Road Trippin’

 

IMG_20170703_184306Because let’s be honest, the end of a 7 day journey gets pretty trippy.  When you start making up your own idioms.  When a McWrap sounds gourmet compared to your daily diet of peanut butter sandwiches.  When you start playing the alphabet game against yourself — and lose.  You see your spouse’s best dance moves and more corn fields in Minnesota than you ever care to see again.

Life with Luke is certainly a grand adventure–full of braving lightening storms in a tent and hiking in hailstorms.  The endless fields of the Great Plains were the perfect canvas for great planners to paint their future dreams.

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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.

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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.

Onward and Upward

I can’t be my true self around my husband.  I can’t say whatever I want, do whatever I want, or act however I want.

 

And that’s a really good thing.

Because my true self is selfish and way too worried about schedules and spreadsheets (I would have made an excellent railroad operator).  My true self doesn’t think about the fact that she’s living with another human being who may not want to get dumped on about the day’s littlest details the moment she walks in the door.  My true self has sky-high expectations for her husband’s every word, thought, and action without holding herself to that same standard.  My true self is careless about feelings, quick to offend, and slow to forgive.

So thank goodness that my husband draws out the best in me and challenges me to be my better self instead of my true self.

“But shouldn’t we be able to be vulnerable and open with our spouses?  Shouldn’t our homes be safe places to share our feelings?”

Well, yes.  Of course.  But whether if you’re bound to someone in a marriage covenant or just split a rent check each month; you are no longer an autonomous being.  Our moods and words effect our housemates and spouses.  We should strive to build relationships that encourage truth.  But those beautiful relationships aren’t just the result of throwing all filters out the front door and saying whatever comes to mind.  Sometimes loving your spouse means shutting your mouth.

For me, it means checking my mood when I get home from work. Right before I turn the corner leading towards our studio apartment and right after making a few quick glances into the dark corners of the gardens to make sure our not-so-neighborly skunk isn’t waiting to sabotage me, I think “would I want to greet myself in this mood after a long day’s work?” If the answer is no (and it usually is, because even the best days at work end with a commute in Southern California traffic), then I pause and take a moment to reset my perspective on the day and stop dwelling over the little angsts from the past 8 hours.

My true self still shows up a lot.  I say things that are unkind and worse yet, I really mean them.  I am grateful that my husband and friends continue to shower me with love that appreciates me for where I am but also can see the better me and continually encourages me to become that person.

Bah Humbug.

For the first 21 years of my life, I transformed into the Grinch every December.  I liked Christmas, of course, but I didn’t love it.  At least not the way everyone else around me seemed to.

From a young age, I had a natural distaste for knick knacks and clutter.  So why in the world would decking the halls with snowglobes and messy tinsel and paper snowflakes be a good idea?

And of course it never quite goes away after Christmas.  I threw innumerous death glares at my neighbors tacky Santa still living in their front yard in March.

On a more philosophical level; it bothered me that everyone put so much significance and pressure on one day.  As if this one day of the year had to be the most special and the other 364 were just leading up to the one day worth living for.  In my opinion, I’d rather have 364 really nice days instead.

Then I graduated college and Christmas wasn’t handed to me anymore.  And I found myself inclined to hang up some (tasteful) decorations.  And maybe bake a dozen Christmas cookies or two.  When Christmas isn’t something that’s just guaranteed to happen whether you like it or not, I began to realize how wonderful it really is.

Fast forward to this afternoon when I got teary-eyed walking through the post office.  And no, I wasn’t crying because of the absurd inefficiency created by one of the government’s largest beuracracies, but because the place was packed with people and their packages, all wrapped with care and being sent to the far corners of the country to loved ones.

And while I still aim to make the other 364 days of the year as pleasant and joyful as possible, I know now that special days and excuses to celebrate don’t come around all that often and we should take advantage of the time with loved ones while we can.

So this Grinch’s heart is slowly growing 3 sizes too.  A very merry Christmas to you!img_20161215_162128

Meet Luke.

I’ve been waiting a long time to write this.  But it never felt right until today, which is Luke’s birthday.  Today is the perfect excuse to gush about my incredible husband, without having to apologize for it.

I’ve come to realize over the past 525 days that I have married the best man in the world.  I had my suspicions long before we were married, but I think 12,600 hours of observation and empirical evidence seals the deal.

Now you know why I couldn’t write this earlier. Telling the world that I have the best man is natually going to be disappointing to everyone else.  Men like Luke only come once in a generation and since I’ve claimed this one, it’ll likely be another 50-60 years before anyone else has a chance.

There’s not enough room on the Internet to explain each and every thing about Luke that makes him so incredible, so I’ll focus on the most obvious case study: myself.

Since knowing, dating, and marrying Luke, I am so much more myself in so many better ways.  He focuses my natural competitive nature, dislodges deep set insecurities, and keeps this prone-to-take-life-way-too-seriously girl laughing every day.

He’s taught me that it’s okay to slow down and rest while at the same time explemifying a hard work ethic and dedication to one’s responsibilities.

I have a slight allergic reaction to all Christanese but I’ll risk it to say that Luke truly brings me closer to Christ as we learn more about God together.  He’s also slightly allergic to Christianese which is great so I don’t have to worry about any pithy sayings cross-stiched on pillows showing up anytime soon.

Luke has woken up the brave soul inside of me. He’s taught me that life is the greatest adventure (and Hook is one of the best movies of all time) and that I do like a lot of foods that I’d been habitually avoiding for 20+ years.  He inspires me to run faster and lift more and actually stretch after a workout.

Luke is also good for the environment. He’s taught me that recyclying isn’t just for hippies (oops) and was the first in our family to pioneer the capsule closet journey (which in his case, is the same 5 grey t-shirts that he’s had since high school).

Luke has shown me how to be kinder to others, especially store clerks.  In return, I taught him how to avoid eye contact with kiosk people trying to dump lotion on you.

I could keep going, but if you’ve read this far, you’re probably going to have a sugar crash soon from all this syrupy sweet stuff.  It’s not my normal blog fare, but days like today only come once a year.

With a warm heart and cold toes,

Chloe

Marriage | The First Year

As of today, we’ve got 365 days of married bliss under our belts and while that doesn’t quite make us marriage experts, it does give me the authority to comment on the dreaded “First Year of Marriage.” Cue the dark lights and sad faces.

Real confession time: the first year of marriage was great.

I’m 100% speaking only out of my own experience so if you’re first year of marriage was the worst or just so-so, I’m truly sorry & hope things got better. But since I have so many friends that are getting married this summer (as evidenced by the growing number of bridesmaids dresses in my closet), I wanted to share this ray of hope.

The first year of marriage does not have to be horrible. Contrary to what every well-meaning marriage book and article will tell you, the first year of marriage does not HAVE to entail:

  • Fights over money
  • Time battles over friendships
  • Arguments over where you spend the holidays
  • General despair
  • No more fun
  • Battling over how you squeeze the toothpaste tube (does anyone actually fight over that? Buy separate toothpaste tubes people. Problem solved)

Those are the common issues that a quick Google search will show you. Or just read the first chapter of any marriage book. Most of the ones we read started with: “You thought marriage would be great. But it’s actually super difficult and painful. Say goodbye to happiness now.”

That might be a bit of an exaggeration and while I completely appreciate the effort to set realistic expectations, but I fear that going into marriage with this deluge of fear-mongering propaganda about how much you’ll fight, the dark secrets you’ll discover, and just how generally miserable marriage can be won’t exactly set you on the path to success.Thankfully, Luke and I were blessed with great premarital counseling, wise older friends, and an innate love of budgeting. I’d highly encourage you to read those marriage books because they have a lot to offer after the first chapter. Here’s my summary of the advice from books, the Bible, and mentors that helped us have an awesome first year of marriage:

  • Discuss as many unspoken rules as you can find before marriage.
  • Embrace the money talk. Budgeting can sound scary, but it also can be super fun to set saving goals and get creative with a food budget.
  • Over-communicate. Girls, we love to get offended when guys can’t read our minds. “But shouldn’t they know exactly what I want to eat for dinner without me telling them?” Or worse: “He should know that xyz would make me upset! By doing it anyway, he clearly doesn’t care for my feelings.” Actually, it’s pretty uncaring to get mad at someone for not being able to read your mind or your hints.
  • Don’t keep score. I learned this one the hard way, which you can read about here.
  • Know which battles to fight. If I wanted to, I could probably get annoyed with Luke about pretty much anything. But I don’t have to. I can choose to take a page out of Queen Elsa’s songbook and simply let. it. go. It’s beautiful. And my out-of-tune warbling rendition of this overplayed mantra always lightens the mood 🙂

I’m beyond excited to witness the many marriages that are forming this summer and have loved learning from the other newlyweds and not-so-newlyweds in my life. As I reflect over this past year and sentimentally sob my way through the many wedding cards, notes, and kind advice given to Luke and I, I mostly want to say: Thank You. Thanks to the family and friends that made our wedding day so special. Thanks to the new friends that helped us move across the country and settle down in the foreign land of California. Thanks to the old friends who have stayed in touch and encouraged us every step of the way.

My 49 Cents

For the first year of dating, my now husband and I communicated almost exclusively through hand-written letters. You might assume that we were separated by a great body of ocean or some other romanticly difficult situation. In reality, we lived on the same campus the size of 3 football fields.

Eventually, we both were connected to cell phones and discovered that e-mail is a valid form of communication. One thing led to another, and now we are married and live in the same house so communicating is a tad faster than the snail mail days.

While it was mildly frustrating at the time, I wouldn’t do have started our relationship any other way. Now, I have multiple shoe boxes full of meaningful letters from my beloved. And I’ve often taken the habit of letter-writing to my other relationships. Just this week, I received a beautiful note from a long-time friend. Writing a note doesn’t take long, but that one made my entire week brighter. Totally worth the 49 cents.

The company I work for is a huge proponent of sending out personal notes to serve one’s customers better. It was the first time I had heard of them being used for professional purposes, but the hundreds of notes and letters that I still cherish are a dust-collecting testament to the fact that the written word is alive and well, and emojis haven’t completely killed all communication.

I love this company’s practice of sending personal notes, even between employees! No better way to start a Monday.

A photo posted by Chloe Sayers (@chloejsayers) on Feb 1, 2016 at 3:43pm PST

 

I was actually in the middle of writing this blog when I came upon this article about Peyton Manning’s habit of writing hand-written notes (verified by comparing his signature on an autographed helmet) to football players and figures who had inspired him over the years–even if they were bitter enemies on the field. If you know me, you know I know nothing about football. But I do know that celebrity sports players don’t have a lot of time, and if Peyton could make space in his schedule to appreciate those around him, so can we.

Hands Free Dinner (3/3)

For my last installment on how to make dinner as easily as possible, without going unhealthy or expensive, here are my final tips:

1. It’s OKAY if you don’t have all the ingredients.
Substituting white potatoes for golden ones is totally fine. You don’t even have to tell anyone.

2. Invest in appliances
Our favorites? Rice cooker, crockpot, and bread machine. Delay timer is our new best friend.

3. PLAN AHEAD
I’ve found that the most expensive or unhealthy meals are the unplanned ones. You don’t have much time, so you grab something on the road or on the way home and it’s guaranteed to be more expensive than if you made it yourself. So plan your meals, and check your meal calendar before going to bed so you can de-frost any pre-made foods (crockpot meals, meats, spaghetti sauce, etc…)

4. Identify your meal staples

Planning out 2 weeks of food is so much easier when some days are on auto-fill. For example, Wednesdays are leftover days and Thursdays are for spaghetti. Of course, it’s great to add variety into your menu so I wouldn’t recommend having the same thing every day, but adding at least 3 days of consistency makes planning meals and making them stress-free.

Thanks for joining me on our hands-free food foray! Any tips of your own to add? Comment below!

Until dinner,
Chloe

Hands Free Dinner (2/3)

I promised you all an update on my grand hands-free dinner experiment and I’m glad to report: So far, super easy, super successful. We have a few favorite recipes and not-so-favorite ones but all the meals have been yummy, edible, and best of all–so efficient! There is really not much better than coming home from work with dinner already made. We also invested in a small rice cooker with a delay timer so there is literally nothing else to do but serve yourself some delicious pre-cooked grub.

I also promised some of my more general tips on how to eat good, healthy food on a budget. While making this list, I realized I had too many for just one post so stay tuned! More culinary craftiness to come.

Tip #1: Buy in Bulk. Always.

Whether you’re single, married, or have 10 kids, bulk just makes sense. For those of us in 1455221148.pngthe 2 and under households, this doesn’t mean buying all your fresh produce in bulk. Here are the staples that we’ve found save money and trips to the grocery store –>

The first time you do this, the bill will be upwards of $250. DON’T PANIC. You will only have to replace these items every few months, so the overall bill is significantly less.

Tip #2: Switch convenience for cheapness

What is easier? Opening a can of beans, ready to throw into a soup or soaking them overnight for 10+ hours and then cooking them for another 2-4? Convenience sells which is why I am convinced grocery stores make most of their profit off of individual-serving and pre-made foods. Don’t spend an extra $5 on adorable individual servings. Buy a box of 150 Ziplock sandwich bags, and make your own.

Tip # 3: Say goodbye to snacks and sandwiches

For the BLT lovers out there, this one is hard (I feel your pain). What is lunch without a sandwich? The reality is, deli meat and sliced cheese is costly. And snacks can be pretty pricey simply because they are easy to grab off the shelf in the store and your pantry (see Tip #2). By doubling the size of your dinners to make enough leftovers for the next day, you can have delicious and healthy lunches all week long. The additional cost to make more of a meal you’re already prepping is far less than buying sandwich supplies and snacks.

More to come!

Until then,
Chloe

Beady Eyes

Every since my first encounter with Office Depot, I’ve been in love with all things organization. Now that I’m a bit older and have something of an aesthetic sense (I still wear mismatched socks, so don’t be too impressed), my passion for post-its has grown to include pretty key holders and paper stackers and things called “Catch-Alls” which is the 7258472prettiest way of saying “Junk Drawer.”

Our apartment came furnished. This meant my husband and I were able to move across the country for under $300 (including gas) and walk into a lovely little studio apartment with more lamps and bookshelves than we could ever need. And stuffed pheasants. And silky curtains. And doilies and some kind of branchy bathroom decor and fake plants and mismatched floral prints and did I mentioned the stuffed pheasants? These aren’t complaints, because this apartment is quite possibly the best thing that has ever happened to us, but I’m not winning any decor awards anytime soon.

And that’s okay. Because this is where our best and worst moments live; often simultaneously.

I hear our landlords’ TV and dogs through our thin connecting wall. I can choose to hear the disruptive sounds of yet another made-for-TV movie or I can hear the hospitality of a generous couple that shares their life with us.

I see the gross sticky remains of spilled hot chocolate in my Tupperware drawer. Or I can see mercy personified in my husband as he patiently cleaned up my spill and then offered me his own warm cocoa.

I groan about dirty dishes that will always exist forever or I can remember that these are ghosts of meals prepared with laughter and dinners eaten in good company.

I see dead stuffed pheasants watching me with their beady black eyes as they perch atop my closet or I can see dead stuffed pheasants. No romanticizing my way out of that one.

So much of life is perspective. And it doesn’t have to be Pinterest perfect to be beautiful.