Just Heather

Today is our 6th anniversary. Sort of. It’s our fake anniversary. Our renewal anniversary.

Spencer and I have been married for 18 years. 18 really long, terribly emotional, overly erratic years. But we made it. There was a time when we almost didn’t. Many other times when it could easily have gone the other direction.

Several years ago, we took steps to reconnect and recommitted ourselves to one another. So when the opportunity for a business trip to Vegas came up, we did the only thing we could. We got (re)married in a wedding chapel with Elvis as our officiant.

Our vow renewal was silly and tacky and tons of fun. But it was also incredibly meaningful. The venue and ceremony was a joke — something silly we always said we should have done the first time.

The vows were totally not. We take our vows very seriously around here. We called it Sokol Wedding 2.0 — and that just about sums it up because it’s better in absolutely every way. That’s not to say that things are perfect.

We are still flawed people with our own issues who often fail to communicate properly. We still argue and fight and forget to actively love one another. We went almost two solid weeks without speaking just last year. But we are more confident in our commitment. We fix things without question now. We turn towards each other more often than we pull apart. I know when every storm passes, he’ll still be there holding my hand.

Because this time, neither one of us is willing to let go.

Fifteen years ago today, I married my best friend — and it nearly destroyed us.

We spent years trying to be everything to one another. But when you rely on just one person for everything, you lose yourself a little bit. One of the greatest things I’ve ever done for my relationship with Spencer is find girlfriends.

I have friends to hang out with when we just need a break from one another. I have mom friends who get the day in and day out of my life. I have friends who make me laugh or let me cry. I have friends who support my relationship or let me complain about it.

My friends helped me find myself far better than my husband ever could. Because they were separate from me. Spencer and I are just so entwined after 15 years. Getting married young, having a baby a few months later — we grew up together. And, for awhile there, we grew apart.

The key was remembering we’d always wanted to grow old together. No matter who my friends are, what I’m doing or where I am, at the end of the day, Spencer is still the one I want to hear my stories. He’s not my best friend anymore, but we’re so much better for it. Oh, we’re still friends — talking, laughing, spending time together — but he’s so much more now.

Instead of trying to be everything I ever needed in a friend, he can be my love, my life, my soul mate. This man? He’s my heart and soul. He’s the link to my youth. He’s the dream for my future. He’s the one I want now and always.

Even after 15 years.

After our super fun letter C date, we had a plan for letter M—a whole day of hitting Indy museums. We are members at both the State Museum and the Children’s Museum, plus the art museum is always free. It was supposed to be a fun, inexpensive day. We only needed a whole Saturday when someone could watch the girls.

Then, my mom volunteered to watch them for my birthday weekend—score! Sure, we could have still gone to the museum, but with an entire weekend alone, we changed the plan. Kid-Free Weekend, brought to you by the Letter M. After dinner with my family (both to celebrate my birthday and hand off the girls), we rented a few movies for Saturday.

Technically, movies are against the Alphabet Dating rules, but as part of a larger weekend, it is acceptable. Besides, we make the rules and are free to change them at will. So there. We went with both mindless action (Game of Action) & uber cheese (G.I. Joe)—neither of which I recommend.

Saturday morning featured mimosas & breakfast in bed, followed by a lazy movie marathon, curled up in bed, with a quiet house, and enjoying being together. We eventually got dressed and went to a new movie in an actual theater before dinner at Maggiano’s. When we do succumb to a simple dinner & a move date, we always see the movie first.

That way, we have something to talk about at dinner and don’t get sucked into the everyday work & kids chats. Dinner was awesome—it’s a cozy, romantic restaurant with delicious Italian food. I don’t like pasta at all, but there are plenty of other yummy options to choose.

I had hit up Twitter for a sexy dessert idea for letter M and came up with mousse, which we made together Saturday night but never got around to eating once they had chilled. And, so it became Sunday morning’s breakfast—yum! It definitely met the challenge.

We finished up the day with Macho Nachos for lunch and a few flea markets, before meeting my parents for gluten free pizza at Monical’s, to get the girls back. It was just a really laid back weekend, enjoying the quiet (and one another!). Before kids, we used to hit flea markets almost every weekend.

I think, sometimes, we forget about the simple things we used to enjoy. We get caught up in the game, planning our dates & doing things we’ve always wanted to do—which is awesome, but kinda misses the point. It’s all about being together, no matter what we’re doing.

Big, elaborate dates are obviously a lot of fun, but the simple ones are important too.

Thank you to Yahoo! Mail for sponsoring this post about staying connected. I was selected for this sponsorship by the Clever Girls Collective, which endorses Blog With Integrity, as I do.

Boy meets girl. Boy asks girl on a date. Boy falls in love with girl. Boy & girl live happily ever after.

Except, ours went more like: Girl meets boy. Girl falls in love with boy. Boy barely notices girl exists. Girl stalks boy through email for 6 months. Boy asks girl on a date. Boy falls in love with girl. Boy & girl live together ever after. The happily part came & went through the years, but that’s another story.

This is the never told story of a long ago email stalking flirtation. The story of us.

The story most people remember is we were engaged less than 6 months after beginning our relationship and married when I was 5 months pregnant. My version is better—we met in 1995 (my freshman year of college), were engaged in 1996, married in 1997 and had our first child in 1998.

And, none of it would ever have happened, if it weren’t for one impulsive, late night email.

But, I suppose I should back up a bit. I first met Spencer when I needed some help finishing a project. The super cute geek in the computer lab came to my rescue, but I didn’t think much beyond “Oh, yum!” and “Crap! I hope I can get this finished on time.” So, I didn’t even get his name.

Then, I bumped into him again, a few weeks later—on my turf. I served him ‘mocktails’ at my dorm’s Casino Night fundraiser and brazenly introduced myself. This is sort of not like me, but I figured seeing the same cutie twice in one month was fate. We flirted (yes, even him—it was awhile later before I realized he kind of isn’t good at it.) a bit and that was that.

Everything in me wanted to call him up the next day and invite him to our dorm’s formal that night, but I figured it would be a bit much. So, I settled for bumping into him the next week at the computer lab & sending random, light-hearted emails to stay on his mind—a tactic I employed for the several months. I flirted. He blushed. Lather, rinse, repeat.

Until the night I stayed up way too late and ended up sending a completely different kind of email, about how much I liked him. I can’t begin to tell you how much I wished for an undo button that night. It was completely candid & totally humiliating, probably even more so because he didn’t even bother to respond. But, it did put things out there and make my feelings completely obvious to a clueless college kid.

It would be several more months before he did anything about it, but it didn’t take much from there for everything to click. And, that’s a story for another day!

A couple weeks ago, I was standing behind Spencer and leaned forward to kiss the back of his neck—as I always do when I find myself in that position. Except, I couldn’t reach. I had to stand on my toes to kiss my favorite spot.

Confused, I realized it’s because I’ve always worn heels when I do this. Weird, since I’ve been wearing heels for less than 2 years.

In my head, this is something I’ve always done. In reality, there were huge chunks of time when I wasn’t interested in kissing him at all.

As we headed down the path of reconciliation & rebuilt our marriage, date night was a major part of the plan. We concocted the alphabet dating scheme as a way to make dating fun again—and to be sure we kept it on the priority list. We’ve reconnected, learned to communicate better in between dates and fallen in love all over again.

That part was kind of an accident. I just wanted to be able to live together, without the constant bickering. But, being in love with your husband? Is pretty much awesome.

And, it’s not just the date nights keeping us going anymore. Last week, we went out for the first time since June—that’s almost 9 whole months, if you’re counting. A few years ago, a span like that would have found us bickering nonstop and ready to call it quits (again). Now, it’s just a welcome break from our everyday lives.

Between dates, we’re talking instead of arguing and sharing our lives instead of isolating one another. I’m almost willing to say we’re starting to figure this marriage thing out—it only took us 13 years. Except, I know we’ll have rough patches again. The difference is, next time, we’ll be ready for it. And, we’ll confront it head on together.

And, that is our happily ever after.

When we first started planning our alphabet dating ideas, L was one of the first things we decided on—laser tag. But, when the time came and the opportunity to go to Chicago came up, it didn’t take much to get me to change my mind. There’s always T…

And, I love Chicago.

I also love the hubby, despite his oddities. Or, maybe because of them. I don’t know. Anyway, that kind of became the theme of the weekend—Love Me Anyway. I drug him along to a blogging conference, introduced him to strangers and forced him to be—gasp!—social. He made me sit through a 5 hour geek-a-thon.

Okay, so Paul and Storm were heavily featured, but it was called W00tstock and included serious geekery I didn’t understand in the slightest. I just keep telling him I’m not a real geek. I only speak it, on occasion. But, I did enjoy my weekend.

It’s nice to take a peek at what he’s into now & then. I worried it would reinforce our differences, but we were pretty relaxed about it and just let one another be. That’s truly been our saving grace all along.

He’s always been fabulous about letting me be who I am and do what I need to figure it all out. I need a way to unwind after a long day? He’ll handle a load of laundry while I take a bubble bath. I need to vent with a girlfriend? He’ll put the kids in bed while I have a cosmo with MFJ.

I don’t always get him. I don’t always agree with him. I don’t always want to do the things he does. But, I do always love him and recognize that it’s important to him do these things anyway—with or without me.

We just need to find more ways to be who we are together.

Thirteen years ago today, I said, “I do.” Earlier this year, I did it again. Each wedding meant something big to me, but anniversaries? I’m not really the type.

I’m not the girl who remembers the day of our first kiss. I couldn’t tell you the night of our first date. I can’t recall the date he proposed. What I remember are the feelings—the giddy, butterflies-in-your-stomach, never going to forget this moment feelings.

The dates are fleeting in my memory, but, the wedding date? Well, I wrote it down. And, so we celebrate year after year—it’s nice to mark the time and know we’re still making it. He’s still the one. We’re beating the odds. And, we’d do it all over again.

Usually, though, we celebrate on a weekend surrounding our wedding. This year, we’re booked until October. So, when I realized how much free time I was going to have now that Lorelai is in preschool, I suggested a morning date after dropping the girls at school.

I thought we could turn it in to our Letter M alphabet date, originally slated to be an afternoon at museums, but with 3 kids we’re nothing, if not flexible. I pictured a leisurely morning in bed, content just to snuggle in the peace & quiet, a walk through our small town & an early lunch at a quiet cafe before preschool pickup.

He pictured something else entirely. I think the biggest problem, there, is I didn’t let him know what I had in mind. So, when he rushed me to get ready, brushed past me without commentary on the care I took to get ready and told me we had to hurry so he could get to work, he didn’t understand why I was upset.

We parked in front of a local diner and tried to talk it out, but a whole mess of other stuff managed to come up. I’m sure to passersby, we just looked like we were waiting for something. And, I think we usually are. We’re waiting for life to get easier. Waiting for the other shoe to drop. Waiting for our thoughts & goals to just mesh.

Without a lot of thought or conversation about how we’re going to make that happen. So, our morning date was canceled in favor of talking. And tears. And more talking. We’ve still got a mess of stuff to figure out, but who doesn’t? We’ll just have to keep talking and figure it out.

Because we’ve still got half the alphabet to get through. Not to mention the rest of our lives. And, I’ll marry him again if I have to. Next time, I want the princess gown & a castle. Not that I’ve put a lot of thought into it or anything.

When we began planning our alphabet dating journey, I knew there would be a few letters that tripped us up. We certainly weren’t planning to learn how to quilt together nor will we be playing a xylophone. Then it hit me—Q is for Queen for a Day! Of course, that means I had to give up letter K.

We’re still figuring out letter X, but we’ve still got awhile.

A couple weeks go, we planned for a sitter & I let the hubby know it was time for him to plan our next date. I’m not sure you could call it “planned” but it seemed like he got a chance to take me to a few places I wouldn’t ordinarily go. First, his royal majesty wanted a smoothie (a la iCarly, of course) so we drove around for a bit looking for something Yelp assured us existed but that turned out to be closed.

We wandered around the Carmel Arts & Design District—which, by the way, boasts the World’s Smallest Children’s Art Museum (as verified by the Guinness Book of World Records). The museum was closed, but I can attest to the fact that it is tiny! We wandered up the street a bit to the Sweets Shoppe, just to check out the candy store our oldest frequents with her friends. I got chocolate, naturally, and he was able order his smoothie.

He has decided he doesn’t actually like smoothies.

For dinner, he decided on Mexican—so not my favorite but I do enjoy margaritas. They had a gorgeous one on special. As it was the largest margarita I’d ever been served, I barely finished half of it. At this point, Spencer decided he was going to teach me to play Go. Except, he left his board at home so we ran home to pick it up. On the way to the coffee shop, we somehow ended up at Netheads instead.

We had a Groupon that provided a pretty good deal anyway so he decided we should play. Well, more accurately, he played—I watched. We did play a couple rounds of Scene It on the X-Box but with the various mishaps throughout, I’m not sure we were able to declare a champion! (That’s my story, and I’m sticking to it.)

This was clearly his day, but that doesn’t mean I didn’t enjoy myself. Spending time doing the things he loves is something I should probably do a lot more of. I used to—when you’re young & newly in love there’s just something about hanging on his arm while he plays video games or snuggling next to him to watch a movie you’d never pick. As the years go by, though, and time alone or together is few & far between, we’ve tried to choose things we could both enjoy.

Which means, I don’t scrapbook. He doesn’t play video games. I don’t watch chick flicks. He misses scary movies. I read a little less (even if it is still a lot). He plays less guitar. There’s less me and more we—on both sides—and that’s not always a good thing. If I lose myself, what’s left for him to love? Our 40×40 lists are helping, but we need to have the chance to share our separate interests together again.

Alphabet Dating to the rescue again—it’s been a journey of discovery & learning as well as reconnection, all along.