James and Amy- our story

I love hearing about how couples met and fell in love. What was their first date like? When did they get engaged? Some stories are funny, sweet, sad, ironic, and all of them are touching. Of course, the story of James and me is my favorite. In my typical type-A, planner personality way, I started worrying about meeting the right fella when I was young. I think the concern began in my teens, that I would love someone who did not love me, or worse, I would never meet anyone that I loved enough to spend my life with. Does it make a lot of sense to worry like that? No, of course not. However, in my immature teen mind, the thought nagged at me that finding the “right person”  (you know the one you hear about in movies and books?) would elude me. I would never know what “true” love was, and I would grow old alone. Now, I had a plan B. I had it all figured out- I was going to be a very cool spinster, who traveled the world and was a published author. I would have lots of pets, and I would throw great parties! Oh my gosh, I am belly laughing right now thinking back. Woe is me, I had real concerns! Right up there with world peace, and fixing global warming- I worried about what the future would hold. My young heart wondered what it would be like to fall in love.

40watt
On our 2nd date, in Athens, GA

I had deep heart-to-heart with my best friends about the categories of infatuation. The type of love that was required for marriage I knew, at least, was in a category by itself. It wasn’t all about being warm and fuzzy, no, I understood even at a very young age, that marriage was a vow and that commitment to the union was the crux of things- not romance. As a person of faith, who came into her adult relationship with God only after marriage, I struggled to trust the Lord with my heart. I desperately wanted to have a deep, loving relationship and marriage and did NOT want to relinquish my white-knuckled control. The thought that life may take me down a different road than the one I envisioned was unacceptable; I wanted to control every aspect of my own future- I KNEW my destiny. I had it all planned.

After college, I wanted to move to Washington D.C. and work on Capitol Hill for a couple of years and then attend the Georgetown School of Foreign Service for a masters degree. After completing my two years abroad after the masters, then I could get married. In reality, I was sitting at a kitchen table eating nachos when in walked my destiny. Foolish young woman that I was, I wasn’t a complete idiot- I recognized James for the gem that he is! It was second semester of senior year of college and I was attending a Super Bowl party at a friend’s house. People from Savannah were invited so I saw a lot of familiar faces. I didn’t dress up, and I probably couldn’t have told you who was playing! I had gone out with friends the night before and I was tired. I wore a sweatshirt and jeans, and no make-up (I still have the sweatshirt). Like I mentioned- I was actually holding the bowl of nachos and eating with them in my lap. James came in with a mutual friend, and we were introduced. I shook his hand over the chips and hot cheese. Clearly, it was an auspicious beginning!

arty pic
At a family farm, our first Thanksgiving together 2003

James was equally dressed up- I think he was wearing a hoodie and hadn’t shaved in 6 months.  He still doesn’t like to shave! He used to wear glasses before he had Lasik surgery. He couldn’t afford to get them fixed, so they sat a little crooked on the bridge of his nose and they had a piece of tape holding them together. Not kidding.  I recognized his name from home. He and I were neighbors growing up, our houses were three doors down from each other. I went and found him watching the game, and I asked if he knew that we had been neighbors- he did not. I sat down, and we started talking. We started talking, and we didn’t stop until he left thirty minutes after the game ended! I’m sure our friends were ready for us to shut up. He was the easiest person in the world to talk to- he had the best laugh, it was deep and bellowing like a young Santa Claus. He said he remembers me fixing him a plate of lowcountry boil for dinner and bringing it back to him. I remember thinking he was one of the nicest people I had ever met.

At half-time of the game, I went into the bathroom with my tiny Nokia cell phone (remember those?) and I called my mom, my sister, and my best friend from high school. I told each of them that I had met the guy I was going to marry. That was it- I just wanted to let them know! Maybe it was something in my voice, or maybe it’s because each of them knew me so well- I’m not the type of person to speak in hyperbole, or grossly exaggerate my feelings for a guy. They took me very seriously! My best friend said, “Ok Amy, I look good in pink!” and a year and a half later, she wore pink in wedding.  After the game, we made plans for him to come to our apartment and have dinner later that week with me and my roommates. I remember he wore a blazer, and brought a bottle of wine. I’m not sure who he consulted, but now that I know him so well I can’t believe he dressed up! This is the man who still wears scrubs that he had in medical school, with holes worn in the heels where they have dragged the ground for over a decade.

 

Our first official date just the two of us was in early March. We talked on the phone some before that, but both of us were really busy. Once we were together- that was it, we were inseparable. I know that drove our roommates and friends nuts!  Neither of us had two nickels to rub together. There was no fancy wining and dining; our idea of a date was to go to the grocery store and get the supplies to make sandwiches. We would buy one pastry to split, go back to one of our homes, make a meal and then sit outside on a picnic blanket to eat. We would look up at the sky and just talk and talk. I don’t remember any concerts, fancy restaurants, overnight trips, or jewelry. I do remember our conversations though, and the laughter. We could finish each other’s sentences, but despite my early prediction, I didn’t think we could get married. I had plans, and he was going to medical school.

We made it one week- one- of long distance. I came to visit him after his first week of medical school, and right when I walked through the door he looked at me and blurted out, “We have to get married.” I said something like, “yeah, I know.” And I did know with complete certainty that marrying James was what I was supposed to do. We weren’t supposed to wait for years and then get together after we had met personal goals- we were supposed to grow together, and take on new experiences as a team. I always thought that deciding who to marry would be a little nerve wracking-it’s FOREVER so shouldn’t you be a little nervous? Have doubts? Date for years so you can be sure? I didn’t do any of those things. Deciding to marry James was the easiest decision I ever made. I put that squarely on God’s shoulders- He gave me and James an unreal peace about the whole thing. It felt so natural, like we were extensions of each other.

In typical type A-worry-wort Amy fashion, I kept waiting for doubts, or reasons to be uncertain. Nothing…I prayed “Lord, if this is wrong and I’m not supposed to marry him, I need you to be REALLY clear.” Again, nothing but a sense of calm and peace and certainty. All of my plans to move to D.C. changed. I started marriage with so much joy, excitement and thrill about embracing our future together. I found a way to work in politics where James was in medical school. I worked on political campaigns, and I went back to school to get my masters degree. I didn’t give up any of my dreams, but I got to do them with James by my side. God was so much better to me, than I was to myself. His plans for me included everything I loved to do, and a the kind of work that I enjoyed, plus a soulmate for life. James and I disagree on little, everyday things, but we have always agreed on the big stuff.

7 of us
2015, on my 34th birthday

From the first time I met him, James has been the easiest person in the world to talk to. He became my best friend pretty quickly, and he still is. We tease about the early years and how we would split a cheap beer from Walmart and make a sandwich for a Saturday night date. I think everyone needs to experience the lean years together- they are character building! We’ve had a wild ride full of ups and downs. Both of us have had serious health issues that were long term. James’s began 3 weeks after we returned from our honeymoon. So, we never got the “honeymoon” phase of early marriage. We dove right in to the “in sickness and in health” part. I could write for hours and hours about our first years together- dating, engagement, and the first years of marriage. It feels like a lifetime ago. There’s no one I’d rather do life with than this guy.

 

When you lose the battle, and it’s ok

I’m going to share something pretty personal here: James and I have had *one* real argument our entire marriage. We’ve had this argument about 11 million times, but it has been the same one, over and over. We disagree on things, but there’s one thing that has been such a sore spot for us over and over. I have this perception that I have to be the mean parent, and he gets to be the fun parent. I’m the rule enforcer, and he’s the one who gives in to their demands and lets things slide. I always feel like one of us has to hold the center, so it must be me. I can’t give an inch, because then, who would keep order?

This perception in my mind of our roles in the home has led to battles, real, raw emotional battles over the years.  The hurt starts with me, not because of anything that James purposely did.  I’m sure when I’m old and gray I’ll be able to offer calm wisdom to young parents about how I learned from my mistakes, doing this! For now, I’m sorta/kinda still in the middle of it, and trying to figure out how to compromise without both of us feeling frustrated.

engage
Right after we got engaged, when we were 12. Just kidding:)

I am no doubt the stricter parent. Does that make me a “better” parent? Ah, confession. I’ll admit, in my more selfish, angry moments I thought that it did. I know I’m wrong. This line of thinking has gotten me nowhere except angrier, self-righteous and spinning my wheels. Not a great combination. James loves our children fiercely, and has very different ideas about what’s perfectly normal and acceptable. I don’t think that anyone needs to share every argument they have with their spouse on the internet, but I thought that perhaps other parents might find some common ground? One parent thinks they are the strict one, and carries some resentment that the other parent is the “fun” one?

One very recent and vivid example of our disagreement has to do with technology. We will always have to navigate the changing world of discipline and privileges as the kids get older. I am stuck in the 1980s- I didn’t do that as a kid, and I’m fine! I didn’t miss out! See?! I can’t stand video games. Cannot stand them. Cartoon people jump around and you get points, and there are different levels…blah blah blah. I have seen people totally engrossed, obsessed, sitting in front of a tv all day on a weekend in college, with no social skills because they just play video games all day. That’s my perception of what it looks like when people play.

There is a very popular video game trending right now called Fortnite. You’ve probably heard of it. I was fine with not having it at all in our home. James downloaded it for our oldest son to try, and that opened a new can of worms. I can beat my head against the wall and rehash the same arguments over and over again about why I don’t like video games, but James can silence me with one sentence “I played them occasionally and I turned out fine.” He turned out better than “fine”- he happens to be my hero. I think he hung the moon. I can’t argue with that statement. It’s true. He’s a hardworking physician, a very hands-on loving father, a patient husband who was my rock during the hardest times of my life, and a man of faith.

I realized that I want peace in the valley, I want to show James how much I admire him, and after a lot of prayer, I knew I needed to take a long, hard look at my pride. I have a pretty rigid view of what’s right and wrong, and more than anything in my life, marriage has softened my edges. I hope that it has made me a better person- I think so. My personal opinion of video games hasn’t changed, but how we treat them in our home did. The boys play Fornite sometimes and the world hasn’t stopped turning. It’s not winning and losing a battle. There shouldn’t be “winning” in a loving home, because that means that someone gets defeated. I just used that analogy in the title of this piece, to represent my personal battle. I battle my pride all of the time- pride over asking for help, pride over teaching the kids “enough”, and pride over being the perfect parent. Gah- it makes it glaringly obvious how much my arguments are about PRIDE, when I write it down and read it.

We have days, times, limits, etc. on screen time. We are in a unique position because of James’s job, where we have multiple computers in the home. One of them was not being used, and was a very nice desktop. We installed it in his office, so that when the boys are online they are next to James- literally. I don’t feel like I am in a position to share every rule we make about screens, because what works for us is probably not right for someone else. Plus, each one of my children is treated differently. That kind of irks them! I get the question “why is he allowed to do __?”

I hope that when I look back on my life, I can say that I learned from my mistakes. The fact that I’ve had the same argument for 11 years, clearly shows that I have room to grow! As much as James and I are alike in many ways, and we love each other, we communicate very differently. My biggest stumbling block is my pride, when it comes to being a good human being and a person of faith. These compromises as a parent and a spouse might get me to Heaven one day- breaking down my innate tendency to always think that *my* way is “right.” By working on my communication with James over every-day disagreements like Fornite, I hope I’m a better listener and friend to everyone else! I read once that marriage is like putting two rough rocks in a bag. Over time, they bang against each other and become smooth. I like that. It’s not easy, and sometimes there are tears of frustration, but my rough edges are being refined and honed, by love.

dance
Dancing at Piper’s wedding, after 14 years of marriage.