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Sight vs. Vision

Ever notice how life changes without our permission? No matter how well we plan, how disciplined we are, life can change in an instant. The only real constant in life is change.

Some months ago, my eyes started getting fuzzy.  At first I noticed keeping score at my granddaughter’s softball games had me filling in the wrong box on the score sheet or having difficulty tallying hits, runs, or RBIs. I blamed it on the bright sunlight or the fact I had forgotten my hat. But, that didn’t explain dealing with the same issues on rainy days.

Although my handwriting had never been worthy of an A+ in penmanship, it had always been readable. I didn’t write much anymore having become dependent on my computer. Banking online had virtually eliminated the need to write checks, except for a few here and there. Those few had my words slanting up and down, above the lines, below the lines.

The changes didn’t make sense as I had recently had my eyes examined and was sporting new spiffy red glasses.

My frustration spilled over into everything I did. Trying to read street signs or judge distances became a problem so I stopped driving. I was annoyed that using my computer was becoming increasingly difficult; I cut way back on my computer usage.

The final straw was when I could no longer read a book, even the ones in larger print. Increasing the font size on my Kindle was of little help. My blurry vision just got worse, and worse.

I scheduled an appointment to get my eyes checked with a new doctor. She was upbeat, friendly, about the size of a pencil, and looked about fifteen. I liked her immediately. At the end of her thorough exam, she said, “You have a cataract that desperately needs to be removed.”

Her next comment surprised me. “Which eye would you say is your worst eye?” My reply was immediate. “That’s easy, my right eye.”

She looked at me rather strangely, saying, “My exam shows your left, the one with the cataract, is much worse.” So she did some scans; took some pictures.

Thirty minutes later, she showed me photos of her finding. Age-related Macular Degeneration (AMD), and a growth filled with fluid and blood attached to the back of my right retina. If she had never asked the question, I would never have had a clue.

Two days later, I spent the afternoon at the Cincinnati Eye Institute (CEI) for a battery of tests and heard the ophthalmologist’s confirmation of the diagnosis of Macular Degeneration in both eyes.

The only thing I knew about Macular Degeneration was people with the disease could end up going blind. My mind swirled with questions, and a bunch of scary thoughts.

The ophthalmologist took time to patiently answer questions about the disease and discuss various types of treatment. He prescribed special vitamins and a monthly shot directly into the eyeball to stabilize the growth attached to my retina and slow the progression of the disease.

I learned about the forms of AMD, wet and dry. About 90% of people diagnosed have dry AMD. Early AMD usually starts out as dry, but in about 10% of cases it can develop into wet AMD. I had the disease in both eyes, one was dry and the other was wet.

My mouth opened saying, “Well I always try to do things in an interesting manner.” Sometimes I make the dumbest comments, but the doctor smiled, telling me he liked my attitude.

Although I had been at CEI for over four hours, it seemed in the blink of an eye I was diagnosed, received my first shot, handed a card with appointments for recurring shots and sent home.

After reading the information from the doctor, I learned more than I ever wanted to know about Age-related Macular Degeneration (AMD), a progressive eye condition that damages the macula, the part of the retina responsible for central vision.

I soon realized there really was nothing much I could do. Accept the doctor’s finding. Pray. Turn the whole thing over to God and let Him take care of the situation.

When I was young, my mother used to tell me, “Don’t ever feel too sorry for yourself because you can look in any direction and see someone much worse off than yourself.”  Her words had seen me through a lot of rough spots and saved me from numerous “worry wart” sessions.

After several months of shots and cataract surgery my blurry vision is improving.  The growth attached to my retina is nearly gone, for now. The swelling and bruising is slowly disappearing. I no longer look like I’ve gone a few rounds with Muhammad Ali or George Foreman. (Sorry these were the only boxers I could think of at the moment.)

I am anxious to order new glasses in a few weeks. New glasses will mean reading the stack of books patiently awaiting my attention, resuming writing my blog, and outlining some thoughts for a new book. New glasses will mean I can drive again. Although, I have to admit I will miss my chauffeur with the bright brown eyes that twinkle when he smiles. Who am I kidding; I’m not giving him up, not after 53 years.

Only downfall: the shots in my eyeball will continue indefinitely. They are a pain, literally, but I can live with them.

Getting older has opened my eyes to see that life just goes on, with or without our permission. It simply is what it is.

Life is every-changing. We cannot control our destiny. However, we can remain optimistic; never losing sight of the beauty and the joy that surrounds us.

Trusting God is in control and feeling His presence all around me; my heart is full of gratitude for the awesome life I have been given.

Ending on a Positive Note: God never promised life would be easy, but He continues to provide strength and guidance to get us through the rough times.

“Let your eyes look straight ahead; fix your gaze directly before you. Give careful thought to the paths before you and be steadfast in all your ways.”

Proverbs: 4 25-26

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Remembering Where You Come From

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Graduation signifies the ending of one chapter and the beginning of another.

The first time I was totally aware of the meaning of that statement was when I graduated from high school.

June 5, 1963 came so quickly. It didn’t seem possible our graduation day had arrived. But there we were marching across the high school track to the football field, through the junior honor guard, walking past our parents seated in rented wooden folding chairs , marching in time to the processional played by the high school band.

As we filed onto the stage built just for the graduation ceremony, we were happy everything was going as we had rehearsed it. After hearing stories of girls at past graduations walking right out of their shoes when heels got stuck in the grass, my friends and I were happy to hit the stage with our high heels still intact.

The sign to be seated was given and the class went silent. Even the rowdy students were on their best behavior; no one wanting to embarrass themselves in front of school officials, their parents, and friends.

Suddenly it became real. High school days were over. We were really graduating. A chapter of our life was closing, never to be reopened.

The graduation ceremony included the usual speakers reminding us of the highlights of our four years at Norwood High School and describing what our futures might hold. All too soon, we were standing one row at a time, walking across the stage when our name was called to receive our diplomas from the Board of Education president.

Then standing as a class, we completed our last official act, switched our tassels and it was over.

Afterwards, happy graduates milled around, smiling, and laughing. Flashbulbs flashed as cameras captured images of graduates posing with family and friends. Parents were proud and some of our mothers cried. We didn’t understand their tears.

Looking back on that night, the keynote speaker’s comments remain a blur. I wish I had paid more attention to his advice. Bet his talk shared some wisdom that might have helped me somewhere along my way.

Flash forward to 1986 when the keynote talk was my responsibility. The ceremony was no longer held on the high school football field. An increase in graduating class sizes had changed the venue several times; otherwise the format hadn’t changed in the twenty-three years since my graduation. The only obvious changes had transpired in my life. Marriage, motherhood, building a career, and trying to live a good life had kept me busy.

I wrote and rewrote that speech, struggling for weeks to find the right words to inspire and offer helpful advice to the Class of 1986. In the back of my mind, I wondered if anyone would be listening. Would the graduates be more aware than I had been? Would they know a most important chapter in their lives was ending?

Would they understand that after high school, classmates go their separate ways, scattering into the next chapter of their lives; some to college, some to the military, some moving away while others stayed close to home? Classmates marry, have families. Some are never seen again. Never return for class reunions. Some never step foot in their old high school ever again.

As president of the board of education, I had the honor of awarding diplomas to the Class of 1986. While serving on the board, I also had the pleasure of presenting both of my daughters with their diplomas. What special memories.

Another big jump forward to May 25, 2017 when my husband and I attended our granddaughter’s high school graduation at Deer Park High School. The graduation once again, came too quickly. It seemed our granddaughter went from five to eighteen at warp speed.

Watching her sing in the Senior Chorus at the beginning of the ceremony, I cried as they sang For Good, a beautiful poignant song from the Broadway musical Wicked—the untold story of the Witches of Oz. It fit the moment perfectly.

“It well may be

That we will never meet again

In this lifetime

So let me say before we part

So much of me

Is made of what I learned from you

You’ll be with me

Like a handprint on my heart

And now whatever way our stories end

I know you have re-written mine

By being my friend:

Like a ship blown from its mooring

By a wind off the sea

Like a seed dropped by a skybird

In a distant wood

Who can say if I’ve been changed for the better?

But because I knew you: have been changed for good.

After the song, the graduation format unfolded with the usual components; the same familiar words. This time I listened more intently to what the speakers were saying. I find the older I get, the better I listen.

I especially related to the words of the keynote speaker and hoped the young people on the stage were listening. Richie Schueler, a proud native of Deer Park and Class of 1996 graduate of Deer Park High School had an impressive life resume. He was an engaging young man who spoke honest, insightful, and inspirational words. It was obvious he had immense pride in his Deer Park roots and attributed the foundation of his life to the community he grew up in. He seemed to be telling my high school story.

His words about the advantages of small high schools; having the opportunity to know everyone in the class, or maybe even the whole school, resonated with me and my memories of Norwood High School.

He asked the 2017 grads to take a look around at their classmates, to recognize after thirteen years together their life was about to change drastically. That night might be the last time they would ever be together as a class. He encouraged them to follow their passion, work hard, and never forget where they were from, and to proudly go and show the world just what a kid from Deer Park could do with their life. He then closed with their traditional school motto: It’s always a great day to be a Wildcat!

Then standing as a class, they completed their last official act. All together, they switched their tassels, marched out with big smiles on their faces and it was over.

Once again, I watched as graduates happily hugged their family and friends, and posed for lots of photos, this time photos were taken primarily with cell phones. Hugging my granddaughter, I told her we were so proud of her and her many accomplishments, but also proud of her eagerness to begin college, her next chapter. Happy she was so excited to be on her way to her future.

I sought out the keynote speaker to offer my congratulations on his wonderful words. As he thanked me, he laughed saying, “That was the hardest speech I ever had to write. I really struggled.”

“You ever have to do one of those talks?” Laughing, I answered yes and told him of my own difficulties to find just the right words. We both agreed it had been a proud moment in our lives.

Norwood and Deer Park are similar; both small schools, both filled with tons of traditions. How exciting to think of the graduations happening all across the nation with millions of graduates, parents and grandparents experiencing similar emotions, going through comparable traditions at their respective high schools.

Traditions tend to create a common bond among fellow classmates because high school is a special time. Classmates together in the same place learning to take baby steps to discover who they are, learning to make their own decisions, discovering new interests, learning to trust, and beginning to find their way.

Life after high school takes us in different directions, down different paths. Experiences after high school help polish and hone one’s goals, one’s skills, and one’s determination to succeed. Smoothing out the rough edges while we are figuring out what kind of person we truly want to become. Those experiences help to define our life.

High school graduation has always been a significant moment. As graduates everywhere close their first chapter and get ready to embark on an exciting next step, I hope they remember the foundation they received from the schools and communities they grew up in.

The carefree days before I graduated from Norwood High School remain inside me. Those years were some of the best years of my life. They helped prepare me to think for myself and to maintain an open mind as I ventured into a very diverse, complex world.

Reflecting on my life, three things stand out. Remembering who I am, where I come from, and what I believe.

Wishing all 2017 grads good luck in their future endeavors and hoping they will influence their world with good by remembering where they come from.

Ending on a Positive Note: The graduation photos and posts all over Facebook for the last few weeks have energized my spirit; given me new hope for the future of this country, this world. A new batch of bright, energized young people beginning their next chapter is cause for celebration.

 

Special Women’s Retreats

Yesterday, I did something I hadn’t done since April 2011, I was a guest speaker at a women’s retreat.

Occasionally I receive requests asking if I still do speaking engagements saying I was recommended by a friend who heard me speak some years ago, etc. Since my speaking business has been non-existent for seven years, I am always caught by surprise that people would still remember me. I guess it pays to keep the same phone number for so many years.

I don’t know why I accepted this time, except I liked the lady who contacted me and my signature talk was exactly what they wanted for their retreat. Part of me was curious to see if I was capable of doing a presentation seated since I can no longer stand long enough to deliver a 45-60 minute talk.

So glad I accepted. It was a special time. Their theme was a Recipe for Life. The ladies were delightful making me feel right at home as if I were a friend instead of the speaker.

Retreats are a special treat for a speaker. They are an opportunity to see women taking time from busy, hectic schedules to unwind and enjoy time with their friends. Watching as they talk, laugh, and spend time refreshing and renewing their thoughts and minds. I loved that not one cell phone rang.

In one-on-one conversations, a couple of them shared painful experiences when they were going through dark times; some I could relate to while others were things I haven’t experienced yet. I was deeply honored to hear their stories and thank them for their trust.

I couldn’t believe it had been seven years since I had done my last retreat representing my small speaking ministry focused on living a life in balance. 2011 seemed like an eternity ago, when speaking, blogging, everything was put aside so I could care for my daughter after her diagnosis of stage-IV cancer.

Seven years ago, I found other speakers for my upcoming commitments, except one at a retreat where I was the only speaker scheduled to speak four times during the weekend. I already had the talks prepared and wasn’t sure I could find a replacement on short notice, so I did it. The ladies at that retreat also welcomed me as a friend and blessed me with so much love and support. I still am in contact with several of them today.

As I refreshed my talk for Saturday, I was pleased to see that I had remained true to many of the changes referenced in my talk but realized there are still many more that await my attention.

However, I have learned one important thing. I no longer try to do what only God can do? Try to control the uncontrollable, stop the unstoppable, or fix the unfixable.

I often hear people ask, “If God is in control, why doesn’t he change this, or do that, or make this thing better?” I honestly don’t know. But, I have found time and time again that He is trustworthy and faithful. He knows what we need. Knows how our stories end. That’s good enough for me.

I love speaking, making people laugh, but an engagement requires a lot of preparation, strength and stamina. Not sure that is what I should be doing at this stage of my life. Think I’ll let God tell me what He wants me to do.

Which is exactly what I encouraged the women to consider adding to their Recipe for Life on Saturday, since God knows how to combine just the right ingredients to meet all of our needs, no matter what our situation.

Ending on a Positive Note: Age brings the wisdom of allowing God to put your life into perspective. It’s amazing what He can do if we just get out of His way.

“Trust in the Lord with all of your heart, do not depend on your own understanding. Seek His will in all you do, and He will direct your path.”

Proverbs 3:5-6

Breaking a Habit

“Chains of habit are too light to be felt until they are too heavy to be broken.”

-Warren Buffet-

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Have you ever tried to give up something you love?

For years, I tried to cut back on my favorite soft drink but was never successful. Knew I was drinking too much, but it just tasted so good. The problem was I had one at lunch, had another in mid-afternoon, another one for dinner, and one more in the evening. It had become a habit.

Habits become like second nature to us. They’re not so easy to break.

Think about all of the things we do each day without thinking. Habits that are like second nature. Our habits start when we get up in the morning and don’t stop until we turn out the lights and go to bed.

Talking to friends or colleagues would often bring good advice, well-intentioned, but frequently didn’t fit into the structure of my day. It was hard to stay motivated, difficult to think about reasons to change.

There are even self-help books proposing ways to change or break a habit. Books with suggestions such as making a plan, writing it down, starting small by eliminating one (Coke) a day for a week, analyzing when and why I was doing what I was doing.

Often I would make a note on my calendar in big block letters, STOP DRINKING COKE and it worked until I just forgot, second nature kicked in, I ordered a Coke without thinking.

Articles I read tried to convince me anything that could clean dirt and grime from the hubcaps on my car couldn’t possibly be something one would want in their body.

Sometimes I just decided to change which is the most crucial part of the process. But, unless you are truly ready to change, you will probably have trouble following through.

Happy to report I haven’t had one single drop of Coke for eight years. Want to know how I did it? It was easy.

All it took to go “cold turkey” was losing my sense of smell and taste!

In May 2009 checking into the hospital to have a small procedure done, I had no issues smelling or tasting. Two days later was released not being able to do either due to a severe reaction to a medication.

Some months later, I did regain most of my taste, but it was gradual. I was surprised to discover Coke tasted gross, sort of the way I imagine motor oil might taste, so I only had a few sips before giving it up for good.

Since I had no control over losing my taste, it was easy. Who really craves drinking motor oil? Oh, I still enjoy a soft drink with pizza or Skyline Chili. The only difference is nowadays it is white, never a cola. Today, water is usually my drink of choice which is a good thing.

My loss of smell is more difficult. After eight years, I occasionally catch a whiff of a simmering pot roast, someone’s perfume or aftershave, or a hint of my granddaughters’ shampoo when they give me a hug. Most of the time, there is nothing.

I took my sense of smell for granted. Never realized how much I would miss the wonderful smells that surround us every day until they were gone. Flowers in the spring, fresh-baked cookies, clean sheets right out of the dryer, or the fresh clean smell in the air right after it rains.

I’ve never liked coffee so it seems odd that the most frequent smell in my little world is Tom’s coffee brewing now and again in the morning.

Still have lots of habits; some good, some bad. Plenty of those need to be altered. Some may be out of my control. Others will require discipline.

So what have I learned from this experience? I have discovered life is what it is. Aging is teaching me it’s okay to cut myself some slack and learn to live the best I can with the cards I have been dealt.

Ending on a Positive Note: Life is so short; it seems a waste of time to concentrate on things beyond my control. I miss the smell of everyday life but am so thankful for the many other blessings I still can enjoy.

 

Be Where You Are

I am a curious person. I love to read. I love to learn. I always have.

A good friend told me years ago, “Ag if you weren’t so busy being a mom and taking care of your kids, I think you would be a professional student.” Doris was pretty close to the truth. The only problem is learning doesn’t always happen in a classroom. Doesn’t always require doing research or turning in homework.

One doesn’t even have to be seeking knowledge to learn. Life lessons are there for the taking, all around us. Sometimes learning occurs in weird places, happening in our daily lives when we don’t even expect it.

I am reminded of the quote, “Wherever you go, there you are.”  Loving quotes, especially simple ones filled with wisdom, I feel compelled to give credit to the person who originally spoke the meaningful words.

No matter where you go, there you are. I’ve heard variations of that phrase for years and never knew who actually said it. So, I googled it and found lots of references to who and where the phrase originated. Not sure I know much more than when I started my search.

Google listed credit references to Star Trek, Stephen King, Muppet Magazine, One Day at a Time, comic books, songs, TV shows, movies, and even a guy from the 70s who claimed credit for starting the phrase himself.  My favorite credit line was from The Brady Bunch, “and remember kids, a very wise man once said, ‘wherever you go, there you are.’” Who am I to argue with wise old Dad Brady?  Even Confucius got a nod. That one seems a bit questionable, but who is still around that could confirm or deny that claim?

I am getting off track. Seem to do that a lot these days. Old age, I guess.

This week, I finished writing a little devotional book, and my neighbor asked me, “So what’s next?” I knew she meant was there another book planned? I replied, “Whatever comes along.” Those words were so freeing. I didn’t even think about them, they just popped out.

No longer does my life have to be about work, accomplishments, striving to meet deadlines or expectations set by others. I am where I am.

After all these years, I still love to read, to learn, and my curiosity is still thriving. The only difference is that time is no longer on my side. I’m okay with that. I am where I am, where I belong. This time of life fits like an old comfortable pair of shoes.

The phrase, “Wherever you are, there you are,” is starting to make perfect sense.  Where am I? Just trying to make sure I am really there, present in the everyday moments of my life. To quote a famous sailor, “I am what I am, and that’s all that I am.”

Ending on a Positive Note: All I have to do is enjoy THIS time, THESE moments. Taking things as they come, not wasting time wishing things were different.

 

Technology Has Left Me Behind?

My cell phone died yesterday on the way to my granddaughter’s softball game. I’ve known for some time it was time to replace it. The poor thing is almost six years old and a friend told me recently that the model I have is being phased out.

My first thought was to stop at the phone store after the game and get a new one. Instead, we opted for Mexican with our daughter and her family. Having dinner with family, especially my grandkids, will always take precedence over shopping for a new cell phone.

Before going to the phone store, I am doing a bit of research online to prevent being talked into a pricey phone that doesn’t fit my current needs.

My dead phone is an iPhone, so I start there. The latest iPhones with all the bells and whistles are listed at the top of the page. Comparison shopping begins to raise some pertinent questions.

At this point in my life, my needs have changed. I am no longer employed. Tom and I chose to downsize two years ago and are enjoying living a more simple life these days. Checking my emails and social media are not things I want, or need, to do while out and about. I really don’t think people will mind, or even notice if I don’t immediately reply to an email or a message on Facebook. Choosing when I go online offers more freedom in my life.

Our life is uncomplicated and we are intentionally working to keep it that way. We seldom go anywhere where directions are required. If we do, I have time to check MapQuest or Google before leaving home. When out in the car and a need for directions arises, I can retrieve the functioning GPS in the glove box.

Simplicity is the name of our game. My phone should fit that lifestyle. A simple phone is what I need. One that allows me to call and be called by the important people in my life, to send and receive a few texts from time to time, to snap an occasional photo, and to make emergency calls if needed.

We still retain a landline phone as it is a necessity to buzz folks into our building. I like using it. It’s convenient; three out of five rooms in our apartment have a phone. It is simple convenience.

I am seriously considering the newest version of the flip phone. It answers all my needs and comes in hot pink, a color that appeals to this older version of me.

I’m preparing for the laughter and negative responses such as, “Wow, didn’t know they still made those things.” My decision is not everyone’s choice. I’m okay with that. Everyone has the right to choose a phone that fits their personal needs.

Consider our transitions from native Americans smoke signals, to letters, to telegrams, to chunky home phones, to pay phones, to mobile phones, and now to slim cell phones with countless apps that can manage lives. Technology is amazing but nowadays moves a little too fast for me.

The technology of a smartphone is a set of tools you can use when or if you choose to. Access to maps, traffic alerts, and weather reports can be especially useful and helpful when traveling or commuting to and from work. You can easily turn off all your notifications and only check email when you want to. It’s only intrusive or additive if you allow it to become so.

For me, the advantages of going back to a dumb phone are not paying for functions I will never use or need. Leaving behind the never-ending charging anxiety, and an expensive price tag. Going back to basics feels a bit like retreating back to vinyl records. The only computer I want is in my home office. I really don’t need to carry a smaller, hard to read version in my pocket.

Marketers have somehow convinced us that smartphones can whisk us away to a better, more stimulating place. It certainly is more immediate, but I am happiest in the space where I actually live. I want to enjoy what is going on around me, such as real, honest-to-goodness conversations with others. Without an attachment, words on a screen don’t show smiles and certainly don’t give hugs.

Ending on a Positive Note: I have come to rely on my cell phone and I’m not sure if this departure from technology will last. However, it feels right at this stage of my life.

 

To Have and To Hold

 

Wedding DayTom and I have been married fifty-three years today. Taking our vows in front of God, family, and friends on that balmy, rainy Saturday night in 1964 still glows brightly in my memory.

Tom had a head full of hair, twinkling brown eyes, and was a few pounds lighter than today. I wore a pill-box veil and a size eight wedding gown that my mother had to take it in at the waist. It is now carefully folded in my cedar chest; never to be worn again.

Remembering our wedding vows makes me reflect on how young we were in March 1964. Even though we loved each other and were confident we had chosen wisely, what had we really known about spending the rest of our life together?

I, Agnes, take you, Tom, to be my lawful wedding husband…
Fifty-three years ago, that word husband was brand new. At that point, my experience of marriage was limited to choosing the perfect white dress, making an appointment to get my hair done, being excited about picking out new furniture, and putting gifts away in the apartment that was to be our first home. Oh, and hoping Tom would like my cooking.

To have and to hold from this day forward…
That phrase sounded so romantic. Our love seemed so complete. We walked down the aisle. Tom carried me over the threshold of our new home, a feat he certainly couldn’t do today. I was clueless as to what life would be like along the way to spending 19,345 days together. Our love was just so new, I had no idea how much stronger it would need to be to survive what was to come.

For better, for worse…
I thought our life would be all “for better” days. I couldn’t have even imagined the “for worse” days in front of us. Days of having to live with bad decisions and learning to make the best of whatever came our way.

Struggling to understand and live with the loss of so many loved ones; parents, brothers, and close friends who were like family. I certainly could never have fathomed the unbearable pain of losing one of our children.

Our youth made it hard to comprehend that life could not be perfectly planned. We still had to learn we were not in control.

For richer, for poorer…
We couldn’t imagine the hardships that awaited us, the sacrifices we would have to make. We thought if we worked hard and planned wisely, we would always have more money than bills.

The only thing I did know for sure…when we had children, we would love them with all our hearts. Wouldn’t matter if they were girls or boys, we knew they would be the most important part of our lives. We wanted four, but the doctor stopped us at two. God blessed us beyond measure with two beautiful, bright, funny, kind, and loving daughters who were more than enough. We felt complete. However, when our sweet granddaughters arrived, we discovered our hearts could expand with more love, a love that melted into pure joy.

In sickness and in health…
We weren’t thinking of living with heart attacks and strokes. Our young minds had never even heard of cancer, Parkinson’s, or Alzheimer’s; unknown diseases that would impact our future in unbelievable ways.

To love and to cherish…
As we stood before the minister vowing to love and cherish, we thought our love was perfect, as we shared common goals and seemed to be on the same wavelength. How could we have realized our thinking could be so different when we starting sharing one another’s space? We never envisioned being angry over insignificant things like taking out the garbage or the way we organized the garage.

Until death do us part…
Planning to grow old together, we were two young kids who had not lived long enough to have experienced life’s uncertainty, pain, or loss. Death was for really old people and seemed so far away.

This is my solemn vow…
Our life has been a good one, but not without obstacles and trials along the way. Married life starts out on a high note. With a little luck couples mature at the same time and enjoy a long life together.

Our vows were sacred and we meant them to last forever. Although marriage was harder than we ever dreamed, we did grow into one union, promising never to leave or forsake the other. Though our life has been tough at times we are grateful for mostly “for better” days.

Never considering ourselves poor, but certainly not rich, we prefer to use my mother’s definition as a measure. “No one is ever poor if they are surrounded by people who love them.” That perception has given us more riches than we could ever have dreamed possible. Our lives have been all about family, belonging to each other, and to a God that continues to offer strength, guidance, and faithfulness.

Has health turned to sickness? Today, the boundaries of our world together are defined by our health issues. Tom is still the same man I fell in love with so many years ago, but our illnesses have taken their toll on both of us. We struggle to do things we used to take for granted. We walk like those little Weebles; you know the little wooden people that wobble but never fall down, at least not lately.

Tom’s brown eyes still twinkle when he makes me laugh.  Holding his hand still, makes me feel safe and warm inside. He still makes me feel loved. The oldest in our families now, we talk about our myriads of memories, a lot. Memories serving as the fabric that weaves our happy life together.

People occasionally ask for our secret. How did we stay married so long when many others gave up? Our answer is simple. We took vows; honored our commitments. It was the right thing to do. We loved each other enough to work at making it last. But, at this stage of comfortable love, I tease him that maybe I just have too many years of training invested in him to start over.

Just as we vowed, we are still holding on, still together, and just as we planned growing old together. I believe God knew we belonged together and that’s why He gave us the forever kind of love.

Ending on a Positive Note: Today is a special day, but in many ways, it’s just another day; an ordinary day. We are so grateful for each other and thank God for blessing us with fifty-three years of wonderful ordinary days.