the best ice breaker questions

As a part of Women's Bible Study this semester, I was put in charge of coming up with a weekly ice breaker question. I just spent entirely too much time reading through other people's lists and came up with my personal favorite get-to-know-you questions. The first question is original. I'll be sure to answer that question some day on the blog...
  • Have you ever ordered anything off of tv? Was it as good as they said it would be? 
  • What interest haven't you pursued but have always wanted to and what draws you to it?
  • What's the weirdest thing you've ever eaten? Best thing you've ever eaten?
  • If you could choose one day to live again, what day would you choose?
  • What is your favorite thing to do in the summer? In the winter?
  • If you had a time machine that could travel to anytime in world history (the past) what time period and where would you visit? (And then after Jesus' living years, where would you go?)
  • If you could hop a plane and go anywhere in the world with anyone, where would you go?
  • What is a gift you will never forget receiving?
  • Would you rather go without television or fast food for the rest of your life?
  • If you had this week over again, what would you do differently?
  • What book, movie or tv show have you seen/read recently that you would recommend? 
  • What was your first job? What is the best job you've ever had? The worst?
  • Do you have any pet peeves?
  • Who, from your childhood, were the people who most greatly shaped who you grew up to become?

And if you're looking for one incredible resource for group mixers, check out this link.

how to make a friend

I spent four days this weekend in Mesa with my sister and my folks. Annika and I left our kids and husbands behind and hopped on an airplane with good books, hopeful for naps and sunshine. And we got a lot of both.

I came home late last night and this morning Rory had really important phone calls that required a quiet house from 9:30-12:30. So we went to the John Deere store, our favorite burger place and the library.

When we got to the burger place I put in our order and then we waited at our table. It's sort of a diner feel restaurant and we are regulars. I needed to use the restroom and was trying to get my kids to leave their chocolate milk to join me in the bathroom so I could go. But they were hard sells and eventually the woman who took our order walked by, heard my plea to my kids and told me she'd be happy to watch them.

When I came back they had discovered their shared love of John Deere tractors. Ivar told me excitedly that she has two boxes of tractors at her house that her big boys used to play with. When she walked away he asked me when we could have a play date at her house.

She brought our food and we asked her name. She said it was Laurie. And Ivar asked if he could play with her tractors and she laughed politely.

After she walked away I explained to the kids, "That is how you make a friend. You start talking and find something in common. Then you learn their name and remember it so that the next time you see them you can say hi. And then you are friends."

As I said it I was struck with how simple this formula is. And then I realized that I had just made a new friend named Laurie, and left motivated to try to learn one new name each day. Especially the names of the people I see often, like the workers at the stores I frequent or really, any place in my small town.

The world would be a whole lot more inviting if everyone shared this daily goal, wouldn't it? I thought it was a nice thought, and I'm going to give it a go.

marriage counseling

I remember reading Mindy Kaling's hilarious book and her writing about how annoying it is for her, as a single woman, to hear her married friends talk all the time about how hard marriage is. She'd think to herself, you married him. Figure it out and get over yourself. You're married. And when I read it I laughed and then for months her words frequently came to mind.

Because it is hard. And because I think it does have to be said. No matter how annoying. Because the other thing that is so annoying is watching marriages fall apart. Except it's not annoying, it's devastating. In the past two years I have heard way too many stories of couples I knew growing up, friend's parents, family friends who have ended their marriages long after the kids left the house. The last one I heard about was a couple that made if 45 years before they divorced. What in the world?

With each of these couples, and I'm thinking of three in particular, I tried my hardest to wrap my head around what could have gone so terribly wrong during year 38 to cause such a rupture in their relationship to necessitate such a decision. Obviously, I don't know the answer. These were couples I knew from a far. But for each one, when I heard the news, I was first filled with disbelief followed by deep sorrow. Sorrow for their pain, for their kid's pain and their grandkid's pain. Sorry for whatever it was they were still looking for and how they didn't feel they had found it yet.

I believe marriage is the ultimate way God refines us. What better way to teach a person selflessness, servant-hearted giving, forgiveness, patience, self-control and real love than in the context of marriage. That almost makes me laugh a bit. Because it's brilliant. God is brilliant! If you want to teach a person patience, have them be united to the same person for the rest of their life and see what happens. I bet they grow in the art of patience.

When I heard of these divorces, of people I knew in my childhood, people I knew from family functions, people I looked up to, it shook me up. Because we're all fallible. And I believe there is a very real enemy who would love to see all marriages destroyed. And he seems to be working extra hard lately.

After Rory and I moved to the country and added a second baby to our family we started getting a bit short with each other. We had bad sleep for about a year there, and it left us both pretty crabby. Plus we had this huge transition on our hands: a hobby farm in a new town with two kids. There were so many variables it was hard to know what was at the root, but whatever it was we were taking it out on each other.

I called many marriage counselors in our area, asked friends for recommendations, looked on the internet. But most were a 30 minute drive from us, and the one I found in town had just stopped marriage counseling because, as she told me on the phone, 'it's so hard to spend so much time with couples when there is so seldom any resolution.'

In a last ditch effort, I asked a staff member at our church on a Sunday morning if she knew of any marriage counselors in the area. She smiled and said she and her husband love to counsel couples. I remember telling her, "I'm not afraid Rory is going anywhere. We're both in this for the long haul. But if he's not going anywhere, we've got to figure a few things out." I thought it was cheeky and funny, but it also was true. Marriage is a long time. And it might as well be awesome.

This couple used a curriculum that structured our sessions. We had homework each week and met for three months. There was always prayer involved and I even went in for a special session to pray about one area that needed special attention. My parents came every Tuesday afternoon to watch our  kids so we could go. And some sessions were incredible, and others were helpful but hard and had us sitting in silence on the drive home. But we could feel the ways God was reshaping our relationship. Marriage at its core is a spiritual commitment, and through prayer and these hard conversations God was able to reshape our hearts.

So much good came from those Tuesday afternoons. It really amazes me to think about it all now. They helped me make a critical distinction in my conflict resolution. I don't like conflict, but I also can't react very well in the moment. I need time to process. This was a HUGE breakthrough for me. Because even though I don't like sitting in the tension of conflict, it often takes me a day to process what I am feeling and why I am feeling it. To learn this with Rory was life-changing. We now know to stop conversations in the moment, and to decide on a time to talk through the heart of the issue.

When we took the huge marriage inventory at the beginning of our session we scored really high on communication. Our scores were almost perfect. But our score for conflict resolution was terrible. Which felt so validating! Rory and I can talk a subject into the ground and back out the other side of the earth and back into the ground again. We're great at talking. We just don't know how to work through all of those words. So we focused a lot of time on skills and language for conflict resolution.

And then we began the weekly family meetings. Those started in direct response to our marriage counseling. I later likened counseling to seeing a physical trainer. It's good, and there is a lot to learn. But if you don't put into practice what you're learning, if you don't exercise on your own time, or make actual changes with how you spend your time, a weekly visit to a physical trainer isn't going to do much good. Same with a marriage counseling. Once a week isn't going to cut it if you don't decide you will actually change how you behave within your marriage the rest of the week. Those family meetings are like our power work outs, where we literally work out the nuts and bolts of running a household and created a space to have some of the bigger conversations that need to happen in order to feel connected.

We still have those meetings every week. And when we can't meet on a Sunday, Rory will break over lunch on Monday to meet. He insists. Because it's that important for both of us.

I guess I'm writing all of this out because I want to say a few things to the world. First, Mindy Kaling, your book is hilarious and I just want to add my voice to the other annoying married people out there to say again, "marriage is hard." Because it is, and I think it's good for people to know that. Because the movies, romance books and basically everything in the world would want us to think it's an all-the-time fairy tale. Second, I am so sad for every single marriage that doesn't make it. I'm sad for the broken hearts, the broken families and the broken lives that are left in the wake of divorce. Third, marriage counseling is incredible. Incredibly hard, sometimes awkward and incredibly worth every single minute. Rory and I are light years ahead of where we were in September when we started. From now on I would always start the search by asking if anyone does counseling within the church. It's less expensive for one, and for two, true healing comes from God alone. To find a counselor that believes in the restoration found in Christ Jesus alone is imperative.

So go build an incredible marriage. Walk through your valleys and fight to make it to the other side. The stories of redemption, reconciliation and restoration are always the greatest stories of all. And our God is the author of every one of those stories. They're the ones He writes the best.

cousin sarah's corn salsa

I have had so much awesome feedback from my Pretty Much Paleo post on Monday. Lots of emails, phone calls and follow up questions.

It probably should be noted that I am not a doctor, or a dietitian, and that I failed 5th grade Human Growth and Development. Now that you know that, I will proceed.

When we are out of the house I eat Wendy's chili, a Jimmy John's un-wich, McDonald's Southwest chicken salad or Taco Bell's hard shelled Taco's. I eat burgers out of their buns and love Chipotle's salad (that dressing!). I keep a baggie of almonds and dried fruit in my purse at all times.

When I am at home it is most important that there are awesome snacking options available. Like my cousin Sarah's corn salsa. I try to have this stuff on hand all the time. It's great with corn chips, and awesome on a lettuce salad with chicken and some sort of dressing.

You can add cilantro if that's something you fancy. But I can't handle that stuff, so I don't add it. Instead I usually add a little extra vinegar. Because I totally fancy vinegar.

Cousin Sarah's Corn Salsa:
1 can black beans, drained
1 can black eyed peas, drained
1 can corn, drained
1 red onion diced small
2 peppers, any colors, seeded and diced small
2 Tbsp. Vegetable Oil
1 1/2 tsp. Vinegar
1 tsp. Cumin
Salt and Pepper
(cilantro, chopped)

Eat with corn chips or on a salad. It's yummy.

possum problems


Tonight I drove home in flip flops after getting a pedicure. I hit the button to put the garage door up and saw two glowing eyes and a pointy long nose of one big possum eating cat food on top of our freezer. I honked the horn, attempting to scare him away, but instead he waddled over to the heated cat beds and made himself cozy and comfortable. The cats were up in the rafters.

I was paralyzed. This thing kept looking at me and I couldn't get out of the car. I basically had bare feet! And very vulnerable toes. So I called Rory who was inside watching tv. But he didn't pick up his phone. So I backed the car up (causing the possum to drop to the floor and hide under the kids' toys) and flashed my brights until Rory stuck his head out to see what I needed. I rolled down my window, "The possums back! He's under the trike."

Rory disappeared back into the house and I was certain he'd come back with a gun. He had been startled by the possum a few nights ago, digging in the cat food bag. But when he came back he didn't have a gun. Instead he yelled, "where's the SD card for the camera?" He spent some time taking pictures of the possum. (The picture above is the possum coming out from under a storage unit. I cropped it for you, kind readers, riding the possum of his tail, the sickest part. I like you too much to subject you to possum tail on my blog.) And then he proceeded to use my kitchen mop to try to move the possum out of the garage.

Gross.

But our garage has too many possible possum hiding places to make that plan go smoothly. So Rory moved his truck out to make more room to find this thing. Eventually he got it out of the garage and watched it waddle back into the woods until he comes back again tomorrow night.

I later commented to him that I was surprised he hadn't gotten his gun. He told me, "for that thing? He's harmless. A possum is just like a big docile rat, Becca."

Thank you, Rory. That is very comforting.