Category Archives: Marriage and Family

Stuck in a Blender

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“Hi, Lisa!

I noticed in your bio that you are in a blended family.  I am, also and I am wondering why you don’t write about blending families more often. My husband and I have been married for 3 years and together we have 4 children (his two daughters – ages 5 & 8 – and my son and daughter – ages 10 and 12)…To be honest, this has been a lot harder than either of us thought it ever would be.  The kids are not responding the way we thought they would, our relationship is strained and our exes are not making things any easier.  I fear that we have made a mistake and didn’t think this through.  Do you have any advice to offer?  I do love him, but sometimes I wonder if that is enough… V”

 

Hello V!  First let me offer you a big virtual hug.  This is just a portion of your letter, yet it’s obvious that you and your mister are in a bad place right now and I’m sorry for that.  I am also sorry that it has taken me a while to respond to your email.  I’m not completely comfortable with giving advice and, in fact, I’m not going to give you any. I’ve given your letter a lot of consideration and finally mentioned it to my husband to get his perspective.  What I can tell you is how we have dealt with our situation in hopes that it can give you some encouragement and insight.

First, please know that blending a family is not easy for anyone.  We honestly do not know of one blended family that hasn’t suffered from bumps and bruises. In biological families there is a multitude of personalities and quirks that often get in the way of familial bonding.  Blended families tend to have that same dynamic and then some.  We enter these marriages with such high (and often unrealistic) hopes for an instant family without realizing that not too long ago we were all perfect strangers.  I know that for you these three years of marriage have seemed long and trying but, in reality that’s not a lot of time for people who barely knew each other to grow to love one another.  Big Poppa and I have been married for 11 years and we are still stuck in a blender.

I would have to admit that the pressures and trials of being in a blended family have almost ended my marriage…more than once.  We have sought counseling (family and couples) on and off throughout these 11 years – which is not a bad thing even when all is well.  To be honest with you, I don’t think that we have done a very good job of effectively becoming one family.  In many ways we still operate like three separate families – his, mine and ours.  Each of us is still very tender about the subject of our children and it has become a topic that we really don’t discuss much.  Awkward? Yes. Survival technique? Definitely.  I don’t advise this approach, I’m just being honest.

Our saving grace has been our love for God and each other.  Ultimately, we are committed to our vows and each other.  Not to mention that Big Poppa and I are the best of friends.  There have been moments that we have lost sight of this, but that has been what’s always brought us back to try to talk things out or at least find a comfortable place to call a truce.  It’s so easy to find fault with the other person and their children and fail to see where we missed the mark.  On the other hand, you both need to firmly believe that nothing the other person is doing is with malicious intent or trying to cause harm.  Yes, we are there to provide protection for our children, but we are also there to provide protection and support for our spouse.  It all starts with trust and commitment.

V, raising a family is hard and a blended family is even harder.  There’s no easy way to say it.  I wish that I had advice that could help you or somehow make it easier, but I don’t.  I can tell you that I feel you, girl. I’ve been there and it’s hard, and it’s exhausting and it’s painful.  You’re husband is not going to understand everything that you’re feeling and you’re not going to understand him completely either.   His kids may reject you and your kids may reject him, but don’t reject each other.  Please don’t do that. Hold on to one another and eventually you will all get to a comfortable place.  Some couples therapy wouldn’t hurt either.

 

Take good care,

Lisa

 

Our Family Circa 2012

Our Family Circa 2012

 

Why Are You Having Another Child at Your Age?

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So, have you breathed a sigh of relied since the end of the school year has finally come?  Or are you one of the parents that dread the end of school because you will soon have to deal with what to do with the kids over summer break?  Over the past two weeks I have been crazy busy with end of school activities and preparing for Thing 1’s ballet recital (non-stop rehearsals), which are both now over.  Thank heavens for tender mercies.  Next comes a few days of relaxing before the “Mom, I’m bored!” kicks in.   Personally, I think a little boredom can be good for you because it encourages creativity.  We’ll just see how creative we all become over the next few months.

Last night, while catching up on email that I neglected over that past few days, I came across a note from a reader looking for my perspective on having children later in life and the negativity from others that can often come with it.  While I am not an advice column/blog, this is a topic that I can definitely relate to, seeing as I had my last child at the age of 41.  While the reader wants to remain anonymous, she asked that I respond publicly because “I am sure that I am not the only person who has dealt with this.”  No, you’re not.  Here is an excerpt of her e-mail:

“Lisa, I am a 43-year-old mother of 3, expecting my 4th child this August.  Both my husband (also 43) and I are over joyed, but it seems like we are the only ones.  Family and friends are always reminding us how old we will be when these kids are teenagers implying that we are selfish and should stop.  Doctors are constantly warning us of the dangers [birth defects] of having children later in life. Money isn’t always plentiful, but somehow we make it without asking for anyone’s help. My family thinks we are thoughtless. ”

“…I just don’t understand why so many people have so many opinions on our choice to have more children!”

First of all, let me say congratulations on the impending birth of your new son or daughter!  As my husband always says “There’s nothing like new life.”  When we told everyone that we were expecting our fifth and last child, I’d say that shock was the most common response we received. This was followed closely by the question “Why are you having another child at your age?”  Then there was the comment “You guys need a new hobby.” Or, “Can’t you just watch t.v.?”   Oh, wait!  Let’s not forget “Have you ever heard of birth control?” People would say to my husband “Man, you’re going to have to work until you’re 80 – years – old!”  While this may not be too far from the truth, it’s not exactly the thing to say to a man expecting another child.  Finally, the straw that broke the camel’s back was when a friend asked my husband what type medicinal assistance he was using to be able to…ahem…produce these children in his late forties (after all, she was our second in 18 months).  To say that Big Poppa was offended would be an understatement. It was then that we stopped socializing.

I’m sorry that what should be such a happy time for you and your husband is turning out to be stressful. However, the thing to remember is most people who ask these questions genuinely mean well.  They are just thoughtless.   In all honesty, we did not intentionally get pregnant with our last child.  She was a glorious and wonderful surprise which meant that we had to readjust our thinking, also.  Could we have used more supportive commentary from others?  Definitely, but all of the negativity made us draw closer to one another.  We were like-minded and that was all that mattered.

Likewise with how we handled the physicians.  Keep in mind that doctors are trying to cover their own behind, so to speak.  Should anything go wrong during your pregnancy and birth of your child they want to be sure that they have told you every possible scenario at least twice so that you don’t blame them for the outcome.  While we understood why the doctors were so insistent on getting this information across to us, we got tired of hearing it.  As you know, us Moms of Advanced Age (or MAA, as I like to refer to it)  have special doctors and ramped up schedules all designed to remind us just how old we really are. I’m only kidding a bit here.  Somewhere  at the end of my second trimester, Big Poppa made it clear to my high risk specialist that we indeed knew of all the risk associated with having children at our age and requested that he cease with this line of conversation.  It took a couple of reminders, but he finally got the message.

The truth is that you can’t stop people from talking.  However, you can put distance between you and the talkers.  You need to build your support group with people who are providing positive feedback, while not getting caught up in the negativity yourself.  Soon your new son or daughter will be here and this will all be a distant memory.  Looking back, I recognize that most of what was being said was out of concern for our well-being.  I believe that the same is probably true for you.  So, try to relax and enjoy these next few months before your new little one arrives.  Avoid the naysayers and give a lot of people the benefit of the doubt because soon they will be celebrating with you.  I hope this helped and thank you for stopping by. 🙂

 

Lisa

 

Friendship Rings

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Friendship Rings

Friendship Rings

“A ring is round, it has no end, and that’s how long, I’ll be your friend.”  Remember that from when you were a kid?  That last time I said it was on my wedding day.  Big Poppa and I were standing out side of the church waiting to take pictures and when I looked down at our rings (we were holding hands), it was the first thing that came to mind.  I am quite certain that Big Poppa probably doesn’t remember that moment, but that’s okay because it was a pretty busy day…you know, since it was our wedding day and all.

Over the years, our rings have become as much of a symbol of our friendship as they are of our marriage.  In your lifetime a lot of relationships will come and go whether they be boyfriends or best friends or casual acquaintances.  Life is busy and complicated and sometimes we move on and leave people behind, both intentionally and unintentionally.  However, our most important relationships we hold on to come hell or high water and shouldn’t our marriages fall into that category?  Because the person that we choose to spend the majority of our time with, to share our bodies with, to raise children with, to expose our vulnerability to should be someone who we are willing to go through hell or high water with.  It really shouldn’t be easier to walk away from our husband than it is from our girlfriends.  Maybe, just maybe, we should be looking for a true friend in our spouse, rather than Prince Charming.  After all, a lot of so-called Prince Charming’s are dressed as toads.  There’s a reason for that..just sayin’.

It’s a very simple, but sweet memory and one that I cherish.  A lot of things have transpired over these past ten years since Big Poppa gave me my ring, but  our friendship has remained constant.  He’s my hell and high water guy.

*This post is in response to the blog link up on Champagne to Crayons, a mash-up of Day 23: A Special Day, Day 24: Jewelry and Day 26: A Memory, Celebrating 28 days of Thanks. If you would like to read more posts from my fellow bloggers, click here.

It Wasn’t Really the Job That I Loved…

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Today’s writing prompt over at Champagne to Crayons:  28 Days of Celebrating Thanks is Day 12: A Job That I Am Thankful for. I am going to be honest with you, I almost had to skip this one. I don’t mind working but, I can’t say that I’ve had a job that I just couldn’t wait to get to every morning.  Granted, different jobs had their high points, but over all, they were not what I was interested in doing.  Looking back, I don’t think that I really knew what I was interested in doing.  After my son was born I quickly realized that I needed a good paying job with medical and dental benefits that I could afford, so I randomly chose to pursue a career as a paralegal.  I do mean random, because although I was a Journalism major, jobs in that particular field are hard to come by and I had no idea how to go about doing so.  At the time I was living with my sister and her husband, who were both lawyers and after seeing a television commercial for paralegal training, I thought, “I could do that!”  That was it.  I took out a loan,  went back to school and spent the next 15 or so years bored out of my mind.  However, I did manage to earn a decent living, I had good benefits and I created a fairly comfortable life for me and my son. Additionally, I gained  an invaluable skill set (research anyone?) and I met some of the most amazing people, some of which I am fortunate enough to still call friends. Since having a personally fulfilling career wasn’t something that I felt was important, it was all good.

However, after some thought, I realized that I was over looking the obvious.  I do have a job that I love more than any other, that of a Domestic Engineer (i.e., SAHM, house wife, homemaker…whatever you want to call it). Make no mistake, this is a job. Whether you do it full – time or part-time, it is a job.  At times it is as emotionally draining as it is emotionally fulfilling.  Sometimes at  night when I finally make it to bed after homework and cooking…and girl scouts…and dance…and laundry…and errands…and PTA stuff…and whatever else there was, I can’t remember a time when I was more physically exhausted.  I love it!  I even love those mornings, at 3:30 a.m., when I realize that it’s Thursday and their class shirts are not clean so, I jump out of bed to put the load of laundry in knowing that I will never be able to fall back to sleep. Big Poppa doesn’t even notice that I’m missing, but it’s okay.  It just provides me with another opportunity to do some internet shopping.  It’s best that he be kept in the dark.  I love it when my grown children ask for advice then ignore it.  Only to later, begrudgingly admit that I could have had a point. Or the way that they ask for new bed pillows as if Target won’t allow them to purchase one with money of their own.  

Some have even tried to put a monetary value on the role of Domestic Engineers (http://www.businessinsider.com/value-of-stay-at-home-moms-2013-5) and while I think that it’s a great tool in bolstering the validity of the role of a SAHM, I think that the whole debate is ridiculous.  Really, there is no way of placing a real dollar value on what parents do because so much of it is intangible. It’s priceless, really.   No paralegal position has ever given me a moment more memorable than seeing my daughter’s smiles when I come to volunteer in their class rooms.  Or, more satisfaction than I felt when every single Barbie clothing item, shoe, and accessory was finally organized and put away.  Or, when I fix a meal that EVERYONE likes (hardly ever happens). Or when I manage to get everything done on the list for the day, plus a few extras…SCORE!  No, nothing that I have ever done during my career out side of the home could ever be more important to me or more fulfilling than what happens in my home with my spouse and children.  Yes. This. This right here is a job that I am truly thankful for.

10 Things I Know to be True About Being a Domestic Engineer

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Roses

Domestic Engineers are some of the most dynamic people to walk the Earth.  You think I jest but, really, we are the cook, the chauffeur, the banker, the seamstress, the doctor, the psychologist…sigh.  We tend to everyone’s needs in spite of the fact that often our needs are not being met.  We are running on empty.  Well, there are some things about this job that pretty much hold true for everyone.  The details may be different, but the message rings true for all of us.  These are not listed in any particular order and I’m sure that you will find yourself in here somewhere.

1.  I know that you have been told this before, but I can confirm that having children is not good for your intelligence.  Apparently, as they get older your ability to think clearly diminishes.  So much so that about the time that they turn 15-years-old, you are the dumbest person on the planet.  It continues on this way for a few years, but there’s good news.  You’re IQ rises around their 23 birthday.

2.  Any home renovation project that you undertake will end up tripling in cost and scope.  I promise.  The installation of your new wood floors will uncover that there has been a slow steady leak in the side of your home for at least the past five years.  Not only has the sub-flooring rotted, but so has the side of your house with the big french doors leading off of the dining room.  When the contractor moves to repair the side of the house and put in new doors, he will notice that a portion of the deck will have to be rebuilt thereby discovering a rotting, dead possum that needs to be removed.  At this point your husband is so stressed that he is speaking in one word sentences and the vein in his forehead is perpetually popping out, leaving you to be the one who remains focused on what’s important: “Can I have the french doors with the beveled glass?” Of course you can because about now he’s too numb to refuse.

3. The moment that you find a product that you love  (a new bra – you know the one that matches you skin color perfectly, a cleaning product that can get a spot out of ANYTHING, a new cosmetic item that hides all of your flaws) they will stop making it.  I promise.

4. You never realize that the roll of toilet paper is empty until you have already sat down on the potty.  Then you start yelling for help and your children, who have super sonic hearing if you try to leave the house without them or eat a snack privately in the pantry (like I would ever do that?), miraculously can’t hear a thing!  So you text the older kid to help you out and bring some toilet paper, only to have him text back “LOL!!!!, LMBO!!! ROFL!!! I’m at work, mom!”  I forgot.

5. When the hubby performs the same task (any task) that you do regularly, he is an instant rock star.  You? Not so much. And, there’s so much grace extended to him when mistakes are made.  If he makes dinner and burns it? Well, at least he tried.  If you make dinner and burn it,  you have committed a cardinal sin and it will be remembered for years to come: “Hey, Mom!  Remember that time that you burned the pot pie? Yea, that was AWFUL!” That was 10 years ago. Is there no redemption for all of the awesome pot pies that I’ve made since then? No.

6. Dinner is done, dishes are washed, kids are in bed and you finally have a moment to yourself.  You grab your favorite drink, get comfy and settle down on the sofa to watch some HGTV, Bones, Breaking Bad… whatever floats your boat.  It doesn’t get any better than this, does it?  The cable goes out.  I’m not bitter anymore.

7.  It’s perfectly fine to have a baby at 40.  Well, except if you do the math, you will figure out that when you begin menopause, they will just be hitting puberty.  I don’t think that I need to say more here because I think the danger is obvious.

8. Karma has a way of finding you when you least expect it.  For instance, let’s just say that you, your hubby and your two young children are returning from a fun-filled week in Disney.  Your flight lands at 1:00 in the morning and you drag your exhausted, whining children through one of the busiest airports in the world and make the hour-long ride home.  Upon entering your house you decide to just dump your things in the living room and head upstairs to bed.  Unpack in the morning.  However, your little one has to go to the bathroom and uses the downstairs powder room. The moment she flushes, your toilet erupts as if it’s Old Faithful, spewing sewer water around the first floor of your house (Did I mention that they were wood floors?) Obviously the water has to be shut off and well, you just pick up your suitcases and go to the nearest hotel.  It is now 2:00 in the morning.  I don’t know exactly what I did to deserve that episode but, if you know, please accept my apology.  Obviously, I still haven’t gotten over it.

9.   This one is specifically for mothers of sons.  You are not allowed to be a woman.  The word “hot” is not allowed to be used in connection with you unless it is 100 degrees outside or you’re having a hot flash.  When speaking to your grown sons (actually this starts in the teenage years), you may not use any language that may indicate that you know anything about sex, let alone that you may have had it.   You say to him “But, you’re here and I know that you know how all of this works,” and he responds “Yes, but I choose to block all of that out of my mind.”  Okay.

10. Everyone in the family needs something and as mothers we tend to put their needs before our own.  Hubby needs some new slacks, Thing 1 needs new jeans, Thing 2 needs a new jacket and Mr. C needs new shoes.  What about your needs?  Who’s going to take care of you?  It’s all about balance, ladies.  So, here’s my advice: Every time you buy something for one of them, buy something for yourself.  Genius! Remember, balance is the key to happiness.

* As I mentioned in my previous post, today I was supposed to host the blog link up for Rising Bloggers, however, as luck would  have it, today everything went totally wrong .  Ironic, ain’t it?   You can view the other wonderful posts at Flotsam of the Mind.  Thanks Cynthia for the posting the link.  

Wordless Wednesday: I Do!

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Seven

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On July 12, 2006, at 25 weeks pregnant with identical twin girls, my water broke.  I was alarmed, obviously, but not surprised, because the pregnancy had been an ordeal from the very beginning.  We had been to hell and back trying to ensure that we would have two healthy babies only to realize by this point that one was already dead and the other was in real danger.  I will spare you the details, but less that 24 hours after my water broke, on July 13th, I gave birth to one girl who had taken the short-cut to be with God and another beautiful, beautiful baby girl who turned out to be a real fighter – all 1 lb, 14 oz. of her.

On Daddy's chest, just about 2 lbs.

On Daddy’s chest, just about 2 lbs.

Look at the size of her hand next to the tip of Daddy’s finger!  Looking at her now, it’s unbelievable where she started.  So, so tiny and weak that she couldn’t even cry.  She wasn’t strong enough to make a sound.  We were warned about all of the things that could be wrong with her developmentally due to her prematurity – neurological damage, learning difficulties, speech impediments – the list was long and daunting.  In fact, it is more common than not that there are lasting effects of being born so soon. Amazingly, she has no lasting effects.  None!  No delays, no damage, nothing that can be directly linked to her being born premature.  Every once in a while it takes my breath away.

She is very normal.  So normal in fact that she is pretty much like any other girly – girl ready to celebrate turning seven.  She wants to know what Big Poppa and I are getting her for her birthday.  She asks me every day and every day I say the same thing, “Our undying love and support.”  She gives me this “Gee, that’s swell, but…” look and pushes ahead, asking for an iPhone (???), new Hello Kitty earrings (the kind that you find in the jewelry store), another American Girl Doll?  No, No, and No!  I’m not one of those parents that feels like I need to give a particular gift on birthdays, particularly when a party is involved.  The party is expensive enough.  However, this year there is no big party and no big gift.  I’m okay with that because sometimes, enough is enough.  Of course we will celebrate because we are happy that she’s here but, it’s going to be low-key.  She is NOT low-key.

Lately, we have been going back and forth over what kind of preparations we will need for her birthday celebration.  I was thinking plates, napkins, balloons (mind you, this is just for a small family gathering, so absolutely none of this is necessary) but, she was thinking somewhere along the lines of fireworks, pinatas and getting One Direction to put on a show in our garage.  In the middle of this, I noticed that she seemed to be complaining of headaches a lot.  Eye problems? I made an appointment with the eye doctor and sure enough, she needs reading glasses.  She saw this as an opportunity to add a cute new accessory to her wardrobe.  I saw this as our birthday gift to her. Sounds like a win, win situation to me. Not so much to her. Ah, well…I tried.

Can you see the missing teeth?

Can you see the missing teeth?

This girl reminds me that miracles do happen every day. She reminds me that faith really is enough.  She is smart and strong, courageous and focused.   She swims like a fish, is a talented and graceful dancer (when she was four she told be that she was “born to dance”), and has a pretty mean forehand in tennis.  She loves music, baking and reading..oh, and dolls!  I don’t think she can ever have too many dolls.  And now, she loves her glasses and can’t wait to get them because they are “sooo super cute!!”   Yes, she is perfectly normal and I am undeniably grateful.  Happy Birthday, sweetheart!

House Hunters

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photo credit: scherago.com

photo credit: scherago.com

Can you believe that it’s been almost a year since we moved to Texas?  Yep, at the end of this month we will have lived here one whole year.  It’s been, like, the third longest year of my life.  Before I get started let me say again, as sort of a disclaimer, that I have met some great people here in Texas.  However, I’m a Midwest girl to the core and there’s no place like home.  Okay, moving on….Big Poppa and I were feeling rather nostalgic today so we rode around the area and looked at some of the houses that we visited on our house hunt early last year.  Actually, it was his idea because  I was afraid that if we went looking we would realize that we really should have made a different choice.  We like our house and I kinda like to leave well enough alone.  As we rode around, I got to thinking, that our house hunting excursion and subsequent move was probably one of the best team building and relationship strengthening exercises that we have ever been through, both practically and philosophically speaking.  Although, the situation had the makings of the perfect storm.

Big Poppa didn’t have to look for a new job, he just wanted to look for a new job.  Always one to keep his eyes and ears open for new opportunities, he heard about this specific position and warned me that he was applying.  I use the word “warn” because he knew how I felt about the thought of relocating. I didn’t like it.  We had been in this position before when he applied for a job in Ohio.  I cried…hard, but then I decided to go along with the program, but it was too late.  He had already withdrawn his name from consideration.  I felt guilty about this for years.  So, when the Texas position opened up, I promised myself (and Big Poppa, but silently) that I would not stand in his way.   Obviously, I was a bit bitter but, I made some very conscious decisions about how I was going to conduct myself in this situation (I didn’t tell Big Poppa about these):

  • I prayed that God’s will for our lives concerning this move be made very clear to the both of us;
  • I decided to lay aside my bitterness and anger and to proceed joyfully (that might be a stretch) as a help to my husband; and
  • To submit to my husband’s leadership (yes, I actually said submit.  Just follow along.)

Now, you are probably thinking  that I had no choice but to submit since he’s the one with the job but, what I did know about my husband was that, if I had protested enough he would have called the whole thing off.  I just didn’t want to do that to him again.  He was beyond deserving of this new opportunity and I’m his biggest fan. Was I sad and angry? Yes.  Was he aware of my feelings? Yes.  Was I toxic? No.  For weeks leading up to our house hunting trip we tossed around our wants and needs for our new house.  I worked closely with a relocation specialist at my husband’s company and our real estate agent in Texas.  By the way, our first tip to anyone looking for a new home (especially if you are relocating to a new area) is to get a great agent.  This woman was phenomenal.  She knew the area extremely well,  worked hard to get what we wanted within budget, and was very well connected and respected within her profession. Loved her!  Stay tuned, there will be other tips because, in hind sight, we did some things that we can’t believe that we did and would never suggest that anyone else do either.  Like…enforcing a ridiculously tight timeline.

Our house hunt was only one week.  That’s right, we flew to Houston and our mission (because I was a bit, shall we say, rigid) was to find the perfect home in one week.  I took into consideration that we still had to sell our current home, close on the new one, move across the country and get settled all before school started.  You’re wondering could we have leased a home before we actually bought one? Yes.  Could we have possibly made two trips instead of one? Yes.  However, I didn’t want to, I wanted it to be over and Big Poppa just wanted me to be happy or at least to stop looking sad.  He had high hopes and understandably so because most women absolutely love looking at new houses.    Under different circumstances, I do too, but, I didn’t approach this with that kind of enthusiasm.  We looked at countless homes that week. In fact, we actually exhausted the inventory of 5 bedroom homes, in our budget, for that area.  After a while they all started to look the same to us until one day we walked into an absolute stunner.  I’m talking 5,000 square feet of absolute perfection at an exceptional price!  The problem – at least for me  – was location.  Big Poppa didn’t seem to care about that much.  After all, he’s not home a lot so location wasn’t much of an issue for him.  It was here, standing in the great room, that he realized that there was not going to be a house that I just loved because I didn’t want to be here. He was disappointed.  Not because I didn’t want the house so much, but because things were not going to be made right that easily.

So, we pressed on, our week just about to end.  Unknown by me, Big Poppa had also made some conscious decisions about how he was going to conduct himself during this time in our lives:

  • He prayed that God’s will for our lives concerning this move be made very clear to the both of us;
  • He accepted my feelings and decided to put my needs and wants first;
  • Submitted himself to me, and our children, as a servant leader to care for us and protect us as we went forward with our move.

Ironic, huh?  I like to think of it less as irony and more as love.  On that Thursday, just days before we were to return home, we walked into the house that we now call home.  I can’t say that we were both unanimously sold but, I can say that we both got everything that we wanted without one cross word.  No arguments, no budget stretching, no bickering over counter tops or flooring or who gets the bigger closet space.  Kinda impressive under the circumstances.  We learned that we can trust each other and that no matter what, we really do want what’s best for one another.  What could have been a contentious situation turned out to be a blessing. Even though I still don’t necessarily want to be here, I do like the story about how we ended up here in this specific home.  Oh, and you will be happy to know that after our drive around today to look at the other contenders, we still like our home the best.

Intent is 9/10 of the Law

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photo credit: tugceninkitapligi.blogspot.com

photo credit: tugceninkitapligi.blogspot.com

First, I have a story to tell you.  Last night, the evening of the 4th of July, some friends of ours stopped by to pick up their daughter who had spent the day with us.  For the sake of this story, we will call them Bob and Sue.  As usual, Bob, Sue, Big Poppa and I ended up sitting around chatting when Sue told a story about meeting  Bob’s elderly aunt for the first time before she and Bob got married some years back.  As Sue explained that Bob’s aunt was legally blind, she described how the woman had sat next to her and felt her arm to get a sense of Sue’s size and in doing so commented “Oh, you got a good healthy one here!”  Umm…I think that I should tell you that my friend, Sue is like most of us, an average sized woman, not thin, but not heavy, and laments about that 10 to 20 pounds that she’d like to lose. So you can imagine that this whole situation was a little, shall we say, uncomfortable  for her.  But, wait! There’s more.  Bob then proceeded to say that it was a good thing that his uncle wasn’t alive then because “He really liked big women.  He would have loved you!”  Silence.  Everyone else stopped talking – everyone except for Bob who hadn’t realized what he had said. He continued on with the “compliment”…”Oh, yes, he reeaally would have loved you!!”   This was about the time that my husband stopped breathing and sank down into the sofa next to me, hiding behind pillows.  He wanted to throw his friend a lifeline, but he knew that there was no way that Bob could be saved.  On the other hand, I was laughing so hard that I had tears running down my cheeks.  Not laughing at what he had said, of course, but at the look on Bob’s face when he realized just what he had done.  I  have to tell you that my friend Sue is unbelievably funny and an incredible actress because her portrayal of the wounded wife was worthy of an Oscar.  I say her “portrayal of the wounded wife” because of what she said after we all collected ourselves.  I’m not saying that Sue wasn’t bothered by the statement but, for other couples that could have ended up causing a major argument that lasted days or weeks.  However, she said, in so many words, that  while Bob’s words may sometimes be clumsy, he never intends to purposely hurt her and that makes all of the difference.

This made me think about when Big Poppa and I were preparing to marry and we went through pre-marital counseling with our pastor and his wife.  We were discussing marital conflicts and conflict resolution and I had never considered that husbands and wives would ever intentionally do or say things to hurt one another.  I mean, I knew that arguments happen and things get said that you may regret but, I never thought that it could be intentional.  Why would you ever marry someone then intentionally hurt their feelings?  What good could you ever expect to come of that?  Now I know how naive I was because people do it all of the time without any regard as to how to pick up the pieces afterward.  Sue is completely right.  The fact that I know that Big Poppa handles my heart with care and would never intentionally inflict pain on me is a huge factor in how I respond to our disagreements. Admittedly, it takes a lot of effort to remember that in the heat of battle ( sorry, just an expression).

How often have we all said something to our spouse and immediately wished that we could get those words back? Or even worse, how often have you wanted to say something, but knew that it wasn’t going to go over well and couldn’t find the right way to say it?  That second one really frustrates me because,  in my opinion, Big Poppa should know me well enough to know that I would never intentionally say anything to hurt him.  He should know that my intentions are to help us get to the heart of what ever is between us.  It’s called giving someone the benefit of the doubt.  Am I sometimes blunt? Yes.  Do I like to get straight to the core issues? Yes.  Am I warm and fuzzy when it comes to working out our differences?  No, not really but, I think that intent matters and that it is something to be considered by both sides.

Whether intentional or not, my words and/or actions can inflict pain on my spouse and I am responsible for the outcome.  Therefore, I should be prepared to deal with the fall out afterward.  On the flip side, if we accept the words in the spirit in which they were intended, doesn’t that lessen, not eradicate, the hurt?  After all, this isn’t a stranger that we are having a disagreement with, but it’s our spouse.  The person that we have chosen to spend our life with and spend more time with than anyone else.   Shouldn’t we be able to extend to them some consideration?   Don’t get me wrong, there have been many times during a disagreement when I have wondered how Big Poppa could be so insensitive or thoughtless.  However, I have had to take a step back and remind myself that he is not doing this on purpose. That’s not to say that I don’t take a moment to make him aware of how he has made me feel and why. We just don’t see this issue the same way. It’s a matter of trust.

Admittedly, there are things in a marriage that are done with the intention of hurting your spouse.  Domestic violence is intentional because it’s a power play and the abuser uses it to instill fear and to control his victims.   Lying is intentional regardless of what you’re lying about because you actually have to take the time to think up the lie to cover for whatever it is that you are doing wrong.  Infidelity is intentional. It never just happens.  That’s a lie (hence the previous statement) because you actually have to think about it and make plans to meet your lover at some predetermined location.  And even if you meet someone in a bar/work/gym and a one night stand follows, there are opportunities between meeting and the act to stop the entire thing.  It is a conscious decision.

Intent means a lot.  It can be the difference between experiencing some uncomfortable moments, but reaching a positive conclusion; and completely destroying a relationship.  Just something to be considered.  By the way, Bob and Sue are just fine.  She made him squirm a while, but then let him off the hook.

What Are We Doing to Our Children?

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photo credit: blog.holistichealth.ch

photo credit: blog.holistichealth.ch

“I want to give my children everything that I didn’t have when I was a kid?”   Have you ever heard someone say this? Have you ever said it yourself? Every time I hear that statement I wonder two things, a) what exactly does it mean? and b) why?  As a parent of twenty somethings, I see a lot in them, their friends, and their generation in general, that suggests that we parents may be giving them entirely too much.

When we say that we want to give our children everything that we didn’t have growing up, my sense is that we are referring to “stuff”: more toys, more gadgets, more vacations, more luxuries than were at our disposal as kids.  And, when I  say “we” I am really including myself because although I have never made that statement or actually even thought it, I stand convicted of being an overly indulgent parent.  Sometimes I try to rationalize it and sometimes I don’t.  I just do it because I can, and it’s fun.  Fun, that is, until my children through their behavior and/or attitude point out to me that I have done too much.  Here’s where my experience as a mom of twenty somethings comes into play because it wasn’t until years later that my husband and I realized the mistakes that had been made as they were growing up.

I am the product of an overly indulgent mother.  My father was the one who was reasonable and frugal but, Mom, not so much, although, neither one of them told me “no” very often.  So, when I became an adult and graduated from college, life stepped in and slapped me right in the face.  And it was brutal. Suddenly, my parents expected me to be responsible, pay my own bills, set goals, save money, chart my own path…things that I had never done before.   Then I found out that I was pregnant and that, my friends,  has been the single most grounding and defining  moment of my life.  The fact that I was going to become responsible for another little helpless, beautiful person put my feet firmly on the ground, and quickly, I might add.  Thankfully, none of my children have found themselves in this position  (and I implore them to keep it this way) because I often wonder about their ability to adjust to the real world.

The real world.  The world where you can’t call home and ask someone to put money into your bank account because you spent it all over the weekend (but, you had a great time!).  Where you can’t come home on break from college to your comfy, fairly large bedroom that you don’t have to share with anyone. You know, the one that connects to it’s own private bath or, maybe you share it with your sibling and it connects both rooms (Did I mention that this is all really well decorated?).   Where you can’t sleep until noon or 1:00 then go out to the back yard and dive into the pool.  The real world, where you pay for your own car; mommy and daddy do not buy it for you.  They don’t owe it to you.  In fact, they don’t owe you anything.  See, I have had to tell my adult children this very thing more than once, “We don’t owe you anything!”

Do you watch “House Hunters”  or “My First Place” on HGTV?  Every time I see these shows, I am amazed by the first time homeowners who really are insistent on buying a house that has a gourmet kitchen complete with granite counter tops and stainless steel appliances, four bedrooms, a master suite complete with a whirlpool tub in the bathroom, all in a 3,000 square foot home.  No one, no matter what their age or stage in life expects to have to work and save and plan for anything.  Instant gratification.  We live in a microwave society where we  expect to put a few loose plans into motion and expect instant success.  And it’s all our  fault, parents.  We have created a generation of  people who feel entitled.

Why? Why do we do this?  What is it that we are trying to make up for?  Were our childhoods that bad? I can recall playing games of “Pickle” in the yard across from my house until the street lights came on.  Or, asking my dad for a quarter to walk to the store and buy a soda to drink while reading Tiger Beat magazine in the aisle.   Or, walking down to the new cinema (notice, there was a lot of walking?) with my friends to see the first Star Wars movie…nine times.  Nothing elaborate, but it was all good.  Why do we feel like we have to go bigger with our own children ?  What was wrong with what our parents gave us?  I know that times have changed but, I submit that it’s because we have artificially upped the ante.  We have become so obsessed with “stuff” and status that we have forgotten that we, parents,  have a bigger purpose than just keeping our children entertained and coddled.

Tell me, do you put as much effort into teaching your children how to be altruistic?  Do you realize that kindness and compassion have to be taught, they are not intuitive?    Do you feel the need to teach your children the value of hard work resulting in delayed gratification?   This is hard stuff and I must say, that I find it just as daunting 16 years later than I did when I had my first child.  Fortunately, or unfortunately if you look at it from my younger children’s point of view, I am parenting from the rear view mirror and I can see clearly.  To set the record straight, my older kids are good kids.  They have their bumps and bruises but, they are figuring it out.  So am I.