Wednesday, December 24, 2014

An Open Letter to My Husband

Dear Joel,

Of the five love languages, you don't really speak "Gifts".  This makes things difficult since it's the one I speak the most.  However, every year you accommodate me by buying me wonderful gifts for Christmas.  You take the kids shopping so they can get me things, and you foot the bill so the things they buy me are really the things I want.  It makes me feel loved and appreciated.

Then, the tables are turned.  It's so easy for me to speak gifts, but I'm stunted in my ability to speak the language of "Affirmations."  I realize this seems kind of odd considering how much I love to write.  I'm sure it comes across as either hypocritical or insincere.  I mean, after all, I can sit down for hours at a time and write all kinds of things about other, fictional, people, and it doesn't bother me a bit.  Why can't I take a few minutes and jot down the things I appreciate about you?

Then there's the fact that there are several holidays each year that center around gift giving, and I can't think of one that centers around telling people how great they are.  Maybe we should make that a thing: "National Affirmation Day."  I guess if you think about it, Valentine's Day kind of works, but most people associate it with the giving of candy, flowers, and cards.  These are just more gifts.

Well, I decided this year is going to be different.  Instead of pushing you to come up with some object you could easily go out and buy yourself with your own earnings, and then delaying the gratification of obtaining said object so that I can speak my fluent language by purchasing it and making you wait till the official appointed day to claim ownership of it, I'm going to give you this letter.

Now, keep in mind, this is by no means an exhaustive list.  Also, I'm probably going to repeat some things I've told you in the past.  Please don't consider this repetition an indication of laziness on my part as much as it is an emphasis on how important it is to me.  With all that said, and the disclaimers dutifully applied, here is my official Top Ten List: Things I Love About My Husband (2014 Edition).

#10: You are an excellent provider.

You already know this. I've said it before, but I want to say it again. When I was a kid, looking forward to running my own home, I figured I would be a lot like my mom, baking my own bread, making homemade jams and jellies, cooking everything from scratch, etc.  I love doing these things, but back then these expectations were built on the premise that I would have to learn to manage a tight budget.  I would need to learn how to do these things out of necessity, not out of desperation.  I look back now, and realize just how thankful I am that I've been able to do things during our married life not because I had to scrimp and save, but because I just enjoy doing them.

#9: You make me adapt to growing technology.

I know this is one of those things that I fought for a long time.  I know I can be a stubborn person.  I have learned to appreciate your attention to technological advancement and encouragement for me to adapt.  I love my laptop, even though I scoffed at the necessity of it for years.  I love my smart phone and all the amazing apps you've introduced me to, especially Wunderlist.  I love that you introduced me to Prezi, even though I was content to use Google Slides and Powerpoint for about a year after you showed it to me.  In the future I will probably still resist new technology, but I'll come around eventually, and when I do I will realize you were right, yet again.

#8: You have a great sense of humor.

I've taken hundreds of personality quizzes online.  Almost every time one of the questions looks like this:

Every time I click on "sense of humor".  I mean, I think you're pretty hot.  I know not everyone has my taste, but I basically described you in my ridiculous teenage future husband list, and you've definitely gotten more dashing over the years.  Even though I got to marry a great looking guy, I know that over time your good looks will eventually wane.  When that happens I look forward to the fact that you can keep me smiling with your unique way of looking at life.

#7: You not only pay the bills but you take care of the finances.

I know that in a healthy relationship both people need to be actively involved in keeping track of income.  My dad used to say, "When your income exceeds your outgo, your upkeep becomes your downfall."  I realize he probably copied that from someone else, but he's the one I heard it from, so I give him credit for it.  However, I am so thankful that I don't have to pay all the bills and reconcile all the accounts and be responsible for making sure that nothing falls through the cracks.  Because we both know if I was in charge, lots of bill collectors would have our number on speed dial.

#6: You help homeschool our kids.

Back when we were courting, I remember both of us agreeing that we wanted our kids to be homeschooled.  Back then I figured that would mean that you would support me in an idealistic sort of way, but I would still have to do pretty much all of the teaching.  I joked about helping our kids with high school math, but I kinda knew in the back of my mind that it would fall to me to suck it up and teach it myself.  Over the last few years you have gotten so much more involved in the process than I ever expected.  Not just with grading math books, but with coming up with the "Presentation Process" with our kids.  You decide their topics, you shop for their rewards, you offer help each week.  It was such a genius plan, and you are coordinating it all, and I just love it.  It takes so much pressure off me, and really rounds out their curriculum.

#5: You pay attention to the details and aren't easily swayed by popular opinion

This is one of those things that I really appreciate even though it sometimes gets on my nerves.  It's one of those things I've learned to appreciate over time, though.  I appreciate that you don't just sign important papers flippantly, that you don't gamble away our money on hunches, and that you don't leave behind your convictions because of some new doctrine.

#4: You don't have a problem telling our kids no.

I'm outgoing.  I know a lot of people.  Because of this, I've known a lot, I mean, a LOT of parents who have a hard time telling their kids no.  I've seen what happens to kids who never get told no.  I've also seen situations where one parent says no while the other says yes.  I'm so thankful that you are consistent with our kids.  Not to double up on this one, but I also appreciate the fact that, while you don't have a problem setting boundaries for them, you aren't a hard-nose either.  You take time to develop relationships with them.

#3: You kill roaches for me.

Don't really need to expound on this one.  Ewww!

#2: You put our relationship above your relationship to the kids.

Here's another one I've seen a lot.  One parent who seems to think the other parent is pretty much just there to help procreate another little darling to add to their posse.  I feel so loved by you.  You go out of your way to make sure we have date night.  You make sure that I am healthy, and you caution me from over committing to otherwise worthy causes.  You're even willing to go grocery shopping with me, just so we can be together.  Even recently when we were talking about foster care, the reasons you cited for not signing up for infant care, is because you didn't want me to get run down.  It wasn't because you didn't want to have to deal with a baby in the house.  It was because you know how exhausted I get when I'm caring for an infant.

#1: You are faithful to me.

I hate that statistic that says, 1 in 4 marriages ends in divorce.  I used to just shake my head at it.  Now I shake my fist and cry out against it because I've seen way too many close friends prove its validity.  In our 18 years of marriage we've seen cheating spouses, abusive spouses, neglectful spouses, disconnected spouses.  I could go on, but I don't want to bring this positive post down.

I used to feel like I had to make sure I was always perfect for you because I had to hold on to you or some other woman would come in and take you away from me.  Then I kind of went through a man-hater stage where I thought, "If he doesn't love me the way I am then it's his loss."  Fortunately that pendulum has settled down a lot.  But, the common thread on both sides is that nagging fear that my husband is inevitably going to leave me.  I'm not sure when it stopped being an issue to me, but somewhere along the line I stopped coming up with contingency plans for how to move on with my life, and started wondering how in the world I was ever going to live without you if you end up being the first one to go on to heaven.  I used to wonder how I was going to deal with the news that you had found someone else, and now I wonder how I'll be able to find anyone else if the enemy took you away from me too early.

Suffice it to say that I'm in love with you.  I moved away from infatuation many many years ago.  I'm so much more deeply in love with you than I've ever been.  I hope that science and technology find ways of prolonging healthy life soon enough for us to take advantage of it, because I look forward to an entire lifetime with you.

Merry Christmas,

Sunday, December 7, 2014

Jamberry Nails

The last time I tried Multi-Level Marketing I sold Mary Kay Cosmetics.  That was 17 years ago, and ended so badly I never wanted to sign up for direct selling ever again.  I learned a lot about the pitfalls of MLMs from that experience.

I love hosting parties.  I love the products I've bought from home parties, but when my friend asked if I wanted to sell Pampered Chef I said, "No Thanks."  When another friend asked if I wanted to sell Origami Owl lockets, I smiled and said, "Nope, not me."  When yet another friend asked if I wanted to sell Thirty-one Bags, I laughed and said, "Thanks, but no."  The same goes for Premier Jewelry, Tupperware, Longaberger Baskets, and several other awesome companies.  I mean, I could probably tell you as much about these products as the ladies I know who sell them.

When they asked if I wanted to make some extra spending money each month, I talked about how content I was with my husband's salary.  When they talked about buying the product at a discount, I said I was fine earning hostess rewards.  When they asked if I wanted a chance to earn special incentives only available to consultants, I said I was happy with the products available to me.  There was really no way anyone could convince me to go back into direct sales.

So, why in the world did I decide to sign up to sell Jamberry Nails?

Honestly, when I first heard about them I scoffed.  I gave up on nice nails long, long ago.  I used to love doing my nails when I was a teenager.  I remember bottles of nail polish drying up far too quickly because I was painstakingly trying out a new nail art technique.  My favorite was the two-stroke hearts.

When I got married and started taking care of my own house, nail polish just didn't last anymore.  Between doing dishes and gardening, and taking care of babies, I didn't really have time to do my nails.  Even if I did set aside some "me time" within 24 hours the polish was cracking and chipping away.  I'm a serial picker and if there was even a little bit of polish chipped off, I would systematically pick the rest off.  

On top of that, there was the stigma.  I grew up in a house full of boys who teased girls who were obsessed with looking perfect all the time.  God forbid I ever broke a nail and mentioned it to them.  They would assume I was being a preppy, obnoxious Valley Girl because my nails weren't pristine and perfect.  As an adult I felt silly trying to keep my manicure from getting ruined.  Only rich ladies could afford to skip doing dishes just to keep their manicures looking perfect.  

I can think of exactly two times in my 18 years of married life when I paid someone for a professional manicure.  Both times I had to schedule the mani on the day of the event I wanted to look nice for.  I knew that If I did it the day before my nails would look awful by the night of the event.

So, yes, I scoffed at Jamberry nails.  I loved to look at them, but I scoffed.  The first party I was invited to, I declined because, well, "I don't really like doing my nails anymore."  When my friend Olga joined up and added me to her group I ignored her.  She lived in Reno, and I didn't really interact with her as much anymore, so I didn't feel like she would be hurt by my not purchasing anything from her.

Then my friend Lisa bought some Jams to try out.  She wore them to homeschool co-op and I noticed them right away.  She was smart.  She applied salon quality polish to most of her fingers and then applied Jams to the remaining fingers.  Then she waited. After a week the Jams still looked amazing and the polish was chipping off.  After two weeks, the Jams still looked amazing and the polish was mostly gone.

There's more about Lisa.  She and her husband are church planters, and I know sometimes finances are tough, so I don't mind helping out when they are trying to earn a little extra income.  When she told me she was thinking about selling Jamberry products I saw an opportunity to encourage her and her family.

Also, we're pretty good friends.  I know that she deals with a lot of the same stuff I do.  Cooking, cleaning, homeschooling her kids, being active in the community.  I know she doesn't have time to devote to making her nails look perfect all the time.  I know she places more emphasis on caring for others than primping.  By watching her test the jams I had a pretty clear vision of what my experience would be.

The last straw, the thing that made me order was a post on Facebook about Jams helping people who are nail biters.  Not only that, but they made kid-sized Jams, too.  This meant I could order them for my youngest, who habitually bites her nails.

So I bit the bullet.  I ordered two styles for myself and two for my 6 year old.  I also ordered all the application stuff, the heater, the application kit, even the cuticle oil.

I put them on the night I got them.  I even let my 6 year old stay up past her bedtime so I could apply them.  I didn't really have any directions, other than a couple of videos I'd seen on you-tube, and some comments on Facebook.  I was too excited to wait, though.

My left hand went on pretty well, my right was awkward and frustrating.  They lasted a week.  That was longer than any manicure I'd ever paid for or done myself.

For the second style I got smart.  I did my research, and even asked one of my teenage friends to help me with my right hand in exchange for me giving her some of my wraps. Unfortunately I didn't realize that the metallic and glittery ones are the hardest to apply, so I still struggled with some of the edges.

Before the week was up I was ordering another four designs.  This time, they were all for me.  Even though I probably could have kept them on longer than a week, my second wraps had to come off... it was officially Christmas season and I wanted to look festive in my next design.

Then I realized... It costs $99 to become a consultant.  Between me and my three gals, and my BFF and her two daughters, I could easily go through enough Jams to stay active over the next year.  I waited a week or two to really think things through.  I asked Lisa all my questions.  I let my hubby know what I was considering and asked him for input.  (He's pretty awesome, in that he's never once told me not to go for it.) And then, I made my decision.

So yeah.  That's how I became a Jamberry consultant.  And you know what, I never even hosted a party.