The Importance of Water

“Water is the driving force of all nature.”– Leonardo da Vinci

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(Tiny heads up: This will be the most risque post so far, but hey, you are married; God approves.)

Marriages need water just as much as gardens do. Without water, plants die. Water gives the plants nourishment and causes growth. Without water, the plants fight to survive, but ultimately turn brown and shrivel up before dying. All that remains of a once healthy plant is a yellow-brown vine that is brittle to the touch.  The vine resembles an earth worm that was unable to make it back to the dirt before the sun baked him onto the sidewalk. The shell remains, but the life of the plant is gone.

Now, when I say marriages need water, I don’t mean drinking the eight recommended glasses of water a day. I mean, marriage needs nourishment. Nourishment, in terms of marriage, is acts of kindness or intimacy that promotes growth. Acts of kindness do go a long way when promoting growth in a marriage, but honestly, intimacy is the key factor in promoting growth. Without intimacy, you are missing a deeper connection with your partner. It is important, however, not to confuse intimacy with sex. Sex is just one type of intimacy. I can buy my husband Reece peanut butter cups once a week, and while that will make him feel happy towards me, that happiness is surface level. Intimacy is the water of marriage that brings nutrition to the roots.

To me, touch and sight are two of the engaging ways to promote intimacy. Trae and I take showers today, and while we don’t do hanky-panky, we still have the closeness of being together in the shower. Out bodies touch, and we also all Adam and Eve (aka naked). Sleeping Adam and Eve style is another great way to promote intimacy. (For the winter, just invest in some warm fleece sheets!) Laying in bed snuggling (if the jealous cat will let you get close enough to snuggle) and talking is the best way to unwind after a hectic day of teaching. Obviously sex is another way to promote intimacy; sex. to me, is the ultimate way to express intimacy. However, that level of intimacy is made stronger when the couple is being intimacy on several levels.

Now if A&E style with the goodies hanging out isn’t your style, there are other ways to promote intimacy. I am also a spoiled wife and Trae rubs my feet every night; the touch of his hands makes me feel at ease every night. His touch makes me feel close to him. Cooking is another way to create intimacy with your spouse. I love the way the smells engulf the kitchen; the aroma hugs you as the two of you work together. The best part of cooking together: eating together! Special dates can also promote intimacy, but do not confuse special date with expensive. Yes, a fancy meal share in a candle-lite booth is romantic and intimate, but enjoying a canoe ride or hike are also intimate. Seeing an expanse of mountains before me serves as a reminder to that we do truly believe in an awesome God and how lucky I am be able to see and rejoice in His creations with my husband.

A good way to promote to promote intimacy is to ask your spouse what he/ she enjoys and use those things promote intimacy. Do you enjoy to read? Well, then maybe you and your spouse can read together while snuggling on the couch. Be creative and find an level of intimacy you are both comfortable with.

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Bugs: Not Just for Stomachs

Sometimes you can love, tend to, and care for something, but it will still not flourish. Bugs have gotten to it, and they have made a smorgasbord out of the leaves and baby veggies. The plant eventually dies, never having a chance to reach its potential. Now, bugs can bite you too, but when bugs happen to a marriage, a couple has let outside sources nibble away at the exterior or the leaves of the couple’s relationship. In other words, you let an outsider, whether it is a co-worker, a friend, or a family member, eat away at the feelings you have towards your spouse.

When Trae and I were having problems, I ended up talking to one my friends about the situation a good bit. I over shared with her and  we commiserated about husbands together. The conversations started out semi-light hearted and then ended up painting our husbands in a more unfavorable light.The more I talked to her, the more negatively I looked towards my husband. I did not see any of the good things he would do and hyper focused on everything “wrong” he did. She in turn would complain about her husband. In the end, this friend and her husband ended up getting an ugly divorce. Under her influence, I felt extremely negative towards Trae. I had to retrain my brain and grow new fruit when I realized that this friend was being a bug and nibbling away at my leaves. If I had not realized the adverse attitude I had acquired and changed my behavior patterns, my plant would have died.

Some bugs can be good. Apparently spiders are eight-legged demons* that help keep your garden from becoming bug infested. In other words, look at what bug you choose to talk to (or squash). If you do choose to talk to a friend, be wary of over sharing. A marriage is between two people, not two people and a friend who knows everything. If you do need someone to reveal more to, consider a counselor. A counselor can help you as a couple and as a one-on-one bases.  Having a positive influence, your plant will have healthy leaves and your marriage will have much stronger roots.

In Zig Ziglar’s words, “positive thinking will let you do everything better than negative thinking will.”  This saying is especially true for marriages. Be positive that you will overcome the hard times, and then you will. Be negative and the bugs feast faster, which makes the plant of marriage die even faster.

*Spider disclaimer: I hate spiders. Once in high school, my mother and I woke up one of my friends who spent the night. We were screaming and trying to suck up a spider with the vacuum. If you want to hear more about my spider adventures, you can read about them here.

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Weeding: Keeping Out the Bad

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!

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Throw Back Thursday: Date Nights

Someone wise once told me that after marriage, couples should still court, or in other words, continue to date one another after the I do’s are exchanged. Dating remains important after the vows because it helps the spark in your marriage. Date nights do not need to be elaborate; the important thing is that you have a date night.

For Trae and myself, we tend to say we are going to go on a date and then never do. We figured out that we had to prepay for a date in order to actually go on one. We stumbled across an Irish pub when we lived in South Carolina. Once a month the pub had a themed dinner with entertainment. For forty dollars, you got anywhere around a four to six course super yummy dinner, several glasses of wine, and a local improv group putting on a small play (The Entire Works of Shakespeare) or a murder mystery. We started becoming regulars on these special dinner nights so much so that the servers started to give us extra special care and the actors and actresses would come up to talk to us. We loved these dinner nights so much that we even attended one the night before we moved to North Carolina. Instead of freaking out about the last random junk that needed to go in a box, we were feasting on food while trying to solve the murder of a 1920s gangster.

And you know the best part of these nights?? Costume optional! The restaurant encouraged patrons to dress up according to the dinner’s theme! Some of the dinner high lights are

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Sorry about the bad quality! These pictures are from 2011. Recognize the dress in the second picture? It is the Rose dress! I got to wear my old prom dress during a Titanic Memorial dinner. The restaurant cooked dishes from a second class menu, and it was one of the best meals I have ever had!

Sadly, we now leave six hours away from that restaurant, so it really isn’t feasible to do dates there anymore. We still do date nights, and I have a few tips on how to make sure you date nights are fun, unique, and inexpensive:

-Like your favorite restaurants on Facebook. Many times they will post specials.

-Like your town and surrounding towns on Facebook. We liked one small town, which is about a thirty minute drive away. About a month ago the town had a status about a beer festival. For forty dollars a couple, we went to a food competition and got to taste food from six of the best chefs in the town. Each food was paired with a local brew.

-Like museums and art galleries on Facebook as well. We are now regulars on the First Friday Art Walks. Each first Friday of the month the art galleries have open houses with tasty treats. Best part is First Friday Art Walk is free! Soon we are driving to an art museum that shows movies outside for free. Participants are encouraged to bring picnic dinners!

All in all, make social media work for you. Almost all businesses have Facebook pages. Many times events that you would have never known about are advertised on those pages. By liking the page, you are liking potential date nights!

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Gardens can’t be measured and neither can Marriages

When I was a little girl, my parents had a garden. The garden was rather large and filled with cabbage, sunflowers, strawberries, tomatoes, squash, zucchini, etc. The garden itself was encased in a large fenced-in area to keep out the dogs, especially the large and loveable Newfoundland Ginger. Then inside the garden space, you had perfectly tilled dirt with the garden separated into sections using boards. The distance of each plant was precisely measured out. Each fruit or vegetable had its own corral. In other words, my engineer father had made his garden an perfectly symmetrical gardening masterpiece.

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A really bad mock up of Dad’s garden.

I remember going over to my godparent’s house to play with my god-brothers and being secretly horrified of the zigzagged rows of beans and corn with stray weeds growing up between the rows. Weeds never lived in our garden; in my head, gardens were meant to be neat and not dirty. So you can imagine the mental expectations I had of our future garden when Trae and I moved into our very own house with a large backyard.

Our garden is not as big; it did not have nice fence around it. Tomato plants were not planted exactly 28 1/2 inches apart. We underestimated how big squash plants grow. Trae has to be careful when his mows because our butternut squash has escaped the confines of the fence. We have weeds; heck we even lost our collards to pests. Our garden is not an engineering marvel. I freaked out. We had to keep the weeds out; we needed to fence the garden off better. We weren’t doing it right. Our garden did not look like my dad’s garden. We were looking more like my godparent’s garden and that wasn’t right.

Guess what…I wasn’t right in my assumptions. One of the most important things to remember before going into a marriage is not go in with expectations created by other people. A marriage is something you build together as a couple, not something you build with yourself, your spouse, and everyone else.

Facebook is one virtual garden that I had to learn how to navigate. I see pictures of happy couples with wonderful messages of “So blessed” or pictures of couples traveling the world. I have always wanted to travel, and while I have been blessed to travel, I found myself feeling that I was not traveling enough and started to get jealous. My husband and I weren’t watching a sunset in Africa; we weren’t wine tasting. We were at home eating a frozen pizza. I started to measure my marriage against these pictures and statuses. Compared to these relationships, my marriage was sub-par and full of weeds.I started to dwell on the fact we didn’t go places; we didn’t do exciting events or outings.

Then I talked to one of my friends who I was envious of her Facebook persona. We were talking about her latest trip, and she mentioned–out of the blue– how while she loved traveling, she was jealous of my life! I was shocked. She longed for frozen pizzas on a screened-in-porch at a recently purchased house. Apparently we were lusting after each other’s gardens. In this case, the tomato on the other side is always redder. The Bible says, “A tranquil heart gives life to the flesh, but envy makes the bones rot” (Proverbs 14:30). If you dwell on jealousy, the roots of your marriage plant will rot. Take joy in the produce of your marriage. Your right, I am not in Africa. But every morning, my husband has a cup of coffee waiting for me when I get out of the shower. I am not doing wine tastings, but I went to a pot-luck “fancy” dinner party the other night. I focus on the positive things of my marriage, which in return gives us strong roots.

You can get help from others, even plants need bug spray once in awhile. But ultimately your marriage is your garden, not someone else’s. Our garden doesn’t look like the garden from my childhood, and that is ok. My marriage is what I make it. I cannot measure my marriage by someone else’s yard stick (or in this case, tape measure).

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Bonus picture: This is my dad measuring out his garden.

 

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Gardening: The Start of Short Series

We garden. Makes us sound like hipsters, doesn’t it? Gardening takes a lot of patience and resilience just like a marriage does. In this series, I will be using our ups and downs with gardening to illustrate the ups and downs of marriage. The series will consist of five posts:

  • Gardens can’t be measured
  • Weeding: Keeping out the bad
  • Bugs: Not just for stomachs
  • The Importance of Water
  • Knowing when to turn off the Water Hose

I might even throw some yummy bonus posts of the meals we make from our garden’s bounty! (We have already made a super yummy chicken tacos with squash and zucchini.)

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Sweet Nothings and Morning Breath

Trae and I went out of town last weekend to my best friend Meredith’s birthday party. (I have known her since the sixth grade and have been on multiple vacations with her family.) She always throws elaborate themed parties and encourages party-goers to dress up according to the theme. This year the theme was Movie Masquerade, and I was very excited because I got to dress up with Trae. (My dates for last year’s party, which was eighties themed, were epic puffy sleeves. Literally I felt like I was flanked by two metallic green aliens all night. It was amazing.)

We decided to go as Jack and Rose from Titanic. I *might* have been in high school when the movie first came out, and I *might* have seen it either two or three times in theater. (In my defense, I had a fascination with the Titanic’s history years before the movie came out, but also I had a love affair with Rose’s clothes in the movie.)

 

When it was time for junior prom that year, I went shopping with Meredith to find the perfect dress. We even had a theme song for the shopping trip.

Please sing this song to the tune of “Deck the Halls”:

Deck the stores with puffy dresses

fal lal lal lal lal lal lal lal la

Tis the season to go prom shopping

accessorize accessorize accessorize

Now all she needs is a date

fal lal lal lal lal lal lal la LA

(The capital LA is to indicate a grand finale.)

Anyways, we shoved a ton of dresses into a refrigerator-box-sized dressing room at JC Penny’s, and I emerged in amidst of all the poof dressed as Rose from Titanic. I was in love, and it was my prom dress. Sadly enough I think I had the “perfect dress moment” more with this prom dress than I did with my own wedding dress. No Joke. I loved, and still love, the dress. I promise though that I did not go overboard with the Titanic theme; I did not wear the heart of the ocean with the dress to prom. This past weekend was the first time I had ever worn a heart of the ocean with that dress, and I find any chance I can to wear that dress. (Next Throw Back Thursday: Titanic Memorial Dinner and epic dress wearing.)

Moving on….I ordered my heart of the ocean from eBay, and Trae printed the iconic Rose sketch and put it in a sketch book he carried with him all night. To be honest, I think he really enjoyed “flashing” people at the party. Overall the party was a lot of fun, and Trae had a great time. He was apprehensive at first since he didn’t know a lot of Meredith’s friends. I think the fact that The Princess Bride was being played against the side of Meredith’s house was a big plus for him! A bunch of the guys, including Trae, stood around quoting along with the movie.

 

The next morning we woke up before the rest of the crashing guests and quietly went down stairs to make coffee. Knowing Meredith’s kitchen I busied myself with the coffee while Trae gave me an odd look.

T: “Whose Jared?”

C: “Huh?”

T: “Jared. You two seemed to really know each other. Something about waffles and other jokes.”

C: Looks at husband like he has lost some screws, marbles, or both.

T: “You seemed close.”

C: laughing “That is Meredith’s little brother!!”

T:  suddenly looks relieved “Oh. Now it makes sense.”

It had not dawned on me once to introduce Trae last night to Jared; Jared who gave me a bear hug as soon as he saw me, Jared who shook Trae’s hand and said Hey Trae!, Jared who came to our wedding, Jared who I’ve known for years. I just assumed that Trae knew who he was. I mean come on, the guy was at our wedding. Obviously Trae should know all the people that my side of the family invited to the wedding even though I will still ask, Who is that again? when looking at the photo album.

It was shocking to realize how even after almost of four years of marriage Trae didn’t know significant people, events, or things from my life. He had heard the story a thousand times of how Jared would jokingly demand I make him waffles to earn my keep during family vacations, but when faced with the person of the story, he didn’t make the connection. In marriage, you cannot assume that your significant other knows all about you. We have a life time of memories before marriage, and we spend the years after marriage making joint memories. We just assume that the familiar things in our life are also familiar to our spouse, but they are not. Years after marriage, you will find yourself continually learning new things–happy or sad– about your spouse, and those constant revelations is what makes marriage so special. One of my favorite things to do is pull out the game Chat Pack, which is a small box with cards. (Amazon has a bunch of different sets.) Each card has a question, anywhere from embarrassing moments to being at the right place at the right time. Long car trips and sitting around the fire pit are a great time to play this game and learn new things about your spouse. (I just learned that Trae was pants’d in middle school by his friend on the way home thanks to Chat Pack.)

           

Back in Meredith’s kitchen, a relieved looking Trae pulled me close to him and looked lovingly into my eyes.

“I love you.”

I nuzzled my head on his shoulder and gave him a big hug. Trae said sweetly, “I do love you.”

I mumbled back, “I love you too.” Apparently my nuzzling and mumbling was not the from-the-bottom-of-the-heart “I love you” exchange Trae was looking for.

Trae: “Hey, look into my eyes, I just want you….

Cutting him off, “I know, you love me but morning breath and sweet nothings don’t go together.”

Trae laughing, “Oh, yeah. Good point. “

At that moment, I knew I was married to my life partner, bad breath and all.

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