Kansas Snapshots by Gloria Freeland - August 18, 2023

"You're mine today!"

When our first wedding anniversary was approaching, husband Art and I weren't sure how we wanted to celebrate. I no longer recall exactly how it went, but we made the following agreement: Art would arrange all the details ... where we would go if we went somewhere and what we would do. My part was to go along fully committed, regardless of what he arranged. The following year, our roles would be reversed.

The motivation stemmed from the fact that we were both busy with our jobs and family and we didn't need to add additional time and energy required to come to a consensus on what we'd do and how we'd do it. In fact, such joint planning has the potential of turning what should be a fun event into just one more chore. Our agreement allowed the person doing the planning a free hand to make all the arrangements.

It actually worked much better than we imagined. In a sense, the "planner" had a couple of years to fashion what was, in effect, a gift for the other person. While there was some angst over making what was hoped to be a good selection, it was also done with the knowledge that the following year the planner had no responsibilities.

We only did this four times.

During our early years, I had often heard Art share tales about how much he enjoyed spending time at the various lake-side cottages his family members owned. So for our fifth year, I planned a two-week summer vacation at a North Woods lake as a combination anniversary and Christmas present. We enjoyed it so much, we bought a place the following year, and that has been our anniversary present to each other ever since.

But might such an approach also work for other "special" days or, for that matter, just any day? While celebrating special occasions is great, sometimes we can use a little fun "just because."

And it does work!

When we awoke Saturday morning a few weeks back, Art said, "You're mine today!"

Ah, the "secret" words - our shorthand for one of those days - a day when he will be making the choices and I will be the one going along.

Now I expect some women might object if they heard those words, but since I can do the same with Art any time I want, I have no problem with it.

Of course, those key words have a bunch of mutually-agreed terms and conditions that have taken years to work out. In the beginning, Art would say something like, "I have a special day planned. If you say 'no,' I won't tell you what it was. If you say 'yes,' you must go along in all aspects with as positive an attitude as you can muster."

At first that was difficult and involved what I saw as being a bit unfair. I like being in control, but he also knew my curiosity would drive me crazy if I declined his offer.

Before making such an offer, he'd ask what was on my agenda for the time period he was considering. If there were work commitments or a doctor's appointment or some such item, he'd not make the offer. But over the years, variations emerged. He might ask my schedule for the week. If it was tight, he might ask if any of the items could be moved.

The "surprise" part might be as simple as going out to eat or just taking a drive. Others have involved trips to places miles away and have lasted a day or more. Some are romantic, others might involve shows, while still others are intended to just give us a break and time together. Sometimes he asked me to wear a blindfold to play on my curiosity. Other times, he said I should bring along only my driverís license. This directive was aimed at my rabbit-hole mind. I can get deeply involved in things, so not having any of my usual paraphernalia with me helps me focus on the here and now.

In comedian Jim Gaffigan's movie "Linoleum," the psychologist explains Jim's father's increasing dementia by suggesting it is "as if the brain is accumulating plaque, but we don't have a brain toothbrush." My mental list of to-do items can sometimes grow so long that I feel buried in the "plaque" created by it. These surprise "You're mine" times can serve as that brain toothbrush. They help free my mind because I know I will be leaving that list behind. Our "German daughter" Nadja had another term. She called such times a "mini-vacation from reality."

The fact that about half of marriages end in divorce is a strong indicator that making marriage work is challenging. Art and I are lucky that we share a love of history, writing, travel and so on. But we have differences as well: he's the science/engineer type and I'm more artsy. His preferred work style is grinding it out, while I'm better at doing a bit of this and then a bit of that. So while I occasionally will plan one of these surprises, he does the great majority as he enjoys sorting out the details and planning, while I enjoy the surprises and the breaks from routine.

There are a lot of ways that couples have invented that can keep the romance alive. Some people have "date" nights. Others go on cruises. But for me, while it doesn't solve all problems, "You're mine" goes a long way in that direction!

Left: Our cottage in 2005. From the left, daughters Mariya and Katie, "adopted German daughter" Nadja, and Art's mother Donna. Right: Not liking the older outside door seen in the picture at the left, Art is obviously pleased with the replacement he installed.

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