Category Archives: Paul

Letter to my Newlywed Self

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wedding

I’ve seen plenty of inspiring, wisdom-filled essays from people to their younger selves. They are generally uplifting and full of good advice about choices and chances—wisdom gleaned from painful years of wrong turns, shifting perceptions, and painful falls. Sure, their younger selves wouldn’t listen any better than they did, but it feels good to say it out loud, nonetheless, to acknowledge how far you’ve come and how much you’ve grown. Looking back over almost 18 years of marriage now, I realized that I also have a lot to say to my younger self–specifically the self I was when I married Paul at the tender age of 22 and embarked, for better or worse, on the crazy adventure that follows the choice to spend the rest of your life with the person you love.

Dear Newlywed Katrina,

The wedding was beautiful, wasn’t it? Aside from you accidentally smashing your groom’s fingers in the car door before making your getaway, the day was sheer poetry. Looking over at your new husband, I know you can’t imagine that anyone before or since has ever had a love as profound and unique as yours. And all those people who talk about marriage being hard work full of fights and frustrations and misunderstandings clearly didn’t manage to marry their perfect soulmate, as you have cleverly done.

You might want to sit down, girl.

It turns out that the finger-smashing incident was a pretty good metaphor for marriage. Even when everything is beautiful and amazing between the two of you, blood and tears inevitably make an appearance here and there. Expect them, and learn from them (For example, you’ve already learned to check for fingers before slamming the car door. Don’t tell Paul, but there are a lot of accidental injuries in his future. Watch where you put your knees and elbows, and remember that your diamond ring can scratch.)

Anyway, here are some things I wish I could tell you before you have to learn them the hard way:

1. Guess what? You’re not your husband’s mother. I know, as the oldest child, that you have spent a lifetime assuming you know the best way to do everything and bossing around the people you love (in their own best interests, of course). But that’s a habit you need to break. Your husband needs a lover and a friend, not a nagging know-it-all correcting the way he loads the dishwasher or making sure he gets his work done. Believe it or not, he even has some things to teach you. Life will start being a lot more fun for both of you when you figure this out.

2. It’s his home, too. Sure, you’ve spent hours poring over magazine articles about decorating on a budget and combing through thrift shops for those beautifully aged shabby chic end tables. You consider your home an extension of yourself, an embodiment of your unique personality, and Paul’s framed Star Wars movie poster, as attractive as it is, just doesn’t jibe with the casual neo-Grecian vibe you’re trying to create. I mean, you’ve already given him a four foot steamer trunk in which to stuff all his unsightly computer cords and gaming paraphernalia; what more does he want? Well, I’ll tell you. He wants to feel like he lives there. He wants to be comfortable and at home in his own place. He wants to be able to see his stuff, and to use it without feeling like it’s a barbaric offense to the civilized world. He wants to meld your life and his into a new life that is better and richer than before; he wants to create a home for the two of you, one that reflects both of you and this new thing that you are together. Besides, deep inside, you are a way bigger geek than you even know right now. You’ll want to hang on to that Star Wars poster.

3. Let some things go. Right now, you think that good communication means airing your every single complaint and irritation with each other immediately and in full. You don’t want to “let things fester”, and that’s good. Festering is bad. But what you don’t know yet is that a lot of those things that bother you now just aren’t very important. They aren’t even big enough to fester. They’re more like little welts on the surface of your skin that will entirely disappear by morning. For example, it’s certainly not worth killing two hours of a precious Saturday night to wage war on his annoying habit of putting empty containers back in the fridge. Just throw them away for him. Seriously. It takes two seconds. Save your energy for the big battles, because there will be a few, and you don’t want to have spent all your emotional capital on empty Miracle Whip jars.

4. Make time for each other. I know, you think you’ll always have these late Saturday mornings to lie in bed gazing into each other’s eyes and talking about everything under the sun. You can’t imagine that a time will come when you don’t call each other at work to coo adoringly into the phone or spend evenings strolling hand in hand along downtown streets, dreaming about your future selves. But life has a way of happening, filling up the hours and days with children and projects and obligations. Before you know it, you can find yourselves falling into bed after a busy day without having said more to each other than “good morning”, “goodnight”, and “don’t forget your dentist appointment at four”. You have to fight this with all of your will! Connections are much easier to maintain than they are to rebuild. Don’t ever let busy schedules and worries make you forget what you have in each other. The back burner is no place for a marriage. Keep the heat on under it, and stir it constantly. Trust me, it will be delicious.

5. Be on the same team. The world is full of adversaries – people who want to tear you down or take what you have, people who only want to win, to dominate, to stand at the top of a heap of fallen opponents and bask in their victories. That’s the opposite of marriage. You and Paul are comrades in arms, shouting encouragement and sharing canteens as you take this hill of life together. You will disagree with each other; one or the other of you will fall down and lose focus; you will encounter obstacles so big they seem to block out the sun. At such times, it’s easy to turn on your teammate, but don’t. Take turns picking each other up. Forget about blame and focus on the next step. Carry each other when the need arises. To quote Malcolm Reynolds (from the show Firefly – you’re going to love it!), “You’re on my crew. Why we still talking about this?”

6. When it comes to sex, say yes as often as you can. Sex is glue for your relationship. Apply liberally. A few months after your honeymoon, when you’ve worked out all the mechanical details, you will fall back into bed one night, turn your eyes to the heavens, and ask blissfully, “Can it possibly get any better than THIS?” And the answer, I am delighted to report, is “YES!” Better and better and unbelievably better! (But now I’m just bragging.) Here’s the thing. You will be tempted to set the tempo of your sex life solely to the beat of your own desire. And, female sexual response being what it is, that desire will not come knocking on your door quite as often as it does on his. But if you say yes, even if you don’t feel like dancing at first, you will usually find yourself getting caught up in the beat. Sometimes you’ll want the seven course meal, and other times, you’ll just be in the mood for a quick burger and fries. (Wow, I’ve got like three sex metaphors going here!) Either kind of meal can be satisfying. The important thing is the nourishment it gives your relationship. It’s amazing how powerful sex is. When you’re stressed out, when he’s had a setback at work, when the argument is over but the tension isn’t — sex says, “I love you. I choose you. We are in this together.” It makes the highs higher and the lows less harrowing. Plus, it’s fun. Do it a lot.

7. Show Paul how much you admire him. You picked him for a reason — lots of reasons. Does he know what they are? When you find yourself appreciating his sense of humor, or his easy way of talking to strangers, or how good he looks in his jeans, open your mouth and tell him! Say nice things about him in front of others, and try not to share stories with your girlfriends that would embarrass him. (I admit that I still struggle with this. See if you can do something about our compulsive oversharing, will you, 22 year-old me?) Be the one in his corner, the one who cheers louder than anyone else, the one who speaks into the self-doubt and discouragement with words that build up and show him who he is in your eyes. He needs that, just like you do.

8. Do new things. Sure, you don’t like football now, and the mention of tabletop gaming makes your eyes glaze over with boredom, but don’t reject his favorite activities out of hand. Give them a chance. Yes, you’ll discover that you truly never, ever want to play Shogun again in your life, but you’ll also be surprised to find out that you quite like fantasy football and computer gaming. And the effort you put into sharing his interests will pay off in a hundred little ways, like the warm smile in his eyes when he has to crown you Queen and Champion of the Fantasy Football League in your very first season..

9. Don’t give up. There will come a time when you think about it, when the wrong turn your marriage has made takes you so far into the weeds that you can’t even see your feet. Don’t give up. You get back to the road the same way you got off of it — one step at a time. In a marriage like yours, made of two people who love and trust God, there is nothing He can’t fix.

10. Finally, I know you hate that ratty plaid flannel jacket that Paul always wears, but do not throw it away and pretend it got lost in the laundry. He will know it was you, and you will still be hearing about it 18 years later. Trust me.

You’re in for a wild ride, Katrina, but the scenery is fantastic. Hang on tight and don’t let go!

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He’s a Gleamer

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Paul’s starting to get that gleam in his eye again.

No, not that one.  That one’s always there.

I’m talking about the I-want-to-buy-something-shiny-with-wires-and-circuit-boards gleam.

Last night we went over to Jim and Alyson’s house and watched Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince… on Blu-ray.  (Ooooooh!  Ahhhhh!)  The resolution was so clear that you could see the individual pores on Hermione’s nose.  You could count every one of Ron’s freckles.  You could make out the patterns of individual snowflakes falling on Hogsmeade.

Okay, okay…I’m mocking just a little (but it’s so fun!)  Teasing aside, however, I’ll admit that the picture did look pretty crisp.

And unless I mistake that gleam in Paul’s eye, I will soon be able to enjoy that delightfully microscopic detail from the comfort of my own living room couch.  Don’t worry, Paul.  I won’t put up a fight.  I know the inevitable when I see it.  Besides, I’m building up leverage for the new dining room chandelier I want to buy.

Gleam on, sweet geek, gleam on.

Laughter, the Best Medicine

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Katie and Caleb have recently discovered the power of encouragement.  They are forever writing little notes to each other and to friends, and last Wednesday, they spent over an hour working on an art project to say thank you to their Wednesday night Bible class teacher for her efforts in class.

Therefore, it wasn’t a surprise when Katie came home from school yesterday with one request: help making a get well card for Daddy, who is still suffering with the cold that laid all of us flat this fall.

She got out colored pencils and cardstock and went right to work.  In no time, she had the front of the card done:

Get Well card

Opening to the inside, she asked me for my contribution.  Could I write a funny poem about being sick that would make Daddy laugh and feel better?  She and Caleb would each write one, too, she explained, so the card would be from all of us.

It wasn’t easy finding a rhyme for “chest congestion”, but I did my best.  I especially love Katie’s poem and the artwork she did to go with mine.  Caleb eschewed poetry in favor of his assurance that “I love you 100%!”   Here’s the finished treasure, and I’m sure it’s one that Paul will cherish for years to come: (Transcript follows the photo.)

The Elephant Cure, by Katrina

When you’re feeling tired and ill

Take heed of my suggestion

And buy yourself an elephant

To help your chest congestion.

He’ll dangle you upside down

By your ankles in the air

And shake until the extra mucus

falls right out of there!

The Dream, by Katie

A bomb in my head just exploded;

A scorpion crashed in my tongue;

It feels like my ear has corroded;

There’s a penguin in one of my lungs.

Half of my chest has turned yellow;

My brain feels like whipped cream;

My fingers jiggle like Jell-o…

AT LEAST IT WAS A DREAM!

Look What I Made!

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Every year around October or November, I get all ambitious about making Christmas presents.  I scan articles on crafting and sewing.  I pore over patterns and comb the aisles of Joann’s in search of ideas.

Every year around December, I give it up and hit the stores with my debit card to buy presents, like every other year.

Except this year.

This year, I stumbled across some pillow covers online that I knew Paul would love.  Space Invader pillow covers.  Not having $135 to buy the set, I thought to myself: “I bet I can make those!”  Thinking about making them might have been the end of it, if I hadn’t happened to show the design to my friend, Marci, who persuaded me on the spot to go to the craft store with her and pick out the fabric.  I decided to make throw pillows instead of pillow covers, and selected fabric to go with the colors of our family room.  Newly energized by having the materials in hand, I set to work immediately.

On Christmas Eve (not a moment too soon), I finished!

They’re far from perfect, but, needless to say, Paul thinks they’re awesome.  I’m just proud I finished them!

(If you have no idea what these are, click here.)

Interview With Paul

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Boy, do I have a treat for my readers!  Today’s NaBloPoMo post features an off-the-cuff interview with my beloved husband, lord of the castle, the head geek himself, the Amazing Paul.

I will be making up the questions as I go along, and Paul’s answers will be typed in without editing.  Let’s see what happens, shall we?

Q–Paul, what would you say has been your most embarrassing moment thus far?

A–One time, as a young kid, I went to the beach and did a cannonball into the water.  I came out of the water, and saw that the front of my shorts were ripped, so I walked out of the water and onto the shore and all the way up the beach to where our towels were, bending forward at the waist to cover the front of my torn shorts, only to discover that the rip extended all the way around from the front of my shorts to the back, and I had been mooning everyone all the way up the beach.

Q–What is the hardest thing about marriage?

A–It’s not as hard now as it used to be, but keeping an open and fair line of communication takes the most effort.  Being able to be understood as well as making sure that the other person feels understood is a tall order, especially when you’re trying to do that on a regular basis.

Q–If you could only eat one food for the rest of your life, what would it be?

A–Steak.  Or Red Vines that are soft.

Q–Name three male role models who have positively impacted your life.

A–My Dad.  While that may sound cliche, he has always given me a sense of fairness and practicality and down-to-earthness in addition to a great spiritual grounding.  Dr. Daniel Stockstill, a professor at Harding University who always gave great boiled-down and wise perspectives on life that made decisions easier to make, yet leaving you to make the final call. Jeff Grow (and family), who have shared so much of my positive history as a young person that I can’ t begin to weigh all the impacts on my person now.  There are too many great men to choose from.

Q–What was your most memorable Christmas gift ever?

A–My parents always tried to get us at least one thing that we really wanted.  This one year, they went out on a limb and bought something that we hadn’t even asked for or hear of called “Crossbows and Catapults”.  It was basically a game where you build walls out of blocks and chuck round pieces of plastic at each other’s castles using rubber-band powered ballistics.  It was war.  It was action.  It was projectiles.  It was time with Dad.  We each got a starter set and were puzzled when we opened the presents, but the packaging of the game was promising enough that we were not too skeptical.  Both my parents were so intent on getting us one thing that we really wanted, and this was the big ticket item.  I remember them being fearful that they hadn’t gotten us the “one thing”.  They didn’t feel this way because they were scared we would throw a selfish fit.  They just loved us, and wanted us to have something fun.  So we cracked it open, and it was so awesome that I still have the sets to this day and play it with my own kids, who also think it is awesome.

Q–What’s your biggest fear?

A–Being separated somehow from people that I love.

Q–If you had a personal theme song, what would it be?

A–Isn’t that something someone else should compose for you?  *laughs* (The interviewer thinks his theme song should be “Harvey the Wonder Hamster”.)

Q–Why won’t you get matching tattoos with your wife?

A–I feel pretty strongly that if I’m going to permanently mark my body, it has to be a design that I feel intense about.  I haven’t felt compelled to place any symbol on my person yet.

Q–But how do you feel about the full-back Chewbacca tattoo that your wife is planning on getting next month?

A–Ummm…it will accent the hair on her face well?  *ducks and covers his face with his hands while he is pummeled by the interviewer*  No, really, Chewbacca’s a great guy, and I’m actually proud that he’ll get such a place of prominence.

Q–Last question.  In ten words or less, what do you want your tombstone to say?

A–“Gone to heaven.  Are you coming or not?”

Thank you, Paul.  You are a wonderful husband and a fine human being.  I believe I’m rather fond of you.

***

(By the way, should it need to be said, the interviewer is NOT getting a tattoo of Chewbacca on her back, but was merely attempting to bait the interviewee.  Relax, Mom!)

Prince Charming

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(An online friend of mine who writes a feature column in the local newspaper is doing a special on love stories to celebrate Valentine’s Day.  I was delighted when he asked me to contribute a few paragraphs about my romance with Paul.  I thought I’d post my contribution here, too.  If you’d like, use the comments to share what you love best about your Valentine!)

***

He wasn’t wearing armor or waving a banner, and his lemon yellow Oldsmobile Omega was about as far from a noble steed as you could get, so when my white knight showed up one unassuming August day in the hallowed halls of Harding University, I very nearly missed him.

Like so many single girls, I’d spent years dreaming up my own vision of Prince Charming—some impossible combination of Antonio Banderas and Atticus Finch, gorgeous and intelligent and whimsical and high-minded and mysterious and transparent and powerful and gentle and confident and humble and…and, and, and. In short, he was the perfect man.

Thankfully, he was entirely fictional. Had I ever actually met him, I’m quite certain he would have driven me crazy.

Instead, I found Paul. Or he found me. It was sort of a mutual finding, taking shape over long afternoon walks and dollar menu dates. And in the years since, my picture of Prince Charming has been gloriously remade in the image of the wonderful, stumbling, passionate, funny, amazing man that I married. He snores. He tells the same jokes over and over. He forgets to write things down in the checkbook. He gets cranky when he hasn’t eaten in a while. And when I am lying buried under a heap of worries and frustrations, he is the one who puts a strong shoulder under the pile and helps me carry it along. From his willingness to take on the tasks that I hate (like dealing with the phone company) to the spontaneous backrubs he gives when he can tell I’ve had a crazy day, everything Paul does sends the message: “We’re in this together, babe.”

Together, we specialize in laughter and finishing each other’s sentences. We play Scrabble ferociously. We fight and make up in almost the same breath, because pouting wastes precious time that would be much better spent discussing who would win in a fight between Batman and Spiderman. We go out a lot, but we’re secret homebodies, thankful when weather or cancellation or even sickness throws our plans to the wind and gifts us with a sweet night curled up on the couch in front of a movie.

“I married my best friend.” It’s inscribed on countless greeting cards and wedding invitations. It’s also written on the map of my life, the turning in the road that completely and forever changed my story. In this land, hand in hand with a real, live Prince, a two-bedroom apartment is a palace, a mud-splattered Ford Escort is a royal coach, and a Wendy’s Junior Bacon Cheeseburger is a feast.

I defy even Antonio Banderas to create that kind of magic.

So This Is Love

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We were sitting in church this morning when Paul reached over and pulled a single long hair off the sleeve of my sweater.  He held it up and we could both see it shimmering silver in the overhead lights.

I leaned over and whispered, “It’s official.  You’re married to an old lady.”  He chuckled quietly.

I thought a moment.  “Does it bother you?  The gray?  I could color it, you know.”

“No, don’t,” he said, and gestured wryly to the silvery streaks emerging in his own beard and sideburns.

I smiled.  “Well, then–I guess we’ll just go gray together.”

Grinning, he reached over and took my hand before leaning to whisper in my ear.

“That’s the dream.”

Spoiled Rotten: Further Evidence

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My birthday. I hold my breath and wonder what exciting gadget/software/technological miracle The Geek has found for me this year. Whatever it is, I know from experience that it will suddenly and inextricably become a pivotal part of my functional life and I will lose my ability to remember how I lived without it.

Exhibit A:

I didn’t even know I needed one of these, but let me tell you how totally cool it is.

It surfs the internet, sends and receives email, catalogs my contact list, and syncs its on-board datebook with my Google calendar.

It holds all my music, shows videos, and plays games.

With a simple touch, I can access the weather report, a calculator, road maps, stock prices, or a simple notepad.

It has tons of downloadable free applications, including the Bible, Sudoku, and Pandora radio.

Scrolling by flicking your finger across the screen is indescribably satisfying.

I’m still figuring out all the things it can do, but it has already effortlessly replaced my old iPod and my Palm Pilot in one swift stroke.

In short, I love it.

Thanks, babe!

Vegas Revisited

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Usually, the phrase “so hot you could fry an egg on the sidewalk” is a hyperbole. Not so on the Las Vegas Strip in the middle of July. I meant to bring an egg with me to try it out this time, but you know how tight TSA carry-on baggage regulations have gotten lately. And believe it or not, there’s nowhere on the Strip to actually buy a single egg unless it’s already cooked into a fifteen dollar frittata, so you’ll just have to take my word for it. It was hot.

Not that the heat was a surprise to Tracy, Regina, and I. This was, after all, our second July trip to Vegas, which made us experts of a sort, if there is a field of expertise that specializes solely in finding great places to eat and shop and indulge in innocent entertainment in a town built mostly around naughtiness.

I suppose we might have been a little naughty, if you count the sin of gluttony, because we ate, and we ate well. Hoo, boy, did we eat. We made a return visit to our favorite buffet of all time at the Bellagio, enjoyed sushi again (several times) at the site of my own maiden sushi experience, Ra, and together polished off four large boxes of gourmet chocolates from famous Ethel’s Chocolate Lounge (it was buy three get one free–what were we supposed to do?) Without a doubt, though, one of the gustatory highlights of the trip was lunch (courtesy of Regina’s wonderful husband, Chris, who paid the bill) at The Mesa Grill, a hotspot owned by celebrated chef Bobby Flay. I had the amazing Barbecued Lamb Cobb Salad and we ordered and split three desserts that defy the powers of my usual catalog of adjectives. This morning I got on the scale to tally up the damage and was pleasantly surprised to see that I didn’t gain a pound! I guess all that toiling up and down hot Vegas sidewalks had its rewards, after all.

We stayed at the luxurious (and I don’t use that adjective lightly) Venetian hotel, possibly the most pampering place in which I have ever parked a suitcase. With big fluffy robes and slippers, fresh flowers in the bathroom, three flat screen televisions (including one you could watch while stretching out full length in the enormous tub), and a panoramic view of the Strip out of our picture window, our deluxe suite made me feel like the rock star I always wanted to be.

And, of course, we shopped. It didn’t seem to matter that everything cost half again as much as it would at home. It was only Vacation Money, after all, so it flowed rather more freely than the real kind. The kids’ favorite purchase of mine was the dice-shaped lollipops I brought home for them. As of this writing, they’ve sucked most of the dots off, and are working diligently at making the rest disappear as well.

Oh, and I’m sorry to disappoint you gambling teetotalers out there, but I did take my turn at the penny slot machine. I lost a whole dollar! At one point, I was up to a dollar forty; I just knew I should have cashed out then. So much for my plan to pay off our student loans with my ill-gotten gains.

I should mention that this lovely and relaxing girls getaway was only made possible by support from the troops at home, particularly Paul, who took my place as pancake-maker, tucker-inner, boo-boo-kisser, and all around nurturer in addition to performing his own duties as spider-killer, entertainment-coordinator, and transportation-provider. Thanks, babe. You totally rock! (And I don’t mean like Wayne Newton.)

***

Tracy, me, Regina:

The famous Bellagio fountains! I recorded this on my tiny purse cam, so please excuse the tinny sound and the Blair-Witch-esque camera work. I highly recommend seeing it in person:

Happy Birthday, WDF

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Thirty-three years ago today, through a complex series of small miracles, Paul landed in the world. And today, in commemoration of that blessed event, we ate hamburgers as big as our heads and took a monster nap right in the middle of the afternoon.

Actually, since today was Sunday and already filled up with church and Bible study and all good things, we did the bulk of our merrymaking yesterday, in celebration of both Paul’s birthday and his safe return from a week of teaching at church camp.

Can I just tell you how much I missed my husband last week? A whole long week of no warm body next to me in a bed as big and as empty as the Sahara. A week of watching movies alone and turning around to share my pithy observations with someone who wasn’t there. A week of killing my own spiders, doing the Icky Spider Dance of Girliness to a non-existent audience. A week of missing the love of my life keenly, and realizing (even more than usual) how blessed I am to have someone so wonderful to miss.

Halfway through the week, I sat down with the birthday wish list I had pried out of Paul’s brain before he left and tried to decide what to get him as a gift. Usually, I ask Paul for a bunch of ideas, settle on one, and buy it. He likes it, he thanks me, and everyone is happy. But this year, for some reason, it just didn’t feel like enough. Scanning the list, I considered the possibilities: disc golf equipment, computer software, gift certificates. Any of them would be met with sweet gratitude by my easy-to-please husband. But none of them seemed right.

Let me tell you about my birthdays. Every year, I make a wish list. Paul takes it, reads it over carefully, and throws it away. Then he searches my heart and mind to discover the one gift that I want more than anything but would never dare to ask for because it’s too expensive, too impractical, too extravagant to even be committed to paper. And he buys it. Like my laptop. Like my digital SLR. Like my scrapbooking desk.

For once, I wanted to be a scandalous gift giver. I wanted to make Paul feel like I feel when I tear open the wrapping and my unspoken dream thingy is sitting there. I wanted him to know that he is loved beyond all reason, beyond mere practicality.

So I searched his heart and replayed our recent conversations in my head until I came up with it. The thing he would never ask for, but I knew he really wanted: a Nintendo Wii. Giggling with glee, wild with anticipation, I picked up the phone and started calling around town to locate the gaming system. Target, Walmart, Game Stop, Circuit City–all were out of stock! I was starting to feel a little desperate. It was Saturday morning and I was nearly resigned to having to order one online when my last call, to Best Buy, hit pay dirt! They had just received three that morning, but they expected to be sold out within the hour. I loaded up the kids and burned rubber and before I knew it I was finally holding the prize in my hot little hand. Having completely abandoned myself to the spirit of wild giving, I didn’t stop there. After a brief consultation via phone with Paul’s brother, who also has a Wii, I threw extra controllers, a recharger, and several games he recommended into the cart as well, and before long we were driving home with the precious treasure safely in our possession.

I can’t remember when I’ve been more excited to give someone a gift. And I don’t know which was better: his amazed reaction, or simply having him back — to kill spiders, to be the big spoon, and to make the joy of living twice as sweet in the sharing of it.

Happy Birthday, love.

May you always bii as happii as you have made mii. (Hii hii!)