It is your call on whom to marry

I was fortunate that my future wife asked me to meet her for a drink after work. Yet, before that happened, two of her friends counseled her that I was not for her. We have been married for over 32 years now.

Often, it is the parents who stand in the way of matrimony between their child and his or her chosen partner. While I am sure some disastrous pairings have been averted or delayed until a better time, it is not the parents’ decision and often they are wrong in their initial assessment.

I have a relative whose parents did not want him to marry a young woman. In an all too common rationale, they deemed her unsuitable due to relative standing on the socio-economic strata. They have been married now for over 40 years and are parents and grandparents.

I have a friend whose parents felt the same about his future bride. In this case, the rationale was she was older and had a child. My friend and his wife have been married longer than we have and are now grandparents.

Yet, my favorite example are some friends who were not allowed to be married when they were young and in love. She was the daughter of a Protestant minister and he was Catholic. Religious differences are an all too common reason to deny marriage. These friends each married other people and had families. After they each divorced and a few years had passed, the young lovers got back together and married each other. They have been married now for 30 years and seem to still enjoy their renewed affection.

For matters of the heart, it is your call. Everyone else may advise you, welcomed or not, but it is your call on whom to see and be married to. I do recognize that a teen living under the parents’ roof needs to listen to parents’ counsel, whether you heed it or not. They do see things you may not. But, as you get older and are about to make a commitment, at the end of the day, it is your commitment, not theirs.

So, parents should counsel wisely and judiciously. Yet, the best we can do is teach our children good values and encourage thoughtful decisions. But, it is their life to live, especially when they make that important step of choosing a life partner.

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Two Anniversaries

My bride and I celebrated 32 years of marriage this week. I think she gave up on trying to fix me up, so she is stuck with what she got. Kidding aside, my wife is easily the best half of us. She is “the girl who holds the world in a paper cup,” meaning she is as genuine as they come.

My wife likes to say we are friends first, when asked about our longevity. The friendship carries us through the ebbs and flows of the relationship. The other is keep a sense of humor. We often laugh at ourselves and can tease each other. Life is too short not to laugh more.

I had another anniversary this week. I passed ten years without a drink of alcohol. The cravings are far fewer and less intense, but they linger back there somewhere. My daughter asked me about my drinking habits as I made her and my wife aware of the anniversary as we traveled. It stunned them by the amount I drank, but at least I did it at home.

The key lesson I learned early in my abstinence is to say the following mantra, “I am not going to drink today.” This is a key reason recovering alcoholics know the number of days. Another piece of advice is to find a substitute – mine were green tea, fruits, fruit juices, popsicles or sorbet. The cravings will remain, you just need to drink or eat something else.

So, let’s toast with your beverage of choice (or necessity) to laughter, love and sobriety, at least for those who must abstain.

 

A man will never be shot while doing the dishes

I have been fortunate to have been married for going on thirty years. Knowing my imperfections, my wife has maintained a good sense of humor and knows when to make “suggestions for my consideration.” The highlighted term is consulting speak for recommending changes. Mind you, she is closer to perfection, but like us all, she falls short of the paragon.

Through almost thirty years, a few things have sunken into my brain that have made me more tolerable as a husband. The title of this post is one such nugget of knowledge. But, here are a few more for the newly married, those couples thinking about it or those couples who have run into a ditch.

Come to Jesus Session – with due respect to all other religions, which likely have a variation of this theme, a “come to Jesus session” is the name given when your wife of six months or a year sits you down and tells you what you need to be doing better in the marriage. The only words you are permitted to say without a resounding a retort are “you are right, I will try to do better.” If you are stupid enough to defend yourself, then you will elongate the discussion to your detriment. Then, you should try to do as many of the things as possible to remain married. This happens in all marriages, so don’t feel like you are isolated.

Just listen don’t try to fix this – it takes a while for this to sink in and sometimes we still don’t get it. There are many occasions when a wife wants to vent about a problem with someone else (first be glad it is not you this time), and you are not to do what a man would normally do – try to fix this. Your role is to listen and insert the appropriates “uh-huhs” when needed. A well placed “that is interesting” or “I can’t believe she did that” will also help.

Take one for the team – this one is for both spouses, but there are several occasions – office holiday parties, for example – where you need to take one for the team. You must be the accompanying spouse. It may be a shopping trip or one of those Holiday ornamental shows that require a partner. So, you have to take an Advil, polish your apple, and go along.

Be able to laugh at yourself – this may be the best advice for staying happily married. There will be many opportunities over the course of thirty years where being able to laugh at your mistakes will diffuse any tension. Laugh and the world laughs with you. Be mindful not to laugh too hard at your wife’s mistakes, but there will be times when that is permissible. My wife invites laughter as she likes to tell on herself. As mentioned in other posts, my wife tends to “hold the world in a paper cup” meaning she does not put on airs.

Massage tired shoulders and feet – this is the only romantic advice I will offer and it is only part romantic. On the latter, women do painful things to their feet to look good in some form of shoes. While watching TV or talking, this effort will be much appreciated. The shoulders part usually occurs when she is standing cooking and you have just come from somewhere. A back scratch or light shoulder massage will smooth any rough waters. And, as Forrest Gump would say “that is all I am going to say about that.”

The best to all of you on your matrimonial endeavors. Marriage to the right partner is worth everything, but you still have to work at it. I have been blessed.

My boomer lane has been bumpy, but still worth the ride

Our friend Renee writes a consistently humorous blog called “Life in the Boomer Lane.” She ranges from “tongue-in-cheek” to “call them as she sees them” humor and her blog is very much worth the read, even if you are not living life in the boomer lane. She has a range of followers, including a number of men, who will actively wade in with comments, even when our gender is being scrutinized in a painful manner. An example of this is evidenced in a link to her latest post is below.

Beneath her humor, her posts cause genuine reflection, laughter and melancholy from her readers. As one of her constant readers, I find myself often in this boat as I look back on my life thus far, complete with great moments and a few which could have been better or I could have acted better. Being a guy, we are prone to do and have done foolish and, even, irresponsible things. Hopefully, I have learned the hard lessons and will avoid them in the future, but I do reserve the right to be a dumb ass on occasion. I think we all need a hall pass every once in a while. Now, though, I recognize my poor behavior and will sincerely regret and apologize for my deficiencies. I guess that is what being a grown-up is all about.

For the most part, I have lived a life of trying to do the right thing. That was ingrained in me early on by my parents, especially my mother. Also, since I was invited by a friend to begin helping people in need dating back to 1999, it has made me realize how fortunate I have been and how opportunities do not exist for many in our country. Or, how when people are down and out, the chances to climb out of the hole, sometimes can be challenging. They need to climb the ladder, but we need to make sure that ladder exists for them and that the steps are not greased.

Yet, I have hurt people’s feelings, as well, just as we all have done. A single guy in his early twenties is prone to shun involvement and I did some of that. As quid pro quo, I have had my heart broken a few times, as well. Fortunately, that ended when I met my wife and we eventually married when we were twenty-six. We have been together for going on 30 years, so she has been able to put up with my faults and help me improve the ones she can. I look back on some of my previous relationships noting where I was less than a gentleman or where I could have and should have tried harder. Again, I guess that is what being a grown-up is all about.

So, I have been a fixer upper all of my life. I have made mistakes, but for the most part have tried to stay on a good path forward. I wish I could re-write some of that history, but it may have changed the wonderful person I have been married to for these 30 years and the wonderful children and family we have together. It is not unlike my favorite Star Trek episode “The City on the Edge of Forever,” where Dr. McCoy goes back in time and his actions negate the existence of the Enterprise and change the future. So, my life in the boomer lane is a good one. It is an imperfect, but wonderful ride. And, we still have plenty of daylight to drive on some more and enjoy the view.

http://lifeintheboomerlane.com/2015/03/25/why-older-men-should-date-younger-women/

My bride is easily the better half

My wife of twenty-seven years gets annoyed with me when she hears me describe her this way, but she is easily the better half of our marriage. She gets annoyed as she detests being the center of attention and does not like being put on any pedestal. Since it is her birthday this weekend (“I don’t celebrate those anymore” she says,” but I will accept presents”), I wanted to share with you how lucky I am to have her by my side.

Some of you have heard me describe my wife as the person in the last verse of “Danny”s Song” written by Kenny Loggins, but made famous by Anne Murray.

Love a girl who holds the world in a paper cup, drink it up, love her and she’ll bring you luck.

And, if you find she helps your mind, you better take her home, yea, don’t you live alone, try to earn what lovers’ own.

When our daughter asks what these lines mean, I tell her that her mom is someone who does not have any airs. She is the kind of person who can drink wine out of a paper cup and not care what people think. She is the kind of person that will listen to your troubles and ease your mind.  So, as the song says, if you find someone who will ease your mind, you better take her (or him) home. The final line of “try to earn what lovers’ own” is what it is all about. It is not about possession folks, although we have some. It is about relationships. That is what truly wealthy people have.

My wife collects relationships. She is a great listener and people will tell her their troubles. Sometimes, they tell her too many, too often and it wears her out. She tries her darndest not to let other people’s’ problems become hers, but she is so empathetic it is hard for her. That is where I come in. I try to encourage her to limit exposure to some who will truly suck the life out of her. They are kind of like Eeyore in Winnie the Pooh.

People like audiences and my wife is an excellent one. I was sharing this with one of my colleagues, who is more introverted than extroverted. She said your wife and I are a lot alike. You would think my wife is extroverted when you meet her, but she would rather ask you questions and let you talk, rather than talk about herself.  My colleague said, “I would much rather get someone else talking than talk about myself.” My wife can be extroverted at times with the right audience (and sometimes with enough wine in paper cups), but for the most part she would rather listen. And, if I ever threw her a surprise party, I would likely be in the dog house for a long while.

I have also referenced Gordon Lightfoot’s song “Rainy Day People,” in describing my wife. As the song goes, “rainy day people always seem to know when it’s time to call.” My wife has a sense when she has not talked to someone in a while, be it my mom, a friend, her sister or one of our other close relatives. She truly brightens their day, as I have talked to some afterwards. They do the same when they call her, except if it is an Eeyore with a problem in need of a lengthy audience. I say that somewhat in jest, as she does get a lot out of these relationships. Yet, that is my litmus test with her. I say “are you getting something from this relationship? If not, then maybe you need to alter its terms.” She has had a few major Eeyores in her life where she needed to provide some distance for her own sanity.

My wife is also a wonderful wife and mother. She is there for me and our family of three, two boys and a girl. I enjoy watching her interact with our children. It is truly a joy, as she will let them talk. Our kids tell us (and her mostly) things most kids probably do not tell their parents. We would have never told our parents some of those things. But, we both say we would rather they tell us than not. We know when a problem exists. And, kids are exposed to so many more bad influences than we ever were growing up. We also have tried to have a house where our children’s friends are welcome. It does make it chaotic and messy at times, but we would not trade those moments for the world. And, for future parents, the greatest sound in the world is to hear your children laughing, in general, but especially with their friends. 

Let me close with something I should have said earlier. We also have made many mistakes and do get mad at each other. For younger couples starting out, you will get mad at each other. That happens. You need to work through any conflicts. Marriage is hard work. Try to keep your sense of humor and try not to stay angry too long. Talk it through when you have cooled down. Try never to say something in anger you will regret later. And, we have made parenting mistakes and will likely make some in the future.  We have hopefully learned from most of them. While we don’t have many rules, we have two big ones – treat each other like you want to be treated and try to have dinner together. This last one may not seem important, but it is huge. We even linger around the table more chatting about events of the day, funny stories, etc.

So, for my lovely bride happy birthday, sweetie. You are the best. We aren’t perfect, but we are doing alright.