Secret Heart

Marc and I had a decent sized fight last week – big and frustrating enough to actually make me at a loss for words.  You can ask him – that doesn’t happen much.  Words are my forte.  They flow from my mouth like a rushing river when I’m upset, my arguments clearly outlined in my mind almost instantly.  It’s a strange and mostly unhelpful skill since I’m neither a lawyer nor a politician.  My kids don’t use logic, so it’s of no use in that realm.  And I’m pretty sure Marc loathes my undefeated debate record from high school.  But I can’t help it.  I’m wired to present my case, defend my case, and end with a lengthy closing argument.  In this instance, however, I was so angry, feeling so hopeless, I just gave the hell up.  Whatever.  That was my closing argument.  That’s when you know things are bad – when you’re beyond mad, beyond furious, all the way to I don’t give a damn.

I saw Lyle Lovett and John Hiatt in concert a few days later.  It was my fourth Lyle Lovett concert (I knew almost every word to almost every song), but the first time I’ve seen John Hiatt.  I’ve long appreciated Lyle Lovett’s gift of phrase-turning – his ability to be both funny and poignant in the same breath.  But I realized that John Hiatt is a master wordsmith, too.  Lyle has a creamy voice that sinks into your bones and a sweet, light touch on the guitar, so it’s easy to hear the words that sit on top.  In contrast, Hiatt’s gruff voice and hard-strumming guitar mask his wisdom.  But it’s under there, and worth digging for.

I sat in the fourth row, so close it was like being in a living room watching the two of them banter casually, each playing his favorite songs for a friend.  My proximity gave the lyrics a weight and immediacy they wouldn’t carry if heard from the back of a large theater.  When Hyatt sang what I’ve always thought of as his cliche song Have a Little Faith in Me,  I heard its’ cut-to-the-bone truth and how it applied to us.


An’ when your secret heart

Cannot speak so easily

Come here darlin’ from a whisper start

Have a little faith in me

An’ when your back’s against the wall

Just turn around an’ a you will see

I’ll be there, I’ll be there to catch your fall

So have a little faith in me

Cause I’ve been loving you for such a long time, baby

Expecting nothing in return

Just for you to have a little faith in me

You see time, time is our friend

‘Cause for us there is no end

All you gotta do is have a little faith in me


It’s a simple idea – don’t give up on me – but what a nice way to say it.  My secret heart could not speak.  My secret heart was pissed, and confused, and forlorn.  But the song says Remember who you’re dealing with here.  He’s not your enemy.  He’s your partner.  And this is forever.  You catch his fall and he’ll catch yours.  

It’s extremely cheesy, but I made Marc sit and listen to it.  And I had him follow along with the lyrics as the song played.  Yep.  I’m not joking around with this making-my-marriage-work thing.  I won’t settle with biding our time until a better day comes along.  I’m all-in, and that takes effort.  It takes sitting down with the lyrics of a song written by a love-embattled writer, with experience in the area of relational strife, and paying attention.  Whatever is no good.  Trusting that we’re on the same team, having faith in each other to catch our mutual fall is better.  Under John Hiatt’s scruffy vocals is hard-won wisdom, and I’m willing to listen.  Luckily, so is Marc.

I’m not dumb enough to think that a song is going to change everything.  The lyrics aren’t magical.  The tune tugs at the heart but it won’t save us when we’re beyond angry.  Which will happen again.  But the right words can point me in the right direction.  A well-written paragraph, or sentence, or phrase can stick with me forever and help shape my perspective.  Shakespeare has advised me.  Love is not love which alters when it alteration finds, or bends with the remover to remove.  So has Paul the Apostle.  Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud…it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs.  And now, so has John Hiatt.  Next time my own words won’t come I’ll remember this song.  And refuse to simply give up.  And have faith that Marc is my ally even when it doesn’t feel that way.

Here’s to the beautiful, difficult odyssey of marriage.   And to to all the writers who help along the way.



My friend recently said that she wished she and her husband had a referee.  Which echoed my thoughts about my own marriage.  Someone to mediate between two opposing sides and objectively point out each one’s offenses. Marc and I could use that, as I suspect all couples, toddlers and warring nations could.  As long as the referee wasn’t paid to throw the game.

That’s what counseling is, I suppose.  Or should be.  An outside opinion of how this sport of marriage is played.  A third party to point out when and how we go wrong.  Preferably without a whistle.  Or a coach who can show us a game plan and give us strategies to win against all obstacles.  Help us work as a team.  I could use both.  Because though I long for a sense of solidarity in my marriage, I find my natural state of selfishness creeping in and smashing the very idea to bits.  Daily.

Here’s the thing:  I love my husband.  He’s my best friend.  He’s the person I want to hang out with nearly all the time: funny, smart, kind, generous.  He loves movies.  Me too.  He likes great music.  What a coincidence.  He cracks me up, the importance of which cannot be overstated.  He’s faithful.  He loves his children.  He makes me eggs every morning.  “What’s not to love?,” you may ask.  “Well, it’s complicated,” is my answer.  And that’s the problem.  It’s the problem in every marriage, in every human relationship.  People are complicated – a big tangled mess.  I’m a lot of great things, but I’m a big mess, too.  So big mess + big mess = bigger tangled mess that is hard to get a comb through sometimes.

There are certainly times when things are smooth.  The conditioner has been liberally applied and love reigns.  But boy, there are times when it doesn’t.  Days when I wake up fully committed to my own desires, unwilling to sacrifice.  As there are for Marc.  And when those days happen to be on the same day?  Ugh.  Somebody get a referee.

My son and I were talking recently about a friend whose parents may soon be getting a divorce, and his heart was broken for him.  It made me wonder how he perceived Marc’s and my marriage.  The kids will say “You guys always fight,” which of course isn’t true, but to their young minds it must feel as such.  Which breaks my heart.  “You know how Dad and I argue sometimes?,” I asked.  Nod.  “Well, that’s because when you really love someone, if they hurt your feelings it really hurts.  Like, Arghhh!  I LOVE you. Why did you DO that?  Or sometimes you just disagree, strongly, and you can’t figure out how to agree.  So you argue.  And you work and work to resolve it.  It’s hard.  And we’re people, so we’re bound to have conflict sometimes.”  (Being the son of a writer and an ex-literacy-program-director, my son has known about “conflict” since he was in-utero).  He got it.  And when I asked him why he was upset about his friend, to help him talk it out, he said to my great relief “Because he doesn’t have a good family like we do.”  Oh hallelujah.  He hasn’t been too scarred by our fights.  And he might even be prepared to have arguments with his own wife someday.  Because it’s inevitable.  Mess + mess.  I just wish I could give him a referee as a wedding gift.

If only.  I’m picturing a little guy with a striped shirt who lives at your house, up on a shelf.  He’s inanimate when things are fine, but as soon as the voices are raised or sniping begins he awakens, jumps down, grows to adult-height and intercedes.  It’s kind of a creepy image, but I’d be willing to accept some creepiness to stop Marc from losing it over my pile of papers in the kitchen.  Or me over “someone” putting the water bottles away by clearly throwing them on the shelf.  Or the bigger stuff.  The tangled messes we’ve been trying to comb through since the day we got hitched so many years ago.  But, since that little creepy guy doesn’t exist, I will have to trod through.  Get some counseling periodically, as I recommend for every married person.  Try to get perspective when the water bottles are askew and not to react so strongly when my pile is criticized.  Take a breath and remember: we’re on a team.  He’s my team.  My friend.  My partner for life.

And he’s funny sometimes.  Always remember he’s funny.


Dear future husband…

Inspired by Meghan Trainor’s song with this title, and in honor of Valentine’s Day, I thought I’d make a list of things I wish I could have told my husband before we were married.  To help both him and me have less drama and more realistic expectations in our life together.  So here goes…

  1. I don’t like being cold, and I don’t like being hot, depending on the season.  But I always like scalding showers and ice in my water.  Yes, it’s fickle.  No, it doesn’t make total logical sense.  And I’m sticking with it.
  2. When I ask you what you think we should do about something, “I don’t know” is my least favorite answer.  I’d prefer, “I’ll think about it,” and then have you actually consider my question and give me a reply at some point.
  3. Your integrity, generosity and kindness are hot.  Seriously.  Well-fitting jeans and those will get you action almost any day.
  4. When I’m tired, I’m tired.  Even if you’re not.  When I’m hungry, I’m hungry.  Even if you’re not. (A nod to our early days of marriage.  Beginning with our honeymoon.)
  5. Just a heads-up: I don’t know how to cook anything but a roast and spaghetti, and it will take me about six years to rectify this. Sorry.
  6. A compliment and a gentle hand on my back will A. make me feel loved and B. increase your chances of getting action, too.
  7. You are not right and I am not wrong.  We are different, with differing opinions.  Some people don’t need the toaster oven to be crumb-free.  But I love you, so I’ll work toward a tidy home if you’ll give me specific ideas.  Deal?
  8. My love languages are “words of affirmation” and “quality time.”  There.  That should shave off several years of misunderstanding.
  9. You are my favorite.  Let’s be best friends forever.  The “romance” will fade, especially when one of us has the flu/bronchitis/a stomach bug or a series of all three, or we’re sleep deprived from having a newborn, or stress makes us act like jerks.  But that’s ok.  It’ll come back if we treat each other like best friends.  And you wear well-fitting jeans.


And, to be fair, from his perspective:

  1. I don’t like being cold, but I’d rather wear lots of clothes and not turn up the heat.  And I don’t mind being hot, so air-conditioning is frivolous in my opinion.  You’ve been warned.
  2. If you would spend less time feeling blamed and more time finding a solution to our problems, that’d be great.
  3. I think you’re beautiful and sexy much more than you know.  I don’t care if you’re “bloated.”  You – clothes = fabulous.
  4. Just a heads-up: on our first Thanksgiving – the first one away from your family and the town, and state, and region of the country you’ve always known – I will be giving you the silent treatment because that’s how I will handle conflict for our first few years.  Sorry about that.
  5. I can’t be the source of your self-esteem.  Find it in yourself and in the fact that God loves you.  There.  That should save us years of disappointment.
  6. I like things to be tidy.  It helps my brain function, and I will be nicer if things are put away, especially the kitchen.  If you love me, you’ll try.
  7. I really hate nagging, so please don’t do it.
  8. If I feel like you don’t respect me, it feels crappy.  Don’t talk down to me.  And remember that I do care what you think, even if I don’t say it.
  9. You are my favorite.  Let’s be best friends forever.  With benefits.  Lots of benefits.


And one for both of us:

  1. For your first year of marriage you will not have a land line.  You will have a giant brick-shaped cell-phone that will run out of minutes in the first third of the month.  So if you want to talk to anyone, have them call collect to the phone booth by the Kentucky Fried Chicken on Main Street, Alhambra, California, and wait there at the allotted time.  Try not to cry too much or people will think things aren’t going so well.


It’s certainly not an exhaustive list of helpful tips to our young and inexperienced selves.  The full tome would overwhelm.  But this hits on some big ones.  It would have been constructive to read and digest in the months before our wedding, as much as any marriage book.  Alas, or maybe by better design, it has taken years to discover these truths about ourselves in relation to each other.  I guess that’s part of the beauty.  The storytelling element of a union.  Without the drama, the narrative would drag.  More of a dull report than a tale of adventure.  In the long run, I suppose I prefer an adventure.

So here’s to ours, babe.  Happy Valentine’s Day.

You’re my favorite.

Thank the Lord I Found You

I’m one of those weirdo holistic medicine people.  For good reason:

When I was first married, at the age of 24, I felt awful all the time.  Physically, I mean.  After years of intestinal problems, in college I was given an endoscopy (tube down the throat into the stomach) and then given the diagnosis of Irritable Bowel Syndrome.  Not something you want to tell everyone.  Anything with bowel in it is a nightmarish self-descriptor for a college girl.  But there it was, and it was undeniable.  I lost 13 pounds one semester because of my irritable bowels.  Ate food, got crampy, quickly “processed” the food, and then needed a nap.  And my joints hurt.  And I felt foggy a lot (which makes my senior year 4.0 extra amazing, eh?)

My diagnosis was actually just a blanket title for something no one really understands.  The endoscopy showed that I didn’t have an ulcer, so they went ahead and called it Irritable Bowel. Which basically means nothing.  I had the same symptoms as half a dozen other illnesses that are just as nebulous.  There was no medicine to take besides Tums and no helpful advice other than “When it gets really bad you should just eat rice.  Good luck.”  For years I got no further help or actual care from my physicians.  I just came to think of it as the way I was.  Too bad for me.

Stress makes Irritable Bowel worse, so our first couple years of marriage (after moving to L.A., and getting a teaching job for which I wasn’t trained, and having no friends, and possessing no land line but only a cell phone that ran out of minutes during the first third of the month, and arguing with my husband all the time) I was eating plain white rice most of the time.

This is what I wish they would have said:

“Here’s the deal: you’re going to have intestinal cramps daily, sometimes so bad you can’t stand up; you’re going to have constipation, then diarrhea, then constipation, then lots more diarrhea; your joints will hurt, your brain will have a confusing fog around it; you will feel sad, either causing or because of the way you feel physically; you will wake up every day feeling like you haven’t slept in years; you will wish you could take a nap at all moments and you will be able to nap on any surface at any time if given the chance.  Concrete floor?  Yes, absolutely.  You will have very little sex drive when things get bad, which will be often; you will be bloated and think you’re fat for days, and then suddenly all will be well for a few hours and you’ll think “Wow, I got skinny,” and then you’ll get bloated again.  You’ll have acid reflux that burns your throat and makes eating most foods painful.  You’ll hold down full-time jobs during all of this, and you’ll exercise even though every joint and muscle aches even more when you do, and every night you’ll think some good sleep will help.  But it never will.  And you’ll just WISH YOU COULD BE NORMAL.

And then one day you’ll get pregnant and you’ll feel better. Even though you are throwing up or wishing you would throw up, and you feel really tired, and your round ligaments ache when you move, and you cry at commercials and your belly is being stretched beyond what seems possible, you’ll feel better.  Yes, this will feel better.  And then somehow you’ll be cured.  And you’ll realize how very bad you felt for so many years.  And you’ll never want to feel like that again.”

If my doctors would have said that, I would have gotten other help.  I did get some, from the kinesiologist that Marc had seen since he was twelve.  But only when we came home to Kansas for Christmas or a summertime trip.  But if I would have had the wherewithal to know I didn’t have to feel this way I would have done whatever I could to get better care.  Seen a kinesiologist where I lived, changed my diet, not accepted it as just the way I was.

I now know that people with an auto-immune disease often feel better when they’re pregnant.  That I almost positively did have an auto-immune thing going on back then.  That I could have been working on inflammation and diet and natural hormone support.  Yes, I am one of those people – a fan of homeopathic treatments, accupressure, and I like to avoid chemical-based medicines unless totally necessary.  My weirdo “nutritional supplements,” our voodoo doctor, as we lovingly call him, and my increased knowledge of my jacked up intestines are all Thank the Lord I Found You things.  They’re not my savior, and they aren’t perfect, but they sure do help.  Just as having enough money to pay for food helps me not be hungry, having the right care helps my body not feel like crap.  And I’m all for that.

So here’s to weirdo, non-western styles of medical treatment.  I’ll raise a glass of RepairVite to that any day.


The Usual

This year we celebrated our fifteenth anniversary by beginning a three day road trip to Florida.  (Though we thought it was our sixteenth  Oops.  Not sure when we started the miscount, but I do know we celebrated our fifteen year anniversary last year.  Which made this fifteenth a bit anticlimactic.)  But what more appropriate way to celebrate fifteen (Right? Yes. Ok.) years of marriage than by road tripping with our progeny?

An hour into the drive, Lily puked all over the back seat, the Starbucks pastry bag not quite up to the vomit challenge. Then we hit rain which lasted for most of the day, then a pretty bad dinner at a disappointing brewery, then missed the exit to our hotel by many miles.  To top it off, we realized I left my purse at the sub-par restaurant twenty miles back, so Marc drove to get it while I put the kids to bed two hours late.  But here’s the thing:  there were moments of pure beauty within that mess of a day.  Moments when fifteen years of marriage showed.  Where countless hours of learning each others’ habits and moods, the act of co-mingling our passions and interests, the bond of having babies and loving them together, creating a family of our own – all of that –  came into play.

We stopped for boba (bubble tea), one of our long-time favoritist things even though it was out of the way.  Because we like it.  Because it’s our thing.  We listened to NPR stories, podcasts, audio books and the Muppets soundtrack because that’s what we do.  We ate at a brewery because Marc loves beer.  We played the alphabet game because our kids enjoy it and have yet to learn the state capitals.  We worked as a team – Marc driving and me dishing out snacks; acting as mediator between disgruntled children; manning the air conditioning, and then we switched.  If I was going to paint a picture of a Havener family road trip it would include these things.  It is us.  It’s what we’ve built, for better or worse.  The puke, the missed exits, the rain – just the unexpected parts, wrapped up in the usual stuff.

The usual.  I love that we have a usual.

After two more days of fairly uneventful travel we arrived at the beach.  It was our third year staying in the same house, walking to the same stretch of sand with the same wagon, riding bikes to the same pizza place overlooking the ocean.  We have a history there now.  Another thing that’s ours together.  Another usual.  We ate breakfasts on the porch, dinners around the dining room table or at our typical haunts, took a now traditional bike ride through Watercolor, swam in the same neighborhood pool.  There were enough new things to make this trip it’s own: the rainstorm with the towering double rainbow, the new popsicle shop, our first year of jellyfish stings.  But it was surrounded by the familiarity of our usual vacation.  Like a big hug.  I’m not saying we’ll do the same thing every year, or that we should.  But it was an appropriate celebration of fifteen years of building this thing we call our family.  Just right, in fact.  I may even want to celebrate our real 16 year anniversary the same way.


A Good One

Marc and Luke are on their way to Legoland as I write.  My green tea in the cup, a snowy scape out the window, my cold fingers tapping the keys.  I love that my husband took the day off to play with Lego (yes, that’s the plural of Lego – Luke would want you to know) with our son.  I love that they’re rocking out to Owl City on the way there.  I love that Luke made his daddy a card this morning saying how much he loves him, how awesome he is, how he’s “the best daddy ever,” surely as a response to his excitement.  His gratefulness for the fun they’re about to have.

That’s all.  I’m just more in love with my man right now.  When he loves our kids well it endears me to him.  Makes me glad I chose to hook up with him for the long haul.  Makes me look in awe at our life together – what can happen when two people commit and work through their junk, over and over, make babies and do their best to feed and clothe and direct them.  And cover them with smooches.  And have lots of dance parties in the kitchen.

We certainly aren’t perfect parents; It ain’t all roses in our house. We have tempers, we get impatient, we have been known to criticize and make fun at the worst moments, we are selfish, we can be controlling, we forget to send in the permission slip for the engineering expo (wait, that was just me).  We’re human.  By our very nature we’re bound to mess up, and we oblige.

I’m not married to a storybook father.

But I’m married to a pretty damn good one.

Because he tries.  Because he knows he’s flawed and doesn’t pretend otherwise, and he says he’s sorry.  Because he wants to be a good father.  And he takes his kid to Legoland.

It would have been easier to claim his work day.  To be here with me, drinking coffee, trying to get his email down to 500, checking tasks off his eternal to-do list.  Or maybe it wouldn’t.  Maybe it’s easier to chuck it all and spend the day building fortresses and robots with his 9-year-old son.  I suppose it depends on the goal.  I love that he chose the latter.  That memories will be made today, burned on Luke’s brain of how much his dad loves him.  That they’ll have inside jokes and probably a bigger-than-I-would-buy lego set to build together tomorrow.

Yep, I love that man.  Yay for dads who try.

Work And Play

Written January 24, 2014

My husband is at Sundance.  The Film Festival.  He goes most years, with friends from our L.A. days – guys who are involved in “the industry” one way or another, but more importantly are fun to hang out with.  I used to get mad when he would leave for this yearly “work trip,” as it felt less like work and more like an excuse to watch a ton of movies and go out for dinner and beers every night.  And it almost always meant he was away for my birthday.  And I was jealous.

But this year I’m ecstatic for him.  Because he’s getting a break from work work, while diving into the work he really needs to be doing – feeding his movie-loving soul, getting inspiration, remembering why he loves his profession.  Sometimes I wish my job of mom involved movies and beer rather than poopy diapers and snack-making, but I really can’t fault him for having a cool career.

Or rather I can, and I have, but it does no one any good.

Neither has it worked for him to defend the super-fun work trip as serious business.

Really, we need to let it be what it is: a trip for work AND play.  I’m not sure why we both tried to make it one or the other.  Maybe now that he’s 40, and I’m nearly there, we’re understanding the importance of their coexistence.

I would hope being a mom is both.  It should be.  It may not involve as much beer as movie-making does, but it involves lots of smooches and giggles and kitchen dance parties.  I’ll just aim for more of those.

There should be fun in being a filmmaker, or a teacher, doctor, missionary, even a garbage man.  Otherwise life is boring, to say it plainly.  And I’m against boring.  I’m for fun.

So have fun, Marc!  I’ll try to have fun here at home, too.

I’ll Start

Nothing is different

But everything has changed.

That’s a line from a Paul Simon song.  And it’s the way I felt when I stepped foot off the plane in L.A. after a summer spent in Taiwan, when I looked at my husband the morning after our wedding, or when I watched the sky outside the window of my hospital room after my son was born.  My homeland, my husband’s face, the sky – they were the same as every other day, but they appeared completely new.  There were things I’d missed before.  New meanings to the familiar American landscape, the corners of Marc’s mouth when he smiled, the sunlight warming the clouds with pinks and reds.  Experiences can make that magic.  Cause us to view old things with new eyes.  Something deep in the soul changes – it sends a message to the brain: “Whoa!  Everything is new!  This is amazing!”  And the whole body responds.  It feels more alive, more awake, superhumanly able to appreciate.  To see with more clarity than before.

I thought it would be fun to gather a list of experiences like this from you, the readers of my blog.  I love a good list, and I bet you all have some neat eye-openers to share.  The great thing is, as in all stories, everyone can relate.  By reading about another person’s experience we are reminded of one of our own, reminded that we’re all in this together.  So leave a comment below, long or short or however you like, and let us know about a time when nothing was different but everything had changed.  Let’s see what we get…

Here.  I’ll start.

It was just before my junior year in college, I was at a summer training program in Colorado Springs with students from all over the country, along with my friend and only fellow-Jayhawk Marc.  I had just sent a letter to my best friend swearing off boys for the forseeable future, as they proved to consume and confuse my thoughts and I was ready for a break.  Then I left for a hike with the close group of five other friends I’d made over the two months.  Three guys and three girls, hiking up a canyon, talking, laughing, crossing back and forth over the stream that ran down the mountain.  At times one of the guys would reach out a hand to help me across the merely ankle-deep water, which should have impressed me as an act of chivalry, but instead annoyed me as a sexist view of my capabilities.  I didn’t need no stinkin’ man’s hand to cross a stream.  Until I did.  I was about to slip off a rock, so the guy in front of me reached to help.  I took it, looked up, and everything changed.  True story.  It sounds corny, and it is.  But that is how the letter to my best friend became null and void, and how I started my deep fall into love with Marc, the man I (much later) married.  He suddenly nearly glowed, I adored him so.  He had no such reaction to my hand in his, but for me it was magic.

There, now you go…

For Your Health

          Laughing is one of my favorite things to do.  More than eating good food, buying a sweet new outfit, making lists (yes, I like that), laughing til your face hurts is medicine to the soul.  And a good ab workout.  The best sounds in the morning are my children’s giggles, even if I am in a sour mood.  Or hearing my two-year-old say hello to her belly-button as she sits in her crib.  Wiping the sleep away with a chuckle is a cure for the worst wrong-side-of-the-bed attitude.  All day long, finding the humor in the mundane or unpleasant makes it less so.  It can even make it fun.
          Singing in opera voices while you make breakfast, poking little buns while they climb the stairs, speaking in a ridiculous French accent as you drive home from preschool – these add levity to the usual doings of the day, and make you smile, which is good exercise.  A study done recently by some fellow Kansans showed that smiling, even faking it, helps boost your mood and those of the people around you.  (See article about the study here:  And frowns do the opposite.  Bad moods promote more bad moods, like a disease easily spread.  It’s amazing how simple it is to fix the problem, though.  I always feel silly when my yoga instructor tells us to smile in the middle of Pigeon or Warrior One, but it does make me feel better, no matter how dumb I look in the mirror.  I bet the endorphins would really kick in if I let loose and laughed.
          I totaled our blue Oldsmobile when I was sixteen – a hefty bump into the car ahead of me – and when I rattled home with the front smushed and one headlight illuminating the trees above, my sweet dad said “Well…I guess if you’re going to wreck a car, you did a good job!”  He has always been a master of seeing the humor in the mishaps of life.  I had to drive that embarrassing wreck around for a while, which was punishment enough, but his joke about it made the trauma bearable.  I knew he still loved me.  And it taught me that even really bad things are funny sometimes.  Dad put our pizza on the top of the car while we piled in the Olds to drive home.  And as we pulled away, as if putting an exclamation point on the evening, we watched the leftovers from our large pepperoni fly off into the night.  We all laughed at that one.
          When my own family was vacationing in exotic Missouri, we had spent an entire day at Silver Dollar City and were returning to our hotel late at night.  We’d been driving through Branson traffic for an hour (this would be a good form of torture for members of the Taliban), we were all exhausted and sweaty, and Lily (4) was wearing a Mae (6 months)-sized diaper because that’s all we had left, and nothing else.  Let’s just say that the Havener family fit in well in the Ozark mountains that night.  I thought our room was on the fourth floor, Marc thought the eighth, and as we wandered the halls with our bedraggled-looking kids pulling their own suitcases, wondering aloud where the heck our room was, an elderly couple walked by.  You could see the horror on their faces at the fact that we were allowed to be parents.  I cannot be certain the police weren’t notified.  Humiliating, yes.  And absolutely hilarious, even at the time. It will remain a favorite family story for years.
          Because laughter is so important to me I love stand-up comedy.  I think it’s an art and a gift to the world when done well.  We saw Jim Gaffigan live for my birthday a few years back, before my husband knew who he was.  Marc wasn’t sure he would like it, but we laughed from the moment he spoke a word til the last hot pocket joke – until it hurt more than I knew my face muscles could.  I love that kind of pain.  For Valentine’s Day one year Marc downloaded a stand-up show as a present to me.  We sat there watching Mike Berbiglia on the laptop, eating chocolate mousse cake, lowering our stress levels and boosting our immune systems at the same time.  It was the best Valentine’s gift ever.
          Marc’s sense of humor was high on my list of reasons for marrying him.  I knew I needed to laugh every day of my life, and that man is funny.  I grew up with levity as an essential part of existence – provided by my dad – and I couldn’t imagine leaving that behind.  Marc cracks up his kids, and will eventually embarrass them as my dad did me, because he is silly.  I need silly.  I need to feel a little less “grown-up” sometimes.  A little bit more like a ten-year-old.  When a poopy diaper smell takes over the whole house, I need a guy who raps about it.  When all three kids are crying on a road-trip at the same time, I need a friend to laugh with because that’s all that can be done.  I need comic relief when the drama of the day has me down.  He is my comic relief.  I smile a lot more with him in my life, so I guess he’s good for my health.  So is Jim Gaffigan, and Mike Berbiglia, and grinning in yoga, and being around my dad when something bad happens, and hearing my kids giggle.  Thank goodness for funny things.  I don’t think I’d survive without them.



          Every road trip I’ve taken has had a soundtrack of sorts – a certain album or  mix of songs that forever reminds me of a specific place.  As a kid it was Huey Lewis and the News and DeBarge (no joke) in Virginia, and John Cougar Mellencamp in Indiana.  Last year Coldplay’s Mylo Xyloto played while we drove around Florida, and this year it was Paul Simon’s So Beautiful or So What.  Somehow I had never heard it, and the moment I did I fell in love.  So well-written, so intricate, so beautiful.  My favorite lines from the whole album are from the song Love and Hard Times.  
The bedroom breathes in clicks and clacks.
Uneven heartbeat.  Can’t relax.
But then I feel your hand in mine.
Thank God I found you in time.
Thank God I found you.
Thank God I found you.
          It’s a short story in six lines.  Amazing.  When I hear it I immediately feel the mood, picture the scene, empathize with the restless heart calmed by the hand of his love.  I’ve been there.  I’m there often, actually.  My husband’s handhold can calm me after a nightmare, make a heart palpitation from worry settle down, allow me to start the day with the warmth of my best friend’s touch.
          Marc and I had our 14th anniversary a few weeks ago.  Sadly, I was getting over a stomach bug so we celebrated with Gatorade and a rented movie.  Not exactly ideal.  But beyond the way we marked the occasion, we both agreed with complete sincerity that we love each other more today than when we promised to.  We have not lived happily ever after – an impossibility if you’re being real in your marriage – but we’ve made it through the ups and downs of these years and found ourselves as deeper, better, more understanding friends and lovers.
          When we were dating Marc and I would make each other mix tapes – yes, that’s how old I am – which is an art in and of itself.  The right combination of songs, in the right order, expressing the exact feelings you have or the mood you want to create.  We found a tape case full of them the other night and he asked which ones I’d like to save.  “All of them, thank you,” I said.   Because they mark a specific time in my life, just as the trip soundtracks do.  And the ones from Marc remind me how it felt when he first liked me, when we missed each other til it hurt, when he promised to stick with me no matter what.  Yes, I’m keeping those out-of-date relics.  Until death, or basement mold, do us part.
         In the grand scheme of things, 14 years is a smidge.  My parents have been married for forty-one years, my grandparents for sixty-six.  That’s truly an achievement.  I can’t imagine the like-the-back-of-my-hand feeling we’ll have about one another if Marc and I get to be together that long.  There will be days when I want to clock him, yes.  Days when we get mad and say things we later have to retract.  But so many years down the road, when I reach over to grab my husband’s hand, I hope I feel the same way I do today.
Thank God I found you in time
Thank God I found you
Thank God I found you.