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.

viva las vegas

Also titled: What I learned About Myself in Vegas. And What I learned About Vegas in Vegas.

Subtitled: Don’t Eat at Sketchy Buffets

>>First: I am a diva.

While I grew up with a family that tent camped and pop-up camped our way around the country, I found that my heart is really in the penthouse, luxury suites or other similarly outfitted high-end hotel rooms.

I had an inkling about my diva ways on a few previous trips with Frank.

***Trip One: The Econo-Lodge somewhere between Chicago and Atlanta.

Scene: Hotel room had been freshened up with a coat of paint. This same coat of paint was applied without consideration to everything in the room: door frames, moldings, walls, vanities and ceiling, making the experience of being in the room akin to being a stick figure drawn on a piece of paper.  The bedspread was from circa 1974 and, likely, that was also the last time it was washed.  I pointed to something on the floor that looked like a blood stain and decided that I didn’t want to ask “Is that a blood stain?” out loud.  Sometimes, you just don’t want to know the answer.

Experience: Horrific.  Even though Frank had stayed at some pretty nast-tay hotel rooms in his time with a regional airline, this one was pretty epic.  He dreamt the entire night of bugs coming out of his eyes, ears and mouth.  Yes, this one got to him.  Needless to say, we did not inquire about a continental breakfast as we ran out of the hotel bright and early in the morning.

Famous Last Words: “Babe, can you believe I got this room for only $35 a night?”  Yes, sweetheart, I can.

 

***Trip Two: A Hotel with a Guitar Shaped Pool in Nashville.

Scene: Similar to the Econo-Lodge, the mosaic of stains on the carpet and the very dated bedspread were not the welcome you would hope for anywhere. Especially disconcerting were the eight missing ceiling tiles over the shower, revealing the hotel’s plumbing and the sound of our neighbor brushing his teeth.  It’s like having someone else in your room… without having someone else in your room.

Experience: Thank goodness we only stayed there for one night.  I was barely able to zip my suitcase as I ran for the door in the morning.

Famous Last Words: “But babe, it has a guitar-shaped pool!”

It’s important to have those two hotel experiences as a backdrop for this trip.  My sweet, thrifty Bohemian husband loves himself a good deal.  So when he said he was booking a hotel for the trip to Las Vegas, I carefully asked, “So, uh, you didn’t get any… deals for the room, did you?”

Knowing the hotel experiences he’s put me through in the past, Frank enthusiastically said, “NO! No deals.”  I knew then that this would be a good trip.

When we walked into the hotel room at Vdara in City Center, I was not disappointed. A suite, this room had a full kitchen, a family room, a bedroom and a very large bathroom.  Frank, the connoisseur of mid-range hotel rooms was dually impressed and quite pleased with himself.

AH, Vdara!

AH, Vdara!

This refrigerator is bigger than our refrigerator at home!!

This refrigerator is bigger than our refrigerator at home!!

The view of the Bellagio Fountains at night from our room.

The view of the Bellagio Fountains at night from our room.

Daytime view of the fountains and the strip.

Daytime view of the fountains and the strip.

In addition to a gorgeous room, we had a gorgeous view of the Bellagio fountains, the new Ferris Wheel and the strip.  I couldn’t have asked for anything better!

>>Second: When Vegas is Good, it is SO GOOD.

Upon arriving at the hotel, marveling at its splendor and checking out the free cable, Frank announced that we had reservations at swanky Sage in the Aria Hotel.  I had read a few reviews of the restaurant online before we traveled and heard good things.  I was excited!

The ambiance of the restaurant is lovely. Intimate and private, we were seated at a table tucked in the corner of the restaurant.  And the lighting was great: my skin looked awesome. Boom.

The waiter took our drink order – a mocktail for me and the real deal for Frank – and hurried off to leave us with our menus. After much discussion and deliberation, we decided on creamy chestnut soup for starters.  Frank had the Braised Veal Cheeks and I ordered the Bacon Wrapped Pork Loin.  Because you know – bacon makes everything better. (full fall menu for Sage)

After we ordered, the most magical thing happened: a wonderful young man arrived at our table with a tray of bread.

“Tonight I have for you a bacon roll and a French baguette,” he said, showing us the still-warm bread in his tray. “May I suggest that you take one of each?” Yes, yes you can suggest that. And yes, I will take both pleaseandthankyou.

The warm rolls were served with whipped butter and sea salt. The bacon roll was the perfect ratio of buttery, fluffy bread and savory, salty bacon.  I should’ve asked for two of each.  I am pregnant, you know.

After eating the bacon roll, I was concerned that I couldn’t love the baguette nearly as much. But much like you always love your second child as much as your first, I couldn’t imagine my life without the baguette. The French would’ve been proud.

Then there was the spoon.

Our waiter brought out two soup bowls and nestled inside was a spoon containing the perfect bite of … something. I will never know fully what it was that I ate at that moment – except that the flavor explosions went on forever. Fresh, vibrant, colorful – it was as though I had never truly eaten before. There was also a unicorn in the restaurant and it was also magnificent.

After the spoon came the bowl of creamy chestnut soup. Featuring some sort of pork happiness, currants and mushrooms and topped with the most lusciously creamy soup, every bite was an adventure in and of itself.

I think Frank was also at this same dinner with me.  I can’t be too sure at this point.

Our main course came out with not as much fanfare as it deserved. Beautifully presented, the portions were very un-American. But the flavor? The flavor and texture was big and bold and very, very American. That bacon wrapped pork loin was likely the most delicious piece of meat I have ever eaten. Ever. Amen.

Frank claims that his veal cheeks were the most delicious and tender pieces of meat he’s ever enjoyed, but at this point in the dinner I’m still not sure he was there. I only had eyes for the pork.

When the waiter came back and inquired about whether we wanted dessert, we sheepishly said no. There was simply no way we possibly left room for dessert and we felt we would do the dessert a grave injustice if we attempted to eat more.

While we were waiting for the check, the waiter brought out two warm shot glasses with a hot white chocolate and peppermint drink. If you could drink happiness, that’s what it tasted like.

We left the restaurant content and sad. Content because of a fantastic meal. Sad because we knew that we were unlikely to find another meal in Vegas that would match Sage’s greatness that night. We just didn’t know how right we were.

>>Third: Not all Buffets are Created Equal

When Frank and I were first dating, we took in our fair share of buffets.  We enjoyed the Stadium Club buffet at the United Center, the Easter buffet at the McDonald’s Lodge, a birthday buffet for Frank’s mom at the Drake in Oak Brook.  These are all pretty classy buffets.

I sensed that my dear husband was not acquainted with anything other than the occasional Chinese Buffet and the lovely, fancy buffets that he enjoyed growing up.

Several times while we were dating, Frank mentioned wanting to go to Old Country Buffet (OCB).  I couldn’t understand – I had been to several similar buffets growing up and never really enjoyed them for anything more than their soft serve ice cream with sprinkles.  I’m a simple girl, really.

After hearing him talk about the magic that must be the OCB several times, I gave in and we went to an OCB.  Frank’s excitement was palpable as we walked up to the door – and I watched that excitement drain from his being as we checked into the restaurant and surveyed its offerings.

Fruit flies, overcooked chicken, fake mashed potatoes, limp looking vegetables… the scene was food devastation. Frank filled up a plate, refusing to acknowledge the food horrors in front of him.

He sat at the table and tenuously began eating the food on his plate.  He ate the nearly entire plate of lukewarm, tragic food – a noble skill that probably later saved him from giving me honest feedback on quite a few dishes I served to him during our courtship and early marriage (not to worry, I pretty much stopped cooking…). Then, he gave the buffet a sidelong glance, shook his head in the general direction of the food massacre, and said, “You know, this really isn’t as good as I hoped it would be.”

That sad disappointment still lingers on Frank’s face when we pass an OCB to this day. You can practically hear the strains of “What Might Have Been” faintly playing in the background as we cruise by.  “We can’t go back again… there’s no use giving in… and there’s no way to know, what might have been.” Godspeed, OCB. Godspeed.

I wasn’t thinking about OCB when we booked tickets to see Million Dollar Quartet at Harrah’s Casino.  Vegas buffets are legendary – I didn’t think you could go wrong.

Oh… But you can go wrong. So wrong.

Harrah’s Casino in Las Vegas more closely resembles several football fields of bad man cave poker tables gone wrong than a Las Vegas Casino.  The casino feels like swimming through stale beer and a haze of old cigar smoke.  It feels like time marched on and trampled the casino underfoot.

As we approached the buffet entrance, I was haunted by this nagging voice in my head that said, “EMILY! It’s the OCB! Don’t do it!”

I ignored that voice. The buffet was free. It was included with our show tickets.

“Free is good!” I reasoned with the voice. “FREE IS GOOD!”

As we presented our tickets to the cashier, I cheerfully inquired, “So what is your favorite thing at the buffet?” Her response, while also cheery, should’ve served as a warning, “Oh, I say just start with the dessert sweetie!”

I should’ve heeded her warning.

As we waited to be let into the buffet, the greeter handed Frank and I oversized utensils.  I realized they were going to take pictures of us with these utensils. It had the ominous feeling of a “before” photo in the making. I held the fork, he held the spoon.  For the first picture, we smiled.  For the second picture, the greeter encouraged us to pretend to hit each other with our utensils.

If that isn’t foreshadowing, I don’t know what is.

We walked the buffet, trying to figure out what looked delicious and determine our strategy for best navigating this buffet. I quickly found that nothing looked good.  After a few sad perusals, I was happy to see some Mexican food at one end, so I went over to sample that.  I figured, how can you mess up Mexican food?

You can.

After lifting the lids off of several pots, I decided to just have three corn tortillas, some cheese and a small smattering of a meat product.  I added mashed potatoes and some over-dried turkey to my plate and called that dinner.

As always, Frank returned from the buffet with a full plate. I nibbled the tortillas, dumping the questionable meat on the plate. I ate the mashed potatoes.  I couldn’t bring myself to approach the turkey.

I decided to take the cashier’s advice and hit up the dessert area, hoping for better results.  I had a small cupcake and cookie.

Meanwhile, Frank cleared most of his plate. “I mean, it’s not great,” he said, pushing his mostly empty plate away.

The punchline to this joke of a buffet?  Frank slept soundly while I sat on the floor of the bathroom in our hotel room puking. Frank 1. Emily -2.

>>Fourth: In Vegas Old is Old.

In sweet, quaint midwestern towns, old becomes quaint.  Grandmas in sweater sets and polyester pants are cute, even when they are stealing cookies at the buffet.  Grandpas wearing plaid pants and faded sport coats are sweet, even when they make strange remarks and wink at you.  I expected in Vegas that the older parts of the strip would be quaint in much the same way.  I hoped that it would feel like the ghosts of Sinatra or Bob Hope or other famous old dudes might still be hanging around, throwing dice at the Craps tables.  Alas, that was not the case.

In Vegas, Grandmas don cocktail dresses and Naturalizers and it’s not a good scene.

We went to the old school Tropicana Hotel to see the Laugh Factory. The first thing to know about casinos in Vegas is that they allow smoking.  The second thing to know is that the newer casinos have much more effective air filtration systems. The older hotels smell and feel like the inside of an old bowling shoe: smokey, musty with a faint hint of Lysol.

If the ghosts of Sinatra or Hope or anyone else were hanging around in old Vegas casinos, I was not about to find out. I am a diva, after all, and I preferred the shiny new Vdara/Aria/Mandarin to the old strip.

>>Fifth: Sometimes Smaller is Better

Before the debacle at Harrah’s, Frank and I went on a mission to find a place to have delicious cocktails and appetizers prior to dinner.  Frank was pretty insistent on getting over to the Mandarin Oriental.

And this is why:

The view of the strip from the Mandarin Oriental.

The view of the strip from the Mandarin Oriental.

We enjoyed this front-row view to the twinkly lights of Vegas from a plush couch while sipping our drinks (tea for me, a cocktail for Frank) and noshing on calamari.  It was truly a highlight for both of us.

***

I didn’t love Vegas before we left on our trip.  I’m not a Vegas girl.  When presented with an opportunity to go on a trip, I suggested Vegas because I knew they had wonderful restaurants, a few good shows and I was hopeful we would find a hotel with a decent bed. With twins and work and being pregnant, sleep is a precious commodity!

I still don’t love Vegas after our trip.  But I did love spending time with Frank, eating great food, seeing entertaining shows, and wandering through overpriced designer stores and marveling at $5,000 red high heeled shoes. At that price range, the stores are more like museums displaying fine art than actual retail establishments, as far as I am concerned.

I spoke to a few local Vegasians. I asked them what they liked about their town. Universally, they loved the food and entertainment. Our cab driver from Sweden raved about the seafood at the buffets. But they all cautioned about gambling in a way that suggested that they knew people personally who had fallen into the gambling black hole, never to return again.

When I asked if they had ever been to Chicago, most of them had not.  “It’s cold there.”

Oh, how you’re missing out.

“Las Vegas is the only town in the world whose skyline is made up neither of buildings, like New York, nor of trees, like Wilbraham, Massachusetts, but signs.”
– Tom Wolfe

It’s good to be home.

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

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?

eight

On a beautiful Friday eight years ago today (9/19/03), Frank and I were married. It was the last Friday of summer – the kind of Friday that you wish lasted all year: sunny, warm and fragrant.

I remember feeling peaceful on my wedding day.  I remember being happy and content. Was it perfect? Not at all.  I believe that God uses the engagement and the wedding to prepare you for what is to come.  I think of the engagement as a boot camp of sorts – how to deal with the family, the friends, the job, etc – how to set precedents.  

Frank and I didn’t live together, which is how I prefer it.  As unpopular as it is to not live together these days, I wouldn’t do it any other way. I’ve had roommates before.  I know about globs of toothpaste in the sink, one tablespoon of milk left in the jug before it was put away (I mean, really? Just drink it!), missing food, too-long showers – etc, etc, etc. I was friends with Frank for four years before we started dating.  We dated for nine months before we were engaged. We were engaged for six months (almost exactly) before we were married.  If he was a jerk, living with him wasn’t going to expose anything I shouldn’t have already known.  And if leaving the toilet seat up (which he doesn’t really do anyway) was going to be a deal breaker, well, gee whiz, I need to examine my own heart first!

So really, our wedding was the beginning of a new era for us.  Our lives were about to radically change in very real, tangible ways. And there I was (as someone with major anxiety issues) feeling peaceful.

Peace, as I’ve learned over the past years, is precious.  Shalom, the Hebrew word for peace, does not necessarily mean the absence of conflict.  Instead, it means fullness or completeness.

On our wedding day, I knew that it wasn’t going to be easy, but I knew it would always be worth it.

At last my love has come along, my lonely days are over and life is like a song

Oh, those were the words that were supposed to float over us while we danced our first dance as husband and wife.  But alas, our DJ, who swore he had five copies of the song, came up empty handed when we took to the dance floor.

Watching in slow motion, as you turn around and say, my love, take my breath away…

Instead, we danced to Take My Breath Away. You know, the hot, steamy, cheese-errific song from Top Gun (oh, the pilot cliches!). Also the title song for my junior prom, it was the only song we could come up with in the two minutes we had to come up with a new song.  Oh, the agony.  Through gritted teeth and pained smiles we hissed at each other on the dance floor through the entire first verse of the song.  But then we laughed, realizing that it was silly to get all worked up.  By the end of the song, our smiles were genuine and we knew we would laugh about the first dance mishap for years to come.

It was like God gave us our first lesson as husband and wife – gently telling us that life would not be perfect, but as long as we could laugh together through it, it would be so worth it in the end.

When we were first married, we would lie in bed, listening to the wind rustling through the vertical blinds in our apartment and the distant sound of train horns, and we would talk about our future.  Frank would hold my hand and say, “I just feel like we are on the launching pad – we’re getting ready for a great adventure – we just don’t know what it is yet.  I can’t wait to go on this adventure with you!”

And oh, what an adventure it has been!  It has not turned out the way we imagined it would – there have been curve balls and disappointments and challenges and victories – but it has been so worth it in the end.

So, to Frank, on the occasion of our eighth anniversary:

I love you. This much, always.

how to date like Frank and Emily

You might be asking (although, probably not) how Frank and Emily keep the love alive after nearly 8 years of wedded bliss.  Although, you are more likely asking yourself what is for lunch, dinner or when the next season of Mad Men will start (sometime in 2012, sorry folks).  While I can only answer one of your other pressing questions, and I can suggest a myriad of restaurants and delicious recipes for your first two questions, I am able to give you a glimpse into a romantic interlude between my Romeo (Frank) and me.

First, let’s describe the setting.  While many of you are probably used to having dates that take place in the fading light of a romantic sunset (read: best lighting for making everyone look attractive), Frank and I enjoy seeing each other in the stark, raw honesty of late morning sunshine.  We scoff at all of you who fight for reservations to a hot restaurant on a Friday or Saturday night.  Fools!  You can get any table you please on a Thursday morning, as long as your desired restaurant serves breakfast items.

Surrounded by men in business suits having important breakfast meetings, catty middle-aged women gossiping about their non-present friends and elderly couples, Frank and I feel that the mood is ripe for romance.  And, oh, is it!  In between bites of hash browns smothered in onions and cheese and over-sized egg-beater omelettes stuffed with jalapeño peppers, we both come to terms with the fact that our food selections suggest that there will be a pious good-bye kiss at the front door.

But it is between being seated and paying the bill that the real magic happens. Dates are not just about having delicious food and wearing clothes sans spit up stains.  Dates are about the meaningful heart-to-heart conversations that, deep down, we all desire.

Me: So, yeah.  Not such a bad night with the girls, right?  I think this acid reflux thing is behind us.

Frank: Yeah, I think so too.  Thank goodness, I was tired of wearing a rain coat during feedings.

Me: So.  There’s that.  Hey, did you hear about the new animal that was born that is like half giraffe and half zebra? It’s called an okopi.

Frank: Really?  (Gets out his cell phone to verify that I am not pulling his chain.  We have a long history of telling each other things that aren’t true, just to see if the other one repeats it.)  Well, how about that.

Me:  Yeah, it even has the tongue of a giraffe, which is blue.  And super long.

Frank: A giraffe’s tongue is blue?

Me: Yep!  See?  (Now my cell phone is out and I’m showing him pictures of giraffe tongues.  He is impressed.)

If you really want to get hot and bothered, keep reading because our discussions about the logistics of taking care of twins are practically rated PG-13.

Me: OK, so you’re going to go running at 11 and then I’ll pick up the girls at the sitters and then I’ll go running and then you’ll watch the girls and then you’ll go up to the airport for work and then I’ll watch the girls.  But I need $30 (conveniently, I know that is all the cash that Frank has in his wallet at the moment).

Frank: That’s all the cash I have at the moment.

Me: I know.  (Sly smile)

Frank: OK.

(Ten minutes later Frank tries to hand me the $10)

Me: Um, you’re about $20 short.  Wait, why are you giving me the money?  Aren’t you picking up the girls?

Frank: No, you’re picking up the girls.

Me: I am?

Frank: YES!

Me: Oh, yes, you’re right.  You’re still $20 short.

Frank: Grrr.

And lastly, because every moment can become a fun game that annoys your partner to no end, I use these tactics (among many others) to keep our marriage fresh and exciting.  But, brace yourself, we’re getting into NC-17 territory

Scene: Getting ready for a mid-morning nap sans kiddos after our hot brunch date.

Me: … and so then in my dream last night the hotel wasn’t really a hotel after all, it was the house I grew up in and then there was…

Frank: uh huh…..

Me: (not missing a beat) a big picnic set up in the backyard but it wasn’t really a picnic because there wasn’t food there were PICTURES of food and my first grade teacher was there, or, at least I think it was my first grade teacher but she looked like my 7th grade English teacher with shorter hair.  You know, a pixie-type cut but a little shaggier in the back – kind of like a mullet, but not.  So yeah, my first grade teacher was there and she was like, “Um, Emily, you still didn’t turn in your homework.  You can’t graduate from college.” And then I was like, “What?” and then my mom was there and she was mad and my sister pulled my homework out of her MOUTH…

Frank: uh huh… are we almost done?  I really wanted to take a nap.

Me:  Oh, OK.  Fine.

Frank: Great.  Shhhh.  Sleepies.

Me: SHHHH.

Frank: Shhh.

Me: Sh.

Frank: Sh.

Me: (waiting a few seconds) sh.

Frank: (waiting a few more seconds) sh.

Me: (very, very quietly) sh.

Frank: (trying to be even quieter) sh.

Me: (even quieter than Frank) sh.

Frank: (laughing) OK!  C’mon!  Sleepies!

Me: (giggling) OK… (waiting a few seconds) Shhh.

Frank: ARGH!

Me: And then my DAD was in my dream yelling at my sister for eating my homework.  But it wasn’t my sister any more, it was Gwenyth Paltrow…

Frank: I can’t win.

So yeah, in a nutshell, that’s how you keep the love alive.

Smooches!

three things: my fabulous hubz (winter edition)

I’m sure some of you out there are saying, “Barf.  It’s going to be one of those blogs where you’re all like ‘I love Frank’ wah wah wah. I want dish on how freakishly huge your belly is and when those kids are going to burst forth out of your belly all Alien-like.”  The babies update will come in due time.

And a few of you are probably asking, “What’s a hubz?  Where do I get one?  Nordstrom’s?”

While many a fine item can be purchased at a Nordstrom’s (ie. super big girl sized shoes that are also somehow still a little stylish), a hubz cannot be purchased at a Nordstrom’s.  A hubz (aka, a husband) can usually be found sitting in front of a TV playing a video game or watching a football game.

But not this hubz.

1. thing one: the hubz that cooks

For realz.  My sweet hubz is downstairs making chicken in a red wine reduction, steamed spinach and cooked carrots. And he is a manly cook.  He uses lots of spice, lots of fire, and real ingredients (none of my mamby-pamby splenda  and low-fat sour cream cr@p).  Gentlemen, if you are still looking for a good woman, ask Frank to teach you a few of his cooking tricks and you’ll be hitched in no time.

2. thing two: the hubz that shovels

I’m sure a lot of you have hubzes that shovel.  But until you’ve had to shovel 6″+ of snow in Wisconsin by yourself after working a full day – with the tears that are streaming down your face freezing on the end of your nose – you simply cannot appreciate the amazingness that is having your hubz home from work when the slushiest, iciest, heaviest wintry mix coats your driveway, front walk and steps.  And then when your hubz goes outside for 40 minutes and valiantly tackles this wintry mix (both with shovel and snow plow) without saying a peep about it – that is hotness right there!

3. thing three: tumz

After casually mentioning to the hubz that pretty much every night I want to vomit when I lay down thanks to this thing called acid reflux (thanks baby a and baby b for parking your cute selves on my stomach!), it was a joy to come home to a container of TUMS! While Frank is thoughtful, this particular maneuver might also stem from self-preservation: after hearing all of the middle-of-the-night projectile vomiting stories from my parents (and there are many), I’m sure it’s occurred to Frank that he could be my next victim.  The Hubz is wise and knows his wife well.