Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Being Married to an Incompatible Person

If you've read this blog for very long as all, you know that I don't make a habit of writing about very personal things. I'm a rather private person about my marriage, past, and my opinions on *almost everything. I'm -much- more comfortable playing the role of encourager: "Try this!" or "Visit this place" and "Have fun. Spend time with your kids!"
(*yeah, okay, occasionally I'm vocal!)

But a recent conversation with a couple of friends made me realize that people don't necessarily realize I struggle. I'm only showing the good (well, except for those dirty dishes pictures a few days ago!) And sometimes, when I'm trying to encourage others, it can be discouraging, if you think I'm running around happy all the time, lining up the next craft and project, never fighting with my husband, never yelling at my kids.

The truth is that our marriage has been a struggle from the Get-Go. When I "tease", telling my friends that our marriage is a daily miracle, it's no joke.

My husband and I were not childhood sweethearts. We'd never even seen each other until a blind date, set up by our best friends, in August of 1997. We had so much fun together! We all went to see some terrible movie (which he loved,) and then walked around the park, went out to eat... right away, I could tell that we were "incompatible."

I love to read, and he didn't see the point.

I really can't stand tv, and he had grown up with it on 24/7. In every room.

I could live on fruits and veggies (and was actually a vegetarian for years,) and Fred has never- to this day- eaten a salad. I'm not even joking.

I'm not an "animal person," and he has unbelievable animal magnetism. Cats just come out of the woodwork.

Fred has an amazing voice, and I can't sing at all. At all.

Fred was brought up going to rodeos, and I was brought up visiting art galleries and museums.

Our backgrounds were utterly different.

We disagreed about movies, food, life outlook, careers, education, you name it. We were both Christians, but neither of us were strong in our faith at that point, and we didn't agree on many major theological points. In fact, I don't think he'd ever even questioned his theology. Or heard the word. Okay, now I'm kidding. ;)

The point is that we were, in all ways, opposites. And you know what they say about opposites. We were drawn to each other like sick little bugs to a light. We had -fun- together. We enjoyed being with each other. I could see his GOOD heart inside. When I met him, his youngest brother was only 3-years old. Fred loved that kid; took him everywhere, played with him, read him stories. Fred sang to me, wrote to me, enjoyed doing anything with me, as long as we were together. I know that can describe a lot of young romances, but I fell in -love- with that man.

And we married 3 months later. Yes, gasp. Shake your head. I'll even repeat it: We met on a blind date in August and got married in November of the same year.

And, let me tell you, that first year was kind-of hellish. We were young and naive, and the "lovey dovey" feelings ended pretty quickly when real-life set in. Plus we had a miscarriage almost immediately. That didn't help.

We struggled and fought. We yelled and cursed. We almost didn't make it.

Then something started to happen, slowly but surely. I started to love my husband. Mind you, I didn't say "fall back into love." No, I started to LOVE him, as a choice. And it became a daily choice... some days were/are better than others. For a long time, I still felt gypped; like I had married a big kid and I was "entitled" to better. Ah, entitlement. Such a stupid hurtful trap.

Little by little, I began to realize what an idiot I was; how many times I screwed up; how undeserving I was. And, through a lot of prayer, I also started to see all of the amazing things about my husband...all of the things that I first fell in love with, plus a lot of new qualities that I had missed noticing in those first few years.

Our marriage has come through a lot, been redirected more than once, and has gone off course on a number of occasions. We've had some high highs and low lows. But every year has gotten better. We used to fight like cats and dogs... now an argument is fairly rare, and we have the growth and prayer on our side, to work it all out.

That said, I'm still living with my opposite, which can make life interesting. In nearly 13 years, we've both come closer to the middle. I watch movies with him often, and sometimes they're even ridiculously stupid and I laugh anyway. He escorts me to art museums, when I want to go. And I think he is starting to enjoy it! I root for his football team (even though I personally have NO interest at all in sports.) He has switched to a semi-healthy lifestyle for me. Think wheat bread instead of white, skim milk instead of whole, bagels instead of ding dongs. I'm saving this man's life, I tell you!

There are a LOT of things we can do together that we both enjoy now, like outdoor activities with the kids, playing games, etc. But there are also a LOT of hobbies and activities that we don't share an interest for. And some things that are a downright source of contention for us.

Now (as if this post isn't long enough already), there are a few important things I've learned:

No marriage is really 50/50. Some things are 90/10. Some 30/70. It all balances out but never assume it’s 50/50. When it looks like he’s getting the bigger/ better/ less-work-share, I have to remember that I also get the bigger share sometimes. Besides, in this marriage, we put in very little of our own percentages; God most certainly did the work, as soon as we were willing. In my own power, this marriage would not have held up. Just speaking the truth. When you get to the end of your rope, then change what you're holding onto!

No one person can/should be your everything. There’s no way for one person to fill every potential need you may have. I was relying on Fred to BE everything that I needed. And, really, even though I wasn't a "tv person" I will still blame this, at least partly, on the media. I've actually heard women say, in all seriousness,"Man, I wish my husband was more like -(insert fictional character)-"

This is real-life. Your husband might not run outside, in a blizzard, to buy you ice-cream when you're pregnant. He might not desire to suck your blood (I'm sorry, I had to throw that in there. Twilight fans, your man won't/ can't/ and shouldn't be like a vampire!) That doesn't mean he's not a fabulous husband. Real-life people have real-life issues. And NO real man, no matter how wonderful, can fill every need you have.

For starters, I needed God in an up-close and personal way.

I promise I won't write all night...

There are certainly things I appreciate about a not-so-easy marriage to a not-so-compatible-husband:

1. He's not a "deep thinker."

Like most women, I can over-think things.

But, with Fred, there is NO hidden agenda or weird games. What you see is what you get. He speaks the truth plainly, and never over-analyzes anything. How refreshing!!

2. He's not a tidy person.

Which means he truly doesn't care if I'm a tidy person. Now this drove me NUTS for years. Still does, at times. I could not understand how someone could just not care if the dishes were done, or if dirty laundry was on the floor. Now I've learned to embrace that about him: He doesn't care, so there is no pressure. That doesn't mean that I don't want a clean home, but it DOES mean that I never -ever- have to worry about leaving the dishes if I want to go spend the afternoon out with the kids, on an impromptu field trip. Fred won't even notice, much less be upset, about anything clean-related.

3. He dislikes most foods that I love.

Which leaves more for me! I love, love avocadoes, and he refuses to even try something that looks that gross. I could live on berries, and he only eats them on shortcake with whipped cream. I love salsa, and he won't touch it. Of course, the same rule benefits him. He loves bacon, and I rarely munch it. He practically needs a Mountain Dew drip going, and I've never finished a Mountain Dew in my life.

4. He's unemotional about the things that totally rile me up. And vice versa.

It's always good to have a level-headed person on board. He gets easily frustrated by crazy drivers, appliances that won't work right, or lost remotes. None of that bothers me much... I get frustrated by people and ideas. We can help each other, as long as one of us stays sane at all times.

5. He's a spendthrift.

It's nice to have a man who doesn't micromanage every cent, and he doesn't question how much I spend on groceries... not that he would need to, tightwad that I am. His spending tendencies have gotten WAY better, although he'll still blow Christmas money from his family before he can even deposit it. If the stores are closed, he'll spend it online that night. Drives me nuts.

BUT he is a good provider, works hard, and has not ever put us in debt. I can go overboard the other direction, insisting that we buy everything second-hand-- car, clothes, shoes, underwear. No, no, I don't really go THAT far. But I am uptight about spending more than we need to, and spending money on things we don't need. I've gotten better in this area, and so has he. It's a balancing act.

That's a good start.

It's still not *easy*. Sometimes it's like we're rubbing each other with sandpaper... but eventually that seems to just smooth us & fit us back together, more snuggly. The differences have balanced, enriched, and strengthened us. Easy or not, this is right. We belong together, differences and all. During church this past Sunday (the man had to work, and wasn't there with me,) I had this mental image of Fred and I hugging in front of the cross, bound snuggly together with rope to each other, and to the cross itself. A strand of three, unbreakable. We can't be our own foundation; we need the strength and support of something much greater, much stronger and more enduring. Because God can make anything work. He has, and continues to, change our incompatible selfish and petty little selves into greatness.

So, yeah. We fight. We kiss and make up. And our marriage may have gone through more spats and spills than most. Don't think it's perfect over here. We're still working on this thing, every. single. day.

Bonus: If you are still up for reading, try We All Married the Wrong Person.

Monday, September 27, 2010

Natural Falls Family Outing

(Before I even get started, I have to say -again- that I love, love Teaching Textbooks. I was done grading papers by the time the kids were eating lunch today!! WOOT WOOT-- no more math grading. And, more importantly, the kids are still loving it!)

After School today, our family headed out to Natural Falls in Oklahoma. I love that place!!
In case I haven't mentioned it before, this state park was used in the production of the 1970s film "Where the Red Fern Grows."

Natural Falls is a tamer version of Devil's Den... far enough out in the country to feel like we're really hiking and enjoying nature, but close enough to make quick jaunts over.
(For those interested, the falls are running again and the construction stuff is cleared out.)

Don't they look cute? Dash was peeing behind the wall when I took this, which is why he's not included in the picture. ;) When you've gotta go, you've gotta go.

Fred is so proud of himself, for making it this far! ;)
(NatureMan popped off his pants button, and Fred "fixed it" with a keyring...they had to jog to catch up...)

While the little boys did this...

and looked at this...

we did some of this...
Yes, total PDAs
ah, autumn, you beguiled us with your smoothly dripping words...

These blue dragonflies were everywhere. Did you know that dragonflies possess six legs (like any other insect), but most of them cannot walk well? Dragonflies eat mosquitoes, and other small insects like flies, bees, ants, and butterflies.
Now THIS was new to me-- and fascinating for my boys -- "Most of a dragonfly's life is spent in the nymph form, beneath the water's surface, using extendable jaws to catch other invertebrates (often mosquito larvae) or even vertebrates such as tadpoles and fish.They breathe through gills in their rectum, and can rapidly propel themselves by suddenly expelling water through the anus." Nice.

Below, there is a Spotted Touch-Me-Not, also called Jewelweed. We used the online Wildflower Identification guide to look it up.
Did you know that Jewelweed is edible and can also be used as a remedy for poison ivy?? So neat!

Look at all of those ants! Wow, this must be a tasty flower.

We finished off the outing with playground time. You know, so the kids could run off energy and we could have a Swing-off. Fred won, and I only got dizzy and sick. Bleh-- stupid motion sickness.

Then another firepit night at home, with a good book and a glass of wine in hand. Ah, good Monday indeed. In fact, this could very well qualify as a "perfect school day" in my book. Can I top it tomorrow? We'll see!
(Now I start praying...)

Sunday, September 26, 2010

Leaf Garlands & Firepit Fall Days

My NatureBoy brought in as many different leaves as he could find in the yard. Seeing as how we only have ONE tree, I was thoroughly impressed that he came in with SEVEN different leaves!
The kids did leaf shadings with crayons...

Next, they cut the shapes out and stapled them onto a long piece of yarn, to hang a leaf garland in the kitchen. Then I left my kitchen sink looking like this...so I could go do this...
We played kickball, started a fire in the firepit and roasted marshmallows, and then read books by the crackling warmth.
Ah, fall is here again.
~~Sweatshirts and boots, scarves and hoodies, hot soups and fresh-baked bread, warm fires and snuggly children.~~
I'll do my dishes on the next rainy day. ;)

Tailwaggers 5K

You know I'm all about doing family things...
Yesterday morning I was able to see my mom race, be outside on a fabulous fall day (high of 74!!), plus see friends and get free food. To top it off, the race was at the downtown park, and they brought in a Bounce King. The more energy my kids get out at the park, the less they'll bring home... right??

LOTS of doggies at the Tailwagger 5K and walk. Below, my mom crossing the finish line, first in her age group. My -super-athletic- Mom, and my super sweet second-cousin Lisa.

Mom, I'm so proud of you for running!!
Man, I'm starting to feel that urge to get back in shape. For awhile, we were doing P90X, running, eating well... and then it all went down the toilet. I started eating Papaw's apple pies for lunch, quit working out altogether, and didn't run all summer because of the unusual and intense heat. Bleh. I'm feeling the effects now! And, although I only put on about 4 lbs, my weight is shifting to the butt area. Eh. Not great.
So, with you as my witness, I am committing to get back in shape.
I need the energy that comes with exercise,
the health benefits of it, the stress relief.
Help hold me accountable!!
I want to run the next race, too, not just watch from the sidelines!

Saturday, September 25, 2010

Pie-Making Day

Yesterday, for several hours, we made pies at Papaw's house, with Aunt Julie.

Papaw peeled, sliced, and cored, with this awesome thing.
Julie and the kids mixed the filling together.

For each pie:
Mix 6 cups of apples (peeled, cored, and sliced), 1/2 c raw sugar, 1/2 t cinnamon, 2 T flour, dash of salt.

Papaw had pre-made the dough, using this recipe:

Mimi’s Pie Crust

6 cups flour

2 ½ cups Crisco

1 teaspoon salt

1 teaspoon baking powder

1 Tablespoon sugar

About 1 cup cold water mixed with 1 beaten egg and 1 Tablespoon white vinegar

Makes enough for 9 single crusts.

Blend together flour, salt, sugar, and baking powder. Cut shortening in with pastry blender or 2 knives until the mixture is the size of small beans. Slowly add the cold water mixture. Lightly stir it in with a fork. Shape into 9 balls. Wrap in plastic wrap and then put in freezer bag to freeze.

When ready to use, thaw in the refrigerator or at room temperature. Roll it while it is still cold.

I rolled out the dough, dumped in the filling, and the did the pie tops.
We had a regular little pie assembly line going!

(yes, I just posted pictures of myself without my hair and make-up fixed. Go ahead and gasp.)

We baked four, then ate one, and froze enough for 17 pies, I think. Actually, Papaw said it was enough for 22 pies, when all was said and done!! Now that's what I'm talkin' about!

Friday, September 24, 2010

marshmallow friends

My five crazies with their crazy marshmallow buddies...
Fred's little friends looks a bit worried!

These cake decorator pens are easy enough for kids to use. I love them!!!

Toasted. Sorry little buddy.
Bag of marshmallows- about $1
Cake decorating pens- about $3
Marshmallow friends- priceless
Hope you're having as much fun with your fall activities as we are!

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

supporting a good cause

I'd like you to meet Ashley.

Ashley is the oldest of six kids (four little brothers and a baby sister.) She is a seventeen year old, homeschooled senior, and blogs at Lens and Needle. Ashley's friends Bryan and Rachel Gumpy had their first baby on September 6, 2010. Baby Charlie was born ten weeks premature and lived three days. As you can imagine, Charlie’s medical bills and funeral expenses are high. Ashley is hosting a giveaway on her blog, to raise money for the Gumpys. You can donate any amount via the Paypal button on my sidebar and leave a comment on the giveaway post saying you’ve done so. All the monies will go to the Charles Benson Gumpy Memorial Fund. You can read about that at Pray for Charlie.

Please consider donating, to help with their expenses. The giveaway packages are fantastic! Hop over to her site to see what people are offering. My Fall "BOO" banner is in package 2. I'll post photos of the finished banners, when I get those uploaded in a day or so.

Above all, please lift Bryan and Rachel, and their families, in prayer.

signage fun

On Saturday, the older kids and I came up with some fun signs to work on and post around the house.
"Be the change you want to see in the world."

Maybe we'll take our signs "on tour" around the town next time! I think we'll need to make some more to prepare for the big event. Anyone interested in joining the Smile-Surprises-for-Small-Town Effort?