Thursday, June 12, 2008

A little "thank you" goes a long way

Marriage is a lot of work. Ask anybody. You have to think about the other person before you make any decisions. You have to compromise in arguments because you can't just break up anymore. You have to worry about whether the other is sick or hurt. You have to share money.

You have to... chores.

It sucks, really. And I know, you have to do chores when you're single too, and one could argue that there are more chores to do yourself if you're not splitting chores with a spouse. But what you may not be considering if you're thinking that is that you can neglect the chores you don't really care about if you're living by yourself (or even with a roommate), but you can't neglect the chores that you don't care about when you're married.

Why? Because inevitably, the chores you don't care about will be the chores they do care about. It's some law of nature - Apathy's Law or something. Jack doesn't mind clutter on the end tables or dirty carpet or bathrooms. Those things drive me crazy. I don't mind leaving my clean laundry in the laundry room, on top of the dryer or hanging on the rack, but that drives Jack crazy. (Opposites attract?)

What Jack and I also have going for us on top of this normal Apathy Law is that we're both a little nuts. I'm overly upset by dust and smudgy windows (just ask anybody at my work; I brought in a bottle of Windex to clean mine and everyone else's office's windows because I couldn't look at them anymore), while Jack is completely OCD about the way towels are folded (he refolds them when I do it), dishes are done, and, here's the craziest of them all, toilet paper is taken out of the cabinet.

I must explain the last one, so please hold for this unnecessarily long interruption.

The first week Jack and I were married, I was getting acclimated to my new home and finding out what Jack had in the house. I once read in a book called "The Power of a Praying Wife" that part our jobs as wives is to keep harmony in the home, and sometimes that entails mundane tasks of making sure we have everything we need from day-to-day stocked.

"He may not notice if there are batteries in the house," it said, "but he will definitely notice if there are not."

As archaic as it may sound, I do believe that it should be my job as a wife to keep up with these kinds things, at least when I can, which is most of the time.

So in this spirit, I took a look in the bathroom cabinet, wondering if I needed to buy toilet paper the next time I was at Target. What I saw made me laugh out loud.

Jack had the cabinet stocked front to back, left to right, and top to bottom with toilet paper. I should have known. I should have expected it from my little Aggie cadet. He's a planner, I shouldn't have been surprised.

Fast forward to about two months later. We're at Jack's best man's house, visiting with him (Dave) and his wife, Dena. I started telling the story about finding the toilet paper, and Jack starts to say "that reminds me..."

Seeing what was coming, I stopped him.

"DON'T SAY IT!" I commanded. "I can deal with you not letting me fold towels, or re-folding them when I do it. I can deal with you not letting me do your laundry because you want it done a certain way. I can even deal with you putting off cleaning things because you don't have time to do it completely and perfectly right. But I will not let you tell me how to take toilet paper out of the cabinet!!!"

He still tried.

"But Mandy, you're supposed to take all of the toilet paper from the first level, then go down to the second level."

Levels!? I have to think about levels when I'm taking out toilet paper!? No. I will not. The crazy has gone too far.

ANYWAY, what I was trying to talk about in a very very indirect way, is that Jack has his chores and I have mine. My chores include cooking dinner every night, cleaning the bathrooms, floors, and carpets, dusting, doing my own laundry, and cleaning up my clutter. Jack's chores include making the bed (well, the last one up is supposed to make the bed, but he's pretty much always the last one up, which is good because he also does that a certain way!! Surprised?), doing the dishes from the night before, cleaning up his clutter, doing his laundry, paying the bills, and mowing the lawn.

This system works pretty well. Obviously there are days that one or both of us don't get our chores done because we're too busy, too tired from work, or just feel like being lazy that day, but there aren't many days that I come home and don't think "My husband is so wonderful!" when I see the perfectly made bed or the clean kitchen. I love coming home to that!

The other day, I loved coming home even more. For on top of the perfectly made bed was a note that read:

Thank you for everything you do for me! Thank you for the hot meals when I get home. Thank you for helping clean around the house. Thank you for listening when I have a bad day. You make my life a joy to live!!

-Your Loving Husband

I probably don't have to tell you that I've read that note more than once since then. And after I got it, I wanted to cook him dinner even more. Please don't forget this. Your spouse thrives on this kind of encouragement. I can't think of a close friend that I haven't told about this note, and I come home and read it every day.

My neighbor, Nick Seibert, leaves his wife and daughters a little note every day when he goes to work, and the girls talk about it. They don't take long for him to write, and they probably don't say much, but having something in writing means everything, especially to those whose love language is words of affirmation or gifts.

My friend, Angela, left us a 4-page note on our refrigerator magnet-pad when she left today, thanking us for the visit, like she does every single time she comes. Jack liked it so much that he called me and told me about it while I was at work.

I see married friends of mine, like Amanda and Brandon or Rachel and Matthew, writing on each others' Facebook walls with little "I love yous" or "You're beautiful" or, one of my favorites, from Matthew to Rachel [Yep, I'm a Facebook stalker. So is everybody else]:

"Hey wha'doya say we just fall in love? I'm available this Tuesday so why don't you get back to me and let me know what you think. Fair enough?"

It made her smile. It matters.

Don't forget to let the most important person in your life know that you appreciate them. All it takes is a sticky note, or a text message, or even a wall post. They'll remember it.

Editor's note: I feel compelled to leave an example of the notes my brother leaves for his wife to see, since I'm giving examples of "love notes"

[On the refrigerator]
Dear Cassandra,
I wish we had avocados.

and later...

Dear Avocados,
I wish you were guacamole.

She wondered why the avocados got a "Love, Shane" and she didn't...
...but he still got guacamole.


Mikaila said...

I love this post! It's funny, my boyfriend and I are the same way about chores as you and Jack. He doesn't mind clutter or dirty bathrooms and I can't stand it. I leave my laundry in the dryer or hanging on the rack and he moves it all from the laundry room.

But I really liked the part about the little notes. I started doing that more than usual (read: more than once every few months) last week and it made his day more than once to find a note on the bathroom mirror or in his lunch bag.

It's the little things that make relationships FUN. :)

(The avocado notes from your brother made me chuckle out loud. My dad used to leave notes on over-ripe bananas when I was a kid and they would say things like, "Do you think they'll eat us today?" and then "I don't know, we can't sit here like this much longer..." Silly guys.)