Posts Tagged ‘marriage’

Five years of marriage

Two houses. Three cars. Two master’s degrees (one for each of us). Seven jobs and multiple freelance gigs (between the two of us). Two churches. One new nephew, followed closely by one new niece.


Two high school reunions. One cross-country move (totaling more than 2200 miles). Twenty or more weekend getaways. Countless dinner dates and bowls of guacamole, kisses and hugs and a few arguments, quiet evenings in the living room watching Friends or reading or doing the crossword.

k & j fenway

So many Sundays singing next to one another. Five Easters, five Thanksgivings, five Christmases. Hundreds of ordinary days, spent blissfully together.

Happy fifth anniversary, love. I can’t wait for the next five.

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Recently, J and I had lunch with another couple, who moved to Boston this summer. They also have roots in the South, so a discussion of holiday travel plans led to a discussion of road trips, and we began trading stories of our respective treks to Boston.

They recounted their drive from Memphis, how they managed it in a single, grueling 27-hour stretch. They laughed as they remembered navigating their moving truck down narrow Boston streets, with frequent “No Trucks” signs and no place to turn around, no choice but to go forward.

We laughed in sympathy, and shared highlights from our own four-day odyssey from Texas to Boston, two years ago.

road trip car highway sky moving boston

The long first day, the end of which found us still in Texas (albeit on the border). The moving truck trouble that kept us in Nashville an extra twelve hours, to our hostess’ delight and our mixed joy and chagrin. The desperate phone call to friends in southern Virginia, who let us stay at their house even though they were out of town, when it became clear we would never reach Maryland on the third day. (I will never forget that act of kindness.) The long fourth day (and the rain all through Pennsylvania); the fruitless search for a gas station bathroom in Connecticut. The sheer relief of pulling into a driveway west of Boston, well after dark, and Abi running down the sidewalk to meet me, her arms spread wide in welcome.

“These are the stories you tell,” I commented, as I listened to J recount parts of our story and jumped in to add context and details. Our move to Boston is already one of the turning points of our marriage, a jagged, exciting new chapter, and we have already told and retold the tale of how, exactly, we got here. Our friends will do it too: five and ten and thirty years down the line, they will remember the fresh, anxious adrenaline rush of driving that rental truck through Boston.

Some of the details of our moving saga will fade with time; others will make their way into family legend. Our children will know this story, the way I know the stories my dad tells and retells around the dinner table. There are anecdotes from his childhood on a Missouri farm, from when he worked on his uncle’s land in the summers, from his newlywed years with my mom. Stories from when my sister and I were little, many of which became the impetus for family jokes. (My husband and my brother-in-law have heard a lot of explanations over the years, as we four Noahs keep translating our family vernacular for them.)

Just like my dad, I reach for the same stories over and over again, to explain a trait or share a memory or make friends laugh. I often find myself saying to friends, “You’ve probably heard this story before.” But I keep telling them, the same anecdotes and jokes, because those stories make up the fabric of my life, my marriage, my family’s life together.

What stories do you tell over and over again?

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I mentioned recently that the dinner table is central to our liturgy of marriage – so central, in fact, that it has its own liturgy. Inspired by Kari’s thoughts on the liturgy of parenting.

table summer dinner

The Call to the Stove
Hi, love. I’m on my way home.
Great. I’ll start the water boiling, turn on the oven, begin chopping vegetables, and/or assemble the ingredients for a soup, pizza or enchiladas. See you soon.

The Kitchen Dance
Can you hand me that knife? Pass the cutting board.
Is there any more chili powder? We’re out of garlic again.
That looks/smells delicious. Stir the soup, will you? Hand me the spatula.

The Setting of the Table
Do we need forks? Knives? Are there any clean cloth napkins?
There should be. Look in the other drawer.

The Breaking of the Bread
Mmmm. This looks delicious. Lemonade or water?

The Communion
How was your day? Tell me about your clients, your co-workers, your sessions.
I did some writing. Ate lunch in the Public Garden. I’m reading this great book.

The Holy Embrace
Thanks for making dinner. It was delicious.
I’m glad you like it.
I’m glad you made it.

The Clearing
Did you get all the dishes from the table?
I’ll wash, if you dry.

The Amen
Want some ice cream?
Yes. Absolutely.


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My friend Kari recently wrote about the liturgy of parenting. While I’m not a parent (though perhaps I will be someday), I’ve been thinking about the liturgy of marriage.

Liturgy is one of those scary church words, calling up images of incense and vestments, chanting and creeds, kneeling and praying and altars and the church calendar. It encompasses all those things. But more simply, Webster’s defines it as “a customary repertoire of ideas, phrases, or observance.” I have heard it defined, broadly, as any sequence of things you do over and over again. My marriage has its own liturgy, one that stretches back four years and is stretching forward into an as yet unknowable number of days.

We wake up side by side, a few minutes before the alarm, and he reaches an arm over to pull me close. We curl into each other like a pair of quotation marks, until the piano music makes itself heard over the whir of the box fan or the oil furnace, and one of us (usually him) gets up.

I wipe the toothpaste off the bathroom faucet, over and over. I tease him, gently, about the clothes on the floor, the dark hairs scattered over the white sink. I tease because I don’t want to nag, because nagging never works, because I don’t want to start off our mornings sniping at one another. I have successfully trained him to make the bed (though I usually do it because he’s the first one up). And he (nearly) always puts his clothes in the hamper, because he can shoot them in like basketballs. He has always been one of those boys who will turn anything into a game of baseball, of basketball, of catch. I am thankful for small victories.

table with tulips dining room

The table is central to the liturgy of our marriage. I grew up in a house where dinner was on the table nearly every night, along with the expectation that we would all be there, together, to pray and eat and laugh and talk about our days. Now, four or five nights a week, six if we’re lucky, we face each other across the dining room table I’ve had since college. (At least once a week, we share dinner with friends, around our own table or theirs.)

We eat pasta and pizza and salad and burritos, soups and enchiladas and other homemade dishes (and, occasionally, takeout) off our red and blue dishes. We use the cloth napkins I bought right after we got married. Sometimes we light candles. We talk about our days, our families, what we’re reading, our jobs. And we laugh.

No one goes to the living room till we’ve either washed and dried the dishes or decided jointly to leave them until tomorrow. I usually wash while he dries, and we step around each other in the choreographed dance of the kitchen, the dance of providing, of tending our home, of creating nourishment to give one another.

We dance around each other in the late evening too, as we brush our teeth, change into pajamas, toss our clothes into laundry hampers or hang them up to wear again. His shoes multiply like mushrooms at the base of his tall hamper. My cardigans and jackets hang on hooks and doorknobs, and once every few days I gather them up and divide them between hamper and closet.

We flop into bed, each with a book. He tackles nonfiction tomes like Kissinger’s book on China, content to stay in one subject, dwell in one set of ideas, for weeks. I save the more cerebral reading for earlier in the day, and for bedtime reading I choose books full of gentle humor and quiet wisdom: Miss Read, Patrick Taylor, assorted middle-grade and young adult lit.

He always turns out his light first (I would read till the wee hours if I didn’t have a day job to go to). I read a few more pages, finishing my chapter, then click off my lamp and reach over to pull him close to me.

We curl into one another like a pair of quotation marks, until one of us shifts or rolls over. Still touching, still barely awake, we murmur, Good night. Sweet dreams. I love you.

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I wanted it to be you. I wanted it to be you so badly.

—Kathleen Kelly, You’ve Got Mail

Serving the wedding cake

Four years ago today, we stood up in front of God and our families and our friends who are also family, and we promised each other: It will always be you.

In Maine, last weekend

Happy anniversary, love. You’re my favorite.

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My friend Leigh has been running a series on her blog since February – asking some of her friends and favorite bloggers how they met their spouses. I’m honored to share my story today. Hop on over and check it out!

(Image by Paul Norman Photography)

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I am married to a marriage and family therapist.

And up until about a month ago, we rarely talked about money.

I know. My sweet husband spends his days helping couples, teenagers and families talk through their biggest issues, and we usually don’t have a problem talking about ours. But since our financial situation has fluctuated rather wildly during our three years of marriage (due to graduate school, a cross-country move and shifting employment situations for both of us), and since we’re both frugal, make-it-work people, we’d adopted a make-it-work policy of budgeting, paying bills and treating ourselves once in a while. This policy was working pretty well – but we didn’t have an overall plan. We’d never actually sat down to have any sort of financial “meeting.”

Enter Dave Ramsey’s Financial Peace University class, which we’re taking this fall (along with about a dozen others at our church). I admit, Dave Ramsey’s style kinda drives me nuts (either the man drinks too much coffee or he’s just naturally caffeinated) – but his principles so far seem mostly practical and sound to me. And the course is forcing us to do what we’d never done: take a good hard look at our finances, and talk at length about our attitudes toward money, our spending/saving/giving habits, and our plans for the future. (And give us a big push toward knocking out some of our substantial student loan debt.)

I’ve picked up some useful tidbits from Dave’s video lessons, and from our post-lesson discussions with the group. (It doesn’t hurt that our course leader is a financial planner and CPA.) But by far the most formative, challenging part of the course has happened when I’ve sat down at the kitchen table with J, pencil and bank statements at hand, to discuss where our money’s going, and how we can save more, give more and manage it better. (Side note: I love Mint.com’s handy budgeting tools and pie charts, where you can see all your accounts in one place.)

We are not rich, nor are we accountants (and talking about money for too long stresses J out, so we’ve learned to take breaks and focus on the most important things during each session, rather than hashing out every single detail). But it feels good to be formulating a purposeful plan for our money, rather than flying by a slapdash strategy. It’s helping me think more deliberately about purchases large and small – and coming to terms with my own attitude, and fears, about money. Most importantly, it’s drawing me closer to the man with whom I share my life and bank accounts – and that, to quote our friends at MasterCard, is priceless.

Have you taken a financial management course? If so, what have you learned? (I’m always eager for more tips.)

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For our third anniversary last Tuesday, J and I decided to eat at home instead of going out. Since I work downtown and he works way south of the city, going out on weeknights can be a scheduling challenge – plus we’d just spent a weekend on the Cape with lots of eating out. So we planned a special meal of manicotti with tomato sauce and homemade blackberry cobbler (a summertime favorite).

We did have our special dinner (and it was delicious), and we did exchange cards and gifts and spend some time laughing and talking and just being together. But we also had a long, rich, deep Skype conversation with a friend who is spending a life-changing summer interning in New York, and later I talked to my parents and told them all about our Cape weekend.

This connectedness has been a hallmark of our marriage – time alone together interspersed with deep friendships, for both of us individually and as a couple. And I wouldn’t have it any other way.

Our evening reminded me of a favorite passage from Madeleine L’Engle, in A Circle of Quiet, the first of her four memoir volumes:

It’s all right in the very beginning for you to be the only two people in the world, but after that your ability to love should become greater and greater. If you find that you love lots more people than you ever did before, then I think that you can trust this love. If you find that you need to be exclusive, that you don’t like being around other people, then I think that something may be wrong.

This doesn’t mean that two people who love each other don’t need time alone. Two people in the first glory of new love must have great waves of time in which to discover each other. But there is a kind of exclusiveness in some loves, a kind of inturning, which augurs trouble to come.

Hugh was the wiser of the two of us when we were first married. I would have been perfectly content to go off to a desert isle with him. But he saw to it that our circle was kept wide until it became natural for me, too. There is nothing that makes me happier than sitting around the dinner table and talking until the candles have burned down.

I cherish this idea of keeping the circle wide – because it means we’re keeping our lives big, letting plenty of space and light into our relationship, allowing ourselves room to stretch and grow. There’s a balance to be struck, certainly, and we both cherish our solitude and just-the-two-of-us time. But I love the image of a wide circle, glowing with candlelight, making room for all the people we love and who love us.

How do you keep the circle wide in your life?

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Last weekend, J and I hopped in my car and took off for a third anniversary weekend getaway on the Cape – which we’ve been meaning to visit since we moved here. And, well, it wasn’t quite what we expected.

First of all, we got a super late start on Friday, due to too many errands left undone till the last minute. Planning to leave mid-morning and not getting off till 1:30 does not make my clock-watching husband a happy traveler. (Even if, as I reminded him several times, we are not on a schedule.)

Second, as we drove, the weather threatened rain – gray, misty, grim skies – and kept threatening until mid-afternoon Saturday (when it finally decided to shape up and clear up).

Third, who knew you had to pay to go to the beach at Cape Cod? (Clearly we didn’t.) Since it wasn’t beach weather (see above), we didn’t want to shell out $15 for a day pass, so we didn’t actually set foot on a beach the whole weekend.

However, here’s what we did do:

-watched the Orleans Firebirds play baseball on Friday night (on the mistiest field I’ve ever seen)

-ate delicious pizza at Zia’s in East Orleans

-browsed at the delightful Main Street Books in Orleans

-drank hot chocolate at the Hot Chocolate Sparrow

-fell asleep in a little peach-colored room tucked up under the eaves at the lovely Inn at the Oaks, and played Frisbee in the backyard

-toured the Cape Cod Light, and gazed openmouthed at the views of beach and hill and ocean

-quizzed each other on Trivial Pursuit questions and drew on the butcher-paper tablecloth with crayons, while waiting for our dinner at the Saltwater Grille

-played miniature golf at the Gift Barn

-enjoyed exploring and laughing and being together – and rolling with it when a few doses of the unexpected came our way. Because that’s really what marriage is about, isn’t it?

Happy Love Thursday, all. May you have an adventure this week with someone you love.

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Dancing at our wedding, June 28, 2008

It doesn’t seem possible.

With our freezer-burned wedding cake, June 28, 2009

From college sweetheart to long-distance fiance, from a serenade at our wedding reception to a cross-country move, through so many days of waking up next to each other and sharing a bathroom and washing dishes at the sink together and finishing our master’s degrees, through so much laughter and a few good cries and helping each other navigate whatever life throws our way.

At a B&B on Lake Travis, June 28, 2010

Happy anniversary, love. And many more.

(At the Cape Cod Light, June 2011)

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