Gas Up Your Mini-Vans

Life was easy in a minivan. I don’t drive a minivan nor am I minivan hating on those minivan loving mommas. However, there was a time I drove a minivan-it was my Mom’s. It was a costumed ordered, sleek Mark III Minivan. The hottest minivan on the late 80s or early 90s market, with a pink and grey stripe down the side and lush velvet curtains on the interior windows. Mom, please tell you got a h*ll of a deal on this…looking back it was so ugly. Oh did I forget to mention that it was before I had my driver’s license? I was probably about eleven or twelve when me and a childhood bestie would take my mother’s minivan cruising. We weren’t driving on the road, we were driving on my parents’ property and my uncle’s adjoining property. We had a couple of acres to cruise.

Looking back, I have two thoughts on the minivan adventures. First, why did my mom let me and my friend drive around in her minivan all over her property when we probably hadn’t even hit puberty, let alone have a license to operate a vehicle? I guess she wanted us out of the house. She purchased a lot of fuel to keep us occupied. Second, life was just plain easier in that minivan.

So to take you back to those minivan rides in the late 80s and early 90s…We always wore our seatbelts. There was a safety campaign then to promote wearing seatbelts, so we took that seriously and “buckled up”. Remember the Crash Test Dummies? We probably had lots of hair spray on our tall “mall” bangs and wore neon colored clothing with tight rolled jeans (also sprayed with hairspray to hold the roll). On beautiful days we rolled down the windows. We always listened to our favorite radio station (or cassette tape) which played the latest hits of Madonna, Milli Vanilli, Bryan Adams, Aerosmith, and Janet Jackson. Come to think of it, these artists’ lives were simpler in that minivan, too!

We were living the American dream in that minivan with our “baby” dolls in the back seat. I am pretty sure we didn’t adhere to any car seat laws for our little bundles of plastic. Oops! We had imaginary roads with stop signs, stop lights, etc. We had certain areas that we pretended were drive thru windows for banks, fast food etc. We also pictured ourselves as career women. Our career choices were being teachers and being presidents of a bank that we would own in our spare time.  We both landed in the education profession, but we don’t own any banks. I am not sure why we were intrigued with the banking industry other than we knew there was lots of money in a bank. And, I am sure we thought business suites looked cool and sophisticated. We would drive around for hours (literally) on my parents/uncle’s property. The neighbors and passer byers had to think my mother was losing her mind.  We could go up to 35 mph, without getting yelled at by Mom for driving too fast and then made to return the van to the garage. We really had no plans of where we were going during our drive…just cruising through life. We pretended to drop off the kids at school, cash a check at a bank (this was before ATM cards folks!), and run mom “errands”.  We would pretend our husbands were at work. Thank God we didn’t marry those guys! We giggled and we talked as we lived out our duo fantasy of supposedly working fulltime as a teacher and bank president. Our babies never cried or talked, no cell phones existed, no text, no social media, no blog that needed updating, no GPS, and no bad drivers on the road (just us). Yes, life, love, and parenting sure was easy in that minivan.

This same bestie that I use to cruise with when our feet barely reached the pedals now owns a minivan. She does have some great land for taking a drive, but we haven’t taken her minivan off road…but that might be an idea for escaping reality for a few minutes! If we were to hop in and take a cruise in her minivan, life would look much different than we had anticipated…it actually turned out better than we could have planned. However, I do miss the innocence of the simplicity we expected out of life as moms and as adults. If we were to take her minivan off-roading we would be so excited to have a moment to dedicate to each other to catch up, that we would literally run out of gas before we did conversation topics.

If we were to replay our minvan cruising as adults …here is what it might look like. First, we can now drive on the road legally and go over 35 mph…which is symbolic of life being such a fast pace now and often having more privileges than time. We have many blessings to talk about these days that involve spouses, children, and special interests. However, these days, our kids do cry, get sick, and act less than perfect occasionally (qualities totally inherited from their Dads-just to clarify-that is one dad per family….not of bunch of baby daddies here!). We have days we would generally like to rewind and just do over. We have days we feel like Wonder Women and days we feel like wandering women. My kid is nothing like a plastic baby- he is practically a backseat driver! Imaginary spouses, plastic babies, pretend jobs were much less complicated.  Text and email would be chiming in on our iPhones. We might even take a selfie and update our Facebook status or Instagram. Errands just plain suck as adults and aren’t as fun as we imagined. Hopping in and out of the vehicle a dozen times or going through various drive thru windows just aren’t as glamorous when they hold your day hostage, while you are toting a crying toddler, and using “your” “real” money to pay bills. Gas was cheaper in the 80s, therefore our trip might be shorter this time around. In our childhood minivan, the thought of worry, pain, illness, loss, etc. never crossed our minds. We didn’t understand how to love so much it could hurt at times. We didn’t understand the serious work of raising little people to be positive contributors to the world. We didn’t realize that dates with your sweetheart are few and far between and it’s the little every day moments that mean the most. We didn’t realize there would a national debate on moms who “stay” home and moms who “work” outside of the home (we are all working are butts off!). We didn’t realize the unfortunate cruelty in the world that can unexpectedly blindside you or cause you sleepless nights. Life was simple, easy, good, and fair in that minivan.

Life isn’t as simple, easy, or perhaps as fair as we anticipated…but it sure has been a good ride thus far. I wouldn’t trade all the joys of what this complicated world has bestowed upon us. Let’s gas up your minivan soon, friend. And for those of you who haven’t cruised in a minivan…crank up some 80s music and give it a try with a best friend!

Today my spoon is full of life adventures in a minivan.

Non-camping Mom’s Survival Story

In my ranking of fun things to do in my spare time, camping ranks a very close second to a root canal. Anyone who knows me shouldn’t be shocked by my previous statement. I love the outdoors-kayaking, hiking, swimming and enjoying the goodness of the beauty we are often surrounded by, yet carelessly pass by in our daily hectic lives. However, my enjoyment of the outdoors comes indoors at bedtime. Once a tent enters the picture…my love for the outdoors comes to an abrupt halt. This is the point where yours truly prefers to check into a hotel or return home. Please note, anything less than 4 stars is equivalent to camping. My husband is not as high maintenance as me…for goodness sake he survived living in a giant sandbox with dust storms and only an occasional shower for months while in Iraq. I would have withered and died if I couldn’t have caught the next camel out of there! So for him, camping is nothing to complain about. For me, camping is everything to complain about.

Camping as Sweethearts

Camping as Sweethearts

This is a picture of me and my “boyfriend” now husband on our first camping trip when we were dating in college. And note to self, why do I have on mom shorts at this stage in my life?!?! I should have worn daisy dukes when I had the body. Okay, back on topic, yes that is a smile on my face…but you do crazy things for love. We were camping with our best friends who we still love dearly and who also got married and had a son much like ours. I vowed that day to my friend that I would NEVER EVER again camp.

I didn’t know it then but looking back that was when camping was actually fun.  Adult beverages of your choice without dealing with the bladder of a mother (ladies you get this), no worries of laundry, unpacking, etc., on the next day. No worries of your first born getting lost and having to be raised by a pack of wolves. Yes, I should have enjoyed the “spoonful” of that trip more.

Now. Fast-forward about 13 years. For the past decade plus, I have been avoiding camping with my husband. He says I tricked him and sold him a false bill of goods… my response, “he didn’t read the fine print”. However, I have lost the battle. My husband made an alliance with our three-year old and guilt tripped Mom into camping with the boys.

Seriously...one night!

Seriously…one night!

So…last weekend, we packed our SUV to the guilds like we were being evicted from our home and set out for our first family camping adventure. Here are my three pieces of advice for people who hate camping and end up going any way…

  1. If you are married, pack as much stuff as you possibly can. You never know what you will need. On the flipside, this reminds your husband/spouse just how difficult it is to pack up and live outdoors for the night at this stage of life. In other words, make him work.
  2. Expect the worst. Serial killers could be hiding in the forest, pedophiles are probably lurking around every tent or RV, creepy killer spiders could potentially invade your sleeping space, and that is just to name a few dangers that one might encounter.
  3. Finally take a deep breath and say to yourself, I can survive anything for 24-hours. Then…
  4. Relax and make the most of it. Throughout the world, people are living with incurable disease, being sold into slavery, and having the worst day of their lives…so relatively speaking…feel lucky to be outdoors in a safe country with great park systems where you and mother nature can safely cohabitate.
Camping with my Sweethearts
Camping with my Sweethearts

This is me camping now. Much has changed and watching this little guy have so much fun, I in turn had a blast. Okay, not a blast…but a good time. My husband said “we should do this next month”. Hold the phone!! I will only commit to one camping trip a year; with the caveat that it is not a primitive site, but a site with an electrical outlet…a girl has to dry her hair! I could had added a glamping caveat. New to glamping? Google  “glamping”- it’s a form of glamorous camping where outdoor meets hotel. Really, “glamorous” and “camping” together is a bit of an oxymoron…but I can handle camping in style with a butler, a luxurious mattress, and a spa.

Times have changed with this trip. Instead of multiple adult beverages, I only enjoyed one, because I didn’t want to have to get up in the middle of the night and make a trip to the bathhouse and meet an axe-murderer. Squatting in the woods was not on the list of options. I am not going to lie, there was a time around midnight where I almost enacted my executive veto on this trip and packed it up to head home. I wasn’t sleeping worth a darn…but inhaling a few deep breaths of the clean fresh outdoor air settled me down. Our SUV was filled to the brim with everything you could imagine compared to our first camping trip…where we stuffed a sports car full.  I don’t recall even owning bug spray in college. However, this trip I sprayed the parameters of the tent, doused my child in organic bug spray, and had enough candles burning for a séance. In college a sleepless night in a tent, meant napping all day the next day. Now, well…what’s a nap?

The beauty of this trip was enjoying each other, the peace and quiet of limited cell phone coverage, no Disney movies, no iPad…just us three healthy,happy people snuggled in a tent. And at the end of each day…peace and a happy family is all a mom really wants.-even if it is under the stars and out in the great outdoors.

Today my spoon is full of memories of bugs, s’mores, and a sleepless starry night.

Forever Young….Forever 21

Recently, I was shopping with my husband and son. Well, my husband was trying to entertain my son at the mall while I shopped. I hit some killer sales on some high-end items and well, I had to have them. No really, I saved BIG! I ventured outside of my box a little and purchased some outfits that were not as conservative as I typically select. I was on a roll so after my bargain adventure, I headed to Forever 21 to purchase a few more trendy items.  In my head, I was thinking….oh yeah maybe “Stella has her groove back.”

When I go in Forever 21, it takes me a moment to reframe.  How many clothes can a store cram into one location? I mean the shirt crammed into the rack at the front of the store might be a perfect fit with the pants hanging in the back corner of the store. Don’t trip over all of the size 0 girls you might not see along the way when you are trying to get to the back of the store or dressing room. Really all senses have to be engaged during this kind shopping experience. I was just getting in my groove and my cell rang. It was my husband. He said “Hey! We are on the other side of the mall at Chucky Cheese if you are looking for us.”  To which I replied, “Well, I was going to be looking for you after I left this store-but if you are at Chucky Cheese maybe not.” That phone call was a dose of reality for Stella. Needless to say, I lost my shopping momentum. Nothing reminds you that you cannot be forever “21” like a call from Chucky Cheese.

I left the teenage clothes and headed to Chucky Cheese where my two loves were playing a lizard game. My husband excitedly informs me that you can apparently really rack up the tickets on the lizard game-good to know!  Then my husband says, “do you want to eat here for dinner?” To which I replied in a rather disgusted voice, “I would rather lick the public toilets in this mall than eat here”. The food may be great at Chunky Cheese, but there is just something unappealing about eating while you are surrounded by folks who can’t fit in the booth they are sitting in (Chunky Chucky Cheese) and you are inundated with background noises ranging from a singing mouse to racecars blares to machine guns. And let’s not forget there are probably more germs on those game handles than in any science experiment funded by government research. It overwhelms me and honestly just grosses me out to the point I can’t even  enjoy my favorite food pizza there.

As my toddler and husband used the last of their game tokens (I hid half of them in my purse), my mind drifted back to Forever 21. What is it about 21…or at least the early 20s that makes you want it to last forever? A few things quickly came to mind.  Is it the college years and the wonderful world of freedom? After all, there are few responsibilities, no managing people, no 401ks, a perfect metabolism, no bundle of joy to wake me like a rooster at the crack of dawn, spontaneous travel, no “real” plans…just living for the moment ….forever 21. Then it dawned on me, Forever 21 needs to revamp to a new market demographic (see I knew that marketing minor would come in handy one day). The new and improved Forever 21 should look like this…a store I could walk in with my husband and toddler and we would all leave happy. In the middle is a germ free play land which serves organic food and is operated by Phds with degrees focusing on children. The attendant would take my child and hand my husband and I an iPhone-like device so we could watch our child gleefully playing at any time. In this play land, my child would have a blast but would also get a healthy dose of information on manners, potty training, sharing, sleep habits, etc. The workers would also pick out clothes and shoes for my toddler and they would fit perfectly-no need for returns.

My husband would go to the right of play land to the man’s world…which would be a combination of a pub, sporting goods, Eddie Bauer, Lowes. Please note, no trashy waitresses allowed. He could shop, drink Guinness, and enjoy sports. Probably a little of Beastie Boys, Toby Keith, AC/DC, Mumford & Sons, and Robin Thick would be playing in the background.  While my husband and toddler are entertained, I would head left. My first stop would be for peddie/mannie and a massage by a buff 21-year-old male. Hey, don’t judge-this is my idea, it wasn’t happen stance that no trashy waitresses were allowed on the man side. My side of the store would have clothes that fit mothers. Not a mother that had kids at 16 and their figure rebounded. Mothers like me-waited until I was not forever 21 and my hips will forever never be the same. The clothes would be a mix of Forever 21 and H&M style of apparel. A personal stylist would be at my beck in call and pick out the perfect clothes for my body style and every size that fits me says size “0”. Justin Timberlake, LL Cool Jay, and Lenny Kravitz, Adele, and Miranda Lambert would be serenading me throughout my shopping excursion. I could check on my precious toddler with a push of a button while sipping on a martini. Awwww…the feeling of forever 21. Then my husband, my child and I would greet each other in the middle…. refreshed and happy with bags full of clothes. That’s what Forever 21 feels like in your 30s…and for that I would pay dearly.

“Look mommy, I got a pider (spider) and a car!” My toddler exclaims who is proud of his prizes earnings at Chucky Cheese which are probably imported from a foreign country and contain toxins…snapped back to reality…not forever 21.

Today my spoon is full of memories of 21.

A Tale of Donkey and Elephant Living Together

All the “Sequester” talk and action (or lack thereof) in Washington has me very disappointed in our elected officials-all of them. I was trying to simplify this very complex problem the government is wrestling with and the best analogy I could think of was my own household where one democrat (that’s me some may call liberal) and one republican (that’s my better half some might call conservative) harmoniously live and make decisions to move our family forward in a positive direction daily (well, darn near most days). Of course in our household there is an occasional roll of the eyes or shaking of the head when we discuss some topics; but all in all we make magic happen on a daily basis in a divided household. So, Washington, take a few tips from our unequally yoked union!

  1. We respect each other’s viewpoints. REALLY! Its starts with no yard signs during elections. That doesn’t mean we agree on a canidate, but we can see value in both viewpoints. We don’t have to mark our territory like a cat to reassure ourselves what we believe in as individuals or a family. Case in point, I held an elective office for six years in my hometown. The office was not affiliated with a political party. In my small hometown, my husband and I canvassed the streets together during three campaigns rallying votes. Yes, a republican and a democrat walked the streets together, because he knew I could do a fine job in office because although our political views may differ, he knew I had enough sense to preserve mine, without attacking his.
  2. We try to walk in the other’s shoes. When resting side by side you will see Timberland Steel-toed boots next to Nine West high-heels. Although we tread different ground, we occasionally take a walk on the other side. No my husband doesn’t wear high heels! For example, I recently completed a conceal carry class. I seriously doubt I will be touting a gun around anywhere, but to a Republican Marine- that was impressive. And my perspective on guns was informed. On the other hand he acts like he enjoys the vegetarian cuisine I create (which I really think he does!).
  3. We listen. I will be honest-this is the hardest part of our marriage some days. Frankly, just like the elected officials, I want to believe that my view is superior to his or vice versa. However, by truly listening and cutting through the fluff, you find you have more in common you can work together on, than what might divide you.
  4. We balance a budget together. Agreeing on finances takes thoughtful planning, common sense, and an occasional compromise. We set priorities together on what we want to accomplish with our funds. We don’t cut out all groceries because I prefer organic free range and he prefers a bargain. He understands why I would own a goat in Africa to help a poor village and I compromise on him building his arsenal of weapons like we are a militia. However, at the end of the day all needs are met, we sacrifice where we need to, priorities have adequate funding to make life happen, and the budget is balanced. More importantly, no one is hanging off a financial cliff.
  5. We accomplish things together. For goodness sake, we created a life! We each share our take on life and do not disrespect the other’s stance in front of our child. We have fun (well, making a baby was fun-but I mean in other context here) contributing our individual strengths to projects. Diverse ideas strengthen any task at hand.

These are just a few ways that democrats and republicans can work together so “sequester” doesn’t become this great Nation’s permanent mode of operation. Really, aren’t these things our elected official should have learned in kindergarten?

Republican with a Donkey....NO that's not me!

Republican with a Donkey….NO that’s not me!

Today my spoon is full of real life ideas of restoring how elephants and donkeys can live and work side by side and be productive!

Thoughts for my Daughter-in-Law on Valentine’s Day

Valentine’s Day is here. Love is in the air and candy hearts and chocolates are making their way to our hips. I have never been a lover of Valentines. Don’t get me wrong, I always love a surprise from my love. I personally think Valentine’s just has a forced feeling of “love” – too commercialized. So for Valentine’s my husband and I try to bring our A game all year…not just on February 14th.One of my fondest Valentine’s memories is of a friend and I sending each other bouquets of flowers from a secret lover while we were in high school. Who could it be? Geez, I don’t know! It was for a good laugh and we had fun with the “mystery.”This Valentine’s Day is different. I have been doing a lot of thinking and daydreaming about love. Not in my life, but that of my son’s life. I know he is only two, but life slapped me in my face a few weeks ago when his teachers jokingly shared with me that he is a little “gentleman” to a girl in his class. My first thought, well at least he is exhibiting traits of chivalry, and not pimp-like at a young age. That’s positive, right?  I know this little gal is just two, but that little hoochie (I promise I am not jealous) is already stealing my son’s heart. After naptime, he apparently helps her off her mat and has a date with her during lunch and snack each day. When I told my husband he said, we need to separate their mats! Really-they are two, we are maybe over reacting. Adding insult to injury, my son received his first birthday party invite last week-from a GIRL; who by the way is an older woman-she will be three! This innocent crush on his girl buddy and the party invite from a cougar has me thinking that in a blink of an eye I will be a mother-in-law. That is the worst label ever-so many stereotypes go with that term.

My husband’s mother, made it very clear that she was “losing” a son when my  husband I dated and later married. Since she doesn’t have access to my blog, I won’t take any dirty punches. However, there is nothing I hate more than the shallow thought of “a son is a son until he takes a wife.” Really, I have to start now to plot how I will be the best mother-in-law that ever existed and defy the horrible stereotypes.  How do I turn this ship around now so that I don’t “lose” a son, but instead gain a daughter?  I know there will be Valentines Days to come where my son will be touting a teddy bear to school for his love or sending roses to some vixen that isn’t the marrying type. However, I am skipping over those brief moments in time and going straight for the kill-the ONE that will last- YOU, my daughter-in-law. I have decided to start thinking and planning for our relationship now, so I penned this open letter to YOU my dearest daughter-in-law (who is not taking MY son).

Dearest Beautiful, Smart, Perfect Daughter-in-Law:

I know you are perfect because my son has good taste thanks to my positive influence on his life and let’s face it-his mother is nearly perfect. Now that we share the same last name, I would like to say “welcome” to our family! Please know I don’t view you as a thief in the night who stole my son. Actually, the joke is on you-your stuck with me, my husband, and our crazy family.  So I beg of you, just go ahead and embrace us-there are many fun times ahead. Drop the mother-in-law stereotype. You will find me likeable. Honestly, you have fallen in love with my life’s work, so I sincerely accept your thanks for molding a young man into a perfect mate. I started working on your behalf before we ever knew each other. That is how great of a mother-in-law I am! If you think about it, we have a lot in common since we both love the same man. I fell in love with him the first second I gazed into his big brown eyes right after he took his first breath. And you…fell for those same eyes yourself!

The good news is I will not ask you to wear my wedding dress. I have already donated it to a good cause and it is long gone. So, find one of your own that fits you and your dreams. I won’t upstage you on your wedding day, but know I will look damn good when I am lighting the candle that forever unifies us as one big, happy family. I won’t judge the cleanliness of your house or the gourmet appeal of your food. If you spend your life cleaning and picking up after my son and your offspring-it is no one’s fault but your own because I taught him differently.  I won’t harass you about how you parent. I won’t harass you about your sense of style (well, that might happen if you are embarrassing the family name). However, I will nag you to enjoy the ride of a perfectly imperfect life and will be there to support your journey.

I assume you picked my amazing son because he is gorgeous (I mean he should have been a model, I know), he is intelligent, a good conversationalist and listener, he is open-minded, loves adventures, has a good sense of humor, and is practically perfect. Or maybe you picked him just because I came with him. Let me tell you, honey, this level of perfection you fell in love with didn’t happen overnight. His father and I have been training him for years to not be a narcissistic narrow-minded idiot who cannot function independently.

Right now you may not even be born yet or you may be playing with Dora the Explorer stuff and obsessed with everything pink. However, I am working for your future happiness now, and he is only two! Let me give you a few examples.

  • You will enjoy not falling into the toilet seat in the middle of the night. Putting the lid down has been incorporated into potty training at our house.
  • You will not have to clean up after him. Thanks to me, he puts his own stuff up and doesn’t have crap scattered everywhere. He knows how to put his plate and sippy cup (hopefully, he has progressed to an adult cup) in the dishwasher. Well, thanks to my OCD tendencies, we “clean-up” every night. I am sorry if you have to sing songs about how fun cleanup time is while he does his chores.
  • You will enjoy dinner on the table when you get home. He helps me cook. He is an excellent stirrer of all ingredients. I will incorporate moving those ingredients into a pan in his “oven and stove 101” training when he is older.
  • You will enjoy that he can balance respecting an independent woman and chivalry. Well, he learned that one mostly from his dad. He will always kiss you before he leaves and before bedtime. He has spent his years watching his mommy love her family and balance a career. He has seen days where I was superwoman and days were I was a failure-he knows it’s hard.
  • You will notice he has good manners because he understands the importance of please and thank you. 
  • You will like how he is a good communicator and has lots to talk about. Well, his father and I have been cultivating an adventerous spirit by toting him around the world and to museums before he could talk. I have spent countless hours talking about and explaining life to him.
  • You will like it that he is a good listener. Like my husband, he has heard my “hearing vs listening” lecture many times (I’m a communication major). You don’t listen to mommy when you are watching Mickey Mouse Clubhouse; that is “hearing” not “listening”. The TV goes off until you can be a good listener. You’re welcome that you won’t be ignored every time a sporting event is on TV.
  • You will like that he doesn’t think your one of the boys and enjoys hearing his bodily functions like burps and “toots” as he now calls them. It might be fun with Dad, but he better keep the noises to himself around the ladies.

Hopefully, these actions which I have already starting working on will show you that from the beginning, you and I have been on the same team-we are not each other’s competition or enemies. I don’t want to be your BFF, just your MILF (for those of you with your minds in the gutter-that means “mother-in-law friend”). I know I will be replaced as his truest love and that is okay. I can only hope you picked him because of the qualities I have worked so hard to instill in him…and that maybe he picked you because we are alike. Hey, they say you marry your mother-which scares the hell out of me! I can’t promise I won’t be annoying or I won’t be too involved, but I promise it will all come from love. Let’s face it, you love my baby, I must have done something right.

Sincerely,

Your mommy-in-law

Today my spoon is full of chocolate Valentine’s Day Candy as I sulk at not always being my son’s Valentine.

Celebrating a decade…what 10 years can bring to a marriage!

This week marked mine and my husband’s ten year anniversary. A decade. Wow. Some days life (not our marriage) has seemed like 100 years. Other days those 10 years seem like a blink in time. I remember when we were newlyweds; that our 10th year was supposed to be the year that we adventured to Bora Bora. Our plan didn’t quite pan out, but that dream is still in the making. As a new bride, I also remember asking my husband what he thought about changing our wedding bands to something different every ten years. This really wasn’t a ploy to get a bigger diamond. I thought it sounded fun. After all, as life happens, who you are and what your marriage is changes over time-so why can’t your ring change too? However, my hubby is too sentimental for wedding ring changes. He probably still has anxiety over the fact that I am on wedding ring number two due to a portion of my diamonds (who were my mother’s) falling out of my original wedding ring within the first year of our marriage. Oops.

Over dinner, my husband and I were discussing what the next ten years will look like. Before I could even get a mental picture he proceeds to say “Well, some people in our lives will probably be dead, we will have a tweenager, and we will be wrinkled. “ Wow, thanks for the optimistic outlook on the next decade. Luckily, that conversation was derailed by our waitress. Later on I was thinking about the past ten years and what all those years encompassed. Honestly, when I was a new bride I don’t really remember intentionally planning much of the first 10 years of our marriage. Typically, I am a planner, but considering the day after we married, my husband left for Iraq, I wasn’t for sure what plans to make. Looking back, I think I was afraid if I made too many plans, my heart would never recover if he didn’t come home alive and well to fulfill them. So started our marriages and we have been haphazardly landing in the right places ever since.

According to an online date calculator, we have been married for 521 weeks, or 3,653 days or 87,672 hours or 5,260,320 minutes or 315,619,200 seconds. I am sure my husband has been keeping track of the seconds (insert sarcasm)! So what has this time brought about? Well, here is a snapshot.

We been married twice (but not divorced; see previous posts for explanation). We survived my husband being deployed to Iraq for nine months. He survived me teaching in the Czech Republic for six weeks. We have moved three times. We have moved family and friends a lot more than three times. We have remodeled a home and built a home. We demolished a home; neither of which we remodeled or built. We have had nine jobs or positions between the two of us. I have completed a Ph.D. (really, my husband is to thank for me passing statistics). My husband has completed a MBA (really, he can thank me for editing his papers to perfection). He has fixed a lot of things I have broken and read the directions when I did not. I try to smile and contain the steam from rolling out of my ears when he works on one of our home projects…slow but also perfect. We canvased my small home town to rally votes when I ran for office three different terms (which I won). We have traveled A LOT-some for work but most for pleasure. We have visited (best I can count) 16 states in the USA and traveled to 9 countries together in the name of fun and adventure. When we were in Italy and I bought gelato and like a dumb tourist realized I was taken advantage of because it costs like $20, you still shared it with me (and remind me about it, but it was darn good). He watched me puke my guts out for 10 days on a cruise and kept me from jumping overboard. He has sprayed medicine on my arse when some fat snorkeler pushed me into poisonous coral in the Bahamas. We have enjoyed numerous concerts and plays. He wasn’t embarrassed when I was rockin out at a Bon Jovi concert when I was 8 months pregnant (coincidence my son loves music-probably not). He flew us to see U2 when in fact, he really doesn’t like them, but I do (I think Kiss made up for that). I dragged him to a Drag Show in Chicago for his 30th birthday and he still loved me (best martinis and singing EVER). We made wine together. One batch could possibly fuel a car or be used to clean wounds; and a few batches that we made were near perfection. He graciously pretends to care about my fashion shows after I go shopping and want to show him the bargains I found. We had a fish-and I am pretty sure he is the one that killed it. We cried when we had a miscarriage and then cried more when we rented Marley & Me to watch on the same freaking day. I thought it was going be a fun movie about a dog. I didn’t realize the damn dog died. Bad choice on a bad day. We made the cutest kid EVER together. When he joined our house he yelled at us the first year of his life due to colic, ear infections, and teething. Luckily, those days passed. He is the perfect, clever, witty mixture of us. My man has back aches thanks to bouncing around a metal truck while in Iraq; I have had two knee surgeries that are probably a result of me just being a total klutz. We both have fixed our eyes with Lasik surgery (you were scared, so I went first). We survived over a week without electricity during an ice storm that was declared a national disaster… until I talked you into driving 1.5 hours to a hotel so I could dry my hair and sleep in a warm bed. We have made new friends. We have lost loves ones. We have had a few cars. We lost our dear house cat a time or two (but she is still alive and well). I have had long hair and short hair. He has lost a few hairs. But neither of us are gray! We have gotten older. We have had a few days when we wanted to kill each other (I am sorry for scooping out a large portion of butter out of the container while I was cooking dinner and throwing it at his face that one time when I was mad…but it was pretty funny). We have cried a little. We have been sick a few days but mostly have been blessed with great health. We have laughed, loved, and lived the last decade. Our marriage has been an adventure of love, trust, partnership, tolerance, humor, tenacity all rolled up into one.

Whew…I know I left something out, but as you can see the last decade has been an adventure. I can’t wait until I can reflect on the next decade. I don’t know what it will bring, but I promise to have my eyes, ears, mind, and heart open for the moment and savor each spoonful as it comes. I share this not because I want you to see what we have done, but maybe to reflect on what your next decade will bring. Are your eyes, ears, mind, and heart ready for the adventure? I suggest not planning it, but to buckle up, put the top back, and enjoy the ride.

Today my spoonful is full of smiles as Mrs. E-E.

Going to the Chapel

My husband and I went through a few years where our summers were filled with weddings. As newlyweds ourselves, they seemed like such hopeful and romantic events. Then we transitioned to attending baby showers…and this summer we are back to weddings. Not necessarily individuals that didn’t work out a few summers back. We’ve attended a charming small wedding, sent gifts to a wedding we couldn’t make, and attended a Vietnamese wedding which I couldn’t understand much (mostly spoken in Vietnamese)-but it was a pretty darn cool ceremony. Being nearly a 10-year seasoned veteran of marital bliss (okay most days), my perception of this summer of weddings is a little different than those I attended a few years back as a newlywed.

Some of my ramblings on marriage are based on personal experience and others on observations.  It appears when we attend a wedding we are more concerned about the gift, the wedding colors/deco/gown, what we are wearing, what is the food, is there an open bar…or for me…what flavor is the cake? I LOVE wedding cake-white cake with white icing. ”Nom nom” (yum yum) as my toddler says. However, in the midst of the entire wedding extravaganza I think as guests (and sometime as the new couple) we often miserably fail on two levels. Unknowingly, most of us fail to #1 Appreciate and support the individual (spouse) on this journey called life and marriage and #2 Support the union.  Often time an individual gets lost in the union, and the union gets lost in the individual.  It’s a delicate balance one must strike as a spouse and as a friend or family member supporting a couple.

It seems that the support needed for a successful marriage is lost with most traditional wedding ceremonies. This was more evident to me as I attended the Vietnamese ceremony recently. In this particular ceremony there was a strong sense of respect for each other; togetherness, yet individuality; and a very strong commitment to the joining of the two families (rather than just the two individuals trying to blend two families). In a traditional wedding-it often appears that rituals pretty much stack the deck for failure against the couples from the moment the wedding is being planned.

Cool pic borrowed from Pinterest.

It starts with whose family is paying for what. Then, it moves to the actual wedding where the groom’s family sits on one side and the bride’s family sits on the other side of the isle (what would it hurt to sit together?). These two lives may join as “one” but darn it-we will live out the Hatfield and McCoy mentality and remain separate as a family for the rest of your marriage.  Then you publicly vow to become one-which really is a lie. You have to be two and learn to work as one. Next is the honeymoon where you can ignore family, work, real life stuff which is not reality. Then after the honeymoon the conversations moves into who gets what holiday, etc. Where does the madness stop?

Now, I may be a bit of a bitter bride. Six months to the date of my wedding (already mostly planned and purchased)…a little guy by the name of President George Bush declared Operation Iraqi Freedom which sent my Marine Reservist (who had less than 30 days on his contract) packing to one of the world’s largest sandboxes. So we were forced to wed with the immediacy of a shotgun wedding (like opening the court house on Sunday for a marriage license-talk about small town gossip). No I didn’t get to wear my dress because it needed alterations. I did wear it later when we had a celebration recommitment ceremony upon his return (Does this mean I married the same man twice? Yes.). So I will be transparent and say I didn’t quite follow the traditional route. However, ten years of life, love, and devotion has provided me a different perspective on marriage. It is also changed how I support people at their marriage.

For me and my house, we are two people who change every day because of life, but constantly work to enrich what we love about each other and maintain the common ground as sacred ground. We remain individuals, yet committed to the same goals for each other and for our marriage. For family and friends, our life and events are open access-we don’t deal with drama of family sides, making everyone happy, etc-but family/friends are free to be as miserable as they desire on their own turf.

If I were to marry my husband again (well, actually for the third time), I believe our vows would be a little different knowing what I know now. I am certainly committed to making a healthy marriage where there aren’t sides, where individuality is appreciated, and a union is sacred-and not only for my marriage. I believe living my/our life with these vows as a foundation impacts my relationships with others, my son’s future relationships, and others in my family for generations to come.  I will extend the same respect and support my friends and their marriage rather than making obstacles and barriers. I will appreciate them as individuals and as a union.  And…the next time I attend a wedding-I might just toss a coin and decide which side I will sit on…or maybe I will just sit right in the middle.

Today…I wish my spoon was full of wedding cake…because it is indeed one of my top three favorite foods!