A Pandemic Wedding Story


At the beginning of the year Jason and I set May 30, 2020, as the date for our wedding.  We didn’t want it to be too soon and we wanted it to be special as our two families were becoming one.  It would also allow just enough time to get all the paperwork in order before his retirement date on June 22.  We sent out ‘Save the Date’ cards and started planning.  Since Shortway Brewing Co. was our first date (over a year and a half ago) and our second first date (when I finally got my act together and realized I was in love with him) we thought there would be nowhere more perfect than for us to have our wedding and the reception in the Beer Garden there.  So, we locked it on. 

Jason’s daughter, Akela, and I went to David’s Bridal the last weekend in January just to look. We walked away with a wedding dress and a bridesmaids dress. The invitations were made and they were in addressed envelopes with stamps waiting to be mailed. I even set up a page on Zola.com so that I could manage all the RSVPs.  It wasn’t going to be a large wedding.  We definitely weren’t planning anything crazy or glamorous (we aren’t fancy people).  We just wanted to make sure the kids got to be a part of it.  I was looking forward to Landon walking me down the aisle (more like rock path) to my future husband.  And we wanted to make sure there was good beer and good bbq for our family and friends.  Priorities!  

February flew by and before I knew it, it was March. Just a few short months away Jason and I would be married, Akela would graduate high school, Jason would retire and we would all head up to Wisconsin as one family.

Hello COVID19. 

First came the travel ban for active duty Marines and DOD employees.  Next, schools went into virtual learning mode from home.  Then, companies began putting their non-essential employees on telework status.  Lastly, businesses started to close and the ‘Stay at Home’ order went into effect. 

Because of all this, Jason’s retirement got pushed up to June 15.  Now we were going to have less time to get my name on all the necessary paperwork.  But I was certain we’d be able to get it done.  I made sure my last day of work was May 28th so that I could focus on getting what needed to be done after the wedding.

I realized we might not be able to get an application for a marriage license because of all the closures.  I called the Register of Deeds and they said they were taking it a day at a time and they couldn’t give me any definitive answers.  And we were still more than 60 days out from the wedding (marriage applications are only good for 60 days in North Carolina).  This is the moment I went into panic mode. 

Jason had told me he didn’t care when or how we got married.  He just wanted to be married to me.  So, on the morning of Friday, March 27th (about 1030am), I called the Register of Deeds and asked if I could come in to get a marriage license (just in case).  I had a doctor appointment in New Bern that afternoon so I was already going to be up there.  They made me an appointment at 1230pm.  That was going to be plenty of time before my 2pm appointment.  I called up Jason, told him to get the paperwork he needed and that we were going to get a marriage license. 

While I was rushing to get ready, now that I knew I had to get to the Register of Deeds office in two hours, I thought I would call the Magistrates office to see if they were offering limited services. The Magistrate answered (in a not so friendly way) and told me there was only one office still doing marriages and that they perform them until dark.

Yes!  He said dark… that is NOT helpful for a person who needs an exact time!  I digress.

When I got off the phone with him, I called Jason and said, “let’s get married after my doctor appointment.”  I don’t think he believed me because I was so adamant about waiting until May 30th.  He agreed and said he’d be over soon to pick me up so we could head to New Bern. 

Now I really needed to get ready.  Like, do my make up and do something with my hair. And I did not have a lot of time to do it in.  

I needed two witnesses. I FaceTimed Roxie. We casually chatted for a minute when I asked what she was doing at about 3pm that day (it was already 11am). I asked if she would be my witness and grab Carson (her daughter) because I knew Daniel was at work. Roxie was at a loss for words. She tried saying stuff, but she kept stammering. I wish I could have recorded her reaction. It was priceless. She of course said yes. Then asked me what she should wear. I said “I don’t know” and then she asked “what are you wearing?” CRAP! I hadn’t even thought of that. She asked “What’s Jason wearing?” CRAP again! I didn’t know. I guess I should tell him to wear something nice. I called him, told him to wear jeans and a nice shirt. Easy peasy, right? I FaceTimed Roxie back and told her what Jason and I were going to wear and that I would drop her a pin of where to meet us at for the wedding after my doctor appointment.

Jason and I headed to New Bern.  We got our application. We were hungry.  We went to McDonalds (since we couldn’t go anywhere to sit and eat) and ordered chicken nuggets and sat in the car and ate. 

We arrived about 30 minutes early for my doctor appointment.  We waited at least 15 minutes when the girl behind the desk finally called my name to take me back.  Since Jason and I were the only ones in the waiting room she got a good look at us and said “Awe, you guys look so nice.  Are you doing something after this?”  I casually answered back, “yeah, we might get married.”  Her jaw dropped.  “Are you serious!?” she asked.  Yes. Yes I was.

When my appointment was over we headed straight the Magistrate’s office (and the jail… they are in the same location). Roxie and Carson texted that they were on their way.  When they arrived, Roxie gets out of the car and hands me a bouquet of beautiful hydrangeas (they were the flowers I planned to use for the May 30th wedding).  Then she handed me her nana’s handkerchief (which I totally tucked into my underwear – I didn’t have pockets!) and said I could ‘borrow’ it.  She wrapped blue string around the bouquet (my something blue), she told me Jason was my ‘something new’ and that she was my ‘something old.’  Then she went around to the back of the car and pulled out Shortway Beer from a cooler.  She said it was for the reception after. I was completely suprised. (And impressed at how she was able to pull it all together in such a short time).

Carson, me and Roxie.

It was time.  We all walked to the Magistrate, filled out papers and paid our fee.  He let us do it outside and stood about 20 feet away from us.  Roxie FaceTime her husband Daniel and our friend Kim (who was traveling to Virginia – she stopped on the side of the road to watch) and our simple, short and sweet ceremony began.  We were Mr. and Mrs. Van at approximately 3pm that afternoon. 

The Moment it Became Official.

Afterwards we went down the street to the rest stop, sat on a picnic table and drank our beer. 

Jason and I were still going to have a reception at Shortway on May 30th and I was going to wear my dress and we’d just cut out the ceremony part. We were already married so it didn’t seem necessary.  It was just going to be a celebration with our family and friends. Plan B was a go. 

Today, a month after we got married, we had to make the hard decision to cancel our reception on May 30th. There are still too many unknowns and we’d hate to make a last-minute decision and waste money.

Plan C is now in effect.  Instead of having a reception we are going to have professional pictures taken of our family, all dressed up like we would have been for the wedding on May 30th, and instead of sending out wedding invitations, we’re going to send marriage announcements. 

The pandemic may have forced our hand in changing our wedding plans.  But it definitely didn’t ruin anything.  Our wedding day was absolutely amazing.  My friend rocked it with last-minute surprise planning (which she does best) and made our day even sweeter. 

I married the man of my dreams on March 27th 2020.  It was perfect in every way. 

The Happy Couple. Married on 3/27/20 in New Bern, North Carolina.

Signed,

Mrs. Anne Van

Wrapping Up 2019

Photo by Jessica Lewis on Pexels.com

It’s the end of 2019.  Along with holiday sentiments from my friends on Facebook and Instagram there are also posts about being happy 2019 is coming to close.  For one reason or another, many people felt 2019 didn’t go their way or give them the outcome they had hoped for.  But take a moment and think about your 2019; the good, the bad, the undecided.    

I have a tendency to be one of those people who can’t wait for a “new year” because “this year is going to be different!”  Maybe it’s because I am in a better place today than I have been in quite some time, or maybe it’s because this better place I’m in has allowed me to see more clearly than I ever have before.  Either way, this might be the first time I haven’t wished for a “new year” to make my life better.  Because let’s face it – the year we write down does not hold special, magic powers.  The people we decide to be and the choices we make affect the outcomes in which we “blame” the year. And I think it’s time we recognize and admit that.

I took note of all the things (again, the good the bad and the undecided) that took place in my 2019.  In chronological order, here’s what I came up with:

  • Maxed out my student loans and had to pay out of pocket for tuition.
  • Graduated with my second bachelor’s degree.
  • Visited two states I have never been to before (Missouri and Kansas).
  • Stepped foot on my college campus for the first time ever (as a two-time undergraduate alumni). 
  • Host family for the Morehead City Marlins (again).
  • Landon started high school at my alma mater – Go Rams!
  • Ran my first (and only) half marathon.
  • Had to start paying my student loans back.
  • Started seeing a counselor.
  • I fell in love.
  • Celebrated 10 years working with MCCS.
  • Had my breast implants removed after 15 years.
  • Landon got his driving permit. 
  • Had new floors put down in my house.
  • I lost my best friend. 
  • We adopted a kitty (really, he adopted us).
  • I was a bridesmaid in a long-time friend’s wedding. 
  • Joined a running group.
  • Referred to a neurosurgeon for my back.

Obviously, more than that happened but that list just sums things up.  There was a lot of good.  There was also a heart-wrenching bad.  If 2019 taught me anything, it’s that anything CAN and WILL happen.  Regardless if you are ready for it. 

So, while I wrap up this year, instead of hoping for a better 2020 (because honestly, my 2019 was a pretty amazing year) I am going to remember the good things and use the bad things to help me get through the tough times.  The bad things, whether we like it or not, are inevitable.  I am going to move forward with the notion that your time will come when the time is ready, and we will never know when that is.  So, 2020 will be full of love, friendships and zero regrets.    

When it’s time to write 2020 instead of 2019, remember the ink that wrote the date doesn’t dictate your outcome for 2020.  You do.       

I’ll Love Her Forever

Me and Julie – 2014 – Beaufort, SC

November 20th, I received news that my dear best friend Julie, had passed in her sleep.  My heart sank.  Tears began filling my eyes.  I felt sick.  There was no way it was true.  I mean, I had just talked to her the week before.  The first phone call I made was to John Paul, Julie’s son.  When I heard his voice confirm, “Miss Anne, mom died” it took everything I had to stay upright. 

I was at work when all this happened.

That was a hard, painful day.  Many people reached out to me via Facebook and text messages to make sure I knew.  Being 6 hours away from each other, Julie and I didn’t get to see each other all the time, but we talked every week.  Throughout the day I would have fits of uncontrollable crying.  Jason just held me.  Just about the time my crying would subside I’d think about how much Julie would have loved Jason and how she’d never get to meet the love of my life.  She would have surely been Team Jason – an inside sentiment between Julie and I.  When I went to bed that night, swollen-faced and puffy-eyed, all I could do was wonder if Julie was happy when she passed.  Her happiness was so important to me.  She had so much love to give to the world.  And I needed so badly to know she was happy. 

The very next day as I got into my car to leave for work a little black cat came out of nowhere and jumped onto the driver’s side floorboard.  Two very important things here:  1) I had never seen this cat before and 2) Julie had an obsession with black cats.  She had two; Codie and Storm.  And she encouraged others to adopt black cats because she worried people didn’t want them because they all looked the same.  So here I am sitting in my car the day after Julie’s passing and this black cat jumps up onto my lap and starts purring loudly.  I just sat there and watched him.  When I would pet him, his purrs got louder.  He eventually curled up in a ball and started to close his eyes.  I took a few pictures, shared on Facebook and had to get the kitty out of my car because I had to get to work.  During the drive to work I thought about Julie and her love for black cats.  My heart suddenly felt better.  I smiled thinking about Julie.  Call it Devine intervention.  Call it whatever you like.  But it was at that time I realized Julie was telling me she was happy.  She was OK.  She was where she needed to be.  Julie was with me that morning.

JuJu – November 21st

When I went home at the end of the day that black kitty was waiting for me in my garage.  I named him JuJu.  (That’s what I used to call Julie.  Landon called her Aunt JuJu.)   I had no intention on keeping the cat.  I figured he would come and go as he pleases.  Landon put down a bed for him.  The next day we bought food.  He got new dishes and a litter box.  Now he has toys and a covered cat bed all for himself.  Every morning and each evening we sit together in the garage where JuJu lays in my lap while I pet him.  Sometimes I talk to him.  Sometimes we just sit in silence. 

Many people don’t know how Julie and mines friendship began.  Julie was the Catering Manager for Traditions, the Officer Club on MCRD Parris Island.  I gave a brief and provided a lunch to the Series Commander Course Marines at Traditions and made arrangements through Julie month after month.  After a while, our work relationship turned into meeting up at Traditions on Friday nights to have a beer or two.  One of those Friday nights, Julie told me something that changed the course of our relationship.  She said something like, “So many people warned me about you and said I shouldn’t be friends with you.  Since you’re pretty, going through a divorce, skinny with big boobs everyone thinks you are bad news.  But I told them I make my own decisions.”

Side Note:  Parris Island was and still is a fish bowl!  It was such a toxic environment.  If you weren’t doing anything wrong, people gossiped about you and made terrible things up.  If you were admittedly doing wrong, everyone covered it up and acted like nothing was happening.  I had people judging me left and right.  It was a terrible time for me.  Even the people I worked with were turning their backs on me.  It was an incredibly lonely time. 

What Julie told me hurt to hear.  I started crying because I hated how mean and terrible people were.  How dare someone “warn” Julie about me.  The crazy part is the people who told her awful things about me didn’t even know me.  People had zero reason to not like me, especially if they didn’t know me.  All because she gave me a chance when most other people would have easily been swayed by someone else’s opinion, Julie was literally my only friend. 

Julie chose me.  She was the first person to ever choose me.    We’ve been inseparable ever since. 

Julie and I had a special bond.  If you can believe it, we never fought.  There was never a time in our friendship when we didn’t talk to one another because of arguments, disagreements or just because we were getting on each other’s nerves.  And if it seemed like we were getting into a heated debate, I would start tickling Julie until she would almost pee herself laughing.  One time she actually did!  And then we both laughed so hard because of it!   Julie and I had no shame. 

She brought so much joy to my life. 

I traveled to Parris Island for her memorial and to say my goodbyes.  I was asked to speak.  A Marine dressed in his blues walked me from the pew up the stage and to the microphone.  I told him without him there my legs wouldn’t have been able to hold me up.  I made it without crying. 

3 weeks later….

When I close my eyes, I can still see Julie lying motionless in her casket.  Eyes closed, arms crossed, a somber look on her face.  It makes me shudder because that was NOT the Julie I loved in any way, shape or form.  She was always smiling and laughing.  She was vibrant.  She was loving.  She was compassionate.  When I close my eyes, I want to see THAT Julie.  I know I will get there one day and that this is part of the grieving process.  Everyday I miss her.  Forever I will love her.

Life is Good

Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

A few weeks ago, in my blog titled Hanging up the Cape, I shared my personal experience of hitting an all-time low and sought out professional help.  Each session helped me to understand that my happiness and emotional fulfillment were within my control.

I took control of my life one piece at a time. I started with Jason.

In spring of 2018 I kept the score book for The Realini’s, a Havelock Little League baseball team, despite the fact that my son didn’t play baseball anymore.  I love baseball and since the coach and his wife are great friends (more like family) to me I dedicated my time to keeping the book.  I got to know the players and some of the parents.  There was this one parent in particular. Jason.  Every now and then we’d exchange playful banter with occasional shit talking. I mean, who doesn’t?

By the end of the season, I had figured out he was a single dad with full custody of his kids. I knew both kids from the baseball field. We ended up becoming obligatory Facebook friends. We would run into each other on base from time to time. We’d say hello, exchange small talk and then go on with our business. At some point we exchanged numbers (there’s a good chance I gave him my number first. But honestly, I can’t remember). Every couple of weeks (maybe even months) he’d send a text and I would reply back. He helped me pick up a chicken coop in September with his truck. He checked on me throughout Hurricane Florence. One day he took off work to take me to my lumbar injection appointment. Eventually, we went out to dinner and stopped by Shortway’s (a local brewery) owned by a reservist Marine, Matt and his wife, Lindsay. That Christmas Jason bought a car for his daughter and kept it in my driveway until I drove it over around midnight on Christmas Eve/Christmas Day so he could surprise her. He even drove me around to see Christmas lights (my favorite holiday tradition). But then, just like Hurricane Florence wreaked havoc on eastern North Carolina, my feelings, issues, insecurities, problems, anxiety, and everything in between came to the surface and ruined everything. I put up a wall. Kept to myself. And dealt with life alone.

My counseling sessions had me thinking about Jason a lot. While I was in the waiting room for one of my sessions one afternoon, I texted Jason with a “hey you.” Knowing he would answer back (because that is the type of person Jason is) I asked him if I could take him out that weekend. Normally, I would have been too afraid to ask because I have crippling anxiety with the thought of being rejected. So, it’s always been easier to avoid any situation where I might be rejected. But I wanted to take control of my life. And that meant I needed to get over my fear of rejection. Jason said yes to the weekend date.

A few days later, when he picked me up, the moment I saw him walking towards me I knew. I threw my arms around him and kissed him. There was no denying it; I was in love.

I have so many thoughts and emotions, but I struggle to put them into words.  All I know is that if I wouldn’t have reached out for help, I wouldn’t have dealt with my inner demons and struggles.  And I wouldn’t be where I am with Jason.  Life is good. 

Hanging Up The Cape

I’ve hung up my cape, folks.  I never realized how heavy my cape was until I took it off.  Maybe later I will have a ceremonial lighting of a candle to symbolize the burning of my cape.  Because I never EVER want to wear it, see it or think about it again. 

………… you get that there isn’t an actual cape, right? 

The cape I am referring to is the notion that I somehow convinced myself I needed to be a real-life Superwoman.  Not the crime fighting or saving babies from burning buildings kind.  I’m talking about the ‘super independent, I don’t need anyone, anything, I won’t ask for help and I can and will make it on my own and – oh by the way – while I am doing it I will put on a brave face and never show any weakness, fear or emotion nor will I allow myself to be put in a position of rejection or vulnerability.’  You know, that kind of Superwoman.   

A few weeks ago, I was NOT OK.  But you know what?  I haven’t been OK for a while.  Maybe a year or two…. Possibly more.  But the few weeks ago in which I am talking about, it was pretty bad.  Downright scary.  I don’t know what it is like to be an alcoholic who has blackouts but if I had to compare, I would have to guess it was similar to that.  I really can’t remember much from those couple of weeks.  I couldn’t focus.  I couldn’t see clearly.  I didn’t care about anything.  I stopped going to the gym.  I avoided people.  I would be driving and suddenly wonder where I was and where I was going.  That’s when I knew that I wasn’t OK.  That’s when I reached out for help. 

I used some resources I knew I had through my employer and made an appointment with a Licensed Professional Counselor (LPC).  I was only able to have 3 free sessions with her.  They helped immensely.  I am sure part of it was the refocusing of my brain and having someone to talk with me about things, but after the first session I felt good.  After the second session, I felt great.  At the third session, I was a different person.    

I focused on making a small change with the help of my counselor.  The results of which have made me happier than I have been in a very long time.  I am giddy to my core with how incredibly happy I am.  And it is truly a feeling I don’t think I have ever felt in my 35 years of life.

It’s time for the ‘symbolic’ burning of the cape. 

I am done being Superwoman.  

Move Over Romeo and Juliet

Rocky and Adrian, Cleopatra and Mark Antony, Bonnie and Clyde, Allie and Noah.  These couples have nothing on Roxie and Daniel. 

I met Roxie three and a half years ago at work.  After a few months of getting to know her I requested her as a friend on Facebook, because that’s what you do now-a-days, right?  Well, apparently Roxie and I were not on the same page because she wasn’t sure if she wanted to be my friend.  – I was just as shocked as you are.  This winning smile, infectious personality??  Who wouldn’t want to be my friend? –   Don’t worry, I will never let her live that down.  Even on her death bed, I am going to remind her of it.  After she switched jobs and moved into the office across from me, she started warming up to me.  Actually, I believe there was something said about feeding body parts to a pig….. but anywho, soon after not only did we become Facebook friends, but we became real friends. 

I met Daniel once or twice during the first couple of months Roxie and I worked together.  He even put me in his phone as Anna Dotty.  It was at least a month until I found out and corrected him.   Then, when I foolishly decided to sign up for the Marine Corps Marathon in March of 2018, Roxie had mentioned Daniel having some friends who might be willing to train with me.  Then, it turned into Daniel helping me train.  Then, it turned into Daniel signing up for the marathon to run with me.  Then, it was every weekend early morning training on Emerald Isle or Atlantic Beach with Roxie as our personal Sherpa riding along side us with water, biofreeze, gels, gummies, towels, motivation and snapping us along the way to keep our (mostly Daniel’s) social media followers updated.  (It’s a real thing!  If you don’t follow Daniel on Snapchat, you are missing out.)

I can tell you one thing: If you’ve never trained for a marathon with someone (in my case a couple) you don’t really know them. But I still spare you the Vaseline, twizzler, peeing on the side of the road, topless in bed, laying under a tree in the middle of the road stories for another time. I’ve piqued your interest though, huh??

Roxie and Daniel have been married 23 years, but you’d swear they were newlyweds because of how in love they are.  These two do not just tolerate each other (which is something I am accustomed to seeing in long-term relationships), they aren’t just husband and wife and they don’t just go through the motions.  These two are a team.  They are partners in life.  They support and encourage each other.    You know how some couple rag on their spouse?  Maybe make fun of their cooking or bad habits?  I have never heard either of them rag each other or make each other feel bad out of fun the way many couples do.  They even do everything together.  And it’s not out of force or guilt.  They really like being together and enjoy each other’s company.  My favorite part – which might be too personal, but I am going to share it anyways (if you know Daniel, just don’t tell him I told you) but his wife still swoons over him.  I hear all the time how proud she is of him and how handsome he looks in uniform and when we are out kayaking or running, she will glance over at him and say out loud – to no one in particular – “gosh he’s sexy.”  When I watch her watch her husband and smile, I smile.  I smile because when I see them, I know there is hope for me. 

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, I want a love like Roxie and Daniel.   #relationshipgoals

So here I am, writing about this amazing couple I look up to. I have so much love and admiration for these two, very special people. Thank you, Roxie and Daniel, for being my real life Hallmark movie romance (with a whole lot of comedy and some content only suitable for mature audiences).