Real Men Vacuum

On Saturday mornings in my household, we all pitch in to clean and reset the house for the next week.  Children dust and organize rooms.  I scrub floors and toilets, fold the laundry, and change all the bedding.

Real Men Vacuum

And my husband vacuums.

Then he takes his smart phone with the Grocery IQ application and does all the coupons and grocery shopping.  He’s so detail-oriented that he can make the house sparkle, and he’s so good with fast math that he saves us a fortune each week by memorizing sales and matching coupons to what’s on sale.

He’s mastered the art of weekly grocery shopping. 

He calls it hunting for our food.  

I’m thankful that my daughters have a father who cleans house and goes to the grocery store.  There’s something profoundly manly about this, and it makes our marriage have flair.  

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Journal:  Is there something I’m not doing because I think it doesn’t fit a traditional gender role?  

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Love is a Tornado

This morning, my daughter hands me a little card that says her love for me is like a tornado.  She drew a picture of a tornado and wrote, “It’s like this.” 

I turn to her and say, “You mean it’s powerful and destructive?”

She smiles and pretends she’s punching me.  She tries to explain the comparison:  “It gets stronger each day like a tornado gets stronger with each spin.” 

Her tornado is a giant mess of scribble that looks terrifying.  

Love is a tornado? 

That can’t be right.   

My husband adds at breakfast that a tornado is like love because you “never know where it’s coming from.” It can take you by surprise (like how I met him when I least expected it).  

I look at this little family.  I think of the kind of love that breaks the heart and repairs it simultaneously.  I think of the terrifying surrender of it, the giant mess of living lives intertwined. I think of the powerful destruction that love’s wake leaves on the landscape of a heart.  It’s a tornado that rips you apart.

But it’s the kind of devastation you endure because there’s no other way to have it.  It’s the most beautiful storm you’ll ever experience. 

I hug my children–these little tornadoes in my heart–and think about the kind of love I want in my life.  Let it be giant and powerful.  Let it get stronger each day. 

Let it destroy what in me needs to be leveled and remake a pure landscape.  

(Photo:  Public Domain. Credit: OAR/ERL/National Severe Storms Laboratory (NSSL) via [pingnews])

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One Way to Say “I Love You”

A few days ago, my husband and I seriously start brainstorming ideas for our Halloween costumes. There’s a lot at stake:  we have a party to attend and neighborhood children to impress.  

I have this genius idea–one I actually stole from a student– that my husband could dress as Colonel Mustard and I’d go as Mrs. Peacock from the board game, “Clue.”  We decide that, although a brilliant idea, it is too complicated (and nobody would remember that game). 

My husband begins implementing his plan;  he starts searching the Internet for “bear suits.”

I repeat:  bear suits.  

He actually wants us to go to this party as bears.  I smile politely and then leave for the costume store.  

I find the most glorious red cape for a Little Red Riding Hood outfit.  I picture my little basket and my adorable dress.  Then I consider my husband.  

Lederhosen / Wikipedia Commons / Public Domain

The store features another fairy tale costume that’s equally adorable.

It’s Hansel.

Think lederhosen.

Think actual leather breeches and embroidered suspenders.  And a little hat. 


I rush home and tell him about this costume.  I have it being held for 24 hours with his name on it.  

“You could be Hansel!  From Hansel and Gretel?  You know, Hansel?”  I’m nodding my head and shaking his arm back and forth. 

“I’m not going to be Hansel,” he says firmly.

“But it’s so adorable!  Honey, please be Hansel.”

“I can’t be Hansel,” he says again. 

I’m crushed.  I’m devastated.  He’d be the most wonderful Hansel.

A day goes by.  I’m still crushed.  And just about the time I’m going to search for more impressive costumes (Gandalf, Dumbledore, Batman) or else begin an ebay search for bear suits, I get a text message from him.

3 words.  

“I’ll be Hansel.” 

I call him back, and say, “Really?  Will you really be Hansel?”

He says, “Yes, I’ll be Hansel.  I know how much this means to you.”

It turns out that other husbands (the ones who we arrange playdates for), perhaps in an act of solidarity, are encouraging his decision.  At least one is seriously considering going as Hansel–standing side-by-side with my husband.  Maybe they’ll be a whole neighborhood throng of German men in lederhosen. 

But I would have been a bear for him. 

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Try This at Home

I’m standing in the freezing cold, tapping my foot and sighing.

Backpacks by the door.

Finally, both daughters emerge from school. As I herd them away from the building, I list out all the things I want them to do when we get home.  Hurry!  Let’s move, girls! 

We get inside, and I’m scurrying around to empty backpacks and neatly replace them on their hooks. 

My oldest (the one whose fame lasted till lunch) pulls me aside and whispers, “Mom, what happened to the warm welcome?”

The warm welcome?  Please, child.  It’s been a long day. 

But she’s right.  I love these children.  Why can’t I just give a warm welcome?  As we talk about what we could do to welcome each other into the home, she makes this list:  

The Warm Welcome
1.  Smile and say, “I’m so glad to see you.”
2.  Offer a snack and a refreshing beverage. 
3.  Play soft music or light a candle for a peaceful mood.
4.  Please don’t ask questions or give orders.

That’s the Warm Welcome.  It turns out that even asking how somebody’s day was can feel like pressure.  My daughter tells me to wait until she’s settled in before asking her questions. 

I seem to recall marriage advice along the same lines.  

How many family and neighbor entrances have I clouded with my impatience, my demands, and my agenda?  When a family member returns home, what if I didn’t ask questions, give orders, or rush? 

I stop my scurrying, put on some music, light our pumpkin candle, and pour a glass of orange juice as my daughters transition from out there to in here. 

Living with flair means I learn the Warm Welcome. You’ve been out there.  Come inside.  We are so glad you’re here.

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How to Get This Thing to Work

My friend just emailed a picture of my daughter swinging on a glider swing with her daughter.  On a glider swing, two friends sit back to back.  The rhythm required to get the swing moving involves taking turns pulling up against the bar in front of you.  If you both try to pump at the same time, you don’t move.  It’s fun to watch children figure this concept out.  You have to let the other person move, and then you move, and then it’s back to you, then back to them.

But it doesn’t work if you both pull in your own direction at the same time.

The irony of surrendering to your partner, of deferring to the other person, is that you end up swinging higher.  You get the benefit of all her hard work.  But it doesn’t seem fair.  You have to resist the urge to be first, to control the whole gig.  Those urges end up sabotaging you in the end.

The picture of my daughter on the glider swing reminds me to cooperate.  It’s embarrassing how much I resist cooperation.  I want to lead!  I want to start it all!  But you there at my back, with me the whole time, have a stake in this experience.  What would happen if I saw us as truly interdependent, laced up at our backs, so that when you lead, I go higher?  What if saw my labor as elevating you as well? 

I’m not the surrendering type.  I’m learning, when I look at this picture, to cooperate with what’s at my back (God, my husband, my dear neighborhood friend, my colleagues, and even my own daughters).

Let me work with you.  That’s the way the swing works. 

(beautiful photo courtesy of S. Velegol)

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The Red Spotted Newt and Marriage Truth

Hiking along a trail this morning, I force my own plans:  when to stop to pick blackberries, when to leave the trail and see what’s down the canyon, when to turn back.  I have my own things to do. 

My Eagle Scout husband (who surely knows more) is patient with me when I’m bossy.  He calls out to me and says, “Come look at this!”

Together, we observe a fast little red spotted newt.  It’s tiny and racing across the moss almost too quickly to catch on film.  I’m amazed he could see it.

Later, I want to go home, and he says, “We’ll just walk a little further down this trail.”

All of a sudden, the forest opens to this gorgeous lake–so peaceful, so tucked away in a deeply shaded forest.  Nobody’s here but us, the geese, and the frogs that let out a yelp as they dive like synchronized swimmers off the lily pads. 

It’s so beautiful.  I sit and rest.  It was my husband who brought me here to the still water’s edge.  It was my husband who said, “look at this,” and stopped me in my frantic race towards…what?  We celebrate 10 years of marriage this week.  This anniversary hike without the children reminded me of what’s so precious about marriage:  You have a companion that walks the trail with you and knows how to guide your attention to what you can’t yet see.

Later, we talked about marriage as oneness.  You have to fight the urge to be separate, to do your own thing, to race ahead.  Being–and staying–in love means I cultivate the oneness.  Cultivating oneness has something to do with pulling the other aside and saying, “Look at this!”  And if one of us has to rest by the water alone, the other one will at least capture it on film for later.

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Flair with Introverts

I’m learning that flair assumes many forms. Many introverted forms. Forms like puzzles and card games. If you hang out with my husband and his family, you learn these things.
So I’m sitting at a card table. The children are playing Go Fish and War and probably some mysterious game called Solitaire. (My husband still laughs at me when I tell people I don’t know the rules of Solitaire. I’m an extrovert to the extreme–not much alone time)
There’s a 1000 piece puzzle before me (an old Milton Bradley, not a Springbok—apparently there are standards for good puzzles and Springbok is the best). Anyway, the puzzle. The puzzle is called, “ By a Canal, Holland.” I’ve been patiently assembling the sky when my husband announces that I’m doing it wrong. He says there are rules to puzzling like:
  1. Find all the edge pieces.
  2. Group them kindly by color.
  3. Claim your puzzle region.
  4. Begin assembling.
  5. Do not stop until the wee hours of the night.
  6. Start trash-talking about how you are “puzzle master” and “this puzzle is no match for me.”
  7. Reminisce about other puzzles you have put together in your lifetime: the 3D Notre Dame, the impossible Globe one, the historical puzzles, the Coca-Cola Memorabilia puzzle that’s framed in your basement, the fluffy kittens, the Wizard of Oz.
  8. Decide who gets to put the last piece in (the one who has worked the longest).
  9. Rebuke the person who swoops down at the last minute and tries to put in the last piece.
    So I’m doing the puzzle. And I start thinking about what region of my brain is being activated.  This puzzle is good for my brain!  It’s good for my marriage!  It’s good for my family!  I need to hang out with introverts more! 
Living with flair means joining the introverts for a night. It’s puzzling, that world, but good for my brain, my marriage, my family, and my flair.
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