I married a kind man and other musings on a 20 year relationship

As I mentioned in my “Love Story” Facebook posts a few months back, Ritchie and I went on our first date Valentines Day 1997 which means that we’ve spent the last 20 years cultivating our relationship.   As I look back and reflect on how those two sweet teenagers made their way from that first spark of giddy infatuation to more steady and enduring love, I am reminded of how small consistent decisions have far-reaching consequences.  Here are a few decisions we make that I am so very grateful for…

-Greet with a hug and a kiss.  I watched my parents do this and so it seemed natural to welcome Ritchie home at the end of the day with this small ritual.  When it was just the two of us I would stop whatever I was doing when he got home and meet him at the door.  Now I am usually outpaced by Jessica and Cassie but almost everyday we all express our gratitude for Daddy’s arrival home.

-Fight fair.  Early when we were married I drove Ritchie nuts as I played both referee and combatant in our verbal tiffs.  With my Family Science degree I was armed with communication recommendations (many of which I am still working at :)) and I would stop us in the middle of an argument to insist that we not use words like “always” or “never” or to patiently request a specific example when I felt I was unjustly accused of something. 20 years later that looks like clear and calm communication most of the time.

-Commit to creating something unique.  The relationship we have is unlike any other we have had or ever will have and it is different from any other marriage we know about.  As long as we both keep choosing to make it a priority it will grow and deepen.  We each bring our own gifts and in this shared space of our relationship we seek ways to let those gifts flourish as we develop as individuals, as a couple and now as a family.  As two different individuals seeking to grow, learn and make it through life we sometimes stumble and we each have a birds eye view of the others shortcomings.  In those moments we have the opportunity to extend patience, understanding and love and to witness the distinct beauty that comes from intimate kindness.

-Smile at each other.  As often as we can.  In the unexpected moments, the ones those two teens never could have dreamed of, from the hours of anxious anticipation in IVF clinics to the breathtaking views from mountain jungles sometimes there aren’t words to convey the emotion or the gratitude we’re feeling.  In those moments, with a simple smile I’m saying thank you for the gift of your loyal and incredible soul at my side along this path of life.  I think Ritchie’s smile is saying the same thing that gangly and goofy 17 year old said “Wow.”

Happy Valentines Day.

What is Family Council? (Agenda attached)

Coordinate & Cooperate @ Family Council(1)

Family council is a quick weekly meeting with everyone in the household.  It’s best to have it regularly but even if you just do it once a month your family will learn to communicate, coordinate and cooperate with more ease.  The most basic meeting would include a schedule review and a discussion of individual/family needs.  As you practice meeting together you might find that you’d like to incorporate some other topics into the practice. I recommend starting small and firming up the habit before adding more items to the agenda.  Just practice being together, talking openly and being as patient with each other as you can. This week’s agenda will help you have a well-rounded meeting in just a few minutes.  Holding the space for family council each week breathes life into the home and gives the family and its members room to heal, grow, and become a strong team.

Bodies can heal

I have been off my synthroid medication for 8 months. I had my 6 month follow up in February and my antibodies were the lowest they’ve ever been, my thyroid hormones were were great.  I’m telling you this to give you hope because bodies can heal.  I have been told (repeatedly) by all manner of individuals that this doesn’t happen.  I have been told by a small handful that it can.  Anything is possible.

I remember sitting on the living room floor with Ritchie 2 years ago.  I’d just been to the doctor where they suspected I had celiac disease.  I was devastated because autoimmunity can be a slide and once you have one disease it’s easy to start collecting disorders until eventually your body is just mired in dysfunction.  I sat there feeling so disheartened at the prospect of that and also humble.  Like, well, if this is what God wants I will accept it.  But, like many of you, I had other plans!  Mainly living with and loving my family having adventures, using my gifts and skills to help other people grow.  These last few years have been an interesting adventure in cultivating a deeper understanding of the interesting tapestry that is woven from personal choice and God’s will.  Sitting on the floor in tears, I didn’t feel like I had filled the measure of my creation, there was more for me to do.  And not in a self-aggrandizement kind of way, just in a mothering-give-back-to-humanity kind of way.  So I asked God to help me figure out a way to do that, to fill the measure of my creation.   I remember praying to be healed and then over time I changed my prayers to ask for the gift of healing.  Instead of relying on something external to change my circumstance, the gift of healing meant asking God to teach me about this beautiful creation of his (the body) and to help me understand it and how to work with it’s natural tendency to heal.  I think sometimes we think of the gift of healing as something we have and use for other people but in my experience asking for the gift of healing to heal myself has been a different kind of prayer leading to a beautiful journey.  Like any artist, I have found my Heavenly Father to be more than willing to share the intricacies of His creations  with me.  Tune into your inherent strength & divinity, be brave enough to seek it and see what happens!

With love,

Lindsay 2.0

Family Council Agenda 4.24.16

Family Council helps you team up(2)Here’s an easy agenda for family council tomorrow.  This week I’ve been thinking a lot about how open communication in family council allows us to pool our strengths and help each other.  We had our daughter’s birthday party this week and I’m usually great at coming up with ideas but then sometimes I have trouble with the more practical aspects of implementation and I end up running around like crazy trying to get details together.  Ritchie prepares for life by identifying details and prioritizing them.  As we’ve discussed this party at family council over the past few months, I was able to:

1) think ahead & plan ahead

2) incorporate both Ritchie and Jessica’s suggestions.  I find that when they make suggestions they are usually pretty creative and if I’m open-minded I am able to utilize their strengths which balance and augment some of my enduring vulnerabilities.  The end result was a more enjoyable day for all of us and an activity where everyone had some input.  Nice!  Yet another benefit to sitting down with the family and planning out our life together once  week.

Family Council Quick Start Agenda & Notes

When beginning a new habit it’s important to start small, be consistent and build some incentive into it.  This Family Council Quick Start Agenda covers the basics and allows you to easily begin your first family council meeting this week. Use this agenda until meeting together weekly is an established routine (at least 1 month).

To your spouse you can say “Hey babe, I’d really love your feedback and input on some family stuff and I’d like to have a brief family council meeting.  I’ll take care of the agenda.”  People rarely say no when you ask for their opinion.

To your kids you can say “Hey guys, I want to know what’s going on with you, we’re going to have a quick team meeting after dinner on Sunday.” You may get grumbling but you can smile and offer to let them choose the game.

Expect to hear “How long is this going to take?” from all parties.  Smile and respond with “Not long, and it’ll be fun.”

Print 1 Family Council Quick Start Agenda copy for each member of the family and provide each person with a colorful pen which makes their random doodling all over your painstakingly-prepared agenda look especially nice.  Feel free to review the agenda with notes but if your family sees that many words on a page at your first meeting they may run for cover so tuck it under your copy of the Quick Start Agenda and refer to it as needed.  Start with the gratitude and make sure each person receives some because that sets a tone of love and appreciation for the whole meeting.  Ending with a game leaves everyone feeling like there was at least something fun that came out of it.

In our house my role is to manage our growth and experiences so I create the family council agenda each week.  In the coming weeks I’ll share ideas on how to evolve your agenda as your family acclimates and embraces the meeting.  So much of it is in the presentation and like Ritchie said, when the agenda shows up, we have family council.

Good luck!

Lindsay 2.0

p.s. I welcome your feedback and I’d love to hear how it goes for you!

Family Council in Ritchie’s Words

“I don’t blog nor do I write (heck I can hardly read for that matter) so consider this important.  Our family has been working on getting back to it’s A game for a little while now, and I think we are about there (minus the regular daily issues we call life).  About 8-10 months ago my brilliant wife decided that it was time that we follow the counsel given to us by the leaders of our church and not only have our regular FHE on Mondays (Family Home Evening, which consists of a song, prayer, spiritual thought, some scripture reading, a game, and my personal favorite, a treat), but now we had to have Family Council on Sunday nights.  So I went along with it as any decent husband would, I wasn’t too excited about it to be honest, and I thought well maybe it will go away if I do it a few times.   But the agendas keep coming and we keep having it.  Even though everything else she seems to suggest improves our lives this one didn’t include an increased consumption of bacon like her change in our eating habits so I wasn’t as excited.   It has been over 21 days so now I think it would be considered a habit.

Basically a Family Council is now the life blood of our family.  We go over the details for the upcoming week for the whole family and then figure out if we have any conflicts and if we do we make an adjustment and go from there.   This is a great opportunity for me as a dad to be involved in the everyday lives of my girls.  Before we started this I use to roughly know the ins and outs of what was going on but because 10-12 of my waking hours are spent at that place called work I was in the dark a lot or I missed important milestones in their lives that had I known about them I could’ve adjusted my schedule around and been more apart of their lives.  Well now with Family Council I can be and am.  I don’t miss as much of the important things in life anymore.

Not only do we schedule but we plan for the future, we make travel goals, talk about ways our family can help others, go over self-help tips, go over credit card bills, list car and home debt, teach Jess life basics like our phone number etc.  Family Council has made a big impact on our family and the weeks it doesn’t happen sure are rough.  It is a great way to have us all be accountable for ourselves and each others needs.  Give it a try for a month, start out simple and then get more depth.  We always have a treat and play a game, or if you are lucky and we forget to close our curtains you might catch us in one of our famous dance parties instead of a game.   Who says tall people have no coordination, whoever it was was right……

Check out Elder M Russell Ballard’s an Apostle’s talk about all the ways Family Council can help you.”

Ritchie

 

 

 

Space for Grief: Intangibles

Initially I balked at the idea of grieving. Remember we’re talking about infertility here and RJ and I had apparently ordered up the complicated barren variety.   Having witnessed the losses of beautiful lives, both before and after birth, it felt wrong to grieve something that was only an idea.  Those losses that I’d seen were so painfully legitimate; there was someone there and then he/she was gone.  It felt selfish to claim a nebulous feeling of loss in the face of such awful longing.   My inclination was to say “Yes, I am hurting, but I’m not hurting that much.”  Or,  “Losing nothing isn’t even worth mentioning in the face of losing a life that had barely begun.”  But loss there was and as I sat on that familiar therapist’s couch and set out to increase my self-awareness, a veritable cavern of intangible losses opened wide to greet me.

Perhaps the discriminating discomfort of grief relegates her to last-resort status on the emotional awareness menu, but because grief has found a permanent place in my soul, I’m learning to read her cues and speak her language.  She has become a surprisingly valued ally in my journey through life.  Grief’s teachings, far from welcomed, eventually forced a certain self-awareness that opened the door to light and insight.  As I first made her acquaintance, I realized that my grief was different and unique to me, which is something that could be said of all of us. Once I claimed sadness as my own and made grief my companion, I realized there was ever so much relating that could be done.  In terms of children, I was shedding tears about an unknown quantity alongside dear friends who missed their babes with a different kind of knowing. I think the most poignant tears were (and sometimes are) shed over a life turning out vastly different than what was expected.  I grieved a loss of control, feeling helpless in a situation that affected so many facets of my life.  There was relational loss, the inability to take on a role I’d always relished.  Marital naivete was yanked out from under us and after only a few short years together, our abilities to relate and cope would be refined in intimidating fires.  As I endured the pain of grief, I eventually developed a vocabulary to talk about it in ways that respectfully connected me to the grief of others and helped me realize how universal many of those aforementioned losses are.

As RJ and I slogged through the icy, isolating waters of our infertility, we met some specific losses that we learned to claim as our own; the possibility that we may never know each other as a father and mother, the loss of social connection as years went by and babies were born to others, but never to us.  It is hard to know that you don’t understand how most of the world operates.  It’s hard not to be able to relate to your sisters and brothers and friends and cousins as they plan families and immerse themselves in the business of creating and cultivating children.  It’s hard to admit that opening a baby shower invitation is akin to getting the wind knocked out of you.  It’s hard to feel jealous and angry and anxious when you want to feel excited and happy and peaceful.  It can be a lonely, all-encompassing and very misunderstood place.

The Need for Boundaries: Tougher examples

I’m afraid by using recent examples, I may have glided past the giant awkwardness of my first 5 years of trying to navigate boundaries.  The dinner example was from 6 months ago, after years of ample practice with this revised version of marital give and take.   If I had offered you an example from even 3 years ago,  it could’ve included another night at the dinner table with a heated discussion about book club, accusations flying and me eventually storming away from the table, tears streaming down my face,  my bare feet agitatedly carrying me down the street to the stop sign where I wallowed in my resentment & frustration with my spouse’s seeming lack of understanding and disappointment in my own ability to be patient.  We still remember that day every time we notice the dent I put in the door frame when I slammed the door with strength I didn’t know I had.  Rest assured this new understanding we’re building over here is coming with some good old-fashioned time and hours of sometimes patient communication.

Here are a few more examples:

Last week we had just returned from a trip out of town and then my little one was sick so at the end of the week I had two days to work through mountains of laundry, put our house back together, and handle numerous other neglected responsibilities before the business of this week hit.   I happened to have a PTC meeting the next morning where we would be wrapping some items for our upcoming event.  Fighting every urge in me to show up, be “responsible” and “supportive” and then handle my resentment later (emotional credit card balance), I emailed the leader of the project and told her that in lieu of attending the work meeting, I was going to spend the time working on my assignment at home and I gave her a report on my status.

For me, having boundaries means letting people down sometimes and I really don’t like doing that.  But when I do, it’s a lot like acknowledging that I have a credit limit and the discomfort of my honesty helps me to assess my commitments and be more realistic about what I agree to handle.  I may have disappointed her and the few others there by adding to their workload but I also know my family experienced a bit more patience from me last week because I managed a limit.   It seems like maybe conflicting feelings are an uncomfortable and necessary part of boundaries.

Example shared with permission from all parties:  Several years ago, RJ and I were both filling leadership roles in our church.  Our congregation operates entirely based on volunteer efforts so people offer extraordinary amounts of time in order for us to enjoy the religious culture that we love.   We found ourselves in an annual family meeting with the leader of our congregation and we ended up talking about the assignments our family was handling.  We explained that our life felt full of a lot of good and important things and that our little family was struggling.  In addition to our church efforts, we were  offering support to our family and friends and we were both trying to soak up the novel babyhood we were experiencing.  We pointed out that we may be 30ish but we were/are rookie parents and we were loving the chance to really focus on learning how to work together to help our little girl grow.  We asked him to consider this information and the assignments we had and we were hopeful that some kind of change would be made for one of us.  I felt real apprehension and shame and embarrassment before and after the exchange because I didn’t think I would ever ask for something like that.   I had questioned myself for months about the validity of my feelings.  I believe Heaven can and does make up the difference.  People far busier than myself offer far more time, etc, etc.  But ultimately I had to come to terms (again) with the the reality of the situation and if verbalizing that reality meant that I was less faithful or less charitable than I thought I was then I just had to humbly accept that and work honestly from there.  At the same time, the pace had stopped feeling needful to us and as I prayed I didn’t feel discouraged from opening up a dialogue.

Because we were responsible folks who were apparently doing a fabulous job of looking put-together, our bishop (the leader of our congregation) was surprised to hear that we were having a hard time.  Thankfully, he was very gracious with the honest information we offered him and RJ’s assignment was changed shortly after that.  With time, it just is what it is but in the limbo phase just afterwards, I was torn between relief and guilt.   I couldn’t get over feeling like we had maybe let our bishop,  or all the people we worship with or maybe even Heavenly Father down.  That was a hard place to be.  (Incidentally, seeking his permission to use this example freed me from some of that self-inflicted guilt).  This man has always been a supportive and loving figure for our family and he could appreciate and champion our perspective once he knew what it was.  I was really, really grateful that he responded with such compassion.

It would’ve been easy to wrap this one up by saying it was Heavenly Father’s will that we change or that it was the right time.  Honestly, it just felt like a choice.  Ultimately, all service is right?  So I owned a choice and owned the consequences.  In hindsight, I realized a lot of healing was happening for 2 broken hearts in this house but it’s only with distance that I’ve been graced with that understanding.  I imagine I would’ve found goodness in continuing as well.  At the time, all it was was uncomfortable.

With love,

Lindsay

The Need for Boundaries: Examples

RJ was sitting at the kitchen table when I explained to him that I needed to start saying “No” more.  He was rightfully concerned that our life may have to adjust a bit to accommodate my boundary education.  So far, his willingness to embrace my desire to grow has yielded a more authentic and forgiving wife so it’s worth it.  I think.  Except maybe when it comes to dinners.  Here’s the first example:

After being stuck in a meal rut, I attempted several new recipes in a row, a few of which were kind of a disaster.  RJ, who enjoys a close relationship with his taste buds, mentioned that he would prefer 2 or 3 new meals a week, spread out and accompanied by several old standbys.  I started to feel really frustrated, resentful and trapped by his lack of adventure until I realized he was simply stating his perspective and I had never actually told him why I was trying to add to our dinner repertoire.  The conversation went something like this:

Lindsay: Even tone, fighting the urge to sound defensive: “I really enjoy eating dinner together as a family.  I know it’s important to both of us and I appreciate all the things you do to help prepare and clean up after dinner.  I work hard to plan our meals and prepare them and I’m happy to do it.  Sometimes it gets really boring to make the same meals again and again and I need to spice things up a bit.  It helps me feel excited about planning and making dinner if I can be creative and try new things.  I know sometimes this means we end up with a dicey meal but I’m learning.”

His reaction: “Oh, ok.”  I cannot overstate my gratitude at my spouse’s level of understanding.  This conversation opened up a dialogue about what stresses me out about making dinner and he is more than happy to offer menu ideas (which I really appreciate) and he has since made an effort to be even more helpful when it comes to meals.

Here’s one more example.  Rest assured that I will feel completely awkward the next time I tell you no.   And I’m trying to be brave but we’re operating on the edges of my comfort zone.  As you will see, I don’t employ all of the ideas every time, it just depends on the situation…

A friend called to ask me if I would be willing to teach a gardening class to a group of women next month.  She openly acknowledged that I may not be able to and if that was the case, asked if I had any recommendations.
I called her back and left a message telling her we’re about to get a puppy so I’m not adding much more to my April calendar.  I offered her the handouts from the last time I taught the class (respecting her need and request) and told her how good it was to hear her voice (love you friend) and I gave her the names of several contacts who may be able to help.  I have always appreciated her down-to-earth approach to service.

I wanted to say yes.  I almost always want to say yes.  As I thought through my response to her, these were some of the questions I asked myself:

If I say yes to this request, how much time will it realistically take?  (I pretty consistently underestimate here, even if I ask.  I don’t take into account prep time, travel time, social time, the time it takes me to get out the door, you name it.)

What will I be giving up so that I have the time?  I like to think that I have more time than the actual 24 hours that are regularly allotted to me.  Oftentimes I say yes, assuming that a few extra hours will magically appear.  Remember “I can fit this in…”  Sometimes I pray for help with managing my time but I have yet to be granted more, heaven has helped me in other ways.

And then, How would this sacrifice of time impact my priorities?  In those first years of our marriage, I would routinely attend to everyone else’s needs first, assuming that our marriage and personal needs would be taken care of on their own.  RJ patiently pointed out numerous times that I was leaving very little time for him or our home.  I figured the frantic pace I was keeping was all in the name of service so somehow our marriage and family culture would just fly on autopilot right?  (Are you beginning to see why my emotional credit card was maxed out?)  Over time, I began to realize that being intentional about my marriage and family meant managing this mortal life of mine a little better and reserving some available prime time, not just serving up whatever exhausted minutes I had leftover.  We all have unique situations and priorities but we are probably similar in our ‘out-of-balance feeling’ when important priorities get subverted for too long.

Is there anything I can offer that would take less time but would still be helpful?  In the Chester Karrass Effective Negotiating course this would represent my efforts to follow the win-win principle.  It takes some creativity but it can be fun to figure out how I might be able to help in a different way than what I’ve been asked that would still allow me to respect my priorities.

These are basic examples: a situation where I realized and defended a need and a situation where I declined a chance to help.  I am working on a few for next time that are a bit more uncomfortable.

Until then, I send my love,

Lindsay