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I’ll just be honest. I don’t like having a broken foot. I don’t like spending most of my day on our futon. The futon isn’t that cozy. And my “to-do” list is growing.

I don’t like watching my husband do a good share of the cooking, cleaning and laundry. I know that might sound silly, but I am definitely ready to jump back into having a mobile life again. I want my freedom back. For three weeks I’ve been unable to carry anything and unable to drive and there’s barely one position that works comfortably well for sleeping these days.

I know that sounds like a lot of complaining. The truth is there’s nothing to really complain about. I know this is temporary. It’s obviously not in the top 10 of medical issues that deserve extreme sympathy. Not even close. And I’ve got a great husband who is taking good care of me. As I write, he’s downstairs doing the dishes. How can I complain?

I’ve had my moments of frustration and even self-pity. My to-do list grows and the house is a little dusty, but I’ve also felt new compassion for people who have truly long-term health challenges. That is one of the gifts in this season of inconvenience. Sure the scooter was sort of fun, until I experienced the awkwardness of it running out of juice in the middle of a busy aisle at Costco. And then came the looks of pity from passers-by. I have been humbled to ask for help when there was no other way. 

There have been other unexpected discoveries. I’ve seen how just hobbling around in a boot with crutches seems to break barriers. Perhaps it comes from being in an obvious place of vulnerability. All sorts of people have opened up conversations with me that I’m quite sure never would have otherwise.

People have gone out of their way to open doors, offered to help, given advice from personal experience with broken bones and extended encouragement. Total strangers have smiled and wished me well.

On the way home from the doctor, we got into long discussions with couples who sat next to us when we stopped for lunch. I think it ended up being a timely encouragement for all of us. Last week two women stopped me at Target, asking if they could pray for me. What a sweet gift. At the Ordway, two women shared a bunch of their life story with me while Brent went to get the car. When he picked me up, he was amazed at all I had learned in a mere 15 minutes. I love to hear people’s stories and am reminded to pray for them as they come to mind.

We know that God has purpose in this latest adventure he has us on, so we’re doing our best to sit up and take notice. We’re praying that the inconvenience, the extra sense of weariness we feel at the end of the night, and the momentary frustrations don’t get in the way of all he wants to show us. We don’t want to miss a thing. 

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I don’t imagine we’ve been married long enough to suppose we can offer too much in the way of marital advice. But one thing we’ve experienced in our short time together as man and wife is that while challenges and trials can put great pressure on a relationship, they can also deepen and cement it. Right from the start this was evident for us.

While we were dating, I ended up needing a biopsy. I was scared, but not having dated all that long I had no idea how Brent would react. I was amazed at his response. He assured me that he’d be there no matter what the outcome was. He even sought out the advice of a female friend, wanting to understand what I might be going through from a woman’s point of view. Thankfully, the outcome was good, but we knew a bit more about what each other was made of.

Not long after we were married, we found ourselves facing considerable home expenses that were completely out of our control. The economy, the timing our our wedding, having to sell one of our homes and unexpected home repairs all came together at the same time. Quickly, we learned even more about one another. Yes, it was stressful for both of us. At one time or another, each of us struggled with it. But I was grateful that more often than not, Brent’s response was something like, “Well, God’s in control. He owns it all anyway. He must have a purpose. He’ll see us through.”

Through every challenge you learn more. You learn when and how to communicate. On a lighter note, just this week I realized I had adjusted my method of communicating impending traffic dangers during our busy morning commute. In the beginning, I typically let out a loud gasp while pressing that pseudo passenger-side brake. Unfortunately, that only alarmed Brent and was not helpful. I see now that I’ve adjusted my communication to a gentle side-to-side wave. (It’s sometimes still accompanied by braking.) This is much less alarming, seems to work fairly well and gets a chuckle or two from Brent.

My prince in shining armor

This week we’ve entered a whole new lesson platform. After a major miscommunication with the stairway, I ended up with a fairly severe fractured foot. This will mean six or more weeks of being dramatically to roughly incapacitated. And that means Brent is making dinners, cleaning, doing laundry, driving and more. That might sound like a dream for some, but being someone like me who always has a long list and has a hard time even sitting through one TV show without getting up to clean something, this will be an immense challenge. I’m in pain, impatient with the healing process already and poor Brent is fetching me everything from Tylenol to meals to ice packs. Tell me we won’t learn a thing or two in the coming weeks! We could use your prayers.

We’ve been reading a lot about the sovereignty of God lately. That’s probably not a coincidence in itself. We’re trusting that this current little “blurp” in our plans has his fingerprints all over it. It’s a pain. I’ve complained already and it’s annoying. But we’ve also begun to see him unfold some opportunities we’d never have had outside of these current circumstances. And so we hobble along and pray for his grace to see and embrace these unexpected opportunities.

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Class of '81 30 Year Reunion

The weekend before last I had the opportunity to attend my 30th high school reunion. Wow! 30 years! Some memories seem like yesterday and yet I needed to rely on my classmates to fill in some blanks. This was only the third reunion I’ve attended, previously attending the 10 and 20 year ones. I enjoyed this one, even though it was only several hours long.

I really had to rely on name tags to make sure I knew who was coming through the door especially for the guys. There are a few who look amazingly close to how they looked in high school. And for the guys this usually means they still have their hair and didn’t put too many pounds on. For the rest of the guys we either fell into one of two camps: not much hair  or a lot of gray. On the other hand, I thought the ladies were generally easier to identify. It’s funny because unless you still have friends from high school that you see often, your memory play tricks on you because your memory is based on how everyone looked 30 years ago. The ladies still made all of the guys look good in the Facebook photos.

Locker buddies! Sievertson and Severson

Here’s why I enjoyed this reunion so much. Since the 20 year reunion, Facebook has helped many classmates reconnect on the web. I’ve learned how to create my own Google + like circles using Facebook lists, so it’s easy to filter a news feed of friends by category. Say what you want about Facebook, but the interesting thing about the news feed from my high school friends list is that I can sort of “see” what everybody my age is doing. One unique characteristic of your high school class is that everyone is within a year or so of each other. So you sort of experience the vagaries of life roughly at the same clip. The social networks have made it a little easier to see how your classmates are faring with kids, aging parents, careers and marriage.

Interestingly, depending on when people got married, the range of kids goes from about 10 or 11 to 25-27. Many have kids in the middle somewhere or they’re struggling to watch their children leave the house and go off to college. That reality seemed especially hard on several of the ladies that I talked to. Raising kids has been the main preoccupation for the majority of folks (myself not included, which is likely why I still have hair.)

Careers was another interesting subject. At the age of 47-48, the majority of us are all hitting our groove in terms of our jobs. We’re in that sweet spot where we’ve had a couple of decades of experience in our professions or businesses. There’s a feeling of being in charge of where we want to work and what we want to do. Most of us are earning pretty good money and we all looked pretty good too!

I was impressed with my classmates and genuinely happy for their accomplishments. I sensed a very real contentment with life overall. Contentment with spouses, kids, choices and jobs. Everyone looked in pretty decent health and there was lots of laughter. My prayer for them is that the next 10 years God continues to shine blessings on them as he has over the last 30 years. The next milestone reunion will be the year 2021 and we will be 57-58 years old and staring at our own retirement.

I was telling my dad about the reunion and he confirmed that he had a similar experience at his 30 year reunion. And then he said something interesting to me. He said in the next 10 years most of everyone’s kids will be grown up and gone out of the house, and this fact will likely prove to be a great test for those who are married. He reminded me that the rest of American society has demonstrated that after the kids leave the house a lot of marriages have trouble and break down. Once the kids are no longer the central focus of the marriage, it seems folks take a look at who’s sleeping next to them and ask, “who are you?”

I hope my class finds a way to beat the odds set by the generations before us. We are the very tail end of the baby boomer generation that was from 1946 to 1964 (inclusive of the last year.) My class was born primarily in 1963. During our lifetimes, the country has undergone major social changes. I’m old enough to remember asking my father to explain the Vietnam War to me even though I was only 6 or 7 and it didn’t end until I was almost 12 in 1975. My class graduated from high school in 1981 as Ronald Reagan had won the presidency in a landslide the year before. In those years which extended into our college years, we witnessed the birth of the proponents of social change to the more conservative, and now back again. We have witnessed (as children) and to some extent we have defined (as adults) the social divide that exists in the country today. There are still fantastic challenges to conquer and adventures to experience in the next decade to be sure!

To the Lincoln High School Class of ’81: Thanks for nice evening of memories. I look forward to keeping in touch with many of you on Facebook. Keep going guys, there’s more greatness in store for us to come!

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Yours truly at Macy's - comfy furniture & HDTV

So this might not be news to most of you married guys out there, but I discovered something interesting this weekend while shopping with Lisa. There are mini-man caves scattered throughout department stores with couches and HD TVs tuned to CNN and other channels. Many of them are located at or near women’s dressing rooms and some are just located in the middle of the store underneath escalators. The guys congregated there were talking sports (NCAA was this weekend’s topic of course) and others were simply catching up on sleep. This is new to me because obviously before getting married, I never had a reason to go into the ladies’ section.

A guy sleeping at Herberger's

Lisa and I just celebrated our second anniversary at the end of January. And if you follow this blog, you know that we try to weave in some of our story about what it’s like to get married late in life and bring two full houses together under one roof. Last year was about slimming down our total possessions to something manageable within 1,350 square feet while building up our savings nest egg for a move to a slightly larger house.

A year later, we’re doing well with the space we’ve got. We’ve worked hard to take out two things for every new thing that comes in the door. Recently however, the long winter has forced us into the local malls the last couple of weeks; we are anxious to buy new spring clothes as we anticipate a late Easter at the end of April. This was really the first opportunity where I went along with Lisa as she shopped for accessories, shoes and a cardigan to go with her new spring dress.

The incentive for me to go along was that I needed to get out of the house as much as Lisa. I had already purchased a couple new shirts online and my stuff was delivered to the front door via FedEx, so I wasn’t shopping. I was tempted to stay home and watch basketball, but the need to get out was too great. So off we went.

I noticed a trend in the stores. The higher end department stores had comfier couches, better TVs and more seating and not quite as many guys. The lower end stores had more guys, less seating and limits to the available channels. I also noticed that there were definite age groups represented depending on the store. The more expensive stores had a younger average age and the lower end department stores had a lot more retired guys.

Guys hanging out under the escalators - like a hobo camp!

My conclusion? These stores are missing out on a huge opportunity to market to a captive audience. If the stores dedicated more square footage, provided a few amenities, food, drinks and a more manly environment then shopping with the Mrs would be a much more attractive option. I’m thinking pool tables, Comcast Sports packages, chips, pretzels, and computers for surfing CBSSports.com to see how picks and brackets are doing. What would be even better would be if the store could have a bag of socks, t-shirts and underwear bagged up for me while I relaxed, I could just take my stuff with me while my wife perused the aisles on foot.

In fact, we guys could support each other when asked which outfit looked better. We’ve all been there. “Honey, do these earrings and necklace go with this outfit?”

This is the critical moment that all men fear because you think it’s a trick question and you’ve probably screwed up in the past. There can be no hesitation in the answer or you’ll be at the store for another hour. The truth and a confident answer is what is required. “Wow dear! You make both of those necklaces look hot! I really like the one on the left (or right).” You pick your favorite one, that’s really all that’s needed at this point. Don’t overcomplicate it guys. And for a nice touch, take out your iPhone and have her model them. When she asks why, tell her the truth, it’s because you need a nice reminder of her with her new necklace, dress, sweater or whatever it is later in the week. Then put a reminder on your phone to ask her what day she’s going to wear the new whatever it is. That way she’ll know you were paying attention. It only takes a couple of minutes, but she’ll appreciate you later for the thought.

In the meantime, enjoy company of the other guys at the make-shift man caves.

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Man and Wife!

Our anniversary celebration began with jazz on the way to Jax Café. How fitting that the radio station was airing a special on Frank Sinatra, but even more fun was the fact that just as we were to get out of the car, we recognized the first few notes of  “The Best is Yet to Come.” You see, this was the recessional that led us back down the aisle moments after being pronounced man and wife two years ago. We sang along and thought, “How clever of God to start the evening off with our song!” It felt like he was joining us for the celebration.

Jax has become our special spot since getting married there. We love the nostalgia of the place, the memories it holds and we love the food. I could do a review of Jax, but that somehow seems rather redundant. This northeast Minneapolis piece of history has been around for over 75 years – with good reason. The atmosphere is like stepping back into the 40s. The décor, the music and the attentiveness of the staff all speak of another era. In a nutshell, you’re likely to hear Dean Martin, Sinatra or Bennett as you walk in the door, you’ll be greeted like you’re a regular, and then you may want to order the best steak in town.

Just to whet your appetite: Brent and I enjoyed the calamari appetizer, he had the prime rib, I had rib eye and we shared the Bailey’s banana cake. Absolutely marvelous is all I can say, but then again we’ve never been disappointed in anything at Jax. Every detail of our wedding had been handled above expectation and every event we’ve celebrated there since has been no different.

Photographer? I think not.

Oh … perhaps you’re wondering how Bono fits into the evening? Well he probably doesn’t, or does he? As we were leaving Jax, I shot a photo of Brent in the entryway. He looked so cute and appropriately stylish in his fedora. Just then someone who looked amazingly like Bono reached out, graciously offering to take our photo. It actually startled me and I told him so. He said people often mistake him for the rock star. He claimed he was a photographer, not Bono, but if you take a look at the photo he shot you’ll highly question that. Wouldn’t it be just like Bono to offer to take our photo? Hmmmmm….

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Our other wedding tunes:
All I Need is the Girl, Frank Sinatra
Holy Spirit Come, Rita Springer
You & I, Michael Bublé
A Page is Turned, Bebo Norman

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Well, I should have known it might come to this. Considering our current interests, Brent and I could have joined a biking club, maybe taken some cooking classes or an art class, possibly learned Hebrew. But my husband is pleading with me for us to get involved in the Minnesota Mycological Society. Yep. Mushrooms. Don’t get me wrong, I love mushrooms. I’m glad he does too. But of all the variety of clubs we could choose from, he wants us to join one that makes you sign a death waiver. That’s right. Specifically, it states:

“I (We) realize that when engaged in wild mushroom activities, that serious physical injury and personal property damage may accidentally occur. I (We) further realize that there is always the possibility of having an allergic reaction to or being poisoned by the eating of wild mushrooms and that these adverse reactions to eating wild mushrooms range from mild indigestion to fatal illness.”

You can wear a helmet while biking because there is a chance you might wipe out. I suppose you could burn your finger while cooking. I’ve even been known to cut myself with one of those Cutco knives. And who’s ever heard of serious injuries taking place in an art class? But we’re talking about “fatal” illness. Do we have to pick the hobby that makes you sign a waiver warning of fatal illness?

Brent in Senegal

I should have known. I married a man who spent two years in the Peace Corp – specifically Senegal, living in a hut, eating with his hands and fighting off poisonous snakes. So, that means when he comes home with a seven pound mushroom he dug up in the woods down the street, he’s going to react a little differently to the idea of making it into dinner than I do. (See photos in our 9/26/10 post.)

Kalli at Our Wedding

I should have known. My friend’s young daughter, Kalli, put it quite simply at our wedding reception. She turned to me after Brent finished singing an Elvis tune with the band and said, “Well, I can see you’re not going to be bored.” And she was right.

Brent Sings at Our Wedding

So, I imagine we’ll sign the waiver and join the club. We’ll probably go on some of the foraging trips. And we’ll probably have a lot of fun, meet some interesting people and eat some delicious delicacies. I wanted to get into biking and Brent met that goal with great enthusiasm. I will take a deep breath, sign the waiver and hope and pray no poisonous funguses pass our lips. It’ll be an adventure!

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I recently came across a 2007 journal entry that asked this question. It was a direct inquiry to God as I  began to get to know Brent. Having been single for over 40 years, neither of us was looking to jump blindly into marriage. Think about it, that’s 40 years of developing patterns, opinions and goals all on our own while making major decisions independently and coming and going as we pleased.

We could have danced all night.

While we both wanted to be married and had asked God to bring the right person along, we knew it would mean adjustments, sacrifice and change – along with opportunities for God to move in our lives in new ways. At that point in our friendship, we were each wondering if we were ready for that change and if this was “The One.”

And so I asked, “Can we be best friends?” And wrote,”Brent is unlike other men that I’ve dated – show me Lord what I need to know, to see. … I long for a husband and companion, but not at the expense of Your will. … He seems to be a man wanting to do things in Your way. Show me Lord. Does he seek you in this relationship? Is he looking for Your wisdom and direction?” Three and a half years ago, these were the questions I asked.

Unbelievably, we’re now headed toward our second anniversary next month. God had walked me through those questions and gave me a husband after His own heart. I’m so grateful for the gift of doing life with this man. We’re now seeing God use marriage as fresh canvas upon which to transform our weaknesses and reveal himself to us.

Even as I journalled the “best friend question,” I didn’t fully realize how very important it was. I had heard of people who settled for a spouse who was a merely a good provider and a nice person. Perhaps it’s particularly important at our age and not having children, but I love being married to my best friend. He’s the one I most want to share my joys and dilemmas with. I love our conversations and our adventures. I look forward to growing old with Brent.

The Best is Yet to Come

It turns out the answer was, “Yes.”

It’s a bit premature, but as we celebrate the start of a new year, we also look forward to another year of marriage together. Happy early anniversary to my best friend! And blessings on your marriage or search for a spouse in this coming year. In either case, it’s never too late to keep asking questions and praying for your best friend.

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What were your biggest questions as you dated your spouse? If you’re single, what’s at the top of your list of questions?

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