It’s been 15 years already?

Today marks 15 years of marriage for my wife, Sandi, and I. Looking back on it, sometimes it feels longer than that. Other times, it feels shorter.

Regardless of how long it may or may not feel, the fact is Sandi and I have set ourselves apart in the world of marriage. Most marriages end after just a few years. Some make it as long as we have just to call it quits. Still, others never call it off. Whatever the circumstance, what Sandi and I have, by the grace of God, is quite an accomplishment.

Anyone that has known either her or I knows that we have had our share of trials, tribulations, struggles and challenges. But on the same plane as those we have also had an extraordinary number of successes, achievements, accomplishments and victories. You have to have those in order to make it in marriage for any length of time.

So I enter today thinking about 15 years of marriage, and almost 19 years of being together, I like to think of those times when we have had our act together, when we’ve been able to hold each other’s hand overlooking the carnage of the battlefield upon which a great victory we’ve just had. I like thinking of those moments when all we could really see was the joy in each other’s face as we realized that we did, indeed, make the right decision saying “I do”.

I love you Sandi, more today than yesterday but not nearly as much as I’m going to love you tomorrow. We’ve grown together, taught each other, lifted each other and supported each other. We’ve done a lot of everything in our 15 short years of marriage and as I look to the future, I can smile knowing that we have so many more years ahead of us to spend loving each other, enjoying each other and becoming even better best friends.

The brilliance of a wife

As you might recall from a few days ago, my wife recently started blogging. We have set her up with a WordPress blog because honestly, it is the easiest software to set up and the easiest to use, in my opinion. Of course, I had no idea that I didn’t even know how to use it. FAIL!

While sitting on the couch with my wife the other night, she was looking for themes to add to her blog. From inside of her WordPress dashboard. Wait, what? How do you do that?

Learning a little bit from my wife
I have been using WordPress since before the 2.0 release. And as odd as it sounds, I have not really ever played around with the newest features of the software for each new release. Oh yeah, I have looked at the changes to the admin interface and thought “Ooo, shiny”, but really, I have not clicked around a whole lot, not played with the new stuff, not really ever gotten to know my WordPress. My wife, however, has been playing with hers. And she discovered something that has set me ablaze with awe and a renewed sense of exploration on my blogs.

My wife discovered that if you click on the Appearance tab you can add a new theme to your blog by clicking the Add New Themes link. But what I found to be very cool is that this feature actually hooks into the WordPress Themes base and lets you browse WordPress approved themes from their server then install them on your server through the same simple FTP interface used to update plugins (and the core WordPress installation as well). And wouldn’t you know it, this same thing works for plugins, too, just by clicking on the Plugins tab and selecting Add New.

If I have not mentioned it today, I love my wife’s brilliance. I would never have thought to click those links. I am a happy, old time user of the software and have really never thought to play around. My wife, being new to the software, has found something that I think I would never have found. Really, she is brilliant. And I so lover her.

Banished to the working chair

Last night, while the family and I settled in to watch It’s The Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown, I decided to try to redeem some much needed work time and code while we watched it. So I took my position on the couch, opened my laptop and began to work. A few seconds later I heard “If you’re going to work, can you sit in the chair instead of on the couch?”.

The chair is not at all in front of the TV. In fact, it is to the side of the TV, so watching TV from the chair is not ever going to happen without serious neck pain afterward. So I asked “Is that my punishment for working during the movie?”. To which I was responded to with “No, I just don’t want you to take up space on the couch that the kids who are actually watching the movie could use.”. That made senses to me, since our couches are kinda small and in order for all seven us to sit on them we almost invariably have to have a child or two on either my lap or my wife’s lap. So I switched seats.

As I worked from my chair of solitude I was able to see my family sitting on our couches, all comfy and not squished, laughing at the movie and generally enjoying themselves. It was a scene to behold, momma with all her kids at her side, the glow of the TV reflecting off their faces, the small smiles every now and again creeping from their faces. There was one scene in particular, which I cannot recall since I could not see the TV, that really touched me in which all five of the kids and my wife chuckled and let out a corporate “Awwwww”. It was at that moment that I realized how blessed I am to have such a wonderful family to work as hard as I do for.

Yes, I would have loved to have been able to sit with them and enjoy the movie. Times being what they are, I had to work last night. For them. Because they are worth it, they deserve it and I love them enough to work for them. So my time on my little punishment of a chair was well spent, in my opinion, if even for a short time. And I’d do it again if necessary, though I hope the necessity of that will not show itself. Still, I work because I love them and want the best for them.

Perhaps next time I will be able to spend that time on the couches with my family.

My wife is blogging

She finally took the plunge. She is official. My wife, Sandi Gonzalez, is blogging.

Her and I have had many a discussion about her blogging, and given some of the recent challenges we have been through in our marriage, it seemed like it might not happen. Which saddened me greatly, because she is an awesome writer, she is funny and she has tons of real life experience raising children, being married (albeit in a sometimes rocky but longstanding marriage to yours truly), battling chronic fatigue, homeschooling our kids and generally being a woman. And when I say she is funny I mean she is like really funny.

Needless to say that over the years, however, I have not encouraged her in these areas. In fact, it would not be an understatement to say that I have broken her down in many areas in which she excels. So naturally her confidence was was lacking. Not for anything she has done. Really I think it has more to do with me not being her biggest fan and supporter like I should have been all along. More recently, however, I have felt the need and responsibility to make sure she knows just how awesome she is. And I am making it more of a point to identify the areas of her awesomeness directly to her, when they happen and as they happen, so she can be sure of just what makes her so freaking awesome.

Side bar, for the men: If you are not already doing this, make sure that your wife hears accolades from you, at least once a day, if not more often, for something she is really good at. She needs that, and you really should be the greatest source of that for her.

So she did it. She stepped out and started writing about her life, her experiences and her challenges. And I gotta tell you, if you are a woman, a mother, a Christian, a daughter, a homeschooler or in need of some comic relief centered around heartfelt, passionate and honest experience, you gotta read her blog. It will more than likely make you say to yourself “I know, honey, and I can’t believe …” or maybe even “No way! I went through that exact same thing!”. Regardless, you should read her blog. It will be worth it to anyone.

And baby, if you are reading this, I am so very proud of you for having the courage to step out like this and the compassion to want to help others by your own experience. You are an amazing woman.

Why I disabled my Facebook account

Thinking of disabling my Facebook account. It is entirely too easy to not talk to my wife in lieu of reading her wall. #stupidfacebook
6:10 PM Oct 3rd from web

@RobertGonzalez

A couple of weeks ago I disabled my Facebook account. I also audited some of my accounts on other social networking sites and either disabled those or deleted them altogether. I have also started to cull my following list on Twitter.

So what prompted these actions, you might ask? The honest answer is… my marriage.

It became clearly evident, shortly after my wife joined Facebook, that my use of social networking was becoming a huge problem for us. What made this so evident was how easy it became to converse with my wife over wall posts and post comments as opposed to real conversations. We stupidly sat in the living room together, commenting on each other’s wall posts and replying to each other’s comments. And when we weren’t communicating with each other on Facebook we were ignoring each other altogether as I sat and Twittered or posted to my Facebook friends’ walls and my wife did the same thing with her Facebook friends.

The saddest aspect of all this was that I had never seen that I was doing this until I saw my wife doing this with me. She joined Facebook in June, and while she has only been on it for a couple of months I have been Facebooking for years. I have been Twittering for over a year. I have been keeping up with people through their blogs for years. I have been involved in forums for almost six years. If you look at it, I have traded relationship with my wife for interaction with strangers for upward of six years.

I chose to make myself available to people I would never meet, in whose lives I would really never have any meaning and whose lives really had no significant meaning to me while at the same time choosing not to put any time, effort, energy or expressed interest into the one relationship that should have taken the highest priority in my life. I have made many connections with other women, some married, some unmarried, and have put myself in a position of “caring friend” to them. And while I am sure that these women needed a caring friend I should not have been that friend. My wife needed that caring friend just as bad as the next lonely woman, she needed me more than any other person could have needed me, yet I never took the time or had the inclination to offer myself to her.

Facebook, Twitter and all the other social networking sites… even email, allowed me to spend time I should have spent with my wife, with someone or something else. I spent time getting to know other people. I spent time building relationships with complete strangers. I spent time spending time apart from my wife, even when I was within physical proximity to her.

The truth is, anything that allows a married couple to not spend time with one another while harboring an air of developing relationships with others is just plain bad for your marriage. Facebook definitely fits into this category. So does Twitter and every other social networking site.

By their nature, social internet networks are designed to bring people together with or for a common cause or idea or ideal. While this is not a bad thing, in my opinion, it is terrible if you are substituting a real relationship for virtual ones. Yes, I was doing that. No, that can never be good for your marriage. And no, it wasn’t good for mine.

Your spouse should be the most important person in your life. And if your intimacy and relationship with your spouse is suffering then you need to do whatever you can to feed it. In my case, I needed to starve my Facebook relationships and Twitter relationships in order to feed my marriage. And I’d do it again if the need ever arose.

So you may notice that every couple of days my “following” count on Twitter goes down. If I currently follow you and then one day I am not following you anymore, understand that my marriage has to come first. It is nothing personal. I just need to protect my marriage.

And will I ever make it back to Facebook? I don’t know. For now I am sticking to the idea that I am only gone for the time being. How long that time is depends entirely on how long it takes me to feed my marriage, which has starved for far too long. I may never make it back on there. And if I don’t, I’m fine with that. To me, what is most important is that my marriage is nurtured and that my wife knows, without a doubt, that she is so much more important to me than some website.

Until then, if you really have to keep up with what is going on with me, my family or things that I notice around me, you’ll just have to come here to find out if I have mentioned anything. But you can be certain of one thing: I am pouring myself into my marriage now like I used to pour myself into Facebook, Twitter and every other thing I let take the place of my marriage.

For the men: If you notice your marriage starting to take a downward turn take a look at what you might be spending your time on other than you marriage. Your marriage is your most important relationship you could foster. Make sure to treat it that way. Your wife needs your gentleness, intimacy, strength, your concern and your heart. Give it to her, gladly, and sacrifice whatever else you need to in order to allow your marriage to flourish.

For the women: Though I feel horribly unqualified to tell you anything as a man, I can tell you that when it comes to your marriage, your husband needs to know that he is the most important person to you just as much as you need that from him. Pay attention to what you are putting your heart into and where your time is being spent. Your husband needs your intimacy (not sexual intimacy but emotional intimacy) like you need his. Be cognizant of this, and be ready to offer to him whatever you can to show him he is just as important to you as you know you are to him.

Bite your tongue

Sometimes you just need to not say whatever it is you are planning (or even not planning) to say. For most folks this goes without saying. For many, however, the words that come flying out of your mouth are words that should not have even been thought, let alone released.

I say this as a man that has yet to learn his lesson with controlling his tongue. Too often I will allow myself into a place where my perspective, my own opinion clouds the moment I am in. I allow myself to stop listening intently to the other person and begin to develop my response before the other person is even done talking. What’s more, the words that I formulate in my head are often not appropriate for the conversation or for the edification of the person with whom I am speaking. Have you ever experienced that?

I don’t have any concrete examples that I am willing to share, but there have been occasions recently in which I was talking with someone and as I spoke it became clear to me that what I was saying was really not at all empathetic to the other person. Really what I was doing was trying to make myself heard over the conversation without listening to what was being spoken to me. How awful that must feel for those that I communicate with. Imagine speaking from your heart and laying it all out there just to have the person with whom you are speaking respond with something completely out of context because he/she felt it was necessary to pour their own feelings, their own opinions into the conversation without a need, really, to do so.

There is a lesson in this for married men. If you are ever talking with your wife and you feel the need to reply in haste or if you have already begun to develop a response to something she has said before she is finished talking, it is a sure sign that what you are about to say would be better off left in your brain. Specifically, as it relates to marriage, it would seem to me that as men, we should want to be able to communicate with our wives on their level of communication. What that means, essentially, is actually listening to her words, and her heart, as she speaks and really trying to empathize with her as she pours herself out to you.

I think sometimes that we as men are so quick to defend ourselves or provide our own spin on things that we lose sight of what is really important at that moment: understanding the person that you are conversing with. Truly, how can we ever really understand someone if we cannot unplug our own opinions and ideas for just a brief moment to really try to see it their way?

Just throwing this out there, for those that are not scared off by a challenge: the next time you have already prepared your response to someone that you are talking with before they are done talking, or before you respond out of your own perspective or opinion, bite your tongue, stop and think for just a second about what they just said, then try to feel it for yourself as they have described it. You might be amazed at what you can learn from someone when doing that.

Reconciling the past

You ever have a moment where something you did weeks, months or perhaps even years ago rears itself up and manifests itself in your life again? I had that experience this morning.

This morning I discovered that some of the things that I have written in this blog have offended some very specific, very special people in my life. I won’t go into detail on those people or the subject matter in question; however, I will say that I am truly sorry for the grief, anguish and betrayal I have caused you by writing about those specific experiences in my life.

While I don’t think it is ever the intent of anyone to purposefully cause pain to someone (unless that anyone is mean and truly wants to hurt the someone), nevertheless, people do get hurt. And while I will not take responsibility for anyone’s feelings, I will certainly take responsibility for my actions.

To that end, I apologize for the latitude I have taken in some of the writings I have posted here. And though I cannot promise to not post from my heart again, I can promise that I will be more cognizant of the potential harm it could cause to those that read this blog.

All three of you. 😉

Exposing differences between men and women

I got this from my sister-in-law this morning and had to share it. There are some expletives starred out (*) so if there are kids reading you might want them to not read this entire post. You have been warned.

Here is a prime example of “Men are from Mars, Women Are from Venus” offered by an English professor from the University of Phoenix.

The professor told his class one day, “Today we will experiment with a new form called the tandem story. The process is simple. Each person will pair off with the person sitting to his /her immediate right. As homework tonight, one of you will write the first paragraph of a short story. You will e-mail your partner that paragraph and send another copy to me. The partner will read the first paragraph and then add another paragraph to the story and send it back, also emailing a copy to me. The first person will then add a third paragraph and so on back-and-forth. Remember to re-read what has been written each time in order to keep the story coherent. There is to be absolutely no talking outside the e-mails and anything you wish to say must be written in the e-mail. The story is over when both agree a conclusion has been reached.”

*** The following story was actually turned in by two of his students, Rebecca and Gary. ***
THE STORY

(1st paragraph by Rebecca)
At first, Laurie couldn’t decide which kind of tea she wanted. The chamomile, which used to be her favorite for lazy evenings at home, now reminded her too much of Carl, who once said, in happier times, that he liked chamomile. But she felt she must now, at all costs, keep her mind off Carl. His possessiveness was suffocating, and if she thought about him too much her asthma started acting up again. So chamomile was out of the question.

(2nd paragraph by Gary)
Meanwhile, Advance Sergeant Carl Harris, leader of the attack squadron now in orbit over Skylon 4, had more important things to think about than the neuroses of an air-headed asthmatic bimbo named Laurie with whom he had spent one sweaty night over a year ago. “A.S. Harris to Geostation 17”, he said into his transgalactic communicator. “Polar orbit established. No sign of resistance so far…” But before he could sign off, a bluish particle beam flashed out of nowhere and blasted a hole through his ship’s cargo bay. The jolt from the direct hit sent him flying out of his seat and across the cockpit.

(Rebecca)
He bumped his head and died almost immediately, but not before he felt one last pang of regret for psychologically brutalizing the one woman who had ever had feelings for him. Soon afterwards, Earth stopped its pointless hostilities towards the peaceful farmers of Skylon 4. “Congress Passes Law Permanently Abolishing War and Space Travel” Laurie read in her newspaper one morning. The news simultaneously excited her and bored her. She stared out the window, dreaming of her youth, when the days had passed unhurriedly and carefree, with no newspaper to read, no television to distract her from her sense of innocent wonder at all the beautiful things around her. “Why must one lose one’s innocence to become a woman?” she wondered wistfully.

(Gary)
Little did she know, but she had less than 10 seconds to live. Thousands of miles above the city, the Anudrian mothership launched the first of its lithium fusion missiles. The dim-witted wimpy peaceniks who pushed the Unilateral Aerospace disarmament Treaty through Congress had left Earth a defenseless target for the hostile alien empires who were determined to destroy the human race. Within two hours after the passage of the treaty, Anudrian ships were on course for Earth, carrying enough firepower to pulverize the entire planet. With no one to stop them, they swiftly initiated their diabolical plan. The lithium fusion missile entered the atmosphere unimpeded. The President, in his top-secret mobile submarine headquarters on the ocean floor off the coast of Guam, felt the inconceivably massive explosion, which vaporized poor, stupid Laurie.

(Rebecca)
This is absurd. I refuse to continue this mockery of literature. My writing partner is a violent, chauvinistic semi-literate adolescent.

(Gary)
Yeah? Well, my writing partner is a self-centered tedious neurotic ! whose attempts at writing are the literary equivalent of Valium. …”Oh, shall I have chamomile tea? Or shall I have some other sort of F**KING TEA???! Oh no, WHAT AM I to do? I’m such an air headed bimbo who reads too many Danielle Steele novels!”

(Rebecca)
A**hole.

(Gary)
Bitch.

(Rebecca)
F**K YOU – YOU NEANDERTHAL!

(Gary)
Go drink some tea – whore.

(TEACHER)
A+ …….I really liked this one.

I could totally see myself having this same interaction with my wife. In fact I could see just about any man having this same interaction with just about any woman over email. Even moreso if they were dating.

Waking up like a married man

Every good morning starts with a last night. And my last night was pretty awesome.

If you read about my yesterday you know that last night my wife and I had a date. We attended the wedding of a mutual friend of ours (without our kids even) and the subsequent reception. And we had a blast.

Sandi was a knock out last night, with the gray silver, white and black dress she wore and her black leather boots. She also wore some very complimentary jewelry and she did her make in that “Rooowwwr” kind of way. She was stunning.

We sat in the reception hall for a while as the wedding party took there pictures. I had a beer and a glass of wine, then moved quickly to my regimen of Coca Cola and waters. The wedding party seemed to take forever to finish up the pictures which meant that we had an unusually long time to wait for dinner. But that was offset nicely by our tablemates, the lovely Norma, Roda and Katie and Katie’s man Larry. We talked, laughed, drank, talked more then finally were able to watch the wedding party come in.

By the time the wedding party actually made it to the reception I was ready to eat the legs off my table. But I handled my hunger well and by the time 9:30 rolled around and we were able to eat dinner I ate up like a dog, going back for seconds and thirds from the wonderful buffet that was served. After filling up on all those calories it seemed only logical that we should work to burn those calories. Apparently the wedding planner thought the same thing and turned on the disco.

Dancing has never been one of my favorite things to do. But when you are a man paired up with a woman that looked as hot as my wife did last night then you dance. Plain and simple. And I danced. Unfortunately the evening was late all around because of the start time of the wedding – it was supposed to start at 6:30 but didn’t really start until around 7 – and the wedding party photos, so after just a little dancing it was just about time for us to head out. Which we did at about midnight.

Now comes my favorite part of the whole experience. We went to bed. Together. In the same bed. Isn’t that exciting? And the even better part? I got to woke up next my bride. How awesome is that. It was the best cap to a very good night.

I almost wish all weekends were like this one.

You mean married people can date each other?

I am just about to head out the door to take my wife to a wedding of one of our mutual friends. And I am freaking excited as all get out because of it.

You should see her. She is stunning. She is wearing a dress and jewelry and make up… she is so womanly looking. I love it. And we are all by ourselves (hopefully for the night, but we’ll see how that goes). I so can’t wait to leave the house. This is going to be a blast.

We haven’t done this in such a long time. I hope I remember how. 😳 I am actually looking forward to dancing, drinking, singing and spending time with her. Lord knows we need it now more than ever before.