June 23, 2015

Marriage and Other Leaps of Faith

by Guest Contributor Jeanie Greensfelder

To Toast Or Not To Toast

I'm making toast.
Do you want some?
he asks.

I look up and say, Hmm…
I had a late lunch. I'm not sure…

My husband shakes his head.
He throws his hands up—
It's not a declaration of war,
it's just a piece of toast.

He stalks off.

He returns and says, I'm sorry.
I forgot how your brain works.
I ask a question and you answer:
Well…it's March, but it's Friday.
Is it raining? Let me think…

I look up and say,

Yes, I'd love a piece of toast.

Thoughts on Thoughts

One cold day, drying myself after a shower,
I notice my husband's towel hung over a heating vent.
If anything ever happens to him, I think,
I'll get the warm towel bar.

When I tell him my thought, he laughs and says,
I haven't pictured your demise since yesterday
when you ate the last chocolate.

"To Toast or Not to Toast" and "Thoughts on Thoughts" from Marriage and Other Leaps of Faith © 2015 Jeanie Greensfelder. Reprinted with permission.

Jeanie Greensfelder is the author of Marriage and Other Leaps of Faith. A psychologist and poet, she lives with her husband of 41 years in San Luis Obispo, California


June 19, 2015

Essay Contest: True Stories About Marriage

I have received this announcement from Creative Nonfiction.

For an upcoming issue, Creative Nonfiction is seeking new essays about marriage.

Whether you've celebrated your 50th anniversary or 5th marriage; eloped to Vegas or fought for (or against) marriage equality in DC; just filed your divorce papers or proposed to your high school sweetheart, we’re looking for well-crafted essays that truthfully portray what married life is all about.

Send us your true stories of arranged marriages or shotgun weddings; walking down the aisle or running from the altar; mail-order brides or stay-at-home dads. We’re looking for a variety of perspectives ‑ from fiancés to florists; ministers to marriage counselors; divorce attorneys to wedding planners.

Essays must be vivid and dramatic; they should combine a strong and compelling narrative with an informative or reflective element and reach beyond a strictly personal experience for some universal or deeper meaning. We're looking for well-written prose, rich with detail and a distinctive voice; all essays must tell true stories and be factually accurate.

You can find complete guidelines at our website here.


June 6, 2015

Dreaming of a Better World

In a more perfect world...
  • A day would have 26 hours instead of 24, and I’d finally get enough sleep.
  • The clothes dryer would automatically fold the laundry.
  • We could change our hair from straight to curly (or vice-versa) just by using the right shampoo.
  • That same shampoo could be used to remove those old, embarrassing tattoos.
  • We’d be able to use a technique like the Vulcan Mind Meld to truly understand our loved ones’ feelings.
  • Everyone would choose compassion rather than contempt as their first response to people who are different from them.
  • We would form all our opinions based on facts instead of prejudices.
  • Honesty, loyalty, and generosity would be the character traits leading to success. Greed and ruthlessness would lead to failure.
  • Ice cream would be a health food.


May 18, 2015

A Life Well Lived?

Imagine yourself in the distant future. You are 102 years old, reviewing your memories of a long life. What thoughts are going through your mind?

a)I wish I'd spent more time watching my favorite TV shows.
b)I'm so glad I turned off the TV and got involved in life.
c)Why did I spend so much time sitting on the couch staring at a screen? There were so many other things I could have done.
a)I should have fought even harder to get everyone to do things my way.
b)I'm glad I was able to relax and let others do things in ways that worked best for them.
c)I realize that I made myself and everyone around me miserable with my petty insistence on unimportant details.
a)I always pointed out every mistake in great detail. That was the best way to get my spouse to be a better person.
b)I offered encouragement by emphasizing my spouse's strengths and successes. I tried to keep criticism to a minimum.
c)My constant complaints and put-downs alienated my spouse and family. I wish I had been more positive.
a)I didn't waste time thanking my loved ones for their services. After, all, they just did what they were supposed to do.
b)I appreciated everything my loved ones did for me, and it meant a lot to them when I told them how I felt.
c)I wish I had told them how grateful I was for all the big and little things they did.
a)Thank goodness, my demanding job gave me a great excuse to avoid most of my kids' activities.
b)Fortunately, I took the time to participate in my kids' lives and watch them grow up.
c)I missed so much. Childhood is over in an instant, and I wasn't there to share it.
a)I got tremendous satisfaction from turning away from my spouse and minimizing our sex life.
b)The sexual connection with my spouse brought great joy and pleasure to both of us.
c)How I wish we had made love more.
a)I was wise to keep my thoughts and feelings to myself. Letting people get too close is risky.
b)There is no greater joy than the intimacy my love and I experienced when we shared our deepest selves.
c)I missed so much by not allowing myself to be vulnerable and open with the one I loved.
a)It was smart to manage my life so that I always catered to other people's expectations.
b)It's a good thing I didn't care much about what others thought. Going my own way and making my own choices made my life fulfilling.
c)What a fool I was to worry about how others might judge me. I suppressed my true nature and never accomplished what I really wanted.
Will your future self be grateful to you for the way you are living your life today?

It's not too late to change the choices you make.

May 10, 2015

Marriage Advice From Someone Who Blew It

Conventional wisdom tells us to look closely at those who offer marriage advice. How long have they been married? Are they happy? Do they have the kind of marriage we would like to have? As in many areas of life, we tend to believe we should seek advice only from those who are successful. They know what they are doing, and if we emulate them, we'll succeed, too.

It makes sense. If someone is doing something right, that is the person I want for a role model.

Of course, no marriage is perfect. Nearly every couple will go through some difficult times. Getting advice from those who have done the hard work, figured it out, and solved the problems may mean that we can save time and avoid a lot of grief by applying what they have already figured out. Not only can we learn from what they did right, but we can learn from what they did wrong, and possibly avoid making the same mistakes.

While we are learning from others' mistakes, what about those whose marriages failed? Some never get past anger and blame. They aren't likely to have much wisdom to pass on. But those who are able to move beyond the negative feelings and apply some introspection have the opportunity to gain a great deal of insight into the processes that caused their marriages to fall apart. Where happy couples usually have a list of "dos", divorced couples are likely to have an equally (or perhaps even more) useful list of "don'ts".

One such person is Dan Pearce, who blogs at Single Dad Laughing. His list of "16 Ways I Blew My Marriage" is a wonderful, cautionary tale. He is honest about his role in the destructive behaviors that undermined two marriages. He describes what went wrong clearly and concisely, and then talks about what he would do differently. In addition to the first 16 items, a second post adds 15 more.

With any luck, most couples (at least most of those who are still married) probably aren't doing most of the things on these lists. But I would bet that nearly everyone does, or has done, at least a couple of them.

This is like a map showing where some of the landmines are. Avoid those places! If you see yourself doing anything here, it's time to take a big step back. Before it blows up in your face.

U.S. Department of Energy photograph