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!

Childhood can be Painful, but Nothing Lasts Forever

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“Beach Buddies II” 16 x 20 acrylic on canvas

I’ve never figured out why the news media and the talk shows delight in keeping us on the edge of our seats. Not from excitement, mind you, but unadulterated fear! I personally know many women who avoid the news altogether because of how it leaves them at the end of the day: wilted, worried, and unable to sleep. Like ostriches, they prefer having their news spoon fed to them in small doses.

I must admit I was quaking in my slippers when a new “super bug” made its debut on the Nightly News. The spread of this dreaded super-sect is caused from a “teensy weensy” camera on the end of a gastric probe commonly used by Gastrologists to detect stomach and bowel problems. Apparently, the magical instrument on the end of the probe is difficult if not impossible to sterilize.

My ears perked up as I moved to the edge of our soft leather couch. I had had that test this past year. My “hypochondriac tendencies” went on high alert. “Is that why I’ve been feeling so lousy these past few months?”

It’s not only super bugs we have to deal with. Many of the old diseases that were once eradicated are making a comeback; and with a vengeance! Outbreaks of old fashioned Red Measles have been playing out in large cities and states across the nation. Tuberculosis is becoming more and more prevalent. Yet not once have I heard anyone ask “What about all those illegal aliens who flooded the borders and were transported by bus to places across the country?” Most of them had never been immunized at all, and some were carrying viruses and bacteria that children in the United States had never come in contact with before.

When I was a child, Polio was not only a new word but a disease to be feared. Children who didn’t die from it were left crippled and prone to get diseases later on in life. The aftermath was almost as bad as the disease itself. If you survived, your limbs became shrunken and deformed, at least on one side, and you probably limped for the rest of your life.

“Few diseases frightened parents more in the early part of the 20th century. Polio struck in the warm summer months, sweeping through towns in epidemics every few years. Though most people recovered quickly from polio, some suffered temporary or permanent paralysis and even death. Many polio survivors were disabled for life. They were a visible, painful reminder to society of the enormous toll this disease took on young lives.” (Wickipedia)

My grade school playmate Eddie Knowles died from polio. We used to climb trees together and play outdoors all summer long. My mother would supply us with popsicles when we were sweaty and hot. Eddie liked to dunk his in the irrigation ditch running beside our property. It made the icy pop melt in his mouth. At the time, I firmly believed that this had caused his polio, although, we now know the disease is caused by a virus.

More from Wickipedia: “Because of widespread vaccination, polio was eliminated from the Western Hemisphere in 1994. Today, it continues to circulate in a handful of countries, with occasional spread to neighboring countries. (Endemic countries are Afghanistan, Nigeria, and Pakistan as of 2013.) Vigorous vaccination programs are being conducted to eliminate these last pockets. Polio vaccination is still recommended worldwide because of the risk of imported cases. Polio has no cure, so prevention is the most effective means to combat it.”

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“India Rising — Prince of Thieves” mixed media

Another school mate, Alice Johnson, had polio, and because of it she was teased and taunted most of her childhood; but especially into the teen years. She had a shriveled right arm and leg, and when she limped, it made the smaller arm flop up and down. If not for the love of her family, I don’t think she would have survived the relentless nicknames and the other health problems she incurred.

As a kid, I had my own nemesis. During puberty I had hormonal problems which caused me to break out in pimples. For awhile, some people even thought I had the measles. It was a painful ordeal that took several months and years to rectify. Childhood is painful enough, but when we’re saddled with a disability or a visible problem it becomes almost unbearable.

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“Broken Hearted” pastel on Bristol; matted and ready to frame or canvas print

My heart goes out to these brave little souls who weather the taunts of their friends and deal with a fatal disease or a discriminating disability. As we mature, most of us outgrow the need to put others down so that we may appear better or smarter. My friend Nancy was one of those people. When I was 12 and feeling like a leper and the ugliest toad on earth, she invited me to her father’s ranch on the lake for the weekend. I was thrilled!

I learned how to ride bareback on a shiny black horse that reminded me of my two favorite books: “Black Beauty” and “Red Horse Hill.” After that ride, I fell in love with books about horses. I devoured them like peanuts.

About this time I also began bringing home stray cats. Animals don’t care what you look like or how ugly you feel, and these strays were sometimes as scabby and scrubby looking as I felt. They sopped up every ounce of love I could give, and then gave it back to me. Animals can heal a lost soul.

When I had a chance to give back, I made friends with the kids who had problems like Alice, the overweight friend who limped from having polio, and Gale who was neglected and so poor there was rarely anything to eat in her cupboards or refrigerator. One day I shared a moldy piece of cake with her that was left on the counter top. Her sad eyes told me how lonely she felt when she came home to an empty house after school.

Sadly I had a new problem to deal with: I was being teased and taunted for befriending the un-friendless, the outcast or the new kids in town. Thankfully, I ignored their sarcasm and did what I knew I had to do.

"Looking Outward" 3-D painting in an actual window frame

“Looking Outward” 3-D painting in an actual used window frame

Lorraine had a bedwetting problem. You could smell it when she walked into class. Every afternoon during story time, we’d hear the sound of water trickling to the floor and we knew it was Lorraine. She handled her humiliation well. The janitor was called and he mopped it up quickly and silently, and then the teacher would go back to reading. But at recess, Lorraine stood alone.

I wish I’d found a way to reach out to her, but I didn’t; although, I thought about her a lot. I did hear she married and had a family. I’m certain she eventually overcame her lack of muscle control.

These problems seem insurmountable when we’re young. They only become bearable when we have a friend or a loving family.

And you know what? Our lives don’t really change that much as we grow older. There are new hurdles to overcome and harder challenges to cope with. Acceptance is sometimes the only way to suffer through. “. . Weeping may endure for a night, but joy comes in the morning.” (Psalm 30:5)

If we just wait it out and hope for the best, we will finally get to the other side.

Relevance – Who Matters Most and Who Matters Least?

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Four generations

Four generations

Society deems some people relevant and necessary while others are irrelevant and of lesser importance. The uneducated, the downtrodden, and the so-called dregs of society found in prisons or sleeping on our city streets are in the latter category. Labeled as un-useful, a burden to others, and a drain on public resources, they are often ignored, uncared for and unloved.

For many years, motherhood was frowned upon. While I was raising a family of six children, I often received scathing glances from those who thought I was nothing more than a “baby machine,” even though each child was wanted and adored.

Today being pregnant is “fashionable” and “trendy,” especially for the jet set and the famous. If the mother-to-be is unwed or impregnated by a boyfriend or from artificial insemination, that’s even better. The starlets sport their growing bellies with pride; such compassionate women, these, burgeoning goddesses ripe with fruit, about to replenish the earth.

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My grandson, Andy, the day before his wedding.

In the sixties, the world was on the edge of disaster from “over population.” Fear fed the rumors that food and commodities would become scarce. There was no room at anyone’s “inn” for more children. Abortion was the answer. Millions of Einstein’s, Beethoven’s, and potential writers, artists, and scientists were crucified on the altar of convenience, ideology, and false premises in the name of freedom and women’s rights.

Although the tables have turned once again, the abortion mills are still running at fever pitch. Motherhood is having resurgence, but it is promoted by single mothers in diverse circumstances and applauded by gender blended families. Traditional family’s where a mother and father are actually married and celebrate the birth of each child is going by way of the dinosaurs.

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“Mother and Child” Brush Drawing available at http://carol-allen-Anfinsen.artistwebsites.com

The role of wife and mother has also changed and frequently disrespected and unappreciated. A woman’s role of wage earner is valued at the expense of motherhood. If too much of a woman’s time is devoted to family, her career may be in jeopardy. After taking time off it is difficult to retain her before-maternity-leave status.

I remember well feeling like a slug – a non-contributing member of society. The Equal Rights Amendment battle was in full sway. Like other young mothers, I was torn and confused. Even in marriage my writing ventures and the time spent were belittled and viewed as a waste of time until I started earning money. Then the hours I spent at typewriter and eventually keyboard were given respect.

Stay-at-home moms were taken advantage of in so many ways. I remember thinking that my husband, my kids looked right through me. I was invisible – unnoticed until someone else’s needs were ignored or neglected. Then a wave of whining and complaining woke me out of my doldrums.

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“Lady in Waiting” oil on canvas; Prints available

This became distinct and clear at a school Halloween Carnival. We had three children and one in the hopper. We waited in line for sloppy joe’s and drinks. I helped the younger children and made sure they had napkins and utensils. By the time we sat down, I discovered I had forgotten my own. “Heavy with child” and reluctant to get up again, I turned to my husband and said. “Would you mind getting me a fork and napkin?” He looked at me with cold eyes and said: “Get it yourself,” which I did.

Later, watching them play games through the classroom window, father and children, I said, trying to buoy myself up, “See you’re not invisible. I can see your reflection in the glass.” I looked down at my arm and pinched it between thumb and forefinger. “See, you’re not invisible, I can feel that pain.”

I’ve never felt so low and unimportant in my life. Talk about irrelevant! Sadly this was the beginning of the end. A downward spiral that eventually led to divorce; but not before two more children were born and I realized that things were never going to change.

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“Does this hat make me look fat?” Pencil drawing

What a sad commentary on motherhood; the sacred creation of life. Instead of floundering at the bottom of the food chain, motherhood should be at the top. Without it society would become non-existent. The foundation that held families together in the past is now missing in action. Mothers are not there when their children come home from school. Lessons of the past are considered obsolete or old-fashioned. The values and virtues once revered are mocked.

Many people view pregnancy as simply a biological result of sexual relations; an unfortunate accident. The fact that parenthood might be part of a joyful plan is considered immaterial. Where will it end?

Creating Family Ties that Last

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An Open Book

I recently enjoyed a visit with my oldest son and his family who traveled to Florida. We crammed in as much as we could with the short time allotted to us. We took in the beach and the wonderful Gulf waters, still clean and pristine on the southwestern shores. We enjoyed the parks and wildlife as much as weather would allow. But the most memorable fun came in the evenings when we watched a movie or played games around the kitchen table.

The family had brought a game called “Apples to Apples;” a vocabulary builder that makes you think. We spent two hours playing this fun game and laughed so hard we cried at the comments from the kids and their wonderful imaginations.

I often worry about today’s families and wonder if they have enough memory building activities in their lives? They are so absorbed with work and separated by technology, phones and computers. Playing games with my children and grandchildren gave me hope, and it brought back a whole lot of memories.

My grandfather, a school teacher, loved entertaining his grandchildren. When my cousins and I got out of hand, he’d set us to work in his garden or distract us with games. Not any old games; homemade games that were totally unfamiliar to us. My favorite used a classic Coke bottle and a box of toothpicks. Each person received twenty picks to start.

The objective was to lay a toothpick across the lip of the bottle, in turns. The first person to topple the stack kept them. Anytime you caused a pick or picks to drop, you added them to your pile. The first person to get rid of all their picks was the winner. We played the game until the loser, usually the youngest child, got tired of being “the fall guy.”

When the floor game “Pickup Sticks” came out, it was never as much fun as grandpa’s toothpick game.

"Beach Buddies"

“Beach Buddies”

My sons liked to play “uncle” when they were young. They wrestled on the floor until one of them had the other in a painful twist. Relief came only by yelling “uncle.” Enduring pain and refusing to say the magic word somehow enhanced their manhood. Horsing around took the pressure off, and gave them an excuse for male bonding. The rough and tumble helped them avoid that personal hug or embarrassing show of affection.

Horsing around or playing games is good for coordination, skill building, and brain power. It provides a means for fellowship and promotes conversation. The laughter and talk that takes place during the game is a natural outcome.

When my children were all still at home, our TV went out. We waited to get a replacement just to see what would happen without our hypnotizing, addicting companion. Here are some of the things we did that my kids still talk about today.

We read several classic books together. Sprawled on the floor or with legs dangling over chair arms, the children’s imaginations soared as we read Rudyard Kipling’s jungle stories; their favorite “The Elephant Child.” Other books on our list: “Mary Poppins,” “Treasure Island,” “Tom Sawyer,” and short stories by Charles Dickens.

"With These Hands Wonder" available by clicking image.

“With These Hands Wonder” available by clicking image.

This was before Harry Potter and Shrek. Trips to the library replaced other after school activities. We broadened our reading to include children’s plays. Each child took a part; the older children helping the younger. Simple costumes helped us stay in character. Giggles were the order of the day, but we did manage to put on several plays, including “The Nativity” and the reading of Luke on Christmas Eve.

Once a week, we had a cooking session in the kitchen. The children learned how to make simple things like no-bake cookies, candies, Jello, fancy sandwiches and French toast. One evening the older children learned how to sew on a button. I introduced them to skills I thought they should know before they left home.

Adding more ingredients.

Adding more ingredients.

It was a fun time while it lasted. Besides making memories and learning new things, we learned a lot about each other. When we finally purchased a new TV, it engulfed our lives once again. We went back to our old routines, but the change of pace had made a difference.

During a power outage when my seventeen year old daughter was left in charge of her younger brothers and sisters, they survived. She didn’t want us to worry, so she didn’t tell us. They slept in their sleeping bags and ate cold food for three days until we returned. They had a great time telling stories, putting on plays, and singing songs just as we had done before on our nights-without-TV.

I sometimes feel sad for the young people of today who miss out on good old-fashioned fun, or do they? My husband and I visited with our older children in Minnesota. We were invited to be part of an interactive musical game called: “Guitar Hero.” I was given the drum sticks and waited for the signal lights that told me when to play. The rhythm increased in increments, and soon I was giggling and missing a beat here and there.

Next I played a guitar and had to strum to the tune of a green beeping light. My husband and his grandson played other instruments; his granddaughter sang solo, and everyone else clapped and sang along. By the time we were done, everyone was laughing. The whole family joined in and had a great time singing, clapping and laughing at the players onstage.

Times have changed, and the methods may be different, but families still know how to have fun together. The age-old problem is making the time. Is it worth it? You’d better believe it. The adage: “the family who prays together stays together” also works well with this phrase: “the family who plays together stays together.” So pray and play your hearts out. Make memories that last!

Lasting Friendships are a Gift that Strengthens and Supports

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"Beach Buddies"

“Beach Buddies”

Two pods of Pilot Whales have stranded themselves in waters off of Florida’s beaches. When one whale is sick, the whole pod follows the one who is ill or injured and stays with them. In shallow waters, they cannot forage and some will die with their friend. Entire pods have been known to perish in sympathy and support. Now that’s friendship!

Alice was a neighbor. The kind that welcomes you into her home like family, or waves at you the minute you step outside. We became fast friends, talking about our children, the weather, the neighborhood school and the rising cost of food.

It wasn’t surprising then to see her on my doorstep after I’d suffered a long illness and a traumatic experience. Others had asked, “What can we do for you?” smiled and then returned to their own little worlds. Here was Alice, standing on my porch with a shovel in one hand and a plant in the other.

“You’re coming outside,” she said emphatically. “You need some sunshine and we need to plant this start I brought from my garden.” The plant was one I’d admired some weeks before.

You didn’t argue with Alice. You didn’t want to. She had a way about her that said, “I’m here for you. Let’s work on this thing together.”

We dug, we planted, and we chatted about everything but what was troubling me. She never nosed, she never snooped. She gave me the ball, and let me carry it where I wanted to go. She helped me more than she will ever know. She gave me the love and support I needed to deal with some difficult circumstances. She helped heal my heart and soul just by being Alice.

When we moved away from Phoenix, I wept like a baby as I gave her my final hug. She was one neighbor I would miss forever. We stayed in contact for over 20 years, but the distance and our lives soon became a living memory. My gratitude still remains.

Many people come in and out of our lives. The good ones stay. Other friendships are not meant to last: the brief encounters on an airplane flight, the people we chat with on vacation, the ones who share in the trauma of a tragic event. Some friendships are meant to last forever, and some of them aren’t. Who can measure what any of these people bring into our lives?

When my own life was in a downward spiral, I never regretted the people I met along the way who made me laugh, who taught me something I didn’t know, who opened my eyes to see the possibilities that were waiting there. These people became the threads that formed the warp and the woof of my character and my life. During that time, I learned that some people are just plain evil; but that most people are basically good, warts and all.

Through acquaintances and friendships, I discovered things about myself I never knew. Antique cars, for instance; I like everything about them, the hobby, the shows, the people. And jazz; I love the earthy vibes and rhythms, but I’m also enthralled at a symphony. I like to see a good play, and I’m enchanted by Shakespeare. All of the things I discovered about myself, I learned through the people around me; my likes, my tastes, my values.

People enrich our lives and help us realize we’re all human. All in need of grace and forgiveness. My favorite saying is: “There but for the grace of God go I.” Historians don’t know for certain who said this, but the wisdom remains.

Friends can make us or break us. Bad friends are those people who urge us to say and do things we wouldn’t say or do in better company or when we’re alone. They’re the people who dare: “Oh, come on, it can’t hurt. Just this once?” or “Who will ever know?”

Good friends are the ones who make you want to try harder and to live better. But they accept you where you are with all of your baggage, weaknesses and flaws.

One of my favorite books is ” The Little Prince ” by Antoine De Saint-Exupery. There’s some profound wisdom in this tale. My favorite chapter is the encounter of the Little Prince and the Fox.

The prince invites the fox to come and play with him because he’s feeling sad, and the fox says he can’t, because he’s not tamed. Then the fox explains what it means to tame someone, and slowly and gradually they become fast friends.

When you tame someone, the fox tells the Little Prince, you create ties…you begin to need each other…you create rituals.

“For instance,” said the fox, “if you come each day at four…I’ll begin to be happy by three. The closer it gets to four, the happier I’ll feel. By four I’ll be all excited and worried; I’ll discover what it costs to be happy! But if you come at any old time, I’ll never know when I should prepare my heart…There must be rites.”

Lasting friendships! Who can measure their value? The bonds of friendship provide warmth and laughter in our sojourn on earth. Friends who join hands and hearts in prayer for our health or safety give us strength in time of need. Without friends, life would, indeed, be empty.

Alice, my dear friend and neighbor, if you’re out there–thank you! You were there during a ” rough patch ” in my life; a godsend and a blessing. I miss you, Alice; may God bless!