Friday, March 13, 2015

"Dreams Aren't What They Used To Be" - The Killers

When I was a kid, all I wanted to do when I grew up was get married and have babies. No really. That was it. And it felt like a really. big. dream. I played house waaaaaay past the time that it was cool (I had the most amazing life sized baby doll that I secretly played with until I was...12? 13?), I dreamed about what my wedding would be like and practiced my post-wedding Greeting Line Etiquette in the bathroom mirror (with my shirt pulled back over my hair, natch), and thought constantly about what it would be like to be married. I imagine that kids who wanted to grow up to be teachers, engineers, inventors, and architects did similar things when they were kiddos as well, except that instead of sweeping floors and pretending to cook they were...I dunno...cradling their graphing calculators? And probably playing school. And like...practicing their Nobel Prize acceptance speeches.

The point is, that I thought that I had my life planned out. It was linear, it was clear, and it was simple. 

Step 1: Meet perfectly lovely man who wants a family and who will love me like someone in a Shakespearean play. Or "While You Were Sleeping." 

Step 2: Have perfect wedding where everyone tells me how pretty and lucky I am. Laugh knowing, tinkling laugh and exchange lots of "Right?" looks with new husband. We are PERFECT. 

Step 3: Move in to perfect Levittown-style house with new husband who now wears adorable work suits and carries a pipe around. Think Atticus Finch but also funny. Wear aprons as I glide around home dusting and singing to the birds outside our windows.

Step 4: Have brood of perfect little stair step children who will play in the yard and chase the dog (also, get a dog). Keep my figure post-baby while also eating cake and pot roast.

The thing about dreams like that, though, is that they're not real. Life doesn't work like that, for any of us. Teachers get discouraged and burned out by the system. Architects end up designing the new updates for McDonald's and Dennys franchises. Engineers wind up in middle management, stuck in meetings all day and giving performance reviews. Inventors...I don't know what they do. Invent things for the "As Seen On TV" aisle of Bed, Bath, and Beyond, I s'pose.

I got married to a wonderful, AMAZING man. No really, The Hubs really and truly is the BEST. WAY better than ol' Atticus and WAY funnier. He's kind, thoughtful, and gentle hearted. 

So I got that part of my dream. I really did. And I'm SO grateful every day for that. None of the rest of the dream would mean anything if I didn't have him. Granted, our "meet cute" happened in a bar so not exactly the stuff of Shakespeare or Sandra Bullock, but oh well. 

But the wedding? It was a disaster.

And that house we moved into? More like a run down apartment followed by a dilapidated old house followed by a house in the boonies that had FLEAS when we moved into it followed by the home that we currently live in which is, actually, pretty great unless it's cold outside. 

And those little stair step children? Well. They sort of happened. We had our sweet Violet who left us after three short days. She was followed by 3 siblings who never saw daylight and who we'll have to wait until the hereafter to meet. Then we had our Little Man and he is everything. He really is the best of both of us rolled into one sweet, funny, kind, chatty, amazing little person. 

Why am I sharing this list of woe with you? This barrage of crushed expectation?

Because the story that I'm living is so much better than the one that I wrote back in the day. The story that God is telling with my life isn't about me. It's not about what I want and what I need. It isn't about my expectations or my desires. 

My story is about a young woman who grew up too slowly before she got married and had to learn to humble herself. It's about a married couple who have gone through absolute and literal Hellfire and not only survived it, but came out on the other side holding hands. It's about showing the world that, in the face of the worst loss a parent can experience, Jesus really does lead us on. We can stand because He holds us up. My story is about the fact that, when life brings you loss after loss after loss, we can all choose who we want to be - bitter or better? Broken or built up? Looking down into the dirt or looking up into the dazzling light of the sun? 

My story isn't about meeting the perfect man and being gifted a perfect marriage. It's about fighting tooth and nail to create something unique and breath-taking that makes both of us not just happy, but holy. We are sanctified every time we kneel down to serve each other rather than standing on our own demands.

My story isn't about creating perfect little anonymous children. It's about being gifted the children that God knew that I needed even before I knew what was missing from my life. Before she was born, I wouldn't have chosen the path we had to walk with our Violet had I known beforehand where that path would end up but oh, I wouldn't miss having known her for anything in the world. I wouldn't miss being her mommy and I wouldn't want anyone else to be the one who held her as she was ushered out of this life. I was and am deeply blessed just by having been given the opportunity to love her. And our Little Man is just the best balm to my soul that I could ever have imagined. He lights up my whole world just by being in it.

So, the big question is: would I have been happier if I had just gotten everything I'd asked for back when I was cradling my lifeless baby doll and dreaming of my perfect wedding? Would I be a better person if I'd just gone down my list and been able to check everything off?

I don't know for sure but I don't think so.

We learn from all of the parenting books that kids value what they work for more than what they're just handed for free. I think that that's true of adults, as well.

Everything that The Hubs and I have in our relationship we have fought for every inch of the way. Every blessing that we're given is magnified and valued ten-fold because of what we have lost. Every new gift, every new day, every experience that we can have with our son is that much more precious because of what we have missed out on. We love deeply. We apologize quickly. We hold hands more often. We communicate more. We cry more and laugh more and touch more. 

And I don't think that that could have happened had I been spoiled by Heaven. Instead, I was lavished with a sanctifying love that burned like fire at times and soothed like aloe at others. It made me take notice and kept me from getting numb to the good things that life offers. It made me better than the me I was before all of these things that I thought I didn't want. 

And I'm grateful that I was given what I needed instead.

Monday, September 29, 2014

Why Your Experience Doesn't Give You Insight Into Mine

Normally, I am all for likening your experience to someone else's in order to help empathize with them or to help them through a tough time. Scholars and professionals who are much smarter than me have shown that having that skill actually makes us more human and helps us to forge connections to other human beings, thereby making us feel less alone.

At the risk of sounding like I'm the exception that proves the rule, however, I respectfully submit that you just can't do that for me. You can't.

You see, we are the parents of a deceased child. 

I can feel you wince. I winced typing it out. There is no experience that can touch it and there is no way to describe it to soften it for the listener. In fact, the only reason to  try to soften it is to put other people at their ease; there is no way to phrase what we have experienced that will make it hurt less or bother me less or help me to survive it easier. All of the words surrounding what we've experienced hurt and none of them actually help. I have actually spent time trying to put all of the euphemisms that I've heard for it on a scale of Not Too Bad Really to Makes Me Feel Violent or Like Sobbing Uncontrollably Depending on the Day. The scale shifts depending on my mood, on the day, and on my condition.

You see, you can't help me. You haven't been through what I have. You might say, "Well, but you haven't experienced what I have, specifically, either." And you're right. But looking at the worst things that have happened in your life, I'm willing to bet dollars to donuts that someone very, very close to you has experienced your worst moment. It wouldn't take a lot of time or effort to find someone who knows what it's like to fail a college class, get divorced,  have a miscarriage, experience infidelity, be depressed, or lose the love of their life. Those things are sad and hard, yes, but they are also very common in our society.

Child loss, in the first world in which we are privileged to live, is a rare and terrible thing.

So much so that, when the subject comes up, the room goes quiet. There is throat clearing and foot shuffling. There are platitudes galore ("God has a plan! She's in a better place! You'll get through this! God never gives us more than we can handle!"). We don't encounter this in our daily lives (thank God!) and so we have no tools with which to deal with it. 

This means, though, that unless you've been through it, you can't judge me. You can't base my marriage on yours. You can't compare my faith walk to yours. You can't tell me how to survive it or how to get through it. Let me emphasize this: You can't. 

You spiritual leader might have told you that you can. You might think that you know of books and scriptures and quotes that will snap me out of this. You might believe that all I need is a little analogy or a little tough love and I'll be fine. You might think that I'm handling this all wrong, that I'm not brave enough or solid enough, or that surely you would never handle this kind of thing this way.

All I have to say to that is you have no idea what you would or would not do or say, what lengths you would go to, what situation you would put yourself in, or how you would feel. You just don't know. You don't. I don't care what you think you know about yourself because this kind of thing rips the bottom out of what you believe to be your lowest known level and tells you that you can go so much farther down than you ever imagined. 

You. Don't. Know.

My marriage is not your marriage. Mine probably has more fighting in it. And more crying. You might see the contention and feel the discomfort between us after we've had a fight. But it also has a lot (a lot) of cuddling and hand holding. A lot of late-night ice cream eating after one of us has had a nightmare. It has a lot of laughing and a lot of support. I never have to explain myself to my husband because, you see, he knows. He knows the depths of insanity and anguish that child loss can take you to. I never have to tell him why I am the way that I am because he already knows. And I know about him, too. We have our own sad, grief-stricken little club to which you cannot gain entrance and that club has its own rules and expectations. Trust me, you don't want to be a part of it but you also can't tell us how to operate within it, either. Last time we checked, the divorce rate for couples dealing with child loss is around 78%. I'd say that we're doing pretty well, three years later, and that doesn't even take into account everything else that we've lost since losing our girl.

My faith is not your faith. You don't know. You can't tell me what to do or how to feel. You can't tell me to hang in there or try harder to read my Bible more or...or...or...just don't. You have no idea. We are surviving. We are getting through it. We aren't laying on the bathroom floor with our wrists slashed open. We are upright, working our jobs, making our meals, caring for our son, and, doing life. So back off. I know that that sounds harsh but...back off. Really. The last thing we need is someone telling us how to live a storyline that they keep telling us that they, "just can't imagine going through." If you really can't imagine losing a child of yours, then (and I say this with love) keep it to yourself.

My life is not your life. At the end of the day, my choices (and their consequences) are my own. So when you see me experimenting with my diet, trying out new philosophies, eating pie at 12:30am (ahem), or whatever else you might not agree with, please try to remember that I need grace and understanding more than your judgment and that, unless I'm directly harming you (like, I made you actually bleed or totaled your car) then it really doesn't affect you. I need love. I need acceptance. I need you to remember that I'm a good person and friend and that I'm still myself. I don't need lectures and judgments. I love you, but I don't love feeling like I'm not measuring up.

Look, this all may have sounded harsh but it's said with love. It's written more in a tone of soft pleading than sharp anger. I'm trying. I think that the fact that I'm not walking around drunk out of my mind every day or locked away in a cell somewhere is reason enough for celebration. In the rush to make sure that I'm righteous, please don't forget that I'm also human and in need of love. 

Understand that I don't necessarily want to talk about my choices in depth (because I spend a ridiculous amount of time in self contemplation with my journal all on my own, thank you) and that that's not a commentary on you but rather a commentary on the fact that I'm just tired of "dealing" with myself. 

Please understand that I care but...I also want to just be a normal person who is to be commended for surviving agonizing circumstances. I want to be allowed to make mistakes and to not be expected to have an explanation (or required to give one) for everything that I do. Because I'm surviving. I'm getting through it. I'm working through it. And that takes time and I will make mistakes. Please love me anyway. And if you can't, then please keep your mouth closed. Thank you.

Sunday, September 7, 2014

When Your God-Planned Family Doesn't Look Like One

Very early on in The Hubs' and my married life, we were convicted that the use of birth control was not something that the Lord was leading us toward. We felt that, in trusting the Lord with every aspect of our lives, we should also give over the planning of our family to Him. By no means has this journey been a linear one for us, mostly because there was a period in both my husband's and my lives where the way that we were living our lives was not in accordance with the way that God wants us to live in a lot of ways. I came back to the Lord first and, when he sought to know more about the way that my heart was turning, my husband joined me about a year later. We started praying together fervently that we would know what God wanted for us and what direction our lives ought to take.

God has the benefit of being able to know everything - yesterday, today, and tomorrow - and he knows what His plan is for all of His children, both those who have been born and those who are yet to be born. It is our belief, then, that He knows best when children ought to be added to our family and it is up to us to be obedient to accept them as precious gifts.

3Lo, children are an heritage of the LORD: and the fruit of the womb is his reward.
4As arrows are in the hand of a mighty man; so are children of the youth.
5Happy is the man that hath his quiver full of them: they shall not be ashamed, but they shall speak with the enemies in the gate. - Psalm 127:3-5
(Please understand that our belief in what God wants for our family in terms of the use of birth control is an answer to prayer that we believe is for us only and not something that we believe is true for everyone or in every situation. Obviously if you and your spouse have prayed about it and feel that birth control is right for your family, then that is between you and God. We would never presume to believe that just because something is right for us it would be right for you!)

The Hubs and I married in October of 2009 and shortly thereafter began to pray fervently about what we should do about starting a family. Over the course of that year, we both received confirmation that we should start a family soon and that, indeed, doing what we could to prevent children from coming into our family was not the Lord's plan for us. By September of 2010, my husband was comfortable that the answers we had been receiving were from God and that it was time to step out in faith. By January 2011, we were pregnant. 

We were thrilled, terrified, nervous, scared...all of those emotions that first time parents feel when facing the birth of their very first baby. I did all of the reading that I could on parenting and childbirth, we went to a birthing class at the hospital, we dreamed, planned our nursery in the shoe-box house that we were living in at the time (which we aptly called "The Little House"), took "bump shot" pictures...oh, I was so happy. We couldn't wait for our daughter to arrive!

She came right on time, on her due date, September 28, 2011. She was beautiful with a full head of thick, dark hair and a dainty, round face. We named her Violet Georgine, using both of my grandmothers' names. I wanted her to have a strong legacy, women to whom she could look as an example of Godly womanhood and perseverance. She was so lovely, so tiny, so feminine! We loved her so much!

Three days later, the unthinkable happened and we lost her. She passed away for reasons that are still unknown to doctors and researchers, and trust me, we've seen them all. All we have are our memories and the pictures that we took of her in the short two days that we had with her before she went into the hospital.

We held to our faith in God, to the knowledge that no matter what happened, we were still a family. We clung harder to God and His goodness than we ever had in our lives before. It was like a drowning man clinging to a life preserver; our faith was literally the only thing that kept us getting up in the morning, going to work, fixing meals, taking care of saved us temporally as well as spiritually. And we held fast to the knowledge that the answer to our prayers about family planning was still as true now as it was before we lost our daughter.

In spite of our own fear of what we now knew could happen only too easily, we didn't try to keep from getting pregnant. We were terrified of what it would mean for us if we did conceive again, but our fear wasn't a good enough reason to disobey what we knew was a directive from the Lord.

"For God hath not given us the spirit of fear; but of power, and of love, and of a sound mind." - 2 Timothy 1:7

We went on in 2012 to have a miscarriage. And then another one. And then another one. And it was completely devastating. Each time, we experienced the rush of hope and love that came with the knowledge that there would be a new baby in our home and then were brought low by the defeat and heartbreak that comes along with the loss of that child. It was a very dark time in our lives, for sure, but through it all we clung to each other and to God who we trusted to lead us through this "valley of the shadow of death."

And then, that August, I once again found out that I was pregnant. Once again, we experienced the joy and hope that accompanies that kind of news, but this time it was heavily tempered by the fear of losing yet another child. By this time, our hearts were battered and bruised and we were spiritually exhausted. And so we held ourselves back from being as happy as perhaps we could have been otherwise. Every time I received results from one of my preliminary blood tests, the news was very good and we tentatively became a little more optimistic. I was put on partial bed rest for the duration of my first trimester because of some early bleeding, but other than that, everything was going amazingly well. For the first time, in a long time, we had hope for happiness in our future.

And we prayed. Oh, how we prayed. I received numerous blessings over the months and practically glued myself to my scriptures. I prayed scripture over my unborn baby and covered him in layer upon layer of prayers for his well-being and health.

"For this child I prayed; and the LORD hath given me my petition which I asked of him." - 1 Samuel 1:27

He was born on April 20th, 2013, perfectly healthy and absolutely beautiful. His birth was uneventful as far as any kind of trauma goes (in fact, he was born with just one push!) and from the day he was born, everything was easy. He nursed beautifully (still does 16 months later!), rarely cried, slept like a dream, loves the car...he's been a blessing in every single way that I could imagine. He's handsome and loving, gives big hugs every chance he gets, and is learning to be a sweet-tempered, obedient child.

And we still felt that birth control was not for our family. We still felt the Lord's guiding, loving hand on our lives and live with the knowledge that we can trust Him to give us what we need. He knows best what our family should look like and what we need in spite of what our sinful nature might tempt us to think we want or what would be easy for us.

In the beginning of August of this year, we discovered to our delight that we were, again, pregnant. There had been enough time between our losses that the sting had been taken out of them somewhat, although you never, ever truly heal from the loss of a baby like we suffered with our Violet. There had been enough healing, however, that we were just overjoyed with the news that we would be welcoming a little sibling for our sweet boy! We decided to wait to announce the news to our friends and family until we knew for sure that things were progressing the way they were supposed to be, though, and I started my battery of blood tests the next day.

From that day, nothing was simple or straight forward. The results of our blood tests and ultrasounds were confusing, both to us and to the doctors at our OB practice. The only thing that everyone could agree on was that, at seven weeks pregnant, there should have been a baby in my uterus with a heartbeat that was visible on an ultrasound, and there wasn't. There was no baby. There was a gestational sac and my body was acting like there was a baby, but there just wasn't. It was over before it had even begun.

I ended up having to have surgery to remove a grape-sized cyst from one of my fallopian tubes, I had to have a section of that tube removed, my other tube was flushed, a D&C was performed to remove the empty gestational sac from my uterus, and blood was flushed from an area behind my uterus that had pooled there from the cyst in my tube causing a leakage because it was so swollen and damaged.

I have spent the last week or so healing and trying to once again heal my heart from the loss of the sweet life that I was already anticipating with such joy. Physically I've been trying to get back on track, but emotionally and spiritually I have been crying out in pain as well.

Because the thing is, when we think of families who allow the Lord to guide their family size, we immediately think of the Duggars (who I adore!) or of their friends the Bates Family. Our minds immediately jump to supersize families who have been blessed with a quiver so full that it's bulging! But there are other stories, too. There are families who put the exact same measure of trust in the Lord's goodness and timing who look like mine. You see, there's only one baby that you can see in my family, but there are five who are missing from our table. There are five sweet souls who never got the chance to celebrate Christmases with us or who never challenged me to figure out the logistics of going to the grocery store without going crazy in the process. There are five siblings that our Little Man will never get to run around the backyard with or homeschool with.

We trust the Lord implicitly with our family size. We trust His time and His plan. We trust that when we suffer these losses that there's a purpose for that and a plan for that, we believe that there is good that can come from this and that He will truly redeem the years that we've lost.

"To appoint unto them that mourn in Zion, to give unto them beauty for ashes, the oil of joy for mourning, the garment of praise for the spirit of heaviness; that they might be called trees of righteousness, the planting of the LORD, that he might be glorified." - Isaiah 61:3

Monday, May 26, 2014

When I Say That I Dress For My Husband...

Over the years, I've gotten quite a few raised eyebrows and shocked looks when I tell people that I "dress for my husband." Normally, some of the following questions and comments roll in:

- Isn't that kind of controlling?
- Doesn't that bother you? I mean, shouldn't you be dressing for you?
- Does he really care what you're wearing?
- I could never do that. I'd [insert negative verb here] my husband if he tried to tell me what to wear!
- I'd only do that if he agreed to do the same for me. He's such a [insert adjective here that usually is a synonym for "slob" here]!

I thought I'd take a minute to address these, since when I'm confronted with them in real life I never really know how to respond. If I defend my position, it can sound self-righteous or self-aggrandizing, which is not what I want. If I laugh along, I come across as a hypocrite or else like I agree that it's ridiculous but, "ha, ha! You know...husbands." Neither of those positions is an accurate depiction of how I feel. I'm a lot more coherent in print, so I figured this would be the best way to communicate how I feel about this and how I came to this way of making choices regarding my clothing.

First, let me explain my own personal thoughts on this (and please know that this is a matter that has evolved over almost five years of marriage and I am in no way perfect at it yet!):

- The Hubs prefers long hair, so I wear my hair long. There have been numerous times in my life where I have worn my hair cut into a pixie style, which I really liked. When the issue came up,  my husband said that, while he thinks that I should wear my hair however I want, he prefers it long. While it was fun to have that short haircut, in my heart, what I prefer is to please him, so I grew it out.

- The Hubs prefers me in skirts, so I try to wear them as much as possible. It's been relatively easy and painless to make this transition thanks to the fact that I love to wear skirts and the trio of awesome thrift stores that we have around here. I've been able to find a ton of really cute skirts and dresses to wear that don't impede my ability to move around. This is especially important with Little Man running around (very nearly literally these days!).

- When I decided to dye my hair (gotta cover those postpartum grays, dontcha know), I asked The Hubs what color he'd prefer me to dye it, giving him simple options (because I am a touch overwhelmed by the bounty of colors in the hair color aisle, so I can only imagine what the poor guy would feel like if I tried to drag him with me) - dark brown, red, or light brown (blonde is a no go given my ghostly complexion. I'd end up looking like a Legolas wannabe at a LARP convention. Not good.). He went with a dark brownish-red, so that's what I did. I was able to pick out a fun, burgundy color that appeased my mid-life crisis desire to dye my hair dark purple (thisclose!) and his preference.

- I make a concerted effort to have my makeup and hair done by 10am every day and, failing that, by the time he comes home from work. About fifteen minutes before he walks through the door, I touch up my face and spritz on some perfume so that I'm that much more welcoming to him.

I should note that this works for us for ONE big reason: Respect.

He's never asked me to wear anything with which I'm not comfortable.

I dress modestly due to religious convictions, which we share, so that's not an issue that's even up for debate.

I like to wear skirts, but if I didn't he wouldn't push the issue. I like to wear makeup, but if I didn't, he wouldn't mind. I mean, if I suddenly stopped washing my hair and showering, obviously he'd have something to say about that (I would hope!), but he did suffer through a three week period where I was trying to go "no 'poo" (not using shampoo) and while he didn't complain in the moment, when I finally gave up I have to say that I've never seen a man more excited to smell shampoo in my life.

If, on the occasions where we've been out shopping together, he picks out something that I don't like, I can tell him that and he won't get hurt.

There's a lot of respect happening on both sides of the people living this way, which is important.

That said, this issue is an important one to me, regardless of how shallow it may seem at first.

I'm a stay-at-home-mom. That means that my man works hard to make it possible for his wife to stay home and care for our home and son. It would be faint praise for all his hard work if, when he came home from his job, he found me still in ratty sweats, unshowered, smelly breath from not having brushed my teeth yet that day, and looking about as ragged as possible.

Now, to be honest, I don't always look my best, that's for sure. There have been days when I've been so wrung out from long nights with Little Man when all of us were sick where I went into survival mode and my appearance was the last thing on my mind. Those days, however, are few and far between, because it matters to me what The Hubs sees when he looks at me.

Real talk? When The Hubs and I were first dating, I logged some serious time in front of the mirror getting ready for dates with him. I made sure that I looked just so so that when he looked at me, he would think that I was IT. You know what I'm talking about- I tried on different outfits, applied and reapplied lip gloss, tried on multiple pairs of shoes before settling on the perfect pair...etc.

Why did I do that? Because I was excited to see him. When his truck pulled in my driveway, my heart thumped and my stomach flipped over. I would get nervous and there would be a few awkward moments in the car before I figured out what I should talk about. I wanted to make a good impression on him and I wanted, desperately, for him to think that I was beautiful.That is natural and I can't think of a good reason for it to come to an end because we got married.

I don't believe for a second that my entire identity is or should be defined by how I look or even by how he thinks I look but...I do care. I care about his opinion and I care about wooing my husband, even seven years after that first meeting. I care about him finding me physically attractive as well as intellectually. So I put in a little effort to make myself look nice for him.

This is not to say that he picks out my outfits every day or even all of the (or even most) items in my closet, chooses my hairstyle, or anything else crazy like that. It's simply a matter of knowing what he likes and doing my best to give it to him. I think that that's just part of marriage, honestly: I love him, I want him to be happy and to find me attractive, so I do what I know works to achieve those ends. It's simple logic.

I think, in this era of failing marriage and crumbling families, that married people should do whatever it takes to make their marriages work. I don't believe that marriage should be disposable or that people should just find someone else if the person that they married isn't doing it for them. I believe that love is a verb and that marriage is work and sacrifice. I also believe that it's 100% worth it.

See, that voice that rises up inside and says, "How dare he have an opinion on what I wear and how I look? HE SHOULD LOVE ME REGARDLESS." is the natural man or what the evangelical movement calls your "sin nature." And, in the true nature of sin, that voice is partially right. He SHOULD love you anyways. If you've completely let yourself go, don't get dressed on a daily basis, take no pride in your appearance, and can barely find it within yourself to brush your hair, he should still love you. Because thats the vow. And that's marriage. NONE OF THAT gives him the right to be unfaithful, to stop loving you, to "change his mind." NONE OF IT.

BUT. It's the unwise woman who thinks that he's wrong to have an opinion about those things. After all, HE'S the one that has to look at you. And HE'S the one that has to smell you. Touch you. Be married to you. Be seen in public with you. Do you want him to be proud of you? Turned on by you? Engaged with you? Because men don't stop having types and preferences just because they get married. That's not something that just goes away with a murmured, "I do."

It would be the WISE woman who would seek to REMAIN her husband's type. Who seeks his approval and his adoration, who wants her man to stay married to her not out of obligation but because he wants to every day. Is all of that choice tied up in her appearance? Nope. It definitely shouldn't be. that part of it? Emphatically yes.

We can deny that and say, "Nope, not my man! Not my guy! He'e higher evolved than that! He's more enlightened than that!" to which I'll say...maybe. Maybe he truly doesn't care what you look like. Maybe he really don't care if you brush your hair or dress nicely for him or any of that. Maybe. But then...why did you get all dressed up for your wedding? Why did you wear a pretty dress and do your hair? Why did you bother? Since...he doesn't care, after all. So...who cares? Why bother? Hm.

Men are visual. We know that. And that's perfect and beautiful because it's the way that God designed them. So I give my man something nice to look at because it makes him happy. I seek his opinion about his preferences and that makes him happy, too, because it makes him feel needed and valued.

What does your man prefer? What look does it for him? No makeup? Small amounts? Maybe he just loves it when you throw your hair up in a messy bun because he thinks it's adorably "undone." Maybe he loves you in that one pair of jeans or in that particular shade of blue. How much a sacrifice would it be, really, for you to keep those things in mind when you're getting ready for the day? How much a difference would it make to your marriage if your man could come home every day and see his bride, whether it be of two day or twenty years, looking like that girl that he met back in the day?

Wondering why you should bother because, "What has he done for me lately?" Well. You're not responsible for his part of the marriage. You're responsible for YOUR part. Don't stop doing your part because you think that he's not doing his. That only leads to more hurt feelings, more damage, and more distance between you and your man. Do your part and do it to the utmost of your ability. Sacrifice because it's your duty for your side of the covenant you made with God. Stop worrying so much about what you deserve and rather put your focus on what you can do.

This is just a part of my efforts for my husband, it's not the magic combination for a perfect marriage (by any stretch of the imagination, trust me). But every little bit that I do for HIM is a little bit that makes me better, makes me a little stronger, makes our marriage a little better. And that, to me, is worth it.

Thursday, April 17, 2014

Homemaking: The Internet's Most Hated Profession

I keep seeing these listicles from Buzzfeed and its ilk being posted all over Facebook about how deeply uncool it is to post certain things on your Facebook feed and how annoying it is to have to deal with seeing those things every day. What things, you ask? What are these atrocities that people are griping about having to deal with when they log on? Well I'll tell you:

They are are (but are not limited to):
- What you're making for dinner
- Cleaning/caring for your home
- Your kids (That one seems to attract the most vitriol)
-Your work out'm a stay-at-home mom. So are a lot of the people I know. This means that my life mostly consists of:

- making meals
- cleaning/caring for my home
- my son
- (I'd add working out but...let's be real).

I get that maybe my younger, hipper cohorts might find those things uninteresting because they're at different points in their lives but...if I'm not "supposed" to post those things (God forbid I bore them when they're wasting time on Facebook), then what the heck am I supposed to post about?! Should I make up a life that I'm not actually living just to make sure that the time that they're spending on various forms of social media is scintillatingly interesting?

Or should I actually start abdicating my responsibilities at home so that I can...what? Go to bars or exotic locales and take selfies? Oh wait, though, selfies are also not okay anymore. According to the judges and juries of the internet, people who post selfies are vain, self-absorbed, and full of secret insecurity and self-loathing. Right? So...

Are people like me supposed to simply fall off of the social media planet the second that we start setting up housekeeping and having babies because our lives have become too boring to be tolerated by the masses? Are we supposed to pretend that we think it's more important for us to be having "fun" doing the things that people who are more "relevant" than we are are doing rather than doing what we're passionate about, which happens to be homemaking? Should we pretend that we don't think our babies are the most amazing little people to ever exist (because that's pretty much what I feel about my babies...I made them with my BODY, after all...) because it makes us seem...uncool? Or boring? Or irrelevant? Or irritating to those who aren't passionate about the same things that we are?

Sixty years ago, setting up housekeeping was celebrated. Bridal and baby showers were major events in the lives of young women and women who had already "been there, done that" turned up in droves to wish the young woman stepping up to these landmarks in her journey all their best. Cutesy games were played, advice was given (some good and some endearingly bad), and punch was drunk. Women celebrating being passionate about homemaking and sharing that passion with each other was a cultural norm.

Now you go to events like this and the room is full of eye rolling and snickering. Or there is outrage at the "irresponsibility," "laziness" or "wasted potential" of young women choosing to do this for a lifetime. And then to have the audacity to post the details of that choice to Facebook?! How dare we!!! How dare we bore people with our "silliness," with our children (did I mention that we made them with our bodies?), with our taking pride in something that they, frankly, don't value? The unmitigated gall of us.

Well guess what? I'm not sorry. I'm not sorry that I'm so over the moon about my son that I think that pretty much everything he does is magic (apologies for the obvious pilfering from The Police). I'm not sorry that, when I finally get that tricky bread recipe figured out, I'm going to be posting pictures of it like crazy because I will be so proud of myself! I'm not sorry that I take pride in my chosen career (because yep, homemaking is my chosen profession) or that I find joy in the everyday things that make up my life. Because it is my life.

It might not be cool or hip, but it's my life. It's what I'm choosing to do with my existence, so I take it personally when people turn up their noses at it and whine that homemakers like me are "like, so boring." I take it personally when you act like my being in love with what I do is less valid than a lawyer, doctor, or teacher being in love with what they chose to spend their existence doing. I love what I do, even on days like today when my son spent roughly 70% of his waking hours smearing various bodily fluids on me, and I want to share that love and joy with the people in my world.

That is what my Facebook page is for: sharing my life with the people in my world. If you are bored, irritated or frustrated by that, there's an "unfollow" button for just that reason. There will be no hurt feelings, I promise. What will hurt is if you continue to follow me while smirking and snickering behind your hand about how ridiculous you think I am.

What is the point of that? Presumably, people follow friends of theirs on Facebook, right? So...why on earth would you choose to learn the details of a friend's life on only to turn around and make fun of it to anyone who will listen in a glib, snide article meant to harm? After all, thats the point, isn't it? What else would you call writing something in order to get a good hardy laugh at the expense of people that you claim to be friends with?

I realize that the internet provides a convenient smoke screen behind which to mask your disdain, but that doesn't make it any less mean.

Thursday, February 20, 2014

A Sad Day for Forget-Me-Not Farm

It's a sad day, you guys. It's the end of an era, of sorts.

Forget-Me-Not Farm is no more.
Or at least, it will be no more in a couple of months.

The homeowners have decided to sell the house and the property, which means that it's the beginning of something new for our little family.

As sad as endings always are, beginnings can be wonderful and you can't have one without the other.

So. The house hunt begins! 
This means that I will no longer be a City Mouse in a Country House because I'm going to be dragging the Hubs, my lovely cutie-pie Country Mouse, into the city! My turf! And seriously? As much as I've loved this country experiment, I cannot tell you how excited I am to get back to what I know- city water, city sewers, nearby amenities, friends and family in close proximity, shopping...squeeeeeeeeee!!!!!

As such, there will be a lot of changes coming to the blog, from the name to the themes, to what we discuss...everything. Be watching!

That said, I'm dreading the actual moving part. Because moving is THE. WORST.
And let me tell you why I feel that way:

My whole life, since I've been 7 years old, I've been moving all over the place. We moved to Belgium that year and since then, I've been back and forth from Europe, changed houses, went back and forth to college, changed apartments, got married and moved around between typically terrible newlywed-and-destitute housing...

I'm tired.
I just want a home.
You know?
When we moved to the States, I went to school with kids who had lived in the same town from the time that they were born all the way through high school and as grateful as I was and am for my experiences growing up, I was also really jealous of those kids that had that connection to each other and to a place. They had all of these memories together and such a sense of...home. That intangible, unexplainable feeling that goes with having a home base, a place to call yours, a place that really and truly feels like the space where you begin and end. 

I have never had that.
I've spent my whole adult life looking for it and trying to create it and it seems so elusive to me. We're so transient at the moment and nothing seems to stay the same for any real length of time, so it just seems kind of impossible.

But the thing is that I desperately want that for my family! I want for Little Man to have somewhere to come home to when he's in college. I want for the Hubs to have somewhere that feels safe and warm and soft when he's had a hard day at work.

And I want a place that we don't have to leave right when all of my hard work pays off and it starts to be livable, which is exactly the situation that we've been in in the last three places that we've lived in. The houses were dirty and hadn't been cared for, they needed updating, they needed a lot of help...and then, once we got everything sorted out, we had to move.

And I can't tell you how frustrating that is.

Here's to hoping that we find something a little more permanent.
A little more lasting.
A little more...home.

Saturday, February 15, 2014

Valentine's Day, 2014

Happy Belated Valentine's Day, everyone!

I just wanted to give a quick overview of our holiday because it's my favorite day of the whole year and this year's was particularly lovely! Baby W was at home with a sitter, so the Hubs and I got to actually go out alone for four. whole. hours. Beautiful.

We started out by going to LaZeez International Restaurant (it's the Indian food restaurant here in town) and it was AH-mazing. Seriously. We've come to expect the food to be wonderful there (because it always, always is), but they went all out of Valentine's Day! The restaurant was decorated, the tables all had candles burning away in holiday-themed centerpieces, we were treated to a free mango lassi to accompany our meal (mmmmm...), a fabulous buffet, adorable little individual strawberry cake and passion fruit shooter-style desserts, and at the end of the meal were presented a long-stemmed rose and a box of handmade chocolates. Can you believe it?! There were even handmade red-tinted heart shaped ice cubes in the buffet table to keep the cold foods cool! It was the cutest!!! And do you think that I had my camera with me so that I could capture it all for you?

I did not.

Lame. Sorry. But I think you'll forgive me when I tell you that it's because I was so excited to spend a romantic evening out with the Hubs that I didn't even think to grab it on my way out of the house. We spent the whole evening without looking at our phones or tablets, which was a real miracle. We actually talked (!!!) and it was wonnnnnnderful. So there were no pictures taken, but I honestly cannot recommend LaZeez enough if you're looking for a place to get some really delicious food that's world's away from your run of the mill, boring chain restaurant.

Then we went and saw "The Complete Works of William Shakespeare...Abridged" at the Midland Center for the Arts which was...fine. I've seen it done loads better, but the Hubs had never seen it before and it was fun experiencing it with him and it was a lot more fun than just going to a movie. 

(Sidenote: no one dresses for the theatre anymore, have you noticed that?! I couldn't believe all the people there that I saw in jeans and t-shirts with grubby sneakers on. Sad.)

My favorite part (besides spending scads of quality time with my husband)? The gifts, of course! Both the giving and the receiving. I love Valentine's Day gifts because I try to stay in keeping with the romantic, smaller stuff. For Christmas and birthdays, I think it's nice to ask for and to give things that maybe you need or that will come in handy, but for Valentine's Day I think it's just the best to get and give frivolous little bits of romantic frippery that you'd never get for yourself - flowers, perfume, spendy chocolates, lovely scarves, etc.

So for the Hubs I put together a little basket with a helium balloon attached (festive!) and packed with his favorite snacking things for him to nosh while at work like sunflower seeds, Reese's Pieces, chocolate hearts, Lindor Lindt Truffles, and Sour Patch Kids. Then, nestled in with those things I tucked this:

Dolce and Gabbana The One Gentleman
Mmmmm...Smells amazing!!! I was sniffing him all evening. lol.

In a sweet show of just how well-suited we are to each other, he got me this:

Marc Jacobs Daisy Eau to Toilette
I mean, look at the bottle. I can't even. It smells incredible, I've been wanting it for ages, and I'm just so touched that he thought of it!!! I love it! I keep moving it around the bathroom vanity, trying to show it off to best effect. lol. 

He also bought me a beautiful freshwater pearl bracelet that I love and don't ever want to take off. Ever. 

Overall, it was an awesome night, we had a wonderful time together, and I'm already looking forward to Valentine's Day 2015!