Sometimes being a good friend to your spouse means holding down the fort so they get some time and space away. Holding Down the Fort is really hard for me. In my world of longings, one of the deep ones is longing for time to just be off.
I would love for space to not be in charge all most of the time. I have been in charge for all most of my life, and responsibility is wearing and wearisome.
I long for the day when my husband’s time away means my own time alone here in the quiet, not shouldering the weight of solo parenting. I long for the day when we can go away together without requiring what feels like an act of congressto make it happen.
I realize that many readers long for a spouse or for a child or to not be solo parenting all of the time due to death or divorce. We ALL have our longings, our hard stuff, the things we wish would pass, the do-over desires.
Since this is my blog, I am writing about my struggle to be a good friend to my husband. He needs time away with friends to be refreshed. And, really, this time away isn’t totally his, because it sweetly lined up with the weekend that our son is playing in the Virginia All-state band concert at George Mason University. He will be able to catch the concert tomorrow and spend quality time with his son on the ride home.
So while he hangs out, I hang on. That’s how we roll. He has done it for me more.
But it doesn’t make it easy. It’s always more fun being the one heading off in the car up or down the interstate, leaving on a jet plane. It’s always the most fun taking off together.
Left behind looks like agonizing over how much screen time is too much while trying to maintain sanity. It is having to stand hard ground alone. It’s breathing in the vapors and fumes in the air that seem to only be released when spending quality time around Mom. It’s negotiating the strife solo and dealing with the dog.
It also looks like making memories and learning to relax and being thankful for middle school lock-ins, reducing responsibility by one. It looks like being content with the space that I do have and resting in the fact that while tweens have needs, at least they sleep at night!
Another month has come and gone, and it’s time to post an update on the goals.
Here is what March looked like.
Spiritual ~ Maintain daily quiet time and prayer, following current Bible reading plan. Journal responses and thoughts that result from that time. Spend time in stillness. Read one faith-based book/month.
I remained on track with Bible reading, pondering places in Deuteronomy, Luke, Psalms, and Proverbs. I have to work on intentionally journaling my thoughts and responses, but a new journal from Coco makes it easier to remember. Stillness is a struggle. My faith-based book this month was unChristian by Gabe Lyons and David Kinnaman.
Family ~ Connect with Steve intentionally each week on a heart-level. Risk sharing something scary or overwhelming inside of me with him during that time. Connect with at least one child intentionally each week. Keep track. Make the most of one~on~one impromptu moments that arise with the children. Keep track.
This goal still feels ambiguous. I try to connect with Steve on a heart level but timing is not always the best. It is a challenge to know when to work and when to give it a rest and just relax together. I connected with Coco at DQ for a fun time of laughter and eating.
We also had a surprise successful shopping trip together that I will grab as a bonus! Roo and I got Shamrock Shakes together on St. Patrick’s Day. Little Mae had a friend over on Good Friday, and the three of us had fun getting pretzels and lemonade at the Dayton Farmer’s Market before returning home to eat lunch, color eggs, and watch Lilo and Stitch. The boys have been harder to connect with. Rides home from work or trips to the dentist’s office or conversations in my room have had to cut it this month! I hope to have something more concrete to report with them next month.
Social ~ Connect with at least one friend for coffee or conversation time each week. Say yes to fun. Make an effort to have people over to the house again starting with once/month. Adult kids and their guests are a bonus and not part of this number!
Steve and I went out with some friends for a fun date night! The following morning, he was my coffee shop date friend. That was fun. I have had regularly scheduled time with friends, both in-house and out. I took Panera broccoli-cheddar soup over for lunch with my grammy one Saturday. The having people over goal morphed into getting invited over to my brother and sister-in-law’s house for Easter dinner. I fully intended to try hosting or mooching my parent’s house to host when my sweet sis suggested we eat at their house. I contributed bagged salad, homemade rolls, and cherry-cappuccino trifle to the feast if that counts! We picked Grammy up and had a wonderful evening together.
Physical ~ Do 20 minutes of yoga at least five times a week. Longer or more times is a bonus. Improve flexibility in my down dog. Practice presence on the mat. Consider walking Dewey as an opportunity to get exercise and fresh air and not an annoying burden built into my already full day!
I continue to wake early to stretch on the yoga mat. Dewey is being walked regularly in the fresh air and sunshine, though an injury to his kneecap has caused us to adjust this a bit. Longer days and warmer temperatures make evening walks more appealing.
Teaching ~ Organize my teaching materials and office space. Write an encouraging note to one student/week recognizing individuality and strengths.
I am working on organization of my materials and office space bit by bit. Several notes have been written. One of the cutest moments was watching one of my first grade boys read his when he didn’t know I could see him. He put it in a special place at his desk, and I see him refer to it often. It is a reminder of the power of an encouraging word at any age. Little people like to be noticed, too!
I am still waiting on the verdict for the LCC and then on making the decision as to whether I will go this year or not. It has been a major source of ambivalence and prayer if those two things can co-exist! I read Dan Allender’s newest book Healing the Wounded Heart this month.
Ministry ~ Attend Stephen Ministry meetings regularly. Participate actively. Return to worship team rotation at least once per cycle.
I attended each Stephen Ministry meeting this month and got the bulletin board changed. Sadly, my worship team opportunity was sidelined by illness, and I missed out on my Sunday to sing. The Wednesday night practice was wonderful, though! I also attended March’s Community Worship night. That counts for something, right?
Financial ~ Take intentional time with Steve to go over the family finances and budget and grow in understanding of our financial goals together.
This is still a weak area for me, laden with triggers and irrational emotion. Steve kindly collects and enters receipts, but I need to step up more and work on engaging the budget. We attempted a budget conversation the last night of March and hope to connect more regularly about the spending categories and money spent.
Writing ~ Schedule intentional time each week to write and work on the blog. Submit one Red Tentpost for consideration each month.
I don’t have a set time for writing blog posts, but this month I was able to find time to write and publish 14 posts on the blog, and Red Tent Living published my March submission Like Brown Suede Rental Skates. I received notice that I am on the docket for April, so stay tuned!
There is still some processing to do about how it is for me to write and share these goals posts. Maybe that will happen. Thank you to all who take the time to read and respond with words of encouragement. It means much. Many blessings to you all, Friends!
If there is no picture to document the event, no social media post about it, did it really happen?
This is the question I ask myself while thinking back to last Friday’s fun.
Firstborn and her husband drove from Richmond to take the four youngest to see Zootopia, leaving an open date night for the luvvvah and me. Excitement mounted for all, but maybe for me the most as everyone drove off in the minivan at 4:00 to get to the movie on time.
A quiet, though uneventful, late afternoon resulted in helping with the cleaning and the pizza-making before heading out to meet up with friends for a double date night starting at the new Ruby’s Arcade and ending up at Billy Jack’s.
I intentionally left my phone at home, tired of feeling tethered to it. Steve brought his along for the emergency factor, because aren’t we all living in a low-level constant state of urgent emergency?
I mean, KIDS! Who KNOWS what could happen that we might need to handle INSTANTLY. Oh yeah, and social media.
We walked downtown for a quick wine-tasting before heading over to Ruby’s. Once there, we claimed a table and began the wait for our friends and much-overdue time together. While waiting, we ran into many MORE friends, which is a 23 years in a small town perk. We were not the only ones excited about a new downtown venue.
Our friends arrived, and it was catch-up time over glasses of beer and wine. There was much laughter and good conversation. It was 9:30 when we finally walked over to Billy Jack’s, my first time inside after walking or driving past daily.
It was also my first adventure with sticky nuggs, which is my son’s favorite food group. I admit, they were tasty, and I enjoyed the frenetic dining experience. More laughter and not a few awkward moments later, we realized it was time to be heading home. Steve and I excused ourselves and began what I love about where I live ~ the walk home.
It is great to be able to have an entire date night out on foot!
Returning home, we spent time with our adult daughter catching up on life over a glass of wine before heading to bed. It was such a great time, leaving me eagerly anticipating my friend coffee date the next morning!
Friendship Friday’s are the best!
Even when you don’t have pictures to prove that they happened.
A few weekends ago, Steve and I took some much-needed time away together, with the holiday season in full swing. The timing was not ideal, but is it ever? As I type this line, I am transported in my mind to twenty-four years ago when we were saying, I do, at a time that was less-than ideal.
Today is our twenty-fourth wedding anniversary and the twenty-ninth anniversary of the season when we met.
There is a backstory to our time away, and while I could post pictures of festive decorations and divine cheese platters and gush about the reflexology treatment and hot-stone massage that my darling booked for me in advance, there would be much missing. There would be a glaring omission of the reality that we had to fight hard for this time and were almost taken down for the count.
That, dear reader, is the part that I want to share with you. Reality.
The story began last fall, summer, even, when my dearest asked our firstborn and her husband if they could spend Labor Day weekend with the kids so that we could go away together. Three nights alone seemed an incredible luxury. I was looking forward to it desperately.
When back-to-school life got full and pressures started bearing down, a voice inside reminded me that it would be worth it all when we were away. I could work really hard to get the school year going and then relax into the long weekend, emerging refreshed and re-connected with my partner in the midst of all of the madness.
We were both so caught up in our duties and responsibilities that a glaring omission happened. We failed to book a destination. This reality struck the week before we were to go away, when a painful conversation took place, leaving me feeling let-down, hurt, and angry.
Festering heart wounds that I thought had been dealt with, broke open and began to ooze painfully. I spent time trying to figure out a kind, yet honest, way to express my deep disappointment.
Too often I have offered a quick, That’s okay! or It’s no big deal! to things that were NOT okay and WERE big deals. It was a new path for me to sit in the hard place of feeling my feelings without minimizing them and of hurting without accusing my partner in anger. It was a struggle not to lash out at the one I love while in pain.
After these honest conversations, Labor Day weekend found us dog-sitting so that our daughter and son-in-law could go camping. We stayed at the house laboring, as usual. It was not the weekend I had envisioned, and I felt hurt and disappointed.
Steve quickly arranged for the next available time that the married adult couple could come and stay for a weekend. It was months away in December, but just having a date on the calendar was encouraging.
Things were rolling along smoothly. A non-refundable, non-transferable location was booked in Williamsburg, and Christmas Town tickets were purchased. Planning was enjoyable, and we were communicating. I had requested an entire Friday off to have a leisurely morning to myself before stealing away together.
I was picturing it in my head, and it was BEAUTIFUL!
Then things started to happen. Plans began to shift and change for honest reasons. Human error in communication caused the wrong weekend to be booked. We could still go away, but the child-care factor became much more labor-intensive and complicated.
I did not like the revised plan I was hearing. It felt forced and overwhelming and exhausting. Much complicated planning needed to happen just to arrive at our destination. It was not as I had envisioned. To top it off, the night before our planned departure, Steve became ill. He took to bed in a manner unusual for him unless it is serious. It was serious.
I was left in the nebulous unknown of wondering if I should continue to pack children to take to their siblings instead of having siblings come to them. I wondered if we would be able to go away at all.
Frankly, I was finished. Tired. Done.
My day off dawned, not as I had planned. It found me driving kids to school instead of rolling over for a little more sleep. After the drop off, I checked in with Steve who was not sure how he felt and did not look great.
Our revised plan had been to drive two cars to drop the kids with their adult siblings in Richmond on our way to Williamsburg. That would leave a vehicle for them to drive back to Harrisonburg that would fit everyone. Steve didn’t look up to the driving challenge. I was already less-than-thrilled with that idea BEFORE sickness crept in.
Let’s just not go. This is getting ridiculous. When are we going to read the sign that says this is not a good idea? What else has to happen?
We had until 11:00 to cancel the massage appointment he had booked. He wanted a little more rest, leaving me to make a teary call to my sister to help me process. She helped me sort out my heart, and when we hung up I realized that I needed to try.
Trying looked like seeing if there was any way to have the kids cared for here in town overnight instead of having to drive them to Richmond. The Richmond connection could drive themselves here the next day and hang out until we got home.
I reached out to friends and family who were able to say yes. While Steve slept, I arranged and drove around and packed up and picked up and dropped off. When he woke, I presented the new plan, which I think was plan d by this point. The kids were accounted for, he could sleep in the car while I drove, and we would at least be away, alone together.
If he felt better, great. If not, he could sleep while I read, addressed Christmas cards, wrote, did yoga, got a massage. We could watch movies or listen to podcasts together. It actually wasn’t looking too bad!
The bottom line is that we were able to go away, but it wasn’t easy.
We listened to podcasts together in the car. After a night of rest, Steve felt well enough to walk in the woods while I experienced a restorative massage. We ate at The Cheese Shop in downtown Williamsburg and walked around Merchant’s Square. We napped and relaxed. I didn’t write any Christmas cards. We didn’t make it to Christmas Town.
Our time together was too short. It always is. But it happened.
This may not seem like a big deal to some, but for me it is. For me it is saying, I really care about spending time together, I know Steve will enjoy this, I know I will enjoy this. Even though there are 1,001 reasons to not make it happen and then feel disappointed, I am going to TRY.
When I saw that Second Citywas returning to JMU, I wanted to go again with Steve. We attended a show a few years ago with No Strings Attached, and it was fun. I participated in a Second City workshop in Chicago while chaperoning a school trip for my son and learned a lot.
I desired to do this together.
Several weeks ago, I checked out the tickets and pricing. Seats were going fast. There were a few left scattered here and there, mostly in the balcony. Asking Steve what he thought about going, and not hearing clear Let’s do it! in his voice, I let it go.
Several weeks ago there was also great letdown as a failed communication between us resulted in an anticipated longing falling by the wayside, unmet. I struggled through deep disappointment and wrestled with how to let go of past hurts while communicating present ones honestly.
It was difficult to admit to myself and my husband that I stuff pain and quickly say, It’s okay, or It’s no big deal, when it’s not and it is. I had to acknowledge my hurt, disappointment, and true feelings without accusing, blaming, and attacking. It was a difficult time. We are still learning to communicate honestly and to hear one another in a safe space.
Steve can’t read my mind.
I minimize desire. I long for more together time but don’t take action. I wish for connection but grow busy with distraction.
It was time to make something happen.
Last night, out of curiosity, I logged onto the theater website to see what, if any, seats were left.
The seat map showed two yellow squares at the edge of a sea of x‘s. And by sea, I mean every other seat was marked taken.
Two seats at the end of a row! A countdown timer at the top of the laptop screen ticked away the minutes I had to make a decision while Steve was out walking Dewey. Two seats. At the end of a row! (Can you tell that part in itself was HUGE for me?) The last two seats. My favorite spot in any row.
I took them.
Almost immediately, contempt and sabotage began to creep in.
What did you just do? That was stupid. You don’t even know if you can get a babysitter at this late notice. Steve didn’t act as if he wanted to go when you mentioned it before. You just spent money on something that you don’t know will work out.
And on and on.
I began my usual pattern of faux-not-caring. He can always take a friend if we don’t get a sitter. I can be here with the kids. It doesn’t matter if I go or not.
I told Steve when he returned and was met with a positive response. He helped me begin looking for a sitter, which in the end I secured.
So tonight is a real date night, not that popcorn and Parenthood at 9:30pm doesn’t count. It’s the fighting forward for fun together that doesn’t just magically happen because I wish it would. It’s being in the moment in our marriage, knowing that it is worth it.
It’s my favorite time of the day. Once I pry myself from bed and make it over to the corner, coffee appears on a little stand next to me. Prepared by my luvvvah, often in matching mugs, this sweet ritual is one that I miss when we are not together.
Often it has arrived before I wake all the way up, the smell enticing me to emerge from the coziness of my covers and meet the day. But I don’t waaant to.
We sit together reading quietly or scanning our phones or asking what is on the agenda for the day. I journal. We talk. It is the kind of time that I want to last and last. No interruptions. No kids. Just us for 20 minutes.
This morning I reached for my mug for that first sip.
How is the coffee holding up? Do we need to buy more?
There is a bit of back story here.
Today is payday. That means the bottom of the barrel has been scraped in many places in the kitchen. I wondered if it was that way with the whole-bean coffee that we usually have stocked and stored.
Steve is the coffee-preparer most of the time. I am out of the coffee supply loop. So this morning I took that first sip and asked, How’s the coffee holding up? Do we need to buy more?
His response made me laugh.
This is an old packet of Folgers that I found in the coffee basket. We are out of coffee. I will have to bring your second cup to school after the bus run.
I am not a coffee snob. Truly, I’m not. But I could tell. Usually there is a bag of backup beans somewhere but not today. I will add it to the list.
Happy Friday, Everyone! That second cup cannot come soon enough. Enjoy your day!