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Embracing the Dalmation.

When I was in my teens and early twenties, I had this sort of vision of what I thought my future life with a spouse was supposed to look like. Tall, smart, cultured husband with dark hair and a serious job. Nice dinners out. Nights at the theater.

And then I met Dave. Smart? Check. Dark hair? Check. But we were the same height, he had a job working in college sports, little interest in culture, and his idea of fine dining was anything a step above McDonald’s.

I loved him anyway, and he loved me, even though he was clearly disappointed that I didn’t fit the mold of his dream girl, who could challenge him on the basketball court and didn’t ask questions when he was watching sports on TV with her.

But rather than being joyful about finding someone who made me laugh, who let me be who I was without taking myself too seriously, who I could talk to for hours and really imagine making a life with, I worried that he couldn’t possibly be the right person for me, because he didn’t match my checklist.

I explained it to Dave this way — imagine you’ve spent 10 years dreaming of adopting a Golden Retriever. You’ve thought about your future with this beautiful creature by your side — taking walks, snuggling on the couch, brushing its long golden coat.

So you go to the animal shelter, still dreaming of your life with this Golden Retriever. When you walk in, before you can even find your Golden Retriever, you see a Dalmation. And for some reason, you’re drawn to him. You ask to meet him, he looks at you, and there’s some instant connection. For a moment, you forget about that Golden Retriever. You’re in love, and you know that you can’t leave this Dalmation at the shelter. He’s yours. You were meant to be together.

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So you take the Dalmation home. Things aren’t perfect, but they’re pretty great. But every once in a while, you look at him and wonder how you ended up with this dog with the weird spots. And what about that Golden Retriever?

But with each day that you and the Dalmation are together, you somehow stop noticing the spots. The short hair that you thought was going to be golden and flowing. The long, brisk runs that you’d imagined would be ambling walks.

You realize that those aren’t the things that really matter.

Dave and I learned that he could teach me about sports, and I could teach him about the arts. That sometimes it was okay if we pursued those interests alone. And while he’s still quite content to eat a bowl of cereal for dinner (and still refers to too-fancy restaurants as “big plate, little food” places), we can enjoy nice dinners together.

We all have Dalmations in our lives — the husbands who came in packages different from what we expected for ourselves, the kids who aren’t the student or athlete we thought they’d be, and the friend who wants to meet for brunch instead of a late night out (okay, that one’s me).

But when we take the time to get to know the Dalmation, instead of focusing on that Golden Retriever we thought we wanted, there can be some pretty wonderful things in store.

 

 

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This is love.

This morning, I came downstairs to discover my husband’s used Band-Aid on the kitchen counter. Before I threw it away, I did what I believe any rational wife would do.

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This is pretty much how things go around here. Dave and I have been married for 18 years, and the one thing we’ve never done in those 18 years is take each other too seriously.

This morning’s offending Band-Aid was used to cover what I’m going to categorize as a disgusting rash on Dave’s hands that the doctor thinks is some allergic reaction. It’s been itchy and bothering him, so I’ve been doing what any loving wife would do – I’ve been checking in to see how he feels. And calling him “Rashy McScabby.”

A few months ago, Dave was snoring so loudly one night that in my irritated non-sleep, I recorded the sound to play for him in the morning. He listened for a few seconds and said, “What? It sounds like the ocean. Very soothing.”

I’m not saying this kind of relationship works for everyone. But for Dave and me, behind our jokes and fake insults, there’s nothing but love and respect.

And how do I know that?

A few years ago, Dave told me that he’d never be able to cheat on me. I said that I thought it was sweet that he was telling me. His reply — “Oh, no … it’s that we’re so close and I tell you everything. I’d be so excited that I got some other girl that I’d just HAVE to tell you about it!”

Now if that’s not love, I don’t know what is.

 

 

 

 

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Whatever.

I’ve been married for a little over 16 years.  I’ve learned a lot in that time.  About men, mine in particular.  About myself.  And about learning to let certain things go for the sake of everyone’s sanity.

The most recent example: I had a week between the time I broke my ankle last Monday and when I had surgery on it this Monday.  It was actually nice to have the time to get things organized, prepare, and make arrangements to get the kids where they had to be this week, since I shouldn’t be driving yet.

Know what Dave did on Sunday?  He took Michael up to his room and spent about 2 hours with him, moving his clothes between his dressers and closets, getting rid of a few shirts that he’d outgrown, and putting some new things up on the walls.

Really??!

But here’s the thing.  Michael likes things organized, so he was happy to do it (and delighted to show off the end result to me later).  I realized that Dave felt the need to do SOMETHING.  He couldn’t really help me, he’d already gone food shopping and on a Costco run, and the laundry was caught up.  So, you know what I did?  I stayed downstairs, kept my mouth shut, and let him do something that made him feel better.  Did I think it was something that would make a difference for any of us after my surgery?  Nope.  Is it something that I would have done if I were in the same situation?  I really doubt it.

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But what I’ve learned over 16 years is that sometimes, Dave is going to make a decision that is different than what I’d do.  And what’s more important is that I’ve learned to be okay with that.

So, when Dave folds laundry in the living room, leaving piles of clean underwear on our beautiful piano (!), I realize that it’s going to be put away by the end of the day.  I just hope that nobody stops by unexpectedly before it does.

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Where’s my walker?

I had a realization in the middle of last night that Dave and I are beginning to settle pretty firmly into middle age.

It wasn’t a dream, or our kids calling us old, or anything like that.  I was awoken around 1:00 a.m. by Dave, asking if we had any Tums.  I sent him to the cabinet where we keep them, asked him for one for myself (apparently, at our age, chili for dinner – even when I make it without beans – is no longer a good idea), and then I got up to go to the bathroom.

The past few nights, we’ve had that awesome cool fall weather at night, and I was oh-so-comfy when I woke up, curled up in my long sleeves and pants.  But once I returned from the bathroom a mere 90 seconds later, I got warm.  I loosened the covers.  Then I got up and changed into a t-shirt.  Then I got hot. Then I got up and changed into shorts.  Then I pulled the covers off.

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I think you know what I’m getting at here.

For some reason, I started thinking then about when Dave and I were dating, and we could stay up past midnight.  I didn’t sweat in my jammies, and we didn’t wake up with heartburn. I’m fairly certain we could also tolerate chili.

That said, though, I wouldn’t trade this phase of my life for a stronger stomach, or a flatter stomach, or a good night’s sleep.  I love my life and my family.  I love that Dave wakes up in the morning and has to walk down the steps with two feet at a time, like a toddler, until he stretches out a little.  I love that I’ve started to stash reading glasses in my purse and on every level of the house, because a little extra light just isn’t cutting it anymore.  I love that three years ago on my birthday, Michael (who’d just turned 5 at the time), said to me, “It’s funny that you’re 43.  You really look 44.”

I love that when we DO wake up in the middle of the night, that Dave’s there to laugh with me about problems that, in the scheme of things, we’re lucky to have.

So, okay, I could kind of do without what’s starting to look like weird wrinkles on my neck, but whatever.

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