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Thursday, February 10, 2011

Building the Best Nest

I have been married to my Prince Charming for 18 years!  (Our very first date was Valentine's Day 1992)

While I wish I could say that every minute of my marriage has been pure bliss, that would be a terrible lie.  While we are extremely happy, the truth is that we have had some really difficult times and have been through some really hard things.  However, we have weathered those storms beautifully (though a little messy at times) and learned some powerful lessons along the way.  I thought I would share a few of our stories and see if any of these resonate with any of you!

Important Lessons from Dan and Amy:
  • Do not headbutt your new wife in your honeymoon bed
    • (To set the scene of this story.... )Dan and I lived in Spring Lake, North Carolina and Dan was in the Army at Ft Bragg.  He was a Paratrooper and received combat, weapons, and airborne training (among other training).  He was up most mornings at 4am to drive to the Army base ...
    • At night, after an exhausting day of physical training, Dan and I would spoon when we slept. 
    •  One night, when we were first married, I was sound asleep and cozy with Dan's arm under my neck.  The next thing I knew, I felt his arm tighten around my throat and then he did the unthinkable~ he head butted me!!  
    • Turns out, he was dreaming that he was being attacked and he was fighting back (using me as the dummy!!!)  I was almost afraid to go back to sleep for fear he would snap my neck or something... I shouted.. "What are you doing??" He roused from his dream and sheepishly explained and apologized.... (yeah - save it for my funeral!!  =0)  (Casualty of War)  ha!

  • Admit that the BLUE M&M tastes far superior than any other color.
    • This has been a debate in our home for quite some time and I still cannot get Dan to admit that  Blue is the better M&M.  Dan's nickname is "Mernie" and mine is "Mia" so we are partial to the significance of the M&M logo.  For the sake of marital unity and harmony, he just needs to give in!

  • Do not provoke your wife by conversing with her when she is talking in her sleep and has no idea what she is saying...
    • A few months after that first sleep incident, I had taken a job at a local day care center where Satan himself must have sent his children.  These children were the youngins' of the military base and in most cases both of their parents were away for various trainings or deployments.  These kids were starved for parental love and care and acted out to receive any kind of attention.  In many cases these children were violent in their behavior. 
    • I  had one child throw a very heavy wooden chair at my legs and when it made contact with my shins it dropped me to the floor.  He was kicked out of preschool the next day. 
    • So, as you can tell, I was under a good bit of job stress and I was constantly thinking of ways to reign these little ones in so I had a chance at loving on them and, hopefully, making a difference in their lives.
    •   One night, I was dreaming - as usual, of my job at the daycare and I sat up, pointed my finger toward the end of the bed and in a very firm voice said "You need to sit down RIGHT NOW"... my husband observed this and thought he would have some fun with me and responded "No!"  --  I guess we repeated this a few times before I woke up to the sound of his hysterical laughter...  (ok, so maybe it was a little funny)
    • It is a wonder that we don't have separate bedrooms.

  • Do not tickle your spouse when you are not ticklish.
    • I am extremely ticklish and Dan is not... no further explanation needed here... Rules of engagement just simply say you cannot torture tickle!!

  • Accept that a "shopping list" is not a strict "list" but that it is a "mere guideline".
    • This was another newlywed thing that we had to compromise on.  Dan's idea of a grocery list is that if an item is not on the list, we don't get it.  My idea of a grocery list is that it is a "mere guideline".  That gives me the direction of where my shopping needs to go, but I might see things in the store that I forgot to write down and they too will be added to the shopping cart. 
    • Dan sums it up like this... "The items on the list are the MINIMUM number of items that we will be coming home with from the store"
    • We changed the name from "grocery list" to "mere guideline" (these little details make him a happy man) =0)

  • Learn to accept your spouse's quirks
    • I cannot stand the sound of someone rifling around in a chip bag.  If you want to eat chips, you must put them in a bowl. (husband included)
    • For Dan, this would be me praying fervently as we approached the fast food drive-in window that the hamburger patty is ON the bun (not beside it, sticking to the paper, or slightly touching it) or I will have to hear about the incompetence of the burger assembler for the rest of the day (maybe two). This is a real life issue for my husband. =0)

  • Make Memories/Share Experiences: Here are some that we enjoy.
    • Have the navigator in your car read aloud while you drive.  We have read some really good books this way (we even read the entire Laura Ingalls Wilder series of books).  Now we have a Kindle and it is even easier!
    • Plan cheap dates! One of our favorites is "The Drive In" - We rent a $1 Redbox or Blockbuster movie, and sit in the driveway in our car and watch it on our daughter's portable DVD player, while eating takeout from somewhere (usually Chinese). 
    • Surprise! Surprise! Surprise!  - Dan and I have both surprised each other in many forms, but the best one by far was what I did for his birthday one year.  I sent letters to over 100 celebrities, sports stars, radio stations, tv shows local personalities and political figures (even the President).  I asked them to help me celebrate my hubby's birthday by sending autographed pics, birthday cards or whatever they chose.  (I did this several months in advance to give them all time to respond).  I then told my hubby he couldn't check the mail.  (He thought I was in a dishtowel club or something!  ha!).  We received tons of Tshirts, mousepads, autographed pics, posters, keychains, magnets, stuffed dolls, all from celebrities with personal birthday wishes.  We even got a call from the White House.  I saved all of it and gave it to Dan in a big gift bag for him to open on his birthday.  He LOVED it!!  Afterwards I scrapbooked everything that could be scrapbooked.  It was GREAT and we have a wonderful momento!

  • Serve/Volunteer Together
    • This is an area of real bonding... Setting your own needs and time aside to serve others in your community.  Dan and I love International Students so for the past 8 years we have hosted a Drake International Student (and sometimes several).  They don't live with us, but we are their friends and get together often to play games, eat, watch movies, go on outings and learn about each other's culture.  We are also available to them if they need advice, are ill or feel homesick.  We become a real family to our students and love serving together in this way.
    • Go to church/Practice your faith together.  Take an hour or two each week to relax and let someone else do the talking and you just soak it all in and learn how to be a better individual/spouse and contribute both in your home and in your circle of influence.

  • Communicate Openly and Honestly
    • This is an area that I truly appreciate about my husband.  I can say anything to him and he is a safe place.  When I say anything, I mean it... sometimes I even say "I really don't like you right now" - other times, I will say "Can I tell you something that you might not want to hear?".  There are even times when we agree to not communicate for a time - that is really being honest (Saying "I can't handle this right now, can we talk about it tomorrow (when I am rested and in a better mind set").  This is productive communication.
    • Be sure to balance your communication.  Do not always be communicating in a negative way.  Negativity has a place but be sure to balance it with positive feedback, appreciation, thanks and examples of how your spouse has met your needs or traits that you appreciate in them.
A few of these things have been funny and some have been quite serious but all are a small part of what make Dan and I work as a couple!  Having a successful relationship isn't about reading minds or spending a lot of money to have expensive dates, it is about getting past all of the "surface" distractions and truly appreciating each other for the unique human beings we are.  THAT is true connection and lasting intimacy!

I love this excerpt from a poem by William Wadsworth Longfellow...

I have you fast in my fortress,
And will not let you depart,
But put you down into the dungeon
In the round-tower of my heart.
And there will I keep you forever,
Yes, forever and a day,
Till the walls shall crumble to ruin,
And moulder in dust away!

"For you have given me my heart's desire;
you have held back nothing that I've requested." 
Psalm 21:2 (personalized)

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