Sunday, December 19, 2010

Marriage Symposium - Natalie

Please welcome Guest Blogger Natalie...

When G asked me to contribute to the symposium, I told her that I wanted to but life has been crazy lately with sick kids and holiday plans. Her response was a very gracious, "If the words are rattling around in your head, write. If it's too much, don't." So, this morning while I was unloading the dishwasher I took it as a sign that I need to write since the words were definitely rattling around in my head.

I've been married for nine years and have three kids, ranging in age from 7 years old down to 7 months old. It is a very interesting season in a marriage, to say the least!

The first thing that was rattling around in this brain of mine is that a lasting marriage takes two people who are truly committed to making a marriage work and are, therefore, committed to each other. Problems will come up. Misunderstandings will happen. There will be disagreements. There will be arguments. There will probably even be anger and fighting and hurtful words spoken. But! But, if both husband and wife are committed to the marriage then these are all learning and growing experiences that will serve to make the marriage stronger, rather than pulling it apart.

A good marriage really does have its beginnings before any vows are spoken. If you don't start with the right person, then it makes a successful marriage very difficult. And, by "right" I don't mean that one person who you've fallen head-over-heels in love with. That initial "love" (infatuation?) is no where near enough to make a successful, long-lasting marriage. Butteflies only last so long. Then life happens. Reality is messy if you aren't expecting it and you don't have the right person to face it with you. That is when infatuation has the real chance to turn into true love. Love is not a feeling or a desire. It is tested over time in many ways.

You see, love is a choice in many ways. In this season of my life, I have to choose to love my husband. I am in the throws of diapers, sleepless nights, toddler tantrums, longing for my previous life of working outside of the home, and a bit of chaos. It is very easy to turn inward and think about me, me, me and give myself a good, long pity party. Don't think I haven't done just that! But, I need to choose to show my husband that I do love him, even if there are others in the home that need me maybe just a little bit more than he does in this specific season. Let's face it, a puking toddler needs me more than my husband does, and a hungry infant has to take priority over a love note. But, between those moments of immediate child needs, a kind word, a short note, a text message, or a favorite batch of cookies baked can go a looong way to show that I still care about him. . . even if he comes home from work to find me unshowered, wearing clothes from yesterday, covered in spit up, and just a bit grumpy (or, even, a lot grumpy as is the case from time to time). I may not feel like performing any of those kind gestures, but I need to. I need to make that choice. Of course, he needs to make the choice to show love as well (and he does. . . he's often better at it than I am, to the point of making me feel as if I'm not worthy!). That's the way a marriage works. Both husband and wife need to choose to love. If one partner does not choose to show love, marriage can be a sad, lonely, draining place to be.

As our children grow, they will be just slightly less needy (in the immediate physical needs department) and a new season of our marriage will be in full swing. Diapers and night time feedings will be a thing of the past, and I'm sure that new challenges will replace them. Love will still be a choice. To have a successful marriage, both members have to enter into it knowing that Love will be the ONLY viable choice. True, deep, real love. Not the kind of love found in romance novels or the movies. Rather, this kind of love:

"Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It is not rude, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. Love never fails." I Corinthians 13:5-8a

No mention of butterflies or increased pulse rate there.

It truly is quite a lot to live up to, and we will fail. We will occasionally choose something other than love (like, oh, maybe anger or jealousy), but we repent and start over with choosing love. Every day. When our partner fails, we need to forgive, not retaliate. Wow. That's hard. But. . . that's Love.

~ Natalie

Saturday, December 18, 2010

Marriage Symposium - Claire

Please welcome Guest Blogger Claire...

When I think of a successful marriage, one that can stand the test of time, trial, adversity, happiness and love, I think of my parents. They were married for just 51 short years before cancer took my father away, but those years were as close to perfect as any can get. They epitomized the verse which tells us that the "two shall become one."

Mom and Dad had a partnership in every sense of the word. She would never have made a large purchase without first talking it over with him and he'd have never made a life changing decision without first discussing it with her. They did everything together, always putting the other person and what they felt, wanted or needed first. I saw my parents argue on occasion but I never saw them fight. Dad had his own business so of course there were times of struggle and financial hardship but that was something they worked through together, just as they enjoyed their success and the good life together. They were a very traditional family, she stayed home and took care of the house and children and he provided for the family. Both were happy and content in their roles, and, while one would happily help the other, those roles were clearly defined. There was never any competition, I never heard my mother say she "wasn't her own person" or worried about "finding herself". My father and mother truly respected each other. One would never have denegrated the other or made light of their contribution to the home. Both felt that without the other they could never have survived and that, in turn, gave each one a sense of importance to the marriage.

Faith played a very important part in our home. On Sunday, we children went to Sunday School and the entire family always went to church. Religion was an important part of our upbringing and was always part of any family decision.

The example they set for their four children was something that each of us has taken to heart and learned from. In all the years I was growing up, I never once feared that my family was in jeopardy and divorce was something I never even thought about.

Today many young people get married without any real committment or sense of lifetime. Many come from families of divorce and have lots of friends who are divorced so it's "easy" to use that avenue of escape rather than working at making it work. No one will tell you that being married is easy, but most who've been married for a long time will tell you that it is very worth the effort. Marriage is a sacrament and should be treated as such. When the storms come, and they will, a partnership which includes God, love, and a committment to one another will thrive and grow.

~ Claire

Friday, December 17, 2010

Marriage Symposium - Dan

Please welcome Guest Blogger Dan...

On Marriage

Let’s face facts. There are marriages that fail because they never should have been in the first place. And there are those that fail because something has happened that makes the relationship untenable. Either way, some marriages are doomed from the start. The question is, how can those doomed relationships be avoided and how can successful unions remain so?

My guess is that if partners in a thousand long and successful marriages were asked what the secret is to a long and successful marriage, two thousand different answers would be forthcoming. I suppose one would hear responses ranging from love and devotion to stubbornness and a refusal to accept failure. My wife and I have been married over 43 years. When we married, I was 25 and she was 22. So she has spent almost twice as much time with me than without me. We joke about it, but we agree that it is difficult to remember any time that we weren’t together. As for the secret – well I can only guess. And certainly, I can only guess about my own experience and no one else’s.

So, for what it is worth, here are my guesses. First is luck. We were lucky to find each other. Obviously, with billions of people in the world, there are lots of potential matches that would be successful. So, why this one? Well, we were cautious. We learned over months of courtship that we had a lot in common and neither of us found anything in the other’s behavior or attitudes that gave us a headache or cause for concern. To this day, I believe my wife is my best friend and I think she feels the same about me. Without common values, attitudes, beliefs, interests and judgments, it is hard to imagine a couple being best friends for very long. And, we have never tried to change each other’s characteristics. So, as I said, we were each lucky to find a partner with almost everything in common.

Second, has to be respect. If we didn’t respect each other, how could we ever love each other? And respect implies lots of things. Sure, we’ve had disagreements and maybe even a real argument or two. But, given a few minutes of reflection, we realized that we respected each other too much to allow anything to hurt the other. Maybe a great deal of respect is compassion. But whatever it is, I wouldn’t hurt her for anything on earth and I think she feels the same about me. There is a lot of give and take in a marriage. I often think, I’d like to have my way, but is it worth winning a point or forcing and issue if it threatens a relationship? Sometimes I have said some stupid things and maybe some hurtful things – we wouldn’t be human if we didn’t wish we could retract something stupid that came out of our mouths. But, having enough respect to recognize that and correct it and do all you can to prevent it ever happening again, is paramount in a relationship.

Third, is responsibility. A wedding vow is an oath. Whether it is a civil marriage where the oath is given before a witness or a religious oath that is given before God, it is still and oath. And are we responsible enough to take it seriously? Marriage is not a test drive or a rehearsal. It is the real deal - especially if children are contemplated. If you are not ready to assume adult responsibility for your actions, then don’t do it. Some people say they are ready, but their behavior says otherwise. Being responsible means many things. Some of what it means to me is accepting the psychological burden, the emotional burden, the social burden, the physical burden and perhaps often shoved in the background, the financial burden. Trying to carry a burden that is too great, can lead to stresses that will eventually lead to failure. So, my feeling is to be responsible enough to look soberly at reality. Are we prepared to face these burdens together? Forever!

Fourth, is hard work. If we really value something, we will work hard for it. A marriage may not be a tangible entity, but it certainly should be considered something of immense value. I have often considered our marriage a work in progress. It is the canvas of our lives that will never be quite finished. It will always demand my attention to keep making it better. Maybe some of the colors didn’t turn out as vibrant as I wished, and maybe some of the shapes aren’t as perfect as I would like, but it is our canvas and I will continue to due do my part to be sure it is as good we can make it. And that can be hard work. It cannot be taken for granted. It needs constant attention and constant devotion. Sometimes all it needs is a lot of thought and other times it needs a little touch up here and there to keep it interesting. And above all, I want our canvas to be pleasant to look at. It should reflect overall satisfaction and evoke warm feelings when contemplated. Being pleasant is not always easy, but I believe we reap what we sow and pleasant behavior today will beget pleasant memories.

Fifth, is a sense of humor. I know that life is a one way-street, that sometimes seems to have too many bumps and potholes, but the trip can and should be as enjoyable as we can make it. If we can’t laugh at our foibles and smile when challenged, we are missing something really important. As partners, my wife and I do a lot of teasing and look for fun things to do together. I realize that life can’t always be one joyful experience after another, but I try to challenge myself to seek new experiences that bring joy to us. Learning and growing should be fun. Even on a limited budget, we can still find libraries with wonderful books to open our eyes to new adventures. It’s not hard to find enjoyment in everyday life. It’s achieved with a sense of humor and a positive attitude.

Now, you’re probably wondering when, if ever, I’m going to mention love. Well, there may be such a thing as love at first sight, but I am more inclined to believe that love grows slowly and needs to be nurtured to fully bloom. If the above five ideas or guesses are there, then love has a chance. In our case, I think our love grows stronger every day because we have these five things in common. In other words, if you are lucky enough to find someone, who shares your interests, your values and your respect, your sense of responsibility, is willing to work hard to make the relationship enjoyable and has a sense of humor, you have a great chance of developing a life long love affair. There will be highs and lows, there will be challenges and disappointments, but if the foundation is there, the structure will weather the storms.

And one last thought about relationships. There are people who start projects, but never finish them. I avoid those people. They are quitters who clutter their lives with unnecessary baggage. I want to be around people who take pride in what they do and finish their projects, however humble they may be. I guess what I am trying to say is that if you enter into life’s major project – marriage and pro-creation, then do so with the commitment to see it through. Don’t be a quitter who runs away when the going gets tough. That kind of behavior is not fair to you, your spouse and especially your children. Choose your canvas carefully and then take pride in maintaining it.

- Dan

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Marriage Symposium - Rebecca

10 Things I Wish I Had Learned Before I Got Married

I've been asked by a friend to contribute to her blog. "G" requested that I write about marriage, more specifically, about what advice I would give my own daughters, assuming they were willing to really listen and take to heart what I have to say. Of course they always dutifully listen to me, right? Yeah, uh huh, sure. A little about me first. I have been married for over 23 years and have 3 daughters. One caveat that I should also mention is that I am a Christian, and I approach marriage from that perspective, so if you *aren't* a Christian, I would ask that you read this with an open mind and I hope that you come away blessed.

1) Get your priorities straight. As you enter into a marriage, you are really treading on unfamiliar ground. Whether you have been single and on your own for a long time, or have come almost directly from your mother and father's house, it's important that you learn to rank things appropriately. In a healthy marriage, the couple puts God first, each other second, their children third and so on. I say "and so on", because the pair can weigh the value of the other things that matter in their lives. It is important to highlight the placement of the marriage over children, which, will be vital when and if you decide to have kids. More on that later.

2) Pray for your spouse. And while I understand perfectly the desire to pray for them to behave as *you* want them to behave, that's not exactly what I mean. It is crucial to intentionally pray for your partner, for health, wisdom, clarity, etc. If it's been an average week and they've made you frustrated, go ahead and throw in prayers that they survive your wrath as well (just kidding). Even better, pray together. It will increase your understanding of each other's needs and desires and will bolster the intimacy the two of you share.

3) Learn to distinguish between longings and expectations. This is a biggie, and probably one of the major areas in which I messed up. Our society does not portray marriage accurately in just about any way, and many, many young people come to the alter with skewed expectations of what marriage is all about, and what it has to offer. I speak now specifically to women, because firstly I *am* one, and secondly because I have 3 daughters, and lastly because I honestly believe this is a larger problem for women. If all you have learned about marriage is from movies like "Twilight" or "Pride and Prejudice", you are likely to be seriously disappointed. Certainly romance can be expected and longed for within marriage, but real men are not like Edward Cullen or Fitzwilliam Darcy.

Longings are your innermost desires, they can be communicated, or held close, and it is perfectly normal and healthy to have them. They cannot become expectations until they are voiced by you to your spouse and mutually agreed upon. Therefore, it is very important to spend time reflecting on things that you yearn for, either from your spouse, or from your marriage and talk about them. DO NOT, and I repeat DO NOT believe for one minute that, because your husband loves you, he innately knows what you want.

Which leads me to:

4) Do not use girl logic ever. Ok, seriously, you know what I'm talking about. Here's a prime example: Your birthday is coming up and it's been a really rough month. Work has been awful, you haven't had any time to yourself, and what you really, really want is a romantic weekend away with your husband. So, you do what countless other women (including yours truly) have done through the centuries. You conclude that "if he really loves me, he'll know what I want". I am here to tell you that NOTHING good can come from this situation and I can assure you that he has NO idea what you want, and it has absolutely nothing do with his level of affection for you. Men think in very different ways. They are direct. They will assume that you will tell them what you want. So, my advice is: do that. Be direct. If you want a weekend away, then ask for it, that way everybody wins. You get what you want, and he's not left wandering around the house wondering why you're so irritated with him when he got you a lovely card for your birthday.

5) Pick your battles, and even more importantly, pick your timing for them carefully. It's bound to happen, you're going to be irritated about something and are going to need to talk about it. I applaud that, it's always important to be honest about what is bothering you, however, a word of warning, the timing for said discussions is as important as your wording. Pick a time when your spouse is not busy with something else, or tired and trying to go to sleep (ok, I admit that was one of my worst habits, the captive audience). Better yet, ask them if it's a good time to talk, let them know you have some concerns, and tell them you're wondering if now would be a good time to have the discussion. But, be warned, if they say no, respect that and ask about when would be a better time.

6) Don't be afraid of the rough patches. It's difficult to live in tension, but all marriages will go through times where things are just downright hard, and that's ok. Don't let it scare you, keep the lines of communication open and remember that when you emerge from that time, no matter how long or short, your marriage will be stronger because of it. Having said that, don't be afraid to ask for help if you feel overwhelmed or just don't know what to do. It doesn't mean you have a bad marriage if you seek counseling, it means you want to strengthen and preserve what you have. Wise people do not wait to see the doctor until they're dying, they go at early signs of illness, likewise it's important to seek out help if you feel you need it. Just be sure that whomever you approach for advice is on the same wavelength with you about the value of marriage. Unfortunately, there are counselors out there who prioritize individuality and self-actualization at the expense of marriage. Be very wary of this. Your marriage should always be your number one priority after your relationship with God. It is a precious gift and should be treated as such.

7) Don't be afraid to be vulnerable with, and dependent on, another person. This can be especially hard depending on your own life experiences. This is another one of those areas that I messed up on big time. I am a very independent, self-reliant person and had decided early on that it was unwise of me to ever fully depend on someone else. It had a lot to do with being disappointed as a child, and I was unable to show anybody, least of all my husband, much vulnerability. The sad part is, none of that protected me, and in all honesty I caused myself and my husband more hurt in the long run. Part of life is loving people. We were created for community and to cleave in partnership to a spouse. When you love someone, they will inevitably, (usually unwittingly) hurt you. Don't throw the baby out with the bathwater. Marriage is worth the hurts you will sustain, and if you are open and honest you will be rewarded many times over.

8) Don't put your children ahead of your spouse. Nowadays this seems to be one of the biggest mistakes I see among young couples. The biggest gift you can give your children is a strong marriage. Not only for their stability and current happiness, but also as a model for their future relationships. Your child's best example of marriage is what you show them. You need to spend time alone together to renew and reconnect with each other. If you can afford it, take weekends away, if not, trade off babysitting duties with another couple and get away for dinner, or coffee, or just to talk. I cannot stress how important this is. Your marriage must be nurtured as much as your children in order to grow and be healthy.

9) Set healthy boundaries with your in-laws and offer them the respect they deserve. In-law relationships can be tricky at best. It's important to remember that, no matter how weird they seem to you, they are your spouse's parents. That does not mean that they should run the show, but try to avoid making your spouse choose between you and them. That is a lose-lose situation.

10) Enter into your marriage with the belief that it's permanent. If you allow yourself to consider options "in case it doesn't work out", then you're more likely to give up and bail out. No matter what anyone tells you, your marriage is always worth fighting for. Always. It is a promise you made to one another, before God. Be careful of falling for the societal belief that love is an emotion, because it is so much more than that. Love, quite simply, is a choice. When you marry someone you *choose* to love them on their good days, their bad days and every day in between. That doesn't mean you're going to feel all gushy for them all of the time, but it does mean that you're going to have look at them and remember that the things that annoy you about them at the moment, are some of the very things that attracted you to them in the first place.

In my opinion there is no more wonderful thing, no more sustaining experience on this earth that that of a marriage. Enjoy it, treasure it, guard it, and it will reward you with untold blessing.

~ Rebecca

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Marriage Symposium - Paige

My friend Paige and I were discussing marriage and she graciously agreed to write for the marriage symposium.  Paige and Kyle have been married just short of five years.

Paige Writes -

What has surprised me the most about marriage is how hard it is to find couple time after the kids come and how easy it is to avoid date night cause it's too much of a pain to mess with the kids' schedule and getting a sitter. We basically sacrifice our relationship for convenience. And it's NOTHING like the movies, movies create unrealistic expectations of marriage.

What have I seen that cripples marriage? Easy, FILTERS! A young couple will do well to learn about filters. For example, alcohol is a touchy subject with me. When I mention to Kyle that I think he's drinking too much, it doesn't really matter how I say it, he hears "alcohol" and everything I say thereafter makes him angry. He has an alcohol filter. We all have filters, they are blocks to communication. If we don't acknowledge them we cannot overcome them.

If I could only say one thing to a young couple I'd tell them after the lust phase i.e. honeymoon phase if over there will come a time where you must choose to love your spouse. Kyle and I have discussed this often. I remember once when he was very upset with me, I don't remember why, but I do remember asking him if he stilled loved me. He said "Yes, but only because I'm choosing to."

Kyle and I often say "I love you," but it's the "I like yous" that mean the most to me :) As silly as it sounds an "I like you" will get a bigger response out of me than an "I love you" when coming from my husband!

~ Paige

The Marriage Symposium

The idea of "marriage" has rattled around in my brain the past few weeks.  As I mentioned in my post last night, I am concerned that too many people walk away from marriages that could make it and almost no one speaks up to say, "hey wait, FIX the thing."  Instead, we have a culture of unwillingness to appear judgmental.  As a result, there is not much societal pressure to stay married and find a way to make marriage work.

Rather than write and write and write, I thought it would be interesting to ask several people to contribute to a marriage symposium and have a discussion about marriage.  After all, conversation is nearly always more interesting than lectures.

Over the next week we will welcome several guest bloggers.  I tried to invite writers whose marriages are from a broad spectrum, from young to mature.  Writing is a very personal, reflective process, and it is interesting to read what makes it to the screen.  In the next week, we will hear from men and women in different stages of marriage.

I hope you are as fascinated as I am to read their thoughts.  To the writers who have contributed, I say thank you very, very much.  Print out what you wrote and save it for your kids.  It's a gift.

~ G

Monday, December 13, 2010

It's Time to Bring Back the Judgment

Remember me telling you about my friend whose husband moved out a few months ago so they could "work" on things?  Well, shocker of shockers, he was having an affair.  My friend is crushed, devastated, heartbroken, and left to pick up the pieces of her and their children's hearts.

Am I being dramatic?  I don't think so.  This man deserted his family.

But, G, infidelity is just a symptom of a damaged union.

True, but you know what a real man would have done?  Well, a real man would have worked like a dog to fix his marriage - but, even a grown-up would have been honest that he'd checked out of the marriage rather than put his wife through a year of intense marital counseling, letting herself turn herself inside out in an attempt to save the marriage, when he had no intention of actually fixing the marriage.

It makes me mad.  I am outraged.

Cut to a week or two after the revelation that this cad had been bedding his coworker for at least a year and I was sitting with an acquaintance who divorced last year.  I asked her about her divorce and asked if she had any advice for my friend.

She told me she had learned to not judge, that no one really knows the circumstances of what is happening in a marriage, that no one can really relate to how bad a marriage can be unless they have been there, so no one should judge how it ends or how anyone behaves.

She then proceeds to tell me that she insisted she and her then-husband go to counseling.  I know her husband.  I know that during the time they were in counseling, he was crushed, he wanted his wife back and he wanted his marriage healthy.  He was invested in their marriage.

Turns out she wasn't.  The whole time they were in counseling, she was in love with another man.  How do I know this?  She told me.


She then told me no one can judge, that no one should judge, that no one really knows.

Bull hockey.

Those actions deserve judgment.  There are consequences for actions and some actions demand judgment.

It is flat-out wrong to violate the sacred vows of marriage.  Marriage is a commitment made before God with the words "til death us do part."  That's a forever kind of commitment.  If a spouse is literally being abused, being cuckolded, married to someone with an addiction declares they would rather have the addiction than the marriage, then by all means, end the marriage.


Cheating?  Lying?  Walking away?

Those actions deserve judgment.  People are so afraid to judge bad behavior these days.  They don't want to seem "judgmental."  They might say something quietly to a neighbor, but they certainly won't say it to the person's face.

I'm just going to say it: We need to bring back some good old-fashioned judgment.  If you desert you family, your actions deserve scorn.  If you cheat on your spouse, your actions deserve condemnation.  There is no excuse for such wretched behavior.

All these things have been rattling around in my head for the past few weeks.  I'm angry.  I'm frustrated.  I hurt for my friend.  I'm incredulous that my acquaintance thinks her actions are above judgment.  What to do?

Have a symposium!  It occurs to me that the thing to do is invite people I know (either through online friendships or in real life) who value marriage to write about their experiences in marriage.  What makes a good marriage?  How does one avoid the nastiness?  What advice would they give a young couple, eager to learn how to make marriage work?

Over the next week or so, I will post the essays of my guest bloggers.  Please welcome them!  Feel free to post your comments and questions to them.  They will have the opportunity to respond to you.  I can hardly wait to get started!

~ G

Thursday, December 9, 2010

How Do the Kids' Toys Feel?

Little One and I are watching Toy Story 3 again.  (Actually, she's watching and I'm sitting here on the couch writing and taking a moment to share a riveting thought with you.)

We checked the movie out from the library, so she's got a week to get in all her viewing, doncha know.

Watching the toys discuss Andy's room and being Andy's toys makes me wonder how my kids' toys feel about being in our house.  Is this a good place for them?  Do they like it here?  Are the kids good to them and do the kids use their imaginations to create a fabulously fun environment?  Do the toys feel a sense of terror and panic when I come in with the bags for donation and trash?

Um, you know, if they were real.  >Ahem<

~ G

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

A Tale of Fur, Couches, and Glory

We have a long-haired dog.  You may remember the drama of our receiving her into our home last summer.  Turns out she gets just as stinky as every other dog.  I mean, I didn't expect a stink-free dog, but a girl can dream.  The dream was just a dream.

She was stink-y.  Stinky.  Last night she came in the office and the kids shut her in here with me.  Seriously, she about knocked me out with her doggie odor.

You know what this means, don't you?

Bath time.

I worked last night until just before midnight and this morning Darling inadvertently woke me up, so after 5 hours of sleep, I was up for the day.  Yes, that was a run-on sentence and I could not care less so deal, okay?

The dog needed a bath and we were both awake.  The kids were still asleep.  Kinda.  Little One got out of bed, but she was tucked back in and sleeps as I type.  Amen.

Now, I don't know how the rest of the world does it, but when it's 28-degrees outside, my dog takes a shower with me.  I am not going outside with a hose, getting all wet in the dark, in the freezing cold.

So, kid toy bucket in hand, I snatched up the dog by her scruff and we took a shower.  She got clean after multiple passes with a child's beach bucket.  When we're done, I grabbed a towel and started drying, drying, drying her.  Fat lot of good it did with all that fur.

When I opened the door of the shower, she glanced back at me, then stepped gingerly out of the shower... and took off like a shot.

She made a beeline for her food bowl.  Dripping wet.

I followed her with the towel.

So there I was sopping wet in my kitchen, in all the glory in which the Lord delivered me unto my parents, woolling around a dog with an old towel, trusting the Lord wouldn't use this as one of those "the Lord has such a sense of humor moments" with my sons.  Thank God, the boys were still asleep and did not walk in on that scene.

Then I remembered a friend offered us her white couch.  It's almost new, but they're redecorating and are passing it on and she gave us first right of refusal.

I stood up in my kitchen, stock still like a deer caught in headlights - about as dressed as one, too - and shuddered at the thought of wet, long, dog fur rubbed alllll up and down the sides of that white couch.

Maybe God's sense of humor right now is shocking me with these visions of domestic havoc?

I'm going to pass on the couch.

Unless I can slipcover it.  Thoughts?

So there's the tale of fur, couches, and glory.

~ G

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Dry Erase - NO!

Last week's speaker at my mom's group shared a technique for memorizing Scripture and leaving notes for the kids: Write it on the mirror with a dry erase marker.

Do you see the problem, yet?

I didn't, either.

Five minutes ago I wrote "You are loved! :-)" and drew a big square on the kids' bathroom mirror (you know, so they'll be in the "loved" box).

Beaming with maternal pride, I marveled at my handiwork and then... realized it looked like MARKER.

You know what happens when you write on a mirror with a dry erase marker when you have preschoolers in the house?

You know, don't you?

They think their markers are okay to use on the mirrors... the walls... the furniture...

Visions of a Mr. Clean Magic Eraser cleaning frenzy filled my eyes and before you could say, "we don't use markers to color the walls," I snatched up a towel and wiped away the love box.

Maybe someday the kids will get love notes from me on their mirror.  That day is not today.

~ G

Sunday, December 5, 2010

Writing at Dusk

I'm sitting here in my son's room my husband's office my new office and typing away for my job.

Well, not right now, but a few second ago.  Right now I'm writing to you.

So I am sitting here by the window as dusk falls outside, considering our back door neighbors across the street, wondering if they wonder what I'm doing.  The lamp is on.  If they look out the window, they can see me perfectly in silhouette.

Suddenly, that scene in She's Having a Baby comes to mind.  Remember?  The balding, beer-belly neighbor asks Kevin Bacon what he's doing all night by the window with his hands?  Kevin Bacon (Jake, really) says he's writing a book.

Do the neighbors think I'm writing a book?

Or are so many people glued to their laptops today that I just look like everyone else?

Maybe they're just happy the kids aren't crying in the backyard and the dog isn't barking like she's on fire and that I'm not screaming like CPS-bait?

Maybe I'd rather they think I'm a genius and writing a book.

Maybe I need to close the curtains.

~ G

Friday, December 3, 2010

A Mother's Heart - Speaking the Unspeakable

Please welcome my Guest Blogger, Mama C.  She is a sweet lady and a friend of mine who has a gift for putting her feelings into words.  I asked her to share her story with us and she graciously agreed.  A Mother's heart can be fiercely protective, tender in its approach, and deeply wounded.  Mama C writes about those wounds.  And now, Mama C...

Speaking the Unspeakable

How do I write about the loss of my children? While it is an experience I share with millions of other women, including a majority of my friends, it is an intensely personal experience that I have trouble explaining even to my husband. Maybe I’ll try starting with the basics.

I am the mother of six precious babies. Three of those babies are sleeping in my bed right now. Three of those babies are sleeping in heaven. After a three year struggle to get pregnant, my first child, Baby A came into my world on October 18th, 2002. And then she was gone to heaven on November 7, 2002. Our oldest was then born in August 2003. Our second boy came along in February of 2005 and it seemed we were well on the way to the family we dreamed of. Then in February 2006 we were surprised to find ourselves expecting again. Baby S came into existence on February 14, 2006. Through many troubles, she clung to life for 17 weeks and 2 days. She was born still on June 1, 2006.

I was finally able to bring a baby girl - Baby L – home with me on May 18, 2007. Due to the strain of a pregnancy after a stillbirth, we decided to wait awhile before conceiving again. Then we were once again surprised by a blessing. Baby C joined our family on July 25, 2010. He left us, painfully, in early September 2010. Baby C was then born on October 1, 2010.

This last loss is what I am supposed to be discussing here. I am glad to share this experience because I know how lonely losing a sweet baby is. Hopefully someone who is suffering through this most terrible of all losses, the loss of a child, will feel some small bit of the horrible weight lifted knowing she is not alone.

The worst part of losing a baby is, of course, the loss of this little life for which you have so much love and had so many hopes and dreams. For me, the minute I find out I am pregnant my child’s whole life sort of flashes before my eyes. I spend days and nights dreaming about everything from those last days hugely pregnant waiting for the birth to nursing my sweet baby to chasing another toddler to playing dress up to first days of school and on and on and on. All of that, all of those moments never experienced are ripped out of your future. Along with this come waves of hormones and emotions that could fell a mastodon.

As life continues around you, you are riding these waves of grief and pain and guilt and sadness that at times allow you to float almost feeling normal and in the next moment swamp you and drag you down. It is very easy, and very common, to feel like you are losing your mind. And we mamas tend to add to it by questioning the perfection of our experience. If we allow ourselves to grieve and let our normal “duties” go undone for a few days, we privately berate ourselves for making too much of this loss that society says is no big deal. If we have a day where our other children actually make us laugh, we feel we are somehow betraying our lost child by not grieving enough.

My Baby C was born just over a month ago. I have not yet truly grieved for a few reasons. For one, the day he was born I almost died and then I spent the next week and half in and out of the hospital and doctors’ offices. For another, he was born at the busiest time of year for my work and my absences caused problems that nearly got me fired.

What kind of mother am I? What kind of mother values her own life, and her job, more than her precious baby? And yet I go on, not allowing myself to grieve because I have three living children who need food and clothes and a home. And while I cannot convince my heart yet, my mind knows that is alright because I am doing what is best for my family.

The second worst part of losing a baby is the unbearable loneliness. The world doesn’t know what to do with a mama who has lost a child and a mama who has lost a child doesn’t know what to do with the world. The people who love me want so much to help me but haven’t the faintest idea how. Most of them just end up handling me with kid gloves like I might explode at any moment. Others act like nothing happened.

And still others try to help in the worst possible ways. Like my dear wonderful boss who wants to help me lose weight so I won’t lose any more babies not realizing that by doing so she is saying that it is my fault that Baby C and Baby S and Baby A died.

And I am just as schizophrenic in my handling of the world. I so desperately want to talk about what happened because that is how I get to hang onto my babies and be their mother. But I don’t want to burden anyone so I try not to let on when I am feeling raw. I need help because I still am physically weak, but I know everyone else has their own trials and they don’t need my burden added to theirs.

And on another level, I know that society considers miscarriage to be a minor matter and a “modern” woman should barely miss a step when it occurs. This leads to women not discussing miscarriage and so I feel like I cannot be open about my loss for fear of hurting someone who has lost a baby and still carries grief she was never able to express.

Losing a baby, even very early on, is a devastating experience. The degree of that devastation varies from woman to woman and from loss to loss. It is unsettling and overwhelming. You feel sad and crazy and everything in between. If you are a mama who has lost a baby, at any stage, be kind to yourself. However you grieve is how you are supposed to grieve. Whatever you feel is how you are supposed to feel. If you need help, ask for it. Your loved ones want so much to help you; give them the chance. You spend the rest of your life taking care of others; this is one time in life where you need to allow yourself to be taken care of. And remember, you are not crazy and you are not alone. Find someone who understands where you are coming from. There are many groups online where you can tell your story and be understood by women who have been where you are.

If you love a mama who has lost a baby, at any stage: talk to her. Don’t let her push off your concern. Don’t let her hide her feelings. If she has other kids, help her care for them. If she doesn’t have other children, help care for her. She is as unsure how to act as you are. Even if you are uncomfortable, take the burden off of her so she can sleep if she wants or talk if she wants or play with the kids because other mama concerns like laundry are covered.

Time will not heal this wound but time will bring a new normal. Until then, love goes a long way.

~ Mama C

Thursday, December 2, 2010

So Charming of Me

How charming of me to leave you for several weeks with that odd dream posted.  Nice, nice work there, G.

My laptop died on Saturday, Nov. 13.  I'm here to tell you laptops do not like tea.  They just don't.  Just a friendly PSA from me to you.

The laptop came home from Best Buy (amen for buying the black tie warranty) and I had a deadline.  Then another.

The deadlines are self-imposed.  I'm actually 2 months ahead at this point, but I get paid as completed work is submitted.  I need the money.  The blog is fun and all, but it doesn't pay as much or at all as the other gig.

So, I'm back.  But another deadline looms.  20,000+ words by Monday.  You see the conundrum.  Gotta go write.

I'll be back soon.  Promise.

~ G


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