...with a husband and 5 sons, I am truly outnumbered....stories and thoughts on life from a mom in a houseful of little men!

Wednesday, September 23, 2015

It Was Not What I Expected

Nothing about the wedding day was as I had dreamed it.  I had daydreamed, starry-eyed, during those years of tanned-skin, wild-haired, bare-footed girlhood, swinging on a farmyard swing.  I had dreamed and planned away, but this was not the day I had pictured.  Those dreams included a flowing, white gown and little flowers tucked in my unruly, romantic hair.  They included a tuxedo for my Handsome, along with flowers and more flowers beside a lake…with dappled sunshine giving way to a candlelight evening.  I pictured a medium-sized gathering of faces of loved-ones, and they all wore smiles.  The dream day was crowned with pure joy and well-wishes, and topped off with a humble honeymoon escape to somewhere lovely and simple and adventurous.

But as I stood awkwardly at the back of the decor-less, mostly-unfamiliar, silent church, none of those dreams had come to pass.  I wore a cheap dress, off the rack.  I straightened the tie of my Handsome for the outfit we had pieced together.  We walked up to the altar, us and my beloved childhood pastor, and three witnesses.  And we promised our lives away to each other before God.

We had no idea what we were doing.
 On that day, the things that were absent…the things of my dreams…were just that.  They were things.  And on that day, they mostly didn't matter to me.  I had decided they didn't matter.  Because the bottom line was that those things were not attainable at that time, and all I really wanted to do was to marry the man standing there with me.  And I wanted to marry him right then.
 Looking back, even amidst some regrets of moving forward with such understated plans…because there are regrets over not safe-keeping our future memories with more than a couple "snapshots" of a day that comes 'round one time and one time only…but looking back, even though I have mourned the loss of that girlhood dream, I realize that perhaps the way it unfolded was a more fitting beginning for us.

This marriage adventure.  The thing you have no idea about until you're in the beauty and blood and guts of it.  Because, really, marriage is never what you dream it will be like either.  At least that's my experience, and I'm pretty sure I'm not the only one.  For sure there is at least one other person (and I happen to live with him) who would agree!  Still there are all these things that nobody ever tells you to expect about married life.  Or, maybe they do tell you, whether by words or living example, but it all just passes over your heads like a series of swift arrows shot by Cupid.

Nobody tells you how hard it is to try and live unselfishly.  You don't know that after the euphoria wears off in those early days, you may have a personal identity crisis as you change all your ID cards.  Furthermore, living for two really doesn't seem less expensive than living for one, and it really stinks to pay your bills and have fifteen dollars left for groceries for the next two weeks.  It puts a real hammer down on the romance, if you will.  You do not realize at the time, that you're marrying a sinner.  And you certainly, do not realize at the time, that he is marrying the worst sinner of all.  But time tells.  Time shows.  And when you think you're plugging along fairly well, you'll get whacked upside both your heads and have to learn it all over again at a deeper level.

In the painful moments, in the impossible and hopeless moments, whether caused by you or him or some other outside force…nobody tells you that you may feel a fleeting desire to run away.  Maybe they didn't tell you,

but HE has told us,

that if you stop ranting about why you and your way is right and take the time listen carefully, sometimes even needing to strain to hear it, the One who is holding it all together anyway is whispering a way He's provided out, "so that you can stand up under it."  The way out is not out of your marriage.  The way out is to step out of your selfish self.  The way out is to stop placing impossible expectations upon your marriage and life and spouse and self, and to instead gaze up into the only One who fulfills every dream and longing of our hearts.  And this painful, hard, yet beautiful thing needs to be done over and over and over again.  Refining thing, this marriage adventure.

There are other things nobody tells you, such as how incredible it is to have someone by our side whom you know will stick by you no matter what, because he has done so for 21 years.  Furthermore,  that you will do the same for him, because you, too, have a 21-year track record.  You will choose to do this, even when you don't like each other.  Because that, too, happens sometimes, and I'm sure nobody told us that either!  Or if they did, we didn't believe them.  Still the truth remains--nothing compares to the comfort of something constant in a constantly-changing world.

Finally, they don't tell you that at some point, you will understand you don't have to see everything eye-to-eye with this person in order to truly love-as-an-action love him and cherish him and the life you've built together.  How simple it would be if we saw everything the way I see it the same.  But, tell me.  Where's the challenge in that?

So maybe beginning this marriage adventure with less than the dream wedding really was a more realistic beginning anyway.  To begin with a fairytale would have created quite a catastrophe perhaps, when we realized marriage was much harder and much more wonderful in unexpected ways than I ever could have imagined as I swung my skinny, tan legs high up on that farmyard swing so many years ago.  Perhaps it really was best to fly by our seats with good intentions and hopes for a bright future, with just a couple of special touches and a handful of people who truly loved us standing by.  Or perhaps, it has just been…pure….grace.

Whatever the case, thank you for this incredible, adventurous ride, Mr. Dassow.

For all those things that we missed in the beginning, we did get one thing right--to choose to stand by each other no matter what.

With five states, five sons, adoption hopes, dreams both realized and dashed, and so many challenges and hardships and so much grace and goodness under our belts, I just can't imagine doing it all with anyone else.

I cherish you…and nobody could have told me that I'd feel like I do after twenty-one years.  It really is so much better than I imagined, just in a completely different way.

Monday, September 21, 2015

One Choice Has Created White Space {Striving to Unplug, Part 2}

So as I eluded to in my last post, some additional boundaries are going into place with regard to my smart phone use.  I am choosing to make this one choice now, in order to save myself the energy of making a hundred little choices throughout each day, to decide what is better for that moment.  To make this one choice now will add some peace and some white space to my days.  Just the thought of that is a breath of fresh air to my soul.

For me, the boundaries look this simple:

1) Plug my phone into the charger each evening.

2) Unplug phone and move it onto the kitchen counter with my old-fashioned, hand-held phone         receiver plugged into it.  It will be used only to answer or make real phone calls.

3) At 3:00 or so, I will check and answer messages, read blog posts, research on-line, check social media for up to 1/2 hour.

4) After boys are tucked into bed at night, I will do the above for up to 15 minutes before plugging it back into the charger and then doing something more worthwhile.

After doing this for just a few days, I am amazed at the time this has freed up for me.  I don't have to decide umpteen times per day whether or not I should check this-or-that, because if it's not during my designated phone times, the answer is automatically "no".  There has been a certain peace in my mind at having so much less distraction.  It frees me up to be more creative.  I feel more compelled to do things I love more often.  Such as write!  and read!
I find that I'm actually much more productive too, now that I leave my phone-use for particular time slots.  On any given day, there may be things I've thought of that I want to research on-line, for example.  I'm making it a habit to just jot those things down on a slip of paper throughout the day.  When phone time arrives, I can look those items up quickly, all in a full swoop.

I'm a very social and relational person.  I love people.  My relationships are precious to me, so I love to correspond and connect with others.  With my phone-use boundaries finding a welcomed place in my life,  I am freed up to do so in ways that feel more special and meaningful.  Rather than spending too much time mindlessly scrolling through a social media feed clicking "like", I feel more inclined toward sitting down and writing out a hand-written notecard or letter to a loved one.  Even typing a letter on my computer feels more intentional.  I love walking out to the mailbox row to send these little tokens of affection on their way.  I love to use that short time to breathe deep, enjoy the beauty outside, and to pray for the recipients.

Sometimes I use my shorter phone time to text a friend to arrange a time for a phone catch-up.  We can cover a lot more meaningful ground on the phone than on short blips on social media or texting.

I also find that I feel more energy for creativity when it comes to relationships.  It doesn't take but a few minutes to write a quick note and pop it into a mailer with an inexpensive gift for a friend.  From time to time, I see or find something small that just makes me think of a certain person.  It's so fun to act on these impulses rather than to just say to myself, "If I had the time, I'd send that for a surprise."  It makes me smile for days to think of that person opening up the mailbox to find some "fun mail."  Fun mail is in a serious shortage these days.

Now don't get me wrong.  I'm not anti-smart phone, nor anti-social media, nor anti-text messaging.  These things have their place, and you'll still see me "liking" and commenting, posting my own things, and texting with friends.  What I'm sharing with you, however, is that for me, those things are finding again the proper place in my life.  And with that comes




in my days.  Space and time that is blank and ready to be colored with magic markers, watercolors, or whatever best-opportunities of the moment.  It's incredible the difference in mental clarity I experience with these simple boundaries in place.  It's too good not to share with you, in hopes it will inspire you to create or renew your own techno boundaries.

Sunday, September 20, 2015

I Cried When He Bought Me an iPhone, {Striving to Unplug, Part One}

Yeah, seriously….I did.

For years I carried around my trusty flip-phone.  Remember those?  Mine was little and gray, and it fit perfectly in my palm.  When I opened it up, the screen was clear and simple, with digital numbers and letters.  No color, no bells or whistles, just pure function.  I liked how I could smooth over the tiny screen with my finger and it was instantly tidy.

But the best part about it? The best part about my little flip-phone, was that I hardly ever used it.  It fit neatly in my purse, and that was where it always was, unless I was using it for a short, pointed phone call, or it was plugged into the car charger.  In it's later days, the charger was where it stayed actually, because it would no longer hold a charge for long.  And then suddenly, it wouldn't hold a charge at all.  That day came, unfortunately, while I was running errands in Anchorage, in bad weather, with all five boys and we had car trouble.

My wonderful husband had been asking me for several months if I wanted a smart phone.  He thought it would be nice for me to have a more reliable phone.  He thought I'd appreciate the ability to text, and that I'd like to look things up on-line from time to time.  After brief consideration...ok, after barely finishing listening to him speak, I told him I didn't want one.  He was convinced that I was just being polite, so he sweetly announced one day he would like to buy me a smart phone.  I thanked him, but asserted that I really didn't want one.   I assured him that despite what the ladies at the office thought, I wasn't being polite, and that I'd prefer to put that additional amount per month into our adoption fund.  At that, he realized I really didn't want one, and that was the end of the conversation. That is, until the afore-mentioned day my little flip-phone gave up the ghost and there was no resurrecting her…not even after searching for parts through a four-foot tall, cardboard box full of old discards at the telecom office.

That day, my concerned husband came home with my new iPhone.  He handed it to me and said, "I bought you this, and I want you to use it."  And I cried, but said, "ok…thanks."

Why didn't I want this clever little piece of technology?  Well, I think mostly because inside I knew that it could become problematic for me.  I had been content with my outdated flip-phone, and I suspected this little gadget could complicate my life more than it helped.  I felt annoyed when I saw so much attention being paid to smart phones.  Though I hadn't given it much detailed thought, I had a notion that it would become just as big of a distraction for me as I witnessed it being for others.  And really, all things considered, I was right.

Now, let me just say, that my phone really has been a handy tool.

It enables me to have a camera handy almost all the time.

It enables me to keep in close contact with Tony, even if he's out in his office working.

With it, I can look up things online at any whim.

It has allowed me to stay closely up-to-date with far-away friends and family through messaging and social media.

All these things have been steadily possible throughout my days with my smart phone, because you see, at first though it sat neatly in my purse like my old flip-phone, it soon found a place in my jeans pocket.  On my person.  Most of the time.  Talk about a distraction!

There are times that I cringe at my response to my littles, "Just a minute…Mommy's working on the phone."  This makes me cringe even though during those times, I really am accomplishing necessary work.  All in all, I feel like I've done a good job of remaining fully-present with my people, and not forsaking face-to-face time for screen time.  However, I also find that lately I am constantly dealing with the pull or temptation to check this message or that voice mail, to email so-and-so, or to check the price of such-and-such online.   I'm often inclined to check the weather here or where my family and friends live, or the wildfire update, or to research prospective new chiropractic clinics.  You see?  In essence, it has created a complicated distraction in my life, and quite frankly, I have enough complication and distraction in my life without my phone vying for my attention.  I don't want to put the constant effort into choosing to ignore this distraction in order to choose what is better.  So some additional boundaries are going into place.  In short, this mama needs some room to breathe.  Just as I continually need wide-open spaces physically, I also need it for my mind and soul.