A Tale of Donkey and Elephant Living Together

All the “Sequester” talk and action (or lack thereof) in Washington has me very disappointed in our elected officials-all of them. I was trying to simplify this very complex problem the government is wrestling with and the best analogy I could think of was my own household where one democrat (that’s me some may call liberal) and one republican (that’s my better half some might call conservative) harmoniously live and make decisions to move our family forward in a positive direction daily (well, darn near most days). Of course in our household there is an occasional roll of the eyes or shaking of the head when we discuss some topics; but all in all we make magic happen on a daily basis in a divided household. So, Washington, take a few tips from our unequally yoked union!

  1. We respect each other’s viewpoints. REALLY! Its starts with no yard signs during elections. That doesn’t mean we agree on a canidate, but we can see value in both viewpoints. We don’t have to mark our territory like a cat to reassure ourselves what we believe in as individuals or a family. Case in point, I held an elective office for six years in my hometown. The office was not affiliated with a political party. In my small hometown, my husband and I canvassed the streets together during three campaigns rallying votes. Yes, a republican and a democrat walked the streets together, because he knew I could do a fine job in office because although our political views may differ, he knew I had enough sense to preserve mine, without attacking his.
  2. We try to walk in the other’s shoes. When resting side by side you will see Timberland Steel-toed boots next to Nine West high-heels. Although we tread different ground, we occasionally take a walk on the other side. No my husband doesn’t wear high heels! For example, I recently completed a conceal carry class. I seriously doubt I will be touting a gun around anywhere, but to a Republican Marine- that was impressive. And my perspective on guns was informed. On the other hand he acts like he enjoys the vegetarian cuisine I create (which I really think he does!).
  3. We listen. I will be honest-this is the hardest part of our marriage some days. Frankly, just like the elected officials, I want to believe that my view is superior to his or vice versa. However, by truly listening and cutting through the fluff, you find you have more in common you can work together on, than what might divide you.
  4. We balance a budget together. Agreeing on finances takes thoughtful planning, common sense, and an occasional compromise. We set priorities together on what we want to accomplish with our funds. We don’t cut out all groceries because I prefer organic free range and he prefers a bargain. He understands why I would own a goat in Africa to help a poor village and I compromise on him building his arsenal of weapons like we are a militia. However, at the end of the day all needs are met, we sacrifice where we need to, priorities have adequate funding to make life happen, and the budget is balanced. More importantly, no one is hanging off a financial cliff.
  5. We accomplish things together. For goodness sake, we created a life! We each share our take on life and do not disrespect the other’s stance in front of our child. We have fun (well, making a baby was fun-but I mean in other context here) contributing our individual strengths to projects. Diverse ideas strengthen any task at hand.

These are just a few ways that democrats and republicans can work together so “sequester” doesn’t become this great Nation’s permanent mode of operation. Really, aren’t these things our elected official should have learned in kindergarten?

Republican with a Donkey....NO that's not me!

Republican with a Donkey….NO that’s not me!

Today my spoon is full of real life ideas of restoring how elephants and donkeys can live and work side by side and be productive!

Thoughts for my Daughter-in-Law on Valentine’s Day

Valentine’s Day is here. Love is in the air and candy hearts and chocolates are making their way to our hips. I have never been a lover of Valentines. Don’t get me wrong, I always love a surprise from my love. I personally think Valentine’s just has a forced feeling of “love” – too commercialized. So for Valentine’s my husband and I try to bring our A game all year…not just on February 14th.One of my fondest Valentine’s memories is of a friend and I sending each other bouquets of flowers from a secret lover while we were in high school. Who could it be? Geez, I don’t know! It was for a good laugh and we had fun with the “mystery.”This Valentine’s Day is different. I have been doing a lot of thinking and daydreaming about love. Not in my life, but that of my son’s life. I know he is only two, but life slapped me in my face a few weeks ago when his teachers jokingly shared with me that he is a little “gentleman” to a girl in his class. My first thought, well at least he is exhibiting traits of chivalry, and not pimp-like at a young age. That’s positive, right?  I know this little gal is just two, but that little hoochie (I promise I am not jealous) is already stealing my son’s heart. After naptime, he apparently helps her off her mat and has a date with her during lunch and snack each day. When I told my husband he said, we need to separate their mats! Really-they are two, we are maybe over reacting. Adding insult to injury, my son received his first birthday party invite last week-from a GIRL; who by the way is an older woman-she will be three! This innocent crush on his girl buddy and the party invite from a cougar has me thinking that in a blink of an eye I will be a mother-in-law. That is the worst label ever-so many stereotypes go with that term.

My husband’s mother, made it very clear that she was “losing” a son when my  husband I dated and later married. Since she doesn’t have access to my blog, I won’t take any dirty punches. However, there is nothing I hate more than the shallow thought of “a son is a son until he takes a wife.” Really, I have to start now to plot how I will be the best mother-in-law that ever existed and defy the horrible stereotypes.  How do I turn this ship around now so that I don’t “lose” a son, but instead gain a daughter?  I know there will be Valentines Days to come where my son will be touting a teddy bear to school for his love or sending roses to some vixen that isn’t the marrying type. However, I am skipping over those brief moments in time and going straight for the kill-the ONE that will last- YOU, my daughter-in-law. I have decided to start thinking and planning for our relationship now, so I penned this open letter to YOU my dearest daughter-in-law (who is not taking MY son).

Dearest Beautiful, Smart, Perfect Daughter-in-Law:

I know you are perfect because my son has good taste thanks to my positive influence on his life and let’s face it-his mother is nearly perfect. Now that we share the same last name, I would like to say “welcome” to our family! Please know I don’t view you as a thief in the night who stole my son. Actually, the joke is on you-your stuck with me, my husband, and our crazy family.  So I beg of you, just go ahead and embrace us-there are many fun times ahead. Drop the mother-in-law stereotype. You will find me likeable. Honestly, you have fallen in love with my life’s work, so I sincerely accept your thanks for molding a young man into a perfect mate. I started working on your behalf before we ever knew each other. That is how great of a mother-in-law I am! If you think about it, we have a lot in common since we both love the same man. I fell in love with him the first second I gazed into his big brown eyes right after he took his first breath. And you…fell for those same eyes yourself!

The good news is I will not ask you to wear my wedding dress. I have already donated it to a good cause and it is long gone. So, find one of your own that fits you and your dreams. I won’t upstage you on your wedding day, but know I will look damn good when I am lighting the candle that forever unifies us as one big, happy family. I won’t judge the cleanliness of your house or the gourmet appeal of your food. If you spend your life cleaning and picking up after my son and your offspring-it is no one’s fault but your own because I taught him differently.  I won’t harass you about how you parent. I won’t harass you about your sense of style (well, that might happen if you are embarrassing the family name). However, I will nag you to enjoy the ride of a perfectly imperfect life and will be there to support your journey.

I assume you picked my amazing son because he is gorgeous (I mean he should have been a model, I know), he is intelligent, a good conversationalist and listener, he is open-minded, loves adventures, has a good sense of humor, and is practically perfect. Or maybe you picked him just because I came with him. Let me tell you, honey, this level of perfection you fell in love with didn’t happen overnight. His father and I have been training him for years to not be a narcissistic narrow-minded idiot who cannot function independently.

Right now you may not even be born yet or you may be playing with Dora the Explorer stuff and obsessed with everything pink. However, I am working for your future happiness now, and he is only two! Let me give you a few examples.

  • You will enjoy not falling into the toilet seat in the middle of the night. Putting the lid down has been incorporated into potty training at our house.
  • You will not have to clean up after him. Thanks to me, he puts his own stuff up and doesn’t have crap scattered everywhere. He knows how to put his plate and sippy cup (hopefully, he has progressed to an adult cup) in the dishwasher. Well, thanks to my OCD tendencies, we “clean-up” every night. I am sorry if you have to sing songs about how fun cleanup time is while he does his chores.
  • You will enjoy dinner on the table when you get home. He helps me cook. He is an excellent stirrer of all ingredients. I will incorporate moving those ingredients into a pan in his “oven and stove 101” training when he is older.
  • You will enjoy that he can balance respecting an independent woman and chivalry. Well, he learned that one mostly from his dad. He will always kiss you before he leaves and before bedtime. He has spent his years watching his mommy love her family and balance a career. He has seen days where I was superwoman and days were I was a failure-he knows it’s hard.
  • You will notice he has good manners because he understands the importance of please and thank you. 
  • You will like how he is a good communicator and has lots to talk about. Well, his father and I have been cultivating an adventerous spirit by toting him around the world and to museums before he could talk. I have spent countless hours talking about and explaining life to him.
  • You will like it that he is a good listener. Like my husband, he has heard my “hearing vs listening” lecture many times (I’m a communication major). You don’t listen to mommy when you are watching Mickey Mouse Clubhouse; that is “hearing” not “listening”. The TV goes off until you can be a good listener. You’re welcome that you won’t be ignored every time a sporting event is on TV.
  • You will like that he doesn’t think your one of the boys and enjoys hearing his bodily functions like burps and “toots” as he now calls them. It might be fun with Dad, but he better keep the noises to himself around the ladies.

Hopefully, these actions which I have already starting working on will show you that from the beginning, you and I have been on the same team-we are not each other’s competition or enemies. I don’t want to be your BFF, just your MILF (for those of you with your minds in the gutter-that means “mother-in-law friend”). I know I will be replaced as his truest love and that is okay. I can only hope you picked him because of the qualities I have worked so hard to instill in him…and that maybe he picked you because we are alike. Hey, they say you marry your mother-which scares the hell out of me! I can’t promise I won’t be annoying or I won’t be too involved, but I promise it will all come from love. Let’s face it, you love my baby, I must have done something right.

Sincerely,

Your mommy-in-law

Today my spoon is full of chocolate Valentine’s Day Candy as I sulk at not always being my son’s Valentine.

Celebrating a decade…what 10 years can bring to a marriage!

This week marked mine and my husband’s ten year anniversary. A decade. Wow. Some days life (not our marriage) has seemed like 100 years. Other days those 10 years seem like a blink in time. I remember when we were newlyweds; that our 10th year was supposed to be the year that we adventured to Bora Bora. Our plan didn’t quite pan out, but that dream is still in the making. As a new bride, I also remember asking my husband what he thought about changing our wedding bands to something different every ten years. This really wasn’t a ploy to get a bigger diamond. I thought it sounded fun. After all, as life happens, who you are and what your marriage is changes over time-so why can’t your ring change too? However, my hubby is too sentimental for wedding ring changes. He probably still has anxiety over the fact that I am on wedding ring number two due to a portion of my diamonds (who were my mother’s) falling out of my original wedding ring within the first year of our marriage. Oops.

Over dinner, my husband and I were discussing what the next ten years will look like. Before I could even get a mental picture he proceeds to say “Well, some people in our lives will probably be dead, we will have a tweenager, and we will be wrinkled. “ Wow, thanks for the optimistic outlook on the next decade. Luckily, that conversation was derailed by our waitress. Later on I was thinking about the past ten years and what all those years encompassed. Honestly, when I was a new bride I don’t really remember intentionally planning much of the first 10 years of our marriage. Typically, I am a planner, but considering the day after we married, my husband left for Iraq, I wasn’t for sure what plans to make. Looking back, I think I was afraid if I made too many plans, my heart would never recover if he didn’t come home alive and well to fulfill them. So started our marriages and we have been haphazardly landing in the right places ever since.

According to an online date calculator, we have been married for 521 weeks, or 3,653 days or 87,672 hours or 5,260,320 minutes or 315,619,200 seconds. I am sure my husband has been keeping track of the seconds (insert sarcasm)! So what has this time brought about? Well, here is a snapshot.

We been married twice (but not divorced; see previous posts for explanation). We survived my husband being deployed to Iraq for nine months. He survived me teaching in the Czech Republic for six weeks. We have moved three times. We have moved family and friends a lot more than three times. We have remodeled a home and built a home. We demolished a home; neither of which we remodeled or built. We have had nine jobs or positions between the two of us. I have completed a Ph.D. (really, my husband is to thank for me passing statistics). My husband has completed a MBA (really, he can thank me for editing his papers to perfection). He has fixed a lot of things I have broken and read the directions when I did not. I try to smile and contain the steam from rolling out of my ears when he works on one of our home projects…slow but also perfect. We canvased my small home town to rally votes when I ran for office three different terms (which I won). We have traveled A LOT-some for work but most for pleasure. We have visited (best I can count) 16 states in the USA and traveled to 9 countries together in the name of fun and adventure. When we were in Italy and I bought gelato and like a dumb tourist realized I was taken advantage of because it costs like $20, you still shared it with me (and remind me about it, but it was darn good). He watched me puke my guts out for 10 days on a cruise and kept me from jumping overboard. He has sprayed medicine on my arse when some fat snorkeler pushed me into poisonous coral in the Bahamas. We have enjoyed numerous concerts and plays. He wasn’t embarrassed when I was rockin out at a Bon Jovi concert when I was 8 months pregnant (coincidence my son loves music-probably not). He flew us to see U2 when in fact, he really doesn’t like them, but I do (I think Kiss made up for that). I dragged him to a Drag Show in Chicago for his 30th birthday and he still loved me (best martinis and singing EVER). We made wine together. One batch could possibly fuel a car or be used to clean wounds; and a few batches that we made were near perfection. He graciously pretends to care about my fashion shows after I go shopping and want to show him the bargains I found. We had a fish-and I am pretty sure he is the one that killed it. We cried when we had a miscarriage and then cried more when we rented Marley & Me to watch on the same freaking day. I thought it was going be a fun movie about a dog. I didn’t realize the damn dog died. Bad choice on a bad day. We made the cutest kid EVER together. When he joined our house he yelled at us the first year of his life due to colic, ear infections, and teething. Luckily, those days passed. He is the perfect, clever, witty mixture of us. My man has back aches thanks to bouncing around a metal truck while in Iraq; I have had two knee surgeries that are probably a result of me just being a total klutz. We both have fixed our eyes with Lasik surgery (you were scared, so I went first). We survived over a week without electricity during an ice storm that was declared a national disaster… until I talked you into driving 1.5 hours to a hotel so I could dry my hair and sleep in a warm bed. We have made new friends. We have lost loves ones. We have had a few cars. We lost our dear house cat a time or two (but she is still alive and well). I have had long hair and short hair. He has lost a few hairs. But neither of us are gray! We have gotten older. We have had a few days when we wanted to kill each other (I am sorry for scooping out a large portion of butter out of the container while I was cooking dinner and throwing it at his face that one time when I was mad…but it was pretty funny). We have cried a little. We have been sick a few days but mostly have been blessed with great health. We have laughed, loved, and lived the last decade. Our marriage has been an adventure of love, trust, partnership, tolerance, humor, tenacity all rolled up into one.

Whew…I know I left something out, but as you can see the last decade has been an adventure. I can’t wait until I can reflect on the next decade. I don’t know what it will bring, but I promise to have my eyes, ears, mind, and heart open for the moment and savor each spoonful as it comes. I share this not because I want you to see what we have done, but maybe to reflect on what your next decade will bring. Are your eyes, ears, mind, and heart ready for the adventure? I suggest not planning it, but to buckle up, put the top back, and enjoy the ride.

Today my spoonful is full of smiles as Mrs. E-E.

My National Holiday-Hubby Returns from Iraq

Today is my personal holiday called the Happiest Day Ever. I initiated this holiday nine years ago when my husband returned home from Iraq on September 17, 2003. Many times throughout these last nine years, I have thought about how special that day was and how lucky I am that I have that day to celebrate.  So…I remember it every year. Many other spouses and parents have days seared in their minds and unfortunately it is a day of mourning. September 17th was as happy as the day was sad when he left for war. A homecoming definitely replaces the void and helplessness you feel when you see the one you love board a bus to catch a plane to a war. Frankly, I didn’t know where in this big world he was for nearly two months…and communication was monthly at best in the beginning.

While in Iraq my husband, Clay, met a BBC reporter, Michael Williams, at a checkpoint. Clay befriended the reporter during their brief encounter and told him a little about himself, how he had just gotten married prior to deployment, and how he hadn’t talked to me since he left (that had been over a month).  The reporter asked if there was anything he could do for Clay and my husband requested that he call me to tell me he had seen him alive and well. I remember my stomaching dropping to the floor when I heard the voice-mail on my answering machine where Mr. Williams was requesting me to return his phone call. I would check my answering machine a 100 times a day before I figured out the beauty of call forwarding. I thought the worst. I rushed home from work to call.  Even though there were literally explosions in the background noise, it was so great to hear that British accent (I love an accent and pretty much everything British) tell me Clay was alive and well. I don’t even know if Mr. Williams remembers this event…but his good deed made a monumental impression on me.

On September 17th all my worries and prayers of nearly nine months were answered.  Will I see him again? Will he return alive? Will he be healthy? Will he be emotionally or physically scarred? Will life resume as normal? Can we pick up where we left off?

As I have shared in an earlier blog post, there are friends we share for seasons. There were a few wives from the unit that I spoke to regularly. We constantly tried to piece together shreds of information to bring us some peace of mind. The day before our Marines were scheduled to arrive we got a hotel room and practically stayed up all night due to the pending excitement of reuniting with our spouses. With our families, we arrived at the reserve center before the sun was up. We waited and waited…and then we saw our soldiers marching up the hill towards us. People were cheering and chanting.

A sigh of relief swept over the entire crowd. As our Marines stopped in formation for their final orders…I could see my husband right in front of me. He was directing his squad. I decided that Uncle Sam had him long enough…so I broke into formation and gave him a big kiss…all the other wives, parents, and kids seemed to follow.

That’s me eating Clay’s face when I jumped in formation.

I know my husband was briefly embarrassed, but he knows me well enough to know I didn’t care!

Homeward Bound

I keep this picture from September 17, 2003 in my office as a reminder to put things in perspective on days when the impossible seems…well, darn near impossible and I feel like my interactions have been with people that have drank too much crazy juice. It’s not that great of a picture of us, our local newspaper actually captured it (thanks for documenting our story), but for me it is a symbol of blessings and thankfulness. So happy Happiest Day Ever to me! And you…celebrate with me! I hope your day is filled with “happy” too! Maybe you should create your own personal holiday to celebrate your spoonful.

Today my spoon is full of happy!

Going to the Chapel

My husband and I went through a few years where our summers were filled with weddings. As newlyweds ourselves, they seemed like such hopeful and romantic events. Then we transitioned to attending baby showers…and this summer we are back to weddings. Not necessarily individuals that didn’t work out a few summers back. We’ve attended a charming small wedding, sent gifts to a wedding we couldn’t make, and attended a Vietnamese wedding which I couldn’t understand much (mostly spoken in Vietnamese)-but it was a pretty darn cool ceremony. Being nearly a 10-year seasoned veteran of marital bliss (okay most days), my perception of this summer of weddings is a little different than those I attended a few years back as a newlywed.

Some of my ramblings on marriage are based on personal experience and others on observations.  It appears when we attend a wedding we are more concerned about the gift, the wedding colors/deco/gown, what we are wearing, what is the food, is there an open bar…or for me…what flavor is the cake? I LOVE wedding cake-white cake with white icing. ”Nom nom” (yum yum) as my toddler says. However, in the midst of the entire wedding extravaganza I think as guests (and sometime as the new couple) we often miserably fail on two levels. Unknowingly, most of us fail to #1 Appreciate and support the individual (spouse) on this journey called life and marriage and #2 Support the union.  Often time an individual gets lost in the union, and the union gets lost in the individual.  It’s a delicate balance one must strike as a spouse and as a friend or family member supporting a couple.

It seems that the support needed for a successful marriage is lost with most traditional wedding ceremonies. This was more evident to me as I attended the Vietnamese ceremony recently. In this particular ceremony there was a strong sense of respect for each other; togetherness, yet individuality; and a very strong commitment to the joining of the two families (rather than just the two individuals trying to blend two families). In a traditional wedding-it often appears that rituals pretty much stack the deck for failure against the couples from the moment the wedding is being planned.

Cool pic borrowed from Pinterest.

It starts with whose family is paying for what. Then, it moves to the actual wedding where the groom’s family sits on one side and the bride’s family sits on the other side of the isle (what would it hurt to sit together?). These two lives may join as “one” but darn it-we will live out the Hatfield and McCoy mentality and remain separate as a family for the rest of your marriage.  Then you publicly vow to become one-which really is a lie. You have to be two and learn to work as one. Next is the honeymoon where you can ignore family, work, real life stuff which is not reality. Then after the honeymoon the conversations moves into who gets what holiday, etc. Where does the madness stop?

Now, I may be a bit of a bitter bride. Six months to the date of my wedding (already mostly planned and purchased)…a little guy by the name of President George Bush declared Operation Iraqi Freedom which sent my Marine Reservist (who had less than 30 days on his contract) packing to one of the world’s largest sandboxes. So we were forced to wed with the immediacy of a shotgun wedding (like opening the court house on Sunday for a marriage license-talk about small town gossip). No I didn’t get to wear my dress because it needed alterations. I did wear it later when we had a celebration recommitment ceremony upon his return (Does this mean I married the same man twice? Yes.). So I will be transparent and say I didn’t quite follow the traditional route. However, ten years of life, love, and devotion has provided me a different perspective on marriage. It is also changed how I support people at their marriage.

For me and my house, we are two people who change every day because of life, but constantly work to enrich what we love about each other and maintain the common ground as sacred ground. We remain individuals, yet committed to the same goals for each other and for our marriage. For family and friends, our life and events are open access-we don’t deal with drama of family sides, making everyone happy, etc-but family/friends are free to be as miserable as they desire on their own turf.

If I were to marry my husband again (well, actually for the third time), I believe our vows would be a little different knowing what I know now. I am certainly committed to making a healthy marriage where there aren’t sides, where individuality is appreciated, and a union is sacred-and not only for my marriage. I believe living my/our life with these vows as a foundation impacts my relationships with others, my son’s future relationships, and others in my family for generations to come.  I will extend the same respect and support my friends and their marriage rather than making obstacles and barriers. I will appreciate them as individuals and as a union.  And…the next time I attend a wedding-I might just toss a coin and decide which side I will sit on…or maybe I will just sit right in the middle.

Today…I wish my spoon was full of wedding cake…because it is indeed one of my top three favorite foods!