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Escape

Know any young women preparing to marry?  Have you talked to them, given your counsel, any words of advice? Me?  I’m not allowed to talk to brides anymore. Nope.  Lost that privilege.

Why, you ask?  Why would an author like me who’s more than willing to share her experience with the younger crowd be banished from the discussion?

Quite simple, really. Last time someone asked my opinion, I jokingly compared marriage to eating vegetables. I am a gardener, after all.  Makes sense my analogies would run through the produce aisle.  “Marriage is easy,” I said.  “It’s like choosing your favorite vegetable—the one you want to enjoy ALL the time.”

She screwed her expression.  “There’s no vegetable I want to eat ALL the time.  I like variety in my diet!”

watermelon

So much for analogies.  I like variety in mine, too.  “Yes, but there’s more than one way to cook a tomato—healthy and raw, chopped and marinated, sizzling fried, saucy and delicious!”  Yes, well…you get the point.  Mixing it up helps prevent same-old same-old from settling in, much like we moms do with dinner.

“Potatoes, again?” the children whine.  “Can’t we have something different?”

Nope.  We married a potato, we’re having potatoes.  Period.  “Now go put your ‘right attitude cap’ on and enjoy the meal.”

Granted, marriage is more involved, but truthfully, it comes down to commitment.  And a sense of humor.

The young woman continued to peer at me, as though expecting some kind of brilliance to erupt.

woman pulling hair out_XSmall

Okay, let’s try this a different way:  Careful what you wish for—you just might get it.  Now don’t get me wrong.  I’m a big fan of the institution.  Married for twelve years and two kids, I love marriage, but there’s one thing you need to know before you get married, if you expect any sort of success.  “Marriage is hard work.  If you accept that going in,” I told her, “you’re good to go for the long haul.”

“Oh,” she returned, somewhat discouraged.

Apparently, this wasn’t the insight she expected.  But ever the positive one, I linked my arm through my husband’s and added, “Not to worry.  Look how happy we are!”

My husband sweetly agreed.  “Yeah, what she said.”

He’s a real card, isn’t he?

The lovely young couple left us but the woman returned a short while later.  Courageous little thing.  “But is there really a difference between living together and marriage?” she asked, her tone urging better news.  Seems they’ve been living together for that last couple of years and she believed this to be key to their ultimate success.  “It can’t be that different, can it?”

Uh, oh.  She forgot the “careful what you wish for” rule.  But she asked, so I smiled again (it’s always best to deliver hard facts with a soft edge) and replied“Here’s the difference:  When you’re living together, you always have that back door – the exit door – as in, ‘if he doesn’t do this or doesn’t do that, I’m outta here.’  You can always leave if he’s not living up to your expectations.”  I leaned ever so closer.  “When you’re married, you have to close that door, lock it, and throw away the key.”

Her jaw dropped.

“It’s a shift in attitude.  You must be willing to work through the hard times, you know, like you do with family.  We all have those members with whom we don’t see eye to eye, may even go without speaking at times, but eventually, we come back together — because it’s family.  They’re not going anywhere.  You’ll see them at Christmas.”

sunflower burst

She nodded dully, but I could see this was not what she wanted to hear.  “Do you want kids?”  She shook her head to the contrary.  “Then continue dating,” I advised.  “There’s no need to change your name.”  You’ve already changed your address.

Take heart. While marriage can be tough, it does give provide reason for that romance novel addiction we have. Escape is good. Really good. Why, I’m pondering where to go for spring break this very moment!

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When Fiction and Non-Fiction Collide

Rolling Stone

photo credit: vagabondblogger via photopin cc

Many of my books can be classified as New Adult fiction. What is New Adult fiction, you ask? According to this 2013 article in USA Today, New Adult novels explore the terrifying and wonderful chasm between adolescence and adulthood. Since I’m farther removed from that chasm than I’d like to admit, when one of my writing loops posted a link to this Rolling Stone article about millennials and their views on sex and marriage, I clicked over to have a look see.

And then I wanted to pour bleach in my eyes.

Never had the acronym WTF been more appropriate. Seriously, WTF, people?

I’m not sure what disturbed me more: the 30’s couple in an open relationship where she had a secondary boyfriend she saw once a week outside of her live-in boyfriend, the 20-year-old female college junior who’s had 29 sexual partners, or the 24-year-old drummer who is 95 percent monogamous because when, “…you find someone that’s just so amazing that it would be irresponsible on your life’s trajectory not to [sleep with them], then that’s what the five percent is for. I don’t want to ever feel like I missed out.”

Missed out on what? Genital herpes? Syphilis? Holy cow, Dorothy, I don’t think we’re in Kansas anymore…

Anyone who’s ever read one of my blogs knows I’m happy in the conservative corner of the room, but really? Really? Is this truly how our next generation views sex and marriage? Say it isn’t so. Somebody out there SAY IT ISN’T SO! I’m begging you…

photo credit: vagabondblogger via photopin cc

We Interrupt Your Regularly Scheduled Program…

Last week was a whirlwind for the Hayes family. The oldest left Saturday for a mission trip (his first) in Guatemala and the youngest left Sunday for a mission trip (her first) in Tennessee. While the kids were off forging memories and helping to change lives, the hubs and I scooted away to the U.S. Virgin Islands for a late anniversary celebration.

Honeymoon Beach

Honeymoon Beach

The whole week prior as I struggled to pack both kids for very different locations, I kept thinking, “What are we doing? We should just stay home. We could get so much stuff done around the house we’ve put off. And the kids…” Thankfully, it was too late to cancel the reservations because St. John is a beautiful, mountainous island with white sand beaches, friendly people, and near perfect weather. We spent a day boating with our captain, Delbert. We hiked. We relaxed by the pool with the ocean just steps away. We went to a pristine beach and lounged under the shade of mangrove trees.

Indulgent? Yes. Necessary? Absolutely! Sometimes married folks (or those in long-term relationships) get so lost in the daily grind that they forget what brought them together in the first place. A little reminder of why you said, “I do,” before the kids and the mortgage came along never hurt anyone. Thank goodness I ignored my practical nature because after five days alone with my husband, I’m looking even more forward to the next twenty (or more) years together.

Our beach buddy. Yes, that is a rooster.

Our beach buddy. Yes, that is a rooster.

We’re home now, all of us from our adventures, and Mama’s happy to have all her chicks back under one roof. When was the last time you took the time to get away with your someone special?

In Defense of Marriage

My mom, sister, and I recently went on a girl’s trip to Charleston, South Carolina for a long weekend. Over our three-day adventure, our routine became this: we’d get up, eat breakfast, and head out on foot to explore. We hit all the stores, the outdoor market, and the beautiful mansions along the water. I bought fun gifts for my family, myself, and even a few birthday gifts for friends. We had a wonderful time together.

Me and my sister, Kim. (I'm on the right)

My Sister, Kim, and Me in Charleston

Most afternoons we’d poop out around three and head back to the hotel to rest before venturing out for dinner. During those few vegging hours, we usually had the TV on my mom and sister’s favorite channel, HGTV. I have to admit I don’t watch much TV, however they were very well versed in the shows that aired.

During some sort of marathon of shows that involved couples looking for a new home in their price range, I noticed a trend I found very disturbing. Every couple—every one—was not married. Now, I’ll be the first to admit I’m a traditional and conservative person, but that doesn’t mean I’m naïve to the fact that many people live together. Heck, my husband and I (then boyfriend) practically lived together in college.

What I found so astounding was that these couples were willing to share finances, children, pets, furniture, and mortgages with one another, but not marriage. And it begs the question, why?

It seems to me if you’re going to tangle your lives so completely with someone that you’re buying a home together, then why not get married? If the person you’re going to sign mortgage papers with isn’t someone you want to sign a marriage license with, then what’s the point?

As a mother, I’d be very disappointed with my children if they told me they were buying a home with their boyfriend/girlfriend and yet they had no plans to marry. Am I being too old fashioned? I’m a romance writer and my stories end with couples getting married. For them, marriage is the golden pot at the end of the rainbow.

Maybe, in light of this trend, I should have my characters walk into a bank to sign mortgage papers instead of walking down the aisle.

Somehow that doesn’t sound as romantic…

Love and Other Saturday Wonders

My friend and I took our children to the University of Georgia football game on Saturday. The Bulldogs played the Ole Miss Rebels for homecoming and won after a very ugly first quarter, 37-10 (woof, woof, woof)! As the game waned on and on because it was televised and there were lots of TV timeouts, we began to talk about things outside the realm of football. Imagine that!

During a slow time in the game, my friend was telling me about her parents. She said they secretly married during their senior year of high school and only revealed the truth to their parents upon graduation. They are still married, have four adult children, and many UGA Gamegrandchildren. I have met her parents at a number of our children’s sporting events and adore them. As a lover or romance and a romance writer, I was blown away by the romantic story. Until I glanced at the back of my fifteen-year-old son’s head (that’s it there, the last one on the right. Yes, he is cut in half…) and imagined my very own son doing the same thing in three-and-a-half years! Suddenly the story wasn’t quite as romantic as it first seemed.

And then I remembered that I was only twenty when I met and fell in love with my husband. We are, in fact, celebrating our nineteenth year of marriage tomorrow. So even if my son doesn’t meet, fall in love with, and marry his high school girlfriend, he may very well meet, fall in love with, and marry his college girlfriend in five years. So in three to five years, I could be blessed with a daughter-in-law and a few years later, grandchildren.

It really would be a blessing to see him fall in love and marry. Frankly, I can’t wait for him to have children and experience the highs and lows of parenthood. When the teenage years roll around, I’m going to sit back and swallow the words ‘I told you so’ as he muddles through these fun years with the love of his life by his side. At least I hope that’s how his future goes. I have no control over how he lives his life and who he chooses to marry, but I do know that my husband and I are doing the best we can to set a good example of marriage for him and our daughter.

Can we do better? Absolutely we can. We were kids when we met and slightly older kids when we got married. We basically grew up together. Now we are raising kids of our own and making more mistakes than we ever thought possible. This parenting thing is hard! But the one thing I know we’ve done right is to love one another every day and to love the life we live.

This one’s for you, Boog. I wouldn’t have done it any other way.

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