Thursday, June 7, 2007

Kelli has put up with me for 27 years, as of today!

If this doesn't qualify for the Guiness book of world records, I don't know what should. Sure, there have been other people who have been married longer, but the trick there was they weren't married to me. My high school sweetheart, the love of my life, Kelli has been putting up with me for 27 years as of today! Happy Anniversary Kel!

In some respects it seems like yesterday that two skinny 19 year old kids with no clue what layed ahead of them stood at the altar of Calvary Baptist Church in West Branch, Michigan, and promised to stick it out for better or worse til death do us part. There were very few people, including our parents, who thought we would actually make it, they said we weren't ready to be married. We should finish college first, be established in our careers, date around a bit - since we'd been going together since the 9th grade. But we didn't really care what any of them thought, we were in love and wanted to be together, and that was all that really mattered to us.

I told Kelli on that day that I didn't have much to offer her, I had no money, no house, no material possessions to speak of, other than a beat up car, but I promised her that by marrying me her life would never be boring. That's a promise that I have kept, sometimes it wasn't always what she would have preferred, but she was always right there next to me, in the good, the bad and the ugly. That promise uprooted her from all she had ever known, dragged her away from her family, her home, and everything that was familiar to her, and took her half way round the world to a tiny little chunk of rock in the middle of the Pacific ocean called Saipan. When I first brought it up to her, we both had to look on a map to figure out just where exactly Saipan was. We didn't know it was part of the U.S., we didn't know anything at all about it really. But that didn't stop her from agreeing to come here with me. When we moved out here, it wasn't on a 1 or 2 year contract, we sold our house and everything we didn't ship, and moved over here lock, stock and barrell. We had no idea what awaited us, and most of what we had been told turned out not to be true at all. But even with all it's warts, we fell in love with this place and have been here over 11 years now.

Our marriage hasn't always been easy, for Kelli that is. I'm not the easiest person to get along with at times. There are those who would tell you I think I'm always right. That's not entirely true, I just don't think I'm wrong very often. There are also those that would tell you I'm stubborn. Okay, that one is true. Earlier in our marriage back in Michigan, I used to be a golf fanatic, golfing every day after work, dragging two little toddlers around in the golf cart with me. Kelli claimed she was a golf widow at times, unfortunately it was probably true. Now I only golf occasionally, but I have replaced golfing with diving. There are very few weekends that you won't find me underwater. It takes something like a heart attack to keep me out of the water. But wait, even that didn't stop me from diving one weekend now that I think about it. If Kelli was prone to worrying, I'd have killed her from worry long ago. And it's not that I don't give her plenty of reason to, it's just that she tends to lay it all at God's feet, and let him take care of me. She figures there's nothing she can do about it anyway, so she might as well just pray about it and let him deal with me. Kelli has earned every one of those beautiful gray hairs on her head, or maybe I should say that I have given most of them to her.

Now Kelli would have every reason to claim she's a diving widow on weekends, but she doesn't. She has let me pursue my other passion, but just for the record, it's far behind her. She knows how much I love it and enjoy it, and has encouraged me, let me buy thousands of dollars worth of dive gear, and she dutifully looks at my shells and pictures that I bring back, even getting excited about some of them (although I think that's mainly for my benefit).

Kelli has been the most amazing mother in the world to our two children, Joshua and Sarah - and they would both be the first to tell you the same thing. Kelli and Sarah have always been, and continue to be best friends, something not all that common among mothers and daughters. And when Josh is really excited about something, the first person he wants to share it with is his Mom. While I wish I could take some of the credit for how amazing our kids have turned out, I realize the credit all belongs to Kelli and God. It was a joint effort between the two of them, and much consultation took place as Kelli sought wisdom on what to do in various situations. I'm afraid I probably got in the way more than I helped, but fortunately Kelli was always there to pick up the pieces and smooth things over.

There is a saying that behind every good man is one amazing woman. That is certainly the case in our situation, although I'm not sure I would claim to be good. But anything that is good about me is only because I've had an amazing wife supporting me and right there beside me all these years. I'm not sure I've got another 27 years left in me, and I'm not sure Kelli really deserves that kind of cruel and unusual punishment, but there is no doubt in my mind that she will be right there beside me until my dying day, putting up with me dragging her all over the world, being a dive bum, and all the other annoying things that make me who I am. It's been an amazing 27 years, and I wouldn't trade any of them. No, it hasn't always been easy, but everything that has happened with us up to now has molded us and shaped us into who we are now. And in her case, I wouldn't change a thing. She is so much more than I ever dreamed I was getting when I said "I do" to that pretty young girl at the altar.

Happy Anniversary sweetheart, and thanks for 27 amazing years!

Dirk Kempthorne in the morning, my son's ferrets in the afternoon.

I realize the title for today's blog may seem a little strange, and most of you are probably wondering what the connection is. The connection is me, and since this is a blog about me, it seemed only appropriate. Now I'm not trying to make any kind of political statement about Secretary of the Interior Dirk Kempthorne whatsoever, so don't go jumping to any conclusions before I have a chance to explain everything.

I had the honor and priviledge of being able to attend a meeting that U.S. Secretary of the Interior Dirk Kempthorne had with the Governor, some of his cabinet members and various leaders of the business community at the Governor's conference room yesterday morning. I was there as a board member of the Saipan Chamber of Commerce, just in case you were wondering. Secretary Kempthorne was here on his first visit to the CNMI, to get an idea of some of the issues we're facing and a better understanding of our challenges and problems. Many people out here are familiar with David Cohen, well this is David Cohen's boss, a very powerful man in Washington. He is a member of President Bush's cabinet. Secretary Kempthorne was previously a mayor of Boise, Idaho, he then became a U.S. Senator, then Governor of Idaho, and was plucked away from that job by President Bush to become his Secretary of the Interior. A very, very impressive resume, and yet he seemed to be a very down to earth, genuinely concerned person. He stated that he wanted to make a difference to us and to do what he could to help us, and I believed him. He has deep and important roots with this island as his father, who is still alive at 91, was here during World War II. I believe that he will do whatever he can to be an advocate for us, and will take our voices and concerns back to Washington with him. It's not every day that you get the opportunity to meet and shake hands with a member of the United States President's cabinet, so this is one that will certainly go down in my memory as a gold star day.

As good as I felt about what Secretary Kempthorne had to say, I have to admit I felt quite badly about some things that were said by some of our various government officials about the lack of help and support given to us by the Department of the Interior. I felt these things were a direct slap in the face of David Cohen, the Assistant Deputy Secretary of the Interior, who is in charge of Insular Areas. I believe that David Cohen has been a very good friend to the CNMI in the past, and genuinely has our interests and concerns at heart. I could see his face drop as some of these accusations were made, he took them personally, and it looked like it hurt. I felt it was in poor taste to make those accusations in front of all those people, and more importantly in front of his boss. We still badly need David Cohen's help and support, I just hope we didn't do anything yesterday that will cost us that help or support in the future.

Then in the afternoon, I got back to my office, and my son and his wife were online with their webcam, showing off the newest additions to their family, a pair of ferrets - Ricky and Lucy. Josh & Regis already have a couple of dogs they have adopted from the Humane Society, and now they have added two inquisitive ferrets to their life as well. I have always thought ferrets were cool and have wanted one for a pet, but I have Kelli, the voice of reason in my life, therefore I have never had ferrets. So it was kind of exciting for me to see my son living out the dream of having ferrets. I'm hoping that Regis is as excited about it as Josh is.

So yesterday was one of those days where my emotions were on a rollercoaster ride. I was thrilled and honored to meet Secretary Kempthrone, I was saddened by some of the comments made that I believe hurt David Cohen, I was humbled and a bit overwhelmed as I had the opportunity to present a Saipan Chamber of Commerce scholarship check to Tikla Brown, and then I was genuinely tickled as I watched my son and his new wife play with their new ferrets halfway around the world. Just another day in the life of this crazy Saipan dive bum!