A Mismatched Pair Meeting the Family

College Tater and Mrs Tater

Please excuse typos. Writing this on a tablet.

A friend sent me the above photo recently. It was taken a year or so after I started dating my now wife. We were a mismatched pair. She was an upper middle class suburbanite who still lived with her parents and commuted to school. She was on a full scholarship and on track to get a masters degree in four years. I was a poor small town kid who had basically been on my own financially since I started college. I eked by on grants and loans. I would take a bit longer than four years to even get my bachelors degree. If not for both of us being involved in the Baptist Student Union there is no way we would have ever met. So, you can imagine that meeting each family might be interesting.

Weirdly, I met her parents long before we were a couple. My friends Terri and Chi had invited me to go with them to something( I can’t remember where we were going). They picked me up early on a Saturday morning and then we went to pick up their other friend who lived off campus. That friend was someone I kind of knew, but not really. We got to the house and she was not ready to go yet. That is something that has never changed. Her parents were eating breakfast and asked if we wanted something to eat. A poor college student never turns down an opportunity for free food, so I said yes and had breakfast with these random people. At one point I remember trying to cut something and it flying off my plate. Not a great first impression. I’m not sure they remembered me when I was introduced as the boyfriend. I was much more aware of the impression I was making at that point. They were accepting of me as the boyfriend. They were obviously not happy with me as the fiancé. They grew to tolerate me as the husband.

I was anxious about the part of her meeting my family. I was not ashamed of my family, but after spending time with her in her suburban, upper middle class house, the small house I grew up in seemed even smaller. I was also a little worried about my family accepting her. I’m not sure why. The main thing I do remember is that there was a lot of drama between my mom and my little sister back then. I also remember that as we arrived at my mom’s house that day they had had a fight and my sister had taken off somewhere. She was an adult, but my mom was still concerned. The first thing my first serious girlfriend saw of my family was my mom frantically telling me my sister has disappeared. Not the first impression you want. She would eventually get used to the drama and the loudness of my family.

Somehow this mismatched pair worked.

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A Sense of Belonging

I was watching Invincible Friday afternoon because my mood lately has been a prime mood for what Disney Plus classifies as an inspirational sports movie. Invincible is the story of Vince Papale, a bartender from south Philly who goes to open tryouts for the Eagles and makes the team. A lot of the movis is about how much south Philly needed him and the Eagles during a time when factory workers were striking and out of a job. The depiction of south Philly and the camaraderie there reminded me of a couple of TV shows I have watched.

Back when Justified was on TV I found myself watching the scenes in eastern Kentucky with longing. The scenes that gave me the sense f longing were generally the ones of the large, extended families being together on the family land. These families were generally criminals. I assumed that the longing was more for the state of Kentucky and not a longing to be part of a criminal family.

That assumption fell apart when I watched Shameless and felt the same thing. Shameless is about a family who lives on the South Side of Chicago. They have a lit of problems and have no problem with breaking the law to get what they want. Did my sense of longing actually mean I wanted to be in a family of criminals? It did not.

What these three have in common is the portrayal of a sense of community and belonging. This sense of community and belonging survived economic turmoil and criminal enterprise. The characters lacked financial stability and, in some cases, morals, but they had a place where they belonged. They had family and friends who stood by them in the tough times. They had a circle of support. They had community.

My longing didn’t come from a desire to be a criminal, it came from a desire for community. The suburban sprawl where I lie can make community hard, especially when you are not a people person. I wirte recently about how I had a yearning for home. I have no family here besides my wife and kids. I can be out and about in my area and never see one person I know. I don’t really know my neighbors. I spend the majority of my time at home with whoever is living in the house at the time. I want the sense of community you can find in some small towns and neighborhoods. It is harder to find here.

I know there are things I could do to change this. I had a sense of community for a while at my old church. I worked with the youth group and felt a connection to them, their families and the other youth workers. Things changed and I changed churches and have not made the effort to really feel like I belong there. I could change that. I felt a sense of community during some youth sports and dance. Those are gone now that the kids are adults.

I am impressed with the fact that these shows did such a good job with a sense of place and belonging that it made me want to live there.

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Place in the World

This came up in my memories today from back when there was a weekly photo challenge. The sentiment is still true. Home is not a place. Home is people. I really hope we get to travel to a Kentucky this summer to see family,

Today’s Photo Challenge asks to explore what it means to find your place in the world. Am I a big city guy or a small town guy? Is there a place I feel most at home? For me is it not the place. It is the people. This picture is my family being weird at a get together at my brother’s house. Small town. Big city. Doesn’t matter if I have family.

Tater Takes on a Marriage Quote About Becoming One

I was looking for another post and this one came up. I fixed an appalling number of typos in it.  It reminds me of the irritation I have about people who have decided they know what a marriage should be and that everyone’s marriage should fit in that box. It is especially irritating when people who have never been married think they are qualified to tell someone what a marriage should be. Anyway, enjoy a corrected version of my post dissecting a quote about marriage.

I saw the following quote on Facebook this weekend. It was directed at Christian couples on the topic of “becoming one”:

“Separate bank accounts, individual political views, clashing parenting styles, and private friends is not “becoming one.”

I am going to make an effort to coherently give my opinion on each of these areas.

Separate Bank Accounts:  I have mixed feelings on this one. I can see how separate bank accounts could be both good and bad for a marriage. It could be good in a case where the only major difference you have is on how you spend your money.  In a perfect world, you would just say you could compromise and come closer in your ideas of how to spend your joint money.  This is not a perfect world and we are not perfect people. If a separate bank account can help a couple get along better and avoid major money arguments I think it would be a good thing. The bad side is that a separate bank account could lead to suspicion and distrust, especially if it comes later in the marriage. It could lead someone to think there are nefarious reasons why their partner suddenly wants a private bank account.  I think the bank account thing has to be a couple by couple decision. One size does not fit all.

Individual political views: This is an odd one. Are you saying that one person has to change their political beliefs in order to make a marriage work? I don’t think “becoming one” means giving up your personal beliefs. Are you saying that you should never marry someone who has different political views than you?  I can see this in extreme cases. If you are strongly anti-gun you probably shouldn’t marry a gun-owning NRA member. If you feel so strongly about an issue that disagreement would be a deal-breaker hopefully you know where the other person stands before you marry them. In general, though, individual political views are not a bad thing. Becoming one does not mean you become less of a person.  You should still be able to have opinions and views that are different from your partner’s.

Clashing parenting styles: I can mostly agree with this one. You have to be in agreement on how you are going to raise your kids. You can’t have one parent undermining the other when it comes to raising and disciplining your kids. Again, this is something that should have been discussed before marriage. It shouldn’t be a surprise if your partner is for or against spanking. Again, though, there are going to be differences. Even if you agree on the basics of how to parent, you each are going to do it a little bit differently than the other. Even if you become one, you are still not going to be robots. There will be differences. I agree that the overall parenting style should be similar, but it can’t be exact.

Private friends: Again, it depends on what they mean by private friends. If the private friends and people who your partner doesn’t know about and you are spending time with them without their knowledge that is likely a red flag. Why would you keep that from your partner unless you are hiding something? If your partner doesn’t want you to ever meet their work friends, but they are going out with them on a regular basis, there might be reason for concern. If you’ve met these friends and your partner is going out with them alone because you don’t want to go, that is a different story. I think it is healthier to have some couple friends instead of each person having their own individual friends. I have friends I spend time with on a regular basis without my wife, but she has met all of them and knows when I am going out with them. This is normal behavior.

In general, I think it is not a good idea to try to fit each couple into a standard box. Everyone is different and every couple is different and what works for one won’t work for another. Also, unfortunately, there are churches out there that think women are not equal to men and a lot of this is a way to make sure they are kept in their place. Your marriage should be patterned in a way that works for both of you.

My Christmas Vacation

Today was my first day back at work since December 20. Rather than dwell on that bad news, I thought I would subject everyone to a boring post about what I did on vacation.

We headed out of town on Saturday the 21st. It’s an 8 hour drive, so travel day is pretty much only a travel day. We did drive into some winter on the way.

img_2036 We usually drive in on the 23rd so we had two extra days before we had official Christmas plans. I read a lot. We went to see the new Star War movie(I enjoyed it). We went out to eat at Red State BBQ where I have my favorite non-alcoholic Kentucky drink(pictured below) It was nice to be in town with some days to relax before the family obligations. We also went to see the Christmas lights at Kentucky Horse Park. The lights were nice, but the park police were terrible at directing traffic and caused us to wait an hour to get in. I might have left the car at one point to go yell at them for holding our lane too much. I returned to cheers from other cars.

We then moved on to family obligations. Christmas Eve was an hour’s drive to one part of my wife’s family for lunch and then the drive back for dinner with the other side of her family.  The good thing about both on the same day is that Christmas day is more relaxing. We can open gifts without rushing and just relax. The big surprise for me was a new iPad. Now I just need to learn how to type on it so I can use it for more than reading the newspaper in the morning.

The next day we headed west for Christmas with my siblings and a few days just hanging out at my brother’s house. This means basketball, frisbee, escape rooms, and Mexican food.

We also watched UK beat Louisville in basketball. L’s down!


and saw moe Christmas lights.

It was a good time with family that unfortunately had to end. Now we are back home. My son is back at his house. I’m back at work. My daughter will go back to school soon. There are no fun plans on the horizon. At least the days are getting longer.

Drifting Away From Family

When I was a kid, I spent a lot of time at my grandmother’s farm. Many of my cousins also spent a lot of time at the farm. We also would travel to Virginia to visit my aunt and her family. They would also travel to Kentucky to see my grandmother. There are many pictures of me and my siblings with my two cousins from Virginia. They were a big part of my childhood as were some of my other cousins. My grandmother died when I was in 6th grade. My dad died when I was a senior in high school. After this, I saw the cousins less and less.

I moved away to college and then after college moved to Cincinnati for a couple of years. At this point, I didn’t see any of my cousins at all. When I was at home I spent the time with my mom and my siblings. After two years in Cincy, my wife was transferred to DC. I had a job interview in DC a day before we were to move into our temporary housing. So, after my interview, I spent the night at my aunt’s house just south of DC in Virginia. We did a little better for a while going to visit them off and on. It was easy because our temporary housing was also in Virginia. Eventually, our house in Maryland was done and then my aunt moved further south. The visits took a little more time, but we still tried to go down occasionally. I can’t remember when it was that the visits stopped. I know that my cousins were both married and had kids, but all of our kids were still pretty young. It’s easy to let a busy life give you an excuse to stop visiting.

Fast forward a few years – I get the news that my aunt has died. I travel down to the funeral and see my cousins and their kids for the first time in several years. Not long after that my uncle died and I was back again for a funeral. I think this one was the one where I spent the night instead of driving back and forth. We were honest with each other. She didn’t do online stuff and I hate making phone calls. Odds were we would not keep in touch. We were correct. I was eventually friends with each cousin’s kids on Facebook so I knew a little about their lives, but we never saw each other in person.

Fast forward 9 years – I wake up early to go to a work event and look at Facebook. My cousin’s daughter has posted that her little brother was shot to death tat night. He was 18. So, last week I was back down south for another funeral. I had not seen anyone there for 9 years. We only seem to see each other when bad things happen. The same goes for both sides of my family. The only time I see any family members besides my siblings is at a funeral. We’ve become that family. I don’t think anyone meant for it to happen. It just did. I would like to say that things will change, but it likely won’t. I don’t foresee anyone ever coming to visit me. I don’t foresee anyone wanting or expecting me to come to visit them. We will see each other the next time something bad happens. Sad, but true.

Wordless Wednesday: Fun With Arrows

Ok. There will be some words. We leave Friday to visit family in Kentucky. I was looking for pictures from previous trips and these were the only two I had in my “already posted to WordPress photos. Facebook photos aren’t working and I don’t have time to go through my phone.

Photo 1 is when we got an arrow stuck in the tree and we were all trying to figure out how to get it down. My brother apparently planned to throw another arrow at it.

Photo 2 seems self explanatory. Just me about to shoot.




Tater Talks Mom

Today is my mom’s birthday. Sunday is Mother’s Day. Unfortunately, I am no longer able to go home to spend time with her. It is a hard week for me. I’m sure it is an even harder week for the family who lived with her and saw her every day. I’m not sure I will ever be the same as I was before she died. I get sad easier these days. Nostalgia creeps up on my easier these days. Our trips to Kentucky are different now. I haven’t really been back to my hometown for the past three years.  Our family get-togethers are smaller now, and not just by one person.

I wish I had gone home more as an adult. I keep saying I’m going to go home more to see my siblings now, but when you live 600 miles away it’s hard. It’s not a quick trip and I don’t work a job where vacations over a weekend are easy. I need to work harder on that.

Anyway, I’m sad today and I will be sad for a few days. I would rather be in Kentucky celebrating.

What’s Good in Tater Town

A blogger friend does a weekly gratitude post. I decided that something similar would be good practice to remind myself that even in the bad weeks I should try to find the good. So, here is the first in the possible new weekly “What’s Good in Tater Town” series.

  1. Both of my kids came home for a few hours this week. Different day than the other, but both were here.
  2. I was able to take some last-minute time off to rest after a long couple of weeks at work.
  3. I met with our new CEO on Friday and she didn’t fire me on the spot.
  4. We had some days without rain this week and I was able to mow my lawn before I  needed a tractor.
  5. The Braves clinched the NL East and are going to the playoffs for the first time since 2013.
  6. Kentucky football beat #14 Mississippi State last night and are 4-0. 2-0 in the SEC for the first time in a very long time.
  7. My fantasy football team is 2-0.
  8. I’m on the second day of my first full weekend off in three weeks.
  9. It’s raining, but my wife still plans to pity me and go to the Ravens game with me today.
  10. Cooler, less humid weather is here.

Ten seems a good goal for each week. Hopefully, I won’t have weeks where I struggle to come up with that many.



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