This was my highlight of our trip to Cannon Beach, Oregon for our 24th wedding anniversary. It was 58 degrees but we dove in.
I really suck as a mother to teenagers. I'm really, really bad at it. I don't understand how I trained them so diligently to do xyz and now that they're teenagers they don't do xyz. I've been known to pitch hissy fits, I'll admit. But more than fit throwing, I tend to be a melancholy reflector. I sit for hours wondering what I did to make it all go wrong. Why don't they do xyz? Why do they do abc when they know damn well I'm against abc? I'm quite pathetic.
Among my common thoughts is that a good time for a mother to die is when she has teenagers. Truly, at that stage of her kids' lives, they won't miss her.
One day recently I ventured out of my pathetic reflective mode and demonstrated my fit-throwing prowess. I threw a towel, I said a swear word or two or three, and generally behaved unseemly.
About the time I got over it Deborah had an emotional breakdown. I rolled my eyes and whispered to Gordon, "All these hormones are about to drive me crazy."
Gordon, who had eyewitnessed my fit just moments earlier, droned, "Yeah, not everyone can rise above their emotions like you."
Every so often when we sit after singing, Gordon will practically be left with nothing but half a chair. The first time this happened, he leaned over and whispered for us to shuffle down. I was surprised thinking he was saying, "give me some space". I looked quizzically at him. He whispered, "I just want to get my other butt cheek on the chair too."
Recently I heard an ad on the radio for a church that sounded fascinating. I wanted to know more. I can't say what I had in mind because it was way on the southside of Edmonton. The ad said - Gordon and I both heard it - that church was at 12:00 - 2:00.
Off we went. We started to enter the service when a black man blocked the entrance and said, "What do you want?"
My first thought was from one of my favorite movies, The Out-of-Towners, where Steve Martin and Goldie Hawn go into a church thinking it was "church" and then learn it is a sex addicts' meeting. The group facilitator asked Steve about himself and he said, "We just came here to worship, but this is the wroooooong denomination."
When Mr. Welcoming Committee greeted us with "What do you want?", my first thought was, "We just came to worship, but this is the wroooooong denomination." Gordon, however had clarity of mind, something I'm prone to lose. He realized that the African gentleman was speaking his second language and didn't mean his question quite as harshly as it sounded.
Gordon told the man we were there to attend church. The usher-lady welcomed us into the main room and escorted us to the FRONT ROW. On the stroll up to the front row, we couldn't help noticing we were the ONLY white folk there. A bit awkward.
And the final awkward was this: seconds after we sat it became obvious we were at a business meeting not a church service. Turns out the ad on the radio was old. Church started at 10:00. We arrived for the 12:00 service which actually was their annual business meeting.
Extremely uncomfortable, I leaned over and whispered, "I think we should apologize and leave." Gordon said, "No way, I have all kinds of things to say." I sank lower in the chair. (Gordon didn't add anything to the meeting.)
I'm still curious what their church is like. I guess I'll never know. Their business meeting was pretty average though.
Yesterday I had a rare treat. Gordon called me at work just to chat. Because I don't often get calls from him, I was mildly disoriented.
G: "Yeah, I thought I'd call and to say hi."
V: "Awhh. How sweet! You have such a nice voice. If you weren't my husband I'd try to seduce you."
G: "If you weren't my wife I'd fall in love with you."
This little cabin was home for the week.
We've been away on holidays. For the first time ever, we went to Family Camp with almost everyone in Gordon's extended family. Gordon and the girls had a fabulous time; definitely a highlight of the year for them. I crashed and burned and am quite embarrassed by the whole week.
I pride myself on being laid-back, easy going, well-adjusted, fun-loving, and a myriad of other positive things. :-) These characteristics cease and desist when I get around my in-laws. All my benevolence and patience and open-mindedness and well-adjustedness seizes up and dies, usually in an emotionally laden, fetal-positioned wailing-and-gnashing-of-teeth sort of way. Not a pretty picture. It's probably the single biggest flaw in my character and person-hood. I hate this about me.
Before the holiday I tried valiantly to prepare and equip myself to "be in the now". I had a plan and some ideas for how I was going to be grown-up and good. I self-imploded and never figured out how to "be in the now" in any way that was helpful. When I tried to focus and regain composure by "accepting this moment" all I could think was, but it hurts too badly. That to say, my experimentation with pop psychology was unsuccessful.
Gordon is a wonderful husband and our relationship is warm, stable and loving. These good feelings we share degenerate when we are with his family. However, only very recently did I realized that the problem is in my relationship with Gordon, not his entire family. I'm not suggesting my negative history with the family is imagined. It is not. However, it's my marriage that is the "issue", not my in-laws. Here's what I've only recently come to realize: Mine and Gordon's relationship shifts dramatically when we're with his family. He changes, gets free-er. I change, get more up-tight. I clam up; he airs. I erect walls; he relinquishes all barriers. I tense up, ridiculously so. He becomes an open book revealing anything that comes to mind. Basically, I don't like him when he's around his family. That's not very good, eh?
I don't really know what to tell you about our holiday. I usually show lots of pictures and tell some highlights. I don't have any to tell this year. It was all pretty traumatic. Again, my family had a GREAT time, but I couldn't even enjoy their having a good time because I was so wrapped up in my own bad experience. I reiterate that I truly hate this about myself.
Day 1 was good. Gordon and I went on a 40 kilometer (24 miles) bike ride and I enjoyed that very much. I took pictures and loved the country scenery.
Day 2 Gordon and I started going cross-eyed with miscommunication. By mid-afternoon I drove 30 minutes to the nearest city to "get away." I went to Chapters and bought a Christmas gift, visited my favorite thrift store, went out to eat, and then took in a movie (The Proposal). It would have been a lovely outing had my thoughts not been churning with negativity.
Day 3 I had to leave and come home before I completely lost my mind. I felt like an idiot for not being able to enter into the "good time" everyone else was having, but knew I had to get out of there just to regain some emotional stability. I was smiling again before I got off the camp property. I felt hope.
It was on the drive home as I prayed and tried to figure out what had gone so sideways that I was able to articulate that this pattern in my life is a blemish on my marriage, not so much a blemish on my in-laws. That was the epiphany of the experience. Any epiphany at that point was a relief, even if it was hard realizing how it's me that's the problem (with some help from my beloved) and not someone "out there". The problem is me (and Gordon). I admit it.
So that was my summer vacation. The absolute worst I've ever had and hope to ever have. I'm happy for Gordon and the girls to do it every year, but I probably will only drop in a few times instead of committing to the whole week. That seems like a fair compromise to me.
I hope you're all having a wonderful summer. I truly (aside from last week) have loved it. Only four more weeks till the kids head back to school. That kind of makes me sad as there are still so many summer things we want to squeeze in.
I've been looking for a new swimsuit and the one I like cost $100. The other night we were at my favorite store in the whole wide world, Value Village, a nation-wide thrift store which we've affectionately dubbed VeeBoutique. I looked in the swimsuit section and what to my wandering eyes should appear but a swimsuit almost identical to the one I had my eyes on.
Out of breath with excitement, I tried it on. It was a bit snug in the chest. (Darling Hannah calls me "Chesty" on occasion.) But other than the snugness in the chest it worked. The price tag? $7.99.
I hunted Gordon down and showed it to him. "This one is almost just like the one I like that's $100 but it's a little too tight in the boobs."
He looked at the price tag and said, "For $90 bucks savings, I say we let one of the boobs swing in the wind."
He's a keeper!
I never thought about how much a child-in-law would mean to me. I appreciate how John Mark is a good husband to Stephanie. But his being a committed, involved father to Roman (and soon Avery, too) means more to me than I ever knew it would. I'm so thankful Roman and Avery have a daddy like John Mark. Happy Father's Day John Mark. Thank you for being a real daddy, not just a father.
This is my dad. I love him and know in his own wonky way he loves me too.
My husband was on morning television last week. The Breakfast Show. This is a remarkably poor video. I had to sit in front of the tv with my camera to get it at all. Isn't that pathetic?
So watch it, at least some of it. The man on the right is the one I sleep with every night. Hubba hubba.
Oh dang, I've got to hurry off now. The doorbell rings -- it's probably the paparazzi. Will they ever just give it up?
Today is our anniversary. 16 years of bledded wiss and quite a few years of being happily incompatible (note, I don't claim 16 years of happiness). To celebrate the day I wore mascara and lip gloss to work. I'm living dangerously, pulling out the stops. Oh yeah, I also wore White Diamonds perfume. White Diamonds isn't "me" anymore but it's what I wore on our wedding day so I wear it every May 22.
Last night we listened to "Home" by Rich Mullins. Gordon and I both love this song and it was played at our wedding. Last night I was so struck by how prophetic it was to us. My goodness, it's like we played our own prophecy at our wedding. I smiled and smiled listening to it, totally aware of how unaware I was 16 years ago. Wow! was all I could think as I listened to it last night.
Home, by Rich Mullins
I see the morning moving over the hills
I can see the shadows on the western side
And all those illusions that I had
They just vanish in Your light
Though the chill in the night still hangs in the air
I can feel the warmth of morning on my face
Though the storm had tossed me
'Til I thought I'd nearly lost my way
And now the night is fading and the storm is past
And everything that could be shaken was shaken
And all that remains is all I ever really had
What I'd have settled for
You've blown so far away
What You brought me to
I thought I could not reach
And I came so close to giving up
But You never did give up on me
I see the morning moving over the hills
I feel the rush of life here where the darkness broke
And I am in You and You're in me
Here where the winds of Heaven blow
And now the night is fading
And the storm is through
And everything You sent to shake me
From my dreams they come to wake me
In the love I find in You
And now the morning comes
And everything that really matters
Become the wings You send to gather me
To my home
To my home
I'm going home
As I reread it I marvel at how it reflects our life. I'm very, very thankful. I'm thankful for what God has taught me since becoming a wife to Gordon; for God saving me from myself because I would have settled for so much less; we both had so many illusions about what our life together would be like and somehow God burned those away and gave us something better than our illusions. (I'm speaking for myself here. Gordon's post would look entirely different, I'm sure).
There is still a "chill of the night that hangs in our air". When we lost custody of Steph and Christopher it was the end of the world for me. I thought I'd never recover. That "chill of night" is still here but the "warmth of the morning on my face" is prevailing. That storm tossed me and I thought I'd never find my way again. But I did and it's a better life than I ever imagined. I feel the rush here where the darkness broke. And everything He sent to shake me came to wake me to His love.
I'm thankful for it all.
Happy Anniversary Gordon. I'm glad we're sharing this journey.
Last week I read an article about "couple car parties." It sounds kind of kinky, but it's not. With the economic downturn, couples are having to adjust their dating to more thrifty venues. No longer is the nice dinner and movie date financially feasible. Couples are learning to be creative and come up with inexpensive dates.
I smiled as I read it because I have fond memories of just that. Gordon and I never called it a car party, nor did we do any of the "dates" suggested in the article. The dates recommended in the article were way out of our financial league back in our early days. Our big date, actually it was our only date as it was all we could afford, was getting 7-11's nachos and a Big Gulp to share. Then we'd park the car in a populated area to "people watch." This was our date for a couple years and we had to scrounge for pennies, nickles and dimes to come up with the $3.50. Those are sweet, sweet memories.
A couple years ago we decided to recreate this date. As we ate the nachos we both commented something to the effect of how'd we eat this crap?, but I can assure you it was a treat back then and we loved it.
These days Gordon and I can date fairly easily. The kids are big enough that we can leave them and we love to do just that. Dates are easy and still sweet. I'm thankful that we can easily swing a Tim Hortons' date, even a nice dinner and a movie. But I wouldn't trade the 7-11 memories for anything.
So you can know what kind of work Gordon does...
And especially for his mom who probably didn't see it.
If you're just tuning in, I'm tracking thankful thoughts from now (Canadian thanksgiving season) till US Thanksgiving. I don't mean to bore you with my trivial thoughts, but it's a good exercise for me and I am quite alert to the goodness in my life when I'm actively thinking thankful thoughts. Today is my 5th entry.
Gordon's good financial sense
Yesterday we met with a financial type person and she bragged on our financial situation. Let me assure you we don't have a lot of liquid assets, but we have nearly no debt, good jobs, all our needs met and most desires too. She said we are in great shape. (I'm sure "great" is relative, but it was nice to hear).
I'm so thankful for Gordon's self discipline and commitment to delay gratification until he can pay cash. If I were in charge of finances, I just might have us in the poor house. I appreciate his taking care of us and his financial good sense.
This is a really cool exercise I'm doing. Writing "thanks" as they come to me is making me aware of just how good my life is.
Yesterday Gordon phoned and said he would be late for dinner. This is so unusual; he usually comes home right as I'm putting the finishing touches on our meal.
Yesterday when he phoned to say he'd be late, I was disappointed that we'd be eating without him. I immediately realized how my husband coming home on time (or coming home period) is something I take for granted. I am thankful my husband is faithful, considerate, a family man, and usually home for dinner. :-)
In Arkansas Stephanie reminded me of a Rachael moment I'd forgotten.
Rachael was about three and Hannah was two. Gordon rebuked Hannah for something and Rachael got terribly defensive. After Rachael chided Gordon for correcting Hannah, Gordon explained that teaching Hannah to do right was his job as a parent.
Rachael responded confidently, "Well you're not Jesus!"
I leave for my big trip south tomorrow morning at 4:00 am. While the world sleeps, I'll be standing in a customs line wondering if they'll be nice to me or strip search me. Just joking, I've never been stripped searched - for if that ever happened, I'd never go any where ever again.
Tonight Gordon was collecting all my travel insurance papers. As he brought them to me he said, "Now this insurance doesn't cover anything related to psychiatric conditions, so just keep your mouth shut about all those problems."
Deborah just came out of her bedroom saying, "Mom, how do you spell 'y'all'?" Evidently she's making something for a southern relative and trying to speak their language. My kids are struggling bilinguals.
In church yesterday Pastor was talking about finding yourself in the middle of sinful situations and thinking, "This isn't so bad..."
His theme reminded me of an incident back when I was a pastor's wife. Gordon had just preached a sermon similar to the one I heard yesterday. In his sermon Gordon said something to the effect of "When sin feels good . . ."
An honest person will admit that sin feels good for a season even if that season is only a few seconds long. If sin never felt good, we'd never sin. Gordon was not promoting sin, he was promoting the higher "feel good" of doing right and following God.
When church was over Gordon and I stood at the back greeting folks as they left. A notoriously hoity-toity parishioner made her way toward us. I could tell before she opened her mouth that her nose was out of joint over something.
When she got to Gordon she rebuked, "Gordon, sin never feels good and I think what you said could be damaging."
She walked off looking much lighter having set him straight. She was just out of ear-shot when I said, "Well, obviously she's never done some of the things we have."
The folks next in line nearly collapsed laughing.
This is a Capernwray story. I wanted to canoe all week, to go to a small islands and look the seals in the eyes. I expected my canoeing expedition to be invigorating and deeply spiritual.
My husband however wanted to kayak. So kayak it was. To use the kayaks I had to sit through a brief safety lesson. I had heard it several times with the kids (who had gone tubing, canoeing, kayaking, and speed boating). I had on a life vest, so I knew I wouldn't drown, and really that settled the safety issues for me. Besides, they claimed the kayaks were practically un-flippable. (I wondered when I heard that if ever there was a person with more flippable prowess than myself.)
The only thing I was actually concerned with was fitting in the kayak. For three days I occasionally wandered up and down the boat dock where the kayaks were to "size up the situation." I needed more privacy than was afforded me, so I didn't get to see if I fit in the privacy of my own, uh, my own ocean.
So on the fateful day, I decided to just do it. I squeezed myself into the kayak and was very pleased to find I had a few centimeters to spare. I was set. I got out and proceeded to put on the splash skirt. This was a silly little rubber skirt that one wears to keep water out of the kayak. The safety lecture stated clearly that we had to wear the splash skirt.
My fear regarding fitting into the kayak wasn't grounded, but the skirt was a different story. I pulled, wriggled, and squirmed right there in plain sight. I decided, in the interest of pride, to forgo it. I was just too proud to continue shimmying on the dock. Gordon hesitantly went along with my plan but made it clear he had a problem with my rebellion.
We had a sweet trip to and from one of the islands. It was nice, really, really nice. But because I felt guilty for not having on the silly skirt, we didn't "land" we just turned around. I didn't frolic with the seals.
As we were nearing the dock, a lifeguard - the one who had conducted my safety lesson - started walking toward us on the dock. I panicked. I didn't want him to see I had disobeyed the rules regarding the splash skirt. I kept paddling like I was planning to drive right up on top of the dock. Thud! The kayak collided with the dock.
I desperately wanted to disembark the kayak before he noticed my missing skirt. I pulled myself up and began my cultured exit. Gordon started screaming, "VALERIE, WHAT ARE YOU DOING?" The lifeguard's eyes said the same. With extraordinary delicacy and grace I heaved and hauled myself out of the seat. The last thing I heard before going underwater was "WHAT ARE YOU DOING?" The "practically un-flippable" vessel capsized with poor Gordon still sitting.
When I surfaced, my husband growled, "You crazy woman, what were you thinking?" Others gathered to help the lifeguard and Gordon right and empty the boat. I walked to land.
Below you'll find lots of photographs from our vacation to the West Coast. Unfortunately it's in reverse order, but hopefully you'll get a feel for what our trip was like.
Once we got to Thetis Island, I pretty well didn't pick up the camera again. I'm really bummed about that because I didn't capture more of our actual stay. It was an amazing time and I've got lots of stories to tell. But these pictures will have to do for now.
We spent many hours in the car over the past two weeks. Often at red lights, Gordon would study the map. When the light turned green, I tried to keep my mouth shut. (Early in our relationship I learned that Gordon can't stand when I tell him to go when the light turns green.) However he is often disengaged at stop lights and I have to bite my tongue. So over the years I've developed a horrible twitch. When the light turns green and he's reading a map or looking the other direction, I nearly instinctively motion with my hand for him to go. Doing it this way, I feel like I'm being a good wife by keeping my mouth shut.
Today Gordon finally expressed his frustration with my hand twitch. The light turned green while Gordon was reading a map. I said nothing but my hand motioned the usual.
He looked at me and dryly said, "Would you stop acting like a neurotic imbecile."
Around 10:00 this evening, Hannah came to me sleepy-eyed and said, "Mom, shouldn't we be leaving now?"
Hannah has a sleep-walking history. I've gone downstairs to fetch her as she wandered around looking for the school library, I've got her out of the refrigerator when she was looking for her book report. I've found her in the potato bin looking for her spacer (dental appliance).
When she's walking in her sleep, I explain that she's walking in her sleep. It's really cute because she argues with me, "No Mom, my book report is right behind the mayonnaise."
Tonight when she came to tell me it was time to leave I gently said, "Hannah, you've only been in bed a couple hours. It's a long time till we need to leave."
She argued, "No Mom, we're supposed to be there early."
"Hannah, you're asleep. You're walking in your sleep. I'll get you to school on time. But right now you need to go back to bed," I coaxed.
"Mom, the clock said it time to leave."
"Hannah, you're walking and talking in your sleep," I answered.
She grabbed my hands and said, "No Mom, I'm awake. I am not asleep."
I finally convinced her and got her tucked back into bed without further arguing.
She comes by it honestly. I've done a bit of walking and talking in my sleep, but not nearly as much as Gordon. He's a regular. He has improved over the years, but he still talks a lot in his sleep.
When we first got married, I wondered if I'd ever have another decent night's sleep. He talked, prayed, sang, preached, even did marriage counseling all while I laid beside him either giggling or wishing he'd shut-up.
We had overnight guest once and in the morning they asked if we always talked all night. They didn't know it was all one-sided. They heard Gordon and assumed I was in the conversation, but I wasn't.
One night he sat up in bed and said in sport-announcer style, "Ladies and Gentleman, from Charlotte North Carolina, introducing the Guh-reeeen Woman." Go figure. I howled.
Another time when we lived in an apartment building, he was dreaming that the girl down the hall was being robbed. He went to the door in his underwear. I asked where he was going all dressed up and he said, "Jeanine is in trouble. I need to help her get away."
There was a spell where he'd get up in the middle of the night and go set the table. We'd get up in the morning to a table set for four.
My most recent funny story,... He jerked out of bed, stood up, and started directing traffic, yelling and going through all the motions. I was really amused. I said, "Gordon?"
He turned toward me with both hands raised, as in "stop your car," and said, "It's okay Honey, I'm dreaming."
"Well if you know you're dreaming why don't you stop?" I asked.
He said, "Just let me get this bus and that last car through."
14 red roses for 14 years of marriage.
We had a wonderful anniversary celebration - the five of us. It was a thoroughly enjoyable evening.
On special occasions we have cheap wine that's barely alcoholic. Last night was Deborah's first time to imbibe. She downed her small portion then did a quick perusal of the table. She said, "If anyone doesn't want their wine, I'll take it." It was quite cute.
Hannah made a brief power-point presentation. She captured some special events in our lives. She put a lot of work into it and it was so sweet. Kids these days, eh?
Remember the story I've told before about someone asking us to describe our early marriage. I hesitated wondering just how I could accurately describe the horror without sounding like we hated each other. While I was trying to articulate my answer, Gordon began to quote the Larry Norman song about the end times: "Life was filled with guns and wars and everyone got trampled on the floor..." It was hilarious. I thought it described our early marriage amazingly well.
Today, May 22, in our 14th anniversary. It's been 14 years of work, compromise, shattered dreams, growing deeper, maturing, and living out convictions. It's been 14 years of repeatedly getting back on track with God and each other after doing it my way; laughing again after days of sadness and bitterness.
It seems we spend our lives dreaming of blissful marriages that work really well without requiring us to work. But reality is that a good marriage is work.
I recently watched a number of Friends episodes. One of the things I liked about it was the opening song.
"No one told you life was gonna be this way.
The job's a joke, you're broke, your love life's D.O.A.
Seems you're always stuck in second gear,
When it hasn't been your day, your month, even your year.
"But I'll be there for you,
When the rain starts to pour.
I'll be there for you,
Just like I've been there before.
I'll be there for you,
Cause you're there for me too."
That song describes my marriage. When the job, the money, the kids, the body, the emotions - when they're in a sad state, the commitment continues because, well, there's commitment.
To be truthful, this hasn't been our year. It's been a tough year. I read some statistics that said that years 13-15 are high divorce rate years. Nothing particularly bad has happened to us rather a complacency and lethargy has descended and it seems especially hard to engage and correct the "stinkin' thinkin'". But the commitment part is there - commitment to each other, commitment to God, commitment to honoring the vows, commitment to the kids.
No matter how I'm feeling, I've always got plenty of things to be thankful for in my marriage and in my husband.
Gordon is a very committed husband. I do not worry about where he is and what he's doing. I trust him to be faithful.
Gordon is committed to his family. He loves us, wants to be with us, likes to hang out with us. He is super involved in the kids' lives. I have friends who make all the kid-related decisions. Gordon isn't like that at all. He is very involved. Gordon is more committed to Friday Family Night than I am. Plenty of times I want to postpone, but he's right there with the kids nagging me to get with the program. I never need to nag him that way.
Gordon is a hard worker. He makes many personal sacrifices for the good of our family. Recently I was reminded of a terribly difficult time for us financially. When car insurance renewal time came up, we didn't have the money. We parked the car and didn't use it. Gordon took the bus to work in the afternoon, but at 2:00 am when he got off work, the buses were no longer running. He walked the five miles home. He did this for several weeks and never complained.
Gordon is consistent. He is always the same person, private and public. First thing every morning he goes to his office for his quiet time with God. Always. With him focused on keeping that area of his life in good shape, we all benefit.
Gordon gives me lots of reasons to respect him. He loves his mother, honors her, respects her. I respect that about him. He is a wonderful friend. His friends count on him. He has a good reputation at his work. He's known for his integrity.
And finally, he's never left. I've given him plenty of reasons to, but he kept on keeping on.
Yes, marriage is hard work. But I'm so very thankful for my marriage and my husband.