A few weeks earlier she asked for a joke, so the note I sent with the flowers had a great one:
What did the stamp say to the envelope?
Stick with me and we’ll go places.
Both were delivered to her workplace on February 14, 2012 by 11:45 AM. Nine hours of silence later, I wasn’t really sure where I stood. I asked if I had a chance.
In what should probably have gone on an autocorrect meme… “I can be kinda obvious sometimes.”
She meant oblivious.
I wouldn’t figure that out until the next day.
We kept texting.
Distance kept us there for a while. She visited Mobile. I visited Anniston. We had adventures.
In August 2012 she got a job teaching down here.
I proposed to Shelley Boozer on Dr. Seuss’ birthday, because seriously, that’s what you do when you’re asking a kindergarden teacher to marry you. On March 2, 2013, in the blistering wind on a Gulf Shores beach not far from the crashing waves and a frozen pelican*, she said yes. Probably so we could get back in the car.
Because we’re insane, we chose a hot Alabama evening in July to get married. The ceremony was in Lyon Chapel at the University of Mobile where we both went to college. Just us and a few close friends. The party afterward was at our house.
I love you, Shelley Kennedy. Stick with me. We’ll go places.
*Just kidding about the pelican.
Nearly ten years ago I started a blog. One of my friends convinced me to sign up for a Blogger account; I decided I’d try to capture my seminary experience in New Orleans. I’d just graduated from the University of Mobile and was headed to a new city… a new life. Honestly, even then I didn’t expect to keep it up. But I did. Along the way I met other bloggers, some still out there making a difference, others long quieted by the adventure of life.
Landmarks litter our past, standing tall above our memories; Katrina is one of mine. If I started blogging out of peer pressure, it was Hurricane Katrina that fueled me for years. For six years I wandered- living in Louisiana, Texas, and Alabama. I traveled the continent. I took lots of pictures along the way. Then I came home.
I worked very hard and earned a job- one I was initially very excited about- helping people with the Red Cross. It didn’t work out, and now I help people with the University of Mobile.
I met a girl. She’s cute and teaches kids and I love her, so I asked her to marry me on Dr. Seuss’ birthday. We got married on my brother’s anniversary because apparently I don’t do well with dates. We’ll talk more about her later.
I could not have predicted one minute of the last ten years since this blog started. Today, we relaunch. I spent a lot of time thinking about what direction to take this blog. Two and a half stinkin’ years, actually.
And I still don’t really know where this will go.
Honestly, though, do we ever?
That’s the adventure.
Six years ago on August 29th I sat in the same room I wrote this, listening to the wind howl outside. The wind here was strong. Across Mobile windows broke. Limbs fell. Trees uprooted. Homes flooded.
Less than fifty miles west the unceasing tide rose, pushing inland without remorse. Nature has no remorse. It has no emotion. There were no “I’m sorrys” when Hurricane Katrina washed the world away on August 29th, 2005.
Entire blocks of the Mississippi Gulf Coast slipped into the unrelenting sea. Gone. Forever residing at the bottom of the Mississippi Sound for some future archaeologist to discover.
The levees broke. With them, my heart.
Searching for purpose in the wake of disaster – searching for myself – I volunteered to return immediately to help. I didn’t go. When the campus reopened nine months after the flood, I returned. June 1, 2006.
I made it two years – two years that changed the very core of who I am.
Six years ago today my life was uprooted. As were thousands of others, I became an American refugee. Six years ago I grew up. And in the two years after I returned, I learned what it meant to be a man.
Pain. Compassion. Hard work.
When I quit my job making coffee last year, I went to the Red Cross. I joined because I didn’t want people to suffer the way they had during Katrina. I wanted to help.
And I did. I’ve responded to fires and tornadoes. In the aftermath of the North and Central Alabama tornadoes, our chapter sent volunteers and staff to help. I did everything I could within the guidelines of the AmeriCorps VISTA program. And when a position opened up at the chapter in July, I applied.
Six years. Six years ago I would not have seen myself here. Not in this town. Not doing this.
But here I am. Today – six years to the day after my world was completely rocked – today is my first day as the District Volunteer Development Specialist with the American Red Cross.
I’m sure I’ve been making a difference for a while now, whether it was in Louisiana or Texas or Alabama. Whether it was as a popcorn boy at Target or as a coffee boy at the local bookstore or over the last year as a volunteer and VISTA.
It took a while. It felt like eternity. I’m pretty sure I sacrificed a few of my geriatric years getting here.
Pain. Compassion. Hard work.
It was worth it.
Last night I got home from my most recent road trip. I drove to Tupelo, Mississippi then visited the Corinth (Miss.) and Shiloh (Tenn.) Civil War battle sites. After a night in Franklin, I caught the northern terminus of the Natchez Trace Parkway Saturday morning and took it all the way to Natchez before coming on home to Mobile. It was a 14 hour drive, but I’m glad to be home.
Since I graduated high school, I’ve been a lot of places on the road. I decided to see if I could come up with a map of all the traveling I’ve done over the years, including a few trips that I forgot details for. I’ve been to thirty-seven states (in high school I flew into New York City and we visited New Jersey from there) and four Canadian provinces. I’ve lived in four states (Texas, Louisiana, Mississippi, and Alabama). One of my goals before I’m 40 is to make it to the rest of the United States and Canadian Provinces.
I’d also like to visit more of the National Parks. I’ve driven the Natchez Trace and Blue Ridge Parkways. I’ve seen the Smokey Mountains, Glacier National Park, and Yellowstone. I drove through the Bighorn National Forest, the Badlands, and the Grand Canyon. I caught the west end of the Florida Everglades. I’d love to get out to Big Bend in Texas and visit the Pacific Northwest.
Anyway, you can click the image (or here) to see a higher-resolution version.