Fireside Chats

 

Lately I have heard from a lot of acquaintances and friends about marriage issues.  Mostly on social media but a couple at lunches and dinners and phone calls.  Some are actually separated or heading for divorce, others are just really struggling.

And while the beautiful Hannah and I are relatively new to this thing called marriage, I’ve (we’ve) been at the struggling point and come up with something that works really well.  It is six questions we ask once a week or so. We call them our fireside chats because they started around a fire.  And there are a couple rules…no getting defensive or interrupting. No technology or distractions.

Also we ask them knowing what they are and let the other person finish before responding.  Knowing the questions stops us from feeling blindsided.

I’ll tell why they came about in a minute but first:

The Questions

  • What did I do to offend?

This can be simple like “you didn’t do the dishes when you said you would”, or something bigger like “you lost a paycheck gambling”.

  • How did I show you love?

Again simple can be “you cleaned the bathroom” to “you canceled plans to spend a whole day with me” to “you bought me chocolate and a new BMW”.

  • How can I show you more love?

Simple can be cooking dinner more to making time and buying flowers.

  • Where is the trust?

We found that a lot of couples lose trust in each other and stop believing what they say even when they do talk.  In our story, I broke the trust substantially and so needed to work to regain it.  By asking this I had to confront the fact I had broken it and needed to work hard to rebuild it.

  • How are we?

We weren’t always good.  We didn’t always like each other completely so needed to confess that.  But after some time of checking in, we have been “good” or “solid” since.

  • Did you tell the whole truth?

I pulled this one from various accountability groups I had been in.  It surprisingly helps.

The Story

A couple years ago now, I broke trust with Hannah by letting my stress about money turn into a gambling problem.  For over two months I played video poker/ slots around Portland, going from losing my personal spending cash we had budgeted to maxing out the cash advance on my credit card. An account she didn’t ever check or really know about.   The whole time keeping the mounting debt to myself.  By the end it was two months of my wages.  I had become lost in the greed and stopped counting about half way to the max. Thinking that if I won big it would all come back, instead of realizing it had become basically insurmountable.

When I finally realized what happened, I was scared.  I thought this was one of those things that could end a relationship.  But I told the beautiful Hannah in writing because that is what I do.  She wasn’t happy.

She wanted me to seek counseling, all my plastic cards and regular check ins.  We fought over little things a lot.  And we fight dirty so my loss of money was always the final thing yelled.  I would just walk away not knowing how to get over it. After a few weeks of “nothing” working she wanted couple’s counseling.  We went to one session I didn’t like because we were spending money we didn’t have and I was being attacked.  Afterwards we went to dinner where we really talked.  The dinner cost about half of what the counselor did.  At that dinner I wrote five of the questions out and we tried them a couple nights later…knowing what the other would ask we had time to prepare answers.

We did it every Friday or Saturday night for months.  And it helped us rebuild trust because we had a place to complain without judgement and to hear where the other person was at.  Eventually we would ask what we did to offend in the middle of dinner because the other was silently fuming.  Or I would get flowers because I hadn’t done anything to show love in a while but complained about being tired from husbanding a lot.

Five years in to this marriage, I think we are better than ever.  And it is because we communicate.

———————————————————————————————————————————————————————————————————

I would love to hear if they work for you or how you decide to slightly change them.  Also I have tried various times to monetize this because we are still broke.  So if you use them and feel like donating, tips are accepted. 

 

1 Comment

Filed under Adulthood, Marriage, The Jesus Way, Transparency

New Beginnings

Five years ago today my life changed drastically.   That old life is now unrecognizable.   I was horribly hung over after passing out at 7 pm the night before on the couch of a house made empty by roommates out of state with their families.  I was still drunk that morning probably.  I was literally sick to my stomach.  I had been eating grease while I picked up items for this big event.  I was exhausted and stressed out.  I was confused about the future and lonely as I looked at another Christmas alone.

I walked into a gym that was empty besides a couple tables for the worship bands to eat some dinner in one of the corners.  It needed to be set up to feed 300 people the next day, but also made nice as not to continue to feel stale and cold.  In my head we were throwing a party.  In reality, we were providing a needed meal in a warm building were half the people didn’t care what it looked like and the other half would judge me.

There were a few people milling around, and it turns out that the small attendance made people leave.  A father and couple teenagers started setting up tables with me.  A single woman started helping us.  After about 20 minutes the tables were set up and the family left.  The single woman and I spent about 3 hours working to make the tables not stale and to add Christmas lights and brightness to the massive gym, to make it small.  We also spent about 3 hours talking.  How we didn’t like traveling at Christmas.  How we didn’t have living fathers.  How our families were far away from Portland but actually close together.  Our jobs and hobbies.  How we liked being in Portland now.  Where we had been and where we wanted to go.

It was longer than planned so I offered to drive her home.  Something I had done literally hundreds of times before as my dad made me a protector of women to an often negative extent.  When I dropped her off, something was different than those times before though.  There was an awkward moment.

The awkward moments continued the next day as we saw each other and chatted a little as I ran around being in charge of chaos of a community Christmas dinner that comingled housed with unhoused friends.  By the end of the meal, I was wiped and had plans to sit in front of my computer and finish binge watching something I am sure.  But there was another awkward moment when she wrote out and handed me her phone number and an address to come hang out with her friend’s family.

Somehow I knew I needed to go. Even though I only met her less than 24 hours before I figured I should make an appearance.  So I did.  I grabbed a couple 22s from my cases of beer and went to a house, that apparently generally didn’t drink, and where I barely knew one person.  I awkwardly walked around saying hi and got another plate of Christmas dinner since I didn’t eat at the first.  And went and planted myself near this girl that intrigued me.  She played games with her friends and we made small talk about what we had planned for the week and how much time free she had.

I left after about an hour because I needed quiet not craziness and couldn’t fake it anymore.  I wished her well, told her Merry Christmas and said thanks to the random family that just set up a couple without knowing it.

That night there were quite a few texts from my dark, cold, quiet basement bedroom.  By the end of them, I had a real date with a real girl.

Within a week, I would start spending everyday with that single lady. Within a month we were pretty sure we weren’t going to be single long. Within 8 months we were wed and in a tiny apartment.  In 2 years we were no longer drinking much or going out to eat but just sitting around with each other.  In 3 years we had a child, a house and a family car.

Now it has been five years since I drank or partied like I did the day before I met the beautiful Hannah.  And tomorrow it will be five years since the best Christmas ever.

And I wouldn’t switch back to that old life for anything.

 

Leave a Comment

Filed under Adulthood, Freewrite, Junior, Marriage, The Jesus Way, Three O Clock People

18

Dad

 

It has been 18 years since I lost Dad.  Which is just a stupid long time for it still to hurt and for me to need trigger warnings on multiple shows and online videos still.  But long enough to forget stories and memories.  His voice no longer just comes to me when I think of him.  But will eventually when I think long enough.  Too long to see his posts online somewhere, or pictures, or voice mails.

Being an adult is still difficult without that fatherly figure to help me with relationship issues, work issues, or to show me how to stop the fireplace from smoking up the whole house. Or why the lights over the dining table won’t stop burning out. Or how to build a vegetable garden that is too big to keep up with.  I might have that under control.  I’d love to be able to chat about his stay at home years and how he stayed sane.

But instead, for the last 18 years, I have been winging it.  I have looked for other father figures, but none are the same.  None will do when I was already “raised” when he suddenly passed.

I have made it another year though.  I have figured out how to be a dad myself with a talking, complaining, questioning son.   I have lost track of the times I have thought about how he would like to hear Junior is getting revenge on me by do what I probably did at his age or older.

It doesn’t make it easier to be constantly reminded of the loss in that, or the fact I have multiple friends in the midst of similar shocking losses right now and it brings up the “too soon”, “too young”, “too sudden” thoughts.   But it is part of my story.

And with each passing year, I try to identify with it being part of the story, not the climax, or piviotal moment just a section of the story.  But it is a large part, and I am trying to find something else to make the pivotal moment.

And this year, Junior is old enough to know who pictures are, so he is beginning to meet Grandpa Jim, if only in the couple pictures I have.  And the couple stories that have stuck.  And the silly things he said that are now coming out of my mouth.  Which brings up a whole ‘nother bucket of turds in trying to teach a little boy without real Grandpops what they should be.  And that is the hardest to stomach some days.

Miss you Dad. Every day.

 

2 Comments

Filed under Adulthood, Death, Freewrite, Grieving, Junior, Marriage, Transparency

Offended

In the past couple weeks I have changed some rhythms.  I started reading books and magazines instead of playing games to waste time and stew on my own thoughts.  And I have avoided a lot of things on Facebooks because I get offended with in about 6-8 posts.  I get offended because someone is defending their beliefs against current political events…again.  Because there is another video of indigenous Americans being abused by the police like Americas.  Because someone posted about White people being bad to the other.

Then I want to defend myself.  I know how to play cards.  Or I wouldn’t even get into a military vehicle and use a water cannon against someone defending their land.  Or I haven’t been silent in the face of the way our President-Elect campaigned.  Or I don’t believe I will be fine while the other is oppressed.  And honestly I don’t know how to defend myself when confronted like this.  I do want to tell people I didn’t vote Trump so they will continue to be my friend…mostly just online.

Right now, I have very few people I hang out with.  I have three guys I talk to about everyday life and two are not local.  And all are white.  I have a couple friends of color but we don’t seem to get our schedules to sync up well.  So I share memes and videos with three like-minded, like experienced friends.

I don’t have any one in my inner circle that would vote for Trump.  And yet, I feel a gut punch when I see someone calling out White People for their silence or lack of understanding.  I want to scream how like-minded I am with people of color and how I have rebuked a lot of the white stereotypes intentionally.  How there are words I won’t say even while reading aloud or recounting a movie or rapping along with the radio in the car…alone.

It hit me a couple weeks ago, this is potentially closer to how the other often feels.  How legal immigrants feel while walking past TVs tuned to the nightly news in a store.  How people of color feel when they are passed over for a job for a candidate that was “just a little better” but equally qualified in everything but skin color.  How African Americans feel when another story about a young black man being shot has the commentary of him not obeying the police.  How Asian Americans feel when they are asked where they are from even though they are 4th generation American.

How this feeling of helpless and lack of control in what others can and will do to you is not knew for a lot of people.  Just for a lot of White people.

And I don’t know what to do with that thought.

*I use the term White people to describe the generalized majority of European Americans intentionally.  Just like a lot of people use the term Asian or African or Latin without knowing where some is actually from.

Leave a Comment

Filed under Adulthood, Freewrite, Global Community, The Jesus Way, Transparency

Don’t Know

A little over a month ago, a fellow church member sent out a note asking for help with an ESL and Welcome Center she started at her daughter’s school. It was the first time in a long time that I jumped at something. One because they offered childcare. Two because it was among a diverse group of people that wanted to learn English and I know English kinda good enough. And three because they had childcare.  The first time I showed up there was a Spanish speaking man with a great grasp on the language who told me a lot of his story.  I just sat a listened.  He has only come back once, because he is busy, and probably just came those times for fellowship in an otherwise boring day.  That is fine.

A month or so in I am the childcare often. With today at one point six kids under my charge, three of which didn’t speak English and none of which wanted to listen to me…including my own spawn. But I dealt, even though I was really close to not going today… because of Junior not listening anymore.

I went because I truly want my kid to know people of other colors and languages and personalities.  I want him to remember when he is 16 or 26 or 36 that not all people of color are moochers, terrorists, abusers, or untrustworthy.  I want him to remember a friend from when he was this age or 4 or 6 who he had a great time with and liked.  I also want the kids and parents there to see me,  a larger white male smiling and listening to them.  Because I know television dominates a lot of homes and time.  And I know a lot of the coverage on television is negative currently.

I don’t know if it will do any good.  I don’t know if Junior will grow up and move to a town with even less people of color (doubtful).   I don’t know if I will continue to be willing to smile and listen without speaking and groaning.  I don’t know if any of us will be as open as we are now again.

But I also don’t know what else to do to make this world okay.

Leave a Comment

Filed under Freewrite, Global Community, Heathen Healers, Junior, The Jesus Way