Category: marriage


Someone once said, “Marriage means commitment. Of course, so does insanity.” Ask anyone you know, married or single, about-to-be-married or used-to-be-married, it doesn’t matter: they will all have something to say about marriage. Thousands of books have been written about marriage, hundreds of seminars and workshops are held each year on the subject, contracts are written, movies are made, and therapists and lawyers make their fortunes off of it. Still, we are no closer to figuring it out than Adam and Eve after their disastrous rendezvous at the fruit tree which gave birth to ‘he said, she said’ and the beautiful madness of marriage.

Irving Stone’s The Agony and The Ecstacy, published in 1961, is an amazing, masterfully written ‘biographical novel’ on the life of Michaelangelo. It is also a haunting and insightful portrayal of marriage. We see the contrast in the rich historical Renaissance era between Florence – a cultural mecca for artists, architects, musicians, and writers – and Rome, the political, religious, and educational benchmark for all of Italy.  Both cities brought their own unique value to their country, and to all of Europe as a result.  But not only in the culture where he was raised, we see Michaelangelo’s own personal battles mirror that of marriage. The passion with which he pursued what he loved, the despair of rejection and/or failure, the very struggle necessary to create. And the glory of a life well lived, leaving behind astounding works of art that have touched countless millions of lives.

We’ve all heard ‘men are from Mars, women are from Venus’. We are also from Florence and Rome. We are salt and pepper, dogs and cats, blue sky and deep green ocean, and velvet and steel. For all the ways we explore understanding and overcoming our differences, our contrasting elements are the stage of struggle on which we create things of beauty, works of art. Where would fried chicken be if seasoned only with pepper? How boring would a dog’s life be if never given the opportunity to chase after a cat? Would the sky be as blue if it did not rest peacefully against a deep green ocean? And could we truly appreciate the strength of steel if we never cradled velvet against our cheek?

My husband and I will be married for 17 years tomorrow. There have been seasons of ecstacy and times of overwhelming agony. We have loved, laughed, cried, yelled, made promises, made threats, and bought and sold cars, houses, and furniture. We have three wonderful children. We’ve shared many more pets. We’re learning to learn from others’ mistakes and celebrate their successes. And we’re learning what works for us. At the end of the day, for all our married ups and downs, he knows me. I know him. We draw strength, stability, and sometime arguments from each other. And at night, resting on the same pillows, there is comfort in knowing that Rome and Florence are learning to peacefully and productively co-exist.

The struggle to create something of beauty. The glory of leaving behind a work of art. The beautiful madness of marriage.

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Willie Nelson made these words famous crooning about all the girls who had been in and out of his life for various purposes (some honorable, some not so much) and for varying lengths of time.  Father’s Day is quickly approaching so I’d like to share about the men who have deeply impacted and influenced my life. 

Tomorrow you will be treated to a special guest blogger – a dear friend of mine and former co-worker who, in my humble (but accurate) opinion, ought to be famously famous and hangin’ out on top of the best seller list for months at a time.  But I guess if those things were true about him, I wouldn’t know him as a friend.  He is as “Southern gentleman” as they come, possesses a wonderfully salty personality complimented by a heavy shot of Tabasco, and shares Biblical truths with deeply profound insight.  Not to mention he’s crazy in love with his wife and over the moon for his kids.  I’m confident you will be delighted by tomorrow’s blog featuring Jason Brooks.  But for now, I’d like to give you my perspective on some pretty incredible men…here they are:

My first crush: I was in Kindergarten and his name was Bruce. I really can’t tell you much more about him except to say I have warm memories of my 5-year-old smile, happily swinging my shoulders back and forth, dreamily fantasizing that he was crushing on me, too.  Unfortunately, even among our small Kindergarten class of boys and girls, I’m fairly confident he didn’t know I was alive.

David Cassidy, lead singer for the Partridge Family.  I thought he looked like the older, more grown-up version of my brother, and I absolutely adored my brother (more about him later).  I knew every word to every song, every facial expression, and probably the pattern on every 70s-inspired shirt he wore.  Driving down the interstate one day, my Dad pointed out that their tour bus was beside us.  It was destiny!  I just knew that David Cassidy would look out his window, see the girl (literally – I think I was 10) of his dreams and serenade me into the gorgeous Eastern sunset.  Alas, the old man driving the bus was not influenced by my frantic waving or my Dad’s honking and did not sense the urgency of waking my prince from his slumber somewhere in the back of the bus.  And down the highway he went…

My Grandfathers, PawPaw and PaPa.  PawPaw was my Dad’s dad and PaPa was my mother’s.  PawPaw was very much like a piece of M&Ms candy: crusty and a little hard on the outside but soft and sweet on the inside.  He bragged that I was the only one of his grandchildren he ever changed a diaper for.  PawPaw was a WWII vet, a self made man, and an expert gardener.  He graciously allotted a small area of his massive back yard for a swing set where my cousins and I spent many hours sliding, swinging, and teeter-tottering on summer days while he and my grandmother harvested summer vegetables and fruits.  He was a collector of all things Coca-Cola, loved to go antique shopping, and spoiled my grandmother. I was angry with him when he re-married quickly after my Grandmother died and it was PawPaw who first taught me that no one can dictate how another person grieves.  You see, my Grandmother died of Alzheimer’s and he had grieved the loss of the woman he knew and loved for so long that by the time she physically died, he simply moved through the steps of her funeral and burial.  I didn’t like being angry at him. I felt as if I were somehow betraying him, but it was driven by the sense that he had betrayed my Grammie.  It didn’t last long.  The first time I met his new wife and saw that big Andy Taylor smile on his face, all was forgiven.  He was a good man and I loved him. 

I loved both my Grandfathers.  But my PaPa and I shared something special. I don’t know why, I don’t even know how to describe it.  It simply was.  He was a perfect balance of strong and tender.  An unexpected quick wit, he could make us laugh about anything.  I remember one summer when the five granddaughters enjoyed an extended stay with him and my Grandmother.  Every morning started out around the breakfast table on our knees.  We were all too young to appreciate the prayers he prayed over us, but the love that motivated those prayers was undeniable.  PaPa had a way of making each one of us believe that we were his favorite.  He loved ‘his girls’ and told us at every opportunity. He approached the pulpit before every sermon with a sense of deep gratitude that he had been given the privilege and calling to impact other people’s lives with the grace of God.  Losing him to cancer was almost more than any of us could bear.  PaPa lived with dignity and showed us how to die with the same.  He ran his race well and finished strong, telling everyone his greatest regret was being forced to leave his family. He loved us hard and I miss him every day.

My Dad. He was raised ‘Bobby’, a beautiful boy with snow white hair (even then) and crystal blue eyes.  My Mom started calling him ‘Bob’ when they began dating and I’ve heard him called several nicknames over the years, Father Time and Mr. C. among others.  He is the strongest man I’ve ever known.  Period.  I loved crawling up in his lap as a little girl and remember many vacations being launched into what felt like outer space as he threw me across the pool.  I was his shadow, following him around as close as a second skin any time he was home.  He and my Mom bought me a beat up old baby grand piano that he lovingly restored to a work of art.  My Dad is not openly affectionate but one look in those pools of blue and there is no question about his love.  On the flip side, those same eyes could make my blood run cold when I knew I’d disobeyed or disappointed him.  And I returned the flash of lightning only once, when he inadvertently referred to someone else by my nickname, ‘Sweetie’.  No words necessary.  That is one mistake made only once.  My knight in shining armor, my manager, the calm waters in my sometimes turbulent life, my hero.  My Dad. 

My Brother.  I think I must have loved him even before I was born.  When we were young I told him I wanted to marry him.  “We can’t get married,” he flatly replied. “We’ll have messed up babies!”  My solution was simple. “We don’t have to have babies.  I just want to marry you.”  Yes, we had our share of fusses and fights but nobody, and I mean nobody, other than him dared to mess with me. We had daring (and often dangerous) adventures throughout high school that involved fast cars, unchaperoned parties, and the Chattahoochee River (details intentionally omitted).  He moved home to Georgia from South Carolina when I was diagnosed with cancer and dedicated a tattoo on his right arm to my battle.  It is a sunset with the Chinese symbols representing, “Dawn, my bravest sister.”  No matter how long between phone calls, emails, or visits, I know we will always pick up where we left off.  He is a terrific uncle to my kids and one of my greatest sources of encouragement. 

My Husband.  I was a tough cookie when Richard and I began dating.  Divorced and a single mom, I was bound and determined not to get hurt again.  Richard was patient, funny, a great debater, and knew the way to my heart was through my son, Alex.  After four years of dating (some great dates, some ‘Hell nights’ as we refer to them now), we married on a hot and humid August evening.  After a North/South honeymoon to New York City and Charleston, we woke up Saturday morning to Alex climbing up in the bed and asking why Richard was there.  “Remember Mommy and I got married last week?”  Alex propped himself up on his elbows, rested them on Richard’s chest and asked, “Does that mean I can call you Dad now?” Yep.  I got a winner. Two houses, more cars than I can remember, five dogs, one lizard, and two more children later, we have had our share of good and bad times.  Richard married me for “better or worse, richer or poorer, in sickness and in health.”  He has lived up to his commitment.  We have been better and we have been worse, we have been poorer and by contrast there have been seasons of richness.  And he was the rock by my side in sickness.  Every day, sometimes moment by moment, he cared for me.  He handled the house, the children, drove me to endless doctor appointments, and sat beside me for every doctor’s appointment and chemo treatment.  We may never have one of those marriages that everyone looks on and says, “Oh, we want to be like them” but we are in it to win it. 

Happy Father’s Day.

Some time before Thanksgiving last year my dishwasher went kaput.  I opened the door one morning to unload the previous night’s dinner dishes and noticed detergent baked onto the bottom of the dishwasher floor.  Along with last night’s dinner baked onto my dishes, glasses, pots, and pans.  Apparently the tube thingy that comes out of the middle to spray water everywhere had snapped.  So instead of actually washing the dishes with hot water, it simply baked at high heat everything I hadn’t rinsed off.  Note to self: Mom was right – rinse the dishes thoroughly before placing them in the dishwasher.

After fiddling with it a few times, we determined this was something a little more advanced than a do-it-yourself superstore fix.  I called a reputable appliance guy in our area and after his assessment and estimate, we realized we could replace the dishwasher for about the same price as repairing the existing one.  One problem: with my husband and I both unemployed, it didn’t matter how comparable the costs were – neither repair or replace was an option.  Now, let me say I love to cook.  I really do.  But I love it a lot more when I can stuff all the evidence into the dishwasher, press a couple of buttons, and walk away.

So it was with mixed emotions that I began washing dishes at the sink.  And let me just tell you, a sink doesn’t hold as much as a dishwasher.  It seemed like every time I turned around the sink was full again.  Yes, I enlisted the help of our kids to gather dishes, help rinse, and put away (I’m very particular about the washing part).  But it’s still a time consuming process and something about standing over the sink really bothers my lower back.  Not to mention, I have dropped and broken more dishes from slippery dish washing liquid than I care to admit (maybe a Freudian way of justifying less elaborate meals?)  Anyway, after a particularly big meal one evening – roast in the crock pot, potatoes, carrots, green beans, biscuits and gravy – Richard half-heartedly said, “I’ll do the dishes tonight.  You cooked a nice, big meal.  It’s my turn.”  Woohoo!  I was out of the kitchen before the kids took their last bite of biscuits.

A few minutes later, feeling a little guilty about taking such great delight in my mini-vacation from the kitchen, I walked back to the sink and began rinsing the growing pile of now soapy dishes and glasses.  At first we just stood there, side by side, my husband washing and me rinsing.  And then Richard, never one to be quiet for long, started making small talk.  Nothing major, simply news of the day or something he had heard on the radio or something about the kids.  The conversation started flowing, moving seamlessly between us.  And before we knew it the dishes were done.  A few nights later he helped me do the dishes again.  And so the pattern has continued.  There have been a few nights when Richard and Rachel have taken clean-up duty.  I think there may have been more soap sud battles than actual dish washing but it was great to hear them laughing from the other room.  Stephen has helped  a few times but usually ends up asking for something else to eat, making more dirty dishes.  You see where this is going, don’t you?

My point is this: sometimes the unexpected, even aggravating circumstances in our lives create an open door for us to discover a whole new way to connect with one another.  The dishwasher is still broken, and I still do the bulk of the clean-up after dinner, but I may wait a while to replace it.  That broken dishwasher has given me a new place, and a new way, to connect with my family.  And I love it.

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