Categories
Life marriage

How to Stay Married

Image from HERE

It seems that people have asked me how I managed to stay married to the same person since we celebrated our 20th anniversary. That was 21 years ago. When I mentioned to my class of high school seniors that I had been married for over 30 years, one of them piped up: “To the same man?” Yep. It’s rare these days.

Sadly, my husband Jimmy passed away shortly after our 41st anniversary in January. How did we manage to stay together that long? Especially when Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s diseases began to steal him away from me? I have some words of wisdom, I dare say. I think I’m qualified after staying married for 41 years. So here goes.

After you kiss and embrace at the wedding altar, keep embracing.

  1. Embrace commitment. Marriage isn’t all dress-up, cake, dancing, gifts,and honeymoon. After your one day in the spotlight life settles down with jobs, bills, laundry, and morning breath. And sometimes babies.

2. Embrace your differences. What you once thought was a cute quirk now annoys the heck out of you. Get over it. Do you really believe that nothing you do could possibly annoy your partner? Choose your battles. Does it make sense to argue over whether the toilet lid stays up or down? Does it really matter in the whole scheme of things? Imagine life without that person. Can’t you live with socks on the floor?

3. Embrace their family. When you get married, you marry the whole package: parents, aunts, uncles, cousins, grandparents, children. They are now your family as well. You might as well accept it and stop complaining about having to visit them, buy them gifts, etc. They will be the ones who stand by you during hardship or tragedy, and believe me, there will be hardship or tragedy.

4. Embrace teamwork. It’s not all about you and it’s not all about your spouse. I once heard someone say that a marriage is 50-50, but it’s not. It should be 100-100 with each partner giving their all to the other. That isn’t a welcome thought in today’s what’s-in-it-for-me mentality, but I promise that if you give you will receive. I’m not advocating that you put up with abuse because that is a different matter entirely, but if you are willing to go above and beyond for your spouse, it is likely that they will do the same for you. Marriage is hard work and it takes both people to manage it.

5. Embrace not being happy all the time. Your goal shouldn’t be to find someone that will make you happy. This isn’t a Hallmark movie and marriage isn’t a fairy tale. Marriage is spending your life with someone else, and life isn’t a fairy tale or movie. Living involves ups and downs, heartache and disappointment, wins and losses. Being in a marriage means you have someone to share all of life’s hardships as well as the happiness. And happiness, by the way, is something that comes from within yourself, not from someone else.

6. Embrace challenges. There will be many. Jobs will be lost, cars will break down, appliances will shell out, friends and relatives will die. Kids will stretch your patience and finances to the limit. Plumbing will rupture, bank accounts will deplete, the house will need repairs. It’s life. It will happen. It happens to everyone. Look around you. People survive these challenges and you will, too. Not only that, but it is the trials of life that will strengthen your marriage. Stick it out during rough patches. As you get older you will reap the benefits.

7. Embrace being a couple. But find time to be apart sometimes. It is true that absence can make the heart grow fonder. My husband always encouraged me to spend time with my friends, to attend professional events, and to go camping. And I always encouraged him to go hunting, motorcycle riding, or to concerts with his friends. Small and occasional breaks from your spouse are good. They keep you interested and interesting and hopefully anxious to get back home and share your adventures with them.

8. Embrace growth. There is a line we often hear in movies or TV shows that is supposed to explain why a character wants to end a marriage: “we have grown apart.” What a load of baloney. Yes, people do grow, but people can also share their individual growth so they can grow as a couple. My husband was a warehouse worker when I graduated from college and became a teacher. Some might say that I “outgrew” him intellectually or socially. I never entertained that thought and our marriage grew stronger as we shared our lives and built our home and family together.

If you can adopt these principles or habits, or whatever you want to call them, you may find yourself celebrating a milestone anniversary someday. Isn’t facing a long life together better than facing a life alone? Embrace that thought!

XOXO

Image from HERE
Categories
Alzheimer's Being a Grandparent Life Parkinson's Disease

You Never Know

Remember when you last spoke to a loved one who passed on? Did you realize at the time that it would be the last time?

Life is full of last times. I’m sure there are others but the earliest one I remember is my high school graduation. As we hugged and said goodbye to our friends, we even said that it might be the last time we ever see each other, but at 18 does anyone really take that phrase seriously? So many of my classmates from the Class of 1977 have passed on, and most of them I never saw again after that last time, on graduation day in May of 1977.

What an awful photo! So blurry. . .it wasn’t a digital world back then.

What about when you’re raising children and you can hardly wait for them to be able to dress themselves, brush their own teeth, use the bathroom on their own? Suddenly they are doing those things and you don’t remember exactly when the last time was.

My granddaughter used to sit on the edge of my bed and look at the tiny charms on the rag lampshade on the nightstand. I never even took a picture. I used to take my grandson to a place called The Coop, which was a neat and safe indoor play area for little kids, and then I would take him to the play area in the nearby library. I used to rock my smallest granddaughter to sleep. All these things are in the past. I never realized the last time I did them that it was the last time.

The same goes for my husband. He worked as a night zookeeper and would call me in the evening during his lunch break. He would greet me by saying, “Hey, Nutty, whatcha doing?” When was the last time he affectionately called me Nutty? The Alzheimer’s took the affection away. Heck, it took everything away.

My handsome night keeper. . .

There are so many things we used to do together, or things that he used to say, which faded away as Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s stole him from me. I wish I had known when they were the last times, but maybe that would have been just too sad.

Happier times, during a rare snowfall in Texas.

Cherish your moments, the first times, the last times, and all the in-between times. You never know when they’ll never be again.

XOXO

Categories
Life

Already March

Red bud tree

Already Spring is here. The lawn mowers have been brought out of storage and are humming throughout the neighborhood. Brown yards and fields are now green, red bud trees are blooming with their pink blossoms, and dogwood trees are poised for their white outburst. Eager gardeners already swarm the nurseries for tender plants they hope don’t succumb to a freeze before summer. I pull weeds, trim off dead stalks from old lantana and hydrangea bushes. Yes, I know it’s not the right time to trim hydrangea bushes, but mine become such monsters that I have to. Besides, I haven’t seen them bloom for several years. They have overstayed their welcome, I’m afraid.

So time marches on. It’s been two months since Jimmy passed away, and I’m doing okay, I think. I’ve kept myself busy with things like writing thank you notes, talking to friends and family, taking care of grandkids, and keeping house. I even went to Costa Rica for a week, courtesy of my son and his wife. The change of scenery, the beach, the ocean. . .all were balm to a battered soul.

Me on the Pacific Ocean beach in Costa Rica

Even after the memorial service, which turned out almost perfect in my opinion, I still feel in limbo. Unsettled. Unsure. Unprepared. I’m alone in this house, on this property. I alone am responsible for its upkeep, its repair. I am a widow. I make all the decisions now. I am a widow.

Spring speaks of new beginnings. So it does. Am I ready? “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.” Philippians 4:13

Ready or not, here I come. No hide and seek here. I’m all in.

What about you? Is spring a new beginning for you?

XOXO

Categories
Being a Grandparent COVID 19 glamping holidays home decor Life Parkinson's Disease

“Have a Holly Jolly Christmas. . .”

from “Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer” 1960’s

“It’s the best time of the year. I don’t know if there’ll be snow, but have a cup of cheer. . .” And so the song goes, courtesy of the late great Burl Ives. Remember the snowman on “Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer” animated special? I was seven years old when I saw it for the first time. It was magical. Now I can’t even get my grandkids interested. The old claymation specials have nothing on today’s computer graphics animation. Ah, but they were magical, at least to my generation.

I got distracted. Sorry about that. I have decided to have a holly jolly Christmas at my house. I don’t care if a pandemic is raging, threatening my family and friends, threatening retailers and restauranteurs, threatening the traditions we all hold dear. Maybe the pandemic is a good thing.

Our Living Room Christmas Tree

What? What did you say? I said, maybe it’s a good thing. It’s changing our priorities. We are focusing more on loved ones, and not things. We are finding out that the most valuable things in life are not things at all. The things we miss are not things, either. Hugging a friend or relative, shaking hands, whispering in someone’s ear, getting close enough to detect a special cologne, gathering in groups at holiday parties, sharing a toast, kids sitting on Santa’s lap, being able to breathe without fogging up your glasses, last-minute shopping in a crowded store. Need I go on?

We have given up much this year because of Covid-19. But look at what we’ve gained: a new appreciation of freedom, gathering with friends, going shopping and dining wherever we want, gathering with family at holidays and special occasions, going to church and fellowship with fellow churchgoers. Boy, do I miss that.

My precious granddaughters enjoying the season.

I’m going to make it a holly jolly Christmas, though. I’m going to:

  1. Enjoy small things like the lights on my beautiful tree.
  2. Behold the wonder in my granddaughters’ eyes as they look at all the decorations.
  3. Experience the delight in the two-year-old’s smile as she touches an LED C9 bulb and finds out that it’s cool to the touch.
  4. Note the pride in the five-year-old’s stance as she finishes decorating the little silver tree for my camper.
  5. Enjoy the taste of pumpkin spice in my morning coffee.
  6. Relish drinking from my special Christmas coffee mugs.
  7. Cozy up to my dog next to me in my chair while wearing comfy pajamas.
  8. Relish a morning when I get to sleep just a little bit later.
  9. Wrap each and every gift with love.
  10. Give thanks for online ordering when I can’t get to a store.
Can you see the silver tree hidden in the tinsel garland? I left it just as she decorated it.

Get the picture? There is a host of ways to make it a holly jolly Christmas. Even as my days are consumed with caregiving and my nights with intermittent sleep between calls from hubby, I choose to focus on the good. Yes, I have days, even weeks, when I wonder how this is all going to turn out–the pandemic, my husband’s disease progression, the next presidential administration, life in general. But I rest in this: my God knows it all, and holds it all, in His almighty hands.

So. . . Merry Christmas. May all your days be holly jolly.

XOXO

Little “Miss Millie” all dressed up for the holidays.
Categories
COVID 19 Life

2020: On its way out

I am not aware of a single person who would say that this year has been a favorite. I suppose if you had a baby or got married or met the person of your dreams, then it was a good year, but I believe for the vast majority it has been a year that no one will be sorry to see go.

How do I hate thee, 2020? Let me count the ways:

  1. COVID-19. Pandemic.
  2. Mud-slinging political campaigns.
  3. COVID-19. Death.
  4. Record-breaking hurricane season.
  5. COVID-19. Loss of freedom.
  6. Record-breaking wildfires.
  7. COVID-19. Businesses lost.
  8. A Presidential election mired in controversy. Who really won?
  9. COVID-19. Loss of social connections.

Will 2021 be different? Most assuredly. Will it be better? We can only hope. Thank goodness my hope is in the Lord Jesus Christ. He knows the future. He knows the way. And I know Him. Do you?

I hope you are well. Stay safe.

XOXO