Category Archives: Lessons

High School Dances and Crop Tops

Me: “The night before Spirit Week I always get self-conscious.”

Paul: “Why? About what?”

Me: “Dressing up.  I worry other teachers will think I’m a fool and my students will think I’m lame.”

Paul looked me straight in the eye and replied, “Katie, go all out.  Haters gonna hate.”

I exploded into laughter and then resolved to do just that.  Go. All. Out.

Because Paul was right.  Haters gonna hate.  So I should be myself and look a fool and not care what others are thinking about me or whispering to their friends about their teacher who has a little too much school spirit.  I shouldn’t just wear a cute blue shirt on class color day.  No, I should wear a blue sequin top with blue pants and a blue cardigan and a blue necklace with blue shoes.  Heck, I might as well top it off with Paul’s blue hard hat.  So I went to school looking like this.IMG_3272

I didn’t care about the haters who might think I am a desperate adult longing to be young again and I didn’t care that it was my turn to lead staff devotions though I looked like Smurfette heading to the club.  Hello my name is Katie Van Dyk and I like to wear weird costumes.  I’m owning it now.

But I didn’t in high school.

It wasn’t cool to wear costumes to school when I was in high school so I never did.  Didn’t want to draw too much attention to myself.  I did, however, wear tube tops with overalls because somehow that outfit was “cool” and I would wear just about anything to fit in.

When flipping through scrapbooks from the late 90’s, I don’t see Katie Hardeman, proud individual who knows who she is and doesn’t give a rip about what others say about her.  No, I see Katie Hardeman, still figuring out what’s important to her, best friends with Stefanie Schilling who is popular and cool and therefore Katie’s model for what to wear….no matter how ridiculous:IMG_3336

Tube tops?

Crop tops?

Really, Katie?  Really?

And you roll your eyes at girls today who wear short shirts.  You were there once too.  You weren’t trying to be scandalous.  You were just trying to be stylish and fit in, so you borrowed your older sister’s tiny top. (Sorry, Heid.  How’s it feel under that bus?)

Don’t worry, Katie, you’ll learn.  You’ll learn that showing your belly button in public is only okay when wearing a bathing suit.  And you’ll learn that some fashion trends just need to be ignored.  You’ll also learn to lather on the sunblock.  Was it really necessary to get so tan?

Throughout Spirit Week last week, I was reminded how much high schoolers want to fit in and how much they worry about the haters.  They all WANT to be unique individuals but the fact that they have the same clothes and haircuts as all their friends suggests they have a long way to go before they stop caring about the crowd.

I get it.  I was there not too long ago.  If you stand out too much, people will laugh at you and the fear of mockery and rejection is multiplied by a thousand when you’re in high school.  Kids will do and say and wear ridiculous things just to be cool (see above pictures).  Paul and I witnessed this tendency as we chaperoned the Homecoming dance on Friday.

High school dancing is dramatically different from adult dancing.  The main difference, other than the volume of music being at a reasonable decimal, is that when adults get on a dance floor, they actually dance.  High schoolers jump and push and scream and wave their arms around, but they don’t do much actual dancing.  I took a video of the dance/jump-fest and showed it to my 8-year old nephew who said, “Why is everyone just jumping?  Don’t they dance?”

No, Vander, they don’t. IMG_3320

I’m convinced this jumping phenomenon is because less than 5 % of the population actually knows how to dance well.  The rest of us, and I am definitely in the 95% category,  have no clue what we’re doing with our limbs when we’re “dancing.”  This is why dance circles are created and the 5 % jump in the middle to show off their skills, while the rest of us pray to baby Jesus that none of our idiot friends shove us to the center of the circle.  My.  Worst.  Nightmare.

In high school, you compensate for your lack of dancing skills by copying everyone else.  This way so no one realizes your lack of rhythm or how little control you actually have of your hips.  So when everyone else jumps and bobs their heads and lifts their arms, you follow suit.

But then you grow up and you stop trying to look cool.

Eventually I stopped dressing like Stefanie.  In fact, after college it was comical how different we had become.  We’d go to the movies, Stefanie in high heels and me in sweatpants.  Seriously.  We had both realized who we were by that point and we dressed the part.

One of the great things about getting older is that you can finally stop trying to impress people.  You know who you are so it doesn’t matter what Joe Schmoe over there thinks of you.  This is why parents of teenagers embarrass their children so easily.  This is also why adults who enjoy dancing but are terrible at it (people like me) can jiggle like an idiot on the dance floor, having a grand ol’ time.  At Chris and Lindsay’s wedding, a stranger told Paul and I that we win for “most entertaining couple on the dance floor.”  We knew this was not exactly a compliment.  But we danced hard that night and didn’t care that small town Texas-folks had a good laugh at our expense.

There is great freedom that comes with adulthood (along with laugh lines and poor vision)- Freedom to truly be yourself and stop caring about the haters. Don’t get me wrong, I still care to some degree.  I needed a pep talk from my husband before I dressed up like a fool at work.  But I definitely care less about others’ opinions than I did 10 years ago.

While I miss my teenage metabolism and smooth skin, I most certainly do NOT miss the days when I was still figuring out who I wanted to be and what I wanted to be about.   In high school, it’s easy to let others tell you who you are and who you should be.  It’s much harder to be original and confident and different from the crowd.

The older I get, the more my identity becomes cemented.  I know who I am. I am Katie Van Dyk, lover of Jesus, wearer of costumes.  So I will hold my head up high on hippie day:IMG_3330

and I will ride a tricycle through the halls while wearing a kimono simply because it’s fun.

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However, I still often forget who I am and need reminders.

I need to continually be reading the Bible and talking to God to ensure that He is the one defining me, not the people around me.  He tells me who I am and what I’m about.  Not my colleagues or my students.  Not my even my family or my friends.  Only God knows the insides of my soul and only He gets to tell me how to live.

It also helps that when I feel self-conscious, I have a husband who reminds me, “Haters gonna hate.”

Lessons From a Newlywed

On Sunday Paul and I celebrated our first anniversary.  We ate Greek food for lunch and reminisced about our honeymoon, then had donuts for dinner because we are sugar addicts and our “wedding cake” was a tower of donuts.vandyk09202014-984

We drank our “wedding wine” which we had gotten as a gift from the Thomas’ and had meant to drink on our wedding night, but had forgotten about until now.  We also watched our wedding video and reflected on our first year as husband and wife.  I told Paul I had been keeping a list of lessons I’ve learned in our first year of marriage and asked him what he’s learned.  His response?

“I’ve learned a lot about the menstrual cycle.”

Geeze Louise.  I guess I can’t fault him for his honesty.

Here’s my list of 20 things I’ve learned during our first year of marriage:

1- I did not marry myself.

I used to think I would marry someone very similar to me.  Perhaps it was the narcissist in me, but I always assumed I would marry the male version of myself.  The longer we’re married, the clearer it becomes that Paul and I are different.  So very different.  And boy is that a good thing.

If we both had my sense of direction, we’d be perpetually lost.  If we both spent money like I do, we’d be utterly broke.  (But oh the jeans we would have…) Vice versa, if we both ate ice-cream as often as Paul wants to and worked out as rarely as he prefers, we’d both gain 100 pounds.  If we both cleaned as meticulously and slowly as he does, the house would never get cleaned.

So it’s a wonderful thing that we are so different and our differences compliment each other.  Still, I’ve been shocked by how many times I’ve had to tell myself this year, “He’s not you, Katie.  Let Paul be Paul.  You LOVE Paul.”

And I do.  I really really do.  But sometimes I love Katie even more.  Gulp.  Marriage has definitely shone a spotlight on my selfish heart.  I’m finally seeing why married people are always talking about how marriage refines you and teaches you how to be holy and more like Jesus.

Case in point: I buy cinnamon raisin bagels now.  This is a big deal because you guys, I HATE raisins. Perhaps your recall this not-so-friendly letter  I wrote to them.  But Paul loves these bagels and I love him, so I buy the cinnamon raisin bagels.  And I eat them.  And I don’t even mind that much.  See, I’m totally like Jesus now.

Seriously though, Paul is not me and learning to love him more than I love myself requires the help of the Holy Spirit.  I’m sure this is a lesson I’ll have to learn and relearn over and over again over the course of our marriage.

2- Football season lasts WAY longer than I ever imagined.

I knew there was Monday Night Football and I had heard of Sunday Night Football, but Thursday Night Football?  And Friday Night Football?  You have GOT to be kidding me!  It never ends.  Four nights a week?  Isn’t that a bit RIDICULOUS? Are women nation-wide rolling their eyes at this as much as I am?

I have also learned that the drone of football commentators puts me right to sleep.  The other night we were watching the Giants and the Cowboys and I told myself, “Katie, be a good wife.  Pay attention to this whole last quarter”  And I did.  I was alert and asking questions… that is until the very last few plays of the game.  I saw Eli throw the ball away and refuse to take the sack.  (Silly Eli) Paul taught me this was a horrible decision, so I shook my head at Eli but then I promptly fell asleep on Paul’s shoulder, while apparently the Cowboys scored again in the last few seconds.

So much for being a good, supportive wife interested in the things that interest her husband….

* I let Paul proof-read this post to ensure I wasn’t embarrassing him.  He said I needed to add that we don’t just watch football.  In fact, just yesterday I introduced him to Gilmore Girls and he was very interested in the Lorelai, Luke, and Christopher fiasco and actually asked questions about Jess and Dean.  See, he loves me too.

3-There is a steep learning curve when it comes to cooking.

When I was just feeding myself, I ate out a lot and fed myself lots of grilled cheese sandwiches and cereal.  Don’t get me wrong, Paul and I often have Sunday night cereal, but I’ve also been trying my hand at cooking and let’s just say our smoke detectors have been quite active during this first year of marriage.

Despite my many mishaps on the stove, I’ve found it is so much more enjoyable to cook for someone else- especially someone else who loves EVERYTHING you put on the table even though you know some of those Pinterest recipes were hardcore fails.  The first time I tried to cook brussel sprouts, I turned them black and my first attempt at corn on the cob made me literally gag.  You don’t even want to know what happened with the huevos rancheros and oh man, my first chicken pot pie was a lumpy disaster:

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4- I have to tell my husband when he hurts my feelings.

Ugh.  I HATE this.  I am an introvert and tend to internalize my feelings rather than share them, but I’m learning that this just doesn’t work in marriage.  If I’m upset with Paul, I can’t expect him to decode my less-than-normal-eye-contact and shorter-than-typical-responses to mean, “I am really upset right now and need you to ask me about it.”

It’s just not fair to him.

When I lived with girls, they could pick up on these silent cues.  Jenny used to know just by how I entered the room if something was a little off.  I think this must be a secret girl language in which guys can never be fully fluent.  So I have to translate for Paul.

Jen Hatmaker mentions this in her new book For the Love, which I HIGHLY recommend to all women.  Seriously, go on Amazon and buy this book right now.  In her chapter about marriage she writes this, “A few years ago, I nursed some hidden resentments in silence, but they came out sideways as these things always do…My resentment built a stone wall, but voicing it began crumbling the divide.  Unattended hurt, anger, and bitterness can destroy even the best marriage.  Lean honestly into every hard place, each tender spot, because truthfulness hurts for a minute but silence is the kill shot.”

I underlined this part because I see how prone I am to keeping silent about hurts, assuming I’ll get over it eventually.  But sometimes I don’t get over it and that hurt lingers and festers and pretty soon we’ve got a nasty infected wound on our hands.  So I’m learning to not keep silent, to tell Paul when he unintentionally hurts my feelings.   I’m learning to initiate those hard conversations rather than sneak off to Target and “deal with it later” because talking about it now may be painful, but this kind of honesty is strengthening our marriage.

5- Boys take WAY longer on the toilet than girls do.

I thought it was just Paul, but after I lamented to my girlfriends about sharing a toilet with the world’s slowest pooper, I learned that most men just suck at pooping.  Women?  We get in and get out.  Quick.  Efficient.  Ain’t nobody got time to relax on the pot.

But men?  They bring reading material.  Seriously.  I always thought that was just a joke until I caught Paul scrolling through ESPN on his phone while I did the pee dance outside the door.

One of the most valuable lessons I have learned this year is to call dibs on the crapper.  I am still dreading the day when I just can’t wait for Mr. Turtle-Turder to finish his business and then I’ll have to pop and squat in our own backyard…

6- The Star Wars movies are just as boring as I always thought they would be.

Football commentators and Star Wars films: two sure-fire ways to knock me right out. Oh and sports radio.  Don’t get me started on sports radio.

7- Marriage has no room for “I told you so’s” but ample space for, “You were rights.”

I love being right.  I used to think I was right most of the time.  And then I got married.

Turns out I’ve been mispronouncing “albeit” and “realtor” all these years.  Apple maps really is more reliable than Google maps.  And you actually aren’t supposed to use Draino in toilets.  I thought it would be harder to admit when I am wrong, but Paul is so gracious (usually) that he makes it easy to admit, “You were right.”

Plus, when he’s right, he has never once said, “Told ya so.”  Those words are so full of pride and serve no purpose other than to stroke one’s own ego.   And Paul never uses them.  So when I actually am right about something (because this does happen on occasion), I’m not tempted to lord it over Paul or fling those hurtful words at him because he’s never flung them at me.  I hope we keep it this way.

8- Your first conversation with your new neighbor should not be asking him to settle a disagreement.

The poor guy was just trying to take out the trash and he was accosted by Paul and I asking him if he thought CHOCOLATE rhymes with OMELET.  Clearly, the two do not rhyme.  Clearly.  So when he agreed with Paul that these two obviously un-rhyming words rhyme, I let him know that he too was wrong.

Apparently I’m still working on the whole, “need to be right” thing.

We’ve noticed that said neighbor now waits to put out the trash cans until we’re in bed.

9- Snuggling with a human is awesome.

Turns out spooning your dog is not nearly as fun as spooning your husband.

10- One of the best things you can do to strengthen a marriage is read the Bible together and pray together.

Our pastor, mentors, and even a parent of one of my students encouraged us to do this and they were right. Gosh were they right! Growing together spiritually has been so neat and so necessary.

I used to think of my relationship with God as something so private and personal that before Paul proposed, I confessed to a friend I was worried marriage would change my relationship with God.  Erica assured me it wouldn’t.  God would still be God and I would still be Katie.  He would still know my heart better than Paul does and better than even I do.  But now each day I get to talk to Him and wonder about Him with my very best friend.  And it is making all the difference.

11- Though you technically do have 1 year to send out your wedding thank-you’s, you shouldn’t wait until the last month.

Confession: I sent my mom and grandma their thank-you’s in December and then didn’t write another one until summer.  I knew this strategy would buy me some time, but then my cousin Jenise got married and she sent me a thank-you BEFORE her wedding even happened.  (Freaking Jenise!)

Newly motivated, I set out to write all the thank-you’s to family I would see at Jenise’s wedding.  And then I kept going and was making good progress, but summer was so fun and my hand started cramping and we got hooked on House of Cards.  You know… typical obstacles of a life-long procrastinator.

But listen, nobody wants to spend their anniversary weekend writing thank-you notes, so take a lesson from me and send them out sooner rather than later.

12- Some people are truly grossed out when you drink milk straight from the carton. 

13- The Seahawks are a really big deal.

Considering Paul had a nightmare last night that he was on the team and Marshawn Lynch was traded and the whole team, Paul included, was in literal tears, I think it’s safe to say that my husband is a little obsessed.

My friend Lesley is also married to a Seahawks fanatic and she recently gave me some wonderful marriage advice: “Put the Seahawk’s schedule into your calendar.”

I may not care when they’re playing, but my husband sure does.  And what is important to him has become important to me.  Two becoming one and all that.

14- The best time to scare someone is when they don’t know you’re at home.

15- Being married means you now have a lifelong filter in place.

I tell Paul when he’s talking about boring topics (seriously, nobody cares about the differences between alligators and crocodiles!), and he tells me when I’m over-sharing.  For instance, in order to get our house, we wrote a letter to the realtor explaining why we wanted this house so much and why she should choose us instead of the 14 others who put in offers.  I let Paul proof-read the letter and I honestly don’t remember why I wrote this, but I remember him saying, “Maybe you shouldn’t mention “diarrhea” in the letter.

I’m pretty sure I pushed back with something like, “She should know the real me, Paul.  I’m not ashamed.” But in the end, I listened to him and deleted the diarrhea and we got the house.

See.  Lifelong filters can be very helpful.

16- Our pastor was right about marrying a stranger.

During our wedding ceremony, Pastor Joel warned us that there would be some mornings we would wake up, look at our spouse and think, “Who are you?”

I only met Paul in 2014, but we talked so much while we were dating, I kind of thought I knew most everything there was to know about him.  But just this past weekend I learned that the first “I like you” note he received was from a girl named Katie.  And in college he was on student government for his dorm because he created a new position called the “Minister of Truth” and ran unopposed. And he doesn’t like french rolls?!?

How can you not like french rolls?  They’re so delicious and so perfect for a hot ham n cheese.  Our future children will eat french rolls and they will love them. But I digress.  My point is that in one weekend I learned three new things about this man I spend every day and night with.  What else don’t I know? I suppose we’ll spend the rest of our lives figuring that out.

17- It’s tough to find privacy to pick your nose when you’re married.

He catches me all the time.  I’m always a little embarrassed and then I’m like, “Wait, you’re my husband.  You can see the rolled up boogers on the nightstand without me blushing.”

18- People spend money in very different ways.

We knew this was going to be a problem.  We looked at the different ways we were raised to view money and the different ways we use it and before we even got engaged, we knew there were going to be issues.

Bottom line: I’m a spender and he’s a saver.

This typically works out quite well.  Yin and yang and all that.  But sometimes the yin gets a little pissed at the yang because he insists on camping rather than splurging on a hotel room and thinks Christmas decorations aren’t that important.

What a Scrooge! Amiright?  Don’t worry, no hidden resentments here.  We’ve had it out and will probably continue to have it out, but we’re determined to not let our different views of money chip away at our marriage.  When we start having kids though, they will certainly know you go to Mom if you need twenty bucks.

19- When sorrow spills into your lives, you must cling to Jesus and to each other.

Unfortunately it seems like few things make a relationship stronger than storms.  I think when you weather a storm with another person, you either come out ragged and broken apart or devastated but wrapped in each other’s arms and stronger than before.  How you come out of a storm is determined by whom you cling to when the waves get rough and life’s winds blow strong.

Thankfully, Paul and I have clung to one another and to Jesus.  Paul knows when I’m hurting and will hug me and bake me a cake shaped like a cat with a cigarette. IMG_1941

But other times, the wounds are too deep for cake.

It is in those moments that he points me to Jesus and reminds me to cling to Him.  When I’m too broken to pray, Paul reminds me of God’s faithfulness.  When I’m too sad to smile, Paul reminds me of the joy we have regardless of life’s circumstances.   He will sit in the center of the sadness with me and cry, but always acts as a compass pointing us back to our Savior.

I would never choose to have sorrow in my life, but I am grateful for the ways it has cemented Paul and I together.

 20- Some nights call for wigs, giant chocolate chip cookies, and mariachi music.

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Robert Fulghum said it best when he wrote: “We’re all a little weird. And life is a little weird. And when we find someone whose weirdness is compatible with ours, we join up with them and fall into mutually satisfying weirdness—and call it love—true love.”

I have certainly found my true love.

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Those of you married for 10 years, or 20 or 30 or anything more than just 1 are probably shaking your heads at me.  “Oh, Katie, sweet naive Katie, you think you’ve learned so much but you have SO MUCH MORE to learn.”  I get it.  I’m certainly no relationship expert.  But I needed to take note of the things I learned during this first year so I don’t forget about the newlywed stage of life.  Plus, if blogs are still around in 20 years, I imagine this post will give me a good laugh.

Can you resonate with any of these lessons?  Care to share any marriage lessons of your own?  I’d love to hear them.