wocket in my pocket

Looking for the unexpected in the mundane.

Love Is…

Today I needed to shuttle Olivia to a dentist appointment, so I took my Little A along too. I gave up on my audio book within a few minutes and just chattered with my girls. “I am SO GLAD that it’s not sloppy-floppy on Valentine’s Day,” Addy said. (She really does talk in CAPITALS.) We talked about love and marriage.

Olivia wants a house with a wraparound porch to entertain visitors, and a creek nearby for her children. That is, if she gets married, but maybe she will try a tiny house first because they are less work and everything is arranged so neatly.

Addy wants a humongous yellow house with pink shutters and golden doorknobs. Also ten horses, but if her husband isn’t rich, then just two horses would be fine. She kind of doubts that she will want to marry anybody, actually, when she really thinks about it. Besides, she is too little.

How can one girl and one boy fall in love and spawn 5 such opposite people? I thought opposites are just two things, like cold and warm, but it turns out that there are a lot more than two opposites when you start categorizing personalities. It can be a little disorienting to think you have a certain facet of parenting figured out, only to discover that you are back at base 1 with the next baby. But it’s never boring. Oh, no, never that.

I asked the children for help with a Love Is… list. I will start with Gregory (Alex was skiing, plus he wouldn’t have ventured a peep if he had gotten wind that I was gathering material for a blog post) and end with Addy, who spouted truisms faster than I could write them.

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Love Is…

  • a penguin fasting for months while incubating an egg. -G
  • a chick nestled under its mother’s wing. -G
  • going on a date with Papa and eating pancakes every time. -O
  • when Mama gives me a cup of tea after my math lesson is done. -O
  • cleaning the bathroom. -O
  • throwing a stick over and over for your dog. -O
  • when a chicken lays an egg for your breakfast. -O
  • Mama showing me how to cook spaghetti and meatballs.  -O
  • a soft flannel quilt that you made for our bed. -R
  • helping me make a doll with fabric scraps. -R
  • my big sister making me a purse. -R
  • when we are allowed to play “rish-rosh” in the house.  -R
  •  a long story at nap time. -A
  • when Mama lets you light a candle by yourself. -A
  • kisses on your cheek. -A
  • when Papa takes me on a canoe ride. -A
  • being allowed to swim. -A
  • looking at the stars. -A
  • when I go along out to the barn to gather eggs. -A
  • Mama taking me on a special date (McDonald’s drive-through) while the other kids are on a field trip. -A
  • letting me pick my nose. -A
  • Papa tucking me in at bedtime and asking me if I had a good day. -A

My children appear to have very homely ideas about love. Houses, eggs, dogs, food, and being allowed to tear around or hone bad habits. And that flamboyant small one… Oh dear, but it is a thrilling ride to parent her!

Our Valentine’s Day was (mostly) that sort of loving. There was sunshine and bike rides in it! There was a supper that was a joint effort, with one person making salad and one setting the table and one cutting lemon wedges and spooning sour cream into a pretty dish, and one snitching bits, and one mother trying to keep her sanity and actually succeeding. We ended with stories and chocolate fondue for all. Also. A BIG ALSO, the man of the house is home this week, and I wish you could have heard how calmly bedtime went down.

Maybe we will get a date later this week, but at any rate we are happy to be doing life together, all of it, ordinary and thrilling alike.

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It’s Been a While

I have been waiting to post until I have time to upload photos and do a proper, pretty post about our long-anticipated anniversary trip to New England. The thing about going away for a week is it takes about 3 weeks to prepare and 3 weeks to catch up. I am not joking.

Pre-trip: Should we stay home and work on our barn before winter? (Probably, but scratch that. You don’t have a 15th anniversary every year.) Are we sufficiently on course with school to take off for 5 days? (Yes and no.) Is the broccoli crop going to burst into flower while we are gone, or should I process it now? (Yes.) Do the children have enough (presentable) underwear and socks? (No.) Is our Air B&B reservation all lined up? (Yes, after days of deliberations about which one we want.) Is our vehicle reliable? (Not without a bunch of oil fed to it every couple hundred miles.) Do we have a dog sitter? (Yes, at the last minute.) What about the mail and the packages that are coming? (Stop the mail.) Shall we take bikes? (Not this time, only to regret it every day.) What about food? (Buy it at Trader Joe’s close to our cabin for less hassle and kind of a lot more $.)

We don’t get out much, especially not without a lot of forethought and planning. It’s what happens with a family, animals, and a job that isn’t terribly flexible. At least, we don’t usually go far. But 15 years is 15 years and we haven’t had a  just-us-two trip for a very long time. We tried to balance the need for some down time with the responsibilities of parenting and decided that 5 days would probably about max out the children and their caregivers. (And their parents. 🙂

So that was the big deal in the beginning of October. Once I find the camera, I will endeavor to post some more photos, but here is a cell pic of the Portland Headlight for your enjoyment.


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We hit leaf peeper season square on target in the White Mountains. It was absolutely breathtaking, and so relaxed. If we were hungry, we ate. If we were tired, we slept. (We did that kind of a lot. Neither of us knew how bone-weary we were until we didn’t have any schedule yapping at our heels.) If it was nice outside, we went on walks. If it rained, we read by the fireplace or watched “Laugh Your Way to a Better Marriage”. We were so relaxed, in fact, that we lost track of which day we were scheduled to check out of our cabin until the cleaner showed up. I can assure you, after checking our email confirmation to see that we were indeed supposed to be cleared out by noon, we checked out faster than we ever have in our lives. It was feet first back into the real world, running. Somehow we had forgotten that we were planning to start south in the afternoon and get a motel before picking up our scattered crew at various grandparents and aunts and uncles the next day.

Post-trip has been all about battening down the hatches and sealing the leaks before winter. The goats needed to be moved, since their portable pen was on a piece of the neighbor’s property while we were gone and he wanted them off. The lawn needed to be mowed and the weeds whacked down one more time. We only have 5 acres, so it’s very manageable. When we stay home. The last of the plants in the garden kept putting out astounding goodness.


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We hopped back into school as well. Alex is doing 9th grade algebra and I am finding myself doing the lessons right along with him most days. He was frustrated and bombing his lessons even after listening to the video teacher. I cannot tutor something I never mastered, and while Gabe is a terrific algebra teacher, he isn’t here all the time to help us out. I am actually enjoying the study and the orderly rows of equations after I have applied the distributive or commutative properties. Alex is not so much into it, but it boosts his morale to have me figuring it out right with him. I am hopeful that with enough practice, it will all become a little more elegant. Right now it’s just time consuming and occasionally it makes us both cross.

Elegant. What a laughable way to describe homeschooling. Somedays I think we all must be a little crazy. There has to be a better way to get an education, no? We are not die-hard homeschoolers, as in “It’s the only way to go, so help us, Lord.” We weigh our choices every year, trying to determine if this is the best fit for our family. So far it has always been the best fit, but elegant it is not. I would describe it more as a mash-up of lovely-learning-is-a-lifestyle with messy-who-let-the-monkeys-out?

Being away from the rush made us both aware that we really belong in the fray of everyday life. As exhausting as it may be, this is the life for us.

I have only one condensed observation to share about being married 15 years: As we were watching the marriage DVD’s we kept looking at each other and laughing, “We know this!” But we didn’t always know; it took a lot of years to figure some things out. (The last session is titled, “How to Stay Married Without Killing Anybody”.  :/ ) The point is, if you are committed to not just making your marriage work, but actually really enjoying it, the years cannot help but become better!


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It’s in the Air

I could hardly suppress my amusement as I stood in the Hallmark card aisle and shamelessly eavesdropped on a phone conversation the young man next to me was having. He kept pulling out cards, replacing them impatiently, talking to his friend, “So how much would that cost? Eighty bucks??? I don’t have that much with me!” There was a pause while his friend gave him further advice and he restlessly plucked out more cards and replaced them. “Look,” he said, “I have only been going out with her for five months. I don’t want to be all smarmy. And I only have like thirty dollars on me.”

At this point I had an urge to pat him on the head reassuringly. He was shorter than me. No joke. But he had a little beard, so I didn’t think I was old enough or he young enough for me to tell him what I was thinking, “It will be easier when you have found her, Sonny. When you have walked life together for a while and you know she hates coconut candies and loves vanilla anything at all.”

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It’s hard to define love. Lots of people have done it well. I will just aim at one of my lists here. Love does things. Things like

  • buying salami and turkey for humdinger sandwiches so that he doesn’t go hungry his whole shift
  • stopping at Aldi’s for the stuff on her list, even though you are dog-tired and would rather just go straight home
  • plotting out the gardens and disagreeing about eggplant
  • clearing the coloring books off the couch so the other can sit to drink coffee
  • cleaning up the mess the dog made because it makes her really mad
  • buying sheets that don’t get pilled in the laundry because he hates how that feels
  • never eating pretzels in bed
  • kissing in front of the children
  • prioritizing some foods you don’t personally enjoy, like olives, for the other person’s sake
  • cleaning out the family car, even though she mostly drives it
  • dealing with the offspring’s issues because she is showing signs of strain from a day of too many spats
  • treating aching feet with peppermint lotion
  • listening without even laughing… at least until he/she thinks it is funny too
  • knowing exactly which books she will swoon over at the library sale
  • disagreeing kindly
  • remembering the hilarious things that happened throughout the day so that you can tell him about them
  • holding hands to pray

There. I wasn’t too smarmy, was I? 😉 There used to be these little gum packs with “Love is…” cartoons in them. I thought they were cute and terribly cheesy. But there was a lot of truth. Sometimes love really is a phone call in the middle of the day, just to say hi. There is so much ordinary life that fans the love affair of a good marriage. Gabe says his friends at work tease him about his lunches because they know I pack them, and I pack the best lunches I can because I love him. Somehow it all ties together, if you get what I mean. I want everybody in the world to see that this is my man and we intend to stay together all of our lives. Why not expend my energies to make it a pleasant journey?

And now, because one cannot have too much Pride and Prejudice:

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Blogging 101, Assignment 1

It was with a bit of trepidation that I signed up for these assignments from WordPress, seeing as I usually only write when the phrases start scrolling through my head. Sometimes it’s the middle of the night and sometimes it is while I am on a solo walk that I get inspiration. A bit of discipline is a great thing though, so I will introduce myself to the world today, along with my blogging goals, as I have been instructed. 🙂

As a little girl skipping to the Amish school where my formal education started, I had no aspirations to be a writer. I just wanted to learn to read those letters that fascinated and scared the wits out of me whenever I looked at a book without pictures. I was fairly certain that reading would be too hard for me. Fortunately for all of us, we had an amazing teacher who pulled out our strengths. Even though she had about 30 students in four grades, she noticed us individually and managed to pull us all together in a joyous quest for knowledge. Once I could decipher the puzzling groups of letters in the books about Reuben and Rachel, I galloped along reading everything I could lay my hands on, including cereal boxes and shampoo bottles. Literacy was for me a portal with endless vistas to explore.

It has been about 30 years since the Amish school days, but I still think of myself as a learner. We are all apprentices of life, whether we like it or not. I have failed a lot of exams in my life, but I get to do them over until I pass. There are plenty of activities for my hands to do and unending conundrums for my head to figure out just here in my little house with my family.

My husband is my best friend and my encourager. When we got married 14 years ago, we didn’t know much, but we did know that whatever comes, we are in it together. I stand by him and he stands by me. Don’t try to get between us or we will raise our hackles and fight. We are blessed with five children, ranging in age from 4 to 13. Those life exams I referred to are mostly courtesy of the children. 🙂

Some may think the life of a stay-at-home mom to be impossibly restricting, and I have to admit, it is harder than I ever imagined. While my children are smallish I am “keeping” our home. I mean that both in the Biblical sense of a woman who stays at home and in the contemporary sense of someone such as a zoo keeper who keeps the habitat pleasant and cares for the animals. I consider this my life work, worthy of all my consideration.

Part of that consideration is homeschooling our children. Some days I love it and some days I hate it, but it does work really well with our lifestyle. My husband is an RN with odd 12 and 8 hour shifts and mandatory weekends as well. Our school days are flexible and vacations are always off-peak season so we can stay a family unit. Speaking generally, we like learning about stuff together. Research reports are a little “meh” says my oldest son. My personal enthusiasm for practicing the writing craft has not yet translated to my children.

I process life through writing. When I started blogging eight years ago, it was mainly to stay in touch with distant family members. Then I realized that I really liked having this record of our lives and the developments in them. Eventually it sort of became a record of God’s work in my heart, and now my blogging is a mash of all of the above.

One night I needed a new title, since my first blog “Living and Learning” was not working out. I sat at the computer, sorting through the innards of my shiny new WordPress site and got an idea. There was a bookcase of children’s books right beside me. What better way to give a nod to my insatiable love of books than to play with a title? “Make Way for Ducklings!” I thought. Alas, every variation of the title was already taken. How about “Mrs. Tiggywinkle”? Nah. She was too prickly. I wanted something easy to remember, which is how I came to “Wocket In My Pocket”. Thank you, Dr. Seuss. I like that wockets are anything. We have wockets everywhere around here. Lots of them are fun to write about.

I chose my tagline “looking for the unexpected in the mundane” because that is what I do. It takes conscious effort not to settle down among the clods in the mind-numbing mundaneness of laundry piles and sticky floors. I am trying to dust off the ordinary and find the shiny bits in life.

Nobody was more astounded than I was when I started to get loyal readers. It is the best part of blogging: getting feedback, hearing that what I wrote connected with someone else, feeling that putting my heart out there may have cheered another person on. Blogging is scary enough that I have considered quitting altogether many times. But here I am, still getting up early or staying up late to try to string words together in a compelling way. Thank-you for reading.

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What Have I Been Doing?

I looked at the calendar recently and thought, “What have I been doing?” I can tell you what I haven’t been doing pretty easily. I haven’t been sitting around reading a lot and I haven’t been writing. I can honestly say that I missed the writing bit pretty much every day. One sentence in a diary doesn’t scratch the itch at all. I sat around just enough so that I wouldn’t miss it too severly. Haha.

We had days and days and days of rain in late September. It was cold and the dog stank and there was mud in our classroom every day. I started burning candles and plugged in air fresheners.

During the long wet I sewed dresses for the little girls so that we could coordinate somewhat for a family photo shoot. Then I spent a ridiculous amount of time trying to figure out what I would wear to coordinate with everybody else. Shall I just admit that I got three sweaters at Boscov’s so that Gabe could help me figure out which one to wear because I really just don’t have a good sense for that sort of thing? And that, of course, I wore the simplest, most unassuming one and took the other two back? At the last minute I decided not to wear the charcoal skirt after all, but the grey dress. Why was that decision so hard to make in the store? I did not consult Pinterest, which is what other people do when they can’t figure out what to wear, because I don’t get along well on Pinterest. ‘Nough said.

We had an anniversary, our 14th, and it was the first sunny day after all that drear. I dug out our love letters and we read a bunch of them, laughing a bit at ourselves, reminiscing and agreeing that 14 years has taught us a few things about loving each other, even though sometimes we lose track and forget to appreciate the one we love. Which is why we took a day off and went biking Rails to Trails without the children. No eavesdroppers in the vehicle! And just for a day it was nice not to have to settle any fights or wait for the slow ones. We ended the day with dressing up for a fancy meal out, then descended gratefully back into normal life. After all, back in the day when we had dates every weekend, we yearned to live normal life together, more than anything. And here we are, doing it!

Gabe has lived with me long enough to know the kinds of books I love. For our anniversary he got me blink (you have no idea how hard it is for me to write a book title with a lower case letter) by Malcolm Gladwell, subtitled “The Power of Thinking Without Thinking”. It is packed with insights into what makes people decide things: those split second impressions that affect our choices. For the first week or so after he gave me the book I only had time to stroke the cover, but by now I have read enough to know it is just as interesting as The Tipping Point, which I discovered a few years ago.

Once the weather turned clement (is that right? the opposite of inclement?) our friend Michelle Fisher took the photos. I knew she had lots of experience in posing children because she has nine of them and they always end up with really sweet family pictures. Want to see a few? I think you will agree that she did a good job on them. When these were taken, the children were 12, 10, 8, 6, and 4. This only lasted for one month, but it was kind of fun to say. 🙂 The 10 turned 11 yesterday.

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My friend Caroline and I spent a forenoon together, picking up a large meat order about an hour’s drive away. Either one of us could have gone alone, but it just so worked out that we could team up. I was supposed to be the navigator, since we didn’t have GPS. Even with a Google Maps printout, I stink at navigating. Let’s just say we saw a lot of beautiful countryside and enjoyed our extra time to visit. It was nice to be with someone who didn’t get uptight about the unmarked roads and was game to try routes that appeared to go in the right direction. Not to mention someone who didn’t run out of interesting topics of conversation, especially with no eavesdroppers in the van. 😀

The next day I texted her that I had just been running some errands in a nearby town and had to turn around three times, so I think I do need a GPS because of all the stuff in my head that isn’t down on the earth. She replied, “Well, I just read, ‘Set your affections on things above, not on things on the earth.’ With that mindset you might lose your way driving every now and then.” She is witty like that. The thing is, I am pretty sure I was thinking about that meat we hauled home and how it needed to be canned, as well as these apples I am picking up and how they also need to be canned.

I have 2 1/2 bushels of apples still sitting on the front porch and some frozen tomatoes that I have to process and after that I put my foot down. No more! Today I tilled the gardens one final time and sowed a cover crop of rye. I love summer so much, but at this point it is only sensible to move on, wouldn’t you say? For the first time we put in a bed of garlic. Some bulbs in and some bulbs, like the dahlias, out. Gardening is endlessly fascinating. And time consuming. I hope to have more time to write now that the outside stuff is getting wrapped up.

Last, but not least, I have been industriously starting a small book selling business. I signed up to become an Usborne consultant and am still learning the ropes. So far the most rewarding thing has been to be able to send really nice books to refugee children in Iraq. I also was thrilled to get our church school a lot of free merchandise through a book show.  I genuinely like connecting anybody to a source of educational books like these. Someday I will do a whole post on this topic. I have been having a blast with this, especially when the boxes of books come and I can sort out orders and stroke the covers (I know. I have a problem. But it isn’t a bad problem.) But there. The final and biggest reason why I have not been writing. I am still figuring out how to fit this business, not into every crack of spare time, but into reasonable hours. My children don’t mind. They drool over the catalog and revel in all the new books! I am systematically turning them all into bibliophiles (That’s not a bad thing either. After the dishes are done.).

Gabe is back on an evening schedule, which means he will be home around midnight. It has been a pleasure chatting with you kind folks while I wait up for him.

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Be Mine, part 4

 

There was a weekend of quietness, of deep thinking. Those fears she had… if he really thought about how old she was, nearly 24, heavens! he would rethink his request to court her.

It was an irrational fear. She should have known him well enough to know he didn’t make impulsive decisions, but of all the things they had talked about after hours at school, they had never discussed marriage. That would have been too weird. When he assured her that marriage really was in his dreams too, and that she fit into them like she was created for the part, she was almost giddy with relief. She no longer thought of him as too young, but of herself as too old. He didn’t care a fig.

All right then! How about a date at Red Lobster? Sure. Tomorrow night.

She ordered the coconut shrimp, he got fish. Cheddar bay biscuits became for them the food of delight. They talked and listened and lingered so long that the waitress seemed unsure what to do with them. When the coconut shrimp were barely touched an hour into the meal, she asked if everything was all right. Oh yes, they said. Just more water, please. Eventually they left with most of the meal in a take-out box. She shrugged. Communication was more important than food, apparently.

It was important not to let the romance overshadow the work at school. They tried hard to stay as neutral as possible while the students were around, but as soon as the last one was out the door, the tea got brewed and the day got hashed over with the frankness of best friends rapidly turning into lovers. The upper grade teacher was engaged to his girlfriend, and all around there were a lot of heads in the clouds those days.

Her siblings rolled their eyes and trotted out those strong-minded phrases she used to say. The girl just laughed because she knew better now. They said she was sunk. She agreed and swallowed her words cheerfully. A friend suggested that it was just proximity, after all, that causes so many to fall in love. Well, thank God for proximity, she said, because she believed with all her heart that this particular case was arranged by Providence.

It was an exhilarating time. Soul mates, that is what they felt they were discovering about each other. They were definitely traveling the same direction! Made for each other! Love covered them in a blanket of bliss. It wasn’t that they were just infatuated, forging ahead. It was the joy of feeling the smile of God on them, His fingerprints on their story. They already had a strong groundwork laid. She knew what he believed and how he responded to life. He knew the things that she carried in her heart, how she wanted to live. They had similar backgrounds. There simply were no huge hurdles.

Six weeks of this brought them to a sunny evening in June, sitting on the porch of the family camping cabin, the sun slowly sinking toward the horizon. “Is there anything else you want to talk about?” he asked. “Because I have something on my mind yet… Will you marry me?”

“Yes! Yes, I will!” she said once she recovered from her surprise. There may be some details that would bore the general public, but that is the path that they walked from being two to becoming one.

The wedding day was just a few months more than a year after she had shown him those stacks of text books in the school closet. He was 20, she was 24. They came back from their honeymoon pretty much broke, moved into a little grey house, and had a bunch of babies. It hasn’t always been “happy ever after” but you didn’t expect that, did you?  Of course, they discovered some discrepancies, such as his preference for mayo instead of Miracle Whip, her aversion to onions that he ate in great raw slabs on butter bread, the temperature in the car, and a few things of more consequence. The promise was to love ever after. It has been a journey they have never regretted and they certainly hope to be granted the privilege to grow old together.

Want to see their engagement photo?

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Be Mine, Part 3

Just friends. About six weeks before the school term ended, the girl was straightening her classroom, watering the plants by the window, mentally preparing herself to grade an enormous stack of worksheets when he appeared at the door.

“This is for you,” he said, as he handed her an envelope.

She sort of sagged against the wall, “Is this what I think it is?”

He seemed in a bit of a hurry, grinned, wished her a good evening, and left.

“Duh, duh, duh… Is it what I think it is? What kind of dumb thing is that to say? What if it’s a thank-you note?” She beat her forehead with her palm. Then she laid the envelope on her desk, did every bit of that grading, passed out the papers, prepped the next day’s lessons, and cleared everything away. Slowly she picked up the letter, studied the flourish under her name.

It wasn’t a thank-you note. In fact, it was a rather eloquent request for a deeper relationship focused on seeing if they were suited to get married. He did not try to assure her that he knew this was God’s will; he did not say that he had fasted and prayed for years; he did not even say that she was the only one for him in the world, etc. She appreciated the simplicity of his request. Apparently she made him happy. He liked her! He thought they were heading in the same direction in life. So let’s seek God together, how about it?

There had been a lot of pressure to discern God’s will concerning marriage before ever going out with someone, like you shouldn’t just get to know each other, but really know that you are supposed to be together for life before you ever take a step. The girl had been terribly afraid of making an error in judgement that would hurt another person. She had been afraid that she would never be certain enough about a guy to dare to be “in a relationship”. She had prayed many prayers that God would give her clarity concerning who she should marry, like when she was twenty-eight or thirty, preferably. Writing in the sky, maybe? She just never expected it to hit her like it did, all unaware.

She sat at her desk until it grew dark outside, thinking, thinking. So God knew just how scared she was of making a mistake. He let her fall for someone that she never even thought of in a romantic way until after they were good friends. He got past her prejudices about someone younger by letting it be someone so much younger that she hadn’t even considered him possible husband material. It was really kind of funny.

She went home and talked to her parents, who already knew about her letter, because the young man had done the respectful thing and asked her dad for permission to court his daughter. They had only blessings for her, no reservations, provided that she was clear that this was a person she was genuinely attracted to and could have confidence in. “A spark,” her parents said. “More than just feeling like it’s a good thing, there has to be a spark.”

It was customary to fast and pray and agonize over this sort of decision, but it seemed silly. She knew. There was a spark, all right. Deep in her heart she already knew what she wanted to say. There was just one thing that seemed big to her. How could it not be big to him? The age discrepancy.

She wrote a letter back, because writing was how she processed all the big things in her life. “What about your dreams of adventure, of travel, of higher education? I don’t want to go into a relationship that will cramp what you want to do with your life. I don’t want you to ever resent marrying young…” and more in that vein. She told him that she was honored, that she really did like him, but she put the ball squarely back in his court.

 

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Be Mine, part 2

The first thing the girl had to admit was that her co-teacher had gotten past her defenses before she could figure out an appropriate course of action. It was a little hard for her to believe, because those things she used to say to her siblings… one of them was that she would not marry someone younger than her. Four years! It was even worse than she had anticipated it could be.

Oh, the irony. Because she had to admit that she liked him, as in really enjoyed spending time with him, hearing what he had to say and giving her opinions in turn. He was an exceptionally good listener. It was quite dangerous, because she found herself confiding ideas and thoughts that were actually sort of private.

She squirmed to think that he might catch on just how much she liked him, and feel pity for the desperate older girl. There was only one thing to do: retreat and rebuild her walls. She quit the casual conversations for a while, staying at her own desk, doing her checking. It was boring, but it worked. After about six weeks of this, they had fallen into the habit of easy camaraderie again. She wrote in her journal, “I doubt he is actually interested in me, because I am too old for him, but if I do marry, I want someone like Gabe.” It was as much as she would admit.

About this time, the upper grade teacher took the younger one out and gently suggested that he be careful not to make the girl teacher like him too much. He didn’t think it was fair to be such buddies and enjoy her company without any plan to pursue her further. That was when the younger teacher said, “What if I told you the feeling is mutual?” So right there in the coffee shop the beans were spilled between the two guys, but the girl had no idea what was going on.

At Bible school that spring she told a circle of her friends that she didn’t think her future husband was even on the horizon yet, because really, her co-teacher had treated her so respectfully that she couldn’t tell what he was thinking in the line of love. She couldn’t imagine that the age difference didn’t make her practically a spinster in his mind. He had a lot of dreams, things he wanted to do and places he wanted to go.

Just friends. That was the mantra she kept repeating to herself.

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Things My Husband Taught Me

  • You are more than you think you are.
  • You should not beat yourself up when you don’t think you have done well enough. Get up and go on. You give grace to others, now accept grace for yourself.
  • When you don’t think you can go on, you probably need to sleep. Just go to bed and see how much better everything will be in the morning.
  • Your value is not determined by how many things you scratch off your to-do list.
  • Your beauty is not calculated by someone else’s pre-measured ideal.
  • You are a word warrior. You need to write.
  • You need to try things that are out of your comfort zone, even things that terrify you sometimes.
  • You should have some really nice things, like insulated outer-wear so that you don’t get too cold when you are doing scary things like glissading down mountain sides.
  • You are not the one who will keep your children in the evil day. Lay that burden down and trust God.
  • You don’t have to cook gourmet meals to impress. Just be happy when you serve the food.
  • You are juggling too many things. Let’s try an alternate route with school.
  • You are getting better at this thing called life.

I know that I am really, really blessed. I told you how I used to be afraid of the high swing. The desire to be safe would have sabotaged so many sources of joy in my life if Gabe hadn’t encouraged me to try them. I probably wouldn’t have the courage to blog without his support. 😀

Here’s to my good man! I am truly grateful for all the things I have learned in these years of sharing the graces of life.

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What We Didn’t Know

Yesterday was our 12th anniversary. See, here we are, after about 8 hours of just the two of us. It’s still there – that magic my friend, the preacher’s daughter, called “the glue when Dad puts their hands together in marriage”.

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Twelve years ago we could not have imagined awakening on our anniversary to conspiratorial whispers and clinks of crockery in the kitchen as our children made a surprise breakfast. We pretended to sleep while someone slipped loudly into our room with a lighted candle which he set directly under the lampshade, which I hastily rescued. The little sister got sent in at least three times to check if we are awake yet, seeing as the eggs were getting cold. The waiters brought in plates with pancakes and eggs, excellently cooked. My pancake was a teddy bear, Gabe’s was a penguin with its feet chewed off. Then came the crowning touch of a breakfast tray with steaming mugs of tea, a bowl of sugar and a pitcher of syrup, along with a funny little music box tinkling out a merry tune.

The children had gone to the neighbor’s yard sale the day before and picked out some anniversary presents. One was the holder for the lighted candle. Twelve years ago I wouldn’t have thought that I would ever cherish a rather unusual porcelain bird/flower candle holder painted in various astonishing, pearly colors. Another gift was a small pot with a lid that clasps, “for special things”. (Why do I think of Pooh?) I love it! And the music box… which someone made it their business to wind and rewind the entire time we ate our breakfast, because everyone knows there should be romantic music on an anniversary. On our honeymoon, we would have laughed at the idea of having an audience of five watching us eat our breakfast in bed, but we didn’t have the heart to send them away, seeing as they were so exceedingly pleased with themselves. It was actually quite romantic, when you consider that out of our love sprang these dear little people sprinkled all around us.

Twelve years ago we would not have been thinking in terms of going on a date in a rather large Suburban with very high miles, seeing as the tiny red Mazda was working just great for us. In fact, I believe we made merciless jokes about those family vehicles. Now we are poster children for those jokes. Guess what, we don’t even care! Neither would we have known how rejuvenating it is to a marriage to just spend time with each other, even if you are grocery shopping or ambling through the mall, hand-in-hand, checking out the clearance racks.

Sometimes we look back and laugh at those kids that got married, with all their ideas and plans. We hadn’t a clue that there were career switches for Gabe, from deck builder to teacher to nurse. We hoped for children, but we didn’t know. Sometimes through the years we would look at each other and say, “What do we think we are doing? We don’t even know what we are doing!” When the questions get too big, we have learned to just leave them to Providence and say, “At any rate, I’m with you.”

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