like watching a dog walk on its hind legs

This past weekend, we were in Charlotte for an Army Strong Bonds retreat. As a Chaplain, hosting these events is part of Ryan’s job. They are wonderful events, and a great time for couples to reconnect to one another.

One component of these weekends is a scheduled date night for the couples with childcare provided. Each couple is encouraged to get out and spend some quality time putting into practice some of the ideas and components of what has been taught in the Strong Bonds sessions.

We aim to get couples out of their normal routines and environments and encourage them to communicate, to enjoy each other, to spend some time being intentional with their spouse.

Thankfully, Ryan and I were able to take advantage of this time as well while we were in Charlotte. We went out to dinner and ate our food in record time since we didn’t have to cut up any hot chicken tenders, or squash any arguments over who got a green crayon and who didn’t with their kids’ menu coloring sheet.

With so much extra time left before we had to pick up our children, Ryan suggested we go explore at the nearby shopping center. I offered that we go to Academy to get one of our son’s Christmas gifts marked off our list. My wonderful husband made an executive decision and drove us straight to the TJ Maxx/Homegoods parking lot.

I immediately pondered, “What is the meaning of this?”

I knew Ryan’s motivations couldn’t have been physical as we were sharing our hotel suite with our three children. I asked Ryan, why he pulled in Homegoods and he said he knew I would like to spend some time looking around inside. I spied a Bass Pro Shops out of the corner of my eye and figured this was a tit-for-tat situation, but I agreed.

Because Homegoods.

Ryan and I tend to have one of those marriages where we love each other deeply, enjoy spending time together, have our ducks in a row so to speak. However, we do tend to leave one another to our own devices in a few areas. We both seek the solace of some quality alone time. And we each have our venues where this takes place. Aiming to make these worlds collide is, well, like watching a dog walk on its hind legs.

You won’t find me out in the woods, trekking for miles in camouflage, climbing a tree stand and sitting in silence for hours waiting to kill one of nature’s most innocent creatures.

And likewise, it is rarely the case that Ryan wants to go and meander the aisles of TJ Maxx, Marshall’s or Homegoods touching all of the pretty purses and picture frames and candles and dishes and shoes and clothes and pillows.

It’s just not us. And I will be honest here, it kind of freaked me out to have Ryan with me at Homegoods. It was almost unnatural. This is my domain and having him there felt like it could have easily cramped my style. Instead, I turned it into a learning opportunity for us both.

What follows are my observations on teaching your spouse “How to Maxx.” It’s true, men really *are* from Mars and women are from Venus. It’s is never more clearly evidenced than when you both walk into a TJ Maxx/Homegoods together.

*****

1. Entering the store

Me: {stand in the entry, pan the store, take a deep, cleansing breath and smile}

Ryan: death grip on the buggy handles, “okay, which way are we going?”

Me: {sideways glance} “please don’t rush me, I am deciding the manner in which I want to address my route through the store”

Ryan: “okay, but where are we going, what do you need in here…?”

Me: {condescending laughter} “Grasshopper, you have much to learn. Shopping is about enjoying the journey, not racing to a destination.”

2. Breaking the ice

I had to take a few moments to explain to Ryan that one often arrives at stores like these not even knowing what one *needs.* Rather the things that need you happen to find you.

We made a sharp left at the entrance and quickly zig-zagged through aisles of dishes and breakable home decor (not good for bringing home from a road trip with an SUV packed with luggage), and next up was the candles, dishtowels, napkins and table cloths.

Pondering the table linens.

Pondering the table linens.

Since cloth napkins are basically my love language, I spied some adorable Christmas themed linens. When you “break the ice,” this is the first time you actually pick up an item, handle it, look at the price, touch the item thoroughly and allow it to penetrate your five senses. You mentally integrate the item into your home, and finally place the item into your buggy.

Ryan: “Do you need those? Don’t you have several napkins already? Some Christmas ones too?”

Me: “I don’t know yet if I need them. I like them. I am considering them. I do have Christmas napkins, but I don’t have *these* Christmas napkins. Putting these in the buggy doesn’t mean that I’m buying them. It means I am getting used to the idea of whether or not I want them.”

Ryan: {confused as ever}{pushes the buggy and follows me…}

3. Covering every square inch

Now I know there is no way we were bringing home any large pieces of furniture. I know we are good on large area rugs in our house. Duh.

However, when you go to Marshall’s/TJ/Homegoods, you go ahead and cruise every area of the store.

For here you are mentally cataloging beauty. That console table? Adorable. Ikat rug? Maybe in our next house. Oversized chair? Might look nice in the corner of our bedroom.

I would equate this part of the shopping experience to Ryan seeing a small doe in the woods. Yay, you see a deer. It doesn’t mean you are going to shoot it. You let it live. You let it get bigger for next year. You let it fuel your adrenaline for the rest of the hunt.

4. Giving the dog a bone

About twenty minutes into our jaunt, I realized Ryan was getting bored (it probably happened much sooner, that’s just when it dawned on me…). I knew I needed to make a compromise on his behalf.

I guided him over to the knives. I started speaking his love language. Weapons.

With my 13 years of marriage wisdom, I realized I needed to bring Ryan into the Homegoods conversation on a personal level. I needed to get him emotionally involved in the shopping process.

I began talking about Thanksgiving and turkeys and how great Ryan is at carving our bird. I put a question out there about whether or not we might use a new, sharp blade.

"I will cuuuut you...."

“I will cuuuut you….”

And wouldn’t you know it, just like that I witnessed my sweetheart “breaking the ice” for himself. (See #2.)

He spent some time looking through all of the knives, reading the descriptions of what each kind of blade is used for in culinary situations.

I was so proud. So much so that I felt safe leaving Ryan by himself on this aisle and venturing over an aisle or two away.

{heart swell}

My confidence in mentoring Ryan in the Ways of the Maxxinista may have been premature. For after skimming more kitchen utensils and bakeware I turned the corner to check on Ryan and found that he had abandoned our buggy.

5. Securing the perimeter

The first thing you will notice is that my unzipped purse is in plain sight and unprotected in the middle of a huge store.

You will also notice that the gentleman on the right is much closer to our buggy than Ryan. #pursefail

Even the miniature butler was like 'what the heck, Ryan?'

Even the miniature butler was like ‘what the heck, Ryan?’

The siren-song of the coffees of the world lured Ryan away from our buggy.

I tried to give my apprentice the benefit of the doubt. In his defense he carries his necessities close to his butt in his back pocket and therefore hasn’t known the responsibility of keeping a purse near you.

At any rate, you protect your buggy. If you have to use the restroom or go to the fitting room or browse something that’s caught your eye…you protect the buggy.

“The first rule of Maxx Club is you don’t announce all of your purchases to your husband. The second rule of Maxx Club is you don’t announce all of your purchases to your husband. The third rule of Maxx Club is someone takes your purse, fingers your wallet…the Maxxing is over.”

I think I got the message to Ryan.

6. Enjoying the ride

After our little purse talk, we had a bit more time to meander the store. We walked through all of the Christmas aisles. We laughed, we talked. We pointed out the ugly stuff. We reasoned our way out of purchasing a cute reindeer and small Christmas tree for our front porch.

We each gave input and decided on some wrapping paper for each of the kids’ gifts. We added those things to the buggy.

We connected on a heart level. We talked about our kids. About some financial goals. Some long term house dreams. We reminisced. We dreamed. We even stole a quick kiss.

You know, the true signs of not only a good run through Homegoods/TJ but also hallmarks of a successful date night.

And just like that our time was drawing to a close.

7. Making your final decisions

As you sense the end of your shopping, you go through the items that have been riding shotgun in your buggy. I put back some kitchen dishtowels, some disposable baking tins for holiday goodies and I even put back the 12-pack of Christmas napkins. After all, I didn’t need these things. I didn’t know it when I got there, but after journeying through the store, I realized that those things were fun to look at and think about. I returned them out into the store, back to their homes for some other lucky Homegoods shopper to handle and love and take home.

What Ryan needed was a new knife to carve the turkey for our own family Thanksgiving traditions. What I needed was some wrapping paper to get started with the kids’ gifts/packages.

What we both needed was a night together. Just us. No kids. Not a lot of thinking or even really talking. We just needed each other; to connect, to enjoy, to be reminded that God made each of us differently but he knits us together daily through the covenant of our marriage.

“My son, do not forget my teaching, but let your heart keep my commandments, for length of days and years of life and peace they will add to you. Let not steadfast love and faithfulness forsake you; bind them around your neck; write them on the tablet of your heart. So you will find favor and good success in the sight of God and man. Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding.” {Proverbs 3:1-5}

I’m grateful for a sweet husband who was willing to choose my interests and desires above his own and I’m grateful for his *teachable spirit.* =) It made spending a few minutes afterwards at BassPro Shop a bit more bearable.

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