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My husband fixed the icemaker

There is something incredible about a man who can take apart a freezer-door icemaker, look at it’s insides, put it back together, and suddenly the icemaker that’s been broken for six months works perfectly.

I would marry him all over again.

work space

Mike in his impromptu balcony woodshop, June 18, 2011

Frosty’s Got Her Groove Back (I think.)

Chillin

V-Dog says, “Just chill, man. Just chill.”

Today marks three months since we arrived in Los Angeles and three months of living with my parents and all our animals. I wrote a one-month check-in, but I skipped the two-month because it was a much less pleasant month. First of all, it rained nearly every day. Also, the honeymoon of being home had worn off and I was reminded of all of The Valley’s flaws and did you know that sometimes it rains in Los Angeles? Because I was sure there was no rain here but it has rained at least forty-five of the ninety days we’ve been home.

This last month has seen it’s own trials, don’t get me wrong. But I think I’m starting to get into the swing of it. We’re beginning to get into a bit of a routine, which is great, I am a huge fan of routines. We’ve been spending a lot of time with family and we’re looking forward to the holidays. Also, I’ve gotten over the weather, mostly. I went to New York at the end of October and realized that sixty-degree weather is not cold. Sixty-degrees is lovely, thank you. I will never again complain about sweater weather in November.

As far as work goes, it’s starting to be fun again. For a minute things were really intense, but I’m settling in, learning how to work with the other members of my team, finding my voice. Michael hates his job, loathes and despises it, but as soon as he gets his California EMT card he’ll be moving on, so he’s not letting it get to him. Instead he’s looking forward to school in January. He finally got all his transcripts sorted out and he’s been given a date to register for Spring semester. The admissions office had given him such a hard time about his classes – as if Bio 1 in New York City is somehow sub par to Bio 1 in Los Angeles – it made me crazy. When I found out he’d gotten everything transferred over, it was all I could do not to jump up and down and squeal like a child. I am absolutely over the moon.

So things have been looking up. The second month home I felt like moving had been a mistake, something we rushed into, dear god, what did we do to our life? But this month feels good. Like we’re getting our groove back.

It occurred to me today that all of life is like this. That no matter what, there are good days and bad days, sometimes you’re in a groove and sometimes you’re in a ditch. Even when we aren’t making big life changes, things are always changing, and just because we find our way one day doesn’t mean we won’t get lost the next. I think that what I need to focus on is building a life that’s congruent with my goals. Even when things aren’t going the way I plan, if I’m at least moving towards something I want, I feel happy.

What are my goals, you ask? I’d be happy to tell you! In the next six months I’d like to spend more time with friends. I’d like to spend more time writing. I want to visit Florida with Michael so we can spend time with his mother. I want go on weekly dates with my wonderful husband. I want to be living in a little two-bedroom home that we love, that we could be happy in for at least five years. I want health insurance. And I want to be having fun and feeling successful in my career.

Those are pretty reasonable goals, right? Totally manageable. If things change between now and then, if my goals change, it doesn’t matter. After all, people make plans and God laughs at plans. And then people cry and get depressed. Then they make new plans and feel hopeful and there we have the circle of life.

A Serious Weekend

On our way to wonder at William Kentridge.

*love in an elevator*

*how to commute*

*how to commute*

Ladies Home Journal

*a perfect table in a perfect dining room for a perfect party*

birdling

*from the devil's gaping maw*

washing windows

*then the one on the left waved at me and I died from embarrassment*

*all photos courtesy of my Verizon Wireless Satan Owns My Soul BlackBerry

Almost four years

Engagement

Our anniversary is the day after tax day.  And we still haven’t filed our taxes yet, or even begun to sort receipts and all the jazz that comes along with it.  We keep putting it off.  Instead we’re dreaming of how to spend our fourth anniversary together.  Shall we grab dinner and a movie?  Hire a private jet and fly to Paris for the weekend?*  Drop acid and make out?**  Or maybe just open a bottle of prosecco and enjoy some hot financial planning?

*unlikely
**even more unlikely

I had a dream last night

The other night I dreamt that Mike and I were hiking the JMT, something he did with his brother in real life last summer, and that we’re planning to do together summer after next.  In the dream we are crossing a narrow, wobbly bridge, the kind of bridge that seems to be suspended from heaven, that looks like it will evaporate if you stare at it too hard.  The bridge hangs over a ravine, so high up there’s nothing below us but sky.  We’ve made it all the way from one end to the next and now have the arduous task of climbing from the foot of the bridge to the lip of a cliff.

A soft wind blows and the bridge sways.  Clouds lick at our ankles, whisper a warning: Don’t look down!  The end of the bridge is at least three feet from the lip of the cliff; we’ll have to lean forward as we reach up, over our heads, grab hold of the ledge and pull our bodies up and through a small crack in the granite.   The land ahead of us is green, flowering, pristine, exquisite.  We are bathed in dappled pools of sunlight, but the threat of danger cannot be shaken, the risk of losing grip, a slight misstep, a fall to our death.

I close my eyes.  I know I can do this with his help.  I know that as long as he’s there I will be safe.  He tells me where to place my hands in the rocks, how far to lean, which way to stretch.  I listen carefully, let his words guide me.  In a moment my feet leave the bridge and I am suspended, clinging spider-like to the side of the mountain, eyes squeezed shut, Mike’s voice in my ear.  My body feels weightless, the breeze plays with my hair, the sun shines warm on my face.  And then I am there, standing in a field of wild flowers, and Mike is laughing.  We did it.

I woke up thinking, “That is what marriage is like.”

I keep trying to put my finger on that impulse, the half-conscious realization, “that is what marriage is like.”  But I’m not sure what I meant.  In An Open Life, Joseph Campbell says, “Marriage is an ordeal.  It means yielding time and again.  That’s why it’s a sacrament.  You give up your personal simplicity to participate in a relationship, and when you are giving, you are not giving to the other person, you are giving to the relationship.  And if you realize that you are in the relationship just as the other person is, then it becomes life-building; a life fostering and enriching experience, not an impoverishment, because you are giving to somebody else.  This is the challenge of a marriage.  What a beautiful thing is a life together; is growing personalities.  Each helping the other to flower, rather than just moving into the standard archetype.  It’s a wonderful moment when people can make the decision to be quite astonishing and unexpected, rather than to become cookie-mold products.  Failure to recognize that is the main reason for the high divorce rate that we experience today.”

Mike and I will soon celebrate our four-year wedding anniversary.  We haven’t been married very long, in the grand scheme of things, but we have learned a lot in our four years of marriage.  One of the things I’ve learned is how little people in general value marriage.  How quick they are to judge, turn their noses up, crack jokes about tuna casserole and joint bank accounts.  I’ve learned not to tell anyone when Mike and I have an argument because people are too quick to jump to conclusions, suggest other fish in the sea.  I’ve learned to ignore the rolling of eyes when I say I’ll check with Mike before making plans, or when I decline a second round of drinks because my husband is waiting at home.  I’ve learned to ignore the looks of pity, turn my back to the whispers of lost independence, pretend not to notice the comments about how fun I “used to be”.

Being married isn’t about falling in love and having a fancy wedding and then going about life as usual.  Marriage changes everything.  It’s not about me anymore; it’s not about what I want or what’s best for me or what makes me happy.  I’m married now.  It’s about us; it’s about what we want, what’s best for us as a family, what makes us happy.  I promised to love him and honor him though richer, though poorer, through sickness, through health, until my death parts us.  They’ll tell you that about kids – that once you have kids you have to put them before yourself, you have to think about their needs before you think of your own.  That’s true for marriage too.  No, I won’t have that second drink because the man I promised to devote my life to is waiting at home and honestly?  There isn’t anywhere on Earth I’d rather be than curled up in his arms.  I don’t care if you think I used to be more fun because when shit hits the fan and the world starts spinning out of control, he’s the one who’s going to take my hand and help me through it.  He’s the one who promised to love me and honor me and cherish me.  He’s the one.

Marriage is an ordeal.  It’s a union to be valued, treasured, respected and cared for.  It can be difficult and frightening, there is always the risk of failure, a slight misstep, a fall to our death.  But we’re bathed in dappled pools of sunlight, the wind in our hair and a laugh on our lips.  Marriage may not be right for everyone, but it’s perfect for me.

wedding

The Second Time

<i>Beneath the sunset and over the sea<i/>
Beneath the sunset and over the sea

The second time couples counseling saved my marriage was in the summer of 2008, exactly three years after the most romantic marriage proposal in the history of all marriage proposals, and less than three weeks after the fight that was the biggest fight in the history of all fights.

The recent six-part story I wrote about babies was supposed to be a post about how important counseling can be when a couple stops communicating, but it ended up being a post about babies because that’s just how I roll.  I could sit down to write a story about ketchup going on sale this week and before I know it I’ll be writing a story about babies.  My biological clock has taken over.

Since I never made the point I wanted to make in that post, I’m going to make it now: Couples counseling saved our relationship and then it saved our marriage.  Now I think counseling is a magical elixir for relationships.  (You can read about the first time it saved us here.)

Instead of re-telling you about how not talking about babies nearly ruined my marriage, I’ll just say that Mike and I have learned the hard way.  Twice.  Ignoring our feelings + avoiding communication = disaster. You could try to argue that couples counseling didn’t work the first time, your evidence being that we had to go back a second time, but you’d be incorrect.  The second time we only needed a refresher course.  We lost our way for a minute but we got back on track in a matter of weeks because we had the strong base we’d built in our first round of therapy.  That being said, I have to admit that Mike and I were lucky in that both times we started counseling, we started before we got to the point where we hated each other.  A lot of couples wait too long and by the time they’re in counseling their relationship has been badly damaged, sometimes heartbreakingly, irreversibly so.

A marriage is another person sharing your home.  There’s you, there’s your spouse and there’s your marriage.  Each marriage has its own needs, it’s own peculiarities and it’s own character.  Marriages need to be nurtured, nourished and cared for.  If a marriage is neglected it will not thrive.

I realize I’ve been proselytizing about couples counseling, but far more important than counseling is simply taking care of your couple, however works best for you and your partner.  Counseling was the magical elixir that taught Mike and I how to take care of our relationship.  What is it for you?  What has been the thing that has saved you and your partner, whenever you’ve needed saving?

Inspired by that kid in the red striped t-shirt.

Last night Mike helped me make one of my dreams come true.

P2160007

Mike grew up in Michigan so he knows a thing or two about snow.

That’s right.  One of my dreams was to build a monster out of snow.  Call me crazy, I won’t deny it.  I grew up in California, the land of perpetual sunshine.  Before I moved to the City I could count the number of times I’d seen snow on one hand and still have fingers left over.  As a child I was a huge fan of Calvin and Hobbes and I always believed that if I had been lucky enough to live in a place with snow, I’d be the kid building wild snow scenes in the yard every day after school.

Then we moved to the City and it was three years before we got enough snow, enough sticky snow, to build anything.  I started small and with the help of three little girls who’d never built a snowman before:

Photo9502

The abominable snow lump.


A few days later, Adam and I got a little more advanced.  But then, Adam has a lot of snowman-making experience:

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Frosty the snowman and his trusty sidekick, Freezy the snowdog.

Last night I got home from work around five and dragged Michael from his warm nest in front of the computer to the park around the corner.  It was perfect snowman-making weather and I was determined to take advantage of it.

P2160014

Snowzilla tramples everything in his wake!


P2160011

Snowzilla has trampled a car and the people, mouths agape, run screaming. But ah ha! A tank is on it's way to shoot missiles at the monster!


P2160017

Let your imagination run wild...

Warm, still, calm, quiet.  Just Mike and I, mittens full of snow, snow up to our knees, throwing ideas around like snowballs.  “How about a tank?”  “Ah! His tail looks great!  How’d you do that?”  “What if he’s tromping a car under his toes?”  “Here, try this for the arms.”  The sun went down and it started snowing again.  People walking by pointed and exclaimed, snapped photos.  It was a perfectly perfect evening.

Tips for Happy Couples, #2

Cultivate common interests After the passion settles down, it’s common to realize that you have few interests in common. But don’t minimize the importance of activities you can do together that you both enjoy. If common interests are not present, happy couples develop them. At the same time, be sure to cultivate interests of your own; this will make you more interesting to your mate and prevent you from appearing too dependent.

Mark Goulston, Ph.D.

I’ve never liked pink teddy bears

For as long as I can remember, I have been a hopeless romantic.  I cannot tell you how many high school boyfriends crushed my heart into a thousand tiny pieces because they didn’t arrange for Unchained Melodies to play over the loudspeakers during homeroom, or have a hundred roses sent at lunch or at the very least serenade my bedroom window.  I have always had very high expectations.

Michael warned me early on that he was not a Valentines Day guy.  He’s a spur-of-the-moment romantic guy, but he’s not a Valentines Day guy.  If you were to play a word association game with him and you said, “Valentines Day”, his immediate reply would be, “Greeting card profits.”  He says he doesn’t see the point of having a holiday that forces people to buy pink teddy bears and heart-shaped balloons but I think his distaste for the day has something to do with all the awful Valentines Days he spent in Los Angeles, when he worked in a restaurant that was such a hot V-spot you had to book your reservation a year in advance.  All through the winter holidays, as February 14th crept closer, he’d get more and more tense.  To him it wasn’t a holiday, it was The Worst Night Of The Year.  It hung over his head like a guilty sentence hangs on an innocent man.

Needless to say our first couple of Valentines Days were rough.  He’d work and I’d feel neglected.  I’d pout, he’d get defensive.  We’d argue, we’d make up, we’d move on.  It took a few years but I eventually came to agree with Mike: Valentines Day is overrated and why on earth would anyone want to go out to dinner on the very night the entire rest of the country is going out to dinner?  Besides, Mike’s spur-of-the-moment romance is a thousand times hotter than a pink teddy bear.

This year I had zero expectations for Valentines Day.  We went wine tasting with friends the day before and the morning of Michael scrubbed the entire house while insisting that I stay in bed reading, so I was sure I’d had the nicest Valentines weekend a girl could dream of.  Which is why I was surprised when I came home yesterday and found this:

Be My Wiener

Either Michael is more of a Valentines Day guy than he’s willing to admit, or Theo’s been having inappropriate thoughts about his human companions.

Ask A Serious Girl

cinderella3

Something interesting has happened.  I’ve received more emails about my prenup post than I’ve ever gotten about anything I’ve ever written.  Ever.  I was nervous posting it.  I thought for sure if I got any email it would be hate mail berating me for planning my divorce before I was even married.  Whereas I see our prenup as a testament to the strength of our marriage, most people I meet only have to hear the word “prenup” before they start frothing at the mouth.

You, on the other hand, have completely surprised me.  All of a sudden I’m getting emails and phone calls and requests for more information about prenups.  And you really sound interested .  One person even asked a very good question.

This marks the seventy-ninth time I’ve tried to sit down and write another prenup post, but each time I’ve tried I write five or six pages before I realize that there is no way on earth I can say everything I want to say in one post.  So here’s what I’m thinking:  Since so many of you seem to be looking for more prenuptial information, and since I have a giant crush on prenups, I’m going to write weekly prenup posts.  At least until I’ve run out of things to tell you about them.  Which could be in two weeks or six, I have no idea, but I am really excited.

This week I’ll start with the person who asked the really good question.  I’ve received permission to post the question and my answer here, and since I’ve always secretly wanted to write an advice column, I’m going to pretend that’s what I’m doing.

Q: My fiancé and I just got engaged a few months ago.  We’ve lived together for a year and we’ve kept all of our accounts separate. We’ve never talked about money and I’m worried about what will happen when we get married.  I know she has credit cards but I don’t know how many or what the balances are and she doesn’t know about my debts.  I have no idea if she has any savings but I know I don’t have much.  I showed her your prenup post with the hopes that it would get us started talking about money but she immediately put it off as being “unromantic”.  How can I get her to talk about our financial goals without freaking her out?

A: If she feels like it’s unromantic, make it romantic!  I’m not kidding.  When Mike and I talk about our finances we open a bottle of wine, put of vase of flowers on the table, dim the lights and light candles.  It makes the conversation much lovelier.  Set aside a night just for the two of you.  Buy a nice bottle and a bouquet of flowers.  Don’t drink?  Make hot chocolate.  Turn off your cell phones.  Start the conversation by telling her how much you love her and how excited you are to spend the rest of your life with her.  Then start asking her questions. Ask her if she wants to buy a house and where she hopes to buy it.  How big would it be?  What kind of car does she want to be driving in five years?  When does she want to have kids?  Does she want children?  How many?  Will she want to be a stay-at-home-mom or will she want to work? Where does she see herself in ten years?  You need to get her talking about the kind of life she envisions for her future because it’s the life she’s envisioning for your future too.  Then start telling her about your goals.  Where do you see yourself in ten years?  What’s your timeline for children?  Do you want to buy a house?  She needs to know these things about you.  You both need to figure out where you have common lines and where your ideas are different.  You’re bound to have some different plans, that’s only natural, but where can you come together in happy compromise?

I realize that you specifically asked how to start a conversation about finances, but the plain truth is that your future depends on your finances.  The financial choices you make today affect the kind of life you have tomorrow.  When the two of you have decided what kind of life you want tomorrow, you can begin to talk about the financial decisions that need to be made today.

A very good lawyer once told me that most people spend more time planning their annual vacations than they do planning their lives.  If you don’t plan your life, someone else will plan it for you.  And you probably won’t like their plan.

UPDATE:  2/19/10
Sometimes I get all up on a high horse thinking that my way is the best way and I need to remember that isn’t the case.  This week I had to eat crow when I heard from a woman who just broke off her engagement because her fiancé wanted her to sign a prenup so awful four different lawyers told her she’d be making a terrible mistake if she signed it.  She pointed out that the prenup showed her exactly what her fiance thought of her and she was glad for it, but I suddenly worried that I’ve been really insensitive about the topic.  So now I’m rethinking the weekly prenup posts because, geez. I feel like a jerk.  Though I promise I will answer the emails from those of you who asked specific prenup questions.  (Your answers are coming!)

Still growing

theacorn

treasured little things

In the last moments of our final couples session before we moved to the City, our therapist gave us a tiny silver acorn.  When we’d started couples counseling we’d been dating for close to two years but didn’t know where the relationship was going.  She gave us the acorn to remind us that we had been like the tiny seed, but we’d worked hard and now were a young green sapling.  She told us that we had the tools, the knowledge and the love that we needed to nurture our relationship so that it could grow into a strong old oak.  I keep that silver acorn, with the boutonniere Mike wore on our wedding day, in a vintage ashtray that belonged to my great Aunt Sue.  Symbols of things worthwhile; treasured memories.

***

After Mike and I had been dating for a year, we started having disagreements that would go on for days at a time.  I wouldn’t call them fights because we never threw any punches or anything, but something would come up and one of us would get upset and then the other one would get upset and then things would be really awkward for a while.  After a week or so we’d meet up for coffee and try to talk about it and things would be ok for a few weeks but then something would come up and we would get all weird again.  After several months of being fine one minute and awkward the next, I started worrying that if we didn’t learn how to communicate effectively our relationship would fall apart.

I knew that I loved Michael and that I wanted to spend the rest of my life with him.  I knew this because we had the same values and the same goals, we made each other laugh, we had common interests, we respected one another.  But I couldn’t spend another week in awkward silence, so I suggested we try counseling.

“I would really like to go to couples counseling with you.”
“Why?”
“I think we need to learn how to communicate better.”
“We don’t need counseling.”

And that was that.  For six months.  Six months of dancing around topics we couldn’t talk about because if we did we’d end up in tears or screaming or breaking up.

Then, one beautiful spring morning, Mike looked at me over coffee and said the three little words I’d been longing to hear: “Let’s start counseling.”

We had our first appointment the following Thursday.  Within a few weeks, Thursday’s had become our favorite day of the week.  They were our day.  A day we devoted to spending quality time together and getting to know one another.  Every Thursday I’d leave work early and drive to Sherman Oaks where Michael would be waiting for me with my favorite Starbucks latte. We’d walk arm-in-arm to our therapist’s office and no matter how the session ended, regardless of if we were weeping or glowing, we’d go to In N’ Out for dinner and talk about what came up during the session.  And every Thursday, even if we’d started dinner in tears, by the time we kissed goodbye we were holding hands again.

Talking honestly about one’s feelings can be very difficult, but it’s a significant and important step towards learning how to communicate.  We soon discovered that the thing we were refusing to talk about, the thing that had become the fat ugly beast hovering in the room, the thing causing all those weeks of awkward silences was Marriage.  Mike had asked me to move in with him every month for the last six months and each time I’d said, “I won’t move in with you unless we’re engaged.”  I wanted to marry him but I didn’t want to give the milk away for free.  Mike fully intended to marry me, but he needed to know that we could live together without killing one another.  His hesitance to propose wasn’t a reflection of his feelings for me and my refusal to move in wasn’t a reflection of my feelings for him.  We both wanted to live together and we both wanted to get married, we’d just been too scared to talk about it.

A few months after our first counseling session Michael asked me to move in with him and I said yes.  Two months later we were sitting at the top of the Ferris wheel on the Santa Monica Pier and his hands were shaking as he held out a tiny blue velvet box.  The stars were flung over our heads, the night air was cool and filled with the scent of the sea and somewhere someone was playing a guitar.  It was the most romantic proposal in the history of all marriage proposals.  I blame it on couples counseling.