Ironman is 41 today. Try not to inundate him with celebratory wishes though, as I’m sure he is currently busy updating his social media age, since it is roughly 7 years overdue. It’s really hard to believe he’s so old. Don’t worry, I can say that because I am a mere three months his cougar-elder. It’s funny how time just rolls along for a comfortable stretch and then one day, all of the sudden, you realize that teenagers, if they took a much deserved break from Snapchatting, would describe you as “old”. Okay, that’s not true. They would text it. But Ironman is no geezer. He does plenty of things to ensure that his age keeps him decades away from dentures and assisted living. For example, he almost never complains about how our garbage men won’t pick up the garbage if the lid is even a centimeter elevated from overfill. He rarely perfects his eye rolling technique when he is behind hipsters at Starbucks. And I’m pretty sure he’s never told Little J to “focus on school” when he said he was going to marry his preschool girlfriend last week. To be honest, there are some great things about his advanced numeric age. Our primary form of communication doesn’t rely on abbreviated words or emoticons. He knows how to fix almost anything from years of mistakes and successes. But mostly, the greatest thing about Ironman’s increasing years is that I am lucky enough to spend them with him. I love you Ironman, sweater vests and all. Happy Birthday.
In case you haven’t heard, open letters are all the rage. And since I am always up on the latest trends (#sarcasm – did I do that right?) and since I don’t know who to send this to, I thought I’d try one. Stop me if you can’t keep up with my hipness.
I’m writing to you out of humble concern. You’ve hit the big time. And I couldn’t be more proud of you. But let’s be honest, I remember the pre-fame days where you were just a (shhh) number sign and you donned many a high school sporting event signs – WE’RE #1! Or you decorated that special kind of pencil, you know, the kind only used by sweaty test-taking hands. Remember when you were just known for completing angry phone keypad selections because no human voice was on the other end? Those were the days, weren’t they? Behind the scenes, you were mixing it up though. You were already embedded deep in the clutches of technology, way before the Twitterverse took you in, washed you behind your ears and adopted you for a life changed forever. Techies knew you intimately for years in their own language. Now, you are everywhere. You’re on our computer screens, our mobile devices, our TVs. You categorize, you promote and you trend. We can’t go anywhere without seeing you. Or hearing you. We abuse you, it’s true and I’m sorry for that. We just don’t know how to be heard without you, without the followers you bring. But what about you? What’s in it for you? I don’t want to burst your bubble, but what happens when another symbol comes along on a shiny new platform that can do everything you can do, but better, faster and with more volume? We aren’t a culture that praises longevity. And I don’t want to see you with hurt feelings when you start to drop out of teenage lingo. They’ll be the first to let you go. But don’t worry, there are always groups willing to save something. #savethehashtag might catch on for a while. If you’re lucky, a celebrity, preferably an A-Lister who hasn’t grossly overused you, will call attention to the important work you once did, bringing important topics to the forefront. The power is in the numbers. But hey, who knows that better than you?
A concerned citizen
So, there it is. My first open letter. Can anyone tell me if it’s trending yet?
Things break. And if you’re two and a half, you’re likely the one who breaks them. Then, of course, your entire world falls apart until they are fixed and no one, I mean no one is allowed to do anything but focus on the fixing. At least that’s what happens around here. Luckily, Ironman can fix anything, partially because he’s a man (I can find just about anything that’s lost, it’s a weird genetic trade off) and partially because as a child, he broke stuff too. He broke things on purpose. And by broke, I mean he disassembled things. His mother labeled him mischievous, but in his words, he was merely flexing his curiosity muscles. When he examined things, he thought “I wonder how this works?” Cut to the scene where mom enters to find bike parts littering her kitchen floor – new bike parts to a bike she just bought him. Ironman is still this way as my floors frequently look eerily similar. Little J follows lovingly in his dad’s
mischievous inquisitive footsteps. Rarely, all toys are fully intact and in perfect working order. I’m lying. This has never happened. Once the item is purchased, it immediately downgrades to gently used, much like Carmax inventory.
I am constantly amazed at Ironman’s ingenuity. He’s fixed everything Little J has brought him, from car wheels to popped-off motorcycle handlebars. But the other day, Little J brought him an empty acorn shell and said “Fix.” I was wondering how this was going to turn out. Inside I feared that his superhero status, Repairman, was about to crumble. Without a thought (and with a Copperfield-esque slight of hand) Ironman revealed a fully intact acorn. Genius. I would never have thought of that. But then again, fixing is not my superpower. And apparently, my assumption that breaking just runs in Ironman’s gene pool, was a minor inaccuracy. Exhibit A. I sport quite pricey rimless glasses held together by a dot of super glue (this dot has been replaced multiple times). And the other day my phone committed cellular suicide when it leapt from my hands (it’s true, don’t judge) and dove to the floor. When I picked it up, its fragile face was unrecognizable. I shattered it so badly I swear you could feel tiny shards of Internet. Ironman had just bought it for me, so I knew the punishment must fit the crime. Apple didn’t have any appointments available to replace said fractured screen for two days. TWO DAYS. I was lost. How would I function without my handheld world? I was slowly descending into a pit of 4G despair. When all of the sudden, I heard the unmistakable sound of…packing tape? A few moments later, someone handed me a perfect mate for my super glue glasses. A smooth-screened phone cuddled into my hand as a smile slowly formed on my face. Who was that masked man? I didn’t catch his name, but if you see him or the “I” on his cape, please thank him for me.
You probably can’t use that writing prompt in schools anymore, so I’ll go ahead and use it here. Unfortunately, I’m not in fourth grade anymore. And I say unfortunately because Christmas back then was in a word, magical. In large part, of course, because I didn’t have to do any of the work. I got to gaze at the twinkling Christmas tree, eat reindeer shaped, iced sugar cookies until my stomach hurt and watch Christmas movies. Life was good. But then I had to go and grow up. And just like that, I was thrown to the Christmas wolves. Fighting for parking spaces, addressing Christmas cards until I developed carpal tunnel and playing Russian Roulette with online shipping windows. This wasn’t magical. This wasn’t magical at all. And then I realized, this was adult Christmas. I prayed having kids would bring the old Christmas back. But that just meant a gate around the Christmas tree, a Christmas tree that I only had time to adorn with two strands of lights so far. It meant searching endlessly for coordinating holiday outfits for the perfect Christmas card photo, hiding presents, hiding scissors and tape. Obsessing over how I could get it all done to create the same childhood Christmas for the Littles that I once had. I thought I had lost magical childhood Christmas forever. And then Ironman convinced me to go on a nighttime group holiday ride. What? Ride a bike? At night? In 50 degree weather? With the Littles in the bike trailer? Yes. We showed up with battery-powered blinking lights on our bikes, Santa hats and a Bluetooth speaker in my bike basket to shower the streets with Christmas carols. This, I learned, was commonplace on this annual ride.
I coveted the snowflakes that wove in and out of someone’s bike wheels. I giggled at the sight of the tandem bike family, all dressed in the same candy-cane leggings. We took off in one large continuous stream of holiday cheer, down neighborhood streets to look at Christmas lights. But I saw so much more. As we passed by holiday parties, neighbors in their backyards raised their wine glasses high above the fence and shouted “Merry Christmas!” Stunned faces of dog owners melted into waves and holiday greetings as we rode by them on their evening walk. As people sat down to dinner and peered outside their window, they saw a multicolored-lit amateur Tour de France pass by. Some ran out to watch the spectacle. And as these families stood on their lawns, you could tell that these few minutes of simple joy made up for their frustrating day of fighting for parking spaces, addressing Christmas cards until they developed carpal tunnel and playing Russian Roulette with online shipping windows. I finally caught up to Ironman (the man just can’t ride a bike slowly), and saw the Littles’ faces as all of this transpired. They were in wonderment and they weren’t alone. As the crisp night air hit my face and Silent Night serenaded us from my little white basket, the magic of Christmas was back. And just as I remember, it didn’t take any work.
I’m no Bear Grylls. And I’m pretty sure my PSR (Primitive Survival Rating) would hover only slightly above 1. I’m not an Eagle Scout like Ironman and when my dad took us fishing when I was little, I hooked my mom in the boat more often than the fish. Sorry, mom. So based on that, I assumed I wouldn’t be a very good character addition to the Naked and Afraid series. You know, the ridiculous show where two complete strangers are paired up on a remote island for 21 days with no clothes, no food, no water and just one personal item…all for no prize. No prize. No money, no world-famous survival tile, just the knowledge that they can do it. But then I realized I’m addicted to watching these vulnerable, overexposed survivalists because, well, I’ve been one. A little over two short years ago, Ironman and I were dropped off at an amazingly beautiful island. The utopian kind, made of pristine white sand beaches, swaying palm trees and water so clear you could see every variation in the landscape below. In that moment, in a way, we were strangers too. We had just become new parents. I had never known him as Dad, only as Ironman. Everything was new. At first, all we could do was take in the beauty of this new place. Words were amorous and full of gratitude for the perfection that surrounded us, just like the two naked strangers meeting for the first time to start their three week challenge. And then without invitation, it hit us. Survival mode. At about Day 2, the sleep deprivation set in. The storm hit in full force with no sleep, little food and dehydration (since someone else needed all of my water). Small things like a shower seemed like an elusive dream. There were tears, little victories, then more tears. Ironman and I were in constant calorie burning mode with no time to refuel. Days began to blur together. Time became Vegas-like, passing without any sunlight exposure. The island, still beautiful, threw new challenges at us daily and self doubt crept in like dark clouds. Were we going to make it to the “extraction point”? Extraction point. Was there one? Our mental state shaky, we began slowly sinking in the comparison quicksand. Who had changed more diapers, washed more bottles, had more nighttime duty or collected more coconuts? Wait. What? It was then that we had to remember we were a team. We were in this together. And if we were going to make it, it was going to take both of us. So as I snuggled in my fluffy comforter, and sipped on my ice water, I watched those poor, exhausted tv strangers claw their way up to their extraction point. I felt a sense of pride well up inside as I thought to myself, “We made it to our extraction point too. It took about two months, but we made it. We were even crazy enough to star on the show twice. But, come on guys, at least we got an amazing prize.”
Today, Ironman and I have been married for four years. Being married for four years is not a long time. Unless you’re a celebrity, in which case it’s an eternity. Plus three. When I was young, my grandpa debunked the big myth that marriage is 50/50. He said that might be true some days. But others, it may be 60/40, 70/30 or even 90/10. Some days you will give more and others you will need more. As you know, being married to Ironman is a breeze. (*if you are new to this blog, or to reality, read that sentence correctly with blatant sarcasm). But Ironman gets a bad wrap on this blog, so I wanted to share some of the things about him you may not know that make me still want to say I Do.
His generosity. While staying in a hotel on one of his business trips, he overheard two women cleaning rooms. One woman was worried about how to afford shoes for her son. It hit home for him as he and his mother struggled when he was little. As he walked by them, he handed her money and let her know he understood her position and wanted to help her give her son new shoes. His generosity to a total stranger makes me proud to be his wife.
He’s a romantic. My views on romance have changed slightly since I was a teenager, when I was certain that like in the movies, roses and chocolates spelled the big R word. I’ve learned romance comes in many forms. Though he does still give me Costco flowers, and the occasional Crunch bar, some of the most romantic things he’s done have been the little things he’s said. Little J cannot yet say “I love you” so he says “La Loo”. When Ironman leaves the house, he smiles and says “La loo”. In such a simple way, it makes my heart melt every time. He tells me I’m beautiful, post two babies, when I do not yet resemble myself pre-kid era. When I tell him I’ve been up since 5:45 am because I was too worried about one of the kids to sleep, he asks “Why didn’t you wake me?”. And perhaps the most romantic thing he has said, many would consider pretty unconventional. Being older parents, we went through a lot of testing when I was pregnant with both Littles. One day during this time, he said to me “You know, if they did find something with the baby, I know we are a strong enough couple to handle anything.” He has a quadriplegic cousin, so knowing the gravity of of such a statement beats out 50 years of flowers. But keep ’em comin’ anyway, Ironman.
His determination. Ironman lost over 100 pounds when he started doing triathlons. Post workout, he wasn’t happy unless something hurt. I admire his commitment and think he’s just a little bit nuts. When I ask him if he’d ever leave me for a triathlete, he says “I can’t. My bike is at your house.”
He’s well rounded. Ironman can ride 1,000 miles on a Harley, shoot a 45, and skin a pig. What can I say, he’s from Texas. But he also loves a good musical and can one-up the Project Runway judges to come up with a better fashion critique when I
make him invite him to watch with me. One thing he can’t do? Cut hair. Just ask Little J, who looked like he should star in Dumb and Dumber 3. Someday, he’ll get you back for that, Ironman.
Ironman is a lot of things. Most of them drive me crazy. But we make a good team. Sometimes being married to him is 50/50, sometimes 60/40, and sometimes 90/10. Four years ago today, we looked out at the Santa Fe horizon as we danced our first dance as Mr. and Mrs. Ironman. We had no idea the amazing things in store for us. Ironman, I just want you to know I still say I Do. La loo.
Ironman is obsessed with numbers. Let me elaborate so you may get the full gravity of the situation. It won’t be surprising that from all of the tech gadgets he excercises with, he loads a slew of performance data onto his computer. How many miles ridden, distances swam and times for each mile run all compete for hard drive space. This is somewhat excusable since he has Triathletes Disease. (If you or someone you love suffers from this illness, find out more about it here.) But once a year, Ironman goes to the doctor like a good Ironman should. He obtains his bloodwork results and puts them in a -wait for it- spreadsheet. He also notates the “normal” range (though I think we’ve already stepped out of normal range here) for the specific finding and then color codes cells that exceed the range and need attention. I can already feel that some men reading this are not alarmed. Hi dad. So. This was all par for the course until I recently came home from the doctor with a copy of my bloodwork results. When I arrived, hemoglobin packet in hand, his eyes lit up. I reluctantly handed them over because for the first time in my life, I was close to needing a highlighted cholesterol cell. Ironman dutifully entered my tainted stats while I recounted my appointment and my dissapointment. I cringed at this blip on my historically spotless health record. I went about my normal day, you know, checking every nutritional label that stuck to jars, bags and boxes for its cholesterol content. I scoured google to confirm “normal range” and all of the horrible diseases and outcomes possible if I hovered above it. I planned an exercise regimen that extended past crawling around on the floor with the Littles. But just as I had forgotten about it, Ironman rounded the corner at dinner and said (you may want to sit down for this) “I’m kinda glad you need to work on your cholesterol. This means there is finally a slight chance I may outlive you.” Ironman, I sure hope you back up all of your data. You never know when your computer might crash.