August 24, 2016

Once Upon a Time

by Guest Contributor Steve

Thirty two years ago today, I went to a party in Hollywood. A friend, Ann Davis, introduced me to one of her co-workers, a cute brunette with curly hair and a great smile, who sometimes spoke as if song lyrics were part of normal conversation. As a musician, whenever she would say Line A, I would respond with Line B, which I believe intrigued her just a bit. As we continued to talk, she pulled something out of her purse: an invitation to a housewarming party she was giving for herself the next week. Just carried a few extra on spec, I imagine.

Because there was literally no food at this party, Ann, this girl, and I went to Ann’s house for something to eat. Conversation ensued for several hours until the girl left to go home.

The following week, after playing it cool and not calling her, I showed up at her party with a plant and bottle of cheap wine. Because the she was being the hostess, the girl and I didn’t have much of a chance to talk. Hoping for a private moment, I waited until most of the guests left and got a chance to talk to her, asking that, although it was the last minute, would she like to go out the next night? After a moment’s pause, she agreed.

We went to hear some music and had a late dinner before going back to her place. Someone had given her a pint of Amaretto, and we spent half the night sipping and telling each other our life stories. About 3 AM, I left after a great kiss goodnight.

Waiting an appropriate amount of time (about 8 hours), I called and invited her up to my condo for a swim and BBQ. She said that she had to do laundry, and that let me use the classic line, “But I have a washing machine!” That did the trick.

We have been together ever since, and she is still my girl. There have been ups and downs, as with any long term couple – health problems, dealing with elderly parents, interpersonal issues – but I am grateful every day that we are still together.

For several years, on the anniversary of our meeting, we would take Ann Davis out to dinner to show our thanks. One year, we arranged to have her canonized as a saint in the Universal Life Church. She was thrilled as we presented her the certificate over dinner. Unfortunately, before the next year’s dinner, Ann became fatally ill and that was the last time we saw her. But to this day, we celebrate in her name.

Happy St. Ann’s Day, Westy. I love you more than ever.

August 19, 2016

Sliced, Diced, and Back Online

Two weeks ago, I underwent surgery to remove a non-malignant tumor from inside my stomach.

I've been home for ten days, recovering in small, daily increments, and I'm slowly starting to feel like myself again.

My husband has done an awesome job of taking care of me during this time.

I'll be writing more about this when I get a little stronger.

August 3, 2016

Happy Together

For our 30th anniversary last December, Hubby and I treated ourselves to a week at a luxurious resort in the Bahamas.

It was beautiful.

If you've seen the ads for these places, you might get the impression that everyone there looks like a model. In reality, the people at the resort look just like the people at home. We saw one couple that looked like models. Everyone else was mostly average -- fat, thin, tall, short, all ages, all types.

Everybody happily put on a bathing suit and went to the pool or the beach.

One afternoon, as I glanced around the pool, I realized that everyone looked happy. It's not always that way. Often people go on vacation, only to find themselves discontented in some way, disagreeing about something, frazzled from trying to do too much, pouting over unmet expectations.

But here, we saw no signs of trouble.

Everyone was there with the one they loved. Many were on their honeymoon, or, like us, celebrating an anniversary. Because this was a couples-only resort, there were no kids or extended families to complicate things. It was peaceful.

People weren't concerned about how they looked. They all had the look of love.

This was not a place where there was any pressure to do things. Sure, you could play golf, take a tour of the island, or book a snorkeling trip. We didn't bother.

Our main activities were relaxing by the pool, letting people bring us drinks and snacks, walking on the beach, and going to meals. If we didn't feel like going to a meal, we ordered room service. One morning I got a pedicure, and on another afternoon we attended a champagne picnic.

No phone calls, no appointments, no work, no distractions.

We could focus on each other and relax side by side in a beautiful fantasy world.

Eventually, fantasies come to an end. We had to return to the world of schedules, email, laundry, phones, work, errands, bills -- ack!

The routines of daily life and all the distractions created by the outside world can make it hard to relax. There are so many things that demand our attention and take our time, things that must be done even though they aren't really the things that matter most in life, things that make us tired and tense, things that interfere with our ability to really be with each other.

We can't go back to the Bahamas every time we want to feel connected.

But we can make a conscious choice to let that other stuff go for a while, even if it's only for a day, or a few hours, or even a few minutes.

We do it in little ways. During the week, we take a walk before breakfast. On the weekends, we sometimes go to another city, or another part of this huge city, and stroll through a park or a museum. We visit the Chinese garden. We drive up the coast and have lunch near the beach. We share our thoughts. We talk about our plans for the future.

All of these things get us in synch with each other and bring us closer together.

And sometimes all it takes is a mini-fantasy. Before we go to sleep, we might remember to close our eyes and imagine that we're on a boat slowly sailing down the Danube, or in a hot air balloon peacefully floating over the Loire Valley. We might picture ourselves at the foot of a tropical waterfall, or gazing across lush fields of lavender.

We relax, side by side in a world of our own.

July 29, 2016

The Power of Love

Love can transform a life.


July 25, 2016

Staying, Leaving

One day I was sitting in a small sandwich shop having lunch. At the next table was a young man, probably in his late twenties, sitting with a woman who, based on her age and the way they spoke to each other, was his mother.

I wasn't making an effort to eavesdrop, but they weren't whispering, so most of the conversation was clear. The young man was explaining why he had stayed in a terrible relationship, and how he had finally gotten out.

He had been living with a woman who was emotionally and verbally abusive. (It wasn't clear to me whether there had also been physical abuse.) They lived in an isolated area, and he didn't have a car. Somehow he had lost his job and hadn't been able to find another, so he had become financially dependent on his girlfriend.

He was afraid. His girlfriend was scary and unpredictable.

He felt trapped. Without money or transportation, in weather that made walking many miles a risky proposition, he couldn't think of a way to leave.

He had lost his self-confidence. He didn't feel that he could handle life on his own, and he didn't think anyone else cared about him.

He still had some hope. He thought that maybe if he got another job, things would get better. Maybe he and the girlfriend could talk things out, and she would change, and life would be good again, the way it was in the beginning.

He was ashamed. He didn't want to tell anyone what was going on, didn't want to admit what had happened to his life, so he didn't talk about it, didn't ask for help.

One day his father called, and in their conversation the truth came pouring out. The father said, "I'll come get you." He took the young man home.

Since then, he'd had time to think about it, go back to school, recover, and get some perspective. He was ready to explain it to his mother, and to himself -- and, indirectly, to me.