Category: Marriage

We Can Fight Better Than You Do

I should be embarrassed to confess this, except that it’s absolutely true … Mike and I are master fighters. We fight best over meaningless stuff. We’re pros actually.


23 years of Ordinary – Food Night

Mike and I are celebrating 23 years of marriage by focusing on the ordinary things that have become extraordinary to us simply because we are doing life together.

“Ordinary” Celebration #2 became Food Night.  Appleby’s is far from the most romantic restaurant in Gig Harbor, but everything seems to feel a little more luxurious in the quaintness of Gig Harbor. Besides, as this is a week for the ordinary, our focus wasn’t on what we were eating, but rather that we were eating together and have had the privilege of doing so for over two decades.  During this celebration, a thought came to me that simplifies the mystique of marriage:  Marriage is simply finding a life-long eating partner.  Okay, it’s not that simple, but I don’t think I’m too far off.

Think about it.   How much of the wedding planning went into our future of eating together? So many food-related decisions had to be made: a dish pattern, goblets, kitchen utensils, cooking appliances, cookbooks, spices, staples, the discussion about who will cook ( and who will clean), what we will eat, when we will eat, can we afford to eat out, what kind of kitchen will our home have  …

Marriage is simply finding a life-long eating partner. 

I think of the debate we had when it came to picking out our dish pattern.  Mike had some bone-colored plates with a blue and gold rim.  He wanted more of the same, but I wanted a China pattern with flowers.  “I don’t need an every day set AND fine China,” I tried to persuade him with only wanting one set of dishes, “but I really want the floral pattern.”

“Hmmm…,” he was reflective, straining to be polite. “Well, I just don’t see myself eating a steak on a plate all drenched in flowers.”

I was thinking that he was very optimistic to imagine eating steak at all on our budget, but I wisely said nothing.  Actually, that’s not true. I’m pretty sure I said plenty, because, wanting to please his bride, he gave in. How interesting that he has been richly rewarded over and over again throughout the years as guest after guest has commented on what a beautiful dish pattern we have.

“Yes,” he always grins, “ I had a lot to do with picking that out.”  And I always kick him.

plate pattern
What about this plate DOESN’T beg “Steak!”?

No one knows your food habits like your spouse.  Think of what you share together: the indulgences (Little Debbies, cheesecake, decadent brownies), the favorite recipes, the experimental dishes, the dreaded foods that one hates but the other loves (i.e. lima beans) … the diets!  I’ll destroy my word count if were to get into all the diets and food fads we’ve eaten our way through, so I’ll summarize by saying that we can categorize seasons of our marriage as “the low carb years,” “ the low fat years,”  “the don’t-mix-food-groups but eat-endless-vegetables” years. (I can’t remember the name of that particular diet … must not have included blueberries.)  There has also been the “healthy-food-only years” contrasted with the “ice-cream-after-dinner-every-night-years,” “the frozen yogurt years,” and the “I-won’t-tell-if-you-won’t-tell lemon bar and pie years.”

Just as laughter with others has strengthened our marriage bonds, so has food with friends. (Sounds like the name of a game show, doesn’t it?)  Memory after memory …  after memory …  is laced with scents of taco soup, spaghetti, french bread in the oven, color-burst salads, rhubarb cobbler laced with ginger and cinnamon, grilled turkey (our Thanksgiving specialty), roasted chicken, pucker-until-your-face hurts lemon cheese cake …

A table full of food – a room full of laughter – room full of bonding.  The conversations, the faces of much-loved family and friends, stretch as long as the food list. In particular, our friends Dick and Sue Speer come to mind.  Mentors and dear friends for the last 15 years, I’m reminded of how much marriage and parenting wisdom we easily gleaned, simply gathered around tuna fish sandwiches or with cups of coffee in our hands.

Mike with the Speers
One more Starbucks stop conquered with some of our favorite coffee drinking friends.

We met up with the Speers recently (for coffee, of course) and interestingly, as we reminisced about some vacations we took together, the first memories that came up had do with food:  Bubba Gumps, several amazing breakfast places that involved coconut pancake syrup, those tuna sandwiches again, and something chocolate after each meal.  We also remembered how often we would push back from the table, our stomachs in pain, and start to plan for when and WHAT the next meal would be. Then we’d be horrified that we sounded just like our aging parents had.

We even have a food fight stashed in those memories … it had something to do with guys grilling salmon and being bombarded with grapes from a balcony up above.  You know what else we remembered about those years?  Challenges each couple was working faced in those seasons  … the encouragement we offered … prayers God answered.  Food and fellowship led to deeper stuff like relationship …. marital support … good stuff.

Food.  Who would have thought it would be such a marriage-staple. Here’s to 23 years of food bonding … and to 23 more of chowing down.  Bon appetite, Honey!

23 Years of Ordinary

Mike & Shelly 2012At the end of this week, Mike and I will have been married 23 years.  To mix things up a bit we’re spending the week celebrating the ordinary; giving credence to a different phase of ordinary every day.  After all, isn’t that what marriage is, a million days of ordinary made extraordinary simply by doing it together?

Before I share Celebration #1, let me preface by saying that Mike and I are both very stubborn people. We don’t make marriage easy.  (We probably make it look miraculous!) The beauty of this week, though, is that even though we haven’t planned filet mignon and diamonds or a trip to the tropics, neither are we focusing on the flaws.  We’re focusing on … ? Well, I guess we’re just focusing on the “macaroni and cheese” of marriage.  And you know what?  It’s kinda cool.

So, what was Ordinary Day #1 all about?

Movie night!  No hunting through Netflix in an effort to mine out at least one movie that’s not about vampires, ax murderers, or reality TV.  Nope.  We polished up the ordinary on this one and went to an actual move; popcorn and frozen Junior Mints thrown in to add some class to the evening.

This night wasn’t so much about the movie as it was the kind of movie – a comedy.  That’s what we really celebrated – laughter (not movies).

Mike always says I don’t laugh enough.  I say he laughs too much, or at least at the wrong things.  (See what a good match we are?  We’ve helped pulled each other to a place of balance.)  So when we need to get on the same page, humor-wise, we look for a movie.  This isn’t always easy but we have a few tried and true flicks from over the years:  Rocketman (Disney 1997), Pure Luck, The Princess Diaries (yes … Mike will laugh … more than I will at something like Dumb and Dumber) and anything Veggie Tales.  Oh! The Incredibles and all three of episodes of Toy Story are in our top ten too.  (Although the third Toy Story left me hiccuping from tears; we watched it the day after Molly graduated from High School. Watching Andy say goodbye to his toys was too much growing up for me in one week.)

Mike and I started laughing long before we were married or even thinking about it.  We became friends my Junior year of college and eventually worked together for a Christian ministry at our alma mater.  Practical jokes ran rampant between the guys and gals in the church.  One that Mike helped engineer was having my room filled with newspaper for my birthday.  The maddening thing about that “joke” was that I helped carry the newspaper into the house.  Jeff (who ended up being Mike’s best man in our wedding) had a route in downtown Seattle, and I believed him when he said he had to save the unused editions and take them back to the company.  Gullible … that would be me.

Practical jokes aren’t so expedient in marriage … at least not for us, so we looked for a new way to create laughs. One moment came unexpectedly and in less than a month after the wedding.  I was reading in our room when Mike suddenly popped his head through the door, and with a big grin on his face, said, “Hey, babe …”  That’s as far as he got before his eyes rolled back and he fell, hitting his head on the door.  (No.  This is not the part where I laughed.) Terrified, I ran to him, glad to see that he was conscious, sitting against the door.

“Honey, are you okay?”

“Y– ye – yesssss … I was trying to sur – surprise you.”

Why did he sound like Donald Duck?


We were apartment managers at the time and kept a small tank of helium to fill balloons every day.  Mike, trying to be funny, had sucked in some helium and set out to find me, sure he would leave an impression.  Well he did, both on his head and in my mind as I still can so clearly picture him sliding to the floor in what I thought was a seizure. Scared then, we laugh frequently over this antic.

Another layer to the humor in our marriage comes from spending time with great friends.  No end of funny stories here, but one of the first things that comes to mind is the conglomeration of Greisens, Riebs, and Ausmus’s from our days in Snohomish. Our favorite pastime was gathering to eat and laugh, usually at the expense of all of our teens and pre-teens.  One night someone put on tunes from the group Chicago. Immediately, the adults were back in high school where we danced, sang, and laughed.  The teens moaned and groaned and nashed their teeth. (Which only made us dance and laugh more!)

Water fights. Food fights.  Chicken Jokes. Throwing fireworks at each other (harmless Pop Its). Breaking into each others homes to decorate for birthdays.  Breaking into the church to leave pictures of Larry Boy and Bob the Tomato on our pastors’ doors. (We left candy and encouraging notes, too.) Board games. Charades … I’m still writing about times with the Greisens and Reibs.  We were a crazy bunch, and I’m so glad  because this shared laughter strengthened us, warmed us.

As I’ve written before, laughter has echoed throughout the years of our daughters’ childhoods and continues to be the medicine that soothes misunderstandings, endless bills, and stressful moments.  Laughter makes Mike and me feel strong as a couple and as a family.  Laughter means there’s a bond, a togetherness. And it’s hard to fight if you’re laughing.  (Our marriage advice to young couples.)

So day number one of Anniversary Week … we laugh.


Jurassic Park (A Marriage Poem)

I often shy away from writing anything that resembles poetry … This piece, however,  is what comes of a summer of chick flicks, reading T.S. Eliot, and thoughts of marriages decimated because (possibly) they were built on a wedding and not a vow.

Jurassic Park

Sweet Girl,
Wedding dreams fill your eyes …
You dream the dress … the flowers …
A line of beaming bridesmaids
A shiny, precise diamond …
Your ring finger weighted with anticipation
Color and sparkle and splash

Cinderella shoes
Dancing music … exotic food … posh decorations …
The gift register skillfully planned
The dish pattern outclasses all others
Romantic, shimmering crystal goblets
Exquisite, crowd pleasing
You have raised the bar of social cool
Color and sparkle and splash

A best friend to plan with
No bride wars here
Cake, hor d’oeuvres extraordinaire
Romeo in a tux, squirming, proud
His best friend promises not to be a jerk
The father-daughter dance springs tears all around
Gifts stacked tall and wide, tropical honeymoon beckons
Color and sparkle and splash

And the marriage?
What planning takes place for the lifetime together?
What consideration for days beyond “I do”?
His flaws?
His needs?
His dreams?
His fears?
Your flaws?

Have you anticipated the day
When the dishes chip?
When the crystal is clouded and scratched?
The days when a baby is screaming
While the toddler wipes snot on your clean shirt?
Arms in the air to be lifted up
Color and sparkle and splash

The house is heavy with dust
The mail carrier leaves business-class envelopes
With thick paper and balances owed
Hinges squeak, a pipe leaks
Did anyone feed the fish this week?
Romeo won’t take his headphones off
The shadows of his video game sneak across the room
Color and sparkle and splash

It’s not awful … Marriage … it really isn’t
It’s only excruciating
And delightful
And lonely
One day rain and grey
The next … color and sparkle and splash

A surgery of self
The labor of two hearts squozen into one
Forged from stone-solid individualists

Sweet Girl,
Did you know …
A jungle lies outside the doors of the chapel?
The limousine is destined down the lanes of Jurassic Park
Where carnivorous dinosaurs roam
They roar …
They feed on dreams …
They swallow intimacy …
They chew … They gulp all that is
And sparkle
And splash

They are conquerable …
Those dinosaurs …
Just not alone
Not unprepared

Sweet Girl, Sweet Boy,
Look far, look long into your vows
They are the sinews of a life together
Anchor them deep, deep into the ROCK
Where there is ONE who can pull you out
And push you through the jungle
ONE whose scarred hands are masterful at forging
Two hearts into one
ONE who can constrain dinosaurs

Hold high the communion glass
Toast to the One called Love
That He might teach you His Way
And give the map that unfurls Jurassic Park
Let Heaven’s glow sweeten the cup
Let Eternal Promise light the path
Then run well into life
Hand in hand

And Splash

River at Zion Nation Park