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…

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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!

{Like} who you are becoming…

Every time you make a choice you are turning the central part of you, the part of you that chooses, into something a little different than what it was before…

…you are slowly turning this central thing […] either into a creature that is in harmony with God, and with other creatures, and with itself, or else into one that is in a state of war and hatred with God, with its fellow-creatures, and with itself…

Each of us at each moment is progressing to one state or the other.

I started to realize in college – in a 200 level philosophy class, actually – that I liked the person I was becoming. It wasn’t because I was having an enlightened moment brought on by my intense studies, it was because I was sitting at my desk, sipping a latte without sugar (like a real adult) and wearing a thong (without complaining about having a wedgie). True story.

It seems silly now, but, like C.S. Lewis so eloquently pointed out in one of my favorite books (above), Mere Christianity, each and every decision you make transforms a little part of you. It is up to you, however, if that decision is a wise one that makes you a person you are proud of, or a poor one, that makes you something you despise.

Believe it or not, at that point in my life, I had to decide to WORK to like “real” coffee, and I had to choose to WORK to get comfortable enough in that crazy underwear to have the lovely, panty-line free tush I desired.

I wanted those things because they were sophisticated, grown up and simple pleasures others enjoyed, but that I was actually intimidated by. No more! The coffee and undergarments had little to do with self-worth, but I realized that they mattered a little. And it was okay that they mattered. And that I had arrived…

Today, there are still some silly things that make me feel proud, and there are more serious things as well. There are also those other choices, the ones that drag me down and leave me at “war” with myself, that I still struggle with as well…

But, the point is, find those things – big and small – that make you feel happy, proud and at peace with yourself and those around you. And work at those choices you’ve made, or continue to make, that pull you in the opposite direction.

You’ll fail. You’ll succeed. And your worth as a person doesn’t depend on the outcome. It will take time. But go ahead and make a point of it… and you might just be surprised at where you find yourself.

My {becoming} list:

  • I love healthy, unique food, and being good to my body: (Like many women, I’ve struggled with disordered eating patterns, and with my body image. Unhealthy choices literally made me feel I was battling with my own body – like Lewis’s quote – But, things like reading healthy-living blogs, getting educated about nutrition, finding amazing new recipes and having an awesome husband and family to talk to has totally changed my thinking! I still struggle sometimes… but I have the tools to succeed.)

  • I’m an athlete- a runner, a swimmer and a cyclist: (I wasn’t always! It was hard to even don the label. But I admired those that competed… so I decided to join them.)
  • I can cook, and I love it: (I was not known for my kitchen ability until after I was married…my siblings are still afraid of my food ; )
  • My nails look nice, and I can even use my left hand to paint my right: (I used to bite my nails when I was younger… but now I love how nail color just makes an outfit!)
  • I have a blog, and a few people actually read (and enjoy) what I write: (I have admired bloggers from afar for a while, and then I decided to take the plunge. I love it. And the simple action of creating posts and taking pictures truly resonates with me.)

  • I send cards…mostly on time, and try to complement strangers: (I like thoughtful people and handwritten notes, and when someone in the grocery store says they like your shirt, it makes your day. So, I decided I could do that too.)
  • I know Family and relationships are the core of life,  and my mom really was right…like, about everything: (I always sort of knew it, but it has really started to sink in. I appreciate the loved ones around me so much, and the connection we share means the world.)

This cycle of learning, growing and changing is a never-ending process. But, I can’t wait to see what my {becoming} list looks like when I’m 75… (maybe I’ll have pie crust down by then : )

What have you worked hard at, accomplished, or started doing recently that is on your list?

Freshly {Peeved}

This is for your own good. Trust me.

Is this you?

Wandering through the cool fall and winter seasons blissfully unaware of the fashion-conscious people everywhere judging you like there is no tomorrow?

{‘X’ marks the spot}

If there is one thing that makes me want to scream, kick people in the shins, step on flowers, throw expensive electronic devices and then dribble into a puddle of angry tears, it is people that DON’T REMOVE THE BASTING STITCHES from their jackets, coats and skirts. They should be lined up and spanked by their grandmothers.

{Cue Psycho music…. Be afraid, be very afraid.}

Listen up, peeps: Just because the fabric is tacked in place, doesn’t mean that it is supposed to STAY that way. The basting stitches are there to make sure that the clothes lay correctly during manufacturing, and that pleats, vents and pockets hold their shape before their new owner lovingly takes them to their new home.

If you leave the threads in place, not only do you look ignorant and make random strangers and coworkers think less of you, but your clothes tend to bunch up in an unsightly manner around your tush. Not a good look. Trust me.

Even the fact that the thread is often a totally different color than the garment doesn’t seem to deter people. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve walked behind someone with a HUGE white “X” on their black jacket, or even the big, bright label still on the sleeve!

{Mad Face}

I’ve also heard some complain that their pockets are “fake”. And, while there are some false pockets (it is always best to check the back side of the pocket in question to make sure that there is a liner in place!) eight times out of 10 they’ve simply never removed the basting threads. Voila! – Now you have somewhere to put your keys and wallet again… Brilliant! (Now if you could just convince him to stop stuffing every gadget known to man in his pockets. Those lumps are just weird. And awkward.)

So, please…I beg you. Save yourself, save me, save your spouse and friends and relatives from all of this distress and horror.

Snip, snip snip.

{Some are Sneaky – Don’t let them win…}

If you refuse to heed my warnings, don’t be surprised if – when you least expect it – a purple-clad iPhone whizzes dangerously near your head.

You’ll thank me someday.

On a side note, the Husband’s purple gum ball won us a free movie last night. Made his week ; )

Healthy {Happy} Husbands

What you tell someone to do they reject, what you help them discover they own.

I asked the Husband to contribute to this post, and he ran with it. Who knew all those things I hop on my soapbox about really sunk in? He’s got some great insights on what makes a Healthy {Happy} Husband (because who wants to sleep next to a force-fed salad-eating grouch? That’s even worse than the beer & cheese gut).

So listen up ladies, and enjoy!

The Husband’s Insight:

To a guy, presentation is everything, and rules are nothing. A list of rules about what-foods-not-to-touch-with-a-ten-foot-pole, don’t change who we are, they just make us want to throw things. That’s why many wife-enforced “diets” fail. But, if you learn how to effectively present new diet and lifestyle changes to your stud, it can make all the difference.

So, don’t make rules…make changes – slowly but surely- to who you and your family are. Like the quote above, your job is to help him discover healthy eating for himself.

Developing healthy eating habits is all about discovering that eating foods that are great for your body isn’t actually that bad…

{Notice the two appalled little girls in the corner? I think they see their future married lives flashing before their eyes…}

Alrighty, Ladies:

  • Don’t mess with “the favorites”. (ie: Cheesy potatoes/gravy/sausage/nachos/entire pizzas/tacos – All of which make men look forward to coming home to pound* a good meal) …just slowly reduce how often you serve the favorites. (*Note from Rachael: “Pounding” a meal refers to eating a lot, and eating it quickly….Thought this might help everyone who is not up on their Husband-lingo.)
  • Don’t get mad and don’t make eating an argument. Sometimes, a man just needs to eat a sleeve of Oreos.
  • Don’t surprise a man with something he might not like. Instead, present it beforehand as an adventure that you’re trying, and let him know why you think he’ll like it. (it’s a lot like that cheesy chicken dish you love! or, remember that dish we had on our honeymoon?). Help a man discover goodness.
  • Don’t overhaul entire food options. Start slow by mixing in healthy sides and  snacks to your usual menu (Like hummus! Used to hate the idea of it, but now I love it with pita chips, on sandwiches, you name it). Hummus is the new mayonnaise. Believe it!
  • Get to know the healthy stuff that he likes, and keep making it  – but not all the time. Remember, start slow and no “rules”. You’ve got time! Also, you can often find healthier versions of his favorites. Hello, organic fruit snacks.
  • Slowly start buying less and less of the unhealthy snacks and foods. If you’re hungry and you see grapes and nacho cheese,  a guy is gunna choose nacho cheese and eat it till it is no more. But, if you’ve got good stuff stashed everywhere, a man is gunna pick something healthy on his own.
  • Suggest and prepare the healthy options for him, and make it look attractive. The bottom line is that most men will eat what you put in his face. So, cut up and share an apple for a movie snack before he goes for his usual bowl of ice cream.
  • Don’t ask a man what he wants for dinner every night. Because if you do, he will pick “pizza or tacos” like I do. Make a plan and suggest some options. This is not to say you should never ask, because sometimes a guy really is craving something and it will make him happy if you fix it for him. But, most of the time, the fact that we don’t have to worry about it makes us happy… and you can slip in healthy stuff.

When you decide to make a change you have to become the kind of person that doesn’t enjoy the feeling of a food comma. It’s not easy. If it was, fast food chains would fail, diet companies would fade, and wives and girlfriends and daughters wouldn’t be reading this blog post! But, if you lovingly pursue a fun, healthy new lifestyle together, you’ll be more than happy with the results… in your relationship and on the scale.

{A few of “the favorites”. So special when you get to share them…}

I hope you learned a little from the Husband, and even found a few tips you can apply at home. Is there anything that help YOU keep your Man or your family happy and healthy?

Watch for more posts with some of the Husband’s healthy favorites!