Wednesday, July 21, 2010

a love story {part 8}

Ten years ago today, on July 22, 2000 I began the greatest adventure of my life with the man who completes me in every way. I will treasure the memories of that day until I take my last breath. But I will also treasure the many other memories that we have made together since that day. I'm so thankful for these last 10 years, and am looking forward to the rest of our adventure...

Here are a few of our wedding photographs...thanks for reading our Love Story!

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

a love story {part 7}

Up to this point, I have been covering our courtship in a fairly detailed manner, spending 6 posts on about 6 months.

That, my dear friends, is all about to change. So hang on, because this post is going to cover an entire year and a half.

So, where did we leave off?
Oh, yes. We had just gotten engaged.

I think we did make it home for curfew that night, but just barely. My roommates were all in bed by the time I walked in the door, and in my excitement I ran into through the apartment turning on lights and woke them all up to tell them the news and show them my ring. I'm sure I scared them out of their senses. But they were excited too, when they realized what the heck was going on. Best. Roomies. Ever.

Shout out to all you girls, I know you're reading this...

At first, we were planning to marry that summer. But as you know, that did not happen because if it had, it would be my eleventh anniversary, and I would not be writing this. There were a lot of reasons we decided to wait, and the whole story is quite long and probably pretty boring...

So here is what you need to know...
Kevin graduated in May and went back to Lincoln, Nebraska (his hometown) for the Summer to work. He had decided that he was going to spend the next school year in China with his mom and stepdad, who were doing missions work there.

I went home to Idaho for the Summer to work, as well. But I got to fly out to Lincoln for about a week or so around my birthday to spend time with Kevin and his family.
Right after he picked me up from the airport he took me to a restaurant with one of those great photo booths and we got these pictures...
I love those things. Maybe we'll find one this week for anniversary pictures...

As the Summer drew to a close, we both went back to Pensacola, me to go back to college, and Kevin to catch his flight to China. It probably goes without saying that I was dreading his departure. I really didn't know how I was going to make it through 9 months without him. But I also knew that if our relationship could survive a 9 month overseas separation, it could probably survive just about anything.
I cried the entire day he left. In fact, I remember having to pull over as I was leaving the airport because I was sobbing so hard I couldn't see.

But gradually the ache in my heart became more bearable, and I gradually settled back into the college routine and determined that I was going to enjoy my last year of school and the great girls I lived with.

Plus, I had a wedding to plan to keep me distracted.
We e-mailed almost every day. And then we discovered this cutting edge thing called instant messaging. All five of the girls in our apartment shared one desktop and we had dial up internet, so as you can imagine, it really wasn't really "instant" messaging. But it was something. We had one 15 minute phone conversation in those 9 months and it was heavenly.

I did a lot of growing up that year. I was only 19 and I hadn't really had a chance to be on my own yet. It was a good year, and by the time Kevin came back the next May, I felt like I was a little wiser.
My mortarboard at graduation only contributed to the feeling of wisdom...

It was so good to have him back, even if it was just for a few weeks as we said goodbye to all our college friends in Pensacola and packed up our belongings to head back to our respective hometowns.

Kevin was scheduled to drive back out to Idaho a few weeks before our wedding day which was rapidly approaching...

To be continued...

Monday, July 19, 2010

a love story {part 6}

Kevin left a few days after Christmas to go back to Pensacola, and I followed a few days later. I moved out of the dorms and into an apartment with a group of wonderful new roommates. Kevin moved into the same complex about 2 buildings down with a group of great guys. So conveniently, we got to see each other a LOT.

I knew it was only a matter of time before he popped the question. We had talked about it, and even looked at a few rings on a date at the mall. I ventured to guess out loud that he might do it on Valentine's Day. That was a mistake.

"How did you know?" he asked, incredulous.

Silly boy.

Our One Month Anniversary arrived and I fully expected that we would spend some time together to celebrate (what is it with us women and stupid dates, anyway?) I gave him a cheesy construction paper card I had made in honor of the momentous occasion. "Cool, thanks!" he said, "I'm going to go hang out with the guys today, OK babe? You and I can hang out when we get back."


What could I say? I tried not to look too disappointed as I reluctantly agreed. I mean, I didn't want to force him into anything.

So, dejected, I went home and started stewing. Hang out with the guys?! On our One Month Anniversary?! How could he?! (I know, that sounds so unbelievably petty right now.)

This continued for most of the day, and the later it got, the more ticked I was. He FINALLY knocked on my door at around 9:30, I think, and excitedly asked if I'd like to go for a drive. Mind you, our curfew was at 11pm, sharp. I said yes, but I was still a little put-out that he had only saved an hour or so for ME...on our One Month Anniversary.

So off we went. We drove...and drove...and drove. I remember getting more and more agitated as it got closer and closer to curfew. Did he not know what time it was? We were going to be late for curfew...and who know what would happen then! I mean, we already had a reputation from the whole "4:31 Club" affair.

Finally he pulled over on a completely deserted road in the middle of nowhere, parked the car, and excitedly came around to open my door.

"We're getting out here?" I said.

"Yeah, I want to show you something!"

I may or may not have had a moment of panic just then wondering if I had inadvertently fallen in love with some sort of psychopath.

He grabbed my hand and dragged me through some trees and brush until we arrived, breathless, on a sandy beach.

It was beautiful. We were, in fact, on a secluded beach in Perdido Key and across the bay there were hundreds of lights reflecting on the still water. It was perfectly quiet and we were the only souls around.

"This is one of my favorite spots," he said.

I could see why.

What happened next is still a little bit of a mystery...mostly because it was so dark. I looked over at Kevin, and it appeared to me that he was preparing to pick me up and, I assumed, toss me in the water. So, I, of course, began protesting and tried to turn and run.

He caught my hand, and it was then that I realized he was kneeling in front of me. And I could see, with the little light there was, that he had something in his hand that was reflecting the lights from the bay.

"Jenny, will you marry me?"

I screamed. And then I said yes. And then we laughed and hugged and kissed, and tried to get the ring on my finger in the dark without dropping it in the sand.

It was quite late by this point, so we hurried back to the car, where I got my first good look at the beautiful ring he had SPENT THE WHOLE DAY SHOPPING FOR with the guys.

Yeah. I felt pretty awful. And I told him so. And, of course, he thought nothing of it because that's just how wonderful he is.

He had picked out a round, half-carat solitaire set in white gold, with the date 1-18-99 engraved inside...our One Month Anniversary.

to be continued...

Sunday, July 18, 2010

a love story {part 5}

It was time for Kevin to meet the parents.

At some point late in the semester, he had concocted a plan to get out to Idaho for Christmas. It involved tagging along with a friend from Pensacola to Dallas, a short flight from Dallas to Salt Lake City, and a bus ride from Salt Lake City to Idaho Falls, where I was to pick him up and drive him three hours to my hometown (yes, my parents live in the middle of nowhere).

I figured if he was willing to go through this travel gauntlet, he must really like me.

Now, I feel I must explain something. His intention for making the trip was actually to ask my father if he could marry me, which sounds a little frightening considering the fact that we had been dating all of a few days. But we had agreed that we did not want to date one another, in the traditional, casual sense, that is. (We did, of course, want to go on dates.) We had agreed that a courtship was probably a better option...kind of an all or nothing approach. So he wanted to meet my father from the beginning to obtain his permission to not only date me, but marry me....eventually. He was making his intentions very clear.

Very Jane Austen-ish. Love it.

So anyway. There I was, sitting at the greyhound bus stop in Idaho Falls, with three of my very good friends who had agreed to come with me to pick up this guy I had somehow snagged in Florida. At long last his bus pulled in, and there he was, in my state, just 3 hours from my house. It was fairly surreal, actually. Up to this point I had two separate lives and they were about to collide.

I have a picture someone took of me as he walked up, but I just cannot post it because I look like I'm in excruciating pain because of the ridiculously cheesy grin on my face...It's the worst picture of me. Ever.

Miraculously we made it home through a nasty snowstorm. Probably because I made one of my friends drive home so I could snuggle with my hunky boyfriend. Nice friend, I am.
(OMG is that a scrunchie?! That is sooo 1990s...)

After we dropped everyone off, we headed home. The introductions went off without a hitch, and he didn't turn around and run out the door. Success!

Now, I must say that I love my family, dearly. But we all know that each family has their, which remain hidden until that fateful time when an outsider wants to join it. That's probably why meeting the family is such a big step...and why there are so many romantic comedies about it.

He fit in perfectly. He's got a knack for adaptation, let me tell you...

My brothers even liked him.
He hadn't brought a winter hat with him, so I think my mom pulled out this one for him to wear on his various outdoor excursions into the Idaho wilderness. I was slightly mortified.
(And yes, he's cooking for the family...)
He wore it with pride the whole trip. Even when we went snowboarding together.
What a guy.

He got "the talk" out of the way fairly quickly. He and my dad locked themselves in the office and didn't come out for hours. Meanwhile, I was dying a thousand deaths. Turns out, they got the business settled within the first 20 minutes, and then just sat there chatting.

My dad said yes, by the way.

Soon after, my parents pulled out the nice China, made a lovely dinner, and read a beautiful blessing they had written to us by candlelight. We had them read it at our wedding.
Did I mention that I love my family?

I do.
To be continued...

Saturday, July 17, 2010

a love story {part 4}

4:31 pm December 18, 1998 finally arrived.

Someone took a picture of Kevin walking to his car after class to pick me up.
I'm sure I looked about the same.

The truth is although I was really excited, I was a little nervous, too. This was actually my first real date. Ever. I had no idea where he was taking me, and we were going from being good friends to dating. Actually, any anxiety probably stemmed more from wondering if I was going to get my first kiss...

He picked me up at my dorm not long after class got out. He gave me a single red rose as he walked me to the car and opened my door for me (he's always been good at that, being a sweet Southern boy at heart). I remember being breathless with anticipation.

We drove along the Gulf for about 30 minutes to Orange Beach, Alabama. I don't remember much about our conversation, except that it flowed easily. Everything was just the same as it had been...only better. We could relax and enjoy one another's company. I can't tell you what a relief it taking a deep breath after you've been underwater too long.

He took me to dinner at a romantic oceanfront restaurant called The Outrigger. The entire wall we were sitting by was made of glass and had ocean waves crashing against it throughout our meal. It was amazing. In typical Jen fashion, I can only remember what I had for dessert...a decadent almond cheesecake.

No, not the whole thing.

And he drank coffee for dessert, which I disliked at the time. This was the beginning of the end of disliking coffee for me, because my husband is a Coffee Gourmet.

{I don't know if I've ever told you this Love, but thanks for introducing me to coffee.}

After dinner, as we drove back towards Pensacola, he took my hand and held it. I won't try to describe the effect this had on me, because, honestly, there are no words for it. I will say this, though: In a culture that often rushes headlong into physical intimacy at the first opportunity, there's something to be said about the power of a little restraint and self-control.

And no, he didn't kiss me...not yet.

He pulled over at a beach, and we took a walk along the Gulf together. At one point we stopped and sat down, he draped his arms around my neck and he pulled me back against his chest. And we sat there listening to the sound of the Ocean...for minutes...hours...I don't really know.

I found out later, that he had asked his friend Dave (who is an amazing musician) to meet us at the beach to sing me a song Kevin had written for me. But Dave was waiting for us at a different beach (this was before cell phones and texting were commonplace. Gosh, that makes me feel old.)

And then he took me home.
As soon as we pulled up to the dorms, a bunch of friends who, I guess, had just been waiting for us to get back jumped in the backseat...
And that...was our first date.
To be continued...

Friday, July 16, 2010

a love story {part 3}

I had spoken with my parents by phone not long after I had met Kevin, and said the infamous words every parent dreads,

"Mom. Dad. I met someone."

Considering the fact that I had never had a boyfriend before, I think they took it rather well. They flew me home to Idaho for Thanksgiving to visit and I filled them in on all the juicy details.

They wanted to meet him.

During my trip home I also had to say goodbye to my Pastor and his family, who were moving away before Christmas Break. They had been like my second family for me all through High School, and my pastor's wife, in particular, was someone I often sought advice from. I briefly told her about what had happened while I was away at my first semester of Bible College (I don't think she was surprised) and showed her this picture of my mystery man (which I carried everywhere while I was home, and showed to anyone who would look...)
"Oh, that's Connie's son, Kevin" she said. "He was in our Youth Group when we lived in Lincoln."

Ok. Maybe he wasn't so mysterious. I had forgotten that they had lived in Kevin's hometown for several years.

But really...what were the odds? It really made my head spin. I had wanted Kevin to be able to meet my parents and my Pastor and his wife, so that I had the approval of the people whose opinions I most valued. I knew he would be able to meet my parents eventually, but thought he would never be able meet my Pastor and his wife...

...and they already knew him.

So back to Florida I went, with all this fresh in my mind...and there he was. Only a month from being fair game and looking better by the hour.

That last month seemed to last forever.

We still made an effort to keep things under wraps. But it really was ridiculous. Everyone knew. Just look at this picture someone took of us. I am trying to appear nonchalant (with my crossed arms...ha!) while Kevin is doing nothing of the sort and our friends are laughing at us...
Now lest you think that we were the only couple in such a predicament, I must disclose that there were actually a good number of us. We collectively became known as the 4:31 Club. This affectionate label was in reference to the exact time that classes would end for the semester: 4:31 pm on December 18, 1998. Oddly enough we all had plans for that evening...

The closer we got to D-day, the more Kevin and I stopped pretending we didn't like each other. We still followed the rules, but it was tantamount to telling a starving person not to drool over a huge piece of chocolate cake. It was...impossible.

So we just drooled with our mouths shut.
To be continued...

Thursday, July 15, 2010

a love story {part 2}

So there I was, sitting in my RA's room, tearfully apologizing for letting myself fall for someone within a month of school starting despite the first semester no-dating policy. Although all of our interactions had thus far been in a group setting, it was apparently painfully obvious that we REALLY liked each other. Funny thing was, neither one of us had expressed any feelings to the other, at all. We just knew.

So that was a little awkward. I mean, how do you explain to someone that you've been reprimanded for liking them when you haven't told them you like them yet, and you're not supposed to tell them that you like them? Worse yet, how do you do it in a group setting?

The perfect solution seemed to be the same as in grade school...write a note. Technically, it wasn't "pairing off" and something had to be said...

So I wrote a note. It went something like this:
I have been accused of really liking you, but I can't like you right now because it's against the rules. I don't want to get in trouble. So we'd better chill and pretend like we don't like each other.
{It wasn't quite that explicit.}

So began the daunting task of pretending that we didn't like each other. Which was really, really hard.

By this point, we had many of the same friends, and we were always going out to eat, or doing homework, or going to church together. So we did our best to be just friends and hang out. It actually went pretty well, for the most part.
There was one occasion at Sonic when we were all sitting around talking, and he was in his car parked at the carhop ordering box by himself. I don't know why.

I couldn't resist. I walked over to the box and popped my head over and said, "What can I get you, mister?"

Without hesitation he replied, "One Jenny, second semester, please."


I had asked for it.
There was another incident, I don't remember the timing exactly, when he and I and two other friends went to sit on the beach after dark. I can't remember exactly who the two other people were, but they took off down the beach about 2 seconds after we got out of the car. (Thanks, people.) So there we were, unintentionally paired off, sitting on the beach. That was one of the first times we just talked. About life. About our individual hopes and dreams. And of course, we had to run into the waves before we headed back to make curfew. I remember standing waist deep in the dark, churning water that reflected the black sky and a million stars, with this amazing man I was pretty sure I was falling in love with less than 10 feet away. So close, but so far away. That moment is forever etched in my memory.

And then it was gone. Our wandering friends came back. We all piled back in his car and went through the Taco Bell drive through on our way home. As I turned to tell him what I wanted, he held out a flower, picked from the bushes lining the drive through lane. I put it behind my ear, and he took a picture of me, with my soaking wet hair and running mascara and a smile that couldn't be helped.
I kept that flower in my journal for a long, long time. Until it fell apart.

To be continued...

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

a love story {part 1}

In honor of our 10th Anniversary next week, I've decided to tell the story of how Mr. Gardner and I met and fell in love. The sad fact is that nearly a third of marriages are over by the 10 year mark, so it's a milestone worth celebrating. I've been looking through old scanned photos of us when we first met and it has brought back so many memories. It's amazing how much life and adventure these last 10 years have held. Through all the wonderful and trying times, we have grown together and become parents to our three boys, deepening and strengthening our relationship. I pray our love continues to thrive, and that the next 10 years are even better than the last have been.

And, in ten years, I fully expect to be on an extended European Vacation with Mr. Gardner, preferably somewhere romantic in Italy on our exact Anniversary date.
{Just wanted to throw that in there.}

All that to say...this is how it all started, from my point of view...

Just two months after my 18th birthday, I moved to Pensacola, Florida to attend a small Bible College (just so you know, most Bible colleges are affectionately called "Bridal Colleges" by those who attend them...there is a good reason for this.)

The particular Bible College I chose was quite strict when it came to student life. We had a curfew and separate housing for ladies and gentlemen, both on and off campus. Furthermore, the ladies and gentlemen were forbidden to step foot in a domicile of the opposite sex, unless they were going to the home of a married couple who had the express permission of the College to host co-ed get togethers.

Dating or "pairing off" during the first semester was also forbidden, to prevent distractions among the new students. I fully intended to follow the no-dating-during-first-semester-policy, and, in fact, thought it was a good idea.

My parents felt that it would be wise for me to live on campus my first semester, and so I started settling into dorm life, and meeting lots of new friends. Living on campus included meals at the school cafeteria, which was right next door to the dorms.

I don't remember the exact day, but the first distinct memory I have of my husband-to-be is definitely from sometime in mid-September during breakfast at the cafeteria.

I was going through the line, trying to find some familiar Northwestern breakfast fare, (I had already mistaken the cheese grits for cream of wheat once and put sugar and butter in them...) when I found myself looking at a very handsome young man with mesmerizing blue eyes who was offering me a bowl of whole grain hot cereal.

"It'll keep you regular," he said, grinning.


Now, this might be considered an odd greeting by some people, but it really rocked my socks because it's something my dad would say. It would be common breakfast conversation at home. Which further cemented the feeling I had deep in my soul that I knew this man. I didn't know from where. But he was so familiar. I remember thinking later that it was like that line in Sleepless in Seattle, when Tom Hanks is talking about meeting his wife,

"It was like coming home, but to know home I'd ever known."

I probably smiled and took the offered cereal without a word, but I like to think I may have raised an eyebrow and said something coy.

Needless to say, I very much looked forward to eating from then on (even more than usual, I mean). And it didn't take long for me to notice that it wasn't just me looking forward to meals. My roommate even heard that he asked about me when I missed breakfast.
Not long after that, we both ended up going to Chile's after an evening church service with a large group of friends. I somehow managed to sit right across from him.
Despite the fact that I was extremely happy about this, I was suffering from a cold, complete with a nasty sore throat (which I think was from the rapid temperature changes when going from inside the ridiculously ice-cold AC in every building in Florida to the outside excessively humid, hot weather multiple times a day).

Anyway, he found out I wasn't feeling well, and did some very goofy things to make me feel better.
(Which worked by the way. )

He also ordered Chicken Noodle Soup so that I wouldn't be eating it alone.

I went home feeling absolutely dreamy...and got called to the R.A.'s room and got a talking to.

You guessed it...pairing off.

To be continued...

Saturday, July 3, 2010


Just a few things that have inspired me today.

These lovely hanging canning jar luminaries from Pottery Barn. I am going to go get some wire and make some of these for my house.
This entire blog (even if it is in Norwegian...thank heavens for google translator). But particularly, I want to duplicate this shelving in my kitchen.
And speaking of kitchens, just look at this one from designer Margot Austin
I have a thing for open shelving. And vintage kitchen islands. And white.
And...I think I want to duplicate this canopy from the same designer.
Or I may copy the canopy Margot created for her own bedroom...
So lovely.

Thursday, July 1, 2010

adventures in thrifting.

I've found some great new blogs lately...most of them I have found through these two sites dedicated to repurposing and DIY home decorating.

So, freshly inspired, I went thrifting last week and came back with these little treasures:

Two sage green linen Pier One curtains that I put in my living room....Ohhh, the lovely filtered light. Total cost: $2
A very vintage looking mirror which is now in my dining room. I haven't cleaned it because I kind of like the streaks...they add character. Total cost $6
I bought some assorted vintage sheets and pillowcases, with the intention of using some of the fabric as wall art in old picture frames, and using several of the pillowcases for a redecorating makeover for our Master Bedroom. Total cost: $10
I used some fabric from my vintage sheet to put in my mirror/key hook near my front door (which was also thrifted last winter for $ was missing one of the glass frame pieces, which I just replaced with glass from another thrifted 4x6 frame). I had photographs in the frames, but they just didn't do much for me. This looks much better, I think. Total cost: just a fraction of the cost of the sheet.
I found this cute little white frame, and was able to overlook its contents...unlike Mr. Gardner, whose only comment was "Two ducks...really?" (I think they're geese, Love...)
(Sorry about the bad lighting in the photo above BTW...)

So, the next morning, I cut out some of the vintage sheet fabric and put it in the picture frame...and it looked much better without the, geese. Total cost: $2I bought another frame guessed it, put some vintage sheet fabric in it...what can I say? I really liked this sheet! This wall art is hanging in a previously very bare spot between the kitchen and dining room. Total cost $3
These last two things, I picked up for Mr. Gardner's study.
I don't know what this is called, but it has lots of gauges on it, and looks like it belongs in a man-cave. Total cost: $3
I found these three boxes of vintage bookplates...150 total. A totally sweet deal for my bibliophile husband. I was totally excited to find these for him because I'd been looking for bookplates some and they were pretty pricey. Total cost: $0.99

Have I mentioned that I love thrifting?

More to come on the Master Bedroom makeover...I'll have to make the bed first.