One for each finger

Yesterday was my tenth wedding anniversary. Ten years. That’s a ring for each finger, or, one for each toe, depending on what way you twist.

Ten years is not such a big milestone that it merits news coverage, but it counts for something.

It feels good to say that it’s been a nice 10 years. My first marriage barely lasted six years. All but the first year were tough. I’m over feeling like a failure for that union. I’d like to think I learned some valuable lessons from the experience.

The most important lesson? Marriage takes teamwork.

If you don’t have teamwork in a relationship, it will not last. If I’m a vegetarian and you are a member of Steak of the Week Club, we might have some issues. If you are a big game hunter and I’m the president of the local PETA chapter, it might not work out. If I’m carefully saving money for retirement and you are opening credit cards behind my back, we are surely headed for a cliff.

That’s silly, you might say, people who are that different would not get married. It happens. Love/lust is a blind fool.

In our first years of marriage, we often talked about what we might do for our tenth anniversary. We might plan a romantic getaway to the Caribbean. We might finally get the diamonds put in my wedding band — an idea that we postponed a decade ago in favor of putting a down payment on our house.

Who knew our careers, the economy, our lifestyle would be so different  today? The idea of splurging on diamonds or a resort vacation seems foolhardy.

Instead, we celebrated simply. We had brunch at our favorite breakfast joint. We are going out to dinner tonight, dressed up and without children, for the first time in too long. We’ll drink one glass too many of wine. We’ll order dessert. We’ll probably talk about our summer road trip. We love road trips. Our relationship was built on road trips.

I don’t know what you are supposed to do for 10 years. A party with a hired band and ice sculptures? An exotic  trip? Vow renewal?

What really matters?

I guess that we still want to be married to each other counts for something. I suppose the fact that we haven’t waved kitchen implements during heated arguments means something. We haven’t cheated or lied (outside of white lies about butts not looking too big and hair loss not being too noticeable) or changed in such dramatic ways that we are no longer appealing to the other.

We made it to 10 years. While it’s not newsworthy, it is remarkable.

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Valentines I've known

Photo by MZ

Last night we dumped out the contents of a pale pink paper bag that came home from school with our girl from the East. Onto the rug spilled squares and rectangles and heart-shaped greetings. Some were store-bought. Some were home-made. Mixed in were heart-shaped lollipops, foil wrapped chocolates and one homemade heart-shaped sugar cookie coated in pink icing.

This is the idealist’s Valentine’s Day: a magical day that stands along Halloween, Christmas and birthdays, when treats are handed out in equal measure and intentions are sincere.

The reality of Valentine’s Day emerges with a crush or first love. The day becomes an exclusive event between two, no longer shared with the masses.

Depending on the state of your love life, February 14 can swing between elation and misery. Break-ups, unrequited love, divorces and dry spells deliver bouquets of crushing loneliness tightly wrapped in agony.

I’m firmly planted in the middle this year. A decade into a marriage, the crazy overkill of new romance is behind us. Yet over dinner last night (and a bottle of wine) our eyes locked and we shared a moment of joy realizing that we are still together and going strong. We don’t need cards or candies to confirm that. Still, cards and candies are always nice.

It hasn’t always been so good. Here’s my list of good, bad and ugly valentines.

The good: My first serious boyfriend, who gave me my first real bouquet of red roses and a big heart-shaped box of chocolates.  Together we gave our parents serious stress. We stayed together a little more than 3 years, split amicably and still talk occasionally.

My  husband — who still gives me “that look” even after all these years.

The bad: Opening an excessively romantic card bleeding with explicit intentions, from which spilled a stack of cheesy candid self-portraits, from my long-distance boyfriend, whom I had broken up with days earlier by phone and called off our Valentine’s Day romantic weekend/reunion. I’d called without knowing of this package working its way through the U.S. mail system.  He’d sent it my way, unaware of my intentions to break it off for good. Awkward. Painful. Embarrassing.  It was the right thing to do, but I felt like such a jerk for hurting him when he obviously didn’t see it coming.

The ugly: Having the dubious distinction of being  the only woman in the office one year who didn’t receive some token of affection to display on her desk.

Dating someone who didn’t believe in observing Valentine’s day or any other so-called “Hallmark holiday.” Likewise, being in a relationship with someone who tosses a gift at you that is so obviously an afterthought that it’s offensive, such as a pair of garish earrings still in the bag with the receipt, showing the cheapness of the gift as well as the fact it was purchased within the last 30 minutes.

I’m glad my Girl from the East can enjoy this day as something pure and sweet, like the sugar cookie she devoured immediately after opening the pink bag. I’m relieved my Girl from the West hasn’t had her heart broken yet, but I hope that when and if it happens, she’ll feel comfortable enough to come to me.  Finally, I’m grateful that my relationship stands on solid ground and that I’m past the days of bad and ugly valentines.

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Take a moment today

By AprilZosia via Creative Commons

Is today a free day for you? No work? No school?

Take a moment today to consider the words of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.  I attended a service yesterday and heard a few excerpts of King’s speeches. I have to admit, aside from the “I Have a Dream” speech, I’ve not taken the time to listen to or read this influential man’s words. Yesterday I listened and I was moved.

Here are a few quotes to ponder:

“Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that. Hate multiplies hate, violence multiplies violence, and toughness multiplies toughness in a descending spiral of destruction….The chain reaction of evil–hate begetting hate, wars producing more wars–must be broken, or we shall be plunged into the dark abyss of annihilation.”

“Success, recognition, and conformity are the bywords of the modern world where everyone seems to crave the anesthetizing security of being identified with the majority.”

“Like an unchecked cancer, hate corrodes the personality and eats away its vital unity. Hate destroys a man’s sense of values and his objectivity. It causes him to describe the beautiful as ugly and the ugly as beautiful, and to confuse the true with the false and the false with the true.”

— from Martin Luther King  Jr., Strength To Love, 1963

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A mere slip of the pen

 

Our wedding

Our Wedding -- April 8, 2000

Hey, look. It’s an artist’s sketch of a wedding day.
There on the left is the groom, all dashing and dapper in his tuxedo. He’s smiling with that faraway look in his eyes of a man in love. Maybe he’s thinking about the honeymoon.
Firmly planted in the middle is Flower Girl Extraordinaire, also known as the real star of this show. After all, this is HER day.
See her crown of flowers? The beautiful blue dress that coordinates with the bride and attendants? See the basket of rose petals?

A psychological analysis of this drawing would probably suggest that Flower Girl is creating an alliance with her new stepfather rather than with her clearly psychotic mother. Or maybe secretly she was glad her mother was getting married again — even if she’d never say it aloud. 
Which brings us to the curious figure on the right.
Dr. Phil, what say you? Where to begin?
The artist insists it was a slip of the pen that caused the bride to have a wonky eye, a twisted grin, an askew headpiece, streaks of red spilling down the center of her bodice. Nothing passive-aggressive going on here, right?

Of course, anyone who knows this wedded pair, this blended family, does not question the depiction of the bride. Not a one.
Even the bride herself laughed when she first saw this rendering of the day. You’d just have to know this bride to understand.

How did that ceremony go? Why, it was a fine and simple service that carried on while snow and sleet swirled outside,  high winds howled and knocked out power, and  airports closed leaving guests at the gate.

Love’s hypnotic power kept both the bride’s and groom’s eyes locked. Neither looked out the window at the meteorological meltdown. Neither saw the dramatic impressions from Flower Girl.  NOTHING could stop these two lovebirds from tying the knot. And so they did, in spite of being upstaged at every turn by the weather and Flower Girl Extraordinaire.

Nine years later, the bride  still has a few tics. Flower Girl has retired her crown and rose petals. And the husband? I think he still has that look once in a while, especially when there’s a glass of sauvignon blanc in his hand.