Transitioning…by Ms. Coco

Transitioning…by Ms. Coco

What a time for transitions in our lives. The Gentleman Farmer and I have had several of those in the last year of our lives, really two. Those transitions have happened for the both of us separately, as well as a couple.  And I feel sometimes I cannot catch my breath for all of the changes that occur.

Many people have asked how I enjoy marriage. And I reply, “How should I enjoy marriage?” (I love it by the way but I never imagined marriage as a fairy tale.) I am part of an exclusive club that several have not joined yet. I have always felt and understood relationships to be what you make it. I am intentional about the way I treat my husband, and I hope he is the same with my thoughts and feelings. I know many people say the first year of marriage is the hardest, and that may be true for some. I believe those challenges may arise when two households need to meld into one, a couple is determining gender roles, and other important discussions that sometimes does not occur before marriage if they are not already cohabiting. Since the GF and I have lived together for over a year, the challenge of melding our belongings together occurs less frequently. However, we have challenges that we faced long before we decided to get married, and that has not stopped since we said “I do” three months ago. Stressors have been added without alleviating others, seemingly making this time in our lives more difficult than other passages of time. Instead of saying, “Wow, this is hard” I like to think, “My partner and I will tackle this together if we allow each other to help.”

I cannot speak for the Gentleman Farmer, but I know I am questioning this transitional period in my life personally and professionally. It is nothing to do with him – or actually, only a small part to do with him but nothing about our relationship- and more with how I am handling all of the changes I am faced today. I am in tune with my thoughts, my feelings, and my well-being, and I know sometimes I cannot decipher my needs wholeheartedly. I am an advocate for help, whether that is seeking assistance from family and friends or the need to speak to a counselor. If I cannot take care of myself first, I cannot take care of my family, friends, or little humans when that day comes. I want to have an arsenal of tools to help me prepare for our lives in the future, while feeling like my best self right now.

If you know me, you know I am not a person who handles change well. I couldn’t handle when I changed schools; I was always in trouble during that transitional year. It takes me a long time to change jobs, to move to another house, or other “big-ticket” affairs. I love my life more now than any other time in history, but I think I need to slow down and take hold of ensuring I am who I want to be. And that’s the great thing about transitions. You are always moving towards something bigger, better, and more fulfilling than your past self. I want to be all in, motivated, and well equipped to prepare for my next stage in life.

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What Happens After The Proposal…by Ms. Coco

What Happens After The Proposal…by Ms. Coco

Recently we did what people tell you to do after you begin courting, or dating, in 2018’s terms; we became engaged. I was completely surprised when the question was popped, only because of an incident that happened a few weeks before. Nothing major, just something to consider when you commit your life to another person.

If you don’t know, I love me some Gentleman Farmer. He is everything I am not, yet everything I hope to be. I think that pairs us well. I can feed off his energy without depleting him of who he is, and he can do the same with me, I hope. Engagement season should be the happiest time in a couple’s lives, or so I’ve heard. However, there is a reason you never see what happens to the couple after the wedding. No one wants to show you the hard work of combining two separate lives to make one new life without the wacky mishaps of the ditzy wife and the bull-headed husband. What happens when the wife isn’t ditzy and has a mind of her own (me) and the husband – to be – shows his emotions more often than not about issues one never thought men shared?

This is where we are currently. Yes, engagement season has been high with sharing with our family and friends. Discussing wedding colors, decor, music, and food has been interesting to imagine, especially for a woman like me – I have thought little of what my big day visions are. Yes, I want to incorporate my Zimbabwean heritage into the mix. I also want to include my African-American heritage of being from North Carolina. And I would like the GF to add something of his family’s legacy as well – if he so chooses.

However, before we get to that big day in September, I feel like we need to set some ground rules on how to win at our marriage. I believe we have the unique opportunity to set forth what we want without outside judgment or expectations on our lives. No one tells you how hard this can be, though. For example, before we even got engaged the Gentleman Farmer and I have frequently read the latest and greatest advice from The Gotten Institute, The Five Love Languages newsletters, and Psychology Today, among many other articles on how to strengthen our relationship. Many sources give information on how to handle tough conversations. One book in particular –How Not To Hate Your Husband After Kids – mentions that even if you are in a traditional gender role marriage, that shortly after having children reverts men to believing women should do more of the housework.

I work full time outside of our home. An hour away from our home at that! Believe me when I say that is a struggle in and of itself. We had the conversation about how we envisioned the housework gets done – and we did not agree with the workload that is on each of us. We disagreed for weeks. The air was palpable with tension. We still haven’t resolved the issue, but we turned the corner and decided we didn’t want to be upset any longer.

How many conversations are we going to have that leads to disagreements before the wedding? I can tell you that I would much rather have these disagreements now than later. I don’t want the Gentleman Farmer to believe that I am angry, but I also don’t want to set poor habits now and resent him later for not doing the dishes after I have cooked or vice versa. Our relationship is on the right path; it even astonishes most days. But we strive to be better for ourselves and for our children. That means having those marriage talks right along with are we having a SnapChat filter for our wedding or not.

Holiday Movies, Traditions, and James Bond

Holiday Movies, Traditions, and James Bond

“Merry Christmas! Shitter was full,” those famous words from Cousin Eddie in National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation. Cousin Eddie embodies what makes Christmas movies great, cheesy absurdity.

I’ve been binge watching Christmas movies and James Bond films for the last several weeks. I’ve lived on a diet of holiday treats and strong black coffee; life is good.

Every night in December we settle into bed, watching a different holiday movie. Ms. Coco falls asleep quickly; I end up watching these movies several times. The next day she’ll ask “how did the movie end?” I reply ” the same way they always do, with someone falling in love.”

Ms.Coco falls asleep after being overwhelmed with holiday cheer. I switch to watching James Bond save the world from inevitable disaster. I don’t know how this became a holiday tradition for me, but it brings back childhood memories watching 007 escape the clutches of a supervillain.

Escaping holiday stress has been my harrowing act. I’ve made it a point to set holiday boundaries and expectations, not only for myself but people close to me. I’m not going shopping on Black Friday or anytime around Christmas.

Ms. Coco and I might not be traditional with our celebrations, but we are developing our traditions. We’ve invested in some lovely nutcrackers, we make our world famous oreo truffles, and we strung three whole string of lights on our front porch this year.

I’m excited to see what new movies and traditions we create. As Clark W. Griswold Jr. would say “We’re gonna press on, and we’re gonna have the hap, hap, happiest Christmas since Bing Crosby tap-danced with Danny  f#$%ing Kaye.”

Hygee, Traditions, and Life…by Ms. Coco

Hygee, Traditions, and Life…by Ms. Coco

As you know, the Gentleman Farmer and I participated in what the Danes are widely recognized for…their relationship to enjoying life, coziness, family time, and relaxation. Our home was transformed into the daily burning of candles, warmth, and smell goods – partly because we had three additional dogs in the house. I enjoyed learning more about how the Danes achieve a sense of coziness with their décor, their food options, and the time spent in warm settings. It is something the GF and I can and will (hopefully) continue to incorporate in our future.

This month we have focused on traditions. I am unsure of if we have any holiday traditions from our separate families that we would like to incorporate into our deepening bond – I certainly hope so. My family celebrated Christmas, but only from when I was young and then when we had younger cousins over for a holiday. My grandmother and grandfather put up Christmas trees from the beginning of my memory, but not in my household. My mom has said having a tree in the house is Paganistic. So I don’t have to have a tree. But I would like to do something now that will last throughout our lives. Last Christmas the GF and I created Christmas ornaments, and we placed them on this North Island Pine that died shortly after the holiday season. We also made Oreo truffles that we gave away as gifts. As of right now, I believe the Oreo truffles will be a mainstay. It’s up in the air about the ornaments.

I am looking forward to determining what we want to stand the test of time. I am a firm believer in having a strong foundation so that when we have tough times – because we all know those moments will arrive – we will have the strength to maintain. For example, we watched Spike Lee’s She’s Gotta Have It over Thanksgiving. I have never seen the movie before, but I did know that there is a new Netflix show by the same name and I was excited to see it. It was such a GOOD movie and show! I do not directly identify with Miss Nola Darling, but I do feel similar to her as she seeks ownership over her relationships, her work, and her body. She did what she wanted when she wanted. She was vocal about her wants and needs, and she did not allow others to jeopardize that. And that is all because she had a strong foundation in people – her parents – pouring into who she was.

I believe this is why I appreciate the fact we are doing the tradition challenge last. We have gone through almost an entire year of monthly challenges, and we have met some additional character development issues we didn’t plan for. I know I always think highly of myself – who doesn’t – but I am also a reflective person. I want him to hear me. I want him to see me. I want the Gentleman Farmer to treat me as an individual with thoughts, feelings, and opinions. The GF and I have had to think separately, and collectively, about what our relationship will be and should represent. Having different biases, backgrounds, and experiences all play a role in how I see things versus how he does.  I am not always right, and he indeed is not wrong. However, my entire goal since the inception of this relationship is to be with him, to love him deeply and to be his safe space in the world, as I wish the same from him. We have to figure out how to move in this world together continuously and to be on each other’s team. I am all for him – I have always been about him, and I am still about him – and if my actions don’t show that then I am aware of those small issues needing to change before they become insurmountable deal breakers.

Friendsgiving/PreThanksGiving

Friendsgiving/PreThanksGiving

13 years ago my friends and I decided that our family Thanksgiving were too stressful and not very fun. So we got a group of friends together the weekend before the official Thanksgiving day. The idea was simple, everyone makes their favorite dish and brings some drinks. Since we were all in college at the time, there was lots of cheap beer involved.

My friend told me this week at our 13th PreThanksGiving dinner (we call it that because got it’s named before the current trend of Friendsgiving) that this was the event he most looks forward to every year. A friend said it was the first time he’d cooked a Turkey; another friend said it was the first time he’d ever prepared anything, and several people said it was the first event they had ever hosted.

While one of us usually volunteers to host the event the idea is we are all the hosts and can invite other guests. This system often leads to a fascinating mix of people. I’ve had several people comment on both the diversity of food and people at our events. The mixture of friends and their favorite dishes make for an exciting dinner for everyone.

Over the years our event had Ranger in size, location, and intensity of drinking. But we all look forward to seeing each other and trying new dishes. Since this is Hygge month and one of the leading ideas is quality time with family and friends, our pre-thanksgiving is very Hygge.

At the end of the night, we are all full of food, beer, and warm feelings about the great time we had with our friends.

Hygge Oath

Hygge Oath

I’ve also been thinking about ways to make our time together more meaningful since time is our limited commodity recently. I have found the chapter in How to be Married by Jo Piazza on Denmark instrumental, especially the Hygge (loosely translates to “wellbeing” or “to comfort”) oath created by Danish psychotherapist Iben Sandahl, and has the following recommendation.

Hygge Oath
1. Turn off phones and Ipads.
2. Leave drama at the door.
3. Share fun and uplifting stories.
4. Do not complain unnecessarily.
5. Make a conscious effort to enjoy the food and drinks.
6. Light candles if you are inside.
7. Do not brag.
8. Tell funny and uplifting stories. Retell those stories again and again.
9. Make a conscious effort to feel gratitude and love.

I hope that this teaches us how to work better together, these challenges are valuable lessons for us to learn and keep growing together.

Getting It All Done…by Ms. Coco

Getting It All Done…by Ms. Coco

If you didn’t know, I work full-time away from home. I am a Family and Consumer Sciences Agent – what once was known as Home Demonstration Agent or Home Economics – for the extension service. I work a lot with my community on many of the things the Gentleman Farmer and I have discussed on this blog. Family relationships, finances, communication, healthy eating habits, etc. are all in my job description. The more I learn about my community’s needs, the more programs I host to give them the tools to navigate their own lives.

I find this to be a big responsibility. I love my job, and I want to help build stronger families. However, I have noticed – and so has the GF – that I am working more and more without taking some things off my plate. It all came to a head one day when I realized I am beginning to work like I am teaching high school again. Now, that necessarily isn’t a bad thing. But I left the classroom for a couple of reasons. I was at work over 12 hours a day 4 out of 5 times a week, I rarely had time to hang out with my friends or even my dog, and I was tired ALL OF THE TIME. I do not want to do this again in this position, so I started taking steps to relieve myself of specific duties.

I talk to the Gentleman Farmer about a variety of things in my life. I had mentioned several times the need to reduce my workload. Like I stated earlier, he has said to me on more than one occasion that I am not spending a lot of time at home, and in turn, with him. The GF suggested that I read the 20 Minute Manager: Getting Work Done when we decided our challenge for October was a book club – of sorts. I enjoyed this book immensely. There was self-reflection throughout the book, tips to implement now, and how to evaluate to see if the methods are working. I have applied a better system for organizing my desk, deciding what are the most critical tasks and delegating others, and have found empowerment in being able to talk to my boss about workplace issues – that’s another post for a different day.

Since reading this book last month, I have actively tried to be home earlier than past few months. We are currently hosting two other dogs – Prince Puff and Sebastian – to see if that will calm our poodle down. I do not want the Gentleman Farmer to seem as if he is taking care of them solo and I feel sorry for leaving them so long. Out of the last two weeks, I have worked hard to finish up work early so that I can get home at a decent hour. I hope the GF has realized this and will spend that extra time with me. After all, the entire reason I am re-evaluating my schedule is that of his concerns – and my sanity.