Every Marriage Matters ~ Guest Post by Terri

It’s a big day! Everyone, please meet Jen’s mom Terri, our special guest blogger. She has been married to Ted for almost 46 years, and together they raised Jen and her two brothers, which was no small adventure. Now there are 8 grandkids begging her to retire from her impressive health care career.

We are so proud to have her here today, with such an important message about marriage.

I ran into you at church and asked, “So where is Dave today?”  You said, nonchalantly, “He is not here. We are getting a divorce and he is going to another church now. ” Trying to discern your mood I said, “Oh Beth, I am so sorry. “  You looked me in the eye and said, “No big deal. It doesn’t matter.”  Then you walked back towards your car and left.

I stood there shocked and pondered your announcement and your response. As a believer in marriage, committed to my husband for over 45 years, I felt so sad. Sad that your marriage was ending but just as sad because you think it doesn’t matter.  Every marriage that fails impacts those of us who are married.

I remember when the first of our friends announced that they were splitting up. We had been married about 10 years. We got caught up in their battle and started arguing ourselves. We each felt that there was this little voice saying “Whoa, if it can happen to them, maybe it can happen to us.”  We finally shared that fear and realized that our relationship required increased vigilance and constant attention and that we were NOT going to let that happen to us.

So your broken relationship does matter very much to those of us who are committed to loving and living together for the long haul. It is a little bit of failure for all of us.

I have thought about you so many times since that day. And I have thought about my own children, all of whom have been together with their spouses about 10 years. What issues are they facing and what could I say to help them understand the value of their married relationship?

Some critical things came to mind.

Every married couple needs to remember that they are the primary relationship.  Their family started with just the two of them.  The children will grow up and fly away, as children are meant to do.  And the couple needs to be sure that they have nurtured their marriage.  There will be crazy, busy times:  crying   hungry babies, work deadlines, PTA meetings, running from practice to scouts to dance recitals.  But when things get too hectic or too distant, one of them needs to say “Stop.  I miss you and need your time and attention“   There is nothing like hearing that from the person you love most.

The marriage also matters to the children.  It is hard for them to overhear the arguments but it really hurts trying to tell their friends that their parents are divorcing.  It is painful to hear their parents talking poorly about each other, to live in two homes, carrying precious belongings back and forth. And it is even worse to feel like a prize in a carnival game, where the winner gets the most and best days.

When I was 28, a married mother of 2, my Dad left my mom.   I was devastated!  I cried and cried and raged at him for hurting my mom, for not being willing to stay the course, for separating himself from me and my family, for giving up.  Over time they resolved their issues after long and intense counseling but it was a painful and difficult time for all of us and I was an adult, beyond depending on them for food, shelter and support anymore.

So separate is not necessarily better for your kids unless the living situation is riddled with fear or abuse. They just want to feel safe, happy and together, not drawn into your “stuff”.  They want peace in a unified home.

And marriage matters to your married family and friends.  It impacts those who love you, watch your life splatter and feel your pain. It hurts those who thought it was a relationship to emulate and are shocked to find that it was not.  And what about your unmarried friends and relatives who still have hope that there is a great person out there for them?  They lose a bit more of their hope and anticipation.  They want the marriage, the long term relationship but become fearful about making a commitment because they see your pain and are disenchanted.

What could you have done?

I don’t know much about your relationship and my perceptions may be all wrong.  I have only seen you in our church setting.  But you two seemed to have so much going for you.  And if there has been substance abuse or physical or mental abuse, these words do not apply.  But if you have just drifted apart I would like to tell you some things I noticed.  When you spoke about him to others you often did so without respect.  You poked fun at him when you told stories about the things he did.   I know, I know, a lot of people do that—it helps to be able to unload on someone uninvolved and he laughed, too.  But when you talk disdainfully about someone often enough, eventually you start believing that they really are stupid and worthless.   Instead of affirming him, you ridiculed him and no one can take that for very long.

I also noticed that you both seemed to choose activities with your friends over activities with your spouse.  I heard you talking after church about activities and trips with friends, not spouses.   I saw pictures of you on Facebook and it always seemed that you had an entourage of girlfriends and family.  Where was your attention?  Who was prime in your life?

Your commitment to your children is obvious but you made a vow to commit to your marriage.  If you don’t pay attention, your partner becomes a stranger.  You cannot put “spouse-ing” on hold while you do 20 years of parenting and expect to find a happy spouse waiting with open arms.  Not too many people thrive when they feel second or third in your life all the time.  And it is so true that the best gift you can give your children is to love and honor your spouse.

I think you are a caring woman, an amazing mother and a committed friend to many.   I care about you and pray for you to have whatever you want in life.  I will support you in everything that I can.  But I want you to know that the demise of your marriage does matter to many of us more than you may ever understand.

 

Ted and Terri, 45 great years kater

Ted and Terri, 45 great years later

Ted and Terri, August 17, 1968

Ted and Terri, August 17, 1968

 

Terri and Ted have done Marriage Preparation and Marriage Enrichment classes for the Archdiocese of Los Angeles for twenty years. They can  be reached at dostee245@gmail.com

Oregon Trail*

My chickens watching the creek in Ashland, Oregon

My chickens watching the creek in Ashland, Oregon

So remember this post last Fall?

We were waiting for some for guidance around Shea’s job. Was he supposed to stay in his current position  where he was successful and respected, but missed working with people on a daily basis? Or should he go back to being an agent, where he got to work with people, and give up a promising career in leadership?

On the flight home from Hawaii, he sat next to a couple who used to live a few blocks from us. In the course of their conversation, he shared the uncertainty we had about his job. This couple then went on and on and on about how great their agent had been when they lived in our town, how wonderful and helpful. They had never met him in person but loved him and recommended him to all their friends.

“What was his name?” Shea asked them, thinking he would know the guy.

“Shea” was the answer. At which point Shea introduced himself as their former agent and we thanked God for such a clear answer.

Within a few weeks, a local opportunity for Shea to be an agent again came open. But I have wanted to move out of California for a while now, for lots of reasons, not the least of which is the trend in weather. My soul needs rain and the transitions of the seasons, and climate change is robbing Southern California of both.

So we asked God to please send an opportunity for us to move to Oregon, to be nearer to Shea’s parents.

In January, an opportunity came open in Portland. So Shea and I flew up there to check it out. It was lovely, but 250 miles from his parents’ home in Southern Oregon.

On the flight home, I told Shea that I would really rather live in Southern Oregon. We sent up a prayer for something closer to his parents.

A few days later an opportunity opened up 60 miles from where his parents live.

In March, Shea was offered and accepted the position, to start January 1, 2015.

We are moving to Oregon.

For me this entire journey of the last eight months has been a lesson in opening myself completely to God’s plan. In a way that is very unlike me. We sent the prayers up, and waited patiently, and one by one they were answered.

Yes, moving to someplace green and beautiful has been a desire on my heart for years now, and moving specifically to Oregon for over a year. But the way in which it has all fallen into place leaves no doubt that this is part of God’s plan for us.

And knowing that helps me deal with the sadness. Even though I am super excited to go, I am sad to be leaving.

Thanks to the wonders of modern technology and social media, I’ll still be on the blog and I won’t lose touch with my nearest and dearest. But I am used to seeing mostly everyone I love within a hour’s drive. When we’re in Oregon, it will take much more planning.

Dana has promised to come, as has everyone else. And we will be back all the time, because there is no sandy seashore with pounding waves where we’re moving and my heart will miss that rhythm. Luckily my parents are within ten minutes of retirement, so they will be able to make that Allegiant airlines cheap flight—where they charge you to pick your seat and carry-on a bag—work for them. We are trying to find a house with a guest room so the Hotel Jen and Shea can carry on the hospitality for which we’ve become (sorta) famous.

My husband will be happier as an agent because helping people is what he loves. My kids will roam the woods and streams and see snow happen in real time, and while the summers will still be hot, the heat will end in the Fall.

Unlike here.

I’ll have lots more to report as we get closer to the move. We’re looking for a house, which has been a merry jaunt so far.

Or you know, the opposite of that. But whatever. It’s a grand adventure and we are ready.

 

 

* I wanted to name this post “Oregon, Ho!”. But then I just wasn’t sure about that comma. Seemed safer to stay away. 

Suffer Well ~ Dana

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We’re just a couple days away from Mother’s Day, a day to honor and celebrate moms, and grandmas, and aunts who raised us, and the women we know who are doing a spectacular job of mothering. It’s a day of breakfast in bed, made by dads or other moms, and little hands, a day of flowers and jewelry, a day of sappy cards, maybe a day at Disneyland, or a day just relaxing in the back yard.

But for many, Mother’s Day is also pretty tough. I’ve watched Facebook over the last few days. A good friend and teammate is reeling from the loss of her grandma, the matriarch of their family, just two weeks ago. A friend of mine from junior high, who lost both her mother and grandmother three years ago, posted a picture of Winnie the Pooh, her mom’s favorite character, and talked about how hard this time of year is for her. My volleyball coach from 9th and 10th grades posted pictures of his mom with his children, with the sentiment that it has been 5 years that she’s been gone, but that it seems so much longer. My cousin texted me, “Mother’s Day sucks” as she will be “celebrating” the third Mother’s Day without her mom. And this year, Mother’s Day, May 11th, will be the one-year anniversary of the death of my father. Big, heavy sigh.

It’s quite the tightrope walk, isn’t it? On Mother’s Day, I will wake up with a heavy heart. I will remember each and every detail of May 11th, 2013. I won’t dwell on it, but it will still be there. On these days, it’s like we’re wearing sunglasses. We see our lives unfolding before us. We will experience joy, honest, true joy, on this holiday… but all through the lens of feeling loss. It’s a tightrope walk between joy and suffering. Those of you who know loss know that this is true. Suffering. And yet, my girls will have cards and presents for me. I will be so loved and cherished. And I will gush all my love right back on them. We will meet my mom at the cemetery. We will cry. But then we will go back to her home, where we were on this day last year with him. But this time we will swim in the pool. We will build the new desk she bought for her office. I’ll remember the time I bought her the Mother’s Day card that read: You’ve been just like a mother to me. Oops. And we’ll laugh. And give her presents.  And eat good food. And maybe make homemade ice cream.

Because that’s what we have to do. We have to suffer well. My cousin said that my dad would be mortified if he knew I was going to have a crappy Mother’s Day because of him, but I also think that there would be a part of him that would be happy to be missed, oh so dearly.  So we suffer well.

Many of my friends have told me that after 3 years, after 10 years, after 15 years, they still miss their parents, that once the first year is over, it isn’t necessarily “all better,” like society tells us it will be. But life doesn’t have to be all better. We learn to experience joy, to love our children, to laugh at movies, to enjoy our partners.  So we suffer well.

We know that our loved ones are “in a better place.” We take solace that they are in heaven where there is no more pain. We rejoice that we will one day be reunited with them. And yet, the hole that they have left in our hearts is still vacant, never to be filled.  So we suffer well.

 

Look at the Fruit ~ Jen

Big ups to Adopting James for blowing my mind on this one.

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Last week, AJ posted an article by the band Switchfoot, in which the lead singer said he doesn’t want to be known as a Christian singer because he thinks people then make the assumption that he is a better Christian than other musicians. He believes that we all have one calling: obedience. None of us knows what that means to another and we can only be obedient to our own calling. A teacher is not being more or less obedient than a preacher, if that is what God has called them to be.

AJ invited discussion about this topic at the bottom of his blog and I basically asked the question “How do we know when someone in the secular world is being obedient?” My example was Beyonce, who calls herself a Christian, but her music tells another story. I while I may be able to relate to the kind of mother and wife and woman she is off the stage, the sexualized and money hungry message of her music is not something I want in my life.

AJ responded to me with this: “Beyonce, I assume, has no fruit bearing from her songs. That is how we can tell.”

Say what?

Forget about Beyonce. Let me get this straight. All those sleepless nights I spent wondering if I was doing the right thing with the right people for the right reasons? Good Lord, how do I knooooooowwww?????

And all I had to do was think about the fruit??

Man, while I am sure that somewhere along my 42 year path, someone has said this same type of thing to me before, this time was the one that stuck.

Look at the fruit. That’s all I have to do. Because God knows the plans He has for me, to prosper me and not harm me. So if I am in right relationship, if I am obedient then my fruit of the spirit will be abundant, nourishing, sustaining.

And if I’m not, well. We know what that looks and feels like because we’ve all been there. Our souls screaming at us that we are doing the wrong thing with the wrong people for the wrong reasons and the fruits of our spirit are shriveled and dead from anger, jealousy, greed, spite, vengeance and fear.

Even if we are in that wrong place, the Good News is that we just have to get right to make our fruits blossom again.

Yet another reason to give up sleepless nights.

Just look at the fruit. That’s how we know.

 

 ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Friends, the one year anniversary of the passing of Dana’s dad is approaching and it’s been really hard for her. A year ago were the toughest times of her life. If you could please wing a prayer in her direction or send her an encouraging thought, I think it would nourish her soul and I would be so incredibly grateful.

Thank you.

 

 

 

 

Conservative Feminists and Arrogance

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Dana and I are Feminists from way back. Maybe you’ve noticed.

So we take issue when a group of powerful and important women trash Feminism, which is what happened last week at the Heritage Foundation’s celebration of Women’s History Month, “Evaluating Feminism, Its Failures and Its Future”.

These women have some serious hubris. Do they even know what the word Feminist means?

Feminism is a collection of movements and ideologies aimed at defining, establishing, and defending equal political, economic, and social rights for women  (dictionary.com)

The Conservative Right would have us believe that Feminism only serves liberals. That’s not true. Sarah Palin is a product of Feminism. Condolezza Rice. Michelle Bachman. Bay Buchanon. Michelle Malkin. Even, and sadly, Ann Coulter. The only reason Karin Agness, Mona Charen and Mollie Hemingway even had a microphone to speak in front of the other day is because of Feminism.

And yet these women blithely turn their backs on the path forged by our grandmothers and great grandmothers, a path that says that every woman born to freedom in this great nation can be anything she chooses to be. Like a presidential candidate, Secretary of State, political pundit or even character assassin in a nodding relationship with the truth.

I am pretty sure that Mona Charen who “called the glass-ceiling a ‘supposed barrier’ and said Feminists and the Obama Administration often use “much debunked statistics” to argue their points” didn’t get where she is by sleeping her way to the top. But 70 years ago, who knows if she would have had the opportunity to run her mouth as a syndicated columnist? Maybe some cigar smoking editor with girlie pictures hanging all over his office would have sent her home to her husband and babies with a smack on her bum, or even invited her to “discuss” her career on his couch.

But that’s not allowed anymore, because of Feminism.

And Mollie Hemingway? It’s odd because I cannot find much specific information on this lady on the internet. Beyond that she’s a highly educated and decorated writer who lives in DC. I know she’s married because she wrote a defense of submissive wives after the whole Michele Bachman thing. But I don’t think she has kids. Which makes this statement all the more puzzling: “ ‘We’re telling women they should delay marriage, ‘lean in’ on career, focus on themselves,” Hemingway said. “And we know these things don’t lead to female happiness.’ “

I have no idea why this submissive wife doesn’t appear to have kids but does have a nationally important voice in the political debate. Or does have kids that are well hidden from an intrusive media, but still travels the country for her day job.

Oh wait, yes I do: Feminism.

And either way, I’m not judging her choices, even if her life seems to give a lie to her words. I don’t judge working moms and stay at home moms and single moms and two moms and dads who are moms and grandmas who are moms again. Because it takes a damn village, and there but for the grace of God go I, and no one should have to feel abandoned and alone before anyone else has walked a mile in their shoes.

You know where I learned all that?

Jesus. And Feminism.

So here’s the thing. If you think your daughter would make a great lawyer, you’re a Feminist. If you think your daughter would make a great wife and mom, you’re a Feminist. If you think your daughter is going to earn a scholarship to play soccer at Stanford or become a Rhodes scholar and get into every single Ivy League school she applies to, you’re a Feminist. If you proudly take her to vote the first time after she turns 18, you’re a Feminist. If you raise your sons to treat the women around them with respect and if you married a man who treats you with respect, you’re a Feminist.

Heck, let’s make this bottom line easy: if you teach your daughter to read and write, you’re a Feminist. And thank God, because in places where they don’t believe in Feminism, girls die on the way to school, shot by men who think they should never leave the house. Their. Entire. Lives.

So come on ladies. Where’s your humility? Maybe you don’t like the tone of womanhood today. I don’t, either. Too much sexuality, too much photoshop, too much divorce, too many babies born out of wedlock, too much abortion. But that’s not Feminism. That’s a crooked culture, and if we could just stop flailing at each other, we could band together like the Women’s Christian Temperance Union and put the crooked straight.

(Well, maybe not just like them, because I do enjoy a good vodka tonic)

The point is that history shows us that women’s voices are strong and powerful and sensitive and maternal and compassionate and unyielding when we have something to protect.

You know how I know this?

Feminism.

Ten Years

Ten years is a long time to be married to someone.  –Gwyneth Paltrow

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Dear Gwyneth,

I’ve been married ten years in November and it has gone by in a silly blur. When we got married, my nephew Wyatt was a tiny bump under his mom’s bridesmaid dress. He’s going to be nine in June—nine!  Behind him came seven more grandkids in seven years and all of them are now walking and talking.

I don’t feel like I have aged a day, even though there’s a whole lot of gray hair and twenty extra pounds that give a lie to that story. Shea is thinner than he was on our wedding day, but the gray ghost has caught him by the chin and we’re going to make a lot of money in retirement hiring ourselves out as Santa and Mrs. Claus for parties.

We still fight over the same stupid things we fought over when we were dating. And we laugh at the same stupid jokes. Sometimes we look around at our three kids, two dogs and home that we’ve lived in for almost all of those ten years and say to each other “When did we become grown-ups?”

Before, I prayed for and waited almost patiently for this life. The last ten years have not always been joyful and we have faced some dark valleys, just like everyone else. But even when those folded up socks in the laundry make me want to scream and throw Shea over the mountain, I am grateful that he has given me this life.

So I don’t think ten years is a long time to be married. Not when we’re standing in the shadow of our parents, who have been married 30 and 46 years respectively. Not when I witnessed both my grandparents’ 50th wedding anniversary celebrations. Not when some of my closest friends, who are our age, have been married 24 and 19 years. Compared to them, we’re still rookies!

And Gwyneth, this idea of “conscious uncoupling” is dangerous. If it was a way to divorce without anger and resentment and with the children’s emotional and psychological health intact, I could get behind it-ish. We don’t speak divorce in this house, but there are legitimate reasons for it to happen.

But that’s not what you’re saying. You’re saying you got tired, distant, bored. That you’ve had enough and there isn’t any more you can learn from each other. That it just isn’t working.

You’re not saying much else, so we don’t know the nuts and bolts. And normally I would say that it’s not our business, except that the conscious uncoupling made it our business.

You want reform the definition of divorce and hide behind the “science” that humans are living longer and are not psychologically or emotionally equipped to be married for decades. That we should stay in our marriages as long as they have something to teach us, and then, like graduating from college, move on to the next experience with no guilt, shame or sense of failure.

Without even a nod to the mountains of research that tell us what divorce does to kids.

Look, if you aren’t willing to work on it, if your anger is too big and your ability to forgive too small, that’s fine. We’re human and we understand those emotions. We’ve all felt a like a five year old at one time or another.

But own it. Say that you have failed, let down your families and your children and yourselves. Be humble. Don’t whitewash it, like it isn’t a trauma.

And keep this conscious uncoupling stuff to yourself. You are entitled to your delusions. But don’t call my marriage and the marriages around me “exceptions” to your delusion, because we aren’t. Most marriages that make it ten years have more resilience in the long run. Not yours, I get it, but who knows what could have happened if you hadn’t put a limit on it before you even started.

Don’t drag the rest of us into it, even though misery loves company. We aren’t faking it, or denying ourselves personal growth by staying with our partners. We’re still learning and growing and our endoskeletons are just fine, thank you very much.

Jen

PS: You’re on a roll, with your conscious uncoupling and your comments about regular working moms, and not in a good way. I have found that when the world seems to be against you, that’s more about you than the world. Might be time for a rethink. Just sayin’.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Afternoon Tea ~ Jen

When I asked my mom what she wanted for Christmas, she hemmed and hawed. She and my dad have been working empty nesters for almost 15 years so if they want something they buy it, and they don’t want much.

This makes it very hard to buy presents for them.

A few days after this conversation, my cousin liked an article on Facebook. I can’t find it, but it was something along the lines of “Don’t buy my kid more presents, give him your presence.” Great idea.

So I gave my mom Afternoon Tea for Christmas.

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We finally got around to going this past weekend. We waited for the weather to warm up a bit so we could wear dresses and strappy shoes. The tea was at the Mission Inn, which is an amazing historical landmark in downtown Riverside, CA. Anne Rice fans will recognize the name—she loves the place and has featured it in one of her more recent novels. It’s hard to explain the Mission Inn—a mix of castle, Spanish Mission, old Hollywood and Garden District Haunted Mansion. Several Presidents have stayed there, and just this visit we noticed a secluded, tiny spiral staircase winding up from the corner of the Presidential Lounge to…the Presidential Suite? There are lots of nooks and crannies and spiral staircases—I counted four and wasn’t even trying—and hallways leading up and down and sideways. Very mysterious in a way that makes you feel like you’re ten again and need to sneak past the bellman to explore.

In the midst of it all is a gorgeous courtyard, sheltered and shaded by four stories of mismatched balconies and box windows. And here, by the gurgling fountain, is where we had our tea.

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I did some research and found out that what we had was Full Tea—served in the afternoon, with savories and sweets—and not a High Tea, which is served later and more like dinner. The Mission Inn Restaurant serves a Full Tea menu from 2 to 4 pm, complete with finger sandwiches, scones and pastries. Everyone gets their own generous teapot, with matching china cup, saucer and plate. Kate enjoyed learning how to properly pour her tea. The food came on tiered plates in the center of the table—and it was more than enough. Crab croissants, egg salad and salmon, sun dried tomato and basil and chicken salad sandwiches for the grown ups; turkey, ham and peanut butter and jelly for the girls. Then brownies, cheesecakes, custards, macaroons, and mousse for dessert.

We couldn’t finish it all so we brought some home to Gabriel. He had begged me to find somewhere else for him to go instead of “that tea”, but he was happy to eat the sweet leftovers.

It was an elegant afternoon, where everyone sat up straight and used their best manners. We chatted and laughed and when we were done, we showed Grandma some of the special places we found on our last trip to the Mission Inn.

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Then we strolled over to one of Dana’s Favorite Places, Mrs. Tiggywinkle’s, to check out the Easter decorations.

Presence…a lovely idea. In fact, I think this one should become an annual tradition.

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