Yesterday was mine and Hillary's three year wedding anniversary. This day is extremely important to the two of us, but not in the standard "Everyone's anniversary is important to them" way. As many readers know, our wedding was not the first wedding for each of us. We'd each been put through the proverbial wringer when it came to past relationships, each having our previous marriages crumble around us despite our best efforts to keep them together.
Our relationship began with each of us in a place where we didn't know if we'd ever have back the lives we'd lost. Little did we know that God had even more in store for us, and what He was preparing us for was greater than anything we were leaving behind. After dating for less than a year I asked Hillary to marry me, and we tied the knot on July 18th, 2014.
It was a Friday, because every Saturday at the venue was booked solid for the entire summer. We rehearsed that morning in the summer sunshine, but then it rained for the rest of the day. The rain caused accidents on every major road leading to the venue, causing many guests (and even our cake) to arrive late.
But, like so many things in our lives, despite the apparent flaws on the surface, it was absolutely perfect. I won't go into much more about our wedding day now, since many readers have heard the story often. If you'd like the play-by-play of that amazing day, you can check out this post.
Since our wedding, Hillary and I have made it a priority to take a week-long vacation every year, just the two of us. Our days consist of getting kids where they need to be, cooking for kids and adults, cleaning, work, exercise, and entertaining three kids with three very different sets of interests. With the break-neck pace of our life, Hillary and I will sometimes go days without ever having a conversation. The week-long excursion is necessary time to recharge and reconnect our marriage, to invest in each other so we can better invest in our family when we return home.
Last year, we broke our tradition of traveling to Key West, Florida, and traveled to Banff, a ski town in Alberta, Canada. It was a fantastic trip, and the cool weather and relaxed pace was exactly what Hillary needed, being seven months pregnant. It was such a fantastic experience that we decided to return to Banff this year.
And that's where I sit now, writing this post.
When we decided to return to Banff, we knew we wanted to do many of the things we weren't able to do last year, Hillary being pregnant. Even though yesterday was our first full day in Canada, we wanted to make the most of it. So we drove to Lake Louise, one of Canada's hidden treasures, and hiked the Plain of the Six Glaciers trail.
That's the Upper Victoria Glacier, front and center in the background.
Fun fact: when something is very large, it destroys your ability to judge just how far away it is. And the series of glaciers in the background of the above photo is very, very large. It LOOKS like the Lower Victoria Glacier (the little snowy bottom of the big glacier) touches the back of the lack. In actuality, it's nearly a mile around the lake to the trailhead of the Plain of the Six Glaciers, and then nearly three more miles to the base of the Lower Victoria. Isn't "depth of field" interesting?
The hike was maybe the most difficult hike of my life. The trail was uphill the entire way (even to the base of the Glacier, which also doesn't look that high. Yay, perspective!) and covered with broken shale and rocks, which had eroded from the glaciers over the course of millennia of glacial ice melting and becoming the headwaters of the lake.
We also hiked over SNOW. Huge mounds of hard-packed snow, in the middle of summer. And it wasn't cold on the trail; the temperature was in the low 70's, and we worked up a healthy sweat over the miles. Still, snow found a way to survive.
Of course, I had to investigate.
After neatly four miles of hiking, we finally arrived at the Plain of the Six Glaciers Tea House. Originally built in 1927 by the local railway company, the Tea House still operates to this day. It has no electricity and no running water. But to two extremely tired hikers, it was an oasis. Hillary ordered a bowl of hot vegetable soup and a cup of coffee, and I had tea with homemade biscuits. I probably would have preferred coffee, but how can you go to a 90-year-old tea house and not order tea?
Reading the story of the Teahouse from the upper patio.
Once we were refreshed, we stretched out in my parachute hammock and took in the view of the glaciers. Soon after, we hiked a little further to get a better view, but we didn't go the entire way because we had to make the last shuttle bus down the overflow parking for Lake Louise. (Not pictures in any of the photos: the massive crowds of tourists that surround the lake area).
The glaciers normally don't look so hazy; there are some brutal wildfires burning in British Columbia (one province to the west), and the smoke is blowing into Alberta. Everything smells like a campfire.
We've had an amazing day of hiking already, and there are still many more days of vacation in Banff left. But, even though we're having a blast, we've been toying with the idea of leaving early and returning to Kentucky. This surprises even us, because we've never considered this on an anniversary trip before. We've always been happy to be back when the trip was over, yes, but never entertained the idea of actually cutting the trip short.
But things back in Kentucky are much different now than they've been on any of our other trips.
HOW DID SHE GET THIS BIG ALREADY!?! Someone tell me how to slow it down!!
I didn't take this picture. It was sent to me by my mother and father, who are watching Ellie Kate while Hillary and I are out of the country.
Mom and Dad came to Lexington to pick up the baby last Sunday, before Hillary and I had to drive to Cincinnati to stay the night to catch our early international flight Monday morning. We hugged, we kissed, and then they left with the baby.
Hillary and I cried for ten minutes in the car and seriously considered cancelling our trip, then and there.
We've left Faith and Zoe for three consecutive years, for a week each, as we left on our anniversary trip. It hadn't been this hard with them, because they're older and can understand that, even though we're gone, we will be back and our life will go back to normal. They're comfortable staying with various sets of relatives. And we promised we'd bring them back some souvenirs, which sweetened the deal.
When we'd been to Canada the summer before, we hadn't even considered the possibility that it would be this difficult leaving the baby. She's so small... how can she understand that mommy and daddy will come back? What if she doesn't sleep well? What if she gets upset that we're not there?
What if she forgets us?
Of course, this is all nonsense. Ellie Kate remembers people she's met after much longer than a week's separation. She's sleeping pretty good (as well as can be expected, and better every night) at my parent's house. And she's generally a happy baby.
But when you're used to kissing those squishy, little cheeks... when you're used to hearing that infectious laugh when you toss her into the air... how can you justify leaving that, for any period of time?
I'll never understand people who are satisfied with seeing their children for one or two days every week. I'll never understand why someone would want to barter away those scant few days for extra weekend time. For Hillary and I, the struggle isn't in forcing ourselves to spend time with our kids, but forcing ourselves to spend time AWAY from our kids: to disconnect from them long enough to make sure they're not becoming the center of our universe.
How does anyone have a child and not be forever altered? How can you simply return to the old mindset of doing everything for yourself?
It's more difficult than some might realize, finally having a few days of "freedom" after spending so many months having to constantly look out for the interests of a helpless little person. Hillary and I, at first, were afraid we were becoming one of those couples that finds it impossible to have a life outside their children. We quickly realized this isn't the case: we still love to talk, have adventures, share our thoughts and ideas and dreams, and enjoy each other's company. But, honestly, it took us a day or so to fully take in the fact that we weren't responsible for any little people for a while.
We haven't rescheduled our trip home. Yet. Hillary and I recognize that this time is crucial to our relationship with each other. Christ has directions for a strong marriage, and we recognize that keeping our marriage strong is at the core of keeping our family strong. And we know our baby, who may or not remember us when we get back (joking!), is in good hands with my parents. But you can bet, when the flight back to the USA boards, she and I will be first in line.
Until then, I guess I'll keep re-watching this video. I took it the morning before my parents picked up Ellie Kate.