Today is Brought to You By the Number 18

I know. You’re confused because today is about eggs, plastic or dyed and decorated, those eggs usually come 12 to a carton, and because today is Easter Sunday surely I must be connecting the number to the day’s festivities.

But today isn’t just Easter Sunday. No, my lovely readers.

Today is my 18th wedding anniversary! 18 years! How is this even possible? I’m being serious. Every year Peter and I look at each other with a moment of disbelief that we continue to beat the odds, no thanks to our brilliant communication skills, our mind-reading abilities and fair fighting practices.

Eighteen years ago I was 22, and, as a friend noted yesterday, looked not a whole lot like I do today. It had rained during the week of the wedding, and the morning of our wedding day the skies opened up and we had sun despite the cooler temps. I remember our wedding party had to put down cardboard so we could take some photos near a pond on the church grounds. One of my favorite photos is of me and Peter standing on a damp, grassy hill kissing each other just as a gust of wind caught my veil. We were the only ones who had glass glasses at our reception so we clanked our own glasses to steal kisses, and we didn’t realize until months later when we got our photo proofs that the wedding topper we had picked out never arrived.

But then after the wedding is the marriage. I tell my engaged friends that if they spend half the time, energy and even money in preparing for the marriage instead of the wedding they will have taken the wiser route.

Two years ago we had the absolute worst anniversary celebration. Maybe turning Sweet 16 is only for young women because our marriage’s 16th was terrible. We went out to a restaurant and before we even got there Peter and I had an argument, which left me in tears and then meant a very tense over-priced dinner where we barely spoke to each other. I just wanted to go home. Alone. Every time I think about that night I think about the unfortunate waitstaff who thought they were surprising me with the rose and lovely note on the table. Instead they got the anniversary couple from hell.

Fortunately for us it was so incredibly, utterly terrible that we realized we couldn’t just hold our breath, count to 365 and make it to 17 years of marriage. It was a sucky 16th wedding anniversary that made us desperate for help because we didn’t want to just make it through another year. We both wanted what I suppose Easter represents as well – new life and victory, and I suppose we both realized we had lost our way from each other and perhaps from God.

So help in our marriage and in our individual lives has required more intentional work – the kind of work that couples who are long-past the newlywed stage will mention to their newlywed or engaged or soon-to-be or googely-eyed in love friends. If you think planning a wedding is work, marriage will break you. (Btw, I know wedding planning work and stress – we had 1,000 guests at our wedding !%@#!?)

Peter and I are deeply grateful that many of our friends and family who witnessed our marriage vows 18 years ago are still a part of our lives (except for the guy who caught the garter. We still aren’t sure who he is/was!). And we are just as grateful for the many new friends and family who have joined in our lives throughout the years – witnesses to how those vows continue to play out 18 years later because the flowers have since shriveled up and died and the perfect dress is boxed up sitting under the bed in the guest room.

The wedding is a gilded memory but the marriage is ever-present. I am amazed at how God has used my amazing but sometimes uncommunicative and slightly emotionally detached man to soften some pretty harsh edges in my heart and soul, how the worst in each of us still can give way to the very best in one another. Some mornings I am amazed to wake up and find that he hasn’t run away from my judgement and criticism, and other evenings I enjoy a moment of self-satisfaction because I really do have an uncanny ability to be right 99% of the time. I look at this life and this family and I really do see the hand of God in this beautiful mess of a marriage, and I am so blessed that Peter sees it too.

Happy 18th anniversary, Peter! And since neither of us is any good at reading minds, I really, really do not want anything based of the 18th wedding anniversary gift ideas of porcelain and or gemstone Cat’s Eye. 😉

Is Blonde+Black > Everything Else? BTW Hindu Isn’t a Language

Wondering out loud, as an extrovert often does…is it my imagination or is the media (and perhaps the public) more concerned with:

  • the fact that Jackson, who is married to Chicago Alderman/Alderwoman/Alderperson Sandi Jackson, (and both Jacksons are African American) had a personal acquaintance flown in twice for a visit, and that said acquaintance has been described as female, blue-eyed, blonde and a hostess at a D.C. restaurant;
  • or renewed interest in allegations U.S. Congressman Jesse Jackson Jr. was hoping some fundraising prowess was going to move him up on the U.S. Senate seat replacement list;
  • or that Jackson, during an on-air radio interview in Chicago Friday, said that while he was in the room when, “two Indian fund-raisers began speaking practically in Hindu and that he didn’t participate in the talk or even hear it.”

Um, if Jackson didn’t participate in the talk or even hear the talk how did he know the two Indian fund-raisers spoke in Hindu? Oh, wait. Maybe because Hindu isn’t a language, therefore Jackson couldn’t hear it? Ugh.

Actually, I wouldn’t have known about Jackson’s comment except for the fact that I read about it in this morning’s newspaper (the paper version). Until then, what I read and heard about primarily was that allegations about Jackson’s involvement in the Illinois U.S. Senate seat pay to play politics were back on and that Jackson wanted at least two private visits with his blonde, female friend who is a hostess. I heard that Jackson and his wife have dealt with this private matter and want it to stay private. Blah, blah, blah.

Yes, I have bone to pick. Several, in fact. Why does it matter that the female acquaintance is blonde and a hostess? Surely it isn’t meant at all, not even a teensy weensy bit to discredit her or make her seem “less”? It’s rather perplexing, actually. We live in a culture that worships young and beautiful (and often paler shades of beautiful) at all costs and then when you actually are young-ish and beautiful you’re the “acquaintance”. And it really matters if you are the white acquaintance of a black man (a la Tiger Woods).

But this recent scandal is almost perfect because it hits on race, ethnicity, culture, gender and religion. Jackson’s radio comment hit a nerve with me because so many conversations, as difficult as they are, are whittled down to Black and White. Hindu is not a language but a religion and a religion not limited to but connected deeply with India as well as other East, South East and South Asian cultures. Conversations about race get even more complicated when we add different voices, stereotypes, assumptions and blind spots and Jackson’s off-the-cuff comment about not hearing the conversation because the fund-raising power brokers in this case were of Indian descent and allegedly broke out in “Hindu” is a great example of that complexity.

The media would have us more ticked off that Jackson had a white female acquaintance than the fact that he, a U.S. Congressman representing a diverse population, made a rather ignorant statement about his understanding of diversity and culture.

At some point the media will talk with the female acquaintance and we will see more unnecessary photos of said woman in various stages of dress and less-dressed. In some circles of politically involved Evangelicals, there will be conversations about leadership and integrity and marriage all sorts of important “values”. And I will put money on at least a handful of us women talking about the gender issues in this story…but will we – politically involved or invested Evangelicals, men and women, of all races and ethnicities, dare embrace the complexity and messiness of integrating issues of race, ethnicity and religion into our conversations. After all, Jackson knew how to talk woman and blonde (and dare I say presumably white) but he couldn’t hear Hindu. Maybe he didn’t want to see it either and I terribly afraid so many of us out here don’t either.

Forgiveness & Reconciliation: Will I Know It When I See It?

Tiger & Elin. Jon & Kate. Deadly Viper & some angry Asian Americans.

What does reconciliation look like? What’s the difference between “moving on” in a healthy way and exercising the privilege to walk away from difficult conversations?

All the buzz about Tiger’s return to golf  and Kate’s debut on the dance floor caught my attention not because I care about golf or hair extensions but because their choice to “move on” from their respective scandals has got me thinking about forgiveness and reconciliation. Yes, their lives were a circus before the scandals, a teeny bit different than mine. Peter is not a pro golfer, and I am not a model. Peter does not own anything Ed Hardy, and I don’t get followed by the paparazzi. They are celebrities, but they and we are human beings. Why wouldn’t they want to move on, heal, and, perhaps, forget? I would.

But is that reconciliation? Would it be enough to see Elin stand by her man at the Masters? (IMHO, no. It would not.) If not, what is enough? Can someone ever apologize enough? Ask for forgiveness enough? Be forgiven enough? And then is that reconciliation?

So the saga known as Deadly Viper isn’t exactly like Tiger and Elin and Jon and Kate, but when I think about forgiveness and reconciliation I can’t help but think about DV. There was a lot of ugliness and some hope. There were hurt feelings and misunderstandings. There were conversations and side conversations about actions versus intent versus past deeds done. There were divisions, sides taken, and allegiances. And it was in real time, on-line and public in a “you can’t take that back ever” sort of way. Relationships that started out broken between real people fractured in such a way that made me (and I speak for myself and no one else involved in the DV saga) wonder if we achieved the right end. I’m still wondering…

If, for argument sake, reconciliation for the two celebrity couples means restoring their marriages, what does reconciliation for those involved in DV look like? Is reconciliation necessary? Is it worth it? Who pursues it and how?