On Friday, SVV and I quietly celebrated 10 years of marriage. Our actual anniversary date is questionable, as we legally got married at the San Mateo County Courthouse on December 15, 2009 in what we refer to as “the fake wedding”—something only my parents knew until many years later—and actually married in front of our family in friends on the Northern California coast on May 22, 2010.
How we met
For those of you who haven’t been reading this blog for 13 years since its origins, you may not know the story of how we met, so I’ll give you a snapshot summary.
When I was finishing up my time in Knoxville back in 2005, I came across a program entitled “Europe in the World” that took place over the course of a year in the Netherlands and Denmark. I’m pretty certain it was recommended to me by my adviser and one of my all-time favorite mentors, Dr. Paul Ashdown, but within days of finding out about this one-year intensive studying international politics and world journalism, my friend Megan and I are were sold and enrolled.
In complete honesty, I’ll tell you that we were really just excited to gallivant about the continent for a year without care and less about the program itself, but that’s irrelevant to the story.
We flew over early, visited my adopted home of Scotland for a week, then arrived in Holland at the same time Hurricane Katrina was ravaging the coast not far south from where we both called home in Tennessee. It was precisely that time that we met Scott—or SVV, as I’ve called him for as long as I’ve known him—who was sitting behind us in the lecture hall for new student orientation.
We chatted briefly, but dismissed him pretty quickly; we weren’t there to meet new Americans after all.
This is why you should never judge a book by its cover, friends. I thought SVV, in his mom jeans and ball cap, was too quiet and possibly a bit boring for me; he assumed I was some sorority girl not worth knowing. (He was mostly false as I was actually a sorority dropout!) It was over Snoop Dogg on a bus trip to a concentration camp a month later that we started to get to know each other, then further travels through Western Europe with our international program allowed our friendship to blossom.
It wasn’t long before Megan, SVV and I were a trio—and a blurry evening in Brussels while attending seminars at the European Parliament was what it took for SVV and me to finally admit we were a bit more than friends. I blame Johnny Walker. I also thank him.
When we moved to Denmark for the second half of our course some months later, we moved in together in an attic room with just a skylight that fit an IKEA wardrobe, futon and one-person desk. Some would call it “cozy;” I look back at it and call it insanity. I was only 22 then and had never had a serious relationship. He was 31 and had just come out of one. Let me tell you, if you can survive those living quarters for seven months with someone you just met, you can survive anything.
We traveled far and wide through Northern Europe together that year, then said our goodbyes at the end of the 12 months—me on my way to Greece, him en route back to San Francisco—thinking we’d never see each other again. I was devastated. Then, he called me some weeks later after I finally got home. That initial call devolved into SMSing daily on flip phones—the year was 2006, guys; don’t tell me you weren’t doing the same—and due to our three-hour time difference and the fact that he was working as a painting contractor all day and taking night classes, I remember many late-night phone calls, me holed up in the Rolling Stone office when I was on the 6pm to 3am graveyard shift at Wenner Media waiting to sign off on pages before they went to the legal team. Those phone calls eventually led to an invitation to Hawaii to be his date to his cousin’s wedding.
We’ve been together ever since—oh well, other than Bonnaroo 2007 when he tried to break up with me while meeting my family for the first time, but that’s another story for another day.
The following year, I moved in with him in San Francisco, and two years after that, we got married. It’s been a Hell of 15 years together, 10 of which we’ve been married for, and I wouldn’t change a moment of it (well, other than that attempted breakup….).
What 10 years of marriage looks like
It’s weird to even try and summarize a decade that split both the turbulent, formative years of your late-20s and the more stable years of your early- and mid-30s, but here I go, attempting to do just that. A few highlights of what we’ve been through together since getting married in 2010:
We traveled far and wide. I can’t even begin to count the number of countries we’ve visited as a pair, but here are a few: Malaysia (mainland and Borneo), Brunei, Taiwan, Japan, China, South Africa, Ghana, Morocco, Portugal, Honduras, Guatemala, Canada, Vietnam, India, Cambodia, Italy, Norway, Sweden, Germany and dozens of islands in the Caribbean. We’ve also traveled through and worked with the tourism boards of dozens of U.S. states on major marketing projects and campaigns.
We adopted a dog. Ella was technically present at our 2010 wedding—in her mom’s belly. Her mother, Katey, and brother Knox both live with my mom, so she still sees them regularly. It’s hard to believe Ella turns 10 in a few weeks, though at the same time I honestly can’t remember a life without her in it.
We adopted two cats. The wolves are more recent additions—they were born last August, joined our home in December—brought to us thanks to our friendship with a wonderful woman who is the patron saint of homeless cats. I never thought I could learn to love cats, and here I am: obsessed with these two. True to their names, Whiskey is super smooth and mellow—if Brad Pitt had a spirit cat, he would be it—whereas Rye is a bit spicier, an acquired taste, and takes some time to warm to you. They truly have made our lives even more entertaining, and I’d adopt five more cats if SVV would let me!
We moved—three times. From San Francisco to Manchester to our current home. And if you count the entirety of our relationship, all 15 years, we’ve lived in the following places together: Utrecht, Netherlands; Aarhus, Denmark; South San Francisco, California; San Mateo, California; San Francisco proper; a ship in the middle of the ocean; my parents’ house in Tullahoma for nearly a year; the Victorian in Manchester; and now the Cedar House. That’s a lot of houses and cities for 15 years!
We lived with my granddad for almost a year. Two of the most important people in my life were my mom’s parents: Dede and Granddaddy. Dede passed away due to complications with dementia in 2008, so SVV only met her a couple times when she was in a less-than-cognizant state. But my granddad stayed whip-smart up until a bout of pneumonia took him from us at the tail-end of 2012. That was exactly a year after we moved back to Tennessee, just shy of 11 months in which we spent living with my parents and my granddad before we moved into the Victorian. Many may think us, newlyweds at the time, living with my parents and 91-year-old grandfather for a year was crazy, but I am so insanely grateful for that bonus time I got with Granddaddy and for him to really get to know SVV before he passed on. And my wonderful husband never once complained about living with his in-laws; rather, he humored Granddaddy’s baiting about Fox News, drove Dad home from work each day and cooked dinner for all of us each night. A true gem, I tell you.
We bought three houses and two condos. I never dreamed of owning a home, let alone five, but here we are with a decent portfolio of real estate investments (the two condos we co-own with my family but are the property managers). This is why we moved to Tennessee: lots of space and cheap real estate.
We have fully renovated three of those houses. And not just a little DIY here and there, but what some might consider full-on gut jobs, especially the seven-year renovation of our 1899 Victorian. If I thought sharing a room less than 10 square meters in size was a feat, renovating three houses and not killing each other has been an even bigger one.
We started Odinn Media. In 2012, we went through a six-month entrepreneur program through a local venture capital firm. I was the only female, and I learned a lot about exit strategy, seed money and building out a business plan. Funny enough, that information acquired translated into me freelancing for Entrepreneur and Inc. magazine, but in the end, we didn’t actually pitch investor funding for our concept of a digital strategy firm focusing on non-metro areas. That further evolved into Odinn Media, which more broadly focuses on strategy, consulting, and education for DMOs and other tourism entities, and eventually enabled SVV to leave his job at my dad’s accounting firm four years ago. I’m still grateful for that program and for SMTEC for helping us realize we were born to run a company, as opposed to working for others. I also really love public speaking now—who would have thought that would have been a side effect of this entrepreneurial metamorphosis?
We started a nonprofit, DMA-events. In May 2018, we suddenly found ourselves as curators of public art. In 2019, we converted to a nonprofit. By the end of this summer, we will have been responsible for the fundraising and installation of more than 25 murals in Tennessee. Not bad for something that’s just our passion and not our actual jobs! And it all started because our local government could not see what its residents actually wanted: improvement, better livability, public art.
We gained two nieces and a nephew! We already had two nephews and a niece—Alex, Jack and Kiva—when we got married, all of whom were present at the wedding (and two of whom were in it), then Lucy came along in 2013, Charlotte joined the party in 2018 and Mac is our newest member as of this month. My sister and Josh also moved back from Charlotte, and we’re lucky to live just a mile from them and get to see their whole clan regularly.
My dad had a stroke. Challenges strengthen a relationship much more so than successes do, and how SVV took care of our family in the days, weeks, months and years following the stroke will forever cement his status as Number 1 dude in my mind. That year following the stroke was definitely the hardest in all of our lives, and he did everything he could to help Dad along in his process, as well as stimulate his mind and get him out of the house. Today, Dad still suffers with speech as expressive aphasia is something he’ll never get over, but health-wise, he’s doing A-OK. We’re grateful every day that he’s still with us, especially his BFF who adores her ShaSha more than anyone.
We became AcroYogis. One of my favorite hobbies we’ve adopted together is AcroYoga, something which we’ve admittedly slacked on this past year (six feet apart, guys!), but I miss deeply. You want to really learn communication skills with your partner? Try an Acro class.
We sailed around the world. When I applied to work for Semester at Sea in 2010, I had no idea that would translate to a life-changing circumnavigation, three subsequent voyages as communications coordinator and lifelong friendships. It’s now been six years since I’ve last been on the ship, and I long for the day when I can go back, as a lecturer, as a journalist or, hell, I’d go as the pool boy.
And we had a whole lot of fun along the way. The second things stop being fun is the moment we need to do a pivot and reevaluate our life choices. But for now, living in rural Tennessee, working in destination marketing and installing murals on the side—all the while renovating houses and parenting a trio of fur children—isn’t a bad life if I do say so myself.