Tuesday, October 6, 2009

The Epic Family Room Clean Up

I have a confession to make.

I hate to clean.

There; I've said it. The truth is out, and I never have to hide from it again.

Before you judge me, know that I'm a master at straightening. In fact, I've got tidying up down to a science. Admittedly, it's a coping mechanism for lazy people who hate housework, but it works for a while.

When I'm expecting visitors, however, I usually cave and give the whole place a thorough cleaning (OK, maybe just the main floor).

That's how the Epic Family Room Clean Up began. All I really intended to do was put some things away, dust, vacuum, and spray a little Windex on the glass. It was easy and systematic, and though I started at 10 pm, I was more than confident I'd be done in half an hour.

Hours after I began the task, I was still at step one: putting things away.

There was just so much of it. Somehow, for months, I'd been stashing trash, knick knacks, games, cords, papers, office supplies, and a myriad of what-nots in this one neglected room, without even noticing the build-up.

Finally, when the path was nearly clear of all that stuff, I began to tackle the task of dusting. Again--it was a much, much larger project than I'd assumed. Vacuuming and Windexing didn't go quickly, either.

Four hours after the Epic Family Room Clean Up had begun, it ended. The place was hardly recognizable. Shelves were actually housing books. Cords of various lengths with uses unknown were tucked away, together, in a cupboard, instead of being strewn about on the floor. A couple of stains were even removed from the carpet.

When it was all said and done, I thought about the dirty room vs. the improved version, and the similarities in our marriage. Reconstructing us had begun with a simple plan, as well. A little dusting off of those wedding vows, a couple of dates, maybe a talk or too with a counselor. No big deal; all we were after was a more tidy place to put our relationship.

We quickly learned the rooms in our hearts needed far more work. All our stuff had to be claimed, taken care of, put away or thrown out. Some of the baggage just doesn't belong here anymore.

There was a lot of cleaning up to be done, too, and we'll have to work hard to maintain it. Chemicals aren't necessary, but it takes quite a bit of elbow grease and time. Reconstructing us involves a total commitment; no more dirty little secrets hiding in our house.

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Marriage Meetings

Corporations do it. Parent groups do it. Even church members do it. So when Jeff and I first heard about it at a marriage seminar, we thought, "Hey, we should be doing this, too!" So, we've been trying to do it once a week every since.

Conducting a meeting, that is.

Armed with our family calender, our personal to-do lists, and the latest stack of bills, we spend most of the meeting systematically discussing both our schedules and finances. In the past, these were two areas we frequently fought about; now that we're talking about the matters so often, though, there's no surprises, and thus, a lot less fighting.

Peppered in between those essential topics are matters of the heart. A single offense from the week for each one of us is revisited and examined, and we ask one another, did we really settle that? Is there a better way we could have handled it?

Hurts are balanced with an affirmations. Granted, complimenting one another, and remembering one incident from the week about which to give kudos, is not always as easy as finding fault. The best things in life, however, are never the easiest.

Finally, we end our meeting with a good talk about how we think our kids are doing. It's a great time to share observations we've made about them while we're not all together--sometimes a mom notices great things a dad might not see. Likewise, Jeff has an eye into my sons' lives that I can't begin to understand.

The whole thing takes at least an hour, and while it might sound laborious, it's not. During those times when we haven't had a minute to ourselves, we know a meeting's right around the corner, and whatever's on our mind will eventually be able to be discussed.

So that's how we've been spending our Sunday nights. And just in case you're wondering--yes, I take notes during the meeting. These are glorious times, reconstructing us, and I don't want to forget a single one of them.

Friday, August 28, 2009

On Healing

There are certain subjects I just hate to talk about. Some things make me uncomfortable, and others are just downright painful. When these topics pop up, I find the natural response is to pull back, withdraw from the conversation, and sometimes, shamefully, from the relationship itself.

A friend of mine is an occupational therapist, and she recently told me she has to massage the scabs and sensitive spots on the skin and muscles to toughen them up. If you keep them covered up, she said, they will become more and more sensitive and unusable for functional activities. The same can be said of our emotional wounds, my wise friend pointed out.

Convicted, I thought of all the circumstances in which I'd done exactly that. In a myriad of circumstances, my refusal to "go there" has taken me way beyond "touchy." As a result, that part of my life becomes dead weight--a memory, at best.

Next time, my friend cautioned me, don't be so quick to cover up those wounds reflexively. The anticipation is usually a lot worse than the actuality, she concluded.

Pretty healthy advice.

Monday, August 24, 2009


Pardon me for stating the obvious, but haunted houses are mighty awful scary.

I was reminded of this fact during our romantic weekend away from the kids. We visited Niagara Falls, where there are more than a few haunted houses. Since he knew where we were going, and had been there himself before, our oldest son dared me to go into one while we were gone--no doubt believing there was NO WAY I would.

In an attempt to show off my new found brave spirit, I took the dare. The place was appropriately called "Screamers," and I'm still praising the Lord that my bladder hadn't been too full upon entry. As we traveled through the pitch black darkness, "monsters" creeped, jumped, and crawled all around us. I've never been so scared, or screamed so loudly, in all my life.

Well, except for when I gave birth, but that's a subject for another blog.

My boy got a call the moment I'd survived the ordeal, and had finished using the rest room, just so I could brag. It was actually the second call I'd made to a son that day, and we'd end up calling all of them before the end of that very same hour.

It's funny. When we were alone, the communication was productive and the romance was optimal. As much as we were enjoying ourselves, though, there was still something missing.

When we got home, and all the kids were in the kitchen, I started making eggs. Three kids, one girlfriend, and Jeff and I all vied for one another's attention, talking at once and running into each other in the small area. Above all the hubbub, that's when it hit me. We'd loved the vacation, but we'd missed our special family chaos.

Now THAT's scary.

Friday, August 21, 2009

Redefining Vacations

Today, Jeff and I will be traveling to Hamilton, Ontario for a romantic weekend away from it all--the laundry, the housework, and even our beloved kids. For two nights and 2.5 days, we'll try having conversations about anything but the usual concerns. Easier said than done.

It's been challenging to carve out the time for a getaway, but even more difficult to break our pattern of planning for vacations. In the past, we might have agreed together on a destination, but then, I'd leave the rest of the plans up to him.

Jeff's a math teacher, I'd reason. He's logical, he's thrifty, and after all these years of being in charge of all the details of our vacationing, he's experienced.

He was also pretty burdened, I've learned. Being the task master of our respites left him exhausted; the poor guy could have used his own vacation when it was all over, whether we were with the kids or not.

Meanwhile, I graded the entire experience. Had he chosen a clean, well-kept hotel? I'd be the judge of that--and march right into the bathroom upon entering, checking the place out for stray hair and black mold. Was the restaurant really as good as he thought it would be? I'd be the judge of that, too--and I'd let him know.

Convicted of such selfishness, I suggested we plan this trip together. I think he was happy about it. Well...confused, but happy.

Because it was a last minute decision, it took quite a bit of time to find a hotel with a vacancy. The couple we used to be would have given up, decided to forgo the idea, and sulked at home.

Ah yes...so many, many games we played.

Reconstructing us, however, involves working things through as a team, no matter how long it takes. We proceeded with prayer and determination, convinced that we really did need this time away. Working side by side at the kitchen table, on two laptops, we found our hotel after four hours.

Yep, four hours. We were admittedly less than happy to have spent so long on the project, but when it was over, we were thrilled.

In my next entry, I'll tell you about the activities--and the relaxation--we've worked into our weekend, and how different such a schedule looks from how we would have driven one another crazy in the past. Jeff and I are redefining vacations.

Thursday, August 20, 2009

It's In The Dailiness

When Jeff and I renewed our vows last year, after twenty years of marriage, we both knew what the ceremony meant.

It wasn't about celebrating the past. There's a lot to look back on and smile about, but there's also been times in those twenty years that neither one of us would want to relive, ever.

We weren't thinking about the future, either. Don't get me wrong; Jeff and I are committed to living out our days on earth together, for "as long as we both shall live."

We renewed our vows without a great deal of hindsight or forethought. Instead, the meaning of "to have and to hold from this day forward" during our renewal ceremony really centered around two words: this day.

We've learned we need to live, and to love, this day. Today. From the moment we wake up until we lie back down again, we're the only spouses in the entire world for each other. Daily attention to that fact has changed our marriage.

This blog will be a diary of what those changes look like. Sometimes the work is hard, and the process hurts. Other times it's fun, or beautiful, or both. When the day ends, we both agree; no matter what changes we've made, whether in attitude or action, it has always been worthwhile.

Though this change has come in the dailiness of our lives, it is never mundane. The journey is exciting. We're reconstructing us.