16 Songs in the Soundtrack of My Marriage

16 Songs in the Soundtrack of My Marriage | via givinguponperfect.com

Mark and I both love music. We may not always love the same kind of music, and more than one road trip may have ended in silence due to car stereo battles. But we have enough musical preferences in common to share Pandora and iTunes accounts, so that’s something.

Today is our wedding anniversary. And like most parts of my life, when I think about the last two decades (16 years of marriage after four years of dating) most of my memories come with a soundtrack. The song I had stuck in my head when we met, the first songs we danced to, the songs we quoted in mushy love notes, the songs that helped me get through our long-distance phase, the songs played at our wedding – and so many more!

When I thought about writing a post today to celebrate our anniversary, I skipped right over the lists of things I’ve learned (because, REALLY. what on earth do I know?) and what I’d tell my 20-year-old newlywed self today (because, WHERE WOULD I START?) — and landed on a soundtrack for our marriage. These songs describe many parts of the first 16 years of our marriage, though they certainly don’t encompass everything. Still, I figured 16 songs for 16 years was a good place to start!

Dear Future Husband (Meghan Trainor)
Okay, this actually IS a terrible place to start. But it’s definitely the song I was singing as I headed into marriage. Expectations? Oh, I had plenty. And they were so wrong. “Dear Future Husband” might seem like a catchy, shoo-bop kind of pop song I’ve come to love Meghan Trainor for, but it’s a lot more dangerous than that.

“After every fight just apologize and maybe then I’ll let you try and rock my body right. Even if I was wrong (you know I’m never wrong), why disagree? Why, why disagree?” SIGH. I totally believed this – and I was totally wrong. Look. Buying into this song’s philosophy of “I’ll be nice to you if you do what I want” will cost you way more than the sexy outfit Meghan wears to clean house in the video. It can cost you years of a happy marriage. Ask me how I know…

Thinking Out Loud (Ed Sheeran)
Still, despite expectations and baggage and ignorance, we were truly in love when we got married. We may not have known how to love each other well, but that did not stop us from loving each other a lot. And this song? Well, even if the words don’t all fit, the feel of it is a perfect depiction of that early kind of love.

Our House (Crosby Stills Nash & Young)
“Our house is a very, very, very fine house with two cats in the yard…” Check and check! We bought our first house, and it was so cute! And we had two cats, and they were so cute! Yay! Life is good!

Love is War (American Young) “Sometimes love is a white flag; sometimes love is standing tall. Sometimes love is a feather; sometimes a cannon ball. But it’s worth fighting for (it’s worth fighting for). Baby, sometimes love is war.”

Learning when to stick to our guns and when to compromise has been huge in our marriage. Figuring out that we are on the same team and fighting FOR each other instead of WITH each other has been life-changing. Sometimes love IS war, but not in the way we thought during so many of our early years.

Hard to Love (Lee Brice)
A man sings this song, so when it first came out it was easy for me to assign its words to Mark. Yeah! I thought. He IS hard to love! So lucky to have me, putting up with him and his hard-to-love self!

Except…um…it turns out we’re BOTH human. And hard to love. SO human.

Taking responsibility for my role in our struggles was a turning point in my heart and our marriage. Realizing that I can only change myself – and maybe that’s a big enough project for now, anyway – is something I wish I’d learned so much earlier. We’re ALL hard to love, really. Choosing to love each other anyway is the miracle of marriage (and any lasting, loving relationship).

Love is a Battlefield (Pat Benatar)
Before I figured out that I can be hard to love and before we realized that we were actually on the same team, well, the Carver house was full of fighting. So many fights. So many tears. So many crying hangovers and headaches and hugs and then doing it all over again. Those years were hard.

Say Something (A Great Big World)
Harder still was the season when we both just felt worn down. After years of fighting the same fights, shouting the same words at each other and watching them fall empty to the floor, we were tired. We were battle-weary and desperately afraid it would never get better.

“Say something, I’m giving up on you. I’m sorry that I couldn’t get to you. Anywhere I would’ve followed you. Say something, I’m giving up on you”

I’m so incredibly grateful that we didn’t give up. It was a close call, honestly. There were days…well, there were days when all I wanted to do was give up. Marriage is HARD, you guys! But through the grace of God (because my strength gave out long before things ever improved), we were able to cling to the last string of our marriage, the smallest memory of why we made those vows in the first place.
We didn’t give up.

Just Give Me a Reason (Pink & Nate Reuss)
“We’re not broken, just bent.” As it turns out, we were never completely broken – though my heart might have argued differently during a particularly difficult season. In even the most hurtful and most challenging times of our marriage, God reminded us of at least one reason. One reason to keep fighting, to keep praying, to keep coming back to each other. We weren’t broken, and we did learn to love again.

16th anniversary

I Hold On (Dierks Bentley)
Just like superheroes, Mark and I have had to learn to use our powers for good and not evil. Well, not our powers exactly. But our stubborn natures? Those we’re working hard to harness for the good of our marriage these days. Sometimes being stubborn and refusing to let go can be a good thing.

Let’s Stay Together (Al Green)
Staying together doesn’t happen by accident, and neither does a happy marriage. We’ve had to make the conscious decision that THIS – loving each other, respecting each other, fighting for each other, holding on to each other – is what we will do. We will not give up, we will not walk away. We will stay together.

And, hopefully, in an Al Green way more often than a “I’m stuck with you” way.

Remind Me (Brad Paisley & Carrie Underwood)
“Now we keep saying that we’re okay, but I don’t want to settle for good not great.” Just like staying together doesn’t happen by accident, neither does staying in love. Mark and I know couples who have been together for decades – but they don’t even seem to like each other. And we agree wholeheartedly that we don’t want to grow into that. We want to like each other, to enjoy spending time together, to remember even if we don’t always feel how we couldn’t get enough of each other so many years ago.

Don’t You Wanna Stay (Jason Aldean & Kelly Clarkson)
Mark has worked nights for several years now. We still have days where we can’t figure out how to make that work for our lives and our relationship. But for the most part we’ve adjusted. Still, watching him leave every night after dinner is hard (and, hard for him as he has to leave every night).

Once in a Lifetime (Talking Heads)
“Same as it ever was. Same as it ever was.” The daily grind of kids and house and bills and chores is annoying. Over and over again, we do the same darn things – just to turn around and realize it’s time to do them one more time. What? You need dinner tonight, too? Bills are due every month? The floor is dirty again? It can be numbing to face the monotony at times – so I’m glad I have a partner in this. This may not be my beautiful house, but this sometimes-boring, often-chaotic life is our beautiful life.

You’re Gonna Miss This (Trace Adkins)
I’m not much for sappy songs, believe it or not. But I know our current stage as a family with little kids is a special one. It’s hard, but it’s good. And whenever we can, Mark and I try to remind ourselves and each other to take a good look around (as the song says) and recognize these as good times.

You’re the Reason I Come Home (Ron Pope)
This is the song that gave me the idea for this post. Not a week goes by these days that Mark and I don’t joke about running away from home – but we are always running away together. We are each other’s shelter, each other’s safe place. We fit together and are stronger together. And even when I escape to the grocery store or he plugs in his iPod for a little peace and quiet while mowing the lawn, we always, always come back to each other.

One Friend (Dan Seals)
“One Friend” was an old song even 16 years ago when I asked my cousin to sing it during our wedding. But the words are even more true today. Mark is my best friend. And if I had to pick only one person, I’d pick my favorite one – him.

“I always thought you were the best; I guess I always will. I always thought that we were blessed, and I feel that way still. Sometimes we took the hard road, but we always saw it through. If I had only one friend left I’d want it to be you.”

What songs are in your soundtrack?

Oh, and just in case you’d like to listen to this eclectic mix of songs, I’ve created a playlist for you. Enjoy!

photo source

WFMW: Wear the Perfume

Works for Me Wednesday: Wear the Good Perfume

When Mark and I were planning our wedding, we were young. Twenty and twenty-two, to be exact. At that point in my life, I’d never eaten a single meal off china, so when it came time to register for dishes, I was confident we’d never need china. (Yes, I was quite wise at that young age, wasn’t I? *sigh*)

Who needs fancy plates anyway? Good grief, we’re not Kennedys or something. My parents never had china, so we would certainly be just fine without it. Besides, our friends were the same age as us, either working first jobs or still in college. It’s not like they could afford place settings in our favorite china pattern!

Of course, it’s 15 years down the road now and I see things differently. Today my mom has a beautiful set of china, and when I found out that Mark’s dad got rid of his mom’s china after she passed away, I might have actually shed a tear. It turns out fancy plates would be kind of nice.

I have to wonder: If I had china, would I use it?

Honestly, I don’t even know where I’d put it. I have too many [regular, not-fancy] plates as it is. And just last night, I was lamenting my lack of space in our small house. So it’s not like I have an empty china cabinet waiting for it. (But, for the record, if I did it would be full of books. Obviously.)

But more importantly, I wonder if I’m the kind of person to put away beautiful plates and mugs and saucers, never using them. On one hand, we have the porcelain doll collection of my childhood. I mean, dolls that are created (and purchased) for the express purpose of NOT BEING PLAYED WITH don’t necessarily teach a person to use the fancy china for lunch on Thursday. But in my defense, I didn’t buy those dolls for myself. (And they were pretty.)

So on the other hand, we have my dining room table – a lovely, expensive table that belonged to Mark’s mom and is currently marred by glitter glue, white-out, and a handful of other random scratches and scars. We’ve had it for approximately 18 months, so that wear and tear sounds about right, right?

Perhaps even more telling, though, is my use of perfume.

When I was in college, I found the best perfume. It smelled good in the store and on my wrist. It was perfect. (And it was, like, SO MUCH better than Exclamation or CK One!) It was sold only at Bath & Body Works – until the day it wasn’t. One week I was looking at an amazing sale – $5 a bottle! – and debating whether to buy a bunch of bottles, and the next I was wishing with every fiber of my needs-fragrance body that I’d bought an extra bottle. Because it had been discontinued.

Sad story, right? I KNOW! And it took me YEARS to find another scent I liked. I’ll spare you that story (for now…), but the point is I found one and I love it. So when my cousin bought me a set of lotion, body spray and perfume in my new favorite fragrance, I was super excited.

So excited that, at first, I barely used it.

Fortunately, I got over that pretty quickly. Now I wear it on a regular basis, sometimes even layering it up to smell REALLLLL good.

But most frequently, I spray a little bit in the vicinity of my neck right before bed.

Why do I do that? Not because I’m trying to impress my husband; he works nights. Not because I’m trying to make myself forget how long it’s been since I washed my sheets; don’t be gross. Nope. I put on that perfume because it smells good, and I like it. It makes me happy.

With that in mind, I think it’s quite possible I would use the fancy china I don’t have, if I had it. At least, I hope I would.

Wearing my favorite perfume whenever I want just because it makes me happy works for me!

Works for Me Wednesday :: Giving Up on Perfect

Today is another Works for Me Wednesday. I was blown away by all the great tips you all linked up last week! I hope you’ll link up again – and stay a while, too! But first, PLEASE read the guidelines I shared in last week’s post. Highlights include linking your specific post, not the front page of your blog, and making sure to include a link back to this site in your WFMW. Thank you!!

{Photo by Jenn Durfey on Flickr’s Creative Commons}

Waffles & Wallabies & Weekend Road Trips

4th of July girls

Last weekend we took our third road trip in about six weeks. If I had any dreams of writing a post called, “How to Travel with a Newborn,” THAT WAS DUMB. Unless the people of the internet have just been waiting for my “take the baby for a drive until she falls asleep and let her sleep in the car seat all night” trick.

We had a lot of fun, sleeping schedule aside. Both the girls are pretty good travelers, at least as far as the drive goes. Omaha is only three hours away, so we got there in time for an early dinner. Which was a good thing, since as it was, we had to wait 30 minutes to get a seat at the Old Market Spaghetti Works.

Now, don’t get me wrong. A 30-minute wait on a Friday night isn’t bad at all. And the weather was gorgeous. But during that 30-minute wait, we had the PLEASURE of a street performer. Also known as The Worst Magician I Have Ever Seen. Also known as The Magician That Annalyn Wanted to Watch for 30 Minutes.

Seriously, you guys. He did do one great trick, though – made my dollar disappear into his tip jar after making my daughter laugh. So there’s that.

There was also really good cheesy garlic bread and a waiter who thought my baby was cute, even though she got baby food all over the table. And he also conveniently brought the extra napkins I asked for RIGHT BEFORE Annalyn dumped orange Hi-C all over me. Me . . . and my brand-new white shorts.

Have I mentioned that I bought myself a pair of white shorts for the 4th of July? And that I have NEVER IN MY LIFE bought or worn a pair of white pants or shorts?


So, after surviving the worst magician ever and a Hi-C shower, we embarked on a journey to find fireworks. As it turned out, our hotel was not the Ritz and the guy at the desk was not a concierge. Or a guy who knew where to find fireworks. Luckily the internet was a bit more reliable than that guy.

We drove all the way across town, walked a good half mile (I don’t know that for sure. But it FELT like a half mile, so that matters, right?), and watched a fantastic fireworks show. That lasted about 10 minutes.

Doesn’t matter how short it was, though, because Annalyn was delighted. DEE-LIGHTED. She squealed and laughed so loud – and thanked us over and over for finding the fireworks. And all of sudden I forgot about my shorts getting tie-dyed with her Hi-C.

4th in Omaha

After all four of us stayed up past our bedtimes, we slept late on Saturday morning. As did every other family in our sold-out hotel with the free hot breakfast.

I know. You’re thinking, “Oh really, Mary? That’s FASCINATING. Tell me more about your very interesting hotel stay and breakfast.”

Look. I have my reasons for bringing this up. I bring this up because, well, there was an incident.


At the waffle maker.

Mark carried Adrienne down to the breakfast room, and I took Annalyn to the buffet line. We got plates and a bowl of sugary cereal for Annalyn (it was VACATION, okay?) (and a banana. I’m not totally irresponsible.). Then I headed over to the waffle maker, where I got in line.

We stood there patiently . . . politely . . . or so I thought. As the woman in front of me pried her waffle out of the iron and I stepped toward the machine, a man and his son walked up. He grabbed the non-stick spray out of my hand and started spraying the waffle maker. Then he asked me if I was next, I said I was, and he said he was after me.

Since he’d come out of nowhere and another woman waiting behind me the whole time I’d been there, I pointed to the lady behind me and said (POLITELY), “Actually, she was waiting.”

Well. That was when he got real riled up. Apparently HE had been waiting (ACROSS THE ROOM AT HIS TABLE), so HE was supposed to be next and now his little boy wasn’t going to get his waffle. But he kept spraying that waffle maker, so he could – and I quote – get me “all set up” for my waffle.

Um. Okay?

Apparently the social contract that I THOUGHT was the accepted norm in buffet lines was no longer in effect in that Omaha hotel. APPARENTLY the people in that room had come up with a pour your batter in a cup, set it on the counter like a placeholder and then sit down all the way across the room system.

But nobody told me that. So apparently . . . I cut in line and kept a little boy from getting his waffle Saturday morning.

You guys! I didn’t KNOW! I felt so bad. But also a little annoyed. I mean. How was I supposed to know? It’s not like his name was on that little cup of batter. Or the spot on the carpet WHERE I WAITED IN LINE. But I did feel bad. And confused. Is this how we do continental breakfast now?

No, really. Is it? I just need to know. If I missed the waffle memo, I need to know so I don’t deprive another little boy (and his angry father) of a timely waffle.

Because even though I’m no expert on road trips with babies, we’ve got another couple of trips planned for this summer. And I don’t want to cause another Waffle Incident!

After we recovered from the incident, we packed up and headed to the zoo. It was about one thousand percent humidity, but not too hot, thankfully. My calves would like me to mention that the Omaha Zoo – while just as awesome as everyone says – is FULL of hills. And somehow they manage to be ALL UPHILL.

But that’s beside the point. The zoo was a lot of fun. We saw tigers and leopards and wallabies and a sloth and lots of monkeys and some penguins. And after I made my whole family hike all the way across the park to see the sea lion training session – and Annalyn complained about how FAR it was and how BORING it was (before it started) and how she wanted to go back to the face painting booth – it ended up being her favorite part of the zoo. (Score one for Mom!)

So, in summary, we had a great Fourth of July weekend with a road trip to Omaha. Not enough sleep and more than enough sass from a certain six-year-old. But big picture, I’m glad we made the last-minute decision to take a mini-vacation. And remember – Magicians and waffle incidents, bad. Cheesy bread and fireworks and wallabies and sea lions and face painting, good.

How was YOUR weekend?

Throwback Thursday Stories :: Dads

Dancing with Dad

Last night we had a showing on our house. It was unexpected, since we took our house off the market several days ago. But this buyer is – apparently – desperate and asked if she could pretty please see our house. Like I’m going to say no to that?!

Anyway. It was a gorgeous day, so as the girls, the cats and I drove home we had the windows down. A couple blocks from our house, I caught a whiff of someone’s grill. And just like it always does, that smell – combined with a beautiful summer night – took me straight back to my childhood backyard, where night after night after night I played catch with my dad.

Turn your glove! If I learned nothing else from my dad (which I did, because I will never, ever, EVER pick up a hitchhiker, per his repeated advice the summer before I headed to college), I learned to turn my glove.


In the midst of wedding preparations, my mom and dad took dance lessons. I started to say my mom made my dad take dance lessons, but who knows? Maybe he was all over the idea. I don’t know. All I know is that somehow, we came up with the idea for me to attend one of their lessons and learn something special for the Father-Daughter Dance at my reception.

Now that I’ve watched So You Think You Can Dance for nearly a decade, I know that the rumba is a dance that – hmmm, how to say – is one not typically done between relatives. But the dancing-for-dummies version we learned was boxy and a little goofy – and simple enough that we got it in one lesson.

My dad is a really quiet guy, laid back and rarely the center of attention. So when we took the floor at my wedding reception and began box stepping in time to “Unforgettable,” a few people noticed. But when he turned me and my big white dress flared out like only big white dresses can? All eyes, people. All eyes were on us.

Dancing a “real” dance with my dad was one of my favorite moments of our reception. It was unexpected and hilarious and makes me smile anytime I remember it.


When was the last time you did something unexpected? (I’m definitely asking myself this question, too. I’m not sure when I’ve done something surprising!)

This post will be linked up with Throwback Thursday Stories with The Mom Creative.

A little gravel in our travel

jim's farm

We spent Saturday in the country. About 30 minutes after we left home, Annalyn asked, “Are we still in town?” When we told her no, she followed up with, “Are we IN THE COUNTRY?”

It’s weird and funny and not a little ironic that the daughter of a small-town girl and country boy is so city-fied. On more than one occasion, Annalyn has looked out the window at fields of corn or wheat or beans and claimed she’s scared of being in the middle of nowhere.

Insert eye roll here.

(Except for that one time I got stuck on a very long, very poorly marked detour in Iowa. Because driving for miles and miles without seeing not just a person but even a house? Is a little scary.)


Mark and I grew up in the middle of nowhere. Him more than me, but both of us graduated with less than 100 people in our classes and had to drive a good 15 minutes to see any kind of franchise restaurant or store. But now we live in the suburbs, surrounded by neighbors we don’t know and minutes from fast food, car dealerships, gas stations and big box drug stores.

So our kid is alternately fascinated and terrified by “the country” that feels like home to us. Or maybe she’s learning. Because she was mostly fascinated this weekend.

Despite schedule changes, calendar glitches and family frustrations that just about made my head explode, our Saturday was lined up neatly with two birthday barbecues near our hometown. Smitty and my father-in-law both had birthdays last week, and it was time to celebrate.

(Separately. Even though Mark was neighbors with Smitty before I ever met him, and all three of our families are connected in the twisty way of long-time friends and small towns.)


But before I could go shopping or pack a diaper bag, our plans got thrown for a loop one more time. Adrienne took a nap Friday evening – going to sleep a happy, seemingly healthy baby – and woke up sick. It was so pitiful, you guys! She’s never been sick before, so I think part of her sadness was just shock and confusion at what on earth was happening and why did she feel this way!?

Of course any sickness that happens at night (and don’t they all? why don’t kids ever get sick DURING DOCTOR’S OFFICE HOURS???) seems worse than it possibly is. And the baby’s cold was no different. I panicked and worried and fussed – and considered sleeping on the floor next to her crib.

I didn’t. But I thought about it.

She did sleep Friday night but woke up still congested and coughing and cranky-sad on Saturday morning. So I called the doctor and got us in for an appointment that morning. Of course, by the time the girls and I got dressed, drove through Dunkin Donuts (did you know that Friday was National Donut Day? I missed the memo, but made up for it over the weekend!), and walked into the doctor’s office . . . that baby was acting happy as could be.

She was still obviously sick, though we joked with the nurse about the curative qualities of simply making an appointment. The diagnosis was . . . a cold.


For the record, it’s a cold with possible croup and the beginnings of an ear infection. Still, she wasn’t actually THAT sick. But goodness, a sick baby is a sad baby!

Still, we decided to go to our barbecues anyway, with the contingency that we might have to abort the mission at any moment.

jim's farm 2

Our first stop was Smitty’s parents’ house. Later, Smitty and I tried to remember the last time I’d been there and we couldn’t quite pin it down. I’m pretty sure it’s been at least five years, though. But after knowing a person (and her family) for a lifetime, some things don’t change – like me remaining convinced I could not possibly live with chickens in my back yard or us honking at the house as we drove away.

We ate our first round of burgers and beans while we were there, but even though we were invited for lunch, the food was the least of our focus. Smitty’s sister and I compared baby stats (her Olivia was born about six weeks before Adrienne), and she lent me a stroller to walk around the yard when nothing else convinced by [I told you she was cranky] baby girl to take a nap. Annalyn made herself at home with Smitty’s nieces and nephews, raiding the decades-old toy box and running all around the chicken coop. And we all met in the yard to play a little dodge-softball (dodgeball with a bat? softball with a dodge ball? You know the game.).

After our game got rained out, we realized the time and headed down the road to Mark’s dad’s farm. Finally the rain had stopped and without a non-farm building in sight, nothing blocked the breeze so the afternoon was as mild as we could ask for in the beginning of June.

I mostly stayed inside with Adrienne, while Mark visited with family friends and distant cousins and Annalyn road around in a four-wheeler and fished for tiny bass with a hot dog. We ate burgers and beans again (along with some completely evil chocolate-covered popcorn that I MUST MAKE SOON), listened to old stories that we’ve heard and told a hundred times, and swapped a little small-town gossip.

Neither barbecue took place in a home that Mark or I grew up in. (His dad moved further out in the country to his farm after Mark’s mom died several years ago.) We didn’t actually have time to even drive into town – the one where we grew up, where we met, where we went to school (and where I lived).

But Saturday was full of Home and Family anyway.

How was YOUR weekend? Tell us about it it the comments!