Friday, August 23, 2013

Pursuit of Happiness

Having a clean house makes me smile.  :)  I managed to get some kid-free time this week to clean my house, thanks to the kids having sleepovers with their grandparents--super exciting, huh?  I thought Dan and I might get a date night out of the deal as well, but he had too much reading to do...bummer.  But I kept smiling, and cleared about 7 trash bags full of toys out of the playroom and Jake's room--and no, I'm not kidding.  My kids have too much stuff!  I'm pretty proud of the clean-out effort--it was my most ambitious to date.  On previous cleans, I've held on to things that had sweet sentimental meaning to me...but weren't necessarily currently-played-with toys.  I had no sentimental qualms this time around--we were busting at the seams.  So now I have 7 trash bags added to the piles of disaster in my garage that I need to go through...but at least they're not in my house anymore!  The added floor space in the rooms is phenomenal.  So I've done fairly well on my Happiness Project (aka, Challenge #3) this week, but I haven't really been it feels a little like cheating.  I have conscientiously put a smile on my face throughout the last few days--there's definitely been effort, but I'm waiting for when things get hard to see how I handle it.  I won't have to wait long with the back-to-school craziness coming soon!

a much-needed reminder

The pursuit of happiness.  Is that wording not totally fascinating (and somewhat telling)?  It is to me.  I have a right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.  Happiness itself is not an inalienable right--I can pursue it to my heart's content, but it's not handed to me.  Being happy is not a given--and while that is true for everyone, I have felt it to be especially true for me the last 16 years.  I feel more comfortable when I'm slightly miserable--and I recognize that that's a terrible thing to say.  It almost seems like Challenge #3 is a challenge against my nature!  If you had encountered the 15-year-old me, you would have been accosted by a bubbly, perky cheerleader who was flirtatious, fun, and super energetic.  Most people evolve from their 15-year-old self, and I certainly have.  I had a really great childhood that informed my 15-year-old carefree attitude--it was the tumultuous transition to adulthood that brought me back down to earth.  I developed a biting sarcasm.  I dropped the bubbly cheerleader stereotype, because I've always been smart (and hated the inference that I wasn't just because of my short uniform skirt)...and I've always been a bit rebellious.  My steady state in college was trying not to drown in a competitive environment (that I absolutely loved, mind you).  Although I wasn't quite a kid anymore, I was not adult enough to escape the endless personal drama--I was the definition of an id-driven, world-revolves-around-me college girl.  I worked hard, I made so many mistakes, and my attitude reflected all my experiences.  It still does.  I often remark that I make the choices I do because I insist against my own happiness--when things are going well, I sabotage (as evidenced by my weight-loss issues!).

Now, as a 33-year-old mom-of-three, my attitude is more a reflection of the responsibilities of adult- and parenthood.  I have about 50 things in my head at once, and smiling isn't usually one of those 50 things!  Don't get me wrong--I smile and laugh plenty throughout my days.  My kids are pretty darn hysterical--the stuff that comes out of their mouths is priceless.  If I focused on their musings all day long, I'd be constantly smiling...but I have those 49 other things weighing on my mind.  Being an adult is not really a smile-fest, even when things are great.  I'm constantly thinking ahead to troubleshoot potential issues with the kids and our household, and of course, I'm constantly dealing with repercussions from past decisions (parenting is sometimes a torturous cycle of second-guessing...).  I try not to dwell on the past, or let it mess with my head--but some days, I can't help wondering how my life would be if I had been a better person/daughter/sister/friend/wife/parent at various points in time.  And that gets me wondering about how my life could be if I work on being a better person now.

I might be onto something here...

I have recently been watching "Secret Millionaire" on ABC, and I cry like a dork when the millionaires reveal themselves and give away some of their fortune to worthy causes.  I'm not a millionaire (in case you were wondering), but I really think that a key to happiness is helping others however you can--it's something that Dan and I have discussed many times in relation to the kids.  How can we instill in them the importance of helping others?  They seem really young to do some of the ideas we have come up with (at least all three of them--Abby could probably go to a food bank or soup kitchen at her age), so I'm hoping that the concept will be easier to impress upon them as they get older.  I used to spend a lot of my hours volunteering--something of which I was (and still am!) extremely proud.  I started volunteering when I was maybe 14 or 15 years old, and continued devoting a large portion of my time until I was 24--first I was candy-striping at a local hospital, then I volunteered with the local Office on Youth, and then I worked for a national non-profit (paid when I worked at the national office, but all volunteer for the hundreds of hours I put in on the local and state level).  At that point, I was a little burned out the politics and hours of volunteering, and I was newly married...I felt like a break was in order.  I didn't realize the break would last for almost 10 years now, and I've been thinking a lot lately about how to get back into some volunteer work.  With the boys still at home with me full-time, I can't even manage a day volunteering in Abby's classroom, so most of it is just daydreaming--but when all three kids are in school, I want to find a passion for volunteering again.  What causes will I want to champion--the same ones as my younger self, or new issues?  I'm honestly excited to find out who I am through volunteering again--it's a great way to define what's in your heart, feel connected to a larger purpose, and re-energize.  Until then, I'm going to start keeping an eye out for small, doable opportunities to help others--because that genuinely brings happiness all around, and because I hope to give my kids the same foundation in service that I had growing up.  What are some good, small volunteering ideas for young kids that you guys have discovered?  I may have to google and get going!

Monday, August 19, 2013

Challenge #3

I never thought I was a "grass is greener" kind of girl.  I have a fantastic life, and I've tried hard to not take all my blessings for granted.  When we discovered I was pregnant with Alex in late 2009, though, my grateful, optimistic attitude took a fairly large hit--I was facing down Dan's year-long deployment to Iraq, giving birth by myself in the US, and managing three young kids alone...two of whom were only going to be 17 months apart.  My parents immediately stepped in with their offer to house and help me for the duration of the deployment, which was a true lifesaver, but it didn't do much for my mood or outlook.  I was down in it, anxious about everything (I couldn't shake this question:  what if something goes wrong when I'm in labor, and my children are left with no parent in the US?), and just plain overwhelmed.  I limped through 2010 with a depression I justified with the situation--I just couldn't imagine being really happy with a screaming newborn and a husband facing immense danger in a warzone every day.  I was elated when the clock struck midnight on December 31, 2010--I couldn't wait to get 2011 started, get my husband home, and be together as a family again.  I just knew 2011 would be better for us--Dan would get to bond with Alex, have a job that allowed him to be home a lot more than his previous US assignment, and we were going to live close to our extended families (not in their house, which was a big distinction--my parents' house is lovely, but I was ready to be on my own again, even with all the work that entails!).  The grass was definitely greener in 2011, right?  Dan came home in February that year, but "home" at the time for him was still Texas...even though the kids and I had moved to Virginia, and Dan's new job was in Virginia, he still had to finish out his old job in Texas before moving to be with us.  I spent months fantasizing about our life once Dan and I were in the same state again, under our own roof, enjoying our life as a family of five for the first time.  OneRepublic had a new song on the radio at the time, and every time I heard it, I turned up the volume and sang at the top of my lungs:

This is gonna be a good life--this could really be a good life!  I truly felt in my heart that if my little family could just get itself back together, life would be great--my depression would lift, my anxieties would subside, and we would just magically be happy.  I'm sure you can guess how that worked out!  It was wonderful to finally have my husband by my side again after 15 long months apart.  It was so nice to have both Mommy and Daddy around for the kids.  It was fun to be in our own house again.  Many things were happy, but of course, we were adjusting to a new life together--even if things had stayed exactly the same (same house, same number of kids!) while Dan was deployed, we still would have had a hard adjustment when he came home.  That's just how it is with deployments--no relationship, no matter how strong, can come out of the stress of a deployment unscathed.  Dan and I were on pretty shaky ground with each other leading into the deployment--much of which I contribute to the deployment itself, because you don't just shut off your emotions the day your spouse spend months mentally and emotionally preparing and distancing yourself so that the day your spouse leaves isn't as painful as it would be otherwise.  We also had a surprise pregnancy to contend with in those difficult months leading up to Dan leaving--we were just hanging on for dear life, trying to will the months away.  It was rough.  Coming together again after more than a year apart, in a new house, with a new baby (I should say no longer a baby--Alex turned 1 before Dan joined us physically under one roof again) was a monumental task.

Two and a half years later, and I still feel like we're trying to adjust to our life as a family of five.  I find myself searching desperately for that greener grass--whether it's the perfect relaxing vacation that really bonds us as a family, or a long stretch of good communication with my husband, or time for myself...just something better than the imbalance I feel most days.  I've become attached to another family through their blog, the Ingram Family at Our Sonny Life--also a family of five whose youngest son, Trek, passed away at 14 months old after being diagnosed with a fatal, untreatable disease.  The loss, grief, and adversity they have faced as a family dwarfs any challenge I have in my life, and I have so much respect for the grace and beauty they exhibit through their life lived to honor their son.  They truly embrace life, and I was struck with a passage Chelsea, Trek's mom, posted a few months ago when writing a guest article for

"My husband and I were talking as we were driving our two oldest boys to a park, discussing all we had been through this past year and a half.  What would we say if someone asked what message we had to share after 18 months abroad and the death of our son?  What have we learned?
We just looked at each other, we knew, the answer was nothing.  Not a nothing in a sad way, but a nothing in a freeing way.  We found there is no gold at the end of the rainbow.
Part of the reason we wanted to go abroad was to see if there was some secret out there.  Some secret way to live in total peace, some miracle cure for our son, some people group or place where we could live out our days in pure joy.  We never found it and we never will.  It was so liberating!
All we have is today.  All we have is this moment with our children and those we love.  We can strive for fame and fortune, and it may come, but the sacrifice of time to get there is rarely worth it.  We can live in Italy, or Thailand, or Fiji, but the choice to be happy and content will always fall on us.  There is no happiness pill out there, it is found right where you are."

Chelsea addressed something in me that I didn't even realize was there--I have been searching for the secret to living a happy life, the greener grass just out of my reach.  I have been cranky and miserable at my failure to discover this magic bullet.  I have been taking for granted all the good life surrounding me--such an amazing, good life.  I love my husband.  I love my kids.  I have the luxury of being at home every day to nurture my babies.  We're all healthy.  Even though I'm not yet done with Challenge #2, I'm ready for a new Challenge.  I can't run around for the next year of Dan's unforgiving work schedule/my pseudo-single parenthood with a huge chip on my shoulder, feeling burdened by the inconsequential things that make my days a little bit more difficult--I have to figure out how to balance my mood, a lot better than I have the last few weeks (months?  years????).

So, ladies and gentleman, I present Challenge #3: Happy Housewife.  I'm going to attempt to roll with the punches, not sweat the small stuff, force myself to smile, appreciate all the gifts I have in this life, and not lose least for the coming two weeks.  I've read that it can take anywhere from 28 days to almost 10 weeks to break a habit...but I'm not as patient.  Let's do it in 14 days!  :)  Hopefully the change will stay in effect well after two weeks are over, but I'm going to really focus on the attitude adjustment for the next two weeks.  In order to break my doom-and-gloom, I'm going to plaster a smile on my face and be grateful--because let's face it, my life is pretty wonderful if I could just get out of my own head for long enough to enjoy it.  Here's to the next two weeks!

Monday, August 5, 2013

New Normal

I am struggling--to adjust to the harsh reality of Dan's new job schedule, to make time for myself, to keep up with my job as housewife when we haven't been spending much time at our house...I'm just struggling.  I work well under pressure (always have--huge procrastinator!), but I'm learning that as I'm getting older, I don't handle stress as well.  It really bothers me when the house is a mess--my stress level goes through the roof until I break out the cleaning supplies and scrub everything down.  It really bothers me when I forget to do something crucial to my job (ie, keeping the family running)--it slipped my mind to get Abby her sports physical this summer, so now she can't register for dance class until I can get her in for a late physical at the end of August...when dance class might be full.  It really bothers me when days and days go by, and I haven't had a chance to really talk with my husband.  I feel bombarded with these seemingly little annoyances/issues/troubles/hiccups lately, and this past week especially, I allowed all of it to pile up in my head and make me insufferably, obnoxiously, miserably cranky.

I should have worn this all last week as a warning...

Not only was I totally miserable last week, but I made everyone around me miserable, too--poor Dan didn't know what hit him, and I didn't really know how to explain it to him (especially not in the 2 seconds of conversation we've been able to have each night before he goes to get reading done for work or goes to bed because he's exhausted from his crazy long days).

Let me just say that I'm not adjusting well to our new family schedule, precipitated by Dan's change in jobs.  There have been a lot of changes--the most obvious one being Dan's new hours.  He wakes up a lot earlier than he used to when he had a 5-minute commute to the office--now his commute is anywhere from 45 minutes to an hour (barring major complications), and he has to report to work earlier than in his old job.  That means he is out the door at a ridiculously early hour...and he's not all that quiet in his mad rush to get ready in the mornings.  Why does that matter?  Because our sweet kiddos, who had been enjoying the lazy sleeping-in mornings of summer, are now waking up when Daddy slams the front door closed on his way out.  Not only are Dan's days longer, but now my days are longer, too, with those rude awakenings.  I've been totally off my Good Housewife game when it comes to making dinners this summer (all Dan's time off and our vacation really screwed with my routine, not to mention my motivation), so when I'm frantically running around my kitchen trying to piece together something for the kids to eat and Dan isn't even home at 6:30pm, I'm a little burned out.  I miss the days of Dan walking in the door by 5pm and helping me with dinner or the kids (or both!).  Even when he wasn't particularly helpful, just knowing he would be there somehow calmed my mind--and now, knowing that he probably won't be there makes the evenings more hectic.  We've been doing well with getting the kids to bed by 8pm most nights, but then Dan has a ton of reading to do for his new job, or he's exhausted from his long commute and the steep learning curve at his new I end up spending my evenings alone in front of HGTV again.  I know I've posted in the past that I am lonely, but it deserves mention here again, because I think that is a major contributing factor to my crankiness.  So his new hours are hard for me, because the days are longer, and I'm really lonely at the end of them.

I have a very meaningful relationship with my TV these days

The second change is much more insidious for my mood:  Dan adores his new job.  That is great, right?  Having a job that you love is something everyone strives to find, and he's lucky enough to have it!  I'm just a really bad person, because his absolute love of his new job is making me feel extremely bitter.  The amount of stress this new job has brought me, and what I've given up because of the new job, make his love of said new job feel a little like a slap in the face.  I'm having to work really hard to find time when I can exercise (and many times not succeeding), as opposed to the relative ease of my regular exercise classes the last 6 months, and that creates a weekly (sometimes daily!) large stress for me--I really do need the exercise classes for my sanity, and for my health.  I'm in charge of the money management for our family, and watching our credit card balance balloon due to the expenditures we've had to make for this new job (2 new suits! new dress shirts!  new shoes!  daily cost for parking and gas!) causes me a lot of stress--trying to figure out how to adjust to the new expenses while sticking to our budget takes up a lot of my time and mental energy.  Dan has always been a workaholic, and in fact, he loved the position he held for the past two years, so I'm used to him really enjoying his work--and I'm glad that he does, because the alternative would be so much worse.  This new job just seems to take that enjoyment to a new level, and that's hard for me--not only are we barely seeing each other and never getting time to connect, but when we do get to talk, all I hear about is the job.  I understand, it's what's going on in his life right now, so of course he wants to share it with me--and I feel absolutely terrible that all of this makes me feel bitter and unsupportive.  I promise, I'm not unsupportive--I think Dan is amazing and doing wonderful things with this new position, and I'm so glad he has the opportunity.  I'm extremely proud of him.  I just miss him--I miss having a normal conversation with him that doesn't only revolve around work or the kids.  I miss lazy nights on the couch watching a movie or our favorite shows together.  I miss weekend fun family time.  We haven't found the balance yet--daily life is just not as comfortable as it was, and my adjustment has been painful and slow.

The kids and I are heading off on another adventure later this week (ahem, DisneyWorld), and Dan can't come with us--you guessed it, because of his inability to take leave from his new job.  I'm really hoping that the time away will do both of us some good--I'll have a lot of hopefully fun-filled days with my family (not talking about Dan's new job!), and Dan will have a lot of quiet time to himself to get his work done in the evenings.  I'm hoping to come back refreshed, although just typing that unleashes maniacal, sinister laughter in my head--does anyone come back from a "vacation" to DisneyWorld in August with three kids feeling refreshed??  Okay, maybe I'm just hoping that we all make it back in one piece, and I'll be so happy to be home that I won't mind hearing all about how cool the job was while I was gone.  ;)

I could use a little Happiest Place on Earth right now

I'll let you know how it all goes when I get back in town next week, and I'll be launching a new stayed tuned!  I'll leave you with my Challenge #2 update for this week--I weighed in at 136.4 yesterday, for a loss of 1.6 pounds.  Feels like the old days again with those trusty 1.6 pounds lost!  I'm just happy to have reversed the upward trend of the last few weeks, and hoping not to screw myself all up in Florida...although it'll be yet another temptation on this journey.  Wish me luck!

Thursday, August 1, 2013

The Pompatus of Love

Dan and I had our 9th wedding anniversary just a few weeks ago!  It's hard to believe that so much time has gone by...and also so little.  9 years, 3 kids, 4.5 moves (I count moving to my parents' house as a half move), 1 deployment--that's a lot of stuff to cram in.  Dan really wanted to celebrate while we were at the beach with my family--our anniversary was the week after our beach trip, but it was mid-week of Dan's first week in his new job, so the options for celebrating were going to be limited.  He talked with my mom to make sure it was okay if we slipped out after the kids were in bed one night for a late dinner, and researched restaurants--he was pretty motivated!  We've been to the same beach in a previous year on my birthday, so we'd done a little get-away once before.  That year, we grabbed lunch and a movie while our kids were napping--we tried to find a nice restaurant that we had read about online, but ended up in some sort of office we wandered until we came upon a hole-in-the-wall sub place called Stu's Surfside.  You know what?  I loved it!  Dan and I had a nice, relaxed lunch and a totally chill atmosphere (there were surfboards on the wall--you can't get any more chill than that).  Dan even got me a t-shirt from the restaurant to commemorate our random fun outing--I still wear it as a sleep and exercise shirt all the time.

Stu's Surfside--I highly recommend!

This year, Dan wanted to go somewhere nice, so he found a restaurant that had good reviews and appeared fancy, and booked the reservation for 8:30pm on our second-to-last night at the beach.  I was excited for our date night, but nervous when he told me the name of the restaurant--Red Fish.  Just so you know, I'm not a seafood girl in any way.  Meaning I don't eat it.  Meaning I usually steer clear of restaurants that specialize in seafood.  Dan assured me that they had more than seafood on the menu, and offered to let me check out the menu online if I wanted to--but I trusted him when he said I could order a burger, and pushed my nervousness down.  I hate nitpicking him when he's trying to do something nice--besides, he knows me better than anyone, so it couldn't be so bad, right?  Just in case, I also researched places to get ice cream afterward...because if I couldn't find anything to eat, I would want some dessert!  I told him that I wanted to make it to The Salty Dog Cafe for their ice cream, but they closed at 10pm, so we would need to keep aware of the time on our fancy date.

We arrived at Red Fish right on time for our reservation, and it really was a beautiful restaurant.  One entire wall in the entry served as a giant wine rack--which is probably super exciting for a lot of people, but since I don't drink, not so exciting for me...but it was pretty to look at.  We opted for an indoor table because the humidity was high outside and I had just the hint of a headache starting--I figured if we enjoyed some air conditioning and I got some good food in me, my head would feel better.  8:30pm is pretty late for dinner for me, so I figured I was just hungry.  We were escorted to our table, and I was immediately aware of the white tablecloths...we don't usually pick places with white tablecloths, because we almost always have the kids with us, and that would be a disaster!  This place was definitely fancy by our standards.  I also noticed that the dining room had a number of empty tables (again, it was a late dinner), but that the hostess placed us at a table directly next to an 8-top in full swing--drinks flowing, loud conversation going.  Not exactly what I had in mind for our romantic anniversary dinner.  Then I saw the menu, and my attempts at being optimistic about the place began to lose footing...  I had been looking forward to a good burger all day, and yes, they did have a burger on their menu just like my dear husband promised--but it was a $28 burger with fois gras, truffles, and a port demi-glace.  Um, I'm not a dumb person, but I wasn't entirely sure what all that stuff was (fancy is not really in my vocabulary), and I wasn't paying $28 to order it plain.  Surely most of the cost was the fancy toppings??  I wanted to make the best of our date, but now my head was really pounding--the cost of the food and those ridiculously loud drunk people at the table next to us were not helping in the slightest.  Not kidding, we learned how many cups of coffee one of their friends drinks every morning (so early, too--how rude to be noisy in the kitchen when everyone is trying to sleep!), and we also got to hear their crude, crass take on the Steubenville rape...they were from Ohio.  One of the guys at the table was either unfortunately named (or horribly nicknamed) FUBAR.  Seriously.  No, I don't know that family personally and have never talked to them directly, but I learned a lot about them from practically sitting in their laps for an hour.  They were cursing, and there were kids in the restaurant--other tables were turning around to stare at them as well, but they were totally oblivious.  No wonder my head was hurting.

We went ahead and ordered calamari for an appetizer (the one seafood item I will eat, oddly), and they brought us the most delicious bread--I'm a huge sucker for restaurant bread baskets, and this one was tremendous.  We had put in our order for our entrees, but I started thinking that perhaps we should just get going--the table next to us showed no signs of stopping (or getting the hint, even when Dan and I loudly interjected our thoughts into their conversation), my head was really hurting, and I didn't feel like eating the $23 chicken entree I ordered instead of my desired burger.  I told Dan I wanted to leave, and I could tell he was pretty crushed--I felt bad, but I was ready to take off.  Dan didn't feel right about cancelling our entree order, so we stayed--I told Dan to go ahead and eat, but I was not up for a heavy meal right then (I was totally full from all that bread).  Dan asked the waiter to just box up our meals (although he did eat some of his chicken--we both ordered the cheapest thing on the menu!), and while trying to subtly explain that the table next to us was making my head hurt, Dan somehow implied that we had to leave because I was massively hungover.  That actually made me laugh--the waiter was like, "Oh, I've so been there--I understand."  Ha!  The manager came by to check on our experience, and said that the offending party would be leaving soon, but we were already prepared to go--nothing could make me stay in my seat longer!  She did offer to move us to a different table, but I was so over the experience--we had wasted an hour at a type of restaurant where I don't think either of us is the most comfortable, with an ambiance (on that particular night) that pretty much sucked, and I wanted to just get out of there and go get ice cream.  The manager gave us two miniature bottles of champagne on our way out, saying that she had planned to order free dessert for us in honor of our anniversary, but couldn't since we were leaving...  Oh well.  I'm sure the place is quite nice any other time--it just wasn't the right place for us that evening.

Dan was apologizing to me all over the place, and I felt guilty--it wasn't his fault at all, but I was so glad to get in the car!  We drove over to the area of the island where The Salty Dog Cafe is, and Dan parked--we had been there once before on a previous beach visit, and in the dark, I wasn't sure we were in the right place...  We walked around all the shops and restaurants, but alas, there was no Salty Dog--we were in the wrong area, with no time to get to the right one before the 10pm closing time.  This was shaping up to be a total Dan-and-Jill comedy of errors.  We were feeling defeated, but I saw some people with ice cream and asked them where they got it--I was determined to salvage this date with ice cream!  We stood in line and paid $14 for two double-scoop cones, and heard a guy playing guitar at a nearby restaurant's outdoor seating area.  He was playing "The Joker" by the Steve Miller Band, and I managed to get my husband to dance with me for the last few lines of the song, while our ice cream cones melted onto our hands.  We played that song at our wedding (I picked the playlist!), so it felt really fitting.  The ice cream was really good (I don't know about $14 good, but it was worth the mood boost for me!), and the guy with the guitar kept playing good song after good song (including some Counting Crows, which is my favorite band--the guy was talented!).  We sat down in these oversized outdoor rocking chairs, ate our ice cream, and held hands while singing along (okay, I was the only one singing!)--it was perfect.  The right vibe for us, definitely--I'm way more of a burger-and-ice-cream girl.  Maybe without me, Dan would be a white tablecloth restaurant kind of guy, but the two of us together have a much better time when the place is more relaxed and we can just have fun.  As a bonus, the guitar player was giving away free cds, so we got a keepsake of the pleasant end of our evening (not quite a Stu's t-shirt, but it will do!).

Dan and me on our 9th anniversary date

We definitely had a memorable evening out, and were laughing about the whole night before we even got back to the house afterward.  I think the best times are the ones that become a good story afterward--even if things don't go as planned.  Oh, and don't think we wasted that super expensive meal from Red Fish--we both ate our chicken for lunch the next day, and it was delicious!  :)  The miniature champagne bottles, however, now reside in our idea when we'll have occasion to drink them, but now it's just kind of a funny reminder.  Bottom line, despite his sometimes-questionable restaurant choices, I'm so glad I married Dan 9 years ago--and I wouldn't have wanted to spend that weird night out with anyone else!