When Distance Makes the Heart Grow

TAsunsetThe little one wakes up at the same time every morning, give or take 15 minutes. Never mind that it’s the weekend. I long to sleep in, but my internal clock has adjusted to hers, which means I’m groggy but awake when she comes padding into my room.

“I miss daddy,” she says, leaning her face into mine. I run my tongue around the inside of my dry, sleepy mouth.

“I know. Me too,” I say. “Let’s FaceTime him.”

I pick up my phone from the bedside and press “Josh in Israel.” A shrill ring starts up immediately and within seconds we see him on the screen. Thousands of miles away, he sits at a beachfront café, the sun setting over the Mediterranean, his face warm and glowing, grinning. Here at home we are just waking up. My bed-head splayed across the propped up pillows, the sleep still heavy in my eyes, my cheeks not yet rosy. The morning sun comes through the window, weak after a night’s rain, gray tinged clouds hanging in the bluing sky. Continue reading “When Distance Makes the Heart Grow”

Happy Anniversary to the Man with the Beard

red rosesLate October in the Midwest can be tricky, but the day was unseasonably warm. Gold and scarlet leaves skittered across the grass. The gray, overcast sky gave off the kind of light perfect for photographs. Really though, the weather didn’t matter – my world glittered. The swirl and rush of the morning – the hair, the makeup, the dress – cloaked me in a fine dust of sugar and spice and everything nice. Clutching an astounding bouquet of blood red roses, I floated down the aisle, the air buzzing with expectation, like in the moments just before the sky lights up with the most brilliant fireworks. Continue reading “Happy Anniversary to the Man with the Beard”

R is for Romance Novel

romance novel: a prose narrative depicting heroic or marvelous deeds, pageantry and romantic exploits, usually in a historical or imaginary setting.

romance1Row upon row of romance novels lined the walls in my high school boyfriend’s basement. After school we’d come through the door, say hi to his mom, then bounce down the stairs with the excuse of doing homework but really we just wanted to make out. We’d curl up on the old, velvet couch to kiss under the smoldering gazes of buxom damsels and dashing buccaneers.

My boyfriend’s mom, Mrs. B, was always reading one of those romance novels with their wafer-thin pages and spines that cracked when you opened them. My boyfriend’s parents had been high school sweethearts. At 21, they married under a heart-shaped canopy of white roses on a humid mid-west summer day. Thirty years later there had to be 200 thumbed through romance novels stashed away in the basement. At the time I didn’t understand the fascination. Why would anyone want to read about love when they could experience it themselves with its sweaty palms, fluttering hearts and constant, delicious aching?

Fourteen years of marriage and three kids later, everyday life with its deadlines and carpools, meetings and bills has elbowed romance out of the way. I can hardly remember what it feels like to be under new love’s spell where every beat of your heart is like the thump of a big drum. Every love song playing on the radio is about you. Every time the phone rings your breath catches. You write a love poem on a piece of notebook paper, folding it again and again until it’s a small thick square that fits quietly into a back pocket or the palm of a hand.

I yearn for the jolt of seeing Josh coming my way, smiling just for me. The charge was undeniable, stealing my appetite, making me want more all the time. We married high on love, believing it would always be that intense. Time, of course, changes everything. Love slips and slides, rushes and retreats, booms and abates. The birth of each of our girls brought me a different, newfound love for my husband. A miscarriage, professional challenges, the frustrations of parenthood – these experiences shaped a new, deeper love between us. Still, I miss the crazy fervor of our beginning, the simplicity of it, its rawness and how we never questioned it.

Maybe that’s where romance novels come in. They offer up the most uncomplicated kinds of love: first love, love at first sight, love despite the odds, overpowering love, undeniable love. The closest I’ve ever come to reading a romance novel is when I devoured the Twilight series. Yes, the story is aimed at teens, but really it’s a classic tale of first love anyone can identify with: innocent girl meets wrong boy, serious romantic tension ensues, danger threatens to tear them apart, odds are overcome, girl dies then comes back to life, girl and boy exist together forever. It’s Romeo and Juliet vampire style.

While the first kiss between the two was the scene that kept me turning the pages, it turns out my favorite scenes in the book are scattered throughout. They are the ones where the vampire boy is full of restraint, worried he might tear her throat out if he follows his desire. Instead of kissing her, he pulls her close, holding the shivering body of his eternal true love in his strong arms. The girl’s cheek rests against his cold, hard chest, her warm breath floating up into a canopy of fir trees.

Those scenes are real love scenes. When Josh holds me closely, I can’t turn my face to look up at him. That’s when I give in, close my eyes and listen to his heart beat. I let myself be exactly where I am, my cheek nestled into the dip just below the front of his shoulder. Neither one wants to break away first. This is what it means to love and be loved.

There are still moments when my heart skips for him, but I’ve traded in new love’s constant jitters for the profound connection that true love builds over time. For days on end of reckless passion and wild abandon, I’m heading for the nearest romance novel. I wonder which one Mrs. B would recommend?

I’m participating in the 2014 A to Z Challenge during the month of April using the very broad theme of LOVE to carry me through the alphabet. Check out writing by other bloggers taking on the #atozchallenge at @AprilA2Z.

I is for Irreconcilable Differences

irreconcilable differences: any sort of difference between two parties that either cannot or will not be changed.

There’s nothing like spending a little time in the company of our friends’ miserable marriage to make us believe in our own. The slings and arrows of their misfortune seem shot from Cupid’s bow right into our hearts. Each barb exchanged across the outdoor fire pit draws me closer to my husband; I even let him graze my boob with his arm as I snuggle in to him. He strokes my hair. Their pain makes ours seem so mild and boring. In the car on the way home, we debrief, comparing our marital mishaps to theirs: no comparison, they win for most miserable couple, hands down. We pull into the driveway and make out in the car.

Their misery is like a drug for us. The worse their marriage is, the easier it is for us to overlook the cracks and rough spots in ours. When things get really bad, we can always say: “At least we don’t call each other f***ing asshole.” “At least we don’t scream in front of the kids.” (Well, not that much.)

Many months later our friends’ announce their separation. We are sad for them, but also relieved that they are moving through this very difficult space. There is confusion, too, over the relationships among the four of us. I wonder if he and I will still be friends; Josh wonders if he and she will still be friends. Underlying the anxiety over sorting out these new connections, we’re also worried about us, and what this means for our marriage. Without the clearly painful backdrop of our friends’ marriage to make ours look good, will our own union come apart?

It’s a valid question. We’re both pulled in too many directions and definitely take each other for granted more than we mean or want to.  We are a fiery match: we are both very opinionated; we both want to be in control; we are both very passionate and emotional; we both feel overwhelmed by our delightful, energetic children and work and finances. Deep in the stresses of everyday life, we are a challenge. Still, we’ve managed to hold it together for almost 14 years.

sign_here-306x223As my friends contemplate affairs, separation, divorce, I try to imagine throwing in the towel and walking out, but I never seem to get very far. Maybe I have a high tolerance for stress – maybe he does too – but I just don’t see us giving up on us. The love is there, but the truth is, that’s not enough. Staying together is hard work. Now, like a pair of junkies checking in to rehab, we need to own up to the pieces of our marriage that need work and recommit to nurturing the awesome parts we take for granted.

We’re ready. Sign us up.

I’m participating in the 2014 A to Z Challenge during the month of April using the very broad theme of LOVE to carry me through the alphabet. Check out writing by other bloggers taking on the #atozchallenge at @AprilA2Z.

D is for Duet

duet: a musical composition for two voices or instruments.

The first day I met Josh, I heard him play the piano. We were at a conference and during a break, he sat down at the piano in the lobby and riffed out amazing melodies. It all seemed so effortless and beautiful. I was smitten. Unfortunately, I don’t have much musical talent. I don’t play an instrument. I have a pretty voice, but I have a hard time singing on key and staying in tune. Even so, I love singing.

A week into our love affair we were trading CDs. He was wowed by my eclectic choices (Dimitri from Paris, Les Nubians, Bruce Springsteen) and I swooned over his jazz and Grateful Dead collections. For me, music is about the lyrics and the story they tell. For him, it’s about the nuanced undertones, the uneven beats and the way they pattern together. I longed to sing out loud, but I was too intimidated by his musical prowess to go for it. What if my amateur singing made him wince? Would this thrilling, new love end?

I don’t remember exactly when it happened. We must have been listening to our iPods, ear buds in place when he asked me what I was listening to. It was “Killer Queen” and I was doing all I could to keep from singing out loud. He pulled an earbud out of my ear, stuck it in his and started singing. What could I do? I started singing too. We belted that thing out, channeling Freddy Mercury with our eccentric gestures and over-the-top high notes.

Barbra-streisand-guilty-albumIt was our first duet together.

Fourteen years later, we still sing together, mostly behind closed doors just before turning out the lights for the night. Our favorite duet is “Guilty” and we’re pretty awesome at it.

And yes, our love is one in a million. Isn’t yours?!

 

 

I’m participating in the 2014 A to Z Challenge during the month of April using the very broad theme of LOVE to carry me through the alphabet. Check out writing by other bloggers taking on the #atozchallenge at @AprilA2Z.

A is for Anniversary

IMG_1211Anniversaries used to mean the world to me. I wanted pomp and fanfare, poetic words of undying love, preferably original, but pre-printed in a meaningful card was good too. Flowers for sure, a nice dinner out and a gift couldn’t hurt.

For our first wedding anniversary, Josh gave me beautiful, delicate diamond earrings with a side of first trimester nausea. In response to the terrifying horror that was 9/11, we got pregnant. When our anniversary arrived in late October, I was in full on morning sickness all day long mode. We spent a lovely weekend at the Ritz in Half Moon Bay, me huddled in a robe staring out the window at the foggy beach and Josh enjoying the spa. I could barely move let alone be rubbed. The earrings were a good call.

Ella arrived the following June and honestly, I can’t remember another anniversary since that first one. Except the 10th one, which was when we unwittingly created Lilah who will soon be three. I’m not saying we didn’t celebrate or otherwise mark our anniversary. I know we did, often with cards, sometimes with flowers or jewelry or dinner out. Once Josh even wrote me a song and I’ve given him a poem.

Throughout the years, though, we haven’t always been able to muster an anniversary level of love exactly on the day. It’s challenging with three kids, work schedules and stresses and ordinary life demands. I’m not always in the mood and neither is he. We’ve even fought on an anniversary or two.

Whether out of necessity or simply because we both realize it’s sort of ridiculous to elevate a single day and pour all our love into it, we’ve adopted an ad-hoc approach to showing our devotion. It can happen anytime and without any warning. A sweet card left on the desk. An unexpected sparkly ring, given just because. A guilt-free weekend away with the boys or the girls. A massage appointment at the spa. These surprises come at just the right moments, when our tanks are low and we need to know that the other one notices.

IMG_1827Our love is there whether it’s our anniversary or not. It’s in the weekly rolling of the garbage cans to the curb, the walking of the dog at night when I’m too tired, the rounding up of three energetic kids on the weekend so one or the other of us can go to the gym. It’s in his big bear hug and my back scratching. It’s in the way he delights in the kids’ skiing or piano playing or my writing. It’s in the pride I feel when he passes a sailing test. It’s in the clink of ice in our Friday night gin and tonics served up in the gold-rimmed crystal glasses we got for our wedding almost 14 years ago.

 

I’m participating in the 2014 A to Z Challenge during the month of April using the very broad theme of LOVE to carry me through the alphabet. Check out writing by other bloggers taking on the #atozchallenge at @AprilA2Z.