In my favorite poem by Robert Frost, Nothing Gold Can Stay, he reminds us that like the seasons of nature, life is one season melting into another, and quickly fading away. This is my attempt to document each season in my life and my family.

Our Honeymoon

Filed under: Family,Love,Marriage,Matthew,Me,Our Love Story,Photos,Trips — Rachel at 9:47 am on Sunday, August 2, 2015

Matthew and I got married on May 24 of last year, but didn’t go on a honeymoon then for several reasons. The biggest reason was Matt was gone for a month of our summer for the Army. The second biggest reason was financial. After paying for a wedding, we didn’t want to go into debt to take a honeymoon. So, we waited a year, saved some money, and, in July, we went on a belated honeymoon/one year anniversary trip. It was incredible!

We flew to San Juan, Puerto Rico where we boarded the Carnival Liberty and set sail for the islands of the Caribbean.

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Our first Port of Call was in St Thomas, US Virgin Islands! We had a really good time in St Thomas. We took an ocean kayaking and snorkeling tour. We kayaked through the mangroves, hiked around a protected island, and went snorkeling. On our hike, we got to see some really interesting things. I held a small sea urchin in my hand, and we raced hermit crabs. When we snorkeled, we saw several types of fish, including a barracuda.

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Our second day was an At Sea day. We spent most of our time lounging on the Serenity Deck, which is the 21 and over area. We had a hammock that we ended up on nearly ever day, and the best hot tubs were on that deck. We loved lying together on the hammock, reading our books and sipping our drinks.
It was also our first elegant night, and I enjoyed dressing up with my man!

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After our elegant dinner, we went to change before the comedy show and found this Towel Bat hanging in our room!

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Our second Port of Call on our third day was Barbados. We loved Barbados! We didn’t book an excursion, but had a beach day instead. Barbados has beautiful beaches with crystal clear water. It was so clear, in fact, I was standing neck deep in the water and noticed a huge starfish lying on the bottom about four feet away from me. We had a lot of fun snorkeling. We found two starfish, and took lots of pictures with Matt’s new GoPro camera he bought for the trip.

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Our fourth day brought us to our third Port of Call…St Lucia. I had been looking forward to St Lucia more than the other islands, because Matt told me he had a surprise planned for my birthday at St Lucia. I had no idea whatsoever about what we were doing. When we got off the boat, we took an hour and a half taxi ride to our destination. The ride itself was great, because it was like a tour of a large part of the island. We saw everything from banana plantations to fishing villages to the peaks of the Pitons on our ride.

Our destination was the Rainforest Spa, where Matt had booked a couples massage, lunch and a private plunge pool. It was incredible! The massage itself happened in a private hut in the rainforest. When our massages were finished, the masseuses opened up the back wall of our hut to reveal the private waterfall plunge pool. It was incredible. Our lunch was rice, vegetables and fish wrapped in banana leaves and steamed in a bamboo bowl. The whole experience was amazing. Matt really outdid himself in the gifts and romance departments!

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Our fifth day’s Port of Call was St Kitts. We were excited about our excursion that day. We went ziplining in the forest above an old sugar plantation. It was lots of fun! I enjoyed going down a couple of the ziplines upside down! When we finished, a boy put a monkey on me. Later that day, we went to a little beach bar to get wifi and I sent the kids a picture of me and the monkey. I told them we had adopted a baby brother for them because it looked so much like Owen. The little ones thought I was funny, at least.

 

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This was also our second elegant night on the boat. I was so proud to walk around with my handsome husband!

 

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Our sixth day took us to our final Port of Call…St Maarten. We went on a powerboat and snorkeling tour. The powerboat was fun, but not much different than riding a jet ski through the water. The real fun was snorkeling. We snorkeled off of a European style (aka nude) beach. That was an experience–seeing people standing on the decks of their boats as naked as the day they were born! The snorkeling was really great. We saw huge sea urchins, a starfish, clown fish, and a host of other fish. The most exciting thing we saw was a huge eagle ray!

Unfortunately, our St Maarten day proved to be a day of bad luck. Matt slipped getting into the powerboat, and, when he grabbed the steering wheel to catch himself, it went between his fingers and hurt his hand really bad. Once we got home and had it x-rayed, it proved to be a bad spiral fracture of the second metacarpal. So, he’s in a cast for the next four weeks. On the same day, his wedding band slipped off his finger without him noticing. We retraced our steps on the ship, but couldn’t find it. We have no idea if he lost it on the ship or while we were on the island. A third less devastating thing that occurred on our bad luck day was his GoPro battery died shortly after we left the ship, even though it had been fully charged. So we don’t have any photos from our time on the island.

After all our adventures, I decided I was too tired to dress up for a fancy dinner. Instead, we spent the evening lounging on the Serenity Deck, sipping fruity frozen drinks, reading, and napping. It was wonderful! We ate dinner on the Lido deck, and then saw a couple comedy shows.

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The next morning, we arrived back in San Juan, Puerto Rico. We were sad to see our adventure come to an end, but we had six little people at home we were missing a lot. Grammy Alice picked us up at the airport, and Hailey and Logan nearly knocked us over with hugs. We got the other four kids back the next morning. This mama was very glad to have all six of her babies under the same roof again!

We may have had to wait a year for our honeymoon, but it was definitely worth the wait!


Our Love Story: The Beginning – Matt’s Version

Filed under: Love,Matthew,Our Love Story — Rachel at 6:49 pm on Sunday, June 29, 2014
Table of contents for Our Love Story
  1. Our Love Story: The Beginning – Rachel’s Version
  2. Our Love Story: The Beginning – Matt’s Version

Matt has made me a very happy wife by guest blogging his version of the beginning of our story. Leave him some love in the comments section, and maybe I can talk him into guest blogging again in the future.

 

As my first marriage ended, the kids and I had a lot of changes going on in our lives. Besides the divorce, we had moved to Tennessee, I had a new job, Hailey had started Kindergarten, and Logan was in a new preschool. I had been alone for a long time, and I was tired of it. I wanted someone to spend time with and talk to. Someone who cared about me.

The problem was, I was incredibly insecure around women. I had no idea how to meet one. I kind of envisioned a mom at school drop off, or t-ball practice, or maybe church. Other than that, I didn’t have the foggiest. I’m not a bar guy. Never have been.  I wasn’t interested in a woman that I would meet at a place like that anyway. I felt very poorly about myself anyway.  My marriage hadn’t just ended. It ended badly, and some things were said that made me feel pretty un-datable. On top of that, I had full time custody of my little ones, so I was asking for women to, not only consider me, but the prospect of motherhood as well. I had a sense of duty to the little ones to find somebody that would be good to them and a good influence for them. All that said, I was not desperate. I had been alone for a long time. I could do it. I just didn’t really want to anymore.

So I decided to put myself out there. I went back and forth about it for a while, but I finally made a Match.com profile. I was more nervous than I thought I would be. I wasn’t very good, especially at that time, at selling myself. What would I say? What picture would I put up? I went on for a couple of weeks, and found somebody to talk to. She was nice enough and I could tell she wanted to be asked out, but I wasn’t feeling it. Then I saw this beautiful woman with pretty eyes and freckles. She had a comment in her profile about not needing a dad for her kids because they had a dad, but she was looking for someone to make her happy. She seemed so confident. She met my “want list”. I wanted a Christian, a woman with confidence, smart, someone who would want to spend time with me. She seemed to have all that, and I thought she was smoking hot. So I messaged her, not expecting to hear back. I didn’t normally overtly flirt with women, but I ended with a comment about her eyes. I wanted her attention. She messaged me back pretty quickly and after a couple of days, I told her a joke and she “lol’d” politely and sent me her number. The first text I sent her, I sent to the wrong number! Somebody with an 859 area code is probably still confused about that. She told me to tell her something that would impress her. I told her I’d been to Iraq twice. I thought for sure that would impress, but, no, she said lots of people did that. So I told her that I’d been to 15 countries and a couple of territories and that seemed to do it.

We started texting a lot, and then late one night, it was Friday the 13th believe it or not, she texted me and said she had just gotten back from dinner with a friend and was thinking of me. I had the feeling she had been on a date, but I figured, if she was texting me instead of that guy, I must be doing pretty well. I had looked up things to do in Harriman that day because I wanted to ask her out. I didn’t feel right asking her to drive to Knoxville for a first date, and came up with a picnic idea. Frozen Head was the only park that was on the map I was looking at, so, after some back and forth, I took a leap. I asked her out and she responded pretty quickly with an emphatic “yes!” So I floated picnic at Frozen out there, and she told me that was her favorite place ever. So things were looking up.

We were going to meet at Kroger that Sunday afternoon. I dropped my kids off with my brother and went to the store for supplies. I was so nervous on the drive out.  30 minutes to second guess what I was wearing, what I would say, even how to date. I hadn’t dated in SO long. I didn’t know how to do it. Did I shake her hand when I met her? Quick side hug? And what the heck did I do at the end? Hug? High five? Surely it wasn’t appropriate to kiss goodbye. Surely societal norms of not kissing until at least the second date still held true. Oh crap, what happens if I want a second date? Did I ask her today? Did I wait two days? Oh crap, what if she said yes to a second date? Did she expect a kiss then? What if our first kiss was terrible because I forgot how? Then I pulled into Kroger, and all that went away.

She was so pretty, sitting there waiting on me. I got out to open the door for her. That was in her profile, she liked that old fashioned chivalry stuff, but I would have done it anyway. Old fashioned is kind of my MO. As soon as I closed her door and walked around the back of the car, I was grinning. She looked really good. We drove out to Frozen Head. The thing that struck me was there wasn’t a single minute of the awkward silence that I expected. We chatted away. I found out that her last name was my ex-wife’s maiden name. I got a good laugh about that. I got the sense very early that she wanted to know me; she didn’t want me to put on a show. So I told her the truth, told her about me, my insecurities. When we got to Frozen Head, we picked a spot that was quiet, but not too secluded. I wanted her to be comfortable. We talked as we ate, and decided to go for a walk. We walked to the first waterfall, and she asked if I wanted to hike up the hill to the big waterfall. Of course I did. She led the way up the hill, talking the whole way. I was really impressed with this chick. We talked and talked. I felt so comfortable with her. She was so engaging, so confident, so beautiful, and so intelligent; she seemed to hang on every word I said. I already wanted to see her again, but here’s where my self-doubt starting screaming at me. “She’s out of your league” it said.  “She’s just being nice” it told me.

On the way back to her car, we stopped at the gas station to get a drink. Dr. Pepper for me; Diet Dr. Pepper for her. She had her bank card in her pocket and thus got it out faster than I got mine. We argued about it for a second, but she said, “You can make it up to me by buying me dinner sometime.”  That made me happy! No more pressure. She seemed to get the fact that I was new at this dating thing. She talked about how she’d gone on dates with a few guys, but none of them made the cut for a second date. I asked her if I made the cut, and she said that I did. I didn’t want to leave but it was almost dinner time already, we’d been out five hours. Much longer and we’d have to do dinner, too, and that was almost like a second date. Then I’d have to figure out if it counted  as two, and decide on the kiss thing!

When we got back to Kroger, I got out and walked around and opened her door. My heart was beating 900 mph. Now what?! We lingered for a minute. Another second or two and I probably would have kissed her, but she came forward for a hug. I liked it. She felt nice. We parted ways and started texting again pretty quickly after I left. At least I wasn’t like the Friday night guy, and have her texting someone else. She asked me the next day if I was talking to anybody else on Match. I said I had been talking to someone, but I lost interest. She told me she’d get off Match if I would, but she wanted to know if I was as interested in her as she was in me.

I canceled Match that night.

Our Love Story: The Beginning – Rachel’s Version

Filed under: Our Love Story — Rachel at 2:06 am on Wednesday, June 25, 2014
Table of contents for Our Love Story
  1. Our Love Story: The Beginning – Rachel’s Version
  2. Our Love Story: The Beginning – Matt’s Version

I have decided to write mine and Matt’s love story, for posterity’s sake. This is the beginning, from my perspective. I’m hoping he will share his, as well. 

After my last relationship ended, I decided that I was going to start dating. Problem was, the type of man that I was interested in dating is few and far between in my neck of the woods. Not to mention, how do you go about meeting men? It wasn’t that I couldn’t meet “a” guy.It was the easiest thing in the world to sit down at a bar and have a guy buy you a drink.  I wasn’t interested in just any guy, though. I wanted to find a guy that suited me, and I had a long list of criteria. He needed to be intelligent, above all, and kind. He needed to respect me, and like me for who I am. Those things were non-negotiable, but I also wanted a man who was a Christian, who was funny, and who had good grammar. If he was good-looking, too, that would be the icing on the cake.  I wasn’t looking for marriage. I just wanted a boyfriend…someone to hang out with and do stuff with. I decided that the best way to go was an online dating site.

It felt a little weird at first, but it also seemed like the most logical way to meet the type of man I was interested in. Over the course of about three months, I went out with several men. I don’t have any online dating horror stories to share. All of the men that I went out with were nice and respectful and treated me like a lady. I enjoyed almost every date I went on, but none of the guys were right for me. I could have went on dating these guys, but I knew there was no future there. I tried dating a couple of them anyway, just for the companionship, but they were really into me. I felt like I continuing to date them when they obviously liked me more than I liked them would be wrong. One guy even offered to help pay for my college if I needed it. These guys were way more into me than I was into them, so that put a kink in my casual dating plans. Turns out, guys have feelings, too. Who knew? So, I was considering just cancelling my account and waiting to meet someone the old fashioned way.

While I was considering this, I got a message from a man whose profile I hadn’t seen. His profile picture was him in uniform, and his screen-name was dadof2. The tagline on his profile said, “If you’re lookin’ for your bad boy, you ain’t lookin’ for me.”  That told me a lot about him before I ever even opened his message. He was so sweet, and he ended his first, short message with, “I hope this isn’t too forward, but you have beautiful eyes.” I messaged him back right away, and we hit it off immediately. After a few back and forth messages, I said, “My name is Rachel, by the way.” He replied, “Nice to meet you, Rachel. I guess that’s a good place to start. My name is Matt.”

I gave him my number pretty quickly, and we started texting each other. He was the first guy that I really wanted to ask me out before he did. I’m sure I was overly eager to say yes when he finally did ask me out. He suggested that we go on a picnic at Frozen Head State Park. He hit it out of the ball park with that one, not knowing that Frozen Head is one of my favorite places. The only problem was that I had never met him, and it was against every dating rule I had to get in a vehicle with a man I had just met and ride forty minutes from my own car to hang out in the woods where my cell phone didn’t work. For some reason, though, I didn’t have any apprehension about it at all. I told Amy where I was going, but other than that, I threw caution to the wind.

We went on our first date on September 15. We met in the Kroger parking lot. Just in case I didn’t like him in person, I didn’t think he needed to know where I lived. He pulled up in a pickup truck, and I was all smiles. He was so handsome in person. He was wearing jeans, a button up shirt, and a brown hat that had the silhouette of pine trees in front of a sun on the front of it that said “Morning Wood Lumber Company”. I didn’t notice what his hat said till later on, but I laughed out loud when I did. I hopped out of my car, and we introduced ourselves. It’s always slightly awkward, that first meeting, but ours was the least awkward I had experienced. He just seemed so friendly and sure of himself. It was very attractive. He opened the truck door for me, and I climbed in. As we drove away, I had a few excited butterflies, but, for the most part, I felt very relaxed.

The best way I know to describe those first few moments of getting to know each other is that I felt at home. He felt familiar to me. As we drove, listening to country music, and talking about all the things you talk about when you’re meeting someone new, I just felt like we were already friends. Conversation was so easy. His smile was so engaging. I knew that this guy was different.

By the time we entered the park, the butterflies were long gone, and we were both talking so easily. I pointed out some of my favorite things, and we stopped at some secluded picnic tables beside of the creek. He carried the picnic basket to the table, spread out a tablecloth, and unpacked a perfectly lovely picnic. Everything from chips and pinwheel sandwiches to cookies and sweet tea. It was so perfectly picturesque. After we sat down before his wonderful spread, he bowed his head to say a blessing. I could tell by the way that he talked to God that it was something he did regularly, and I liked him even more.

After our picnic, we drove up to the Panther Branch trail head to go on a hike. As we walked through the woods side by side, we told each other our entire life stories. I told him all about my marriage, including my painful divorce, and all of the ways I contributed to it. I told him about my relationship with Amy. I told him about my children. In return, he told me his story. We hiked to the highest waterfall, sat on some rocks, and talked for at least an hour. It never felt like oversharing. It felt perfectly natural to open up to this man. Part of it was planned. I fully intended to show him all my dirty laundry right off the bat. I didn’t want to risk falling for someone only to have them change their mind about me after I opened up to them. The part that wasn’t planned was how I wanted to tell him everything else. I wanted him to know who I was, and how I became who I was. By the time we left the park, we were fast friends.

On the drive home, I let myself start thinking ahead. Surely he would ask me on another date, but for some reason I got a little nervous. Did he know how into him I was? Was he just as interested in me? Was he going to try to kiss me? I had a rule that I didn’t kiss on first dates, and, other than a sneak attack from this one guy who I was not at all into, I never had. I decided on the way back to my car that, if he tried to kiss me, I would definitely let him. I don’t remember what I said to him on the way back, but I made it obvious that I wanted a second date if he did.

When we got out of the truck, he walked around, and, for the first time, he looked a little nervous. I knew he was going to be a gentleman and not try to kiss me that night, so I stepped toward him for a hug. He wrapped his arms around me for just a moment, but, as I leaned into his hard, muscled chest, I knew that it would not be the last time. He opened my car door for me, and I got in. I didn’t want to leave him, but we had already spent five hours together.

I felt high on the drive home. When I got there, I told Amy, “I could marry this man.”

Somehow, I was pretty sure I would.

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(This is the first photo of Matt and I together. It wasn’t taken on our first date, but a few weeks later.)