Monday, October 29, 2018

My Love Story

I love meeting new people and hearing their stories. As a Marine family, we have a unique opportunity to meet people from all over the world. Since we've moved to Yuma, we've started to meet new people, and have had people over at our house twice already for dinner. I feel like food and wine is the best way to bring a new group of people together. I love hearing people's stories about how they grew up, where they grew up, and how they ended up where they are now.

The question that Nick and I get ALL. THE. TIME. when we meet new people is, "How did y'all meet?" (or if they're not from the south, "How did you guys meet?"). I think people are intrigued because we didn't meet in college, we are from two completely different states, and because I was a Marine. In his former life, Nick was an artilleryman (an MOS that was, at the time, only males). So people get curious to know how this chick from the airwing landed her this sexy artilleryman. So I thought I'd share our "love story", because it's my favorite (duh).

Also, if you already know us really well and know how we met, you can totally skip this blog post, cause it's long.

SO....Here. We. Go.

I returned from Iraq at the end of 2007. I had just been promoted to Sgt in Iraq, and on my second enlistment. I knew that if I wanted to be promoted to SSgt before my 8 year mark hit, I would need to do a special duty assignment (recruiting duty, drill instructor duty, embassy duty). Recruiting duty was almost a guaranteed pathway to SSgt because it is considered one of the most difficult assignments, so I volunteered to go on recruiting. This was a big deal, because no one volunteers for recruiting. No one wants to put themselves through that hell.

My request for recruiting duty was quickly approved (before I could change my mind), and I had orders to report to recruiters school at MCRD San Diego in April of 2008. One of the prerequisites for a Sgt to get promoted to SSgt is to attend Sgts Course (an intense, month long leadership course). Since I would not be able to attend Sgts Course while on recruiting duty, my command let me go in February of 2008. I met a guy in my class that ended up liking me more than I liked him.  My birthday is in March, and I had zero plans. Another female Marine that I worked with agreed to go out with me to a bar called Hennessey's in Dana Point, CA to celebrate my birthday with me (and the guy I met in Sgts Course). He had practically invited himself when he found out I was going out. The night sucked, because the guy was being a jerk to me, and I just wanted him to leave. He was super jealous and possessive, and that wasn't ok with me. I made me decision that night that whatever "thing" I had going on with this guy needed to end ASAP.  I did my best to keep my distance and avoid him all night. I ran into a friend at that bar who was hanging out with two of his friends. I told him about my frustrations with this guy that had crashed my birthday, and he let me hang out with him for a little bit. Nick happened to be one of his friends. He was wearing an American Eagle polo shirt and his Alabama hat (boo!) slightly crooked on his head. I had been drinking, and was a little drunk, and all I remember is taking his hat off his head and flirting with him. We didn't exchange phone numbers or anything, and our meeting was brief at the bar. The night ended, and I remember leaving the bar in tears because of the jerky guy that ruined the night for me. The cute guy I met at the bar in the Alabama hat was just a distant memory. I didn't expect to ever see him again.

That following Monday, I was scheduled to go to the rifle range for the week for my annual rifle qualification. My unit always shot at a range called Wilcox range, but they were having shooting matches there that week. I was switched to go shoot at Edson Range where Marine recruits who are attending boot camp at MCRD San Diego shoot. The first week of rifle qualification is called "snap in" week. Snap in week is when Marines just get refamiliarized with the shooting positions for qualification, and make sure our weapons shoot straight. We basically just lay around in the grass for hours at a time shooting pretend bullets at pretend targets painted on a barrel. (see below)

I was bored, and counting down the hours when we could turn our weapons back into the armory. When the time came, I eagerly got up, adjusted the sling on my rifle, and started to get my things together to turn my rifle in. That's when this tall Marine walked up to me, and asked, "Were you at Hennessey's this past weekend?"

I looked up and realized it was "Mr. Alabama hat"! I was mortified that he was seeing me in my hot mess state....dirty cammies, probably a little smelly, sweaty, no make up....oh my Lord. 
We struck up a short conversation, and he left. I found out he was a drill instructor, and he was also qualifying on the same range as me because this was one of the only times he had time to qualify. His recruits were at Camp Pendleton for the month for "2nd phase", when recruits are bussed from MCRD San Diego to Camp Pendleton to do field training and rifle qualification. 

That week, Nick always chose to snap in next to me. He always walked back to the armory with me. What's funny is that he was a SSgt at the time, and I was a Sgt. Because he was a SNCO, he was allowed to drive his weapon in his personal vehicle to the armory to turn his weapon in. The walk to the armory from the range was long (especially after a long, hot day in the sun), and I thought it was so weird he was choosing to walk. I asked him why he didn't just drive, and his response was, "because I want to show all these other SNCO's that they're weak." I later found out that he was only walking because he wanted to spend time with me. 

Those two weeks on the rifle range, we became friends. As one of the only females on the entire range, he thought it was hilarious watching every single male range coach try and "coach" me into being a better shooter. We became MySpace friends. Yes, we are old, and MySpace was a thing when we met. I remember messaging him back and forth on MySpace after a long day of shooting. I wish I still had my account so I could read those messages. I don't know why, but I vividly remember one message I wrote him asking what he was up to. His reply was, "I just came home from a run, and I'm eating an apple and watching the sun set." I don't know why that message sticks out in my head, but it does.

This was the very end of March, and by April I was in recruiters' school at MCRD San Diego, and to say our relationship moved fast would be an understatement. Our first official date, he invited me over to his apartment for dinner. He tried to make me grilled chicken, but his propane tank ran out before the chicken cooked all the way. He also served me country crock, microwaveable mashed potatoes, and frozen vegetables that he heat up in a pan. Because he knew I enjoyed wine, he even splurged on a nice red. Ok, it was Lambrusco, and it's like $6.99 for a huge bottle. It's overly sweet, and it's not good. Either way, I thought he was sweet, and gave him an A for effort. We watched Top Gun after he made me watch the Michael Jackson Thriller video. I still laugh when I hear Thriller on the radio or see the video pop up somewhere. It was just so random that he would want to show me this random Michael Jackson video from the 80's. We were in love...after only officially dating for like 2 weeks. 

At a recruiters' school class BBQ.
Yes, that's an Ed Hardy tank top I am wearing (it was very trendy then), and yes, Nick is wearing an Alabama hat). 

Meanwhile, in recruiters' school, we were preparing to find out our duty station assignments (where we would be recruiting at). I was a solid candidate to end up in San Diego, because I had volunteered for this duty. Volunteers usually get priority when it comes to duty station choice for recruiting duty. I had already gone and spoken to the recruiter instructor for San Diego, and they had already let the schoolhouse know that they wanted me. On the day we were to find out our assignments, I was told I was going to Duluth freaking Georgia. WHAT?! CLEARLY, this has to be a mix up. This is not possible. I marched my butt into my instructor's office, and basically said, "WTF?!" He then explained that the recruiting station in Georgia was in desperate need of a Korean speaking recruiter, because of the heavy Korean population there. There was one other Korean speaking recruiter in recruiters' school with me at the time, and my first thought was, "why me, and why not him?" He had not volunteered for this assignment. He was forced to be here. Then my instructor told me it was because he was married, and owned a home in San Diego county. What??? I'm being punished for being single and not owning a home? Stop it. I'm pretty sure I cried.

I went to Nick's apartment that evening, and we started talking about a long distance relationship....coast to coast. I was so upset, and angry that the Marine who didn't choose this duty got what he wanted because he was married and owned a home. After a few days of letting that news simmer in my head, I finally just blurted out, "We should get married. They have a year to put us within 100 miles of each other if we're a dual active duty couple. They'll have to send me back to California since the closest recruit training base to Duluth is Parris Island (300 miles away)." The details after I blurted that out are fuzzy, but Nick didn't hesitate to say, "ok, let's do it." We booked a round trip flight to Vegas that Friday and returning Saturday. We weren't going to Vegas to party or gamble. We were going there to get married...oh, and we didn't tell anyone. Not our parents, not our friends, and not our commands.

After Nick and I got off work on Friday (May 31, 2008), and we both headed to the airport together. We stopped at a mall jewelry store to buy two cheap wedding bands, and boarded our flight to Vegas. We checked into a super seedy motel, and headed to the Hooters hotel to have dinner (we were super classy people). We had dinner. I drank key lime pie martinis, and Nick drank Newcastle beer. 

Photo of us at the bar at Hooters.
I wore a tube top from Express, express boot cut jeans, wedges, and had my Louis Vuitton on my arm!

 We grabbed a cab (this was before Uber and Lyft), and asked the cabdriver to take us to the courthouse. The courthouse in Vegas is open 24 hours a day. We got there probably around 10 in the evening, and stood in line with a bunch of inebriated people getting their marriage licenses to get married. In fact, the couple in front of us in line told us that they had just met that night, and were getting married. They were extremely drunk. I thought to myself, "I can't believe I am doing this here." After getting our marriage license, we headed back to our cab, and asked the driver to take us to any chapel that does weddings "on the go". He took us to "the Little White Chapel", where Nick and I were married by a Japanese man named "Alejandro". I think we laughed through the entire "ceremony", because of how absurd this entire thing was. 

 Right before we got married.
If you can see behind us, those are pews.
Tiny Vegas chapel!

 Afterwards, we went back to the Hooters hotel to their country bar, had a drink, danced to one song, told a random couple that we just got married, and headed back to our motel. We were flying back to San Diego Saturday morning. We woke up early Saturday, and flew back to San Diego as a married couple, and Nick went into work.

That following Monday, I announced to my instructor that I got married. I'll never forget the look on his face when I broke the news to him. I was about to raise some hell in recruiters' school. By me getting married, they were almost forced to switch my orders to San Diego, and send the other Korean speaking Marine to Georgia. The SgtMaj of the schoolhouse called me into his office, and yelled at me. Other students in my class were giving me major shade. "How could you screw over that other guy?" When in reality, I hadn't screwed him over. He screwed me over. People told us our marriage was fraudulent because they assumed we only got married so that I could remain in San Diego. I didn't really care though. I loved Nick, and I was going to get to be with him (oh, and recruit where I originally wanted to recruit at).  Oh, and we still hadn't told our families.

I checked into RS San Diego in June, where the CO yelled at me for causing such a ruckus in recruiters school. She was so scary, and I'm pretty sure she made me cry. I'm pretty sure she hated me. She transferred me to Orange County, just 45 minutes north of San Diego (praise the Lord) where I spent my time as a recruiter. Nick and I got a tiny 800 sq ft apartment in San Clemente filled with IKEA furniture, and were the happiest we had ever been.

The story of telling our families deserves its' own blog post, so I'll have to share that some other time. We have been happily married for 10 years, and have lived in 6 addresses between 4 states. We have added two awesome kids to our family. To this day, we don't regret our decision to elope. We have been asked many times by my family to have a big wedding, and we always kindly decline. We love our story, and its' humble beginnings. I love that we don't have the conventional love story that most people have. We knew each about 2 months before getting married. For some reason, I always tell people we only knew each other a month, but now that I've typed this story out, I realize it's actually 2 months. Either way, it was a pretty whirlwind romance, and I wouldn't have it any other way.     

Sunday, October 21, 2018

Church Shopping

One of the many struggles that we face as a family when we move is finding a home church. You can actually read about our struggles of finding a home church when we were stationed in New England here. If you are a believer, then you understand the importance of finding a place of worship that you can call "home". For me personally, I need a place to go to every week where my soul can be fed and nurtured. I want my kid's faith to grow, and I want them to enjoy going to church every week.

I grew up hating to go to church. When I was old enough to stay home by myself, I faked being sick more times than I remember so that I wouldn't have to go. Looking back, I realize I hated going, because the church my family attended did not fulfill my spiritual needs. It was a Korean Presbyterian church. My parents are Korean immigrants, so it was the right fit for them. They were among other Korean speaking believers. But as a first generation American born child, going to "Sunday school" every week with the extremely small group of youth who were also first generation Americans just wasn't right for me. I wanted to go to the "normal" English speaking churches that all my friends from school attended. I wanted to attend youth group with my friends from school. I oftentimes felt left out because our church simply did not have the programs that the bigger American churches offered. I have used my past experience as a learning tool as a mom. When we look for a home church, one of the first things I want to know about is the children's ministry. I grill my kids about their experience in kids church. I don't want them growing up hating church because Nick and I choose a church that only we like.

I have put off trying out a new church since moving here with the excuse that "we are still settling in".  When it reality, I am just anxious about being the "new guy" at a new church. I finally told myself yesterday that I had beaten a dead horse with that excuse, and committed to testing out our first church here in Yuma. I found a southern baptist church on Google that was only 5 minutes away from our house. Their facebook page and their website looked promising. From their website, it looked like a contemporary church with a great children's ministry.

Our family got up this morning bright and early, and got ready for church. As soon as we pulled into the parking lot, Nick didn't hesitate to say, "I don't think you're gonna like it here." I don't know why he got that vibe, but I tried to stay positive and told everyone that we were just gonna try it out. As soon as we walked in, I realized that 90% of the congregation were senior citizens. I felt like I was walking into my grandparent's church. Then we were informed that there was no Sunday school for our kids. They do Sunday school an entire hour earlier than the regular service, so my kids were going to have to sit through an adult service with me. I told my kids before walking in that we were just trying this church out, and that if we didn't like it, we'd try another church next Sunday. My sweet, sweet son blurted out to the door greeter (a sweet old granny), "My mom said we are just trying this church out, and that if we don't like it, we would go to another church next Sunday." (Insert nervous chuckle from me and a face palm). Anyway, our family took seats in the back of the church, and after sitting there awkwardly for 5 minutes, we just walked out. Actually, Nick had taken Mattis outside to look at a water fountain they had, and Dannika and I basically ran out. I tried not to make eye contact with anyone, and literally rushed out so fast. It was extremely uncomfortable and extremely awkward. I am praying no one recognizes me at the grocery store from that church and silently judges me.

So church #1 was a big fail. I'm sure it is a lovely little church, but I am a strong believer that we need to do fellowship with at least a few people in the same stage of life as us. The people at that church were about 3 to 4 decades ahead of our family. My sister found a few churches for us via Google search, and we have a little list of potential maybes for next Sunday. Please pray for our family as we continue to find a church that we can call home!

Follow me in Instagram @semperag_blog !

Friday, October 19, 2018

Desert Dwelling

We made it to Yuma! I know it's been a hot minute since I've posted on here. I do so much life sharing on Instagram (@semperag_blog) that I sometimes feel this blog is unnecessary. But then I get the itch to write, so I guess my little corner of the web shall remain as is.

Our move from College Station to Yuma was pretty smooth. Nick and my son made a father/son road trip out of the move, and towed my car on the back of a trailer with his truck. Dannika and I chose to fly, and we made it out here a day after the boys did. Our stuff arrived mostly undamaged, and we are so grateful for that. I had been reading all sorts of horror stories about military moves this year. I guess this has been one of the worst PCS seasons for many military families. Lots of families missing furniture, receiving their things grossly damaged, and the list goes on. We are in the minority I guess when it came to PCS season this year (praise Jesus!).

Yuma is a small desert town located between the California and Mexico border.

It's mostly a military/retirement community. There are lots of "snowbirds" down here (retirees that move here from colder climates just for the winter to escape the cold). As a Marine, I have been here before for training, and from what I remember (before moving Here) is that this place is full of bad chain restaurants catered for its' young military population and older retirement population (still true). Since actually moving here, I have realized that there is a lot more to Yuma than I realized. I can't say that I LOVE it here yet, but God has shown me glimpses of how great life will be here for us.

We decided to buy a house out here. Our house is one of the things that I LOVE about this place. I will have to do a separate house tour post soon. But I am in love with our house. It has so much character, and it is definitely a place that I am going to really enjoy my time at. Nick also promised me a pool, so I'll keep y'all updated on that situation. Hey, if you're gonna drag me out to Yuma, Arizona, you betta get yo girl a pool!

Our kids school is ok. We came from such a top tier school district that we knew coming here, it'd be unfair to try and compare the school here to the one we came from. BUT...Arizona has some of the lowest paid teachers in the entire nation, and when you invest so little into your educators, the quality of education goes down. Not because the quality of teachers, but because of the lack of resources and funding that teachers here get to do their jobs. It's sad really. I have already been disappointed by the school here, and we have put our kids on waiting lists for a public charter school here and also a private school. We are hoping we only have to deal with public schools here for this school year only.

Anyway, I'll give more updates on our life here. I just wanted to give everyone an update about our short two weeks here so far! I am so grateful to finally be together as a family, and there truly is nothing better than that (even in Yuma!).