Be Prepared To Be Surprised, available at:

Happily Even After

Be Prepared To Be Surprised

September 30, 2010

After 12 years of marriage, I am surprised at what still surprises me. Three things surprised me recently.

My wife hates ketchup, for one.

How do I not know this? It’s not like she dislikes kumquats, which might only cross our paths once in a blue moon. Ketchup is a staple of American life, especially for a wife who loves burgers and fries as much as Stacey.

I always knew that she takes her fries and burgers without ketchup. And, looking back, I can recall nary a meal that included ketchup for her. I just never extrapolated that to mean that she categorically rejects ketchup.

But indeed she does. So much so, in fact, that if it gets on her fingers from helping the kids with their fries, she refuses to lick it off.

So, there you go. There isn’t much I don’t know about Stacey, but her tastes in condiments was one area in which I was a featherweight, I guess.

Second and third: Stacey has an eternal capacity for speaking new things to me. This week, she articulated a perfect affirmation, and then also spoke truth to one of my shortcomings.

The affirmation came as we got ready to leave the house—everyone heading to school or work for the day. It was my morning to make breakfasts and lunch, and I was emptying the dishwasher in the middle of it all when Stacey walked in.

She is very precise and efficient about her work in the kitchen. When she is working, she doesn’t like other people getting in the way because she has a plan for how everything is to go.

Kitchen work for me is more of an art than a science. I’ll often start something, then come across something else and get to work on that. At any given time, I might have two or three different projects going.

When she walked in on me with the dishwasher open and both counters full of breakfast and lunch, she stopped short and caught her breath. Before she let herself get exasperated with my methods, she simply said, “That’s not how I would do it, but I know you can handle this” and walked out to attend to something else.

That felt great. She had confidence in me and knew I’d get the job done, even if watching me do it would have been torture for her.

The truth came this morning after a confrontation with Simon that I had. I was anxious to get to work and was hoping Stacey and the kids could just jump in the car and whisk me there right quick, before getting bogged down with breakfast and all. Simon insisted on bagels prepared just so, rather than jumping into the car as I wanted. I got frustrated and raised my voice. Remember Simon being like a Chinese finger-trap? The harder I pulled, the more he clamped down.

Stacey pulled me into the bathroom for a private conversation, and she told me exactly how I was derailing the family for the day. She helped me see that I wasn’t treating Simon with love. At daily Mass today, as I was pondering what I had done and what I had failed to do, this truth came back to me and I repented: I felt strongly how I had failed as a loving father and resolved to do better. When I got home, I sat Simon down and apologized to him.

I wouldn’t have had that opportunity for conversion without Stacey’s willingness to speak the truth to me.

So, she continues to surprise me and I’m grateful for the mystery of marriage that allows us room to explore each other even after 12 years.

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Happily Even After

Happily Even After

Josh and Stacey have been married for 16 years. They have three children–one of whom is newly a teenager. The Noems live in Indiana, where Stacey teaches in the Master of Divinity program at Notre Dame and Josh is a freelance writer.

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