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Edward & Bella and Me & You

September 14, 2017

So, I’m just finishing up the Twilight saga. Why now? Why ever? You ask. I don’t have a good answer for you. I’m a page in my dayplanner away from 35 years old and the other night I literally said to my husband, “Bella had the baby, Edward had to make her a vampire to save her, and now her werewolf best friend is in love with her baby, whose name is Renesmee.” The sheer ridiculousness is not lost on me, and believe me when I say, I hate myself just a little bit for hanging in this long.

But I think this world has left me in need of a love story. Any love story. The more absurd, the better.

I’ve also been watching The Office like a junkie on Netflix, and I think my obsession with Jim and Pam kind of counterbalances the whole shape shifter/cold ones indulgence. Love is love is love, I guess.

But the big one is this: On September 15, it will have been 10 years since one of my all-time favorite love stories began, and more than 16 years since it really started taking root. Hank and I will celebrate a decade of domestic, wedded bliss and blunders this year. It feels impossible to be honest. Not that we made it this far, but that so much has happened so quickly, in the span of 25 to 35. Kids and houses and jobs and loss and laughter and so many memories.

I often think of this blog as a place to put all of the stories I know the waves of time will eventually wash away. And so, in honor of our anniversary, I’d like to add another to these pages. And this one is a goodie. This is a story about one of the many moments when I knew that Hank was my person … my ride or die … my Aiden Shaw (Mr. Big Mr. sucks, so in my mind, Carrie went a different way).

It was winter break of my freshman year of college (his sophomore year). We were at my parents’ house. Hank was on the couch watching TV, I was holding my baby niece. As I stood up to go change her, a piercing pain shot through my stomach like a red hot bullet. I tossed the infant to my boyfriend like a football in a trick pass.

“Ugh!” I moaned.
“What?” he pleaded. “What’s wrong?”
“Oh my God, my stomach!” I wailed, folded over on the floor.

I reached for the house phone and dialed my mom’s work number. She was home in minutes.

“Should we call an ambulance?” she asked, to no one in particular.
“I can get you there,” Hank said, confidently.

The pain was coming like sheets of furious rain in a thunderstorm. The calm moments weren’t necessarily calm, but just less excruciating. I was running through the options in my head … Ruptured appendix? Pancreatitis? Did I do something to my liver? Oh my gosh, my liver! Damn you, flippy cup!

We made it to the nearest ER fairly quickly. My mom had placed a bag of frozen vegetables on my stomach en route, peas I think. (A bag of frozen vegetables to my mom was like a bottle of Windex to the Portokalos family in my Big Fat Greek Wedding.)

After what felt like hours, they brought me back. They asked me some questions, and put me in a gown and eventually decided they would do an ultrasound.

With a wand.

Why did they need to go in there?

Oh … my … gosh. They thought there might be a baby in there?!

I was horrified. And confused. And paralyzed with anxiety. Could there really be a baby in there? And did all babies hurt like this when they got in there? But, really, how could a baby get in there? That’s just great. Ain’t no bag of peas gonna fix this, I thought.

After the most uncomfortable test of my life, they put me back in the exam room. My mom and I sat waiting, a pregnant pause between us. “Your boyfriend can come back in the room,” the physician said. “Right, so he can hear the news that he’s miraculously going to be a father, to a baby that’s trying to murder my intestines because it already hates me,” I thought. Hank came in and stood by my head.

The doctor put a smoky black and white image up on the light. She took the end of her pen and began circling a cloudy mass on the picture.

“Do you see this spot?”
“Yes,” we all said, sloppily, definitely not in unison.

Oh gosh, here it comes … It’s cancer. No, twins. No, cancer. No …

“Well, that’s gas.”
“OK …?” I said, not quite sure if “gas” was code for something else.
“See,” she continued, sensing my ignorance, “sometimes gas goes off track. It gets into places that can be rather uncomfortable, in this case, your ovary. It can definitely feel like something far worse, or even serious. The good news is, eventually, it will work it’s way out.”

She smiled kindly and moved onto a gunshot victim down the row a ways. It was quiet for a beat or two.

“So, did she just say I have a fart in my ovary?” I asked.
“That’s what it sounds like,” Hank said.
“A fart in my ovary …”
“The question is, how will you know which fart is the fart?” my mom asked, which was a totally valid question.

Mortified doesn’t cut it. Hank had been my boyfriend for all of maybe four months and he had just gallantly stood by as a doctor diagnosed me with a case of the travelin’ farts. Hurt as that bitch of a gas pain did, it couldn’t compare to the gaping wound that was my pride. Guys, can you imagine if we would have called an ambulance? On top of everything else, he took me to his house that night and I puked all over his parents’ bathroom. No clue why. Maybe it was an aftershock from the wand setting in. I was a gaseous, spewing trainwreck.

But he didn’t leave.

Not only did he not leave, he never made me feel stupid or gross. This scenario has repeated many times over the years, except under different titles. Replace “travelin’ fart” with “black boob from ignoring an infection” or “panic attack” or “extreme dental anxiety”. This man once sat in a chair for four hours – four hours! – while I got the root canal from hell. Only your mama and your person would do that.

Now, a decade in, I’m more certain than ever that I picked the right lobster out of the tank. I’ve never doubted this union for a second, and not just because I adore our babies and the life we’ve created, but because nothing has ever felt more natural, more organic, to me than standing beside this guy. Loving him is like breathing; I don’t have to think about it but I’m so thankful for the life it gives me.

I can’t say what 10 years of marriage is supposed to look like. I can only say what it looks like here. Here, in this stage of our lives, I’ll be honest and say there are days it looks like two people in the thick of the jungle using dull machetes to cut through the vines and make it out of the quicksand. But it also looks like teamwork and calendar consulting and granting ourselves permission to sneak away together sometimes. It looks like feet crossing at the end of the bed with Friends from College playing just above them and sharing the leg pillow since both of our backs hurt.

It looks like splitting and shifting the load so we can do things that make us happy outside of our roles as “Mom” and “Dad”, and petty fights because I’m hungry or tired or redirecting. It’s not a perfect marriage by someone else’s definition, but it is by ours, because we custom built it. We wove it together with the threads of trust and fabric of respect, and we work on it as often as we can, because we want it to be beautiful.

Similarly, I can’t describe a perfect home. I can only describe our home. A home with bedspreads inscribed by our children with permanent markers. A home with splashed, sticky walls and window screens with holes the size of tiny fingers. It’s filled with three little girls who yell “Daddy!” when he walks in at 6 o’clock every night, typically with pink hair ties around his wrist, leftover from that morning. It looks like stolen moments and locking eyes in the midst of meltdowns. It looks like stacks of photos that haven’t made it into books yet and dusty greeting cards with messages to each other we can’t bring ourselves to throw away.

It’s an open home, where our friends and family are always welcome, because that is what matters most to us. There are cobwebs in the corners I can’t reach and shoes caked with dried mud from Saturday hikes. I wouldn’t eat off the floor, but I’ll get down on it and tickle one of my girls without hesitation.

Our marriage, our home, our life, is my legacy. You wouldn’t be reading this blog if they didn’t exist. I wouldn’t be who I am if they didn’t exist. The light that lives inside me would be that much duller without each of these things we built together. Ten years seems like a significant milestone, but also still just the beginning.

Henry, I love sleeping in giant barn shelters along the Appalachian Trail with you (and 20 strangers), and getting lost down rivers in our kayaks with you, and sprinkling food and water over these little chicks and watching them grow with you, and getting drunk and going to Costco with you and exploring this miraculous world next to you. I can’t wait for all the adventures we can’t even imagine just yet. Edward and Bella. Jim and Pam. They ain’t got shit on us, babe. Happy Anniversary.

Bonus fact for those who hung on until the end:
My mom thought I seemed anxious the day before the wedding and gave me a Lexapro to “relax”. Then I drank wine and started tripping out. Thank God for good friends to bring you out of your Lexa-coma. (And the ones who take pictures of it.)


8 is great, let’s go on a date

September 17, 2015

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Yesterday, Hank and I toasted 8 years of little monkeys, messes and matrimony. Our love story actually started more than 14 years ago, when a cocky college sophomore in a red bandana flirted middle-school style with a recently graduated high school girl in cargo khakis over the course of 15 hands of euchre. He was snarky. I was living in my dreams of college days to come. It was nothing. Until it was. It really, really was something.

Our relationship has always been one saturated in that calm confidence that comes with absolute certainty. I used to tell Hank we were destined to find each other considering we once had the same dream within 24 hours of each other and received jury duty on the same day. The universe wanted us to build this beautiful life, and who are we to argue with the universe? Perfection isn’t really our style, but the imperfections suit us just fine. Do we fight? On occasion. Are we opposites? Um, hell yes. Did I strike the spouse jackpot? You bet your ass.

September 15, 2007, was a sunny, 70-someting-degree day. I remember sitting on a party bus with our bridal party and thinking, I have never been this full of joy. I love these people. I love this man. I love my life. And every year, on this day, we make it a priority to tap back into an, admittedly, milder degree of that euphoria. A lot of life has happened since that day. Wonderful, colorful twists and surprises and, of course, three extraordinary little ladies.

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Our traditions are small. We go to dinner, stop by the church where we got hitched and catch up. I always ask what his favorite moment in our marriage was the year before. This past year, our trip to Vegas and getting Emma so we could go on our camping adventures were his happiest memories. I agreed. But now that this little blog is out in the world, I wanted to take it a step further. So, I went on …

Biggest change for us
“Jobs.” – Hank

Best meal
“Didn’t we have a really fun meal one time? Or are all the meals running together for me? That one where all the kids ate, and they didn’t fuss and … oh, wait, that never happens.”

You feel most supported when I __
“Let me be a stay at home Dad.”

Sweetest moment
“Our terrible selfie on the way to Vegas. We were all snuggled. I still have the picture somewhere. We got to be adults for a day, you know, with your parents.”

Funniest moment
“When we got drunk and rocked out to the Doobie Brothers on a weeknight. Jesus is just alright with me.”

Something you learned about me
“I don’t know what the right word for it is. You’re a … like, I don’t know … persistence … or determination. Cuz damn it, you’re gonna run that half marathon.”

Thing you want us to work on in the coming year
“Ew. I want us to have more fun. Too often it feels like we just coexist with all the crap that goes on.”

In 10 years, we’ll be __
[clasps face] “Raising teenagers!”

Not the best interview I’ve ever done, but the good Lord loves him for his honesty. I answered them, too, of course, and it’s funny how, when you ask the right questions, you discover this unspoken overlap between your treasured moments and hopes, and your spouse’s. What can I say, I think using your anniversary as an excuse to dig a little deeper into the caverns of your partner’s head space is healthy. It sparks conversation and gets some goals out there for the next 365 days.

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After 8 years, I’ve learned that the best marriages are the ones where no one feels smaller or less important than the other person. I’ve learned that laughter only becomes more necessary and is a secret weapon for survival. That acknowledgement and validation are invaluable, and often the most neglected of commodities between people who love each other. I’ve learned the “don’ts”: Don’t tell each other’s secrets. Don’t discourage hobbies or dreams. Don’t make someone sacrifice pieces of their true self. Know when to give your partner space and when to grab on unprompted. And above all, never put conditions on your love. Give it freely and every day.

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Until next year …