For the Guys

My husband, Joe, lost ten pounds in the last two weeks. How, you ask?  Did he saw off his leg or contract malaria? Did he join Riverdance, a performance rumored to be so rigorous that dancers drop pound after pound on stage in water weight, and Irish jig his way to a sleeker frame?

No, he did none of these. He went back to the gym and he cut down on bread and pasta. And he instantly lost ten pounds. How annoying is that?

Anyway, this announcement is unrelated to my post this week, but it was something I thought I would share.

It did make me consider how different men and women are though, from how we lose weight to the way we parent; how we settle conflict and eat cookies and listen to music.

So I decided to nix the post I’d started about how autism and the holidays make me want to pull my eyelashes out one at a time, and write something for the guys. Nothing too serious or long, because if the average guy is anything like my husband, he can only read about two paragraphs at a time about relationships and marriage before his eyes glaze over.

The following are just a few pieces of advice based on hypothetical situations, sixteen years of marriage, and good old common sense.

1. First of all, if you have to go out for dinner after work, either with a client or a few buddies, and your wife has to get five kids through homework and dinner and find the Rubik’s Cube and make the 5-year old brush his teeth again because he snuck a popsicle after brushing the first time, do not walk in the door moments after she’s gotten them all to bed and start talking about how the hostess at the restaurant was really pretty. Just don’t.

We are not, quite frankly, going to give you the feedback you desire from this exchange.

We are not going to say things like, “Oh, that’s great, honey, it’s always nice to have an attractive person to stare at while you eat your tasty steak dinner!”

We are not going to say, “Where do you think she got her short skirt? Maybe I’ll run out tomorrow and try to find one just like it! I bet it’s from Kohls.”

Guys, especially do not do this if you walk in the door and find your wife slumped over the counter wearing a black velour bathrobe and eating Cheez-Its straight out of the box.

(Reminder: all the examples in this post are strictly hypothetical.)

2. Instead of telling your kids, “Don’t talk to you mother that way,” try saying, “Don’t talk to my wife that way.” It gets everyone’s attention, especially hers.

3. Always leave the last Oreo.

4. If someone in your family has an IEP, go to the IEP meetings. Your opinion matters.

5. If your wife asks you how she looks before you walk out the door to a party or dinner with friends, tell her honestly. You are her last line of defense before she goes out into the world.

6. But be kind about it.

7. When you’re sitting next to her in the car and the kids are bickering and whining and shouting and singing the theme song to Frozen at the top of their lungs in the backseat, quietly take her hand across the center console and rub her fingers.

8. Be the husband you hope your son will be or your daughter will marry. Be on time, and call if you’re running late. Be good to your in-laws, even if they’re crazy.

9. Text her during the day—not to ask about soccer practice or dinner or milk, but to share a joke or a story. It will make her feel like a part of your world.

10. Research shows that men are logical and women are emotional, and nothing substantiates this claim better than a big old nasty argument. We fight with our heart and you fight with your big, smarty brains, and the result is usually a spirited impasse. Maybe, next time, meet her halfway. Think less about time and dates and how much a new dishwasher should cost, and consider instead how great it will feel to have clean dishes.

11. If you have been married long enough that your wedding song was recorded on a cassette tape, do not tape over said wedding song with say, music from your favorite Stevie Ray Vaughan album. That happened to a friend of mine and she was super pissed about it.

12. If your wife asks you to go to counseling with her, go with her. It doesn’t matter what the issue is; communication or how to discipline the kids or who spends more money. The universal translation to “I’d like to see a counselor together,” is this: I believe in me. I believe in you. I believe in us.

13. Once a day, kiss her with intention.

14. Don’t be afraid to reveal yourself, to be vulnerable. One night, over a plate of greasy nachos in a dimly lit restaurant, maybe your eyes will fill and your voice will break. “Carrie, not a day goes by when I don’t worry about him.”

15. Every so often, hand your phone or camera over to a stranger or the waiter or the tour guide and say, “Will you take a picture of us, of just me and my wife?”

Guys, if you’re reading this right now, you might be thinking to yourself, why should I? Why should I do all of these things like take pictures together and send random texts and hold her hand when the kids are driving us nuts?

I don’t know you and I don’t know your wife and I certainly don’t know your marriage, but if it’s anything like mine, it is complicated and fun and disappointing and thrilling and ordinary and big. Like a tiny rowboat in the midst of a great sea, it is kept afloat with the smallest gestures; tender kisses and funny stories and honey, I am running late.

It’s anything but hypothetical.

I do know this: being a good husband makes you a good father. It makes you a good brother and friend and dentist and neighbor.

It makes you a good man.

I also know this: you are the single most important person in her life. It is you she calls when the baby has a temperature or her car runs out of gas. Some days, it is you she sees first in the morning and last at night. It is you, God willing, with whom she will grow old.

It is you.

So take a chance today. Start small, with a joke or a text or an Oreo, and watch her face light up. Walk in the door and before you check in with the kids or steal a bite of dinner off the stove or even take off your coat, walk over and kiss her. If you’re feeling really brave, put your wedding song on after the kids go to bed and dance with the woman you married.

Oh, and if any of you happen to see my husband Joe, could you do me a favor and share this post? You’ll know him in a heartbeat. He’s the guy sitting in a restaurant, avoiding the bread basket but eating a steak.

He’s the guy wearing a Stevie Ray Vaughan shirt and wrangling five kids and a puppy into a red minivan so he can get them all to the soccer field on time. He’s sitting in a hushed IEP meeting, and asking if his special son could have an extra session of speech every week.

He is the guy next to me on the long, tan couch in our counselor’s office, holding my hand and rubbing my fingers as we laugh and weep and hope together.

Making the minivan look good.

Making the minivan look good.

A Few Resolutions Before 2015

“Carrie, are you going to sign up for the 30-day challenge?” the yoga instructor asked me after class last week.

“I’m not sure I’m up for it,” I protested as I wiped down my mat. “It was really hot in there today.”

“Come on! All you need to do is breathe, and stay in the room,” she said, quoting the Bikram dialogue for when things get too overwhelming during the 90-minute class. “Think of it as a New Year’s resolution.”

“Uh huh, we’ll see,” I told her.

On the drive home, I thought about resolutions and promises and change. What do I want in the New Year? Now that I’m forty, what do I want in my life, or out of my life? What would I keep, what could I change?

When I walked in the door I jotted down the first things that came to mind:

For thirty days in a row, I will breathe and sweat and stretch in 90-minute silence.

In 2015, I will eat intuitively. I’m not going to cut out carbs or sugar or gluten or dairy or chocolate. I’m not going to think about calories or fat. I’m simply going to eat when I’m hungry and stop when I’m full.

I am going to stop feeling guilty about eating intuitively, because I’ve been eating this way for the past thirty-five years, ever since I stubbornly sat at my father’s table and refused to eat one more bite of chicken because I was full.

I’m going to remember that I know my body and my mind best.

I will laugh at every knock-knock joke I am told, even if it’s the eighty millionth time I’ve heard it.

With all my might, I will try not to go straight to anger. Instead, I will sit with the jagged, broken feelings of anxiety and fear, insecurity and defeat. I will let them roll over me like ocean waves until I am smooth and whole again.

Sometimes, I’ll let my 7-year old daughter, Rose, choose my nail polish.

I will refill the canister of flour when I use the last cup for banana bread. I’m the only one who does it anyway.

I am not going to keep changing the toilet paper roll. I am going to let the natural consequences of no toilet paper take their course for my family. It’s the only way these people are going to learn.

I will keep my phone in my purse when I am driving.

Once a day, I will kiss my husband with intention, instead of always offering the absent-minded peck on the cheek as he walks out the door in the morning and comes home again at night.

When I am in a bad mood, I will turn the music on and dance with my four boys and one girl, because this never fails to lift my spirits.

I will stop relying on the Church to show me the face of God. Instead, I will look past the dusty traditions and time-worn rituals, and look for him myself.

I will stop comparing myself to other people. I will especially stop comparing my butt to other women’s butts. My butt is smaller than some and bigger than others, and I use it to close car doors and shove the couch cushions back into place. But I mostly sit on it, and for this, it has always served me well.

Every once in a while, I will remind myself that autism is not a race to win or lose.

I will try clothes on before I buy them and save myself hours of wasted time returning pants that are too short, shirts that are too tight, and dresses that appeared cute in the store but look weird at home.

I’m going to try and worry less about hapless tragedies; fire and cancer and car accidents and drowning. Because if and when the time comes, I want to die living.

This—all of this—is what I want for my New Year. Flexibility and sweat and whimsy and color and time. I want less worry and anger, more kisses and dancing. I want to enjoy food without guilt and regret’s bitter flavor, and I will not let my insecurities hold me hostage a moment longer.

When I bake banana bread, I want to have the flour ready.

I want to know our Heavenly Father better, because I am certain He is here, all around me. He is in every rainbow and puppy, every smile and every tear, every survivor and soldier and swaddled infant child.

Some days autism feels like a sprint, and other times it’s more of a long, slow marathon. Either way, it is a permanent part of my landscape, and I will never hear the loud burst of fireworks again without wondering if they’re too loud for my son Jack’s tender ears.

Autism is hard and it is fast and it makes my head spin. But when it feels too overwhelming and too hot and too much, I will remind myself that the only thing I need to do is breathe, and stay in the room. And if that doesn’t work, I will take my tall, gangly son by the hands, and we will dance.

Reading over my list of resolutions, I felt weightless and light. I felt free. And I decided I didn’t want to wait until January 1st to begin.

She picked a soft, glittery silver. “Like tinsel, Mom! Your nails will be so shiny.”

My daughter, Rose.

My daughter, Rose.


A Few Resolutions Before 2015

“Carrie, are you going to sign up for the 30-day challenge?” the yoga instructor asked me after class last week.

“I’m not sure I’m up for it,” I protested as I wiped down my mat. “It was really hot in there today.”

“Come on! All you need to do is breathe, and stay in the room,” she said, quoting the Bikram dialogue for when things get too overwhelming during the 90-minute class. “Think of it as a New Year’s resolution.”

“Uh huh, we’ll see,” I told her.

On the drive home, I thought about resolutions and promises and change. What do I want in the New Year? Now that I’m forty, what do I want in my life, or out of my life? What would I keep, what could I change?

When I walked in the door I jotted down the first things that came to mind:

For thirty days in a row, I will breathe and sweat and stretch in 90-minute silence.

In 2015, I will eat intuitively. I’m not going to cut out carbs or sugar or gluten or dairy or chocolate. I’m not going to think about calories or fat. I’m simply going to eat when I’m hungry and stop when I’m full.

I am going to stop feeling guilty about eating intuitively, because I’ve been eating this way for the past thirty-five years, ever since I stubbornly sat at my father’s table and refused to eat one more bite of chicken because I was full.

I’m going to remember that I know my body and my mind best.

I will laugh at every knock-knock joke I am told, even if it’s the eighty millionth time I’ve heard it.

With all my might, I will try not to go straight to anger. Instead, I will sit with the jagged, broken feelings of anxiety and fear, insecurity and defeat. I will let them roll over me like ocean waves until I am smooth and whole again.

Sometimes, I’ll let my 7-year old daughter, Rose, choose my nail polish.

I will refill the canister of flour when I use the last cup for banana bread. I’m the only one who does it anyway.

I am not going to keep changing the toilet paper roll. I am going to let the natural consequences of no toilet paper take their course for my family. It’s the only way these people are going to learn.

I will keep my phone in my purse when I am driving.

Once a day, I will kiss my husband with intention, instead of always offering the absent-minded peck on the cheek as he walks out the door in the morning and comes home again at night.

When I am in a bad mood, I will turn the music on and dance with my four boys and one girl, because this never fails to lift my spirits.

I will stop relying on the Church to show me the face of God. Instead, I will look past the dusty traditions and time-worn rituals, and look for him myself.

I will stop comparing myself to other people. I will especially stop comparing my butt to other women’s butts. My butt is smaller than some and bigger than others, and I use it to close car doors and shove the couch cushions back into place. But I mostly sit on it, and for this, it has always served me well.

Every once in a while, I will remind myself that autism is not a race to win or lose.

I will try clothes on before I buy them and save myself hours of wasted time returning pants that are too short, shirts that are too tight, and dresses that appeared cute in the store but look weird at home.

I’m going to try and worry less about hapless tragedies; fire and cancer and car accidents and drowning. Because if and when the time comes, I want to die living.

This—all of this—is what I want for my New Year. Flexibility and sweat and whimsy and color and time. I want less worry and anger, more kisses and dancing.I want to enjoy food without guilt and regret’s bitter flavor, and I will not let my insecurities hold me hostage a moment longer.

When I bake banana bread, I want to have the flour ready.

I want to know our Heavenly Father better, because I am certain He is here, all around me. He is in every rainbow and puppy, every smile and every tear, every survivor and soldier and swaddled infant child.

Some days autism feels like a sprint, and other times it’s more of a long, slow marathon. Either way, it is a permanent part of my landscape, and I will never hear the loud burst of fireworks again without wondering if they’re too loud for my son Jack’s tender ears.

Autism is hard and it is fast and it makes my head spin. But when it feels too overwhelming and too hot and too much, I will remind myself that the only thing I need to do is breathe, and stay in the room. And if that doesn’t work, I will take my tall, gangly son by the hands, and we will dance.

Reading over my list of resolutions, I felt weightless and light. I felt free. And I decided I didn’t want to wait until January 1st to begin.

She picked a soft, glittery silver. “Like tinsel, Mom! Your nails will be so shiny.”

My daughter, Rose.

My daughter, Rose.

Let’s Change the Conversation

“Mom!” Rose cried last Thursday afternoon. “A boy on the bus told me I look fat in my new coat. He said I look pregnant!”

I stared down at my 7-year old daughter where she stood, holding the offensive navy blue coat I’d just bought her from Lands’ End out like it was a hand grenade.

She just got her ears pierced, I thought absurdly. How can she look pregnant?

“But Rose!” Henry interrupted worriedly. “He say that to everyone! He say that to me too!”

I knelt beside her and stroked her hair. Her face was bright pink.

“Rose, honey, we don’t have to worry about that stuff. We’re Watterson girls!” I told her, referring to my maiden name. “We’re tall, and, well, we’re not fat!”

The minute I said that, my own inner fat girl began to shriek and giggle and gasp for air.

Yes, I have an inner fat girl, and from time to time I feed her. Not with spaghetti or Oreos or candy—although I do that, too, on occasion—but with my confidence, my security, my pride. She shreds each like a piranha.

She likes to say things like, Really? Leggings on those thighs? Or I would stay away from those cookies if I were you!

I remember exactly the day she came to life. I’d gone to visit my grandmother, who was in the last stages of lung cancer and under my aunt’s care at home.

Always incredibly thin to the point of being frail—most likely from years of feeding her inner nicotine and white wine girl—my grandmother had a sharp tongue and a biting wit. And I loved her for both.

But on this day, the very day I went to say goodbye for what turned out to be the last time, I sat down next to where she lay on the couch. With her long, skinny frame and short salt-and-pepper hair, she looked a lot—and I feel badly saying this, I really do—like a cigarette.

As I lowered myself on the cushion near her head, my fragile little grandma—weighing, I don’t know, maybe 80 pounds at this point—rolled towards me, almost sliding right off onto the floor.

And then she said, “You’ll always be a big girl, Carrie.”

I’m not sure how much I’ve told you about Rose, but she’s just about the most specialist person in my world. She loves to bake with me, to measure and pour and mix. Her favorite recipe is chocolate chip biscotti and her favorite meal is steak.

She has the most adorable little bob haircut, and at night after her shower, her damp hair curls up around her smooth, soft cheek. She is at once serious and funny, gentle and strong.

Fat? How can we be having the fat conversation already?

I mean, we’re talking about a girl who tapes handwritten notes up all over the house with words like love and family and big, colorful hearts. IMG_5917

A girl who, every day after school last year, waited until her big brother Jack got on the bus and then walked over to his paraprofessional to ask, “Did he have a good day today?  Was he happy?  If he gets upset, you can come and get me. I know how to help him.”

“Because,” she’d say. “I understand his autism.”

And I know this boy from the bus. He is a funny, sweet, goofy little boy. I know his parents. They are lovely and friendly and kind.

In fact, I was nervous about sharing this post because I didn’t want anyone leaving negative comments about how unkind kids can be; this isn’t about bullies or mean girls or the downside of riding the bus. It’s about changing the conversation.

I want to change the conversation.

Over the weekend Joe and I saw Fleetwood Mac perform. And in the middle of the show, Stevie Nicks told a story about living in San Francisco when she was in her twenties—playing in a small band and opening for big names like Janis Joplin and Jimmy Hendrix—and one day she walked into an expensive store called the Velvet Underground, where all the rock-n-roll stars bought their clothes.

She described how, standing on the beautiful hardwood floor, she had a premonition; an inner voice who told her that something big and exciting was going to happen to change her life. And she was going to be able to afford to buy everything in the Velvet Underground if she wanted.

Her story eventually inspired Fleetwood Mac’s chart-topping song Gypsy.

Sitting in the darkened arena, I thought again about inner voices, and how they can control us and berate us and hold us back, or they can inspire us and propel us forward.

I mean, Stevie Nicks did not walk into the Velvet Underground and think to herself, I won’t be able to fit into any of these clothes I am so fat Janis Joplin is thinner than me I never should have had a muffin for breakfast muffins aren’t Paleo.

No, she thought I don’t know how or where, but I am going to be something one day.

Here’s the thing; I can’t promise that one day Rose won’t gain weight. Maybe she’ll break up with her first love in college and console herself with Ben & Jerry’s for a while. Or maybe she’ll have a baby and have trouble taking those last few pounds off.

And I can’t promise someone won’t say something unkind to her. People are mean and girls are mean and Facebook is mean and sometimes, the world is mean.

As much as I would love to, I cannot wrap this precious child of mine in protective bubble wrap or drive her to school every day. I cannot accompany her on the playground or to middle school dances or her dorm room in college any more than I can cover the issues of Cosmo or Shape or People Magazine while we stand in the check-out line at Target.

I can only change the conversation in her mind, the voices that chant you are not thin enough you shouldn’t eat that don’t wear that why do you look like that. I can only change the music in her ears to quiet the buzzing white noise so she may inspire and be inspired.

I haven’t figured out how to do that just yet, but I do know one thing: I’m not going to tell her she’s skinny or reassure her she’s not fat. In fact, I’m going to take it out of the conversation altogether, because it just doesn’t matter.

In the meantime, I’ll just keep doing what we did last Thursday afternoon. I will bake a big batch of chocolate chip biscotti and let her measure out the sugar and crack the eggs, and when they’re in the oven we’ll take turns licking the beater.

I will tell her that her new winter coat brings out the bluest of her eyes.

For dinner, I will make her favorite steak with broccoli and rice. I will make Jack’s favorite crescent rolls and let them each take a turn rolling out the soft, white dough.

And then, I will sit back and watch her four brothers unintentionally work their magic. I will watch as they remind Rose she is a sister among brothers; a flower surrounded by tall, strong trees.

“But. How. Can you be fat?” 10-year old Jack asked quizzically. “The bones. In your legs. They show.”

“Rose,” 11-year old Joey promised. “We will take care of this.”

“Listen,” 8-year old Charlie reassured her around a mouthful of food. “It doesn’t matter what people say. Just don’t listen.”

“Ro-ro,” 5-year old Henry shouted across the table to his sister with his special nickname. “If it happens again, I walk straight to Mistah Munsey’s office and tell him. Because Mistah Munsey? He say he will talk with you family if you rude.”

Just like that, they changed the conversation.

IMG_5900

This girl.

Marriage is Weird

Last week I was flipping through some magazines at the salon while I waited for my hair to turn blonde, and I came across a quiz designed to help you figure out if your marriage is something called sustainable. It asked you to describe how you knew when your spouse was the one, and then asked you to answer a bunch of questions with always, often, occasionally, or never.

Here is an excerpt of a few questions with my answers:

  • We frequently discuss issues and when we do, the manner in which we discuss issues is completely respectful and not harsh.

(Um, I don’t have an answer for that.)

  • When I reflect upon the fact that I chose to marry the person I did, I feel such peace.

(Yes, peace. Nothing but peace.)

  • My spouse rarely does or says things that frustrate me.

(Always. I mean never. He rarely never does anything to frustrate me.)

  • Although we have our own opinions about many topics, it is rare for my spouse to say or do things that make me truly angry.

(Uh huh. If you say so.)

  • I frequently talk with my spouse and discover new or interesting facts about him/her.

(Yes! Just the other day he came home and told me he bought 297 bars of Irish Spring at Costco.)

 Marriage is sort of weird, isn’t it?

I mean, I knew Joe for a little over two years when he asked me to marry him. I said yes, and we agreed to spend exactly, oh, I don’t know, the rest of our lives together.  We were in our early twenties, so the rest of our lives could easily translate to sixty years or more.

In other words, what were we thinking?

Joe proposed on Easter Sunday in 1996. We’d driven home from college together and then went our separate ways—he to a big, boisterous holiday with a thousand kids and some weird dish called Easter pie, me to a quieter house with just my mother, brother, and sister.

Throughout the day, my mother henpecked and interrogated, demanding when—if!—he was ever going to propose. She used expressions about buying cows and drinking milk and getting things for free.

So, on the ride back to my apartment, I picked a fight with him. I couldn’t bring myself to ask if he was going to propose anytime soon, so I basically wheedled and complained about everything except the issue of commitment.

By the time we walked up the dank stairwell into my apartment, we were barely speaking. He followed me into my small bedroom behind the kitchen, and I burst into tears.

“It’s just my mother said you’re never going to ask me and I can’t wait any more!”

“Fine,” he said disgustedly, taking a small box out his pocket and tossing it onto the light green bedspread. “Here it is!  Will you marry me?”

If that isn’t the most romantic story you’ve ever heard, well, I don’t know what is.

I never really told anyone this. For years afterward, when people asked how we got engaged, I just smiled and said breezily, “Oh, you know, he asked me in my apartment.” I did it in a way that suggested fairy tale proposals were passé, that we were too serious and in love to be bothered with roses or candles or beguiling questions stuffed into fortune cookies.

But really, I felt embarrassed and ashamed. Secretly I worried a proposal born out of an argument was probably not the most auspicious start to a marriage.

A year later we took Pre-Cana; classes the Catholic Church require before you walk down the aisle towards the altar. Every Tuesday for a month, we met with a group of similarly engaged young couples to talk about religion, holidays, and how many kids we thought we’d have.

(He thought we’d have four kids, and I was planning on two, in case you were wondering.)

The petite blonde leading the discussion counseled us to avoid keeping score in our marriage, that it was unproductive and unkind.

Oh, yes, I nodded my head sagely. No score keeping. Keeping score bad. Love good.

I’m pretty sure on the way home from that particular Pre-Cana meeting, I complained that I did the dishes more than he did.

These are the things I didn’t know about Joe until after we got married:

  • He loves buying things in bulk.
  • His favorite holiday is the Fourth of July.
  • He gives the silliest presents.
  • He snores.

This past summer we had a big argument. Over spinach. I know, right? We were finishing up dinner with the kids, when 8-year old Charlie said he couldn’t finish his spinach because he was full.

“No, Charlie I think you can finish it. Come on, just a few more bites,” Joe said.

“Ok buddy, but no ice cream,” I interrupted.

“He’s eaten it before, let him finish it.”

I looked at Joe. “I think he’s done, it’s not a big deal.”

Slowly the other kids got up with wary expressions and brought their dishes to the sink. Charlie stayed behind, pushing his lump of spinach from side to side while he waited for the verdict.

Two months later, when I look back on the disagreement, I can almost add subtitles to our exchange.

“No, Charlie I think you can finish it. Come on, just a few more bites.”

(I’ll handle this, he takes advantage of her too much.)

“Ok buddy, but no ice cream.”

(Who does he think he is? I cooked the meal, I can decide who eats it.)

“He’s eaten it before, let him finish it.”

(Why are you interfering?)

“I think he’s done, it’s not a big deal.”

 (Stop making a big deal about it.)

“I don’t like to make an issue about food.”

(My father used to make us sit at the table for hours until we ate every last bite and I hated the way that felt.)

“Carrie, I’m not making an issue about food.”

(I know this is about your having to sit at the dinner table and finish the ketchup off your plate when you were little but that’s not what this is he’s fine he can eat it he likes spinach stop letting him play you.)

It doesn’t take an advanced Ph.D to see it wasn’t about green, leafy spinach at all—it wasn’t about Charlie’s nutrition or wasting food or ice cream for dessert.

We were keeping score.

Phoebe once told me that marriage is the art of combining your DNA and RNA—essentially, genetics and memories and experiences and perceptions and behavior—with your spouse’s DNA and RNA. Like flowers growing together in a wild and colorful garden, you can either make room for the brilliant yellows and reds and purples, or you can let the wily weeds of resentment and bitterness and anger prevail.

These are the things I know about Joe now:

  • He cannot tolerate traffic.
  • He is easily the most forgiving person I have ever known.
  • He is quietly funny.
  • He is happiest when he’s with the four children he planned to have and the one he didn’t expect.

How would I describe our marriage? I would describe it as good. Aside from my children, it is the single most important relationship in my life.

Are we happy? Most of the time. As the years tick by on the calendar, we seem to learn how to tick each other off less and less.

At this point, I’m nearly certain we’ll come to the end of our lives together. Oh, there will be heartbreak and tears, frustration and fiery arguments. There will probably be disagreements over parenting and vegetables; again and again our resolve to prune and tend and weed will be tested.

But somehow, we will figure out how to make my memory of ketchup and his desire for mealtime order grow alongside each other, like two flowers blossoming in the warm summer sun.

I think that’s what the magazine meant by sustainable.

These are the things I know about marriage now:

  • Even the most unromantic proposal can turn into a good marriage.
  • Keeping score is unproductive and unkind, but oh-so-tempting to do.
  • Marriage is ordinary, extraordinary, and most importantly, it is ours.

As for the first part of the quiz—where it asked when I knew Joe was the one for me—well, I didn’t fill it out. The truth is, I never had a light bulb moment–an exact second in time when I knew  that I could marry him and no other.

But still, I know it.

I know it every time I reach into the linen closet for a new bar of soap. I know it every Fourth of July, when he rummages through our messy garage to find the extra-large headphones so Jack can tolerate the loud boom of the fireworks. I know it every time I look at my engagement ring, with its small ring of diamonds around a sapphire.

And I knew it one hot evening this past August, when I stood at the sink scraping Charlie’s spinach into the garbage disposal, and Joe sidled up next to me with a small smile.

“Tomorrow night, let’s just have corn instead.”

Costco trip.

Costco trip.