Days of Bathroom Letters are Over

I admit I can sometimes be a little hard on Howard on the blog. Though he knows that I jest in love I feel that on Valentine’s Day he deserves some credit where credit is due. I woke up this morning to a wonderful little box – containing beautiful pearl earrings. Which is awesome, considering I’ve already lost one pearl/diamond earring he gave me as a present on our wedding day (see my propensity to lose things here). But the man has certainly stepped up his game in recent years. I mean, this gift was almost as good as last year’s gift, when he got me the full collection of Harry Potter movies.

When I think about things like this it takes me back to the Howie I knew five to ten years ago when we were a young and clueless couple. Howie went from buying me a rose on our first date, to an unfortunate slump around years 4 and 5. I don’t know if it was the extreme sense of comfort and “easy-goingness” of our relationship, but there was a period of time that can best be characterized as the Toilet Love Letter years. And oh, how I am so glad those days are gone.

One particular anniversary (maybe our fifth) I presented Howie with a nice little card and present – probably a DVD or CD of some kind. To my dismay, Howie had to break the news that he unfortunately had not had time to go out and get me something – but not to worry, he’d have something tomorrow. Tomorrow came and went, then the next day, and pretty soon a week had passed by with no anniversary present. As if my scowl wasn’t enough, Howie asked what was wrong.

Cheryl: “I don’t know what to say anymore Howie! Do I have to BEG for an anniversary gift from you?! You promise and promise and still nothing!

Howie: Baaaaaaabe….stop…..

Cheryl: Well it means nothing now! I don’t even want a gift! All I wanted was to feel a little bit of appreciation from you – you could have at least written me a letter or something!!

Howie: Well I did write you a letter!

Cheryl: You did?

Howie: Y…yeah… Let me go get it.

(Howie walks out of room. I hear some rummaging and papers. Then I hear the bathroom door lock. Ten minutes pass by, he emerged from the bathroom. Love letter in hand.)

Howie: Here you go!

Cheryl: Did you just write this on the toilet?

Howie: No.

Cheryl: Seriously Howie?! You just wrote me a hap-hazard letter on the TOILET?!

Howie: I don’t see what the problem is, it’s a nice letter!

From there the conversation digressed into an emotional rant in which I was convinced Howie didn’t have a romantic bone in his body. Let’s just say that was the last time Howie wrote me a love letter in the washroom… and the last time we ever celebrated “dating anniversaries”.

Regardless, Howie and I have grown up a lot in the 10+ years of our relationship. He’s like a fine wine that gets better with age. I feel so blessed to be married to my best friend and appreciate the fact that we can look back on the Toilet Love Letter incident and laugh.

Howie, Happy Valentines Day. I love you more than chocolate.

First year of Marriage: check!

I can no longer describe our marriage length in terms in months, for we have officially passed our first-year anniversary! Baby, we did it! They say the first year can be one of the most difficult a couple can go through, so if minor arguments over movies, cell phones, and pants were the “tough” parts, we are doing ok!

Apparently for us, it’s year two that’s proving to be more difficult, as we discovered about 4.5 hours into the first day of our second year. Oh the stories I could tell you about our “romantic” weekend at Granny’s cottage… I would require more than a simple blog post. But for now, I will settle on sharing just a few details about our anniversary weekend; dog vomit, fish hooks, and all.

Things you need to know before reading further:

  1. Our wedding anniversary fell on a long weekend which we decided to spend with Howie’s entire extended family at his Granny’s cottage
  2. Our dog Monica has an extremely sensitive stomach
  3. Howie’s cousin Dean owns a old, long-nailed, scabby-legged Jack Russel with a severe non-stop shaking issue, his name is Whisky

We were blissfully asleep in Granny’s guest room, when all of a sudden at 4am, we awoke to a sharp, irritating yelp going off about every five seconds. Was Granny having a nightmare? No, Dean had gotten fed up with Whisky’s barking and moved him from the bunkie into the main cottage, for all to hear.

Granny: “Dean! Dean! Get that dog out of here!”

Whisky: ARP! ARP! ARP!

Granny: “Whisky shut up! Be quiet!”

Whisky: ARP! ARP! ARP!

Granny: “Dean I mean it! Get that dog out of here!”

Dean: “Geez Granny I can’t take him anymore!”

Granny: “Well don’t bring him in here! Get out!”

(Silence)

Finally, we could go back to sleep. But wait, what’s that? Oh yes. Monica just vomited all over Granny’s bedspread.

Cheryl: “Howie! Howie! Monica’s puking! No! She’s ruined Granny’s sheets!”

Howie: “Monica noooooo!”

Cheryl: “Get her off of here Howie! This is why I tell you not to let her sleep up here!”

Howie was in the process of putting on his shoes and taking her outside, when…

Cheryl: “No!! She’s got diarrhoea all over Granny’s carpet!”

Howie: “Monica! Let’s go outside!”

Howie took Monica outside while I tried as swiftly as possible to clean up the sheets and the carpet. Then Granny woke up. Long story short, she provided a lot of advice on how to clean up everything. From using copious amounts of Sunlight dish detergent to using two feet instead of my one foot to blot out the stain. I felt terrible.

By the time the messes were taken care of it was almost 6am so I joined Howie outside and we went on a little de-stressing walk. By the time we came back the sun was fully up and we weren’t inclined to go back outside. I decided to read my book in the lawn chair  while Howie went fishing.

Howie: “Darn! I don’t think there is the right kind of attachment in here…”

Cheryl: “What do you mean?”

Howie: “I’m just worried that this lure could fall off, I don’t have the right kind of clip to make it stay on.”

Cheryl: “Well then don’t use it.”

Howie: “But I really like this one.”

(Pause)

Howie: “I’m sure it will be fine. I won’t lose it.”

Cheryl: “Howie, don’t use it if you could lose it.”

Howie: “It will be fine.”

Cheryl: “Ok, but I’ve warned you.”

I go back to reading my book. In what seems like two minutes later…

Howie: “Cher! I’ve lost the lure!”

Cheryl: “I told you not to use it.”

Howie: “I’m going in.”

Cheryl: “You’re what?! Going in?! Howie why?!”

Howie: “I lost it right near the dock, people could step on it if they go swimming!”

Cheryl: “Oh Howie…”

Howie proceeded to strip down to his boxers, then started creeping up to the four-foot deep water area where he dropped the lure.

Howie (crying out in little girl-like yelps): “Ah! Ah! Cold! Cold!”

The water crept up even higher over his thighs.

Howie: “AH! COLD! WORST PART! AH!”

Cheryl (uncontrollably laughing): “Oh… this is awesome.”

Howie was holding up the sides of his boxers, in a futile attempt to avoid getting them wet.

Cheryl: “Howie! Why are you holding your boxers up? Just take them off!”

Howie: “What if Granny sees my wiener?!”

Cheryl: “Oh Howie, it’s 6am, no one is looking.”

Howie: “I can’t risk it!”

Howie got to the spot of the lure. At this point I think it’s finally sinking in (no pun intended) that he’s got to submerge his upper half in order to retrieve the lure.

Howie: “Cher! Can you bring me my t-shirt?”

Cheryl: “What for?”

Howie: “I’m going to use it like a glove so I don’t prick my fingers on the lure!”

Cheryl: “Augh Howie! Then your shirt will get all gross and lake-y!”

Howie: “Just pass it to me please!”

I passed Howie his t-shirt. Like a heroic duck, Howie bobbed under the water and came up with the lure in his t-shirt wrapped hand.

Howie: “YES! Got it!”

Cheryl: “Good work babe.”

Howie: “Ha ha! How is that for impressive eh?”

Cheryl: “Very impressive babe.”

Howie: “My eyes sting.”

Cheryl: “Why would you open your eyes in that water?”

Howie: “I don’t know.”

And thus began year two of our marriage. Let’s hope the following 364 days are not as eventful, or early…. or involve so much vomit.

How did other newlyweds celebrate their first year of marriage? Please tell me it was as romantic as ours!

The Difference Between Men and Women III

Oh yes. It’s back by popular demand. The Modern Wife’s introspection into some of the most head-scratching differences between men and women as discovered through extensive research and observation of the male species. Well, the male species as observed in one specimen, namely my husband Howard.

So one would think that a date night at the movies would be easy right? I mean, in nearly ten years of having a relationship we’ve probably seen hundreds of movies together. However, the longer I’ve been with Howie, the tougher I’m finding it to compromise on our movie selections. It’s as if the longer we’ve been together, and the more “comfortable” he gets, the less likely he is to watch a chick flick with me. What’s up with that?

Travel back to December 2002 and you will find a sweet, caring, ever-so-eager-to-please 16 year old Howie who couldn’t be happier to escort his girlfriend of one month to Maid in Manhattan.  Fast forward about 9.8 years and into 11 months of marriage and you have a 26 year old Howard who dragged his wife not once, but twice to see Avengers in the theatre without even repaying the favour with a subsequent chick flick. Oh the humanity!

Chart A:  Howie & Cheryl's Movie-Watching Situation

Chart A: Howie & Cheryl’s Movie-Watching Situation

So with the final instalment of the Dark Knight series coming out this Friday you can imagine my “delight” to see yet another lame action movie based on comic book characters. My attitude is not sitting well with Howie, he is appalled at my lack of enthusiasm and can’t even fathom why I’m not pleased to be lining up 1.5 hours before the movie even starts.

After failing to pre-order his precious movie passes online due to an internet issue, Howie decided to drag me to the actual movie theatre on a Tuesday night so he could buy them ahead of time for this Saturday.

Cheryl: Hey! Since I’m going to see Dark Knight with you Saturday, why don’t we go and see Katy Perry’s movie tonight?

Howie: (Loud laughter) Yah right! I would never go see that movie! Why would you even want to see it?

Cheryl: I don’t know, it looked kind of fun… plus it reveals how her divorce with Russell Brand went down!

Howie: No way Cheryl. I could never see that movie.

Cheryl: Funny how you drag me around to watch your lame movies but you won’t even see one movie I want to see!

Howie: (Gasps, struggling for air) LAME movie Cheryl? I hope you are kidding. Dark Knight is probably going to be the most successful movie of all time. Have you even watched the previews? It’s sick! It’s going to be awesome!

Cheryl: On a scale of one to ten on how excited I am to see that movie, I’m probably a two.

Howie: (Gasps, shocked) Two?! You are only excited at a two level?!?

Cheryl: It would probably be a low one if it weren’t for the frozen yogurt.

Howie:  I do not understand your taste in movies at all.

Cheryl: Well it’s way better than your taste. Remember how awful Avengers was? What was that? Some evil “moon-prince” wanted to make people bow down to his glowing sceptre? So lame.

Howie: (Coughs) Ummm… well millions of people agree with me Cheryl. It made the most money of all time, and it’s record is only going to be broken by the Dark Knight.

Cheryl: Just because millions of teenage boys also go to the same movies you do, does not mean you have good taste. This is the same audience that made Sponge Bob famous.

Howie: Whatever Cheryl. Clearly I have the better taste in movies. Yours are all the same. Couple falls in love, they have a problem, and then oh look! They end up together.

Cheryl: Not all the time, in The Vow it was left unclear whether they end up together!

Howie: Oh The Vow was one of the worst of them! You only like it because of that Tating Channum guy!

Cheryl: It’s Channing Tatum, and no, I don’t like the movie because of him.

Howie: Well I’m just as good looking as him anyway. Those girls of yours thought I looked exactly like him … (smirks)

Cheryl: Howie my girls’ group was standing like 100 feet away from you and couldn’t see that clearly. Plus, they were like thirteen years old.

Howie: Still…. (checks himself out in the mirror)

Exhibit B: Channing Tatum vs. Howie Martin (personally I prefer the one on the right)

At that point we had arrived at the theatre and Howie went in to buy the Dark Knight tickets for Saturday. He came out holding them as if they were the Holy Grail or something then placed them carefully in the centre console of our car. I will go and see Dark Knight with Howie. But he’s going to have to return the favour. It’s only fair.

I’m going to make him watch something so ridiculously sappy he’s going to be wishing he had agreed to Katy Perry. Yes… (evil laugh)… some sort of historically-set romance, preferably in 18th century England…with accents….and Colin Firth….

Are there any lucky ones out there who share their significant other’s taste in movies?!

– – – – – – – –

Liked this post? Check out the Differences Between Men and Women 1 and 2

How did we get here?

Christopher Columbus

Leading up to their wedding a couple tends to get a lot of advice (usually unsolicited) about marriage and relationships and how to be happy. The groom is told that a “happy wife is a happy life,” and to “just say yes dear,” and as a bride I was told to “not sweat the small stuff.” While we tried to assert that we’d be just fine and we knew what we were getting into, married couples had a knowing, smug look that seemed to pat our heads and say “Of course you do, you silly, young couple.”

It was as if there was some sort of impending, pivotal shift that would occur after we were married and only they knew the full extent of what would happen. We assured ourselves that we would never be one of those couples who bickered, argued over the remote control and stopped cuddling every night. We would be different. We would be in a permanent honeymoon phase. Who could have imagined I’d be sleeping in the guest room in six months, furious over Christopher Columbus?

Howie and I have what I like to call a healthy sort of communication style that can be teasing at times. I like to complain about his permanent cow-lick and lack of hair gel while he likes to pretend to get mad about me tasting some of his food when we eat out. It just works for us. Sometimes I find we might push the teasing limits a little bit, like when I made a comment about his muscles not seeming as big as when he played hockey (that was a mistake). But all in all, we usually know when to pull the brakes on our little banter.

Then one night we were lying in bed talking about various things, places we’d like to travel, and things we’d like to discover, and somehow (don’t even ask me how) the topic of the European discovery of North America came up. I was convinced that Christopher Columbus came to the Americas way before Jacques Cartier started fishing off the coast of Newfoundland (I’m Canadian eh?) while Howie was convinced Cartier made the trip before Columbus.

The problem with Howie and I is that we can both be “right-fighters,” meaning, we both love to be right, even if it’s at the cost of peace.

Cheryl: Howie are you serious? Columbus was in America WAY before Cartier went to Newfoundland! I can’t believe you!

Howie: Seriously Cheryl? You minored in history! How can you think that?! Cartier was first and it was around the same time period!

Cheryl: You are SO ANNOYING! I can’t believe you don’t believe me!

Howie: I’M ANNOYING?! I can’t believe you don’t trust the guy who majored in history!

(And on it goes)

It got to the point where I was so peeved off that I couldn’t sleep until I had proven him wrong. So I got my BlackBerry and started googling the respective explorers.

Cheryl: A HA! I WAS RIGHT! Cartier was in 1497 and Columbus in 1492! A HA!

Howie: Okay Cheryl, it was like five years apart, I told you it was around the same time, Columbus wasn’t WAY before.

Cheryl: Five years is a long time Howie!

Howie: (Quietly) Tell me about it I’ve been with your for nine!

Cheryl: What was that?

Howie: I said five years isn’t long between 1492 and 1497! It’s the same time!

Cheryl: Augh! I can’t stand this! Why can’t you just admit you were wrong!?

Howie: I will when I’m actually wrong.

Eventually I had worked myself up into such a huffy that I refused to sleep next to a man who couldn’t admit when I was right. I grabbed my pillow and stormed off to the guest room. After a few moments, I stared up at the ceiling and thought, “What am I doing?”

How was I seriously so mad over Christopher Columbus? Why did I care so much about proving Howie wrong? What was the point of that whole argument? The more I contemplated these things the more I realized what a pair of nutcases we were. Was this really worth sleeping in separate beds over? I think not.

So I casually slipped back into our bed, and just as I was about to say, “Love you babe” Howie leaned over and whispered in my ear, “Let’s never discuss Columbus again.”

Agreed. Some things are so not worth arguing over, especially in the bedroom.

Have you ever found yourself in the middle of a ridiculous argument and thought, how did we get here?

– – – – –
Liked this post? Check out the Modern Wife Guide to fighting fair

“Too Poor to Have Kids”

I came across this article in the Huffington Post, but if you don’t have time to read the article in its entirety here is the Modern Wife recap:

  • The article asserts that “young Americans are just too poor to have kids”
  • Population growth is at its all-time slowest growth rate since the Great Depression, and the birth rate has been falling since the housing bubble burst in 2007
  • Average wage of college-educated 23 to 29 year olds plunged 9% in the last decade
  • Three in 10 of these young adults are choosing to move back in with their parents rather than beginning their own households and families
  • For the first time in U.S. history, unmarried households outnumber married couples
  • Economic growth is expected to continue to be sluggish because the labor force is growing at a slower rate. Population growth is the key driver for consumer spending, housing demand, and household formation

Bottom line is, according to this article: poor economy is propelling many of us millennials to delay or opt out of having our own families.

So what exactly is going on here fellow Generation Y’ers? Are we really too poor, too down and out, too financially strapped to venture out and begin our own households? The more I considered this article the more convinced I became that the economy is just a small little piece of the “millennials aren’t reproducing” pie. We need a generational attitude shift.

I’m going to take you back to early1960 when a young couple decided to get married. Having emigrated to Canada with their respective families as children in 1950, they left behind a war-ravaged European country that had no jobs, little food, and scarce opportunities. With little more than the clothes on their backs and a few pieces of luggage, their families made the long passage across an ocean landing  on the east coast at Halifax. From there, a long train ride took them into southern Ontario. These large double-digit families rented small farmhouses built for six and worked on other Canadian farmers’ fields to make a living. Everyone, fathers, mothers, teenagers and young children pitched in.

The Dutch farming community of southern Ontario was fairly close-knit and that’s how this young couple met and fell in love. Barely past their teenage years, they got married and started their own household in much the same manner their parents did: renting and working on other people’s farms. Up until the day they got married, that young man gave his paycheque to his parents. The couple soon welcomed their first child and were thrown into parenthood in living conditions that involved outdoor bathroom facilities.

Year by year and four children later, they worked their tails off and gradually carved out a nice living for themselves. He went to night school and became a technician at a booming car plant and she became a self-employed cleaner when she wasn’t raising children. Fifty-two years later, they are retired and live in the third home they’ve owned, spend their winters in Florida, and play golf in the summer. These people were my grandparents, and they kick butt.

Considering their story, and thousands of other stories from grandparents just like them, the “we are too poor to have children” dilemma just doesn’t add up in this millennial’s mind. Are we actually too poor to have children? No. We think we are. And there’s a lot of other self-interests we want to pursue before we have them. The economy is a just handy excuse to use when you need to keep a grandchild-craving in-law at bay.

We were raised in a culture that promotes the pursuit of personal ambition. We were raised thinking things like televisions, video-games, cell phones, and iPods ranked right up there with water, food, and shelter on the list of life’s essentials. Have a family before you own your home? Shocking! Move out of mom and dad’s place before you have your own high def TV? Oh the humanity! Get married before I’m a senior manager and have a pension set? Stop! You’re killing me! These thoughts cause heart palpitations to millennials.

How can a generation who was raised with everything, be motivated to start out with less than their parents? Though our grandparents and parents had every best intention at heart in wanting to give us more than they had as children, something has become lost on us. Something to do with hard work, sweat, tears, patience, making something out of nothing, and a willingness to roll up our sleeves has become lost on the millennial generation. We want success, we want wealth, and we want it now. Children, families, and “settling down” have to take a backseat until we feel we have it all together.

Of course I am generalizing, of course there are exceptions. But take a good hard look at the 20-somethings in your life and I think you will find some truth to what I’m saying. Is it wrong to pursue a career? Is it wrong to want it all together before we start our own households and have children? Maybe not. But let’s call it for what it is.

No, we are not too poor to have children. My grandparents were too poor to have children, my parents didn’t “have it all” to have children, but they had children anyway.

Thoughts welcomed. Was I too harsh on my generation? Are we too poor to have kids?

Young and Impulsive Once

About two months ago Howie and I decided we should go on a vacation. My plot to have Howie catch the travel bug via our honeymoon in August was an overwhelming success. He now dreams wildly about all sorts of places he’d like to go such as China, Japan, Australia, more Europe, and down South. (I still haven’t been able to convince him we should go to Africa quite yet but all that’s all in good time my dears, all in good time).

Since we are trying to be somewhat responsible with money we decided that a big trans-oceanic, multi-thousand trip would be out of the picture. So Europe, Australia, Asia… you’ll have to wait a little longer for Mr. and Mrs. Martin to make their debut. Instead, we decided we’d head down south, where many fellow Canadians go to escape the grasp of Jack Frost. Now that we knew which direction we were headed, we had to decide where and how. All-inclusive? Cruising? Caribbean? Islands? Mexico? Cuba? So many choices.

(Driving home from work one weeknight)

Howie: We need to make a decision. What are we going to do?

Cheryl: I'm open to pretty much anything. If I had to choose, I'd
like to go somewhere that has some history to it. Not just beach.

Howie: I agree. Plus, I hate being hot.

Cheryl: Well... if we are going down south it's going to be hot.

Howie: I know I just mean I hate roasting on a beach all day I
want to see something.

Cheryl: Ok well did you like the cruises we were looking at?

Howie: You know I'd love to go on a cruise. But they were a
little over our budget don't you think?

Cheryl: Yeah.... I mean, if we wanted to stay in budget we should
just go to an all-inclusive. With cruises you always get that
awful bill at the end for all the alcohol and excursions you had.

Howie: You mean all the alcohol YOU had.

Cheryl: Yes, yes whatever. It's all just every expensive.

Howie: Yah, I know. But I just love cruises.

Cheryl: Me too.

(Pause)

Cheryl: Should we just book it?

Howie: We could. I mean, it will only make us like $1,000 over-
budget and really, what's $1,000 over the span of a lifetime?

Cheryl: Not much really.

Howie: Exactly.

Cheryl: Plus, when we are old and dying, do we want to say,
"Oh boy. I was able to pay off school loans about 1 year earlier
because I didn't travel that April in 2012." Or, do we want to
be able to say, "That was a kick-a** vacation we took in April
2012! Thank goodness we went on that! And look, our student loans
have been paid off for decades even though we still went on that
vacation!"

Howie: We definitely want to be able to say the second thing.
Plus,"And look, Howie still has a full head of hair!"

Cheryl: Yah, and if we don't go now, it will be harder and harder
to go away once we start having kids and stuff. 

Howie: Yah, I mean, I can barely leave Monica at her groomers, how
would I be able to leave kids for weeks?

Cheryl: Well I still want to vacation after we have kids Howie.
But anyways, let's just do it!

Howie: Yah we're young. It's not like we don't have time to
recover from the cost of this trip.

Cheryl: Yah, if we don't do impulsive things now, we can't be as
reckless once we get older.

We had come to such a high place of freedom and “live-life now” that we had convinced each other within a matter of seconds we should just splurge and go for the cruise. Then a few days later at a wedding, we started talking to some friends that were planning on vacationing at the exact same time we were planning to vacation. Coincidence?

They were planning on an all-inclusive. Something within our original budget.

They were planning to go with another couple, did we want to join?

We decided that this had to be a sign. A way to go on a vacation within a budget, have an awesome time with other couples, and still see some amazing historical landmarks by choosing a country with some history. And so, after a little back and forth the six of us decided that the Mayan Riviera was the place for us! An adults-only, all-inclusive, ancient Mayan ruin adjacent, paradise of a vacation awaits us!

Now…. I have about six weeks to get my body in bikini condition. Ay ca rumba!

The Name Change

Oh the name change. How you plague my feminist tendencies.

To change or not to change? That is a serious question that millennial women find themselves asking as the wedding day draws nearer and nearer. For many, it actually isn’t a question, it’s just done. No questions asked. For others (like me) it’s a pickle.

Current Status: Name is not changed, but I don’t mind or correct people if they call me “Mrs. Martin.” Am possibly considering adding his last name to my name eventually when we have kids.

Before marriage, I personally had no intention changing my name whatsoever. The whole origins of why women changed their names in the first place was distasteful to me. Historically, it was a patriarchal-based practise that indicated the woman was no longer her father’s “property” but her husband’s. And YES (Howie) I KNOW that’s not what it means to the majority of people now but the whole basis of the practise kind of irks me to be honest.

Why me? Why the girl? Why is it the girl that has to change her name? Why NOT the men? (Howie, stop laughing, it’s a serious question).

I get that it makes things more simple, that it unites a household family under one name, that “two become one” and the children won’t “wonder why mommy has a different name.” And for women with particularly unfortunately last names like Crapo or Kuntz (true story) it makes an excellent escape.

I get that it may make logical sense but what about practical sense? I don’t really feel like spending hours in government queues re-issuing documents. I don’t want to pay fees, process paperwork and take time off of work to do these things because these places are only open when everyone works. And, I’m sorry – but I am one of the very few millennials that still have that awesome never-expires red health card and I personally don’t feel like giving that up right now.

But if you shed away all the practical (in my opinion) reasons of keeping a name, I think the sentimental reasons are what’s really compelling me to remain a Duivesteyn right now. I don’t want to lose that piece of my Dutch heritage, I actually love correcting non-Dutchies on the pronunciation of my name. I would miss chuckling at their feeble attempts – the “DOO-VEN-STINES” (sorry there’s no “n” in the middle) the “DWEE-VEE-STEEN” (nice try) oh how I would miss the predictable conversation of “Where IS that name from?” “Oh it’s Dutch actually!” “How cool!”

I grew up Cheryl Duivesteyn, not Martin. I am 5’10” and blonde and look like a Duivesteyn (not a Martin). I went to school as a Duivesteyn, played basketball as a Duivesteyn and when I made friends they were friends with Cheryl Duivesteyn. My report cards, MVP award, and jerseys all say Duivesteyn. I became an independent young Ms. Duivesteyn, earned two university degrees that say Cheryl Duivesteyn, travelled the world and grew up and fell in love with Howie Martin as a Duivesteyn.

I am stoked for my new life as a wife to Mr. H. B. Martin but I don’t think I’m quite ready to say goodbye to Cheryl Duivesteyn. Perhaps I’ll change my mind someday but for now the question is on hiatus.

I don’t think there is a right or wrong last name for women. I think the whole point of women’s liberation was that we actually have a choice now. I think my grandma may have considered remaining a DeKoker because she did not grow up a Duivesteyn. But then again, maybe she wouldn’t have, but at least there would have been a choice.

Cheers ladies, to names, to choices, to us.

Thoughts on name changing?

Oversized Novelty Popcorn Machines

This post is brought to you by the Wedding Reflections series: offering the benefit of hindsight to current brides and grooms.

One thing my mom told me that is entirely different about wedding planning from her day, is the commonality of wedding registries. Apparently in the 80s wedding registries were something that only the really well-off girls did, now, it’s weird NOT to have one.

The whole purpose of a registry is provide guests with gift options that the bride and groom truly desire. Here are some quick etiquette guidelines when it comes to wedding registries:

  • Never, under any circumstances, should you print where you are registered in the wedding invitations. It is up to the guests to find out via word of mouth (asking mothers, asking bridal party)
  • On shower invitations it is fine to print where the bride is registered
  • It is perfectly acceptable for guests to purchase a gift outside of the registry

But besides providing guests with gift options, I truly believe that the wedding registry process serves another important function, it allows the bride and groom to start visualizing  the everyday items that will soon make up their married lives. Unfortunately in mine and Howie’s case, it also opened the doors to the epic, Oversized-Novelty-Popcorn-Machine battle. Before reading further on, there are two additional things you need to know about Howie:

  1. He hates shopping
  2. He especially hates shopping if hockey sticks, Xbox games, or track pants aren’t involved.

And so the incident began, as we enter Home Outfitters to select our items:

Howie: Hey wait a minute Cheryl, you said I could hold the laser gun. That was my one condition when I agreed to be helpful…

Cheryl: It’s not that big of a deal Howie. Who cares who gets to hold it?

Howie: Ok well if you don’t care let me hold it.

(Pause)

Cheryl: Ok fine. But please don’t register for anything stupid.

Howie: I am insulted! Why would you think I would register for something stupid?

Cheryl: Anyways, let’s start in the kitchen area. Do you like these plates?

Howie: Sure.

Cheryl: “Sure” isn’t a real opinion, do you actually like them?

Howie: Yah they’re fine, I think they’re…WHAT THE? $100 for four plates?! That is ridiculous! We could buy plates at the dollar store!

Cheryl: Howe! We are not the ones buying these plates, people will be buying them for us. And it’s not just four plates, it’s four place settings with bowls, mugs and little plates. And please don’t suggest we should buy our marital plates from a dollar store!

Howie: Well you asked for my opinion and I think they’re too expensive.

Cheryl: Just laser them.

(BEEP! Plates are registered)

(Several minutes pass as we register various kitchen supplies, until…)

Howie: OOOOO! Cheryl! Check this out!

Cheryl: What is that?

Howie: It’s a popcorn machine! It’s so cool!

Cheryl: Howie we don’t need a popcorn machine.

Howie: Come ON Cheryl this thing is sweet! It’s like one of those old-fashioned carts! It would look great in my man-cave!

Cheryl: Man-cave? Where are you planning on having a man-cave? We are moving into a two bedroom apartment. Man-caves are for older married men who who want to escape their wives! Why would you want that?

Howie: (Pause) I still have to have my man-cave! We need to register for this!

Cheryl: No Howie! It’s two hundred dollars! If people are going to buy us a big gift I’d rather they buy us things we need! Like plates! Plus, I know exactly what would happen with this. You would use it once, all the kernels and butter will be a huge pain to clean up, then you would keep it in a corner and never use it again.

Howie: Cheryl this is so unfair. This whole day we’ve been registering for things YOU want, and I just want this one awesome popcorn machine for my man-cave and you refuse!

Cheryl: I don’t understand where you think we have room for a man-cave let alone this ridiculous oversized popcorn machine. Plus, all these things we are registering for are not for me, it’s for us! How would we be able to eat and make food without plates, utensils, pots and pans? You think that stuff is for me?!

Howie: I see how this works Cheryl.

Cheryl: Howie, seriously. Look at this thing. It’s massive. If you really want a popcorn machine can’t you just register for this little one?

Howie: That’s not man-cave material Cheryl. Let’s move on. I can tell when my ideas don’t matter.

Cheryl: (Sigh)

(End scene)

Since that time, Howie has admitted to me that he never really wanted the oversized novelty popcorn machine, it was just a matter of principle. Also, I have since gone to the grocery store, bought a whole bunch of kernels intending to microwave them in a brown bag (the Dutch version of microwave popcorn) only to realize that our condo didn’t come with a microwave and I now could really use a popcorn machine.

Modern Wife Guide to Wedding Registries:

1. Ensure future hubby understands registries benefit BOTH of you.
2. Decide who gets to hold the laser gun before you get to the store.
3. Pick one stupid item to make him happy but make sure no one actually buys it.
4. Lose the guy. I went with my sister-in-law for round two and had much more fun.
5. Consider registering for an oversized-novelty-popcorn-machine. You never know when it may come in handy.
6. Double check your apartment has a microwave before buying microwave popcorn.

Any other registry-related “lessons learned” we can add to that list?

New Year’s Miracle

I hate being one of those bloggers who has to start things with a “sorry I haven’t posted in forever” but that’s what I’m going to have to do here. You see, while most people have spent the last week either enjoying the last few days of vacation or going back to regular life, taking down the Christmas tree and signing up for gym memberships they will quit in one month, Howie and I just overcame the worst week of our married life thus far, Monica’s life was in jeopardy.

Monica trying to fight hepatitis at the animal hospital

In a nutshell, this is what happened:

  • Dec. 30: Monica threw up. No big deal
  • Dec. 31 & Jan. 1: Monica seemed perfectly normal
  • Jan. 2: Monica couldn’t keep anything down and started looking very lethargic. We realized this wasn’t just something she ate.
  • Jan. 3: Took Monica to the vet. He suspected it may be a severe case of pancreatitus, we got her blood tested.
  • Jan. 4: Vet called early morning, was surprised to tell us it’s not the pancreas, it’s her liver. We took her in for an x-ray and the vet discovered her liver is too small, that’s why she is extremely nauseous and unwell. She has hepatitis. Monica was taken to the back where she was put on IV fluids and antibiotics. She would need to eat some food and keep it down the next day as a sign her liver would improve. If she looked no better, her liver was shot, and we’d need to prepare to put her down. Vet told us her chances of making it through were less than 50%.
  • Jan. 5: Monica appeared no better in the morning. She had eaten some food, but only time would tell if she would keep it down. After many tears, hours cuddling her in a dog pen, and lots of prayer, Monica appeared to be getting better. By the evening, we were able to take her home. $1300 dollars later, we were overjoyed to have our little buddy back. Her liver issue will be managed through meds and supplements.

Phew!

We were so not prepared for this. How could a seemingly healthy six-year-old dog go from perfectly normal to at death’s door in just a matter of days? We will never know exactly why or how her liver is small, but now that we know we can help prevent an episode like this week from occurring again.

It is incredible how much two people can be in love with thirteen pounds of a little scruffy dog. What is it about loving a dog that brings so much joy to life? The mere acknowledgement that we needed to prepare ourselves to make that awful decision of letting her go brought on such a terrible feeling of pain in our hearts that we weren’t sure how we could go through with it. But when all is said and done, part of loving a dog is needing to be able to say good-bye, even when we don’t want to.

For us, Monica is more than just a pet, she’s become the third member of our family. The only thing she desires in the world is our love and affection, and no matter what kind of day we’ve had she’s always there waiting for us to get home. After close to five years of being bred for puppies, her “retired” life with us was a new and exciting chapter, we didn’t want to have to say goodbye so soon.

The Wednesday morning after the vet called with the bad news about her liver, I flopped back in bed and started crying, a lot. Though Monica was in an ultimate stage of pain, nausea and lethargy, she mustered up the most strength we’d seen in days to crawl over Howie, sit by my side, and place a little paw on my arm as a I bawled my eyes out. I love that dog.

The thought of her sitting alone in a strange animal hospital stall, frightened and sick while receiving treatment was a situation we wanted to mitigate as much as possible. So, call me crazy (and I’m sure the vet staff did), but I spent the greater part of two days curled up in her stall, along the other rows of dogs, just keeping her company, hoping she’ll get better.

When the first signs of recovery started to surface on Thursday, we were cautiously ecstatic. When the vet told us we would be able to take her home, the worst was over, we were jubilant. Thursday night was either going to be one of the worst nights, or one of the best. We were so thankful it was the latter.

Going through this taught Howie and I a lot of things about marriage, pain, tough decisions, and getting through hard times. Every single couple in the world is going to have these times, many problems far worse than a sick pet. But ultimately, it’s how you handle the “downs” in life as a couple that can either break or make your relationship. Here’s what we learned about dealing with the low times:

1) Take turns being the “strong one.” It’s not fair if one person always, all the time, without fail, has to pull it together for the other. Every human being needs space to be weak and break down. Howie and I found that we pretty much alternated between breaking down individually, and then comforting the other one. It’s a roller coaster, but taking turns being the “strong one” lessens the burden on the both of you.

2) Recognize your differences. Each person is going to have their own way, and possible multiple ways of dealing with a major low time. For Howie at times, this took the form of incredulous anger toward the state of pet healthcare costs. Other times, it was silence. For me, I ranged from tears to a disparate attempt to rationalize the situation and talk about every minute detail that indicated a possible positive outcome. Don’t judge or become frustrated with the way your partner deals with emotions. Just recognize that all of these outlets point back to the same pain you each feel.

3) Agree on what’s important. Four weeks ago Howie was insistent that we didn’t have a spare $200 to spend on a used washing machine. This week, we somehow managed to find room (on credit cards) to fork out $1,300 in vet bills. For some people, maybe that would be way too much to attempt to keep a dog alive. To us, it was worth giving up a few other planned allocations of that money in order to keep her around. As a couple, we decided what was important to us and used our resources accordingly.

4) Don’t underestimate the power of prayer. One of the first things I did when we found out the situation was dire, was logging onto facebook and spreading the word that we needed prayer, and lots of it. For two days, at various points in time, we found ourselves praying at home, in our car, at the vet’s, and huddle on the floor of an animal hospital stall. We felt the support of friends and family as they held us in prayer as well. God is not a genie, but he hears prayer. And whatever the outcome may be he provides the strength to get through it.

So in conclusion, apologies for the lack of pure comic relief in this first post of 2012. I promise that the next one will provide much more cause for laughter. In spite of this, my wish is that our little New Year’s miracle story has brought a sense of hope, inspiration and anticipation for good things yet to come in 2012. Miracles happen everyday.

A Right Way to Fight

One of the other keys to a successful marriage (in addition to girls nights, a talking dog, and overlooking feigned incompetence) is learning to fight fair.

Little Jimmy: “Fighting? How can fighting be a key to a successful relationship Mrs. Martin? If couples are truly in love they will never fight!”

Me: “Ohh… little Jimmy. You have much to learn. Couples who never fight are not only annoying, but they can’t truly know or love each other. Because when you truly know someone, you will always find at least one thing that makes you want to poke your own eyes out.”

Now before you get the wrong idea, let me clarify that so far Howie and I are quite happy and have just fleeting instances of the eye-poking urge. At this point I think it’s prudent to share that even though we’ve been married for just four months, we’ve been in a relationship with each other for over nine years. NINE YEARS. So my advice comes not as a young, ignorant newlywed, but as a person who has loved a person for nine years. And in nine years, you learn a lot about fighting fair. (Because at first, you do the opposite)

And so, for your romantic-relational education, here is the:

Modern Wife Guide to the Worst Fighting Strategies and How to Avoid Them

1) “Well at least I’m not a drug-addict who runs a brothel!” Don’t be irrelevant. Sometimes when you feel your parter is being particularly rough or critical with you it’s really easy to just throw out these irrelevant one-liners. “At least I don’t watch football all day.” “At least I’m not as bad as Mary’s husband.” “At least I don’t toot when other people are around.” The problem with these phrases is that it completely ignores the issue between you and your mate and adds a whole new level of adolescence into the conversation. Your partner should not necessarily have to put up with some poor behaviour because there are worse things he or she could do. I find that the best way to avoid these kinds of fights is to talk about what the real issue is, in a non-nagging way. Pick the right time to bring up issues with your partner so that they are in a mood to conquer an issue, not put up defences.

2) “You are just like your father!” Never compare to family in a fight. This is one of the worst things you could ever say to your partner in a fight. “You’re just like your mother!” “You’re just like your sister!” “You’re just like your incarcerated uncle!” It’s a low blow, and the sting of that kind of insult remains even after the fight may be over. Not only are you insulting your partner, but you’re insulting their family. And 9 times out of 10, people are way less forgiving when it comes to family. My piece of advice is simple, just don’t do this. Ever. The teensy amount of satisfaction it will bring in the heat of the moment is not worth the damage it causes to your partner.

3) “My day sucks. Why can’t you load the dishwasher right?” Don’t take life out on each other. It is way too easy to take out bad days on the people you are supposed to love most. Ideally, we should be coming to our partners for love, comfort, and reassurance, but it’s incredibly hard for our partners to give us these things when we are acting like angry, nit-picking gremlins. When work is draining, when friends aren’t treating you right, when your pants seem to be getting smaller and smaller, it can be easier to blow of your steam on your spouse than to talk about what’s really bothering you. Sometimes you need space, and if you know you’re going to act like brat just ask for some space (nicely) instead of taking it out on them. Then, make the effort to talk about how you feel when you’re calm, the love and comfort you receive from that is worth the effort.

4) “I wrapped all the presents so you should take out the dog.” Don’t score-keep. One of the biggest killers of romance has got to be routine. The daily responsibility of jointly running a home and managing life can be stressful on a couple and it’s tempting to keep track of who does what and then using it as ammo you’re feeling less inclined to do something. Score-keeping is a nasty, nasty little game that ultimately no one ends up winning. It creates a sense of angst where two people in love start doing things to build up credit against each other instead of doing things out of love and support. Echoing the advice of Uncle Sam, I find that when you ask yourself what you can do for your partner, instead of what your partner can do for you, both people end up doing a lot more for each other.

5) “You never listen and you always think you’re right.” Avoid absolutes. This is a very little thing, but avoiding absolutes can diffuse a fight in ways you can’t even imagine. As soon as someone hears you saying that they always or never do something, it’s easy to tune you out because they are immediately turned off by that exaggeration. Consider the following two ways I could tell you it’s irritating when you leave wet towels in the hamper: A) “You ALWAYS leave your wet towels in the hamper! How come you NEVER listen when I ask you to hang them up?!” or B) “Babe, it’s frustrating when you leave your wet towels in the hamper. Can you hang them up so our clothes don’t get soggy?” Of the two options, I think B) would be a lot more effective at resolving the wet towel issue without making your partner feel like a doofus.

Finally, I want to leave you with this mental picture of resolving issues that our pastor shared with us in pre-marital counselling. Instead of allowing the Problem to wedge itself between you two and create two opposing sides, imagine yourselves on the same team, Problem on the other side, and the two of you working together to conquer the Problem.

The knife is excessive but you get the idea

Which fighting pitfalls do you find most difficult to avoid?