Friday, December 30, 2011

lame coal.

Someone gave us four bags of coal for Christmas. Which is dumb, because I've been good all year. I even filed taxes -- which for a college student is admirably laudable.
The bags of "coal" turned out to be chocolate. But not the good chocolate either. The cheaper, knock-off brand of Nestle's chocolate that has rice krispies in them and tastes delicious.
That's right.
Fake crunch bars. When you eat them they get all hot in your mouth and super sugary -- far more so than normal chocolate -- and you don't feel like eating tons and tons of it.
These little bags of undeserved coal-turned-lame-wannabe-delicious-snacks truly served no purpose in our lives. My wife and I went on to have a cheery, joy-filled Christmas with family and a snack-sized portion of traveling to boot. I got an iPad, she a full-sized keyboard, but mostly we laughed, played games with random groups of people and sipped at copious amounts of bottomless coffee.
December 29th we trundled in the front door laden with bags, groceries to restock our nearly-bare fridge, and we were content.
It has been an amazing, albeit challenging season of newly-married life.

And then my wife spotted the four little bags of darkness.
"YOU'RE A BOY JAMES!" She yelled. This is both true and a fact.
With that, she began hurling coal after fake, decidedly un-tasty coal at me.
Four bags.
She emptied both barrels at once and lit her husband up, who defended himself at the last second possible with a seat-cushion. Relentlessly she fired on him, laughing, yelling, and paying no heed to the fact that I was scooping up handfuls of the grounded munitions and attempting a fruitless recourse on her aggressive actions.

People of the world who deliver cheap, lame coal to our door intending us to act docile and place it carefully in our stockings, be warned.
We may just throw it right back at you and start a war.
That's how we roll around here.

Thursday, December 8, 2011

towel thing.

It's a strange bird, being married.
I haven't had to establish the importance of keeping my towel mine very own in a long, long time. Yes, when I was fourteen muchly yelling would take place over the ownership of such colored things as towels, but then again, I was fourteen. There was muchly yelling over everything.
"Yes you did. I know because it's wetter than when I was done using it this morning. I checked just now."
"Why are you checking your towel? YOU'RE SO WEIRD!"
"I'm checking it because I have to. YOU WON'T STOP USING IT. STOP USING IT RIGHT NOW!"
"I'm not using it right now, OBVIOUSLY."
"You know what I mean."
"Go away, I'm doing school."

Now, any husband in his right mind knows this is no way to interact with his lovely wifey. Thankfully, I'm not left-minded, so I knew this conversational type was completely out of bounds. It now sounds more like this:
"Lovey, did you use my towel?"
"Why? There are so many other towels in the basket. How come you couldn't just use one of those and hang it right up beside mine instead of using mine."
"I don't like your tone of voice, please take the edge out of it. How did you know I used it anyway? DID YOU CHECK JUST NOW?!"
"No, of course -- yes. Yes I did."
"WHY WOULD YOU GO INTO THE BATHROOM TO CHECK YOUR TOWEL?! Should we name it? We should probably name your towel, that would be a good, healthy thing to do. Let's name it. Why did you check to see if I'd used your towel?"
"It's just a thing I've had since I don't know... the second I was born. I didn't want anyone else to use my towel, ever. No other babies have been born on the towel my Mom first held me in. I made sure of that. Hospital incinerator. It wasn't tough to do when your legs have relatively no muscle structure and you're only 21" tall, but it was worth it. Please don't use my towel."

That's what surprised me maybe the most about marriage. I never knew I had so many "things". And one way to truly show someone you love them is to take what matters a lot to you and dropkick it in the tushy. I'm slowly, ever so slowly learning this difficult, complex and delicate concept.
"No, you can't use my toothbrush."
"Please close the door when you pee. I'm making dinner and the pee sound makes it taste worse."
"No, let's just sit and talk right now, we don't ALWAYS have to be cleaning EVERYTHING FOREVER."
"In this house, we're Patriots fans. That's all. Please trust me and love me on this one and never question that and be a huge fan voluntarily. I said please."
"Whenever you turn the music down you do it way too much and then it sounds like Alicia Keys is whispering. I don't like that."
"You make way too much food every time you cook. There's only two of us, and you cook for like seven."
And so on and so forth.

Love isn't necessarily purchasing someone a candle you hate the smell of but know they'll love. That can be love, but true love -- I'm just now realizing more and more each day -- is setting aside yourself for the other person.
The word sacrifice has gained a sort of greatness I think the Christian culture has projected on to it. Jesus was the greatest man that ever lived; both man and God, he was the epitome of sacrifice. But sacrifice does not always mean "do big things." Jesus lived a life full of serving and sacrifice, doing many seemingly small things that proved to be great in God's kingdom.
Often, sacrifice is realizing someone likes to pee while watching an awesome part in a movie, and hence, doesn't close the door all the way. Or even a little. Greatness can be allowing someone to vent safely, not taking everything to heart and allowing them to verbally process their day.
And love?
I'm still at an absolute loss as to what true love looks like in a marriage most of the time. But isn't that where grace and patience come in, unannounced and stand firmly in the way of selfishness? That's the idea anyway. Often discontentment and conflict muscle their way around goodness, loudly state their demands and wait to be served. But there's a reason love is the greatest.
It completely OWNS.
Marriage is a lot of work, most anyone will tell you that. But hopefully they'll also tell you that it's pretty awesome, a hell of a lot of fun, and incredibly affirming. Especially when you come home to the other person bouncing up and down saying "I'M SO GLAD YOU'RE HOME! I MISSED YOU!"
Makes the towel thing seem pretty unimportant.

back off.

I came in outside from the blowing snow, stomping in a decidedly un-professional manner. The small clumps of frozen water stuck to the bottom of my boots had almost nothing to do with my actions -- I was frustrated. It'd been that type of week. My wife had traveled home after thanksgiving and I'd stayed behind to work Thursday through Sunday for the military, and I was exhausted. And angry.
An accumulation of the last few weeks' small disagreements, some pretty rough extended family relationship struggles and a few sleepless nights from not feeling well had all piled on during my cold walk to the office.
The cheery greeting by "Happy" as we all called her was harshly ignored and I moved quickly down the hallway.
Now was not the time.
I like to think I can play poker, that I can paste on an expressionless face, but in all reality... not so much. Today like most other days, my countenance yelled status updates about how I was feeling at everyone who looked up and saw me. As I slammed my bag down and took out my ID to put in the computer and wait for it to turn on, one of the officers I work with stepped quietly in to my cubicle and stood, waiting.
I watched as of course, the friggin computer wouldn't turn on. Three times I hit the power button and waited patiently with no response. An odd number of times. There was absolutely no reason it shouldn't have turned on, even if it was just suspended -- whatever. I sat down, turned around and noticed her for the first time.
"Good morning."
"Everything alright?" The mother of four, she was a sea of calm and concern.
"The damn computer won't turn on. We're the Department of Defense and here I am sitting at a PC that uses XP and takes eight minutes to boot up."
She ignored my outburst and said simply "I wasn't asking about the computer. Are you alright? Do you want to talk about it?"
It was startlingly direct, caring and shone a bright light on my insanely unprofessional and inappropriate attitude for work.
I felt my fingers, nose, cheeks and heart begin to defrost a little.
"I guess. It's just been one of those weeks you know. I've been apart from my wife over a month in days already and we've only been married six months. It seems like that won't ever change and I always, always feel like my duty weekend comes at the worst time. Always."
The computer screen blinked blue, then presented me with an option to log on. I chose to.
Captain Miazga waited until I had finished and swung my chair back around to face her again.
"I've been married for a long time, and I've been in the military for 13 years now. That won't ever change. You'll get through it, just hang in there."
The last of the frozen snow on the side of my boot fell off, and I heard people around the office talking on their phones and with each other. Someone stepped in, excused themselves, and pulled a stack of sheets from the printer I hadn't even heard working next to me.
"Thank you Captain, I appreciate you making sure I was fine."
"No problem, many people have done the same for me."
She stood and left me to go back to setting up the nurse's schedule for the weekend, and I opened up my email.
Outside, the wind was howling and swirling as much as before. A cold front had descended from Canada earlier that morning and brought with it the cool air from the adjacent Rockies. But inside what little snow there was left had just finished melting into the carpet.

Proverbs 15:1 "A soft answer turns away wrath"
James 3:17 "The wisdom from above is first pure, peaceable, gentle, open to reason, full of mercy and good fruits, impartial and sincere."