Marriage

the gift that matters

Proof that love can conquer all…

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Seventeen years ago I said, “I do” to the man I had dated for four years and had been engaged for two.  It began at a table, with grinning guys, in college as I had sat there bewildered.  Unbeknownst to me, my good friend had harbored a crush over the three years I had known him.  But I was not ready.  My plans had been set.  I had a fifteen year plan and marriage had no place in it.

There was the time in Texas when I threatened to jump out of the moving vehicle to end our engagement.  The night that I yelled in St. Jude’s hospital room when my husband, (who had asphyxiated and was unresponsive at the bottom of his childhood pool and was rescued by our eldest son), finally awoke from being flat-lined with the audacity to ask how long had he held his breath?   The day I had cried when we crossed the state line into Louisiana and had difficulty understanding anything anyone said; the heavy southern accent questioning my wisdom of moving across the country.  The Republican and the Democrat.  The NRA toting military guy and the Greenpeace, Save-the-World gal.  The heathen and the Catholic.  The introvert and the extrovert.  He is the yang to my yin.

My mother had been relieved that someone would finally marry her only daughter.  She hoped the guy would last.

This man has felt the depths of my wrath, has given me his shoulder to mourn the death of my mother and say the countless goodbyes to friends from over sixteen years of military moves.  He continues to quietly stand nearby as I serve others.  I learned resilience as he served our country and I raised our sons; the boys we continue to grow into men.    They are blessed to have an easy-going, hands-on father who plays Team Fortress 2 in the dark den, boy/man-cave and watches blood and guts war/alien/zombie/apocalypse movies.  On my girls’ nights out they happily look forward to their boys’ nights in.

He is simple in all the right ways and always knows his center as I orbit around him.  I am the Earth and he is my sun.

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On this anniversary day we made no big plans.  We contemplated a trip to a local winery, sitting in a jazz club or walking art museums.  My late riser had awakened early to find flowers and placed them throughout our home.  I dragged him to my local coffee house to a cup of lukewarm coffee.  We began to clean our house, something a couple normally wouldn’t choose to do on their special day.  The hubs’ only prerequisite was in being together.  The in-laws insisted they would babysit the teens and ten year old.  But instead of an intimate romantic getaway day for two, we chose to stay close to home.  After a hectic week of back-to-school nights, PTA audits and two booster meetings, our home was a disaster; the house that is our sanctuary.   The mobile device(s) were banned for most of today; the focus on our home life as we put things back in place.  For dinner we chose to sit in a local brewery watching college football games and brought home pizza for our sons.

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I rarely reflect on the fifteen year plan I had chosen to leave.  I had been selected to become a naval flight surgeon to eventually become a geriatric oncologist.  I had been on my way.  I lived in Chicago whilst he was in flight school in Pensacola; the distance making the heart grow fonder.   Each week I would check in with the commander who laid out my future; until the week in February, when he said the words that would seal my fate.  I would never be stationed near my future husband if I continued in our relationship.  I would have to resign myself to duty first.  His  flight orders would be nowhere near where I needed to be.  I flew to Florida on Valentine’s day and arrived to flowers.   After that one year in medical school, I chose to leave the predestined path I had chosen at age thirteen.  I hadn’t really known if this guy would be “the one,” twenty-one years ago, but I knew it was time to listen to my heart and forge my own way.  I chose him.

I was surprised by the responses to my spontaneous Facebook post from friends spanning months and decades; all welcome.  I am reminded of those years by the friends who had occupied them, and continue to grow with those who currently reside along with us.  The years brought out our differences; testing our mettle if love really was enough.  There have been times they seemed irreconcilable: pride, envy, greed, false expectations and distance creating the divide.  At times the grass seemed greener on the other side.  Love is not perfect.  But with time we have moved towards the center; our opposing views converging into moderate ones.  We continue to strive; to get the balance right.

Each year  on our anniversary I revisit it; the verse read at our wedding.

4 Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. 1 Corinthians 13:4-7 NIV.

On our wedding day my mother-in-law revealed the flowers my bridesmaids and I would hold.  The church pews were filled with their scent.  It is my happiest and most favorite memory of that day; fragrant flowers.  Over the years I’ve received countless things from my hubs, big and small.  He’s surprised me when I thought he was deployed, written notes and sent gifts from faraway places.  I am empty-handed this anniversary day.  Over the years I, too, have come up with elaborate activities and thoughtful gifts.  But he reminded me that it’s really very simple.

Physical presence; not expensive presents is all he ever needs.

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This morning his simple act of hunting for flowers, in our local Walmart at 6AM, warrants the very top of my list.  It isn’t about the material things in the end.  Love is the proof and can conquer all.  I grab his hand  and hold on, forever and always.

 

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Family, School

what fall means to me

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Camera battery, check Stadium seats, check. 

I voiced aloud the checklist that ran in my head of items we needed to do before we headed downtown.

Gas and ATM, to do. 

I communicated this to the hubs and the two things that absolutely had to get accomplished: a family picture in front of TommyTrojan and a trip into the bookstore to get a new lanyard.

Silence was my response.

I began to backtrack from our destination leave time and rattled off possible places to eat on our itinerary.  What else do you want me to pack?  Are you listening to me?

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Normally this is the hubs’ m.o. (modus operandi aka mode of operation).   The goal was to complete these items before our 4:30 PM destination.  As we sat in the triple digit heat, windows open, in our son’s high school parking lot I finally heard him roar.  The itinerary for the NASA space shuttle launch was stressing him out.  What I thought was being considerate and informative was taking all the fun and spontaneity out of our family outing.

But how could this be?  I was clearly communicating my needs and wants in his mode of operation?  Isn’t this what he preferred?

But the memo I missed was that m.o. is only in situations where we are REQUIRED to be somewhere; the set schedule was not welcome in times of leisure.   As we awaited the eldest to emerge, from practice at 1 PM, we debated in the car.  One son agreed that my itinerary was too involved.  The other son felt I was being courteous.  The father in the adjoining car,  smirked as he listened to our heated exchange.  It was only when the hubs pretended he was commanding mission control for our impossible rocket launch that the tension eased.  I decided to remain quiet.

And of course, none of it went according to plan.  As we sat in traffic I quietly thought of green pastures and sheep; pretending to count.  I tried, unsuccessfully not to brood.  When the hubs asked if he should off-road from our planned course it was all I could do to turn on my mobile device app; annoyed.  Why would there be so much traffic?  Our Dodgers were in division play-offs at home (thankfully the Angels were in Kansas City), our cross-town rivals were playing at the Rose Bowl and cars were everywhere.   Eventually we detoured and found ourselves in the garment district awaiting large groups of people to cross.  It was over 100 degrees.  I didn’t dare look at the time.  My jaw was aching from chewing my frustration.  The poor Mentos gum didn’t have a chance.

How is it that in all of our years of marriage, we haven’t figured this stuff out?

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The irony was that we were returning to the place where our paths crossed; the extroverted girl and the introverted guy.  It is a testament that we’ve remained married; ’til death do us part.  I continued to macerate the tasteless, rubber-like substance in my mouth; valiantly trying to keep my mouth shut.   The hubs dutifully drove.  After several attempts to cajole he knew to let me be.  Upon arrival all parking lots were full.  It is only because of the reserved parking, obtained by our dear friend, that allowed my husband to deliver us in a timely manner.  Thank you.

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In a sea of cardinal and gold I hung back, watching my sons take the sights in.   They are continually growing and was shocked to note my eldest is reaching the height of my hubs.  When our schedules had not been so busy we would make the trek to our alma mater once  a year during Homecoming.    It is a tradition started by my dear late cousin; the gracious and over-the-top host.  It was he who gathered friends and family from all walks of life onto his beloved  campus; the Hibachi grill fired up with all things wonderful to eat.    It was an incredible amount of work but it is one of the fondest memories I have of fall; the leaves turning as we tailgated.

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After his passing; the tradition went with him.   Amongst the people who have highly influenced my life (my high school counselor, my songleading coach, and dear college advisor) this cousin is at the top of the list; my father figure.  When I withdrew my  acceptance form  to matriculate to UC Berkeley as a declared chemistry major; my high school physics teacher had been beside himself.  Why would you give up admission to a stellar science program?

The answer.  FootballDid I mention I love football?

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This fall I am in hog pigskin heaven?  Friday nights I can now attend our local high school games such as the Homecoming game above.  I’d like to say I am there to support my son’s band endeavors…but I also love to watch high school and college football.  The kids, they play their hearts out.

This is what fall means to me. 

In the end, I never became the academic chemist working for the National Cancer Institute finding cures for the “emperor of all maladies;” the big “C,” that I wrote about in my admission essays.  I have a minor in this field.  But as the hubs will tell you…the retention for all things chemical, if not thermodynamics, was lost.  In my current career and extracurricular endeavors the majors I should’ve chosen: business and accounting.    Just as my father had advised my cousin before me, he chose this place for his advanced degrees.  My cousin promised my father, when he passed in 1989, he’d return the favor.  And so he did.

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I have been in these seats many times before.  But this time, it was different.    Initially my youngest son cried with all the hollering.  But after explaining the rules of the game it was this son that yelled the loudest.   He is now old enough to understand the game and actively participated in it.  The older boys, after griping and complaining that they would be away from their precious computer screens, held their phones.  I had thought they were playing online games but discovered they were snapping photos.  They were equally vested in this game as we were.

It was later that the hubs relayed the story of our middle son nudging the older one as he watched the Trojan Marching Band perform their pregame show.

One day you’ll be there bro. 

The brother nodded; acknowledging.  The hubs, brought to tears, turned to the middle one.

Hey chuckle-head!  You’ll be out there on that field too.

The middle son had impishly smirked back.    As the game intensified I noted an older couple to my left.  When the third down bell rang throughout the Coliseum, it was this couple that stood before the rest; urging the crowd to get up and cheer our team on.  Amidst the roar I yelled across our five seats to the hubs and pointed.  This is what I want you and I to be, someday.

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Across the row the hubs beamed; meaning clear.  Most times our non-verbal communication is more effective than the words.   Although our fall schedule is hectic we take it all in stride; soaking it in.  We both know our time with our three sons is limited; making Herculean efforts to always show support and to be present.  Our annual visit to our alma mater is a a reminder of where we came from and how, in the twenty four years since that first meeting; we’ve evolved.

It’s like coming home.

In all of the years we’ve returned here, this time our sons got it.  As the hubs and I reminisced we were surprised at their questions as we walked the paths of twenty plus years before.  My boys may never attend here but they will remember the memories of family and friends gathering.   Cheering.  And standing in shocked, silent disbelief as our sure team victory became a last second loss; the Hail Mary pass sailing above the defenders into the hands of our opponent.

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During our military travels away from home, all I needed to do was walk into a Catholic church and the feelings of community overwhelmed me.   It is the same when I walk this turf; the tree-lined campus in the middle of south central Los Angeles.  It may not be pretty.  It may not be the best.  It is where my life collided.  It is home; BAE (before anyone/anywhere else).

It was fitting that this reading from Philippians 4:6-9 was presented the very next day as the kids and non-Catholic hubs served.

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6 Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. 7 And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. 8 Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable–if anything is excellent or praiseworthy–think about such things. 9 Whatever you have learned or received or heard from me, or seen in me–put it into practice.   And the God of peace will be with you.

The hubs and I continue to march to the beats of different drummers.  I am still the extrovert; the hubs remains the introvert.   It is our life’s work; to continue to work on our marriage; to be transparent to our sons.  We both continually learn to be spontaneous and organized; to give and take.   To love and to hold, til death do us part.  I am glad I kept my words to myself; to fight for what I’ve learned and to attempt to put it into practice.  Most days I do a poor job of it.  I am grateful in this instance that I succeeded.   You win some, you lose some.  I’ll take the small victories as they come.

Eventually we arrive in the same place.   I continue to Fight On.

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Family, friendships

Planting feet

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“Be content with what you have; rejoice in the way things are.  When you realize there is nothing lacking, the whole world belongs to you.”
Lao Tzu

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It took two weeks, unplugged, to realize Lao Tzu’s words.  Vacation came at the most inopportune time during our busiest work month ever!  Vendors worried about orders, taxes needed to be prepared, property taxes paid, school projects completed and deadlines loomed.   I didn’t even want to look at my husband; much less spend a week with him without distractions.  As he answered customer queries I would hear the words, “mandatory vacation” as our kids’ activities ramped up to spring break.   We were exhausted.

I sat upon my promontory of lava rock as waves sprayed over me.  The rhythmic lapping of the tide against the rocks began to work its calming magic as I stoically scanned the water like a lighthouse.   My boys are all confident swimmers but I kept vigil watch; watching the horizon.     The crash of the waves upon the shore eventually blocked out all sound and my mind could finally, blissfully relax.  It is next to the water that I am most at home.

I thought of the book by James Michener, Hawaii.   I had read this as a sophomore in high school; a find from the local thrift store.  Never had I imagined I would travel to these shores but it had been my escape as I watched my father endure chemotherapy.  There are few novels I can really recall, from those years, and this one had not been required reading.  But as my mind relaxed I remembered the random facts interwoven in Michener’s historical fiction story of the people of these islands.   This book is one of my faves.  I wished I had a copy with me; the torn paperback discarded long ago.  I hadn’t thought of it in years.

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“A good traveler has no fixed plans and is not intent on arriving.”
Lao Tzu

As we trekked over the ancient Kings Highway, along Le Perouse Bay, I repeated the mantra “mind over matter.”  Our trek towards the most southern tip of Maui, in sand shoes, traversed unforgiving lava rock.  The hubs and I had made this trek years before, and he searched for the lava tube to share with our sons.  The views of Haleakala could not distract from the rocky and perilous balance of remaining upright.  There was a reason that we were the sole travelers on this trail.   I thought of Michener’s book imagining the ancient Hawaiians making the walk barefoot; as we passed several preserved cultural sites.   One would have never known we inhabited this island in prime tourist season.  We were all alone.

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And it was then that Lao Tzu’s quote came to mind.

The whole world belongs to you.

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We found ourselves on the road to Hana; our destination O’heo Gulch aka the Seven Sacred Pools.   There are not seven pools, nor are they sacred; but our middle son had hoped we could swim in them.  This side of the island is always rainy.    The sounds of sleep could be heard in the rear and as the sheets of rain fell across our windshield; the hubs and I quietly commented on the scenery; reconnecting.  When the busyness of life is left behind; amidst natural beauty, we could enjoy the drive on this early morning.   There are so many roads this man and I have taken together and I breathed deep; fighting the nausea amongst the various hairpin turns on this 36 mile drive.   As I directed a/c vents towards my face, he noted how I’ve learned to deal with the nausea; on this third trek amongst the twist and turns.

I am getting better at maneuvering through life; or at least, I ‘d like to think so.

Because, much as I like to be the one driving, I cannot control where the road ultimately takes me.  I have to be able to ride it out and breathe deeply; most times with my dear husband.  It has become easier to be civil behind-the-wheel; to be a good driver.  It just takes a lot of mental discipline and follow through to fulfill my Lenten goal.  Instead of raging in my vehicle at inconsequential things I am learning to drive with the aloha spirit.  Hang loose!

I sometimes do not like the roller coaster twists and turns of the road I’m currently on; but I am beginning to notice the periphery; the margins.  Most people would not enjoy making this trek in the rain.  But the hubs and I, windows down and a/c on; remarked on the verdant hillsides; the scenic cliffs with gushing waterfalls; the gullies and views of black sand beaches and musky fragrance of tropical flowers.  It doesn’t take a lot of money to enjoy the view.  I simply need to make the time.  To see it.

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These thoughts stayed with me as we made our four mile hike.  We had arrived before the throngs of tourists and enjoyed the solitude amongst the waterfalls; the light mist and musical clatter amidst the bamboo forest.  We treaded carefully; stopping often with our tripod, to enjoy the sounds and smells of rainforest.  Upon reaching our waterfall destination we enjoyed our picnic lunch; gazing at the 800 foot falls above.  And though the boys continued to argue about various infractions; the thoughts would be lost as they stared in awe at Mother Nature.

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“Nature does not hurry, yet everything is accomplished.”
Lao Tzu

I have walked many trails in my lifetime but this one; it’s one of the best.  In the three times we have come to the seven pools we had never walked on this path.  I am so glad we did.  I have a new happy  memory to file.

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Without the bleep of cell phone texts and notifications  (no reception),  computers and schedules I was allowed to sift through my thoughts; particularly on my marriage and transitions.   It is through my friendships that I’ve realized we ALL go through these things and it helps to be able to communicate these issues with others.  But sadly, it is with my mate that it is hardest to share.  It is easy to be angry.  But the grit in all relationships is the ability to forgive and progress.  The little things.  The annoyed tone.  The miscommunication.  The boring routines.

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On my plane ride home I found myself reading our latest bookclub choice.  I was surprised when another girlfriend noted it was published by Harlequin.  This particular novel was recently published in April 2014 but I was, again, transported to my teen years.  Stacks of Harlequin novels lined my bookshelves and through the years, I have been blessed.  My hubs has been able to fulfill the role of romancer.  But never do these books ever tell you how to deal with the daily nitty-gritty; the mundane.  The greasy stove tops, the cluttered sink and counter tops that drive me insane!

This book is nothing like those novels from my teens; dealing with relationship issues in marriages, friendships and transitions. This book is right up my alley!  I enjoyed the metaphor the author used about relationships.  When the rope is severed and cut; the knot tied  to reconnect the strands reminds the protagonist of the hurt; the infraction.   But her wise mother-in-law saw the knots in the rope differently.  The various knots allowed her and her spouse to grasp something to hold on to.

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And that image stays with me…our rope with knobby knots.  The hubs would gladly have a discourse on the proper tying of nautical knots from his naval sailing days and I hear him relay this to our sons; time and time again.  I am relieved to know that others have similar ties.  There are days when it is tough to find my own space; to define it.  I keep wondering what the word happy means and on our vacation I rediscovered it.  It doesn’t entail a lot of activity; nor money.   It only requires the need to be present.  Quality.  Presence.

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To see the flipper of a nearby humpback whale.

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To swim with yellow tangs in clear waters.

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To watch the eldest son dive deep for sea urchins.

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To float amidst the reef with my younger sons, alongside.

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The gentle sea turtle came to us again; several, in fact.  And as the hubs and youngest floated nearby, the turtles gracefully approached to bring Aloha tidings.

Instead of constantly wishing for “what if,” or contrasting and measuring I finally am grasping where I am supposed to be.  Right here.   With my feet planted.  Every day is a gift.  I don’t want to squander it.

I continue to practice mental discipline; just as I work towards my goal for Lent.  It is easy to find a happy place amidst the beauty; much harder in the boring every day or ugly.  But the key is to continue to find joy in the simple things.  A hand held.  A tousled head.  A frayed and knobby rope.  Life.  It can change and transition any moment.   Be present and live.  Right now.

Family

the real gift of the holidays

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Amongst my clean home I set out to make a mess.  The youngest son emerged from the man cave, aka computer den, snapped the above shots and asked, “Mom?  Do I have to paint these trees?”  When I answered in the negative he was surprised.  It used to be that most holidays I would concoct some type of craft for my children to do.  Each holiday has its own set of decor and it is this son that enjoys changing the theme.  His most favorite season is Christmas; particularly decorating the tree.  When I looked up he still remained, quietly watching.   I explained that I was helping a group of moms create Christmas crafts to sell at our school’s holiday boutique in early December.  The sale proceeds benefit my middle son’s entire sixth grade.

In exactly 30 days I will be hosting Christmas eve and my mind began to whirl.  Where has the year gone?  It seems I’ve skipped over Thanksgiving and so I am reminding myself to count my gifts.  I am counting to 1000 but I’ve got a ways to go.  What am I going to serve?

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One of my favorite things about this time of the year is the fellowship of family and friends around food.  I stood next to the barista as he ticked off all of the things he despised about the holidays.  The focus on material things.  The fake family that tries to appear happy.  He believes that people should celebrate with one another as often as possible; throughout the year.  I nodded my head in agreement as he frothed my foam; his list brimming forth.  It was in the silence as he handed me my cup that I answered in return.  My favorite thing about the holiday season; food.  To this the barista had no answer.  He could not refute this statement and begrudgingly agreed.

I say this with a grain of salt (ha, ha…no pun intended).  Most days cooking is a chore but during this season I happily hum.  I get a bit overextended as the holiday approaches and wonder, amongst a kitchen cluttered with mixing bowls, flour and sugar WHY I go to such lengths to make these consumable goods as gifts.  Both sides of our families have diabetics while others watch their weight.  The holidays become stressful trying to accommodate their needs and I, being genetically predisposed, also watch my intake to avoid their fate.  The motto, you can eat anything as long as it’s in moderation, tends to go out the window.

One year, as I sat at holiday family tables gorging on everything in-sight, I stumbled upon something important.  When I learned to create these meals, on my own, I lost the desire to gorge.  It was the comforts of food, the direct relationship to my family and my past, that made me eat this stuff in large quantities.  It was only during this time of  year that I could enjoy this fare and I rapidly consumed it; thinking it made me merrier and loved.  The realization that I can create these same foods, whenever I wanted, released me.   I no longer worry that I’ll overeat.  Don’t get me wrong, I always enjoy the meals others make; there is no greater joy than having your favorite food made just for you.   But now I can enjoy the holiday fare, guilt free in small quantities because I can re-create them should I crave them.  The passing of recipes from one generation to another helps me honor those before me and to share with those to come.  The food becomes symbolic of: my heritage, my faith, my tradition.

But it is in the conversations and interactions that have forged the person I have become.  This is where I learned the art of hospitality.

As a young girl I assumed that when I grew up to be who I wanted to be; that I would learn the rules of adulthood and parenting.  It seemed so black and white and natural.  Someone would teach me these things; just as in school.  It would be easy and intuitive.  While I painted trees I considered this; thinking of the ingrained lessons and unwritten rules that I hold sacred.  My education was taught to me in school.  My faith was taught to me in church.  But the person I am was taught in a kitchen and around a holiday table.  Serving.  The art of hospitality.  With the passing of my mother and my late cousin I, unknowingly, became inhospitable.  It was these two people who taught me the importance of this art and, with their passage, I had buried this with them.    This is really the gift I have overlooked year-after-year.  I only realized this Friday as the hubs and I left a grocery store.

131124 adThis has been eluding me; taunting me…my disinterest in being hospitable.  The bah humbug hubs lamented the cost of food whilst grocery shopping.  We were arguing over $0.69 whole fryer chickens!  I could feel the fury beginning from within and, in the confines of our car, he realized his mistake.  For all of his bah humbug-ness it is HE who is the hoarder; the miser.

10 Whoever loves money never has money enough; whoever loves wealth is never satisfied with his income.  This too is meaningless.” ~ Ecclesiastes 5:10

17 Command those who are rich in this present world not to be arrogant nor to put their hope in wealth, which is so uncertain, but to put their hope in God, who richly provides us with everything for our enjoyment.  18 Command them to do good, to be rich in good deeds, and to be generous and willing to share. ~1Timothy 6:17-18.

Our grocery store had run out of these fryers and the butcher told us to return the next morning after the delivery truck came at 8:30 AM.  Apparently the commercialism of the holidays, for the hubs, included food consumption.  I knew he was frustrated about the lack of poultry and the turkey.  But it was here that I drew my line.   His reasoning is the antithesis of the values I am trying to establish within our family.  To give generously.  Humbly. Divorce statistics rate arguments over finances as the most common reason people separate.  Infidelity came after this cause for separation.  This is where the Republican hubs reiterates his party stance to I, the Democrat.  I am to provide a surfeit of food and drink.    For us alone.  Why should we host Christmas eve?

And so the hubs heard me roar.    I know this weighs heavily upon him; the one who shoulders the weight of providing.  It is this, the ability to provide, that gives most men their worth.  And he is a good provider.  Some men like to accumulate the toys and items that show their monetary value.  Others have to maintain vanity; the looks and physique.  But this does not show one’s true worth; the person within.  I know my hubs has a heart of gold but maturity has made him jaded.  He fears the day he will not be able to provide; worrying endlessly.  He talks of ObamaCare, deficits and growing debt.  But our family has medical insurance, a business that provides just enough, a home.  It is this worry  that does not allow him to enjoy the present every day.  To appreciate the things we do have.  And it is this that my sons see and understand; the unwritten rule that the male must provide and accumulate wealth.  This learned trait stems from their father.

Ironically enough, the fryers were being provided for a fellow male who recently broke his wrist.  The hubs relates to this man who, like himself, shoulders a business to provide for his family with worries for the future.  Should something happen to either of them, how would our families make it?  When he discovered this friend’s plight he was reminded of the green light military tradition.  In the military a green light is coordinated for a higher ranked officer; a welcoming gesture.  When called upon the person must give the green light.  If it is given; the crew appear at the door; drinks-in-hand.  It is normal for women to come together to create meals for a: new mom, a widower or just a fellow family in need.  It is quite rare for a group of men to do this amongst themselves.

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Thus, on Saturday morning at 9 AM we walked out of this same grocer with $100 worth of meat: a Butterball turkey, a rib-eye roast and four chicken fryers.  It took less than 24 hours for the hubs to readjust his thoughts and he had no problem forking out the money.  The fryer was the culmination of holiday dread building within his mind: the commercialism, the materialism, the debt.  And as he sat amongst this group of friends, that night,  he was affirmed.  Each male brought a food item to share as they commiserated, drank and vented.  Most guys nights out these males sit around a TV, rarely talking, engrossed in a movie.  This talking time was a gift; away from the to-do lists, work and parenting obligations placed upon them.  The food was merely an excuse to get together; not for Thanksgiving or Christmas.  But just because.

I had thought I was teaching my husband hospitality but, in actuality, we are teaching each other.  In opening his pocketbook he allows me to rediscover the hospitable wife I long to be.  This holiday season I am most appreciative for this gift.  #361.  Rediscovering food and hospitality just in time for Thanksgiving, Christmas and every day.

My door is open, my oven on.  My crafts are done and I am ready.  Bring it!

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the good wife

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Charm is deceptive, and beauty is fleeting; but a woman who fears the Lord is to be praised. ~ Proverbs 31:30.

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While at a Halloween party, last evening, the hubs and I won a ribbon for costume theme & originality.  For those who know us, my husband truly is a priestly saint and I, the whirling dervish she-devil.  The irony is that I am the Catholic and he is not.  Amongst the songs at this 80s music themed party the DJ played Jermaine Stewart’s 1986 hit, “We Don’t Have to Take Our Clothes Off” as I poked and prodded the hubs onto the dance floor with the pitch fork.  I used to love this song when I was a teen and upon finding it on the web; listened to its message.  Stewart died at the age of 39 due to liver cancer; a complication of AIDS.  When asked what this song was meant to be about this was his response in an interview with Donnie Simpson, a well-known Washington, D.C. disc jockey.

“I think it made a lot of peoples’ minds open up a little bit. We didn’t only want to just talk about clothes, we wanted to extend that. We wanted to use the song as a theme to be able to say you don’t have to do all the negative things that society forces on you. You don’t have to drink and drive. You don’t have to take drugs early. The girls don’t have to get pregnant early. So the clothes bit of it was to get people’s attention, which it did and I’m glad it was a positive message.” ~ Jermaine Stewart, singer.

When I asked the hubs what he thought made “a good wife,” his response was physical touch.  This is his love language, in reference to Gary Chapman’s book, The Five Love Languages,  He grinned salaciously as he said it while fulfilling my love language of acts of service.  He recently has volunteered to usher during our church service and was dutifully cleaning our fish tank during this conversation.  Normally his “nothing box” would be open on this beautiful, fall Sunday afternoon but when I nonchalantly asked if there were fish in the tank, due to all the algae, he began to clean it.  I had already done my household chores neglected during the week, while at work, and so I sat on the couch to watch him.  I was curious how he would answer my query.  I played the song through my speakers to tease the hubs with the song’s lyrical message.

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We are watching the hubs’ parents transition into retirement and have realized that the issues they have with one another is due to a lack of communication.  My FIL (father-in-law) is like myself; constantly moving and buzzing with various home improvement projects.   Since the hubs and I began to assume the family business on April 1st (their 25th year of business) the FIL has had his driveway repaved, replaced his front lawn with new sod and is currently putting in pavers in his breezeway.  This is no small feat considering the amount of property their home sits on and he does this all by himself; the only hired help to pour cement on the driveway.  My MIL (mother-in-law), in retirement, enjoys sleeping in, watching her Days of our Lives and reading; leisurely pursuits that do not involve any physical exertion.  And so the differences that have always been there are laid bare without the business distracting them; causing strain in their 47 years of marriage.

Are we going to be like them? I constantly ask the hubs.  I mentally take notes, reflecting on how our differences in personalities will affect us twenty plus years down the road.   He could not clearly answer my question of what made “a good wife.”  

The Proverbs quote above is one of my faves; one I continually need to remind myself of.  It is a part of the “Epilogue: The Wife of Noble Character” in Proverbs 31: 10-31.  I get too self-absorbed in our busy lives and kids’ schedules; the Lord absent from my thoughts.  The headiness of charm and the vanity of beauty beckons daily.   When I first asked the question to the hubs of what makes a good wife, his first and immediate answer was being a good mother to our children.  When I clarified that my question involved, solely, being a wife, he then grinned salaciously with physical touch.  In our current season of life we are, parents first, partners second.  And so we have to make more of an effort to remember one another’s needs.  Will it only be when our children leave our home and we become empty-nesters that we will try to rekindle what brought us together in the first place?  Will we even remember?

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For days I have contemplated what I would consider being a good wife and had hoped my hubby would give me some guidance.  According to this 1955 Good Housekeeping article I’ve failed at my job.  And so my introspective list begins as I consider the wife I am and aspire to be.  Being a good wife is (in no specific order):

  • knowing that my place is equal to my husband’s.  We are partners in this marriage and the load of our relationship should not be carried by one person or the other.  If he feels burdened I must try to lighten his load.  If I am sad, he cheers me or lends me his shoulder to cry on.
  • communicating after emoting.  I must learn to take a breath and pause; to choose my words.  I am reactionary and respond with feelings versus objectivity.   But I still must communicate.  I am a product of the silent treatment and a good wife should always be able to communicate her needs without scorn or retaliation.  Honesty.  Nagging is not allowed.
  • listening to what he has to say.  There is nothing less affirming for my hubs than when I don’t hear his words.  When he complains about his bad day I’m usually bustling around; half-listening or distracted with kids.  I must hit the pause button and hear him; even when what he is saying isn’t what I want to hear. Just as he must hear me whine and vent; so I must validate his words.
  • humbling.  The desire to be right should instead focus on a shared path.  Compromising, the give-and-take, is what makes relationships work.  I shouldn’t sweat the small stuff; the shoes left in our hallways, the footprints on our clean tile floor.  Cleanliness is not holiness.
  • being the heart of the home.  A happy wife makes a happy life.  Most times it is the woman who sets the tone of the house; positive or negative.  This does not mean having the perfect home with gleaming appliances with blinds dusted.  It is a mindset, the happy home.  In my four walls I seek:  Love. Peace. Laughter.  Faith.  Democracy.  Honesty.  Humility.  Empathy.  Space.  Beauty.  Unity.  Grattitude. Simplicity.  Health.  Security.  Family.   Creativity.  Balance.  Fitness.
  • being thankful.  I easily can fall into the I want and if only game but in order to be a good wife I must be able to see what lies before me and be grateful.  I am happy for the home my husband provides for our family.  That he is hands-on and can fix or create anything he sets his mind to (with the help of YouTube tutorials).  I am thankful for the greasy hands that fix my faucets, install my car water pump or cooks our slow food meals.
  • respecting the man cave and boundaries of the nothing box.  The hubs must be allowed to escape into his man cave aka computer den to surf until the end of the Internet, play online games with our sons or do whatever it is that he does in that dark, loud cave.  I must let him enjoy his own space; to open his nothing box and watch The Walking Dead, Ancient Aliens, Yukon Men, Doctor Who, Law & Order, Deadliest Catch, Good Eats, Diner, Drive-ins and Dives, Defiance and Revolution.    Inappropriate movie nights occur when I am not at home. LOL.
  • learning flexibility.  A common complaint of the hubs is that I lack spontaneity; that I fret over unimportant things.  I cannot leave on vacation without a cleaned house.  I must learn to not be a creature of habit and just go with the flow.  To step out of my comfort zone and think out-of-the box.
  •  mastering balance.  To be able to laugh at myself, to unclog toilets and fix lights, to be tough and accept criticism.  The hubs would love for me to change my vehicle oil, install and fix computer issues, be fit like Jillian Michaels and take constructive criticism with panache.  He requests a cross between Buffy the Vampire Slayer, fix-it/techno-geek know-it-all and funny/tough persona of Sandra Bullock.  And I must look hot while doing all this.  LOL.
  • being comfortable in my own skin.  When he gives compliments, accept them.  To appreciate the stretch marks from three labors, the laugh lines that crinkle when I smile, the sagging parts that reveal my years of experience.  I don’t need to look like Debbie does Dallas in Victoria Secret lingerie and heels (though I’m sure he wouldn’t mind).  The hubs claims it isn’t what I’m wearing (or not) but the self-confidence of who I am and what I’m capable of that turns him on.
  • happily doing her Christianly duty.  My husband enjoys Ephesians 5: 22-23, “Wives, submit to your husbands as to the Lord.  For the husband is the head of the wife as Christ is the head of the church, his body, of which he is the Savior.”  He takes this verse literally which speaks of his love language.  Laugh.  Out.  Loud.  My bookclub girlfriends know my husband’s vernacular and giggle when he teases amongst us; the man having no shame.

As I sat staring mindlessly at my computer, the hubs entered the bedroom to peer over my shoulder.  I read to him the 1955 Good Housekeeping article and we laughed together.  He added the last few bullets to my list with his preferred shows while Jermaine Stewart’s song played in the background.  He has since retreated to his man cave downstairs to open his nothing box.   I will continue to contemplate being “the good wife.”

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