Shannon here: Jennifer Rogers Spinola shares the kiss that left us hanging and a romantic interview. Comment on any post dated Feb 14 – 18 for a chance to win a copy of White Pearls. Deadline Feb 19, midnight central time. And mark your calendars: Jennifer’s book, Southern-Fried Sushi releases in October. Here’s Jennifer:
Well, there’s one funny thing about our story that a lot of people don’t know. When Athos and I met in Japan, I was in a short-term missionary program for young people. One of the stipulations is that, to serve in this program, you can’t date. It avoids a lot of problems with young people acting out culture shock in inappropriate ways and losing their focus, their time, and making bad decisions so far from family and friends.
So the whole time Athos and I got to know each other, we couldn’t “date,” per se. We never kissed. We were never alone, not even for a few minutes, in a setting that wasn’t public. He never came up to my apartment without someone else.
In one sense the regulation might seem restrictive, but we learned to see it as beautiful – we were saving everything! After I left Japan at the end of my term, we were free to “date,” but now we faced a different obstacle: living in two different countries!
Athos came to the U.S. several months later and asked me to marry him, and I said “yes” – all without sharing a kiss. So we decided to save that, too, for the wedding day. Not many people knew. We didn’t broadcast it; it was a private decision made just by the two of us – not to set a standard for anyone else, but to share between ourselves.
Well, as our wedding drew closer, I started to get nervous thinking of kissing him for the first time in front of everybody. All during the ceremony we smiled and held hands and sang, prayed and put our arms around each other. Carried flowers and candles. And when the big moment came, he leaned closer and… kissed my forehead!
I remember hearing a visible gasp from the pews – a rustle of romantic sighs, followed by whispers of delight – and then Athos kissed the tip of my nose, and then my lips.
It was… perfect. Just perfect.
2. What’s the most romantic thing you’ve ever done for your spouse?
I don’t know if this is the MOST romantic thing, but on one of my last visits to the U.S. (without Athos, since he had to work) I brought a blank journal, bound in green silk. And while I was there I wrote by lamplight or with bleary eyes, turning the pages night after night. Writing the things I missed. About the empty bed. About how much I wished he was there with me, enjoying the onion rings and Reese’s Cups and maples turning gold and hugs and breathtakingly crisp mornings. And how I couldn’t wait to be with him again, hug for hug, kiss for kiss. Storing them up.
3. Where is the most romantic place you and your spouse have ever been?
This might sound silly, but I’m not sure we’ve ever been to a romantic “place,” per se. I think we try to live in a romantic place. Romance is fickle, like a cool spring wind that suddenly turns warm without warning—and you have to catch it when it appears, even if the timing and location is all wrong.
We’ve kissed outside my father’s house in South Dakota, all the grasses waving and pine trees standing at attention, and gathered a wildflower bouquet to celebrate my new wedding band after my old one cracked. We’ve walked the beaches of Brazil together, hand in hand. Rains roared around the rented house we first lived in Brasilia, turning the dirt road to red mud, and I watched him teach Sunday school under an adobe-orange clay roof, monkeys chattering in the trees in early morning tropical breeze.
When we said good-bye in the airport outside Sapporo, before I left Japan for good, there were tears in our eyes.
4. Do you and your spouse have a favorite romantic restaurant?
Not one in particular, but we love sushi. It reminds me, sitting across the table from him there, chopsticks in hand and green tea steaming up, of how we met back in Japan. Of the days when we couldn’t kiss and couldn’t express all the emotions and questions inside. Japan will always be colored by my memories of Athos.
5. Do you and your spouse have a favorite song?
I’m not sure we have a favorite song… I think we have a favorite “kind” of song.
At our wedding we chose three songs to sing as a congregation: “God is Great,” “Be Thou My Vision,” and “In The Secret.” Whenever we hear them, in English or in Portuguese, we exchange a glance, remembering our nerves, our faces burning as we sang, hand-in-hand, dressed in our wedding gown and suit, the scent of flowers filling the church.
We also like to listen to J-Pop (modern Japanese rock/pop music) to remind us what was playing on store speakers, on radios, during the days we met.
6. What’s the most romantic present your spouse ever bought for you?
OK, this is going to sound totally UNromantic, but to me it is. Here in Brazil (my husband’s Brazilian, and we live in Brasilia, the capital) running water only comes in cold. Private homes don’t have hot water, except in the shower. BUT – Athos knew that I missed hot running water, especially in the kitchen, and he found a device that you can hook to the kitchen faucet that heats the water. Keep in mind I’ve only seen one person, ever, who had this device, and part of the reason is because it’s expensive and drains a lot of energy (meaning a higher bill). Also keep in mind that we don’t make much money here and generally have little – if any – left over. But as soon as Athos found this sink-water-heater-thing, he bought it for me immediately. It was especially thoughtful since we were going through a tough time financially, and his splurge for me meant a lot.
He’s also bought me a cappuccino milk foamer (since we don’t have Starbucks in Brasilia) and a hands-free computer phone so I can call my family.
Call me crazy, but those things are far more romantic because of his thoughtfulness than any bouquet of roses could ever be.
(Although if he’s passing by the florist, I certainly won’t object!)
7. What’s the most romantic present you ever bought your spouse?
Athos just informed me, in true male fashion (I’m not making this up) that guys don’t get into romantic presents so much. “Girls do,” he said. So, pray tell, is there anything I’ve given him that he especially liked? Any favorites?
His list made me laugh: An Atlanta coffee mug from Starbucks, a Chicago Bears baseball cap, a clay teacup with “cave drawings” on the sides, a “How To Speak Korean” book since he works at the Korean embassy, a biking book on Lance Armstrong.
Maybe he’s… uh… right.
8. Do you and your spouse have a favorite romantic vacation destination?
Ha! This question is funny to me because after arriving in Brazil, Athos’ courses from Japan weren’t accepted by most Brazilian universities, so he had to start all over again as if he had no degree, doing a second one (and paying for it). So we found ourselves more or less in a financial downturn rather than having extra money for vacations and trips.
Our best trips—which are each romantic in their own way—have been Buenos Aires, Iguaçu Falls in southern Brazil, and we LOVE visiting my dad in the Black Hills of South Dakota. Oh, and Atlanta, where have good, good friends who play gospel bluegrass and fed Athos Krispy Kreme doughnuts for the first time, and Virginia, and…
Learn more about Jennifer: www.jenniferrogersspinola.com.
Come back Feb 21 for Vinspire author, April Gardner.