Thursday, July 24, 2014

A Love Gift of Appreciation

This past weekend at our Marriage Enrichment Retreat we did several fun activities, and one of the more moving ones for me and Gene was an appreciation exercise! We liked it so much that we've decided to make it a regular practice in our marriage, and picked a love gift for the weekend based on it.
To copy from the handout:
"Many times when people are upset with one another they lose sight of all the positive aspects of their spouse and of the relationship itself. It is very important to examine the positive aspects of your spouse's personality. If these positive areas of your spouse or of the marriage are acknowledged and discussed, change is often easier and can take place more quickly. Exploring and appreciating aspects of your spouse's personality and/or character that you appreciate will have positive consequences for your marriage. 
For a few moments, we'd like you to think about specific, positive aspects of your spouse's personality. Even if you've only seen one instance of this particular quality or characteristic in your spouse, we'd like you to think about it. 
Mark three to five items that you think are characteristic, even slightly of your spouse at times. For each item you mark, briefly think of an actual incident that really happened that illustrates this characteristic of your spouse. Then share this incident with your spouse."
Seems simple enough, right? It was more powerful for us than I thought it would be, and hopefully can be for you as well! Here is the list:

  1. Loving
  2. Sensitive
  3. Brave
  4. Intelligent
  5.  Thoughtful
  6. Generous
  7. Loyal
  8. Truthful
  9. Strong
  10. Energetic
  11. Sexy
  12. Decisive
  13. Creative
  14. Imaginative
  15. Fun
  16. Attractive
  17. Interesting
  18. Supportive
  19. Funny
  20. Considerate
  21. Affectionate
  22. Organized
  23. Resourceful
  24. Athletic
  25. Cheerful
  26. Coordinated
  27. Graceful
  28. Elegant
  29. Gracious
  30. Playful
  31. Caring
  32. A great friend
  33. Exciting
  34. Thrifty
  35. Passionate
  36. Committed
  37. Involved
  38. Expressive
  39. Active
  40. Careful
  41. Reserved
  42. Adventurous
  43. Receptive
  44. Reliable
  45. Responsible
  46. Dependable
  47. Nurturing
  48. Warm
  49. Virile
  50. Kind
  51. Gentle
  52. Practical
  53. Lusty
  54. Witty
  55. Relaxed
  56. Beautiful
  57. Handsome
  58. Rich
  59. Calm
  60. Lively
  61. A great parent
  62. Assertive
  63. Protective
  64. Sweet
  65. Tender
  66. Powerful
  67. Flexible
  68. Understanding
  69. Totally silly
  70. Shy
  71. Vulnerable
  72. ___________________

So for our love gift we bought a tin of DoubleTree cookies, with the intention of keeping the tin of cookies to use as a vessel for keeping notes of appreciation. Also, to call our minds back to the weekend of our retreat throughout each week!

Once a week, we're going to sit down and come up with a moment from that week where we appreciated the other for one of these characteristics, and on Sundae Sundays sit down and share with one another our love! It made us both feel so great, not only hearing what the other appreciated about us, but being able to share our appreciation- let the other know we think of them and appreciate their effort in our marriage!

What are some characteristics you would add to the list? Feel free to pin this, print it, and share it with your own spouse or significant other!

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Getting To Know Your Spouse // Love Map Exercise

One of the things Gene and I really enjoyed during our Marriage Enrichment Retreat was an exercise in getting to know each other a little more. A "test" if you will to see how well we knew one another, but really, an opportunity to find things out we had never talked about! I posted a picture of it on instagram and several folks have asked for the list of questions! I don't know where they came from, who thought of them, or anything like that, but thought I would pass them along to you all!

We took them in 10 question increments and answered them privately then discussed them. You might be surprised how much you know about your spouse, how much your spouse knows about you, and all the fun things you can take the time to learn about each other!

  1. Name your spouse's two closest friends.
  2. What is your spouse's favorite musical group, composer, or instrument?
  3. What was your spouse wearing when you first met?
  4. What are your spouse's hobbies?
  5. Where was your spouse born?
  6. What stresses are facing your spouse in the immediate future?
  7. Describe in detail your spouse's day, either today or yesterday.
  8. When is your spouse's birthday?
  9. What is the date of your anniversary?
  10. Who is your spouses favorite relative?
  11. What is your spouse's fondest dream, as yet unachieved?
  12. What is your spouse's favorite flower?
  13. What is one of your spouses greatest disaster scenarios?
  14. What is your spouse's favorite time of making love?
  15. What makes your spouse feel most competent?
  16. What is one thing that turns your spouse on sexually?
  17. What is your spouse's favorite meal?
  18. What is your spouse's favorite way to spend an evening?
  19. What is your spouse's favorite color?
  20. What personal improvement does your spouse want to make in his or her life?
  21. What kind of present would your spouse like best?
  22. What was one of your spouse's favorite childhood memories?
  23. What was your spouse's favorite vacation?
  24. What is one of your spouse's favorite ways of being soothed?
  25. Who is your spouse's greatest source of support (other than you)?
  26. What is one of your spouse's hobbies?
  27. What is your spouse's favorite sport to watch?
  28. What is your spouse's favorite sport to play?
  29. What does your spouse most like to do with time off?
  30. What is one of your spouse's favorite weekend activities?
  31. What is your spouse's favorite getaway place?
  32. What is one of your spouse's favorite movies?
  33. What are some of the important events coming up in your spouse's life and how does he or she feel about them? 
  34. What are some of your spouse's favorite ways to work out?
  35. What is your spouse's favorite cologne or perfume?
  36. Who was your spouse's favorite friend in childhood?
  37. What is one of your spouse's favorite magazines?
  38. Name your spouse's major rivals or "enemies."
  39. What would be an ideal job for your spouse?
  40. What is your spouse's major fear?
  41. Who is your spouse's least favorite relative?
  42. What is your spouse's favorite holiday?
  43. What is your spouse's favorite kind of reading?
  44. What is your spouse's favorite tv show?
  45. Who is your spouse's favorite poet?
  46. What is your spouse's favorite side of the bed?
  47. What is your spouse currently most sad about?
  48. What is one of your spouse's concerns or worries?
  49. What medical problems does your spouse worry about?
  50. What is one of your spouse's worst childhood experiences?
  51. Which people does your spouse most admire in the world? Name two.
  52. Who is your spouse's least favorite person you both know?
  53. What is one of your spouse's favorite desserts?
  54. What is your spouse's social security number?
  55. What is one of your spouse's favorite novels?
  56. What is your spouse's favorite romantic restaurant?
  57. What are two of your spouse's aspirations, hopes, wishes?
  58. Does your spouse have a secret ambition? What is it?
  59. What food does your spouse hate?
  60. What is your spouse's favorite animal?
  61. What is your spouse's favorite song?

I was really impressed with some of these that we both knew! I was also really impressed with how we never thought to talk about some of these questions! They were a fun way to get to know each other a little more! We haven't quite finished since our retreat weekend was pretty full, but I look forward to finishing them, and going over them every few months or so on date nights- favorites can change, situations can change, and it's good to continuously be learning about your spouse!

Feel free to pin this list, share it with your friends, and let me know in the comments what other fun questions you would add to the list!

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Taking Time To Build Our Marriage // Marriage Enrichment Retreat, 2014

A few weeks ago I saw a post on the CREDO SW Facebook page advertising upcoming Marriage Enrichment Retreats. Gene and I had been to one back in 2012 when he came home from Afghanistan (which you can read all about through these posts) and we didn't get much out of it. We went with hardened hearts, really, and negative views about the program. The main draw for us this time around was a free weekend in a hotel (NOT sleeping on couches)! We got busy and never registered, so last week when it was posted that there were still spots available- we jumped on it and went into the weekend with open hearts, open minds, and really looking forward to a weekend away from an empty house!
We packed up a bag, Gene got off work a little early, and we drove down to the DoubleTree Hotel in Hotel Circle, San Diego! We checked in and checked out our hotel for about an hour of relaxing before the first session Friday night!
Friday evening we went down to a conference room for hors d'oeuvres and a meet and greet with the other 10 couples or so. We went over the ground rules that what happens at the marriage enrichment retreat stays at the marriage enrichment retreat! We shared a little about ourselves, how we met, how long we've been together, and our goals and expectations for the weekend. Our expectation was to learn a little more about how to be a lone island, you know, since we're moving to one far away from all the support of family back home! We also took the Myers Briggs Type Indicator test!
We then had the evening to ourselves where Gene and I ordered dinner from the bar to go, watched a little Sons of Anarchy on Netflix, celebrated his 37th birthday, and watched the fireworks from SeaWorld! We already were feeling more enriched from the weekend, and we were only hours into the retreat! This gave me such great hopes for strengthening our marriage through the weekend!
Saturday we had breakfast, provided by the CREDO folks, where we sat with a few of the couples and got to know them a little better. Then we went on for our morning session where we went over different tools to help us in our marriage. We learned better ways to communicate with one another, we watched some really dated clips, and we practiced talking about an issue.
Isn't this a fun magnet we got to bring home to remind us?
Gene and I picked a weekly battle in our house: the recyclables! I like having the boxes broken down for better room in the bin, and Gene usually doesn't do that. We used the speaker-listener technique and talked calmly about it, coming to the conclusion that it's so much more than trash & recyclables- it comes down to my not feeling respected when he comes home into my "place of business" (or "my command" if you will) and does things how he knows I don't like them done. He doesn't give it a second though, but for me, it shows that he cares more about work than simple tasks in our home. In the most minor way it's disrespectful to me and the home I try to keep, but with a weekly recurring theme it has the potential to be a constant issue. Neither of us ever really dug deep enough into the issue to realize there was any more to it than just boxes!

We also worked on exercises throughout the day on communicating, getting to know one another, sharing our appreciation for one another and so much more! (Be on the lookout for some of these later in the week!)
We had lunch as a group, again provided by CREDO, and then broke for some free time! We hung out in our hotel room working on our love map (rough draft above)- we took special care to include special milestones (when we met, our first date, engagement, halloween wedding, our church wedding, moves, living in our first house, and fun vacations) and also darker times in our relationship (deployments, work-ups and military exercises, the first big fight we ever had which almost cost us our relationship, months spent in a rut, and almost two years without our household goods).
Last time we went to the marriage enrichment retreat we struggled through this part and it was a daunting task. I'm so happy this time around it was much easier to map out our relationship, focus on the good, and talk about how we wanted to prevent the time we spent over the last two years mindlessly living a routine instead of enjoying life together!

Saturday closed and we retired to our room, where we got to see the fireworks from SeaWorld one more time! Sleeping in an actual bed two nights in a row was quite the delightful treat as well! We met up with the group Sunday morning for breakfast and our final session. We wrote love letters to one another that the CREDO office will send out to us later on, probably when we really need it! We also exchanged our love gift, which I'll talk all about in another post later this week!

If you or your spouse are active duty military, I highly encourage you to look into the marriage enrichment retreats through CREDO (for Navy & Marines- other branches, ask your Chaplains!). We got so much more out of it this time than we ever imagined! If you've been to one before- go again! If it was a good experience before, maybe this time will be an awesome experience! If it was a bad experience before, maybe this time will be better!

Monday, July 21, 2014

A Farewell Luncheon, San Diego Milspouse Blogger Style!

By this time, in two weeks, Gene and I will be waking with the sun in Okinawa. We'll have spent a full day on the island, no doubt adjusting to the time change, skipping a day, and being in a foreign country! Moving is such an adventure, but with that adventure comes saying "fair winds and following seas" to our friends, or them saying it to us! Yesterday, we got together at Casa Guadalajara in Old Town San Diego, to enjoy one last awesome time with some of the gals I've met through blogging! This was an extra special blogger meetup, because I didn't have to leave Gene behind- some of the husband's came with!
These ladies have only been in my (real) life since December (I think that was the first meet-up I went to!), but have quickly become some of the best of friends for me in this military wife life, where it can sometimes be hard to make new friends (every 2-3 years!)! We sat at a long table, we laughed, we told stories, we enjoyed some delicious food, and then we held up a high traffic area with obligatory picture taking! Since some of our husbands came along for the event, we had our photogs with us!

They are the men who take some of the pictures you see on our blogs showing off our outfits, posing with nature or wildlife or in ponchos while we shop! They are the men who get told a thousand times what way to take our picture, to make sure we don't look fat, and to ensure our "good side" is the one they're catching. Gene, however, captured this picture, which instantly became my favorite, and I will cherish! Ladies laughing, joking, not knowing what camera to look at, telling our husbands where to stand! This picture isn't perfect, but it's the perfect picture of our group for me!
Kara, Jes, Ashley, Victoria, Katie, Erin, Me, Nicole
Don't worry, with a few of our husbands turned photographers there to take pictures of us, I knew I had to snap a picture of the fells behind our blogs! The men who allow us to share our stories with friends and family as well as strangers all over the internet. The men who support us, who take hundreds of pictures for us, who live the life of a blogger's husband- not being able to look at menus until we get a picture of them, stopping a thousand times in a road trip for the perfect picture for the blog post about it, and possibly living in fear that every word out of their mouth could end up on the blog. The men who allow us to nurture our friendships with women we don't even know, but who we know from reading their blogs.

They protested, they tried to run, they had a surprisingly difficult time forming a line... The husbands:
Thank you, fellas, for all you do for us for our blogs!
I know there are a group of bloggers in Okinawa who get together. I know there are amazing women who I've met on Instagram and Facebook already on the island or moving to the island right about now. I know there are hundreds of women who I will meet and I know I'll find friendship with a good handful, but these San Diego girls (and a few more that couldn't make it!) will forever be some of the best friends a girl could ask to find in this crazy life!

Thursday, July 17, 2014

Marital Disconnect During PCS

When we were planning this move, there was a mini Marine Corps boot camp type thing Gene was going to be at this week and next. I knew for sure I didn't want the movers coming during those two weeks! We faced the decision of having them come rushing through in the few days we would have before we left, or before this boot camp. We both kind of figured it would be easy enough without our household goods for three weeks, so we booked them for early-mid July.

We knew we wouldn't be taking or storing our couches, so we figured we could sleep on them with no problem- they're comfortable, they recline, and they're pretty roomy. We were packing our bed in our regular household goods move (getting picked up Wednesday, July 9th), so that Monday was the last night we slept in our bed- our big, beautiful bed! Since then, we've been on the couches!
It hasn't been as nice as we thought it would be. The couches are comfortable enough, but before the week was out I was feeling the disconnect of not sleeping in bed, next to my husband. Sleeping in the same room, but not being next to each other was taking a toll on me, and I knew something had to be done about it.

We tried one night to both sleep on the love seat, in reclined positions. Gene lasted about an hour before he just couldn't do it, and moved over to the other couch. It was a hardship I didn't think would affect me at all- but come Sunday night, I was feeling a certain loss that is hard to explain. He laughed madly at me when I asked him to move the couches so they were facing each other. He didn't understand how we were going to sleep on them once moved. I explained that I would sleep on the love seat, and he would sleep on the couch, but if I wanted to wrap my arm around him, or vice versa, we would be right next to each other and able to!

So, that's what we've done- the couches are facing one another and we've been able to cuddle our way to sleep. It's not the most comfortable sleeping arrangement, but we've made plans for weekends away and Monday nights in hotels to watch The Bachelorette, so for the few days we do have, this is a much better arrangement than on opposite sides of the room! I guess next time, we definitely invest in a better air mattress than the one we have now and sleep on it!
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