I posted some more of our stuff on craigslist in my effort to work through that list of household chores you gave me. You’re getting excited about getting rid of some of the junk we don’t want and bringing some money in. You’re liking selling stuff on craigslist so much that we decided to start buying stuff at garage sales and such just so we can sell them there. I hope this doesn’t end up in an accumulation of stuff we don’t want. That would be ironic.
For our final anniversary date, which occurred on our actual anniversary, I took you on a surprise picnic at the beach.
The night before, as we were sitting on the couch, I (seemingly randomly) declared: “I’m going to bake a quiche.” I thought you would be a bit suspicious about my declaration, especially since our anniversary was the next day and since I’d never baked a quiche nor expressed any desire to. But you weren’t. You said okay and went back to what you were doing. Maybe that’s because I frequently make strong declarations about random things: “I’m going to run a half marathon this fall.” “Would you like a pie? I’ll go make one.” “I’m going to take up swimming.” “Let’s travel around Europe when I’m done with school.” “I’m going to fly planes for a living.” I guess not all of my declarations become a reality. I did bake that quiche, though. Here it is, eggs, bell peppers, feta, cheddar, garlic and all:
To be honest, I don’t know that it’s a quiche. It could be a frittata or it could just be baked eggs with random stuff thrown in. I really don’t know what qualifies something as one or the other. But let’s call it a quiche—it tasted so great, I think it deserves a fancy French name.
(By the way, I’ve wanted to make you a quiche (i.e., the kind of thing of which the thing pictured above is an instance) for about six months. I’m not sure why. I just had it stuck in my mind to make you one and to eat it with you at the beach.)
But enough of that delectable dish I somewhat arbitrarily designated a quiche. Let’s get back to the date. On the day of our anniversary, I put all of our picnic items together and sneaked them over to our friends’ house. They agreed to set up the picnic for us so that we would “stumble” upon it as we walked on the beach.
When I came back, you asked for some of the quiche. I gave you the small portion of it that was left. “You ate the entire thing!?” you asked. I simply shrugged my shoulders in response. When you were done eating, we dropped our kids off with some friends and drove to Goleta Beach. We started on our walk and soon came upon the picnic lunch.
“Hungry?” I asked you as I motioned to the picnic. “This is for us!? How did you do that!?” you said as you jumped to hug me. (With all the crazy surprises I’ve done through 365, I think you now consider me the David Blaine of romance.) After taking about 1,000 pictures of our lunch, we started eating. All the while, people on the beach were stealing glances of us, perhaps wondering what was taking place.
After lunch, we took a walk on the pier. We talked about family life, our marriage, and the possibility of adopting children, and at one point, I ran through these resting pigeons:
Our three dates proved invaluable, since they provided us with some much-needed time together and without our children (whom we love dearly). Here are some more pictures of our picnic:
Note for my wife: Unlike my typical posts, this one is not addressed directly to you, though it’s about you.
About nine months ago, I committed to doing an intentional act of love for my wife every day for a year and I’ve been keeping track of my project—which I’ve called 365 Acts of Love—at my blog. In that time, I’ve committed a wide variety of acts: I’ve written my wife numerous love notes, given her tons of massages, taken her on a whale-watching tour by helicopter, filled our living room with balloons (which were themselves filled with candy and love notes), watched the kids on various occasions so she could go shopping or get coffee with a friend, taken her on a sunset cruise, and the list goes on. As it turns out, this year has been one of the more challenging years of my life.
What drove me to make this huge commitment? Whether or not some lesser commitment would’ve sufficed (an act of love a week, maybe?), I took on this project to rekindle my love for my wife. When she and I first started dating, growing in love for each other was easy. But then, life happened: we had kids and we worked hard to pay the bills and to keep me in school. Keeping our romance aflame got put on the back burner.
Still, it seemed to me that things were okay. My wife and I enjoyed each other and lead relatively happy lives. However, she would occasionally tell me that I wasn’t doing much to show her that I love her. That seemed absurd to me. As she said that more and more, my response changed from confusion to utter annoyance.
Then everything came to a head about a year ago. While driving to the beach, we got into a heated discussion. She told me that I don’t do much to show her that I love her and I maintained the opposite. I told her that I show my love by consistently helping out around the house, being there for the family all the time, going grocery shopping with her every week, working really hard to support our family, etc. I got frustrated because I couldn’t understand why that wasn’t enough. “I’ve given everything for you and our family and I’ve loved every minute! What more could you want from me?!” I thought I had her. How could she argue with that? Very well, it turned out. She said she appreciates those things, but she wants more. She said that she wants to be romanced, but that I don’t do that. She was right—I rarely brought her flowers or told her that I love her or wrote her love notes or held her hand or told her she’s beautiful or took her on dates. Somewhere along our journey, I stopped romancing her. In spite of all that I did for her, I took our relationship for granted.
After that conversation, I decided to change. But I knew that unless I did something systematic, the change wouldn’t last. So I came up with the idea for my blog. It required me to be consistent with its built in accountability and seemed like a great opportunity for change. I thus committed to 365 Acts of Love by creating the blog and posting this resolution:
You are my beloved and I am yours. But after several years of marriage, I’ve grown passive about our relationship–no longer do I passionately pursue your love nor express mine. I’m not sure how or why this happened, but I know that I want it to change. I love you, but desire to love you more and want you to feel loved by me. So, starting today, I’m resolving to commit a different, intentional act of love for you every day for a year, so that our relationship may thrive once again . . . By blogging about this journey, I hope to preserve the memory of this year as a gift to you.
Since I started this project, I’ve realized that my problem is more than just a lack of romance. By not putting the effort into our relationship that it required, I was being selfish. I wasn’t romancing my wife, not because the kids or school or work got in the way, but because my thoughts, desires, will, etc. were all turned toward myself. And it ate away at our relationship.
But 365 Acts of Love has changed things for the better. For one, it’s made an astounding difference in our relationship. 42 days into the project, I said this:
I’m happy to say that after 42 days, I don’t just see a need to romance you, I want to romance you. I can’t wait to see what happens in the next 343 days.
And 70 days into the project, my wife told me this:
I feel like we’re friends again. Happy friends. Not just roommates . . . It’s clear you’ve been thinking about me during the day. Like how you gave me that coffee card . . .You’ve been so romantic lately. That’s exactly what I’ve wanted from you this entire time. That’s exactly what I’ve been talking about.
Our relationship has really grown and we’re more unified than we’ve ever been. We’re experiencing a joy that’s been absent for a while. We’re happy to serve one another and we’re setting our sights on serving people outside of our family.
365 Acts of Love is also changing us as individuals. I’ve noticed that serving my wife and family comes more naturally than before (though it’s still a struggle). In addition, my desire has strengthened a ton to keep our relationship and our family together, healthy, happy, and centered on God. And I’ve gained a renewed desire to be the kind of man that God designed me to be.
As for my wife, she’s happier—even giddier—and more confident. She’s more willing to try new things, daring things (at least for her), like riding in a helicopter. She’s putting a bunch of effort into centering our home around loving and glorifying God. And she’s opened herself up to me like never before.
One of the greatest lessons I’ve taken away from 365 Acts of Love is that developing a good relationship requires great care. As an analogy, consider the work it takes to grow a garden. No one expects a garden to flourish from a few days of hard work. Instead, it sometimes takes months of daily hard work for it to be fruitful. In other words, gardens don’t self-maintain or self-improve. But neither do relationships. Both require consistent and careful attention and cultivation. Left to themselves, they wither and eventually die.
I put a lot of work into my marriage at the beginning to get it to a certain level (so did my wife!), then expected it to stay there. I thought that after a while my wife and I would be able to just sit back and enjoy our lives together. But when I stopped working hard, our marriage slowly and almost imperceptibly withered. Although things could’ve been worse, they weren’t where they should’ve been. I’m so glad I started 365 Acts of Love when I did.
I would encourage all of you married folks to consistently and carefully attend to and cultivate your marriages. If your relationship is great, don’t expect it to stay that way without effort. If it’s bad or mediocre, work hard to change it. It’s possible that your hard work won’t bring about the change you expect. But your relationship won’t be good unless you try.
For our second anniversary date, I took you on a 1-hour sunset cruise near Stearn’s Wharf in Santa Barbara. This was the act that I intended for day 250, but had to put it off until now. I’m glad I got to use it for our anniversary.
We had an absolutely wonderful time and are anxious to do it again. The evening was calm and cool and the sunset over Santa Barbara was beautiful. Not only that, I really enjoyed you snuggling up to me as we took it all in. Here‘s a video and here are some pictures:
This year, a combination of two factors limited the way in which we could celebrate our anniversary. First, we didn’t have much extra cash. When some people say that, they’re trying to explain why they went on a ten-day rather than a two-week cruise. When I say it, I mean that I didn’t know whether I could afford a plastic ring from a vending machine. Second, we have our ten-month old, which means that we we couldn’t be away for very long. So I had to get creative. In the end, I managed to plan three inexpensive dates for us.
For our first date, we visited the observatory at Westmont College. On the way there, we went to the Coffee Bean and Tea Leaf in Montecito. I half expected to see Oprah or Steve Martin when we walked in. But to our surprise, not a single person was in the shop, let alone Lady O. The shop was closed. Still, the barista was nice enough to make us coffee anyway. We drank our coffees outside, enjoying the evening glow of downtown Montecito.
After we finished our coffee, we went to the observatory. We were able to see Saturn through the telescope, which was really cool. But it looked fake. It reminded me of the glow-in-the-dark sticker of Saturn that I had on my ceiling when I was a kid.
Just outside the observatory, there was a deck from which we could see over Montecito. When we were done looking at the stars and planets, we stood on the deck enjoying the view and the quietness of the evening. Then, you said, “This is all I need.” “What?” I replied, “an observatory?!” Then I said, pretending to be you: “All I need is a dog, a farmhouse, and an observatory and I’ll be happy.” You hit me and laughed, then said, “I don’t need anything! Just a dog, a farmhouse, an observatory, and this paddle ball! That’s all I need! . . . Actually, I meant that I only need a quiet and peaceful place to live, like this.”
We both really enjoyed this date. At this stage in our lives, we feel special any time we have a few hours alone and out of the house. Happy anniversary!
Wednesday I created a small scavenger hunt for you in our house. I made three clue cards:
(1) Here we eat/ Here we drink/ Here I sometimes work and think.
(2) Roses are red/ Violets are blue/ “As cold as ice”/ Is your next clue.
(3) To find your next clue you won’t fail/ If you look inside the mail.
I gave you the first, taped the second underneath the table, put the third in the freezer, and hid a bag of fun size candy bars in our mailbox. I guess the third really wasn’t a clue since I told you exactly where to look. Also, I said you would find a clue in the mail, but I put your prize, not a clue, there. Whoops. I only notice things like that when I’m writing these posts and then it’s too late.
Our oldest daughter had so much fun going on the scavenger hunt with you. She thought it was for her. When you guys checked the freezer for the third clue, she said, “It really is as cold as ice in here!”
You really enjoyed this act of love as well. You keep saying how good I’m getting at doing things like this.
Since our eighth anniversary is on Tuesday, this act was the start of our anniversary celebration.
Again, I posted an item to craigslist that you’ve been bugging me to sell. I hope to be done with that entire list of household projects soon.