When I first met my husband, I didn’t particularly like him. Having taken a hiatus from campus life to attend community college and work full time in Manhattan after blowing off his first year at Franklin Pierce College, he was finishing out his college years at my school and had just arrived when I met him over a pool game in one of my favorite bars. Kristy and I were partners that night, as always, and we were having a pretty good run at the table when Jared introduced us to Sean and said, “we’ve got the next game.” I watched Sean calming walk around the pool table, eyes never leaving the shot he was lining up while he simultaneously chalked his pool stick. I looked at Kristy and let out a “pfftt”, an audible noise that could be translated to, “check out this guy . . . who does he think he is.” And then he ran the pool table. He never gloated. He never cracked a wise guy smile. He shook our hands, chalked his pool stick and waited for his next victim without lingering for one second on what he had just accomplished. “Asshole,” I mumbled under my breath as Kristy and I walked to the bar to drown our loss in a shot.

And that was the thing about Sean, he didn’t do things to impress people or show off his egotistical side, he just was himself with no apologies and no explanations and this character, who so got under my skin that night after my third loss to him, quickly became a great friend because of his honest and authenticity. Sean simply was going to do what he wanted in this world. Nothing more. Nothing less. And I needed a friend to remind me to live life that way. For the next two years, Sean and I became great friends. I use to say he was the “brother I never had” as we seemed to really get each other and I knew I could count on him whenever I needed him. He was a truly kind and real person.

After graduation from college, our group of friends began to scatter across the country, and of course, Sean was one of them, finding employment where he had worked a previous summer job in Yellowstone National Park. I was looking at a long line of interviews my parents had helped set-up in Washington DC; its nice to have parents in the EPA when you graduate with a degree in Environmental Planning. But still, I felt the urge to travel and be free for a bit before settling down for a lifetime of government work so at the invitation of Sean and my friend Jared, who had accompanied Sean to Yellowstone, I took a two week trip to visit them and explore the wild lands of Wyoming and Montana.

It was there that my friendship with Sean grew into that giddy kind of school girl crush that blindsided me, shook me to the core. I didn’t come to Yellowstone looking for love, I came looking for freedom. But the thing about Sean is that being in love with him is a form of freedom. Freedom to be your self at all times. Freedom to be silly. Freedom to be sarcastic. Freedom to be independent. Freedom from drama. Freedom from expectations. And it took just a small glimpse of that for me to know that this was a man I would love for the rest of my life.

Three months later, I declined several amazing offers in government positions in Washington DC and packed my duffle bag for Montana. I moved in with Sean and accepted random jobs from housekeeping to receptionist, not caring for one moment that I walked away from a well paid, secure job that my parents worked hard to line up for me. I was in love and this man was my life. I felt so alive for the first time in my life, and every day this man reminded me how to live each day and be present each moment as he taught me to flyfish and ski and rock climb, accompanied me on long hikes and bike rides, shared stories and random trivia only suitable for jeopardy, board games or long car rides, fell asleep with his arms around me.

We’ve known each other for almost twenty years, been together for eighteen years, and been married for thirteen years this July. We lived in three states, four houses, raised two dogs that we also had to let go, and are raising two more. We’ve traveled to Aruba, Utah, Washington, Florida, New York, Maine, Vermont, Maryland, North Carolina, and drove cross country to move our lives from Montana back east. We’ve cried together, laughed uncontrollably together, fought together and walked away from us together. And we’ve come back together stronger than ever. He is my equal, my partner in this world and I’m a better person because of him.

Today I am so grateful for this man that spends his life living it his way and teaching children, and me, to do the same. I’m so proud of his determination and passion and so very much appreciative of his sense of humor and willingness to not take himself so serious. Not a day goes by that I don’t reflect on how lucky I am to have found this man, this friend, and to have had him find me. Much love to you Sean, yesterday, today and tomorrow.

(Picture: Thank you to Frank Lee Ruggles for this awesome portrait shot of my husband)

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