4 Reasons to Travel w/ Your Spouse’s Family

4 Reasons to Travel with your Spouse's Family

When Mr. M and I started spending more time with each other at our family’s houses, we learned a LOT about our family structure. For instance, Mr. M’s family is chill. Even though there are four kids, they are all close in age; all but one are now adults. His youngest sibling was 10 when we started dating.

In contrast, all six of the kids in my family are all close in age, but there are SIX of us. My parents went on the 2 1/2 – 3 year plan, so we are all evenly spaced out. My youngest sibling was 5 when we started dating. His family is pretty low-key, my family is high octane. We spent a lot of time at his family’s house sitting around and talking; we spend a lot of time at my family’s house sitting around and talking and doing and there is always noise in some capacity. Most of the members of my family have busy personalities, and all of us kids speak loudly. You would think we have Italian roots, but nope. We’re Scotch-Irish.

About a year after we first started dating, I went on a family vacation with Mr. M’s family. We spent a week at the beach with no set schedule. We stayed up late playing Settlers of Catan, slept in until 11am or so, spent the afternoon on the beach, and took turns cooking in the evening. Our vacation mirrored the way the M family live their life.

Last weekend Mr. M and I flew to Las Vegas to see the Thunderbird Air Show with my entire immediate family + my pappaw. This was the first “family vacation” Mr. M had gone on with us. We had been invited by a colleague of my dad’s who had been a Thunderbird back in his day. The reunion show was breathtaking. Planes were zipping everywhere, performing amazing tricks. Having the Thunderbird Air Show on Veteran’s Day Weekend also put a lump in my throat; I am so thankful for the men and women and their families who sacrifice to fight for our country and our freedom.

Aside from the Thunderbird Air Show, we tried to pack as much of Vegas into the short weekend as we could. The weekend was very reminiscent of how my family operates – high octane. I love it. I am always wanting to go and do. I get it from my mama. We spent the weekend walking through hotels, eating good food, watching my brave sister jump off the Stratosphere, and getting very little sleep.

On the way home from our trip, I asked Mr. M, “What did you learn about yourself this weekend? What did you learn about my family this weekend?”

I think every couple should go on a vacation with each other’s family either while they are engaged or while they are at the foundation of their marriage. I love to compare and contrast how our family’s do things – not in a bad way, but because we are combining two different cultures and it makes for a lot of fun and intriguing conversation. Really, any marriage is the combining of two family cultures – even if you are both from the same area. Each family has their own way of doing things, and that is what your spouse is used to. So when you are able to observe and discuss how your respective families interact, you are able to grow closer to each other and each other’s family.

4 Reasons to Travel with your Spouse's Family

1 – You learn about each other’s family dynamics

When I went on vacation with Mr. M’s family, I saw the realities of working in ministry: even when you’re on vacation mode, your ministry isn’t. Papa M spent many a late night or early morning on the phone with his ministry coordinator’s in Zimbabwe. Knowing that one day Mr. M and I will be assisting in the coordinating of his family’s ministry stateside, I learned a lot of what it would take to coordinate even on vacation. It sparked a conversation between Mr. M and I surrounding his family’s ministry and the opportunities we will have when we are more involved one day.

When Mr. M went on vacation with my family, he got to see how my family coordinates pulling together the desires of 11 different people each wanting to experience a piece of Las Vegas. While some of us all wanted to do the same thing, there were a few of us who wanted to do different things at different times. The younger kids would want to do something that catered more to their age and style, and the older kids wanted to check out the different hotels. At times we would split up and at times we would come together. Experiencing vacation together with my family allowed Mr. M and I to laugh about how a family of eleven operates versus how a family of six operates. It also allowed us to compare and contrast cultural differences between Americans and Zimbabweans and how we approach family dynamics. This is what happens when a psychologist marries a sociologist.

2 – You see how your spouse responds in “vacation mode” 

Vacation mode with just your spouse is vacation mode with just your spouse. Vacation mode with your spouse and their family is a whole ‘nother animal. When Mr. M and I went on our honeymoon last year, we were the ones calling the shots. We only had to compromise with each other. When we went on vacation with each other’s families, we had to compromise with several other people.

When I went to the beach with Mr. M’s family a couple of years ago, I had to learn to slow down. I was so used to going going and going as how that is how my family’s vacations are usually structured.

When Mr. M went on vacation with my family this past weekend, he had to learn to go go go with the flow. Usually I am the one who likes to know the plan in the relationship, and Mr. M is the one who wants to go with the flow. But when you are coordinating a large group of people, sometimes you only get a partial piece of the puzzle – the piece that is most important to you. I was okay with knowing the most important details, Mr. M wanted more details. In general, this is quite opposite of how we interact at home.

4 Reasons to Travel with your Spouse's Family

3 – You spend quality time with each other’s family 

Gosh, you guys I love love love my family and I love love love Mr. M’s family. Going on vacation with Mr. M’s family was the first time I really felt like I was truly getting to know his family well. Although I had spend countless hours with them, I started to get closer with Mr. M’s family members when we went to the beach. This was also when I started to pick up more Shona words. Although I have it as a life goal to learn to speak Shona fluently, it’s hard to do so when it’s just Mr. M and me and we both speak English most of the time. The only opportunity I get to listen to Shona is when I spend extensive amounts of time with his family.

Having Mr. M spend time with my family – and especially spend quality time with my brothers – brings a lot of joy to my heart. My youngest brother has spent almost half his life with Mr. M being my boyfriend or my husband, so he truly sees him as a brother. Mr. M has even stepped into the older brother role with my sisters – he teases them and also asks them the hard questions concerning their relationships with their boyfriends.

4 – It sets up expectations for how YOU do vacation

Mr. M and I like to say that we get to take the best of both worlds and merge it into one. We get to take our favorite family traditions and implement those into our family. Last night we were laughing about how much I like to do activities and how much he is okay to just sit at home and talk. I said, “Listen, I grew up doing, and you grew up not doing, so we’re just going to have to do.” So on our vacations, we have to have a good mixture of down time but also an exciting excursion.

4 Reasons to Travel with your Spouse's Family

Have you gone on vacation with your spouse’s family? How do you and your spouse navigate the differences between your family?

10 Fun, Frugal Date Nights for Fall

 

10 Fun, Frugal Date Nights for Fall

I know that I asked for cooler weather back in the beginning of October when it was 80 degrees, but y’all. . . last week I was traipsing around North Carolina and it was 40 degrees. I think the earth needs to find a happy medium of a brisk 65 degrees and we call that winter. It’s the perfect temperature to wear blanket scarves, eat some chili, and snuggle up with your boo. 40 degrees just makes you grumpy and your feet cold. No one is happy with cold feet.

Needless to say, I was overjoyed one Friday evening when it was the perfect 57-65 degree range and I could wear my cardigan to the pumpkin patch for date night.

Mr .M and I try to have a date night set aside each week. Some nights it turns into Netflix and chill(i), but other nights we’re a little more creative.  Because fall is my favorite time of year, I thought I’d round up some fun, cheap, fall date nights for dating couples, newlyweds, oldlyweds, or just a band of best friends!

10 Fun, Frugal Date Nights for Fall

Go to the Pumpkin Patch

Who says pumpkin patches are just for October? I say “Seasons Greetings!” Gourds and squash are still a component of Thanksgiving decor, so grab your boo and head out to the local pumpkin patch to find the perfect pumpkin. Like every basic blogger in the blogoverse, I’m always on the hunt for white pumpkins. . .

Have a Pumpkin Painting Party!

And speaking of white pumpkins, they prove to be the perfect pumpkins to paint for that Friendsgiving you want to host. Grab a plastic tablecloth and a cheap painting set from Walmart, and have a contest to see who ends up with the most beautiful/creative pumpkin.

Host a Chili Cook off

When I think of the fall, I think of chili, apple cider, and cornbread. It’s by far my favorite fall dish. Do you have a famous recipe with a secret ingredient? A chili cook off is a fun way to double date with a close couple friend. Each of you bring a small pot of chili, and vote on whose is the best! For my favorite cornbread recipe check this one out.

Leaf the Party to Me. . . 

Mr. M and I have a HUGE tree that litters the yard with perfectly crispy leaves. For a fun date night outside, rake a pile of leaves together and jump on in! You’ll feel like a child, but what brings more joy than childhood memories and laughter?

Find Your Way Through a Cornmaze 

Nothing brings couples together like getting lost. I was devastated at the end of October when I realized we would run out of time to do a corn maze. The joy of being a college recruiter means there is limited time/energy to engage in fun, fall activities. However, I have dear memories from going through a corn maze a couple years ago with a couple friend of ours. We were all very hungry and grumpy by the end, so the night ended with pizza.

Host a Friendsgiving

I LOVE THANKSGIVING. And a great precursor to Thanksgiving is Friendsgiving. One year I hosted friendsgiving, and as the host does, made a turkey. The afternoon started in tears but ended well and without food poisoning, so I would say it turned out OK. If you ever want inspiration for throwing a killer Friendsgiving, I recommend checking out this post from Endless Bliss. Tiffany is the queen of throwing the most beautiful and fun parties.

Serve at your local soup kitchen

OK so this may not be a glamorous date night, but be a dear and spread holiday and fall spirit cheer by being the good you want to see in this world. Mr.  M works at a nonprofit, and he can tell you that life gets CRAZY this time of year. Volunteers are MUCH appreciated. Take a morning with your loved one and serve at a local soup kitchen, or help prepare for Thanksgiving meals. You not only find joy in serving, but learn more about each other’s hearts through service.

10 Fun, Frugal Date Nights for Fall

Take Fun, Fall Pictures

This one may be geared more towards you blogger S/Os, but in the spirit of blanket scarf season, take cute fall photos! It’s the most gorgeous time of year, and why not commemorate your love? If you have kids, these photos make for GREAT Christmas presents for grandparents.

Have a Seasonal Movie Marathon

If scary movies are your thing for Halloween, then cozy up and enjoy the adrenaline rush of watching Michael Myers stalk people. [Also, sorry this post is v late, but it’s not Halloween anymore.] If you’re like me, and hate scary things, then curl up with your favorite holiday movies. It is never to early for It’s a Wonderful Life. (Rachel from the Confused Millennial has a great list of fall-themed movies to get into!)

Make Fall Scented Candles

OK I’ve never actually done this, but I think it would be so fun! Please let me know if you do this so I can live vicariously through you. I’m always a sucker for candles, plus they make great gifts! I found this tutorial on making candles, and it looks like it would be a breeze! Your house gets to smell good, you get to upcycle and be creative, and now you have candles for the rest of the season alll for yourself. . . or to give away.

10 Fun, Frugal Date Nights for Fall

What is your favorite fall-themed date night?

Celebrating Color

 

This post originally appeared as a guest post on Sage the Blog in April 2017. 

celebrating color & creating safe spaces

I didn’t grow up thinking white people were better than any other race, but I never grew up around anyone who wasn’t white. When I was in middle school, I discovered the Fresh Prince of Bel air and crushed hard on Will Smith. In high school I befriended the two black guys in my high school. One of whom reminded me of Will Smith. I knew they were black, but I didn’t think anything else of it. I’m sure the words, “I don’t see color” fell out of my mouth a few times.

It wasn’t until I was in college and started dating my now-husband that I realized how many things I had done in ignorance could be perceived as racist. When  Mr. M and I started dating, I had that safe place to ask the ignorant questions. I learned about systematic racism, I learned about the white savior complex. I learned that saying “I don’t see color” whitewashes the incredible experience and story each person of color carries.

My parent weren’t the least surprised when I called home one early spring day to tell them I was going on a date, and the guy I met was from a country in Africa. In fact, my dad once said, “Christina, I would be surprised if you marry a Caucasian.”

I had one of those moments on my first date with Mr. M- I knew we were going to get married. (He did not have that moment until several months later.)

Mr. M and I live in East Tennessee. We have more than one stoplight, so we aren’t pure rural Appalachia, and we are lucky enough to live in a college town that does have quite a bit of diversity. I never knew how large the African community was in our area until he and I started dating. I guess I just never noticed.

Nonetheless, I could still feel the eyes. A couple of times I noticed (mostly from the older generation) people staring at us as we walked, hand in hand. And in my lack of graciousness, I would look them dead in the eye as I held on tighter to my handsome chocolate man. Once, when we went home to see my family, I noticed someone staring at us as we were stopped next to each other at the stoplight. I turned to Mr. M and said, “Kiss me” and then made sure I kissed him passionately. He thought I was being sweet. I was being rebellious against the ill-conceived notions that races shouldn’t mix.

I don’t necessarily recommend that route. It’s rooted in pride, and while I am proud to stand next to, and be affiliated with my husband and his family, it is definitely not the most Christ-like approach. Mr. M is much more gracious in his responses.

In the spring, on our way back from a friend’s wedding in Savannah, Georgia, we stopped at a McDonald’s in South Carolina to use the restroom and grab a cup of iced coffee to fuel us on a road trip. I was leaned against Mr. M while waiting in line. There was a man in the back of the restaurant who stared at us until Mr. M looked his way, to which Mr. M smiled and waved and the man slowly shook his head in disgust. I promptly turned around and shot fire darts from my eye. I imagined what I would say if I worked up the nerve to confront him. I never did. I’m more talk than game.

But Mr. M is compassionate. He speaks the truth in love and he is gracious towards those who don’t understand or disagree. It’s something he has had to accept and learn growing up in America. He told me that when they first moved from Zimbabwe to the United States, as he and his brothers became pre-teens and teenagers, their dad sat them down, making them aware that in the United States, they were more likely to receive prejudice, so they needed to make sure they carried themselves well, dressed well, were respectful at all times to authority figures, etc.

As parents, of course, we would tell our children this anyway: “Be respectful, and carry yourself well. Don’t tarnish the family name!” But for the minority groups in America, it’s more than tarnishing the family name, it’s survival. Over the past several years, through conversation with Mr. M, reading and listening to accounts from other moms of African-American, Latino, or biracial children, I find this is something that is stressed more so to children who do not look predominately white.

So what can we change? I’ve written from my hopeful millennial perspective about why it is important that we support our friends trying to use their voice.

But how else do we support our minority brothers and sisters?

celebrating color & creating safe spaces

 

We see color. We celebrate color.

When I am home alone with Mr. M, I sometimes forget that we don’t look like each other. It’s in those moments where I’m getting ready and he comes up behind me and wraps his arms around me that I see our colors contrast. When we are lying down, and my arm lays against his and he says, “Oh my gosh your arm is translucent!” I remember that he is black and I am white. I see and bask in the color of his dark skin. It is, after all, one of the things I am most attracted to in him- aside from his compassion, and the way his eyes crinkle when he smiles, and the way his heart seeks to right social injustices. I celebrate his dark brown skin because it carries his heritage. He is a Zimbabwean who still speaks in his native tongue when he is with family. His Shona name is a badge of his culture. The way he thinks and sees the world has been shaped by growing up in two different worlds – a third culture kid.

I want to say that our relationship is more than the colors we reflect, but in a sense, our relationship is the colors we reflect. When you see a married couple who are both white, you don’t automatically think, “Oh, I bet they have a lot of compromising they have to do.” (Which, by the way, is still totally untrue, as you married people know.) But when you see my husband, me, and read our incredibly long (but phonetic) last name, you probably wonder how it works.

And here is how it works: We love hard. We listen well. We learn from each other. We celebrate our differences, and embrace the cultures and traditions we each grew up with.

For instance, in my mind, I had a perfect American wedding planned out. In reality, our families threw the biggest Zimbabwean-American wedding anyone has ever seen. Our dance floor was packed the entire time, whether Zimbabwean, South African, or American music was playing. Our guests had their choice of Zimbabwean food: sadza (a cornmeal patty), collard greens, and beef stew, or my favorite American food: chili and potato soup. Our friend surprised us with a communion meditation that was given in both English and Shona.

If I didn’t embrace who Mr. M is and where he is from, I would miss out on the blessing of finding a new piece of the world. If I didn’t ask questions and learn, I wouldn’t fully be able to say I know my husband. It is important to me that our relationship’s foundation is first of all on the word of God, and secondly on celebrating who we are.

celebrating color & creating safe spaces

Mr. M and I were humbled and amazed by the responses I received on my most recent post, When You Call My Husband the N-Word. One thing my husband and I are careful to acknowledge is that we do not want to play the victim card. Playing the victim doesn’t offer any options for victory. We are victors in our circumstance. We want to find ways to embrace each other’s cultural identities and differences. But in order to do that, we do have to acknowledge the hurt and pain that comes with racism.

Our culture makes it clear that we cannot just be silent. Desmond Tutu said that “If you are neutral in situations of injustice, you have chosen the side of the oppressor. If an elephant has its foot on the tail of a mouse and you say that you are neutral, the mouse will not appreciate your neutrality.”

White people are not the saviors in defeating racism. White people have the responsibility to reverse the curse we brought into this country 400 years ago. I asked a friend how white people can be an ally to the minority community, and she said “Listen.”

There is a desperate need for raw and vulnerable conversations between the white community and the minority community. In order to align ourselves with our brothers and sisters who suffer under the institutionalized racism in our country, we have to listen. We have to hear their stories, and we have to be willing to acknowledge the generational pain our ancestors brought upon minorities in our country. Then we must create space. We move off the stage to allow room for the minorities in our country to speak.

For the next several weeks, I will be hosting conversations with some friends that I have been privileged to make within the blogging community on identity, racism, and how the white community can continue to create space and take action racism in a healthy way alongside our brothers and sisters. Check back each Wednesday in the month of November for a new installment of “Creating Space.”

never
trust anyone
who says
they do not see color.
this means
to them
you are invisible.
-is

Nayyirah Waheed

Mastering Communication in Your Marriage

 

mastering communication in your marriage

Communication is something we have been doing all our lives. We communicate with our words, our actions, our face, our body language. You would think that by our 20s, we are pros at this. Not quite yet. I imagine we will never fully have our communication under control until we have reached perfection in heaven.

Mr. M and I spent the first two years of our relationship with intention. While we were dating, we decided to have the hard conversations that most newlyweds wait until after the engagement or the wedding day to have. Working through the hard conversations beforehand allowed us to spend our first year of marriage available to grow and mature in ways that would not have been possible if we decided to wait until the “I Do’s” to start having the hard conversations. The hard conversations gave us a foundation in communication. And although we’ve been together for 3 1/2 years, we’re still finding out more about how we give and receive in our communication styles.

mastering communication in your marriage

Communication & Expectations

Older men and women, along with every marriage help book will tell you the biggest key to a strong marriage is COMMUNICATION. And beyond communication, it is communicating your EXPECTATIONS.   We all have different expectations when it comes to housework, finances, parenting, sex. You name it, you have an expectation for it.

Read more here.

Today I’m guest posting over at Sincerely Onyi. Onyi is a Physician Assistant, Millennial Mommy, Long Distance Wife,  1st gen Nigerian-American, and Blogger. 

Halloween Costumes for Interracial Couples

Halloween Costumes for Interracial Couples

Last year on Halloween, we opted to stay on the couch and Netflix it up instead of go to any party. In effort to avoid the “old married couple” stigma that we actually embody, we are giong to try to attend a Halloween party or two.

If you follow me on Instagram (which you totally should if you don’t @christinamush) you may remember a poll I posted in my Instastories concerning a certain Halloween costume for the Mr. and me.

Being an interracial couple gives us a new, fun, and different dynamic when it comes to Halloween costumes. I mean sure, we could dress up as superheroes and whatever, but why not use our contrasting skin tones to our advantage?

Celebrity Dopplegangers

Kimye

 

I saw a couple from my college do this awesome costume coupling. It was hilarious, and I loved it. All you have to do is buy some ripped up clothes for Kanye, stuff a pillow in your butt to be Kim K, and carry around babydolls. Don’t forget to look like you’re disgusted by everything (Kanye) and don’t forget to only duck face – never smile (Kim K.)

John Legend and Chrissy Tiegen

 

Mr. M says, “How the heck would we do this? You’re not even Thai.” This is true, and I don’t want to culturally appropriate anything. So if you’re an interracial Thai/black couple, this one is perfect for you. John Legend – wear a black suit and carry a keyboard around. Chrissy Tiegen – wear a swimsuit and carry Taco Bell around.

Food Related Fun 

Salt & Pepper

 

You can always do the stereotypical salt and pepper shakes. For a cheap way to pull it off, wear a white and black shirt, respectively. Print “Salt” and “Pepper” on paper and attach it to your shirt. If you have a baby, you can make that little guy Paprika. (Thanks for the idea, Blue’s Clues.)

S’mores 

 

Chocolate and marshmallow goodness with graham crackers?! If that doesn’t say fall, I don’t know what does. Not only is the smores costume adorable and fun, it’s an easy go to. Cut out cardboard to make graham cracker sides, don a brown shirt and a white tee and you are all set!

TV Show Characters

Winston Bishop and Aly Nelson (or any other New Girl character, really)

 

This is the one I’m rooting for personally for Mr. M and myself this year. Even though he doesn’t know who Aly is yet, I’m a fan of a) buying policeman costumes and b) seeing my husband personify his alter ego- Winston Bishop. They even have the same facial hair!

But I digress.

To pull this off, you can get policeman outfits OR dress the real life Winston up with a bird shirt. To pull off Aly, you just get to wear comfy clothes. Or to be Jessica Day, find a fun shirt, some glasses, flats, and a quirky attitude.

Jackson Avery & April Kepner

 

This is possibly the easiest one to pull off. Buy labcoats; people will think you’re doctors. You get to correct them. Yes, we’ve dressed up like doctors. But we are also Grey’s Anatomy characters. Bonus points: you get to make out a lot.

Have any other fun costumes? If you’re in an interracial relationship, drop your costume ideas below!