It Took a Stranger to Remind Me How Much I’m Loved

romantic couple in love at Christmas

It’s typical of my husband and me to recount the events of our days with each other as we prepare dinner. Last night was no exception. He began sharing that a woman had inquired about me during a networking event he hosted earlier that day. I asked who it was and he mentioned he didn’t think we’d met before. This caught my attention immediately and I’m almost certain I physically reacted with a noticeable pause and a quick head turn.

Questioning the State of Affairs

Why was a stranger asking about me? Was she fishing for info on the state of affairs in our home? Well, sort of. Truthfully, it was a much more innocent encounter.
Because my travel schedule does tend to generate a good amount of interest, he thought maybe her question was curiosity on where I would be traveling next. He went on to tell her the new projects I’d been working on and briefly mentioned the next few travel adventures.
As he wrapped up the dialogue, the woman offered a lovely compliment. Although we had never met in person she “imagined me to be an amazing woman”. My apprehension was put at ease and was flattered. I indicated with a playful side glance in Randall’s direction that it was in his best interest to agree, which he wholeheartedly did.


What she said to him next reminded me just how genuinely loved I am.

“I love asking you about your wife because, although you can’t see it from your perspective, you stand up a little taller, your expression relaxes and your eyes sparkle when you speak about her. You can’t help but smile when you say her name and when you talk about all that she is doing. It’s a genuine pleasure to hear a husband be so proud and supportive of the work of their spouse. I ask you about her because it lifts me up too.”

Stunned. Humbled. Honored.


Perhaps this story would have been better suited for Valentine’s Day or an Anniversary. Honestly, I didn’t want to write a Valentine’s Day story about much of anything this year. I was feeling robbed because we both worked instead of celebrating. I wasn’t a very good sport about it.

I love silly, romantic holidays. Not because I need an excuse for flowers or a date night. I recognize that I’m lucky to be loved in those ways a majority of the year as well. I just love Valentine’s Day in the same way I love Thanksgiving. It’s not that I’m ungrateful the rest of the year but I think of Thanksgiving as a day to be intentional about aligning your thoughts and actions with all the blessings you’ve been given. That’s exactly how I feel about Valentine’s Day too. Aligning my thoughts and actions with love for those closest to me.

I think I’d just been in a little bit of a funk since then- a series of other factors were also in play contributing to the funk (more on that in an upcoming post). What I didn’t expect was that a complete stranger would pop into our story to change all that with a few words and a reminder to us about us how important is that we love one another out loud.

Loving one another isn’t just about fleeting moments of intimacy and words of adoration. It’s about how we love one another with our whole selves; our thoughts; our expressions and posture; the way we speak of one another, especially when they aren’t in the room.

Being that I’m on leave for 11 straight days of travel, those words from a stranger couldn’t have had better timing reminding me how much I am loved.

The Bitter and Sweet of 16 Years Together #Sweet16

Sweet 16 anniversary cake

Sometimes happiness is best celebrated with a shared cupcake, glass of rose, next to a coffee table of laptops and summer board games. ( Not pictured a.m. mimosas, dinner at III Forks, a gifted emerald necklace and a flower filled tub by candlelight.)

June 21st Randall and I celebrated sixteen years together. SIXTEEN, Sixteen seemed monumental for some reason. I mean,while that length of time is certainly a great track record it wasn’t a golden or silver anniversary. More like a coming of age, I suppose, and well let’s just say I’ve had feelings about it for months. I’ve shared those feelings with a few friends and my husband obviously. BLESS. HIS. HEART. He has endured all the feelings about it. Since I’ve made a commitment to always be transparent with all of you, not just sharing the idyllic picture perfect parts, this felt like one of those real stories to be documented here too.

sweet 16 anniversary

We are happy.

Now before you get worried things are in some sort of downward spiral and the entire internet is a lie, WE ARE FINE. More than fine honestly, we are happy. Like really happy and somehow THAT is the thing that got me worried.

Huh? Being happy is what made you worried something was wrong??

I know, I know. Just follow me on this one. Back in March, a friend and I were reflecting on the past few years and we asked each other if we were happy. We talked about where we were in our careers, our family, and our lives. It was an honest conversation, with no expectation attached. No one’s life is perfect and there is always room for growth but I could honestly say without any hesitation I was very happy with my life and my relationship.

In the weeks that followed, I began to think more about that conversation. I have been known to over analyze – shocker, I know- this trait is both blessing and a burden. I thought about all the couples we’d known, parents, friends, people who got married around the same time we had, people who had gotten married since. How many of them were still married? How many had divorced? How many are living complacent and co-existing? It was exhausting and there were very few relationships that had a lifespan equal to or longer than ours. There were even fewer that I would consider emulating.

Behind the Scenes: Real Relationship Talk

This is where I began to panic. And because panic loves to party, I shared my concerns with Randall immediately. It sounded something like this :

Me: “Heyyyyy, so, we’re happy, right? Like REALLLLy happy? ” 

Him: “Yeah. I’m happy. Are you happy?”

Me: “Definitely. I was just checking because I was thinking that I don’t know if I know anyone as happy as we are and what if everything is suddenly about to fall apart and we aren’t prepared……”

Him: ( insert head tilt, adorable gaze, and light chuckle) “Why do you do this to yourself?” 

*Note: by this time in our relationship he is used to me running worst-case-scenarios full speed ahead. It’s who I am. He is the hype man and I am logistics. Logistics people run these things through. Logistics people have your back. The Hype Men assure you everything is good and you are going to have the time of your life. Sometimes we switch positions. Both are vital. We make a really good team.

At least I’m not alone.

So things are good but I’m still not entirely convinced. By April, I am still sorting this through. I confide in another friend. “Here I am living this dream, with this human who I entirely believe is the best relationship partner on the face of the planet. ( FTR: Randall Chase is truly the best human I know and better than I deserve. Although, he tells me the same and I’m pretty sure I’m amazing also so let’s just say we both lucked out and call it even) So, because I don’t know anyone that has really made love last longer, why should we be the lucky ones? Is the proverbial other shoe about to drop at any moment? And am I going to be the one to screw it all up?  Because I believe he is so perfect, I’m clearly the obvious choice to do so. But howwwww?”

My friend responds : “You are speaking my worst nightmares and fears, but go on.” 

At least I know I am not alone.

Life goes on

A few more weeks go by and my panic begins to subside. Life goes on as normal. We parented together. I won an award and he was my biggest cheerleader. He was finishing his graduate program, things were busy at work and I took on more. Our autonomy is one of my favorite parts of our relationship. We had kitchen dance parties listening to Snoop Dogg, Beyonce, and some version of yacht rock that I can’t recall. We laughed, cried, loved, won and fussed in those weeks. It was the life we loved living. I decided it was okay to be happy.

Moral of the story

Just last week, I was recounting this relationship journey to yet another friend as we walked along. It seemed silly as I was telling it but it was honest. She reassured me that there really is no normal just let it be honest. Your love/relationship doesn’t have to look like anyone else’s. It doesn’t have to be perfect or pretty. You don’t even have to be happy all the time. It was a good reminder that comparison is a terrible tool for relationships. Self reflection is totally different.

Moral of the story: Love still exists in many forms. It’s probably going to look a lot different each year it grows. Don’t panic. Sixteen years really is pretty sweet. If you haven’t gotten there yet, there is a lot to look forward to but enjoy the moment you are in because each of those can be pretty sweet too.

Oh, and keep good circle of trusted friends. I’ve got some of the very best.

Autonomy Makes Our Marriage Work

Chases in the Snow #SorentoFamily

One of my goals this year was to become a better writer. This summer I decided I would be writing something every day. Every.Day.  With kids out of school, moving to new places, traveling for summer vacations, it’s harder than it sounds. I suppose most things worth committing yourself to are. I haven’t necessarily published every day but I have been writing every day. I’ve also been reading more too. It helps to see what others are writing. The practice is good, the introspection better. So far I’ve learned a lot about myself and I feel I’ve been able to contribute more value to conversations with others as well. One recent conversation with my husband turned into a conversation discussing how keeping a certain amount of autonomy in our marriage has been part of the success.

We just celebrated our fifteenth wedding anniversary June 21st (the first official day of Summer and International Gnome Day, for those of you who keep track of things like that). I had just read an article shared by several respected friends who have all been married long over a decade or more. The article focused on the element of happiness in marriage and evaluating what marriage will cost you beyond the wedding day itself. It’s claims of sacrifice talked about much more than giving up half the closet space or letting someone else decide what would be on the dinner menu that night. I think we could all agree that marriage, along with most relationships, is full of compromise, but I completely disconnected when the author said “it will cost you yourself.”

I disconnected immediately but that statement still bothered me for days. I couldn’t reconcile why this piece resonated for so many others and felt so abrasive to me. I spent more time than I should have thinking about it and finally it occurred to me.

After fifteen years, the thing that has kept us together is allowing each other to be different. Autonomy makes our marriage work.

One of the things I have appreciated every day of our marriage relationship is the element of autonomy for both of us. Uniting in marriage has never required that either of us give up who we are as individuals. As we’ve gotten older and more mature we’ve changed certainly but not given up our individuality.

au·ton·o·my
noun: autonomy
  • the right or condition of self-government, especially in a particular sphere.
  • freedom from external control or influence; independence.
    synonyms: self-governmentself-rulehome ruleself-determinationindependencesovereigntyfreedom

     

Autonomy doesn’t mean that we are in an open relationship or that either of us have an “I do what I want” attitude with the other ( although I am known to jokingly reply with that on occasion.) We don’t typically ask the other to refrain from saying or doing something because we are adults capable of self-regulating and making their own choices. That’s how adulting works.

Autonomy Means We Won’t Always Agree

What autonomy in marriage does mean is that we have a mutual respect to allow one another to hold a difference of opinion on religion, politics, parental topics, who makes the best tacos, favorite IPAs and career choices. We don’t always agree. In truth, it’s our different perspectives that have made our relationship so intriguing and appealing from the beginning.

We don’t always agree but we ALWAYS communicate intelligently and respectfully. We allow one another to hold different opinions and can entertain discussions with each other without trying to convert the other. We communicate to understand and not change. Perhaps through various dialogue one of us will deliver a statement that opens up a point of view the other had not considered. Maybe not. Either way, allowing each other independence in opinion and thought continues the balance of equality that drew us to want to spend so much time together in the very beginning. This translates in how we choose to work together and make decisions in our life.

The article I was so bothered by positioned the “sacrifices” you must make in a marriage. I call those just being a decent human. If a person isn’t exemplifying that type of behavior from the very beginning I don’t want to commit to coffee with them much less a lifetime. Maybe that’s just me but I’m glad to be in a relationship with someone who lets me be me. We appreciate each other and don’t ever ask one another to play small or give up any part of ourselves. It works for us and I’m betting that we’ll be good at this gig for at least another 15 years.

Becoming The Weekend Wife

The weekend wife

To avoid any rumors or misunderstandings, things at home are just fine. Today’s post title references a tongue in cheek moniker I bestowed upon myself one Sunday evening, admittedly to get a slow eye roll response from Randall as he packed his suitcase for the following week. This is part of our new normal now and how we cope with the temporary weekday separation. Leaving your family each week, microwaving dinner for one, and waking up alone is quite a beige life (*see below) and beige just isn’t in our color palette. My contribution is to balance the beige with well-intentioned sarcasm, jokes and creative hashtags along the way as I continue to chronicle this segment of our story.

Anything can be sustained temporarily. That’s what we tell ourselves. It’s how we cope.

I’d like to briefly pause offering a bit more context and a congratulatory moment of accolades to Randall on his new job. Earlier this year he accepted a position reentering the chamber world as Executive Director of the Cedar Hill Chamber of Commerce.  It is a wonderful career opportunity in a field where he greatly excels and will allow our entire family to be embedded in community.  We’ve already found a new home and have been interviewing at schools in the area for next fall. Knowing that moving in the middle of a school year is never easy and that Sebastian would be making a transition to middle school this fall anyway, we decided things would be easiest if we waited and moved the children at the end of the school year. Thus, I became the Weekend Wife.

“Ya know, Marriage is the best sleepover of your entire life.”

As expected with our new lifestyle, we’ve both been fielding lots of inquiries and quizzical glances as we explain our chosen weekday separation. Maybe that’s why we haven’t made it super public as we figure out our new routines. We are given lots of “absence makes the heart grow fonder” winks, unsolicited advice, and a few quips about being grateful for alone time. I don’t think either of us is fond of the alone time. It feels more like everyone has just been picked up from the sleepover you hosted.

When we were newlyweds people would ask us “So what’s it like now? Being married and all?” I thought carefully about my response, how I felt each day as I woke up and replied “Ya know, Marriage is the best sleepover of your entire life!” I still believe that to be truest description of a good marriage. You only invite your best friends over to spend the night, to do your favorite things until the stars come out and you are fully aware that the later it gets the mischievousness and disagreements will come. Still, whatever happened the night before is forgotten as you wake up in a pile of blankets, sunshine on your face to someone making breakfast in the kitchen. See what I mean? A good marriage is the best sleepover you’ll ever have.

The house seems quieter and the bed seems bigger. Sometimes I sleep on his side instead.

The transition isn’t easy to navigate. My weekday hours have remained relatively the same. Weeknights are a heavier workload as I am solo project manager for homework, dinner, laundry, errand running, double checking teeth brushing, and lunch packing supervisor. This is the “ordinary” part of the day when we miss each other most. The time of day when brushing by each other in the kitchen holds the potential to transform into a smile and few minutes of  slow dancing or watching a documentary on Netflix leads to a in-depth commentary on the state of society at large. The house seems quieter and the bed seems bigger. Those nights, when I miss him the most, I sleep on his side instead. 

It’s not all bad I tell myself. The house is marginally more tidy. The entire stock of protein bars are mine for the choosing. There will be four entire days in which I won’t have to rush to get in the shower first or worry about drying off with a damp towel. We’re making the most of technology to stay connected. We find hidden moments in the day to send silly texts as if we were passing notes in class the way school children do.

He drives home every Friday evening battling rush hour and commuter traffic through two of Texas’s largest cities to see us for a little more than 48 hours. We cram as much into those hours as possible pretending everything is the same but an invisible hourglass consistently reminds us time is shorter than we like.

Sunday nights are the worst. That’s when the small suitcase is pulled out of the closet to be repacked with the freshly done laundry again. We tell the children goodnight and I watch him kiss each one on the forehead and tell them goodbye because he’ll be gone by the time they wake up for school. After that, we crawl into bed and hold each other tightly. In a few hours he will quietly silence the alarm doing his best not to wake me. He’ll dim the bathroom light and crack the door getting dressed in the shadows. Quietly he walks to my side of the bed, leans over to kiss my cheek and wakes me just enough to make sure I heard him whisper goodbye.

Anything can be sustained temporarily. That’s what we tell ourselves. It’s how we cope.

 

(a”beige life” is like a biscuit without jelly. Colorless and really, what’s the point??)

 

 

June 21st : A 12 Year Tribute

June 21st officially marks the first day of summer each year. For Randy & I specifically, June 21st also marks another year of marriage. This year makes a dozen.

june 21st summer

When we choose the date for our wedding, it was just the day that made the most sense. We actually had no clue June 21st was the first day of summer (I probably would have picked a different date, as summer was my least favorite season).  My consolation is that it is also officially the longest day of the year. This means, we have the most available sunlight possible in which to reflect on the crazy adventures we’ve had –  And of course dream up new adventures for the years to come.

It was during this reflection time yesterday that I decided to make a few short lists of things we’ve done together that are just “us”. There is some sort of crazy story that belongs to each and a million memories that make me smile. These stories and smiles are the tales of a happy couple and  lives well lived.  I hope we get to share them in detail one day and I look forward to having a million more stories to share over the next dozen years.

June 21st : A 12 Year Tribute

Unique things we’ve done

  • Run with Bulls
  • Laid on a Bed of Nails
  • Crawled inside cave
  • Met Penn Jillette &  Simon Cowell
  • Flown a plane
  • Swam with sea turtles
  • Stayed out all night walking in NYC
  • Been on live television together
  • Driven with a professional speed driver
  • Explored a waterfall
  • Danced near the stage while George Strait sang live

A Few Places We’ve Gone Together ( I know I am missing a ton)

  • Texas
  • St. Thomas
  • Chicago
  • New York
  • South Carolina
  • A 24 hour round trip road trip from the Southern U.S. to the Northern US

Different Ways We’ve Traveled Together

  • Hot air Balloon
  • Planes
  • Train
  • Ferry
  • In Parades
  • Cars
  • Bus
  • Boats
  • We’ve even rode an elephant once
  • Walked miles
  • Run 5ks/10ks

There has been so much more “life” that filled in the gaps. Life that has included laughter, tears, children, pets, hard work, and lazy afternoon naps. No matter how we choose to spend our time, we’ve always enjoyed it most when we are together. Happy Anniversary!