Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Practical ways to improve your mood.

Sorry it's been so long since I've posted. We just returned from an extended vacation and I have had a mountain of laundry to catch up on.
Over the last month I've been very aware of my response to certain situations and people.
I have been biting my tongue...a lot.
I've been thinking before speaking.
I've been biding my time and trying to ask not nag.
I've become much more aware of my habit of responding out of my emotions.
A very dangerous pursuit.
Women are driven by hormones. At least this woman is.
On any particular day I can respond in a dozen different ways to the same request.

If Hubby tells me he is going to spend the day with friends I can:
A) Give him a kiss and tell him to have fun
B) Shrug and plot revenge in the guise of me making chicken with fettuccine Alfredo (his favorite meal) and eating it before he gets home.
C) Sprout horns and shriek like a banshee

The poor guy has no way to determine my reaction to things based on previous patterns because I'm so totally unpredictable.
Now, I think I'm a fairly reasonable and functioning adult.
I manage to get out of bed every morning, take care of my kids, plan meals, clean my house and indulge in some sort of hobby everyday, but I often find myself passing that point of no return.
Saying things I regret, stomping around like a military commander, acting as though all the world's power should rest in my pointer finger and on occasion I've been known to break a glass or two.
I hate that.
I hate feeling out of control.
I've devised a simple three step plan that I'm hoping will help me remain in control of my emotions despite raging hormones.
I'm not promising this will work for you, but I'm going to give it a go myself. I'm giving myself a week. Starting tomorrow.

1) This is one of the most important steps you can take in your journey to being a nice wife...mother...employee...human being.
My husband is okay on six hours but some people need up to ten. Find out what type of person you are.
I need a good eight or nine hours to feel rested.
My girls are up at seven which means I need to be snoozing by 10:00 or 11:00.
I haven't gone to bed before midnight in years.
My husband has class at night and if I want to spend any time with him it has to be when he gets home around 10:00 pm.
At least, that's what I tell myself. The truth is that when he gets home he usually gets on the computer and I lay on the couch and read a novel until I've either finished it or my eyes are gritty and bloodshot.
From 10/7-10/14 I am going to be in bed by 10 PM.
I'm hoping this step alone will improve my attitude.

2) Eat properly.
Okay, I have a confession to make.
I'm obsessed with food and nutrition. I live it. I breathe it. I'm soon hoping to write about it if Hubby finishes up designing my site.
I firmly believe the foods you eat affect your mood.
I'm not so sure about a one size fits all diet but I do think there are a few things people can do that will help them be better in control of their emotions (and health.)
No doubt some of this will be hard for you. But your marriage is worth it.
I promise. Hubby/Wife may not look so cute when you are going through sugar or caffeine withdrawal but when all is said and done he/she will appreciate the effort you made.
I'm not going to go into scientific detail about the reasoning behind these suggestions. This just isn't that sort of blog, but there is plenty of info on the web.

GIVE UP SUGAR- especially refined sugar. That glittering white stuff isn't a food. It's a drug and it affects you powerfully.
You can substitute unrefined sweeteners like raw honey, rapadura and coconut sugar if you need to.
Kimi at www.thenourishinggourmet.com is having a week long sugar-free challenge. We are two days into it but better late than never.

GIVE UP CAFFEINE- again, this is a drug. You shouldn't be relying on a chemical to give you energy and joy.
I'm actually highly sensitive to caffeine and am not able to drink coffee without developing a mouthful of canker sores so I've blessedly been able to avoid this addiction.
I do, however, appreciate a warm mug of something in the morning.
I've developed a love for Teacchino which I purchase at Whole foods. My husband, who is highly addicted to caffeine, actually gives Teacchino a thumbs up and is willing to drink it on the weekends with me.

EAT ENOUGH! At any given moment eighty percent of my friends are starving themselves, um...dieting.
They mistakenly believe if they limit the fat they eat they will lose weight.
Let's try a paradigm shift. It isn't HOW much fat you eat that will determine what you weigh it is WHAT type of fat you eat that will.
Stick to whole, natural foods that are high in good fats and proteins.
A salad made with avocado, grass-fed steak and dressing made with coconut or olive oil is going to nourish you better than a salad made with lettuce and store-bought fat-free dressing.
If you don't eat enough or you don't eat properly your body will fail. You will be tired, cranky and moody.
Again, I can't really dive into the science behind this but I suggest you check out Nourishing Traditions by Sally Fallon or just read through some of my favorite food blogs. In addition to Kimi's there is:

3) Feed your spirit. Spend time with God every day.
Start the day off praising Him. Bless your food. Read your kids a Bible story. Make a list of the ways He has blessed you. Pray for a friend. Read a devotion, a Psalm or a Proverb...or do all three.
If you feel yourself crossing into crazy land get in your prayer closet (or in my case- the prayer bathroom) and hand your burdens over to Christ. Don't leave the closet or bathroom until you are sure you have.
Remember that His burden is light.
If you have heavy burdens it's time to lose a little weight.
It's hard to respond in love to loved ones when the world is resting on your shoulders.
We were never intended to carry so much.
This is an area I have a lot of trouble with.
Sometimes in the busyness of the day I lose sight of what and who really matters. I get caught up in all the doing and forget that I am a highly spiritual being that needs to be fed living water in order to function properly.
I pray with the girls a few times a day but my Bible reading usually consists of sanitized versions of Bible stories accompanied by grinning cherubs and a cleaned-up Jesus.
I spend very little time in the word and almost no time in communion with Him.
I have a feeling if I spend more time with Christ, I'll be better able to enjoy the time I spend with my husband.
After all my marriage is symbolic of the sacred romance. If I better know Jesus as my groom I can better understand my earthly groom.

There you have it. Love rejoices in truth and the truth is that I need to sleep more, eat better and spend more time with God.
The truth is that, though I like to blame my mood on female problems, I have been fearfully and wonderfully made. I can't make excuses for my bad attitude. I am fully capable of making the lifestyle changes necessary to be emotionally, physically and spiritually healthy.
I can barge through my marriage hungry, angry and in a zombie-like fog or I can eat better, sleep more, know Him more intimately and be a better wife.
Zombie or wife?
Hmm...I think I know who my husband would prefer cuddle with him at night.
That is, if I can get him in bed at a decent hour.

Monday, September 14, 2009

I decided last Saturday that my husband was perfectly capable of managing the homefront for the day and I left. I spent the morning shopping with one friend followed by a one and a half hour afternoon nap. I spent the evening with another friend eating and helping her shop.
Normally when I spend any amount of time away from my family I plan and organize everything for him. I lay out clothes, make and label meals, remind him of nap time and story time and television time. I suggest fun activities and games. I leave a list of chores, in case he gets bored, with explicit instructions (Do dishes: load dishwasher properly, wipe down counters first then sink, wash cast iron skillet and stainless steel utensils by hand. Vacuum carpet: living room and dining room. Use tools to get into crevices.)
I didn't do any of that. I let it go.
I didn't even remind him to get them dressed or feed them.
When I came home my children weren't wearing what I would have chosen as I like clothes to match, but they weren't running around naked either.
They didn't seem to be starving although they did gleefully announce they had eaten "pizza AND cotton candy."
The living room was cluttered with toys and, oddly, a few pairs of socks, but the dishes were washed.
They didn't learn any new life skills or spend an hour producing a work of art but they had lots of fun riding the merry-go-round at the fair.
Best of all? I didn't feel the need to call my husband every twelve minutes to remind him of something.
Did the day run exactly as I would have planned? Well, no. But I guess it didn't really have to.
The girls had a fun day with daddy and nobody cared that they were wearing different parts from two separate outfits while eating (gasp!) sugar.
Love always trusts.
I trust my husband adores our children. I trust he is a responsible, mature adult that is able to make rational decisions.
Despite my inability to let go of control in the past, I've now decided I need to trust him.
As I spent the day having fun and enjoying a break from routine I realized demonstrating that trust before actually feeling it allowed me to let go of the worry. It also allowed him to step up to the plate. I never really considered how demeaning it was to micro-manage every aspect of the time he spent with the girls.
Maybe he messed up so much (at least in my mind) because he knew there were no expectations. Maybe on a sub-conscious level he realized he could never meet my standard so why try?
I treated my husband as though he wouldn't plop the girls in front of a movie, clad only in nightgowns, while he napped on the couch and slipped them peanut butter cups to keep them quiet and he didn't.
They didn't get one peanut butter cup all day.
It was a good day...for all of us.

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

I'm a bit obsessed with food.
I love it. Every aspect of it.
I love to grow it, prepare it, serve it and of course, eat it.
I cook three meals a day for my family. From scratch.
It's one of the ways I show them I love them. Hubby stayed with the girls while I went shopping with friends? Cook him up a big pan of chicken Parmigiana. Daughter made her bed without being asked? Whip up some cookies.
I'm also a bit obsessed with time.
I'm a master at multi-tasking (what mom isn't?) and time management.
I hate wasting time, being late and misusing the hours in my day.
My husband loves food but he isn't so interested in time.
He dawdles, sleeps in, will take two hours to do something that should take ten minutes and is often late.
The disparity between his view of time and mine has caused some minor rifts in our relationship.
"Why don't you relax with me on the couch for a little bit?" He will say to me after church.
Relax? RELAX?! When there is so much to do? "Why don't you help me feed the kids, clean up, do the laundry, paint the fence, wash the car and go through all the fall clothes and then we can relax?" I'll tell him.
The lengths to which he takes his aversion to watches and clocks sometimes goes to far.
A month after we moved into our home one of the kitchen drawers broke.
I asked him to fix it. Every day. For three years. It fell on our daughters head one day.
Finally he told me he would look at it. It took him fifteen minutes to fix it.
Fifteen minutes.
Tonight I made a yummy Indian meal.
We both love Indian food.
Egg curry, rice, spicy cauliflower. The toasted spices, ground cumin seeds and simmering coconut milk made my mouth water. At 5:15, the time we normally eat dinner, I set all the pans on warm and waited for him to come home.
Almost every night I have dinner waiting for him.
I'm like some fifties housewife that got caught in a time warp.
I even wear an apron and, though I never wear heels and pearls in the kitchen, I still look cute.
At 5:40 I called him.
Normally I would say something sarcastic like, "Should the girls and I eat without you?" or "would you rather have Taco Bell instead of this incredible home-cooked meal I've slaved over for the past hour?"
But in my PNW (post-nagging wife) world I knew I couldn't say those things.
"What are you doing?" I asked.
"I had to stop at the library and check out some books for my classes," he said.
You couldn't tell me? I thought.
"Oh," I said. "When will you be home?"
"I'm leaving in a few minutes."
I hung up the phone.
I stirred the cauliflower, fluffed the rice and sliced the eggs.
The library is only ten minutes from our house.
Twenty minutes later he still wasn't home.
I should have known. Like I said, my husband has no concept of time.
I put the phone on top of the fridge to avoid temptation. I ground my teeth. I cleared the table. I swept the floor. I emptied the dishwasher. I sat down with a novel and read half a chapter and finally he came home.
"Daddy is here!" My two year old announced and dove for the couch. For some bizarre reason both my kids feel the need to hide under the cushions every time he walks in the door.
I threw my book on the table and went back to the kitchen. I posed myself over the stove with a spoon.
I wanted him to see me hard at work, slaving away over his meal while he rudely disregarded my time table.
"Dinner almost ready?" he asked as he came into the dining room.
"It's been ready for an hour." I couldn't help it. The snarkiness just slipped out.
I took three deep breaths and put the food in serving bowls.
"Can you set the table?" I asked.
A few moments later the food was on the table as well as the forks my two year old had gotten, four plates and two glasses of water.
"Cups for the girls?" I asked.
"Oh," he said.
Finally. Finally it was time to eat.
I swallowed another rude comment and served the girls.
"It's been a rough day," he said. "I was stuck at work late because some lady erased all the files on her computer. She was crying on the phone. Then I had to get this book."
He got quiet.
My husband is normally never quiet.
He began to eat.
I kept the bitter words to myself.
So what if the eggs were cold and the curry got a little thick. So what if the cauliflower was a little overcooked and we ate dinner a bit late.
So what if my husband followed a predictable pattern and didn't keep track of time or think to call me to tell me he was going to be late.
We still ate.
It was still good.
Better yet, despite my momentary slip up ("it's been ready for an hour!") we spent the evening argument free.
That's worth an hour of lost time.

Sunday, September 6, 2009

Love does not manipulate with pink push-up bras

We have $3.50 in our bank account.
Unexpected car repairs and a couple of medical bills have depleted our wallets and savings account.
Until hubby gets paid next week things are tight.
He told me tonight he wanted to drive 45 minutes to visit with some friends.
He has a quarter tank of gas and a week before he can fill it up.
"We don't have the money for you to take random trips. Have you seen gas prices?" I said.
"I told them I'd be out there," he told me.
Well, that's well and good, but we had to scrounge around the seat cushions yesterday to find $1.50 so we could buy bananas (my husbands drug of choice) and I didn't think making unnecessary trips so he could jam out with some friends was wise.

I have the uncanny ability to literally feel my blood pressure raise.
It's a gift, really.
When I get angry or stressed out I can feel the rush of blood through my veins and the tightening of my heart.
You know those old cartoons where steam pours out of the characters ears? That could happen to me one day. I'm expecting it.
Tonight, while making dinner, I purposed to not be "easily-angered."
As I chopped mushrooms and onions I decided to treat my husband like an adult.
It's sometimes hard for me to remember he is two years older than me.
For the first time since we've been married I considered that, at 32 years old, he may not appreciate his wife acting like his mother.
I have an over-inflated view of my maturity level and tend towards bossiness- especially in dealing with men that play video games and keep Hulk Hogan dolls on their computer desks.
When my husband doesn't think rationally (i.e listening to me) I become condescending. My insults are usually accompanied by eye rolling and stomping.
I've only now realized my behavior was a form of tantrum.
I didn't get my way and so I made everyone around me miserable.
It's a humbling experience to realize you act like your two year old when you've always thought you acted older than you were.

As we were finishing up dinner he stood and gave the girls hugs goodbye.
He brought his plate to the kitchen and I'm ashamed to say I unbuttoned the top two..er, three buttons of my shirt. Did I mention I've become quite adept at manipulating him with my sex appeal?
One last ditch effort to get him to stay at home and keep his gas where it belonged- in the tank. Though, by this point I think I was just mad he was winning.
"What are you doing?" he asked.
"Showing you what you'll miss out on if you go out."
He laughed, gave me a kiss and left.
So much for my sex appeal. My maturity level isn't the only thing I have a hyped view of.
I guess using a pretty bra is better than screaming and insulting, though. It's a step in the right direction, isn't it?
Then why do I feel like I missed a perfect opportunity to demonstrate love?
I'm glad I didn't start an argument but I was still "self-seeking."
I still wanted him to "listen" to me.
Obey me, even.
But he's a grown man. My husband. The head of the house.
So it's all about baby steps. I'd be kidding myself if I thought I could change long-held attitudes overnight.
It's a process, but I think God will honor it. I'm pursuing righteousness. I'm not sure I'll ever attain it, but that's not really the point.
God sees my heart. He knows I really want to be a fabulous wife that brings honor to her husband and peace to her home.
I have to expect, in this process of learning about love, that I'm going to going to fall short sometimes.
Probably more often than not.
Tonight I wasn't hateful and argumentative.
I didn't create a mountain out of a mole-hill.
I did try to manipulate him with my (obviously ineffective) pink push-up bra, but I think he found that much more enjoyable than the alternative.
So, no screaming when I don't get my way and no button down shirts until I'm able to resist the impulse to exploit his sex drive.
Got it.

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Amaranth and crashing cars

I was forced to be nice to my husband tonight (against my will) because of the accountability of this blog. Not that anyone has read it yet, but my own conscience wouldn't let me fail so soon.
Tonight my husband asked me to make him popped amaranth.
Amaranth is an ancient grain originally enjoyed by the ancient Aztecs. Popping amaranth connects me to those ancients, except instead of honey and human blood I mix it with dried coconut and Sucanat. Also, as a Christian, I've never eaten it ceremoniously in honor of some blood-thirsty God.
When popped (yes, like popcorn) amaranth is nutty, slightly sweet and faintly reminiscent of honey smacks.
Hubby loves it.
I do too, except that it makes a huge mess. The seeds are small and they pop, pop, pop all over the place. My counters, floors, knife block, pots, fridge and cookbooks become covered. After popping it I have to sweep, wipe down, pick off and scrape.
Last night I refused to make it.
Tonight, though I wanted to refuse, I didn't.
I spent forty minutes popping- and cleaning up- amaranth.
I think I mentioned my husband isn't neat.
Pouring himself a bowl of amaranth left a pile of the grains spilling over the counter and onto the floor.
A normal person would see the mess and clean it up before wandering out of the kitchen.
However, my husband hasn't yet learned the art of making a sandwich on a plate instead of on a glass stove top. Expecting him to notice something as insignificant as a pile of amaranth would be too much.
Normally I would have said something snarky, but I'm taking this project seriously and "love is patient" popped into my head.
Bite tongue.
Okay, not that hard. Blood is never a good thing.
Wipe counter.
Good. All done.
My wifely duty was accomplished...
Unfortunately, Crash Course was on and my husband thought I might like to watch it with him.
You don't know what Crash Course is?
Neither did I and I could have happily gone through life without ever having figured it out.
Crash Course is a T.V. game show where adolescents in the bodies of adult men and women get behind the wheel of a car and...crash, burn, run into things and act like jocks after a night of hazing.
I'm not a Crash Course sort of girl.
I was planning on getting into some sweats, brewing myself a pot of herbal tea and sinking into bed with four pillows and a novel.
Instead, I found myself gazing dumbly at the television.
Until hubby began making "overtures."
Really, what else should I call them? This is a Christian blog, after all.
Without going into detail I will tell you I wasn't in the mood.
I was tired. Two kids, remember?
I was annoyed at the obnoxious hosts of Crash Course.
I was really looking forward to my novel.
My husband really wanted a response.
My pre-project response would be to roll my eyes at him and shake his hand off my upper thigh, but I'm a changed woman (or at least a changing woman) and instead I smiled at him, gave him a kiss and allowed him to flirt.
Because love isn't "self-seeking."
That's hard.
I can be a little self-absorbed.
I pretend the world revolves around my needs and desires.
Sometimes I treat my husband as though every act of kindness I show towards him takes so much effort and sacrifice.
But tonight I did something kind for him.
I spent time with him doing something he wanted to do.
I didn't complain when he did something annoying.
I didn't demonstrate my superior intelligence by explaining why Crash Course was a waste of my time.
It wasn't a waste of my time.
It was time spent with the man that loves and cherishes me.
Tonight I honored my husband.
I'm proud of myself.
And now I'm going to brew myself a pot of tea, get in my sweats and grab my novel...after I give my husband a big kiss and eat a bowl of amaranth.

The Corinthians Project begins

When I get together with friends we gorge ourselves with ice cream and chocolate, sometimes see a movie and usually end up complaining about our husbands.
I have much less to complain about than most of my friends so I usually end up leaving these get-togethers feeling a bit blessed.
My husband really is fabulous. He's sensitive to my needs (sometimes), helpful with the kids (usually), a hard worker (at work- not at home) and kind to almost everyone he meets.
However, he can't walk through a room without destroying it.
After ten years of marriage he is still hasn't figured out that the whites go in the basket on the right and the darks in the basket on the left.
It took him six months to replace our doorbell.
He hasn't bought me a just-because gift in YEARS (although he does make me beautiful cards which I adore.)
He has ADD- need I say more?
His idea of spending quality time with me is what he calls naked-movie night. What's not to love about a couple of blankets thrown on the floor, an action-adventure in the DVD player and your wife playing Eve to your Adam?
He is a chronic procrastinator and the only reason he accomplishes anything is because I'm a chronic worrier and have turned nagging into an art form.
That's a problem.
Isn't it?
As a Christian I am familiar with Proverbs 21:9, "Better to live on a corner of the roof than share a house with a quarrelsome woman" and Proverbs 27:15-16, "A quarrelsome wife is like a constant dripping on a rainy day; restraining her is like restraining the wind or grasping oil with the hand."
I really, REALLY don't want to be that woman. You know the type. You see them at churches, in restaurants and at parks. The woman that has so browbeaten her husband he is pathetically docile and emasculated. The woman that looks harshly at her husband every time he displeases her. The woman that mocks him in front of people and derides him when they are alone.
The woman that exhausts him with endless demands and is never satisfied.
Am I that woman?
I don't know.
I don't have to be that woman.
I can change.
Sure, it would be nice if he changed, but I need to face facts. My husband has trouble compromising. He very rarely sees his fault in arguments and disagreements and I can count on one hand the number of times he has apologized to me over the course of our relationship.
Proverbs 15:1 (really, that book is so full of wisdom!) says, "A gentle answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger."
My husband is very rarely angry, but I wonder...if a gentle answer can turn away wrath maybe a bit of praise can encourage him to paint my bedroom.
Now, don't think this is all about what I can get him to do. That's a small part of it (okay a big part), but mostly I am interested in seeing if we can connect on a deeper level.
I feel like we've lost something. Passion, desire (and not merely the physical kind), an intense understanding of each other, that all-consuming love demonstrated in Song of Solomon.
I want more from my marriage than what I am getting.
The ball is in my court.
I have to do something because if I left it up to my husband he would wait until I was all shriveled up and creaky to change things.
As a Christian, all I know to do is be obedient to God.
So I'm going to run a little experiment.
I'm not going to tell him. That would place pressure on him to change instead of him being motivated to change because of the changes he sees in me.
I'm simply going to use The Love Verses, 1 Corinthians (see, not Proverbs!) 13:4-6 to guide my interactions with him.
I like projects. I have a dozen of them going on right now.
I think this one, though, is the most important.
This is the project that is going to change my life, my husband's life and the lives of my two little girls.
So, here goes.
I'm about to start the Corinthians Project.