Blending Two Separate Families – there’s an App for That!

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There's no Business like Show Business

Wedding rehearsal begins with “There’s no Business like Show Business” my kid’s favorite song from childhood.

Just kidding! There isn’t an app.; but my son, a science teacher, used a chemical experiment to show the children that it is possible.

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Blending Family “practice run”

Chris was lucky enough to have his older sister Pam, a “Celebrant” officiate at his wedding. The input from the couple and the expertise of Pam made for a lovely ceremony. I have photos of the rehearsal on Friday, and the official wedding on Saturday, June 25.

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Pam Torres Officiater

The weather cooperated and we had clear skies both days. The backyard was in full bloom and the sunshine bathed us in glorious light. After the rehearsal, we binged on ham, macaroni and cheese, bread and green beans. Later we had croissant sandwiches and yummy desserts.

To avoid the heat, the wedding took place at 10 a.m. the next morning. Attendees each took a rose and placed it in a circle around the couple, symbolizing the love of family that surrounded them. Music was also performed by the groom’s younger sister, Holly; a duet with her daughter Amelia. Holly’s husband Mark played the trumpet after the couple were pronounced man and wife.

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Encircled in love and roses.

Friends and relatives congratulated the two families and then went inside for coffee, wedding cake, and conversation. Funny stories and experiences were shared and remembered. The photos speak for themselves.

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Holly & Amelia sing duet; Griffin wearing hat, and Pam on the right.

Hope and faith made the experience joyful. The future is unknown to all of us. We usually walk confidently into our lives knowing that much of what happens is in the hands of fate. For believers, trusting in God to walk with us gives us an additional edge over those who are skeptics.

Below, Tamara’s mom discovers she has cake on her shoe from cutting the wedding cake.

I hope time and shared experience will blossom in the lives of my son and his new family.

I now pronounce you man & wife

I now pronounce you man & wife

Marriage Joins Two People for Forever or Not!

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Bride and Groom

Weddings are generally happy times. Two smiling faces, love in the air, expectations and the anticipation that surrounds the festivities. I’m heading to Atlanta for my oldest son’s wedding (third time’s a charm; or at least we hope!). I’ll be seeing two of my daughters there as well. The photos will appear in my next blog.

Commitment and faithfulness are difficult to come by in these frenetic times. I’ve read that the most important part of any successful relationship is not only chemistry, but the ability for each partner to feel comfortable with the loved one. I remember “walking on eggs” most of the 30 years in my first marriage. It seems that every word I said or every action I took either irritated my partner or caused a negative reaction. I tried to be so many people to please him, but nothing worked.

I’m hoping my son has found the perfect combination of comfort and caring. Living in a relationship where everything receives criticism is agonizing. You’re afraid to speak. You tip toe through the motions of living. There is nothing you can do or say to change things. Even my laughter was mocked. What you really need and want is love and affection, but all you get is disdain and indifference.

Life is much too short to spend your days in suffering. To really feel alive you must be able to be yourself, for better or worse. Acceptance is a gift you give the one you love. Neither of you are perfect. You have to take the good with the bad. If you end up punishing your partner through silence or indifference, you end up on the receiving end of unhappiness. One person does not a marriage make. It takes two people to meet in the middle to form a partnership that becomes one in mind and purpose.

Growing together creates more love than you can ever imagine possible. It doesn’t happen overnight, nor is it only one person’s problem. Rigid stubborn hearts cannot form this kind of union.

From what I’ve seen of my son’s new relationship, they have what it takes. We were there at Thanksgiving of last year and were surprised to see how settled they appeared and how relaxed they were in each other’s presence.

A low self-esteem in either partner makes an unbalanced marriage. If one person is arrogant or self-absorbed, they want everything their way. When the “other” in a union is confident it is much easier for them to be patient and to avoid saying something cruel or cutting. If you can’t think about anyone else’s happiness but your own you should never get married in the first place.

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Me and my sweetheart chatting while resting. My daughter caught us unawares.

Above all, don’t marry for the wrong reasons. Join hands with someone you know you can trust. You know them so well that you feel safe sharing the private yearnings of your heart and mind. And they will not use your own words against you or belittle you in any way.

Learn how to forgive yourself for past mistakes. Each day is a new start. Move from weakness into strength. Invite God to be a partner in your marriage. Support the person you love and don’t allow your ego to get in the way.

Confide in your partner and share the burdens of grief and worry together. Allow nothing to come between you, not the children, not finances nor other people. After a time, a butterfly will perch on your shoulder and envelop you in happiness. After all, you’ve earned it!

Leave your Baggage and Unresolved Issues Outside, Please!

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Expectations can lead to disappointment, dissatisfaction and unhappiness; especially when they collide with reality. Yet without this lofty perspective, you may rob yourself of the motivation you need to complete your goals and dreams. If you are forever pigeon-holing yourself into the lower-rungs of failure through negative thoughts, how can you expect to succeed?

I’ve always thought of myself as a realist. For awhile at least, I was afraid to hope for anything better. In order to deal with the many challenges life placed in my path, I decided never to assume anything and to expect even less. By lowering my expectations I was less likely to be disappointed or hurt.

I had no pre-conceived notions. I was simply grateful for what little I received and chose not to complain, but my spirit wilted into a bottomless pit. I quit feeling altogether. I became a zombie, but without the makeup. The real me began to disappear. I spent many hours on my knees praying for patience and for ways to improve my role in life. Essentially, rather than fighting back, I continued to fall through the cracks until one day, I hit rock bottom.

I knew I had to make a change in my life or die trying. Through the grace of God I met a friend who had perhaps seen me fade into non-existence. She invited me to a painting class. Me paint, I can’t even draw? Another woman gave me an assignment to write something for a church group – a skit that the youth would perform. Me? Write? I hadn’t written since high school.

I found myself learning new things. The Public Library was my teacher. My art friends and a unique and professional art instructor introduced me to a magic world where I lost myself in a rainbow of color and creation. For those few hours each week, I was able to forget the pain and release that part of me that had all but vanished.

I grew stronger. I began to laugh again. I made new friends and made plans. I started getting excited about life. My family noticed a different person emerge; a happier woman who glowed with anticipation. For awhile, they didn’t recognize me. My now ex-husband seemed even more withdrawn and morose. I sadly noticed that he was happiest when I was down, and when I seemed happy, he threw out more sarcasm and barbs. Jealousy? Resentment? Since we rarely communicated, I had no way of knowing.

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When two people marry, each brings into the marriage their own expectations and point of view about what a marriage should be like. According to couple counselors, differing expectations not discussed beforehand usually cause unresolved issues and arguments.

If the two lovebirds don’t correct these attitudes and beliefs, it is the beginning of the end. Instead of allowing their love to bring them closer, they draw a line in the sand in a power stand-off. If one party backs down before the problems are discussed and resolved, they will be viewed as the weaker party, the one who constantly makes concessions.

If this passive behavior is exploited by the more aggressive partner, an escalation of power and abuse begins a pattern of controlling behavior that continues throughout the marriage. Constant belittling, disrespect, and outright verbal assaults teardown self-esteem and destroy intimacy.

Couple’s counseling may help, but in many instances the ruts couples get themselves into are very difficult to break. If people would only lay the groundwork ahead of time. One young bride found herself in just such a power struggle. Her husband had pulled out the “junk drawer” in anger as he searched for a tool. The drawer fell to the floor in a clatter, further scattering some of the items.

The husband went off to work leaving the mess behind. What were his expectations? “A wife cleans up the house. It is her job to take care of things at home.”  The surprise on his face when he got home, told him that something was wrong with this scenario.

His wife had her own expectations. “I’m not going to pick up after him like his mother did. He’s a grown man and can pick up his own messes. If I clean up this drawer, I will be forever picking up after him, and he will treat me like a maid instead of a wife.”

A power struggle went on for almost a month. Both parties stepped around the drawer and high-stepped over the mess surrounding it. They fixed dinner, did the dishes together, all while tip-toeing around the drawer and each other. The tension was almost visible.

Finally at the end of the month, the husband cleaned up his mess and put the drawer away. The smart wife said not a word. She didn’t rub his face in it. She didn’t say “I won!” They both had learned something about respect and how to treat the person they loved and had committed their lives to.

If these little squabbles aren’t resolved in the beginning, the grooves of habit get so entrenched that it’s almost impossible to think and behave in new ways. Make up the rules of your marriage together. Find out what each of you hope for and want from your relationship. Whether you believe it or not, prayer does help. If your partner refuses or does not want to pray together, do it yourself. One praying partner is better than none.

The joys of a close and intimate relationship equal a lifetime of blessed memories.

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Control – Oh, the Power it Wields!

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Two paintings from my “With These Hands” series: “Hope” on the left, and “Wonder” on the right. Oil on acrylic underpainting (mixed media)

Human nature is embarrassingly obvious. Whoever possesses the power is in control. Politicians seize it in the guise of helping the electorate; but instead, they vote themselves better health care, bigger raises, and huge pensions for retirement income.

They change the laws to suit their contributors. They vote out term limits so they can keep getting re-elected using the same lies they did when they first got elected. If the people in the states they represent feel like they’re getting the benefits, they grant them power for another term.

Today the establishment elite are afraid of losing that power. In their efforts to gain control, they are using lies and corruption to create a climate for take-over. Will the people allow it? In this “government of the people” are the elites once again trying to deceive in order to regain what for them is almost lost?

The whole affair makes me sick to my stomach. Because I support Trump, I’m tired of being told I’m not smart, I’m stupid, I’m a “far right loon” or worse. And this does not come from the democrats, but from the party I have supported not only with my votes, but with my money.

Many are backing off because they shun the labels the media and the establishment sling at them. So rather than be called an ignoramus for following Trump “the clown,” they fall in line behind the establishment candidates. Cowards! If we cease to stand for what we believe and blindly follow behind the demagogues who are beholden to their lobbyists and donors and not to “we the people,” America is lost.

If Donald Trump wins the delegate votes, isn’t it unconstitutional to try to take them away from him after the people have spoken? Romney thinks he has the power to take them away. If he is the shadow candidate, he not only won’t win, Hillary will get the nomination.

The “Rhinos” don’t care who wins as long as they can keep feeding at the trough courtesy of John Q. Public. But surprise! The more they sling mud at the Trump campaign, the more followers he obtains and this has the establishment in an angry frenzy of desperation. Poor little Marco thinks he has a shot at being President, but he’s only a pawn in the game to push Romney to the head of the pack.

The same power struggle happens in marriage. The one who has financial control, usually holds the winning hand. Sometimes money is withheld in order to manipulate or hurt. At other times the power may be used in the bedroom to withhold sex or affection. Power is often used to intimidate, embarrass, or belittle. Weak people are more likely to use this power to hurt others. The perpetrators may be male or female.

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The third in the “With These Hands” series: “Love” all available at http://carol-allen-anfinsen.pixels.com

Greed and selfishness are at the center of all power disputes. Facts are distorted. Reputations are sullied. Self-respect and self-esteem are both destroyed. There are no winners. But in this election year, it is not a game. It’s a matter of life and death. Our country is so saddled by debt it is already on the verge of collapse. Our Constitution is in shreds. Our precious rights and liberties are being eroded to the point of no return and both parties are guilty of their destruction.

You can’t afford to be ignorant when you vote. Study the issues. Read both sides of an argument and determine the facts. If you don’t really care then please don’t vote. The right to vote was earned by someone else’s blood and tears. Some even lost their lives in preserving freedom. At this critical juncture in American history you can’t afford to sit this one out. Remember the saying: “absolute power corrupts absolutely.” We must keep the power with the people.

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“First Daffodil” the hope of Spring.

A Toss of Fate or a Game of Choice?

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“A Joyful Heart” 11 x 14 pastel on Bristol; Matted and ready to frame.

I bragged the other day to a friend “I haven’t had a cold in years.” Then out of the blue, I got that scratchy throat that turned into a cough that turned into full-blown flu. And I had a flu shot!

In addition to tempting fate, I seem to be famous for making statements of denial that turn into fact. “I’ll never marry a German.” An opinion voiced after living next door to a German neighbor who was not only in-your-face opinionated, but overpowering. Then out of my best judgement, I ended up marrying one. What on earth was God or reason trying to tell me?

After that marriage, I became acquainted with a florist who was Norwegian. His lack of customer relation skills and his know-it-all attitude made me comment to a friend “I’ll never marry a Norwegian.” But guess what? I did. And this marriage has been great!

I think the lessons amount to this. Ethnicity doesn’t have as much to do with relationships as a person’s attitude, personality, and upbringing. An honest person with a sense of humor can overcome almost anything.

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“Reggae Night” mixed media on canvas

Forgiveness, give and take, and patience can do a lot more to smooth a marriage’s rough patches than the place of our parent’s birth or culture. Outside influences are far less important than internal ones. The basic principles that make up who we are cast a longer shadow of importance than where we come from.

Of course, I’m looking back with wisdom from hindsight. In the middle of my forest of choices, I couldn’t see the obvious right in front of my nose. I missed the red flags waving in the wind and had to learn from my own mistakes.

When I was interviewing for a job, I always told the interviewer I was a “quick study.” I learned quickly on the job and was never afraid to tackle tough stuff. Would that I could say the same thing about life.

Most of us learn from our mistakes. We can’t see the future and we can’t read the tea leaves that later become clear. We plod along and do the best we can. If we’re lucky, we have a good friend or a mentor we admire. Some of us have our faith in God to guide us in our walk of darkness where we “see through a glass darkly.”

I think back to the sage advice I received from my parents but rebelled against in my youth. Had I hearkened to some of it, I could have saved myself a “X?/X!! load” of grief.  But here’s the rub. If you don’t learn from your mistakes, you’ll keep repeating them over and over again.

When you reach the end of your life, do you want to leave with a list of regrets? Knowing that you did the best you could will provide a peaceful exit. And let’s face it. You were born with a time-dated stamp that eventually expires. Join the club!

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“Belly Dancer” 11 x 14 acrylic on canvas

When it comes to Advice or Help, Who do you Trust?

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“Blending In” 11 x 14 acrylic on canvas (A red wing blackbird flutters its wings and replicates the sunflower petals.

LINK TO PAINTING 

Young children come into this life trusting others, mainly because they’re so dependent. They soon learn who comes when they cry, who feeds them and makes them comfortable. If this care is consistent, they not only trust the giver, but come to depend on their care. As trust develops, bonding strengthens between mother and child, and father and child.

When I was dating late in life, I was criticized for being overly suspicious and hesitant about many things. “Why don’t you trust me?” one person said. My answer was simple: “Trust must be earned. It is not given away.”

I still believe that to this day. You can get completely over your head or in a whole lot of trouble if you simply trust everyone who comes into your life. Young children and teens are vulnerable to compliments, gifts, suggestions because they are so open and trusting. As you grow into adulthood, you learn, oftentimes from hurts and mistakes, that not everyone is trustworthy.

I was offered a lift to church one evening by a neighbor’s son when I was in my teens. I’d seen him in their driveway over several weeks and months. When he asked if I’d like a lift, I hesitated, but only for a moment. Before I could change my mind, I was bouncing along in his truck ignorant and happy until he passed our turnoff. When I complained, he said he had an errand to run, and it wouldn’t take long.

I protested with urgency, explaining that I’d be late, but he ignored my pleas. When we got to the end of town, he pulled into a darkened lumber yard. We were the only vehicle in the lot. As he jumped out of the truck, I told him to hurry, that it was important that I get to church.

He walked some distance away into the darkness. A light never came on anywhere, and I began to fear he was misleading me. I prayed for all I was worth. “Please Heavenly Father, help me be safe. I just want to get to church.”

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“Sunshine” oil on 11 x 14 canvas

LINK TO PAINTING

About 10 minutes later, he walked back, jumped into the truck and wheeled away. Without another word, he drove me back to church and dropped me off. What went through his mind that night and what his real intents and purposes were I’ll never know. I only felt grateful that through my prayers and persistence, I was kept safe.

I’m always reminded of Ted Bundy’s handsome face. He fooled many young women because of his charm and good looks. But he was anything but nice! Trust must be earned. If you want to keep your own daughters safe, teach them this principle. Trust is dependability and consistency. It is not a promise made by a stranger or a bad friend. Trust is built by knowing someone and what they do.

Sometimes your gut will unmask a villain, but only if you trust your first impressions and instincts. Sometimes you scold yourself for feeling bad about someone because of their looks or their color. Instead, you should trust how you feel in their presence. Or, if you’re like me, you’ll trust in the Lord to help you make the right decision.

Tina Turner Sang: “What’s Love Got to Do, Got to do with It?” Well, I’ll Tell You!

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“The Dance” 11×14 pastel, matted and ready to frame.

Some people are so thick skinned; you have to pound them over the head before they get the point. Others shrivel or weep at the drop of a hat. The saying “Their bark is worse than their bite” describes those who protect themselves with bravado because within they are a “soft touch.”

Tender hearted people often build barriers to protect their vulnerability. Over time, they may alienate the very people they love out of fear of being hurt. If they let others in, their real personality; their faults and failings may be exposed? They could be taken advantage of or manipulated into doing something they may not want to do? So the walls go up and intimacy along with its attendant joy is denied.

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“Broken Hearted” 11×14 pastel on Bristol; matted and ready for framing.

After experiencing the highs and lows of “love and romance,” I told one prospective mate that I didn’t play games and I disliked those who do. “If you don’t like something – just say so. What you see is what you get,” I said. “I pretty much tell it like it is.”

Of course, that works fine when both are in agreement. But if one person lays himself bare, and the other holds back then the rules of the game are broken. You end up in a relationship where you think you know the other person, but you don’t. Full disclosure is not only fair, it should be mandatory.

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“Americana” 16xz20 acrylic on canvas (ON SALE)

When you buy a home, full disclosure is the letter of the law. You want to know there are no major problems in the structure of the house or if the plumbing or roof leaks. When you agree to marry a spouse, you want to know if he or she has the ability to cope in a pinch or are they going to blow up every time the tension rises. Are they built to weather a crisis or are they going to leak and run whenever the going gets tough.

Too often important character traits are missed while the “games are played” or flaws are blown off in the heat of romance. It is difficult to find someone who is not only unselfish, but honest and straightforward. This applies to friends, too. Genuine friends are never jealous of another’s achievements. They can share in the limelight and enjoy the other’s success. They’re not afraid to stand beside you when the curtain falls or when triumphs turn into failure. They’ve got your back!

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A beautiful bride filled with hope and promise.

“To love and to cherish ‘til death do you part” is not just idle chatter. It is a commitment, a trust, a promise to be open and honest with each other. Love is action. It is in the “doing” or lack thereof that many relationships thrive or fail. Emotions are fickle. When they are lacking, act as if they are still there and the feelings will return.  Friendship can supply the foundation that holds lasting love together.

Spouses and lovers should be best friends. Love and passion can waiver through the years, but likability stands the test of time. A friend is someone you can count on always. They never let you down. They are not fickle in love or loyalty. If you want to have lasting love for a lifetime, be sure that the one you idolize and cherish is also a friend you’d be willing to go to bat for; better yet, someone you’d be willing to give your life for if that were required.

A Joyful Heart, 11 x 14 pastel

A Joyful Heart, 11 x 14 pastel on Bristol; matted and ready to frame.