When my looooongtime friend (and Aug. 2 birthday sister) Melissa met and then married a wonderful man named Bob Thomas, we all approved. He was then and is now caring, intelligent, supportive, strong and funny. He has a strong Christian faith and is absolutely and totally committed to his family. Through the years, we’ve all at one time or another had the same thought: “Gee, Bob, the things you’re saying are so wise and thoughtful. You really should write a book.” He must have read our minds because this year he finally did it. I’m telling you, you need multiple copies of this handy little self-published gem so you can give them to those men in your life who 1) need a friendly nudge, 2) need to be disabused of the notion that marriage is all about THEM or 3) need nothing at all except a “Thank you for being such a great guy.” Bob covers everything you need to know on the subject of marriage, from sex (“Clipping your toenails in bed is not good foreplay.”) to starting a family (“Never leave Wal-Mart without diapers. Don’t bother calling home to see if you need them — just buy diapers.”) to simply getting along (“Women are required to use a set number of words in a day. If it is bedtime and your wife has not used up all her words for that day, just lie back and listen intently.”). It’s all gold, believe me. And as funny as Bob is, he backs it up with authority … Biblical authority, that is. He connects everything he says with Scripture. But he does it the way that he lives his life: As a quiet but powerful testimony of faith and love. Plus, he shows great wisdom in recognizing (free and no-cost) editing talent. But I get no financial gain whatsoever from sales — except if Melissa and Bob get more money, then we girls can go out to lunch more often — so it’s entirely OK for me to demand you buy many copies of this book. You will love it. Email email@example.com. Tell him his editor sent you.
It’s hard to believe how much technology has changed our everyday lives. When I was growing up in the 1960s, my family had one TV and one telephone — you needed parental permission to turn on the TV and you had to stay in one place to talk on the phone. How rich we felt as we graduated to more TVs — I had one of my own! In my room!!! — and more phones. I remember a Christmas when my brother and I were thrilled with our granddad’s gift to us: A reel-to-reel tape recorder. Talk about state-of-the art! Then, in the 1980s, it got harder to keep up with each newest thing — as soon as we got it, whatever “it” was, Version 2.1 came out. Changes kept coming, rapid-fire fast. It took me forever to remember to walk around and talk on cordless phones without being tethered to one spot — how amazing was it that you could take the phone into another room while you were talking? I used my paycheck from working at our church’s Mother’s Day Out program to buy one of those newfangled VCR things, and the delight my daughters found in watching Disney’s “Cinderella” over and over never diminished. Around that time, my then-husband laughingly dismissed a friend’s question wondering if we’d ever be able to play CDs in our cars, but of course, he’s also the one who shook his head in the mid 1990s at the preposterous idea of buying things over the Internet when I excitedly told him I could access the Simplicity sewing company and check out their patterns online — “That’s crazy. It’ll never work. Who’d want to do that?” he said. But, to be fair, he wasn’t the only skeptic. Weren’t we all, really? I mean, who would have thought years ago we’d have phones with us at all times and that we could watch movies and TV and listen to music anywhere we wanted? And who could have predicted I’d start every morning accepting virtual agricultural gifts and sharing my meandering thoughts with thousands of people I’ve never met? I love technology! And I love my now-husband, too — our relationship has spanned the range of communication from good ol’-fashioned e-mail to texting and tweeting. After, where would marriage be if we couldn’t keep up with our spouses 24/7? Read more at my weekly newspaper column at http://www.timesdaily.com/article/20091204/ARTICLES/912045004.
Have you ever had people say things to you — and I’m talking nice things here — that made you see yourself as someone other than the person you think you are? It always amazes when I see myself from somebody else’s perspective since usually the image does not jive at all with the image I have of myself. I mean, it sort of makes you wonder if the private you — the one that mostly lives inside your head — and the public you — the one that goes to work and the grocery store and PTA meetings — have anything in common whatsoever. This past week I had three people say things to me/ask me questions that threw me for a loop: 1) The person who cuts and styles my hair told me, “You’re always so sweet and cheerful when you come in. It just makes me day,” when really I think of myself as crabby and grumpy, especially when I have to spend $$$ just to make my hair look presentable; 2) the person working in the dressing rooms at my favorite discount-clothing store asked me if I knew where to find a purse with a clasp closure for a Christmas present, when I really think of myself as someone who can barely find her own purse and get outside the door with two matching shoes; and 3) a person in local-theater circles and I were chatting at a local coffee shop about the struggles of writing and what to do when you hit a wall and I said that caffeine always helps and this person said that (insert name of illegal drug) helps, too, and then sort of paused as if waiting for me to suggest we go get some. So in the space of three days, I’ve been identified as sweet, stylish and a drug user — when really I’m just a grouchy un-put-together coffee fiend. Sigh.
I admit that I consider myself a courteous and polite person. I mean, I know to send thank-you notes and I know to say “please” and “I’m so sorry to bother you, but …” and I know it’s the right thing to do to smile and be pleasant and use good manners so that we all get along, goshdarnit. So how did I come to commit a practically unforgivable social faux pas not once but twice on the very same day??? What were those acts of misbehavior and why will two women probably never speak to me again??? I’m too ashamed to even say it here, so you’ve got to read my weekly TimesDaily newspaper column at http://www.timesdaily.com/article/20091023/ARTICLES/910235005 to find out — and please please please let me know I’m not the only one who’s disgraced herself this way. On the other hand, becoming a social pariah will sure free up lots of weekend time, so there you go: Silver lining!
When my husband John Pitts — who is a super writer and the best editor I know — and I recently celebrated our fifth wedding anniversary, I wrote about it in my weekly newspaper column and asked my husband to talk about the five things he’s learned in five years of marriage. He did, it got great response and I was tickled that I had tricked my husband into writing my column for me my husband so kindly wrote my column for me that week. However, most people noticed that he,in fact, had written it and so wondered why I was so lazy and where my five things were. So here they are: http://www.timesdaily.com/article/20090619/ARTICLES/906195000
But, seriously, the main thing I’ve learned in five years of marriage is something I couldn’t quite articulate in my column without seeming to be critical of my first husband, which I’ve vowed never to do in (newspaper) print. What is that lesson? It’s something I struggled with for years: Saying exactly what I mean and trusting that it’s going to be OK. In my first marriage, I picked up the bad habit of being passive-aggressive. You know, playing the “I’m-upset-but-I’m-not-going-to-tell-you-because-if-you-loved-me-enough-you’d-figure-it-out” game that only leads to disaster. That is not the basis for a healthy relationship, and to get over doing that means you have to rely on trust and faith and respect — which I have in overflowing abundance with my husband John Pitts. Who, by the way, is an awesome stepfather, too. Am I lucky or what?
Thank you all for the kind fifth-anniversary thoughts. You are so sweet! My husband John Pitts and I had a super weekend of looking back at our oh-so-wonderful wedding (and all the friends and family who made it so) and looking ahead to what new adventures await — a nice mixture of nostalgia and optimism! We do make a good team. In fact, he helped me with my newspaper column this week. You can read the whole thing at http://www.timesdaily.com/article/20090612/ARTICLES/906125000, but the best part is the advice he gave — my husband’s five things he’s learned from five years of marriage:
1. Just like Einstein, you spend a lot of energy grappling with issues of time and space. In our busy lives, of course, we have to make time for each other while also giving each other the space to breathe. But I also have learned not to call home when it’s time for “Survivor” or “So You Think You Can Dance,” and not to complain too much when she takes up “my space” in the closet. Einstein would tell you, if he were here: it’s all relative.
2. In a restaurant with a television, always sit with your back to the TV. This has brought as much harmony to our relationship as anything I can think of. I’m easily distracted, anyway, so this assures much better eye contact. Besides, it’s fun to hear my wife try to describe the action from a baseball game that’s playing behind me (“There’s a guy with the ball, then there’s a guy running and sliding and everyone is jumping up and down.”)
3. Be careful with the smart-alecky remarks when your wife is chopping something in the kitchen with a big knife and you’re standing nearby. I’m just sayin’.
4. It’s good to learn how to navigate in your spouse’s world. Even though I don’t like coffee, for instance, when we visit the coffee shop they can still make me something that I like: Steamed milk. Yum!
5. And the Biggest Lesson of All: Even though I want to, my wife is not always looking for me to make everything all right. Sometimes she just wants to vent, to cry, to have real emotions in the presence of a person who loves her and respects her and understands. Of course, sometimes she does want me to make everything all right. How to tell the difference? I’m working on it. Check back in another five years.
Whenever we’re someplace where there’s a furniture store and we’ve got a few minutes to kill — which happens maybe every other year or so — my husband and I go in and wander around and pick out things we both like for when we (hope to) get a new house together and start from scratch. Right now we’re in the house I bought with my ex-husband years ago and raised my two daughters in as a single mom. It has a definite girly vibe with ex leftovers. My husband is a good sport and says he doesn’t mind for now but it’ll be good to have our own house together with our own things together. So on a recent weekend visit to Nashville, Tennessee, we did some furniture “shopping” and as always, I was surprised by some of my husband’s picks. For instance, I would have thought he’d dismiss this bedding set as too shiny, but he liked the sophisticated sleekness of it, I think. Sort of upscale hotel meets big-city loft — or at least what my small-Alabama-town imagination thinks that marriage would look like! He also approved of this white sofa with the blue and black pillows. Again, he said he was drawn by the simple yet substantial lines and peacefully quiet colors. Of course, my maternal inner housewife thinks, “White? Are you kidding?” And I’m thinking of myself here, since I can’t eat or drink anything without making a mess. I guess I’d have to sit on the floor. Or switch to white wine.
If you’re like me, your friendships with your girlfriends are some of your most valued relationships. We are so blessed to have these smart, strong and talented women in our lives. I am in awe of my friends and grateful every day that they let me hang around them: My high-school pals who gratefully have allowed me to grow up and out of my geeky phase, my college roommates who know the real me but love me anyway, the moms I raised my children and many many glasses of wine with, my margarita- and book-loving co-conspirators who can smell a shoe sale from 10 miles away and the wonderful women I continually am privileged to meet and get to know. What would we do without these special people? I recently witnessed once again the healing power of friends and laughter (and shoe shopping, of course) when a friend needed our help preparing for her husband’s funeral. Read about it in my newspaper column, http://www.timesdaily.com/article/20090220/ARTICLES/902200301. And while you’re at it, you’ve got to read this wonderful piece from national columnist Sharon Randall: http://www.timesdaily.com/article/20090221/ARTICLES/902210301. It’s her birthday list of life lessons she’s learned so far. And I don’t know her, but from her list I think she’d make a good friend, too.
Today combines two significant calendar dates: Friday the 13th and Valentine’s Eve. And that makes sense, because it surely will be bad luck for any man who forgets how important tomorrow is. I’m not sure why Valentine’s Day shopping is so tough for most men. I mean, it’s shopping. It’s buying something pretty and sweet and lovely and romantic for your pretty and lovely and romantic sweetheart. How hard can that be? Luckily, my husband is a good sport and he answers all our why-did-my-husband-buy-me-a-new-Dustbuster-for-Valentine’s-Day questions in my column in the TimesDaily today, http://www.timesdaily.com/article/20090213/ARTICLES/902130309
My friend’s husband, whom the women in our church made this prayer quilt for during his battle with cancer, died this week. He was a good man who made everyone he met feel special. He loved motorcycles, airplanes, his farm and his family and friends and enjoyed so much being around the people he cared about. He should have been given more time to do that. But right now you and I have that time, so to celebrate the memory of his life, please enjoy being with the people you care about today. Give them lots of love and tell them it’s from Jim. He would have gotten a kick out of that.