Jeremy Deramus proposed to his wife Annie in the living room of their home, a space that at the time was a bare shell undergoing remodeling which he’d transformed for the occasion with flowers, candles and mementos. The awestruck Annie didn’t know what hit her.
The five years of marriage that followed have been marked by similar adventures in their personal and professional lives. Most have been of the happy variety, headlined by the birth of their son, Luke, in 2019. But even those moments that have been challenging have been tackled with the same attitude and spirit.
“I think it’s important to start your day well and end your day well,” Jeremy said to describe the couple’s secret to happiness. “Throughout the day, especially with both of our careers, you can’t predict what’s going to happen.
“If you can start your morning well, if you can have some semblance of routine in the morning, it starts your day well. We’ve also been more conscious of enjoying the time that we have and not wasting it doing things at the end of the day that don’t really matter.”
This simple philosophy has also proven effective for the Conway couple in dealing with the challenges of the coronavirus. Like a lot of households, the Deramus’s professional life has shifted with Jeremy, owner of his own thriving financial planning business, working from home.
But unlike a lot of households, it isn’t the change that’s taken the most work; ironically, it’s what has stayed the same, meaning Annie’s role as a nurse. Three nights a week, Annie reports to her job at Conway Regional Health System where she is on the front lines of the pandemic. She doesn’t describe herself as any braver or more heroic than anyone else, just a person doing the job she was trained to do.
“I’m one of the nurses that actually works with our (COVID-19) patients at my facility,” she said, simply. “It was my decision to do that.”
It’s a role she doesn’t take lightly and that hasn’t been without its anxiety and fear, Annie said. She and Jeremy leaned on two pillars of their marriage – communication and prioritization – in dealing with the potential hazards of her job and the impact on their family.
“One of the biggest things that he and I have in our relationship is, we just make sure that we communicate, communicate, communicate,” Annie said. “Prioritization is also key; what is most important to us, the three of us that make up our family. How do we protect us?”
“That’s just what we’ve always done and whether it’s what somebody else wanted us to do or what somebody else was doing, it didn’t really matter. It had to come back to what is best for us? Okay, we’re going to do that.”
The strategy has worked well for the young couple, overriding fear and uneasiness even in the face of the current crisis.
“There was maybe a little bit of anxiety (over Annie’s work), just because it was something new and different when it started, but she was probably surprised at how comfortable I was with her essentially taking a risk,” Jeremy said. “At the end of the day, I didn’t see it as big of a risk as maybe other people were seeing it, because I knew that she was really good at her job.”
“There was no telling her not to do it, that’s for sure. I do a lot of leadership training and a lot of times we’re taught when somebody finds their calling, they’ll go through a brick wall to make sure they can serve whatever mission or purpose that is. She’s found that, so there was no way we were going to say we’re just going to quit now or you’re not going to get to do what you love to do.”
Both Annie and Jeremy say their “Us First” focus continues to deepen their personal relationship, making them more intentional in their off time.
“I think it’s about one, being self-aware, and then two, being aware of your spouse and getting a sense of what’s going on and being willing to ask them questions and talk to them,” Jeremy said. “It might just be us sitting on the patio reading our books, but we’re together and we’re not stuck to some of those other material things that you stereotypically hear about.”
“We’ve done some virtual 5Ks during (coronavirus) as a family and we challenge each other to get outside and be active at some point most every day, even if it’s just in our garage or around the block,” Annie said. “We have revamped our back patio. We have lights up, a TV, a speaker, tiki torches, that sort of thing, and this is where we spend our evenings now. We’ve really tried to be intentional about working with what we have and this home that we have and creating something where we don’t want to go anywhere else.”