Friend Collector

girlfriends

I celebrated a milestone birthday this past February. I guess there’s no reason to be coy, I turned 40. Birthdays and aging had never bothered me before, however this year was definitely different. It wasn’t so much the wrinkles or the sagging in new places that was freaking me out.  Turning 40 forced me to be honest and reflective about my life choices, and about how I wanted to spend the next 40 years of my life.  Okay, maybe just the next ten years but you get the point. As the year of being 40 comes to an end, I’ve realized that as much as this year was about pushing myself and trying new things, it was more than anything the year that I came to appreciate and understand the friendships that have so enriched my life. Some of my friendships have endured since the early days of university, and others are relatively recent. However, the thing they all have in common, the thing I want my children to learn about their own friendships, is that I call these people my friends because I know they always have my best interests at heart. Full stop. I have therefore decided, as a means of public service, to list the top 5 friends that every woman should have by the time she turns 40. If you don’t have these friends, then I urge you to go out and make them. No excuses. Girlfriends rule.

  1. The Has Known You Forever Friend

I have a few of these friends. These are the girls that I met during the early days of university. These are the girls who have seen me through every major break-up, every career milestone, marriage, motherhood and all the heavy stuff that comes along with becoming a responsible adult. These are the girls who know the stories behind every nickname and every scar. They were probably there. I grew up with these girls, we have a history. These are the girls who remind me that behind the serious, responsible wife and mother I am now, is a girl who used to do some really cool stuff. These are the girls who remind me that I was my own impressive person before I had children. These are the girls who when I told them I was thinking of going back to work full-time, they said hell yes lady. You can do this!

  1. The Tell It Like It Is Friend

You know the friend I’m talking about. This is the friend who can tell you that the outfit you’re wearing is grounds for What Not To Wear nomination. This is the friend who listens to you complain about the argument you had with your husband/mother/sister and then knows how to tell you that you’re actually in the wrong. She knows how to tell you these things, because she says them kindly and with love. She says them because these are the things you need to hear sometimes. We all need these friends even though they can be super annoying.

phone conversations

  1. The Sister (Brother) Friend

I remember as a child my mother telling my siblings and me that we should be kind to one another because we would grow up to be best friends. I remember rolling my eyes and thinking she was so off-base. How could I be friends with a little sister who followed me around and constantly argued with me? My little brother was cute, but he was a baby. I was already away at university when he started high school. As much as it pains me to say, my mother was right. I speak to my sister almost every day. My brother and I text often – the introvert’s preferred method of communication. We’re all married and have children of our own. It’s impossible not to be friends when we share a common upbringing and a pretty specific sense of humour. No one else is going to understand your family’s unique crazy like a sibling. No one else is going to love my children like my siblings do. Also, no one else is going to have my back the way my brother and sister do.

  1. The Mom Friend

Raising children is hard; rewarding, but hard. There have been days where the only thing that has saved me from crying into my ice cream has been the support of other moms. Other moms have been where you are. Other moms understand that it’s perfectly normal to feel frustration, joy and sleep deprivation all at once. You can’t be friends with every mom you meet, but I’ve been lucky to meet a few great ones that I now consider my close friends. Other moms are also great resources. They are usually more than happy to share information. Except when it comes to good babysitters, they usually keep that information to themselves.

  1. The Work Friend

I know that it’s been a few years since I’ve held a full-time job. However, no matter where I’ve worked, I’ve always maintained at least one friendship that has endured even if the job has not. My husband and I were set up on a blind date by a former co-worker of mine. When you spend at least 8 hours a day with people you’re bound to bond over your common experiences. Obviously this can’t always be the case. I know of people who like to keep their private lives and professional lives separate. I agree with that to a certain extent. However, life is short and you spend a good chunk of it at work. Be nice and friendly. Otherwise that can make for pretty awkward lunches.

There you have it; my top 5 friend list. As a final word I think it’s only fitting that I include a shout-out to the people who inspired my list. You know who you are. I am proud to call you my friends.

 

 

Mama Needs a New Pair of Shoes

killer shoes

For those of you who have been following this little blog of mine since its humble beginnings, (since September) you’ll know that I have been a stay-at-home mom for a number of years. You may also know that I’ve been contemplating a return to work. It should have been a no-brainer. I had always said that I would start looking for a job once my youngest child was in school full-time. Although I will say that the term full-time is a bit misleading. School ends at 3pm so unless you’re working until 2-2:30pm you still need to secure child-care for those after-school hours. Not an easy feat as I’ve already discussed in a previous post. My kids are happy, independent and well-adjusted. They both do well in school. Both have been sleeping through the night for years. So why all the complicated and angsty feelings around this return to work?

As much as I enjoy being home with my kids, this was never meant to be a permanent situation. Once I got past the middle of the night feedings stage, the diaper changing stage and the constant vigilance associated with the toddler stage, I entered the looking back at my working days through rose-coloured glasses stage. I missed using my brain for questions unrelated to grade 4 math and social studies. (Also hard by the way.) I missed wearing heels and nice shirts. I live in Uggs and jeans. In addition to the working world nostalgia, there are some really practical reasons for me to return to work. First and foremost, we could use the money. We have two kids to put through university. Second, the longer I wait, the more difficult it will be for me to find a job in my field. The Millennials need jobs too you know. They also come with a lot less baggage (kids) and are probably willing to work for less.

mother quote

There’s also a third, and probably more important reason for me to go back to work. The longer I’m home, the less I like the person I’m becoming. I’m a type-A perfectionist on my best day. I’m a small-c control freak on my worst day. I have high expectations of me, my husband, my children and our life. Being home full-time has allowed me to “manage” life so that even when my husband travels three weeks out of a month for his job, it’s a mere blip in our routine. Homework and studying gets done, errands are complete and no one misses a swimming lesson. However, without my own work/career/goals on which to focus my attention, I tend to focus on my children’s accomplishments and activities. I have become obsessed with homework. I know how to spot the difference between a level 3 and level 4 math test answer. For those of you outside of Ontario, or with children too young to receive level 3 or level 4 grades, just know that I have spent far too long drilling my kid on how to write a proper solution using appropriate math vocabulary. I don’t even like math! I have become Tiger Mom. I want my kids to do well. However, I also want them to know that it’s ok to not do well sometimes. They need to see me not do well sometimes.

So drumroll please, I have found a job. As of January 2015 I will be working full-time, and it’s for a company and brand I’m really excited about. I also managed to get my kids into the before and after care program at their school. The stars seemed to align on this one. It was time. That being said, I plan to continue writing posts for this blog. I may spend less time writing about the playground and more time writing about the boardroom, but I will write. Also, I will shop. I can’t show up for my first day wearing jeans and Uggs. This mama needs a new pair of shoes.

cinderella shoes

The Santa Conspiracy

last year's santa

Last year’s Santa photo.

I’m not sure if you’ve heard, but the Christmas season is upon us. I love Christmas.  I just don’t love feeling pressure to start my Christmas shopping before I’ve fully recovered from Halloween. However, that is a rant for another day. I have bigger fish to fry, or rather bigger elves; more specifically, the grand elf himself Santa Claus.

Before my husband and I had children the holiday season was about dressing up, going to parties and buying each other fabulous gifts. Once we had kids that all changed.  At first it was pretty easy. We were on the same page when it came to spending time with our families and creating holiday traditions with our kids. These annual holiday traditions came about very organically. We go to church on Christmas Day, we make a gingerbread house and bake cookies, and we take them to see mall Santa every year.

gingerbread house

Our gingerbread house.

The mall Santa experience began rather innocently soon after my son was born. I love this tradition because I love watching how happy it makes my kids. My husband loves it because we always get such great photos. My son was only 4 months old the first time he met Santa. He had no idea who this big scary guy with the white beard was.  It was soon after that first Santa photo that my husband broke the news to me. He had never believed in Santa as a child, and he was not going to lie to our kids about the existence of Santa. Say what now?

Christmas cookies

Our annual batch of Christmas cookies.

Let me begin by saying that I grew up in a pro-Santa home. My parents were always invoking the big guy’s name around the holidays. “You better eat your vegetables, Santa’s watching.” Santa won’t come if you keep fighting with your sister.” That being said, Santa wasn’t just about surveillance and naughty lists. As immigrants who had grown up with a very different set of Christmas traditions, they did a very good job of imparting the magic of Santa Claus to their children. I still remember the day I answered the phone and became hysterical because I believed Santa on the other line. I must have been four years old. Turns out it was my dad, and when he heard my voice on the other end of the phone he said “Ho Ho Ho”. He wasn’t trying to impersonate Santa, but because I was so excited about the upcoming holiday, and because I was such a believer, it was inconceivable to me that it could be anyone else.

Christmas photo

First Santa photo with both kids.

My husband grew up with a very different Christmas experience. His parents were also immigrants who had grown up without Santa Claus. They still celebrated Christmas, and he grew up aware of Santa, but his holiday was a reflection of the traditional German experience. They didn’t perpetuate the Santa myth. I’m in no way criticizing his experience, but I am trying to highlight an important point. How do you convince your partner that the Santa “lie” is a valid and magical childhood tradition when he has no point of reference? How do you justify the inherent dishonesty and the elaborate ruse associated with said tradition, when as parents you’ve already agreed that you will never lie to your children? Is it worth it?

The agreement to never lie to our children is also something that came about organically. My son has always been very inquisitive and curious about everything. From the time he could talk, we both answered all of his questions honestly and age-appropriately. In grade one he came home from school one day very pleased with himself because he was able to tell his classmates that yes, even human babies come from eggs. Unlike birds, humans don’t lay eggs, but the eggs are inside the mommies. The teacher at his Catholic school very quickly changed the subject once she saw the sea of confused looks. He understood then that not everyone’s parents answered questions.

My husband and I eventually reached a détente concerning all things magical, i.e. Santa, the Tooth Fairy and the Easter Bunny. He would leave the mythical story-telling to me, and he would sit in stony silence any time one of these creatures was brought up in conversation. For example, when my daughter asked us last year why every mall Santa looked different, I explained that Santa was busy making toys in the North Pole so he had helpers all over the world to meet with children and pass along their requests. My husband looked away and avoided all eye-contact. We did come up with a compromise. We agreed that if either child ever asked us straight up for the truth about the existence of Santa, the Tooth Fairy and the Easter Bunny, we would confess.  My son asked us for the truth in grade 2. I confessed, albeit sadly. I really believe that it’s wrong to lie to your children. I also believe that there’s nothing wrong with trying to create a little magic for your kids. I know I owe it to mine since their very existence proves that magic is alive and well in this world.

Christmas morning

Happy Christmas morning.

 

Creativity Lives Here (I Think?)

Back when I started university, or the olden times as my kids refer to my youth, I remember receiving a few perplexed looks after telling people I was majoring in English. I’d hear things like, “So are you going to teach?” Or people would say, “Can you get a job with an English degree?” The rise of the MBA had begun, and many of my peers were looking into graduate programs years before graduation. I guess I was what you’d consider a rare breed now-a-days. I pursued an English degree without giving much thought to how that would impact my ability to find a job.  I pursued an English degree simply because I loved to read and write.

I was lucky because I was able to parlay that degree into a career in marketing and communications. I transitioned from critiquing the works of William Shakespeare and William Faulkner, to writing communications strategies and overseeing advertising campaigns. These may seem like very disparate worlds, but my English degree gave me the ability to think critically, communicate clearly, and draw unique parallels that are the stuff of great advertising. If Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos is stressing the importance of clear written communication among his management team, then maybe old timey skills like writing are still important in today’s technology and social media obsessed world.

So how do we maintain and foster the “soft” creative skills, (skills that may not be so “soft” when you consider that more and more businesses are recognizing the financial benefits of clear communication and content creation), with the ever-changing technological landscape? This world moves fast. What does that mean for our children and the future of education? As parents, how do we set them up for success when today’s education system doesn’t look much different from the one that existed generations ago?  This question keeps my husband up at night; that and my snoring apparently.

 

Both of my kids have grown up surrounded by technology.  Yes we impose limits in terms of time spent on devices, and yes they’re both required to spend time reading actual paper books. However, I want my kids to be able to do more than just stare at a screen or play a video game.  I want them to be creators and innovators as opposed to merely the end-users of a product.  How do we teach them to look at the world and see the opportunities as opposed to the obstacles? How do we encourage creative thinking and problem solving? We know that these are the skills that fuel some of the world’s greatest discoveries.  I know Mark Zuckerberg didn’t create Facebook by being a rule-follower.

I think it starts small. I think it starts with teaching our kids to say, “Why not?” “Why can’t it be done that way?” “Wouldn’t it be cool if I did it this way? This has been a hard lesson for me to learn, the rule-follower extraordinaire. I want my kids to do well in school, but I don’t want to crush their creative spirits. This is where my artistic and technologically savvy husband comes in. I wasn’t kidding when I said this issue keeps him up at night. He’s always saying that he thinks the MFA (Master of Fine Arts) is going to replace the MBA (Master of Business Administration) as the educational gold-standard for future business leaders.  This is coming from the guy with a Computer Science degree. Creativity, and looking at the world and its problems through a unique lens, these are the skills that will be required of future generations. He may be right, but right now I’m just trying to get them through elementary school.

About a year ago, as part of what I like to call “project nurture creativity”, my husband challenged our kindergarten-aged daughter to create a short movie based on one of her stories.  She could write and draw whatever she wanted, and he would help by adding movement and rudimentary animation. He wanted to show her that they could create something new using power point and “internet magic” (his words).  In a matter of hours she had her “movie”.

The end result isn’t fancy, but I think it’s pretty cute. That’s her little voice you hear narrating the story. The initial phase of “project nurture creativity” was so successful that the kids are now working on creating their own apps with their dad.  My house is littered with app project outlines and storyboards. Who knows, maybe we are helping to create the next Mark Zuckerberg. Probably not, but at the very least we are teaching our kids that most obstacles can be overcome with some creativity, clear communication, and maybe a little “internet magic”.

Comic (Book) Relief

BAM

A friend of mine recently wrote a post on her blog about feeling shocked when she discovered that the baby she was carrying, the baby that she long-believed was a girl, was actually a boy. You can read Katrina’s post here. I love my son fiercely, but as a card-carrying member of the girly girl club, I could relate to her experience.

My husband and I experienced some hiccups on the path to parenthood.  Things did not go smoothly for us, and throughout that experience all we cared about was being able to have a healthy child.  During the course of my pregnancy with my son, we finally arrived at a place where we were confident that this one was going to stick.  We were going to have a baby.  As grateful, and as determined as I was to have a healthy baby, somewhere in the back of my mind I was convinced that I was going to have a girl. It just never occurred to me that someone as girly, non-athletic and germ-a-phobic as me could have a boy. I wouldn’t know what to do with one. The idea of mothering a loud, truck-playing, highly-energetic and probably mud-tracking bundle of joy filled me with anxiety.  I didn’t want to fail at something so essentially important, something I had wanted for so long.

I still remember the day of that ultrasound like it was yesterday.  When the technician told us we were having a boy, I was bewildered and my husband was ecstatic. I wasn’t unhappy, just confused and determined.  I had to figure out how to be a boy’s mom and fast.  It turns out, it wasn’t up to me.  My son taught me how to do that.

redspiderman

Holding Spider-Man action figure, while wearing Spider-Man shirt.

 

When they’re first born, boy or girl, babies are pretty much the same. Eat, sleep, poop and repeat. The hard part comes later when they start to develop their own personalities and interests. I wanted to make sure that my son and I would have something in common. At the very least I’d learn to enjoy playing with trucks and mud.  Ok just the trucks, I can’t get down with the mud. Like most boys, my son played with cars and trucks, and then later he discovered Lego and Star Wars. However, in between all of the typical loud and messy boy-play, we discovered something quiet and uniquely ours.  We discovered comic books.

comic books

 

My son stumbled upon one of his dad’s still in the plastic, never been opened vintage comic books.  It was like I was watching a light-bulb go on over his head.  He was fascinated by the colourful and intricate pictures, and then later by the stories of good versus evil featuring characters with superhuman powers. As a former English Literature major with a preference for Victorian fiction, I had never been exposed to comic books before that moment. Sure, as a child, I had watched Saturday morning cartoons and the Superhero Friends had always been one of my favourites.  (Except for those Wonder Twins.  I mean really, how is turning into a form of water a real superpower?) The moment my son discovered those comic books, I was given a gift. Reading comic books together became our thing.

spiderman shirt

One of many Spider-Man shirts in rotation at the age of 3.

When my daughter was born, her older brother experienced some of the typical sibling jealousy that usually accompanies the arrival of a new baby. It was pretty short lived.  She was a new baby who slept a lot. Once she was asleep, my son would be waiting for me on the couch with a pile of the latest and greatest Spider-Man comic books.  We’d read, he’d ask me the same questions, “Mom, who’s your favourite superhero?” (Wolverine, it’s always Wolverine.) “Mom, if you could have any superpower what would it be?” (The ability to heal myself, basically to be Wolverine.) “Mom, who do you think would win in a fight between Hulk and Thor?” (Hulk, he’s a force with no equal.) “Mom, who do you think is the most powerful super-villain? (This is a tough one, but I’ll go out on a limb and say Galactus.) In the three years that my son was obsessed with comic books, I became a superhero expert.  I know every origin story, every superhero weakness, and I can argue with authority the strengths and weaknesses of the Marvel versus DC comic universes. I won’t disclose my preference, I need to maintain some journalistic impartiality.

spiderman

Now that my son is nine, he’s outgrown his love of comic books.  They’re still in a pile in his room, and he does look at them occasionally, but they don’t consume his ever-waking thoughts like they used to.  He’s moved on to Percy Jackson and the tales of the Greek gods. It makes me a little sad that we no longer spend our afternoons cuddling and discussing the merits of Professor Xavier’s Mutant Academy, but that’s to be expected. I was reminded of those moments on a recent family vacation. We were on a plane and one of the in-flight movies was Captain America: The Winter Soldier. We both chose to watch Captain America, not knowing that the other person had chosen the same movie. After a few minutes my son realized that he and I were watching the same movie.  It must have been the sound of destruction coming from my earbuds. He looked over at me and smiled. I knew in that moment we would be spending the shuttle ride from the airport to the hotel discussing Captain America. It wasn’t cuddling on a couch, but it was still pretty great to know that in that moment my son would always associate his love of comic books with his girly, non-athletic, germ-a-phobic mom.

Sorry, Not Sorry

red sorry not sorry

I might be starting to show my age, and soon you might find me chasing kids off my lawn while shaking a fist above my head, but the lack of genuine remorse that I have encountered recently has made me wonder if we’ve entered a time of such extreme entitlement that the words “I’m sorry” will soon go the way of the Dodo bird. I know that sounds extreme, but in a world where celebrities can wreak havoc on others and then release statements that say, “I’m sorry if my behaviour/words/actions may have offended you.” In other words, “Sorry you’re so sensitive! Sheesh!

Trying to drive in Toronto given the constant state of construction, has taken entitlement to a whole new level. Driving seems to give people a sense of anonymity making them do things that they may not do outside of their cars. When I was first learning to drive, my instructor would often talk about the importance of the car horn. The car horn is meant to be used as a means of preventing accidents. If someone starts to drift into your lane and is about to hit you, what do you do?  The only way to communicate with that other driver is by honking your horn. This happened to me recently while driving (or at least trying to) on the Gardiner Expressway. I honked at a driver who was about to change lanes right into the side of my car. I was expecting the driver to mime some kind of apology given that I had just saved him from a costly accident.  He mimed alright.  He mimed an angry finger.

People seem to be in a constant state of defensiveness, unwilling to admit wrong doing as if doing so was somehow tantamount to self-flagellation. No one can be right all of the time. (Dear husband, if you’re reading this, this of course does not apply to me.) The best non-apology I ever heard was from an inept contractor, who after failing to meet the basic requirements of a job told me, “I’m sorry we were unable to meet your unrealistic expectations.”  Hmm, I guess expecting a supplier to tell a client that he was leaving for a vacation in the middle of a job is unrealistic. Sorry, not sorry.

YouTube clip from Friends published April 20, 2013

I remember as a child, my mother used to warn my siblings and me that if she were ever to receive a call from the school as a result of any bad behaviour, we’d be really sorry. We knew that any punishment handed out by a teacher, or principal would pale in comparison to the punishment that would be waiting for us at home. Luckily it never came to that, but maybe that’s the point. We didn’t misbehave at school because we knew there would be consequences for bad behaviour. I’m in no way advocating for the use of fear as a means of parenting your child. However, I am advocating for the existence of consequences, and for instilling empathy as a means of raising productive members of society.

Every day our kids go out into the world, and as parents we hope that they make good decisions, armed with the tools we’ve given them. Unfortunately, kids don’t always make good decisions. They’re kids, and as kids they are meant to screw up sometimes. That’s part of learning. One of the most important life lessons that we can teach our kids is how to recover and move on after we’ve made a mistake.  Part of that means owning up to our mistakes, apologizing for them and then learning from those choices so that we don’t repeat the same mistake over and over again.

I’ve noticed a troubling trend recently among parents seemingly unwilling to admit the possibility of wrong-doing by their children. When they receive the dreaded phone call from the school they say things like, “You must be mistaken. My child would never do something like that.” Or they say, “That other child is really sensitive and/or troubled so you should take the complaint with a grain of salt.”  I’ve even heard of a parent saying, “Well my child was bullied before so that’s why he behaves that way now.  There’s nothing I can do.” However, I think my personal favourite is from a parent who said, “Well did you actually witness my child doing that? Do you have any proof?” Is it any wonder that people today are afraid to come forward, or press charges when they’ve been hurt or victimized? We are teaching our own children that it’s okay to blame the victim, to make excuses for bad behaviour, or to refuse to acknowledge guilt without proper “proof”.

Whenever news stories break about celebrities behaving badly, the public is always shocked to hear that in most cases this person has been behaving badly for years.  The next question is always inevitably, “But how did this person get away with it for so long”?  That’s an easy one, we let him.

He Said, She Said: Ten Tips for a Happy Marriage

wedding pic

My husband and I will be celebrating our 12th wedding anniversary this weekend.  While I am certainly no relationship expert, and as much as I avoid giving unsolicited advice, I thought it might be interesting to write about what these twelve years of marriage have taught me about being in a relationship.  To make it more interesting, I have tasked my husband with providing his tips, or marital advice from a guy’s perspective.  I have promised not to edit or adjust his contribution to this post.  He has promised not to take advantage of said promise.  To use the words of my husband, “This could be dangerous.”

She Said:

1. Go to bed angry sometimes.

I’m sure you have all heard the long-standing relationship advice cliché of never go to bed angry.  At the beginning of my marriage I really tried to follow this advice.  I figured if so many people said it, it must be true.  Maybe it is true, for people with mild temperaments.  I’m not mild and I have big feelings.  Staying up trying to resolve arguments only resulted in lack of sleep and a cranky morning.  For me, getting a good’s night sleep helps put issues and feelings in perspective.  I prefer to sleep on it.

2. Pick your battles.

At the beginning of any relationship, most couples are trying to establish boundaries while getting to know each other.  This can lead to disagreements or misunderstandings.  One of the biggest lessons I have learned is that if you are with someone who truly has your best interests at heart, and obviously cares about you, then sometimes it’s just not worth the argument.  Your spouse isn’t leaving all the cupboard doors open just to annoy you.  He really is that forgetful. Just close the door and move on.

3. Laugh a lot.

My husband and I have very similar senses of humour.  It’s of the dry and sarcastic variety.  We usually laugh at the same things.  (Not always at the most appropriate times.)  If you can still laugh together after twelve years of marriage, two kids and multiple home renovation projects, then I think you’re on to something.

4. Be your spouse’s biggest fan, or bodyguard, or therapist. (Whatever the situation calls for.)

The best part of marriage, in my opinion is having someone around who always has your back.  I know that my husband is always on my side, as evidenced by his unwavering support as I struggle to figure out what I want to do when I grow up.  Whenever I start to question my abilities, or my confidence starts to waver, he’s right there singing my praises.  There are times when I’ve questioned his objectivity, and that’s when he’d tell you that that’s just me falling victim to my own perfectionist tendencies.  How can you not love a guy like that?

5. Like the one you’re with.

I love my husband very much, however I like him a whole lot too.  He’s still the first person I would choose to spend my free time with or talk to whenever something big or small happens in my life.  I know it sounds like a cliché, but my husband is my best friend.  Every once in a while one of the kids will start interrogating me with a million questions all at once.  Inevitably, one of the questions is always, “Mom who’s your best friend, other than Daddy?”  They both know that their parents like each other.  Not only is that good for me, but I think that’s pretty great for them too.

 He said:

When Jen first asked me to write five lessons that I have learned being married to her, I was a little apprehensive. I am more of an analytical person. Jen jokingly says “I’m dead inside.” This is another Friends reference. @Jen, can you put this clip in  your post? (Done.  Check out the clip below.)

YouTube clip from Friends uploaded October 6, 2007

So here goes:

1. Marriage is not a competition.

You don’t come in first. You can’t win if it means the other person loses. This is hard for me sometimes. @ Jen, I admit it. I can be a little stubborn.

2. The 7:1 rule.

Make sure you bank happy memories together, and make sure you contribute to making a lot of happy memories for your wife. I think I read somewhere that you should have at least 7 good memories together for each bad. That’s a good start.

3. Always have your wife’s back.

Your wife should know that she can count on you. Be her biggest cheerleader. This is easy for me. I like to say I married up. Jen is an amazing person in so many ways. I have no problem bragging about her.

4. Live in the present.

Try to slow down and enjoy every moment. This works for wives, kids and everything. I try to do this more and more. Sometimes Jen will say, “Why are you looking at me so creepy?” Now she’ll know why.

5. Don’t sweat the small stuff.

It’s life and shit happens. I do this very well but I have a secret. Every day, I feel lucky to have found Jen and my beautiful family.  It makes it easy to keep from stressing when life’s bumps occur.

Ok, so that’s my five but I could have written a lot more. (Some of that has to do with me coming into marriage knowing nothing at all.)

@ Jen, thanks for your patience all these years. I couldn’t have dreamed of my life now before meeting you. I love you and happy anniversary.

Andreas