Monday, February 16, 2015

Twenty-Seven Lessons, Give or Take



Christine recently posted "20 Lessons in 20 Years" as part of a blog hop called, "Learning Love: A Lesson a Year in Marriage."  I admired her post, loved the idea of celebrating marriage, but thought, "If I want to participate, I have to come up with 27 things (and I'm grateful our anniversary is later this year, so I don't have to come up with 28!)."  I eventually came to the conclusion that my whining was ridiculous, and I should just sit down and start writing.



I decided to copy Christine's format, and relate an incident from each year of our marriage. Obviously, I have left out many events, including some major changes, but to expect to thoroughly cover 27 years of marriage in one blog post is unrealistic. 
1987--Neither John nor I are impulsive.  We research, study, weigh our options, think, consult together, pray, and eventually come to a conclusion on every big decision.  However, we also apparently can do all that on a condensed time-frame.  We met at the end of August in 1986, started dating in November, were engaged in February 1987, and married two (and a half!) months later. Lesson: When you know something is right, no need to delay.

1988--We moved to southern California, a new area for both of us. As I had grown up in the country, I was more than happy to let John drive the crowded, fast freeways when we went places together.  I, by default, became the navigator.  A Thomas Guide took up permanent residence in our car.  One time, on our way home from the Los Angeles Temple, we had the brilliant idea to take the surface streets home, and just find a cute little place to eat dinner.  As day fell to night, we did not see any cute little place.   Loud, thumping music blared from blinged-out cars around us. Transactions on the sidewalks seemed a bit sketchy.  We suddenly realized that our pale skin and church attire set us apart from everyone else.  My navigator responsibilities took on a sense of urgency.  John calmly and logically directed: "Find Watts in the Thomas Guide and lead us away from there!"  Lesson: It's always good to know where you are going, and sometimes even more important to know how you will get there. 

1989--Our life changed irrevocably when our son was born.  With all the Hallmark-like love came some practical considerations. How would we divide up diaper duty?  John's suggestion:  "Whoever smells it first, changes it."  That worked for us.  Lesson: Some things need immediate attention, and it doesn't really matter who takes care of it. 

1990--We drove to Utah for Christmas.  As we drove on the freeway through Las Vegas, our son was so excited to see all the "Christmas lights" on the buildings.  Lesson:  Beauty can be found in the unlikeliest of places.  

1991--While attending Lamaze classes before our daughter was born, one evening was devoted to signs of postpartum depression. As we left the class, I mentioned to John that it sure sounded like I must have experienced that after the birth of our son.  John's response:  "I wasn't about to say anything to you at the time." Lesson:  The emotional support of a spouse can carry one through the rough spots.  (And:  Sleep is critical for my mental health!)

1992--We hopped on an emotional roller coaster at the end of this year, when I nearly miscarried--multiple times in the same pregnancy.  Lesson: When life gets stressful, hold tight to each other.

1993--John spent countless hours putting on a brave face, while he was worried sick that this pregnancy might end poorly--not only without a child, but also without a wife.  John's mom and my mom took turns living in our house, taking care of the other children while I took on the sole role of human incubator.  Friends from church also helped in many, many ways.  Our son was born 10 weeks early, after I spent 20 weeks on bedrest (including six in the hospital).  Lesson(s):  It is OK to accept help, and there is power in prayer.  (I know that prayers are not always answered in the way we want them to be.  Miscarriage, stillbirth, etc. are not the result of lack of prayer.  In this particular case, for whatever reason, our prayers were answered affirmatively.)

1994--We all survived our youngest son's first year, and were slowly beginning to put aside some of our worries about his development.  Even in the midst of all the doctors' appointments for the kids, and long work hours for John, John and I managed to schedule in a weekly date night.  Often, that meant that we played a board game or watched a movie on TV after the kids went to bed. Once a month or so, we would trade off babysitting with another couple with young children.  Lesson:  Marriage deserves regular nurturing.  

1995--In the spirit of full disclosure, I don't actually remember if this incident happened in 1995, but it did happen sometime in the 90's.  We had a kit to build a dog house.  John was very busy, and I felt confident in my ability to wield a hammer.  Inside the basement of our home, I put together the dog house.  I did a great job in building it, and was feeling mighty proud--until I went to take it outside, and discovered it was too wide to fit through the door. John was gracious and kind, and knew how to remove the sliding glass door from its track to allow the dog house to pass through.  Lesson:  (My husband was kind enough to) Recognize the intent behind the action, and realize your spouse is probably acting out of love.

1996--We decided to look into adoption, and were blessed with a baby girl in our home only 4 months after our decision.  Lesson: Becoming parents is always exciting, no matter how the children arrive.  

1997--Our final child came to our home, and "never a dull moment" became a reality.  Lesson:  To become a parent means to hold onto hope.

1998--John decided to make a career change and try his hand at writing.  We sold our home and bought another in an tiny little town.  Though our oldest daughter vowed to "never call the new house 'home'," we all adapted to the move.  The kids now have fond memories of playing in the creek, catching frogs, and watching the annual small-town parade.  Lesson:  Pursue dreams together.

1999--I had surgery at the beginning of summer.  John nursed me back to full strength, and then we took a family vacation to Yellowstone.  Lesson:  Always have something to work towards together, especially during difficult times.   

2000--The catastrophe of Y2K failed to materialize.  Life went on. Our garden grew, the kids still played in the creek, and we again watched the parade. Lesson:  The small things make the main fiber of memories.  

2001--Though John was having some positive response to his writing, and I was teaching piano lessons and babysitting, our financial situation was becoming a bit tight.  I prayed one day for wisdom in utilizing our resources.  I wanted to help John have the best chance he could to make a go of this.  My prayer was answered, in an unexpectedly dramatic way.  I did not receive new insight into how to use our resources.  We received new resources. Within 10 days of my prayer, we were given:  pears from an older couple's tree, berries from a church member, vegetables from my parents' garden, free milk for a year (I won the grocery store contest), a freezer full of salmon, loaves of bread, hand-me-down clothing for the kids, a dresser set, and a giant playhouse from our neighbor.  Lesson:  Heavenly Father is generous.  

2002--The kids are getting older.  College is on the not-too-distant horizon, and we decide to return to the security of regular paychecks.  John assures me that this is what he wants to do, and he is ready to put writing on the back burner for a time.  I cry as we leave our little bit of heaven for the desert, but I am so appreciative of John's practical nature and ability to provide for our family. Lesson:   It does not matter where we live, what matters is that we are together.

2003--My brother happened to be living in England, and graciously invited us to come for a vacation.  We gladly took him up on his offer. This stands out as the most relaxing family vacation we had taken in a long, long time.  Lesson:  Take the time to de-stress.  

2004--The housing market tanked, and home prices were beginning to be ridiculously low.  We decided to invest in a rental property. After months of looking, we found a place, and spent the rest of the year getting it ready to rent.  Lesson:  Date nights at Home Depot can be as much fun as dinner and a movie. 

2005--John's job location changed, and his commute is long.  He stays away from home a few nights each week, but we always talk daily.  Lesson:  Absence might make the heart grow fonder, but it is also the pits.  

2006--John's job location changed again, this time back to our area. Lesson:  While we can survive apart, together is so much better. 

2007--Twenty years married, and our oldest child graduated from high school.  Lesson:  The years truly do pass swiftly. 

2008--Another milestone year, as we sent our oldest son off on a two-year church mission to Japan.  Tears and hugs are swallowed up by pride that he is firmly committed to the gospel of Jesus Christ.  Lesson:  3 John 1:4:  I have no greater joy than to hear that my children walk in truth. 

2009--As quickly as they came, they started leaving.  Oldest daughter graduated from high school.  We moved to another house. Though it is located in a subdivision, there is a huge empty field to the west, and acreages behind.  I realized how much I had missed living somewhere with an open view.  Lesson:  There is peace to be found in nature.

2010--Middle daughter graduated from high school.  John and I traveled to Japan at the end of our son's mission. Our son introduced us to people he had met.  He showed us places he had been.  John showed us places he (John) had served, when he was also a missionary in Japan years ago. Together, we traveled to different parts of Honshu.   Lesson(s): When in Rome, travel with someone who speaks the language, and it is fun to have your guide introduce you to his past. 

2011--Youngest son graduated from high school.  John could see that our life was changing; the kids were growing up and leaving the house, and our pets had gotten old and died.  The light of freedom shined in his eyes, but I was feeling a bit lost.  I approached him about the possibility of raising puppies for Guide Dogs for the Blind.  It seemed the perfect solution: puppies without the long-term commitment.  (Of course, when Drexel ended up career-changing and we agreed to accept him back as our pet, the long-term commitment returned, but that wasn't in 2011.) Lesson: Compromise works.

2012--This was a huge year, as far as major events go.  Oldest son got married (and so we gained a wonderful daughter-in-law!), oldest daughter graduated from college, and middle daughter gave birth to our first grandchild.  

It was also the year that I made what could arguably be stated as my biggest mistake ever:

John asked me to please check his personal e-mail box, and forward an expected message to his work e-mail address.  I dutifully agreed.  I even changed the subject line, as the particular e-mail contained a new job offer, and John had not given notice to his current boss yet.  Forgetting that I was signed in to his account, I forwarded the e-mail to john._______@______.com.  As soon as I hit "send," I received confirmation:  "Message sent to John _______."  The only problem was, the last name displayed was not my husband's last name!  

In tears, I quickly called my husband and announced, "I did something really bad!"  

"What did you do?" 

"I sent the e-mail to the wrong John!" 

"Which John did you send it to?"  

"John ______"  

"Oh, my boss.  It's OK.  Don't worry."  I was glad he seemed so non-plussed, but I was still crying when I hung up.

A little while later I got an e-mail:

Kristi,
If you knew John ________, you’d know that everything will be just fine. I just sent him an e-mail that said:
-----------------------------
John,
I would like a few minutes to talk with you as soon as you get a chance.
A little while ago, my wife forwarded you an e-mail from my home account (oops). Hopefully you haven’t opened it yet. If you haven’t, please don’t open it. If you have, then you can probably guess what I want to talk about.
Thanks,
John
-----------------------------
So, the only risks are:
)      He finds out about my news a few minutes earlier than I intended
2     He has a funny story to tell his wife when he gets home
3     He thinks you love him (depending on what you wrote)
All is well,
Love,
John

As it turned out, John the boss was in meetings all day and didn't even see the e-mail, so my husband was able to be the one to break the news to him.  

Lesson(s):  I married the most forgiving man in the world, and I should always be cognizant of whose email account I am using.

2013--Granddaughter became a big sister, and we are now grandparents of two.  We also learned the secret of a happy marriage:

Saturday morning, youth from church gathered to our home for breakfast and to watch general conference.  I scrambled eggs, cooked bacon, and made waffles.  I had purchased Costco-sized bottles of Log Cabin syrup.  I vastly overestimated how much food we would need, so we had leftovers.

As I was setting the table the next morning, I put out our jug of pure maple syrup instead of the imitation stuff.  Youngest daughter brought the Log Cabin over, which prompted a discussion comparing pure maple syrup with maple-flavored syrup.  I confessed that the difference in taste didn't mean that much to me, but that because John prefers real maple syrup, I always buy it.  Oldest daughter said she thought we always had pure maple syrup because I have a strong preference against artificial ingredients.  I said that although she had my preferences right, the real reason for buying real maple syrup was because John likes it so much. 

At this point, John looked at me and said, "I always thought it was for the reason [oldest daughter] gave."  

All these years, I've been splurging on the good stuff.  

John, probably after mentally adding up potential savings, said, "If you want to buy the other kind sometime, that's OK."   

He continued, laughing: "The secret to a good marriage, girls, is good communication."

Youngest daughter replied, "I thought it was good syrup."

Lesson:  Another secret to a good marriage is being able to laugh together. 

2014--Our youngest child graduated from high school, and spent some time this summer with my brother's family.  John and I, for the first time since the 80's, have (temporarily) an empty nest.  We take full advantage of the situation.  Lesson:  Consistent, weekly date nights over decades result in two people who are still deeply in love and are best of friends. 




Thanks, Christine, for introducing me to this link-up, and for giving me the chance to reflect back over the past 27 almost 28 years.  




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13 comments:

  1. Oh Kristi, that was wonderful! I'm so glad you chose to participate and tell all the stories that go with the lessons. I know it wasn't a small task! Even after two years reading your blog, I didn't know half of them.
    That syrup story cracks me up. And I cringe for you every time I am reminded of the email.

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    1. Some of the stories were told better than others, but I didn't want the post to become a novel! Thanks for bringing this link-up to my attention. I look forward to reading through the other posts!

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  2. Oh, I enjoyed yours fully as much as I did Christine's! Such a fun insight into another couple's life! My parents have been married for 46 years, and my father wrote in a holiday card, "I believe we have switched cells a handful of times in our marriage. Sometimes I am not sure who is who." I love that, and I thought of it again with the maple syrup exchange. Brian prefers the real stuff (gosh, I think so), and I don't mind buying it because I don't like artificial ingredients. Ha!

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    1. I actually have continued to buy the good stuff, too. It really is better, and better for us.
      Your dad's comment is really cute--and so true!

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  3. Another great post - wow, you and Christine are both grand examples of good marriage-ing. Also a wonderful way to learn some of your stories - in both cases!

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    1. I enjoyed reading Christine's post, too. Though I had heard some of her stories before, many were new to me.

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  4. I love this post! I'm glad you followed Christine's example and wrote your own version. It's fun to learn so much about someone in 27 little paragraphs!
    Your #1 sounds kind of like my story; we met (on the phone, through work) in June, met in person in July, dated long distance until April, when we got engaged. I moved to LA in June and we were married in August. When you know it's right, it's right.
    Oh, the Thomas Guide! That's when I found out my husband was terrible at reading maps or navigating. When I first moved to LA and was exploring the area, he would give me directions, but they weren't very good. I would look it up in the Thomas Guide and find a better way. He never has been able to picture a city (or state, even) as if you were looking at it on a map. When we travel, I am the navigator.
    Love the part about y'all ending up in Watts!

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    1. I'm not sure we actually were in Watts, but we were definitely close, and John just wanted to make sure we were traveling AWAY rather than towards. Deciding to drive from Santa Monica Blvd. to Orange county on surface streets was one foolish decision. Once we figured out that we were in driving through a "lock the doors and don't look at anyone" part of town, we hopped back on the freeway asap!

      Your story does sound a bit like ours! If your story happened now, though, you would have met online. :-)

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    2. Yeah, there's no good way to go surface streets from Santa Monica to Orange County. I didn't even take surface streets through Reseda! (Valley thing). Oh, and I've seen the temple in Santa Monica!
      Yes, we would have probably met through emails or something (we had a mutual friend who he worked with; that's why we talked on the phone the first time, because she put him on the phone with me). And would I want my kids to do something like we did? No way! And we were neither of us impulsive people, either!

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  5. Thanks for linking up, Kristi! So much wisdom shared here! God has definitely been leading your family in so many ways! (And love the diaper sharing duties…that's pretty much what we do and it seems to make the most sense :)

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  6. What a great post Kristi. I enjoyed reading about your lifes ups and downs and lessons leaned what a great way to look back.. It's all Gods doing..

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  7. Kristi this was just beautiful! Thank you for sharing it.

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  8. What a wonderful idea your friend had in thinking of this great topic for her blog and even better that you took her example and make your own. I just might do the same soon, when my hands aren't so sore and can type away 20 years of marriage for myself.
    Thank you for sharing and giving me and others the wise lessons you learned in your marriage. It seems to me you're a perfect team. xxxxx (I would love to read some of John writings. Is there something online I can see??)

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Thanks for making this a conversation. I love to hear your comments!