Build Something Beautiful, Together!

This is a re-post of a blog I wrote two years ago when Mr. H and I first moved in together, we decided to build a beautiful bench to go on our new super cute porch at our super cute house back when we lived in Denver. As we built this bench I realized that the process of putting the bench together was a lot like the process of putting together a healthy relationship and so this blog post, and eventually this website harrishomemade.com  were born out of this idea, that we could physically and relationally build something beautiful, together.

So here it is….

So what does this bench have to do with my marriage?

Well we built it.. no kit, not precut pieces of wood, nope just a youtube video and a trip to home depot later and we were making a bench. This took both of our strengths and some I don’t think we knew we had in order to accomplish it.

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Here I am at home depot, bright eyed and bushy tailed ready to construct our very own bench, something that will hopefully last 30 years so we can pass it down to our children, as his parent just did with a picnic table Mr.’s Dad built 30 years ago.

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Did I mention we decided to build this bench on the day it snowed in May? No? Oh well here I am bundled up in our garage waiting for the snow to melt as we begin sawing.

But we get underway constructing this bench and just like I imagine we will in marriage, we started to hit some bumps, my bright eyed and bushy tailed turned into curse words and we were soon doubting if we could put this bench together at all. It started when we realized we didn’t charge the drill, and were left screwing most of the screws in by hand, do you know how many screws it takes to put a bench together? Way too many to screw them in by hand I tell you that.

I started to think that this was Ben’s fault and that it was his drill so he should have been responsible for the charge of the battery and as my wrist became more and more sore, I had two choices to continue blaming mr. and become resentful, or realize that this is something we are in together, realize we both will make mistakes and that as a team we will work through them, so on I went screwing in screw after screw by hand. ( And to be fair, he was also participating in this, it wasn’t like I was left with a screwdriver on an abandoned island or anything)

And I am sure he was thinking that I could be helping more, or stop nagging him about the directions, I am sure I screwed a screw in wrong, or measured the pieces of wood too small ( ok  I know I did that one once) And he could have taken those things and created a list, an arbitrary checklist of the ways I was failing him and allowed that running record to eat away at his faith in me. in us. But he didn’t every time no matter how frustrated he was he would look at me, smile, say “you are doing great babe”, and move on… EVERY time.

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And then we screwed the legs together wrong, leaving us with what would have been a seatless bench, not very effective right? So unscrew the pieces, and start again, this time following the directions. This is where we could dip deep down into those gender stereotypes pull out the one that says men don’t follow directions put a big ole check mark on it and slip it back into our pocket of low blows to use next time. But if we are going to create a marriage that is built to last, what we really need to be doing is digging into that pocket of stereotypes and low blows and throwing them in that brand new recycling bin we just got and let someone else compost those. Because holding on to these things just creates an environment where both Mr. and myself could be digging deeper and deeper at each other until one of us breaks.

Now 50 years into this bench building marriage we will have so many of these things we could be throwing at each other that there is no way to survive all of those bad experiences, but if instead we choose to recycle that crap, chalk it up to a mistake we both made and move on, then in 2,5 or 50 years we won’t be counting all the ways our spouse has messed up over the years right?

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It was starting to look like a marriage…. I mean bench, the pieces were all where they needed to be, it had legs it could stand on and a sturdy seat two people could sit on. But there was something missing, just like our marriage which has 79 days until it becomes official ,our bench was missing some crucial pieces to it’s structure. But this is where it really got tricky, the video said to put the back at a slight angle so that it would be more comfortable to sit on. The guy used a fancy tool to measure and then drill sideways through the posts in order to accomplish this with ease. However here we were with our dead drills, no fancy tool and only the few screws that we had purchased which were now to short for this job. How were we going to accomplish it?

And then Mr. had an idea, he said why don’t we use extra wood, create a back for the ends and use that to nail into, that would cut down on the amount of screws we need and allow us to create the comforting angle we had heard about in the video.

There you have it folks I am marrying a genius this is where I got to celebrate with him, think about how I never would have thought of that on my own and rejoice in his accomplishments, I could do this without fault because I had already thrown my earlier reservations in the recycling with our bench building mistakes.

So that is what we did, and it worked!

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And there it was our beautiful bench, it is still not perfect all the pieces don’t exactly line up, the wood is not sanded or painted to perfection, the back angle isn’t exactly even or at  the magic comfort angle that was prescribed, but let me tell you what…it is sturdy,

And in 30 years when our marriage has seen the test of time,  I hope we will look at this bench think of all the things we could have held onto over the years, all of the little mistakes that could have torn us apart but instead made us a better team and think it all started with this bench.

❤ Rae

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We’re like a really small gang.

 

Do you have any friends that are your family? They are the people you turn to when you need it, they are the people who would adopt your child if you ever died?

Well I grew up and those people those friends were truly my family, my mom had a group of best friends that when asked, or I had an assignment on family I always chose them. They were the people we spent Thanksgiving with, they were the people I could count on to be at my volleyball games, my recitals, ALL my graduations, Kindergarten, 5th, 8th, high school, undergrad and graduate school). They were always there and when I asked as a child if something happened to my mom where I would live, it was with them.

This is what I always dreamed of growing up, the family that I chose and the people who are in my life not because they have to be biologically but because they chose to be, And honestly it happened. It college I met a group of girls that are more family than anything, we have been friends for almost 10 years now and this year we are even spending Friendsgiving together on real Thanksgiving, we have been there for all of the weddings, and proposals we have celebrated moves, jobs and college graduations and probably soon someone in the group will welcome the gangs first baby. We all live spread among the West Coast.

But we have also been experiencing growing pains as we grow up, we all met when we were in college, none of us married, most of us single and we had all the time in the world to spend together. We lived life in community spending most of our nights together on the couch and most of our days drinking mimosas and eating pancakes (okay that was only Sunday’s but we loved those mimosas) And we only had to worry about passing our classes and having enough money to make rent and pay for the aforementioned mimosas.  We developed our own way of communicated a fast paced- snarky- love filled style of speaking that our husbands still have a hard time keeping up with.

So what does that look like for us now? How can we keep the same level of intimacy with each other as our significant others become our best friends and 1,000 miles separate us? Well you know I am learning that its more than possible it is beautiful. You have to intentionally make the time to talk to each other, you have to share the things that happened in your life when they no longer are just home when you get home to share them with. And then what happens when you are all together again? When you suddenly move 15 minutes away and you have to remember how to speak in that snarky language all over again. There are growing pains in that too, growing pains in living in proximity to the ones you love too, you have to learn how to share your life again and give up some of your independence to those around you all over again…. Now next we will see what happens when the next life stage changes for us, we have grown together from the singleness of college to being married or engaged, and we will learn how to grow together through babies, and all the things that come with that. Because we are our small gang.

 

Now over the last year or so there have been a lot of changes to the make-up of this family, see one of the best things about a friends family is that they choose to be in your life, but one of the problems with a friends family is just that, they choose to be in your life. So they can also choose not to be in your life. ( not that blood family can’t also make that choice, exhibit A- 85% of my blood relatives, including my Dad) but with friends family it can be a simple quick decision there isn’t the rest of the family bugging them to join the family holiday parties, one day they are just gone. And with my moms Friend Family that is exactly what they all decided this last year. The woman I called my second mom, and the man who walked me down the aisle are no longer a part of my life for the most part because they are no longer a part of my moms life. And like honestly it feels a little bit like my parents got a divorce.

My mom and Sue were like a really small gang, they had been friends for 30 years they had helped each others kids grow and my mom had helped Sue bury her son. They had been together when Sue’s husband went off to war, twice. And celebrated each time he came home. We celebrated all of my thanksgivings together and most of the Christmas’s but now that really small gang has broken up.

 

So is it possible to have lifetime friends? Can you really achieve the goal of having a family that you choose and not one by blood? I sure hope so we will see, I still have hope that my “divorced parents” will speak again someday. I have hope that you can navigate all the changes of life with the same close group of friends, I have hope that all of the sitcoms ever (How I met your Mother, Friends, One Tree Hill, etc) were not lying to me and I can have my friend family! Because right now there isn’t any other way I would want it to be.

 

 

Take me back to WildWood!

 

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I can remember the night I met my now husband. I can remember thinking to myself that a person this good, this moral would never love me because of that one thing in my past. That one thing I tell no one, that my closest friends know and never bring up. The one thing I am more confused about than any other decision I have ever made in my past. The one thing that makes me feel like I am not good enough to have this man love me. As a result of this fear, I reacted in the opposite way that I normally do with this piece of information. Normally, I hide it until someone sees me, loves me enough to love me in spite of that one thing I did when I was 16. This thing that I completely believe is everyone woman’s choice to make, but why when I acknowledge that I used my right to choose does it make my skin crawl. However on that night I didn’t bury that information, when my wonderful now-husband asked me about the significance of my tattoo on my back instead of using any one of the reasons I normally share with people, I told him the truth, I told him about a choice that I made when I was 16 and the ways that it still drives my life today. And guess what. .. he still loved me. He still asked me if I was upset he wasn’t trying to make out with me that night, and still convinces me every day that I am his “have-to-have” in life, that I am his most beautiful woman in the world. And I like to think it is not in spite of my choice to tell him about my past, but maybe just a little bit because of my choice to tell him. ( And look at me even now, not wanting to write the word out)

A wonderful woman named Grace spoke to a group of 16-18-year-old girls this week, she will continue to speak to them every week for the next 10 weeks she will influence the way that they share their lives with people, and she impacted the way I hope to share my life. She spoke about vulnerability but beyond that, she spoke of transparency. Transparency in our lives in our stories is typically reserved for the few closest to us, those we believe, as I did, will love us in spite of the choices that we made and not turn our back on us or run and tell their neighbor the things we choose to share. They will see themselves a little bit in our stories and find our humanity refreshing. But vulnerability is what we chose to share with people who have not earned transparency yet, with the people who ask to hear our testimony, who ask us about our day. We pick and choose little-edited pieces of our life that we feel comfortable sharing, things that may make us look like we have been through something tragic but still paint us in a good light. We don’t talk about all the shitty things WE have done when we are just being vulnerable.

But what could we do, if we were transparent with more people if we shared the struggles the hardest decisions we have made and then let people see the ways we were formed and shaped by those choices. Through the times that we hide away from others, don’t you think we all probably have a little more in common that we think? But we just spend our lives only showing the “instagrammable” moments with each other. We paint our lives to appear beautiful all the time. But I think we could all become a lot closer if we showed the browns and the grays of our lives instead of only the golden, the bright and shiny hues.

First off, I have never been to WildWood, not as a camper, not as a counselor, not as a staff member.  Wildwood is a place where campers spend a week of their lives trying to get closer to God and get closer to each other. It is a place removed from cell phones, social media and a place where you get to work hard and take a week to breathe deeply again. I spent a few nights at Wildwood this summer as a guest and in the moments I start to hide away the moments I forget what it is like to live transparently, I hope someone will Take me Back to Wildwood.

-Rae

P.S. I wrote most of this post back in June, and am just getting around to posting it.

(Wildwood, camp- Hume CA)

When thoughts and prayers are not enough!

This morning I woke up, again, to the news that more people had been killed. More people had to suffer at the hands of a man, who should have never been sold a gun in the first place.

50 people dead, over 400 injured! And that is jus the initial report. . . read that again, 50 people DEAD! Because one man, had the desire to do harm. Now that man is dead, and we will never know the true reasons for that desire, but he is not the point here, he is not important, and if I had anything to say about it, he would never be remembered, forgotten in history because he does not deserve to be remembered.

Now every time I wake up to one of these tragedies my facebook feed is flooded with the same words, “my prayers are with the families.” Or “Pray for London, Pray for Miami, Pray for Denver, Pray for Las Vegas!” Now I am praying, I am praying for peace for the victims, I am praying for their families to find peace and justice, I am praying for the injured and the family of the shooter.

But I have one much larger prayer, a pray that this would be stopped, that we can start to view other people with love, respect and care. That we can find a way to remove the guns from the hands of the violent, that we can find a way to live together and stand up for one another.

I believe in God, and I believe that prays can do miraculous things, they can bring people peace, they can heal you, but they cannot bring people back from the dead.

And I believe that God placed us on this earth to care for one another, to be brothers and sisters, if we are his children how can we justify killing one another? I believe he wants us to step up to the plate, and put things into practice that show that we care for one another. He made us people with the free will to fight for what we believe and fight for one another, so it is time, it is time to step up and put our thoughts and prayers into action, it is time to take the initiative we were given and use it for good!

I cannot allow myself to believe that if we took the time, worked together, we could find the answer to our prayers, to end the senseless violence that has surrounded us.  To make it so no more families wake up to the call the a loved one has been killed in a mass shooting. I cannot believe that in America we are doomed to repeat this grieving over and over again.

We need more love, and we have been told a million times that actions speak louder than words, that love is a verb! It is time to put that verb to work, we need more love, more action!

-Rae

 

 

Amazing Things!

I have tried to explain what it is like to work with people with autism many times. I have tried to explain the beauty and the struggle, the different way that they see the world and the ways that it makes me a better person to have them in my life.

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Here was my post for Autism Awareness Month Last Year.

I have tried to make people love them and care for them like I have and every time I seem to come up short. I do not have autism and how can I expect to explain what the world is like for them when I don’t truly know.

Explaining differences in learning styles to children is something that can be done really well or really poorly, children are fairly flexible and welcoming if they are just sat down and explained things if they get the chance to live life with someone that is different then them they will come to understand the differences in people aren’t bad or scary, but can be beautiful and help to teach us so many new things about the world.

But often times as adults we are scared to talk about the differences, we have grown or been taught to fear the things that make us different, to look at the kids that learn differently then our own and to put them in a box as “abnormal” we pick out differences to make us more comfortable, to find our place. But that leaves us to afraid to talk to our children about the beauty in the world, the beauty in uniqueness and how to be a friend through it all.

In comes Amazing Things Happen, a beautiful video made to show kid things from a kid perspective to help understand students with Autism. I would love to show this to inclusion classes at the beginning of the year and have a discussion about all of our differences.

It shows the ways to be a friend and the way that you can grow together!

Take the time, watch it ,spread the word because when we work together,

Amazing Things Happen!

Here it is!

-Rae

Fortitude!

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Fortitude:

Noun

1. mental and emotional strength in facing difficulty, adversity, danger, or temptation courageously 

What does it look like to have Fortitude when you are not truly facing any adversity, or danger but you are just not content with where your life is at the moment? What does it look like to have the fortitude to stick with your commitments in order to see personal and professional growth?

Almost a year ago my husband and I made the decision to move across the country to a very small town that happened to offer career growth opportunities for both of us. He would be working on developing a marketing department and I would be starting a job in a school where they essentially had no special education program. I would get to design and implement the new program .

We have been here about 9 months and as is always the case, that hasn’t gone exactly to plan. We are both still doing those things for our career, I am just discovering that I don’t want to be the person to design and implement a new special education department, I don’t want to be the person that has to change an entire downs mind about special education. I don’t want to be the only person in the entire town that understands why we need to have a special education program or deal with the teachers and parents that just want to fight me. I have been finding myself dreaming of other places, dreaming of my students back in CO that made my life so much more rich. Dreaming of a place where I felt involved and needed, a place that isn’t this place.

So what does Fortitude have to do with any of this?

Well this may not be the worst thing that has ever happened to me, but it is the thing I am having to push through the most. I have always had an end game in mind, something I was working towards and when things got hard I just thought of my goal. But here, this has no goal. Maybe to set up a successful program, that may or may not fall apart once I leave. Maybe, to experience something new, but mostly my end goal as I see it right now is to leave.

So Mr. told me the other day to have fortitude, to stick with the commitment we made and see it through at least this school year. So here I am, finding fortitude.

My point here is, fortitude doesn’t have to mean that you are facing the hardest challenge of your life, or even that you have been forced to face adversity in any one else’s mind. It may be the most basic problem and yet it can really affect our lives. So what would happen if we all made Fortitude our mantra and gained the stick-with-itness that I try so hard to instill in my students everyday.

What if we all used Fortitude throughout our everyday life and had the strength to follow through, work hard, fight the battles that no one even knows we are fighting. What would happen then?

I guess I’m about to see. . .

-Rae!

 

Love Does!

This weekend magic happened!

For the past six years two of my best friends have been in love, and in that time the rest of our group has met someone, dated, got engaged and married and they are still in love, not married, not engaged just together. They have moved across the country together, have 3 animals together and so what is the hold up on marriage you ask?

Well they also happen to be two girls and one of their parents hasn’t known about the love at all. So we have all waited, encouraged, had the only major fight in our friendship about when her parents would know and when they could move forward. And about one year ago we just stopped asking all together, trusting that it would happen when it could.

But this weekend, they got engaged! Now do her parents know yet. .. no! Will they know soon . . .yes! But you know this really isn’t about them! It is about what love does . . .

Love does bring magic to life !

Love does wait six years to move forward because there is no one else they could imagine being with!

Love does leave their own house when parents come to visit!

Love does trust in their partner through it all!

Love does last!

Now if anyone of our group wasn’t going to last these last six years you would think it would have been them, the strain of simply waiting and the unknown, no posting on Facebook or “meeting the family” in any official capacity.

But we have watched them only get stronger over the past few years, to grow to . be one team that will stand against the odds together. That when one family may be lost they have formed their own to brace the storm, and that is what love does.

They choose each other every single day, and will continue to do so, and that is what love does!

Love is a choice, and action it is a tangible experience not some abstract feeling, love is decided each and every day. When someone does something to annoy you, to disappoint you, that goes against your values, love is the choice to work through it and not walk away.

As my friends move into this new stage of life, a stage we have all anxiously awaited I pray that they are greeted only with the choice of love, and if the day comes that they are not I pray that they remember to turn to their chosen, family.

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Here is a picture from the secret garden we made for them for their proposal!

-Rae

In the third year of marriage

In the first year of marriage my marriage gave to me sweet good morning kisses, and someone to share in HGTV

In the second year of marriage my marriage gave to me comfort, stability, sweet good morning kisses and someone to share in HGTV

In the third year of marriage my marriage gave to me, really hairy legs, ugly underwear, comfort, stability, sweet good morning kisses and someone to share in HGTV

Here I am in the third year of marriage, marriage is still a place I fee like I entered yesterday, I can still feel the butterflies of walking down the aisle, and the warmth of the sun on our honeymoon. I look back and can’t believe enough time has passed from that day to be over 2 years away from it.

But then I look at the way things are now and I realize that a lot has changed over the past two years and some change. This weekend we discovered I was deeply in need of some new underwear, all my mine were getting holes in them or didn’t fit right anymore or were a style I wouldn’t wear everyday .. . not teacher underwear if you will. So when we stopped at the store I went straight to the underwear section,  I looked through all the “cute” read expensive underwear and then went over to the underwear I would have groaned at 3 years ago, the kind that comes 6 to a box, the plain colors, ugly read cheap underwear. I grabbed a box of those and went right back to my husband. He said, do you want one pair of the cute underwear, when I said no he was not upset and went right about his shopping.

Now a few other things have changed over the past two years, I no longer worry about having perfectly shaved legs around him, I also fart and discuss my stomach aches, underarm smells and sores, and essentially just tell him what is on my mind.  So all this to say you could say we are out of the “honeymoon” stage. . .if you must say that. But my marriage is full of laughter, love and I wouldn’t say that the relations department is any worse than in year one. . . I would say it is better because I am willing to just tell him whats on my mind.

Now I still get the sweet good morning kisses, now they may just be filled with morning breath as well, I still have someone to share in HGTV, and now he even understands what I mean when I whisper “Johanna would be proud” when we entered someones house, I get to forget about the annoyance of shaving my legs until I feel like it, and I get to spend way less on underwear. The best part is in my ugly underwear, with my hairy legs an stinky breath, while I am watching my 16th episode of Fixer Upper he still tells me that I am the most beautiful girl in the world.

-Rae

 

 

 

How Do I do this again? The Scheduling Nightmare that is Sped Life!

I did this last year, right?

I made a schedule for myself, the students, paras, it had inclusion time, academic service minutes, and everything else you could ever need. .. like you know lunch breaks. On it right?

How did I do it again? How did I make a schedule that fit all the grades schedules, so I am not pulling from any non-negotiable times so that students still feel like a part of their class? But are also getting the academic and speech, and behavior, and OT times they need in order to be successful? Did I give my para’s meaningful work to do not just busy work right?

How? How did I do this? Did it really get done or did a magical scheduling fairy appear and do it for me and then wiped my memory clean so I felt like I did it myself?

I would take a magical scheduling fairy right about now because I am on draft four of my schedule for the year and I just feel like crying! How in the world is it all going to get done in the time allotted? How?

Other people in the sped world, do your in-service days get destroyed by the beast that is scheduling as well?

How do you do it? What makes your schedule run well? Or do we all wipe our memories clean after this every Spring so that we are crazy enough to do it again every Fall?

If you have a formula that works and doesn’t make you want to pull your hair out or your eyes go crossed from staring at your spreadsheet all day. .. PLEASE let me know!!!

-Rae

Live Like It’s Spring!

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Live like it’s Spring. . . Spring. . .what does it mean to live like it is Spring? What does Spring represent? New life, growth, change, the warming of the seasons and the growth of the flowers. The way that everything seems to have possibilities as the world emerges from the snow and glum of winter? If you live somewhere that doesn’t have seasons, none of this Spring talk probably hits you in the feels, but for me a Colorado turned California mountain girl, it gets me.

 

Last summer was the first summer since I was 15 that I wasn’t working. I didn’t work summer school, or camp, I wasn’t working part-time at a pizza place or movie theatre. I was a teacher, on full on teacher summer. I had June, July, and part of August to just relax, do some DIY projects and hang out with my husband. Older teacher friends applauded me for taking the summer and talked about how I needed it to recharge after the crazy year in Special Education that I had. I was excited to sleep in, forget what day of the week it was, and maybe drink wine during the week without a reason.

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That lasted about a week. . .

After about a week I was BORED, I needed something to keep me occupied that wasn’t burning through 2 books on the “Hot Summer Reading List”  a week! I watched as other teacher friends my age went on hikes and to the pool and on road trips. .. all without inviting me. My best friends all moved across the country one by on to the Pacific Northwest  and I was feeling alone. Making friends as an adult. . .. SUCKS! I watched people I thought were my friends live a Teacher Summer like I thought I was supposed to live. But that teacher summer was only leaving me feeling like a 16-year-old girl who didn’t get invited to the prom.

 

Fast Forward to this summer, I am again taking the summer off. I have spent the summer hosting guests, going on one of those road trips that would have made me cry last summer. And spent many days paddle boarding on the lake 5 minutes from my house.

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SO what has changed? And what does it say about “Living like it’s Spring”

Well in my life, a lot has changed and a lot as stayed the same; we moved from CO to a tiny town in CA, I have a new job at a much different school. But I am still married, my best friends still live 1000 miles away from me, I live in a place with fewer options of activities throughout the day, but this summer I spend my days peacefully not full of anxiety about what I “should” be doing.

 

So I ask again, What has changed?

Me!

I have figured out how to live like it’s spring! Live like something new is always growing, something could change right around the corner. No matter how gray the sky is now, no matter how many feet of snow the winter dumps on you. Remember to live like tomorrow the sun is going to come out and you can jump into the lake! I still don’t love Summer, I still need a project to keep myself active, I still would make a horrible trophy wife. But I am content with here I am in life now, I am not comparing myself to the people around me and wondering “why they don’t like me” or why I wasn’t invited to this or that (Okay I still do both of those things sometimes) But somehow my life ended up somewhere I never pictured, In a tiny town 60 miles from the closest grocery store. Where I could name almost every full-time resident of the town and during the winter there is literally NO restaurants open during the week. But I also can’t remember a time since college that I have been this content in how all the pieces of my life fit together. I love waving to people as I walk through town, I love having dinner by the lake and knowing at least 10 people sit around me. I love having the sense of community that comes with living in a place where we all are forced to do life together without our cell phones.

 

My life looks nothing like I thought it would a year ago, but Hey maybe it is Spring.

I am just over here watching myself Bloom!