Tuesday, May 29, 2018

For better...for worse...for always...

I'm not sure when I wrote this, but our 30th wedding anniversary was in 2001, so somewhere along in there. It's been around the publishing block a few times, its last incarnation being in The Saturday Evening Post. As of today, we've been married 47 years. When I read through this before using it again, I asked myself if anything had changed since then--other than my hair color and his golf score and how many grandkids we have.

Not much. I still think of Peggy Lee's song sometimes and I'm sure Duane does, too. We still have days we wonder what in the world we're doing here. We're still not in love every day. But even then, when sadness is like a veil or anger a disruptive rattle in the cadence of the day, we know (and say) that we love each other. And we do.

“A successful marriage requires falling in love many times, always with the same person.” – Mignon McLaughlin

What’s it like, you ask, being married to the same person for over 30 years? How do you do it?

Well, it’s like this.

You know every word of his body language, can identify every freckle that dances across his shoulders when he walks into the sun, can buy him a year’s wardrobe in 15 minutes flat counting the time you spend writing the check and asking the store clerk how her kids are doing. You know better than to cook tuna casserole even if you like it, that a sure way to get him to talk to you is to start reading a book, that if you’re not feeling well, he’s most certainly feeling worse.

You’ve learned by now that there’s no possible way you can be in love every day.

Sometimes, let’s come right out and say it, he’s just a jerk. Sometimes, since we’re not holding back, you’re a pain in the neck. On those days, you look at each other with glazed eyes and wonder which lawyer to call. Then you go to bed, mumble “I love you” with doubtful sincerity, and lie in the dark and mentally parcel out the furniture, the dishes, and the retirement accounts until sleep overtakes you.

There are days, indeed, when Peggy Lee’s voice echoes in your mind, Is that all there is? In the time when you had a flat stomach and naturally glowing skin and hair that was …well, a different color than it is now, this isn’t what you counted on, was it? Once you got the kids raised, you were going to travel, wear expensive clothes, dance the night away. You were going to have fun.

Okay, you say, if it’s that bad, why do you stay married?

Well, because, that’s why.

Because he can tell by the set of your chin if you’ve had a bad day, because he’ll bring home takeout food just when you’re positive you can’t cook one more meal in this lifetime, because he tells you he thinks you’re really cute and means it even if you’re not wearing any makeup and you haven’t sucked your stomach in.

He still takes the street side on sidewalks because that’s the way he was taught, tells your daughter she’s almost as pretty as you are, and never reminds you you’re getting more like your mother every day. He knows the words to the same songs you do and he doesn’t mind that you can’t carry a tune in a bushel basket. He doesn’t laugh when you can’t finish singing Puff, the Magic Dragon because you are in tears you can’t explain. He just tucks his arm around you and hands you a tissue and kisses the top of your head where the roots are starting to show a bit.

Well, fine, you say, but isn’t it boring?

Oh, I suppose, once in a while.

But a long marriage is like the sun. It’s there every day and night, sometimes hidden by dense and sulky cloud covers, sometimes blazing red and vital and exciting. During cold spaces in your life—and life offers a lot of those—marriage wraps itself around you and keeps you warm.

The other side of that is that long marriages are uncomfortable now and then, like when you and your spouse disagree on matters of fundamental importance, such as values, religion, politics, money, and thermostat settings. And you do disagree about these things even though you think you never will. This is when you look at him and think, Why am I still married to this person who is so wrong about everything?

Maybe because, when you get right down to it, the marriage isn’t boring, but a definition of fun you never imagined. And then there’s the irrefutable fact that when the world is out to get you, it has to go through him first. Or, trite as it sounds, perhaps it’s glued by those promises you made when he was just safely home from Vietnam and you were a size five, the ones about loving and cherishing and sickness and health...you know the ones I mean.

Or maybe because, like the sun, marriage is different most every day. Those differences are what have landscape painters and photographers lying in wait for sunrise and sunset. Some days they go inside in disappointment because the cloud cover hangs low and dismal over the show, but on other mornings and evenings they sit spellbound and work as fast as they can, holding onto the light for every precious second.

And there you go. There’s the answer to the questions, What’s it like, being married to the same person for over 30 years? How do you do it?

You just hold onto the light.

Tuesday, May 22, 2018

I simply remember...

I made this list in 2015 when--like right now--I couldn't think of anything to write about and because I love the song "My Favorite Things" from The Sound of Music. It was my favorite ten things right at that moment. I didn't include my husband or family because that went without saying.  Still does.

When I found this, I thought I would make a new list, one that would reflect how much my feelings had altered in the past few years. They have, after all, been difficult years, with loss and unsettling changes making my cocoon of contentment really uncomfortable sometimes.  Of course things would be different now, wouldn't they?

1. Laughing babies
2. Teenage people
3. Writing the first chapter
4. Old friends
5. New friends
6. Sunrise & sunset
7. Hot tea
8. Clothes that have been washed so often they stay soft no matter what
9. The day a pre-ordered book shows up on my Kindle
10. Knowing in my heart there will be joy in the morning, even though I'm not sure what morning it will be.

So, here it is 2018. And my list still stands. Those changes I mentioned above--many of them anyway--have been difficult. I haven't wanted to make them. I don't like some of them. So it's nice that those ten things--and the husband and family--are the same. 

Have a great week. Share your favorites!

Tuesday, May 15, 2018

Get Up, Get Dressed...Joe DeRozier's Here

Joe DeRozier makes doughnuts. And fritters. And things with Bavarian cream in them. And braids--he talked about his braids so much his daughter asked him to stop. Just the mention of a pastry he's made makes my mouth water. I've never met him, although I've grinned at him through the door behind the counter in Aroma, the coffee shop on Broadway in Peru, and he's waved back. But I love his writing, so I asked him to do guest posts sometimes. He didn't say yes. Or no. But finally he said I could cut and paste from Facebook if I wanted to. So this morning that's what I've done. He and I hope you enjoy it. And if you're ever in Peru, Get Up, Get Dressed, Get DeRozier's. Thanks, Joe.

I'm in bed by eight pm.
My alarm goes off at 12:01 am. 
Why 12:01? I refuse to get up for work the same day that I went to bed.
I get up, hit Snooze, get back in bed. My puppy growls at me. I wonder for a second whose bed it really is.
I swear I just laid my head on the pillow. My alarm goes off, again. I hear my pup give a loud sigh. That makes me laugh. 
My right ear is bad now. Too many years of hearing the mixer on my right side. WHAP, WHAP, WHAP.
If I lie on my good ear, I can't hear the buzzer.... I should have slept on the good ear.
I wonder if I could set my Keurig in the bedroom. I could hit a button and have coffee before I get up.
Kathy said, no. I don't know why I don't insist. I bet I can beat her arm wrestling.....well, two out of three.
I get up and navigate the stairs. I'm still not real sure since the stroke. Kathy calls it my "episode".
"Episode?" When did I turn 100 years old?!
I get ready for work.... I should say, my loose interpretation of the word, work.
I get to go to the bakery!

I get in my car, and drive down East Fifth. I'll be moving soon, so this very familiar drive will change. That will be sad.
I get to the stop sign and come to a stop.
Why do I completely stop? It's one am. I don't know... I just always do.
I get to the light on Fifth and Broadway and get ready to turn right. The light is always red. I look both ways. No one is out..... no one is ever out.
Sometimes I feel alone.
I turn, then go down my alley. My alley...haha. It SHOULD be my alley by now. I've driven here so, SO many times.
I go to park. I see life! They've been drinking. I keep my head down and get inside.
There's this feeling in here.... I can't explain it, or define how it makes me feel. Almost a completion....or sigh of relief.... that's not it...not entirely.
What will I ever do in my life when I can't do this?
I get a bit choked up thinking about it.
My friends talk about retirement and what they want to do.
But I want to do this.

Friday, May 11, 2018

The best job ever

I'm doing a lot of revisiting this week. Another Mother's Day post will be on https://www.peruindianatoday.com/ tomorrow. They're both old ones, but they're both celebrations of the best job ever. My mother-in-law, Mary Farrell, and my mother, Evelyn Shafer have both left us and there are great empty places where the were, but what blessings memories are!

My sister-in-law Debbie Coleman once said it was the only job she had that she never wanted to quit. I had to admit that I wanted to quit it at least once every single day. The kids probably wanted to fire me at least that often. One of the greatest gratitudes in my life is that we all stuck it out.

Mary Farrell
Mother’s Day has come and gone for another year and I didn’t write anything about it even though writing is what I do. I think about it a lot, think about my mom—gone all these long years—and my mother-in-law, who I’ve loved almost as long as I’ve loved her son and who has loved me back. I think about being a mom and a grandma—it’s just my favorite thing. But Mother’s Day? I’m really glad my kids remember it, tell me they love me, stop by if they’re close by, but mostly I’m glad it’s not
Mary Farrell
confined to one day in May.

I wrote most of this years ago—I’m the rerun queen, you know—but I hope it still says what it did then. I hope it stands up.

Graduation days have always been like Mother’s Day. They were the signal that one of the most important jobs in life-as-a-mom was nearly finished and that she had, at least to some degree, been successful at it. From my own high school graduates, the entire day of graduation was a gift to me. They would much rather have collected their diplomas on the last day of school and cut and run. They were not eager to wear caps and gowns, to see all the relatives at the open house, to stand with their dad and me and have their pictures with us grinning gleefully from either side of them.

Evelyn Shafer
Parents Night during the various sports season is like Mother’s Day. After all, we always get a rose; we get to stand with the kid and grin gleefully while our picture is taken, and we go back to the bleachers safe in the secret knowledge that, bar none, our kid is the best one out there. Oh, she may not make the best grades, and he may not be the best athlete, and she may cause trouble in class from time to time, but overall, he’s the best kid. You know what I mean.

Mother’s Day is when you tell the kid who thinks you’re being bossy, unreasonable, and not quite bright that you love him more than anything else on earth and he tells you he loves you, too and maybe gives you a little one-armed hug if no one’s around.

Mother’s Day is when someone tells your daughter she’s just like you and she just smiles and says, “Thank you.”

Mother’s Day is when the kids have been horrendous brats all day long. They’ve beaten up the neighbor kid who’s half their size, trashed the entire house, and flipped mashed potatoes at the kitchen wall. They’ve broken the Blu-ray player—the one you got their dad for Christmas—and spilled…oh, everything.

After they’ve gone to sleep and you’ve scrubbed the wall and cleaned the worst of the mess in the house and apologized profusely to the neighbors, you check the kids before you go to bed yourself. And they look like angels among their cartoon-character sheets. Their skin is baby’s-bottom soft and flushed with innocence and youth and they’re the best kids ever born and you are so lucky and it’s truly Mother’s Day all over again.

When they’re older and have established their own ideas and thought patterns and don’t agree with anything you say and their favorite things about you are your wallet and your car…yes, even then they will every now and then do something so perfect and so right it brings tears to your eyes. It doesn’t matter what it is—it can be standing firm for something they believe in, defending an underdog with heat and dignity, or confessing to a wrongdoing rather than let someone innocent of it suffer in their place. When it happens, it is absolutely Mother’s Day.

To all who fit the bill, Happy Mother’s Day. Whenever it may be.

Friday, May 4, 2018

Magic moments

This is from August of 2015. It has served as a good reminder to me this week. Although it was first on a writing blog, I think it works okay for the Window, too. Enjoy your moments!

Life is measured in love and positive contributions and moments of grace. 
Carly Fiorina

My thanks to Jenny Crusie for this post. Not that she wrote it or even knows it exists, but she suggested we “take a moment” in another blog, and that's why I’m writing about happy pieces of time.
          Like when someone tells your kid she’s just like you and your kid says, “Thank you.”
          Or when no one’s around and your aloof five-year-old grandkid climbs into the chair with you and stays a while.
          Or when in the manuscript from hell, you get a scene that is so perfect it leaves you laughing, crying, or jumping up and down. Or all three.
          I talk about Happily Ever After a lot. Married 44 years and some, I believe in Happily Ever
After. Every time someone talks about a romance novel without one at its end, I cringe. And it’s not because I think life goes on blissfully and without flaws as long as the protagonists live. I don’t expect their lives to be perfect.
          No, what I expect is that they’ll slam doors, they’ll mumble “I hate you” under their breaths, they’ll think all the way to work about how that night when they get home they’re going to ask for a divorce. They’ll sit alone in the dark and cry sometimes and they’ll envy their friends who always get it right and never have any problems. In their futures there will be the thing said or done that is nearly unforgiveable, there will be grief that brings them to their knees and threatens to swallow them whole, there will be bad days. Oh, Lord, yes, lots of bad days.     
   But at the end of those bad days, someone will always have their back (and probably rub it if they’re feeling particularly tired and vulnerable). They will not be alone in grief. They will be lonely sometimes, but they won’t be alone. Not really. Because someone can finish their sentences and knows how they take their coffee and they probably say “I love you” every day or, at the very least “ditto.”
          And it’s all moments. Even during long, hard days, there are good moments. And during bright, sunshiny ones, there are pinpoints of darkness.
          We went to a wedding this weekend. We were leaving the reception–kind of early—and were halfway to the door of the venue when the DJ started a slow song. Duane turned back and said, “You want to?” and we went back and danced for the first time in years. It was only a moment--or a few of them--but it has made me happy all day.
          Happily Ever After. In moments. I guess that’s why I write romance.
          Have a great week.