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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Forever a Church “Visitor”

 

I’ve forgotten how to “do church.”

It wasn’t something I intentionally set out to do. On the contrary, I love church, I love fellowship, I love God and all He stands for. My family and I were part of a “church family” for 15 years. We stayed after on Sundays and helped clean up, we filled in where needed, we washed dishes at the annual church-wide Thanksgiving Dinner, we helped with the youth, we served time in the nursery (some of you will relate to my wording there), I sang in the choir, I sang on the worship team, I led a women’s Bible study, whatever we were asked…we did. Because that’s how a church body works.

And then we moved 2000 miles away from our church family, and had to start over. That was 5 years ago, and I still feel like a “visitor” in what we call our “home church.”

We have been to 5 churches, and it’s downright embarrassing when someone asks us “where we’re going to church now?” But we can’t find our “fit.”

I’m not looking for perfection, I’m not working on an emotional response. I’m not trying to replace my “first love” of our last church, because I know it had flaws too. But I’ve never before experienced a point where I just didn’t feel compelled to go to church. And my kids feel it too. Of course, they’re older now, being pre-teen and teen aged, and having to get up on the weekend and get ready for church doesn’t exactly elicit cheers from them. But it’s more than that.

There is no connection. No real, connection.

They don’t even know the names of most of the kids they go to Sunday school with, and they NEVER mention them…ever!

The churches where we live tend to be much bigger than we’re used to, bordering on mega-church status. And I have to admit that, though large churches have their advantages of a vast number of “activities,” I find that people get lost in all that “busyness.” It’s easy to fall through the cracks, even if you do try to get plugged in, it takes so much longer to make any real connections than in their smaller counterparts.

I’m really at a loss as to what to do. We can’t keep searching. My daughter caught me checking out a smaller church, closer to our home, and she flipped. Not because she has made so many good friends at our current church (she can’t even name one of them) and she would hate to leave them, but because she’s just tired of switching, as are my husband and me. It isn’t fair to them, or to us.

I’ll admit that the big churches are intimidating to me, and I’m a rather social person. But getting plugged in to the right connections seems nearly impossible.

I want to lean on one another, and experience each other’s lives. Not just the cleaned-up version that people present on Sunday, but the dirty version you are on Monday and Tuesday and the rest of the week.

I can’t figure out if it’s a symptom of the area we live in, or if it’s a symptom of the age were living in.

We’ve prayed about this, believe me we have. And we’ve had no clear answers.

So, I wonder what church we will “visit” tomorrow? Should we go to our “usual church” and blend into the background, smile politely and shake hands, knowing that those relationships will probably never go any further than that? Or should we let the kids sleep in, and just my husband and I go to the “new” church up the street?

If anyone has any useful suggestions as to how they changed churches successfully, I’d love to hear them. Because I’d like to get rid of my “visitor” name tag one of these days.

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.

Finding hope at a bar-b-que

There are days that I can’t even watch the news because of how divided it portrays the world to be. And that division is only perpetuated by us staying in our homes, glued to our TVs and computers filling our heads with what THEY want us to believe is true about ourselves.

BUT I HAVE HOPE that we are free-thinkers, that we are BETTER than we are made to believe.

But the only way we’re going to come together is through HUMAN CONTACT.

Our neighborhood had an impromptu bar-b-que on Memorial weekend. Two of them, in fact.

But on a Sunday and a Monday evening there we were: swatting at mosquitos with virtual strangers.

We didn’t know most of the neighbors, except to wave “hello” as we pass them in a car, and some lived on other streets, so even that doesn’t usually happen.

It took a generous neighbor with a really good bar-b-que and an excellent marinade recipe for chicken and ribs, to bridge the divide.

We were from different backgrounds, different nationalities, different political affiliations (I assume – no one discussed politics – hallelujah!), and in different stages of life.

We passed around the fussing baby so that the new mom could eat her dinner in peace. We found out that two people worked for the same corporation and never knew it. We talked about where we were from and where we grew up. We discovered we vacationed in the same places. We laughed and ate and made new friends.

On Sunday night, the bar-b-que went until 2am! On Monday, we only made it until 10pm.

So when the news tells me that my neighbor doesn’t think the way I do, I know the news is full of crap. I know they want headlines. They want us to hate, because it makes us watch them more.

But all it takes is a simple neighborhood bar-b-que to prove them wrong.

People are people, no matter where you go. People transcend politics, and headlines, if we’d stop buying into the hype and look up from our Smartphones long enough to smile.

We need each other. We need more bar-b-ques.

I think the men and women whose lives we celebrated on Memorial Day would have been proud to know that they didn’t die in vain. Good neighbors do still exist. People do still want to connect and reach out to one another.

Looking forward to celebrating summer and hanging out together…in spite of the mosquitoes.

What a “Selfie” did to my self-image

 

I’ve never been one to pay much attention to looks. I’ve always had more confidence in my personality than my looks. I’m just average. I’ve always been the tallest in my friend groups, which worked against me all through high school, college and early adulthood. Face it – if there is a group of girls hanging out together, most of them under 5’6”, then the one over 5’10” is not going to be the pick of the litter. And I would DEFINITELY not win any awards for “most photogenic.” (Thus the reason for my lack of a profile picture). I can’t take a good picture to save my life! Really…I’m not exaggerating. I even dreaded taking wedding photos!

Enter “The Selfie.” This last week, I met up with some friends that I’ve known since elementary school. We only had a few hours to catch up, but it was fun seeing them. We decided to take a picture to document the occasion, and since I have the longest arms (a blessing if I want to reach the top shelf, a curse if I’m competing for most petite), I was the one to hold the phone and take the Selfie.

I knew as I pushed the button, it wasn’t going to be pretty. And boy I was right. #selfiefail

My friends look fabulous in the picture. But since I was holding the camera, and straining to get everyone in the picture, I was already at a disadvantage. My head was tipped back slightly, and while I had my hair pulled back (big mistake), the grey hair across my hairline virtually DISAPPEARED in the photo and I look like I’m going BALD! I already have a big forehead, but…my God…IT WAS HUGE!

And then there’s my nose – you can see right up that honker! And it’s now on Facebook, for all our childhood friends to see!

As I said, I generally don’t care about looks. I’m fairly low maintenance…AND IT SHOWED IN THAT SELFIE!

I was using root touch-up on my hairline to cover up the grey, but sadly, that simply will not suffice anymore. The grey is taking over! So I’m faced with a dilemma:

Do I gracefully grow grey or do I do like most every other woman in my area and COLOR….COLOR…COLOR!

I admit that I hate to get stuck in the color trap. I don’t WANT to color. It’s inconvenient and a pain in the you-know-what.

I thought I was okay with my grey hair. I thought I was a confident woman. UNTIL THAT SELFIE!!! I really hate that it shook my confidence.

I guess it’s time to break out the hair color. Any recommendations? I’m not the type of woman to spend money and time at the hair salon every three weeks re-coloring, so it looks like I’m going to have to go the home hair color route. I’ll take any helpful hints you have.

The Sky Is Falling…or is it?

The world seems to be living by standards set by Chicken Little…The Sky is Falling!

It feels like we’re all on edge…no matter what your belief system, your political affiliation, your socioeconomic influence, we all seem to be living like that animated chicken who sadly mistook an acorn falling on his head for the ENTIRE sky falling.

It’s all about the extreme headlines, the ratings, who can get there (where ever ‘there’ is) first. We’re all in a panic! It’s not about whether or not you’ll reach your goal, it’s about reaching your goal FIRST!

And when things don’t go our way we immediately run to the extreme of anticipating the sky to fall. We’re absolutely sure of it! And if we can just scream louder than the next guy, then we’re convinced WE can hold up the sky one more day.

I’ve got news for you…the sky is NOT falling…at least not today. And you CAN’T hold it up ON YOUR OWN.

I’m not suggesting we don’t try to change the world. I’m a writer…it’s why I write. But I am suggesting that we don’t forget to breathe. We calm down. We don’t forget ALL of our manners. Whatever happened to “if you can’t say something nice…?”

I swear there are days that I think we’ve lost our collective mind!

And I am no better than the next guy – I find myself sucked into the mania at times too. And it depresses the hell out of me. And I can’t live like that. Can you? It’s exhausting!

We’ve gotten mean-spirited. Or maybe it’s just the headlines focus on the ugly parts of our world. My soul begs for “feel good” stories most days.

So to prove the sky is NOT falling, please share a brief inspirational story below. Tell me something good, something uniting, something kind. I really need to hear it.

I’ve Lost My Social Skills

 

It seems the older I get, the less social I am.

I think part of that is a natural progression of getting older. I’m in my late 40s and priorities are different than they were when I was younger. The days of “Mom Groups” are long gone, walking kids to school isn’t necessary, and moving across the country a few years ago definitely put a dent in my social calendar. By way of circumstance, I’m just not exposed to as many social situations as I used to be. The opportunities aren’t there.

We haven’t fully established ourselves at a church, which is entirely our fault. But I have to admit, I feel a bit like the weird girl in the corner when I go to a social event these days.

Other than “Did you finish your homework,” or “please put your laundry away,” and “get off the computer,” my vocabulary has become somewhat limited. Can anyone else relate?

My husband and I made an intentional effort to reach out to new people this weekend, which is always awkward because I’m the extrovert and he’s the introvert. It makes for an unusual social combination. We went to a class at church instead of attending the main church service. There were about 24 men and women in the class, and everyone was friendly and welcoming…and WORE NAME TAGS! I’m terrible with names. You can tell me your name, I’ll repeat it, say “nice to meet you” and your name is erased from my memory. But seeing it written on a nametag, that’s my saving grace!

So, we enjoyed the class which had a “Parenting” theme, and there was time for fellowship and small talk. But for my husband and I, there always comes a time when we just run out of things to say. We aren’t good at “inventing” conversation. In fact, we’re TERRIBLE at it! After class, we said our quick “goodbye’s” and headed out to pick up the kids from their Sunday school classes.

We completely missed our opportunity for further fellowship! We panicked at the thought of inventing conversation and got out of there as soon as it was over. We noticed after we were down the hall, that everyone else lingered behind and visited some more. We blew it.

But we aren’t giving up. We won’t be back next week, since the class isn’t meeting because of Easter, but we will be back after that. Fortunately, it is a year-round class, leaving us plenty of opportunity to sit tongue-tied lots more times.

We are determined to make new friends…at least I am. My husband is perfectly happy with a book, but I cannot live by book alone.

Oh, the best part of the class? Not a single person had their phone out! No one was texting!

Do you struggle making friends as you get older?