Waiting For Death

So about a week and a half ago, I got a phone call out of the blue that my great-aunt had died. It was completely unexpected and we were all in shock. I feel blessed to be able to say that I was actually sad and felt the loss of my great-aunt. I have 4, and we are all close. I don’t think many people can say that. Saturday was the service, Tim and I packed up our Tribe and headed to Tucson to join the rest of my family. As I sat through the service, we heard from many family members about the life and impact of my Aunt Marilee. It was so beautiful. The whole family then made pilgrimage to her favorite steakhouse, “Lil’ Abner’s Steakhouse” in Marana, where we continued talking about her: swapping stories, tears, and belly laughs.

For better or for worse (but usually for better) my family is very close. Sometimes it’s a fine line between close and invasive, but usually we all get on well together, and as our matriarchs have said in so many words over the years, “We are Crawfords, and we sing.” And that we do. One of our traditions is to “sing Grace” instead of “say Grace” before a meal. We gather and someone starts us off in The Doxology. We always begin the first line, “Praise God from whom all blessings flow,” in unison. Then by the next line, “Praise him all creatures here below,” we have broken off into 6 part harmony. I don’t say this lightly, we sound incredible. I will have to record this sometime for you to hear. By the time we reach the end, “Amen.” half of us are beaming through tears as we all look around at each other. Someone always says, “Now THAT was GOOD!” and then we eat.

At some point during the evening, one of my cousins, Susie- whose mother was my Aunt Marilee, and I were having a conversation, when she made a wonderful point- “How come we don’t do this when the person is still alive? Why do we have to wait until their gone to gather and share and remember?” It’s tradition, I suppose. But she made an excellent point.

We have to start doing this more, to affirm and cherish those we love, before they have moved on. I always like to think that those who have passed can still hear and watch over us. I always wonder how surprised they are at the funeral hearing all the nice things people never said about them while they were still alive. Why does it take waiting until someone is on their very last breath, or until they’ve passed, to say these things? We should be saying them now. I am guilty of this just as much as anyone else. I never told my Aunt all the things I admired about her. I hope she felt as loved and appreciated as she was.

So then, why don’t we actually just come out and say these things? I think it’s because it requires a certain vulnerability on our part, we may cry, we are afraid of looking silly. I think another reason is because we often spend way more time looking at all the positive attributes of a person after they die. While they’re alive, we spend more time looking for ways to criticize them. That would be cruel to do after they die, so we do the opposite. But what if we left out the criticism all together and only looked at their strengths while they were still with us. What if reflections of other people wasn’t saved for the funeral. Can you imagine the life we would breathe into our marriages? If instead of saying things like, “Why can’t you just pick up your dirty underwear and put it IN the basket?” or “Well, you never have the laundry done on time anyway.” What if instead we found ways to affirm them even when we were frustrated.

Child psychologists have found that positive reinforcement carries more weight than does negative, when you’re trying to raise them. Focusing on what they ARE doing right, instead of where they mess up. But why confine this to our parenting? Aren’t we all children at heart? Don’t we all still need and crave affirmation and love? Whether we want to admit it or not, we do. If we are going to love our spouse unconditionally, it’s going to be a much smoother road when you’re able to shift your focus from everything that is wrong with your person, to all that is right.

-ASH

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MARRIED with kids...

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First of all, No- we are not currently pregnant, this is an ultrasound photo from our first pregnancy, the day we found our our oldest had boy parts. That was a surreal day. But more on that another time. Today, I wanted to share a little bit with you about being “Married with Kids.”

A little backstory- here was our plan… Get married, wait 5 years, have 2 maybe 3 kids, be perfect parents. You’re laughing inside, aren’t you? That’s fine, I’m laughing too. We plan, God laughs, right? Well, that WAS our plan, here’s what actually happened… Get married, get pregnant 5 weeks later (while on the pill), have 4 kids, be okay parents (we are doing our best, but are nowhere near perfect.)

So these two crazies got married and had to get a babysitter for their first anniversary. I don’t recommend this plan. But there we were.

We hadn’t even gotten used to each other yet, and here was this little human we suddenly had to make space for. I’m going to skip a LOT of time here and say, we didn’t really understand the absolute necessity of putting each other first every time, until we were probably about 8 years in. By that time, we had 3 kids and were trying for a 4th. Our lives revolved around breakfasts, snacks, Daniel Tiger, zoo trips, changing diapers, cleaning up all manner of human bodily fluids, scraping boogers off the wall, and collapsing into bed at the end of the day exhausted and not even sure we wanted to be there sometimes. Sure, we managed a date night once in awhile, but neither of us were living mindfully, and we certainly weren’t living mindful of the other person. I think Tim would agree with me when I say we eventually devolved into roommates who had good sex. We were basically in survival mode. And you know what? That happens. It happened to us, we know it happens to a lot of couples, because let’s face it- our kids often tend to demand more than our spouse does, and so naturally, we put the kids at the very top of the priority list.

But here’s the thing...the kids should not come first. Your person, your partner, should come first. Now before the mommy bloggers come after me with torches and pitchforks, let me explain why.

 
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I called up my mom, since she and my dad have weathered a nearly 30 year marriage and are still happily married with their parenting days behind them. In her words, you need to put your partner first, “Because you’ll have them longer!” She went on to say that parenting  goes so fast, and one day it’s behind you, you’re at your youngest daughter’s wedding dancing, and realizing- you’ve made it. You fought the good fight. You want to arrive at the end of your parenting journey hand-in-hand with your spouse and onto the next adventure.

This rings so true, I can’t even tell you the number of divorces I’ve seen after the kids leave home, because these two people who made this family have nothing in common anymore. I asked her, “Okay, so what would you say to our readers about why, if parenting is such a brief period of time in your marriage, why can’t you put the kids first while they are at home, and then work on your marriage and devote your time to that once they leave?” Her answer was that marriage just doesn’t work that way. She says that had she and Dad not worked on their marriage actively, there wouldn’t have been anything there to go on with once all us kids were grown.

Marriage is an investment. An expensive one, but one that is well worth the blood, sweat and tears. Tim and I are still in the thick of the parenting stage, so how do we invest in our marriage now?

We go on dates. We go on weekend away trips at least once per year. We talk about things. We text each other through the day. We’ve learned to be active listeners and to be humble when confronted. We laugh together, we cry together. We also dream, and make plans and goals together.

This sounds so much simpler than it actually is. Finding time and money to do these things is difficult, but however you’re able to carve out that space to put each other first, that has to happen if you’re going to have a chance at a long and happy marriage.

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You have to look at your marriage like a business, in a sense. Not just something that happens to you. You wouldn’t start a business without first making a business plan. If you fail to plan, you can plan to fail. Sitting down with your spouse, making a plan, setting goals and talking through your priorities enables you both to be on the same page. These goals and priorities can of course be fluid and flexible as life happens, but the one thing that should always be at the top of the priority list? Your marriage.

Not just for you, but for your kids as well. Showing your kids an example of a functional and happy partnership between you and your spouse not only gives them hope for their own marriages should they choose that one day, but it gives them the comfort and security kids crave from a peaceful home.


Avoiding Tension on Vacation

“You’re taking 4 kids to Disney World?? Wow, you’re brave.”

We heard this no less than 27 times before we left on our trip in January of this year. Mostly, we were excited for this trip, but having heard that so many times it was starting to get to us. Tim's parents would be coming with us on this trip and we were excited for the extra company, extra set of eyes, and extra time that we would get to spend with them. Plus, they volunteered to take the kids for one night while we were there so that Tim and I could have a date night at the park. We would be gone a whole week, from Saturday to Saturday, and well that didn't feel like a long time, over the years, Tim and I have noticed that when we don't take time to stay connected even during vacations, we get grumpy and snippy and impatient with each other. We both set intentions before we left, that we wanted to relax and just have fun on the trip.

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The first part of our trip, we spent a few days with my Aunt and Uncle at the beach. It was so nice to relax there and watch them love on our kids. “The walls are soundproof, just so you know…” my uncle had said to us one night before we headed off to our guest room. We laughed, but yeah...we passed. There’s just something about the next morning when you know what you were up to last night... and so do other people... and the eye contact, and it just gets weird. So...yeah. (We have a story about that for another time.) But we found other ways to connect. We had nice long conversations on the drive to Orlando, and found that we were doing a pretty good job of just relaxing and enjoying the moments.

Once at Disney World, each day was a whirlwind of walking, riding rides, standing in lines, getting autographs- you know how it is. Each day, we found little ways to connect with each other: holding hands, walking together while our kids meandered out in front, stealing kisses, smiling at each other, taking selfies, taking our time, and taking advantage of a locking bathroom door in our room after the kids had gone to sleep. (You gotta get it when you can, you know??)

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This may all sound incredibly cheesy, and trust me, the feeling isn’t always there. But kindness begets kindness, positivity begets more positivity. Just exchanging a smile here and there often goes a long way in keeping anxiety and tension levels in check. Find little romantic things to do even on vacation. Tim would get up before me and go down and get me a latte each morning before I got up. It was a small thing, and obviously he was there getting himself coffee too, but I saw that little gesture as his way of saying, “I’m thinking about you.” When you’re looking for those little things, you’ll see them.

Staying connected just in everyday life is hard enough, staying connected while on vacation often falls to the bottom of the priority list because we often have so much else going on. Keep it at the top of your list, and notice how much easier and joyful your vacations become. That was our best and favorite family vacation so far, and we didn’t come home feeling like we needed a vacation from our vacation.

-Ash

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