Monday, January 08, 2007

Heart Strings

Charlie and I rarely fight.

For the most part, he agrees with just about everything I say, and we get along swimmingly. But more than that, we genuinely appreciate each other. Throughout the day, I will thank him for things that he has done => putting clean towels in the bathroom, throwing in a load of laundry before he leaves for work, making the bed. And at least once a day, he'll ask if he's told me yet today - how much he loves me.

On a daily basis, we look for - and find the good - in each other.

As we are cruising through our 12th year of marital bliss, I've credited a large portion of our success to our communication skills. We will set aside time, every day, to talk. "What did we do during the day ... what do we have going on during the week ... how are we feeling about life in general ... what can be improved?"

I really try to not hold anything back. If I'm upset about something, frustrated, or need assistance - I express myself, and I seriously encourage Charlie to do the same. Not just on the homefront, but in all aspects of my life. Over the years, I've noticed that Charlie does not complain is not nearly as expressive as I am, and will not ask for help as openly as I do. Yet, it always amazes me when people are surprised that I'll tell Charlie, "I need your help. Can you please do X, Y and Z?"

It also amazes me, how many people tell me that they rarely ask for help - they assume that it will just happen, and/or, they prefer to carry the weight of the world on their shoulders because no one can do it as well as they can. This approach of "doing it all" would never work for me, because if I had to do everything myself - I would be tired, resentful, and most likely a time bomb crab to be around.

Rather, I am a professional at delegation.

Just today, I had my toddlers retrieving diapers from the nursery, so that I could change their siblings in the family room, and was thrilled at my communication success, until I realized that they had thrown more than 50 clean Pampers in to the diaper pail. Which had been hauled outside and mixed with our other trash, tonight. We'll be working on that.

The fact is, with both Charlie and I working part-time and raising our toddler triplets together ... we must make our expectations and needs crystal clear. The only way to do that, is through open communication. If we need some time alone - to workout, take a nap, or just sit and enjoy the quiet - we express that need to each other. Quite often, one of us might recognize that the other one needs some downtime and we'll step in and say "Take Five."

Sometimes, it only takes five minutes to recharge our batteries.

Sometimes, it takes five hours.

When the days are longer, we will load the kids up in strollers and take a leisurely walk in the evening after work. But when the days are short and it is dark by 5 PM, we might throw a log on the fire, pop a bowl of popcorn, and sit down with a drink (although not wine anymore - and oh, how sadly I miss it) once the children are tucked in to bed. This is our sacred time to connect.

Even though I think our marriage is wonderful, over the past couple weeks, I've started to notice that despite the things that we do to keep our marriage strong, I've been a bit of a pill to live with. Fortunately, Charlie hasn't told me this ... it's just something that I've become aware of. It's almost as if I've been having these out-of-body experiences and I'm looking down on this ranting crazy woman who is completely off the hook.

With some of my spare time, I've been trying to understand why I am feeling so neurotic. It could be that I am expecting ... which is compounded by the fact that there are some very big changes coming up on the road of life, and it seems that there is indecisiveness at every bend.

For instance.

When I return to work from my vacation time off, I am committing myself to working less hours, while Charlie is committing himself to working more. During the past three weeks, it's struck me how much I really love being home with the kids and even though I am here when I'm working - I feel like I'm missing out on so much of their lives. I want to stay home. But I also want to work. I don't know which I want more or if I have it in me to juggle the two anymore.

We've looked at moving in to a larger house. We've discussed relocating. We've talked about quitting our jobs and moving to Wyoming. Or Canada. Or ... New Zealand. Or, maybe down the street. If we go AWOL from our careers, we could take up jobs working in a coffee shop, flower shop or brewery. Stability with good benefits and a dental plan is key.

I'm looking at a half-day of Montessori school for our children next fall, provided they are potty-trained. But then, I'm convinced that I will never send our kids to school and I, alone, will homeschool them on our Flathead River Ranch in Montana. If we were to move to Montana.

We have contemplated having cabinets professionally installed in our garage. But why in the world would we incur that kind of expense when we are moving out of this house in a few months?! Of course we can stay in this house for another 3 years. Yes, it's small, but it's perfect for us right now - everything on one level - and when hard pressed, I can clean the entire 1,600++ square feet in an afternoon. By myself. When I have the energy. Which I rarely have anymore. Speaking of which, why do I not have any space for our vacuum cleaner?! We must move. Why haven't we moved yet?! Tomorrow, I'll call an agent.

We need to hire help. We need a cleaning person and maybe a mother's helper. I can't do all this by myself ... for Pete's Sake ... I'm pregnant and getting bigger everyday. None of my pants fit and all of my maternity undergarments are long gone. How could we ever find a competent, capable, trustworthy stranger, with a resumé to rival Jo Frost and a strong vocal resemblance to Mary Poppins? Rice and beans - why did I get rid of every single pair of maternity underwear?!

I'm hot.

Life is a comedy.

I can do this.

I'm hungry.

I want a burrito and salsa. And a dollop of Cool-Whip.

I'm cold.

Life is a drama.

I can't do this.

I'm full.

But I might have some room for crab rangoons and egg-drop soup. And a pickle.

And thus, insanity persists. This past weekend, I was upset with Charlie. And for darn good reason.

He lost a shoelace.

Did you catch that? He lost a shoelace.

I had washed the kids shoes, their little white Keds, in the washing machine. I wanted to throw the itty bitty shoelaces in with the shoes, but Charlie convinced me to soak them in a bowl with bleach because, otherwise, they would surely get wrapped around all the clothes and cause a mess. Two days later, the dirty brown shoelaces were still soaking in a bowl of bleach in the bathroom and the mere sight of them frustrated me. If we'd done it my way, they'd be clean by now and re-threaded in to the shoes so I wouldn't have to keep putting the kids in sandles or patten leather shoes every time we went for a walk.

Despite Charlie's prior protest, I made the decision that the itty bitty shoelaces were going in with the very next load of laundry. Tangled clothing be damned.

Saturday morning, when I removed only five sparkly white itty bitty shoelaces from the dryer, I asked Charlie if he'd seen the sixth shoelace, which, is a very important component for the sixth little white Ked.

Much to my surprise, Charlie said that he had seen the shoelace. It was wrapped tightly around William's blanket and he removed it from the wash en route to the dryer. Much to my displeasure, he couldn't recall what had come of the little shoelace. He thought for sure, he'd put it back in the dryer, but alas, it was not there.

This one event, caused a whirlwind of emotion. While I stammered "What do you MEAN you don't know where the shoelace went?!" Charlie laughed and said "Jen. It's a shoelace. We can buy another one." To which I replied "No, we canNOT. I can't even manage to buy a can of Comet for the bathroom, which has been on our shopping list for two months ... what makes you think that I have the time to go search for a little itty bitty shoelace?!! And by the time I find an itty bitty shoelace, chances are, the kids will have outgrown the shoes and I'll need to buy a whole new pair."

This was a big deal. This was a huge deal.


Even though the kids are probably at a point where they need new shoes anyway, the principle of the matter was that my husband lost a shoelace and didn't seem to understand the importance of keeping tabs on little itty bitty clothing items.

Pure and simple, he wasn't paying attention. Now, he didn't understand why it was so important that we conduct an all out search ... at that very moment in time ... for the itty bitty shoelace.

He wanted to drink his coffee and make breakfast. I wanted to fume. He drank his coffee and cooked.

I boycotted breakfast because surely my absence would get the important point across. Charlie meanwhile, was seemingly oblivious to my frustration and deep exasperated sighs, and was happily listening to the new Yusuf Islam CD while cooking homemade waffles and apple-chicken sausage on a sunny Saturday morn. The aroma emanating from the kitchen smelled so delicious, I was in physical pain.

Fifteen minutes in to my martyrdom, I held my head high and was led uncontrollably by my stomach to the table. Unfortunately, I am at that point in my pregnancy where I will eat anything and everything in sight - which is a terrible inconvenience when I am upset with my husband and trying to make a point.

I took my seat and gracefully inhaled everything that was on, or beside, the plate Charlie had set for me, including the mint garnish and paper napkin. A moment later, he removed the sixth shoelace from his pocket and handed it to me. Apparently, it was in the dryer, all along.

I had missed it.

Charlie didn't dwell on the situation. Infact, he didn't even mention it. At no point did he tell me that I need to grow up, take a chill pill, or relax ... he didn't even wrap the string around my neck and threaten to hang me from the ceiling fan.

These are things I most likely would have said - or done - had the roles been reversed.

Charlie didn't challenge if I was seriously willing to ruin an entire day over something as insignificant as a piece of string for a $15.00 toddler's shoe. Nor did he ask if my irrational behavior was due to pregnancy hormones - which quite likely would have sent me in to a tailspin of ranting and sobbing. Rather, Charlie talked to me about what we had on the agenda for the weekend. And then, he asked if he'd told me yet, today, how much he loved me.

This got me to thinking.

A successful marriage isn't just about open communication. Sometimes, it's about knowing when to bite your tongue. It's about seeing the good, through the bad. It's about kindness, patience and respect. It's about being the right person, but equally important ... finding the right person. It's about telling each other, how much you love them - even when they are acting like a pain in the ass slightly unlovable.

I'm lucky that my husband is my best friend. I deeply admire him - and in many ways - strive to be more like him. And even though he could have shown me the shoelace and ended my sulk 15-minutes earlier (hence, giving me a headstart on devouring breakfast), I love him with all of my heart and sole of a toddler's shoe soul.

Now, if only he can put up with me for the next few months ... surely he could fly to Oslo and walk away with the 2007 Peace Prize.


  1. I loved this post. You know, you're not the first pregnant woman to go off the handle. So, don't feel bad. You're already at what, 15 weeks? Hang in there!

  2. I love this post, too.
    I was furious at my DH last night for playing wih the puppy while I was doing the dishes. I let it ruin our entire night. I went to bed angry. I feel very sheepish this morning. I must apologize to him right now and tell him that I love him.
    Thanks for making me see clearly this morning.
    Linda (Chicago)

  3. What lovely words. You two are lucky!, keep working at it and keep sharing:)

  4. Oh my! That's quite a lot for one post. Oh the joys of pregnancy hormones. You guys are lucky to have each other.

  5. Gtrandma Kathleen1/9/07, 10:18 AM

    Dear Jen:
    Now you can surely know why I adore Charlie's father.....and I am not even pregnant!
    We have some rescue time built in for you in February.....see you then.
    Much love,
    grandma Kathleen

  6. Beautiful!

    Does Charlie give lessons?

  7. This is such a great post!

    I read recently, "Just because a person can't read your mind doesn't mean he doesn't love you." So true - communication is key. And how wonderful it is to have someone who will do just about anything to ease your life or make you feel happier - all you have to do is ask.

    As for the shoelace thing. I'm there with ya! It is a big deal, and not a big deal. And the sulking never works. :)

  8. I loved this post. You are so lucky have a wonderful hubby and he is so lucky to have an incredible wife like you. I also want to say that I understand the work vs. no work thing. I struggle with that one too!

  9. MichelleinOR1/9/07, 4:40 PM

    Wow-What wisdom you have shared with us. Last night I blew a gasket because my husband made a mistake. I ranted and criticized and was literally out of control with frustration... for hours... When I read my scriptures for the evening, I realized MY terrible mistake. His mistake was frustrating -- yes -- but MY mistake in treating him with disrespect was unacceptable. I apologized over and over again and he quickly forgave me, although his feelings were really hurt.

    I am so grateful for a happy marriage. It takes work, no doubt, though. I can tell you value yours as well. Best to you-

  10. Every married person should read your post! You should try to publish that piece in a newspaper or magazine so thousands of people can read it!!

  11. I agree with Ellen! :-)

  12. Yep, I asked Mark to read this post, too!

  13. Wow, you and your hubbie are just like me and mine. I am definitly the one that can fly off the handle about a shoelace, but my hubbie is super laid back. Sounds like he is a keeper!

  14. this is off topic but i wanted to thank you for your kind comments and prayers in this difficult time. Please visit sometime soon for updates. Thanks again.

  15. Isn't wonderful when you marry your best friend?! Sounds like you got a good man on your side!

  16. sounds like you are a normal first trimester pregnant woman!

    Charlie sounds like a wonderful man and husband. So glad you found each other...I feel the same way about mine.

    As far as the shoelace thing goes, it's hysterical that he let you pout but the food drew you in. I was cracking UP!

  17. Wow...I am humbled --really. A whole new perspective on things.

    Cute pictures, Adorable Kids!

  18. Jen, I laughed so hard when I read this post. You are SO TOTALLY PREGNANT!!!! I was just plain crazy when I was pregnant so you aren't doing too bad!

    I also laughed when I read about you guys not knowing where you want to live, not knowing if you are sending the kids to school, not knowing if you need a big house. This is my life EVERY SINGLE DAY! We have NO IDEA where we are going to live. We have no idea where the kids are going to school. We have NO IDEA, period.

    When we drove around for a year in our motorhome, we thought we wanted to live everywhere we went. We'd read the want ads in each town. We were once going to buy a car wash and a laundry mat in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan. We are completely CLUELESS but we'll just probably do nothing and stay right here!

    Hang in there! You will be feeling better in a couple weeks and Charlie is such a great guy, he'll find you shoelaces!