How To Stay Married

Tips for a happy marriage

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I have been very happily married to my husband for thirty-five years.  What makes a great marriage?  People ask that question all the time.  There is a simple answer.  Compromise.

The top ten ways to have a happy marriage

1.  Recognize that your partner’s happiness needs to be what makes you happy too.

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2.  Take an interest in what they care about.  I don’t love watching golf, but I have learned to aske questions about the game and have a greater understanding of golf.  He encourages my writing and helps edits my blogs.

3.  Spend time together, doing something you both enjoy.  When we first had children we tried to have a weekly date.  I used to tell him, “i don’t care if we just go out for a baloney sandwich, I just want time as a couple.”  Now that our children are adults, we love spending time traveling together.  Make it an adventure.

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4.  Divide household chores, but be willing to mix them up. My husband started cooking when he retired, and I started doing some gardening.  He still is better handling the bills, and I do a better job  cleaning than he does.

5.  Spend time apart.  I’m not suggesting you move out of your home but have interest outside of your home that doesn’t involve your partner.

6.  Agree to agree when it comes to discipline.  Presenting a united front is always the best approach when parenting children.  Kids like structure and rules, they can smell weakness.  When your children are young be a parent, not their friend.  If you do a good enough job Actually parenting when they are young, they will want to be your friend when they are adults.

7.  Make time for your love life.  I read somewhere once that greatest gift a father can give his children is to love their mother.  Set an example of love and respect.

8.  Laugh together, at each other and with each other.  We’re not afraid to make fun of one another.  I know my bad driving is the likely cause of road rage in the state of Arizona and he knows that he doesn’t really need three navigation systems to get us somewhere.

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9.  Forgive one another, don’t hold onto grudges.  Sometime you have to agree to disagree, then drop the subject.

10.  Go though tough times.  LIfe usually makes this happen for all of us anyway, but it does strengthen your love. We have been at one another’s side for so many difficult times.  We have held each other up through sickness, stress and the death of our parents.  We have cried in each other’s arms and we both have always known that the love we have for each other carries us on.

My Mother’s Last Gift

 

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Lately I have seen a lot of women my age shopping with their mothers.  Now I am just assuming they are mothers and daughters, gingerly walking up and down the shopping isles.  I look at these women with sweet nostalgic memories and a twinge of envy.  My mom was a shopper in the finest sense of the word.  She would drive far and wide to seek out bargains.  Together we always had fun shopping and maybe that’s why I am envious of these women, gently guiding their own frail mothers.

Daughters have complicated relationships with their mothers.  My mother was not perfect, but I never felt anything but love from her.  She was a child of The Great Depression and lost her own mother at an early age.  She helped raise her younger siblings when her mother passed away leaving behind eight young children.  I am sure growing up in poverty, without a mother made her the person I knew.  Her memories of her own mother were always sweet stories of her cat Dorothy, placing cardboard in their shoes to cover the holes in the soles, eating sugar and lard sandwiches and always sharing what little you had with someone who had even less.

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My mom as a young girl.

My mom’s name was Grace and she talked to everyone.  She would start a conversation with the stranger sitting next to her on a plane and soon would be exchanging phone numbers. Grace’s three children all grew up knowing that mom was proud of them and loved them unconditionally.  

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Grace, meeting her granddaughter, Kathleen Grace.

The last five years of my mother’s life were undoubtedly the most difficult.  She was diagnosed with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) or Lou Gehrig’s Disease .  Not very long after the diagnosis my father, her husband and love of her life passed away.  Grace, the independent working mother, the shopper, the lady that took dusting her home to a new level, the traveler, the conversationalist would soon be robbed of what she valued most, her independence.  

Grace lived with the diagnosis of ALS the way she lived her entire life, with grace.  Very quickly after her diagnosis she lost the ability to walk, sit up independently, she had difficulty swallowing, and soon only had the use of only one hand.

No one tells you when you are diagnosed with an awful disease like ALS how lonely it can be.  Friends you have your entire life often abandon you because your disease makes them “uncomfortable.”  At first, there were many tears when told of her fate, but eventually my mom would say, “well, you’ve got to die of something.”  After my dad’s death she moved in with my sister’s family.  Mom became friends with her caregivers, they enjoyed concerts together she eventually lent money to her new friend to purchase her first home.
Mom continued to travel to my home in Arizona.  There she discovered caregivers with connections to Native American crafts.  One day I came home from work to discover several craftsman selling her jewelry and other crafts in my living room!  Mom also loved gambling and with her one good hand could still operate  a slot machine at the casinos.

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Here we are dressed alike, heading out to the casinos.

When you know your mother is going to die you don’t hesitate to tell them how much you love them.  I thanked her for being a great mother and grandmother.  I thanked her for my great childhood.

At the very end of her life my sister called to tell me it was time to come and say goodbye to mom.  I quickly flew out to the East Coast with my three children.  When I saw her it was apparent that the end was very near, mom could no longer eat and she had lost the ability to speak. In her final moments Grace motioned her grandchildren closer and with her dying breath she mouthed the words “I love you.”  She then blew a kiss, closed her eyes and was gone.  Grace’s final gift was to tell us she loved us and to die in peace.

Australia:  My Travel Fantasyland

My visit to Australia is a dream journey, that is not only meeting, but exceeding my expectations.  Ever since I was very young and viewed a copy of National Geographic Magazine featuring the Great Barrier Reef, I knew in my heart that I would some day visit the Great Barrier Reef.  I longed to see the bright colors and spectacular undersea life there.  This past week my husband and I have traveled to several cities in Australia where a childhood dream became a reality.

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Port Douglas, Australia

Our ship pulled into Port Douglas and after a sleepless night we were at Port Douglas.  It is a lovely  town filled with shops and a harbor filled with boats ready to take the willing to The Great Barrier Reef.

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In reality, the Great Barrier Reef is a series of several hundred reefs along northern Australia.  Climate change, warmer water, pollution, human behavior and some predators have changed the reef.  But the Great Barrier Reef is not dead.   Although it is obvious that it is not as healthy as it could be.   It is one of the seven wonders of the world.

We boarded a gigantic catamaran from Quicksilver with two hundred and fifty of our closest friends.  We traveled to a  location nearly two hours away to a diving platform on the reef.  Quicksilver charges about $200 per person to snorkel or ride the undersea submarine.   We reached the platform which included changing rooms, observation decks, a restaurant, a helicopter landing pad and a variety of places to observe the sea life, including an underwater observation chamber and a mini sub.  Even with all of the  infrastructure and the people, the reef is simply magnificent.

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The Great Barrier Reef

I’m not going to lie, my expectation was more of an intimate experience with nature.  But, with that being said it was a fantasy, a dream come true to snorkel the Great Barrier Reef.  We snorkeled with a marine biologist and about five other people into the choppy current.  We put on our stinger suits, which are similar to a full body Spanx and along with our snorkels, goggles and fins we jumped into the water with lots of enthusiasm.

Our marine biologist braved the water with us and showed us up close some of the magic under the sea.  We held jelly fish (the nice ones), watched giant clams open and close their shells, followed turtles playing, and watched the colorful coral dance.  This was something my dreams were made of.  Yes, even with the helicopter flights, the mass of humanity, the trip was fabulous.  My husband and I were absolutely exhausted when we finished but as we dozed on the return trip back to town we both had smiles on our faces.

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Colorful coral at the Great Barrier Reef

Our next port was Cairns, where we booked an excursion to the Franklin Islands for more snorkeling and beach time.  Normanby Island could have been from the TV show Fantasy Island.  It was filled with breezy palm trees and coral covered the beaches.  Snorkeling from the beach so close to the Great Barrier Reef was a joy.  This was a small excursion, there was ample room for snorkeling and the water was calm and clear.

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Normanby Island, part of the Franklin Islands Australia

We saw a great deal of fish, stingray and the coral colors were vibrant.  Towards the end of the trip, we hiked with the marine biologist and learned about a rare tiny star shaped protists  that is found only on Frankli Island and Okinawa, Japan.

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Rare star shaped protists that leave behind their skeletons making a star sand beach

At Hamilton Island we took a Reef Rider speed boat to Whitehaven beach.  On the way there I was unexpectedly surprised with a ride that was reminiscent of a log flume but it goes on for over thirty minutes.  Who doesn’t like a bumpy, wet, scary ride on the shark infested ocean in a foreign country?  Me.  No, I didn’t like it!  In fact I screamed through most of it, until Greg reminded me that even the children onboard were not screaming.  Whatever doesn’t kill you makes you stronger.   Yeah right. But we all survived and loved the silky sand and cerulean blue ocean.  The ride back to civilization was a bit better, beacause we were going with the tide.  I did consider asking the pilot of the float plane to take pity on me and bring be back to Hamilton Island.

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The Reef Rider, AKA wet, rollercoaster
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The float plane that refused to take me back
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Beautiful WhiteHaven Beach, Australia

Hamilton Island is a wonderfully small, idyllic and expensive island where you can expect to pay about 9 bucks for an ice cream cone.  Billionaires live here among the palm trees, flora and fauna.  They arrive via their small private planes and come and go as they like.  Pretending to be local, we rented a golf cart (no cars on the island) with friends and explored.  We stopped for a drink and I learned what is in a Pimms, which will become my new summer drink.  It’s a gin based and when soda and fruit is added it is both refreshing and delicious.

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The Harbor at Hamilton Island, Australia

Hamilton Island is our last port in Australia before Sydney.  One of the things I really wanted to do was to see a koala bear.  The koala is a marsupial not a bear but in my mind all I wanted was to see that gorgeous, gray fuzzy cherub.  As luck would have it, and I do have a lot of luck; Hamilton Island is home to a Wildlife Sancuary with KOALAS!!!

We inquired about seeing the koalas and were told to come back in the afternoon for an “koala encounter” and photo for twenty bucks.  This was a far better deal than my ice cream cone so I booked it.

Anyone who knows my husband Greg, knows he is a saint.  He is calm, organized, generous and selfless.  He knew how much I wanted to see the koala so he waited around for Koala time.  There are specific times for koala holding (only in the morning) and only one time in the afternoon for an “encounter”.  I would be allowed to pat the koala, but not to hold him.  When the time finally came I was so excited.  My new friend, Billy the koala came out to the eucalyptus trees.  He allowed me to pet him, he was so soft and fluffy.  He watched me and we even exchanged a loving look at one another.  I’m pretty sure he will be visiting me in Arizona soon.

This is the stuff dreams are made of.  Koala amore.

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Billy, my new koala love