Tag Archives: Marriage

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

If you haven’t read this novel yet, read it now because it’s good, like a hot dog (and this review is full of spoilers)

Nick arrives home on his fifth anniversary to find a crime scene and his wife missing.

Who abducted her and possibly killed her?

Right. It’s always the husband. The husband always did it.

Or did he?

That’s the set-up for Gillian Flynn’s novel Gone Girl.

gone girlThis was the It book of late 2012 and early 2013, and I read enough reviews to pique my interest and invest in the hardcover. As part of my “what matters” resolutions this year, I resolved to read only “good” books — books considered classics, ones that made “best of” lists, bestsellers or at least books positively reviewed by someone I respect. When I managed to read only 34 books in 2013 (despite resolving to read a book a week), I realized how few books I’ll be able to digest in a lifetime, so I want to make them good ones.

Gone Girl has sold at least 3 million copies, so it qualifies. I pulled it off my bookshelf and began reading.

This book is spell binding.

And I don’t even like fiction that much. Or mysteries. Or thrillers.

The characters are unlikable. The narrators are unreliable. There are a lot of expletives.

There are unbelievable plot twists. The ending is less than satisfying (one-star reviewers on Amazon, by far, hate the ending).


I. Could. Not. Put. It. Down.

I stayed up reading ’til midnight last night, and I accomplished nothing today until I was done.

Despite being unlikable, these characters demanded I stick around to find out how their story turns out.

Here’s where the spoilers begin: This book is best enjoyed if you don’t know what happens. If you have even an inkling that you want to read this book, READ NO FURTHER.


This book is an experience to savor, and I don’t want to taint it. So stop reading now if you don’t want me to ruin it for you.


Not kidding.

I liked Gone Girl because I could relate. Nick, the husband, is an out-of-work writer. He and Amy, his amazing wife, live in the Midwest. Nick cheats on his wife with one of his students. Amy observes that in the suburbs, Republicans go to Sam’s Club and Democrats go to Costco. “And everyone buys in bulk because — unlike Manhattanites — they all have space to store twenty-four jars of sweet pickles.”

I adored Gillian Flynn’s writing and wit. One of Flynn’s best lines is a commentary on readers and a lot of book reviewers:

“It’s good.” She chirps the last bit as if that were all to say about a book: It’s good or it’s bad. I liked it or I didn’t. No discussions of the writing, the themes, the nuances, the structure. Just good or bad. Like a hot dog.

Despite the unreliable narrators and preposterous twists (really? Amy anticipated Plan B? and C? and D?), the plotting is brilliant. I wish I would have thought of it.

I have to confess: Halfway through the book, I was rooting for Amy. Hating Nick for demanding that Amy be Cool Amy, for turning away from her when she revealed she didn’t like everything he liked and for finding solace in the arms of another (younger) woman. Hoping Amy’s revenge scheme would work and that Nick would pay for being a callow narcissist.

But Amy is a sociopath and she goes too far. The book, in its soul (if it has a soul, and I’m not sure it does) is about a marriage gone terribly, terribly wrong. It’s a mystery. I read it like I could figure it out, and you can’t figure it out. There’s no figuring out some things. Some things are mysteries. As unsatisfying as the ending is, I think it’s perfectly appropriate for the characters.

Gone Girl is good. I liked it. Like a hot dog.

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.

May your Valentine’s Day hold happiness, if not hope

Poor Raquel.

She waited on us Saturday night at a crowded seafood restaurant. A lot of people there were probably celebrating Valentine’s Day, looking romantically into each other’s eyes while ordering another round.

But not Raquel. She was working hard. And doing a fine job (my La Rouge Rita was yummy). Raquel was also dreading Valentine’s Day. We got to talking, and beautiful little Raquel was betrayed by a guy once.

Some guys are like that. Untrustworthy.

But not all men are like that.

I’m married to a good one now. But I was 39 when I found him. Sometimes these things take time.

Raquel’s got a loyal dog right now and maybe a sweet kitty. I hope Raquel can have an open heart so that when the right guy comes along — and he will eventually, and when he does he’ll love her dog and cat — she won’t miss the opportunity.

If you’re waiting for a good one, I’m hopeful for you. And if your Prince or Princess Charming has arrived, may your Valentine’s Day be wonderful.

Takes a shunning and keeps on running

“The Biggest Loser” is on my short list of must-see TV programs, and it’s on my Beloved’s short list of not-for-me programs. So, most Tuesday nights, I spend the first hour of “The Biggest Loser” watching it while walking on the treadmill at Snap Fitness, and then I sneak in the second hour at some point later in the week when Tyler isn’t watching TV with me.

Those NBC schedulers messed me up tonight, and I ended up watching “Glee” on Fox and Jim Gaffigan on Comedy Central while I was on treadmill because “The Biggest Loser” was delayed an hour (“Glee” was gleefully Christmasy and Jim Gaffigan and his bacon jokes kept me laughing so I’m not complaining).

My Beloved relented when I got home, and we watched “The Biggest Loser” despite his objections to Jillian’s obnoxiousness.

I watch “The Biggest Loser” for the heartwarming stories of triumph and the amazing weight transformations.

We snapped a shot of this Pace Arrow when we glimpsed it last September from the interstate in Minnesota.

His favorite part? Besides the end?

At one point during the marathon, contestant Elizabeth ran in front of a 1983 Pace Arrow camper. “Hey, there’s our RV!” he said, rewinding to take a second (and third and fourth look) at the recreational vehicle that looked eerily like the version sitting outside in front of our house. “Look at those awnings over the windows. Looks like its in pretty good shape.”

Hey, if I can watch football games and remark on the new uniform fashions, I guess he can watch reality TV and marvel at the mechanical longevity of Pace Arrow RVs.

He sings a song only I can hear

A unique and lovely bouquet from my Beloved. Can anyone identify those cabbage-like blooms in the middle?

My Beloved gave me flowers for no reason this week.

Much is written about second marriages and how the odds of success are against them, but of course, if 70% of second marriages end in divorce, then 30% are successful. In my limited experience, we both learned something in our previous marriages and therefore bring better skills to this pairing. Like bringing flowers for no particular reason. Perhaps this bodes well for our ultimate success.

Someone recently asked me what my husband is like.

First and foremost, he’s strong. He’s not just strong in the physical sense (though he has never met a jar he couldn’t open, a bolt he couldn’t loosen or a man he couldn’t beat in arm wrestling); he’s also emotionally resilient.

He’s a man of strong opinions so he’s decisive. But he’s not inflexible. He listens to other perspectives and changes his mind when effectively persuaded.

My Beloved is an extrovert. He likes to talk. He’s a great salesman who makes friends wherever he goes. I love this about him.

He’s also resourceful. And considerate. For example, last week (when the Twins were still in the thick of things, playoff-wise), he tracked down a way to watch the playoffs online, so that if we were ever away from the TV when the Twins were playing, I would be able to catch them on computer. He had entered the credit card number and pressed “buy” without asking “should we or shouldn’t we?” He knew I would agree. This is a man who isn’t entirely enthralled with baseball or the Minnesota Twins. He took on this hunt-and-kill task to make me happy. That’s all.

I am not so considerate in romantic ways like flowers and baseball. My approach in most relationships is to serve functional needs, not fun ones. When I used to babysit my nephews, I was the one who did the feeding and diaper changing; my mate at the time was the one who played the games. In my friendships, I am not the one planning the parties, I’m the one who designs the invitations (and edits resumes and writes letters of recommendation).

Similarly, in this relationship, I did not bring him flowers, but I arranged the ones he brought me. My Beloved’s love language is acts of service, so I try to speak this language, some days with better success than others. I pick up the dog’s toys and clean the toilets and bring my Beloved a glass of water in the middle of the night.

Best of all, I love his “go big or go home” approach to life. He’s fearless. I’ll follow him anywhere. And I’m sure the path, wherever it leads us, will be lined with flowers.

Marital finances and financial bliss, Part 2

My Beloved took over the household finances about a week ago.

It’s been such a relief. I feel lighter. I am lighter (I no longer carry the two household checkbooks in my purse!). I thought I was doing OK keeping most of the plates spinning most of the time. Occasionally, I’d have to clean up a shattered dinner platter, so to speak, when I paid a bill late and then see our annual percentage rate skyrocket. But I was doing OK. And feeling pretty much alone because My Beloved trusted me to handle things and had very little to do with the household finances other than to contribute his paycheck and use his debit card at the liquor store and the cleaners.

But our second vehicle — a 10-year-old SUV — ceased functioning on Christmas Eve. Trying to determine whether to repair or replace it led to detailed discussions about our income, expenses and all my, um, plate spinning.

Tyler saw opportunity for improvement, and here’s the money saving we accomplished (mostly in the past week):

  • We’re refinancing our first mortgage (we put this in motion late last year, but we’re still wrapping it up).
  • We changed our health insurance to high-deductible plans through each of our employers.
  • Tyler changed our car insurance carrier from Farmers to All State.
  • Tyler’s health insurance gives a rebate on health club membership if you attend regularly, so we signed up for that.
  • I cancelled a gift card program.
  • We cancelled one of our XM radio subscriptions.
  • Tyler subscribed to the premium channels on Dish Network  and cancelled our Netflix subscription.
  • He consolidated our unsecured debt, dramatically reduced our interest costs and created a plan for actually paying off our credit cards rather than just treading water.

Not only that, Tyler put our electricity and gas bills on the management system that allows you to pay the same amount every month, based on your history of usage (no more sky-high January and July gas bills!).

Tyler also found a little chest freezer for $75 on Craig’s List so we could buy meat when it’s on sale thus saving us money on our groceries. For example, we bought a 7-pound ham and 4-pound turkey breast which Tyler prepared for two separate suppers, then carved and stored in plastic containers for deli sandwiches meat (which normally costs $3.50 to $4 for 9 ounces). He also made turkey wild rice soup and will make split pea and ham soup with the bony carcasses. Tyler detests grocery shopping but he went with me, and I’m hoping we can save 10-20% on our monthly grocery bill in addition to the savings listed above.

Suddenly, instead of juggling cash glow to pay bills “just in time” (or occasionally late), we’re on top of our bills.

The Collaborative approach is working! We made a few sacrifices, and, of course, we must continue to watch our spending but now I feel like we’re both pulling on the reins instead of just me. 

Collaboration is bliss!

Please comment with your ideas for handling finances with your spouse. Maybe we all can learn some new tricks!

Marital finances and financial bliss, Part 1

Apparently, you can teach an old dog new tricks.

It just takes a while. Like 20 years. And two marriages.

Couples generally handle money in one of four ways:

  1. Autocratic: All household income goes into one account; one spouse pays all bills and balances the checkbook. (The other spouse quietly stews and passive-aggressively rebels.)
  2. Independent: Husband pays some bills or certain percentage of the bills with his income and balances his own checkbook. Wife pays some bills or certain percentage of the bills with her income and balances her own checkbook.
  3. Hybrid: All household income goes into household account for household expenses and one spouse pays all the bills and balances the checkbook. Each spouse gets a stipend for personal expenses, over which they have complete control.
  4. Collaborative: All household income goes into one (or more) account(s). Spouses share responsibility for paying bills and balancing the checkbook.

I tried the Autocratic approach early in my first marriage, but that created a lot of resentment because he had no control. We couldn’t do the Independent approach because my first husband was a graduate student, unemployed or underemployed our entire 16-year marriage, and the income disparity was just too great.

So, I’ve subscribed to the Hybrid approach for most of my first marriage and all of my second marriage. Until a week ago, I was the spouse who sorted the mail, paid the bills, handled cash flow issues and balanced the checkbook. It took two hours a week, minimum.

But our Durango disaster and subsequent discussions about repairing or replacing it inspired My Beloved to have more control over the household finances. So for the first time in 20 years, I handed the household checkbook to my husband.

Tomorrow: What happened next.

Who are you? And why won’t you go to bed with me?

Visiting with an 80-year-old man from my church recently, we talked about his ill wife.

She’s 80-something, too, and recently was admitted to the hospital. She really ought to be living in some sort of care facility, he said, but he just can’t face that eventuality. They’ve been married 58 years.

Besides whatever physical ailments she’s enduring right now, she’s also experiencing memory problems.

The worst part, he said, is when they’re at home, and it’s bedtime. He is about to get into bed with her, and she asks, “Who are you? Why are you getting into bed with me?”

Heart breaking. I say a silent prayer for this kind old man even as I write this.

It got me wondering: Why was she remembering a time before her marriage when she normally went to bed by herself, rather than remembering 58 years of going to bed with this man? Why did her mind, when stripped bare and devoid of comfortable memories, think she ought to be going to bed alone?

One of the best things about being married, I think, is sleeping with someone else. (Really, I’m talking about the actual sleeping, not a euphemism for, well, going to bed with someone — also a great part of being married, but not for discussion in this forum.)

There’s this smooth, warm body next to you, breathing softly (or maybe familiarly snoring). Maybe you whisper to each other in dark or cuddle up. There’s comfort in knowing you’re not alone in this world as you drift off to sleep. It’s glorious.

So, I think that if I ever get Alzheimer’s, instead of wanting to go to bed alone, I will be the crazy old lady who asks the unfortunate soul who ends their day with me, “Who are you? And where are you going? I don’t like sleeping alone!”