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How to Survive and Thrive Through the Adolescent Years of Marriage

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Last summer, just 10 days from our 17th wedding anniversary, we had our biggest fight ever. It started at Dairy Queen of all places, and continued in our driveway. Yes, that epic confrontation ended with the words nobody dreams they’ll utter when they’re standing pure and perfect on their wedding day.

“After all this time, I don’t think you really know who I am.”

I uttered those words to my husband on June 17, 2015.

My spirit was crushed.

You see, after 20 years together and 17 years of marriage, I thought my husband knew me. I thought he knew ALL of me. But big conversation and big questions revealed that I was wrong.

The only person who knows ALL of me is God, my creator, my maker, the one who formed me in my mother’s womb.

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The fact that my husband didn’t know a part of my heart that had been buried deep and wide since childhood was NOT his fault. I didn’t neglect to reveal every nook and cranny of my inner life before our wedding day. The truth is, I didn’t even begin to piece those parts of myself together until 13 years into marriage.

How can we be fully known when we don’t even fully know ourselves?

Sometimes we don’t know who we’re becoming until we’ve become.

We’re humans. Our deepest longing is to be known, loved, understood and accepted for who we are. But here’s the brutal truth. As much as we long, as much as we desire, as much as we try so hard to know, love, understand and accept others for who they are, it’s impossible to fully know any one person, even when they’re our spouse.

With all my heart, I wanted my husband to know that part of me.

With all my heart, I wanted my husband to understand that part of me.

I wanted him to embrace it as beautiful, lovely and blameless.

I was asking the world of him.

Can’t you just understand me?

Can’t you see what I see?

Can’t you feel what I’ve felt all these years?

Can’t you dig into my heart, live in my shoes, be me for a few moments so you see who I am, so you know every fabric of my human being?

What torture.

To ask ANY human being to know us FULLY is FOLLY, pure and utter foolishness.

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“I don’t think you really know who I am.”

In that moment, life was simultaneously crystal clear and as clear as mud.

My husband didn’t know or understand a part of my heart, a part of who I am, a part of who I’ve been becoming these 40 years. It wasn’t his fault. It wasn’t his problem. It wasn’t his duty to bow down before me and say, “Yes, okay honey. Whatever you say, think, or do is a-okay, honey.” I didn’t want blind submission. I wasn’t looking for the world’s artificial answer to an always-happy marriage.

I was looking for a heart-to-heart connection. If my husband didn’t know or understand that part of me, I wanted him to talk it through with me anyway, trust me anyway, believe in me anyway, love me anyway, liberate me anyway, live it out with me anyway. Because that’s what marriage does.

Don’t worry. Don’t freak out. Don’t stay up all night wondering if our marriage is on the rocks. One year and 10 days have passed since that particular point of contention. We worked through it, and our marriage is still alive and kicking. Yesterday, we held hands for a few minutes at our son’s baseball tournament. Today, we’re celebrating our 18th wedding anniversary.

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There was a bigger lesson to be learned from that epic confrontation on June 17, 2015. A lesson that has potential to transform marriages. A lesson that invites husbands and wives to to honor each other as individuals AND celebrates their partnership as a couple. A lesson I’m still learning and working hard to implement every day. A lesson that helps couples not only survive, but thrive through the adolescent years of marriage.

Seek NOT to be known by your spouse, but to KNOW your spouse.

TRUE. It’s impossible to fully know any one person, even when they’re our spouse. TRUE. God is the only one who fully knows us. TRUE. As human beings, we’re changing and growing every day. TRUE. God doesn’t expect you to know everything about your spouse. TRUE. God invites you to “love your neighbor as yourself.” TRUE. Love is not self-seeking…the hardest of all.

I’m not an expert theologian. I’m not a marriage counselor. And I’m not a professional philosopher. But piecing together all of the above, I would like to propose that if our goal is to honor and keep our wedding vows, we must do our part to know and understand the ins and outs of our spouse to the best of our ability. It’s as simple and as hard as that.

Seth

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So let’s take a look at how this plays out in real life. As you will see, I’m suggesting that these are not just daily disagreements, but opportunities to know and understand your spouse better, opportunities to fine-tune your response so it not only honors your marriage, but honors the individual perspectives of husband and wife.

Seek NOT to be known by your spouse, but to KNOW your spouse.

Should we let our 13-year-old who has braces get away with brushing his teeth once a day, or can we please force him to brush 2-3 times a day?

Seek NOT to be known by your spouse, but to KNOW your spouse.

Should we eat lunch before we do errands or after we do errands?

Seek NOT to be known by your spouse, but to KNOW your spouse.

Should the bench go to the right of the door, or to the left of the door in our garage?

Seek NOT to be known by your spouse, but to KNOW your spouse.

Does he know what I do during the day, how stressful it is to balance motherhood with my personal and professional aspirations?

Seek NOT to be known by your spouse, but to KNOW your spouse.

Does she know what I do during the day, what my job entails, how stressful it really is at work?

Seek NOT to be known by your spouse, but to KNOW your spouse.

Should we watch late-night fireworks at Magic Kingdom, or should we take advantage of fewer people in the park and go on rides instead?

Seek NOT to be known by your spouse, but to KNOW your spouse.

Should we use scotch tape or masking tape to hang two posters inside our daughter’s closet doors?

Seek NOT to be known by your spouse, but to KNOW your spouse.

Should Angela Lansbury have sung “Tale as Old as Time” in that epic Beauty and the Beast scene, or should they have broken into a much grander, NON-Angela Lansbury version for added drama?

Seek NOT to be known by your spouse, but to KNOW your spouse.

How should we indicate budgeted vs. actuals spent on the paper and pencil budget we created for our 2015 tax return?

Seek NOT to be known by your spouse, but to KNOW your spouse.

Should we lie down on the bed or sit up while we’re watching a movie in our bedroom?

Seek NOT to be known by your spouse, but to KNOW your spouse.

Come over here so we can take a selfie quick!

Seek NOT to be known by your spouse, but to KNOW your spouse.

I hate selfies. They’re awkward and make me feel totally uncomfortable.

Seek NOT to be known by your spouse, but to KNOW your spouse.

Should we plant the new Ninebark shrub one foot this way or one foot that way? We always have these disagreements on where plants should be placed. It’s like a high school debate. Who’s going to win? Who’s going to lose? Who’s the judge anyway? Does this really matter anyway?

Seek NOT to be known by your spouse, but to KNOW your spouse.

Do you see how this works? Do you see how this plays out? As any married couple knows, stupid, piddly, daily disagreements like this happen all the time. Whether our discussions are small or big, important or not important at all, it MATTERS HOW we work through life as a married couple, it MATTERS HOW we work through disagreements as a married couple. How well we work to know and understand each others’ perspectives is crucial.

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For more than two years, I dreamed of going to Haiti with my husband for my 40th birthday. I wanted us to experience a mission trip together for the first time in our married life. I wanted him to see me in my happy place. I wanted him to KNOW that part of me. But truth is, as much as I desperately wanted that dream to come true, I finally realized I was forcing it. I KNEW my husband, and I KNEW he wasn’t really interested in going to Haiti. Yes, I really wanted him to SEE and KNOW that part of me, but ultimately, it wasn’t worth it.

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Nearly three months ago, we found out that my dad had been approved for a lung transplant and were told he would soon be placed on the national lung transplant registry. My husband suggested we try to fit in a quick vacation before my dad went on the list and while the kids were still in school. I thought it was an improbable reality, but said yes anyway. We booked the vacation, arranged child care with my generous and thoughtful in-laws, and exactly THREE WEEKS LATER, we were on the plane headed for a 4-night Disney cruise to the Bahamas.

I’ll share more of the story in my 40th birthday post later this week, but in short, we tried and tried to find all kinds of last-minute vacations. After lots of looking and needing to make this decision fast and now, I finally decided that I wanted this vacation to be for my husband. HE was the one who suggested it. HE was the one who had the idea to fit something in before my dad went on the list. HE was the one who had specific destinations and vacations in mind. HE was the one who had been stressed at work and needed a simple, sunny, relaxing vacation. Why was I trying to force ANY of myself onto this vacation when I was NEVER planning it in the first place? Why not KNOW my husband and give him what I KNEW he’d choose if it was only up to him? So I suggested the Disney cruise we weren’t even considering until that day I had a change of heart. I knew it was a winner when I sent him the text. I knew he’d be all over it. And he was.

One afternoon at Magic Kingdom from 4 pm to midnight PLUS a 4-night Disney cruise. No kids. Plenty of sun and relaxation. And everything Disney. My husband’s perfect vacation.

I’m still having a hard time reconciling the fact that we went on a last-minute 4-night Disney cruise instead of my long-planned Haiti mission trip. A Disney cruise wasn’t what I envisioned AT. ALL. There will be NO Haiti trip for my 40th. But it’s okay. I KNEW my husband. I KNEW he’d LOVE a Disney cruise. I knew this would be a gift to him, and I KNEW I would enjoy myself as well.

Just as I suspected, we had a great time!

During our afternoon at Magic Kingdom, on the Disney cruise, and especially during a breathtakingly beautiful day at Blue Lagoon, we spent time alone again, we got to KNOW one another all over again, we understood each other better than we had in while.

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I like to wander and experience God’s creation in my own sweet time. I like a little adventure, more than I ever knew we got married. I’m desperate to discover what’s beyond the roped-off boardwalk. I’ll easily spend an hour exploring the root-system of a knocked-down tree on the beach. 100 photos of tiny shoots sticking up from the sand? Sounds perfect to me.

He revels in God’s majesty through rest. In the water. On the beach. On a chair, knee deep, or belly flat down in the lagoon. He closes his eyes, spurts affirmations and praises of all good things. “This is amazing. I can’t believe how awesome this place is. This day is perfect.” A beer. Some food. Time with his wife. Nobody around except a single guy who’s exploring? Sounds perfect to him.

We’ve known each other. We won’t ever fully know each other. But we’re getting to know each other more and more every day.

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Knowing your spouse does NOT mean bending over backwards to meet their every need. Knowing your spouse does NOT mean losing yourself so your spouse gets everything they want. Knowing your spouse does NOT mean you’re a doormat. Knowing your spouse does NOT mean you get less, and they get more. Knowing your spouse does NOT mean you lose and they win. Knowing your spouse does NOT mean that they have fun while you do all the hard work. Knowing your spouse does NOT mean they get to love life, while you hate life.

Knowing your spouse means you’re mutually understanding, accommodating, allowing and liberating your husband or wife to have a voice, to grow and develop, to be who they are within the context of marriage, within the context of parenting, within the context of family, within the context of work, within the context of pain and pleasure, within the context of life.

How to survive and thrive through the adolescent years of marriage?

Seek NOT to be known by your spouse, but to KNOW your spouse.

greensig

Carol Femling - Here’s to many more years together!! Happy 18th Anniversary!!! Love you both so much!! Wishing you everything GOOD!!! ❤️June 28, 2016 – 1:04 am

Monica Anderson Palmer - Awesome! Needed this. Thank you.June 27, 2016 – 6:53 pm

Carol Femling - I’ve been married to your dad for almost 43 years and I’ll admit I’ve found out more about him in the last 10 years than I’d care to know. Even after almost 48 years with him, I’m questioning things I never questioned before. All couples go through things you mentioned, but some things God puts before us in life are VERY difficult. Marriage is quite a complicated journey and you really have to work at it and pray A LOT!!! Just get to know Seth NOW and continue to have a beautiful marriage!! Love you both so much!!! Mom ❤️June 27, 2016 – 6:45 pm

The Secret Society of Stay-at-Home Moms

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I brought my girls and a friend to the beach yesterday, and happened to plop myself in front of a group of three moms and their kids. Clearly, they knew each other and had the afternoon planned well in advance. Based on the conversation I overheard and behavior I observed (one of the moms took 20 minutes to test her daughter on time tables), I deduced that these three were homeschooling moms.

“Sorry, you get a front row seat to all of this,” said one of the moms after lots of kiddo action transpired three feet from my beach towel.

“No worries,” I said. “I have another one at home who’d typically be adding to our chaos if he was here, so I totally understand. No problem at all.”

“How old is your son?,” she asked.

“13,” I replied.

“So you know way more than we do,” she said.

“Well, looks like two of yours are boys, so you’re quite experienced as well,” I added.

And that was it.

That was my interaction with ONE of those THREE moms.

After that brief interchange, we went about our own business. She continued conversing with the two moms. I continued chilling on my beach towel, watching my two girls and a friend play in the water.

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I’ve been a mom for nearly 14 years now.

In the first 12 years of motherhood, I experienced the whole realm of working motherhood. I worked FULL-TIME, FOUR days a week, THREE days a week, TWO days a week, and ONE day a week at some point or another during those 12 years. All things considered, two and three days a week seemed to be the best fit for me.

But then I was called to step away from my work as a speech-language therapist to pursue writing and photography. In order to make a real run at writing and photography, I KNEW I needed to stop my therapy work entirely. So for the past 18 months, I’ve lived this very ODD life of being a full-time stay-at-home mom AND a mom who’s trying to launch two work-at-home careers.

Let me tell you, I’ve learned a great deal about stay-at-home moms during these past 18 months. More than I ever thought I’d learn. More than I ever cared to learn. Enough to give me a TRUE perspective on what it’s really like to be a full-time stay-at-home mom.

First of all, staying at home full-time in America is NOT a cake walk. For the most part, it is NOT valued by our capitalistic, work-centered culture. I don’t know the statistics and no need to go into the details, but everyone knows that the majority of modern-day moms work outside the home in some capacity. And most of the moms who stay home full-time have children on the younger side. So if you’re a mom of children of mixed ages like me (13, 11 & 4), the whole stay-at-home mom situation gets even more awkward and makes you even more of a rare bird.

In America, if you’re not actively making money, you’re not as valued. We like to believe we value full-time stay at home moms, but to be honest, now that I’ve experienced full-time stay-at-home motherhood, I’m not sure we do.

In America, if you can’t answer the question “What do you do?” with a real, active job title, you’re up a creek. “You stay at home full-time? Oh.” (Awkward pause. Person doesn’t know what to say. Person wonders what you DO with your day. Person wonders WHY you have an education but you’re not using it. Person wonders WHY you have solid experience in the workforce and aren’t “working” anymore. Think I’m making this up? No way. It’s humiliating and humbling.)

In our neighborhood, streets are pretty much EMPTY during the daytime. I’d go so far to say that our neighborhood streets are pretty much EMPTY during the daytime, even in the summer. When I’m home alone with my daughter during the day and she wants to play with kids, I can’t guarantee even ONE child will be available in the neighborhood. Maybe yes? Probably no. Let’s just say this…I’ve resorted to texting the neighborhood daycare lady so we can meet at the neighborhood park once in a while.

In America, if you’re a highly educated woman who’s staying home full-time with her children, you have days where you feel incredibly vulnerable. Is this really the right choice for me and my children? Am I wasting my college degree? Are my children really better off with me at home, or would they be better off at daycare or day camp where all the other children are having fun socializing and doing fun kid stuff together all day? Honestly, most of the time, I’m not really sure.

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I’m new to this staying at home space, and won’t be here much longer. Only 14 months of staying home full-time before all three of my children are in school full-time. Once they’re all in school full-time, I’ll be focusing solely on writing and photography and other related PAID and UNPAID endeavors during the daytime hours. So honestly, I’m not really seeking long-term answers for myself. I’m grateful for the opportunity to have experienced stay-at-home motherhood, and when I look back at this time of my life, I know I’ll never regret it.

But here’s the thing.

Many days, I wish I could step outside to a village full of moms and children doing this motherhood and childhood thing together. The moms would chat about all the things that matter and don’t matter. Perhaps they’d begin dinner preparations together, or enjoy lunch together. The children would run, play and entertain themselves. There’d never be a shortage of kids, because staying at home to raise the children would be the norm. You’d always know that if you stepped outside, the village would be waiting. Kids here. Moms there. Support everywhere. People who understood your stay-at-home mom lifestyle everywhere. (I’m unrealistically optimistic, okay? I fully realize I’m not in Africa anymore.)

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Since we don’t live in villages in America, it’s imperative that we not only embrace, but adopt and whole-heartedly support secret societies of stay-at-home moms that are already in existence.

Secret societies of stay-at-home moms at the gym.

Secret societies of stay-at-home moms at Mothers of Preschoolers (MOPS) groups.

Secret societies of stay-at-home homeschooling moms.

Secret societies of stay-at-home moms doing playdates together.

Secret societies of stay-at-home moms at the maze on Monday, toddler Tuesday at the mall, the park reserve on Wednesday, swimming at the pool on Thursday, and the zoo on Friday.

Secret societies of stay-at-home moms who bring meals to one another when life gets crazy.

Secret societies of stay-at-home moms who can lend a hand for an hour or two when you just can’t do this anymore.

Secret societies of stay-at-home moms who get it, who understand it, who can say “yep, been there, done that, I totally get it!”

Secret societies of stay-at-home moms who can love and support and care for one another in the best and worst of times.

Secret societies of stay-at-home moms who do life together, who honor one another’s hard, hard work, who understand that this lifestyle has value and worth beyond measure.

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I think I was sitting behind a secret society of stay-at-home homeschooling moms yesterday at the beach. Good for them! I’m grateful they have a space to joke “We need to go to counseling together,” and “I get so agitated with her dyslexia, dysgraphia and ADHD.” I’m grateful that one of those moms felt comfortable enough around the other moms to scold her child “Stop kicking that sand, move away, it’s getting in our faces!” and NOT feel like a “terrible mom.” I’m grateful they were able to eat lunch together and chat while their children played in the sand. I’m grateful they had an opportunity to feel supported and loved and cared for. I’m grateful they created this secret society for themselves.

Stay-at-home moms. Rise above the mainstream. Keep up those secret societies! Build them. Support them. Nurture them. Invite other moms to them. Never, ever forget that America’s in desperate need of secret stay-at-home societies. Never, ever forget that moms are in desperate need of secret stay-at-home societies.

If staying at home full-time has value and we want it to be more highly valued in the United States of America, we MUST find a way to support our stay-at-home moms and children.

Secret Societies of Stay-at-Home Moms.

They’re a solution to an epidemic of a problem.

Moms and children need support. Moms and children need community. Moms and children need love. Moms and children need to know they’re not going crazy. Moms and children need to know they’re making good choices for their family.

Period.

End of story.

pinksig

 

Tara Dorn - Amen! Perfectly written, Amy! I never thought I would be a stay-at-home-mom, but due to life’s circumstances (and God’s plan), here I am, about to start year 9! I am a rare bird too, in that weird place where my kids are all in school full time, and I am still not bringing in a paycheck – so am I still called a stay-at-home-mom? During the summer, yes, but during the school year? Volunteer maybe? I am very thankful for the secret societies that I have and I love that you called them that! I was recently at an event for a friend and went through the whole range of guilt, shame, not good enough, jealousy, and even a bit of anger when the others there said, “oh you’re JUST a stay-at-home-mom”. I felt that I had to defend myself and go into all of the situations that have caused me to sstill be home – my mom’s battle with cancer and most recently, my dad’s brain injury and how I will be becoming my own Dad’s guardian soon. I know that it is my own self-consciousness and I shouldn’t care about being valued by society, but I do have to continuously remind myself that God values me and that is really all that matters! You hit the nail on the head with this entry, Amy, keep on writing!!!June 22, 2016 – 9:09 pm

My Perception of My Dad

This is a guest post written by my younger sister, Tiffany, who has a diagnosis of schizoaffective disorder, bipolar type. Tiffany has shared a monthly guest post on my blog since February 2015. The purpose of her regular posts is to raise awareness of what it’s like to live with mental illness. Last month, Tiffany honored our mom’s unique journey through motherhood with a guest post thanking her for all the ways she’s supported my sister from childhood to current day. This month, Tiffany is honoring our dad with a special post for Father’s Day. If you’d like to read all the posts written about Tiffany’s journey, check out the mental health page. Without further ado, here’s Tiffany.

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Who is my dad?

Those who have interacted with him know he loves people, always making small talk with people he comes across in life. My dad has always been a role model to me, and I’m sure to others as well. My dad is waiting another month to be put on the lung transplant list. My hope for my dad is for him to live a few more years without having to rely on oxygen. To take walks together, to talk a few more years and to have my dad around a little bit longer.

My dad has always been my cheerleader. I always remember him saying when I was younger and many times now, “Way to go Tiff, you can do it.” His encouraging words always seem to make me feel better. My dad has always pushed me further than I thought I could go. I feel that I succeeded in many activities and stayed strong because of my dad.

My dad worked two jobs while my sister, brother and I were growing up. He was a band director and a car salesman. He always left time to hang out with his family. Our family would have dinner each night and hang out with my dad while my mom was cleaning up from dinner. We would practice our instruments, fly kites, go to the park and play what we would call “tricks.” Our “tricks” consisted of being held up in the air with my dad’s feet and arms. We would sit on his foot and be pulled around, and we’d ride around on his back. My dad was the one who taught me how to pray. He would pray with us, and us kids would fall asleep afterwards.

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My dad and I have always taken walks together. Before he was sick I could barely keep up with him. We’d talk about whatever and look at the stars together. One of the only consistent stars I can point out is the big dipper. We still have our talks, which we’ve had since I was younger, but they’re just different now. I am looking forward to the future, so we can take walks and fast walks again.

My dad has been through my life during the ups and downs. After completing my bachelors degree from the University of Minnesota – Duluth, I worked for a few years in Minneapolis. After that, I decided to check out The Fashion Institute of Design and Merchandising (FIDM) in Los Angeles. My dad flew out to LA to look at the school and for places to live. I was going to live in Venice Beach.

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During one of our trips to the Los Angeles area, we took the bus a few places. My dad was communicating with everyone. I told him that in LA, everyone doesn’t talk to each other. We had coffee at a place that ended up being my favorite in the hood. I left my dad at the coffee place and took off to hang with some new friends. We played music together. Then I went back to pick my dad up.

My dad came to visit a few times during my time in Los Angeles. On one of his lasts visits to me in LA was mass confusion. I was working with Jim Carrey as an extra in an airport scene in a movie, and I had to go and pick my dad from another airport. The people I was working with wanted me to change my wardrobe, and I did not want to stand in the wardrobe line again. I was crying and Jim Carrey asked what was going on with me. The issue was resolved. On my way to pick up my dad from the other airport, the battery on my phone died. I started getting psychotic! My dad was in LA for over two weeks, and I rarely saw him. I get very emotional when I think of our times in LA. My dad always introduces me as an actress. The truth is that I never envisioned myself as an actress. I do NOT have good memory skills. I was pretty good in the background, and I miss all the lights and cameras.

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My kids have been able to utilize my dad as a father figure. He enjoys when they’re around if they are behaving well. We are working on that. My dad’s energy is very low right now, but we’re doing what we can. My dad has a boat that we try to go on as much as possible during the summer months. He reads a lot with my kids. He treats my kids similar to the way he raised us, always playing and big hugs and have a good day. I know my growing up years were great. I know that my kids and I are being helped the right way by my parents and others.

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One guy in my history of my living has asked my dad for his blessing to marry me. I’ve known for a few years that I was not in the right place to get married, not yet. I wasn’t sure if my dad would be strong enough to walk me down the aisle. It just makes me sad. As I was walking out from an appointment at the hospital the other day, I was thinking to myself that I am prepared to take this journey alone. Then I looked down and noticed a fairly large diamond. I told the hospital I found it, but nobody has claimed that diamond, so it’s mine, I guess?! Either way, I am prepared for whatever God chooses for me. If I could find some guy who treats me as my dad has, maybe I’d make some sort of decision?!

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My dad has always been the person in my life who I can talk to without being judged or feeling judged. My dad is a very positive person, most of the time. I have learned a lot from my dad’s style of living. I wish him many wonderful years ahead, full of love.

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Carol Femling - Great tribute to your dad, Tiff!! Yes, you three kids were blessed to have a dad that spent so much quality time with all of you!! Love you! ❤️June 18, 2016 – 1:11 am

Angie Hanlon - This is so heartfelt, with so many great details. Bless you and your dad this weekend!June 17, 2016 – 10:11 pm

Sandi Bishop - YOU are both blessed! What a wonderful tribute. We are believing for that transplant to take place soon and for a positive recovery.June 17, 2016 – 6:19 pm

Dianne Kay Dahl - Tiffany, what a beautiful tribute you have written! We are all praying that you have many more years to make happy memories!June 17, 2016 – 5:20 pm

Denise Korman - Tiff, As I read your blog about you and your Dad I have tears running down my face…knowing you so well and feeling like a part of the wonderful Femling family I understand exactly how you feel ! I believe your Dad has such a positive attitude on life that he will receive a transplant quickly and recover to take those long walks with you and talk and talk like he has always done.It’s in the good Lord’s hands now and he will take care of your Dad ! Keep your faith strong, be positive and watch for the incredible miracle ! As our Jewish friends say , ” To Life, To Life, Lukieum..” As I say, “To Life To Life Bruce”…We are all praying and pulling for him in SC…see you when he gets the call !June 17, 2016 – 4:57 pm

I Needed a Haircut to See Myself Differently

Three or four years ago, I started threatening my husband that I was going to cut my hair off super short and dye it blonde. I casually threatened and joked because I knew I wasn’t brave or bold enough to cut it all off. I casually threatened and joked because I knew my husband strongly prefers me and his girls to have long hair. That is, until one year ago when my husband shaved his head. He began to understand where I was coming from, and granted me complete freedom to go ahead and cut and color my hair however I wanted.

Okay. I know you’re going to roll your eyes, puke in your mouth a bit (if you’re my husband), or maybe even wonder “What in the WORLD is Amy thinking? Has she gone mad?” But think Miley Cyrus. Yes, this is the haircut I envisioned in my mind all those years. No need to go into details, but you know this cut has an even edgier styling option, right?

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Why am I talking about haircuts and sharing photos of celebrities today, anyway? Because this seemingly random story about hair has a real-life application. There’s a bigger lesson to be learned here, and I didn’t realize it until I cut my hair.

So let’s go back in time a bit. I promise, this won’t take long.

I’m super low maintenance when it comes to my hair. When I say SUPER low maintenance, I mean it. I get my haircut twice a year AT MOST. I don’t make appointments ahead of time. I pretty much get to the point of emergency and take an appointment wherever I can get in. Hence, the longest amount of time I’ve stayed with one stylist in my adult life is maybe a year or two. I’ve only highlighted my hair a couple times, and have never had a full color job. Garnier Fructis is my shampoo of choice ($3 or less with coupon). Typically, I have ONE high-end smoothing product to help manage my frizzy hair, and that lasts me for several years because I use it so sparingly. Five minutes is the perfect amount of time for styling; anything beyond that is annoying and crosses into high maintenance. And anyone who knows me in real life knows that I love, love, LOVE ponytails. Ponytails are the best, especially when you’ve had the lovely experience of lice through your house twice in one year. Yeah, ever since that, I’ve worn the ponytail 5-6 days a week.

Moving on.

I’d last gotten a haircut in early September 2015. I wore my hair in a bun while I was in Kenya, and kept the spirit of Kenya alive by wearing my hair in a bun EVERY SINGLE DAY from November 26, 2015 through April 26, 2016 when I finally got my haircut. That’s five months, people! I thought the bun was totally working until my former neighbor’s mom saw me in the store and said she barely recognized me because my hair was “so slicked back.” (I wasn’t sure her words were meant as a compliment. I, for one, loved the bun, but knew it was another trap.)

Time to get that haircut.

I’d been thinking and talking about that short haircut for SO long, that I knew this haircut was going to be TOTALLY SHORT or SAFE AND BORING (think ponytail).

Research phase began.

Maybe I should get something dark and edgy, like rocker Demi Lovato?

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Maybe I should get something chic and sophisticated, like my one and only television role model, Megyn Kelly?

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Ultimately, I narrowed my selection to two realistic favorites which I shared on my Facebook page so people could give me their opinions on the cuts. Julianne Hough rocking the short, but not TOO short hair.

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Or Emma Watson rocking the safe, but definitely short style.

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The rubber hit the road. It was time to decide. Money was budgeted. The appointment was booked. My decision was SAFE or SHORT, and I was going SHORT. I wasn’t 100% sure about the decision, but I was hovering around 97%.

This is me the night before the haircut. No makeup. Hair just washed and air dried. No products. No styling. My thick, frizzy inherited hair is a challenge to manage. Can you imagine how long it takes to tame this into something presentable everyday (besides a ponytail)?

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This is me the morning of the haircut. Slicked back into a bun. The same way I’d worn it every day for the past five months.

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Haircut time!

I went to a new salon and booked with a stylist I’d never met. Thank goodness I had a solid referral from a former patient’s mom I trust whole-heartedly when it comes to matters of the hair!

I showed the stylist all the short hair photos I’d pinned. She didn’t want to cut my hair quite that short since it was the first time she’d EVER cut my hair and didn’t know how it was going to respond. So we agreed on a slightly longer version, Carrie Underwood’s 2016 Grammy’s cut. I knew the cut was longer than anything I’d envisioned, but it was still MUCH shorter than any style I’d had since 5th grade, so I agreed.

Carrie

“All this hair is weighing you down,” she said.

So off went the hair.

I didn’t bat an eye.

This haircut was long, long overdue.

It was freeing. A weight literally lifted off my shoulders.

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I had a few errands to do, but knew my husband was eagerly awaiting the results of my big haircut. All the friends and family who’d weighed in on my haircut on Facebook would appreciate an “after” picture, right? So I tried a couple selfies in the car, but that didn’t work out very well. (Selfies are the worst thing ever. SO awkward!)

After the failed selfie attempt, I went into the mall to do my errands.

As I walked the aisles, I remembered that if there’s one vanity item I really do love and appreciate, it’s clothing. With the exception of a sports bra, I haven’t requested a clothing budget in forever and a day. I glanced at myself in mirrors, trying to determine if I liked this haircut or not, whether I looked good in it or not. Was I crazy for thinking this was a good idea? What’s more, I looked deep in my eyes and noticed they didn’t sparkle any more or less after the haircut.

That’s when I started noticing a difference. Right there in the mall. Right after my big haircut. That’s when I started feeling and SEEING a difference.

This wasn’t really about a short haircut. This was about proving to myself that it was okay to take a risk. This was about proving to myself that it would turn out okay even if it wasn’t perfect. This was aligning my outsides more closely to my transformed insides. This was about seeing myself differently. This was about seeing the world differently. This, in fact, had very little to do with my outward physical appearance and very much to do with my wellness, wholeness and perspective on life. This was about me learning to say no AND yes to what’s me AND what’s not me. This was about embracing my life and taking responsibility for how I choose to live it.

I needed to think, believe and behave differently than I had before.

I needed to see myself differently. 

I needed to see differently.

And that’s exactly what began to happen when I got my haircut.

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I tried some more selfies that afternoon and again the next morning, but I never did share an “after” picture on my Facebook page. Guess it’s all here today, right?

Here’s the truth. The haircut wasn’t about everyone else, anyway. I didn’t need anyone’s approval or disapproval. In the end, the haircut was about taking the RISK I knew I needed to take.

Maybe I’m taking this too far. Maybe I’m overanalyzing this haircut. But what if I’m not?

What’s on your heart? What small or big decision’s been weighing on your mind for days, weeks, months or years? What risk have you been longing to take, but fear has stopped you for some reason? What do you KNOW you need to do, but can’t bring yourself to do it for any reason at all?

Here’s the secret. Nobody knows but me, but I’ve been saying YES to a lot of little things since I got that haircut six weeks ago. Saying YES to the haircut helped me see myself and the world differently, which gave me confidence to say YES to a bunch of things I wanted and needed to say YES to.

So what’s your YES today? What risk do you need to take – small or big – to propel yourself forward in life? Perhaps you need a haircut, too? Or perhaps it’s something else, anything else. I’m believing somebody’s out there, somebody’s listening, somebody needs to hear this.

TAKE the RISK.

Do it.

See your life differently.

See life differently.

See differently.

pinksig

Christine De Leon - I appreciate the symbolism. Fear keeps us tied up and weighed down in what “seems” comfortable and practical, but it’s stagnant. It’s risky to make a change. But changes bring new perspectives and new growth and new life to make a healthier you…with healthier hair added in! Bravo!June 20, 2016 – 10:21 am

Stephanie Arnold - I’m glad I read this. I’m in the process of debating a major haircut as well. I think you made a great choice. You look so much younger. It looks great on you.June 19, 2016 – 4:57 pm

Lisa - I just stumbled across your blog from FB but wanted to comment and say how much I really LOVE your new haircut. It looks SO good on you! Also I love the perspective you bring about how it encouraged you to make other small changes or risks in your life. It is freeing when we have that knowledge about ourselves.June 19, 2016 – 3:21 pm

Denise Korman - I love your hair !! It is so flattering … And this blog is one of my favorite blogs…take a risk !!!June 10, 2016 – 2:22 am

Cathy Olson - You look Amazing!June 9, 2016 – 3:59 pm

Jaimie West Bowman - This is awesome Amy!! I love how you looked deeper to see what that urge was about. It looks great on you :)June 9, 2016 – 3:26 pm

Amy Jacobson - Love, love, love it! I recently took 9 inches off and it feels awesome!June 9, 2016 – 3:16 pm

Mary Katherine Boyle - love it !June 9, 2016 – 2:39 pm

Hidden Blessings

It’s a joy to introduce you to Disa who’s sharing her unique journey to and through motherhood as part of our month-long guest post series, Special Mamas. Disa and I went to college together. We attended the same campus church, were student deacons together, and I’m sure we had some overlap of coursework as she was majoring in education and I was majoring in speech-language pathology. Disa is now a mom of FIVE, including a set of QUADRUPLETS! Today, she’s sharing the hidden blessings she’s found as a mama of quads. I think you’ll find her post interesting, enjoyable and easy to read. And yeah, there are a bunch of super cute big brother + quadruplets photos you won’t want to miss! Please extend a warm welcome to Disa.

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As anyone will tell you, being a Mom is a blessing in so many ways. For the past six to seven years especially, I have been spending many days thinking about the hidden blessings that have occurred in my life. For me, some are very evident, and some took me a while to realize the blessing God was busy creating for me.

I am a daughter, sister, wife, mother of a nine-year-old son, six-year-old daughter and THREE six-year-old sons (QUADRUPLETS). I am a planner and organizer, and until the end of August I had been a stay at home mom for the past five years. Now I am back to work teaching 4th grade. I always knew I wanted to be a teacher. I didn’t think I could ever be a full-time stay at home mom, but I loved that a teacher offered some stay at home mom opportunities for me. I knew I wanted this long before I went to college or was even close to becoming a mom. I also knew I wanted more than two kids; four kids was what I thought would be perfect. 25+ years later, I am back to teaching again after being a stay at home mom for the past five years to care for my busy family. (I got my four children, just a little different from how I thought or planned!)

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Finding out we were pregnant with quadruplets was an extreme shock and took us forever to fully grasp, maybe it still hasn’t sunk in. We knew having four babies at once was a HUGE blessing but seeing all of the blessings it would offer is still coming into view for us. Upon finding out this news, we were struck with worry. How would this affect our then three-year-old son? How would we financially handle this? How would we fit four more children in our modest three-bedroom home? How can we handle four babies, a three year old, and still have some form of a life without living close to any family? How would all of this affect us mentally and emotionally?

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Our nearest family members were three plus hours away. We thought for sure we would need to be moving closer to family, but the thought of trying to sell and move while pregnant was too much for us. From the instant we told our families the news, they were by our sides. They made extra trips to visit, took care of our son, found extra baby things we would need, and prayed. They are family, we knew we could count on them regardless of the distance.

Early on in my pregnancy, I remember a good friend of mine coming and offering to help me in the classroom once a week right after she was done volunteering in her daughter’s classroom. My first instinct was to say no, but I distinctly remember a voice saying to me, you need to say yes, you are going to need a lot more help in the next few years, you better start saying yes now.

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At school, my coworkers were amazing. Once they found out I needed to rest as much as possible, but needed to work as long as possible too, they started doing little things like walking my students to lunch and other places so I wouldn’t have to. They also started preparing food for me and my family twice a week starting in December and continued to bring dinners to us until the end of May. It was amazing to not have to worry so much about food and grocery shopping.

A good friend from church started a list of people in church who would be available to help when the babies come home from the hospital. For at least the first two years, I had helpers come spend time with us. It allowed me time to run errands, spend time with our older son uninterrupted, and just give me a break to save my sanity. Little did we know this would create some incredible bonds for all of us. Because of the connections we have made in the past six years, we have rooted ourselves in our community. We have gained some wonderful “extended” family. One of our helpers lost her 50-year-old son to an accident just before our babies were born. The time she was able to help hold and play with the babies was healing for her too. We are still close with all of them and they are still available to help when needed.

We knew I would need to stay home with the kids for several years, so now we are significantly cutting our income and more than doubling our family. Also, remember I thought I wasn’t cut out to be a stay at home mom, full time anyway. But, amongst this struggle we knew we needed to do something different. Our three-year-old son was really having a difficult time going to daycare the weeks and months before we found out we were pregnant with quads. We knew we needed to make some type of change, but we were not sure what that would be. In reality, I don’t think I would have ever considered staying at home with my children if I had only been pregnant with one baby that time around either. Funny how God works in these situations.

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The more I stayed home with the kids, the more I realized how much I enjoyed it. I was there for all the little things. I remember calling my husband on more than one occasion to thank him for working so hard, so that I could stay home and be there for the little things. Like the few times my son forgot his tennis shoes and he didn’t want to miss gym as it was his favorite class. I was there to get them to him. I was able to make myself available to volunteer in his classroom every week. I was available for the little programs and events in the class. I could stay home to take care of sick kids without having to worry about missing work. I had the time to bake and cook for my family. We had time to do little projects, play games, just let the kids be kids and stay in their warm winter pajamas all day long as we weren’t going anywhere and it sure felt good on a cold winter day. I was able to get involved in our local MOPS group and meet other Mothers of Preschoolers. Being it was difficult to leave the house with five kids, I was able to have moms over for coffee and playdates. Connections I was able to make because I was at home. I didn’t realize these little things were so important to me, but as I stayed home I began to realize how much I liked doing all of those little things.

If there is any suggestion I can offer to mommas regardless of the number of children you have, remember: there can be hidden blessings in everyday life, just be open to watching for them and willing to say yes to any help that is offered to you. Above all, have faith. God will provide in ways you may not be ready to see yet. I am still working on this daily.

Disasig

 

 

 

SpecialMamas2016_smallThis post is part of a month-long guest post series titled Special Mamas. The series runs all May and is in honor of moms who have unique journeys to and through motherhood. To read all 10 posts in the Special Mamas series, CLICK HERE and you’ll be directed to the introductory post. There, you’ll find all guest posts listed and linked for easy reading!

Jan Hillstrom - Absolutely beautful, both the writing and the pictures. Fun to see again the early photos of the kids. You are an amazng Mom, Disa. So proud of you and so thankful for God’s provison and guidance for your family. Could I also mention an incredible Dad, Trevor. Father’s Day is just around the corner!May 31, 2016 – 6:40 pm

Sheila Hiney - Wonderful testimony Disa. Read it with a smile. SheilaMay 31, 2016 – 1:41 am