Sunday, June 29, 2014

A Good Dozen

That's how long J and I have been married.  A good dozen.

12 years ago this morning my mom dropped me off in front of the temple where we were married.  Throughout our  4 month engagement my mom would ask regularly, and with some incredulity, "Are you nervous, do you have any doubts, no cold feet at all?!" I would assuredly reply, "Nope, none, not at all.  Have never been more of anything in my life..."

As the car stopped and I looked toward the temple entrance, I knew I was walking more precisely toward my future than I ever had in my life.  My stomach filled with butterflies and I said, with my hand resting on the door handle, "Oh man I hope I'm making the right decision here."  As quickly as I said it--the butterflies went away. I opened the car door and jumped out, turning back for last instructions from my mom.  She had her head thrown back, eyes closed, and I suddenly realized that I had unwittingly triggered one of the greatest experiences of my childhood, her initially soundless, but momentarily erupting into her characteristic whooping, laugh.  It was soon accompanied by loud gasps for breath to sustain the whooping laugh.  I loved that laugh and worked hard to earn it all the time.  I didn't even realize I had done it this time, she drove away laughing heartily at my momentary "cold feet" outside the temple door on my wedding day.

It's true, you don't know someone as much as you think you do when you get married.  And you don't love someone as much as you think you can either.  I feel lucky to have experienced that expanded love that runs deeper and holds truer with each passing year.  I do know him better, and that has actually created more love.  He is more amazing than I ever imagined when I first said yes to marrying him.

It's interesting to me how in marriage, the low points feel insurmountable.  I wonder if we'll ever get past it, I let my mind go to places I know we are far from and let the weight of whatever we are facing press me down in despair and self-pity.  On the other hand, when things are good, we are smooth sailing, I imagine it will always be that way.  Real life is somewhere in between the two.  Days we just have to get through.  Decisions we have to make but don't want to.  Exhaustion. Four kids will do that, I s'pose.  Laughing.  Lots and lots of laughing.  Dreaming still, ideas postulated, hopes and desires for our future clung to or let go of as we see they aren't a possibility.  Four kids will do that, I s'pose.

I've told this story a dozen times, but I love the message I got from it.  When I turned 25 I really struggled with getting SO OLD and not having so much more accomplished in my life.  My how that has changed.  I genuinely praised myself for a solid 90 seconds the other day when the only quantifiable thing I accomplished was switching a load of laundry from the washer to the dryer before it got mildewy.  I probably can't adequately convey the immense pride I felt in that.

As I sat in my childhood bedroom (post-college graduation, enroute to graduate program) that day, crying and feeling sorry for myself, my mom slid a birthday card under my door.  Inside was a random selection of bills (I think it was like $68 or something like that) and a sweet personalized note from her.  She noted the "crossroads" I was at in my life and then said, "Life doesn't get easier, but it gets better." Those words weren't entirely comforting in my barely fully-developed brain.  I wanted easy.  But those words have become a comfort and my silent mantra.  Life HAS gotten better.  The joys, the rewards, the tender moments, more rich than I ever could have imagined.  The stresses, the worries, the "obstacles" bigger, more difficult to overcome.

I share this because, as I sit here nostalgically remembering the engagement, the wedding day, the early, idealistic wedded bliss, it's easy to think or make it sound like it has all been easy.  But also, saying things have been difficult or whatever else, makes it sound like it's been all bad or hard.  It hasn't been either, but it has been totally worth it. I love being hitched to this man.  I love who he is, who we are, and what we've created together.  

We've been on quite a journey in even just the last 2 years and it was bumpy at times, but at the end of every day, and this has never wavered, there is no other person I would rather our children call Dad. No other person I'd rather lay down next to at night and talk about my day with, or share my hopes and dreams with; there is no other man I'd rather be hitched to for life.  I'd call that winning.

And now for my friends who basically just skim for the pictures...

Us in the beginning....

Us in the middle...

Us now...

And a little bit of of what we've done along the way....

Saturday, June 21, 2014

Upside Down

I recently returned from a week long trip to Missouri for my brother's wedding.  I don't think I saw the white's of Avee's eyes a single time in that week.  Her and her cousin RED just disappeared into their own world and never came up for air.  I love that she has that built in best friend for life.

Shortly after our return, I came home from work to our Vietnamese neighbor waiting outside for me. About once a week he comes over with a piece of mail he needs help deciphering or responding to.  Helping him has made me very aware of how difficult it is to live in this country and how much red tape there is to get through.  He can't handle automated phone instructions and his English is pretty poor.  Actually, his English is really good, he knows a lot, but the pronunciation makes it hard for him to be understood, particularly over the phone.

I was on the phone as I pulled into our driveway and he waited patiently for me to be done, but as soon as I hung up he said, "Where you go!!? Where you been!!??"  He said he'd had a form for immigration that he needed help completing the week prior.  He waited and waited and waited for me to come home one day. I never came. Everyday, my car never showed up in the driveway.  He never saw the kids playing outside.  "Your husband, always inside. Alone." Days passed, and no sign of me or the kids.  Finally he had to take the form to the immigration office and get help completing it there.

He clutched his heart and said, "I thought your family broken. I thought you and husband were upside down."  "Upside down" is his translation for split up or divorced.  He was clearly so saddened at the prospect of us splitting up, it kind of melted my heart.  I assured him I wasn't that easy to get rid of and he laughed and laughed and then said, "Your husband had girls here every night lat week." Then he doubled over laughing, slapping his thigh at his own hilarity.

Today, he came home from the grocery store while the kids were playing outside.  Avee reported that when he saw them, he immediately began rooting around in his grocery bags and pulled out a bag of grapes.  The kids were delighted to receive this gift.  If we make eye contact with him when he has something in his hands, we get offered some of it.  One day he saw me packing the car for a trip and brought me a bag of apples and a bunch of bananas.  A couple of days ago we found a package of Oreos on our doorstep.  The best thing that comes from this is the commentary among the kids, afterwards.  Today's went like this:

Avee: I don't know if he's trying to impress us, or if he's just really, really nice.
Danyo: (matter-of-factly) Well, I think summertime here is his Christmas time, so....

So....that's explains everything.

Well, I wanted to blog about Father's Day.  Because it was funny.  Because Mother's Day was a bit of a flop 'round these here parts, my friend suggested to me a few weeks ago that I should make Father's Day about me.  She suggested a couple of ideas and although I was skeptical at first, I took the idea and ran.

So, I instructed Avee and Bo to write cards about how glad they are they J married me.  And I ordered a cookie cake that said, "You're a father! (Because of Mom)" and then I made a handful of coupons, offering things that already happen.  Like, "One night of quiet and solitude for uninterrupted study time" (Okay, to be fair, that doesn't happen regularly but we try.)  Also, "Good for one foot rub. (mine)" and other clever ones.

So, the day of, we went for a beautiful hike to a waterfall, had pho for lunch (we found a place THAT day, right here in town!) and just spent the day hanging out with each other.  We didn't even really talk about it being Father's Day or anything.

Around 5:30 PM I ran to pick up the cookie cake.  It was priceless.  I laughed all the way home.
I'm not the only one that royally fouls up cake decorations around here....

"Your Father" made me laugh and laugh and laugh, but Because of Mom put arbitrarily into quotations marks really troubled me.  I didn't understand that "creative license".  I FINALLY remembered, I had said "In parenthesis" and apparently they are interchangeable at the local grocery store bakery.  My bad.

The one thing that has made me laugh all week, and impressed me tremendously with the humor, was Bo's card.  I gave the kids one simple instruction.  Make him a card and in it talk about how you are glad he married me.  Well, for Avee, if she's making a card for J on any given day, I have to say, "DON'T make it about me" so this was like a non-instruction for Avee.  Permission to do so was met with glee and a giant bubble lettered "BMF" at the bottom of J's card.  Which stands for "Best Mom Forever", of course.

So this is what Bo's card said:
"Dear Dad, I like your haircut.  Mom cut it.  I am glad you married Mom.  I get my curiosity from you and I get my manliness from her."

In one fell swoop, the boy insulted half our family.  It's just so funny to me because of that, and also because I think that is ridiculously clever for an 11 year old boy.

Also, the cookie cake was really good.