Monday, November 21, 2005

Are you really him? The rest of the story.

A few days ago I posted the story of "The Man in the Window". It should be right below this post. That story was actually the last chapter, or the end of the story. This post is the beginning of the story on how the man became known as "The Man in the Window" and explains why the children would want to honor him as they did in the other tale.

Are you really him?

It was mid afternoon on Saturday, with just a little over two weeks left before Christmas. One of those cold, damp, dark mid-west winter days that appeared the sky would open any minute and unload heaven only knew what; rain, sleet and snow had all fallen in the last ten days and the current guess was that soon all three would arrive at once. The yards were mired in mud from all the recent moisture and mounds of dirty snow mixed with the decaying leaves left in the shadows of hibernating shrubbery. The melting remains of soot blacken snow banks lining streets and walkways sent small rivulets of dirty water running down embankments to the grated street drains.

Scattered around the yards lining the twisted circles of streets in the large apartment complex could still be seen the lopsided remains of melting snowmen. Sledding saucers and long vinyl toboggans were leaning beside doorways to the private townhouses dotted between the huge multi family apartment buildings. Everywhere you looked was a bustle of activity as people tried to beat the weather and prepare for the upcoming holiday; men hanging fairy lights along gutters, others unloading pine trees from the tops of automobiles, Aldi bags of groceries from SUV’s, and children running in and out fetching and toting for holiday burdened parents.

Suddenly a caravan of cars, vans and pickup trucks each loaded with old furniture and packing boxes rounded the circle and pulled into the only off street parking area on the long block, there were so many vehicles that every available space was suddenly filled, leaving several to block the others in the middle of the drive. As if the sirens had suddenly blared at the fire house on the corner, the street and walkways began to fill with bystanders curious to see who was moving into the empty apartment at the rear of building 21. Children were spreading the word and soon it seemed that every child in the complex was milling in the street, the vehicle drivers began to congregate on the sidewalk; some checking their watches paced the length of the walk while others huddled in small groups, one man climbed up and began to cut the ropes securing his overloaded truck and started to pass down ladder back dining chairs and empty dresser drawers to another man. Suddenly, someone shouted here she comes, and everyone turned to watch a small green Escort pull into the lot and enter the vacant handicap space in front of the building. A short gray haired woman climbed out from behind the wheel of the car and called to one of the men who joined her on the passenger side of the car, where he removed a large oxygen concentrator from the back seat and taking the key offered by the woman headed into the building. The woman opened the front car door and helped a very portly man with a bald pate and long white hair that reaching to his shoulders, a bushy white beard brushed the middle of his chest, and wearing an olive green jogging suit, from the car. The man waited while the woman removed a small oxygen tank on wheels from the car and taking the man’s arm began to lead him up the sidewalk where two men were waiting to help him climb the nine terraced steps into the building and then the long flight of stairs to the second floor apartment.

The moment the man stepped out of the car a small hush fell on the gathering crowd, after a few minutes children could be seen pulling on parents coat sleeves and small voices could be heard asking in awe “is that really him.” Before the couple could take a dozen steps a small boy ran up to the man and tugged on his sleeve; the man turned his cobalt blue eyes framed by round rimless glasses to the lad and politely asked “yes son, can I do something for you” when the child stammered “ are you really him?” The man leaned over propping both hands and his considerable weight on his gnarled and crooked cane with the hand carved gnome for a handle and looked the lad straight in the eye and said “Well Son, I don’t know which him you are referring to, but, I am certainly me.” Then rising he gave a loud and jolly Ho Ho Ho, before turning to continue his slow pace up the sidewalk. Suddenly, the small boy could be heard yelling he really is “Santa Claus!”

As the trucks were being unloaded several of the women in the group began to unpack the boxes while the gray haired lady directed the placement of the furniture. The first piece set in place was a large old high back rocker placed in front of the large bedroom window where the bearded man would sit for many hours each day, keeping tabs on the comings and goings of the large complex and watching for and waving too the children that played in the yard below.

For the next two weeks each time the woman opened the apartment door she would find a small pile of envelopes and folded pieces of ruled note paper laying on the floor in front of the door. Each was written in a childish hand in various color crayons, some included a drawing of a jolly fat man and each began “Dear Santa”. It was only a matter of days before the children in the neighborhood began calling the man that lived on the second floor “The man in the window.”

That moving day was Dec. 8, 2001 and the next year shortly after Thanksgiving the “Santa letters” once again began to appear on the floor in front of the door of apartment 2E as they did again the following year. But, suddenly on Dec. 4, 2003 the man in the window was dead, and as the word spread notes, toys, flowers and Santa Figurines began to collect outside the door, and to this day the lady that lives there is referred too as the wife of “the man in the window” and she still gets ask if her husband was “really him” to which she always answers “Well, I don’t know which him you are referring to, but, I am certain that he was my him.”

Once the letters started to appear the woman hung a small basket beside the door filled with candy canes and a small “take one” sign. At some point a photograph of the man sitting in the window was attached to the basket, and since his death she now keeps the basket out and filled year round. The children now leave happy meal toys and other surprising items in the basket for the lady when they take the candies and each Christmas Season “Dear Santa” and even a few “Dear God” letters will still appear in the basket.

Now you know the rest of the story, of the man in the window

Friday, November 18, 2005

The man in the window

Thanksgiving was fast approaching; the volunteer firefighters were out with the neon green hook n ladder, hanging the big Christmas Wreaths with the lighted candle in the middle that would adorn every lamp post in town. The first heavy snowfall of the season had covered the ground during the night, the early morning sun was causing the tiny silver flakes among the solid sheets of white fluff to sparkle like diamonds, while a crisp wind blew feathers of icy flakes into the red cheeked faces of the children venturing out to enjoy the first snow day of the year. Snowmen wearing candy striped mufflers, with carrot noises and smoking corn cob pipes were stating to dot the front lawns as the first plow made its way around the circle of streets in West Winds large apartment complex.

A gray haired woman at the wheel of a small black car was staying close in the wake of the snowplow, she was in a hurry to get home, tired and hungry after pulling another 12 hour shift at the only 24 hour Gas n Go in her small town. Her husband would be waiting for his breakfast, but she could not afford to slide off the road and get stuck in the ditch hidden under the snow banks being left by the plow.

Safely in a parking space, and looking heavenward the woman said her usual prayer, thanking God for the nights work, the safe trip home, and the luck of finding a parking spot next to the already shoveled main walkway. The car clock told her it was 8:45, she was late, and he would be worrying. Grabbing the two heavy grocery sacks, she hastily gathered during a mad run through Wal-mart, she rushed down the walkway stopping to gather the mail, before climbing the nine terraced steps to the front door of building 21.

Once inside the lobby she placed her sacks on the floor, removed a half gallon jug of milk and went down the 5 steps to the lower level, rapped lightly on the first apartment door then left the bottle on the floor beside the door. Returning to the lobby she reclaimed her purchases and trudged up the stairs to her own door at the rear of the second floor. Once again placing the sacks on the floor she put her key in the lock, bowed her head in a brief prayer, took a long deep breath and turned the key in the lock.

Once inside the door she called out to her husband and once he returned her call she slowly released the breath, she did not realize she had been holding. Looking up she said "Thank you God" and the new day began.

With the groceries put away and the bacon laid out in the electric skillet, the woman poured a cup of coffee from the automatic pot, added it to a tray full of pill bottles and other medical supplies and headed down the hallway into the bedroom. Greeting her husband she placed the tray on the side of the hospital table, leaned over to kiss the cheek of the man that set on the side of the bed, and handed him the steaming mug. Then started the routine of dispensing that mornings 32 different pills and assembling the tubes and vials that would carry the medications that would open up her husbands airways and hopefully allow him to breathe for one more day.

Once the face mask was in place and the mist had started to rise, she began to tidy the small room, and went to open the blinds to let in the morning sun. Suddenly, she stopped and raised the blind and took another long look out the bedroom window to the yard below, were tramped in the snow in 3 foot letters, by the neighborhood children, were the words

"Hello, to the man in the window."

Wanting her husband to see the words the children had carved in the snow, before something could happen to them, the woman lead her husband to his chair by the window, as soon as his breathing treatment was finished. That day, the man ate his breakfast while looking at the greeting the children had left in the snow.......... just for him.

"Hello, to the man in the window."

Three weeks later the woman in this story walked into that same apartment to find her husbands body lying on the bedroom floor.

The date was December 4, 2003

In the complex where this story takes place, I am still referred too, by the children, as the wife of the man in the window.

Wednesday, November 16, 2005

When We Become the Olden Days

It seems like only yesterday when family gatherings on my Dad's side of the family were filled with Great Aunts and Uncles and even a few Great Greats at whose feet all of us would gather, to hear the stories they told about their "good old days". Then suddenly, I realized they were all gone and it was our parents who had become the "old ones" enthralling the children with their tales of the "good old days".

Then one day, I was struck by the fact that we cousins are rapidly becoming the oldest members of our clan. My Mother and my Dad's youngest brother (now 76) are the only oldsters left to tell the "good old days" stories.

Soon, way too soon, it will be our children replacing us as the matriarchs and patriarchs of our family.

I guess I have to question: first, if we are up to the responsibility of guiding our clan into the next generation, and second, what will all the young ones have to say about the world we left in their hands, to care for into the future.

It is very daunting. Just yesterday I was a kid at my grandfather’s knee and now I am a Matriarch of a family that goes well into the triple digits. It’s scary. When we become "the olden days" will our descendents remember us in a positive way? What kind of stories will we use to keep the kiddies at our feet enthralled? Better yet, what kind of stories will they have to tell about us when we are gone?

Sunday, October 30, 2005

Relationships are built on only one thing.............. Good communication. And communication is build on learning to listen.

My grandmother use to tell us this story as a child and I think it contains some advice that we all need to hear on occasion.

The man whispered, "God, speak to me." And a meadowlark sang. But, the man did not hear. So the man yelled, "God, speak to me!" And the thunder rolled across the sky. But, the man did not listen. The man looked around and said, "God let me see you." And a star shone brightly. But, the man did not notice. Then the man shouted, "God show me a miracle!" And a life was born. But, the man did not know. So the man cried out in despair, "Touch me God, and let me know you are here!" Whereupon God reached down and touched the man. But the man brushed the butterfly away and walked away unknowingly. Take time to listen. Often times, the things we seek are right underneath our noses. Don't miss out on your blessing because it isn't packaged the way that you expect.

Grandma always said that half the troubles of the world would be eliminated if only man would take the time to learn how to listen. I think she was right. The contrast between hearing and really listening can be as different as night and day.

Here are some more quotes on listening that contains some sage advice as well.

This is a time to give the gift of listening. There are an unknowable but very large number of folks who could really be helped with our listening to them. I know your hearts are all very warm and giving. Please, take time to listen to those around you. - Richard D. Halley

Every person in this life has something to teach me -- and as soon as I accept that, I open myself to truly listening. — Catherine Doucette

The most basic of all human needs is the need to understand and be understood. The best way to understand people is to listen to them. — Ralph Nichols

When making personal decisions, listen to what your head says; then listen to what your heart says. If they differ, follow your heart! Whenever you listen to your heart, you listen to that part of you that is most interested in your well-being. — Anonymous

"To talk to someone who does not listen is enough to tense the devil." -- Pearl Bailey

A little-recognized value of listening and inquiring relates to the realization that in human relationships, it is frequently not what the facts are, but what people think the facts are, which is truly important. There is benefit in learning what someone else's concept of the reality of the situation is, no matter how wrong it might be. — Bryan Bell

Take time to listen......You might be surprised at what you hear.

Thursday, October 20, 2005

The Way You Wear Your Hat

"The Way You Wear Your Hat"................... Crooned Frank Sinatra

I love a man in a hat. A honest to goodness real hat. A homberg or fedora, but, I hate baseball caps. I've said it a million times or more,I hate baseball caps.

Hats are surprisingly complicated things. Sure they keep their wearer's warm in the winter and cool in the summer, and sometimes function strictly as fashion accessories, but they have an amazing history and they also come with etiquette so complex that people have to consult guides just to wear them. What I have learned is to voluminous to list here so I will follow Joe Friday's ( great hat wearer) advice and give "just the facts, Madam".

For most of the 20th Century men were not considered dressed without a hat. Furthermore, not just any hat would do, but rather the proper hat for both the times and the season was required. Then in the early 1960s, the tipping point occurred, when John Kennedy took off his hat at his presidential inauguration. Growing rebellion against authority and conformity and those hoping for a new day and order found an icon in the hatless American president. In very short order, hats were not cool. Many hat maker consider President JFK (hatless Jack) to have single-handedly been the cause of the decline in proper head wear fashions for men in the US.

You can't picture Laurel and Hardy, Charlie Chaplin, Humphrey Bogart, James Cagney, Frank Sinatra, Clark Kent and FDR without a hat. What happened to the Bowler (known also as a derby), Top Hat, Panama, Homburg or Boater (Bing Crosby's favorite)? The Fedora (trilby in Europe), become the hallmark of movie tough guys, Chicago gangsters, private eyes, newspaper reporters--in fact by the 1930s, virtually every man who put on a suit of clothes topped off with a fedora. If your grandfather came from either Europe or North America, chances are he wore a fedora.

The baseball cap in an American icon. It is in fact the only hat style that is an American creation. Its popularity in the United States received a big boost in the era of Babe Ruth. This simple and functional style was a perfect fit for a country that glorified democracy, anti-elitism, and the like. Baseball, the national pastime and a passion for more than a few, but only in baseball could you wear an exact replica of the hat worn by your heroes on the field. From there it was a short step for truckers, farmers, and laborers to incorporate the ball cap as de rigueur in their daily attire. In the late 1980s and early 1990s, the baseball cap became a hot fashion item, propelled in large part when it became associated with hip hop music artists. Like Coca-Cola and McDonalds, the baseball cap became a symbol of America. Those who feared American hegemony wouldn't get near one, but those who wanted to identify with American popular culture, began their wardrobe with a ball cap on his or her head and sneakers on their feet.

Although associated with the American West, the cowboy hat, arguably, is not an American creation. Sure I see lots of Turbans, Sailor, and other military style hats everyday where I live but I would like to see guys trading in their baseball caps for a Panama, Fedora, Bowler, Top Hat, Homburg, Trilby, Walker or Derby. I would even settle for the Beret, Porkpie, Boater, Beefeater, Beanie, Gaucho, Glengarry, Aussie Adventurer, Sombrero, Rough Rider, Safari, or Stetson. If you must wear a cap then how about the Greek fisherman's, Newsboy's, Ivy, Golf, Watch, Legion, Bellhop, or Coonskin. I would even like to see an occasional Pit Helmet, Coolie, Matador, Tricorne, Fez, or Stovepipe. Heck,just a plain old Bucket all covered in fishing lures beats a baseball cap.

It could be made of straw, felt, wool or cotton just as long as each guy is being original and not a follower of the masses. There was a time when almost everyone knew the rules, but since hats fell out of fashion entire generations have come of age with little understanding of proper topper protocol. More casual rules are followed today, sometimes appalling us older people who remember traditional customs. Men aren't expected anymore to tip their hats in passing to women, but they are expected to remove them during the National Anthem. And proper hat etiquette still requires a man to remove his hat when in church, a restaurant, a theater or a concert. Just this morning in my favorite breakfast eatery I counted 14 men (2/3 of the total) who did not remove their baseball caps while eating. I truely believe the advent of the baseball cap was the death knell for galentry and manners by men.

Call me old fashioned but I think it was kind of gallent when a man removed a hat to show courtesy to a woman. I also think it was a way of flirting. I think if men realized how handsome they looked when they wear a hat, they'd make a comeback. So Snap the brim and let your girlfriend know
"Here's looking at you kid."

Friday, September 30, 2005

Sabbatical from Marriage

I have never shared, with anyone the fact that the day I married I jumped from the frying pan directly into the fire, and that is where I stayed for 27 years. Until, the day I decided to take a “vacation from marriage,” a sabbatical of sorts, during which I hoped to reclaim that raw-material person I had left behind in my youth before I started to play the roles our culture demands of women. It was a bold gesture, one never taken by generations of the women in my family, some women friends called me brave, others disapproved heartily, and each member of my family thought I was crazy.

Everyday of my life, up to that point, I had always been for each person in my life what they expected I should be. But for once, I didn’t take into account what others thought. I was working on pure gut reaction. Suddenly, words had a way of slipping out of my mouth unbidden before my mind new they had been formed, and so, when I announced my intentions to my husband, I shocked us both. It was not until I was standing among the packing boxes in the middle of my first solo apartment, 40 miles from my home and job, that I began to realize the ramifications of my impulsive decision. I had altered my life and I was left holding freedom in one hand and guilt in the other.

As resident nurturer of not just my household but, that of both our families, I had spent the last 27 years sustaining others while neglecting myself in the process. Now, it was my turn to retreat, repair, and, I hoped, regenerate myself. Was I being selfish or smart? Perhaps an inner voice was leading me, I thought. Perhaps living apart from family would allow me to reconnect to the internal strengths that I thought once were mine. I felt that in time if I were patient enough to wait for the thaw then all would be mine once again.

In reflecting back on that first year, I realize how much it was about saying yes to such things as spontaneity, risk taking and, of course being open to that big wonderful new world. I began to revel in the raw experience that heightened the intensity of my days----not unlike a child who is guided by her wonder and curiosity. Oh! What a wonderful new taste was added to each day by not having to run each thought or action through someone else’s reaction filter first. What developed over time was a kind of knowing that didn’t so much involve my head but rather my senses. I came to understand that I am as unfinished as any of Gods creatures. What’s more my husband, and family were equally unfinished. That was the great message………to transcend ourselves again and again and to know that those with whom we come in contact are in process as well.

Once reinstating a relationship with myself, it was time for the greater challenge--- that of reconnecting with my husband. The reassembling of my marriage would have never happened without my year of solitude. Taking time away from each other was, in retrospect, both necessary and appropriate.

When I left I provided my husband with a listing of all my concerns and the areas where I felt we each needed to focus our efforts for change, making it clear that I would not be back until he could show that he was in agreement and trying to address each of the items on his half of the list. Initially, he declared that our relationship had no problems other then the ones I fabricated and he had nothing to correct or make amends for. He swore that I would be incapable of supporting myself and announced to the world that I would fall flat on my face and come running home begging for his forgiveness, and seeking his protection, within six months. So for the first six months he sat and waited for my return and we did not speak at all. Then he took a “hell with her” attitude and went in search of other ladies to prove I was not needed, making certain that our daughter (and friends) kept me informed. Each time she called all I would say was “Where is he on his list. That is the only updates I’m interested in hearing, otherwise your father is not a topic open to discussion.”

About the one year mark, and after the initial shock, anger, and finally discord that came with the realization that I really was serious and could survive without him, my husband started to take a penetrating look at those experiences most would choose to bury-----weeding out self-indulgence and wishful thinking—in order to determine his destiny with or without me. He started to question what roll, if any, did he play in this turn of events, how much of my decision had to do with his lassitude? Where my demands reasonable? Was it his preference to be alone or together?

There was no question that we both needed the space to understand the roots of our relationship and the values around what we had created together. We had become estranged because of reasons no more complicated then laziness, indifference, ignorance, and selfishness. Mixed with that arrogant “good old boy” attitude that “I am king of my castle and you are but the lowly serving winch that is supposed to be subservient to me and kowtow and provide my every whim” that had been fed by way too much alcohol consumption for a dozen or more years.

Once he made the decision to recommit, I let it be know that he had to freely join me in wanting to fight for an openness in which the faults of the other could be admitted and discussed so we could unlearn and relearned what was keeping us away from the immediacy of our lives and our connection with each other.

The second year was spent in dating (courting if you what to call it that) minus the fire of old passion and mired with problems and illusions.  In “The Art of Loving, Erich Fromm says, “Nothing, especially love, can be mastered without practice—and practice involves discipline, concentration, patience, and supreme concern.” Through trial and error, yielding and resisting, retracing and reinventing, dependence and interdependence, we began the task of reassembling out lives together. The year was spent crawling toward the inexpressible. There was no model to follow. We were two unique souls who merged 29 years before, and out of that union appeared an original couple, impossible to replicate.

At the end of the second year he moved into my small apartment. I refused to give up my own space until I was assured that we would be able to continue the process of moving forward and besides our daughter, her fiancée and our grandchild were living in our house. My husband’s allowing them to come and continue to stay (now going on 6 years) was just one of the many kinks in our relationship to be ironed out. Suddenly, we did not know how to be together.

After more then a quarter of a century of sharing a life we did not know how to cohabitate. We were so polite. Foreign words like “May I’, “Do you mind” “Please and thank you” filled every sentence. Out of our vulnerabilities a new way of being together began to be discovered. The unfinished elements of our relationship would continue to rise and fall, like incoming tides, constantly and irresistibly moving within us.

Then suddenly, four months into our rediscovery period, and seven years after first being diagnosed with COPD a massive lung hemorrhage put him in the ICU on life support and it appeared that our new life would end before it had really begun. As the time neared for him to be ready to be released it was apparent that he would never be able to manage the stairs to our second floor apartment. I also had to question if, (or for how long) he would ever return to work. Did it make sense to relocate to a new apartment when we were making mortgage payments on a more then adequate house? In the end my practical side won out and we moved back to the house I had left 2 ½ years earlier.

But, the balance of our new and blossoming relationship was forever recast. He was now more dependent, but less willing to be, then at any other time in our marriage. Suddenly, all the new rules could not be obeyed or enforced and it was too late to return to the old ones. We were once again floating in the limbo land of the lost, and having to find ways to rewrite the rules while trying not to sacrifice our new found harmony.

Our life became one long battle to find ways to prove the doctors wrong and cheat the grim reaper, without loosing our sanity or sacrificing our newfound oneness. Death, the threat and the reality, in all of its ugly forms, sights, sounds and smells began to dominate our lives. We enter the cycle of good days, bad days, and worst days. Hardly a week went by without having to juggle employment with doctor’s appointments and hospitals stays. The struggles to maintain the needs of a household and provide 32 different medications plus in home and portable oxygen on my salary alone also became the norm. One financial crisis would be averted only to find that six more had taken its place. The six months we were told to expect and tried to cherish grew into a year, then two and finally ended 8 long years later after once again being placed on and weaned from a life-support machine only to return to the small apartment that we now shared to loose the fight 32 hours later.

As I watched the remains of my husband of 37 years being removed from our home I new that our marriage was still unfinished and that it would always remain that way. I had to question how I would go about closing the book on a marriage that was never able to write the final chapter. I couldn’t help but contemplate all the ways the man that had just left me, was different from the man I had married so long ago. I questioned whether my life, like our marriage would now also remain unfinished. Would the yet to be written chapters of my new life as a widow find the answers to questions that still eluded me. Would this new and forced “sabbatical from marriage” become permanent, or would it be a temporary period of retooling and refitting to emerge as a new and more deluxe model ready to be accepted by the husband of the future.

Now two years later, I have to wonder is this as good as it gets. I question, will I ever have the opportunity to put into practice all the lessons learned during my 37 year training period? Does experience and trial by fire count for anything worth while? Will anyone see it (and me) for the treasure it is? Will there be someone that will want to tackle the job of helping me to finish the fine turning on this life I have been trying to rebuild?

Tuesday, September 27, 2005

The 20 Rules of a Great Marriage

I am a reader and spend much time inching my way thought the shelves of my local bookstore and library. The endless supply of self help books never ceases to amaze me. Especially, the ones on love, marriage and building healthy relationships. Where were these books when I was a new bride struggling to find my way, at a time when such things were not talked about openly and a girl had to look to the older women of the family for advice. Many of whom could only say things like "such is the lot of women" or " it will improve with time".

Well, several days ago I found a small little book entitled "20 Surprisingly simple rules and tools for a Great Marriage." and just had to check it out. I was curious to learn what I did wrong and might have done differently over the 37 years of my marriage, that might have changed the course of our relationship. Well, the book is great and I wish it had been tucked into one of my shower boxes as a new bride (and that is what I will do with this copy) it would have saved me a lot of hard work and heartache. But, there was nothing new in the book that I had not learned over time learn from the school of hard knocks and trial and error. But, many of the wisdom's of this little book can also be applied in revised fashion to our everyday relationships with the people we are meeting, dating, or hoping to make a long term commitment too.

The 20 rules for a great Marriage.

1. Make your spouse (date, friend, partner) a priority
Bottom line is if you partner does not feel thy are special to you, sooner or later they will be tempted to find someone who does make them feel special.

2. Accept differences
If two people were completely alike, their relationship would be boring and out of balance. Be thankful for those differences and make an effort to understand and appreciate them.

3. Listen carefully.
We all hear but we so seldom take the time to listen. Listening means to take the time to look at the person and truly listen to each word. Really listening is a intimate activity. The more you listen, the more your partner will open their heart to you. Over time listening builds closeness that makes you emotionally one. Healthy relationships thieve and being emotionally one.

4. Compliment daily
compliments show appreciation, when you feel appreciated, you tend to feel loved. Without appreciation you get discouraged. So complimenting possessions, appearance, behavior and character will encourage your partner, make them smile and draw them closer to you.

5. work together as a team
Couples need to embrace the concept of being intimate allies. Allies communicate and defend each other. They coordinate their efforts and help each other out. Marriage is like a 3 legged race: try to push ahead without your partners cooperation, and you will both fall. Work together and you will win.

6. Mind your manners
Good manners are of way of showing your love. When you truly love someone you want to act in a certain way. Being polite is simply an effort to be kind, show respect and treat your partner as you would want to be treated. Were there is true love there are manners. Where there are good manners, there is the potential for a great relationship.

7. Watch less TV
Television isn't bad but it can do bad things to a relationship. It can pull you apart and steal precious moments, filling them with irrelevant and sometimes highly questionable material. Television is consuming and if not controlled it will control you, it draws you in, demands attention and resents competition. More relationships are ignored and die because of television then any other single factor.

8. Find time for fun
The coupe that plays together, stay together. Playfulness helps you relax, and when you relax, you'll find that you're able to relate to one another in a more positive manner. Having fun relieves stress and builds great memories.

9. Do the little things
One of the mistakes we often make is thinking "the bigger the better". Big plans can be nice, but more often, it's the little things that count the most. It is the little movements toward our partners that increase our contentment with each other. The more little things you do the more little things come back to you. As little things add up so does love and appreciation grow and grow.

10. Celebrate the "Top Five"
Which are Christmas, Valentines Day, wedding anniversary, spouse's birthday, Mother/Fathers day. Never miss giving a gift on the top five. Chances to be generous and giving are extra special ways of say you care in unique ways and letting your partner know that they are special to you are you are thankful for having them in your life. But, don't be limited by only five days each year when you have 360 chances to show your love.

11. Think positive
Negative words or actions can leave deep scars. Research shows that it takes eight positives to make up for a single negative. People who face to many negative responses simply give up trying. Nothing will kill a relationship faster then negative behavior. A few examples are being critical, bitter, ignoring, defensive, argumentative, grumpy, sarcastic, short-tempered, passive-aggressive, unresponsive, impatient, cynical, complaining, unhappy, resistant, sharp, nagging, or frustrated. Work on expressing more positive behaviors. "You can either complain that rose bushes have thorns------------or you can rejoice that the thorn bushes have roses."

12. Fight fair
Every couple fights. Every couple have different styles of fighting, Some fight frequently; others only disagree once in a while. Some battle with silence; others get very loud. Some explode and it's over; others pick and complain for years. Whatever your style it's important that you learn how to fight fair. if you don't you will leave a trail of hurt, anger, disrespect, fear, disappointment, and unresolved conflict behind you. When you fight fair you will learn to understand each other better and grow closer rather then more distant.

13. Forgive
Since none of us are perfect we're bound to find ourselves in plenty of situations that require forgiveness. Take responsibility for your actions and seek forgiveness with each offense. By doing so you open the door to healing and togetherness. Refusing to seek forgiveness slams the door on your partners feelings and blocks your relationship from growing, Flip side is granting forgiveness. refusing to forgive traps pain and keeps us from healing. Without forgiveness, trust can't be regained and the relationship begins to die.

14. Welcome each other home
What happens in the first fifteen minutes of arriving home often sets the mood for the rest of the evening. If you arrive home to someone that is glad to see you, you are happy to be there. If you are ignored or met with a list of everything that went wrong while you were gone, you begin to wish you were somewhere else. Welcoming each other home is something that can transform your relationship, if every person welcomed their spouse home with loving enthusiasm you would be surprised at the positive impact it would have on the relationship.

15. Go to bed at the same time
To many couples live parallel lives, They spend much of their time doing different jobs, enjoying different hobbies and talking with different friends. If a couple is not careful, this creates a distant marriage. When you go to bed at the same time, you create a perfect opportunity to reconnect and rebuild your togetherness. To end the day together is a reminder that the two of you are one. Set aside some quality time just before you go to sleep. Make this a special time, shutting out all the busyness, stress, and distractions of the world. The last thing on your mind as you go to sleep is processed by your brain all night long, Going to bed with a positive attitude toward each other assures that you will awake still feeling great about your mate.

16 Develop mutual friends
Every couple needs good mutual friends. In this age of being a very mobile, independent, busy and disconnected from family and community mutual friends are more important then ever before in helping a relationship to succeed. Friends help you through the rough times and enrich the positive times in your relationship. Friends can make a good marriage better, supporting and protecting all that is important.

17. never stop dating
Couple don't usually decide to stop dating8ing; it just happens. Responsibilities and the hectic pace of living get in the way. Make time to schedule dates and romance into your schedules. Dating brought you together and it will keep you together. Dating pulls you above the ordinary, allowing you special time to communicate and connect. Enjoying some type of date on a weekly basis will improve your relationship and help you to appreciate each other even more.

18. make love
Men and women are wired differently; this is especially true in the sexual area. Because of these differences sexual communication is very important. Sexually involves "the 3 G's" 1. sex is Good. God created sex, and when it is expressed unselfishly within the boundaries of marriage, it is a mutual blessing. 2. Sex is Glue. "For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and they will become one flesh." Sexuality protects a couple from outside temptations and bonds them closer together than any other relationship can. 3. Sex is a gift. "The wife's body does not belong to her alone but also to her husband. IN the same way, the husbands body does not belong to him alone but also to the wife" (1 Corinthians) Freely giving yourself to your spouse with no expectations in return is true romance.

19. Pray for and with your spouse
Ultimately, prayer is your best protection. Going through marriage without prayer is like walking a high wire without a safety net. Don't be foolish. Always remember that prayer succeeds when all else fails. Make time to pray together. And pray for each other, your marriage, your health, safety; temptations; work, fears, dreams, and mostly your shared faith.

20 Treasure your spouse.
Often it takes a crisis to realize what is of true value in our lives. Your partner is a unique and special person with strengths and talents and potential. 'Too often, we take them for granted. Too often we don't treasure a person until after they are gone. Then we finally realize how much they meant to us and how empty life will be without them.

Take it from this widow, now is the time to treasure those loved ones in your life. And if the Lord blesses me with a second chance at marriage, I hope I will do a better job, from the start of putting these 20 rules into practice. Some of them it took me decades to learn the last time and some of them I never did. Hopefully, next time I will be smarter from day one.

Friday, September 23, 2005

If you forget.

The subject of the worst gift you ever received from a husband or boyfriend came up today on a message board I frequent and I was reminded of this story and decided to share it here.

My first husband and I were married on Aug 5th and my birthday was on July 7th. So, my first birthday after the wedding was also my 21st. Naturally, I expected either a house party or a bar hopping party to celebrate the big 21. The day came and went without a word from him. My girlfriend kept calling ever half hour to see what he gave me and at 10pm when the answer was still "not a word" she came and took me out for the prerequisite drink. I was to hurt to say anything, and just sulked for a week.

The next month our first anniversary came and went the same way. Not a word. No card, gift anything. So I was fuming. I called my Aunt for advice and she said that you have to "never allow a precedence to get started because then you have no grounds on which to object. If you allow something to be repeated without taking issue then you have no grounds on which to complain about being unhappy the next time it is repeated". She said to nip it in the bud and let him know what was expected. When I discussed it with my sister-in-law. I learned that Christmas was the only day celebrated in their parent's house and therefore birthdays, anniversaries and other holidays were just not considered important to my husband and he had no way of knowing or understanding that I grew up in a family where everything was celebrated to the hilt.

So what to do??? Well, I had always wanted matching wedding bands and he had gotten me a very gaudy set of wedding rings I hated. So I went to the jewelers and ordered a ring to match his and that night I set him down and gave him the bill and explained that the ring was going to be my combined birthday/ anniversary gift and that I expected him to remember both dates in the future and I would settle for a romantic card, but, if he forgot then I was going to buy the most expensive thing I could find and send him the bill.

The next year my birthday was again ignored so I went out an bought a sofa and sent dear husband the bill. A month later the anniversary was also ignored so I purchased matching chairs and end tables for the living room and sent the bill. When he hit the roof I quietly stated "If you remember my birthday card, it costs 25 cents (price in 1968) if you forget my card, then it is the most expensive thing I can find to buy.

Well it took him 5 years and many expensive items to realize I was dead serious. When I woke up on the morning of my birthday the sixth year there was a card hanging from the ceiling by a string and only inches from my face. For the next 32 years until the day he died I never got a birthday or anniversary gift but there was always a mushy, romantic, and often expensive card within arms reach when I awoke. Once when I was pregnant and had to sleep on my back I found the card actually standing on my stomach when I woke up. He defiantly took me at my word.

Sunday, September 18, 2005

Turning out Grandpa's Pockets

I have been attempting to write a children's book for my grandson, based on my memories of my Grandfather and turning out his pockets. This prompted my curiosity on the subject and so I have been making a fool of myself by asking all the guys I know/meet if they will empty their pockets for me.

What I have discovered is that today's men seem to be more streamlined in what they carry to avoid the nerdy stigma of pocket bulges. . Based on the responses received I have to assume that sentimental items like pet rocks, lucky coins, buckeye nuts have all become passe or at least found new homes to make room for modern electronics. Lots of cell phones. And the high schoolers are carrying MP3 players and tiny remote controlled cars. Lots of memory cards, palm pilots, these days too.

I have been surprised by the number of religious items encounter. Most have medals or small crosses, but lots of rosaries too. And I was surprised at how many men no longer carry a handkerchief. Also surprised, by the number of pill boxes men are carrying these days. Not a good sign, but it could mean that men are getting more proactive about their health. I have not found as many cigarettes and bic's as I expected which is a also a good thing. I found too many condoms in young pockets, which caused mixed feelings.

But, over all if men's pockets reflect the times, then I think it speaks very badly for the state of the world. I think it is very sad that it is no longer safe for old men to carry lemon drops and pennies to share with children, and so many men seem less willing to show feelings, or expressions of family, by carrying sentimental tokens of love.

Friday, September 16, 2005

What is it with Guys?

What is it about Guys and the assortment of small items that always collect in your pockets? Why do you carry them and how do you keep from loosing them? Besides money and keys, what unusual items do you routinely carry and why would you not leave home without them?

Why do I ask?

Because, when I was a little girl I always loved to visit with my Grandfather, because he would always let me turn his pockets inside out. Grandpa always wore bib-overalls with more pockets then a small child could count and he always carried the most amazing things, and each time was a new adventure. This post would be far too long if I tried to list all the unusual things that turned up in Grandpa’s pockets or the stories he had to tell about them. But, I could always count on finding each of the following every time I turned out grandpa’s pockets: plenty of lemon drops and pennies to share, a toy cricket (a tin bug that made a cricket sound when you pushed on the snapper in the back), a kazoo, a buckeye nut, a well-worn 1878 Morgan liberty head silver dollar (year he was born), a rosary (tied up in the toe of a old sock) that had been his Mother’s and was broken and missing 2 beads but he would sit in the barn everyday at noon and pray those beads, a big flat washer tied to a long piece of string, a fish hook stuck in a cork, a small medal tin of stick matches, a flat wood pencil and a folding ruler.

My father never wore bibs and there was no way he would let me turn his pockets inside out, but, growing up I learned that he had special items that went on the night stand each night and back into his pockets each morning. Dad carried a buckeye nut, a buck pocket knife, a 1922 half dollar, a small flat stone he picked up in the Philippines during WW2, a St. Christopher medal, and a small square nail.

Over the years I discovered that my husband’s pockets were also never without a few prized items. He always carried a small buck knife, a buckeye nut, a set of handcuff keys, a painted rock (daughters first craft) a Zippo lighter (my first gift) and a 1899 Liberty head half dollar (his Dad’s)

What about the men in your life, what do you find interesting in their pockets?

Okay, I confess, I'm guilty.

Okay, I confess, I’m guilty of being a people watcher.

Everyday, I eat in a small diner near my home. I’m always excited when I can get the corner booth because it allows me to observe everyone without being so obvious. So today, we have: …………

In booth one: There is a couple in their late fifties. She followed 10 steps behind him and did not sit until after he was settled. The entire time they were there they never spoke except to order, then he ordered first and she simply said “I’ll have the same”. During the entire time he kept his head bowed and looked at the table or the floor and she kept scanning the ceiling and any place above his head. They never once made eye contact. He ate less then half of his dinner then tossed the napkin into the plate followed by the flatware. A second later she did the same and pushed her half eaten plate off to the side. She put the strap of her handbag on her shoulder and waited, the moment he picked up the check she stood and went and waited by the door.

In booth two: There is an elderly couple (possibly mid seventies) and they sit on the same side of the booth. He has had a stroke and his right arm in paralyzed and crooked so he sits on the outside of the booth. They chatter constantly and he keeps patting her arm or holding her hand. When the food comes she reaches over and cuts his meat and each time he raised his fork to eat his elbow jabs her in the side but, she seems not to notice. When they go to leave he extends his good arm to help steady her and they walk out arm in arm.

In booth three: There is a couple, she is about 30 and is 4’10” high and weighs about 350 lbs. She orders the dinner plate special consisting of an entrée with baked potato, vegetable, and texas toast. Then she also orders a second vegetable, a side of coleslaw, a side of cottage cheese, a side of pineapple chucks. He is mid fifties and 6’ 3” and weights about 150 lbs. He also orders the dinner special. When the food arrives he places his texas toast on her plate, cuts his potato in half and places half of it on her plate along with his sour cream. He is finished eating in less then 5 min. and he sits and watches her eat for the next half hour. They have light conversation until the food arrives then neither speaks until she has finished eating. She eats one item at a time and as she empties each dish he takes it an adds it to the stake in front of him. Once she is finished eating he signals the server to come take the dishes and orders 2 glasses of ice tea and they then sit and have an animated conversation for quite some time.

So what conclusions do you draw about each couple from the above descriptions?

All appearances would say the couple in booth one were having a spat. Not so. I have watched them many times and it is always the same. Last week, last month, last year, it is always the same. What does this say about their relationship? They have only been married about 10 years.

All appearances would say the couple in booth two had been happily married for 50 plus years and were the ideal that each of us strive to emulate. Again, not so. They are actually a brother and a sister and neither of them have ever been married. She lived with their parents until the father died last year, then he moved back into the family home to keep her from being there all alone.

Now the couple in booth three happen to be newlyweds. They were married less then six months ago. He is a hog farmer and she is the manager of the local DMV. They met at a church dinner and he was attracted to her because he likes a gal with a health appetite.

Saturday, August 13, 2005

Why? Oh Why?

Most Tattooed Woman Isobel Varley

Why? Oh Why, do young girls want to destroy their bodies with tattoos? In a restaurant today there was a Mother (forty-ish) and a daughter (maybe 20)and the new grand-baby (newborn) in the booth in front of me. Both ladies had on very skimpy outfits. Cropped Tank tops, short shorts hanging low on hips and thongs. Both had every inch of skin covered in tattoos. Not petite girlie butterflies and flowers but, a skull and cross bones, snakes and demons and large ugly monsters in a variety of red, green and blue. They would have both been very attractive and made a lovely family picture if not for the tattoos. I had to wonder how long before they find a way to cover that adorable baby with all that horrible artwork.

Tuesday, August 09, 2005

My first blog entry

Next birthday I will be 60 years old and I was widowed in December of 2003. I have come to realize that this is the first time in my entire life that I have not had to consider someone else's welfare in my every thought and action. I have also discovered that I have no identity of my own. I am no longer introduced as someone's daughter, wife, mother or grandmother. So who am I. Well I guess this is my way at trying to find out who this person is.

I worked for many years in the cash office of a large retail store and started to refer to myself as the "cashjocky" because I spent my days moving money from one location to another around the store. Others picked up the title and it sort of stuck as a permanent nickname. So if you are reading this keep coming back to see if the cashjocky ever finds the real identity that suits with the name on her birth certificate.