In his heart a man plans his course, but the Lord determines his steps. Proverbs 16:9

Thursday, July 25, 2013

The Truth About Our Marriage

Our Krispy Creme donut cake.  
The truth is . . . our marriage was amazing!!!!!  It was in full stride, we were in a sweet spot and I was LOVING, feeling like I was IN LOVE.  However, that was not always the case.  Read on to find out the whole truth and nothing, but the truth.

Just a couple of months before December 21, 2012, Dave had taken the day off of work to watch the kids, so that I could go to Denver and meet a friend and do some shopping.  After shopping, I went to my parents house for dinner and when I was there, Dave called to check in to see if I had bought him some new digs and how the day went.  We chatted a little about the adorable new clothes I bought and I said, I would leave after rush hour traffic had died down.  When I got off the phone, I told my parents, "I just feel so lucky that I love my husband so much."  Maybe that sounds weird to some of you.  Maybe that just seems like it should be a given.  But for all that Dave and I have been through, FEELING that I loved him, was not always a given.

I think that there were maybe two nights in our entire marriage that we didn't tell each other, "I love you," before we went to sleep, but there were many nights where I questioned whether I really did or not.

Our marriage started off pretty good.  We made a pretty big rookie mistake, though, by buying a house that needed to be gutted and then put back together.  We did ALL the work by ourselves, which left us with very little free time to do the things we did, back when we were dating.  A day that we would go to the mountains to play, would be one more day without a toilet.  At the time, I could tell you all the cleanest bathrooms in town, and as luck would have it, most of them just happened to be at Target.

What I didn't know at the time, was that Dave was a task man.  If you know me, I am NOT a task woman.  I love to play and chit chat and throw the frisbee and laugh.  I don't like to paint trim, take 16 trips to Home Depot in one day (and that is not an exaggeration), or refinish hardwood floors.  Overall, that first year was spent on tasks, but not really growing into a flourishing marriage.  It was fine, though, and things continued to be pretty good for a few years, with the occasional upswings and the occasional downswings.  One last thing, about that cute little Custer house, while I have mixed feelings about it, I will say that I am beyond thankful for all of Dave's hard work on it, because it allowed us to live where we live now. So, thank you, Dave, if you can read this.

The years went on and we had Spencer and Leah, and our marriage went from fine to not so fine.  For quite some time, I could point to other reasons why it was shaky.  From working on the Custer house, to having a newborn, to having two kids, to a health scare with Leah, to sleepless nights, to a stressful move, to a special $20,000 home repair as soon as we bought our new house, etc . . . But then we had a stretch of stress free living and our marriage didn't seem to be bouncing back.  So, in February of 2010 we darkened the door of a marriage counselor that, paired with the sweet grace of Jesus, would change the course of our marriage.

The first two months of counseling were AWFUL!  It was like the band-aids that we were so comfortable with, were being torn off, exposing wounds to bitter air and aggressively being washed in antiseptic. The temptation was to just cover those bad boys back up and figure out an easier way.  For months, what we wanted was some salve and a quick set of orders to make things work more smoothly.  We did our homework and we read our books and some hope started to peek through.  Progress was notable, but old habits die hard and our MO was still looking pretty similar.

Then one average Saturday, dressed in black and purple, we were getting ready to leave for the Rockies game when the most unexpected conversation in the whole world began to ensue.  Over the course of the next hour, we waved the white flag, laid our band-aids down and revealed it all.  We wept, we talked, God's grace poured over each others reactions, we fell in love with the whole of each other, and then we left to cheer on the Rockies with raw hearts and a bit of wonder over what just happened.  Our lives and our marriage changed in that one Saturday afternoon, never to go back to the way it was.  Our marriage began to grow fruit, laughter, fun, life, and love.

We continued with marriage counseling for the next year, learning how to rebuild our marriage in a healthy way.  We had started counseling sitting so far away from each other on that little maroon couch, but by the end, we looked forward to having that time to be together and to talk about our relationship.  This is where I get a little teary.  I just can't explain to you all how proud I am of Dave for the work he put into our marriage.  He could have waved the waved the white flag, picked back up his band-aids and headed for the door, but he never missed a counseling session, when he had every excuse in the world to put work ahead of it.  He worked diligently to do what our counselor suggested,  and most importantly, he dared to trust me with every single little piece of him, for which I am so grateful and so proud.

For years, I would read others' facebook posts about their undying love for their husband.  How they were married for 15 years and how every single day had been cupcakes and rainbows.  I would either think one of two things: they are so lucky OR they have to lying.  But the time came when I felt like I could write something like that on facebook and not feel like I was pretending.  Then I thought, Dave never checks facebook and I don't want others to think I am lying, so I'll skip that just tell him.  So, a few months before he died, at our kitchen table, I confessed my facebook post to him and said,  "I have  so much fun with you.  There was a time . . .  "  He interrupted and said, "Thanks a lot," in a light hearted sarcastic way, and I said, "No really, there was a time that it was hard to be around you, but I love being around you now.  You are so funny and fun and so much more alive."  It was a quick conversation, but I'm so grateful for those 60 seconds and for his reaction which was so cute and boyish.

I can say with great confidence that there was never a day that I didn't think that Dave loved me.  He was much better at loving me, than I was at loving him, but in the end we figured it all out.  What seems so unfair, is that we put A LOT of work in getting to where we were, and then our life together was cut so short.  It just makes me so sad that we didn't really get to live out our sweet spot even for a little longer.

Yesterday, would have marked one more year of marriage for us.  I wonder how we would have celebrated?  Where would we have gone to dinner?  In what park would we have played?  What trip would we have started planning for next year's 10th anniversary?  (That answer would have been Hawaii).  All of these things crossed my mind multiple times yesterday.  It was an exhausting day, but I made it through.  There were even unexpected surprises, that I think were little gifts from Dave.  So, again, Dave, if you are reading, thank you for building friendships with great people that take care of me and thank you for loving me every single day ever.  I miss you.    

Saturday, July 13, 2013

Arkansas or Bust!

Some people hit the beach in the summer.  Some may take to the high seas on a cruise.  Some may go big and go to an entirely new continent.  I, however, decided to go to an entirely new world . . . Arkansas.  Arkansas, you ask?  I would not have chosen that spot for pure vacation delight, but my sister lived there, until about last week.

In about the middle of May, I started dreading the summer.  I didn't want every day to feel like we were just making it.  As much as I love our pool, I cringed at the thought of waking up every morning, going to the pool, coming home, missing Dave, going to bed and then starting it all over the next day.  Planning our Arkansas/Oklahoma trip, really gave the Aldridge Four, something to look forward to, which I have come to realize, is a very important part of living right now.

Before I left, I seriously visualized myself pulling over next to the "Six Legged Steer - Next Exit" billboard and falling apart in tears, wondering what made me think taking a trip with two four year olds and six year old, was a good idea. I full on expected to have at least two near mental break downs and I prayed fervently to escape any mechanical break downs far from civilization.  I'm still not sure how we all pulled it off, but the drive wasn't bad.  Of course, my mom ended up driving out there with me, at the last minute and then she flew home, which was a huge help.  I'm still not sure how a 20 minute trip to Target can unravel the entire family, but a two day trip across country is no big thing.  We did have a DVD player, but we also had music, legos, coloring books, fashion scarves and make-up, which kept them relatively busy, not to mention, looking like gypsies.

At our first overnight stop, we stayed with a friend, Heidi, who I haven't even talked to since college, but thanks to facebook we connected and I ended up staying there.  Her stepdad lived next door and I had an interesting talk with him.  He lost his wife and two teenage kids in a plane crash many years ago, right outside the town that Dave is from, in fact.  It feels good when someone who has walked in similar shoes can tell me that things are going to be OK.  I can kind of believe them.

When we arrived at my sister's house, it was like arriving at a resort, complete with two young cousins that are just about babysitting age.  Everything was so clean, comfy, tasty and the kids were off being kids for most of the time.  Of course, when it came time to do a dance party, they had to show their moves to an audience.  Suffice it to say, I was a little surprised when Maci and Leah knew all the words and motions to every tween song out there.  Thanks Monet!

The second day in Arkansas was Father's Day.  For some reason, I kind of thought that my kids might not notice.  I just didn't feel like making a big deal out of the day, like I normally would have.  Everyone was having fun . . .  we were on vacation . . .  we were far from reality, and I just didn't feel like going there.  About half way through the day, it was apparent that Spencer was a bit blue.  He kept withdrawing from the activity at hand and he just seemed sad.  I almost tried to get him to believe that he was upset about something else, so I started guessing.  "Are you upset that it started raining and you had to come in?"  "Are you upset that the girls aren't playing with you right now?"  And so on.  He finally said, "It's Father's Day, and I miss Daddy."  There we have it.  Really big feelings in seven direct words.  I explained that sometimes I feel better when I write about him and that we should try to do that together.  Ten minutes later, I went downstairs and he had already started a masterpiece drawing with the words, "I mi Dade b kus I mi reslen."  Which is interpreted as follows: "I miss Daddy, because I miss wrestling."  UGHHH!  As heartbreaking as that was, it was also good to see that his demeanor changed after we all sat down and talked about some memories of Daddy and drew some pictures.  We all just have to get it out somehow and sometimes.  I'm just so thankful that Spencer knows how to express his feelings and they don't just get stuck.  I can see where he would be if he couldn't let those thoughts out.

The rest of the time in Arkansas was really great, until we had to leave.  I have, literally, never seen Leah so sad.  Usually, her sadness turns to madness, but in this case she was just so so so sad to leave.  She cried big fat Ethiopian tears, that she must have borrowed from Maci, all the way to Tulsa.

The next few days, we spent in Edmond, Oklahoma - another hot spot on the tourist trail in the USA and when I say hot spot, I mean temperature wise.  Holy hotness!  I ingested more Sonic drinks in those three days than the last three years put together.  On this portion of our trip, we did the more standard touristy type of things.  We went to the zoo, the Science Museum, the "Sound of Music" musical, and of course laughed and cried with dear friends from college.  While every night was special, one night was set aside to see friends of Dave's.  I knew all of them in college, but I wasn't quite in the cool crowd like Dave.  I tried to be, but it just never happened. Just kidding, but it's true. It was exactly what I wanted on the 6 months anniversary (one day before actually) of his death.  I just wanted to be near people who knew Dave.  I just can't tell you how much I loved being with people who Dave had talked so much about when he talked about his college days or his Oklahoma post college days.  It was perfect and it was healing and all these pretty people are still so amazingly beautiful.  Dave had some remarkable friends that I just love, love, love.

It was sad to leave my friends and I wasn't anxious to get back at all.  Fortunately, the drive went well again.  I ended up stopping in Kansas for the night.  Partially, because I didn't feel like driving 4 more hours that day, but also because I had such a great trip, that I was starting to dread getting back to being home.  I was glad that I stopped, because after being around so many people, it gave the Aldridge Four a good chance to be with just each other.  The whole trip was not only just a great trip, but a great exercise in continuing to redefine our family.  Oh my, I love my little family.  

Cutie picture of Maci

Our first official family photo with the Aldridge Four.  Wishing there was a Dave in that picture.

Movie time with the cousins and Beary.

Spencer's picture from Father's Day.

Friends of Dave's Night

A couple of future astronauts.