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Merry Christmas from Wows and Vows! No matter where you are, make sure you take time to hug and kiss your spouse today. Christmas is about realizing how blessed you are and taking time to recognize those blessings.
This Christmas season has me reflecting quite a bit because, to be honest, I am having a very hard time getting into the Christmas spirit. I think that is why I am sitting down and writing a post while I am at my in-laws’ house. I use to dream that after marriage, my husband and I would have an intimate Christmas Eve then have family over on Christmas Day, and that image still remains a dream. Instead, we spend two weeks on the road and go to three different states. We have never spent Christmas Eve with my parents. Because we are on the road, I don’t get to make as many baked goods as I would like. (I foolishly filled my Pinterest board with goodies that I wanted to make this year. I made one new cookie recipe. Le sigh.)
The problem with the image I had conjured was that I didn’t think about my husband who would come into the marriage with his own traditions and his own ideas about the holidays. Our first two years of marriage had us fighting about the holidays and his family’s demands that every holiday were to be spent with them. When we moved, we realized that we cannot make everyone happy and cannot make it every holiday. We also realized how unbalanced the holiday schedule has been; the last two Christmases we have tried to spend it with my parents, but due to outside circumstances, we have been unable to. Even though we won’t spend Christmas Eve with my parents, this year is the most time we will ever spend with my parents at Christmas in four years of marriage.
As a wife, I have two choices: get mad/ pouty/ upset or be grateful for the time I do get with my family. You see, when you pout, you are end up wasting the time that is meant to be enjoyed. Pouting clouds your vision and keeps you from recognizing blessings big or small. Waking up to the family’s 14 year old cat licking my face…small blessing. Dad making French toast…tasty blessing. I could pout, but instead I embrace the time I have and also realize how lucky I am. Many people do not have the luxury of seeing family during the holidays, and I am blessed that I have a good car and willing husband to drive over six hours and tour three states.
Holidays are also a good time to observe the practice of leaving and cleaving. Traveling to see family is wonderful, but you also have to take care of your marriage. We do a two week tour at Christmas because we no longer travel to see family during Easter and Thanksgiving. We have made our own traditions for those holidays. (Granted the first Easter, the oven broke, and we made the the entire meal using the stove top and grill!)
In short, no matter where you are, do not over look those blessings. Christmas is full of blessings as long as you willing to acknowledge them. Right now, sitting in my in-laws’ living room I am feeling blessed. In an hour we will be going to a candle light Christmas Eve service at the church we got married in and I cannot wait to reminisce about being how I was a bride four and half years ago. Then when I go to bed, I will be a few short hours away from a tasty lunch followed by hitting the road to see my parents again.
In short, count your blessings, especially during the holidays. Merry Christmas everyone and to everyone a Happy New Year!
Update: I started this post on Monday, November 3. I was in the middle of typing the post when my husband came home to tell me his grandfather had died. Papa (Bynum “Bike” Edward Murray) lived a wonderful life for 94 years, and I was blessed to have known him. He had a remarkable marriage to his wife, Colleen Dixon Murray, for 69 years. They celebrated their wedding anniversary on October 28th and threw Papa a 94th birthday party on November 1st.
The Love Story:
Bynum “Bike” Murray had told his close friend (and ex-girlfriend) Mary Brown that he preferred blondes; Mary just happened to be a brunette. Mary quipped back, “Do I know a blonde for you!” and with that she gave Bike an address. Bike wrote to this unknown blonde, not knowing that one letter in a plain envelope would change his life’s course. Colleen Dixon was that blonde. She wrote back because “when one of the boys wrote, you were suppose to write back.”
Bike was 22 and Collen was 16; the year was 1941. For four years, Bike and Collen wrote to each other. When they started writing, Bike was training at Camp Blanding in Florida. He was supposed to be there for a year, but things changed. On December 7, 1941 the Japanese bombed Pearl Harbor, and Bike was no longer a solider in training: he was a solider going to war.
Throughout the war, the pair continued to write to one another. Colleen would send him pictures. The soldiers would harass Bike: “You got another one from the blonde!”
Who knows what those letters contained; they are lost to time. Did Colleen write about high school football games? Did she describe the white and red gingham dress she was making in home economics? Did she dream about wearing that dress to meet Bike in? Did Bike tell her the story about the man selling eggs for 10 cents from a satchel on a donkey? Did he tell her about a chance meet up with his best friend Martin in Rome? Did he keep one of her pictures tucked in his helmet? More importantly, when did friendship change to love? One day did “Sincerely” change to “Love”?
The pair finally meet in April 1945; Colleen wore the dress she made in home economics and Bike was dashing in his uniform. (Most likely he was trying to impress the blonde he had been writing to). Colleen recalls, “We knew. The first meeting we knew [we would get married].” On June 12, 1945, Bike was discharged from the army and by end of October the pair were married.
Bike was so nervous about getting married he fell of her parent’s front porch! While that wouldn’t be the only stumble in their marriage, they lived and loved for 69 years. They worked separate shifts for years. After getting off third shift, Bike would make Colleen coffee every morning before he went to bed; when she got off work, Colleen would make Bynum a snack of cornbread and milk. They had a son after years of trying: a son who would grow up and have two sons of his own.
Matthew 5:4 “Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted.”
Odd statement. But upon further reflection, I am not sure if I have ever read truer words. My husband’s grandfather just passed away on November 4. I am writing a post that should be done very soon that is about his grandparent’s incredible love story. For now, though, I want to focus on my husband. We are two different types of grievers: I hold everything up and he is more open. (I admire that about him.) The Wednesday after his grandfather passed away, we ended up driving down to South Carolina. I tested the speed limits and got us into town in time for Trae to view the body with his family.
My husband cried when we walked into the room that held his grandfather. We had seen Papa on Sunday, alive and doing as well as could be. Now it was Wednesday. As my husband stood there, something odd happened: I felt more love for my husband than I ever had before. I wanted to hug him and never let him go. I felt blessed that I was there for him (Trae was originally going to come into town before I did) and blessed that he had been comfortable enough to show me this side of him.
Grief brings out raw emotion: emotion that we are only willing to show to those who we truly love. When we open to our spouse in such an emotional state, we are allowing ourselves to reach a new level of intimacy. Normally intimacy brings about thoughts of sex and bedrooms, but intimacy has many sides. Intimacy can be sharing a memory with a spouse, being sick in front of spouse, crying in front of a spouse, being angry, etc. Intimacy is a moment, good or bad, that makes you closer to your spouse. I know that I felt closer to my spouse after he had to take care of me when I had the flu: no make-up, drippy nose, and fever. I would never let anyone else see me that way just like I tend to be calmer when I yell at football refs when others are around (if it is just Trae, I will under no certain terms let him know how bad they are at play calling). That Wednesday night, Trae showed me a side of himself that I had never seen before and for that I am grateful. It allows me to be there for him as a spouse and support him in a way I never have before and it has also brought us closer together.
Blessed are those couples who are truly honest with each other emotionally, because they truly know each other and will be able to support one another.
(View from our table at lunch in Old Salem)
Things have been very stressful lately. Trae’s grandfather is dying. Trae is very close to his grandparents, and being far away from family has been very hard for him. I have been going out of town to attend lectures, so we are not spending as much time together as I would like. Overall, our schedules have been crazy: go see family, play rehearsals, second jobs, first jobs, hockey, travel, sleep.
Lucky for us, we had a date planned we couldn’t back out of. We had tickets to see David Sedaris; we originally thought that the reading would be in a town 45 minutes away, but a closer inspection of the tickets showed that reading was 2 hours and 30 minutes away! Oops! Right when we were getting ready to leave, we found out that PaPa (Trae’s grandfather) was not doing very well. After a rushed packing job, we hopped in the car and headed to the reading. Our plan was to get a room for the night, wake up in the morning, and see how Papa was doing. If he wasn’t doing well, we would head to SC to see him; if he was doing better, we would head home. I started calling hotels around the area only to find out that it was homecoming weekend of the local (and very large) college.
It felt like a series of mishaps. We left late for the reading (but still made it in time to have dinner at the local brewery and get to the show on time), we realized we forget vital items when packing (jackets!), and we could only get a hotel room in Winstom-Salem, which was thirty minutes away from the town we were going to be in.
But in the end, all the mishaps ended up to one big positive. (So two negatives can make a positive! Yeah math!) We had a blast at the reading, and I fan girl’ed when David Sedaris said he had a house in Emerald Isle. Trae made me promise not to stalk him, but if we happen to be at Emerald Isle this Christmas, I might find his house by “accident.”
The next morning, we called and found out that PaPa was stable and we could wait till next weekend to come visit for his 94th birthday party*. Since we were in Winston-Salem and we were up extremely early, we decided to head to Old Salem. We ate a delicious pastry for breakfast at the Farmer’s Market, tasted local wine, bought Moravian style bread, and ate a wonderful meal. Overall, the perfect unexpected mini-vacation.
The impromptu mini-vacation made us realize how much we had forgotten to make time for us during this extremely stressful time. Having the unexpected gift of time ending up being what we needed to reconnect but to also realize how much we had drifted apart. Without being conscious of it, we had managed to create a separation between us. It wasn’t a hostile separation; we weren’t fighting, but still a divide had been created. We had gotten too use to doing our own thing and not including the other spouse into our personal orbit. When we did cross paths, it was to go see his family; it was a stressful co-existing. The moments of peace and relaxation were spent separately: not healthy for a marriage. What makes it even more unhealthy is when you do not realize you are creating separate spaces.
In short, make sure you make time for one another. One day you might wake up and realize that while you live with your spouse, you two are on separate trajectories. I am not saying to not engage in individual activities, but make sure you are aware of how you are spending time with your spouse. If you find yourselves with on separate orbits, make time to do something together. Time together is the only way to ensure that your orbits do not become as far away as Earth from Pluto (which is still a plant in my textbook).
*We went to PaPa’s birthday on Saturday, November 1st. He passed on Monday, November 3. I was in the middle of writing about his grandparent’s incredible love story and marriage when I got the news. I highly encourage you to go read the post about their 69 years of love and devotion.
My husband and I are really good at signing up for marriage challenges. We download the apps and register for the challenges, and then…nothing. We watch Star Trek instead as the phones ding with updates and the spam boxes fill with updates…Oops. We always think this time we will follow through, but then Captain Picard says something insightful* and we are cuddling on the coach listening to his wisdom. Most likely marriage advice from a Starship Captain is not a good idea. Anyways, I digress…
Currently, we are supposed to be doing a 30 Day Challenge from Amazing Life Together. This challenge is unique in that it is a mixture of small daily challenges and conversation topics. One day might be “Do a small surprise for your spouse” and the next day might be “Reminisce about your honeymoon.” The best part about this challenge is every Sunday, a weekly round up is sent out. On Sunday, I write down all the challenges in a notebook that Trae and I can look at. We realize that we aren’t going to fall under the 30 day deadline, and you know what, that is ok. More than ok. Marriage challenges are about strengthening your marriage and if a 30 day challenge doesn’t fit the needs of your marriage, then it won’t help.
Do not be afraid to change the rules of a challenge so it will strengthen our marriage. The purpose of a challenge is to help a couple work on their weak spots and right now our weak spot is communication. By the time I get home for tutoring at two different jobs, I am all talked out. I just want to hear John Luc Picard save the Federations problems in one hour while Trae rubs my feet. I am not normally in the mood to reminisce about on how I knew he was the man I was going to marry…heck, as long as he rubs my feet he will remain the man I am married to.
I know this is a sign we should communicate more. This is why we have learned to manipulate the challenge to fit us as a couple. Make sure you do what is best for your marriage. If you find that you do not have time to complete a challenge, then do not feel guilty. The Internet or app do not know if you finished within the deadline. For example, I am going to end this blog because Trae and I are going to eat dinner and then head to a music jam. Captain Picard will save the federation another night, but tonight on the drive, maybe we will discuss one of the challenge topics….Maybe. All I know if we don’t have to finish the helpful challenge in 30 days.
UPDATE: Oops. We got lazy and watched two episodes of Star Trek. My foot rub was phenomenal!
*One of my favorite Picard quotes: Buried deep within you, beneath all the years of pain and anger, there is something that has never been nurtured: the potential to make yourself a better man. And that is what it is to be human. To make yourself more than you are. Oh, yes — I know you. There was a time you looked at the stars and dreamed of what might be.
It has been raining a lot here, and the weeds have become like mini-Audrey plants from Little Shop of Horrors. The weeds have made getting through the Jungle of Tomatoes impossible. The good news is that the veggies are still thriving. (Some are even trying to escape the fence. The cantaloupe and butternut squash have already escaped the confines of their prison.) Granted, we can’t find the onions, but I assume they are still there amongst the tall grasses.
Trae was called out of town unexpectedly, and I decided to surprise him by weeding the garden. When I “finished ” (aka gave up) almost two hours later, I looked like an allergy appointment gone wrong and the Jungle of Tomatoes was still…well…unexplored territory. Two hours and weeds winning, I was sweaty, dirty, and covered in fifteen bug bites!
We really should have been weeding a little bit all along. Doing a little bit at a time prevents the task from being too overwhelming. Our garden is doing well, but it could doing better. Some of the plants are fighting the weeds for sun. Plus, the weeds have already developed roots, and while I can hack at them, if I do not get to the roots, they will just return. But more importantly, the weeds seem to have escorted fungi into the garden. Now we have two problems: roots and fungi. If we had been working like we should have, we would not have two problems to fix.
Problems in a marriage are a lot like weeds. If you wait until the rain stops to address the issue, then the problem has established roots and all the anger has transformed into a fungus. Sure you might briefly talk about the problem, but you are most likely not being honest about the problem and aren’t addressing the root of the issue. So when another problem arises, the roots of the previous problem produce new leaves and now you are fighting over two issues. Eventually the roots become so deep and the weeds so thick that any fun or happiness is overshadowed.
If roots do form, a couple of things you have to do are
- Be honest! If you cannot admit that you are still mad about what happened six months, then you will never be able to address the issue at hand. You cannot move forward if you still stuck in the past. You do not need Hermonie’s time turner to fix the issue; you just need to talk.
- In the word’s of Elisa, “Let it go!” Once you have addressed the previous problem, you have to let it go. You cannot store away any hurt. Storing it away causes it to regrow its roots and before you know it, you are re-throwing that problem at your spouse. I know many times I will be fighting with Trae and rehash problems from six months to even a year ago. I hadn’t been honest with myself or with Trae that I was still hurt/ upset from those things and then BAM, I am yelling at him about that late school loan payment from our second year of marriage which caused our credit to almost tank.
- Talk. If you have problem communicating or are afraid that you will get into a bad fight, get a third party involved. Do not involve friends or family; a preacher or a counselor are good choices. A quick Google search will give you the name and reviews of nearby counselors.
- Admit the role you played in the issue. Yes, Trae is a grown man, but I also know he has the tendency to forget things. How hard would it have been for me to remind him changed the address on his student loan payments so the bills would have come to our new address so that way a payment would not be late? I didn’t have to set back and think, “I bet he will forget. I will be pissed if…no, when…he does.” Even if you claim you didn’t do anything wrong, you are still at fault for not being completely honest about how the problem made you feel, which is why roots formed.
- During the argument, if you notice you are arguing in circles or getting ready to boil over, breath, take a break. Do not stew and let the anger take over during the break; use the time to look at the problem from different perspectives. Also, sometimes separating after talking about major issues is good; it gives you a chance to let the whole arguing and decision-making process sink in.
- Do not mull over your anger when a decision or compromise has been made; instead think about how glad you are that the problem is taken care of. Many times you will realize that you blew certain things out of proportion. (What does not putting down the toilet seat down have to do with late student loan payments? Man, I was a jerk to pull that out during this fight!) Self-reflect and store away grains of knowledge on how to approach your next problem. For example, I tend to rehash irrelevant stuff that happened six months to even years ago. When we have a disagreement, I have to remind myself not to throw dirty socks on the floor or toilet seats left up into our arguments, but instead focus on the issue at hand.
All in all, make sure you tend to your marriage on a daily bases. Right now I am sitting at my office window, looking down on the rain soaked garden and I can see the weeds that have formed during the last three rainy days. I am not looking forward to going out there, but it has to be done. I want a healthy garden and in order to make sure of that, I have to put the work into it, just like I have to put the work into my marriage and make sure I get to the root of our problems. Happy Weeding!