Remembering Uncle Barry

This has been a sad week for me. Sunday was Father’s Day, which is always a difficult day for me. Neither my legal father nor my biological father was very fatherly. Since they are both deceased, there is no possibility of those relationships improving. I am glad that there are many of you who were able to celebrate Father’s Day with a loving father.  

The other reason for my sadness this week is because today is the one-year anniversary of my dear Uncle Barry’s death. Uncle Barry was my most consistent father figure. He was my uncle by marriage to my mother’s sister, Evelyn. Aunt Evelyn passed away in 2003. Uncle Barry passed away one year ago today, June 23, 2021, at the age of 90. For the last ten years of his life, our family had the privilege of having Uncle Barry with us for most holidays, vacations, and many other times. He was an important part of most of our gatherings. Uncle Barry’s absence is felt in a profound way. As I reflect on Uncle Barry, I recall his life more than his death.

Lest you think Uncle Barry was a saint, let me dispel that. (None of us are, are we?) Uncle Barry was what many would call a “character.” He was irreverent many times, and his language was not always appropriate. Many times, I reminded him that the children could hear him, and to “watch it!” He was very particular about how and when he wanted things done, including weighing crab cakes so they were all the exact same size, and would cook the same. When he was cooking something for our large gatherings at Thanksgiving, he wanted to start long before necessary, and right in the middle of me preparing for another meal. He wanted what I cooked for him to be done a certain way, regardless of what else was going on. He was not demanding, just particular.

Soon-to-be ten-year-old granddaughter Virginia still talks about Uncle Barry’s “holy shirt,” the t-shirts he wore that had holes in them. He would even wear those in public if I did not insist on him being dressed more appropriately. I only remember him wearing shorts most of the time, regardless of the outside temperature. But he could “dress up” when necessary. I remember then six-year-old granddaughter Elsie’s comment when she saw Uncle Barry dressed for the formal ceremony honoring Mike as North Carolina State University’s 2012 College of Textiles Distinguished Award Recipient, when she said, “Uncle Barry, you look so NICE!”

There is so much more that I could tell you about Uncle Barry. I have so many memories. Some memories will stay with me forever.

I remember living with Uncle Barry and Aunt Evelyn when I was a teenager, and how he bought me a new outfit when I was in the 8th grade homecoming parade, although he could not really afford to. I remember having him walk me down the aisle for my first wedding, although I had a legal father who could have done so. Uncle Barry had been my father more than any other male, and I thought he deserved that honor. I remember the hours he spent looking for just the right presents for the grandchildren for Christmas, and how he and we evolved to having him with us for holidays. I remember him smoking a turkey for Thanksgiving. I remember him picking and cleaning crabs and making crab cakes. I remember him having his neighbor and friend Cecil make lots of barbecue for Mike, the best barbecue Mike said he had ever had.

I remember my last outing with Uncle Barry. He wanted a hot dog from his favorite place in Virginia Beach. About a month before he died, Uncle Barry and I made the forty-five-minute drive there, and after our meal, we rode around and (although I did not know it was what we were doing at the time) said goodbye to his old home place, places I had lived, and the beach. I am so glad that we made that trip.

My lasting memory of Uncle Barry is that he loved me unconditionally. While it was hard for him to say, “I love you,” he did say it. It was never hard for him to show his love. He showed it in his time spent with us. He showed it in embracing our extended family as his. He showed it in so many ways. And as we know, actions speak louder than words.

Rest in peace, dear Uncle Barry. While your passing left a big void, your life with us gave us so much to cherish.

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Summer Traditions and Memories

Our family has been going to Hilton Head every summer for our family vacation for about ten years. Our family believes in vacations and has taken them every year since our family blended in 1984. When our girls were small, we usually went to Ormond Beach, Florida for a week’s vacation, with our girls taking friends along with them. That location was selected because it was close to Mike’s parents, and we could have a vacation and also visit with them. We somehow knew that trips away were important and made them a priority. As the years evolved, we continued our tradition of family vacations, although the venue changed. Of all the choices Mike and I made for our family, our family vacations are among the most important.

For the past few years, our family vacations have been to Hilton Head. Now we travel with not just our children, but our grandchildren and their friends. The number of us gathering in Hilton Head each year varies. This year there were fourteen of us for some of the week, and ten of us for the full week. We sunned, swam, shopped, and took long walks. We ate (too much) wonderful food. We did puzzles, played board games, and played pickleball. We look forward to this time together every year. Traditions are created and memories are made, memories that will outlive us.

Hopefully your family has traditions, making memories that will live in your hearts forever. Work is necessary, and even fulfilling. But no amount of work satisfies the way pillow fights between cousins do.

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What To Do When Boredom Sets In

I am struggling with a couple of days of boredom this week, which is a rare occurrence for me. I am not one who is bored often. There is always plenty to do. Cleaning closets, cleaning the garage, pulling weeds, etc. There is always something to do around the house. But it is much too hot today in Raleigh to be outside pulling weeds or cleaning out the garage. And cleaning out my closets does not appeal to me today!

There is always reading. But for some reason I do not usually read during the day; that is my nighttime pleasure. I thought about going to Belk’s to use the $10 coupon that I received that expires today, but decided that the blog I wrote last week will not allow that! So, what should I do so I don’t resort to snacking?!

I decided to write a few thank you notes. I just returned from visiting with a couple of life-long friends, and they are worthy of a note thanking them for their hospitality. After all, who doesn’t like to receive a handwritten note? If/when we do receive one, it is usually the first thing opened in a stack of mail. And since it is best that a thank you note to be written in a timely manner, doing that will be a good use of my time. In fact, there is another thank you note that I need to write that is very much overdue, so I will also write this one, finally.

It is perfectly fine to choose to rest and relax and to not think that we have to be productive every waking hour. That is different than being bored. What is not good is to go through our days aimlessly, not focused on rest, and not making decisions about how we are spending our time. It is not fine to get to the end of our day or days, and not have anything to show for our time. Time is a valuable resource, and wasting time is different than choosing to slow down and rest.

Aimlessly scrolling through social media because we can’t think of anything else to do is not a good use of our time. Choosing to spend time on social media because we want to check in and see how our friends are doing is different, and that can be a productive use of our time.

Summer allows us to have a less structured schedule than many of us do during the school year. During the school year, those who have children in school and after-school activities that compete with work schedules never even have to think about being bored; their challenge is getting everything done that has to be done. Even without school-age children, those who have busy work schedules with too many priorities to manage long for a time when boredom can set in. Their challenge isn’t boredom, it is overload.

Summer provides a more relaxed schedule for many people, yet even so, making the time meaningful is important. So, decide how your time will be spent so aimlessness and even boredom do not set in. While structured goal setting may not be necessary, setting two or three priorities for each day and working to accomplish those will make you feel, and in fact be, more effective.  

It is more important to be and feel effective than it is to be and feel productive. We can be productive and get a lot accomplished, but it may not be the things that are most important for us to accomplish. That is different than being effective.

So, what will it be for you? Will you let boredom set in, and give in to it, accomplishing little? Or will you focus on being more productive, getting things done, yet not necessarily the things most important for you to get done? Or perhaps you will focus on being effective, accomplishing those things that get you closer to what is important to you.   

It is your decision to make.

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Wasting Time and Money

Time is our most valuable resource. Money is also a valuable resource. In fact, if we need or want more money and we have time, we can make more money. Yet we sometimes act as if we will live forever, and waste both time and money. I have good examples of both this week.

I decided to clean out my kitchen pantry and ended up throwing away many things that were too much out of date to feel comfortable using them. I am not rigid about “best by” dates, but when things are months out of date, (and in some cases, years!) I toss them. I now have the neatest pantry I think I have ever had! And I know what I have, for I can see the items, and I wasn’t able to when things were crammed in. It feels very cathartic to have a clean and organized pantry. I am bothered, however, about the money I wasted on items I had purchased and not used. Those who know me know that I hate waste and that I freeze small portions of food instead of throwing them away. I also use most of what I have frozen, so it isn’t wasted.

Earlier today I thought I would go out and do a little shopping. For what, you might wonder? Well, for nothing in particular, but just because I was bored! Thankfully I changed my mind, since there was nothing that I needed to buy. And what about need? Need is indeed different than want. While I do know the difference in needs and wants, sometimes I act on wants when I should be acting on needs. For whatever reason, today I was able to resist that.

Today, I recognized that I was bored, and decided to do some straightening up in my closet. There I came face to face with more wasted money, items that I had bought that I have not really used. Clothes that were not a good purchase when I think of the per usage cost. Too many shoes and too many purses. Shoes that I have not worn for years, and therefore likely will not wear, yet fail to give to someone who might need them. I was glad that I had not purchased more shoes when I was shopping with a friend this weekend. I found several pairs of shoes that I liked, that were a good price and almost bought until I realized that I have more shoes than I wear now. I did not need any more shoes, and I did not buy them.    

I am reminded of 2006, the year that I did not buy anything for myself or our home the entire year. (Other than a few necessities that I replaced when used.)  With Hurricane Katrina my stimulus, I decided that I had a spending addiction, and decided to take a year off from spending. I journaled the journey, and my lessons from that year can be found in my book, A Year in the Life of a Recovering Spendaholic.

My year of no spending changed me in two key areas. One, I am no longer (usually, at least) an impulsive buyer. When I want to make a purchase, I often wait to make the purchase, and often the urge to purchase the item passes. The second area of change is what this article is about, wasting money. While I am more conscious of ways not to waste money, and have made some progress in this area, this is still an area of growth for me. Throwing out food and having shoes and clothes that I do not wear are examples of this.

Most of us have too much, especially in the United States, and do not even know what we have. Yet we too often buy more and fail to even use what we have. We continue to waste time and money.

Back to wasting time for a moment. What can we do today to focus on what is most important to us? Before another summer passes. Before another year passes. 2022 is almost half over. When we get to the end of this year, what will we have to show for it?

Perhaps we can make some decisions in June that will help us focus on those things that we say are most important to us. So when December 31, 2022, arrives, we can look back on 2022 and know that another year was not wasted.  

Time, our most valuable resource, is finite. Let’s live like we know that.

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The Years Pass So Quickly

Like all of you, I am heartbroken over the senseless death of innocent children and adults in Uvalde, Texas.  Words are inadequate. Prayers for all of those touched directly by this tragedy. But prayers are not enough. Our country needs to find better answers to this problem. This tragedy occurred while I was traveling in Alabama.

I just spent a wonderful week visiting with life-long friends in Alabama. These are two friends, Pam and Judy, that I have had for a very long time. Judy and I have been friends for 54 years, and Pam and I for 48 years. Since I moved from Alabama in 1981, we have each taken turns traveling from North Carolina to Alabama and Alabama to North Carolina to maintain our relationships. These friends are more family than friends. The distance does mean that we only get together about once a year, which is never enough time.

Mike had a meeting in Atlanta last week, so we decided to make a trip to Alabama while we were close. Mike and I visited with Pam and her husband Butch in Gadsden, Alabama for a couple of days, then he flew home and I stayed behind. Our visit included spending time with soon-to-be 92-year-old Coke Man/Cokee, which are the names daughter Tara gave to Pam’s dad, Coy, who has been like a grandfather to her. We also enjoyed time with Pam and Butch’s grandchildren, 6-year-old Ella Mae, 3- year-old Emma, and 1-year-old Wyatt.

Judy’s house is undergoing major renovation, but we did spend an afternoon visiting with the family, including grandchildren 10-year-old Suzy and 3-year-old Jake, (which I failed to take photos of!) Then Judy and I escaped to Auburn and Birmingham for a few days for our time together. We shopped, went antiquing, and had wonderful meals, then went back to a hotel at the end of each evening, enjoying having no responsibilities. It really did not matter what our days included, other than to be together.

Relationships take time to nurture, and the effort and time are worth it when those involved choose to stay connected. Through the years there were times when it would have been easy to fail to spend the time and effort. But we chose to stay connected instead, and I am so glad that we did. It is so heartwarming to pick up where we left off, telling the same old stories, and reliving the memories of our shared lives.

It has been said that some people are in our lives for a reason, some for a season, and some for a lifetime. These friends are lifetime friends, friends that are actually family.

I hope that you have a Pam and Judy in your life, and that you nurture those relationships. For we never know when we are together for the last time.

Like the 21 people in Uvalde, Texas.

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Atlanta Reimagined

Mike and I are in Atlanta for a few days. Mike has a three-day meeting at the Georgia World Congress Center. We are staying outside of town, so I have been dropping Mike off in the morning and picking him up at the end of the day. I am using these three days to do something I love to do, shop. And by shopping, I am referring to more window shopping than buying. This is day 2, and I have not bought anything yet, other than less than $5.00 of food and drink.

Yesterday, day 1, I went to Phipps Plaza, and today I am at Lenox Square Mall. The main reason I came to the malls is to get my daily walk inside where the 80 plus degree humid temperature does not interfere. Both days I made myself get my hour walk in before doing anything else. Then I enjoyed the shops.

I love Lenox Square Mall and Phipps Plaza, but I haven’t been to them in years, and not just because of COVID. Years ago when I traveled from Alabama to Virginia and then to North Carolina I would often stop in Atlanta for a shopping excursion at these malls. Breaking up my eight to ten-hour driving trip with a couple of hours at Saks and Neiman Marcus and other loved stores was a treat. Through the years these malls changed. A few years ago (I am not sure exactly how many years ago) Lenox acquired a bad reputation. There were reports of violence and other unseemly behaviors. For this reason, I went to Phipps first, expecting it to be the “better” of the two malls, and also because that is where my favorite department store, Saks, is located.

Phipps was fine, Saks is still there, but not as much else. Lenox has definitely changed for the better. Neiman Marcus and Bloomingdales are its two anchor stores. There is also a Macy’s at Lenox and many other stores. There are more high-end designer stores at Lenox, and there is a two-level Apple store. There is also a Capital One Café, where Capital One customers receive 50% off of all purchases, with a wonderful seating area and free Wi-Fi. This creates a very relaxing way to write this week’s blog!

A few insights from my two-day shopping experience. Retail is not dead in Atlanta, quite the contrary. The malls, especially Lenox, are full of people during the day. There must be plenty of money in Atlanta, for the abundance of higher-end goods is amazing. If these items did not sell, they would not be filling the stores. This is good news for Mike’s industry; apparel, textiles, and fashion.

The healthy retail economy in Atlanta is also good news for those with disposable income. It remains to be seen given the price of gas and the overall U.S. economy whether the sale of these upper-end items will hold. The current health of my favorite stores in Atlanta makes me sad for my favorite local Belk’s in Raleigh. Belk’s Crabtree has changed from a high-end department store with many designer brands to a store that looks more like a discount chain store with very few designer brands. Whereas I used to do most of my regular shopping at Belk’s, I do not shop there much anymore, and never for clothes, since they no longer carry the brands I wear. I will be very surprised if Belk’s survives another year, and not just because of their brands.

Why do I refer to“designer” brands, especially upper-end designer brands?  I have long since known that I have a “need” for quality and beauty. It is a need, not a want. While one can find quality and beauty in lower-priced items, it is not common. Quality and beauty usually cost more money and are more often found in designer brands. Having said that, there is a limit to what I will (usually) spend, even for quality and beauty. I have found that I am able to buy items I like on sale, and since quality results in items living on for a very long time, they are not replaced as often as lower quality items.  

Other observations of my shopping experience in Atlanta. Security is very prevalent at Lenox especially, perhaps because of the past, and maybe even due to the recent shootings around the country. And the security presence is not just for looks. I was stopped by a security guard and asked about a small bag I was carrying, which only had my Ipad in it. When it was clear that I wasn’t carrying anything else, the security guard was satisfied.

Although I haven’t bought anything (other than food,) I have been tempted. There are some good sales, and on brands I wear. I have talked myself out of several things because I do not need anything. I struggled about not buying a black Eileen Fisher (my favorite designer) top that is on sale for a very good price. Then I remembered organizing my closet last week and that I have several black Eileen Fisher tops. I do want (note I did not say “need”!) a pair of white linen pants, and if I find them for a good price, I may buy them.

Being a bibliophile, the absence of bookstores at both malls is troubling. Are books not selling? Since I brought at least ten books with me on this trip, I do not need to buy any books, but I love to wander through bookstores.

Other than spending time at Lenox and Phipps, I have not done much else. Mike and I did attend a lovely reception and dinner at the World of Coca-Cola Museum, where I had not been before. The food was delicious, and included Coke floats for dessert, from which I successfully abstained. I remembered walking an hour each day and decided the Coke floats, even as good as they probably were, could not be worth the calories/WW points.

My time in Atlanta has been delightful. I feel energized by being here, able to experience the city, or at least the shops, leisurely. I concur with the Capital One staff person next to me who just said, “I love Atlanta!”   

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Relationship Management

Relationships are tough. This is not new knowledge, but it seems that staying out of trouble with others is even harder now than it used to be. I have some opinions about why I think this is, but I believe it is more productive to focus on what to do about it. My three recommendations follow.

  1. We need to make sure that our relationship with ourselves is healthy. It is difficult to be in a good relationship with others if/when we are not in a good place with ourselves. It is important for us to feel good about ourselves or we can allow others to treat us in a manner that is not healthy. We need to feel confident without being arrogant. We need to know and understand what we need from relationships, and make sure that we are giving that to ourselves. One example is that I do not appreciate others who do not listen to me, and who act as if they know what I need when such isn’t even clear to me. I need to listen to myself and have the courage to act on what I know I need to do. When I feel that a relationship with someone else isn’t what it needs to be, I need to make sure that my relationship with myself is. Only then will I be able to behave in a manner that is positive and productive with others.

2. We need to manage our expectations of others and refuse to make assumptions about what they are thinking or doing, and why. This is difficult when we communicate through technology, especially texting. It makes no sense to me that some people do not answer texts, and/or do not do so in a timely manner. You might wonder what I mean by “timely manner.” My standard for answering texts, emails, and phone calls is twenty-four hours after having been received, or sooner, when possible. Yes, we can miss seeing a text when it comes in. So, why not check our texts a couple of times a day? Most texts deserve a response, if only an emoticon, so the other person knows it was received. And how do we interpret no response from someone who usually responds? This is a slippery slope. We can send a follow-up text, such as “just want to make sure you received this.” That can, however, irritate the other person, especially if they have not responded because they did not want to because they are not happy with the message they received. I have decided to let it go, unless I have a “need to know,” not just a “want to know.” I also want to avoid making assumptions about the no response. After all, communication is difficult in the best of circumstances, and some people are better at it than others. Please know that I am not implying that I am better at this than others. I fail at this at times. This message is for me. If it helps anyone else, I am glad.

3. Dr. Stephen Covey’s habit “Begin With The End In Mind” can save us a lot of heartaches. Before we do anything, including say anything, we need to determine our desired result. Hopefully one of our desired results is to maintain a good relationship with the other person. How we say what we say, and whether or not we even say it, can determine whether we are able to do so. I have had some negative feelings about some of my close connections recently. I have decided that were I to be open about those, it would likely cause a problem in the relationships that might not be repaired. I have also recognized that if the others wanted to do differently, they would. This is another example of us needing to change our expectations. If there is more positive in the relationships than negative, we can weather these storms. If not, the relationships may have served their purpose. Some people are in our lives for a reason, some for a season, and some for a lifetime. Those to who we are connected for a lifetime require and deserve more of our emotional energy and commitment. We need to be able to let some of what can bother us with others who aren’t our lifetime connections go.

Relationships are important. We all need to do everything we can to make our relationships the best that they can be.

I just finished listening to the audible version of Atlas of the Heart by Brené Brown, and I highly recommend it. I have written before that I do not appreciate Brené Brown’s use of profanity, and this book includes that as well, and adds absolutely nothing to its message. But she is so wise, and I have decided to overlook the profanity for the benefit of her wisdom.

I wish you a wonderful Spring, filled with sunshine and flowers, and great times with people who you love and who love you.

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Happy Mother’s Day

In this post I am doing something I have never done before; I am reposting an earlier post. I have been blogging (mostly) weekly since January 2015, and I have never repeated a post. I knew I wanted this week’s post to be about Mother’s Day, but I was undecided about the specifics. I looked at all of my previous posts for this week in May, and found several for Mother’s Day. I read them all, and decided to repost this.

Mothers are a special group of people. It is the one role that we keep for most of our lives. Regardless of our children’s ages, they remain on our hearts and in our minds. Most mothers put the needs of their children above their own needs. And I am speaking in general. Of course there are some mothers who do not model the best behavior or do the best for their children. But that is not true for the majority.

While mothers are special, they are not perfect. But for most of us, there will never be another person in our lives who cares as much for us. Not our spouses, and not our children. There is something about being a mother that transcends everything else. It should not be entered into lightly.

Happy Mother’s Day to all mothers. Your actions create the future for all of us.

Now, let’s go down memory lane and read my post from May 11, 2017. The message is still timely.

Mother’s Day is here again, the one day in the year that we are encouraged to honor our mothers.  And mothers should be honored.  There is no one else who has given more for her children than a mother.  Now, I need to qualify this some.  All mothers do not meet this standard.  There are some mothers who for different reasons are not nurturing, and who do not give their children what they need.  Some of you reading this had a mother like that.  Some of you have nurtured your mothers, and have been to your mothers what they could not be for you.  God bless you.  You have been able to rise above your circumstances and be for others what they should have been for you.  You are given permission to skip most of the rest of this, for it does not apply to you.

A few other qualifiers, or disqualifiers, are in order.  I feel somewhat of a hypocrite writing this.  My mother passed away in 1998.  You can read my love story to her in my May 4, 2016 Blog Post, which you can access at www.fralixgroup.com.

My mother and I had a troubled relationship for many years, and I did not do what I am recommending that you do to honor your mother. Oh, how I wish I had more time to do so.  But when time is over, it is over.  That is one of my main messages.  I learned that lesson the hard way.

I want to make it clear that I am not referring to my children in these words.  If they find themselves here, so be it.  But I am not using this platform to send them a message I do not have the courage to deliver to them in person.    

I have had several conversations with mothers lately, and the themes in those conversations are similar.  When talking about her daughter, one woman said, “How do I say this kindly?  Well, I will just say it.  My daughter is indifferent to me.”  This mother moved to the town she lives in to be close to her daughter.  And her daughter is indifferent to her?!  Go figure.  This daughter is a high-powered executive who makes a lot of money. I hope her money keeps her company in her later years, for I don’t know if she will have relationships that will.  Her mother seems to be resigned to the reality of their relationship, and has an otherwise full life, but how sad that she and her daughter do not have the relationship they could. 

I spoke with an older couple whose son and family live near them. There have been some health issues with their son recently, and we were talking about how he is.  They looked so sad when they said, “You know, we don’t really know what is going on. They do not call, and don’t seem to want us to.”  This couple moved to the area where their son and family live to be closer to them since they, the parents, were getting older; but for what reason?  To be faced with the reality that the relationship is not what they would want it to be?  It would be easier to be states away and be able to excuse the lack of attention due to the physical distance.

We are encouraged to buy presents for and/or send flowers to our mothers in honor of them on Mother’s Day.  I love flowers and gifts, and many other mothers do as well.  But that is one day, and that is easy.   What are you doing the other 364 days of the year?

Do you call your mother just to see how she is doing?   And I do mean call, not text or email.  Your mother loves to hear your voice, wants to talk to you, have conversations with you, to catch up on what is going on in your life and in the lives of your family.  If you only call to give information, and fail to ask how your mother is doing, you are missing an important connection.  And you can call at least once a week; that doesn’t take much time, does it?  What are you doing that is more important than checking in on and talking to your mother?  Believe me about this; you will long for time to talk to your mother when she is gone. 

There is more that I could say, but nothing more important. 

Just call your mother.

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38 Years and Still Counting

Today is Mike’s and my 38th anniversary. Last year we celebrated our anniversary in St. Maarten, with royal treatment by our friends Ron, Harry, and all of the staff at Joe’s Jewelry. Memories were made there that will always be treasured. This year we are staying closer to home, celebrating with a few days in Myrtle Beach.

The years have passed so quickly. We are not the same people that we were when we said our vows in 1984. Our marriage is not the same. But we are still together, having decided that our commitment is still strong. (An everyday decision!)

When we married we blended our families. Tara and Chatham were 9 and 7 on April 28, 1984. They now have their own families, and since you can do the math, there is no need for me to record their ages! When we married our families united, and we are bound together as a family even tighter thirty-eight years later.

I am glad that marriage was the norm in 1984. I realize that times have changed, but I am glad that we married before it became common to do otherwise. It is not uncommon now for couples to live together, have children together, and still not marry. My intent is not to be judgmental about the choices of others, just to note that for many people, the commitment to marriage is no longer what it once was. I am not questioning whether one’s commitment to a partner without marriage can be strong. I have no experience with that. But I do have experience with marriage.

What makes a marriage work? There are several answers to this, at least in my opinion. The first is commitment. There have certainly been times in these thirty-eight years that walking away was an option. But when I (I can only speak for myself!) considered the family, not just Mike and me, that option was no longer a choice. For this is about more than us individually, and even collectively. It is also about our family.

What about the divorces Mike and I both had before we married? Yes, divorce does happen and happened with us. Since this post is about our commitment to this marriage, I will leave the past where it is.

Other than commitment, what keeps a marriage strong? Shared values. Trust. Honesty. Respect. Good communication. Intimacy. Shared interests. While there may be other variables as well, if any of these are absent, the marriage will not be strong, even if it survives. To be happy and fulfilled with a partner, and to stay committed, requires shared values, trust, honesty, respect, good communication, intimacy, and shared interests. Commitment alone is not enough.

Relationships matter, whatever is their legal distinction. Make yours the best it can be. And this is daily work!

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Changing Me Through Spring Cleaning

I have been a little under the weather for a week, so I haven’t had much energy. Thankfully, my COVID test was negative. Not being one who does very well just sitting around, I have been doing some cleaning and organizing. I decided that this needed to be done anyway, and if Mike and I decide to sell our home in Raleigh soon, (still not sure!) this cleaning out will come in handy. Those who know me know that I go through this organizing phase fairly often. Unfortunately, at times I think I do more moving things around than getting rid of anything!

In cleaning out my kitchen junk drawer, I threw away expired coupons, as well as a lot of other stuff that I have no idea why I kept. I don’t know why I even bother to keep coupons, since I usually do not use them and throw them away when they have expired. I decided that I needed a couple of containers for that drawer, although my friend, Leah Friedman, professional organizer par excellent, (Raleighgreengables.com) says, “Do not buy more containers to put stuff in, get rid of stuff!” I believe this makes sense in general yet having these containers to contain stuff I am keeping makes me feel calmer.

I also cleaned out my bathroom makeup drawers and threw away a lot of makeup and samples that I will never use. I still have too much skincare stuff, and I have difficulty throwing things away, so I am not through with those drawers yet.

I am packing up some china and related items that I will likely never use and taking those things to the antique and consignment stores. This is harder for me than the junk drawer and the bathroom drawers, but I have decided that it is foolish to hold onto things that I am not using and will most likely not use. The fact that it is difficult to get any value from these items makes letting them go more difficult. But there is a limit to what even I am willing to hold on to. I have a cabinet full of bowls that I never use, and if I haven’t used them by now, I most likely will not use them. I bought them through the years because I liked them and they were a good price. I still like them, and yet not enough to keep them when it is clear that they are taking up space unnecessarily. Of course, the daughters do not want them! I do not need to get started on that!

I went to a friend’s new house earlier this week and was amazed at the amount of white space everywhere. There was absolutely nothing on counters in any room. While I will never get to that point, I am ready to move from where I am. I am looking at my spaces with new eyes and realizing that having a picture or a collectible everywhere there is space, feels cluttered to me. And the amount of furniture we have is totally unnecessary. So, I am now emotionally ready to get rid of a lot of stuff, whether we move from our home or not. Making these changes now will prepare us better if/when we do move.

How about you? Have you done any cleaning out lately? Do your spaces give you a sense of calm, or chaos?

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