A True, Crazy Love Story

1965 In Paris on our honeymoon.

1965 In Paris on our honeymoon.

Recently my husband, Bill was away on a trip. Even though we do love having time apart, we usually miss each other and talk by phone or computer every day.

That week was no exception. I was home cleaning out my studio, writing, feeling a bit cabin fevery, as the heat and humidity made it hard to be out and about. I felt a bit lonely and even bored at times. There were few if any distractions. Most people I know were away and this university town was napping until things heat up when classes resume in a few weeks and you can’t keep up with the list of interesting events that fill the local paper’s What’s Happening Section.

Bill was at music camp learning to play his Ukulele even better than before, sharing some time with our grand kids, and learning how to maneuver a trip with a bum knee.

Both of us are movie buffs and whenever we get away to a larger city, we check to see what’s playing at the local movie houses. Midway through the week Bill called and told me he was going to a movie that evening. It turned out the same movie, Paper Towns, was playing here in Charlottesville, too. Feeling the need to get out of the house, and not wanting him to get ahead of me on seeing a good flick, we decided to make a night of it. Both films, hundreds of miles apart, had the very same starting time. When we hung up the phone we promised we’d each blow kisses to each other as the movie titles were beginning.

As I was getting ready to leave home a few hours later, a huge thunder storm with predicted torrential rain came up. Though it wasn’t yet pouring, I thought it might be best to stay home and avoid being out on the roads. But knowing we had made a date, I told myself, Hell no! You really need to get out of here.

I parked my car under cover just as the heavens opened up. Safe and dry in my seat, I spent 25 minutes watching commercials for Coke, athletic shoes, and new cars. The trailers that followed were torturous and I wanted to leave the theatre when in a new Halloween film to be released in early October, a grisly looking grandmother asks her granddaughter to climb into the oven to clean it. I won’t go further here because we both know what good ole granny has in mind for the kid. Gingerbread aside, the rest of the trailers were also horrendous except for one or two which won’t be out until Thanksgiving.

When the movie finally started I blew kisses off to Bill, who was seated in an almost identical movie theatre in Asheville, North Carolina. During the first part of the film I almost got up and left. The cute, adolescent, female love interest was a witch, leading her innocent, handsome, male love interest astray; teaching him how to break the rules and make life into an thrilling escapade without getting caught.

My thoughts: , Coming out on a stormy night was such a stupid idea. Why don’t I just go home and read a good book.

As I sat thinking about going back out into the rain, I noted the girl runs away from home and the boy recruits his best friends and goes on an epic journey to find her. The movie, without the monstrous girl involved, became more appealing and the story turned out to be about true friendship, growing up, and finding our way through puberty into adulthood. According to the synopsis I read, it was supposed to be a love story, but it wasn’t. It was supposed to be a mystery, but I didn’t care what had happened to the girl. The end was somewhat uplifting and though I enjoyed the last half of the film, I had to wonder about the screenwriter and what he’d been thinking.

Back at home, I put the dogs out for their last potty break of the night. A few minutes later the phone rang. Bill had just arrived back in his room. We spent half- an-hour talking about the movie and what we liked and didn’t, (mainly the girl) what was on our agendas for the next day, and blew kisses into the phone as we said goodnight.

We’d never been out on a date like that before. As I closed my eyes and went off to sleep, I reached over to where he’d be had he been home. I was happy for my own love story and the craziest date I’d ever been on.

We all have love stories. What’s yours? Have you been out on any crazy dates?

Love, Wedding Bells, and Same-Sex Legalities



“A change is brought about because ordinary people do extraordinary things.”
― Barack Obama

 Last Friday, June 20th,  my daughter Lisa, and Deena her partner of seventeen years, were legally married in a civil ceremony in Washington, DC.  The weather forecast just days before was for a rainy, humid weekend.  But as we drove north from our home in Virginia on Friday morning, the clouds cleared and we were greeted with deep blue skies and wedding perfection all day long.

Mary Gordon singing for the brides.

Mary Gordon singing for the brides.

Bill and I were there along with grandchildren, Zoe and Noah, Lisa and Deena’s kids.  One of Lisa’s oldest and dearest friends, Mary Gordon Hall and her partner Nancy, were there as well.  Before vows were exchanged in the small courtyard of the hotel we were staying in, Mary Gordon, serenaded the wedding couple with a heart wrenching song. DC resident and wedding planner, Travis Crytzer, wrote the vows, got all of the legal paper work done ahead of time and  joined them in marriage at approximately 3:30 PM.  It was a beautiful day, a beautiful ceremony, and I cried happy-tears as Lisa and Deena said their “I dos.”

It was so wonderfully appropriate, as just the day before, Bill and I celebrated our forty-nineth year of marriage.  If we count the two years we spent as a couple before we went to church and made it legal, it would make it fifty-one years.

Times have changed.  Back in the sixties there were no same-sex marriages performed except perhaps for very small and private commitment ceremonies between gays and lesbians. Homosexuals were called fairies and were treated with hatred and disrespect by the general public.  If you had a gay or lesbian relative, you most likely whispered about them so that your friends and neighbors wouldn’t know you had a “weirdo” in your family.

Today there are seventeen states with legalized gay marriage laws. More will be joining the fold in the coming years.  It’s a slow process, but it will happen.  These days, people are waking up to the fact that though the person standing next to them may be gay, they deserve the same rights as everone else.  The old, hateful  attitudes are the same prejudices what kept women and people of color from the right to vote for far too long. All of those struggles took years before they were finally settled. Though racists and homophobes are  still around,  life is easier as a result of the pain and suffering of those who helped bring change to our world.

The tatooed wedding rings they hid for several weeks.

The tatooed wedding rings they hid for several weeks.

Bill and I are the proud parents of our lesbian daughter and daughter-in-law.  Let’s all pray that we’ll see same-sex marriage legalized throughout our entire country.  What a happy-tear day that will be.

Zoe, Lisa, Deena, and Noah

Zoe, Lisa, Deena, and Noah

Being Perfect

DSC00553.JPGEven when there there are no holidays looming we live in a rush-rush world. But this is the time of year when the push to the finish line is most noticeable. In the past few days out on the road I’ve seen several near misses, with drivers not paying attention, talking on cell phones, or not indicating that they want to change lanes. I’ve had two incidents lately myself with people riding my bumper. I wasn’t dawdling. I was going the speed limit. But they insisted on pushing me so that they could get to their destinations in record time. I slowed down and got off the road as soon as I safely could, probably making them angry in the process.

When I find myself joining this Speedy Multi-tasking Club, I try to stop myself and ask, “Where do you think you’re going?”  Usually the answer is simply, “I don’t know.”  All I seem to know is that I have a lot to do and the days aren’t long enough for me to accomplish it all. I become somewhat unconscious, anxious, headachie, grouchy, and resentful.

My next question is, “What on your list can be eliminated?”  That’s probably the toughest one for me since everything on my list is so hugely important and absolutely must be done. What it takes for me to see the error of my ways is to sit down with my list and really concentrate on all of things I’d planned on doing. Being a perfectionist for a good portion of my life, it’s usually about finding the best gift for a friend or relative, and making it even more perfect by finding lovely wrapping paper and ribbons to tie it all up with.

It’s about NOT being outdone.  It’s about bringing a delicious blue ribbon casserole to the pot luck dinner.  It’s about knowing more than we know, so that we can be on top of every situation, always having the best solution to everyone’s problems. And might I mention having The Last Word. It’s about NOT taking the time to appreciate how the Christmas tree spreads its lovely pine scent through the house.  It’s about eating without tasting our food, missing the juicy sweetness of the clementine we seem to swallow whole as we rush out the door to pick up one more last minute item. It’s about NOT stopping to rest when we’re about to fall over with exhaustion. It’s about being out of sync with our own body rhythms. It’s about  driving ourselves to distraction and being miserable because we don’t think we’ll be loved unless we’re perfect.

This year I’ve made a huge effort to slow down and live more simply. I almost ran off the road a few times because I wasn’t paying attention to the essentials. But luckily I caught myself before it was too late. I started being more mindful, considering what my intentions were and why. I actually stopped making lists and instead began listening to want it was I wanted to do, rather than what I absolutely had to do.  Sure, those “must dos” still exist, but by allowing myself to sit back and close my eyes as I listen to good music, I’ve actually gotten more done than I do when I pressure myself with the proverbial lists of what to do in order to be the perfect friend, wife, and mother.

How can that be? I don’t really know. What I do know is that what I thought were the most important things on my list, weren’t so important after all.  Those we spend our love and time with would prefer to be with someone who is cheerful and grounded. That fabulous piece of jewelry or the best toy in the world will not make Christmas a happy time. It is the spirit of the day and being with happy, healthy family members that will make it  memorable. Being mindful of where we are and how we feel helps slow us down making life a lot easier and free from holiday blues.

 May your holidays be filled with ease and the New Year bring you peace and joy. 

On Trauma, Triggers, And Thanksgiving

IMG_0934You’d think that by age seventy-one things would be different.  But, no, there are triggers that still get me wound up so tight I could burst.  Take Friday evening for example. I was on the phone talking to my friend, Sharon.  We started having weekly conversations back in 2010. She lives in Florida and I live in Virginia, so we can’t talk over the fence the same way I can chat with my neighbor, Harmon, who is also a dear friend.  Sharon has been traveling of late and we haven’t talked in almost a month.

I was sitting in my new chair (an early Christmas gift), enjoying Sharon’s musings about her travels. Both of us agree that life is tempestuous and both have a growing number of people we know who have been diagnosed with cancer.  It just doesn’t seem fair to either one of us, but then no one ever said that life would be fair, or a bed of roses, or without pain and unhappiness.

I’m at the age where I know better and have decided that I can’t worry about what is going to get me …an asteroid falling out of the sky or being hit by a dump truck full boulders, rendering me paralyzed from the neck down.  Life is what it is.  It has cancer, asteroids, boulders, dump trucks, along with a gazillion other things that could kill us or make life totally miserable.

Mind you, I always have and will probably continue to cry, carry on, and complain with all my might if and when something awful does happens to me.  But I’m working hard at being grateful for everything that I have, including the best family and friends in the universe.

So it took me by surprise that as I sitting in that cozy chair, talking my heart out, that I was being triggered by Bill’s sudden dash through the living room and out to his car. He looked befuddled and mad. He tore out of the driveway as if there were an emergency.  I started feeling my old companion, anxiety, arriving on the scene. My gut started feeling jittery and filled with rocks. Though I was still listening and talking to Sharon, another part of me was trying to figure out what I had done wrong to make Bill so mad.

Then I realized that Bill’s behavior had brought on a reaction in me that became ingrown years ago. My father was a tyrant.  To him, talking on the phone for more than two minutes was wasting time.  Staring into space was a mortal sin and taking naps was not acceptable.  When my dad was around, my brothers and I always had to be doing something “constructive.” If he caught us doing nothing, his face would become hard and frightening.  He would  yell at us and quickly gave us jobs to do. We were never relaxed when he was at home and it got to the point that one of us was always on the look-out, warning, “Here comes Dad.  Look busy.”

Had I been ten or twelve as I chatted with my friend, I would have quickly hung up the phone, charged into my bedroom, and pretended to be doing homework.  We all got pretty good at pretending and I’ve always been amazed that none of us ended up acting on the stage.  But it sure developed into a pattern in our lives. I’m beyond thankful for being able to recognize when I’m being triggered. Most of the time now, I may feel some anxiety or fear at first, but can quickly acknowledge that I’m safe and that no one is going to hurt me or tell me that I’m doing something terribly wrong.

Bill popped back in the house waving a bag of fresh Italian parsley in his hand. He was wearing a wide grin on his face as if he’d been out fishing and caught the biggest fish in the pond. I was still talking to Sharon and by then had calmed down.  I hadn’t hung up and hidden in my room. Bill had been preparing our dinner and when he discovered we had no parsley he went out without interrupting me to get some.  And yes, he had been a bit mad when he realized we didn’t have what he needed. But it wasn’t about me. It was about the inconvenience of having to rush out during traffic hour.

Life is all about things like that. I don’t enjoy being slammed back into my childhood by someone else’s behavior, but I’m accepting and grateful for being able to recognize when my cells and nervous system are simply reacting to something they remember from long ago. If you’d asked me five or six years ago if I thought I’d ever recover from the trauma in my life, I would have bitterly said no. But working with a therapist brought me back to my senses and I’ve learned to be mindful of my own behavior.

So yes, I have changed. Life is all about typhoons, tornados, friends dying, and not getting what I want. But it’s also about red roses that fill the air with their sweet essence, dear friends, and a husband who shares the cooking of meals and holds me tight when I’m scared.

 This Thanksgiving I’m especially thankful for you, dear readers, for the sun that rises daily, and my wonderful family.  May the holiday find you all filled with peace, love, and happiness.

And if you’re driving watch out for the weather along the East Coast.

Book Review: Blush, A Mennonite Girl Meets A Glittering World

IMG_0804While away in London, I read and reviewed Aimee Wise’s, Of Human Clay. Having set the tone with her “spiritual” memoir, I was eager to continue my reading adventure with another: Blush, A Mennonite Girl Meets A Glittering World, by friend, Shirley Hershey Showalter. Having two women I know publish memoirs simultaneously is thrilling. And both authors have helped me to understand my own need for spiritual comfort and have left me wanting to know more about how spirituality and religion becomes part of our lives and how it effects those around us.

Though each of these women has a different story, a different religion, and culture to deal with, the frustrations and tensions apparent in both stories, are similar. Regardless of what church, synagogue, or temple one worships in, our struggle to be faithful to our God, while being human beings with wants and needs that may fall beyond what we are permitted, are universal.

While Aimee’s book brought back twinges of my early anger with the Catholic Church, I was charmed and delighted with Shirley’s memories of growing up in a conservative, Mennonite farm community in Pennsylvania. Her wish “to be big,” not in the sense of being tall, “but big as in important, successful, influential,” went against all that her church and family represented.  To be Mennonite was to be plain and simple: in dress, speech and in all behaviors.  To be female and wear a prayer covering on one’s head was to stick out like a sore thumb … part of a religious subculture that a good part of the rest of the world doesn’t notice or choose to explore. In large societies like our own, we’re all too quick to point fingers at and make sometimes cruel jokes about those who are different from the rest of us. Whether it’s our skin color, religion, political affiliation, or sexual orientation, there is always something to gossip and make nasty judgements about.

Reading through Shirley’s memories of her first eighteen years of life, I was struck by how “BIG” she was even when she was small. She seems to have had an intuitive side that brought her through difficult moments in a family and church that she went along with and believed in, despite having her own dreams and aspirations for something more. And though following most of the rules, she never became the expected Mennonite wife, wearing a prayer covering, raising a handful of kids, and helping her husband by doing whatever is necessary to run a sometimes not so profitable farm.  Shirley seemed to know, if only on an unconscious level, that she would be more, while still respecting and hanging on to the structural ideals of her church and family. She has done more than succeed as a past president of Goshen College and her work with the Fetzer Institute.

From the beginning, Shirley, named by her mother after the famous child star, Shirley Temple, loved to be with her dad, riding along with him on the tractor and helping out in the other innumerable daily farm chores. Later when her brother and sisters came along, she loved being their teacher, showing them the ways of the natural world, the church, their family and even perhaps the glittering world beyond her parent’s farm. She “blushed” her way through awkward moments when she could barely contain her urges to go beyond what was expected of her. Her parents seemed to understand her concerns and differences with the Bishops of the Mennonite community, allowing her to think for herself while guiding her with gentle kindness.

Of the many heart-warming stories in this memoir, one of my my favorites is when her brother, Henry, gets a “new” second-hand bicycle. Envious of her brother’s good fortune and frustrated by her own old and worn out  bike, Shirley, tries to paint hers in an effort to make it look better using odd cans of paint stashed in the barn. She never asked permission to do so and makes a huge mess that most parents would have a huge fit about. When Shirley tells her dad, about her misadventure, adding that “I think you must love Henry more than me,” he  purchases the proper paints, takes her bike apart, and repaints it to make it look almost like new. Though her mother reminds her about “envy,” her father doesn’t lecture her on what she has done wrong. This special love and Mennonite kindness, prevails throughout the book, making me wish at times that I had grown up as a member of her family.

Filled with interesting tidbits about the history of the Mennonite church, family stories, along with recipes, footnotes and a glossary of terms I had little to no clue about, Shirley’s book took me on a journey through her early life and who and what has influenced her to become the woman she is today. She says it all best in the final pages of her book in, “Why I Am (Still!) a Mennonite.”

In the complicated world we live in, reading Blush, was for me a calming and refreshing visit to a simpler, less thorny way of living.