Learning to fight better, accept more, appreciate daily and stay in love with my husband

My Pity Party In the Closet

Lately I have been standing center stage with the spotlight blinding me at my own pity party. There are only two people on the invite list, myself and my husband.  And my husband wishes he could just ignore the invite all together.  It is embarrassing to say, but it is true.

I am not sure what is up.  I just think that sometimes the stars align just right. They align in perfect order so that I can look at them and find everything wrong with the world.  Just in line to turn a normally positive and optimistic girl into a pessimistic stranger.

That is me.  The unrecognizable girl, laying in her husband’s lap in the closet, bawling for no real apparent reason, unable to pick herself up off the floor.

The stress of a bad business decision, unknown finances, an excess 10lbs that wasn’t there last year,  the undeniable stress of work and parenthood.  Stacking on top of each other all at once and, WHAM!  The once strong and happy woman of yesterday is the dark cloud of today.

I know that regardless of my list of excuses, sitting in the closet checking off all that is wrong is ridiculous.  In my moments of clarity I know that.   I know that I am quite capable of getting up off of the floor, dusting the carpet lint of my clothes and wiping the mascara smudges off my face.   In the heat of the moment though, I need to be reminded.

In comes husband, who provides his clothes as a snot rag, his lap as a pillow and his hands to move the hair out of my face.  Soothing and listening. Reminding me that I am better than this.

When I said, “I don’t know what to do.”  He replied, “Just start with what you do know.”   That simple statement stuck.  Start with what I know.

What did I know?  I knew I needed to get up off the floor.  I knew I needed a little time to myself and I knew I needed to move my body some so that I could start to feel good again.  That is all I knew, but it was enough.

I am still short-tempered and falling into tears easier than usual, but everyday is a new day.  I set new exercise goals, ones simple enough to do with minimal effort.  I cut some pages out of a magazine for inspiration and posted them on my closet wall where I can see them everyday.  I asked my husband to take over with children a couple of nights a week, so I can have some peace to think, I started writing in my daily accountability journal again.  Little steps that move me in the right direction.

Through all of this, there is one thing that I found easy gratitude for.  My marriage.  I am so grateful that husband and I have spent so much energy strengthening our marriage.  What would happen if our marriage was rocky on top of all of the stress that my meltdown has put on us?  It could be disastrous.

But, all of the work we have done has helped prepare us for times like these.  It has given us a real foundation that keeps us balanced when it feels everything else is going to crumble.  That foundation boosts me.  It gives me hope.  It reminds me that I have done something right. . . . .  A strong, loving, supportive, forgiving marriage.  That definitely has to count for something right?

Today’s lesson in improving my marriage:  Keep up the hard work.  It will pay off in ways you can’t imagine

photo credit: Evil Erin via photopin cc

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I Have A Crush!

photo by freedigitalphotos.net

I recently read an article in October edition of Redbook Magazine titled, ” Get Ready to Crush on your Husband.”  The title sold me.  I was in!

It talked about things that you can do to revisit that spark that you felt for your spouse in the beginning.  It made me think back to our beginning and reminisce about the things that started my crush in the first place.  Granted, when my crush started I was going thru puberty, but regardless there were certain things that made my heart race.

I remember, way back then, being crazy about his hugs.  My husband gives great hugs.  They are not half-assed hugs.  They are both arms wrapped around, body close, head tucked close to mine, tight squeeze kind of hugs.  They used to make my knees go weak.

I remember crushing on him because of his sense of humor.  He was always silly.  He knew how to bring a lightness to a room.  He was always joking.  He would do things that would make me shrink with embarrassment and laugh at the same time.

I remember having a crush because of his energy.  My husband is the kind of guy that can walk into a room and people look.  He draws people to him.  He always has.  He can bring a power and buzz to a room and make it shine brighter without even trying.

I definitely had a crush over his looks.  He was a hottie, at least in my eyes, way back in our Freshman year in high school. I remember thinking, Wow!  How did a guy like him, pick a girl like me?   I felt so  lucky.

What happens is, thru the years, you lose sight of all of those things that made you have a crush on the man to begin with. Not only that, but many of the things that you used to find attractive, now can be completely ignored or can make you absolutely crazy.

How often to I pay attention to his hugs?  Do find his silliness attractive?  Do I laugh at what I used to find adorably funny.  Do I notice when he walks into the room?

The article talks about how even after so many years together, you can still get that feeling of butterflies at strange and unexpected moments.  The point is, when that happens,  make sure you pay attention.

Since reading the article, I have thought a lot about the whole crush thing.  I realized that I get this feeling all of the time these days. It can be from taking in a good deep breath of how good he smells, to watching him on the floor playing with our son, to taking in a certain way he looks at me with his incredible blue eyes, or watching him walk toward me across a room with his goofy little grin.

It seems that the key to keeping the butterflies is to not only notice the moments he makes my heart beat a little faster, but to make sure I don’t let it pass without acting on it, or at the very least sharing my feeling with hubby.  He should know that he can still make me feel like a teenager with crush.

Just after I read the article, my husband went to run an errand.  He took the Jeep.  The Jeep is our favorite car.  In the summer, he takes the top and the doors off of it.  I was watching thru the window as he hopped in.   He put on his shades, turned up the music and sped out of the driveway.   All I could think was, “Damn, that Jeep looks good on him.”  He looked so sexy driving away in that car.  He looked young and free and so hot! And, I made sure to tell him so when he got back.

Today’s Lesson In Improving My Marriage: Yeah, I still got it!  I still have a crush on my husband. The key is to continue to work to keep it that way.

I am curious, what makes you crush on your spouse?

photo by freedigitalphotos.net

Hit The Road, Jack!

As promised here are some things that I have learned from the many family trips we have taken. Maybe you will find a little tidbit useful to incorporate in your upcoming family travels.

– Save ahead of time for the trip. It is great to have money that you have already put aside for vacation. We stash a little bit here and there every year so that by the time vacation rolls around we have what we need to do what we want to do. It would to have sucked to have traveled to Galveston, but not have had the funds to play on the pier. Even if you don’t have a lot of money for travel you can take a road trip closer to home. You don’t have to travel 4500 miles to reconnect with your family and get time away.

– Planning ahead is best. Some of the biggest arguments husband and I have had on vacation have been over which hotel to stay at. I just want a clean bed and shower he wants it to be the cheapest bed in town (clean or not). I say, come to an agreement on where to stay before you leave and book the rooms early. There is nothing worse than looking for a place to rest your head when you are tired and hungry. It just sets you up for arguments.

– Learn about your destination ahead of time. Is it expensive? Will you have to pay for parking everywhere you go? How far is it from other places you may want to visit? What is the weather like? I feel it is best to know these things ahead of time. It would be awful to find out you have to spend $25 a day in parking when you get there and realize you didn’t budget for that.

– Bring lots of activities for the kids. For road trips and long airplane rides you need distractions. It doesn’t have to be continuous, but something to help pass the time is very helpful. This year I brought road trip games that I had prepared before we left and I brought goodies for the kids to periodically reward them for good behavior. I also bought a few new things in the dollar section of Target (like little white boards and road atlases for each of them) so they had new things to look at or play with on the drive. We also let them listen to their IPod or watch movies on the IPad, but I did make sure that this time was limited. The point of a family vacation is to connect and communicate. You can’t do that if you are plugged in the whole time.

– Be still for a while. We like to travel somewhere and then stay for a few days before we move to our next destination. It not only gives you time to explore certain places, but also breaks up the monotony of being in the car for so many days. A vacation should feel like a vacation. Time to relax and unwind a bit. If you pack too much in, you will only feel exhausted and unrested. Make sure you take some time to chill. Have a day with nothing planned. Those are always my favorites.

– Get the kids their own room. For me, this is key for a happy vacation. Husband and I must have time to connect too and can’t do that easily in a hotel room with the kids in the bed right next to you. We always try to get a suite that has a door so that the kids can have their space and grown ups can have theirs. If we are in a place for a week or so, we will rent a house on VRBO.com. It usually ends up being around same price as a hotel would be, but you have a lot more space. The kids love it too. They need a break from Mom and Dad too!

– Plan activities for everyone. Give everyone a say in what they would like to get out of the vacation. In Texas, my daughter wanted to swim, husband wanted to visit Dealy Plaza, son wanted to visit the Nasa Space Center, and I just wanted to sit in a quiet space and read. We accommodated everyone.

Most of all, just treasure the moments. Each is so special. Even the times you are arguing you may look back on with a grin. Like remember that time that we took that dirt back road through Arizona that took us 5 hours longer than we anticipated and we were thoroughly pissed at each other by the time we it pavement? I will never forget 🙂

Today’s lesson in improving my marriage: Continue to take family vacations and build precious memories.

4500 Miles

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4500 miles.

That is how far we traveled on our recent summer road trip. It took us 26 days from start to finish. When I say us, I am referring to myself, my husband and our 2 kids ages 4 and 9.

Where did we go? We drove from California to Texas and back again.

When we told people our plan to travel that far, for that long, in a car, with two children, here is the response I would get, “Are you crazy? My kids would go nuts, why Texas? It’s so humid there.”

Here is my response to those people; maybe I am a little crazy, you could do it, and Texas – why not?

26 days, 9 hotels, asking a stranger to jump our car 5 times, 2 water parks, visits with family we never get to see, discovering an appreciation for the beauty of Texas, two 4-year-old meltdowns, 3 swimming pools, endless take out, the white sands in New Mexico, one Texas Ranger baseball game, the butterfly museum, the natural science museum, the heat, shopping in Bandera, the flowers in Fredricksburg, the quirkiness of Austin, the lightning storms, the river in San Antonio, the rides in Galveston, the upset stomachs and headaches, the joy on my kids faces, the humidity, the romance my husband and I lovingly call “Bandera Nights,” the Dairy Queens, the bats in Carlsbad, the meteor site in Arizona, the Grand Canyon, the memories.

This was not our first endeavor on a long road trip with children. When our daughter was a baby we drove up the coast to Canada. Let me just say, if you haven’t driven the California and Oregon coast, you should consider adding that to your bucket list. It is beauty beyond words. We have also taken road trips through New Mexico, explored Colorado and sat in awe in Utah.

Although, not my favorite thing to do, we fly too. Last year we flew to Florida and explored the Keys and we have traveled through Wisconsin and Hawaii. All with our children.

Summer vacations were a tradition when I was growing up. Once we took a 3 week road trip from California to Washington DC.

My husband didn’t travel as a kid. His family didn’t have the money or really the thought to do so. I remember thinking how sad it seemed that he had never been to Yosemite or the Grand Canyon. Two sites everyone needs to see.

When husband (then boyfriend) and I were 18 we started our own tradition of taking a big vacation every year. Back then it meant staying in dive hotels and living off peanut butter and jelly sandwiches and Kool-Aid.

Now, we still live off peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, but we stay in nicer hotels.

If I look back on all of my years, the memories that stand out the most are those from family vacations. From squishing in the front seat of my parents car, marveling at the Smithsonian, getting my foot stuck in the Texas mud, to unexpectedly camping in Bryce Canyon with my husband with no tent, carrying my daughter on my back on the suspension bridge in Vancouver, being overwhelmed by the sunset in Kauai, to an unforgettable night on the lake in Wisconsin. Each unforgettable memories.

Don’t get me wrong. Traveling is not all rosy. Living out of a suitcase gets old, trying to entertain two children continuously is exhausting, and arguing with husband about what we should feed the kids is ridiculous.

I wouldn’t trade it for anything.

What a family vacation does, for us, is bring my husband and I closer. He is able to focus on me rather than on work and I can stay up late snuggling because I don’t have to worry about getting up early the next day. It gives us the ability to give our kids the undivided attention that they always crave and gives us shared memories we will never forget. Like the scorpion in our room in Bandera, TX. A real scorpion!

I have learned a few things though, about how to make a trip successful. Especially a trip with children. The last thing that you want is to be at each other’s throats, because you can’t stand to be together for another minute.

Stay tuned for some of the travel tips that I have learned through our years of family vacations.

Today’s lesson in improving my marriage: Talk about where we want to go next year!

Husband and I recently had a fight.  Arguments are not unusual for us.  Over the past 14 years we have certainly had our screaming (usually me), cursing (usually me), semi tantrum (me too) blow ups.  We are also prone to bickering.  Sarcasm is just part of our language.

A couple of years ago, I noticed that the fights seemed to occur far to often.  A couple of times a week we would be fighting and the days in between were filled with endless bickering.

Hence, began my journey to finding techniques to improve my marriage, starting first with learning how to fight better.

One day my friend was chatting with me about an argument she had with her husband.  I don’t remember the details of the conversation, but there is something that she said that has stuck with me ever since.  She pointed the finger to herself and said, “My accountable version is this….”

Accountable version.  What a concept.  To point the finger at oneself  rather than at husband.  Did I ever do this? Take responsibility for my actions? Or  was I always so busy blaming that I forgot that I play my own part in every argument.

I was captivated by this idea.  Husband and I fought so often and I was so fed up with it!  Something had to change or we were not going to make it to “happily ever after.”

Sitting there with her at that moment, I decided that I was going to start being accountable in arguments.  I was going to try to point the finger at my self and not at husband.  What could it hurt?  I needed something, anything to help me resolve the constant arguing.

This is how our arguments have changed.   When we argue it may still include screaming (still me), cursing (still me) and semi tantrums (me too), but it will always come to a point where we take a deep breath and turn the finger on ourselves.

Here is what I have learned.  It is much easier to solve a disagreement when you are not constantly pointing blame.

Does this mean that I let my husband always be right?  Absolutely Not!!!!  What it means is that I recognize that I play a definite part in any disagreement that escalates to a fight.  Maybe I overreacted. Maybe I said something that was mean. Maybe I didn’t do a good job of listening.  Maybe I raised my voice and it was uncalled for.  Whatever my role was, I apologize for it.

When we look at ourselves and how we contributed to an argument and apologize for it, we can get back down to being respectful of each other.  We can get back to listening to each other’s concerns and talking about it as two adults who love each other should.

When I take accountability for my actions it diffuses the anger.  When I point fingers it escalates it.  And simply by example, my husband has started doing the same thing.  Even though I have to bite my tongue so hard sometimes it feels like it is going to bleed, this technique has helped to  transform our marriage.  We fight so much less and when we do, we are better at resolving it.

Being accountable has just become a way of life now.  Not only in arguments, but in every area of life.  I am in control of the outcomes I want in life.  There is no one to blame but me.

Today’s lesson in improving my marriage: Always have an accountable version.

The Alien in My Bed

I am beginning to think that men really are from Mars.  I find it fascinating that after nearly 14 years of marriage and over 23 years together, my husband is still alien to me.

I have been in a very strange depressive funk this week.  Something fairly rare to me.  I am usually a pretty easy going and predictable person.  That was not the case this week.

My body hurts and it has taken a mental toll.  I have been at a one woman pity party for the past 7 days.  It is bizarre to me.  To not feel like myself.  To not even feel human.  I feel out of my body, looking down at some woman I don’t recognize.  It is weird and a little freaky.

If it is freaky to me, you can only imagine how my husband has taken it.  He thinks I have been abducted and replaced with some overly emotional negative being that looks a little like his wife.

Through this week, I have learned something about my husband.  He is a fixer.  I think it is a man thing.  The second something is awry  he feels the need to make it right as fast as possible.  I can respect and appreciate that about him.

But sometimes,  things don’t need to be fixed, they just need a hug.

In one of my self pity rants I start crying about how my body is not what I want it to be.  How I feel enormous and unattractive.  My husband immediately goes into details of what excercise I should be doing or how I should cut out soda.

In response, my eyes bugged out and I felt my head start to spin.  I yell at him, “I don’t want you to fix it, I just want you to listen.”

I might as well have been talking Greek.  I could see him thinking, “What do you mean don’t fix it?  That is what I do.  If I am not supposed to fix it, then what the hell am I supposed to do? Just sit here and listen to you bitch and moan?”

YES!!!!

I admit, I have been a royal pain in the butt this week.  Something I can ‘t really explain, but I know it has taken it’s toll on my husband and my relationship.

Over the weekend, he decided to brave the rough waters and broach the subject again.  Basically, what is going on with me and where is his wife?

I told him talking to him is hard because he is not a very good listener.  Hurtful to him, but truly how I felt in that moment.  He just wants to fix it and that pisses me off.

After going back and forth about it for about an hour and feeling like this is not going anywhere, he decided to try a different approach.  He came over and put his arms around me.

The second he did that, the flood gates opened.

I crumbled into a sobbing mess and he just held me.  He didn’t offer an opinion or a get better tip.  He just held me quietly and let it all come out.  I won’t tell you how ridiculous I sounded.  Let’s just say it was not one of most shining moments.

But, I was so greatful in that moment.  To have such a wonderful husband that could still love me and try to give me what I needed even though I was mean to him and spoke in a language he didn’t understand.   Really who could blame him for not understanding how to handle someone like me.  I can’t even handle me.

But through it all, I have learned to be clear about what it is that I need.  I think he has learned that sometimes trying to fix it won’t help.  Listening can offer it’s own fix.  Feeling heard and supported is a valuable gift.

Today’s lesson in improving my marriage:  Maybe it is not my husband who is alien, but ME!!!!!   Poor guy.

Sometimes life’s lessons come from the most unexpected places.  That was the case for me this week.

One lesson learned was at Panera, during one of my writing sessions.  In a place such as that it is hard to ignore what is being said at the table next to you.  I promise I wasn’t purposefully eavesdropping, but sometimes the ears just hone in on a conversation without really realizing it.

I don’t remember what the conversation was about, but I do remember the man at the table saying, “I’ve learned to lower my expectations.  It is much easier to go through life that way.”

I was stunned by the comment and felt an incredible sadness for the man and what he might have experienced in life that caused him to have such a defeating outlook.

I couldn’t stop thinking about it. I couldn’t disagree more.

I couldn’t imagine having this attitude toward my life.  If I didn’t have high expectations, life certainly wouldn’t be as rewarding as it is.

In my marriage, I have very high expectations.  Do they get let down sometimes?  Absolutely! But because I expect so much, I work hard to achieve all that I hope for. Expectations and hope give me the drive to work at things to make them better.

All I could think was, I don’t ever want to be a person who sits in Panera and shares how low my expectations for life are.  Expectations are what drive us to greatness. I want greatness!

Another lesson came from my 9 year-old daughter.  She lost her second molar, in a week, a couple of days ago.  When she came out of the bathroom holding her tooth, this is how the conversation went.

Mom, “Wow, My baby girl is loosing all of her teeth.”

Girl, vehemently shakes her hear and says, “No, I don’t want to.”

Mom,” Why not?”

Girl,” Because I want to make it last.”

Mom, “What do you mean, you want to make it last?”

Girl,” I don’t want to grow up.”

Mom, “Well you still have several years left of being a kid.”

Girl,  in tears, ” I know, but this year I am going to be in double digits!”

She proceeded to tell me how she loved being a kid and didn’t want to be  a grown up, because kids get to do things that grown ups can’t do.

I was all choked up.  I couldn’t help but think, either I am doing an awesome job as a Mom because my daughter is enjoying her childhood so much, or I am doing a lousy job as an adult, because my daughter dreads the day it is her turn.  My guess is a little of both are true.

Being a Mom, naturally full of guilt, I couldn’t help but focus on the latter.  Do I portray adulthood as so bad?  Maybe.  She sees me constantly on the computer working. She sees my fatigue and short temper at the end of the day.  She sees me struggle to make time for play. She sees the endless  and dreaded chores.  She sees me trying to balance finances.  She hears me argue with her Daddy.

It is haunting to think about how she sees my life, a mirror as to how my husband and son see me.  How I see me.

I am far too often wrapped up in life that I forget I have two little admirers taking notes.  Showing struggle and resolution is important, but more important is showing the joy.  I feel it inside, but am certain I don’t express it as I should.

I want her to imagine the beauty of adulthood.  Falling in love, parenting, freedom.  I am certain that I don’t show the affection I feel toward my husband often enough in front of her.  Maybe if I did, she wouldn’t fear adulthood like she does.

It is quite apparent that I need to lighten up.  Stop making life so hard.  Show the joy and affection in my marriage so that my daughter can look forward to experiencing that for herself one day.   Express  and point out the joys in life, rather than just the struggles.

Maybe, I just looked too far to into it.  I mean, who doesn’t wish to still be a kid?  Free of worry and stress?  But, being an adult sure has its perks too!

Today’s lesson in improving my marriage:  Don’t forget you can learn a thing or two from strangers and 9 year olds.