Beautiful Boy | Our Titus

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Because we are so very proud of him, we want to tell you about our boy:

Titus William is bright and happy and beautiful. He loves Curious George, Thomas the Tank Engine and mac n’ cheese. He enjoys the playground and the ocean and tickles from his Dad and swinging with his Mom and ice cream. Titus is also on the autism spectrum. 

Some of you know, and some of you don’t, and with all of the adventures our family has been on lately, and in recognition of World Autism Awareness Day, we wanted to share a little about our story…

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Diagnosed at age two, our sweet boy is strong and plucky and complicated. Our story isn’t unique, but it still took us by surprise…

img_2603Once ahead of the developmental curve, we noticed around 20 months of age that Titus’s language development had stalled, repetitive behaviors started to appear, he seemed less social than normal, and a faraway look that was often in his eyes concerned us. After dismissal as simply being over-anxious, and then going with our guts and pursuing months of doctors visits – a couple of which said he was absolutely fine and there was nothing to be concerned about – we received his official diagnosis from the Yale Child Developmental Center in Connecticut, where we had moved barely a year before. Titus had ASD – autism spectrum disorder, with regression.

How do you process the news that your sweet, only, little one has challenges you never anticipated ahead? How do you allow dreams that you once held to reform, change, or disappear? What does your life look like, what does his life look like, what do you do next?…

…for the last two years we’ve been working on this. We’ve grieved and rallied and wept on the floor and raged and rejoiced. We have laid our hearts open to the Father and put one foot in front of the other…

IMG_5176And, we’ve moved across the country, renovated two homes, appeared on a national TV show, flown on airplanes, ridden trains, gone to Disneyland and Disney World and Castine, ME and Palm Springs, CA, and NYC and visited the beach, played with new friends, floated in the pool, swung in the hammock, watched movies and snuggled. And struggled. 

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Titus working with Jess, his first therapist

Nothing is the same, and everything is the same. Our Titus is still our Titus. But now, our days begin with a team of Behavioral, Occupational and Speech therapists each morning. And, puzzles and breakfast and sliding on slides. Our minds are occupied with vocabulary and behaviors and planning for an uncertain future. And, popsicles and date nights and buying new shorts because T is always growing.

 

Processed with VSCO with f2 presetWe are the same and totally different than other parents. And the pain of that ebbs and flows. Looking at old pictures and watching old videos of “before” can be difficult. Because of his regression, Titus had skills at 18months that he is still working to re-master now. Imagining the future brings anxiety. But. Even in the stretching, the fear and the wondering, we have faith.

Titus knows his numbers 1-12, all of his colors, some of his letters and loves to match, sort, do flash-cards, play on his swing set, splash in the waves, and do puzzles galore! He asks us for everything he wants, and points out all of the red lights when we’re driving – he just uses single words instead of sentences. He snuggles and gives hugs and high-fives, and requests popsicles 10 times a day. He makes lots of silly noises – because they feel good to make – and it takes him a long time to fall asleep, and looks at his hands with his fingers spread wide, and gets excited about the wind moving the leaves in the trees. He’s tall for his age, and often gets asked if he’s five or older, even though he’s not quite four yet, which can be hard sometimes, because he can’t always act like a big kid. He loves to run and jump, and it can be hard to sit still sometimes, but he is laid back, an excellent traveler, and isn’t rough with people or things. Every day can bring something new – both good and tough – that we learn how to tackle together. He works harder than we can imagine, every single day, with people and tasks that stretch and strengthen him.

IMG_6551He’s wondrous. And full of sweet, beautiful potential. 

And, he’s challenging. And life doesn’t look like how we thought it would. But, it is still good. And, because we don’t get to see all of you all the time, we wanted to share our beautiful boy with you. And, we wanted to thank you for being kind. For understanding when we can’t gather the energy for another outing or activity, for being flexible, for not being hurt if our little guy doesn’t look at you when you say hello or try to play, and for just smiling when T’s antics are a bit different than other children his age. And, being such sweet friends. And for walking along side us in this journey.  We aren’t done.

 

Processed with VSCO with f2 presetOur world is still big, and so are our dreams.

Titus’s name means, “Honorable Defender” and he had many amazing words of wisdom spoken over him when we dedicated him to the Lord as an infant. Even though our plans have had to change, we know that his purpose in the Kingdom remains intact and important. Our goal as his parents are to train and guide him to walk out that God-given purpose. Before he was born, we were given the picture of a rhino – a group of rhinos is called a “crash”. They can run at up to 30mph, but can only see 30 feet ahead. We don’t know what’s at 31 feet for Titus or our family, but we will run with faith to crash any obstacle.

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We covet your prayers over Titus, and the promise that his life holds. We love him so very much, and know that there is so much light and joy ahead of us. We look forward to sharing more about our #lifeonthespectrum. Feel free to send us a note with questions or encouragement. One of the most meaningly phrases we’ve learned is, “If you’ve met one person with autism, you’ve met one person with autism.”  – Dr. Stephen Shore. Every single trait and ability – both positive and negative – is unique. Know what we are learning every day about ASD, and what works specifically for Titus and our family. We love you, and thank you.

  • Andrew, Rachael & Titus

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Viora Beth: {my mama}

Not many people know that my mama’s full name is Viora Beth.

A family name, she has gone by “Beth” since babyhood.  But having that second, secret name, has always made her a little more special in my eyes…

{1965}

Mama will celebrate her birthday today, and I have to say that there is almost no one that I look up to more… As I grow up, it becomes increasingly obvious that I have a lot of growing up to do, and, I’d like to be a lot more like her.

Lessons from Mom:

  • Serene hospitality.

I love to have people over to my house. I love to plan, cook, and make my home a cozy space to enjoy conversation, solidify new friendships and catch up with the old. The hours leading up to these peaceful celebrations, however, tend to be anything but. I snap at the Husband, sweat profusely, the grill is inevitably out of propane and I ALWAYS worry that somehow everyone will magically turn into ultra- awkward, picky, critical versions of themselves and just want to leave….

Note: This has never, ever happened.

My mom, on the other hand, throws elegant get-togethers with an air of effortlessness I aspire to. Dad invites last-minute guests? No problem. Ate something yummy at a gourmet restaurant on vacation? It inspires a homemade menu fit for royalty. People show up early, food burns, little brother is doing his best armpit-rendition of silent night? She takes it in stride. Her guests feel loved and special because she takes the time to add the perfect touches (roast duck a l’orange and a bouquet of fresh-cut garden roses, anyone?), but delightfully at ease in the laid back atmosphere.

I want to be like that.

  • Doing it ’till its done.

When mom starts a project, it gets finished. She makes curtains, covers chairs, makes you finish your goat 4-H book, re-builds the garden, makes slideshows for weddings and graduations, refinishes furniture, paints, straightens, writes, crafts, educates and makes thing beautiful, all with a passion that awes me.

Is it 2:00a.m.? Maybe. Is it done with excellence? Always.

I want to be like that.

  •  Growing. Always growing.

I’ve said before that I have trouble envisioning the next 18 months, let alone where I will be in five years. Somewhere in my head, I’m convinced I have all the friends and skills I ever will posses right at the moment. It’s not true – I’ve got years to grow! Mom understands that.

{Joshua Tree National Park}

Inspiring books; skinny jeans; innovative homeschool methods; farro, langostinos, almond butter and salted caramel ice cream; revelations about the nature of God, her children and her husband; vacations; relationships…

She is always changing, always learning, always seeking wisdom.

I want to be like that.

{Beautiful, Peaceful, Home}

I am so proud of where I come from, and the people that surround me (like Bekah, Grandma Bailey and Joe!). But, some of the moments I feel the proudest, are when I realize I’m standing by the stove with my hand on my hip stirring a pot, or bending over a blossoming garden not even noticing the hot sun, or drilling holes and stapling fabric and investing ways to make my life and the lives of those around me more beautiful… just like her.

In short, Viora Beth cares for her home and her family in a way only Proverbs 31 can describe:

Her husband has full confidence in her
and lacks nothing of value…

She gets up while it is still night;
she provides food for her family…

She sets about her work vigorously;
her arms are strong for her tasks…

She opens her arms to the poor
and extends her hands to the needy…

She is clothed with strength and dignity;
she can laugh at the days to come…

She speaks with wisdom,
and faithful instruction is on her tongue…

Your child rises up, and calls you blessed.

{Happy Birthday, lovely Mama}

Listening to the {tulips}

My tulips and I have been conversing lately…

…they’re pretty smart. And no, I haven’t become a crazy naturalist or stopped shaving my legs. Here’s the story:

Until now, there has always been a very logical, planned, and immediate next step in my life: Kindergarten? First grade is around the corner. High school is over? Pick a college. Graduation? Get married, buy a house, find a job, settle in to a new city…

But, what now? Yes, there are children, new hobbies, moves, fresh life seasons somewhere in the future. But, for the first time, the next 10 years aren’t really planned…

Instead of thinking in terms of events and decisions that impact tomorrow, The Husband and I have to think about 15 or 20 or 35 years down the road.

That span of time is scary – ANYTHING could happen. Bad stuff. Hard stuff. I’d rather think about next month. Even New Year’s Eve is always bitter-sweet for me. What will this clean-slate of a year hold? I can barely handle planning dinner a week ahead of time – you really want me to make some investment that won’t come to fruition until I’m 65?! I’ve only been self-aware for like, 15 years!

Can’t. Wrap. My. Head. Around. It.

Enter, my tulips: These bulbs, like 401(k)s, kids, and European vacations, require vision. They are ugly little things that have to be planted in the brisk, late fall to bloom in the fresh, warming spring.

Not a perfect metaphor, but you get the picture.

Every spring for the last few years, I’d pass lovely yards and think to myself, “look at that seasoned, wise woman’s garden with all of those lovely flowers. Someday, I will think ahead enough to plan for that surprising early beauty, too.”

But, I wasn’t in a planting mood in the fall. I was done with mowing and digging and weeds… I wanted new boots, a cardigan and a hot latte. Like, yesterday. So, tulips didn’t happen.

Late last year, however, things changed: I was determined – even though it meant thinking about an uncomfortable amount of time – to make tulips happen. I picked out the bulbs, and stuck them in the ground. And, at the same time, I was slowly becoming aware that life doesn’t always rush at a never-ending pace and present you with an obvious next step with relatively immediate gratification. Sometimes, it requires patience, grown-up vision, and a little faith.

Boy, did that small step pay off:

Like ruffly, fiery, jewel-toned manifestations of my personal growth, my flowers sprang to life many months later in an array of lovely colors that made me smile for weeks on end when I pulled in my driveway. (Another of those “I like what I am becoming” moments!).

In some small way, I had arrived. If I could act in advance and wait for the payoff of planting bulbs, I knew that I was ready to do the same with confidence in other areas of my life too! Discontentment about my situation at a single moment, could be traded for the knowledge that I am investing in a million little ways for a beautiful, surprising, colorful future.

I’m growing up.

I am still grasping this concept of the length of a life. I have to remind myself that I don’t have every friend I will ever have right at this moment. I don’t posses every skill I will die with today. I am not as wise now as I will ever be, and I don’t need to be anxious about my self-actualization goals and level of maturity. I don’t need to do it ALL NOW.

Life is a process. And, life is long. Don’t let people tell you any different. Most of us will have decades to ‘work on’ ourselves, learn how to knit, take up kickboxing and watercolors and make new best friends… Those are the moments that add meaning and color to our journey. Add richness to the lives we touch. Add to our legacy…

So today, put your worries in His hands. Have a little vision. Make a few plans. And watch them bloom…

Not your average {Joe}

Let me tell you a little about Joe.

Joe Buckley is my little brother…

…and he is truly one of the most interesting people I have the pleasure of knowing.

{And yes, that may or may not be a mullet-esque hairdo I’m sporting. Though mom claims otherwise… “Dorothy Hamill” my foot.}

{Senior Pic… Stud}

Named for two great men: Our great-grandfather who lived his days bringing life to the land on his Ohio farm, Joe Washington; and our rural Kentucky-born grandfather who ended up directing a Children’s home he ran away from as a boy, Robert Buckley. Joe was born in 1990, just shy of four years after me, and he has always loved his name.

{Buds}

Like most of us, I think, he’s made up of an interesting combination of contradictions, accomplishments, small tragedies and large joys. We fought, like brothers and sisters do, but I remember eagerly awaiting the day that he could read so we could play Monopoly… and there were bike races, 4-H meetings, barbies (he liked Ariel from the little mermaid because she also had red hair… or maybe it was the shell bra…), birthday parties and all of the normal childhood joys we raced through together.

Including dressing up in period costumes on family vacations…

Don’t let him tell you he didn’t do it of his own free will. We were the envy of all other children, and tourists stopped to take photos with us. It’s the truth.

{Gotta love us}

We’ve always had a good relationship, but in the past year or so I would say that our friendship has ‘grown up’. Joe is about to graduate from college, and enter a new, exciting, successful stage of his life, and there is something about both of us arriving at adulthood that has made each conversation a little more meaningful, and each memory a little bit sweeter.

And so, this post. Each of my family and friends have taught me important lessons, but here are a few that are “uniquely Joe”…

Lesson’s from Joe:

1. It‘s OK to suffer a little bit: Joe has the highest pain tolerance of anyone I know. Bleeding/oozing gash, no biggie. Misaligned/sprained joints, another game of ultimate Frisbee is still on the agenda. Beyond enduring weird physical pain, he’s amazing a pushing is natural limits and more healthy ways as well. Example: We are not “math people.” Growing up, we both shed tears over algebra, but when he went to college he knew that an understanding of finance could further his future career…. so he majored in it. Talk. About. Pain. He put in extra time, and suffered through classes that we not his forte to achieve a greater goal. And, it’s paying off. So, push your limits. Be ok with discomfort. Go for the big picture.

2. It’s Ok to have happy secrets: I am not a person that likes to keep things to myself. I can take a best friend’s secret to the grave, but I LIKE to talk about myself. I think I’m pretty fascinating, so why wouldn’t I share my every thought with the world? Joe, not so much. He doesn’t broadcast his feelings, but when you get to know him, it’s like opening a treasure chest. He looks smart, athletic, funny and outgoing, but you’d never guess that when he comes home he reads dusty old Zane Grey novels in his room instead of always watching a game on TV; he reaches for grapes and feta cheese for a snack instead of Doritos; and he can converse about dairy goats or dog showmanship just as easily as politics or the Cleveland Indians starting lineup. Be deep. And be okay with the entire world not knowing it.

3. It’s OK to care: Joe feels deeply. He thinks about his family, his friends and his dog, and he makes sure to let them know that they matter in his life. His birthday cards to the family usually come in the form of a sheet of plain white copy paper folded in half, and four lines of text scrawled in pen on the inside, but those words are always thoughtfully crafted and more beautiful and honest than anything Hallmark has ever produced. My mom called him a “snuggler”, and others say he’s just a good, sweet-natured friend (but with a razor-sharp wit and the fastest come-backs known to man). I say, he’s a good guy to have in your corner. Show simple kindnesses, make people feel cared for. Back them up when it counts.

He also knows how to be loyal to one of the most disappointing teams in baseball…

…but that’s a story for another day :)

These lessons might be simple, but they are often overlooked. Take the time to think about applying these concepts in your life, or think about how a brother or sister or cousin or friend has taught you something without even realizing it…. just by being a {not so average} Joe.

Team {Playas}

Being a literal “team player” doesn’t really come naturally for me.

I’ve attempted soccer, softball, swim team…

{<–Yes, that’s me. Not my little brother.}

Let’s just say that even with my mom as coach, I scored one goal, I NEVER made a hit at a single at bat all season, and we celebrated when I came in second…to last at a swim meet.

Yeah. I’ll stick to running by myself.

Anyhow, while playing on an actual team isn’t part of my day-to-day routine, being a team player in my marriage is totally vital. Like breathing. like blinking. Like not ruining every weekend with bickering. Like actually speaking to each other during car rides. Like having people over without them opening the door to that awkward “No, we haven’t been having a ‘discussion’, my face is always this red” moment.

Don’t deny it. It happens.

It really wasn’t until after a few months that I realized that I wasn’t necessarily as good as I thought I was at working together with my husband.

It’s WAY easier to say that “it’s just us against the world!” with your significant other, or even your best friend, when things are easy. It’s when the real life happens that you realize where your strengths are (or are not) in the whole “working together” scenario.

Well, after more than 2.5 years of wedded bliss, I’ve learned a thing or two about teamwork. Ladies – take a look. And get real with yourself:

1. You’re not a Team Player if you’ve only got this “teamwork thing” down when you both agree.

I went into marriage pretty dang sure that I was ready to do everything with my husband-to-be: work together, play together, pick out curtains, hang things on the wall (even those that required a level) and defer to him when appropriate.

I was wrong.

I discovered that I’m pretty much a selfish brat any time I know I’m right (which is about 97.9% of the time if you were wondering). It took the poor man, my mother and several innocent bystanders more than a year to (mostly graciously) lead me to understand that I need to just take a step back and “let” him be right, and make the right decisions sometimes. In reality, he IS right a lot. And I’m often…. *cough* wro..ng. It’s better for us. It’s better for our relationship. It’s better for our friends that visit and just want normal conversation.

{That was one heck of a fight! Kidding. Warrior Dash. But happy endings are always a good thing. We always wrap up any conversation on a high note.}

2. Martyrs aren’t Team Players.

One of my lines is “I know I sound irrational and like a jerk right now, but it’s how I FEEL, and I’m mostly mad at myself, and I already know what you’re going to say….blah, blah” (alll while sobbing… usually).

Don’t steal it.

Saying these things doesn’t help the situation. The ice cream brand won’t pick itself (Him: Kroger processed frozen dairy ice food, $.03 Me: Graeter’s elite gold label limited special edition european dark chocolate-packed new rare flavor, $27.99).

Saying these things makes me a victim. Maybe a victim of my own PMS / over-tiredness, but at any rate, it doesn’t give my dear husband a moment to say anything even remotely helpful, rational or true. To make decisions about ice cream, or – more importantly – finances (true underlying issue being discussed) I have to keep things above the belt. Save the martyr stuff for sympathy from a sibling at another time.

JK. Don’t play that card. Ever.

{Don’t ask.}

3. Team Players know “Different isn’t Wrong.”

When we were in premarital counseling, our wise, wise pastor passed on some advice that we’ll never forget: Different isn’t wrong.

When you have different opinions, different morning routines, different family backgrounds, different learning styles and different tastes in snacks: Virtually ALL of the time, different does not = wrong. Different = just plain different.

Accept it! Move on.

4. Team Players drink wine together.

When you work things out productively with your significant other, or your best friend, it is best to do it in a relaxed, easy atmosphere. Our pastor said that you should sit down at a nice dinner, have a glass of wine, and approach sensitive topics when you’re well-rested and in an fun, easy mood.

It can be hard to broach those subjects when you’re happy, but I can tell you that our best conversations, and brightest revelations have happened when we’ve used this approach. Try it!

5. Team players practice.

Even after you’ve been to the mountaintop, it can be easy to forget what you’ve learned. Remember practice makes perfect!

Some of our proudest moments have been when we’ve put what we’ve been working on in our relationship into practice in a real-life setting. We’re entertaining, we’re making travel plans, we’re calculating a shoe budget, we’re visiting family and we’re “playing” together. As a TEAM.

It’s work! But whether it’s your husband, sister, girlfriend or co-worker, it’s worth it.

After all, how can you stay mad at that?:

Awwwww…

What are some life lessons you’ve recently learned? Please share!

Care & {Keeping} of Friends

Best Friends.

We all have them… since childhood we’ve treasured them, made the mad, made up, made mud pies, gone to dances, gone to college, gone overseas, grown up, grown out, grown apart…

Sometimes, those best friends are a treasure for a fleeting time in our lives, and then things naturally progress to bigger and better things. That can be okay. But, there are other times when a simple lack of planning, lack of effort, lack of time, lack of interest, get in the way of the beautiful possibility of lifelong companionship.

{The Tin Man, Wicked Witch, Scarecrow, Dorothy, Toto and Glinda…}

Don’t always cut those glittering ties of childhood memories just because you’ve grown up. Sometimes, it’s worth it… sometimes it means the world to hold on to what was once dear, and make it dear again. And, I’ve found that there are some simple steps every friend can take to maintain these important connections.

{Meet “The Three”}

A Blonde, a Brunette and a Red Head: Hannah, Rachael and Samantha. We were more than the perfect punchline – we were soul-mates. Queens of the roost, we were all the oldest of our siblings. Hannah, the oldest of 9, Samantha, the oldest of 8, and I, the oldest of a measly 4. (My parents were under-achievers. Obviously : )

Hannah and I – friends since I was in the 1st grade, and she was in kindergarten – “let” Samantha join our group at the age of 14. We were inseparable. “The Three” enjoyed the same classic novels, became experts at Junior-year chemistry, were the harshest of fashion critics, cruised newly-licensed in cars with the tops down and scarves in our hair, listened to our parents slightly-warped records, ate ice cream with reckless abandon, put-putted, had picnics in the park, fell in love, went to camp, competed in school, painted our bedrooms crazy colors, fought, annoyed our little brothers, made-up and then…. went to college.

Me, close to home. Hannah, in Massachusetts. Samantha, in Virginia.

Our delightful little story could have ended there. In fact, we all felt it slipping away at times. New friends, different settings, changing interests, careers, boys, too many miles. It started to add up.

But, we fought back. We deliberately chose to press against the “natural” order of things, and their tendency to become disordered and dissolve. It took work, but it ended up better than we could have imagined. And so, even after two weddings, one of us in D.C., one in rural Ohio, another in Europe, we still are close…

Everyone seems to have one of those old friends that knows them better than anyone else. Try these tips to make that road to lasting friendship as bump-less as possible:

1. Give one another space. We’ve heard of “helicopter” parents, but helicopter friends can be just as bad. Even if you talked every day for 18 summers, that kind of contact is hard to maintain (and often unwanted) when you’re at different schools, different places in life, with new responsibilities and a job in front of you to do. Be okay with silence. Be okay not knowing her every move. Sometimes, it is that space that preserves a relationship.

2. Invest the time to catch up. You’re busy, they’re busy. You’re in for the weekend to see your parents, he is visiting grandma and has a long commute. Stop. Get a coffee. Take an hour to talk about life. Even if it is just the short version, jumping in with both feet and sharing the stories and joys and sorrows of the past three (or six, or 10) months with one another face-to-face makes a huge difference. It builds a bond – much better than a phone call – helps you remember why you loved each other’s company so much in the first place.

3. Find out how they’ve grown. This step might be the most important of all. When you’ve gone through a transformation, sometimes the energy to bring an old friend up-to-speed doesn’t even seem worth it. For example: When Hannah came home from college on the East Coast, lots of our friends poked fun at her for her new sense of style, turns of phrase and academic pursuits (An english/theater major?!). They also teased her with outdated stories and old nicknames.

Now, these weren’t mean people, but they weren’t giving Hannah any room to grow. The OLD Hannah is all they knew how to relate to! But, I could tell she was getting frustrated… but why bother telling them she’d found new passions, new interests and discovered a fun new style? I decided to ask her, and Samantha, an important question next time we sat down together.

Name three things that are different about you; three discoveries that you’ve made about yourself since you’ve left.

This question was a game-changer. Learning just those three things – free of judgement, no comments or comparisons or “But remember when you said you HATED skinny jeans? What Happened?!” – made all of the difference in our relationship.

Once afraid of the kitchen and anything but athletic, I had learned that I loved running and competitions, and adored trying new recipes. And Hannah had uncovered a love for Italian, and a talent and passion for art and poetry. Because we helped one another discover these things, we had each other’s backs. We didn’t accidentally hurt each other’s feelings by making jokes about my cooking abilities, or Hannah’s elementary school sketching skills, and in just a few minutes we had dug to the core of what our usual conversations circled around but never quite reached…

That was an OLD us, but now, we were introduced to the surprising, fun, fresh young women our best friends had become.

{Samantha and I Skype with Hannah, who is living in Orvieto, Italy}

Around the Holidays is a great time to re-connect with old friends. Make sure you take some time to do so this season! Do you have a dear friend that has persevered through life with you? Tell me about it!

P.S. More about friends will follow in coming posts – including some of Hannah’s amazing work! That whole English/Theater thing… yeah, it paid off.

Thought {full}

Tis the season to be thankful (and/or eat yourself into a food coma). At the FeshlyMinted household, we’ve been talking a lot about turkey, ‘taters, another important “T” word: Thoughtfulness.

In order to be the type of person that someone is thankful for, you’ve got to be thoughtful first. A spouse, a parent, a grandparent, a great boss… It’s those pleasant little moments of grace, or fun, or extravagance, or simplicity that make us so, so glad that they are in our lives.

The Husband has some great insight into how thoughtfulness works in a husband-wife relationship, and (without prompting / nagging / standing in front of the TV and begging / asking in a variety of accents to make him laugh) he jotted down a few ideas to share. Enjoy:

Thought {full}

I’ve realized that, unless I am intentional about going against my nature, every day I go through life zoned-in on me. What can I accomplish, what fires can I put out, and what anxieties and to-do lists will occupy my mind as I let little problems grow into big ones. Naturally, I drift into a life that is me-centered. I put my career first, my hobbies first, my t.v. shows first… Basically, I submit to my own desires and “needs”, and expect others to as well.

I bet you’ve guessed that this lifestyle doesn’t work so well with my wife… or in any relationship, really.

So, I thought I’d put some advice together that has helped me improve in the area of thoughtfulness – Not exactly an attribute that comes naturally, but one that means a lot in our home. Like, get you out of the doghouse, get you a nice dinner, get you a delighted, happy spouse to come home to, type of ‘a lot’…

For the gents out there:

Let me start this out by stating the obvious: Ladies are kind of confusing and unpredictable.

Yet, we like them (love them, adore them, share our lives with them) and they give us the support we need to allow us to be who we are, and who we are supposed to become. So, in their honor, here is some advice:

  •  Thoughtfulness isn’t about doing what’s easy. It’s about doing something out of the ordinary (aka – a surprise). If finances are tight, surprise the lady by spending the money on a dinner and a movie. If finances aren’t tight, don’t just buy a gift because it’s easy and quick, but instead, make something…write a letter…draw a funny picture and put it by the coffee pot. It’s all about extra effort. They’ll notice. Trust me. They notice ev-er-y-thing.
  • Girls want to be planned for and thought about without having to make it obvious. Girls joke about dropping hints, but in reality it’s how men discover ways to “surprise” our wives. It can be a tricky balance (and you might have to be pretty quick on the draw to beat her to that second or third “hint”), but there is no greater joy to my wife than something that is truly unexpected – no matter how small – and there is nothing better than seeing her light up with joy and the pride of being a wife of a thoughtful husband when I really, really hit the nail on the head with a simple note, or a fun date she wasn’t expecting.

{Send her to to Boston to see her best friend, buy matching coffees, mow the lawn, get her that goofy mustache corkscrew she was eying, give her a Snuggie and Food Network magazine for Valentines Day…}

  • It’s a little hard to admit, but really listening and finding out what your wife wants is pretty of important. I’m still working on this piece – all of us guys are. Hints and all, it’s not naturally easy. But it’s our job as a husband to “figure out” our wives and discover what puts a spring in her step. When you continuously pursue and serve your wife, in turn, she will gladly love, respect and serve you also. Think of it as a life-long treasure hunt… it’s fun!

Now, the ladies:

So, lots of women out there might be saying to themselves, “My man doesn’t have a thoughtful bone in his body. I should just quit reading now, and copy and paste the “man” section into an email and send it to him at work.”  Well, just hold the phone, because it might not entirely be your husband’s fault… and sometimes (cough- dear wife – cough) getting an email at work isn’t the best way to communicate.

Hang with me here!

  • Create an environment that makes it easy for us to be thoughtful. You probably know what I mean: Jabs with nasty absolutes like, “You never take me to the movies” . Or, when you’re with friends, you toss out:“The last time you bought me flowers was when my car broke down and you made me walk home in the rain. Haha!” (but no one’s laughing and it’s awkward). News flash: These types of comments make a man never want to never take you to the movies! It makes a man want to buy flowers for you, stomp on them outside the grocery store and walk away! Okay, that’s a bit extreme, but truthfully, the negative assumptions and attitude removes the fun of being thoughtful, and puts a bunch of prideful hurdles in the way of loving acts.  Side note for men: We’ve all been there when our minds says, “She ‘wins’ if I buy her flowers after a comment like that.” As men, we need to overcome the jabs as our wives learn not to throw them.

{Make your home a place he wants to be, don’t ask for a room with a hot tub when he just surprised you with a stay at a resort instead of a Days Inn, let him have his game time – and have fun with unexpected tickets even if you’re just there for the hot dogs, wait until a relaxed and focused moment to talk about your dreams and desires…}

  • Lose your preconceived notions. Right now, you might be a little depressed. I can hear some of your thoughts now: “But my husband probably wouldn’t ever do the dishwasher or take me on a nice date or do anything that requires thought unless I remind him.” Don’t fret ladies; there is a right way to prompt thoughtfulness. It all starts with removing expectations. It’s a step that you just can’t skip, because when a man does put forth the effort to be thoughtful and you expect something else or something better it will kill their motivation to do it again. Just let go, and I promise that you’ll be pleasantly surprised. The next step is…
  • Bring it up at the right time. Finally, it is very important that you don’t mention the things that are special to you right when your man is doing something they are really passionate about or absorbed in. For example: It is not a good time to ask a man to go on a picnic during a football game that he has been looking forward to all weekend. It is a good idea to chat about your dream vacation, future plans or favorite piece of jewelry over dinner. I admit it. We aren’t good multi-taskers. Take this into account… and leave the door open for your husband to get it right.

If you don’t learn to be thoughtful, you will miss opportunities to love.

Thoughtfulness isn’t just for marriage, it’s for everyone. So, call a grandparent, bake brownies for a neighbor, give someone in pain a hug, facebook message someone who affected your life, and just plain seek out opportunities to love. Try to live an entire day by being thoughtful – It’s tough, but it’s worth it. Let us know how it goes!