Monthly Archives: June 2012

Overwhelmed

Typically when I sit down to write a blog I have a vague idea of what I want to say without any sort of “pre- writing”. Most of what I write isn’t polished, nor are there multiple versions before the “finished product” is posted to the interwebs. Today is no different. Honestly, I wasn’t planning on saying anything today.

But, readers, today I am overwhelmed.

It’s no small secret that I handle minor stresses badly. Having a baby? No big. Dishes in the sink? My face could explode. Running late for an appointment? I may blow up the house. Clearly, I should be working on how to manage stress in my life. Normally I work out until I just don’t have the energy to care. Take that away and I actually create problems, usually making a stress mess from nothing.

I haven’t been to the gym in a week. For some that’s not a big deal at all (“Hey, I haven’t been to the gym in 35 years, yuk yuk”), for others that’s mind blowing.

I may actually develop super powers and blow up our entire block because of the pent up energy I have.

It’s not out of laziness, I can assure you. With mini Gwinn’s changing nap routine (he’s growing up, after all- he said his first word on Father’s Day!), the usual time I go to the gym has shifted from the late morning to not at all. The childcare is only open until 1 PM (getting out of the house by noon is next to impossible with his new nap time that he’s selected), so by the time he’s up, fed, changed and I’ve changed clothes after having food thrown at me, it’s 12:45. Captain Laser Pants asked why I didn’t just do what I had planned and ignore the little dude’s nap. “Just put him in the car and go,” I believe, were his exact words.

Any parent knows that an interrupted nap is worse than no nap. To his credit, CLP doesn’t usually see our baby in daytime hours during the week- he wouldn’t know what a napless mini Gwinn looks like. Of course I didn’t follow his suggestion. I’m giving our baby what he needs. So after figuring out the new nap time and duration, I cleverly planned our morning around it and accommodated for the time. We were ready for the gym at our new time and BAM- I couldn’t find my key. Ten minutes later I asked CLP if he had it. He found it in his pocket. At work. Our new car has one key with a broken ring hole- it has been lost several times since the purchase of said vehicle. This minor stress has been accepted and isn’t really an issue. What compounded my reaction was that, after a week of no gym, I also realized that our little guy needs his acid reflux medicine, we’re out of baby wipes, and I need more vegetables to make solid food for the kid. Bonus- I dropped a heavy muffin tin on my toes this morning, my little guy has thrown up on me twice since 10 AM, and I have the caffeine shakes. Don’t get me started on the lack of dinner for tonight.

I’m a little overwhelmed today.

Being a stay at home mom can be overwhelming. I have a house that I can barely keep neat, let alone clean and organized. The three dogs tend to get in all kinds of trouble throughout the day. The baby has discovered new and unusual ways to cause injury to me (he flails his arms in the general direction of my cyst- covered face and leans away from my body, making my arm go numb from holding him). Some days are hard. Some days I want to throw bricks at glass panes. Some days I am amazed at the accumulation of laundry that has developed in the course of three hours. Some days I want to run full speed off the Empire State Building.

Image

He’s totally worth the stress.

At 6 PM (when my little guy has chosen to make his bed time) I squish my little man up against my chest, feed him, sing him a lullaby, and stroke his hair until he falls asleep peacefully in my arms. Whether or not the day has defeated me, the evening brings a precious peace that feels like melting into a hot bath filled with lavender oil (Wow, that sounds lovely right now). I sneak into his nursery several times between 6:30 PM and when I finally fall asleep just so I can steal a kiss or stare lovingly at my sleeping child.

Funny- even imaging it has calmed my frayed nerves. I suppose it’s all about putting into perspective the paces through which we put ourselves every day. Keeping in mind the obstacles life throws at us, being overwhelmed is normal, nay, expected. Accepting that every hour is different and rising to the challenge of a new day? That’s part of being a mom.

Now, about that lavender bath…

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High School, Shmigh Shmool

So, in a conversation with a high school friend with whom I’ve recently reconnected (her blog is here), she brought up that our ten year reunion is next summer.

I, in no way, wanted to think about this fact. Shall I list the reasons for you? Well, tough nuggets. I’m doing it anyway.

Reason Number One: I do not like to think that I have been out of high school for ten years. It makes me feel old.

Reason Number Two: There is no single thing I have detested more than high school. I have never in my life loathed something for as long and as vehemently as I have loathed high school.

Reason Number Three: Did you see number two (hehehe, “number two”)?! Do I even need a reason number three?

In case you haven’t picked up on it, I hated high school. It was torturous. I was fat (yes, FAT), I was (am) weird, and I had a limited pool of friends (whom I loved). The people I liked in high school with whom I wanted to stay in touch – you guessed it reader, we still talk. The teachers I liked are friends with me on Facebook. I don’t feel as though I’d be missing much of anything if I went to the ten year reunion.

This conversation started my wheels a’ turning (surprise!). Did you ever see Romy and Michele’s High School Reunion? It is a very funny 90s movie about two women, each 28, who go back to their home town to attend their high school reunion and proceed to lie about the lives they’ve lived for the past ten years. They run into the popular girls, who (almost) all still live in the same town, married men from the same town, and are all still friends. The two protagonists embarrass themselves initially, but then end up rocking out and looking awesome by the end of the movie. They showed up to prove they weren’t still losers, and they end up running their own fashion store by the time the credits are rolling.

Fabulous fashion, humor and a major flashback to 1997. I wasn’t in high school for this movie, for the record.

Neato, right?

In high school I had a few boyfriends (some long term, some short). They were all cute/ talented/ smart- but each of them had one thing in common- quirkiness. When I wasn’t dating someone, the guy I had a crush on was a jock (say what?!). A square jawed, meat head jock. When I heard him talk, it was more like a basset hound “woofing” in a major Southern drawl rather than it was a person formulating words. Totally not my “type” (it’s laughable now, actually). And, since I wasn’t top tier or petite, I’m pretty sure he didn’t even know my name. We only had one class together (it wasn’t like this guy was in the honors classes), but for some reason, I clung to the crush until I was a senior (and I was above high school completely by then).

I don’t want to feel like I have something to prove to the people that made me feel like crap in high school. Yes, everyone had someone that did this to them in high school. If you didn’t, then, congratulations, either you didn’t attend high school, or you were at the top of the food chain. Yay for you. Realistically, I was somewhere towards the lower- middle of the ladder in high school. I skipped my senior prom to go to the comic book store to play cards (and I don’t mean Texas Hold ‘Em). I wore Lisa Loeb style glasses and listened to 90s indie music (a hipster before I knew what a hipster was, apparently). I was certainly not Miss High School- not prom queen, not homecoming queen, not a cheerleader, not a valedictorian- most of the time I didn’t even show up. “Bethany who? Oh, that quiet/ weird choir chick?”

If my attendance in high school was so iffy, why would I attend my reunion?

Ok, a small (and I mean infinitesimal) part of me wants to go. Just so I can wear a really revealing outfit (look at my abs, hookers! Daaaaang!), show up in my fancy car (oh, yeah, that’s right, we’re watching Avatar in the backseat! Daaaang!), introduce everyone to my husband (he’s so hot and clever and he’s not from here! Shablam!), show off some pictures of my kid (daaaaang he’s cute!), talk briefly about the fun career I had before becoming a stay at home mom (say what? Killer job but you left it all to raise a human? Daaaang!), and then drive away (awww snap, she doesn’t live in hickville anymore? Daaaaang!).

Yes, I realize that entire paragraph is significantly more petty than almost anything I’ve ever said in my entire life (and I imagine people still saying “daaaaang”). But the people that ridicule you in high school (to some extent) leave imprints on your view of yourself and the world, at least until you’re adult enough to form your own ideas. I will never forget the day that two boys in my English class called me fat. Even though now one’s a drunk and one’s unemployed (I kind of win on all fronts here), there is still some part of me that wants to rub in their face that as an adult, I am WAY ahead of them. I may have been a loser in high school, but that’s not what really matters, ninjas. I’m awesome now.

My mature side takes over (and I’m sure your mature side has been judging me this entire blog) and reminds my petty little brain of the point I just made- I’m awesome now. I don’t have anything to prove to anyone. I’ve traveled, lived in other parts of the country, had a great job, met my amazing husband, and now live a beautiful, blessed life. It’s quite absurd to compare my life with anyone else’s. If anything, I should hope they have the same level of happiness and fulfillment that I have. I don’t live in high school land anymore (I just have nightmares about it, thankyouverymuch).

So, next summer when ticket sales to the grody, moldy Tennessee River Boat 2012 Reunion blah blah blah go on sale, I will most definitely not be purchasing a pair. Instead, I’ll put on some tunes from senior year (my tunes, not the top 40. Hello Mazzy Star and Cocteau Twins!) and dance in the living room with my two favorite dudes. We’ll eat a delicious homemade meal, laugh at the funny things our dogs do, and celebrate the life we’ve created for ourselves.

High school, shmigh shmool.  Adulthood (not O’Doyle) rules.


Letters to Your Husband, Present and Future

Last week’s blog on baggage and intimacy (as seen here) received more feedback than anything else I’ve written on here to date. Emails, text messages, and Facebook messages came pouring into my inbox. So many of us are walking around with hurt, some with the help of a significant other, and some without. One message in particular spoke volumes. Without revealing too much, she told me she is waiting for the right man to be brought into her life. I don’t know about you all, but waiting is one of many things at which I am dismally horrible. After a marriage, a child and a divorce, I cannot begin to fathom the pain of waiting that she is experiencing. So, in a brief moment of wisdom and/or clarity, I suggested that she write letters to her future husband any time she was feeling lonely or that the wait was too hard.

This morning, as CLP had his arm draped over my waist and was snoring in my ear, I thought about how devastated I would be if we were separated. We truly are two halves to one whole. A light switch turned in my head and I appreciated the snore (really), the weight of his forearm on my stomach as he slept. There are so many tiny moments of our relationships that we take for granted with one another. When he leaves the leashes next to the front door after walking the dogs, I have to check my attitude on occasion- should I be upset about the minor inconvenience of three leashes on the floor, or should I be grateful that I have a husband who takes time from his morning to walk our dogs so they’re better behaved for me later in the day?

For our first anniversary gifts, we wrote letters to one another. As you can imagine, mine was long, detailed, filled with lots of commas. I poured my tired little heart out. His letter to me mentioned the fact that he tells me how much he loves me every day. While at first I was just a teensy bit sad that his letter wasn’t three pages long like mine was to him, it occurred to me that a) yes, he does tell me every day (what a lucky gal I am!) that he loves me, and b) men, no matter how cerebral and verbose, communicate differently than women. The letter is in my jewelry box, where some of my most precious, costly gifts sit.

Where am I going with this?

Write a letter to your spouse, whether or not you are currently married. If you’re writing a letter to your husband, break up the length (for his sake). Date it. Men need to know their wives respect them- tell him you do. They need to be desired- tell him you do. Does he wash your car or mow the lawn? He’s taking care of you, above and beyond the big stuff that matters. Tell him thank you. If you’re a dude, write a letter to your wife. Work to make it long (for her sake). Women need to know they are loved- tell her you do. Remind her that, of all the women in the world, you chose her. Does she make you dinner or go grocery shopping alone so you don’t have to endure the store? Thank her.

Letter writing is a lost art. If you’re stuck or you can’t find the words, copy someone else’s love letter. There are epic, legendary letters of men to women and women to men out there from some of the greatest minds ever to have lived and loved. Seek inspiration. Check our your spouse while they’re getting ready in the morning. Be inspired by the love they have given and have taken from you.

No Shakespeare? No problem.

Letter writing is not something you have to build up to doing. Working through emotional baggage, trust, respect and communication- all very important!- can be done while you’re honing your sonnet skills. A little note card with an “I love you. Let’s make out later.” written on it can be slipped into a work bag or taped to a mirror.

If you’re not married, let your spouse know you are waiting for your relationship with anticipation. When you feel lonely, writing it out to your partner is a good exercise in healing together before you’ve even begun. Let your future spouse know your triumphs, your failures, and your heart. Don’t be a stranger to the pages- someday the person who will know you best will be reading them.

Don’t be intimidated by a pen and paper. Your heart and your mind were some of the reasons the two of you fell in love in the first place.


Admiration and Intimidation at the Gym

Firstly, I want to thank all the new followers and readers! I appreciate the support and the shares.

Today I’m taking a break from the “maintenance of marriage” series (as seen here, here aaaaand here) . Feel free to submit your ideas for more posts in the series, because I’m running low!

In other news…

There seems to be a direct correlation between the size of a woman’s fake boobs, orange-ness of her tan and the amount of skin she has exposed at the gym and my immediate attitude towards her. Completely petty and shallow? Yes. Then again, I don’t claim to be “mature” and “deep”, so get off your high horse for a second. I promise this will (may) get better.

I work out semi- religiously at LA Fitness. It’s not exactly a prestigious club, but it has everything I need and the cost is excellent. Added bonus- there are three within fifteen minutes of our home. The one where I usually go is in an area that is, ahem, a bit pretentious. The commonly known “East Cobb snobs” nickname isn’t unearned. That’s not to say that all East Cobbians are snobs, but most of them do hold the title with pride. I digress (just trying to give a proper mental picture, yeesh). Since I’m officially a suburbanite stay at home mom, I go to the gym in the late morning- after the little dude has eaten, napped and eaten again, and most (ok, maybe only one or two) of the household chores are done. Apparently, late morning is the prime time for stay at home moms (or trophy wives, it all depends) to get their fitness on. The gym has plenty of us present between the hours of 10 AM and 1 PM. Here’s a nice rundown of the categories into which we fall:

-The mom whose children are clearly much older and self sufficient than mine. She has a giant SUV that costs a year’s salary. Her hair is bleached blonde (of course), brushed and neatly pulled into a ponytail. Her Nike running shoes appear to be brand new, as do her matching Nike running shorts and compression tank top. She is thin, bordering on skinny, tans at a moderately frequent rate, and her name is probably “Buffy” or some equally 1980’s country club name. She intimidates me.

-The mom who probably isn’t a mom at all, but more than likely a trophy wife to a much older, successful business man. She has gigantic, Dolly Parton- esque breast implants that are placed ridiculously close to her chin. She is orange from daily tanning/ spray tanning. She is wearing only a sports bra that barely encases her ridiculous tatas and a pair of micro-shorts to show off whatever she is inclined to show off. Her hair, bleached blonde, is down and styled. She is wearing full makeup. She leg presses 20 lbs. She flirts with every male trainer present on the floor. From a distance she looks 22, up close she looks to be in her late 40s with a belly button jewel. She irritates and intimidates me.

-The mom wearing a “10k for Childhood Diabetes Cure” shirt, which she got last week in the race. Her kids’ ages are unknown. Her arms are viciously toned and tanned from driving her kids everywhere. Her legs are pillars of granite. Her hair is hidden under a ball cap. She bench presses more than I weigh and she’s half my size. Her kids are well behaved, but still acting like children when she picks them up from the gym daycare. They ask if they can go to McDonald’s, she obliges. I admire this woman.

-Me. I am wearing one of Captain Laser Pants’ t-shirts or something of my own that is equally ill-sized and tacky. CLP’s socks. My running shoes have ketchup that mini- Gwinn threw on them (true story). I haven’t brushed my hair in at least two days (another sad, true story). Headphones blaring something aggressive that usually enforces my lack of smile/ hard stare at the gym. I see myself in the mirror doing tricep extensions- I intimidate myself, which makes me smile, because that is funny. I’m not intimidating.

Once in a while a stranger (a woman) will ask me about a certain exercise I’m doing. I’ll take the headphones out of my ears, demonstrate, make a self deprecating joke, smile and move on. On the gym floor, I’m not exactly good at making friends. My music is too loud for me to usually hear, I’m running to each machine or weight between sets, and I’ve seen myself- I look crazy and intense. Usually the women I’m watching (that sounds creepier than it is, I promise), the women I admire, look similar. They’re not at the gym for social hour- they’re there to work. Their time is as limited as mine, and although their health is important to them, they clearly have other places to be. They are usually sweating as much as I am, if not more- they are pushing themselves.

If I’m feeling bold, I say something to them between sets. Something like, “You’re a rock star” or “You’re awesome” is about as creative as I get without sounding creepy. But I mean it. As insecure as I am (especially at the gym), I think it’s important to encourage the women I admire. The trainers aren’t coming over to us to comment on our mad skills (they’re busy with the oompa loompa showing off her cleavage). The other women aren’t exactly complimentary. In a society (and this particular gym) where women are supposed to be “competitive,” when we encourage one another, it’s validating. I’m not saying we all need validation from strangers, but by that same token, it’s not like our kids are thanking us for being strong. And, strangely enough, after I say something to them, I don’t feel intimidated. Instead, I want to go push myself to try a new exercise or to bump weights.

By the time I’ve made it to the nursery to pick up my little guy, I’m usually smiling (dripping with sweat, but still smiling). After a good workout and an effort to be nice, I feel softer and less testosterone-y. It’s usually the days that I go to the gym and work like a man that I feel most feminine. The strength I’ve tested, the intimidation I’ve quelled, and the encouragement I’ve doled out- those are all part of what “being a woman” is all about.

Up next: I have no idea. You should suggest something in the comments! 😀 Seriously.


My Bedroom is Not a Luggage Storage Closet

When Captain Laser Pants returned from his first business trip since our little duderino was born, he left his luggage in front of my closet for over a month. He tripped over it on his way to his bathroom at night, it partially blocked the mini- hallway from my closet to his, it collected dust, the dogs wrestled on it. It was totally and completely in the way. Finally, sometime in May (it had been sitting there since March), I cleaned it out and put it away in the closet where it belongs. Granted, it was only a carry on sized bag, but that one inconveniently placed piece of baggage interfered with our routine every day until I removed it. My bedroom is not for luggage storage!

Ok, this just kind of blew my mind- I in no way had any intention of starting this post about intimacy and baggage like this. Hello, epiphany, it’s nice to see you again.

Unless we lived under rocks until the day we were married, all of us are carrying around some kind of baggage from our past. Some of you have modest, backpack sized histories with neatly tied emotional packages that stow away perfectly in a shoe box in your hall closet. Others, like myself, have a cargo plane full of the baggage/ damage inflicted upon us and by us. Between the idiot ways I treated myself and the ways allowed myself to be treated by others, I am the epitome of the crazy bag lady.

Ahh, snap. That’s all my baggage. Talk about the checked baggage fees.

This stuff is about to get real, ya’ll. I have to confess some things.

Today I went to the doctor (whee) for my annual lady visit (TMI, yeah, yeah). We talked about the prospect of Team Gwinn adding another member, and I am seriously struggling with the idea of it. Pregnancy and postpartum ravaged my body. I am so, so fearful that round two will be worse than the first, and leave everything in even crappier shape than it is now.

Rewinding even further back- I’ve had someone tell me I was fat, then too skinny, crazy, hard to look at (especially without makeup, he said), and pretty much every other horrible thing you can think of to say or do to another human being. I tolerated it for four years and crawled out of the rubble that was my self esteem with little more than threads of sanity to claim for myself. Captain Laser Pants is literally a saint, it isn’t even fair to compare the two. My husband is gentle with his words, sincere, generously loving, witty and intelligent, thoughtful and discerning, immeasurably giving AND he’s freaking hot. This man would jump in front of a train to protect his family, and I can call him my own.

How unfair is it to him that I bring my baggage into our relationship?

My “for real” luggage is quite beautiful. And in no way can contain all my crazy.

I would consider myself an absolute authority on insecurity. Some people have swagger for days, I’ve got insecurity for months. What started out as a routine exam this morning turned into a cryfest on my way home. I felt betrayed by my body. When I stopped by to visit my husband at his office and pick up our son (he took our baby to work this morning so I could go to the doctor in peace- so thoughtful, right?!), I saw that his office has a new intern. She’s like 18, crazy thin, blah blah blah. After picking apart my own body at the doctor’s office, I see this girl (who literally has nothing to do with anything) and it makes me feel worse. In the parking lot my husband made out with me (sweet), got frisky and we said we’d see each other later, but I felt shame and insecurity hanging over me. With my perfect baby in the backseat, I boo- hooed on the way home. How ironic is it that I’m writing a blog on insecurity, baggage and intimacy when I suffer from these issues all the time?

Bringing all this baggage into my bedroom has made it very crowded. It is impossible to feel sexy and confident when my 75 year old boobs and my 14 year old face are mocking me. It’s hard to hear my husband’s sweet voice tell me he loves me and thinks I’m beautiful when words from years past still haunt my ears.

Let me tell you, reader, intimacy is a great (and I mean GREAT) remedy for insecurity, if you just put down your barriers to let it happen. There is nothing so soothing as the comfort of your spouse’s arms. There is nothing so peaceful as your partner telling/ showing you that they love you, warts (and baggage) and all. Your husband (and mine for that matter) doesn’t see the tiny imperfections you magnify. Your wife is significantly more forgiving with you than you think- you just have to let your spouse step up to the plate and prove this to you.

So, what is marriage supposed to look like, even though baggage is present? I heard a really awesome idea, and though it’s not my own, I’m going to share it with you. The act of marriage – what it looks like – is sex. Where you are vulnerable, naked, raw, honest and SAFE – that is marriage. I can remember being in high school and hearing the youth pastor condemn sex before marriage, but not really taking the time to explain why. As an adult (and you may not agree with my religious beliefs, and that’s ok) I understand that every time you give a piece of yourself away to someone that isn’t your husband or wife, you receive more baggage in return. The rejection and the abandonment that one experiences after a sexual relationship is over is deteriorating to the heart. You can’t reconcile that loss. You just end up moving on, bringing along another piece of luggage to the next relationship. In marriage we should be able to shed the past and be made new as one person in our union, but more often than not, we drag along the past rather than cutting the cords we use to tow it.

Don’t bring your baggage to your bedroom. Your spouse already knows it exists and will help you combat what needs to be defeated and will help you put away what belongs in a closet. It is easy to create a chasm between us and our partners when insecurities and baggage are standing between us. You vows included “better” and “worse”.  A friend of mine said that “emotional baggage is like wearing sunglasses” in that your perspective is impaired and colors are viewed in the wrong light. I am going to remember that when I start to skew my perception of my marriage and myself. Your partner doesn’t want to hurt you, and you owe it to your spouse to give them your trust.

Speaking of trust, once that light is on in your head, it’s easy to be intimate with someone you trust. It’s easy to be honest with your best friend when she’s never spilled the beans, right? Your spouse has earned your trust- reward that. Physical intimacy is a beautiful response to the hurt insecurity can leave. Even when I felt deflated after mini- Gwinn was born, and exhausted from the complete lack of sleep, the comfort of my husband was vital to my survival. We reconnected when I felt alone, I felt beautiful even when I could fold a Christmas present with my extra stomach skin (eww!), and I felt safe with him. It can be really difficult to find time and energy to reconnect physically after the birth of a baby (heck, it can be difficult period), especially when the mummy isn’t feeling yummy. I suggest (from personal experience) investing in some nice “in between sizes” lingerie that flows away from the body. A flowing sheer teddy is flattering and forgiving. Bring home chocolate and flowers for your wife- it’s cheesy, it’s easy, and it works. Be nice, give genuine compliments. Hug. Kiss. Kiss again. Intimacy isn’t just about taking things to the bedroom. It’s about displaying the act of marriage- where you are vulnerable, honest, open and safe- to one another regularly.

I’m going to close today by apologizing to my husband for imposing my insecurities on him and thanking him for being the rock in my life. You weather my storms, my ups and downs, you wrap your (big, manly) arms around me, you tell me you love me, and you give me unending grace that I don’t deserve. Thank you for seeing our marriage through the good and the bad and the crazy. I love you endlessly.

Coming soon: the chemical romance, and whatever else you guys tell me you want to see! Let’s see some comments on suggestions for this series. Thank you for reading!!


Respect Yo’ Spouse Befo’ You Wreck Yo’ Spouse

Don’t act like the title of this post doesn’t impress you.

So I’m thinking a lot about respect today, in the midst of this series about marriage. As someone who was raised to respect her elders, disrespected her exes, and adores her husband, I’m not an authority on the issue (duh), but it is something I’ve struggled with since I was old enough to talk.

When I was in kindergarten, I had more than my fair share of bad habits. I scratched people (viciously like Freddy Krueger), rolled my eyes at adults when I couldn’t think of something cleverly snarky to say, and when I wasn’t rolling my eyes, I was smarting off to those in authority. An example: My mother worked at the school I attended in kindergarten. My teacher told me I had to wait for my mom to pick me up from class. So, there I was, logically working out in my brain that school was over and my mom’s classroom was just down the hall. I told her, “You’re not my mom!” and marched my little butt to my mom’s room. In one little act of defiance, I undermined my teacher’s authority, asserted my own, and probably (definitely) got punished for my insubordination. I’ve had issues with authority ever since then. If I don’t feel like they’ve earned my respect, I probably don’t give it to them (unless it’s a police officer and he has a gun).

As an adult I disrespected my relationships. I flirted with other men. I insulted my boyfriends, plenty of times in public. I questioned their decisions. I mocked their misgivings. Obviously, those relationships weren’t going to work. When Captain Laser Pants and I met, the situation was clearly different. For one, I was mature enough (mostly) to recognize the damage that my sharp tongue can cause. He also earned my respect. I don’t believe he was trying to do so at first, but I saw his character, his mind and his intentions as I got to know him personally. This man was worthy of my admiration, just as I was worthy of his pursuit.

On our first trip together (before we were dating) we talked about the importance of edification in a relationship. It was something I had never really experienced before, but understood the benefits of implementing it in future relationships. To “edify” (to build up, strengthen, encourage, improve) your partner is something that does not come naturally for many. But in reality, if you’re not working to build up your spouse, you’re (inadvertently or purposefully) tearing down your spouse. How’s that, you may ask? Just like if you’re not telling the whole truth, you’re lying, if you aren’t working to encourage your spouse, you’re eventually draining him or her.

What do edification and respect have to do with one another?

If I never told my husband “thank you” for all the work he does for our family, he would never know how much I value his efforts. If I never listened to him and communicated with him, he would never know I respect his mind. If I told him, “I don’t need you,” he would believe it, whether the words were true or not. What we do and what we say directly speaks to our spouse and conveys the message of “I respect you” or “I don’t respect you”. Men particularly need to be respected. We all need to be encouraged by our spouse. If we were to never receive encouragement from the person who knows us best, it could give us a complex! Think about it. Your spouse knows you better than anyone on the planet- if your partner never complimented you, or gave you a kind word, you’d feel like a failure. Edification is vital to a marriage, and you can’t edify what you don’t respect.

A lot of my friends, married and unmarried alike, probably think I am absolutely crazy when I call Captain Laser Pants while I’m out shopping (a rare occasion, especially now that mini- Gwinn is so grabby/ fussy/ drooly). When it comes to our finances, I defer to my husband. He works incredibly hard- he is away from home, at work- and I respect the time and effort he puts into taking care of our family financially. I don’t like to spend money frivolously because he doesn’t spend his time away from us frivolously.

We forget, in our ever busy lives, to encourage one another. It’s so easy to let your spouse know you respect him or her, and it’s just as easy to give words of encouragement before you two part ways and go into the world each morning. Give genuine, detailed compliments. If your husband looks hot in his suit, tell him. If your wife cooked a meal after working a long day, tell her your thanks for pulling double duty as money earner and chef. Your marriage is meant to be your fortress- your safe haven. Edification of one another is the act of building up those walls to protect your spouse and yourself from the outside. If you care about the citadel, you care about the walls. To feel safe and to feel comfortable in your marriage you must encourage and respect one another. Without respect for your spouse, you lose one of the most beautiful elements of your marriage- intimacy.

In the next day or two I’m going to write about intimacy (both emotional and physical) and the baggage we bring along in our marriage. Please comment with suggestions and thoughts- I will be mulling over this next topic with serious regard.

Have a beautiful day!


Wedded Walkie Talkies – Communication is a Two Way Street

Do you remember the awesomeness of childhood that was the walkie talkie? Way before the invention and accessibility of cell phones, you and your best friend could chat at night from your bedrooms, talking about your plans of forts and digging for worms the next day. You tried to learn Morse code, just in case other neighborhood kiddies were listening, and you giggled when you held the button while your friend was talking so you only heard parts of what they said. For $5 at the pharmacy you could pick up a pair and guarantee at least a summer’s worth of fun. Another kicker? You could play ‘army’ or ‘war’ and be true to form, using walkie talkies in the trenches of your playground.

“You wanna play princess war with me? AWESOME!”

So, in your marriage, do you use your walkie talkies for fun or for war? You’re probably saying something like, “Um, Bethy, we don’t use those anymore. We’re not five.”

Ok, I’ll drop the walkie talkie references. However you communicate regularly with your spouse, be that email, text message, face to face or on your cellphone- that’s your grown up walkie talkie. My hope is that you utilize every tool you have to talk to your partner. Communication is one of the the cornerstones of a healthy marriage in the trifecta of trust, communication, and respect. You can’t build on either trust or respect without communication. When you stop talking to your spouse, the opportunity for omissions, resentment and secrets quickly arises. Sound crazy? Extreme?

Taking a step or two backwards- what is “communication” with your spouse? Is it merely words you say at one another? Of course not. Your body language, your tone, your mood, the content and context of what you say- that’s communication. When you were dating, you talked about everything, right? You didn’t just unload on your significant other at the end of your day, or ignore requests, or only talk about the stuff you saw while you were shopping (boring!). You talked about your passions, your dreams, your families, favorite movies- you name it, you covered it. Most of your sentences started with “we” instead of “I”. Maybe I’m assuming a lot here, but your spouse probably didn’t fall in love with you because you were selfish and egocentric. If you feel like the conversations you have now with your partner are one sided, they probably are. And, if they feel one sided to you, then your spouse may feel the same way. Eventually the walkie talkie style, the open communication you two had in the beginning turns into the “two cans and a string” style, and if you’re both holding the cans to your mouth, or not even holding the cans at all, you can’t truly listen. When we stop listening, they stop talking. And if there isn’t talking in the partnership, it will be sought outside of the marriage.

But talking to your spouse is hard, especially if you’ve fallen out of habit with it. Suggestions of writing love notes seems absurd when the bulk of your conversation is over a late dinner after a long day of work. You’re both tired.

Moment of confession: I am a bottler. I will harbor my feelings for days, sometimes weeks, before exploding on Captain Laser Pants. The signs of brooding, boiling frustration come to the surface a few days before, and CLP nervously will ask, “Is everything ok?” while I silently chop vegetables for dinner with a rage not unlike the Hulk. When I finally do come out and say what’s been bothering me, it’s usually an emotional mess. CLP is gracious and loving, but he usually points out that if I had just told him the issue when it first started bothering me, we could have avoided a days- long tense household and I would have felt resolution much sooner. To make it worse for myself, I hate crying in front of him, and I hate looking “weak” or vulnerable. If only I had communicated effectively with my husband! He is always so forgiving and understanding- where his patience comes from is a gift from God. It was unfair of me to judge his character and assume he would handle the situation poorly.

Some tactics I have learned in talking with my husband to make it easier for me to actually speak include sitting in the front of the car while he sits in the back, or vice versa and spooning in bed so he doesn’t see my face. I don’t really advise texting or emailing your feelings- tone is easily misinterpreted over the internet.

What if you’re (or your partner is) the opposite of me and you’re an exploder? Every confrontation ends up in a battle. The casualty in the fight is your marriage, and winning a fight never really feels like a victory. Explore the underlying issue that causes the explosion. Chances are, the battle is not related to the way the grocery bags are packed, but something much deeper and more serious. If it’s an issue playing on repeat, try marital counseling. There is no shame in having a referee present to assist in working out kinks in your relationship.

“You put the dishes in the dishwasher according to color, not size! AHHHHHHHH!”

I heard a heartbreaking statistic over the weekend (I don’t know the accuracy of it): around 80% of current marriages will suffer from at least one partner straying. The mouthpiece of this statistic (a gorgeous, intelligent, successful and brilliantly funny woman) said, “Who am I to think that my marriage is so great that I’ll be in the twenty percent?” She really started the wheels in my head turning. Do that many people feel that marriage is so devalued that they give up on working on it, like a half finished project? I can’t imagine that healthy marriages fall into the eighty percent- I mean, the ones where the two spouses communicate effectively and daily, trust and respect are present, secrets don’t exist and intimacy (both emotional and physical) is valued.

Amazingly, I didn’t marry myself, so I asked my husband for his thoughts on this subject. Here’s how our conversation went (excuse the lack of punctuation, capitalization, and any other blatant errors):

 Ehron:  So
what am I supposed to write about
?
I’m eating an enchilada so it seems like a good time to do that
 me:  hehe
i dont know.
you usually have a lot to say, and i value what you say. why do you think its important for us to communicate in our marriage?
 Ehron:  hehe
 Sent at 2:45 PM on Monday
 Ehron:  Well
I think the most important thing is think before you speak
don’t let your emotions drive the words too heavily as you can say something in the heat of the moment that you really don’t even mean
and, make sure to tell you spouse if something’s bothering you.  Never assume they know, especially don’t assume and get mad at them because it’s something “they should know.”  People think differently, and you can’t reliably assume that your spouse has learned the lessons you believe they should have learned
 me:  :D
what about the day to day importance of talking/ keeping the lines open?
 Ehron:  Don’t nag, negativity isn’t productive.  If you are really bothered, broach the subject in such a way as to try and solve it, not tell them you hate them because they are a cheap a-hole
that seems important too, the line open thing
 me:  lol. you are SUCH a nag, too. gah.
 Ehron:  Well I wouldn’t have to nag if you’d just stop being such a cheap a-hole
you ought to know tha tby now, I thought you’d have changed as a result of my constant nagging  :D
 me:  fine, we’ll go on a date to cici’s.
 Ehron:  SHIZAAM
 me:  how would you feel or what would happen if you and i stopped talking every day the way we do? we have a pretty constant back and forth.
 Ehron:  I’m confused
do yuo plan on that?
 me:  haha, no. never.
you’re my gravity, baby.
 Ehron:  is this your way of telling me we talk to much
:D
 me:  shut up. and answer my question.
:D
 Ehron:  bad
 me:  well said.
seriously, can you elaborate, like just a bit?
 Ehron:  very bad
 me:  ..
 Ehron:  hehe
I’d wonder what was going on
 me:  how do you think the health of our relationship would be?
 Ehron:  worse

What’s going on, did you secretly buy a Cosmo?
 me:  haha, no baby
i’m writing a blog on communication.

Obviously, the man has some points. And there are about ten million points to be made on this topic. There is no way I could hope to cover them all. I do want to impart the importance of communication in marriage, though. Without it, everything else crumbles. Marriage is supposed to be your place of refuge from the world. It is meant to be where you can be at your most raw, most honest, and feel your safest. This will be a common theme throughout the rest of the series- marriage is meant to be your haven, not a battleground.

How do you talk to your spouse? How do you listen to your spouse? Please comment with your thoughts, opinions, what you’d like to see and what marriage is to you.


Maintenance of Marriage

Ok, I have to share this incredibly clever analogy I came up with Friday. Prepare to be amazed.

If you have a basement in your home that you never see, you never clean, and it never sees sunshine, it’s probably going to be a moldy, gross place you don’t want to hang out in. It would be the room you store old clothes and crap from your childhood your parents gave you so they could have more space in your old bedroom they converted into a fish tank room. But, if you clean it regularly, open the windows, and make use of it every day, it’s going to be a much more pleasant place to spend time, right? You won’t store your old luggage in it; you would probably put some comfy furniture in it and a ping pong table (or Pac Man arcade game), maybe a mini- fridge if you’re feeling crazy. Marriage is the same way (feel free to reread that, I know your mind has been blown, reader).

Ok, it’s cheesy. But it’s true. We can’t ignore our partner, ignore the health of our marriage, and expect it to be wonderful. By that same token, if we don’t visit it every day, it gets stale, or moldy, if you will. Without regular maintenance and attention, cobwebs develop, our baggage starts to smell funky, and it’s not a comfortable place to be.

Wait, am I talking about the basement or the marriage?

Let’s rewind. Do you remember when you first started dating your spouse? You called one another all the time, you couldn’t wait to see each other- they consumed your thoughts. You worked to see them smile. You invested in your personal hygiene and your appearance (this one made me laugh- I forget deodorant all the time). Now, after being married, maybe you only talk when you’re home from work. You forget to brush your teeth, you wear your husband’s sweat pants (I totally do these things), you drink milk from the carton in front of them. You’re comfortable. And being comfortable with your spouse is monumentally important. But if you’re stagnant, that’s where the funk (not the good kind) starts to grow.

I’m thinking about writing a series of blogs on the maintenance of marriage. It’s really important (for me and for all of us, right?) to explore the areas of marriage that make it great- those same areas can be easily forgotten. Over the next few days I’ll write more, share some websites that are significantly more poignant than I am, and hope to shed light on what makes marriage so freaking awesome. Would you read this series? What would you want to see?

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I hope you all have a beautiful Sunday!