Friday, November 14, 2014

soap bubbles

The work of writing is much like the work of hand washing dishes. 

It is much easier to do your dishes in a dishwasher because you can go watch television or paint your fingernails while your dishes are magically sterilized, just like it is much easier to watch television or paint your fingernails than to sit down and write. 

But when you distance yourself from the process of hand washing dishes there are two things you miss. The first is, you miss those magnificently smelly soft Dawn hands that they publicize in magazines and on commercials. 

The second thing you miss is the magic of soap bubbles. 

I don’t mean one soap bubble, or even the suds on your hands that sometimes pass for soap bubbles. I mean dozens of tiny little irridescent orbs floating and flirting above your head when you are really going after a dish. A dish that has something stubborn like scrambled eggs or melted cheddar caked onto it. 

And then you look up and see them dancing overhead- all pinks and blues and yellows- soft and floating and glorious. There are no soap bubbles from dishwashers because they have concentrated gel packs and do all the dirty work where it is tucked away and invisible to you. Convenient. Sterile. 

This is like writing. When you are toiling away in the crusty tedium of the hard work of writing, every now and again you get to look up and see that something beautiful and ethereal has happened while you were toiling and that you, inadvertently, were responsible for it. That is why I hand wash dishes and that is why I write. 

I also hand wash dishes because we don’t have a dishwasher. 

Right, not the point.  

This applies to everything that requires consistent, intentional work- song writing, painting, raising a family, woodworking, dental hygiene. There is an incredible pay off for all of these things if you immerse yourself in them, giving your best creative efforts to whatever you’re doing. If you don’t let someone else raise your kids for you, if you don’t succumb to using when the lyrics don’t come, if you hand sand that pesky board, even if you floss your own teeth routinely- gotta celebrate the small things too, y'all- you may find that all that time you have been building yourself a lovable, purposeful life. 

And remember, when it gets hard, to keep your head up for the soap bubbles. 

That said, and in honor of NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month) (Which I am ironically not participating in)(oops) 

Write. Maybe start here. 

       1. What was one of the happiest moments of this year? One of the hardest? How do you see that they've      strengthened your character? Are they related at all? 

       2. Take a few minutes to make a list of the things you're most thankful for. After you've made your list, pull one or two and write about them in more detail. What time of year was it at this experience, what were the smells around you, who was there, why was it special? 

      3. There is an old man, a woman with a baby, a blind teenager, a businesswoman and a barista at a coffee shop in the afternoon. And there's a tornado coming. What happens? What's the dialogue? (cred. goes to my creative writing teacher, Charlotte on this one.) 

Friday, November 7, 2014

Reflections on a Year (and Six Tips for Newlyweds!)

    Last week, Robin and I celebrated our 1-year wedding anniversary. 

     I know, I can’t believe it either. 

     To celebrate, we went to the bed and breakfast we stayed at right after our wedding, sat in the same love seat we sat in exactly one year ago- still in our wedding clothes, still shell shocked, at the time- and watched the video of the ceremony. One whole year ago we said our vows, worshipped with some of our very favorite people, washed each others feet, fed each other my grandma’s carrot cake. It felt like time travel being there again, we’ve changed so much over the course of a year. 

     I felt like I could give so much advice to the girl who stayed at that bed and breakfast with her brand spanky new husband one year ago. Then I realized that that’s really only an epic thing to say if you’re like, “I could say so much to that young bride fifty years ago,” but patience is not my strong suit so I’m telling her things now. 

     We talked about some “reflections on a year” at my favorite restaurant over cheesy, cheesy pasta and asparagus salad, and here were some of our findings:
     Introvert? or Extravert? 
    This actually mattered a lot for us. Robin is an extravert to a T. He is energized by being around people, even crowds of people, and he’s really at ease talking to people he doesn’t know. 
    I am an introvert, or a “functional extravert.” I like being around smaller groups of people, one-on-one over coffee is actually my preference. (Which explains why I skipped prom for Shady Grove’s hippie sandwich and a tie dye party with my best friend in my parents’ garage.) I like people a lot, I am just more energized by a quiet afternoon of cooking and reading. Our wedding, for instance. I was ready to leave at 9:00, because talking to a lot of people makes me tired. I think Robin could have stayed a lot longer, as I kept nudging him, “Now?” “No, not yet.” “Now??” 
     Once we knew how each other functioned, we were able to honor that better. If I knew he was stressed, I’d suggest that he have some friends over or maybe that we go out for dinner. If he knew I’d had a long day at the office, he’d clear our schedule so I could stay home and read. It communicates a lot of love when we honor each other in this way. 
     Discuss your Roles in the Home. 
This doesn’t have to be the traditional gender roles of “woman stays home and cleans, man is the breadwinner,” but it is important to be clear what you are expecting. Before we got married Robin and I actually sat down and made a list of some basic expectations. We share a lot of the responsibilities, like dishes and laundry, but he specifically mows the grass and I specifically water the garden. If we didn’t vocally establish who does what, our front yard would look like one of those hay fields in horror movies and our herbs would be stone dead. 
     Call it a Draw 
  Compromise seems like an obvious, simple thing, but it’s so not. In our home, it looks like, ideally, trying to get half my way and half his way, and that’s basically how we approach it. How can I give you as much of your way as possible, but still get some of my way too? It may seem like a more admirable thing to do to just concede and sacrifice every time, but that really doesn’t work- it builds resentment if the same person is sacrificing every time. So call it a draw sometimes, try to get half your way and half your partners way, but if that doesn’t work, both of you will need to be willing to sacrifice every now and then. 

     Talk about Feelings 
I know, I know. Cheesy. But one of our most-used slogans is “Let’s talk about feelings.”  Seriously. Because with men you have to be really explicit. It took some prying initially, but now if I ask if Robin has any feelings he needs to talk about, he will usually give me some insight into what he is feeling, that way I don’t keep trying to help him in the wrong way. Sometimes I’ll think he’s mad at me or frustrated and it turns out he’s just tired. If I didn’t know that I’d keep asking “what’s wrong” and he’d get tired telling me and then actually get mad. See? Talk about feelings. 

    Seek Wise Counsel. 
We’ve been fortunate to have a few really wise married couples in our lives, some just a little further along in the journey, and some several years into it. It helps to have those people to talk to and ask, ‘what did you do when you first had to discuss how to spend the holidays?’ or ‘she’s not really doing much around the house, what do I do?’ Because odds are, they’ve encountered that before, and you can spare yourself a lot of conflict and embarrassment *speaking from experience* if you’re humble enough to ask. 

    (And MOST importantly) Pray Together 

Praying together and making sure you’re aligned with Jesus is one of the best ways to make sure you’re aligned with your partner. For years my parents always told me that they prayed for like-mindedness and God gave it. And now we absolutely pray the same thing. When making decisions, we pray that God will confirm it in both of our hearts if it is the right thing to do. 

*optional: I prepped for marriage the same way I prep for anything, I read about it. Here are a few books that really helped prepare us for marriage- 
“The Meaning of Marriage” by Timothy Keller
“Sacred Marriage” by Gary Thomas
“Things I Wish I’d Known Before We Got Married” by Gary Chapman
“Love and Respect” by Emerson Eggerichs.