Successful Surprises, Going Away Parties, and the Photo Shoot after the Storm

Happy Wednesday/Hump Day, everybody! Halfway through another week – I just started back at work today and am somehow already ready for the weekend to be here! This past week has truly been a unique kind of chaos, but I’d be lying if I said I didn’t love every single moment of it. And due to certain circumstances, I hadn’t been able to publicize any details of the first half until after everything was said and done. But I am so excited to spill all of the gory and glorious details now that everything was successfully executed!

Sometime around the last week of last month, it was really wearing on my mind that I was going to be missing Tim’s final graduation ceremony of this phase of his Marine Corps career. I know everyone says they’re very minor affairs, but I hadn’t missed a single one yet – the entire family was in tow for his boot camp graduation, and I managed to fly out for his MCT grad by myself earlier this year. After getting his orders and finding out we were going to be heading to Cali once he graduates, we mutually decided it would be a wiser and more beneficial choice to save the funds I would have spent visiting for his MOS graduation for our impending move. Total bummer in my book, but I knew it was the “more mature” option for us, and that we’d be glad we did further down the line. However, as the date approached, I became more and more preoccupied with the fact that I was going to be missing it. Small or otherwise, any ceremony I could attend for him, I feel I should – he’s always gone above and beyond to support me in any way he could, why wouldn’t I return the favor if at all possible, right? I’d already bought all new furniture for our move, I have more than enough saved away to be able to take this jump without completely compromising it. Something told me I just had to do it. And so I did.

Before I knew it, after finding a steal on airline tickets, getting some last minute help from a friend on a place to stay for the night, and a little switching around of time at work,  what began as a hypothetical idea had quickly become a reality: I was going to be able to go after all! The only thing I’d conveniently left out was informing Tim of these plans. It wasn’t intentional at first – I didn’t want to spill any details surrounding it in the event that things weren’t going to work out. Ya know, why crush his spirit in addition to my own if anything fell through? But as the pieces started to come together, I made the conscious decision to keep the secret entirely to myself. What most people don’t know is that in the entire 5 years Tim has been in my life, I’ve only successfully been able to surprise him once. ONE time! And that was the Christmas I got him his gun cabinet; the only reason that one remained a secret was because it was strategically hidden in my sister’s closet and well out of sight or mind. Neither of us are very good at keeping surprises from each other – he usually breaks down and tells me when he sends me flowers, food, gifts, etc. There have been times he’s gotten away with it, but my track record is definitely worse between us. I get so excited about things and who else to gush about them to but your best friend? But not this time; this time, I was keeping my surprise that he was not going to be expecting whatsoever! I’d let my mother, sisters, aunt, coworkers, and a couple of his friends in on my plan – not to be malicious, I just needed graduation details from someone who would be there – but I refused to let anyone in on it that had even the slightest inkling that they might spill the beans.

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5Monday and Tuesday came and went, and suddenly it was Wednesday at 3 a.m. Due to the series of unpredictable weather we’ve been experiencing recently, I decided not to chance things too much and go out on the earliest flight possible to ensure I arrived somewhat timely. Since I wasn’t checking a bag in, my carry on and I breezed through security and were sitting promptly at our gate at 3:45. I’d fed Tim a teeny tiny white lie about going in to work late this day (after having worked 8 a.m. – 9 p.m. days since early June, it was believable) to catch up on sleep so that it wouldn’t seem too odd to postpone our morning FaceTime. He was none the wiser (do you know how hard it is for someone who loves traveling and sharing to social media to NOT take a million and one photos of my journey there that day?) and I was in Jacksonville by 10:30. My lovely, life saving friend picked me up from OAJ and we were on our way. Tim and I texted on and off throughout the morning/afternoon, and it quickly became time for me to venture onto base for this grand reveal.

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The only tip I gave him was not to leave his barracks just yet (if he had plans to) because I had something being delivered to him – a detail innocent enough not to give too much away, while keeping him where I needed him, too. I’d been to his general living space once on my Memorial Day visit, but I could not for the life of me remember where exactly to find his room. We enlisted the help of some Marines nearby, who were happy to help us execute this plan. We gave them the room number and they were off to find him for me. Before long, I could hear them talking and approaching once again. When Tim cleared the corner and he saw me, he literally took a step backwards with the most genuinely confused expression on his face. “What the hell are you doing here?” were the words that came out next, and then I became confused, too. Some reaction to the surprise  I’ve all but exploded trying to keep to myself for weeks. *Insert eye roll here*

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Not intended to be hurtful (at least, I don’t think), he was just genuinely that caught off guard by my actually being there. It was initially as if he’d seen a ghost. But he quickly wrapped his arms around me for a hug and tried kissing me – that he wasn’t going to get until he seemed a little more happy to see me. He’d gotten done with his day quite early, so now that he knew my surprise, he was more than eager to get off base for us to get to enjoy each other’s company. Once he got the okay, we were off to explore Jacksonville and the whopping 2 things there are to do there (sarcasm intended). We got something to eat at iHop, walked around the mall, stopped in a few stores nearby, etc. We went window shopping for the things we want for our home we get together again in a couple months. It was rather uneventful, but I soaked up every moment I could; it didn’t feel real that I’d actually pulled this off and that we were together again. We had dinner with his friends to wrap up the day and before I knew it, I was crashing back at my friend’s apartment. Only then did I feel every part of that 20 hour day, but it was so much more than worth it.

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Everyone was right about the graduation ceremony the next morning – it was short, sweet, and to the point. I personally prefer them that way, to be quite honest. I’m not sure I’ll ever get used to the sight of him in those uniforms, though; they completely melt my heart every time I see him in them. They were released relatively early and went back to collect their things before heading out. I joined Tim and a group of his friends at Hooters for a final farewell prior to everyone being sent off. And before long, we were waiting (im)patiently for our flight home at the smallest, most boring airport on Earth. It’s so miniscule on the grand scheme of things, but being able to actually fly home with Tim this time made me happier than I can possibly explain. The last time we were on a plane together was coming home from our honeymoon last September. And of all the traveling we both have done this year, we’ve said many goodbyes inside of airports, at ticketing counters, just before security, etc. So to be able to actually go through that all with him again instead of just leaving him there brought me a type of joy I can’t find the words to describe. It was smooth sailing from Jacksonville to Charlotte, and we arrived home at around 7:15. We brought our luggage to the apartment and immediately began making the most of his brief time here.

We ate. We drank (A lot. It was a bit odd being able to see Tim drinking in public, to be honest). We went to OTR and hung out at Longneck’s entirely too much. We hosted a going away party for those close to us, and had a wonderful turn out there. So many our family and friends came out to wish us well on this new and exciting chapter. It was the last chance Tim would have to see many of them, with school picking back up and after summer life resuming, too. It would likely be the last time I see a lot of them, too, truthfully; in the midst of unpredictability that is my existence, I’d barely seen much of anyone in the past year I’ve been home as it is. We saw Suicide Squad (A+ movie, by the way – not quite what I was expecting, but I also wasn’t entirely sure what I was expecting to begin with). We helped my sister move into her new apartment. It was both the longest and quickest extended weekend of my entire life.

Perhaps my most favorite thing we did this weekend (for more reasons than one) was getting our anniversary/after wedding photos taken! Anyone who knows me knows that I love getting our pictures taken, and I am so grateful that Tim is such a good sport and is so accommodating to that, especially in the excess in which we get them. For me, especially since taking on this long distance thing,  pictures are another means of comfort when we’re apart. I harass him for them constantly – selfies, candids on my iPhone, or professional – because while he may find them a bit irritating in the moment, once we’re inevitably forced apart again, they’re all I have. To reminisce, to pick me up when I’m down, and to help me feel a little less alone sometimes. Plus, if I’m being totally honest, I just love to look at them most of the time. While Tim was home, our wedding photographers, Morgan & Kevin of Sixteen Fourteen Photography (Seriously. Look them up if you haven’t already. SO MUCH TALENT.) worked closely with us to flawlessly capture our early anniversary pictures! It is a bit early, as our anniversary until next month, but seeing as this was the last chance Tim had for any free time home for the next who knows how long, we went ahead and jumped on it now. And it wasn’t just any anniversary shoot; we made it into an after wedding shoot, complete with wedding dress, hair and makeup done, the works. Despite a thunderstorm – and an ugly one at that – an hour before our shoot time, we ventured out still hopeful to get some good shots and ended up with peaceful weather for almost two hours before the sun set. Kevin is truly an artist, and that shines through clearly in his work. The previews he’s sent me already have completely melted my heart, so I cannot wait to see the rest! They will undoubtedly be dedicated to a blog post entirely of their own once I get them all back!

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As per usual, the fun came to an end; except this time, Tim was venturing completely across the country and we now had a 3 hour time difference thrown in the mix (which doesn’t sound like much, but it’s trickier than you’d think). I’ve struggled with this parting the most of any we’ve faced so far – maybe even more than I did through boot camp. The reason for that, I believe, is because this is the first that I’ve never had a date to anticipate that I knew I’d be seeing him again. Nothing to count down to, nothing to look forward to, to get me through the bad days. My mind is eased by the hopefulness that this will be our last ‘goodbye’ before being back together again, but the uncertainty is slowly eating at me. As a diehard planner, the unpredictability of the military has slowly but surely become my worst enemy. Here’s to hoping time flies – but not too fast – and that Jessica doesn’t lose her mind just yet, y’all. I’ve come too far for it now!

xo,

Jess

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