Courage To Sit

 
Courage is what it takes to stand up and speak; courage is also what it takes to sit down and listen.
— Winston Churchill
 
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In your marriage, there are times when you ought to stand up and confront your partner and there are times you need to shut up and listen.

There are times in my marriage when I need the courage to stand and times when I need the courage to sit. Merriam-Webster defines courage as: “mental or moral strength to venture, persevere, and withstand danger, fear, or difficulty.”

I have shared in a prior blog about one of my fears, that those I love will leave me. Because of that fear, I have not always had the courage to stand up and say something to Ashley when she has hurt me or I think we need to discuss something in our marriage.   

There are also times when Ashley needs to talk to me about something and I become defensive and fail to listen. It is amazing what you can learn about your spouse if you truly listen.

Wisdom is knowing when you need to speak up and when you need to sit down. It is not always easy to know the difference; but there are a couple things you can do:

  • Talk to a friend. We cannot see our own blind spots so it is helpful to have a friend, or friends, that you can talk to. A friend that can be honest with you and tell you when you are wrong.

  • Meditate on the issue. Attempt to step back from the situation and think about it. Think about your fears, your wife’s fears, and what ultimately will benefit your marriage the most.

This skill is one that is learned by doing and failing. Over time, you can develop a better sense of when to speak and when to sit. When you fail, apologize to your partner and tell them you will try better next time, and then keep your word.

-Tim


Well That Was Embarrassing

I know it’s not Thursday, but here’s a throwback for you about our very first fight. Enjoy. It’s about as stupid as you would expect from two 18 year olds.

So we were on a trip in Florida with Tim’s family the summer after graduation. After a few days at Disney World, the plan was to pile into a minivan and drive from Orlando to Georgia where Tim’s older brother would be getting married. Disney World was (of course) magical. We held hands, laughed, and were so carefree. I look back on it as one of our favorite trips because aside from our honeymoon, it was the only trip we had been on together before we had kids. We’ve been on other trips without our kids since then, but as a parent- you still carry the responsibility even if your kids aren’t with you.

Anyway-

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Nearly 13

So when I started this blog, I was determined that it would not be a parenting blog.

But it’s harder and harder for me to write about our life without telling a few parenting stories or relaying something or other having to do with kids. Thus far, we’ve opted to keep our kids faces hidden,…that will likely change soon, but for now, you’ll have to make do with stock photos unless you know us personally. :)

As we attended our oldest kid Jadon’s very last summative (it’s a group presentation once per quarter), it didn’t hit me until it was over that that was the last one we would go to since he is moving onto Junior High in the Fall. Isn’t that always the way? As we went to Trader Joe’s to snag a few grocery items before heading home, a rush of emotions flooded me, which I promptly swallowed and logged away for a future time when ugly crying would feel more acceptable.

Since then, I feel like I’m counting down the days…

Only 6 more Christmases, only 6 more birthdays, only 6 more grades…only 6 more.

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Fighting Like Siblings

When I hear people talk about how their parents dealt with conflict in marriage, there seems to be one of two extremes. Either, the parents “never fought” or they got into all out screaming matches. Neither of these is a healthy way to address conflict in a relationship.

I have never heard, “Well, my parents would respectfully disagree with each other and modeled conflict resolution well.” Being a parent, I understand not wanting your kids to see you and your partner in conflict. For some reason, we have this idea that it will scare our kids or make them think less of the marriage relationship. But, I have heard many stories from adults who never saw their parents fight. Suddenly, when they are in a relationship and a conflict happens, the person is shocked because they thought that there were no fights in a healthy relationship.

Note: having a yelling match is also not great modeling for your children, or healthy for your relationship with your partner.

As a parent, I encourage my kids to share with their siblings when their feelings are hurt and ask their sibling not to do the thing that hurt their feelings. But, I can’t remember the last time that Ashley and I had a similar conversation in front of our kids.

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Part of the problem is that we give instructions better than we follow them ourselves. We demand that our kids respect their siblings’ feelings even if they do not understand them. Myself, on the other hand, am quick to attempt to invalid Ashley’s emotions when I feel defensive. Ashley and I can also be accusatory when we share our feelings, instead of giving the benefit of the doubt to our partner.

I realize more and more as I am writing this blog how helpful it is to think about how I instruct my kids to deal with conflict with one another and how that translates into how I should deal with conflict with my spouse, especially in front of the kids.

Ashley and I are imperfect human beings, so our conflicts are imperfect. But, to the extent we can model respect, grace, repentance, and forgiveness in conflict, the more likely our kids will have a healthy view of conflict in relationships. If I approach conflict with my spouse the way I instruct my kids to deal with conflict with one another, my relationship with Ashley will grow. The next time you have a conflict with your partner, take a step back and ask yourself, “How would I instruct my child to deal with this conflict?” You may not want to follow your own answer, but it may surprise you how helpful your response is.  

-Tim


Our Charleston Trip

Ash and her cousin, Calvin

Ash and her cousin, Calvin

For a few days in April, Ash and I got to visit Charleston together. Ashley was the “Best Ma’am,” for her cousin who was the groom. As such, one of Ashley’s responsibilities was to plan the bachelor party. Ashley asked if I could come out to Charleston with her the weekend before the wedding to keep her company and go to the bachelor party with her.

I knew Ashley would be more comfortable if I was able to be with her there. It gave me the opportunity to see some of her family that we both enjoy hanging out with. Plus, we always have fun when we are able to explore a new city together.  

The Friday we got there we were able to have dinner at a local restaurant called Fuel and then walked down on King’s Street to check out some spots for the bachelor party the following evening. We found ridiculously good ice cream at a place called Jeni’s. Interesting enough, when we came back to our local AJs we found that they sell Jeni’s ice cream!

Saturday morning I woke up early and found a local pastry and coffee shop called Wild Flour Pastry. Ever since Ashley and I’s first vacation, our honeymoon, we enjoy finding a local coffee shop where we can go and spend our mornings on vacation. Give me a coffee, a pastry, and my wife on an outdoor patio in the morning, and I am set. If that can happen, I consider the vacation a success.

At The Cocktail Club on King St.

At The Cocktail Club on King St.

After a little rough start to the bachelor party that evening, one guy pre-gamed too hard and passed out before we went to dinner, we had a fantastic time. We had appetizers at a bar with local music, had dinner at a nice Italian restaurant, ice cream again at Jeni’s, dancing at a nightclub, and finishing the night at a hip upstairs bar. Nightclub’s are not my scene, but I know that Ashley loves when I dance with her and I knew she was bummed that we were not going to be able to dance at the wedding (I had to fly home on Monday and the wedding was on Thursday). So I got outside of my comfort zone and danced with her and we had a lot of fun.

Enjoying sandwiches and coffee at Carmella’s on Bay St.

Enjoying sandwiches and coffee at Carmella’s on Bay St.

Sunday was Easter and we were able to spend the whole day together. We went to Wild Flour Pastry in the morning (again my favorite part) and got to stroll along King’s Street. We did a carriage tour around Charleston and explored some of the historic sites with her cousins and aunt and uncle.

Time on vacation with just Ashley and I is an enormous blessing. We usually end up talking about our hopes, dreams, and ideas that we have. Historically I have discounted my ideas as crazy and pushed them to the side. Ashley has been encouraging me lately to explore my ideas and not to instantly discount them. Ideas like starting a baby food jar recycling business or tinkering in customizing leather boots or working with Crossfit gyms to sell t-shirts internationally. Ashley has encouraged me to think of no idea as too big or too silly. The ability to share with her my ideas has required vulnerability, but her encouraging me and not discounting me, has made us closer.

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I encourage you to spend time on vacation doing the things you and your partner enjoy together, go outside of your comfort zone to do something you know your partner enjoys, and spend time dreaming together. In my experience, that is a good recipe for a great vacation.

-Tim


Why Do I Have To Tell You?

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Why do we always find it so romantic when our partner can “read our mind?” I think it’s because on a very basic level, we want to be known. But the honest truth is that we are human, and thus far- incapable of actually reading minds. We also tend to have a double standard when it comes to our mind reading expectations-

Me: “Why do I have to tell you? Why don’t you just know?”

But also me: “How would I even know that’s what you were thinking, Tim?? I’m not a mind reader!”

I never liked the idea that I had to tell Tim what I needed. Shouldn’t he just know? That would make life so much easier, wouldn’t it? My inner dialogue would go something like this, “I want Tim to tell me nice things about me, because I could use some encouragement right about now.”

Me: Why isn’t he noticing that I’m having a rough day?

Also me: I’m really good at just powering through, no one will even know I’m struggling.

Me: Why should I have to ask him to encourage me? Doesn’t he just naturally want to??

Also me: Maybe if I encourage him, he’ll return and then I’ll feel better.

Me: Well, now he feels great about himself and I am now not only having a rough day, but now I’m resentful.

Also me: He probably doesn’t think nice things about me if he isn’t saying anything.

Is this just me?

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I spent a lot of time chasing the “magic” in our relationship. You know, the phase where you’re just constantly affirming things, learning new things, and everything feels shiny and new and exciting. But the reality is, that is...a phase. (More on this in my next blog) The time eventually comes when it becomes imperative for you to communicate your needs to your person. So why is this so hard?

I think first off, many people are never really encouraged to express needs. Maybe they were told it was selfish to ask for things people didn’t naturally think of to give you. Maybe they were told they were unworthy of having what they wanted. Asking for things isn’t necessarily a safe bet. You’re risking what feels like a lot by putting yourself in this position of vulnerability. It’s scary. But if you want a functional relationship, you have to be brave enough to ask for it. Mind reading simply has no place in a marriage. I don’t think it ever becomes possible for your partner to consistently read your mind, but they can be observant, and make educated guesses. This requires both partners to equally be invested enough to not only communicate their needs and wishes, but to take note of the other person’s needs and wishes, so they can try for those educated guesses. Take the “magic” when it happens, but you must also be willing to settle in for the long haul and communicate.

A note for those who struggle with anxiety: Your Anxiety spends most of the time convincing you that: You’re not good enough to get what you want/need, you will be rejected if you ask, and your partner doesn’t care enough and that’s why you have to ask. Remind yourself that these are lies. Don’t allow Anxiety to call the shots. You can have a functional marriage, it is possible, and you are allowed to hope for and work for that.

-Ash


Emotions Do Not Ask For Permission

Ashley had done some hard work through counseling and processed through a lot of baggage in her life. It was now 2016, and I had graduated law school and now it was my turn. Ashley had a tough conversation with me and told me that she did not want to continue our relationship in the way it was going. She told me I needed to see a counselor and work through some stuff. There was no coercion or threats, but I knew she was right.  It is impossible to distill the 11, or so, years of marriage that led to that point in a single post. But, we both knew that for us to have a thriving relationship for the next 50+ years of our marriage, I needed to do some work on myself.

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Out of wanting to not disappoint or hurt Ashley, I tended not to speak up or let my opinion be known. I thought, “better for her to be able to do the things that she wants then for me to ask her not to,” or “better to stifle my emotions, then to express them and hurt her.” I associated emotions with weakness. So in her expressing emotions and me being calm, I was being the strong one, the person that she could depend on to be steady. I also tend to shy away from personal conflict, so I was quick to try to make peace and move on when there was conflict, instead of dealing with the real issues.

I enjoy the logical side of being human. For me, rationality seems easy, clean, simple. Emotions are difficult and messy. I was even keeled, my highs were not very high, and my lows were not low. I was okay in the gray zone of emotions. I may not have been experiencing strong positive emotions, but at least I did not feel strong negative emotions. I came to ask myself, “What if I am not experiencing life how it was intended to be?” Humans are rational creatures, but they are also emotional creatures. For my entire life, I let my rational side overpower my emotional. What was I missing by stifling the emotional side of me?

Emotions do not ask for permission. They happen regardless of whether you want them or not. Unlike rational thoughts, your body does not ask you, “Hey Tim, this happened, how would you like to respond?” Nope, something happens, and before you know it, BAM! Emotions show up and you ask yourself, “What happened? I was just sitting here.” So, you have two options: You can stifle them, or you learn how to approach them in a healthy way.

For my adult life, thus far, I chose to stifle them. Going through counseling was messy. I actually asked for a chart with the names of the different emotions on them so when I felt something I could work on identifying the emotion. Shocking, I know.

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Counseling stirred up a lot of topics for Ashley and I to talk about, which was not easy. I had to start learning a balance between sharing, but not over-sharing. Somethings are actually best left unsaid. Sometimes, expressing emotions is overly selfish because the motivation is completely self centered.
I am still learning, and will continue to learn. Fortunately, Ashley has stuck by me through the process and we have learned a lot. Emotions do not ask for permission, but you have a choice for how to approach them.

-TIM

Dam(n)

I consider myself a pretty good listener. I enjoy hearing people out, listening to them talk about their issues, and offering advice when asked. The one person it seems to be the hardest to listen to- is Tim. You see, for a long time in our marriage, he didn’t speak up whenever there was conflict. So now, when he does, I have to catch myself and really listen, instead of immediately going on the defensive and writing him off.

You know, for having feelings. Yeah, I know. I’m working on it. Here’s a little history...

When we were first married, and for quite awhile afterward, our pattern went like this…

1.) Ash acts
2.) Tim doesn’t react
3.) Ash runs amok.
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You may laugh, but simply put- that’s exactly how our life was.  As Tim mentioned in his last post, he really wasn’t present emotionally during the first years of our marriage. Which, as a fairly emotional person at the time, was a cruel shock for me. I had this boyfriend who doted on me, said all the sweet things, wrote me letters on a daily basis telling me how much he adored me…and then once we were married, that all but disappeared. He felt cold, distant and unmoved by anything I did. I would ask him to tell me how he felt, I craved words of affirmation, of adoration, but it seemed like he didn’t have much to give anymore. It was like he had built this dam to keep any and all emotions at bay. The only “upside” to that in my mind was, he basically let me have and do whatever I wanted without complaining or resisting. Yet all the while, Tim had feelings about these things that he wasn’t sharing. And his resentment was growing under the surface. Eventually, something would tip the scales and he would shut down completely. Then all of it would come tumbling out in a frustrated mess that left me shocked and angry. I remember saying things to him like, “Oh NOW you have feelings you want to share? Now you want to talk about how you feel?” I was so upset by the fact that the only emotions I seemed to be able to elicit from him were anger and sadness. When he would confront me about how he had been upset about something but hadn’t told me in the moment, I would snap at him, “If you didn’t want me to do ____ or didn’t want us to _____ YOU SHOULD HAVE SAID SOMETHING THEN! NOT WAITED A YEAR AND THEN THROW IT BACK IN MY FACE!” What I didn’t say was, “I’m feeling insecure about my life generally and you disapproving of this feels like you disapprove of me, and I don’t know how to handle that.” and “I want your input and to know your thoughts, but I’m afraid that if we have conflict- you’ll decide I wasn’t worth it and walk away.”

He would, at that point, turn off all emotional expression and simply walk away. The message I got was, “I don’t care enough to fight about this with you, come find me when you’re ready to apologize.” and “I’m taking the power in this situation by ending the conversation when I want to, without taking any responsibility for my part.” I completely missed his message which was more like, “I don’t really have the tools to communicate this effectively, and I’m worried that if I show emotion, you’ll judge me. But I’m also afraid to say ‘No’ to you, because I don’t want you to leave me.” That was at the very core. If you follow anger or frustration down to it’s core- you’ll always find fear, sadness or both.

We continued on this cycle up until Tim started counseling about 2 years ago. I felt triumphant when his counselor began encouraging him to express his emotions. HA! Hadn’t I been telling him this for years? His homework was to start telling me how he was feeling. I imagined him sitting me down and ravishing me with poetic-like statements about his endless love and admiration for me, how he couldn’t live without me, how I and only I- his perfect dove would forever be the apple of his eye.
God laughed.

And what I got instead was verbal diarrhea. It suddenly seemed like I couldn’t even move without Tim telling me it upset him, or pulling up something from our past and telling me how he really felt about it. This was not what I had hoped it would be. It was like the dam that Tim had constructed to keep back his negative emotions had been blasted to smithereens, and I was left drowning in the torrent. I remember thinking, “What have I done?” In that moment, I wished the old Tim back. The seemingly placid, easy going one who didn’t call me on my crap or express frustration and anger. I wanted so desperately to put the lid back on that Pandora’s box. It was so messy. So imperfect. After weeks of conversations every week about all the things he was working through, it all came to a head when after a counseling session, I asked what they had talked about. It was me, they had talked about how Tim felt about my mental health issues. My stomach dropped as Tim expressed how it had been for him, dealing with my issues for so many years. “So you resent me because I have depression?” I asked, my voice quivering. “Yes, sometimes.” he admitted in a low voice. I had absolutely no idea what to do with that, so I just cried. I held in sobs until my stomach hurt, and refused to let him hold me. His love language is physical touch, and in that moment, I wanted him to hurt. I was so raw, and so was he. We were tired. And in that moment, I had to make a critical decision.

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Was I going to choose to be on the same team about this? Was I going to be supportive of this new version of my husband who told me the truth even when it really hurt? Or was I going to build a wall to shut him out because I didn’t want to get hurt? I wish I could say that it had only taken a moment, or even a few hours for me to get to that place, but it took a few days of uncomfortable silence. I had been pushing and pushing for him to be open with me about his feelings about me for years. Now he was doing just that, and not all of it was pretty. How could it be? I wasn’t perfect. I had to take the honesty whether it made my heart fly- or sink. I remember thinking- “Marriage sucks right now.” I think I was right. It’s not always fun. But I can tell you, as Tim has learned to unlock this side of himself and feel more safe around me, the honesty has been so sweet, even if sometimes there are flies in the honey.

-ASH


Friday the 13th

I used to be superstitious about Friday the 13th…

This is me in the courtyard just a few moments before our conversation. Tim is behind me. Feb. 13th, 2004

This is me in the courtyard just a few moments before our conversation. Tim is behind me. Feb. 13th, 2004

On Friday the 13th in February 2004, it was Decade Day at school. You and I coordinated to go as a 50’s couple. I had a poodle skirt and black t-shirt with my hair pulled up into a high ponytail. You wore a white t-shirt, jeans and a black leather jacket. Someone snapped a photo of me as we were hanging out in the courtyard to eat lunch. At some point as I sat eating with our friends, you came over and touched my arm and said, “Hey can I talk to you for a minute?” Immediately, I got flashbacks of freshman year when you had turned down Cait, and thought, “Crap. He is going to have the talk with me about how flattered he is that I was interested, but he didn’t like me in that way.” My face felt cold as I followed you over by the fountain. You propped your leg up and leaned back against a pillar, and I felt like I was going to throw up.

The day before, I’d been at the library during lunch talking to your friend Adam about you. You had been so hot/cold. I couldn’t handle it anymore. Some days you had been super flirty, so sweet and attentive, I was getting my hopes up again. Then the next day, it seemed like you barely noticed my existence. I was getting whiplash. So like the mature grown-up person that I was, I asked Adam to talk to you for me and see what was going on. He said he would talk to you later that day after school. I spent the rest of that day trying to focus on classes and then cheer practice, and then homework. The next day was Decade Day, and we had agreed to match, but... you would have done that with anyone, right? Or did it mean something?? I wanted an answer, but I was afraid of what it would be. I prepared myself for a “no” and immediately regretted asking Adam to talk to you. I felt that no answer and just going on as we were would still be better than “no.” You felt so far out of my league, I had little hope.

“I have feelings for you, and was wondering what you would think about the possibility of us dating because I would like to explore having a relationship with you and see where it goes.” - You

I felt dizzy and in disbelief. This kid I had spent the last year and a half pining over, was standing there telling me everything I wanted to hear. I probably grinned like a lunatic. But then I panicked. “What if we dated, then he found someone better, broke up with me and then I had lost him both as a boyfriend and a friend?” Over the course of that year, I had really grown to appreciate our friendship and didn’t want to lose that. So I said, “I like you too. Um, but I want to think about this.” You were calm, cool and collected and I tried my best to mirror you. Didn’t want to scare you away. I saved the squealing and screaming until I was safely in the car with my mom on the way home from school.

When I got home, with shaking hands I sat down at the computer, I made the decision to tell you how I felt. I don’t remember everything I said in the email, but basically I told you I was tired of high school relationships and getting my heart broken. I didn’t know if I wanted to date at the moment because I wanted the next person I dated to be “The One.” I hit “send” and immediately wanted to take it back. What was I thinking?? I had just screwed this up. I knew you were going to be like, “Woah girl, I just wanted to date you- not marry you.” But I liked you so much and valued our friendship so much, that I chose to give you an out so that we could stay friends and I wouldn’t lose you. I think I checked my email every 2 minutes the rest of the afternoon. Finally, just before dinnertime, the Juno email loading bar paused at 97%, which means I had gotten an email. It was from you. I opened it, afraid to read it. I scanned it quickly looking for words like, “crazy” or “nevermind.” Instead, I found 5 words that cemented the way I would forever feel about you, “I will wait for you.”

-ASH

I Met Someone Else

Sophomore year had left me ready to move on. I had a big mission’s trip to Mexico City planned, and I was ready to forget about you and Liz. I left Phoenix feeling excited about the future. When I landed in Dallas and took the bus to our training camp, I couldn’t help but wonder what was in store for me. When I arrived at camp, I immediately met my team who were all super friendly and just as excited to be there as I was. There was a boy on my team who immediately singled me out. Jackson was a southern boy who lived in white t-shirts and jeans, played guitar and sang like an angel. He wasn’t you, but he was really into me.

 
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I remember thinking, “But…I’m not the prettiest or coolest girl here, and he’s obviously the prettiest coolest guy here, maybe I’m imagining things.” But nope. That kid was totally into me. So I leaned into the feeling and thought, “Well, if I can’t have Tim…this guy is pretty amazing, maybe I should go for it.” So I did. Jackson and I agreed to continue our relationship long distance. He called me every night and for a few months, it was perfect. I had a boyfriend. He would sing to me over the phone, tell me about his football games, and say, “I love you” in his southern drawl. We made promises to each other to wait for each other and reunite in college and then get married. He was trying to persuade his family to come to Arizona on vacation. I talked at length with his Mama on the phone, got to know his little brother who adored me, and generally felt like this could be it. It wasn’t you, but at least he had wanted me, and this felt easy.

As with most high school relationships, Jackson and I slowly drifted apart. I got the sense there was someone else, and to be honest babe, I never really got over you. You and I became closer during the first semester of junior year, and I started to relax around you. We dissected cats in Anatomy class, joked around in Chemistry class, and solved crimes in Forensics class. You got flirty, but I convinced myself you were that way with every girl, and tried not to think about it. After all, I was still dating Jackson.

Eventually, Jackson called me one day to tell me there was another girl and he wanted to take her to homecoming. I had a mixture of emotions, part of me was relieved. Things had grown tense between us, and I was ready for the relationship to end, but I also felt like, “Was I not enough? He found someone else when he told me he wanted to marry me!” I hung up the phone with a pit in my stomach, feeling both relieved and sad. And alone again. Back at square one.

I hadn’t been enough for Jackson. The guy I had dated my sophomore year left me for someone he swore “meant nothing” to him, and I had convinced myself that You were never going to be into me. November ended with me feeling like I never wanted to date again. And then something shifted with you that left me reeling…

-Ash

I looked into the crowd & found Ashley...

I’m all the way to the right, #33

I’m all the way to the right, #33

My senior year in high school it became a thing that every time I made a free throw during a basketball game I looked into the crowd, found Ashley and winked at her. I do not know how it became a thing or when I started doing it, but it ended up being a memorable event for Ash and I.

I tend to be a private individual. Shocking as that may be given that Ash and I are now putting our life out in public. But that is not my natural bent. Ash feels more comfortable in public. She thrives off of being around others. Ash loves theater and being on stage performing. I used to feel uncomfortable expressing public affection to Ash. Quite frankly, I do not know how I started the wink thing, given the fact that for that moment, Ash and I’s relationship was on public display. My friends on the basketball team gave me a hard time and my coach would shake his head. But I think the fans found it endearing and Ash loved it.

You can see a clip of this below.

As Ash and I have gone through our relationship, I realized that she enjoys it when I acknowledge our love and her publicly. I am just fine with telling Ash Happy Anniversary or Happy Birthday in private and giving her a homemade card. She enjoys those things, but I also know that she enjoys it when I acknowledge her publicly. As result, I make an effort to do so. I will go on Facebook and write on her timeline or tag her in a post, even though I do not usually post on social media.

Often times, the way that your partner feels most loved is different than yours. You must be mindful of the way your partner feels loved and move outside of your comfort zone to love them in that way, even if it may make you feel uncomfortable.

The basketball wink is one of my fondest memories in high school. My love for Ash overcame my uneasiness of putting our relationship on display and I’m so glad we can look back and remember those moments.

-Tim


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.


Bee Yourself

I am excited to start this journey of sharing the romance my wife and I had and continue to have. I hope that our stories and experiences inspire, evoke joy and sometimes evoke sadness. I hope that you can apply some of the things that we have learned over our 15 years of relationship. But our romance is just that, ours.

I encourage you to embrace the uniqueness of your relationship. Some principals are universal, but only you know how they will work best in your relationship. Some of the best parts about Ashley’s and I’s relationship are the things that are unique to us. The inside jokes we share, the songs, movies, and smells that remind us of experiences only we have shared. The fact that we can reminisce about events that have occurred in our past and reflect on how those events have shaped us now.

Us on our “chips and salsa date at our favorite place.

Us on our “chips and salsa date at our favorite place.

For awhile Ashley and I looked at some other peoples’ relationships and thought, “Maybe we should be more like them.” One couple in particular spent a lot of money going to the fanciest places that they could find, that was one of their things. Ashley and I found ourselves asking each other, “We are 30 now, should we be going to fancy restaurants?” Isn’t that what couples our age are supposed to do? But neither of us really feel comfortable in super fancy restaurants, either in the atmosphere or in spending that amount of money on one meal. We had to decide that being us is best for us, that spending $20 bucks on chips, salsa, guacamole, and drinks is what we like doing, and that’s okay.

I encourage you to embrace the uniqueness of you and your relationship. Embrace the oddities and idiosyncrasies. Love the best way you can and in the way you know the other person will feel most loved.

One of my favorite lines in a Disney movie is when the Genie tells Aladdin to “Bee yourself.” In your relationship, don’t try to be someone else, “Bee yourself.”

-Tim

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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When You're Gone...

When You’re Gone…


So for those of you who don’t know, I struggle with depression and anxiety.

I hate saying that, it feels like I line I’ve rehearsed so many times that it barely has any meaning anymore. Like when you fixate on a word, “Apple” and say it so many times you start to giggle at how silly the word sounds tumbling off your tongue as though suddenly it’s in a foreign language. But I say it a lot, because I want people to know how common it is, that they are not alone.

Anyway- this stuff affects way more than I would like to admit that it does. Like when Tim leaves town. I have this intense FOMO (fear of missing out) which stems from abandonment trauma. (Don’t you love Millennials? We are so adept at relating all of our issues back to our traumas.)

So when Tim has to leave town for work or just a few days away on a guys trip- I. Freak. Out.

Not externally of course, but my dependency issues rear their ugly head and I run smack into them, always a bit surprised to see them, but eh- who am I kidding?

I was pretty spoiled for awhile because after we got married, we were rarely apart. However, right after we got married, I got pregnant. *cue crazy lady hormones I distinctly remember Tim going out to play video games at his friend’s house and sobbing on the couch because he wasn’t there. This -ish runs deep. It’s serious. Seriously annoying. Of course then, I was a pregnant newlywed, so I had an excuse. Now,...I’m a woman in my early thirties in a solid, happy marriage, still confronting my abandonment issues. It’s the worst. So here’s a little rundown of how this usually goes. This is deeply embarrassing, but I’m sharing it because I’m sure I’m not the only one who deals with this crap.

Day 1- I’ve got a brave face on. I drop Tim off at the airport, or watch him fold his 6’6” frame into the back of a tiny Uber, and I’m okay. “I’ve got things to do, I’ve planned things to keep me busy and occupied while he’s gone. I’m gonna be okay.” The kids are upbeat and although bedtime is hard because they all miss him, we all survive. And I get about 4 hours of sleep.

Day 2- I become the “fun mom.” In order to distract myself from the impending implosion I can feel coming, I am running around town, spending more money than I should be on the kids, showering them with new things, new experiences...hell- maybe we will go take our own trip somewhere. Expedia reminds me my bank account has told me to stay home, so instead, I’m riding a caffeine and sugar high until we all crash at bedtime. Only now that the fun people have gone to sleep and it’s just me- I get anxiety. So I Netflix and Chill-the-heck-out on my phone and only get about 3 hours of sleep.

Day 3- Running on 7 hours of sleep in 48 hours is just not sustainable for me. I wish I was that woman. I think I am that woman, until suddenly on Day 3, I wake up and look in the mirror wondering who gave me 2 black eyes in my sleep. But no, that’s just the dark circles. *sigh On Day 3, the kids somehow communicated this message to each other, “It’s Time.” They fight, yell, whine, and complain all. Freaking. Day. And to be honest, I can’t blame them. With the bar set so high on our adventures of Day 2, they are not content to stay home while this creature that resembles a bedraggled version of their mother is trying not to get tears and self-loathing in her coffee. Then, it happens. Suddenly, I can’t take the whining, the arguing and their attitudes anymore. *cue implosion. I rant, I cry, I storm off to put myself in time-out. Meanwhile, my kids are looking at each other like, “Did we break her?” There is silence. I feel terrible. I scrap the pieces of myself off the floor, off the wall and off the bed, and shuffle out to them. I apologize and like the amazing humans they are- they forgive me. I usually end up buying them icecream for their trouble. Everyone goes to bed early that night, and I am still up trying to pass the time, thinking, “Only tonight and then one more night.” I get 5 hours of sleep.

Day 4- Today brings determination to do better. I’m working hard to stay positive even though the kids are just as exhausted that Dad’s not home yet. We don’t ever begrudge him the trips, but gosh how we miss him. I pick back up where I left off from Day 1 at getting things done, and clean up around the house a bit. I pay the kids to do the dishes. My smile is weak, but I’m still standing. Only one more sleep. I get about 5 hours because I’m emotionally and physically depleted.

Day 5- Coming home day, I’m racing around the house cleaning like a madwoman, so I can look like I had my -ish together the whole time. I move furniture, I buy a new rug for the kitchen, I light candles. This house looks amazing. Time crawls by that day, as I’m hitting refresh on the flight tracker watching his little plane icon travel home. I feel crazy. I know I am, but I don’t even care at this point. I’m just excited that Tim is coming home.


-Ash

The First Time I Saw You -Ash

I remember the first time I saw you.

It was freshman year in highschool and we were on a field trip to GCU. You and your friends were playing frisbee on the lawn and this girl Cait who had a crush on you at the time was remarkably how cute you were and pointing you out to us girls. I remember thinking you were really cute. Then at some point later on she sat you down at lunch and asked you out. You turned her down. I remember thinking, “Who turns Cait down? She's one of the prettiest girls in school.” And suddenly, you were super intimidating to me.

Sophomore year, I remember being so excited on the first day of school when you showed up in every single class I was in. I would just sit and stare at you all during class. I would sit and think, “I'm going to marry that boy.” I had it all planned out. Your dad, I found out, was a military chaplain so that was perfect. He could marry us in his uniform. As I sat observing, I began to notice you paid a lot of attention to this other girl, Bekah. You guys were just friends, but I could tell you liked her a lot.

We weren't really even friends at that point and I sent my best friend, Jess over to ask you what you thought of me. You told her you didn't like me “like that” but thought I was a cool girl.

Never ask questions you don't want the answer to.

I wanted to cry. Pretty soon thereafter, you started really hanging out with this girl, Liz. She was pretty, blond and super athletic. I felt like she was the opposite of what I was and that's what you wanted.  My heart hurt. I wondered if maybe being around you more, you would finally see the light and develop a crush on me, so I decided to join the youth group at the church where you and a few of our friends went. On my first night there, they announced the missions trip to Mexico and asked who would be interested in going. I shot up my hand thinking maybe you would be impressed by me volunteering to go.

You didn't even notice. But you did go on the trip, and I was so excited to get to spend some time with you without Liz there. On the drive down in a van full of girls, I remember sitting in the back listening to, “Stand By Me” I cried quietly to myself feeling very hopeless that we would ever be together. I begin to wonder if I should date someone else or move on. But no one else interested me.

In Mexico, we talked more and I felt like we were becoming friends. I knew I shouldn't get my hopes up, but you let me borrow your sweatshirt when I was cold one night. It smelled so good (Old Spice Pure Sport) and I thought, “Okay, maybe he likes me?” But no, you were just being a good guy and a gentleman. I still held onto a small shred of hope after that trip, but then track season started.

I joined because you and Liz were joining and I wanted to keep tabs and maybe impress you with my skills. In track, you just ran- how hard could it be??

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Sadly, not being a runner, I was terrible. Like really bad. So any hope of trying to get your attention pretty much died. Although one day, my knee gave out during practice and you carried me back to the school. You were strong and I was so smitten. One practice we had at Mesa community college, my grandparents came to watch and afterward we went out to lunch at Burger King. My mom had pointed you out to Momo and she remarked to me at lunch how handsome you were and said she had a feeling things would work out. My heart sank and I try not to cry because at that point, I had truly given up on that. I felt like I had lost you, which was weird because it wasn't even like we had dated. I was done though, my friend Jess had encouraged me to move on. You just weren’t the right one. So I did. And that was how sophomore year ended… little did I know, things were about to get serious. But not with you.

-Ash

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