Wednesday, March 11, 2015

For My Guy - on our 5th Month-Aversary #LeanInTogether

I read this blog post earlier written by Dr. Kelly Flannigan titled: Manning Up and Leaning In to a Truly Equal Marriage.  It had to be a God-thing to have it drop into my Inbox today because I had been trying to think of something to write about for my and My Guy's 5th Month-Aversary. I started celebrating them last month. Why did I not celebrate months 1, 2 or 3 you ask? Well, because that is how I roll. I come up with great ideas AFTER the fact and even then it can take awhile for any action to follow through. We will see how many of these I get around to. But today I am celebrating 5 months of marriage - AND my second in a row Month-Aversary post. WooHoo!!!! Dr. Flannigan writes one of my favorite blogs called Untangled and wrote a fantastic little book called The Marriage Manifesto: Turning Your World Upside Down. I discovered it when I was preparing to get married for 2nd time. It is worth every word - and it is FREE. I am pretty sure any budget can handle that.
He loves to grill. And I love that he loves to cook. #willwashdishesforfood
Anywhoooo - back to the blog I read this morning. I would venture it is a safe bet that My Guy has never even heard of the #LeanInTogether campaign. Of course, after this post comes out that is likely to change. Regardless, I am blessed to have a husband who lives out the ideals of #LeanInTogether every single day. He has always been willing to step in and take part in every aspect of sharing our life together. We both work more than full-time outside the home which means that it takes both of us working just as much inside the home. Between us we get the dishes and the laundry done and the grocery shopping and the cooking and  the nagging the kids and on and on. In the yard he loves taking care of the lawn while I prefer to putter in the garden. Together we have five daughters. As crazy as it sounds to some folks he has never felt his life was incomplete because he never had a son. He has never felt there was anything he could not/would not do with them because they were girls. He goes shopping with them. He talks hair color and clothing styles with them. Our youngest prefers to have him help brush out her long gorgeous hair because, "He is more gentle than you, Mom." He encourages them to explore and discover who they are as individuals. And he is their biggest fan at every activity they choose to participate in be it Ag Issues or volleyball or archery or dance or weight get the picture.
Here you go - this is my and My Guy's hearts walking around outside of our bodies. #parenting
I also know that he is my biggest supporter of anything I choose to do personally or professionally. It still floors me to share life with someone whose greatest wish is for me to be happy. What the heck do you with someone like that?  Seriously. I love that I can go to him and share my dreams that may seem a little silly - like a write a blog that is usually only read by my sister. Or the dream of considering a change of profession which might mean a change in my hours which could mean a change in how and where he helps take care of our kids and house and all. Or the dream of learning to play the guitar because that would just be really cool, right? It doesn't matter what I may dream about he has never said "No - that would be silly or a waste of time or it would be inconvenient." I hear those phrases all the time - usually from my own head. My husband tells me to go for it. Yep. That is it. "Go for it, Kathy. We will figure it out together."
Looking up the manual for a pre-owned grilling microwave we got. There really are people who ACTUALLY read those things. 
I try to be intentional about letting him know how much I appreciate sharing life with someone who truly embraces what being a partner is all about. He is always surprised when I do just that. As if to ask, "Why are you making a big deal out of something that is perfectly normal?" Because for him it is perfectly normal. 
I think there is truth to the idea that guys that are good to their own moms treat other women in their lives very well.
I just have to add here that there are many other men in my life who embrace what #LeanInTogether encourages. My dad is one. My brother is another. I know several others. I think because of them I was drawn to a man who has similar characteristics. I could go on ad-nauseum about all the ways he makes a good partner. But I won't ..... at least not much more. My Guy is my best-friend and lover and a true partner. And I am grateful every single day for him. 

I love you, Curtis. Happy Month-Aversary.

Friday, February 20, 2015

Things I Suck At: #Lent - 2015 Version

It is that time of year again. You know.....Lent!!


This is a tough one for many of us Christians. And as a chronic over-thinker it drives me to the brink. I mean this is serious business. Seriously. As Christians we are marking the last 40 days(ish) leading up to Easter when Christ DIED FOR US. Seriously - how much more serious can we get here? This is IT - THE REASON FOR IT ALL. Did I mention how serious this season is?

Let me just say that I am not making fun of my faith or those who choose to follow it with me. (Ok - maybe just a little.) It is just that Lent is HARD. It is not happy like Christmas. We don't give each other gifts and look forward to the birth of a baby and sing happy songs. Although we can all whine about how both Christmas and Easter have been tragically commercialized. But I digress...... Lent by it's very nature is solemn and dark and contemplative. Like Advent it is a season of anticipation - but what we are anticipating is kind of difficult to wrap our heads around. See if you can follow this with me..........Jesus DIED for us - by choice. And this is heart-breaking and humbling because why would He die for Me? But then again, wait, no, it's not sad because now we have new life in Christ - the ultimate second chance and that is a cause for great joy!! I sometimes feel like I get whiplash going back and forth between these thoughts.

I have been a Christian all my life - and I still don't have it all figured out. For do we celebrate Lent? Or is it even a celebration? Maybe I should say, how do we observe Lent? It is supposed to be serious right? Or should we even bother with Lent? I grew up in a tradition where Lent is regularly celebrated/observed (you decide which word you like). But as I got older I realized that many Christians don't bother with Lent. They think it is unnecessary or narcissistic or too Catholic (gasp). As Protestants anything Catholic is the ultimate example of what NOT to do in Christianity.  My apologies to my many beloved Catholic friends and family. You better know I am being utterly sarcastic here. I love you and I think you rock. Just pointing out what I have observed. And I am a Methodist. We love everybody - whether we should or not. Jesus said to, so there.

So, anyway, for those of us who do observe Lent - just how do you do it? Many of us give up something for those 40(ish) days in honor of the sacrifice that Christ made for us. I can offer many examples of how I have failed in the approximately 30 years I have made a point of "doing" Lent. I have with varying degrees of success (none 100%) tried giving up television, coffee, soda, chocolate, cussing, desserts and so on. In later years I have tried being more mindful and instead of giving up something I have attempted to ADD something to my daily routine. Yeah - that hasn't gone so well, either. I really do love God. And I really am eternally thankful for the sacrifice Jesus made for me. But if He is grading my gratitude on how well I have observed Lent then I am afraid I am an abysmal failure.

And, as if Lent isn't hard enough there are other Christians out there who will tell you that you are doing it wrong. It is a sad reality that Christians can be really mean and judgmental and well, down-right UN-Christian to each other. They will tell you that either what you choose to sacrifice or add on is not good enough. Or they tell you how you go about observing it is not the "correct" way. Do we keep what we are doing just between ourselves and God? Do we share it with a trusted a friend? Do we tell anyone how it is going? Does that make the narcissism argument true? In today's world...are we missing the point if we share anything about it on Social Media? Or are we being honest and real in sharing a part of our faith journey with others? Aren't we supposed to do Christian life in community? What about accountability? What about people like me who feel like we are letting Jesus down when we realize three whole days have passed and we forgot to read our devotional? Do I just tell God or do I confess to a friend and keep trying? Please tell me it counts if we get caught up and keep trying!!!!

I feel that I have to say this here. Because I know this is to be true with my deepest being - God and Jesus have NEVER been as hard on me as I am on myself. Thank HIM/THEM for that. Amen and Amen. I have come to believe that for me - doing/celebrating/observing Lent is an important part of my personal faith tradition. It is good for me to make a point every year of being intentional about observing my faith. During Lent that means being reminded of my Christian story and remembering what Christ has done for me. Which, seriously, was HUGE. "There is no greater love than to lay down one's life for one's friends." If I really let myself sink into that thought it makes me weep. I don't deserve it. But I am grateful for it. And, even though, I always feel like I will never get Lent "right", I don't ever want to give up trying to let God know I love Him. I can never repay what has been given to me by giving up chocolate for six weeks or reading my Bible daily for six weeks or doing pretty much ANYTHING for six weeks. And God knows that. He also knows that I need many opportunities to get things right. I am grateful He has given me many, many Lents to try, however inadequately, to do something good. God-willing I will have many, many more Lents to keeping trying for Him.

So, how am I failing at...errr, observing Lent for 2015? I will tell you because it helps me be accountable and, yeah, maybe it is a bit narcissistic, but I will let God judge that because, like I said, He is much nicer to me about stuff like that than I am. This year I am participating in Rethink Church's Photo-A-Day Project. Feel free to check out the link. I like it because it makes me think - and it is intentional - and it is fun. And I even read here that is ok to have fun during Lent. (#mindblown) Assuming I make today's post before midnight I will be three for three - for the first three days of Lent with only 40-ish more days to go. Given my history chances are good I will play catch-up up with photos for a few of those days. But God knows my heart - and He knows I will keeping trying. And that makes it worth it to celebrate/observe Lent once again this year.

'Til Next Time.

Wednesday, February 11, 2015

For My Guy - on our 4th Month-Aversary

Feb. 11, 2015
Me & My Guy Dancing on Oct. 11, 2014 (aka The. Happiest. Day. Ever.)

Today marks the 4-month-aversary of our marriage. For some reason this day has me thinking a lot. Maybe because it is so close to Valentine’s Day and everywhere you look Hallmark’s version of love and romance is being thrust relentlessly at you. Ugggg.
This is not the first rodeo for either of us. Comparing my first marriage to my second is like comparing apples and oranges. I learned a lot the first time around. Thankfully, My Guy, is patiently helping me to unlearn much of it.
I used to think celebrating month-aversaries was rather, well, juvenile. I had to learn the hard way that joy is not always guaranteed and that it should be celebrated as much as possible. So, go ahead, count those months, days, hours, minutes and CELEBRATE. They are precious and we all need more joy and happiness. Like the Happiness Fairy says: Take that Happy Dust and spread that sh*t everywhere!!
My Guy looks really good in a tux, don’t you think?
He hates having his picture posted. So, I try not to do it. You know…tooooooo often.
Those wonderful, incredible my-whole-life-is-amazing moments that we have need to be cherished because we know they won’t last forever. The good news is that those crappy, the world-sucks-and-so-does-everyone-in-it moments won’t last forever either. God-willing we will get to experience more of the first than we do the second.
I really do know which way he prefers the toilet paper role to be hung. It is just fun to mess with him by doing it “the wrong way.” It’s the little things that can bring joy to a relationship. :-D
Yes – I am the harder one to live with. But he seems willing to put up with me and all my craziness. That in and of itself makes me want to be a better person.
I will always be grateful that he accepted my friend request on Facebook because I was too shy to talk to him in person. Who knew that out of that one click with a mouse I would find a lover and a best friend?

Happy Feb. 11th!! Now go spread that Happy Dust!!

'Til Next Time.

Friday, February 6, 2015

Things I Suck At: Valentine's Day

You can't miss it. Everywhere you look there are signs that Valentine's Day is approaching. Uggggg.

Ok. Don't get me wrong. I am not a hard-core Valentine's Day hater. I admit that I do have a problem with society demanding that we must express our love for someone - ANYONE - on a certain day of the year - or else. I have 365 days or so every year to let my loved ones know how much I care for them. I try to make sure I do just that. My problem with Valentine's Day is that I am a recovering people-pleaser. Over the years I have failed so many times at getting Valentine's Day "right" - at least in my mind. My expectations always far outweigh my abilities and I am sent into another spiral of self-flagellation - at least mentally. Well, that is what USED to happen because I am in recovery now and I try very, very hard to cut myself some slack. It is a day-by-day thing.

So, my biggest challenge with Valentine's Day is not on the romantic front. Fortunately the men in my life never seemed to have huge expectations of how this day should be celebrated. A hug and a kiss, maybe a card, but don't count on it, and a promise for more intimate fun once the kids are in bed usually covers it. No, my worst nightmares have happened as a Mom. Because my kids attend school. And these schools insist on celebrating Valentine's Day. Every. Single. Damn. Year.  I also struggle with being extremely unorganized. Due dates constantly rise up to bite me in the rear - usually the night before - or worse - right AFTER they have passed. I have been tempted to be the Mom who takes a political stance AGAINST Valentine's Day and declares that MY CHILD will not be forced to give into any holiday thrust upon us by Hallmark and all of its consumerist allies. But then I look at how excited my daughter is at the idea of a party with her school friends and my dreams of political grand-standing evaporate.  My problem really isn't Valentine's Day - it's that I am Me. My worst Valentine's Day nightmare happened 20 years ago when my oldest daughter was just three-years-old. She was in pre-school and one day in February came home with a paper bag filled to the brim with Valentine's cards and candy from all her classmates. She happily showed me each one while telling me about the party they had that day. I smiled at her and nodded, but inside my head it was a completely different story.

"Crap - that party was today?!!"

"Double Crap - Cody didn't have any of her own Valentines to give to her class."

"Son-of-a.......was I supposed to send cupcakes or something?"

"Dear Lord, the Room Mom already thinks I am a flake. This pretty much confirms it."

"Hey, I feed her every day and make sure she has mostly clean clothes to wear. What more do they want from me?"

"God, please don't let them celebrate St. Patrick's Day or ANYTHING else the rest of the year. I just don't think I can handle it."

I wanted to blame her teacher for not giving me enough warning. But, of course, her teacher had sent home notes about it every week for the last several weeks. And Cody had been excitedly talking about it. No matter how hard I tried I just didn't have a good excuse for not having my shit together - again.

I think sometimes God spaced my children out as far as He did because He knew that I was going to need a significant amount of time to figure out some of these parental responsibilities. I am happy to say that ever since that first disastrous pre-school Valentine's debacle my kids have always had their own Valentine's cards/candy to share with their classes. Of course, because I am Me, there were some (several) years when we were out scavenging for them the night before or the morning OF the class celebration. A few times we even tried making them ourselves. Sweet Jesus, I am glad that Pinterest did not exist back then. Homemade crafty cards sound so nice, don't they? Reality constantly clashes with my dream world and it is not pretty.

Thankfully I was blessed with incredibly forgiving children who are willing to love their mother despite all of her short-comings. And I have been given several years to learn one very important lesson which is this: I am not the only Mom who constantly lets her kids down. Nope. It is not just me. For every mom I meet who hears my stories and tries to tell me "All you have to do is X, Y, Z and you will never miss another deadline", I find twenty others who say, "Oh, dear God, yes, Me, too!!" There is nothing like finding a kindred spirit who can truly relate. But don't get me wrong. I love organized moms. They absolutely rock. And they can make great friends. I have one in particular who helps me keep my act together - and I help her loosen up. It is a win-win.

I no longer dread Valentine's Day parties for my kids. My youngest is now in 5th grade and I have already marked on my calendar that her party is next Friday. AND - I marked on my calendar that we should get her cards and such ready by next Wednesday. Even better - I have learned the habit of actually looking at said calendar on a daily basis. Oh, yes, give me twenty years or so and I can master almost anything.

You don't suppose my grandkids (who aren't even born yet) are going to want Valentine's cards from their Grandmother? Crap. I better find someone's kid to start practicing on now.

'Til Next Time.

Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Kathy's NOT a New Year's Resolution WishList for 2015

I refuse to make New Year's Resolutions. I simply suck at keeping them, so why put myself through that humiliation.......again. Instead I decided to think of things I wish for in 2015. I scrolled through the way too many photos I had acquired in 2014 and picked out ones that symbolize some of the things I hope to get more of in 2015. I want to restate that these are NOT resolutions or goals or anything else that will mean that I have failed in some way if they don't happen. They are wishes. And when wishes come true it is a wonderful thing. And if they don't - well, not all wishes come true. It just happens like that sometimes.

These are listed in no particular order or level of importance. That would require planning and forethought which just doesn't happen that often.

In 2015 I wish for:
The chance to try more microbrews and craft beers and hopefully log them in my Untpped App so that I have a half of a chance of remembering whether I liked them or not!! My aim (notice I did NOT say goal) is not so much to consume large volumes of beer, but rather to try lots of varieties because I really do enjoy them. I blame/thank my German heritage for this.
 More of each of these. My kids - all of them together. 
 More time with extended family. 
 More holding hands with my husband. Especially in church. I love that he holds my hand in church.
 More chances to mix fun AND fitness with the people I love.

More goofy selfies from my girls on my cellphone. I never know just what I might find amongst my photos when they "borrow" my phone, but it almost never fails to make me smile and shake my head.
 I hope I let myself stop and smell the flowers - and take a picture more often. These were just really pretty that day.
 More pictures with this guy. My goal is to get one where he is NOT making a goofy face. It is not an easy task to accomplish.

I hope to keep getting better at doing a "real" backbend. My youngest daughter, who is an accomplished gymnast at 10 years old, is working with me patiently. I keep telling her that she should NEVER STOP doing them or she will end up like me in thirty years. 


More time with Bibles and Beer. Frankly they are both good for my soul and when I combine them it is only that much better.

More movie nights with the family. Curtis especially loves romantic comedies.
More family trips. The kids are excited beyond belief.
More pictures of this guy. I know I already said that but I have to keep trying to catch him when he is not making that goofy smile!!
More gold at the end of the end of the rainbow.
More of Tennessee. Because that is where these two have landed. 
More fun with my husband. 
More chances to kiss my husband.
Definitely more dancing with my husband.
More catching up with old friends. It is true that time goes by faster the older I get.
More fun with family and friends. This was truly The. Best. Day. Ever.
More fun and fellowship with my Youth at church.
More fun and fellowship at church period.
More hugs. LOTS more hugs.
More coffee. Yes. We have TWO coffee makers in our house. It is almost enough to get us through.
More writing. On this blog. To friends and family. Just for myself. It makes me happy and less crazy. That is a good thing for me AND my loved ones.

Wishing you more of what makes life worthwhile for you as well in 2015!

'Til Next Time.

Thursday, December 18, 2014

It is okay to not always be okay during the Holidays.

I have tried to write this post several times and it just never would come out the way I wanted it to in my head. So, I finally figured out that I had to quit fighting myself and just go with it. Things like this happen a lot. It is part of being a recovering people-pleaser. I know what I REALLY want to say - but first I have to shut down that inner voice that says, "Oh, you can't say that - someone will be offended." Or, "What if they don't understand or think they need to send me to a therapist?" Well, I can't control what others think, and for the record, I already have a counselor. So, there you go.
As I am finishing this post there are exactly six shopping days left before Christmas. Ready or not - and I am uncharacteristically ready this year - just had to share that - Christmas morning will dawn in a week's time. I love Christmas. I always have. I love all the good things about this season. In so many ways it really is the Most Wonderful Time of the Year. I will be honest - I love presents. Go ahead, judge me, whatever. I love giving them more than receiving them - but receiving is nice, too. Go ahead, keep judging, just being honest here. I love celebrating with friends and family. And I love the chance to remember all that God has done and continues to do in my life. There is such a wonderful atmosphere of anticipation. And let's not forget the food. From Thanksgiving to New Year's the bar is raised considerably and family meals and desserts and snacks galore abound. I enjoy ALL of it. Just keep judging - you know you like it, too. There is special music and special movies and tv shows many of us look forward to. I love the traditions that we celebrate. There is just something magical about this time of year. 
But - yes, here comes the BUT....along with all the joy and wonderfulness is a deep darkness. We live with darkness in our world all year round - but this season seems to magnify it. I remember the first Christmas after my divorce. I naively thought that since it was my turn to spend Christmas with my girls that everything would be fine. We would enjoy Christmas just like we always had. And we tried - we really did. But I was in denial. Because nothing about our life was really the same. Yes - there was much we had that was good and wonderful and should be celebrated. We had each other. We had our health. We had cookies. But none of that undid the fact that we had experienced a significant heartbreak in our lives. It infiltrated everything we did and was especially pronounced during this season. We got about half-way through decorating the tree and decided to take a break - and somehow managed to never finish. Christmas that year and every year since has felt different and looked different. We lost something significant. And it sucked. 
The hardest thing was that other folks - even friends who had also experienced divorce - were unwilling to let us express our sadness. Most of us are uncomfortable getting a glimpse of someone else's pain.  I used to not be very good at letting others share their unhappiness. It is almost an unwritten rule at this time of year that you focus on the GOOD and the HAPPY and the JOLLY. "I am so sorry you are sad, but think about all the blessings you have." (Christian friends are especially good at throwing that one at you when times are tough.) "I know things are tough, but God will see you through." "Just pray. He will comfort you.""Just think of the wonderful gift God gave us in Jesus. That will outshine all the bad the world has thrown at you."

I know that these friends meant well, but their words were anything but comforting. They actually intensified my tendency to feel that I had somehow failed them and God and my family for not managing to soldier on as if nothing had happened even though my life was torn apart. And as this was early in my journey as a recovering-people pleaser it was even harder to shake off. 
I have said this before, but it bears repeating - focusing on the good in your life does NOT undo the bad that has happened. Nope, sorry, it doesn't. Life is full of contradictions. The truth is that most of us have just as much crappy stuff in our lives we have to deal with as good stuff.  There is a saying, "Either you deal with the sh$t in your life or it will deal with you." I am suspicious of friends who are almost manic about shouting out all the good things they have been blessed with. It looks a lot like denial to me. I am speaking from experience here, because I lived like that for decades. It is not healthy and will mess with your head like nobody's business. 
And for all you "think-positive until it kills you types" - Yes, I do think that it is important to look on the bright side. I am not trying to be Debbie Downer here. Rather I am advocating for finding a healthy balance in dealing with all that life throws at us - no matter what time of year it is.
Which brings me back to Christmas and the Holiday season. Folks my age will remember the movie Gremlins. Remember the scene where Phoebe Cates's character Kate tells us why she hates Christmas? I remember thinking, "Well, yeah, that would be awful to have your dad die like that, but surely you wouldn't really hate Christmas forever because of it, right?" I was a lot younger then and had not experienced much personal tragedy yet. Over time life has a way of bringing us lessons to learn whether we want them or not. In the 30 years since Gremlins came out I have had several lessons on why the Holidays are not everyone's favorite time of year. Obviously my divorce was a huge one. Then just this year alone we have added a few more tragedies and losses to life's list. My girls' Grandma G. lost her battle to cancer. Her absence this season leaves a huge gaping hole that nothing else can fill. A friend's daughter overdosed on medication just a few weeks ago. She survived, but their holidays are anything but normal as they struggle to cope and begin healing.  If you make any effort at all to look at the world around you - even right in your hometown - you will see folks struggling financially or facing devastating medical diagnosis or broken relationships or the loss of a loved one. All of these are difficult to face anytime of year, but even more so during Christmastime.
The best present I got that first post-divorce Christmas was a visit from a dear friend who didn't try to make me look on the bright side. We had talked on the phone earlier and I had expressed to her some of my sadness at how the joy of the season just wasn't showing up this year. When she came she hugged me which is always what I need. She also brought the girls and I a new Christmas decoration so that we could start building new memories and traditions together. Whether she realized it or not she gave me just what I needed - the opportunity to share that I was not okay and that is okay to acknowledge that. Just being able to say that and have someone hear it made the season seem a little brighter. 
I still love Christmas and I hope I always will. But there will always be that darkness that dwells right alongside the joy. I miss Grandma G. And this year my girls will spend Christmas with their dad. That will always be shaded with sadness even as I do what I can to make the best of a less than ideal situation. It can be tough not to let the bitterness take over. My new husband and I will be together. That helps make the sting of not having our kids with us a bit less sharp. But not having our kids with us at this time is something that we will never be okay with. Add that to my list of reasons why being divorced with kids will always suck. I have faith that 2014's Christmas will be a good Christmas - full of joy and seasoned with sadness. And that, too, is okay.

If you are struggling this season - know that you are not alone. It is okay not to be okay. And if you need someone who will let you say it out loud I will be honored to listen. 

'Til Next Time.