Category Archives: Marriage

A Rainbow and A Promise

I’ve been promising my blog friend, Christine, from Quasi Agitato, the story of my engagement to my husband M, and since this Saturday is our 11th anniversary, I thought I’d make good on that promise!

M and I met in college.  We could have met when we were quite young, as his father used to bring him into my father’s hardware store in the days where I played My Little Ponies with my sister on the store shelves.  We could have met during our freshman year when we lived a floor apart on one of the largest campuses in the world, with friends on each other’s floors.  We could have met through a mutual friend.

But we didn’t.  We met one auspicious day when I, a newly hired Resident Assistant, got lost in the labyrinth of my new residence hall, trying to find the office of our Hall Director to turn in my acceptance paperwork for the following school year.  He was the handsome, mannerly, Honors floor RA, who walked with me to my destination.  I went back to my hall that night and told my long time best friend, S that I would be working with “a hot guy next year.”

Still, I was seriously dating another Very Nice Boy at the time and so M and I remained respectful coworkers until, two relationships later, we started hanging out to share notes over the demise of our most recent relationships.  That sharing quickly blossomed into a friendship.  That friendship turned into two college kids drafting lists about what they wanted in a partner.  We shared the lists.  Turned out we had some overlap.  And we had chemistry.

He left sweet notes on our staff message board, including quotes and lines of poetry.  Then there was the dried rose in my mailbox, the greeting cards slipped under my door.  I had never been courted with such romantic gestures before.  We were an item; then we doubted. We were together; then we were uncertain.  Whatever issues we had; we couldn’t keep away from each other.  We chose each other over and over again.

A year and a half later, M and I graduated college.  We worked for a summer in temporary positions and then, since our liberal arts degrees hadn’t netted us any fab job offers yet, we decided to travel for three weeks to Europe.  I’ve heard it said that you don’t truly know someone until you travel with them.  In our case, I had a suspicion that this trip might be a proving ground for the future of our relationship.  During our travels, we certainly encountered all manner of situations that might have revealed serious faults in our partnership.

Indeed, we stayed in some truly crazy places; places only youth or eccentricity finds tolerable.  Our first night in London, we arrived with lost baggage (including our travel guides and directions to our youth hostel) and shared one single bunk mattress with a threadbare pillow held together with dirt that we tossed to the ground.  Another night, having traveled to watch a friend’s music performance for his Master’s degree, we slept on a single pillow, lying on the concrete floor of a dorm room. It was an experience.  He developed an upper respiratory infection; then I got it while traveling in Stratford-upon-Avon.  I slept with my head on a table in Warwick Castle, while he prowled the grounds.  Two aging English ladies wondered aloud whether I was ok, but I was too ill to raise my head and reassure them.

Finally, we arrived in France, to a hotel we deemed “Tres Nasty” where I had to prop the shower/sink room door shut with a suitcase to prevent myself from having an asthma attack, where I brushed my teeth with bottled water, spitting off the balcony onto the streets below with an expletive escaping my mouth along with the toothpaste, and where we were fairly certain French prostitutes were entertaining their johns in the next room.  The toilet on one floor had a light.  The other floor had toilet paper.  I made M go with me for protection.  Our sheets had a burn hole on them and we used our travel sheets to protect ourselves from potential bedbugs, leaving them behind when we left. We still paid our bill but happily, we changed hostels the next day.

It rained every day in Paris, but we still loved the city.  We toured the Louvre and museums together; we ate fattening pastries and walked through beautiful streets and gardens.  We narrowly missed getting hit by a bus in front of the Place Des Invalides; the woman behind us was struck. That was a horrifying experience.

The Parisians were kind to our faces; perhaps they appreciated my hideous attempts to use my high school French or maybe they just secretly mocked me in words beyond my level of comprehension.  We tried not to be those Americans in Paris though we did make an exception to see the Eiffel Tower.

One evening, we thought to have dinner in the restaurant above the Eiffel Tower, Le Jules Verne. I wondered if this was the moment I was waiting for…the romantic proposal in Paris.  I figured if M was going to propose, he would do so either that night or in my ancestral homeland of Wales, a subsequent travel stop.  Ignorant as we were, we soon discovered that we would have needed to make reservations, months if not a year in advance to get into Le Jules Verne.  While that evening was spectacularly beautiful; it was not to be THE night.

M and I continued our journey through Ireland doing the usual tourist things.  He made me hand sanitize my mouth after I dangled backward over a treacherous gaping hole to kiss the Blarney stone.  We took in the breathtaking beauty of the Ring of Kerry on a bus tour.  We got stranded on the Cliffs of Moher without a way back to our hostel, and subsequently walked several glorious miles over the gorgeous Irish countryside. We drank a pint of Guinness together.

And then we went to St. David’s, Wales, a place of spiritual pilgrimage and home to some of the most beautiful cliffs overlooking the Atlantic Ocean.

We wandered over the cliffs one day, picnicking on cheese, bread, and the most awful wine I’ve ever tasted.  Caught too far away to reach shelter during an approaching rainstorm, we huddled under one umbrella, bracing ourselves against the torrent that pelted us from a sideways direction.  When the rain finally stopped, we rose to see a beautiful rainbow over the ocean.  We walked past a pasture filled with horses to a rocky edged part of the cliff. There M bent down to tie shoelaces that had been coming untied all week.  I reached down to help him up, not thinking anything of it, only to have him remain, one knee on the ground, asking me to spend the rest of my life with him.*

Even when you know a proposal is coming, if your partner is really good, they can still surprise you.  Though a proposal in Paris would have been traditionally romantic; next to the genuine perfection of the moment in Wales, it would have seemed crass and clichéd.  There, in the country where my great-grandparents once lived, we agreed to grow our family by joining our lives together.  It was almost like the rainbow was made to order.  It was an idyllic proposal and of course, I said “YES!”

Venturing down to St. David’s Cathedral after our walk, we found a copy of “The Art of Marriage” in the gift shop that my Aunt later read at our wedding.  In the passage, it talks about how “A good marriage must be created” and about how “A good marriage means being the right partner.”  Eleven years in, I’m thankful I reached out my hand when he tied his shoe and that we made a promise under a rainbow to be the right partner for each other, choosing to continue creating our story every day, holding together through life’s rainstorms and the beauty that always follows if you wait for it.

*Incidentally, later that same year, Ben Stiller tried to propose to Teri Polo in Meet the Parents using a similar shoe tying move.  He wasn’t as successful…but as her character in the movie was named Pam, it made M and I smile.

Also, if you liked this post, be sure to check out Ten Love Lessons Over Ten Years of Marriage.

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A Thank You Letter to My Husband On Father’s Day

Last year, I wrote a post about why I think my husband is a wonderful father.  This Father’s Day, I would again like to remember and appreciate his role in our family by sharing some of the many reasons I am grateful he is V’s daddy.

Husband, I am thankful for the mornings you sacrifice precious extra moments of sleep to help V get her morning drink and go to the potty.  Speaking of potties, I am thankful that you are a dad who is willing to help take her to the potty when we are out in public.  I am thankful for the times you come home, exhausted from your day, and take over making dinner or playing with V, or listen to me vent about some frustrating events of the day.  I am thankful for the moments when we are zoning out in front of the TV at night in that post child-bedtime haze, when you see me setting down to fold an engulfing mound of laundry and though you, too, are so exhausted you really don’t want to move, you get up to help me anyway.  I’m thankful that you help me scurry around the house to pick up before play dates, even though you are more comfortable with a messier house, because you know it is important to me to have things tidy.

I am thankful that you give us the last taste of whatever food we are all sharing even when I know you really like it.  I am thankful that you mow our lawn, even though you hate doing it, because you know it aggravates my asthma and that V loves to play on it.  I’m thankful that you pry out her splinters and in one instance, a tick, while keeping her calm and unafraid. I am thankful that you help her and I not to be scared of things.  I am thankful for your goofy antics that keep us smiling (I won’t embarrass you by sharing here).  I’m thankful that you are always there to comfort me when I cry or to support and uplift me when I feel like a parenting failure, even when you are busy at work and I feel like a dork for bothering you.

I am thankful that you value creating our own family traditions and special times together.  I am ever thankful for the sacrifice you make, giving up precious time with V, so that I can be home with her, especially when we are doing the kinds of projects and going on the sort of outings that you would enjoy.  I know you miss those moments and it’s often hard for you to leave when V tells you she’s sad that you are going to “workadays.”  I’m grateful that even though I know you are missing those precious moments, you don’t begrudge me when I express some gripes as part of the less glamorous aspects of the at-home parent role. I’m thankful when I see you creating your own special moments and experiences with V; reading in her Book Nook, snuggling watching Star Wars shows, dancing in the living room, going shopping for pretty outfits, crafts, and baubles, doing “ahrt projects”, having gigglefests.  I’m really thankful that your efforts have made it possible for us to have the kind of close knit family life we do. 

I am thankful (mostly, and sometimes in spite of myself) for the ways you challenge my parenting perspectives.  I don’t always tell you, but I know that your questions sometimes provide a really good balance to my own parenting style.  I know we do things differently, but I think, ultimately, V will benefit from having both approaches integrated into her upbringing. 

I am thankful that you value learning (ours and V’s) as much as I do and that you create opportunities for V to grow and learn with our family.  I am thankful that you value my needs and interests and create space and time for me to take care of myself, often reminding me that I need my own time to renew my energy and spirit. 

And I’m so thankful for all our precious family moments, none of which would be the same without you.  I’m thankful that you are there to hear all of V’s funny quirks and sayings, that you are aware and involved with all aspects of her growth, and that we are sharing this crazy parenting gig together.  I’m thankful, even though I sometimes miss those 10 couple-centered years we had pre-kid, that we get to experience raising a child together. I’m thankful that one day, when our little V grows up and moves on to do her own things, that we’ll still have each other for the next phase of our lives, whatever adventures and struggles may come our way.  And I’m thankful that I know your heart will be as full as mine when that day arrives. 

Thanks for sharing, learning, loving and being part of our lives.  Happy Father’s Day! 

Pouring my heart out at “THINGS I CAN’T SAY”

 


Expect to Not Know “What To Expect When You’re Expecting”

Our little pumpkin

Back when my husband M and I were expecting, we wrote up a “baby contract.”  The contract was akin to premarital counseling efforts, in which a couple attempts to discuss potential parenting issues and come to some sort of advance understanding about topics of concern.  M and I had waited a long time (approximately 8 years) to grow our family. We had grown accustomed to some of our habits and routines, and were trying to prepare ourselves for the many changes that come along with a new baby.

Our contract addressed many topics, among them: holidays, religion, discipline, division of labor, and alone/couple time.  Part of the agreement stipulated that M and I would try to sustain our mental and emotional well-being by taking time for ourselves with regularly scheduled alone time.  We started this practice sometime within the first year of V’s infancy, after I started really feeling the demands of postpartum life.  It was tricky to manage at first, as I was nursing on demand and V would not take a bottle, even of expressed breast milk, but it was important enough that we made it happen, at first intermittently, then more regularly as she grew older.  At age 2.5, we have managed to sustain the following practice for around a year and a half:  both M and I take one weeknight off a week.  It is only for a few hours, and we are almost always both home for V’s bedtime (with a very few exceptions), but this weekly time has been a haven of sorts.  We each can look forward to a time where we are guaranteed the space to do whatever we choose to restore our spirit and energy.

A week past my due date…not what I was expecting!

I have often allotted my weekly night off for writing time; it is one of the few times I have just the right combination of mental focus and uninterrupted time to compose my blog entries, newspaper articles, and other writing projects.  However, spending every waking free moment on writing began to make it feel like a job for me, so I have recently begun to shake things up by spending time on other neglected hobbies and interests in lieu of writing.

This week, I decided to take myself to a movie at the local cheap theatre.  I haven’t been to a movie by myself since 2007, and it is something I really enjoy doing.  I’m not sure exactly why, but it makes me feel connected to some part of myself to attend a movie independently.  It is time I get to spend choosing what I want, doing something I enjoy, and relying on myself to keep myself good company.

Alternating between Dark Shadows (I used to watch the series with my mom and sister as a kid) and What to Expect While You’re Expecting, I decided to go with the “chick flick,” something I knew M has about zero interest to see.  Settling into a 5:10 show, the lone person in the theatre, with my dollar bag of popcorn and a soda, I felt a great sense of relaxation and satisfaction with my choice for the evening.

The movie, as expected, was no great work of art.  I got pretty much what I was looking for out of the evening: mindless entertainment.  But I did have a few reflections about it that I thought I’d share for those considering a viewing. Please acknowledge the SPOILER ALERT here!

Greeting little V for the first time!

What To Expect While You’re Expecting couldn’t decide whether it wanted to be a drama or a comedy and as a result, did not fully achieve either.  Parts of the drama succeeded:  Wendy’s (Elizabeth Banks) dashed expectations of having “pregnancy glow” as she experiences the many physical and emotional challenges of pregnancy; the experience of miscarriage and its toll on an unstable, fledgling relationship; the potential risks of delivery; some of the feelings associated with fertility struggles.  Though I do not have a personal understanding of the experience of adoption; aspects of some of the insensitivity and lack of social support and understanding that adoptive parents could potentially face seemed to resonate as honest depictions.

The comedy however, stopped just short of abysmal.  In contrast to some of the dramatic moments of the movie, the comedic moments seemed forced, clichéd, and unnatural.  For example, the dads’ group, which had appeared in the trailer, was another example of the “doofus dads” phenomenon, as my husband has aptly named this stereotypical depiction of fathers in the media.  Though there were few moments of the dads “screwing up” in their fatherly roles, their attitudes were largely portrayed as wistful, nostalgic yearnings for their long abandoned, pre-kid, manhood.  I found this to be particularly repugnant, as both my husband, and other involved dads I know, do not walk around spending their energies pining after a pre-kid persona.  Nor is their manhood somehow reduced by their role as parents. In fact, the stay-at-home dads in our playgroup pretty much express the same experiences as stay-at-home moms, only without some of the social support systems inherent to motherhood.  Dads are dealing with the same discipline issues, balance, sleep and feeding concerns, and philosophical questions about how to raise caring, thoughtful children.  They aren’t slinging beer cans from the backseat of the mini-van or functioning in the half-aware state shown by Vic (Chris Rock) towards his toddler aged son.  Though not a father, these portrayals irritated me.

A beautiful moment of NOT “a doofus dad” and his newborn daughter…

The ridiculous go-cart race between Ramsey (Dennis Quaid) and his son was another example of over-the-top, as was the scene where Vic’s son gets beamed with a beer can and tumbles down a set of concrete stairs completely unscathed.  And sneezing out a child? I can’t imagine any mother, even those with relatively uncomplicated labors, who have had that kind of delightfully easy experience.  Overall, the humor was slapstick that fell flat and contrasted too strongly with the emotional intensity of many of the other scenes.  More subtle and less stereotypical attempts may have made the film hold together a bit better.

Still, as my expectations were not fixed or high, I was entertained, and found moments that I could identify with in many of the characters’ experiences.  And I think many parents can relate to the transcending message of the film, that you can’t ever fully anticipate the experience of pregnancy and parenthood until you are living through them.

First family photo

While our “kid contract” helped M and I start discussions and have a tentative plan for dealing with some hot button parenting issues, we could never have imagined the joys, the challenges, and most of all, the love that accompanies the arrival of a child and parenthood in general.  The most we can all do, after all, is to make the best choices for our children as we go, to seek out the support of friends and family to help us over the rough patches, and to love our little ones with all our hearts.  Parenting will always challenge our expectations, and it’s up to us to adapt and open ourselves up to the reality that no movie, however intense or humorous can adequately capture.

Mama and V holding hands; they were SO tiny! I love baby hands!

Author’s Note:  Hilariously, I was joined in the theatre right at the end of the movie, smack during the series of labor scenes, by a small, approximately eight year old boy.  After several minutes had passed, with no parent yet in sight, I asked him if he was sure he was in the right spot.  He didn’t answer.  I feared he might be in shock. As the credits rolled, his mother walked in with refreshments for the next viewing of What to Expect.  I can’t imagine taking my elementary aged son or daughter to see this movie, but I’m sure it was enlightening for him!


Listening, Loving, and Learning through Life’s Everyday Breakdowns

I recently had a mid-day meltdown.  It doesn’t really matter what prompted it, because a dozen things prompted it.  Years of feelings prompted it. Two years of sleep deprivation probably helped it along.  A busted water line in the basement during the previous week just set me off ruminating on some ongoing issues and then pouring out like the water had, I text messaged my husband something like this:

“I’m tired of, tired of…tired of…, sick of…, midlife crisis…blah, blah…., I know there are people dying in civil wars…but I feel….sad story, poor me…who am I…, when will things stop changing…, worry, worry, tragedy…oh, woe is me.”  DUMP.

My poor husband calls, “Do you need me to come home?”  Sob.  Sob.  I haven’t let loose these kind of tears in a long time.

Interjected in between sobs, he managed to extract some of my woes from me and talk me into a temporary state of functioning.

Then he promised to come home after work instead of taking his weekly night off at the game store (we each take a few hours, one evening a week for “me time”).  My daughter continued napping on my lap (where she had miraculously slept through my cry-fest), and when she woke, we ventured outside for some fresh air.  Breezes and warmth blew over my face, instantly moving me into deeper breath.  We kicked a ball around, drew some pictures on the sidewalk, kid stuff.

My husband pulled in the driveway, armed with an apple pie (my favorite), fire and ice roses (our flower), and a warm hug.  He cooked dinner while I finished playing with V.  He let me spend some mindless time arranging his Hidden Chronicles estate on Facebook without begrudging me.  We chatted before going to sleep, holding hands, and I felt my state of being shift.

Because whatever happens in my life, major or minor, and however I stumble or break or cry or fumble,  I have the love of my husband and my daughter.  I have the everyday joys, the comfort of familiar arms, the sweetness of my daughter’s face and kisses.  I am infinitely fortunate.

I was reminded to never underestimate the power of small gestures of love and of listening with acceptance.  And why I married my husband:  because his hand fits just right around my own.

Linking up with Shell at Things I Can’t Say for her two year celebration of  


Returning Ripples: A House of Games and Gamers

Crazy for Candyland!

I’ve decided to try a little something here at The Ripple Effect 2009.  I hope to institute a Friday series, Returning Ripples, to re-visit some of my favorite posts that new readers may not have experienced.  To start out, I’m sharing with you a post I wrote about a family tradition we love: playing games.  Since this post was written, we have instituted Friday game nights in our house, where we have a simple dinner and spend the evening playing board games together, sometimes with popcorn or smoothies as a fun treat.  Now 2 years old, V’s new favorite games include:  Go Nuts, Farkle, Sequence, and Connect Four.  She also has played Yahtzee and the dice game we know as “Golf.”  When Friday morning rolls around, and we ask, “What’s today, V?”  She exclaims, “No Workadays!”  (meaning my husband will be home for the weekend this evening) then, “Game Night!”  Knowing that she is enjoying this family ritual so much, that she values the time we spend together as a family, means so much to M and I.  We hope to celebrate Game Night for years to come!  In the  meantime, enjoy the first Returning Ripple:   A House of Games and Gamers:)

My daughter, V, calls them “gamies.”  V is 23 months old and already a game aficionado.  She loves to play Dora The Explorer Memory, a rather hectic and random version of Candyland, and Hi-Ho Cherry-O (though we have to watch her like a hawk with the cherries).  She “plays” cribbage with us; her version is really a card game of war where my hand is randomly selected and she keeps track of her “points” using the cribbage board.  Yep, in our household, we start playing games early.

My husband can technically be given the traditional title of “gamer.”  He plays those Warhammer 40K and Warhammer Fantasy and assorted role-playing games; basically your average nerd stuff (yep, I love me some nerds).  When we were dating, I impressed him with my willingness to try my hand at Magic, Samurai Swords, 007 Goldeneye, and other games I haven’t touched since I got a ring on my finger (I maintain that this really wasn’t intentional…but it’s true!). I remain the household champion of Warhammer Fantasy as the two games I have played with him over the course of 12 years I won (with a lot of assistance since I have no idea what I was doing).  Really, I know they weren’t serious victories and that while not “letting me win,” he certainly was being a good sport.  V has already had her baby interest peaked as she helps Daddy paint his Warhammer figurines and rolls the dice for him during their excursions to the local game store for Warhammer Fantasy games.

Despite M’s greater commitment to the gaming world, I have to say, I am a gamer’s wife.  I like playing somewhat obscure board games:  Agricola, Bonanza, Race for the Galaxy, Cave Troll, Aladdin’s Dragons, and Guillotine.  Though I also love  traditional games like Monopoly and Clue, I have enjoyed the world my husband has opened up for me; we have spent many pleasant hours together playing two player board games (Cold War, War and Sheep, Balloon Cup).

Growing up, some of my favorite times with my family involved games.  We would play board games and classic Nintendo on New Year’s Eve, munching giant bags of popcorn we picked up at the local supermarket.  On rainy days, as we spent summers at our cabin in “Up North” Michigan, we entertained ourselves with game after game of Yahtzee and Solarquest.  I loved cozy winter days where we would map out quests of Zelda with my parents, and watch my dad swing the remote control as he tried to get that little Mario dude to jump already.  These moments may seem simple, but they linger like a worry stone in my pocket, I caress them in my memory because they are times we enjoyed as a family.

I think enjoying board games is kind of a litmus test for belonging in my husband’s family.  I know where my husband gets his love of games, as I have spent more hours at my in-laws’ dining room table over a board game than I can count.  We have some competitive folks in our family (no names mentioned…um, cough) so we keep it crazy when the games are going on.  We have the rule-obsesser, the lucky and deceptively confused trickster, the coy diplomat who relies on her niceness to avoid attacks from other players, the difficult to beat champion who explains rule after rule with infinite patience, the prone to whine if losing individual (I think we’ve all taken a turn with this role).  Despite the fact that games have resulted in some notorious, humorous exchanges (someone being called a “tw*t,” someone shouting “F, F, F”, sulking silences) we LOVE the gaming family ritual.  It is time we spent together, enjoying each other’s foibles and the fun of the game.  I don’t know who we would be as a family without board games.  They are present at every family gathering, formal or informal.

M and I have spent many an evening working out some stress through board games.  We spent sleepless nights during graduate school, through some marital struggles, and during my pregnancy playing mindless games of cribbage and backgammon.  We have played our way through the pain of family illnesses and deaths, when you need a distraction from the hurt but you just don’t feel like talking.  Games mean something in our family; they are a means of connection.  They are time spent.  They are a medium for working things out when tensions are high.

So I’m glad our daughter is joining in the spirit of her family by professing an early love of “gamies.”  I hope we will have many enjoyable evenings that will linger in her memory as her childhood fades; evenings where we’ll pull out a game from the pantry (we keep games rather than food in ours) and settle in for a laugh.  I hope games will be a way for us to keep connected in a world where people increasingly isolate themselves through individual activities and impersonal technologies.  For us, I can’t imagine life without games.


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