Make home improvements OR remain happily married?

 

Years ago, I worked at a carpet store, where I constantly heard stories, nightmares really, of how miserable it was to go through a home improvement. Couples couldn’t agree on carpet color or texture, and deciding between hardwood floors or laminate proved equally objectionable.

My husband and I have never gone through anything as extensive as a remodel, and I dread the day that we do. I think moving might be a better choice than coming to verbal blows over tile or hardwood.

It’s that time of year for us when the H.O.A. (Home Owner’s Association) makes its annual assessment of our properties. HOA’s are great for keeping property values up, I suppose, but their “improvements” never seem to improve my checkbook or my marriage, and this year is no exception.

This year, it’s our deck. Though it can hardly be called a “deck,” rather more like a balcony. It’s on the second level and measures all of 6’x8’. We never even use it because it faces our neighbor’s living room, and unless we suddenly develop an interest in peering in on our neighbor’s lives, we will continue to not use it.

Now my husband and I complement each other, in that his strengths are my weaknesses and vice-versa. It’s how we work. But when it comes to working together on a home improvement, we’ve learned that it’s best if we stay out of each other’s way.

I’m usually the DIY person around the house, so I was really surprised when he said that he wanted US to do part of the improvement. What?! Is he crazy?! We can’t do that! We’ll kill each other! Not to mention that we don’t have the proper tools, or expertise to do said improvement.

We compromised: we hired a handyman to do the actual repairs, but my husband insisted that we could do the painting. I was skeptical to say the least. That meant renting a ladder (we don’t own an extension ladder) and one of us would have to go up that ladder and do the painting, and it wasn’t going to be me…not this time. But he assured me that we could get it done.

I called my brother who happens to be a handyman in another state (he inherited my Dad’s skill), and I was feeling pretty confident. Maybe we could do this. Maybe if we pulled together, and had a plan, we could work together and paint the balcony, without ending up in divorce court.

That was two weeks ago.

Since then, we’ve argued about getting it done, having enough time to get it done, doing it right but quickly, getting it done in the timeframe the H.O.A. allotted.

Just to add more stress, my husband suddenly got really busy at work, I got a new job, and time was still ticking. Tensions were running high!

I started with a coat of primer on the deck today, and realized…we are in over our heads!

I put in a call to a handyman, and he’s coming tomorrow.

Now, maybe I reacted to soon. Maybe we could have done it ourselves. Maybe we could have done it without killing each other.

But it just seems like a couple hundred dollars for a handyman will be much less expensive than marriage counseling would have cost.

How about you? Have you and your significant other ever attempted a home improvement together?

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I Need a “Cause”

 

Some might say, “You’re a Mom, that’s your cause,” or “You have a house to maintain, that’s your cause,” and both of those statements are true.

But those causes go without saying. My children aren’t babies anymore, they’re in their teens. For the most part, they can take care of themselves…well, you know what I mean.

I’m talking something OUT of myself that I need.

I used to volunteer at my church, and at the pregnancy center around the corner, and various other causes that came around. But then we moved 2000 miles across the country, and I lost all those connections.

Since we’ve been here (5 years now), I have tried reaching out to find my “thing.” But it seems like every charitable door I’ve tried to open comes crashing closed. I know, it sounds crazy, right? Charities are ALWAYS looking for people.

I’ve tried the senior center right down the street. I had to take a class and everything, and then? Nothing. Not a peep. Most of the women in the volunteer meeting that I went to were senior citizens, so maybe they only want seniors to volunteer. I’m not really sure, but they didn’t want me.

We’re still looking for a church where we feel completely comfortable. In our area, there are mostly mega-churches, and it’s easy to get lost in the “corporation” of a big church. Not to mention, since I don’t drive, I’ve had a hard time finding one that I can get to on my own.

So, I’m looking for ideas. Any suggestion?

I’m fairly crafty. I can sew and knit, but I can’t crochet. I’d like to find something that I can be a part of, and not just send something off to once a month. Volunteering in a group is always more fulfilling.

I’m definitely more of a behind-the-scenes type of person rather than the one out in front of the crowd. I’m one of the “worker bees.”

So, what do you think? Does anyone have any good experiences with volunteering they’d like to share?

Too Much Reality

“And now, dear brothers and sisters, one final thing. Fix your thoughts on what is true, and honorable, and right, and pure, and lovely, and admirable. Think about things that are excellent and worthy of praise.” Phil 4:8 NLT

Whether you consider yourself a Christian or not, it’s good advice.

There is so much in this world to get caught up in. So many opinions, so many distractions, so many criticisms, so much bad news bombards us daily. And so much of it is not the Truth.

So much of it is distorted, and skewed, and I swear it’s just to get us all riled up. Then we lash out at one another, and accomplish nothing.

It’s enough to make the happiest of people depressed. And it was happening to me.

It’s hard to keep a balance. How do you stay informed and yet not be inundated with a barrage of waste washing into your brain, covering over all the joy?

Since I work from home, and don’t drive, I have a hard time not getting caught in the vacuum.

But this last weekend, I made an effort to turn off the TV, and not read the Facebook “Trending” feed (I HATE that thing). I hung out with family friends, and went to church, and got OUT of the house. And by Monday, I felt so much better about life.

I’ve been skipping past blogs that only stir up frustration and anger. And I don’t read hateful comments anymore…people can be so mean to each other. You aren’t going to change someone’s opinion by making a contrary comment.

If you want a real feel-good story, just see how people are helping one another in Texas right now. It’s inspiring seeing them come together.

And another thing I ran across is a new Facebook Series by Mike Rowe called “Returning the Favor.” It’s a breath of inspiring air that we could all use about now. You should check it out.

Here’s to reaching for happier days, and good conversation with friends.

How do you balance staying informed and not getting sucked into the vortex?

Words on the page

I would express my opinion

But someone would be offended.

So, I keep my mouth shut and try to love on people,

But that offends you too

Because I’m not doing enough.

There is no winning

There is only losing.

We are a symptom of being self-absorbed.

We’ve been reduced to our most animal instincts

Of survival – get them before they get you.

But the problem is we aren’t animals

We are humans…meant to love.

But no one wants to hear that,

For fear that there’s an agenda behind it.

So, we sit in a room, not talking, not sharing, not discussing

Because there is no answer that we can agree on.

Many of us won’t speak out

For fear of backlash.

Many of us retreat

Because we’re tired of conflict.

Many of us will shut you out

Because all the yelling is making us sick.

Many of us will be accused of standing idly by

No matter what we do.

Many of us know that this has happened before

And yet we’ve survived

Whether we deserved to or not.

Many of us are praying, quietly,

because we can’t see anything else to do.

Taking care of an aging parent

 

It’s been simmering for quite some time…the idea that my mom should not be living alone. There are a myriad of reasons to reconsider her current living situation.

The first and foremost being that her quality of life is diminished because she just can’t afford it anymore, and my brothers and I can’t afford to keep sending money to the money pit. There are also, of course health reasons that come with many septuagenarians that need to be addressed and watched over.

It’s a hard line to take: when the child becomes the caregiver of the parent. No one likes the ramifications of what that entails. There will be power struggles, the first of which is actually convincing her that her quality of life would be better living with one of her adult children. No parent wants to give up their independence, and having to rely on an adult child is not part of their plan usually. You don’t raise your children thinking “I can’t wait until I can get under their roof.” But there’s a whole generation of parents right now, who didn’t save enough for retirement because they didn’t have to. I know it sounds foolish to our generation, but for my parent’s generation, there was always going to be a pension that you’d rely on. It’s what their parents did, so why think to plan for anything different. But those pensions disappeared and here we are.

To my detriment, I’m a planner, and I woke up this morning around 6am and my brain started “planning.” My mom hasn’t even agreed to the new arrangement yet, and already I’m going through all the possible scenarios, the logistics, the financial and legal details in my head. I’ve made lists, and researched the possibilities, both good and bad, of taking in an aging parent.

But here’s what it boils down to: it’s my turn to return the favor. All the nights she spent pacing the floor, all the financial sacrifices she and my father made, all the emotional collateral they spent raising me has brought me to this moment. It’s time to give back.

I have a fabulous husband, by the way, who happens to share the same responsibility to family that I do. We decided long ago that whether it was his mom or mine (both of our fathers passed away years ago) that we would open our home if we needed to. It’s just what you do.

But convincing my mom to sell her home (that’s falling apart around her), move across the country, and move her entire life into one bedroom (basically) is going to be a hard sell. I get it. Would you do it? Things would have to be pretty bad for me to convince me to do something like that. The opportunity at the end of that bridge would have to be pretty encouraging. And my mom is not one that likes adventure – she’s a planner too.

Fortunately, my brothers and I agree on a plan for Mom. We support each other and her. We just want her to be better off. Her “Golden Years” haven’t been very golden so far, and now we have the chance to help her make them better.

I only hope I remember this when I’m aging and my kids step in to take charge. I hope I remember it’s because of love that they want to see me in a better situation.

Have you taken a parent into your home? I’d love to hear some of your experiences or advice as I go into these uncharted waters.

My Working Man

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I write about my kids on this blog, and about writing, and about myself (sorry), but I rarely ever write about my husband.

I should…I mean, he doesn’t even read my blog so I could post some really good stories and he’d never dispute them or even know they’re on here! As tempting as it is to tell some really juicy stuff, I won’t. Plus we have no really juice stories anyways. #oldandmarried

So in the spirit of Valentine’s Day (a day early) – here it goes.

My husband is a good man. He’s a nerd, for sure. He’s a gamer, a reader, an introvert, and he enjoys being alone (that’s part of his introvertedness – is that a word?). With regards to those things, he’s everything that I’m not. We’re opposites. My 14-yr-old daughter teases me and wonders how we ever got together. There are days when I wonder that too.

Then I remember the circumstances and realize that there’s a good chance that God orchestrated our meeting in the first place. I can’t take the credit.

My husband is a good provider, and I sometimes forget to acknowledge him for that. He works at least 40 hours a week, and always has. He rarely comes home to a spotless house or a wife dressed like Mary Tyler Moore in The Dick Van Dyke Show. My “mom uniform” is yoga pants and t-shirts, and I work at home, so there’s no need to wear makeup. Ever. And he doesn’t complain.

He doesn’t always come home to a fresh cooked meal (I have no idea what I’m making tonight), and often will pick up dinner for me, even after he’s had a long day. He usually walks in the door to some form of chaos, though it’s gotten better as the kids have gotten older. But there’s usually some drama that’s gone on during the day, and it’s usually the first thing he hears about after “hello.”

When I do cook, he NEVER complains about what I’ve made. Maybe it’s because he knows not to bite the hand that feeds him, but I also think it’s because he knows that I get enough grief from the kids about dinner. (Do I have to eat that?!) If I ask nicely, he’ll even cook. He’s better at it than I am, but far messier.

He doesn’t nickel and dime me. Granted, I’m the thrifty one, but he’s never once complained about me buying something for myself or the kids.

He’s okay with watching the kids while I get away for a few hours. He’s seen me go a little insane after being with the kids day in and day out, and he wants to avoid that at all costs. He even watched the kids when they were babies and I went on a 3-day women’s retreat. And they all survived.

In every sense of the word he is my better half. He trusts me. Completely. And I trust him.

Why do I tell you all of this? Not to brag, but because he deserves a corner of this blog too. He provides a lot of the material, after all. And as a testament to his character. He’s a good man, a working man, a Godly man, a nerdy man…and he’s my man. I wanted to tell you there are good men out there, and they aren’t always the ones that you expect them to be.

Sometimes they’re nerdy, gaming, introverts, with weird senses of humor and a strong affinity for Godzilla movies.

Sometimes God sends them to you, even when you weren’t expecting it.

Have a Happy Valentine’s Day!