The Story of Us… and SOAR
pg. 3 of 3

continued from page 2

Eight years later, we are able to pick up that dream, again. This time, we can mold it into something so much more beautiful and “human-friendly,” as we create a secondary school. Something that will redefine the experience of being 14-18-years-old. Something for: our children, their peers, and (God-willing) many future generations.

Remember when…

You said, “Hey, let’s go visit your North Carolina cousins over Christmas?”

And then…

We came home with one of them, who lived with us for a few years. (As foreshadowed in the earlier wedding photo.)

And now…

He’s serving our country in the US Navy, overseas. We miss him terribly and pray for him daily.

Brian and Susan with Family
Kevin’s Home! 2018
Reunited once again, while Kevin was on leave from the Navy. We miss him every day.

Remember when…

South Africa contacted us about the country’s recent mandate to teach “study skills?”

One morning, you learned about a critical meeting scheduled with the Ministry of Education in Cape Town. You did some time conversions, then checked flights. “If we fly out tonight, we can get there a few hours before the meeting.”

Cousin Kevin chimed in, “Go!! I’ve got the kids!”

And then…

I stared at you with a mix of admiration -that nothing is impossible for you- and disdain, because I was soooo tired. The realization that I would not be sleeping in my bed -or any bed- for the next six days slowly churned through my brain.

Finally… I concluded flatly, “I don’t have any clean underwear.”

Ha! As if *that* would be the thing to stop you from booking a same-day flight to the other side of the world!

Map of Africa - Brian & Susan standing outside of the Ministry of Education, Cape Town
South Africa – 2013
LEFT: Our flight-path.
RIGHT: The two of us, standing outside of the Ministry of Education, Cape Town.

Remember when…

While living in the “Wisteria Lane” neighborhood, we were under attack for having “too many vehicles” at our house?

We drafted a three-page letter detailing every ounce of evidence proving their allegations were false AND calling out the very illegal behavior of the elected official leading the attack.

And then…

After we walked around the neighborhood, hand-in-hand, distributing a copy of that letter to every household, we had looped back to our house. As we stepped up the driveway, a heavy sense of foreboding fell over us; our mission was complete, but we both sensed the war had just begun.

That was Forever House #2. We never had any thoughts or intentions of moving. But, in that walk up the driveway, we both instinctively sensed a shift. One of us asked, “Soooo… how long do you think we’ll last here?” The other replied, “Three years, tops.”

That was the one and only discussion we ever had about moving, until…

Remember when…

There was a fire at the office?

$180K-worth of damage. Halfway through the restoration, we had an epiphany; maybe we should downsize and move to the small house that had been our office? Perhaps it was God’s way of nudging us out of “Wisteria Lane?” 

And then…

Shortly after we settled on that crazy decision, we recalled the foreboding “driveway conversation.” Checked the date on the letter… it was exactly, to the week, three years earlier! 

Remember when…

While house-hunting, we always ruled out houses with any of the following elements: located on a dirt road, with well water, or with anything less than a 2.5-car garage?

And then…

We moved to the “old office:” on a one-lane dirt road, with a 0.8-car garage, and well water… with the added bonus of no water pressure?

And yet, we’ve never been happier! 🙂

Remember when…

We could NOT get on the same page?

Arguments dragged on for hours, going in circles. It was a pattern that had become more and more frequent. At 3 AM one night, after an epic eight-hour battle, we were saying the same things in Hour Eight that had been said in Hour One.

It was so frustrating; my head was exploding! It wasn’t that anyone had done something horrible; we simply could not understand each other or find any common ground.

I got up to get some tissue. In the bathroom, I prayed some desperate prayers because I was waaaaay beyond my limit. “God, help me, please! I cannot take this anymore!”

You followed me into the bathroom, as we continued to talk (ok, argue).

And then…

We walked back into our pitch-dark bedroom. As our feet hit the carpet, the room LIT up… like we had stepped on a switch!

It was shocking! Instantly shut us both up.

The light came from your phone; it was a Tweet from someone completely unknown to us, @LifeAsChrisT. The message was, nearly word-for-word, something you had just said to me.

All those wedding cards and “wedding prep” classes that told us to “make Jesus the center of our marriage…” we had NO IDEA what that meant or how to do that!

But it seemed clear to both of us that Jesus was using Twitter to get our attention. The next day, I spoke with my coach. She clarified the dynamics of our eight-hour drama in five minutes. We both agreed with her assessment. And, that was the end of the Epic Battles, for good.

3am Tweet
Jesus Uses Twitter – 2014
The Tweet that lit up our room, literally & figuratively, the exact moment we entered.
Moments before, you had said to me, “I will never stop trying.”

Remember when…

Just 14 months ago, every deck was stacked against us? Five years of compounded damage from the sabotage of one employee, pending litigation over the insurance restoration, withheld reimbursement funds, inexplicable cancellation of our best client…

We had been hanging by the thinnest of threads for months, as things only got worse. There was not a single clear path indicating what we should do. We visited my parents to seek their advice, “What are we missing?”

They asked several questions to clarify various details. Soon, they were out of questions… and outta of suggestions. I noticed their eyes meet across the table as they exchanged a look I only recognize as a parent… one of helpless despair. “We don’t know what to tell you,” they confirmed. “But you’re not missing anything.”

It was as vindicating as it was heartbreaking.

Three days later, the bank shut down the business credit card; that meant the end of SOAR.

I stopped at the downtown coffee shop to meet you… and cry. But, the shop owner, whom I had never met before, intercepted.

She gave me a tearful hug, held me in a sincere embrace, and cried with me. “Hang in there! I know what it’s like to try to keep something alive, when the rest of the world is trying to shut it down!”

How did she know exactly what to say?!

Angel at the Coffee Shop – 2018
Hope! No better visual to illustrate that life-giving hug at the coffee shop.

And then…

SOAR survived!

Somehow, it stayed alive for another two months, before the tides began to shift after five LONG years:

The #1 client called to apologize. “We made a BIG mistake. Will you take us back?” The insurance co. finally dropped their litigation and paid our reimbursements. Suddenly, 80% of our clients began adopting SOAR for whole grades and schools, rather than single classrooms.

Then, we bought out our #1 competitor! He wanted to retire, so he approached us. Just six months earlier, we didn’t have a dime to keep the company alive. Suddenly, we were buying another company…

A tectonic shift!

Remember when…

Just a few months ago, I was hell-bent on getting to Utah to ski with my parents?

It had been 30 years since I’ve skied with them and Mom is turning 80 this year. Also, I felt strongly that we needed to connect with our grieving, 14-year-old cousin.

You weren’t as enthusiastic about skiing. “It’s a recipe for destroying a knee,” you said. A couple of times.

But you never challenged my convictions. So, you played the entrepreneurial game of Money Jenga, and make the trip happen.

And then…

On the “last run” of the last day, I busted my knee. Tore three ligaments.

Our Family at the top of a ski mountain
Three Generations on the Slopes – 2019
(L) Our crew! Back when I had two functional knees.
(R) My text convo with you, immediately after I went down.

You never said a word about your previous concerns. Instead, you did everything in your power to keep me comfortable as we navigated the: flight home, recovery from injury, and recovery from surgery.

Surgery Recovery Log
Surgery Recovery – 2019
The detailed logs you kept, immediately following my surgery. I’ve had ZERO pain or discomfort. Every healthcare professional agrees that I owe that to your detailed, post-op, care.

And, since I can’t SUP (stand-up paddleboard) this summer -my absolute favorite thing to do- you now take me out on the re-christened “Princess Pad.”

Stand-Up Paddle Board with Injury Modifications
The Princess Pad – 2019
(L) You, setting up my “throne.” 🙂
(R) You paddling behind me. We get strange looks as we paddle around the lake, but I love our own little “redneck yacht club.”

“The life you didn’t necessarily plan for is becoming quite beautiful on you! In these diversions from the path you imagined, expected, or hoped for, there are opportunities to see the Silver Linings of your soul that you didn’t even know you had.”

Only Love Today by Rachel Macy Stafford.
Delivered to us by our dear friend, Nancy Mauer.

Our life has been nothing like the path that either of us imagined, expected, or hoped for.

But, we somehow knew it was best to travel it, together.

Back when cousin Kevin was 22, he was shocked to learn that we got engaged at his (then) age. “Man, I couldn’t imagine being tied down right now!” I spun around with a visceral response, “It was never about being ‘tied down.’ It’s always been about pursuing adventures and chasing dreams. Somehow, we’ve always known we could do so much more together, than on our own.”

Thank you, Brian, for the countless adventures… both “planned” and unexpected, that you’ve made possible for us. Thank you for trusting me and my convictions, even when they were not clear to you or created lots of extra hassles for you.

Thank you for being a completely committed father to our children and a doting husband to me.


We are blessed beyond measure to have you in our lives. Here’s to another 2011 years of adventures, together!

With love always,


12 – 3

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