my valentine

Mush alert. But hey, there’s more maternity pics ahoy, so…

photo by Christen Byrd.

Happy Valentine’s Day, to everybody, but most especially to My Favorite. We don’t tend to do a lot for Valentine’s Day. Sometimes we go out for a nice dinner, sometimes I buy him his favorites, Hot Tamales and Reese’s Pieces, sometimes I bake something elaborate, and sometimes he sends me flowers. But my favorite part is always a handwritten expression of love inside a card, and that’s what we always do. I put on my red fuzzy robe this morning, and, slightly hungover from Tylenol PM, limped out to my recliner to find a card from My Favorite, who had to go to work at an ungodly hour this morning. It made me smile just like he always does.

I have no grand theories or pronouncements on love. I have no relationship advice to give. I met the love of my life when I was 18 years old, and I don’t just love him, I like him a LOT. He’s my favorite person to hang out with. There is literally nothing about my life that isn’t better for him being in it. Being with him makes me insanely, ridiculously happy. And even though this pregnancy thing is hard, and even though the twins thing is often largely terrifying, the only way I know how to face anything is with him holding my hand. So I’m going to keep on holding on.

Photo by Christen Byrd.

*If you like the photos, hire Christen Byrd to take some of you!

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my baby just cares for me

Mush alert.

Being pregnant has given me the warm fuzzies for my husband. I feel closer to him because I know we’re basically jumping off a cliff together, and because I know that we’re making something beautiful together, and because there’s no one else in the world I’d be willing to take this kind of adventure with. But I’m also feeling the love because he’s taking excellent care of me.

I shouldn’t be surprised– he’s always taken great care of me. When we were dating, we were in a car accident one Thanksgiving. I was driving us to my grandparents’ house on a wet road and hydroplaned while trying to grab my ringing cell phone (don’t phone and drive, kids!). The car spun into a ditch, and the airbag did a doozy on me. It turns out, thanks to mild scoliosis and an extra mutant vertebra that’s shaped like a wedge, I had a perfect spot for a compression fracture of my spine, and to this day am a quarter inch shorter on my left side as a result. After the accident, when deciding whether I would go back to college or go home with my parents or stay with him, he was adamant that he would take care of me. And he did– he fed me my pills on schedule, let me sleep in a recliner, and kept me supplied with my favorite ice cream until I felt well enough to go back to school.

A year into our marriage, we moved to Charleston, SC, where he was doing his residency in pediatrics. I had a hard time with the move, far away from everyone I knew and loved, in a strange new place, working a job I didn’t really like much, and for the first few months I was pretty much a mess. One day, I attempted to go for a bike ride with our dog Bessie, and she pulled me off and I scraped up my knee really bad. Bleeding and hysterical, I called Jon. I’m sure it sounded awful on the phone, because he biked all the way home from the hospital, bandaged up my knee, which was really not as bad as my hysterics made it sound, held me, hugged me, kissed me, and then biked back to work. He never said anything about how crazy I’d acted about that skinned knee. He knew it was just an emotional catalyst that broke the dam that had held back my sadness and depression about the move, and he loved me through it. Eventually we made friends and settled in, and when it came time for us to leave Charleston, I was sad then too.

Last winter, I got the flu. People who tell me they think they have the flu, I have one response for them: “Do you feel like you’re dying? Do you think maybe death would be preferable to the way you feel right now? OK, maybe then you have the flu.” It was the sickest I’ve ever been. I had a fever of 102 for 8 days straight. I coughed so much and so hard that I bruised my ribs and was sore for a month afterward. All told, I was sick the entire month of December. Jon was working lots of shifts in the ER, and, in between, when he should have been sleeping, kept me dosed on meds, made sure I was fed, and prevented our house from falling apart. He held me as I coughed and cried and promised me I’d feel better one day, even though in the middle of that illness, I didn’t really believe him.

Now he’s dealing with me, hopped up on a double dose of twin hormones, admittedly acting insane a lot of the time, the kind of pregnant person they make jokes about. While he did jokingly reassure me that my insanity isn’t a new development for him to deal with, he has made me feel so cared for. He encourages me to nap when I’m tired, he picks up the slack that I’m leaving in all the things to be done around the house, he bought me Miralax and reminds me to take it (and he’s not grossed out by talking about gross pregnancy symptoms like constipation!), and he helps me find things I’m willing to eat. He gets me wet washcloths and anti-nausea medicine and holds my hand as I sit next to the toilet and cry, because even throwing up makes me cry these days.

In other words, he’s doing what he’s always done: taking amazing care of me. Just like I know he will take amazing care of our babies. And maybe I’m hormonal and mushy and this whole post is making you want to barf (hey! welcome to the club!), but telling the story of this latest adventure would be incomplete without a little insight into the awesome partner I have along the way. This whole thing would be entirely too terrifying without him.

now we’re 5

Because we were in Costa Rica for our anniversary, I didn’t get to do a post like I usually do on July 29th commemorating 5 years of marriage to Jon. But, we got to be in Costa Rica for our anniversary, so that’s pretty awesome. We constantly talk about the kind of life we want together “someday” when he’s finally done with medical training and I’m finally done with school, and in looking at the kind of goals we set for ourselves: simple living, being generous with others, living in a way that is good to the environment, we’ve realized that the people we were 5 years ago wouldn’t be having these sorts of dreams for the future. We’ve changed a lot in our time together, which I guess is to be expected when I met my true love at the age of 18 and got married at the ripe old age of 21 (Jon’s 5 years older). I think we’ve both changed each other for the better, and I’m sure there’s lots of change still ahead of us. I’m sure glad we can keep growing together, forever. I know I can face anything as long as I’ve got my best friend by my side.

On a bench in a park in downtown San Jose. Everywhere we looked, couples were making out in public. That's not quite our style, so this was our contribution.

 

Ignoring the cheesy images, here’s a song to dedicate to the one I love, “Loving a Person” by Sara Groves, a favorite of mine:

8 years of summer lovin’

8 years ago, I got a call from the summer camp where I’d been a camper, saying they were short on counselors, and even though I was technically a year too young to be a counselor (they want college freshmen, I had just graduated from high school and wasn’t eligible til the next summer), and I hadn’t even applied for a job, did I want to work there for the summer? I jumped at the chance for a summer of fun, and my first day there, met the hottest guy I’d ever seen, no lie. It turns out he thought I was pretty cute, too, and within 24 hours, we were smoochin’ and smitten. 8 years later, he’s still the hottest guy I’ve ever seen. I’m so glad he’s mine.

Summer 2003.

 

These days.

the worst valentine’s gifts ever

This story is sorta like “The Gift of the Magi” if those characters had been sorta jerkish instead of altruistic and self-sacrificing.

Some time before our first Valentine’s Day together (at which point we’d been dating like 8 months), I was hanging out at Jon’s house watching TV when a Hallmark commercial came on. It was advertising whatever their cute plush Valentine stuffed animal was that year. I think I said something like, “Why would a dude EVER get an adult woman a stuffed animal for Valentine’s Day?” Jon’s face fell a little and he said, “You better be careful what you say!”

A few days later, on Valentine’s Day, Jon presented me with the gift he’d already bought *before* we saw that ad: a stuffed animal that looked like a chocolate lab puppy. He reminded me what I’d said, and of course I felt like a jerk. The truth is, I thought the stuffed dog was adorable. I named him Jack, I spritzed him with Jon’s cologne, and I slept with him every night because he smelled like Jon, who at the time was going to school 100 miles from where I was going to school. I still have him and sometimes sleep with him when Jon’s working the night shift.

Maybe a year after that, a few weeks before Valentine’s Day, I noticed that Jon’s wallet was totally falling apart, so I bought him a new one. A few days before V-Day, we were walking through the mall when we passed a special Valentine’s Day wallet display. Jon said something about how wallets are intensely personal and how they get better with age as they conform to the perfect fit for a man’s pocket. My face fell a little.

On Valentine’s Day, a few days later, I presented him with the already purchased wallet and reminded him of what he’d said. I bet he felt a little like a jerk. But the thing is, he liked the wallet. Years later, he’s still carrying it.

These days we don’t give each other gifts at all. It works out better that way.

rekindled flame

"Campfire" image via flickr user gmmail, Greg Morgan, under a Creative Commons license.

The night I met my husband, we sat around a campfire and talked late into the night.  We saw shooting stars (or were they fireflies?), were startled by a tail-less cat, and started the fall into love.

The day my husband proposed, he took me back to the site of that campfire and asked me to marry him, and then we sat there and talked about our life together.

Not too long ago, we hit a bit of a rough patch. Trust was damaged, hearts were hurt, and things got hard.

This weekend, we went camping with a group of new friends. We sat around a campfire, talking into the night. We debated the influence of the Beatles (why anyone would dispute their status as the single most influential band ever is beyond me), we laughed at the puppy snoring in my lap, and we got to know each other.  I caught glimpses of my beloved in the firelight, looking just as sexy as he did that night we met.  I smiled when, asked about his top 3 favorite movies, I guessed every one.  We walked through the dark to our tent, where we snuggled for warmth, heads under the sleeping bag, exhaling deep, hot breaths to heat the air inside.  He wrapped his arms around me and told me how thankful he is, how lucky he feels that we have each other. That we get each other. That we love each other.  I think that spark of gratitude might just be what we needed to get back into full flame.

Today’s post is inspired by the lovely Kyran Pittman’s question on her brand new blog, Planting Dandelions.

Side note: I’m in the middle of writing an epic paper on 14th century mystic Julian of Norwich, and it’s taking up a lot of my time. Please excuse my sparse posting as of late.

like riding a bike

My snazzy "new" bike.

Last night after dinner, as the sun started to go down, my best friend and I strapped on some helmets and sped off on our trusty cycles.  We zoomed down the streets of our neighborhood, racing the daylight and each other, to the soundtrack of a thousand cicadas buzzing in the trees. We made a lap around the playground, but decided not to stop and play with the other kids, instead zipping off in search of another downhill to give us a dose of speed.  As I flew down the hills, as much wind as the humid Southern summer air can muster in my face, I caught myself smiling wide, tongue half-out like an eight-year-old.  In my mind, I was popping wheelies, if not in reality. We perched at the top of a hill, wondering if the bright light streaking across the darkening sky was an asteroid or an airplane, and we marveled at the giant pink-tinged moon hanging over a shining state capitol building, smiling down on our city with its chubby old man face.  When we pulled up to our driveway, I half expected my mom to tell us to hurry up and get bathed before bedtime– tomorrow’s a school day.

It was a wonderful way to spend an evening.

It was also a wonderful twist to a bad situation.

On Friday night, after an all-ages dance party with friends and their children (complete with glow-sticks), we came home and, as usual, I opened the back door to let the dogs out into our fenced back yard.  Ten minutes later, a neighbor knocked at the door, Bessie collared in one hand, Olive running across the street.  “How the heck did they get out of the fenced yard?” Olive’s a runner, but it’s usually because she’s slipped past us at the front door.  We captured her and went to check out the back yard. The alley gate was open.  Neither one of us had been out the back gate, so we knew someone had been IN.  That’s when we noticed my bike was missing.

Let me tell you, I loved that bike.  It wasn’t fast, and it often wasn’t functional, but I loved it.  It was a petite black Parkwood (I thought the name was special because we used to live on a street named Parkwood) with silver fenders and a silver basket on the front, and we bought it off of Craigslist.  It had a sticker that bragged it was Made in the USA, and it was so heavy it must have been forged out of pure American iron.  It was mine.

I try to have a hands-off attitude toward my stuff.  I want to be the kind of person who would give my bike up to anyone who asked me for it.  And, though I loved it, the loss of the bike didn’t bother me nearly as much as the feeling of violation, that someone had come into my back yard to take my things, and the fear and worry that one of my dogs could have been killed or hurt because the thief left the back gate open.

Because I like to bike to my church, I wanted a replacement bicycle.  I started browsing Craigslist the next morning and found a listing for two matching, vintage French town bicycles, specifically 1974 Motobecane Nobly bicycles.  The seller lived so close to us I could have biked there had I had a bicycle, and Jon and I went to scope them out.  Just to see other options, we went to a bike store and I tested a cute little hybrid that rode like a dream and shifted gears with the click of a button.  Less cute was the $400 price tag, though, so we left without making the purchase and went to see the Craigslist find.  When we saw the vintage French bikes, we knew we had to have them, and $200 later, we were on our way home with our beauties.

I found a .pdf of the 1974 Motobecane catalog online. The bike in the background looks identical to my new bike, except mine has groovy lights on it.

The Craigslist image of our "new" bikes.

And they are beauties.  They’re painted a lovely copper color, and though the chrome was a little rusty, they polished up nice.  They have fenders and racks on the backs, still sport 1974 bicycle license plates from Wichita, Kansas, and my favorite features are the working head and tail lights operated with a friction generator activated as the bikes are pedaled. They’re a sort of bike you don’t see very often in a world that seems divided among road bikes, cruisers, and mountain bikes/mountain bike wannabes– they’re basically city commuter bikes, more upright than the average road bike and outfitted with a cruiser’s fenders and racks, on skinny road bike tires, with apparently unusual 27 inch wheels.

Isn't that headlight the cutest?

These crazy levers are how you shift the gears.

Looks like my plate's expired.

I like that the seat says "sat."

This is the mechanism that powers the lights. As the wheel turns, the little wheel turns and generates the power. So cool! Why don't "real" bikes have these?

Beyond the rust, the tires were dryrotted, the gears weren’t shifting, and the brakes were sketchy.  My best friend/biking buddy/bunkmate Jon happens to be pretty handy with bikes, and by last evening had my bike newly shod in fresh tires and tubes, tuned up to the point that 4/10 gears (activated with levers at the center of the handlebars) are now working, and had the brakes mostly fixed.  His Motobecane is still not up and running (the rear gears seem fully locked up and won’t move a bit when he pedals), but he hopped on his trusty day-to-day bike and joined me for our joyride.  My new bike turned out to be much lighter and faster than my last bike and was a downright thrill to ride in comparison.  Jon said he had trouble keeping up, and in truth, I left him in the dust a few times.  He says he can’t wait to have his speedy new old bike fully operational so he can give me a run for my money.  Maybe his will look as snazzy as this fully restored version.

I may never be Lance Armstrong, as I’m not particularly interested in cycling long distances, but I’m more than excited to have a time machine to transport me back to my childhood for evening jaunts around the neighborhood.  Maybe after that we can catch fireflies in a mason jar.