Tuesday, July 26, 2011

The 4 Stages of Marriage

Our church bulletin this past week was promoting a retro-vie (au francais, retrouvaille) weekend to enrich the marriages of the parish. According to the little blurb on the event, the four stages of marriage are

1) Romance
2) Disillusionment
3) Misery
4) Awakening

Now there's a sacrament I want to be a part of.

At any rate, the theory is that most marriages run into trouble and never get to the 4th stage to thrive. Before you give up, so they say, you should come to retro-vie.

On the one hand, I don't mean to knock the program, as I'm sure there have been hundreds, maybe thousands of marriages saved through the communication retraining they provide.

On the other hand, discovering this statistic sparked an interesting conversation between Chanel and myself because neither of us agreed with these four stages. That's not to say our relationship is perfect or that we haven't had struggles (read other entries of this blog for evidence of them), nor do I desire to hold us up as some sort of paragon of married life. We just don't see our relationship developing as they say marriages do.

It's not even that it feels as if we haven't gotten past stage 1 and, "ahh, we just love each other to bits and bits in a mushy gushy kind of way *squee*." Rather, we each have the impression that we've arrived at stage 4 by means of some undisclosed shortcut. We see each other's faults and we have accepted them and continue loving the other fully and without reservation. Did I, for even an instant, ever regret our union? If I have, it was for such short a moment as to have not existed at all. Is that stages 2 and 3 right there? Maybe.

Could it be possible that we reached stage 4 prior to getting married in the first place? We knew each other as friends for ... well, a long time--years, really, before we started dating, and we dated for only...um, a little while--a few months, maybe, before getting engaged. Certainly, we could not have recovered from disillusionment and misery in such a short amount of time.

Which means we were, if ever at all, disillusioned and miserable with each other as friends. Hm. Glad we got it out of the way early, I guess.

Oh, and happy 9 year anniversary of our first date. :-)

Sunday, July 24, 2011

Monkey Bars, Meetings, and Finding Nemo

A recent article in the New York Times reminded me of something I haven't seen in years and the disappearance of which had gone unnoticed: real, honest-to-goodness monkey bars.

Sure, there were things for our kids to climb on when we took them to playgrounds in New Jersey, as there are when we take them to the ones here in Kentucky, but they are not the good, old fashioned monkey bars that took a good amount of strength, courage, and determination to reach the top. Perhaps the kids can climb on one thing or another, but they are never very high and there's usually a more easily accessible path to the top than making the ascent directly.

The other day, at a meeting with the other engineers on staff, the point was made (reiterated, really) that safety comes paramount to everything. The statement was then clarified that doing so should not prevent us from taking risks in improving the operations of the plant. Hearing and understanding the content of this meeting requires us, the engineers, to have developed a healthy sense of risk and risk management and an ability to weigh costs versus benefits, both real and intangible. If one of us has a malformed perception of risk, however, disaster could ensue. Lives are potentially on the line.

The juxtaposition of these two life moments, the meeting and the reading of the article, may truly be coincidental. Yet, we should ask, "what if..."

  • What if by lowering the highest point to which a child can climb is essentially lowering the bar of playground performance compresses the statistical distribution of how high they climb and preventing many--if not most--from learning to stretch their abilities?
  • What if by having the highest points on a playground be the ornamental roofs above platforms we encourage children who refuse to have their developing skills limited by safe design to stretch their abilities only by risking climbing surfaces that were not meant to be climbed?
  • What if, as far fetched as it seems, our safe culture (of which only a small part is safe playground culture) is skewing our children's ability to identify risk and that they are being raised to feel safe and free to do anything permitted because someone said they could?

I ask myself these questions:

  • Were people in general better or worse equipped to identify the risks associated with their money through the last 10 years?
  • Are incidences of poor judgement becoming standard news items with stories of teachers' improprieties, neglectful and/or abusive parents, and disastrous corporate decisions made at the top?
  • Are we too trusting, as a society, of the people we have placed in charge?

I, for one, enjoy seeing my children take risks. On playgrounds, our 3-year old is running through contraptions that claim to be designed for 5-year olds (which may just be an indication of age inflation for safety reasons). He's hesitant at first, usually, but overcomes his fears with a little encouragement. Our now-1-year old (Happy Birthday!), is learning to walk, which is perhaps the most dangerous act functional bipeds can attempt to master. To witness his wobbly form start to pull up and cruise on furniture is one thing, but to see the pride in his eyes when he does so successfully is quite another and absolutely priceless.

One of my favorite movies is Finding Nemo. I was not a father when I first watched it and admit to it having greater meaning when I watch it now as a parent. It went from being a nice story about an adventure a fish went through to rescue his only son, to a story of how a father overcomes the emotional baggage of having all but one of his offspring and his wife attacked and killed. The over-protective father has the line "You think you can do these things, but you just can't, Nemo!" He learns a lesson from Crush, the sea-turtle, talking about kids growing up: "Well, you never really know, but when they know, you know, y'know?"

Will they fall, be scraped and bruised, perhaps even broken in parts? Yes, probably. Will my wife survive? Stay tuned.

Monday, July 18, 2011

Dear David

Dear David,

I apologize for the somewhat somber mood I am in as I type this letter to you. Your first birthday is in two days and although I am ecstatic to celebrate such a momentous milestone with you, my heart is heavy due to the culmination of recent events. It seems the past few months have been wrought with sadness for many of my friends. Death, sickness, deployment....the list goes on and on. Some of my most faith-filled confidants have cried through the phone, "I feel like God has abandoned me!" How am I supposed to answer? I have never walked in their shoes and have never had to grieve something so heart-wrenching so as to feel abandoned by my savior. But like everyone else, my time will surely come. And when it does, I will then understand the magnitude of hurt, betrayal, disappointment, and emptiness that pours out of their hearts and mouths right now. I just wish there was something I could do to bring comfort and peace. And so I pray.

David, I have to admit that I am quite envious of your position in the world right now. You are picked up, carried around, tickled, massaged, smothered with hugs and kisses, comforted at the breast, and rocked to sleep every night. You are learning to walk and sure, you fall down and scrape your knee...but that is the only pain you know. What I would give to keep every ounce of hurt, pain, and agony in this world away from you forever! I'm sure that is every mother's wish for her child.

When you were born, everyone reassured me that I would have enough love for both you and your brother. How silly of me to think I might not love you as much as him. The love a parent has for a child is indescribable and seems to multiply with each child born. Before I was a mother, this concept was impossible for me to grasp because the math didn't seem to work out. But now I wholeheartedly accept that love cannot be predicted, measured, or ever fully comprehended. It just is what it is.

For your birthday, I plan on baking you a sunshine cake. In one short year, you have managed to make every single person with whom you come in contact smile. I'm not exaggerating. You are, hands down, the happiest baby I have ever met. You smile because you are thrilled to be alive. What a different world we would live in if everyone had that mindset! You have touched the hearts and souls of so many people, David. The most incredible aspect of it all is that you have no idea the positive impact you've made. You've visited the sick and dying and you've brought joy. You've been to funerals and you've helped people smile through their tears. You've given prize-winning hugs to family and friends and the end of a long, tiring day. People want to be around you because you radiate positive energy and it's very contagious. And you're only a year old! You are truly my sunshine.

God has great plans for you, my dear.

What an honor it is to be your mother and observe the lively, charming, free-spirited way in which you take on the world. Don't ever lose your curiosity. Don't ever allow the fear of failure or defeat to stomp on your dreams. And most importantly, don't ever stop smiling. You will be the light in the darkness for many.

Happy birthday, sunshine. I love you with all of my heart.


Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Lessons Learned in Murray, KY

Renting a house isn't so bad. Sure, you can't do everything you'd like to it, but you can still make it a home. :)

My family isn't hooked on TV. It took a week for the cable guys to come and we were just fine.

Check the weather before deciding to put makeup on. If it's over 90 degrees (which it is every day during the summer), your mascara, foundation, powder, lipstick, and anything else you use will literally melt off your face on your walk from the house to the car.

There aren't a lot of huge chain stores such as Target, Kohl's, Old Navy, etc but the small, "mom and pop" type stores will win your heart immediately.

In the beginning, moving is harder on the ones being left behind than it is on the ones moving away.

It IS possible to unpack an entire house in a week with two small children getting into everything.

The Chamber of Commerce in a new city has all the answers.

I had never experienced a real thunderstorm until last week. Holy $&%^#!!!!!

I am losing weight because I have been on the It's-Too-Damn-Hot-To-Eat diet. But I can't get enough liquid.

Roman Catholics are in the minority here but it sure made choosing a church easy (one RC church in the entire county).

It takes children a while to adjust their sleeping patterns when you change time zones, even if only one time zone over.

People on the East Coast really are rude and unfriendly when compared to the South and Midwest.

"Four", "Ten", and "Well" have two syllables. "Ha, higher ya'll?" translates into "Hi, how are you?" The word "Ryan" has one syllable.

Get up and out early to beat the heat, the bugs, and the rain. But there's never any traffic so no worries there.

People talk on their cell phones while driving. They don't wear seatbelts. Hell, they don't even sit in seats. It's commonplace to see a guy sitting in the back of a pickup truck, bumping along the road with his beer.

Card catalogs still exist in libraries...and typewriters too.

Life is too short for fancy shmancy. Kids are perfectly content with playgrounds and bowling allies. Who needs a huge house that doesn't feel "lived in"?? The people here would give you the shirt off their back if you needed it, no questions asked. It's simple, honest, good country livin'.

It's certainly God's country and everyone here knows it...and believes in Him. :)

All these lessons in just one week!!! Gotta love the exciting adventure...and it's only the beginning.