My Valentine: Part 3

My parents had tried to warn me about those ‘fixer-upper-type homes’. First it was chiseling off the laminate backsplash in the kitchen, then painting the cabinets. Now, I had gotten the bright idea to cover the pink laminate counters with faux concrete. As always, Mark was game.

After dusting the entire house, running the vacuum nonstop, and a week of work, the counters were finally ready for sealing.

“You can’t use the stove, Mark,” I said one day in passing. “The sealant needs 72 hours before it’s cured.”

“Got it,” Mark said, nodding.

It was no more than five hours later that I saw the stain– greasy splotches all over my beautiful concrete counters and right by the stove. I screamed and scrubbed the stains with a rag, pleading for them to lift. “No, no, no, no, no, no, no,” I kept saying.

“What’s wrong?” Mark said, turning into the kitchen.

“The counters,” I cried. “Did you use the stove?!”

He pulled back, a sheepish expression covering his features. “Well, yeah… why?”

“Why? The counters! I told you not to use the stove.”

Mark lifted his hands, warding me away. “Now wait a second. You said not to use the counter for three more days.”

“Mark!” I dropped my face in my hands. “I said not to use the stove.” Tears slipped down my cheeks. The exhaustion of the week caught up to me, the physical and emotional toll finally making itself known.

“Don’t worry. I can fix this. It’s easy. I’ll just do another layer of concrete. Don’t cry. It’s going to be just fine,” he said, darting toward the back door.

He spent the afternoon trying to patch over the stain, but nothing worked. It only got worse and grew to the size of a beach ball. I became an emotional (possibly PMSing) mess. I forgot how much better our kitchen looked than before. I forgot how much fun we’d had DIYing together.

I spent the next week grumbling each time I passed the stain. My perfect counters were blemished, and it could have been avoided! If only Mark had paid attention to me. I stewed, and I stewed, until it got to the point where I would bring the counter up in any marital conversation about communication. “You have to listen to me. Remember the counter?

Two months later.

“Let’s just finish the grout tonight,” I plead. We were so close.

“I’m too tired,” he said. “Let’s finish in the morning. We’ve got all day tomorrow.”

I huffed. “Maaaaarrrrk.”

Then I saw his eyes, his bloodshot and puffy eyes. He had worked all day cutting and laying the backsplash. What right did I have to ask for more? I had only stood around critiquing– “A little to the left”, “that edge isn’t straight”, blah blah blah.

“Go to bed, Sweetheart. I’ll finish up the grout myself.”

“By yourself? Are you sure you can do that?” he asked, sniffling. The family cold had caught up to him. “I have to go to bed. I don’t feel well. Are you sure you can do it by yourself?”

“Sure. It’ll be a breeze. I’ve watched Fixer Upper and Property Brothers enough to know how to do grout! Just go to bed,” I said, giving him a quick squeeze. “And thanks for all your hard work today. It looks great,” I said.

I went to work, mixing the grout and slathering it over the tiles and into the cracks. I waited the allotted time, then grabbed my sponge to clear off the extra. Piece of cake.

Except for it wasn’t. It was hard. The grout was hardening too quickly. I scrubbed until my knuckles were literally bleeding, and I had only cleaned off 1/6 of the grouted tile. Tears formed at my eyes, and I scrubbed harder, longer.

I scrubbed and cried until it was clear I needed help, and fast. It was 2 am. I was only a half of the way done. I had been working for 3 hours. The grout felt like concrete at this point.

It took setting aside all my pride to wake Mark. With tear-filled eyes, I begged. “Mark, I’m so sorry to wake you up. I know how tired you are. I know you have a cold. But, I need help.”

He squinted at the sight of the hall light.

I came closer, repeating myself.

He saw my tears, my bloodied hands, and he got up right away.

He finished cleaning the concrete-hard grout in 30 minutes, without a single complaint. “It’s okay, Heather,” he said when I kept apologizing.

The next morning, I walked past the stove. The grease stain from Mark’s mistake months ago shone back at me. I had held it over his head for the last two months, unwilling to forgive such a stupid mistake. And yet, Mark had dealt with my tile disaster without a single rebuke, a single guilt-inducing comment.

I ran my fingers across the stain and smiled. I would forever love that stain, for all it represented. I would never hold onto such a silly grudge again. It wasn’t worth it. I turned to the backsplash on the opposite wall. Instead, I would try to be more like my husband, willing to help at a moment’s notice. I would forgive always.

 

 

 

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My Valentine: Part 2

He chose to come home for Christmas, I kept reminding myself. He likes me. What had started out as a nice family dinner had gone disastrously wrong.

“I don’t feel well. I think I’ll just sleep,” He said. His olive skin had turned pale.

“Are you sure? The whole family is here, and my Aunt Katie and her family are coming, too.” I had been excited to have him meet more of my family.

There were three long banquet-type tables running the length of the house to accommodate my parents, four siblings and their spouses, my nieces and nephews and extended family.

“I’m really alright,” He said, swallowing.

I nodded and said, “Feel better,” before returning to the chaos of family holidays.

Why couldn’t he push through it? It was the holidays, and the entire family kept asking me “Where’s Mark?”

I tried to push the disappointment away, but the pit in my stomach just seemed to grow. I took a bite of my potatoes, then swirled my fork around the salad. That’s when I realized… It wasn’t a pit in my stomach.

My fork clinked against the table, and I caught the gaze of my brother Matt. His eyes betrayed him. He felt my same agony, and he wasn’t sure what to do either.

I walked to my mom, whispering I was headed to the basement to lie down. Matt was on my heels, nodding his intention to do the same.

It BECAME A SCENE FROM A NIGHTMARE. My mom banished the ill to the basement, and what had once been love and compassion between my brother, Mark, and me became a brutal fight to survive.

“Heather, I need the bathroom!” Mark pounded on the door. “HURRY!”

I was currently doing the double ended elimination technique– garbage can in hands while on the toilet. “Come back later, Mark. I can’t have you by the door right now.”

He pounded louder. “HURRY!”

When I opened the door, he was bent over rocking back and forth. At the sight of an open bathroom, he sprinted past me, almost running me over. He slammed the door on my heels.

I wish I could say it was over. And for Mark at least, it soon was. Matt and I weren’t so lucky. We camped out in the downstairs den and spent the night moaning from body aches and rushing to the restroom.

Mark camped out beside us, and nursed me and my brother. He cleaned out our garbage cans after we puked. It feels necessary to reiterate this. My college boyfriend cleaned up my and my brother’s vomit on his big Christmas visit with my family.

He heard and saw me at my very worst– and I mean worst. I was disgusting. I had purple bruises dotting underneath my eyes. My skin was white, my hair stringy and greasy. I smelled…feral (and that’s putting it lightly). I whined. I was anything but attractive.

And still he was there. He held my hair back, and he gave me water to swish.

I imagine many in his circumstances might act differently. “You know, this isn’t really working out. This whole trip was a good test run, and I think it’s time we went our separate ways. Get better, and while you’re at it– Take a shower. Put some makeup and deodorant on. Maybe I’ll see you around campus next semester.

But this guy was different. After it was all said and done and we were driving back to school, Mark leaned toward the passenger seat.

“I want to marry you, Heather.”

 

 

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My Valentine: Part 1

Years ago, I sat in a college dorm room, ranting to my roommate about how horrible college boys were. I had just started my second semester of college with a new job (event planning), new classes (chemistry, biology, nutrition), and a new vision… No more dating.

She laughed at my resolution. I laughed at her laughter because I was determined to focus on other things.

I signed up a week and a half late for an Intro to Voice (Singing 101) class for an extra credit to keep my scholarship. It was in a strange building (now demolished) and in a strange part of campus. I had to look at a map to find it. And as I followed my route, I was lead to a deserted alley in the middle of a crowded campus. Walking down the gravel road, I sighed. It was January, and the sun was just dimming. I had been feeling trapped in Provo, trapped with people. I had no car, no place to escape the noise and busyness, and it was suffocating.

And then, there I was in an abandoned alley. I got to the bottom of the hill, and stopped. I was only ten feet away from a deer. I marveled, because a.) I’m a romantic, b.) I was severely missing nature, and c.) It surprised me.

There were footsteps behind me, tennis shoes against the gravel.

“Look, a deer!” I said, turning to meet the gaze of my oncoming companion.

He laughed, clearly amused. “Yep, it’s a deer.”

But he wasn’t laughing at the deer. He was laughing at me. I blushed, feeling embarrassed at my enthusiasm, and met his eyes– his golden brown eyes.

We shuffled around awkwardly.

He glanced at his map– obviously looking for the same building as me. “Intro to Voice in the KMB?”

“Uh, yeah,” I said.

He smiled again. “I think this is it.” He gestured to the building to his right (my left).

I swallowed and nodded, following him. Great start, I thought to myself. Now this guy thinks I’m “nature girl”.

 

<3 H

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Life Lesson #4,276,869

After straining my calf in a pickup volleyball game last night (yeah, I still think I’m eighteen), Mark gallantly carried me from the car to the house, which involved a flight of stairs. It brought to light two things: 

  1. He isn’t as strong as he once was.
  2. I’m not as skinny as I once was.

There was way too much huffing coming from him when he carried me up the steps, like an offensive amount of huffing… but then he set me up in bed, wrapped my calf with an ace-bandage, and brought me medicine.

Sometimes I wonder what the secret to a happy marriage is. I have one, but why? How? Last night shed some light on this subject. Maybe the secret is life. Life throws nonstop curve balls, and maybe all that matters is that we swing, that we try. Maybe romance is all about swinging, trying to win it for the team. Whether that’s carrying your post-four-children wife up a flight of stairs or smiling through the pain of a silly I’m-not-eighteen-anymore leg injury, we have to swing.

We can’t ever stop, or we’ll strike out. 

Enough deep thoughts for your Friday night. Let’s get down to the point of this post: I’ll be down a lot this next week writing, I mean recovering. Enjoy your weekend!

-H

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Trips to the City

About once a month (sometimes more), we pack up the kids and head to the city. We love our small town, but there are some things it lacks… namely a Costco, Winco, Panera Bread, Chipotle, Ross, tj maxx, Hobby Lobby, Joanns… I could go on.  These city trips, though necessary and fun, can sometimes drag on and on, and on and on.

Mark starts to go crazy after the fifth store… rightly so. Dragging four kids around stores all day has its own set of challenges, like peed pants and screaming children… and maybe a frazzled hair, screaming lady. 

I can always tell when Mark is DONE. The DVD player comes on, Costco spoils are dispersed, and Mark sends me into the stores alone, while he tries to keep it together with kids. This was the case last time. My oldest needed new shoes. I popped into Ross, found some shoes (only adding a couple impulse buys), and headed back to the car. I was proud of how fast I was in and out. 

The car was parked near the front. Ain’t no car like ours– a maroon suburban, named by my second child (who was three years old at the time) “Little Sis”.  

I pulled the door open, and my eyes instantly fell to the cream colored interior. 

Wait. 

My eyes flashed to the man in the driving seat. He had a mouthful of food and a surprised expression.  His thinning hair was light, his skin color a far cry from my swarthy Mediterranean husband…

“Hello,” he said, half nervous and half mocking. 

That’s when I saw “Little Sis” charging down the parking isle, my knight in shining armor behind the wheel. 

I promptly screamed, slammed the door, and ran to our car. I think I said, “sorry”, “oops” or something… but I’ll never know. It was a blur. I opened our car door, the familiar black interior, along with my husband’s choked laughter, my only welcome. 

That’s true love. He laughed the whole way home… as did I.

What kind of freak am I?! 

I’m sure that other guy laughed about the crazy, screaming lady, too. …at least that’s what I tell myself at night. And what mark tells me. Lest you think mark planned such an embarrassing mishap, he likes to remind me what happened on his end…

It was the BABY’s fault… or so he claims. He couldn’t stay stationary without tears. So he circled the parking lot, trying to keep everyone happy. He had his route, watching and waiting as he circumnavigated. About the fifth lap, he saw me bee lining it. He had seen the burb’s twin… it was only a split second… he knows me too well… and he knew what was coming. He stepped on the gas to save me from imminent disaster.

He reached me just as I slammed the door. He recalls my “girly, flailing arms” as I ran (his words, not mine), and the way my every look screamed utter embarrassment. 

… but instead of asking me what happened, or if I was okay… he only laughed… and laughed…because he knew EXACTLY what had happened. 

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Marriage

Marriage is all about accepting each other at our worst, right? I keep reminding myself that this is true– like when I am picking up dirty socks for the hundredth time or when Mark still kisses me after I haven’t showered in days. However, last night was a whole new experience, highlighting this truth once again.

Mark needs a haircut, like bad. You know how there are some men that can pull off the Fabio look when their hair gets long, and then there are some that just look…like a wolf-man? Mark securely falls into that second category—wolf-man. It’s been a running joke throughout our marriage. He always waits until he’s two months past wolf-man to get a haircut. It is no different this time, and it might be even worse– perhaps three months past wolf-man?

And guys, I don’t get it. Seriously, every time he gets a haircut, it’s like we’re dating all over again. I’m swept off my feet, reminded of how very handsome my swarthy-Mediterranean husband is (that’s his nickname of choice). Maybe that’s the point. Maybe Mark likes to become crazy wolf-man so that when he gets a haircut, like normal people, I fall deeply and madly in love with him all over again. That sounds shallow. I like him a lot even when he is wolf-man. It’s just… I love a clean haircut.

Well, last night he was standing in front of the bathroom mirror shaving. I couldn’t stop staring at his ridiculous hair. So I grabbed a comb and my girls’ elastics and started combing his hair into small sections. I put pony tails every so often, and it was hilarious. We were both laughing so hard at how ridiculous it looked! Mark had to set down the razor and wipe at his tear-filled eyes. Secretly, it was my ploy to induce him to get a haircut. But we were laughing so hard that I forgot and got carried away. At one point, I put an elastic in my mouth as a holding spot while I combed a small section.

Then, Mark made me laugh, and yes…I swallowed that elastic. It was past the point of no return, so to speak, but it wouldn’t go down my throat (I have an itty bitty throat). Suddenly, mid laugh, I fell to the floor trying to huck the stupid elastic up. Mark stepped back, crazy ponytails and all, a blank look on his face.

I put my hand up, halting any question certain to come. This elastic was not going down, and I knew it had to come up. But how do you gurgle something that is past that point? I could hardly breathe. And that stupid elastic was threatening to go in my airway. So, I did what any natural person would do. And it came up.

So did half a frozen Costco pizza from dinner, along with various other food items that will remain nameless. I don’t want to get graphic here.

There was stifling silence for at least a minute. I was busy recovering from fight-or-flight. And Mark (still sporting the crazy hair) was standing with his jaw to the floor, his brows furrowed. At long last, he crouched down, lifting his arms in the air.

“What the hell just happened?”

The combination of his crazy hair and confused expression was just too much. We both laughed until our sides hurt, mine infinitely more from my recent upchuck.

The point of this story is: Marriage really is all about loving each other through the worst of times. HUSBANDS, cut your dang hair. WIVES, never put elastics in your mouth.

And most importantly, laughter really is the best medicine.

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