100% In or Out

100 In or OutAround a year ago, I was in a dark place. I wasn’t happy on any kind of consistent basis. My marriage was struggling, with what felt like more downs than ups. I was having a tough time connecting with my kids, with some days feeling good and others feeling tedious and impossible. I was overwhelmed by much of the day-to-day, as well as the rare crisis. I really didn’t like my life very much. 

I found myself on a friend’s back porch, with a stiff drink in my hand and a sob story on the tip of my tongue. I’m not sure if I went there looking for her to talk me into a decision, or out of one. I just knew I felt like I had to do something, and had no idea how to figure out what. I was feeling at a rock bottom, and knew something had to change. 


My friend had been through a divorce. I asked her how she knew it was the right thing to do. She told me when she was struggling with her marriage, a friend of hers gave her some advice. “You’re either 100% in, or you’re out. You can’t be 98% in, in a marriage. If you’re less than 100%, then you’re out. And if you’re 100% in, it means you’ll do whatever it takes to make the marriage work. And a marriage doesn’t work unless both people are 100% in.”

I thought a lot about that advice. Honestly, I still think about it often today. At that time, I realized I couldn’t cut out a relationship or walk away from a commitment – I couldn’t make major life changes – unless I felt like I had done everything to make it work. So I made the choice and the commitment to be 100% in. The funny thing was, simply making the choice, brought immediate relief. I no longer fretted every moment of the day about what I was going to do; I knew what I was going to do – I was going to be 100% in.

I thought about what a good wife would do; a wife who was 100% in and doing whatever it took to make the marriage work. I stopped thinking about what I thought I deserved, and what I thought I should get, and I started thinking about would make my marriage better. I did things I was scared to do, because I knew they were best for my marriage. I stopped saying things that wouldn’t bring anything positive to my marriage, and I started saying things that would help it. I was by no means perfect at this, not even close, but I was certainly better than I had been before. I started to feel better about my marriage. The tough things were a little easier and a little less scary to do. My marriage started to feel better. 


I started trying to be a better mom, to be 100% in on that relationship. I asked myself what would make my bond with my kids better. Not what would make my kids happy right now, but would make our relationship better; because sometimes making the parent-child relationship better, means making them unhappy in the moment. I started respecting my kids more, and resenting them less. I started trying to see them for who they were, not who I thought they should be. We started having more discussions, and less fights. I started feeling happier when I was with my kids. 

In some areas of my life, I realized there was never going to be a 100% on the other side. It was never going to work. Relationships where I was constantly judged and treated without respect, I chose to be out. I learned to let them go. I decided my husband and my kids get my 100%, and other areas get what I am comfortable giving after that.



I slowly came to see my life is good, when I make it good. I am intentional about where I am 100% in and where I am not. I feel like I can let some things go, because I gave it 100%, and I realized it still wasn’t working. 

My life isn’t perfect. It never will be. My husband and I fight, often about the same thing a million times. I still catch myself feeling entitled or allowing words to fall out of my mouth that shouldn’t. I still have days where I feel a million miles away from my kids, and wonder if we will ever be close again.  I still sometimes miss the chance to embrace them, because I’m looking through the haze of how I wish they were. I still have days where life feels crappy.

The difference now though, is those are just a day, here or there. And even at the end of the awful days, where nothing seemed to go right and everything seemed to go wrong, I still believe. I still believe in my choices; I still believe in the people I surround myself with; and I still believe God has led to me to where I am for a greater purpose than what I can see. The difference is, when I choose to be 100% in, I make my own happiness.



I Am Not Sorry

I Am Not SorryThere are things I am not sorry for. Things I shouldn’t be sorry for. But things some people imply, or outright say, or otherwise try to make me feel like I should be sorry for. 

For a long time, I shrunk back and got quiet, and acted like maybe I was sorry. But as I work on believing more this year, especially in myself, I need to be clear that I am not sorry for some things. 

I am not sorry that I am thin. I am sorry that some people feel the need to “skinny shame” me and others, and make remarks about me not having to worry about eating crappy food, or calling me a “skinny bitch.” I am thin in part because of my simple genetic make-up, which I have no control over; and in part because I try very hard to not eat a lot of crappy food and instead eat a healthy, balanced, and portion-controlled diet. There have been times when most parts of my life felt pretty crummy, and I would think some mornings that even though everything inside me and around me felt like chaos, I could least make the effort to look nice. And then someone would make a snarky comment about me being thin, when I felt like that was one of the few things I had going for me at that moment. It would be completely inappropriate for me to criticize someone else for being overweight; so why do people feel it is appropriate to make nasty remarks about me not being overweight? 

I am not sorry for being in love with my husband. I am sorry that some people have to criticize me for putting this relationship before others. In my wedding vows, I chose my husband, “forsaking all others.” I don’t think this just means not cheating on him; I think this means placing this relationship and him front and center. I choose to make time with my husband a top priority, whether it is supporting him at his football games or going out on date nights regularly. We have gone through some very tough times, and there were honestly times where I wasn’t sure we would make it. We were tempted to give up, and at times it certainly seemed like it would be easier to go our separate ways. Instead, we decided to dig in and work hard at building our relationship and making our marriage better. And we did. And part of how we did it, is we put our relationship first. 

I am not sorry for making my family time a priority. I am sorry that some people feel the need to judge my priorities and try to make them for me. I put my husband and my kids first. They deserve my time, and so I choose to give the best of my time and energy to them, rather than simply giving them what is left over after everything and everyone else. Time is one of the most precious commodities I have, and by devoting it to them I send a clear message that they are important to me. I choose them when faced with a choice of where to devote my time or my effort or my attention. 

I am not sorry for parenting my children. I am sorry that some people feel the need to tell me their parenting styles and opinions are the only ones that matter. I am strict and I have high expectations of my children. The Coach and I believe that doing some of the hard things right now, like teaching respect and doling out consequences, pay greater rewards later. We believe these hard parenting years give way to more respectful, well behaved,and responsible young adults and grown ups. My kids are held responsible for their behavior, and taught that they cannot control the behavior of others. I choose to teach my kids strategies for dealing with the misbehavior and unkindness of others, rather than always rushing in to solve the problem.

I am not sorry for any of these things. The problem is not a lack of humility on my part. The problem is not a lack of taking responsibility for my actions. The problem is theirs, not mine. I am sorry if others are not happy, whether it be with their weight, their marriage, their family, or their children; but I am not unhappy with mine. I am no longer going to pretend I am sorry for choosing to be happy.   

Rage…Bring It On

Rage...Bring It On at Structure in an Unstructured Life

photo credit: Kuzeytac via photopin cc

The storm blows in; a big one. I stand on the front porch, cold rain trying to reach for me. I usually hate storms. But I stand and smile. I fight the urge to step off that porch into the downpour. Let the cold water from the heavens wash over me…wash it all away.

Bring it on. Rage. God, Mother Nature, the universe…whoever brings the wind and torrential rain in buckets. Be angry. Thunder, lightning, rage. Bring it.

It feels good for someone bigger than myself to be angry. Today wasn’t a bad day. Nothing went terribly wrong. But the devil is in the details. The mundane is what gets me. The monotony of do this and finish that. Hurry up to get here and there. Take care of this and that. It can be exhausting, this every day, this being on the verge.

The verge is a tiring place to be. On the verge of crazy. On the verge of exhausted. On the verge of broke. On the verge of giving up.  I want to rage. I don’t even have a real reason to, but I want to. Instead I complain about schedules and milk spilled on the living room rug.

Then I stand on that porch, and I feel someone bigger than me rage. Feel some heavenly, other world force be angry, for no reason I know of. I feel the wind forced and the rain thrown and the lightening hurled. I feel less alone in this craziness. I feel less like a failure. I feel like someone else knows what it’s like.

So now I sit in the powerless dark with a toy flashlight and a hardbound notebook and a pen, pouring my words out on a cream colored page with black gel ink. The storm ebbs and flows and I’m trying to decide if I’m still angry at life or if the rage has passed on like the wind and rain seem to have done. I try to tell myself to wake up tomorrow with a new day attitude and I wonder if I will take my own advice.

Sometimes I rage for no real reason. I don’t know if that makes me normal or broken. But either way, I peer into the pitch black night and hear the wind through the trees and the rain on cement and at least I know I am not alone. Bring it on.

A Letter to My Unmarried Self

photo credit: MikeOliveri via photopin cc</a

photo credit: MikeOliveri via photopin cc

Dear Not-Yet-Married Self,

I know you are impatiently waiting for that ring. I know you keep hoping it will be held up to you from a bended knee on the next date, or at the next event, or to mark the next milestone. I know you are envisioning the wedding and everything that goes along with that magical princess day. I know you are wishing introductions included “husband” rather than “boyfriend.”

That will all come. But there are things you should know. Tales from the other side that you should hear.

Marriage is not meant to solve problems. It will make some problems easier, like shared bills and double incomes. It will make some struggles easier as you will have someone to share them with. However, it will create new problems and struggles. New ones that it will be your responsibility to solve. Not your way, but a new, together way. Some of those problems will be small, but some will be big. And you will have days when you long for the problem of semantics in introductions.

Marriage does not make him love you more. Putting rings on each other’s fingers while dressed in the most elegant of attire does not create or multiply love. Building a relationship together will grow love. Respecting him and listening to him will multiply his love for you. And, ironically, love yourself more and you will surprisingly find him doing the same.

Marriage will not be like the movies. You will not know what the other one is thinking without saying a word. Marriage will be real and sometimes raw. You have to put your Hollywood expectations aside and get real. You have to communicate with him if you want him to know what you are thinking, which isn’t always romantic and magical, but it is real and honest.

There will be times when you will want to walk away. Times when you will picture packing up all of your stuff, or all of his, and walking away. Times when it will seem like it shouldn’t be this hard, or you shouldn’t fight this much, or things should just be better than they are. There will be times where in the midst of your running away fantasy, you will find yourself desperately praying that he never walks away.

You need to learn to see the little things, because that is where you will most often find his love. Notice that he always lets you pick the restaurant. Appreciate that he always, always drives and knows that you hate to. Pay attention to the folded laundry and the clean kitchen when you walk in from a day of work when he had a day of home. Realize that the hand on the small of your back in the middle of a crowd is just as romantic, and possibly more loving, than the sizzling kiss between the sheets.

Listen. Listen. Listen to the feelings behind his words. Listen to the words he is saying and listen for the ones that he is not. Stop talking in your head while he is talking in your ear. Listen.

Marriage is difficult. But solving those problems will give you a sense of pride, one that you share together. And those storms you weather side-by-side, the struggles, the learning to communicate, the finding out what listening means, the discovering how big the little things are, will create a life. One that is beautiful and strong and so much more real than fairy tales and movie scenes.

Yes, the proposal, the ring, the dress, the day will all come. But so much more than that will come with it. A marriage. A lifetime of listening and apologizing and loving. A world of small moments and gentle smiles, not of grandiose declarations of love in cinematic locations. More tears and laughs and sighs and smiles than you will ever be able to count.

Be patient, for something wonderful will come.





Why Buying a New Couch Was a Good Decision

Our comfy new couch!!

A lot of people would say buying a new couch was not a good decision for The Coach and I to make. I can see why people might think that. We could have put the money toward bills, into savings, or bought something that was more of a need than a want.

The cost was only one factor in our decision. And honestly, for us, money has never been a top priority, which has been both a blessing and a curse.

In recent years, we have realized that priorities other than money and financial stability are much more important to us. Happiness has definitely moved up to a top priority for us, which is where our couch purchase comes in.

So how did a new couch make us happier? The Coach and I, like most married couples with young children, have struggled to find that time and the ways to connect in the midst of the chaos of this stage of life. We discovered, however silly it might sound, that sitting together in the evening made a big difference in how close we felt to one another.

We used to have the same routine every night. Get the kids to bed, pick up the living room and kitchen, then I would sit on the couch and he would sit in the chair. Sometimes we watched something together, sometimes one watched while the other was on the computer or reading. But we sat in separate spaces.

In an effort to work on our togetherness, we began sitting together on the couch in the evening. This made us feel much more like we were spending time together, even if we weren’t always doing the same activity. However, our ten year old couch was not comfy. For either of us.

So buying a new couch has made it far more comfortable to sit together in the evening. And sitting together in the evening, is a very good thing for our marriage. I don’t expect everyone to agree that buying a new couch was a good decision. I know a lot of people think it was a stupid reason to spend that much money. But for us, there isn’t a better reason than happiness to spend money.

Do you choose to spend money on things others think are stupid, or poor choices? What are your good reasons?

How To Have A Cheap Date Night

Date nights can be hard to come by, especially once you have kids. And once a date night includes paying for a babysitter, dinner, activities, etc. it can seem like an impossibility to get a night for just you and your beloved. 

But that couple time is pretty important in a marriage. Enter figuring out how to have a cheap date night. A couple months ago, The Coach and I pulled off a fabulously fun evening and spent next to nothing. Here’s how we did it. 

  • Babysitting was provided by The Coach’s parents. I know not everyone has the option of grandparents willing or close enough to take the kids overnight. We are very blessed to have this opportunity. But if this isn’t an option for you, consider trading an overnight stay with a friend – she takes your kids for a night, you take her kids for a night.
  • First stop was the bookstore. We love browsing bookstores. And browsing is free. We each got to look in our own interest sections, then we found some funny books, some interesting books, and even some racy books to look at together! All for free!
  • The next stop was free wine tasting. We are lucky to live in the heart of the fruit belt and thus have a large number of wineries near us. Most wineries offer free tastings of their wines. We picked a local winery and learned about and tasted three different wines.
  • Then we headed to dinner. We had purchased a gift certificate through Groupon for a restaurant in between the grandparents’ house and our house. Our Groupon got us an appetizer, a soup or salad each, two entrees, two desserts, and two glasses of wine – all for $40. A fancy dinner for two for $40? You can’t beat that! If you haven’t signed up for Groupon yet, check it out here.
  • Our final stop was home. Home minus the kids can be extremely quiet and relaxing! A perfect way to wind down from the evening! 

We have a date night planned for this weekend as well. Our gym offers a parents’ night out once a month. We signed up for three and got a 25% discount – making it $6 per kid for about 2 to 3 hours of babysitting. We are planning to eat dinner at home, then head downtown for a drink and some browsing in our downtown stores. We live in a touristy town, so we have a lot of fun shops, but hardly ever get to look in them because we have the kiddos with us. 

A fabulous date night can be accomplished on the cheap – you just have to get creative! 

(Disclosure: The link above is an affiliate link, and I will therefore receive a small amount of compensation for referrals. I only promote sites, services, and products that I actually use and feel will benefit the readers of my blog.)

Why We Went to Bed Happy Instead of Angry (At Least This Time)

The Coach and I planned a date night this past weekend. Since we had no money and no babysitter, we planned a stay-at-home date. I found a link on pinterest of 30 questions to ask your spouse, so I whittled that down to 10. Then I made a super cute (if I don’t say so myself) invitation for The Coach with my digital scrapbooking goodies. I included the list of 10 questions and told him to be prepared.

I had expectations for the evening. In my head, I was picturing us sitting together on the couch, a glass of wine in hand, going though the questions and having great conversations about them. Kind of like those getting to know someone new kind of dates you have in the beginning of a relationship. I was all geared up for some bonding.

The problem was, I hadn’t shared these expectations. And the other problem was, The Coach had his own set of expectations which he had not shared, either. So by partway through the evening, The Coach was thinking the evening was a rousing success, while I was completely disappointed.

You see, The Coach had started thinking that maybe I had something I wanted to say and that was why I had chosen those particular questions. So he had set out to really be a good listener throughout the evening to make sure he didn’t miss something important. However, really concentrating on listening meant The Coach was not really concentrating on talking. So the conversation seemed rather one-sided to me.

By the time we went up to bed, it was clear we were not on the same page. But perhaps the best part of the evening was how we handled not being on the same page. A couple years ago, I would have gone to sleep angry and thinking he didn’t care about me because he couldn’t even talk about a stupid list of questions. The Coach would have gone to bed angry thinking that I didn’t care about him because I didn’t appreciate how hard he had tried to listen.

Instead, we talked about why we weren’t on the same page. We realized that we both had expectations that we had not shared. We realized, and more importantly accepted, that neither of us was trying to ruin the evening, we were simply doing what we thought we should do based on our own expectations. So we decided next time to be more clear about what we hoped the evening would be like. We’re not going to write a memo detailing the expected outcomes, but we might mention that we are looking forward to having a really good conversation, or we can’t wait to listen to what the other one has to say.

So our stay-at-home date was not nearly what I expected, but it actually ended up being better than I imagined.