25 Years of ‘I Do’

Photo by Marc A. Sporys on Unsplash

He proposed to me on a snowy Wednesday evening in December of 1994. I was 19, he was 21. Heavy snow and ice had caused the power to go out across our college campus, right in the middle of studying for midterms. With no lights and no electricity, students poured from the dorms, elated at this unexpected study break. On the college courtyard, scores of students engaged in an epic snowball fight. He and I laughed at the sight, but walked in the opposite direction, away from the free-for-all.

By the light of the moon, we walked hand in hand through a dazzling wonderland of ice-encrusted trees.

Being his spontaneous self, he hadn’t planned to propose that night. Later, he told me he knew he was going to ask me, but he didn’t know when. That snowy night “just felt right.” Since the proposal was off-the-cuff, he had no velvet-lined jewelry box hidden in his pocket. (I got my ring a few weeks later.)

What does a 19 year-old girl know about making a decision meant to last a lifetime? Or a 21 year-old boy?

My answer—yes—flew out of my mouth without hesitation. I had found my person. We were married a year later. My Dad, a minister, officiated at our wedding. I requested that he leave the word “obey” out of our vows, which he did.

We’re just about to celebrate our 25th wedding anniversary. In some ways, our wedding day feels like it was yesterday; at the same time, that day was a lifetime ago: when we took our vows, there were no children, mortgages, car loans, or job interviews. We didn’t know much about retirement funds or grocery budgets or how to entice a stubborn toddler to keep his shoes on. 

But for twenty-five years, we’ve just continued saying “I do.” We take on challenges one by one, as they present themselves: dirty dishes, family vacations, gray hairs, and bank statements—the big things and the small things all swirl together into the colorful collage that’s become the roadmap of our life together.

The statistic that nearly 50% of marriages end in divorce is a sobering reality. I wonder: do 50% of married couples have a lurking, uneasy feeling in the pit of their stomach from the very beginning? Or do most of us start out with blissful optimism and just hope everything works out?

All I know is that my person becomes more precious to me as the years go on. I love him for his deep commitment to what is right, and the way he never takes the easy way out to do anything. I love him for his honesty: the light he holds up to others is just as bright as the one he holds to himself. I love the way he used to start wrestling matches with the kids, getting them all riled up just before bedtime. I love the way his eyes crinkle up when he laughs, which is often. He still makes and brings me coffee each and every morning—even though he wouldn’t have to. I think I love that most of all.

Marriage isn’t easy. There is no autopilot button for when things get tough. It takes work: some days require the hard work, roll-up-your-sleeves variety, and other days only need preventative maintenance. But luck plays a big part, too. For some reason, I found my person and we grew up alongside each other. We held on and just kept saying ‘I Do’ over and over. My story could’ve just as easily gone a different way. 

My husband describes us like two trees who have grown side by side; over the years, our roots have become hopelessly entangled just beneath the soil. Our roots keep growing stronger, nourished by love and joy.

I like that. I do.

Originally published Jan. 26, 2021 on MyHuntleyNews.

IKEA: Deconstructing My Feelings

All I wanted was a lamp.

Since moving to the Cozy Cottage, IKEA has become a champion for my journey to minimalism. Their furniture has clean lines, and a lot of it is built for small spaces. And it’s affordable. For example, our IKEA bed is the bomb. It has four huge drawers beneath the bed. It’s brilliant! We don’t even need a dresser.

But this last trip was … not good. It started out on a bright note, but by the time we got home, we were tired, frustrated, irritated with each other and … still didn’t have a lamp. It started me thinking … is IKEA really a champion for minimalists? Or is it the bane of our existence, with its labrynthian layout and low-cost/poor quality items that aren’t finished until we lug them home and pour our own sweat equity into the construction via Allen Wrench? It left me feeling confused.

I decided to work out my feelings about it on Facebook. This is my post from last Sunday:


TRIP TO IKEA IN 13 EASY STEPS [a love story]

1. OMG. We’re at IKEA! I love IKEA
2. Look at all the great stuff!
3. Where am I? Didn’t I already pass this display?
4. OMG! I love this [thing I have to assemble myself]
5. Where are you?
6. Do you like this [thing I have to assemble myself]?
7. Why don’t you like it?
8. What do you mean? I don’t think it looks like that.
9. Well, if you don’t like it, then I’m not going to get it.
10. Fine.
11. OMG. I hate IKEA
12. Are you mad? I’m not mad. I think I’m just hungry and tired.
13. I’m sorry. But I still hate IKEA.


What followed was a very boisterous exchange of ideas and commiseration from many of my Facebook friends:

From Suzy: “The problem appears to be you missed a step–sit down at the restaurant and eat meatballs somewhere between Steps 6 and 11. Meatballs make everything better.”

From Amarelis:  “Too accurate. IKEA is always a good idea until you actually start shopping.”

Shannon: “I’m going tomorrow but have the item # and bin so I will be in and out! I’m convinced this is the way to do IKEA!”

Liz: “I bought glasses there once. It’s true, you get what you pay for. They were broken by the time I got home!”

Kathy: “I buy lingonberries by the case (way cheaper than anywhere else) because I make lots of Swedish chili in the winter!”

Mmmmm, Kathy, you tempt me with your talk of Swedish chili! Tell me, are the lingonberries kept in stock near the exit, or do I have to search for them somewhere on the third floor between duvet covers and the wine racks?

While I’m still left sorting out my feelings about IKEA, I do know one thing: I have some pretty awesome FB friends.

Rob sums it up best:

“I always get so Sklerf when I go there–at first it is Ploog, and then it gets Flurgen.”

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The kid goes to camp

erol-ahmed-48243-unsplash
Photo by Erol Ahmed on Unsplash

We dropped off our third child at camp over the weekend. He’s 14, and it’s his first time to be away from home. We left early, drove two hours to the University of Illinois, where he will spend a week playing tuba in band camp. He is matched with a roommate he’s never met before, will sleep in a dorm room, and will likely learn to navigate the campus like a pro by the end of the week.

My life flashed a little before my eyes as we drove towards the camp to drop him off. I couldn’t help but sneak glances into the backseat and see my boy–my baby boy–looking out the window, absorbed in his own thoughts. His face is taking on the elongated angles of a young man. But all I see are his trademark chubby face and sparkling eyes, the mischievous glances he used to give me as a toddler. I can still hear the cute high-pitched voice he used to talk and laugh in, now deepening as he slowly becomes a young man before our eyes.

This is the deal we sign up for as parents. If we are lucky enough to have children, our life is swept away by a torrent of 2 a.m feedings, diaper changing, snotty-nose-wiping-potty-training-temper-tantrum-ing years that seem to chew you up and spit you out. It’s exhausting, hilarious, maddening, heartwarming. Each year brings new challenges, many that weren’t discussed in What To Expect When You’re Expecting. Just when you think you’ve handled one problem, another one crops up. You’re batting away obstacles and quietly celebrating each small victory, and if you’re even luckier, you have a partner who can bat away and celebrate alongside you.

Next thing you know, you’re dropping him off at camp, trying to figure out whether he wants you to hug him goodbye, or whether a public show of affection would embarrass him to death.

And yet, this is what I want, isn’t it? I want a young man who is independent and can handle himself when I’m not there. And there he is, smiling at me, waving, then turning on his heel to go into the residence hall, alone. He didn’t even hesitate. He’s ready. I’m ready.

Back at home, I’m wondering about him. I hesitate, then decide to text him.

Did you find out which band you’re in?

40 minutes go by, then a reply:

Symphonic

I answer back immediately: Woo! Congratulations!

Another 30 minutes go by.

Thanks, homeslice

[He calls me that–homeslice. Sometimes I’m dawg. On really good days, I’m Schmom. Or Mom.com.]

I exhale. He’s fine. I’m fine. I’m not going to text him again.

He’s fine.

Learning to Get Lost

Let’s get lost
Lost in each other’s arms
Let’s get lost
Let them send out alarms
And though they’ll think us rather rude
Let’s tell the world we’re in that crazy mood …

IMG_2677We weren’t really lost this weekend, but we did take the wrong subway. For the second time in as many months, my husband and I, like giggling teens, packed an overnight bag and got on a Metra commuter train for a weekend getaway in the city. And despite the fact that we love Chicago, and we consider it our city, we are just as suburban as one would expect. So when it was time to get on the “L” to reach the theatre where we had tickets to see my favorite comedian, Maria Bamford, we were a little out of sorts. Can we use our debit card at the ticket station? Do we even know how to transfer from the Blue Line to the Brown Line? Was it Division Street we wanted, or Diversey?

 

Our new house, the Cozy Cottage, is responsible for all of this. Moving to a smaller house has given us a smaller mortgage, and a smaller list of worries, but we are thrown into a big new world of re-learning how to do things. After so many years of putting off our own dating life in lieu of child-rearing and bill paying, Cozy Cottage has freed up some of our time. And so we find ourselves, holding hands, sweating in the August heat, laughing that we must look like tourists, studying the map, checking our GPS.  I’m not even ashamed that I stare up at the skyscrapers and gasp. I feel small and insignificant. I’m learning to get lost. I like it.

via Daily Prompt: Learning