Today my wife and I are celebrating our 30th Wedding Anniversary, which is the single-greatest and most-important adventure upon which I have embarked in my life. I remember when my wife and I were newly married and we would meet couples who had been married 30 years; I would think to myself, "Wow – that's such a long time." But now that I'm the one who has been married that long I think, "Wow – that sure went by fast."
But truth be told, I cannot take credit for the length of our union - I married someone who is an infinitely better person than myself. Seriously. Anyone who can put up with me for a mere afternoon is a miracle-worker, which probably elevates my wife to sainthood.
That being said, sometime around our 25th wedding anniversary I started getting questions from younger couples like, "What's your secret?" and "Why has your marriage lasted so long?" Let me be very clear - I am not an expert on marriage, and in general I am not a person who should be emulated; I am wholly aware of my many shortcomings as a human being, and I am overtly cognizant of my failures as a husband with regard to holding up my half of our relationship. (I always mean well, of course - but I am just as flawed as the next guy. Some days I simply forget to take out the garbage, or empty the dishwasher, or whatever. [Darn. I'm so ashamed.])
However, if I can't be a good example of a husband to anyone else, perhaps I can share a few of the things that I've learned from being a bad example. To quote the good people at Despair.com, perhaps my purpose in life is to serve as a warning to others:
With that in mind, here are some of the reasons why our marriage has endured, what has helped us over the years, and some of the lessons that I've learned the hard way.
I'd like to start things off by answering the question that I seem to get the most: "What is the secret to a long-lasting marriage?" Okay, if you're taking notes, you might want to write this down, because here it is:
Point #1 - Don't Get Divorced.
That's it. Period.
You could stop reading right now because you've already got the main takeaway from this blog. Now in case anyone thinks that I'm making light of this situation, I'm actually being perfectly honest. If you decide that divorce is not an option, it affects every part of your partnership. In our journey together, my wife and I have gone through incredible peaks and valleys - surviving both good and bad times - and many of these situations would have ended other relationships. In the past 30 years we have gone through everything we mentioned in our vows; we have endured sickness, health, prosperity, poverty, joy, adversity, etc. In the end, facing these seasons together and surviving side-by-side to live another day as husband and wife has bonded us together in ways which resemble the closeness of combat veterans. Collective perseverance yields intimacy.
I understand that there are situations where divorce is the only option; for example, when your spouse walks out on you, or your spouse is abusive and refuses to get professional help. When I talk about refusing to get divorced, I am speaking to those of you who get up one day and decide that you don't want to be married, or you claim that your spouse "just doesn't understand you anymore." When these feelings happen, you have to work your way through them. It takes conscious effort, but you made a commitment and you should not quit simply because you are wondering whether the grass is greener on the other side of the fence. Walking out on your marriage because you're bored or you don't want to do the work is little more than cowardice.
To be honest, the fact that my wife and I are still together is a much greater testimony to my next topic:
Point #2 - Christ.
Yes, I know - invoking the name of Christ is considered "Politically Incorrect" these days, but it is a simple statement of fact that my wife's and my faith has helped us weather countless trials and tribulations. So I don't care if it's an unpopular to talk about Jesus, because faith works. Don't argue with success.
Over the years I have learned this next valuable lesson:
Point #3 - Fighting Is Not Worth It.
I have to be brutally honest about whether my wife and I ever fight, and I sincerely wish that I could say we never quarreled. But the truth is - we used to bicker. A lot. In the early years of our marriage we fought like cats and dogs. And on that note, the unfortunate reality of our situation at the time is inescapable: I was 19 years old when I married my high school sweetheart and best friend, who was only 18 years old at the time. We went from kids to couple overnight, but only in the legal sense - maturity didn't show up until many years later. (Perhaps it still hasn't. Hmm. Probably best not to digress on that point.)
I would love to say that my statement about how "fighting is not worth it" was due to some grandiose epiphany which I arrived at through years of soul-searching and mature contemplation of our relationship. But the truth is much simpler, my secret to avoiding arguments boils down to one single concept: laziness. Seriously, fighting took way too much effort, and we eventually learned that it was better not to fight. Here's what an argument looked like in our house - we would disagree about something, which would escalate into a maelstrom of heated and hurtful words thrown back and forth between us. Eventually we would reach some form of resolution, but once the dust settled from the actual argument, we had to endure days of coldness as the two of us figured out how best to rebuild all of the trust which we had destroyed during the argument. It dawned on both of us that it took a great deal of effort to work up the anger for an argument, and the emotional trauma that we experienced was exhausting after our disputes had ended. Once we had realized that valuable lesson, both of us learned to recognize when we were hurtling toward another squabble, and we'd agree to skip over the major conflict part. It sounds easy enough, but it took us years to figure that out.
Now please don't get me wrong, I am not suggesting that we never disagree, nor am I insinuating that we do not defend our opinions passionately when we hold opposing positions on important topics. The truth is - we still differ on any number of subjects, but we both realize that nothing is worth losing our marriage. Together we have endured destitute poverty, years of work-related separations, the births and deaths of several family members, and raising three children to adulthood.
Throughout all of our combined experiences, I have vividly retained the following critically-important fact:
Point #4 - Always Remember Why You Married Your Spouse.
My wife and I were friends for several years before we ventured out on our first date. In fact, by the the time it occurred to either of one of us that we should be more than friends, many of our friends already thought that we were dating and were rather sick of the subject. (They're probably still sick of the subject, but after 30 years I really don't care. :-P)
Kathleen is my best friend, and we still hold hands when we walk together in public - which is how life should be; she has been the predominant character in all of my experiences as an adult, and she has been a major part of my life for almost 35 years. My wife is truly my better half, so why would I gamble all of our collective memories and life experiences by failing to remember the simple fact that I am sharing my life with the most-important and most-loving person whom I have ever known? If I fail to keep these thoughts in mind, I risk destroying everything. And that would make me a pretty selfish jerk. (Feel free to quote that to my face if it ever looks like we're headed for trouble.)
Point #5 – Be Self-Critical.
Believe it or not, you are not the perfect spouse. The folks at Despair.com got it right when they published a demotivational poster which reads, "The only consistent feature of all of your dissatisfying relationships is you."
While they were just making a joke, it should be noted that there is a lot of truth to that statement. More often than not, you will find that the source of unhappiness in your relationship is your attitude and not some shortcoming on your spouse's part. Every once in a while you need to step back and take a good look at yourself before lecturing someone else about their behavior.
I should probably mention one last thing before bringing this blog to an end:
Point #6 - A Good Marriage Takes Work. A Great Marriage Takes More Work.
Somewhere around our seventh year of marriage I decided that I wasn't content to have a 'Good Marriage,' I wanted a 'Great Marriage.' Unfortunately, I had no clue as to how we should go about creating such a thing. With that in mind, I decided to read at least one book about marriage each year. Some of those books have been great, and others I've tried hard to forget. A few books I have re-read years later; this has usually been an amusing experience for me, because I often discover that some part of a book which I thought was silly and chose to ignore at the time was eventually learned the hard way. In any event, there are a lot of good books on marriage out there, and you may think that some won't apply to your situation, but you have to be willing to try.
Two books which have been life-changing for me have been The Five Love Languages and The Five Languages of Apology by Dr. Gary Chapman; these two books probably changed all of my relationships with everyone I know - spouse, kids, parents, extended family members, friends, coworkers, etc. There are lots of other great books which I have read, but those two are a good start.
In closing, I may not be the best role model for a husband, and I have made more than my fair share of mistakes. But I have learned a thing or two along my journey from the cradle to the grave. I take no pride by admitting that most of my life lessons have been learned the hard way, so you can consider my advice from two perspectives: if I have been an idiot from time to time throughout our marriage, perhaps my advice isn't worth anything. On the other hand, if I've made enough mistakes as a husband to finally realize several of the most-important things to remember in a relationship, perhaps you can learn from my errors.
OK – I have to admit, today I wimped out. Twice, actually. Oh sure, I went on a ride, but it wasn't the ride that I had planned to do. Perhaps I should explain…
Today the folks from Sabino Cycles were going to do their foothills route starting from their store. Because the weather is much colder than normal, they scheduled the start time for the ride at 8:00am. With that in mind, I got up at 7:00am and I started getting ready to go. However, when I looked at the outside temperature, it was 39 degrees Fahrenheit, so I said to myself, "There's no way that I'm riding in temperatures that cold."
I knew that the temperature was supposed to warm up to 60 F degrees, so I decided to wait until the temperature was at least 50 F degrees or so before starting out. Several hours later the temperature was in the mid-50s, so I got my things together and headed out into the desert. (Although I paused briefly before I left the house to re-pair my cadence tracking hardware with my Gamin.)
I hadn't ridden the Pistol Hill Loop in a while, so I thought that would make a good trek for the day. I contemplated doing the loop twice, which would be a 50-mile ride, but I decided against that while I was on the ride. (I'll explain why later.)
The first 4.5 miles of the ride is the same route that I travel when I am riding to Saguaro National Park; it's a gradual uphill, but nothing too bad. After that, the next couple of miles are mostly downhill to the bottom-most point in Jeremy Wash. Once you hit that point, then you start the long, uphill ride for the next seven miles. As I mentioned before, it had been a few months since I had ridden this course, and overall the climbing was much easier than I recalled. (The hills haven't gotten any better, of course; I'm simply riding a little stronger.)
In any event, the last push uphill to the high point on Pistol Hill Road was still difficult, but I was riding much better than I had in the past. (And my ride time shows that; I completed the entire Pistol Hill Loop in 20 minutes less than my previous ride.)
The temperature had warmed up nicely, and it was over 62 F degrees by the time that I reached the high point on Pistol Hill Road. Unfortunately, the sun went behind some clouds, and the temperature dropped amazingly fast. Within a few minutes the temperature had dropped almost 10 degrees to 53 F, which feels like a lot more when you're on a bicycle. This made me very uncomfortable as I rode downhill from Pistol Hill Road along Camino Loma Alta and back to Old Spanish Trail.
When I ride around the Pistol Hill Loop twice, I always turn around at Saguaro National Park to begin my second pass rather than riding all the way home. But as I rode up the hills toward Saguaro National Park, the temperature was still hovering in the low-50s. Since it wasn't getting any warmer, and it was already around 3pm, I decided that I would just do the loop once and head home. This would give me a metric half-century for the day instead of an imperial half-century, but I was pretty cold so I didn't care.
- Primary Statistics:
- Start Time: 1:23pm
- Distance: 31.6 miles
- Duration: 1:54:57
- Calories Burned: 1136 kcal
- Altitude Gain: 1280 feet
- Average Speed: 16.5 mph
- Peak Speed: 30.6 mph
- Average Cadence: 78.0 rpm
- Average: 57.7 F
- Minimum: 53.6 F
- Maximum: 62.6 F
- Heart Rate:
- Average: 156 bpm
- Maximum: 171 bpm
There has been a great deal of babbling going on in the press about Sony's last-minute business decision to pull the almost-released movie The Interview before it hit the theaters. In Sony's defense, their actions were based on pressure from anonymous sources which were threatening to harm theater-goers.
Hollywood was quick to respond, of course, claiming censorship, threats to expressive freedoms, and violations of the First Amendment. Hollywood's reaction is hardly surprising, of course, since Hollywood routinely hides behind the First Amendment whenever they have done something wrong – whether it's undressing children in public in films like Moonrise Kingdom or favorably portraying sadomasochistic serial rapists in movies like Fifty Shades of Grey.
But all of this is an indication of something that is broken in Hollywood; people in the entertainment industry do not trifle with frivolous matters like right versus wrong; they are far too busy trying to turn a profit. It's kind of like Richard Oppenheimer describing the creation of the atomic bomb; he was so obsessed with the potential success of the project that he never bothered to consider the eventual outcome.
With that in mind, let's think about the content of The Interview for a moment. This is a movie about assassinating the current leader of an actual foreign country. Sony could have made this movie about a plot to kill the fictional leader of a fictional country, but they chose to make their target a real-life person who is currently the head-of-state for one of our most-condemnable adversaries. But what is worse is that this movie is not an action flick starring Jason Statham, Dwayne Johnson, Vin Diesel, or even Arnold Schwarzenegger – this is a comedy, which means that Hollywood is so self-absorbed that it hasn't bothered realize that it is taking the subject of a real-life assassination plot against a foreign national leader and turning into some kind of joke. What country wouldn't be offended when the cold-blooded killing of their chief executive is portrayed with such obtuse indifference?
Look at it this way, what if ISIS made a film where they sent the Middle Eastern equivalents of Harold and Kumar to the United States as part of a plot to murder President Obama? After Americans got over the initial shock that ISIS was somehow organized enough to create a movie, they would be appalled at the subject matter, and even more so that it was some sort of joke to our enemies. Why should Hollywood get a free pass just because we all think the Communists in North Korea are a bunch of thugs?
Let's consider another example: what if Russia made a movie about Lee Harvey Oswald, where they hired someone like Jim Carrey to portray Oswald as a bumbling idiot who was sent by the KGB to assassinate John F. Kennedy? Or how about an example that hits even closer to home: what if someone decided to make a comedy about the recent deaths of Michael Brown or Eric Garner? No one would in this country would remotely consider any of those tragedies for their comedic movie potential; every American would find all of those storylines morally reprehensible, degrading and disgusting.
I deplore North Korea's retaliatory actions against Sony just as much as the next person, and you cannot honestly expect the world to believe that the United States would take no actions in retaliation if the shoe was on the other foot. However, even though Hollywood jet-setters have been quick to speak out about CIA and NSA abuses, they pat themselves on the back and hold themselves above contempt when it comes to their own decisions. But just because we detest a petty dictator who is sitting on the throne of our enemy, that does not give Hollywood the right to mock his assassination in order to make a quick buck.
I'm sorry Sony, but the underlying plot of this movie was wrong. And I can't believe I'm saying this, but you should apologize to North Korea for your callous stupidity.
If I was forced to choose one word to describe today's ride, that word would be "wet."
By way of explanation, it rained during today's ride. It rained a lot. The weather forecast predicted a 60% chance of rain, and I guess that I was fortunate (or unfortunate) enough to encounter several rounds of that 60%. Nevertheless, I pushed on and rode a little over 50 miles.
Today didn't start as planned, though. I had intended to go out with the folks from Sabino Cycles again, who had planned to ride out to Starr Pass on the west side of town. That being said, I usually drive to the bike shop and head out from there, but today Kathleen needed our car, (we only have one), so I decided to ride my bike to the shop. As Kathleen aptly pointed out, I am usually looking to add extra mileage to my Saturday rides, so it made logical sense to ride the 6 miles to the shop to start the ride. Along the way I noticed that my cadence was not being tracked my GPS, which is the second time that has happened to me, so I will have to investigate that later.
The ride was scheduled to start at 7:30am, and I knew that it would take me around 20 minutes or so to make the 6-mile journey from my house to the shop. With that in mind, I wanted to leave our house as close to 7am as possible, but my departure was delayed by two factors: I tried to figure out a good way to bring my rain gear with me, and I had to remove my dual-water-bottle cage from my seat post because it was falling apart. (Yet again.) I eventually decided that it would be too difficult to bring my rain gear, and I got on the road at 7:15am.
I knew that I was running late, but I knew from previous excursions which route the Sabino Cycles folks would take to Starr Pass, so I figured that I could just catch up with them if I missed the start of the ride. I made good time the whole way to the shop, and even though I was a few minutes behind schedule I was sticking to my plan. That is, until I noticed a bunch of riders from Sabino Cycles headed in the opposite direction as I rode down Tanque Verde; my guess was that the rain on the far west side of town forced the group to reconsider the originally-scheduled ride and head east away from the rain. But I had no idea where they were headed, and by the time that I would be able to make a U-turn in traffic on Tanque Verde, the group would have been long gone.
Because of this predicament, I decided to go on my own ride. I chose to start my ride with a route that I have used before: north on Sabino Canyon to Cloud, then east to Larrea, then north to Canyon Ranch, then west on Snyder to Sabino Canyon, then north to Sunrise, and then west to Swan. (Side note: the big hill on Sunrise near Ventana Canyon was much easier for me this time around than on previous rides; either I'm more in shape or I simply wasn't paying attention.)
I decided to change up my route by riding south on Swan to Rillito River Park, which I rode westward all the way until it dead-ended at I-10. Somewhere around the 25-mile mark it began to rain, which grew progressively harder as I continued to ride. I could have turned around or stopped under a bridge or pulled into a store somewhere, but the truth is – I've been in much worse situations during my time in the military, so I just pressed on. (As did several other cyclists and joggers along the trail who looked equally as determined to stick to their respective workouts.) That being said, it didn't take long before everything that I was wearing was soaked through. The temperature was around 50 F for most of the ride, so thankfully my soggy condition was not compounded by cold temperatures.
I turned around when I reached I-10, and then I rode east all the way to Craycroft. As I rode along the Rillito River Park, I mulled over which way would be the best route home. I knew that I would have somewhere around 50 miles for the day, so distance was not a contributing factor in my decision-making process. I eventually decided to ride north on Craycroft to River, then east to Sabino Canyon, and then retrace something of the same route back to our neighborhood. The rest of the ride was uneventful, for the most part, but my bicycle was incredibly filthy from all the mud and other assorted road grime, so I spent a fair bit of time cleaning off my bicycle when I got home. (And then I took a long, hot shower to warm back up.)
- Primary Statistics:
- Start Time: 7:16am
- Distance: 52.3 miles
- Duration: 3:14:50
- Calories Burned: 1589 kcal
- Altitude Gain: 1536 feet
- Average Speed: 16.1 mph
- Peak Speed: 29.3 mph
- Average Cadence: n/a (see notes)
- Average: 50.2 F
- Minimum: 48.2 F
- Maximum: 59.0 F
- Heart Rate:
- Average: 146 bpm
- Maximum: 172 bpm
Today was another of my usual rides from my house through Saguaro National Park (SNP) and home again. As I mentioned a few days ago I have been trying to complete the entire ride in less than an hour and circumnavigate SNP in less than 30 minutes. Once again I was very close to both goals; I was 42 seconds over the 30-minute goal for SNP, and a mere 9 seconds over an hour for the whole ride.
However, today was a really good ride for the most part; I was riding pretty well, and I really should have met both goals today. So the logical question is – what happened? I think I can explain that in one word: cars. Today there were a lot of cars in the park, which required me to have to continuously re-adjust my pace. Of course, the park is for everyone, not just me, so it goes with the territory.
However, there were some particular annoyances with today's car traffic. First of all was the car that I ran into as I approached the very first downhill in the park; I had to back off on my speed, although I was able to pass the car as we made our way uphill on the opposite side. Shortly after that I ran into another car which insisted on stopping in the middle of the road to take photos. (Grr.) While I realize that the park is for everyone, it would be nice if those kinds of people would pull to the side of the road.
There were several other cars who were driving quite slowly through the park, which forced me to slow down time and again. As I approached Javelina Rocks, a large pickup truck was crawling along the road around 5mph with another car following close behind. The truck eventually pulled off the road, so both the car and I passed the truck.
But then I faced the worst automotive transgressor of today's ride: when the car pulled around the truck, he knew that I was behind him, and he positioned himself so that I could not pass. He drove slowly as we headed downhill, thereby intentionally impeding a section of the park where I usually pick up speed and make up for time lost on the big hills. Once we reached the bottom of the hill, he glanced at me as he took off, just to let me know that he was doing it just to be a pain in the butt.
- Primary Statistics:
- Start Time: 2:52pm
- Distance: 16.9 miles
- Duration: 1:00:09
- Calories Burned: 669 kcal
- Altitude Gain: 822 feet
- Average Speed: 16.8 mph
- Peak Speed: 31.1 mph
- Average Cadence: n/a (see notes)
- Average: 66.6 F
- Minimum: 64.4 F
- Maximum: 73.4 F
- Heart Rate:
- Average: 158 bpm
- Maximum: 175 bpm
Today was an okay distance ride; it wasn't one of my best from a speed perspective, but that wasn't really my fault. By way of explanation, I rode with the nice folks from Sabino Cycles again, which is becoming my normal Saturday morning ride. I like going on their rides because my normal courses were getting more than a little repetitive, and I need to continue working on my group riding skills.
That being said, the ride started at the Sabino Cycles shop at 7:30am, which is a much better time for me. I rode the first 30 miles with the group, then 3 miles with another rider, and then the next 12 miles alone. The ride with the group was good; I had done this route with them before, and the ride uphill on Freeman is nowhere near as bad as it was when I first started distance riding. (I still hate riding down Houghton, though; that road will be great when it's repaved, but not soon enough.)
I struck up conversation during the ride with one of the other riders; he's originally from Detroit and loves the Arizona weather. (But who doesn't?) He's retired, and he's only been riding for a few years. Once we were done with the group ride, the two of us went for a short ride around the Tucson Country Club; I hadn't been there in three decades – it was kind of weird.
After we rode back the shop, he and I parted ways; he went home, and I set off on another ride. I followed a route that I had taken before: I rode east on Cloud to Larrea, then north to Canyon Ranch, west on Snyder to Sabino Canyon, north to Sunrise, then south on Kolb and Sabino Canyon to the shop. That being said, I don't think that I'll ride Kolb again; it had no shoulder, so I was forced to ride with traffic, and it was an incredibly rough endeavor since the road was so worn.
- Primary Statistics:
- Start Time: 7:36am
- Distance: 45.4 miles
- Duration: 2:52:10
- Calories Burned: 1429 kcal
- Altitude Gain: 1631 feet
- Average Speed: 15.8 mph
- Peak Speed: 31.8 mph
- Average Cadence: 68.0 rpm
- Average: 51.2 F
- Minimum: 44.6 F
- Maximum: 55.4 F
- Heart Rate:
- Average: 143 bpm
- Maximum: 171 bpm
Today I was soooooooo close to two of my goals.
You might recall from previous blogs that I have been trying to achieve to primary goals during my usual ride from my house through Saguaro National Park (SNP) and home again: the first goal is to complete the entire ride in less than an hour, and the second goal is to make it around SNP in less than 30 minutes. Well, today I completed the entire ride just one second over an hour, and I made it around SNP in three seconds over 30 minutes. (Darn. Darn. Darn.)
That being said, the ride was pretty good. For some reason, there were almost no cars in the park, which helped immensely. There's not too much else to say about the ride; the temperature wasn't too bad, which was due to the sky being overcast. I felt pretty good throughout the ride, and I knew that my pace was pretty good. Had I known that I was mere seconds away from my goals, I am sure I could have pushed myself just a little faster. ;-)
- Primary Statistics:
- Start Time: 4:23pm
- Distance: 16.9 miles
- Duration: 1:00:01
- Calories Burned: 648 kcal
- Altitude Gain: 822 feet
- Average Speed: 16.9 mph
- Peak Speed: 32.4 mph
- Average Cadence: 72.0 rpm
- Average: 62.3 F
- Minimum: 60.8 F
- Maximum: 69.8 F
- Heart Rate:
- Average: 155 bpm
- Maximum: 171 bpm