Monday, July 30, 2012

Monday Marriage Matters: Friendly Competiton

My husband and I both realized recently that we were not running as much as we would like to.  So I proposed a friendly wager - I know a lot of couples make bets to encourage each other to exercise, and I thought maybe it would work for us.  We track our mileage already using DailyMile, so we set up a challenge.  The only tricky part was what to wager.  We discussed wagering a week of meal planning and cooking, but we both know that I'm going to end up doing a lot of the cooking and meal planning.

So we finally decided to wager the chores that we don't do - the ones that fall to the wayside in our usual "dishes/laundry/move shoes upstairs" cycle of cleaning.  Changing the sheets, vacuuming, scrubbing the bathtub all happen much less frequently than we would like.  So each week is a different hated chore, and if you don't hit 10 miles, you have to do it.  We haven't yet had a loser, since if both of us put in more than 10 miles a week, we both win, but so far we both have split the hated chore, instead of not doing it, so we're in better shape and our house is cleaner.

In the future, we might come up with a tie-breaker, to force a loser, but right now it's fun to feel like both of us are sort of competing, sort of cheering each other on to meet our mileage goal.  I want both of us to be in shape and meeting our own personal fitness goals, and I also want both of us to develop and reinforce healthy habits now.  Our garden plot is also a mile away, so running once or twice a week helps make sure we are watering it.

Do you make bets with your significant other?  Do you compete to force yourselves to get in shape or eat healthier?  What websites or apps do you find useful for that? I know a lot of people use Daily Burn and Fitocracy, but what else is out there?

Thursday, July 19, 2012

Wedding Blog Suggestions

My friend Brit asked awhile ago how I found other people who were getting married at the same time to read about on their blogs.  I too found it frustrating that many people got married before me and their blogs became really boring and about married life and babies and housepainting and their dogs.  (Er. Sorry.  In my defense, I don't have babies or dogs.)  So I thought I'd share for all the readers who find their way here and are bummed that this blog has gotten, as my sister said, "really boring."

The best place to go for a rotating blog of people getting married is still Weddingbee.  Sure, sometimes there is total wedding crazyness - like, wtf is with the obsession with hand canceling envelopes?  I just tossed mine in the mailbox at the end of the street and they all made it to their recipients.  The Wedding Related Boards are also a good place to find blogs - I highly recommend going to your month board and asking other brides getting married around then to share their blogs.

Usually I send everybody to APW to get a much-needed dose of sanity as well, although I started reading it before Meg got married and I found it a little more helpful then.  I also found the wedding graduates much more helpful after my wedding, to sort through the feelings I had in the aftermath, than beforehand, so I'm reluctant to recommend it as much these days, but I just gave my newly engaged friend the book - and while I haven't finished the book yet, I'm guessing reading the book is as helpful as reading the blog used to be (or you could just go there and read from the beginning.)  I'm also super excited about 2000 Dollar Wedding's book, and a paw through her archives is also valuable.

One of my favorite new blogs, written by an old married lady who got hitched about a month or so after we did (right?) is Anna and the Ring's Far From the Wedding Crowd, as well as the lovely Any Other Woman, formerly Any Other Wedding, which is still somewhat wedding heavy.  And if you're just looking for a whole lotta pretty to make you feel a bit inadequate?  Well, Style Me Pretty is your friend.  It's hard, because there aren't that many wedding blogs that balance the pretty and the heavy stuff about getting married.

The rest of my blog friends I found from some of the bigger wedding blogs and their blogrolls.  Souris Mariage had an excellent one, although I think many of those ladies are long married.  So perhaps some of my engaged readers can help other engaged readers out?  Where do you go for inspiration, where do you go for sanity, where do you go for DIY and craftyness, where do you go for support?

Monday, July 16, 2012

Tea for Two: Re-entry

Anyone in a long distance relationship can tell you that re-entry is always a little bumpy when the person who has been away for awhile gets home.  I think it's simply a matter of both of you building up in your minds what things will be like when you are together again, and that reality does not meet those expectations.  I expected my husband to get home and help grocery shop and take the car in for servicing and help make dinner and do all of the laundry, and my husband expected to get home and finally be allowed to sleep for eight hours and not have to eat takeout all the time.

One of the biggest issues for us, always, is that I'm the messy one.  So when I mentioned to my friend Kate that my husband was finally coming home, she said, "oh, so are you spending the weekend cleaning?"  Which I was.  The problem is, my clean is never quite clean enough.  And I have a HUGE blind spot for certain messes.  Like, I carefully cleaned the dining room and the kitchen, but left a giant pile of clothes in the middle of the bedroom floor.  No normal person would call that "clean" and yet I expected a medal for my efforts (I would probably clean more if we had a good housekeeping trophy we passed back and forth.)

One of the ways that we dealt with this situation was not necessarily something I would recommend, but worked well - we hosted a fourth of July party the day after my husband came home, and spent his first day back cleaning the house to company cleanliness.  This meant we had several arguments throughout the cleaning, but it also meant that we got that out of the way and we got the place pretty clean, so there was minimal complaining after the fact about it.

There are still tricky things.  My husband will look at something and say, "when did that get here?" or "why is this here?" and I'll shrug and say, "you were gone for a month."  I'm still doing all of the cooking, it seems, but at least there is somebody else to make an emergency grocery run and do the dishes and help remember to take out the trash.

Does anybody else have re-entry issues?  Any advice for how to move past the big issues?

Friday, July 6, 2012

Household: Guest Bathroom Decor

This is our guest bathroom.
It's also the laundry room.
I realized the other day that I hate cleaning it for parties because it never looks nice. I would like to fancy it up a bit and make it bright and inviting. I think the landlord would let me paint it a subtle color - possibly a pale grey - its a heinous beige color right now, but that is a lot of work.
I think a valance over the window here would be nice - there is a curtain rod that runs the length of the room already in place, but I don't know what colors would look good.  I also wonder if putting a matching curtain over the washer/dryer would help or make the room look smaller. 

So I'm soliciting suggestions for decor and possible color schemes that work with ugly beige, as well as ideas for artwork to hang next to the sink to cover up the weird panel that is there.
Another question is whether we should frame the mirror or just replace it with something less industrial. Any thoughts?
The room is also quite short - both of those doors are about 5'10" or so, and the room itself is about 7 feet high - which feels tiny compared to the giant ceilings we have in the rest of the house.  The acrylic shelves are ours, and can be moved around or replaced, we just already owned them, and I think I would like to (sadly) replace the octopus soap dispenser.  Any suggestions for something fun and grownup? 

Sunday, July 1, 2012

Monday Marriage Matters: Apart (III)

My husband has a ticket home booked for Tuesday, so here's hoping he actually gets on the plane!  I thought I would write a quick "guide" to how to survive being apart.  This trip was especially hard for us, for two reasons.  The first was that the time difference combined with the crazy hours he was working meant we weren't always able to talk - sometimes the most we had was a 2 minute conversation.  The second was that he was on a one-way ticket and what was "hopefully a two week trip" rapidly turned into three, then four weeks.  So I'm breaking it down week by week, and my advice at the bottom (since I don't think most of you care about what I've been upto.)

For starters, if you have to spend your birthday alone, make plans.  It's okay to have three different dinners with friends to celebrate your birthday.  If your family lives nearby, have dinner with them.  Also, make plans to spend time doing whatever the hell you want for your birthday.  It's nice to have a day that is all about you.  (This is the third birthday I've spent on my own, so I'm an old hat at this.)  In my case, I had four hearings and worked late, so I adopted the following Saturday as my make-up birthday and spent it working on my bike and napping.

When it comes to food, living on your own is really difficult.  I adopted a strategy of cooking every 2-3 days.  I would make a lot of food, refrigerate it, and forgive myself if I needed to order takeout or go out to dinner with a friend.  I would cook one night and then do the dishes/clean the kitchen the next.  That way, making dinner and doing the dishes didn't take my entire evening.  I also started doing the Whole30, which requires very little cooking, and was very conducive to making large vats of food and refrigerating the leftovers. I also highly recommend buying fresh fish when you are cooking for yourself - you can purchase it in small portions, and it takes less than 20 minutes to cook in a toaster oven, creating minimal dishes.

I'm lousy at getting up on my own, so I simply decided to forgive myself for not waking up at 6 every day and getting in a workout.  I just went to the gym after work instead, and nights I went to the gym usually weren't nights in which I cooked food.  I also forgave myself for not going to the gym every day.  If it didn't happen, it didn't happen.  I aimed for 3x a week, instead of my usual 6, and it worked out.

It's really important to keep busy and make plans generally.  I started taking Spanish classes, I continued playing hockey, and I made plans with friends I never get to hang out with, since the only person whose schedule I had to accommodate was mine.  Even if you don't have friends to make plans with, schedule other stuff for just yourself - schedule long runs or long bike rides, and don't be afraid to go to the pool by yourself.  Don't say no to anybody who invites you to something - even if it doesn't sound fun, it is more fun than doing nothing at home, alone.  If you can't find anything else to do, see if there are any events going on (inside, where it is air conditioned) that need volunteers.  Don't be afraid of being a third wheel with your couples friends - as long as you know them well enough, it's not weird.  I'm also really lucky that I have enough couple friends that aren't joined at the hip that we could hang out without their SO tagging along (and the separation has me thinking about how much time my husband and I spend together and whether it's healthy).  Yes, there will be housework that doesn't get done if you keep busy - but I found when I was sitting around, I didn't want to do housework and cleaning by myself, so I just did the bare minimum and then felt bored and lonely. 

It's good to have a large stash of DIY projects going on so you can tackle them and feel accomplished.  (I started working on the Jenny Skirt and will have a sewing tutorial for you guys...eventually.  Once I spend way too much time with my seam ripper.  Also tried my hand at painting and some other household projects.)  Rearrange your Netflix cue and rent only chickflicks and movies you want to watch - I finally got to see Bridesmaids.  Have a movie night by yourself if you don't have anything planned - but do it right.  Make popcorn, pour some wine, and put your feet up.

Try really hard not to act irrational, or constantly complain about your spouse being away, either to your spouse or to other people.  If your spouse is out of town for work, any kind of complaint will get you a ton of unsolicited advice about your spouse's career and how, "s/he needs to quit" or "s/he better get a big raise for this."  This trip wasn't above-and-beyond the call of duty for his job.  It wasn't unexpected.  It was harder on me than I thought, but I don't think my husband should quit his job or demand a raise or bonus because his wife had a nervous breakdown while he was away on a legitimate business trip.  He designs roller coasters, and sometimes he needs to be there when they are built.  When people asked me where my husband was, I tried to just breezily answer, "California on a one way ticket. He'll be home eventually."  I was not that breezy about it, and I griped about it more than I would like to admit, but I made an effort, damn it.  My friends all did a really good job of making themselves available to me while Mark was away - which I am super grateful for.

We also planned some trips.  At the beginning of June, I got word that my grant for my position is renewed for another year, so we were finally able to book our New Orleans trip, and we are trying very hard to book a trip to Hawaii for September, which gave me something to do.  It did irritate me when he wasn't around to answer questions about dates or give input about islands, and then would ask me the same questions I had already attempted to answer in an email.  So while planning and fantasizing is good, if you need to move fast on a decision, it's not so good to try to plan things.  I'd advise booking tickets before your spouse leaves, and then you can research fun things to do and go check guidebooks out of the library.

Also, this is gonna sound ridiculous, but if you're a cuddly sleeper, get a stuffed animal.  It'll help a lot.  Also a radio with a timer, so you can listen to it before bed, and do NOT run laundry before you go to bed, because the thumping will totally freak you out.  If you're like me.

Anyone have other tips for surviving a long business trip?  Anyone on the other end of this situation have any tips for travelers?