Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Triumph over Train Wrecks: The Brady Bunch Revisited


"The Brady Bunch: The Nineties. Scaled back." 
When I tell the most truncated of all versions, I refer to the Brady Bunch. I explain that we were indeed the down sized version for the '90's, of that societal break-through phenom sitcom. You know. The one with the happily ever after every single episode. Two of each: me with two girls, he with the two guys. Alas. No house-keeper named Alice. Down sized for real in that department. We have a whole lot of happily ever after, too. Not always neat and tidy in the half hour episode, but we work our way around to happy. 

Here we are TWENTY years later. Two decades. That's a LOT of water under the bridge. A lot of stories. A lot of moments. A lot of graduations. Weddings!!! SEVEN WonderPeeps for our whole tribe!!!!!!! Milestones big and small. Sunsets. Travels. Train wrecks. Paper cuts. Adventures. Twenty years is long enough to fill your heart to the brim with joy beyond measure. In our case, twenty years is long enough to have experienced every.possible.emotion more than once. 

Where to start the reflections. Let's start with the beginning . 

It was TRULY TRIUMPHANT that the two of us ever met in the first place. I owe much to my family and friends of those early '90's who supported me during my single parenting era. We won't go into the train wreck that brought me to that time period. Those of you who lived through it with me remember all of the details all too well. If you weren't around at that point in history, the saga is worth a novella. Maybe someday I'll write it under a pseudo-name and have a NYT best seller on my hands for the various plot twists, political intrigue, theological tremors, legal maneuvering and the like. Let's just get to the beginning by saying that my sweet friend Kitty talked me into going to a singles dance. I got an orange dot on my name tag as a 'first-timer' and that set the wheels in motion. We danced that night. Our 'we' began that very night. The rest is history as they say. 

The fact that the two of us ever made it to our first actual 'date' is a giggle worth retelling. My dear sweet husband of twenty years, back-in-the-day, called me at work to let me know that he had the calendar wrong when he had invited me to the Broadway Series musical. Our theoretical first date was in jeopardy. Before it even started! The thing that rocked my world? In our three 'singles dance' Sundays in-a-row? I had never given him my last name -- nor told him where I worked specifically, let alone my phone number!!!!!!!!!!!!! To say I was a basket case when he called is no embellishment for theatrical sake. 

Turns out that in addition to all of his other qualities? The man is a detective. Apparently he had listened to my every utterance over those three weeks of dancing. He had strung together various clues. A phrase here. Another, weeks later. Apparently I had mentioned enough tidbits, higgeldy and biggeldy, that he was able to ring the phone on my desk in under 100 misdirected phone calls -- that each led closer and closer to my cubbyhole of the time. My 'office' was in the supply closet. When I heard his voice on the other end of the line? I was so filled with angst I could have walked on the ceiling! In fact, I may have!! He is persistent my husband. Unrelenting.

Of course at the time I jumped to the conclusion that he must be some sort of movie-of-the-week stalker and I acted every bit the part of the wack-doodle fem fatale under shadowed surveillance. {{{Those were the days. Insert soap operatic theme song.}}} How on earth he ever persevered beyond my initial cra-cra-crazy phone reaction is beyond me?!?!? The man has patience. It is a triumph that he didn't bolt in the opposite direction as fast as he could fly that brown 182 Cessna. We made it to the Palace Theater on the 'actual' night of the tickets. I drove myself. I met him there.... just in case the stalker thing had any merit. It would be another month of weekly dances before I could conjure up an image of me going on a 'car date.' Did I mention that the man has patience? Those were emotional days, but there was a hint at happily-ever-after, even early going. I smiled a lot.

Back to the Brady Bunch analogy. His boys were full grown already. Shaving. Driving. Higher level math. Men. One already off to conquer the world in college. I've never trumpeted the role of step-mom. Technically, I suppose I am that. In truth, I am just ubber fortunate to have two more caring, creative guys in my life. Men who are kind, solid and supportive. Just like their dad. 

When the two of us started getting serious -- when I finally 'believed' him about his being part Sherlock Holmes -- he stole my heart when he said that he intended to step into active parenting with my girls. He said, "You can count on me to get them through braces and wisdom teeth. I'll buy their prom dresses." What he left out is that he would coach the teams, drive to music lessons, supervise the science fair projects, host the slumber parties, make the Sunday morning waffles, teach us to ski (well, some of us) negotiate the driving lessons, fly the plane to spring break beaches, trek cross country for auditions, hold on to the teetering bride walking down the aisle -- over the bridge, as well as help me pack my suitcase to live on the futon couch across town for months-on-end in anticipation of the Twinzees arrival to Earth, while their daddy was deployed...... in addition to a few hundred thousand other specifics. He signed up for thick and thin, even before the vows were uttered. 

So we integrated the four. The big brothers they never had. 

We went camping. Our reconfigured crew. Camping evolved into white water rafting trips of adventure and excitement, over the years. We emerged victorious from rivers and rapids. We laughed around campfires. We made s'mores. We sang. We skied: water and snow. The guys bench pressed the girls to the ceiling and then drove them to get ice cream at the corner shoppe.... all was well with the world. The early years. Sitcom worthy. 

Strangely enough, March 25th is another significant anniversary for me. Today also marks the seventh year of my first surgery for Breast Cancer. Train wreck time. Marking me as cancer free right?  BTW: That's when you can judge the strength of a marriage: in the hospital. Seeing specialists. Meeting your oncologist together. In the grand scheme of things that first cancer, while no waltz in the park exactly, was certainly in the shallow end of the pool. Even the 33 trips to the hospital for radiation were a mere footnote compared to the gore and discombobulation and drains and disfigurement and complications of my bilateral a mere three years later. Can you say physical therapy? For months on end? Yet my sweetheart has continued through it all as a rock. My rock. The foundation. 

Twenty years of marriage today. Seven years cancer 'free' today. Yet. The really SIGNIFICANT part of the story is the last 17.75 years woven right in with the marriage and the parenting and the cancer and the weddings and the WonderPeeps. That is the TRUE gift that he has given me. The one that will amount to my legacy, my contribution. Most likely, it is the actual reason that you know I 'exist.' 

It was my honey's idea to 'quit-my-day-job.' It was his entrepreneurial insight that led me to leave my full time administration position to evolve into myself. To stretch. To grow. To imagine. To dream. To create. To go places I never dreamed possible. I have done it all under his direction, his support, his encouragement, his cheering. His vision has always been larger than my own. He believed in me from square one. He convinces me that I am capable for the next quantum leap on the horizon, whatever it entails, before I even grasp what it is. 

Yes. He said yes. Yes. Leave your administrative salary with benefits. Yes. We will pay for health insurance for you as a self-employed individual. Yes. Go on that trip to Europe, I will stay here at home and make certain that their high school responsibilities are completed in your absence. Yes. We will take out a second mortgage on our house -- so that you can bring that first book to life. Yes. I will stand by you as you choose not to have reconstruction surgery, despite the expectations of society, because I understand you want to get back to your life as directly as conceivable. Yes. I will rearrange your flights so that you can get to Children's Hospital as quickly as humanly possible, no matter the expense, to be with "Little Red". And last weekend? Yes. I will walk back to our hotel room, a mere five city blocks away, to get your fuzzy pompom scarf because you forgot it and it gives you confidence and I know you're running on empty right now. Yes. Yes. Yes. He is a man of yes, my husband. He is a problem solver this guy. Our married life has not been without problems. He comes up with a solution and we are one step closer to the happy ending of the episode. 

Twenty years is a delightful moment in time. A blink and a lifetime simultaneously. Every couple that goes the distance has stories to tell. We are no different. I am still 'in love' as much as those first few heart pounding months, but now also at a level of maturity and gratitude beyond my earlier youthful capability and understanding. He goes the distance every year, every month, every week, every day. He is always the unsung hero as I sing in the spotlight. He got me there. Literally. He drove me there or scheduled the flight. He carries the boxes of books. The heavy, heavy boxes of books. He picks me up. I like to think that we make a good team. Truth be told? He does ALL of the heavy lifting and holds me together when the going gets rough or when technology is involved or when we're hungry. Have I mentioned that he cooks 95% of the food we eat? Yes. He's a keeper. 

I am the luckiest of women. I adore this man. I am honored to be his wife. Truth be told you can see a difference that twenty years makes. He's lost a tad bit of his hairline. I've lost my breasts. The parts of us that make us who we are, beyond those outward appearances, have only grown better over time. We still fit. He touches my shoulder and I quiver. That much is EXACTLY the same. [I have to stifle myself from audible sighs in public preschools and I'll stop there to keep this rated PG.] We have traveled to Europe together! We stumbled into the annual "Liberation of Verona" parade in Italy together. That's the coliseum in the background. That whole afternoon was another 'God thing' event unfolding. Sort of like our coming together from the very beginning.

We have just recently beheld the grandeur of Sedona with friends. 
Thanks to Jennifer of Simply Kinder's generosity, we got to take a VORTEX Jeep ride. 
He smiled softly, watching me go bonkers in the happiest of manners.
He knows I get excited. 
He likes when I laugh. 
We sometimes laugh until the tears spurt out. 
He is hilarious to have at a cinematic comedy. 
His laughter is truly contagious and spills forth with enthusiasm and zeal.

Twenty years is both the blink of an eye, a drop in the bucket and an eternity all wrapped up simultaneously. My parents are on the verge of sixty years. Now that's something to marvel over. They are a good example for us. I think it is safe to say that we won't hit that watershed. I don't know how many would have bet we'd see the twenty year mark. Quite honestly, I'm pretty certain we had our doubters.

 I knew. From the very beginning. I knew.
I didn't exactly know the specifics. 
I did know that we'd make a good team. 
A team for the long haul. 

What do you do to celebrate twenty years? We looked it up. Traditionally twenty years is all about 'fine China.' Contemporary gift lists suggest platinum at the two decade mark. We have chosen to give each other an enclosed lanai and have ordered custom upholstered furniture for our glorious, albeit tiny, new setting.

Here's what 'we' chose.
Yup. He's sweet like that. 
He appears to be involved in the decision and then leaves it totally up to me.

In honor of our continued marital union, I had the thought to put my little Teachers Pay Teachers store on sale.... you guessed it. For TWENTY percent off! Come celebrate with us. It was in the midst of another train wreck that I wrote the song, "You're Wonderful" which is now used at end-of-the-year events from coast-to-coast. It will be featured at graduations, moving-on-up ceremonies, and Mother's Day extravaganzas far and wide. The digital files come complete with the pdf of the sign language chart included in my picture book version. 

"You're Wonderful" in digital download format from Debbie Clement

If you've never heard it before..... take a look at this flip-to-gram movie version.
You can listen in on the sound-track of this 'instant classic' with kinder illustrations.

Or if you need something more 'patriotic' for you EOY event, consider "Red, White and Blue." 

"Red, White and Blue" in digital download format from Debbie Clement

In any case, what I know for certain? 
I am willing to do the work to bring my projects to the wider world. 
I have the great good fortune of being graced with a help-mate straight from heaven to do so. 
Here's a wall we saw in Flagstaff that captured my attention and the quote suitable for today. 

Wall quote about 'Four Kinds of People' via RainbowsWithinReach


Thanks for your support! I am so appreciative of your pins!

Thanks for your support! I am so appreciative of your pins!
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