Now I lay me down to sleep……


Time for bed!

So there I was, standing in the bathroom as I got ready for bed last night. Paul was already under the covers with a good book, and the house was cozy and warm.  It occurred to me that I was one very lucky woman, still married to my first love after 37 years of wedded bliss.

I thought back on the many years of getting ready for bed, with my dear Paul waiting for me.

I remembered the slinky negligees, the light floral scents of the lotions, the candles. Sweet memories!

And then I looked in the mirror.  And thought back on the previous 30 minutes.

And I suddenly realized something.  When they tell you how things change when you get old, they don’t warn you about bedtime!

I mean.  Jeez.

I had shut the lights in the living room and headed for the bedroom a full half hour ago.  I thought back over what I had done to get ready to sleep.

Well, first I’d changed into my nice flannel pajama’s.  The ones with the stars and moons.

Then I had washed my face carefully with “Retinol Wrinkle Reduction” or some such thing. I’d dried off and then smoothed on a coat of “Age Spot Reducing Lotion”.  You know, just to keep those little brown smears in check.

I had dutifully brushed my teeth with my electric toothbrush and my “Sensodyne” toothpaste. I had flossed.  I had used mouthwash, not so much because I was anticipating anything romantic, but because I want my gums to stay healthy.


Then I had to use an astringent on my nose.  See, I have developed a certain congestion of the oro-pharynx that can result in a vibratory pattern.

Yeah. I snore.

Like a freakin’ freight train.  I not only wake Paul up several times a night, I wake myself up too.

So I use those nose strips to sleep. And you have to make sure they stick. So, astringent, check. Nose strip, check.

Then I had to rinse off and insert my mouth guard.  The one that stops me from grinding away my back teeth while I sleep.  I cleaned it, popped it in, tested my jaw movements. Check, Check, Check.

And then I had to refill my water bottle and place it next to the bed.  What with the mouthguard and the nose strips, I get pretty dry at night.  Check.

I was almost ready to sleep.  All that was left was to find the menthol patches and stick one on each elbow, one on my right thumb and one on my knee.   All set.  The smell of camphor and spearmint filled the air.

I spritzed a little coconut oil on my hair (its supposed to improve the thickness and make the scalp healthy), ran my fingers through it so that it stood up in greasy gray spikes, and headed to bed.

I had to stop once on the way to smooth cocoa butter on my dry ankles. But eventually, I made it to the bed where Paul was reading.

I pulled back the covers and snuggled against my dear beloved husband. “Night, honey”, I said.  He smiled, kissed me and said, “Night!”

He is one lucky, lucky guy.  Don’t you think?



True Romance

My honey and I, back in the day.

My honey and I, back in the day.

My Dad was a true romantic.  He was always one for grand gestures.  He would routinely reach out to my Mom while she was trying to make dinner, pull her into his arms and tell all six of us giggling children, “Your mother is the most beautiful woman in the world!” He was always the guy who bought the huge Valentine card with the red velvet ribbon, full of words of poetry and schmaltz.  He would sometimes sing to my Mother, in an off-key voice, so full of love for his girl that he couldn’t contain it.

And I will never, ever forget the Christmas morning when he really went over the top. They had been together for probably thirty five years by then, weathering times of struggle as my Dad worked full time in the day and attended classes at night.  They had raised six children into healthy adulthood.  They had scrimped and saved and worked very hard.  Now they had come to a place of relative bounty, and Dad had gotten a hefty bonus at work.  On Christmas morning, in front of the assembled kids and a couple of spouses, Dad ostentatiously presented Mom with her gift: A full length mink coat, with a pair of diamond earrings in the pocket.

Wow. Right out of a Cary Grant movie, right?

I sort of always wanted that kind of romance for myself.  In my secret heart, I guess I always assumed that I would find a man who would kiss me lavishly in front of our children, praising my lips and my hair and my heart of gold, all at once.

But then I grew up.  I fell in love with Paul.  I fell in love with a quiet, gentle soul who tended to avoid the limelight.

Presenting your true love with a full length fur in front of the assembled family is not exactly avoiding the limelight.

But that isn’t the only thing that differed from my childhood daydreams.

Once I grew up, and became a well educated and professional woman, I found that I preferred to buy my own jewelry and clothing.  I was happy to find myself married to a man who gave me practical gifts.

And the years went by.  Like my parents, Paul and I have both worked hard. We have raised three children into healthy adulthood.  We have lived through graduate school together,  we’ve both had night jobs, we found ourselves working two jobs. We have experienced the scrimping and saving and keeping our fingers crossed that the furnace would stay on and the roof wouldn’t leak. We have eaten our share of beans and rice in an effort to cut costs.

We have had many Christmases, birthdays, anniversaries together.

We are not a traditionally “romantic” couple.

And here is what I have learned.

Romance is in the eye of the beholder.   My husband, my friend, my love, does not bring me jewels and flowers and perfume.  Instead, he brings me tiny gifts that tell me that I hold a place in the forefront of his mind and heart.

Sometimes he stops to buy me asparagus. Sometimes he walks the dogs even though its my turn.  And sometimes romance is found simply  in what he says.

My husband is one of those “reach out and touch someone” guys. He absolutely loves Facebook for the way that it lets us reconnect with old and dear friends.  Paul is the most loyal of friends: he will not forget you even if he hasn’t seen you since you were both walking around without your front teeth.

He recently connected with a group of people who worked together at a local ice cream parlor in the 1970’s.  He has been out of his mind with joy at finding them again. He has spent hours exchanging messages and emails with his old buddies.

I will be honest, I had to talk myself into letting go of my frustration the 900th time that he started a sentence with, “My old friend B. was telling me………”. He has met them for lunch, gathered them for group phone chats, helped to organize a reunion cook out.   I have tried to grin and bear it.

“Huh”, I have thought to myself. “Where is that romantic guy I was supposed to marry, h’mmm?”

And then I found him.

We were sitting together the other night, talking over his recent visit with his wonderful old friends.  And he said, “One of the ice cream parlor women said the same thing that our old High School friends have said to me. They both told me that I’m not the same as I was back then. That I’m so much more open and confident and friendly.”

I laughed and joked, “Well, of course!”, I said with a smile. “You owe it all to me.”

My husband didn’t laugh. He reached out and took my hand.  He said, “But its true, honey. You didn’t make me more outgoing.  But you always gave me room to grow.”

There you have it, my friends.  That is true romance.  Recognizing the little things that someone does to help us become our very best selves.

I will treasure that statement for the rest of my life.  And I’ll buy my own earrings while I do.

Good anxious and bad anxious

I don’t understand people who are calm and serene.  Truly, I don’t.

I aspire to be one of them.  I do.  But then again, I also aspire to be a size 8.  Some things are simply beyond my humble abilities.

When I spend time with those paragons of peacefulness, I am totally in awe.

I am also usually in danger of hyperventilating.

I can’t help it.  A lot of things just get me revved up.  I am blessed with a nimble mind and a vivid imagination.   I worry!

This means that when I spend a lovely day on the beach in Maine with several friends and their beautiful children, I keep an eagle eye on every little body, repeatedly counting heads while the mothers relax and smile from the beach, not at all concerned that a rogue wave will suddenly appear and drown everyone.  In my head, I know that these kids have literally grown up on this beach, that the water is barely over their heads, that it is low tide and that they can all swim.  In my crazy Mamma heart, though, I spend the entire afternoon imagining disaster and reviewing what I know of CPR.

I’m just anxious.

I can judge my levels of anxiety quite easily, too.  The cleaner the house, the more amped up I am feeling. Anxious= clean.  It’s that simple.

When my kids were little ones, Paul could come in the front door at dinner time, glance around at the immaculate living room and ask, “What’s wrong?”  If there were socks on the floor, dishes in the sink and smudges on every reflective surface, he’d give a big sigh of relief and come on in for dinner.

What makes my particular brand of craziness more difficult, though, is the fact that sometimes I am bad anxious (someone lost a job, someone is very sick, someone has been hurt or put in danger) and sometimes I am good anxious (heading off to a reunion with my oldest friends, going into a new school year, leaving on a great vacation).

It makes no difference.  I get that big old flood of adrenaline, my heart starts skipping around like an eager race horse, and before I know it, I’m cleaning everything in sight.

Let me give you an example.

My beautiful, smart, capable, mature daughter just experienced every woman’s dream proposal from the man who makes her breath catch.  They were on the coast of Ireland, and he proposed with an emerald ring in a Celtic design, followed by champagne and text messages to all who love them.

I know! Can you stand it?  Like a perfect dream!  Like every wish I ever wished for her, from the first moment that I knew she was alive. “Let her find love, let her be happy, let her have someone who gives her all of her dreams.”  I am beyond happy at her news, and Paul and I shed some tears over the whole thing last night, knowing that she is on the way to a wonderful future.

But still!

This morning I found myself swamped with “good anxious” thoughts.  What is the proper My-Daughter-Got-Engaged etiquette? What do I do now?  Followed rapidly by: “But she’s only a baby!” and “What will I wear?” and “Can I lose 20 lbs and do I care if I can’t?” and “I want to get together with his Mom, ASAP! We need to hug and cry and drink a barrel of wine together!”

I am happy, I am elated, I am facing a new and incredibly exciting adventure.  This is the most awesome news to hit our house in a long time!!! And to top if  all off, my niece, one of Kate’s closest buddies on earth, got engaged this week, too, so I get to experience this whole phenomenon with my baby sister!!  How incredibly cool is that?!

It’s all absolutely, totally positive and fabulous.

So I have to wonder why, on the only off day that I have had in weeks, I found myself cleaning out the medicine cabinet and dusting the baseboards at 10 AM, after walking the dogs, mopping the kitchen floor, writing a special-ed report that is due in October, refinishing a coffee table and trimming the hedges.

I think I might be just a tiny bit “good anxious”, don’t you?

Can you imagine what a mess I’d be if I had gotten some bad news?

My baby is engaged!

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.