Thursday, February 21, 2013

Better Together

9 - Emotional Intimacy & Individuality

We found these two trees while hiking in the mountains of Washington state.  They are by far the largest trees on this particular hike and reside on a bed of rocks at a very aggressive mountain stream.  A plaque told us that the entire forest was burnt to the ground at one point (a hundred years ago) but these two trees remained because of how close they were together and how close they were to water.   These trees were better and stronger together than apart.  

I don't really want to turn this into a sermon illustration, but every couple needs their own traditions, routines, and habits to form a strong emotional relationship that can withstand what the world will throw at it:
  • Shows always watched together
  • Friday Night Dates (with genuine listening & talking)
  • Adventures together
  • Certain sporting events or movies or games or concerts
  • Family or charity work or projects
  • Square Dancing, bowling, cards, or softball
  • Breakfast at Tiffany's
These things give couples common ground and consistency but here is where this particular blogette becomes less about marriage and more about life.  I love how these particular trees garner strength as they grow side by side rather than entwined completely.  It is probably a little tricky to give each other encouragement and support, to grow side by side, but yet not grow apart (or choke each other) as each tries to reach for the sun and the water.  

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Let's Spend the Night Together

8 - Physical Intimacy
(it isn't just for the weekend anymore)

At this point, if you haven't full on decided that marriage is just too much work (you shouldn't, these are just little suggestions to add from time to time -- personally, I wish someone would write one of these on how to groom ones-self as I have never really gotten past the shower / comb my hair step) and you are still reading, you are saying to yourself, "Kelly, this is all fine (albeit sappy and borderline sentimental), and I can see how it would make for a happier marriage but it will lead to... ideas.  And quite frankly, I am WAY too tired and stretched for any extra intimacy..."

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Message in a Bottle

7 - Notes & Texting & IM

One tiny crazy little note can make someone feel special all day.  My DH taught me this a long long time ago; I have a box of them.  They would be passed to me from other people, I'd find them in my daily planners (which I carried everywhere), on a pizza box left in my car on days I worked late, mailed to my dorm room, stuck to the mirror / the fridge / the coffee maker, but it is much easier now a days...

The old-fashioned note is still sweet and endearing but occasional witty texts are wonderful and so simple.  Texting is life-changing and practical for orchestrating busy lives or who will pick up dinner/the carpool but it is just fun to send quick messages during the day (or even when together but at different ends of a party).  They don't need to be long or deep or symbolic.  It doesn't need to be a hundred times a day, just an occasional reminder that you are thinking of them:

Monday, February 18, 2013

So What!?

6 - Healthy Communication

Even the happiest marriage (not claiming that is us) has frustrations, disagreements, and occasionally all out epic battles.  We've all said mean and hurtful things that we regret; even the most balanced people have at some point in the heat of passion, reacted exclusively on emotions or solely on facts; but happy couples figure out mature and healthy ways to communicate:

Communication Styles to Avoid:
Communication Styles to Consider:
using plates like a Frisbee
swearing like a sailor
slamming doors
crying or yelling
arguing with an audience (especially the kids)
giving the cold shoulder
throwing things (especially punches)

writing lists of pros and cons
holding hands while talking
taking the alternate position (just to see how it goes)
talking in a public place while enjoying a meal
walking / hiking while talking
break from the topic to think (but not for too long)

There are a million books and talk shows and sitcoms that give advice on various communication.  Some people like a straightforward approach, others need calm details, and since this is a bloggette, I’ll try to keep advice to the minimum (ha!) and hopefully things mostly universal:

Sunday, February 17, 2013

Sugar Magnolia

5 - Be Grateful

So if your musical taste doesn't include The Grateful Dead (I’m not judging, you would be the minority for my blog demographic), I will give a quick summary of Sugar Magnolia… There were so many old songs to choose from (close runner up was The Band – Up on Cripple Creek) but this song is basically a hippy bragging about his woman… it is a list of all of these random things about her that he appreciates (including that her head is a little empty)She can dance to Cajun rhythm, she can wade in a drop of dew (whatever that means?), she pays his ticket when he speeds, she waits backstage while he sings, basically, in his mind, she is all he could ever need, the chorus is that she could make happy any man alive…  personally, I just have to laugh if I think Bob Dole with that kind of woman.  I don't think he would have a clue what to do with her (maybe he has another side?!)… but it is just sweet that this hippy feels so lucky with what some might find relatively useless (and potentially unhealthy) skills and traits.

Saturday, February 16, 2013

Magic Carpet Ride

4 - Clean Your Room!
(did you just have flashbacks of your mother? sorry! I know I did!)

The Magic Carpet Ride Master Bedroom is admittedly a stretch but I love the song (even though Steppenwolf is a little trippy) and the “master bedroom" is an incredible and sacred place.  It doesn't need to be the grandest room in the house, have a professionally designed bedroom set, including an organza canopy bed with a chandelier, permanent rose petals in the shape of a heart, or Egyptian sheets (unless you can afford them-- then go for it!) but a Master Bedroom probably NOT have: 
  • half-finished projects
  • dusty treadmills and stationary bikes
  • piles of bills or mail
  • ugly, faded, or peeling paint
  • kids “artwork” or toys
  • drawers and closets that can’t be opened without necessitating the jaws of life
  • a mess of piles of laundry and ironing
  • ripped sheets or flat pillows or stained comforters
  • cobwebs, tumbleweeds, litter boxes, landfills, or black holes
  • shoes in tripping locations 
Because the MB isn't often seen by the general public, it can easily become an accidental dumping ground for everything homeless or misplaced.  It isn't about having a perfectly immaculate Master Bedroom, it is about what makes you as a couple feel like you've escaped-- together.  It probably won't even take a lot of money or time, just rearrange some of the stuff you already have (or maybe a quick trip to the Thrift Shop).  Every couple is different on what makes an area a retreat, an oasis from the world (or the kids), but here are some thoughts:

Friday, February 15, 2013


3 - Keep Dating (each other)

Ska Fest was one of our all time favorite dates.  Who would have guessed?
This band was Tequila Mockingbird - clever name and they rocked
Most likely, even if you don't embrace all the sappy commercialized Hallmarky V-day traditions (we certainly don't), you are going on a date at some point this weekend ---BUT consider starting a habit of regularly dating (each other) --every week if you are really lucky and can pull it off!  It doesn't need to be a Date Night style all-nighter on a crowded weekend or include an exhausting after-hours clubin’ dance-off.  The dates don't all need to be expensive or elaborate or epic.  It just needs to be some consciously dedicated adult / couple time; a walk, or a trip to Costco, or even feeding the kids frozen pizza (and maybe a touch of Benadryl*) in front of movie while you sneak to a quiet corner of the house with a candle and some take-out (filled with adult-friendly bogus vegetables that are floating in a green algae looking sauce).  

It is healthy for couples to remember the kind of people they were before being parents, for them to talk/listen without interruption, eat their own food (slowly), have adult fun, and going on dates helps maintain that shared bond only created by experiences and memories together.  Honestly, it is really good for the kids to see their parents making each other a priority.  Besides, someday, the kids will grow up and move out (if you do things right).  This stage with small children feels long but is relatively short in the scope of life, it isn't worth neglecting the long-term relationship that you both chose; ideally, after these refreshers, everyone comes back more patient and relaxed-- ready to be better parents.

As young parental units, we are most often exhausted and crave peace but don’t let marriage dates become too humdrum.  Try to plan at least some of these dates to be legendary experiences.  It is comfortable, safe, and easy to frequent your favorite place, a local chain, a movie, or stay on the couch with a Red Box, but it can get predictable and frankly, boring; it never hurts to mix things up and add to the story of your lives together: 

Thursday, February 14, 2013

Something in the Way She Moves

2 - Getting Your Flirt Back On

Flirting is the gentle art of making someone feel pleased with themselves -- Helen Rowland

Getting your flirt back on means that you might need to rewind a bit in your memory, preferably not all the way back to the middle school era (stealing  pencils, frivolous hair flipping, and hip checking each other into lockers are not terribly effective ways to make someone feel special), but remember how you acted when you wanted nothing more than to impress someone?  Your now partner?! You want to show your absolute best side and make them feel special; start with cleaning up and taking care of yourself.  This doesn't necessarily mean squeezing into your chic clothes or buying something new, in fact, it isn't really about how you look at all, but more about how you act and feel and make your partner feel.  Never-the-less, try to do the best you can with what you have at this stage of life (for me it is my nice yoga pants) 

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

I'm in the Mood for Love

1 - Setting the Atmosphere

I'm not saying the house needs to be all Barry White, red silk, and candles to have a happy marriage but it is a rough start when the house is bursting with chaos (and not the fun kind) on a regular basis.  I remember when our son was first born and he was awful and I was a mess.  I would be sobbing and asking my husband why he would want to come home from work to this.  There are days when there is no choice but utter chaos, especially as a parent but if you find that is the norm, it is probably time to reassess and make some changes.  It doesn't need to be perfect, and it might take a little time and a little effort, but try adding qualities that make walking into your home a relief from the world:
  • It can be an expensive project like a relaxing fireplace or an outdoor patio.  Think of your most soothing and romantic place on earth, and try to replicate what you can, even if it is just an enlarged print of it :0)
  • It can be just a little effort, like turn on some music; try all different genres and playlists; maybe even one labeled "Love Songs" that remind you of times and places and concerts and feelings when you've been to together.  
  • Mostly, it is an attitude, like when your spouse walks in, try to actually stand up, greet, and kiss on lips.  Every day.  In front of the kids.   
  • Make a real attempt to hold back the barrage of awful issues that need attention at least until everyone has time to happily greet each other.
  • Avoid saying “Wait until your mother/father gets home!” as if it is a threat; it really puts a damper on the mood of love if there is impending doom. 
  • Personally, a glass of red wine, a little perfume, and some lip gloss always remind me to be in the mood for love...
Which leads nicely into the theme for tomorrow... See you at 6:30am...
Getting Your Flirt Back On

I'm in the Mood for Love (if you been reading since the beginning, this isn't a new post , I just separated it from the intro to keep things organized )

For a regularly updated and concise list of all of the mini blog series on love:  refer to the Intro / Love is all You Need

Intro: All You Need is Love


We are very much in love.  If I really analyze it, we probably appear to be that annoying, sappy, and nearly pathetic couple that one can't help but roll their eyes back at and say, "Seriously?!  Is that for real?!"  But the more you get to know us, for better or for worse, it is evident that this is for real (or an insanely dedicated scam).

I have a hobby of observing happy couples.  I just can't help it.  I've watched young and old; new love and mature love; the casually happy and safely comfortable.   I've observed couples balance each other out perfectly and become each other’s ying and yang.  The mac to their cheese.  The sunshine of their life.  The Simon to their Garfunkle (kind of a many layered example since they had success together and then Paul Simon went on his own and had his best work with only pulling Garfunkle in for reunion tours).  I've seen people become the best version of themselves when supported by a devoted relationship and I've sadly witnessed the inverse when a relationship is more destructive, codependent, and enabling than empowering. We've been married 15 years and although I can't claim that every year has been magically blissful, they tend to be trending better and better toward happily ever after... but it isn't by chance or luck or just love.

This year falls at kind of a fortunate time with Lent and Valentine's Day Eve on the same day (unless you are giving up chocolate for Lent, then it is a bit complicated).  It is a naturally perfect time to dedicate the next 40 days (or at least the long weekend) to Love - but more specifically, marriage. It is cold and dark and hence an ideal time to rekindle what might be starting to suffer.  Obviously, every relationship is different and has different nuances that make it tick but these are habits that I've observed along the road of being mostly happily married-- because although the Beatles have a catchy tune and Love is super important, it is probably not quite all you need.

I'm going to try my first mini-series and share a habit / mini blog / blog Jr. / blog-ette / every day from Valentine's Day Eve until the end of February -- or I run out of love ideas or I get bored with it or my DH and I get in a huge fight or my real life needs to take priority.  These aren't necessarily new or revolutionary or earth shattering, but hopefully not too terribly cliche and just gentle reminders.  I want to spread the Love!  Maybe it will be contagious!  An epidemic of happy couples would be awesome.

Below is the Mini Love Series so Far (in order):

Thursday, February 7, 2013

Coat Cove

I tend to over-plan house projects (I know, shocking), but my ventures generally go smoothly and the organization stage is half of the "fun" (especially in the winter, when I'm feeling trapped in here with no trips to the ocean in the oracle); normal course of action is to find everything I can on pinterest for vision, then create a spreadsheet detailing time and cost estimates for each step, including sister projects that should be incorporated because the tools are already out and later phases for when we have more money or find a good deal.  The spreadsheet evolves as we go, but I am generally just slightly under budget on both and in the end proclaim, "Wow, that turned out as good as I could have hoped!  We should have done it 5 years ago!"  

During this current project, no such proclamation was made.