Monday, September 30, 2013

Show a little appreciation

We haven't been married very long, and I'm sure that some people with more experience under their belts will shake their head at our naivete. However, I want to share something that has been working well in our relationship that just might be something others want to add.

Last week was a really busy week. After my family visited, it seemed each evening was full and I didn't have time to do laundry or pick up. The kitchen got more and more cluttered with dishes, the stove adorned with food droppings, the living room covered in opened mail.

Yesterday, I finally had some free time after church to pick up. I canned tomatoes and started the third of seven loads of laundry. I was exhausted and took a nap. Then it was time to do the cleaning.

Maybe it's just me, but when I have a lot to do, I don't even want to start. A little bit means a little bit of time, so it's easier to get motivated. A lot to do means a lot of work, and I just would rather keep putting it off.

However, I dug in. I cleaned the bathrooms, swept, dusted, vacuumed, picked up all the clutter, cleaned the kitchen.

Finally, when Nate came home from dinner the house was pretty much clean, although I still needed to fold and put away laundry.

He came in and said "The house looks nice."

It was a little compliment, but it meant that he noticed my hard work and appreciated it.

He is good about complimenting me on my work at home: Canning, cleaning, sewing. The appreciation makes me want to keep doing what I do.

Whenever he does stuff, I try to express my appreciation and say "Thank you" or "It looks great" so that he is also motivated to keeping up the effort.

In marriages that include a lot of fighting, it seems that the husband and wife feel underappreciated and are no longer motivated because they don't think their efforts are noticed. I don't want that to happen to us, and I'm so glad, so far, we've been able to show our gratitude and appreciation for each other.

Thursday, September 26, 2013

The comparison game

A girl I went to elementary school with, according to Facebook, just got back from a honeymoon to Bora Bora, Tahiti and Madeira.

I'll admit, I'm a little jealous. I would love to go to the south Pacific. It looks so gorgeous, but I could never get that much time off work to make such a long trip, and we definitely don't have the money.

We did just book a trip to the Bahamas for next year, though. It doesn't sound quite as cool, but then I thought about it a little bit. If I saw someone post pictures of St. Lucia one year and the Bahamas the next, I would think how lucky they were to get to take those trips and how much money they must have.

We sure don't have a lot of money, but it all depends on who you compare it to. We are incredibly blessed to have the means to go to the Bahamas right now. When we talk about where our parents were when they were first married --- my parents said they pulled their bed into the kitchen of their trailer to sleep by the warm oven --- we are ridiculously well off. Compare ourselves to a lawyer or a doctor or a family with generations of money, and yes, we're poor.

Really, we shouldn't be comparing ourselves at all. God has seen it best to place us right where we are in our lives, and who are we to judge? We should be thankful for every speck and morsel we get from him.

Our pastor talked about this when teaching on the last chapter of John. When Peter found out he would die a martyr's death, he asked "What about John? Isn't John going to die too?"

Jesus told Peter to mind his own business. No, John did not die as a martyr. He was dropped in a pot of boiling oil, but he didn't die. He was exiled to a deserted island and didn't die. He eventually died of old age.

God had a plan for both Peter and John, and who were they to say if it was right or wrong. God had a reason for it and that should be enough.

So next time you're tempted to compare yourself to another, don't. Instead, stop and say "Thank you" that you are right where you are, because there's a reason for it. 

Monday, September 23, 2013

Visit from mom - and dad and brother

It's so nice to spend time with family.

When you're little, you love to be around your family. You cry when Mom or Dad leaves you with someone else, because you could spend every waking moment with them and be happy. When you hit your teenage years, something in those hormones makes you cringe when Mom or Dad enters the room. You don't want to spend any time with them and look like a dork. When you grow out of that stage, it becomes wonderful to spend time with them again.

My parents and my brother visited this weekend. The men went duck hunting each morning, and my mom and I got to spend some great time together.

It's never crazy things that we do. We went to secondhand stores, tried glass etching, made dinner. However, it's just nice to know that you are loved and that someone likes to spend time with you doing the simple things.

When I was little, BFF rings, bracelets and necklaces were popular. I had a couple, although I don't really remember who they were from.

One, I remember though. I still have it somewhere, although I don't know where it is tucked away amidst my childhood treasures. It should be in my ballerina, musical jewelry box.

That ring was a Friends Forever ring that I got from my mom. It's the only BFF piece of jewelry that I ever had that I know is true. We might have had our ups and downs when I was a teenager, and we might not always agree on everything, but when something good or bad or newsworthy happens, I know that I can share it with her. She is a wonderful friend, and I'm so blessed to have her.

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Thank a Police Officer Day this weekend

This Saturday is National Thank a Police Officer Day.

I've written before about how law enforcement officers often get the shaft when it comes to being shown appreciation.

People think of firefighters or the military first, because those men and women give of themselves but don't have to punish their consituents. They save someone's house from a fire or go overseas to punish our enemies and make it safe for us to live in this country.

Police officers serve and protect, and often that means punishing the people in our community who do wrong. They have to give tickets when people are speeding or have a brakelight out --- making the roads more dangerous. They arrest people who get drunk and start fights, even if those people think the fight was warranted. They might have to come intervene in a family argument that gets out of control, keeping those people safe even if they are angry that someone is butting in.

Sometimes police officers aren't appreciated because they can't solve everything. They might not be able to find your lost puppy or find your stolen wallet. They will try to solve your problems, but some things are even beyond their control or are too small considering what else they have to do.

Law enforcement officers also have to uphold all the laws, even if they don't think they are right. If you try to take up your case with one that you are breaking the law because it is a stupid law, it won't work. They have taken an oath to uphold the law, no matter what it is. They don't make the laws.

But law enforcement is important. If they didn't uphold the law, can you imagine what the world would turn into? I think they just created a movie like that, "The Purge."

So when you get a ticket, apologize for doing something wrong and take the punishment. When they come to your house to help you out, thank them, don't yell at them. Be understanding that their job is tough, and they don't want to be dealing with your situation any more than you do.

This one day a year, show your appreciation for all that law enforcement does in the community. Just a little thank you can make a week's worth of trouble worth it. Who doesn't appreciate a little appreciation?

So, thank you. Thank you all law enforcement officers for your honesty, your courage, your hard work,  your dedication. Thank you for all you do and all you are. We salute you.

Friday, September 13, 2013

Thankful for...

It's Friday the 13th, and it's supposed to be one of the scariest days of the year.

But like most things, life is all about how you look at it. So think on the bright side and think about what you're thankful for today.

1. A husband that is willing to run little errands for me, like bringing my computer charger while I'm teaching dance since I was running out of battery to play the music.
2. Wireless Internet that lets me watch "Golden Girls" online on Youtube.
3. The money to pay all the bills we have.
4. Weather that is cooling down, which means our puppy wants to cuddle again!
5. A full refrigerator and freezer with a month's full of meals I can make.
6. A healthy immediate family.
7. A pastor and his family that treats us as friends.
8. The money to be able to fix up our new home, slowly but surely.
9. The talent to cook and bake for family and friends.
10. A God that loves me and watches over me, no matter what.

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Doing things for him vs. being with him

On Sunday, I worked at the coffee bar at church and entered service a little late. I was working the coffee stand by myself as Nate had to work the night before and was exhausted, so I told him to sleep.

I knew that the flavored coffee carafe was only half full, and I was worried that it was going to empty while I was in church. As the singing continued, I wondered if I should go back out to check it before the sermon started.

I finally decided that it was better to be in service and praising God than to worry about the coffee running out while the sermon was going on. However, it kept nagging me.

That made me think of an "Adventures in Odyssey" episode features a little girl going back to Bethany to visit Mary, Martha and Lazarus.

Martha complains that Mary is sitting at Jesus' feet versus helping serve the meal that was keeping Martha busy in the kitchen instead of listening to Jesus talk. Jesus rebukes Martha and said that being with him was more important and Mary chose the right path.

Lazarus later tells Martha, "Doing things for him isn't the same as being with him."

That lesson was reiterated when the pastor preached on Sunday about Jesus appearing the disciples while they were fishing, after he had risen from the dead. Peter jumped into the sea and swam to shore to hug Jesus, while the other disciples finished what they were doing before bringing the boat to shore.

Peter knew what was important and left everything else, not worrying about finishing his work because seeing Jesus was more important.

Sometimes I put doing things for God in front of being with God.

And it's the same with people. Serving isn't always a substitute for just spending time with each other.

Monday, September 9, 2013

The perfect first year

The final day of our anniversary, we recapped the morning after we got engaged and had breakfast in the hotel.

After the drive home, we were invited to dinner by some friends who even surprised us with an "anniversary pie."

All-in-all, the best way to describe our first anniversary weekend is "perfect."

It wasn't just the fact that we had a wonderful time and created some great memories, but it was that we got to celebrate our first year of marriage - a successful year I might add.

I had heard a lot of people say that the first year of marriage is the hardest. I hope that is true, because if this is the hardest year we have we're in for easy sailing the rest of our lives. I can honestly say we haven't even had a fight this year - little disagreements like any normal people have but not even a real out-and-out argument.

I don't know exactly what to credit this wonderful first year to. Maybe it's the fact that we have already been together for almost 10 years. We know each other pretty well. We've dealt with changes in each other and know how to go with the flow. We have melded together already - him becoming a little more structured and me becoming a little more spontaneous. Or maybe we shouldn't take any credit and say simply that God blessed us with a wonderful first year together and a period of ease in our lives.

This first year has been wonderful because I have a wonderful man to share my life with. He has really surprised me in some areas, showing me what a romantic and godly man I am married to. I am not just lucky that I have him, because it certainly isn't luck that we're together, I am blessed. God has truly blessed me with a life that I can absolutely beam about. I am so happy, and I hope that in the moments of trouble in the future that I can look back at these times and remember them to put a smile on my face.

And thank you for those of us who have supported us - through our dating years, our growing years, our engagement, our wedding and our marriage. We appreciate the love our families give us.

Saturday, September 7, 2013

First anniversary: Part III

Always having dreamed of going to the Kentucky Derby, I wanted to dress up and wear a floppy sunhat to the races at Canterbury Park.

I had on a dress until Nate informed me it was only supposed to be in the high 60s, so I dressed down and wore jeans to be warm instead of cute.

It was probably a good thing, because some people there were as casual as in athletic shorts, so I fit right in.

We saw the Budweiser Clydesdales in their pens and laughed at one brawny creature that would pick up his hay, bring it over to his water pail and dunk it before he ate it.

We found the paddock and listened to the announcer and analyst go over the day's races, deciding who was going to be our pick in each. As the first race mounted, I smiled at the beautiful horses just a few feet away.

Nate wanted to bet so we went up to a machine, but I was worried about missing the horses, so I left him there and went out to sit by the track. He didn't make it to me before the horses were off, and then crossed the finish line only 20 seconds later in the 400 yard quarter horse sprint.

I was excited because the horse that we picked was first, and I hoped that Nate had made the $2 bet before the race was completed.

He finally found me and informed me he had made a bet before the race, but he didn't understand the machine so he accidentally bet on a race in Albuquerque.

The next race we each had our own choice, Nate went for the favorite while I went for a longer shot named Irish Brew. He sounded like he could be a good bet, and his name was interesting.

Nate's horses flew past the finish line first. My pick came in almost limping after the entire field.

For the next seven races we picked a winner as well as tried to figure out the top three in order, known as a trifecta. Several times we had the right horses, just in the wrong order. All in all, we lost every single bet after Nate won about 40 cents on that second race.

It was so special to attend the horse races. I grew up reading the "Thoroughbred" series of books and have always been a lover of racehorses, even though I've never seen them in person. They're just so beautiful and regal and fast. It's incredible to watch them.

From the stands to watching one race with our eyes right at dirt level by the finish line, this was an amazing experience.

And the fact that we then concluded the day with a snack at White Castle --- for Nate not me, a trip to IKEA and an evening of appetizers at a local restaurant, it was yet another perfect day of our anniversary trip.

Next up: Our actual anniversary

Wednesday, September 4, 2013

First anniversary: Part II

Friday night I went into the office to cover sports games and got the first call. I was still expecting to be there until at least 1 a.m. since it was the first Friday night football game of the season.

However, at 11:30 p.m. the sports editor told me my story was edited and I could go home because there were enough people there to cover the last two games that needed to come in. I threw my two thumbs up in the air like Phil Robertson and happy, happy, happily made my way out the door.

I was so excited for the weekend and so exuberant that I got off work early, I wanted to call someone and share my joy. There wasn't really anyone to call at that point, so I directed my joy heavenward because I knew that God would appreciate my joy just as much as I did.

"Thank you Lord for everything" was pretty much what my prayer boiled down to.

Saturday, Aug. 31, started off sleepily. I got up when Nate got home from work at 7 a.m. and then cut his hair. We packed everything up and were on the road by 9:30 a.m., although we realized we didn't see Novie inside and drove back home to check that she hadn't escaped the house while we were packing - she hadn't.

We drove to OC to say good-bye to Jack at his funeral. I told Nate I felt a little guilty being so happy about the weekend when it started off with a funeral, but honestly, I think Jack would want me to be happy on this special anniversary.

Since he hadn't slept the night before I drove us to Minneapolis while Nate took a nap in the car. We pulled up to the hotel and unloaded the car, the valets looking on as we unloaded what appeared to be our house - including a bag of food and a cooler, because we were trying to save eating out costs. Nate lost the valet ticket almost immediately so I had to go ask for another one, and we just laughed later at how out-of-place we felt.

"I think the small town conversion is complete," I told Nate.

He took another nap while I curled my hair and we headed out to the Dakota Jazz Club to see Janika Magness. The people at the will call table offered to upgrade us, and we accepted. We followed the maitre de to a spot near the stage, and to give us "privacy" from the foursome next to us she pulled our table literally an inch away from theirs. There was another two-person table an inch away on the other side.

That wasn't exactly the privacy we had envisioned for the evening.

Nate went back to the will call table, and they gave us our original table back with a worse view on the balcony but so much more privacy.

Someone sent us two glasses of champagne in honor of our anniversary, and Nate and I decided to just chat until it was closer to concert time when we would order our main courses. It was more than an hour before the show started, and then all of a sudden we realized we had been chatting even longer than we meant to.

We picked our entrees and then listened as Magness' band warmed up. They jammed until the leopard-print clad Magness joined them on stage, her soulful voice booming out.

We ate and listened and ate some free dessert that appeared at our table and finally the concert was over and it was time to leave.

All I can say is, perfection. It was an absolutely perfect night and the perfect way to start our first anniversary weekend.

Next up: Part III: The races!

Tuesday, September 3, 2013

First anniversary: Part 1

Nate and I had talked about what we would do for our first year anniversary. We're trying to save some money for a big trip next year, so we thought we would just stay in town and have a nice dinner out.

Then last week I thought it would be fun to go to Valleyfair Amusement Park in Shakopee, MN, for a short trip. So I asked Nate if he wanted to do that, since we both love amusement parks.

He looked at me kind of oddly and then said, "We're already going to Minneapolis."

Then it was my turn to look at him oddly.

"Where are we going?"

He told me he booked a stay at the beautiful hotel we stayed at when we got engaged and was going to take me to the horse races on Sunday. Then he said he had already packed me a bag and everything. He then took me upstairs and got out the two bags to show me what he had packed.

"I stood in your closet for two hours looking at everything. Then I just decided T-shirts, I can do T-shirts."

He had picked out several different options, from T-shirts (including the camisole to go under the white shirt) as well as shorts and jeans. He picked out a silver dress to go out and another dress that I could wear a fancy hat with to go to the races. Then he had a separate bag of shoes to go with each outfit.
He had a note to pack my make-up and jewelry at the last minute so I wouldn't notice it missing. I have to say, even though he ended up telling me about the surprise, it was the sweetest thing ever.

I called my mom to tell her what he had planned, and I was just over-the-moon excited about everything. He had not only planned something, but he planned something to the extent that he had given deep thought about what I would enjoy and what would be special to me. He went to the trouble of packing my clothes, which many men wouldn't attempt to do in a million years.

They often say it's the thought that counts, and it completely is. I don't know if I expressed my appreciation as well as I should have, but my heart was just so full of love and appreciation that it could have exploded. I always knew I had a great guy, but he seems to be growing and changing and getting even more amazing every day.

Next up: The first day of our trip