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In which love looks like the pilgrim soul

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Thirteen years ago today, our marriage began. I brought out the big wedding album for the tinies to see us in our wedding finery. Do kids today still have the big official albums? We said our vows long before Pinterest and digital cameras, let alone iPhones with apps. Instead, we have this heavy leather-bound gold-embossed album with nicely staged photos in the stock poses. Here we are lighting a unity candle.  Here we are with our parents. Here we are walking away into a soft-focus background. But you can still see the real us peeking through the tulle and the tuxedo: our enthusiasm, our youth, our joy, our curiosity, our hope. Remember when we were that certain boy and that know-it-all girl?

To celebrate, we went out to the ocean town for supper last night. I shaved my legs, you put on a clean t-shirt, aren’t we getting fancy? We stood on the western shoreline before supper with our arms wrapped around each other, staring into the abyss. Teenagers were just down the shore from us, taking selfies and posing by the water. Thirteen years, we said in a sort of disbelief. I suppose this makes us grown-ups. In some ways, these years have flown by – weren’t we always together? – and in other ways, we see every single day of it, stretched out to the horizon, remember this, remember that, remember the dozens of men and women we have been throughout these years? We’ve gathered shadows and light.

I briefly considered writing an article with thirteen things we have learned in thirteen years of marriage. But who are we kidding? It’s an art, not a science, not the fodder of click-bait on the Internet, not a performance. We’re not reductionists. It’s a mystery, a thin place between the heavens and the earth, made all the better and richer for the secrets we keep for each other and the freedom we enjoy. I could write those damn thirteen-things-we’ve-learned-in-thirteen-years-of-marriage but I’d still be left with an inadequate shrug and the je nais sais quoi that defines all marriages. We’re still that slow dance under-the-stars, finding our steps together, moving further and further out onto the water. Sure, there are practicalities we’ve learned about how we move through life – budgets and bills, babies and basketball practices, sex and laundry, communication and callings. But underneath it all, really, we’re still curious, we’re still saying yes, it’s poetry that makes the prose worth living, and it keeps us a bit wild, hosanna. 

We sat in the cool spring sunset to eat seafood. When you kept refilling my glass, I asked if you were trying to take advantage of me and you waggled your eyebrows at me: “absolutely.” The bottle of Pinot Noir was empty by darkness.

We talked a bit about the years that lay behind us, of course we did, but really we wanted to talk about the years ahead. We talked about our curiosities: what sounds like fun to learn about? If I wanted to follow a rabbit trail of knowledge for a while, where would I begin? I’m curious about seminary, oh, and I think that after this second book is done, I might try to dig out that novel again. You want to geek out about furniture building for a while, oh, and gardening again. You’ve turned into quite the tree hugger. Perhaps you could find a way to use all of your business expertise towards justice and peace-making. I think I’d like to chase a bit of knowledge about the French woman’s aesthetic, quilt-making, fashion, maybe think about a doctoral degree in what? women’s studies? poetry? who knows? oh, and let’s talk again about living abroad. Maybe England? Which part of England? Holidays in France, of course. So much to discuss and dream.

Over these thirteen years, we’ve often felt like we’re running to catch up with the consequences of saying “yes” to God, yes to our best hopes instead of our worst fears. Would we have been so agreeable and fearless if we knew how much courage it would take to abandon our neatly laid out plans for life, let alone how much we would change? I think so. I hope so. Maybe it’s best that we don’t know what waits at the end of the aisle. Let it come, we’ll keep walking together. I like you curious.

We drove home in the moonlight, listening to old songs from back in the 90s when we were dating. I slipped off my shoes and put my feet up on the dash. You kept your hand on my bare thigh, the window was down, we took the the backroads. Your hair is scattered with grey now – it suits you – but that Midwest-boy grin is the same, can’t you drive a bit faster?

Maybe this is the oneness of marriage then: there is no editing for any part of our selves. We bring it all to each other and abide into the end of it all: body soul spirit mind past present future dreams despair curiosities evolutions desire deference silence song weariness wonder.

You’re waking up again, I think. You’re re-imagining life, emerging into yet another new self. I’ve loved every iteration of you. You have always loved those lines from Yeats for us:

But one man loved the pilgrim soul in you,
And loved the sorrows of your changing face

I write now and again about what love looks like for us.

Continue Reading · brian, love, love looks like, marriage · 18

In which we are living in a renovation zone

Hardware stores on a Saturday. Bless it.

Hardware stores on a Saturday. Bless it.

We are always living in the midst of a renovation project of some sort over here. It’s funny that I never talk about it online because it’s a rather big part of our life so I thought I’d write a bit about what we’re doing.

We bought our semi-attached home four years ago a bit below market value because it needed some serious work – for instance, there was a home salon in the basement so the plumbing and drywall had to be reworked. (And we had A LOT of other people’s hair clippings in the carpets to deal with. *shudder*)  Plus, there were – yes, we counted – 37 different colours on the walls including a glossy black wall in the main living room, damaged floors, stained carpets, that sort of thing. There were a lot of basic restoration and repairs that had to be done here. Now we’re at last turning to the other projects.

A few months ago, we relocated and redesigned the downstairs washroom with the idea of creating a master suite. It’s nearly finished, hallelujah. Then we’ll paint and finish Joseph’s room, then move Evelynn downstairs to her own room near us because she is an early riser, and then the upstairs bathroom will get done because the shower isn’t working, and then our Very Pink 90s Kitchen is coming up … and so on. Brian has projects planned out until the fall of 2019 apparently, may God have mercy on our souls and my sanity.

There is not a weekend of our lives when we are not at the Home Depot or Rona or Canadian Tire. The proud tradition of dragging one’s children to hardware stores on Saturdays is alive and well at the Bessey home.

We are devoted enthusiasts of HGTV (the tinies and I all think Brian should compete for Canada’s Next Great Handyman competition but he’s unimpressed.) We like to watch DIY shows because the real estate ones tend to drive us a bit crazy. I don’t know if there is anyway to be on House Hunters without sounding spoiled and entitled.

“I don’t know about this perfect little bungalow, I really really really need stainless steel appliances….”

Sure you do, honey, sure you do.

Joe in particular has become Brian’s “helper” for almost all projects. Check out this short little video of him “teaching” us how to fill screw holes with dry wall mud.

“Voilá! No screw!”

He’s only five! He’s a genius! He’s wearing a Calgary Flames green hardhat left over from the 2003 Stanley Cup run!

We don’t have a huge budget or a tight timeline, we get industry discounts because this is Brian’s line of work (or cast-offs from my parents as they do their own renovations – I’m not above taking their old light fixtures and putting them into my bathrooms), Brian does all the labour himself from finish carpentry to electrical and plumbing. He’s a big believer in knowing how to do things for your own self and then teaching those skills to the tinies. (I prefer to pay professionals.)

I say “we” in all the above paragraphs, but I had absolutely nothing to do with these renovations beyond nodding my head in agreement to whatever Brian dreamed up and then saying “it’s lovely, darling!” when he’s finished.

Many, many years ago, I was banned from helping with home projects because, while he is a Perfectionist, I am a ‘Good-Enough-ist’ and those two temperaments should NOT attempt home renovation projects together.

I drive him crazy because I tend to do things quickly and sloppily and then say “ah, good enough” before cleaning the paint brushes inadequately. Then he has a vein pop out on his forehead: “this is NOT HOW YOU CLEAN BRUSHES, WOMAN.” Also, he’s a professional, and apparently professionals prefer to just do their job in peace while listening to old U2 albums for the thousandth time.

So I go back to pinning ideas for him on Pinterest and stay out of the way.  My hobbies are of the more sedentary pursuits: reading, writing, knitting, Doctor Who….

And every once in a while, I do things like paint things on our stairs for fun.

Some people like to play video games or listen to music or watch television or run marathons.

Brian likes to tear out ceilings, rewire basements, and renovate bathrooms for funsies.

 

Are you the DIY-er in the house? Or is it your significant other? Do you like to watch HGTV? Any reno projects or veterans here? 

Continue Reading · brian, home · 18

In which romance shows up in the interruptions

I think that someday, when I am old, I will be glad that I wrote this down. (These are the days we will have to remember someday.) Isn’t that the way it is with these moments? The small moments, the small decisions, make up a life worth remembering and I want to make more room in my life (and so my writing) to remember them. Even if it’s just for me. Simple stories still matter to me.

The girls were playing dress-up while Joe was downstairs playing Legos after supper. I left Brian to the dishes to pretty up their hair and apply my bright lipstick to their small mouths as a special treat. We sprayed perfume into the air and moved through the mist. They paraded up and down the house, grandly greeting each other turn after turn: “Why hello, Miss Evelynn, pleasure to see you.” They decided to have a ball and so I opened iTunes on the computer. The laptop keys are sticky and there are smears on the screen: family computer, it seems.

Brian and I switched spots and he scooped them up in his arms, a dish towel flung over his shoulder. The girls danced with their dad, and I cleaned the kitchen, humming along, watching them all. The girls drifted off to another game and we settled back to our work, we always do. There’s a lot to do: a lot of work, a lot of bills, a lot of commitments, go go go.

On these nights, romance smells like butter and garlic, dish soap and clean skin. On a whim, I turned on Andrew Peterson’s song “Dancing in the Minefields” and, without words, we turned to each other, held on and danced. Romance shows up in the interruptions.

Even when we are tired or we aren’t speaking the same language or we are out of step, we still know enough to turn towards each other when the music starts.

Evelynn came barrelling in to the room (she barrels into every room) and charged at us: me too! me too! me too! We picked her up and we danced, and Anne wormed her way in, then Joe wandered upstairs and we were dancing like a messy rugby scrum, shuffling and swaying and out of step, five people crammed into one embrace.

I laid my head on his chest like I haven’t done in a while, he kissed my hair, I knew he was smiling, and Evelynn laid her face right next to mine, nose to nose. Anne was hanging on to me at the south, Joe to the north.

I make a lot of mistakes in this marriage, I’m sure he’d say the same, but we always find our way back to this. I found myself singing along: at the end of all my fear, to the end of all my days, when I forget my name, remind me. 

Continue Reading · brian, family, love, love looks like, marriage · 28

In which my husband and I made a deal – our “You Need To Read This!” Challenge

On New Year’s Eve, we found ourselves sitting in our living room, talking over our goals for 2014. And, of course this happened:

Brian: Let’s see…what else do I want to do this year… I think I need to read more.

Me: You do. You definitely need to read more.

Brian: Okay there, pseudo-hermit bookworm, calm down. Maybe I’ll set a goal like…. I could read one book a month. That’s do-able, right?

Me: Totally! You should TOTALLY do that.  (writes it down) Only….

Brian: What?

Me: I wish I could pick the books!

Brian: (laughing) Okay, right, Styles.

Me: I still can’t believe you managed to graduate high school in the United States without ever reading To Kill a Mockingbird. It’s just so wrong. You really need to read it.

Brian: I’ll only let you pick my books if you let me pick the books YOU have to read every month!

Me:….wait a minute….that’s a BRILLIANT IDEA. Let’s do it! I get to pick a book a month that you read and you do the same thing for me! We can even blog about it! Together!

Brian: I’m game. Okay….first thing you’ll need is this handy-dandy Pocket Guide to Theological Terms….

Me: 

 

So here we are, starting off 2014 with our “You Need To Read This” Challenge. We have each carefully selected a stack of 12 books that we think the other one needs to read. Usually when we finish a book we love, we say “You need to read this!” and of course, we never read each other’s books.

My husband and I have pretty different taste when it comes to reading. I adore spiritual memoirs, fiction and literature, poetry, and narrative theology with a bit of old-fashioned fun reading like Harry Pottery or dystopian fantasty or British chick lit novels and my comfort reading of the L.M. Montgomery. Brian doesn’t read for fun (that’s what football is for, apparently) and so his reading tends towards leadership-based non-fiction or theology. In short, we never read or like the same books. Like, ever.

Every month, we’ll read a book from each other’s pre-selected stack and then blog our opposite responses together here about it. Once a month, when we post about a book, we’ll share why we picked it for each other and then what we think about it.

the besseys reading challenge

The books I picked for him to read are:

The books he picked for me to read are:

It’s clear to me that my husband has set me up to fail. I look at his list for me and, with a few exceptions, SNORE. WHERE ARE THE STORIES I NEED STORIES.

Let the game begin…

(I’m doomed.)

If you want to participate in your own, go for it. Just find a friend who has different reading tastes than you and swap a list.

If you could make everyone read just one book (other than the Bible), which one would you choose?

*affiliate links 

 

 

Continue Reading · book review, books, brian, You Need To Read This Challenge · 150