16 lessons from 16 years of marriage

Shawn and I celebrated our 16th wedding anniversary here in California, so we loaded up the kids and drove to Aneheim to spend the day at Disneyland. On the way, I decided to ask Shawn what he's learned in our 16 years of marriage.

He talked and I typed. I mostly kept quiet, but sometimes I had to interject as noted in italics. 

1. I’m still learning about marriage. We're growing and changing and the marriage relationship is constantly changing, so the old rules and ways of doing things don't necessarily apply today.

2. If it weren't for you, I never would have entered a Bed, Bath, and Beyond.

3. You're typically right but it doesn't keep me from arguing my point. I knew it!

4. Not going to the bathroom in front of each other is a good thing. I don’t think I’ve missed anything by not seeing you pee. This was actually Shawn's rule, and I 100% agree. 

5. Women aren’t necessarily the tidier sex. Hanging things up does not seem to be a premium value. I've learned that it's okay for you to leave a mess in the bathroom, but it's not okay for me to leave a mess in the kitchen. Guilty.

6. You are in no way interested in mowing the yard. But I will scrub a toilet any day of the week. 

7. I’ve learned that you’re not that interested in going to the beach. That's not true. I'm not that interested in going to the beach with kids. But now that everyone is out of diapers, I'm coming back around.  

8. I’ve learned that you’re a good travel partner. 

9. I’ve learned that you are a great mother. 

10. I’ve learned that no matter how progressive you try to be, things still boil down to division of labor. Exactly. See number 6.

11. You’re still the same person, but now you’re the same person who has three kids. Or sick parents. Or job stress. Sometimes it's hard to remember that the person you married is still in there. They’re just buried under all of the stuff. 

12. Marriage is a commitment. You’re either committed or you’re not. But I’ve never thought about the alternative. 

13. I’ve learned that it gets better. Because we get better. When you get married, you’re still a kid.

14. Talking things out is not always a good thing. Some things are better left unsaid. 

15. You have to be willing to say you're sorry. A long hug can reset a lot of things. 

16. Marriage is a compromise and it’s not for everyone. You make decisions for the good of the team. Supporting your spouse actually elevates you. They’re happier. They’re happier with you. Everybody wins. 

I've learned that I have a wonderful husband. Thanks for playing, Shawn. Blog friends, if you'd like to share what you've learned about love and relationships, join the conversation by leaving a comment below. And, if you like this post, please share it!

Want pics from our trip to California? You can find them on Instagram. 

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Finding Home...away from home

As I write this, Shawn, the kids, and I are in California. We're staying in a condo on Venice Beach with a direct view of the Pacific Ocean—our temporary home for the next few weeks. Shawn is here for work, and because the kids are out of school for the summer, we decided to take this trip as a family.

Airport at 5am.

Airport at 5am.

Meeting the captain.

Meeting the captain.

Already, so much has happened: the kids flew on a plane for the first time, got their "wings", and were invited into the cockpit. And then yesterday, we ventured down the boardwalk and happened upon a street performance by the Calypso Tumblers. Cate raised her hand and got picked to join them.

The other priority has been to settle into our space quickly, and make it feel as much like home as possible. We've stocked up on groceries and got a temporary gym membership. We make sure to run the vacuum and wipe down counters daily. We'll spend a lot of time here in the condo—playing, resting, and just hanging out. 

This trip is significant for me because I used to want to live here, on the west coast and specifically in Los Angeles. This place once held the dreams of my younger 20-something self.

I wrote about this in detail in a recent post for skirt.com, and it's a story I've told in bits and pieces over years here on my blog. My story has been one of untangling my mixed up feelings about success and self-worth, learning to live from a more authentic place, and finding home. 

Last night, we had dinner in Santa Monica with one of Shawn's colleagues, who—in an instant—became our kids' new best friend. Highlights included pretending to be statues, eating frozen yogurt on the street, and adding heads to the mannequins at Old Navy.

In that moment, I was reminded of something important: Joy can be found all around—in the big adventures and in those everyday experiences you can do anywhere. The good stuff of life is found in relationships, and in those moments when we're able to be fully present. 

Of course, we have a long list of touristy things we want to see and do while we're here: go to Disneyland, see the Hollywood sign and Walk of Fame, and visit the Anime Jungle toy store. (My son Blake tells me this place has Power Ranger action figures you can't get anywhere else.) I'm sure this trip will feel both long and quick, and I'm glad that Charleston will be waiting for us when we get back. 

I'll see you back here on the blog—my online home—soon. In the meantime, you can follow along on Instagram and Facebook.  

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Cleaning out my closet

Remember when I wrote about my relationship with my wardrobe? Turns out, I'm not alone in this feeling of disconnect. Lots of you said you also feel like you have nothing to wear, even though you look inside your closet and clearly there are clothes. 

Now, I have an update for you. This is not a sponsored post. I'm simply sharing the story of how in one month's time, I feel like a new woman. How I now have a minimal, not that expensive, mixy-matchy spring/summer wardrobe. I suddenly don't mind going places, because getting dressed is easy.

Here's what happened. I got some help. 

I started by downloading Megan Brandle's free DIY guide to help me edit my own closet. In some cases I had to disregard the criteria for whether to keep or discard some things. If I had been super strict, I would have literally been walking around with no pants on. 

After I cleaned out my closet, I bought a shopping session with Megan. It's something that I planned and saved for, and it's something I'll do again. She offers so much time, attention, and value, and already, I've learned so many things that I didn't know. Like:

My style is sporty, with a hint of traditional. 

My color palate is winter, and I need low-contrast colors by my face.

And, it's possible to have a real-life Pretty Woman moment with all of the shopping bags, but instead of being on Rodeo Drive with a rich man's credit card, you're at the Outlet Mall, celebrating 50% off sales and coupons. It really is possible to get what you need on a budget. 

Before we went shopping, Megan came to my house to assess my closet even though I'd done the editing on my own. She made a list of essential pieces that I needed, and she stuck to it. 

Our shopping trip took about four hours. All I had to do was show up and the dressing room was ready, which is crazy. I mean, look at this:

Seriously? I thought I might pass out when we went to the next store and she came out pushing this cart.

At first I was overwhelmed by all of clothes, but I quickly realized that she'd pulled several sizes of the same thing. As soon as I tried something on, Megan was able to quickly assess what was going to work and what wouldn't, so the whole process was fun and efficient. 

Here's something that really sunk in for me: Ladies, it's not you. It's the clothes. (Tweet that). I tried on a few pairs of shorts and they didn't fit well, and it was so hard not to take it personally! It's a confidence killer. But then we found some jeans that fit perfectly (at Gap! On sale!) and it helped me find some power in the key shopping rule, if it doesn't fit and if you don't love it, it's a no. (Rule for life?) >>Tweet that.

I only bought a few things that broke the $30 mark, and if it did, it fit the criteria of being an investment piece: a nice dress or shirt that I plan to keep for a long time. 

The other thing I learned is that how I see myself in the mirror isn't always an accurate reflection. (Tweet that) One time, Megan said, "Let me take a picture of you in this." And when I looked at the picture, I realized that I loved what I was wearing, but when I first saw myself in the mirror, my reaction was much less sure. 

Speaking of mirrors, here's a screenshot of a text I sent to Abby, showing one of my outfits:

I've never known how to dress for spring when it's still a bit chilly outside. By the end of the morning, I'd shed the scarf, and then the jacket, and I was all, "Wow! Layers are amazing!"

My overall takeaway is this: It's important to be intentional about the things I own. (Tweet that) It makes a lot more sense to invest in a minimal and highly functional wardrobe than to waste time, money, and energy on things I don't like and won't use. I think this is true for a lot of things, so starting with my wardrobe will help me make smarter choices in general. 

Thanks again to Megan Brandle. She's a gem of a person, and she's a pro at making you feel comfortable in your own skin. She's works virtually and in-person. You can get her free DIY closet edit guide and learn more about her style sessions here. 

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