Sunday, April 20, 2014

What I've Learned From 23 Years Of Marriage

On August 4, 2013, I celebrated 23 years of marriage to my first, and only, husband. And as embarrassed as I am to admit this, there were moments when I didn't think we were going to make it. Luckily, we both had the good sense to realize that starting over with someone new was simply not an option.

When I met my husband, it was like kismet. It was as though the universe had willed everything into place so that we would meet, and not only meet but lock eyes upon one another. Neither of us were comfortable in dance clubs, but I had a friend who needed a chaperone and he had a friend who needed a wingman… so reluctantly we both went.

After a couple of dances, his friend was ready to leave and he asked for my number. A few days later he called, and we spent the next two weeks getting to know each other over the phone. When we finally went out on our first date, my friend insisted on chaperoning.

He, of course, knew that if he had any chance with me, he'd have to win her heart… so guess where most of his attention went? She, of course, adored him and gave him two thumbs up, but asked that I be cautious.

I can't say that it was love at first sight, but I knew that we "fit" together and that's all that really mattered. Soon we were talking about our futures and how we wanted to spend them together.

We had nothing figured out, we were barely getting by financially, and had no idea what we were even going to be doing with the rest of our lives… but we knew that we had to be doing "it" together so we got married.

We stepped out on a leap of faith and believed that no matter what curveballs life dealt us, we would be able to handle them together. And boy have we had our share of curveballs!

In 23 years of marriage, we have come to realize that fairytale romances don't exist but that doesn't mean you can't have your happily ever after… you just have to be willing to work at it.

Looking back over our marriage, I realize there are six key points that have kept us together:

1. Honesty

Marriage cannot survive without honesty. My husband and I have no secrets. We talk about everything, even when it's an unpleasant topic. He even tells me when girls (women) flirt with him.

2. Laughter

You need to be able to laugh with one another. My husband and I have two completely different styles when it comes to what makes us laugh but we've learned to find some common ground in the comedy department.

3. Forgiveness

Holding onto hurts is a surefire way to destroy your marriage. My husband and I have learned to stop keeping a scorecard.

Spending so much time with another human being is hard. There are bound to be times when you get on each other's nerves, when you lash out in anger and it has absolutely nothing to do with your spouse, or when you take your screw ups out on your spouse.

You may never truly forget the hurt, the disappointment, or the anger you felt, but you need to learn how to let it go, move past it, and believe that the other person is truly remorseful for any pain caused to you.

And if you're the one that caused the pain, you must be willing to acknowledge the pain you've caused because it's hard to forgive someone who doesn't acknowledge the pain he/she caused—not impossible mind you, but definitely harder.

4. Talking

A marriage cannot survive if you aren't friends. Looking back over my marriage, I can honestly say that the most difficult times in our marriage are the times we stopped talking to each other.

No matter how crazy your day is, no matter how tired you are, or how little you feel you have to share, make it a point to spend a half hour every day talking about life outside of the kids and work.

5. Remembrances

Marriage needs good memories. When my husband and I hit a rough patch, our pastor told us to remember the reasons we fell in love with each other in the first place and to think about the good qualities in that person and then cherish those qualities. It wasn't always easy to do, but forcing ourselves to remember the good prevented molehills from turning into mountains.

With the craziness of life, it's easy to forget about the qualities that made you fall in love with your significant other in the first place… and even hard to remember the qualities that keep you married. But it's so very important that you do!

6. Activities

Make new experiences. Looking back over our marriage, I can say, without a doubt, that our marriage was strongest when we shared new experiences together.

Switch between doing something you don't like doing but makes your partner happy (and do it without an attitude of drudgery) and doing something you both like to do.

If I could encourage you to do one thing for yourself, it would be this: Make time for the relationships that matter most to you. Spending time with people you love enriches your life in ways that personal accomplishments never can.

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Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Warm Childhood Memories

“Don't you wish you could take a single childhood memory and blow it up into a bubble and live inside it forever?” wrote Sarah Addison Allen, in her book Lost Lake. There are a few childhood memories where this quote resonates with me. One of those memories is of my Aunt Becky.

My Aunt Becky was married to my mother's brother and though we didn't get to visit with her often, the summers I spent at her home were always so special. I felt normal, wanted, cherished, and so very much alive in her home. Instead of pitting my sister and I against each other, as my mother unintentionally did, my Aunt Becky found a way to help us co-exist—neither one of us feeling any less loved than the other. And both of us feeling as though we belonged.

It's been over 30 years since I stepped foot inside my Aunt Becky's house, but I can still visualize nearly every detail of her home and the love I felt there. It's kind of like taking a walk along the beach on a warm, overcast day… you just want to close your eyes, lift your head towards the heavens, and soak in the moment for as long as possible.

Back when we visited my Aunt Becky, she was a stained glass designer. Once, she even took me to see where she worked. It was a small shop in the back of her colleague's home. There, I watched her cut the glass, design her piece, then solder the glass together. It was delicate work—and a little scary. I left that day with a little piece of her heart… stained glass, that is.

Years later, when my husband and I purchased our first home, I thought of my Aunt Becky and her beautiful stained glass art and I wanted a little piece of her to be a part of my home, too. Unfortunately, I was still afraid of cutting the glass, so I modified my dream by creating a stained glass window using window paint from the hobby store.

I knew I could never create a piece as lovely as my Aunt Becky's so I created an abstract piece using various shades of blue and white. The next day, I looked at that window and the memories of the day I spent with my Aunt Becky in her studio came flooding back—good memories, indeed.

In 2009, I bought some more window paint but instead of designing a faux stained glass window, I designed a blue and brown candle holder. Then one day, as I was browsing the Internet, I read that food coloring can be mixed with Mod Podge to create a lovely stained glass look. And my brain began churning… Get the tutorial to the stained glass heart jar here.

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