10 Lessons in 10 Years

Ryand and sara

Today I celebrate my 10th wedding anniversary. When I see that number on the screen, I think, “Wow, it’s only been 10 years?” Because it feels like I’ve known my husband forever.  I can’t help but get nostalgic remembering our younger selves, our eagerness at setting up house, those early fights as we adjusted to living together, our joys, our sorrows. In honor of my anniversary, here are 10 Things I’ve Learned in 10 Years of Marriage.

  1. Be willing to compromise. And then gradually move all his stuff to the basement. It’s sneaky, I know, but is his commemorative bobble head of Wayne Gretsky (or whomever is hot in sports right now) going to go with your carefully coordinated oasis of muted blues and soothing browns? I think not. When he asks, you can always say the plastic bobbing head and its gap-toothed grin gave you nightmares.
  2. Timing is everything. Don’t tell your husband you’re pregnant after returning home from the ER at 3 in the morning. Just don’t. You won’t get the reaction you had hoped for, and there’ll be hard feelings all around. Wait until he’s conscious and has had his first cup of coffee. It’ll still be a shock, but at least he won’t stare at you blankly and then roll over and go back to sleep.
  3. Listen. Be prepared to hear about all the indignities he suffered with the children. Your indignities pale in comparison to the horrors he’ll experience as a new father. Never mind what your children did to your body, no. Hand a naked baby to your husband and then have your little bundle poop all over him, well, you’ll never hear the end of it.
  4. Make time for each other. We go out by ourselves at least once a month. If our parents can’t watch the children, we hire someone who we’ve thoroughly researched to care for our angels. Alright! Let’s be honest. There were days we’d have let rabid wolves watch the kids just for an hour of two of peace, days when we kicked the kids out of the car at grandma’s curb and kept rolling as our tires squealed down the street.
  5. Take plenty of naps. Or whatever you want to call it. We tell the children we’re tired and going to take a nap. Some parents say they have to pay bills or fold laundry. Others say they are going to be on the phone with Santa, so they’d better be good and leave them alone. Who am I kidding? That’s us. We’ve used all those excuses (and more) to carve out some time for intimacy. It’s important. Do what you must to ensure it happens.
  6. Lock your door. See number 5. Saying you’ll be on the phone with Santa is too big a temptation, and little ones get curious. Enough said.
  7.  Guilt has no place in a marriage.  Those early days in our marriage,  my husband picked up a lot of slack as I ran between meetings, classes and rehearsals. There were times  I felt guilty for leaving him alone with a four year old and a newborn, but the guilt fades each summer I’m off of work and home with them for three months.  Do you know how many hours that is over 13 years? Neither do I because all of my cognitive functions have been turned to mush after being home with them for all that time. SAHM, I don’t know how you do it, but bless you.
  8. Laugh with each other. Married life is tough enough but without a sense of humor, you won’t be able to stop yourself from strangling him when he retells the story about how the deadly combination of frozen car windows and a bout of your flatulence nearly killed him and the kids on the highway. For the last time, I had a stomach bug! You don’t smell all rosy when you’re sick, and no, the baby wasn’t sick when she pooped on you either. Baby poop looks like that. They poop all the time! She’s nine, now, so let it go!
  9. Make plans for the future. Right now our plans include what we’d want brought to us in prison if the teenager mouths off at us again and one of us snaps. Hey, it keeps us grounded, and thanks to episodes of Orange is the New Black, we’ve got a good idea of what to ask for. (Calm down, all you Nervous Nellies. We love our eldest and would never harm her. But seriously, which do you think would be better in her old room: a home gym or a writing lair?)
  10. Say “I love you” at least once a day. Usually one of us grunts it as we fall into bed after a long day of working and taking care of the children. As we roll onto our backs and stare into the darkness, our hands clutched together in sheer exhaustion, it’s comforting to know we have each other as we face a new day.

Happy Anniversary, darling! Lets hope the next ten go more slowly so we can enjoy every minute of it! 

Enter for a chance to win a signed copy of Little White Lies. In honor of my anniversary, the raffle  starts today and goes through June 25th.
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©Sara Ackerman, 2016

Nice

To all the nice people out there who are tired of being pushed around. I was pushed too far today.

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Being nice is saying please and thank you.

It’s thinking of others first (even if you don’t want to).

Nice people smile, are interested and ask how you’ve been.

They listen to you talk and ignore their electronic screen.

 

It’s nice to help those in need and donate time. 

Caring for others is a true joy, but it’s no crime-

To sometimes want everyone to leave you alone,

So you can hide, recharge, read, or play on your phone.

 

Being nice is hard and not always fun.

For many will coo and call you ‘hun’

While holding a knife and hiding a beast

Ready to plunge and begin to feast-

On your soul. (Really, that’s what happens if you don’t put up boundaries. People will eat you alive. Heaven forbid you deviate from your usual niceness for one second because you’re tired, or really stressed because you’re moving and building a house. Maybe, just maybe, the world doesn’t revolve around that other person and their little problems and you’re sick and tired of hearing about how their life is much more difficult than yours and ‘can’t you try to understand?’ No, Bitsy, no I don’t care that you can’t chose between Calacatta or Carrara marble for your $100,000 kitchen remodel. I don’t care that Mr. Wiggleton ate off-brand cat food and was constipated for a week and I really don’t care that you’ll simply die if you don’t lose two pounds by next week when you go on your tropical vacation! What about me? I have issues, too!!*Pant, pant, pant.*

Ahem. I digress. Rant over).

A warning to all who think nice people are sheep grazing contentedly on grass.

Push us too far and we’ll snap, scream and cuss or just kick your ass.

©Sara Ackerman, 2016

Waking Nightmares

Some of the worst nightmares happen when wide awake.

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For those living with an abusive partner, everyday is a never ending nightmare of pain, fear, silence and shame. Consider donating to your local domestic abuse shelter. If you know someone who is being abused, be supportive.Even if you are pushed away, know that your friendship and support are so important to helping break the cycle of silence and shame. 

sara

©Sara Ackerman, 2016

Why There are Mountains

Good teacher’s model, so here is a myth I created for my students to model how to write a myth. 

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Once a long time ago, there was Earth, Sky and Water.  Earth was not very big, but he was happy because he had Sky to look at every day and night.  Sky was beautiful and blue and stretched all over Earth. She lit Earth during the day and blanketed him in starry darkness at night.  

Earth and Sky loved each other but Water surrounded Earth preventing them from ever touching.  As years of separation passed, Sky grew despondent. Her beautiful blue faded to a dull grey. Evening stars disappeared behind towering clouds and her anger rumbled the heavens. Sizzling, jagged lines tore her beautiful canvas in two, and She wept almost every day.

Earth had to do something to stem her storm of grief. “Why do you stop me from being with Sky?”

“Because Sky is mine,” Water replied, pushing foamy waves onto Earth.

“You don’t love her like I do!”

Water’s rippling laugh touched Earth’s shore.  “Why should I love her?  She is nothing to me. But because you want her, she is mine.”

“If you don’t love her, then why stop us from being together?”

Water roared up into a large wave and shouted, “Because I am more powerful than you, Earth!  See how my waves wash away your land?  See how I rise and flood your green growing things? You can never stop me!” And to prove his point, Water reared up and sent flooding waves onto gentle Earth.  

Earth was drowning.  Water covered him and smothered his green life, but something deep inside rumbled, urging Earth to anger. He shook and rumbled and finally roared.  

Rising from the depths of Water, he grew and changed as molten rage burst through his verdant rolling hills and silenced the rippling wheat on his plentiful plains.  He pushed himself into large pointed peaks until he towered over Water, but he didn’t stop.  He pushed and pushed until he reached Sky.

Only then did his ire cool and he stopped to see what he had done.  “See me now, Water?  See how tall I’ve grown?”  

Water was frenzied and in a desperate attempt to regain control, he tried rising up to cover Earth. No matter how much he rippled and waved and splashed, Water could not reach Earth and his large pointed peaks.  Earth laughed at Water and his happiness echoed throughout Sky, until it sounded as if the whole Universe were laughing, sharing in their joy at being reunited.  

Water slunk away from Earth, never again to completely drown him from existence.  To this day, whenever Water tries to wash Earth away, Earth will shake and rumble and roar until more land is pushed high to Sky.  

©Sara Ackerman, 2016

Mother Nature is trying to Kill Us

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It’s that time of year when modern woman feels the need to shed her technology driven urban life and to step back a little. Reconnect with nature. Get back to a simpler time. With an over-packed car, traveling music and a spirit of adventure, my family set out on a journey to the North Woods of Wisconsin this past week.

Now, I’m a fan of nature. I like trees and flowers and animals like most everyone else, but I wouldn’t call myself an Earth child. And after this vacation, it’s safe to say that I might never become one, either. Because as much as that primitive side of me wants to be one with nature, I don’t think I’m cut out for it, Here’s why:

1. Kamikaze deer are lurking behind every bush and tree.

I always felt sorry for Bambi’s mom–the shy, gentle mother of the forest king shot down in the prime of her life by a ruthless hunter. At least that’s how I always saw them, but ponder this. What if deer are actually highly trained kamikaze fighters sent in as a first line of defense against aggressive humans?

It seemed like every back road we turned on some crazy deer bolted out in front of us, dodging from side to side and in front of our vehicle before running into the bush. Just when we thought it was safe to proceed, there would be another one darting around the car. Had I not had my eyes peeled for these suicidal cervidae, we would have had Bambi’s Mom Revisited for my girls to see in glorious 3-D Technicolor.

2. Turkeys are the a-holes of the bird kingdom.

Picture this: A back road in the middle of BFE towards twilight. Our Subaru takes a hard left turn on a gravel road and encounters a turkey. We slow down, yet the turkey remains in the middle of the road, staring us down. Now, cue the music from West Side story. (You know the scene I’m talking about when the two gangs meet and dance about in tight pants?) My husband advances slowly. The turkey hops towards us and fluffs out it’s feathers, a clear sign of aggression. We honk the horn. It hops again and then from out of nowhere a line of birds form behind it, bobbing and weaving on the road before us. (If they’d had fingers, you can bet they’d be snapping them!) The steely light of battle enters my husband’s eyes, and he revs the engine squealing the tires as he powers forward. Finally, brute force (and two tons of man-made machinery) breaks the line of squawking birds and sends them back to the underbrush where they belong, but not before one of them poops on my car.

I hope I eat that one for Thanksgiving this year.

3. I am the mosquito queen.

I know how improbable that sounds given I lack antennae, a thorax or the need to suck the blood from innocent mammals; however it is true. How else is it possible for one human being to be bit in spite of being covered head to toe in Deet and mosquito repellent netting? Since the odds of that happening are fairly slim, I must conclude that I am the queen and my loyal subjects were happy to see me. They converged en masse to pay their respects and though the mosquito netting packaging assured me I’d not be bitten, I did not escape their overzealous welcome.

4. Teaching girls to pee on the trail is traumatic.

There we were in the middle of nowhere, the nearest facility with indoor plumbing miles away. Inevitably, that’s when a small voice pipes up insisting that it is time to answer nature’s call. Driving back to the lone gas station that looked like something out of a 50s noir film thirty miles up the road is not a possibility, especially when there is a child doing the cross-legged potty dance in front of you.

Being the good mother that you are, you take the child to the nearest tree and have her drop her drawers. Demonstrating how she needs to push her butt up and out into the air, you tell her to have at it, completely forgetting to tell her to aim away from the cloth of her pants pooled around her ankles. Quickly, but not quickly enough, you grab at her pants, and that’s when you get peed on.

Flashbacks of sleepless nights, urine soaked clothing and leaky diapers changed in out of the way places resurface and soon you are in the fetal position crying on the forest floor while your husband and two offspring laugh uproariously at your expense.

Pay back is a hell, my darlings! Wait another forty years and I’ll be the one laughing!

5. See #4. I like indoor plumbing.

Nothing quite says ‘I love you’ like your husband spraying a continuous cloud of Deet on your butt when you have to drop trough and pee in the woods.  And no mosquitoes dared to interrupt me, whether from the noxious mist of bug repellent hanging ominously around my posterior or because even they recognized the Queen needed a moment.

**I’ve given my husband his orders. Our next journey will be somewhere on a beach with cabana boys bringing me Mai-Tais and some muscled beefcake named Raoul or Jean Claude rubbing coconut oil into my skin. Oh, and I told him he and the kids could come along, too, if they wanted. **

This post was originally featured on Hahas for Hoohas June 18, 2015. It also serves as a timely reminder to ignore this insistent voices urging me to reconsider and give camping a try again. That’s one journey I am happy not to relive.

©Sara Ackerman, 2016

The Gift of Service

 

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I have never been easy as a guest in someone’s home, much preferring my autonomy to the reciprocal obligations required between host and guest. Small talk and genial pleasantries are not my forte, and often, I come across as rude or ungrateful when in reality I covet my freedom and do not wish to be a burden.

However, in my independence, I have demonstrated a certain arrogance, a selfish disregard for the social contract which is created when I’ve been welcomed into another’s home or private space. By preserving my autonomy, I have lessened the import of being a guest.

Guest is not synonymous with dependence. Rather, it is the ability to trust others and to accept care. It requires a gracious spirit to allow others to serve. While being a guest is humbling, it is also empowering, for receiving the gift of service is as great a gift as giving it. 

©Sara Ackerman, 2016

Leaving

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They told her leaving him would show the world what she was–

a quitter

uncommitted

weak-willed

shallow

hysterical

illogical

a woman ruled by cowardice.

What they couldn’t understand was that walking away can be the bravest act of all. 

©Sara Ackerman, 2016