Category Archives: Make Marriage Last

Words of Wisdom

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I just got back from Kentucky. It was an overnight to take care of some business dealing with Crystal’s dad’s estate. We stayed with Michelle, Alex, and our new grandbaby, Ayla. As a rule, I always try to be helpful. They mentioned their fight with sleep deprivation and Ayla’s lack of consideration for their needs. I told them they would have to adapt to her. It would take time, but to take heart, for ‘this too shall pass’. I also mentioned that, now that she is a mother, Michelle’s days of being right are over. Someone would always be around to tell her that she is doing it wrong. I told her it wouldn’t be easy, but I had faith in her. She and Alex would make good decisions. I told Alex to always agree with his wife. It will make his life soooo much easier. If she needs your help, she will ask.

On the way home, I thought to myself, how did I get so smart? When did I switch from total uncertainty to the font of all knowledge? I think the difference is distance and time. Once the last child moves out, (Crystal will cry when she reads this) you have something you haven’t had for years….time to reflect and process. I suppose that is why the generals aren’t actually on the front lines. They are more effective away from the action, where they can process and plan.

OK, now that I think about it, if I had to give one key point, it would be to decide on what you and your spouse believe, and parent accordingly. The largest hurdle for Crystal and me was deciding rules we both agreed on, and consequences (both positive and negative) for those rules. We knew we needed to agree and be consistent or the kids would pick us apart. We spent time almost every day reviewing our progress and if necessary, adjusting our strategy.

However, advice is cheap, and worth what you pay for it. I don’t think our kids know that though. They still think we have a few answers. Maybe we do. However, what they need to realize is that outside of never ending love and support, our job is done. The goal of parenting isn’t raising kids, it’s preparing responsible adults. What I failed to mention to Michelle is that her child is now totally dependent on her. But that will soon change. As years go by, it will be her job, along with her husband to decide when and how to release control, and promote independence. You need to be there to congratulate them when they succeed, and reassure them when they fail. When you are done, they will let you know. After that, and for the rest of your life,  they will still be your kids, but they will be grownups. You need to treat them as such.

Sounds like we really knew what we were doing, right? We were perfect parents. Now I get why I have all of this wisdom to share…..Except….it didn’t always work. Our kids still had problems, got into trouble, and we weren’t always consistent. Occasionally, Crystal and I wouldn’t agree and would argue about how to handle things.

Reality has set in. I am really not the font of anything except maybe ego. Parenting is a struggle. The good news is that my advice (worth every penny) was good. For a new mother, like Michelle, I know it was reassuring to know that in a little while her baby will adapt and sleep through the night. As the child grows, there will be new challenges, but she will adapt. She was raised to be able to adapt and overcome. I have no doubt that she will always put her child’s needs ahead of her own. I think that is the simple definition of a good parent. I will continue to give my two cents. Some habits are impossible to break. But I know, and I think she knows, she is ready, and with God’s help, she and Alex will be wonderful parents.

Left to right, daughter Liz holding Addelyn, My dad, daughter Michelle holding Ayla

This was at a Greek restaurant in Columbus Ohio for Easter celebration.

Category: Make Marriage Last

Procreation, God’s Creation

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I was surprised when Sunday’s sermon was dedicated to the sanctity of human life. I was surprised since I had just finished writing the following much related post. I was going to wait a couple of days to post it, in case Crystal had something to add. She has just given me the all clear to post it as is.

Our daughters take the sanctity of human life very seriously and are doing their part. Sometime, over the next couple of months both Liz and Michelle are expecting to bring a couple of new baby girls into the world.

I find the decision to be a grandpa again, was an easy one. We love our four grand children very much, like spending time with them, playing with them and handing them back to their mom and dad. The decision to be a parent is infinitely more difficult. Not everyone should become a parent. There is nothing sadder than seeing parents who should have never been parents. I won’t elaborate. I don’t think I need to. Go out in the world or watch Dr. Phil.

The decision to raise children will impact every aspect of your life: your relationship with your spouse (significant other), where you live, how you spend your money, how you spend your free time (I use the term loosely), etc. I know my girls are and will be great parents. They have both put in the ground work. They have good value systems, will put the needs of their children ahead of their own, and have adequately trained their husbands.

That last one is in no way a slight on their husbands. Brad and Alex are wonderful, but we (guys) all need some training. You see, most women have a head start on us. They think about being moms from the time they are toddlers. Most young boys aren’t very much into baby dolls or doll houses. Also, even if it’s only in those stupid gym class lectures, girls are taught about their greater level of commitment. Guys don’t get pregnant, or have to give birth. The joke that, if guys had to have babies the human race would have died out a long time ago, might not be that farfetched. Also, during the pregnancy or after the birth, guys may come and go. But a mom is a mom, is a mom. As I have said on several occasions, finding a spouse and having a child are two decisions which, while they may affect each other, should be made independently.

From my own experience, Crystal and I both agreed before we got engaged that we wanted to raise a family. However, it was Crystal who read the books and magazines, had the baby shower, organized the nursery, and set up the child birth and Lamaze classes. I went along with everything. Once she was pregnant, I did my best to be supportive and empathetic, but I had my work and my life. I admit, in a lot of ways, I was ignorant. Things for me became a different level of reality, only after the nurse handed me my daughter(s). The first time they looked up and saw daddy, they knew they had me. They were right.

I can’t remember what I had for lunch yesterday, but that first day with Elizabeth I will never forget. I carried her proudly with my best one handed football carry. I knew she was safe. I never dropped a football. Of course footballs don’t giggle and wiggle. After I picked her up…..Kidding…..we arrived at the car. I think it took about the next five minutes to fight the car seat into submission. Somewhere in that time I had my Prissy moment. I don’t know noting bout raisen no babys. That moment only lasted for about the next twenty years. I’m OK now. The point is the miracle of birth is followed by years and years of work and commitment. However, it is so worth it. Besides, to do any less is like telling God to take back his miracle.

To say birth is a miracle is an understatement. To me, a baby is the ultimate proof of a God. As a scientist, I look at the world from a critical point of view. I drove my anatomy teacher crazy pointing out the inconsistencies and errors in our book. I read my Bible (excuse the pun) religiously. While I often struggle with details and have a list of questions for God, I never doubt His existence.

While many scientists struggle to find the proposed missing link, my question is much more basic. Which came first, the chicken or the egg? There is a correct answer…..They had to arrive simultaneously. Think about it. So the next time you look across the table at your spouse, you can thank God for that one magnificent chromosome, which made all of that difference. Procreation is God’s creation.

To my beloved daughters, their husbands and all who have decided to perpetuate the human race regardless of the costs, congratulations, mozel tof, and shalom.

New Years KY 017

I finally have something in common with my daughters.

Category: Make Marriage Last

A Case for Marriage (Part Two)

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Today we celebrate the 100th post to this web site. Hurrah!!! In all honesty, Crystal and I never thought we would find so much to talk about. The truth is, when you talk about marriage and family issues, the material never seems to run dry. Today, we will continue to discuss why on earth anyone, in this 21st century, would choose to get married. We live in a disposable society. Planned obsolescence is a way of life. That brand new I-phone that finally made it to Best Buys will be yesterday’s news by the time you get it home. I am driving my dad’s old car these days. One day, the windshield washer stopped working. I located the cheap plastic part that broke, and headed to the parts store. It was about the size of a dime and looked like it came out of a box of Cracker Jacks. “That will be $26,” said the man behind the counter. “$26?” I repeated, again looking in disbelief at the object of my affliction. Of course, the part was designed to have a limited life. A metal part would last the life of the car. But what would the fun be in that? Today, however it’s just the way we live. Don’t get used to anything. It won’t last.

Marriage is the same. I won’t be a hypocrite and say marriage is the right way, or the only way. I realize that today, this radical view would be met with substantial ridicule. I will also admit to not having all of the answers. I know a lot of really good people, including friends and family members, who have suffered through divorce. Marriage is a tough and risky commitment. Regardless of all of the rules and direction offered on this web site, there is no perfect formula to assure marital success. However, more information is always better. That is why I don’t intend to debate, but to inform. In this information age, people should make informed decisions; and believe it or not, there is a case to be made for marriage.

So why do people choose to get married? The rabbit died is no longer just cause; although, I doubt if any rabbits actually die as part of today’s pregnancy tests. Babies no longer require marriage. Single parents are everywhere. Many couples will attempt to stay together for the ‘sake of the child’. But that doesn’t make them a compatible couple. It’s can also become a little more awkward as the child grows. Some people in the world may judge you. There could also be legal or financial complexities. But the one problem I wouldn’t want to handle is, explaining to my child that, I would always be committed to him or her, but not to my partner.

Of course, we live in the freedom of choice age. That baby maybe never gets born in the first place…..That just makes me sad. I know that my parents tried for years to have me. My mother often referred to the day of my birth as one of the happiest of her life. It’s ironic that today, on the one hand, there are many couples who desperately want children. On the other hand, there are those who consider them another disposable commodity. You would think, if those couples got together, we could solve a lot of problems. But I digress.

We are focusing on marriage. But, let’s not throw the baby out with the bath water (joke)….Sorry…..We may be on to something with freedom of choice. In this country, we do have so many freedoms that we often take them for granted. However, is freedom of choice always a good thing? I read just yesterday an article written by a woman who was proud of the fact that she had lived with the same man for eighteen years. She went on to say that they would choose each day to be with each other. She said it, like it was a good thing.

Maybe for her it was. I guess I’m a little different. To me making the same decision over and over just sounds stressful or even exhausting. I guess I’m just wired differently. I like to do my research, make an informed decision, and stick with it. Crystal is the same way. I guess that’s why we work.

I know some will question the above statement about the stress of cohabitation. While I can’t guarantee that stress is the reason, there is actually medical evidence to support the health benefits of marriage. There is actually a lot on the internet. Look it up for yourself. Web MD is a source I trust. They said “Dec. 15, 2004 — Marriage and health often go hand in hand, research shows. Except for weight problems, married people are healthier than those who are divorced, widowed, never-married, or live with a partner, says the CDC.”

Other articles have confirmed that even people who remarry after being widowed or divorced show improved mental and physical health than their counterparts who remain single. While there may be some health benefits to cohabitation they don’t appear nearly as strong (or well documented) as in marital relationships. Of course the quality of the marriage is also a factor. While I couldn’t find any information comparing the health of couples in “good” marriages to those in “bad” marriages, I don’t think the results would be a surprise. Prolonged emotional stress will eventually manifest itself physically. This once again proves the old adage ‘Happy wife, happy (and long) life’.

Lately, we have been spending a lot of time helping different family members. That leads me to one more point. You will have to decide whether or not it is a positive point for marriage. When you get married you forever bind families. For us, it was a positive. I couldn’t have hoped for better more supportive in-laws or extended family. I like being part of something larger than myself. Sometimes it takes time and energy, but it is usually fulfilling.

While I have strong Biblically based beliefs about marriage, they are personal and won’t be used in this blog. However, if it makes a difference to you, I can say with a great deal of assurance that God prefers marriage over cohabitation.

So that’s my case for marriage. I don’t expect it to change anyone’s mind. I just have one final thought and warning. If you are considering marriage, be absolutely certain about your readiness and your potential spouse. This blog has some good posts on choosing a spouse and preparing for marriage. The downside of marriage is the implied paradox. To have a successful marriage, two people have to agree to a lifelong commitment. If either of you don’t think of it that way, your marriage is doomed before it starts. This is nothing like other daily decisions. Marriage isn’t like your phone. You can’t just decide to switch when the next I-phone comes out; not even if it has the easily removable hot pink leather cover or all of those new aps. you’ve always wanted. In marriage, if a part breaks, you’re stuck with it, and better fix it, fast. Marriage is the institution where narcissism and self will go to die. To many, this concept just doesn’t make sense for today….or does it?

The other day, totally unprovoked, Crystal told me that I am always her hero. I’m not bragging (well maybe a little). It just helps with my final point. After 38 years of marriage, I haven’t seen my white horse for a while. I don’t do anything heroic on a daily basis. But I’m there for her. I’m still committed to her, care for and love her. The point is, a good marriage is worth the effort. I do a lot for Crystal and she does a lot for me. No one is keeping score. No one needs to. We are just better together than either one of us is apart. In the Bible it says, the two shall become one. Losing Crystal would be like losing a leg. We are one unit. I just don’t think a similar level of commitment can be made any other way. Is it worth it? We think so.

2007_090807July0078

In a good marriage you can have your cake and eat it too!

Category: Make Marriage Last

A Case for Marriage

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The other day I was at a restaurant with dad and I talked to the waiter. Crystal or my daughters will tell you that I always talk to the waiters (well people in general). I can’t help it; I’m just interested in people. Somehow the topic turned around to the people in his life. He mentioned the woman he had been living with for the last three years. He sounded very pleased with her. ‘She sounds wonderful’, is what I believe I responded. I know better than to ask about marriage plans. I mentioned my wonderful wife of thirty-eight years. Dad was with me. I don’t think he could hear much of our conversation. I introduced them and the waiter took our order.

Don’t get me wrong. I don’t frown on freedom of choice or other lifestyles. I just think the pendulum has swung a little too far. If you have a TV or live in the world, you know what I’m saying. These days a common response to ‘I’m getting married’ is ‘why?’  I would be the biggest hypocrite in the world if I said I didn’t understand the advantages of the trial run. Rent versus buy is one of the first things I learned to compare in my economics classes in college. Members of my family have lived with ‘significant others’. It is just the way of today.  Truthfully, I might have lived with Crystal before marriage, if she was a modern woman of the s1970s. Of course, if she had been that modern, I might not have wanted to make the commitment to spend my life with her. Commitment is a good word. We will get back to it.

The point is simple. Marriage has been on the decline for years. Success rate is only about 50%. Many of my best friends have been divorced. Divorce is painful, ugly and costly. Why take that chance. If you live with someone, in theory, you can simple wave goodbye and it’s over.

I’m sorry, maybe I am old fashion. I just don’t buy it. Our book is all about three couples who defied the odds and had successful marriages. I believe that even in the 21st century there must be some positives to marrying the one you love. So, over the next couple of blogs we will do our best to oppose popular social morays and build a case for marriage.

Today we will talk a little about marriage’s popular alternative. Why do people choose to live together monogamously? I believe, for some, it represents a step toward marriage. Others believe it is a way to test the relationship; while still others may use it to postpone a commitment (there’s that word) they are not certain, they are willing to make.

One problem with cohabitation, as I see it, comes in when you and your significant other have different goals or levels of commitment (again). To one, the arrangement may represent a temporary end game. To the other, it may represent a never ending audition for marriage. In many cases, neither is being totally honest about their true feelings. Of course, they may not know themselves.

Next, if you go into a relationship wanting to make sure there is an easy out, it will most likely end in one. If marriage is the goal, note that statistically, the chances of the trial run leading to a successful marriage are lower than marriage without the trial run. A relationship founded on convenience and” maybe we do, maybe we don’t”, is not a basis for lasting love.

OK, that’s enough of my soap box for today. It’s time for a story. Crystal and I met in 1975 at a fifties party (that’s 1950s) at Bradley University. When the party was over, she went back to her dorm room and complained about me to her roommate. It wasn’t exactly love at first sight for either of us.

Our relationship wasn’t much different. It took a while for us to get serious. We were both dating other people. However, when we finally realized how well we worked together, we became inseparable. We studied together, went on walks, and even ate most of our meals together. It soon became obvious to us and all of our friends, we had something special.

We talked about someday getting married. When I say we talked, I mean we talked. We talked location, apartment vs. home, engagement period, and even number of kids. I said one. After all, I was an only child, and practically perfect in every way (yeah, I know, don’t call me Mary). She wanted four. I almost had a heart attack. Eventually, she won that debate. We had three. We probably would have had four if her baby making equipment hadn’t broken down.

Once in my mind, I was certain we were committed (again) to spending our lives together, I took the next step. My roommate at the time was George. He was a brilliant fellow Chemistry student. While I struggled with all of the concepts, he hung around with professors, and acted as if college was a mere formality of life. George was a true renaissance man. He not only knew chemistry, he knew a lot about many diverse subjects. He, however, had a bit of social awkwardness until he knew you well (picture Sheldon Cooper, but much friendlier and nicer). Naturally, George was the first one I went to when I started looking for a ring. He immediately started talking cut, facets, clarity. Do you know the origin of the term carat? He did and so did I at one point.

We went to the Hertzberg Jeweler at the new Peoria Mall. I looked at the rings trying to decide what Crystal would like, and I could afford. George talked to the Jeweler like he worked there.  We finally came across this beautiful white gold ring set with multiple small chips and a small but certified perfect main stone. Perfect, I thought, just like our love. Did I mention I was sappy back then? Anyway, I knew that was the one.

I plopped down what was easily three months wage at the government lab where I worked part time. Once we left, I started planning my strategy. Everything had to be perfect. I wanted Crystal to remember the moment for the rest of her life, and then some. When I first met her, I told her I was an optimist and a romantic. She was skeptical at the time. This was the time to put up or shut up.

Finally, it came to me. I had all of the questions answered. It was a beautiful fall day. The sun was shining and the birds were singing. Classes were over. I suggested a nice walk in Laura Bradley Park. This beautiful forested hilly park was a block from campus. We walked there often so she would suspect nothing. We walked past the playground, past my favorite climbing tree, down the hill and past the tennis courts. We crossed the little foot bridge over the creek. We talked as we walked. A good part of the conversation was cleverly steered toward our future married lives together. I had to make sure Crystal was in. I was certain that rejection would prove terminal. Everything was go for Mission Proposal. We reached the predetermined spot. In the middle of a small grove with flowers (well pretty weeds) and trees next to the creek there was a large rock. I signaled Crystal over and gently hoisted her to sit on the rock. Back then I could do stuff like that (gentle hoisting). I assumed the position (one knee) and presented the ring. The reaction wasn’t quite what I expected. Crystal was definitely surprised. Actually shocked would be a better description. She did say yes. She smiled pleasantly as I put the ring on her finger. I took her back to her room, but was a little disappointed. I knew her pretty well by then. I thought to myself, she would have reacted with more enthusiasm if I had a chocolate in the case. Oh well, at least we were engaged. Cross that off my list.

The next day Crystal gave the ring back. Apparently, while she had every intention of marrying me, she couldn’t be engaged while we were at school. She couldn’t split her focus. I told her that the engagement didn’t change anything; but she didn’t see it that way. This should have been a clue to me. Crystal and I were vastly different people.

Around six months later (after graduation) I tried again. This time it was in a restaurant and slightly less romantic. I pushed the box across the table and told her this was her last chance. This time she gratefully accepted the ring. She was in.

There were a lot of things, a lot of differences, we learned about during our early years of marriage. Looking back I see where, at least in our case, many have become strengths. As far as handing the ring back, I now think I understand it a little better. Crystal realized something I didn’t. I saw marriage as our happily ever after. I now realize that only works in fairy tales. Crystal saw it for what it was. This would be the biggest single commitment in her life. It’s a far bigger commitment than buying a car or even a house. I told you I would get back to commitment. She went into it thinking, once done it cannot be undone. Marriage requires two people who are totally committed to making it work, for the rest of their lives. She was not willing to take that step until she could devote 100% of her focus to it. I think if more couples thought that way, there would be fewer divorces, and greater satisfaction in marriages.

Our next blog will be the 100th on this web site since its inception. It’s party time!!!! Know that you are not alone. Some days over thirty people read our site. I think rather than sit here and pat ourselves on our backs.  Crystal and I see this as a statement of interest in the topic covered. The goal of our blog is to talk positively about marriage and family issues. If we can, at the same time, occasionally entertain with real life stories, so much the better. Thanks so much for your patronage.

Crystal’s Corner

I am glad that Ron has written this blog. I think that many couples are confused about living together and marriage and the differences between them.  I will give you a little history lesson now.  In the 1970s, following the crazy free love 1960s, more couples were living together.  We were not seeing happiness in their relationships.  We were seeing more of them crash and burn.  Even though women were becoming more career minded, educated and independent, when it came to men, they were wishy washy and insecure.

Many of my friends and coworkers were living with boyfriends who I thought would never marry them.  I was engaged right after college and working downtown Chicago.  I was one of the happiest people there, definitely “walking on sunshine”.  Ron was sweet, romantic and thoughtful.  We were very busy planning our wedding.  I knew he would marry me anywhere and anytime.  He wanted to be my husband and the father of my children.  I had that happiness growing in my heart which was bursting a lot of the time.  I would quote things that he said until my sister told me to stop it.  She didn’t think he was a great philosopher, but she knew that our love was strong and growing. I was also raised to value myself and to value the relationship I had with God and my family.  My parents had a strong loving fulfilling marriage.  We show this in our memoir.  My father was also very loving and supportive of his children. I was living at home and he was driving me to the train every day.  He thought I could wait awhile to marry Ron. He liked Ron, but I had been away for two years at school and he liked having me home again.  Also, my brother was going through a divorce.  My brother, however, liked Ron and could see how happy I was with him.

I had been asked before I met Ron by a boyfriend to come and live with him in another state.  I had turned him down.  He said, “So you are waiting for Mr. Right and a happily ever after.”  I told him that I was, but really I knew that God had a plan for my life.  When I met Ron at that 1950s party at school, God told me “This is your husband.”  It shocked me quite a bit, but can God be wrong?

When Ron proposed at the rock, I had no idea that it was going to happen.  We had had some problems during the summer and actually had broken up.  A big part of the problem was that we were apart and I was having a terrible summer and ended up in the hospital.  Now we had gotten back together and were on the right track.  I also was having the most difficult semester of my whole college career and I was running out of money.  I also had health problems.  I was putting everything I had into school and trying to graduate Summa Cum Laude.  He was having an easy semester and didn’t have financial problems.  I should have been honest with him about what was going on with me.  It is something we learned later.  He didn’t understand that when girls get engaged, everyone starts asking them questions.  I couldn’t plan a wedding and a future life and get through my hardest semester.

Even though I didn’t wear his ring, I still wanted very much to marry him.  This completely confused him and he was very upset for awhile.  I think he realized he had some things to learn about women.  But we stayed together and after he graduated in Jan. we became engaged.  I went back to school to fight my way through to graduation and he went home to find a job.  It was a difficult time for us to be apart, but our commitment and future plans kept us together.  I worked in the campus library, and my fellow workers knew, by my smile and by my step, when Ron was coming to visit.  They would console me on the weekends that I was alone.

Our memoir talks about our first date, our courtship, our wedding and more.  I am very glad that we wrote it all down for our girls and future generations to read.  I would have loved to read a memoir or diary or journal written by my great grandmother or my grandmothers.  They believed in marriage and sadly were widowed.  My grandmother Johnson, who was Irish, would say to my mom, “Isn’t love grand?” For Ron and me it is, in our marriage and our commitment to each other and to God.

Crystal's fall 2015 013

Swans are a symbol of fidelity and everlasting love. Like us though, in real life, they are not always faithful.

Category: Make Marriage Last

Happy Anniversary Pooh Bear!

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38 years is a long time. It is approximately 13,880 days (depending on leap years). 38 years is the approximate life span of a horse. It took 38 years for an underwater salvage team to find Gus Grissom’s Mercury capsule off of Cape Canaveral, Florida (doesn’t help my point, I just love Google). At 38 years old, while my game had declined a little, I still had a decent jump shot (meaning I could still jump without annoying crackling noises).

38 Years ago gas was 63 cents a gallon, Jimmy Carter was president, and Annie Hall won the Academy Award for best picture (I know, Annie Hall????). It was also 38 years ago April first that Crystal and I were married. That’s right, we were just a couple of April Fools. Around 150 friends, family, and even some of our fraternity brothers and sisters were in attendance. It was a simple ceremony in the Methodist Church followed by a really nice bash at a local restaurant. A good time was had by all.

Crystal was beautiful. She wore a floor length white dress made by her mother. On it were over a thousand individually hand sewn beads. That’s love. If asked, and I wasn’t, I would have found a way to use a staple gun.

So here comes that beautiful girl down the aisle holding her dad’s hand. I stood at the front of the church in my off white tux staring at my oncoming future. The music played that all too familiar tune. This is what we had been waiting for roughly two years. I froze. Later her sister Jeanette said, I looked like the proverbial Deer in headlights. I can’t for the life in me tell you what I was thinking at the time. Maybe I wasn’t! My mind might have gone blank. It wasn’t until Crystal stood next to me and looked into my eyes that I returned from my little sojourn. She smiled and then so did I.

However, I think I was still in a small state of trance though the entire ceremony. Oh I knew exactly what was happening. After all, we had rehearsed everything the day before. I just don’t think I realized what all of those fancy words meant: for better or WORSE, for richer or POORER, in SICKNESS or health, until DEATH!

Over the next thirty-eight years we got to it all. The worse came in many forms, from arguments, to stressful job situations, to raising children (blessing or not there is stress). The poorer came in the form of layoffs. At times I worked construction and even delivered pizzas for a while. The girls actually got tired of me bringing home pizzas for dinner. Sickness has been a substantial part as well. Crystal and I are both cancer survivors. I still remember during a particularly grueling nine hour surgery playing the part of the calm one as I sat with Crystal’s parents in the waiting room. I believe at that time, my mom was ninety miles away watching our three girls. It was then that I first contemplated the death part.

Don’t get me wrong; I know we had just as many or more good, and even great things occur over those thirty-eight years. I just think I am glad that even in our premarital counseling, I remained ignorant about what might come. If I had any clairvoyant thoughts, I might have called the whole thing off. Maybe that’s why God tells us not to worry about tomorrow (Math. 6:34). One day at a time is all we can handle.

On the other hand, if we had never gotten married, good and BAD things still would have happened to us. They just wouldn’t have happened to us together. I guess that’s where I’m glad. Through all of the rough times there is no one I’d rather commiserate with or celebrate with during good times. There is no one else I can count on to always tell me the truth, whether I like it or not. There is no one else who has forced me to grow so much: as a person, a husband, a father or even as a son. There is something reassuring in the knowledge that, even when we argue, we know we are committed to resolve our differences.

No, marriage doesn’t solve anything. However, our lives will have problems no matter what. 38 years is a long time, married or not. I’m just glad I haven’t been in this by myself. 38 years later, and ready for more challenges and more adventure, as God leads us. Until death, will have to wait.

Happy Anniversary Pooh Bear

PS    In case you are wondering, Winnie the Pooh was one of Crystal’s favorite books growing up: i.e. Pooh Bear. Besides I could definitely picture Crystal getting her head stuck in a jar of honey. Hey….if she is Pooh that would have to make me Tigger. I do love a good bounce.

Crystal and me Wedding Car 001

A long time ago but not forgotten.

Category: Make Marriage Last

Merry Christmas and to all a Fair Fight

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Tis the season to be jolly….or maybe tenser than any other time of the year. This time of year can either bring great joy or great sadness. The multitude of decisions, extensive preparation, and social obligations serve as a great test for the strength (or lack thereof) of your marriage. It’s probably no coincidence that, historically, the highest divorce rate is around the middle of January. The crucible of the holiday season is one of the purest tests for your relationship. If you share values, and communicate well and often, you and your spouse could have a truly wonderful season. If not,,,,,well, fa la la la laaa la laa laa laaaa.

The other day Crystal and I had a minor disagreement. After thirty seven years, we don’t fight anymore. We just have disagreements. At least I think that’s what we decided. It actually had nothing to do with Christmas, but a pre-Christmas gift we had agreed to give one of our daughters. This was one of those disagreements due to a financial misunderstanding (a common Christmas fight theme). We have learned a few things over the years. There was no name calling or swearing. I wound up leaving the house in a huff, determined to get and deliver the present. Crystal had been shocked when I told her how much it would cost. However, while driving and cooling off, I thought of more places I could look for the present. I wound up with a much better deal than I originally anticipated. It was still more than Crystal had envisioned, but the quality was excellent. My daughter was thrilled. By the time I returned home she had already called and thanked her mom. Crystal and I apologized for our disagreement and had a very nice evening.

Why am I sharing this? One of the purposes of this blog is to support marriage relationships. In marriage there will be disagreements. How you handle them can be the difference between a “good” and a “bad” marriage. We can learn some things from the above example. First, there never had to be any disagreement. Think about it. We were both in total agreement to give this gift. We just had never talked money. When I told Crystal what I thought it would cost, I failed to mention the store research I had already done. She immediately reacted based on what the item should cost from a materials point of view. Point number one is always try to be specific and when making a plan; and don’t leave out important parameters (like money).

The second problem was that, in my mind, I had scheduled that day (“when” is another important parameter) to get the job done. I never told Crystal until I was ready to leave. Point two is work together on scheduling. A calendar would be helpful.

Those were really our two main problems. They really both came down to, as do most marital problems, communications. We can also learn from things we did well. When I left the house, we each took time to decompress. Remember, you can’t always fix things immediately or in the heat of battle. It is sometimes better to take a break before you say things you can’t take back. Also, as mentioned, there was no name calling or swearing. It only makes sense to respect the person who (don’t take this wrong) you are stuck with for life.

Another lesson we learned a long time ago is that, even when upset, we listen. Even though I thought Crystal’s figures were way off, I heard her. By telling me her opinion, she had changed my mission. I was now determined to find the best deal possible and still meet my daughter’s needs. I checked out a number of additional stores. The eventual purchase, while still higher than Crystal’s estimate, was about half of mine.

Finally, while it seems simple, ask any married person, it isn’t, we apologized. Perfect people never have successful marriages. That’s because there are none. We are all hopelessly flawed. When we try to live together, without forgiveness, we just multiply each other’s failures. So remember this holiday season, love and forgive like the one perfect person ever and the reason for the season.

As with Scrooge at the end of “A Christmas Carol”, take the spirit of this season throughout the year. Always do your best to be kind and caring to all, but especially to those closest to you.

 

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year

Ron & Crystal

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This is me with my girls at Michelle’s wedding in October.

Category: Make Marriage Last

Marriage and Kids

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Marriage doesn’t necessarily mean having children. However, if you choose to not have kids, you don’t know what you are missing……or maybe you do. Children are a blessing from God. However, the decision to bring them into the world should never be taken lightly. They can bring great joy and at times great anxiety and stress. As with everything in marriage (we are in this post assuming marriage before children), raising children works best when a couple is in constant communication and works together.

The subject of raising children seems extremely appropriate today. In the near future, our middle child, Michelle, is planning on marrying her fiancé Alex. While she will no doubt yell at me for picking her as an example, the great thing about blogging is that I don’t have to ask her permission before posting. I know; I am being evil. She just turned thirty; she can take it. She will probably also yell at me for telling her age.

Honestly, I am kidding. Michelle won’t be upset at all (or only a little) by this post. You see, I know her pretty well. Good parents do get to know their children over time. Michelle is a strong, smart well adjusted young woman. She is currently working toward becoming what Crystal and I always felt she should be, a teacher. Her patience, aptitude and love of children will make her an ideal teacher for young children.

Personality has a lot to do with her decision, but let me take a moment to reflect on why she is ready to make important life choices. I believe that the major responsibilities of parents is not raising children but preparing children to become adults. When children come into the world, they are totally dependent on their parents. When they leave the home, they need to be ready to make good decisions and be capable of functioning on their own. Parenting is a process of slowly letting go. You need to give training, and over time, more freedom and more responsibility to your child. That may be difficult at times, because the process also involves discipline and, occasionally, rebellion. However, you must consider what would happen if your child doesn’t learn discipline and respect at home. Life isn’t always as forgiving out in the world as it is in a good home.

I still remember the day I brought Michelle home from the St. Francis Hospital in Blue Island, Illinois. I used my patented football carry. At thirty one years old, I still played a little touch football with friends. I almost never dropped a ball or a baby. That little girl had us from day one. She came out smiling and laughing. Her two and a half year old sister, Liz, couldn’t wait to hold her. It was soooo cute (that’s how they get you). The cute sucks you in and makes you love and care for them.

Of course, it was less cute a few years later when sisters started fighting for supremacy. You know how it goes. ‘Elizabeth poked me!’ ‘Michelle touched my stuff’, etc., etc., etc. Then there are the teenage years when they think they know everything. Basically it’s like watching a roller coaster. They go up and down. One minute they act like a thirty year old, the next like they’re three. It may be a lot of things, but it is definitely no longer cute. That’s parenting.

When she was nine years old in the 4th grade, we decided to home school Michelle for a year. Crystal did most of the subjects; I got science and phys. ed.  I brought a box of science experiments for young people and had fun demonstrating scientific principles. Some wound up being a little over her head, and if they didn’t make noise, flash or change color quickly, she tended to lose interest. However, when she got back in the school system, she did just fine in math and science. So I count that as a win.

As far as phys. ed. goes, we threw balls, ran bases, shot hoops, etc. I even made up an obstacle course on the school playground behind our house. I also had her run a few blocks with me. A few years later,  she started to join me on my runs. That kind of became our thing. I had always run a few miles to stay in shape and relieve stress after work. While she was periodically hard to get going, once we started she did fine. She could never quite master her breathing though. The problem was she could never stop talking. Some years later, her younger sister, Lisa, took her place. Lisa had the same breathing problem as her sister. One thing I learned about girls is they never run out of words. While I liked to run to relieve stress, Michelle (and later Lisa) needed to get every thought out of her head. Don’t get me wrong, I did participate. Whenever I could calm a fear or give some direction, I took advantage. That’s also part of parenting.

Today, Elizabeth, who may have been our most rebellious teen, sees things a little differently. With four children of her own, she now asks how we did it. She can talk to her mom for hours, but when something breaks or there are money or health issues she asks, sometimes rather panicky, ‘can I talk to dad.’ Just because a child grows up doesn’t mean your obligation is over.

In a nut shell, that’s parenting! It can put stress on you and your marriage like you won’t believe. We kept them alive (rule #1 on parenting), and did our best to prepare them for life. On the positive side, at times raising children can add a new level of joy and accomplishment to your life, which you can’t understand until it happens.  My best and only advice is, make sure your marriage and communications are solid before taking that particular leap. Also pray about it. Once you have them, believe me, you will never stop praying for them.

Sky

My Girls

 

Category: Make Marriage Last

Happy Anniversary

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In April of 1978 peanut farmer Jimmy Carter was president, gas was 63 cents a gallon, Grease was at the movies, Happy Days was on TV, and the Bee Gees were “Staying Alive”. It was also the year Crystal and I were married.

We have been married for 37 years as of April first. That’s right we were a couple of April fools. That was Crystal’s fault. She got to pick the month so I got to pick the day. My choice was, as all of my decisions, entirely logical (haha). First, I didn’t want to wait longer than necessary. Second, I wanted a date I would never be able to forget. I had heard too many horror stories about men who had forgotten their anniversaries (May they rest in peace). I didn’t want to take that chance. April fool’s day had always been special to me. When I was a youth I always went out of my way to do something special for my mom. Her reactions were priceless and I knew she would continue to love me anyway. Just a word to the wise; always make sure the cat is locked in the basement before attempting the dead mouse on the bathroom floor trick.

Crystal and I have long ago passed the time when our married life exceeded our years before marriage. It becomes increasingly difficult to remember, with great clarity, the years before marriage. This was yet another reason for the writing of our memoir. At thirty seven years, the day is not quite as special as it once was. Actually no single day of the year is. Valentine’s Day for example is seldom celebrated on the actual day. We usually celebrate on a day which fits our schedule, and when fewer love crazed couples are vying for the limited restaurant seating. Furthermore, Crystal never expects candy or flowers on the day. She usually gets her candies on the following day when they are half price. As for flowers, they have no special significance in our house. I frequently buy fresh cut flowers for Crystal for no particular reason. Here is a clue, guys. If you want a good marriage, keep your women stocked with flowers and chocolates. It may not solve all of your problems, but it certainly couldn’t hurt.

So what will we do for our anniversary? Candies and chocolates are out. Jewelry is always an option. I will go that route from time to time. However, realistically Crystal has all of the jewelry she needs. At one point in our relationship, she liked for me to pick out clothing for her. She liked my taste, and I had a good feel for what would fit. However, while I still try from time to time; how do I say this sensitively, I have lost some of my innate talent for selecting clothes that will fit her.

No, none of the old standbys apply for us at this point. So, for lack of a better strategy, I give her what she really wants and has asked for. Later in the month of April, I have made reservations for a getaway. We will stay in a cabin in a beautiful secluded wooded area for a couple of nights. We will explore by day and kick back and relax at night. That’s right, after 37 years, what Crystal wants most is to spend more time with me. In spite of myself, I must be doing something right.

Happy Anniversary Crystal.

Crystal’s Corner

Happy Anniversary, Ron!

I agree what Ron has written in his blog in some ways.  Our anniversary is special to me.  It doesn’t matter how many years we have been together.  I still feel like a bride on that day and I remember the sunny day, how I looked in my wedding dress, all of our friends and family celebrating together and our wedding vows. I remember thinking that morning that I would never be the same after that day.  I had a new name and now I was connected to the person I loved best in the world forever.  Ron looked scared as I walked down the aisle, but after I got there, he smiled.  It was the 20 minute Methodist service and the church was packed.  It was the best decision I ever made in my entire life.  Even though there have been times in our marriage when I thought we weren’t going to stay together, I still believe God brought us together.  Life is hard and marriage takes work and determination and a lot of patience.  God has kept us together.  At this stage of our marriage, we are very content with each other.  We still laugh everyday and most days we tell each other that we love each other.  He still surprises me when he sneaks back into the house after he has been out.  Today, it was sunny and warm just like the day we were married.  (Ron had promised me our wedding day would be 60 degrees and sunny and it was.)

At our wedding we had the song, Evergreen, sung during the ceremony.  Our love is still evergreen, just like it was then.

Our wedding 001

 

Why doesn’t this seem so long ago?

Category: Make Marriage Last

Marriage Ain’t Easy!

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In case you haven’t noticed, most of our posts are about our family, Crystal, me, and our three girls. That’s partly because, of course we know more about our family than any other. It’s also because marriage and marriage issues are tough for many people to talk about. Marriage is a dynamic relationship with many moving parts. A cup is thrown in one direction followed by a frying pan in the other (kidding…I hope). But seriously, most people don’t want to talk about their marriage. Some will complain about their spouse, or one of their annoying habits, or something stupid their spouse did. You can’t get those people to stop talking about their marriage. Also, a lot of divorced people can’t talk enough about their ex. I never hold divorce against anyone though. Most divorcees that I know are very good people. However, they, maybe better than anyone, understand the theme of today’s discussion. Marriage ain’t easy.

I know there is a lot of information available about why marriages don’t work or why they fail. However, while Crystal and I will readily admit it’s not easy, not everything that’s worthwhile is easy. The purpose of this web site is to provide positive reinforcement for marriage and related topics. Crystal and I both agree that we are an increasingly scarce success story. Both sets of our parents were success stories (after marriages lasting more than fifty years). Trust me, that doesn’t mean their lives were easy.

Again, it’s easier to talk about our marriage. When I first married Crystal we went on an eight day honeymoon in Arizona. It was great! We both thought, wow this marriage thing is easy. Then we returned home, and life ensued. Jobs, schedules, family and friend’s expectations made us realize something. We weren’t as ready as we had thought. There was so much one or both of us had taken for granted. We were two different people: (I am a logical scientist practical type of person while Crystal is a creative, artistic and visual type of person). We went about things differently. We also discovered that we were both a little stubborn and didn’t like to lose a fight.

I was against going to counseling. After all, I had been alive and making “great decisions” for almost twenty-four years. Besides I was smart. Crystal just needed to stop being so stubborn. Besides, what could a total stranger tell me that I didn’t already know?

Early in our marriage Crystal called a Christian counselor and met with him by herself. After she told me some of the things the counselor said, I decided to go with her. After all I needed to tell my side of the story. I soon found out it wasn’t like that. I know many of you might find this hard to believe, but I/we actually learned a few things. We learned to take turns and actually listen to each other and consider the other person’s point of view. No profanity made sense. O.K., well I had never considered rules to conflict resolution. Yes, late night arguments never led to any good decisions and the following day was rough in my sleep deprived state.

The one rule that I think helped more than anything was so simple yet useful that we had never considered it. We didn’t have to agree on everything. If, after going through a reasonable effort to resolve our problem, we just couldn’t agree, we could agree to disagree. Instead of winning or loses on an issue, we could just agree to a compromise. Also the counselor had us take a test that led to a chart of who we were.  My line on the chart was very different from Crystal’s line on the chart, but our two lines met at our values.  Also, the counselor realized immediately that we loved and liked each other tremendously. He explained that our different talents, abilities and points of view complemented each other.  We needed to use this to our advantage as a couple.  This helped us very much to work as a team.  I am more orderly, organized and logical while Crystal is more detail oriented, creative and optimistic.  Together we are stronger in problem solving and getting things accomplished.  It took a while (years) for us to truly understand and use this information.

O.K., all of that was marriage 101. Any couples who have been married for any period of time have either figured much of that stuff out or are doomed to failure (divorce, unhappy marriage, murder/suicide). You have to realize early that you are both, while individuals with individual needs, on the same team. The old expression, “there is no I in team”, definitely comes into play.

You just can’t keep score. (The apostle Paul said Love doesn’t keep a list of wrongs.) Marriage isn’t about winning and losing. If that is your belief, the best you can possibly expect is, forgive the pun, win the battle, but lose the war. Marriage is one of the rare and unnatural examples in life where the only two real outcomes are either win-win or lose-lose.

Life itself, married or single, provides enough challenges. The theory behind a good marriage is that two can handle it better than one. Unless you can find a way to work together toward common goals, the stresses of everyday life will inevitably pick you apart. We have used counselors, books, tapes, church programs, Bible study, and more opportunities to strengthen our marriage. We recommend using all the help you can get to keep your marriage balanced and happy. We also pray for help from God and we pray for each other.  God has always been in the center of our marriage and, without Him, we don’t think our marriage would have survived all the challenges in life that came our way.

The good news is simply that, at least with us, some thirty-six years in, things do smooth out. God, who knows both of us very well, got it right, after all. What once drove us nuts, we can now, in many cases laugh about. There are still sore subjects. But we both see, with great clarity that we were meant to be together. Life has been easier, more fulfilling and meaningful because of our commitment.

So, bottom line, marriage ain’t easy. It’s work. But, if two people are well suited and determined enough, it can be really, really worth the effort.

Honeymoon 001

 

Crystal and I on our honeymoon at the Grand Canyon. I know what you’re thinking. They haven’t changed a bit. O.K. maybe a bit.

Category: Make Marriage Last

The Evolution of Marriage

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            I am currently working as a tutor for science classes at a couple of colleges. One of the courses I am tutoring is on evolution. As any good tutor, I stick to the facts as they are laid out in the text book. As a born again Christian, I secretly take exception to some of the content. As a scientist, I can see the logic of evolutionary theory. I know enough to realize that, there are significant holes no matter what you believe. In other words, my list of questions for God is growing.

            One part of evolutionary theory beyond debate is micro-evolution. That is, those small changes that occur from generation to generation which, in an ever changing environment, help make survival possible. It is my belief that, in a similar manner, marriages evolve. In marriage, of course we are not talking generational changes, but time periods within the marriage. Just as survival of a species depends on small changes so does the survival of a marriage. Many changes are too small to recognize as they happen, but over time, make a huge difference.

            When Crystal and I were first married, I thought I would never find anyone more compatible. We had a lot in common and liked a lot of the same things. We were both considerate and giving. Our marriage was a blessing from God. How could anything ever happen to test that bond?

            Then life happened. We both worked and rushed around in a hectic fashion. Obligations with friends, family, and jobs interfered. We both went into marriage with expectations. We soon realized that, growing up in different families, we had a number of areas of differing expectations. There were issues to resolve, and challenges to meet. About that time we were active in the United Methodist Church. We met an older couple, Van and Eloise. We bounded with them immediately. I would talk to Van and Crystal had a lot in common with Eloise. They invited us to their house for a meal or to just visit. I was amazed at how well they got along and how at peace they appeared to be. They made it sound like they were at peace and never had a problem in the world. Outside of their age, they had everything I had always hoped we would have in marriage.

            As for our marriage, after five years, and a lot of dealing with jobs, health issues, and family issues, our communications had improved. Going to marriage counselors, reading books about improving our marriage, and watching TV shows that concentrated on marital problems and solutions helped.  We were starting to get the hang of things.  We also tried to have a date every week even if it was just going for a walk. 

 Then we started our family. At first everything was great. Soon however, stresses became bigger. Now every decision involved other human beings. At each stage of their development came new challenges and obligations. The phrase ‘not knowing if I am coming or going’ now made perfect sense.

            Somehow we survived those days. Today, life seems relatively simple. Two, out of our three, daughters are out of the house, living independently. The third has one foot on the doorstep. What I find interesting, and somewhat amusing, is that now we are the older couple with that unexplained peaceful appearance. My oldest daughter calls us in a state of panic asking for our advice about the stresses she and her husband are going through. We do our best to give sage, God centered, advice. In the back of my head, though I always think, this is just something she has to go through. It is part of the evolution of her marriage. Of course, nowadays, many people aren’t willing to wait, or work on a marriage enough to break through to the better part. I consider this a great loss on both an individual and societal basis.

Where we are now, while not perfect, is good enough to make the struggles worth going through. For those who are in the rapidly changing part of their marriages the best thing I can tell you is, hang in there, ‘this too shall pass.’

Crystal’s Corner:  Marriage is like a Plant

            I am not scientific like Ron. I am more artistic and down to earth. I think marriage is like a plant. It starts out as a seedling and looks very promising.  Then it grows and love blooms into a beautiful flower like a rose.  But of course there is drought and weeds and other problems that need attention.  This is like in marriage there are problems: he wants to do his sports activities when you want to go to a play.  He wants to spend too much time with his parents and friends and you want to be alone with him at home.  His work is upsetting and your work is going nowhere. It takes a lot of growth to keep the plant alive and some of the time it looks droopy.  But it can bloom again and again if you keep finding ways to nurture it.  So it is true with marriage.  I am not an athlete but I did play tennis and tried to downhill ski. Well at least I tried. However, we both like miniature golf and walks in the woods.  He doesn’t quilt or embroider but he has helped drag all of my quilting supplies to workshops and classes I taught, and shows where I displayed my work.  He also drops me off at a National Quilt show and comes back to pick me up and take me out to a nice dinner.  You learn how to support and encourage each other and this is the boost your marriage plant needs and thrives on.

            I won’t talk about evolution because I am a creationist and only like the cave paintings not the cavemen. But I do agree that marriage can evolve if given the best efforts of both marriage partners.  Let the sun shine on your marriage and it will grow just like a lovely pink rose.

 

2008_062107July0003

Yes they’re turtles. I had to use something for evolution!

Category: Make Marriage Last