Thirty Years: A Marriage in Pictures

John and I were married thirty years ago today, at 12:30 p.m. to be precise.  To celebrate our anniversary and to reflect on what all those years have meant, I am sharing one picture from each year, with commentary.

August 12, 1989, as we emerged from Immaculate Conception Church in downtown Knoxville, immediately after the ceremony.  Like any newly married couple, we were starting a journey that we couldn’t have imagined or predicted.  We were 23 and 22 when this picture was taken.

April 1990, at the Tidal Basin in Washington, D.C.  John and I met at Georgetown University, and lived in Alexandria, Virginia just outside D.C. for most of our first year of marriage.  John, who graduated in 1988, was already working as a Federal Investigator and I found a job as Secretary of Georgetown’s Department of History.

Fall 1991.  A lot happened in a year and a half!  We learned we were expecting our first baby.  We decided to move to Knoxville to establish residency so John could attend the University of Tennessee College of Law.  We left good jobs in D.C. for no jobs in Knoxville and settled into a two-bedroom apartment,  I found a job as Secretary of the Liberal Arts Advising Center.  John worked in the UT Traffic Office by day and sold shoes at Proffitt’s (a local, now defunct department store) by night.  Emily was born in February 1991, and John started law school later that year.  We have never regretted this decision.

February 16, 1992, dressed to go out to celebrate our 5th dating anniversary.  We still celebrate that day every year.  At this point we were living on a combination of student loans and part-time jobs.  John was making fundraising phone calls for Tennessee Right to Life and I was the Foster Care Promotional Coordinator for Sertoma Learning Center.  Later that year John started working as a law clerk.  Childcare for Emily was cobbled together: my little sister watched her all summer, my grandmother helped once my sister was back in school, I brought her with me when possible, and she spent one day a week in a Parents Day Out downtown.  I hated having to leave her.

July 1993, New Orleans, where we were taking part in Katrice and Rico’s wedding.  Katrice was one of my best friends in high school.  She and Rico are godparents to our oldest son, and we celebrated their son’s college graduation with them earlier this month.  What I remember about this day is that I was hot and miserable and suffering from morning sickness.  John was getting ready to start his third year of law school and I was preparing to return to grad school and my Graduate Assistant position in the College of Liberal Arts.

May 1994, John’s graduation from law school! I love this picture.  We were very popular in law school because students with babies were rare and ours were spoiled by all our friends.  Jake was three months old when John graduated.  And he was four months old when we found out we were expecting another baby, just days before John took the bar exam.  Thankfully he passed and landed a job in Oak Ridge reviewing OSHA regulations shortly afterwards.  I was able to quit my job and have never worked outside the home since.

Easter 1995, a classic picture and one of my favorites of all time.  Teddy arrived when Jake was 12.5 months old.  He had only learned to walk about two weeks earlier.  Two babies at once were a lot to handle and most of that first year is a blur.

Christmas 1996.  We still had two babies in diapers (and two cribs!) but we also had our first house! A year in a dreadful two-and-a-half bedroom apartment after Teddy arrived spurred us onward to home ownership and we loved our sweet 1940s house in South Knoxville.

Halloween 1997.  The kids were two, three, and six.  They spent most of their time outside, and I spent a lot of time outside as well, having discovered a love of gardening.  By now John had his own solo practice, and I did (and still do) very part-time grant writing and editing for my mother’s non-profit organizing work.

February 4, 1998, John’s 32nd and Emily’s 7th birthday celebration.  Looking back now, those years of being overwhelmed by the needs of little kids seem like the golden years.  It was hard, but it was simpler.

February 1999.  The date is a guess, but this was taken at a restaurant at what was probably a birthday celebration and we have four of those at this time every year.  I make a lot of cakes for awhile!

January 2000, dressed for church.  Teddy’s hat came from a New Year’s Eve celebration John and I had attended at Club LeConte.

March 2001.  And then there were four!  The arrival of William was exciting but rough, as I had postpartum hypertension and had to remain in bed for about a month after he was born, with ten-year-old Emily taking care of her brothers when John was at work.  We were beginning to be very cramped in our 1400 square foot house and our Mercury Sable.  Both were replaced later in the year.

Christmas 2002.  When the big kids were little, every December meant a trip to the portrait studio for Christmas pictures to insert in our Christmas cards.  By this time I was taking a roll of film with my own camera and then sending triple prints.  The closest family members got the worst pictures!  Here the kids are standing in front of the house where we had lived for just over a year, a 3000 square foot Queen Anne Victorian built in 1889, in a non-gentrified but walkable neighborhood just a couple of miles from John’s office downtown.

August 2003, the big kids’ first day of school.  It was the last year they would all attend St. Joseph School together.  Jake was in third grade, Teddy in second, and Emily in sixth, but Jake and Teddy were both homeschooled for their fourth grade year.

November 2004, Lorelei’s first trip to church.  We didn’t know it then, but she would be our last baby and the last family member to get to wear John’s heirloom baby dress.

Christmas 2005 marked the end of a hard year that included periods of unemployment, financial difficulties, and John’s hospitalization.  Looking back now I can see that it was the only beginning of the most difficult period in our family’s life so far.

September 2006, celebrating my mother’s birthday.  This photo includes Ella and Zachary, my sister Anne’s children.  Ella is 17 months younger than William and Zachy is 17 months older, and they grew up playing together.

Spring 2007.  William is wearing his St. Joseph School uniform.  Kindergarten was his only year in Catholic school.  He spent the next year at the public school down the street, then was homeschooled for several years while I struggled to figure out why he wasn’t as easy to teach as Jake and Teddy had been.  We called the back stairs in our kitchen the “snack steps” because that’s where I would sit the little kids to eat something while I was cooking.  You can see evidence in this picture that our old house was starting to crumble a bit.

May 2008, Jake’s graduation from 8th grade, taken next to Holy Ghost Church.  We were all smiles, and very proud of Jake who graduated with straight A’s and won some academic awards, but I was putting on a brave face.  The day before this I was in the hospital undergoing outpatient surgery after having miscarried our last baby.

November 2009.  I’m not sure who snapped this picture of John and me the afternoon of our move into a new home.  It wasn’t a happy move, springing from financial necessity of being upside-down on the mortgage of our disintegrating but much-loved Victorian home.  But I love that the picture shows us supporting each other.

May 2010, Jake’s first prom.  I love this picture for the personality it shows, but also because it was a bright spot in an otherwise difficult stretch where John and Jake (who have a great relationship now) did not get along well at all.  Something else noteworthy about 2010 is that it is when I became John’s legal assistant, working from home to run his office.

September 6, 2011.  Our rental house had just burned down and we lost almost every material possession.  Thanks to the overwhelming kindness of our family and community, we were able to move into the home in which we still live three weeks later.

Fall 2012, Senior Night.  John and I are not athletic, and our kids showed no interest in sports until Teddy wanted to play football in 8th grade.  It was all new and exciting to us and we thoroughly enjoyed those few years as football parents.

May 2013, Emily’s college graduation.  Emily attended Spring Hill College in Mobile, Alabama, graduating with a degree in Creative Writing.  We thoroughly enjoyed our many visits to Mobile, where my mother’s family has roots, especially the seafood!  Just a couple of months later, we sent another kid off to college as Teddy began his freshman year at the University of Notre Dame.

August 12, 2014, a 25th anniversary selfie.  This was taken at Club LeConte, a fancy restaurant on the 27th floor of Knoxville’s tallest building.

July 2015, in a Chicago skyscraper more deserving of the name.  We were in town to attend a wedding and to visit Teddy, who was doing a summer internship there.

March 2016, a Spring Break trip to Chattanooga.  Traveling was starting to get easier.  On our last family trip with all five kids, we had to take two cars and book three motel rooms.

May 2017, Teddy’s graduation from Notre Dame.

March 24, 2018, our first wedding.  Jake and Jessica were married at Frozen Head State Park.  Six months later, they moved to Nashville.

July 2019, our first cruise.  We sailed on Royal Caribbean’s Grandeur of the Seas to Bermuda, in honor of our upcoming anniversary.  I haven’t blogged about the cruise but I plan to.  It was wonderful and we deserved it.

“[Love] is the unity that binds us all together, that makes this earth a family, and all men brothers and the sons of God.”  ~ Thomas Wolfe

Blessed Virgin Mary, Mother of Go

Mary, My Mother: Quotations and Images

blog hop may
A couple of years ago I started creating quotation images of the Blessed Mother to share on my blog’s Facebook page during the month of May.  I’ve been meaning to gather them into one post, and this month’s CWBN blog hop, with a theme of Mary, My Mother, is the perfect occasion for that.
All the photographs are mine, taken with my iPhone.
ve Maria, gratia plena!
This was taken at the grotto at Spring Hill College in Mobile, Alabama.  My oldest child, Emily, graduated in 2013.
Do not marvel at the novelty of the thing, if a Virgin gives birth to God.- Saint Jerome
This comes from the grotto at the University of Notre Dame.  Our middle son, Teddy, graduated in May 2017.  Some day I hope I can return to Lourdes to take some pictures of the original grotto.  The ones I took with my little Kodak camera in 1984 aren’t up to my current standards. 😉
Hail Mary, full of grace! The Lord is with you.
This statue is in the flowerbed in front of our house.  For some reason, my younger kids think that Mary likes to be decorated with lots and lots of handmade rosaries.
Behold the handmaid of the Lord. Let it be done unto me according to thy word.
We are not parishioners at All Saints, which is the closest church to our home, but we do enjoy walking there.  This statue is in their Marian garden right along the walking trail.
Bring flowers of the fairest, bring flowers of the rarest . . .
Another shot of our statue, which was originally a housewarming gift when we moved into our second home in December 2001.
“In trial or difficulty I have recourse to Mother Mary, whose glance alone is enough to dissipate every fear.”--Saint Therese of Lisieux
The picture in this photograph hangs in the art museum on the Notre Dame campus.
Always stay close to this Heavenly Mother.- St. Padre Pio
Emily gave me this icon for Christmas a couple of years ago.  I can’t even describe how much I love it.
Dear
We don’t have that sweet little kitten anymore, but the statue was one of the few things that survived our house fire in 2001.  It was far enough away from the house not to suffer any damage.
Do whatever He tells you.
This hangs on a wall in the student center at Notre Dame.
Hail, holy Queen, Mother of mercy, hail, our life, our sweetness and our hope.
I took this one in the garden of a downtown Dallas church when I was visiting my sister there.
Let us run to Mary, and, as her little children, cast ourselves into her arms with a perfect confidence.--Saint Francis de Sales
This picture of Lorelei and William was taken in our church basement many years ago when they were participating in a play during the annual Advent Workshop.
My soul magnifies the Lord.
Late summer in my garden.
Never be afraid of loving the Blessed Virgin too much. You can never love her more than Jesus did.”--Saint Maximilian Kolbe
This statue is also located in the art museum at Notre Dame.
Queen of the Angels, Queen of the May
The statue of the Blessed Mother at my own parish, Immaculate Conception, relocated from her usual spot for the annual May Crowning.
-She is more Mother than Queen.---Saint Therese of Lisieux
A detail from another picture from Notre Dame’s museum.
What a joy to remember that Mary is our Mother!- St. Therese de Lisieux
This is another view of the statue in the Marian garden at All Saints.
mary conceived without sin
I love this picture because of the icicles and snow, which I don’t often get a chance to photograph.
Let us then cast ourselves at the feet of this good Mother . . .- St. Bernard of Clairvaux
Another shot of Notre Dame’s grotto.  Don’t miss it if you ever visit the campus.
spring hill grotto
And finally, one last look at Our Lady of Spring Hill.
I will update this post as I create new images.  Do you have any special quotations about Mary that you would suggest?
This post is part of the CWBN Siena Sisters Blog Hop.  Please click the image below for more posts about Mary, My Mother.
siena-sisters
Blessed Virgin Mary, Mother of Go
And if you’ve scrolled down this far, here’s a video version!

Sweet Home Alabama

We took a whirlwind trip to Mobile, Alabama last weekend.  It was our last Family Weekend at Spring Hill College–Emily will graduate in May.  For the last four Octobers we’ve made (or some of us have, depending on who was available–I’m the only one who’s made all four) the 500 mile drive to spend some time with Emily, have fun at the events on campus, and explore a little bit of Mobile.
I’ve written about my family connection to Mobile before–it had kind of a mythical allure to me growing up, that place we came from.  My great-grandmother was born there, then migrated to Tennessee with her husband (whose family was from Kentucky).  My grandmother made frequent visits throughout her life, spending summers at the family home on the bay with cousins, bringing her own children for visits, and even into her later years heading down to see family and coming home with crabmeat to make gumbo.  So we were thrilled that Emily chose to go to school there, and welcomed the opportunity to get to know the area a little more on each of our visits.
This time around, besides enjoying seafood at Wintzell’s Oyster House and the Mariner (my favorite, that Emily and I discovered on my first visit there with her), out in the middle of nowhere (William loves it because of all the cats that live outside, fed by the owners on leftover seafood!), we went to see the USS Alabama.  This is something John had been wanting to do from our first visit.  I would never have thought of doing it myself, but WOW.

 

Talk about big guns!

 


We wandered the whole ship, above and below decks, and William especially was enthralled.
Afterwards, we had to make a stop at Magnolia Cemetery.  My great-great-great grandfather, a Confederate General, is buried there, and Emily wanted to recap the picture I took of her there four years ago.  Plus we all just love cemeteries, and this is a pretty cool one.
Emily on the gravestone of General James D. Hagan, her great-great-great-great grandfather.

 


Our trip did not have the best ending, what with our car starting to shake as though possessed, necessitating $500 worth of repairs and a six hour delay in leaving on Sunday while those were effected, but since we’ve had somewhat worse endings to vacations in the past, I’ll take it.

The Future Is in Her Hands

I recently wrote about how cool it is when your kid is good at something that you aren’t able to do at all.  But how about when your kid is BETTER than you at something you are pretty good at? 🙂
My family are writers from way back.  My mother has a journalism degree; a former journalist for the Catholic press, she’s tried her hand at everything from children’s books to plays to feature articles on a variety of topics.  Her great-grandfather was the founder of the Kentucky Irish-American newspaper.    I know there are more and if she’s reading this she will probably chime in!
I like to think I am a good writer.  I’ve been making up stories before I could write them down.  I was co-editor of my high school paper and won awards back in the day.  I churned out A papers throughout college and got an Honors degree in English.  I was a reporter and columnist for the Catholic press for many years.  I wrote some pretty good X-Files fanfiction a few years back.  And of course there is this blog.
But my daughter Emily is the real writer.  She writes all the time–it’s necessary to her.  She fills up notebooks with partial stories, lists of names for characters, character sketches, story ideas.  She’s written two entire short novels.  She’s majoring in Creative Writing and plans to go to graduate school to continue studying writing.  All she wants to do is write.  I have no doubt that she will be a published author some day.  She is amazing.

And I’m not the only one who thinks so, because last week she was awarded the Rev. Andrew C. Smith, S.J. Poetry Prize at the Honors Convocation at Spring Hill College, where she is a Junior.
I cried when I read the poem, which hit pretty close to home (you’ll see) especially considering what I had just written myself the day before.  But Emily doesn’t think it’s that great, and I had to beg her to let me publish it here.  If you disagree with her, please leave some love in the comments.

The Future is Out of Reach When I am Holding the Past in My Hands
Nothing turns my stomach like the acrid odor
Of charred photo albums
And the five waterlogged childhoods
Lying smeared and ashy within.
The leather of the albums cracks
Like a battered body,
Housing secret pain.
What the flames did not get to,
The hoses made short work of.
Scorched snapshots
Bleed ink and memories
That my mother cannot face.
Twenty-two years of marriage
A life
A family
And a history
Leak into the whorls of my fingerprints;
My newborn face
Grandmother’s blouse
The green of the hospital walls
Swirl together and muddy the waters
And stain the skin on my hands
Coloring my calluses
Losing this picture feels like losing her twice.
There is mildew on my first birthday card
And I could drown in all this roasted ink;
These charbroiled mementos
Of a time when we had no idea
what real suffering was.
I salvage the past two decades that no one else will touch.
Great-grandmothers grandfathers friends cats Christmas trees rocking horses china dolls wedding gowns school uniforms jack o’lanterns baptisms
Form a fine layer of ash beneath my fingernails.
My hands are black with what we’ve lost.

We were in Alabama over the weekend . . .

. . . but not to watch the big game. 🙁
No, we were in Mobile, at Spring Hill College, to visit Emily, our oldest, for Family Weekend.  Emily is a Junior, and some of us have attended the weekend each year, but this time it seemed especially important for us to be together, since she has not been with us during the recent trials and tribulations.
John in particular felt nervous about leaving our new home considering what happened the last time we went out of town, but I convinced him, and we took Lorelei along as well.  And we had a great time.  It was the nicest weather we’ve ever experienced at Spring Hill, which was a balmy 102 the first time I set foot on its campus!  The highs were in the 70s and it was sunny but breezy.
There are some planned activities that are part of the weekend but most of our fun was spontaneous:  A trip to Target to shop with some of our gift cards at a place with a lower sales tax, dinner at Felix’s Fish Camp, dessert at Yolo–where we were surprised with free cupcakes to go with our frozen yogurt, afternoon coffee and cider at Carpe Diem, visiting the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception downtown.
The highlight of the trip for Lorelei–who hung on Emily like an affectionate parasite the entire time we were there–was probably spending two nights with Emily in the dorm.  But for the rest of us it was certainly the two hours we spent at the Book Nook, the little used book store in the basement of the college library.  Emily told us she had a surprise for us on campus.  What can I say–she knows what we like!
I started at one end and made my way mostly around the whole store.  We each had our own approach.  John was looking for all new books.  I was replacing the classics–not all of them, but the ones I just KNOW I will be wanting to read again–The Canterbury Tales, David Copperfield, Jane Eyre, Wuthering Heights, Little Women, to name a very few.  Emily was replacing some that she had lost and finding others that had been on her list to read.  Lorelei was poring over picture books, mostly about animals.
Soon the four elderly ladies and the one college boy who volunteer at the store noticed we were getting quite a big stack of books.  They were hysterical, by the way, talking about books and politics in their Alabama accents and teasing the boy who they said works there because they are so good looking.  It was kind of an intellectual Steel Magnolias vibe.  Of course I told them why we needed all these books, knowing instinctively that they would understand the tragedy of our loss.  In the end, we had a plastic container (which they gave us, and had the young man carry to the car) about three feet long and two feet deep full of books, which they sold to us for half-price–$75.  It was a good afternoon in a good weekend.
And everything and everyone at home was fine when we came back. 🙂

In the campus Grotto

At Felix’s Fish Camp

Lorelei thinks she’s a college girl

Sunday Mass at St. Joseph’s Chapel on campus

A beautiful morning on campus