Our 11th Wedding Anniversary: A Muddy Jeep Wrangler Ride and a Quaint Meal Out in My Hometown of Fort Payne, Alabama

After staying overnight as a family at the Hilton, I walked across the parking lot to work Friday morning; which was our actual 11th wedding anniversary. Then once I put in my 8 hours, we drove a quick 3 hours to my hometown of Fort Payne, Alabama to spend our anniversary weekend.

Quite predictably, we went out Saturday morning to go looking for trouble in the Jeep, which we found a little too easily.

With the top off, we embarked on an unmarked dirt road full of questionable mud puddles. I didn’t consider that the mud will inevitably end up getting slung off the tires and inside the Jeep.

I was especially proud of the blob of mud that landed on the dashboard, right next to my hand on the steering wheel. My plan was to keep it there pretty much permanently, but with the hot July sun, it didn’t take too long to dry, harden, and fall off after a few more bumps in the Jeep.

That evening, my wife and I had the rare privilege of having free babysitters (family, of course!) to watch and feed our kids while we disappeared for a solid four hours.

My sister had suggested a mom-and-pop Mediterranean place called Fontana’s. It was exactly what we were looking for, but didn’t realize existed. It was the epitome of the word quaint; and therefore it was perfect.

I am already looking forward to going back there next weekend when we are back in town for my 20th high school reunion, which will be held just down the street from the restaurant.

So there you go. That’s the best way for a husband and wife to spend their 11th wedding anniversary.

Maybe one day we’ll go somewhere without the kids. But honestly, as long as the kids are young, we might as well let them have some fun too!

Our 11th Wedding Anniversary Staycation in Franklin, Tennessee at the Hilton Franklin Cool Springs Hotel

What’s the best way for you and your spouse to celebrate your 11th wedding anniversary? Clearly, with your two kids at the Hilton right next to the building where you work.

At least, that was the case for me.

So I was able to just leave my Jeep right there in the parking lot and walk over to the Hilton Franklin Cool Springs hotel to spend July 4th with my family for the holiday- and for my wife and I to officially celebrate our 11th wedding anniversary; which was actually on July 5th.

We also arranged for our close friends Mohamad and Lena, along with their daughter who is our own daughter’s age, to stay on the same hall.

When it came time to decide where to go out for dinner, there weren’t a whole lot of restaurants open on the July 4th holiday; so naturally, we chose House of India. My wife and I loved it so much we decided we will definitely go back when it is just the two of us.

As a 38 year-old man, I just don’t end up in a swimming pool much these days. However, on July 4th in Tennessee, it gets so hot that if you’re going to be outside for any reason, it better be because you’re in a swimming pool.

I forgot how much fun swimming in a pool can be, especially when you’re entertaining kids.

Adjacent to the Executive Lounge (where I ended up having breakfast the next morning), there is huge deck where you can see all the way to Nashville in one direction, and all the way to Spring Hill where we actually live, in the other.

So for our 4th of July fireworks show, we had quite the view!

Staying at the Hilton Franklin Cool Springs hotel was definitely the right call for us on July 4th!

And for our actual anniversary on July 5th, we made our way to my hometown of Fort Payne, Alabama; where my wife and I actually had a night out by ourselves.

Stay tuned for the other half of this story…

Today is Our 10th Wedding Anniversary!

As of today, my wife and I have been married 10 years. Admittedly, that is a fact I am very proud of, as it is an honor to be married to this woman.

I am even more in love with her now than I was on July 5, 2008.

That’s something I can honestly say. Because over the course of the past decade, we have both evolved as individuals, while at the same time we have chosen to grow together in the same direction.

Therefore, I can now appreciate who she is as a person more than I could 10 years ago. We have made “happily ever after” our daily choice.

It helps that my wife is full of grace. I think that was an underlying trait of hers that I always knew that attracted me to her.

Now at age 37, with the life experience of 10 years of marriage, and 7 and a half as a parent, I have undeniably evolved.

I can’t see how a man could go from bachelor to married man and then father, over the course of a decade, without being forced to change for the better; as he is stripped away of his sense of selfishness, and trades it in for selflessness.

Back in 2008, at age 27, I knew so little about adulthood and how the world actually worked.

As I recently mentioned, the search for wisdom, truth, and meaning ends with life’s responsibilities; including marriage, children, and a mortgage.

I am not the same person I was a decade ago; neither is my wife.

With each passing decade ahead, I know we will continue to evolve as individuals, as well as together.

We knew each other for 4 months before we started dating, then dated for for a 11 months before we became engaged (nearly half of that time she was overseas in Australia serving as a nanny), then were engaged for 5 months before we got married.

And now 10 years have passed.

That is our story so far. We’ve got the rest of our lives to figure out what comes next.

This is 36: We Celebrated Our 9 Year Wedding Anniversary by Taking Our Kids on a Road Trip to Louisville, Kentucky

Yes, it was indeed nine years ago today that my wife and I were married at Brenthaven Cumberland Presbyterian Church. We purposely got married right next to a holiday (July 4th) so that we’d sort of always have a built-in day off for whatever we ended up doing for our anniversary.

For our 9th anniversary this year, we decided there was no better way to celebrate, than the load up our 6 and a half year-old son and our 1 year-old daughter and take a random road trip to one of my favorite cities in America:

Louisville, Kentucky.

Perhaps a more normal couple would have ventured there without the kids- and checked out some venues that are little more anniversary-ish and perhaps not so focused on catering to the attention spans of children.

Nah. Not us.

If we’re going to spend the money on a road trip, even just a 3 hour one across the state line, we might as well make it a family affair.

Being the world’s most famous vegan family friendly daddy blogger, Toyota helped us out by sending a 2017 4Runner; which proved to be ideal for our laid-back adventure to the Blue Grass State.

Because we’ve got our annual family zoo pass from Nashville, we were able to get in the Louisville Zoo for half off.

And because we’re cool adventurous people, we even took an unplanned stop at Dinosaur World in Cave City, Kentucky on the way back home to Tennessee.

Thanks to some points we’d earned, my wife was able to cash in a free stay at the Marriott Courtyard Louisville East, just a few miles from the zoo.

I must say we were quite entertained by the “New Japan Pro-Wrestling” tournament that happen to be on, while we enjoyed our dessert treats from Whole Foods Louisville; which was also just a few miles away too.

Two queen size beds between the four of us…

You can imagine how it must have been getting our daughter to sleep too; in the pack-and-play bed next to ours.

It was around 10:30 PM by the time both our kids were asleep. To ensure we didn’t disturb them, we laid out a towel on the bathroom floor in front of the sink, and enjoyed our gourmet vegan cupcakes from Whole Foods.

This is 36.

What I’ve Learned From 7 Years Of Marriage

Today makes 7 years ago I married the beautiful girl who would change my life for the better…

Joe Hendricks Photography

Looking back on these past 7 years, my wife has taught me many crucial things and I’m absolutely a better person because of her.

Being married to my wife has confirmed my pre-existing understanding of what true romance is:

That a man truly wants to spend the rest of his life learning how to love the woman of his life; that there’s not simply a “happy ending” to the story just because the guy gets the girl.

Real love from a man to a woman is evolving to a stronger, more mature place, along with her love for him. Evolve is the key word.

It’s not about a happy ending, the way the movies end on their 90th minute right before the credits roll. It’s about an overall happy life-long journey, acknowledging the not-so-happy parts in between that are part of that experience as well, leading to that evolution.

Otherwise, there wouldn’t be the need to evolve together.

That’s how I’ve always felt about her.

It’s almost miraculous that nearly a decade ago when she and I met, despite my immaturity and inexperience as a 26 year-old “guy”, I had enough going on at the time to convince her I was worth her investment.

Joe Hendricks Photography

Because now, as a 34 year-old man, I do have the maturity level and life experience I wish I had when I was a single 27 year-old. But it’s only because of what I’ve learned from being her husband.

Maybe it’s now in this very moment that I am able to realize that despite all the things I appreciate of my wife, the thing I value the most is knowing she is patient to let me learn and work through my own shortcomings..

She always is understanding. Not to mention, she is always willing to give my crazy ideas a chance.

Honestly, it’s this simple: Without hesitation, I can easily replace the word “love” with her name in 1 Corinthians 13:4-7:

Jill is patient, Jill is kind. She doesn’t envy, she doesn’t boast, she isn’t proud. She isn’t rude, she isn’t self-seeking, she isn’t easily angered, she keeps no record of wrongs. She doesn’t delight in evil but rejoices in the truth. She always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. Jill never fails.

That’s how I see my wife.

Granted, I’m fully aware that she and I are both two imperfect people. But we are two imperfect people who ultimately always protect, always trust, always hope, and always persevere.

Therefore, perfection isn’t necessary.

Photos courtesy of Joe Hendricks Photography.