Lessons Learned

Relationship Lessons Learned

A number of us were asked to write our future niece a letter she could read prior to marriage to my nephew Jacob back in August.  I have grown and learned so much about love, relationships, and partnerships, over the past 20 years.  And I am still learning and growing. But here was my letter to her. 

Speak in Love (always and often): this is so hard, but every time you open your mouth (no matter how mad, hurt, annoyed, etc., you are) think about your words.  Once you say them, you can never take them back.  Words can cut like a knife.  But work on speaking in love.

He is your best friend: I have never had a best friend that was my partner/spouse until now.  Having someone that I can share everything with, who can look at me or know by my tone of voice, how I am thinking or feeling, is pretty amazing.  Knowing each other deeply is key.  Always keep learning about each other.

Date night: keep going on date nights.  Even when the kids come.  Make it a commitment on both of your parts to go out to dinner or go to a movie twice a month.  This keeps you connected.  Makes you both have to prioritize each other and your marriage.

Help each other to grow: I remember reading an article about a wife/mom who was throwing a fit because her husband said he wanted to go to grad school.  In the midst of her venting to her best friend, her friend responded wisely, “you can (today) choose to grow with him and support him or you can choose to grow away. He is asking you to grow.”  Support (equally) each other’s dreams and hopes.  Grow together.  Become better people, together. Bring out the best in each other. I have known many couples who devoted a majority of their time to bashing, ripping on each other, and degrading each other (verbal and emotional abuse) and your relationship with not withstand these hurtful fights, words and abuse.  This is not love. This is a tactic to keep someone small, devalued, and scared. You will grow apart (words push people apart)! Don’t go there. Learn to love, value and respect your partnership and grow together.   

Respect, respect, respect: respect each other at all times.  Honor each other at all times.  If you don’t respect each other, then you don’t love, care, or uphold, etc. your relationship.  Your respect for each other, your roles, contributions, work, etc. to this life together is important and knowing that are appreciated and valued by each other is vital.

Those are my words of wisdom, encouragement, love, and support.  Welcome to the family my dear.  I am here if you need anything.  From one wife to another, wishing you the very best and with lots of love!

Love,
Natalie   

Chicago by Water

A day trip to Chicago took us down the Chicago River on an architectural tour to see the skyline, the buildings, bridges, etc. Seeing a city or place from the water is very different than walking on the ground.  You learn so much from a different view. 

We have done this architecture river tour dozens of times and each time we go, we learn something more about the history of Chicago.  There are numerous tour companies, but we like the Chicago Cruise Line which has a little more intimate of a boat and tour (smaller and fewer tourists).  Retired history professors provide the tours, so you get a mix of architectural information and history simultaneously.  You can start lining up 30 minutes prior to boarding, which we strongly encourage getting there at least 20 minutes early so you can get a good seat.   

Even if architecture is not your thing, just floating down the river, on a fall day, watching people, buildings, and bridges pass you by is a wonderful way to spend the afternoon.  The tour/boat last about 90 minutes and consists of a Starbucks coffee, lemonade, tea,  a bar, and snacks.

If you want something to do in Chicago and enjoy learning about history, this is a great tour!  Easy to purchase online, get to (they board at the Ogden Slip, not the river), and it is on time and well organized.  They also do Chicago history tours, Devil in the White City tours, evening cruises, etc. 

Long Live the Queen

Queen Elizabeth’s funeral is tomorrow and I can’t help but write a short blog/tribute to her as a queen, leader, mother, grandmother, head of state, and the list could go on and on. Her many, many roles and responsibilities are beyond my understanding but this strong, hardworking woman set an example for numerous generations when it came to duty, devotion, and again, hard work.

Queen Elizabeth is described and portrayed in books, movies, documentaries, and in the media as a steadfast and consistent foundation of English leadership and monarchy. The traditions and rituals of monarchy have been challenging and hard to uphold, maintain, and follow as it has put her in a challenging position with her family, her children and grandchildren at the expense of trying to keep the monarchy together, intact, and moving forward.

As I have read numerous books and have watched countless documentaries about the royal family, I have developed a deep respect for the Queen. Her job as a monarchy has not gone with pain, challenges, and sacrifices to her children and family. She had, at all times, put duty above all. She was an amazingly strong woman surrounded by advisors and courts that consisted of men who felt she could not lead or didn’t know how (at the age of 25) but she did and continued to prove them wrong. 15 prime misters walked through her doors not to mention tremendous change, upheaval, scandal and loss. The Queen kept the monarch together.

Important and impactful men and woman cast a big shadow, leave big shoes to fill, and not one can match up to her abilities and strength. The phrase, keep calm and carry on was put into use during WWII but the Queen’s parents as London has blitzed by the Germans. This quote holds true today for many around the world and also the royal family as they pay tribute to an amazing woman. Long live the queen and keep calm and carry on.

Labor Day

Why do we celebrate Labor Day?

September 5th is Labor Day but what is it, why do we celebrate it and how was it founded?  For many of us, it marks the end of summer and the start of school or the fall season.  For others, it’s nothing more than a day off.  But this federal holiday has great historical meaning to many hard-working Americans. 

At the turn of the century, due to many horrific labor conditions, unfair wages, etc. protests started to spring up throughout numerous industrial communities.  Those who were poor, immigrants, children (young and the old), and others worked incredibly long hours, in horrible and unsafe working conditions and with little pay.  These strikes were often plagued with violence and even death.  Two pivotal strikes included the Haymarket Riot of 1886 and Pullman Palace Car Company (1894).   Both of which took place in Chicago.

American workers were determined to be heard and valued for their work.  As a result of these numerous strikes, labor laws were put into place to protect workers and Labor Day became a day of celebration and rest for many. 

Today is for you to those who get up each day, go to work and work hard to provide for themselves, their families, and their communities.  I truly believe that all who can work should.  When people work and have a purpose, they tend to be happier, self-supportive, contribute and give to others, and have a fuller life.  Most people need purpose.  A reason to think outside of themselves.  I understand that many people don’t like their jobs or hate what they do, but still get up and do it every day.  Hard work ethic is the foundation of our American economy. 

My hope is that those who can work, that are not working or contributing to society, find the motivation to go into the workforce and help build our economy and communities.  Many did not return to work after COVID, and our supply logistic systems and overall economy have suffered. 

Labor Day is for you, the hard-working American who gives of themselves, who contributes to society, and gets up each day with a purpose and goes to work.  I hope today, is a day of rest for you.  For you to know your hard work is appreciated.  For you to know your work and purpose are valued. 

Do you have to attend every game?

It’s August and school starting mean football season at our house. Our 15 year plays football which means he dresses varsity and plays JV. Therefore, fall, school, and football has swooped in and pretty much destroyed my calendar and I assume many others.

Believe me, I enjoy football season and look forward to watching my son enjoy playing the game.  Many of us enjoy those moments when your child truly loves and enjoys the sport and they are fun to watch.  However, do you have to attend everything that your kids are in?

I have had many, many conversations over the past couple of months with moms and dads and almost all have said “YES” or “I can’t miss not getting watch them!”  I also get the, “I think you are crazy look” for even asking this silly question from a few.   However, from some, I see heavy shoulders, downward glances, and the weight of the world on their shoulders as they run in circles to every single event.

What is it that tells us in our heads and hearts, that we have to be at everything?  Is it parent guilt?  Is it social and societal pressure?  Is it out of habit?  Every family and parent is different and I will never tell anyone how to parent.  That is your business, not mine.  But why I bring this up, is that I see the quality of life for many parents and families, the level of stress, the level of running in circles, deflating the fact that you enjoy or want to see you kid do well and you want to be there to support them. 

You know what, I don’t make every game, horseback riding less, practice, etc.  The secret is out! I missed my son’s first JV game due to sickness and I did cry.  Call it parent shame or just the disappointment that I wanted to be there, to watch him play, to support him.  I had to remind myself, I can’t make every game and it’s ok. There will be dozens, upon dozens of games.  He understood and knew why.  He was good with it.

Sometimes my work, travel or another event like a wedding shower, wedding, etc. disrupt the fact that I (we) cannot be there.  But you know, your child knows you love them, that you support them and you are their biggest fan regardless of your presence.  That they can be successful, without you in the wings, that they can have a great game and talk your ear off about it when they get home.

I will call my kids before or after, get photos sent via text message and I hit up the next game, lesson, etc. the following week. 

I understand that your child might have their best game ever, or they hit that homerun or break that school record, make that first goal, etc. but I bet you money, they will do it again.

I had to remind myself not to put so much pressure on myself!  It is hard enough to be a parent and raise children today.  Don’t add to the stress and unrealistic expectations!  Find a balance, and learn to accept that you can’t do everything and that this is OK. 

Take care of yourself.  Take care of your sweet family and find time for yourself.  No more parent shaming and guess what, you don’t have to attend everything.

Back to School

In the past two weeks, many of us have gone back to school. For colleges, school starts tomorrow. It’s fun to see pictures on social media of families moving their kids to college and helping them set up their dorm rooms or apartments. A big change for many as they wave goodbye to their child and hope they make good choices, study hard and find good friends.

I have taught college students for 10 years between two colleges/universities and much has changed over the years, especially with COVID impacted high school youth. For 1-3 years, we told school-aged students not to come to school, not to play sports, not to get a job, they had no prom, no homecoming, etc. They just stayed home, because of COVID. Then these students come to college and it is like hitting a brick wall. They are shocked they have to come to class, that they must turn in homework, and that they need to engage in the class and be prepared to be successful. It has been a rough year or two helping these students make adjustments and take ownership of their academic journey.

The biggest challenge I have faced with students is their lack of time management which leads to self-diagnosis anxiety or stress-related issues. These students have been made to do little and be held accountable for little. So college is like a huge shift from kid to adulting. Students also don’t like the feeling of being stressed which is a natural and a lifelong emotion they need to adjust to, manage and work with to be successful.

So each year, I go over this college success handout that I created based on my own college experiences and from teaching college for a decade. If you have a high school or college student, feel free to share. My goal, as a professor, is to help students learn and grow in their academics, personal values, faith-based foundation, and help them become the person they are meant to be. This means building these life-long skills and abilities.

If you dropped off a child at college this past weekend, my heart is with you. Your child will do great and help encourage them to grow, learn and surround themselves with good people.

To the State Fair

We are off and running to the Indiana State Fair today. We try to go each year and with football, school, work, life, etc. time is getting away from us. We are hoping for a cool and cloudy weather, low attendance and no traffic (wish us luck).

My history with the State Fair goes back to my time in 4-H and my first college internship at the State Fair in the communication department. I learned so much as a communication intern that summer from writing press releases, assisting local news/media for story spotlights, covering numerous shows, writing for publications, and much more! I loved my time at the State Fair.

Today, our goal is to make it around the grounds, see Tanner’s 4-H project, not get rained on, let everyone eat something they want from the Fair, and see at least one thing they want to see. Our travel bag (aka bookbag/diaper bag) is stocked with diapers, snacks, Advil, water, toys, etc kid clothing, etc. A stop for caffeine (aka Starbucks) is required by me.

Those who have ventured out to the Fair and those still going, I hope you have a wonderful time and make some memories! I pray for little traffic, good weather, and lots of caffeine for you!

Too soon?

I admit it, I’m that person. I decorate for seasons and holidays WAY before acceptable time. And guess what, I’m good with it!

Christmas is up around November 1. Spring decor is up by March 1. And fall decorating is done and it’s August 6.

It you are an early holiday decorator, you are my tribe. I love changing out and moving out various decorations and rearranging home decor. With kids, they love the change of the holidays. There is something magical about these changes.

So for this short blog, cheers to all of those who put up their Halloween decorations in August and their Christmas is November. Below are some of our fall decorating. Have a great week!

Summer House Projects

An update on summer house projects and the commitment to putting holes in our walls…

When the summer started, we made a list of house and family goals that we hoped to accomplish.  Some of those goals included outside projects like fruit trees, a concrete pad, and patio updated.   While some projects in the house included finishing the snack bar and some wall hanging projects.  This leads me to the fact that I hate putting holes in our walls. 

We have a home that is almost 5 years old and we have lots of open wall space.  But the thought of holes, power tools, nails, screws, etc. makes me so nervous.  Once it goes in, it can’t be undone (it can be removed but there remains a hole).  And there is little room for error.  Hence, the industrial pipe shelf…

One of our children needed more shelf space to show and display his rocks, Legos, and collections and I love the look of a large pipe shelf but had never bought a kit.  So, I purchased a 3-shelf kit for $70  from Amazon and the assembly was pretty easy.  We purchased three 6-foot boards from Home Depot and I stained them deep brown.  The wood was $57.  But what threw me for a loop was that we were going to put 48 screws into the wall!

Each metal pipe attachment to the wall, consists of 4 screws!  There are 12 of them total.  Holy moly on a commitment to a wall project.  But after the first set went in, we were committed.  And it turned out great.  Take a look below at the before and after photos.  I would do another industrial pipe shelf and they are relativity easy to put together, cost-effective, quick to do, but you have to commit to the holes in the wall.

We also did a photo ledge over our bed.  I LOVE IT and more screws in the wall.  But with a photo ledge, instead of hanging a bunch of photos, it is only the ledge that gets screwed to the wall.  It really adds to our bedroom.  I am still working on a story wall in my office.  I will finish that up this fall (more holes in the wall).  I want our home to tell a story and for me, that is with photos, pictures, prints, etc.  Our home has a personality and it is ours.  But it takes putting some holes in the wall.  

Terrarium 101

Terrariums have become very popular over the past year or two.  I love the look and the idea of having a little container of nature in my house.   

Succulents have become my favorite plants due to the fact that I can keep them alive and they are easy to care for.  Terrariums are a great way to bring nature inside within the context of an enclosed glass or plastic container.  They are interesting, fun to make, and also kind of whimsical to have in the home. 

What I used for this simple terrarium:

  • Glass jar and remove the lid (from Dollar Store or Walmart, $5.99)
  • Potting soil
  • Decorative small gravel (any greenhouse or Hobby Lobby, usually in the fairy garden section, or craft selection).
  • Rocks that I have collected over the years.
  • Succulents (or small air ferns, plants, that need little watering, do well in the sun, etc.)
  • Paint brush or a rag (dry).

I started with putting about 3 inches of soil into the jar and then wiping the dust/soil off the inside of the jar.  Using a rag or dry paintbrush to constantly clean the inside of the jar is key.  Then I purchased three succulents and put them into the jar.  Lightly covering them and moving the soil around, then dusting again. 

I inserted the larger rocks, utilized the grey and pink gravel, and dusted again.  So simple and easy to do.  I water it sparingly and it looks amazing.  The kids even find it fun to check in from time to time.  The total project cost me about $20.  Some Walmarts have terrarium kits as well.  This would be fun to do with friends or have a terrarium-making party.  A super easy, fun project that even I can keep alive.