A hike through Eagle Creek Park

Hiking through Eagle Creek Park with my wife
Pentax K10D, 18-55mm f/3.5-5.6 SMC Pentax-DA AL
2018

When you are single for as long as Margaret and I were, you get used to living your own life. She was a full-time single mom, her time given to taking care of her four children and working to support everyone. I was a single dad who saw his kids two nights a week and every other weekend and filled the rest of his life with career, a non-profit, and church.

When we met, our lives were already full. Overfull, really. It was going to be a joy and a challenge to weave our lives together. We were going to have to approach it thoughtfully and deliberately.

Unfortunately, we didn’t do that. Serious challenges came at us so fast and so frequently that we went into survival mode. We’d both survived difficult times before, as single people. That’s how we knew to do it.

By this summer we found ourselves living our lives in parallel because it was most efficient to do it that way. We didn’t see for a long time that it was hurting us.

Thankfully, we saw it before it hurt us too much. We’ve made some strong changes that have us jointly planning our time, saying no to too much time apart, and making much more time to do simple things together. Like walk through Eagle Creek Park.

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single frame: Hiking through Eagle Creek Park with my wife

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Wedding day

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©2016 Andrea Bowman.

Margaret had one request of me for our wedding day: that I wear clothes that had no memories attached.

I seldom wear a suit. The one I own, which I bought at Goodwill of all places, has seen duty just at interviews, weddings, and funerals over the 15 years or so I’ve worn it. That’s a lot of memories! A new suit would be in order, and this time I decided to do it up right. I went to a tailor Downtown, selected a suit they made on the premises, and had it fitted to me. It is the single most expensive article of clothing I’ve ever bought.

And then I selected that orange tie to go with it. Margaret loves orange.

Margaret, on the other hand, bought her dress on clearance. I think she said she paid $10 for it. Oh my, how I admire a frugal woman! And she looked lovely on the day we were married.

We invited just close family: parents, children and their spouses, siblings and their spouses. And then my oldest son, who lives in a distant city, texted late with bad news: his car had broken down and he and his wife wouldn’t make it. It was the only disappointment in an otherwise wonderful day.

The ceremony was brief. A preceding slideshow of family photographs, set to music, ran longer than the ceremony itself, I think. We exchanged vows, rings, and I-dos, let the photographer photograph us, and then headed to Margaret’s for a party. She’d spent much of the week preparing all the food. I’d made a long playlist on Spotify of upbeat tunes from the 1940s through the 1980s. It kept the party rolling.

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iPhone 6s

Margaret and I thought we’d slip out at about 8 pm, and then it turns out that was when the party naturally broke up anyway. We drove Downtown and checked in to the tall, blue JW Marriott hotel and then took a long walk downtown. The evening was warm; the setting sun lit the sky in oranges. We ended up on the old National Road bridge over the White River, now for pedestrians only and part of White River State Park. We had a late dinner at the hotel.

We attended my church together the next morning. Margaret works at one church, and I’m an elder in another, so we will be a two-church family. And then we went back Downtown for lunch, and for a walk along Massachusetts Avenue for window shopping and ice cream.

Then we parted ways. It was the moment where our temporary two-home arrangement became real for us, physically and emotionally, and it was hard. Merging lives at our age, with teen and young-adult children in various stages of stepping out of the nest into their own futures, creates some challenges and this is how we’re choosing to handle them for now. We’ve made over-and-above effort since our wedding to spend as much time together as we can.

So far, so good. We know we’ll end up under the same roof, and that we’ll be fine in meantime. Because we both chose well.

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My bride

It was a great day, the day of our wedding! And a great evening and entire next day alone together. There’s much more to say, but I’m writing this late Sunday night and am exhausted from the big weekend. So let this photo I took of us Downtown on Saturday evening suffice for now.

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Is being mindful of the present moment overrated?

As I drove to work the other day, I dreamed of my future.

I should have been paying closer attention to the road. When I got to work I realized I couldn’t remember anything about the drive. Oops!

60 mph

Canon FT QL, 50mm f/1.8 Canon FL, Fujicolor 200, 2013

I have always been a guy who ruminates about the past and frets over the future. It sometimes takes over my mind, robbing me of joy and peace. So I’ve learned some techniques around focusing on my breathing and letting thoughts and feelings pass through my mind without dwelling on them. It’s basic mindfulness. Maybe you do this, too; it’s become pretty popular in the last 20 years or so.

My favorite time to practice mindfulness is when I have a camera in my hands. I do break the rule about not judging thoughts and feelings, as I need that judgment to compose a pleasing photo. But everything else about photography is quiet and meditative for me.

This practice really helps me keep calm and not make mountains out of molehills. The benefits of mindfulness are clear for all. It can reduce anxiety and depression. It can help manage anger. It can even help people recover from addiction.

But a backlash appears to have started against mindfulness. Some now claim practicing mindfulness reduces our ability to properly judge reality, can create false memories and blunt our ability to latch onto positive thoughts, and for people with trauma histories it can even bring back painful memories and spur panic attacks.

I don’t think I’ve experienced any of this harm. I’ve certainly not panicked while practicing!

But aren’t there some useful things to do with this present moment that might not involve being present in this moment? Such as dreaming about the future? Planning for good things to come? Looking forward to what might be? I’ve surely been doing a lot of that as I anticipate my future with my new wife. We are, after all, getting married tomorrow!

Dreaming is a fine thing to do in this present moment. Just not while you’re driving.

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A ring and a date

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We’re getting married two months from today!

We’re keeping it simple. We’re inviting just immediate family: our parents, our brothers and sisters, our children, and all of their spouses. That’s still a lot of people — Margaret is seventh of eight children, and between us we have seven children! We’re having a small, short, simple ceremony at a venue near Margaret’s house. And then we’re all going to Margaret’s house for food and music and family for the rest of the day.

Our Irish honeymoon is booked for late summer, so we’ll be returning to normal life on the Monday after our wedding. We haven’t figured out just yet how and when we’ll combine households, so we’ll pretty fluidly live between hers and mine for a while. It’s a nontraditional choice, to be sure, but after considerable discussion we see it’s best for our new combined family for now.

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Engaged

MargaretAndMe

Margaret and I agree: we’ve finally found the love of our lives. And when that happens, there’s just one thing to do.

We plan to marry in July and honeymoon in Ireland in September. Margaret’s family is Irish, and some of her family still lives there, and so she’s wanted to make this trip for many years. I’m thrilled we get to make it together.

I like a good wedding, but I like a good marriage a whole lot more. And in Margaret, I’ve found someone who can walk that daily walk with me.

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