steve.  It was early October 1975, our junior year of high school. I was the vice-president of the French club and in that capacity I had to help select the cast for the annual French club play.  The French teacher, Madame Dameron, had chosen a musical—The Pale Pink Dragon.  I remember that some of the characters were turned into bears by a dragon. I was assigned to be in charge of costumes and spent many hours dyeing thermal underwear brown, making papier-mâché bear heads, and creating a dragon costume.

On the first day of tryouts, a large number of students showed up.  Most of the would-be actors read a scene from the script and sang briefly a cappella.  Some were quite good and others were, well let’s just say, not so good. Near the end of the first day, it was Steve’s turn to audition.  He was new in school, and I had never seen him before.

Steve’s was kind of cute, but he was not, at first glance, my type. He looked like a hippie with long straight hair that fell below his shoulders.  He wore blue jeans with holes in the both knees, a white Mickey Mouse teeshirt, and a plaid longsleeve flannel shirt. I wasn’t really interested until he picked up his guitar. He had my full attention as he strummed the guitar and sang.  He was, of course, cast in the play.  I remember giving him a pattern and material and telling him to have his mother sew his costume, a long hooded robe.  He said she couldn’t as she didn’t have a sewing machine.  I made his costume myself.

The remainder of the year, Steve and I had little interaction.  Senior year, however, we were seated beside each other in physics class.  We got to know each other better as we flirted on a field trip to D.C. and helped each other with physics homework.  Steve was shy and the year was almost over before he got up the nerve to ask me out. Once he did, I knew he was that special person God had for me. 

When people ask us how long we’ve been “together” Steve always says it’s been since the French club play while I count from our first date in April 1977.  Either way, we are well into our fourth decade as a couple.  In a few months we will celebrate our 30th wedding anniversary. 

As we ate our lunch, I thought about how special it is to have met the love of my life when we were only 17.  We share a lifetime of memories from high school graduation through college and graduate school to starting a family.  Our three sons were raised in a stable home with parents who loved them and each other unconditionally. Last summer we had the wonderful experience of becoming grandparents.  We look forward to making new memories with our precious grandson.

We don’t know what future God has in store for us.  We do know that God will be with us each step of the way and that we will be here for each other “for as long as we both shall live.”  Happy Valentine’s Day, Sweetheart.  I love you with all my heart.

Christmas Eve Anniversary

My parents celebrated their 55th wedding anniversary on Friday.  They were married on Christmas Eve and celebrated Christmas with their families the next morning before leaving for their honeymoon. 

Getting married on Christmas Eve makes it easy to remember the date, but it makes a romantic celebration nearly impossible.  The last time I remember my parents going out to dinner on their anniversary is the year I was eleven.  They were home early and declared they would never attempt it again.  Few restaurants are open on Christmas Eve, and even fewer have employees who are happy about having to work that night.

My parents had nine children born over a 21-year period.  Consequently, their Christmas Eve activities for the first thirty years or so typically involved wrapping Christmas presents, assembling bikes and other toys, and baking pies for Christmas dinner.  Their anniversary was almost an afterthought in all the chaos of Christmas, but they always took a few moments to exchange gifts and express their love for each other.

Christmas Eves are a bit calmer for them these days. More restaurants are open, but they still don’t go out on their anniversary.  They prefer instead to have a quiet celebration surrounded by their children and grandchildren.  They celebrated their anniversary this year with four of their children and three of their grandchildren present.  My sister and I brought the food, so Mom was spared the chore of cooking dinner on their anniversary.

I am grateful that my parents’ marriage has withstood the many challenges life has brought their way, including the death of one child and my father’s 26-year career in the U.S. Marine Corps.  I am thankful that my parents are both active and healthy and can look forward to many more anniversaries.  But most of all, I am eternally grateful that many years ago my parent’s committed their lives to Jesus Christ and made Him the center of their marriage.