Five Secrets to a Happy Marriage

Jon and I have been happily married for over thirty-one years. People will often ask what our secret is. Or they comment that we make being married look so easy. 

The truth is, our marriage is easy, but we work at it every single day to make it that way. Some of our “secrets” to a happy marriage were things we learned early on. Other “secrets” have evolved naturally over the years. 

I strongly believe that every couple can enjoy a happy marriage if they’re both willing to put in the work and take care of each other. The following are some of the things we do to keep our marriage healthy and alive. I hope they help you create happiness in your marriage, too!

1. His Needs, Her Needs

When we got married, we chose to write our own vows. We did not share our words or thoughts on what we were going to say to each other before the wedding. We wanted it to be a complete surprise. We were young and, to be quite honest, probably a bit naive. 

However, what we discovered when we spoke our vows was that we both shared a common theme for our marriage. We each had a desire and determination to place the other person’s needs above our own. 

 For example, in my vows I told Jon I wanted to “give him a warm, safe home where he could relax at night. I wanted him to feel secure and always know that he was loved. I promised our home would be filled with kind, gentle words and to always have Christ be the center of our family. I wanted to give him a marriage he could be proud of and it would withstand any trouble that came our way.”  

At the young age of 23, I really didn’t know at that time how essential this would be for him. He has a very stressful job as a partner in a national CPA firm, and it makes me so happy to know when he walks through the door after a long, challenging day, our home is calm and peaceful. It always has been. Even when the kids were young, we didn’t have a lot of chaos in our home. 

I knew Jon needed a safe haven where he wouldn’t be met with more stress, criticism or nagging, but instead love, care, and warmth. It’s my gift to him to walk into a calm environment where he knows he’s able to rest, relax and recharge his battery.

In Jon’s vows, he promised to be my best friend and give me everything I needed in a husband and a father for our children. He promised to always be by my side, to give to me when I was down, and keep giving to me when I was up. He promised to protect me and give me the comfort and security I deserve. He promised a lifetime of love, fulfillment, and happiness. Not only has he lived up to those promises,  he’s given me so much more than I could have imagined.

It’s been 31 years since we spoke those vows. They are just as true and meaningful today as they were the day we said them. Perhaps even more so because we have lived them.

I must point out this concept of putting your spouse’s needs above your own only works when you are BOTH doing it. If one person is constantly giving and the other person is constantly taking, then the relationship will be out of balance and resentment will eventually creep in. 

It is essential in a happy marriage that both people are committed to putting the other person above themselves. There is no room for selfishness in a happy marriage. It is a partnership and you have to always want what is best for your spouse.

2. Flirting and Dating

Flirting is fun! We all did it while we were dating. Why on earth would you stop flirting once you’re married? Jon and I still flirt. We send text messages throughout the day. We hold hands when we’re out walking. Jon might brush up against my arm in the kitchen…He’s sending me a message loud and clear. We are constantly hugging each other. These are just a few ways we stay in touch and connected as a couple. 

Never stop dating your spouse. It’s as simple as that. When you get busy with life, kids, careers,  and everything else that makes life busy, life can get pretty hectic.  Unfortunately, going out on dates can be one of the first things to go. 

But here’s the thing: date night does not have to involve a big fancy restaurant, an expensive play or concert, or even hiring a babysitter. Just spend some time alone together doing something you both enjoy, even if that’s a walk through the neighborhood, attending a farmer’s market, or sitting on your patio in the backyard.

When we were first married, we would go to happy hours and eat free chips and salsa and get drinks 50% off. Or we’d go to the dollar movie theater and sneak in our own popcorn and candy.

One of my fondest date night memories is when Jon and I used to walk down to the local convenience store with our basset hound and get thick, creamy chocolate milkshakes. I was expecting our first baby and that was about all the extravagance we could afford at the time. The whole date probably cost $2.50. We still talk about those milkshakes. 

Those dates are some of our most precious memories.

In order to keep the romance alive, it’s really important to take an interest in what the other person enjoys doing. I love to shop. If shopping was considered a sport, I would probably qualify for the Olympic team. Jon does not like to shop unless it’s absolutely necessary (or we happen to find ourselves in the tool department at Home Depot – then he’s okay). 

However, because he knows I enjoy it, one of our favorite dates is going out for drinks and appetizers and then walking around the mall. Now, to compromise, I don’t drag him into every store and I know he prefers an outdoor mall to an indoor mall. Again, we are putting the other person’s needs and feelings above our own.

Jon loves to go hiking, and it’s not exactly in my DNA to hike trails or mountains. However, we have discovered that taking a three mile walk through our neighborhood is not only good for our physical well being, but it’s also good for our relationship. We enjoy being together and a walk in the neighborhood doesn’t cost a thing. (Not to mention, there are a lot of hills in our neighborhood, so it’s kind of like a hike).

We’ve also discovered new interests together such as playing golf. I never imagined I would enjoy golfing, but it has become one of our favorite date nights. We also have a standing Friday date night of ordering pizza in and just relaxing at home. We like to swim, play cards or just sit on the back patio, listen to music, and talk. 

No matter what we’re doing, our date nights are about spending time together and just enjoying one another’s company.

Here’s a little bonus advice on dating your spouse:  Remember to put your phone away. I know this is difficult for all of us, myself included. However, the message you’re sending to your spouse when you pick up your phone to answer a text, take a phone call, or check something on social media is that they’re not as important as whatever’s on your phone. 

Try to be intentional about leaving your phone in your purse, or in the car, or even at home. Treasure the moments with your spouse and show them they are your top priority – not your phone. If this is really difficult for you and your spouse, try making a game out of it. 

The first person who picks up their phone has to take out the trash, make the bed, clean the bathroom, or any other chore you both detest. Or, you can implement a rule that says every time a phone is taken out, that person has to add a dollar (or $20!) to a joint savings jar. However you choose to play this game is up to you.

I recently saw a post on Instagram which said, “We should treat our spouse like we treat our phones: touch them a lot. Take them everywhere. Be lost when they aren’t around. Stare at them constantly. Give them the majority of our attention. Do that and you’ll be blessed.” WOW. Imagine how our spouses would feel if we gave them as much attention as we do our phones.

One last tip for how to really commit to putting your phone away during date night. If you’re parents of young children and they’re with a babysitter, of course you are going to want your phone in case there’s an emergency. I suggest setting a specific ringtone for the babysitter. Then you’ll know if it is a message or phone call you need to answer right away. Otherwise, let it go unanswered.

3. Have Secrets

Now, you may think I’ve gone crazy to suggest you have secrets. I’m not talking about keeping secrets from your spouse. I’m talking about those little secrets that only the two of you know. In a happy marriage, you should be able to have your own “secret language”. 

For instance, Jon and I have silly names or funny sayings that only he and I know about. Some of them wouldn’t even make sense to the rest of the world, including our own children. We started saying these things early in our dating relationship and they’ve just stuck. We fit them into our conversations almost daily. They are ours and ours alone. 

We have secret gestures that only we know about. Every time we bow our heads to pray, Jon will reach over and take my hand. It might be in church, it might be when we say the blessing at dinner, praying together in our home, in a crowded restaurant, or even at a tailgating party before a college football game. I just know when we pray, he is going to reach over and hold my hand. It’s a very simple thing, but that one gesture means more to me than anything. We have been holding hands while we pray for 32 years and will continue to do so for the rest of our lives. 

This is also where trust comes into a marriage. If one spouse shares something private or a personal struggle, don’t go and tell your friends or family about it. Husbands and wives should be able to trust their spouse to keep personal matters private. Keep secrets between the two of you and not from one another.

4. Communication 

Communication is key. Unfortunately, this is one of the most difficult areas of a healthy marriage. You are not married to a mind reader, no matter how much you wish you were. Men and women don’t always know how their spouse is feeling or why they’re suddenly in a bad mood. Again, this is not easy for most married couples. You really have to be intentional about expressing yourself, your concerns, your feelings, and your needs.

There have been times in our marriage where Jon and I were not communicating well. For example, a few years ago, my kids introduced me to Words With Friends and I was hooked! Pretty soon, I was playing Words With Friends with several of my Facebook friends. One of these friends just happened to be with an old friend from high school.. 

From my point of view, this was very innocent. From Jon’s point of view, he did not see it that way. It took a lot of courage for him to tell me that this bothered him and he wished I would stop. I had no idea it was bothering him. I went directly into the computer room and deleted the game. 

My marriage to Jon, and his feelings, were far more important to me than a silly game. Had he not had the courage and strength to communicate this to me, I probably would have continued to play the game without ever knowing it was bothering him. To this day, I’m truly grateful he shared his feelings with me.

Early on in our marriage, we had to find out the best way to resolve conflict. I remember one day in particular, Jon got upset with me about something. I don’t even recall what it was, but he stormed out of the house to “clean the garage”.  I followed him and “gently” told him that we were not going to spend our entire Saturday in an argument and we needed to talk it through. 

That was a big turning point for us. Do we have disagreements? Of course we do – every marriage does. But we also know we will resolve the conflict and come out stronger in the end. We never sweep things under the rug or let things go unresolved. That only allows bitterness and resentment to enter into the marriage and that is not a healthy relationship.

We also make sure we apologize and forgive. Once we have kissed and made up, we let it go. We do not bring up past grievances or mistakes. It’s in the past and it stays in the past. 

Couples have to talk in order to communicate. You must be able to share your feelings, your insecurities, and your weaknesses with your spouse. When you say “I Do”, you automatically put yourself in a vulnerable situation. A husband or wife should be able to trust their spouse is going to love them unconditionally. 

It’s also important to praise your spouse – continually and often. Tell them how beautiful or handsome they look. Tell them you’re proud of them, or you enjoy spending time with them. The other night, Jon and I were going to sleep and just as we were drifting off, he reached over, grabbed my hand, and said, “I love our life!” Just a simple statement. But those four words said everything I needed to hear. It was the greatest compliment he could give me. 

Another essential key to communication is to listen to your spouse. This too is difficult for married couples. It’s an area we can all improve on, no matter how long we’ve been married. If your husband or wife comes to you with a concern, or a problem, or perhaps unmet needs in the marriage, you must really listen to them without judgement. If you don’t actively listen to your spouse, they will eventually stop sharing with you and the communication between you will ultimately break down.

Communication takes trust, honesty and respect for one another. Don’t become so complacent in your communication that, especially after years of marriage, you just assume the other person knows how you’re feeling or what you’re thinking. They don’t. Again, your spouse is not a mind reader. And unfortunately, they never will be.

5. Faith

Think of all the happy, successful marriages and relationships you know of. What’s different about them? What makes them work? In my own personal experience, what makes the happiest, most successful marriages is faith.

Faith in God, faith in each other and faith in the institution of marriage. 

God created marriage when he created Adam and Eve. He knew it was not good for Adam to be alone, so He gave him a wife. Eve was a partner, a best friend, and a lover to Adam. She completed Adam. 

Jon and I decided from the beginning we would always have Christ be the center of our relationship. We believe Jesus died on the cross and will one day return. We have accepted Him into our hearts and having faith in Him has seen us through some challenging times. 

It’s during these times that we look to God for strength, wisdom and forgiveness. Jon and I are not perfect people. We are not perfect Christians. We’re definitely not the perfect husband or wife. But that’s the best part of our marriage. We are perfect in God’s eyes and we are perfect for each other. 

There will be storms in your marriage. There will be trials and challenges. There will be struggles with children, careers, in-laws, health issues, and financial troubles, to name  a few. The list goes on and on. Because of our faith in God, we’ve endured some pretty big storms and came through them stronger than before. We couldn’t have done it without God being the foundation of our marriage.

We also have faith in one another. I have faith Jon will always be there for me and always have my back. He is my biggest cheerleader and I am his. We support one another and encourage one another in everything we do. Believe in your spouse and let them know you believe in them. Tell your husband or wife, “I have faith in you!” Everyone wants to hear those words. Why would we not tell the one person we love the most that we have faith in them? 

Marriage is a gift from God. Treat your spouse as if they were a precious gemstone. They should be protected, treasured, and continually polished. Don’t take your spouse or your marriage for granted. Show the world you’re proud to be married to your spouse and they will do the same for you. 

 The most successful marriages are those where both husband and wife seek to build the self-esteem of the other. – Anonymous

The Ultimate Wedding Crasher: Planning a Dream Wedding During the Pandemic

By Carrie Gale

When my daughter Hillary was born, I dreamt of the day she would walk down the aisle and marry her soulmate. I couldn’t wait to plan the reception, help her pick out her wedding dress, the flowers, the cake and all the little details which make that day so special.

We all know every wedding will have at least one forgotten detail, unforeseen catastrophe, or God forbid, the dreadful wedding guest who can’t hold their liquor. I was prepared for that. But  little did I know, we would be planning a wedding during a global pandemic. 

My Own Wedding “Disaster”

When Jon and I got married, we arrived at the reception hall only to discover our DJ did not show. The young man who set up the equipment was dressed in jeans and a sweat-soaked undershirt and said he would be taking over the music. 

It was a complete debacle! He kept bumping into the turntable, played music at the wrong speed, and had zero experience running a wedding reception. Our dollar dance, which we desperately needed to fund our honeymoon, was abruptly interrupted as people were beginning to leave the reception and we had not even cut the cake. 

Jon and I were so happy to escape the fiasco and to this day, fondly refer to our reception as The Nightmare on Longmore Street. 

Due to our own wedding reception disaster, my only objective for Hillary and Shane’s wedding day was for them to enjoy the day more than anyone else.  As we began to plan the big event, visit venues, choose caterers, menu options, and flowers, it became evident that one unexpected guest had decided to crash the party….the ‘Rona.

Pandemic Planning: A Whole New Kind of Nightmare

There were times during the planning when we considered relocating the venue. We discussed moving the wedding to a resort in Minnesota, but realized that would create more problems. We  considered having a backyard wedding with immediate family or even cancelling the wedding altogether, but Hillary and Shane were ready to get married and move on in life. 

Covid was coming to the wedding whether we liked it or not. So we decided to press on and plan the best “pandemic wedding” we could.

Due to Colorado’s Covid-19 guidelines, the guest list was reduced to a maximum of one hundred people. We ended up having exactly 50 guests attend the wedding. It turned out to be the perfect amount for the intimate and personal wedding Hillary and Shane had in mind.

A Magical Day Despite Our Uninvited Guest

The venue Shane and Hillary chose was located in the beautiful Colorado mountains. It was October 2nd, with the leaves just beginning to turn a bright golden yellow. 

Hillary chose biscotti bridesmaid dresses accented with burgundy, orange, and purple wildflower bouquets. The groom and groomsmen wore beige sport coats and dark wash denim to match the rustic, mountain feel of the Colorado Rockies.

Our best friend Dirk officiated the outdoor ceremony and with a mix of sentiment and humor, he made it absolutely perfect. We were blessed to have some of our closest family and friends share in the big day.

As Jon walked Hillary down the aisle, I was overcome with emotion. Hillary looked absolutely beautiful in her gown and veil. Her Dad was beaming with pride but also holding in his tears… tears of joy and sorrow as he and I both knew this day would eventually come. We just didn’t realize how quickly it would get here. 

There is something magical about giving your daughter away to the man she loves. It takes courage, faith, and trust in them. As parents, you only want the very best for your children. You want them to be happy, safe and secure. You want your daughter to feel cherished, honored and loved. Watching Hillary and Shane exchange their vows, I knew Shane would give her all these things and more. 

The newlyweds laughed and danced the night away. Watching the pure joy and happiness on their faces told me all of our planning and decision to move forward with the wedding during a pandemic was the right choice.

We tried to provide the safest environment we could with Covid-19 in attendance. The cocktail hour and father/daughter dance were all outside on a beautiful patio. We encouraged social distancing, offered masks and personalized hand sanitizer as wedding favors, and let guests choose red, yellow, or green bracelets to indicate their comfort level socializing with others.

Before the night was over, people were out on the dance floor kicking up their heels, having a great time and genuinely enjoying themselves.

Later that night, Jon and I were lying in bed and talking about the wonderful details of the day.

Our greatest joy was giving Hillary and Shane a wedding day they would always remember.  It was a day full of love, hope, and a bright future for our daughter and our new son-in-law. It reinforced what we have always believed… No matter what unexpected circumstances or challenges we might encounter, there is always a blessing to be found…even during a global pandemic. 

The Boys of Fall


Today, our son played a football game. It’s wasn’t  just any football game. It was a playoff game. A college playoff game. His senior year college playoff game. This was a huge game with so much on the line.

Grant started his football career at the age of nine and was in the third grade. All of his friends were playing tackle football and he wanted in on the action. Jon and I were thrilled to join in on this adventure, but nothing could prepare us for what was ahead.

Every Saturday we packed up the car with chairs, ice chests and donned our team jerseys and hats. We lived in Arizona at the time, so the average temperature was at least 100 degrees. We cheered loudly, made new friends, and watched our little boys run over team after team. They were unstoppable. Grant and his teammates took home two state championships over six seasons.

Youth football is not for the weak or faint of heart. Grant once sat in an ant pile during practice and never said a word because he was afraid to tell the coach. He came home with bruises, skinned knees and bloody elbows. Some nights, he would come home with tears in his eyes because practice was so intense. We continued to ask him if he still wanted to play. The answer was always a resounding yes! These boys were learning about perseverance, working through adversity, team building,  and so much more.

During his freshmen year of high school, he suffered a serious knee injury and his season ended early. It was challenging for him to stand on the sidelines and watch his fellow teammates out on the field playing the game he had come to love. He worked hard during the off season to become stronger and better than he was before. Not only did he become a two way starter on the varsity team the following year, he walked away with numerous weight lifting awards and recognitions. It was at this point I began to really understand the impact the game of football was having on my son.

His high school years continued to be filled with big plays, exciting games and yes, more injuries. He suffered concussions, required stitches in various parts of his body, and of course the every day bumps and bruises. ( For me personally, my prayer life became much more intentional during this time!) He worked through it all and never let it deter him from playing the game. We began to witness he and his teammates becoming closer and closer. They weren’t just players on a team. They were brothers. They challenged one another on and off the field. If one player was down, they lifted him up. If one player was celebrating, they all celebrated. The football team literally became our extended family. Again, with each passing season we watched Grant grow, mature, lead  and continue to make an impact on and off the field.

All of his hard work in high school began to pay off when he was recruited by a Division II school in Colorado. It wasn’t just any school. It was one of the toughest engineering schools in the country. Honestly, I’m not sure he really wanted to major in engineering, but he was great at math and science, and he could continue playing football. Again, we watched Grant excel on and off the field. This school was a perfect fit for him. Over the years, it became evident that Grant enjoyed a challenge. He thrives in a competitive environment and this school definitely challenged him in all areas. Just as he had in his youth football days and high school years, he suffered serious injuries and setbacks. However, he learned to overcome any obstacle in his way and was elected a captain his senior year.

For the past fourteen years, he has marched across the football field, making plays, building friendships, developing leadership skills, and creating a lifetime of memories. Today, we approached the end zone! The final game. It did not end as we had hoped, but his journey will continue and we know that all the years of hard work, blood, sweat and tears have made him the young man he is today. It’s been a blessing to share this game with our friends and family and we are eternally grateful for this fabulous game of football!


“Your talent determines what you can do. Your motivation determines how much you are willing to do. Your attitude determines how well you do it.” ~ Lou Holtz






The Gift

~Children are a gift from the Lord; they are a reward from him. Psalm 127:3

The date was October 3rd, 1992. After more than a year of trying to get pregnant, I was finally able to run upstairs and share the good news with my husband. We were going to have a baby! We could not wait to tell my parents they were about to become grandparents. It was my Dad’s birthday and we were all going over to their house for dinner. We decided to make our big announcement by giving my Dad a gift of all the baby paraphernalia grandparents would need, including a bib that said, “My Grandpa Loves Me!” What could possibly go wrong?

While we were shopping at the mall,  picking up our “grandparent supplies” and the ever most popular book, What To Expect When You’re Expecting, the unexpected happened. I began to show signs of a miscarriage, or so I thought. What are the chances this would happen on the very same day I found out I was pregnant? (I still often wonder today what are the odds?)

Jon and I decided to press on and continue our plans to surprise my family. After dinner and it was time for gifts, we handed my dad the bag of goodies. The minute he took out the baby bib and other items, my mother began screaming hysterically with excitement! These hysterical screams were interrupted by me bursting into tears and trying to explain my worst fears and disappointment. We decided the best course of action was to head to the emergency room and find out exactly what was happening. My husband, my mom, my sister and I piled into the car, and anxiously drove to the hospital. My sweet dad was left all alone on his birthday, eating cake and ice cream by himself.

I will never forget that night in the hospital. It was the beginning of a wondrous journey of motherhood. My husband and I watched as the ultrasound technician pointed out a tiny, little circle on the blurry monitor. At the time, I couldn’t have been more than six weeks along. The baby was the size of an olive. But there it was…. a microscopic flutter of movement on the screen. If you looked very closely you could see a heart beating! The only word to describe that moment is miraculous!

Fast forward twenty-five years, and that little baby just the size of an olive, that precious, little person with an amazing heartbeat, has grown into an extraordinary young woman. Our daughter, Hillary Paige, is celebrating her 25th birthday today! She has brought us joy, happiness, pride, and an abundance of pleasure! And yes, sometimes a little worry, concern, and possibly a few tears. (as ALL children do) She is smart, beautiful, genuine, sweet and occasionally even a little bit stubborn! (An inherited trait she received from my dad’s side of the family.) We have watched her grow, mature, and develop into a confident young adult who is spreading her wings and creating a life of her own.

However, Hillary isn’t just my daughter. She’s my best friend! She’s my GIFT! We talk on the phone daily, sometimes more than once. We like to watch movies together, go shopping, get mani-pedis , debrief in great detail about our latest television obsessions, eat appetizers and share a glass of wine on the deck. We currently live in different states,  but we still manage to enjoy our mother/daughter outings as often as possible. I am eternally grateful to God for entrusting me and giving me the great honor to be her mom!

Sadly, both of my parents have since passed away…. Hillary was nine years old when we lost my dad, and it was a short five years later when my mother passed away from cancer. I know they are smiling down from Heaven, beaming with joy and pride, and singing Hallelujah!!! Much like my mom did the night we told them we were expecting their first grandchild!

Today, Hillary Paige, we CELEBRATE you!!!!  You truly are a blessing from God and we love you more and more each day!

Happy Birthday, sweet girl!



The Nest

We currently live in Central Minnesota where there are over 10,000 lakes, bitter cold winters and an abundance of wildlife. Although the temperatures and weather forecast do not show any signs of spring, my backyard tells a different story.

About the middle of March, birds begin returning to the towering trees outside our windows. I hear them singing in the early morning, watch them eat from the bird feeder and peck at the frozen ground for worms. We have beautiful cardinals, blue jays, sparrows, bald eagles, and red-crested woodpeckers that call our backyard home. We also have giant black crows which I refer to as the “bullies” of the neighborhood. They are loud, obnoxious and will dominate the birdfeeder at any given time.

However, it is these birds that have received most of my attention the past two weeks. The crows, two in particular, have been extremely busy and active in gathering twigs, leaves and tall grass to build a nest in a pine tree high above our deck. Each day, I watch them diligently choose long, brown weeds and tree branches left over from last fall. They seem to be taking such pride and joy in their nest, along with safety precautions to protect their newborn babies from harm.

It’s not just the birds who are providing their newborns with a warm safe haven this spring. This morning, my husband and our two dogs were abruptly woken up by the incredibly high, shrill sound of a fox in distress. At first we thought it was a mating call, which she did attract at least one other fox, but then after further investigation and an actual sighting, we realized she was protecting her litter from a juvenile bear. As you can imagine, this caused quite the ruckus inside our home with dogs barking and running from window to window. I am normally not thrilled about the fox family inhabiting the empty lot across the street from us, but today I found myself empathizing with the mama fox. She was doing what most mothers (and fathers) do. Protect your children from harm…..

It was twenty-five years ago exactly that my husband and I were “nesting” and expecting the arrival of our first child. We didn’t have a lot of money, but we busily painted the spare bedroom yellow, put up a generic teddy bear wallpaper border, bought a baby crib and called it a nursery. We relied  mostly on baby shower gifts to complete the rest of the necessities needed for a newborn. We were so proud of our “nest” and couldn’t wait to bring home our new baby from the hospital.

Much like the wildlife living outside my home, it was our job to provide a warm, loving and nurturing place for our kids to grow, learn, and feel protected. We provided shelter, food, guidance and most of all love. As a parent, you try your best to teach them right from wrong, good from evil, and the consequences of bad decisions. Most parents, I believe,  just want their children to grow up to be happy, healthy and productive citizens. We want what’s best for our children and will go to any length possible to protect them. Much like the mother fox did today. She felt threatened and called in reinforcement. She  was protecting her nest! It was her maternal instinct to protect her offspring and I respect her for it.

My kids are both grown now and living on their own. I’m proud to say they are happy, healthy and productive adults. However, at times the innate motherly instinct to protect my children still lingers. Much to their dismay, I can’t shake it! I wonder if the black crows, the mama fox, even the mother bear realize their babies grow up and will some day leave the nest…. Hopefully, their children will  know their mothers did everything in her power to protect them, love them and keep them safe.

I pray mine do!

“A mother’s love for her child is like nothing else in the world. It knows no law, no pity, it dares all things and crushes down remorselessly all that stands in its path.”

~ Agatha Christie


My Dad, My Friend, My Hero

It was fifteen years ago today, March 7th, when my phone rang at 5:30 in the morning. It was my Mom telling me my dad had collapsed on their bedroom floor. I’ll never forget her voice. “Carrie, I think he’s already gone.” It was a surreal moment. Suddenly, the world stopped. As I tried to get dressed,  I collapsed on the closet floor, sobbing into my husband’s arms. I had just talked to my Dad the night before. He was feeling better. He sounded better. He was better. He had called to discuss the Diamondbacks game. It was such a normal conversation for my dad and me to have. Nothing out of the ordinary. Just a simple conversation between a father and a daughter who shared the same love of sports. There wasn’t a long, tearful goodbye.  It was just a typical Thursday night. It was the last phone call I would ever receive from my dad.

Now that it’s been fifteen years, I reflect back on those  days with mixed emotions. Of course, I would give anything to talk to him again. To tell him how much I love him and what a wonderful father he was. Perhaps something a little more sentimental other than the spring roster and the batting lineup. Then, I think about him. I think that’s exactly what he would want our last conversation to be about. He would not want me to mourn his passing. He would not want me to feel sorry for myself, my husband, or my kids. He would want us to celebrate! He is in Heaven and has front row seats to every big and little event happening in our life.

It’s not always easy to remind myself of this. Sometimes, I feel robbed. My dad never got to watch my kids graduate from high school, attend spelling bees, basketball or football games. He didn’t get to see his oldest granddaughter graduate with her bachelor’s degree, followed by her master’s degree two years later. He didn’t get to see his grandson play college football, and earn a degree in mechanical engineering. He has missed so much and so have my kids.

When these feelings of sadness creep into my mind, I immediately try to replace them with more positive, happy thoughts. Some of my fondest childhood memories involve my dad. My memories are simple. I remember flying a kite with him after his basketball season had ended. I remember going with him to his classroom on a Sunday afternoon. While he graded papers, I pretended to play school and wrote all over the chalkboard. I remember going camping and fishing with him when I was in high school. It was just the two of us. I can recall sitting around the campfire and looking up at the sky. Neither one of us had ever seen so many stars. I can remember lying on the couch with him watching the Dodgers’ game and learning all about baseball. I can recall hours spent in the swimming pool playing Marco Polo with him. We ran errands together. Just simple, routine moments which make up some of my most precious and vivid childhood memories.

Of course, I have milestone memories as well. I remember when my soon to be husband and I woke my dad up to announce we were engaged after just three months of dating! He greeted us with a smirk and his infamous raised eyebrow. I can remember walking down the aisle on his arm and our father/daughter dance at the reception. I now know he, along with my mother and sister, were camped out in the hallway ALL day awaiting the arrival of their first granddaughter. I remember when he bought season tickets to the Diamondbacks and was thrilled to take me or my kids with him. I was blessed to attend the 7th World Series Game with him in 2001. What a game, what a memory!

My dad was many things. He was a teacher, a coach, a husband, father, grandfather and friend. He was a history buff and a sports enthusiast. He was a Christian, a confidant, and a leader in our home. He was present! He was my dad, my friend, and my hero!

I miss you, Dad!





In the Blink of an Eye

Jon and I recently celebrated our 27th wedding anniversary. I can recall that day, and every detail about it, as if it were yesterday. The truth is, twenty-seven years has flown by faster than we ever could have imagined.

During our engagement period, we read several marriage books which focused on expectations, ways to strengthen our marriage, finances, etc. One book in particular, discussed the four seasons of marriage:

1)    The Honeymoon

2)    The Childbearing Years

3)    The Child rearing Years

4)    The Empty Nest


We were twenty-three years old when we got married.  Our Honeymoon stage lasted just shy of three years. It was during this time we started “building our nest.” We didn’t have a lot of money back then, but we bought a townhouse and furnished it with odds and ends from Jon’s parents’ mini-storage. It was small but cozy.

We had our daughter when we were twenty-six years old and two years later our son was born. From that point on, life was a blur! It was busy, fun and never a dull moment of sleepless nights, crying babies, changing diapers, chasing toddlers, and trying to make ends meet. It was exhausting and exhilarating at the same time!  It was also over in the blink of an eye!

The child rearing years went by even faster! They included school day routines, packing school lunches, musicals, gymnastics, basketball, football, track meets, spelling bees, homework, book reports, science projects, playdates with friends, sleepovers with friends, first loves, broken hearts, fights with friends, first dates, first high school dances, first driver’s license, first car accident, and again many sleepless nights just waiting to hear the front door open so you knew they were home safely. Then, college came knocking on our door.

The nest got roomier…. It was just the three of us for three short years.  Then, it happened again….college came knocking. Both kids were off living their busy lives and embracing the college experience. It happened in the blink of an eye!


Our nest was EMPTY! How did we jump from honeymooners to empty nesters so quickly?  The answer was simple…. God had given us temporary custody of our children. They really belong to HIM! We are the vessels God uses to love, nurture, teach and pray over our children.

We’ve been blessed to watch our children grow and mature into smart, kind, hardworking adults. We’ve watched them succeed AND fail. We’ve watched them achieve milestones AND struggle with poorly made decisions. Parenting is not for the faint of heart.  Some days, it is an up at dawn, pride swallowing siege which most kids will not fully understand until they are parents themselves. It is also the most rewarding, invigorating, life experience you will ever have.

So, whichever stage you are currently in…. I encourage you to step back, take a deep breath, turn off the television, put down the cell phone, and embrace it! Because, I assure you it will be gone in the blink of an eye!

Mom~ I love you but you’re fired!

Of course, this isn’t really what my 20-year-old son said to me, but it’s how I felt! We were visiting him last October in South Dakota. My husband, Jon, and I had driven 10 hours to see Grant and his football team play and I couldn’t wait to spend time with him. We went to the hotel where the team was staying and found a quiet table so we could visit. We discussed tomorrow’s game, how school was going, etc. He then proceeded to tell me about different ailments he was suffering from, mainly canker sores. Now, I am not a doctor, dentist, or a nurse but  I am a mother! HIS mother!  I immediately went into “Mom Mode” to offer any number of solutions… Mouth rinses, topical medicines, etc. He interrupted me and said, “Mom, STOP babying me!” I was shocked, stunned and most of all hurt! In my mind, I wasn’t babying him, I was trying to help him. I assumed he wanted me to “fix it” since he was the one who brought it up.

 I sat there quietly trying my best not to cry and let him know how much his words had hurt me. I watched he and Jon carry on their conversation and I realized this 6 ft. 205 lb. person sitting across from me was no longer my little boy. He was a grown man. He was in his second year in college and he didn’t need his mother anymore. How and when did this happen? Why didn’t anyone tell me that the hardest part of parenting was learning to let go? It’s not late nights with crying babies, or toddlers who are constantly throwing temper tantrums, or teenagers who don’t clean up after themselves… It’s suddenly realizing that your time is done, and your services are no longer needed.

After we left the hotel, I expressed my feelings to my husband. However, instead  of consoling me and being his normal, sympathetic man I had married, he actually agreed with our son. He said, ” he’s 20 years old and doesn’t need his mother telling him what to do.” OUCH! More pain pierced through me.  For the first time in my life, I felt irrelevant. I woke up in the middle of the night sobbing…. I love serving my family and being there for them. It’s what I enjoy most. And now, I wasn’t needed. I had been served my pink slip! Let go. Fired. Terminated and laid off!

The next day, after the game, my husband and I began the long trip home. Completely unaware that his wife was having a huge identity crisis and on the verge of a  major melt down, he started telling me about partners in his firm who were set to retire at the end of the year. They had been in his office talking to him about how they were no longer relevant to the firm and completely cut out of firm wide decisions and emails. They had poured blood, sweat and tears into this company and just like that, they were no longer needed.  I just stared at him. Finally, I  said, “This is exactly how I feel with Grant! I’ve been cut out and I had no say in the matter.” He looked at me, took my hand and said he understood. I felt a little better.

So, where do we go from here? I started talking with my friends, sharing similar stories, reading books, etc. It was helpful. I also started thinking about writing a blog. To this day, Grant has no idea I had a complete irrational melt down in South Dakota that night. Nor, should he. He was right. He doesn’t need me to solve his problems! (Did I mention he’s majoring in mechanical engineering?) He was just sharing information and not asking for me to fix it. This is my opportunity to step back, as his mother, his cheerleader and his friend… Let him navigate through life on his own. After all, my job is complete and I’m proud of the work I’ve done! It’s not easy letting go of something you’ve worked so hard on… but it is part of life.