My love story

Marriage.  It can evoke a number of feelings and sentiments in folks depending on their experience.  This being the time of year that people think about their relationships (aka, Valentine’s day), I suppose I am with them.  Marriage to me evokes wonderful feelings of love, happiness and security.  I love being a wife.  This year my husband and I will celebrate our 12th wedding anniversary.  Some days I feel like we’ve always been married.  Other times I think it hasn’t been that long.

My thought was to post some marital advice.  I may do that in upcoming posts, but I feel like before I can successfully give advice, you must know my story and my credentials on the subject.  So, here is a brief version of my love story.

I first met Chris Shannon the summer before my freshman year of high school.  We were in marching band together.  He was playing tuba.  I played trombone.  At first, I wasn’t a fan of his.  He missed a couple of marching band practices, which was serious business to me.  Someone told me he was on vacation.  I later learned he’d actually been in an ATV accident.

My irritation dissipated.  A few months later, I would follow him through the hallway giggling between classes.  Oh, man.  I thought I was so cool and incognito.  He was a junior.  I was freshmen.  That made it even cooler to me.  I know now that he was very aware of me.

We first started talking at a basketball game, and in no time we were spending hours on the telephone.  We’d talk on the phone late into the night, sometimes into the wee hours of the morning.  Looking back now, I’m not sure what we talked about for so long, but we did.  We got to know each other.  I learned about his family and his life.  He learned about mine.  We both came from loving homes with long-married parents.  We both were Christians, and our faith was a big part of our lives.

I wasn’t allowed to go on car dates until I was 16.  Chris would meet me places.  I was so excited when my parents said we could see a movie together.  I remember holding his hand in the theater and my heart skipping a beat.  We saw “Lightning Jack.”  It was a western, but it didn’t fascinate me nearly as much as the black-haired, hazel-eyed guy sitting next to me.

A few months later, on my 15th birthday, he asked me to be his girlfriend.  The next day, his 17th birthday, we shared our first kiss.  While we did some things together outside of school, mostly we hung out in school together.  We’d visit in between classes and write letters to one another.  We never broke up.  Though no one believed me, I knew that Chris was the man God had for me to marry.

Right after we became the new Mister and Missus back in Aug. 1999.

When Chris graduated, I cried.  It broke my heart to think of him not being at school any more.  He was going to college in our town, so he wasn’t even moving away, but I was sure things would be different.  I laugh now when I think of how I told him he’d start wearing khaki shorts (like all the other college kids!) and change.  While I did miss him at school, he didn’t change.  And he stuck around.  We continued our phone calls.  I was finally able to car date, but I still had very strict rules to follow.  I didn’t have a general curfew.  My curfew was based per activity.  If we were going to a movie, I’d have to call and see when it ended then my parents would know exactly when I should be home.  That was my way of life.  Later I realized how hard that must have been on Chris who was a college student with freedom.  But, he respected and dealt with my parents’ rules.  He wanted to be with me.

My senior year of high school came, and I was thrilled to receive a full academic scholarship to college that included room and board.  While I’d still be in the same town as my family going to Ball State University, I’d be living on campus.  I was excited and scared.  Chris showed me around campus and helped me find my classes.  He’d hang out with me in my dorm room, and we’d watch movies or color in coloring books in the student lounge down the hall.  We knew we were headed for marriage sooner rather than later.

After my freshman year, we went to look at engagement rings.  I was excited for our future.  We were young, but I knew that we would find a way to make it all work.  And I didn’t feel nearly as young as I was.  A week into my sophomore year of college, my grandpa died unexpectedly which left my family reeling.

Two weeks later, Chris took me to dinner at Olive Garden.  We had dressed up for dinner, which was rare for us, and then we went back to the dorm.  He had me stay in the car for a few minutes.  In cahoots with my roommate, he set up a dozen roses and lit a candle.  I got to the room and he got down on one knee.  It was perfect.

The ring hadn’t been sized as he had asked the jewelry store to do.  Though it was a few sizes too small, I was able to jam it on my finger.  In no time my finger was swelling and the ring wasn’t budging.  I still have a photo of us from that night that his mom took with my holding an ice pack on my finger.  His parents were happy.

My family was still dealing with grief.  They were shocked.  They weren’t happy.  They thought we were too young.  They insisted I’d never finish college.  They didn’t approve.  It was a tumultuous month or so.  I’d never been at odds with my parents before.  I never went through any sort of rebellion.  We had a good relationship, and this threw us for a loop.  Chris and I spent hours talking, seeking counsel and praying.  We wanted to do God’s will.  We sincerely felt it was God’s will for us to get married as young as we were.  We wanted a wedding in between my sophomore and junior years of college.

My parents, to their credit, also sought counsel and prayed.  I remember the day where it all just lifted.  I remember when my mom was able to take me dress shopping and talk about wedding plans and not cry about it.  We worked through it.  God worked in us.

And on Aug. 7, 1999 I became Mrs. Shannon.  Our first dinner as husband and wife was at McDonald’s.  We were headed to Gatlinburg, Tenn., and felt odd to be traveling out of town together.  We were so used to going on a date then Chris dropping me off at my dorm room or my parents’ house.  We spent our wedding night in the Cincinnati area.  The next day we headed on south.  We got all the way to the Gatlinburg Visitor’s Center before we ran out of gas.  We were so distracted and excited that we never stopped for gas.  Silly kids!

After our honeymoon, we settled into our small college apartment.  It wasn’t much, but it was ours and we loved it.  I worked on getting used to my new name as classes started a couple of weeks later.  We waited for things to get hard as so many people had assured us it would.  But, it never did.

I finished college then went on to graduate school.  We upgraded to a nicer apartment off campus.  My husband had a full-time job with good benefits.  Life was good.  As I was finishing graduate school in 2002, I started to have some health issues.  I’d been diagnosed with the bladder condition interstitial cystitis when I was 14, but my symptoms had gone away.  They came back tenfold then.  Chris was patient and understanding.  He’d get my heating pad for me.  We’d hang out on the couch.

Us with our daughter at our photo shoot in honor of her first birthday last October.

I decided to start my freelance career after graduating rather than wait and start it later.  So, we bought our first house at the end of 2003.  It was at the height of my worst bladder times.  I remember lying on the couch watching Chris paint because I couldn’t do much more.  We were good at communicating before.  We learned to get even better at communicating.  We needed to weather this together.

Over the course of the next two years, I had minor surgery, Chris had minor surgery, he broke his shoulder, my mom had major surgery and my dad had a horrible accident that left him in a coma for five weeks and in the hospital for two months.  It was an intense time to say the least.

And, yet, our relationship endured.  We were in this for better or for worse.  We sought solace and comfort in one another and in God.  We grew together.

In the middle of 2007, Chris lost his job.  We lost our insurance as a result.  It took him a full year to find another job.  It was one of the hardest times we’d been through.  And, yet, as he went off to work for the first time in a year to a job he needed to make money we desperately needed, I cried.  I missed him terribly.  His time off work had given us time together.  It was hard.  It was stressful, but we were together all day every day.

I adjusted.  He adjusted.  We decided to move closer to his job 70 miles away.  Again, we had some issues.  In the course of seven months we sold our house twice.  Both times the buyer backed out.  Just after the first buyer backed out, we found out I was pregnant.  We had just started trying and were utterly shocked.  When the second buyer backed out, I was seven months pregnant.  We were staying put.

And while we had been through stress and hardship in the past, the birth of our daughter in October 2009 was probably one of the most stressful times of all.  It was very intense learning to take care of a newborn.  No one was getting much sleep.  We had to once again readjust and learn how to communicate all over.

While our love story is far from over, we’ve learned along the way.  One concern a family member of mine had about us getting married so young is that we’d both grow and change as we got older.  We have done that.  I’m not the exact same Stacey I was in 1999, and Chris isn’t the exact same Chris he was then either.  But, we have grown together.  We’ve made a life.  We’ve made a family.  I wouldn’t change it.  I can’t imagine life differently or without my husband.

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