Sunday, December 11, 2011

The Odd Couple - The Marriage of a Planner and a Free-Spirit

Today's post is in honor of my husband, Nathaniel David Morrison. I often call him my butterfly in the wind. Sounds lovely, right? Except when I say that, I mean that he is without direction letting life hit him and change his path from one moment to the next. Oooh. Not so nice.

Don't get me wrong, Nate is the love of my life. I've been with him since I was 16, and can't imagine life with anyone else. But a girl can fantasize, right? A lot of girls fantasize about celebrities... I fantasize about my husband... exactly the way he is, but when I come home there's an envelope on the table with a note that says, "I clipped these coupons for you, based on your grocery list." Omg, swoon.

To be fair, I think a lot of people are in a Planner/Free-Spirit marriage. Nate and I just weigh quite heavily on our respective ends. I am the epitome of a planner, and he is the epitome of a free-spirit. If you wonder if you might be the victim of a Planner/Free-Spirit marriage, see if these questions and answers, typical of what Nate  and I might answer, and see if you are a planner or free-spirit.

Q: How much is in your bank account right now?
Ali answer: $ XXX.XX... Unless the Cilco bill already came out today.
Nate answer: Ask Ali.

Q: What do you like to do for fun?
Ali answer: What do you mean by that?
Nate answer: Video games, golf, TV, movies, music, play guitar, hang out with friends...

Q: What is your greatest fear?
Ali answer: The uncertainty of the future.
Nate answer: Bears.

The Planner/Free-Spirit relationship isn't the easiest... Not at all. Nate and I went to Chicago for a weekend this past spring and we wouldn't let me make a trip itinerary, so we could be "laid-back." It was THE worst weekend of my life. And his too... but mostly because I made it that way. We paid too much for stuff... we couldn't get in to certain things that we wanted to do... and I spent about 15% of the trip crying in our hotel room. Poor guy tried.

While it isn't the easiest, I think it's one of the strongest relationships. He's good at all of the things I'm terrible at, and vice versa. We may be the odd couple... but we embrace it. We learn from each other and balance each other every day. Thanks to you, my butterfly in the wind!

Monday, December 5, 2011

What's your Net Worth?

Warning: You might not like this post because it talks about uncomfortable things like sinning and finances.

Hello gang! Gosh, I haven't written in a while. So lately, I've been pretty fired up about finances. Yay budgets! But really, I'm pretty passionate about paying off debt right now. I also just read a couple articles on net worth. Net worth is something a lot of people have heard, but maybe aren't 100% sure what it means. Simply, it's your assets - your debts, or a way I like to look at it is, if I died tomorrow and Nate decided he wanted to forget I ever existed, sell everything we owned, pay everything off, and move to China, would he have enough to move to China. Actually, I don't like to look at it that way at all. But it's an illustration.

Nate and I are currently hanging in a balance between a positive and negative net worth. So if you have said, "Those two are good for nothing," you are, in fact, entirely correct. For having a whole bunch in student loans for Nate, a car payment, a mortgage, and being young and newly weds... I'll take it.

As I look at the budget Nate and I have been following, it sure feels like we should be millionaires by now. (< Cut me some slack, I'm part of Generation Entitlement...) About 46% of the money we make/take home after taxes goes towards paying off our debt... the Grand Prix loan and Nate's student loans. About 4% of the money we make/take home after taxes (though I wish it was more) goes to giving to our church or other charities. So we live on about half of our money. 50% of THAT 50% goes toward regularly monthly expenses, aka bills. My house payment, cell phones, internet, water, heat, electric, sewer, blah blah blah. So about 25% is left for groceries... and anything else not covered by a "bill." That includes non-monthly bills like my semi-annual car insurance and our wonderful state of Illinois's outrageous license sticker fees.

Sometimes I think we're geniuses, and other times I want to go buy a really nice Coach purse for myself. Or get a new car. Or a nicer house. I hope this blog entry doesn't sound braggy... because it definitely isn't. But I do get really fed up with people who say "If I only had more money..." right after posting a picture of their new laptop or other purchase.

I get real preachy real fast on this, so I'm going to sidetrack back to net worth. Net worth nearly always refers to money, but what if someone kept a score of your moral net worth? If they quantified the pain you had caused and measured it against how much joy you brought to people in your life. The good news is, when you accept Jesus as your savior, your eternal slate is wiped clean. But, for fear of being a total Debbie Downer, people close to you may be keeping their own copy of your ledger.

Ultimately, God's forgiveness is the only one that matters, and a million good deeds won't buy your way into heaven. But regardless of who you are, Christian or not, people are watching you.

What if someone subtracted 10 points from your net worth for gossiping... added 15 for helping a friend in need... subtracted 5 for lying... subtracted 10 for lying more... How would you measure up?

I truly believe that God wipes our slate clean each day, but we still need to work hard to create a positive moral net worth. Not because we can ever be good enough to pay God back... but because it's our job to make peace with both our debtors, and those who we owe. These debts are harder to pay back than any financial debts. I can set my mortgage payment to automatically come out every month, but I can't tell my self to reimburse exactly so much kindness on a certain date to a certain person. So whether it's money... or your spirituality and morality... create margin, give generously, and look toward the future benefits or consequences. Bye for now!

Saturday, July 9, 2011

MacGyver Was A Poor Kid...

I know that I haven't blogged in quite a while, but I had to share this entry with everyone.  Specifically because my mom has been hassling me to tell the story that it stems from.  It all began on the 4th of July...

When Nate and I got home that evening, I went to use the bathroom.  Much to my dismay, when I went to flush, nothing happened.  No worries, I thought, this has happened before.  Our toilet is pretty much a piece of junk, so I opened the tank to press the black lever down, which usually helps.  When I pull the lid off the tank, I realize we have a much more serious problem.  There is no water in our tank.

"Nate!"  I yelled.  When he came to the bathroom, I calmy and politely explained our quandry.  That's not exactly true, but it makes me sound better, so we'll leave it.

"Ya, we might need to call a plumber..." Nate said, after toying for a minute.  I nodded sadly.

"Wait..."  Nate said, wheels turning.  "I'll be right back!"

After a bit of rummaging, Nate emerged from the kitchen with an empty two-gallon Hawaiian Punch jug from the garbage.  He set it in the tub.

"Temporary fix," he said, walking out.

At that moment, people, I was baffled.  I'm a pretty smart girl...I got a 31 on my ACT, took classes like Calculus...but I had no idea how putting a Hawaiian Punch jug in our tub was going to remedy the fact that I had pooped in an unflushable toilet.

When Nate turned around and saw my confusion, he explained.  "You fill the jug with water from the tub, then you dump it into the tank, and then you pull the chain to flush."

My husband is a genius.  On top of that, he was a poor kid, so he has a skill set that rich people never learn.*  I may have had formal instruction in Calculus, but he had Ghetto Engineering from the School of Hard Knocks.

I'm going to go back briefly to my statement marked with the star.  I'm using the terms rich and poor in a very skewed sense.  I love the website ...Please go there.  For my purposes, poor means that you've paid in change at the gas pump, not that you're on the streets or starving.

Rich people offer suffer from a condition called Functional fixedness - An inability to perceive a new use for an object previously associated with some other purpose; adversely affects problem solving and creativity.

This isn't really a condition, but it is a psychological principle.  In my Psychology of Learning class in college, our instructor gave us five minutes to write all the uses for a paperclip.  No problem I thought.  Hold...paper...together... I wrote slowly.  I looked around.  About half the class was in deep thought, tapping their pens, but the other half were still writing away.  I admit that to my knowledge, they have not proved my hypothesis about the rich struggling more with functional fixedness, but it makes sense.

When I looked at the Hawaiian Punch jug, I saw a jug that had previously held Hawaiian Punch.  When Nate looked at it, he saw the same thing I saw, but also a portable toilet tank and who knows what else.

In writing this, I thought of the sermon Jesus gives in Luke 6:20-26 -

20 Looking at his disciples, he said:
   “Blessed are you who are poor,
   for yours is the kingdom of God.
21 Blessed are you who hunger now,
   for you will be satisfied.
Blessed are you who weep now,
   for you will laugh.
22 Blessed are you when people hate you,
   when they exclude you and insult you
   and reject your name as evil,
      because of the Son of Man.
   23 “Rejoice in that day and leap for joy, because great is your reward in heaven. For that is how their ancestors treated the prophets.
   24 “But woe to you who are rich,
   for you have already received your comfort.
25 Woe to you who are well fed now,
   for you will go hungry.
Woe to you who laugh now,
   for you will mourn and weep.
26 Woe to you when everyone speaks well of you,
   for that is how their ancestors treated the false prophets.

I read Luke 6:24 as "but woe to you who are rich, because you may never learn how to fix your own toilet."

This passage and my story does not necessarily have to mean poor in money.  Many people are poor or struggling or going without in other areas of their life, as well.  Going without or going through hardships makes you a better person.  It gives you empathy for others and it gives you skills to utilize.

In case anyone was wondering, Nate fixed our toilet Monday after watching a YouTube video on plumbing.  There ya go, folks.  Embrace your struggles and come out the other side with new skills, new compassion and new abilities!

Thursday, May 19, 2011

The Trouble with the Reacher and Settler Proposition

What is the reacher and settler proposition, you ask? We will start our blog entry with a brief 22-second clip from the show "How I Met Your Mother." Because my first blog entry was well-received, I went ahead and added Chinese subtitles to the clip, as I anticipate soon gaining a global audience. That's not at all true. Now to the clip!

The premise of that particular episode is that in every relationship, there is a "reacher" and a "settler."

A "reacher" reaches out of their socioeconomic class, level of popularity or attractiveness, etc. to pursue someone who for all practical purposes is out of their league.
A "settler" settles for someone who might be perceived as "below" them in any of the areas previously listed.

While this premise is funny, and often true, there is a danger in the Reacher/Settler proposition, as seen by Marshall's reaction in How I Met Your Mother.  No one wants to be the Reacher.  Being the Reacher means that your better half is legitimately your BETTER half.

Since I was a psychology major and I'm currently working in communications, please allow me to refresh my psychology knowledge and enlighten you.  Equity theory, in relationships, says that
"People are happiest in relationships where the give and take are about equal. If one person is getting too little from the relationship, then not only are they going to be unhappy with this—the person getting the lion’s share will also be feeling rather guilty about this imbalance. This is reinforced by strong social norms about fairness."  Fairly common sense information about the danger of the Reacher/Settler proposition.

So how do we remedy this situation?  According to my mom, "Of course there are perfect relationships where there is no reacher and no settler."  No wonder my dad has nicknamed her Pollyanna.  Sorry Mom...I don't think you're quite right on this one though.  Let's cut to a discussion Nate and I had in the car a few days ago, about Reacher/Settler.  After discussing the basic concept, I drop the bomb.

"So Nate...Are you the reacher or settler in our relationship?"

Nate proceeded to think deeply for a few seconds.  He looked at me kind of funny and said, "I think I'm the reacher."

Now, dear blog readers, if you haven't had a chance to meet sweet Nate, this might be only mildly surprising to you.  However, if you have ever talked to him or maybe attended our wedding where part of my dad's toast was "what can I say about Nate...that he hasn't already said about himself...", you would know that Nate has excellent self-esteem and would never be "down" on himself.

As I thought, I cautiously told him, "I think you are the reacher...on paper...But...I really feel like the reacher when it comes to the important and deep issues.  I have never felt like I 'settled' for you."

So there you have it, folks.  Not even a year of marriage under our belts, and we are figuring out life's big questions together.  In all seriousness, I think the most successful relationships are ones where both parties feel like the Reacher.  Not in a sad, please-don't-leave-me-I'm-a-pathetic-reacher type way, but in a way where both parties feel truly blessed to be united as a couple and can't shake the honeymoon phase "aren't I so lucky?!" feeling.

An anecdote based on an Indian proverb was published in Reader's Digest about a prince who paid a huge dowry of eight cows for a so-so bride.  She was actually offered at a lower price, but he demanded to give her father the higher price of eight cows for her.  When her father visited a year later, she was a completely different person, with a new radiance and zest for life.  Why?  Because she was an eight-cow wife.  Her husband acted as the "reacher" even though many saw him as the "settler."

So, to recap, we covered a bit of pop culture, psychology, and Indian proverbs.  That's what you get from a blogger with a liberal arts education!

Stayed tuned for my next blog entry:  Great Expectations!

Monday, May 16, 2011

Coming out of the closet...

As many of you know, I am Ali Morrison.  I married Nate Morrison on July 17, 2010 and we are currently nearing the completion of year one of living happily ever after.

The idea for the Proverbs 31 Rockstar blog came to me about three weeks ago, when I came out of the closet to my a non-ironer.  I think she was as supportive as a mother can know...when their oldest daughter lays it all out there.  She didn't utter offensive phrases like, "we didn't raise you like this!" or "where did I go wrong?"...She didn't even cite the long line of ironing woman in both sides of my family.  My mom was amazing and supportive as always.
Don't get me wrong, I own an iron.  Heck, it even made the trek from my parents house to Nate and I's home after I received it as a wedding shower gift from my good friend, Pam.  Why did she get me an iron?  Anyone else might say, "well, Pam is a little bit crazy and a lot bit neat and tidy," but I know the truth:  it was on my wedding registry - I had asked for it.  That's right people, I asked for that iron!  I planned to wield that scalding chunk of metal on a handle like Thor wields his hammer...A sign of my epic level of wife-and-woman-ness.  My sad iron is now sitting in the top of a closet in my house...still in the box...

Let me go back a few years, to my high school days, when ironing was just a distant vision.  My mom and I were listening to her favorite radio station, WCIC, during a car ride when I heard the always perky Lysa TerKeurst's voice on the radio for Proverbs 31 Ministries.

"Mom?"  I asked.  "Why is it called Proverbs 31 ministries?  Like...what is Proverbs 31 about?"

My mother explained to me that Proverbs 31 is about being a Godly woman and wife.  Some time later, I read Proverbs 31.  It was a good read, but it didn't rock my world or anything.  When I got my driver's license, which led to tune into good ol' family friendly WCIC more often, Lysa TerKeurst and her never-motley crew would discuss being a Proverbs 31 woman, wife, and mother on a nearly daily basis.

Now, this next part is fairly inexplicable and a bit embarrassing, but I hear that it's fairly common for women.  I thought, upon marrying Nate, that I would want to clean things and cook for him and produce his babies in mass quantities.  It isn't the first time that I have been bamboozled in such a way.  I remember on the morning of my 4th birthday, the first one where I really "got it," running to the mirror and being shocked at my appearance.  Why was I not taller?  Why didn't I look older?

So, upon marrying Nate, I began to "fake it."  I kept a pretty clean house.  I made really awful dinners on a budget on a regular basis (the worst was probably the chicken tortilla pie recipe that I made with ground beef).  I encouraged Nate to stick it out at his job, because even though he was miserable, it was a man's job to provide.  This period of "faking it" was definitely the worst part of our first year of marriage - for both of us.

Finally, I had no other option but to revisit Proverbs 31 and regroup.  And what I found blew me away.  Even though I had read it in the past, my "mental note" of it made me think that it would read, "Do whatever your husband wants.  After all he is your husband.  So stop whining about him leaving his dirty clothes out, and go make him a sandwich. And put some make-up on before you do that...You look homeless."  I braced myself for that, but what I found was pure beauty and empowerment.

Proverbs 31 tells about an ideal wife, but it's not what a lot of people assume!  I urge you, if you haven't, read Proverbs 31.  It's all about being strong and graceful...providing for your family in the best way that you can.  It is full of inspiration, but not full of rules on how to make a family work.  If someday I want to work and Nate wants to stay home with our kids, that's okay...Proverbs 31 will allow it.

So moving forward, I have created this blog.  Because even if Lysa TerKeurst and clan want nothing to do with me...I am a Proverbs 31 Rockstar...In process.