My husband and I have been making a lot of decisions lately, especially those involving money. Some couples fight over money. I used to think it was because there wasn’t enough. Certainly that could be a reason, but even those will a healthy bank account can lose it over money.
One of the promises we made to each other early in our marriage was never to argue over money. So we sit down with the expectation that each voice will be heard and we try extra hard to listen. It’s been a joy to work together. I feel like inventing issues just for the pleasure of working them out with him.
It’s hasn’t all been easy, however. We both love art and I wanted a piece to replace one that was over the couch. It was pricey and he convinced me to order in a smaller size than I would have liked. When it came, I realized it wouldn’t work over the couch and we needed to leave the picture that was there. I wasn’t fond of that picture, but my husband was. I could have accused him of doing it on purpose. But I knew my husband. He would never be so deliberate. It took some doing, but together we found a place for my picture that didn’t relegate it to a back bedroom. He hung it with care and then stood back to admire it with me. “It looks good there. It’s growing on me,” he said, hugging me and making me feel valued. What more could a person want?
My teen was having a hard time recently and stormed around for a day and a half. Teens tend to be overly dramatic, so I thought letting him work through it was part of the process. But then it occurred to me that part of the drama was because he didn’t know how to react when faced with a problem. Was this the end of the world? Could he make it go away?
With age, comes perspective. I have lived through enough situations that I know I can fix my problems. I know the difference between a minor setback and a problem that is going to require more effort on my part. I can project what will probably happen if I ignore a problem and whether it will go away on its own or grow exponentially. A teen hasn’t grown that perspective.
I have a friend whose catchphrase is, “It’ll be okay. Everything will be okay.” I didn’t understand her need to say that until just now. As my teen seemed to be circling in a loop of angst, I realized he didn’t know it was going to be okay. It was fixable. I sat him down and told him it would be okay. We talked through the nuances of the problem until he realized it wasn’t so big after all. The pep talk on how capable he was helped to make it seem surmountable. I reminded him that he wasn’t alone. He didn’t need to worry by himself. If he needed help, he could rely on his parents.
To date, the problem has yet to be resolved. But we aren’t worried. It’s going to be okay.
I hate New Year’s Eve and New Year’s Day. It just seems like an unsafe driving night/drunk fest followed by a day of refection/atonement/resolution-making. I never make resolutions. It seems like many people make them just to break them. When I make a promise, I keep it. For that reason alone, I don’t make many.
We do have a tradition in our small family. Each year, we collect pennies with that year’s date on them to add to our Christmas stocking. There is always a panic in December to locate shiny pennies with the current year’s date on them, but we have never missed a year. My husband and I tease that we are going for the whole roll, or fifty pennies. To date, we have 35 pennies. It is a long time to be married. We are blessed. We started a penny stocking when our son was born and now he joins in the tradition as well.
As we add the pennies, we always spend a short moment talking about something special about that person or something significant that happened during the year. When we put away the stockings, it ensures that they are never empty. It’s a simple, inexpensive tradition. Maybe it’s a way to let go of the old year and bring in the new. I guess we just have to do things our own way.
There are but a few kinds of people in the world; those that follow the rules, those who enforce them and those who laugh and claim the rules were meant for everyone else. I tend to be a rule follower for the most part, but when it comes to generating ideas, I liked to see how close I could come to bending the intent of the rule while remaining in compliance. I’m sure I was a spitfire as a child. No one notices the quiet, dutiful kid in the corner. I was the one who was too creative to sit still.
I have learned the saying, “It is better to beg for forgiveness than to ask permission,” really is a good motto most of the time. As a parent, it is hard to remember that when I am on the other side of the equation, but I just have to remember it’s payback time. The saying I made up as a parent when talking about my rambunctious boy was, “It is easier to tame enthusiasm than it is to move a rock.” Thank goodness for those with curiosity and a lust for adventure. They will make something of themselves.
Those kinds of people are not the nose-to-the-grindstone, collect-the-gold-watch-at-retirement types. Those jobs don't even exist anymore anyway. My son looks at the system, and sees a status quo that is rigged against him. He has an entrepreneur spirit that scares security-conscious me. I look forward to seeing where his future takes him. Rules or no rules.
I must admit, I am excited for the holidays. The house is decorated and I made my first batch of cookies December 4, on what turned out to be National Cookie Day. Who knew? My husband has a secret pleasure of watching all the Christmas romance stories on the Hallmark Channels. We call them Hokie-Dokiers and love every minute of these uplifting, happily ever after stories.
This is the first day it has been “chilly” i.e., in the 60’s and we don’t have the heat on yet in our Phoenix home. My hands are cold. I have no fat on my wrists or the top of my hands and they are poorly insulated. I went out and bought fingerless mittens. They have sequins sewn on them, and it makes me smile every time I look down at the keyboard and see them twinkling at me.
It’s funny how a small thing like that can keep me smiling. One year, I went on a cruise to Hawaii with my brother, his wife and my mother. Before we went, I purchased some glittery hibiscus flower stickers from a party store. You can also find them online. Pricey ones look like gold or silver paint. We settled for an inexpensive multipack for around five dollars. The women in our group rubbed them on our faces and spent the day adorned with festive highlights. We had many people smiling at us and asking where they could purchase some.
As we were getting back on the ship, one elderly woman noticed our faces and remarked to her friends, “Who would have time for that?!” I’m sure she thought we sat and got our faces painted, but so what if we did? What if we chose to waste our limited time on the island in such frivolity? I didn’t bother to comment. I wanted to use my time more wisely.
Holidays are always a time to spend with family. We will slow down and make time for each other as we play some board games. I have already convinced them to paint a picture with me. All of us are beginners when it comes to painting but it doesn’t matter. It’s the time together. Like the moments when we sit around by the light of the Christmas tree and just talk. About nothing. That’s the gift I’m looking forward to– time for frivolous things. I might even buy some stickers.
In the old days, we would tell stories we made up by the campfire. Then we graduated to reading a book by flashlight. My son is a senior in high school, but when we're on a trip, we still keep up the tradition of sharing a book.
Recently, we vacationed by staying in a cabin we rented. A fireplace replaced the campfire, but we laughed that we still had to use old fashioned wood instead of having an instant gas fireplace. The microwave and stove made cooking easy and the dishwasher made clean-up a breeze. A soft bed replaced the hip-pointers guaranteed by sleeping in a tent.
But what also changed was how we read the book. I called it up, via Kindle, off my phone. The light of the phone meant there was no need for a flashlight. No one seemed to mind its soft glow and I was happy to adjust the font size to meet my changing eyesight. But the real change came afterward.
After the chapters were read, we sat in silence looking at the fire. I wished I remembered all the words to some of the old folk songs we used to sing. After thinking about it for a moment, I remembered I still had a phone with internet access. Soon we were Googling Peter, Paul and Mary songs, as well as songs by The Eagles and more. My son didn’t recognize these, but he did request Boots of Spanish Leather by Mandolin Orange. There are some things we lose when technology invades our life. I’m happy to say this wasn’t one of them.
I’m going on a four-day white water raft trip with one of my brothers. We are going with Hells Canyon Raft Company navigating the Snake River through Hell’s Canyon. Ever since I heard of rafting in North America's deepest canyon twenty years ago, it was something I thought I wanted to do- yet another bucket list item. When I visited my brother this spring, he mentioned he wanted to travel more. I jumped at the chance to suggest the trip. After checking with our spouses, we booked the trip. We are staying some extra days to explore Idaho.
It’s been decades since I had my brother to myself for an afternoon. I don’t doubt that we will get along- mature people find a way to make it work. I hope we come out on the other side of the week truly liking each other and the people we have become.
I wonder what I would really want my brother to know about me that he doesn’t already know. As I ask that of myself, I realize that answer really lies in what unresolved issues might I have with my brother. Sitting in the comfort of my writing chair, I can’t think of any. Maybe there are still childhood issues that will come up in the moment. I hope I don’t find myself saying, I thought I was over this… I also hope I remember to let my brother know how much I like the person he has become and the choices he has made.
That's probably the hardest part. We struggle to get what we need, but we forget we have the responsibility and should have the grace to give back. I hope I can do that. Maybe it will make up for the times I used to scratch him with my fingernails.
We are going to meet a rescue dog next weekend. Our last dog died months ago and left a huge hole in our hearts. My husband is nervous. He's not sure if he wants to open his heart again and risk future heartbreak. It's hard to grieve a pet.
I think women are made of sturdier stuff. The dog is not a replacement. It can never take the place of our beloved Charlie. But there is room in our heart for more. There is room to take a cast off– one who is downtrodden and nurture him. It is what we were made to do. Oh, I know someone is going to think I am old-fashioned and should be saying that women should be ruling the world. Yes, we can do that as well. In the workplace, there are strategies to ensure our nurturing, or mentoring is valued.
As a woman, I believe I was born to nurture and build both people and relationships. It is easy for me to pick a true underdog to nurture (no pun intended). I feel it is a duty to help love the unlovable and to strengthen the weak. A cute, popular breed of a dog doesn’t need my help. An older dog, one needing some medications, needs the love I have to offer. What a shame it would be to waste that commitment on an easy dog that everyone would gladly take.
I'm not afraid to grieve. I am only grateful for the opportunity to have someone worth grieving over in my life. It is an honor. It is a privilege. It is the price that one pays for the privilege of loving. When the time comes, I know that I will find ways to nurture myself through it as I comfort my husband.
As women, we are strong enough to love and we have enough love within us to be strong. That’s what I’m hoping for, anyway.
We drove from Arizona to California for a week-long vacation. We had planned to spend two days at an amusement park before moving onto a beach cottage we had reserved. My son has always had trouble with his ears beginning with ear tubes when he was a baby. He suffered badly with motion sickness after one of the first rides of the day. We made the best of the day but did not return for the second day. Thank goodness for phones with internet. We came up with wonderful things to do and had a great time.
Behavioral economists would say we were behaving rationally according to a term known as “sunk cost”. We had already paid for the tickets, and would never be able to recover that cost. Did we want to pay twice by doing something that we know wasn’t going to be fun? Life Hack lists other fallacies like this, which we tend to fall for- like eating too much at a restaurant just because we paid for the food. Robert L. Leahy Ph.D., in Psychology Today, has a great article on how to let go of sunk costs. He says our decisions shouldn’t be made looking backward, only forward. If we would have said, “But we paid for two days, we have to go both days.” We would have had a miserable time. Instead, we visited the La Brea Tar Pits and Museum. It was a Tuesday, which happens to be free admission day, so it didn’t cost us anything additional.
We might be better off if we can think of our wealth not in terms of money or possessions, but in terms of people and time. What is the best decision going forward for the people involved? Is that how you want to spend your time? The first question tends to be more muddled for me. Sometimes the answer isn’t as straightforward as I would like. The second question is the tie-breaker. It can help to keep looking forward in our decision-making and not backward. For it does not matter how much we have paid for something or have vested in a relationship, if it isn’t working for our future there is no sense in paying twice.
How will you spend your time?
My son brought me some pink tulips for May Day. I don’t care about flowers any other time of the year, but I insist on flowers for May Day. My husband and son sort of forgot this year, but I subscribe to the you-make-your-own-happiness club. After calling them on it, beautiful flowers appeared. Just beautiful.
My mother is in her eighties. She used to garden since I could remember and always had a beautiful flowering garden. Today she lives in a retirement village condo and the grounds are taken care of for her. She decided she was worth buying fresh flowers each week. Why shouldn’t we spend time nurturing ourselves? I will remember this lesson I have learned from her.
I read a letter by advice columnist, Carolyn Hax, who talked about how a mother could be a friend to her adult daughter with young children. While I agree with her answer in principle, I also wonder when is it finally the woman’s turn? It seems from the time she becomes an adult, she spends her life caring for others. She cares for her husband, her children and then her parents. It’s only when she is old and infirm that she may get some reciprocation. But, even then, she is supposed to do all she can for others.
An article from Woman’s Health discussed the sandwich generation- the person raising their own children while caring for their parents. They list self-care as a priority. We can’t be so self-sacrificing that we use up all our energy in the service of others. We need to reserve some energy for ourselves.
I think we need to find ways to replenish our energy, fill our spirit and to make ourselves happy. It will bring the energy back into our lives and allow us to be patient with others. Go ahead, buy some flowers. Join the make-your-own-happiness club. You will be better for it and so will the people around you.