Thursday, April 19, 2018

The Magic of The Etch-A-Sketch

Brian and I can't quite remember what sparked our philosophy of using an Etch-A-Sketch to save our marriage, but whatever it was, we are living proof of its magical powers. We have made it a major part of our relationship and I often give a trusty Etch-A-Sketch, with the directions below, to newly married couples in hopes that this magic saves their marriages too. 
Image result for etch a sketch

You are holding in your hands the secret to a successful, happy marriage!

How to properly use this very powerful item:

Step 1: Have an inevitable stupid* argument. *Stupid is the key to the Etch-a-Sketch working. Determining what a "stupid" fight means may take practice, but you will know it when you yell it.
Step 2: One person will recognize that you are fighting about something legitimately stupid.
Step 3: That person asks the question: "Etch-a-Sketch?"
Step 4: {Step 4 is where the lines may get blurred, but pushing through the blur will be worth it.} The person listening to the question, "Etch-a-Sketch?" is the one who will say "Yes!" or "No!"

If the answers to "Etch-a-Sketch?" is a "Yes!":

1. Retrieve the Etch-a-Sketch from its place of honor in your home.
2. Both people hold the Etch-a-Sketch and raise your hands above your heads.
3. Shake vigorously.
4. The magical power of the Etch-a-Sketch will allow you to start at ground zero; recognize that the fight was stupid and talk rationally* about what's going on. *Rational is ideal, and it might not happen right way, but again, like everything, it will happen with practice.

If the answer to "Etch-a-Sketch?" is a "No!":

The person saying "No!" is usually saying no because there is a deeper issue for them to talk through. At this point, the argument doesn't feel "stupid". What they need to say or what they are figuring out as far as feelings may take a bit more time.  It is recommended that the person asking the question, "Etch-a-Sketch?" stop everything and ANY and EVERY listening skill EVER learned should kick in. Your partner needs to be heard; hear them.

The person who said "No!" is the person who asks if the Etch-a-Sketch should now be used. Both partners should agree and you can reference the "Yes!" directions above for further guidance.

Does it work?

Research* shows that couples who use the Etch-a-Sketch method on a regular basis reduces fight time by 85%. {This data is not to scale.} Further research revealed that the reduction of fighting, especially over "stupid" things, allows the elusive "live happily ever after" become a reality.

Sunday, April 1, 2018

“I am so much more than my body.”

Jenna Kutcher is my hero.
I didn’t even know who she was last week but that's
the funny thing about life;
Miracles in the Mundane are everywhere.

Jenna and I lead wildly different lives, and
I'll probably never meet her in real life, but she
reminded me to believe the truth of who I
am and I am so very grateful.

Her story of being body shamed went viral and in this article she explains
that someone messaged  her and told her they
were shocked “she {a "curvy" woman}
could land a husband like “Mr. 6 pack”.  
Part of her response to the troll was,
“I am so much more than my body…”
When I read these words I started crying. Those
words, which I have heard before,
have been lost lately and I needed to put them
back out front.

I have struggled with body image my whole life.
{I wrote about it in this post and if you
read it you will the same stories that I am telling in this post....hmmm.
Maybe I need some more therapy for this issue?}

I have an early memory--I was probably
4 or 5 years old-- of a lady at church calling
me a Pillsbury Dough Girl.
While there is cuteness involved with that
sweet little giggle, I am pretty sure
that it wasn’t because of that; probably because
she would poke my tummy while saying it…

My middle school years started my obsession
with sizes. I didn’t understand then {or now!}
that the number didn’t really matter--the fit did.
I cringe at the times I probably stuffed myself into a 10 when
I should have been in a 12 or 14.
At one stage of my up and down
size cycle I was able to buy a pair of the much
coveted Guess brand jeans that were
in fashion. I also remember when I couldn’t fit into
them anymore and finding out
that Guess jeans weren’t made in my size.
In my desperation to fit into the fashion scene and in
my desperation to ignore who I really was,
I literally *cut* the Guess symbol out of my
too small of jeans and sewed it onto a pair of
non-brand jeans that fit.

High school also brought one of my most
painful memories. Some very mean boys at school
“mooed” at me in the cafeteria.
I was carrying my tray of food back to my
table and they mooed. The humiliating pain
of that moment still haunts me today.
{I wish it didn't, but alas, scars from our
youth never really go away...}

I never had a boyfriend in high school. I didn’t go to
my proms. I didn’t date much at all throughout
my 20’s. This was not my choice.
I desperately wanted someone to like me and
I was convinced that it was because I was too
fat to date and that I wasn’t worthy
of being in relationship.

I could go on and on about all the highs and lows of
my weight issues, but I won’t. Many of the
experiences I’ve described continue to be a part
of my story. It might not be as tangible as a
“cute” poke of a finger to my belly or a moo
in the cafeteria but I struggle daily with how I look.

That being said, however, my journey is also
filled with light and
healing in my places of pain.
Countless people have shown me
through the years that I am definitely so much more
than my body. Jenna's post helped remind
me of the fact
that I truly believe this and
it is so freeing. I know that there are
many, many places of joy that shape who I am
and I am deeply grateful
for all the light and love in my life;
no matter my jeans size.

Wednesday, February 28, 2018

How The Bachelor Unites Us

I swear I am not sinking to a new low; or maybe I am, but I have decided that having common ground with women from all walks of life is very powerful and I recently found some common ground through the ridiculousness that is The Bachelor.

I was recently at a gathering at a friend’s house who was hosting a Noonday Jewelry party {AWESOME jewelry and an AWESOME company!!!}. I found it fascinating to watch and interact with women who all have a million layers to their unique stories: Moms, non-moms, non-moms by choice, non-moms not by choice, single, married, dating, divorced, outside of the home professionals, inside of the home professionals, religious, non-religious
 etc. etc. etc.
I got home and said to Brian, “It’s exhausting being a woman.” I said this because I experienced the pressure I put on myself {do we all do this?} when I am in this sort of setting. I think we are getting better, but for some reason it seems like, as a woman, it is an instinct to “size up” the “competition”. I picture the scene from “Mean Girls” where any given setting filled with women has the potential to become an animalistic war zone.
Image result for mean girls animal
At this party, I was definitely comparing myself to the women in front of me. I kept noting things about myself that felt different:  I was the oldest, least in shape, non-mom by choice, etc.etc. I found myself stopping and starting conversations abruptly because I felt the “comparison monster” creep in.

And then I started talking about The Bachelor and it hit me. All we really need is a few places of common ground to lessen the competitive monster’s voice. When the group of women I was talking to all agreed that Clare is a train wreck, and that Arie is dud, and that we shouldn’t watch ALL of The Bachelor spin-offs {yet we do…}, I found strength in crazy and all the other stuff sort of faded away.
I found common ground in the Instagram world too. Lord help me.

Even if all of your brain cells and soul molecules are intact because you don’t watch The Bachelor, the point of this post is that as women, there are more places of common ground than we think and we need to find them quicker. As I have reflected on this night and owning the ease to which I let the comparison monster creep in, I realized that the magnificent layers to our unique stories need to be heard and embraced by each other--not held in competition with each other--and that should be our instinct.

So, thank you, fellow Bachelor watchers, especially those at this party, for giving me the realization that finding, embracing and celebrating common ground is what it’s all about...even if it is the most dramatic conversation ever.
Image result for most dramatic season ever
I want this.

Friday, February 9, 2018

We're not alone.

Grief is a bitch.
There’s really no way to sugar coat this.
Every single day in the news I hear a heartbreaking story where I imagine the ripple effect the death of someone will have on hundreds and hundreds of people.
Grief is a stark reality of the human experience that truly affects us all.

This week I found myself recognizing a new layer of my own grief process and as I was talking to a friend about this, she encouraged me to "blog it out". It's a vulnerable process to write about grief but I want to share this post today in hopes that some of my layers connect with or encourage others that they are not alone. That has been one of the greatest gifts I could have ever received from this almost 15 year journey; knowing, without a shadow of a doubt, that I am not alone.

Below is a letter I wrote to a dear friend that I have been connected to since grade school, but the Universe brought us together on a regular basis about 10 years ago through the journey of grief. We write letters and emails to each other often and we send each other mementos of our respective “signs” from our loved ones
(butterflies for me, dragonflies for her).
I thought I would share the letter because sometimes it's difficult to put into words what we're feeling--especially if it surprises us. Just when I thought I had all the language I needed for what I have felt and experienced, I found myself feeling and writing this. Maybe there will be a connection for you within this, or maybe it will help you understand where someone is coming from, or maybe you need to reach out to someone who is in the throes of grief and just tell them you're there with them.
Hi, sweet friend!
I have been thinking a lot about you this week because I know you are with me on this journey and I know I can count on you to get what this email is about...
So, I had a REALLY vivid dream about Matt the other night and I feel like you are one of the very few people who would get what that means. The way the dream played out isn’t as significant as the reason I had the dream. His essence  was WITH me. It felt more like a visit than just a dream. I FELT him say he missed me. I HEARD him talking to me. I swear I FELT him hug me. It was all SO real!!!

When I woke up I knew I had interacted with him, but it was fuzzy. But then, on the way to work, out of the blue, I remembered the dream fully and I promptly started crying. I was crying cartoon-like tears; big, rolling, wet tears. They were pained tears, but also reassuring in a way. I think they were the physical release of what happened in my dream. I haven't ever responded this way and I couldn't stop crying! I was trying to get it together so I could drive and not be a total wreck when I got to work, but that was not easy!

I have never really thought about this before, but I am now convinced that tears have different personalities. Some are angry, some are wistful, some are downright sad, and some are happy!  This set of tears was the connection kind and those hold a super special place in the grief process. These are the ones that only I understand and feel. These are the ones that mark that space in my soul that is sacred and belongs only to me. These are the rare ones that surprise me the most. They can't be predicted and they can't be explained, but they're a part of this--and me.

I'm not sure if all of this makes sense, but I know that's okay because I know you carry this with me and I am so very grateful. I know our grief is very different, but I also know that it doesn't really matter because for some wonderful reason the Universe has linked our stories together in a very unique and sacred way and I know that we can share our grief process with each other. I absolutely do not take this for granted--thank you for being with me!

I think about you quite often and I hope you know you are never alone. I know I am never alone because of you in my life and I am forever grateful.

I love you, dear, sweet friend. May light and hope find you today.


Thursday, December 21, 2017

This is our 2017 Holiday card! Cheers!

Happy Holidays From The Laniel Family!
Our year at a glance:
When you're in your mid 40's developing new habits and making new friends isn't easy. 
But we dominated this in 2017.  
Brian went back to school in January to finish his business degree. Being a student again has challenged him in many ways and he has crushed it. I'm super proud of him for putting himself out there and for putting up with my cooking on days that he had a late class.
I have been lucky enough to add regular reading to my life because of a book club I was invited to join. We meet every month and while drinking wine is a big part of our get togethers, we actually read the books and discuss them! These new friends are wonderful and I am so glad that I get to interact with them and their stories.

BTW-here are my top five favorite books we read this year:
Image result for my grandmother told me she's sorry

The hightlight of our spring was embracing our Aunt-ness and Uncle-ness with our non-blood relatives. We had  the distinct privilege to attend one of our niece's graduations in Kansas City, MO and one of our nephew's graduations in Sheridan, WY.

We were bursting with pride to be a part of Elly's special day where she was the valedictorian (!!!!!!!!). Her speech was incredible and I may have cried through the entire thing. Elly is incredibly bright, funny, driven and beautiful. She is bound to change the world, she already is!  Spending time with the Puckett family is pure joy for us. I am not able to capture in words the place that the Puckett family has in our lives. To be Aunt Kari and Uncle Brian to their kids and to have the soul connection that we have with Shana and Cory is truly priceless. 

Liam will always, always hold a special place in my life. When I met him he was a one month old premie. He has grown up to be the kindest human I know. He is creative, confident, and opinionated. He's a truly talented writer and I am excited to see where his path leads him. Brian and I started "Aunt Kari and Uncle Brian camp" with the Jones boys where we hosted the boys for a few days during the summer and explored all things Denver. We look forward to continuing this tradition as they both live in Laramie, WY right now. The Jones family just "gets it" and we are so very grateful for them. 

Of course being Aunt Kari and Uncle Brian to these two darlings obviously brings us joy beyond words. Nora and Georgia, you light up my life. :)
^^^ This was taken in January^^^
And this was November!
They grow so fast!

We got to extend our blood relative Aunt-ness and Uncle-ness with the pure joy that is Maddox Stewart von Jacobsen. He's perfect. Our family got to meet him in September and I wrote a whole blog post about it here. 

We are truly lucky to have wonderful nephews in our lives. Brian's brother's kids, Khai and Finn are hilarious and wonderful. We are excited to get to know them more this year!
Teddy, Tucker and Maddox are remarkable humans and I am so lucky to be related to them. The world is a better place because of these boys. 

When thinking about our autumn season, what truly stands out is the unapologetic embrace around the "Routine of Us". I don't know what else to call it or how to fully explain it but it simply boils down to I love our life. 
Our family makes me so happy. Brian is absolutely the most incredible human being I know and I love him with my whole heart. Baxter and Birney bring me so much comfort and joy daily and I am super grateful for them! We get to see both sets of parents on a semi-regular basis and we feel lucky to have them all so close. My parents get to be Grandma and Grandpa to Baxter almost every week. He LOVES them!

We had a great year filled with tons of other memories and treasures-- 
our hearts are truly full. 

Happy Holidays!
May you and yours have a truly wonderful 2018.