A blur(t)

Fast, rapid-fire words flow from my lips; often before I think them through.

I have been described as “having no filter” between my mind and my mouth.

I was nicknamed “Lippy” at a summer camp that I worked at.

I have been called “sassafras”, been accused of having “diarrhea of the mouth…it just runs…”,

and been told (my personal favorite in the echelons of ignorance) that

“a submissive wife is a quiet and unheard wife”.

That one garnered a quick-witted sarcastic retort which did not exactly produce a godly response.

I do some volunteer work which involves meeting in a Board Room to check in with executives.

In the last month, I have started to notice that within that setting, I have a “Professional Opinion” and a “Personal Opinion”.

I am truly grateful for the chance to serve in an environment where both opinions are valued highly.

At home lately, James and I have been caught up in a cycle of disagreements.

It was frustrating.  I felt that my opinions and feelings were being ignored, and he felt attacked by my opinions and feelings.

I met with a friend recently so that she could give me “outside” eyes into our struggle.

***Note of caution. This was NOT a bash-my-spouse meeting.  It was an intentional and heartfelt plea for someone who is not going to necessarily take my “side” in things.  I wanted an honest opinion and honest advice from a woman who would tell me directly and kindly if I was out of line.  I sincerely wanted to see what was causing the friction in my relationship with my husband.Because I sought an unbiased opinion, I avoided any family members, or anyone who I felt would be clouded by their loyalty to me.***

So, there we were.  I began to re-tell her some of the conversations that we had had, and also how dumbfounded I was that James felt hammered sometimes by my attempts to explain my perspective so that he could understand where I was coming from.

She looked at me and said, “Gracie, do you tell him everything about how you feel or do you tell him the main point about how you feel?”

I answered, “He’s my best friend.  I tell him everything so that I don’t hold anything back from him.”

She leaned forward a bit, and gently said, “Do you remember the story about the angel Gabriel visiting Mary the mother of Jesus?  Do you remember how it describes what Mary did after the angel had spoken to her? ‘Mary treasured up all these things and pondered them in her heart.’ “

“Mary treasured up all these things and pondered them in her heart”

“It’s okay to hold things in your heart and pray them over, just you and God.  It’s not dishonest, it’s wise.”

Since that discussion, I apologized to James for not discerning what was important to tell him, for overwhelming him with an unintentional deluge of blinding emotions and opinions to sort through.

I began to pray through how I feel, to ask for wisdom in seeing why I feel that way, and also to ask for discernment about whether or not I truly need to feel heard about it…or if it’s simply a situation where I am grumpy and just want to wench about things.

When we were first dating, I was aware that a single man doesn’t want to spend time with a grumbling and negative woman.

Over time, I got comfortable with James.  It’s great that I trust him enough to tell him my thoughts; but I forgot to respect the fact that as a man who loves me, he deeply desires to see me happy.

When I complain, it can easily convey the message that he failed to keep me happy.

The truth is that I am overwhelmingly happy, I just wanted verbal affirmation that he hasn’t stopped cherishing my feelings.

So now, I write him a note and try to phrase it positively.

For example, instead of a paragraph about how I feel that our schedule is too packed for us to be alone together, I try to simply say something like, “I really enjoy being alone, just the two of us. We haven’t done that yet this week, I have free time on Tuesday after dinner…would you please take me out of the house so I can catch up with my hot husband?”

It seems a bit awkward at times, but he genuinely wants to spend time with me too, and this is a kind way for me to ask him for what I would like while also being aware of his feelings.

Additionally, writing down my thoughts has served to give me a filter for my words, so that I don’t unintentionally offend him.

It gives me time for clarity. so that I can define what the real issue is.

I love my James.

He matters to me.

It seems only natural that his feelings should matter to me as well.

a blur(t) defined (c)Gracie K Harold 2015

a blur(t) defined (c)Gracie K Harold 2015

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A sneak peak into my (married) dating life

The kids were dropped off in a busy flurry on that Saturday morning.  James and I had gotten up extra early so that we could be dressed and ready by the time we brought the kids to their extra-curricular activity.  Success! We had no children for the next few hours, an almost-legally-binding-faux-contract that we would NOT run errands, discuss bills, worry, or take any cell phone calls; and we had already consumed most of our second cups of Simpatico coffee.

James had arranged a surprise for me; his father let me borrow his real life CANON camera!

(Can you hear me squeal as I type this?)

I do the majority of my blog pictures with my iPhone, and actually I have never been given the opportunity to go on a spontaneous photo shoot with a real camera.

James told me to pick our destination, and I picked the rustic wooden bridge in Zeeland, MI.  (Which is just a short drive from Holland, MI). The following collage shows some of  the shots that were captured…on my first ever authentic Canon photo shoot!  May they bring you comfort and joy!

#PureMichigan

Ornate Elegance

Ornate Elegance (c)Gracie K. Harold 2014

Ornate Elegance (c)Gracie K. Harold 2014

Ornate artistry speaks viscerally to my soul.

Beauty resonates with me in a way that fills me to overflowing.

I realized today that once upon a time, creative expression was poured into designing restraints and limitations.

The photograph above is part of an intricate railing that provides a delicate yet strong boundary in a turn-of-the-century hotel.

James and I have recently been debating and discussing what boundaries are going to look like for us as we go forward.  I balked when I was first told to “take it easy” as I heal and prepare for surgery.  I’ve been learning though that limitations can be beautiful if I use them as a tool that promotes safety and health.

We’ve also been deliberately and intentionally establishing boundaries within our marriage and our family.  They are not intended to be a barrier, but instead, our boundaries are designed to promote safety and beauty in our lives.

When I was younger, close friends of mine shared that they marked two black Xes on the calendar each week.  One X was the couple’s date night.  No kids, no business meetings, no distractions, simply being alone for at least 2 hours together.  The other X  was a time slot devoted exclusively to family time, the couple and their kids; uninterrupted, no distractions,  for at least 2 hours together.  I was told that sometimes the X gets moved due to a scheduling conflict, but the point is, that time was intentionally blocked off every single week.

James and I started doing this about 6 weeks ago, only he insisted that we have two nights a week for us alone, and also one X a week for us to spend with the kids.

It has radically changed our relationship and our family dynamics for the better.

Our dates range from super cheap to nominal, depending on the amount of money that we have on hand.  We’ve gone out for moderately priced appetizers, gone through a fast food drive-through, packed a meal, simply escaped for an ice cream cone, gone for walks, window shopped, driven through the country, gone to peruse paint color chips at the hardware store, rented a movie and ate supper in bed when I was too ill to leave the house, gone to a coffee shop, escaped to the beach, played mini-golf, played real golf,  gone to a book store, and looked through magazines over a cup of coffee.

The point is that we have been together, in a time block that is devoted simply for us and the growth of our relationship.

Security and trust are multiplied when you are shown that in all the world, time with you matters most.

What X do you need to mark on the calendar?

You can do it!  Add a little “ornate elegance”, or even, some “simple elegance” to your relationship. 😉

Simple Elegance (c)Gracie K. Harold 2014

Simple Elegance (c)Gracie K. Harold 2014

“Golf-ish”

“Golf is a good walk ruined.” – Mark Twain.  I loved repeating this quote once upon a time.  Now, however, it’s  obvious that I must recant publicly of that.  The reason? Today, James took me golfing. He set up the tee time; (which I knew ahead of time was different from TEA time), and we flirtaciously texted  each other throughout the day about our “date”…no kids, free golf, not a family member in sight, and an afternoon to golf.  James, being an avid golfer, was rather excited.  I was nervously excited; and very thankful that the man has a sense of humor, since I am well aware that athletic agility is not always my forte’.

This is as "golf-ish" as I get

This is as “golf-ish” as I get

First, I went to google and searched “hip golf outfits for modern women”.  I am not joking.  Why must they all wear spandex or skorts? I’m sorry, but it was humid today; what would ever possess me to wear extra  layers between my thighs?  I was also confused by the plethora of polo-styled shirts, again, it’s a question of sweat.

It was so humid that I made an executive decision and skipped most of my make-up, mostly because I don’t buy it to wipe it on the back of my hands…but today it would have melted in streaks; leaving me to look like a strange warrior of golf.   I decided to wear a nautical inspired tee shirt and a comfy skirt which I could freely exercise in.  (For the record, my tee shirt had an animal on the pocket…although I still am unsure about which animal it is…it’s definitely NOT a horse).

Second, I packed the golf clubs as James had directed.  I packed us each a sports drink, and I even changed into tennis shoes instead of sandals.  Away we went! We arrived, checked in for our tee time, and James walked me over to the first hole.

My first moment of confusion happened after James explained that I got to tee off between the front markers. (PS I just learned that they are the same color on every course; that’s thoughtful of the golf course designers to color-code!)  I thought that I had to hit off the top of the concrete part…mercifully I was stopped before that disaster! My first lesson in swinging a club while on a course commenced; and we were on our way.

We eventually found a comfortable rhythm which consisted of James reminding me “Remember, baby, it’s golf and not baseball….swing your arms like a pendulum between 2:00 and 10:00.”  I did pretty well, all in all…especially once I found my “golf song mantra”.  I kept singing, “England swing like a pendulum do, bobbies on bicycle two by two, WestminsterAbbey, the tower of Big Ben, the rosy red cheeks of the little children.”  (Roger Miller 1965). The cockney accent helped me remember to swing my arms properly like a proper British person; and the Big Ben part helped me remember the clock positions for my swing.

I was just starting to feel rather pleased with my progress when James grinned and said, “C’mon baby…hit that golfball!” I did…and somehow managed to chip it backwards photo 2 (2)between my legs.  I am NOT kidding.  I looked over to see James doubled over.  He gasped, “All-my-years, never-seen-that-one”. We laughed, and kept on.

One of the holes, I chipped it beautifully….into the mud bog.  Another hole, I drove it about 75 yards…across the two lane road next to the course.  My favorite, though, was the hole with the quaint little creek that  ran under a footbridge.  I didn’t land my ball in the water once; nope…I did it twice.  From the same spot.  See? I have MAD golfi-sh skills!

About this time, we were laughing and feeling rather romantic from all of the goofiness.  We had just mildly made out, and we looked up at the people on their golf cart a few holes behind us.  “Huh! That looks like my parents,” I said.  It was my parents.  Yup.

James quipped, “Well, I was going to sneak you out to the woods over there…but your parents are behind us!” What are the odds? Overall, it was a fun day just chitchatting and having fun frogging around without (mostly) any supervision.

Sometimes, as parents; we just need an escape from “normal life” and we just need to be a “normal” couple on a date. I can’t wait for the next tee time! photo 3 (1)