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A couple of weeks ago, I received a new ATM card in the mail. Normally that is not an earthshaking event, but this new card served to remind me that three years have passed since I received the old one. And, since this was the ATM card for the joint account we started just after getting married, it came as a very physical reminder that our third anniversary is coming up this week.

Many people at last week’s conference asked me how married life is going, since the last time most of them saw me was just after we’d gotten engaged. I said, “Well it’s working out so far, but since it’s only been three years, perhaps I’ll wait until at least five or ten to give my final verdict.” They were without exception shocked to hear that so much time had passed since our happy day, and somewhat abashed, as if they were supposed to keep track of such things for someone they barely know.

I have to admit, I myself am somewhat shocked when thinking of it. So much has happened in that short time, it’s almost hard to believe it hasn’t been far longer. In fact, since our third year began with Gabe’s kidney stone and continued shortly thereafter with a fantastic trip to Venice, let’s just say I very much hope that the fourth one will start out a little more quietly.

After nearly six weeks of nonstop rain, someone flipped a switch this past week and decided that now, it is time for sun. Yesterday was our fourth day of sunshine in a row, which is great for my mood but terrible for my work ethic.

Being inside feels very wrong somehow, as the blue sky reaches in my window, takes me by the hand, and says, “Come outside and play!” What it really makes me long for is a long run in the springtime redwoods or a bike up the coast in the weak March sunshine, both things I love to do at home after a long, wet winter. But I can do neither here, so instead I compromise by working at an outdoor cafe and then going to the gym when the day cools off.

As it turns out, that is exactly what we did yesterday. We went up to the cafe at the park across from our flat, which is one of our favorites, as they have outdoor seating and free wifi — a rarity indeed. I am also a big fan of the petite blond waitress’ outrageous outfits, which I have started to collect with great interest.

This time, she was wearing a tiny turquoise skirt with black tights and a black off the shoulder shirt, which revealed tattoos that perfectly matched the color both of her skirt and the scarf around her neck. Her shoes were canvas sneakers printed with a snakeskin pattern, well worn from working many shifts on her feet, and her bleach-blond hair was swept up off her face, then adorned with two small white flower clips.

With her leather jacket, eyebrows plucked into thin high arches, and a lip piercing just below her nose, she reminded me oddly of the flapper character in the book I was reading — kind of a modern day, punk rock version. I am totally fascinated by this creature, who greets most of her customers as old friends and spends most of her time sitting outside and smoking.

Despite her innovative stylistic creations, neither she nor her equally bepierced coworker are the fastest or most astute of servers (see our earlier adventures with the three cups of coffee.) But we weren’t feeling rushed either, so it was no problem — we were happy to soak in the semi-warm sunshine as we waited for our coffee and tea to arrive. Apparently water takes longer to boil up there, you know?

The big sliding glass doors were thrown open to the breeze, and jazz wafted out of the little CD player, cleverly disguised as a miniature 1950s style radio. People drifted in and out, getting cafezinhos or toasted sandwiches, playing backgammon on a portable set outside, taking off jackets and putting them back on again. I couldn’t think of a better place to work.

After rousing ourselves for a quick trip to the gym, we wandered home via the corner market (a tiny place crammed with an improbable amount of goods, run by an Indian man and a Russian woman) and the bakery. We didn’t even need bread, but I wanted to say hi to the ladies, to maybe earn a glimpse of that crooked smile. Once again, I felt an increased warmth and familiarity from these fixtures of our neighborhood, and even though I couldn’t understand a word they said, I smiled and nodded and laughed with them anyway.

I continue to be enchanted by the sense of community here, which I have never felt in the States. We lived in the boonies while I was growing up, with our closest neighbors probably a half mile away. Now Gabe and I live in a quiet, totally residential neighborhood, where we know only our immediate neighbors. In fact just yesterday I opened a letter forwarded to me from one of our neighbors down the street, soliciting donations to the American Heart Association or some such. We’ve been gone for six months, and she didn’t even notice. How sad is that?!

But here, everyone is always in each other’s business. While I was hanging up laundry in our front window yesterday, I watched the drama of our little street play itself out. The restoration artist across the street helped his grandson toddle his way shakily down the cobblestones until his grandmother came out to fetch him. She swooped him up and took him into the workshop, but soon ducked back out again to consult with the fish lady, her head elaborately wrapped as usual. The little old lady who lives next door wandered by to throw her trash into one of the communal trash bins, and of course had to weigh in on the day with the restaurateur’s wife. And all this in the span of about five minutes! It’s a never-ending parade of life lived in the open here, and I am growing to love it. Life in the States is going to seem so tame when we return.

Even with this glorious afternoon, the best part of the day was yet to come. How could such a day be improved upon, you ask? Why, with taxes and zombies, I say. Nonstop excitement, I tell you!

We originally had plans to go out, but Gabe had gotten so absorbed in doing our taxes that I figured it was best just to let him get them done. And finish he did, which we celebrated by watching a movie he’d found for me the night before: Dead Snow, a movie about Nazi zombies attacking a bunch of rich, spoiled German med students on their trip to the snow. We’d seen the trailer a while back, but somehow missed it in the theater. Hard to believe, I know, as I’m sure it was a huge hit. So Gabe was thrilled when he stumbled across it on Netflix, and presented it to me as a surprise. Que romantico!

Just as I’d suspected, it was gory, disgusting, hilarious, and totally fantastic. I loved it. What girl wouldn’t like spending her Friday night watching people get disemboweled? What a romantic husband I have! Doing my taxes and then surprising me with a zombie movie. Wow. I am one lucky girl!

Well, it’s here. My last morning alone in our flat, and my last time alone for quite a while. For once though, I will welcome the company, since for the next month, I will be joined in my morning routine by people I love. The last few months has broken through my introversion very effectively, making me long for other people’s company, even the ability to have polite conversation with strangers. Nothing like living in a non-English speaking country to do that to you.

So here we are, less than one day away from going home. We’re all checked in and (mostly) packed, although thanks to the  cold spell we’re having just in time to see us off, Gabe had to root through his entire suitcase last night to find his beanie. Which of course was on the very bottom. Sigh. And, since only 2 of our three small heaters work, and those are at opposite ends of the flat, I’m now bundled up in double layers of clothing, and am considering putting on my fingerless gloves to work. OY. And here I’ve been dreading going home where it’s so cold! Ha!

It feels strange to be this close to going home, and strangest of all is how calm I am about the whole thing. I guess that’s far preferable to being a nervous wreck about it. Funnily enough though, I’m also quite sad to be leaving here. As I began my morning today, I realized that I was sad to be leaving even these little rituals behind, as I have come to value them.

More so, these past months have taught me to value myself again, to refocus on what I am capable of doing for myself rather than for my family or loved ones. Over the past months, there have been times when I have been completely alone and forced to fight my own battles, both big and small. Gabe is the only other person I have here, and he can’t always be around to speak up for me. Whether he’s been at work or doubled over in pain, there have been many days when I’ve been totally on my own, and have had to work up enough courage to speak for myself — be it to ask for a different size of boots or a bunch of grapes or to make a sonogram appointment for my husband’s kidney stone. So these past months have reminded me of my old friendship with myself, and I have relished the re-acquaintance.

Our time here has also given Gabe and I a chance for re-acquaintance after spending a particularly hard first few years together. As we have pointed out to each other frequently over the past weeks, most couples (especially this early on in their marriage) would have a hard time withstanding the close proximity and constant strain we’ve experienced here. Traveling together is always tough, but living in a different country is pretty much insane. For us though, that insanity has served to bring us together and make us rely on each other even more than we did before. Which is good, because it was either that or kill each other. Guess we lucked out on that one.

More than anything though, this last few months has taught me anew the importance of home. I am so glad to be going back tomorrow, to feel comfortable in my own skin once more, to hear English being spoken around me instead of constantly straining to comprehend even the most trivial of conversations. While being a stranger in a strange land has indeed taught me many valuable lessons, and will no doubt continue to do so when we get back next year… sometimes, even the most intrepid of explorers needs a break.

********

In other news — we saw the movie “Moon” last night with a couple of our Portuguese friends. A more different experience than the night before I could not imagine. Even though the budget was tiny and there were only two main actors, the idea was hugely original, and the script so tightly plotted and written that its mere 1 hour and 40 minutes felt like it encompassed an entire lifetime.

Before I give anything away, I will stop and just say: see it. Please. Wonderful movie. One of the best I’ve seen all year.

The last 48 hours have been a wonderful, terrible microcosm of all that marriage entails: sheer tedium, extreme happiness, strong partnership, and a little bit of pure terror thrown in for good measure. What a fitting way to end our second year of marriage and begin the third.

Wednesday, also known as our second wedding anniversary, started out with a good dose of tedium. Our 9 AM appointment at SEF (Servicos de Estrangeiros e Fronteiras) to get Gabe’s permanent residency card turned out to be yet another two and a half hour marathon of waiting. This time, instead of standing in line like I did for the Metro card, we got to sit — along with a room full of screaming children and people made rude and pushy by the waiting and their desperation to get EU residency. Oh, such fun.

Despite our appointment, we waited in no less than three separate lines. And again, all this waiting was just to have a roughly half-inch thick stack of paperwork checked over by two separate people (with a line for each one), and then turn it in. After all this, Gabe didn’t even actually get his card!

No, they will send us a letter when the card is ready, at which point we get to make yet another appointment (and remember, it took us two weeks to actually get an appointment in the first place) and go back in yet another time to pick up the card. Ridiculous. Why they can’t just send us the card, I do not know. As we’ve established, efficiency is not their middle name around here.

So with that auspicious start to our anniversary, we decided to make the most of the rest of the day… which in this case involved going back to sleep, since I was still pretty sick. We did so, and then went down to the gym for a late-afternoon workout and hot tub/sauna session to see if I couldn’t shake off the last of this cold.

As I sat in the sauna hacking up a lung and sweating profusely, I unexpectedly had my first real solo Portuguese conversation. The woman who came in shortly after me turned out to be trained as a journalist and married to a diplomat, and had taught Portuguese to foreigners while they were stationed in Croatia. So she was the perfect person with whom to practice my language skills, as she didn’t mind correcting me. We made plans to see each other at the gym again, and voila — my first Portuguese friend was made! I was thrilled. Friendship always waits in the most unexpected places.

Finally, for a proper celebration of our big day, we decided simply to walk up to our usual breathtaking miradouro above the house and have a drink up there. This time though, we splurged on glasses of champagne, and sat looking out over our adopted city, bemused by how far we’ve come in two short years. We then made a lovely dinner at home and watched the slideshow of our wedding photos, followed by a couple of celebratory pasteis from the local bakery. What a fitting way to end our second year!

*    *    *

Thus concludes the happiness portion of this tale. Next enters the partnership and terror part, with a small nod back at tedium just for good measure. We spent the entire first day of our third year of marriage in the hospital, after Gabe woke up yesterday morning suffering from terrible abdominal pain.

So I spent the morning running around like the proverbial chicken, simultaneously trying to take care of Gabe, get us both dressed and fed in preparation for what I suspected would be a very long day, and negotiate the Blue Cross bureaucracy to find him a doctor or hospital.

Of course we’d been saying we should find doctors since we got here, but I kept saying, “Oh no, we just have to call Blue Cross and they’ll make an appointment for us when we need one.” At least that’s what their website said, but their website was wrong. All they did in the end was suggest names of hospitals and doctors, and at last told me that we could actually go to anyone, these were just suggestions. Well crap, why didn’t your website just up and say that?!?

Even worse, it turned out that out of the list of four hospitals and doctors they gave me, both doctors were no longer at the clinic they said they were, and the closer hospital did not in fact have an emergency room. Fabulous! Thanks so much Blue Cross. Way to really be there for your subscribers.

By this point Gabe had entered into another pain spasm, so we found him a taxi and got him to the one hospital that did have an urgent care. He basically marched straight into a treatment room without bothering with the line, and by the time I found him, he was already talking to a nurse. Nothing like a man grimacing in agony to get straight past the queues.

I was sent back to stand in line and register him, and, anticipating many forms and bureaucracy, I resigned myself to waiting. Not calmly mind you — now that we were finally at the hospital and he was in someone else’s hands, I was pretty much starting to lose it, especially when confronted with the language barrier. However the lady simply asked for his passport (which of course I hadn’t had the presence of mind to grab before we left), and when I said I didn’t have it, she just had me write down his name, address, and phone number… and that was it! That simple. No way would he have been treated that quickly at an urgent care in the States.

Another large difference in medical care soon presented itself as they took his problem into hand. They never took his vital signs, nor did they consult him on what they were going to do — they just diagnosed a kidney stone (which we had been suspecting as well), and proceeded to treat him for such.

Despite the quick treatment, his pain took a while to subside, and I could only stand by and witness mutely, unable to help or hurry it in any way. The nurses gave him a nitroglycerine pill, which seemed to help eventually, but only after I’d ventured upstairs to try to make him an appointment for a sonogram that afternoon.

Unfortunately none of the three women in that reception spoke English, and what little Portuguese I have had flown the coop at the first sight of my normally imperturbable husband doubled over in pain. So a hilarious pantomime ensued, wherein I gave them the prescription the doctor had written for the sonogram, which made them all shake their heads and look at the appointment book and talk amongst themselves with a general attitude of gloom.

I decided oh what the hell, and let loose some of the tears I’d been valiantly struggling to hold back up to that point. I figured the poor helpless American wife card oughta get me somewhere. Sure enough, after calling urgent care to figure out what this woman was on about, the verdict was passed from the nurse to the first receptionist to the other receptionist (whom I suspect was someone’s teenage daughter visiting her mom at work), who then attempted to translate it into broken English. Bottom line: they would come to get him down in urgent care at 3 PM.

Since it was not even 1 PM, we hurried up and waited. Luckily by this point the medications had taken effect, so Gabe was able to walk around outside with me for a bit, picking up his prescription and sitting in a nearby park for a while, then getting some lunch for me on the way back. I was able to sit on my own for a minute and eat lunch and have a quiet cup of tea, and then the rest of the afternoon was spent waiting in the urgent care for them to come and get him.

By the time they did, the pain was back, so we lurched up to the waiting area up there and continued to wait. Finally the sonogram person saw him, but couldn’t see any stones, at which point she pronounced it might be a kidney infection and we should go back to urgent care and talk to another doctor to see what he said about the test results.

Small problem: the results took another 45 minutes to prepare, during which time we had to sit. And wait. Again. At one point (of course after Gabe had finally managed to drift off in the stiff plastic chair), the little sonogram doctor poked her head out and said, “You’re still here??” Um… yeah!

Finally, an hour and a half after we were originally supposed to get the sonogram, we went back down and saw another doctor, who gruffly informed Gabe that stones can be “the size of mountains, or tiny grains, and sometimes you don’t even see them.” So he stuck to the initial diagnosis, and finally — finally! — we were free, almost 7 hours after we’d gotten there. I took Gabe home, fed him, and put him to bed, then immediately set out for the gym, where I hopped on a treadmill and ran til I was drenched in sweat.

I felt much better after that, which was a good thing, because the rest of the evening was pretty rough. But the good news is that Gabe slept through the night (as did I) without any further pain. He still has more tests and a urologist appointment today, but it will be much much easier for both of us to handle if he’s not in pain the whole time. Not to mention the flight to Venice on Monday, which I’m very much hoping we can still make. We’d originally planned to go yesterday — thank God we didn’t!

All I know is, by the time we get there, we will have more than earned our trip to Italy. This has been a momentous week, both in terms of our health and our relationship, and I think at this point we both need a vacation from our year-long vacation.

Yesterday officially marked our first year of marriage. Some random, mostly unrelated thoughts on the topic are as follows. Enjoy.

  • I enjoy being married far more than I did getting married. Similarly, it turns out I’m a much bigger fan of anniversaries than weddings. I very much enjoyed skipping straight to the vacation and relaxing without all the hullaballoo beforehand.
  • Love, and marriage with it, are not easy. But they are massively rewarding. Duh, I know, but I have talked to a lot of people who actually don’t get this concept.
  • Being married does not mean you are exempt from loneliness. There are some paths your spouse just can’t walk with you. Dammit.
  • I enjoy marriage. I love being married. And at the risk of politicizing a very personal post (isn’t the personal always political?), I don’t think that anyone should be denied that joy, for any reason. Ever.
  • I’m still not used to the fact that I of all people am married. In fact, I’m still amazed that I did not turn out to be the last unmarried person I know. I’m not sure if I’ll ever get used to it, really.

That’s it, for now. This year has flown by… seems like only yesterday we were huddled in our B&B in Half Moon Bay, stunned and recovering. Here’s to year two!

With my first wedding anniversary approaching next week (hard to believe!), I’ve been thinking a lot lately about the nature of love, both filial and spousal. Love in all forms is so much more complicated than I ever thought it would be… and so much harder.

Into the midst of all this came Stephanie Meyer’s Twilight series. I’d been holding out, adamantly not wanting to join the club, but when my mom gave me the first book last week, I couldn’t say no. Just like the main character and her paranormal paramour, I knew it was trouble, I knew it could cost me my life (or at least a few days’ productivity), and yet try as I might, I just couldn’t put it down. I literally had to stop myself from picking it up during the daytime, because I knew that I’d blink and hours would have gone by with no work done.

Instead I sacrificed sleep, staying up way past my bed time to read just that one extra chapter, OK maybe two… or three…! When I allowed myself to open it back up last night and read the final hundred pages, I actually got a physical thrill of excitement. In other words, I was acting just like the teenage girls at whom these books are aimed. I haven’t had a book affect me like that, well, since I was a teenager.

All I can say is — thank GOD this series was not around ten years ago! This book was everything an awkward, quiet, bookish girl longs for in life: the most gorgeous guy in school suddenly falls in love with her, seeing a beauty in her that she had never been aware of, etc. I was addicted to sci fi and fantasy as a teen, so the vampire bit would have been an added bonus. If you’d thrown in a horse or a dragon or two, I would’ve never wanted to leave home. (Yes, I was that geeky. Deal with it.)

But as much as I shamefacedly loved this book, at the same time I also resented it. Out of curiosity, after finishing it I went onto Facebook and searched for the name of the main character’s vampiric love interest. The first group I found basically stated that his ravishing good looks and romance had forever ruined their potential for love with all normal, human men. I thought it was funny, until I realized that the group had almost 40,000 members. Holy crap. That is a lot of people! And among those people are probably a very high number of young girls, teenagers, who truly think that what they read about in that book is love.

Being the sheltered and late-blooming teen that I was, I undoubtedly would have thought the same thing. I too had crazy, romantic ideas about love, ideals that one mortal man could never hope to fulfill. As a result, I looked for (and unfortunately found) love in all the wrong places, until one day I got lucky and stumbled upon the real thing.

Don’t get me wrong — I think it’s great that teens are reading in a time of high-speed media interactions. I also think the main character is a very appealing one, and I admire Meyer’s ability to portray a heart-racing love story while keeping it completely PG.

That said, I worry about what stories like these are telling our girls about love. It makes me think of the moment in the Sex and the City movie where Carrie tries to tell the little girl that Cinderella isn’t real. There is no prince in shining armor, there is no hottie vampire who considers you to be his soul mate. There are just men, sometimes boys, who can be flawed and arrogant and sweet and stupid and very very human.

Or maybe I’m wrong. Maybe part of what made me like this book so much was that it reminded me of what it was like to dream about Prince Charming Vampire Man, of a day when that kind of impossibly perfect love was still possible, before eight years of painful, stupid, senseless experience showed me otherwise.

Or maybe I’m reading way too much into all this (just for a change!) and I should just be glad that I read a fantastically entertaining book… and that there are still three more to go.

When Sara Palin’s VP nomination was announced yesterday, I (and pretty much everyone else in the country) said, “Who?”

Like I usually do, I relied on NPR and friends to tell me what I needed to know. My dear husband, being the newshound that he is, decided to take it a step further. A lot further. In fact, he is currently taking a nap because he stayed up too late reading about Ms. Palin, and now is the leading expert on all things GOP VP nominee (or VPILF, as someone put it.)

I have to say, I’m starting to get a little jealous here. I mean come on — my husband stayed up all night getting to know another woman. He has repeatedly commented on how good-looking she is, and now knows pretty much all there is to know about her, including her children’s names and the multiple outdoor activities her and husband excel in.

I really don’t know how I feel about this state of affairs… especially if it means he’s going to vote Republican. Having a political crush is one thing, but that would be crossing the line. I’ll have to keep a careful wifely eye on this one…

Some time ago, I wrote about the fire that raged its way to within a mile of my parents’ house, and how it made me think about what in that house is truly important to me. Last week, I got yet another sharp reminder of where my priorities should be. (Why is it that whenever we think we’ve grasped a lesson, it still comes back to hit us over the head time and time again?)

On Friday, my husband called me after his bachelor party river rafting experience, breathless and excited from the sheer reckless exhilaration of it all. After talking to him for about five minutes, he tentatively said, “I have some kind of bad news.”

“Oh yeah?,” I said, “what’s that?,” thinking maybe someone’s camera had fallen in the river or something.

His sheepish, quiet reply was slow in coming. “Well, my wedding ring fell off in the river.”

I’ll spare you the details of my response, but needless to say, I was upset. A lot upset, especially since he seemed so damn calm, having already done his panicking hours earlier when he first realized it was gone. After we got off the phone, I tried not to think about it too much, but the memory of it was like a sore tooth or a hangnail — I tried to avoid it, yet kept coming back to worry at it, over and over again.

Finally, it sunk in that what really hurt was not the ring itself — that is just a hunk of gold, one which can be replaced. No matter that the price of said metal has doubled since we bought it a year ago, that’s still only money. No, what hurt the most was the concept of the ring, and what it represents. It is such a small thing (or too big, in this case), and yet it stands for so much. That particular hunk of metal is symbolic of the vows I entered into last October, of the promises I made and the life we are creating together. Along with our wedding video (which disappeared when my hard drive was wiped earlier in the year), our children will never be able to see the ring that I originally gave their father on our wedding day. That is what shook me most of all.

And yet, in the end, it is still just a piece of metal, albeit one with a whole heap of emotions and significance piled on top of it. Although it is lost, what it symbolized still remains. And I’d do well to remember that it could have been my husband that fell into the river that day. So in the end, a ring is a small, ultimately replaceable, yet still very tragic thing to lose.

So even with all the talking I’ve done about reassessing the true value of my possessions, in the end it is just that: talk. I am definitely not above putting disproportionate weight on material things. Really, deep down I think few people can ever be. But it’s nice to have small reminders like that every once in a while, so that when the big things (like house fires) come around, you are better prepared to deal with their impact.

Ironically enough, earlier that day I had written an email on this very subject to the director of the Sputnik documentary I worked on a couple years ago. He had a house fire back in February, which destroyed many irreplaceable artifacts of a long and very productive film career. He sent me the video of a talk he gave at TED a few weeks after the fire, which was entitled “On Losing Everything.” I responded with a story about my parents’ house, and how it made me realize what really mattered in life, etc etc.

Then, just a few hours after writing that email, I was devastated by the loss of my husband’s ring. Not my husband himself, not even anything irreplaceable, and definitely not everything I owned or had worked on for the past thirty years.

Isn’t it funny how quickly we lose perspective, no matter how hard-won it may have been?

Or at least that’s what my mom called it this morning, and since she’s one of our resident religious experts around here, I’ll take it.

It’s Easter morning, and I am looking forward to spending the day with both my own parents and my husband’s. That may not seem like anything out of the ordinary for most people, but for me, it’s special. My husband is Jewish, and we have spent the past two years learning much about each other’s traditions. There have been some misunderstandings, mostly involving Christmas trees and cereal, but otherwise it has been a relatively smooth and educational process.

It helps a lot that neither of us is very doctrinaire with respect to our religion. Having been raised by two religious scholars, I have always been more concerned with spirituality itself rather than which particular form it takes. There were a few years in high school when I decided to become a regular church-goer, but that was more because the guys at the youth group were totally cute. But hey, it kept me away from partying and gave me a sense of belonging during an otherwise unfounded time in my life, so it wasn’t all bad. At least until I went to college, and then all bets were off. But that’s another story.

My husband was raised with a much more defined sense of religious tradition, and he and his family still observe Shabbat dinner, Yom Kippur, Passover, etc. To his immense credit though, he has never asked that I participate in or observe any of the above, simply that I accompany him and be present with his family during their observance. I have done so happily, being the eternally curious creature that I am, and only occasionally do I feel like an outsider. (See my Hanukkah post for more on that topic.)

What is it that has allowed us to stay together despite what some may consider irreconcilable differences in faith? I am sure many people would find that to be a deal breaker. Indeed, my own dear husband has confessed that if he hadn’t mistakenly believed that I was Jewish (though no pretense of mine, I swear!) while we were getting to know each other, he would’ve thought twice about dating me. Good thing I deceived him, however unwittingly.

But that was two years ago, and much has passed under the bridge since then. We have stood by hospital beds on both sides of the family, spent Hanukkah and Christmas with each other, survived through his fasting on Yom Kippur while in Croatia (now that was a tough one!), and celebrated our marriage following his traditions… with a little nod to my own thrown in with a blessing from my dad, including a round of “Om shanti om” in acknowledgment of my Indian roots.

Frankly, the toughest conflict to overcome so far has been on Thanksgiving, which is the one holiday our families have in common. Otherwise, all our holidays are like today — we can all go to my family’s house, because for his, it is a Sunday like any other. And next month, I can spend both seder dinners with his family, because I am not obliged to be with my own.

The key here is family. That is the one thing all of our respective celebrations have in common, as we are both families junkies and basically view any holiday as an excuse to get a fix. We both hold family sacred above all else, which enables us to come together and celebrate no matter what the occasion. Christmas at your parents’ house? Sure! Passover at your aunt’s? Bring it on!

For both myself and my husband, religion equals family. So even though we were raised speaking different dialects, for us it is still the same language. True, we have some misinterpretations now and again, but for the most part we manage to communicate extremely well. Thus I am looking forward to spending Easter, or Spring Festival, or whatever you want to call it, with all of my family, new and old.

Just after I’d finished writing yesterday’s entry, my husband got home brimming with excitement about a meeting he’d had that afternoon regarding a new consulting project. During this three-hour meeting, they’d made a possible breakthrough on a problem he’s been trying to solve for years. He started to tell me, “And the other guy said, ‘But doesn’t that violate Einstein’s theory of _____?’…'”

Alas, I will never find out if their idea does in fact violate Einstein’s theory, because by that point I was already laughing too hard for my beloved scientist of a husband to continue talking. You see, all I could think about was this: the entire time he was getting paid a ridiculous amount of money to sit in his office and talk about Einstein, I was shoveling poo onto our lawn.

The juxtaposition was just too good for me not to crack up, even though it clearly hurt his feelings that I did not in fact care about Einstein’s theory. No, I cared much more about the fact that my muscles were (and still are!) sore and my back hurt, I cared that my hands still felt dirty even after washing them about a thousand times, and I cared that I didn’t even get the entire freaking lawn done in a whole afternoon’s work.

Sometimes, life just isn’t fair. But then, as my mom so wisely pointed out — just look at Einstein’s lawn. Guaranteed it didn’t look as good as mine is going to. Ha. So there.

“Treat history as a springboard, not as an anchor.”

- General John G. Medaris

When I Wrote It

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