How Outlander Revived My Marriage

Yes, Outlander the TV series.

Revived my (Christian, commited, monogamous, first and only) marriage.

If you’re not familiar with the book series or STARZ show, please know that neither are safe for work or children, and this post may not be entirely PG either.

how outlander revived my marriage

Let’s start from a place of clear understanding:

My marriage has never been, per say, “in danger.”  I don’t have “problems” that really need “saving.”  (Hence why I chose the word “revived” not “saved.”)  My husband is wonderful.  We’ve built quite a life for ourselves out of nothing but tenacity and elbow grease.  He’s a model father.  I have no complaints.

What I did have was complacency.

Now, Outlander is quite the spectacle, as TV shows go.  Being that it’s made for cable, it can get away with far more risque material than a network TV series could.  I actually don’t know what it’s technically rated, but it’s definitely racy, scandalous, graphically violent, and sexual in nature.  There is nudity – quite a  bit of it.  There are intimate scenes in nearly every episode.  There is rape, and murder, and foul language, and all sorts of things that I wouldn’t guess would be beneficial to any marriage, and certainly not to a Christian one.  I feel like saying “Outlander revived my marriage” sounds outrageous, like those who claim viewing pornography enhances their marriage (it doesn’t.)

But hear me out.

What struck me about this show, hooked me, and kept me (binge) watching through all 3 available seasons, was the marriage of the two main characters.  Yes, they are very physically attractive people, and yes the drama of the plot sucks you in.  But what captured me right from the get-go was the fact that their relationship is, foremost, a marriage.  All of those sensual scenes take place within the context of marriage.  And their fictional marriage is actually built on an extreme commitment, rarely found in stories (and probably even in real life.)

Of course it’s sensationalized. No real couple would face even half of the perils these two face, and in Western society it’s highly doubtful that a marriage would be agreed to under the circumstances theirs was.  I’m not crazy.

But let me tell you, as the parents of four children, in our 8th year of marriage, there was a chasm of possibilities between where we were and where Jamie and Claire were.

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I wouldn’t choose “bored” to describe how I felt about my marriage.  My husband is, in all honesty, the funniest and most interesting person I know.  I would gladly spend all day every day just talking to this guy about any random topic that presented itself.

Perhaps ” too comfortable” could begin to label it.  So comfortable that I no longer felt any pressure to prove my commitment, display particular physical affection, or act on my job as life partner to my husband.

As I watched the (extremely dramatic) marriage of Jamie and Claire play out on the screen, I was reminded to  do all of these things.  I was reminded that part of what makes the beginning of a marriage exciting and wonderful is the intentional behavior of the spouses.  That adversity (which I don’t actually have right now) can drive people together because it forces them to go to bat for each other, and fight for their spouse (though usually not with actual weapons.)  That a person needs to dig deep to support their spouse, needs to display outwardly the unconditional commitment they chose to pledge that person.

————-

The series is so well-acted and beautifully filmed that it is extremely poignant.  It stuck with me, every episode of it, and quickly wormed its way into my subconscious and began affecting my behavior.  Often, media affecting behavior is a bad thing, but in this case it caused me to be a better wife.

As I watched Jamie’s character and read many envious real-life women lament the lack of “real gentleman” in their husbands, I realized I have a Jamie.  I certainly hope my husband never finds himself leading a rebel army, tortured in prison, shipwrecked, etc, but he certainly possesses the same unwavering commitment to me and treasures me the way Jamie does Claire.  He’s tried to tell me as much before, and I always treated it as romantic nothings.  Watching a fictional character play out these qualities in an arranged marriage apparently drove it home for me.

And I watched what sorts of things could be overcome, forgiven, smoothed over, and healed by a wife.  How a strong wife can really be half of a dynamic team, without emasculating the husband.  How allowing him to revere her (rather than cutting herself down) can strengthen the marriage and validate him.  How many different levels of intimacy can be present in a healthy marriage, how they could possibly play out in day-to-day settings, how integral sex really is to a marriage.

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Could I have figured this out some other way?  Sure!  Are these all facts I have read and heard before?  Yes.  Did I have head knowledge of all of this and still stubbornly refuse to use it?  You bet.

Something about my consumption of this series got my attention in the way books, experts, and even my own husband have never gotten my attention before.  And in the weeks since I watched it, I’ve been a much better partner in so many ways, and have been actively enjoying my marriage like never before.  In a fair number of ways, our relationship is the best it’s ever been (leaving up to your imagination what ways those are!)

And none of this is coming from a lustful place.  None of it is imagining I’m with someone else, or pretending my life includes people or situations it does not. These kinds of fantasies can sometimes give a false notion of marital improvement, but actually are harmful long term.  It is entirely recognizing my own amazing husband and my own shortcomings within the fiction.

What’s something unexpected that has improved your marriage?

Book Review : Parenting with Love and Logic

Where to begin with this book – simply, I love it.

I’ve read Love and Logic: The Toddler Years earlier this year, and I liked that and have used the methods I learned with my very stubborn 3-year-old.  But since adding a 13-year-old to our family, I felt that I needed to read the method as it pertained to older children.

Book Review: Parenting with Love and Logic

Firstly, about the format of this book.  The first half of the book explains the how and why of the Love & Logic method, while the second half is what the authors call “pearls.”  Essentially, two-page snippets arranged alphabetically by topic, covering everything from allowances to whining.

I have been convinced since before ever becoming a  parent that I would be neither a helicopter parent nor an authoritarian parent.  (Thanks to my years as a middle school teacher, I had the benefit of watching many parents try these methods, and end up with non-functional children.)  The Love & Logic approach stresses above all else that parents teach and allow their children to make their own decisions and their own mistakes.

This takes so much stress off of the parent, as I have continually reminded myself since finishing this book, “Problems they create for themselves are not your problems.”  For example, I provided guidance for my 13-year-old about what might be a good time to set his alarm for, and made sure he knew how to use said alarm.  I made certain he understood what time school starts and how many minutes it takes to walk there.  If he spends too long in the shower, too long packing his lunch, too long eating his breakfast, and ends up late to school, this is his problem.  It is not my problem.  He has not affected my life directly.  School will hand down a consequence because it affects school, and that will be that.

Likewise with running out of clean laundry (taught him how to do the laundry and gave him a choice of days the washer would always be available.)  And leaving his possessions where his little brothers can ruin them (provided with his own room that I keep the little boys out of.)  The authors surmise that children don’t care or worry about items and situations that they know their parents are worrying about already.

What a relief!
I can mentally check off dozens of situations and decisions each day that are not my problem.  It frees me up to teach, mentor, and bond with my teen instead of constantly nagging.

Let’s be real: the nagging never works, anyway.  He would forget things and neglect things whether or not I nagged, so I may as well minimize irritation for both of us and just not nag.

This approach (and all the books on the method) are especially helpful in that they provide a dialogue for speaking to your kids.  If a child is very negative, defensive, argumentative, shut down, etc. the books offer actual scripts of how a parent could respond calmly, and still leaving room for the child to make his/her own decisions and feel his/her feelings.

This parenting approach is also unique in that it lives hand in hand with the concept of parent self-care.  By lowering stress and helping our children take control of their own decisions and problems, we are taking care of ourselves.  It is self care to sometimes say “No” to a child’s request because you’re tired or want to do something else.  This parenting approach allows the whole family to be healthy, in contrast to many parenting theories and books that show parents the many ways they could be doing more and more and more to try and guarantee success for their children.  It actually equips parents to do LESS, but BETTER.

Available on Amazon (affiliate link)

10/10 Would recommend!

Photo Christmas Cards & Minimalism

These may seem like opposite ideas: buying and sending photo Christmas cards, and being a minimalist.

Hear me out

photo christmas cards and minimalism

When I first set about simplifying my life, researching minimalism, and KonMari-ing my home, I had a guiding principle: I would not do anything that was LESS convenient or MORE stressful in the name of minimalism.  I would follow simple living down any rabbit hole I desired, but not into making more work for myself.

And this is the kind of moderation I still practice.  I do not count my possessions, because frankly I don’t have time and that probably doesn’t matter in the end, anyway.  I don’t purge things just for the sake of purging them, if they’re still serving me.  I sometimes even buy things if it becomes apparent that they would be very useful and make my daily life easier and less stressful.

*gasp*

One of the things that remains in my life is photo Christmas cards.

Hear me out.

Yes, it costs some money to send these.  I try to spend about 30 cents a card (I have found the best prices every year through Walmart.) Add to that the nearly 50 cents of current postage, and it costs about 80 cents per card.  I order 60 cards (this number has increased in recent years) so I spend about 50 dollars per Christmas.

This may seem excessive, but I choose to do it this way because I detest writing out actual Christmas cards.  The first few years of our marriage I sent out handwritten Christmas cards (cutting the cost down to more like $25) but it took me a month to get it done, and I dreaded every card.  I’m terrible at small talk, and writing out a Christmas card is, to me, just more small talk.

Yes, it’s a little commercial… tooting one’s own horn… “typical American”… all things I try not to be in my personal life.  But this is the ONLY time of year we take a family photo, and the only photo of my children that I distribute.  So I do not indulge in photo sessions, prints, grandparent photos, etc.  I keep my Christmas greetings and my family photo distribution to one single activity.

This is also how I announce additions to our family.  My oldest has just joined us this year, and this card is the most formal notice anyone is going to get.  My middle two sons were born in November, so the yearly Christmas card replaced any kind of baby announcements.  Even though the next is due in May, I included “& baby” on the list of names so at least people have an idea it’s happening.  Next year’s card will be this child’s first distributed photo, even though he/she will be several months old.

 

In my life, photo Christmas cards are killing multiple birds with one stone, and easy for me to make and send.  They cut down on stress, on the number of times I feel obligated to print photos or send notice of family events.  It’s a tradition I intend to continue for the foreseeable future, even if it isn’t the most “minimalist” thing ever.

Holiday Prep Work: Mental & Emotional

There’s mental prep work for the holidays?!

That’s a hard yes  Maybe it’s just because I’m an introvert.  It’s easy to make checklists and recipe books and get physically prepared and scheduled for the holidays, but it’s a little less cut-and-dry to get emotionally ready for the season.

mental preparation for holidays

To be honest, this post is inspired by breaking my own rule this year – no Christmas music before Thanksgiving.

I had this sudden, distinct feeling that if I didn’t start thinking about Christmas RIGHT NOW that it was going to fly by and I was going to miss it.  I think it’s because I have 3 1/2 children, so there’s rarely any down time to do verbs like savor, enjoy, relax, immerse, absorb.  (True confessions: I just had to look in a thesaurus to come up with the word “absorb.”  Preggo brain!)

So I turned on the Christmas music a few weeks early and I’m loving it.  New normal.

Music

This doesn’t have to limit itself to the Christmas 24/7 radio station.  Seek out other holiday music you enjoy – sacred music for Thanksgiving or Christmas, Hanukkah music (I like the Maccabeats and Barenaked Ladies for some out-of-the-box Hanukkah tunes), or just “winter” music (“I Wish I Had a River”, etc.)

Music has such a profound effect on human emotions.  It also has strong memory ties (much like scents) that can whisk us away to another time, other people, other Christmases.

Personally, I heard “Lo, How a Rose E’er Blooming” and was transported back to being a child in my home church.  I used to play the piano for Christmas services, did duets with my vocally-talented sister, played for the church choir… and those were great years.  I spent such time practicing that Christmas spirit came naturally.  I was back in the frilly Christmas dresses with the patent leather shoes, up in the church balcony, playing piano by candlelight.

There are certain songs that remind me of putting up the tree growing up – silly ones like “Santa Claus and Popcorn” and “Dominic the Italian Christmas Donkey”.  I played my Mom’s Christmas records constantly while taking my sweet time setting up the tree.  I was the only one in the house who hauled out the records, ever, and also the only one who enjoyed putting up the Christmas trees (time-consuming, scratchy work, that) but it was always my personal time of reflection and preparation.  That trimming of the tree has become more of a family fiasco now, so it’s healthy for me to listen to the tunes and sit quietly with myself before the chaos begins!

Organization

Many people say the holiday season is “stressful.”  Is there anything more stressful than being disorganized and up against a deadline?  (Being naturally very disorganized, I think I have some expertise here…)

Every year I try to get one aspect of the holidays more organized.  One year, I streamlined and simplified my wrapping schema.  One year, I nailed down my definite recipes and decided to always take the same dish to the same event.  One year, I started keeping really good track of gift ideas, purchased gifts, and wrapped gifts to avoid the last-minute scramble upon finding someone got missed.  I printed out and laminated all of the inserts for my Advent calendar, so every year I just need to get them out and put them in their numbered doors, instead of reinventing activities every December.

Now with all these simplification and organization tools in place, I can come home from a shopping trip with a gift, quickly record it, and put it away to wrap later.  I know what I need on hand for baking, and when to start baking, and how much (so I’ve completely put it out of my mind until the day I need to begin, written in my planner.)

Traditions

They’re traditions for a reason.  They make us feel secure and happy and nostalgic.  (Secret: They’re also EASY! Because you do them every year!)

Traditional food means easy menu planning and grocery shopping.

Traditional decorations mean easy set-up and storage.

Traditional activities mean keeping the season alive for your kids without having to get too creative.

They put our minds at ease – kind of an ultimate hygge! – because they’re familiar and comfortable.  We know what to expect, and that we will enjoy it (even if the enjoyment is because it’s a corny tradition from childhood.)

Relish

Whatever that looks like for you.  As an introvert, that means I get out my Christmas coffee mug, turn on some Christmas music, and settle in with a Christmas movie or just watch my decorations sparkle in the darkness.  This is really centering for me amidst the potential chaos of the season (let’s be honest: ever day is a little chaotic around here.)  Sometimes I have to get up extra early or stay up pretty late to get these quiet moments in the dark, but they’re worth it to really steep myself in the holiday spirit.

If you’re an extrovert, this likely looks like get-togethers.  This can start early, with Friendsgivings already taking place in the weeks before Thanksgiving.  Keep these things casual if you wish, meeting for a holiday snack or a movie night, and enjoy the preparation for big events like company parties and New Year’s extravaganzas.  Picking out new outfits, planning meals and decorations, welcoming guests from out of town… the opportunity for social engagements this season is prime!

 

 

Baby #3 | First Trimester Recap

Long time no post.  Oops.

I’ve been using all my free time for snacking, napping, and growing a human.

Baby #3 (Kid #4) is due to arrive in May 2018!

pregnancy with baby #3

 

First Trimester Recap:

Feeling – Icky!  Tired!  Pretty typical.  This pregnancy has me more nauseated then the previous two, and I’ve been able to nap daily since I’m home full time.

Eating – Pretty much nothing but chocolate pudding, avocados, and spicy/tangy savory foods.  Everything else sounds disgusting, smells disgusting, etc.

Trying – Magnesium supplementation.  My midwife recommended this to help me sleep (such insomnia!) and eliminate restless legs and headaches. I think it’s been working pretty well, but lemme tell you… that Natural Calm does NOT taste good.  Yuck.

Working on – sleeping, and trying to keep up with the housework (failing, mostly.)  Not much baby prep yet, other than dreaming about expensive (*cough* Lily Jade *cough*) diaper bags and trying to mentally figure out where to stash a fourth kiddo in this house.

 

“Real Clothes” – Dressing The Part

(Many thanks to Jennifer Scott at The Daily Connoisseur for being so articulate about the subject of “looking presentable always.”)

If you work outside the home, dressing well comes naturally because it is socially expected.  If you’re a professional parent, wearing real clothes can get brushed aside because “no one’s going to see me.”

Except your family, y’know, the most important people in your life that you decided to dedicate your career to serving.

Just those people.

dressing the part what you wear matters sahm wardrobe

Why?

It’s a lot more motivating to get up off the couch and get something done if you’re dressed like something important is going on.  Because your tasks are important – homemaking and child-rearing are of utmost importance.  It’s surprising what a mental game our grooming can play.  This is the same reason law firms have business dress requirements, and many schools have uniforms.

I feel that there is another parallel we can draw from the business world – “Dress for the job you want.”  Now, we have chosen to be home, so this is the job we want.  But what do we want FROM our job?  To be taken seriously by our children, spouse, peers, community?  To “have it all together?” To be tidy?  These causes are all helped by DRESSING like someone who commands respect, has it together, is tidy – rather than someone who just roused themselves from slumber to put out proverbial fires.

Dressing presentably always also helps eliminate decision fatigue and the need to change throughout the day. My pajamas are presentable, so it’s okay if my teenager needs something after I’m ready for bed.  My clothes I choose in the morning are nice enough to wear to run errands, to school events, even to dinner out at the last minute.  (It actually occurred a few weeks ago where we were out for a family walk, and a friend drove by in her car and invited us to dinner in half an hour.  Threw a diaper on the youngest, and out we went – no need to “spruce up.”)  I only need to choose one outfit each day, and I don’t have to take anything into account other than the temperature.

How?

Dressing the part becomes much easier if you simplify your wardrobe.  This is where capsule wardrobes come in.  (This topic has been done lots of justice by lots of other bloggers, so I’m not rehashing the entire thing.) But pay attention to what’s in your mom capsule – PAJAMAS ARE NOT CLOTHES.  If you wouldn’t wear them to the office, why are they in your work environment at home?  My mom capsule wardrobe is lots of washable, comfortable fabrics, but consists of dresses or tunics and leggings.  Personal preference – if you’re a pants girl, more power to you!  (BUT REAL PANTS.  NOT YOGA PANTS.)

Check the blogosphere, YouTube, and Pinterest for ideas about mom capsule wardrobes.  Sit and think about what kinds of clothes you like best, and how those might become part of a “real clothes” wardrobe.  (If you love yoga pants best, think about leggings and tunics.  If you love raiding your husband’s closet, think dolman sleeves or trapeze tops and dresses.)

You may need a serious declutter of your closet for any of this to be plausible.  I suggest the Kon Mari method (as found in the book The Lifechanging Magic of Tidying Up by Marie Kondo) so that you can purge out all the ratty, sloppy clothes and keep only things that work for you and are lovely.

FAQs

“Don’t you get messy?”  Why yes, yes I do.  Then I wash my clothes.  If you’re talking about serious mess, I do wear aprons while cooking.  If I’m bleaching or painting, I have a coverall (like a mechanic would have) that I put on over my clothes.

“But don’t you want to be comfortable?” Of course.  I don’t buy things I find uncomfortable!  Comfort is about cut and fabric, not item of clothing.

“Why bother?  Nobody sees you all day.” My children (who learn best by example) and my spouse see me.
And let me tell you, random people show up at my door.  Once I was down with a back injury and my mother-in-law offered to come help around the house.  She (surprise!) brought a friend of hers that I had never met in my life.  Thank goodness I was wearing real clothes!  It was embarrassing enough that a woman I’d just met was scrubbing my pots and pans.
Another time my best friend dropped her children off with no notice, because of a medical emergency.  Glad I had gotten dressed that day.
And beyond folks ringing my door bell, I never have to change or think twice about running to the store, the post office, my kid’s school, etc.  Always prepared.  I don’t even usually have to change for social events in the evening.

 

The outfit shots incorporated into the image for this post are authentic.  I never stage an outfit for my OOTD pictures on Instagram, obviously, since I’m wearing slippers in many of them!  That’s what I actually wear, to all the regular events of my life.  (Sometimes I wear something fancier to church, but that’s about it!)

Waiting and Wrestling (Foster/Adopt Reflections)

This may never see the light of day, but I wanted to pour this out somewhere.

This waiting. It’s really something like I’ve never done before.

waiting & wrestling foster care adoption reflections

It’s not just waiting.  It’s that while I’m waiting I am also locked in a complicated battle, emotionally and spiritually.

The waiting gives a person lots of time to do a lot of soul-searching, and actually forces it upon you.

I lie awake late into the night wrestling.

I’m wrestling in prayer for a child I have never met.  For whomever my son or daughter is, right this moment.  For whomever is taking care of my child while I am waiting.  For whomever brought my child into the world, regardless of why they are no longer raising him/her.  For whomever that child is loving, or leaving behind, or afraid of, or living with, or hoping to find.  For the workers who are trying to make the best decisions for all of us without knowing the future.

Those might be obvious.

But the wrestling that goes on with my own self is stranger.

I want this child to walk through my door tomorrow.  But that’s not in anyone’s best interest.

I want to feel pride that I can parent “better” than my child’s birth family.  That’s horrifically unfair and inaccurate.

I want to send 2879234 emails to my adoption worker, checking on the status of our license, checking in on children, badgering her to work faster.  This is not appropriate.

I want to daydream and plan and start setting up a room and making phone calls about appointments and school, to start buying supplies and planning for a family of 5.  But this is getting ahead of myself, assuming that God’s plan is the same as my plan, and could lead to major disappointment.

I want to focus all of my late-night wrestles on a particular child that I’ve fallen in love with.  I want to think of that child as mine to love, mine to raise… I want to be that child’s mother.  But I have no reason to think that I will  be matched with that child.

I want to be more stoic, and chastise myself for allowing my heart and intuition to zone in on a child so quickly in the process, to guard myself from the probable loss of a child I didn’t have the right to miss.  But that’s going against my nature.

 

It’s difficult to realize my human weakness in all of this.  That I have absolutely no control over how my family is going to evolve.  That no matter how badly I might want something, I cannot be certain of anything.

But in actuality, this is exactly the same as every other mountain to climb in life.  Unable to see the other side, no idea if emotion is warranted, no way to predict what comes next.  No certainty of what God has planned.  No clue if my will aligns with His.

And I wonder if I’m ready.  I wonder if I jumped in too fast.  If the Lord is making me wait because I am somehow not yet fit to parent you.

But who’s ever ready?  You weren’t ready.  I’m probably not ready.  And it’s okay.  What’s going to happen is we’re going to be a little bit of a mess, but we’re going to be together.  I’m sure I will disappoint you and break some promises and do and say the wrong things.  But I love you, and it’s going to be okay.