Symbols of Commitment

I follow a journalist on Facebook, John Gray, who lives and reports on my old stomping ground in upstate NY. I like his sense of humor, his heartfelt posts and his views in general. Yesterday, he posted a link to this read on Scary Mommy regarding wedding rings. He asked what the women who follow him thought about this woman's point of view. 

I have received three new rings. 

My first engagement ring I returned to my now-husband a few months after he gave it to me. We didn't break up as a couple but simply backed off from moving on to the next step in our relationship. I told everyone we had gotten disengaged. There were reasons, mostly external, for this but the bottom line was it had nothing to do with our commitment to one another.  After almost a year, he proposed a second time with the same ring. This time it stuck :) 

I LOVED the ring he gave me. The only direction I ever gave him was in the shape of the diamond I preferred. He ended up choosing the diamond separate from the band and had the jeweler mount it in the setting. My ring is gold with little tiny flowers and leaves etched around it. It was a surprising choice from him as he is not overtly romantic but clearly he remembered I loved flowers and found a way to combine these two things that meant alot to me. 

We were living with another couple at this time and they became engaged not long after we did. Unlike us, our friends choose to buy the engagement ring together. We went along with them and while looking around struck up a conversation with a sales clerk who suggested we could trade in my diamond for a newer, larger one (paying the difference of course!) My soon to be husband looked at me and said "Let's do it. Old diamond had bad juju." So that's what we did.

Like the wife in the article, my ring has been through some serious sh#*.  House moves, job changes, pregnancies, health emergencies. On top of life moments to lowest of lows - mine, his and ours. Screaming, laughing, crying, singing, late into the night conversations. My ring has flown on planes, sailed on ships, been on long, long car rides. My ring has been in foreign countries and swam in various oceans and lakes. It has created and cleaned and performed the minutia that makes up life. And like the woman who wears it, it shows its age. Those pretty etched flowers have worn away. Only those underneath the wrap that is my wedding band are still visible. 

Last November my husband and I celebrated our 25th wedding anniversary. We had just uprooted our family and moved 800 miles. He still works in NY and toggles back and forth between there and here. I picked him up from the airport, drove home and opened up the garage where I had hidden a used Jeep Wrangler. He had one 15 years ago but had to give it up when baby #2 came along. It had been the one thing he talked about wanting to have again, especially once we made the decision to move south. It's not fancy and needs some TLC which he has been happy to give it. 

Standing in our driveway, under a dark sky sprinkled with stars, he pulled out not one but two jewelry boxes from his suitcase. Each one contained a ring. The first was a white gold anniversary band with five diamonds. In the second was my birthstone surrounded by diamond chips on a white gold band studded with more diamond chips. Shaking, his voice trembling, he told me he would not change a single thing. He would do it all over and over and over again. If you truly knew everything he and I have faced, you would completely understand when I say how profoundly moving and reassuring his words were to me.

I had not asked for so I was certainly not expecting this new set of bands. And yet, it was the most perfect gift. New state, new house, new everything. It is somehow apropro that as we started this new adventure in our journey together, the commitment we made to not only make this huge change but to make it work, was acknowledged. 

So yes, I think there are times where upgrading a wedding ring is appropriate, symbolic and deeply emotional. 

But I have not shut my original bands away in a drawer. I, we, would not be where we are today, literally and metaphorically, if it wasn't for our past; therefore I trade off and wear them both. And, even though they are different metals, I even sometimes combine them because the symbolism of them together makes me smile.



Secret vs Surprise

My mom and niece came over the other night for dinner. As family conversations go, we wandered around topics. From a conversation about money we migrated to one on secrets. 

My mother and I both have a secret stash of cash. I think the reason my mom has one is 'just because.' She is a post-depression baby but grew up in a home of very modest means. On the other hand, my secret stash I had earmarked for one of two purposes. But as life goes, I didn't end up using it for either of those choices.

I used my secret stash of cash as a deposit on a Jeep Wrangler for my husband. Our 25th wedding anniversary was coming. When we decided to move from NY to SC, one of the first things he talked about doing was getting another Jeep. He had one earlier in our marriage, between baby #1 and #2. When baby #2's arrival was immient we traded it in for a minivan and he took over driving my Neon.  (The sacrifices we make as parents.....neither of us were very thrilled with our vehicles but we do what we have to do.

I spent weeks looking for a used Wrangler that I could purchase outright with my very meager budget. (Shout out and big high-five to my brother here - he was enormously helpful!!) To add a layer of complexity to this endeavor, I was using a portion of our moving money to pay the rest of what my secret stash of cash didn't cover. And of course, I had to somehow hide or have a cover story as to why I withdrew thousands of dollars from this account. 

Since my niece was privy to all this, when we were talking about our secret stash of cash, she questioned me as to whether this wasn't a secret I kept from her uncle/my hubby. I told her no. The Jeep was a surprise not a secret as I hadn't hidden it from him or bought it without his knowledge for some other purpose. So, this was a secret; a good one. 

Later on, as I was thinking about this conversation, I wondered if it was good. In order to get a Jeep that wasn't going to be a money pit, I had to spend more than my original budgeted amount. Plus we have a general rule that any purchases over $200 is to be talked about first.  We hadn't finished taking care of all the expenses that came with moving and re-establishing a home. He could have gotten very angry with me for spending a chunk of the money on this. In fact, when I finally unveiled my anniverary gift to him the first thing he said to me, "Was how much did this cost?" 

On the other hand I saw this as a surprise. We rarely/never before make grandiose gestures to one another. Its not our style. But this was a significant milestone in our relationship. And he has made a huge sacrifice when it comes to our relocation so I also saw this as a way to give back to him; something I knew he truly wanted. Has talked about for years. We already had conversations about buying one, eventually, like a year down the road. I just changed the priorities; sped up the timeframe. I certainly didn't feel any guilt. I was excited for him. 

Secret. Surprise. 

Maybe as Secprise? Or Supcret?

My knight rides a white Jeep!

My knight rides a white Jeep!

Accidents of Marriage by Randy Sue Meyers

I’ve had this book on my to-read list for a bit. I am SO GLAD that I read this book. From page one, it held my attention.....I was annoyed at being interrupted while I was reading it. Always a good sign that I’m loving the story!

Ben and Maddie have been married 15 years. They have three children; their oldest being 14 year old Emma. Like any couple that has been in a marriage for a while, the day to day domestic have to’s have taken over and battle against their careers for time. Ben is the head honcho in the Public Defender’s Office; Maddie is a social worker. Ben's behavior is becoming more disturbing, making Maddie and the kids very uneasy when he is around. There is a horrific accident and Maddie is irreversibly injured. Ben has to step in to Maddie’s shoes and step up as a parent and a husband. He struggles all the way around. When Maddie learns of his actions, both pre and post accident, she must decide if Ben can be part of the new life the accident has foisted upon her and the family. 

Ben and Maddie are two strong, well defined characters. I vacillated between liking and hating Ben but ultimately I rooted for him. Because the author writes the novel from the perspective of three characters - Ben, Maddie and Emma - a reader gets to see inside Ben’s head. He is egocentric but self aware. He knows his behavior is horrible and wants to be better to his wife and kids. He struggles to control his anger but it isn’t until he is on the brink of losing his family that he is desperate enough to be apologetic, humble and willing to change. I actually found Maddie harder to like. She is in denial that she is in an abusive relationship. Yet, she spends a great deal of her time in social work counseling women who are in abusive relationships. I understand her reluctance to see her reality but am frustrated that she didn’t take a firmer stance with Ben prior to the accident. It’s when she is physically at her weakest that she finds emotional strength, making some tough choices about the future of her marriage and family. 

The perspective of Emma, their 14 turned 15 year old daughter, is realistic and valuable. The author captures that exterior toughness teen girls like to throw off but also exposes the insecurity and child like tendencies that still exist on the inside. Her entire family, including grandparents and aunt, leans heavily on her. This forces her to feel like she needs to be much older than she is and that conflict leads her to make some choices that are not in her best interest; they mirror some of the things her parents have done. I found her to be the only honest voice about how freaked out she is about her mother’s condition and how ambivalent she feels about her mother being home. 

While I am happily married, I found I was able to identify with this marriage in so far as my husband and I have found ourselves at points in times not as attentive to one another as we should be. The tasks of every day life have, at times, clouded our ability to appreciate the family we’ve created. I think this is reality for a lot of couples and families. This story can definitely be viewed as a cautionary tale to be mindful of safekeeping relationships with these important people.  

Ultimately, this is the story of family who didn’t appreciate that they were a family. It took a tragic event for all to open their eyes and see what they have in one another. The question of whether there has been too much of the proverbial water under the bridge to repair the relationships is what the characters and the reader need to decide.