The Great Recalibrating

Three years ago, back when Peyton Manning was a Colt and Tim Tebow a Gator, things were groovy at work and home.

I was enjoying bringing home the bacon and the GalPal was cool cooking it. She’d cook Mondays-Thursdays, I was Fridays and Saturdays which was great because we’d usually go out one of those nights, and we’d wait each other out on Sundays. Culinary homeostasis.

Actually, domestic homeostasis. She was laundry, me lawn. Her household maintenance, me financial planning. Her labradoodle, me cars. Her school paperwork, me taxes. Her hippy food co-op, me Costco. Her hardwood floors, me carpets. Her weeds, me edging and fall leaves.

And then things started to go south at work. I haven’t written much about that because everything is relative, I’m a tenured professor in a tough economy, and a lot of people would love to have my “first world” work problems. Long story short, I’ve been reorienting, tweaking my interests and identity so that both are less work-centric. I’m still committed to teaching well and doing right by my students, but I’m blogging instead of writing academic papers, sidestepping University Committees, not teaching summer school, and spending less time on campus.

The transition hasn’t been easy in part because deemphasizing work is tough to talk about with my friends who are in the prime of the careers and mostly enjoying working long hours. Doubt they’d understand my desire to strike a different work-life balance, to live more simply, to relish more than normal time alone, and to not be busy.

And while I’ve been striking a different work-life balance, my Betrothed has been too, but in the exact opposite way. She’s tired of taking care of the children and the house. She wants to be challenged in new ways, to broaden her identity, and to be of service to more than her family and house.

So right as I’m resigned to accepting the world as it is, she’s intent on changing it—by teaching adolescents to be bilingual.

Our different orientations present challenges on the homefront. Challenges that have resulted in some conflict. I’d like to used some of my freed up work time to hang out and travel with her, and she’d like that too, but her work schedule is a limiter. And she wants me to take on more domestic responsibilities. At first, when I objected to doing more around the house, she didn’t think I supported her desire to work. Through lots of discussion, she realizes I do. I dig her ambition and I’m glad she’s isn’t as cynical as me. I like that she still has a lot of fight in her.

One outcome of our talks has been a change-up in the kitchen. I’ve been “promoted” to Chief Cook and Grocery Shopper. Now I cook dinner Mondays-Thursdays and Sundays. While I work my “magic” in the kitchen, foreign language teacher lesson plans.

Some bumps have formed in the “dinner-prep” road. First, my repertoire is limited—all things breakfast, wraps, pasta, sandwiches and soup, pizza, all things breakfast, wraps, you get the idea. Second, I now appreciate more fully what the foreign language teacher has said sporadically in the past—the hardest part is deciding what to prepare. Of course, bumps one and two are related. Third, we’re always running low on some ingredient or we’re running low on some key staple—fruit, milk, eggs, etc. What I’d give for a close “one-stop” shopping store.

I hereby offer a belated, but heartfelt “thank you” to all the women who have played Chief Cook and Grocery Shopper at different times in my life—The foreign language teacher, mother-dear, big sister-dear, mother-in-law-dear. If you’re a woman who wishes the men in your life were a wee bit more appreciative, figure out how to get them to take over the grocery shopping, the cooking, and the kitchen detail for two weeks. That’s all it will take.

Our marriage, like most I suspect, works best when we pay at least as much attention to the other person’s needs as our own. The problem is selfishness comes more naturally and easily than selflessness. After 25 years, it’s time to think more about what I can do to help The Good Wife achieve her professional goals than how I can succeed in my own career. She’s always been supportive of my career and I’m indebted to her for that. It’s time to repay the favor. Here’s hoping she doesn’t get too sick of my cooking too soon.

My Lovely Wife

It’s time. I’m going public with my affection for my wife.

Twenty-five years ago today she walked down the aisle of a Lutheran eglesia in SoCal and committed to sticking with me through thick and thin.

She had no interest in marriage when we met in Venice, CA; went out for fish and chips at Marina del Rey; and and then flirted on a deserted Santa Monica lifeguard stand in the dark. After falling for her hard, she informed me she was going to Mexico for the summer to learn to speak Spanish. So enamored with me, she ran for the border.

Against all odds, while studying Spanish in Cuernavaca, she started to miss me. Following some steamy hand-written letters (remember those?), I flew to Mexico at the end of her language school studies and we backpacked throughout southern Mexico. Like Felix Hernandez in the latter innings, I wore her down. By the time we returned home we were halfway down the aisle.

She should have known she was dealing with a dimwit when, right before saying my vows with the videocamera rolling, I turned the small microphone clipped to my tux off instead of on. Even though there is no audio evidence of my vows, I’ve done my best to honor them.

She’s loved me as unconditionally as possible and for that I am incredibly grateful. Like anyone who has been married for the long haul, we’ve struggled at times, even more than outside observers would guess. There were moments when the Vegas oddsmakers weren’t sure we’d make it to 25. When our wires get crossed, I sometimes lose my temper and patience, and just want to stop talking and take the next space shuttle flight into outer-space. She can also lose it, but always needs to resolve conflicts immediately no matter how long it takes. I mean no matter how long.

She’s the spiritual leader of our household, a Godly woman with a profound social conscience. She also is a damn sexy dancer and the best, most caring, and loving mother on Mother Earth.

My only regret is that we can’t get back all the sporadic days we’ve lost to mindless miscommunication, self-centeredness, arguing, and hurt feelings. I don’t assume we have another 25 years to enjoy each other’s company. I’m not going anywhere, but our health isn’t guaranteed and some of the cars on Mount Rainier got awfully close on Saturday’s training ride.

My plan going forward is to take full advantage of each year not knowing which might be our last. My hope is for steadily improving communication, mutual selflessness, reduced conflict, and even more profound affection and intimacy.

I’d jet down the same church aisle today given the chance all over again.