Shannon and I are both insanley busy people, most of the scheduling self-imposed by the various projects and gigs we openly get ourselves into. I’m not at all complaining, but it can get pretty hectic at times, especially when the gigs overlap and she winds up in one end of central Florida and I’m in another.
One of the things that first suffers whenever we get into these seasons of craziness is our connection time - the time we physically spend together in each other's presence. I know we’re not unique in this phenomenon, and we’re certainly not the first couple to find themselves navigating this particular asteroid field. And I can only imagine the chaos that ensues when you toss a few kids in the mix!
Nonetheless, amongst all the craziness, we were left tyring to find a way to stay connected when the bungee cords of life strapped us down in opposite directions. We tried the typical date night thing for a while, even blocking off the time faithfully in our respective calendars every week. This worked for a bit, but inevitably, gigs came up or projects took precedence, and we wound up having to cancel on each other time and time again. Neither of us was prickly about it because we both understood the situation (this busyness-mindset is cemented in the upper mantle of our relationship), but this led to us unofficially abandoning the idea after just a few weeks, never actually speaking the fact out loud to each other.
However, what we’ve found that has started to work well is to carve out a space during unusual times of day, most often early in the morning. We’re talking early as in 7 am early!
Every week we go to our favorite breakfast spot in Orlando, Keke’s Breakfast Cafe. It’s a small restaurant that focuses on breakfast and lunch, and boy do they do it up right (although their egg game could be a little more on point, but I digress). Every visit we get the exact same thing: split the 1 pancake combo (2 plates), 2 strips of bacon (for me), 2 sausage links (for her), and soft-scrambled eggs with cheese. Throw in a couple of coffees and an orange juice and we're set. Of course, the actual order doesn’t really matter here, but I mention it to illustrate that we get the exact same thing every single visit.
There are only a handful of servers that we run into over the various visits, and most of them know us and can predict our need for 2 syrups and 3 butters. It feels good to be a considered a regular in today’s UberEats/Drive-Thru dining ecosystem, and I imagine this is one of the things that keeps us coming back to Keke’s every week.
We usually make it there between 7:00 AM and 8:00 AM and the restaurant is quiet as the crew is easing into what will become the bustle of the breakfast rush. There’s a serenity that happens in a place like this when there are only a handful of customers. Servers are quick to refill a coffee, no one has gotten a lousy tip yet, tables are clean for the most part (last night’s crew, I’m looking at you), and everyone seems to be subconsciously open to whatever the day has yet to bring.
It’s a cool vibe, and Shannon and I absolutely thrive in it. We’ve had some of our deepest conversations in those still, morning trips; in fact, many of the ideas for this blog were conceived over Keke’s legendary pancakes. We dream, laugh, share our concerns, talk about money and other family obligations, express our fears, and cast both visions and hopes - all over a $20 breakfast.
When we have work or other obligations, we often leave Keke’s and go straight on about our day, even when those are opposite of each other. Even still, our days seem better, smoother, and dare I say, more productive? I don’t know, but there’s a certain quality to the day that isn’t there on the days we don’t spend this deliberate time together.
Date Night in the Morning
When we’re looking for more of a date night experience to help shore up some relationship slippage, we’ll hit up the morning matinee at the local theater! Just like there ’s a certain je ne sais quoi about being the first customers in a restaurant, there’s a comforting, intangible quality about being the first, and often only, people in a theatre that seems to only happen with those early film showings. To be fair, this empty-theater phenomenon also happens with shitty movies, but that’s for another blog to work out.
Shannon and I love movies. I mean, we seriously love movies. And we love going to the movies. We make it a point to try and catch every big-budget blockbuster in the theaters if possible, and the bigger and louder, the better! While I’m sure Shannon would love to catch more The Book Thief type movies while they’re still playing in theaters, the artsy, sob-inducing fare just isn’t a priority when we’re talking about dropping no less than $50 between tickets and concessions.
What we don’t dig are crazy crowds, obnoxious talkers, and oblivious texters. Oh, and just so you know, having a movie ruined by laser pointers will crush your optimism for humanity quicker than rush hour on the interstate. Yeah, I probably need to sit on a couch with someone to help me work through this latent rage, but having Matthew Broderick’s 1998 Godzilla ruined by some moron dotting the screen throughout the entire film made me put an embargo on theaters that lasted nearly 10 years. Thankfully, laser pointers are mostly relegated to the pet supplies aisle these days, although I can see the crossover appeal of such a decision with both species (meaning: teen males lacking proper supervision and cats) possessing both nearly equivalent IQs and a general apathy towards anyone else’s feelings.
Luckily, we live in a big enough city where the theaters show morning movies year round, usually starting around 10 am. So whenever the new Marvel, Star Wars, or Mission Impossible movie comes out, we’re able to catch it in the first week by hitting up a morning show, and we’re talking IMAX in 3D here! We usually find that we practically have the theater to ourselves, and we’re secure in the fact that whoever else dragged their asses out of bed to catch this morning showing is as serious as we are about actually seeing the movie instead of posturing with friends. Indeed, there are very few Axe-wafting adolescent boys trying to work up the courage for a make-out session when the time is still in the single digits.
There are some downsides, of course. You run the risk of getting last night’s popcorn, which isn’t great, and low attendance usually yields only a skeleton crew manning the counters. We’ve had our share of having to nearly miss a move because *gasp!* more than 1 person needed popcorn. Hey, I’m not bagging on the theater folks here. I totally get how it’s not feasible to have a big crew when there are only 6 people filling in a 200 seat theater. I’m just glad they’re not canceling the show! Is that even a thing?
It Seems to Work
At first, it was practicality that forced us into the idea of finding these morning times together, but over time we’ve found that we actually prefer it.
Maybe it’s because we’re getting older and the idea of trotting around town much past 9:00 PM just makes us tired, but I now find myself looking forward to waking up early and going out to eat or catching a show! In a way, it feels like Christmas, where you go to bed the night before looking forward to something, and you realize that it’s just one sleep before you’re off to this great, fun thing!
This is what works for us. Obviously, your life is your own and the idea of waking up at 6:30 in the morning to hit a restaurant may seem like death to you, or maybe you have kids and it’s just plain infeasible. Maybe you work opposite shifts, or maybe you have insomnia. I get all of that. My ultimate point is to encourage you to find ways to connect with each other that are unique to you, even if they're a little unorthodox. I’m willing to bet you will find yourselves drawing closer together. For you two. it could be a 2 AM taco run.
For us, it was breakfast and a movie.
Dave was born in Hawaii, grew up in San Diego, and wound up in Orlando, FL by way of both High Point, NC and Memphis, TN.
He is a husband of 24 years to his wife, Shannon, and is a crazy cat dad. When he’s not rambling on about life here, he can be found writing music for film and TV, playing music, or teaching music at Full Sail University.