Monday, 28 February 2011

What If My Husband Was a Cheerleader?

A wide-spread "complaint" I've noticed among married women is that their husbands don't "just listen" to them, but instead feel like they have to "fix" things- offer solutions, point out what the woman should have done to avoid the problematic situation, etc. I too am guilty of this complaint, this way of thinking. I want to unload whatever problem I am having, or emotion I am feeling, onto my husband. Then, I want him to smile, tell me it's going to be okay, give me hug, and leave me alone. I don't want to hear how I could have fixed it more easily or avoided it all together. Yet, while I'm refusing his input and advice, I get frustrated when he disregards mine. I was mulling this over the other night while loading my dishwasher (I have my best conversations with myself while loading the dishwasher) and almost started giggling at the analogy that started rolling around in my mind.

I am anti-cheerleader. In fact, I despise the institution of cheerleading as a whole. (No offense to any of the very nice individuals out there who happen to be of a cheering persuasion. I will forgive your questionable life choices if you will forgive my unrelenting judgment of you ;) Why the intense hatred of cheerleading? Simply because it's pointless. And by pointless, I mean absurd. A troop of scantily clad girls, most of whom know very little about sports, jumping about and screaming in hopes of encouraging their assigned sports team. It's ludicrous. Those cheerleaders may, in some small measure, get the spectators enthused, but they really do absolutely nothing for the performance of the athletes. We've all been to those sporting events where our team is performing dismally, and those cheerleaders keep right on cheering, as if they are oblivious to the score and the fact that their team stinks. Those situations epitomize the foolishness of cheerleading. You want to laugh at them, feel sorry for them, and tell them to just be quiet. But you don't do any of those things, because they are simply doing what they are supposed to do, all they know how to do in the given situation. They don't possess the skills to make the situation itself any better. I have never seen an athlete trot over to the cheer squad to ask their opinion on improving his performance. The thought of it is laughable.

That's the coach's job. He is the one who has trained, challenged, and encouraged those athletes. His life is invested theirs, and their performance directly impacts his life and future, as his career is sure to be short-lived if his athletes perpetually fail. He's the one those athletes look to when they are stinking things up out on the field or court, because he's the one that has the ability to help them change the outcome. If the coach is a good one, he tells the athletes what they are doing wrong, how they could have avoided mistakes so they don't make them again, what to change to make themselves better. Imagine a coach who simply stood on the sidelines and smiled and cheered wildly when his team was down and defeated. What an awful, ineffective coach he would be! On the flip side, he's the one who is the most pleased and most positively impacted when the team performs well. A win for them is decidedly a win for him. If the coach is a good one, he gives them the encouragement and praise they deserve, and his words certainly have more impact than cheers from those who did nothing to help them gain the success they are enjoying. And if his players have an opinion or complaint, he is much more likely to listen to the ones who have respected and listened to him, and diligently heeded his instruction, than to those who thought they could do fine without him.

The thought that made me giggle was, "I'm asking my husband to be a cheerleader, when he's obviously wired to be a coach." Actually, the literal visual of my husband as a cheerleader is what made me giggle. It drove home the absurdity of what I ask him to do. He can't do it. He can't stand on the sideline and smile and cheer me on when I'm making mistakes. He can't say nothing when my own attitude, laziness, or emotions are keeping me from playing the game as effectively as I might be able to. He can't, not only because it's not the way he's designed, but because my decisions, mistakes, and unchecked emotions directly impact his life and future. If he's simply my cheerleader, it does nothing to improve me, my life, our relationship, or our relationship with our children. And that's the goal, right? For all of us. To be better, to avoid the stupid mistakes, to have stronger relationships and families. So why do I question, disregard, and even resent, the advice and opinions of the person who has the most invested in my life, the one for whom the stakes are highest if I fail? Why do I ask him to smile and say nothing when he could say something that would actually help me succeed? Why do I render him ineffective and restrict him to the sidelines, when his knowledge, wisdom, and life experiences could certainly help to enhance my own? Why do praise and recognition from him sometimes mean less to me than the approval of others? Why do I expect him to listen to my opinions when I haven't listened to his? Why did I write this and put it out on the Internet where my husband can read it? Now I might have to actually listen to myself...

Wednesday, 23 February 2011

It's the Little Things

In keeping with this year's theme of "Simplicity," I've been trying to focus on simple things that I love and am thankful for. Last night, Mack came home from work, then left again to go help a friend clear the snow from his driveway. Only a few minutes after he left, my phone rang. It was Mack. "I just wanted to tell you that I love you." And that was it; no other purpose for the call. I can safely say that those calls and texts, those out of the blue, completely unsolicited and unwarranted, just-to-say-something-nice communications, are one of my absolute favorite things about being married to this husband of mine. Just knowing that he took a minute in the midst of his busyness to say "I was thinking about you and I still like you even after all this time that I've been stuck with you" can mean more than the grandest of gestures. What are some your favorite "simple things?"

Monday, 14 February 2011

Rewind: A Valentine's Day Story

I went to bed with a funny little cough last night. By 10:00 this morning, I felt pretty lousy. Cough, headache, body aches, the works. I took some meds and laid down for a bit, my mind defying my body to be sick. Finally somewhere around 2:00 this afternoon I called Mack to ask if we could celebrate Valentine's Day another day. As I dialed the phone, I remembered a Valentine's Day years ago. I hadn't thought about it in a long time, but as it is my only antecdotal Valentine's story, I think I'll share.

This guy, who I'm going to name Beattles because that's what I remember listening to when we would hang out, and I had been stuck in a cycle of teenage drama for most of our high school career. He liked me, I didn't like him, but finally decided maybe I did after awhile. Then we were on-again, off-again, he was hurt, I was confused, our peers had too much input into our "relationship," the whole nine yards. Anyway, so we had "gotten back together" again at some point in January. Valentine's Day happened to fall on a Wednesday that year, and we made plans to skip youth group at church (gasp) and go to dinner and a movie with his next door neighbor and my best friend, who were also dating. Much like today, I woke up that morning feeling pretty awful. I willed myself to go to school, because I knew there was no way that my parents would let me go out on a school night if I hadn't gone to school that day. So I went. And felt worse and worse as the day went on. I promptly fell asleep when I got home, and was awakened by Beattles calling to confirm our plans. I told him the bad news that I was sick and didn't think I could go. I could tell he was disappointed, and I asked him what he thought he would do that night. "Probably just go to church," he answered.

I wanted to ask him to stop by and see me on his way home, but I knew enough about guys, even at 16, that I didn't. I knew that would be perceived as needy, maybe even nagging, and would completely rob him of the opportunity to make the "romantic gesture" on his own initiative. So I said nothing, but waited for him to stop by. And the window in which he could have done so came and went. Later, he finally called. I asked him what he done. He had gone to dinner and a movie with the friends we had made plans with, and another girl friend of mine. Yes, that is correct. He went out on a date with another girl on Valentine's Day. I asked if they met up over by his house, almost a half hour away. No, he had come and picked up my friend, who lived about a mile from my house, and could have easily stopped by to see me. Now I was really rubbed the wrong way, but determined to play it cool and not be the jealous type, I said nothing. I asked if they had fun and we hung up the phone. He called the next day and broke up with me. And I knew it was for good. Our little cycle of teenage drama was broken once and for all. I literally looked at the phone in disbelief and laughed after he hung up.

And there it is: the only Valentine's Day on which I ever had a sort-of valentine besides Mack. And I'm so grateful. Grateful that we didn't go out on that date, that he didn't stop by in some romantic gesture, that I never got a card or chocolates or flowers on February 14th from anyone but Mack. That Mack was mine by the time that day came around again the next year, and for the 14 years since. And for as long as the Lord wills.

Wednesday, 9 February 2011


That's the total number of Valentines needed by my four children for exchanges at church and school. Yes, that's right. 165. I'm not going to say that it's ridiculous, but it's ridiculous.

Dearest Mack,

Thank you so much for getting the hint when I left your hair clippings in my sink until you got home last night. You did an excellent job cleaning them up. There are not many things in this world that gross me out, but other people's hair is one of them. Even when it's yours.

Appreciatively yours,

Tuesday, 8 February 2011

Dear Mack,

I love it that you cut your own hair to save time and money. However, I do not love it when you leave the clippings in my bathroom sink.

Respectfully yours,

Monday, 7 February 2011

Hidden Places

I have made numerous allusions to my basement recently. Let me see if I can more aptly paint a word picture for you, since I am too prideful to post actual pictures. Our basement is unfinished (concrete floor, concrete walls) and as large as the downstairs of our house. It will someday be, Lord willing, one awesome recreational space. But right now, it looks like a tornado ripped through. Literally. There are boxes, both empty and filled, stacked everywhere. There are things that have been pulled out of boxes during searches for lost items strewn about on the floor. Children's toys and outdoor Christmas decor (think lighted trees and reindeer) enhance the mess.

In the midst of all this chaos sit two couches. Rather, a loveseat and a couch that was once cut in half with a chainsaw by its previous owner. Said owner could not fit a full sized couch down his basement stairs, so he cut it in half, moved it downstairs, and put a nice slipcover on it. You can't really tell, unless you are unfortunate enough to sit on the divide. When that owner moved across country and justifiably did not want to move a two-piece couch, we inherited it. Since we also cannot fit a full sized couch down our basement steps, it was a logical fit. In addition to those couches, there is a TV, to which is connected our Wii and X-Box. The children play their video games down there, as well as rollerskate, dribble basketballs, and play flashlight tag when Wisconsin winter won't allow those activities outdoors.

Now let me paint another word picture for you: Company's coming. I spend the day straightening up the house, cleaning the guest bathroom, mopping, vaccuuming, and generally making the house presentable for guests. I feel the mixture of self-satisfaction that my house is looking the way it should, and guilt that it didn't look that way before. I question why I put forth so much effort for guests, but not daily for my family. I quote Proverbs 31 to myself, and feel good that I am exemplifying that woman on that particular day, and deficient for all the other days where I most certainly don't. The "hidden places" such as the basement, our cluttered closets, and the piles of papers that I hid rather than filed in my rush to get things in order nag at a corner of my mind. I sweep those thoughts away, and think "Well, no one's going to see those places. I need to focus on what will be seen."

Company arrives. We eat dinner, enjoy some fellowship, and then it inevitably happens. Mack decides that he and the husband should go downstairs and play X-Box. Or that we should all play Wii together. Or the husband just happens to be a handy type of guy, and Mack decides to get his opinion on our future basement renovation. Or the children go downstairs to play, and the wife follows cries from one of her children down into my abyss. There are no words adequate to express my shame and mortification.

After such a scenario recently, I was struck by the obvious spiritual parallel. I spend so much time "cleaning up" the areas of my life that people can see. I carefully apply my "Jesus face" to go to church, use kind speech and diligent discipline with my children in front of others, measure out the right words to those that are struggling or grieving. I speak of the necessity of submission and humility to young women, serve in the Body when I am able and it suits my purposes, and behave in good testimony when I know those that don't believe are watching. But what about the rest? What about the places that no one else sees? What about my speech and actions toward my family when we are alone? What about my attitude toward serving and giving when it isn't convenient? What about the thoughts and feelings in the deepest recesses of my soul? How much time do I spend cleaning those up? How much shame and mortification would I experience if those were laid bare? How can I possibly feel satisfied with what appears on the surface when I know that what lies beneath is a chaotic mess? Where do I start? How do I get it all cleaned up? It's even more overwhelming than the basement.

1 Samuel 16:7 "...For the Lord sees not as man sees: man looks on the outward appearance, but the Lord looks on the heart."

Go Pack Go (Part 2)

Little One somehow became convinced that the Packers were going to be playing the big game at our house last night. Evidently the Superbowl was to be played in our backyard or something. She woke up yesterday morning, almost tearful, saying, "Mommy, why did the Packers leave in the middle of the night? Now we'll never get to see them play football!" I'm still not sure why she ever thought they were HERE in the first place, thus convincing her that they must have left in the middle of the night. Who can discern the mind of a three year old? But she was definitely convinced. She even invited her Sunday School teacher over, "...because the Packers are playing football at our house tonight."

Turns out? She wasn't completely mistaken. Clay Matthews dropped by for a little visit.

Friday, 4 February 2011

Go Pack Go

It was Packers Day at school today, in honor of their trip to the Super Bowl. C-Ray has been asking for a Packers shirt for quite some time, but I had yet to buy him one. He was set with a green shirt to wear though, and was happy and content. He commented to me this morning, "Mom, if you ever do get me a Packer shirt, don't get me the quarterback. I want one with a bigger number." I replied, "Like Clay Matthews?" C-Ray answered, "Yeah, he's number 52. That would be good."

Mack, most impressed with his son's knowledge of the Packers' roster, decided that the boy must have some Packers gear. He set out to get him something during a lull in his morning. Of course, circumstances arose, and I ended up making a "quick trip" to Target, on good authority that they had lots of Packers clothing. That "quick trip" turned into over an hour and 5 different stores, none of which had any kids' merchandise in stock. My search finally ended at Kohl's, where they had racks upon racks of kid-sized Packers gear. I spent more than I would've liked on a shirt, which does indeed sport the number 52, and stopped by school just as C-Ray was coming in from recess.

"Hey buddy, come here. I got you something."
"Really? What?"
I hold out the shirt.
"Want to put it on over your other shirt for the rest of the day?"
"No thanks. I'm good."

The Simple Life: Step Two

After a brief blogging hiatus due to travels and out of town visitors, I shall share with you the first teeny-tiny babystep in my efforts to purge and declutter. I took down my Christmas tree during the first half of January. This is an accomplishment in and of itself. The year Apple was born, on December 27, the tree didn't come down until the day before Valentine's Day. In fact, removing it from the living area of our small apartment was my Valentine's gift to Mack. Since that benchmark, I have shamefully adopted the philosophy that anything before that date must count as improvement. Anyway, I resolved to organize and downsize the Christmas "stuff" when I put it away, rather than just tossing it back in the same mismatched boxes that have travelled with us over ten years and three states. So, I updated the Christmas storage from this:

To this:

And I threw away this:

And started this box of things for donation/garage sale:
Like I said, it's a baby step. And I had to put those nicely organized and labeled bins down in my basement. Where you can't even see the floor. That's next. Really.