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Marriage is not easy, my friends. And we hear this a lot. We’re told that marriage takes work. But do we really hear that message? We may know that marriage isn’t a fairytale, but are we really prepared for the effort required to make marriage successful and fulfilling for the long haul?

Our 30th wedding anniversary is today and I’ve been reflecting on our marriage and marriage in general. Somewhere along the way, I went from being a Wife in the Moment to being a Mom in the Moment, and while in theory, I should have found a way to be both perfectly, in practice that wasn’t so easy.

Even if we think we know what to expect from marriage going into it, there are just some things we can’t be fully prepared for. We may be used to working through the obvious issues, but it’s hard to be prepared for the way having children can impact our relationship. Yes, becoming parents enhances our relationship in so many ways – but it will also most likely add some strain to it.

In the early years, we moms face constant demands on our time, endure exhaustion from sleep deprivation and feeling needed all the time. This often leaves us feeling touched-out and craving time to just crash on the couch. We may feel like we don’t have much left of us for our husbands, and not only does this cause our husbands to feel distanced, it often leaves us feeling guilty.

Before I became a mom, I was really good at being a Wife in the Moment.

Back when we were a couple, and before we became a family, everything was about us. Plenty of couple time, time spent with friends, time to exercise together, time for trips together. We invested so much beautiful time in each other. Of course, I’m well aware of the guidance that reminds us that a happy family is dependent upon a happy marriage. And that the marriage relationship should always be paramount. I’m just going to be honest here, and I think many moms will relate….sometimes this is easier in theory than in practice.

Even after we became parents, the change wasn’t immediate. It happened gradually. We slowly lost some of “us” along the way. Little things added up, and less time devoted to each other exacerbated other issues that would have otherwise been tended to and worked out. Spoiler: we have found our way again and worked out these issues. Where there is love, there is hope. It sounds obvious, but the first step forward in hope is to be mindful of investing consistent time in the “us” relationship. Date nights are great, but simple time together is recharging, too. It can vary by the week, as long as there is a conscious connection. A walk, coffee, or iced tea on the patio and eating dinner separately from the kids are all easy ways to create a connection.

Sydnei and her love of 30+ years

While time is an essential building block of a strong relationship, another important factor in strengthening our love and relationship is good communication. Being tuned in to how we are feeling and then being completely open and sensitive in how we share that. Sometimes there’s accumulated resentment over past disagreements or negative patterns that make it harder for us to communicate from a place of love. When this happens, there is no shame in seeking help. I can attest to the healing power of couple’s therapy. Having a neutral person listen and guide us back to healthy communication, and facilitate us sharing and working through our feelings and needs, was less complicated than it sounds. And it was transformative for our relationship. As couples, we should never stop working on our relationship. Life will throw us curveballs, but it’s up to us how we choose to deal with them.

Love changes over time. We may know that with our minds, but feeling it with our hearts is a whole different thing. What begins as butterflies and dreamy love transforms into deeper, through-the-ugly, intentional love. We took vows on our wedding day and we must choose to keep those vows. We must consciously choose to love each other each and every day…and strive to be both a ‘Wife in the Moment’ and a ‘Mom in the Moment.’

If in the dark we lose sight of love, hold my hand, and have no fear cause I will be here.”-Steven Curtis Chapman

When we stood at the altar over 27 years ago and my friend Marcy sang those haunting words, I had no idea in my 25-year-old head how true they would ring this many years later.  I didn’t know we were embarking on a journey of Three Marriages (and that’s so far…who knows how many more we have in us).Read more of Esther’s story that inspired our interview: The Tale of Our Three Marriages

All About Esther—

Esther is a wife to one and a mom to four grown children (ages 20-28).  She was born a missionary kid in war-torn Ethiopia, but has become a potato chip-eating, football-loving American, Christian wife and mom who has a fierce passion for marriage and family. She’s a little snarky, a little sappy, a little strong and hopefully more than a little Spirit-led.  She’s been driven to her knees in prayer and to raise her hands in praise.  She’s speaks words of hope and wisdom where the heart meets the home and faith touches the family. You can read more of Esther’s beautiful writings at the following: The Dolly Mama Blog, Instagram: Moms of Bigs, Instagram: The Dolly Mama, Facebook: Moms of Bigs, Facebook: The Dolly Mama

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Craig and his wife, Nikki, enjoy the great outdoors surrounding Bend, Oregon

More Happiness in the COVID-19 Era?

In any relationship (Personal or Business), if we can’t be happy together at home in the “shelter in place COVID-19 era”, maybe we need to look in the mirror and be the change. That doesn’t mean you leave your partner, spouse or family and make a new life, it means we find greater happiness in ourselves and it may mean we take this COVID-19 era opportunity to create new better habits together.

The quote about how long it takes to form a new habit goes like this – “It takes 21 days to form a new habit.” Since so many self-help authors have written about making new habits and how long it takes to do so, I decided to find the genesis of that quote and it appears to be here in Psycho-Cybernetics (audiobook) by Maxwell Maltz. I’ve now purchased the book.

Interestingly to me, as I searched a little more I found this study that suggests it takes over 2 months to form a new habit. With that amount of time to be invested, it makes sense to be very intentional about it and that we work to form “good habits” in our personal, family and professional lives.

While personal life and family life are intertwined, I separated them for that same reason to make sure that I’m a better me for me, making me better for my family and my customers, partners, and peers.

Part of making me better is a focus on physical and mental health. The book Younger Next Year has been my go-to for years now, though please don’t buy this book for yourself and then force on your partner or spouse. In 2014, I started on a more intentional fitness path that prepares me for an annual backcountry mountain bike ride on the Kokopelli Trail from Fruita, CO to Moab, UT. The preparation and ride make me better for me, my family and my customers, partners, and peers. You see the theme here.

Now back to the “shelter in place COVID-19 era” and a few observations:

First, my wife Nikki and I are having a blast together. Never perfect, though almost. Same as it was in the pre-COVID-19 era, but slightly better.

Second, we are watching a ton of shows and movies and I really liked the Dolly Parton themed movie Dumplin’ (Netflix). I really enjoyed the Dolly quote “Find out who you are. And do it on purpose”. Too many people (I’ve done it before too) felt others needed to change when we just needed to be a little happier with ourselves.

Third, what’s made Nikki’s and my time together in this COVID-19 era very special are the following, some old and some new:
– WE each have stopped sweating the small stuff

– WE laugh a lot

– WE are not pouting when the other doesn’t want to go to the grocery store, go for a walk, clean the house or do anything when we feel it needs to happen. If you do this pouty thing now, please STOP. Instead, one of us goes to the grocery store, goes for a walk, cleans the house or does anything when we feel it needs to happen and NOT guilt the other.

– WE have always functioned as a team to each do our share of the above OR other critical matters not listed above, like earning a living. It’s a balance, we talk about it and make sure we each give mutually so that one person doesn’t need to do everything.

– WE have added new work, fun, activities, chores, and hobbies that will hopefully become a HABIT alongside those in our pre-COVID lives that will continue to make us better together.

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3 Minute Read

By Lisa Quigley

I think I had a sort of midlife crisis. No, not like that. I didn’t go out and get a tattoo or have some kind of regretful affair. I still drive the same Toyota I drove back when my children sat in booster seats. I didn’t even really change my hairstyle. It was much more subtle than that.

Whatever it was, it was the best thing that could have happened to me.

Last year, on a beautiful evening in June, our daughter graduated from high school. It was a surreal and sweet time. The days leading up to her graduation were filled with anticipation and memorable moments. I watched as she modeled her cap and gown. I took a picture of her leaving for her “last day” of school in precisely the same spot I had taken her picture on the first day of school, some thirteen-grades ago.  

During this time, friends and relatives, from near and far, would send their greetings and wishes. They all seemed to ask the same question. The question that she seemed all too happy to be answering. “So what are your plans from here on out?” I watched as her excitement escalated each time she spoke of all her goals, dreams, and plans that lie before her on a clean slate of the life she was embarking on. We were, and continue to be, so proud of her. 

Strangely, during this time of excitement and nostalgia, waves of anxiousness and grief would wash over me. We would miss our daughter so much, and we would miss the role she has so beautifully played in our family. Our daughter has always been a leader, an encourager, dear friend and wingman to our son, and now she was on the verge of moving on with her own life. 

Graduation proved to be an emotional time, but we’d weathered challenges in our marriage and family before—all which have significantly impacted the course of my life—ultimately giving me strength. So, I knew I had hope.

When our son was only two, he was diagnosed as being on the autism spectrum—the diagnosis was both shocking and a relief. Our hunches made sense. We knew what we were working with. We took a deep breath, rolled up our sleeves, and got to work.  

Life was hectic. Our lives revolved around specialists, horse therapy, occupational therapy, speech therapy, and my personal favorite, dog therapy. Then came school and Special Education classes (SPED), more therapy, Individual Education Plans, and painful, sometimes tense, communications with teachers and principals. During these years, we cycled through an erratic, and always an unpredictable pattern of joy and grief that seems to have no timetable.

My wonderful husband was a rock to our family as we navigated the life we’d been given. He is a CPA and works very long hours. Our life, as a family, revolves around Tax Season. Like many other wives of Accountants, I solo parented about one-third of the year.  

During this time and even during the “off-season”, we did a lot of tag-team parenting. My husband would take the kids to do something on a Saturday afternoon to give me “a break.” I would take the kids and go out of town to visit friends for the weekend as ‘Dad’s going to be at work anyway.’ The kids and I would spend several weeks in the summer at a summer camp run by friends.  

As the kids attended the camp, I helped run the camp. During these years, I even took a job in retail. The flexible schedule of working nights and weekends guaranteed there was consistency in therapy and parenting. The kids were doing well. Our son was blooming. All of our work seemed to be paying off. 

The years passed, things began to fall into a pleasant routine. The kids grew. Life began to run smoother. We reached the point in our parenthood, where we could leave the kids home alone for a short time. It was then that my husband and I started a little activity that would become a life-changing ritual. 

We embarked on a new adventure. That’s right, we began taking a walk in the neighborhood most evenings, after dinner. 

After so many years of talking about kids, parenting, therapies, it seemed that life had settled down, and we had the chance to talk about more important things. We talked about us. We talked about politics and football, sometimes we bared our souls to each other. We joked and laughed. We spoke encouraging words to each other. 

Even though our neighborhood runs along a freeway, our walks had the magic of a long trek in the woods or a stroll along a river in some exotic city. These treasured walks also made me realize how much I missed my husband. 

At the risk of sounding corny, I fell in love with my husband again on those walks. I will admit it, how much our relationship had fallen into doing life with each other, but not necessarily together. I remembered just how much I loved being married to my husband. We both agreed that we needed to do what we had done with our son so many years ago. We rolled up our sleeves and got to work—this time on our marriage.

Those walks turned into hikes. I started going to the college sporting events that my husband so enjoys, the ones for so long I told him to go ahead and take one of the kids to, so I could get some things done around the house. After the games, we would continue talking over a meal at an eccentric restaurant in our town. 

We started binge-watching a NetFlix series together (why did it take so long for us to discover HOMELAND?). During this time, something else happened. Even though we were focusing more on us, our son continued to grow and experience life just as we had watched him do when we were so focused on his care and progress.  

Just like many of our friends that we have known for years in the small town where we live, we are all on the doorstep of our empty-nester years. Like many of those same friends, we are talking of taking more trips, a more peaceful schedule, and learning new skills as a couple. 

Unlike many of the couples we have literally grown up with, the rest of our lives will, at least in some part, include our son. We absolutely remain vigilant in our coaching of him and encourage him to pursue his dreams. We expect him to live a full life of his choosing. In that expectation, we also realize that we will need to be a sort of home base, mentor, and guide. Our parenting will need to carry on, at least in the form of a consultant to our son as he grows older.

We look to our future responsibilities as parents in this type of arrangement, with the same passion we began this whole journey on. Thankfully, we are going to continue on this journey together, and that makes me smile.

So, was it a midlife crisis? I’m not entirely sure, but it was certainly a wake-up call.  A sort of alarm that happened to wake me up in time, before someday when we both realized—sadly, a little too late—that besides having raised two children, we had nothing in common. 

It was like a text alert for my soul, reminding me how thankful I am that I married my husband, and how blessed we are to do life together. In the end, it was definitely a gift.

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January 7, 2020

Life begins at the end of your comfort zone”-Spartan.com

My wife and I will celebrate our 25th anniversary this year, and I am chasing her tail with a renewed sense of vigor.

You see, in the last few months we’ve come to enjoy trail running together, and my wife usually sets the pace, which means her backside is my focal point—kind of like the pacesetting rabbit at the greyhound races.

So why take up an activity like this now?  Having both passed the half-century mark, what possessed us to begin running up and down the hilly trails around town?  To answer that, we need to go back 15 years…

Like many families, my wife Amy and I were busy with work and raising kids.  We pursued an active lifestyle, coaching our kids’ athletic teams, and playing outside as often as we could.  Amy and I were both raised in active families and just naturally continued that lifestyle with our children.  However, we never had a formal “exercise regimen” as part of our schedule.  Life had settled into a routine of sorts.  

Then, I received a heart-wrenching phone call.  Amy and the kids had gone to spend a couple of days with friends on the coast.  Not long after she left she called me, and as I answered the phone she cried out, “We’ve been in a horrible car accident, and Andrew is dead.”  Andrew is our oldest son.  Within seconds she said, “Oh, he just jumped out of the car and is okay. Gotta go.” And then she just hung up… 

It turned out they’d been slowing down on the highway to turn across traffic and were rear-ended, totaling the two cars they were in. Amy and the two younger children were in the first car, and Andrew was in the second. She assumed Andrew couldn’t have survived the accident based on the impact she felt in the lead car.

Amy’s van was pushed off the side of the road but these cars were not so fortunate.

While our three children, aged 6, 4, and 1, and Amy had no visible injuries, it was clear to the paramedics that Amy was confused and was developing a headache and neck pain.  She was transported to the hospital by ambulance, where she was evaluated and diagnosed with a concussion.  

While Amy didn’t appear to be injured, she’d suffered a serious head injury, leaving her unable to remember how to use a phone book or even perform simple addition, much less any of her graphic design work.  Her headaches were often debilitating, and we eventually discovered she had injured her neck as well, which would require a fusion a few years later.  

As Amy struggled to recover, my responsibilities at home increased significantly.  Life became simply about survival.  

In order to keep up with work and a busy family schedule, we ate a lot of prepared meals and takeout.  And exercise? It was non-existent.  

Amy tried her best to keep up, but physically demanding activities were too much for her.  I tried on multiple occasions to begin an exercise program but could not sustain a routine.  

During that timeframe, we had the help of an excellent counselor.  He warned us that 80% of marriages where one spouse has suffered a traumatic brain injury, end in divorce.  To combat this, he impressed upon us the importance of maintaining good sleep patterns, a healthy diet, and regular exercise.  

I can’t say that we really excelled in any of those areas, but Amy did make some major progress in recovery from her brain injury.   We also hired a personal trainer and were working out as a family once a week. Plus, I was trying to work out on my own several days a week. 

Then, four years ago, I flunked a life insurance physical.  I was stunned.

Sure, I was carrying a few extra pounds.  And I knew that the stress from work and some related projects was less than healthy.  But being told my blood pressure was elevated and my blood sugars were in the diabetic range was a complete surprise.  

Now a good diet and exercise regimen wasn’t just a good idea, they were a necessity.  Amy helped to overhaul our dietary regimen and worked hard to cook healthy meals while I began rowing a half an hour a day.  I lost weight, and my numbers came back down within three months.  But I got bored—rowing nowhere fast.  

Amy’s father, who has always been an inspiration to us, asked us to do a mud run along the way for fun—which it was. Who knew getting dirty exercising could be so much fun?  

Then a year into our lifestyle change, a friend invited me to join a group running in a more competitive obstacle course race.  I found this race not only fun but invigorating. 

So in 2017, I started searching for my own races to compete in and found a Spartan Race close to home. (Spartan is a brand in the growing sport of obstacle course racing which involves running over varying terrain with obstacles thrown in along the course.  Think basic training.) 

I signed up for a 4-mile/23 obstacle course race in Portland, Oregon, and ran it in memory of a college roommate who had recently committed suicide. I knew if I wanted to be around for my own family, I needed to improve my own physical health.

I was hooked.  

Mark completing the ‘Fire Jump’

In addition to winning a medal for completing the race, I earned 1/3 of a Spartan Trifecta medal.  If I could finish two more Spartan races, their middle distance, and the longer distance called the Beast, I would complete the three-piece medal and earn my place in the ’Spartan Trifecta Tribe.’  

Never one to pass up a challenge, and irritated by missing two pieces of the medal, I signed up for two more races, one at Big Bear and one in Sacramento, California.  I started training for the obstacles, watching videos, and doing research and apparently talking about it—a lot.  My kids accused me of “geeking out” over my new hobby.

I traveled to California twice before the end of the year and raced on my own.  With all three pieces of the Trifecta medal, I had joined the Tribe.   I felt an incredible sense of accomplishment, but it was also lonely, crossing the finish line without anyone to help celebrate the moment.  

So, what does this have to do with marriage in the second half of life?  Everything, thanks to my amazing wife.

Amy is smart and intuitive and understood how motivating these races were to me.  With our kids about to leave the nest, Amy realized that if this was important to me, she wanted to give it a try as well. 

Running up hills, climbing over walls, crawling under barbed wire, carrying buckets of rocks, and throwing a spear didn’t sound like fun to her (well, maybe throwing spears), but she signed up anyway for me, and more importantly, for us.  

Our first race together was with a group of friends.  The challenge stimulated her competitive nature, and she agreed to go back to Sacramento with me to do the middle distance race, 8 + miles, and 25 + obstacles.  

We finished the race together, sharing in the sense of accomplishment and celebrating together at the finish line.  

Couple running in the Spartan obstacle course race
Finishing hand-in-hand

As we were driving home, feeling that good sense of tired and sore, it occurred to me that our weekend spent racing fulfilled another desire that we had — to have a weekend getaway.  While the purpose had been to run the race, we had enjoyed the entire weekend together, talking, eating out, and just being together.  

In 2019, Amy wanted to take on the challenge of finishing her own Trifecta.  So we started working out together at Orange Theory, which we found was a good fit for both of us.  After encouraging Amy to actually do some running before tackling the Spartan Beast, a 12+ mile race with over 30 obstacles, we started trail running on Saturdays, slowly building up our mileage.  

Initially reluctant, as Amy didn’t think she enjoyed running, she’s found that running together through the trees on the trails around Eugene, Oregon energizing and a lot of fun.  

As I write this, we are traveling back from SoCal, where we combined our racing with an opportunity to see our college-age kids.  We spent dinner with them on Friday night, and our youngest hung out with them during the day while Amy and I raced, then we all celebrated with dinner.  On Sunday morning, we all went to church and then finished with brunch before heading back to Oregon.  It was a rich weekend with family. 

And even more amazing, Amy finished the third leg of her Trifecta, earning her membership in the “Tribe.” 

A couple who won a Spartan Obstacle course race and renewed the passion in their marriage
After both completed the Trifecta

When you consider where she was 15 years ago, with a traumatic brain injury and a neck injury requiring a fusion, this is an incredible accomplishment, and I couldn’t be more proud of her.  She said it was the most challenging thing she has ever done, physically, emotionally, and mentally—but well worth the effort.

Our mutual love and respect for each other, and pride in one another’s accomplishments have grown immensely. This is all because Amy was willing to try something new, out of her comfort zone, to spend time with me.

Finding an activity we both enjoy, and competing together, has renewed our passion for one another and has definitely brought us closer together.  We are blessed that it has become something we both love to do.  

Our goal going forward is to complete at least one Trifecta a year and expand our travel horizons to include international races.  Sparta, Greece, is foremost on our bucket list.  And hopefully, someday soon you’ll see the two of us up on the winner’s podium for our age group.  

In the meantime, my life is so much richer than two years ago when I finished my first Spartan Beast in the dark, surrounded by strangers and feeling oddly alone, without anyone to help celebrate my accomplishment

Having my best friend and partner cross the finish line, holding my hand, makes it infinitely sweeter.  And it doesn’t hurt that I get to chase her tail up the hills every week – she even lets me catch her once in a while. 

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“I’m stronger because I had to be, I’m smarter because of my mistakes, happier because of sadness I’ve known, and now wiser because I learned.” -Unknown

4 Minute Read

If you’re a golfer, you’re familiar with the term mulligan. It’s an unofficial chance to replay a bad shot. Sometimes, all it takes is a fairly easy chip-shot to put you back in play, but for some of us… it takes more effort, patience and perseverance than we ever thought possible. 

This, my friends, is My Mulligan Story.

When I met my ex-husband in my early twenties, I knew marrying him meant I’d eventually move 5,000 miles across the Pacific. I’d always been an adventurous spirit, and Asia, in particular, fascinated me. 

It was all so new and exciting in the beginning. I fell in love with my adopted country’s customs, history, food, and most importantly, the people. I still have a deep affection for the Asian culture.

However, as the years went by our different cultural expectations surrounding marriage began to clash. While I thought of us as a partnership, my husband had very different views, and his family’s interference in our lives began to take a toll on me.

I’d been warned before we married “that I would always be an outsider” but I thought after my daughter and son were born, things would be different. I couldn’t have been more wrong.

Even worse, over the years, my husband had become more verbally, and at times, physically abusive. I think I went into shock the first time he berated me, let alone hit me; I couldn’t believe it was really happening. I was too educated, too independent, and too worldly to be in an abusive marriage, yet here I was. 

Growing up, I naively viewed divorce as a failure, so I made a vow to myself to stay with him for my children’s sakeRegrettably, I remained in an unhappy and harmful marriage for years, even as the abuse escalated in frequency and magnitude.

I finally made the difficult decision to seek a divorce. I did not want my children to think it was normal for a man to throw insults or hit a woman… ever!

So, in the spring of 2008, I secretly returned to the United States with two suitcases, and my two most valuable possessions-my children

I’d spent twenty years immersing myself in the Asian culture, raising my children and creating a career I loved, all which had afforded us prestige and wealth. This country had become our home. With no good-byes to anyone…I left it all behind.

I knew it was going to be difficult, but I had no idea just how much...

Two days after arriving in the United States, my mother, my only living parent, passed away. I hadn’t even unpacked or found a suitable place for us to live; I was devastated.

Grief overwhelmed me, as I was still heartbroken over my 31-year old nephew dying unexpectedly a week earlier. All this, in addition to having recently lost my brother to pneumonia. Losing three close family members within six weeks was almost unbearable.

The loss continued to mount as I discovered my investments were half of what they were just a few months before we’d left Asia. It was 2008, and the world’s economy had gone into a free-fall, and my savings along with it.

The best option was to move into a trailer on my sister’s property for eighteen months until I was financially stable enough to move us out on our own; I was humbled to my core.

In just a few months, I’d lost treasured family members, a host country I’d grown to love, my life-savings and my beautiful home.  If it had not been for my kids, I may not have gotten out of bed for months. 

My children’s zest for life kept me going, as they needed me more than ever. They needed me to help them learn English, to navigate the American school system, and to adjust to new customs on this side of the Pacific.

The first several years were filled with angst. As a single parent, I worked a part-time job, attended graduate school to earn my teaching degree, and engaged in a never-ending, bitter divorce.  After two years of paying lawyers on both sides of the Pacific, I was emotionally and financially drained.

When you hit rock bottom, the only positive aspect is life can only go up, and it finally did…

I landed a full-time teaching position three years after arriving in the States, and we were finally able to move into our own apartment. We were genuinely happy for the first time in years.

In a relatively short amount of time, I had created a beautiful life with a rewarding new job, great friends, and of course, my children. My life was full.

My children were amazingly resilient through it all, and were now busy with school activities and going out with their friends on weekends. So much so, I often found myself, alone, on the couch playing online Bingo. 

My daughter, however, had a different view of my cozy-couch-life…

One Friday night as she was getting ready to go out with friends, and I was relaxing on the couch completing a small kite in Bingo, she announced, “Mom, it’s time to get life.” Translation: You should start dating.

I could not think of anything more dreadful. In fact, I’d already decided I would never marry again, and I definitely didn’t need a man to complete me.

Around the same time, a friend kept trying to set me up on blind dates. I didn’t think I had the time, energy, or desire to date, but my girlfriend was relentless.

So on one unusually warm spring day, I accepted her invitation to what I thought was a girl’s get-together, and surprisingly found myself sandwiched between my girlfriend and her handsome friend at a collegiate sporting event. 

This was the first time I was fortunate enough to spend time with Robert, and I was shocked at how much I enjoyed his company.  He was goodlooking, easy to talk to, and had a wicked sense of humor. He was so fun to spend time with; I’d never felt so at ease.

Many more wonderful times followed as we discovered we shared many common interests, including our love for beer, sports, and travel.  Also, our views of the world and our place in it aligned.

With Robert, I laugh all the time.

My kids took to Robert right away and before we were even married, they started referring to him as their “step-dad.” He blended into our family, and definitely stepped-in when he was needed most. 

From the beginning, our relationship developed so naturally, with such mutual respect, that after five years together we decided to get married.

Robert is my mulligan, my do-over…my official chance to replay a bad shot. 

We were married on a glorious sunny day on a golf course overlooking the 18th-hole. We’d found our oasis in the desert outside Las Vegas, following what had been the most difficult period in my life. 

Robert has made me believe in love again and I couldn’t be happier.

__________________________________

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If you or anyone you know is being abused, we encourage you to seek help. The Domestic Violence Hotline 1-800-799-7233 is available 24/7/365 to be a confidential resource for you. https://www.thehotline.org/help/path-to-safety/

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“Cuddle with me so I can put my freezing cold feet on you and probably use you as a pillow and steal all the covers.  K.  Thanks.”  (Pinterest)

On our wedding day 28 years ago, my husband’s father and our best man, implored us in his toast that the THREE MOST IMPORTANT words in our marriage to come would be these:  Pirates.  Penguins.  Steelers.

I can’t say he was entirely wrong.  Having been raised in the Steel City, my husband IS all about these black and gold teams that grace the small city of Pittsburgh. 

Little did I realize the sacrifice he was making on our honeymoon when his precious Penguins were in the Stanley Cup final (that’s the Super Bowl of hockey) and I was completely oblivious (and possibly admonishing) to Allen’s frantic search for a newspaper some mornings to find the score of the game the night before (this was during those olden days without internet or cell phones)! 

Happy to say they won their VERY FIRST CHAMPIONSHIP that year and don their team name on the trophy!

Heeding Allen’s father’s advice, I have embraced these three words (well, two of them fully and one of them only if I can get to a live game because watching baseball on TV is akin to watching golf…not heart-pumping enough for this wiggly, mile-an-hour girl).  They have been a tremendous plus to our marriage, and as many of you know, I am now almost a bigger Steelers fan than he is!

Fast forward.  Four houses.  Four kids.  Four jobs.

Unhealed, hidden selves (very hidden on the day we said “I do”) bubble to the surface and bump up against one another.  As our marriage clock tick-tocks, the bumps get stronger and louder and more painful.

Words of defeat and shame are uttered (by me).  “Are we going to make it?”  “What is wrong with me/you/us?”  “Is there any hope?”

THREE choice, sacred, life-giving, hope-gathering words are voiced (by my husband).   “WE’RE STILL LEARNING.”

I am taken aback, the words bouncing around like a super ball, uncatchable.

“But,” I whisper to myself, “we’ve been at this for a long time.”  Defeat and shame creep back over and over, sometimes kept hidden inside, other times shouted in anger and most often, spoken desperately alongside tears of fear.

Again and again, time after time, the three words of life and hope and healing pour from my husband’s mouth.  “WE’RE STILL LEARNING.”

These simple THREE words:

  • allow grace to cascade over us like a waterfall in the middle of a marriage drought
  • bring mercy to the unhealed selves that keep banging into each other
  • remind shame (in no uncertain terms) to “GET OUT of our house and our lives and our marriage!”
  • spark forgiveness as we stop demonizing and begin humanizing each other
  • usher discovery, newness and life into what seems unchanging, decrepit and even dead
  • grant bravery to our fearful parts, allowing for a life-long journey of change, growth and healing
  • energize our hearts to experience freedom from the past and anticipation for the future
  • breathe desperately-needed and longed for HOPE to the deepest parts of these two souls and bodies, uniting them again and again in ways previously unknown

Today, on our anniversary, we headed on a hike through a windy, periodically smooth, sometimes unmarked, gloriously scenic, often rocky, difficult-to-navigate in spots, kind of scary, breath-taking trail in Allamuchy Mountain State Park. Our favorite part of all was two swans (did you know they mate for life?) with their babies!

We talked about our favorite memories of this marriage we’ve shared. 

Two things we noticed:  most of them were hiking of some kind and lots of them were when something didn’t go quite as we planned (like the time we ended up in some woods filled with mosquitoes and we had to sprint from one end to the other, laughing and swatting as we went).

Marriage is like hiking

It’s windy.  It’s periodically smooth-sailing.  It’s unmarked in places.  It’s gloriously scenic.   It’s difficult to navigate in spots.  It can be scary.  It definitely takes our breath away at times.  We need hope every single day. 

We need all that these three simple, yet profound words speak to. 

Today, this best gift of my husband, “WE’RE STILL LEARNING,” wash over my soul afresh, hope and life breathed anew.

Here’s to AT LEAST 28 more years!

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