We’re On Each Other’s Team

Cortney and I have a really great relationship and strong marriage. It’s one of the things I am most proud of in this world and feel so grateful that such a wonderful friend ended up as my life partner.

We get asked a lot what they secret to our marriage is and if it’s really as awesome as we make it look online.

As someone who as dated her fair share of turds (and nice guys, but mostly turds), I wasn’t sure if there really was a guy out there who could make me feel like we were a true team.  Then Cortney and I found ourselves together.

I guess our secret is our teamwork.

There are other factors like that we are true friends, we have our own interests as well as shared interests, etc, but the big thing is teamwork.

And most of the time it’s as awesome as we make it look on social media.

Anyway, I am writing about that teamwork over at Mommy Miracles today. I’d be honored if you would give it a read.

a boring present

Last week Monday I took a personal day so I could take Cortney to the hospital for a scheduled, routine procedure: a colonoscopy.

Now don’t worry I know, I know. He’s way too young for a colonoscopy. He had an issue. He has family history of crappy stuff. Ipso facto he went in for the procedure just to make sure things were fine. And they are.

Things are fine.

I brought him in at 8:45am to get him all set up and ready for the 9:45 procedure. He was sick of not eating and doing the prep and he just wanted it done. We listened to all the nurses and doctors about how it would go and what I could expect him to act like when he came back from the procedure (loopy and out of it).

Eventually they wheeled him out and I settled back to get some work done while I waited.

When he came back, he was indeed loopy. In fact, he wasn’t really totally awake yet at all. It was more unsettling to see than I was prepared for.

In the ten years we’ve been together, Cortney has had one surgery: his appendectomy. His dad had died early that day and by the time I drove Cort to the ER I was in survival mode myself. That day is a blur of forgotten and acutely remembered moments. I didn’t see Cortney until after he had been in recovery and woken up, albeit still acting silly and flirty with the nurses.

This past Monday he was still not actually eyes-open-awake yet when I saw him.

He mumbled some things about football and licked his dry lips a few times. I figured he must super thirsty since he hadn’t had a sip of anything since 6am and it was almost 11am.

His eyes struggled to open and he said in a low voice that he was just so tired.

I held his hand. The one with the IV in it, and something punched me in the chest.

Project 365

I’m not entirely sure how to describe it other than to say it was like when people talk about their life flashing in front of their eyes. Only, it wasn’t my past life that flashed, it was our future.

Simultaneously all the still frames of his dad’s sickness flipped through my consciousness like a Rolodex on speed.

It was like one of those nightmares that is terrifying and extremely vivid while it’s happening, but the second you wake up it starts to go away from your visual memory, but lingers in your feelings memory.

I clutched his heavy-hand and forced myself to be calm and swallow down the anxiety. I slowly rubbed the back of his hand with my thumb and said gentle little things to him.

I refused to let myself close my eyes because I knew the images were there. The ones where we are old, but not old enough. Never old enough. Where I am holding a wrinkled and grayed version of that strong, soft hand. The visions that have me wondering how I will go on without him.

The images being there were startling and disconcerting and very much blended with his dad’s last days in the hospice bed.

I gasped at the realness of it. My eyes burned.

But before I could lose my breath completely, a doctor or nurse came in, and Cort became a bit more lucid, and the moment passed. We moved on with what came next. Cortney requested apple juice and the proclaimed it to be the best damn apple juice he’d ever had.

The moment had passed. Because that is what it was: a moment. All the feelings and visuals and possible heartache happened in less than a minute, and just like that it was gone. We were in the present again.

When the doctor gave us the boring news we were expecting, I could have hugged him. We were expecting there to be nothing, and there was nothing.

But that brief moment in time–that flash of past and future–made me so very grateful for a boring present.

Forty

I told my students this week that my parents are celebrating their 40th wedding anniversary this weekend.  Most of them were blown away.  A few commented on how awesome that is and how it’s so rare these days.

It is rare.

And it’s extremely awesome.

Forty Years.

They were married in 1973 just three months before my mom turned 20, and just days before my dad turned 23.  So young!  Such babies!

When I was 20, I remember thinking, “my mom was married by this age and I am just in my sophomore year of college with no serious boyfriend.”

I mean, when I was 20? I was ridiculous.  There was no way I could do what my mom did.

She said, “I do” to my dad at an age where I was getting large M’s marked on my hands at concerts and bars and not getting up for a class that was earlier than 10:50am.

She took on budgeting and keeping house at an age when I was still bringing my laundry home for her to do for me.

She was meal-planning and comparing meat prices at an age when I was deciding between buying Ramen noodles or that pint of Popov Vodka.

You get the point.  I can’t even begin to imagine giving up college, getting hitched, and becoming a housewife at age 20.  It is just not for me at all.

But my mom did it.

I don’t know much about what their first few years married was like.  I imagine it wasn’t that much different than mine and Cort’s first few years.  So excited to buy that first house and move in together.  Overcome with giddy silliness each time they realize that this is it.  The real deal.  No one has to go home at the end of the evening.  Concerned about the tightness of money and how to pay the bills and save.  Dreamy about what the future would be like.

I wonder at times…did they sit and dream like Cort and I do?

In those five years before they had kids, did my parents wonder about their future kids?  Think of names?  Talk about all the places they would love to travel to?  Did they sit outside with a glass of wine and talk about their dream house or dream jobs?

And once I arrived, did they stare at me in wonder like we did with Eddie?  Did they shake their head in amazement that they were actually someone’s parents? Did they worry about my future and if they were messing me up?

Once their family was complete, how did they know?  Did they settle in to raising their kids up?  What did they talk about after we kids were tucked away to bed each night?  Did they share a laugh over something one of us did that we took very seriously?  Did they discuss how they would handle the “sex talk” and puberty and boyfriends/girlfriends and getting a driver’s license and college choices and and and…

Did they ever foresee the not-so-awesome choices that we would make?  Did they cry over us?

I know they prayed over and about us.

What I do know is that in the 35 years that I have been part of that marriage, I have never seen them scream-fight at each other.

I have never heard either say anything hurtful or ugly about the other.

I have never heard them disagree about money.

I have never seen them physically hurt each other.

I have never witnessed them cut the other just to do it and watch the other person hurt.

I have many times heard my dad tell my mom what an excellent cook she is.

I have had my mom tell me to ask my dad because he knows a lot about that specific topic and could be a great help.

I have many time seen my dad hug and kiss my mom…especially after dinner…much to our kid-disgust (ewww!!!!)

I have seen them stand by each other in the face of a screaming teenager.

I have had my mom comfort me when my dad just didn’t understand my teenage girl crazy.  But she never put him down.

I have had my dad comfort me when my mom and I clashed due to my teenage girl crazy.  But he never said she was wrong.

They play up each other’s strengths and they cover each other’s weaknesses.

My mom encourages my dad to be the leader that he can be.

My dad encourages my mom to be the nurturer that she can be.

My mom reels my dad in.

My dad throws out my mom’s line a bit.

My mom is what I think of when I read about the Virgin Mary in the Bible.  I believe she loved being a mother.  She cherished all the things about her son in her heart and she honored her husband.  My mom is the same way.

My dad is what I think of when I read about the father in the parable of the Prodigal Son.  Instead of dwelling on our mistakes, he rejoices in our victories.  He is giving and loving with his family.

My parents are not perfect.

They do argue.  They do disagree.  They make mistakes.

But they get through it.

For 40 years.

And for the rest of their lives.

Happy anniversary, mom and dad.  You are truly the best example of marriage that I have been blessed to witness. Your love, devotion, and faithfulness have influenced me more than you know.  Thank you.

They're cute, right?

They’re cute, right?

When Kids Happen To Your Marriage

I have mentioned before that marriage is hard work.  Love is easy, but marriage.  That is hard.

Cortney and I never argue about money.  We never argue about who was supposed to do that one chore.  We never even argue about things like socks on the floor or leaving the toilet seat up.

Before we got married, we sorted these things out.  We quite literally sat down and made decisions about stuff as big as finances and budgeting to small things like who is in charge of which chores.  We compromised on things like the location of the dirty laundry basket so that socks and undies wouldn’t get tossed on the floor instead of put in the basket. And we both agreed that toilets come with a lid for a reason…to be closed when not in use (plus we had a cat at the time and no one wanted to deal with walking in the aftermath of a midnight splash fest).

The one thing that causes tension in our marriage is parenting.

I never feel so far away from Cortney as when we have just disagreed or misunderstood each other in terms of how the other is (or isn’t) handling a parenting situation. And I feel pretty confident he feels the same way about me.

I remember when I was raging with undiagnosed postpartum mood disorders, I wondered if I could ever like him again.

Sure, I loved him.  Loved him like crazy.  Had my heart melted every time I saw him being gentle and kind and fatherly with Eddie.  Every time Eddie snuggled and slept on him.  Every minute I loved Cort.

But I when the baby was screaming and he couldn’t fix it, I didn’t like him.

And I am positive that he didn’t like me.  I mean, I was screaming and throwing things at him for doing “it” wrong.  And neither of us knew what “it” was that he was doing wrong.

I know that  makes no sense; welcome to PPD! Weeeeee!

But seriously, when I was finally diagnosed, properly medicated, and going to therapy, I thought all those Blerg feelings would go away.  The ragey totally illogical, irrational dislike went away.

But certain tensions didn’t go away.

Since Charlie is small and easy, we generally don’t disagree on anything with that guy, but with Eddie? Let’s just say that so far, he is our challenge.  He has my personality (to a fault, unfortunately) and while Cort has learned how to deal with my moods and such (and I am better able to use my words when I am upset), he is not as adept at fielding Eddie’s explosions.

Not that I am either, I just understand where they are coming from better.  Usually. I mean, kids are weirdos, so sometimes he is a total mystery to me too.

Let’s see…here is an example…

Last night I went to put Eddie to bed.  Cort had gotten him a new nightlight and was putting it in his room while I supervised teeth brushing and such.  When it was time to go in his room and crawl in bed, he walked over to his new nightlight and fiddled with it.  It got messed up.

We call daddy down to see if he could fix it.  I told Eddie to get in bed.  He didn’t. I told him again.  He didn’t.  I told him he was going to lose book privileges and he finally, all sobby-like, crawled into bed.  At the same time, Cort announced the nightlight didn’t work and he would go get the old one.

Eddie lost his mind.

There was scream-crying and ridiculousness.

I knew he was upset because he believed he broke his new thing.  He was sad that his new thing didn’t work.  I told him it would be Ok; that daddy would either fix it or get him a new one tomorrow.

He didn’t stop crying, and he never once used his words to actually explain to me what was wrong.  He just got screamy.  And sobby.

He didn’t want to read books with  me; he didn’t even want me to be there.  The only thing he would say was, “Daddy.”

So I gave up and got Cortney.

I could tell he was annoyed that he was being asked to do bedtime yet again, but Eddie was having a fit and I thought he wanted Cort as comfort.

So Eddie is downstairs crying his face off…loudly, and Cort is sitting calmly in his chair with the information that Eddie would like him to come down.

And he sits.  And Eddie cries. And Cort sits.  And Eddie cries.

“Did you want me to go back down?” I ask.

“No.” He says as he logs in (or off, not sure) to his laptop.

I stand and watch him; he sits and pays no attention. Eddie, this whole time, sounds as if he has a flesh-eating disease.

“So are you going to go down or what?” I ask impatiently.

And that is when he explodes.  Or, since Cort never explodes, he gets all firm and grouchy with me.  “Yes, Kate. I am going. I’m just giving him a chance to get it out of his system. I can listen to it from here or in his room, and I would rather not sit there with him screaming…” and he trails off as he angrily descends the stairs to put his computer away and tend to the Screamer.

And the tension arrives.

I lie down for a bit to lick my wounds.  I know he was justified in being annoyed, plus with a screamy child, everything is at a heightened stress level.

At the same time, I am not a mind-reader and I didn’t know why he was just sitting there while our little guy freaked the frack out downstairs.  I felt he needed comfort and someone to explain to him that the nightlight situation was not life and death.  I didn’t feel that Cort had enough urgency.

He didn’t feel the situation warranted urgency.

We were both right.  And wrong.  And whatever.

In the end, he chilled Eddie out, read a few books, and got him to sleep.

I wrote a blog post.

We talked about it.  We know tensions ran high and that we snapped at each other because we didn’t use our communication skills in the moment.

As much as we agree and collaborate on almost everything, we still have moments of miscommunication or failure to communicate all together when it comes to parenting.

We are a team.  A good one.  We have more wins than losses.  But it doesn’t come easily.

I would say the biggest challenge in our marriage is being parents together.

The good news is we are always working on it.

The better news is that we are a committed team.  We are in this for the long, forever haul.

he was for real

It was a beautiful Tuesday afternoon in June.

I had just survived the second day of a four-week, seven hours a week, writing workshop that I had to commute an hour each way to get to.  I was sitting by my computer organizing the “homework” I had for the evening–prioritizing the writing against the reading against my final writing presentation work.

I was really, really tired.

As usual, Cort came over shortly after I got home.

“You know,” he said as he walked through my door into my teeny house, “we never take walks anymore.  Let’s take a walk.”

“Um, I take a walk almost every day.  YOU never take a walk WITH me anymore.  And no. I don’t want to take a walk. I am tired.  This 9-hour a day commute/class thing is tough.  My body hasn’t adjusted yet.”

“Come on. Let’s take a walk. It’s so nice out and you’ll feel better.”

“Dude.  Really. No. I don’t want to. Can’t we just hang out here?”

“Yeah, but I want to take a walk with you. Come on.  COME ON.”

I will save you all the time, but this back and forth went on for more than five minutes.  Finally, I agreed.

I stomped crabbily into my tiny room and pulled off my clothes from the day to change into athletic shorts and a t-shirt.  I pulled on socks and found my sneakers in a pile in the corner of the room.  I didn’t stop my grumbling even to pull my hair into a pony tail.

As I was sitting on the floor in the living room, crabbily tying my shoes, I looked up to Mr. Happy Take A Walk Pants and got even more annoyed.

“You’re not even wearing walking clothes.  You’re wearing jeans.  You hate to take walks in jeans.  You always bitch whenever I get you to take a walk with me and you’re wearing jeans.  Are you even serious about this?  Why do you want to take a fracking walk in jeans?”

“I’m fine.  Really. This will be totally fine.”

“Whatever.  This is stupid.  But I’m going. See? Are you happy?  Let’s go already.”

He opened the door for me and I stormed past him determined to make our 2-mile route go super quick…and make him wish he wore walking shorts…or didn’t make me do this.

As our shoes crunched down the gravel of my driveway and we turned on to the road, he tried to make small talk.  He mentioned something about getting a shipping notification about the new computer he had ordered me and how it would be here within the week.

I just grunted and kept walking.

We paused at the corner while we waited for cars.  He was still talking.  I was still ignoring.  I’m good at being crabby and pouty.

I had to admit it was a nice day.  Of course, I didn’t admit it out loud.

I lived in a nice neighborhood and we had mapped out a 2-mile stretch that took us down to the deadend of my road, over a really beautiful wooden footbridge, up a hill past the ice cream place, down into another neighborhood, down a large hill into yet another neighborhood, and out onto the road we cross at the beginning of the walk and back to my tiny house next door to my grandparents’ place.

They own the little house where I lived for four years and they only charged me $200 a month. Plus my grandpa came over and fixed things anytime they needed fixing.  The roof, the toilet, anything.  He even mowed my lawn.  It was a great deal for a single gal right out of college.

Cort and I had started dating just nine months prior.  By the time of this story we had fallen into a comfortable routine of seeing each other almost daily.

But back to the walk at hand.

I was still pretty pissy about the whole thing as we approached the footbridge.

About halfway across he stopped to tie his shoe.  I walked to the side of the bridge and rested my arms on the rails.  There was a bunch of trash in the creek (pronounced “crick” in these parts) down there.  It made me more annoyed.

And all I could help thinking was, “Good grief, Cort.  Really?  Your shoes are untied?  Maybe if you wore your good walking shoes this wouldn’t happen.  Or better yet, if we were watching TV at my house? Your shoes wouldn’t be on and we wouldn’t have to worry about this at all.  Stupid walk…”

“Hey Kate?” Cort said, interrupting my inner monologue of crab.

“What?” I demanded as I turned around.

And there he was. On one knee with a ring.

Oh shit.

“If you’re not doing anything next summer, wanna get married?” He asked with a goofy grin on his face.

“SHUT UP! IS THIS FOR REAL?”

And then we laughed because I always said I would never, ever say either of those two things when he proposed.  Because, duh.

I put the ring on my finger, and burst out crying.  I was saying yes and apologizing for being the world’s biggest bitch.

He just laughed, “I almost didn’t do it.  You were one more grump away from me calling it off and putting the ring back in my truck until a less crabby time.”

I just smiled shyly at him.

“Oh,” he continued, “and we don’t have to continue the walk.  We can go back home.”

And then he took my hand, and we slowly wandered back to my little house, excitedly talking about how we couldn’t wait to tell everyone.

We were getting married.

************

Don’t forget about my giveaway over here for a Babies R Us gift card.

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