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Entries in military wife & life (55)


doug & allison's homecoming!

ok, where do i even begin?! other than the tears streaming down my cheeks (super embarrassing at 10:30 in the morning in a coffee shop) -- even though this homecoming was in december, looking at these photos takes me back to exactly what that day was like. i'll do my best to put it into words, but really these images tell the whole story.

if you've been reading t&f for a while, you likely recognize these dear friends -- ryan, e & i are charter members of doug & allison fan club -- here are their engagement photos, rehearsal dinner, amazing townhouse and some photos i took of them just before this deployment.

and so, that all brings us to one brisk december virginia day when i was the luckiest girl in the world and got to photograph their homecoming. thinking back on it, it's unclear to me if i was asked or forced my way into an invite, but details, details :), bottom line was i found myself driving to the airport ALREADY CRYING just thinking about what it was going to be like to see these two reunited (i decided that was totally ridiculous, i couldn't already be crying, so i turned on some rap music and told myself to get it together!).

what i love about these images is they show how intentional, how beautiful this homecoming was --- i think so often military homecomings are dramatic, on bases -- fly-ins, ships pulling into port, large groups of service members coming home at once. but in today's military that's not always the case. this was just doug, flying into a domestic airport, to many passing by, they had no idea this was a service member, who had spent much of his first year of his marriage half way around the world, about ready to see his wife. allison, who is beautiful inside and out, surprised him by wearing her rehearsal dinner dress (how awesome is that?!) and i love how she brought a flag.

those first few images capture that final waiting -- which is so, so hard to describe what it feels like. i kept teasing her she had no idea i was going to race her to hug doug first (i couldn't even bring ellie who loves uncle doug so much, she definitely would have thrown some elbows to get the first hug!) and we ate pretzels to pass the time. that text saying he had landed. standing on our tip toes to see if he was coming. those first embraces. allison looking like miss america as she greets the other members of doug's command who came out to welcome him home. and then those first interactions that show how quickly this couple fell back into their groove -- allison examining the new luggage he bought; doug belting out some christmas carols as we walked out into the virginia december day (he'd spent the past few months in the middle east -- it was cold!); and then taking a few more photographs of them in a little wooded are we found at the airport. their joy just bounces off these images -- it was so incredible to witness.

i've said so many times how unexpected it is for me to be living this military life -- i still find myself looking around going "how did i get here?!!" but on days like this december one, it is nothing but a privilege, one i wouldn't trade for anything. i feel so blessed to get to see some of the incredible families who serve -- how they dig deep to make the sacrifices asked of them, how their love endures, how much it all means to each of us. doug & allison -- we love doing life with y'all.

p.s. you can see our family's deployment homecomings here & here!


deployment letters to ellie.

below are the two letters i wrote ellie on the eve of each of ryan's homecomings -- while these are meant for her, an exchange between a mother & a daughter -- i'm working to grow braver & kinder about how i share in this space -- as glennon would say, to be a reckless truth teller, because each of our truth matters and gives us the best chance to know each other.


Ellie Girl,

As I sit here, on the last night of our first deployment – yours and mine – I’m overwhelmed with gratitude that you’ve been my companion for the past six months. It took me 28 years to grow brave enough to face a deployment, and it took you only four short months. While many people would say you are a baby, and so it’s hard to imagine you could actually have these qualities – I know for certain you are strong and brave and loving and kind and intuitive and bright spirited. I know because they seem to be at the core of who you are – the way you wake up every morning, greet each new experience, and interact with others. Certainly, over the course of these six months you went from baby, to little person – showing so much of your personality and spirit. Your daddy and I are so beyond grateful for all the ways you strengthened Team Yonkman during this time.

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miss rumphius.

five months into ryan's second deployment, ellie & i were cuddled up in the chair in the corner of her room, where we had been most nights of her life, doing what we do every night, reading a few books. i was, in a word, exhausted. that month had included the most moments of feeling like i wasn’t enough, like she needed her dad’s patience. his kindness. his presence. it was a night when i was reading, but really was phoning it in. i knew the words on the pages by heart, and mentally was honestly already downstairs having a glass of wine. it, in hindsight, was the hardest month of those 14 months of deployment, and i had so little left to give.

we’d reached a new stage of bedtime reading in that she could sit still for longer stories, with more text on each page, so long as there were beautiful, intricate illustrations. with a few books in particular, she would study each page – finding things she knew – dogs, cats, buckets, shovels, tractors, kids, babies. she was at that moment of development where most of her day was spent verbally affirming the things she knew – repeating them over and over again. each word also needed the same tagline: “mommy.” and so our whole day had been spent “mommy -- car!” “mommy -- truck!” “mommy -- slide!” “mommy-- strawberry!” we were at about the 7000th time that day she’d said my name.

the final book that night was miss rumphius, a beautiful story, i’d read growing up. it’s about a little girl, alice, who lives with her grandfather. she tells him that when she grows up she wants to go to faraway places and live by the sea. he tells her she must do one final thing – she must make the world more beautiful. & so, after she goes to faraway places, she finds her house by the sea, and sets out to do the final thing, by planting lupine flowers. one of the final illustrations is of her village – the church, schoolhouse, sea – all surrounded by lupines. i hadn’t even noticed the flagpole and American flag, but ellie had.

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homecoming day.


finding our new normal.


gratitude (part two).