04/08/2014 01:50 pm ET Updated Jun 08, 2014

When Your Soul-Mate Throws a Wrench in Your Plans

Alistair Berg via Getty Images

Every now and then, I wake up and wonder who the guy is in my bed and why there is a minivan parked in my driveway.

The guy happens to be my husband of 24 years, and he drives the minivan in question because he's a musician who plays timpani and other classical percussion instruments. I love the guy, and our daughter, and our cute little house in suburbia. But sometimes I do wonder how the hell I wound up in this life.

It's not that there's anything wrong with my life; it's just not what I pictured. When I was in college, if you'd told me that someday I'd be married to someone who was kind of shy, I would have laughed out loud. If you'd said that someday I would count gardening and cooking among my hobbies -- rather than, say, world travel -- I would have guffawed. And if you'd told me that every now and then the high point of my week would be watching Modern Family on Wednesday nights, I would have thought it was downright pathetic.

Then life happened.

I found that when the chips are down, there's a certain serenity in watching things grow or putting together a nice meal. I discovered that it's not so easy to save for your kid's college and take fabulous trips abroad at the same time. I learned that when you become a caregiver, you run out of energy to set the world on fire.

And I realized that witty men who banter about politics aren't always very nice.

My husband Joel and I met on a blind date. He had beautiful brown eyes, a sweet smile and a terrible haircut.

On paper, we were an unlikely pair.

Joel grew up on the South Side of Chicago. He came from a large family, some branches of which have been in the U.S. for 150 years. He lived at home and commuted to a public college for both of his degrees. He loves the Beatles, Stevie Wonder and Mozart. He orders his steaks well-done and won't eat anything seared, raw or deep-fried. He is a crossword puzzle wizard who can re-wire a light fixture and collects antique pens. He's quiet until you get to know him. He is a morning person and a teeny bit of a slob.

I grew up in the suburbs. I come from a small family and am a first-generation American on my dad's side. I went away to private schools for both of my degrees, spent my junior year in England, and had internships in Washington, D.C. I love AC/DC, Simon & Garfunkel and Prokofiev. I order my steaks medium-rare and crave seared tuna, sushi and a piece of fried chicken on July 4th. I have no patience for puzzles and can barely change a light bulb. I tend to talk first and think later. I am a night person and a teeny bit of a neat freak.

Doesn't sound like a match made in heaven, but it is.

Which is why I urge people who are looking for love to be open to surprises. Sometimes you'll find your soul mate is someone you never would have expected. It turns out that mine does not relish political debate, yearn to chair committees, read The New Yorker or make a boatload of money. But he does look great in a tux, visits my parents when I am out of town, sings to me and covers my hair with his hands when it's snowing.

Joel once said that a good marriage is like a tree. You plant it, care for it, hope it grows, and when it does, you enjoy its beauty. Conversely, living together is more like appreciating the tree across the street. While you can enjoy it, you aren't as invested in its growth or well-being. It is someone else's tree.

It seems appropriate that we celebrate our wedding anniversary every spring by planting a beautiful new tree or bush in our yard. So here's to another 24 years of gardening.

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