Tag Archives: marriage

My Real Valentine

From the first day
I saw your face
I hoped that we would be
More than friends
I wanted you to see

That I found you special
Uniquely designed
And in your eyes
And in your smile
I saw that you were kind

You brought such joy
Into my life
Such laughter and such fun
And deep inside
I wanted you
To be the only one

That I would walk next to
To have and to hold
And I believed
With all my heart
Our love was strong and bold

But fragile was
The seed of love
We wanted it to grow
Impatient and impetuous
We simply did not know

That you cannot force love
Demand it be strong
And after many lonely years
We found where we went wrong

We’re standing now
Together here
We’re facing each new day
With boldness and integrity
We’re learning how to play

 It’s knowing what we’ve lost
That helps us be found
Our hearts are drawing close again
We’re coming back around.

Happy Valentine’s Day ’18 to the Love of My Life who has made me laugh and feel safe from day one. You are a gift, Steve McClay. Thank you for becoming more real with me through all the seasons, especially those winter ones. Something beautiful is growing from all of this compost. I just know it! Something beautiful already has. Our love.

This image created with Wikki Sticks was stuck to my car window by Steve in 1987. I saved it in my scrapbook for posterity.

***The header image is from a helium balloon that I deflated and saved to remember the playful love of my then boyfriend, now husband. Thank you for your steadfastness, Babe. You’ve always been the best Valentine.***


Today the love of my life celebrates another birthday. I have shared 30 of his special days with him. This feels momentous. He might say I feel that way about everything.

Thirty years ago my boyfriend turned 18. It was a year to the month that I first met him and six months after we began dating. My baby sister had been born two days before, and I was packing my things in preparation for a major move that would take place three weeks later.

Here we are together with the first newborn we shared. There is a lot going on behind the eyes of that sixteen-year-old girl.

There was excitement in celebrating that first birthday together, the last we would celebrate in person before marrying four years later. His birthday became a conundrum for me as I tried to choose the right gifts. I remember mailing packages those years before we married, feeling close to my boyfriend while shopping and selecting things I thought he would enjoy.

It was difficult not being together in person, because much is missed in the day to day sharing of life. Much was built up in my mind and the future was idealized. I thought it would be easier after we married. Please do not laugh. I am having a hard enough time being kind to that young woman inside. It was not easier.

Last night, Steve lovingly reminded me of the delicious coconut cream pie I tried to make for his 22nd birthday when we were newlyweds. It was more like coconut soup, but he ate it like a champ. I have not always had the stellar cooking and baking skills of today.

His contentment made it difficult for me to find “just the right” gift, because I could not tell what he would really enjoy, I don’t know if he knew, either, indicated by vague or practical responses when asked. I groped along, hoping to hit the mark.

I think I hit it this year. Number 30 just might be a charm. I don’t want to say more in the rare event that he has an opportunity to read this before tonight when he opens his gifts, but I am excited, and that is a good feeling.

This week began with a dream, one of those vivid ones that you remember upon waking and that stays with you all day. In it I was leading a story group. My husband was a participant. I thought it odd that the leaders would put us together but figured, Oh well, they know what they are doing.

One theme of the dream was distraction. As Steve began to share his story a rushing river roared noisily past, other group members were taking facetime calls, and a tiny elephant went walking by. I was trying hard to hear what he was saying, but even leaning in with great focus, I couldn’t.

I finally stopped everything and addressed the situation, naming the great distractions and the need to focus on Steve and his story.

Awww. Thank you for speaking up for me was his response when I shared my dream yesterday morning.

As I celebrate the amazing man I saw in those eighteen year old eyes, that is my desire for him this year, to focus on his story and on that tiny elephant walking by, inviting him to more laughter, creativity, and growth.

I hope to stop everything with him, and listen.

Happy Birthday, Love!

Year of Adjustment

The 26th wedding anniversary is frequently a year of adjustment being the picture anniversary.

I stumbled across these words on this site while exploring anniversary gift options and thought to myself, Seriously? That has been every year! Then I began reading the descriptions of years and laughed out loud at the introduction to 27.

Anniversary celebrations have felt as hap-hazard as everything else in our life and are often a yearly struggle for me. There is the tension between what is expected to be felt and what is real. Hallmark does not help matters and neither does the idea that the more years you check off together the better it gets.

A thriving marriage is about more than checking off the years and winning with the highest number of them.

Our 25th anniversary, the one that is silver, the one I remember throwing a party for my parents for while wrangling two small children of my own, two and a half years into my newly-minted marriage, brought the realization that we needed help. It was a sad disappointment of a day steeped in years of hurt with a side of genuine illness.

We have GOT to do something, because we cannot go on like this.

We will forever remember our silver anniversary as the one where we chose to invest in counseling to gain skills that were lacking in order to move forward together in more hopefulness. Seriously. There is no shame in admitting need. It was one of the best decisions we have made.

Fast forward to this year’s celebration. I decided to create a gift for Steve. It took thought, time, energy, and trust to sit with myself and my art supplies and create from the heart a representation of where we are in this season.

It is a better, more hopeful, place.

While a lake house getaway was booked, logistics did not work out. In the past this would have completely derailed my heart, sending it into a place of hopelessness and defeat. Instead, I was able to reimagine our celebration.

Steve took the day off of work, and we spent it together while the kids were in school. A two-hour weather delay for them meant time to sleep in without rushing, and while it cut into two hours of morning alone time, we were still able to enjoy the quiet house before heading out on an afternoon adventure.

We went to lunch at Valley Pike Farm Market before visiting Zeus Digital Theaters to see The Greatest Showman together. It was the perfect use for tickets I had won in a radio contest over a year ago!

Family members graciously picked up kids from school for us. We arrived home at 4 and took a nap before heading out to dinner at Chick Fil A with the family. The day ended with a parent meeting for school musical and an episode of Stranger Things.

It was a sweet beginning to year 27 and imagining more of our future together.

Final Saturday

I sit in the final Saturday of 2017 surrounded by binders and journals and books and baskets of laundry. Family members are out and about running errands or socializing with friends. One is resting on the couch, uncertain of how she is feeling. I stop to care for her and warm up a heating pad occasionally. Chicken noodle soup was prepared for her lunch.

Earlier in the kitchen my husband looked at me with the face. I know it well. It is a half-smirk that tries to cover and hide the feeling behind it, but I am too vigilant for that and know there is something going on inside his head. Rather than guessing at it, I ask.

What? What is that face for?

What face? I don’t have a face!

Yes you do. There is clearly a face, and I am curious about it.

We banter back and forth a bit, as he insists it is nothing when I know better. He finally caves.

I was just wondering if you have fallen into your end-of-the-year processing funk, yet?

Laughter ensues from us both, because I am aware enough to be able to laugh at what is obvious about me, and he is courageous enough to name it. Family members are growing safer in being able to share how they experience me, and for that growth I am grateful.

Secretly, I feel pleased to be known and seen so well by my life-partner. It has not always been so. There have been many unseen and unheard years resulting in much hurt that we have worked hard at uncovering and naming this year.

And, yes, I am in my final 48 hour funk, sort of. Not really. It is a strange ambivalence.

It feels different this year. Still ponderous, but in a hopeful sort of way. There is anticipation of things to come in the midst of uncertainty. If anything there is a temptation to panic that time is running out, and I must do all the things.

Time is running out, but I do not have to do all the things. I can do just what is before me next and move in gratefulness for what has been and what is to come.

Major Marriage Milestone

Twenty-five years.

Twenty-five anniversaries, holding on and holding hope.

I want to have big silver anniversary words, but I don’t. And that is okay. It has to be.

I have the words that a friend offered at the end of his congratulatory Facebook comment on Steve’s wall.

. . . a great example of a rugged marriage.


rugged marriage

Thank you, Alvin. Those are exactly the words that affirm the beautiful hard that is found in celebrating 25 years of becoming one while growing up together and having three of our eight children before our brains were fully formed!

This day has felt rugged. It certainly hasn’t been the stuff of which silver anniversary dreams are made. As a final blow, we had to cancel the sitter for our evening out due to uncertain stomachs. We had to engage disappointment and pain.

This season feels rugged as I find more words for my own story and style of relating and engaging and how that has affected those closest to me. As Steve and I struggle to find more words for our story together, we recognize the help that we need. It is okay to need help.

A dear sister heard my heart and affirmed my words as I processed with her via text.

A silver star with a 25 on it doesn’t negate the hurt and disappointment. Or the joy. There is joy underneath, but right now it is being eclipsed by the ache. And marriage is about more than just how I feel today.

Climbing out of the valley and learning to walk on level ground isn’t as easy as it sounds!

One of the significant assaults of evil in this period is to try to triumph through regret. It is easy to survey all that might have been and grieve that it has taken so long to savor and delight in life. Add to this the desire to remove all the debris we have brought into the lives of our children, friends, and family, and it is easy to feel terrible and to work frantically to restore all that is broken. We must resist this seduction. Grief is freeing, but regret is the cul-de-sac of despair. (Dan Allender, Healing the Wounded Heart, 233).

So tonight we will have our regularly scheduled date night and not the fancy dinner out gifted us by our kids. Rather than circling the cul-de-sac again and again, I will try to feel the disappointment and grieve what is not, and then move on to the goodness that is an evening together with the hope of a future ahead of us.

We will persist. We will toast our twenty-five years of beautiful, rugged marriage with chicken soup and ginger-ale!

Here’s to us!

Tissues and Tears

I am away with my love this weekend. We are relaxing at Lake Anna in the midst of a season of difficult challenges. Maybe it should be seasons. The seasons have rolled into years.

The years have been hard.

It is difficult for me to be in the early morning quiet. I recognize this, as anxiety begins to mount at the prospect of an unstructured day ahead. I do not have words to give the man sitting at the opposite end of the sofa as I stare out the window at the sun rising over the water.

Pulling a creamy-soft throw from the back of the sofa and tucking it around me, I curl into a fetal position, resting my head on a square pillow. A tear falls. I feel it slip out of the corner of my eye, roll down my cheek and drip off of my face. More threaten to fall, betraying that all is not well.

I am not fine, and I have thirty-six hours to figure it out, before I have to go back. That is how it has always felt.

This is your chance. You had better not waste it or squander it or use it unwisely, because another one won’t be coming around any time soon! Redeem that time, Sister. You have been given much, and of you much is required.

Mustering every ounce of courage to make any sound come out of my mouth, I use my voice to share what is inside. It feels terrifying. There is a battle raging in my head. I want to stay behind the wall.

I don’t know how to be me by myself, and I sure don’t know how to be me and you by ourselves, and I am going to just ruin all of this!

Tears explode and fall in full-force sobs. I am sobbing on our first of two mornings together without parental and adult responsibilities before we have to go back. I feel self-contempt mounting and fight it fiercely.

Why can’t I just be carefree and fun?

Love pulls my feet into his lap and offers me comfort. He lets me ugly-cry and sob and leans over to rub my scalp and hug me. I feel so much resistance and try to stay present. I try to receive care without gauging what it will cost me.

Care comes at a cost, you know. Will this be worth it?

I fight against resistance to share with and be real with this life-partner who sits with me on the other side of the wall. Coming out from behind it is so scary and so hard and so risky for me.

I am met with safety and kindness. There is no judgment or expectation.

Love shares his feelings about sitting on the same side of the wall with me. I try not to twist them into something they are not.

They are only love and gratitude. I can choose to receive, which I do.

Grateful for the kindness offered to me to just be and process, I pull out a journal and begin to write. Thoughts come. Curiosities. More tears. I reach for tissues that begin to pile up. I consider taking a picture of them. That just seems wrong. I resist the urge.

Love gives me the space that I need. Little do I know I am being watched from above.


Making a List

Maybe it would help to make a list of all the things you need to pack, suggests my husband. It is not the first time this idea has been offered. His diplomacy is kind, considering I still have not made any lists, yet continue to bemoan all that clutters my mind.

Meals. To dos. Classroom reminders. Items to pack. These all race inside my head, yelling for attention, sending me scurrying this way and that.

I reluctantly follow his suggestion, grabbing a pad of paper and listing out clothing items, each with a box to check once it enters my suitcase. It feels so tedious, yet I immediately sense relief as the words leave my brain and fill paper.

Why do I fight this so?

I am grateful for the growth that has happened in my ability to hear my luvvvah’s words in a spirit of kindness rather than as critique and criticism. He truly is sharing what helps him and in no way is condemning me for my inability to move.

Grateful for the list, I pull out a suitcase and begin rolling bedclothes and stuffing my short boots with socks to begin filling the space. I will wear tall boots on the plane. Where are those grey pants?

This season in Seattle is not one for Toms. I had a trial run of Seattle weather a few days ago while walking Dewey, but that is for another post.

For now, I am grateful for quiet space and a few minutes to write out some thoughts about packing and how I am growing in my ability in making a list.

Now to check it twice! Here we go!