2 for 2

We’re officially clocking in on our second year of marriage today, and I’d give this whole married thing a solid two thumbs up.  So far, we’re 2 for 2 as far as amazing years of marriage go.

After birthdays and Christmas and Valentine’s Day, we both felt like our gift-giving abilities were limited so we’ve made it a tradition (2 years in a row counts as a tradition, right?) to go in on a gift together for our anniversary and pick out something that is edifying to our marriage or brings us closer.

IMG_20170604_174605

This year’s gift.  Can you guess what it is? 🙂

I’ll be sharing about the gift we chose this year next week on the blog (some related exciting news coming soon–stay tuned!) but in the meantime, here’s what I’ve learned from last year’s anniversary gift.

His Needs, Her Needs: Building An Affair-Proof Marriage

We thought we had read all the marriage books before we got married, but we were wrong.  This one is my favorite because the author isn’t afraid to deal with the reality of a married relationship.

Central to the book is the concept of a “Love Account” that we each have with everyone else in our lives. When we feel loved, a deposit is made in the account. When we feel hurt, a withdrawal is taken out.  For two budget nerds, this double-entry accounting method of describing a relationship had a great appeal but I understand that it sounds a little too mathematical to some.

These Love Accounts explain why you can be in love with our spouse/significant other but still have an affair with someone else.  You can have two love accounts with lots of deposits each with two different people.  As you can tell by the title, the book then describes how to keep withdrawals to a minimum with your spouse and how to avoid making the wrong kind of deposits in someone’s love account who isn’t.  What I really appreciated about this perspective is that it explains why

(A) trust and love can be eroded but recovered

(B) it’s easy to get stuck in a non-stellar relationship (romantic or otherwise) but not be able to let go if the love deposits are just marginally greater than the love withdrawals.

One of the ways we can make deposits in the right love accounts is by enjoying recreational time together. During the chapter on this need for joint leisure, the author frankly states that if you don’t share any favorite activities, you’ll need to do some brainstorming to find mutually enjoyable hobbies and then ditch your favorites to make time.

We hear about sacrifices in marriages in vague terms, but I loved the bluntness of this author’s approach.  Being married might mean giving up your favorite activities.  And that’s okay.

All this to say, read the book.  Whether you’re married, engaged, dating, or not interested, it’s an insightful look at how we love.  It’s encouraged me to not always insist on my way. It’s also inspired me to be more intentional about finding ways to make those deposits into Luke’s love account.

For a $12 book, I’d say that’s a pretty good ROI.

3 Lessons From The Last 365 Days

Today officially marks my 1 year anniversary working in marketing for Buffini & Company and I’ve been reflecting on what I’ve learned during my brief stint so far as a young professional.

1. Have some humor

I am always far too serious. Luke and I learned this the hard way.  When we first started dating, he’d make an off-handed sarcastic remark and I’d assume he was dead serious.  Thoughts start racing: “How could he say that?  Am I dating a psychopath?”  Nope, turns out I just had zero sense of humor.  My roommate proceeded to put me on a strict diet of The Office reruns which helped me identify sarcasm out in the wild.

I’m not saying you need to be the office prankster, but developing a professional sense of humor has helped me not get too caught up in the smallest remarks and honestly, it just makes every day more fun.  You’re going to be spending a considerable part of your life at work, why not have some laughs at the same time?

2. Just Say No

For those of us who are new to the workforce, this might be the hardest lesson to learn.  We’re eager to please, eager to get new experiences and opportunities, and bring a lot of energy to our work.  All of these are great things with huge potential pitfalls.  In his book Essentialism, Greg McKeown makes this powerful point: “Remember that if you don’t prioritize your life someone else will.”  Saying no to things because you’re feeling lazy or aren’t working efficiently enough is a problem.  Saying no to things because you are trying to make the most valuable contribution to your company by effectively leveraging your skills and strengths is smart.  I’d encourage you to read the entire book, but here’s the jist of how being an Essentialist makes you a more valuable employee.

Essentialism is not about how to get more things done; it’s about how to get the right things done. It doesn’t mean just doing less for the sake of less either. It is about making the wisest possible investment of your time and energy in order to operate at our highest point of contribution by doing only what is essential.

3. Set goals

Want to take the next step up the ladder or switch to a different department?  Got an awesome idea you’re itching to implement?  Those things won’t happen without clearly defining your goal and then breaking it down into actionable steps.  Give yourself a deadline and then get to it.

I’m fortunate to work at a company that encourages goal-setting and continual improvement.  As a result, I’ve experienced some positive spillover effects into my personal life as well.  I’ve always lived and breathed goals but often equated them with to-dos.  Learning how to make longer-term goals and then parcel those out in the near future has been incredibly helpful in making dreams come true.  For Christmas, my wonderful husband got me a Nomatic planner + journal that is designed perfectly to balance daily tasks, long-term goals, and everything in between. Take a look!

img_20170111_171153

Whether you’ve been working for 3 months or 30 years, what are the most valuable lessons you’ve learned so far?  I’d love to hear them!

 

2016 Is The New 1984

I’ve been reading my way through the “English classics I probably should have read in high school but somehow didn’t” this past month and slowly working my way up (or down?) to a 12th grade reading level.

Summary: Animal Farm? Good. The Scarlet Letter? Excellent. Catcher In The Rye? Didn’t get it. To Kill A Mockingbird? In progress but loving it. 1984? Yikes.

I just finished George Orwell’s dystopian novel from the mid 20th Century and rank it pretty high on my list of  “terrifying glimpses into the future” books.  It bypassed The Giver with a wide margin, barely squeaked past Anthem and sits squarely underneath Atlas Shurgged and Brave New World.  Overall, I still agree with Postman’s thesis in Amusing Ourselves to Death that it is Huxley’s world of brain-numbing entertainment that is more probable than Orwell’s Big Brother brainwashing in 1984 but there was at least one striking similarity to Orwell’s world and our own that made my heart skip a beat.

The telescreen.  If you haven’t read 1984 yet, it’s a two-way television that monitors your every word, movement, and facial expression.  It’s used by the Thought Police to identify and exterminate potential traitors.  Terrifying, right?

Yet we are pre-ordering them as fast as we can type in our credit card information.  Today’s telescreen is known as Google Home or Amazon’s Echo. Or to hit closer to home, Siri.

The appeal of this virtual assistant (robot?!) devices is obvious.  You can look up information, set timers, manage your to-do list, cook spaghetti, decide on where to go out, order take-out, ignore your spouse,  play music, etc… with just a few words.   As someone who is in love with all things centralized, the idea of having one device with many purposes is extremely alluring.

But there’s the flip side.  How do these devices know when you’re talking to it?  You say, “Ok, Google” or “Alexa” or “Siri.”  Which means it’s ALWAYS LISTENING.  Right now, it might not be recording everything you say.  Right now, the government might not be allowed to subpeona those records.   All I can say is that I’m going to wait and see how these play out before inviting a telescreen into my home.

All right, now that you’re fully convinced I’m a conspiracy theorist, let me know what you think. Does two-way technology freak you out at all?  If you need me, you can find me in my bunker (just kidding…for now).

A Happy Weekend

As a social media specialist, I spend most of my working hours browsing feeds. And I’ll be honest, it’s a little depressing. I haven’t run any stats but it does feel like 87% of posts are predominately negative.

In an effort to balance out that ratio, I wanted to quickly share 3 wonderful things that happened this weekend and 2 silly ones.

3 Wonderful Things

1. I had a chance to read in a coffee shop and this sparked a conversation with a girl and her grandma about Russian literature and wedding planning. If you’re hesitant to start a conversation with a stranger, go for it. It might just make their day like it did mine.

2. I went into a local gift store where I had a gift card to use. The name of the store had changed and I found out when I got inside that the entire ownership had changed, and thus the current owners didn’t have the money that was paid for my gift card and would basically be giving me free merchandise so they couldn’t take it. As a business-minded person, I completely understood, we had a pleasant conversation, I said I would make the purchase anyway, went to grab my item and when I came back was told they would honor the gift card anyway. Customer service for the win.

3. My husband and I made our bi-weekly trip to the library used book store and realized once we got there that we didn’t have enough cash for the awesome new (old) classics that had come in. Before we realized what was happening, a sweet elderly lady pushed a $20 bill into our hands and told us to buy all the books we wanted. Since our bill was way under that, we passed the book money on to the girl behind us.

2 Silly Things

1. We went to Costco on Friday and the receipt checker said “Thank you and see you tomorrow!” as we departed. I died laughing but almost felt bad we didn’t come back on Saturday to say hi.

2. A man was brushing his teeth in the Home Depot parking lot when I dropped Luke off for work. Weird, but funny.

How was your weekend? What made you smile?

The Power of Habit

Disclaimer: This is not a review or promotion of The Power of Habit: Why We Do What We Do in Life and Business by Charles Duhigg although it has made my semester reading wish list.

I believe in Habit.  I believe in having habits just for the sake of having habits.  

I like going to the gym.  Not because I really enjoy straining and sweating on grimy machines to an odd mixture of Christmas country songs and ESPN but every morning that I drag myself out of the bed, is a day when I strengthen my habit of staying healthy.


Ritual, the second-cousin of Habit, also needs a seat at our table.  In my experience, modern technology and the speed of life has stripped us of the humanizing rituals that used to mark individual existence.  Everything must be new, exciting, and efficient in order to hold onto our shrinking attention spans for a nanosecond.


I’ve been studying Ellul this semester (to a very undergraduate and unimpressive degree) and his accusation that modernity has turned efficiency from a means to the highest ends and good struck a cord.

Because I’m all about efficiency.

I’ve mastered the three minute prep routine.  I can read, grade, and sort tests while listening to a podcast.  I flashcard while I elliptical and I eat while I walk while I talk.

I want my humanity back.

Five Rituals For My Life
I will make my coffee with a french press and not a one-press machine.
I will write with a pencil that needs sharpening and a pen that needs dipping.
I will talk with those around me and not those on the other side of a screen.
I will walk whenever possible.
I will make meals from scratch, not boxes.  I will heat my food in a pan, not plastic.

What changes would you like to main to create humanizing rituals in your life?

Necessary Endings: 5 Ways to Clean Up Your Life

As I eagerly await the beginning of a new semester and school year (t-minus 1.5 hours!), I am thankful for the quiet time to metabolize the experiences of my summer with the intent of building upon those bits of life learning gained throughout this next year.

In June, I read a book called Necessary Endings. The book lays out and expounds on some basic principles:

1) Things end.

“…endings are a part of life. they are woven into the fabric of life itself, both when it goes well and also when it doesn’t.” pg. 6
2) Endings are natural and needed and should be made normalized.

“Just time and activity alone brings more relationships and activities than you have time to service.” pg. 47

3) It’s easy to get stuck BUT pruning leads to thriving.

“But sometimes people get stuck in a type of misery in which they are prone more to inaction than action.” pg. 58

4) A lack of action is a decision.

“Time is working either for your or against you in terms of your needed ending. If you are stalling or waiting, then you are tacitly agreeing to more of what you already have or worse.” pg. 150

5) You attract what you are.

“The clearer and kinder you are in your communication of endings and bad news to people, the better the people you will find yourself surrounded by in life and work.” pg. 209

BONUS: Metabolize experiences and create closure for what you leave behind.

“Keep what is usable to you, and eliminate what is not…The pain, the bitterness, the feelings of failure, the loss and grief, and the resentment all need to be eliminated and left behind. But left behind consciously as opposed to just denied and forgotten.” pg. 217

If my rough summary and out-of-context quotes left you wanting more, I highly suggest you find a copy of the book and read it. It has revolutionized my perspective on senior year, my e-mail inbox, my schedule, and my closet.

Loving Better

Since May 15th at 7:00 pm, when I triumphantly handed in my last final of my Junior year, I’ve slept in 8 different beds with 2 more to go before I return to my bright raspberry creamsicle room.

I never expected to stay in (multiple) strangers homes, co-author and self-publish a childrens’ book, go to Boston, or take up kickboxing during this past 3 months span.

Through a series of  conversations, packing up and moving out, getting caught in the rain (always), making friends at the Y, learning how to write (again), learning about what makes a family, Skyping Siberia, and waiting tables at barn weddings, I finally picked up on God’s creative ways of teaching me to love better by:

Loving Myself Less
I’ve always had a surplus of confidence, allowing me to walk into almost any situation with the assumption that I will not only learn quickly the necessary skills to thrive, but that I would come up with a better way of doing things.  Being an intern for HOPE International, an excellently run organization with competent leadership and a vision way beyond my overly confident self, was incredibly humbling and refreshing.  I was valued for my skills but expected to stretch myself and learn from those around me.  Not hard to do, when surrounded by some of the most intelligent and faithful servants of God I have ever had the pleasure of working alongside.
Loving Change More
Even though I’m leaving the summer with more to-do lists than I came in with, I’ve learned that plans not only can change on a dime–they will.  It’s part of life and being able to embrace the unpredictability of not having the world under my control (who knew?) has released me from the impossible burden of always arranging everything just so.
[This book helped immensely.]
Loving Others Better
 
It’s only because I am a mere 4 days from seeing my fiance again that I can say that this summer has been a wonderfully growing experience in learning how to one day (soon!) be a godly wife and in the meantime, love and serve to the best of my ability.  Of course, a month ago, I would have just whined about time zones and distance.  Thank you to all who have showed me examples of Christ-centered marriages and shared their candid advice.   More on this to come.
Loving Life Fully
 
Its a crazy adventure, but it’s worth living.

The Deafening Flood

I ordinarily have to force myself to get my western civilization reading done.  Today was no exception.  History will never excite me as much as its art, or learning about how we think, or even how to account for depreciation of assets.  Yet while trudging through the text today, I was reading about the Islamic infantry troops called Janissaries which consisted mostly of Christian boys that were recruited and raised to be Muslim and a part of elite military troops.  Which probably has a lot to be said about it but that’s not what caught my attention.

It was this line instead, “It was thought these troops would be extremely loyal to the sultan and the state because they owed their life and status to the sultan.”

How did they know that this status was so valuable that they would sacrifice their life to it?  Exactly how are powerful are the cultural standards that flood our vision and deafen our ears? Can they really convince us that there is some level we need to achieve and that it is worth every fiber of our being?

Yes.  They can and they will because they are sneaky.  No one hands you a slip of paper with rules and regulations for fitting in with this world.  Its not just from the magazines and TV and billboards all though those are certainly deserving of the criticism they receive for creating impossible ideals.  The thing is, those wouldn’t exist if we didn’t want them to.  They only work because we respond to them.  We want something to affirm us or deny us but either way give some stability of what is right.

It doesn’t have to be a negative thing.  We simply intrinsically gather information from the people and things around us to help us know what is valuable and true in this world.  Look around yourself.  What are your surroundings?  Who is around you?  They might not define you but they will create the definitions that you use to label yourself with.