I admit. I was a bit off from the moment I woke up this morning. I know myself well, and something wasn’t quite right. I wasn’t super friendly when my husband asked if I could go to the bank today to pick up all the cash we needed for the next two weeks. He left for work right after that and I gave him a half-hearted good bye. I intended to text him with an apology for the lackluster good bye, but got distracted by kid stuff. Sorry, babes.
The kids wanted to go to the zoo for our summer bucket list and I had no good reason to say no, so after morning trumpet lessons, we made our way to the animals.
It was the last day to get in on regular rate for the girls’ day camp at church, so we stopped in to pay as we passed. I wondered. Why does God always seem to have an important church errand for me to do when I’m feeling a little off, when I’m feeling a little vulnerable and worn? And why do I always run into pastors who want to know how I’m doing? Hmmm…imagine that. Pastors at a church. Asking how people are doing. Revolutionary. Perhaps our Heavenly Father is on to something there.
After a quick (or not so quick) lunch at Taco Bell (there was an extraordinarily long lunch line), we were finally on our way to the zoo.
I was still feeling off, emotionally and spiritually not quite right. Like I would be better off home by myself today or doing something quiet in isolation or going to a retreat center where nuns could tend my soul. But there was no way I was going to let my feelings get the best of our day. The kids were excited and well behaved and I was determined to join in the fun.
So I did.
My son put on loud music for us to listen to as we traveled the interstate. My daughter talked my ear off with stuff she was excited about. I answered questions and taught them some practical things they didn’t know before. We imagined ourselves living in St. Paul and the kids agreed they like to visit, but wouldn’t want to live there. All was good and after a while, we arrived at the zoo.
We got a pretty decent parking spot, emptied ourselves from the car, got the youngest in her stroller (in case of lack-of-nap meltdown), and made our way to the zoo entrance.
The new gardens were beautiful. I soaked in the various plantings, including some tropicals we don’t usually see outdoors in Minnesota. We admired the lily pads and breathtaking flowers in the water garden. The two oldest loved lilac. I loved the dark red one partially hidden behind a pad. I could have lingered longer, but the baby was running ahead and the kids were ready to go. Still. It was nice to move and get out with nature.
Step by step. Stop by stop. The four of us made our way through the zoo.
Ducks. Sea lions. Penguins. A polar bear. Bison and other horned and hoofed animals. Lions. Tigers. Kudus. Zebras. Gorillas. Orangutans. A rare wolf sighting. Pressed pennies. And even a little time in the fun park without spending a dime.
We took our time. We didn’t rush. We stopped to take photos when we felt like it. We enjoyed the animals and each other.
We moved right through that zoo. The pace was perfect. Nobody crabbed until the end. And my spirits weren’t perfect, but notably lifted by the exit.
On our way home, we picked up some ice cream cones with sprinkles and dip from Dairy Queen. I got a chocolate cone with chocolate dip. Good for the soul. Good for the taste buds, too.
Total Cost: $8-something for the cones
Mom Lesson: When we’re in a funk, it might be better to continue moving through the day rather than sitting and dwelling on whatever’s ailing us.
Kid Lesson:As long as you’re a tiny bit creative, it doesn’t take much to satisfy kids’ curiosity.
When we first met at my husband’s fraternity house in August 1994, I remember thinking he was the most handsome guy I’d ever met in my life. I’m not kidding. I remember it vividly.
My roommate and I were college freshmen. It was our first week at school. Classes hadn’t started yet and we had nothing to do. So we decided to walk fraternity row. Both small town girls, we browsed the place like it was a candy shop. House after house, delight after delight lined the long campus.
We were just taking a walk.
My husband likes to debate that fact. He claims we were trolling for guys.
I’ve always denied the trolling. But perhaps it was true just a little bit?
After all, our first meeting by the sand volleyball court outside Delta Tau Delta that day marked the beginning of a 2 1/2 year period of the most extreme extroversion I’ve experienced in my entire life.
I studied hard those years. Enough to land a 3.92 GPA in the end.
But I also lived wild and free.
I drank beer. Lots of it.
I stayed up late. Really late.
I hung with my boyfriend (now husband) and his brothers at the fraternity house ALL THE TIME. So much so that four gregarious girlfriends and I were unofficially coined “Delt Girls.” So much so that I was officially named the fraternity’s “Sweetheart” two years in.
I socialized like a maniac, danced like a mad woman, took plenty of jello shots, dressed in the most ridiculous party costumes, and did things my children don’t ever need to do.
Yes, I was unstoppable.
And that was just the fun, partying, social side of me. I’m pretty sure I was a go-getter all the way around those first 2 1/2 years of college.
I was on my way to a big, bold life. Nobody could stop me. Everything was grand. I was wild and free, smart and vivacious, witty and kind. I was the girl everyone could love. The girl people could laugh at and laugh with. Words flowed free in dorm rooms, cafeterias, classrooms, libraries, fraternity houses, dances, and hockey games. I wasn’t afraid. I wasn’t doubtful. I had a handful of really close friends, a lot of good friends and a TON of great acquaintances. Guys and gals liked me, and I’m 99% confident that most people (including myself) would have described me as “fun.”
I liked my new vibrant self. She was good. She was free. She was living more boldly than ever before. She was going places, that’s for sure. Yes, there was never a doubt, never a dull moment. She was going to graduate, go to grad school, get a great job as a speech therapist and live a marvelous life. She was going to be a professional, and a respected one at that. She was going to be a mom, and a good one at that. She was going to be a church-goer, too, and a faithful one at that. She was going to be wife, and an awesome one at that.
Yes, that was me the first 2 1/2 years of college. That was me the first 1 1/2 years I dated my husband. That was me most days leading up to our engagement.
But this story’s about to turn serious.
Nearly 21 years have passed since we first met at my husband’s fraternity house.
More than 20 years have passed since we started dating.
18 1/2 years have passed since we got engaged.
And today marks our 17th wedding anniversary. Congrats, babes. I love you so much. The story God is writing through our marriage is important, noteworthy, blessed and delightful. I am honored to call you husband and do life together, easier days and hard days alike. For better, for worse.
But 17 years into marriage, there’s one fear, one insecurity that’s plagued me this year more than any other.
I fear I’m not the extroverted woman my husband dated.
I fear I’m not the gregarious woman my husband became engaged to.
I fear that the woman my husband chose to propose to is NOT AT ALL the woman he’s married to 17 years later.
And as hard as it is to admit this…
I fear he’d marry “that girl” all over again, but wouldn’t necessarily marry “this girl” all over again.
The truth is, I was the MOST extroverted I’ve ever been in my entire life when we were dating. That extroversion was limited to a short window, a short burst of time. If I look over the course of my life, I know for a fact that my extreme extroversion during our dating years was an anomaly, really. And that fact scares me sometimes.
I am NOT the same woman my husband proposed to 18 1/2 years ago. I am not the same woman my husband married 17 years ago.
I’m back to my fully introverted self now.
I don’t drink beer. At all. In fact, I hate it.
I don’t party with the boys. Ever. (Although I still think men are way more chill than women.)
I don’t dance like a mad woman and I don’t do jello shots except the one time my sweet neighbor forced me to on a hot play day in her front yard. I don’t stay up really late unless I’m blogging, I’m not a social maniac at all, and I’d never use the word “fun” to describe myself anymore.
Did my husband, a dolphin, know he was marrying a wolf 17 years ago? Or did my extremely extroverted dating behavior lead him to believe he was marrying a dolphin?
Okay. I know this is getting a little out there for some of you. (Yes, real live people have assigned animals to each of the 16 Meyers-Briggs personality types so I’m not making this stuff up.) But hear me out.
17 years in, I’m starting to believe that real life CHANGE is quite possibly the greatest threat to marriage.
What happens when our spouse changes?
What happens when we change?
What happens when we barely resemble the people who stood on the altar and said “I do?”
Do we give up on marriage?
Do we trash it?
Say forget about this, I’m out, this isn’t working anymore, let’s get a divorce?
How do we respond to change in marriage?
What happens when your spouse gains 20 pounds, 30 pounds, 40 pounds, 150 pounds?
What happens when your spouse loses 30 pounds, is suddenly obsessed with their weight and you aren’t so much at all?
What happens when kids rock your world?
What happens when you can’t get pregnant like you thought you could?
What happens when the adoption falls through? Or when she wants to do foster care and you don’t?
What happens when your spouse starts working long, late nights to get that promotion and you’re home alone with the kids day after day after day?
What happens when you have an empty nest?
What happens when one of you goes back to school?
What happens when you have significant financial setbacks?
What happens when your spouse makes a major career change?
What happens when one of you wants to lounge around in retirement and the other wants to volunteer, travel, work, and be with the grandkids all the time?
What happens when your spouse grows lots of nose hairs and chin hairs?
What happens when your spouse goes bald?
What happens when your spouse lies in bed all day depressed and withdrawn?
What happens when your kids go off the rails?
What happens when one of your children has a disability?
What happens when one of your children passes away?
What happens when your spouse’s faith is solid and yours has fizzled?
What happens when your spouse receives a cancer diagnosis?
What happens when your spouse is debilitated by dementia, Alzheimers, Parkinsons?
What happens when your spouse is confined to a wheelchair?
What happens when your spouse requires oxygen tanks to survive?
What happens when your spouse needs help going to the bathroom?
How will you respond? How will we respond?
Change in marriage is inevitable.
What makes or breaks our marriages is how we respond to change.
If you’re married long enough, there will come a time when you’ll realize you are NOT the same person you were when you got married. We are humans. We change. We evolve. We grow and develop over time. We become more of who we really are.
As I’ve been working through this fear, this fear that I’m not the same woman my husband married 17 years ago, this fear that he’d marry “that girl” but not “this girl,” I’ve decided that marriage requires an equal parts accepting, surrendering, fighting, trusting and believing.
Accept that you have changed.
Accept that your spouse has changed.
Surrender to your current reality.
Surrender to the ebb and flow.
Fight for your marriage. Fight to the ends of the earth. Until you can fight no more.
Trust it’s the right thing to do.
Believe you are worthy.
Believe your spouse is worthy.
Believe God brought you together for a reason.
Believe God has a plan for your marriage.
Believe you can make it.
Believe marriage is worth it.
Believe he’d marry you all over again.
Believe she’d marry you all over again.
Believe that “this girl” is just as lovely and beautiful, treasured and true as “that girl.”
Believe that “this guy” is just as handsome and witty, sporty and smart as “that guy.”
Believe you can do this.
Believe you are loved.
Believe that change is not only real, but okay.
Believe that long-lasting love is forged through change, challenges and the hardest stuff life has to offer.
Believe in 40th, 50th, and 60th wedding anniversaries.
Believe in wrinkly hand holding.
In the car ride on the way home from church, he played her “Good Stuff,” his favorite B52s song from days gone by. Days prior, she’d played him “Through All of It,” her favorite new song on Christian radio, the song she can’t stop listening to, the song that resonates with her soul most right now.
A dolphin song. A wolf song.
Somewhere along the way, they met in the middle with a frog and pig song. The Rainbow Connection resonated with both.
Kermit the Frog and Miss Piggy. A frog and a pig.
Seth and Amy. A dolphin and a wolf.
They live. They laugh. They fight. They change. They come together, still. They come together, again. Time and time again. For love. Sweet love.
We picked two summer bucket list items for the day’s adventure. Ice cream party and a park. They went together naturally.
Our oldest daughter was away at camp for the week, so it was just me, our son and “the baby.” We made our way to the lake, a quaint and coveted place where wealth meets nature, a place we don’t frequent much at all, but should more often.
It was easy, really.
We walked to Ben & Jerry’s ice cream shop.
The 12 year old chose a small cup of “Cookie Dough,” and I chose a cup of “Late Night Dough” to share with the three year old. Chocolate cookie dough, peanut butter cookie dough, and cookie dough? Oh yeah, and a little ice cream with that dough, please. Who could ask for more?
As we strolled to a park bench, the 12 year old surprised me with these words.
“Thank you very much, mom. This is fun!”
Who knew a small cup of ice cream and a stroll could make a kid so happy?
We said “hi” to two dogs, Romeo and Lucky, who passed with their owners.
When the baby finished her portion of “Late Night Dough,” she rummaged around under the park bench, picking up rocks, bugs and a bunch of dirt.
On we went. Down the sidewalk. Down the street. Alongside the railroad track. Around the old train station turned museum. Past the dainty light pink roses wrapping around a trellis. Past the man sitting on the park bench who clearly knew this place all too well.
There it was.
The shining star.
A tiny community with bridges, churches, farms and depots. The miniature train wasn’t up and running, but that didn’t make the scene any less alluring.
We made one round. Two rounds. Another round. I held her hand that third time around. She walked the ledge. There was freedom in the walking, with nobody there to yell or suggest get down, go away, don’t do that. I knew she was okay up there. I had her hand most all the way. All was good. Very good.
It was time to move on.
We strolled towards the water, towards big boats, yachts, really. The 12 year old suggested we’ll probably get one of those someday. “Yeah, maybe we’ll get a boat someday,” I agreed casually, not wanting to burst his bubble quite yet. After all, maybe he will have a yacht someday.
After a while strolling the dock and holding hands vigilantly with the three year old, we came upon a launch with clean, easy access to the water’s edge. Rocks littered the ground. Nobody was around. It was just us, the water and the rocks.
The 12 year old began throwing stones, one after another after another. “I’m going to skip stones,” he exclaimed. I couldn’t remember the last time he had an opportunity to skip stones. I couldn’t remember the last time I saw him skip stones. He was great at it. Awesome, in fact. He knew just how to throw to skip, skip, skip. Ripple, ripple, ripple. So cool. So simple.
Then she began to throw stones, too. I thought she might pick up on the fact that her stones were just plopping in while his were skimming. Nope. She had no clue. She was just as elated by her plop as he was by his skim. She cheered. He cheered. She smiled. He smiled. Life was good.
After a long while of plopping and skipping stones, he said “Let’s just say here as long as we want, until we get bored.” “Okay,” I said. “Great idea.”
So we did.
And took a few pictures.
They plopped and skipped stones in the water repeatedly. As many as they wanted. I swear it was the best fun they’ve had in a long time.
The fun finally fizzled a bit. We agreed it was time to continue our walk down the dock.
We found ourselves a park on the beach, another quaint spot we’d only been once on the way to family pictures a few years ago. There was sand everywhere. So she took off her shoes. He kept his on.
Until it was time to go. Back to the dock. Past the big boats and yachts. Past the launch where they threw stones. Up and around the railroad tracks. Down the long sidewalk. And across the crosswalk to our vehicle.
After six months of staying home full-time, there are a couple things I know for sure. I take life seriously. I take this season of life particularly seriously. I have no intention of sitting around eating bon bons bringing in zero income while my husband works his butt off providing 100% of income for our family. I want to follow God’s call and write like never before. I want to explore and nurture my lifelong passion for photography. And I want to grab ahold of this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to stay home full-time and embrace my days with our children while they’re still young. But I have to be honest, I’m NOT a natural at this full-time stay at home mom gig. Because I take life so seriously and I’m such a worker bee, I need to be really intentional about finding creative ways to relax, enjoy, explore, adventure, and nurture my playful side with our children.
I don’t want to be the mom who was always stressed.
I don’t want to be the mom who always worked.
I don’t want to be the mom who didn’t know how to chill.
I don’t want to be the mom who ignored her heart and soul.
I don’t want to be the mom who never did anything fun or adventurous.
I want to be a mom who’s intentional, insightful, thoughtful, loving, present and willing to step out of the box for the sake of a purpose-driven life.
And yes, I want my kids to know that they can learn anywhere, that they can do lots of fun things without a ton of money, that they can choose to love and embrace life despite any circumstance they may face.
With all of that in mind, I knew I needed a plan for this summer, my first summer at home full-time with the kids.
I needed a loose plan to make summer successful for all of us. A loose plan for me. And a loose plan for the kids. Something to guide our way.
I also knew that historically, summer has been particularly challenging in the way of writing. I knew I needed time to relax, to restore my soul, to nurture my love for words and creative expression through writing. I knew I needed a unique combination of freedom plus structure to ensure a successful and personally fulfilling summer of writing and living.
So when my daughter found a piece of scrapbook paper labeled “Summer Bucket List” at the craft store six weeks ago, I knew that was it.
A summer bucket list?! Perfect.
We bought that piece of scrapbook paper.
We bought a bucket. (Okay, it’s not much of a bucket at all, but I needed to kick off summer with a little bit of beauty!)
We changed Baseball Game to Canterbury Park because we already do baseball way too many nights and haven’t ever been to a horse race.
We changed Rollerblading to Park and Canoeing to Zoo because….well…to be honest, I don’t really want to go rollerblading or canoeing with three kids. Can’t a mom have a say in this, too?!
We changed Pool Party to Farmers Market because I don’t have easy access to a pool. But hmmm….I forgot about our kiddie pool. We might do that pool party after all!
We resolved to do all the other activities as listed on the pre-printed Summer Bucket List.
And we waited for summer to come.
So here we are. Nearly two weeks into summer and we’re just getting started, but better late than never, right?
There are 22 activities on our Summer Bucket List. My daughter made little pieces of paper listing each special activity we’re hoping to do this summer. Most of the activities cost very little, but a few will cost more. And all of them will require some level of creativity, an adventuresome spirit, and a willingness to step out of the box.
This is a summer-long series. As we progress through our Summer Bucket List activities, I’ll share our adventures in blog posts so you can join in the fun!
If you’ve been around this blog for any length of time, you know I never, ever intended for this blog to be fun and filled with newsy updates from our family. While this will likely be the most casual, fun, friendly, simple and light-hearted series I’ve ever written, I also want to ensure it’s beautiful, meaningful, purpose-filled and inspiring. The tone of many of these posts, in fact, may end up being simple, beautiful and real. But there’s bound to be a lot of fun in there, too.
So let’s get to it.
Let’s get started with our Summer Bucket List!
This post will serve as the landing page for Summer Bucket List. All posts in the series will be listed and linked right here at the end of this post. I put the Summer Bucket List graphic in the right sidebar of my blog’s home page. Anytime you want to read a post from the series, go to the blog at divineinthedaily.com, click on the Summer Bucket List graphic, and you’ll be directed to this post. So glad you’ve decided to join the journey. I hope we’ll have fun, relax and connect along the way. Enjoy, friends.