With our twentieth wedding anniversary quickly approaching, along with our first daughter’s high school graduation, my hubby and I decided to take a bit of inventory. (Marriage inventory, that is.) Add in to the mix my forty-second birthday and a fun supper date with a young and sweet thirty-something couple and our wheels really got to turning. Which direction they are turning . . well, that remains to be seen.
The truth be told, during our inventory I realized I am a bit disappointed. See, I thought that we’d be better at it by now. You know, at being married! Thinking like the oldest child, type-A, overachiever that I am, the list I had in my mind of my heady expectations of perfection is shot full of holes! (Not bullet holes, mind you. And no hating on type-A’s please. We cannot help being the children of first-time parents, can we?)
I guess you can see where I’m headed. In short, my dreams for the ultimate utopia of married bliss are dashed. After twenty years in the game, I don’t know much at all, but I do know better than that.
I no longer want what I hoped for. Why?
I’ve got something better.
Maybe my mom and dad are laughing right now reading this. Being married forty-five years next month, they already know. But they were the same kind of love-struck kids in 1970 and they probably had the same problem. But they’ve lasted, and we will, too.
The problem? Wishing and hoping and counting on a relationship without issues. Without challenges. Smooth sailing. Doesn’t that sound wonderful? Can’t you see the glassy ocean carrying a beautiful cruise liner into paradise? Ahhhhhhh.
And suddenly, there’s a bump here and there. Then the wind starts howling. The rain starts pouring. And an iceberg the size that tripped up the Titanic starts to rear it’s ugly head.
Wow, I thought we were SOOOO much alike! I thought we always agreed! Deciding on a restaurant was our favorite thing to do! Our ideas and principles lined up like missing puzzle pieces and we finished each other’s sentences (or “sandwiches,” if you have a little girl who likes “Frozen”)!
Here’s the real problem. Smooth sailing doesn’t exist. It might exist for stretches of time. Certain seasons of our relationship can feel easy and stress-free. But we will never appreciate those seasons without the times of hellacious (is that a word?) scrambling for dear life. Not. Going. To. Happen.
Accepting that (that marriage isn’t always smooth sailing) has been the beautiful reward of twenty years. My new and improved picture of wedded bliss is a couple of fiercely committed lovers, scraped up and worn out, with a look of triumph in their eyes and holding on to each other for dear life. (Oh, and I forgot, the boat is also full of our life’s work so far . . .eleven beautiful and perfect offspring. But I must talk about them in another post . . .)
So, since you know I’m the practical girl, I want to share here one of my favorite revelations for we married people. Here it is.
A great marriage usually includes a flag. And a flagpole.
Let me explain.
Remember that part about being “on the same page about everything?” Liking the same things, even the same movies and restaurants (speaking of the trivial)? Well, yes. But, that is B. M. (Before marriage, before you think I meant something else!) Yes, before the knot is tied, it’s EASY to agree. But the challenge comes once the covenant is struck. Then, a very wonderful thing begins to happen.
We realize how very different we are. Politics, religion, family dynamics and dysfunction, children and in-laws, you name it. While trying to sort all of these things out, one spouse will most likely start to resemble a flag.
Flags are easy going, extroverted, charismatic, dreamy, visionaries, never sit still, fly by the seat of their pants, you get the idea. But here’s the downside for the flag. They can literally fly off into oblivion and you never see them again. They can be flighty (literally) and lack commitment.
Enter the flagpole.
Flagpoles are solid. Centered. Stable and self-directed, disciplined, “rhythm and bass” at it’s finest. But before you think the flagpole is the one who saves the day, they can also be rigid and real sticks-in-the-mud. (And if you’re still wondering which one I tend to be in our relationship, let’s just say I’ve been described by my hubby (in public) as “gray and boring.” Yes, he meant it as a compliment.)
I know you can see the big picture at this point. The flag needs a flagpole. The flagpole needs a flag. You’ve never seen a beautiful flag or nice, stable flagpole operating all by their lonesome and getting anything done. In fact, you’d never see a darn thing. The flag would be off in Never-Neverland, and you’d walk right by the flagpole and never even know it was there!
So, I must repeat myself (I hope you’re still here). What I hoped for would have fallen completely short of what I’ve been given. Supporting my flag (and him supporting me) has given us guts, victories and more “muscles.” Yes, we’ve got a few scars as well. But who doesn’t?
I hope you’re hearing the “Eye of the Tiger” in your head by now. If you’re a husband or wife in the throes of a storm, don’t give up. Know that your differences only make you stronger.
Flags, keep flying high. And flagpoles, keep holding them up. It’s worth the ride.
After twenty years, I can say that.
My husband and I were eating in one of our favorite restaurants here in small town western Oklahoma (i.e., there’s not a lot of choices out here). Even though the variety of places to go is limited, we love knowing most everyone in the couple of really good places to eat. And all wives and moms know getting a meal out that you didn’t cook already (deceptively) makes it taste better!
If you know me, you know that I might ask odd questions. It doesn’t bother me a bit and I try really, really hard to sound respectful and polite. Even though Lorenzo would rather die a thousand deaths than inquire about some of the things I do, it doesn’t mean I can’t ask a question, right?
Oddly enough, I have asked THIS particular question in this specific restaurant five times now. It’s been a bit of an experiment. And let me say, I LOVE every single girl and guy who has helped us as a waiter so PLEASE know, regardless of the turn this story takes, I promise, we’ll still have date night at your eating place!
So, yes, it’s been a question I’ve asked five times, with trepidation, curiosity, and especially, because I want and need a truthful answer.
Here’s the question: Do you have REAL butter for my sweet potato?
(homemade butter from Jersey grass-cows, yum!)
Do you see any reason for my husband’s alarm? I mean, that’s an easy question to answer, right?
You’d be surprised. And remember, I said I still love this restaurant and the people there, I just want to make a point!
Here’s some of the different responses I received.
1. Sure! (They brought me margarine.)
2. Hmmm. Let me check and I’ll let you know. (They did check and they said they didn’t have any and they brought me margarine.)
3. I think we do! (They did check and they said they did have some and they brought me margarine.)
4. One person asked me why I would want butter. She wasn’t aware there was such a thing. (Just kidding. She knew there was such a thing, but was not sure why it should be in the kitchen of their restaurant.)
To be fair, I am inserting a teensy-weensy bit of sarcasm here, but for the most part, everyone who helped us those five date nights seemed to have literally no clue there was even a remote difference between butter and margarine.
So what’s the big deal, Jen? WHO CARES??
Hence, this blog.
Let me give you a short history of butter.
(And just as a disclaimer, remember I’m a mom of eleven and I’m not prone to 48 hours of research per blog, just a couple here and there. But seeing as we all have the internet now, we can cut to the chase pretty efficiently when digging for information. And I’m not a doctor either . . .just wanna throw that in there.)
Butter has been around for thousands of years. The word “butter” is derived from two Greek words, bous (cow) and turos (cheese). For these past few thousands of years, butter was a natural result from carrying milk and cream(pre-refrigeration/ice boxes, which have only been around about 200 years) in saddlebags where they were jolted around by horses or camels or whatever else they were riding (pre-cars, yep, only around 100 years . . .see where I’m going with this?). Butter (or cream, rather) has been considered a wonderful delicacy to different cultures worldwide, and can evolve into other delicious forms such as sour cream, whipped cream, and creme fraiche (which is the French’s favorite form of cream and I’m sure they think we Americans have no clue what is.)
Anyway, though I’m far from being a fantastic cook, I can get an undercurrent here, and that is the fact that butter has obviously been in a longstanding place of honor for eons of time.
Margarine (originally called oleomargarine) was commissioned financially by Napoleon in the late 1870’s to enable the masses to be able to afford something in butter’s place because of inflation. The French chemist Hippolyte Mege-Mouries created the margarine (spurred on by the large financial gift) and he made it out of beef fat, milk and salt. As margarine made it’s way to America, it’s make-up was changed from beef fat to vegetable oils.
(Anyone ever wondered why oil from corn and soybeans is called VEGETABLE oil? Ahem.)
So America literally went through about a hundred year tug-of-war over butter vs. margarine (not excluding the present). This included lobbying by the dairy industry, taxes, and regulations on margarine. This included laws that prohibited margarine-makers from dyeing the margarine a yellow color similar to butter (margarine was somewhat similar to the color of paste). Some states forced them to dye it pink. Guys, I am not kidding here. Oh, and I forgot. Other margarine companies packaged their margarine with an orange capsule of food coloring that you squeezed out and mixed in to create nice, yellow-looking margarine. (Eew.) Plus, they (whoever “they” is) said this stuff was GOOD for us. (Moms of the 60’s and 70’s, I am not criticizing you.)
Why the long, maybe somewhat boring history of a food item, for Pete’s sake?
Again, I want to make a point.
This little blog might not amount to a hill of beans where politics, legislation or butter/margarine makers are concerned. But maybe, somehow, it will help change a paradigm, slowly and surely. I want to make it simple enough that even one of my little ones can get it. No, I’m not out to crucify margarine eaters, far from it. I just want to see if there’s something we’re missing that might help us.
Butter has been around. It doesn’t have any chemicals/vegetable-grain oils/food coloring capsules/junk in it. It taste good. It works right when you cook with it. It can actually go bad, which is a good thing. It can’t sit on a shelf for 40 years and remain unchanged. And all of that to say, that probably means it’s good for us to eat! No matter where you get your information, especially about what you eat, at least take a second to hash through the garbage and find something that makes sense. Oh, that too. Butter makes sense. :)
Yes, I know it’s a little more expensive. But we’re not talking about brand name jeans or a movie ticket here. We’re talking about our bodies and what we put in them. They need the right fuel. Just to shock you, we go through 15 pounds of butter a month (plus what we get from our Jersey cows). And I’m a budget girl and a bit of a tightwad, but the butter category is money well-spent.
I could go on and on about the nutritional components of butter (you NEED healthy saturated fat!) or the craziness of authority figures in our country telling us what we should eat and what’s good for us. I won’t. (By the way, I do eat non-real food sometimes, so please don’t honk at me if you see me pull into Sonic!)
I just want our food to taste good. And I want it to be good for us. And it’s obvious by now.
If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.
P.S. One of the motivations for margarine is it spreads easily. For butter that spreads easily, keep it in an airtight crock or Pyrex dish and store in a dark cabinet. My German friend taught me this trick and she was shocked I didn’t already know it! :)
P.S.S. Here are some of my sources for the history of margarine. Also note this nice quote from the American Heart Association. (Really?? Very interesting. Bold type is my emphasis)
Recent studies on the LDL cholesterol-raising effects of trans fat have raised public concern about the use of margarine and whether other options, including butter, might be a better choice. Butter has a high amount of saturated fat and some trans fat, whereas many hard margarines contain a high amount of trans fat in addition to saturated fat. Both of these bad fats can raise your blood cholesterol and contribute to atherosclerosis. The best choice for your health is a liquid margarine or a soft margarine in a tub. These are made with less partially hydrogenated fat than hard stick margarine. Look for margarines that are free of trans fat.
When I turn 80 years old I’ll probably still be doing baby photo scrapbook journal whatever those things are called. Yes, having a large tribe of hopefully amazing children has forced me to kick some things to the curb, and this is one of them. I can just picture my grandchildren and great-grandchildren asking me what I’m working on one of those days and then I’ll have to painfully admit that I’m still photo-cropping their dad or grandpa! Yikes! Oh well. To write a book (or a blog) you’ve got to live it first. So some things will just have to wait!
Soooo, we’ve been working through my oldest baby’s pictures (which are still on actual 35mm photo prints) and thankfully, due to the power of delegation, I have several who have hopped in on the project. And since my techie side is still being revealed, my oldest baby, aforementioned, is in full charge of transforming these “babies” into digital wonders.
Since, as I mentioned, I’ve been AWOL from the photo world (minus taking them), I have lost track of who resembles whom. It has been said now for 11 months that our little Ezra looks just like big brother Caleb. Well, ta-dah!! He actually closely resembles big brother Nathaniel as well! Wow. Awww. Soooo cute. . . . (Nathaniel is with Hannah, Ezra is below them)
Anyway, to continue, I noticed in this photo area that all of our mindsets have been changed by looking at a record from the past. Hmmm. Perfect. Just in time for that wonderful moment when we start up a new year! Since I usually walk around in the “land of practical,” I decided I would take a few minutes to jot down some of my thoughts about trying to learn this wonderful truth . . .
For a new year, every year of my life:
1. I have to have vision. There’s a proverb in the Bible (Proverbs 22:28) that basically says to remember and remind yourself of important landmarks as you live day-to-day. Don’t forget where you’ve been and be ready to see those lessons of the past come back around. Habakuk 2:2 (Yep, that book’s in the Bible, too, but I had to spell-check it) also says we have to write our vision down or we can’t really go anywhere. Part of knowing the vision is knowing where you’ve been. And, it’s also being okay with the mistakes that went along with acquiring all those hefty landmarks!
2. I have to be accountable. This one is pretty self-explanatory, but to put it simply, we all need a buddy. No one is an island unto himself (LOVE that saying!) and we just frankly don’t know everything. Whether it’s going on a daily walk, or running a corporation, the effort and humility it takes to share the struggle are well worth it.
3. I have to sow “good” to reap “good.” (I know that’s not grammatically correct, but I still wanted to say it that way.) Any human on the planet can use this law to their advantage or it will happen to their disadvantage. And when the reaping isn’t so great because the sowing wasn’t either, grace can walk in and save our day, even if people in our lives can’t catch up yet. Our words are the best thing we can sow, in my opinion. “I love you,” “You’re so wonderful,” “How smart you are!” can all get a good crop going and change the atmosphere.
4. Carpe Deum. Latin, for “Seize the Day.” Watching the movie Dead Poets Society starring Robin Williams was a highlight of my teen years. Though, in retrospect, I had no IDEA what this could actually mean for my life. There’s a ton of scripture related to this, but again, simply put: Don’t stay in the prison called “what other people think.” Going with the flow never built any muscles or gave great results. Swimming upstream is where it’s at and where history’s made. A great example to follow who bucked the norms of His day . . .Jesus.
5. I have to make my time precious. An hour a week is 52 hours per year. What can I accomplish, what can I create, what can I leave others that will rock their world? Is it my daily journal, my kid’s journals, one blog per week (I’ve been flunking that one), my book idea, running a small business, my piano recital that’s waiting in the wings? Well, yes. All of that. So, that means I have NO time for regrets, laziness, bitterness, unforgiveness, gossip, complaining, you get the picture . . .
But I DO have the time to hear and do all that comes to my heart, for this next year of my life.
And, I better get busy. Time is ticking, and what goes around that’s about to come around is coming all too fast!
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