Love and Marriage.

I woke up to the sounds of babbling and “Mama” around 5:30 AM this morning.  My little dude was up early today…again.  The loud ramblings woke up Iz as I was making Evan’s morning milk.

6:05 AM.  Whew…it’s gonna be a long day.

The kids were already awake for the day….ready to tackle the summer fun of swimming, ice cream, and napping strikes.

I sneaked away into my bedroom and walked over to the man of my life…somehow was still asleep in all the racket…and gave him a kiss good morning…

“Happy Anniversary, honey.”

Seconds later…I hear a crash from outside our room…

Sigh.  The tiny terrors were at it already.

The two littles…the loves of our lives….the best gift we could have been given on any anniversary.

I get asked all the time how “Craig and I” are doing.  How is our marriage holding up through all of this.

And I give a surprising answer….”We are doing pretty great.”

Despite the stress of our lives with Evan and the normal growing pains a family of 4 has with a pre-school kid and a toddler, our lives are much like everyone elses.

Our marriage is challenged – sure – a bit more than most – but overall – every marriage faces some deep dark pits.  You find yourself in the most difficult predicaments and you have to ask yourself  – can we do this?

This – being the part where you battle through the anger, the resentment, the fear, the frustration, the lack of feelings of “love” you may have on a particular day – and just ask yourself – can we really DO this? Because marriage is active.  It’s not a feeling…it’s a verb.  It’s in constant motion…truly dynamic.  You either move with it, find yourself still in it – refusing to move along for the journey, or walk away from it – not able to find the right rhythm and leaving it behind.

I can’t speak for all married couples (or partnerships) in the Heartland – I can only speak for mine.  I don’t know what their lives look like.  I know many look similar to mine – Heart baby (and all that is included in the package of the broken heart),  probably a heart healthy kid or 2 to add to the mix, money woes, insurance headaches, extended family drama, broken friendships.

I know many couple who have parted ways….many who are still together….all of…..just trying to navigate life in the Heartland.

What I can do is share how our marriage made it through the hardest year of our lives.

1. Who are you?  – Craig will randomly ask me, “So, when the Zombie Apocalypse happens, will we move to Lubbock and live with your sister since they have a basement, guns and lots of food in their pantry?” (Thank you”The Walking Dead”…) Luckily, I know Craig and this question is just one of the many random things that run through his head.  While I research and formulate plans for Evan’s care….his mind is often occupied with nothingness of sports statistics, music, and shows that are riddled with zombies and guns.  That’s who he is.  He doesn’t contemplate or agonize over details like I do.  He deals with things as they come.  He’s serious when he needs to be.  And I had to learn that the hard way…had to learn that he isn’t wired like me.  And vice versa.  He gives me the opportunity to discuss for the billionth time what I want to do for Evan in regards to his care….and even if nothing changes from day to day (or even hour to hour)….he lets me talk about it.  He gives me the chance to dump all the knowledge, all the fear, all the worries out of my mind that is racing a million miles a minute….to get just a second of respite.  And yes….many times I bet that when I talk about the second opinion, the surgical technique, the possible problems Evan could be dealing with…I know that there is a good chance that what’s running through is head is what baseball game he’s going to go to once the season starts.

2. Date night – When your child is hooked up to monitors in the I.C.U., it’s not the best time to book reservations to the hottest restaurant in town.  But, Craig made it a point to drag me away from the monitors and either sit in the family waiting area or run down to the cafeteria for a bite to eat.  Granted, that’s not a date night to many. But, to us, getting away – just the two of us – to breathe together, pray together, have a conversation that wasn’t punctuated with medical terminology – was so important.  He knew I needed a break even though I didn’t feel like I deserved one.  Basic things like eating were the last thing on my mind…but taking care of yourself is all you can do in times like those in the I.C.U….so that when your little one is out of the woods…you’ll be at your best.  Now, that we are home and Evan is doing pretty well, date nights are few and far between. Like REAL date nights – where I take off the yoga pants and put on a dress (and shave my legs), put on some makeup and take off my glasses, and shower….  But, when they happen – they are cherished.  And, during those in between times between the rare date night, we make an effort to have mini ones.  Yes…turning off our iPads, curling up on the couch to catch up on trash T.V., with a dessert may not sound like much…but again…it’s time for just he and I.  Time…together…to connect.

3.  After the date night.... – make time for THAT too.  Trust me…it’s worth it.  It’s really difficult to do the deed with someone you’re angry at, upset with, etc.  But to do it…you gotta work through a majority of it.  I get stress….I get it.  And I get exhaustion…I get it.  Once upon a time I was up every hour to hour and a half for Evan. But, we still made time for “it.” Because you get a closeness and an intimacy that I think we all crave in times of trouble.  Reminders of normal (and there’s nothing more normal than that…), time to rediscover why you said your “I do’s”, and for me…it’s a welcome reminder that I’m not just a mother but I’m also a someone special to another soul out there. And I need to feel that…to know that…to know that no matter what happens…I am still loved deeply even if I may not love myself that much.

4. Find the page and get on it – in times as complex as these – medical decisions for Evan, regular life things like money, family, faith – it’s important that Craig and I are in agreement on things that matter…like really matter.  It’s hard enough to make tough choices…but if your partner in crime and you are butting heads on an issue…that is a stress unlike any other.  I can’t tell you how to get there…I just think it’s important that you both find a way to compromise to get on the same page about things that count.  Regular life things are crucial too in the midst of the complex Heart stuff that we deal with.  And the medical stuff…this stuff is scary hard.  It’s scary because I don’t want to make a wrong move for Evan that could literally cause him his life.  Craig and I often used prayer – each of us praying on our own and together – to make the best decisions for Evan.  That was our way of getting to same page….

5. Step away – from each other and from the Heartland.  Just recently, I’ve been making time for me.  Just for me.  Not a grocery trip to restock our pantry – because that’s a chore.  Not an errand to shop for shoes for Iz, onesies for Evan… time for me.  I’ve found yoga to be my new happy place.  I’ve found that a good book, a glass of wine, and restaurant reservation for 1 is ONE-derful.  Making time for stuff other than each other, other than the kids…but for each of us as individuals…makes Craig and I both pretty happy.  Yes…to the outsider it may seem a bit depressing…and maybe it is to some degree….but going out alone and doing stuff that  matters to ME and me alone is great.  What’s crucial here is that I have found to trust Craig with Evan’s care…I can’t step away from it all if my mind is still at home.  It was a long process…a year in the making.  But, someone other  than me needs to know how to care for our boy and for Iz….

6. It is just about the two of you – No matter who surrounds our life and your journey – parents, siblings, friends, doctors, specialists – the bottom line is – its still OUR marriage.  We had to make the decision to tune out the opinions of everyone – and make decisions for Evan and for our little family of four based on what we felt was best.  Often, the people you love the most want to feel included and need to give opinions on every part of this walk. It’s hard to look your mom in the eye – and say with love – “I need you to stop.” And yes….we often consulted with family…and of course we consulted with Evan’s doctors…but ultimately…Craig and I had to be a united front and we had to man and woman up and sometimes say, “We got this…but thanks for your input.”  We know everyone has Evan and our best interest at heart…we know this….but ultimately…every decision we make for Evan…will affect our family of four and our marriage.

7. Pray – I pray for Craig and he prays for me.  And we pray together.  For Evan.  For Iz.  For our present, for our future.  For the blessings. For the trials.  All of it.

8.  Pride aside – when we are in the heart of our trouble….I often forget to put up my filter and allow things to escape my mouth that are hurtful to Craig.  And vice versa.  We make the decision all the time…to say “sorry and will you forgive me” quickly….we try to not allow something hurtful that was said or done out of the stress of the situation we are in to infect the rest of our days.  Anger, resentment, fear….all are like a disease and can hurt the rest of our marriage if we don’t remedy  it quickly by just saying, “I’m sorry.”

9. Sometimes you just gotta Wee Bey it (a la “The Wire”)- shrug your shoulders, take it all like a man, and say ‘eff’ it.   It all gets piled on you…all of the stuff you know and all of the stuff you don’t know.  This journey is full of twists and turns.  Every cardiology appointment is met with anxiety….no one really knows without a shadow of a doubt….that Evan will be ok.  And sometimes…when it all seems like too much ….because frankly…it IS too much…all you can do is shrug your shoulders, take it all in…and maybe not say ‘eff’ it…but give to a higher power, to God, the universe…

10.  It’s just a season – Craig and I remind each other that all this hard we are dealing with – is just a season of our lives.  Evan is now over a year old!  Whoa!  We made it through some of the hardest time of our lives.  As we face another heart surgery in less than 2 years…, we are dealing with all the fears and the anxiety that accompany handing your child over.  But, we have to move forward…face the next surgery and the next cardiology visit to check on Evan’s heart….and get past this season.  There will be a season of sunshine soon….we have been blessed with some beautiful days…we know more storms may come our way…but we both hold onto hope that we will have more sunny days.  And through it all….the storms and messes it leaves behind…we both make the decision every day…every moment…we want to be there for each other to enjoy that sunshine.


  1. Happy 9th Anniversary, Czarina and Craig!!!