words

Words give shape to this life, to feelings, to experiences.

I remember going through the end of a relationship, and just deciding that it was just a “thing” that happened and one minute it existed and the next it was gone. So, I didn’t put many words around that grief.  I didn’t give it shape – meaning – purpose – I just sort of let it ooze and leak and evaporate away. I shrugged it off.

In stark contrast, when Frank and I started dating, we could not use enough WORDS. We wrote each other letters and emails and text messages.  I saved those text messages as long as I could until I changed cellphone providers one too many times and the texts were gone.

Every moment of our relationship was (and still is) painted in words. Love, hope, happiness, expectation, dreams – all carefully spoken and written and envisioned.

Even the messy moments have words.  Well, sometimes they have raised eyebrows, crossed arms and wrinkled noses.  It’s quite the picture – and you know what they say about pictures…

Still, with all of these words, there are still memories that feel like vapor – moving through me with all of the emotion and feeling of the moments they represent – and then vanishing when I try to inspect them.

This weekend. Church. Familiar words of a song, ripped from the same Bible verses as another song. A light, happy mood coupled with the weight of the week hanging in the background triggered a memory and a moment from fifteen years ago.

… for I am persuaded, that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor powers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature, shall be able to separate us from the love of God…

Driving – the ultimate teenage freedom – in an old, blue jeep. It didn’t matter what the car looked like, as long as there was gas and a working radio.

Wherever. Movies, parks, festivals. Whatever. A nagging sense that these moments were fleeting. A quickly squashed thought: we won’t be young forever.

Friends. Singing. Warm air through the windows. A mid-summer sun sifting through the clouds on the western horizon.

If time was money, we were millionaires without a wallet.

And just like the many mornings I wake up to tell Frank of my dreams, the words don’t come fast enough and the end results are just vague meanderings without any of the important elements of the story.

Idyllic suburban setting. Typical teenage experience. Yawn.

But… it was so much more.  It was my life.

Like water through my fingers, those days are gone and I find myself wishing the words would come faster so that I could wrap myself around them, but instead I am sucking ether.

So. Frustrating.

And so here I am tonight. My children are escape artists with no interest in sleeping. Specifically, Carrie is amused by her own agility at leaping out of her crib, pleased with herself that she no longer bangs her face on the crib railing during the descent.

On the third time I’ve gone up the stairs, turned left and looked to their room, I find myself stifling a laugh.

Carrie has quickly shut the door, but is hanging on to the handle for dear life.  From outside of the room, the lever door handle is angled peculiarly in the down position. She must know that this is the third time and this time I will not rock her in the chair and call her my angel and smell her straight light brown/dark blond hair.  She must know that this time, I must.not.laugh because I must be MOM. A force of gentle justice at bedtime. The woman who knows better.

But for a few seconds, looking at that door handle, I am two years old. I am her peer. I know the adrenaline running through her as she waits for me to find her on the other side of the door – out of her bed – again. I know this because that was me once.

It takes a hiccup of time- for me to swallow the giggle and remind myself that to cave is to create a child who will.never.sleep. I open the door, swoop her into my arms and place her firmly into her crib.  She knows. I know. We cannot make eye contact or we will break the fourth wall.  If we do, we will be forced to acknowledge that I am a child, a teenager, an irresponsible college student, who somehow is a mother. Someone has to be in charge, here. It’s me.

When I finally leave her room, letting the door softly click behind me, I think – will I remember this?

Are mountains made of these quickly forgotten moments?

If only…

a requiem for diet coke

Subtitled: A Eulogy of a Love Affair

Like all classic love affairs, it began innocently enough.

A glance across the room in high school.  A night at the movies in college.

By the time I graduated from college, I didn’t really notice that Diet Coke had left a toothbrush at my place, started taking over a shelf in the medicine cabinet and began adding itself to my grocery shopping list. By the time I was working full time my insatiable need for Diet Coke had taken hold, seemingly without warning.

A can at breakfast. A fountain drink at lunch. A mid-afternoon pick-me-up. The discovery of Diet Dr. Pepper.

It didn’t hurt that the first office I worked at had a veritable pipeline of Diet Coke in the form of company-supplied-and-maintained soda fountains.

Assessing future employers based on access to diet caffeinated cola products became practically my top priority in my job hunt.  I was only stymied by the fact that most companies don’t include “access to coke” in job descriptions.

Fear not.

Directors who knew me knew that my productivity, when bolstered by diet caffeinated cola, was that of five semi-hungover employees.  Directors who loved me understood that Diet Dr. Pepper was my hands down favorite diet caffeinated cola.

See, I spent much time analyzing and rating my preferred diet caffeinated colas, resulting in Diet Dr. Pepper winning every time, followed by Diet Coke from McDonalds (has to be – nothing compares), followed by Diet Pepsi in a 20 ounce bottle or 12 ounce can followed by Diet Coke in a can.

I wrote a poem about Diet Coke.

At my first job.

My first grown-up job.

I did that.

And? My director thought it was a lovely poem and hung it on her wall.

It’s a disease, people.

Of course, as my love affair with diet caffeinated colas heated up, the buzz about the suspect ingredients also started building.  Around the time we started to try to have children, the diet caffeinated cola love affair was peaking, but it was nearly impossible to ignore the mounting evidence that some of the ingredients were not good for me.

I almost felt shame every time I heard the pop and the “pssshhh” of the can opening.

Almost.

Most doctors seem to agree that women trying to get pregnant and those who were already pregnant should cut the caffeine.

So, I quit.

It was easy to quit. Too easy.

I heard myself say these words, “See? I don’t need Diet Coke. I can quit at any time.”

You may have heard those same words on A&E’s Intervention or you know, any show about drug addiction.

I was “clean” for my entire pregnancy with the twins.

While in the NICU, Carrie had an apnea incident (basically she forgot to breath) and I heard one of the nurses mention that babies who have chronic apnea incidents are sometimes put on caffeine. And I thought, “what if I drink some Diet Coke, pump and give it to her via breast milk  Maybe that will help!” Mom to the rescue!

So I called my old flame Diet Coke.  I wondered what it would be like after all that time.  Would there be the heat and the passion that I remembered?

Oh, that first blissful sip.  It was so good. So bubbly. So cold.  So fresh and delicious.

Ahhh.

But the innocence was gone.  I knew better.  I knew the scandalous ingredients.  I knew too much.

I tried to keep my torrid affair out of the public eye.  I knew there were others who would judge.  Others who knew that I knew that they knew that I knew that Diet Coke has some pretty nasty crap in it.

When I went back to work, I started a bad habit of going to McDonald’s for oatmeal in the morning – and oh – a Diet Coke.  Only $1 for 32 ounces. I mean, why not?  The small, medium and large are all priced the same.

It would be tragic to pay the same as a large, but only get a small.

And then I discovered that the twins loved Oatmeal.  As a mom on the run, Oatmeal became the perfect breakfast food on the go.

And some Diet Coke… in a giant tub… with a straw.

After some time, I noticed that I was needing some more diet caffeinated cola around lunch. Plus, sandwiches always taste better with diet caffeinated cola.  We have a vending machine that sells Diet Dr. Pepper.  In 20 ounce bottles.

If you’re doing the math with me, you’re probably noticing that on most days I was drinking 50+ ounces of diet caffeinated deliciousness – often well before noon.

So this New Year, I decided to give it up.

Go cold turkey.

I challenged the part of me that said, too casually, “I can give it up at any time.”

And so I did.  I discovered tea and coffee.  A more “mellow buzz” if you will.

I sip. I try to drink water.

Today, I found myself thinking about lunch.  I usually think about lunch about 2.4 seconds after I finish breakfast.  So, there I was, thinking about lunch… and how delicious a large Diet Coke from McDonald’s would be.

I didn’t cave.

And just like that, I realized that I was over Diet Coke. We had our moment in the sun, but our season together was over.

One month, twelve days, 20 hours, 41 minutes.

Fair thee well, diet caffeinated cola products.  Fair thee well.

:: and scene::

three things: me in high school

OK, so I’m totally on a writing frenzy, so I’m going with it.

A few days ago my girlfriend from high school sent me a note that I wrote with her when we were seniors.  It was a list of things that I hoped I’d do with my life and the characteristics of the man I’d hoped I’d marry.

The thing is, and totally unrelated to the content of my letter, receiving that note was TOTALLY awkward.  Like looking at a vivid reflection of myself from High School.  It was…

Such. An. Awkward. Time!

I know there are lots of people out there who are “amen”ing me.  “Yes, Em, totes.  High school was SO awkward.”

And I appreciate that.  I really do.  But here are three reasons why my high school experience was more awkward than yours.  Winner, winner, chicken dinner. Right here. Bam.

Thing 1: Naturalizers

I wear a size 12 shoe.  When  I was in high school, it was horrific trying to find a cute pair of size 12 shoes that looked like something that a high school student would wear.  Remember, I was in high school in the era of the movie Clueless. Flannel grunge was on the way out and cute little Mary Jane shoes and strappy sandals were in.

Cue me: a giant girl wearing beige suede naturalizer lace up shoes. For real. This happened.

And I was GRATEFUL for those shoes. Compared to what was available to me, these shoes were downright smokin’ hot. Nevermind that a 90 year old grandma sashayed out of the store with the same.exact.pair.

Mad props to my mom because that woman HATES shopping – passionately – and she felt so bad about my shoe situation that she tracked down a small boutique shoe store that specialized in weird shoe sizes and bought me whatever she could find.  When the internets came around, but before shopping online was hip, she would track down bizarre shoe catalogs in hopes of finding a new resource for shoes. That is how sad and tragic my shoe situation was. And awkward.

Very, very awkward.

Thing 2: They Called Me Grace…

… to be ironic.

You guys, and I cannot make this up, I chipped my tooth taking my cello out of its case.

Yes, you read that right.  It happened.  I had emergency dental work due to an ORCHESTRA injury.

Who does that?

Me.

I broke my foot taking a lead-off from a base during one of the first softball games of the season.

I also got my tongue stuck in my braces.  Who does that? Me. No one else. Just me.

Hot, awkward mess.

Thing 3: From the Ankles Up

My shoe situation definitely deserved its own horrific category. But, man a live, if you saw what was coming at you down the band hall from the ankles up, you would’ve been very concerned.

First, you would’ve likely noticed the color of my socks.

“Why is that?” you may ask. “Did you have especially cool socks?”

No.  There was just a three inch gap between my sweet naturalizer kicks and the hem of my jeans.

And oh, my jeans. MY JEANS!  My sister and I spent more than one occasion hugging and crying in Kohls due to a lack of long jeans.

When your choice is between four inches of ankle showing and three inches of ankle showing, you sort of don’t notice the elastic waistband at the top, holding the whole hot mess together.

Ya know what I mean?

Yes, I am trying to tell you that I wore elastic waistband jeans for like, three or four years. It wasn’t pretty.

 

So when I say that I had a vivid picture of the me in high school, writing the me today a letter about my hopes and dreams, I cannot help but cringe at the whole… ensemble.

It’s no wonder I feel a kinship with the ermahgerd meme.  It hits just a little to close to home.

Ermagherd! Yer gers! Nertereezers! (translation: OMG! You guys! Naturalizers!)

 

My high school picture. Almost.

a love song

Ten years ago this month, Frank and I enjoyed our first Valentines Day as a couple.

It was death defying.

No, for real. Frank had a test flight in a multi-engine plane and there was an issue with the cowling (skin) of the plane. As they were taking off, the cowling came loose and was dangerously close to taking out one of the engines.

Yada yada yada… They safely landed and Frank came over to my parents home, made me a delicious dinner and continued his tireless pursuit of my affection.

The next day, Frank and I had a meeting with our pastor to talk about our relationship – resulting in Frank’s second near death experience in less than 24 hours. Unexpectedly for Frank, our Pastor suggested (oh em gee!!) that we get married.

A few hours later, after recovering from nearly passing out, Frank decided that (and this is a direct quote) he was “as ready as I’ll ever be” to get married.

Which, to me, either meant he was committed to a life of bachelorhood or he was ready to lock this relationship down.

Fortunately for his sister (he was “crashing” with her for 18 months), he meant the second option.

Ten years later.

I find my heart racing when I think of how these years have slipped by. We have filled the time – and while I’d like to think we’ve filled the time well – the slippery, fluid nature of time consumes the background of my consciousness.

I think – “em! Be more present!” and I think – “observe! Commit this to memory!”

I think of the things I’ve already forgotten. Memories filed carelessly in “misc” that only come back to me when enjoying time with old friends.

And I think of the things I’ll never forget – singing 3rd Eye Blind with Kate and Jamie while driving in Kate’s Bonneville – the lyrics to “Long December” because that song became my anthem when I got my drivers license – the first time I met Frank – driving in The Blue Ox with the irreplaceable JLN – seeing my babies for the first time – how my mom smelled when she came home from a fun night with friends – the sound of my dads car cruising into to garage after a long day at work.

Time marches on in only one direction. Something about entropy and other physics shenanigans. Much smarter people than me are far more fit for that concept.

Regardless…

I love time travel stories. I’ve loved them since I was a young girl and my dad read “The Time Machine” to me. I love the idea of moving through time the way we move through space.

And yet…

If given the opportunity to go back and change something, I don’t believe I would.

There is something pure and authentic and genuine about our “one wild and precious life” – and living it as such.

The beauty of writing and blogging is that I do have an opportunity to write into the future – to send myself and my husband and my children a sort of message in a bottle. A way for them to know me now, without the benefit of a time machine.

Next month is my ten year anniversary of blogging. While it started out as the musings of a young 22 year old me who spent more time contemplating area malls, calories in salads and Diet Coke preferences, I hope that it has become for my children and my husband an illustration of me becoming myself – and the mother and wife they will remember.

This life that I am living – it is my love song for them.

hello? hello? is anybody home?

I’ve been trying to write a blog post for like, weeks.

I start.

I stop.

I think about it.  I remember I have an episode of Property Brothers or Love it or List it.

I realize the DVR is a hot mess and that once again, the girls have randomly recorded Telemundo.

I start again.

The dishes need to be done.  The laundry needs to be folded.

Work.

Life.

Snuggles.

Fights need to be broken up over the girls’ much loved baby dolls.

… and fake cell phones.  And crayons. And stuffed animals.

The list goes on and on.

And then one of the girls hides under a high chair, or screams at the ducks outside.

And I’m all like, “I SHOULD BLOG! This moment! Must remember it always!”

… and then I forget because just as soon as the twins are doing something cute, water is boiling over on the stove or they found my lipstick. etc. etc. etc.

It feels like writer’s block.

But it’s not.

It’s life block.

And, honestly, a little bit of self-censorship.

I mean, I’d love to go on a good old fashioned political rant.  Or a “what’s wrong with America” diatribe, but you know, this is not the forum for that.  And honestly, no one needs any more of that shenanigans.

I prefer lighter, more uplifting word fare.

I read this blog written by a woman namedGlennon and I love it because it focuses on love and friendship and working at life together in a team.  I appreciate what she does for the sisterhood. The sentiment of supporting and encouraging each other is something I believe in.

And, in much the same way, I think Ree builds up the sisterhood by reminding us that nothing cures what ails ya quite like homemade pasta, bacon and cheese. I believe in that, too.

Organic, of course.  (Unless no one’s looking, then I’ll take whatever bacon/cheese/pasta I can get my hands on!)

But my point is this: chocolate.

And, if I have an option, just in case I do, wine, too.

In closing, my new year’s resolutions are as follows:

  • Continue losing weight.
  • Try to exercise more.  Running after the twins does not count.
  • Blog more.  Like three times a month. Not like, never.

That is all. Candy.

peace

Let me just preface this blog post with the caveat that this is more of a “stream of thought” post. So, you know, definitely more messy than usual.

“Let there be peace on earth and let it begin with me…”

It is the season of reflection and promise and hope. But mingled in with all if that? A sense, for me at least, that the holidays are no longer mine.

Of course part of this feeling is because I am a parent and an adult. I have seen the metaphorical backlot of Disneyland and the wonder and amazement has been replaced by the reality of seeing a headless Goofy smoking a cig and hitting on Ariel.

Such is life.

The other part is that I am more and more aware of the audacity of what this season represents. Peace? In this life? Right.

Watching world events unfold only reinforces this feeling of futility. The war, the hunger and the brutality facing others makes my heart scoff at the notion of peace.

In my own life, I sense that there will never be a season of “smooth sailing” that won’t just be “relatively smooth” when compared to other seasons. There will ALWAYS. Be. Something. As a wise woman once said to me at a women’s retreat, “every woman you know is either going into a crisis, in a crisis or coming out of a crisis.”

I find myself mentally investigating this unfulfilled expectation of peace: I hold it in my hand, turning it over and raising it to the light to see it as clearly as possible.

Is there a solution to this feeling of unrest in my spirit? I think often of the environmental changes I could make – quit my job, change careers, move, have more kids, volunteer less, volunteer more and so on.

And always I wind up at the point that my circumstances are less the culprit of dissatisfaction and that the true cause is my spirit.

Certainly, a chunk of this unrest might be inherent in the motherhood conundrum: am I doing the right thing?

But honestly, and after much inspection and reflection, the problem is with me.

A few years ago, God spoke to me through a pastor at church who explained that peace, or shalom, did not mean absence of conflict as much as it meant wholeness in/with God.

This was as remarkable of a concept then as it is now. And also? A terribly inconvenient concept. It is much easier if Jesus is the prince of peace when peace means absence of conflict. In the no-conflict scenario, I am bolstered when I then pray for peace during difficult times. “Please make life easy!”

With the idea that peace is wholeness in and with God, I am faced with the reality that life is not easy nor comfortable, and it is not God’s responsibility to make it so. If that isn’t a total bummer in this age of comfort, I don’t know what is.

But, I know that wholeness in spirit is far more attainable in this life than my previous notion of peace. My pursuit of old peace only led to more dissatisfaction and cynicism.

I heard about the shalom explanation of peace years ago and forgot it. Tonight God reminded me of it while I was having my nightly mental conversation about the day’s happenings and internally lamenting “there will always be some sort of conflict!” In the midst of that reflection, I was reminded of shalom. And I was also reminded of God’s gentle and sweet lessons that he lovingly repeats as often as I needed.

Well played God, well played.

I don’t have a nice, neat way to tie this all up. I know it’s christmastime, the perfect season to both be reminded of expectations unfulfilled while simultaneously projecting the perfect Christmas card image. I know it’s hard to imagine any sort of peace amidst the hurried Holiday season.

I don’t even know how this peace revelation will all play out in my life. Knowing me, and my stubborn (persistent) nature, I’m likely to be back in this same mental spot in 30 days.

But maybe not.

It seems to me that living in peace, or wholeness with God, means living as He said: loving God, loving others and serving the world.

Let peace begin with me, let this be the moment now. With every step i take, Let this be my solemn vow: to take each moment and live each moment in peace eternally! Let there be peace on earth, and let it begin with me!” – Jill Jackson-Miller and Sy Miller

aging

So yeah, I turned 32 on November 16. No biggie.

A thrilling birthday for me is dinner with my family.  And a clean house.  Gentlemen, you want to know what your wives want more than anything?  A Clean House. Clean sheets, clean floors, clean.  While my children wipe snot on me and I pick up “ickies” from the floor and I investigate mysterious little weird things my kids find, I still appreciate a clean environment.  Frank, well done.

This past birthday got me thinking – what does 10 years look like in pictures?  Sure, and duh, my life has changed in 10 years.  Husband, kids, work, etc, etc.  But when you look what the presidency does to dudes in four years, I wondered what happened in 10.  So, brace yourself, here we go:

 


Melissa and me 10 years ago.  Melissa was my roommate in college for two years.  Two. Amazing. Years.  So amazing, she moved to Oregon shortly thereafter.  Well done, Em, well done.

Not sure what is going on here, but this is from 2002.  This is what I looked like in college.  Tired. Messy. Collegiate. Someone get me a brush, a Diet Coke and eye make-up remover, STAT>].

Frank and I attending a wedding.  The Bright Wedding.  July 13, 2002, I believe.  I could be wrong.  Maybe the 16?  Who knows.  This was our first “nice” couple picture.  Frank would be the first to point out to everyone that he had hair when we started dating. Apparently pro-longed exposure to Emily either results in losing your hair or moving to Oregon.

This is about the time it got serious.  We were 12.  It was amazing. Christmas 2002.

Frank still had hair.

Me, getting ready to throw my bouquet.  Goodbye, singleness!  Hello Franky-pants!  September 2003.

Some time in the summer of 2004.  That same weekend I lost my most favorite wedge sandals.  Woe is me.  I will never forget. (Seriously, they were awesome, neutral sandals.  They were amazing.  Elongated my legs, comfortable to wear, and, swear to you, they could’ve brought world peace. Instead? GONE.)

I bet NBC wishes they had snatched us up while they had the chance.  This pic was from 2005 when NBC still had the sparkling team of Katie Couric and Matt Lauer.  Ah.  NBC.  Call us. K, thanks, bye.

This began an era of time where we did not take a normal picture.  So yeah, here’s the best I can do for 2006.

My sister and I, posin’. She’s such a hottie.  Love her.  Smooches. And of course, she looks amazing then and amazing now.  Dirty, dirty bird.

Seriously, from this ENTIRE 10 Year High School Reunion Season onward, Frank did NOT take a single normal picture.  This is the best I have.  Here you go, world. 2008. Can’t go back…

This should be proof enough that I have cooked.  So there you go.  2009. Emily Cooked. Bam.

Also, 2009.  Vegas.  That’s us, wild as ever.  After this picture was taken: OPTION A) Frank swam the canals and I ate all of the gelato in Venice (Las Vegas). We were arrested and asked to leave Vegas and never return. OR… B) after this picture was taken, we ate all we cared to enjoy at a buffet dinner and fell asleep by 10 p.m.  Choose your own adventure.  Go.

2010. Here I am.  Large and in charge.  Hello bay-bays!  This is about 7 weeks before the twins burst forth into our lives.  Ah… Twins.

Me and the twinsters.  Chillin’ at the NICU.  Also, at this point I discovered the benefit of flattering camera angles.  Ahhh…. Chins.

Yeah, that’s me and my bay-bays.  Sure, it’s not the best pic.  But who cares? And who has time to find a good pic?  Shhh.  Enjoy the babyness before you.  Soak it in.  Drink it up.  Bay-bays. Well, really, tahd-lers.

And really, so long as we are still laughing, that’s all that matters.

 

So yeah, I’m older.  If I live long enough, that’s bound to happen. Aging is a privilege.

Thirty-two.  I dig it.

all you need is love…

It was much easier for me, when I was younger (and dumber), to determine what would make a marriage work.

When I was 22 years old, I would’ve told you, even if you didn’t ask, that a marriage required love. Squishy, delightful, schmoopy love.  Also? I would’ve told you marriage required an investment of time and hard work, but only because once I heard someone say that and I found something oddly romantic about this puritanical angle to long-term relationships. I would’ve told you that marriage required mutual sacrifice (mostly on the husband’s part… thus mitigating the “mutual” part).

Now?

Lots of scientists and philosophers and people generally smarter than I have created an entire cottage industry on why and how and who and when and where marriages work best.  There are endless top 10 lists of things that promise predict the seemingly inevitable demise of your union.

Smash the wedding cake? BAM. Divorce.

Pick a the wrong first dance song? BAM. Divorce.

Does your spouse wash their hair first in the shower while you wash your face first? INCOMPATIBLE! FAIL!

When Frank and I were getting married, though, we were high on LOVE. Every element of planning the wedding was a beautiful adventure on our way to our storybook wedded bliss.

There we were, traipsing through this loveland, la-la-la-ing our way to September 19, 2003 when BAM, we walked faced first into the sliding glass door of our pre-marital conference at church.

Picture this:

Emily and Frank, young, thin and in love, holding hands and sitting amongst other engaged couples.  Eight round tables were placed throughout a large conference room with eight couples per table (plus or minus). We looked at the other couples seated with us and glowed at them – you are like us! we are like you! we are in LOVE! yes! And the other couples looked at us and said back, “stop looking at us like that.  You’re creeping us out.”

At the front of the room was a podium and an earnest professor-type opening up our session in prayer and sharing wisdom and trying to impart the mechanics of marriage on people who were more interested in the difference between a fresh fruit cake filling and a jam cake filling.  Decisions, decisions.

We embraced this conference – we were determined to get an A+ in pre-marital counseling.  We were overachievers.  We were in love!

The conference director said, about halfway through, “OK, raise your hand if you are over 25.” Nope. We were 22. “OK, raise your hand if you have college degrees.” WINNER WINNER! Our hands shot straight up. “OK, raise your hand if you make over $50,000 per year, combined.” Nope.

“If you do not have two out of three of these items in your favor, your marriage is more likely to end in divorce.”

Frank and I sat in stunned silence. Did we fail at marriage before we began?  How is that possible? I have no idea what else what they said at the conference – I was still trying to figure out if we could get extra credit in order to make up for the two of the three we missed.

Originally I thought it was kind of like that summer before my freshman year that I took a keyboarding class and got a B+.  I started my  high school career knowing that I could NEVER be a valedictorian… or a court reporter.

And there is something freeing in that – you know, knowing you won’t be the valedictorian. Or a court reporter.

But the part where I got an F- in your premarital counseling class has less of a silver lining.

Fast forward nine years: we have, so far, defied the odds.  We have our moments, for sure.  We’ve traversed bravely some of the things often described by marital experts as potential marriage enders.

Is there really a magic recipe for a marriage that works and a marriage that fails?

I really don’t know.

Tonight, in a moment of top-of-the-mountain reflection, I watched my brother and his bride rehearse for their wedding.  All while watching them practice walking up the aisle and learn their roles in the ceremony, I was thinking about what I wanted to tell them – what I would wish them to help ensure a long and happy union.

Do I tell them, “Never go to bed angry.” Or do I tell them, “Never say Divorce.” (woops. I said Divorce. Woops. I said Divorce again. And again. I’m in trouble.) Or how about, “If you’re the wife, lower your expectations and if you’re the husband, step up to the plate?” (yikes.)

Upon further reflection…

It just seems that marriage is like flying an airplane.  There are all these logical reasons  an airplane flies. Lift and drag and speed and atmosphere and blah blah blah. (Can you tell I failed my aviation ground school?) But when I see a plane or a bird gliding through the air successfully, doing what it was made to do, the only real explanation that makes any sense is the one that my pilot husband gave me: Pure Freaking Magic.

A lot of people miss the magic.  They are caught up in the mechanics and the science and the logistics – and they miss enjoying the moment.  A party planner who never dances at his parties. A writer who never reads his books. A painter who never sees the art around him.  It’s easy to do the same thing in marriages – to amass “stuff” and to check checklists – and never savor the relationship.

But, oh, the moments where I stopped and wondered at and drank in the magic of it all: lazy Saturday mornings, long car rides, dreaming of our future, holding our babies, lying under the Christmas tree and holding hands on the way to somewhere exciting. How we met and fell in love and stay in love and live in love – that is simply Pure Freaking Magic.

When my brother brought Lauren home, we knew he was a goner.  You could tell it in his eyes and his smile.  It was magic.  And when Lauren laughed heartily and genuinely at his jokes? That, too, was magic.  Pure. Freaking. Magic.

My hope for them is that they marvel at what they have, all the days of their lives.  And that when they see an airplane flying or a bird soaring or a humming bird floating that they would be less concerned with the details and more enthralled with the Pure Freaking Magic of it all.

To Andy and Lauren: I wish you a marriage full of magic and wonder and joy.

PFM, always.

Love,

Em

the time when Frank ran a marathon

Last Sunday, armed with body glide stuff to prevent chaffing (I didn’t ask… you probably shouldn’t ask, either) and band aids and ibuprofen and bizarre space energy-type food and water, Frank lined up with 45,000 of his besties and ran the Chicago Marathon Bank of America Chicago Marathon (hey, they didn’t pay good money for naming rights to have me mess it up on my blog that three people read…).

Being the loving, caring, amazing wife that I am, I dragged my sorry pa-tootie out of bed at 6:30 a.m. on a Sunday and schlepped myself all around town.

I have the pictures to prove it.

There may or may not have been some adult libations at the half marathon point.  Not for Frank.  For me.

Also, somewhere between mile-marker 13.1 and 26.1, I may have had a delicious egg white & spinach & swiss & mushroom omelet with The Most Heavenly Corn Bread Muffin Ever.

By “may”, I mean that I DID have the aforementioned breakfast before bolting without paying (I’ll catch ya on the flip side, dear brother) because I realized that I might miss Frank crossing the finish line and then I’d have to say, when he asked, that I was stuffing my face while he was running a MARATHON.

Considering that I have acquired quite a rap sheet, I figured that Sunday, October 7, 2012 was not the day to add to it.

All told, I walked about 9 miles on Sunday.  Frank ran 26+.  He got a medal and his name in the paper.  I did not.  Life is not fair, right?

Without further adieu/whining, here is the photographic evidence from this weekend. Future grandchildren, please enjoy this evidence that your grandfather DID run the Chicago Marathon.

I’d be remiss if I didn’t start this post with a picture of the site of the McDonald’s where Frank and I enjoyed our first married breakfast. Please note, in 2003, it was the “Rock and Roll McDonald’s”. Now it is just The Giant McDonald’s.

A dude inspiring and motivating the volunteers at 6:30 in the morning. God bless them all!

A helicopter circling overhead to catch a glimpse of Frank!

These are the awesome wheelchair racers! Can you imagine pushing yourself with your arms for 26.2 miles? Picking up a can of soup is a triumph for me! Watching these folks race was so awe-inspiring and amazing, I couldn’t even cheer because I was on the verge of crying giant, meaty tears of amazement.  I had never seen anything so excellent and perfect and inspiring – a raw tribute to beauty formed through challenge – fire refining gold.  But I didn’t sob big snotty sobs. I guess I figure that the only people allowed to cry at the marathon are the people who actually have to haul their tooshies 26.2 miles.  Everyone else can be strong, right?  ::sniff::

The elite runners are SO FAST that I don’t have a clear picture of them. As my sister-in-law Lauren said, “I don’t run across a room that fast for a donut!” These runners ran sub-5 minute miles for 26.2 miles STRAIGHT! Me? I walked really fast to the diner for breakfast.  Did I mention the cornbread muffin was out of this world???

After getting quite worried that I missed Frank, I saw him emerging from the dense fog of runners – along with brother-in-law Dave! (bright orange jerseys) So happy to see them – and they seemed pretty happy to see me, but this was only mile 2. Even I’d be happy at mile 2…

Dave and Frank. Frank and Dave.

Frank, “Wanna sing a running song? You know, get into the spirit of the marathon?” Dave, “Um, do I know you?”

There were quite a few funny/cute/interesting signs along the route, but this one was particularly amusing. I also liked the one that said, “Because 26.3 is just CRAZY.” (Joke Explainer: the marathon is 26.2 miles. That extra .1 would put the whole event over the edge. Is the joke not funny any more? OK. Good. Onward)

While waiting for Frank to run by at the 1/2 marathon point, I wanted to artistically capture the conflict between me and my inner runner. Based on this representative photograph, I think it’s safe to say that I have restrained my inner runner inside a cage and she will NEVER get out to run a marathon. Phew.

While we (Andy (my bro) and Lauren (my sis-in-law-extraodinaire)) were waiting for Frank at 13.1, we were also enthusiastically cheering on other runners. By “we”, I mean “me”. Andy was trying to get some artistic, beautiful shots of the raw athleticism streaming toward him. As he reviewed his pictures, he found that my hand (in the shape of a giant “thumbs up”) was prominently featured in most – if not ALL – of his pictures. Ha ha ha. Ha. I rule.

FRANK! So far, so good. Despite some leg injuries prior to the race, he made it to the 1/2 marathon point without a trip to Northwestern Memorial Hospital. Or Rush. Or Cook County. Or wherever they would’ve taken him. Way to go Frank! And, he looked pretty jubilant to boot!

Around mile 8 or so, Frank and Dave were separated. I tried my best, but only got a few shots of Dave heading down the final 200 meters. Hi Dave!

There he is, right behind lime-green dude. Way to go Dave!

And… THERE HE IS!! Frank heading down the final 200 meters! I saw a couple cross the finish line hand-in-hand and I thought, “Wow, that’s amazing!” And for like, a nano-second I thought, “Maybe Frank and I could do that one day…” and THEN I thought, “No, the only way that is happening is if I jump this fence and run with him right now…” and then I thought, “Who are we kidding? I’m never going to jump that fence.” So yeah, maybe we can settle for a DVR marathon of great fall TV… that’s more my speed, anyway…

And of course, none of this was possible without the generous support of folks who donated to Frank’s Team World Vision goal. Frank has a heart for those who live on less than $1/day and the 1 BILLION people around the globe who do not have access to clean drinking water. Kinda hard to be all like, “you’re STILL training for this marathon??” when your spouse is all like, “Yeah, for THE PEOPLE WITHOUT WATER!! Geesh.”

 

So there you go.  Frank’s marathon in pictures.  He made me promise to remind him not to let him run the marathon again.  He made me promise to remind him of his three lost toenails, blood blisters, chaffing and his general inability to use the stairs the next time he says, “Babe, I’m thinking about running a marathon.”

Time will tell.

nine

So I’m a bit late on this one.  Between work, Frank’s travel schedule and, oh yeah, TWINS (BAM! I played the twins card!), I didn’t have time on 9/19 to write a gushy, mushy post about the amazing love affair that is our marriage.  Our marriage turned nine years old on 9/19.

Yep.

#WifeFail

But Frank, my awesome, amazing, excellent husband DID send me flowers at work and DID write a sweet note to go with the flowers about he’d do it all again – exactly.the.same.

As sappy and mushy as that sentiment seems to be, I couldn’t agree more.

Sure, we’ve had lots of warm, cozy, snuggly, and, dare I say, schmoopie moments over the course of the last nine years of togetherness-foreverness. But we’ve also had plenty of times where the statement, “I will be with you until the END OF TIME” could’ve been construed as both a promise and a threat.

Like, you know, how long is it until the END OF TIME? Is it time on this particular reality, or does that pass on to the next life?

You gotta really get these fine points ironed out, ya know?

So it’s been nine years.  Good, bad, awesome and ugly.

There was the time when we had an epic fight via text message over how Frank lost all of our little spoons.  He still hasn’t admitted to losing said spoons, but we all know the truth.

There was a time in the middle of the last nine years when the greatest tragedy that had befallen us to that point was the loss of ALL of our freshly put down grass seed.  An absolutely horrific rainstorm flushed about a THOUSAND dollars worth of seed down the Milwaukee County sewer system.  I like to think that there is a beautiful green field at the end of that pipe, and that we had something to do with it. Sometimes I’m a little too optimistic. I digress.

Not to worry, time taught us that grass seed was small potatoes in the scheme of things.

My dad was sick.  Frank lost his job not once, but twice in the same year.  We moved. I changed industries.

We lost Lily.

It was hard. And messy. And gross.

What we did with those hard, messy and gross times is our story.  We stuck together. Frank and Emily VS. Crappy Stuff.  Frank and I have outlasted all of those other temporary, crappy situations.

Frank and Emily: 9, Crappy Stuff: 0.

I know, kinda sounds like a downer.  But it’s not.  It’s honest.  I’ve been thinking a lot about the face we present to the world.  It’s important to both Frank and I to be on our A-Game as often as possible.  To not dwell on the negative.  To stay positive and happy and forward-facing. We know we’re pretty darned blessed, no matter the circumstances.

The best part of the past nine years wasn’t all the times we made it to church on time or all the times that our kids looked cute and put-together in pictures.  The best part of the past nine years was going on this outrageous adventure together.  Loving and laughing and crying and arguing as a team, a partnership and a family.

That. Is. Life.

So when Frank says to me that he would do this whole crazy thing over again, and do it all exactly the same, that means more to me than anything else he could’ve said via a Hallmark greeting card.  That is true love.

And, babe, I agree.

Happy ninth anniversary. TM, A.