Surviving a Mixed Marriage


I knew it going in.

And I knew what a big deal it was. Marriages have broken up over less. But Shea is such a good man.

So I did what women do: I told myself he would change. For me. Or when the kids came. And if he didn’t, I resolved to stick it out no matter what. I put on a brave face for my concerned family and friends.

When my hair dresser took me by the hands and said “Jen, you cannot yoke with a non-believer” I laughed it off.

“Darlene. It’s not like he doesn’t believe in God. He’s just an Angels fan. We’ll make it work.”

I come from a family that bleeds Dodger Blue, so far back that my grandparents watched them play in the Coliseum when they first came to LA from Brooklyn. All through my twenties, I was the queen of the last minute $8 ticket.

I know how to get out of Chavez Ravine ten different ways. Only real Dodger fans will understand the value of that. They also know that we don’t need no stinking tail-gating, not when there’s Dodger dogs and cold beer walking up and down the aisles. Plus, there’s nothing like a late September sunset over the hills of Griffith Park.

And Vin. Let’s don’t forget about Vin.

Shea became an Angels fan during his college years. He and his two best men were season ticket holders. They have tail-gating under the A down to a science. He was at that World Series game in 2002—you know the one, Game Six when the Angels were trailing 5-0 to the Giants going into the 7th inning. They rallied to win, forcing a Game 7. Which they won.

I don’t mind telling that story since, it’s about the Giants. I’m sad to say that we have Giants fans in the family. Every family has a burden to carry and this is ours. We married into them, but still. Shameful.

Before I would agree to Shea’s proposal, I protected myself. Our pre-nuptial agreement concerned one issue—team loyalty. We agreed that our male children could be Angels fans and the females would wear Dodger Blue.  That technically puts me up 5-2, if we count the four-legged females (and we do).

After a few years, we amended the agreement to include the rule that there could be no quoting of statistics over breakfast. No late night discussions on the strength of the NL West vs the AL West. No usurping of football games for baseball games unless it was a playoff situation. We do not rush home from anywhere for a baseball game and HGTV trumps baseball every time.

If either team ever made the World Series again, we would go.

If both teams made the World Series at the same time, we would legally separate for the duration of the Series and only reunite after a renegotiation of the terms of the agreement.

Every year at this time, we revisit the rules of our mixed marriage. Because almost every year, both teams hover on the edge of the playoff picture, forcing us to consider our options.

We also have a football conflict. I am a NY Jets fan. Shea is a Buffalo Bills fan. These teams play in the Same. Dang. Division. So two Sundays a year, we invoke the pre-nup for football.

This is a less stressful situation because neither of our teams have been any good for a long time.

I am sharing our story so that others know it can be done. Marriages can survive rivalries. Children of these marriages can grow up to be normal, functioning sports fans. It is even possible to sit in a rival team’s stadium and enjoy a game for the sake of your spouse. I always wear my Dodger Blue when I go to Angels stadium.

Once, a guy bought Shea beer out of sympathy.

Sometimes, you have to take one for the team.

Road Trip!

We just got home from a family road trip where we drove this many miles:


The kids were rock stars. I mean…rock solid rock stars. We drove in 12 hour increments and they stood it. No tears, no whining, no fights.

Before you think we are raising angels, please. We have a 3rd row seat. Separation is the key to happiness, folks.

We stopped first in Temecula, near where we used to live. JFK Amy met us there with her family and pizza. We stayed at a SpringHill Suites and I have to give them huge props here because when Gabriel hurled his dinner and half the pool water all over our room at 11 pm, they very quickly moved us to a new room. File it away, Mama Network, it’s always good to know the hotel chains that can handle a family of five and a puking child without breaking a sweat.

The next day we hit the mall in Temecula, because Disney Store. And Williams-Sonoma. Then we went to Front Street in Old Town for dinner. We love Old Town Temecula and if you are ever in the area, it’s worth a visit. Craft breweries, antique stores and restaurants with locally sourced food and wine.

We made a point to stop by the old house and dig up the St. Joseph statue that helped us sell it. Then we had dinner with our old neighbors and the kids got to play with their friends. It was pretty awesome. And weird to see our house that’s not our house anymore.

Our time at Grandma’s and Papa’s can be summed up in one word: Water.

My parent’s pool is probably 40 years old. They don’t make them like that anymore. It’s huge and it’s deep, almost ten feet under where the diving board used to be.


The kids were in it early and late and they got to do that most magnificent summertime So Cal thing—come home hot and sandy from the beach and jump in the cool pool to wash it all off.

We also hit the Long Beach Aquarium, which is such a great deal.

Shea took this picture with his cell phone!

Shea took this picture of a bioluminescent jellyfish with his cell phone!

On Sunday we had a big ol’ pool party. There are 7 August birthdays in our immediate and near family, from my niece turning 4 to my mom turning 69. There was cake. There was sangria. There was pulled pork.

And in the middle of it all, there was an army of preschool girls, long hair curly and straight, marching around my parent’s home with dollies under their arms. They were led by Faith, and she knows her way around Grammy’s, from the paints and crayons in the play room to the big bag of Otter Pops in the freezer in the garage.

They got what they wanted because they only asked the daddies. And if that didn’t work, they asked the Papa, who these days only loosely resembles the man I called “Dad”. I actually saw him stand and wait patiently while they each chose the perfect pop.

I felt better after he told the two oldest boys “Take what I give you and be happy!”


When I see this picture, I can’t really blame him. But dear God, the men in this extended family of ours have to gather their wits about them before these ladies are teenagers or we are all in trouble. Do you hear me? TROUBLE.

Annie is not here because one of the themes of our trip was puking and it was her turn.

We drove off the driveway at 9 am and after stopping to meet my friend Jo and her kids—who were driving home from Oregon while we were driving home to Oregon—we pulled into our driveway at 10:30 pm.

At 2 am, Kate hurled all over her bed and needed a shower, completing the puke trifecta. It was ok though because I got to wash her hair, something that hadn’t happened in a week. “But mom,” she told me, “it wasn’t like I didn’t have a pool bath every single day.”

My wise girl. It’s true that in summer, soap and chlorine are interchangeable.

We have four weeks til school, but many of you are sending your chickens back to school in the next ten days.

I have one thing to say about that: YOU MADE IT.







And Then I Said “Younger Self, listen to me”

Too much, women lie to each other to soften the blows of life.

We—you and I—do it. Not so much anymore, but when we were in the throes of our twenties, we did it. I get why we did it, because when our best girlfriend is a puddle of hurt and anger at our feet, we just want to make it go away.

You’re fine. It wasn’t your fault. You did your best. You’ll get over this. Something/one better is waiting.

What we–you and I–have learned is that none of those words are helpful. When someone’s life falls apart, it’s not a thing to be gotten over. We can’t just leave pain behind us, like it never happened. Neither can we pick up our brokenness and carry it with us. We have to mend.

The thing is, mending is hard work. It requires courage and strength and faith.

So we have to be careful what we say to our sister girl in the puddle of hurt and anger at our feet. It’s not our job to make it like it never happened.

Our—yours and mine—friend is having some of the worst trouble of her life. There are no easy ways through the trouble, nothing to do but walk straight through, and for a while.

At your age, we—you and me—would have saddled up the posse and rode into town to make it all right. We would have used our words of fire and anger to declare that this will not stand.

We would have slowed her healing and hurt her more than helped.

Crosses are part of life and they have to be carried. If we try to save people from their crosses, we only make the way longer and harder.

So the other day, when she said she wasn’t sure she could survive the pain in her heart, I told her the truth: You—the person you are today—are not going to survive this. But I promise that you will defeat that death and rise again wiser, stronger and more whole.

She won’t walk this alone.  I will be a witness. I will raise my hands in prayer and call down the power of Heaven. I will give her space to reflect in her darkest days. And when she rises triumphant, I’ll be there to rejoice.

I wish I could say that we–you and me–learned this from a book.

But we didn’t. We lived it. You still have those times ahead so just remember that you have chosen your sisters well.

You are all women of the Resurrection and you know the way.

We’re posting as part of Suzanne Eller’s livefreeThursday! See more posts on Twitter at #livefreethursday




Gummy Bear Stew

George is a legitimate Oregon outdoorsman.

He fishes. He crabs. He hikes. He hunts.

And he is the inventor of Gummy Bear Stew, which like all good ideas, was born from a mix of necessity and ingenuity.

Last summer, George took his son Jack and his nephew Hayden on a weekend camping trip. They unpacked the tent, the clothes, the sleeping bags and the camp stove. Then they unpacked the beer and the gummy bears and rested.

They are male, after all.

When George went back to unpack the food for dinner, he realized that somehow his keys had gotten locked in his truck.

He could have called his wife Angie, but it was getting dark.

So first, he built a fire. Then he drank some more beer. Then he cut the tops off the cans and turned them upside down.

He melted the gummy bears in the bottoms of the cans, stuck a spoon it in and called it dinner.

If you’re thinking Ewwwwww, I’m with you.

But the children must be fed.

We camped with George and Angie this weekend, and you better know Gummy Bear Stew was on the menu. Any kind of candy is fair game. Our stew had Gummy Bears, Sour Patch Kids, Rolos and marshmallows.

IMG_0727 IMG_0729 IMG_0746

This is not haute cuisine. And it tastes about how you imagine—like a melted Halloween candy bowl. If you don’t eat it fast enough, it hardens into a Gummy Bear Stew lollipop. One taste and my teeth almost fell out.

But camping moms know that the food rules are a wee bit different in the woods. And not 20 minutes earlier I was the mom who yelled “Don’t give me that natural bug spray crap! The baby needs DEET!!! NOW!!!”

The kids ate that stuff up. And then bounced off into the woods with flashlights to search for windigos and stump trolls, too amped up on liquid sugar to be scared.


At some point in my growing up years, the household chores got divided along gender lines.

My brothers did all things outside and trash related. I was in charge of the kitchen.


Although I do find immense satisfaction in a completely clean kitchen, and no one loads a dishwasher like I can, there were moments when I was 16 that I hated it. I wanted to be in charge of trash, something that happened every other day, but my brothers were no one’s fool.

When I came back home for my first college break, they gleefully stepped aside so I could resume my duties. I wanted to at least share them with whoever had been in charge of the dishes while I was gone, but nothing doing. “It’s your job” my brother said, patting me on the back, grabbing a soda and heading for the family room.

I made a vow that in my own family, things were going to be different. None of this genderized division of labor in my home!

I thought of this last night as Shea and I made our way through For Better And For Ever, a marriage preparation guide for engaged couples. We are training to join our parish’s sponsor program, so we need to go through the book ourselves to prepare to help others navigate the pretty tough topics and questions.

This is an interesting thing to do after ten years of marriage.

Somewhere, we have similar books from our Engaged Encounter weekend. I kept them because wouldn’t it be fun to look at them in the future and remember where we started?

Yeah, or scary.

Because we were so young. And idealistic. And we really had no idea what was going to happen next.

Take for instance the division of duties. I was determined we were going to share it all. No traditional 1950s housewife over here.

Shea does dishes. I do dishes. The rule generally is the person who didn’t cook cleans the kitchen. The truth is that he will offer to do the dishes when I am just too tired. And he did them every night of all three pregnancies. I keep the kitchen clean during the day because I’m home. It’s a pretty fair trade. We both like a clean kitchen.

But I do not take out the trash. Or pick up the poops. Or water the garden, pull weeds or mow.

I make sure that Gardener Cory shows up to mow, so that’s something.

I do laundry, pay bills, vacuum and yell at the kids until they dust. I make beds and clean bathrooms and grocery shop. I master the coupon apps. I shop for shoes and clothes and school supplies. I do doctor’s appointments and manage the family calendar. I take care of sick kids and sick dogs.

Shea brings home the bacon. This is a big deal. It’s what keeps me at home, running the Command Center.

I am very happy with this arrangement. Shea is very happy. But last night we realized that we have the very thing I was determined not to have—a fairly traditional marriage.

Why wasn’t I going to have it, again?

I can’t remember.

And there you have it.

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