Backyard Wedding

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I went to a beautiful backyard wedding last night, Carol and Randy’s.  On the way home, we talked about what made the event especially nice, and we finally decided that it was EVERYTHING. From the setting to the music and food and special combination of people, we loved it. Oh, and then there’s the fact that love was involved; that always adds the icing on the cake (quite a cliché, but still true).

It rained all the way to Sumter, and the closer we got to the house, the heavier the showers became. When we arrived, the bride’s son-in-law was standing barefoot in the drive, umbrella overhead, directing guests back to their cars to wait it out. The family had been closely watching the weather reports, and all were confident that the storm would pass by 5:00.  Sure enough, the downpour turned to a light sprinkle, and by the time we made it to the backyard, we put our umbrellas away. I loved the symbolism of the cleansing rain followed by the life-giving sun.

The back yard was beautifully decorated, and as we waited for the nuptials to begin, we watched as several close friends and family members wiped down tables and chairs, one of whom was Marna. She had come from Wilmington and at the moment, clad in her wedding attire and white tennis shoes, was working diligently to help sop up the rain with a thick towel. In case you’re wondering, yes, she later changed from the wet tennis shoes to a pair of stylish white sandals. (Marna, we miss you at CCTC!)

The music was provided by two of my co-workers, T-Bo and Jackson, and by Brent, a fabulous DJ; all three did a great job of adding just the right musical ambience to the evening. The co-worker duo played their guitars, and T-Bo sang a few of Carol’s favorites including “Love Remains.” It was beautiful, and I became quite emotional as I listened carefully to the words of the song. I think the setting beneath the trees, glistening after the spring showers, added to the sentimental feelings. And lest I forget, two birds soared high between the treetops during the vows, a sight that seemed to say, “We’re in love too!”

Vows complete, Carol’s brother, a minister who had conducted the service, pronounced them husband and wife, and everyone clapped.  As the afternoon and evening progressed, people chatted, danced to the DJ’s selections (each carefully selected by Carol and Randy), reunited with old friends, ate scrumptious barbeque and the fixin’s, shared stories, and laughed a lot. Everyone was happy for the couple and grateful for love, sweet love. I met a couple who met (or re-met?) at their 15th high school reunion a few decades ago and married not quite two months later. We chatted briefly about the importance of timing, but before I could hear more about their romance, my hubby snagged me to go to the drink table with him.

I must share this. While we were eating, Nancy, a friend and techno-savvy person, came to our table and asked each couple for advice to give Carol and Randy. It was impromptu, but I think we did “okay” in our brief videotaping segments. Rex and Patricia advice was to remember that each of them loved the other more than anyone else in the world. In their case, whenever either of them gets perturbed, they think, “No one loves me more than Patrica (or Rex),” and that thought quells acrimony or annoyance. Patricia went on to say that although he doesn’t drink coffee, Rex gets up every morning and fixes it for her. One day when he didn’t have time to prepare it (can’t remember the reason), he went to Baker’s Sweets, a local eatery and coffee shop, and bought her a cup. That’s love. The rest of us gave some pretty good advice too, but I don’t have time to write about it now. Maybe later.

People drank peach tea and wine, ate fruit and wedding cookies, and savored barbeque and rice. They thought about love and families and connections. “The sun comes up and seasons change, but though it all, love remains.” A good time was had by all, and I hope the Brileys have a long and happy life together.

Two Different Weddings

As I recall the looks of love and downright adoration that passed between Chris and Angie, it’s hard to imagine that they’ll have rough patches. But they will. So will Nate and Brittany. I fervently hope that they’ll ride them out together, partners united in purpose and love.

I’m thinking of two couples who got married yesterday, one in the Columbia LDS temple and the other in a lovely outdoor setting, the beach of the Lake House at Lake Carolina in Blythewood. Both settings were beautiful, yet different. Both ceremonies were special, yet unique.

The temple is a scene of exquisite beauty and sacredness, and I can get emotional in a heartbeat as I visualize Nate and Brittany kneeling at the altar and facing each other as they were sealed together for time and all eternity. The last temple wedding I attended was my son’s, and I’ll always remember the way I felt when he walked into the room and gave me a little smile as he took his place beside me…for only a moment. Then before I knew it, he was Amanda’s husband.

The lakeside setting was also breathtakingly gorgeous. As I mentioned to several people, even if a wedding hadn’t taken place, it was still a lovely place to sit and meditate and “be still and know.” The fact that a marriage ceremony occurred on the beach just added more to the awesome feel and look of the setting. With the sun on our skin, a gentle breeze wafting through the tall pines, the sand beneath our feet, the placid lake in front of us, and the blue, blue Carolina sky, I’d have to say it too was a holy place. Seeing Chris and Angie vow to love and be faithful to each other for the rest of their lives only added to the special spirit of the place.

Both weddings had receptions where there was good food and fellowship.  And music and dancing too. Since I wasn’t at Nate and Brittany’s reception, I can’t describe it, but I can certainly attest to the spectacular music at the lakeside reception. From mellow to traditional and beach to soul, it was awesome. And the dancing? It was phenomenal.  I loved watching people more coordinated and less inhibited than I on the dance floor, especially a little boy named Cole and my husband’s five grandchildren. Little Charlie stole the show.

Anyone who knows me won’t be surprised to hear that I enjoyed talking with and listening to the other guests. Everyone has a story, and it was a pleasure to hear such a variety of them. It was also nice to chat with so many like-minded individuals, and this afternoon I’m remembering a vow that two of us made to….well, that’s our pledge to each other, and I’ll let you know more about it when I make some progress on this endeavor.

The food was yummy, the music was spectacular, the weather was perfect, the background was gorgeous, and everyone was in a good mood! What more can you ask for? All that comes to mind is a wish that both young couples have a long life of happiness together. One of the wedding guests mentioned a study she had read about couples who divorce. According to the article, 50 percent of the couples who divorced probably would have “made it” if they’d just somehow gotten through the rough patch…or two or three.

As I recall the looks of love and downright adoration that passed between Chris and Angie, it’s hard to imagine that they’ll have rough patches. But they will. So will Nate and Brittany. I fervently hope that they’ll ride them out together, partners united in purpose and love.

In Sickness and in Health

 While chatting with my brother last night, he reminded me that I haven’t written anything based on what makes a marriage work. Maybe it’s because I don’t have any surefire answers, or maybe it’s because I’ve been busy. Or maybe it’s both. In any case, I promised him that I’d tackle that question this morning so here goes. Most of the post is based on an informal poll taken during a recent wedding weekend.

 When you see a couple preparing to love each other till death do they part and so on, it makes you think about what it’s all about. What does “in sickness and in health, for richer or poorer” really mean?  Most of the time the bride and groom are still so starry eyed and in good health that they can’t imagine the beloved dead broke, sick as a dog, or rude and dismissive.

So here are some of the tidbits I gleaned from toasts, polling, and personal observation. While intended for Ben and Jessica, these tips apply to any and all. Just what are some of the most important things to remember in making it last?

Having fun together. I think it’s important for a couple to do things outside of the house. They need to actually have a date night and/or to do things that keep them out of the rut.

Being willing to compromise. You can’t always have your way. Maybe it’s time to have Thanksgiving with his (or her) family.

Going for a win/win. Stephen Covey addresses this point in his Seven Habits book. Try to think of a solution that is mutually beneficial for both partners. While this sounds like compromise, it’s deeper and involves more thought.

Making deposits in the emotional bank account. Another of Covey’s ideas, this is a #1 activity in our household. Making regular deposits will come in handy when you make a withdrawal. I have a high school friend whose husband often stops by Wal-Mart after work and buys flowers for his wife. He’s not the kind of guy who does this sort of thing in a keeping score sort of way. He does it because she loves flowers, and he likes to make her happy. At the same time, at some  point in their life together, he might be forgetful  rude, moody, sullen, or distant, and I have a feeling that his wife won’t hold it against him. She’ll remember all of the many deposits (and not just in the flower purchasing department) that he’s made and will cut him some slack.

Putting the other person first. Getting rid of selfishness. This is a hard one for me and one I’d like to elaborate on. One day I came home from church, and my husband asked what I’d learned. When I told him that I’d been advised to put him first and to think of his happiness, he asked, “You had to go to church to learn that? I always think of things that might make you happy.” I was taken aback for a few moments because I realized that often, very often, I think of Jaynie and what she wants.

Having space. Giving each other space. When my sister-in-law Becky suggested this one, I immediately thought of Kahil Gibran’s poem entitled “On Marriage” in which he advises couples to let there be “space in your togetherness.” He mentions the pillars of a temple and how they’re far apart in order to uphold the structure. If they’re too close to each other, the structure would tumble and fall.

Communicating. Hmmm. Easier said than done. Men and women are so different from the get-go. Psychologists say our differences begin in the early stages of life, even before we’re born. When that little male embryo is flooded with testosterone, well, that’s just the beginning. Books have been written on this very topic so I’m recommending that you seek knowledge there. I just have to say,however,that learning how to speak up for yourself in the right manner and at the right time are crucial. No yelling and no snarky, hateful comments.

Respecting and loving the partner. As my sister-in-law Lisa reminded me, men need respect, and women need love. So true. We want to be cherished, and men want to be honored.

Being able to handle conflict. You have to learn when to keep things to yourself and when and how to bring up troubling issues. Interestingly, John Gottman who’s written extensively about marriage and what makes it work, says that sometimes it’s okay to sweep things under the rug.He adds that sometimes you just have to let things go too. For instance, I could yell and pout and whine about my husband’s obsession with hunting and sports, but why???? It’s not going to do any good, and it only poisons the atmosphere. Just find hobbies and interests of your own. That’s what I did, and it’s worked marvelously.

Having a purpose. I can see the value of this. I feel like if I went around and asked, “What’s your purpose for being married?” I’d get a lot of blank stares.

Time to bring this to an end and get to my next project. I just want to reiterate that I don’t have all the answers. If I did, I’d still be in my first marriage. All I know is that a successful marriage doesn’t just happen. It takes work, and it takes two to tango. Enough said.

Glassy Mountain Wedding

“Are you going to blog about this?” my brother asked.

“You bet I am,” I said.

What a whirlwind weekend. It was magnificent, mainly because I got to spend much of it with my siblings and their spouses in the upper part of the state. John, one of my young handsome nephews, was there too. It’s always a plus to have someone of the younger generation to keep us informed and up-to-date. Thanks to John, I now have a Dragon Dictation app on my iPhone that I’m thoroughly enjoying. Whodda thunk I could talk into my phone and that my speech could be immediately turned into text that I could send to anotherperson?

Back to the weekend, the primary purpose of getting together was to attend the wedding of Ben and Jessica Fowler. Ben is the son of my sister-in-law Lisa who’s married to my brother Mike. I could go on and on about the wonderful time we had and the memories we made, but that really isn’t the purpose of this blog post.

Okay, maybe I’ll say just a little about downtown Greenville. If you haven’t been in a while, you should. I went for a walk along the Reedy River Saturday morning and found myself caught up in a running event. Fun…as long as I kept to the side of the path. The scenery was beyond description, so I won’t even go there. We all loved the Farmer’s Market on Saturday morning, the foray into the Mast General Store, and our lunch at a quaint little andwich shop. An added plus was seeing all the little children dressed up in their Halloween attire.

On Friday night, we attended the rehearsal dinner at Larkin’s, and the food, entertainment, and company were all just perfect. My sister-in-law and her friend Elaine had decorated each table in such creative ways that I can’t do them justice with my writing. I won’t even try. Suffice it to say that we all took our burlap  cutlery holders home and that I’m going to tryto duplicate their design for the upcoming Thanksgiving holiday. The holders, by the way, were just one of many extraordinary touches that made the evening delightful. The toasts, the laughter, and the overall ambience of the environment combined to make it memorable.

Later the next day, we went to the Cliffs at Glassy for the wedding. High on Glassy Mountain, there’s a chapel that overlooks the mountains and one of the most majestic views I’ve ever seen. That’s where the vows were exchanged, and I couldn’t help but think that if a person couldn’t feel the “spirit” there atop a mountain and on a level with the clouds, then he or she must have issues. After the beautiful ceremony, the bride and groom asked the entire wedding party to come outside for a group photo. With them at the front and the rest of the party behind them, the photographer stood atop a high hill and took the picture. Then we sipped hot apple cider and savored the chilly autumn afternoon while other photographs were made.

With reluctance, we left the mountain and rode around and around the winding road until we reached the bottom of the hill. At that point, we went towards Hendersonville while the rest of the party headed back to Greenville for the reception. From every account we’ve heard, it too was fabulous. The food, the band, and the beautiful setting were the stuff of memories.

Back to Mike’s question. Although I’ve written a little about the weekend itself, I have even more to say about marriage in general.Weddings always provide food for thought. When you see a couple preparing to love each other till death do they part and so on, it makes you think about what that’s all about. What does that stuff about “in sickness and in health, for richer or poorer” really mean?  Stay tuned for some answers that I picked up from wedding toasts and a little informal polling.

Making it Work

A friend of mine is getting married Saturday, and this upcoming event has me pondering exactly what it is that makes marriage work. While there may be several factors involved, I particularly like some suggested by psychologist John Gottman (The Seven Principles for Making Marriage Work).

 Gottman says that what makes marriage work is surprisingly simple. Happily married couples have conflict just like unhappily married ones, but they handle it differently. For one thing, they keep their negative thoughts and feelings about each other from overwhelming their positive ones. Plus, they keep quiet about some of these things. Criticizing merely serves to hurt the other party so why do it?

 Happily married couples don’t allow major differences of opinion to destroy their marriage.  Gottman found that 69 percent of conflicts involve perpetual or unresolvable problems. Jewish or Christian? Catholic or Mormon? Miser or spendthrift? While people might try hard to change each other, it doesn’t work. Successful couples know that significant disagreements are about values and different ways of seeing the world and that these things don’t change. Eventually, they accept each other and the differences rather than continuing to try to control or change things.

 As a quick example, my husband loves to hunt and is in the woods/swamp much of the time from September through December. Not having grown up in a hunting family, this was totally foreign to me. It still is. I just don’t see how anyone could actually enjoy getting all excited about killing an innocent animal, especially when I think about the elaborate ruses (corn, special cameras) used to attract or keep an eye on Bambi and friends. My sweet husband has patiently explained to me more times than I can recall about the need to keep the deer population in check. He usually ends the “lesson” with a reminder that I eat hamburgers and that hamburgers come from a cow. Does this make a difference in how I feel about taking the life of a deer? Not one iota. But have I learned to “go with the flow?” Yes. He’s not going to change and nor am I, and getting perturbed about this basic difference in values and behavior is not going to change either of us.

 Here’s another big surprise. According to Gottman, happy marriages are not unusually open and honest. In fact, they shove a lot of issues under the rug. This flies in the face of many types of counseling techniques that advise open communication. Gottman feels that too much honesty can have a detrimental effect since no one like to be told about his or her shortcomings even if it’s for their “own good.” Maybe the best thing to do is to feel the anger or annoyance and then split up for a while. In our case, he goes hunting or golfing, and I go walking or shopping.

 And finally, Gottman says that keeping romance alive is important. However, it’s not necessarily the moonlight and roses that count but rather the day-to-day forms of attention that the partners give each other. When my friend Lisa calls her husband on the phone, he answers by saying, “Hello, my love.”  It’s a little thing, and yet in relationships the little things are the big ones.

 There’s a lot more to it than this. There’s friendship, mutual respect, and admiration…and love, sweet love. Does anyone else have any advice for Carol and Randy?

Making Deposits

 

While I’m no expert on marriage and family relations, I do know a few things from experience, observation, and research that contribute to successful relationships. One particular concept that’s on my mind today is Stephen Covey’s emotional bank account. My husband and I discussed this before we got married, and we’re still referring to it. Why? Because it works.

A simple but revolutionary idea, the emotional bank account works pretty much like a bank account at a financial institution.  If I want to use my debit card, I have to make regular deposits to my account. I also have to make sure that the money in my account is sufficient to cover all withdrawals; otherwise, I’ll be overdrawn and have to pay a huge overdraft fee. Naturally, I don’t like that so I keep a close watch on my expenditures.

The idea of deposits and withdrawals works exactly the same in interpersonal relationships. This is so simple to see, and yet sometimes emotions like anger or resentment or plain old selfishness get in the way of our vision. Often we get so caught up in what we want when we want it that we can’t see the dynamics that are going on.  “Me-ness” runs rampant.

While everyone has a different idea of what constitutes a deposit, sincere compliments, hugs, acts of service, and common courtesies can make everyone stand a little taller.  Is it really that hard to say, “You look great,” or to iron your husband’s shirt (or your wife’s blouse)?  These are little things, and yet I’m convinced that in relationships, the little things are the big things.  Apologizing when you’ve hurt or disappointed someone can actually be a deposit. So can occasionally doing things you don’t really enjoy like accompanying your sweetie to an event that’s important to him. Not because you like basketball games or church socials but because you love the person.

Deposits are important because sooner or later you’re going to make a withdrawal, usually unintentionally.  Sometimes it’s something little like forgetting to pick up the dry-cleaning, and sometimes it’s a doozy like forgetting an anniversary. At times like these, you need to make sure your account is still solvent.

Not long ago my daughter Carrie was putting some clothes that her husband Rich had washed into the dryer when she began to notice stains that hadn’t been Shouted out, and now the tiny shirts were ruined for good. Plus, Rich had used hot water, and some dark clothes had faded on some white ones. She began to get exasperated and downright angry as she thought, “How hard would it have been to pick up the Shout and spray it on Emma’s shirt? And why couldn’t he reach up and change the water temperature to warm?” Still fuming, she then began to remember all of the wonderful things Rich did for the children and her every single day.  Before her laundry experience was over, she was feeling grateful again, and their relationship was “in the chips.” If Rich had not consistently made deposits, her anger could have escalated to the point that she’d have been really irritated and critical.

 A friend of mine used to call this “piling up your chips.” Call it what you like. Just do it. Just make some deposits and see what happens.

Little Decisions, Big Consequences

 Although there are many, many things I could write about today, I’m going to settle for something short but pithy. It’s some insight I picked up about a specific scripture in Sacrament meeting this morning. The speaker was talking about how often the little decisions we make can have a big impact on our lives and on the lives of others. He went on to tell how although we all knew about David’s sins of sleeping with Bathsheba and then sending Uriah, her husband, to the battlefront to be killed, we don’t’ always think of the “little” decision that preceded this.

 However, in 2 Samuel 11:1, we read, “And it came to pass, after the year was expired, at the time when kings go forth to battle, that David sent Joab, and his servants with him, and all Israel; and they destroyed the children of Ammon, and besieged Rabbah. But David tarried still at Jerusalem.”

Aren’t kings supposed to go into battle with their men? Why did David tarry still at Jerusalem? I don’t know the answer to those questions, but I do know that in the second verse of that chapter, we see David eyeing Bathsheba as she bathes on a nearby rooftop. He finds her beautiful to look upon, and before we know it, he has lain with her and she is “with child.”  David summons Uriah home so that he will lie with Bathsheba, thus hoping to extricate himself from this sticky dilemma by claiming Uriah to be the father of the child. It doesn’t work; Uriah is too noble to “do this thing.”  Consequently, David sends him to the forefront of the battle where he is killed. David then marries Bathsheba.

The sins are pretty big ones, adultery and murder, and this morning’s speaker made me wonder if they would have occurred had David gone off to battle instead of sending Uriah and others while he tarried.  A small decision had major consequences for several people’s lives, including innocent ones.

Here’s what really got me this morning. Almost as an afterthought, the speaker said (paraphrase), “Don’t send your family off to fight the battle without you. Don’t send them to church while you tarry at home.” Wow. That seemed profound to me.  I looked around at all of the people sitting without spouses and all of the children sitting with just one parent and wondered if the spouses/parents who sent them realize the big and long lasting ramifications of that decision.