by Emily Herring Dunn
OK, so we were already in college. June of 2008, however, we were moving back to campus into the married housing. Yes, incredibly convenient. We were so ready to be out of our first apartment it wasn’t even funny, and the campus housing seemed like heaven.
This move we did on our own. Though we were expecting Clark’s family to visit at some point, we wanted to be self-sufficient. We took trip after trip moving our stuff from one place to the next. Living on the third floor in our new apartment didn’t help much, but what did help is that it was furnished. All of the stuff we had crammed into our tiny apartment was now to go into storage, save a few things that we needed to add a sense of home to the new place. That was where Clark’s family came in. They were going to come and help us transport things to their storage shed.
There was a lot of arguing, to be perfectly honest. Trying to take things up the stairs and see where I was going was not easy, so I tended to grab the lighter things and let Clark carry all the heavy stuff. It was difficult, because while we were moving he was still working full time and was now starting classes at the local community college. He was going back to school, which was an amazing thing, but the timing was so inconvenient.
Yes, those were my thoughts.
Yes, I know they were selfish.
Clark was stressed, and I wasn’t helping much. I was so focused on my upcoming trip in July to Germany and Paris that I didn’t care too much. I was excited about moving, but I was not excited about when we were doing it. I wanted to be with my family. It had been over six months since I had seen them, and I was “homesick.” I use quotations because Clark was my home, but we were still so young we were having a hard time separating from our parents.
Clark was going to hold up our new apartment. He was going to work, go to school, and provide for himself. I was nervous, but it had to be done.
When Clark’s parents finally arrived to take some of our things to Fayetteville, I was at work. I was hired as a temporary greeter at our local “theme park” called Tweetsie. It’s an old railroad that has been turned into an old Western-themed park. It’s pretty interesting. I worked from around seven or eight in the morning to six or seven in the evening ten days straight. It was tough, but it was worth it.
Anyway, Clark’s parents arrived and Clark told me it took all of him to keep his mom from unpacking my kitchen and putting it away, and to keep his dad from slipping him some cash. We were very grateful for all of their help, but this is when we began to attempt to make ourselves a little more independent. Our first year of marriage, or maybe even our first two, was pretty dependent on help from family. Getting married that young with no finances probably wasn’t the best plan, but we made it work.
The move was a success, and Clark continued to reassure me that everything would be fine while I was away. We were feeling more and more like we were finally out on our own. The first apartment had just shocked us into reality, but living on campus provided us with a stable place to live and the reassurance that everything would be provided to make school, and ultimately life, a lot easier. Oh, if only we knew what was ahead.
by Emily Herring Dunn
In October of 2008 we were starting to get iffy with transportation.
I was working, I had the sorority, I had school. Clark had work, he was taking classes at the community college, he was trying to go climbing more. It was a mess. We’d be trying to take turns with the van, considering I could just walk down a hill to get to class, but with the sorority, I needed to drive, too.
On top of all that, Clark was considering attending classes at another community college that was about 30 minutes away. We needed another mode of transportation, but there was no way we could afford a car.
Clark started looking into motorcycles. I was not pleased.
I thought just a bike would do, but then realized he couldn’t ride a bike to a college thirty minutes away down the mountain on a major highway.
It wouldn’t work.
I thought maybe we could ask his parents if they could loan us a car temporarily, like my parents had done with our lovely 1998 Mercury Villager van.
They couldn’t do it.
All things were pointing to a motorcycle, but it came down to finances once again. We couldn’t afford it. There was no way possible unless we got a loan.
We looked into a loan, but a motorcycle is considered a “leisure” loan, not a transportation loan. We would need a cosigner on top of that, because we had no credit history.
We were stuck.
We went to my older sister and her husband. They were very understanding of several situations due to the fact that they were young and married as well.
They offered to lend us money with a payment plan that would have us pay it off in a year.
It was agreed on, we made a sort of contract, and we received a check to go toward a motorcycle Clark had found.
We made payments to the man as well. We gave him most of it upfront with the check from my sister and her husband, and then made payments from our bank account as time went by.
The motorcycle started being worth it. It made things a lot easier, but it didn’t ease my mind that Clark was out on a bike driving around.
I knew he was a safe driver… it was other drivers that made me nervous.
One of my sorority sister’s boyfriend got into an accident on his bike, and it made my anxiety even worse.
But, it was a good investment. It made us able to be separate and not worry about time limits and things like that. We were able to focus on what we needed to do, without worrying about if we needed to pick the other person up.
Being in school, being married and attempting to have a social life was harder than imagined. It was only going to get harder as college progressed, but finding small solutions day by day definitely made it worthwhile.
by Emily Herring Dunn
In September 2008 Clark and I celebrated our one year anniversary.
We had successfully moved and survived one year of college. Clark was at a job that provided enough for us to live on, and I was working part time at a calling center on campus. We were flying high as newlyweds.
It just wasn’t quite enough.
While I had enjoyed my first year of school, and enjoyed my first year of marriage even more, something was missing.
I had a couple of college friends, but I was still closer with my high school group of girls. I needed girls to escape married life with. I needed girls to talk about boys with. After all, I was still only 19. I needed to be a normal college girl in one way or another.
I decided to rush, meaning I decided to join a sorority.
I had heard great things. My mom was in a sorority and my older sister was in a sorority. It just seemed a natural way to meet girls with the same interests and one major thing in common.
Clark was incredibly supportive. He was making work friends, and he knew I needed girls to hang out with. I think he was glad I was finding something else to do.
I was a bit demanding during our first year because I was so wrapped up in married life.
It happens to all of us. We are so enraptured with the person we’re spending the rest of our lives with that we forget about the other part of our lives.
While Clark is my best friend in the entire world, I needed an estrogen balance. It just took me a year to realize it.
So, I went through rush. I had an extraordinary time. I ended up with a sorority who was very accepting of my marital status.
Most sororities do not want a girl who is already married. I was lucky. I found one that wanted me precisely the way I was.
Girls need girl friends. There’s no way around it. You can spend day in and day out with your boyfriend or husband, but ultimately you need time with girls.
I hadn’t quite figured this out until I had been married for one year. I needed shopping, exercising, movies, coffee, and all the other wonderful things with a female friend. Not Clark.
Don’t get wrong. Clark is my best friend. I can talk to him about everyone and everything… except him.
I needed girls to talk to about him: when we disagreed, when he was wonderful, all of it. I had my sisters, I had my mom, but I needed friends who were in the vicinity.
Balancing was hard. Having time for friends who wanted to constantly do things, and spending time with Clark on top of school, work schedules, and now friends was exhausting. However, it was necessary.
While I wouldn’t say taking the sorority road is for everyone, I would say if you’re married while in college, you need to have girlfriends. Get together for coffee, lunch, manicures, or whatever your style is once a week or so. Get some time away from the home, school, and the husband, and enjoy being a girl.
by Emily Herring Dunn
I was headed to Germany. I was beyond excited to fly across the ocean on my own, see my family and take a train to Paris. I was excited and scared. It was the first time Clark and I would truly be apart. It was for almost three weeks. It was going to be a challenge.
As Clark drove me to the airport, we talked about when we would call. A six-hour time difference wasn’t going to help either of us, but if I got up super early I’d be able to call him right after he got off work and right before he went to bed. We could make it work, as we had everything else. Our new apartment was in a very convenient location for Clark, and if he needed anything he had a calling card. It was going to be fine.
When I was waiting on the plane, I wasn’t sure how it was going to work. The flying, I mean. I kept looking out the window and realizing how far I was going and who I was leaving behind. There were a few moments I considered just getting off, telling my parents I couldn’t come and calling Clark to come back for me. I had tears in my eyes. This was a first. It was a step on my own, which I really hadn’t had since that first month of college. I went straight from my parents’ house to my husband’s. This was the first time, for a brief time, I was alone.
I was in a window seat. If you’ve never flown international, there are two seats next to the windows on each side of the plan, and then something like four to six seats in the middle. I was sitting right next to the window, and the young gentleman next to me was clearly German. He didn’t want to speak to me, and anytime I had to get up to go to the bathroom he looked absolutely appalled that once again he had to get up as well. I eventually stayed in my seat and fell asleep against the window, watching movies over and over again.
Arriving in Germany was a relief. I knew just what to do, how to get my luggage, and so on. I had done it before. Yes, Clark had been with me, but if I had survived the plane ride next to some kid who didn’t want to even say a polite hello, I could survive pushing my way through people to get to my luggage. I had tied ribbon on my suitcases so I would recognize them; this was definitely helpful. I got out of there in good time, and emerged from behind glass doors to find my family waiting for me. I was exhausted, but it was so good to see familiar faces.
Calling Clark while in Germany was a breeze. I got up early, as we planned, and called him. While I had to stay on the phone with him longer than imagined, my parents had free international calling so it was okay. I felt so bad for him. I was with people who were familiar, and therefore I wasn’t as homesick for him. However, he was homesick for me. He probably wouldn’t like me sharing this, but there were several times on the phone that he was desperately emotional. It was even worse when I was in Paris.
Paris was enchanting. It made me miss Clark all the more, but I couldn’t help but enjoy myself. Visiting the Eiffel Tower, the Champs Elysees, the Louvre, the Musee d’Orsay, Notre Dame, Versailles… I was overwhelmed. More than anything I wanted Clark to be there with my family and me, but I grew to accept being there without him and took hundreds of pictures so he could experience my trip when I returned home.
In Paris we had a bit of a problem. There was miscommunication, and I was told that when I called out with a calling card there would be a onetime fee, which I was happy to pay. However, when my parents received the bill, the fee had been applied every single time I had called Clark. The manager ended up refunding half of what we were told to pay, but my mother was not exactly happy with me.
It was a necessary evil, I thought. If I hadn’t called Clark, I’m not sure what he would have done. It was impossible to do morning calls when I was in Paris, so I would call him in the evening, or whenever my little sister and I were in our room. He was even more miserable when we were in Paris. I think he sensed I was enjoying myself without him, and he was home being responsible. If we had known then what would be happening in a year, I don’t think he would have been quite as miserable.
When I returned home, Clark was waiting at the airport with flowers for me. It was one of the most romantic things he has done to date. We went out to a nice dinner, we returned home, and I crashed. I was, once again, exhausted… but it was so good to really be home.
By Emily Herring Dunn
Now that you know the condition our apartment was in, you can understand the stress that would come with a family visit.
In April Clark and I prepared for my mom and little sister to visit from Germany. They were coming for my birthday as well as my older sister’s graduation from Roanoke College in VA. We had a fun-filled planned vacation, but my mom and little sister were not prepared for Homespun Hills.
The other thing that we all weren’t prepared for?
When my mom and little sister visited, all of a sudden I was possessive of everything. After all, it was our house. I was angry when they insulted anything, upset when they didn’t consult me about their plans—even if I was in class.
The first visit of my family coming to stay with us did not go entirely as smoothly as planned.
My mom and little sister arrived shortly before my birthday. The plans we had for while they were “in town” was simply to go to the outlet stores up the mountain. Mom said she would take me on a mini-shopping trip for my birthday, and my little sister wanted me to help her pick out some clothes.
Well, the day after they arrived I left my house key with them and went to class. My mom wanted to run a few errands, and she needed the house key, obviously, to get back in.
Well, when I returned from class my mom and little sister were gone.
Clark had one key, and they had the other. Luckily, one of our windows didn’t lock, so I took my time (this wasn’t the first time) maneuvering the window to get it open and get in to the house.
I was furious.
I had told them what time I was done with class, and had thought we were going shopping when I got home. Mom said she just wanted to go here and there and would be back in time. How could they be so inconsiderate?
Between 30 minutes to an hour later they walked in carrying shopping bags.
I started spouting.
I gave them evil looks and wondered what on earth had happened. I thought we were all going shopping together. Did they forget what time my classes were over? I had to break in to my own apartment because they were out doing something we were supposed to be doing together!
After my mom explained and my little sister cried, we all settled down. However, this was only the beginning.
My birthday was on a Friday that year, but we had decided to drive to the outer banks for the weekend. We couldn’t leave until around 4, though, because Clark had to work. Though he assured us we’d get there in good time, mom didn’t know good time still meant 11:30pm.
The whole way there she muttered about his driving under her breath. It took all of Clark to keep his patience, and most of the time all of him lost.
When we first stopped for gas, and Clark asked mom to fill up, there was a conflict. Clark spilled out the how much we really had in our bank account, and then I was furious for letting my mother know how destitute we were.
Oh, how the list goes on.
While the weekend at the beach went very well, it was later that the true blow up occurred.
When we returned I had exams to take and we were going to have a “real” birthday celebration with a cake and such. While I was studying, my mom decided to invite our neighbor over for the birthday celebration. While I appreciated her thoughtfulness, I was annoyed.
I wanted my birthday to be with my family, only. After all, they were there for it—why did we have to invite our 40 year old neighbor who we saw everyday?
I started yelling.
I was yelling about my birthday, about my exams, about mom and Molly not respecting our house—everything.
I then commenced to tell our neighbor that my mom wasn’t feeling well and would he mind if we just sent over some food. My mom emerged from the apartment and started yelling at me, in front of our neighbor, telling me not to lie.
Our poor neighbor.
Clark pulled us in to the apartment and played peace maker, which was surprising because he and my mom had been complaining about each other to me just earlier that day. We then went back to apologize to our neighbor after Clark had calmed us down.
While the visit ended up being wonderful, it was a lesson-learning experience.
I learned that my mother is always going to be my mother, even in my house.
I learned that Clark and I still had a lot of growing up to do before we were ready for relatives to stay with us.
I learned that Clark and I had to establish ourselves as our own entity, our own family.
I learned that my parents, and Clark’s parents, still had a lot of accepting to do.
I learned that everything was going to take time.
I learned that everything would be OK as long as we kept putting God first.
So, this column probably isn’t as entertaining as the last few. I must say that while the visit still sticks out in my mind, I can’t remember a lot of the details. I can’t remember my exact words or my mother’s, I can’t remember Clark’s attitude before or after he played peace maker, and I can’t remember exactly all that my neighbor had to endure.
What I can remember is that we got through it. We survived the first visit of others that were to come, and I finished my first spring semester of college.
We had no idea what was on our schedules for the next year.
By Emily Herring Dunn
As April drew near during our first year of marriage, the question of whether or not to go to Fayetteville for Easter was in the air.
While we had survived our first spring break alone and had gone to Fayetteville for Clark’s grandparents’ 50th wedding anniversary, we weren’t positive we wanted to go again for Easter.
We gave in. Easter was a big deal in my family, as it was in his, and therefore we found it necessary to visit. I had a new dress that was for my sister’s college graduation in May, so I figured I could give it a test run for Easter. Clark had a shirt and khakis to match.
We arrived in Fayetteville with the intention of not staying our entire break. Clark was lucky to get the weekend off from work, and we didn’t want to be pushy.
I had packed us up since we could only leave once he was finished with work that Friday. I even drove the whole way for the first time. It started off good.
The weekend progressed rather typically with his family. We ran errands that were necessary for us, and ran errands with or for his parents. We spent whatever time we could with them, though we had only been there a week or so earlier for the anniversary party of his grandparents.
Sunday morning suddenly arrived. As the daughter-in-law, a guest, I always seemed to have last priority to the bathroom. Luckily we were staying with his NaNa and PaPa, so I got a bathroom to myself and time to spare. Unfortunately, as it came time for Clark to be dressed, we noticed the first mistake of my packing.
Clark had reminded me to grab his khakis, which were still in a dry-cleaners bag. Well, I grabbed a dry-cleaners bag that looked as though it had khakis in it, but to my dismay it was one of my scarves. Clark tossed on his jeans and we headed to his parents’ house to see if he could fit in to his brother’s khakis or if he had a spare in his old closet.
We arrived and Clark immediately took the blame for my mistake. Lovely husband that he was to take that on his shoulders, it was not enough to stop his mother from commenting on the neckline of my dress.
“Oh, that is beautiful. Are you all taped in?”
It seems it’s always the little things that annoy me or hurt my feelings the most.
With a pair of khakis on, we were able to be fashionably late, as his family nearly always is, to church.
We arrived and I kept fiddling with the sweater I had on over my dress, unsure if it was able to hide my bare shoulders and chest. Clark nagged and said to take a look around; I was the only one “scandalously” clad for the holiday.
Although I did not get through the service without having a few older pairs of eyes giving me the disapproving look, I made it through without getting the, “oh, you’re the new daughter-in-law,” comment. The minister gave us welcoming hugs, as was normal, and told me I looked beautiful. I was thrilled.
Then, there was Easter “dunch” or “linner,” whatever you like to call it.
With my family it’s a great affair of ham, potatoe casserole, rolls, green beans—it’s almost like another Christmas dinner, but with a spring twist to it. With Clark’s family, however, it seemed too difficult to combine church and cooking together.
We went to an Italian restaurant instead.
Though the food was delicious and the conversation did revert itself to the subject of me every now and again, it wasn’t what I was used to.
I mean, Italian food for Easter? It just didn’t seem right. My mom called in the midst of us eating and when I told her where we were, she contained her laughter.
When we did our Easter baskets it was like Christmas. Candy, gift certificates, movies—you name it, and it was probably in there. I wasn’t expecting anything, and when I got so much it made me feel guilty.
Our Easter’s were never this big in the gift department. It was usually something small and meaningful; such as, one year, we each (my sister’s and me) received a cross that reflected our personal style.
Once again I was reminded that each family had their own traditions, and now that I was a part of my family, Clark’s parents’ family, and my parents’ family, I was going to have to give in to giving some things up sometimes, and twisting them at others.
When I look back on that first Easter I wonder if it would have gone smoother had I been a little more accepting. Had I laughed at his mom’s comment or not poked fun at the style of his childhood church, or complained about receiving too much in my Easter basket! Perhaps if I had just gone with the flow, it would have worked better.
Or, maybe not.
Regardless, it made me realize, moreso than Christmas time had, that I was going to have to compromise my traditions as he had compromised his. In the confusion of it all, we were forgetting the true reasons for holidays. Instead we were focusing on whose family was right and whose family was wrong.
During our first year of marriage it was so difficult for us to establish ourselves as our own family because his parents, and sometimes my parents, were always bearing down on us.
As time went on, and as time continues to pass, we have learned and are learning to separate ourselves and know that we are accountable to our family first, our parents second.
While we still get in to disagreements as to how our kids should be raised, how we should celebrate certain holidays, what church we should attend, what is appropriate and what is not—we are learning that compromise is key.
By Emily Herring Dunn
When we first got married, it was a wonder that Clark and I could afford to live anywhere but in the dorms. I was working part time as a telemarketer for the school, and Clark was working for a photo company and part time at a coffee shop.
None of that mattered. We were determined to not settle on living in two separate buildings, let alone different rooms. So, we jumped ahead of the game and just decided we had to live somewhere, anywhere, together.
Part of our reasoning was Clark was debating on withdrawing from school. He had determined that he needed to work while we first married to support us, and his education could come later. Obviously he could not stay in his dorm room if he wasn’t attending school, so we began looking for apartments—in the middle of a semester.
You can clearly see where this is going, I’m sure.
The only apartment we found was part of a tri-plex, if such a word exists. It was a house at the top of a non-state maintained road (aka gravel full of pot holes) that had been turned in to three apartments. There were two little places upstairs, and one basement apartment. One of the top places was available, and the student who had moved out was desperately trying to find someone to take over the lease.
The only available realtor, a woman, offered to drive us up since it was “a bit tricky to get to unless you know where you’re going.” We got in to her car and chatted on the way there. The concern had been that two people really shouldn’t occupy the apartment, as it was not big enough. However, seeing that we were married, it shouldn’t be a problem.
As we got to the road named “Homespun Hills” and began weaving around pot holes and climbing the steep hill, I was already shaking my head; Clark, however, was very intent on seeing this place… or rather having this place work. We got out of the car, climbed decaying wooden steps, and hoped for the best.
The view was beautiful. It had a huge porch with a swinging bench that overlooked the road and woods below. I imagined seeing it in the spring time, with the sun rising and couldn’t help but think maybe it would work. I took in my surroundings again, and realized that this was not a vacation home—it was to be our first home. I then changed my mind about it being pretty.
We were let in to the apartment and I nearly winced at its condition. To the left of the front door there was one large window looking out on to the porch in the living room. Who knows how small it was, but from the living room you had a nook for a kitchen. If you walked straight from the door you had a little bit of a “hallway” where you could turn left in to the bedroom, or right in to the smallest bathroom you could imagine.
As the woman explained this and that about the apartment, Clark kept asking, “What do you think? What do you think? I like it!” How could I disappoint him and tell him that this was not what I imagined my first home as?
Then I thought of our circumstances. We were lucky that we could actually afford the deposit and first month’s rent on this place. Yes, we had to pay for the electricity, but everything else was included.
It wouldn’t be too bad, would it? I could survive in this place until the summer, couldn’t I? At that point we would have the money for a better apartment, wouldn’t we?
I said I liked it.
Now I can look back and shake my head at myself, wondering what on earth I was saying.
There was mold growing in the bathroom walls, dirt everywhere, no rugs to keep anything warm against the hard wood floors, chipping paint that most likely had lead in it since it was so old, and a road that I was scared to even imagine myself driving up. And I said I liked it?
I think loathed would have been a more appropriate word.
Still, it was a home. Clark’s parents chose to help us move in, since my parents were in Germany and unable to do so. They even bought us a mattress, as we had none. They gave us an old pull-out couch, a wicker chair. We found a dresser at a garage sale that we could use, and then we had all of our storage from our dorm rooms. Clark also had a small TV, and we were slowly but surely getting a trickle of wedding gifts, so we thought we were set.
The “quirks” of the apartment began to reveal themselves slowly but surely.
For example, it was too expensive to run the heat in the winter time, so we had a space heater (also borrowed from Clark’s family). The space heater, if left in a room long enough, would heat it significantly so that, as long as we had socks on and we were under a blanket together, we were quite warm.
Well, the problem was that we only had one space heater. We would keep it in the living room/ kitchen area and have to shut the other doors so it would warm the main room. At night time we would be curled up on the couch together (once Clark was home from his new job at Walgreens and I was done with homework) until we were ready for bed.
When time came for bed, we would play rock-paper-scissors from our seating on the couch to see who would take the heater in to the bedroom.
Whoever lost at the hand game would have to unplug the heater, go in to the bedroom, shut the door, plug in the heater, and jump in to bed and try to deal with the cold. Typically Clark would end up doing it, but every now and then I would have to brave the cold of the hard wood floor in the bedroom and the ice cold sheets first.
Looking back at all of our adventures in that rotting mountain apartment, I cannot help but smile. While Clark and I had many challenges in that apartment, they weren’t just about the apartment. That first testing of patience was one that was needed on both sides. Because we were, and are, so in love—we were able to survive our first place.
Although I had these dreamy visions in my head of our first place, I wouldn’t trade what we had for anything. We got married at a very young age. A time when we were, and still are, trying to get to know ourselves—let alone learn to grow up with another person!
That apartment, I am convinced, was a blessing from God. It enabled us to learn to be in very small proximity with each other. We learned each other’s strengths and weaknesses in a household; not necessarily because we wanted to, but because we had to.
We have also learned to never rush in to a decision about a house… or maybe we haven’t learned that just yet.
Since that October of 2007 we have lived in three other apartments. The condominium we are in now is probably my favorite, but it does not contain all the quirks of Homespun Hills.
As we have moved up in life, even in these short two and half years, I sometimes miss our first apartment.
Having to live in such an environment helped Clark and I grow closer than ever. Even if we had our moments where we couldn’t stand being in that rinky-dink place, we had nowhere else to go, so we had to work it out.
I’m not saying that Clark and I run from our problems now that we live in a two-story condominium. I am saying that in the beginning we were forced to work out certain issues, and that doesn’t always happen with couples.
While Clark and I still have several moves and challenges ahead of us, I think I can say we both feel invincible after surviving Homespun Hills. God continues to bless and challenge us, but we know that we will get through it all as long as we keep Him first.
Nothing is impossible as long as we put Him first. Homespun Hills definitely reassured us of that.
By Emily Herring Dunn
Since Clark and I dated for such a short period of time, we never had a true Valentine’s Day together until the one during our first year of marriage. While Clark is one of those people that believe Valentine’s Day to just be a holiday invented by the card companies, I am not. My family always celebrated Valentine’s Day with sugar cookies, cards, and ultimately our love. It was not necessarily about the love between a man and a woman, but the love of our family.
Our first Valentine’s Day as a married couple was pretty bad.
By this point Clark was deciding if he wanted to be in school or not. He had taken a break and was working at Walgreens full time in the photo department. This is during his spree of thinking he wanted to be a professional photographer.
I had class, so attended class and then returned home and made cookies.
I had bought new cookie cutters so that I might make heart shaped cookies. I took some to our neighbor and saved the rest for Clark.
I filled out the mushy sentimental card I got him, simply because it was our first Valentine’s Day, and then set to doing my homework until he arrived home. I planned on starting dinner as soon as he arrived.
Clark came home late from work. While he did have the perfect card ready to give me, I was disappointed.
I had told him I didn’t want him to get me anything, and so he didn’t. I had at least made him cookies, but he had nothing. No chocolates, no flowers- just a card. He had really listened and didn’t get me anything. Since when do guys listen?
I cooked dinner and we ate in some silence. While he had a few stories from work, I was still marinating in my own self pity.
.I had instructed him on renting a movie for the night on his way home, but of course he had forgotten. So, we went to Blockbuster as soon as we finished eating.
I told him he had to go in by himself. I had told him earlier two movies that were my choices. A week earlier “No Reservations” and some other chick flick had come out and I wanted one or the other.
Clark went in with several other people trying to rent movies. After about 30 minutes of me sitting in the car, he emerged looking rather excited. He held up “Elizabeth: The Golden Age.” His thinking process was that we had watched “Elizabeth” a week or so before, and he knew I really wanted to see the second one.
While any other girl would probably be ecstatic that her man was actually thinking about her and not himself, I was devastated once again. I had wanted our first Valentine’s Day to be perfect. Cards, flowers, chocolates, homemade sugar cookies, and a romantic movie. Instead, we had cards, sugar cookies, and a historical movie that wasn’t even entirely historically accurate.
We went home and watched the movie. I fell asleep, and Clark got upset with me. I explained that I was just a “little bit” disappointed with the day. He then went in to, “Well, Valentine’s Day isn’t a real holiday, anyway. I tried my best.”
I exploded. We’ll just say I said some harsh words along the lines of, “you didn’t try at all.”
We went to bed like a grumpy old married couple.
The next day I went through my usual routine. Class, home, homework, cleaning, etc. Clark came home and entered by saying, “Please go in the other room. I have a surprise!”
I picked up my books and went in to our bedroom and closed our door after a few questions which he did not answer. I waited.
Finally Clark came in and asked if he could lead me out. I closed my eyes and he led me to sit on the couch. He exclaimed, “Open!”
On our kitchen counter (we were in a rather small apartment) was a vase of roses, cut up gouda cheese, a bottle of sparkling cider, and a box of chocolates. He had not been able to rent a chick flick, but instead he produced “Moulin Rouge,” which was the first movie we had watched together at a friend’s house.
I was amazed, but I felt like I didn’t deserve it. After saying rather mean things and throwing a temper, Clark had done what I wanted.
However, that wasn’t the case at all. Clark explained that he had never liked Valentine’s Day because it always put unneeded pressure on people. He said he understood that my family had always celebrated it, and he would be more than happy to keep the tradition going.
He also said he thought the day after was a much better day. Why, you ask? Well, because it wasn’t an invented holiday, according to him. It was just a random day where he could show how much he loved me, without someone or some tradition telling him to do so.
Needless to say we didn’t go to bed like an old married couple that night.
Our first Valentine’s Day taught us both a thing or two. The following year Clark had flowers delivered to our door for me, and took me on a road trip to Asheville with dinner and a movie planned out. However, it taught me something also.
Wrong movie and wrong time, but the Grinch comes to the realization that Christmas is Christmas no matter what.
Well, I realized that at age 18 about Valentine’s Day as well.
Holidays are holidays, no matter what. Whether you get presents or not, it’s about the love.
I think my parents tried to teach that to me and I completely lost the concept once I had a loved one, besides family, to share it with.
While my number one “love language” is gifts, I have learned to adjust to Clark’s kinds of gifts. They don’t always come in packages with bows, sometimes they are small gestures to show me how much he cares.
I took a lesson from the Grinch, and from Moulin Rouge, and just kept telling myself, “Come what may, I will love him, until my dying day.”
Oh, yes, it’s cheesey. But who cares? God brought Clark and I together for a reason, and we have time a head of us to work on our relationship.
We have time to work to grow closer together through our love of Jesus Christ and each other. What more could we ask for?
Have a happy Valentine’s Day. Remember, it’s all about the love!
By Emily Herring Dunn
Every year I always make a goal. It doesn’t matter if it’s to not miss a day of class (unless ill), to eat healthier, to exercise regularly, to forgive without question, or to make straight As for the semester- I always make a goal. Since I’ve been married, Clark has joined in on the tradition, but there’s a catch: we make a goal for us.
Our first New Year’s together as a married couple was spent in Germany. The Germans really know how to celebrate the holiday. It made no difference that it was 2009 there six hours before it was 2009 in the US. In fact, it almost made it more special.
Because we were all dreadfully tired from the trip, we stayed in the house and played games until midnight. Dad bought Champagne for the family and we all enjoyed time together as we waited for “the ball to drop.”
Why in quotes? Well, the ball didn’t actually drop. However, it did sound like bombs were going off around us. The Germans celebrate the holiday with fireworks. Their fireworks for New Years are even better than ours for the Fourth of July! It was amazing. I actually have a video clip from filming the fireworks. They go on, and on, and on, and on. Finally we were all laughing so hard I had to stop filming. We just stood at the window in the kitchen and watched as the sky was lit up for nearly, if not longer than, an hour.
We toasted Champagne with my little sister’s sparkling cider and said our goals out load to those around us. It seemed to make it more special by sharing our hopes and desires for the New Year with family.
So, Clark and I make a goal every year. At this point I can honestly say I don’t remember what our goals were for 2008 or 2009, but I always feel like we achieved it. Each year we grow more; not only as adults, but as a married couple and as Christians. Yes, our focus always has its moments where it strays from what’s important, but each New Year seems to give us a brand new start. Not even just every new year, but every day.
Our first New Years was especially important, because I felt like it was our first step together. We had gotten married at a time where we both realized that time is short. My best friend’s remains had been found, and it was enough to kick my butt in gear to never take advantage of time. I think it had the same affect on Clark, because it obviously lead us to where we are now.
I have no funny story to share this time or something that might make you smile at our situation. I think this should be more about starting the New Year right. The New Year is not about looking back and wishing we could have done more, but looking forward and seeing the potential in the time ahead. Although people say that there’s “no day but today,” the truth is that we have every day and every year to live and look forward to because we have Jesus Christ in our hearts.
While Clark and I may have seized time to be married and have a life together, we did not do it because we were afraid of dying. We got married because we accepted that our time on earth is limited, but we know full well our days after death are eternal.
I think every New Years it’s important to remember that “tomorrow is another day.” Whether today is your last day or not, you are always going to have a tomorrow through Jesus. Start the New Year right and always remember that everything and anything is possible through Jesus Christ. I think it’s one of the biggest struggles faith puts before us, but Clark and I always try to keep it in mind. New Years, to me, is a day to celebrate our tomorrows because there’s no day, but the first day, to do it.
So, what’s our goal this year?
Our goal this year is to really get involved with something we both enjoy, and to remember to always keep God first.
by Emily Herring Dunn
So, I know it’s the beginning of December. Thanksgiving has just passed, Christmas trees are going up, and the holiday season is truly beginning. It’s my favorite time of year. From Halloween to New Years days are full with non-stop happy wishes and holiday cheer.
However, when you are spending the holidays with the new in-laws who were not expecting they’re 18 year old “baby” to be married off so young, then you may run in to some problems.
Let’s go back to the first holidays of mine and my husband’s married life. While we had, at this point, obviously told our parents that we were married and had gone through the ups and downs of tears, yelling, concern, lectures, and all that jazz, we were now venturing in to a new territory. We were venturing in to family traditions. The thing was, we were introducing each other in to different family traditions, so to speak.
Our first Thanksgiving was spent with Clark’s family. While typically Thanksgiving is a huge ordeal, lucky enough for me it wasn’t as large my first year in to it. I was also lucky enough to have my older sister go with me because her college was nearby enough and she was unable to fly home to California to be with her husband.
It began with his mom not liking pumpkin pie. I brought my own supplies to make the dish, unable to believe that this wasn’t a tradition of theirs. My sister promised to help me; not only with the pie, but with support.
My pie was the last thing allowed to be made. After all, both sets of Clark’s grandparents and his great uncle were over. There was wine, turkey, roast, deviled eggs, sweet potatoes, pecan pie—the whole works. However, I was determined to get a pumpkin pie made so my sister and I would have some taste of home.
I was finally allowed in the kitchen. I put it together while the oven was preheating, finished rapidly so I wouldn’t be in the way, put the pie together and put it in the oven. I set the timer and walked out of the kitchen to socialize and wait.
However many minutes later, while everyone had started eating and was enjoying the Thanksgiving vibe, the timer went off. I bounced out of my seat and went to the oven. However, opening it up cautiously with the ovenmit, I noticed something rather strange—the oven was COLD.
Much to my dismay, someone had turned it off. As I took the pie out of the oven, half cooked but still nearly entirely liquid in the middle, I heard a voice behind me. “Oh, my, I completely forgot your pie was in there and I turned off the oven. I thought I had turned it on.”
I turned to see my mother-in-law standing behind me. The same woman who had been sneaking in and out of the kitchen as I cooked and was even in the kitchen as I placed the pie in the oven. The same woman who had admitted to despising pumpkin pie. The woman who was the reason this family had never had pumpkin pie at Thanksgiving.
I was livid. I went to Katie for comfort, feeling as though the action had been done to show me my new place in the family. Later, I even cried to Clark. He said to let it go, and prayed with me. Unfortunately my feelings are still hurt (yes, even now), but thank goodness I have Jesus Christ and the Lord above to help me with that! I did get past it, moved on with the day, and even got some apple cider made for everyone to enjoy! I just couldn’t be there on Thanksgiving and contribute nothing—even if my mother-in-law truly did not want my help.
Christmas was definitely a different ball game. At the beginning of my freshman year of college, only a month before my husband and I secretly wed, my parents moved to Germany thanks to the US Army. Having to have gone through all the steps of the whys and hows over the phone, it was much more difficult for Clark.
Luckily, my parents made it easy on him. Nervous and shaking, we got off the plane and readied ourselves to meet my mom, dad, and little sister, Molly. We were greeted with hugs, kisses, and questions of our flight. My dad even hugged Clark! It seemed too good to be true.
This is the part where I’m supposed to intersect and tell how you awful it got, right?
Well, Clark is a lucky man. Although there was the occasional, “I just wonder if you guys got married too young,” from my mother, and side tracked counseling sessions from my father (a minister), it truly was a great experience.
While it was much different for Clark only opening one present Christmas Eve and the rest Christmas morning, he was shocked to find that he had just as many gifts as me.
We attended church the night before (Christmas Eve) and were paraded in front of my dad’s new community. Taking part in the service by reading a scripture, Clark was red in the cheeks. Then with our typical night of wild rice soup, twice baked potatoes, and watching “Scrooge”, Clark was content.
Although he did consistently talk about what his family’s traditions were, he grew to love my family’s as well. He even insisted the year after that we buy “Scrooge” to watch it. He also insisted that we do the Advent Wreath, something that is a very fond tradition with my family.
I am not saying that my family was better than his. I am simply saying they had different ways of accepting us into their homes. I know it was difficult on them.
It was difficult for Clark’s mom to understand that, at home, I helped my mom cook and was always in charge of the pies. It was difficult for my parents to understand that Clark’s whole family gathered Christmas Eve to open presents.
It was hard for both of our parents to understand why we got married so young.
Still, our parents got through it, much like we did. With the love and support of family, I think anything and everything is possible.
That’s why this time of year is my favorite. It is full of friends, family, and ultimately love. What is that quote? “Love actually is all around.”
Thanksgiving is a time to be thankful for all that we have, and Christmas is a time to celebrate the birth of Jesus Christ. What time of year could be more beautiful than that?
While Clark and I are still figuring out how holidays are going to be spent each year, we always keep in mind our first holiday experiences. Perhaps it’s to recognize how much we have grown since then, and even how much our families have grown since then.
It’s all a process, but what we always have to remember, even if someone turns off the oven or reminds us that we got married “too young”, we just have to remember that “Love actually is all around.”