By STACEY SOLT

tneditor@tnonline.com [1]

This Valentine's Day will mark an important milestone for my husband and me. February 14 is the ninth anniversary of our first date.

We're still young enough that we celebrate our "first date" anniversary each Valentine's Day. It's fun to remember those first awkward months of dating, when you're first getting to know a person and learning more about them.

We were 16 when Frank and I began dating. In high school, we shared the same set of friends and met each other through these friends. We all sat at the same lunch table at Lehighton High School. He seemed like a nice guy, so I asked him out. He eventually said yes.

Our first date was a typical night out for two high school students. We went to Mahoning Valley Cinema for a movie, "Cast Away" with Tom Hanks. It was a fun movie for our first date. We stopped by Pizza Como afterwards for a bite to eat.

That night would turn out to be the first of many dinner-and-a-movie dates, although we soon ventured away from more serious movies and turned to comedies. "Ice Age," "Finding Nemo," and "Cats and Dogs" all became part of our date nights. We watched "Finding Nemo" again this New Year's Eve, proving that our taste in movies hasn't changed much in nine years. The only thing that has changed is the movie venue - now we prefer to watch movies in the comfort of our own home, with a big bowl of popcorn or a nice homemade meal.

Valentine's Day 2001 is special for one other reason. When I came home from my date with Frank, my brother and sister-in-law were at my parents' house. They had a fun announcement for us - they were expecting a baby. I was so excited that I immediately called Frank to tell him the good news. I never would have guessed that this little baby would one day be the flower girl in our wedding.

While we've been together for nearly a decade, we recently celebrated our second wedding anniversary. Many of the milestones of my life - high school and college graduation, buying a first home, and starting my first writing jobs - were done with Frank by my side. He's not only my husband, he's my best friend.

As my best friend, my husband is privy to many of my most-secret ambitions. When I told him that I wanted to run in a 5K this year, he didn't laugh. At least, he didn't laugh too much. But he did tell his boss that he would need the day off because he would be running with me. When I nearly gave up after two weeks of jogging, he told me to keep trying. He pushes me to be the best person that I can be.

After nine years, we are also a great team. He proofreads my articles that involve tools or home improvement projects; I know enough about tools that I can help him with his projects. We've also worked on several home improvement projects together - and while they weren't exactly fun, it was fun to work as a team on our own home.

I recently found out that our neighbors will be celebrating their 50th wedding anniversary this fall. Their story is similar to ours - they met as teens and married in their early 20s. I wish them the very best, and hope that my relationship with Frank will be as full of joy and happiness as their marriage seems to be. I'm looking forward to spending many more years with Frank and celebrating each anniversary and milestone that comes our way.

Happy Valentine's Day!