Monthly Archives: August 2011

What Are We Really Fighting About?

My husband and I have the distinction of probably being the only couple in America ever to have a knock-down, drag out argument about how people remove nose hairs.

I will pause here to let that sink in.

We had an argument over nose hairs.

We were deadly earnest about it, too.   We took our stands – plucking versus trimming – and neither of us would back down.

On the face of it, arguing about nose hairs is ridiculous.  But this argument is symptomatic of a larger issue that frequently pops up between two people swimming along in a relationship — any two people.

We argue with co-workers.  We argue with strangers.  But most of us argue most fiercely at home.  Mom and Dad, sister and brother, husband and wife – these arguments are a constant in most of our worlds.

Who squeezed the toothpaste from the middle?

Who left the dirty dishes in the sink?

Who left the toilet seat up?

Any one of these questions can lead to a thundering verbal battle.  Accusations fly faster than bullets, striking our opponent (who just 10 seconds ago was our loved one), wounding before our very eyes.  We argue with a ferocity that is frightening.  We argue without really thinking about why.

Back to the nose hairs.  My husband and I were deep into this topic, arguing loudly, vigorously, intensely.  Then, suddenly, one of us asked the other a telling question.  What would Martians say if they could lift the corner of our roof and listen in?

Not only did the argument end, we burst into laughter, holding our sides and wondering how we could have gotten so deeply angry over such a stupid topic.

We got a good laugh out of our ridiculous argument; we also got an insight that has saved us countless hours of bickering, backbiting and verbal abuse.  We learned why we were fighting.

Control.

We were arguing over control.  Who’s in charge here – me or you?  Who gets to rule the roost? Run the house?  Make the decisions?

We also learned that we share control; both of us are in charge.  We make decisions.  Now, when we are vergeof yet another stupid argument, we just ask one question – What would the Martians say?

Then we settle in with a cup of coffee and talk our way to the answer

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Where Is Your Music?

I spent years wondering why it was possible for Ludwig Von Beethoven and Bederic Smetanau to write some of the most moving music in the world when they were both deaf – no sound penetrating their worlds.

I think I figured it out.

Beethoven could hear nothing when he wrote his magnificent choral symphony, the 9th and final symphony of his life.  Listen to The 4th movement of the Choral Symphony.  Smetanau wrote his incredible, lyric ode to his home land from which he was exiled Ma Vlast, in complete silence.   Only 11 minutes long, the Moldau shows Smetanau\’s love for his homeland.

How could they create such beautiful sound without being able to hear?

Perhaps that is the very reason they could create music that moves men and women to tears even today, hundreds of years after they composed it.

Unlike the vast majority of people living in this world, these men were not distracted by the everyday sounds of their lives.  No incessant chattering, no hoof beats in the streets below, no vendors hawking wares.  All they could hear was their inner music, the rhythm, beat, melody and lyrics that coursed through their very blood and poured onto page after page of parchment as notes.

I believe every person has music inside them – their own special sound.  Sometimes, if you look quickly enough, you can see it flash in their eyes.  Or you’ll hear fingertips drumming on a table, maybe see someone sketching the echo of their own soul on a notepad, in yet another meeting.  So, where does our music go?  Why does it only slip out when we aren’t watching or we think no one else is?

We drown it out with a torrent of sound.  Television always on.  Radio playing in the background.  iPod plugged in and ripping through song after song.  Texting.  Chatting.  Reading magazines, the newspaper, billboards, even labels.  Every day, all day, we are all assaulted by noise.

Who could possibly hear the thread of their inner symphony?

Ten years ago, this month, I embarked on an experiment to try to reconnect with myself, find my creativity, begin to hear my music, my voice again.  I took my journey with Julia Cameron – well-known author of The Artist’s Way.  A twelve week, self-study course, The Artist’s Way makes it possible for anyone reading it and doing the exercises to find their way home to themselves.

One of the toughest assignments for me – a bona fide noise junkie – was the week of when I was not allowed to read books, newspapers, magazines, even boxes or bottles.  I wasn’t supposed to watch television or DVDs, go online or listen to the radio or my iPod.  At the beginning of the week, I was terrified by this idea.  At the end of the week, I was astonished by what I learned.

I learned that I loved silence; I craved it.  And the lesson stuck with me.  I don’t play the radio in the car anymore.  There is no television on during the day, no iPod unless I am meditating and need to listen to Jeff Strong’s One Tribe to help me reach center.  I don’t subscribe to the newspaper anymore.  I cut magazine subscriptions down from ten to two – Countryside and Oprah.

I write now.  I draw like I used to as a young girl.  I grow fruit and vegetables and flowers.  I create, sew and wear beautiful clothes.  And everyday, I actually take the time to tune into the small sounds of the quiet and gentle world living all around me – crickets, birds, the wind in the pines – my own personal symphony of life.

Have you found your music yet?

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Dottie Domestic’s Solar Dryer

Are you looking for a new dryer?  Clothes dryer that is!  I got mine about three months ago, all the way from Ireland.  It is stainless steel with brass accents.  It dries fast but doesn’t shrink the clothes or wear out the fibers.  There is just one hitch. My new dryer is a Breezecatcher – a  4 arm outdoor clothesline!

Described by happy customers (including me) as .. “superior product”…..”a work of art”…. “an excellent design” …..”a thing of beauty”….”superb workmanship”….”better than off the shelf products,” each Breezecatcher is hand-crafted, durable and designed to last.

And the Breezecatcher saves money by saving energy!  My electric bill dropped by $73 the first month I used the Breezecatcher  instead of the clothes dryer.  Every month this summer I have saved between $70 and $80 just by hanging out our clothes.  And I only do 2 loads a week!  Imagine how much a family of 4 could save.

And there is the added advantage of reducing my carbon footprint!  When my small effort is added to the savings of all the people in the United States who used Breezecatchers in 2008, we saved  2,062,500 KWHs or the equivalent of 885 tons of CO2.

And there’s one more advantage to hanging clothes out to dry.  It’s a little old-fashioned but standing outside listening to birds, watching my Westies play, hearing the chickens cluck, brings me real and treasured moments of peace.  There is no noise other than those natural sounds, no media, no, activity – just the birds, the breeze and me.

So consider saving money and saving your sanity by buying a new dryer for your back yard.

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What Makes The Best GIft

I’ve been thinking about gifts, lately.  My anniversary probably triggered it.

What makes the best gift?  An intriguing question because the answer is as different as every person reading this post.

I was a high-flying executive for years.  I got expensive jewelry, trips to Napa, Lacque de chine pens, vacations in Bermuda and dinners at 5 star restaurants.  I enjoyed every one of these gifts but I bet no one will believe what my favorite gifts were — the ones that made cry and laugh, sometimes, simultaneously.

The first was an old oak rocking chair that my husband and my father-in-law found in the bin, refinished, recovered, put a bow on and slid next to the Christmas tree.  They worked for hours on this chair, lovingly bringing its wood back to life and recovering the seat.  A gift from their hands and hearts, this rocking chair still has pride of place in my living room, 20 years after I first saw it and started to cry.

Then there was the gift that made me laugh out loud, jump up and down and hug my husband until he couldn’t breath.  He hid it in the garage and led me out there one Christmas morning.  Taking off the blind fold, turning on the garage light, he uncovered it.

NOT a shiny new car….not for me.  A shiny new John Deere rototiller.  I could not believe my eyes.  I danced around it.  I danced around him.  I read the manual and longed for the snow to melt, the ground to soften, for the right day, the right time to fire up “Tillie”.

Then there was this year’s anniversary gift.  The box was small.  I thought it was another necklace or bracelet destined to join last year’s jade pendant and the gold, silver, diamond, sapphire and lapis lazuli ornaments stuffed in my jewelry stand, worn on special occasions only.  Stalling, shaking it, trying to put on my game face, I gently began to unwrap the gift.

Pulling paper off the bottom of the box, fanning it out on either side and turning the package over.  I gasped.  Something more precious than gold or jewels fell into my hand,

Secateurs.  He gave me secateurs.  I could not believe it.

Right now you’re probably asking, “What the heck are secateurs?”  To a gardener, they are a precious metal, a jewel without comparison.  And I was holding the top of the line — Felco secateurs.  In every day language, secateurs are pruners but that is way too simple a description for these jewels.  Felco says they will change your life.  They will be passed down from generation to generation — family heirlooms,

They are a work of art.  When I try pruning bushes, vines or even small trees with loppers, I often whack off a limb you didn’t mean to.  And I have to use brute  force — something in low supply in my 63-year-old body!  With the secateurs, it’s a bit like slicing butter – soft butter at that.  So this was a gift of extraordinary value to me.

My man knows me by heart.  His gifts show that.  He’s had to figure out that a rocking chair, a rototiller and a pair of pruners would have me singing about the best gifts I ever got.

Which gift made you laugh out loud?  Which one made you cry.  What makes the best gift for you?

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A Magic Marriage

My husband and I have been married for 27 years.  We still hold hands.  We still surprise each other with small presents on days that are only special because we make them so.  I cook his favorite dishes; he fixes everything from broken earrings to my John Deere rototiller.  We love each other more today than we did all those years ago when we said, “I do.”

So, how did we know our marriage would last, would be magical?  We didn’t.

My motto in 1983 was, “I could spend my own money and make myself miserable; why would I need a man?”

There was no place in my life for someone to love other than my daughter.  So Pat was a complete surprise.  I met him in October but thought he was coming to the television station to visit his girlfriend.  I didn’t really notice that he spent a lot of time in the newsroom, talking with me.

When he asked me out in early November, he says I said “No” and kept on typing. He was so surprised that he asked me why.  I told him I didn’t date other women’s boyfriends.  He made the hapless woman come into the news room and tell me they were not dating.

Since I had made a complete fool out of myself, I agreed to date him but decided I was going to show him the full me – no fencing or ploys – all of who I was right down to what I liked and didn’t like.

We went to dinner. It was December 3rd, 1983.  I remember that we talked the entire time we were in the restaurant.  We talked and walked along the Delaware River afterward then went back to my condo to talk some more.  After he left, I knew I was in trouble.  I could love him but didn’t want to.

We went out on two more dates then started spending every waking and sleeping moment that we could, together.  In February, he called the television station and asked me to marry him. I said yes.  We were married on 8/4/84 – just 8 months after our first date.

Were we crazy?  Yes. Was it a leap of faith?  Yes.   Has it been easy?  No.  In fact, the first year was so tough both of us had second thoughts.

Like all couples, we were and are two, totally different people with totally different baggage, interests and drives.  I love the country, write in my spare time, have a horse, garden for food and raise chickens. He is a city boy at heart, likes to watch sports TV to excess and only has one outside interest – cars.

So how have we made it this far?

There are two elements that I think have helped us to live and love through 27 years together.  The first is the fact that our values are the same.  Way down at the core of our beings, we believe in the same things and will fight for those beliefs.

The second is that we made a commitment to each other and have honored it.  We are honest with each other to a fault – sometimes causing arguments but also clearing the air and once again, settling us into the same place with the same drives and desires.  We never forget to say please and thank you.  That sounds small but it reinforces the respect that must underpin any relationship.

Our marriage has been tested by the fires of illness and come through stronger than ever.  My husband was diagnosed with cancer in 2001.  For the last decade, we both lived through more than 30 hospitalizations for surgeries, emergencies, and infections.

Weeks and months of our lives were wrapped around hospital rooms and prescriptions and one blow after another relative to his health.  Every time he would start to recover, bang – right back into the hospital with a new twist or turn ranging from another tumor to a blocked coronary artery.

This proud Italian man has paid a hefty price physically and emotionally.  He is alternately sad and angry and he tends to take both out on me because I am the only place he feels safe.  I have been left with no faith that he will live long enough for us to retire.  On bad days, I am tired and scared and sad.

I have seen other marriages crumble over far less than 10 years of fear and sorrow but not ours.  We treasure each and every day together.  We still enjoy each other’s company; we still love each other.  We have a deep and abiding love but like all love stories, ours is punctuated by extremes.  So there are those days when things have gone a bit wonky and like changes to a bit of dislike for each other.

But we work at marriage, every day.  We are bound together by joy and genuine caring.  We are facing our future, whatever that is, together.  On the good days, in the present moment that we try to live in, we are happy, content and enjoying ourselves.

And that’s why our marriage is magic.

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Marriage As A Menage A Trois

Tomorrow, my husband and I will celebrate our 27th wedding anniversary.  We had our first date on December 3rd, 1983, got engaged in February of 1984 and married on 8/4/84.  Friends and relatives on both sides of the aisle said it would never last.  They were almost right.

For the first 5 years, we were more like a collision than a marriage.  The three of us — this Irish agnostic, liberal woman and her 15 going on 50-year-old daughter marrying a conservative, Italian man who didn’t even have a dog until we showed up.  Together, we had to figure out how to merge lives, furniture, ideals and even pets.

I would love to say it went smoothly – the way it does on those made for TV movies about blended families.  The truth?

We had blazing rows – daughter and mother – husband and wife – father and daughter — any combination thereof, was always up for a verbal, vocal battle about everything from who used the last of the ice cubes (remember, we didn’t have automatic ice makers 28 years ago) to who left the towel on the bathroom floor.  We saw a therapist in the same combinations listed above and went alone, off and on for about 3 years.  We needed all the help we could get.

Our daughter was a typical teenager — her room was an absolute pig sty most of the time.  My new husband didn’t get mad at her, he got creative.  When she wouldn’t turn off or unplug her hair dryer and curling iron, he nailed them to her bedroom ceiling with the cords hanging down in the center of the room.  When she wouldn’t clean up her room, he warned her twice before he took her bedroom door off the hinges for 30 days.  When she started smoking, he stole her cigarettes week after week after week.

We were living in interesting times!  But age, maturity and respect did a lot to soften all three of our edges and sand down the spikes of our personalities and behaviors.  We, Pat, Cyndy and I, knew we had made it to a whole new level the day our 21-year-old daughter asked her step father to adopt her.

That October day, in 1989, we became a family in the eyes of the law.  The child that had been my daughter, alone, disappeared, legally.  She was renamed by my husband, carried his last name and knew, for the first time in her life, that she was the beloved daughter of her father.

The three of us made it to become a family in our own eyes, too.  And our marriage has been gone from young and fragile to so strong that friends and business acquaintances have asked me what the “magic” is.

Tomorrow, I will tell you.

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