bedtime

At first, they were quiet.  It was 8:35 p.m.  Well past bedtime.

And then they were talking and singing.  I ignored it.

And then I heard the first footsteps thunk on the floor over my head.

Crap, I thought.

The footsteps were quickly joined by their matching pair.  The footsteps padded around the twins’ room.

Shuffle, shuffle, shuffle.

And then, almost without warning, the footsteps were running at a frenzy down the hall and to the stairs. Bum da bum da bum bum bum bum bum.

“MOOOOOMMMMM!!!” shouted both girls.

“What?” I asked firmly, trying to walk the fine line between yelling and pleading.

“There is a GHOST! We saw HIM!” said Carrie, appearing around the entry of the living room, her eyes wide, but her lips betrayed her as they were curled up in a smile.

“Seriously? There isn’t a ghost,” I told her.  A curly red head popped around the same corner.

“Yes, yes there IS!” Ellie testified.

“No, there isn’t. C’mon girls, go back to bed,” I directed them.

Sensing that I knew that they were making the whole thing up, the twins scurried up the stairs.  I heard their footsteps round the corner of the banister and chase each other down the long hall to their room.

Whispering, talking and then outright hollering ensued.  I sighed.

THUNK! 

I cocked my head to the side to listen to hear if there was a follow up scream of pain. Nope.

And then there was the dull staccato of little feet running on the carpet, flying around the banister and drumming down the stairs.

“MOOOOM!” Oh, the whining.  Frank and I have been trying to break them of it.  Every word is stretched out by at least one or more syllables, often with sentences beginning with the word, “Buhhhhhhh-t!” (“But” is the original, un-mangled word). We correct them nearly every time the whining surfaces, sometimes even demonstrating for them how absolutely annoying the whining is.

So far, we’ve only been met with blank stares and more whining.

Parenting appears to be a lot of repetition without a lot of immediate gratification.  I’m guessing in 30 years the twins won’t even remember to thank us for breaking them of this nasty habit – they will just be consumed with the whining in their own homes.

But I digress.

“What now?” I asked. Again, working hard to maintain a firmness in my voice without sounding desperate. If they could please, please, please sleep, I could get some of the long, long over-due thank you notes done.

“Ayeeeee. Neeeeed. Waaaahhhh-ter!” complained Carrie.

“Stop whining, please.  You can get a glass of water.”

“Mooooom.  Ayeeeee. Neeeeeed. Kleeeenexxxxxx!” called Ellie.

“Well, first, please stop whining.  Second.  Please, for the love, go get a Kleenex.”

As far as I could tell, the feet and voices obeyed.  The footsteps wandered back to the twins’ bedroom. Another loud THUNK.

I sighed.  I put down the pen I was using to write out thank you notes.

Up the stairs I went, flipping off the light in the twins’ bathroom at the top of the stairs.

Their bedroom is at the far end of a long hallway, giving them ample time to hop into bed and to pretend as though they never left it in the first place.

“Girls,”I said upon arriving. “Get. In. Bed.”

Carrie stared back at me, deciding whether she was going to heckle me by stating the obvious.

“We are, Mooom.”

Oh no, she didn’t! I thought.

“You weren’t three seconds ago. I can HEAR you walking around and singing and hollering,” I told them.  Ellie’s eyebrows inadvertently shot up.  This was news to her.

“Girls. I am very, very disappointed to find you both out of your beds, wandering around and playing…” so began my lecture.

I am sure I said many wise and important Mom-things from the doorway to the twins’ room.  In response both girls tried to explain that they were only playing with the doll house.

But as my gaze around the room took in both the chaotic mess of their room (So.Many.Stuffed.Animals!), my heart softened as I looked at their little faces.

“Please, girls, go to bed.  We can do so many fun things tomorrow, but you need your rest so that you can enjoy them.” I finished.  Not quite General Patton, but I was severely limited by my own lack of stamina and restrictions on appropriate word choices (the twins’ expert-level use of the phrase “sons of bitches” is not what I want to get called into pre-school for this year).

“But Mom, remember when we went to the park with Daddy and the lightening and the thunder and we had to hurry home and it rained?” said Carrie as quickly as she could.

I started to interrupt her.  I started to tell her that the story about the storm was irrelevant, but then I stopped myself.

Her big blue eyes were serious. Playing at the park and leaving because of a storm was one of the riskiest things she’d ever done in her life so far. It was not a secondary detail, but an important thing to remember while I was telling her about future plans to play at the park.

“Yes, and everything was OK.  It was scary, but you made it home and everything was OK.  Now let’s go to bed and get rested for the busy day tomorrow, OK?”

There was some more whining and some more negotiating, but in the end, there were two girls in two beds, attempting (as far as I could tell) to sleep.

I went downstairs, stopping at the kitchen for a snack.  As I walked back to the living room, I had a realization that I am sure that every parent has.  It isn’t a new or unique or extraordinary.

It is as common as the way that time marches onward.

I realized that there will be a day when the twins and Annie are gone.  They will be at college or in their first apartments or wherever, but what’s important is that they won’t be at home. Around bedtime on that day, I will probably wander into the kitchen for a snack or a glass of water.  I will turn off the lights in the kitchen as I leave and round the corner to the living room, passing the stairs as I go.  I will look up those stairs and I will realize that there isn’t a light on, dimly, in the hallway for little girls to find their way to the potty late at night.  I will wander up the stairs, around the banister and to the end of the hallway.

I will stand in the doorway of the twins’ room, remembering that years ago I told them to please, for the love of all that is good, go.to.bed.

And instead of big blue eyes peering up at me from a lovely mop of blond hair or piercing blue eyes looking back at me framed by a mane of wild red curls – there will be two perfectly made twin beds.  They will be well-worn and indented in the middle from where two little girls grew up tall and strong and smart and brave.

I will stand in that doorway, holding a cold glass of water with the condensation making my hand wet and I will stare at that room for a really long time, remembering.

And I know, without a doubt, I will wonder, maybe even aloud, “Where did all that time go? How can they be gone already?”

So tonight I sat down in the living room, put away the thank you notes, and wrote this down.  Not just for me, but for my girls so that they know how deeply and profoundly loved they are – and as Frank says to them whenever he puts them to bed, “you can’t do anything to change that.”

I love you Elliana, Carrigan and Annabel. Every minute, of every day.

three things: sociology 101

Frank and I were lying in bed, writing a grocery list and figuring out what needed to be accomplished an afternoon last weekend when he squinted at my (mostly) dark brown hair.  The following conversation was documented on my Facebook page:

Frank: man. You’re going gray.

Me: I know.

Frank: I mean really. Wow. Like remember when I used to count them? Only God can count them now.

Ladies and gentlemen: he’s a keeper.

For the record, our whole conversation made me laugh. I am aging.  Every passing day and passing year is testament to that fact.  Frank, not immune to the effects of time, is also aware of the effects of time’s passage on his own person. Our faces are looser, our bodies are definitely outside of our prime.  We are tired from running after two jobs, two kids (soon to be three! whoa!) and life.

But the laugh lines and smile lines are also taking hold, happily, etching their places at the corners of our eyes and creating parenthesis around our grins.

Life is good.  Even when it hasn’t been, we’ve laughed together and been each other’s best friends.

People who know us, know what I write here is true.

I posted our funny exchange dryly on my Facebook page, smirking while I hit “post.” Before the first responses came back, I was chuckling to myself about my funny husband.

And then… Then I learned three things about people in a small microcosm of social media. To be certain, I am not naive – I have witnessed some of these behaviors in other spaces and places, but it hit a nerve watching the responses unfold in response to an every-day humorous exchange between Frank and me.

Thing one: Domestic Violence Is Not OK.

A friend flippantly commented that I should “slap” Frank for his remark.

For some reason, this seems to be a thing among women: it is OK to make threats about striking men – or even actually hitting a man.

That is ugly to me.  I cringe on the inside.

How can we, as women, say it is NOT OK to hit women, but at the same time say that it IS OK to hit men? While we complain about double standards I think it might be time to examine the double standards that women also use.

I also played through the response as though it was a man telling another man to slap his wife.  Certainly there would be absolute outrage about a comment like that.  But the thought of me hitting my husband was met with silence.

Of course, you could go down a rabbit hole with this one, but that is for smarter people than me. Suffice to say, I do not advocate for any violence against humans. Do unto others as you would have them do unto you and all that.

 

Thing two: Small Rudder, Big Ship.

I am reminded of the childhood playground mantra, “Sticks and stones may break my bones, but names will never hurt me!”

That horse crap mantra never worked. We are humans and at the essence of who we are is that we relate to other people. Words are part of that relationship and words can hurt, deeply.

In the Book of James in the Bible, there is a passage that refers to the tongue as a small rudder that steers a large ship.

That is truth.

When one of the responses called my sweet, funny husband an “ass” and demanded that he get a raise so I can pamper myself monthly, it hurt me and it irritated him.

Something to know about our marriage: we refuse to call each other names. I give Frank the most credit for maintaining this level of decorum in our arguments.  If you know Frank, you know that he is a professional, first and foremost.  He is professional in all facets of his life, even in our marriage.  This doesn’t mean he isn’t wrong at times or that he doesn’t make mistakes or that he hasn’t said things he’s later regretted.  But he does not scream to dominate an argument, he does not resort to name calling to distract from the true issue at hand and he keeps his language generally clean.

So to see those words written out and directed at my husband – my much better half, to be honest – left a bitter taste in my mouth.

This isn’t the first time that I’ve heard or witnessed such behavior from people, sadly. I’ve seen it live and in person. No matter the context, it is always off-putting and upsetting.

Those small words steer a large ship indeed.

 

Thing three: Humor.

Of course, throughout the responses were appropriate responses from people who know us best. One of my friends jokingly commiserated. A few cajoled Frank about his lack of gray hair due to his absolute lack of hair. One said that our humor was the sign that we were the best of friends.

One of the first times that Frank and I went out together, I remember thinking, “I have never laughed with anyone else like this – ever!” Our chemistry has always been punctuated by jokes and games and funny things we do to make the other smile. It is our way. (I documented a few of our quirky “I love you’s” a while ago)

In fairness, I did not include a smiley face or emoticon or other emotional clues to indicate that our conversation was funny.  I simply assumed that others would firstly, know us well enough to know that it was meant as a humorous exchange, and secondly, that even if others did not know us well enough, that they would assume that I would not post a conversation like that out of anger, hurt or some other negative emotion.

Perhaps the conversation may have been sort of a Rorschach test, revealing more about the people responding than it did about the people having the conversation. I don’t know.

I deleted the conversation in its entirety from my Facebook page because it brought out some negativity that I personally didn’t enjoy and, well, it’s my Facebook page and I’ll do what I want to.

Emily, out.

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.

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

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.

a prairie home companion

alternatively titled, “a love song for my children.”

I love talk radio.  I love conservative talk radio.  I love liberal talk radio.  I love post-Hawks games sports talk radio.  I love morning talk shows and will frequently change the station when they play music.  I adore news radio of all kinds.

But there is something absolutely magical about my childhood Saturday nights at 5 p.m. in Chicago.

At 5 p.m. on Saturday night, the self-deprecating Minnesotan Garrison Keillor, accompanied by a jaunty pianist, would open up the stage of “A Praire Home Companion,” a lovely radio show that often featured tales of Garrison’s beloved Lake Wobegon

Listening to APHC is like being thoroughly ensconced in some of the most treasured aspects of my childhood.  Growing up, we mostly listened to APHC on the way to Saturday night Catholic Mass, and some of my strongest, most delicious memories, are of Garrison’s steady, deep voice rumbling through stories of Guy Noir and News of Lake Wobegon.  Our family’s red minivan bounced along the tree-lined streets of Palatine, the same streets that brimmed with my own family’s 50+ year history of growing up and growing old in this town.  Sunlight filtered and danced through the large oak trees we drove under, a faint smell of barbecues pre-heating wafted through open car windows and Garrison’s narrative rose and fell over the sounds of my family chattering along the way to mass.

I especially recall Garrison’s folksy duets with guest singers and song writers: a perfect soundtrack to a lush summer day.

Tonight, on the way home from a day with Frank’s family at the Lake, I turned on NPR and heard the familiar sounds of my beloved APHC.  The first strains of the piano accompaniment sent me straight back to those wonderful evenings driving to Mass.  I turned the volume up, hoping that the sound of Garrison’s rambling stories, always punctuated with his deep, inhaling breaths through his nose, would bury themselves deep into the girls’ psyche.

See, those Saturday night family trips to Mass are, for me, the epitome of an American childhood.  We worked outside all day on nearly every Saturday – mowing, trimming, watering, and planting – and then we would wash up, put on clean cotton shirts and skirts, and go to Mass.

The church I grew up in, was a dark, cavernous space, but it was not unfriendly – not at all – it was a holy and happy place for me.  On Saturday nights, our parish allowed the worship director to use guitars and folksy versions of our favorite hymns.  We always left church on Saturday nights with light hearts – and hungry stomachs.

Usually Garrison’s show was still going on when we left church.  While we drove somewhere to pick up dinner, we’d listen to the News of Lake Wobegon, smiling as Garrison deftly wove together stories of Lutherans and casseroles and young people making their way in life.

And always, always, Garrison finished his broadcast with: “That’s the news from Lake Wobegon, where all the women are strong, all the men are good-looking, and all the children are above average.”

Then, the jaunty pianist would send us all off into the proverbial sunset, happy and satisfied that somewhere in the world, there must be a Lake Wobegon. And more importantly, there seemed to be an implicite promise that there would always be a Lake Wobegon – as long as their story was told.

One day, maybe my children will hear the sound of Garrison Keillor’s voice intimately narrating a story about the stoic midwestern folks up in Minnesota, and that they will feel what I feel: that our stories and our legacy and our love continues on in the people we love, long after we are gone.

 

how we say “i love you…”

When Frank and I were first dating, we thought it would be incredibly insightful to read the book The Five Love Languages. We were being all academic about love.

We bought the books… and then?

And then we spent the last decade making up our own love language.

Yes, that’s right, Frank and I have been hanging out romantically for a decade now.

Whoa.

So to celebrate a decade of smoochin’ and snugglin’ and stealin’ each other’s desserts – I thought I’d kick things off right with the top 10 ways we say “I love you.”

In no particular order:

10. Snuggles.

We snuggle all.the.time.  It’d be annoying if it wasn’t so delicious. There are nights where we follow one another from one side of the bed to the other and back again.  We’ve even named some of our favorite ways to snuggle.  That way, like good little quarterbacks, one of us can yell out, “SWEET SPOT!” and we assume the position.

9. The Clean House Maneuver.

This maneuver works great on both of us. It’s not complicated: clean the house while the other spouse is out. That one gets me every time!

8. The Clean Car Maneuver.

Similar to #9, but with either or (if particularly amorous) both vehicles. It differs from #9 because we have, on occasion, let our cars get particularly yucky.

7. Sweet Texts.

I’m sure in the olden days, spouses would have to find a piece of paper and pen and ::GASP:: write a note. Us? We just grab our phones and shoot over a text message.  Some of my favorites:

Frank: 11:30 a.m. doctor appointment for the twins.

Me: OK.

Frank (a few hours later): It’s Herpes.

Me: What?!

Frank: Nevermind. Girls are fine. Love you!

Frank is, as you may know, a pilot.  Occasionally (frequently…) I forget where he is going, until he gets there and texts me:

Frank: Love you in SFO (San Francisco)

Me: Oh, good. I didn’t know where you were going. XOXO.

On the first Tuesday of every month, the state tests tornado sirens.  Every first Tuesday at 10 a.m., I get a text that looks something like this:

Frank: DISASTER IMMINENT!! SEE YOU ON THE OTHER SIDE!! LOVE YOU!!

Me: Shhh. In meeting.

6. Laughing at the Same Jokes Over and Over and Over Again…

We have a cycle of jokes that is on endless loop.  Just like when I was kid and my sister and I watched Howard the Duck on an endless loop until my mom “dropped” the VHS tape, Frank and I can’t get enough of some of the same old jokes.

And there is comfort in that. Singing goofy versions of Kenny Loggins song Danny’s Song (“Even though you look kinda funny, I don’t care cuz you’ve got money!”); Frank chasing me up the stairs saying, “I’m gonna getcha!” while I freeze-up laughing, unable to move; holding hands and trying to be the first to tuck our thumb in between; responding to the other with “yer mom”; and the list goes on and on. No matter what we’re going through – there is always a small, sweet way that we can say “I love you” that brings a smile to both of our faces.

… Juvenile as it may be…

5. Holding Hands.

When snuggling isn’t an option, we often have to settle for holding hands. We hold hands everywhere we can – even in the car. We talk about how if we have to be in separate beds in the nursing home that if we can’t snuggle there, we’ll hold hands all the way until the end. Pity the nursing home peeps that try to get in between us. We will go all ninja old people on them. That’s how we roll, yo.

4. The Postcard.

You guys:  Frank and I have never discussed this.  Ever.  It’s one of the rules of Postcard Club: we don’t talk about the postcard. Seriously. I was worried that if I shared the postcard, it might lose some of its magic, but it’s a risk I’m willing to take so that our children and our children’s children will know exactly how nuts we are. 

In 2005, I took a trip to Utah for work.  It was a lovely trip, but only a 2 day adventure.  I bought a postcard that I intended to mail to Frank, but never did because I would get home before the postcard would.  I gave Frank the postcard and thought it was the end of the postcard. Until I found it tucked in one of my drawers.  So I put it in his overnight bag.  And he put it in my work bag.  And I put it in the cupboard next to his cereal and he put it in my pillowcase.

This postcard has made it through at least 3 moves and 7 years without being lost.  Which is more than I can say for about half a dozen spoons, three dinner plates and a shelf.

Whenever I find the postcard, sometimes months between sightings, it always makes me smile.

3. Spanish Radio.

Yes.  You read that right.  Nothing says, “I love you” like 105.1 FM in Chicago.

See, because we use our SUV for carting around the twins and our sedan for lots of driving/chores/what-have-you, we tend to swap out cars a lot.  And even if we aren’t swapping out cars, Frank often is nearby my place of employment to drop off the babies and from time to time, he stops by my car, turns the radio to Spanish Radio and cranks the volume.

While some people live in fear of turning the key in the ignition and a bomb going off, I live in fear of turning the key in the ignition and being bombarded with the music stylings of an enthusiastic mariachi band.

But as soon as I peel myself off of the ceiling of my car and get my wits about me, I remember that it is just a small way of Frank saying “I love you” using the only Spanish he remembers from high school.  Note: Aside from finding Spanish Radio formats on the dial, he can also say “The cat is on fire” and “The cat is in my pants.” What can I say? I’m smitten…

2. Our Rings.

For most married people, their wedding bands are a symbol of the promises they made to one another.  You know, the part where I lied and told Frank I loved to cook and could not wait to cook all.the.time? (And now Frank does 99.9% of the cooking)

But for us, our rings are also a symbol of our love (which is probably what it symbolizes for everyone else, too… we aren’t very original in that department… but whatever this is our top 10 list!).

I’ll spare you most of the schmoopy details, but basically it went like this:

Me: I love you, Frank.

::Cue the music, the soft lighting, the raw romance. Soap operas and love stories could learn something from this kind of passion.::

Frank: Aw, I love you, too babe.

After a few seconds of analysis.

Frank: If you were to quantify your love for me, how much would you say you had?

Me: This much!

Frank: (furrowing his mighty eyebrows) Which way?

Me: (exasperated) Always!

And so when Frank and I were engaged, we each separately decided to engrave a message on the inside of the other’s wedding band.  On the day of our wedding, after the vows and rings were exchanged, we couldn’t wait to slip off our rings to see what the other wrote on the inside. When I slipped the ring off of my finger and turned it into the light, I saw that, magically, we both wrote:

“I know where you live.”

Ha ha.  Just kidding.

We each engraved: “This Much, Always. 09-19-03”

I mean, occasionally we do get things right.

And so, when we look at our wedding bands, it is a constant reminder of our love – and that I don’t cook. Ever. Except when I get in the mood. But really, let’s be honest: dude has to cook all of the meals.

And, last, but not least:

1. We Love to Make Each Other Laugh.

Sure, I guess that’s been the under-riding theme of this entire post.  But truly, nothing delights either one of us more than the other being delighted.

These are the kinds of pictures that Frank sends to me with some sort of funny caption.

Eventually Frank’s series of Panda captions became his Anniversary Card to me one year.

And for Frank’s Golden Birthday, I surprised him with a few of his closest friends and some bread pudding.  He was delighted!

I always get a laugh out of Frank when I make that face.  What can I say??  I’m a charmer.

***

And so, in summary, we are probably certifiably crazy.  But that’s OK: we’re crazy together.

To Frank, I say, “Thank you for being my friend!”

… “Travel ’round the world and back again.  Your heart is true, you’re a pal and a confidant!  And if you threw a party! And invited everyone you knew!  You would see, the biggest gift would be from me and the card attached would say, ‘THANK YOU FOR BEING MY FRIEND!'” (Sung loudly, totally off-key and with heart because really, if you don’t sing it with heart, what’s the point??)

Extra Credit: Name that TV show theme song.  Nate? You got this one?