Thursday, April 17, 2014

Golden Oldies

It's Thursday, and since we've conveniently landed on letter O in the A-Z Blog Challenge today, let's keep it simple.

O is for Golden Oldies

I'm so happy to have both my girls home for the Easter Weekend. Both their boys will be here too so a full house, which in my opinion is the best kind. My girlies are best buds, and they don't get to see one another in person nearly often enough, which means weekends like this one are always special.

So let's talk Easter. I love this day perhaps more than any other single day of the year. Easter marks a miraculous moment in time, a moment that through the centuries has remained constant. Sure. True. A day set aside especially to celebrate God's great love for us, and the gift of hope He gave this tired troubled earth. That gift still there for the taking.

In spite of snow in the middle of April, the ground still yields to the One who made it, and never is that more evident than in springtime. The days become longer, the sun shines brighter, life blooms.

Spring unfolds ever so slowly in this part of the country, but I think the anticipation, the small glimpses we're given before we see the natural world in all its glory, helps us notice and appreciate it all the more.

Are those little girls in that photo too cute, or what?

We always begin the day with Easter baskets at your seat in the kitchen. Yes, still. You are never too old for an Easter basket. The boyfriends are going to discover the truth of that statement this year too-ha!

One of our most favorite moments captured on video was Daughter2 at age three spying her basket and shouting, 'TAPE!!  I GOT MY VERY OWN TAPE!!' Toddlers and scotch tape equals match made in heaven.

After baskets there would always be an egg hunt. The boys coming to my house this year can relax...we won't make them hunt eggs. We will however, insist they dye some because certain traditions you just don't mess with.

Oh my stars, could they be any cuter?  I think not.  My mom bought those coats which are too precious for words. They wore them for two or three Easters because we grow 'em slow around here. Same thing could be said about our tulips. That flower bed they're standing in is pretty impressive, isn't it? In my defense we'd been in that house less than a year.  

I have always loved pastels at Easter. In NJ it quite often feels like winter on the day, but in Maryland spring came a little earlier. Everybody's growin' up. Ages  9 and 7 in yellow and pink, with fancy frilly 'church' socks and brand new Easter shoes.

Pay no attention to the flower bed.  

I couldn't find the 'before church' photo of my girls at ages 8 and 10 so I'll have to settle for a basket shot.  Daughter2 is the spitting image of my sister here.  My sister will say daughter2 is the spitting image of me.  People always thought my sister and I were twins, but we didn't get it. When I look at this picture I get it.

This shot captures the essence of daughter1-

Sweetness personified.  

My hair?
It was the 90's people.

Fast forward a few more years, and Easters looked something like this-

In high school my girls spent Easter breaks with Young Life, in places like Romania and Bulgaria, doing muddy work assignments and loving on orphans.

Seeing first hand how people the world over need to hear and know the message of hope that Easter brings. 

I'm not sure how the verse found in John 3:16 became something to be mocked, but in today's culture it seems it has. Still, everything you need to know about Easter is found right there-

'For God so loved the world, that He gave His only Son, that whoever believes in Him, should not perish, but have eternal life.'

I pray your weekend is filled with sunshine and family, and most of all with the knowledge of God's great love for you and the hope He offers each one of us at Easter and always.

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Not the Hodgepodge

I've declared spring break in the Wednesday Hodgepodge this week, because one post today was all I could manage.

Almost manage.

Try to manage.

A-ny-way...the Hodgepodge returns at its usual day and time next week, but today you'll have to settle for the letter N. I have a meeting here all morning, along with a plumber coming for a pipe repair in the garage (thank you winter), and an appointment at the salon this afternoon. Oh, and company arriving tomorrow, so I need to vacuum and pretend to dust.

And it snowed overnight which is neither here nor there, but felt like it should be mentioned.

I enjoy participating in the A-Z blog Challenge every April, and I especially love blogging around a theme. The only problem I run into is that life outside my theme continues to happen during the month of April, and I like to record that too.

Daughter2 has been home since Saturday, her first trip back to the Garden State since Christmas. Whaaat?  Mothers of littles, this is what life looks like when your babies grow up and get real jobs many states away. You gotta learn to deal.

Rest assured you will, but it's a process.

I told Daughter2 I'd need a letter n word to go along with some words and pictures in which she's featured today, and she suggested with a giggle, 'Naughty?'  Ha! I won't lie when I say that word popped into my head too. As a tiny tot, this child did spend a lot of time on the naughty step, although these days she is anything but.

In her defense, she wasn't really naughty. Just impulsive, talkative, strong willed, determined, a lover of living life at full throttle, and smarter than the average 2-year old and sometimes her mother. She was also adorable, which was her saving grace.

These days my once daring toddler is an elementary school teacher, currently enjoying a full week away from her own little sweeties. Truly she has the nicest class in her school, and she's not the only one who says so. As much as she loves her students, even grown up girls relish time away to rest and regroup. To visit 'home', sleep in their old bed upstairs, allow their mama to buy them lunch and a brand new Easter dress.

Mama needs that too.

Mothers and daughters need time to snuggle up under a blanket on a perfectly perfect Sunday afternoon, time to chat about all manner of things including recipes, class projects, old friends, new friends, boyfriends, moving apartments, summer plans, and everything else under the sun.

N is for Never Too Old

Yesterday she tagged along to my Bible Study and heard at least ten times that there's no doubt whose daughter she is. We were looking at some old pictures taken when I was her age, and had I been ahem, a natural blonde back then, we could have been identical twins.

Daughter2 spent some time grading papers on Monday afternoon. When she was a little girl she imagined afternoons spent grading papers, and as is true of most things we long for as children, the reality of adulthood is slightly different. Still I think she doesn't mind so much.

One of my favorite things about having daughters in the house is the sound of music. Daughter2 plays the piano, but since she lives in a tiny apartment, she doesn't get to play unless she's home.

Most afternoons she wanders into the room where our piano sits, and as she plays and sings all feels right with the world. I stand in the kitchen and listen and I think about that once upon a time 9-year old with bright blue eyes and a boat load of confidence. The one who learned her musical A-B-C's in a neighborhood studio, who made her piano teacher laugh with her quick wit and easy smile. She was, in a word-irresistible.

She still is.

Now what does all this have to do with marriage?  Well, nothing really.  Except to say one day you look around your dining room table and realize you've got a houseful of adults.

And you are not sad.

Instead you and your hubs smile a lot, and you marvel at the enchanting people your babies have become. People whose lives and hearts and DNA are inextricably linked with your own.

Mothers of littles, this is what your life looks like when your babies grow up.
It's a different kind of beautiful....

...but beautiful all the same.

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

The M Word

No the M word is not marriage.
M is for Money

'I work all night, I work all day, to pay the bills I have to, money money, must be funny...'

Name the band who sang those lyrics.

Of course it would be a lot more fun here to discuss the music of Abba than it would be to talk money, because really what isn't??? But my A-Z Blog Challenge theme this month is marriage, so discuss it we must.

Technically money is one of those topics that should be discussed prior to marriage, but it's also one that comes up on a pretty regular basis once you've tied the knot.  Ha-that might be an understatement of gargantuan proportion.

Hubs and I talked just a very little bit about money prior to getting married, mostly in the sense that we'd definitely be needing some. I'm only half kidding. We each had college degrees, our first real jobs, automobiles, and small checking accounts. Very small.

Oh, and love but you can't live on that!

We joined our meager checking accounts when we got married, and that's worked for us. What's mine is his, what's his is mine, and that's how it's been since the day we said I do. We began our life together living in a modest apartment furnished on the cheap, put money into savings accounts, bought insurance, worked hard, and planned for the future.

In 1984 most of our friends who married were in similar positions. Back then young adults didn't necessarily feel like they needed to have all their ducks in a row regarding home ownership and hefty bank accounts in order to commit. We just got married and figured together anything was possible.

'For richer for poorer...'  
We hoped for the former, but expected some of both. 

I know in the year 2014 young adults have a different mindset, and I'm not saying there's anything wrong with having money in the bank, or owning a home before you marry. I'm just saying it's not essential, and those things don't guarantee happiness or satisfaction within a marriage.

What I do think helps happiness along is knowing if your intended is a saver or a spender, and also being honest about which category you fall into. 

It's understanding who pays the bills on a monthly basis, who manages larger investments, and what will your budget look like.  Will you take vacations? Give money to your church and/or causes close to your heart? Tuck money away for the college education of children not yet conceived? 

It's talking about your hopes and dreams and plans for the future, and how finances or the lack thereof, will help or hinder those plans. 

In almost every survey taken, or study conducted on the top stressors in marriage, money problems rank in the top three, often taking the number one spot.

Hi Girls-

Have an honest conversation about the M word before you get married. 
And keep having honest conversations as the years roll by.

Mom (and Dad)

No hubs doesn't blog here, but I know he'd say the same.

Monday, April 14, 2014

Love Means Always Having to Say You're Sorry

Way back when, 1970 to be exact, a film called Love Story was released. The film was based on a novel by Erich Segal and featured Ali McGraw and Ryan O'Neal as Ivy League college students who fall hopelessly in love. I won't spoil it for you except to say it's a case of wrong side of the tracks, and quite possibly one of the saddest movies ever to hit the big screen.

I was 10 years old in 1970 so I didn't see the movie until it had been out a few years. Love Story was rated PG, and in 1970 most parents didn't allow allow their ten year old daughters to see movies with a PG rating, but I digress.

Back around Valentine's Day I heard some folks on the radio bantering about a line made popular in this film. It was voted by The American Film Institute as #13 in its list of most quoted movie lines, and the line is this-

'Love means never having to say you're sorry.'

Has that been your experience because I have to say it has not been mine?

Since we've hit letter L in the A-Z Blog Challenge today, I thought now would be a good time to weigh in on that big little word-

L is for Love

We don't have to wonder what love looks like. A picture perfect portrait of the word was painted by the apostle Paul centuries ago, and while these statements play out in all sorts of ways within individual marriages, they remain universally true. 

Love is patient.
Love is kind.
It doesn't envy or boast.
It's not arrogant or rude. 
It does not insist on its own way. 
It's not irritable or resentful. 
It keeps no record of wrongs. 

It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.  

Does any other married person out there squirm just a little when they read those simple statements? Those verses were read on our wedding day back in 1984, and as I listed them here I did a quick mental inventory of my expertise as a wife-ha! It seems I fall short on a few of those on a pretty regular basis, maybe even every day.

Living out all the pieces of that picture every single day is hard. When you live with another person love is tested in a hundred ways a thousand times a day. It's easy to feel impatience with your spouse, easier to sometimes treat perfect strangers with more kindness than we treat the person we married. We look around and think we want more, better, different. We get mad.  Easily. Past hurts and the mistakes you or your spouse have made can spin like a film reel inside your head.

Love is many things, but it is for sure not 'never having to say you're sorry'.

Love is waking up every day purposing to be all those things you weren't the day before.
Love is letting some things go and making dinner instead.
Love is a million small acts of kindness sprinkled across a lifetime.

Love means always having to say you're sorry.

There's power in those words. Left unsaid, small annoyances turn into something much bigger than they ought to be. And without somebody saying those words, truly big issues will begin to take up all the space in the room until it feels like there's none left for the two of you. 

In marriage the words "I'm sorry" will be uttered hundreds, if not thousands of times, and that's a good thing. Those two little words are what help us live out the last part of that verse-

They allow trust to grow.
They offer hope.
They make you want to persevere.

Saturday, April 12, 2014


You knew I would get around to this one eventually.

K is for Kids

My theme for this year's A-Z Blog Challenge is loosely entitled-Married with Children. Mostly I'm trying to focus on the married piece of that three word phrase, but the 'with children' portion is worth mentioning here too.  

I think there are two or three make or break issues in determining if someone is right for you, and one of those issues would be children. As in, yes we both want children someday, or no we're both very certain we don't want children ever. People can and do change their minds of course, but I tell my daughters to assume the way he feels now will still be true ten years from now.

Can you live with that?

If you know going in you're on opposite ends of the spectrum in your feelings about having children, and you get married hoping and praying your spouse will change his mind, well you're setting yourself up for heartache, and potentially a break up down the road.

Marriages quite naturally change once kids are added to the mix. Children open up a well inside of you whose depths you were unsure of prior to those little creatures burrowing their way into your heart and home.  There  have been moments since having children where I thought my heart might literally burst from the joy I feel inside. Becoming parents adds a depth and richness to the relationship between husband and wife that is a remarkable thing.

It also adds conflict, stress, and layers of complexity and need, that didn't exist before you had children. Only someone who has never been awakened six times in a seven hour stretch of the dark dead of night would say they were going to have a baby to make an ailing marriage better.

I don't know about you but my level of snappiness and impatience (with everyone, but my husband in particular) rises in direct proportion to how much or how little sleep I'm getting. When Daughter2 was a newborn there were many days I felt like I'd been steamrolled. Literally run over with a steam roller. I remember once bursting into tears at a family dinner, and my sister (who didn't have children at the time) asking why I was crying.  I screeched back, 'Because I've gone 56 nights in a row without more than two consecutive hours of uninterrupted sleep, that's why!!'

I was a delight.
Hubs was tired too.

He had a job with a long brutal commute, and gobs of travel. I was on my own a lot with a baby who didn't sleep and a toddler who wanted my attention. Hubs loved his girls to the moon and back, but I'm sure he was secretly grateful for a business trip with a quiet hotel stay every now and then.

I mean it with every fiber of my being when I say those early days of parenthood were glorious days, kissed by the sun and full of magic. But there were hours amidst the golden that were just plain hard, and those hours could feel neverending at times. Stress and beauty go hand in hand in the world of raising children, and not just when they're babies either. Kids get bigger and so do the demands of raising them. I think those late teen into early adult years might just be the most challenging of them all, yet in many ways they're also the most rewarding.

Parenting is best played as a team sport, because sometimes it's survival of the fittest-ha! In the early years divide and conquer works since you're bigger than your offspring, but rest assured as they grow and mature you will too. You'll discover where your hubs strengths and weaknesses lie in the parenting department, and he'll come to know yours. You zig and zag in a lifelong dance that requires gentle strength, finesse, and humor.

More than 25 years after we first marveled at our newborn baby girl, I still like the boy I married. That may sound a little silly to say, but it matters. A lot. There is great value in remaining connected as husband and wife apart from the bond you share as parents.

Because in what feels like all of a sudden, it's just the two of you again.

I'm pretty sure you never stop caring, loving, forgiving, guiding, praying and listening to your children. What those actions might look like in practice changes, but that well they cracked open inside of you is still wide open. Your heart remains ever exposed and vulnerable to your child's hopes and dreams and hurts and heartaches, even when that 'child' is 20-something. Or fifty-something my mom would say.

Easter, 1992

Being a parent has been the greatest joy of my life.
Parenting alongside my hubs has only made it sweeter.

Friday, April 11, 2014

Jukebox Hero

A friend commented that my topic for this year's A-Z Blog Challenge is a little tricky to write about, and she's right. My brain is officially strained. Marriage is an institution, yet how that institution is lived out behind closed doors is deeply personal.

I don't want to sound preachy.
I don't want to sound like I'm lecturing.
I definitely don't want to sound cheesy.

A conundrum.

Pretty sure I'm not completely avoiding all the above, but no matter where my rambling thoughts take me, I always have my daughters in mind as I write those thoughts down.

Except today.
Today is more for the hubs.
He'll get this.

If I asked you for the soundtrack to your marriage what songs would you include? Mine would be too lengthy for a blog post (even I have my limits!), so I'm going to list just five here today.

Just five.
Can I list just five?
We'll see.

We listen to a lot of music in our house. We keep a running list of our all time top 100, periodically tweaking when we hear an oldie we'd forgotten, or run across a new song we love. Music has the power to change my mood, my focus, my day. I think its kind of amazing the way a particular song can carry you back to a place in time, or evoke a memory that's happy, sad, or most often a little bit of both.

Some of my song choices won't make a lot of sense to you reading here, but they make perfect sense to me and the hubs. These aren't necessarily songs whose lyrics apply to our life, but rather they're songs we associate with a particular season of life. They're songs that when we hear them play, we look for each other to share a smile. Or a sigh. Or hubs grabs my hand and we dance even if its in our own kitchen, because these songs mean something to us, and that something can't really be explained in words.

So much of married life is like that.

When I look back at a lifetime spent together I realize I almost always see the years in chunks of time. There were the college years. Dating. Falling in love. Marriage. Then came the little girl years. The Bay years. The England years. And now.

I tend to think of our music as belonging to those same chunks of time too. Somehow I've whittled my list down to just five, but wow that was hard. Just five songs out of so many I associate with more than three decades of him and me.

I could list five hundred, but ain't nobody got time for that!

J is for Just Five

I Just Wanna Stop by Gino Vannelli


Baby I Need Your Lovin' by The Four Tops


How Forever Feels by Kenny Chesney


White Flag by Dido


Everything by Michael Buble

I like that last song especially. After 30 years as man and wife it's good to still be someone's everything. Good to have someone be yours too.

If you're inclined to leave a comment today, I'd love to know a song or two that would be featured on your soundtrack. Have a great weekend everyone!

Thursday, April 10, 2014

Imagine That

I'm using my Thursday A-Z Challenge posts as an excuse to post some throwback photos. Today I'm throwing it all the way back to 1984.

I is for Insurance. Improvise. Innocent. Un-Imaginable.

Yes you are seeing that correctly, and you might be wondering why in the world we'd ever have taken a picture like this one. The reason is simple-insurance.

We were newlyweds and we bought something called Renter's Insurance because we were renters, and grown ups told us we should get some. We certainly wouldn't have wanted anything to happen to valuables like this one now, would we?

Actually no we wouldn't, because to a couple of kids starting out on their own, replacing a television  would have cost money we didn't have. I think the VCR was free. Or rather hubs earned it in some sort of incentive challenge at work. Yay hubs! So we took this picture, and more like it, of everything we owned. We signed up at the bank for our first safety deposit box, and we tucked those photos carefully inside in case we ever had to file an insurance claim. We didn't.

The TV is sitting on a wooden box, which I'm pretty sure no insurance company could replace-ha! I'm not sure where that box came from, but it might have been on someones curb prior to being in our living room. When I looked at this picture I noted it was crooked, but try as I might I couldn't get it straightened. Pretty sure its not the picture that's crooked. I think it's more likely the box wasn't 100% square, and consequently the TV sat a little off center.

Hey kids! In 1984 TVs had antennae! And dials! In 1984 you spent a lot of time standing in front of your TV wiggling the antenna this way and that to make the picture better. And turning the channel dial until you landed on something to watch. Don't feel sorry for us though. It's not like there were 300 to choose from. Back in 1984 you had the three major networks, PBS, and if you were lucky, UHF which gave you a couple of extra stations. Good times!

They were good times. They were innocent in the sense that your life together was out there for the making. They were the beginnings of your happily ever after.

Do you see the plant off to the side? In 1984 plants were 'furniture'. When you don't have a lot of furniture you learn to improvise, and great big plants were ideal space fillers. This one belonged to hubs brother's girlfriend. I'm not precisely sure how we ended up with it but we did, and that plant moved with us to six different homes in five different states. We had to give it away when we moved overseas, but if they'd let me put it on the shipment I would have.

In 1984 most newly marrieds didn't go to Pottery Barn and completely furnish houses they owned. Most couples we knew were living very much like us-in rented apartments filled with hand me down furniture and big houseplants to fill in the gaps. It was grand. I mean that.

It makes me smile when I think about our first home and the kids who lived there. It may have been an unremarkable two bedroom apartment, but it felt warm and cozy to us. What it lacked in the way of  elegant furnishings was more than made up for in rooms filled with love and possibility and big dreams just waiting to come true.

This December marks thirty years since I first sat as a Mrs. in front of our Christmas tree. That tree, like our apartment, was a little light on decoration. Like it knew to leave room for the little girl hand prints and the fragile Big Ben ornament and all the life lived that hangs there now.

I'm glad we started small. I'm glad we figured it out as we went along. I'm glad for the memory of our slightly under dressed first home, and the soft place from which a couple of kids were launched into a future that was all they imagined.

Plus a whole lot more.