Monday, April 30, 2018

My Reflections on 41 years of Marriage

Well in 2018 we’ve hit #41. Honestly, my reflections are the same or similar to what I wrote in a blog  post 4 years ago after 37 years of marriage. Here is what I wrote then (with a few minor edits):
*****
May 1st 2014 was our 37th wedding anniversary.
My goodness, has it been that long? We chose May 1st because it is Lei Day in Hawaii and brought fond memories of my childhood there. I thought when we hit 25 that was really something, and of course by today’s standards, it was! So here we are 12 years later at #37. Wow. We feel blessed and proud to have gotten here. So how does one manage to hit such a milestone? I’m trying to figure it out myself! It really does not feel like 37 years at all. I know one thing’s for sure, its an adventure and it’s work. It takes both toughness, and kindness and love. A marriage does NOT run on automatic. Here are my musings on a few things that have worked for us… if anyone cares to listen to an old married lady.
1. WE DECIDED.
We started out as hippies and rebels. Our wedding was not a traditional American wedding. In fact it was a Hindu ceremony. Non-traditional though it was, we’ve always felt we made a promise to each other. We made a firm decision back then that stuck, and we continue to decide to keep it. We took responsibility for one another and decided to see it through. There have been many, many times each of us wanted to change our minds. Many times we thought “Oh hell! That was dumb!”, but we’ve always changed it back. Have we made all each other’s dreams come true? Oh, hell no! But we’ve made many of them come true, and we continue to work together on new ones all the time. Now if my husband had turned out to be a drug dealer or an ax murderer I would have had no qualms in making a change, but thankfully he was no such thing. One cannot expect a good crop if one is constantly wandering to new fields. We planted our seeds and saw to the crops we had sown, then worked new fields together. Everyone has their own decisions to make, but that is what we decided.

2. WE’RE VERY GOOD FRIENDS and WE CULTIVATE OUR FRIENDSHIP.
We agree on enough things to make it work. We don’t agree on everything. There have been times when we actually freaked people out because we’d have a roaring argument about some difference of opinion… politics, money, design in the house, food etc. We're quite capable of having an impassioned debate. People didn’t always know that we simply did this from time to time and that we are quite capable of having a wild discussion of ideas and then dropping it and happily moving on to the next thing. We do like to spend time in each other’s company. We can drive for hours (and often do) and talk the whole time or simply say nothing for miles and miles. We can have it either way and be very comfortable and secure in each other’s presence. There are many little things that annoy us about the other all the time. So what! Those are small things most of the time. The bigger things we recognize and cherish. After many years together, it’s also quite cool to have a partner who knows your history because he’s been there for most of it. When I say “Do you remember that person…..?” He does, because he was there, and I do the same for him. There’s something wonderful about that, and the sharing of mutual long time friends as well.

3. WE SUPPORT EACH OTHER IN OUR INDIVIDUAL PASSIONS.
Bob has always, always validated and supported my love of and time put into the arts. Not once has he ever said it’s trivial, silly or criticized the area. I made a pact with him years ago on road trips. I said I want to be able to stop the car at any time if I want to photograph, sketch something, or take a side road for the hell of it just to explore. I had a father who would not even stop for bathroom stops and this was a big deal for me. This is just one of many examples of his constant encouragement and validation of what is important to me. In return, Bob’s passion for scuba diving, guns, certain political and humanitarian activities are whole-heartedly supported by me even if I don’t fully understand them at the time or participate. We also allow one another the space to create our individual interests without requiring any input from the other. If I want to go do something that I know isn’t Bob’s thing, I go find someone to do it with or get quite comfortable being alone and vice versa. We don’t expect each other to be our entertainment all the time. There are also things that we do just because it will make the other happy even though it might not be our own thing. This is part of the give and take or “exchange” in the relationship.

4. WE LEARN NEW SKILLS AND DO MAINTENANCE AS NEEDED
For us, this has been counseling and training at our church when needed and airing any transgressions we had against one another or the relationship in a safe supportive environment. Long ago we agreed to make sure we made time to create space to completely and safely communicate anything at all to one another, and this was the best way to do it. This also gave us the experience, stability and training to do it for ourselves when needed, which we do. We did courses on communication, finance and other things together to give us stability and make sure we were on the same page. In addition, we made time to have dates even when we had no money. Coffee at McDonald's or picnics when that was all we could afford. Times when we give each other our full attention without any distraction from phones, children when they were little, television, computers etc. etc. It’s amazing what absolute full undivided attention can do for a relationship, and it doesn’t take much time as long as its full attention. People spend time and money to maintain their cars, their homes, their own bodies,their computers and gadgets and forget to run maintenance on their relationships, but it is so very important, so much more important than “things”.

5. WE CIRCLE OUR WAGONS AND GUARD WHO IS ALLOWED INTO OUR INNER CIRCLE.
We don’t talk about our relationship challenges with others unless they are chosen trustworthy advisers, or trusted family and friends that might be affected. This includes our own adult children for the most part. Anytime we’ve violated that it has been destructive. There’s no reason to talk about our personal challenges with anyone who cannot actually help us, and certainly not with people who have no reality on us or our relationship or any experience and expertise to contribute.There are just a very few people that I would discuss my husband with in any meaningful way. Our laundry does not need to be aired and anytime that either of us have felt inclined to do so, or to complain about the other, it has always been because the person wanting to complain is actually the person who has done something wrong. Since we both know that truth, it makes it easy for us to find and fix what is happening. This advice rule especially applied to taking advice on marriage, children, or money.The first rule was never take advice from someone with a poor or non-existent personal track record in the area. I learned early not to take advice on rearing children from non-parents. No offense to my non-parent friends, it was just something we decided that has saved us much time and worked for us. Same for seeking advice on relationships from someone with a current poor relationship record-it just didn’t make sense. It is also not cool to offer unsolicited advice to others either when they haven’t asked for it, we try not to do that. Even if the other might be wrong, we do not correct each other in public on important matters. This is one I had to learn, and my husband deserves medals for getting through my learning curve! It is still something I work on. Bottom line is, share only good news about your relationship with most people and keep your own counsel, and choose any trusted advisers or mentors very, very carefully. Anyone betraying our trust is handled individually, or dropped quietly. We guard each other’s backs and take disputes up privately. We try to broadcast only funny or good news about ourselves.

6. LAUGH and PLAY TOGETHER
We laugh a lot! Even in moments of stress. I laugh at his dumb jokes and he laughs when I burn dinner. I laugh when he forgets to take out the garbage and he laughs when I lose my glasses and has to find them for me. We laugh at ourselves and at each other’s foibles. We cultivate a sense of humor and don’t sweat the small stuff. We don’t cultivate any humor that is degrading or demeaning to one another, and I really dislike humor that degrades or demeans either sex. We create games to play with each other and have friendly competitions at times. We’re always encouraging each other to smile and laugh, one cannot have too much of that. Too much seriousness kills a relationship. 

7. WE ALWAYS PUT EACH OTHER FIRST, EVEN BEFORE CHILDREN AND FAMILY.
I used to tell our boys, “Your Dad comes first because he was here first. Without him, there would be no you in the family. As long as he and I put each other first then we have the strength together to put the two of you 2nd.” This may not work for everyone, but it worked well for us. We had more to give them as a united couple. We also knew one day our kids would be grown, and it would be, God willing, back to just the two of us. In addition, neither of us put our families (parents and siblings) before the other. That way we’ve been able to have the support of the other in relating to our families. Bob’s support through the deaths of each of my parents for example was absolute and vice versa. Personally I think that came from the strength of our commitment to one another and without that basic agreement things can get a little weird. It’s the same with our grown children, they are not in competition with my husband, which allows us together to make them a priority. I also expect each of my sons to make their own partners their first priority, and we encourage them to do so.We have awesome sons and though we cannot take all the credit, I think the above helped.

8. WE PUT PEOPLE AND TIME TOGETHER BEFORE THINGS.
I always told Bob “I’m a less homes, more gardens and travels kind of girl.” I only need enough home to create a home base from which to operate and leave my things. This might be because I’m a military brat who moved a lot. I have plenty of nice “things” and I love my home filled with family heirlooms and memories, but I’d rather collect experiences than things. Before we had kids I was a clean freak. I drove Bob nuts when anything was out of place. Well that doesn’t work so well with children, and I soon learned that spending time with husband and kids or even friends was more important than a spotless home. The dishes can wait until toddlers are in bed, guests leave, or you’ve had that glass of wine on the porch with your mate. We also made it more important to DO things together than to have the newest furniture or gadgets. I’d much rather spend money on a trip to Hawaii or Colorado than have a new sofa or floor, and fortunately he would too. I don’t remember all my sofa’s nearly as fondly as I do time spent traveling together as a family or couple. It’s the same with going out to eat. Though we’ve enjoyed many meals at many fine restaurants, I’d rather spend the money on a couple of tanks of gas and pack a picnic to eat on a mountain trail or sit at the rim of the Grand Canyon. Fortunately he feels the same way. Flowers? Absolutely, but this lady prefers a living plant I can stick in a pot or in the ground! Adventures? Yes! We’ve had many big ones, in many countries, but it’s the weekly and monthly ones that keep us going. Time and experiences together are the most precious.

9. WE CULTIVATE GOOD MANNERS WITH EACH OTHER.
We say please and thank you. We say hello when we get home, good morning when we wake up, goodnight when we go to bed, and good by when we leave. We acknowledge each other. There are very few meals Bob hasn’t thanked me for, and there are very few chores I haven’t thanked him for. It sets the tone of mutual validation and appreciation and makes daily life so much more pleasant.

10. TIPS FOR THE LADIES:
I’m not a man, so these are merely the observations of a woman with a husband and two grown sons. Take it or leave it as you will.
A. It has been my observation that men don’t generally like unsolicited advice. I learned this the hard way. As wives and moms we’re so involved in solving everyone’s problems all the time that it becomes a habit to tell everyone what to do! Since I've been a manager or executive most of my working life, this was especially hard to learn it does not work at home. I had to learn to remove from my vocabulary the words “I think what you should do is…..” and learn to ask instead “What do you think you should do?” or, “Do you need or want anything from me on this?” I actually practiced it in front of a mirror for awhile. It doesn’t matter if you’re right or you have the answer, that is simply not the point. It has no value unless they asked for it.
B. Conversely, I let my partner know when I DON’T want him to solve my problem but simply want to be listened to. Men usually feel compelled to solve things for us even when that’s not what we want. Well at least my men do. They don’t know when I just want to be heard and acknowledged if I don’t tell them.We gals talk an awful lot and I know for me, part of my working something out has to do with being able to talk to someone who will just listen. I had to learn to clue Bob into this, so now I let him know when I just want him to listen and let me know I’ve been heard but not try to solve something for me. He also now knows to ask first.

SUMMARY:
I feel truly blessed to have such a long time loyal friend and mate in Bob. People who see how different we often are on the surface don’t usually understand what our relationship is really about, and that’s also fine with us. How could others know the real agonies and ecstasies we've been through together or the death-beds we've nursed each other back from? There were times over the years when we had “friends” advise us to split up. It’s funny but that advice usually came from people with no experience or a poor relationship record. That policy about who we take advice from on certain subjects has come in very handy over the years. Could things have been different? I’m sure they could have. Did we each give things up to be with and remain with one another? Absolutely. One thing neither of us has had to give up though is our own personal integrity or core values and that is a vital thing to consider in any relationship, personal or otherwise.
In the last year, we have had several friends who have lost their long-time partners. My heart goes out to them. The loss of some of these friends has left a gap in our mutual histories and lives. My husband is 9 years older than me, so I pray we still have many years together, we count each day and week as precious and try not to get too serious about it all.
Everyone is different so I cannot tell people how to get to this milestone nor can I presume that others want to. I can only share a little of our journey and what has worked for us. I can tell you that its quite lovely to have an old friend and lover by my side after all these years, one who knows me so very well, does the best he can, and whom I can count on for the important things. He always has my back, and I his. That is quite a nice thing.
I am thankful every day for this man I married, and for him being such a grand and steady partner and lifelong friend!
I wish for others to have such a mate and lifelong friendship.
Michele

Note: My husband Bob read this nodding and smiling  I would never publish this if there was something he didn't agree with, even though I AM the loudmouth in this partnership!!

Here's to many more years together!

Saturday, March 31, 2018

Tuesday, November 28, 2017

Holiday Offerings

Hi everyone, Happy Holidays!
I just want to let you know that I have artwork and art products available in several online venues. You can find some of my original watercolors in my Etsy Store. I also have prints and some other products available on my FineArtAmerica & Pixels.com stores.  I've also updated my Redbubble store with a new Southwest calendar added to my 2 other most popular tropical calendars. You can also find a smaller format calendar here in my Zazzle store..


Take a look and let me know if you have any questions or have any special requests. 

-Michele

PS, whether its me or other artists, craftsmen and small businesses. I hope you will decide to shop from independents like us as much as possible for your gift giving needs this year.

Tips for the Holiday Season (with smiles)

Its always a good idea to start the Holidays off with the right attitude. enjoy

1. Avoid carrot sticks. Anyone who puts carrots on a holiday buffet table knows nothing of the Christmas spirit. In fact, if you see carrots, leave immediately. Go next door, where they're serving rum balls.

2. Drink as much eggnog as you can. And quickly. Like fine single-malt scotch, it's rare. In fact, it's even rarer than single-malt scotch. You can't find it any other time of year but now. So drink up! Who cares that it has 10,000 calories in every sip? It's not as if you're going to turn into an eggnog-alcoholic or something. It's a treat.

Enjoy it. Have one for me. Have two. It's later than you think. It's Christmas!

3. If something comes with gravy, use it. That's the whole point of gravy. Gravy does not stand alone. Pour it on. Make a volcano out of your mashed potatoes. Fill it with gravy. Eat the volcano. Repeat.

4. As for mashed potatoes, always ask if they're made with skim milk or whole milk. If it's skim, pass. Why bother? It's like buying a sports car with an automatic transmission.

5. Do not have a snack before going to a party in an effort to control your eating. The whole point of going to a Christmas party is to eat other people's food for free. Lots of it. Hello?

6. Under no circumstances should you exercise between now and New Year's. You can do that in January when you have nothing else to do. This is the time for long naps, which you'll need after circling the buffet table while carrying a 10-pound plate of food and that vat of eggnog.

7. If you come across something really good at a buffet table, like frosted Christmas cookies in the shape and size of Santa, position yourself near them and don't budge. Have as many as you can before becoming the center of attention. They're like a beautiful pair of shoes. If you leave them behind, you're never going to see them again.

8. Same for pies. Apple. Pumpkin. Mincemeat. Have a slice of each. Or if you don't like mincemeat, have two apples and one pumpkin. Always have three. When else do you get to have more than one dessert? Labor Day?

9. Did someone mention fruitcake? Granted, it's loaded with the mandatory celebratory calories, but avoid it at all cost. I mean, have some standards.

10. One final tip: If you don't feel terrible when you leave the party or get up from the table, you haven't been paying attention. Re-read tips; start over, but hurry, January is just around the corner.

Most Important Tip of all: Have a great Holiday Season! - Michele

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Thursday, November 9, 2017

AN ODE TO WARRIORS, WHY I LOVE VETERANS

AN ODE TO WARRIORS..
Note: I wrote this in 2009 for Memorial Day and it received national syndication. I'm sharing it again on Veterans' Day this year - my feelings haven't changed. Read the whole thing and let me know your thoughts. © 2009-2017 Michele A Ross

"I was thinking early this morning about this and actually got a little emotional.

First of all, I'm married to a veteran. My husband Bob was in the US Navy for 7 years during Vietnam, and was there during the evacuation of Saigon. And I'm also the daughter of one. My father was a career Army Officer in the US Army and a veteran of 3 wars, WW II, Korea, and Viet Nam.

Even if I don't agree with all the circumstances of each of these wars, there's something wonderful about someone who will hold a post and put himself or herself in harm's way to protect their group. Someone who will stand there and hold the line and say "I'm going to follow orders and get the job done for my god and my country- my group and my beliefs!" There's something above the crowd about doing that-.

When I was a child in Hawaii, we were stationed at Schofield Barracks on Oahu. One of my most poignant memories of that era was looking at the drill field covered in coffins and knowing those boxes were filled with men who had died for their country and that their bodies were on their way back to families who were grief stricken and in pain. That was the 60's and there were a lot of conflicting viewpoints about that mess over in southeast Asia. Yes, there was a lot of waste in that endeavor, but that was never any reason to dishonor those who did their job, held their posts correctly and held the line for the rest of us.

I know just a very little about what my husband and my father went through. My father spent time behind enemy lines in China and Korea and he was in Hanoi during negotiations. My husband Bob was there at the evacuation of Saigon. I can't pretend to know what emotions they felt in such environments nor what nonsense they had to weed through and put up with from both the enemy as well as lousy commanders, unethical comrades and being asked to do things that I'm sure pushed them violently up against the wall of their own integrity. I'm sure there are things that have plagued them both from time to time and still......, there's something about a guy (or girl) who is willing to take up arms, stand a post, and hold a line for their group because right or wrong at times its still their group....... I just know that while I was playing on the beaches at Waikiki, Waianae, and the North Shore, there were others who were elsewhere in the jungles of Viet Nam trying to get that job done against incredible odds from all sides. And as Memorial Day, and my childhood memories testify, many, many were lost in those efforts. Many, many warriors lost. Yes, I've walked through Arlington National Cemetery in DC, and seen the full ship salutes to the USS Arizona at Pearl Harbor- and I dare you to do so without shedding at least one tear.

War is not the answer and I've always known that- however, what would I do to defend my group, my home and my country? What would you do? We can't handle lack of accord and understanding when the communications have become bullets and missiles, however in the right context I don't think I'd personally hesitate to use such means. Yes, I'd take up arms and hold a post if necessary..

We still need our warriors, and in today's times, we must all step up to the line. Today's greatest and most urgent battles are for our own personal freedoms, our minds, our self-determinism, our bodies, our religions and the state of our immortal being. The battlefields are sometimes intentionally confused and hidden behind big media's disinformation, big Pharma, Big Chemical, unethical legislation and leaders, and destructive technologies who run a constant campaign to make us think they are there to help and that their particular brand of bullets aren't really bullets at all. They are lying through their teeth! The corpses from those campaigns are hidden behind advertising, legislation and propaganda campaigns- but like those coffins on the fields at Schofield Barracks Hawaii, they are there and they are just as real.

So, on this day I honor ALL the fallen warriors, those who have fought and died, and those who have served and lost a part of themselves in the effort whether it be in body, mind or spirit.

I also honor all the warriors still in there slugging on in today's battlefields both physical, mental, social, spiritual and ethical. Those who ARE holding a post, taking a stand, holding the line and forging ahead for their group, their beliefs, and their integrity against incredible opposition and suppression.

Today, I also ask myself and you too- What kind of warrior am I? What post am I holding?- what post are you? What do I stand for?, what do you? What arms am I taking up for the survival of my group, my beliefs, my spirit, my religion, my honor and my integrity? And in fact for ALL of humanity?

As the old saying goes- "The man who won't take a stand, stands for nothing".

I love true warriors!
Our own neck is only as precious as our fellow group member's is.

Find your cause, Take a stand, Hold a post,
Be constantly vigilant, Hold the line
Push ahead for a better world no matter the odds.

Be a warrior on your chosen battlefield and don't let the line be broken under any circumstances.

And on Memorial Day, & Veterans Day, honor all those who have served in battle, their chosen ones or not, and who held their post, did their job and have fallen before us.

Thank you veterans of all wars! Personally, I thank you very much."
- Michele Ross -"Mikala"

P.S., Miss you Dad