Saturday, April 01, 2017

"For Real": Grief



My mom died.  I have said that out loud to myself several times a day for the past several days because it doesn't seem real.  I will probably continue to say it to myself for the next few weeks, maybe even years.  I don't know.

Grief has been a wild ride.  It has taken me by surprise.  I'm a planner by nature, I'm pretty sure it's in my DNA right next to my hair and eye color.  Grief doesn't have time or respect for my plans.  It overwhelms you at unexpected moments.  Washing your hair?  It's a good time for grief to hit. Ordering food in a restaurant?  Perfect.  How about when you are all alone?  Or when you are surrounded by people?  Yep..that works too.  Middle of the night?  Sure!

I was arrogant and naive when it came to grief.  I thought since my mom's health had been failing for the last 4 years and that the different conditions she suffered from were all things that modern medicine cannot "fix", I thought my practical brain was prepared.  It's coming.  Mom is going to leave this life and go on to the next.  Honestly?  I even asked that God would end her suffering and take her home.  Death is part of life.  It's the natural order.  It's all very logical, practical, understandable.   Such arrogance.  Naivete.

Just because you know it's coming.  Just because you've "planned" and prepared for the event, grief spares no one.  You cannot slide through it.  You just have to walk through it, embrace it, feel it.  There are no shortcuts.  No easy route.  And it's different for each person and now having my eyes opened, I have a feeling it will be different for each person you lose.  

I have no words of wisdom.  I'm still processing.  But I believe life is about sharing our stories with others, so while the emotions are raw and real and before I overthink it, I thought I would share.

And because I'm practical and a planner I thought I'd also share the things that were most helpful this week:

1.  Prayer.  Please never underestimate the power of prayer.  I know there were people praying for me all this week because I felt them.  Because as overwhelmed as I was, I was able to make decisions, be there for family, and move through the grief process without despairing.  So if you were one of those people who prayed, I can never thank you enough.

2.  Food.  Food is helpful to a grieving person because although it seems like a small decision to make--"what are we going to eat?" becomes one more decision that seems impossible when you are going through something like this.  Practically speaking-- the best foods are quick, can easily be reheated, and if possible--favorites of the family.  Other ideas when it comes to food to keep in mind: disposable containers, disposable plates/utensils etc, contacting other friends to coordinate efforts so there isn't too much food (is that a real thing? haha), and obviously dietary restrictions.

3.  Presence.  If left to my own devices I would have told all of my friends to stay away.  Because that is how I am.  I would have thought I wanted to be alone.  But luckily, my friends dropped by to drop off food and made themselves available if I wanted them to stay.  And crazy enough?  I did want them to stay.  I just needed them for a little while to share the story of what I just went through, what I was going to have to go through.  There was nothing for them to say or do--they just listened.  But I needed that. So offer your presence to your closest friends, but be ready for that presence to be rejected and take the rejection without insult and try again at another time.  

4.  Sympathy.  Social media is so great for this very thing.  It takes just a few seconds to acknowledge someone's thoughts and give them validation that what they said was "heard".  And what I love most about social media is that you can respond when you have the time and the person who receives it reads it at the time it's convenient for them!  What a blessing in our crazy busy world!  I appreciate everyone who took the time to simply say "sorry for your loss".  There is nothing more you can say, but you validate the fact that I posted I was hurting, you heard it, and responded to it.  

So thank you friends for loving on me in these various ways this week.  You are loved and appreciated.  And in answer to the question "what do I need?"  I don't know what I need to continue this process.  The things I know I "need" are not things that are tangible for others to give me--for life to go back to "normal", for my heart not to hurt, to not burst out crying at random times, sleep, for it to "all be better".   So I just ask that you would pray and ask God what He thinks I need and then be obedient.  Some days it may be "give her space" or it may be "send her a note" or "drop by and just give her a hug".  Because what I need will probably change day to day and He has proven this week to know what I need even better than me!


Tuesday, December 15, 2015

20 things I've learned in 20 years of marriage



Tomorrow marks 20 years of marriage with my husband!  To honor the occasion I compiled a list of 20 things I've learned.

20.  I am selfish.  Marriage taught me how utterly selfish I am.  Having someone else in your life everyday that you must compromise, think about, and work together with  has been really hard because I am selfish and like to do things my own way and on my own timetable.  It's humbling to realize your faults.

19.  Not every marriage will look the same.  Marriage is about 2 unique individuals becoming one.  I have friends where the wife works and the husband stays at home; where the husband works and the wife stays home; marriages where both partners work; marriages where they own their own business; marriages where when they get mad they yell and scream and throw things; marriages where they have never shouted at one another; marriages that have weekly date nights; marriages where they couldn't tell you the last time they went on a date; marriages where they have sex once a month, or once a week, or 5 times a week; marriages where they tell each other everything; marriages where they wear matching clothes; marriages where they workout together; marriages where they watch tv together; marriages where they enjoy their hobbies separately.  My point is, I cannot tell you what marriage is "supposed" to look like.  What is important is that the two people who get married care deeply about one another and strive to create a safe place for each other that honors and respects the love and commitment they bound themselves to.

18.  When you get married you become a teacher and a student.  I had no idea how to be Josh's wife when we got married and he didn't have a clue how to be my husband.  But over the last 20 years we have learned how to teach one another about our needs, our differences, our wants, our preferences and who we are as people and how we want to be loved.  Everyday is a new adventure of learning as we constantly change and grow!

17.  Talking.  If you talk alot--listen more.  If you don't talk much--talk more.  I am a talker, I have struggled to learn to listen more.  What is most amazing?  The less I talk, the more Josh does.  Surprise surprise....

16.  The kids are 2nd.  I love my kids and I'm pretty sure they feel loved.  But I think they all know that Josh is #1.  And I think they are ok with that.  I have to make a conscious effort to unplug my mommy brain and make sure I plug in my wife brain in order to meet my husband's needs.  He doesn't need me to ask him if he needs to "go potty" but he does need me to pinch his behind when I don't think anyone is looking.

15.  Play together.  Whatever that might look like for you.  Josh and I tend to be silly people.  We like to laugh.  We tickle, tease, flirt, have secret code words, and in general act less like adults and more like teenagers when we're alone together.  Have fun with your spouse.  Those things may not be "fun" to you and that's ok (remember #19-not every marriage looks the same?).  But find out what your "thing" with your spouse is.  Maybe you enjoy competitive sports, or the same movies/tv shows, taking long drives or slow walks.  Whatever it is that you can share with your spouse.

14.  No mind games.  My husband made a very wise rule a few short months after we started dating.  The rule is "no mind games".   If I'm upset with him, then I need to say I'm upset.  If I say "I'm fine", then he will take it at face value and assume I am "fine".  He will not try to figure out what it means or what he needs to do in response.  This was SO hard for me.  1--because I'm a girl and we tend to be sucked into mental drama quicker than our male counterparts and 2--I grew up in a house where mind games were normal and no one ever said what they really thought/felt.  I cannot tell you how much this has contributed to the success in our marriage.  I had to learn how to discover what exactly hurt my feelings and then to communicate that to Josh.  If he ignored my hurt when I said "I'm fine", I had no one to blame but myself. I also learned to realize that many of the things that "hurt" my feelings were trivial and perceived slights, not real ones and I became adept at figuring out what was really worth our time to discuss and what I needed to just "get over".  This simple rule fostered honesty and communication.

13.  If I were dying (or my spouse were dying) would this matter?  This goes along with #14 in some ways.  Morbid, I know.  But it has helped me tremendously in deciding when something needs to be "addressed" and when I need to just let something go.  Marriage is full of land mines of hurt feelings.  Early in our marriage I would venture to guess that we could barely go 2 or 3 hours together without me getting my feelings "hurt".  I just tended to read way too much into what was being said/done.  As I struggled to mature in my emotional health, I came up with a way to decide what's important to discuss and what is not.  I applied my question--If I were dying (or Josh were dying) would this specific hurt really matter to me and need to be discussed?  If I answer yes, then I bring it up and share the hurt and we work toward a solution.  If I answer no, then I let it go.

12.  I need time alone.  Being a couple is GREAT!  But I still need time to do things by myself and that's ok.

11.  You have to let go.  You will hurt your spouse.  Your spouse will hurt you.  It is inevitable.  Hopefully it will always be unintentional.  Sometimes it might not :(  But regardless, you will need to learn to let it go.  This is one of the absolute truths for every marriage (every relationship--even with your children/parents/siblings/coworkers/best friends/etc!).  It is ok to feel hurt.  It is ok to be upset.  It is ok to cry.  But eventually, you will have to let that hurt go and move forward.  If you do not let it go, it will kill your marriage.  Seriously.  If you do not let go of past hurt, it will kill your marriage.  Love cannot survive where bitterness lives.  This is a fact.  So do whatever it takes to figure out how to let go.

10. Be kind.  Josh has always been kind to me.  He doesn't make fun of me to hurt my feelings.  He doesn't speak poorly about me behind my back or in front of me.  He tries to help me however he can. He is very good at this.  I have to work harder because I tend to be more snarky and sarcastic in general.  Protect your spouse by being kind.

9.  Talking negatively about your spouse to others will not solve the problem.  If I am having trouble in my marriage I have to be very careful with who I speak to about it.  Most of the time, God is the only one who hears about it, but sometimes I need to speak to a friend.  However,  the last thing I need is for someone to make it easy for me to blame everything on Josh. I need a friend who will pray with me, remind me of all the good things about Josh, who will help me come up with a plan to work through our issues.  I do have a few of those, and I'm deeply grateful for those women.

8.  There will never be "enough" money.  Ok so maybe this is just true for us, but I have a feeling it's not.  When we first got married we would think --oh if only we could make ___ amount an hour it will not be such a struggle.  Then a year or so would go by and we would make ___ amount of money and you  know, we still struggled.  There will always be one more thing to buy, repair, replace, or "need".  We have learned to be content with what we have right now and trust that God will supply what we need in the future.

7.  Dreams change.  I used to get worried because I wasn't following the dreams I had in high school for myself.  I thought my life was off course.  The older I get the more I realize that there is nothing wrong with following your dreams, however there is also nothing wrong with letting your dreams change.

6. Disagreements can be a positive turning point.  Some of the most bonding moments in our marriage have come out of a major disagreement.  There was something about disagreeing very strongly with one another, yet choosing to work it out that cemented our commitment to each other. At the time, it did not feel that way.  It just felt stressful, overwhelming, and scary.  But on down the road, looking back it bolsters my confidence that we can get through anything together.

5. Learn to honor your spouse's daily irritations.  They don't matter in the grand scheme of life, but they do drive you crazy everyday.  I learned quickly that one of Josh's biggest pet peeves was when I would squeeze the tube of toothpaste from the middle instead of the end.  I solved the problem by buying a tube of toothpaste for him and one for me.  I do better now at squeezing from the end, but when we first got married, it was just a habit of squeezing from the middle.  So instead of irritating him everyday, I just got my own tube.
 
4. Don't blink, you'll miss it.  Time goes so fast.  I have learned how to enjoy each moment as it comes, because once I blink it is gone.

3.  Have sex often.  It's fun.  It's free.  It lifts your mood.  It brings you closer to your spouse.  I highly recommend it to all married couples!  However, if this has not been your experience with your spouse--I highly recommend reading some books together and having a serious discussion.  Don't miss out on one of the greatest gifts God has ever given to us!

2.  "Each of you should look not only to your own needs, but also to the needs of others."  This is the best piece of advice I have ever been given.  I remember the day our pastor shared this nugget with us.  He said that if we could learn how to apply this scripture to our marriage, we would be fine. I can't begin to tell you how many times this scripture has popped into my mind over the last 20 years.  God would gently remind me to stop looking at the situation from my point of view and instead to give of myself to Josh and meet his needs.  This scripture has saved our marriage over and over again.

1.  I love being married.  I got married when I was 18 years old.  I knew that I really cared about Josh and that I couldn't imagine life without him.  But honestly, I wasn't sure how it would all work out.  We are very different in many ways and even I was very aware how young we were.  My wildest dreams haven't even come close to how much I love being married to Josh.  I love waking up next to him every morning and going to bed together at night.  I love that when he comes home from work, he comes to find me so he can kiss me hello and he never leaves the house without kissing me goodbye and saying I love you.  I love how he will listen to me go ON and ON and ON about whatever issue I can't figure out and then after several hours he will tell me it's time to let it go and think about something else.  I love how he will sit next to me and watch my silly chick flicks and when I look at him to see if he's enjoying it, he smiles at me and I know he is just enjoying sitting next to me.  I love how he pulls me close and kisses the back of my neck while I'm trying to do dishes.  I love how he loves our children and works hard to provide all the things they need.  I love that I know he always has my back, even when I'm wrong!  He has been there for me for the last 20 years with all of my doubts, insecurities, tantrums, and pigheadedness.  He has always strove to love me for me, to forgive, to accept, and to celebrate life together.  He is amazing and believe me I know how very fortunate I am.  I can't wait to see what the next 20+ years hold for us.  Thank you for asking me to be your bride.  I love you more than words can express!

Friday, January 30, 2015

2015 Goals



I have a couple of friends whom I love dearly who are both firstborns who love to create lists and check things off said list.  Well these two friends enjoy being very productive with their time and I must say are quite successful.  There are times that as a youngest child I realize how very unproductive I can be since we last borns tend to enjoy our freedom, spontaneity, and well to put it bluntly--laziness. Anyway, I am feeling slightly inspired and a little envious of their apparent success in creating yearly goals and having something to write about on their blogs.  So I'm going to give them the highest form of flattery (imitation right?) and basically copy cat them.  (something last borns are pretty good at)

So without further ado, here are my 2015 Goals.

Hobby Goals
1.  Read 50 new books. (New being, new to me.  Last year I read 51  books, but several are ones that I adore and read almost yearly anyway. So the challenge is to choose 50 new books!)
2.  Watch 12 new movies.  (again--new being new to me!  I adore movies and watch them over and over again!)
3.  I have a secret photography project in my head that I would like to complete for a gift.  So I won't say anymore at this time, but I would like to complete this by Christmas this year.
4.  Spend one afternoon a month working on my photography skills by getting out and about and shooting away!
5.  Try 2 new recipes a month!

Health/Fitness Goals
1.  No more seconds!
2.  20 minutes of exercise at least 3 times a week.
3.  Add at least 2 servings of fruit a day.
4.  Lose 10 lbs. this year and keep it off permanently.

Focusing Outward Goals
1.  Call my friends once a month to say hello.  (seems simple, but being an introvert who projects as an extrovert I tend not to call or talk to people unless I need something :( I do think about them often, but my follow through stinks!)
2. Have 4 "girls" nights this year!
3. Throw 4 game nights!
4. Give blood at least once!  (I've never given before!)

Marriage Goals
1.  Continue our monthly date nights!
2.  Plan and go on the honeymoon we've pushed off for the last 20 years! ;)

Spiritual Goals
1.  Join or start a bible study.
2.  Do 1 individual study just for me.  Something that requires journaling.
3.  Share via social media what I'm learning and answered prayers!

Family Traditions
1.  Valentine's Dinner
2.  4th of July Cookout
3.  Get the Christmas Tree and Decorate
4.  New Year's Eve Bash

House Goals
1.  Repaint 2 dressers
2.  Repaint the TV stand
3.  Put up pictures in dining room and kitchen!
4.  Acquire a decent sofa for the game room.