Tag Archives: Love

Love, sweet love

Love is a smoke raised with the fume of sighs.

~ Shakespeare

I’m addicted to newspaper advice columns. I often skip over the front page to get to them. When I was a newspaper copy editor decades ago, I actually relished designing the boring ol’ advice page because it meant I got to read the columns before the rest of the world.

Most of the time, advice columnists are simply entertaining, but last week, Amy Dickinson of “Ask Amy” reminded me how fortunate I am. In words to a lovelorn woman, she wrote, “A romantic partner who is wonderful, who loves you and wants to share everything with you is definitely something to look for. There is no guarantee you will find him, however.”

I am so grateful I no longer have to look for a wonderful romantic partner. I found him.

What the world needs now is love, sweet love.
It’s the only thing that there’s just too little of.

~ Hal David

Stock taking on Dec. 23

Many people spend December 23rd frantically wrapping gifts, baking cookies or cleaning the house in preparation for guests.

I, however, usually spend the day unwrapping gifts, dining on cake someone else prepared and lounging around while someone waits on me.

I’m one of those unenviable Christmas babies. I was born 47 years ago at the late hour of 11:26 p.m. on Dec. 23.

My mother recently apologized to me for this unfortunate timing, but as an adult, I clearly understand how a woman doesn’t have power over such things. Apparently, I was meant to be a durable and determined Capricorn, symbolized by a mountain-climbing goat.

As I reflect on the ghosts of December 23rds Past, this day is always an opportunity not to prepare for Christmas but to prepare for the next year. With a birthday falling so close to Jan. 1, I have double the incentive to contemplate the year behind and my plans for coming year. What is that saying? Man plans, God laughs?

birthday5

Obviously, the cold sober matters of my accomplishments (or lack thereof) weighed heavily on my mind the year I turned 5. Concerns about the trustworthiness of societal institutions (like the American presidency) were on the horizon but not yet realized (Watergate was broken into six months later); I was apparently disappointed with a flour-based cake. Or maybe I had, in the moments before, learned that Santa isn’t real (oh, horrors! Shield the eyes of the 5-year-old reading this blog over your shoulder!). Yes, yes, the spirit of Christmas and all that, but Santa himself — a charade created by generations of parents designed to coerce nice behavior. I was not amused.

birthday18

I was a senior in high school the year I turned 18, and I remember being distinctly disappointed after cutting my hair short; as usual, I was not in step with the ’80s trend of big hair. However, the birthday-wrapped gifts in front of me appear to be filled with clothes, which I coveted more than anything else. Mom even made me a cheesecake (my favorite). I was on the cusp of being an adult and at no time then (or now) did I wax nostalgic for my childhood. Turning 18 symbolized the ability to make my own decisions. However misguided they may be.

birthday29

All of my birthdays have been set against the background of Christmas, as is evident in this picture of my 29th birthday. I was mostly happily married at the time to my first husband and probably plotting how I could earn more money in the coming year. To buy more clothes.

Interestingly, I was wearing the exact same robe and flannel pajamas  — with red socks instead of those sexy pink ones — in a picture taken a year later in a different house on my 30th birthday.

birthday40

In keeping with tradition on this blog, this picture of me on my 40th birthday properly obscures my appearance. For my 40th birthday, a trio of my girlfriends and I planned a night on the town beginning with an afternoon together at a spa, where I stuck my head into this contraption to determine my “real age” based on the condition of the skin on my face in ultraviolet light. I don’t remember the results, but since I was a lifeguard for two summers two decades previous, it probably wasn’t good. I wish my real age was not so evident on my skin, but as I’ve learned, having birthdays sure beats the alternative.

That was a crazy year. I almost titled my memoir “The Year I Turned 39” because of the drama of that year. The house of cards that was my marriage finally buckled under the weight of disillusionment and betrayal; I moved out, kicked a lover to the curb, filed for divorce and started dating a new man.

I’d like to be able to say I chose more wisely with this new man, but given my history, it was probably dumb luck that I found my Beloved, to whom I’ve been married now for 5 and half years. We had been dating three weeks when I turned 40, and he gave me this card:

birthday40card

Inside, it was unsigned, but he included this message (edited for proper comma usage; my Beloved is a deep thinker who is possibly too enamored with the comma):

You’re probably wondering what I’m up to with this card. Congratulations on making it to your 40th birthday. The reason for the card is that I am sure you’ve gotten all that Hallmark has to offer in their 40-year-old collection and to, once again, make you think: Think about how quickly the last 40 years has gone by, how many memories you’ve made for yourself and, lastly, how much time you have in front of you today. There will be a day when this card applies to your age. So, what are you going to do with the next four decades?

When you’re sitting in your easy chair and possibly reopening this card from your scrapbook (I know you’ll have one), remember this particular day and the decision you’re getting ready to make for the next path you will be led down by God. I hope it’s a pleasant, peaceful and loving journey, full of all that life has to offer.

Happy 40th, Sweetheart. I hope I’m around for the signature in a few years, 40 to be exact.

Eight months later, I moved to Illinois to be with this amazing man. Perhaps some regular readers are tired of hearing about how talented, thoughtful and generous my Beloved is, but I can’t deny his greatness. He’s as wonderful on my 47th birthday as he was on my 40th.

And unlike Santa Claus, he’s real.

As I ponder the year that was on my birthday today, I count my blessings of abundance — especially of people who care about me.  I cannot credit my Capricorn determination but rather grace.

Thank God for grace, good friends and love.

Celebrating the man who shares his gifts every day of the year

Today’s birthday: You’ll entertain many this year. In September, you’ll make a sale, as well as forward a personal interest. October brings you face to face with someone you’ve long wanted to know. You’ll handle a rush of business in December and go into the new year richer. March interests lead you to a fun group of friends.

I don’t put stock in astrology (but then, I don’t put a whole lot of money in the stock market either), but I get a kick out of reading my daily horoscope. Today, I had the excuse to read astrologist Holiday Mathis’ prediction for my Beloved, whose birthday is today.

Words like “you’ll entertain many,” “you’ll make a sale” and “fun group of friends” fit him to a T (him, and probably 10,000 other horoscope readers, but work with me here). He’s a gregarious salesman who loves to surround himself with interesting people, and as his wife, I get to go along for a ride (I also appreciated reading he’ll “go into the new year richer” since, as the barnacle on the ship, I’ll get to, too!).

Life is never boring with him. I always say he’s the sort to go big or go home because we seldom do things halfway.

We don’t have an old RV — we have a sparkling clean, completely operational 1983 Pace Arrow.

We don’t do weekend getaways. We getaway from winter by spending two months in South Padre Island.

We don’t eat teeny-tiny steaks from the grocery. We grill 24-ounce rib eyes or mammoth tenderloins from the butcher he knows by name.

He doesn’t go to lunch with a friend. He goes camping for two days with his friends and packs a menu, clean bedding and three kinds of adult beverages (and he cleaned the camper himself when he came home! He’s a Virgo through and through).

We don’t tend a couple of grape tomato plants. We have eight 8-foot high monsters planted so close together it’s like a game of Twister to pick the little jewels.

On the other hand, the birthday cake he got today was a pecan coffee cake with breakfast. And candles. And he liked it.

I love him so.

Happy birthday, sweetheart.

Soliciting nifty ideas for a big birthday

Guess who’s celebrating a milestone birthday on Tuesday?

My Beloved is turning an age that rhymes with nifty.

A lot has changed in 50 years. Here’s a look at the world in August of 1962:

  • Beatles drummer Pete Best was fired and replaced by Ringo Starr. Bob Dylan and Chubby Checker were popular singers.
  • Actress Marilyn Monroe, 36, was found dead in her home from an overdose, and famed Major League Baseball pitcher Roger Clemens was born. Brian Piccolo, a running back for the Chicago Bears whose battle with cancer would be dramatized in the 1971 “Brian’s Song,” was playing college football in North Carolina.
  • Abortion was illegal, and John F. Kennedy was president, very much alive. Events in August led to the conflagration that eventually became the Cuban Missile Crisis later in the year.
  • Nelson Mandela was arrested in South Africa, and lost his freedom for more than 27 years, serving time in prison until February 1990. Mandela would be elected the first black president of South Africa in 1994.
  • Cost of a first class stamp was 4 cents. A gallon of milk? Forty-nine cents.

Keep your over-the-hill jokes to yourself. I detest those black sentiments. Being over the hill is far preferable to being under the hill, in my estimation. I only met him five and half years ago, so I’m convinced all those years before our couplehood were relatively sub par — the best of life is ahead.

A milestone like this deserves not black partyware and balloons, but fanfare and celebration. I’m entertaining any ideas here for birthday gifts, special treats and other ways of making my Beloved’s day special. Got any ideas?

Valentine’s Eve advice: How to have a happy marriage

“Don’t go to bed angry” is lame advice, and yet, like spam from Nigerian philanthropists (“please kindly help me collect my cash deposit of $21 million, I have set aside 25 percent for your time”), it seems to sneak into every two-cent prescription for a happy marriage.

On Valentine’s Eve, let’s explore good advice on staying married, shall we?

My mood is at its lowest ebb at the end of a bad day, and it’s. Not. The time. To make. It. Worse. Baby.

I’ll be a lot better negotiator after a good night’s sleep.

My first husband (yup, let’s say we’ve got a lot of experience in this house on staying and not staying married so consider the source) loved to pick a fight at bedtime.

A lot of expletives spewed from my sweet potty mouth when that happened, and you can bet that didn’t help matters.

In my experience, sleep trumps peace. Go to bed mad if you want. The philosophy of the advice is sound, however: Don’t let disagreement fester. So tackle that problem, whatever it is, with a fresh perspective (and fewer f-bombs) in the morning.

My best advice: Don’t try to change your mate and look for the best in him (or her). Unfortunately, it took me a good five years the first time around to figure out that nagging got me nowhere, but “looking for the best” got me through 16 years of marriage the first time.

Human beings are complex and flawed. You don’t have to look very hard to find behavior to drive you mad. But if you really want to be happy, choose to be happy: Spend your time looking for behavior you can appreciate.

My Beloved is a fabulous cook (the chicken and dumpling stew tonight was wonderful), a thoughtful and generous mate, an amazing wheeler-dealer, a jolly companion with a courageous heart. And he’s true.

His best marriage advice: “Be faithful and work through it. Communicate.”

We start almost every day with a cup of coffee and conversation. It usually starts with such scintillating queries like “how’d you sleep?” but with caffeine, we get going on oodles of good communication. Because my Beloved values communication, we’re on the same page most of the time and that makes us happy.

Married? For all those lonely hearts out there dying to be in your shoes, maybe you have some advice for a happy marriage. Do tell.

The significance of three

When something happens once, it is a single occurrence. When it happens twice, it could be just a coincidence. When it happens three times, a pattern has been established.

One is the loneliest number, and two can be as bad one — it’s the loneliest number since the number one, according to Three Dog Night. The ’70s band does not address three specifically, except in its name. According to Wikipedia, an indigenous Australian sleeps in a hole with a wild dingo when it was cold. On colder nights, one would sleep with two dogs. If the night was freezing, it was a “three dog night.”

Three has a certain satisfying rhythm. Waltzes are dances in triple time.The most frequently encountered chords in Western music are triads.

In fairy tales, three little piggies braved the big bad wolf and Goldilocks encountered three bears. 

In the Bible, the Almighty is described as the Trinity of the Father, Son and Holy Ghost. In Easter religions, the third eye is a symbol of enlightenment and wisdom.

Three has significance for Minnesota Transplant today because I am celebrating my third anniversary with my Beloved. Three is a blink for some long-married couples, but I think every year is significant and should be celebrated. We’re past single occurrence or coincidence, and a pattern has been established.

Here’s to three.

Ode to my brother

Twelve  years ago today …

I was watching “The Practice” with that cute Dylan McDermott and the skinny actress from “Twin Peaks.” It was a 9 p.m. Sunday night habit.

The phone rang, and I knew immediately something was wrong. The phone rarely rang after 9 p.m. at our house. The caller told me my brother had been gravely injured in a car accident on snow-covered roads, and my parents were on their way to the hospital.

There was nothing I could do except wait for more news, so I went to bed and said a prayer, “Dear God, give me the strength to handle whatever is about to come.” I just knew the news was bad, and I couldn’t bring myself to ask for something I knew I wouldn’t get.

My brother, Curt, was already dead when I said that prayer.

I thought of my brother last week when I heard President Obama speak about the shooting tragedy in Tucson. “You see, when a tragedy like this strikes, it is part of our nature to demand explanations — to try to impose some order on the chaos, and make sense out of that which seems senseless,” Obama said. “After all, that’s what most of us do when we lose someone in our family — especially if the loss is unexpected. We’re shaken from our routines, and forced to look inward. We reflect on the past. Did we spend enough time with an aging parent, we wonder. Did we express our gratitude for all the sacrifices they made for us? Did we tell a spouse just how desperately we loved them, not just once in a while but every single day?

“So sudden loss causes us to look backward — but it also forces us to look forward, to reflect on the present and the future, on the manner in which we live our lives and nurture our relationships with those who are still with us,” Obama continued. “We may ask ourselves if we’ve shown enough kindness and generosity and compassion to the people in our lives. Perhaps we question whether we are doing right by our children, or our community, and whether our priorities are in order. We recognize our own mortality, and are reminded that in the fleeting time we have on this earth, what matters is not wealth, or status, or power, or fame — but rather, how well we have loved, and what small part we have played in bettering the lives of others.”

When my brother died, I did a lot of that soul-searching so eloquently described by Obama. I joined a church and I reorganized my priorities so I could foster better friendships. When I saw how many friends Curt had — close, strange and varied, I was convicted about how few people I had cultivated real relationships with.

Before he died, I distinctly recall how appalled I was that my brother had spent a significant amount of money (to him anyway) to bail a friend out of jail. What a waste, I thought ruefully. And after he died, I was surprised to learn of a friend with whom he regularly watched movies; this friend later left movie tickets on Curt’s grave, he missed those regular get-togethers so much. Another one of his friends was quoted in his obituary as saying, “He was kind.”

What I learned from Curt’s death was that friendships — of all kinds with all kinds of people — were important. He made a difference in people’s lives. Like Obama described, my brother’s passing had me really asking myself if I had shown enough kindness and generosity and compassion to the people in my life.

I am a better person today — with many full and varied friendships — because I knew my brother. And I have cultivated those friendships with persistence because of his death.

I miss you, Curt. Today, I thank you, too.