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Saudi is many things…

There aren’t many moments that I can look back on in life and say, “that was huge,” because most things build up over time. Sure I can map things out in a nice straight line – high school, my first job, college, my favorite classes, my first PR internship, the client that hated us (this actually needs its own blog post), converting to Islam, graduation – but the fact is that it wasn’t neat or linear. It was messy and chaotic and beautiful. 

Some moments, of course will stick out in mt mind no many how many years pass. Meeting my husband and falling in love – although it was pretty instantaneous – and building our life together was obviously one of the highs. The birth of my son was bittersweet, but let to something amazing, as did moving to Saudi. I can unequivocally say that making the choice to move to Saudi was one of the best decisions I’ve ever made.

There were a ton of things that went into it when I decided to come, but ultimately it was just about stepping out of my comfort zone and taking a chance; I got on the bus.  Living here has allowed me to experience sunsets under the Bosphorus, sway along with flamenco dancers in Barcelona, and savor dim sum in Hong Kong. I’ve found love as a wife, fulfillment as a mom, chased my passion into birth work and breastfeeding support, and still manage to make some killer banana bread sometimes. Above all else, I’ve grown up; I’m not the same 23-year-old girl who left home in search of something bigger.

Saudi is many things, but for now, it’s home. There are things I would change, sure, and the list is probably almost as long as the one I have for my home country. I wish people respected personal space, I wish the concept of a line was a bit more common, I wish customer service existed, and I wish our attire (and lifestyle in general) was a bit more colorful and free. But, it’s here that I learned how to take care of myself. It’s here that I learned how a strong and supportive a community of friends could turn into family. It’s here I learned that life is challenging anywhere you go, and it really is just what you make of it. I learned that if you put yourself out there openly and unapologetically, the universe will respond in kind and the right people will find their way to you; your vibe will attract your tribe. And that tribe may come and go, but the lessons they shared, the love they showed, the insight into who you are they reflected, these things will be a part of you forever.

I look forward to many more milestones reached, for me and my family, for Saudi and its people, and to all those who call a home-away-from-home home (say that 5 times fast), take a second to appreciate the life you’ve made, the chances you’ve been offered, and the adventure that awaits you.

doula, Uncategorized

Sisterhood Sunday

Growing up, I was always looking for a fight. In every situation, I always seemed to find the underdog and defend them vigorously. My nana used to tell me I’d make a great lawyer, my mom would tell me I can’t fight for everyone, my dad would tell me some causes and people are better stood for in private. And while each person was attesting to some truth, there’s just something about being able to speak for people who aren’t able to speak for themselves; I’m instantly attracted to the downtrodden, no matter how hard something is to look at, I want to see it for all that it is and I want to know what I can do to fix it.

Things haven’t changed much (especially the looking for a fight part, according to hubby), so it’s no surprise that, as a woman, I feel called to support other women. Or, maybe in today’s highly but secretly competitive society – where perfectly posed shots of handcrafted cupcakes are currency and not liking someone’s picture on Instagram is grounds for excommunication – it is surprising. But that’s a different post for a different day.

If you’ve read my previous posts, you know that delivering my son was no walk in the park, nor was it a picnic (seriously, someone described their labor to me as being like a picnic before I delivered; no wonder my expectations were so unrealistic!). It was traumatic, and it still, to this day, has the power to flip my mood upside down. I’d always thought it was that way because the hospital that I went to wouldn’t give me the epidural, the country that I delivered in didn’t have higher standards of care, the doctor that was on duty at the time wasn’t nice to me and treated me as though I was weak and whiny. And, it may have been in part a combination of those things. But the biggest reason why I had such an awful birth experience was that I wasn’t prepared.

Yes, I Googled everything: pregnancy aches and pains, what was OK and what wasn’t, what to buy for baby, how to handle baby once he’s earthside, but all of that preparation was for before and after the labor. I didn’t research one thing related to the actual part where I was going to push a baby out of my lady parts. Looking back, it’s like, duh how could you be so dumb, but if I actually dissect why I didn’t feel the need to, I feel a little less stupid and a little more angry.

Growing up in a Western culture, we are often taught to see drugs as a blessing, a technological advance that we are lucky enough to have access to. It wasn’t until recently that the resistance and skepticism of such “advances” became mainstream and people started questioning our dependence on Big Pharma. What’s even worse is that the healthcare community and Big Pharma are in on it together. So it’s no wonder that one of the most natural things in the history of the universe – childbirth – has also become heavily medicalized, with all interested parties making a pretty penny off of every birth they highjack.

I’m not saying there haven’t been leaps and bounds made in terms of maternal morbidity and mortality due to technological advances, but I am pointing out that a majority of mamas don’t need any of that stuff because our bodies know what to do. (And, I would also like to point out that as far as developed nations go, the US is failing mamas and babies BIG TIME; two of the biggest reasons? The rise in C-sections and a greater focus on fetal and infant health over that of the mama.)

Y’all – we have been making and having and raising babies for as long as time has existed. We do not need a trained Obstetric surgeon to attend every birth. 

Naturally, when it came time for me to have a baby, not getting an epidural didn’t even cross my mind. Um, yes I will take the drug that makes me feel nothing so I can smile pretty for pictures when the baby is placed in my arms. So when the doctor told me I couldn’t have one, I really – for the first time in my life – was woefully helpless. I hadn’t studied even one technique to get through the pains of labor naturally, and at that moment, I was sure there weren’t any. My husband was at a loss, my doctor and nurse were overrun with patients, my closest female family members were 7,000 miles away, and I thought I was going to die from the pain. I didn’t have any other options because I hadn’t given myself any other options.

In retrospect, I know that beyond the other responsibilities that come along with mamahood, figuring out how and on which terms you want to labor is a huge one. It goes beyond whether you want drugs, episiotomies, or to breastfeed, and some may even say that it’s a political issue, the subjugation of women how it’s in the patriarchy’s best interest to make sure we’re not empowered (again, another post for another day)…

At your most vulnerable moment, when you’ve reached the lowest of lows, you’re lucky to have someone to be able to pull you out, or at the very least to chill in the darkness with you. This togetherness – this sisterhood, if you will – is something we all crave, but not many of us have the skills or resources to seek out. Yet, this village plays such an integral role in whether we’re successful in life, whether it’s in business ventures, creative adventures, or – yup, you guessed it – child rearing.

So, to do my part in empowering women with education and knowledge, I’ve become a doula and childbirth educator, as well as began my formal training to become an IBCLC.

No matter what you want your birth experience to be like, you deserve to be informed and supported completely. If more women empowered and supported other women, there’s no telling the things we could accomplish. If more women enjoyed their birth experiences and came together to help others enjoy theirs, who knows how our communities would change.

 

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Thursday Thoughts

I don’t do this nearly enough to call it a segment (I think weekly segments are done weekly, no?), but that’s only because I have a really hard time remembering what day of the week it is most days.

Terrible twos, before first birthday – Is this a thing? I know most people are hopeful that their kids will be advanced in other ways, like walking or talking or solving geometric equations (is that a thing?), but I guess mine is diving into challenging behavioral changes early so, yay? He’s taking nearly an hour to get to sleep each night, and when he decides to sleep before midnight (1:15 was the time on the clock by the time I untangled myself from him last night), he wakes up after an hour ready to rumble as if we’re having a big party without him. I know some people swear by sleep training and go on and on about how it’s actually beneficial for the kid to learn to soothe themselves (can I even do that, though, like, let’s be real) but I don’t buy it. I mean, it’s cool if you do, but it just doesn’t fit with my parenting style, so I’ll pass. But that doesn’t mean I can’t complain about the boobie barnacle’s bad late-night habits.

I’m leaving the baby for the first time in a few weeks – Is it crazy that I made it 11 months without ever going anywhere without this kid? What will that feel like? Am I going to randomly cry, or will I enjoy myself? I’ll be attending a doula workshop in Riyadh for 3 days and hubby will take charge of the monkey during the day for those days, so that should be really interesting. As with all things related to his dad, though, I’m sure he will be just a peach and make me look like a total drama queen for being at my wit’s end most days.

That’s all I’ve got for now. I’m looking for ways to revamp the blog (or vamp, because it will be the first time), and working on some fun new content for you guys, mainly about mom stuff (shocking, I know), but I also want to explore some fashion topics and see what happens.

Happy weekend – or almost-weekend if you’re on another side of the world.

 

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If We Were Having Coffee…

In an effort to finish what I started – even if it’s a bit late – I wrote a little something for the last prompt on the Write Tribe’s Festival of Words, which was: if we were having coffee. 

It’s no secret that I love and need coffee, but what you may not know is that every time I drink a cup, I think of my grandfather, my Papa. I was blessed to be close with my grandparents, and am even more blessed to still be close with them. They’ve had such a profound influence on my life, and have a special place in my heart.

This one’s for you, Papa. I’ve had coffee all around the world, but nothing compares to coffee with you.


If we were having coffee

If we were having coffee, I’d ask you about your day.

You’d mention how much pain you’re in, and how you wish that I could stay.

I’d start to say something like, “I’m sorry,” but stop myself, knowing how lame it sounds, I’d search for the words, and fall short, and come up with nothing profound.

Because what I mean to say is so much more than words could convey; I wish you could move and dance freely, joke and laugh, and that life wouldn’t take me away.

If we were having coffee, I’d tell you what’s up with me.

We’d catch up on baby, on life, and I’d share with you all that I wish to be.

You were always the best listener, someone in whom I could always confide, and I never felt any pressure to be someone other than me, I never felt like I had to hide.

Even when you didn’t agree, you always stayed with me, because you knew who I was and never saw me as who you wished I would be.

If we were having coffee, I’d apologize for breaking your heart.

I know when I put all the miles between us, it tore our family apart. You never stopped me, or begged me not to go, and it hurts me to be so far away from you, too, I hope that’s something you always know.

If we were having coffee, I’d sit as close to you as I could, because I know these moments are precious and fleeting, and rarely do we get to spend time in the presence of someone so pure, so kind, so good.

When I’m having coffee, I think of you a lot; we could always count on you to have a freshly brewed pot. But it wasn’t the coffee, or even the flavored creamer that kept us coming back, it was you, Papa, the love you showed us, the comfort you gave, and we will always smile at that.

Uncategorized

Guest Post – Feelin’ All the Feels

So, I’m a day late on the Word Tribe’s Festival of Words (what’s new, really?) but I’m not letting it discourage me from posting because this, this, is a really special one.

While I haven’t delved much into my family life outside of hubby and baby, I do in fact have the whole shebang, including parents and siblings – one badass brother whose current pursuits include a degree in Criminal Justice and powerlifting, and the sweetest, most artistic sister who’s about to make you feel allllllll the feels.

Today’s prompt was to have a guest post or interview, and – as always – my sis was the first one to pop into my mind. She’s been tirelessly working on an ebook of poetry that’s set to release on Amazon later this month and it. is. beautiful.

I chose only one piece to include here, though you can see another sneak peak on my Instagram. Get in touch and let me know what you think; and I will keep you posted on release date and details.

Into the moonlight

Lightning, thunder and rain.

The one that brings you pain.

The two that bring you blues.

The three together are just beauty into the moonlight as the rain fills your shoes.

-KNA

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Dear son

So, today is the 5th day of the Write Tribe’s Festival of Words and the 3rd time I’m writing. Even if you’re horrible at math you know that doesn’t add up. In the spirit of full transparency, aside from dealing with daily tasks and a cranky baby (are there teeth coming in at 11 months? Is he just upset to be another year older like the rest of us? I can’t tell where the grouchiness comes from anymore…), I’ve been dealing with a bit of mental fog that just won’t let me get motivated for anything, even things that I enjoy doing. So it seems like forcing myself to sit down and write instead of watching another episode of “The Good Wife” on Netflix (seriously, have you seen that show? I know I’m 10 years behind but the chemistry between Will and Alicia is off the charts!) is the only way to go.

Today’s topic is simple: write a letter.

And, as a new mom staring my son’s first birthday in the face, the choice of whom to write the letter to was simple, too. Although, a letter to hubby did cross my mind, I imagine the contents to this letter will be more… publishable. So, without further ado…

Dear son,

I know every mom makes a point to say this, but bringing you into this world was not an easy task. Aside from the usual pain that comes with pushing a tiny-but-still-not-that-tiny human out of my body, the aftermath of your birth hit me hard, and the first few weeks home with you I wasn’t sure I would survive. But, somehow, we did. You and me, we helped each other make it through.

You’ve always had a strong personality, something they don’t tell you about babies – that you can see a glimpse of your future teenager from day one. You don’t take shit from anyone; if you like something, you love it, and if you dislike something, everyone knows it. I wouldn’t say that you’ve been a serious baby, but your laughter doesn’t come easily, which makes it all the more precious to hear. I hope that this one day will translate itself into someone who thinks before he speaks, and weighs his options carefully (but not too carefully); someone who understands that while logic should rule our decisions, our heart should guide our logic, and someone who knows that best thing to do is not always the easy thing, or the most accepted thing, but the right thing.

There are a million things left to say and – lucky you! – I’m sure you’ll hear it all over the years from your dad and me. But the most important thing to remember is this: most things in life are shades of grey, but a mother’s love and support is not. The love I have for you, son, will never fade, diminish, or age. I will support you in all things, even if my support doesn’t always look like acceptance. I will listen to you, even to the things I may not want to hear, and I will always keep in mind that you are your own person, and that’s who I will raise you to be. If there ever comes a day where you don’t feel the comfort of my love and encouragement surrounding you, then I have failed, and if I fail at being a good mom, no other accomplishment could ever make up for it.

My prayer for you is and will always be that you are kind, gentle but strong, intelligent, and surrounded by love, light, and happiness (and that you will sleep through the night by next month). You were a part of me once – and as long as I remember the heartburn and backaches, so will you! – and so it won’t be easy letting you go into the world, but I will do it because I know at the end of the day I don’t own you, I’ve only been charged with raising you, and although we’re only a year in, what an amazing privilege it has been.

I know we will have bumps along the way, as all parent-child relationships are fraught with disagreements and miscommunication, but I hope we come out of it stronger, as friends; you may be stuck with me as your mom, but I would like to think that one day – even if it’s 30 years down the road – you would actually choose to hang out with me.

I love you, son, and I can’t imagine my life without you.

Love,

Mama

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Time Isn’t Money. It’s Much More.

So, as promised, today’s a two-for-one day! Before I dive into the second topic, I want to say a bit about why I decided to join the challenge in the first place. It actually wasn’t a complicated decision; I saw something about it on Instagram, thought to myself ‘that would be cool’, and signed up. It was one of the simpler decisions I’ve made in the past week, and I’m glad to be a part of something that gets my creative juices flowing.

So, without further ado, the second topic of the Write Tribe’s Festival of Words is: Share about a resource/s you have or use

As your typical American Millennial from a middle-class suburb, I got lucky. I had the right opportunities at the right times with the right passport and ended up in the right places. To say I didn’t work hard for all I have in my life would be a discredit to all the elbow grease I put in over the years, but I certainly didn’t have to work as hard as others to get where I am. But the resource that I’ve come to see as my most valuable is something that everyone technically has the same of, though it seems the poor have more and the rich have less.

That resource is time.

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As a kid I had a bedtime, a time to start school, a time to be home before mom came looking for me (which you did not want). I spent time with my friends, time on the computer, time daydreaming about N*SYNC, and time with family. As I grew older I split my time between high school and a part time job, hanging out with friends, and shopping. College saw time disappear and suddenly I couldn’t consume enough iced coffee from Creekside Cafe and even the all-nighters I spent writing 10-page papers didn’t seem to be long enough. And, as if time couldn’t go any faster, I was starting out at the sea of parents and friends as I waltzed across the stage to collect my diploma. And then, well, then I’m not sure what happened, but 24 hours just didn’t seem like enough to have the kind of life I wanted.

Work. Home. Family. Friends. Bed. Repeat. I couldn’t stay out too late on weekdays, I could never wake up as early as my alarm clock implored, the weekends seemed to pass in three breaths, and somehow Decembers and Junes were speeding by. My friends were getting married, I was getting married, and then I found myself pregnant, and knew it was time to slow down.

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The funny thing about having kids is that you have the perfect idea of how to do absolutely everything. And then the baby comes and somehow all your perfect ideas turn into theories that never quite work out as planned. I was in over my head, and time seemed to stop. Feed, burp, sleep, change, play, repeat. You’d think it would fly by all too quickly, but somehow in the moment, it felt like a lifetime. I wasn’t sure the first 2 weeks were going to ever pass, let alone the 8 month mark, which is when everyone told me it got better. I spent countless hours in the room, door closed, hoping nobody wanted to hold the baby, because I couldn’t let anyone hold the baby, crying, rocking, feeding, sleeping.

Of course, if you’ve been down the dark road of Postpartum Depression, you know exactly what I’m talking about. It may not have looked the same, but it all feels the same; cold, lonely, and never ending. Instasize_0928135723.jpg

When I decided to quit my teaching job to stay at home with the baby, I knew that there would be days when my world was so small – 25 pounds and 29 inches small – but what I didn’t expect were all the moments that would take my breath away, and make me so happy to have all 24 hours to spend with my son. By quitting my job I gave myself the gift of time with this tiny human, and I haven’t missed out on a single moment. All the first babbles and movements, the crawls and the steps, the problem solving and the cat attacking; I’ve been here for it all. Sometimes when I think about the future, about Adam going off to school, I stop to hold him close just a few seconds longer, or smell his head just a few more times, because I know one day time will speed up again, and I’ll miss these moments where he and I are suspended in the giddiness of our own little world.

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Time is our most valuable resource because no matter how much money or fame we acquire, we can never get more of it. It’s something that we need to invest wisely because time well spent can mean the difference between a good life and a great life, and more time with loved ones is never guaranteed.

Check me out on Instagram @mama.fil

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Treasure yo’self

So I signed up for this awesome writing challenge, and totally got behind yesterday, as usual when hubby’s home and we fill our day with billions of things before the weekend is over. Anyway, here’s the first post, and lucky you! You’ll be getting another one in just a bit 🙂

Write Tribe Festival of Words #6, Day One: Write about a treasure you have

Treasure: noun, a very valuable object.

Anyone who knows me knows that I love to shop. Online, in-store, catalogue, outlets, malls, boutiques, you name it. If there’s an establishment that sells items, I’m there. And – like most people pre-marriage and pre-kids – I’ve spent an (un)fair share of my time shopping til I drop.

Those who know me also know that I love to travel. Making up my mind to spend the weekend in Istanbul or Amsterdam on a Thursday used to be normal for me. The places I’ve been able to see, the adventures I’ve had, the people I’ve met are all memories that will last a lifetime.

Knowing these two things, many people would guess that the treasure I would write about would be a killer purse, or my favorite shoes, or the passport that’s gotten me into so many countries, While I treasure all of those things, there is something far more valuable to me than anything I could ever own. It’s something I lived a long time without, something I didn’t think existed for many people, and something I had resigned myself to not having, yet still chased relentlessly.

That something is happiness. I know, I know, how cliche. But, it cliches did become so for a reason, and that reason is usually because they stand as true.

For many years, I believed happiness to be something that was just around the corner, waiting, watching, lurking, dancing around with the word IF. If I just did something that made my dad proud, if I just turned in an awesome assignment that impressed my teacher, if I just made friends with the popular group in school, if I just played it cool and made it seem like I didn’t care too much, if I could just wait a little bit longer so the situation could get better, then I would be happy. I thought it took work, sacrifice, patience, willpower. And I thought that if I could just distract myself from the reality of now – like with shopping and traveling – I would be able to ride the wave of despair until I arrived at the shore of happiness.

Except, the shore never came. I was neck-deep in the water, drowning, looking for a way out, any tiny sliver of land that didn’t seem to exist.

I wasn’t wrong about what it took to achieve happiness, I just wasn’t applying those tools in the right context. I didn’t like my life, I didn’t like the circumstances, and I didn’t want to wait to anymore. I decided that to blow things up by choice would be better than to allow life to pass me by and be unhappy with the outcome. At least if I was making any decision – even the wrong ones – I would have the opportunity to be unhappy by choice, my choice. And so I did. And the weirdest thing happened. The unintended consequence of shaking up my world was that I became happy.

Once I couldn’t blame anyone and anything else for my situation, I had to work that much harder to live with my choices. I chose to wake up in a foreign country, teach, travel, meet new people, and make decisions that I had to live with. Once the reality was my own, something that I had created, I couldn’t escape it anymore, but I didn’t want to either.

As humans we all fall into the trap of letting be what already is; we are naturally disinclined to change, and appreciate the status quo, even when it doesn’t serve us, because it’s comfortable, and who likes to be uncomfortable? Comfort is safe and warm, and can wrap you up in its steadiness, but comfort doesn’t necessary equal happy, and if you’re not making moves to make sure that you’re living a happy life, then what are you doing? We believe ourselves to be stuck in situations because of obligations – financial, familial, career – but often times, if we really sit with ourselves and strip away the excuses, there’s no reason for us to continue down a path that makes us miserable. If you value money, accolades, material things, expensive trips, you will always be stuck in a cycle trying to maintain those things, sometimes even at the expense of your personal relationships, and almost always at the expense of your happiness.

For now happiness is something that I feel every day, even if only in glimpses. In my son’s smile, in the way the cat curls up into my lap and purrs, in my 10th cup of coffee (kiddingggggg) (kind of), in the way my husband relaxes when he walks through the door at night. And, while I don’t carry all the details in my mind of those long days without it, I will always remember what it felt like to yearn for something that seemed to be so abundant in the world, yet so absent in my life. So, with that, I treasure each moment of happiness I feel, no matter how small, and I seek to make choices that lead me down the path of finding more each day.

Do something today that will make happy even tomorrow, something that your future self will be proud of.

Life, Uncategorized

Where there’s smoke, there’s fire. Sometimes. And other random weekend thoughts.

I’ve been feeling a bit foggy lately, so I thought I was dreaming my metaphoric fog into reality last night when I woke up to a house full of smoke, but it turns out I wasn’t. My house was really full of smoke at 1 am. Thankfully there was no fire (anymore); I guess apartment 9 was doing some late-night cooking and something didn’t go right. If I didn’t smell smoke every other day from this particular neighbor, I would have thought that was strange, but it totally made sense when my husband returned from downstairs where the night security told him that’s what it was.

It made me realize how vulnerable we are when we don’t have all the information, and how crazy it can make us. I thought back to the apartment building in London that was recently ravaged by flames, and the people who couldn’t make it out in time, knowing their fate, and just having to come to terms with it. Morbid thoughts for 1 am, I know, but sometimes I can’t help it.

Sometimes – most times, actually, we don’t really have all the answers, and – depending on how we usually let our brains wander – that can lead to negative unintended consequences. This is a phrase I’ve come to respect, since listening to Michael Bierut’s TED talk, and now I recognize it everywhere; in day-to-day decisions, when I’m cooking one thing and end up with another, and most usually when I allow myself to go down the road of either a positive or negative-thought process. Sometimes we don’t even have the right questions. And, sometimes, we doubt ourselves so much in the process of getting to the right answers that we derail a good thing before it even has a chance to get started. So, for now I’m trying to create more positive unintended consequences (does that negate the unintended part?) and I guess the best place to start is by getting all of the bad mojo out of the way and thinking only in love and light.

We’ve been stuck in the house lately. Partly because it’s Saudi Arabia in July and there’s nothing more than malls and restaurants to keep us – and the rest of the population – busy, but also because our car was rendered undrivable by an accident last week. It doesn’t really get to me until it does, if that makes sense. I can go about my days just fine – yoga, coffee, breakfast, baby naps, cleaning, exercise, cooking – and then suddenly, I realize how cooped up I am, like a cat, but without the luxury of just eating and sleeping. Netflix has been keeping us company a lot more, too, which I don’t think is too much to brag about, but it is what it is.

When I think of home, I miss a lot of things, but the ability just to leave the house at a moment’s notice (well, you know, within the hour now with a 10 month old) is one of the things I usually miss the most. Freedom of movement is important, but having somewhere to go is even more important. For the time being, I’m working on creating some of my own spaces and places to go. I can’t be the only one yearning to make a home away from home, right?

Life, marriage

Love is… Peeling Tomatoes

Marriage is hard, ya’ll. I’m only two years in and it’s been pretty amazing, but not without its fair share of challenges.

My husband and I had a whirlwind romance. From talking to dating to engaged to married within 6 months. It was one of those things that just worked; there was no agonizing back and forth or anxiety over whether I was doing the right thing. I was – and still am! – completely at ease and comfortable with the decision I made. I’m from California, he’s from Lebanon, and neither of us had ever visited each other’s home countries before meeting. Yet, somehow the fundamentals of our thinking mesh. Most of the time. There are plenty of disagreements and misunderstandings and times when I feel like we’re speaking different languages (and times when we are…). Add a kid into that, and there are times when we might as well be from different planets. Like, when I first realized that he wanted me to peel the tomatoes every time I made a salad, I couldn’t help but calculate the minutes I would spend in the next 50 years, hunched over the kitchen sink skinning tomatoes. I mean, some nights I want to forego the salad all together. But I (usually) don’t.20160219_142347.jpg

A very wise woman who I had the pleasure of knowing since I was 6 years old always told me that marriage isn’t about love and passion. Those things are great to have, but the cornerstone of any solid marriage is respect. Without that, you’ve got nothin’. There are many things that go into making a marriage – or any relationship – work, but if you don’t have respect for the other person, then you’re not going to get anything positive out of it. Along with respect, I would say, comes gratitude.

Look, I get that when you’ve had a sick, fussy baby attached to your leg/boob/hip all day and your husband walks through the door, the first thing you want to do – feel entitled to do – is to throw baby and lock yourself in the bathroom for an hour. (That’s not just me, right?) But to respect your spouse and the hellish day they’ve also had means that you sit and suffer through the next two hours until bedtime together, then lock yourself in the bathroom. (Kidding. Kind of.)

I often see posts about women not needing to thank their husbands for watching their own children and taking offense to calling it babysitting when it’s their own flesh and blood. Girl, I feel you, I do. And, without getting into the semantics, let me just say that if your husband thinks that he’s doing you a favor or putting himself out in any way by watching his own children every once in a while, then you’ve got a bigger problem than I can tackle in this blog post.

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BUT. I do believe in saying thank you. Not because it’s a grand gesture or a huge favor, but because gratitude is important in a relationship, even if it’s for the things that should come naturally. Everyone loves to feel appreciated. Everyone needs to feel valued. I’m grateful for my husband as a partner. I’m grateful for the support, encouragement, cups of coffee, and affection he gives me, even when I smell like spoiled milk and haven’t washed my hair in days. I’m grateful for the little things he does for me, and the huge things he provides for our family. I know the pressure on men doesn’t always seem equal to that of a woman, but it still exists, and we’ve got to be aware and proactive in making our partners feel understood.

We chose our partners at one time, and all things considered, we’ve got to make the effort to continue choosing them every day. So, say thank you more often, even if you feel like it’s a silly thing to appreciate. You may even be shocked to see that gratitude brings out an even softer, more generous side of your partner.