Wednesday, June 15, 2011

My (Summer) Guilty Pleasures

I'm not a typical summer-lover.
Yes, yes, summer has it's perks - abundant sunshine, colorful flowers and fruit, barbecues - yes, it's all nice.
But it's also HOT. And muggy. And summer just isn't nearly as fun as an adult as it was as a kid. (Walking in the scorching afternoon heat to a oven-temperature car in my work clothes after a long day is not my idea of "fun in the sun.")
But I have found ways to cope. Here are just a few:

It was dubbed the movie to mark the official start to summer (a little early): the fifth installment of The Fast and the Furious movies, Fast Five. I've seen them all, and this one is by far the best! It's fast cars and hot guys in the smut-filled capital of Rio de Janeiro with lots of action and lots of sweat. Just the right combination for a good summer action flick - all while I enjoy my popcorn in a nicely air-conditioned arena.
It's almost the only summer TV show worth watching: So You Think You Can Dance. I love this show. It's really a unique showcase for dance artistry (when it's good), and when it's bad, it's just plain funny, so really, it's a whole package of summer entertainment right in my living room every week. Beautiful.

And finally, the addiction that I reluctantly (and tardily) caught on to, Angry Birds. Why is this game so addicting? I never thought I would want to squash a pig so badly. But thanks to the hours of entertainment and sore eyes this game has caused me, I'm probably going to end up in Angry Birds Anonymous very soon.

I'll try to get outside and enjoy some real summer activities, but rest assured, on 95+ days, I'm seeking air-conditioning as quickly as possible.

Friday, June 10, 2011

Love Languages

Since our marriage is the one thing in our lives right now Michael and I feel like is up to us, and since we determine the development, enjoyment, and rewards of being married, we are working very hard to make it the best it can possibly be while we're just US. This has been a long time coming though.

I don't normally do book reviews because quite frankly, I just don't read enough to review anything. But, the concept of this book, The Five Love Languages, has changed our marriage. I'll be honest, I had heard about this book before and completely dismissed it as another attempt for some guy to sell books. Then I heard a radio broadcast from Dr. Chapman one morning that revolutionized the way I thought about the book, marriage in general, and specifically OUR marriage.

The first few years of our marriage were not what I had expected. First of all, I was not what I had expected. Thanks to some unidentified and misunderstood chemical imbalances (enter birth control and misc. anti-depressants), I was unbearable. I couldn't stand myself, so I can't imagine what it was like for my poor husband, our families, and any friends who stuck around during this time to even try to make it through a few hours with me. (I'm sorry.) On top of that, marriage itself had some let-downs of it's own. Marriage is not easy. It doesn't come naturally. It is work. I can't tell you how many times I argued with people who kept telling me to "work" on this or that for our marriage. I had this unrealistic idea that if I was truly with the person I was supposed to be with that it shouldn't be work to make the marriage successful. (Crazy, I know.) It's this kind of thinking that can often sink a marriage.

So (thankfully) somewhere along the way, I finally realized how irrational I was being and decided that Michael and our fragile little marriage was worth every ounce of WORK that was needed to make this whole process worthwhile. After toughing it out through some very rocky circumstances, I felt I all but owed it to Michael to make an effort to repair some of the damage I had done while making his life nearly miserable at times during those first few years.

Now, anyone who knows me knows that I don't mince words. More often than I would like to admit, the filter from my brain to my mouth gets broken and the whole "think before you speak" adage is out the door in a heartbeat. In the heat of the moment, mangle some bitter words with tones of disdain, toss in a good dash of my strong-willed perfectionist personality, and you have a recipe for real disaster when it comes to communicating with a sweet husband who is desperately trying to help me.

So during this broadcast from Dr. Chapman, he addressed so many of these things. The first thing he talked about, and didn't apologize for, was that during the first 5 years of his marriage, he wasn't sure if the marriage was even going to make it. What? A pastor and psychologist struggled with marriage? He had my attention.
He then launched into the discussion about the languages. Obviously, there are five:
Words of Affirmation, Quality Time, Receiving Gifts, Acts of Service, and Physical Touch. He talked about how to determine what language you and your partner "speak" and how to 'test' this fact. So I began thinking about what he said: often the easiest way to determine the love language of your partner is to listen to what they complain about the most - i.e., the one thing that Michael has often complained about how I don't respect him, I talk to him like a child, my tone of voice is abrasive, and so on...it slowly began to dawn on me that Michael's language must be Words of Affirmation....put it all together: I've spent 5 + years talking to him horribly, partially understanding that words were often more than words, but having NO IDEA that I was damaging Michael on a very deep level - the level at which he gives and receives love.

Sigh.

I kept listening and Dr. Chapman revealed that we often speak our own language as our way of showing love. So before I completely self-bashed because I was an awful wife for how I treated my husband, I realized that I was actually trying to communicate love to Michael using my language - Acts of Service, i.e, I would do things for him (make a nice dinner, buy him something small while out shopping, etc.) with little return from him other than a mild "thank you" that would leave me disappointed and sometimes hurt that he didn't appreciate what I had done for him.

It was all starting to make sense!

Finally Dr. Chapman challenged the listeners to try speaking their partner's love language (without their knowledge) for two weeks and see what happens.

My tongue has never bled so much from all the biting, but after two weeks of talking to Michael in the most sincerely sweet way I could manage and edifying him as much as possible, I was thrilled to see that it worked! He responded to me completely differently and there was a peacefulness in our house that had been missing for so long. Once I got him on board and explained how the process worked, Michael was all about it. We are working through the Love Languages book, devotional, and the applications on the website and it is amazing to see what it is doing for our marriage.

Sunday, June 5, 2011

That Ugly Word

Don't read this if you don't want to witness a brief pity-party. You've been warned.

The new ugly word in our house: infertility.

I never dreamed this would be a word in my regular vocabulary.I have always felt badly for women struggling to get pregnant, but as sympathetic as I tried to be toward these women, that's as far as I wanted to go - being sympathetic, not empathetic. I didn't want to personally know what it's like to wonder why the stork skips our house every time.
While we haven't been told that we CAN'T conceive (after many tests), it's clear that my body is not cooperating and that it will be "difficult" to conceive without intervention.
Intervention.
Another ugly word.
Intervention of the medicinal style doesn't exactly seem like a quick-fix to me: birth control made me crazy (literally), and fat, so I'm not really jumping at the thought of ingesting more artificial hormones that "might" work. But it may come to that. However, I don't like my doctor and don't have the time to go OB-shopping. I guess this is my way of blaming someone else and pouting about a situation I can't control. But that's just the beginning.

Do you wanna know what really sucks? Counting days hours each month until I can legitimately take a pregnancy test - praying, hoping, and expecting to see desirable results, and so far, NOT seeing those results. Taking a different brand of pregnancy test one month and seeing two lines, thinking that was a good sign, only to discover that THIS kind of test has to have a plus sign, not just a line. And when I run into people I know and the notion of pregnancy is mentioned, these people look at me and say, "Oh, I really don't think a baby is what you want to add to the mess going on in your life right now." Add that to the list of "Things Not to Say to a Woman Trying to Conceive," please.
Oh, how I would like to look at those people and say, "You know what? It's not up to you any more than it's up to me - it's completely up to God, and HE will decide when it's time." I'm comfortable with that, so please don't insult me (or God, for that matter) by saying such ridiculous things, especially to someone who could be momentarily heartbroken over another "failed" month.

In my plan (hahahahahaha...), by age 30 I saw myself sitting at wee-ball games with my son, complaining about the heat while planning the next play date for my 18 month-old daughter with church friends. Well, we all know how well planning has worked out for me so far!  Nevertheless, I thought I would have a house full of children by now, so it's difficult enough to come to terms with that. Add in the pressure and difficulties of getting pregnant, and it's darn near impossible not to lose all hope.
Don't tell me that when I relax and stop thinking about it, that it will happen. I KNOW THAT. By telling me NOT to think about something, you're inadvertently INVITING me to THINK ABOUT IT.
Don't tell me about my options. Because of the now infamous 'financial situation,' we are essentially left with only the old-fashioned way of getting pregnant - no IVF or adoption. It's not even remotely feasible, so don't go there.
And don't remind me that I'm still young and have plenty of time. While that may be true, my crow's feet and 9:30 bedtime paint a different picture.

My mind gets out of control sometimes, I openly admit that. I often wonder that since children are a blessing, am I not worthy of receiving such a gift? Am I really too emotionally charged and high-strung to even consider raising a child? Did I mess up so badly somewhere along the way that THIS is the punishment I get - that I never get to bear, deliver, and hold our own newborn? It's such a private, often indescribable pain.
I know I'm not alone. I know millions of other women are happily caring for their multiple children after years of infertility. I know I'm not the only one to walk this path, but that doesn't make the path I'm on seem any shorter or any less treacherous.

BUT (here's the light, the good part) even in all of this pity, there is a still, small voice that says "keep praying, keep hoping - believe and receive." (Thanks, mom.) Some days this voice is almost inaudible, but it's there. God's word has too many promises of hope for me to be so shameful that I don't listen to my Almighty Father. I refuse to let the devil win this battle with me. I have to make a daily choice to put God's plan ahead of mine, and then trust that His plan is truly perfect. Perfect. And in spite of all my disappointment, my rage toward my body, and my fight against time, I know that whatever the outcome, this pain is temporary, and quite possibly necessary. It has crossed my mind more than once that if it weren't for these days of longing, I might take one minute of motherhood for granted, whenever that day should come. And that would truly be a shame. I pray for the mothers I know every day, that they would savor every sweet smile and know how highly favored and blessed they are. I pray for my future children, as if they're already here. And I dream of seeing God's work in what seems like such a dark cloud of disappointment mixed in with all the other mess of life.
"Lord I believe, help me in my unbelief."

The End

My incessant need for closure has led me to post a final farewell to this blog. Blogging was a whole new concept for me when I logged on l...