Monthly Archives: September 2007

Can You Hear Me Now?

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I’m happy to report that our small group marriage ministry started this month and seems to be off and running. Paul and I really enjoyed our group’s first meeting; it is enlightening and a bit humbling to be able to hear others–whether they’re just starting out or have half a lifetime’s worth of marital experience under their belts–share from their own deep wells of dearly bought wisdom. It’s a relief to lay our struggles out in front of each other and recognize their common threads. We’ve all been there.

Anyway, I had an idea. Though our meetings are, of course, confidential, I thought it might be fun to post a copy of our discussion guide questions every month. I always love reading your thoughtful comments, and I know a lot of you have much to share when it comes to relationships. So let’s try it. If you’d like to answer any of the questions, or just posit your own theories on the topic, cut loose! I’m sure there’s someone out there who will benefit from your thoughts (me, for one!)

September’s topic is Communication.

1. Take a few moments to think about your goals for your marriage in the area of communication. How would you like your communication with your spouse to change or improve? (For example: “I’d like to be more clear in expressing appreciation to my spouse”, or “I want us to be able to talk about difficult topics without arguing”, or “I wish we could spend more time just enjoying each other and talking about something besides the kids.”)

2. What do you find are the most common roadblocks to clear communication with your spouse?

3. There are three basic levels of communication. At level one, we share facts and information. At level two, we share our beliefs and opinions. At level three, we let our guard down and share our emotions, our weaknesses, and our dreams. Drawing on your own experiences, what does it take for a couple to get to level three communication on a regular basis?

4. In our hurry-up culture, we’re often racing around from sunrise to sundown to accomplish our day’s to-do list. Much of a married couple’s communication revolves around brief scraps of essential information: when the plumber is coming, what bills are due, how Johnny did on his report card. How can we build time for unrushed communication with our spouse into our daily lives?

5. According to marriage counselors Les and Leslie Parrott, one essential rule for good marital communication is “Seek to understand before being understood.” Sometimes it’s difficult, in the middle of an emotionally charged conversation, to look at the issue from your spouse’s point of view, and yet good listening skills are perhaps even more essential to effective communication that talking. What are some ways we can make sure our spouse feels understood when we’re communicating?

6. One of the biggest communication mistakes we make is to read an imagined meaning into our spouse’s words. (For example, he says: Why don’t you treat yourself to some new clothes? She hears: I hate the way you dress, it’s so frumpy. He was actually thinking: I appreciate her and I’d love to give her something nice.) How can we avoid falling into this trap?

7. What’s one concrete change that you, yourself, can make today in the way you communicate with your spouse that will have a positive effect on your relationship?

Anticipation

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Come, dance the dance of jubilation with me! It’s premiere week!

Summer, with all its interesting diversions, may have temporarily wiped my brain clean of its pixelized fixations, but the shift to fall weather and primetime darkness has brought my curiosity roaring back with a vengeance and a sudden need to know the answers to questions like:

“Where will Jim and Pam go for dinner on their first date?”

“Will Sarah survive, or be snuffed out by the insidious miniature killer?”

and

“What happened to Peter and Nathan after they exploded?”

And as if I don’t have enough shows to keep up with, friends and family are conspiring to expand my addiction with their own favorite shows. Even as we speak, I am feverishly trying to catch up on back episodes of Grey’s Anatomy, a show that, apparently, everyone in the world except me has been watching for the last three years.

I’ve almost decided that watching a show on DVD after it’s over is preferable to watching as it is broadcast. For one thing, you already know whether it’s worth watching. There are no commercials and you don’t have to wait a whole week (or more, if you’re watching Lost) to see what happens after the cliffhanger. If you need to take a bathroom break or go do something else, you can just pause and come back later. It works around your schedule instead of the other way around.

But I think I would miss the real time, pop culture zing of talking about the show that everyone else is talking about, of waiting on tenterhooks for the resolution of the unresolvable plot point, of pondering the inner workings of make-believe characters at odd moments during the week.

I guess, in the end, I just lack the patience to wait. (Grrrr…three hours till Heroes! What will I do with myself until then?)

Tug of War

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I’ve been a Christian almost my whole life. From the time I could talk, I’ve been talking to God. From the day I could read, I’ve been reading His word. I’ve seen amazing, life-changing things happen in His name, and my life has been transformed by Him.

Even so, I’ve gone through seasons of heartache, of doubt, of forgetfulness, of despair. I’ve had moments when I looked up at the sky and wondered if Anyone at all was looking back at me. Times when I couldn’t hear His voice in all the clamor of the world, or see His face in the unfriendly crowd around me. Times when the suffocating weight of trials seemed about to snuff out my faith for good. Finally, the tiny, frightened question would escape my heart and whisper itself into the empty air: “Am I alone?”

Every single time, God spoke the answer: “NO, you’re not alone. I’m here.”

Sometimes His voice was quiet, coming in like the breeze, a gradually dawning awareness that the light was a little brighter, the darkness a little less oppressive, the end of the tunnel in sight. Sometimes it was loud, a sudden, booming answer to prayer, a rescue unlooked for and overwhelming in its completeness. Every time, it came with the realization that He had been there all along, holding back the flood that threatened to to drown me, fighting for me, pulling me closer to Him.

If you haven’t experienced that rescue, then this video might not touch you as it touched me. I was crying by the end. And I am so, SO thankful for the One who rescued me.

*this sketch was performed at Winterfest in Knoxville, TN. The song is “Everything” by Lifehouse.

Buckle that Swash, Me Hearty!

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Ahoy, Mateys! This be Dirty Charity Rackham, the comeliest wench on the Seven Seas (I still have most of me own teeth, y’know!), reminding all ye scurvy bilge suckers that today be that most glorious of national holidays, Talk Like a Pirate Day! So belly up to the grog barrel, hoist yer cutlass, an’ get ready to dance the hornpipe! It’s time to weigh anchor for the nearest pirate-y celebration!

My pirate name is:

Dirty Charity Rackham

You’re the pirate everyone else wants to throw in the ocean — not to get rid of you, you understand; just to get rid of the smell. You have the good fortune of having a good name, since Rackham (pronounced RACKem, not rack-ham) is one of the coolest sounding surnames for a pirate. Arr!

Get your own pirate name from piratequiz.com.
part of the fidius.org network

Dear Girl Doctor

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*Warning* The following post uses the words “cervix”, “naked”, and “origami.” Proceed at your own risk.

Considering that I already told you all about my disastrous pregnant home bikini waxing experience, my first parental sex talk, and the horrors of bathing suit shopping, it might surprise you to know that there are still a few things that I don’t feel are entirely appropriate fodder for my blog. Things like acerbic political mudslinging, breathless reports on the latest misadventures of Britney Spears, or detailed accounts of my annual woman’s health checkups, for instance.

However.

I’m going to strain the (self-imposed) confines of good taste for a moment, and open the blog door on my Monday appointment at the women’s clinic. Leaving out the most uncomfortable details, I do have a few tiny requests to make of my OB/GYN, and here they are:

1. Although I appreciate your desire to save a few pennies in these times of financial uncertainty, I do think you could splurge a bit more on the paper products you provide to protect the modest sensibilities of your patients. The paper tunic you instructed me to don (“opening in the back, dear”), while wide enough to cover two of me, was so thin I could count the freckles on my belly. Someone with origami skills might be able to fold it into a passable two-ply garment, which is something I will certainly look into before my next visit.

2. I don’t mind waiting in the waiting room, where I can quietly enjoy magazine articles until my name is called. I don’t mind waiting for the nurse to come take my blood pressure and check my pulse and write my weight and height down on her little chart. I don’t even mind waiting in that sterile, sunless, white examination room for a doctor to be available. Unless I’m naked. (And, as I addressed at length in point #1, that flimsy paper towel draped across my lap doesn’t count.) One naked minute is approximately equivalent to ten fully-clothed minutes. I waited for nearly two and a half hours in naked-time. That’s too long.

3. Two words: speculum warmer. They make them. Really!

4. Small talk before the examination may be useful for making your patients feel more at ease, it’s true. But when it’s time to get down to business, please just do your stuff and get out of there. Having to answer questions about where I went to college while you’re swabbing my cervix with a Q-tip feels like participating in some nightmarish reality quiz show.

5. Yes, I did scoot down. No, I can’t scoot down any more, or I’m going to fall off the table.

6. I know it’s kind of frivolous, but how about a picture or something on the ceiling? Considering the usual position of your patients, it makes a lot more sense than decorating the walls. I spent a lot of time looking up there, what with all those naked minutes. Oooh! You know what would be even better? Flat screen TV!

That is all. Feel free to implement any or all of these suggestions, dear doctor. You don’t even have to give me credit. A pre-warmed speculum will be thanks enough.

p.s. Yes, I know #5 is not really a suggestion so much as a whine. I just needed to get that off my chest.

Lost in a Good Book

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“Oh, for a book and a cozy nook! And oh, for a quiet hour!”
–anonymous

Our town just got a brand new public library.

The ribbon cutting ceremony was Sunday, and yesterday I took Katie and Caleb to see it for the first time. It is truly beautiful.

The building’s style is hard to define, a seamless blend of modern and classic elements with a unique Northwest flavor. High ceilings and sleek architectural lines draw the eye to a soaring kinetic sculpture suspended over the spacious lobby. A whimsical set of giant, moose-shaped bookends welcome you through the front doors, and walking down the broad, sweeping staircase to the children’s section on the lower level feels like an event. The entire structure is covered in tall windows, flooding both floors with natural light and affording an amazing view of the lake and the mountains for which North Idaho is famous. Large, tiled fireplaces appear at intervals along the upper level, and here and there overstuffed chairs beckon to readers, inviting them to sink in and spend a few hours between the pages of a book.

I can’t tell you how excited I am to live in a community that believes in the importance of its library. Think of it: each and every citizen of Coeur d’Alene, whatever their age or income or background, can step through those grand doors into a world of words and pictures, of fact and fantasy, of information and imagination. They can look out at the view, use the computer, take in an art exhibit, or check out a book or a movie or a CD.

It’s not just a library; it’s a portal.

One of my earliest childhood memories is of visiting the library in the small Michigan town where we lived until I was six. It was a brick building in the main square that looked like it might have been a church at one time. What I remember most is tiptoeing down the narrow staircase to the children’s section in the basement. Someone had installed a small door at the bottom of the stairs, like a hobbit door, and every time I stepped through it, I felt like I was entering a land made just for me, where children ruled, and everything was my size. The chairs were little, the tables were little, and the shelves were short enough for me to reach every book. Someone had painted a mural across the walls, and big, fluffy rugs and soft cushions were piled up everywhere. I used to lose track of time taking book after book off the shelves and settling down in a pillow nest to read.

Going to the library was a treat then, and it’s a treat now. It was such a joy yesterday to see my children running up and down the aisles, discovering new books and clambering up into my lap to ask me to read to them. And I can’t wait to come back by myself sometime to sit in one of those cozy armchairs by the fire, maybe while the snow falls softly outside, and lose myself once again in a good book.

(*photos not mine. 1st photo is from CDA Library website, 2nd is by Family Phil, and last one is by Rocketsbrain.)

Upchucked

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I spent yesterday with my head hanging in the toilet, wishing I was dead.

So how was your day?

It started at about 4:30 in the morning, when I awoke to the unnatural sensation of two large fists thumb wrestling inside my gut and took off running for the bathroom. I made it. Just.

By 6:30, I was writhing around in agony, mentally going through the list of what I’d eaten the day before, trying to figure out whether it was the Wendy’s chili or the leftover baked beans that had done me in. Eventually, I decided it must be the flu, and prayed that it was the 24-hour kind. Paul, the picture of loving support, called in to work so he could stay home and take care of me.

When I wasn’t in the bathroom, I was passed out on the couch in varying degrees of consciousness. I have hazy memories of Caleb jumping on the couch next to me and Paul fixing food and doing dishes (he is great, isn’t he?) At one point, I noticed that “Yo Gabba Gabba” was on TV, but was too weak to change the channel! That was when I knew I was dying, after all.

By noon, my stomach was empty, but that didn’t stop the party. I was dry heaving so hard I fully expected to see one or all of my internal organs pop out, sucked along by the extreme vacuum force of my spasms. My head was pounding and my body felt like someone had driven a truck over it, then backed up and done it again.

To keep myself hydrated, I sipped Diet 7-Up. It tasted good going down, but came back up about five minutes later. In all honesty, it was one of the most pleasant puking experiences of the day. At least there were no chunks.

And so the day passed, in a blur of aches, heaves, sleep and spew, punctuated by a steady stream of sickbed whining on my part (“Oh, my stomach hurts!” “I feel horrible…” “It’s too hot/cold/noisy/bright in here!” “Can I have some water?” “Would you rub my back?” “I think I’m dying.” And so on.)

Eventually, I was able to keep down some water and a cup of cream of tomato soup that Paul made me (that’s what my mom always gave us when we were sick.) My stomach was still roiling, but by the time we went to bed, I was pretty sure I was over the worst of it. I slept like a rock.

Today, I feel like a new person. The thumb wresting fists have stopped, and all my internal organs are still in place, as far as I know. I’m exhausted, but I’m not in the mood to complain. After all, 24 hours ago I thought I wasn’t long for this world.

I’m still a little sore, but in a good way. It turns out that throwing up is a great abs workout.