Saturday, August 16, 2014

What I want to say the night before we take you to college

So all day long I have been avoiding looking at the piles of college things waiting to be loaded into the van for our trip to Murray tomorrow.  I never thought I would hate the sight of a desk lamp or a bathroom caddy but today I really do.   In my head you are still a 9 year old with pockets of Pokemon cards,  lugging around a Calvin and Hobbes book, and the brown eyed boy yelling at me  "Hey mom!  Watch this!"

All day long today  I kept thinking, what else?  Did I forget to tell you something?  To teach you something?  You know not to wash the lights with the darks.  You know how I feel about binging on Netflix and Ps3.  You know my speech about being a producer and not a consumer.    But what about the rest?  What else should I be telling you?  So it's after midnight and I thought I would just jot a few things down...you know, some more stuff that I really want you to know.  

1.  Go go class.  
I know you know this already, but what I am trying to say is don't just fill a seat.  GO to class.  Show up expecting to learn, trying to learn.  You will have crappy professors.  You will have amazing professors.  There is the potential to learn in every single class.  It is your responsibility to fulfill that potential.    Study!  And don't wait until the last minute!



2.  This may seem like odd advice, but just in case--Do not ever drink anything made in or served out of a trash can or large plastic bin.  Believe me, the opportunity will arise.

3.   Take care of Maddie Moo.  Years ago your sister headed to school and as you know, she learned so much she even took the time to write down some of her thoughts just for you.   Josh, college awaits
This year, she will be watching out for you, but I want you to remember that even though you are her little brother, sometimes she is going to need you to ask her to get a coke, or she will need you to give her a hug.  Senior year is stressful.  God is putting the two of you together at Murray this year for a reason.  



4.  In college you are the fridge fairy.
I am not sure you know this Josh, but I am the one who has been cleaning our refrigerator all these years.  It is not a magical refrigerator fairy that shows up and does this.  Therefore, now that you have a fridge of your own and especially because you are sharing that refrigerator with a roommate, you need to know that now YOU are the fridge fairy.  Clean the fridge once a week.  (You are also the microwave fairy).



5.    Leave your door open.  
Sometimes,you will need to shut your door and study like crazy.  Please do that.  But sometimes, you will need to open your door and make some new friends.  It's a lot easier to do that with the door open.  Don't be afraid to make small talk.  As long as you ask people questions, they will keep talking.  Listen.  You are about to make some of the best friends of your life.



6.   Speaking of studying and friends...create some study groups.  Find the funny, nerdy, brilliant, opinionated kids in your classes.  Find the ones who have notebooks full of notes.  People like this:

Say  to those people "hey, want to get together and study this semester?" 
 You think I'm joking. If you do this, and have study groups that meet regularly your grades will be better.  You will make some new friends.  You will create a community in every class you walk into and this is such a good thing.

7.   Find the line between critical thinker and cynic and choose to not be a cynic.
This is something I always worry about.  I have watched you as you have grown wrestle with your faith in God and in humanity and like me, you can get paralyzed by your cynicism.  Research, observe, study your guts out and then sometimes, don't be afraid to take a leap of faith.  Expect people to be good.  They usually are.

8.   A wise young man once gave me some great advice...Embrace the Awkward...
Seriously, if our family has not taught you anything, it is to embrace the awkward.  And we do it so well.  

9.   Call your mother.
Remember, son, that while you are at college experiencing new things and learning and growing that you have left a giant space back at home.  It's not just me that will feel this space, it's your dad and your brothers.   We will each miss you in different ways.   When you aren't around, things just aren't as fun.  (calmer, probably, but not fun and calm is really overrated.).  





There is more advice, stuff about time management and money and girls and teachers and roommates.  I am leaving out so much.  Before I finish this, though, I need you to know something:
 I am not going to pray that your days at Murray are easy.  I am not going to pray that each day you are happy.  I am going to pray that you get stronger and braver and compassionate and that you learn to feel comfortable way outside your box. I know that in order to do each of these things there are going to be hard lessons ahead and days you want to hide in your room because you are sad,  overwhelmed or pissed off and I am going to pray that the strength, bravery and compassion that are maturing in you each day is what leads you out the door.

I love you son.  I cannot wait to watch this next chapter in your life.  I still hate the packed bags, the stupid shower caddy and the thought that tomorrow you will drive from this home to a new home (hate even calling it that).  Go to class, clean your fridge, love your sister, make new friends and call often.  Just know that that this Creekside drive home is more than a place to do your laundry, or grab some food, it's the place where we all will be waiting on you to walk through the door and make us laugh.  No one does it like you.



Thursday, August 7, 2014

22 lessons for 22 years


This is an anniversary update for an old blog post.  Since tomorrow is 22 years I thought I better make sure I would add 21 and 22 on.





Twenty years ago on a blistering hot day I was waiting in the lobby of Kirkwood Road Christian Church getting ready to walk down the aisle to marry Jeff and I was a wreck.  The truth is,  if you had taken bets from friends, family and the general public I’m guessing many folks would have bet that this week we wouldn’t be celebrating our 20th anniversary.  It’s not that those folks would be so negative or hateful that they would have bet against us.  Heck..I think if it had been my money, I would have bet against us.  We just had lots of odds stacked against us: both of us with parents divorced, both of us very opposite and both of us opinionated, stubborn, control freaks.   I would like to say we were madly, passionately in love with each other and knew  our love could beat those odds so we chose to marry.  The real story is that we were just at that age where our friends were getting married, we thought we loved each other and it just sort of felt like the time to do it.  I know, romantic, isn’t it?  


And let me tell you, those first few years?  They were not romantic at all.  In fact, they were hell.  No money, pregnant three months after our wedding day and I had moved to St. Louis where I had few friends and no family.  Jeff was working a job that he hated and we both wanted to kill each other a lot of the time.  We both blamed each other for our unhappiness. We both had this idea of what the other person needed to do—for my part, I would push Jeff so hard to want to go to church more—in fact I wanted him to be more “churchy.”   This, of course, made Jeff  just resent church people in general and especially me.  I pushed. Jeff pushed back. Things got worse.  By the time Maddie was two we were walking through a parking lot at a store each holding one of Maddie’s hand when Jeff looked down and said, “she doesn’t really know what she is holding together here, does she?” 





If you are following me so far you  know that the rest of this story (so far) is long and certainly another blog (or two or three) but that would be so much writing that I’m going to shoot to the today part of the story.  20 years of marriage have gone by and I love my husband so much more today than I could ever have imagined.  I adore him. He still drives me insane.  We still fight all the time but we fight differently.  We are still stubborn, selfish control freaks. We have made countless mistakes.  But we have worked so hard at having a good marriage and being good parents.  God changed us.  And by changing us, he changed our marriage.  I just sort of think that we might be that couple that others can look at us and say, “well, shoot, if they can make it there’s hope for us all.”


So, in honor of all that and of 20 years of marriage (and the longest blog ever) I decided that I would come up with 20 things I have learned from 20 years of marriage.  Some the easy way. Some the hard way.    Here goes.


20 things learned from 20 years of marriage:


1.       Sometimes you are not really mad.  You are hungry. Or tired. Or both.  Take a nap, eat a sandwich and then decide if you are mad.


2.       Cheap dates are some of the best kinds of dates.  I love a nice dinner out and a show but I also love a bike ride and ice cream.

3.       For the love of your marriage and all things that equal peace do not decide to clean out your spouse’s high school crap treasures.




4.       People often pray for the  their child’s spouse that God will give them a great spouse.  They should also pray for the in-laws their child will have one day, that God will give them great in-laws.  I won the in-law lottery.  Seriously, I have the best in-laws (two sets!)  I could have ever dreamed and prayed for.   Additionally, I got these amazing grandparents in my life that I had always longed to have.


5.       No matter how great it sounds, Cheez-Its do not make good meat loaf.  Thankful for a husband and kids who have traveled through lots of culinary journeys with me.



6.       The grass is never as green as you think it is in someone else’s yard.  Love your own grass.  As soon as I start comparing my marriage I inevitably find that I need to do something, buy something, change something and most of the time these things all leave me really crabby at Jeff.  What a waste of precious time.  Guess there’s a reason that commandment says not to covet.


7.       There are few things better for your marriage than having game/card-playing friends.  Being able to call folks over for a cheap night of cards and laughs is the best thing ever. Invest time, energy, and prayer in finding other friends that you both like.  That is a big reason why our marriage struggled so much early on—it took us so long to find “our” friends.  (I still sort of think there should be some online site, similar to online dating sites, for people to go find friends.  Is that weird?)


8.       Okay, so this next tip we did not figure out until a year ago.  But oh.my.goodness.  This is huge.  As soon as you have enough money (perhaps why this didn’t happen for years in our marriage) invest in a really good king sized mattress.  If you are particularly mean, like Jeff and me, give your old mattress to one of your kids and remind them they were made on it.  Teenagers love hearing that kind of thing.



9.       Keeping score means someone is always losing.  The whole game of  “I did the laundry and the dishes and you just played with Max and ran to the bank so I am the best person and you should be so grateful that I am in your life” never gets us anywhere but in a big fight.  We have learned this but we still play this script out pretty frequently.



10.   Toilet paper goes over the roll or under the roll? Doesn’t matter.  Just be grateful there is toilet paper.  Toothpaste squeezed from the bottom up? Buy two tubes of toothpaste.


11.   There is nothing as sexy as watching my husband doing dishes or playing with our kids.



12.   Unless it is him with tears in his eyes watching  the kids in a school play, a lacrosse game or a church worship service.  The man is proud of his kids.


13.   Likewise, there is nothing more beautiful than the sound of him praying for me and the kids.  Gets me every time.


14.   Never throw the checkbook.  That argument couples get in where you say “if you think you can manage the checkbook better have at it” and then you throw it at the other person?  Maybe you have never had that argument.  But couples that have know that it really is a crappy set up.  Because secretly, if you throw the checkbook at the other person and tell them to do it you are rooting for them to fail.  And guess what happens if they fail?  Yep, you have a screwed up checkbook and you are still mad.


15.    If you tell your wife you have a really special Christmas present for her that you are super excited to give to her it should not be a bowl. 



16.   Doing marriage is hard.  Doing marriage in front of teenagers is super hard.  I think right now the hardest part of marriage is having my kids watch every stupid mistake we make, every dumb fight we have and every bit of our selfishness.  I pray  they also see grace, forgiveness and a sense of humor.


17.   Speaking of doing marriage in front of kids:  When you get mad and you have a temper and slam the door and it bangs on the wall and leaves a denty-hole thing in the wall your child will show the denty hole thing to people when they come  over and tell them how it got there.  Just sayin.


18.   And speaking of getting good and mad:  When you do get really mad,  do not go running home to your parents or to your best friend and trash your spouse.  As good as that feels at the time,  you will make up with your spouse and long after the make up sex is over your parents and best friend may still think your spouse is a jerk.  If you need to vent (and I am a venter so I need to vent) find a friend who will remind you of why you love your spouse and send you back to them.


19.   Go to at least one ballroom dance lesson together. Run at least one race together.  Play in a golf league together even though one of you sucks.  Camp in a tent to remind yourself to buy a camper.  Have a song that makes you both laugh at the memory of that song (devil went down to Georgia).  Skinny dip.   Skip the flowers and the chocolates unless you just love flowers and chocolate.  Do your own kind of romance. 



20.   Last tip. Most important one:  Don’t miss it.  So many days I waste so much time planning and busying myself through the next thing that I forget to breathe it all in.  Is our marriage perfect? Nope.  The stuff that dreams are made of? Depends on the dreams.  Even when things are so stressful and crappy and crazy is it blessed?  Yep.  Absolutely.






21.  Take the Brady Bunch Trip.  
Take a big ole honking trip that involves putting your family in a minivan, staying in some cheap, fairly crappy hotels, and stopping when you are ready to stop.  At some point, when you are half way through the state of California and when your van is full of smelly, singing, joke telling,  grumpy teenagers and one 8 year old then you'll know what happy is.



 22.  Be a cheerleader not a coach.
There might be a time that you and your spouse decide to do some sort of activity together.  Say this activity involves running.  You might think that your job as a spouse is to provide coaching.  WRONG.  Your job, as a spouse, is to be a cheerleader.  Practice this:  You rock!  You amaze me!  I am so lucky to be married to someone who can run like you!  Wow, do  you look sexy in running clothes!  I can tell you what cheerleading does not look like.  It does not look like this:

Seriously, though, wouldn't that motivate you to have such an encouraging spouse as I was obviously being in this picture? So many times in marriage we get the choice of either trying to fix our spouse by coaching them (which means helping them be more like ourselves) or encouraging them and cheering them on.  So, here's my point.  Choose cheerleader.  

So there ya have it, the updated list of 22 lessons.  Jeff Mucci, I love you. These are 22  years of lessons I would not have wanted to learn with anyone else.  And oh yeah...you really do look sexy in running clothes.