The Tale of the Bread and the Bagel

Once upon a time there was a Queen who ruled over her kitchen with a mighty hand.  On Sunday evenings, the Queen liked to clean out the fridge and utilize all the leftovers and veggies that were left. The Queen liked to start off the week with a clean slate. The Queen was a little weird this way…

So one Sunday Eve, the Queen took out a container of lentil/tomato  cassoulet, and a small bowl of rice and set to reheating them. After glancing at the freezer and the cabinets the Queen made a royal decree:

“I have tuna and cheddar, rye bread and bagels.  Who wants what?”

The Princess answered “Tuna, cheese and bread please.”

The King responded. “Bread.  Tuna.  No cheese.”

And the Queen took four slices of rye out of the freezer, and got the tuna down from the shelf. She then began assembling the hodgepodge that would be called “Dinner”. As she stirred and reheated, the King entered the kitchen.  He looked at the griddle where the bread was heating and stated:

“Where’s my bagel?”

And the Queen looked at him askance.

“You said bread.” The queen responded.

“Bagel is bread” The King retorted.

And the yes it is, no it’s not went on for a few rounds until the Queen said:

“If I send you to the royal market and ask you to pick up bread, are you coming home with a dozen bagels?”

The King got a little red in the face and sort of stomped his feet like a petulant toddler. Finally he said:

“Ok.  I see your point.  Maybe you are more correct in this incident.  But you have to understand my point of view.”

And the Queen just looked at him for a second, then put two slices of rye bread on each plate and said:

“Just make the tuna.”

And she walked out of the kitchen and lived happily, and correctly, ever after.

 

 

 

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Relationship Goals

I don’t do resolutions: I set goals.  I try to figure out areas of my life that need help, and then I attempt to fix them, sometimes more successfully than others. In the upcoming year, my goal is to get better at relationships.

What do I mean by better at relationships? On the surface it would appear that I do OK in that department.  I have reasonably successful relationships with numerous people: friends, family, partners, etc.  I have a fatal flaw involving relationships though.  I tend to push people away.

Luckily, I have been blessed with friends who just push their way in and keep nudging, friends who hold onto the back of you collar tightly and pull you back into the fold. But you see, I’m really good at pushing away the people in my life that matter. Do you know how the majority of my closest friends found out that my Dad has cancer?  In my blog. I can talk about a lot of things (trust me- I can talk) but I have trouble talking about the most important things. I don’t particularly like opening myself up. I have trouble letting people in.

Somewhere in the back of my mind I feel that if I let someone in, they might hurt me. Ironically, I end up getting hurt anyway- because who wants to be friends with someone not committed to a friendship.

So, I’m going to concentrate of talking less about silly things, and more about things that matter. I’m going to listen better- I don’t think I’m a particularly good listener. And I’m going to try to let the people that mean the most to me into my world. I think it’s worth the risk.

 

A Different Type of Gratitude

When I jotted down notes for today’s blog my intention was to complain about something my Husband did. Nothing major, just something annoying.  Then last week I was talking to a friend, and I asked if in my blog I wasn’t particularly nice towards my husband.  The response: well, you do sort of paint him in a negative light.

So I thought about that. And I realized it’s true. When I blog about my Husband I tend to complain, or write when he does something wrong.  Of course, sometimes the stuff he does is so stupid it’s funny, other times it’s because he’s really pissed me off. It’s easy to write about these things- funny and angry practically write themselves- the words just flow onto the page.

This is the thing about long term relationships (19 years)- it’s easy to pick on the flaws- you’re just more aware of them.  At the onset of a relationship you sweep the negative under the rug, you figure you can work on it later.  The beginning is all about the good: presents, sex, fun. But as years go by….

On Saturdays I have been trying to focus on the good parts of my life- the little things that I am grateful for. And I admit, even when I am trying to focus on all the good in my life, I still undercredit my Husband. I forget about the things he does which make my life easier and better. It becomes so easy to miss all the good because it’s so easy to focus on the bad or annoying.

So…going forward…I am going to try to think about the good things my Husband does. I am going to try to not let the little stuff drive me crazy (and as I write this I’m annoyed because he did something insignificant to most but to me it took my out of my morning ritual and it’s eating away at my brain) but I’m going to try to remember the good that he does.

I guess that’s the key to successful, long term relationships: the ability to let the positive shine thought and let the negative slide to the background. There should be a relationship journal where every night you must write down one bad thing and three good things about your significant other. This way, you get to vent, but you also get to praise. You get to look at your SO in a better light, while accepting that they are human and have faults. It’s all about perspective: how we choose to view the people we are with.

When the Rules Can’t Work

I have rules and routines and procedures for everything.  You know this.  My daughter does too- so much so that is what she wrote her common app essay about.  We thrive on having lists and often do things rote.  It works for us.

One of the oldest rules we have is my meal rule.  When my daughter was in pre school, the year when the stream of activity begins, I made a rule.  Unless someone was out of town, we had to eat three family meals.  It could be breakfast, lunch or dinner, but the three of us had to be around the table together three times per calendar week.

Last week, for the first time in thirteen years, we were not able to do this.

When I was doing my Sunday prep work a few weeks ago, I looked at my calendar, looked at everyone’s commitments and shook my head. Work outings, college meetings, prior engagements, busy lives,  equaled the three of us barely being at home at the same time.

And it made me think of the future.

This rule has gotten us through my daughters formative years.  It has helped us as a family – because we were able to check in with one another- we knew when something was troubling us, we knew what was going on in one another’s lives.  Spending facetime, no phones or electronics, does really help communication.  And we all know communication leads to relationship success, or increases your chance of success anyway.

But I have now faced the harsh reality. Our days of family meals are almost over.  My days with my daughter living down the hall is almost over. There will be new rules and procedures put in place (you know I will have some sort of weekly phone call plan) but my life is about to change.

Ready or not, here it comes.  Glad I have seven months to prepare.

Grand Gesture- Take 2

A few weeks ago I wrote I post – “The Grand Gesture”.  I was not happy with how this post turned out.  It didn’t convey the message that I was trying to express.  Now I’ve written a lot of posts in my short blogging career, and obviously some were better than others. But, I was always proud of them because for better or worse, they said what I wanted them to say.  Until The Grand Gesture.  I realized the problem with the post was that I was holding back on something: I had an idea in my head but I wasn’t ready to share that idea with the world.  And it reflected in my writing. Now, I’m still not sharing the catalyst for that post, but I do have an anecdote that I think will help convey my message.  If for any reason it doesn’t, expect a take three in about ten days….

When I was in my twenties I was still unformed. OK- I’m still unformed- so let’s say I was a big ball of goo back then. I met a guy.  I went out with this guy.  And one day we were walking home from a party and he said “Ok. Let’s do this.  When do you want to get married.” No ring.  No prepared speech. No dinner. Not even really a question. In my very gooey brain, I thought- wow- he must love me.  He cut through all the romance and the nonsense and just cut right to the chase.

Stupid.

Needless to say, he would eventually become my ex husband.

So what did I learn from this experience? First off, I may have been at the forefront of a brilliant career, and I may have been really great at my job, but personally I was a mess. I had no idea how to navigate a relationship. I had about a thousand licenses from various government agencies saying that I could be trusted with your money, but I could not be trusted with making rational decisions of the heart. I thought that nonchalance equated to love. I later realized that nonchalance equated to not giving a damn.

Enter: The Grand Gesture.

I think if you love someone you must do something big to show it.  Now, big is a relative term.  It does not have to be renting out the scoreboard at a sporting event.  It does not have to be hosting a party for a thousand of your closest acquaintances. Expensive jewelry need not apply. What big is in this circumstance is meaningful.  You must present the one that you love with something meaningful. And meaningful means different things to different people.

So

You must present the one you love with something meaningful that is unique to their personality and is an expression of your love of them.

You must create an intimacy that is specific to your relationship.

Because you need to show that person how much they mean to you.

All relationships go through ups and downs.  Obviously, the ups are easy to ride out- it’s all rainbows and unicorns. But the downs. How do you get through the downs? What is the thing that makes weathering the downs bearable? I think it’s that expression of love that holds you through- the memory of an event, that piece of whatever they gave to you- I think that expression of love is what makes you remember what you are fighting for. And sometimes you need a reminder of what you are fighting for.

So no matter what stage of a relationship you are in, show the person you’re with how much they mean to you. Tell them. I don’t think there’s a limit to how many times you can show someone that you care, that they mean the world to you, that you love them. Just make it meaningful, from the heart. And make it something your person with like.

Solid relationships. Appreciation. Love. These are not things to be nonchalant about.  These are things to cherish.

Good, Better, Best

Have you ever played the board game “Say Anything”? It’s a favorite in our house for family game night.  Basically, someone asks a question, and the other players pick what they think the reader will answer.  Then the reader chooses which answer is most correct. When faced with LA trivia so to speak, my Husband knows me pretty well.  When given the question- “If you could start again, what occupation would you have?” Husband knows that the correct answer to that question, for me, would be “FBI Profiler”. Yes- you heard it hear first- if I was entering college, I would take the necessary steps to become a profiler (not a writer as you all may have thought).  He knows my favorite dessert (mille crepe cake from Lady M bakery), and that pink is my favorite color.  We have had many long conversations in our years together, but just because he knows the LA trivia file, does he know me best?

When discussing relationships a few weeks ago, Leslie talked about who knows you better, your friends or you significant other. And while it’s true that my Husband knows the facts, are facts the only thing that goes into “knowing” someone?

Last week I most definitely woke up on the wrong side of 50.  I was out of sorts.  Husband- well- he did not notice a thing.  Daughter though- she was all over me.  She knew within a minute of talking to me that not all was right in my world. She was able to read my body language and facial expression, and I guess interpret what I was actually thinking behind the glib words that I had thrown out that morning. So, while she might not know all the facts about me, she can definitely read my moods better. Does this mean that  she “knows” me better?

I have a friend “G”.  I called her a witch last week. (yes- witch with a “W”) and I meant it in the best of ways.  We were having a simple, pleasant text  conversation about the colleges our daughters are applying to and her kitchen renovation. And then she asked a question- basic question, but it was exactly the thing on my mind (and needless to say it had .nothing to do with kitchens or colleges).  I said “How did you know I was thinking about that?” and she wrote back “LOL. I woke up this morning and thought that. Figured I’d ask while we were chatting.” So, does her intuition about me show that she knows me best?

What do we mean when we ask “Who knows me best?”? Is it facts, is it sense of mood, or is it just knowing without saying a word? Does it just depend on who the person is, as some are more emotionally connected or more intuitive by nature? When you say you “know” someone, what do you mean by that?

The people in my inner circle- I think I know them well, but I admit, some I know better factually, while others I just connect with on an emotional level.  I’m not sure what the real difference is. I’m not even sure if there is a difference. But I guess what really matters is the connection that we forge.  And maybe different relationships are supposed to be on different levels…

OK- I’m throwing this over to you: Who knows you best? Family, friends, partner?

 

Out Of Control

Control: determine the behavior or supervise the running of. (dictionary.com) Such a simple word.  Easily defined.  Yet, the connotations are often a little negative. Outrunning my Demons, Claudette and I have been running around the ideas of planning, micro managing and controlling. So what does control actually mean? How does it affect us?

To start, there is one place I am definitely always in control…. But, trust me, that’s a whole other blog topic…

One person in charge.  One person calling the shots.  One person dictating how all others should act. One person who would get really angry if someone else tries to do something without consent. This is how control gets a bad name.  No one wants to be called controlling. If you hear someone being called “controlling” the prevailing theory is that you should run away from that person as quickly as possible. Why would you want to spend any time with a person who’d main goal is to control every aspect of your life?

So- controlling is bad.

Or is it?

Don’t we need people to be in charge?  Don’t we need to have someone who is willing to  take responsibility for what happens, both good and bad?

Think about parenting for a second? What happens when the tail wags the dog, when the kids take over all the decisions in a household? How does that work out for anyone? What happens in a household where the parents are not in control?

Teachers? Same thought.  Does anyone learn anything if a teacher is not firmly in control of a classroom? If the teacher hands out a syllabus, what happens of all the kids toss that sheet in the trash without even looking at it?

So- are we all agreed that sometimes someone has to be in control?

But then we have the bad side.  Sometimes parents can dictate a little too much.  If your kid has a 92 average, do you have the right to tell your kid that they are capable of getting 96’s? Can you tell them who to hang out with, how to spend their time, which classes they should take? Where is the line?

How about with your spouse.  I’ve stated that I don’t feel comfortable telling my adult husband what to do with regards to social situations- to be that is too controlling.  Or is it? Can you tell your spouse that you don’t like one of their friends? What is the line with what you can and can’t tell your significant other?

How is controlling different from micromanaging? To me, micromanaging is having a task and expecting it to be done in a specific, step by step manner.  It’s usually task related.  When I think of a controlling person though, I think of someone who is manipulative, a puppet master.  I see controlling as telling someone what to wear, how to act, not allowing someone to think for themselves. They are the people who will get hostile if you don’t obey them. Those are the people I don’t like to be around.  Those are the people that I do try to stay far away from…

So….control…controlling…

Discuss…

 

 

When Something Goes Wrong

My Husband wanted to organize a group dinner with his buddies from college and their spouses.  He planned it six weeks ago and sent out a text asking if X date was good.  Oddly, for people with busy lives and kids, all were available on a particular Saturday in September. Husband found the perfect restaurant for a group of 15: we could get one table instead of breaking up into smaller tables as some places do, they had a prix fixe menu so it would be easy to divvy up the bill,  they had gluten free options for our gluten free friends, the wine list wasn’t stupidly expensive, and it was six blocks from our house, which was perfect because we wanted to have pre dinner cocktails on our roof deck. Let me make this clear: I did not want to plan this event.  I did not interfere at all except to say that the date he picked was free.

Perfect.

Now, you probably know that I am a detailed list maker.  My Husband is not.

About three weeks after he planned the dinner, he realized that he forgot to add a couple that was supposed to be invited.  He looked at me and said “What do I do?” cause you know this is rocket science.  I said “Tell them, hey, I just realized that you’re not on the email.  Sorry. And give the details of the night.” Which he did.  Whew. Glad we got through that ordeal…

Now fast forward to the week before the event.  Husband is in Alabama for the Alabama/Texas A&M football game. No, Husband did not go to either school- he just roots for Alabama…

Friday afternoon I get what I perceived to be a frantic text. “Made reservation for wrong night.  Please find a restaurant.”

Now here’s the thing about NYC: it’s always busy here.  With the exception of the last two weeks of August, the city is never quiet.  And in the fall it’s worse, because not only ae there tourists and conventions, all the people who live here are actually in town (summer and winter weekends are often spent at the beach or on the slopes) So getting a dinner reservation for 15 people on a Saturday night at 8pm in my neighborhood that is reasonably priced and has a gluten free options- well this was a tall order.

But I found the perfect place. (It only took an hour…) Good atmosphere, pitchers of sangria, and all of the above.

Perfect. I text my husband. He’s happy.

Fine.

When he returned to the city on Sunday, he asked: “Can you go down to the restaurant and see what we should do about ordering food?  How can we handle everything?”

Remember- I did not want to do this.  I did not want to do any of it.  Yet here I was….

Now- I know that couples have to help each other out- I realize that’s part of the deal.  When one needs help, you help. We all screw up. Fine.  He has helped me out before. A lot. But- I admit I resented this a little.  I know he’s stressed out at work.  I know our life has been a little hectic.  But yet… I really didn’t care that much about this night out…to me, it was a dinner with friends.  Not a party.  Not a function.  Just 15 old friends hanging out together.  No reason to be “in charge”.  Yet, he wanted to be in charge.  He just wanted me to do it.

But the end of the story is, I went to the restaurant, worked everything out, had a great night. The take away here is: my husband doesn’t like making lists.  He doesn’t like marking things down in his calendar. This always causes issues and stress.  (he has triple and quadrupled booked things- often) So sometimes I wonder if I want to be an organized list maker, or if I need to be an organized list maker….

 

Baseline Test: Partner

Claudette recently posted about how her sporty children had to take a concussion baseline test before participating in the upcoming hockey season. Basically, these are tests to show what “normal” is for each particular athlete so if there is fear of a concussion, there is a comparative factor.  These tests include time, memory capacity, speed of mental processing and executive functioning of the brain (concussiontreatment.com).

Of course, I began to think of other practical applications of baseline tests.  I began to think, what if we gave our significant others baseline tests at the beginning of a relationship?  What if we then tested them every year after to see if they’ve lost anything?

The tests could be something like this:

Time

  1. How long does it take them to find five specific items in the grocery store
  2. When you ask for help and they respond “In a minute” see how long it actually takes them to get up and help
  3. If they say the game only has two minutes left, see if they can calculate the difference between stated and actual time?
  4. How long does it take them to make the bed?

Memory Capacity

  1. Recite all names of all teachers of all children
  2. Remember the 15 things of to do list
  3. What is your eye color
  4. When is your birthday
  5. What day is significant to your relationship
  6. Where are there keys, wallet and phone
  7. Did they remember to put the toilet seat down
  8. Do they remember what the laundry hamper is and what goes in it

Speed of Mental Processing

  1. How long does it take to them to realize that you’ve been talking for five minutes because they haven’t been listening
  2. How long does it take them to realize why you are glaring at them
  3. How long does it take them to realize that they forgot the one thing that you asked them to buy at the store
  4. How long does it take them to find a specified item in their closet that they absolutely must have that day

Executive Functioning of the Brain

  1. Can they solve four separate crisis at the same time?
  2. Can they navigate a trip to the mall with a teenager?
  3. If the light bulb burns out, can they successfully follow the steps necessary to allow light to once again enter the room?
  4. Can they put together furniture that comes in a box?
  5. Can they follow a simple recipe?
  6. Can they figure out what to do if they are lost?

 

Who Do You Choose

We recently read “Little Women” for one of my book clubs.  Spoiler Alert- if you don’t want to know what happens in LW, don’t read ahead- there is a one line spoiler of sorts.  Point two, if you haven’t read LW- please go get yourself a copy.  I think it may be free on ereaders.

But anyway…

One of our questions about the book centered on who Jo should marry.  Now, as someone who has been faced with a bevy of suitors…OK.  Not really, but you get the point: how do you know who is the right person for you to spend your life with? (for the purposes of this specific blog, I’m going to go with the assumption that when you choose a partner, the basic assumption is that you will be with them forever. Whether long term monogamy is sustainable is a whole other blog)

So…how do you know who is the right person to tether yourself  for eternity?  Our book club answer: go with the person that “gets you”.

What do I mean by that, the person that “gets you”? Well, I’m going to give you an example that I think sums up my point:

R, the leader of our little band of readers, loves quality items.  (It’s her fault that I now exclusively wear Jo Malone fragrance) She loves well made, and usually expensive items, whether it be home goods, clothing or tea.  She is also a believer in quality over quantity: she would rather have five amazing outfits that she wears for years instead of fifty things, or constantly updating her wardrobe every season. So last Christmas she had some guests, and one of them decided to guess what her Husband had bought her for Christmas.  The friend named all sorts of expensive things, designer doo dads and such.  And R kept shaking her head at all the names and labels the friend shot out.  As it happens, R’s husband bought her a 20$ book he saw on the shelf at Barnes and Noble.  And R LOVED it!  Practically hugged the book the entire night, and thereafter.  It sits on her nightstand. Though she has an eye for expensive things, this little book was perfect – FOR HER. Her Husband knew her well enough to know that this was the exact right present because he gets her.  He knows it’s not the money, it’s the thought of what she would think was wonderful.

As we are all unique individuals, we all have things that mark our individuality.  There are things that make us laugh, or make us cry.  There are items that make us happy, and things that don’t have any meaning for us.  It’s all good: everyone is allowed to enjoy whatever they enjoy.  But the person you end up with should be the person that understands you. They should know that you prefer pink, or that you don’t like wool, or that you would rather read than anything else. They should know what makes you tick.  They should see beyond the stereotype of what you’re “supposed” to be, and see the real you. See the individual that you are.

So that’s my little bit of relationship advice: go with the one that sees the real you, the one that gets you. You’ll never have to pretend that you’re someone else.  And being authentic to yourself is the first step to happiness and internal peace. And isn’t that what we all want? To be true to ourselves deep inside? A good relationship begins with a contented self: being with the one that gets you brings you a step closer.