Category Archives: 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.

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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.

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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.

 

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

Category: Make Marriage Last

My Inspiration

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            When I first got a job in Coshocton, Ohio I was on my own. I trained in Newark and Coshocton, Ohio for about six months, while Crystal and our three daughters prepared to move from our home in Greensburg, Indiana (about three hundred miles away). I went home as often as I could, usually every week or two. I would arrive late on Friday and return to Ohio on Sunday. One of the greatest feelings I can remember in my life was being swarmed by my three daughters anxious for a hug and attention. I have never felt more important. Of course Crystal got her turn as well. I think she got the worst of our temporary separation. Being stuck there, trying to sell the house, and getting ready for the move without my help was rough.

            While the visits were great, most of the time I would either spend training for my job or at my apartment. For a while I lived in a cabin in the woods. That was nice, but lonely. In my spare time I would look for a house, suitable churches, and in general try to find my way around the area. Finally, I found the house we would buy. It was in a small rural town about ten miles from Coshocton called Warsaw. Crystal and the girls approved so we negotiated a deal. Once the sale was complete I moved a mattress and a box spring into the back room and started spending nights at our house. It would still be some time before my family could join me.

            One day, not long after I moved in, I was walking around the outside of the house when a man came quickly up to me. He was about my height (5’9”), slender build, dark hair, and about fifty some years old. He had a big smile on his face. He introduced himself as Doug, my new next door neighbor. I noticed that he seemed a little unsteady and had a slight tremor in his hands. We hit it off immediately. He was a husband and father as well. He quickly dragged me to his back door and got his wife Susan. They were immediately friendly and did everything they could to welcome me to the neighborhood. I knew that we had chosen the right house and the right neighborhood. When we couldn’t get the movers to move us from Greensburg Indiana, they volunteered their family and church group to help unload the truck that we drove ourselves.  The next day we cooked hotdogs outside in their back yard and picked raspberries from their bushes for dessert.  It made us really feel that this move was guided by God.

            Over the next thirteen years we have found Doug and Susan to be the best of friends. Doug and I shared a love of photography. We talked about it, critiqued each other’s pictures, and went out on outdoor photo excursions. Susan, Doug, Crystal and I have shared meals, gone to church events, spent times in fellowship, and helped each other out whenever we could.

            It wasn’t long after we moved in that I discovered that Doug had Parkinson’s disease. I watched from afar as his condition deteriorated. As long as he was able, we would periodically have Susan and Doug over for a meal and some fellowship. But what really impressed me was how Susan stuck with him. What a marriage they had. Susan insisted that she was the lucky one. Early in their marriage it was she who suffered with depression and thoughts of suicide. It was then Douglas who would not leave her side for the better part of eighteen years. Are you depressed yet? Well don’t be. In the end, you could have asked either one on their worst day, and they would tell you that they were certain that God had put them together. When Doug finally passed a year ago last month, Susan, while understandably saddened, bragged to me about their amazing 36 years of marriage. She knows, without a doubt, that Douglas is in a better place, and is truly grateful for their lives together.

            Susan and Doug’s love, faith and marriage have always truly inspired Crystal and me. Doug was survived by Susan, 5 children, 2 daughters-in-law, and nine grand children. I consider it an honor to have known him. I know that Heaven is a little better place now.  By the way, Doug, if you are reading this, take some pictures. I’ll be along before you know it to enjoy them.

 

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Doug Susan and grandchildren

Category: Make Marriage Last

Crystal and the Critters

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            I know I have mentioned this before, but Crystal makes me laugh. I think everyone who has a successful marriage, if pressed, can tell you what they like about their partner. I could not be with anyone who doesn’t have a sense of humor. Crystal not only has one but she laughs at my corny jokes. But what is much rarer, she has a rare ability to be able to laugh at herself. Trust me sometimes the things that happen to her aren’t immediately funny. However, once the dust has settled, we all have a great time.

I try to never tease her about her lack of mechanical ability or occasional bout with being mentally somewhere else when we talk (it occasionally happens to me). But when it comes to nature, let’s just say, the stories never die.

            We have complementary skills. That’s why we work. I understand mechanical things. She doesn’t believe in creative spelling as I do. That’s why we work. However, the natural world doesn’t understand Crystal the way I do. We recently had our house treated for yellow jackets. I went around with the exterminator to try to understand the process. It looked fool proof. I looked around and found no trace of the varmints. Over the next day or two an occasional bee found its way into our room and I killed it. The bug expert told us that might happen. However a couple of days later I got a frantic call. I was just getting out of my Bible study when I found several messages on my phone. I listened just long enough to hear my hysterical wife telling me she was under attack. I rushed home, grabbed the hornet spray and killed the twenty to thirty that were still alive in our bedroom. I then let Crystal handle the call to the exterminator. I think she liked that. I almost felt sorry for the customer service representative. I know she couldn’t possibly be getting paid enough.

            This was only the most recent of a lifetime of misunderstanding between my wife and nature. One time when we had a cook out, she went to throw out the rest of her hot dog, when she jumped and screamed. I had no idea she could jump that high. Michael Jordan would have been proud. I ran to her rescue only to find the cutest little baby raccoon had fallen off a low hanging branch into the trash can, thus eliciting Crystal’s reaction. I tipped over the can to let the baby waddle off to freedom.

            Another time Crystal was alone when she saw two eyes staring at her in our garage. This time it was an older relative of the baby. This was a tough old critter. It took a broom handle and some stick to paw combat to coax the varmint out.

            Then there was the infamous bird in the bathroom fiasco. I got that call at work. I can’t even describe the terror in my wife’s voice. This poor creature had obviously fallen down our chimney, and been scared half to death by a screaming women, when I caught it in a towel and rescued it.

            Then there was the time we rented a cabin and went camping with two of our daughters. That night when Crystal and Michelle went out to the rest room Lisa and I stayed in and talked. A few minutes later we heard them coming back to the cabin. Then Michelle came in pushed her mother back out and slammed the door. She screamed as she came in hitting herself. Apparently the door was covered with moths. Judging from Michelle reaction I can only assume they were of the man eating variety.  I then opened the door to let Crystal in and help clear her of moths.

            No Crystal and nature haven’t always gotten along. But it does make for a lot of fun stories and bonding moments. I think it also makes me feel more useful. Somehow it feels like a manly thing to do to rescue the lady in distress from the savage raccoon or a killer black bird. It’s nice to feel needed.

 

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Lisa and Michelle in front of our cabin during that campout (pre-moth period)

Category: Make Marriage Last

Picking a Spouse

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It wasn’t love at first sight for Crystal and me. When I first saw her I was intrigued; she had great legs, but hardly thought this is the one. She was actually the seventh girl I asked to the semi-formal dance that fall. That night was fun but not the night of my life. At one point she fell asleep on the couch.

It wasn’t until later, when I really got to know her that I started to think she had possibilities. I’m not sure what it was exactly. She was certainly interesting. I certainly didn’t have to constantly think of things to talk about. She could always find something to talk about or move the conversation forward. She definitely wasn’t spoiled or hard to impress. If I bought her a cookie she was sincerely grateful. I mean she would immediately get excited and squeal for joy and then contently munch while I walked with her.  A walk in the park and a cookie could constitute a date. I always knew I could trust her. One of our first weekends she took me to a church just off campus. I could tell she really believed and lived by her beliefs. That is rare nowadays. She always was open. She told me what she liked and what she didn’t. I never had to guess. I think openness is important, but again, increasingly rare in the dating world.

One time I took her to see a movie. It was a real offbeat comedy called “Harry and Walter go to New York” It was a ridiculous movie about two escaped prisoners who plan a bank robbery. It was meant to be a farce, full of one liners and vaudeville stunts. It was completely over the top and somewhat predictable. There were about ten other people in the theater that night. Thanks to Crystal those people had the time of their lives. When something funny happened a moment passed and then Crystal laughed. When she laughed everyone else, including me couldn’t help but break out laughing. I think that is what clinched the deal for me. Crystal has always had a great sense of humor. Sometimes there is a short processing time, but she sees the humor in life. She likes the corny side of life. This is good for me, since my sense of humor tends in that direction. She always laughs at my jokes, even if our girls just roll their eyes. Life can be too serious. I don’t know how we would have survived without a sense of humor.

As far as a formula for picking a mate, I have always said that I don’t have one. I think compatibility is too hard to predict once emotions are involved. A lasting and happy marriage tales effort more than coincidence. It takes two unselfish people willing to go the extra mile to please their partner. It takes a little luck and a blessing from God. However, good conversations, easy to please and a sense of humor couldn’t hurt.

Category: Make Marriage Last

Fix Your Own Swing First

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I usually play golf by myself. I will never be very good. I play for the exercise and to be outdoors. I used to just walk, but with golf, the walk becomes a game. The other day I played with a friend. Immediately I noticed the flaws in his swing. His address was wrong and he lifted his head immediately after his swing. This combination meant that he would be prone to inconsistency. For the most part I kept my comments to myself. After all, I am no great golfer. My swing is anything but a work of art. It is also far from a natural swing. I probably review about a dozen basic principles before each swing. Frequently I forget one or another during the swing. Besides, who wants to be told repeatedly, that they are doing something wrong? I know I would hate it.

When all was said and done, I believe we both had a good time. We vowed to try again sometime. After the round I thought about the principle of restraint. In general most people just say whatever is on their mind with little regard for others. In marriage this can lead to devastating results. Sure you can see flaws in your mate. No one is perfect. Even if they were that doesn’t mean you couldn’t find something to criticize. We are all brought up differently and value things to a different degree. For example, say your spouse is the most loving, caring person in the world. However, according to you, they spend too much time helping others and people are taking advantage of her. I am sure at some point these traits attracted you, but now they must be altered.

I point this out as a warning. Crystal will tell you that I am partly talking to myself. Do not get caught up in a cycle of criticism. Explain your feelings and concern for your spouse and then focus on something else. Your own problems might be a good place to start. Like I said nobody is perfect. Is there an area where a change in your attitude or actions might be helpful? Are there areas your spouse has pointed out where you can improve? The Bible says to remove the log from your own eye before trying to remove the twig from someone else’s. That is good advice, especially in marriage. In golf as in life, it’s always easier to see and fix the problems with someone else’s swing than with your own.

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I hate when that happens

Category: Make Marriage Last

Their Cute When They’re Little

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Nothing can bring more joy or stress into a relationship than children. I still remember the pride I felt carrying Elizabeth (our first born) out of the hospital. I used the football carry I had learned in a prenatal class. It was great to be able to have her staring and usually smiling right back at me. Besides it felt manlier to say I was using the football carry. Something every prospective father needs to know is that you should never attempt fatherhood unless your masculinity is secure. After all, changing diapers, tending to owies, and going to the doll tea parties is part of the fun. It’s not just for women any more.

One thing to keep in mind when you decide to get married and have children is that they grow up. They are all cute when they are little. However, there will eventually come a day when your authority will be threatened in your own home. That’s right, they will become teenagers. If you survive that you can do almost anything. They are no longer cute and hanging on your every word. They think they are God’s gift to the world and must be freed to rule it.

When that same cute baby from the previous paragraph turned fifteen we were facing a move. All of a sudden Crystal and I were evil. We were taking her away from her friends and her life. Surely Ohio could not possibly offer anything like Indiana. Of course when there was no move in sight all she could do was complain about school, her friends and how she never got her way. I figured she could do the same thing in a new state.

One day we decided to take a little trip to a state park in Ohio. We rented a cabin for the week. We did a lot of former Elizabeth’s favorite things. Crystal took the girls horseback riding, we cooked out, and played games. There were even other kids around to play with. It wasn’t until we got in out bathing suits and rented a motor boat that it happened. I pulled into a deserted cove. I pulled the boat onto the shore and told the girls “OK everyone in the water.” At first they looked at me like I was crazy. I got a lot of that. Then I jumped in and took Lisa (about eight at that time) with me. Next Michelle (twelve) and Crystal. Finally, after a few minutes to make sure no one was watching, and we weren’t attacked by fish (or something), Elizabeth followed us into the water. Finally, we were just a family on vacation having fun. We splashed and played away the time. It was at that time, that Crystal and I knew that our little girl wasn’t gone; she was just hiding in her teenage identity.

Teenage rebellion aside, today Elizabeth, as a mother of four, is one of my favorite people. She is extremely family oriented, fun loving, a good wife, a very good mother, and a daughter of whom we are very proud.

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In Honor of the Forth

Category: Make Marriage Last