What bucket?

This is the bucket where I keep my list.

This is the bucket where I keep my list.


Apparently, everybody is now supposed to have a “bucket list”.  I constantly hear people talking about theirs, and asking me about mine.

Let me just see if I understand this correctly.  As a happy, well-adjusted adult in the prime of life, I am supposed to create a list of things I’d like to accomplish and enjoy before I (ahem) “kick the bucket”.   Right?

OK.  I get the general idea.  Don’t just sit back and wait for adventure, blah-blah.  Grab for all the gusto, yada-yada.

I’m on board with all that.  Really!  I absolutely believe that we make our own happiness, and that we all need to live our lives fully and richly.  We need to pursue our dreams.

I get it!

But here’s what I just don’t get.

Why does everybody seem to think that every item on my “bucket list” is supposed to scare the hell out of me?  Why do all the lists I see involve things like ziplining in the Amazon forest, or jumping out of an airplane?  I’ve read some of those “bucket list” blogs and articles!

People are doing things like riding every roller coaster in the country!   Or break dancing in the middle of Central Park!

That kind of thing is not exactly me. You know? In fact, that kind of thing is the kind of thing that makes me run screaming into the night.

Sometimes an opportunity to do something dangerous exciting comes up in my life, and friends start chirping “bucket list”!  And I start shaking my head and backing out the door, saying “nope, uh-uh, no way, not me”.

And then I feel like a wimp.  Or worse, I feel like someone who doesn’t fully appreciate the richness of life.

But I do!

And I do have my own little “bucket list”. Its just that mine is….well…on the tame side.

Some time in my life, before I die, I want to live right on the beach. I want to walk the shore at dawn, when everything is silent and calm.  I want to sit on my deck and watch a full moon rise over the open sea.

Before I leave this life, I want to take my grandchildren to Disney. I want to ride on Dumbo the Elephant again, and spin in the teacups and eat ice cream at Epcot.  I want to watch the neon lights of the Main Street Parade while holding the hand of a toddler.

On my bucket list I have items like swimming in a lake with my dogs, off of any leashes. Things like growing a successful eggplant or singing the Hallelujah Chorus without looking at the music.

I know.  These things are a little simple, a little dull.

But my bucket list is peaceful.  And it is mine.

People may shake their heads and shrug their shoulders at me, but I don’t care.  My bucket is filled with activities that won’t cause me to kick it, and that’s what really counts!

This ol’ body

Sometimes I look in the mirror and think, “Seriously?”

When I was twenty, I was sure that I would manage to be one of those women who age gracefully. You know, slender, fit, silver haired with long dangly earring, sipping a fine wine at a cafe in Rome.  I imagined my face to be serene and smooth, with just enough laugh lines to give me character.

I had a vivid imagination.

Reality is a little bit different, you see.  (sigh)

Of course, I still have the image of that beautiful older woman in my head. Which why I’m always sort of shocked to see the stocky, round faced lady with the bifocals standing there in pictures of me.

Sometimes I’m a little annoyed with my body.  How did it manage to get so creaky? Why do so many parts of it hurt these days?

And what’s with all the extra padding?

Sometimes I get frustrated when I wake up with a sore neck just from sleeping.

Or when my legs are aching from a half hour on the elliptical.  Or when I’d really like to go hiking with my husband, but I know my heart would palpitate me right off the mountainside.

Sometimes I don’t appreciate my body at all.  “I’ve been feeding you salad and kale shakes”, I tell it. “Shouldn’t you be a lot leaner and meaner by now?”   My body doesn’t usually answer me.  Frankly, I don’t think it hears as well as it used to.

At times like these, I think back on all that this body has done for me.  I make myself remember all the things I put it through in college.  I think back on all of the hikes and camping trips in the rain.  All the rocks and dirt I’ve made it haul around as I built my gardens.

I start to feel a little sheepish.

I begin to remember the times when my body acted like an absolute champ.  When it performed miracles.

I think about my three pregnancies, when I made that body incubate a real-live human and then give birth to it.  I remember labor and delivery when my clumsy, swelled-to-ridiculous-proportions body turned into an Olympic Champion and did what had to be done with precious little help from me.

I remember my body pregnant with one while chasing the other two around the house. I remember it staying up all night to rock a sick baby, then going grocery shopping in the morning.

So I pat it on its chubby little shoulder and tell it that I’m sorry.

I guess this body has earned its creaks and aches and padding.  I guess I should learn to appreciate it.

After all, I don’t imagine its going to get much more spry in the future!

Making lunch


I have never been one of those good wives who takes care of her man.

I don’t know how to sew on a button (I am NOT kidding. Stop laughing.)   I can iron, but only under duress (ie, a wedding).  I don’t iron Paul’s shirts.

I do make dinner, so I think I get some brownie points.

But I have friends who have been making breakfast for their hubbies since the wedding day.  Me? Not so much.

I figure that I married a perfectly capable and able man. He can make his own coffee and toast. Especially since I have been leaving the house before him for the past 20 plus years.

And I haven’t ever gotten into “making lunch”.

I mean, I guess when my oldest was little, I’d probably make sandwiches or soup or something.  But my kids have been packing their own lunches since they were in second grade.  I used to have a section of the cabinet marked “school snacks”.  They were supposed to pick what they wanted and put it into the lunchbox.

I figured that my job was done when I bought the stuff, right?


Now that the kids have all grown up and gone away, I find myself suddenly interested in making lunches.

I have been packing super healthy foods for myself for every school day. Kale shakes (no, I am NOT kidding), yogurt, veggie wraps.

So it wasn’t too much of a stretch for me to take on Paul’s lunch most nights.  I get out the wraps, the cold cuts, the cheese, the veggies, the mustard or french dressing, and I make the neatest, firmest, most packed wrap the world has ever seen.  I put it in his lunchbox, with some fruit and some juice and maybe a cookie or two.

And it is only once in a while that I ask myself, “What the hell?”


There seem to be some unexpected benefits to the proverbial “empty nest”.  And most of them are going to my husband.


Negative Space

BGM examples_negative space & positive space


I teach fifth grade in a school which focuses on the integration of art into all parts of the curriculum.  Since I have literally no background in the visual arts, I have learned a tremendous amount in my twenty years at our school.

One of the concepts which was introduced to me during my very first year was the idea of  “negative space”.  I learned about negative space when our art teacher passed by my classroom one morning and saw the funny, lopsided little cut-out picture that my then third grade daughter had created to decorate my door.  Honestly, I didn’t think much of it, and found it a little bit crude and messy. But I hung it up because I love my daughter dearly, and I wanted her know it.

I had all but forgotten about the little image until the art teacher stopped in my doorway and exclaimed, “Oh, who made that?  What a great use of negative space!”  I blinked, looked at the funny little cut out, and told her that Katie had done it. “She has such a great eye!”, said Margo.  “I love it.”

She then went on to describe the idea of negative space in art; how an artist can use the part of the image or sculpture that contains nothing to clarify or refine what we see.

Here is another example of how negative space creates the image:


The white part, the negative space, is clearly the most important.

The white part, the negative space, is clearly the most important.

You get the idea, right? It is the absence of color, texture, shape that gives the piece its true image.  The art is created by what is not there.

I have been thinking about this concept for the past week, because I have come to realize that in my empty nest life, summers are my “negative space”.

In my mommy days, summers were the busiest times.  I had my three children, and often their friends, to feed, entertain, clothe, care for.  I had my children to laugh with, to travel with, to shuttle from place to place. There were beach days, and movie days. Zoo trips, hikes, rainy day art projects and “We’re making a fort!” days.  Cookies to bake, ice cream trucks to await, grilled cheese sandwiches and bowls of popcorn and Disney channel marathons.  Every minute was full.

During the school year, of course, every minute was full then, and it is full now.  School days are positive space, there is no doubt.

But summer now is simply negative space.

I try to stay busy, although I know that I am in desperate need of rest after the rigors of the school year. I get together with friends, I visit my Mom.  I teach for a week or two, and I take classes for a week or two.  I plan little projects to do around the house. I give myself a routine to follow; the elliptical every other day, a good long walk with the dogs each morning, gardening most afternoons.  I make a good dinner and enjoy it with Paul when he comes home. We have weekends away with friends and family.

But summer is still mostly negative space.

It is the absences that define me in the summer. There are few demands on my time; no one needs me to be home, to be in the car, to be at the park or the hockey rink.  I am free. I can go wherever I want to go most days.  But with no company, there is no place that calls to me, and I stay home.

It is the absence of voices around me that defines me in the summer.  Some days (not many, thank goodness, but some days) I hear only my own voice from the time Paul leaves to the time when he comes home.  I put on music, or I watch the news, just so that I can hear someone’s voice.  I go to the library or to the farm stand, just to chat for a bit.

Too much negative space.

I’m just smart enough to know that these quiet contemplative days are good for me, but they make me uncomfortable.  I know that the absences impact and shape the image that is “me” right now, just as the negative space in the portrait above lets us see the woman.

Without the negative space, we couldn’t see the woman’s beauty or fragility.

I guess we are all made up of both positive and negative space. We reflect all that we have, and all that is missing.  I guess we have to accept all of the space if we are going to fully appreciate the art.



Tradition is a wonderful thing.  Families make traditions out of favorite recipes, special meals, little songs and rituals and shared jokes.  They create powerful memories out of annual visits to a treasured vacation spot, shared from one generation to the next.

Traditions keep siblings linked, one to the other, as they reenact the happiest memories of childhood. They keep children close to their parents as they share familiar stories, of “Remember the time when…….”  Traditions are our foundations.  As families, they help to define what makes us whole.

As I grow older, I am aware that it is the pull of those traditions that keeps us grounded in the past that created us.  Although my grandparents have been gone for years now, I hold fast to the traditional holiday foods that they brought with them from Italy almost a century ago.  Octopus for Christmas eve, ricotta pie for Easter; these are the traditions of my earliest days.  For me, it is the taste of those foods, eaten once a year, that reminds of who I truly am. Of who it was that gave me life, and how that life is rooted in a place where my feet have never walked. Those traditions tie me to those who came long before me, but whose blood I share.

It is in the tradition of cooking those foods that I honor my grandmothers and their mothers, and all of the women who shaped those holiday traditions with the strength of their hands and the depth of their love for their families.

Traditions can bring us so much solace when life moves on too quickly, and the years begin to fly.

But I am learning lately that holding fast to tradition, to those tender reenactments, can also pull us back in a way that is far from healthy.  Sometimes in my desire to keep our family traditions alive, I let myself be stopped in my tracks.  Sometimes by going to the same beloved, sacred places, I let myself be haunted.

If you have had a happy and lucky life, like mine, your past is filled with memories too sweet to easily release.  You want to hold them, touch each one, store them safely in your heart.   You want to bring those moments back; you don’t want to let them slide into the past. You want each one to be right now. Knowing that you can never make that happen fills you with grief. You have to work very, very hard to keep your spirits up and your eyes fixed on the future.

So going back to even the happiest and warmest traditions can be like attaching an anchor to your soul.  It keeps you grounded and secure, but it stops you from going on to your next destination.

I think that I need to find a way to keep the happiest memories of my children’s past alive and fresh in my memory.  But I also need to give myself permission to stop going to those places that for me are filled with beautiful ghosts.  I need to stop walking on paths that ring with the sound of my babies’ voices. I need to stop looking at the places where they splashed in the rain, where they drew images in pastel chalk, where they hugged me and looked for me, and didn’t feel safe without my arms around them.

Its time for me to make some new traditions, and to go to places that can be filled with new dreams.

Time to let the past be just that.  Time to look to the future.


Wide Awake in America

I am a middle aged woman.

Therefore, I do not sleep.

This is a very well known, but much hated, fact. Middle aged women are awake when all the world is wrapped in blissful slumber.

We. Simply. Do. Not. Sleep.

And for the most part (at least according to the women that I know) we have no idea what is keeping us awake.

We finish dinner, clean things up, maybe do some laundry or correct some math papers. We make lunch for tomorrow, check our email, and fall into bed after yawning so hard that we are pretty sure we have cracked our jaws.

And we sleep.  Deeply and blissfully, we sleep.  Until somewhere between 2 and 3 AM when something suddenly pokes us in the ribs with an icy finger and yells “FIRE!”  Then we jolt upright, check for smoke/fire/alarms/crying babies and take our respective pulses.  Then we get a cold drink of water, go to the bathroom, pat the dogs, and head back into bed.

Where our adrenaline soaked bodies lie rigid,  and wait breathlessly for the dawn.

I have been trying to get to the bottom of my sleeplessness for a few years now.  I have tried drinking more water, drinking less water, leaving the window open, leaving the window closed, taking St. John’s Wort, taking melatonin, drinking “Sleepytime Extra”, drinking honey bourbon, meditating, listening to music, rubbing on lavender oil, rubbing on Aspercreme and listening to “Hey Jude”.   So far, nothing has worked.

Sometimes I think that I am just anxious about life in general, but then I have a supremely alert two or three nights when I realize that the biggest problem in my mind is whether I should make ravioli or ziti for Sunday dinner.

So what the hell is going on here?

Last night I fell asleep thinking about how cool it is that my son Matt will be hiking on the Appalachian Trail for a month.  This is a big family dream,  yearned for by his father and his siblings for as long as I can remember. I fell asleep enthralled with the idea of him achieving this wonderful dream.

And at 3 AM, on the dot, I woke up to the terrifying thought that       “A BEAR IS GOING TO EAT MY BABY!”  My heart was pounding, my head ached and I was in full out “fight or flight” mode. Never mind the fact that I know that black bears don’t eat big men.  Never mind the knowledge that black bears won’t even be wandering around a place that will be filled with hikers.   Never mind that all 6 foot 3 inches of Matt would be too smart to lie still while being munched on by a bear.

Nope: logic had no power.

It was the witching hour.  And I was petrified.

Sometimes I am kept awake by the realization that “OH, DEAR GOD.  I don’t have a decent homework plan for tomorrow.!!!!!!”      Or I toss and turn because “SHIT!!! MY DOG HAS A BROKEN TOENAIL!”   Or, “The Bruins are going to lose.”  Or, “I’m not real sure how to braise those lamb shanks.”

I am absolutely NOT making this up.  Sometimes I lie awake at night and worry about the shape of my eyebrows.

I am nuts.  But I am not alone.

I’ve written about this subject before now.  But I am reminded once again of my theory about insomnia in women.

If we could ONLY figure out a way to harness our combined adrenaline fueled middle-of-the-night energy, I have no doubt that we could solve world hunger, cure cancer, create a just and equitable world economy and write the great American novel.  And all before dawn.

If we could only figure out how to get some control over our angst, we could totally rule the world.

So let’s get together tonight, somewhere between 2:30 and 4.  Let’s make a plan, figure out an approach, and get on top of this whole situation.

Are you with me, ladies?

Down the Rabbit Hole

My fifth grade students are working on our annual class play.  They have chosen to rewrite the classic story “Alice in Wonderland”.  It’s so much fun to watch them in action, just letting the creativity flow.  I love this time of year, when my sole responsibility is crowd control.

Of course, I am always amazed at how much the world has changed since I was in the fifth grade, and how the kids’ perceptions differ from mine. (They have written a mariachi band into the play.)

For example, did you know that Tim Burton and Johnny Depp did a completely creepy “Alice” movie?  Huh.  I didn’t.  My students wanted to base our script on THAT version rather than Lewis Carroll’s.  So I decided to watch it.

Oh.  My.  God.   I got as far as Johnny’s White Rabbit, with his horrible pinkish orange eyes.  Then I hit that clicker so fast that the whole TV just shut right down.

Of course, the next day the kids had a field day laughing at my sensitivity when I explained my reaction.  They find me very quaint.

So they tried to explain the Burton story, telling me all about how the Jabberwocky is a giant monster that Alice has to slaughter in the end.  This is the story that they all know. This is how they think it goes.

Um.  Really?

Has everything in the whole wide world changed, I wonder? Even the classic old stories, once known and loved by every child, have been changed and rewritten and done over.

Is nothing sacred?

Sometimes I feel as if I have fallen down the rabbit hole.

I mean, look at the way everyone is suddenly raising chickens.  Now I am a confirmed and dedicated locavore, and I love the fact that I am able to buy fresh eggs and local, organic chickens.    But when I was a kid, the only people who had actual chickens in the back yard were those hopelessly backward, unsophisticated immigrants. The rest of us thought they were….well….quaint.

I feel like I’m down the rabbit hole.

And what about plastic, for goodness sake!  Remember “The Graduate”?  (Of course you do).  The middle aged, successful businessman advises a young Dustin Hoffman to “get into plastics” because it is the material of the future.  Back in the 60’s (when I was in fifth grade), having things made of plastic was a sign of modernity.  I remember clearly when my tin “Beatles” lunchbox with its warped metal clasp was replaced with a bright blue plastic “Lost in Space” lunchbox.  I was so incredibly cool.

Now everyone hates plastic. It is made from petroleum, it stays in the environment for a billion years and there is a big pile of it swirling around in the Pacific Ocean.  Plastic is hopelessly old fashioned and out dated.

Rabbit hole.

And let’s think about politics for a moment, shall we?

I remember a time when conservative Americans believed in the motto, “America. Love it or leave it.”  I remember when it was the middle class, white, conservative “majority” that used to vilify the hippy radicals who marched in protest against the Vietnam War.  When young people stuck flowers into the gun muzzles of the National Guard, the conservative base called them “unAmerican” and “disrespectful.”

I remember “My country right or wrong.”

Now? If you want to call yourself a real conservative, you have to believe that you and your friends have a right and a duty to own big guns that can shoot a million rounds.  Why? So you can fight back against those government agents if they come to your door.

Rabbit hole in a big way.

And finally, there is the recent loss of sensitivity to sexual misbehavior.  See, for my entire life, a public figure could pretty much say goodbye to his career if he was caught red-handed in an affair.  I mean, we all knew that behind closed doors powerful men were enjoying their free time in the company of beautiful women.  But it couldn’t be right out there in public! Remember the incredible outcry when Ted Kennedy was caught cheating after the death of his young and beautiful campaign worker?  The uproar was more about her presence in the Senator’s car than it was about her tragic death.  And I know you remember Monica Lewinsky…..

So how do you explain Mark Sanford? The famous A.T. “hiker” was reelected after admitting that he was in Argentina with his girlfriend while collecting his public paycheck. He was reelected. They knew about his lies, his cheating and his attempts to cover it all up, and they voted for him anyway.  Really???

And then there is the skinny,  smirking face of the man with the unfortunate name.  First he sends photos of his pride and joy out into the Twitterverse, loses his Congressional seat and publicly hangs his head in well earned shame.   Then he runs for Mayor of New York.

Well, yikes.

This is not the world I grew up in, for sure.   Alice, we are down the rabbit hole.

Why I love lilacs


Sometimes Paul and I walk the dogs along the local bike trail near our house.  As we stroll along the paved walkways, we look into the woods on either side.  Because this is New England, we see beautiful tall pines interspersed with old oak, sturdy maples and young birches.  We often come across stone walls, covered in moss and lichen, fallen down in places.

We know that these walls mark the boundaries of farms long gone. We realize that farmers lived here a hundred or more years ago, and that they cleared this rocky land for their crops, using the upturned stones to build boundary walls that marked their fields.

But what intrigues me more than anything else on our woodland ramblings is the sight of huge old overgrown lilacs, standing some ten feet apart in the middle of the woods.

If I look closely, I can usually make out the slightly sunken rectangle that would have once marked a front door.  Sometimes I am able to move aside the grasses and weeds to find a little cluster of daffodils or day lilies. Sometimes we can see the shape of the root cellar that once stood in this place.

I love the way the lilacs stand as sentinels, so many years after the houses have fallen back into the earth.  I love the way they continue to blossom and bloom and perfume the air, not caring about whether or not there are humans around to appreciate their beauty.

But every time we stumble upon one of these grand old plantings, I wonder, “Who planted these beautiful bushes? Whose house once stood here?”  And I fall into daydreams, wondering about those long ago families, living in this place where I now walk.

About fifteen years ago, I planted a tiny lilac just outside my front door.  It was a baby offshoot of a lovely bush growing in the yard of one of my old friends.  Her home was older than ours, and the lilac had been there, full and mature and proud, when she and her husband had moved in. Knowing that we were living in a wild and desolate yard, in a new house, she gave me the gift of that baby lilac, and I put it in the ground with high hopes.  Some five years later, that new plant sent out another shoot, which I planted to the left of my door.

And now the air outside my windows is filled with the impossibly lavish scent of lilac.  The bushes are tall and strong, and fertile beyond my wildest hopes.

And as I sit here tonight, in my poorly built house, looking at the cracks in the walls and noting the buckling foundation, it occurs to me that someday in the not-too-distant future, long after this modest home has fallen back into the earth, another couple might come walking along in the woods.  They might pause for a moment as their dogs sniff the fallen leaves.  They might look into the growth of young maples and birches, and notice the strong and sturdy lilacs that stand side by side, their branches drooping with blooms.

And that other woman, sometime in the future, might look with sadness and sympathy on my lovely lilacs and ask herself, “I wonder who planted these beautiful bushes?  I wonder whose house once stood in these woods?”


In the little town where I live there are many, many buildings that stand empty. Some were left behind when the jobs and the money disappeared. Some are in a limbo of legal wranglings. Some have simply become too old to be maintained.

On our town’s main street there stands a crooked,  creaky,  wooden building that once housed a little general store. For so many years, the town’s children came here for candy. The mothers came for fresh milk brought in from the farm up the street.  Generations of families came in for the newspaper, a loaf of bread, candles or kerosene or batteries.  The store’s wavering, rippled windows have looked out on the central street of this little town since the 1920’s.

Now the store is empty, the window displays show only dust.  The milk from our local farm has long since been sold to a big interstate conglomerate. The candy is gone, the papers are now read on-line.  The wooden beams that hold up this hulking old building have warped and bent; the roof is leaking and the wiring is brittle and frail.

I am guessing that the beautiful old red and white clapboards will be taken down soon, left in a pile of dusty memories.

In my small town there are so many houses that have been left alone, empty, abandoned.  Each is marked with a vivid red X, a sign to local firefighters, saying   “If I am burning, you should let me go. No one hides inside. No one lives here now.  I am an empty shell. Let me burn.”

SONY DSCNo matter that the house was once the pride of a young family. No matter that at one time the graceful slope of the roof was a sign of genteel prosperity.  No matter that in a time gone by the delicate posts of the porch sheltered a happy family out taking the evening air.  No matter that these gnarled old trees used to hold swings where girls in gingham dresses giggled at the sight of boys in suspenders and straw hats.

Now the house is empty. The prosperity is gone. Now the trees are old and bare, the street is cracked and worn.

No family laughs around the fireplace here any more.  No mother croons a lullaby to her baby in these rooms. No lazy dog is left to doze by the front door.  No letters are delivered here now, no packages wait on the step for the birthday boy to arrive.

In my small town, there are so many proud old houses that stand marked by an X. Dark, echoing, alone.  Waiting for the fire or the storm or the wrecker that will come to finally bring them down.

In my poor little town, the rhododendron and the hemlock have proven to be stronger than the people who once called these places “home”.  Every day on my way to work, and every night on my way home, I drive past a house that has been abandoned and alone for so long that the bushes have grown right up and over the door.SONY DSCEvery day, and every night, I picture the children who must have eaten their breakfasts and headed out this door to school.  Every day I think of the mothers who must have carried groceries in through it, and the grandparents who must surely have arrived here on Christmas Eves of the past, loaded down with gifts and cookies and love.

And every day, and every night, I wonder how long it has taken for the bushes to cover the path and hide the door.  And I wonder if those wise and strong old plants are trying to shield the house, and keep its secrets safe.

He bought asparagus!

Paul and I have been married for a really long time.  And we were a couple for a long time before we got married.  And we were friends for a long time before we became a couple.

We met in the seventh grade, isn’t that weird? We fell in love at the tender age of 16, and we married at 22. We are heading for our 35th anniversary this summer.

Well, yikes.

How have we made it last, you ask?  How have we managed to stay together all this time?

That’s a really good question, and now that I am the mother of three young adults, I have asked myself the same thing many, many times.   I wish that I knew the answer. I wish I knew how to advise my children.  I wish I knew the secret.

After all this time, it is still a mystery to me to find that Paul still loves me, and that I still love him.  It kind of makes me laugh, to tell you the truth!

I don’t have all the answers.  But I think I have figured out a few little nuggets of wisdom to share.  These are the things that have worked for us, as far as I can figure.

#1) Be honest about your partner.  Don’t try to ignore his faults and only see his virtues. I mean, how unfair can you be to someone? We’re all human, and we all deserve to be loved for who we are, not for who our lover wants us to be.

#2) Be honest about yourself. Don’t try to pretend that you love fishing if really makes you sick to even think about it.  I learned this one the hard way, on a few too many hikes above treeline. Be yourself and tell the truth!

#3) In spite of number 2, be more generous than you want to be! Do things just because they make your honey happy, even if they sort of make you crazy. (Note the multitude of hikes mentioned above.) The thing is, though, its important not to pretend that you love what he loves. Be honest and be clear, and then do some things you don’t like to to do.

#4) After you do those things you don’t really like doing, forget about them.  This is vital.  You can’t go on the hike and then complain for two weeks that you did it. (OK, you CAN complain all you want, just not to your spouse. This is why God gave you friends and siblings, right?)

#5) Be romantic.  And I don’t mean the whole candles/champagne/flowers thing.  That is just plain trite.  Be honestly romantic, by thinking of those little things that will please your love.

Here is a perfect example of a romantic gesture. I think it explains why I stay married to my friend Paul.

I have had a rough couple of weeks, for various reasons. Just feeling sort of blue, sort of stressed, sort of fragile. Paul knows that.  On Friday I was at school, and I got a text. It was from my hubby.  “I just bought some strawberry plants, and I got fresh asparagus.”

Now you should know two things about my husband.  The first is that he loves fresh strawberries with a passion that defies description.  Last year he built a raised bed and filled it with strawberry plants. He was in Heaven all summer, picking and eating that luscious fresh fruit.  This year he decided to expand his bed and double the crop.

The second thing that you need to know is that Paul absolutely loathes asparagus. He hates the taste, the smell, the texture of it. He would never, ever, ever spend a nickel on this veggie for himself.

But I love it, especially when it is fresh and local.  Especially in spring.

And so my honey scooped up a lovely fresh bunch of asparagus, just for me.  And then he took the time to send me a text about it.

THAT, my friends, is romance. It isn’t jewelry or roses or a trip to some exotic locale.  Romance is when a nice man is running an errand, and something little makes him think of you. Romance is when a guy buys his wife some fresh asparagus, knowing that it will make her smile.  Knowing that he will have to light some scented candles after dinner to cover up the smell.

So this is what I wish for my children: I wish you someone who loves you so much that he will buy you something that he can’t stand, just so that he can see you smile.