Monday, April 30, 2012

Z is for Ziel

For those of you who don't know, "Ziel" is German. It means: target, goal, aim, or purpose.

When they held a World Cup Ski Race 100 yards away from my bedroom window where I used to live in Austria, that's what the sign at the end of the race said.

Ok, this picture is not taken from my bedroom window...it's from Google...
but this is where I lived & this is what it looked like.
It was the finish line.

It was the goal.

My boss there was an Austrian National Ski Instructor, ski guide, and mountain guide. (He was also a Bible teacher, since I was working at a Bible School/ski retreat center.) For those of you who don't know about Austrian skiing, that means that he was really, really, really good.

Austria is basically always the country to beat when it comes to skiing.

One thing he told us as we learned to ski (and watched him ski in embarrassed silence, the only sound being our jaws collectively hitting the snow because he was so ridiculously good) was--don't look at your skis.

You have to look down the mountain.

You have to look at your goal.

On the slopes and in life, it's really easy to get focused on the snow and bumps that are right below our feet, and forget about the goal that's down the mountain. The stuff underneath is important, but we have to remember to focus and redirect our attention to the goal.

As we live here, study, raise children, deal with power outtages on a daily basis, miss family and friends, and get frustrated with things that in our opinion should take minutes but end up taking hours, it's easy to forget the GOAL.

We have to daily remind ourself to refocus our attention on the One who brought us here, and remember Why he brought us here.

Why are we here? Well, at the moment, our short term goal is to learn Visayan and get the Language and Culture program ready for new students.

Then, Lord-willing, we'll assist new students in everything from language study to house-hunting to discipleship.

Then, Lord-willing, after Visayan language study, those students will be part of a team that first learns a tribal language and their culture, and then plants tribal churches.
In the middle of lots of short-term and long term goals, it's easy to focus on "accomplishments" and even how many hours we study as a measure of how "good" a missionary we are.

Many of you have probably heard of Martin Burnham, a missionary pilot here in the Philippines who was abducted and later killed.

Shortly before being taken hostage, he was speaking at a church and said:

"I wasn't called to be a missionary. I wasn't called to the Philippines. I was just called to follow Christ, and that's what I'm doing."

And that's something that rings true for all believers, regardless of their location.

Goals are important. I want to take care of my family.

I want to learn language.

I want tribal people to have a chance to read, write, live healthier lives, and ultimately hear and accept the Gospel in their own language.

But all of those things flow out of our ultimate goal, and that is simply to follow Christ, and for Him to be glorified.

If we focus on that goal first, accomplishing the other tasks will simply flow out of our focus on Him.

It won't make any of it easy, but it will actually make it possible.

Saturday, April 28, 2012

Y is for Yakult

Yakult. We drink it almost every day. Where we live, there's so much bad bacteria floating around, that giving yourself some of the good stuff on a regular basis is a good idea.

I've heard it said that there are more foreign cells in and on your body than there are actual cells that make up your body.

That sort of makes me want to go take a bath in a pasteurization plant to get all that living stuff off me and out of me, but I can't.

So, we drink Yakult. It's a probiotic drink from Japan with a billion or so good bacteria to make your tummy happy.

And it really does seem to help.

Oh, by the way, studies show that taking probiotics regularly can reduce the length and severity of cold and flu symptoms.

So it's not just for tummy trouble.
Go find your own version of probiotic in your country, and you too can practically ooze healthiness. (If you're in the US, go to http://www.yakultusa.com/ to find where you can get it in America.)

Disclaimer...Yes, we know Yakult, actually, has quite a lot of sugar.  If we were really good parents...committed to the welfare of our children...we would make our own kefir(since it's not available here) and have them drink that. 

We drink Yakult because we LIKE it.

Photo from Google.

Friday, April 27, 2012

X is for Xenophile

So, tonight, I called Brooke as she was reading to Asia..(I'm away from home for meetings.) They were reading a great book, Fancy Nancy's Favorite Fancy Words, I believe it was.
Nancy loves ALL things French!
And, they just happened to be reading the definition of Xenophile when I called.

For those of you who don't know, Xenophile means: a person who likes foreigners or things foreign, a person very interested in celebrating people's differences.

Well, that could pretty much sum up the Johnson family. Our families were in missions ever since we were tiny.

Brooke moved to the Philippines when she was 3 months old, I did when I was 5.

We grew up with parents who did not look at foreigners as foreign, they saw them as friends. Really good friends.

We went to our friends parties, we had fun with them, we played with them. Sometimes language and culture was a barrier, but we still had fun.

After high school, I lived everywhere from England to Austria to Africa, (and oh yeah, America).

And I traveled through most of Western Europe, with forays into Siberia and sleeping on a ship deck while traveling across the Adriatic Sea.

I also slept in trains and train stations that I probably shouldn't have. And when my cousin Liz and I went to Paris, we had a Prime location.
Brian in Paris
Our accomadations were On Champs Elysee. When I say on, I mean ON. Because the park bench we slept on (well, I slept, she stayed awake all night) was on the sidewalk of Champs Elysee.

Brooke traveled to Indonesia and Malaysia, and spent time studying the Cherokee language when she took linguistics.

Then, together we moved to Taiwan two weeks after getting married and then we also went to Ukraine,  London, and probably somewhere else...
Taroko National Park, Taiwan

Kiev, Ukraine
And along the way, God has really given us a serious case of Xenophilia.

We really enjoy studying other languages and cultures. Back before we had kids (and hopefully again soon) we used to have a Bollywood evening, where we cooked Indian, listened to Indian music and watched a Bollywood movie.

Or we would steam up shia long bau (an amazing Chinese dumpling), pull out the chopsticks, and listen to a Jacky Chan CD. (Yes, for those of you who don't know, Jacky Chan is a well known singer in Asia. David Hasselhof was a very popular singer in Europe while I lived there, but that's another story.)

Studying language and culture is hard work, and right now it is considered our job, but it is also our PRIVILEGE.

Just last night I got together with some friends of mine(that I hadn't seen since we left Manila 9 months ago), and I was actually able to communicate with them...it's awesome. When I first met them, I could hardly stumble through greetings. Now, I still (and always will) have a long ways to go, but we can communicate! It's SO worthwhile!

There's so much to see, so much to do, so much to experience in the world--we hope our kids get infected by the Xenophilia bug as young as possible, and enjoy the world as much as we do.

Here's to raising a bunch of little Xenophiles!

Thursday, April 26, 2012

W is for Wedding

They say Virginia is for Lovers. Well, we'll vouch for that.
A long time ago, on a continent far, far away...two people went to Virginia Beach as singles. They left with rings.
This year we will celebrate 9 years of marriage---and this is where it all started.
We got married at Cape Henry, next to Old and New Cape Henry Lighthouses.
It was small, just family and pastor. About thirty people. Perfect size. The whole wedding party was barefoot.

We had AWESOME hammered dulcimer music from my amazing cousin.
And, there was a pod of dolphins playing offshore during the ceremony. I think some of those in attendance enjoyed watching the dolphins more than the proceedings... :)
This pretty much sums up us-- I'm being serious about something, perhaps rolling my eyes just a bit, and Brooke is laughing...she was mocking me about something...during the wedding photo shoot. Micah, Brooke's older brother, took our pics. You did a great job Mikey!
And, this is us. We were so blessed to have an amazing beach wedding, after being officially engaged for only 10 days. (But that's another blogpost.)

The wedding was small, but the ladies in Brooke's home church heard about our wedding, and with about one week notice, (and without us even asking) they threw an amazing reception at the church!

We had a beatiful wedding cake, all kinds of food, and tons of people came who had known Brooke when she was little. (Lots of them knew Brooke's mom when she was little. And, most of the ladies, and some of their daughters,who did our reception had also done the reception for Brooke's parents wedding years ago!)

Two weeks after getting married, we were flying to Taiwan to work at a Christian school there.

But we will never forget our Day at Cape Henry, and those lighthouses will always be ours.

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

V is for Visayan

Somewhere in between beginning to bleed out of my eyeballs while hammering out my 5th hour of Visayan language study for the day, I start to realize--this is hard.

What do we do here? We study.
Sometimes, it's hard to say a lot about our ministry that isn't kind of boring right now, because, well, sometimes language study isn't super exciting.

A normal day of study includes working with my langauge helper, listening to recordings, and doing filing, reading, and other practice. Whenever I go out, I'm trying to use as much Visayan as possible, and I also tend to listen to other people's conversations...trying to understand something.
We try to do a lot of CE's (Culture Events) that get us out and experiencing life here, and speaking language in real situations. This is great for language learning, but it is also EXHAUSTING. Trying to talk and listen and learn in a second language for extended periods kind of takes it out of you.

We're also updating old grammar lessons, and working on developing a new language helping program for new students. (In our spare time.)

Oh, and we also run a small daycare in our house. It's called "Our Children."

Don't get me wrong. I love what we do. Studying a language is REALLY enjoyable to me.

Beginning to understand what is being talked about in our little Church is an awesome feeling, and being able to connect at a deeper level with people here is awesome.

We feel the pressure to learn as FAST as possible, because we want new missionaries to be able to come here ASAP and start learning Visayan, because that is their first step to Tribal Church Planting, and seeing new tribal believers.
But a lot of langauge learning is just plain hard work.

Next time you see Dora the Explorer effortlessly transitioning back and forth between Spanish and English, you can pray for us.

We PRAY for the day when we can share God's Word in this language, speak it well with our own children, and help new missionaries tackle the massive behemoth of culture, grammar, wisdom and words that is...

VISAYAN.

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

U is for Umbrellas

When I was in 4th grade in the Philippines, my teacher had us look at a picture of a normal street scene in America.

Our job was to figure out what was wrong with the picture. My classmates and I did a great job, but there was still one thing more that was "wrong" with the picture and we couldn't figure out what it was.

Our teacher didn't know either.

Finally, she looked at the key, and found out that the last thing that was "wrong" was that a girl was walking in the sun with an umbrella.

None of us had noticed.

That's because, here in the Philippines, umbrellas are used when there is rain, but they are used a LOT when it's sunny. People don't want to get sun on them, because they want to stay as white as possible.
Our American textbook said it was "wrong", but really it was just different.

As we do our best to understand and become part of the culture here, there are a lot of "umbrellas in the sun" that seem wrong to us initially. But as we spend more time, we often learn that what we think of as "right" and "normal" is just our Western culture, not something Biblical.

There are things in Filipino culture (just like American culture) that are wrong. But a lot of times, it's just different.

Our job is to separate the "umbrellas" from the unnegotiables.

It's really important to take a step back on a regular basis and ask if it is God's Word, or my Western Worldview that makes me say "this is wrong". 

It might just be different, and I have to be humble and spend some more time learning the culture to understand why.

Monday, April 23, 2012

T is for Tiegs

I know, I know...seriously, before I was married...I had never met anyone in my whole life with the same last name as me...that I wasn't related to...  And now, I have the 2nd most common last name in the USA...hello, BORING!  But anyway...moving on...I'm sure I'll eventually get over it.
It all started with these 2...  Mom, I'll try to refrain from commenting on your hair through out these pictures...but NO PROMISES!!!  You guys haven't changed a bit.  haha!  And Dad, oh my goodness, are you smiling???? 

My parents were missionaries with NTM before I was born...We moved to the Philippines when I was about 2 1/2 months old...and lived there until I was almost 16...well, we did have furloughs occassionally. 
 At first it was just 2 kids...me and my big bro!  See how much Skye looks like me...in this one! 
 Just had to throw in this other Skye look-alike picture.
And then, there were 4 kids...  This is my Asia look-alike picture...if she had bangs.  And all I have to say is...OH MOM!!! And Dad...I totally remember that shirt...I think mom tried to throw it out...about a million times. 
This is the last picture I have of me with all my siblings...back in August of 2009...before we moved to the Philippines.

Micah attends Midwestern and is studying to become a Physicans Assistant.  Of course, this is after he already has a degree from College of the Ozarks in Business or something or other.

Holly lives and works in Missouri...where my folks live.  She is coming to visit us this summer and we are all very excited!
 
Brandon is at Cornell and is getting his PhD in some Chemistry thing...honestly, I don't even understand it...something with polymers...  Basically, he's just way too smart for all of us.

This is the last family picture of all of us...before we moved here to the Philippines...  Minus Skye cuz she wasn't born yet.  Geez, Brandon, you're like freakishly tall...or maybe it's just your fro. And Micah, you know what I want to say about you in this picture.
My folks now...See...They've hardly changed. Still missionaries with NTM...but now based in the USA.  My mom really has beautiful hair...and I wish I looked like her...but unfortunately...the Tiegs genes were strong in me...and I look just like my dad.

Well, that's my family...when we're all together...it's LOUD, and CRAZY...with about a million conversations going on at once...a few wrestling matches between my dad and bros...and loads of cooking with my mom!  Oh, and I almost forgot...we all love to pick on/tease Brian. Mostly, because we ALWAYS get a reaction out of him. But, my family ALL loves Brian...  Actually, I'm pretty sure they like him more than they like me.  :) 

Anyway...my parents always told us that they didn't care what we did with our lives...as long as we were walking with God and seeking His will for our lives.  I think that's a pretty great thing to teach your kids...and I desire to teach my Fantastic 4 the same thing.

Saturday, April 21, 2012

S is for Slater & Skye

I think it's kind of ironic that Slater & Skye are sharing this post...because of our 4 kiddos...they are the 2 that do NOT like to share with each other.  They don't like to share toys. They don't like the other one sitting next to me or sitting on my lap. They don't even like to sit next to each other. I'm praying that eventually this will change...  
Slater has a hilarious imagination...it has really started to come out the last couple of months.  He LOVES playing with playdough, legos, blowing bubbles outside, playing outside...and lately, doing crafts.  EVERY single night for the last 3 months, he has thanked God for "the donuts."  No joke!  I don't actually give him donuts every night...we're not that bad of parents...he's just really, really thankful when he does get some, and that thankfulness lasts for a really really long time. 
He made 52 "cookies" out of playdough in one sitting. He can literally play with playdough by himself for over an hour...which is pretty impressive for a 3 year old.
This just kind of sums up Slater to me...he tends to be very cautious/standoffish around new people and places...and it takes him a while to warm up to new things.  But once he's comfortable...he's as crazy as usual. 
Skye can pretty much be summed up by her very first sentence...  "I DO IT MYSELF!"  She does not want help to get dressed...even though...she isn't capable of dressing herself.  She doesn't want help washing her hands...even though...she can't even reach.  She may not be able to make you give in...but she can make you wish you had.  She is EXTREMELY stubborn...and I'm pretty sure she gets that from Brian.  :)  haha 
This month we have been working on not sucking her thumb any more...she still sucks it...but is getting much better.
Skye wants to do ANYTHING that her siblings are doing and thinks that she can keep up with them.  She is super, super tiny...at almost 21 months she is still wearing 9 to 12 months size clothes...but she doesn't want to sit in a high chair and she doesn't want to drink out of sippy cup...NOBODY ELSE DOES. 

I love my kiddos, but taking care of them all day long, every day goes beyond what I am able to do in my own strength. I am positive the Lord gave them to me to conform me to the image of Christ & to teach me to rely on Him moment-by-moment of EVERY DAY! 

Friday, April 20, 2012

R is for Red Hotdogs

When an American hears the word "hotdog"...
This is probably what comes to mind....a hotdog on a bun with some condiments...Probably ketchup, mustard, relish(either sweet or dill) and some onions. 
Maybe a Chicago-style hotdog...with the works.  Yum!
Maybe a Chili Dog...
Or better yet...a Chili Cheese Dog...
I am actually, not a fan of hotdogs...I'm much more of a brat or polish sausage kind of girl...but if I'm going to eat a hotdog...I prefer to eat a Nathan's hotdog.

Ok...maybe I got a little carried away with pictures of hotdogs...  Why is it that things you can't have always looks sooo stinking good!!!

Anyway...I'll continue on... 

When an American hears the words..."hotdog on a stick"...
They probably think CORN DOG!!!

When a Filipino hears the world..."hotdog"...
They probably think of something like this...  Yes, their hotdogs are bright red...and very often served on sticks...

I've been wanting to blog about this...as my language helper and I have been discussing it for a while...she had no idea that our hotdogs were NOT red...  While they do have "brown" hotdogs here...they are a LOT less common and are normally just chicken hot dogs. 
This is a little stand inside our local grocery store....  The girls who work there were very excited to talk to me...and also very shocked to find out that we do NOT have red hotdogs in the USA.   
They sell RED hot dogs on a stick...for 12 pesos or about 28 cents.  I love how friendly Filipinos are...they invited me behind the counter to take some pictures.  And also asked me if I knew some American men that they could marry.  hehe 
Pearl (my language helper) and I chowing down.  While they don't taste horrible...they have a distinct after taste...which I would assume comes from the amazing amount of red food coloring.  :)
By the way...Pearl thinks the reason they are red here is to attract kids attention.  I'm not sure if it's true...but it certainly seems to work.
 At birthday parties...they are very often served like this...on a stick with marshmallows. 
And of course, we must NOT forget our red hotdogs in spaghetti...which is super common here also.

You might be wondering why I've spent sooo much time showing you pictures of hotdogs... 
Well, when we talk with someone about hotdogs here, we may be using the same words, and  we may think we understand each other...

But the definition/picture that appears in our minds when we hear the word "hotdog" is very different than theirs. (Unless you recently had redhotdogsonastickwithmulti-coloredmarshmallows)

This is why, when learning another language, you can't just learn the simple definition of a word out of a dictionary. Because, you may think you know what someone means when they say something, but it may be far from what they are thinking.

Hotdogs are one MINOR thing, but when you move on to describing emotions and learning spiritual terminology, you better make sure you get it right!

That's why we call what we are doing CLA--Culture Language Acquisiton--We have to take the time to learn the culture and the language together, because you really can't divorce a language from its culture.   

If you do, RED hotdogs with marshmallows on a stick will be the least of your problems.

Ok, now I REALLY want a Nathan's hotdog....just 1.5 more years 'til home assignment....

Pictures either ours or from Google.  Thanks.

Thursday, April 19, 2012

Q is for "Quiet Time"

To all the parents out there, who dream of finding a Cone of Silence (see old show "Get Smart") inside which they can be transported to a magical land that has a magical quality: the absence of sound.
But they can't! Because they have no Cone of Silence and magic isn't real and their kids are screaming again.

This is for you.

This morning when I woke up at 5:15
because my children were once again screaming for me
I paused for a second and stopped to dream
of a place where I sometimes longed to be

This place was magical, it is true
on no known map, this I knew
But I had a longing still
to find this place
this place full of quietness and silence and grace

So in my mind to the sky I flew, my house full of toddlers left askew
The screams slowly faded and I was alone,

In my coffee shop in the clouds
My Quiet Time Zone

In this wispy wonderland of caffeine and dreams,
there were no fighting children, only silence and me
So I sat for a while and listened to the sound.
of silence.
It can get fairly loud

I tried to read a book
To play chess with myself
To compliment me on my excellent health

But suddenly as I sat in the Cumulus of my quiet dreams
I realized that silence is not quite as wonderful as it seems

Really really really
Really really
darned soon
Those noisy little annoyances will move out of our home

And they'll leave me alone
hopefully they'll have time to phone,
and my wife and I will feel amazingly alone

So I jumped down in haste from my magical land,
back to a place where play-dough and crayons are
the coolest things in demand

And I realized.
I'll take the noise.
Those are the cutest kids in the universe.
Those are my girls and boys.

Don't grow up 2 fast!
Quiet Time will be nice someday,
but I would really prefer for my babies to stay.

P is for Pied Piper Toys

So, before we had 4 kids in 3 years, we were married for almost 4 years without children, and we spent an incredible amount of time working with...you guessed it. Children. Before we got married, we both spent a lot of time also with children.

Teaching school PE, Bible, swimming, youth group, and VBS and day camps and outreaches from America to Taiwan to the Ukraine to England to Siberia, and a fair bit of places in between...

Along the way, we have found a lot of inexpensive toys that kids go gaga over. I call them Pied Piper Toys because they attract kids like bugs to a light, or like the original pied piper's pipe. (If you don't know the story of the Pied Piper, you need to spend some time reading books to children.)

To make it in this list, there has to be a version that is $20 USD or under. Some versions may be a bit more expensive, some are a lot cheaper, but our experience is that they are worth much more than their price tag. 
 #10. Super Bubble Maker. We have one that supposedly can make a bubble as long as a bus. Right now we are still haven't made it past the short bus stage, but when we pull this out, kids totally love it.
 #9. I used to teach PE to elementary kids, and a parachute is one of the funnest toys out there for VBS, PE, and whatever. Check online for games that keep them entertained for...minutes. (Hey, they're kids, what did you expect? Hours?)
 #8. Stomp Rocket. This one is awesome. It can go like a hundred feet high. This makes kid's eyes get really big. Sometimes grown ups too. As my young models are demonstrating, it's so simple a 3-year old (sometimes with a bit of help) can do it. And, you can even do Physics lessons with it. Everybody wins.
 #7. Super Sprayers! Beating the summer heat! I would show you the sprayers that I just made, that are almost just like the picture above and below. The problem is, after construction, I plugged them in, turned on the water, and found out that even though I had been conservative with the number of holes, we still don't have enough water pressure where we live to make it spray more than a couple of inches. For those of you who live in high-water-pressure countries, it's super easy to make, and I'll probably make one when we are in the US. (I hear they have high water pressure there.)
 This sprayer is even faster to put together than the one above, and our garden hose screwed right into the pop bottle. But, alas, the water pressure did not make it look like this. It was more like a spurting trickle. Our dog likes to drink out of it.
#6. Come on! Let's go fly a kite, up to the highest height! But seriously, catchy Mary Poppins tunes aside, kites are really fun and easy to use, unless there are trees around. And some kites will be lost. But that teaches children about loss. It's better to start with a kite than a dog.

I had a student in PE one day, who kicked the kickball, was heading to first base, looked up in a tree, and saw his kite he had lost there last year. He broke down in tears and was unable to continue to first base. I gave him some time, because, obviously kites are important.
 #5. Ok, I haven't seen this one in the US. But, for like 50 cents, you can buy this light-up helicopter toy that you launch at night with a rubber band, and when we did it at our apartment in Manila, it seemed like all the kids in the condo wanted to try to catch it as it came down. I have to see if you can get it in other countries.
#4. Of course, Coke and Mentos. My kids absolutely love this, and hey, even adults do too. It's easy, relatively cheap, a bit messy, but lots of fun. And, you can learn the science behind the suds from Mythbusters! (Who doesn't want their preschooler to understand the principles of nucleation?!?)
#3. Yup, one of the favorite toys kids have is you. At this time, I am the perfect size for a horse, nice to jump on, soft enough to be a punching bag, and I can still wrestle all four of my kids at the same time. They absolutely love it when I chase them them, wrestle them, and just do general roughhousing with them.

For a great article on this, check out: The Importance of Roughhousing With Your Kids .   They say, "Neuroscientists studying animal and human brains have found that bouts of rough-and-tumble play increase the brain’s level of a chemical called brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF). BDNF helps increase neuron growth in the parts of the brain responsible for memory, logic, and higher learning–skills necessary for academic success." 

Yup, mom and dad, you are the cheapest toy in our list, and probably the most effective for long-term success in life for your kids! Bring on the toddlers and lets wrestle!

Wait! Where's #2 and #1?!?  I'm not telling.

No, actually, it's your turn. We are always on the lookout for inexpensive, awesome toys that kids (and us) can have fun with. What are your Pied Piper toys that kids love? We have four kids! We wanna know!

Pictures are either ours or from Google.

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

O is for Opposites

Do you ever have a vague suspicion that you and your significant other are...well, opposites?

Not only do Brooke and I have vague suspicions, we have scientific (well, semi-scientific) proof.

Because we have both been working in mission organizations since before we were married, we have taken a battery of personality tests over the years.

Every time we take them, the test results come up with something along the lines of--one of us is a Golden Retriever-Otter, and one of us is a Beaver-Lion. Or one of us is a Montague and one of us is a Capulet.

Disclaimer*-- personality tests are helpful, but I hear people using them as excuses, as in, "I'm a ______(enter personality type) , and that is why I just did X"  Well, no, normally, that is a computer-generated definition of possible traits your personality may have. It is never an excuse. We try to use our tests as a starting point for improvement, not a rut to which a personality algorithim has doomed us to. 
Martyr's Shrine, Taipei, Taiwan
We knew before we got married that we had our differences. Thankfully, because we moved to Taiwan two weeks after we got married, and lived in a neighborhood where we hardly saw anyone we could communicate with beyond: Ni Hao: (hello) Babay (goodbye) and shishodyan tzai nali? (Where's the bathroom?) We basically spent a LOT of quality (and quantity) time together.

I like my coffee super hot. She likes it practically frigid, in my opinion. She likes cold leftovers. I do not. She eats disgustingly cold food in front of me just to see if she can induce dry heaves. Sometimes she has come close.

I go to bed. I fall asleep before my head hits the pillow. Brooke goes to bed. An hour later, she is still awake and thinking of hitting me with her pillow.

The year before we got married, I do not remember actually making my bed. I'm sure I did when I changed the sheets, but that wasn't super often either.

Organization is not my spiritual gift. Thankfully I never made much money before we got married, or the IRS would still probably be after me cuz I never would have gotten my taxes right.

Brooke, on the other hand, could probably organize the bureaucracy of a small country, and have time left over to take care of my sock drawer.

The problem of course being, if she came back a week later, not only would I probably have plunged the small country into bankruptcy, my sock drawer would already be a mess too.

The tests say I am an ENFP. I would tell you what Brooke is, but I can't remember where I put her results.

There is a prayer for ENFP's. It goes like this: "Oh God, please help me keep my mind on one thing...Oh, look! A bird!....at a time.

Basically, I am full of ideas, but not always interested in following through on them.

What I have found though, is that when we are willing to grit our teeth and work together, we truly can be greater than the sum of our parts. We can remain truly Montague and truly Capulet without that whole sad twist part at the end. (Google Leo Dicaprio with Claire Danes if you don't  know what sad twist part I'm talking about.)
Look! We worked together & we graduated from Tagalog School.
In many ways, Brooke is the spreadsheet that can correlate the dissonant clouds of my dreams. She shoots down the majority of them (which, surprisingly enough, she is almost always right about) but then she works with me on making the ones that are worthwhile come to pass.

We have found, over the last nearly 9 years, that we will never be the couple who seem to fit each other like a glove. We are, and always will be, extremely different.

But by harnessing the positives in our dissonance, we are able to work very efficiently as a team, when we're not arguing about whether or not we're being efficient.

Our relationship will alway be a complicated balancing act. I have to work at not being a head-in-the-clouds-would-rather-be-writing-poetry-person. Because, frankly, right now, the age of our kids requires much more prose than poetry.

And over the years of our marriage, I have (according to my wife) become a lot more organized, and sometimes I even (gasp) like it.

And Brooke has allowed a little disorganization in our lives, because that's what kids (and her husband) are like. And, she has gotten a lot more patient and laid-back in the process.

Together, we can do a lot! We may not be able to take over the world, but we might be able to organize the bureaucracy of a small country.

But, until those small countries come knocking, I'm gonna surprise my wife and go organize my sock drawer.

Vive la difference!