Let’s start with introductions:
Chocolate Chip Cookies, Trap Music and Beyoncé
Sara Kirkland (SK): I’ll go first. My name is Sara Ketchum, formerly Sara Kirkland, I don’t know if I need to add that or not, but I did. I’m 28 years old. I’ll be 29 this year. I from Detroit, born and raised, very proud of it; and, I like chocolate chip cookies, trap music and Beyoncé. Top 3 things that I like.
Shell Brummell (SB): That might be the name of this interview: Chocolate Chip Cookies, Trap Music and Beyoncé.
John Ketchum (JK): My name is John Ketchum, formerly John Ketchum.
JK: I am 27. I’ll be 28 in June. I like video games…
JK: and comics.
SB: I like the other title better: Chocolate Chip Cookies, Trap Music and Beyoncé.
JK: So, I can’t say what I like?
SB: I’m just saying for a title, it’s a little bit catchier. So, my first question. I just caught this. We’re going to freestyle; your age, John, you’re a little bit younger?
SK: Just a year, ‘kay?!
SB: Did you ever discuss that? Was that apart of the conversation? I’ve never been married before, but typically it seems like the guy is a little bit older.
JK: I mean, I felt like a little Casanova. I felt like when I was younger I could get an older chick.
SK: I’m rolling my eyes. (She wanted the readers to know)
JK: Honestly, when we first got together I didn’t care that you were older.
JK: I just felt that we were all in the same group, and I know you are older, but I always thought of us as being the same age.
SK: When you said your age just now, that’s when it hit me. Then I saw you as Lil’ John.
SB: Like the Eastside Boyz.
SK: We never really had a conversation, but we used to play like I was a tiger?
SB and JK: Cougar? Laugh
JK: I think what is interesting though is that I’m younger and I was the younger sibling, and she is older and the oldest sibling.
SB: Does that create a particular dynamic in the relationship?
JK: I would say so.
SK: I agree, you go ahead.
JK: Me, I’m the youngest, so I’ve only always been responsible for myself. Even though my dad didn’t let me get away with the things he would let my brother get away with. I never had to say my actions will influence somebody else’s actions. I never had to do things for other people. It was always; somebody is going to feed me or worry about clothes or care for younger siblings. Sara had Mary and Kendra and her Papa Greg’s two kids. She’s the oldest young woman in the family.
SK: I think as far our dynamic, I think that because I am the older sister, even when we went to the funeral, you (John) said, “Why do you feel like you have to be in charge and wrangle things?” And I think that I bring that into our relationship because I feel like I need to wrangle us and be on top of it and that sometimes gets in the way of your vision of what we and how we should do things. They collide with each other. Do you agree with that?
JK: Yeah, I agree.
SK: But I also think you have a strange dynamic, too; because you are the younger brother, but sometimes you feel like you are the oldest in our relationship. Now you feel like the role is a little reversed?
JK: Not so much. Now, I feel like I have a little bit more responsibility when it comes to my family.
SB: Because of the dichotomy between the two, can you think of any particular conflicts that may have arisen?
JK: Excitedly Oh yeah, I’ll go.
SK: So, you just got them ready off the top of the dome, huh? Laughs
JK: I sometimes think, in our marriage, Sara feels like she has to take the lead on things that she doesn’t have to take the lead on. Or, she feels there is pressure on her when it comes to household stuff when there is not. I’m like pressure from who? Pressure from me? I don’t care.
SK: That’s true, and I don’t know where it comes from. I think it’s just…
JK: You look hot.
SK: Thank you, Pooh.
JK: I like your hair.
SK: Thank you, Honey. I agree with you; I do feel like I have to take care of everything. I don’t know. I’m just a task-based person.
JK: Are you?
SK: I am! I like to focus on tasks and getting them done. But I guess that pressure just comes from me knowing that its gotta get done. I feel like there are more examples of me causing problems, me conflicting. You’re more chill about it, and I’m more combative about doing it my way.
JK: I’m pretty chill.
SK: Okay. Sarcastically
JK: What, no, I’m saying I’m pretty chill. I’m the type person that if we need to get something done, I don’t care how we do it as long as we get it done; and if your way is better, it’s fine.
SK: I always think that my way is always better.
JK: I think that sometimes, as a husband, it’s okay for you to think that as long as it gets done.
SB: That’s good stuff. What do you think a traditional relationship looks like? What do you think traditional is and do you align to that tradition?
JK: I think that women should…
SK: He about to say some bulls… Laughs
JK: In all seriousness. Laughs
SK: You’re about to get two different answers.
SB: That’s fine.
SK: I’m interested to hear what you think is traditional marriage. Stares at John
JK: I think that our parents and grandparents ideas of marriage are not the same.
SK: But what do you think those are though?
JK: Can I finish talking?
SK: Oh, sorry. Laughs
JK: For example, when we went home, Sara’s grandmother was making her grandfather’s plates. You know pouring anything he wanted poured.
SK: Mm… Go ahead.
JK: He essentially didn’t have to lift a finger. But she wasn’t oppressed or anything. She wasn’t some broken woman. Laughs
SK: Okay, thank you! Don’t put my granny on tape life that! Laughs
JK: She enjoyed it, and I have seen women in my family do the same thing, and I think the way our marriage works, it’s very much 50/50. I realize that I couldn’t do any of this without her, and I hope that she thinks that she couldn’t do any of this without me. I think a lot of times people confuse working together with, usually, a man dominating a household.
This may go against some Biblical teaching. I know the Bible says the man is supposed to be the head of the household. While I do think that a man is supposed to be a protector, I do not think decisions should fall solely on one person. For example, if we’re going to go on vacation we need to talk about that and come to a consensus. I just think that working together is a big thing to me. And as a person who didn’t have two parents ever, I never saw the dynamic of a man and woman working together. This just seems to make the most sense to me.
SK: I think me and John are the same where he didn’t have a woman (parental figure); I didn’t have a man. I think of my grandparents when I think traditional marriage and that’s where I form my ideas. Which is a man and a woman; the woman makes dinner, they go to church together, the woman cooks for the household – but she likes it – the man fixes things around the house.
SK: Handles those kinds of tasks. It goes back to task-based.
JK: Why is cooking such a feminine, woman thing?
SK: That’s what I saw growing up.
SB: I think a lot of people saw that.
SK: I’ve always looked at my granny and momma cooking. I wasn’t in the kitchen helping. Mary was in the kitchen helping. I always thought, how am I supposed to have a husband and cook all these meals for him? I thought it was impossible. I even asked my granny.
JK: What did she say?
SK: She said, Sara, I had to learn this. So, that’s my traditional marriage. Man, woman, kids in a house. Man provides for woman. Woman provides for man, and I do think the man is the head of the household. I do believe that you talk to God, and God gives you his orders. I feel like God isn’t going to tell you something way off that is going to knock us off our foundation. I feel that God gives you his orders, and you give us our orders, but because we are ALL talking to him we are already aligned, and it’s not like you are putting your foot down on me.
JK: I agree. I think that… that…
SK: What? Are you afraid that you’re going to sound like a heathen?
JK: No, I’m not afraid.
SB: I sound like a heathen every other day… every day… twice a day.
JK: I guess my thing is that we are a partnership and the onus shouldn’t be all on one person to talk to God and bring the message. Laughs I think you should talk to God.
SK: I talk to him, too.
JK: I’m not into the male supremacy thing. Because I could say anything. God said to drop them drawers.
SK: Alright… Laughs
JK: Go twerk on this wall.
SK: Because God said to twerk on the wall. But that’s what I’m saying. I don’t think God will tell you…
JK: You don’t think God will tell me to tell you to twerk on this wall.
SB: I am almost positive he wouldn’t, but I’m not God.
JK: Twerk my daughter, twerk! Laughs
SB: You mind if I interject? Laughs I love the conversation. I agree with what you said, Sara. When I think of God I think of someone who always has our best interests at heart, and I feel like if a husband said God told me to tell you to twerk on the wall – I’m almost positive – I’m 99.9% positive that was not God. That was probably…
SK: That was your god voice.
SB: Going back to the head of the household piece, yes the Bible does say that God is the head, man under God…
SK: (John) Are you paying attention to this?
JK: I am paying attention. I’m just trying to get my back scratched.
SB: And then the family, the wife falls under, and then the kids eventually do their own thing. But when I think of heading the household I don’t think of traditional dominance. I think of leadership, just like if someone is the leader it doesn’t make them the smartest person in the room and their ideas the most valid. If you’re the leader, you facilitate the conversation between all of the parties involved. So, you facilitate the conversation between God, your wife, your kids. Sometimes the five-year-old has the best idea. If you say where do we want to eat and the five-year-old says…
JK, SK and SB: Shake Shack
SB: …and everybody agrees that sounds really good, but the man says NO WE’RE GOING TO RED LOBSTER and everybody is unhappy, that’s not good leadership. If that’s how you want to lead your household, then that’s on you, but I think the most effective leaders are those who ask questions. You probably see that in your professions. I’m not married, obviously…
JK: You ever notice how Shell prefaces marriage advice with, “I’m not married…”
SB: I’m not! Because I’m single, I’m super single, so I’m really not good at this!
JK: My thing is, don’t downplay your advice.
SB: I’m just saying because I’m not in it. From the outside looking in, I think of the head of the household as leader, not dictator.
SK: I hear you.
SB: You can’t dictate the household. You may have to make the final decision, but you shouldn’t have to make every decision. If your boss made every single decision, how would you feel?
SK: I wouldn’t like it.
JK: Shell, I just think we need to show these women…
SK: Shut up, John.
SB: Going back to the Bible piece, I just want to help people understand that God is not a dictator (In a traditional sense). He gives us free will. It’s not like that. It’s a process in place, but the man has to follow and honor that process. Nobody is perfect; we’re all going to make mistakes. But sometimes the woman is going to make the decision because she is the subject matter expert in a particular area. If Sara knows how to navigate Queens better than you know how to navigate Queens then why would you give directions?
SK: Queens, The Bronx, Brooklyn, Staten Island, Manhattan. Laughs
SB: That’s a part of effective leadership.
JK: I think we kind of do that.
SK: I think we do. I think sometimes that’s traditional like, “Yeah, the man says…” but if you tried to pull that dominance thing, I don’t think that would work for us.
JK: I think we work together very well.
SK: I agree.
JK: One thing I really like about marriage; when we were together before, I knew you as a person. I thought I knew what you were good at, but I’m starting to realize what a lot of your strengths are. I’m starting to learn if that’s your strength, then why not defer?
SK: I remember being frustrated about something with you before. It had something to do with traveling, and I got frustrated, and I remember talking to my mom about it. This was pre-marriage so don’t get all mad. She said Sara; you need to know this now. You’re going to have things you’re good at which are your strengths, and he is going to have things he is good at, those are his strengths, and you just do them.
JK: I think you’re good at navigation. I think you’re good at cooking. I think you’re very creative. In those three things I dabble, but those are yours.
SK: Is this a compliment what I’m about to say?
JK: If you have to ask yourself, it’s probably not.
SK: Well, I get inspired by it, so that’s why I think it’s a compliment. You’re really good at being you. You don’t change from this group to this group to that group. You’re good at…
SB: Not fronting.
SK: I think I could work on that.
SB: That’s a quality. You mentioned something about knowing each other for a while, so how did you meet? I know I’m a part of this story, so…
JK: You’re not a part of this story, Shell.
SK: Shell just inserts himself into the story.
SB: So, how did you meet?
JK: I remember playing Ping-Pong my freshman year of college. This dark skin girl comes into the dorm room with Alan…
SB: Alan Jones? (Check out Powerful Al)
JK: …walking past the Ping-Pong table, and she came over and started talking trash. At the moment I thought she was cute or whatever, but she was with my homeboy. I guess that’s like a theme…
SK: A THEME FOR WHAT? A THEME FOR ME?
JK: A theme for our relationship, let me finish.
SK: Okay. Laughs
SB: Let me grab my pen, I don’t want to miss this.
JK: She was with Alan, and I was like whatever. Honestly, you came over, and that’s when you first introduced yourself to me. That’s when I first met you.
SK: I remember meeting you because I remember those seashells around your neck.
SB: I remember those seashells! Did he have on a polo shirt?
SK: No, he didn’t have on a polo shirt… He might have!
SB: Seashells and polo shirts. Laughs
JK: It was kind of weird because now that I think back on it, you walked passed and I didn’t think anything of it.
SK: I didn’t think anything of it either because you know…
SK: But I do remember meeting you there because of those seashells. You were talking trash, too.
JK: Yeah, I was super arrogant.
SK: Yeah, you were super cocky. I noted it.
SB: Was it a false confidence?
SK: No, I don’t think so.
JK: People say you start defining yourself in college. I felt like I had to put on a front a little bit and say stuff I wouldn’t normally say.
SK: All right, let’s get back on topic. How did we meet? Sara’s wrangling the interview
JK: That’s how we met.
SK: Now, how did the relationship start? Because it wasn’t until three years after we met that we started dating. I remember thinking John was cute. It was several days after my birthday, and I had just broken up with my ex-boyfriend.
SB: What year is this?
SK: This is 2009 after I crossed (Delta Sigma Theta) in April. It was the summer of 2009, and I remember John saying he was staying up there (Central Michigan University – Mount Pleasant, MI). Yemi was up there. This is the same year Yemi became my best friend and John became my boyfriend. I was going out of town for something, and John said he wanted to come over to say goodbye. I thought that was weird because he never did that before. I remember trying to fix my hair, and I didn’t know what to do. And then you came over; we drank that blueberry wine.
SK: We were just… We were just friends. That happened. I came back. That is when John was interested in Alpha.
JK and SK: Laughs
SB: It’s all good. I’m a part of this, too. If he goes down, I go down.
SK: I don’t get it. What’s wrong?
SB: I might put it in there because I don’t care anymore.
SK: John was living in Central Crossing.
JK: With DJ.
SK: I would come over because we were still friends, but then things escalated. John was cooking oatmeal in the kitchen. We have to fast forward because this is a long story.
JK: This is the story of how I make oatmeal now.
SK: I showed you how to make oatmeal, right?
JK: You showed me how to make it in a different way.
SK: I showed him how to make it in a different way. This is the first indication of my controlling habits actually. Shoot, you should have seen that red flag. So, John gets on the phone and starts talking to his dad, and it was so beautiful how he was talking. They were laughing, and I could feel the love in the conversation. I was like I like this. I like hiiimmmmmm… Said with trepidation Do I like him? I don’t know. Then I said we should cook together. Chicken Alfredo?
SB: Any red meat?
SK: No red meat.
SB: Okay, just wondering.
JK: REALLY!!! Laughs Really, Bro! I hate you!
SK: That’s funny. You remember when we went shopping in the store, and we saw Shelly? She was like, “What y’all doing in here?” “We’re just cooking together, as friends.”
JK: The jig was up.
SK: So then we go back to the house. We cooked the dinner, and we cooked it for a lot of people right?
JK: Just Vance.
SK: That’s when Vance had braids. That happened, but when did Vance come over and you flipped out? Was that after the dinner?
JK: This was after the dinner.
SK: What happened was I was at work, John was at work, and Vance was at John’s crib. I’m messaging Vance; I adopted him as my brother. Me and Vance are forming a friendship. I was like okay, I’m about to come over and we can just chill, so I told John I’m about to go over your house and chill with Vance. Again, John had just told me that he was at work in the middle of his shift and I was like, “Okay, I’ll see you when I get off. I’m about to kick it with Vance.” He was like, “Oh, with Vance?” I was like, “Yeah, with Vance,” and he cut that off short. So then I’m over there with Vance and IN POPS JOHN in the middle of his shift, and I was like, “Oh, I thought you were at work?” John was so short with me. I was like what is wrong with him. I know that now you do the same thing.
JK: Yeah. Laughs
SK: Mind you, before John popped up I was talking to Vance about liking John. John walks in all mad and goes to the kitchen, and I go to the bathroom, and I hear them out there whispering about me. I guess that day Vance told you I liked you. I came over the next day, and John walked me out to the car and this particular time I told John that I liked him, and I was so mad that I said it first, and he was like, “I like you, too.” Did we hug or did we kiss?
JK: I forgot what happened.
SK: So then, after that, John said he wanted to date me and said we should be together, and I said you need to take me on a date first. So, he took me to Applebee’s.
SB: What did you get from Applebee’s?
JK: I think I got the chicken balls and she got an appetizer.
SK: I’m sure we got a 2 for $20. We sat in the same booth and then after that we got together. We started kissing and hugging and other stuff…
JK: We were together for a month before we told anybody?
No Secret is Safe
JK: This is where Shell comes in. We were at his house hangin’ out. He asked a friend of mine does John have a girlfriend. Everybody knows to say no. (Shell) How did you ask it?
SK: “Tell me something I don’t know about John?”
JK: …and he was like….
SB: It was unsolicited. Laughs
JK: He was like his girlfriend is Sara Kirkland. This is Waves and Target T-shirt Shell. He was like, “Stop! You go with Sara?” I knew he was happy for me, though.
SB: Ehh, no, not really. I know this is about you, but I Persed (Personal’ed) (Greek Thing meaning really good Greek friend) Sara sometime in the middle of this story. Sara came over. Y’all were in the back, and something fell over in my room. Did you do that on purpose John?
SK: Somebody knocked something over.
JK: No comment.
SB: Sara and I were sitting in the living room, and I gave Sara… What did I give you?
SK: You gave me a paddle; it’s in the back room.
SB: I GAVE YOU A PADDLE? I thought it was a card.
SK: Yeah, you gave me a paddle and a card.
SB: I forgot I gave you a paddle, and you were like what was that sound? And I was like it was probably Cam. So, when I did find out about the situation, I was a little perturbed because I was thinking about the timeframe and some other relationships. I was like how did that happen?
JK: I remember Ley called me. It was very controversial.
JK: For like a year it was controversial. He called me like I heard you’re dating Sara, and was like how is that okay? They thought it was unbrotherly.
SK: OH BAE, THEY THOUGHT YOU WERE BEING UNBROTHERLY.
SB: Yeah, there were a lot of conversations surrounding it with everybody.
SK: That totally skipped my mind.
SB: That’s what made everybody so upset.
JK: After year one, people got over it. People were making Facebook statuses.
SK: Yeah, I remember.
SB: I didn’t get too caught up in the gossip wire, but just for our circle it was a minor issue. So, everybody got over. I guess that’s why you shouldn’t have put me on the mic at the wedding.
SK: I remember us having a conversation about it…
JK: …and I remember us not caring.
SB: That’s important because you have to know the value of your relationship. Even the people that are closest to you think they have your best interests at heart and maybe that causes some of the emotions and how we react. Going back to the rules of your relationship, you have to know who you are as individuals and as a couple. You have to drown out everybody else. Their best interests for you may not align with your best interests. I was one of those people. I was upset. Not because of anything personal, but because of the bigger thing we had going on.
JK: They already didn’t like me.
SB: Yeah, the Popsicle and barbecue sauce. Concerning Alpha, some people said no, but I said yes because I saw something greater in John.
JK: Now that I think about it, we were 19. We were kids.
SB: I love that because I want to talk about maturity, but first I want to talk about Alpha Phi Alpha and Delta Sigma Theta because I know we hated each other at one point. Did that create any type of dynamic?
SK: We didn’t hate each other.
SB: I’m kidding, did that make it difficult at any point?
SK: I thought it made us understand, and I’m not going to lie, I liked it about you.
JK: You liked what?
SK: I liked that you were an Alpha.
JK: You were at my probate getting hot, huh?
SK: I was your girlfriend at your probate, and I remember calling you Bookie and Steve Messam turned around and said, “Ain’t no Bookie.” I was like oop, sorry Steve. Alpha, Delta made it easier just like us working in the same industry has made it easier. We speak the same language.
JK: It wasn’t just Greek life; that was our circle of friends. Like the time you dry-snitched on me to the Kappas.
SK: That did make it hard. We didn’t understand boundaries, your Alpha stuff is your Alpha stuff, and my Delta stuff is my Delta stuff.
JK: Dry snitch.
SK: I’m not even going to lie. Because of who I am, and I now know that word is controlling, because of that and me being a Delta and John being my boyfriend, I was all up in y’all business. Trying to be all up in your business. Sorry, Boo. I grew up though.
SB: What years did you graduate?
SB: So, what happened immediately after college?
JK: Ooo, Ooo, let’s talk about this!
SK: I remember crying on the day of graduation when I left because I didn’t have a job or anything. But we decided that we were still going to be together, but I ended up taking a job in Saginaw. I had the choice between Saginaw and Los Angeles.
SB: WAIT! Saginaw or LA? Was this for John?
SK: Did I stay for John?
SB: Yeah, because you had a choice between Saginaw and LA. That’s going to be highlighted in bold by the way.
SK: This line of decision-making has been a theme throughout our relationship, and I’ve learned from these decisions. I had the choice between a job in Saginaw with a salary or a paid internship, and I didn’t know where I was going to stay in LA. I took some advice from my Poppa Greg, and that also made me choose Saginaw over LA. I would also be closer to John, but it was more so the salary and John was the second piece. So, I took the job in Saginaw, and I would go back and forth from Saginaw to Mount Pleasant to visit John, and I felt like one of those old heads like, girl you just graduated, why you still up here?
SB: For the record, I never said that.
SK: I didn’t want to be the one still hanging on, and then John graduated and then he went to LA! Laughs
JK: Ok, that’s not how it happened. I mean that’s how it happened but…
SB: Let’s talk about it.
SK: Bae, I’m good. I’m not tripping or nothing.
JK: It’s fine. I graduated and, personally, I wanted her to take the job in LA. I graduated, and I was unemployed for like 3 or 4 months. And for me, that was really hard because I worked since I was like 15.
SK: It was hard. It was hard to date you like that.
JK: I was super depressed. I drank a lot.
SK: I didn’t know you drank a lot.
JK: Yeah, I drank a lot. I would smoke Black & Milds. That’s not even a thing I would do, but I needed something. It was a dark time.
SK: And you didn’t like me paying for stuff.
JK: Granted, I’m 21, and I’m dealing with something I’ve never dealt with before, and I didn’t know how to deal with that. Then I got a job in LA.
SK: And I was supportive of you taking that.
JK: Let’s be completely real, it was my only job prospect at the time. If I would have stayed in Saginaw – to be honest – I would probably be working at…
SB: …the plant.
JK: Yeah, just being honest.
SB: Nothing against the plant.
JK: No nothing. I’m telling you I would probably be there right now and we would have three kids.
SB: Before we get too far, what industry do you work in?
SK: Media. So, broadcast TV news.
SB: So, LA would understandably be a better opportunity.
JK: But the job was a PR position for NASCAR.
SB: I remember you getting that. We talked about that!
SK: I don’t regret it, but what I took away from that was my decision-making process and how I used that information going forward.
SB: (John) Did I cut you off?
East Coast / West Coast Beef
JK: You did, but it’s cool. So, I went to LA, and I lived there for two and half years. Sara got a great job in San Francisco with a great station. I lived in LA for a year before she got there. Also, we broke up.
SK: Oh yeah, we did break up.
JK: It’s funny because we broke up and I went on a date with a girl who looked just like Sara.
SK: You went on three different dates. I didn’t go on any dates.
SB: Was that on purpose?
JK: During the date, I realized it was on purpose.
SB: Yeah, a lot of times we don’t see it.
JK: We got back together.
JK: Yeah, Homecoming.
SB: So, how did you break up?
JK: We were on the phone, and she said, “I’m good on this.”
SK: I didn’t say I’m good on this. I was thinking and going back and forth with this for a while, and the distance. I did not like the distance. That was new. Then it was a whole ‘nother time zone. He was three hours behind me.
SB: That one is a toughie.
JK: She would spend her evenings talking on the phone.
SK: And he would be out with his friends, so it just felt like let’s break up. So, we did, and I had a feeling we would get back together at homecoming.
SB: So, you made the decision to break up.
JK: She ended it, bro. I’ll never forget. I was in Los Angeles. I already felt really alone because I was out there and I didn’t have any friends or family. I was in some shitbag apartment that was the size of this light to this table (about 8 feet). It was carpet. There were mad roaches. I’m sure there were dope fiends living in there, too, but it was all that I could afford. I had no furniture. I just remember her breaking up with me and me sitting in the empty room saying, “Man, this is not a good day.” It was not a good day at all. But, we got back together during homecoming…
SK: What, just say it!
SB: What homecoming was this?
SK: 2012? 2013?
SB: They all run together in my head.
JK: But, homecoming, I was setting something up with this chick.
SB: I used to do the same thing for homecomings.
JK: Yeah, when me and Sara were thinking about getting back together this thing had already been set in motion, and Sara had really hurt me. So, I thought maybe I should hook up with this girl to get back at her.
SK: I’m listening.
JK: I was going to do it. I had gotten vocal support from our friends and a pastor.
SB: Vocal support from a pastor, to hurt Sara?
JK: Not to hurt her but to…
SK: …just do you.
JK: I was back and forth whether or not I should do it and something happened at a party Sara was at. There was a shooting.
SB: I remember this.
JK: Sara called me, and I started crying. I was like aww man. I remember thinking I care – a lot – about her and this. Sara snuggles against John I remember I met her at the party we were at.
JK: We were at together, at the Cabaret.
JK: She came and was like I was so scared, and we just went to where we were staying.
SB: The Greek Suites.
JK and SK: The Green Suites. Laughs
JK: What’s mad interesting is that we moved to California, we left California together. We moved to New York together, and each time we moved was because of me and a job I got, but Sara has been mad inspiring because she’s impressed people that she worked for so much that they referred her to the next thing. These aren’t little jobs. These are jobs that people go to Columbia and spend $200,000 for a degree to get, and she got it because she performed well. I don’t know if she realizes that.
SK: I do realize that.
JK: The fact that she was able to work in three big cities in three years is really impressive, and that made me realize how impressive she is. Fast-forward to living in New York, another situation came up recently, and we had to decide if we were going to move back to DC and it was because of me and Sara said no. She called…
SK: Called “Marriage.”
JK: I was like okay, sure.
SK: I think if John and I had to sum up our marriage in couple words it’s, “We’ll make it work.” I feel like we’ve been saying that since the beginning,
SB: Is that not what marriage is?
SK: No, that is it. We just figure it out. It’s tough conversations. It’s not easy.
SB: You’ve lived in many different cities, what cities have you lived, and were you living together?
JK: No we were not living together!
SK: For me, it was Mount Pleasant (MI) to Saginaw (MI) to San Francisco to DC to New York (Brooklyn); and for John, it was Mount Pleasant to Saginaw to LA to DC to New York.
SK: This is how the relationship went: Mount Pleasant to Saginaw, Saginaw to LA – long distance, LA to San Francisco – which is not close, San Francisco to DC – long distance. We finally lived in DC together – and we were engaged – and John moved in a month before we were married.
SB: This is three years after college?
SK: 2009 – 2014. What is that?
SB: 5 years.
SK: You couldn’t have told me I was going to do long distance for five years, I would have been like, nah, un uh, or nah? I did not like it…
SB: So how did you make it work? A lot of people deal with this. I’ve dealt with it in the past.
JK: I wouldn’t recommend it.
SB: I understand, but it’s a reality these days for Millennials. You almost have to move to get promoted in most of our industries, so how do you make it work?
SK on making it work:
- You have to communicate. You have to set aside a time. Especially, if you are in two different time zones, this is our talking time. Maybe, you’re playing games together on your phone.
- FaceTime, Video Chats.
JK: I don’t recommend young people do it. We were rare in a sense that we wanted to be together. You know a lot of people meet somebody online or they meet them at a conference.
SB: That was me. Laughs
JK on making it work:
- Make sure you do what you can to be visible.
- Make sure that you are dressed nicely. If that person doesn’t see you every day; when they do see you there could be a perception that you’re giving up on the relationship.
SB: We all have these ambitions. You can’t just go home to the crib and get a $100,000 a year plant job, so people are forced to move and bounce around, but you still want to maintain your relationships, so I think that’s good advice.
SK: I remember one time John came up (to San Francisco), and I surprised him with a candlelit dinner. You really have to put in the effort, and you have to accept it for what it is because it is hard.
SB: You two should write a book on it.
JK: We could do that.
SK: We could.
SB: Finder’s Fee. Finder’s Fee.
JK: Laughs So, that is what this is about? That’s actually not a bad idea. That’s actually a really good idea!
SB: I think it would do really well.
JK: 13 Steps for Surviving a Long Distance Relationship.
SK: Why does it have to be 13, because we just watched Netflix? Laughs
SB: Shell, here’s your tape. “What did I do?” Laughs
SK: I don’t think people like long distance. I hear some people say they like their time by themselves, and I’m like what?
SB: I didn’t like it one bit.
JK: Being around you every day versus not being around you every day is much better, even when we were in DC living in separate apartments…
SK: (John) Do you want to get into why we lived in separate apartments?
SB: That was actually my next question.
SK: I know that’s going to get messy. I know you blame it on a certain individual for making that decision, but how I made that decision… Back it up, real quick, me and John, when we moved to DC, had the choice to live together or not live together the year before getting married. John moved into my place in August, and we got married in September, and that was the only time we lived together in the same building.
JK: We did it very traditional.
SK: We did. We did seek counsel from our pastor, and he helped me come to my own decisions about it. I know you think it’s something different, but how he framed it was, “If I look back on this 20 years from now, what would I want my decision to be?” And I would have wanted to do it this way.
SB: I like that.
SK: We talked about this. Financially, we could have saved some coins living together, but I could not have lived with you a whole year before we got married. You would have been getting marriage benefits. Heck no! You wouldn’t have deserved it. I’m just saying!
SB: You did mention your pastor, was it a spiritual decision or a mix of both because you were living DC. You would have saved a lot of money.
SK: I didn’t want to make a decision based solely on finances because I never wanted to live with a dude before I got married because it was my space and my time. And as a woman, I believe that young women need their space before they go into a union. I didn’t want to make that kind of decision based on finances.
JK: It was weird to live in a city with you and have my own apartment because it never happened before. I remember one time the water didn’t work, and you had to stay with me for a few days.
SB: Was this when the hole was in the wall?
SK: Oh yeah, you were there for that.
SB: Yeah, it happened the day I left.
JK: You stayed over. I was like this is cool. You came over and spent the night…
SK: …and you knew I could leave.
JK: And you took the car.
SK: You gave me the car!
JK: Mmm, I said hey, you would use the car more than I would, so just use it. You never asked me, hey, do you need the car today?
SK: Sorry, Babe.
JK: It’s cool.
1+1 = 1
SB: How did you reconcile two separate lives into one, and did you mature through that process?
SK: We’re still maturing.
JK: Marriage has taught me a lot. It made me a better person, a better man. Sara has inspired me to be better at things like household chores. I think that we come from two different cities, but we come from two different households and to bring that into one is hella-difficult.
SB: Why is that? Sara doesn’t look like she agrees.
SK: Now that I think about certain situations, I wouldn’t look at them as hella-difficult, but that’s probably because I blacked out the hard parts.
SB: I want to get to that, blacking out the hard parts.
JK: We can get to it now.
SK: I’m trying to think of the hard parts.
JK: When Billy came and stayed with us.
SK: Yes, when Billy came and stayed with us that was hard. It was difficult. The first step is realizing that John is one person and he grew up a different way, and I grew up a different way. One of the things that stood out to me in our pre-marriage counseling was one of the questions that we both had to answer, “What’s your least favorite holiday?” John’s least favorite holiday is Mother’s Day. My least favorite holiday is Father’s Day. That alone was interesting to me, and we’re bringing that into this union together.
SB: And when he said it you probably got it.
SK: And he got it, too.
SB: But it was still mind blown, right?
SK: Yeah, and that’s because John lost his mother and my father was never in my life like that. Something as simple as that; those little things that we’re bringing into the marriage. You wonder what other little things that we will need to have conversations about, “Why do you do this that way?” Not talking about it is what makes it difficult.
SB: So, for the person who is reading this, open and honest communication?
SK: Right, you know it’s easy to say open and honest, but you don’t even know what you have to be open and honest about. Like why do you wash the dishes that way? Why do you have a problem with me doing something and you’re not doing it? Why don’t you iron? You don’t want to place blame on a person for doing something because that’s just how they do it. You have to find a middle ground. You can’t just say that they were raised wrong, and I admit, I had a problem with thinking that at the beginning. “You were raised wrong, and I was raised right. I don’t know how you grew up, you barbarian.”
SB: Fundamental Attribution Error.
SB: Fundamental Attribution Error says when we think somebody else has done something wrong we automatically equate it to their background, how they were raised, where they come from, their character. If somebody cut me off in traffic, they’re a jerk, they’re crazy, they’re from a particular country, whatever. However, if I do something wrong, my environment caused me to make this mistake. I cut you off in traffic, but I’ve got to get to work. I’ve got to make this light. We offer ourselves more grace then we offer other people.
SK: Yup. I do that all the time. Sorry, Babe. He is so patient with me. If he did some of the stuff I do to him to me, I would go from 0 – 100 real quick, but he goes from 0 – 1. And, I’m like whew! I dodged that one. Making the union work requires you to have those difficult conversations. When you’re dating, you don’t have to have those conversations.
SB: Sure don’t!
SK: You’re like, nah. I’m not going to do this with you right now. It’s a series of choices. Are you going to choose to have this conversation? Are you going to choose to go down this road? Are you going to choose to be vulnerable? A lot of things factor into that, but you have to make a choice, and from those choices is how you mature.
SB: I like that. That’s really good. What do you think John?
JK: I agree. One thing I realized – a few of my friends have gotten divorced or called off engagements – you don’t have to be in this. I could say I’m going to leave. Let’s just get a divorce. You said you don’t have to do it when you’re dating. You don’t have to do it when you’re married.
SK: That’s not even an option, though.
JK: It is an option. The fact that I don’t think it’s an option even though it is an option says a lot about how we feel about each other. I would rather have the difficult conversations about family and money than not be with you. Cue Luther Vandross
SK: I feel like every difficult conversation we have we grow. When you disagree, someone has to send a message, and someone has to receive. When communication gets lost, and you’re not understanding me, I have to figure out another way to send the information so you understand.
JK: It’s like Vegeta and Goku?
SB: From Dragon Ball Z?
JK: Every fight they have… So, Goku is the most powerful martial artist in the world. He can summon the energy of the earth to create a blast, a Spirit Bomb. His whole thing is, every fight that he has; he gets stronger. Even if he fights somebody and he looses, he gets stronger, so the next time he can beat them.
SK: What?! They need to teach this in relationship class!
SB: “Love is like Dragon Ball Z.” That should be the title of your long distance relationship book. That’s another finder’s fee.
SB: You might as well add me as a co-author.
JK: For example, we got into a three-day fight a couple of weeks ago, but then when we got to Michigan we were a better couple.
SK: Before we got to Michigan we resolved that, and we talked about it and were better because of it.
SB: What does that process look like? I don’t need the specifics of that situation.
JK: Laughs Laughs Laughs
SB: What steps did you have to go through to resolve a 3-day fight or a 10-minute fight?
SK: Somebody has to say, let’s talk about this. Somebody is not going to want to talk.
SB: When that person doesn’t want to talk, do you keep talking? Do you feel it out?
SK: I’m the non-talker. I will walk away, silent treatment; but I know John. I know I don’t want that for my household, so I will say we need to just get through this.
JK: And we have neutral ground, a cover.
SK: We have the cuddle throw.
SB: And that’s neutral?
JK: Yeah, so the rule is anytime we are underneath the cover at the same time we have to be nice to each other.
SB: So, create a safe space, whether it’s a closet or a blanket.
SK: Yeah, I don’t know if you want to argue in the closet, though. Laughs
JK: So, there was this one time, and I went back and got it and brought it up here, and she was like, “No, I don’t want it. Don’t put that on me.”
JK: We put it on each other, and we didn’t walk for 10 minutes. Then we ended up talking. It has magical powers.
SK: You have to obey the rules. It does take somebody to say we have to talk about this, and you have to be persistent about it. Make sure you are listening, not listening to talk.
SB: Oh, I love it. I talk about that in my classes all the time.
SK: Didn’t we talk about that?
SB: Yeah, I think we did.
JK: You probably stole that from Shell.
SK: I probably stole it from Shell. Co-Author that. Laughs
SB: It’s level 5 Listening, Empathetic Listening.
SK: You have to listen to the other person. Say your point. Don’t cut each other off. Go in trying to understand the other person. It’s not easy to try to understand because I’m going in with my point, and you need to hear my point! But you have to break that down if you’re going to have effective communication. You have to agree to understand and come out with a resolution.
SB: “Seek first to understand, then to be understood.” That was Stephen Covey in the book, “The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People”. I think leadership and being in a relationship are pretty much synonymous. A lot of the precepts are the same between personal and professional relationships. However, it’s easier to quit a job.
SK: This marriage thing is a choice. It hurts to be upset with John. I get so emotional about it, and I get so upset with him. It’s a different type of love than my family because, with John, I chose to love him. It carries a lot more weight. You don’t choose to love everybody. I don’t love these hoes. Laughs
SB: I can’t wait to write that. You mind if I interject?
SK: Go ahead.
SB: Have you ever read The Five Love Languages?
SK: I haven’t, but I heard it’s a good book.
SB: In all of my failed relationships, my ex-girlfriends would encourage me to read this book, so I’ve read it a couple of times. It’s a really good book! Laughs The authors talk about the emotional connection at the beginning of something new, but eventually, that emotion wears off, and your logic takes over. Then you have to make a choice to be happy and a choice to be here.
Eventually, the choices that you make will build up that emotional bank again. You make a choice to do happy things, and that will lead to joy. Or if that person is musty and being a jerk today, you still make a choice to love them based on how they want to be loved.
It goes back to the Bible; you have to make the choice to die to yourself every day because your flesh seems to resurrect every single day and say, “Hey, let’s go do something fun today like get drunk.” Yeah, no, we can’t do that.
The second point is that you can’t choose your family. You’re born into what you’re born into. Just like fraternities or sororities. Once you join, that’s it. Those are you fraternity brothers. But what you can choose is friendship. That is why I hold friendship in a higher regard than blood-bonds because this is my conscious choice to be with you in this situation. There are plenty of people who are not friends with their parents. They might value a relationship with a friend from college more than that of a cousin they’ve known all their life. That’s why I think friendship in the spectrum of relationship is at a higher level than family.
The Bible says there is no greater love than to lay down your life for a friend. It doesn’t say for your mother or your son, but that mother relationship can be encompassed within friendship. I’m stuck on choices.
JK: I think a lot of our fights happen because we worry about each other. Like Saturday when I said I was just going to have a Clif Bar before the 15k (9.3-mile race), you just turned all the way up.
SB: In church, though.
JK: You stopped talking to me. I was like, is it that deep? I get it, you were like I don’t want my husband dying in a race.
Social Media Wants to Know
SB: Okay, so this is what everybody wants to know. Who pays the rent? A few months ago, every single person on social media had an opinion, so what do you think?
JK: So, the way we do it is the rent will come out of my check and savings will come out of her check.
SB: So, this is your place. Laughs
JK: The way I think of it is we couldn’t pay rent without my check, and we couldn’t save money and pay bills without her check. It’s a team effort. We are in the same game on the same team, and the opponent is life.
SK: We be hoopin’.
JK: One thing couldn’t happen without the other. I think a lot of households mess up when they expect the man should pay for everything; a certain control comes with it.
SB: There probably would be if I had to pay for everything, talk about domineering.
JK: For example, if my name is on the lease and the onus is on me to pay it; I would be a mad asshole, and I don’t think that is healthy. I didn’t feel like the place in DC was mine, but this place, we picked it out together, we bought furniture together, and I feel like this is ours. We care for this together. I remember that whole conversation on Twitter.
SB: It was big. It went for like two weeks, and somebody got shot over it. I’m kidding.
SK: And we have one bank account.
JK: Well, I have a Team One Credit Union account back home just in case we need a home loan or something.
SB: But she knows about.
JK: But when we first got married she had a Chase Account.
SK: That you knew about.
JK: I get it because…
SB: …women be shopping.
JK: I thought it was cute. So, one time we were arguing about money and I was like, “So, we are just going to sit here and act like you don’t have $900 in your Chase Account,” and she was like…
I was like, “Oh, you didn’t think I knew about that.”
SB: I’m going to use that meme.
JK: It was actually really dope because when you are arguing and you know this one is going to be the heater… I had been saving that one for a while.
SB: How did that make you feel?
SK: John knew about that account. He just never asked how much was in it.
JK: You never said how much was in it!
SK: But why would I need to. I wasn’t depositing money there. It was money I already had, and I would just go into it for emergencies, and emergencies became a wedding. I think couples should discuss amongst themselves what works for their financial situation because everything ain’t for everybody.
SB: The rules of the relationship should be decided by the people in the relationship. I really don’t know how my parents did it because kids stayed out of grown folks business. I’m assuming my father made more. I’m just guessing that everything was kind of together. They can verify whenever they read this. How I would like to approach my marriage is… not about going half, but it’s about going 100, equity not equality.
SK: I like the way you put that.
SB: Why don’t we just give 100% of what we got? I know everybody doesn’t subscribe to Christianity, and if you don’t, that’s fine, but I believe when you’re married you become one flesh and if you’re one flesh this is all ours.
JK: Honestly, that’s how I think of it, too. I just feel like marriage means we share stuff.
SB: Why would you want to make this commitment? I know people get married for plenty of reasons; taxes, immigration, etc. If you’re getting married for love, why do we need to hide things?
JK: You’d be surprised.
SB: I know. I get it. Sometimes you might not even think your hiding something until it comes up.
JK: I don’t know if Sara knows this about me, but I like a good Rom-Com.
SB: What is that?
JK: Romantic Comedy. So, The Breakup, I enjoy having to ask Sara to buy this PlayStation 4 and me talking to my boys about me having to ask my wife to do that.
SK: And I ask, too.
JK: You don’t really ask to spend money.
SK: Yes, I do. For big purchases I do.
JK: Not really.
SK: What big purchases didn’t I ask for?
JK: When you spent all that money in Chicago.
SK: You told me I could go on a shopping spree in Chicago!
JK: I didn’t say spree!
JK: I said you could buy a few things for this trip.
SB: I was thinking it doesn’t even sound like John would say something like that.
JK: That wouldn’t even come out of my mouth. When Sara is upset with me, she will buy stuff.
SK: I call them Snacks.
JK: Sometimes, I’ll go to the account, and if I see ASOS, I will know we really have a problem, she’s upset, or random boxes will come to the house.
SK: They’re not random. You just don’t know about them, random to you.
JK: If I spent $100 on two video games it would be a straight up scandal.
SK: Absolutely. I don’t get video games.
SB: When you were younger, did you picture this for your marriages?
JK: Yeah, absolutely.
SK: I can’t really remember what I pictured. Living in the big cities, yeah. And the little things you do for me.
JK: I’ve always envisioned myself being married to a woman I love. I never envisioned myself being married to somebody attractive, so that’s a pleasant surprise.
SK: What shocked me so much about marriage is what I’ve learned about myself? I’m not as clean as I thought I was. Self-Awareness is a real kicker.
SB: Emotional Intelligence does that.
JK: That’s one thing I wasn’t expecting. People always talk about the wedding and the kids, but not the in-between time.
SB: So are kids in the picture?
JK: We’ve actually got some news. We won’t be having kids in 2017.
SB: What about 18?
SK: Shut up Shell?
JK: We are both in agreeance that we both want kids, but not right now. We’re really focused on enjoying each other.
SB: Do you have a target date?
JK: I say 2 – 5 years.
SK: 2 – 5 years? You know in 5 years I will be 34.
SB: Do you have a 5-year plan?
SK: To be determined.
JK: But what I’m thinking about is where we are going to set up shop.
Keep the Guest in the Guest Room
SB: I mentioned this to Sara, but Dr. Des said something really insightful when he was speaking at your 110-degree outdoor wedding, “When you have disagreements, don’t tell your friends and if you do call us, hang up the phone in your face.” That resonated with me. What did you think about that?
JK: It’s something we learned how to do.
SB: If we were to seek council. Seek the right council.
JK: When you tell your parents, they don’t forget, when you and your spouse have moved on, so I don’t think it’s wise.
SB: Definitely don’t tell social media.
SK: That has never been a go-to for us. I just get on there and clown you sometimes.
Name Great: Ketchum
SB: This is my last and favorite question. What makes your Name Great? What makes the Ketchum Name Great?
JK: I think people think stability, love, success and loyalty when they hear Ketchum. I don’t think the loyalty piece ever goes anywhere. For example, when we go to NABJ or something like that, people know I’m married to Sara, and people know that Sara is married to me. Sara Ketchum is John Ketchum’s wife, and John Ketchum is Sara Ketchum’s husband. One day, people will feel us on a greater scale. One day we’re going to be an inspiration to others.
SB: I think it’s already happening.
SK: That’s what I was going to say. When people think of us, they think of a fun feel-good feeling.
SB: I would probably suspect, from our circle, that Ketchum is almost celebrity. First of all, John has verified Twitter Account.
SK: I forgot about that.
SB: Not many people can say, hey, I have friends that work in media. That’s pretty cool. “I know people that work at CNN.” A lot of times we don’t know how inspiring we are to other people. If you live your lives to the best of your ability, loving each other, people see that.
For example, when you went to IMPACT at CMU, you don’t know who you touched. Hundreds of kids came through there, and you don’t know what seeds you planted, and you don’t know when those seeds will bear fruit. It could be years from now, but it started with you.
Anything else you would like to add? This is the freestyle session.
JK: One thing I would say is to make sure that you take work breaks. I know it’s easy to overwork yourself. Make sure you take care of yourself.
SB: Self-care is important.
SK: Singing Just remember to love each other. Find out what that person’s love language is, and don’t always talk about career stuff. Talk about love and dates.
This was an entertaining read. I love seeing LOVE. I literally laughed out loud with the shopping situation. #900inthechase account. Sidenote, why do we always asked newly weds when they are having kids haha? I agree, enjoy marriage first.
Great post, Shell.
Thank you for the kind words, Gabi. And thank you for taking the time to read. Sara and John are a hilarious couple. You’ll be hearing their names again soon.
Truly enjoyed it…Well written & very entertaining.
Thank you for the kind words Kathy and thank you for reading!
I love your inquisitive mind, you delved into a very sensitive, but beautiful subject. Kudos to John and Sara for allowing us the readers to go on this beautiful and passionate journey. Great blog son. We will discuss how we work our finances, you were very close in your summation.
I LOVE D this story!! I ‘feel’ how it’s stated that you have to communicate! I tell folk that all the time!!
Thank you for reading Donna! I agree 100% with John and Sara as well. Communication is key!
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