Tag Archives: marriage

PADDLE! Tandem in Marriage

6 Jun

Marriage is a lot like paddling in a tandem kayak.

newyears_dec_2002 013

“Daddy’s yellow boat” offered my husband a solitary escape to tranquility.

Not long after my daughter was born, my husband took up kayaking. There was a major problem, however: the kayak had only one seat. This was intentional. The early months and years of parenthood are enough to make any semi-sane person develop cartoon blood-shot swirly eyes if they can’t ever get away from the diapers and screaming.

Nevertheless, I protested the single sit-inside-style boat. After all, as a new mother I was the one who had the greater demands on my time, I argued. Being affectionately dubbed by hubby as “the cafeteria,” I was forced to stay open 24/7 including nights, weekends and bank holidays feeding and caring for our new tiny roommate. At the time, I was also working full-time. If I couldn’t escape for a relaxing half-day paddle through a Florida mangrove, why should he?

Now that we are in our seventeenth year of marriage, a lot has changed for both Michael and me, including my narrow views on kayaking.

  • Everyone needs to paddle on their own sometimes. In retrospect, my husband really needed that time alone. I, too, needed alone time and independent interests (which the Chicks have helped me honor), but instead of carving these out for myself then, it was easier to try to keep him from doing so for himself. Graciously allowing it for him meant acknowledging my own needs, which as new moms we all tend to minimize. That said…
  • The lure of lush Hawaiian islands to be reached and explored stayed in our sights as we paddled out to sea in tandem.

    The lure of lush Hawaiian islands to be reached and explored stayed in our sights as we paddled out to sea in tandem.

    Marriage works best in tandem. When baby was old enough to be left with grandma, Michael first coaxed me out into a tandem kayak during a trip in Hawaii. There was something very satisfying about paddling together, in the same direction, toward a common landmark. If you want to turn in the same direction, both rowers must communicate. Otherwise you’ll either go in circles or get driven by the current.

  • You rest; I’ll paddle. Forging through powerful Pacific waves, my arms screamed at me to stop. That’s the beauty of a tandem kayak. You can take a break to rest on your oars while your partner keeps paddling. Other times, you need to let them rest while you work harder to keep the vessel moving forward, or at least not too far backwards or off course. There is no score card. We’re each doing the best we can at any point in time. So if one rower feels they need to rest, the stronger one must keep paddling for them both. It’s harder, yes, but it doesn’t last forever. Each rower finds strength at different times, and no rower can–or should–paddle without breaks. The important thing to remember is…


    Behind each smiling photo of a married couple are struggles. Two people row together and in turn to get through a sea of challenges from family and work to health and emotions.

  • We’re still in the same boat. We may be struggling, individually or together, but we’re in this together. If we get turned over, we’ll tread water and get back in. We’ll keep paddling until, eventually, we reach land. Even if it’s not the idyllic island we intended, we’ll both be glad for the shared break on a sandy beach.

I hope you enjoyed the Chicks’ month of PADDLE! And to committed couples everywhere: happy paddling!

For the rest of June, come DIVE! with us into summer.


Grout of Control

28 Feb

Last night I spent five grueling hours cleaning my kitchen tile grout.  With a toothbrush.  After nearly fifteen years of marriage, my husband knew exactly what this meant: I was feeling completely and hopelessly out of control.

Like most “average” adults who have successfully survived childhood, I come from a dysfunctional family.  I can say this with the greatest love and respect for both my parents.  Whatever they did wrong in raising me, I now allow them to blame fully on their parents.  And I reserve the right to do the same. That’s part of the circle of life, right?

Nevertheless, there were inevitably those times in childhood when I felt small.  Helpless.  Unable to make others happy, much less change them.  But somewhere along the way, I learned to turn my attention to a different world, the little one I could at least try to control.  I might clear off my dresser, enjoying the sensations of an ammonia-rich paper towel wiping away the marks–as if my own troubles–by the power of my own hand.  Or I might rearrange my bedroom furniture, afterwards closing and opening my eyes from various vantage points, pleased at the newness of my surroundings.  I found great solace in my space and even greater comfort in cleaning it.

Fast forward to yesterday.  I seriously considered renaming my two-year old “Bissell”, somewhere between finally vacuuming up the thousands of nearly microscopic beads he spilled all over my office floor and steam-cleaning the bronze metallic paint he stealthily applied to my window-seat cushions.  And don’t even ASK about potty training, because we’re making fabulous progress.  He’s all for it, when it’s time for bed.  Otherwise, he saves his most “high-impact” BM’s for when we’re running out the door and late.  Then there’s my sweet Cassidy, whose future middle school education has become the impetus for my husband and I to consider moving, as well as for my husband to mention the possibility of my returning to work–sacrilege!

I am not often at a loss for words, but there are simply times when I’ve said and heard too many of them.  That’s when I choose to retreat into silence.  So after the arrival of The Great Peace, that precious evening time after Avery is in bed, I quietly took up the grout-scrubbing.  I went to bed at three and woke up four hours later to the screaming sound of “Mom-MEE!  Poop-PEE!”  (Yes, he’s also fond of waking me up to tell me he’s just gone.)

Yet even amid the rush to get everyone ready for church, I admired my work.  The grout glistened bright in the light of dawn, not hindered by the morning’s crumbs or frustrations.  Its beauty eclipsed even the extreme tiredness of my body.  I had conquered the grout.  Here, at last in my week, was something I could control.  Now, if only the problem of Cassidy’s middle school could be solved so well.

My answer came soon after.  As the Chicks know, I sing in the Praise Team at Peace Church here in Hunter’s Creek. Well right there in the middle of singing the closing song today, I began to realize how up until now, my recurring life theme could be summed up as:  losing control, trying to regain control, losing control, etc.  Maybe I need to stop trying to control so much and just get used to living more out of control.

After all, the creative process–like the rest of life–is downright messy.  But maybe there’s a time for tidying up and a time for living in chaos, if you will.  In fact, it seems like the chaos time is the vast majority.  So then the key is how to live within it, how to find lasting peace, how to create, even if the grout is dirty.

Oh, and the title of that song?  “God Is in Control.”  Well, at least someone is.

For those who are interested, here are the lyrics by Twila Paris:

This is no time for fear
This is a time for faith and determination
Don’t lose the vision here
Carried away by emotion
Hold on to all that you hide in your heart
There is one thing that has always been true
It holds the world together

God is in control
We believe that His children will not be forsaken
God is in control
We will choose to remember and never be shaken
There is no power above or beside Him, we know
God is in control, oh God is in control

%d bloggers like this: