Just one more sock…

28 Feb

I was doing laundry today, when I caught myself smiling. Smiling! While doing

No, these are not my socks. Courtesy of Google Images.

laundry! After a few minutes of inner reflection, trying to find the cause of such a strange occurrence, I realized the reason. I was trying to stuff so many whites in the “white load” that my own inner voices were laughing at me.

“Why,” they asked, “Do you need to do EVERY dirty white in the SAME load? Do you think this is the last load of laundry ever to be done?”

“Well no,” I replied back. “But it’s sure the last one that will make it through before next Friday. And I need all these white socks between now and then, don’t ya think?”

That’s when I realized it (no, not that I’m talking to myself). I realized that we are way too caught up with being efficient, that we are missing it all. The most important thing to me about laundry today wasn’t doing one load well and calling it progress. It was stuffing in just one more sock. Getting the most bang for my buck. Finishing the most I could with the least amount of effort. Why?

The “one more sock” principle is the same reason I cleaned my entire house during a 40-minute conversation with my Dad. Was it not enough to simply sit and talk with someone? Is that really a waste of time? It shouldn’t be, if I took the time to value moments. But who has time for that. Instead, I find myself thinking of potential ways to multitask. To squeeze just one more event into the given time period. To make every minute count. But am I really counting every minute for the full value it deserves? Am I really present for any of those events? Usually, yes. Usually, it’s okay.

But sometimes, it’s not so good to bring a book to visit your aging grandparents. Or to shove down your breakfast while proofing a paper (coffee stains in the corner…oops).  So the real trick to expert level multitasking? Knowing when a life moment warrants your undivided attention. And knowing when one more sock, just one, will shut down that washer for good. Eek.

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You give, I give. What gives?

20 Dec

This week’s lesson in love was, for me, about compromise. The teacher? None other than Justin himself. In the midst of the everyday fights that are small, trivial, and sometimes meaningful, we had lost perspective on the basics of fighting fair–letting the other person talk, not turning something around on the other person, and hardest of all, the art of compromise.

His method (and, reluctantly but willingly, mine as well now) of compromising, in order to stay together, is as follows:

1. Identify the parts of the fight. Example: He wants ice cream, you want cake. He wants to see Saw #96, you want to see Sally loves Joe III. He wants to drive, and so do you. These are the three areas of disagreement.

2. Find the easiest thing to give up. Example: You GUESS you could eat ice cream instead of cake. Just because he wants to and you happen to love him. Congratulations, you have just made your first compromise! This was news to me.

3. Figure out what you definitely will NOT give up. Example: You will, under no circumstances, see Saw #96 because you will be seeing that villain in your dreams for the next three months. Not worth the lost sleep.

4. Pick a point to meet halfway. Example: You drive there, he drives home. You have mastered the art of a true compromise if you can do this part. Being a rookie, I only got to part three.

After learning the four steps to compromise, Justin style, I realized that I’m either: 1. Very behind in the field of give and take or 2. I’ve never been “taught” how to actually do it.

The moral? Sometimes the person closest to you, who you think knows absolutely nothing, can help you figure out yourself better than anyone in the world. For all I know, he saved me from my own self, and saved our relationship from future demise into screaming matches without solutions.

Work and Play

3 Oct

As a writer, the line between work and play is more blurred than ever. Do I really get to “play” with words and call it work? Yes. But then a new kind of balance comes into play. The kind where you don’t forsake your personal writing pursuits for your professional ones. So, dear Ford, I must take the morning off from cars, feet on dashboards, and interviews with corporate to remember my roots…Highlighters and Dishes.

On one of my first posts, an avid reader commented that my writing had the style of Erma Bombeck. Having never heard of the woman, I Googled her, then started seeing her show up in the strangest places…a street named after her in Dayton (Near Brown Street, if you’re from there, because so is she!), piles of her books at garage sales, and quotes from her floating around the internet. Finally, I thought, here’s an example of a woman who has some balance. She is a homemaker, but she is a writer. Her content is a blend of both of her worlds–her husband’s tendencies become fuel for her writing fire. She seems to not have to make a distinction between work and play, because her home is where her ideas brew. This seems like an obvious revelation to me, this combining of home and work life, this crossing over of ideas and becoming one fluid person rather than “professional you” and “the real you.”

The best professionals I know not only bring their personality to work, but bring their work styles home. Not in a way that interferes, necessarily, but in a way that allows them to be one person–i.e. talking about work at the dinner table, planning a Saturday outing with the same detail as they plan a work proposal.

The idea that work and play must always be separate contradicts finding our own identities, and sticking to them. Making them oppose each other leads to resentment (i.e. “I have to go to work now” might really be meaning “I wish I didn’t have to go put on my professional face.”).  A genuine person doesn’t need faces, just a quick change of shoes, because let’s face it…sharp, black pumps and fuzzy slippers will never be interchangeable.

The Elephant and the Dog: A Love Story

29 Jun

Last Friday, with just twelve hours notice, it was time for the illusive tumor to come out. The surgeon moved up the surgery to what happened to be our moving day. But, when the chief of surgery tells you to jump, you do. So Justin and family were left with the not so small task of moving our entire first place together–the humble three bedroom abode crammed with everything we own– into a smaller, cheaper apartment. We learned more than just how to tape a box and how to survive the cardiac floor of Jewish Hospital this week.  It was a communication challenge when plans were changed so last minute by the forces that be, and yet another lesson in love found in an unexpected place…what else is new.

There’s a story about an elephant that befriends a dog in this animal sanctuary place. They go everywhere together, and when the dog gets sick and gets placed in a special house on the sanctuary premises, the elephant stays right nearby, guarding and protecting the dog while he recovers. Justin assured me, using this very story, that he was my elephant friend and I was the dog this weekend. Therefore, being my oh-so literal self, I thought he meant just that–that he would be by my bedside the entire weekend, save bathroom breaks and Starbucks trips. In my nervous pre-op state, and my woozy/grouchy post-op state, I clearly forgot the fact that we had to be out of our old house by Monday. So, when Justin spent most of the weekend working hard to get us moved in, I fumed that he wasn’t there with me to listen to me whine, get me glasses of water, etc.

What I didn’t realize is that he was being the elephant–in his own way. I still haven’t gotten around to reading The Five Love Languages, which apparently holds all the secrets of life and love according to my mother, but I’m sure it says something about how Justin was showing love in his own way. Maybe he wasn’t holding my hand and helping me wash my hair (which he ended up doing this entire week anyway, after the move) but he was arranging my bedroom, moving endless boxes full of my crap, and washing dishes.

I realized that love might not show up how you expect it to, but the elephant that is a few miles away working hard for you is guarding you just as much as the elephant sitting on their ass by your bedside.

Dancing Amongst the Ants

14 May

Summer has sprung in Oxford, and so have the carpenter ants–out of the walls and the outlets in the kitchen! Gross. After going out for the day and coming back to an ant-y kitchen, I realized the every relationship has its own methods of coping with stressful situations. Even within our own relationship, some methods are better than others.

After reading “Committed” by Elizabeth Gilbert, I learned some valuable relationship tools. She explored the reasons why people marry, the dynamics of relationships, and used personal anecdotes and suggestions. One of them, which Justin and I have adopted ourselves, goes like this…

When a situation gets sticky, like you are fighting an army of kitchen ants, or in Gilbert’s case traveling for seven hours on a rickety bus in Mongolia about to roll off the side of a cliff, one person can say “We should be careful right now.” This means, we should not have any important conversations, and we should watch what words we use because outside stressors are making us nastier than our normal selves would allow. Seems smart to me.

Another stress reduction technique is stopping to dance. Yes, dance. In the anty kitchen. The boombox is always going on the ready in our kitchen, and some slow dances have diffused worse situations than ants. Sometimes you have to put down the fly-err-ant swatter and take a minute amidst the chaos to refocus on each other when things get sticky.

Fear of Sweats

23 Apr

Any “credible” relationship guide, be it Cosmopolitan magazine or your favorite features section in the local paper will give the same advice:  don’t get too comfortable. They say that the minute you switch out your rhinestone tank top and shorts for the tattered sweats that date back to your junior high crush, you have committed the ultimate sin. The beginning of the end. The loss of magic, passion, and effort in the relationships. You have put on THE SWEATS…duh duh duh (insert eerie musical notes).

Maybe they are right. Maybe those sweats are just too damn comfortable to be a good thing, and so they must symbolize giving up on the “fire”, ending the honeymoon stage, blah blah blah. Ironically, boys wear gym shorts and ratty t-shirts in the beginning of the relationship, the middle, and well, for the rest of it. What’s the equivalent of their rhinestone pj’s? A splash of cologne? Putting on deodorant that day? Big deal.

The real question is, what’s behind the sweats? Why do the relationship experts say to just not go there? To them, comfort and spark are opposites, never occurring simultaneously between two people at the same time. Call me naive, but Justin and I have been together long enough that I can now confidently ask, why not? They seem to be working together. Maybe the “spark” is only proven authentic and long-lasting when it’s still there along with the sweats. We’ll call it the comfortable spark–a place in a relationship where friendship doesn’t have to be opposite from romance, and categories can fall away, along with our fear of sweats. They are just plain cozier. If you must, pair with a cuter top for desired results.

The Dog Blog

6 Apr

For a week we had a visitor at Justin and Allie’s bed and breakfast (just kidding, do not call for actual reservations.) His name was Cosmo, my Dad’s dog, and he came for the week with his own accessories—bag of bones, box of smaller bones, bag of special bones, food, bowl, three toys, nighttime blanket, daytime blanket, collapsible cage, short walk leash, long walk leash, and going outside to sit but not walking anywhere leash. Talk about high maintenance. Then again, Justin would point out I have just as many shoes for even more specific reasons than that. Our week with the dog was much like a week with a baby (I can imagine), but the themes of dog hood are much like life.

Everyone needs attention

I missed one thing at the end of the week after Cosmo left—it wasn’t the walks, or the petting. It was the company. No other person can give you as much attention as a dog. They want to know what you’re doing. He would follow me from the kitchen to get a cloth from the laundry room, to opening the dishwasher, over to the oven to cook something. My every move mattered, and there was always company.  It is nice to be admired, even if it’s not from a human. A dog will do.

Slow down

Children and dogs walk slower than grownups for a reason. They are in tune with nature, in tune with garbage on the street, and in tune with the true spirit of the walk: to slow down and smell the roses. There is no five-minute walk. There are long walks and longer walks, and that’s how it’s supposed to be. Nobody cares, especially not a dog, if you think it is dinnertime, study time, work time, or time for Dancing with the Stars. The only thing it’s really time for is hanging out, sniffing the grass, marking the rocks.  Speaking of marking, five times each day, the dog revisited rocks, trees, mailboxes, and the pick up truck on the corner to ensure it was still “his.”

Living in the moment

The most developed skill a dog subconsciously has is living for the now. Because he doesn’t know when he’s going in his cage, when someone will drag him inside, and when his daddy will come home, all that matters is what’s happening now. With the exception of the first night of whimpering (two hours of sleep makes you love a dog a little less each night, I must admit) he is never worried about the past or the future. If only we could be the same way.  We control the dog’s schedule, God controls our schedule, so what would be that different really?

Genuine joy

There is no human joy that equates to a dog’s happiness when you come home. You are pounced upon, pushed over, and just generally showered with kisses and attention. The reason he’s so happy? Because of the lack of expectations for the future. Living in the moment means you don’t have standards, requirements, or expectations for what’s going to happen, so when it does, it’s just a big fat bonus.  Like finding $20 in last summer’s shorts.

Scaredy cat—err—dog

If you are a medium sized Bysingie, it’s okay to be scared sometimes. Cosmo was scared of: drains in the street, semi trucks downtown, and the six bloodhounds wailing 24/7 across the street. He was more than honest about his fears, and would make them obvious to everyone around him. This made him no less of a man. In fact, I found him to be more of a man for his honesty. He would do one of two things: vocally communicate the emotion of fear, or remove himself from the situation. If only humans always reacted the same way.

Moral of the story? We learned we were not ready to have a dog, a baby, or any other living thing that relies on us yet. We also realized that for a short time, any of these things can teach some memorable life lessons, and bring us closer together by expanding our experience as a couple.

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