Saturday, October 8, 2011

31 Days of Change :: Day 8 -- Time to Date

Bobby and I have two beautiful children, neither of whom we can imagine life without.  It is one of life's best pleasures to see a relationship come full circle through childbearing.  That being said, Bobby and I leave the kids with grandparents and/or Aunts & Uncles.  Kind of Frequently.

We date each other.  Please don't get the wrong idea.  Sometimes we just sneak out of the house for fast food and a treasure hunting trip to the local thrift store.  Occaisionally the kids spend the night away from home so we can wake up with the sun and not little feet padding into our bedroom.  Either way, it is nice to have "me time" with my spouse. 

I know there may be some of you reading this who do not have the luxury of a babysitter or closely located relatives.  But you simply have to challenge yourselves to discover stolen hours. 

We took a parenting class at church recently.  We didn't learn much about how to improve our parenting skills, but that's okay because we did learn we are totally normal with our tendancies, fears, and beliefs.  One thing that stuck with me, though, was a story another couple shared.  She grew up in a home where her parents would sometimes go into their bedroom and close the door.  This is not a provocative story, nor is it a dangerous one.  I'm assuming the kids were secure in the home, doors locked, sharp objects hidden, etc.  When the parents stole away for some "we time" the kids knew they must be 'bleedin' or 'dyin' before they were to knock on that door and desturb the parents.

So best case scenario is date night.  You may absolutely love your family.  Perhaps you secretly wish you were Jon and Kate Plus 8.  But those 8 kids will wear you out unless you can take a break and remember what it is about your partner that drew him to you in the first place.  If you want to be a united front, you have to continue to unite.  Go see a movie, go to dinner, or go people watch at Wal-Mart.  The point is it's just you two.

If you can't tear yourself away from the house, you must find time to yourselves.  If your kids are young and it's not safe to leave them unattended while awake, then you could commit to having a few minutes of alone time after they go to bed.  In the Morris house, as soon as the kids are asleep, we close our eyes, too.  Because we can.  But if our situation were different, that would be a great time to turn off the TV, put down the cell phones, and just talk.  Call it a stay-home-date.

The important thing is this: do you want to be reminded of why you chose this partner?  Remind yourself.

Friday, October 7, 2011

31 Days Of Change :: Day 7 Be Your Own Windkeeper

Did you ever watch Friends?  I have to tell you, I loved it.  I grew up with the show.  If you are really good at TV history and math, you will learn my true age here, but I'll tell ya anyway: I was a sophomore in high school when the show came on.  I have seen every single episode!  Here is a little blurb from one of my favorites:

(Ross enters the coffee shop and tells Rachel they have to go soon.  They apparently have a planned movie date.)

Rachel: Why do we always have to do everything according to your time table?
Ross: Actually, it's the movie theatre that has the time schedule. So you don't miss the beginning.
Rachel: No, see this isn't about the movie theatre. This is about you stealing my wind.
Monica: You go girl! I can't pull that off, can I?
Ross: Excuse me? Your... your... your wind?
Rachel: Yes, my wind. How do you expect me to grow if you won't let me blow?
Ross: You... you know I... I don't have a... have a problem with that.

All this time I have been blogging to you guys about two becoming one, having and keeping traditions, loving God more than your partner, etc.  But you also have to remain true to yourself and strive to be the best "you" you can be.  That's right, people, it's time to Be Your Own Windkeeper.

I am pretty sure that is an actual book, and I'm pretty sure it's feminist.  Though I do love to read, I'm not a feminist extreme.  I believe in equality of the genders, but only if you deserve it.  In a relationship, you have to help each other out, you have to give and take, but you also have to remain true to yourself.  This is assuming that you carefully selected a partner who would bring out the best -- not worst -- in yourself.

Bobby brings out the best in me.  He levels my quirks.  He calms my mind.  But he does not nor would he ever attempt to diminish them.  Bobby has changed me, sure.  He has made me want to be on time more often and more responsible with my money.  He has inspired me to always tell the truth even when painful and/or embarrassing.  But really, those were necessary changes.  As for my wind (i.e. my long stories I tell, my need to watch trashy TV, my desire to look at new construction houses even though we may never move) Bobby let's me blow.

Look at your current situation with your spouse, fiance, roommate, etc.  Are you changing for the better?  Great!  Are you still being true to yourself?  I hope so.  What your partner asks of you is that you give YOURSELF fully to him/her.  Your partner should never ask for a created image of yourself.  My challenge for you today is to do a little soul searching.  Is there something in yourself that needs improving?  Go for it.  You owe it to everyone in your life to keep restoring yourself to its glory.  What about your partner?  Does he or she have any unfinished business that would make better an already decent life?  You have a responsibility to support that endevor. 

Be your own windkeeper today.  And blow, wind, blow.

Thursday, October 6, 2011

31 Days of Change :: Day 6 -- Surprise!

So remember when I mentioned to you that the other night Bobby and I went out to dinner and it was steeped in tradition?  We knew what to expect from the service, we knew what to expect from the food quality, and we knew we would fully enjoy the meal.

However, the following anecdote I did not expect:  We got in the car to go home.  As expected, Bobby started fiddling with the radio because, as expected, he could not find anything acceptable to listen to.  All of a sudden he found a new radio station which refers to itself as "Birmingham's Classic Hip-Hop".  He then started singing along to NWA's "Boyz 'N Da Hood".  As in Every...single...word..."Cause the boys in the hood are always hard / you come talkin' that trash, we'll pull ya car / knowin' nutin' in life but to be legit / don't quote me boy 'cause I ain't said $h*t."

I was like (~tires screeching~) WHAT?  He was fist pumping and all.  I have never seen this side of him.  He could tell I was a little shocked and he looked over at me and said "Blog about this!!!"

That's something I love about Bobby.  When we first fell in love, I was thirsty to know everything about him.  I loved just being around him because he always managed to make me smile and laugh.  Over the years, the smiles have not faded, but I, like so many others, have come to expect certain behaviors and their shock or glee values have decreased a little.  I know, sad, right?

That spur-of-the-moment performance may have been the highlight of the night for me.  And yes, Bobby, I am blogging about it.  You see, if you want to keep a relationship fresh, you have to still manage to surprise the other person from time to time.  Bobby is good at surprises, but I am bad at being patient enough for them to come along.

I expect certain behaviors.  If I know Bobby has the house to himself one afternoon, I expect he will take a nap.  From time to time he will surprise me by cooking a dinner or folding a load of clothes.  Bobby expects me to forget to run an errand he has asked me about.  From time to time I will surprise him by doing it the first time he asks.  I expect that holidays, birthdays, and anniversaries are no big deal and I rarely expect flowers.  But when they do get delivered, I am happily surprised. 

In fact, I feel certain that Bobby surprises me more than I surprise him, now that I'm actually typing.  So today I challenge myself and all of you reading to surprise the one you love.  It doesn't have to be monetary.  You can let your guard down and be vulnerably funny or honest.  You can do one of the honey-dos from the ever present list.  Have dinner cooked.  Volunteer to wash dishes.  Fill his car up with gas the next time you borrow it.  But more than anything else, if you expect happiness, you have to give happiness first.

31 Days of Change :: Day 5 -- Do It Again and Again

Yes, this post is late and, no, I don't plan to let this become habitual this month.  I am really taking this challenge seriously.  However, Bobby and I were busy celebrating our 8th year of marriage.

If you want success in any relationship, there must be a few things that you do again and again.  I'm talking about traditions.  Webster's Dictionary defines tradition as "an inherited, established, or customary pattern of thought, action, or behavior (as a religious practice or a social custom)". 

Being a huge University of Alabama fan, just the utterance of the word "Tradition" warms my soul.  Everything about Alabama is Tradition, from the unchanging design of the football uniforms to the creation of the elephant mascot to the expectation of excellence.  Aside from the few crazies you'll find associated with every sport, the Tradition of Alabama creates a solid love affair between school and fan.  That love affair has spanned more than 5 generations and is losing no strength.
Back to relationships with other people, not schools...on Tuesday night (my actual anniversary) Bobby and I ate dinner at a li'l chain restaurant Johnny Carino's.  It's an Italian restaurant with pretty good food, nice wine, and a relaxed atmosphere.  We have eaten our anniversary dinner there every single year.  It's a small tradition that almost wasn't.  You see, on our 1st anniversary we were two struggling 20-somethings and Johnny Carino's was brand new.  Eager to try something different, we ate there.  It was great!  So on anniversary #2, we decided to go back.  On anniversary #3, we had a brand new baby at home with a grandparent.  We knew we could get in-and-out of Johnny Carino's fairly easily, so again we ate there.  It was clear we were on to something.  Five more anniversary dinners later, and here I am writing to all of you.
Bobby and I have other traditions too, including but not limited to the way we get the house retired for the evening, road-trip games, and inside jokes.

What is the real allure of a tradition?  It's almost like a secret the two of you will share.  The tradition may make sense to no one but yourselves, but it's something consistent -- consistency is vital to a successful relationship.  Furthermore, if you can't commit to something as simple as always giving two quick love pats before saying goodnight and turning to the left side, then how can you commit to the vision of growing old and rocking your bobbled grey heads on a front porch some day.

I challenge you to either continue with or create some traditions of your own.  After all, multi-generational love is on the line.

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

31 Days Of Change :: Day 4 Sometimes You Win, Sometimes You Lose

When I decided to start a blog series this month and chose its topic of strengthening a marriage and eventually solidifying a home, I knew that this month would also have a very special significance.  Today, October 4th, is my wedding anniversary!

Eight years ago today, I woke up on a beautiful Saturday morning, started my day with a hair appointment, then went to the mall (donning a small tiara) to have make-up applied.  Next I headed over to my church and married the man of my dreams.  The wedding was at 3:00 PM, then we went to a local country club where we had a wonderful reception complete with a band, food, cake, dancing, and college football being played on TVs in the bar-area!  Hey, I don't know what we were thinking having a wedding on a Fall Saturday in the South, but I wouldn't change a thing about it!
That's the thing about marriage.  Bobby thought I was crazy, and he was against the date of our fall wedding from the get-go.  But he allowed it to happen without much arguing.  (The reason that had to be the date is no longer the point.)  He gave in.  Since I know he is reading this, I will preface the next statement with "I know there is room for improvement" but I give in, rarely occasionally sometimes, too.
Bobby gets to take a vacation every year with my step-dad during which they travel the country and go to a different MLB stadium.  I am never invited.  Baseball is not my favorite sport, anyway.  But still.  Over the years I have realized that he deserves that trip.  I no longer argue about it; instead, I rack up on St. Louis Cardinals PJ pants, Baltimore Orioles coffee mugs, NY Yankees foam #1 fingers, etc.
There are other examples of me not getting my way and Bobby would say there are plenty of examples of him not getting his way.  However, we both have times of victory, too.
If you want a solid marriage to work, you have to believe and always remember you will not win every fight.  You will not get to decide every forked path on your marriage journey.  Furthermore, if you resign yourself to let one go, you also give up the right to complain later or hold it over that person's head.  Burn your Book Of Blame immediately, because it is not a helpful possession.
Today I challenge you to let one go.  Give in to what you partner/spouse wants.  But there is one condition:  You cannot pout about it.  You are letting your spouse, partner, best friend, etc. have his/her way because you love that person and want to extend another opportunity of happiness for that person.  You will enjoy the process more than you think.

Monday, October 3, 2011

31 Days of Change :: Day 3--Communicating Via Show And Tell

Remember Show-And-Tell day as a kid? You got to bring your favorite item in and share it with your classmates all the while explaining its relevance.
Communicating with a spouse or loved one is much like that. What is important to you and what is its relevance? However, in relationships, the show is much more important than the tell. Let me give you an example:

Bobby and I are on extremely different schedules most of the time. He works a traditional 8-5 job; however, he is also responsible for morning carpool which has him leaving the house before 7:00 AM. He doesn't get home until almost 6:00 PM. We usually fall asleep before 10:00 PM. That gives us a total of 5 "awake" hours together per weekday.

So we call each other during the day. He will call me and he may catch me in the car, working at my mom's, fetching a snack or juice, changing a diaper. I will call him and I may catch him away from his desk, goofing off with his coworkers, or actually (gasp!) working. It's rare that we can easily have each other's full attention.
We can tell each other plenty of things throughout the day, but the majority of them will have to be retold. And these are just details. We would never try to have a "deep conversation" during the day. What would be the point, right?

When it comes to really talking about emotions, fears, goals and dreams, you have to either make the time, or find non-verbal ways to communicate. But no matter what, to be in a successful relationship, you simply must be able to share everything. Not just details, but thoughts, too.

I am not great at this. I frequently find myself getting frustrated because I don't know how to make Bobby "get it", "it" being whatever is on my mind. We both end up annoyed and the point is never made. But from time to time, I really try to think about what is important to him. Telling will not work here. Show that person what you need them to know. Show him/her that you have fears and you need some comfort by allowing yourself to be vulnerable and honest.

Here's an example for today: Bobby loves baseball. Always has and always will. This summer he made himself extremely busy by taking on an All-Star team. Bobby also loves a beautiful lawn, but he didn't have time to cut the grass for a while, because when he got home he was just exhausted. One afternoon, I decided enough was enough, and I cut the grass myself. Not because I thought Bobby was lazy or negligent. Just the opposite. I wanted to take a chore off Bobby's list. By taking the initiative for a change, he knew that I "got it": he was doing something he truly loved -- coaching baseball -- and I showed him (not told him) that I supported him by handling one of his to-dos. I didn't do a very good job on the lawn, but that day it didn't matter.
If only I'd taken a 'before' picture. But I texted the 'after' to Bobby and he didn't dread coming home as much!
This month, take the time to think like the other person. What is he/she needing you to know? Or, what will it take to get your spouse/partner to understand what's really going on in your mind? If telling isn't working, then I challenge you to show...

Sunday, October 2, 2011

31 Days Of Change :: Day 2--Love God More Than You Love Your Family

I would say it's a coincidence that I plan to discuss God during a post that is set to run on a Sunday, but when it comes to God, I don't believe in consequences.
I have said to both Bobby and my kids at times "I love you more than anything in the whole wide world."  There are plenty of times that I believe that, too.  I love Bobby for so many reasons, most of which are hard to verbalize.  I love him because I know that he knows EVERYTHING about me and loves me anyway.  I love him because I know that at the end of the day he only wants good things for me.  Often times I love him because I think he loves me more.  But I love God more.
God gave me Bobby.  He knew that I needed a calm, funny, forgiving person to balance my life.  God knew that I would be Rob and Caroline's mommy someday and He chose Bobby to be their daddy.  I joke when C is pitching a fit "Quit acting like your daddy," but in reality she is already showing signs of his wit and charm.  Rob inherited Bobby's loving heart and giving spirit.

When things are going badly in this home, it's so easy to say "What did I do to deserve this?" or "Why me?"  But when things are going well, it's so easy to forget Who is the ultimate provider of both the good and the bad.

If you want your home to be stronger, healthier (mentally and physically), happier, etc., then earn it from the Ultimate Provider.  It has been said: you must be the change you want to see. Is something not working in your current relationship and/or household? Or, maybe everything is working good enough, but you smartly know there is always room for improvement.

When Bobby and I got married, we chose to have The Beatitudes read during the ceremony. 

"Blessed are the poor in spirit, (humble)
for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

Blessed are they who mourn,
(regret over sin, suffering, and sorrow)
for they shall be comforted.

Blessed are the meek,
(gentle, kind, and self-controlling)
for they shall inherit the earth.

Blessed are they who hunger and thirst for righteousness,
for they shall be satisfied.

Blessed are the merciful,
for they shall obtain mercy.

Blessed are the pure of heart,
(free of all selfish intentions and self-seeking desires)
for they shall see God.

Blessed are the peacemakers,
(those who bring peace and friendship to others)
for they shall be called children of God.

Blessed are they who are persecuted for the sake of rig
for theirs is the kingdom of heaven."

from the Gospel of St. Matthew 5:3-10

No, I don't like like this everyday. This month, I challenge you and myself to pick just one of the following Beatitudes and apply it to your daily life. If you feel you have mastered it, move on to another. I expect I would be happily surprised by the results of being the change I want.

Saturday, October 1, 2011

31 Days of Change :: Day 1--Be Open To Change

Let me tell you a little story.  Once upon a time there were two young people.  One was a dapper young man looking for his place in the world and trying to establish himself as a young businessman.  The other was a striking young woman who felt too young to be grown yet too old to be careless -- careless with her heart anyway.

So one day that dapper young man and striking young woman happened (as fate would have it) to not-actually be set up on a not-real date here:
Oh, it was an adventure, alright!  Said pair hit it off immediately.  There was laughter and hilarity.  In fact, I believe it was on this ride...
...that the eventual future was carved in stone.  It was also on that ride that the pair got to witness a full-on panic attack by the other accompanying female.  Ha!

Okay, enough is enough.  Hopefully you have realized that I am sharing the story of how Bobby and I met.  We were with my first cousin and her then boyfriend.  Her boyfriend was Bobby's best friend.  The two of them would eventually marry, as would Bobby and I.  The four of us felt like we had the world conquered.  We were the Ricardo and Mertz families from "I Love Lucy".
As you know, nothing in life is perfect.  Over the years, Bobby and I both made our fair share of horrible choices and faced extremely hard times.  The other couple -- his best friend and my cousin -- divorced, which put further strain on our dynamic.  But this month Bobby and I will celebrate our 8th wedding anniversary.  Of all the couples I know who married around the same time he and I did, there were times when I thought we would never be the couple who would "make it".  Yet, we are making it.  I don't really know how. 
Everyone wants to "climb the walls" in a marriage at times.
Instead of airing out our dirty laundry, I want to take the next month and really focus on what works for us.  That is why I am participating in The Nester's "31 Days Of Change".  I am doing the best I can at being Mrs. Morris, and it's obviously not an epic fail.  However, everyone can use improvement.  What do I know how to do well?  I hope by writing this down, I can define "making it" and share some insight with you.  So welcome to my topic: "31 Days to a Stronger Marriage and Happier Household."

I will not stand in judgement of anyone who has gone or will go through a divorce.  We all have our choices we must make, and there are extenuating circumstances that I may not know.  However, if you want your marriage to work, then make it work. Not married? You can still take this journey with me!  My topics planned will apply to keeping an old friendship fresh, or bettering a relationship with anyone you feel deserves better.  If you do not have kids, my topics may apply to nieces/nephews, or any young people in your life.  (Yes, even dogs, Laura!) 
Quickly today, I just want to encourage all of you to be open to change.  Do you need to alter your path?  Over the years, Bobby and I have changed, albeit unknowingly or unwillingly.  We have learned to compromise, fight fair, and stand up for ourselves.  We have learned patience with each other and have gained empathy for each other.  The end results include compassion, forgiveness, and trust.  All of these concepts and more I plan to explore in their own posts this month.  Stay with me!  The next 31 days are going to be great!