Posts Tagged ‘Birthdays’

Saturday, May 1, 2010

I started doing a running program called the “Couch to 5K” or C25K for short after Ceecee’s half-marathon. The goal is to get a person to be able to run a 5K race within about nine weeks starting from nothing. This morning, Ceecee ran a 5K race called the May Day 5K and I did the one mile fun run. I wasn’t even completely sure I could do the mile, but I did, and it was actually pretty easy.

Ceecee ran the 5K in just over 27 minutes and said her next race will be better. I was impressed with her time and think she did great. She even told me that her shoes came untied twice and she had to stop and tie them. She amazes me. She’s been swimming more and more and just gradually increases her distance. We go to the pool together and I try to encourage her, but she still doesn’t think she’s much of a swimmer.

She wants to run a marathon this year. She says it’s to “prove that she isn’t old.” She’s turning 39 in a couple of weeks, so I don’t know what she’s talking about. Anyway, they are starting a training program soon for the Bass Pro marathon and it’s $100 and I went ahead and signed her up today. She wants to do this and I support her. It’s through a running guru named Jeff Galloway who I’ve never heard of, but he has a book out and it’s supposed to be a big deal.

365 days have passed since “the phone call” that changed everything and brought me back to my wife.  We now have just two final stops on the restoration tour.  Dreams do come true, and all things truly are possible to those who not only believe, but are willing to fight for what they believe in.

This year of restoration was all about healing and rebuilding.  It was a year of both of us saying up front, “I choose to forgive, and with God’s help, to forget.”  Either way, it was a choice that each of us made – to love unconditionally, even when it hurt – and with no guarantees of what the future would hold.  Love is always a choice, and if it really is love, it will stand through every test.

I can’t really imagine anything more appropriate than the fact that tomorrow, my wife and I will leave for Big Cedar Lodge for a second honeymoon.  We will be there during the exact period of time that I was moving back in and we were trying to figure out where we stood and what we were supposed to do last Summer.  At that time, both of us were wounded, fearful, and broken, but willing to take the chance that love really could not only save the day, but the rest of our lives.

That week, we tiptoed around and worried about all the unknowns, before ultimately talking everything through and beginning what has become known as the restoration tour.  This year, we will spend the week celebrating our reclaimed love, the healing of our hearts and minds, and everything that has become new and better in our marriage.  Yes, we are taking the honeymoon before the wedding, so to speak, but since we are already married, I don’t see a problem with that arrangement.

Big Cedar Lodge is a world-class resort near Branson, Missouri, where my wife used to work.  While in culinary school, she was hired to cook at one of their restaurants.  Eventually, she transferred to the bakery to pursue her real love, pastries.  She worked insane hours then, sometimes having to leave for work at 1:30AM and never really knowing when her shift might end.

In the winter, because of the remote location and the terrain, the employees sometimes got snowed in and had to stay overnight in one of the rooms.  During the terrible ice storm that we experienced while she was working there, there was a night when I thought perhaps I had lost her, even though this was long before she actually did leave me.

We had been without electricity for weeks and times were extremely difficult.  One night, my wife never called or came home.  Because of the road conditions, there was no way for me to go looking for her, and the highway patrol had no information, so I had to assume that she was ok, but not calling for whatever reason.  I figured that she was tired of living the way we had been and maybe some wealthy person at the resort had offered her an escape from it all.

I wouldn’t have blamed her had that been the case.  I wasn’t treating her right at the time, but she has far too much character to have done something like that.  The truth was, she had worked long past quitting time and then been sent to a room that was already occupied by other women who were also being made to stay.  There was no cell service and the room’s phone was unavailable, and she fell asleep without having the opportunity to call.

We went to Big Cedar as guests on two occasions once she was no longer employed there.  Both times, they were supposed to be really great, but didn’t quite turn out the way I hoped.  The first was over Mother’s Day and my wife’s birthday, and we got a two bedroom suite so that the kids could come.  We had fun, but there was also an edginess that betrayed the truth about where our relationship stood.

The second time, it was just the two of us, and it was supposed to be a very romantic getaway.  We brought lots of old musicals to watch and we actually got snowed in while we were there.  The rooms have kitchens and we cooked some great meals and watched the dvd’s while the snow piled up outside, but there was something missing between us.  We just didn’t have the closeness that two people who love each other should.

This time, it will be different.  This time, our dreams are all coming true, and when we return, we will say our new vows and rejoice with family and friends as the restoration tour arrives at its final destination.

Today, the restoration tour took us by bicycle to the Wilson’s Creek National Battlefield.  It’s a historical site of a civil war battle that has, in a roundabout way, played a role in our lives ever since we moved to Missouri.

Our first house in Missouri was located on about 80 acres that the landlord ran cattle on.  Just to the north was the Wilson’s Creek Battlefield.  If you walked straight out our back door, you would come to the boundary of the battlefield, where Terrell Creek merges with Wilson’s Creek.  That was the house that was destroyed by the tornado on March 12, 2006.

The history and effects of that tornado have already been documented in this blog, but that event was the single biggest factor in the changes in myself that led to the downfall of our marriage.  The fact that the battlefield was there was incidental, but it did provide the backdrop for many good hours of fishing, hunting, and exploring before the tornado.

When we moved back to Republic in 2007, we always talked about going out to the battlefield some day, but we never did.  Then, last Spring, my wife got into cycling right about the same time we were splitting up.  We also got interested in becoming triathletes and we heard that the trail through the Wilson’s Creek Battlefield was a good place to train because of the hills and conditions.

I got my wife her first road bike for her birthday that year, and I also bought her a pink cycling jersey.  This was during the time that we still lived together, but that she no longer thought that she loved me, and things were already in motion to break us apart.  I took her and her bike out to the battlefield so that she could ride the trails while our son and I ran.  We took pictures of her with her bike and her jersey and I tried to be happy for her despite the circumstances.

About a month later, she bought a new bike and moved out.  We only went out to the battlefield a few times together, and I went several times by myself after that.  I still have those pictures, and they’ve always made me kind of sad because of the memories they invoke.

Since we’ve been back together, cycling and fitness have been, once again, a big part of our lives.  We both have nice road bikes now, and during the summer, we practically live at the gym or out on the many trails near our home.  During the school year, it’s not uncommon for us to cycle the 18 miles to work.  This August, on the day of our renewal ceremony, we plan to spend the morning riding the 62 mile Tour De Cox.

Just recently, after much indecision, my wife decided that she does want to compete in the Tiger Tri this August.  Since we really do need to step up our training, we decided that this morning, we would ride out to the battlefield, do some running once we get there, and ride back.  This led to a comedy of errors, thanks to the navigator on our phones and some unmarked country roads that we may or may not have been supposed to have taken.

We did eventually reach the battlefield, and as we rode into the parking lot where we used to unload bikes from the back of the car, I realized that my wife was wearing that same pink jersey from more than a year before.  I hadn’t intended today to be a restoration tour stop.  I just thought it was going to be a long ride and brick workout, but when I saw where we were and the memories came flooding back, I realized that this was a part of our restoration just as much as the planned stops.

Sometimes that’s the way restoration works.  Sometimes you’re just doing work that needs done, and you discover something you didn’t expect.  It could be a color of paint underneath that shows up while scraping.  It could be a discovery of something that was built over, but is still there and can be incorporated back into being part of the house again.  The great thing is, those discoveries happen, and then you get to choose what to do with them.  Whether it’s a house, a life, or a marriage that’s being restored, it will almost always end up being a combination of the things you planned to do and the things you discover along the way.

The old cliché, “It’s the the thought that counts,” is probably the one that I hate the most.  Not all clichés are bad, mind you.  There’s a reason they became popular sayings.  It’s just that this one implies letting people off the hook when they don’t care enough to follow through, or they don’t know a person well enough to know what an appropriate response or gift would be.

Toward the end of July, my wife asked me if there was anything I wanted for my birthday.  This is significant on a number of levels  (I realize that this is in no way chronological and is probably going to confuse some of you, but we’re on the subject of birthdays, so I decide to write about this today.  Keep reading and focus on the big picture).  We weren’t living together and things had been looking like they were going to end badly for a while. 

I had wondered for a few weeks if she would acknowledge my upcoming birthday and I had decided that I wouldn’t bring it up.  If she never said anything about it, I wasn’t going to either.  If she did, however (and here was the twist), I was prepared. 

Most years of our marriage, I really didn’t have anything I wanted for my birthday.  She would ask what I wanted and I would tell her that there really wasn’t anything.  Last year was different.  There was something I was going to ask for if she asked.  It was very personal and for me, it would be a sign as to whether or not our marriage was going to make it. 

So she asked, one day in the car, out of the blue.  So suddenly, in fact, that I almost chickened out and didn’t say what I had planned to say when or if the question came.  But I pulled myself together and told her that yes, in fact, there was something I wanted.  And then I took a risk.  I told her what I wanted, knowing that whether or not she did it would probably parallel whether or not she would ever return to being my wife. 

You see, years earlier, she had bought me an expensive men’s fragrance from Mary Kay.  It was the only time I ever had anything like that, and it was special to both of us.  The last time we had moved, it had become one of those things that disappears in a move, and was never seen again.

Since then, whenever we would walk past a certain store in the mall, there was a fragrance that you could smell and she would comment about.  I told her that what I wanted was for her to shop for a fragrance for me that she really liked and that she would want to smell on me.  This was a risk because it implied a future in which we would be together.  It implied us going on dates, being romantic and intimate.  More than that, it implied her having a stake in a relationship with me.

One popular saying that does carry a lot of truth with it is the one that says, “Your thoughts become your actions.” I knew that if I could get her thinking along these lines, there was a lot better chance that actions would follow.  I also knew that, contrary to popular wisdom, the actions of love produce the feelings of love, not vice versa.  She was telling me that she wasn’t feeling the feelings, but I had learned that doing the actions produces the feelings.  I realized that if she would really think about it and take the time to shop, this had the potential to produce feelings. 

Yes, I skipped a lot in the story, and yes, I am going to go back and fill in the blanks.  And yes, last year I had the happiest birthday of my life.

It’s the first day of my wife’s 41st year and life is certainly looking good from here.  Yesterday was one of those benchmark days on the restoration tour.  It’s a specific day, with specific events, that rectify and replace some of what was wrong with everything that is now right.

This birthday was full of peace and joy, while last year’s was anxious and fretful.  Last year, love was elusive, and noticeably absent.  This year, the presence of love was pervasive and unmistakable.  Last year, we were discovering that a lot of people who we thought were our friends were no friends at all.  This year, we know that we have a number of true friends, and we value them greatly.

So what made the difference? Several things.

Of course, the fact that we reached the point last Summer where we reconciled and found each other again changed everything.  Celebrating a birthday is completely different when two people are happily in love and wouldn’t think of leaving or ending the relationship.  But what about the healing, and the restoration of the past?

This year, it was all about knowing my wife well enough to know what mattered to her, and caring enough to make sure that she got the birthday that she wanted.  It was about putting thought and intent into making this a special and memorable day for her, not just doing obligatory duties like buying gifts and ordering a cake.

My wife is a kid at heart, so I made it a princess birthday, featuring Disney princesses and especially Belle, her favorite.  I got a good laugh at the store where I was buying princess wrapping paper, stickers, silly bands, etc. and the checker asked, “How old is she going to be?”  I’m pretty sure 40 wasn’t the answer she was expecting.

I gave her gifts and little surprises throughout the day, with a big surprise or two carefully worked in at the right moments.  There were presents to open in the morning (she’s a kid remember, and they want their gifts), little surprises slipped into her lunch box, and a car full of pink ballons when she left work.

Birthday Morning

After dinner, I gave her a surprise gift that she never saw coming.  Many years ago, a diamond pendant that I had bought her came up missing and was never found.  This year, I picked out a pendant to match the ring I gave her on our anniversary.  She thought she had already received her “big gift” in the morning and was completely unprepared for the necklace.
In the evening, we had a princess party at a local specialty cupcake shop, where a small group of friends and family surrounded her and joined in the spirit of the evening by putting on stickers and silly bands, pulling the strings on party poppers, and generally being silly.
A lot of healing took place yesterday.  A lot was restored.  Some of it, I wasn’t even aware of.  That’s the way love works when you do it right.  In the passage known as the love chapter the Bible says, “Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud.  It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.  Love never fails.”

My wife turns 40 today and Friday the 13th is a lucky day indeed.  She is celebrating 40 years young with a wonderful future to look forward to.

It wasn’t that way last year.  Last year at this time, she was angry and hurt, not knowing what the future might look like, but imagining it wouldn’t involve me or the life she had known for the past 13 years. 

Growing up in her family was very different from growing up in my family, and birthdays were no exception.  In my family, they were a special day, where the person who was having the birthday was excused from all chores, got to choose the evening meal, and was spoiled with gifts.  I always looked forward to my wife’s birthday more than my own because I got to give her the royal treatment. 

Last year, she was insistent that we were not celebrating her birthday and she didn’t want anything.  Nevertheless, I arranged for us to go out to eat at a place we always enjoy and had two of our adult children meeting us there.  I had bought a few small gifts that I snuck in and I discreetly let the server know it was her birthday. 

We all laughed and had a great time as we ate together, presented her with gifts, and convinced our server to take some pictures.  For an hour or so, the pain was pushed aside, and the reality that we truly are a great couple and have a great family took center stage. 

This year, that reality is where we live every day.  We are blessed beyond measure with a love that continues to grow and deepen.  Tonight, my wife will be the princess of the ball, and at the stroke of midnight, she will be sleeping, safely wrapped up in my love.