I’ve been thinking about what to say to you on this day for quite some time, and what better way than for all the world to see. What was I thinking – my first blog entry I’ve ever written, and I’ve chosen the very special topic of recounting our lives together over the last thirty years. No pressure, right?
To think it began in a small neighborhood called Gentilly Woods were we both grew up on the same street. It was a great place to grow up and we had a unique neighborhood like none other.
We started dating in our junior year of high school. You were looking for a date for the Brother Martin Homecoming Dance on November 4, 1978. You had asked two other girls in the neighborhood that could not go, and then you asked me. I had just broken up with my first boyfriend 8 months prior, so I was ready for something new. Here we are 35 years later, and the old saying “third time’s a charm” still rings true! We had so many great memories from our high school years, but the one that stands out most to me is your graduation and my senior prom falling on the same night. It was a long day of celebrating and it stormed cats and dogs, but we still had a blast together. The memories of our blossoming love from those early days are moments I remember fondly all these years later. I think of where we were then and where we are today, and I am so grateful for every moment we have had together, through thick and thin.
The hardest part of our dating years was when you decided to attend The Art Institute of Houston for college, and I stayed closer to home at Nicholls State. You were gone at school for two years and only came home for two weeks over Christmas break. The challenge of the distance between us over that time taught us both what it really meant to be committed to another person. We learned the true meaning of trust. At that time, I believed with all my heart that if you and I were meant to be, God would give us strength to get through those days apart. We were planning for our future together and that was a significant sacrifice we chose for ourselves at such a young age. It was well worth the wait!
I remember when we started to talk about getting married and picking out rings. You told me if I wanted to go ring shopping, then I needed to let my nails grow. I have always bitten my nails so I was determined to make it happen before you were home over Christmas break. I worked hard at letting my nails grow and when you came home, we went looking at rings but didn’t buy anything. I think that was all part of your plan to find out what shape and kind of ring I liked and then you would pick out the ring without me.
You graduated from the Art Institute in May of 1982 and that Christmas is when we got engaged. I can’t remember the exact date when you proposed (shame on me!) but I do remember it was a beautiful afternoon and we decided to spend the day in the French Quarter. After the fact, you told me you thought about taking a horse and buggy ride to propose, but you were afraid you would be too nervous and drop the ring! Instead we walked to Jackson Square and just sat in the grass watching the people stroll by all around us, taking in the sights and sounds of the Quarter.
The moment of all moments you decided to propose, you began to talk to me. I was listening to you but really didn’t know what you were trying to do because I was clueless as to what was about to happen. There was also a wedding going on at the Cathedral that day and as soon as I saw the bride’s limo pull up to the front of the church, I was distracted with watching her before she walked down the aisle. You were ever so patient with me, as you always are, and decided to go with the flow and let me enjoy watching the bride get out of the limo and walk into the church. Once the bride was inside, I turned my attention back to you, and there you were down on one knee asking me to be your wife!
After the first year of school, I decided that college really wasn’t for me and came home to work and plan our wedding. I knew all I really wanted was to be a wife and mother and support you in whatever you wanted to do in your career. I thank you for acknowledging that being and wife and mother is just part of who I am and for always encouraging me to do whatever makes me happy. For your support and never-ending belief in me, I am forever grateful.
We decided to set the date for April 30, 1983. We thought April was a special month because it was the same date your parents had married and also the same month that my parents were married. I was 22 and you were 23. We were young and in love, but we knew we were making a commitment before God and our families, for better or worse. We picked St. Stephen’s Church because of the old stained glass windows and the beautiful altar, and our reception was at The Balcony. I remember it being such a perfect day to get married, with one major snafu. There was a terrible car accident on the interstate just before the ceremony, and I was caught in traffic trying to get to the church. In an age of no cell phones, there was no way to tell you where I was. Luckily I arrived at the church only ten minutes late, just in time to meet you at the end of the aisle. We honeymooned in Disney World (if I could do that over again I would go to Hawaii) because Disney was the place for all young newlyweds to visit in those days.
Sometime during your second year in college, your dad decided he was going to open a flower shop because you had worked for a florist during high school. He thought it might be something you would like to do and supplement your job with the graphic designer. So, he started the business in August 1983 and in October 1984 Bee’s Flower Shop opened its doors in New Orleans East. You worked both jobs for about a year and then decided to start full time working with your dad and doing freelance graphic design at night.
We’ve had many things happen – both good and bad – that have affected us both as individuals and brought us closer together as a couple. The years we spent trying to get pregnant were a struggle for both of us. We learned the kind of commitment it took not to just be married but to stay married. Marriage is hard work, and this struggle taught us how to support each other emotionally during difficult times. It brought us so close. We had always talked about having 3 children and in the first years of our marriage we were praying to be blessed with being able to conceive. I remember when I found out we were pregnant, I wanted to tell you in a special way. I found a scrub shirt that said “Coach” with the face of a baby on it. When you got home that day I had the shirt on with a pillow stuffed underneath so I had a belly, and you were so surprised when you walked into the room! I had seen the shirt when I was going back and forth for fertility treatments at the hospital. What a blessing it was to be able to finally share the good news with you!
On February 13, 1987 we were blessed with our son, Justin Matthew, which means “gift from God.” He was our first blessing. You were excited to be in the delivery room, but I also remember seeing how nervous you were at the same time. The doctor informed us I had to have a C-section because of my blood pressure (so much for the Lamaze classes we went to). When Justin was born, you were able to wheel the incubator out into the hall to show our family. That is one of my favorite pictures of you from that day because I was able to see your face and everyone’s reaction even though I was still in the surgery room. You were so proud that day, and watching you grow as a father to our three children has made me love you more every single day. I could not dream of a better man to raise our children with than you.
Our family would suffer the first of many tragedies in November of that same year. My dad had a heart attack and passed away. I can remember it like it was yesterday. Justin was just 9 months old, and you were so strong for me and my family. You were then and have always been a solid foundation for me when I needed you most. With all of the challenges and losses we have experienced through the years, I can only hope that I have been as strong for you as you were for me at that time.
The first few years of our marriage, we lived in an apartment in New Orleans East and you worked in graphic design while I was a Tupperware Sales Manager. We moved after the first year to another apartment in Metairie. Within the first 8 years of our marriage we had moved into 5 different places, and the last one was in Harahan behind a restaurant. When I became pregnant with our second child I said to you, “I am not bringing this child home to this place! We need to look for our own house.” You jokingly said, “Find me a house in Old Metairie with a pool.” I said ok so the hunt began – you gave me a challenge and I rose to the occasion! Little did you know I would actually find that house. We put in an offer, said it would be our “starter home” and renovate it piece by piece over the years. Our second son, Jeremy was born on April 16, 1991 and Justin was 4 at the time. Today we are still in that “starter home” and all of the memories we have made in that home over the years I wouldn’t trade for the world.
By the time Jeremy was one year old we had decided to start trying for number 3. Eight months later we found out we were pregnant again! Of course, everyone was saying maybe this one will be your girl, but we were not going to find out before the baby came. We didn’t know for the other two and we were not going to spoil the surprise by doing it this time. Our baby girl was born on August 23, 1993 and we named her Kayla, the name that we had picked out from the very beginning of our journey to begin our family. Her 2 big brothers were so excited and they were both there when she came into this world. Justin was 6 ½ and Jeremy was almost 2 ½. This day was a blessing because we became a completed family, you received your baby girl, and her brothers got a sister that they will protect for many years to come. I received the girl I could show how to be the baby of the family since I am the baby of my family and was always told I was spoiled rotten!
The memory that brings back so many funny stories that we still talk about today is when you surprised me for our 10th anniversary. You had wrapped 10 presents and placed them all on my nightstand for me to see 10 days before our anniversary. You had written a note that said, “Open one for each day.” They weren’t expensive things but they all told a story. The last gift I opened on the tenth day was a peach dress with a note that I was to be dressed and ready by 3:00. I had no idea what you had planned but I was so excited! You had arranged everything that night, even asking my mom to watch the kids. I had no idea what you had in store for me. To my surprise, we started our journey by going to 4:00 mass at St. Stephens, the church where we started our lives together. Then you drove me to a house in Biloxi for the night. When we arrived at the house and got to the room, there were flowers with a card and the envelope said “Father Ryan.” I turned around and asked you, “Is a priest coming to renew our vows?” You started laughing so hard and I didn’t understand. You said, “The name of the house is ‘The Father Ryan House,’ a bed and breakfast in Biloxi.”
We had a wonderful time on the coast and still talk about that weekend. From that day forward we started a new tradition that on the even years of our anniversary, you would plan the day and the odd years I would plan what we would do. This year I’m stepping in on your ”even year,” trying to catch you off-guard and surprise you with this heartfelt post.
Once the kids were all in school, I decided to help out more at the flower shop. You were growing the wedding business for the shop while I would help with weddings on the weekends, and during the week we spent time preparing for all the weddings. In 2001 your dad decided he was ready to retire and wanted to know if I wanted to learn the accounting side of the business. That is how I became the money end of the business to complement you as the designer. Pops taught me all the parts of his job, and the new journey of us working together 9 to 5 began. I must say it was not as smooth as we’d hoped, but we learned early on that we needed to support each other in the roles we had in this new adventure as business partners for sure. It is a different ballgame from making a marriage work. We gradually learned which qualities and talents we each brought to building this business now as full owners of the company.
Our faith would be tested August 23, 2005 when Hurricane Katrina would hit New Orleans. The storm arrived on Kayla’s birthday and right before a weekend when we had 5 weddings booked. We had just moved Justin up to college in Lafayette 2 weeks before. I can remember when we were packing the car with what we thought we needed (and, of course, as many Rubbermaid containers with all our pictures stored safely inside). I wanted to take our crucifix that hangs right above the light switch at the entrance of our house, and you said, “No! It stays right there to protect our home like he always has in the past.” Then you said in a quick prayer, “Please, God, one or the other but please, not both.” You were asking God to protect our family home and our flower shop, and pleading with him not to destroy both. With that, we shut the door behind us and headed to Houston not knowing what we would return to.
As fate would have it, God protected our home but not the shop. After the storm, you decided to focus on weddings and eliminate the retail business. We renamed our company Bee’s Wedding & Event Designs. After being a retail shop for 21 years, it was your dream to only do weddings that you had developed in the business since you began. In a way, losing the location that the shop was in during the hurricane was God’s way of answering your prayer as we walked out of our home that day.
It will be 8 years this August since the hurricane hit NOLA, and I can say you are happier now than you have ever been working in the wedding industry. Our studio has blossomed and we have grown in leaps and bounds as business partners. We have both loved working with people and seeing many brides’ dream weddings come to life! It is so rewarding and exciting to know that you have been a part of someone else’s dream. For that I am grateful to have been a part.
For our 25th anniversary we decided to renew our vows. Since we were not going to Hawaii because Justin wanted to study abroad in Italy, we decided to have a luau in my mom’s backyard. We had planned the whole thing to take place on April 26, 2008. The day started out very nice, but of course “April showers bring May flowers.” You had talked me into getting a tent that day because of the weather, and I am so glad you did! Like the day of your graduation and my senior prom, it rained cats and dogs! It was like a lake in the backyard, but even with that all of the guests we had invited showed up. The only person not there was my mom, sadly, because she had passed away the year before. It was dark for the ceremony, so Justin held his cell phone so we would have light to read our vows. The last line of mine: “Today I think about the years yet to come and I have chosen to love you for a lifetime;” and yours, “My heart is open and my soul rejoices for today. We continue to be one.”
One of my favorite surprises from the last thirty years was planning your 50th Birthday without you knowing. Working together at the shop really made that hard to do, but I found way by working late at the office to find the perfect place to take you. Your birthday seems to always fall during Thanksgiving week and I have felt that you really never had your own special day. Well, boy did I pull one on you! I had been online searching all week and found a great deal on Tuesday of the same week and booked it for us to leave that Friday. You had no clue I had given you your present to pack a bag for 5 days but didn’t tell you where we were going. I wanted it to be a surprise up until Uncle Donald asked me Thanksgiving day while we were in the kitchen where I was taking you and I said San Francisco. When I turned around, you were standing in the doorway and heard it. You were so excited!
The highlight of that trip was a bus tour to Yosemite National Park where we had always talked about going because we love to hike. It was a great bus ride seeing all the country side as we went up the mountain to Yosemite. Looking out the window of the bus on our way up, I could see snow on the tops of the cars. I was so excited I grabbed you to see out and you couldn’t believe it. We were like 2 kids that had never seen snow before. Needless to say we were not going to hike that day. We ate lunch at the lodge and then we just walked around taking pictures. We both said we have to come back with the kids to camp and enjoy the national park even if it doesn’t snow when we go. I am so looking forward to that trip!
Just this past weekend while we were at brunch to celebrate our 30th a few days early, I was so happy to hear you say that this surprise trip had been the best thing we have done and it will be hard to top it! You made me feel so glad that I did it without you knowing and that means a lot. So now it is your turn to top it! (zoom-zoom)
As we approach our next 30 years together as husband and wife, I can truly say with all my heart that our marriage has blessed us with 3 wonderful children, tried us through working together to build a successful business, surprised us by how far we have come, shaken us with trials and tribulations, and changed us all for the better. The one thing it hasn’t done is destroy us. It is my daily decision to live each day in love with the man that God has blessed me with as my husband. I am not saying it has been easy – by no means! Marriage takes work, compromises and a wiliness to admit when you are wrong and make it right. To know that the promise we made before God to love honor and cherish till death do us part is being kept by both of us is a true testament of our commitment. Something that we have decided to show our children what a meaningful and true marriage is all about. I pray that God will allow us to grow old together, stay in good health be blessed to see our children marry and play with our grandkids.
Happy 30th Anniversary my Love!
All My Love/All My Life