20 Years Goes By in a Flash

Tomorrow will mark the 20th anniversary of the day that this boy named Jon asked me to be his girlfriend. We were in a park in Abbotsford, not far from the Jr. High where we were both grade 9 students. We were 14 years old – so, so young. Unbelievably young, really.

Jon kissed me in that park that day – my first real kiss from a boy. And, to this day, he’s the only boy I’ve ever really kissed. (Although Jon, ever so much more worldly, apparently kissed his grade 7 girlfriend. I’m still vaguely jealous.) And now, through some fluke of time, we find ourselves 20 years later, we’re still together. We’ve never been apart. Well, I mean, physically we’ve been apart. Sometimes Jon goes to work and stuff, and back in 1991 we lived in different houses with our own parents. Because, you know, we were 14. But we’ve never broken up, and never dated anyone else in all that time.

How does 20 years go by so fast? How did I end up here, today, married to that boy? I remember every step along the way, but it sure doesn’t feel like it was 20 years. 10, maybe. But surely not 20. And yet it was – I have the photographs to prove it.

Amber and Jon (with Jim Lind) in March '91
Back in 1991 with our friend Jim

Year-end dance in grade 10
Year-end dance in 1992

Amber and Jon, all dolled up for high school graduation
All dressed up for our high school prom in 1994

A summer day in 1996
A summer day in 1996

Amber and Jon at Harrison in '99
On a weekend get-away in 1999*

*Tip: When your girlfriend’s expecting you to propose anytime, and you’re all dressed up and seated in a fancy restaurant, instead of saying, “I forgot something in the car and I need to go get it,” say, “I forgot the camera in the car, I’ll be right back.” Unless, of course, you particularly enjoy the hairy eyeball when she decides this is it, and it turns out not to be it at all.

At our engagement party
At our engagement party in 2000

Amber graduating from university
Amber’s university graduation in 2000

our wedding
Our wedding in 2001

Self-portrait in Peggy's Cove
Visiting Peggy’s Cove in 2004

Family of three
Welcoming baby Hannah in 2005

Our family
Jon’s brother’s wedding in 2008

Happy parents
Welcoming baby Jacob in 2008

Our family on Jacob's new bed
Our family in 2010

It turns out that 20 years is not so long at all. And it also turns out that sticking it out through thick and thin, when you’ve found the right person, is totally worth it. I can think of no one more right for me than my husband Jon. He is truly the very best person I know, and I’m so glad that I found him so early in life.

20 years ago I never could have imagined that day in the park marked the beginning of a journey that would bring me here. That we would weather so many changes together – learning how to drive, graduating from high school, starting first jobs, going away to university, marriage and cars and a mortgage and babies. 20 years has certainly brought us a lot of changes, and I can’t wait to see what happens in the next 20 years. To us!

Oh Happy Day

In less than a week my husband Jon and I will celebrate 20 years as a couple. When we started dating in 1991 I was a few days shy of my 15th birthday, and as Jon is a few months younger than me, he was just 14 years old. We were babies, and we never could have imagined that we would find ourselves here, today – married with children, two cars and a mortgage.

I’m sure our families couldn’t have imagined it, either. I remember the first time I met Jon’s youngest sibling, Christy. She was just 10 years old at the time, and she was discussing her upcoming dance recital with her mother. If I recall correctly, her number had a 1950s theme. She was, at the time, still very much a little girl. I’m not sure she was terribly interested in her older brother’s girlfriend, and I don’t think anyone could blame her.

But of course, children grow up. During the years I spent with Jon I watched Christy finish elementary school, and high school, and university. I saw her move away from home and chart her own course. She was a bridesmaid in my wedding, and she was at the hospital on the day my first child, Hannah, was born. We have come to share a certain amount of history, and our lives are now connected. And so I was overjoyed when she got married on Saturday and I was there to see it.

Hannah was the flower girl, and she performed her duties admirably. Jon was the master of ceremonies, and he performed his duties admirably, too. I had no duties at all, and that was cool with me. While Jacob visited my mother, I got to sit back and enjoy myself.

It was a really lovely day. I’d like to extend my congratulations to Christy and Steve, and offer my best wishes for a long and happy life together. I look forward to seeing what the next 20 years hold for them, now that they’re walking together. I hope they’re every bit as beautiful as the day that started it all was:

Hannah holds Christy's bouquet during the ceremony

Taking some photos after the ceremony

Bill signs the register

Chatting

Christy, Steve and Laurie

Sara helps Christy with her dress

Me and Hannah

Posing for a photo

I’m really terribly glad that my own wedding is long over, and I don’t have to do that again. But there’s still something amazing about a day when two people make that commitment to each other. Love and happiness overflowing until you can’t help but feel the joy. It fills me with hope, in the best way possible. Maybe because I didn’t have to write up the seating chart.

Care to share your own wedding stories? I’d love to hear!

Telecommunicating

My husband Jon and I will celebrate our 20th anniversary as a couple in a few weeks. Where has the time gone? I don’t know. We’re both very different people than we were 20 years ago, that’s for sure. Back then we were both in grade nine. It was the early 90s, and we were in love, which meant that we spent lots and lots of time talking on the phone. It also meant that when I moved away to university our long distance rates were ridiculously high compared to today’s rates, and we’re a little bitter about that, but I guess that’s just life in the big city.

Assuming that telecommunications rates are subject to change without notice in the big city. I’m not sure I’m exactly making sense, here. Please, just hang in there. I’m getting someplace, I swear.

Once Jon and I got married and moved in together, things changed. We didn’t talk on the phone as much anymore. Because, really, calling somebody who’s sitting on the couch beside you would be weird. And when we weren’t in the same place, it was usually because one of us was at work. Plus, by that point everyone had email pretty much everywhere, so that took over a lot of the perfunctory information-sharing that may have happened by phone in the past. Think, “I have a dentist appointment on Tuesday after work, so I’ll be late getting home.” It’s just as easy to send a quick note as to call someone.

I didn’t really notice the transition as our relationship moved from telephone-based to non-telephone-based. It happened naturally and gradually, until Jon and I reached the point where we rarely speak on the phone at all anymore. I wouldn’t say that I miss it. We have a whole lot more options to pick up the slack, from instant messaging to texting to emailing to sharing Google calendars.

Sending Jon off to Las Vegas
Jacob and Hannah seeing their dad off at the airport

But right now Jon is out of town. He left on Sunday night to attend a conference, and he’ll be coming home on Thursday. It’s not a ridiculously long trip, but all of the sudden we’re depending on telecommunications again. And while emails and instant messages are lovely, there’s something about just talking that’s really so much better.

When I talk to Jon, whether it’s on the phone or on a Skype video call, I notice that I give him my attention in a way that I rarely do when he’s at home. We spend 30 minutes focused on each other, sharing what’s going on with us. When we’re at home we don’t do that. We chat while we clean, we chat during commercial breaks, we try to have dinnertime conversation over the din of crying children, but there’s always something else going on the background that’s taking up some mental and physical space.

Jon and I may spend far more time inhabiting the same space than we did when we were 18, but we spend far less time actually talking. It makes me a little bit sad, although I do understand why things work this way. Our lives are busy, and we don’t always have the time that we used to have when we were young and childless to focus on each other. But that’s the challenge – making someone a priority, even though life is busy. After all, one day our kids won’t be little anymore. And when that day comes, I’d like to still have a relationship with my husband. Whether we’re talking on the phone, in person, or via the futuristic communications implants we’ll all have in decades to come.

How do you maintain the conversation when you’re living in the middle of kid-related chaos? Do you resort to technology to be heard over the din? Or do you set aside specific time to spend together? I’d love your thoughts!

Appointments with my Husband

It’s Thursday, so I’m Crafting my Life! I invite you to join in the fun. If you would like to share a story from your own journey, please drop me a line.

One of the topics that we cover in the Crafting my Life class is money. It’s not exactly the easiest and most fun week in the class, but it is one of the most important. Money, and our relationship to it, shapes a lot of our behaviours and actions. It can make us stay in a job that we hate, it can keep us from having the things we want, and it can change our status in society. Money is tied to value in our culture. Just consider the phrase “net worth“, and you’ll see what I mean.

I’ve heard that money is the leading cause of divorce. As someone who’s been married for 10 years, I can see how that would be true. Sharing finances can be stressful, and it can trigger a lot of our issues surrounding security and happiness. If we’re not on the same financial page with our partner, it can be even more difficult. But getting on the same page isn’t always so easy.

As part of the class content on money, I interviewed Sierra Black. In addition to her fabulous parenting blog, she also writes at the financial blog Get Rich Slowly. I wanted her thoughts on how to share finances with someone without turning it into a battle. And she came through for me, with a suggestion to have regularly scheduled money meetings.

My husband Jon and I are usually on the same financial page, more or less. We’re both reasonably frugal people who don’t spend a lot on ourselves. But even so, we’ve had our fair share of disagreements when it comes to spending and saving, like any couple married for 10 years. We can’t be the only ones who’ve started a discussion about something seemingly innocuous, like what the vegetable garden will look like this year, and had it turn into an all-out argument about family finances. It takes up a lot of space and energy, and it’s not exactly my idea of a good time.

So we decided to take Sierra’s suggestion. Once a week, now, we sit down and talk about our money. If something comes up between meetings, we put it on the agenda. It sounds kind of ridiculous and formal to have weekly appointments with my husband to discuss finances, but it really works. It frees up time and mental space during the week, and it gives us the opportunity to both be heard and be sure that we’re on the same page. It’s actually been a very freeing experience, which isn’t what you’d probably expect from a money meeting, but I’m taking it.

While the money meetings are great, our relationship with money remains a constantly-evolving work in progress. That’s the way that life is. And so I’d love to hear how you and your partner have gotten on the same financial page. How do you share money and share a life without creating too much stress? Did you marry someone with the same financial views as you, or are you total opposites? Please tell me!

Are Bridal Showers Outdated?

I attended my sister-in-law’s bridal shower this past weekend. It was lovely. She was lovely. The hostesses were exceedingly lovely. It was a great bridal shower. What I am about to say is not a reflection of the shower in any way. It would by highly hypocritical of me to say bad things about people who have bridal showers in any case, given that no less than four of them were thrown in my honour. I was grateful for them, and the generosity that people expressed on my behalf.

And yet, attending the shower this weekend left me thinking about bridal showers in general. These days, I see women opting for alternatives to traditional baby showers. Blessingways are becoming increasingly popular, for example. A lot of the people who seek alternatives are looking for something more meaningful, that speaks to who they are. I think that’s great. Traditions are meant to evolve right along with society.

Hannah coloring
The hostesses thoughtfully bought markers and colouring books for Hannah, so she had a blast at the shower

I haven’t seen a similar evolution in bridal showers, though. Historically, as I understand it, men had bachelor parties and women had showers. And then, sometime between the time my mother was first married in 1971 and when I was married 30 years later, bachelorette parties became common. I had a bachelorette party (just one) in addition to my four showers. Most everyone does, now. The bridal showers typically involve older female relatives or work colleagues, and the bachelorette is a chance to let off some steam with your close friends.

Now women have two kinds of parties, and the shower feels like the outdated one. Even if you don’t live together before marriage (and many couples do – CNN says it’s 70%), very few of us are living at home when we marry. Jon and I didn’t live together before we were married, but I’d lived on my own for years, and so had he (though he moved back home during our engagement). My point is that we’re not setting up house when we get married. It’s lovely to get some nice gifts, and especially the big-ticket items we might not spring for ourselves, but it’s not the necessity it was for brides-to-be during my grandmother’s era.

Sara, Hannah and Christy at Christy's shower
Opening gifts

Plus, let’s be honest. Isn’t it just a little weird to pass around someone’s tea towels and ooh and aah over them? Even at my own showers, I found that a little strange. And let’s not talk about when my grandmother and great aunt checked out the lingerie my sister bought me as a joke. Eep! I still shudder just thinking about it.

I asked what people thought of bridal showers on Twitter and Facebook, and got a range of responses. The people who were pro-shower generally put a different spin on things. They had a pedicure party, or visited a hot dog stand, or created a blessing ritual. They personalized it and updated it. But many people were anti-shower, and more specifically, anti-shower-game. It’s clear to me that many of us are just not huge fans of the bridal shower in general, much as we may love the bride-to-be and want to wish her all the best.

Cutting the cake
My gorgeous sister-in-law, cutting her cake

Like I said, I went to a bridal shower this weekend. It was lovely. I was happy to have the chance to celebrate my sister-in-law, and her upcoming marriage. And the cake was delicious. But I wonder how many more showers I will go to. I don’t know if my daughter will play toilet paper bride as she prepares for her big day, or whether there will be a new kind of event to mark the transition. Or maybe marriage rates will decline even further from their all-time low, and there won’t be much call for showers at all. I suppose that only time will tell.

In the meantime, I will attend bridal showers. I will ooh and aah over tea towels, and play games, and eat cake. I will celebrate and I will probably even enjoy myself, mostly. And I will continue to wonder what the future holds for this tradition.

I’d love to hear your thoughts. Are bridal showers outdated, or are they just the right party for our times? Did you have a traditional bridal shower (or four) of your own? Do you think that the shower can be updated to better reflect the way our society works today? Tell me all about it!

Suspenders

Yesterday I finished my Christmas shopping. Hooray for that! I was waiting in line to make one of my final purchases at that Canadian shopping institution, The Bay, when a woman caught my eye. I didn’t have my children with me, so I had the mental energy to actually notice her. I could see that it was taking her a long time to make it from her spot at the front of the line to the next available cashier. She was pushing a walker, filled with the day’s purchases. I don’t know how old she was, but if I were to guess I would say at least 80.

She laid her items on the counter in front of the cashier. The two women chatted as the cashier rang up the purchase – two pairs of suspenders. Christmas suspenders for her husband, I thought. I built a whole backstory in my mind. They’ve been married for 57 years, and every Christmas she buys him suspenders. A small gift, but a thoughtful gift. He’s come to expect them. Maybe even anticipate them. By late November, his old suspenders are showing their age. But he doesn’t worry, because soon enough his supplies will be replenished.

I think you can find the meaning of life in Christmas suspenders, if you look hard enough. When viewed from the outside, it seems like a small thing. She always buys him suspenders. But start adding the little things up. He always makes her morning cup of tea. They can never agree on which restaurant to eat at. They each have their own side of the bed. On their anniversary, they always have the same chicken they ate on their wedding night. They read the paper together on Sunday mornings. All the little things that make a marriage, like small pieces of a much larger puzzle.

Casual routines spring up in a relationship, often without our notice. I certainly don’t carefully consider each interaction with Jon. We’re approaching 20 years together, and much of our life together at this point is just convention. Who knows why I sleep on the right side of the bed? I just do. Who knows why all of our towels are yellow? They just are. But sometimes, when you think about it hard enough, you remember. You remember that the one thing your fiance wanted to register for was fluffy yellow towels. You remember the way you naturally claimed ‘your side’ of the bed. You see the mosaic of a life in the little bits of a day.

It’s true that convention by any other name is a rut. Perhaps the Christmas suspenders are a symbol of a loss of creativity and connection. Perhaps, after 57 years of suspenders, her husband wishes she would get him anything else. Routine can feel comforting, like a warm bathrobe, or confining, like a straitjacket. And two people may not agree on whether this routine is well-loved or worn-out. But even that is part of a relationship. Another brick in the wall that you build together.

I wonder where I will be, 50 years from now. Will I have started buying Jon Christmas suspenders? I doubt it, never having seen Jon wear suspenders even once, unless they came with a rental suit. But as I think about it, I can guess what I might still be buying. The Christmas magazine. The Christmas pens. The Christmas book. We won’t give it a second thought. It will just be part of our life and our marriage. Not the flashy, glamourous, exciting part. But the part that happens day in and day out, and lets us know that we are together. Still together, after all these years.

Do you ever make up stories about random strangers you encounter? And do you have something that you buy your partner every holiday season? I’d love to hear!

I Have no Sister Wives

I love shows about polygamists. Big Love, Sister Wives, you name it. If there’s a man with more than one wife, I am watching. I’m not sure why, exactly. I’m not a polygamist, and I have no desire to be a polygamist. But maybe that’s why I find it so fascinating. It’s a lifestyle that’s so different from mine, that I can’t help but feel curious when I think about it. I want to learn more, absorb all the information I can, come to understand it.

I’m not sure that TV is the best way to understand something. But it is probably the easiest. Plus, you can knit while you watch. So yay for that! Although I don’t actually have a TV, I do have a computer with an internet connection, so I can still get my fill of polygamists on the small screen. The information superhighway has arrived, and it comes bearing religious fundamentalists living an alternative lifestyle.


My own wedding, which established a decidedly monogamous union

As I watch, I ruminate. Here is a sampling of my reaction to polygamists on TV:

  • I am intensely jealous, and could never actually live in a polygamous marriage.
  • My husband Jon says that having more than one wife would be terrible. I try not to take this as an insult.
  • In spite of the fact that I couldn’t share my husband, I do think it would be awesome to have other people around to help with the kids and the cleaning and all of that.
  • I’m not sure the extra help would make up for potentially having 6 or 8 kids of my own, though. Polygamous families seem to have lots of children.
  • I wonder what happens to all the men. If some guys get four wives, then there’s got to be a lot of men out there with none. And I presume at least some of them would want a wife.
  • Come to think of it, I did watch this show once about polygamy’s lost boys. Apparently, some young men are forced out of the community to reduce competition for wives.
  • Still, I would love it if someone else would play with the kids while I got some work done. Or vice versa. Either way, it would be nice to reduce the pressure.
  • I have someone to play with my kids while I work, and I don’t have to share my husband with Wonder Nanny, because she has one of her own. She really is better than a sister wife.
  • What would I think if one of my kids wanted to live in a polygamous marriage? I don’t think I’d like it, mostly because of the inherent inequities.
  • But, on the upside, there would be a lot of grandbabies. I do love babies.
  • Polygamous men don’t just have multiple wives, they have multiple mothers in law. Fun stuff, right?
  • My own mother in law rocks. Really.
  • Maybe I should just watch Glee, instead. It’s much easier that way.

Do you share my love of TV shows about polygamists? And do you think that having sister wives around would be worth the trade-offs? And would you be offended if your husband told you that one wife was more than enough? Tell me all about it!

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