Domestic Bliss

Back when Steve and I made the offer to purchase the house we now live in, our contract negotiations included the requisite home inspection. On a sunny spring day we met our realtor and the inspector at the house for a walk-through. I was taking measurements in the living room when Steve followed the inspector outside to look at the gutters, leaving the front door open behind him. Within moments a pretty calico who we’d seen lounging on the porch a few times pranced up the steps and marched right through the door into the foyer as if she owned the place.

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Our realtor shooed the cat before she could get very far, but the incident made me wonder if the calico had belonged to the people who’d lived in the home before us. There was a cat door in the kitchen, and anytime we’d been by to look at the house, she was camped out in a sunny spot somewhere on the property. The last two times I’d moved into a new home, it had come with a cat. It was looking like this one would, too.

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Sweet Dreams

Valentine pillowcaseFor Valentine’s Day this year, my mother sent hubby Steve and me a set of handmade holiday pillowcases. She’d instructed us to open the package the first of February so we could enjoy them all month. As I pulled them from the wrapping paper, Steve raised his eyebrows.

“They’re very, um. . .pink,” he said.

“Yes, they are,” I replied. “They’re for Valentine’s Day.”

I wondered for a moment myself how well the pastel palette would blend with the red, white, and turquoise wedding ring quilt we keep on the chest at the foot of the bed. But it would be a stretch to say we have anything approaching a “color scheme” in the bedroom at the moment, and the cases are cheery and cute. The primary (pink) fabric, trimmed in a wide band of green, features candy conversation hearts proclaiming sweet nothings: “Love me.” “Be mine.” “Say yes.” All quite fitting for our first married Valentine’s Day.

When I called my mom to thank her, I asked if she’d pre-washed the material as she usually did, or if I needed to run them through the laundry before putting them on the bed.

“Well, I think so, but I’ve had those put away for a while, so I don’t really remember,” she replied. “I made them years ago.” She told me she’d made a set for my brother and sister-and-law, too, and she’d sent those out right away. “But I held on to yours. I just knew you’d find the love of your life eventually. And see, I was right—you did!” Continue reading

Epiphany, in Five Trees

1. In a Carton

wine with treeIt’s a blustery Friday night, one week before Christmas. Outside, the wind whistles past the dining room windows while inside, cozy and warm, Steve and I sit across the table from one another, bellies full of delicious Lebanese take-out. It’s our first married Christmas, and after two years of whirlwind holiday traveling to Las Vegas (my family) and Oxford, England (his), it’s our first to be celebrated at home. Nearby, in the living room of our new house, a Christmas tree lies compressed in a large cardboard box, awaiting assembly and festive accoutrement. We pour second glasses of red wine, the Pinot catching the light from the chandelier above as I lift my glass. Steve smiles, offers a “Cheers” and a gentle clink. We sip and savor, share another smile.

And then each of us grabs one of the stacks of papers sitting in the middle of the table, and we begin the marathon push to complete end-of-semester grading. We’ll get to the tree tomorrow. Continue reading

Rules to Riches: Forging New Holiday Traditions

Thanksgiving greetings, readers and friends! A few days late, but gratitude is always timely. I hope you’ll forgive my delayed good wishes and post. In addition to hosting a family holiday gathering for the first time in our new home, I also celebrated a birthday this past week. I decided to focus on family, food, and fun with friends, and save my reflections for today.

tablesettingCelebrating our first Thanksgiving as a married couple was exciting and exhausting. Hubby Steve’s two grown sons came in, and we made valiant efforts to ready the house for their company, unpacking and arranging the last of the kitchenware (we didn’t quite make it) and situating the remaining cardboard boxes, if not out of sight, at least out of footpath. It was tough for me to host with so much still in disarray, because growing up, a house about to welcome holiday guests (even close relatives) was always scrubbed, straightened, and festively arrayed. It felt like I was breaking an unwritten rule to have stacks everywhere and so much still out of place. Continue reading

Steve Speaks: Looking forward

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magnifico photography

Every so often my fiancé Steve shares his thoughts. Here’s his last pre-wedding post.


It’s just around the corner. The 10-day weather forecast now extends to the wedding (partly sunny, highs in the upper 70’s…). I keep getting asked, “Are you excited?” “Are you nervous?” “Are you ready?” Yes, no, yes and no.

More and more I’ve found myself saying (and hearing) “…after the wedding.” As in, I know we need to do X, and maybe we can get to that after the wedding. When will we find and unpack the rest of our dishes, pots, and pans? After the wedding. When will I get caught up at work? After the wedding. When will we have friends over for dinner? (You know the refrain).

I look forward to life after the wedding, because so many things have been on hold while we’ve been merging households and making preparations. The top five things I’m looking forward to leaving behind:

5. Dates as planning meetings. You go to dinner with a beautiful woman, sit down across from her over a candlelit table, order a bottle of wine, and… each pull out your calendars and to-do lists. I look forward to leaving the notebooks behind.

image4. The craft room fiancée. Sandee and her mom are making lots of lovely decorations for the wedding, some of which I’ve even been allowed to see! But she’s labored some long hours over a hot glue gun. On good days, I hear her singing upstairs. On other days, I hear the occasional growl. I won’t miss the time and stress involved in so much high-pressure D-I-Y.

3. Middle-of-the-night financial questions, like waking at 2:00 AM, trying to remember if I actually wrote a check for X or just dreamt that I did. What account was I going to use for Y? Did we over-extend when we decided on Z? I prefer my pondering take place after coffee. In daylight.

2. Life lived out of a suitcase or cardboard box. For two years, I saw Sandee mostly on weekends, packing a suitcase and driving an hour each way. For two months, we’ve lived in cardboard box limbo, our earthly possessions stowed in unlikely places. Unpacking has been sporadic and scarce as work and wedding preparations have taken priority. I’m ready for us to be home, together.

1. Wedding-related decisions. I’m OK with decisions; I can be very decisive. I create decision-support models and software. But I’m weary of all the difficult trade-offs. How many of our friends can we actually invite? Where’s the balance between being tight-fisted and responsible about wedding expenses? When is it OK not to care about some décor detail that’s so important to my bride? I look forward to those days after the wedding when the toughest decision is whether to drink red or white wine with dinner.

Still, I don’t want to be so focused on “after the wedding” that I don’t embrace and thoroughly enjoy every moment of the wedding itself. Here are the top five things about the wedding I want to hold on to and savor like a 12-year old scotch:

5. Seeing my bride. That precise moment when Pachelbel’s “Canon in D” bursts out with full strings and she rounds a corner, coming into view in a dress she has so carefully chosen, eyes shining, reveling in the day she’s dreamed about. I just hope I’ll be able to see her clearly, and not through blurry, watery eyes.

Steveboys4. Friends and family. I’ll have wonderful friends and family members at the wedding to share my joy. Some of them I haven’t seen in too many years. Some of them will be standing with me as Sandee approaches. Some of them will meet her for the first time that day. These friends have stood beside me in some tough times in my life; I’m eager for them to be beside me on one of the best days.

3. Sharing the day with my sons. How many grooms get to share their wedding day with their adult sons? It’s not entirely rare, but it feels very special. Tucker and Dusty have observed (with different levels of involvement and comment) my years of dating. They have cheered me on, sometimes questioned my choices (or tactics), but never begrudged me the search. It will be an honor and joy to have them participating in the ceremony.

NYpierdancing2. A perfect evening. I know things may not go exactly as planned. The sunset may not be spectacular, I might stumble in the “first dance,” and it’s entirely possible I’ll spill something—hopefully not on Sandee’s gown. But we’ll be dancing to music we selected, eating food we chose, drinking wine from vineyards we’ve visited, and be surrounded by people we love. How could that not be perfect?

1. The ring. Strange? I’ve never worn much jewelry, but I really like the idea of having a ring on my finger again. I picked it out, and I’ll like the cool feel of it when my bride slides it on my finger, and I will absolutely mean the words I speak over it. And eventually, I’ll grow so used to the reassuring weight of it on my hand that I’ll feel naked without it.

I’ll be married. And I’m really looking forward to that.

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Desert Sunset: An Anniversary Reflection

LisaToddromanticNote from FsFTB:

My brother Todd and his wife Lisa, pictured here in 2014, just celebrated their twelfth anniversary a few days ago. I have long been inspired by the love they share and the ways they lift each other up in even the toughest times, so I asked them what advice or wisdom they might offer as I get ready to walk down the aisle.

They sent me the following. You might want to grab some tissues first.

Todd and Lisa

When Sandee asked us to write about our love in honor of our twelfth anniversary, we thought it would be easy. Turns out, not so much. Legal battles, cancer, money issues, struggles with our five children had sometimes overshadowed the spark that always held us together. We stared at each other, floundering for ideas.

Todd said, “What about our high school yearbooks? We could start there.”YearbooksJHS

The beginning is most always a good bet on where to start.

We wrote our initial commentaries separately, with plans to then head out to the Nevada desert, thinking a peaceful place might make the task of comparing and combining them into a finished essay easier to complete. Continue reading

49 Years and Counting: Anniversary Wisdom

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My parents on their wedding day

My parents Garry and Margaret met around 50 years ago when my dad was teaching high school in Texas and my mom was a flight attendant for Continental Airlines based in Dallas. In their early twenties when they married, they moved to Georgia within a few years so my father could teach and pursue a graduate degree. My mom worked hard at caring for my older brother and me at home and later returned to school to become a teacher herself.

Now both retired and enjoying grand-parenthood, their church, and the arts of quilting (mom) and beekeeping (dad), they just celebrated their 49th anniversary.  I asked them what their secret was to keeping it together. My dad deferred to my mom (hmm…), who, with his input, shared the following remarks and insights. -FsFTB

A few words from Margaret

Yesterday Garry and I celebrated our 49th wedding anniversary. Sandee asked to what we owed our long marriage. I asked Garry what he thought, and we both agreed we have no idea. But Sandee has asked me to share our long-marriage survival skills…so here goes.

Disclaimer: I cannot say if the things on this list are the exact elements that contributed to our long marriage, or guarantee they’ll work for others. But they are things I try to practice, and I feel like they strengthen the marriage relationship.

1. Acceptance of each other, “as is.” It’s not a good idea to enter the marriage with the idea you will change your spouse. Better to remember all the wonderful things that made you fall in love to start with and focus on and strengthen those elements. If your spouse’s one bad habit annoys you, remember that you likely have two bad habits that annoy your spouse.

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Respect!

2. Show each other respect.

3. Compromise is not a four letter word. You can’t always have things the way you want them. Work together to find a solution both can live with. Sometimes this takes a bit of time.

4. Communicate. Tell your spouse what you are feeling and what you need; your spouse cannot read your mind. Be a good listener. Not all problems require a solution; sometimes people just need to be listened to. Be a supporter.

5. Disagreements & arguments happen. Try to understand your spouse’s point of view. NEVER name call or curse at your spouse (see #2). Remember, sometimes you lose. It’s okay — after you’ve been married 49 years, you’ll no longer remember the losses anyway.

6. Don’t go to bed angry. You won’t sleep well if you do, so say “I love you” and kiss and make-up. That may mean you’ll have to say “I’m sorry.” That’s a good thing – never hesitate to admit when you have been wrong. Flowers or a favorite home-cooked meal helps here. Be quick to forgive, forget and move on. There is nothing to be gained by beating a dead horse.

7. Dream together. In one of Sandee’s previous posts she quoted the following: “True love is beyond the physical and romantic. True love is an acceptance of all that is, has been, and will not be. Life isn’t about learning how to weather the storm, but learning how to dance in the rain.” I like that and agree, but I was struck by the second sentence. My thought was that something was missing, and that something was “all that WILL be” — the good, the bad, the joy, the sorrow, etc. (Ed. note: My mom is smart–not that I didn’t already know that. I inadvertently misquoted: the original did contain the “will be” piece!) Marriages need dreams and hopes that couples can build on together so that they can move forward through what is and will be. In doing so then they can perhaps more readily accept the things that will not be. And a lot of things will not be – that is life, that is love. But don’t give up the dreams. They are what help you weather the storm and dance in the rain.

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Sharing a sense of humor!

8. Play together. Get away together on occasion just to enjoy each other’s company. No kids, family or friends – just the two of you. Focus on each other, get reacquainted.

9. Have a sense of humor. Lots of funny things happen in a marriage…look for the humor in any situation. Laugh often and heartily. But don’t make your spouse the butt of the joke (see #2).

10. What happens in the bedroom, stays in the bedroom. Unless you are talking to a sex therapist, keep your sex-life between the two of you.

11. The old adage “don’t air your dirty laundry in public” is a good one to follow. Public arguments only make those around you uncomfortable and don’t make you look so good.

12. Practice your faith together and regularly.

Oh, and lastly, NEVER, NEVER roll your eyes — unless your back is turned. 😉

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My beautiful folks–happy anniversary!