If You Want

Boy oh boy, those folks at Cooking Light are getting clever in their marketing.
Here is the deal. Thursday April 27, 2006 at the Grand Hyatt Capitol Peak Ballroom in Denver (1750 Welton St.) 5:30pm
There will be a cooking "experience" in which you can pay $50 to explore the realm of indian cooking - you will sample Indian curries, explore wine pairings, and learn simple cooking techniques using spices.

I think this is a swell idea. Those boogers are figuring out where they have large pockets of readers and then customizing events in their area. Of course Denver is a large market - we are a bunch of Bo-Bo's. I love this term. It means Bohemian Bourgeoisie. Essentially we are a bunch of overpaid creative culturals who think we are hippies but really we are yuppies. We hide our yuppie ways under "cultural and environmental" purchases and choices. So, give us the chance to spend way too much money to enlighten ourselves and appear to be interested in the world around us without leaving our zip code . . . heck yeah. We're there. I don't mean "we're" there. "We" actually won't be going because I can't stand curry. Sorry. I would love to be the kind of person who likes Indian food. I would also like to be the kind of person who runs marathons but that ain't gonna happen either.

But, I think it is a neat thing. So, if you live in Denver and have $50 to spend on curry and wine . . . Knock yourself out! The 50 bucks gets you the tastings, demos, and a four course meal with wine pairings.

Oh yeah. You have to rsvp and buy your ticket ahead of time. 1-800-366-4712 ext. 8551

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Party in the back!

Sometimes it is as easy as compromise.
Conversation straight from the living room of the Harji this morning in reference to the main road off of our street being closed for the past three months . . . The construction workers that were contracted for the job are finished and now we are waiting for the City of Denver to do their "finishing" work. CDOT reports they are waiting for "warmer weather". Well CDOT - yesterday it was 55 degrees.

Herb: "Okay, if by the end of the week the city does not open up our street, I am repositioning the cones so that we can access the street again." (Mind you, last night we just four wheeled through the neighbors yard - around the cones - because he was so annoyed!)
Cara: "Babe, I will totally support you if you agree to one thing."
Herb: "What you got?"
Cara: "IF you receive any tickets or have any police contact - "
Herb: "Yeah????"
Cara: "You grow a mullet."
Herb: (short contemplative look with eyes looking upward) "OKAY." And he walks away.

We SOOOO speak the same language sometimes.

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Not Your Mamma's Flank Steak

Growing up, Herb and I both had our fair share of meat that was, shall we say . . . overcooked. And now, because my mom reads this blog and told me that if I say mean things about her that she will come to Denver (walking barefoot in the snow if necessary) and put me over her knee and give me a spanking on my bare butt . . . we will stop talking about our mothers! You can contact me personally if you would like the address of the secret blog where I write about all of my mom issues.

I will say, however, that in the past few years, Herb and I have rediscovered the joy of eating pork and steak. Tender. Yummy. Meat.

Enjoy this one . . . it is a great way to impress a date or your in-laws or the rock stars next door because it is oh so easy and oh so tastey all at the same time!

WARNING: If you intend to be . . . um, intimate with your spouse after this meal . . . be sure to wear gloves or wash your hands real well after handeling the jalapeno pepper. I have given this recipie to many many people. One of them (who will remain unnamed) reported that the meal continued to add a little "spice" to their marriage throughout the whole night . . . if you know what I mean. Now, we are all about spice in marriage here at the Harjes Haus, but this just doesn't sound safe. As an alternative, get those hands real clean and then check out www.themarriagebed.com for a biblical & biological perspective on keeping the flame going that won't precipitate an ER visit!

And now, the recipie:

Flank Steak with Cilantro-Almond Pesto

From Cooking Light Magazine

Ground almonds thicken this lively herb sauce. The pesto is also good as a spread for burgers and sandwiches, or as a pizza sauce. Most of the fat here is monounsaturated.

3/4 cup fresh cilantro
2 tablespoons slivered almonds, toasted
1 tablespoon chopped seeded jalapeƱo pepper
1/8 teaspoon salt
1/8 teaspoon black pepper
1 garlic clove, chopped
3 tablespoons plain fat-free yogurt (I use fat-free sour cream)
1 1/2 teaspoons fresh lime juice
1 (1-pound) flank steak, trimmed
Cilantro sprigs (optional)

Prepare grill.
Combine first 6 ingredients in a blender or food processor; process until finely chopped (about 15 seconds). Add yogurt and juice; process until smooth.

Grill steak 6 minutes on each side or until desired degree of doneness. Cut steak diagonally across grain into thin slices. Serve steak with pesto. Garnish with cilantro sprigs, if desired.

Yield: 4 servings (serving size: 3 ounces steak and about 1 tablespoon pesto)

CALORIES 209(47% from fat); FAT 10.8g (sat 3.9g,mono 4.9g,poly 0.8g); PROTEIN 24.6g; CHOLESTEROL 57mg; CALCIUM 36mg; SODIUM 152mg; FIBER 0.6g; IRON 2.5mg; CARBOHYDRATE 2.4g



Marriage: A Tool for the Depraved? VOL. 4

During a post-wedding meeting with our counselor & wedding officiant, Jim gave Herb the "mark my words and remember this moment forever because I am about to give you one of the four or five pieces of wisdom that will actually make a difference in your life and your marriage" look. It is a look I have seen Jim give others. Once, he actually took a kid by one shoulder and said, "I am touching you and looking you strangely in the eye so that you always always remember what I am about to tell you . . ." I have no idea what he said to that kid, but I do remember what he said to Herb that day. "Herb, it is your responsibility to treat her kindly. When you make yourself a safe person for Cara, you will see things come out of this woman that you never thought possible!" Or something like that.

Could it be, that what Jim was talking about was leadership? Real deal, tough, humble leadership stuff? The stuff Paul was talking about in all of that submission junk. Here is the deal: it is not pretty and it might even make me look weak. It will offend some and disgust others. I think I am okay with that.

In short, I am weaker than Herb. And more impressionable. I cry easily and I fight quickly. I am provoked by an odd glance or a joke gone wrong. And when I go, I go hard. At the risk of ducking responsibility, where Herb leads, I follow.
When Herb decides to let the echo of Jim's words be prescriptive in his relationship with me, something changes. When he chooses to be kind and patient, I am a different person. His patience with my airhead ways does not enable me to continue to be an airhead; it shifts the energy from both of us being pissed that I am an airhead and gives me the ability to focus on fixing the problem. Because he has created a safe place in which I can change; in which I have a partner who wants the best for me. His service softens me. His kindness brings me to life. I feel safe. I feel like I can be myself. I make jokes and I don't hold my breath out of fear of being teased. I may be teased but I don't respond to it from a fighting stance. Because I know I am loved. And I don't have to defend myself against love. I make mistakes and I know I will be supported. And then I relax. And then I reach out to him. And I become kinder, more peaceful. I become at ease. I serve and I love. I begin to honor and respect. And I thrive. And when I thrive, he thrives.


confessions of a blushing bride

sometimes i am afraid that if i don't know everything that is happening at all times and the purpose and reason behind it all that i will loose control and get hurt.
sometimes i get really scared that i will screw up my marriage because i am raw and immature and filled with piss & vinegar.
sometimes i am mean to herb because i want to be the stronger one. i want to dominate. the bible said it would happen. and it does.
sometimes i am sad that i will never go on another first date again.
and sometimes i am so thankful that i will never go on another first date again.
sometimes i look around my home and feel so thankful for all the warmth here.
sometimes i forget he loves me.
sometimes i want to have sex.
and sometimes i would rather read a max lucado book while sitting in a dentist's chair, listening to kenny g.
sometimes i stare at the diamonds on my finger.
sometimes i forget to assume the best about him.
sometimes i love knowing that if i don't cook dinner, he wouldn't have such a delicious meal.
sometimes i jump up and down and growl and wave my hands above my head because i can't find the words.
sometimes i look in his eyes and see the real man. and i love him.
sometimes i need to be called on my stuff.
and sometimes i just need to be called "lovely".
sometimes it is really hard to be married.
sometimes i want to pack my bags and head to portugal. not to get rid of herb, but just to know that i can do whatever i want whenever i want.
sometimes i am sad that i can't do whatever i want whenever i want.
and then sometimes i remember that what i used to long for was a partner to make decisions with - together.
sometimes i feel like i was voted out of the cool club when i got married.
sometimes i think i am crazy.
sometimes i feel really really undeniably filled with joy and peace.
sometimes i am still angry that my wedding flowers were not the way i envisioned them. i specifically said no light pink.
sometimes i am angry at myself for still thinking about my wedding flowers.
sometimes i want babies.
sometimes i don't. ever. never.
sometimes i do again.
sometimes this all transpires within five minutes.
sometimes i feel fat.
sometimes i don't.
sometimes i really need my man.
sometimes i still look at wedding web sites and magazines.
sometimes i forget to take my birth control pill.
sometimes i love being a wife.
sometimes i am volatile and hard to live with.
sometimes i put lipstick on before herb get's home even though that seems like a 50's housewife thing to do.
sometimes i realize that at the end of the day, my God loves me in it all and despite it all.

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The Stuff

Little glimpses of God . . .
The sweet simple stuff . . .

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Today's word is JANKY

'jan-ke adj.
1. undesirable; intensely repellent or unpleasant, esp. a person.
"People on reality TV are often janky."
2. of inferior quality, worthless, not up to standards
3. junky, diapidated
4. weird, inappropriate
5. tacky, unstylish, badly put together

janked up
1. tacky, messy, out of control

1. in extreme disrepair, sorry state

What is your best use of the word Janky, using a real life example (not made up, hamster) from this past week? The winner gets a gold star and a ride with Herb & Valtee next time you come see us in Denver!


Word of the Day

I just pulled out a card from the box of Slang Flashcards I gave Herb right before we started dating. I would like to think that this wacky gift is what eventually endeared him towards me.

today's word: Crunk
repeat after me: Crunk

Crunk \'krunk' adj crunk-er; crunk-est
1: providing entertainment, amusement, excitement, or enjoyment
example: "His Bar Mitzvah is supposed to be CRUNK"
2: crazy, insane - (syn) wack, postal
example: "All of a sudden, he just got crunk on me and started screaming and shouting!"
3: intoxicated
example: "He got crunk on some nasty port"

So, here's the deal people. Crunk is a tricky word. I would love to tell you to get crunk today if you are adhering to definition number one. Go ahead, get yourself crunk! Wear your hat backwards and sing karaoke! Play Dance Dance Revolution! Get crunk. But I am nervous. What if you prefer to acknowledge definition number three? I really don't want to be your one phone call from an 8 by 8. You know what I am saying? I mean, I hear that they don't always give you one phone call. It is just like that in movies and on TV.

We'll just go with this: Get Crunk in a number one sort of way!

Would You Like Dleeenk? Wodka? Chee-ahs!

Herb's friend Matt has a funny way of approaching people who don't share his language. Much like one might absentmindedly speak to a deaf person, Matt just speaks louder. "Oh, you don't understand English? Well, that's okay! Let me just turn that up a bit for you." And for as often as Herb has poked fun at Matt about this, I found out last week in Berlin that he has a similar approach to bridging the language gap. In reality, I realized this during our honeymoon, but as a blushing bride I decided to keep my giggles to myself. But now, as a seasoned marriage warrior (almost five months, people!) it is time for me to break my silence!

When Herb encounters someone who does not speak English very well, he assists them in the comprehension process by continuing to speak in English, but translating it into the other person's accent! Truly! It is the most endearing thing I have ever watched! You're from China, and don't totally understand English? No problem, Herbie just takes the accent you have when YOU speak English and repeats what he just said. These mad interpersonal skills have kept the tourism company in Germany inviting him back year after year to tend bar for them during the international tourism conference in Berlin. I mean, why wouldn't you want this guy behind your bar?



Speed is a funny thing. Roller coasters, running, the leading indgrediant in most cold medicines. Speed and I don't do well together. But Herb loves speed. And, if it is possible, I am beginning to believe that speed loves Herb. They go together like Baskin and Robbins . . . Bert and Ernie . . . John Travolta and Olivia Newton John.

Herb has this place inside that craves adventure. My friend Andy would tell you that this is exactly what John Eldridge talks about in his book "Wild at Heart". Well, I read that book three times (guess what Andy gave me for my 25th birthday) and I have mixed feelings about it. Andy does not believe in using technology to communicate with your friends, so even if he does read my blog, we don't have to worry about him leaving comments about the book here. Unless of course he does read this blog and decides to leave a comment to spite me. He might do that. He is fiesty.

But regardless of Eldridge's overall beliefs, the man has some great points. Herb has this place that needs to be fast and be strong and try new things. I don't have this place. I like to sit still and go slow and drink iced chai tea. I love iced chai tea. And if you drink it fast all you are left with is brain freeze and a heap of whip cream on top of your melting ice. I like things slow. Herb loves trying new things - even when he knows they are not going to work. It comes from the same place inside him that found great pleasure on our honeymoon when I agreed to take a ferry (aka: boat with an alternative lifestyle), a train, and a bus as we tried to find the lost city of Pompeii. Well, we knew where it was (it has turned into a tourist attraction), we just did not know if we could get there before it closed for the day. And we didn't. Both times we tried, we did not make it. But more than an interest in seeing dead people frozen in scandalous sexual positions under a sheet of ashen lava, Herb just wanted to know if he could figure out how to get from point A to point B using maps and public transportation in a foreign country.

This brings us to that sweet little ride posted at the top. The mini cooper. And as of last Wednesday, OUR mini cooper. To be specific, Walty. That's right. The car has a name and it is Walty. Actually, it is pronounced with a Swiss accent (don't ask) and therefore, sounds like Valtee.

Valtee is one of the remedies for Herb's need for speed. But it is not really about the speed. It is about a question. A question that I don't even really know yet. Mostly because I am not a man, but also because I don't know all of Herb's heart. I am learning. About this place inside of him. And what I know for sure is that getting into this tiny little car makes my sweet man's face look like this:

Our Chairs

Today I found a picture of an Adirondack chair tucked away in a pile of old pictures, notes, and recipes. It is not just any picture of an Adirondack chair. It is the picture I ripped out of a magazine four years ago as a symbol of what I was waiting for . . . of what I wanted to belive to be possible despite the splinters of my parent's love that were still stuck in my fingers and feet.

In the magazine, there was a pair of chairs. Sitting next to each other on a dock overlooking a lake. Enjoying each other. It was an image of belonging. I longed to be a part of a pair. I decided that when I met a man who had his own Adirondack chair, I would know he was "the one". He would pull his chair up next to the one I claimed from the pile of mementos and gifts that my dad left behind during the divorce. He would be the one to sit with me at the end of the day and ask the important questions. He would be the one that would sit quietly and watch the world go by with me.This image became a symbol of hope for me.

I tore out the page, but accidentally ripped out one of the chairs. The remaining lone chair was tucked into the slats of the old white picket fence that I used for a head board. A cultural symbol of domestic bliss, the weather-worn and imperfect fence ironically held my dream of love. Eventually, the picture blended into its surroundings. But every once in a while, when I noticed it, I smiled. I believed my chair guy would show up eventually. I remained hopeful.

I later found out that my chair picture was in the "love corner" of my house. Apparently if you believe in the principles of Fung Shui, there is a corner of your home that symbolizes your romantic life. Whatever sits in that corner represents the state of your love life. Or something.

As I told my friend Megan about the way things were beginning to change in my relationship with "my friend Herb" I said, "But it will never work out . . . he has a double Adirondack chair on his front porch. Two chairs attached to each other!"
Megan: "What?"
Me: "Well, he already has his life pulled together with a perfect little corner carved out for a wife to slide in right next to him. I already have my own damn Adirondack chair. I don't want to sit in his."
I was dead serious.
Megan: "This will make a cute story to tell him when you get married."
She was dead serious too.

The chair had become a symbol of my individuality. It was my person. I waited for years for someone else to slide up next to me with his chair and share the view and maybe a cup of tea. My chair was just that . . . it was mine. Mine. And at any time, I could pull my chair away. I was so scared of what might happen if I slid into Herb's double chair. What would happen to "me". Who would I be then?

Protecting my individuality has been a challenge during these past months. I find myself needing desperately to be heard; to know that my voice matters. All this time, I have longed to be a part of something bigger than myself. But the reality is that it is hard. I love saying "we", but sometimes, I have to wonder where to put "me".


Harjes Haus Fashion Week - 2006 Spring Collection

Yes friends, you have it right. Those are goldfish print European swim trunks.
Get excited.


After My Trip to the Jewish History Museum

cold and snowy day
sad flakes fall like jews who died
too many to count


Hypothetically Speaking: Dirty Criminal

Let's imagine that I boarded a train in Germany today without paying for my ticket.
Maybe it was because I was cold.
Maybe it was the hunger knawing away at my stomach lining.
Maybe my confusion about which train to board can be blamed.
Maybe the fact that I spent the morning at an art museum in which every piece portrayed menlancholy.
Seven hudred years worth of art work focused on the biggest thorn in my flesh?
All just hanging there on the walls, taunting me.

I knew I had not paid for my ticket.
I knew I needed to pay for a ticket to ride the train.
I did not care.
I don't know why.
When the man on the train called for tickets to be checked, I pulled out an old ticket.
I knew it was an old ticket.
I avoided eye contact.
I held the ticket upside down.
He didn't fall for it.
The time was marked.
The ticket was expired.

At the next stop, I bounced off the train and didn't look back.
He followed me.
Apparently, "In Germany, when you fail to purchase a ticket, you must pay the price."
I tried playing the stupid famale card.
I tried playing the dumb American card.
He didn't try very hard to not give me a ticket.
I tried to explain that I couldn't pay him 40 euros for a ticket.
I told him it was my first time in Germany.
I used my big blue Precious Moments eyes to stare at him in silence.
I almost walked away.
Truly, I believed this was negotiable.

He took a page out of a good parenting book.
And like any adult speaking to someone acting like a toddler, he gave me two choices.
He said I could pay him 40 euros or I could pay more to the police when they arrived.
I found 40 euros. Magic.

I may have been feeling just a little bit overdramatic.
I may have called Herb from the train car where my 40 euro violation granted me a seat for the next two hours.
Hey, thanks.
I may have exagerated what happened.
He may have thought that I was held up and harrassed by three German hoodlams running rampant on the train system.
He may have been under the impression that these men were threatening (beautiful) young American women and conning them out of money.
I may have underemphasized the fact that it was my fault.
I may have undercommunicated the fact that it was the man's job to check tickets and collect fines from hoodlums.

For the rest of the afternoon I may have had unrealistic fantasies that everyone who I passed by knew I was in trouble.
They all knew I tried to ride the train for free.
They were all ready to arrest me if they needed to.


All it Takes is a Reason

When I was in elementary school, going to McDonalds for dinner was only second to a trip to Disney World. I have more than one significant memory from childhood that revolves around a trip to McDonalds. More than the day I gathered all of my loose change in a yellow net sock and waved it in front of my mother's face as a silent plea to "PLEEEASE let us go to the grand opening of the new McDonalds at the top of the neighborhood because everyone from school will be there and my third grade imagination is unable to comprehend that the $6.58 I have gathered in my sock will not help our financial situation or that you might already have dinner planned or how I will survive tomorrow's day at school if I don't make an appearance!", is the day of the drive thru surprise. It was just another round through the new McDonalds drive thru until my mom's tan station wagon rounded the corner and there stood a woman who was preparing herself to change the world as I knew it. My mother slowed down and rolled down the window. Never before had we received this kind of attention at the drive through. "Welcome to McDonalds. Can I introduce you to the newest item on our menu?" As I slipped the glimmering, golden nugget off of the toothpick and onto my tongue, I smiled with delight. A soft, boneless piece of chicken coated in breading and deep fried to perfection. At this moment I knew I would never again order a hamburger. And for at least ten more years, I didn't. And why would you when you have the opportunity to dip deep fried meat into honey or ketchup.

It turns out that years of choosing the McNugget over salads and grilled chicken have caught up with me. Since I turned 25, I have been struggling to stay awake and carry on stimulating conversations. It is as though that week of July 11, 2002 my body said, "Enough is enough! You have mistreated me for far too long! We are finished!" I can still remember the moment the fried food empire that my body had become came crashing down around me. My roommate was out of town and asked me to make sure her cat was fed in her absence. These were the days prior to my stint living with a cat named Burp who had a personal mission to ruin my life, so I was happy to oblige. Burp's owner decided after year one that her feline friend was more likely to receive a one way train ticket to Uzbekistan than he was to receive three square meals a day from me. But before Burp, there was Pepper. Sweet Pepper. Aside from her odd tendency to practice Brittany Spears routines when Alana was not home, Pepper was a good cat. She never played her music too loud, even when she was practicing a routine. Most of the time she just sat quietly in her whicker rocking chair and knitted us all sweaters to wear. My only real complaint is that she refused to learn how to knit me a hat. But even that is understandable. Cats don't have opposable thumbs and hats are tricky. Burp, on the other hand used to be an Arab Dictator named Habib. That being said, I really should not blame him for his habit of watching me undress. He had a trained ear. As the zipper of my jeans came down, he would tear through the house and into my bedroom to watch the show. Are you catching onto my strange habit of personifying cats? This is a habit that is reserved for cats alone.

But back to the McNugget girl and the slow decomposition of my health. I stood in the basement two days before my 25th birthday. I noticed that ants had gathered around Pepper's cat food. Not just ants. Ants. Big, fat, "A Bug's Life" sort of ants. And I burst into tears. Sobbing in the basement over ants in the cat food. From that point forward, I have felt tired and easily agitated. That was nearly four years ago. I have not totally allowed these symptoms to run rampant. I have tried talking to doctors about it. But finding a straightforward answer to a murky question is not a fair expectation. So I when I failed to receive quick and easy answers, I avoided and adapted.

Then along came Herb. Not exactly a knight in shining armor or a fairy godmother with a magic wand. That would be fabulous, but we try to stay away from "saving" each other. Despite his lack of fairy dust, he is a wonderful cheerleader. He wants me to be healthy. And now that I have somebody to take care of and eventually raise children with, I want to be healthy. It matters now. It is amazing how easily we can avoid something until we have a big enough reason to approach it. Making a lifelong commitment to Herb motivated me to make sure I have a long life to commit. In effort to turn this McDonalds train around, we went to the doctor last week to try and get some consistent, solid help. It was scary. Sometimes, I would rather not know what is going on. It helps me stay in denial. What is it about having someone on your team that helps your find the courage to ask the hard questions? It won't change the answers, but it makes them easier to carry. I am thankful.

Where I Am

This week I am in Berlin. I love Berlin. I have to admit that I did not want to come on this trip. I wanted to stay snug in my home in Denver. I truly become a hermit between the months of November and March. It is unfortunate, seeing how these months comprise nearly half of the year. Living life when it is cold and the sun sinks quickly and comes up slowly makes me tired. I feel weak and less courageous. As a therapist, I know there is a diagnosis for this. But regardless of where I fit into the diagnostic manual, I know this about myself. I try to shove 12 months of life into the seven months I enjoy. But this month, I found myself taking chances and a long overseas flight . . . new food, new language, new people.
Today, I visited the Old National Museum in Berlin. This is a weird city. Did you know that the Berlin wall did not divide East and West Germany during the Cold War? It divided East and West Berlin . . . . which sits in what once was the heart of East (communist) Germany. West (democratic) Germany took such pride in their beloved Berlin that they insisted the city be saved. They were given half. Hence the wall. What a bizarre history. We visited a man's personal art collection yesterday, consisting mostly of Picasso, Klee, and Matisse. Today I took a subway to see one room in the Old National Gallery. The beautiful part? I felt so free to march up to the second floor, breeze past hundrads of years of paintings until I found the French Impressionists. No guilt. No turning back. I made a decision that I didn't care about the rest and I didn't feel the pressure to care.

Now I am sitting in a place called Coffee Connection. I love being in another country because everything is so new and interesting. The first time I left the United States, I went to Tiajuana Mexico - about three feet south of San Diego. And yet everything was so fascinating. Orange Fanta in a glass bottle on the dirt streets tasted like nector. Yesterday, I pointed out a "huge paper store" to Herb as we wizzed around Berlin in a cab. "What was it called?" he asked. "I don't want to tell you. McPaper." I heard a giggle from our German counterparts in the cab. "Those are everywhere!" Best I can figure, they are the German equivelant to Hallmark. Oh well. As I sit in Coffee Connection, I found myself hoping that I was not in Europe's version of Starbucks. "Please oh please let me be cooler than being the girl who saves her Burger King wrapper because it is in Spanish. PLLLLLEAAASE!" So, I did what any traveling American would do. I googled the coffee shop that I sat in.
Good news. It is original. Just one. Found only here. What luck!


Mission: Two Week Knock-Up

Four days seems to be our rhythm. A fight every four days. Whatever. We have been married four months (as of tomorrow) so I guess if you are looking at the numbers it all makes sense. But it is tiring sometimes. Today, I had to have Herb remind me why he likes me. Maybe I needed him to remind me so I could remind him why he likes me. Nevertheless, we are leaving for a "fun trip to europe" tomorrow and while this is by no means something to complain about, I really don't want to fight on vacation and I don't think we are capable of that quiet yet. Please pray for pleasant suprises.

I told Herb that we would know our relationship is stable enough to sustain the life and rearing of a child the first time we can make it two consecutive weeks without a major blowout. So, eventually, that is what we are going for. In my plan of plans, the next 11 days will go without a hitch and then we can chew eachother out on day 12. That way, Europe is fun but we don't have to start compromising on baby room decor so early in our relationship.


I Don't Want to Fit In Anyway!

When I was in elementary school, friends were hard to find because I was a bit on the clumbsy side. It didn't help that I failed to practice the use of logic. Like the time I leaned forward to talk to somebody and rested my elbow on Dominique Door's pencil box. The cardboard box crushed beneath my third-grade elbow. In the sixth grade, I found the size of Candy Detman's hoop earrings to be remarkable. My mother never would have let me out of the house wearing those. "Look!", I exclaimed, "these things are the size of bracelets!" In hindsight, I probably should not have demonstrated my hypothesis. I think she was actually hurt; there was a little blood involved.
In middle school, I clamed up a little bit. I was overwhelmed by the intensity of the race to be popular. "Note to self: leather ballet-like slip on's with a large ugly bow are popular. Best if worn in gold lame or bright purple. Check. When did these become popular? We didn't wear these at River Bend Elementary!" My uncertainty about where I fit in was cleared up when a girl I hardly new but whose name I believe began with an "M" approached me in the social studies wing and said, "Hey girl, how come nobody likes you?" If I wasn't sure what people thought before, it was clear now. I think her name was Marriah. I guess Marriah didn't notice my new pink Sam and Libby's. Oh well.
In high school, things began to look up. I started making friends, though most of them went to a different high school so I only saw them on weekend nights or at church. By college my world had changed. I learned how to save a joke after it bombed and this became a mainstay in my little bag of tricks. People don't like people who tell dumb jokes. But people love people who can save a dumb joke, even if it requires a little self-deprecation to do so. No problem! I had been practicing self-deprecation for years - I had just never thought of making it funny. Now armed with a sense of humor and tougher skin, I began to branch out. I made friends everywhere I went. As it turned out, people did like me.
By the time I met Herb, I had a pattern established. I realized that making it to every party or get together did not fill the deep hole of loneliness inside. No more "three parties in one night" for this girl. Not worth it. I chose my friends carefully and only accepted plans I truly wanted to have. My friends were plentiful.
The catch: none of them knew each other. There was no home base. No core. Nobody to call and say "What are we doing?" Plans were made weeks in advance; scheduled neatly between work and yoga class. Coffee dates erased as easily as they were penciled in. Margaritas and guacamole became the glue that held friendships together. They were the motivation to make sure we got together at least once every three weeks where we sat knee to knee for two hours that were never long enough while we quickly recounted the vital stats to each other:
Her: "Work?" Me: "Good."
Me: "Boys?" Her: "Maybe. There is this one . . . but he never called."
Her: "Boys?" Me: "There is this one . . . okay, we have never actually talked."
Her: "Family?" Me: "Fine."
Me: "Roommates?" Her: "Haven't killed her." Me: "Good job. I feel like you are really growing!"


With at least 6 of these "intimate" girlfriendships in my back pocket at all times, paired with one or two male friends that made good stand in dates and inserted the appropriate, "You're a beautiful woman, and though WE never worked out, some guy is going to be so lucky to have you" comments in all the right places, I was astonished with how lonely I felt. A lone ranger. I rode down the river with plenty of people, but at the end of the day we went our own directions and I went home to my dinners for one. Yet, you can only imagine my defensiveness when one of the wiser, older men I worked with suggested, "You are lonely because you don't have a community." To which I replied, "WHAAAAAT! You have no idea what you are talking about. I have more friends than you would know what to do with! That is just ridiculous."

It turns out he was right. I hate being wrong. I didn't have community. But I married a man who did. Good I guess. I have learned to commit to a group of people. My friends all know each other. Words like consistancy fit here. But what do you do with your margarita girls? And what do you do with the five or six people that all know you AND each other? That is intimidating and annoying and powerless. How do you see the same person four or five times a week? How do you convince your husband it is important to hang out with your "once a month friends" because "yes we DO have a relationship even though we harldly ever talk or see each other" and "it has changed since you have been in the picture - you take up more of my time and that is why I don't see her anymore" and "it's not MY fault that I am capable of sustaining a friendship with one drink a month and you need to see yours everyday, I must be more evolved" . . .


It was a tremendous victory! A landslide of triumph! A noteworthy landmark in the marriage of the Harji!

The Setting: The Harjes Haus kitchen table. Candles. Wine. A homemade dinner. No special occasion, I am just that kind of wife.

The Mood: Light, good-humored, healing companionship after a long day out in the big bad world . . . until . . .

The Catch: Herb's good-humor innocently and unintentionally transformed into a shiny, newly sharpened arrow pointed directly at the white underbelly of Cara's insecurities and sensitivities.

The Shift in Conversation:
C - "Okay, I have to tell you - when you say that, it makes me feel XYZ!"
H - "But that is not what I meant."
C - "But that is how I felt."
H - "But that is not what I meant."
C - (crying) "But that is what I felt."

You get the idea.

The Victorious Turn of Events: Some 15 minutes later we sat knee to knee on the living room rug, playfully launching "your mamma jokes" across our chosen flat surface for our favorite card game. Spit. I love Spit. I don't know if that is the official name of the game, but it is what Amy and I affectionately called it while we were growing up. Basically, a two-person free for all version of solitaire. But much faster. Love it.

C - "Hey, we rock!"
H - "Why?"
C - "That fight lasted less than 15 minutes. I think that is a record for us."
H - "Of course it only last 15 minutes, there was nothing to fight about."
C - (sexy smile inserted here to distract from any facial distortions which might imply that I am using will power and grace to ignore sublte suggestion that I had perhaps become upset without reason or purpose)
"Come on, you and I both know that we are capable of turning that 15 minutes into three hours!"

It is true. When you mix two head-strong, articulate, expressive, somewhat prideful (him a tad more than me), very sensitive (me a tad more than him), and creative people, you have Frankenstiened yourself a MacGyver in the art of arguing. Give MacGyver a shoe string, a paper clip, and a package of Big League chewing gum and he will give you a pair of roller skates with a rocket pack on the back. Give Herb and I a dirty look, a hypocritical statement, and low-blood sugar and you have yourself a WWII reenactment on your living room floor.

But not this time. And I would like to give my childhood pal, Spit, some of the credit. Sure, Herb brought some "let me ask her what she means instead of telling her what she means" to the table. Of course, I was able to muster some, "come on, give the guy a break because he loves you and is not being a jerk on purpose". But then there was Spit. Unassuming and undemanding. Quietly folded in his box. All 52 parts folded neatly, sitting quietly in the corner. Without judgment, he beckoned us from his place on the kitchen counter, "Hey, you wanna have some fun? Fun is . . . well, more fun than fighting."

I like having a game that we share. In my constant monitoring of other marriages for ways to beat the daunting divorce statistics, I stole this one from the children's pastor at our church. The church web site states that "Jared and his wife enjoy long walks on the beach, parasailing, and playing Scrabble together". Okay, I have no idea if they enjoy long walks on the beach or parasailing, but I remember that they love playing Scrabble together. She always beats him, but he loves it. It is their thing. So during our engagement, I decided, "We need a thing." Of course, you can't force your "thing". Not that I haven't tried.

But it turns out I hate playing Scrabble with Herb. Here's why . . .

a) He is smarter than me. Well, perhaps not smarter, but he has a longer attention span and therefore gives more time and attention to his letter tiles, whereas I am content to throw out "h - a - t . . . HAT! Eight points, sucker!" before returning to the latest edition of Cooking Light while he composes words like "quail" and "petulant". I just don't care.

b) Scrabble is no fun with two people. You have to be quiet while it is the other person's turn so they can think of a combination of letters that will inevitably cause you to eat crow. So what if you know the top 100 Scrabble words that start with "xq"?

But Spit. Ahh, Spit. There is plenty of room for smack talking, eye rolling, name calling, card throwing, and bad-assing. We found our thing on accident during the honeymoon. It turns out that 10 days in a secluded Italian village will drive you crazy in a hurry if you don't have one or two choices outside of playing "You're schmoopie . . . NOOOO, YOU'RE schmoopie", staring into each others eyes, bubble baths, and sex. It is true. You need something to make you laugh. For us, it was Spit. And it quickly became "our thing".