Commercial Export Company
In hindsight, the first years of our marriage seem idyllic. We had very few bills, so money wasn’t tight. We were both working for the same company, and our work overlapped so we spent a lot of time together. The company we worked for operated more like a dysfunctional family than as a business, and we both moved into the inner circle – eating and going out with the family, using the company houseboat, and both moving up the ladder within the company. Unfortunately, like most dysfunctional families, the company was not stable and it started to come unstuck after we had worked there for about three years. We had already committed to spending the summer of 1983 in Israel on an archaeological dig that Jeff’s family was involved with. As things at work deteriorated, Jeff found a new job, and I made arrangements to go back to school and finish my degree when we returned from Israel.
The three months in Israel was an amazing experience. I discovered quickly that I was not an archaeologist. While I did not mind living in a tent, showering in outdoor stalls, or washing clothes in a bucket, I DID NOT like dirt, so sitting in blistering sun for hours and using a spoon to scrape away layers to discover ancient mud brick walls did nothing for me. I did enjoy serving as the liaison for the students, faculty and staff, and every weekend alone in camp was an adventure. The best part, however, was the two days we had off in the middle of the week to explore Israel. We drove all over the country, exploring the sites, going to museums and spending time together. Jeff has always been convinced that traveling well together is evidence of compatibility, and three months of tent and hotel life indicated that we were truly compatible. Even a short trip to Israel would be a life changing experience, and being able to share this long trip was a real bonding experience.
The School Years
After our Israel adventure, I went back to school in the fall of 1983. One of the things that I had realized working at Commercial Export was that a college degree meant more money. I had dropped out of school because I couldn’t figure out what I would do with a degree in history – I just didn’t see myself teaching. Ironically, I then spent two years successfully teaching business math (math being my absolute worse academic subject) to employees, so I thought I could probably teach history (which I love) to high school students. I did 90 hours in 2 years, including student teaching. I did well, was active in clubs and activities, and was encouraged to go to graduate school. Our marriage survived the stresses of school well. We were as poor as the proverbial church mice, but still had time for one another, and managed to have friends and activities in common. We decided that I should continue on in school while we were used to being poor. Grad school was different – money wasn’t as tight because I had a teaching assistantship, but my time was generally over committed, since I was taking a full load, working, and running the History Club and the history honor society. I also audited a class every semester, so I had to work harder to have time with Jeff. He was very supportive and attended most of the events I did for the History Department. We still had time for romance, and Jeff had time for activities like hiking, canoeing and biking that didn’t appeal to me, but did to his brother and a network of friends. As I was finishing my degree, the department encouraged me to apply to PhD programs, which I did. I received several offers, and after a Spring Break trip to Tennessee, accepted an offer from Vanderbilt in Nashville. We moved into a tiny apartment in close to the the fall of 1987, and I really found out what over committed meant. Between classes, reading, writing, teaching, and grading, I didn’t have a spare minute and frantically moved from one thing to the next. Several days a week, my day ran from 9:00 a.m. to 9:00 p.m. At the same time, I had a new doctor who changed my birth control pills to a lower dose version. Between stress and the the change in hormones, I lost all interest in sex. I actually spent a lot more time with my co-teaching fellow and others in my graduate program than I did with Jeff. Meanwhile, Jeff was in a new town without friends and without much of my attention. I don’t think we really fought, but neither one of us was really happy. Jeff tried to help with my stress level, and I tried to make time for him, but it was hard. Then we found a little house nearby, and our quality of life really improved. The house had just been remodeled and had room for flowers and a garden, and I was gettting a little better handle on my course load, so everything seemed better.
Then my younger sister got cervical cancer, and we re-evaluated what we wanted out of life. We had been talking about having a baby since we got married, but one or the other of us both felt like the time was not right – that we should wait until I’d finished school, until we both had solid jobs, until we chose a place to settle down and bought a house. Her cancer and the resulting surgeries made us realize that the decision might be taken out of our hands – that when we finally decided that the time was perfect, it might be two late. We decided that we wanted to have a child and didn’t want to put it off so long that we missed our opportunity. Now was the time!