Not Exactly the 20-Year Anniversary I Had Planned

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Wow. I can’t believe I’m writing this. Yesterday, my husband and I celebrated 20 years together. TWENTY. YEARS. It also marked our 9th wedding anniversary.

I can’t believe it’s been that long. I met my husband when I was in high school – he was not. He’s four years older than me. Seems scandalous but we grew up in Hawaii – it’s a small island so no one really scoffed at a 16 year old dating a 20 year old – especially since I had dated seniors when I was freshman. I went to a small school.

Certainly, we didn’t even think about marriage or the future when we first dated. We both thought the other person was cute/pretty and we both liked to surf and dance at underage nightclubs.

Over the first few years we navigated dating through a host of challenges: long-distance relationship, school, living together, jobs, friends, and loss (my mom died when I was 21 and it took years for me to recover). But by the time I was in my mid-20s we hit our stride. We both had careers and finally some disposable income to enjoy travel and eating out (no more $1 menu at Taco Bell like we did in college).

I honestly wasn’t the type of person who really thought about marriage or even thought I wanted to get married. Then around the age of 26 I felt the urge to do it. And because I’m just THAT kind of person – I proposed to my husband. He thought I was joking since I basically put the proposal in a fortune cookie – note: A cookie fortune that says, “Confucius says you should get married” isn’t really effective, though it is funny. I should have just gone the direct route with, “Will you marry me?”

Well, he said yes, of course, and we were married a year later and pregnant with my oldest son about five months later. We now have three children, ages 7, 5 and almost a year. Our third was a huge surprise and the biggest blessing in terms of us prioritizing our family over career and paychecks.

Then, about a month ago we had a huge bomb dropped on us. My husband needed back surgery. He’s been battling back pain for about 10 years. I remember it started the day he hit 30. Over the years, it’s gotten worse – to the point where he now has arthritis and two herniated discs in his lower back. One of the herniated discs basically fragmented into his spine – causing debilitating pain in his left leg.

So the last month has been a roller coaster. He went into surgery (which made me go a little bonkers – I have a phobia about hospital waiting rooms), recovered well at home, and then we found out from his rheumatologist that, well, he’s got a lot of shit happening. He’s got spondylitis (a genetic disorder that leads to arthritis) and food allergies to soy, eggs, gluten and basically needs to be on no-starch, no-sugar diet (because he’s got candida/yeast in his stomach that inhibits his body to get the nutrients he needs).

Let me just say, that have one food allergy is no easy task to manage but having something as extreme as what my husband has is just crazy. I feel awful for him. He can basically eat nuts, meat, and vegetables. And, it’s no fun being around someone who’s coming off a sugar addiction. I’d say most of us are addicted to sugar – even if we don’t do packaged or artificial foods. Think about fresh fruit, dried fruit, fruit juices, ice cream, coffee – heck, even spaghetti sauce and salad dressings have sugar.

And all this is making me think even more about nutrition, additives, preservatives, and just the crap that’s in our foods. We’ve all been reading labels like a hawk – including my husband, who probably never really paid attention before. I’m even more convinced that food plays a role in our health and either making us sick or better – depending on what we eat.

So we celebrated our anniversary at The Counter – where you can build your own burger with toppings like sun-dried tomatoes, jalapenos, you know, the works. It’s great for my husband because he could choose exactly what he could eat within his new diet and get it gluten-free.

It wasn’t exactly the place we thought we’d end up celebrating 20 years of being together. Last year, we stayed at a hotel in La Jolla. The year before that, we went to a concert and stayed for a whole weekend at a B&B in downtown San Diego. But this year with our little guy being just 11 months and still nursing (not to mention he had a bout of the stomach flu), all we could manage was a couple of hours away at a burger joint and a movie.

And it was perfect. It was just the two of us – 20 years later through marriage, kids, health issues and so much more.

I’d love to hear from you. Tell me your story of meeting your husband or partner and how long you’ve been together.

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About Tracey Black

Hi, I’m Tracey. Welcome to Don’t Mess with Mama. Join me to stand up against junk food, processed food, and anything artificial. I’ll show you how to cook wholesome, gluten free (and grain free) meals with real food ingredients to nourish your family. Plus, learn how to get the toxins and chemicals out of your home for good with my favorite DIY and homemade recipes for beauty, personal care and cleaning products.


  1. Congrats Tracey. I remember when you got married, not too long after mine. My 10 year wedding anniversary would have been in July, but unfortunately we didn’t make it that long.

    I totally understand your frustration about the diet restraints. My ex-husband had celiac, so no gluten, and a vegetarian. I remember traveling and during a layover I was so mad at him because he could not eat anything in the airport and I just didn’t understand why he wouldn’t eat meat. We were strict vegetarians for years before we found out he had celiac, but it was by choice only. He would only really eat what I made from scratch. We NEVER went to nice restaurants because he could not eat what they served, so many birthdays and anniversaries were just about how much trouble I wanted to go through to cook.

    Now that we are divorced and he is responsible for his one diet, he eats all kinds of meat, so his diet is also mainly just meat and veggies.

    My little girl also has allergies to eggs, so again I focus on a lot of homemade food where I can control the ingredients. We should trade some receipts some time. I did become pretty good through trial and error at Gluten free, vegan cooking.

    • Wow, Tiffany. I had no idea you experienced this too. What a challenge for you – vegetarian and gluten-free. My husband is on such a strict diet that if he eliminated meat, he wouldn’t get enough nutrients. That’s basically all he can eat other than vegetables. We’re looking a lot online and thankfully there are some decent replacements – like coconut flour and stevia. Have you found a good replacement for eggs? I’m having a hard time finding anything that isn’t starchy – e.g. fruit-based or potato or tapioca starch. Thanks for sharing.

  2. Congratulations on your long journey together. Love that fun wedding photo! I hope your husband’s health will improve and I’m sure having your unwavering support helps!

  3. That sounds like our anniversary dates every year :) One of these days we will have the time to really get away. It is hard when you have 3 kids. I really feel for your husband because when you are so young it is really tough to have so many problems. My husband has knee problems and he is only 27. He can’t even run around the block without serious pain. Hopefully he will get surgery next year. It is so fun to hear people’s personal stories. Thanks for sharing. Hope to see you at True Aim!

    • Thanks for stopping by and sharing your story. I know – it’s hard when people have pain so early in their lives. My husband used to surf competitively so I’m sure that played a role in his back and arthritis issues too. Hope your husband feels better soon.

  4. It’s been 20 years for us, too. We met in school, when he & his roommate were apartment hunting. His roommate called me from the lobby of my apt bldg and asked if they could see my apt. While they came up the elevator, I was running around trying to clean it up. A couple days later, my husband called & asked me out. Guess he didn’t mind the mess!

  5. I remember you telling me that you danced hula but had no idea you met your husband at a luau. That’s incredible. We’ve got the Hapa mama and Hawaii connection – not to mention a love for Mr. Christian Grey.

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