Fire & Marriage

I first attempted to build a fire about 15 years ago. Jon and I were visiting my in-laws for the holidays and I figured that my innovative new method -- wrapping a giant log with newspaper -- was going to be awesome and way faster. Because at that time in my life I believed faster = better.

My innovative new method was totally not awesome. And I have to hand it to my father-in-law (a former Eagle Scout) -- he didn’t shut down my idea and he didn’t say give me a hard time after the newspaper flamed bright then sputtered to nothing in about 3.5 seconds.

Apparently, I take failure pretty hard, because my second attempt to build a fire was last weekend (about 15 years later), when Jon and I took the girls camping. Now, I'll be frank...I do love nature and I don’t mind getting dirty, but when given the choice of vacation options, I definitely gravitate towards the beach and lovely accommodations, not the woods. Jon is the reverse. He is passionate about the woods and camping so when he asked about a family camping trip, we all said OK. (We last camped as a family two years ago, and not surprisingly I returned eager to share general tips, tips for booking, and gear essentials and luxuries with you #everthecontentprovider). I asked Jon if he could teach me to build a fire and I managed to get it going on the first try! (Note: the second fire I tried to build last weekend did not work, but the third did...a life lesson in trial and error.) I know for many people this is not rocket science, but for a 42-year-old city girl, it felt pretty awesome to build that fire and then cook things over it. I feel like I gained a major life skill last weekend.

Through that fire building experience -- and the weekend in general -- I had the blissful space to reflect on a number of things related to person-hood, parenthood, and partnership. I wanted to share them today in honor of Jon and my 16th wedding anniversary.

1. I realized that while, yes, I do love getting dressed and looking nice, packing is 8,000% easier (even for a minimalist packer like me) when all you need to bring is clothes you don’t mind getting dirty. In fact, I so went into the zone that I didn’t even change my clothes the entire weekend, save one t-shirt, which was really more because I felt like I should probably change my t-shirt. Otherwise, I reveled in being dirty. It was awesome. And the shower I took when I got home felt phenomenal.

2. I was reminded of how important it is to support the things your partner loves, even if they aren’t the things you love.

3. I learned that you can grow to love things your partner loves, if you just get over yourself.

4. I was reminded that in life and marriage and personal growth, faster is not always better. (Note to self: “life is not like a giant newspaper-wrapped log” is considerably less catchy than “life is like a box of chocolates.”)

5. I was reminded that it’s really important to seize those small moments that create big happiness payoff. The next school day after we returned from our camping trip, the work stress was creeping in. It would have been faster for me to get to work if I drove Violet to school but I decided to ask Violet if she’d rather walk. She loves walking to school -- it’s sort of like chill out/zone out time for her before she enters the chaos. It felt really good to let her choose, she started her day so much happier, and I was rewarded by listening to her hum Justin Bieber all the way to school.

6. I was reminded of how dearly I trust and value Jon as the father of our daughters. And how lucky they are to have his love and presence in the everyday.

7. I was reminded of how much I need undistracted time with Laurel and Violet. Like many parents, I am distracted most of the time. The woods forced me to be undistracted and it was such a gift.

8. I realized I was in dire need of unplugging. I need to do it more often. I used my phone to snap a few pictures, but otherwise, all devices were stowed.

9. I was reminded of how important it is to embrace the in, really only the essentials of life. Camping is all about tending to the necessities. Your day revolves around meals, campfires, time together, and bug bite management. Sisterly squabbling stopped. No one went face down in a device. The girls had the chance to stretch their wings in a safe environment (e.g., heading off to the game room or bathroom on their own, playing with fire). It was beautiful.

10. I was reminded of how incredibly lucky I am to be in a relationship where we value each other’s strengths and work together, even if we don’t agree all the time.

11. I sat with gratitude for the calm Jon brings to our family and for his acceptance of me and my double-decker school bus loaded with baggage. We talked about some very hard things over the weekend -- things that I have not been brave enough to share yet, but that I am planning on doing soon. He said, “I will stand beside you” -- which made my eyes leak then and now.

12. I realized that you can still learn new things in marriage -- even 16 years in -- and that part of that journey is being open to learning new things

13. And I realized that marriage is a lot like building a fire. It starts with wispy yet important starter material, requires the gradual layering of increasingly more substantial pieces, glows with intense heat, and needs love and attention to burn bright and sustain.
Thank you for 16 years Jon. And for teaching me about fires and so much else.