Twenty-five Years of Wedded Bliss

29 05 2013

Aren't we a happy couple?

Aren’t we a happy couple?

On May 27, 1988, this poor guy committed his life to me. He vowed to stay beside me in sickness and health. At the same time, I promised to honor, love and obey him.

Twenty-five years later (and it doesn’t seem like it’s been that long), we’re holding onto each other and standing by our covenant.

Sometimes people act like it’s so incredible that we’ve been married for so long. I like to think it’s because I look so young. It’s more likely that they don’t know how Mr. Wonderful has survived without killing me.

I know people who have been married for 60 years. This is why our Silver Anniversary, while certainly a landmark, doesn’t seem like “hard work” to me.

Check back in another twenty-five years. We’ll see if I think the Golden Anniversary is worth raving about.

I don’t mean to demean my marriage. I have the best husband in the world. In fact, he’s so awesome that he presented me with an itinerary for Germany on my anniversary. I had already squabbled with him that $2000 was too much money and I would accompany him on some later trip when it wasn’t so expensive.

Apparently, no. I will leave on June 22 and return on July 3, 2013. This is my official college graduation gift.

See what I mean about Mr. Wonderful? There’s no other woman on earth who has a better husband.

I hope and pray my sons will choose to marry their best friend. I believe founding a marriage on friendship rather than romantic love is essential for longevity.

We all know that the “spark” might not be there every minute of every day. However, when you like someone because you chose them as a friend, all those “mushy feelings” are irrelevant. After all, when a friend needs you, you show up. Why would you offer your life mate anything less?

I hope you take a minute to respond to my poll. I’m interested on gauging the pulse of Americans regarding the idea of “what makes marriage last?”





The Old Photograph

25 05 2013

Family 76

Does everyone look at pictures from their childhood with a sense of wonder and disgust? If so, what is the purpose of groveling in the emotional flux they cause? Squinting at the blurry images (after all photographic arts in the digital age tout the quality of “high definition,” meaning back when this old photograph was taken, the figures blurred like someone didn’t use the auto-focus. Wait! Auto-focus probably hadn’t been invented yet), heads shake over the choice of clothes, the style of cars and the general lackluster appeal of the backdrop for the picture.  A smile or self-deprecating shrug accompanies a continued study of the ancient documentation of bygone days.

Yell at my mother. That’s the first thing I want to do when I find a picture from the summer of 1976.  Something along the lines of, “How could you dress me that way?” Of course, when my dress nearly matches hers for pea-soupiness, what sort of reply do I expect?

Upon further reflection of the day, I feel slightly chagrined. I recall the trips to the sewing room to try out this “lovely” dress and feeling somewhat in awe of how my mother could work her foot in time with the needle as she slid the pieces of fabric under the arm of the machine.  I’d rather be outside climbing a tree, but it seemed amazing that within a few hours, clothing could be ready for me to wear.

Back in those days, I loved the color green. Shades of green dominate the Pacific Northwest landscape in every season of the year. As a certified member of the “I wish I were a boy” club, anything that reminded me of the outdoors topped my list of favorite things. The fact that clothiers of the 70s couldn’t mix a shade of green that resembled anything in nature hadn’t occurred to me when I requested a green dress.  If I recall, my mother made all three of us dresses for Easter that year, and my sister and I chose the color we wanted.  My sister adored blue.  Don’t worry, the next year I wore her more appealing (in the color department anyway) blue dress, while the putrid green thing took up residence in the rag drawer.

On the day of the photograph, I wanted to be dismissed from the grueling parade of posing by family units and age groups in front of some guy with a camera. No amount of itching and squirming relieved the discomfort of the polyester threads glued to my skin by perspiration.  In fact, the thought of an entire watermelon (with seeds, they didn’t have the other kind back then) sounded more fabulous even than a run through a sprinkler.

In this particular photograph, our foursome and my Aunt Arlene pose in front of the family car. I pretty much have no pleasant memories of the rust-colored Ford Granada in the picture.  If you’ve ever ridden 2000 miles in the backseat of a car with your bossy sister, you can understand part of my abhorrence.  In addition, the lovely web-shaped scar on my chin is courtesy of the old Ford.  The winter after this photo’s freeze frame of time, my mother slid across the ice while rounding a corner on Fern Hill Road, crossed the center line and plowed into some ancient boat-like automobile driven by a lady of equal antiquity.  On impact, my ankle lodged itself beneath the front seat and my chin smashed into the back of my best friend’s head.  Instead of going to our bowling league that Saturday morning, we took a trip to the hospital, where I received eleven stitches in my chin.

Remembering these delightful times in that ugly Granada doesn’t make me shiver with excitement.  In fact, years later when my best friend (not the same person, obviously. After I knocked some sense into that girl with my chin, she happily waved goodbye when my family moved away and surely became friends with someone less hard-headed) drove me to school in her mom’s gray Ford Granada, I often gripped the door and squeezed my eyes closed when we rounded sharp curves.

Does every photograph send us down this shivery lane of repulsion and delight (okay, some people call it “Memory Lane,” but let’s be real)? Not when we flip through the album’s pages (yes, some people have albums with real pages, not just computer directories), looking for a certain moment of time. Our eyes skim across the years in a split second proportionate to how long that event lasted when compared to our lifetime. When our children get the album, on the other hand, it becomes something of a nightmare journey.

“I can’t believe you’re wearing white knee socks with sandals!” One of them chides, tipping the picture toward his brother, so he can also enjoy the horror of my wardrobe choice.

As they share a derisive chuckle, I quickly defend myself (why do I feel the need to do this? I guess I’ll have to ask my therapist in our next session. Too much time looking at old photos guarantees the need for personal therapy). “You think I had a choice? Your grandmother dressed me like that!”

“Sure, Mom. Blame Grandma,” the oldest laughs. When did his voice get so deep anyway?

“Just wait. Someday your kid will look at some pictures of you, and you’ll be blaming me for dressing you in such unfashionable clothes.”

“Sure, Mom,” the sarcasm drips like syrup from my youngest son’s tone. Where does he get that attitude anyway? (Oh, right. Maybe the queen of the sarcastic tone of voice shouldn’t wonder about that.)

“Look at Grandpa Cave’s glasses!”

Whew! The focus shifts away from me and my embarrassment at being caught attired in puke green polyester.

Why on earth do we keep a record of those hideous moments? Family historical documentation aside, some pictures have neither intrinsic nor extrinsic value. Reflecting more closely on this picture of my family (which was splintered in 1980), I recall the adventure of that road trip.  Crossing the Rocky Mountains, getting a Pike’s Peak Centennial t-shirt, and meeting some first cousins who would play important roles in my future.

A small smile plays on my lips, as the picture fades and memory kicks in. Shaking myself back to 2011, I’ve answered my own question. Mortification over wardrobe faux pas aside, this pictorial documentation of my personal history allows me to witness my life from a third person perspective.  Removed from it only by time, I’m able to appreciate how it shaped me into the person I’ve become today.

The reason for keeping this fodder for ridicule within reach of my children comes sharply into focus (unlike the old photograph). Regardless of our distinct differences, my current identity links inexorably with that 9-year-old girl in the green polyester dress.





Is it Summer Yet?

22 05 2013

Only two more Wednesday blogs until my job gets its summer furlough. In four more Wednesdays, I’ll be officially finished with my Bachelor of Arts degree.

Thankfully, the sun has been shining. In Oregon, May and June are often wet and windy. God demonstrates his sense of humor by making a mockery of most weather reports for the Pacific Northwest.

This year, I’ve been able to stop taking that little white supplement of Vitamin D on most days. My preferred method of garnering my daily allotment is soaking it in through my dermis. Sunshine replenishes that essential vitamin and sparks my creativity.

This time of year brings on a different mentality in my students. They are ready to break the chains of school schedules. Who can blame them? Of course, that adds stress to my job.

After a wild day at the middle school, the only way I can focus on accomplishing my papers and projects for the last undergraduate courses I will ever take (*pumps fist wildly, while dancing around her chair*) is by reminding myself of the completion date.

The end is in sight. I’m no racehorse; you won’t see me sprinting wildly and with abandon toward the finish line. Who has the energy for that?

That goal line is like a carrot dangled on the far side of a gaping chasm. (Okay, maybe a glittering diamond ring or two-weeks in Cozumel.) A single rope gyrates in the wind, but if I don’t look down, I can make it across. One foot in front of the other, one day at a time…until finally – I’m across!

The countdown may be continuing, but I refuse to focus on what comes next. It’s not the destination – it’s the journey.

Do you agree?

Check out: THREE MONTHS OFF? What I wouldn’t give for a summer vacation by Kristen Lamb.





The Book, the Key or the Goblet

18 05 2013

Dewy cedar mingles with brisk pine as I inhale deeply the fragrant woods.  A familiar path stretches before me, yet the mist that hovers near the ground lends a mysterious, unknown quality to the hard-packed dirt track under my feet.  Light from the rising sun filters through the treetops, a slight breeze sends the branches overhead into applause and whisks the mist around my ankles like a friendly feline.  Turning to the left, the path begins to rise, and ahead I see the outline of a cabin.

Immediately, I sense that no structure was in evidence the last time I walked this way.  I quicken my pace, up
the slight incline, breath quickening and calves burning.  Aside from the clapping branches, the woods are strangely silent; no birds twitter a greeting to the rising sun and no bugs hum in the pre-dawn coolness.

Cresting the hill, the cabin comes completely into view, a small one-room shack resembling the pump house at my grandmother’s retirement home in Idaho. Painted hunter green, just like that one, the exterior blends with the surrounding foliage.  As I pause to catch my breath, it seems as if the trees shrink away from the little building.  The sound of running water reaches my ears, but there isn’t a creek nearby and the sound is out-of-place.

While I glance around and puzzle over the sound of rushing water, the door of the house swings open,
creaking on its hinges and scraping against the wooden floorboards in the same manner Gram’s pump house door always did.  A woman with a wicker basket over her arm emerges from within.  Strangely, a veil covers her face, clashing with the light blue polyester slacks and black rain slicker she’s wearing.  Even though she moves confidently, her shoulders are slightly hunched which gives the impression that she’s older. Her
figure is full, soft, and grandmotherly even though she’s several inches shorter than I am.

When she is just a few feet away, she stops and speaks.  Holding the basket out toward me, I see lying within it on a scrap of red silk a dusty tome, an antique key and a simple pottery goblet.  She invites me to take one, or all, of the items from her basket, promising they will give me special knowledge about myself.

My fingers itch to touch the hardbound book.  It appears to be a journal with a faded navy leather cover.  Red ribbon peeps from the top indicating a silky bookmark inside.  My eyes rest upon the antique key briefly.  It’s small, somewhat discolored from age and so old-fashioned I can’t fathom what it would open.  The goblet is fired to a pearly sheen; marbled purple, lavender and ivory clay gives the cup shape and appeal.

Reaching with my right hand, I gently lift the book from the basket, which tilts and sways as I remove the small volume. My eyes sweep over the other two items again, but instead of reaching for anything else, I clutch the book with both hands, pulling it protectively toward my chest.  The cover feels warm and supple beneath my fingers.

The woman commends my choice. When her hands cover mine, they are rough and calloused but warm in the cool morning air.  Her knuckles , wrinkled and spotted with age, are knobby from arthritis.  After releasing my hands, she steps closer until we are only inches apart and pulls the veil away from her face.

Tears prick the back of my eyes because the face belongs to my much-loved grandmother.  Every wrinkle, every smile line, the silver, wire-framed glasses, the white hair in its short, wind-tousled style belongs to my Gram.  Every inch of the face is just as I remember, and then she smiles – angelic. The clearing brightens and I’m sure I hear musical calls of several birds.  Even as I return her smile, I feel the hot moisture on my face. I’ve missed her so much!

“Ask me one question about your life so far,” she says.  “Any question you want and I’ll answer you the best I know how.”

I’m speechless with joy and sorrow, overwhelmed that I’m getting another opportunity to talk to her.  I really just want one of her hugs.  I’ve missed them more than anything.  Only Gram could hug me in a way that made me feel cherished and accepted. Who knew a hug could say so much?

“Did you write this book?” I finally ask, holding the thin volume up slightly.

“You’re asking me about the book when you could ask me about anything?”

I nod, my eyes memorizing her every feature, knowing she’ll be gone soon. I don’t want to forget anything about this moment.

She shakes her head slightly, “I didn’t write the book,” she says quietly. “You did.”

Author’s Note: I wrote this story as part of an assignment for my nonfiction workshop in February 2011. My grandmother had been gone just over a year and I cried the whole time I wrote it. Gram believed in my dream. I’m pursuing my writing career with gusto now – in honor of her unfailing support and unconditional love.





Still Learning at Every Age

15 05 2013

This is borrowed from Carla Foote the blog manager for Weekly Refill.

“Apparently when Michelangelo (painter, sculptor, architect, poet – original Renaissance man) was 87 years old he said, “Ancora imparo” – I am still learning.

Reasons to stop learning (most of us won’t articulate these, but they are in the back of our minds when we step back rather than forward towards a learning opportunity):

  • Fear – of what others will think, of looking stupid, of being wrong, of not being able to accomplish whatever we want to learn
  • Time – to accomplish something new, we need to set aside time, make it a priority and stop doing activities that are less meaningful
  • Settling – the comfort and safety of the known can cause us to settle for staying stuck, rather than trying new things
  • Lack of      imagination – we have never pictured ourselves doing the new thing – being a lifeguard, writing a book, climbing a mountain, speaking in front of a crowd, telling our story

Reasons to keep on learning:

  • Stretching – it’s as good for our minds as it is for our muscles
  • Stewarding – we have gifts and influence we can invest for the kingdom, in every season of life
  • Serving – the lifeguard learns so she can save a life – I learn so I can serve my community in some way”

What are the reasons you give for either backing away from new experiences or embracing them with gusto?

As a middle-aged college student, I’ve obviously decided that I have more to learn. In fact, when I graduate next month *cheesy grin* I will still want to keep learning.

If I stop learning, I believe I’ll shrivel up and die. My brain craves new information and experiences. I don’t want to ever say, “I’m too old for that.”

This old dog is happy to learn new tricks.





The Real Problem with Abercrombie & Fitch—How Jeffries’ Message Hurts Us ALL

11 05 2013

America keeps endorsing the global view of a shallow society filled with image-craving bodies with no mental capacity.

Kristen Lamb speakes out about the latest shallow marketing message from Abercrombie & Fitch here: The Real Problem with Abercrombie & Fitch—How Jeffries’ Message Hurts Us ALL.

A&F should be horrified to learn that millions of teenagers and young adults will buy into their message that beautiful = thin and thin = cool. How do I know this? Because these same young people will binge and purge, starve themselves, exercise endlessly, and swallow laxatives only to look in the mirror and see a FAT person staring back. In reality, it will be a skeleton with skin, but they’re perception has been warped by the false messages around them.

To be fair, it isn’t just A&F. Hollywood, magazines, fashion gurus and photoshopped multi-media publications all tout the body image ideal that makes size 10 synonymous with obese.

I’m disgusted by this continuing trend. Yet, I’m still proud to be an American. Why? I believe in the ideals we were founded on.

No, those beliefs had nothing to do with image. They had everything to do with freedom from oppression. In America, the media has the freedom to promote unhealthy concepts. Likewise, we citizens have the freedom to speak out against their harmful drivel.

Do it. Today, hug your kids and let them know you love them (even if they *gasp* wear something other than a non-size 00). Then take a stand on this issue. Let the marketers know that the demographic that balks at their skin-deep ideals is much larger than the one A&F hopes to find.





The End is in Sight

8 05 2013

From UO News Bureau

It’s finally here. I thought I’d be so much more excited, but the exhaustion seeping from every pore chains my exuberance.

This is my last term as an undergraduate student.

As usual, I have two classes. Both of these classes were my top picks and I hope they’ll end up being as enlightening and enjoyable as I imagined. Read the rest of this entry »








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