Thursday, August 30, 2012

Why I Fail at Vacations

For the last five years or so, I’ve completely failed at vacationing.  I get grumpy and annoyed. I have stress dreams.  I feel guilty about being grumpy and annoyed and having stress dreams when I’m supposed to be enjoying myself and my family.
It’s a problem.  My husband notes that he spends most of the year stressed and then worries about NOTHING during vacation.  I spend most of the year relatively unstressed, and then act like a fiend the whole time we’re supposed to be resting.
Some reasons I think I’m a bad vacationer include:

  1. There’s no such thing as rest for parents: Same problem with Sabbaths—what does it mean to rest a day a week when there are still children who need to be fed, entertained, and watched after?  Vacations are worse because they’re like many “Sabbaths” in a row.
  2. Everyone wants a part of me:  True confession, I kind of just want to be left alone.  On vacation, my husband and kids actually want me to relate to (or serve) them.  I end up getting less rest than when everyone’s working.
  3. I just want to read a book preferably cover to cover in one sitting.  One high school spring break I read 17 novels.  By Friday when I finally emerged bleary-eyed into daylight, I realized it probably would have been good to move my body a little during that week.  On our honeymoon, Scott and I sat by a pool with our books.  30 minutes later, he said, “OK, let’s go do something.”  I said, “But I have 350 more pages until I finish. . .”  There’s a lot of negotiation between 30 minutes and however long it takes to finish my latest novel.
  4. My perfectionist tendencies: As a “P” on the Myers-Briggs, I can gather data forever, spend hours on Yelp searching for the best bike shop, the best activities, the best ice cream, the best lobster roll.  It’s exhausting.
  5. My “Pake” aversion to spending lots of money.  Vacations take money—I feel guilty spending money.  (Pake is a derogatory word that means both Chinese and cheap in Hawaii, click here for a blog explaining the concept and a great recipe for mango lassis)
A friend, hearing about my vacation problems, once said, “It’s not vacation, it’s a trip.”  That helped.  “Vacation” connotes rest.  Trips connote a lot of packing, planning, problems and inconvenient bathroom breaks.
This year, our vacation plans in Maine fell through last minute, so we ended up having a week long “stay-cation” and finding a little bungalow on Cape Cod for our 2nd week.  I found that when I embraced the “trip” analogy, my grumpiness went down.  So even though the whining and complaining were astounding when we hiked 3166 feet up Mt. Monadnock, biked 24 miles on the Cape Code Railways Trail and 21 miles on the Shining Sea Trail—hey, that’s what a family adventure’s all about.
I did manage to read 5 novels (never cover to cover), found the very best clam shack, and 2 very good homemade ice cream shops.  There was only one night when my grumpiness sent everyone out to mini-golf while I stayed home to finish a novel.  I’d give myself a B-/C+ for this year’s vacation.
But can I say how excited I am that summer vacation ends and school begins next week?
You may also be interested in reading:
This first appeared on What She Said

Tuesday, August 07, 2012

Wedded Bliss. . . And Misses. 19 Years and Counting

19 years ago today, Scott and I promised one another to love, honor, and cherish until death do us part.
10 years ago today, Scott took me to dinner and proposed that we renew our vows on our 10thanniversary.  In the meantime, we’d go back into marriage counseling (for the 5th time) and do everything we could to work on our marriage so that we’d actually want to renew our vows.
To put it mildly, our first ten years of marriage were challenging.   We were known as “the conflictual couple,” the couple voted least likely to succeed, the couple who had a friend scornfully tell us “I’ll never have a marriage like yours.”
We loved each other and we loved God.  We bore 3 children, and wanted things to improve for their sakes as well as ours.  So we kept trying, and working, and trying and working.  And 10 years ago today, we rolled up our sleeves to work harder.

Frankly, marriage counseling for the 5th time, although helpful, was no cure.
The big turnaround came 2 weeks before our 10th anniversary, when we spent a week at a marriage ministry called Cana.  Somehow, through prayer, sharing, listening, and more prayer (after a deep dive the first half of the week that made us wonder if we had made things worse), God stepped in and finally gave us the ability to forgive and release old hurts and grudges.
Since then, although we by no means have the perfect marriage, we have a marriage that’s about 85-90% reconciled.  Can I say how much easier it is to live in a reconciled marriage?
3 weeks ago, Scott and I were asked to preach on marriage at our church.  Here, in brief, are our top tips:
  1. Quickly seek help whenever you need it:  We’ve been in marriage counseling 5 times.  We’ve done Living Waters (a relational and sexual inner healing program).  We receive regular spiritual direction, and over the years, we’ve splatted our stuff to our friends who’ve been kind enough to mediate.  It takes a village to raise a child.  It also takes a village to enable healthy marriages.
  2. Pray Together, Daily if you can:  About 7 years into our marriage, after a particularly heinous fight, Scott proposed that we pray every morning when the first person awoke for a minute each, asking God to give our spouse a great day, and then close with the Lord’s prayer.  2 minutes of prayer.  Pathetic, right?  But what felt pathetic to us wasn’t pathetic to God.  We trace an upward trajectory starting with our 2 minute prayer practice.
  3. Just do it! (Make love regularly):  Marital sex is a spiritual discipline, so keep it the same way you’d keep the Sabbath.  Because when we go too long without physical connection, our spouse’s body becomes a stranger, and it becomes embarrassing or difficult to be truly naked with them.
  4. Give the gift of good communication: Give your words as a gift, and receive your spouse’s words as a gift as well.  Set apart times to talk and relate to one another—regular date nights, weekends away with no kids, writing letters.  Make it a priority to spend time communicating with your spouse.
  5. Forgive and reconcile:  Forgiveness is the essence of any successful marriage or relationship because the one thing we know about every marriage is that you have 2 imperfect people who will hurt one another, even when they don’t want to. For those who follow Jesus, we’re commanded to forgive.  But forgiveness is not reconciliation. With reconciliation it takes two to tango.  Reconciliation involves healing and restoring a broken relationship, often to a better and healthier place than it was before. Reconciliation takes the 5 “R”s—recognizing wrongdoing, risking relationship, repenting, relearning the attitudes of Christ, and restitution.
The title of our sermon was “God can Transform Marriages, He Transformed Ours!”
19 years into this journey, I’m excited for the next 19.
(To hear a podcast of our sermon, click here.  Warning, we talk about sex and I use the word “peri-menopause” both of which made our kids visibly squirm in their seats.)
You may also be interested in reading:
This was first posted on What She Said