23 for the 23rd

23 years, man.

8,401 days, man. (Gotta count 6 leap years, don’t forget)

201,624 hours, man.

12,097,440 minutes, man.

725,846,400 seconds, man.

That’s how long I’ve been married to my lovely wife, Tracy. And, yes, this is yet another anniversary we’ve spent apart…occupational hazard of sorts. When you work with high school students for a church, well, you wind up working a lot of summertime hours. As best I can figure, it’s the 17th one we’ve spent apart. The third one in which there’s been an ocean between the two of us.

But, don’t worry about us, kids. We’re like everyone else in life when it comes to stuff like this. Plenty of folks work jobs that require travel or other kinds of time away. We’ll find time to celebrate when I get back!

So, in honor of our 23rd anniversary, I thought I’d find 23 quotes from pop culture that, in some weird way say something about us and our strange life together. In no particular order, here are some snippets from pop culture and some commentary about us/life and why I picked it to describe something I appreciate about my wife. Here goes:

1) “I’d rather be hated for who I am than loved for who I am not.”–Kurt Cobain, singer/songwriter for Nirvana

Tracy has put up with my poor fashion sense which, on most days, resembles Kurt’s clothes. My Doc Martens or flip-flops, the jeans, the t-shirt and button-down over it. As I’ve said many times that you can dress me up but you can’t make me care about fashion. And she just rolls her eyes and moves on. She never picks on the minors, man. She accepts me for who I am more than most women I know ever would. She lets me be myself, which, for those of you that know me, is quite an act of grace.

2) “Ed McDonnough: I’m not gonna live this way, Hi! It just ain’t family life!
H.I. McDonnough: Well… it ain’t “Ozzie and Harriet.” (from the movie Raising Arizona)

Tracy has accepted the role of minister’s wife and all the idiosyncrasies that come along with it. Her home has been invaded, her dinners interrupted, her husband’s emotions given to others at her expense, her life more public than she’d like, given up more creature comforts, done without more, and put up with more than most women ever do or will have to. And she’s done it with an understanding smile, or a timely hug, or closed mouth far beyond what we ever thought or planned.

3) (all the following are from famed photographer Annie Leibovitz)

“You don’t have to sort of enhance reality. There is nothing stranger than truth.”
“A very subtle difference can make the picture or not.”
“A thing that you see in my pictures is that I was not afraid to fall in love with these people.”

Others have said it so often that I don’t really have to, but the facts of the matter are I’m married to an incredibly gifted and talented photographer. I had no idea when we were in college that this would be something that she’d discover almost a decade later…but discover it she did, man. And she’s so lassaiz-faire about her talent, too. She gets more out of the same opportunities that others can’t. Sure, some people think they’re good photographers and tell others all about how good they are a lot and act like they know a lot…but Tracy just quietly takes amazing photos. A blind guy with one eye can see it. I’m so proud of her and her work…not to mention how cool it is to be inspired by her.

4) (The Old 97’s, from their song “I’m A Trainwreck”)

“I’m a train wreck, And so are you.
And if you don’t know where your going do you mind if I come too?…
I’ll say I love you what the heck
I’m a train wreck.”

I constantly feel like I’m getting the better end of this marriage deal. I guess I always feel the ways in which she’s a train wreck are endearing. The ways I’m a train wreck seem so alienating to others, I guess. I love her. What the heck? I mean, what have I got to lose? She, on the other hand, is amazing.

5) “Now, here in the desert, Auburn’s journey is complete. Fifty-three years of waiting, of hoping, of dreaming, of coming so close, it’s all over. The Auburn Tigers are on top of the college football world. And the view from here is sheer perfection.” (Auburn University radio announcer Rod Bramblett’s radio call of January 10, 2011)

She puts up with my undying AUbsession with our college football team. She, on the other hand, keeps it all in a proper perspective. I, on the other hand, live and die with them. But I can tell you this: When that field goal went through the uprights and AU won it all, I’m glad her hug and kiss let me know that SHE knew exactly how much it meant to me. She was happy, sure. She likes them, too. But she knew that for me, I could now die happier with this little item crossed off my bucket list.

6) “One ball, two strikes, two outs. Six to one the Rangers lead in the top of the 9th. Feliz the high-set. Here comes the pitch. Breaking ball…STRIKE THREE CALL! THE RANGERS ARE GOING TO THE WORLD SERIES!” (Texas Rangers radio announcer Eric Nadel’s radio call on October 22, 2010)

She also tolerates my love of the Great Game. She also knows that one of the absolute best times I’ve ever had thus far in life was sitting next to her at the first ever World Series game in Arlington. I was so happy to be with the girl of my dreams at the game of my dreams. And we won that night, too. Another bucket list thing and I got to see this one in person with her. Very cool.

7) (George Harrison, from his song “Got My Mind Set On You”)

“It’s gonna take time
A whole lot of precious time
It’s gonna take patience and time, ummm
To do it, to do it, to do it, to do it, to do it,
To do it right child
I got my mind set on you
I got my mind set on you”

Can you believe that I proposed and MTV was on in the background and this song was playing? This woman has learned that if romance is about flowers and creative dates and poems and big plans, well I don’t know a thing about romance. But if love is about devotion and faithfulness and all those things, well, I’m all in. She does without a lot of the romantic stuff because she knows every time I try it somehow goes awry.

8) (from Disney’s movie Aladdin)

“One jump ahead of the lawman.
One jump, and that’s no joke.
These guys don’t appreciate I’m broke.”

The reality is that she’s an incredible mother. And when we were super-poor instead of Flower Mound poor, the hours we spent just playing with our kids were some of the best times of our lives. Kid1 playing with her guys and singing these words in such a way that they were unintelligible to any outsider but perfectly understood by us reminds me of those times when I first saw her be who God created her to be. Manalive was that beautiful.

9) (Pearl Jam, in their song “Go”)

“Oh, please don’t go out on me,
don’t go on me now
Never acted up before, don’t go on me now
I swear I never took it for granted, just thought of it now
Suppose I abused you, just passing it on
Go.”

She put up with all sorts of my goofy parenting, understanding that was one way she could be a great parent. For some reason, when Kid2 would point at the stereo and want to dance around with Dad to Pearl Jam and I’d crank it up and we’d thrash around, well, she just laughed and joined in after the obligatory eye-rolls. We still have that CD Kid2 loved to hear so much and laugh about those times when the song comes on satellite radio.

10) “The most difficult lie I ever contended with is this: Life is a story about me.” (Donald Miller, in his book Blue Like Jazz)
I’d heard that marriage would give you character. I’ve come to believe that statement is nonsense on stilts. The reality is that marriage exposes the character that is already existent in you. She’s allowed me to grow and change at my own rate, and her patience with this selfish oaf of a husband is incredible when you think about it.

11) “Ladies and gentlemen, the City of Orlando and the Executive Committee of the Citrus Bowl proudly present, for your halftime entertainment, Larry Gatlin and the Gatlin Brothers!” (Public address announcer for the 1987 Citrus Bowl game between Auburn and the University of Southern California)

The day after our first kiss at the Citrus Bowl in Orlando we were at the coldest New Year’s Day bowl game ever in Orlando, and the Gatlin’s played for half an hour. We were freezing but still had the best time laughing at the Gatlins and the USC band’s stupid war chant. It seems like all my best times are with her…and Auburn won that day, 16-7..

12) (From the Song “Birmingham Tonight” as performed by Telluride)

“And I can’t help but feel
That everything would be alright
If I could be in Birmingham Tonight.”

I love Tracy’s get-up-and-go mindset. I’m a homebody. She’s always up for a 3-day trip to Paris with Kid1 when she won airline tickets, or staying out late with friends or a late movie or some sense of adventure that I simply don’t have. This song is from our college days and a college band she loved (that I wasn’t much for, but what else is new?) where she’d say things like, “The floor of the Supper Club is orange and blue, didn’t you know that?” When I asked how she knew, she talked about how many times she’d been out with friends and was there so late they turned the lights on so the clean up would go more smoothly. I don’t think I’ve ever been in a club when they turned the lights on. Granted, now that we’re older, I’d be surprised if she knew the color of floor tiles, but she’s probably heard a few more “last calls” with her friends than most. My wife is a fun girl, man. Still.

13) “I noticed you have braces. I have braces, too…come to Butt-head.” (from the Mike Judge movie Beavis & Butt-head Do America)

Yep. She puts up with my love of incredibly juvenile movies. And even supports it with thoughtful gifts on Father’s Day. Sure, other dads get ties and soap-on-a-rope, but I get complete box sets of Beavis and Butt-head DVD’s. Not even kidding.

14) “Oh yeah this is happening. Oh, and by the way, it’s your day on dishes.” (Jack Fuller from the movie What Happens in Vegas)

She puts up with my ability to obsess over all sorts of strange things…like the time a silly romantic comedy starring Ashton Kutcher and Cameron Diaz was on HBO every hour for like a month. For some reason, the more I watched that movie, the funnier it got, and the more I thought it was funny, the more she laughed at me. She constantly reminds me not to take myself too seriously, because, let’s be honest: In my job, sometimes you can believe your own PR and she’s been just the girl to keep my balanced with a proper perspective of who I am, what I do and Who I serve. I’m glad she reminds me of those things, because without that accountability I be dead in the water.

15) (From the University of Texas fight song)

“The Eyes of Texas are upon you,
All the livelong day.
The Eyes of Texas are upon you,
You cannot get away.
Texas Fight, Texas Fight”

Watching my wife grow into the role of parenting our kids who are growing up is cool to watch. Kid1 went off to college and she was incredibly thoughtful and encouraging with stuff like care packages of holiday goodies and making sure our first-born still felt that family connection even though she was growing up and truly becoming independent. I’m amazed at how good a mom she is, equally as good at letting them go as she was when they required full-time attention. A rare balance.

16) “You make mistakes, but I don’t have any regrets. I’m the kind of person who takes responsibility for it and deals with it. I learn from everything I do. I work very hard, I have so many things going on in my life. Get to know me and see who I am.”–Kim Kardashian

Watching Tracy be able to pick out the subtle differences in our kids is beautiful, too. We’ve been blessed with two kids with very different personalities/interests/talents/passions, etc., and Tracy’s been able to navigate those and adapt her parenting style to the needs of each kid. If Kid2 would rather read Kardashian than Hemingway, so be it. She’s taught me to be flexible and roll with the punches of parenting, but moreso how to truly appreciate and love those differences and to be students of both. And I do…because Tracy teaches me that stuff.

17) “Having a child is surely the most beautifully irrational act that two people in love can commit.”–Bill Cosby

Again, parenting exposes your character, and watching her parent with such grace and patience has been encouraging to me. The days of parenting are indeed long, and the years of parenting are indeed short. As we come to the end of the day-in and day-out oversight of children, she continues to teach me how to let go and still be there at the same time. A delicate balance she has the natural feel for that I don’t.

18) (from the song Private Idaho by the B-52’s)

“Get out of that state,
get out of that state you’re in.
You better beware.
You’re living in your own Private Idaho.
You’re living in your own Private Idaho.
Keep off the patio…”

One of the best vacations we ever took was to a lake house in Idaho and what it made it so great was that we were together with people we love and just spent time together. It can be in Idaho, a beach in Alabama, or at our church’s family camp in Colorado, or Disney World or just in our den renting a movie and buying pizza, but I just like being with her. She makes me happy wherever she happens to be.

19) “I’ll tell you where. Someplace warm. A place where the beer flows like wine. Where beautiful women instinctively flock like the salmon of Capistrano. I’m talking about a little place called Aspen.”–Lloyd Christmas, in the movie Dumb & Dumber.

Again, with the stupid movies (it’s right there in the title, right?). But in this case we named our dog after Jim Carrey’s character in the movie…and the fact that we have a dog is testament to her willing to be flexible. I detest & loathe cats and she grew up with cats. Yet, when we got married, she let me get a dog (even though allegedly it was for HER birthday) a big old mixed black lab that shed big time but raised our kids after being our first kid. Then we get Lloyd, the Shih-Tzu that has his own Facebook page. But Tracy was a cat person, but chose to be a dog person because she knows how much I’m NOT a cat person. She’s a giver. As much as I joke that I’m a giver, she’s REALLY a giver.

20) (from the song Outsider by the Ramones)

“I am an outsider
Outside of everything
I am an outsider
Outside of everything
I am an outsider
Outside of everything
Everything you know
Everything you know
It disturbs me so”

Tracy has to deal with a husband who really feels like an outsider in any arena he finds himself in…doesn’t matter, really. At dinner parties. In church circles. At the parent’s nights or PTA meetings. At the little league softball games. At the ballet studio. I’m outside of everything you know. And everything you know, well, disturbs me so. See why the Ramones were my band of choice as a teen? But it’s hard on a wife to be married to someone who lives this way most of the time. She loves me anyway, even if she doesn’t understand my feelings…which I appreciate more than I tell her.

21) “And lord, we’re especially thankful for nuclear power, the cleanest safest energy source there is. Except for solar, which is just a pipe dream. Anyway, we’d like to thank you for the occasional moments of peace and love our family’s experienced. Well, not today, you saw what happened! Oh lord, be honest! Are we the most pathetic family in the universe or what?”–Homer Simpson, praying on the Thanksgiving episode in Season 2.

Tracy has had to change her view of what spiritual leadership in the home actually is. Or at least how it plays out. I feel confident that she had a different view of it before we were married, and she allowed God to work in me rather than trying to change me. Now, don’t get me wrong, she was just as much against the lavender-colored devotional over a cup of coffee view of the way married couples do the spiritual life together, but even as flexible as she is, I’m not sure that long hair and tattoos and finding spiritual lessons in the Simpson’s was in her original way of thinking. But she’s given me the grace to do it the way I have to do it before God, that’s for sure.

22) “There’s no exquisite beauty without some strangeness in the proportion.” (Author Edgar Allen Poe, quoting Francis Bacon in the short story Ligeia.)

I won’t get all sappy here. But my wife is exquisitely beautiful, and the strangeness that makes it so are things I truly love about her. But exquisitely beautiful does her justice. So, I’ll leave it at that. Not many women could take my breath away in flannel pants and a t-shirt while carrying a laundry basket through my living room, but she still can. She’s getting more beautiful to me each year. No joke. And I’m not just saying that to be nice.

23) “And in the end, I realized that I took more than I gave, I was trusted more than I trusted, and I was loved more than I loved.” (Jefferson Edward Briggs–a.k.a. “Jake”–in the movie She’s Having A Baby)

If there’s a statement more true that describes where I fit in our marriage from a John Hughes movie or anywhere else, I haven’t seen or heard it.

So, Tracy…

…thank you for the 725,846,400 seconds, man.

…thank you for the 12,097,440 minutes, man.

…thank you for the 201,624 hours, man.

…thank you for the 8,395 days, man.

(and thank you for the extra six leap year days. I didn’t forget)

…thank you for 23 great years.

I love you very much.

And I’ll see you on the 26th.

Happy Anniversary!