Thursday, April 20, 2017

An Expert Opinion

According to Malcom Gladwell, there is a rule that dictates that after 10,000 hours of deliberate practice at any particular skill or craft, one masters that craft or skill.

This tells me that after 9 years of marriage (which equates to about 63,504 hours, give or take a few) I can consider myself quite the expert (tongue-in-cheek, by the way.  I'm flying by the seat of my pants as is everyone else I know).

Back in February, a young RM who I greatly admire posted a vulnerable question on Facebook, which I will sum up here: For those of you who are married, what are the benefits of marriage?  Is it worth going through all the conflict, the hardships, and the trials that come with being married, and if so, why?

Of course, many far more qualified and eloquent writers than I went on to comment on his question (last I checked, there were over a hundred comments), but that question has been stuck in my mind for a while now, and I feel that now, two days after my 9th anniversary, is probably a good time for this expert to take a shot at answering these questions beyond what would be appropriate in a Facebook comment section (and with a real keyboard, not just my phone).  I want to share my feelings on marriage. 

My marriage, to be specific.

Steve and I met when we had both pretty much given up on the LDS dating game.  I was a 20-year old 3rd-year at EAC (which, yes, is a 2-year college, long story), and he was a 22-year-old RM who looked like a teenager.

I'm not exaggerating.  I thought he was 17 when I first met him.
Can you blame me?  Look at that baby face!

As I wrote in my version of our love story, we started dating really just because it sounded like fun.  We both had been rejected one too many times before, and although I can't speak for him, I was sick of hanging out with and/or falling for guys who just wanted to eat my food or flirt with my cute roommates (I can't blame them. My roommates were adorable).  

So, after a little prodding from some of the best people in my life,  I decided that with Steve, I had nothing left to lose (I was going on a mission, after all), and I gave it a shot.  I still remember coming home to visit a week after we'd started dating and casually telling a friend from high school that I had my first boyfriend ever.

"Don't worry, though--it's not like we're gonna get married or anything," I added confidently.

Two years and one mission later, we got married.
Us on our wedding morning, getting ready to leave for the temple
 Coming out of the temple, one hour and life-changing covenant later
Sooo romantic
We look well together, don't we?

This part of our relationship was pure bliss for me.  I genuinely can't remember any difficulties stemming from our relationship during this time, and although we had our basic concerns (I was quite sick during this time, and Steve let me know later that he actually thought I was going to die a young death and leave him a widower for the rest of his life), when we were together, nothing could touch us.

Life in that first year was just awesome.  We had a fantastic group of friends, Steve had a great job, and we absolutely loved everything about being newlyweds.  I still remember the feeling of waking up next to Steve the morning after we'd been married and thinking, "We don't have to say good-night to each other at the door anymore!  I am so lucky!" 

While we did have a few of the little bumps of living with a new person that always happen (i.e., growing up in a family of 13, I only wanted to register for practical, bulk items on our wedding registry, and Steve had to keep reminding me that our family was only 2 people), we got along well.

I want to add the caveat here that I acknowledge that our story is only ours, and that while I'm not sharing in order to compare to anyone else, I do feel truly blessed that my husband is my best friend.  He's easy for me to talk to, and we have a lot of the same interests.  I also know other couples who seem like complete opposites who also have amazing marriages, despite them having completely different interests or tastes.  No story is the same, and while anecdotes and specific advice doesn't always apply across the board, true principles always do.

Our "newlywed" stage didn't last long--we found out we were pregnant with Jack only 2 months after we were married (surprise!), and had him a month before our first anniversary.

Yes, the math checks out.
 He was closely followed by Clark,

 ...and then Maggie.

During this time, our marriage had its fair share of ups and downs.  While I won't get into details, I will let you know that both Steve and I had to face some demons (including depression) that we brought into marriage with us.  While we were having kids so quickly, we tried to make time for our marriage as well, 
This trip to Havasupai was absolutely magical.  Especially because we didn't bring our kids.

 but being a parent sometimes feels like a survival trip.  Not enough sleep, not enough food, never enough time, but we somehow manage to find strength we had never known existed before.

I love watching my kids play with my husband.

About a year and a half after Maggie was born, our marriage went through its hardest time yet.

During this time, I learned the hard way that Satan attacks marriages the same way he attacks testimonies, and unless we both were making determined, intentional decisions to try to improve our marriage (for me, this had to be done through taking an honest inventory of my own emotional, spiritual, and mental health, and then working on those areas where I was struggling), it wouldn't be a healthy one, and definitely not a happy one.

I learned things about myself I had never really known or wanted to acknowledge before, and I learned things about Steve that I had never really known or wanted to acknowledge before.

It was hard.

I went through a deep depression during this time, and although I would never wish to relive this year, I learned lessons from this year that I could never have possibly learned any other way.

The biggest lesson?

Focus on God first.  Everything else comes into its proper place when that happens, even when it seems messy and impossible that things can possibly work out.
You see, marriage is like conversion--just as conversion does not come from a once-in-a-lifetime decision, marriage doesn't, either.  It's the series of little, daily, forgettable decisions we make, whether intentionally or unintentionally, every day, that forge a relationship.  Do I spend dinner checking Facebook, or focus on talking to my husband with my phone in the other room?  Do I tell him about that little thing I did that will probably irritate him, or do I sweep it under the rug and hope he doesn't notice?  Do I respond to the message from that guy I had a crush on in high school?  Do I bring up that difficult topic or let it go unresolved?

Some of the decisions have farther-reaching effects than others, but just as with the gospel, what we decide to do in our marriage affects more than just the present.  The implications are unfathomable. 
I do feel grateful and humble, because even when things were at their hardest, I had something with Steve that I have never experienced with anyone else, even my best friends in the world--commitment.

With a roommate or a best friend or even a sibling, when we have a fight, we know that we can always take a break from the relationship.  Give it a few days (or weeks) to blow over, and then reevaluate what needs to happen next.  Usually by that point, it's not even an issue, and when things get hard, we can always move on.

Even in companionships on a mission, while the break isn't an option, we know that at most we have to put up with this companion for 6--maybe 9--months.  Tops.

In a marriage, however, while separation is a necessity in some situations where abuse is present, those qualifiers didn't apply to my marriage, so when an issue came up that needed to be addressed, I had two choices--either deal with it, or don't.

Dealing with it sometimes involved long nights, tears, silent moments of discomfort, even yelling.

Not dealing with it involved me feeling like a victim and passively-aggressively doing what I could to get things to go my way.

As you can see, I've experienced both options numerous times.

But through it all, no matter what, I knew I was going to do everything I possibly could to stick it out.  Because I signed up for eternity, and that's what I want to get with this guy.
And I am SO glad we've made it this far.  

Because as bad as it got, the joy from when the times are good?

Indescribable.
There are no words to describe the overwhelming bliss that comes from holding the man I love every single night, hearing him pray with and for me, watching him play with and hold the children we made together.

I can't begin to describe what it is like to watch a man who I admired and loved when we first met grow, change, and become even more than I could have ever thought possible.

And it's impossible to describe the joy that comes from the idea of getting to continue to progress with him by my side, supporting me, loving me, and calling me out when I need it.

And believe me.  I often need it.
While we still have our ups and downs (just last night I got my feelings hurt because he made an offhand remark about how much I mark our shared version of the LDS scriptures on my phone)...

he may have a point

There is something about having a friend, not just to tell about my difficulties and successes, but who lives them with and through me.  When Steve has a bad day at work and I listen to him tell me about it, I ache for him.  When I finished my marathon, he was more proud than I was.
So in answer to the questions, yes.  Marriage is worth it.

Because although the risk for trials, hurts, and heartaches increases exponentially after marriage (and subsequent to the addition of each child to the family), the rewards are more than worth it.  Nothing makes people happier than rich, meaningful relationships.

And after all, isn't that what the Plan of Salvation is all about?  Relationships?

I'd like to think so.  And I'm excited for what the future will bring to mine.

Sunday, April 16, 2017

Scattered Moments

Life is full of moments that get forgotten because they aren't monumental--the small, often mundane details that get overlooked but make up the majority of our lives.

This post is an attempt to capture a few of those in my recent life.

Family Home Evening is more often less of a spiritual feast and more of an all-out wrestling match.  Steve came up with a fun idea for an activity to demonstrate the need for a prophet (the Telephone Game):
And of course, it didn't go that well:

But the kids had fun.

The other morning, we finally dug up the carrots we'd planted last year and forgotten about until they started sprouting again this spring.  We found this monster, as well as several others:
And they actually tasted quite good!

I mowed our lawn for the first time last week, and Clark was so excited about it that he volunteered to mow the entire side front yard by himself!  He did a great job, too!

For Jack's baptism, Mom and Dad Busch brought Grandma Busch up to see us, and while I didn't get nearly enough pictures with them, I love the ones I did get:

Nana, taking pictures of her grandkids so she can brag on them:

Maggie and Grandma Busch especially seemed to hit it off.

Poppa and Nana supervising Jack as he opens his birthday gifts:

With much help from Clark.

They are always so generous.

Because of the lovely warm weather this spring, I've been spending a lot of time working on planting flowers, and Maggie decided to help me one morning while her brothers were at school.  Note Perry lying on the sidewalk in the background--he has a cone on because he got a scratch on his face, couldn't leave it alone, and now it's huge and infected.  Poor guy.

The boys are officially signed up for Little League this year!  Jack is in the Machine Pitch league, where he's learning that hitting off of a machine is trickier than it looks:

And Clark is in T-Ball, where he's trying to learn not to be afraid of the ball.  I was practicing hitting with him the other day, and just after I gave him a lecture of leaning towards the ball rather than flinching away from it, he managed to hit the ball off the bat directly into his own face, giving him a bloody lip!

We're now practicing with racquetballs.

The boys are so proud, though, and it's been fun to dust off my nearly nonexistent athletic skills to help them practice!

Levi, my 9-year-apart birthday twin, decided to come up and visit for our shared birthday this year, and Noah, my other brother, came to visit for the same day!!  It was so fun, and I felt thoroughly spoiled.

I did, however, take advantage of the occasion to trim Levi's shaggy locks:

and partway through the cut, it looked cool enough that I stopped to snap a picture.  He didn't love that version, though, so I trimmed the top more to get this eventual effect.

I'm just lucky that NaElle, my cosmetologist sister, taught me to give male haircuts--I've saved us hundreds of dollars by cutting all my boys' (including husband and certain brothers) hair myself!

The moments I have captured here, interspersed with the others not as diligently recorded, are what make up my life, as quiet and unassuming as it may sometimes seem.

And what a beautiful life it is.

Last London Post

Our last full day in London was delightful--we started out by getting a taxi to attend church:
I had packed a skirt but decided in favor of my jeans layered over leggings.  I felt a little out of place, but it was just too cold to contemplate having bare legs!

We then hopped back on the public transportation system:

Where Steve took a little impromptu nap (traveling is exhausting, okay?)

On our way to Kensington palace (not pictured here).

We then took the guided tour of Tower Hill:

Which was fascinating, quite educational, always entertaining, and sometimes sad.

Being a ruler (or in line to be a ruler) could be quite hazardous for one's health, we learned.

On the way in, I noticed this trebuchet (not sure that's spelled correctly, but the spell checker isn't correcting me), and was proud of myself that I remembered what it was called.  My dad would be proud.

Our tour guide, one of the famous Beefeaters, was hilarious and highly entertaining.  He knew his facts, and at one point, when his hat blew off and I caught it, I actually ended up dropping it because it was surprisingly heavy and stiff!  I didn't know they were literally made of wood underneath the fabric!  (At least, that's what it felt like). Wonder if he gets a headache from it.

Inside the Bloody Tower:

Where we learned that the average Englishman hundreds of years ago was much smaller than we are:

As well as sordid and bloody tales of unsolved murders, betrayal, and intrigue.  Good stuff!

The Tower of London, where the Crown Jewels were kept.  Because we had so much more we wanted to fit in, we didn't wait in line to see them, but we made sure to see the Crown Jewels of Scotland when we were in Edinburg the next day.

I still can't believe I have been to these places!  It feels surreal.

The armory display.  I'll be honest, I wasn't too interested by it all--while one suit of armor might be interesting, dozens upon dozens got a little overwhelming.

Inside a little niche in the wall....I'm pretty sure they said this was a water closet (or the primeval equivalent of one).  Steve was a good sport about taking a picture there, but then I made him uneasy when I reminded him that he was basically standing in a centuries-old urinal.

We were tired of walking by that point, so we took a river boat tour of the Thames.  It was also entertaining and fun to hear our "guide's" point of view of the city.

Fun view of Tower Bridge

This time with us in the shot:

In front of the London Bridge (told ya, it's not all that impressive-looking):

London Town!!

It will forever have a place in my heart after this trip.

They told us to get this great shot of Parliament and Big Ben, so like obedient little tourists, we did:

Always so overcast in London.  I was glad it didn't rain on us while we were there, as being wet and cold would have made sightseeing considerably more difficult.

I know, I know...we went a little overboard.  Give me a break--how often does a country girl from Arizona end up in London?

We then took a double-decker bus tour

 (a part of which is shown here in time-lapse):
Which ended up at King's Cross Station.  I asked Steve if he wouldn't mind if we walked past the barrier between platforms 9 and 10 (as an homage to Harry), and he was a great sport about it.

Kings Cross was much grander in person than I had expected it to be!
When we got there, we were thrilled and astonished to find a Harry-Potter themed shop, as well as a photo op with a partially-disappearing cart (which, again, we didn't take because we weren't up for waiting in lines).
This is us cheating, haha!!

So cool and fun!

I was a little embarrassed by how excited this 30-something-year-old was to be there.  It was so fun!

After grabbing a local pasty (which was totally bland, disappointingly enough), we hung around Piccadilly Circus a little more before heading back to the hotel.

I feel like writing this story here, as I find it fun--our flight to Edinburg left at 8:00 in the morning, meaning that we needed to be at the airport by 6:30 at the latest so we could get through security. Because our hotel wasn't in the main part of London, the nearest train station didn't run through the night, so the next nearest train station that had trains leaving on the hour every hour was a mile's walk away.  Not a big deal, except that streets in London make little to no sense to a visitor, so Steve and I both spent the entire night tossing and turning in worry about wandering around on the streets of London, getting lost, missing our train, and then missing our flight.

We finally gave up on sleeping around 4:00 in the morning, packed up, checked out, and then took one last glance at the map Steve had pulled up before we left the hotel's wifi range (remember--we had no international plan, so our cell phones were useless without being on someone's wifi).  Miraculously enough (we had been praying hard for help), the map kept working as we speed-walked through the dark, abandoned streets of a random suburb in London, and led us all the way to the train station, where we got to the needed platform just in time to hear an announcement that the platforms had changed and that our train was leaving from a different platform, after all.

Once we got settled on the train, we smiled exhaustedly at each other, then each said a prayer in gratitude that we were able to get to the airport in time.  Traveling can be nerve-wracking sometimes!