This Messy Life

He had a cocky smirk on his face when our eyes meet, almost like a child who got caught stealing from a cookie jar. Crowds of kids swirled on and off between us. Instinct declaring upon a single glance I would be burned alive, yet oxygen was fueling the flames inside my veins. Ignore it my head sang but it was too late, I couldn’t tear myself away.

How does a chance encounter end up laying the foundation to something extraordinary? What are the odds of meeting the one person who could derail all of the plans I had so carefully crafted? At an event I wasn’t supposed to addend no less.

Yet there he was, with a grin permanently plastered across his face. As if he had already won the war even though my stubborn nature was still trying- failing to rebel. My cheeks flushed poppy pink. I could barely make out the shape of my own hand let-alone guess the trajectory which this night would take us. Glow sticks were waved into the air as school advisors cranked fog machines to max capacity.

When the cloud cleared, he was in the middle of awkwardly peeling another girl’s hands off his body. Wait a minute… how dare she? Yet he was still looking at me. I lifted my chin to meet his gaze while heat crept up my spine. The girl was persistent. Her hands balled into fists which gripped his T-shirt as they danced even though he was becoming exacerbated with her. So, I squared my shoulders, waltzed over, and I cut between them to take what was mine…just as the beat was getting good.

“You looked like you needed rescuing” I mused into his ear.

“I’m so glad you stepped in to save me.” His voice sounded husky.

He was exactly a foot taller than me. Lean, with brown eyes which turned to gold in the flash of a strobe light. His dark hair curled a little on the ends and he had to hunch over to meet my small frame. Something between us felt perfectly clear as we danced our way towards curfew.

“What’s your name?” He asked but I could hardly hear.

“You can call me Lish.”


“No. L-I-S-H.” Confusion furrowed his brow.

“My name’s Rob.” He said, and I was left feeling spellbound encompassed by his arms.

Outside glossy gymnasium doors, the teachers had hauled tables from the cafeteria. We grabbed water bottles out of ice chests which were provided and re-hydrated before heading home for the night. If I had been less naive, I might have noticed he was rather inebriated. Instead, I handed him a slip of paper containing the phone number he had asked for, and hoped he would call. To this day we’re convinced he accidentally used it to smoke a joint.

Freshmen year of high school Rob had been an honor roll student who spent the summer playing football. He was in band, taught himself how to read music, and played several different instruments. He tried out and made it onto the swim team. He won second place in the state for a math competition, even though his calculator broke less than halfway through it. While everyone else had the advantage, Rob tackled equations in his head. He was smart, driven, and accomplished.

By sophomore year none of his achievements measured up to the allure of spending time with the wrong people doing the kind of things which got him into trouble. Rob and his friends ran from the cops after being clocked going far above the posted speed limit. Rather than face jail, his brilliant idea was to lose the tail by sneaking into a subdivision and parking in a stranger’s driveway. He forgot to take his foot off the brake and was caught over the glowing lights that bounced off the pavement.

It should come as no surprise after searching his jean pockets the following day, the phone number I gave him at the dance was nowhere to be found. It also shouldn’t come as a shock when I was told by a mutual friend about Rob’s more wild behavior, I decided I wasn’t interested anymore. The spark of electricity between us was quickly snuffed out by my stubborn nature and refusal to settle.

The following Monday Rob looked for my face throughout the hallways at school. Yet when I was finally located, I turned on my heel… to head in the opposite direction. There was no way I was getting sucked into making the same mistake twice. He assumed I was angry because he never called.

When the new class schedules were handed out the following semester, I showed up to P.E prepared to do whatever it took to avoid exercising. I waltzed into the weight room and ran right into Rob. His body towered over mine and his mouth was wearing that smile again.

On the track, we were manipulated by our teacher into running for a passing grade. I pulled my hair into a ponytail and stretched out my hamstrings even though I planned to jog at a walking pace. I linked arms with one of my girlfriends out of solidarity and when the whistle blew… we practically crawled towards the finish line.

“Hey Trish!” Rob shouted.

“If you can’t bother to remember my name… you and I are not on speaking terms.” I quipped.

Using his long legs and height to his advantage, he embarrassingly sprinted from one classmate to another.

“Do you know what the redheaded girl’s name is? I need to know so I can get her to talk to me.”

By the time he had it figured out, he had already lapped me and was running backwards with his hair blowing in the breeze. There was a glimmer in his eyes and a wicked smile crept across his lips as he faced my direction.

 “I’m going to convince you to go out with me Lish.”

“Over my dead body.” I laughed with conviction.

Seventeen years of marriage, eighteen years together, and over twenty years of friendship. I still can’t believe that he talked me into it. Waking to find his fingers tangled in my hair and his lips covering mine, taking walks together on rainy days, and kissing underneath streetlamps. There is nothing more enchanting than strolling through this messy life with his hand in mine.

Happy anniversary week to us!

Taken by my amazing friend Chris Hansen of Rob and I on our horses
A picture of us when we were living in Germany visiting my favorite castle (Burg Eltz)
The two of us dancing at a friend’s wedding
Is it just me or is it getting a little steamy?!
Our first wedding ceremony when we were just babies. I was 18 and Rob was 19.
My Soldier and I
Rob headed back to a war torn Afghanistan
farm life


I have recently started writing as a ghost writer for a wedding photography business. The endeavor has kept the topic of marriage on my brain throughout the week. The other night my husband slipped into Walmart to grab a few things for our house and came out bearing a planter full of violet calla lilies, tulips, and a slew of bulbs to add to my garden. After a stressful January, Rob (my husband) decided it was exactly what I needed to start my February off correctly. His superhero-like ability to recognize my needs before I’ve gotten a moment to recognize them myself, has had a profound impact on our relationship.

The man is more than just my partner, he’s my caregiver, the supporter of my dreams, my cheerleader, the brilliant father of our son, and the man who gets things done. He’s held my hair back while I’ve thrown up, helped me bathe when I couldn’t do it by myself, and I’ve witnessed him pleading with God to save my life. He’s taken our son fishing to give me time to rejuvenate even after working himself to death. He’s accompanied me to more hospital and doctor appointments than I care to admit, and is the hardest working person I’ve ever known. He continually fills the cups of others before he fills his own.

In the middle of a war zone with bombs going off, my husband was sitting in a bunker writing english essays and solving complicated math equations to send to his collage professors. He worked out at the gym on base, yet still managed to call me twice a day while witnessing things most people only see in their nightmares. He graduated with two associate degrees, and a bachelor’s degree in technical managment and engneering. Before we were forced to move (in order to be closer to my team of doctors)… he was just 6 classes shy of graduating with a second bachelor’s degree in electrical engneering. I am forever proud of all that he has accomplished and all that he does for the future of our family.

In the six years that he spent serving our country he made a career out of fixing Apache helicopters. His first job after leaving the service entailed working as a civilain contractor on other types of helicopters as well. More specifically, his original job title was to work on electrical system repairs. However, since he fought in a line unit on the boarder of Pakistan and Afghanistan… he was able to become certified as a civilian to work on mechanical system repairs as well (this is not an easy task to achieve in the world of aviation). This qualified him to work on helicopters, airplanes, and jet turbine engines. He knows how to strip a bird down to the bare bones, rewire it, and put the parts back together again without assistance. He later went on to work for several life-flight companies (which is what he does today).

My husband and I meet my freshmen year of high school (a story that I can’t wait to tell at a later date). We got married in South Korea at his first duty station as a United States soldier. I was eighteen years young when we signed our marriage cirtificate at the embassy and he was just ninteen years old himself. Everyone we knew thought we were crazy. Both friends and family struggled to talk us out of it, but we never waivered. Throughout our marriage we struggled to overcome almost every crisis a relationship could possibly go through. Not because of our age, but because life threw a lot at us all at one time.

We once told our story to a marriage counselor who sat back in her large brown leather recliner to gawk at us. She stayed that way for several moments, eyes wide in disbelief before exclaiming- “Most marriages don’t survive ONE of the events you two have been through, let-alone ALL of them. The fact that you are still together is… beyond impressive.” It could have been taken as an insult but we chose to take it as a compliment.

That wasn’t the first marriage counselor we went to see over the years, or the last. Yet somehow we woke up every day and chose to love one another through our trials. We chose love despite days when warm fuzzy feelings were nowhere to be found. We chose love after seeing the ugliest side of each other and the ugliest parts of ourselves. We chose forgivness over mistakes we both made along the way and we grew stronger for it.

“I chose to be with you because you are my best friend and I didn’t want anyone else.” My husband replied with a wicked grin “Plus, you’re really hot.” I laughed at his remark and shook my head.

We’ve been married now for seventeen years, spent eighteen years of our lives together, and have been best friends for more than twenty years. We’ve been with each other longer than we have lived without one another. We are able to look across a room full of people and understand without words what the other needs and is thinking. Somedays the decision to choose love is an easy one, other times it becomes far more challenging.

There have been situations where one of us ended up working harder on our marriage than the other. Yet, the hard work that was poured into our relationship is what carried both of us through challenging times. Whatever trials we face, we are in this thing together. When we got married we had no idea what was to come. We were two babies full of promise and hope for the future. Despite serious obstacles like near death experiences, PTSD, financial crises, serious health problems, alcoholism, and so much more… our ability to choose love has only strengthened.

My marriage is living proof that when two people decide to put one another first, you can achieve a love that is unconditional. I promise that you read that correctly. No, it’s not a fairytale. That doesn’t mean you don’t get angry or struggle to get through horrible events. It doesn’t require one spouse to be a punching bag for the other spouse either. Love isn’t the warm fuzzy feelings people get when everything is going well. Love is a choice that both parties commit to making, simultaneously. That’s the real secret to a successful marriage.

My husband and I. Images by my amazing friend Chris Hansen, taken long after we were married in Korea
The two of us on our horses