Tuesday, December 24, 2013

Adding my Voice to the Chorus

The story of advent, for me, is one of faith. Faith that that night would come. Faith that a Son would be born. Faith that the star would lead to something .  Faith that no matter what you've gone through or your current situation, it's all about making it to tonight.

I didn't grow up with advent in our home, so the lighting of candles and this period of immersive anticipation was a little lost on me. The only thing we anticipated was going to bed or wrapping those few straggling presents. We watched the movies and we sang the carols, but reflecting on the coming of the King wasn't present.

And that worked for a while. It's easy to get lost in the ways of the world, focusing on the busy-ness and the obligations. It's easy to lose yourself in the spirit of Christmas without ever touching the Spirit.

This year was different. This year was a chorus of voices, perspectives on the season that I had never understood before- studying and exploring scriptures I had never bothered to understand past face value. This is advent. The building of this foundation, this filter to which we can look through and see the true story.
That Mary didn't just bear the Son of God, people must have thought she was nuts. Her excuse was communication with angels? Or Joseph who must have struggled with a few doubts on his cross-country road trip with a very pregnant young wife.

But it's the wise men who mean the most to me. To me, they walked the ultimate walk of faith. They weren't Christians or Jews to believe in a Savior, but their faith brought them the Son of God tucked into a feeding trough in the most humble of beginnings.
That's Christmas. No matter your background or your beliefs, what you've endured or overcome or are still struggling with, it's the belief that your journey has an end worth traveling to get to.

Tonight as I'm struggling to find a talent for the family Christmas Eve Talent Show, or grabbing a few more stocking stuffers, I'll remember that my journey doesn't end here.

Monday, December 16, 2013

On How I Need to Go Off My Life Diet

This season of my life is like chewing with my mouthful. My eyes were bigger than my stomach and we decided- it seemed like a good idea at the time- to take a hefty serving of all the goodies life had to offer. But now I'm stuck with the laborious task of chewing and swallowing and I would like to give some back thankyouverymuch without looking like I'm hiding it discreetly in my napkin, but that's actually what I'm doing.

In this scenario I'm me, my food is various Christmas gifts, work projects and other obligations, while the act of hiding it all is really just prioritizing to Before Christmas and After Christmas. Some things just aren't making the cut.

Does that sounds awful? Because it feels awful. I'm happiest when I'm doing something, but I never seem to think that doing something for myself is very productive. In fact, I read this blog post the other day and nearly cried because inside I'm screaming "THAT'S ME! THAT'S ME!" but attention very quickly turned to the myriad of Christmas ornaments I'm decorating to send to friends and family this year.

Why can't I see myself as a priority? Why is spending time with my husband un-productive unless I'm dragging him to one errand or another until we both plant ourselves in cushions at the end of the day? I feel like I'm on a bad diet- the kind that starves you of the protein that you really  need to stay full and satisfied, so by dinner you're so hungry you binge-eat all the things you were avoiding because you have no self-control anymore.

I need to stop dieting my life.

I need to stop restricting the experiences I'm ingesting because they're too rich: too expensive or too indulgent or take up too much time.

Life is a giant-size pair of mom jeans with an elastic waistband. No matter what I do, it'll always accommodate me. It may get a little tight at times, but it still goes on. It always goes on. It's just up to me to enjoy myself.

Sunday, December 1, 2013

LOVED This Weekend

I'm still on the fence with how I feel about holiday blog posts- do I do them? Are they cheesy? Do I need to let the blogosphere know that I celebrated? When it really comes down to it, I'm too busy living in the moment, and I hope you are too.

Living in the moment by celebrating with family. Watching our dog get absolutely round with not-very-sneaky pieces of turkey.

Living in the moment by Black Friday shopping with my husband- someone who looks forward to the dirt-cheap movie prices (and actually affordable tools/electronics/clothing items) all year round. We cleaned out three stores by the time we were done!
Taking all of those extra calories, that impending sense of holiday dread and a wide open space on the couch, and putting them to good use...by sleeping for almost 15 hours on Saturday. Not my finest moment, but I feel great.

Finally, our Sunday tradition- hiking Griffith Park.
This weekend was one of endings and of beginnings, as well. Allow me to wax poetic a bit, here. National Novel Writing Month is over, and I wrote 10,000 words. All on one topic. I don't think I've ever done that. The goal was 50k, but heck, I wrote most of those words in the last few days- and now that I have momentum I'll be damned if I'm going to let the end of the month stop me. This story is going to be written, ya'll.

Finally, there's Voices in the Desert; a collection of writers/bloggers (including myself!) are writing about advent. We're responding to scripture and letting you, our readers, understand what advent means to us in our own words. I'm both excited and nervous to write about that, but mostly anxious- and isn't that the point?

Monday, November 25, 2013


Today's word is vigilance.
1. state or quality of being vigilant (keenly watchful to detect danger; wary); watchfulness
2. pathology, insomnia (ever awake and alert)
adjectives: alertness, attention, heedfulness, concern, care

Vigilance looks a little like me these days. My hair may be coming undone and my house is going through some pretty rapid seasons of clean, then messy then back again. But I have my eye on the big picture and I'm doing something about our future, so all the rest is small potatoes.

I wake up with a smile on my face more often than not these days- eager to go to work. I've certainly never come across that before. I'm easily here 6 days a week, scooping up those overtime hours by the armful. I enjoy what I'm doing, I enjoy the people who work here and I'm putting forth my every effort to get hired permanently. The idea of having a steady job to rely on while Mr. E works to learn the ropes of the industry makes me just want to burst.

I'm writing, too. That is a lot of the reason why I'm not around the blog as much. It seems like everyone and their mother these days is writing, so I figured I'd try my hand at it. The fact that it's a mostly free creative project didn't go unnoticed either. Mr. E and I are both at the computer, typing up stories, bleeding out words in the hopes that something will form itself into a short story or a screenplay to use.
Vigilant is Mr. E spending half of his day keeping up with contacts around the city, dropping his name in an effort to stay relevant and noticed and remembered. The film business is less about the job postings and more about the people you know and the projects you're willing to tolerate for the next gig. He's been so great about keeping the house together, walking the dog and running errands in between resume revisions and phone calls. It's all foundation work.

Even Ripley is vigilant lately. Mr. E took a short stay-cation to the mountains with a friend to hammer out some screenplay ideas away from the hustle and bustle of the city. Rips didn't let a single hour go by without pausing what she was doing and staring intently at the door, waiting for her favorite snuggle buddy to rattle his keys. She wouldn't even sleep with me, choosing instead to sit at the foot of the bed, face towards the door in the hopes Mr. E would creep to bed in the dead of night as he's been known to do.
So sorry if there's not much going on in the way of keeping anyone updated. I have crafts and recipes and all sorts of stories to tell you, but in the mean time you'll probably find us on Twitter (@thEccles and @danofthe) or on Instagram (@brieccles and @danofthe) because you can never have too many Ripley photos in your life.

Sunday, November 24, 2013

Bacon Cinnamon Rolls

I have lots to say to you. Really. I do.

But life hasn't just creeped in the way, it's stomping around with bells and singing boisterously, making sure that I'm paying attention.

More on that later.

Honestly, I think it's fitting that when I come back to write to you all that it's about bacon. Because priorities.
I had seen this recipe around the web for a while, but I wrote it off as outlandish and extravagant. Who really needs bacon IN their cinnamon rolls? THIS GUY.

In a stroke of culinary luck I had a small tupperware of cream cheese frosting left over from baking a carrot cake the other week. That's enough excuse to make cinnamon rolls, right? And when you have an unopened package of bacon...it all just rolls together, pardon the pun.

These days I'm feeling the urge to "Rachel Ray" everything- make my life easier by using pre-made ingredients, working with what you have. We bought Pillsbury crescent rolls for Lil' Smokies, but never got around to using them. So our recipe is sort of janky- and could be upgraded for those who have the desire.

Bacon Cinnamon Rolls
1 tube Pillsbury crescent rolls
2 Tbsp butter
1 Tbsp sugar/cinnamon mix
4-6 slices of bacon

Instead of using the pre-formed triangles in the rolls, I used a pizza cutter to make slices. I then microwaved the butter and sugar/cinnamon mix together until it was completed melted and brushed it all over the dough.
You need to cook your bacon for a few minutes before adding it to the rolls- you don't want to rely on the dough/oven to cook your bacon for you. Just enough that it's not raw, but not so much that it's stiff. You want something that will roll. We didn't do real well with that step, but breaking it into pieces seemed to work too. Besides- then you have ready made snacks while the rolls are cooking. I'm just sayin.

Roll up and cook for approximately 12 minutes at 375 F.

Ours turned out a nice dark gold and very flaky on the outside- and since we had rolled them up so tight to keep the bacon in, some of the middle wasn't cooked as well, but it was just a little soft and squishy, not necessarily doughy.

Top with frosting and enjoy!

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

Juicing Over.

I can't even begin to tell you how happy I am that I'm not juicing anymore. I joined my coworker in an effort to challenge myself- to see if I could do it, to see how my body responded to the absence of processed foods and wheat, and to potentially gain more energy.

Boy, was that a lie.
By day two I knew it was sort of working- I was cleansing alright. As in right through. But I didn't feel bad. There was no sick-to-my-stomach-feeling or indegestion or cramps. And to clarify, I was never really hungry (as long as I ate all my shakes). Frankly, I was drinking so freaking much that I couldn't think about much except peeing ever 2.4 seconds. Multiple bathroom trips meant multiple hand-washings and by the end of the week my poor hands were cracked and dry because of the heat and the soap. But I've never seen such clear pee!
The shakes were much better than that first day- sure, the first and last shakes of the day tasted like dirty lawn clippings (that would be spinach, lettuce, cucumber and celery, ya'll) but the other ones were passable. Lemon-lime coconut with avocado for good fats? Yes, thank you. Ginger-carrot-miso soup? Another serving. But that supplement water? Literally tasted like bile.

I made sure that Mr. E tasted all of the shakes. Even if he wouldn't do the cleanse with me I wanted him to know what I was going through when I sat back and complained about them. He was pretty smug sitting in his "Chew Only" camp, and he didn't even think my supplements tasted bad! What a weirdo.

The best part was the fact that if I added water to my shakes, I was able to chug them a little easier. This is super professional, especially when your supervisor happens to walk by.

The negatives:
I had a small sore throat almost every day. I'm not sure if this was because of a post nasal drip or allergies or my shakes, but juicing sure didn't help.
My hands are SO dry from washing them so often.
I never got more energy.
I was so bored by Day 5 that we decided to cut the cleanse short and only go 6 days- also partially because I didn't want to juice and have leftovers from my 3 serving shakes.
I missed fruit. A lot.
The positives:
I was never once achy. I certainly wasn't working out any more than I normally do (lots and lots of walking) but I wasn't sore or crampy, which was awesome.
I never had to think about what I was eating the next day- I always had a shake or two in the fridge.
I wasn't energetic, but I had a clearer head. I went through the entire week without coffee and never once missed it. I was able to get my projects done at work without that fuzzy "out of it" feeling.

So would I do it again? Probably not.

But if I did, I would add fruit. Lots of fruit to give that liquid coleslaw shake some flavor.
This is what I ended up eating on my last day- carrot fritters!

Thursday, October 31, 2013

Step Twenty-Seven: Learn How to Fight Fairly

This is probably one of the only "secret tricks" to relationships- and you can apply it to more than just your marriage.

Fighting is okay. In fact, fighting is good.

Weird, right?

Fighting is essentially a confrontation of ideas- you believe one way and your opponent believes the other. There's no inherent problem with a difference of opinion. Often times it can strengthen your convictions or open your eyes to other opinions and work on making you a little more humble.

The difference is your technique and presentation. If you come out screaming abuse and obscenities (or comparisons and resentment), I can guarantee your husband is not going to react well. Maybe he gets defensive, maybe he clams up, maybe he walks away from you and maybe he screams back in your face. None of these reactions address the problem and nothing got resolved.

Instead, approach fights with honesty and feelings. Ew, right? Who wants to bombard their husbands with "You make me feel..."? Well, you shouldn't.

Don't project. It should never be "YOU make me feel", rather you should keep it to "I feel because..."
For example: I feel hurt when...(give example)
There's a subtle difference there.

Brevity is important. I'm going to pull out a generalization here (and you're welcome to cite all of the exceptions you know) but I have yet to encounter a romantic interest who wanted to sit down and discuss all the possibilities and tangents and comparisons of an argument. I could always give them (and usually wanted to because I'm wordy like that), but then their eyes started to glaze over and I could tell I lost them. Keep it simple until he wants more detail.

Go to bed angry. I know that adage has been touted repeatedly- dusted off and pulled out at weddings and receptions and the like- but this is dependent entirely on how the two of you deal with issues. Personally, I think a lot of things can be solved after a good night's sleep- I see better in the morning and I've had some time to let it all sink in. By the time I wake up I often realize what a colossal jerk I've been and we can resolve our argument much more efficiently. If that's not your style, then by all means take the time to solve the issue before you hit the hay. Just keep in mind that life has a nasty way of breaking habits and just when you've perfected your system something will come up which makes your method unattainable.

Ultimately, realize that fighting in a relationship isn't about being mean or inflicting hurt. If those are your goals, I'm going to go out on a limb and say you're doing something wrong.

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Step Twenty-Five: Some Things to Not Do. No Matter How Tempting

My intent with this series wasn't really to get your husband to do what you want, but ya'll are smart readers and you knew that. It also wasn't to tell you what to do or what not to do in your relationship. Because that way leads many many many choices and decisions and values and personal commitments.

But there are some things that just shouldn't be done in a loving, trusting relationship. In my opinion.

We talked about one of them- don't lie to each other. I'm not talking "there's no more pie" or "I'd love to watch a Sylvester Stallone movie with you" type of lying- I mean allowing assumptions to creep in, or avoiding that conversations about how your feelings have changed. It's all about respect, people, and of all relationships in your life, you should respect your spouse.

Domestic violence. Big topic, amirite? In all seriousness, it's never okay to hit your spouse in malice or anger. We hear a lot of stories about husband-on-wife disputes, but it's important to understand that media and our society often have a skewed view on events and there are more reverse cases than you'd think. That's not to say that violence of either sort is more or less destructive, just that awareness is important. If you're so mad at your husband that you need to resort to physically lashing out, then it's time to take a good hard look at your coping mechanisms.

Lastly, be careful of your out-of-marriage relationships. Notice how this one isn't a hard and fast rule? You need to make your own decisions on this one. It can be very tempting for some relationships to unravel when the focus is not there anymore. We also live in a day and age where comfort or confession can be viewed as consent. As a partner you have an obligation to either keep yourself out of those situations or stay honest with your spouse. That choice is entirely your own.

Monday, October 28, 2013

Feeling Cleansed

I'm doing something this week that I've always wanted to do.

Doesn't that feel good? Getting something off of your life list? Like paying off student loans or road-tripping to Vegas...

I'm doing a juice cleanse.
Beer bottle in the back not included.
 I often saw other girls (always girls) in college doing the Master Cleanse (water. maple syrup. cayenne pepper. lemons. laxatives.) and I couldn't quite wrap my head around it. Since then the cleanse fad has only gotten bigger with more and more types appearing out of the blue like crazy whack-a-moles. We even had a juicery open up down the street- that would be an entire store devoted to cold-pressed juicing. Sure, their drinks were tasty, but they were also 7$ a bottle. No, thanks.

This cleanse is apparently Gwyneth Paltrow approved. It's her Organic Avenue Diet, but- AND THIS IS A PRETTY BIG BUT- I did not buy organic, ya'll. Nope. I bought Costco and I bought Trader Joe's and I don't think I'll ever do this again. Apparently I'm drinking spinach and celery and parsley and Romaine lettuce for 7 days.
So why? Why am I subjecting myself to this?

To challenge myself- mind over matter.
I'm curious to see if it works the way they say it does: clearer skin? energy?
I finally found a juicing-buddy with a coworker. Mr. E plans to stay within his chewable diet, chomping away on everything non-leafy in our fridge.

I don't think this will lose any weight for me.
I don't think this will "clean" my gut- of all the biota who are SUPPOSED to live there...
I don't think this is a long-term diet, but at least this one contains food. Plusalso I may splurge a little and eat some sort of meat/protein dinner instead of more veggies because I really don't like broccoli/cauliflower/zucchini.

So we'll see how this goes! I'm excited.

But maybe I'll just chalk that down to stage fright.

I bet tomorrow I'll feel like crap.

Step Twenty-Four: Are You Focused?

This is just your daily reminder to stay present with your husband. Be aware, be involved, be supportive. It's easy to take that man for granted because he signed his life away to be with you forever, through thick and thin, sickness and health. So yeah, he shares that home with you, but are you aware of what he's doing for you or are you continually pointing out all he's not doing?

It's really easy for me to get caught up in my day- work, planning dinner, taking the dog for a walk- I'm already mapping my day by the time I get up to get the most out of my time (otherwise I'll sit like a bump on a log). Mr. E and I are passing like ships in the night- his Sound team was let go from the feature so he's home, and I'm gone early, home late. It's not unusual for me to leave him a list of things to do around the house: deposit a check, make a return to Target, etc.

But sometimes I forget to say these things with love. I forget that Mr. E will do anything for me but he can't do everything. I don't always remember that he operates in a different way than I do and that my list-making and order-giving can seem condescending, even when I don't mean it that way.

It's times like these that I have to re-focus on my husband. In keeping our communication open and honest, I'm better able to understand how he's feeling  (not so great being job-less, thanks) and what I can do as a wife to support him.

When I focus on my husband, I'm focusing on our relationship and that's always a good thing.

Sunday, October 27, 2013

Step Twenty-Three: Love Languages

If you haven't heard of, checked, quizzed yourself or read about the 5 Love Languages- go look!

Essentially the idea is that love is expressed in five different categories: Gift Giving, Words of Affirmation, Acts of Service, Physical Touch, and Quality Time. If you need a clarification (or to find what your strengths are) feel free to visit the website.

I'll wait.

Have your top two? Me too. I "speak" in Words of Affirmation and Physical Touch- which doesn't surprise me at all because Mr. E and I aren't generally too far from each other spatially when we're together. I'm pretty big in the "talking" category, too. I just want my relationships to know exactly what it is that makes me happy: it helps them by acknowledging what they do and ensuring they'll do it again, propagating a cycle of generosity and encouragement.

I quizzed Mr. E too, partly out of curisoity but also because if I'm "talking" to him using the wrong "language" then we aren't communicating very effectively. It wasn't much of a surprise his highest scoring language was Physical Touch, but his secondary language (Quality Time) made me think.

Sometimes we reassess our day-to-day when we make big changes- it's a little way of keeping us connected and attuned with one another. Mr. E has often requested more time together and I always assumed it was because he's a little bit stingy with gas money or his down time and he didn't want to travel anywhere. And maybe that's part of it. But once I knew that "speaks" in Quality Time, I realized that this penchant for staying at home and hanging together made a little more sense. This was a way he was telling me he loved me.

These certainly aren't hard and fast rules and there are always exceptions, but by understanding the preferences we have for expressing our feelings, it was a lot easier for Mr. E and I to communicate. And communication is a good thing...you know?

Saturday, October 26, 2013

Mr. E on Balancing Work and Home

A typical work hour in the film business is 12 hours. That means 12 hours of work, not counting breaks or travel time. And that’s assuming your production is staying productive throughout the day, which doesn’t always happen. Let’s just say that everyone is very familiar with the concept of Overtime. I’ve been on sets that worked for 16 hours and I’ve even heard of shows that went up to a 24 hour work day. It’s very rare to get that high, but it does happen.

Now, this means that on a normal work day, depending on where we are shooting, I could leave the house at 6am and not get home until 8 or 9pm.  Everybody in this business is a little bit crazy, because we all know that this is normal and expected.

These working hours are a huge reason why so many people in the industry are not married, or have been married far too many times. So it’s important that I remain focused and put my family before my business.

Text messaging saves marriages. I’m not saying that you need to have constant text conversations with your spouse, but for me it’s a fast way to tell Mrs. E that I’m thinking of her. I send her little tidbits throughout the day, and by doing so, we are able to have some personal interaction. It’s obviously not as good as being together in person, but when I’m away from home more hours of the day than I am there, I need to do what I can.

Thankfully, Mrs. E and I have taken the time to understand as much as we could about the business before we started. Since we communicate so openly, there aren’t as many snags or pitfalls when the industry makes yet another drastic change. But as long as we keep in contact with one another, being apart isn’t quite so hard.

One of the keys to a good marriage is to give more than is expected. When the two of you are selfless it only serves to strengthen your relationship as a couple.

Friday, October 25, 2013

Step Twenty-Two: Stop Trying

How do you get your husband to do what you want? Stop trying.


Don't try at all.

If you've pleaded and cajoled and threatened and ignored to no avail, maybe it's time to sit back and let him take the reins.

When there's absolutely nothing my husband wants to do (and he's very vocal about when this happens) I stop asking.

I do what I want and/or need to do and I avoid asking for his help. Yes, this may be a tad passive-aggressive, but I don't do it in a "look-what-I'm-doing-you-jerk" kind of way. I see it more as taking his hints that what I'm asking is too much. Frankly, what is there that I can't do on my own anyways? Not a whole lot.

So the next time your husband drags his feet or ignores your repeated attempts at including him in the decision-making process, do it without him. At least this way when he tries to complain later you can always tell him you tried.

Thursday, October 24, 2013

Step Twenty-One: Short and Sweet

I don't usually do this...but today I'm calling in a free pass.

Mr. E doesn't do well with long meaningful discussions about why a freshly-made bed absolutely rocks my socks at the end of the day.

So I keep it short.

Hun. Please put your shoes away. I love you.

Simple, concise and to the point.

We could talk for days about feelings and emotions and history and baggage, but the easiest way to get Mr. E to do something is to lay it out in its bare bones.

No ruffles. No ribbons. I do keep it polite, though. Most of the time.

I've heard it's a guy thing. I've heard that guys just don't like talking a whole lot. That they don't do well with big words or explanations. That's okay. Before my first cup of coffee or glass of wine, I don't do well with them either.

But sometimes I think we all need it short and simple. Sometimes I just need you to get to the point of what you're saying so I can do it already. And get back to what I want to do, amirite?

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Step Twenty: Ask, Don't Tell

Before you can ask nicely, or to choose between options, you first need to ASK.

Mr. E doesn't like to be told or hinted or passive-aggressively left to-do lists. Doing these things removes him from the conversation- like he's not a part of the decision making process. This leaves ME as the decision maker and all of a sudden we're not treating each other as equals or partners. Instead we're ordering and pulling authority that neither of us has, raising expectations neither of us can reach.

In short we have building volcanoes. All it takes is a pair of shoes left in the wrong place (the computer desk) at the wrong time (when I'm sitting down to write).

To circumvent the out pour of molten stress and misplaced aggression- we encourage each other in meaningful dialogue. Asking my husband to do the dishes (instead of telling him they need to be done) establishes a clear-cut task that will make me happy. No guess work. No extra steps. It includes him in the maze that can be my brain and gives him the option to let me know if this is a) enough or b) too much.

By asking I validate that his goals and tasks for the day are important, too, so no one is feeling diminished or taken for granted. It only gets better from there.

Step Nineteen: Politeness Isn't Just for Strangers

I know that I can often fall into a rut: my day is long and busy and there's only so many decisions I can make at work before I'm tapped out. When I get home, it's all I can do to fall into the couch and eat a spoonful of peanut butter. At this point I may not be in the best of moods.

It's here that I need to be most careful! My husband is, in a lot of ways, like a coworker- he deserves my respect and attention despite the fact that some days he may drive me batty. It's important to our relationship that I don't take advantage of the fact that he's stuck with me until the end of our days and then some. Just like I may have to put on a polite face for people in the office, I sometimes have to pull it out for my hubs.

Mr. E and I are pretty comfortable around each other, but that doesn't give us any leeway to stop treating each other like civil human beings. I think it's important to keep politeness- not to be confused with a polite distance- in the marriage. One of the reasons we adopted our Ripley was because we would come home and flop on the couch- no rhyme or reason to our nights or weekends and we weren't particularly motivated to do anything. Getting a dog changed that for the better- all of a sudden there's someone else whose needs need to be seen to: she has to go out, she has to be fed, she has to be exercised. Thank goodness we pushed ourselves out of comfortable stability (and a permanent seat-print on the cushion)- we're now better motivated to get things done than we were before.

The same idea applies to treating your spouse politely- despite how long you've known each other, despite the inside jokes and behind-closed-doors shenanigans, you still have to deal with each other every single day. Try to keep those "please"s and "thank you"s around.

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Step Eighteen: Be Honest (?)

We've already talked about being honest with your husband- how omitting things, avoiding blame and outright lying to your spouse can lead to resentment and trust issues. And what's a relationship without trust? Not a whole lot.

So you know it's important to be honest with your husband, but an important step in the process is to be honest with yourself.

Chances are you know exactly what you can handle, but do you know how much your husband can handle? Do you know his breaking point? His comfort zone? These things aren't just nice to know- they're useful tools in gauging your husband's ability to juggle life's curveballs.

Keep it real, readers! Expectations are well and good but understand that your standards and his standards may differ. Communicate with each other, but above all, have realistic expectations. I would love to have my home sparkling and spotless when I come home each day, but that's not a very realistic request of my husband- just as he knows it's not realistic for me to make dinner everyday. When we commit to honest dialogue, we encourage a relationship that's built on more than just assumptions, but trust and respect.

Step Seventeen: Timing is Everything

You know that feeling when everything seems to be on your plate at once? When you can't possibly add one more thing to your to-do list because you might keel over from exhaustion (and possible inappropriate coffee dispensing)? Imagine someone asked you to for that one more thing- chances are you're a little predisposed to say no, even if it's perfectly reasonable.

It's all about the timing.

This is a skill that most people learn at home first. There was always a good time and a bad time to ask my parents for something: immediately as they walked in the door? Not so much. After they found out I did extra chores and started dinner? Lookin' better.

The same is true for my husband. If I ask him to...write a guest post for my blog...after a 12-hour day on set, before he's eaten and right in the middle of an argument with our handyman, the best I can get is an irritated "Uh-huh" that never really gets done. But if I time my question so that he's in a better mood or frame of mind, then the odds that he'll do what I ask are already in my favor.

I just happen to stack the odds pretty often, too, with things like this.

Mr. E on How Cooking is Good for Your Relationship

All men should know how to cook. Even if all you know is blue box mac n cheese, it’s a start. Your woman’s favorite kind of meal is one that she didn’t have to cook. Trust me on that.

I have a really hard time cooking a full course meal, because I am dreadful at multitasking, ESPECIALLY in the kitchen. I can’t stir the sauce while I’m worrying about whether or not the chicken is cooked all the way through. So most of the time Mrs. E and I share the load, I cook the meat and she cooks the sides. But sometimes I like to do all of it. Those are Mrs. E’s favorite dinners because she didn’t have to do anything.

It’s been a bit harder over the past few months for me to cook for a couple of reasons. One is that at our new apartment we don’t haveroom for a bbq, which means that I have to cook in the kitchen, which means I am completely out of my element. Two is that when I am working I usually don’t even get home til after 9 pm and who wants to eat dinner that late? Nobody that’s who.

So here’s my Mr. E Guarantee: Cook for your wife/girlfriend and she will be happy. And a happy wife makes it easier to be a happy husband. 

Friday, October 18, 2013

Groupies for the Blue Men

I know that fall has hit the rest of you, but I'm still sort of holding on to summer. Sure, night is coming a little faster and pumpkin-spiced anything has become a marketing epidemic, but it's still pretty warm here in the valley!  As sort of a last hurrah to the season we never seem to get enough of, Mr. E and I trekked to an LA tradition: the Hollywood Bowl.
We went to see the Blue Man Group play a special Bowl-only performance with (something) orchestra. What a fun date! We sat in nosebleed seats and waved off second-hand pot smoke from the bushes and enjoyed the antics of those crazy blue PVC performers.
Some shows at the Bowl are open early for show-goers to bring food and picnic. As we traveled the four escalators to our seats we watched ragtag groups unpacking kabobs, ribs, chow mein, sandwiches and bottles upon bottles of wine. In honor of the occasion (and the venue!) we made a summer pizza: dates, bacon, goat cheese and nectarines.
Yeah, sometimes I like to get a little crazy.

The original recipe called for figs and bacon and goat cheese, but you make do with what you have, amirite? The crust was brushed with balsamic vinegar, topped with stuff then drizzled with honey and baked til melt-y. I will enjoy you, LA, even if I have to stuff myself with bacon to do it.

Thursday, October 17, 2013

Step Sixteen: Communicate Your Desires

This one seems sort of self-explanatory, right?

Except when can you find the time in your day to feed yourself, commute to work, blog, do the laundry and all the other myriad of daily, weekly and monthly tasks life has assigned you, much less communicate with your husband. 

Juggling life isn't always easy. But there was one thing that changed my outlook on how I deal with all that: you make time for what's important to you. Instead of saying "I would love to, but I'm so busy right now" try saying instead "I don't want to make time for that". 

Sounds a little different, doesn't it? 

That's really what it comes down to- there are cut and dried priorities in your life (going to work, paying bills, etc) and then there are things that are a little more loose (sleeping 8 hours a night, walking the dog, etc). 

Mr. E and I are in that awesome up-swing of marriage where the other person is top priority. The shoe will drop someday and we may forget all of our tips and tricks for staying happy with one another, but right now we focus on each other: supporting, enabling, comforting, communicating. 

We're far from perfect at this (good GRIEF would you just finish dishes one of these days!) but maintaining communication is paramount to getting what we want. After all, Mr. E doesn't always know what I want if I don't tell him.

Today I squoze squeezed fit in the Five Minute Friday word: Laundry. We're taking ours this weekend to my parents and avoiding that $11.50 charge.
Five Minute Friday

Step Fifteen: Change What You're Asking For

You may think that with all of my posts that Mr. E and I communicate extremely well. For the most part that's true...we've been together for five and a half years, so I think we've definitely hit that stage where we understand a lot of the motivations behind each others actions.

But I wasn't born with telepathy. And neither was Mr. E.

This can lead us to some pretty thorny arguments! In general, when I'm doing a task (dishes, errands, making dinner) my thought process is two or three steps ahead of what's at hand. I multitask a lot, so I'm usually thinking something like..."1/2 tsp of salt...1/2 tsp of salt...I need to change my mailing address for my Old Navy credit card...Old Navy has shoes on sale right now...Ripley ate a pair of my shoes last week...Ripley needs to go out...I'll do it and take the trash out at the same time...I found our TV desk by the trash...I need to dust the TV"
Funny Somewhat Topical Ecard: When I can't sleep, I try counting sheep, but my ADD kicks in. One sheep, two sheep, cow, pig, Old MacDonald had a farm. Hey Macarena!
I'm learning that this is not the way that Mr. E works. Frankly, I'm learning that this isn't the way a lot of people work! So while I'm reciting a to-do list to myself, committing it to memory and actively thinking about each project simultaneously, I might be talking at the same time about a completely different subject.

Mr. E, on the other hand, needs one task to be finished before he can be told the next one- he likes to focus on one thing at a time, to be present and thorough about each individual task. My brother is the same way; so much so that I wish I could go back in time and implement that lesson earlier. Sorry, Colin.

I'm still learning how to communicate with my husband (and other people in my life who think this way), but I'm already making pretty good use of the information. When we get frustrated with one another because I'm six steps ahead and he can't catch up, I remind myself to stop. Slow down. To change what I'm asking of Mr. E.

There's no right or wrong way between the two of us, but there are certainly better and worse ways we communicate. I have to take it upon myself to change how I'm asking for something to be done, rather than assume that everyone's on the same page. I like to think that my example is useful for Mr. E when he can't seem to communicate with me, either.

I hope.

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Step Fourteen: Make Him Choose

If you were looking for helpful hints and tips to get your husband to do what you want, you may have been disappointed. As I've said before, my husband doesn't "do what I want" because I'm in charge or bossy or dominating (at least I don't think!). I work hard to serve my husband: to understand him so we can better communicate and build a strong relationship that will last longer than we do.

But I do have one trick up my sleeve.

Whenever we have tasks that neither of us relish doing, I always give him the first choice.

"Hun, would you like to do the dishes? Or make dinner?"

"Do you want to help me make the bed? Or do you want to take the trash out?"

"Do you want to vacuum or clean out the car?"

I like to think that when I take charge to get something done, I turn right around and relinquish control of the situation to put us both on an even playing field. That way it doesn't feel like I'm ordering him around: this is OUR space, not mine, and I'm just as responsible for maintaining it as he is. But by giving him the choice between tasks, he feels more in control- like he's able to choose the option that he thinks least sucks.

Spoiler: sometimes both choices suck.

But he has a completely different attitude about what he's doing when he got to choose.

I'm not ashamed of the fact that I ruthlessly applied this tactic from a parenting magazine, but in the end what matters is the fact that BOTH chores are done with minimal blame or accusations- just the way I like it.

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Step Thirteen: Bribery

Ladies (and any gents out there)...

I am not above bribing my husband.

Frankly, I'm not above bribing anyone, but that's a whole other post, amirite?

It may not be the most ethical or rewarding of relationship tools, but sometimes you have to make do with what you have.

I bribe my husband with a multitude of things I know he likes:

  •      a whole day to sit at home and not go anywhere
  •      going to see a movie in theaters (we're movie buffs, what can I say?)
  •      food. Really awesome, usually home-cooked, food

Sometimes your husband just doesn't want to do something that you've set your heart on. In these cases, I call a compromise: I'll do this for you if you do this for me. This is sort of a last ditch effort for Mr. E to focus on what's at hand- usually it's something mundane like cleaning the house or making a run to Goodwill. But if I promise him something he wants at the end (we won't have to move for the rest of the day or I'll make pizza), I can get that last burst of concentration and willpower- just enough to get us through.

This is especially helpful because my husband sometimes has anxiety. Every once in a while, for no darn good reason, he just feels in the dumps and there's not a whole lot I can do or say to snap him out of it. I think I'm learning it's not even really a "snap out of it" kind of thing. But what I can  do for him is offer a reward at the end of whatever I need. Having a tangible goal in mind keeps Mr. E focused on what I want (let's jog one more block) for us to get through it and on with our day.

Instead of this being a great sacrifice on my part, I'll let you in on a little secret: I like making my husband happy. Service for my spouse makes me happy, too.

Monday, October 14, 2013

Step Twelve: To Get You've Got to Give

This is kind of a two-sided suggestion.

First of all, giving feels really good.

No, not necessarily that kind of good, guys. I'm talking the kind of good that comes from volunteering or doing something self-less because it feels good to give to others. I love making other people's day, be it a card in the mail or an extra soda from the machine at work. I'm always on the lookout for that little something extra to let people know that they are important to me. So why not use this on my husband?

Sure, I can show him a little love but what I'm really trying to do is associate myself with the act of giving so when he sees me it's a quick association with receiving something he likes. There's a lot of hardship that can go on in a relationship, but when I go out of my way to pick up a Slim Jim at the gas station or buy a movie I know he wants, I'm keeping our bond on an even keel. There's not always time for long conversations about how things are, but a pair of socks (one of his favorite gifts, I'll have you know) can have much the same meaning: I'm thinking about you even when I'm buying a work uniform.

How does this help him do what you want? I don't know about you, but there's always a little friendly competition going on in our house. We're not necessarily trying to outdo one another, but hardly a day goes by when we can't help ourselves from matching each other's gestures. For example: while he's busy doing something at home, sometimes I'll turn to him, meet his eyes and tell him just how happy I am that we got married. Snapping him out of his task and stating how much he means to me can be a pretty powerful mood changer for him. Of course, he can't let that go unmatched- and he often turns the tables on me a few hours later.

It's sort of like leading by association. Mr. E sometimes needs a little reminder that I could use a pick-me-up, but instead of pouting or whining or "I wish you would..."-ing (yeah, I just made that a verb) I encourage him in a way that's stress-free for the both of us.

Step Eleven: Don't Set Him Up to Fail

In my experience, husbands are fragile things. They rely a lot on wives to work- much in the same way that wives rely on husbands, too. Men and women may be independent entities, but the identity of a "husband" is highly dependent on a "wife".
You know those couples you see that finish each other's sentences? Or always seem to know what the other is thinking? They operate like a well-oiled machine, many hands moving and working at once to complete whatever task they've focused on. I'll let you in on a little secret: this wasn't born overnight. 
That, my friends, was a labor of love. A towering building set on a foundation of communication and honesty.Yup, we've talked about those things before- they're just so important. These are the tools you need to encourage your relationship (and your husband) to succeed.

Don't feel like the two of you are on the same page? Take a minute to sit down and pin point exactly what's bothering you. Assuming the two of you take the exact same steps to solve a problem is just like setting your husband up to fail: your expectations don't match. And that's not a bad thing. 
We're pretty busy creatures of habit- used to doing things a certain way so often that we can do it blindfolded. So there's the expectation that because it's so easy for us (the asker) it must be easy for them (the doer). Whoops. When he comes home with the wrong brand of milk or washed your dry-clean-only coat on accident, maybe not all of the blame is his. 
When Mr. E and I were first married (heck, with only two years under our belt, we STILL are), it drove me crazy that he didn't know what type of milk we buy. Or where the extra plastic bags were. I had been buying and organizing these things, respectively, so often I could do it blindfolded. But he hadn't. Assuming that my easy tasks were also going to be easy for him was like sending him unarmed and unprotected into battle. That battle just happened to be set at the grocery store.
Okay, maybe it wasn't quite that intense. In essence, I was setting my husband up to fail because I hadn't provided him with the necessary tools to complete his task. (This applies to far more than just husbands, too!) Mr. E isn't quite so reticent when I ask him to do things because I make sure that he understands the task at hand before he's expected to do it. With a little bit of preparation (we buy Alta Dena whole milk) Mr. E completes these tasks with his eyes covered, too. 
He's even been known to take it upon himself and runs to the store during a break at work in order to grab a carton because he knows we're out. Love that man.

Mr. E on Service

You might even find that you like it.

Over the past few years I have learned that often times doing something that makes my wife happy ends up making me happier. Last week I talked about making the bed. Well it turns out that by making the bed every day, I have become dependent on a made bed. I can’t get a good night’s sleep if the sheets haven’t been pulled and straightened and the pillows are neat.

Now, this isn't the best example, but I think you get the idea. Since the beginning of our marriage, Mrs. E always talked about getting a dog. I had a dog once… let’s just say we didn’t get along. I was never a dog person. I think it runs in my family because my Mom used to tell us that she was allergic, but really she just didn’t want one. I didn’t want one. I didn’t want the responsibility and I didn’t want the headache.

Mrs. E always tried to convince me by saying things like, “you’ll love a dog, you just don’t know it” or “it’ll help you with your anxiety.” Instead, I used excuses like “the landlord said no pets,” or “I don’t like dogs,” but eventually the idea grew on me. I was acting tougher than I am, because in reality I’m a big softy for animals.

So we went to the pound and adopted Ripley (named after Sigourney Weaver’s character in Alien, believe it or not). I wanted to make Mrs. E happy, but I honestly think I love that little ball of fuzz more than anyone else ever could.

Sometimes life’s greatest joys come from serving others. I’m telling you, make your spouse happy and the feeling will reciprocate.

Mrs. E was right, I haven’t felt lonely once since this little creature came into our lives.