CharacterShe smelled of juicy fruit gum and carnations. The gum, she offered freely to grandchildren and strangers alike. The Blue Carnation toilet water, spritzed on a lace trimmed handkerchief, awaited up her sleeve to be waved at the first hint of a tear or runny nose.
CharacterElsie, or Nana to family, would have been 116 years old in June. Sounds silly right? Yet, I know, when I’m tottering around in my elder years, I will stop, each June to do the math. You see, Nana, left a legacy that matters.
Character “A cup brimful of sweetness cannot spill even one drop of bitter water… no matter how suddenly jarred.” Amy Carmichael
Character Like Michelangelo, Da Vinci or Picasso, she left hauntingly beautiful images behind on the canvasses in our minds. Character
Character Sweet Peas climbing the pickets, smiling orange and purple pansies in the stone pots, aside the painted stepping stones, leading to her one-bedroom cottage castle.
Red painted nails with matching lipstick, rhinestone, button style, clip on earrings and finger waved hair; all of which she claimed to be “naked” without.
A 1930’s rose mohair sofa with doilies on the arms. A picture perfect cake, iced white with dyed pink coconut, on a pedestal plate. The molasses cookies, cedar paneled walls and the oil stove hogging a third of the 9 x 12 living room.
Nana left mantras and sayings both wise and silly for us to ponder.
“A stitch in time saves nine.”
“Bless your pea picking heart.”
“Red and yellow catch a fellow.”
“Thirteen is my lucky number.”
With perfect timing she’d sling the apropos saying. Like the moment you stubbed a toe she’d chime in with:
“Just think how much better it will feel when it quits hurting.”
And right after you snarled a response to the above quip, she’d retort with:
“Only dogs get mad.”
Even more powerful than the scents and images or words of wisdom, are the lessons of character she lived and gifted to those around her.
Another Nana witticism is: Always keep an ace in the hole.
This served her well. With a humble retirement income, she was the family tycoon. The only person with money in the bank to loan when trouble threatened any one of us. And, without ever asking for it back, she managed to make you feel good about taking care of the debt. These were the days of penny licorice ropes, five cent gum packs and $5 bags of groceries given as prizes for radio bingo that supplied her weeks’ worth of needs. Yet, footing a loan for $200 or $300 was of no concern to her.
She oozed of character, most of which was taken for granted. I remember her letters in the late 1960s, hand written to me, a know it all teenager with her own apartment. My friends and I read them aloud after smoking a joint, laughing at the sweetness.
Dearest Debbie, Bless your heart. How are you doing? I hope you like the new apron I made for you. I used scraps from your favorite circle skirt. Remember the one you wore when you did the Mexican hat dance in kindergarten?
The thought of wearing my frilly handmade apron, while slaving over a box of macaroni and cheese, always cracked us up. I admit, after the laughs we shared an admiration for her pure heart of gold, followed by a quiet sadness and longing to believe life to be as good as she did.
She was known to read the Bible and give to the televangelists begging for money from her black and white console television. I remember a few times she was shushed for mentioning Jesus.
One thing I know now, that I was clueless to then, she prayed. One prayer in particular on my behalf. I know this because….
I pray for my grandchildren. I pray for a variety of God’s blessings but my most urgent prayer is that they will have an intimate relationship with Jesus. That’s what my nana prayed for me. I know this because… He answered the prayer. He pursued me down each road… waited patiently when I took a wrong turn… showered me with love when I deserved scorn… and so on and so forth.
When I was given the gift of grand-motherhood, I chose to be called Nana. My bucket list for this life, is filled with pleas to be remembered by joyful things and my faith and love for Christ. That’s the legacy I seek.
The marriage dance… synchronized grace… harmony… coordination. A couple gliding across the floor, form and shadow… perfection. Sigh…
Then there’s real life marriage, like ours. It’s a dance too. I’m the one, beat abandoned, arms flailing, one foot clogging, the other waltzing. My dance partner/husband Sandy, is the easy does it guy with a lackadaisical sway, dancing, mainly with facial expressions–just picture a stoned mime. That dance accurately describes our daily challenge to not step on each other’s toes.
Recently on a short road trip we were brainstorming topics for potential blog posts. Doesn’t everyone do that for auto-tainment? I had a banner idea… the top ten annoying things he does that make me crazy. I scribble them with ease in my notebook while he quietly drives down the road. “Finished ta-da!… piece of cake… I’m ready to write the sequel.”
“Okay, but first, I have ten of my own, counter to yours.” he says.
A strong marriage team is like complementary colors which, when placed next to each other, create the strongest contrast and reinforce each other. So here they are below, in living color.
He’s like a GPS chatterbox. Have you ever heard that saying “ask the time and he’ll build you a clock?” That’s my husband. If you ask for driving directions, you have to know when to walk away, usually after his first three steps. After that… he wanders… listing alternative routes… sharing memories of the last time he was there… asking questions like, “remember the auto parts store on the corner?”
She never pays attention to where she’s going. Even if she’s been someplace a dozen times she’ll ask me for directions… walking away, fingers in ears before I’m finished. Later, she calls, irritated with me because she’s lost.
I’m in the middle of a project, reach for my hammer, but it’s nowhere in sight. Why? Because Mr. Neat Nik put it away. He’s OCD about his sacred tools. One day I’m searching for a simple screwdriver. He runs into the garage, clearly shaken, accusing me of tool abuse. The specific crime was opening and closing the drawers too fast causing the pretty little rows of tools to fall out of alignment. Really?
I know Deb’s up and ready to start the day when I walk into the kitchen and bang my head on one of all the cupboard doors left open. Her logic is that she might need back in there someday. And, she’s a junkie for junk drawers. We have 27, with more on the way. What goes in a junk drawer? Whatever fits. She even carries a mobile junk drawer disguised as a purse.
I’m forced to live my life at least 15 minutes early. All those minutes spent waiting for the normal guests to arrive. We are always first, period… no challengers. I suspect our friends will soon start tampering with the time on our invitations because they’re tired of entertaining us before the party begins.
She calculates our departure time like a ticking time bomb, not wanting to arrive one millisecond early. What’s with that? What horrendous plight awaits early guests? Do the hosts eat the first to arrive? Punctuality is not a crime. And ish? It’s not a time. Period.
He won’t try new things. Food likes and dislikes are written in stone. If it’s green, he’s leery. If he tried something once as a toddler, he’s not giving it another chance. Memories of childhood food traumas rule his adult taste buds.
I – DON’T – LIKE – LIVER. Is that so complicated? I don’t care how many people she has converted to “liverites” with her special recipe, the flavor and disgusting texture have not changed since I was a kid. That goes for most green foods, like avocados. How about oysters? She tosses raw oysters down her throat and wonders why I don’t trust her food judgment.
As picky as he can be, (see above), he has no problem devouring 30 day old leftover pizza. He responds to my concerns for his health with “what?” And expiration dates on food? They’re just some conspiracy theory bunk.
40 years ago, she may have gotten food poisoning after eating a burger from one of our local restaurants. It’s obvious she was the only target because they’re still in business today. If they still want Deb dead, she’ll never know because she’s not going back. If I get a craving for one of their famous juicy burgers, I have to sneak for fear she’ll barge through the door with a makeshift stomach pump. Even worse, if she hears someone reported slight nausea after eating at a national chain restaurant across the world, our local version is exnayed off the list… forevermore.
Remember the story of the Princess and the Pea? She was so delicate and sensitive she could feel a pea placed under a stack of 10 mattresses. That’s Sandy. He complains of imaginary minute particles jabbing his back side. This carries over to his clothing. He’s been known to remove tags from shirts leaving a gaping hole and according to him, he’s under constant attack from his killer underwear.
You know the saying that “____ rolls downhill?” Well, I‘m bigger than Deb, so my side is where all the crackers, peanuts and popcorn end up. There’s nothing worse than starting the day with a peanut embedded in your back like a 3-d tattoo.
Rules are suggestions and never apply to him. He’ll suffer dire consequences to reserve his right to break the rules. If the button says don’t push, he’s going to push it. If the sign says wrong way, he ignores it. He even jumps up and down on motel beds. My guess is he was told not to when he was three.
She’s a slave to rules. It’s genetic. You better read the guide book before meeting the family. There are rules for all occasions, even simple ones, like dinner. I was warned not to pass food in the opposite direction. If her dad orchestrates the peas, potatoes and meat clockwise, you must abide. I tried, but wouldn’t you be curious what would happen if the biscuits rebelled and suddenly turned counter clockwise? As you can imagine… nothing horrific happened… until later when I got an earful from Deb.
If it were up to Sandy, all life would be freestyle. No plans. There’d be no such thing as wedding planners, special event coordinators or even simple dinner menus. We’d all just show up somewhere random and fend for ourselves. Yet, when life gets messy, he’s right there asking me questions like “what shall we do?” Stick to the plan… oh, yeah… we don’t have one.
Compared to Deb, the Boys Scouts of America are slackers. She over prepares for everything. Her to-do lists have master lists, outlines for future lists and appendices for existing lists. Once she’s tortured me with the original micro-plan, the second “just in case” phase begins, . If she invites you to dinner and you find fifty hungry strays on the way, no worries, she’s ready.
In his mirror, dressed up means wearing a T-shirt with a clever (subjective) statement. If it’s a worthy quip, holes or stains are no concern. What’s wrong with a starched white shirt and blue jeans? Someday I’m having a shirt made for him that reads: Disclaimer: My wife does not pick out my clothing.
She gets a sadistic thrill when I wear uncomfortable clothing. Starch is her friend, not mine. My neck will be red, raw and my legs chaffed and bleeding from new stiff jeans… she’ll shoot me a sick grin saying, “you look so nice.” I suspect it’s payback for high heels and bras.
He doesn’t even try to keep up with the conversation. This is the man who can build a house from a tree, fix just about anything and tests high on IQ tests. Yet, he can’t keep up with a lighthearted update chat of the week?
Once again, I try. Yet, I’m the insensitive jerk because I’m lost between conversation change one and two while she’s darting between 11, 12 and 13. How did we go from squash to her mom’s hair color? I’m not sure what kind of tree that is? Yes, I agree the treehouse needs painted this year. I didn’t realize buttermilk was a color. Yes, biscuits sound good for breakfast. I try, I really try.
Yes, he drives me crazy and, I guess, I have the same effect on him. The truth is, we celebrate these differences as they make us better individuals and strengthen our coupledom. There is mutual benefit in the rubbing of two iron blades together; the edges become sharper, making the knives more efficient in their task to cut and slice.
If you want your own messy relationship to flourish, we have one word of advice:
Leadeach otherto the cross.Start there… live there…die there.
Confession: I’m writing this blog because I can’t face the blinking cursor on the screen today. You see, I’m at the scene in my book “In Spite of Us,” when that three letter word… S E X… needs to be addressed. Blink… blink… blink.
I’m the Mom whom, when two neighbor dogs presented a perfect opportunity to talk to my children about… S… E… X… well… I choked, telling them a silly story about the doggie dance. Focus successfully diverted, we searched the car radio finding the perfect song to accompany their dance.
Fast forward years later? I still avoid the subject. At least, this time I have a legitimate concern. You see, I’m writing about two people before they knew God. A couple stumbling in the dark, clueless. Who are they? They’re not strangers or make believe characters in my head…
That couple is … us.
Keep in mind, I grew up with images of married couples like Lucy and Desi pecking a kiss on the cheek before retiring to their twin beds decked in matching chenille spreads. Both wearing more armor than a roman solider… her in the full boudoir attire – duster, nightgown, feather puff slippers, night cap and he all buttoned up in pajamas, robe, and slippers. It’s the picture our parents attempted to plant, unknowing that a sexual revolution would blow in with the sixties not only stripping off dusters and slippers, but leaving us without our bras for support.
Stop! I see you rolling your eyes… (especially my single friends). You know where I’m going with this and you’re right. Yes, If I had it to do over, I would honor the marriage bed today. Stop it… you rolled your eyes again. I know it sounds like I just downed a triple cheese burger, fries and large shake and now while bursting full, I’m claiming I would choose to abstain.
A little background…
Thank You God that I’m not the same person I used to be. Time was when I thought God was some jerk in the sky hovering with his giant rule book waiting to smite people who wouldn’t obey. All this fuss while ignoring that people were hurting all over the world. So, I plugged my ears, froze my heart and turned my back on a nit-picking God of legalism.
But He didn’t turn His back on me. He stayed. Massaging my heart. Whispering… a truth. Revealing a lie. Never leaving me. Returning my scolding hand to His face with open, welcoming arms of Grace… for years… plus more.
Mind boggling transformation and brain renewal take time. It’s a process. Today I love God’s book of rules. I no longer picture a mean old rule mogul waiting to pluck the wings from helpless victims. Instead, I see a doting Father who wants His beloved children to receive the blessings that come when His loving and supernaturally thought out commands are followed.
Staring at the blinking cursor I’m still a little tempted to write my story all spiffed up and Christianized. But it wouldn’t be true. And worse? It would dilute the magnificence, the wonder, the super-sized power of His miracle. If the sins of our ancestors like King David and Bathsheba, were omitted so as to keep the story G-rated, the Bible would be a thin, trite paperback story rather than the Greatest Story Ever Told.
So, with God’s help, I will conquer the blank screen.
Note to our children… we apologize for the TMI and the PDA in this blog.
Warning … I’ve decided to walk the tightrope without the net. I’ve made some changes to the blog and I want you to know what to expect.
The main change is the name, “IN SPITE OF US,” after the book I am writing – one keyboard click at a time. Other than that, I will continue to post the same random stories but occasionally will share excerpts from the book or reflect on the agony of the writing experience. “In Spite of Us,” is a book in progress about a completely unremarkable couple, doomed to DEATH by stupid choices. Two people coerced into a blind date, attraction acknowledged along with RED FLAGS waving. Yet, they continue… a stiletto heel and a biker boot… limping along with clashing lifestyles, heading toward a mass grave, overflowing with hopeless relationships.
A double memoir told through the opposing voices of myself and my husband, TESTIFYING TO GOD’S GREAT LOVE. A God who never gave up on us.
My heart for the blog is to show that although my walk today may outwardly appear to be simple and ordinary, it is in Spirit, truly remarkable with His miracles around every corner. Yes, I still question and unfortunately whine with the best of the Israelites, but hopefully, before the Amen is spoken, Praise His Holy name.
My prayer is that the book and blog give glory to His deeds, lighting a path of hope for others, who may feel undeserving, as I once did and still do, without a huge daily dose of His Grace and Mercy.
I hope you enjoy the changes and keep following as I wrap my toes around that tightrope and reveal my heart.
As a single mom, divorced, bitter and broken, I made a list of “MUST HAVES,” vowing to flee from any man who couldn’t swear by them all. Thank God, I broke that promise.
Today, after 22 years of marriage, I celebrate Valentines Day, grateful for the Godly characteristics my Father in heaven instilled in my husband – most of which never made my original list of qualifications.
Here is my TOP TEN list today. My prayer is for all, single or not, to realize the wondrous plan God has for your life. I know the best is yet to come.
10. I love the way he loves his daughters. He speaks sweetly of them. Respects who they are. It’s truly beautiful.
9. He brings me a cup of hot tea when I’m sick.
8. He treats other women like sisters, moms, friends. He shows them respect and genuine brotherly love.
7. He reads the Bible, hungry for more of God, eager for righteousness.
6. He prays.
5. He listens, even when I’m whining.
4. He loves my daughter and son and he is the best co-grandparent imaginable.
3. He cries. He weeps. He sobs. He laughs.
2. He loves me.
1. He loves God more than me. By putting God first, he keeps our life ship afloat.
The point is – give God a stab at choosing what’s best, you might just find out that He knows you better than you know yourself.
Go here to read the top ten Bible scriptures on love.