004. i'm a shit cook and other lessons i've learned in 365 days of marriage

365 Days of Marriage Lessons | Blake Blankenbecler.jpg

J and I celebrated our one-year anniversary by eating cake, grocery shopping at our favorite Asian market, and mourning that our vacation to California had just ended. The day was lovely and normal and ordinary. J still opens my car door and we still really like each other so I’d say we are doing alright.

In reflecting on these past 365 days, I learned some things and I thought I’d share a few of them with you.

The shit cook part doesn’t even refer to the time J inadvertently ate my toenails…that was sheer laziness on my part. I’ll start with that lesson first.

One lesson: Procrastination has its downfalls.

A friend once said, “How you do anything is how you do everything.” I agree with that statement…for better or for worse.  What I didn’t realize before marriage was that how your spouse does things is probably not how you do things. That would be no fun and too boring. The universe wouldn’t want that, now would it?!

One happy afternoon I clipped my toenails and gathered them all up because that’s what a kind human does. I put them in a little, neat pile on our nesting table to discard of them once I got up. I was cozied up on the couch and the pillows were perfectly morphed around me. I wrote myself a mental note to remember to throw them away because well, gross, don’t forget.

Famous last words…

That nesting table is also where J likes to put his chips down for a salty, crunchy after-work snack. We really value the environment in the Blankenbecler household so we don’t even worry about formalities like plates or napkins. Praise be Mother Earth. I had gotten up a while ago and was likely doing something other than cooking dinner. J had taken my spot on the couch and was telling me about his day.

You might be wondering about those toenails I *forgot* to throw away. You are likely a smart human reading this and can foresee where this story is headed…

J was crunch-crunch-crunching away and suddenly stopped mid-crunch and looked up at me with wide eyes. Like a puppy, his head turned to the side as if to say, “I know tortilla chips produce a hard crunch, but whatever my teeth just bit down on is unlike that familiar hard crunch.” He was able to extract the foreign object and removed it from his mouth. He examined said object closely. At about the same time, we both realized just what it was he had been crunch-crunch-crunching on.

Yes. Yup. Mmhmm.

My toenail.

So yeah, procrastination comes at a cost. I’m learning to actually get up to throw away my toenails right after I clip them. J is learning, well, he is learning patience with a wife who sometimes forgets to get important things done.

I’m glad I can be such a great domestic wife!

Another lesson: Costco and bills baby!

We don’t even have kids yet and we learned quickly marriage is relatively unusual, highly unglamorous normalcy. In a good way, truly. I have never laughed more than in this last year of my life and FINALLY getting to sleep in the same bed and not drive home in the dark is a gift! (J and I decided to wait until marriage to have sex and slumber parties. It was worth the wait ;) )

But let’s not make marriage what it isn’t. We still have to go to work, keep the house picked up because somebody likes to not clean up her toenails, and do other erroneous things like go to the post office and workout. Now it’s two people deciding on bills, groceries, and what’s for dinner tonight.

Seriously, “what’s for dinner?” is the eternal question in our household. If you’ve figured this question out, for the love, share your secrets!!!

We do have some things figured out that we talked about and agreed upon. I’d say words, not actions are incredibly integral here. Words, as in explicit conversations and dialogues that I am in charge of XYZ and J is in charge of ABC has been helpful in tackling responsibilities and keeping those resentments at bay.

A few things we do have settled is that J does the laundry and I fold the clothes. Whoever cooks dinner, the other one cleans up the dishes. Teamwork makes dream work baby!

Stating our needs with a kind heart is the kindest way.

As J says, “It’s all about tone.” For example, I get frustrated that incense dustings are piled up on the myriad of incense holders we have. Can’t exactly tell you why I can just tell you it makes my chest tight seeing it and my thoughts start to race. Not really J’s problem though, so it’s my responsibility to share with him that it helps my soul when he cleans it up every now and then.

Making passive statements about how our home smells like a boujee yoga studio and there are piles of dustings everywhere doesn’t really help me or him or the dust piles go away. Kind words help us all!

The next lesson: A weekly lunch date is the best thing we’ve ever done.

But really, having lunch together every week is one of our more genius moves in marriage!! Every Thursday at 1P on the dot, you will find the Blankenbecler’s sitting down to a lunch date at a cozy little cafe in East Nashville. Carleen is our waitress and we are known as the Thursday couple. Sometimes we get free avocado smoothies because they like us. When we leave the owner always waves bye to us and says, “See you next Thursday!” It’s all very cute.

We do this for multiple reasons. One, we usually use this time to go over any hot and steamy topics like finances, appointments, or the things that we always tell each other we need to talk about but never find the time to. This weekly touchpoint becomes that time. It’s always on our shared calendar, reoccurring until forever. I laughed and told J that when we have kids, the kids will only be allowed to join us if they are on the boob. Otherwise, we will pay for a babysitter for our unborn children. 

Two, we get to process our week, the highs, the lows, the worries, and what’s coming up. We can support each other, speak life, and share what we are grateful for. Honestly, it’s not the most lovey-dovey of times, but it’s really connecting for both of us. It gives us the consistency of knowing even with a crazy week, we always have that time set aside as sacred for just the two of us.  Also, with it happening on Thursday that means the next day is Friday, which means the weekend. The weekend means we get to hang out uninterrupted and stay up late and sleep in all morning and hang out more. Did I mention we like to hang out with each other?

The next lesson after that: DO NOT DO IT ALONE.

Sweet baby Jesus. It would be a disservice to not include this one. A good reminder for J and me…always.

J does not complete me. I do not complete J.

Our love does not make us whole.

We do not and will not save each other.

We are needy people, however. Very, very needy actually. I need girlfriends, he needs his guy friends. We need couple friends. We need older, mentor friends. We need similar friends, we need did-not-vote-for-the-same-candidate friends. We need friends who share our faith and our values, we need friends who don’t share our faith. We need friends who are people of color and opposite sex and immigrants and LGBTQ+ friends. We need friends who can commiserate with us, we need friends who call us out and challenge us.   

Such a needy bunch, us two.

Our marriage needs community and the friction and tug of difference and sameness. Just like the old adage goes, “It takes a village” when referring to raising kids, I’d say the same thing goes for sustaining a good marriage.

Something happens when J and I are tired and on the brink of a dumb fight over spilled food and we go over to a friends house. For starters, we get taken out of our environment and that allows us to get some fresh air and fresh perspective that maybe, just maybe, we were being a tad bitter and sharp with each other. Then, as we are being served by people who love us and care for us, we remember that we really do love and care for each other. Spills or disagreements or misunderstandings can make us forget that nugget of truth. And about halfway through the night, the magic just keeps on going when one of us finds our way closer and closer back to each other. By the end of the night, we leave holding hands and as we are holding hands walking home, we ask forgiveness for being a turd.

The healing power of community is very, very, very important to our marriage.

The last lesson: I’m a shit cook, but it’s the thought that counts.

The smoke alarm has gone off a few times in our little nest when yours truly has the spatula in her hand. Cooking is hard for me. Where J finds romance in preparing a meal, I find mechanics and anxiety.

I am a great baker though! Give me a recipe with flour, sugar, and butter and I have gone to my happy place. Unfortunately, we cannot eat cookie dough balls and brown-buttered cinnamon pumpkin doughnuts for dinner every night. Also, too much sugar gives me pimples, so I have to lay off the swedish fish as a main food group. Did I mention J doesn’t really care too much about the sweets? So, there’s that…

Back to cooking. While I am still not comfortable whipping up dinner, J has taught me about what food tastes like when it’s made with love. There is just something different about it. When ingredients are thoughtfully procured, when tastes are considered, and when heart and time are put into the preparation, somehow the food comes out tasting better and it sits better in the body. This may not be empirically based, but whatever, our food doesn’t lie!

So when I eye-roll my way into the kitchen to cook us dinner (which is not every night), I try to remember that even though dinner will not taste like a meal at Husk, what I can do is put my heart into the food and try as best I can. The potatoes will likely still be burned but J tells me the truth that all he really cares about is that I tried.

The same thing goes for errands or picking up the house or grinding the coffee beans the night before instead of at 5:45 am when I have to wake up some mornings.

Wait…This is the last lesson, I promise: Slow dance in the kitchen.

Last night I was reading the latest news blurb on the NY Times Evening briefing about yet another Washington official being fired or under investigation or accused of something. My first thought was “no one is safe.” It doesn’t matter if you’re on the left or the right or straddling the lines, trolls don’t discriminate.

The fear mongers make so much noise these days.

I’m really grateful that for both J and I when it does get too noisy, we can turn off the tv, set down our phones, and sign off of our e-mails. Our little nest has become the safest place we have ever lived. We both can be fully ourselves, fully accepted, and find each other endearing when we only wear soft clothes and make weird noises.

Sometimes when we come home after a long day and the pesky problems, the unmet expectations and the normal wear and tear of life have taken a toll, J tells the google-mini to play Drew Holcomb & The Neighbors and we slow dance in the kitchen. I nuzzle myself into his neck, close my eyes and breathe in his scent as we rock back and forth. I am brought back to gratitude that while life can be really, really hard, our marriage, for the most part, is really, really not.

I love the music our marriage is making. Cheers to lots more sounds and beauty created for many years to come!

Self-Care Questions::

What music does your story, your relationships, your life make?

How does your community bring you back to life?

Where can you love your people well, even if you aren’t perfect at it, and practice putting your heart into it?

What lessons have you learned in your relationships this past year? Share!