Category Archives: Transparency

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.

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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. 

 

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Filed under Adulthood, Marriage, The Jesus Way, Transparency

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.

 

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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.

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

Left

We – the beautiful Hannah and I- live in a nomadically transplanted city. Most people aren’t from here and most won’t stay… as we are learning.   People come for work, school or adventure often in their 20s and stay as long as they can or want.  The city houses a lot of people with grand dreams and plans who hang out until another job, partner or dream pulls them away.  We came as part of that group.

The beautiful Hannah has over a decade here.  I have lived here four times as long as anywhere else in my adulthood and am approaching that decade mark too.  We have lived in multiple parts of the city and are on the edge of it now it sometimes feels.  The mountain can be seen from our patio window when the leaves are gone and the sun is out.  The coast is an easy drive away and allows us to have lunch after a nice drive if we have a free day to play.  The food is amazing.  The beers were good and hopefully will be when we can go out again.  People are generally laid back and welcoming.  And even though it is touted as the Whitest City in (US) America and part of the Least Churched Region in North America, we have many people of other colors in our inner circle…and our “local” church.  People think and act similar enough to us for us to feel accepted.  We don’t get weird looks for talking to homeless or people with special needs.  We can own chickens, garden and buy only from the edges of the grocery store without judgment and know a lot of others that do the same.

We really like it here.  We have a house in a neighborhood that has a lot of real locals.  We have our spots, our stores, our communities, our old and new neighborhoods and the beautiful Hannah has a career at a school that won’t be transferred or moved.  We plan to be here a long time.

But we are consistently saying good bye to friends with whom we have connected it feels.  They move because of work promotions.  Because they want to move closer to family before having kids.  Because it was a short term thing that lasted many years and is now over.  Because parents need them back home. Or because housing is silly expensive and they didn’t buy a place yet and can’t imagine living paycheck to paycheck just to stay here.  Whatever the reason, Junior has a lost a lot of friends as have we and we realized we need to start making more connections again.  And in chatting with people we have heard that many are planning to head back “home” at some point.  When the kids need to go to school, or when it’s time to have kids, or when they need a real job.

The beautiful Hannah and I initially bonded over not wanting to live near where we were raised again.  Shortly after we met we began to make Portland our city together. We shared with each other what we loved.  We started combining traditions, routines, drinking spots, eating spots, and friends.  We made our home and are strengthened ourselves in the communities that would take us.   Those communities changed and shifted with marriage, work changes, and Junior and his demands.  And they change substantially when close friends move to green pastures they find or dream.

Leaving is not our plan or story it seems.  So I guess we are a little different here but that’s ok.

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Filed under Adulthood, Dreams, Freewrite, Global Community, Junior, Marriage, Overthinking, Transparency, unfinished thoughts

SAHD Lifestyle

It’s been a year since I worked.  And it hurts in a lot of ways that I didn’t expect when I decided to stay home with Junior.  I have figured out how to protect and care for a two year old better than imagined.  I can cook, clean and garden well enough.  But mentally it is difficult to continually have the company of a human that just doesn’t get me.  But mostly it bugs me because I failed.

Every time I see the little USPS vehicles I am reminded of how hard it was.  How I was miserable.  How I hurt every night.  How my intake of coffee had to be supplemented by Gatorade to not become dehydrationally sick but still be awake.  It is worse when I see someone I worked with still doing it.  How we used to struggle together but now they have made it.  How 7 day 70 hour work weeks were just too much for me but not them.  How they were able to stop long enough to realize they could survive…or just never thought about the future.

I blamed family commitments.  But in honesty it was me.  It was my inability to work in a negative environment that used unions to protect employee’s jobs while they insulted each other.  It was my inability to imagine working within systems that were made by someone(s) who sat in an office on the other side of the country in different weather and demographics and conditions…and the lack of ability to speak my mind.   The inability to intellectually contribute to my work life.  My inability to accept the lack of air conditioning and heating in vehicles and warehouses.  And most of all my lack of desire to invest in something that seemed to be failing horribly and would soon become an Amazon company.

But at least once a week I wake up breathing heavy because I just had to climb a big hill with my full satchel in my dream.  Or because I ran from an old supervisor after I abandoned a vehicle full of “work”.   Because I made a deal to work just one week to pay off the credit card.  Or because I feel like I failed my family by not providing.

The hardest thing about being home all the time is not contributing monetarily.  I know I am not alone in this as I have talked to other stay at home moms and SAHDs.  But generally after I make another purchase at Home Depot to fix the house or urban farm I wonder how I can give.  After I see my handy work on something small, I just hope we can afford a professional to fix major issues and improvements on the house.  After I scour the budget for $10 again…I just want to help.

So I sold my body through a needle for the plasma center for a month until there was no bonus with the basic pay.  I helped a friend reside his house for a few days.  I mowed a neighbor’s lawn while it was being prepared to be sold.   I often scour the internet for part time jobs that allow me still to maintain the urban farm, our marriage and Junior timewise.  No one seems to want to hire someone for just 10 hours a week though.  So I spent last week getting a few hundred dollars of project supplies for free from friends and Craigslist, and jumping on a deal for strawberry plants that should provide buckets for the cost of a pint at the store next spring.  The urban farm continues to be my work outlet.

That is my SAHD life right now.  I hang out with Junior, we garden, play with chickens, and go to the community center a lot. I think I am also ready to restart the blogging routine so will attempt to find time to sit and write once a week.  There is enough happening in my head I should be able to force some out again.

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Filed under Adulthood, Freewrite, Junior, Transparency