Breakfast Battles

I have no idea if the following topic is just a bicultural marriage issue or if it’s an every marriage issue, but it is fun to write about, so I shall.

I grew up on loads of breakfast cereal. Any time of day was a good time of day for cereal. One of my favorite food-related reasons for going back to Ohio isn’t to eat Olive Garden, but to open up my parents’ pantry and see a cereal buffet. Cereal has been in my top five favorite foods for decades. One of my fondest childhood memories is when I would eat peanut butter Cap’n Crunch until the roof of my mouth would hurt while watching good ole Bob Barker on the Price is Right. Oh, and what did I crave during pregnancy? Cinnamon Honey Bunches of Oats. You can’t get it here in Costa Rica, so I literally dreamed about me finding a cabinet full of it.

Enter Albin. He was used to eating a big plate of gallo pinto (black beans and rice) with sour cream, eggs and toast for just about every breakfast since, well, forever.

When he first came to Cincinnati to visit, he was slightly timid with my family.  As Albin became more comfortable with everyone, he started to seem more uncomfortable with breakfast. Finally, he must have mustered up some confidence because one morning I overheard him ask my mom if we had anything else to eat for breakfast. After a puzzled hesitation, she said yes, thought for a moment, and offered him oatmeal. I have to give it to him, he really tried to seem excited about that “different” option, but I know his Costa Rican brain was telling him that oatmeal was just hot cereal.

My mom noticed his less than authentic excitement and asked what he usually ate for breakfast. He asked if he could just make some eggs. That definitely wasn’t a problem. The best part was that she pulled out a carton of “Egg Beaters.” For those of you unaware of what Egg Beaters are, like Albin was, they are eggs that are already beaten and ready to be poured out of what looks like a milk carton. You should have seen Albin’s face when she gave him that carton. Eggs in a milk carton? He was lost. By that point, I was cracking up. He considered turning her down, but it all worked out in the end and Albin took the plunge with boxed and beaten eggs.

Photo credit: eggbeaters.com

Photo credit: eggbeaters.com

The next weekend, we went camping with a big group and one morning Albin had disappeared. We were looking everywhere for him when suddenly I caught a glimpse of a man creeping around my grandparents’ camper. Turns out they felt sorry for him and invited him to eat breakfast with them. He was overjoyed to find out that they were having (real) eggs, sausage, bacon, and toast.

That was just a foretaste of things to come. Breakfast was definitely another thing for us. Apparently a lot of our cultural things have to do with food, but let’s be honest, a big part of our day is dedicated to eating. Up until this day, I still avoid eye contact on Saturday mornings when I know Albin is looking at me with longing, hoping that I will say those magical words, “What if I make gallo pinto?” Don’t worry, I do make it. I’m not completely heartless. In fact, I’ve grown to love beans and rice for breakfast. Just as cereal has definitely grown on him. I’ve even opened up his horizons and blown his mind with different kinds of pancakes. He had never tried a blueberry (or banana, or chocolate chip) pancake before we were married! Once his eyes were opened, he got a little out of hand. I remember one day he surprised me by getting crazy and making pancakes with apples, cinnamon, and chocolate chips in them.

All’s well that ends well, I suppose. Our children will have a nice assortment of both cereal and gallo pinto throughout the week, with the occasional randomly flavored pancake thrown in. In a funny way, our breakfast is kind of like our relationship. I love that.

Long-Distance Relationships

Honestly, long- distance relationships are not for the faint of heart. Albin and I got married after a seventeen month long-distance relationship. You might be thinking, “Well no wonder you guys struggled your first year of marriage.” (Don’t worry, the multitudes have already made us aware that this is a common perception). However, for those of you out there doing the long-term, long- distance relationship thing, the good news is that there is hope despite what the multitudes may say.

In a nutshell, Albin and I were close friends for a good nine months before I (finally) acknowledged that there was a little more there than just friendship. The nine months definitely count for something because we knew each other pretty well before we entered the only month we actually dated within the same country. We dated for a month and things got pretty serious pretty quickly. We both knew that if we were going to put up with the emotional madness that is a long-distance relationship, we better be mighty confident that other person was worth the wait, grief, phone bill, etc.

After our first month of official dating, I went home for two months and we were able to use Skype every night (this was before we owned those newfangled internet iPhones and all day texting was possible). Then I left for the World Race for eleven months. During those eleven months we were only able to Skype once a week. Since I was in remote and different places each month, the connection was almost always unreliable. We emailed a lot as well.

family photo

A “family photo” of my sister and me skyping Albin

Thirteen months after doing long distance, I came back to Ohio and Albin met me there. It was also the first time he was going to meet my dad, sister, and extended family. I also knew he had an engagement ring in his bag.

I panicked.

Not only was I going through culture shock and processing my trip, but I was looking at this guy who I knew in and out over the phone, but not so well in person anymore. The struggle was real. People can change a lot in a year. Let’s just say there were a lot of serious conversations for us and a lot of serious sweating for me over those next three weeks. The worst thing I did was put a lot of pressure on myself to make everything get back to how it was before. I expected us to just “click” again, and that was unrealistic. Even though we had spent thousands of hours talking, it is so different than just hanging out when you’re dating. The best thing we did was do “normal” stuff together. Go to the grocery store, go for morning runs, play games, and dress up to hit up the “Goettafest” with my family (Goetta is a breakfast meat that we love in Cincinnati. We have a festival to celebrate it.).

photo credit: 365cincinnati.com

That’s my sister in the mullet wig. photo credit: 365cincinnati.com

While doing “normal” stuff helped us reunite in a way, it didn’t change the fact that many things had changed and we weren’t going back to what we had before. I think that’s okay. We knew we were supposed to be together. God had confirmed it to both of us and that is what we were clinging to.

Near the end of his visit, we got engaged. He then went back to CR and the long-distance fun resumed until I went to visit two months later. I stayed for a week, left, and then a short month and a half later he was back in Cincinnati with his mom and grandma in tow for our wedding. It was insane.

When we were finally married after those seventeen months of long distance, we got to our hotel room and kind of just looked at each other. It was almost shocking to not have to say goodbye to one another and hang up. I’m thankful to say that we were both virgins when we married, so it’s funny for me to think about how our physical relationship before marriage was not only just limited to kissing, but really we didn’t have much physical interaction in general. Like “not even sitting in the same room” kind of physical interaction.

I’ll be honest here. Those first few months of marriage were so hard. In a sense, I feel like it was reminiscent of an arranged marriage. We literally had to get to know each other all over again. We knew a lot about each other, but so much had changed. I am convinced that if we hadn’t had Jesus in our lives, we never would have made it. We fought so hard for “us,” and our relationship came out much stronger because of that.

While it wasn’t the ideal situation, it’s what we did, and we fought to make our marriage “meant to be.”

If you’re in the throes of a long-distance relationship, let me encourage you with this: there are many beautiful things that come out of the struggle. Here are my favorites:

  1. You find out of if you’re really “in love” or if you’re actually just “in lust.” When you take out the physical temptation, you find out if your relationship really has sustenance.
  2. If you know you’re relationship has been 100 percent confirmed by God, it’s an awesome opportunity to learn to trust Him at His word. There will be a lot of doubts and negative comments along the way, but listening to what God says instead of what  others say will grow your faith exponentially.
  3. If you find a guy (or gal) that will wait for you for an extended period of time while remaining faithful to your relationship despite the distance, that person deserves your respect. I would also be willing to bet that this person has staying power and faithfulness when temptations or dry periods come during your actual marriage as well.
  4. It’s commendable to see two people sacrifice time together to do what they believe God has called them to do now. I believe that God will reward that obedience and give you the grace to finish well.
  5. You get to know someone SO WELL when you’ve played 20 questions more times than you can count. Word of caution: Even though you may know your man’s favorite color on Sundays or what he would do if he was given a million dollars, that person has a lot of quirks and habits that don’t come up in “Twenty Questions” or during Skype conversations. On the one hand, we’ve realized that we both do things that annoy the crap out of each other and that had we known about them pre-marriage, they could have been petty reasons for us to call it off. On the other hand, we didn’t have those petty annoyances to complicate our relationship before marriage, so we married for foundational truths. Now, when things get murky and we start focusing on stupid little differences, it’s easy to look back to our long-distance relationship period and clearly see those foundational truths we based our relationship on.  Hopefully that makes some sense.
  6. You do not take the times you are together for granted because you know what it feels like to be apart.
  7. When you go through long periods of difficulty in your marriage, you can quickly recognize how going through the difficulties together is so much better than when you are apart.
  8. You win when people are playing the “let’s compare dating stories game.” Oh, joy!

Anyway, I know many of you are in long-distance relationships, and whether you’re with someone from another culture or not, it’s just plain hard. I get the frustration, the love/hate relationship you have with Skype, the doubts, and the fears. You’re definitely not alone and need to keep reminding yourself that it will all be worth it in the end. God has you in this season for a purpose and He doesn’t make mistakes.