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No German Thanksgiving

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            Thanksgiving was quite different this year. For the past three or four years we celebrated what our family called German Thanksgiving. Our celebration was combined with dad’s birthday on November 15th.   Instead of the traditional turkey feast, our family made all of dad’s favorite German dishes including sauerbraten, dumplings, red cabbage,  and of course, chocolate cake, etc. Dad and the rest of our family loved the tradition and the food.

            This year, however, marks almost exactly six months since dad passed. He would have been ninety-nine this last November. Somehow, the tradition didn’t seem as important any more. I miss my dad. I don’t miss the way he was during his last months, but as I remember him when we were both younger. As I told him those last days, I had learned a lot from him through the years, and I am grateful. I believe Crystal and I have passed a lot of our parents’ teachings on to our girls: the importance of honesty, responsibility, and respecting others just to name a few.

            As much as this year brought a feeling of melancholy, it was also a year to give thanks. Our family continues to grow. As we lost dad, Michelle and Alex brought our 7th grandchild, Ripley, into the world.  Our family is really close. The girls are always talking and planning. Sometimes they even include us in  their plans.

            Even though there was no German Thanksgiving it doesn’t sound like I’ll get away unscathed. Everyone’s favorite German meal will come between Christmas and New Year’s. I will once again spend three days marinating over ten pounds of beef for the main course. The girls will, as always, help with some side dishes. We will once again thank God for our many blessings, and enjoy our family fellowship.

            The Bible says “To everything there is a season, and a time to every purpose under the heaven:A time to be born, and a time to die; a time to plant, and a time to pluck up that which is planted” (Ecclesiastes 3:1, 2). Sometimes these seasons seem to overlap. Yes, we will remember our parents fondly. Yes, the time of mourning will continue for a season. But, it will not overwhelm our ongoing times of joy. Mom’s old world recipes will be enjoyed for many years to come. Someday, maybe you too can enjoy them. Our family cook book which includes family stories is coming close to completion. Their life stories will also continue, as our memoir is almost ready for the publisher.

            As we enter another Christmas season, be sure to give thanks for all of those in your life who contributed to making you who you are. Look forward with hope and anticipation. Seek peace. And always try to be a blessing to those around you.

God Bless You

Ron and Crystal

Christmas 2010 (This was a German Christmas Meal) Mom, Dad, and Family Happy
Category: Uncategorized

Secret to Marriage: Final – Don’t get Married until you are Ready and Marry the Right Person

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            I know, I know, this seems obvious. But what does it mean to marry the right person? What makes them ‘The One’? Sadly, there is no definite answer. Our world is full of deception, selfishness and broken promises. However, it is also full of hope, dreams and love. Today we focus on the hope, and what to consider in making the biggest decision of your life.

            Growing up, we all have an idealized view, a fairytale view of how people meet, fall in love, and ‘live happily ever after’. If you are not in denial, and watch your own parents and other couples, you soon discover that life and fairytales aren’t the same.

            In real life, marriage is more like a football game played on a field during periodic earthquakes. Even in day to day life, sometimes you are on offence, sometimes defense, and other times when all you can do is punt. Then the earthquake (problem) happens and determines whether you and your spouse are really on the same team at all. If you are, you probably married the right person. If not???

            So how can you maximize your chances? The first and best advice I can give is don’t get married until you are ready. By ready I mean mature, with set goals, set beliefs, and set standards. Only then will you be able to choose the correct person and hold up your end of a marriage.

            One of the biggest mistakes I have seen is people who get married thinking it will solve their problems. One of my favorite sitcom movies is Six Days Seven Nights. In it Harrison Ford says about people who visit the islands to fix their problems, “It’s an island, babe. If you didn’t bring it here, you won’t find it here”. It’s the same in marriage. So enjoy your single experience. Work on you. Pursue interests. Learn, exercise, and try new things. If you are lonely, find activities with others who enjoy those activities. Don’t be afraid to ask for help, surround yourself with supportive people and learn how to solve those problems.

            Now that you are the ‘perfect person’, or at least a reasonable work in progress, figure out what you need in a spouse. One reason it was so important to work on yourself first is that now you know what you believe. Don’t compromise those core beliefs for anyone. Don’t get into any long term relationship with the belief that you can significantly change another person. This isn’t a rescue project. If that’s what you want, go to the pound and get a dog or maybe a cat (my preference).

            Next, do your homework on your intended. Meet their family and friends. How does he or she interact with them? What do they say about him or her? Another test is reliability. Can you depend on him/her? Do they do what they say and are they truthful about what they do? Are they stable? Can they take care of themselves? I believe that until a person knows what it takes to be independent they are not ready for marriage.

            Last but not least, are you compatible?  Do you share a basic set of beliefs? My dad was raised Jewish and my mom Catholic. I was raised Catholic and never celebrated Jewish traditions. That was decided before I was born. Have you at least talked about important issues like money, housing, or children? Even before our marriage Crystal and I decided, that if at all possible, Crystal would stay home, and at most work part time when the kids came into the picture. The more and earlier you discuss that kind of issue, the better you will know if you are compatible and your relationship will have a chance to last.

            OK, a lot to think about, I know. The good news is you don’t have to find someone who agrees with you on all of the above issues, just someone who is willing to work out solutions. Finding a person with whom you can work things out is the key to marriage. If they can’t pass that test; it’s better to have loved and lost than to be stuck with them forever.

Conclusion: So in summary, the keys I believe will give you the best chance of a long and “happy” marriage are: do all you can to be ready to hold up your end of the partnership, choose the right spouse, make sure you are synergistic people and work well together, and never stop dating (your spouse). Also, God’s blessings couldn’t hurt. That’s all I got.

Mom and Dad Married 64 years
Category: Suitable Mate

Fun With Chemistry

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I think this blog has been a little too serious lately. I was going to share the last in our series about long marriages, but it can wait. As you know, if you have been keeping up, we are in the editing process with our memoir. Sadly, a few of my favorite stories have been lost in this process, and will not make it to the final draft. That’s bad for the book, but good for the blog. I will share one of my favorites with you now. My junior year at Bradley University was easier than the first two years but not without challenges.  

One Thursday afternoon I took a quick nap with my friend Dianne after lunch. We were just nap buddies.  We both had the time between classes and I wouldn’t have to go all the way back to my apartment. I very rarely actually fell asleep during the day but just rested. Unfortunately, this day was the exception. I was late. When I rushed into the lab, my partner George was there and set to start. He had not given up on me, but had started some homework on one of the lab benches. I apologized and explained my dilemma. He was fascinated and asked me to share some of my worldly wisdom on women. While a good example of the blind leading the blind, unfortunately, this became the predominate topic of conversation that afternoon. We probably should have paid a little more attention to properly interpreting our instructions.

            We had an idea about the identity of the unknown compound. In order to prove it, we needed to make a derivative. As we began, one of the professors brought a group of freshmen students into our lab, to take a test. Sitting at the benches, they could be spread apart properly to eliminate temptation.

We were still quietly discussing our topic of the day when we reached the part of the procedure which, was marked in quotes, “A vigorous reaction will occur.” If we had been focusing, we probably could have anticipated what happened next. As we added one compound to the other, the mixture started boiling rapidly. We stopped the addition, and turned off the flame. This only seemed to make it mad. A fume of white smoke was now filling the hood. That particular hood never seemed to work very well. Soon the beaker was sputtering and then began jumping up and down. The smoke was now pouring into the lab. We were still trying to control the reaction when one of the professors came in and rescued the freshmen, who had started to cough and wheeze from the smoke. The dense white smoke had now covered the entire ceiling of the lab. When I say cover, I mean, you could not see the ceiling.

             Another professor came in and yelled, “Who is pumping hydrochloric acid into my instruments?” He stopped only long enough to give us a dirty look and disappeared again. We finally threw a couple of handfuls of ice on the mess and left the room coughing and gagging. To this day, it still bothers me a little, that, while the precious Freshmen were quickly saved, us poor Jr. Chemists were left by two professors to die. By the time we re-entered the lab, George had explained, in great detail, the reaction which had occurred and all the noxious gasses generated. George was even higher on the geek scale than I. Think Sheldon Cooper with more personality. The lab experiment that should have taken about three hours, wound up taking about six. It was at that point that I realized, even the topic of girls, can cause problems.

Crystal’s Corner: Raspberry Soup and Sweet Potato Shepherd’s Pie

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            Ron likes to experiment in cooking which makes sense. He was a chemist. We usually just eat the results. I try to get him to follow tried and true recipes when he wants to make something new and/or different/weird.

            I asked “Why are you using sweet potatoes in the shepherd’s pie?”

            He answered, “That’s what we have, but I could add cheese.”

            I said, “No, I don’t think cheese would help”; even though I love cheese (I think I was possibly a mouse in another life). You can’t add cheese to everything.

            So I tried the sweet potato shepherd’s pie and it wasn’t that bad.  Actually, it was pretty tasty, and he had put cheddar cheese on the top of the sweet potato part (yum).

            When we were first married Ron decided to put red wine in macaroni and cheese.  That, I couldn’t even eat.  It was really a mistake. Even Ron agreed.

            Now let’s talk about the raspberry soup.  Ron doesn’t really understand about making pie filling.  My mom taught me from probably Betty Crocker’s cookbook, how to make pie filling with fresh fruits.  Unlike Ron, Betty Crocker and I use measurements in cooking.  Ron decided to just “wing it”.  So even though he did add starch and sugar to the raspberries with not much water, he didn’t let this mixture boil down enough to thicken.  He lacks patience which, I have found very useful in cooking.  So he puts this “soup” into a baking dish and adds ingredients he thinks will make it into a cobbler.

            Even after we cooled this dessert in the refrigerator after baking it, it didn’t thoroughly gel.  I wasn’t that surprised.  It did however, taste pretty good especially with vanilla ice cream.

            Ron also still thinks he is cooking for five or more people.  So we will be having leftovers for days and days.  Sometimes we share his cooking with neighbors, but these dishes were just too strange to explain and share.  If Elizabeth comes over she will try anything we cook.  She is the main cook for her houseful full of kids, and gets pretty tired of making breakfast, lunch and dinner.  She looks in our refrigerator and ask me “how old is this?” before she tries it.

            Don’t get me wrong.  I love it that Ron shops and cooks.  I just wish he would leave some of the baking to me and Betty Crocker, but again he is not good at waiting for me to make something.

Ron:

In my defense, I am getting better at measuring, especially since I have had to for our cook book. I will admit to a certain joy in winging it, and am probably successful 9 out of 10 times. However, they only remember the 10nth. And the raspberry cobbler was delicious, and shared with neighbors, after another bout in the oven at lower temperature to drive off moisture. It thickened very nicely. Thank you very much!

I have just a quick note about marriage. You have to learn how to work out differences. However, sometimes those differences are what make your marriage fun. Crystal and I, over the years, have spent more time talking about and laughing about my experiments than a reasonable person would guess. It has never been a serious cause of contention. It’s what I call, adding flavor to our marriage. Pun!

Here is a slice of my Turtle Pie. I did have to create a recipe for it. It will be in the cookbook.
Category: Uncategorized

Vacation Down Memory Lane in Chicago

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            Crystal and I recently took a trip to back to my old stomping grounds in the Chicago area. The trip had several purposes. First, it was the beginning of a new phase in our retired life. Now that dad has gone on to be with mom in heaven, we have a lot more free time. When I first married Crystal, I promised to show her more of the country and the world. We finally can, and are planning some trips. Second, our trip was to take care of some details of dad’s estate. Finally, we went to catch up with some friends and neighbors. That last one is the subject of today’s post.

            It’s amazing what memories can flood your brain when visiting former residences. The first day there, Crystal and I took an extended walk near the downtown Chicago lakefront. The walk almost proved too long for Crystal (which I heard about often). It’s amazing how much change there has been over the years. Many new and tall buildings, some over 100 stories tall, have overtaken the skyline. As we stood close to the new Millennium Park and looked north, I saw the building known as One Prudential Plaza (formerly, and as I remember The Prudential Building). It was built in 1955, about a year after I was born. When I was around five, at 41 stories, it was still the tallest building in the city. Dad took mom and me up to the top to see the view. The elevator almost knocked me over. I loved it. I thought the view amazing. The buildings looked plenty tall enough for me. Over the beautiful Grant Park, you could see the home of my Chicago Bears, Soldier Field. Surprisingly, it doesn’t look much different now than I remember. Although, it might closely resemble the Roman Coliseum, instead of feeding Christian’s to lions, this stadium is about feeding Lions (Detroit’s football team) to Bears (sorry, couldn’t resist).

            After a Chicago style pizza, we headed back to our hotel room in Plainfield. The trip back reminded us of what we don’t miss, the traffic. The next day it was on to Oak Lawn where I grew up. To our delight, Mrs. Baker was home. Living in the brown brick house directly across from my old house, she is probably the last original neighborhood resident I remember from my youth. They moved into that house in 1957. Two years later, we arrived. Now 90 years young, it was fun and sad to remember good old times and people while commiserating about all the changes in the area.

            My old playmate, Jeff Baker,was in from Colorado for a visit. The oldest of the Baker’s seven children, he seemed so far from the carefree adolescent with whom I used to play. Darting in and out of the room with his cell phone attached to his ear, he seemed so focused. Apparently his boss wouldn’t leave him alone while visiting his mom.

            As we walked out of the Baker’s house, I looked across the street at my old house. I was flooded with memories. The house itself looked pretty much the same. The yard, however, wasn’t nearly the pristine “Better House and Gardens” type dad always kept. The joke around the neighborhood was that a weed wouldn’t dare show up in his grass. He was so proud of his yard that he wouldn’t even trust me to mow it. Instead, I made my candy money mowing for some of the neighbors.

            Next to the Bakers live the Preisers. They were good friends to my parents, but weren’t home for our visit. Before, they moved in, the house was owned by the Pozdols. They too had a Ron. He was my age, their middle child, and we got along quite well. His father was our scout master and a really great mentor to us kids. I remember sitting in a field with Ron for three hours watching an ant hill for our ‘Insect Life’ merit badges. Ron got bored, so he ripped the wings off a moth to see what the ants would do. Oh the carnage! Fortunately, the battle didn’t last long and the boring peace returned.

            Next to the Pozdols lived the Browns. They were an older couple who had one son, Billy a few years older than me. Mrs. Brown was so nice to us kids all the time. That kind of balanced her often grumpy husband. Mr. Brown was a fixture on his front porch summer evenings, with a cigarette in one hand and a can of beer in the other. He yelled at us when we played softball in the street. “You kids know there is a park just a block away.” He worried we would hit a parked car, even after I assured him that we were too good, and aiming away from the cars.

            A couple houses down from the Browns were the Byczeks. They’re oldest; Tim was my best friend growing up. We went through school together and hung out whenever possible. With a couple other friends, our usual Friday nights were spent either playing pool in his basement or ping pong in mine. Occasionally, there was a movie night. John Wayne was our favorite star. After the movie, it was always McDonalds. Back then you could get a Big Mac, fries and a Coke, and get a nickel back from your dollar.

            Summers were spent playing softball in the nearby field, now a large school. Mom would be ready with Kool Aid and cookies. The rest of those fleeting years included school, scouting, and in the winter, skiing.  It seemed such a simpler time.

Finally it was time to leave. As we drove away for quite possibly the last time, I peered in the rear view mirror,  remembering the good times, and visits with Crystal and the girls. And then sadly, as we drove away, mom and dad waved from the porch. Mom usually was crying.

            When she was gone, for a few months, until we could move him closer, it was just dad on the porch. And then, as dad and I drove away that last time, only the house remains. It outlasted my parents, and will most likely outlast us too.

            And so it goes. The house on Oak Center Drive still appears in good shape. It will probably need a new roof in a couple of years. But that is someone else’s concern. There is, from what I hear, a new young family for it to protect and serve.

            After Oak Lawn, we visited with some old friends, Laura (Crystal’s childhood friend), and Bob (her husband), whom we haven’t seen in forty years. We couldn’t visit Crystal’s old neighborhood because, as Crystal put it, it’s no longer safe.

In the end, our trip gave us what we needed. As we enter a new phase in our lives as empty nesters without parents, a look back gives us some perspective, and a greater understanding of who we are and how we got here. I think that’s always a good thing.

Our old house now

Me after a storm and our house about 45 years ago
Category: Uncategorized

Secrets to Marriage: Part 2 Synergy

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            There have been a lot of times since dad’s recent passing that little things reminded me of him and our time together. Whenever I see wild geese or ducks I think about our drives together. He always enjoyed watching them with me. When I walk through the beautiful forested areas around our home, I remember walking with him. He always appreciated my knowledge and interest in nature. The other day I gave the last of his special Vienna salamis to Liz. She recalled eating breakfast with him and Mimi in Oak Lawn, Illinois. Salami and aged Swiss cheese on toasted rye bread was his favorite breakfast.

            I remember mom (Mimi) when I cook something she might have made, or tell a corny joke, at which I know she would have laughed. Crystal and Liz insist that from time to time, they can smell Jim’s (Crystal’s dad) pipe smoke. Crystal works on her crafts every day just like her mom.

I’m certain that, as time goes by, a variety of daily events and occurrences will trigger memories of our parents. Somehow, those memories always take me back to an earlier time. A predominant amount of my childhood memories are good. But my parents were like fire and ice. Some issues were triggers. My discipline was one. Dad was always ready to take off his belt for a swat or two. Mom knew the truth. I was a perfect child who only needed love.

            Other issues, to me, were almost comical. For years I watched, what I call, the thermostat dance. Every time mom walked past it, she would turn up the temperature. Dad would follow shortly after to turn it back down. Sometimes they would almost pass each other in the process. One time dad tried to teach mom how to drive in a forest preserve parking area. I left the car immediately upon arrival, and started walking. I made it about a half mile into the woods and could still hear the screaming/lesson. The next day dad got a private instructor for mom.

            On some levels, growing up, I never understood their relationship. Mom was a fiery and emotional extrovert, while dad was a left brain, logical introvert. What I often missed was how they completed each other. Today’s phycologists might call it codependence. I call it marriage. As we interviewed Crystal’s and my parents, for our memoir, I realized something they had in common. Even when friction was involved, spouses made each other better. I believe they made better decisions because of their differences.

            In science that type of relationship is called synergy. It’s like bees getting their nectar and at the same time pollinating flowers; or sea anemones on the backs of hermit crabs fending off the attacks of predators while having a greater opportunity to feed and grow. Species are helping themselves while at the same time helping others.

            Men and women can be similar. While technically members of the same species, we can be different enough to provide synergy in a relationship. The Bible says the two shall become one in marriage. I believe that must be the focus in a good marriage. Selfishness needs to become less. Two people need to focus on what makes the unit/marriage stronger. Focus should be on mutual benefit. What will make the marriage stronger? A marriage base on quid pro quo alone can’t last. Keeping score doesn’t work. Figure out your common goals and work together using the best abilities of each spouse to achieve them.

            I know it sounds nice and easy, but it is anything, but easy. But if you believe your marriage is worth it, give it every chance. Figure out which of you is the sea anemone and which is the crab (no pun intended). Learn to use each of your strengths to help your partner and put your marriage first.

Crystal’s Corner

            I agree with Ron that learning to work together in marriage makes the marriage better.  It took us awhile to figure out how to do this.  Ron and I are very different.  I am very art oriented and verbal.  Ron is very logical and scientific.  We look at life and problems differently.  What we realized was that my detail oriented way of solving problems could work well with his conceptual way.  He is also very mechanical and talented with taking things apart and putting them back together.  I am better at reading the instructions first and making sure all the parts are there.

            Ron mentioned that his parents did a kind of dance with changing the thermostat.  I believe that couples can learn to dance together well after they understand each other.  This comes with experience and also good communication.  When we were first married, we went to counseling and the counselor explained to me that we weren’t communicating very well.  I was expressing emotion through my words and he didn’t understand what I was talking about.  For example, I would tell Ron I wanted to do an activity and mostly he would either not remember that I said anything or ignore it.  The counselor told me you have to tell him how much you want something or to do something on a scale of 1 to 10.  So after that I could tell him I wanted to go to a quilt show and it was a 9 and he would get it.  This actually stopped a lot of confusion and eliminated arguments.  I also found that just telling him things, especially after he had worked all day, was not always effective, so I learned to write things down in lists or sometimes in a letter.  He can’t always read my handwriting, but my messages got through to him.

            Ron also learned that I sometimes just wanted him to listen when I had a problem.  I didn’t want him to try to solve it or even give me advice.  I believe that women need to talk sometimes just to figure things out.  Once we verbalize the problem, we can move on to the solutions.  When I do want his help, I tell him that.  We both learned that we can share problems and solve them together, by using our varied talents.

            I did learn a lot from being with my parents.  My father was very appreciative of everything that my mom did.  My mom was completely supportive of my father.  They liked each other as well as loved each other.  Ron and I have the same type of relationship.

            Even though we have been together now for more than 41 years, we still show appreciation to each other, in the form of words, and cards and gifts.  When I watch some of the reality shows about dating, I realize that I am very lucky in having a great husband, who is also my best friend.

Today mom and dad are in heaven where I’m sure it’s always the perfect temperature
(Lisa’s H.S. Graduation 2009)
Category: Make Marriage Last

Dad’s Eulogy

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Yesterday was my father’s memorial service. He died about a week earlier on May 31st., 2019, at the age of 98 years old. He was the last of our parents to depart from us. I was asked to say a few words. I am a better writer than public speaker so I read the following as a final tribute:

I never knew dad when he was in the army during WW2, or after the war when he stood up in his jeep to yell at a young German woman, who had lost track of time, and was out after the military curfew. I was there, however, to see her yell back on numerous occasions during their 64 years of marriage.

Mom and dad had, let’s call it, an exciting relationship. But beneath occasional friction they had a bond of love never to be broken. Dad never missed a day visiting her at the rehab center those last months. When she passed in January of 2012 he felt totally lost. At 91 he owned a nice three bedroom house, the house I grew up in, with a yard that was the envy of the neighborhood. But, it was increasingly difficult for him to take care of it. He had friends in the neighborhood but no best friends and no family.

That fall we sold his house and moved him to his new apartment in New Albany, Ohio. While life would never again be the same, he at least could construct a new life and be near family. Every day, weather permitting, he would go on a 2 mile walk through the beautiful nearby metro park, Blendon Woods. He did his own shopping, cooking, laundry, etc. Our whole family visited him frequently. He at least had a life again.

Dad was a very proud man and self-sufficiency was very important. The expression pride cometh before the fall was written with him in mind. That included the fall he took, when, at just short of 94 years old, late in the summer of 2014, he broke his hip getting out of the swimming pool in. He refused, as we had warned him numerous times, to use his cane.

Throughout his rehab, and subsequent move to assisted living, we continued to offer him all of the support we could. We visited multiple times each week, took him for walks, rides and out for meals. We included him in all of our family events. But, as is inevitable, he continued to decline. If nothing else, in the end, I could tell that I had made an impact in his life. I was his guy. Even in those last days, and in his delirium, he would be seated in his chair, stare at the ceiling, shaking, and say ‘Ron, you are going too fast’. Another time he reached out and said ‘Here Ron, take my coat’.

But that is over now, and me greatest feeling is relief. It is like a nightmare ending. Oh don’t get me wrong, it was a privilege to help him. I learned much more about my dad, and therein myself, in those last years than I ever thought possible. But the stress of watching a man I respected decline was undeniable. It’s only through the continued support and encouragement of Crystal and my family that I could continue. His suffering is now over and I am glad. We did everything we could to give him the best life and care possible. Of that I am convinced. I want to give my special thanks to the caring staff members of Sunrise and Bickford Assisted Living Facilities and Capitol City Hospice. Finally, I am also convinced that, he is finally at peace, and glad to be back with mom. Somehow, Papa without Mimi never seemed quite right.

For most of his life dad called Chicago home.

Secrets to Marriage: Part One: Dating: Crystal’s Corner

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As usual, Crystal had something to add on this month’s post. Enjoy!

Crystal’s Corner

Ron’s right; never stop dating. When we were first dating at Bradley University in Peoria, Il., we walked and talked a lot in Bradley Park, attended APO parties and dances, and went to coffee shops at night to listen to guitar playing folk singers.  Even when we had very little money to spend, we found ways to enjoy our time together.  At Bradley University which is on a hill, couples would go to tall buildings and up to the top floor or roof to watch the beautiful sunsets. 

While we were engaged and early in our marriage, we played tennis, miniature golf, bowled sometimes and participated in church activities.  We noticed sometimes that other couples, especially after becoming parents, were not having couples time together. 

Fortunately, both sets of our parents had set the example of continuing to date during their marriages. My mom would dress up to go out with my dad; and he would wear nice clothes too.  My Dad would tell us,   “I’m taking your mom out to dinner or a movie or some event; and I expect you kids to be good for the babysitter.”  The next day we would get a report usually from Mom about what happened.  As a child and teenager I always thought about the future of having a husband like my Dad who would be taking me out on dates.  My Dad also would buy my Mom a gardenia corsage for special occasions. Sometimes he would buy her candy or a present.

Ron and I have continued our dating relationship during our marriage.  Just like at school, whenever possible we still love watching a nice sunset together while holding hands or cuddling. Both of us also enjoy photography and we go to many parks, gardens, etc. to take pictures.  On our recent trip to the Alpaca Farm bed and breakfast, we first went to a garden in Zanesville to see the spring flowers.  We didn’t take photos there, but we did at the Alpaca farm.  I know about Alpacas and their wool because I am a knitter and crocheter. We always look for Alpacas and llamas while driving. There seem to be a lot of them in Ohio.

We encourage both of our married daughters and their husbands to go on dates with each other and even have getaway weekends together.  Sometimes we give them gift cards for restaurants. Sometimes they return the favor.  We are glad they are following our example.  Life can be difficult, really busy and exhausting.  You get worn out with work, housework, child care, etc., so it is important to plan time together to just concentrate on each other.  I always have told the girls,  “Your Dad is my husband, but he is also my boyfriend.”  And they say something like,  “Oh, Mom.”

I’ll never forget Michelle and Elizabeth, when they were little girls, watching me get ready for a date with their Dad.  They were fascinated with my makeup, jewelry and dresses.  Sometimes they would ask me,  “Are you going to wear the red shoes?”  These were my red high heels which were very uncomfortable that I only wore for special occasions like Valentine’s Day.  If I said yes they would have big smiles, and tell Ron that this was a special date because, Mom is wearing her red shoes.

I can say after 41 years of marriage to Ron that he is still worth wearing the uncomfortable red shoes.  He’s the best boyfriend I’ve ever had.

Three daughters and three granddaughters

I know the picture has nothing to do with the article, but isn’t it nice that, earlier this month, Lisa and Liz dropped everything in their lives to support their sister Michelle for the birth of new baby girl Ripley. Great kids!

Secrets to Marriage: Part 1 Dating

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            As I have said, on numerous occasions, I am no expert on marriage. I have no special degrees, although my BS is as good as the next guy’s. However, our memoir is based on three long-lived marriages totaling over 150 years. Over the years, I have noticed some similarities or patterns. If you are reading our blog on a consistent basis, you are probably at least a hopeful romantic. I mean, despite the increasingly low marriage success rates, you believe that, under the right circumstances, long term marriage success is possible. I thought it might be helpful to share some of my observations.

            Unless you have an arranged marriage, dating was part of the original process. Just a side note: arranged marriages have a fairly high success rate. I believe this is because of ‘common shared beliefs’. Spoiler alert: This is a topic for another blog.

            Dating is all about putting your best foot forward. You like someone and you want to impress them. Typically, you breathe a little harder/more frequently when they are close. You choose your words carefully, trying to make an impression. You may even perform archaic acts like opening car doors and pulling out chairs. Woman paint themselves and try to imitate odoriferous floral arrangements. There are also a lot of hormones involved.

            I watch a lot of nature specials. Generally, the male bird will dance, strut, puff out his plumage, or even build a nest. The female will watch or maybe participate in a dance. If successful, mating will occur. If not, they both go on to the next partner. However, as is our goal, many birds have a single partner for life. Dad and I drive by the Scioto River on most of my visits. We have both noticed that you rarely see a single or un-partnered Canadian goose.

Truly we are not that much different. Perpetuation of the species is the ultimate goal. However, that is low on the list of why we stay together. Humans are a fairly intelligent species (with some exceptions: reference Washington DC news), and as such have higher level needs. According to Maslow, above our basic needs we have needs such as intimacy, self-esteem or self-realization, and even self-actualization or reaching our full potential. Ideally, a good marriage will help each partner reach these.

I believe that if you don’t grow together, you grow apart. A marriage takes a lot of time and commitment. It is hard work and effort. However, if that is all there is in your marriage, you are in for a rough and probably short ride. You need to make time for yourselves. Have some fun and reconnect. Remind yourselves of why you committed to each other in the first place.

Never stop dating, preferably your spouse (kidding – only your spouse). My parents became world travelers after dad retired. They went around the country, including eleven trips to Hawaii. They also visited Europe half a dozen times. And they had a membership to the Chicago Metropolitan Opera. Crystal’s parents enjoyed dining and dancing at the Moose lodge, not unlike the USO dance where they met. They also enjoyed entertaining and socializing with their many friends. Crystal and I have always made time to be together. We enjoy movies, dinners, walks in nature and B&Bs. We recently spent a night at an alpaca farm B&B near Zanesville, Ohio. It was a great experience.

So let’s be honest. Married dating isn’t like single dating. It’s not a mating ritual. It’s about building a better bond. It’s about improving communications. It’s about getting away. It’s about having fun and relieving stress. If a little mating takes place occasionally, so be it (and Yeah!). At any rate, it’s time to stop reading and time to plan your next date.

Crystal at the Alpaca Farm/B&B Spring 2019

Category: Make Marriage Last

Ella’s Blog March 2019

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            This was my first winter. I discovered snow! Dad took me outside and put me in it. I didn’t like that. It looks nice, all white and fluffy, but it’s too cold and wet.  It has been a confusing winter here in Warsaw, Ohio. I noticed that sometimes it snows and is cold, other times it rains and is warmer.  Fortunately, we have a nice heater in our living room.  I sit under it on the couch when it is cold.  I also like to look out the window on my seat and watch the birds eating at our bird feeders.  Mom got a bird feeder for Christmas.   All kinds of bird come to the feeder: cardinals, blue jays, sparrows, doves, and other small birds, woodpeckers, and lately starlings.  It is exciting to see all of this birds coming and going to our hanging bird feeder, hanging planter and porch feeders. The redheaded woodpecker is so large he has to do acrobatics, hanging on the edge of the feeder in order to eat.  As many as 7 or 8 little birds can hover on the four feeder sides.  Sometimes they just perch there to get out of the rain or snow.  The bushes, pine trees and other trees near the porch offer shelter to the birds.

On warm sunny days Mom takes me out on the porch swing.  The birds scatter when they see us, but we can hear their songs.  There is this big screen in the living room and sometimes we watch birds, tigers, whales and other wildlife on it in color.  I go up to the screen sometimes and try to touch the birds and the animals, but mom pulls me back.  Sometimes when mom pushes buttons on this rectangular black box the screen changes from color to black and white.  That’s when Dad and I go upstairs to Dad’s room with a big chair and a smaller screen.  He likes to watch shows where people bounce balls and throw them around.  Occasionally I go down to see what Mom is doing.  She plays with thread, yarn, fabric, and papers which I try to take from her.  I love to push pens, pins, spools of thread, plastic forks and spoons and mom’s glasses around the floor.  I lose my cat toys, bottle caps, and other small objects under the bookcase and shelves holding the big screen.  I think there is a cat hiding behind the furniture that takes them and plays with them.  Sometimes Mom takes a wooden ruler and pokes it under the bookcase and TV shelves to fight with the other cat for my toys.  The problem is, they seem to end up there again and again.  Sometimes they fall into mom’s shoes or slippers.  Someday, I know I will be able to reach under the TV table and push all of those great toys out.  I keep trying.

             You may notice that I have a photo with my typewriter.  One of my hobbies is pushing the keys on this typewriter.  I have tried to take it apart with my mitten paws and my teeth, but so far I haven’t had any success.  Like many items in the house, it is a mystery.

               I know that I am lucky to live in this house with mom and dad when I see another tabby cat walking across our porch on a regular basis.  Sometimes I make a trilling sound when I see that cat.  It is my way of laughing at him.  He should realize that this is my house and he is not coming in while I am in charge.  I have to try to get some of the toys from under the TV table now, so this is the end of my report. Until next time, “meow”.

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