Self-acceptance and spouse-acceptance on Valentine’s Day.

Angels - 1I overslept this morning, Valentine’s Day, getting up not too long before Michael, my husband, left for work. When I came down to the kitchen, on the counter sat a big red envelope on which he had drawn my name in a heart pierced with an arrow.

I had intended to be up before him so I could put my card on the counter, proving that I bought one already. Until I had some coffee coursing through my veins, however, I wasn’t coherent enough to remember where I hid the card in the dining room, let alone dig it out, think of something clever and mushy to write on it, sign it, and place it next to his.

When Michael walked into the kitchen, the first thing he said was, “Since I’m leaving now, you’ll have time to go to CVS today to buy your card.”

“I have one!” I told him. “I bought it yesterday, really.”

And we both had a good chuckle.

After 35 years of marriage, we can joke about our foibles and accept each other’s faults. It takes self-acceptance and spouse-acceptance. That gift is better than any card.

Whether your love interest is a spouse, a partner, a pet, or an unfulfilled wish, I hope your day is filled with love.

Here’s what I wrote last year about Valentine’s Day. :

 

The role reversal in our marriage is that my husband gives awesome, sentimental, thoughtful gifts, and I suck.

Maybe that’s why I’m the one who insists that we don’t exchange presents for Valentine’s Day.

Really, what do I need that I can’t buy for myself? I’m hard to fit in clothes unless I try them on first, I’m particular about jewelry (meaning that I like it cheap mostly, not worthy of Valentine’s gift-giving), I can’t eat chocolate these days, and it’s too cold for garden plants.

But I do insist on cards. I have my pride, after all. Even so, often the day creeps up on me and I’m caught NOT valentine-red-handed.

I KNOW it’s coming. I KNOW Valentine’s Day is February 14. I’m looking at the calendar now and I can see that it’s on Tuesday this year. But I have doctor’s appointments this week, and errands to run on Saturday, and then Sunday will roll around with a nor’easter probably, or at least a snowstorm. Monday I’ll be shoveling out and will forget about it until I look at FaceBook and see all the ads. But then I’ll be busy writing and if I stop, I’ll lose my great idea.

So I may end up in the CVS greeting card aisle at 8 PM the evening of February 13, elbowing my way through a wall of sheepish men lined up three-deep, waiting to pick among the dregs of the red and pink cards. Talk about sheepish – I’ll probably be redder than all the glossy hearts. And there are never any good cards to buy for husbands the night before Valentine’s Day. I mean, I would guess that’s the case.

Worse, because I’m free during the day this year, I’ll really try not to, but I may end up in the card aisle on February 14. I’d have to tell Michael that morning before he leaves for work, “Let’s open cards tonight, Dear, is that OK with you?”

He knows. I can’t fool him anymore. It’s been 34 years. (Please note- I was about 8 when I married.)

Gift or no gift, card or no card, here’s what I do that I hope tells my husband how much I love him all year round:

I thank him often. For washing his bowl that sat in the sink for two days, and mailing my letter, and putting up with me, and killing the Black Widow spider in the bathroom. OK, it was only one of the little yellow spiders, but I’m sure it was about to attack me. And I tell him that he’s a genius for figuring out how to fix our basement stairs without costing us a fortune. And I tell him how glad I am that I married him 34 years ago, when I was about 8.

And for some reason, even though I suck at gifts, he thanks me when I wash his bowl that sat in the sink for two days, and hugs me when I’m sad, and saves me from four-legged and eight-legged and winged critters, and tells me how glad he is to have married me 34 years ago, no matter my age.

When you have words and deeds that are so precious, who needs gifts? But I’d still like to exchange cards for Valentine’s Day, if I can get my hands on a red-hot one before they’re all gone.

[A footnote: I had been providing a link to my original posts on www.thewellnestedlife.com (the blog that I am slowly abandoning), when I update them here. I realized that makes no sense. As long as I keep my stories, there’s no need to have them in two places. Going forward, when I update a blog post here, I’ll delete the original.

Gulp–it’s like losing a little piece of me.]

The dumb end of a tape measure. A life lesson in patience.

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As I’m transferring my blogs from The Well Nested Life to this site, I’m providing updates as needed. This one has a funny story I’ve been waiting to tell.

About a year ago, I wrote a blog threatening to demand payback from my husband for all the times I “held the dumb end of a tape measure,” as my good friend Mary A. later called it.

My husband Michael is a jack of all DIY trades but master of few, so he takes his time measuring and calculating and redrawing and unscrewing screws that he just put in, while I hold the tape measure or  flashlight or box of washers.

And then he measures and calculates and redraws and fixes mistakes, while I hand him the pencil and the drill and sweep up sawdust.

And then he measures and calculates  …

I’m proud to say that, to date, I have not actually pulled out a single hair on my head. Or his.

I’m happy to help him; after all, I also benefit from new basement stairs and a deck and outlets in the kitchen counter. His finished products are sometimes pure genius (he is an architect, after all) and they always help to make this home a bastion of convenient livability.

However, I wasn’t sure Michael really understood my frustration, hence my threat to retaliate—by making him come to the fabric store with me and watch helplessly as I sewed living room curtains.

Since I posted that story, which you can read below, there’s been a sequel:

***********************

I decided I was not master enough of the curtain-making trade to rise to that challenge. Plus, my sewing machine has been broken for several years. But we needed new living room curtains to match our new color scheme, and draperies are expensive, and I am cheap.

So I bought some inexpensive sheers intending to hand-sew them over the existing sturdy but ugly pale-peach drapes (hold-overs from the previous owners). It’s a strange-sounding solution, but I had done it before and it gave the appearance of silk curtains. Really.

I took the sheers to a local seamstress to hem and sew the narrow panels together. When I got them back, I choose a rainy Sunday, gathered my pin cushion and other supplies, and asked Michael to bring up the step ladder from the basement.

Then my brother-in-law called to say a large victorian house nearby was having an estate sale. I told Michael I didn’t want to go—I was about to sew the curtains!

As we’re old-house aficionados, however, curiosity grabbed us by our collars and yanked us through the rain to the estate sale.

There, hanging on the living room windows, were the exact drapes I would buy if I wasn’t cheap. The pinch-pleats, the nubby fabric, the color—kind of goldenrod with a hint of honey.

They’ll be too expensive, I thought.

Fifteen dollars, I was told.

Perfect width, indicated a borrowed tape measure.

It was meant to be, I decided.

I put away the sheers waiting for me at home, took the goldenrod drapes to be dry-cleaned, then to the seamstress to be hemmed.

On a rainy Sunday, Michael got the step ladder and helped me take down the ugly peach drapes.

Perched on the step ladder with a nubby goldenrod-with-a-hint-of-honey panel, I got one curtain hook in place and my heart sank as I immediately realized my mistake.

I stopped and turned to Michael, standing obediently below.

“Um. Just so you know,” I said, “I think there’s going to be a problem. I think they’re too narrow.”

Before my helper could reply, I added, “If they are too small, I’m not going to even pause. I’m going to take them down and we’re going to put the old curtains right back up and move on with our day.”

Laughing so I wouldn’t cry, I said, “I’m not going to let them claim a moment more of my time than I’ve already wasted.”

Sure enough, they were too narrow, by a lot. I had measured the bottom width, which was plenty wide. But the pleats at the top narrowed the width, in this case by about two thirds.

Devoted husband that he is, who learned in 35 years of marriage that listening is the best way to respond to a frustrated wife, especially one with sharp curtain hooks in hand, Michael didn’t say a thing other than, “I’m sorry.”

We quickly rehung the old curtains, I folded the drapes into a bag, and put the bag in the attic.

The next dreary Sunday, I pinned and sewed up the sheers that look like silk. Kind of.

I still don’t know if Michael understands the frustration of holding up the dumb end of the tape measure because he always gets the smart end. But I was reminded how good it feels to be met with patience and understanding in the face of a screw up on a snow-balled project.

I got my payback alright, as did he, so I’m calling it even.

And I have some lovely, narrow pinch-pleat draperies if you know anyone who’s interested. They’re the loveliest shade of yellow.

***************

 Here’s the original story:

Yes, my handy hubby, someday soon you will accompany me to a place that strikes fear into the heart of many a man.  A place that can weaken the knees of the toughest guy.  A venue you’ve managed to avoid for years.

The fabric store.

When there’s a lull in our house projects and you won’t need me to hold the plywood or hand you the drill or find the dropped nail, I’ll need you to be my helper for a change.

I think I’ll make curtains.

At the fabric store, be prepared to wander among row after row of bolts upon bolts of compelling colors and patterns.  We’ll do a quick walk-through, then a thorough inspection and comparison of dozens of possibilities.  Then we’ll repeat the process to choose lining material.  You may want an extra cup of coffee that morning.

We’ll need thread, too.  Of the hundreds of colors, it may take awhile to choose just the right one. Oh, and seam tape – that has to match, as well.  I may also want some new pins, needles, and tailors chalk.  Speaking of pins and needles, wear your comfortable sneakers.

I’ll ask your opinion and expect that you’ll have one, but of course, I’m the seamstress, so you’ll have to defer to me even if you really have your doubts.  Practice saying, “I think you’re right, Dear.”

And you won’t complain when I get particular because, after all, when I’m checking your dimensions on a piece of lumber, you’ll often ask me,

“Which side of the pencil line are you measuring to?”

And I have learned to answer without a grumble.

When I am ready to sew, you will sit on the bed next to the sewing machine, holding the fabric so it doesn’t trail on the floor.  It will be a lot of fabric.  And a lot of holding.  You may want to think of some world problems that you can solve while you sit.

Don’t worry, though.  This entire curtain project won’t take too long – it’s just some straight seams after all.  Just a few hours, maybe.

NOT.  It will really take a whole weekend, including evenings.

NOT.  Since I don’t sew that much, it will take several weekends, because you and I will have to rip out some very long seams after it dawns on me that I mis-measured.  Or pinned the pieces together inside-out.  Or cut them wrong.

In which case, we’ll have to go back to the fabric store.

And I’ll want you at my side, dearest Michael, so you can experience the joy of helplessly helping on a mind-numbingly tedious but ultimately satisfying project.

Some couples make beautiful music together.  You and I make handsome and enduring and inspiring house updates together.  And now we’ll include curtains.

I wouldn’t want to do it with anyone else.

[A footnote: I had been providing a link to my original posts on www.thewellnestedlife.com (the blog that I am slowly abandoning), when I update them here. I realized that makes no sense. As long as I keep my stories, there’s no need to have them in two places. Going forward, when I update a blog post here, I’ll delete the original.

Gulp–it’s like losing a little piece of me.]

 

Dangling doesn’t feel good. A life lesson about closure.

My 31 year old son was diagnosed with a brain tumor when he was 11.

There, I said it right up front. I didn’t do that when I first started my blog at www.thewellnestedlife.com over a year ago.

When I wrote the story below, I tried to be cagey. I thought it would peak the reader’s interest to dangle some words like “prayer” and “child neurology” and “hospital,” without giving them the full story.

As I’ve grown as a writer, I’ve learned that being cagey is a turn-off for readers. A little intrigue might be OK to draw them in, but within a blog post, there has to be closure. I’ve learned that

“Dangling” doesn’t feel good.

It’s a good life lesson isn’t it?

It’s why I’m working so hard to finish the memoir I started 20 years ago.

Here’s the story about one of the steps I took to pick up where I left off (with some minor edits. I’ve grown as a writer, after all):

 The box in the attic: On writing my memoir.

A few weeks ago, I took a deep breath and got the box down from the attic.

When we first moved into our old house 10 years ago, the attic was infested with spiders. Spiders are supposed to be good, right?  They eat all the other nasty bugs. But a bug is a bug and I don’t like any of them, especially when they’re invading my turf.

So I slowly transferred all of our storage from cardboard boxes to plastic bins, having read somewhere that spiders don’t much bother with plastic bins.

But the box was still a box. I have no idea why, with all the sturdy, tightly-lidded Rubbermaid up there, this priceless vault endured as cardboard, slightly mangled, softened, and duct-taped together.

Well, if I’m honest, I know exactly why. Avoidance.

After I had brought the box down, I set it on the office floor and tentatively opened it. I breathed a sigh of relief when nothing creepy-crawly climbed up my arm or skittered across the mishmash of notebooks, folders and pamphlets.

Then I looked at what I had been avoiding, other than spiders:

•A prayer that a colleague had given me

•Medical appointment receipts

•Pages copied from the “Textbook of Child Neurology”

•An “About Depression” booklet

•A hand-drawn diagram showing how multiple childhood disorders overlap

•A publication about Astrocytomas

•A “Welcome” guide to Children’s Hospital in Boston

•A small packet of removed stitches

Thumbing through the densely packed material, memories and emotions came back to me from another life, it seemed. Tears stinging my eyes, I whispered aloud, “Did we really go through all this?”

One thing I didn’t find was a Good Housekeeping magazine from that era—1997.

How could I not have kept that? It was a critical part of the story.

So I put out an SOS to friends and family, and eventually found and ordered the issue I wanted on ebay. That package arrived while I was away for the holidays. Yesterday I finally opened it, flipped through the musty pages and found the article I was looking for. The caption under a picture of an adorable little boy read: He regressed until he kind of disappeared.  I completely understood.

So now I have all the pieces of my puzzle before me. I can pick up where I left off on the memoir that I started almost 20 years ago.

Telling the story will be slow, painful, infinitely rewarding and uplifting.  I hope you’ll stick with me through it.

[A footnote: I had been providing a link to my original posts on www.thewellnestedlife.com (the blog that I am slowly abandoning), when I update them here. I realized that makes no sense. As long as I keep my stories, there’s no need to have them in two places. Going forward, when I update a blog post here, I’ll delete the original.

Gulp–it’s like losing a little piece of me.]