It's been a Party ever since!
Today I’m just going to load the dang thing up with pictures, as many as it’ll let me, because I think they’ll tell the story better than my words could. But to get the ball rolling, 4 years ago today it was snowing in Atlanta, cancelling flights to the area and even closing the airport for a moment. I remember this so vividly because my very good friend, Paul, cut short a trip to Hawaii to sit in the Phoenix airport and be told he couldn’t connect thru to ATL. Lisa’s very dear friend Beth agreed to FLY to Atlanta, despite strong personal misgivings about air travel, and was foiled by the weather. Both of these missed connections are important because both wanted to be in Atlanta for the same reason – The Wedding of Steve and Lisa, billed as the Love of the Century, but hell, it was only 2008. Anybody who wants to top us is going to have to go some, though, because in the intervening four years we’ve changed countries of residence three times, had two Absolutely Adorable Daughters, and grown closer than ever. I wanted to post today to celebrate finding other half of my heart, and tricking her into marrying me and thinking it was all her idea.
Sadly, I have no pictures of the Very Beginning, mostly because I had no idea it was the beginning of anything at all. Lisa came to work where I worked in late 2003, and although we talked a bit, it was essentially professional and (I thought) I thought nothing of it. Then I thought a little more of it, and then we were going to lunch together literally EVERY day she was there (she worked an odd schedule). And when we were finally kind of dating, which probably dates to about June of 04, I told my good friend JoeHaney I was dating. He was amazed, amused, appalled, and five other things, not all of which start with A. He asked if it was an on-going thing, and I said Yeah, and he allowed as how he ought to know her name, then, and I said “Lisa. I met her at work.” To which he responded “Lisa from the Christmas Party??!!!??!!!” And I had no idea what he was talking about. He said I talked her up very much after coming home (sober, even) from the company Christmas Party 6 months earlier. JoeHaney is of course delusional, (he’s friends with me, after all) so I assumed he was inventing things. Then I told our mutual friend Adam. Who responded “Lisa?? Fron the Christmas Party???!!!” So maybe Joe wasn’t making it up after all. Or maybe they were in cahoots, to make me feel crazy. Anyway, I took no pictures at the Christmas Party, because I’m apparently the only one who didn’t know I’d already fallen for her. We did eventually get things going, though (boxes from a nearby liquor store, a borrowed truck from the above-mentioned Paul, and a sincere offer to help with a last-minute apartment move got me in the door), and that summer we took a weekend trip to Chattanooga, TN to see the aquarium and other cool things. That I got a picture of. This is from the See 7 States platform on Lookout Mountain, in Tennessee right across the GA line.
I hadn’t done a whole lot of traveling in my life up to that point, but Lisa had grown up with a love of travel that she got from her Most Amazing Aunt Mary, along with myriad other good traits. I had been out of the country once, on a work trip to Switzerland, never been to California, crossed the Mississippi only twice, once on a work trip to Las Vegas and the other to Steamboat Springs with above-twice-mentioned Paul.
Yes, I was sweaty, fat, and had horrifying-looking glasses. Doesn't Lisa look nice, though?
We started kinda small, with a there-and-back day trip to Baltimore (my first glance at my future wife’s totally unhealthy obsession with IKEA) because Atlanta didn’t have an IKEA yet; no pics there, but I still have the orange Camden Yards hat we got on that trip.
We went to Chattanooga, where I learned that when confronted with vacation time in a new place with exciting things to do and places to see, Lisa’s favorite activity is sleeping late.
Then the next year we did the Meet The Family event; I met big sister Amy and her family, with big sister Christy, Dad, and big brother Ted, for a week at the beach in Wrightsville Beach, North Carolina, and brought Lisa along. With enough forewarning that she was able to get SCUBA-certified, and join me on a pair of scuba trips off the Carolina coast. She got to meet some of the family, and hear snarky stories about the rest of ’em 😉
Family Dinner at Wrightsville Beach. We hid down at the far end of the table from Dad.
And then, we finally left the country – for a minute. In December of 2005 we went on what was my first real cruise – I’d gone to Freeport, Grand Bahama from Miami when I was in college, but it was a leave-in-the-morning, return-in-the-late-evening deal, with no meals. On a really old and crappy ship. This was much nicer- we cruised with Celebrity, on the Zenith, which was their oldest and most decrepit ship at the time, but still really nice. We sailed past Cuba, and were apparently greeted by gunboats as we approached, but Lisa and I slept thru that part. We stopped in Georgetown, Grand Cayman Island, where we did some more scuba diving, and it was fantastic, if exhausting. Then we came back to Florida via Key West, where Lisa and I wanted to do the typical touristy thing and get our picture taken in front of the Southernmost Point marker…. which was being repainted at the time, so it’s all unkempt-looking – you can even see the fancy 3M blue masking tape on it:
New sweetie-pie, new coat of paint on the Southernmost marker.
Bill and Amy got their picture made in the same spot a few years later, and it was cool to see the marker all finished, and with the masking tape removed. We enjoyed that cruise so much we repeated it again 366 days later, but did a 7-night, 4 stop, 3-country cruise this time. I’d taken a picture of another cruise ship anchored next to ours in Grand Cayman on the Zenith cruise, and it was Royal Caribbean’s Legend of the Seas. 366 days later, that was the ship we were on for our second.
We enjoyed that one so much that we did it one more time, but this one was our honeymoon, two weeks after the Glorious Dance Party that we threw in lieu of a traditional wedding. It’s hard to believe it’s been only four years, but we’ve squeezed some life out of those years – and some miles! Lisa joined the US State Department’s Foreign Service in May of 2008, and we shipped out to Manila in the Philippines for 2 years in September. Living in the tropics was awesome; we’re both anxious to do it again sometime, if that’s how things work out.
In very small print, that second red line says "your life just changed, forever... and for the better."
The Philippine Islands are amazing – lush, and tropical, and absolutely beautiful, and extraordinarily bio-diverse. And in December of 2008, we learned that they were about to get diverse-er. That’s Lisa over there, on the 7th of December (a Good Day To Get Bombed – thanks Dad!) showing me a foul-smelling little plastic stick that changed our lives forever. 40 weeks later we were joined, quietly and peaceably, by a beautiful daughter. Our naming discussion lasted about 20 seconds:
ME: “Well, I have some ideas for boy names, but I’m not married to any of ’em. If it’s a girl, I’d very much like to name her Virginia Rose, after my Momma.”
LISA: “I like that very much, it’s a beautiful name! And if it’s a boy, I’d like to name him Ross Heflin, after my grandfather.”
ME: (long silence) “I’m pretty sure it’s a girl.”
LISA: “You just don’t like the name Heflin.”
But it all worked out, and we were joined by The Fabulous GinnyBoo in August of 09. Every day since has been a treat – Ginny grows (larger and) more endearing and loveable literally every single day. Here are a couple of favorites from the Philippines:
Balayan Bay, Eagle Point Resort, Anilao, Luzon, Philippines
Verde Island Passage, Mindoro/Luzon, Philippines
In the airport on the way to Boracay Island.
When we’d been in Manila one year, the State Department asked Lisa to name some places she might like to work next, and if things worked out they might send us to one of them, or they might send us somewhere else entirely. One of the job requirements is that Lisa become fluent in at least one other language besides English, and the State Department accepts the teaching responsibility – they’ve got a little impromptu State Department college set up in Arlington VA. So we named a bunch of spanish-speaking posts, from Hermosillo Mexico to Havana Cuba to Bogota Colombia, and they chose Mexico City for us . So we finished out the two years in Manila, came to DC for 9 months, and started thinking about how only children can sometimes be really weird. Lisa’s an only child. My Dad’s an only child. Need I say more? 😉 Weird’s not bad, per se, it’s just… well, it’s weird. So we began discussing a possible second daughter, decided it was a good idea, and turned up pregnant some time in January of 2011. We moved to Mexico in June of 2011, after learning to hablar a little español, and welcomed Ripley Ann to the family in October!
I know it’s been only four years, but we’ve packed the living into them, and they’ve been a joy. Today we start Year Number Five – I wonder what it holds in store??
Thanks to all for reading my ramblings – I wanted to take time to let folks know what a joyful ride these four years have been, and how much I’m looking forward to four more, and four more, and four more, and….