Leavetaking… Sunday, Aug 23 2015 

Tonight is the last night of the full nest in our home. Tomorrow afternoon we will drive up to Duluth, Minnesota to move Noah into his dorm. We have had quite a hectic weekend, but as the last of the laundry was done and the van was loaded up tonight, naturally I became a bit pensive. Always an easy crier, I’ll admit that I teared up a bit in church this morning looking over at Adam running sound and Noah playing the cajon and thinking what handsome, capable, intelligent, compassionate young men they have both grown into. My heart explodes with pride. Not only do I love them more than mere words can express, but I really, really like them too. They are so hilarious, witty, smart, engaging, and fun!

A friend of mine posted this on Facebook last week. If you are too uninspired to go to the hyperlink, I’ll summarize. Basically a guy I don’t know, named Alan Heathcock, posted the following poster that his 16 year old daughter received as a birthday gift:

FB poster

Just ponder those word for a moment. Basically, as a female, your life is defined by a boy. Ick. As many fathers would be, he was kinda miffed about the message this was sending to his daughter, so he wrote his own. It is cut and pasted below:

What I want for you: A life driven by a sense of freedom. A life of learning and being empowered by the knowledge you can change the world. To find cures for diseases. To design buildings that will stand for hundreds of years. To write symphonies. To be a voice for those suffering and change the laws that oppress and discriminate. To be the first human to walk on Mars. To sit at the head of a boardroom table. To travel the world and paraglide off the peaks of mountains. To eat amazing meals in the world’s most beautiful cities. To tell and hear jokes in many languages and watch the sun rise on the shores of lakes and oceans and know that people are beautiful and the world is beautiful. To know your life is of your design. Your whim. Your dreams. Your work. I want you to be kind and considerate, curious and tenacious. To give respect and demand respect in return. Most of all, I want you to know you’re loved and that I truly believe you can claim an extraordinary life filled with wonderful relationships and adventures all without ever compromising who you are or who you want to be.

It sounds nice overall at first glance, but upon re-reading it I found it was focused on “success” as the world defines it. For example, “To find cures for diseases. To design buildings that will stand for hundreds of years. To write symphonies.” Yes, shoot for the stars. We should encourage our children to become people they never dreamed they could be and do things they never imagined they could do. But…the reality is that most of us never will go to Mars or cure a disease. Some of us will quietly impact the world in small, but significant ways one person at a time. Some people don’t want to sit at the head of a boardroom table, but would prefer to be the idea person or graphic designer behind the scenes. That’s noble and good too. Also, he spoke more about his wishes for his daughter’s accomplishments than her character. However, what Mr. Heathcock did do was to inspire me to write my own prayer and wants for my sons as they both go out into the world. Here’s mine:

What I want and pray for you: A life of purpose, passion, and service. A life of knowing that you are loved deeply and fully by your dad and me. A life of sharing that love with others, especially the lonely, the marginalized, and those that the world deems “unlovable.” Even your enemies. I hope you have a community of loyal friends and family who are your loudest cheerleaders, your sanctuary, your sounding board, and your safe place. A community with whom you can be silly, outrageous, serious, open, protected, vulnerable, whimsical, and thoughtful. I pray for you joy more than happiness and contentment over complacency. I pray that you are a world changer, a justice seeker, a servant leader, an extender of grace, a voice for the voiceless, and a righter of wrongs. I hope you pause and find delight in daily, simple things like the taste of melting butter on fresh bread, the sound of a loon’s call, or the pure beauty of a fresh snowfall. I hope for you a life of learning, of always discovering new books, meeting diverse people, traveling the globe, and being exposed to different thoughts and ideologies so you can consider multiple perspectives and reaffirm truth. I pray that you find your vocation and that it is something that contributes value to the world and passion to your soul. I pray that you know the incredible depth and breadth of God’s love for you. That you are secure in knowing that you are His precious child and He loves you more than any of us can comprehend. I hope you know that nothing can separate you from His love. That even though people, including me, may fail you, He never will. That He doesn’t sleep. That His grace is sufficient. That He is patient and longsuffering. That God is not “safe,” but He is always, always good. I want you to know that you cannot lose my love. That you are my joy, my heartbeat, my legacy, and my delight. I am so very, very proud of you. Always.

my poster

Clothed and Unafraid: Terrell Edition Sunday, Aug 16 2015 

Robert and I are fans of the Discovery Channel show, Naked and Afraid. In case you haven’t seen it or heard of it, a male and female are dropped into some remote area naked and left to survive for 21 days. They each get to bring one survival item which is usually a fire starter and/or machete. When the two contestants first meet, obviously being naked with a stranger of the opposite sex is awkward and weird. However, you quickly realize that the embarrassment is the easy part. It is the sunburn, total exposure to insects, nothing to retain body heat at night, and walking over rocks, thorns, poisonous snakes, etc. that is the worst part of naked. (There is also plenty of “bad naked”–Seinfeld reference–when you are bending over to chop wood, climbing trees, etc.). 

At any rate, it is interesting to see how they adapt and suvive for 3 weeks, as well as manage the emotional, interpersonal, and psychological challenges. With Naked and Afraid in mind, during our vacation in the UP, we had a taste of this survival challenge. Our cabin was missing a few key items, so here is how we adapted in the face of such hardship. 

On our first night we had planned to grill out steaks. We couldn’t find any matches in the cabin which was odd considering the grill, the beach fire pits, and the fireplace. The office was closed and the nearest town was 15 miles away, so Robert went into survival mode and made a fire with a piece of paper and the electric burner on the stove.  Boom! Fire!
  

 
The next night I was making smothered pork chops. Oh horrors! The frying pan in the cabin was missing. There was a saute pan about 5-6″ in diameter, but that wasn’t going to work for 3 porkchops. I adapted in the moment and cooked the porkchops in the boiler. So hardcore.
  

After the porkchops, I needed to use the browned bit to make a roux and then the gravy. Alas, there was no whisk to be found and I couldn’t use a fork because there was a nonstick coating on the pot. The pioneer substitute for a whisk? A plastic slotted spoon. Crisis averted and gravy made. No lumps either!
  

And finally, it was unusually hot and humid in Northern Michigan (upper mid-80s and quite humid) and we had no a/c. Robert had read up on ways to use fans going in different directions day versus night to suck out the hot air and bring in the cool air. He also had all sorts of cross ventilation going. The one fan needed to be turned backward to cool the interior down and it kept falling off the windowsill. Enter McGyver with brooms and physics.
  

Clearly we are hardcore survivalists and ready to take on any challenge. Our PSR (Primitive Survival Rating) went up at least 2 points. Such pioneers! 

  
 

25 Things I’ve Learned in 25 Years of Marriage–Part IV Thursday, Aug 13 2015 

  
Well, tonight is the final list which is good because I’m tired. I probably could thing of a few more things beyond this final list of five, but I’m ready to move onto other topics. Robert and I have been talking about lots of big things and thinking deep thoughts while away on our anniversary trip and there are other things I now want to write about. Anyway, for my final list of things…

21. We compensate for one another and complement each other. My hands are almost always cold—ice cold. My family jokingly calls me the Ice Queen, and now since the advent of the movie Frozen, Elsa. People seriously flinch when I touch them and I had to rub my hands together or run them under hot water before dressing and diapering my babies. When Robert and I were dating we used to joke about his warm hands compensated for my cold ones. Ironically, on the rare occasion that his hands were cold, mine were warm. That pattern of opposite body temperature has played itself out over and over. However, it works in other ways too. He is alert in a car and loves to drive. On long car trips, it is rare that I can stay awake longer than 30 minutes. He does plumbing and electrical. I repair clothes, make curtains, and bedcoverings. He prefers mowing the lawn and I prefer weeding the flowerbed. I am extroverted and quicker to respond in anger. He is introverted and much more patient. It’s nice to have that balance and a yin to my yang.

 

He made the headboard, I made the quilt and most of the pillows.

 
22. My husband is the person I most want to tell my happy, exciting, sad, and/or troublesome news to. When I have a great day at work, hear a funny story, feel sad and upset, or simply need to vent, Robert is my go-to. He’s the first one I want to share the good news with because I know he will share in my joy. He’s the one I most want to share my bad news with because I know he’ll comfort me or share in my “righteous indignation.” He’s my safe place.

23. Husband before kids and marriage before parenting. We were encouraged to put each other before any potential children in our premarital counseling and I have heard that advice many times. However, recently I saw an internet article stating that point and the comments were vicious! Many women were responding that their children would always put their children ahead of their husbands. In my opinion, that’s too bad and they will probably be the couple that you see at a restaurant who don’t talk to each other because they have nothing to say. Ideally, there is a husband-wife before children and one day the children will leave. Then you are back down to the husband and wife. We are facing the empty nest in less than two weeks. I am so glad that we have put time and energy in maintaining our marriage. 

Our children have certainly been well loved and provided for, but part of that is creating a home in which they know their parents love each other and are committed to each other. Shortly after watching The Titanic, when we had a one year old and a three year old, we vowed that in a life or death situation, we would each focus on saving the children over each other. However, as far as daily life went, our marriage partnership was a priority over the parenting one. That doesn’t mean that we neglected our children. It just meant that we had regular date nights, went away overnight without our children at least once a year, and had a part of our life that didn’t revolve around them. On date nights we didn’t talk about our kids–we had plenty of other things to discuss. We have had a wonderful time as a family and were full partners in parenting, but now that we will be just a couple again, we have a solid foundation for the rest of our married life.

24. I’m glad we waited and he’s my one and only. Yep, we dated for 5 years, were engaged for 11 months, and still waited until marriage to “know” each other. That was a conscious choice from the start, in large part due to our faith and our belief that scripture teaches that sex should not occur outside of marriage (pre-, extra-, or otherwise). We also appreciated the sacred, bonding, spiritual commitment that literally “becoming one” means. We talked about it and waited…and waited…and waited. As with many (most?) things in life, it wasn’t easy, but it has been worth it. We both developed the spiritual discipline of self-control during that time and that has been an important and valuable character trait to have throughout life as a married couple and as individuals. We also aren’t haunted by past relationships and the comparison game, since we know we are each other’s one and only. 

25. We couldn’t do it without God being the bedrock and foundation of our marriage. And finally, the glue that holds everything together, that makes the good times better and the bad times endurable, is our faith in God. We know that He has bound us together. We believe that scripture teaches that marriage is a picture of Christ and His bride, the Church. We believe that we give glory to God by loving each other sacrifically and well. 

  

And in the words of Forrest Gump, 

  
 

25 Things I’ve Learned in 25 Years of Marriage–Part III Wednesday, Aug 12 2015 

  
I had planned to finish this four part series yesterday on our actual 25th anniversary. However, the oldest manchild returned on Monday after a summer working at camp, so we were busy spending time as a family. Then yesterday I was running around grocery shopping and getting things in order to leave for our anniversary trip, as well as going out last night to celebrate. Things have been a little hectic (isn’t that life?) so I’ll do five things today and the final five tomorrow. 

We are currently in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan, in a little cottage on the shore of Lake Superior, celebrating our 25th anniversary. We had a nice drive, some walking along the lake, sitting outside and grilling, and relaxing while watching Arrested Development. It’s almost midnight because Michigan is on Eastern time (which I detest), but since I’m still on Wisconsin/central time and I’m a night owl, here I type…five more things I’ve learned about my marriage.

  
16. He changed…but not because of me. Going by urban myths and pop culture, apparently many women marry men whom they plan to change. They don’t totally love the man, but thing he’ll be perfect, or at least good enough, when she works her magic and changes his habits or thoughts after marriage. In my opinion, that is a recipe for disaster. There is no perfect man (or woman) and living with another human being can be literally and metaphorically messy. There are going to be habits and quirks that initially drive you insane. There may be some big differences in religion, values, political ideaology, etc. as well–which probably should have been resolved before marriage. Those biggies do need to be dealt with, but again, not necessarily resulting in change, but at least a compromise or agreeing to disagree.

The thing in 25 years, people do change. If Robert didn’t change at all, then that means he isn’t learning, growing, thinking, being challenged, taking risks, etc. He is NOT the man I married. He’s much more complicated now and that keeps things interesting and fun. He has changed in his theological views, his political views, his view of ministry, how he parents, how he shows me love, the foods he likes, the clothes he wears, the hobbies he pursues, and the list goes on and on. I am grateful that he has changed and grown. It’s been fun to be a part of the process and it has affected how I have changed as well.

17. I changed too. Some of my change has been affected by Robert and vice versa. He has changed some of his eating habits and food preferences due to new recipes I have tried and new foods I have introduced to the family. I have changed in my views of grace, social justice, and ministry because of him. I have learned to love the writings of C. S. Lewis (except his science fiction), many action-adventure and comic book movies, and biking because of him. However, many other ways I have grown on my own–going back to school, raising children, reading, meeting new people, traveling, etc. have all changed me, my thoughts, my personal philosophies, and even my vocation. It’s been awesome to change together as we become the truest and refined versions of ourselves as individuals, which in turn complements us as a couple.

18. It’s fun growing up together. We got married fairly young, at 22 years of age. We thought we were pretty mature at the time. In some ways (i.e., money management) I think we were. In other ways, I laugh at how much we didn’t know and how pseudo-mature we were. However, it has been fun growing up together. We have gone from clueless and immature newlyweds, to young parents, to responsible adults, to a middle aged couple. It’s a cool experience to go through all of those phases of life together. 

19. Young love can be real love. A couple of months ago I went and saw a 30th anniversary screening of The Breakfast Club in theaters with a few coworkers. There were some extra features, including interviews with John Hughes, who directed the movie and was the guru behind all great teen movies in the 80s. He said something that stuck with me about how he took teenagers seriously and recognized their emotions as real emotions. I just found a quote on the internet along those lines in which Hughes said, “Many filmmakers portray teenagers as immoral and ignorant, with pursuits that are pretty base… But I haven’t found that to be the case. I listen to kids. I respect them… Some of them are as bright as any of the adults I’ve met.”

Robert and I met in the third grade, were friends on and off all through school (especially starting in 9th grade) and started dating in January of the 11th grade after we had just turned 17. At the time he asked me out we were good buddies and hung out in the same large social group. On that first date if you had told me that one day we would be celebrating out 25th wedding anniversary, I would have laughed in your face. However, after that date we went out again and then again. As much as we tried to go to different colleges, because everyone told us we should, we ended up at the same university. We didn’t say the “L word” for a long time, but by the summer after our freshman year in college, at the tender age of 19, we knew that we would one day get married. Our love as 18 and 19 year olds was every bit as authentic as our current love as 47-year-olds. It wasn’t as rich, meaningful, and multi-faceted as it is now, but that’s more a reflection of time together than of age. Teenage love can be every bit as genuine and sustainable as the love of more “mature” adults.

20. Keeping ourselves healthy for each other is important. We both probably weigh15-20 pounds more than we did when we married. Most of that is due to changes in metabolism that happen as we age, plus the fact that we were both extra skinny. However, we both stay around the same weight now and are at healthy BMIs. Since metabolism has slowed way down, that means we have to work at it. We are actually both in much better physical condition now than we were on the day we got married. Robert runs and I walk regularly, many miles each week. We both bike. Our vacations now often include bringing our bikes along and taking exercise clothes and shoes with us. We make it a priority because we want to be as healthy as we can to live longer and better. 

I also think it important from a bait-and-switch standpoint. Some people seem to let themselves go after marriage whether that be gaining weight, dressing in sweats every day, or never trying to look special for their spouse. By the way, this goes both ways—not just women. Obviously we are going to age. Wrinkles will come, gravity will move things southward, and hair greys and/or falls out. However, overall physical fitness, hygiene, grooming, and dressing are within our control. I think it is important to let my husband know that I want to look and feel my best for him, as well as myself.

And tomorrow, I’ll wrap up the final five…

25 Things I’ve Learned in 25 Years of Marriage–Part II Sunday, Aug 9 2015 

Yesterday I started a four part series reflecting on 25 things I have learned as I approach my 25th anniversary.For what it’s worth, I haven’t planned these all out. I am just thinking of them day by day…so I hope I can come up with 25. I’ve been mulling my five things over in my head throughout the day, so the topics I have come up with are two of the biggest problem areas in marriage: sex and money. Got your attention?

So here’s how this is going to play out. I don’t think one can have a discussion of a happy, “successful” (whatever that means) marriage without talking about sex. While I am going to speaking in generalities, my mother-in-law reads my blog (Hi Evelyn!) and occasionally some of my real-life colleagues do too. Under the right conditions, I would have this conversation in real life, but only with friends of the same sex. So if you are someone else that I encounter in real life, esp. of the XY chromosomal arrangement, let’s not make eye contact and let’s do pretend this didn’t happen, okay? :-) Now that we got that out of the way, onward!

chaplin quote

11. Sex gets better with each passing year. When I got married at the tender age of 22 years, I assumed that Robert and I were at our sexual prime–young, healthy, madly in love, and simmering in mass quantities of hormones. Not that I ever considered middle-aged sex, but if I had I guess I would have assumed that it happened rarely or that it was boring and dutiful. However, now that we are knocking at the door of our 50s, I can say that it is so much better than in our 20s. I have had many friends agree.

Robert and I have talked about why this is. I think it all goes back to communication, shared history, and trust. Sex should be a physical way of communicating love. Inherently, the act of sex requires a certain vulnerability and trust. It is a baring of the body and the soul and a means of physically, emotionally, and spiritually becoming one with another. It is not to be taken lightly. As the years of marriage pass, Robert has shown himself to be trustworthy in a million different ways large and small. He has cared for me in times of emotional brokenness and in sickness. He has seen me at my very worst and still loved me. Because of this shared history and good communication skills about problems, feelings, hurts, joys, dreams, and sex, I can trust him implicitly with my body and my soul. Plus, in 25 years with the same person, well…practice makes perfect.

I’m looking forward to the next 25 years, because I’m guessing that the 70+ year old crowd really has it going on.

13. Libido ebbs and flows, but sexual intimacy has to remain a priority. No doubt that there are those seasons in life when we can’t keep our hands off each other and there are some other times when illness, stress, or life circumstances make sex a distant memory for a period of time. I can easily remember being a young mother with a preschooler who needed boo-boos kissed and wanted to climb in my lap to read books, while also breastfeeding an infant every 3 hours and bouncing him on my hip in between. With two little humans in constant contact with my body all day long (a phenomenon of breastfeeding moms called being “touched out”), the last thing I wanted was one more human who wanted to touch me or needed something physically from me. However, at those times it is so important to communicate and talk. There is also a time just to rally.

Society and popular culture tend to portray low libido as a female problem. However, I have had more than a few friends who have dealt with it with their husbands too. Sometimes it is a matter of priority (i.e., workaholics who spent more emotional energy on their job than their wives) and other times it has been physical, like low testosterone. Often for women it is a medical issue too, including thyroid problems and poor sex drive related to hormonal birth control. Once medical issues have been ruled out or managed, the more complicated issues need to be addressed. This may include a lack of emotional connection, a need for more sleep, one of the partners feeling unappreciated or disrespected, unresolved hurt, and even past sexual abuse. The only way this issues will be resolved is through good communication and openness, as well as professional counseling in some cases.

For us, it has been important first of all to be aware that there are just some natural cycles in libido for both of us and to realize that we may need to adjust expectations when the other person is going through a particularly busy season at work or hasn’t been feeling well. There are also times to be honest and say “I’m not feeling it right now,” but understanding that intimacy can be the glue to marriage and sometimes you have to either rally or be an agreeable and willing, although maybe not a particularly…ummm…active participant. And there are times to be patient and wait it out. However, ignoring a long stretch of low libido is not an option—it has to be discussed so that one spouse is not feeling hurt, unloved, and rejected unintentionally.

13. Sex begets sex. Another thing I have learned is that during those low times, which will come, if I put on my game face and go for it, that usually my sex drive comes around as well. I think this situational low libido can be fairly common for women, but we shouldn’t just write it off and say “Well, that’s just the way it is. I can’t help it.” It certainly shouldn’t be accepted as the status quo.

I recently saw something that a friend had posted on Facebook, an advice column from mothering.com about a young mother’s lack of sex drive. Part of the post was “…I could live without sex. I am exhausted and just want to sleep or be by myself. How can I get my husband to understand I’m just now interested in sex right now?…” Signed: Lost Libido and OK with it. The advice columnist went on to offer possible reasons for low libido and strategies for dealing with it. What was shocking about this article was how many women commented something to the effect of “This woman said she was okay with her low libido. She wasn’t looking for advice. Why can’t her husband just accept that?” Well, because sexual intimacy is really a non-negotiable in marriage. Unless there is some physical reason that a couple can’t have a sexual relationship or they have mutually agreed not to for some reason, then sex is a very reasonable expectation. This is the whole reason for consummating a marriage and why an annulment can be sought pre-consummation, but divorce is necessary afterward. Sexual intimacy “seals the deal” of the marriage vows. It is an ongoing physical means of expressing love, being emotionally connected, as well as being stress-relieving, playful, and fun. There are spiritual, emotional, and physical benefits to both partners in a marriage relationship when there is an active and regular sex life and it is not something that should be neglected. Sex is a key component of marriage, not an afterthought or a luxury.

14. Marriage means joint bank accounts. Occasionally I hear of married couple of have separate bank accounts. Aside from not understanding how that works in a practical manner (who pays what and how is that decided?), it misses the mark of marriage in my opinion. Marriage is the intersection of two lives becoming one. In everything. No holds barred. Pooling together finances and sharing mutual access to money requires trust and vulnerability too. The breadwinner has to trust that the one who isn’t bringing as much money is going to handle the finances equitably and well. Also, the breadwinner can’t lord the salary differential over the partner. All income gets put in one pot that both partners have equal access to. Not only does it require trust, but also communication about how money is handled, beliefs and feelings about money, and what financial security and expectations mean for each person.

15. Both of us keep our hands in the finances and no one person holds the purse strings. For us, what makes our finances work fairly smoothly is a similar attitude about money, similar financial upbringing, and the fact that we work together to manage our finances.

Fortunately we were both raised by parents who taught us that debt was undesirable, paying cash was best, and we both saw modest, thoughtful handling of finances modeled by our parents. We have been able to pay for all of our graduate schooling (masters and doctorates for both of us) with no debt or loans by living below our means. We buy used cars and if we don’t pay cash, we pay off the loan quickly. After a several year period of owning all vehicles free and clear, we currently have a small loan on our new-to-me car. We have been in our current house not quite 8 years and owe less than half of the asking price because we pay well over our mortgage each month. We should own our house free and clear in about 7-10 years. We are able to do this because of similar convictions about how to spend our money. We tithe first and foremost then give to other needs and charitable organizations that we feel strongly about. We divide and conquer ongoing bill management. Robert does our taxes, pays the mortgage and car payment, and the one credit card that we use for rewards (paid off monthly). He also handles all of our retirement accounts. I deal with all medical bills and insurance issues including car and life insurance, pay utilities, and pay other incidental bills as well as weekly grocery shopping. We discuss all large purchases and must agree. For us a “large purchase” usually means >$50, which is likely laughable to most. However, it works for us and we are able to keep a good handle of our money this way and it decreases impulse purchases as well as trying to reassign wants into needs.

And that’s enough for tonight. Tune in for 5 more tomorrow…

lewis marriage

25 Things I’ve Learned in 25 Years of Marriage–Part 1 Saturday, Aug 8 2015 

us

Robert officiated a wedding tonight on our pseudo-25th anniversary. Our actual anniversary is August 11, but it was the second Saturday in August when we got married in 1990.

I absolutely detest those overly abundant blog posts and online magazine articles that tell you “10 Ways to Make Your Children Feel Special” or “5 Ways You Should Show Love to Your Husband.” Such silly articles assume that we are all Stepford-people with the same wants, needs, and personalities. As Robert and I approach our 25th anniversary in just a few days, I am going to focus instead on 25 things that I have learned about our marriage in 25 years. Some may relate to you, others may not. This is just MY list.

(And I was going to do 5/day for 5 days leading up to our anniversary, but I didn’t get around to it, so I did 10 today).

  1. It’s ultimately so much easier to be honest and upfront when disagreements occur than to play passive-aggressive games. We never intentionally played games, but in the first few years of marriage one of us would be irritated at the other some reason or another and we fell into the passive-aggressive song and dance. You know the one.                                                                                                                                                                         Robert: Are you okay?
    Pam: I’m FINE (while angrily putting dishes away with tone of voice clearly indicating that I’m not fine.)                         Robert: Are you sure? You seem upset.                                                                                                                         Pam: I said I am fine, didn’t I? (then I sulk, stomp around, and pout for a few wasted hours while Robert asks several more times what is wrong until I finally come out and say it…and vice versa). Now it plays out more like he asks if something is wrong, I say “Yeah, my feelings were hurt when you X…” and then we discuss and resolve it like rational, adult human beings. So much quicker and more effective…and then we get to make-up which is always the most fun part ;-)
  2. He does things differently than me…and that’s okay.  Wow! Those first months and years are full of figuring out all of the different habits and ways of doing things that two people from two different families and upbringings bring to this new family unit. I assumed that everyone pulled the shower curtain closed after use. He assumed that I put Rain-X on my windshield. We have learned not to sweat the small stuff. We do things differently and we have learned to either adjust and accept, do it the other person’s way, or together figure out a new way. Most of those differences are very minor things. So minor, in fact, that I really can’t think of them anymore.
  3. He likes my presence. It’s the strangest thing…at least to me from my female perspective, but Robert likes me just to be physically present even if we aren’t interacting or doing anything together. He mentioned this in the early years and I started studying his parents. I noticed that his mom was always nearby, usually in a chair reading, when his dad was working on a car or building something in his shop. That’s where he saw that pattern and to him it spoke of love. I have since read that apparently this is a fairly common thing among men though, that they like their wives nearby. So I try to be a bit more intentional about doing this. For example, when he goes out in his canoe fishing, I sometimes tag along and rarely fish, but usually just hangout with my book. I don’t like sports at all, but I will sit on the couch and quilt and crochet while he watches the Packers game to be with him.
  4. I like his participation. Similarly, I like him to participate with me on things I like to do. However, the difference is that I want a bit more active participation such as Robert going to a museum or a play with me. As I have learned (this has been a quite recent lesson), I also want him to be as excited as I am about whatever we are doing. I have had to learn that often times he is coming along to “my thing” to be with me and support my passion, but he may never get as excited as I am about it…and that’s okay too.
  5. Although I know him better than anyone else, there is still so much I don’t know. I can order for Robert in any restaurant and pretty nail exactly what he would order for himself. I know his favorite color, his favorite authors, and how he likes to spend his free time. However, I am still frequently learning little things about him that I didn’t know. For example, I didn’t know that he has a thing for Listerine mouthwash until just about a month ago and I didn’t know that he added red food coloring to his homemade salsa until a couple of years ago. (Don’t worry–I have tried to talk him out of that one).
  6. A lifelong love of learning is crucial. I get bored fairly easily. I remember have a miniature panic attack shortly before getting married because I was worried about how easy it might be to get bored of spending THE REST OF MY LIFE with one person. Wouldn’t it get dull? Wouldn’t we get bored of and with one another? I am happy to report that in 25 years it hasn’t happened yet! I think part of that is due to the fact that we both are big readers and enjoy learning new things. I never knew how important that was to a marriage…at least for me. I never read that in a marriage book or magazine article, but for me I don’t think I could maintain a happy marriage to someone who wasn’t growing, changing, and evolving. I tease Robert about his “phases,” but I actually love them. From saltwater aquariums, racquetball, and fly-tying to running marathons, car repair, and bow hunting, he is always picking up a new hobby, learning a new skill, reading books, and listening to podcasts. We both read before we turn out the lights and I love that at least once or twice a week he says, “Hey, can interrupt for a minute and read you something cool from my book?”
  7. I don’t have to like everything he likes and vice versa. I am pretty sure that I am never, ever going to love football, Star Wars, mustard on my hot dog, or westerns. I am pretty sure that Robert will never love quilting, British period dramas, cats, or hot tea. Ever though we are one in marriage, we are still two very distinct people with different likes, dislikes, quirks, and personalities. That’s part of what keeps things interesting.
  8. Occasional alone time is important. We love to spend time together, but we also love to have our alone time too. I am so grateful to have a life partner who appreciates and respects my need for time by myself and who has the same requirement without feeling slighted or neglected. We both are very open about when we need to get away by ourselves or even need to other person to get out of the house for awhile so we can have the house to ourselves.
  9. We can canoe together! Robert’s dad used to always joke that married people should never hang wallpaper together. Since we have been married, wallpaper hasn’t really been in style, so that’s been a non-issue. I did hang wallpaper once, because it was fitting to our Victorian home at the time, but I did that with one of my best friends and we survived the experience. Although Robert and I haven’t hung wallpaper, we have canoed together and that use to be our marital Achilles heel. We argued about who was steering, what direction to paddle, and which route to take. It was an experiment in bickering. However, I am pleased to report that we have now successfully learned to canoe together, so we are pretty much unstoppable now.
  10. Daily niceties are so much better than grand gestures. When Robert puts gas in my car or buys a bigger Diet Coke because he knows I’m going to want a sip (or as he calls it, a “Pam-sized sip” which is bigger), those are little ways of making me feel special and appreciated. I would much rather have a house that has been vacuumed by a loving husband than a dozen roses any day of the week.

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Unplugging and Recharging Monday, Aug 3 2015 

Every August for the past 18 or 19 years we have “No TV Month” at the Terrell abode. Well, actually it started as no-TV month when the boys were little because that was the only electronic distraction at the time. Over the years it morphed into “No TV or Video Game” month, then it’s final evolution into “No Screen” month once the interwebs became a thing. It’s never been about legalism. It is totally about more family time and an increase in the good kind of boredom that leads to creativity. I have blogged about this many times over the years, but the end result of the media fast is usually more finished (and started!) projects, good family stories and memories, more books read, more and better sleep, and a slower pace to life. We have had to navigate the “But can I watch TV at a friend’s house?” issues and we might still go out to see a movie during the month. It’s less about the rule and more about breaking a habit of mindlessly surfing the web or watching a stupid re-run we have seen a million times, when we could enjoy each other or get something worthwhile accomplished instead…or maybe just rest.

I actually began pulling away from Facebook at least a few days early. I am just so sick of the Minion memes, the multilevel marketing sales pitches, the polarizing political posts, and the “Share if you love your daughter” crap. I do enjoy seeing photos of friends and their families on vacation, moving kids to college, etc. I love the minutiae of reading about people’s real lives. Since I have lived in 6 states and traveled a fair amount, I have friends all over the world. It is great to know that my childhood friend Nancy has date night with her husband every Thursday night, that my college roommate Melinda just remodeled her kitchen in Alaska, and that a former student just got married. It’s just that I now have to weed through so much crud to get to these gems of real life. So, I’m looking forward to cleansing my palate for a bit. Also, there is so much “ick” in the world right now that I need a break from it–the hate, the murder, the abuse, the name-calling. I want to go happily bury my head in the sand a bit, renew my spirit, and rest.

Here’s what I’ve been up to so far:
Trying out some new recipes–tonight we had a one pot meal of balsamic chicken and vegetables. I substituted in green beans, brussel sprouts, and yellow squash for the asparagus and tomatoes. It smelled, looked, and tasted delicious. Plus, it was really quick and easy to make–perfect for busy moms. Highly recommend!

  
And I’ve been walking a lot and biking a little. Here’s this evening’s walk along the River Pines section of the Green Circle Trail. I still pinch myself on at least a weekly, if not daily, basis that I get to live in such a beautiful place. Tonight’s temps were a little bit cooler and I dare say that I got my first inkling that fall will be coming very soon.

   
   
I’ve gotten back to crocheting and am about to piece a new quilt later this week. It’s always helpful to include a cat who subscribes to all cliches involving cats and yarn. I think she is supervising since she knows I am making a cat bed for her.

  
And I have been reading a lot. I have finally started Pioneer Girl, Laura Ingalls Wilder’s autobiography. I have also been reading Praying in Color by Sybil MacBeth and am having a wonderful time incorporating her suggestions into my prayer life and meditating on scripture.

  

  

The Monday Experiment Monday, Jul 27 2015 

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For the past six Mondays of summer clinicals, I have been engaging in “The Monday Experiment.” It is very similar to my “10 Items or Less” challenge back in October 2011, in which I wore the same 10 pieces of clothing for the entire month of October. That challenge did two things for me: (1) It helped me to get really creative with my clothes to keep from utter boredom with the same 10 items and (2) It taught me how little other people actually do pay attention to or care about what we wear. However for The Monday Experiment I wore the exact same base outfit every single Monday for 6 consecutive weeks–black capris and a white button-up shirt.

The reason for this experiment is that I have a lovely coworker who complains about the lack of variety in her wardobe. She is also working out with a trainer and reshaping her body, so she doesn’t want to buy new clothes during this transition phase. I told her that she just needed a few staple pieces and the rest was all about accessorizing. Although I do believe that to be true, I started pondering how difficult that might be with the same outfit. So…I decided to put my money where my mouth was and see if I could create 6 different looks with one basic outfit. I’m pretty sure that no one, students and faculty alike, figured out that I was wearing the same thing every Monday. (See note about how little other people actually care about what we wear).

Two disclaimers:

  1. I hate taking these kinds of photos. Please know that this is all kind of awkward for me. However, I think you get the idea better if clothes are on me rather than just flat and two dimensional on the floor or hanger.
  2. Capris–are they in style or not? If you google that very question, you will find varying opinions. I will say that my pair of capris is several years old and while they may still be in style technically, I think we can all probably agree that ankle length, skinnier pants are more in vogue. I wore capris because I had them, they are a neutral black, and I can wear different shoes with them. I have two pairs of black pants–one for heels, one for flats, and I wanted to be authentic and keep THE SAME pair of bottoms for every Monday. However, as a result of this experiment, I have decided that the capris will be donated tomorrow.

Here is the basic outfit on Monday #1: Black pants, white top, black/grey/crystal necklace, and black peeptoe pumps

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Other Monday cardigan outfits. In the summer with the a/c on, it’s always chilly inside (plus Wisconsin mornings are cool). On the left: red 3/4 sleeve cardigan, multicolor infinity scarf, red slingback heels. On the right: hot pink 3/4 sleeve cardigan, pink statement necklace, hot pink slingback flats

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Monday fun with jackets! On the left: denim jacket, red necklace, leopard print pumps. On the right:multicolored jacket in greens and blue, black peeptoe pumps

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And lastly, today: multicolored headscarf in pinks, yellows, greens, and blues, bright green multi-strand necklace, and hot pink slingback flats. I also included the (awkward) close-up because the first picture was taken in haste and you can’t really see the scarf, plus my necklace was draped weirdly around my boob.

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So there you have it–6 looks, one outfit! (And most of the jackets, accessories, and cardigans, as well as the pink shoes were all from the thrift store. Boo-yah!)

And anyone how knows me, knows that I adore Tim Gunn, so I’ll end with this quote even though it has nothing to do with this post. It’s just good common sense fashion advice.

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White Spaces and Margins Tuesday, Jun 23 2015 

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There are a lot of blog posts, discussions, and thoughts floating around on the interwebs recently discussing how to make the most of the margins in life and create white space. The way I would define these is that margins are those bits of time that are unaccounted for throughout the day in 5-30 minute chunks here and there. It could be that 30 minutes of mindless channel surfing before bed or the 5 minutes waiting for the coffee to brew. Whereas I think of margins just naturally occurring in the ebb and flow of the day, white spaces are more intentional. Margins happen. White space is created.

Just like now…

I skipped some lines and create white space to impose a break in the verbiage and give a pause for reflection. That’s what white space does in our lives. It can be literally created empty space on a calendar, but it is also a theoretical or philosophical space in time that is necessary for us to refuel and reflect in order to keep our tanks full and stay healthy as humans. It shifts our focus. It’s a place for quiet. We can choose to fill it or leave it be. Different seasons of life, types of day, and mood may impact how we create our white space and fill our margins.

As human beings we all thrive on and crave routine. I think of myself as a spontaneous and flexible person. I love surprises and am adept at handling unexpected situations. I am also easily bored. Even so…I crave rhythm and routines. There is a comfort in knowing what to expect and what will happen next. There is a joy in planning and thinking forward. There is satisfaction in checking things off the list. There is enough change in life (morning to evening, the seasons, life transitions, aging, moving, etc.) that there is still some comfort in those routines and predictable changes.

I have always been a naturally reflective person, even as a child. I have also had some good daily routines at various times in my life, especially a before bed routine. However, the blessing and curse of being a professor is that my overall daily routine changes pretty often. Not only are no two days within the week the same as far as schedule goes, but there are changes with every semester and then breaks between semesters. Just when I get in the groove of creating white spaces and intentionally using the margins of my day well, then a change in daily routine sets in and I have to do it all over again. I actually like the changing schedules. It keeps me from becoming bored and causes me to constantly be conscious and diligent about how I manage my productive time and my down time.

One of my goals for this year was to start keeping a daily gratitude journal. I started it in January and had been diligent to write in it as part of my nightly before-bed habit all the way through April. Then I went out of town and didn’t immediately unpack it on my return home and the busy end of the semester set in. Along with my daily gratitude reflection, I also started reading (and savoring) one poem a night. I worked my way through four slender volumes of poetry before I ran out of poetry books and neglected to get any new ones from the library. That carefully crafted (and yes, filled, but filled with reflection) white space seemed to melt away.

I just recently had a semester break, then summer semester started again last week. I am slowly recreating some simple routines to help the margins frame my days in better ways, as well as create some white space that is free from demands. I want to re-establish my bedtime habit of writing in my gratitude journal and reading and pondering one poem a day before I start my pre-sleep reading. (I have ALWAYS read for pleasure before bed and no matter how tired I am, I can’t fall asleep with out reading). Being as I am a night-owl and not a lark, the morning routine is always a bit more difficult. I try to have a devotional time (which can take many different forms), eat breakfast, and have coffee in the mornings. The reality is that one 1-2 of those things typically happens. I want my morning margin to be a bit more intentional since I firmly believe Henry Ward Beecher’s statement that “the first hour is the rudder of the day.”  Finally, I want to be intentional in creating and jealous in guarding the white space so that I can be thoughtful, rested, and filled so that I can then love, give, and be.

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In the Dungeon Thursday, Jun 4 2015 

I have spent most of the day here:

   
  
No. I wasn’t filming an episode of Hoarders, although it definitely looks like it. This is the dreaded basement. I had it about 65% organized a few years ago (see those boxes on the shelves?), but then a kid moving back and forth from college, the basement being used as a workshop, outgrown clothes that need to be donated to Goodwill, and my fabric stash (quilters got to quilt) have gotten out of control. Not to mention the fact that since our church doesn’t have a building, we get to store quite a bit of church stuff and we had a hot water heater leak that caused us to throw things around to protect them from water damage.

You can certainly understand why I have avoided this chore. Every time I go down in the basement I want to throw up my hands in resignation and turn back. The rest of my house does not look like this, I can assure you. I just wanted to post these photos here in the interest of “keeping it real”. Anyway, today I didn’t turn back from the mess. I walked right into the belly of the beast and got to work. I am working under the strategy of keep, donate, recycle, trash. Then, since we are planning to put our house on the market soon, I have to further break the “keep” items into what stays at the house and what will move into a storage unit. I have made some good headway today. I have a huge pile to take to Goodwill tomorrow and as soon as I do that, much more space is clear. I’m not going to wait until I am done, but remove stuff each day so I feel more productive and have more “white space” in the basement. Hopefully, we’ll get a storage unit in a couple of weeks and then some of the bigger furniture items can go too. And…there’s some stuff that needs to be taken to the dump that we’ve been putting off. At any rate, in all of my time working and sorting, here are some things I have realized:

  1. When a minister/theologian and a professor marry, there are books, books, and more books. It doesn’t help that we both enjoy reading for pleasure, as do our boys. We have literally thousands of books. I am pleased to say that they ones in the basement are ALL packed up, as well as Noah’s room. (That just leaves Robert’s study and the living room books to go). 
  2. I have dabbled in creative writing since childhood and Robert is a chronic journaler and doodler. We have lots of journals containing lots of words that we have written. Adam has been drawing since he was 18 months old and took many art classes throughout school. We have multiple sketchpads of his drawings, including anime and manga, skateboard designs, comics, and still lifes.
  3. I am flummoxed wtih what to do with the plethora of random office and school supplies that we have. For example, there’s a stash of file folders, some perfectly good envelopes, legal pads, etc. We don’t need them, but they are in good condition and I hate to throw them away. I hope Goodwill can use them.
  4. I found some old photos of my grandparents and my dad when he was a baby that have been missing since we lived in Texas. We moved out of Texas in 1994 and have lived in 3 states (5 separate moves) since then. So excited to have found these!
  5. A lot of people have given me small gift sets of toiletries, bath stuff, nail stuff, etc. over the years. Apparently I never use this stuff since it has been sitting in various boxes for almost 8 years. Moral of the story–please don’t give me gift sets.
  6. I have a beautiful silver (the real stuff) punch bowl and cups that I have had since my wedding in 1990. It has never been used. I have come to grips with the fact that I will never use it. Now I have to figure out what to do with it. Not Goodwill! It will go to an antique dealer or Ebay or something.
  7. I have quite a bit of large pieces of batting leftover from quilts I have made. I don’t know what to do with it either. I save it for small wallhangings and such, but it just takes up space. It’s cut in weird shapes, mostly L-shapes, so I don’t know that anyone would want it but it seems wasteful to throw it out. I’m thinking I’m going to toss it though.

So many decisions! It has been a mentally exhausting day.

Unlike a hoarder, I have no emotional attachment to the stuff in my basement…except for books and photos/memorabilia. However, I have come a long way with that. It used to be that I would never give up a book. However, now, if it is a book I don’t like or haven’t read and don’t want to, then out it goes. If it is an outdated how-to book, then buh-bye. Bad photos are gone, as is memorabilia such as generic coloring that they boys did, school worksheets, etc. I do save some of their funny writings and drawings, however. Everyone in the family gets one Rubbermaid box and all of their “artifacts” have to fit in that box. For example, I have a lot of trophies from high school, but they are now in the trash. Some of them have a hand broken off or the metal plate that told what the award was for has fallen off. Plus, what 47 year old woman displays her high school trophies? Not this one! When we move, I want the only things we take to be things we love or use. No saving for “what if.” No stuff for “just in case.” We should have 4 boxes of Christmas stuff, 4 boxes of memorabilia, and a couple of boxes of photos that will be gone once I FINALLY get them all into albums. The rest wil be gone or in use. As for books, my goal is to have tons of bookshelves, dare I say a library, so that none of our books are in boxes packed away. Oh! And my wedding dress. I would be fine with getting rid of it. I won’t ever wear it again and we don’t have daughters, but Robert refuses for me to let it go.

I should have some beautiful “after” photos to post in another couple of days. Then once we get a storage unit, I’ll be painting the floor. Stay tuned…

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