May 27, 2015

15 to 15: Moving

So here's the rundown.  Wednesday, April 29, 2015 was exactly 15 weeks until our 15th anniversary.  So in a countdown to the big day, I decided to start a weekly series of anecdotes from our 15 years of marriage.  I am calling it 15 Weeks to 15 Years.  Since everything needs a hashtag, it would be #15to15.  I am utilizing the blog because I have a propensity to yammer a lot when I'm writing and no one would want to read a long status update.  So be looking for these weekly entries.

It seems like moving goes hand in hand with my relationship with Heather. We have never stayed in one house for more than two years. We have lived in Tampa, Orlando, Jacksonville, Tallahassee, and Columbia - and multiple places in most of those areas. I have joked that it probably looks like we are avoiding the authorities. But that isn't far as you know. 

The thing is, I hate moving. I detest it. Just the thought of packing everything up into those freaking boxes and loading a truck is enough to get my blood pressure up. I don't even want to fully unload because I know we will just repack a few months later. The last move we actually hired a moving company to transport our junk. It cost an arm and a leg, but it was worth it. And I don't really use that arm or leg much anyway. We just packed everything and stacked it in the garage. They had to deal with carrying it up the stairs. Ugh stairs. Our propensity for moving has killed my love of two story buildings. 

We are finishing our second year in South Carolina. I am a Florida native. My kids are third generation Florida natives. I really never thought we would leave the Sunshine State. But we did. Columbia has been a little bit of an adjustment. But it hasn't been too rough. They still have Publix as a grocery store; they have Mosquitos and humidity and storms. The SEC is still too important. There are horrible drivers. We still are on the East Coast. It was kind of an easy transition. Honestly, it was rougher being in Tallahassee than Columbia.

A few years ago, Heather and I had a conversation. We have not really shared it with too many people. We talked about how we both had this glimmer of a crazy dream. We wanted to move away somewhere different to a big city and really soak in the culture and opportunities there. It would be somewhere we didn't know people and would have to face things on our own. It would be scary, but exciting. I have no idea where that idea came from. I'm not traditionally the type of person that would up and move to a big city. But we have on several instances talked about this desire. 

Today we found out where we are moving next. It was Fellowship Match Day. Heather was selected to go to Texas Children's Hospital / Baylor College of Medicine in Houston. So we are moving to Houston, Texas in July of 2016. 

This is about as close as we will get to that secret dream we shared. It isn't up North, which is what I always pictured. But it is a BIG city - the fourth largest in America. We don't know anyone there. There are tons of things to experience. And it is totally different than what we have known so far. We love Texas. We have been there several times together and really liked it. Living there is a different story. 

I know it isn't accurate, but when I picture Texas, I think of the stereotypes: oppressive heat, dirt, cowboys, cows, beef, BBQ. Houston is not the stereotypical picture of Texas. It is massive - both in population and land area. There is a thriving arts scene and large high-technology sector. There are towering skyscrapers. There is an entire Medical City where Heather's new stomping grounds are located. If you took the Medical City out of Houston and placed it somewhere as its own city, it would be the eleventh largest city in the country. That is huge!  The hospital is ranked as the fourth best children's hospital in America. It is a great opportunity. 

So we will be moving again. And we will be fulfilling a crazy dream we didn't really know was that important to us. But it was. I've always appreciated that we shared that thought, even though I never thought it would happen. But it is going to be the next chapter of our life. Always moving. 

May 20, 2015

15 to 15: Falling

So here's the rundown.  Wednesday, April 29, 2015 was exactly 15 weeks until our 15th anniversary.  So in a countdown to the big day, I decided to start a weekly series of anecdotes from our 15 years of marriage.  I am calling it 15 Weeks to 15 Years.  Since everything needs a hashtag, it would be #15to15.  I am utilizing the blog because I have a propensity to yammer a lot when I'm writing and no one would want to read a long status update.  So be looking for these weekly entries.

It is interesting how much falling is involved in a relationship.  One day, waiting for a star to fall, you are sitting there and good fortune falls into your lap.  An angel falls from Heaven.  You immediately fall for that person.  Your heart falls when it appears they are not interested.  But your hope doesn't fall.  Instead you end up falling in love with each other.  You fall into their arms.  Then you start jumping.  You jump for joy.  You want to jump into things too early.  Well, you actually want to jump into bed with them because your heart leaps whenever you see them. (Leaping is a synonym for jumping.)  But you don't want to jump start something when it isn't right.  So you jump into marriage.  Jump into having kids.  Jump up whenever one of them cries in the middle of the night.  Then you get back to falling.  You fall into bed because you are exhausted.  You fall into a deep funk because you think you are a horrible parent.  

With Heather and I, we decided to not just metaphorically fall in our relationship.  We also decided to physically manifest that falling.  I was sitting there today thinking of the number of times one of us has fallen since we've been together.  Now, if you have read this blog for a while, you know that I have a propensity for injuries.  I am the most injured non-athlete around.  I'm like Samuel Jackson's character in Unbreakable - Mr. Glass or whatever.  So I obviously have the majorities of the falls.  But I also have passed my stink on to Heather.  Aside from having a C-Section for childbirth because our children don't believe in entering the world correctly (A character flaw, I believe.  They won't get onto a couch right either.  Slide in over the arms.  Like Steven Wright says, they would go in and out of the house through the window, if they weren't locked.)  Anyway, aside from having C-sections and her horrific car wreck in high school, the worst injury Heather has ever had was a sprained ankle after we got married.  Notice the important phrase there: after we got married.  

Up until that point, Heather was a perfectly healthy coordinated person.  She still basically is.  Our sons inherited my profound klutziness, not her grace and balance.  She did marching band.  She did gymnastics.  She was executing difficult complex routines before me.  Soon after we get married, we are heading to the airport to fly to Fort Worth to check out the seminary, she walks out the front door, steps awkwardly off the porch, and sprains her ankle.  I sprain my ankle once or twice a year.  For her, this was a shock.  We had to rush through the St Louis airport with her barely limping along.  I had to take her to an urgent care center in Ft Worth because her ankle was swelling up so badly.  Honestly, the whole time I'm sitting there thinking, "Man, what did I do to her?"

Fortunately, she hasn't continued too badly in the way of the fallen.  One time she wiped out on the tile when she was pregnant with Natalie.  That was scary.  She has tripped tons of times on Legos or toys.  If it wasn't for me, she would probably be dancing through our sons' Lego minefield like the Night Fox in Oceans Twelve.  But now she is victimized by my falling curse.

I, on the other hand, have fallen many many many times.  I always find it humorous to think through my injury report.  Some things that have happened to me that would be the worst injury other people have ever had; they don't make my top ten.  One time, I dropped an ice cube on my toe when I was a teenager.  It was from one of those ice trays that you had to crack to open.  The corner landed right on my big toe and cut it wide open.  How?  Putting ice into a glass around the same time frame caused it to shatter and slice my finger open.  I hit a speaker with my finger and it grated the skin like a ... well ... grater.  I still have scars from all of these things.  I have a spot on my right hand where you can see a piece of pencil lead.  I got my pinky pinched in a collapsable table in college.  I burned my hand when I mistakenly grabbed a motorcycle exhaust pipe.  The list goes on and on.  For the sake of time, I wanted to list my five best falls since we have been married (not including the fainting spell from last entry).  Yes, it is necessary to limit it to that time frame.  Trust me.

1. The Bookcase
Six month after we got married, we moved back in with Heather's parents for over a year.  We lived there while Heather was pregnant with Josiah and right after he was born before we moved back to Orlando.  Our stuff was piled up in their garage this whole time.  One day, Heather was commenting on how much she wished she knew where he science books were from school so she could review some things.  She was missing it (nerd).  I was trying to be a helpful husband, so I went out there to find the books.  I knew where they were, sort of.  I just needed to move some things around.  Being a guy, I didn't want to move everything around.  So I moved some stuff and climbed over other stuff.  I had positioned myself in the midst of these boxes and such.  I could almost get to the books.  There was a small bookshelf next to me.  If I could get up on it, I could probably get to the box.  Keep in mind, this was a newlywed bookshelf (translation: cheap and flimsy) and I am not a small man (translation: hefty idiot).  I climbed up on the bookshelf.   It wasn't even like in the cartoons or movies, where the things slowly bend and break.  It was like, up on it, down on the ground.  The top collapsed and I ended up in the pile.  My in-laws come running out with Heather.  I am trapped.  It wasn't just the boxes that trapped me, though.  It also was the nail that has carved a huge slice into my ankle and the screw in my back.  BONUS FUN STORY: I was subbing and had to call in sick because the scratches were so painful.  "I'm sorry. I fell and ripped my legs up."  No lie. One week later, I was leaving an ice cream store with my brother-in-law, Mike, and my friend, Greg.  There was a lighter on the ground and I went to kick it at Greg.  I misstepped and fell off the sidewalk into the street.  I actually ripped my legs up worse that time.  But I couldn't call in sick again for ripping my legs up.  So I went and subbed in agony that day.

2. The Street
Not soon after this, I was working at Rhodes Furniture.  I was rushing to get to work and was hustling to my car.  I misstepped in the road.  Somehow, my foot landed at the edge of the street and the gutter area.  My ankle snapped and twisted.  It was probably the worst sprain I've had - maybe second worse.  I wiped out right in the street.  And my ankle swelled up like a grapefruit.  It wasn't broken - X-rays confirmed that.  But it has never been the same since then.  It was already bad before.  But this really finished it off.  What made it extra fun was that I had to walk around the furniture store for my job.  I know this isn't as exciting as the first story, but it is a palette cleanser before the next two. And it is foreshadowing. 

3. Natalie
I have always had a fear of falling with my kids, especially down the stairs.  I can't imagine why I would have this fear.  Fortunately, I never have fallen with my kids down the stairs.  But I have fallen with them in a parking lot.  After Natalie was born, Heather was going to go back to school at UCF.  She wanted to scout out the location of her classes.  So one evening before classes started, we drove up to the school to look around.  Josiah was toddling along with Heather and I was carrying Nat.  We were about to cross the street when that stupid ankle reared its ugly head - or foot.  It buckled and I was going down, holding my daughter.  I've heard parents can do amazing things when their children are in danger and I can can attest to that.  I am as clumsy and unathletic as they come.  But as I was falling forward, somehow I spun myself around in mid air and landed on my back.  I didn't land in the street or on the curb.  Somehow I also had managed to maneuver my body into the grass on the side of the road.  This actually happened and can be corroborated by my honest wife.  For one brief moment, I was doing kung fu.  Then I went back to being a panda.  I still don't know how I was able to twist that way.  Natalie was fine.  My back was a disaster.  And a new Fall story was born.

4. Gabe
Oh yeah, the nightmare continues.  Heather had just started Med School at FSU.  We were at Walmart in Tallahassee.  I was carrying our little Gabey and walking with the other two kids in from the parking lot.  It was slick from rain.  And I was wearing Crocs sandals - the last time I ever wore them, mind you. One of the things I hate about Crocs is that the tread is pathetic. There really isn't any tread, actually. I mean, you're basically walking around on the same material as a slip n slide. I was slipping in the shoes, but hadn't made a switch yet. As we are walking in through the wet parking lot, I slipped. (Shocker)  I fell while holding Gabe. My brain began to frantically run through how to keep from hurting Gabe. My aforementioned ninja skills didn't kick in this time. I realized I was falling face first and the only thing between me and the asphalt was Gabe. I clutched him tight, slid one hand behind his head, pushed my elbows towards the ground, and bent my knees. I landed hard on my elbows and knees. Somehow Gabe never hit the ground. I swear an angel turned into a balloon and squeezed in between him and the ground. I was wet all over from the rain; Gabe wasn't wet at all. He started crying, naturally. I would cry too if a shaved bear had landed on me. But he was safe. I hurt. A lot. 

5. The Ditch/Ravine
This one takes elements from all the other falls and mixes them together.  To begin, allow me to submit some photographic evidence. 
This is right next to my house. The hole you see is a drainage pipe that runs down into a ... well not quite sure what it is called. It isn't a ravine, but it isn't really a ditch. It is about ten feet deep with a nasty little stagnant creek at the bottom. On the other side is the front half of our neighborhood. The pipe is a little bit bigger than a soccer ball. I know this dimension because this all started with a soccer ball. Gabe was starting soccer last year. We had just gone to the store and got him his cleats, shinguards, and a lime green kids sized soccer ball. He went out in the front yard to play with Natalie. 

Five minutes later, they come back in and Gabe is crying. The ball had gone down that pipe. I was pretty sure it came out down in the ditchy ravine. I went out and looked down. The sides are very steep and not very stable. I know myself too well and knew I would slip. So I walked down to where the sides were not so steep, closer to our back yard. I went around the end of edge and started to walk down the slant to the bottom of the raviney ditch. While this route was much safer footing, it also was filled with thorny bramble vines. They were slashing up my legs and ticking me off. I finally got down to the bottom. The sides of the whatever it is were up over my head. I saw no ball. I looked all over and I didn't even see where it could have come out. I started to wonder if the pipe actually drained into the lake/pond behind our house. 

I walked the length of the ditchevine. No ball, no pipe. I found some other stuff: a mini football, a plate, a cup. I didn't want to crawl out and admit defeat. So I pushed further into the swampy area. I noticed that a couple of fallen trees led back to the waterfront, parallel to the creek. I climbed up on those and walked as far towards the water as I could. More thorns ripped at me. Finally I couldn't go any further. I still don't see an exit point for the pipe. 

I started to head back to the drier flat area. I didn't want to lose the ball. Gabe would be crushed. And I would have to spend $14 on another ball. I kept telling myself, "Be a man. This is what men do. Real men don't give up." I'm walking along the second log and thinking about what to do next. Suddenly there wasn't anything beneath me. The log just disintegrated. I tried to catch myself, grabbing onto trees or whatever. I ended up laying on what was left of the log, skewed into the trees around me. I managed to pull myself up and stand. 

I knew my pants were torn because I felt air in places I didn't feel air before. I also knew I was hurt because I saw the blood coming from multiple places. I also had pulled a portion of a stick out of my leg when I got up. I saw that one of the broken branches had narrowly missed some precious bodily properties. Like very narrowly missed. I limped out into the flatter zone. My kids were outside and had heard me scream when I fell. I'm sure it was a manly scream. They were starting to climb down the edges of the ditchyvine. I didn't want them stranded down there with me, and I didn't want them freaking out in case things were worse than I thought. I told them to stay put and called Heather. 

I wasn't quite sure how I was going to get out. I didn't want to go through the thorns again. But the sides didn't really look stable. "Hey. So I fell down in the ravine and don't know if I can get out."  That went over well. She started moving into doctor mode, trying to figure out if another resident's husband could go help me or if I needed to call an ambulance. I had no clue how badly I was hurt. I knew I was bleeding more than a little and that I was hurting a lot. And I still never found the stupid ball. 

I told her I would try to get out and call her back. I walked around trying to find an easier exit point. Then I caught a glimpse of something lime green from inside the embankment. The exit port of the pipe was right in front of me, but it had been covered with dirt and black netting. I pulled all of that away and retrieved the ball. I threw it up over the bank. Then I decided to just brave the steep edges and climb out. It ended up being much easier than I thought. My kids saw me come out, covered in muck and blood. Great picture. They stayed shockingly calm - for my kids. I limped into the bathroom to assess injuries. 

I had three huge slashes on my right thigh. There were bloody scratches all over my shins. And there were several gouges and cuts high up on my left leg. My pants were destroyed, as well as my undershorts. Whatever branch that had impaled my leg had missed some important real estate by a couple inches. All of it has healed, but it was very painful to do much for a couple of weeks. I still have a piece of something in my right leg - you can feel a bump about the size of a pea near the scars. But I got the ball!

Months later, I was sitting with my in-laws' at their house along with Heather's brother, Andy, and his wife, Michelle. The scars on my leg were pretty obvious. I noticed someone looking at them. "Oh you like that? Those are from when I fell in the ravine."  They all looked at me funny and I realized they never had heard what happened. I told all of them the story. At the end, Andy goes, "Wait a minute. So after you impaled yourself and were bleeding all over and didn't know how hurt you were or how to get out, you still were looking for the ball? And then stuck your hand into some hole that you had no idea what was in it?  I would have just gotten a new ball."

What was interesting to me is that I often have a very negative view of myself, especially when it comes to typical manly things. I'm not athletic. I'm not handy with tools. I'm a klutz. I'm not mechanically inclined. I don't know how to fix a lot of things. All of those times falling and hurting myself, I joke about them. But I also hate being known as the guy who does that. I wish I was the guy my kids could count on to fix things and not the guy they warn about using knives. I always assume that I fail at being a dad, a husband because I'm not manly enough. To hear Andy, who I consider a very capable masculine guy, incredulously say that he would have left the ball made me feel good. I had done something good as a dad in that moment, even though I did it in the worst way possible. 

Every one of the falls I mentioned embarrassed me. But then I looked at them. The first one I was trying to get my wife something she needed. The second, I was racing to get to a job I hated to provide for my family. The third, I was going with my wife to check out her school so she could pursue her dreams of being a doctor. And I sacrificed myself for the safety of my daughter. The fourth, I had taken over the stay-at-home parent role when Heather started med school. And again I sacrificed myself for my child. The fifth, I was doing something for my son outside of my comfort zone. Just because I don't always do things in a coordinated graceful impressive fashion, it doesn't mean they are evidence of failure as a man. The fact I was even in those positions to get injured was because I was doing exactly what I was supposed to do. 

The thing about falling since I've been married is that I always have had someone to help me up. Heather sometimes will laugh at the sheer quantity of injuries. But she always is there to make sure I'm okay. She knows when I need treatment - be it physical or emotional. She has never tried to change me or wished that she got someone better at not falling. She just is there after it happens to help me back up. For each of those five falling memories, I have very clear memories of Heather being there afterward to bandage me up, get me to a doctor, and then to mock me and laugh with me when the time is right. It makes falling not so painful. 

May 13, 2015

15 to 15: Laughter

So here's the rundown.  Wednesday, April 29, 2015 was exactly 15 weeks until our 15th anniversary.  So in a countdown to the big day, I decided to start a weekly series of anecdotes from our 15 years of marriage.  I am calling it 15 Weeks to 15 Years.  Since everything needs a hashtag, it would be #15to15.  I am utilizing the blog because I have a propensity to yammer a lot when I'm writing and no one would want to read a long status update.  So be looking for these weekly entries.

A funny thing happened last Thursday night.  My GI system (gastrointestinal, not military) and I have a rough relationship.  I have pretty bad acid reflux, which right now is regulated very well with Zegerid.  However, at times, it was wildly out of control.  I would wake up during the night with acid in my mouth and such.  (Wait, it will get better.  I think.)  I also have a very severe allergy to eggs which was not diagnosed until I was 24 or so.  For those of you who do not know about severe food allergies, your body tries to get the food out of your system when it realizes you are having massive complications from it.  The first major step is basically the worst case of reflux ever.  (Translation: vomiting)  So, between the allergy and the reflux, I have spent more than my share of late nights in the bathroom battling all sorts of GI demons.

The good news is that I rarely have to deal with this any more.  My reflux medicine has pretty much eliminated issues.  Avoiding eggs keeps me from having those problems.  And being more careful with food choices (like not eating lasagna at 9:30 at night) has also helped.  So I was a little bit unhappy that I woke up on Thursday night with that all too familiar stomach pain.  As the incident worsened and I sat in the restroom making various pleas and promises to God if He would derail the attack, I had no clue what had started the whole thing.  I had eaten dinner early in the evening.  I was taking my medicine.  Not an egg was in sight.  Things went from bad to worse and I knew that I was going to begin the "technicolor yawn," as the Australians call it.  The very next thing I knew, Heather was standing over me and asking/yelling, "What happened? Are you okay?"  I was face down on the floor with my head wedged against the door.  Well, that was a new twist...

I still don't know what caused the fainting episode.  I have seen my doctor (so get off my back, people).  She didn't know.  Heather's armada of physicians at work felt like it was just a random fainting spell.  The next day I was a little out of it and we suspect I suffered my third concussion (and second in the bathroom).  It was quite nerve-wracking.  The worst part was to see my usually calm and collected doctor wife with a (somewhat) hidden look of panic on her face as I tried to get my bearings that night.  As we talked about the incident later, she said something really interesting.  I had made some joke about the whole situation and she said, "That's why I got so worried and when I knew you weren't okay.  You stopped joking about stuff."

I had not really thought about how much laughter is a vital part of our marriage.  It is a barometer of sorts of how we are doing.  In the highest moments, we will laugh all the time - or so it seems.  I remember being newlyweds and just loving going to the grocery store because we had such fun and laughed so much.  In the tougher times, laughter is not so quick to come.  Heather has told me several times recently how much she loves the way I make her laugh.  And I love how she has developed a whip-smart humor factory of her own.  That is a big part of our language to each other.  We love laughing together.

There are not many things I treasure more than sitting in the living room after the kids are in bed and watching a funny show with Heather.  The other night, she was on call at the hospital and was watching some comedy on her iPad in the wee hours.  She thought to herself, "This isn't as fun without David."  I've noticed, we have a habit of turning and looking at each other when something really funny happens on screen.  Without me there, she didn't have the echo to her chuckle.  It was very sweet, and something I have felt as well when she is gone.

A few years ago, I bought Jim Gaffigan's Mr. Universe comedy special and we watched it together.  We laughed so hard that night.  My stomach hurt afterwards.  A few weeks later, we watched it again with Heather's cousin Dave and his wife Lacy.  We laughed again so hard that my jaw was killing me.  It was just ridiculously funny.  (Gaffigan is my favorite comedian.  One of the cruelest things that has happened to us was when we lived in Tallahassee and he came for the Homecoming concert.  We had tickets.  Then we caught the H1N1 Asian Death Flu and couldn't go. So close.)  We still quite that special frequently to each other.  We use lines from Friends or Big Bang Theory all the time.  Our kids have inherited the sense of humor.  There are times we can't help but busting out laughing over some comment Josiah makes or draws, some face and impression Natalie does, or some insane song lyrics that Gabe generates.  Laughter is the sound I like the best in our house.  (Well, except for silence.  At night, I do enjoy a brief time of silence.  Not during the day.  Silence in the daytime means the kids are up to no good.)

Who would have thought in that moment, when I was crumpled up in the corner of the bathroom, lump swelling up on my forehead, that an absence of laughter would be the best indicator that I wasn't doing well?  I would have assumed the sight of me crumpled up in the corner of the bathroom would have been indicator enough.  But I was concussed, so I am not really the best judge of what was happening.  I have thought back on our years together to try to come up with a story that best illustrates the importance of humor - and something to purge the memory of me on the bathroom floor.  It has been difficult.  There are so many stories, some of which I want to save for future posts.  (I still have 12 of these, you know.)  These are not in chronological order, so the one I choose was from this past December.

Heather and I were at Target one day.  (I posted some of this on Facebook at the time, but not all of it.)  Somehow she was off during the day.  We were doing some Christmas shopping.  First, we passed an older couple.  It looked like they were looking for gifts for someone in their sphere of influence.  The guy saw some gadgety wine opener.  He picked it up and said to his wife, "Hey, honey, look at this wine opener.  This would be a great gift."  She ignored him and kept looking at other real gifts.  "Hey, honey, look at this.  This is a nice wine opener.  It would be great gift."  She kept looking at other stuff and grunted, "Mmm hmm."  "Hey, honey.  Seriously.  Look at this.  It would be nice.  People would appreciate this."  Finally she looked over at him and said, "Wow. That is a massive waste of time and money."  He got this gleam in his eye.  She knew he wasn't finished and started to shake her head.  He called a Target employee over.  "Ma'am.  Can I ask you something?  Don't you think this is a nice gift?  Wouldn't you like it if someone gave this to you?"  The employee looked at him and at his wife, not sure of whose side to take.  We strolled by them and then went off into the food section.  We both looked at each other and I said, "That's us in thirty years, isn't it?"  She said, "I was thinking the same thing."  Then we busted out laughing.  They were so much like us.  He was a little dorkier than me; she was a little meaner than Heather.  But it was like looking through a time-travel mirror.

A few minutes later, we were in the baking aisle.  As I am wont to do, I decided to be an idiot.  I picked up a bottle of Wesson oil and tilted my head back and pretended to guzzle the bottle.  Heather looked over at me, shook her head and kept walking.  I put the bottle back, started laughing at my idiocy, and then looked at the other end of the aisle.  There was a woman there with her cart, trying to decide if she wanted to come down our way.  She saw me with the bottle and got this disgusted look on her face.  The best way I can describe it is the look of a stereotypical valley girl cheerleader if asked to prom by the secretary (not president) of the chess club.  "Eeeewwww."  She made that look and then hustled quickly away.  I lost it.  I mean, full on belly laughing, couldn't control myself.  Heather looked over at me and asked what was going on.  I somehow gasped out about the lady.  Heather started laughing too.  "Did she see you?"  "I'm pretty sure.  If she did, she made a face at me and left.  If not, she's kind of jerk."  The best part was Heather got a little upset at the woman.  Here I am, a 40 year old father of three pretending to chug Wesson oil in the middle of the Northeast Columbia Target.  My highly educated doctor wife just shakes her head at me.  A stranger is understandably horrified by the whole scene.  And my wife gets mad at her.  It was a perfect microcosm of our relationship.  I can be stupid.  Heather can get exasperated at my stupid.  But if anyone else calls me stupid, let's just say you don't tick off a doctor.  They know how to make it look like an accident.  (Just kidding.  I mean, they do.  But she would never do that.)

I think that most people who have known us as a couple over the years would not be surprised that laughter is so important to us.  We talk a lot; we laugh a lot.  It's who we are.  I remember at Family Camp last year, OJ Aldrich of Summit Church in Orlando talked about the importance of fun and laughter in a family.  I had never really thought about that.  He said that healthy families laugh together - not AT each other, with each other.  (Although, from time to time, it is AT each other.  That just has to be the exception, not the rule.)  That is one of the things I love the most about Heather - her laugh.  And I love to be able to be a part and a cause of that.  

May 6, 2015

15 to 15: Now You're Cooking

So here's the rundown.  Last Wednesday was April 29, 2015 - exactly 15 weeks until our 15th anniversary.  So in a countdown to the big day, I decided to start a weekly series of anecdotes from our 15 years of marriage.  I am calling it 15 Weeks to 15 Years.  Since everything needs a hashtag, it would be #15to15.  I am utilizing the blog because I have a propensity to yammer a lot when I'm writing and no one would want to read a long status update.  So be looking for these weekly entries.

I like food. It doesn't take a rocket scientist to figure that out. In fact, a rocket scientist may not be able to figure that out. He (or she) would probably be thinking, "That guy will never fit on the rocket."  But average people would figure it out, probably as I was ogling their cheesecake. Moving on. 

Another thing to know about me is that I do not drink alcohol. I'm not saying that I rarely drink it; I never drink it. I never have even had it. I have had it in food, but I've never had a drink of alcohol. It is a personal conviction for myself  I am sure if I had started drinking like most other people, I'm sure I would enjoy it. I also am pretty sure I would weigh 500 pounds and have a drinking problem. So I'm glad that I've never started. 

A third thing to know is that I love cooking - which partners nicely with the first thing to know. I also love baking. And Heather loves baking. We both are good at it as well. We have our own speciality items: Heather makes amazing Christmas cookies; I make great pies. Heather has also gone to great lengths to make sure my family history has been included in the baking. She makes my Grandma's pecan pickups recipe. She baked me a lemon pound cake for my birthday this year. I really appreciate it. This story comes from a place where these three facts intersect. 

We got married in August of 2000. And then we got pregnant with Josiah in December of the same year.  (Obviously I didn't get pregnant. That would have been on the front page of the Weekly World News - it has the eighth largest circulation in the whole word.) He came along one month after our first anniversary. My birthday is in April. When that rolled along, I was substitute teaching in Clay County, Florida. Heather wanted to make me a cake. She didn't want to buy it. She wanted to make it. And it wasn't just any cake. She wanted to make me a Black Forest Cake - my favorite cake growing up. 

For those of you who don't know, a Black Forest Cake is a German speciality- a chocolate layer cake with cherries and frosting. I love cherries and this was a cake my parents had gotten me several times growing up. No one else in my family really liked it. It was just for me. Some people make the cake with whipped cream, while others use buttercream. Heather was going to go all out. She had a recipe she found where she was making the cake from scratch (not a mix).  She was making the buttercream icing. And she was making the cherry mixture. Very sweet of her. 

The cherry mixture required soaking the cherries in kirsch. I had no clue what that was. Apparently it is cherry liquor. And that isn't something usually stocked in the average kitchen pantry. So my sweet little wife drives to the local liquor store - four months pregnant and showing - to buy a bottle of kirsch. The liquor itself cost more than the cake would have cost at a bakery. But heather didn't hesitate. She walked out of the liquor store with a paper bag shrouding the booze (did I mention pregnant?) and headed to the house. 

She started working on the cake. She was compiling all of the components. She made the cakes and the buttercream. And she started the cherry mixture. The recipe said to soak the cherries in the kirsch for thirty minutes. As she was working, it got late. She decided to put everything on hold until the next day. She wasn't sure what to do with the cherries, so we decided it probably would be okay to leave them soaking overnight. If thirty minutes is good, eight hours is better!

The next day she went ahead and built the cake. We had dinner with her parents and then it was cake time!  It was beautiful. She had shaved chocolate all over the outside. The homemade buttercream was smoothly and expertly applied. It could have passed for a professional bakery job. I couldn't wait. 

The cake part was delicious. But there were two problems. The first was that the buttercream was so rich it was almost sickness inducing. The second was that my dear wife had basically made a drunken Black Forest Cake. The smell of alcohol wafted up from the cake. It was very potent. It is amazing how much alcohol cherries can soak up overnight! 

I didn't want to hurt her feelings after all her hard work. And we had only been married for eight months! I wanted to stay married. So I ate it all and kept in gushing about how great it was. Then I got very sleepy. I kept having pieces of the cake for several days after my birthday and got very sleepy every time. Once again, I was the only one eating it - trying to spare my sweet wife's feelings while getting buzzed every evening. 

We have laughed about this over the years. Everyone knew that the cherries were blitzed. We realized that there was a reason for the thirty minute time frame. I was so overwhelmed by the sweet gesture that I couldn't stand to turn the cake down. But we have never made it again. I've actually kind of fallen out of love with Black Forest Cake. I'm not blaming Heather for it. I haven't found any version that was as good as the memories of the ones I had as a kid. Heather's was not the best version I had, but it was the most memorable. It is a cute story of newlyweds trying to make each other happy. And it also is the most experience I've ever had with alcohol. Heather has made me many cakes over the years. None of them truly have the place in my heart as the drunken cherry cake, though.