The 5 Year Obstacle Course

Today is our 5 year anniversary. I’ve started a small tradition of documenting my thoughts on our marriage each year (the last 2 years have been documented on this blog here and here). Five years seems like a big milestone – something worth reflecting on so the tradition continues. Here are my reflections on 5 years of marriage:

A few months ago, Blake and I completed our first obstacle race – The Savage Race in Charlotte, NC. The race included 27 obstacles over 5 miles. There was barely time to catch our breath before the next obstacle stood in front of us. Looking back, the race seems like a pretty accurate parallel to the first five years of our marriage. There have been a lot of obstacles; it’s fair to say we’ve barely had time to catch our breath before the next obstacle presented itself.

I know all marriages face a variety of obstacles. It wasn’t until recently when a friend mentioned that our marriage had been “a gauntlet” that I considered the thought that maybe Blake and I have faced more than a “normal” or “average” amount of challenge.

Much like the race, the obstacles we’ve faced have varied in difficulty, fun-factor (not all obstacles are bad), and our ability to conquer them.

Throughout the five years, financial obstacles and stress that come from starting and running a self-owned, local business have undoubtedly caused the most disagreement.

The death of my mom in 2013 and my brother in 2016 created distance at times as we navigated through the emotional struggle differently. Dealing with the death of a loved one is difficult, but maybe even more difficult is attempting to help a spouse cope with the loss.

An early miscarriage in 2013 followed by the birth of a healthy and happy daughter in 2014 gave both perspective and excitement as we dove headfirst into the challenge of parenting – a challenge Blake excelled at immediately. Twenty-one months later, in 2016, we had another healthy, happy daughter. Growing our family has been the most challenging, fun, and rewarding obstacle yet.

In between the big, significant obstacles were smaller challenges  (kind of like the low crawl or fire jump in the Savage race)…slightly easier but still a distraction requiring focus and time – second jobs, buying a new home, career advancements and setbacks, the death of Blake’s beloved pup, the addition of a rambunctious and (sometimes) destructive new pup, long working hours, financial decisions, struggles with family members (illnesses and addiction), child-care situations, etc.

When we were completing The Savage Race, we were focused on surviving – completing the obstacles successfully and quickly. Tackle one obstacle and then on to the next. We weren’t focusing on how well we were communicating – we just communicated – sometimes encouragement, sometimes tough-love, sometimes we said what the other needed to hear and sometimes not. We weren’t savoring the moment or attempting to “grow closer” – we were just racing. The one thing we decided beforehand was that we were completing the race together… stay together, finish together… no man left behind.

If you read (almost) any marriage advice article, communication and making time for each other in order to grow closer are among the top priorities for a strong marriage. At times over the past five years, I’ve been discouraged because I was certain we were not checking the boxes of a “good, strong marriage.” We haven’t prioritized date-nights. We haven’t made a real effort to “work on us.” Our communication has been inconsistent – sometimes great, sometimes awful. But in comparing our marriage to the advice articles, I wasn’t taking into account the obstacles. Blake and I were on an obstacle course. And we were surviving. We were staying together… no man left behind.

Generally speaking, I like obstacles and challenges – in no way am I complaining about the hurdles we’ve faced. There are some over the past five years I wish never existed but there are also some I am incredibly thankful for. Because of the obstacles, we haven’t been intentional in growing our relationship, but as a result of the obstacles our relationship has grown. When you get through a gauntlet together, it kind of makes you think you can get through anything.

Going into the next five years and beyond, I expect more challenges and more obstacles. It would be great if there was a little more space between the obstacles… a little more time to catch our breath, to spend time on us; but even if “the gauntlet” continues, I know we will survive. We will stay together. We will finish together. No man left behind.

Here’s to many more years of whatever life throws our way! *(cue clinking beer bottles)*

Advertisements

Marriage Isn’t Hard – Reflections on 4 Years of Marriage

About a week ago, Blake and I were in the car after church and Blake asked “Do you think marriage to me is hard?

My first thought: “That’s a loaded question”

My actual response: “No.”

I still stand by my response, here’s why: Marriage is a promise..no, a covenant I made to Blake (and to God) on August 4, 2012. Promises and especially covenants aren’t made to be broken.

Making the decision to get married was hard. There were multiple times while Blake and I were dating and even while we were engaged that I seriously considered not marrying him; but when I did marry him, I was sure of my decision. In my head, once I made the decision (and promised before him and God many things including “until death do us part”), I would never reconsider.

Marriage isn’t a decision I make every day… it’s a decision I made once but one that I won’t change. Really, that’s a freeing thought.

If I had to “decide” on marriage EVERY day, I wouldn’t stay married long. I don’t think anyone would.

When we were in the car that day, Blake asked for further explanation on my response. This was my further explanation: “Marriage isn’t hard. Getting along with you everyday is hard.” Luckily Blake is a guy and the didn’t ask for further clarification there. The conversation ended. He knew what I meant.

Getting along with each other is hard. I’m hard. I’m hard on him. I’m sarcastic and harsh sometimes. Blake would probably have a gentler life with someone else but he chose me. He probably doesn’t choose me every day, but he doesn’t have to… he chose me once and he committed to that decision. Even when he doesn’t like me, he loves me and he is married to me. And vice versa.

Full disclosure: Blake annoys the shit out of me sometimes. We don’t agree on a lot of things (namely: how to assemble anything – crib, bookshelf, kegerator, Dr. Browns bottle…anything). But we made the decision to get married and we both honor that decision. No matter what we say to each other, how harsh we are toward each other, or how much we annoy the shit out of each other – we are married. We have to figure it out. If we don’t agree with each other, we figure it out. If something about him annoys me, I usually let him know… why? I’m married to him. If it annoys me now, it will annoy me more in 1 year or 10 years or 50 years so I better go ahead and let him know now. Every argument is worth it. Every disagreement is worth it. Every hard conversation is worth it.

The covenant we made to each other and to God is worth it.

We’re only 4 years in, so this whole blog could be naive, but I really hope it’s not.

(pic above is from our joint bachelor/bachlorette party…still one of my favs!)

signature

The First Trimester: In A Few Sentences

a7164f975862e87c8749a3f63d25a1b9

I’m officially at Week 14 so no matter how you count it, the first trimester is over! 33.33% of the way there. Just for fun here are 1-2 sentences that capture the thoughts, feelings or general circumstances surrounding each week.

Week 1: Absolutely nothing has happened yet, but I distinctly remember having a conversation with Blake that went something like this: Blake – “When do you think we should have another kid?” Me – “Well I definitely don’t want to be pregnant over the holidays again so let’s re-address this in December or January.” The irony.

Week 2: According to most “pregnancy calculators” we unknowingly created a baby sometime this week – I have zero recollection of when this might have occurred.

Week 3: Still blissfully unaware and packing for a family trip to Cancun. Had I known I wouldn’t need the box of tampons, I would have had room for one more bikini to show off the abs I worked so hard to get back.

Week 4: Cancun baby! (pun intended). Luckily, we were chasing after a 1 year old most of the trip so while there was drinking involved it wasn’t as heavy as it could have been.

Week 5: Crap… I never used those tampons I packed. Maybe I miscalculated but I’m going to an open bar wedding this weekend so I should probably check just in case. Crap… not going to be able to take advantage of the open bar.

Week 6: Seriously, my abs were just there… where did they go? It’s only week 6. I worked so hard to get those back!

Week 7: Turns out the only thing harder than attending an open bar wedding while pregnant it attending a bachelorette party while pregnant. Although I didn’t drink, I did get to enjoy the feeling of a mutual hangover with everyone else each morning.

Week 8: Who stole ALL of my energy. SO TIRED. Also, why do I only want to eat spaghetti os?

Week 9: I heard a heartbeat and got a picture… I know exactly who stole (and is still stealing) all the energy. This just got a little bit more real.

Week 10: It’s confirmed – this pregnancy sucks a lot more than the first one. I feel crappy and am always tired. Thank God for Blake – who is cooking, cleaning and folding laundry like a champ BUT if he asks “why are you so tired?” one more time, I will use my very last ounce of energy to punch him in the face… I won’t even be sorry.

Week 11: I got the “go-ahead” from the doctor to consume up to 300 mg of caffeine per day and add Shakeology back into my diet – Hallelujah! For the record I’m not drinking 300 mg of caffeine per day… but I am enjoying coffee again or more specifically skinny vanilla lattes! (I abstained from caffeine during pregnancy #1… what a cocky jerk I was then.)  Also, I love you Shakeology and I’ve missed you for the past 4-5 weeks – at least I know I’m getting good nutrition now (in addition to the stellar nutritional content of spaghetti os).

Week 12: The “news” is public thanks to a pretty cute Christmas card featuring my favorite child who caused absolutely zero pregnancy symptoms. It feels even more real. We’re having another baby… Blake is excited; I’m terrified. Same as last time.

Week 13: The last week of the first trimester… isn’t my energy supposed to be returning. The answer is no. It’s not returning, baby #2 is still hogging all of it. My evening productivity is at an all time low. Blake is a super hero for keeping the household running (but let’s not kid ourselves, he’s always been the one that keeps the household running).

Only 27 more weeks to go… it better only be 27 more weeks- I’m talking to you Baby #2.. you have an opportunity to win some major “favorite child” points back by arriving on time, just sayin’.

signature

It’s All Fun & Games Until Someone Gets Pregnant… Again

20151121-_DSC0205

Blake and I were on the same page about wanting more than one kid. After all, Carter needs a playmate who doesn’t carry toys around in his mouth – she has picked up this habit from the dogs – it’s funny but also socially frowned upon. We were aiming for Baby #1 and Baby #2 to be 2-3 years apart… the way it’s looking now, they’re going to be 22 months apart… which rounds up to 2 years… if you’re the kind of person who rounds up.

It’s clear Baby #2 is not going to be quite as easy as Baby #1. When I was pregnant with Carter there were zero (read: 0, none, nada) symptoms. It was easier to rationalize extra servings of ice cream, but beyond that, no cravings, no nausea, very little fatigue. Life was good, and I pretty much rocked at being pregnant. I know, I hate me too.

This time around, I am left desperately looking for the Space Jam monsters who surely sucked out ALL of my energy and are using it to fuel the Carolina Panther’s improbable run at an undefeated season. For all you Panther fans out there, I’m taking one for the team. You’re welcome.

Space_Jam_17

The nausea has be annoying but not debilitating and my abs disappeared almost immediately. I worked so hard to get those back, couldn’t they stick around at least through the first trimester? The answer is a clear: no.

Don’t get me wrong, we are excited about Baby #2 and in the scheme of things, I know pregnancy can be a lot worse so I am grateful. As of right now, I am healthy and the baby is healthy and Blake is ok with taking on extra laundry duties so relatively speaking things are going great.

Now that the pregnancy secret has been spilled, I will be blogging a lot more frequently. During the “we-know-but-aren’t-telling-anyone” phase, it’s hard to hold a conversation without feeling like you’re omitting a huge detail of massive importance – it’s a little bit like having to go pee really bad while on a car ride and trying to hold it for as long as possible. Once you finally go (or in this case, reveal the pregnancy news) it’s a huge relief.

For the record, I think it’s going to be a girl… more on how I feel about that later.

signature

 

3 Lessons on 3 Years of Marriage

0404

photo courtesy of AJ Dunlap Photography

 

I fully believe nothing, I mean NOTHING, can prepare you for the process of childbirth. In the same way, it’s hard to prepare for marriage and living with slash relying on slash supporting slash loving another person every day. There are pre-marriage classes to help you prepare but they’re a lot like Lamaze classes – they teach how you should ideally handle every situation, but not how you will actually handle the situation. I know what you’re thinking here: “This girl is comparing her marriage to childbirth… her marriage must suck.” Stick with me here… I haven’t explained the whole metaphor. Marriage, like childbirth, is hard and a lot of work and there isn’t much to prepare you for the whole process, but what you get out of it is something pretty awesome and great and really fulfilling.

Today Blake and I celebrate 3 years of marriage… we are still amateurs in the marriage world but also we’ve learned a lot in 3 years. For this post I will only speak for myself. I have probably learned dozens if not hundreds of things over the past three years (from the run-of-the-mill “communication is important” to the always- gross, “gosh boys farts smell awful”)  but here are 3 not-so-common lessons I’ve learned and am still learning.

1. Try Not to Add Extra Stress (especially in the beginning)

When you first get married you are dealing with a lot of change and stressors (such as learning to live with a boy and finding out that your grocery bill actually more than doubles because boys eat more than girls) so it’s important not to add any extra stressors- like buying a new house or starting a new business.

About 6 months before we got married, I encouraged Blake to pursue his dream of owning his own landscape business… I don’t regret that, but the timing could have been better. We dumped all of our joint savings into the start up and Blake quit his job to work the new business full time.  Basically we dove in head first and there may have been some rocks in the shallow waters. The landscape company – Murray’s Landscape Services– (shameless self-promotion) has grown into a sustainable and successful business but the first few years were tough. Honestly, it’s still tough, but the beginning was forreal tough. Money was tight, we were both working a lot and sometimes the pressure was too much. I felt pressure because I was the only financial provider (and tired because I was bartending 30+ hours per week in addition to my full time job to make sure the finances were there), Blake felt pressure to succeed, and we both felt pressure to work together as business partners as well as marriage partners. That’s a tough combination. Blake will tell you that I was/am supportive of him and his business, but I know that wasn’t always true. Over the past 3 years there have been many times that I literally wanted to smash his PS3 with a sledgehammer because there was billing to be done or receipts to record and we had no time to relax; there were times I wished he had a normal job with regular hours and regular pay, but then I remember I don’t want “regular” for us. I know we are capable of so much more than that. I don’t want either of us to be stuck with a job we don’t love or that doesn’t allow the freedom and flexibility to enjoy our real lives outside of work.

Yes – the timing could have been better in starting a new business right before we got married. It added a lot of stress on our relatively new relationship. Still today we rarely have a dinner together that doesn’t involve some type of business discussion (we should really expense those more often!). I still have a hard time separating our business life and our family life and that is definitely something we have to will get better at. But we are still here and our businesses are taking off (I recently started my own business to replace the bar tending income and have more time to spend with Blake and the fam!).

I am a huge believer in pursuing your dreams especially if they are big, giant & scary ones….but maybe, just maybe you should hold off until you’re at least 6 months into the marriage. Enjoy all the little changes of finally being married without the extra stress of a major life decision.

2. Do Everything You Can To Make Your Spouse Happy Even If You Don’t Want To! Note: Continue to Improve in This Area

I am a sucker for a back massage. I love them. I will shamelessly ask for them. When we were dating, Blake mentioned one time that as long as I was with him, he would give me a back massage when ever I wanted… I knew then I was going to marry him. He wishes every day he could take those words back. I know Blake doesn’t love giving me back massages but he does it anyway. It makes me happy.

Blake knows this “lesson” and he is good at it. Me on the other hand, not so much.

I like to do things to make Blake happy. I intend to do things to make him happy. But if I get busy, or it isn’t convenient, I don’t always do them. Blake likes things clean. I want to like things clean, but usually I have kind of a “meh” attitude towards it. I leave my dishes in the sink. I leave my shoes everywhere. My relationship with laundry is hostile. If I spent a little more time just being a neater person, it would make Blake happy, but I don’t always do it. I know Blake’s Love Languages but I am not fluent in them.

With this one, I’m aware there’s a problem (that’s the first step right?) so now it’s all about improving in this area. This is my main area of concentration for the coming months.

3. A Baby Changes Everything.

I’m very tempted to leave that last lesson at just that sentence because I think it speaks for itself, but I’ll elaborate. A baby adds a whole extra layer of complexity to marriage. They change everything in the best way possible but also in some ways that aren’t as great. I’m not going to lie – this past year has been a struggle… definitely the hardest year yet. If you’re a parent you know the drill – 10x less sleep, 100x more emotion = less patience and more chaos. Roles change, schedules change and in many ways the relationship itself changes. I became a wife and a mom. Blake became a husband and a dad. I think we both struggled with reconciling the two roles. But the amount of love and overall cuteness this little nugget adds to our family completely makes up for the hard parts.

Year #3 has been the hardest so far but it has also been the best by far!

signature