Tuesday, December 27, 2022

Unsolicited Advice about Marriage

My husband and I are celebrating 42 years of wedded bliss today, so I thought it was a good day to talk about marriage.

The last thing I would ever deign to claim is that I'm an "expert" on anything--even on those vocations to which I've dedicated the majority of my 64-plus years on earth: wife, mother, and homemaker.  I don't pretend to have all the answers, and the last thing I would ever dare to do is give someone unsolicited advice about how to be happy and successful in those areas.

From summer 2016, taken in the yard at Oyster Haven.

I certainly don't know it all.  But as far as marriage goes, I just know what works for my husband and me.  We tied the knot on this date in 1980, and ever since we've enjoyed an extraordinarily happy marriage, with lots of crests and very few troughs; and although we sometimes disagree and might occasionally get a tad too impatient or grumpy when dealing with each other, we have never had a shouting match.  When I say never, I mean NEVER; no screaming and yelling, no throwing plates at each other (does that really ever happen, or is that just in the movies?), no storming away from each other with a slam of the door.  We don’t really even raise our voices at each other--that's just not the way we roll at all.

I believe that the secret to our happy marriage comes down to two simple sentences that my husband and I have uttered countless times over the years.

Me: "You're my hero."

Him: "That's all I've ever wanted to be."

Our words might come off as sappy and saccharine, and not at all serious, to the casual observer (and our funny boys will pretend to vomit if they hear them, because that's how they roll); but we are absolutely sincere when we say them.  He is my hero; he has spent our whole life together striving to be just that.  And I try to let him know how much I appreciate all that he does for me and our family, as often as I can.

We choose to look for only the good in each other, while accepting the flaws (because we all have them, don’t we?); we appreciate the gifts and strengths each of us brings to our union, instead of wasting time criticizing each other’s weaknesses.  We don’t comment on each other’s idiosyncrasies or try to change each other and then get frustrated when we realize we can’t.  We accept each other, and truly like each other.  We “get” each other, and we make each other laugh.  Every day, we try to honor those sacred vows we made back in 1980.  Good times and bad.  Sickness and health.  Richer or poorer.  Til death do us part.  

And every day, in little and big ways, my guy is my hero.

I’m convinced that if more men wanted to be heroes in their wives’ eyes, and more wives appreciated their efforts to do so, there would be a lot fewer divorces.  But maybe that’s just me.

You know, I'm not the best at giving advice.  I can't always find the right words to express what I'm thinking.   But this post by Leila Marie Lawler, over at Like Mother, Like Daughter is a must-read on the subject of marriage and understanding husbands and their unique role in the family.  It is so beautifully written, and gives such tremendously accurate advice on how to be happy in your marriage.  (Adopt the "I'd rather be happy than right" philosophy; it's liberating and leads to peace and contentment!)

Another insightful piece I read on the subject of marriage comes from one of my favorite Catholic writers (and one of the Instagram voices I miss most since deleting my account), Elizabeth Foss, who has a regular column in the Arlington Catholic Herald (our diocesan newspaper in VA).  An article that appeared there in August 2022 was titled, "Marry young?"  This part in particular struck me as profoundly true, and important to remember in this "let's put off marriage (but not necessarily living together) until everything is perfect" world we live in: "The world tells young couples to get all their ducks in a row, to delay until they are secure.  Life has taught me that the ducks never line up neatly and that security is only in faith, never in the tangible, touchable things of this world.  The most seemingly secure job one day can be over the next day.  The healthiest spouse on your wedding day can be battling cancer on your second anniversary.  I lived that story.  You don't get to write the script.  God does.  It's your job to improv along.  Who do you want to do that with and why are you waiting to get started?  Do you doubt that God will give you sufficient grace to do life together within the covenant of a sacramental marriage?  Are you putting limits on what God can do in favor of the security you think the world can offer?"

I'm so glad that my husband and I figured out when we were very young that we wanted to do life--improvising as we went along--together, and that we wanted to get started doing so as soon as we possibly could.  I realize that not everyone is lucky enough to meet the person with whom they will spend their life at 15, and then to be married at 22. But no matter what age you are, when you do meet that right person, don't wait until everything is “perfect” to begin your married life together.  It never will be perfect, for this earthly life is not paradise by a long shot, it’s the proverbial valley of tears; but at least if you take that leap of faith you'll have a partner to share whatever burdens you must carry here.  The main purpose of marriage is to help each other get to Heaven, and things that are really worth doing (and what it more worth doing than that?!) are never easy. 

But it doesn't have to be so hard if you take this unsolicited that advice I said I'd never give (you've been warned!): ladies, marry someone who wants to be your hero. And then make him feel like one. 

In Rome, spring 2019 (an early 40th anniversary trip!  Thank
goodness we thought to take it before the world shut down!).

At Notre Dame, his alma mater, in 2018.

Saturday, December 24, 2022

Merry, Merry!

For this Christmas Eve post, I’m going to ignore the stomach bug that’s made an appearance in our over-full house, just in time for Santa’s arrival, and focus on all the merriest moments of the past few days!  And I’m going to remember these wise words from IG influencer extraordinaire Emily Stimpson Chapman:



See you in 2023! ❤️🎄

Monday, December 19, 2022

Around Our House This Christmas

A week ago, our middle son, his wife, his five children (aged 8 down to 9 months), and his mother-in-law moved in with us.  His mother-in-law has since moved out of the basement guest room, to make room for our youngest son's wife.  This daughter-in-law drove from Nashville and arrived on Saturday, and she'll be joined by her hubby tomorrow night.  He will be flying into DC after finishing up a work project.

Oh yes, I almost forgot to add that on Saturday, our youngest son's two cats also moved into the basement with their mama.  Aside from a giant playroom and a storage area down there, there's a full bath and a cozy guest bedroom.   The cats are living large.

Our middle son and his tribe are not having nearly as comfortable an experience as the kitties, however, as the seven of them are sharing two bedrooms upstairs.  My boy and his wife are sleeping in twin beds, like Rob and Laura Petrie. (Does that reference to The Dick Van Dyke Show expose just how old I am?)  The 3-year-old, who slept in a crib at home, is using our decades-old port-a-crib in the room with her parents.  The baby is still co-sleeping with his mom, so that works out okay.  The oldest child, a boy, is on an air mattress on the floor in the other bedroom, where two of his younger sisters are sharing a full-sized bed.  It's what you would call a full house.

The reason this little family is here is that they are having a house built, and in a perfect world it should have been done by now.  But with all the supply chain issues, weather issues (and to be honest, problems with their contractor), there have been numerous delays.  They are very close to getting a certificate of occupancy, and all of their household goods had to be moved over to the new house a week ago so that they could vacate the house they were living in, because they had renters (who'd had a house fire and lost everything) who needed to move in there ASAP.

Does this sound complicated?  It is.

So our boy's family will be living with us, about 45 minutes from my son's place of employment and about an hour from the three big kids' Catholic school, for an indefinite amount of time; but luckily, Friday was the kids' last day of school until after the New Year.  So at least having to get them fed, dressed, and out of the house by 6:30-6:45 every morning to get them there on time is no longer part of their daily routine.  Their parents are pretty relieved about that.

Needless to say, even if the house gets miraculously finished in the coming days, they will not be settled enough to have things up and running (would they even be able to find their tree?!), so they will be spending Christmas here with us.

I'm thinking this will be my last post until after the holidays, but I thought I'd leave you with a few images of life around our house this Christmas.  It's pretty loud, and it's pretty crazy.  But it's also very sweet.

That last picture is of grandchild #19, our youngest, getting to know his auntie, son #5's wife.  (And she is currently expecting grandchild #20!)

This will probably be a slightly more excitement-filled Christmas morning than we've had in a while.  It should be fun.

Here's wishing you and yours the very merriest of Christmases and the happiest of New Years!  May the peace of Christ be with you during this holiday season and always!  God bless you!

Sunday, December 11, 2022

Happy Gaudete Sunday!


The tablecloth is fake—not Battenburg lace, but cheap, kid-friendly vinyl.

The candles are fake, with kid-friendly LED lights instead of real flames.

These are the things we do to keep our home manageable and safe during Advent for visiting grandchildren, 13 of them here in VA aged 8 and under.

Not everything is fake, though; the joy of the season is absolutely real.

Saturday, December 10, 2022

A Belated Happy St. Nicholas Day!

I meant to blog on the 6th...but life got in the way!  I hope it was a happy one for everyone!

Two of our sons celebrate the feast of St. Nicholas in a special way.  Here are a couple of pictures son #1's wife sent us from their celebration.

And son #2's wife was sure to let us know that their oversized St. Nicholas (which was a gift from us last Christmas) was part of the festivities at their house.

A few days ago, son #4's wife and four kids (triplets-5, and their little sister-3) came over to Papa and Grammy's for a play date, and I got a picture of each of them standing near our St. Nick.  I'm sharing these pictures with you because they are pretty much guaranteed to make you smile.  And also because it won't be long before they all tower over that figurine, so I want to have a record of the days when they were almost the same size as he is!

This fella is a dinosaur fanatic, which you might
have guessed.

It was a fun to give giant handcrafted wooden St. Nicks to each of our boys and their wives last year, and I hope when their children are all grown up they will be a part of their happy childhood Christmas memories.

This year, I couldn't think of anything particularly special to get or make for everyone.  Sometimes, I'm an inspired gift-giver, and sometimes I struggle.  I do so enjoy giving gifts, but that is not my main "love language" (a term I never heard used until I had daughters-in-law).  I'm what you might call bilingual: my two love languages are time spent together and acts of service.  

You probably know all about this love language stuff without me telling you.  But the other two are words of affirmation and physical touch.

All five of the love languages are great, don't get me wrong, and I hope I use them all well with the people who mean most to me.  But I'm just not fluent in gift-giving.

How about you?  What's your love language?  And does your family celebrate St. Nicholas Day in a special way? (We didn't when our boys were young, and I regret that now!)

Monday, December 5, 2022

Cows, and Chickens, and Goats—Oh My!

In this recent post, I promised some photos of my oldest son and his wife Regina's sweet Iowa homestead. Their livestock includes three cows, three goats, three cats, 16 ducks, 17 chickens, and two rabbits. And they're gardening and growing their own vegetables.  While we were visiting them last week, we ate roasted potatoes that had come from their garden and a chicken dish made with one of the chickens they'd slaughtered and frozen.  I feel a bit as if I've gone back in time or something—back to a simpler era when most families lived this way; and although I'm not sure I was made for this rural life myself (I’m not a big city girl, but I’m definitely a small town girl), I admire what our kids are doing.

Here are some snapshots I took around their "farm."

And since it’s almost Christmas, here’s the new hay manger our son just got for feeding his cows this winter.  A bit big to be a bed for the Baby Jesus...but a manger nonetheless!

Wishing you all a blessed Advent, dear readers.