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Sunday, February 17, 2013

24 Valentines

This week was Valentine's Day and I celebrated my 24th one with the love of my life. At twenty one years old I started dating Mark. On our first Valentine's Day together he asked me to marry him. We had been dating less than two months, but as cliche as it sounds, when you know, you know. Celebrating that day means much to me, as it was the start of my life with a man I still find extrodoary. Mark is kind, patient, smart, loving, talented, giving, loyal and beyond a shadow of a doubt, my rock. He lifts me when I'm down, he makes me laugh and shares my same twisted sense of humor when things are tough. We are steady, even and consistent in our love and in our friendship. We barely ever argue or even quarrel. He is the person I choose to be with when given the option, I enjoy his company and have grown more fond of him as we age. We worked together for over fifteen years running our in home daycare. We raised many people's children and then also our own. I can honestly say I enjoyed working with him immensely and still miss those days. Mark is a hard worker and we share the same priorities in life. Our marriage has always come first. He and I need to be strong to care for our complicated family. I have often said to people that "we are selfish." We work hard at staying connected, at staying friends and enjoying life beyond our children. My God has always been first, but Mark is my close second. Our relationship is a covenant with God, we are in our marriage with Him. So as we age and things change in our life, my God and Mark are the only sure things I count on. My children are growing, our oldest son applied to five colleges just this past week. He will be moving on and living his own life. Of course I expect and hope our son will stay close and always be a part of our life. But children grow and the ultimate goal is to raise them well, so that they are contributing parts of society. So if we reach that goal and the children move out to start their own lives, what is left? I have seen the breakdown of many marriages. Couples who suddenly seemed to have nothing in common after the child raising years. Couples who slowly grew apart and just couldn't get the spark back. Couples who thought life would be easier or more fun with someone new. We have purposely worked hard to not become any of those couples. We have been creative in our dating each other, even when times were tough. Even if our middle daughter Teale was spiraling and could not be left in the care of others, we would find a way to steal precious time together, just the two of us. Many dates in bad times were at home, a nice dinner, our Wedding china, candlelight and music in our own dining room after the kids went to bed. Daydates, where we steal a date together while the kids were in school became the norm after we closed our in home daycare. Respite was used too, people who truly could handle and be trusted with Teale in our home or in the community. We also would date after hours, putting the kids to bed ourselves and then leaving them in care of someone who would call us if anyone woke. Our cell phones became a way to get some freedom and see a band that started late or just go sit someplace different and talk about anything but the kids. We built a good support and as Teale got older and "easier" our nieces also often helped us. We forced ourselves to use overnight respite. As strange as it has always been for me, Teale has gone to a local respite home here or there since she was about five years old. Our marriage hasn't been easy because we are just lucky, our marriage has taken  work and we made it a priority. So as we planned our Valentine's Day date, I looked back on how we have evolved. We were once a young, happy couple with the world to conquer ahead of us. We may not have conquered as much as we hoped to, but when I look at my life with Mark, I am proud of what we have been to each other and I just know "the best is yet to be...."

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