Thursday, October 29, 2009

The First Marriage

New York Times Magazine has a feature story on the Obamas' marriage. Naturally, I (Anna) had to check it out. What does this happy couple DO?

The cover of the magazine states that their marriage is, "an ongoing negotiation." Regardless of your political ideas, I think most of us in relationships would agree with that statement. Relational partners are constantly (re)negotiating all kinds of things: Who takes the dog out? Who makes the coffee in the morning? Will we have kids? When? Who will drive the kids to piano lessons? How open will we be with others about our relationship? How will we show our appreciation and affection?

When you really think about it, we spend most of our time negotiating in relationships. Thank goodness! Because if something isn't going the way you want it to ("I despise taking the dog out in the cold weather! Can we rotate?"), why let it continue? Imagine doing all of these negotiations in the White House. No thanks! It's hard enough as it is, don't you think?

In the article, Michelle Obama is quoted as saying that the image of a perfect marriage, "is the last thing we want to project . . . It's unfair to the institution of marriage, and it's unfair to young people who are trying to build something, to project this perfection that doesn't exist."

Right on, First Lady. No marriage is perfect. All marriages are ongoing negotiations. And it's all up to us!

P.S. I want her arms.

Monday, October 26, 2009

... and meanwhile

... while Anna was out bargain-maternity-shopping, I was home arguing with my loving husband (truly, he's a rock star husband) of 17 years about walking in the house with (wet) shoes on, folding underwear (vs. tossing them in a pile), what we will (and, more often shouldn't) let our teen and pre-teen children wear to church, and why I (note, I didn't say "we") think it crucial to frequently wipe the itsy-tiny-bits of soggy (yet annoying) splatters of lunch, breakfast and snacks off the backsplash (no, a backsplash wasn't designed to DISPLAY the splash). Ew.

Ah, happy marriage. It's in the DOing. Everyday. Every year. At every stage (pre-kids, kids, dogs, no kids, in-laws, laws, rules ... all that and everything in between).

Whatever your stage, do it with a smile.

(insert happy smile here)

Saturday, October 24, 2009

Shopping Day

Today, I (Anna) was lucky enough to be taken on a shopping spree, courtesy of my mom (thanks, Mom!). I simply had to share these shopping tips with expectant moms in the Twin Cities. We were on a mission to get me some warm maternity clothes and a few nice things for work and the holidays. But who wants to spend a whole bunch of money on brand new, expensive clothes to wear for just a few months? Not me. Or my mom. So we went to 3 consignment shops. I had never really shopped for used items before. But my-oh-my, if you don't shop consignment yet, these stores might change your mind.

First, we went to Bellies to Babies, where we sipped on sparkling water and bought $6 (cute) shirts! A winning combination.

Second, we went to Nu Look, which isn't exclusively a maternity consignment store, but they had a great selection of clothes for everyone. As a bonus, I even got a cute jacket for when I'm not-so-pregnant.

And third, we went to Nine Maternity, an adorable store with all kinds of stylish ensembles.

Winter, here we come! I'm ready now. If you love a good bargain like I do, you must stop in these stores.

After finding all these great deals, we went to Crafty Planet (Carol's favorite spot!) to look for baby material for a quilt to be created by both my mom and Brent's mom. We bad a blast. But I was ready for a nap after all that successful shopping!

Thursday, October 15, 2009

10 Questions of an Expectant Mother

Here I (Anna) am, 23 weeks pregnant. The baby is happily bouncing around as I type, which always makes me pause and smile. I can't believe how fast it's going (although I realize I might be changing my tune when I'm nearing 40 weeks). I find myself caught in the classic "dialectical tension," as we call it in communication, of feeling torn between clinging to the predictability of my life as I know it and the novelty of what's to come in a few months. I'm concurrently frightened and ecstatic! Below are the questions that keep popping up in my mind--as they might for all expecting parents--about my upcoming new role as mother:

1. Will I still love my work? Right now I adore conducting research and teaching. I actually look forward to doing my work. Will my "work" become more of a "job" when I become a mother?

2. Will my husband and I struggle to find our joint "parenting style?" Or will we agree on most ways to parent?

3. Will I experience the love that everyone describes they have for their children?

4. Will my view of the world change? My thoughts on politics? Religion?

5. Will I still like my regular television shows like How I Met Your Mother and Gossip Girl? It just doesn't seem "momish" to watch these shows. Which leads to question 6...

6. Will I finally feel like a "grownup?"

7. I intend to remain connected with all the amazing friends I've made through the years. Will it be harder than I think it will be? Will they accept me as a mother?

8. Will my baby be as fun(ny), smart, and cute as my nephews? I'm wondering if it's even possible!

9. How will I ever survive without sleep?

10. Will my husband and I still laugh multiple times a day? Will we practice what Carol and I preach by maintaining or adapting our meaningful rituals?

I won't know the answer to these questions until February and beyond. For now, though, I'll keep pondering them, trying to remain present in the uncertainty (and excitement!) a change like this brings.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Our Marriage "Short List"

Anna and I sat in the office the other day brainstorming -- motivated by the request of someone with whom we're working on a marriage-related media project -- what we believe are the key signs a marriage is in trouble.

We then, based on the research, created a list of tips couples can follow to get back on track if they feel the wheels have pretty much fallen off altogether.

Here's what we came up with:

Warning signs your marriage is in trouble:
• You go out of your way to make sure you don’t have to spend time alone together
(e.g., the thought of having to go on a “date night” without other friends along is dreadful)
• You stop having sex. Ever.
• There is little laughter.
• You avoid invoking the ‘inside joke.’
• You stop using the loving little nicknames.
• Your self-talk about the other person is almost entirely hateful and negative.
• "Things are not fair” thoughts/actions about the other dominate your day.
• Apathy becomes your "mode of operation" (Remember: hate is not the opposite of love, apathy is).
• You stop arguing (it’s a sign of apathy).
• Criticism comes much more naturally than complimenting.
• You enjoy putting the other down way more than lifting him or her up.

What do to if you see yourself in the above statements?
• Develop rituals of connection (rekindle old and heartwarming routines and/or develop new ones)
• Begin using loving little terms again, even if it scares you.
• Kiss (even if you don’t want to. It feels good, remember?)
• Intentionally tell the other you like something (s)he does.
• Leave a little note that says as much (what you "like" ... or even love or appreciate).
• Change it up: show up at his office and take him out for lunch; call, out of the blue; get in the car and drive (no destination required); book a flight to nowhere (just you two); walk out the door together and DO something. Anything. Together.
• Break the rules; if what you’re doing isn’t working, why keep doing it?
• Shift your self-talk (notice, in your mind, when your partner does something right instead of only what irritates you).
• Ditch friends who diss your spouse (or who diss their own spouses). Negativity begets negativity.
• Try something more positive to begin or end your day (here's a thought: greet your spouse with a smile when s/he walks in the door!)
• Fight. (it means you’re willing to work it through. Engage again. Find out what’s bugging the other person, so you can move forward).

Last but most important tip: get help. Seek a licensed marriage and family therapist to help you sort it all through. It's not a sign of weakness, rather an impressive sign of strength! Think about it: how can we be expected to fully understand, let alone fix, something that has taken years -- one little interaction at a time -- to break(down)?