Posts Tagged ‘marriage’

Out of the Box

Wednesday, May 14, 2014
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I felt like climbing into a box, pulling a lid over  it and hiding from the world. Needless to say, I was having one of those days when out of the boxnothing goes as planned and everything goes wrong.

On the hottest day of the year so far, the air conditioning at work was broken, and I had to change my schedule to wait for the repairman. The finance office was asking about checks we had issued more than a year ago, and I was dealing with an unhappy volunteer.

Since the box wasn’t an option (and would probably have been even hotter than my office), I considered screaming, but that wouldn’t have been very productive either. Nor did I have the option of  going home to a partner who could sympathize with me. So I just dealt with each issue as best I could. Then went home to a husband was walking out the door on his way to work after having fixed dinner for our kids.

Such has been my less than traditional life for the past ten years when my husband took at job that required him to work evenings and weekends.

It’s a life that has its ups: a parent has almost always been home when the kids are off school or need transportation. It’s also a life that has its downs: there is generally only one parent available for two kids, and our time together as a family is very, very limited – even on holidays. And sometimes, it’s down right painful.

I will never forget the women at church who made the snide comment “at least my husband comes to church.” I kept my mouth shut (unusual for me), but what I wanted to say was “It’s kind of hard for him to deliver a national news broadcast from a church pew.”

Her comment  represented what my out of the ordinary life has taught me over the past ten years:  even though our lives, our families and our children often don’t fit into a neat package with a label, society operates as if they should.

I like proving they shouldn’t.

When people automatically assume that my teenage son plays sports, I take pride in telling them that he has other interests.

When people assume that my daughter is at an age when she feels the need to follow the crowd, I like talking about how she boasts about being a nerd who loves science fiction.

And when people assume that my husband and I have time together on the weekend, I appreciate how his strange hours have made me so incredibly independent.

I realize that the boxes in which we put people and situations can be comforting, but some things were never meant to fit in a box.  And even when they do, they usually aren’t very useful.

In fact, I’ve yet to find anything that works best when it is still in a box, even when I feel like hiding in one.

Getting out of the box, tearing off the labels and making every situation our own is when great things happen.

Or as my mother used to tell me, “Just remember that Albert Einstein was never called normal.”

And I’m pretty sure she’s proud that I haven’t been either.

80 Years of Marriage(s)

Wednesday, November 27, 2013
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From the diary of Letha Bates Smith:  ”Nov. 29, 1933 Wed. Finished cleaning at the house this morning. Met Sylvia at 3:25. Morden, she & I met Martin in E. Lansing and had the knot tied at 8:30. Home then to Vilas and Evelyn’s for the nite.”

That’s how my grandmother described the day she married my grandfather, Morden, in the chapel at the People’s Church in East Lansing, Michigan with her sister Sylvia and her brothers Martin and Vilas in attendance.

Exactly 30 years later, my mother married my father in the same chapel. Unlike my grandmother, she didn’t keep a diary, but, just like my grandmother, she had a very practical wedding.

Exactly thirty years after that, at age 26, I was a completely different person than both these women. I was less conservative and more reckless. Yet the three of us would be forever connected not just by blood but by our sensibilities and our belief that a strong marriage, just like a strong woman, is defined by substance not glamour.

This Friday my husband and I will celebrate our 20th wedding anniversary, and my parent’s will celebrate their 5oth. If they were still alive, my grandparents would be celebrating their 80th wedding anniversary.

I am under no illusions that my daughter will marry on November 29, 2023. In fact, I hope she won’t as she will only be 22. But I do hope that the  stories from three couples who passed their DNA on to her will serve as a reminder that weddings are not about a fancy show or an exotic honeymoon. They are about two people deciding to move forward together and create memories that can bond families together for generations.

Letha and Morden

My grandparents met on a blind date while they were both students at Michigan State College (later University) during the Great Depression.  My grandmother was one of four children from a farming family in Quincy Michigan who were all  determined to go to college. Despite the odds and through their own perseverance, all four obtained college degrees.

My grandfather, the youngest of seven children, grew up in a family that had an uneven financial history – sometimes they had significant resources and sometimes they didn’t.  My grandfather’s older brother, Carl, had died when he contracted smallpox working in a lab while in medical school. The money from his insurance policy allowed my grandfather to pursue a degree in electrical engineering.

I know little about my grandparents’ college romance.  My grandmother wasn’t a talkative or an emotional woman. But for decades, she documented her life in diaries. The one or two sentence entries she diligently recorded provide some insight into the often hidden thoughts of a woman who, on the surface, was practical to the bone. The grandmother I knew had one dress that she wore to every special occasion (including my wedding) for decades.  But, that didn’t mean she never cared about a new dress.

“Oct. 30, 1932 Sunday. My sweetheart down today. And what did he bring me  – Um does it sparkle? Simply gorgeous delightful! The dear boy.” 

“Nov. 1, 1932 Tuesday Met Sylvia downtown this P.M. spent the nite with me. The ring fixed –  lovely now –  more thrilled than ever. A new dress.”

Even after my grandmother died, we never found picture of her wedding or her wedding dress.  At the time of their marriage, my grandfather was a relatively new employee at Citizens Gas Fuel Company. My grandparents chose to get married the evening before Thanksgiving because my grandfather would have a four-day weekend.

My grandparents’ marriage ended when my grandfather died in 1998, just shy of their 65th wedding anniversary. My grandmother would live for another seven years.

The words in her diary will be passed on to future generations.

Evadna and Ken

Following in the footsteps of her parents and her older brother, my mother attended Michigan State University. After graduation, she moved to Manistee, Michigan, but neither her job nor her location were exotic or adventurous enough for her. She wanted to see the world and submitted an application to join the newly established Peace Corps.

After he graduated from Idaho State University, my dad, a Massachusetts native who had already seen a great deal of the world while in the Navy, also applied to join the Peace Corps.

They were among the first individuals ever selected and were in the third group deployed. Before they left for Chile, my parents attended training at Notre Dame University, where they spent days in Spanish class. My father excelled with his ability to speak the words perfectly in his  loud, booming voice while my mother shot him dirty looks while she struggled.

Her irritation didn’t last long. Before they returned to the United States, my parents were engaged. Instead of a diamond, my mother wore a simple gold band on her right hand that she would transfer to her left hand when she was married. The only diamond I’ve ever seen my mother wear is her mother’s engagement ring, the one that sparkled so brilliantly in 1932.

After returning to the United States, my father, a forester, got a job in Montana. He hadn’t accumulated any leave, but he was allowed to take a few days for Thanksgiving. And so, a wedding the day after Thanksgiving made sense, and my parents spent their honeymoon driving west to their new home.

They’ve spent the rest of their lives sharing stories of their adventures with their children and grandchildren.

Trina and Giles

Ironically, I met my husband on a November night.

On  November 8, 1988,  I was a college intern helping cover election results in the newsroom at West Virginia Public Radio. Giles was reporting for his first night of work. He thought I had an attitude, and I thought I had work to do. No sparks flew, and I didn’t give him a second thought.

But after I graduated from Ohio University, our paths continued to cross and our circle of friends became one in the same. Over time, we eventually ended up together.

Our relationship was nothing like I imagined everlasting love was supposed to be and everything my mother had told me it would be. (She’d told me on multiple occasions that common values  and compromise, not romance, were the key to a successful relationship.)

In the beginning, our schedules were very different, and we accommodated. Our schedules are still very different, and we still accommodate. In the beginning, we watched a lot of Star Trek. Giles still watches a lot of Star Trek, and sometimes our kids even watch with him. And in the beginning, we laughed at my intensity and his lack of it. Now, we work around our differences… and we still laugh a lot.

Giles and I didn’t get engaged out of some romantic notion of marriage. We got engaged because his roommate bought a house, and moving in together just made sense. When we realized the significance of the year, we picked a very significant wedding date.

Unlike the two couples before us, we didn’t marry over Thanksgiving weekend nor did we get married in Michigan, Instead, our ceremony took place the Monday after Thanksgiving in Charleston, WV.  And yes, our wedding was also simple and practical (my mother made my dress), but it was also a bit quirky.  We received gifts of Star Trek dinnerware and had Star Trek action figures on top of our cake.

Our children look at the photographs and simply roll their eyes.

I get that. I used to do a lot of eye rolling as a child, especially in regards to my mother’s stories about being married on her parent’s anniversary. But, like many children, my eye rolls eventually evolved into an appreciation of family history.

Something tells me my children will do the same someday.


Taking back the talk

Monday, August 19, 2013
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There are certain words in our vocabulary that I hate (which is one of them).  Like, whatever, actually, yeah, uh-huh, huh, shut up, really, seriously, and “just a sec.”  My daughters have become fluent in this phraseology, which makes the hair on my arms stand at attention.

Ava, you need to get ready for school now.

“Just a sec.”

Maryn, put the computer away.  You’ve been on it long enough.

“Just a sec.”

And where did they get this language?  Wait just a sec and I’ll tell you.

“Mom, can I go outside to ride my scooter?”

Just a sec!

“When are we going to the pool?”

In just a sec.

But the term is more than a time buyer.  It’s the beginning of backtalk.  And I hate backtalk.  My girls don’t try it often, but I’ve noticed that they’re starting to protest a little more.  They’re testing limits again. The exchange doesn’t go on long, I assure you, but it’s a frightening flicker of what’s to come in advanced teenage years.

Growing up, I wasn’t a bad kid, but I had a smart mouth. When I got into high school, I discovered my voice and used it quite often to argue with my mother on virtually any topic. I was determined to get my point across, and when I think of how I used to talk to my mother, I feel terrible. But, we were so much alike that we crashed into each other on every coming of age issue.  I fear that I’ll “get mine” — as it’s said — when Ava gets to that stage.  I’m ever so sure that I’ll get a dose of what I put my mother through.  And I hate that thought, too.

But even though I was an expert at backtalk, there were moments when I held my tongue because I knew what would happen if I sassed her.  My mother passed away almost 13 years ago, so I think it’s now safe for me to ask what ran through my mind during those heated exchanges:

“I tell you these things for a reason! There’s a reason I’m saying no!” Ok, then.  What is it?

“Do as I say, not as I do.” Then why do you still do it?

“Go ahead and do your thing!”  Does that really mean I shouldn’t?

“You’ll be sorry.”  But why?

“Don’t come to me.  I warned you.”  You really won’t help me?

“Your father is very disappointed.”  Because you told him to be!

“Nothing good comes from being out at 2:00 a.m.”  Well, now that is correct…

“You’re going to outgrow each other one day.”  You couldn’t be more wrong.

I blame my sharp tongue on erratic pubescent hormones, my mother’s 50-something menopause, and my father’s purchase of a very small house.  We lived in a petite Craftsman-style home that had two bedrooms, one bathroom and one living room.  If I wanted to walk off to cool down, I was still a thin wall away from my parents and their commentaries of my meltdown. When it was apparent that I should back off, I would slam a bedroom door instead.  That prompted a “Don’t you do that EVER again!” reaction, and then my mother would….slam the same door.

Those were the days that my dad worked later and later at the office.  The man literally ran out the door in the morning, leaving black tire marks behind his Ford Fiesta.

Eventually, the demonic teenager melted into a pleasant young lady who suddenly feared her mother because more could be taken away.  I grew up rather modestly, so punishing a child (or disciplining a child…take your pick) was verbal in nature.  There were no iPods, iPads or iPhones to confiscate. And my parents didn’t dare take away the television because we only had one, and that meant they wouldn’t be able to watch The Love Boat.  When they couldn’t withhold material possessions, the next best thing was to withhold communication. The silent treatment was miserable.

It was a battle of wills and a fight for control for five years.  I loved my mother, but I was entirely too much like her. Two positives make a negative, and we were the classic, textbook example of that fact. I’m ashamed of how badly I behaved back then, but I can only hope that my actions later in life corrected those mouthy mistakes. In many ways, she was a single parent trying to find her way through adolescence, too. And when I pressed her for answers and she didn’t have any, she’d throw up her hands and sigh.

“One of these days when you have children of your own, you’ll understand.”

Say no more.


Double Duty

Monday, June 18, 2012
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After attempting to cut the grass myself, I was instructed never to touch the lawn mower again.

Over the past few weeks, I’ve been writing about being a working mother — the responsibilities, the expectations and the stress.  I’ve been trying to get my arms around the idea of giving our daughters daily chores and assessing how much of their own weight they can pull now that they’re 9 and 6 years old.  I’ve also been fighting for a little respect from those girls, who don’t seem to understand that I have a career aside from what they see.  As I stewed over all of this “me, me, me” stuff, a little voice whispered:  Get over yourself, Katy. Mike is a working parent, too.

So this week’s blog is all about him, him, him.

Recently, MSNBC posted an article about the family duties of Dear Old Dad and the net worth of those household jobs.  Unlike the “real” working world, Mom makes more money (theoretically speaking) — by nearly $40,000.  Dad’s assignments typically include pest extermination, plumbing and sanitation, and odd jobs such as yard work.  Mom’s jobs span nursing, crisis management, catering, interior design, and janitorial service.  But according to, Dad is most deserving of an imaginary raise since he’s been doing more around the house these days.  Why? Because Mom has to work outside the home now, too.

At the end of the school year, I watched my own husband struggle and juggle. He was in the middle of a major engineering project that required extensive travel. Meetings were scheduled during the last weeks of school when every memory-making-milestone-moment takes place, such as field day, Donuts with Dad, and kindergarten graduation. Mike didn’t want to miss any of those events, but he had a job to do.  I sensed his anxiety by the number of emails I was receiving, each one hinting that he was feeling guilty about being gone so much.

Now when is the father-daughter breakfast at school?  

I signed up to do Career Day — when is it over? I have to leave by noon.

What time is Ava’s birthday lunch? 11:25 or 11:55? 

Can you drop them off in the morning?  I have a meeting at 7:30. 

Usually, I’m the one who’s fretting over how to get everything done; how to be present for each social event, practice, lesson or ceremony.  I’m the one who works before the girls wake up and after the girls go to sleep so I can be “there” for the things that occur in-between.  But I realized that motherhood is often an act of self-centered behavior — we’re the ones who complain about all the laundry and dishes and cluttered rooms, and we’re the ones who rush and race to deliver lunch to faculty and forgotten homework folders.  But fathers (ok, some fathers) are panicking over parenting duties, too.  They just don’t talk about it.

Mike is trying to rearrange his schedule so that he can be home by 4:30 or 5:00 (instead of 6:30 or 7) to take the girls to the pool in the evenings.  So far, it hasn’t happened. He’s just going into the office earlier and staying later.   In his heart, though, he wants a part of the girls’ summer vacation. He wants to be here. He brings work home so he can be at the kitchen counter marking up drawings while the girls are clicking away on their video games from a nearby couch.  On Sundays, he offers to make dinner and do the grocery shopping so that I can retreat to my basement office to pound out Monday’s blog post.  Mike wants to share in the responsibilities of being an active parent, but I’m starting to see a shift in pressure:  More and more rests on his shoulders aside from the mortgage, the cars, the taxes, the insurance, the retirement plans, the utilities, the yard, the cracked ceiling, the leaking faucet, the cat trapped under the staircase, and an annual “vacation”.  Mike’s also trying to take the girls to swim lessons twice a week, Family Buck Night baseball games, and concerts on the Levee.  He’s trying to get home for dinner — which we ate two hours ago. Time is not on his side.

Yes, I handle most everything that goes on in this house and I maintain a respectable book of writing business, but I’m not the only one who’s striving to make everyone happy.  He’s trying to find that same home/work/life balance that mothers search for on an hourly basis.  So the next time Mike is out of town and sending text messages at midnight to make sure I’ve locked all the doors, I’ll stop to remember that his job as a parent is really no different than mine.  And, despite the distance, he’s always with us in one way or another.






To Sir Paul, With Love

Monday, August 1, 2011
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Paul McCartney with wife, Linda, whom he called the love of his life. She died in 1998.

After I had my first baby, I forgot a lot of things: where I left my car keys, whether I turned off the iron, how long the roast had been in the oven, and how to be a wife.

My time — all of it — was spent doing normal newborn things: feedings every two hours, diapers every few minutes, load after load of laundry, rocking and swaddling, and on occasion, sleeping.  I was attentive and doting and every bit obsessed with my new daughter, and I was also ignoring the “other” person in the house.  The one who was there first.

My husband, Mike, was equally distracted, sharing every responsibility that came with being a parent, including managing the sale of our home and the purchase of another, all while working 10+ hour days designing construction equipment for a manufacturing company.  Our relationship changed the second our daughter was born and we became busy in different ways…and in time…different people.

I was so wrapped up in being a perfect parent that I became a rather imperfect partner.  I took motherhood seriously, mainly because I didn’t know what I was doing and had no one to ask or show me how to care for a baby.  Almost immediately, I lost my sense of humor.  Worse than any of the above mentioned behaviors, I also forgot how to talk to Mike as an adult.  After a year or so of motherhood, I realized that I didn’t talk to him, but at him.  Mike didn’t say much about my new personality (well, not too much), and he didn’t have to.  I could hear it in my own voice.

During Ava’s toddlerhood, our household grew by two more people:  We had moved my father into our home (he suffered from Alzheimer’s disease), and then I became pregnant with our second baby.  With new duties in the mix, we were even less of a couple and more of a couple of caregivers.  If we wanted a break, there wasn’t one to be had.

And that was the point:  I couldn’t leave the house.  I was so tied down between children, a sick parent, a handful of pets and freelance projects that I didn’t see the light of day.  I wasn’t unhappy, believe it or not, but I was spoken for…everyone needed me.  Yet, I couldn’t see that my marriage did, too.

Let me be clear: We didn’t have marital problems, but we certainly should have.  I learned during this era that I was married to the most patient, pleasant man ever created.  No conversation?  No privacy?  No downtime?  No vacation?  No breaks? No problem.

After my dad passed away, I gained some freedom to do the things I once couldn’t. But being at home also meant that I had to train myself to go out again…to loosen my grip and trust others to keep the home fires burning.  I had to take baby steps of my own.  Mike and I would race through Target for a half-hour or so. Then to dinner.  Then to dinner AND a movie.  Then to a local baseball game (four innings, max!), and then to the 7th inning stretch…and then the whole game!  Finally, the big one:  A trip to Cincinnati to see the Reds play the Red Sox.

It was a gigantic step for me to leave the girls with a babysitter in a hotel room in Kentucky (yes, I know…Kentucky and Ohio are a bridge apart — you can throw a rock at both welcome/come back soon signs).  I went, but it took some prodding from authors of magazine articles who outlined why marriages struggle in the first years of parenting.  When one spouse is more focused on the children than his/her partner, the other person becomes focused on different things (and people), too.  Separate lives often become separate residences.

I vowed never to find myself in those ‘unfortunate’ statistics. After all, this was the guy whom I had a crush on since I was a teenager.  He was as close to a Mickey Mantle lookalike as I could have found in this world, and about as ornery. A blonde-headed-blue-eyed-baseball-loving-boy with a smile brighter than the lights at Yankee Stadium, Mike was still the kindest and most respectful man I knew. He deserved a lot more from me.

Now in our 20th year of togetherness (married for 14), we found ourselves back in Cincinnati when the Reds played New York (and we took our girls!). While standing in line to get into the ballpark, I looked up at a banner advertising Paul McCartney’s “On the Run” concert slated for August 4th.  Mike appreciates old music more than baseball, and I knew he’d love to see a Beatle in person.  I headed for the box office, where I discovered that a few seats remained.  I returned to the line and handed him an envelope.

“You got tickets?” he exclaimed.

“I bought ’em. We’re closer to John Lennon than Paul McCartney, but we’ll be there.”

Mike looked inside.  “Only two tickets?” he asked.

Yes, just two.  Just us.  It’s a date.

Later that night, we made plans for our weekend in August, recognizing that not many people can say they’ve seen even one of the Fab Four.  And, we might not have a chance like this again.  That’s true for a lot of things.  We have to enjoy every moment, however and whenever we can get them.

“Hey, maybe before the game we can get a bite to eat somewhere downtown, then head over to the concert, and then get a drink afterward,” he suggested. And the rest of the weekend? Who knows what we’ll get into.  I’m just going to let it be.

The Princess of Wails

Friday, July 1, 2011
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Their mother would have turned 50 on July 1.

Being a royal watcher is one of my greatest, most untamed self-indulgent behaviors.  I have loved The House of Windsor ever since Lady Diana Spencer became engaged to Charles Philip Arthur George, Prince of Wales.  I watched the lavish wedding on television in the wee hours of the morning with my mother, and this past spring, I pulled my oldest daughter out of bed at 4:00 a.m. to watch Catherine Elizabeth Middleton become the future Queen of England.

Ironically, I didn’t get choked up when Kate stepped out of the car in her demure dress (although I did get choked on a sip of coffee when Pippa walked out to greet her), and I didn’t get emotional when Mr. Middleton escorted his daughter down the aisle.  But I did fall apart earlier in the ceremony, when William and Harry walked into Westminster Abbey… by themselves.

Their mother should have been there.  And I sobbed like Sarah Ferguson after getting cut from the guest list.  I cried and cried and cried some more.

It was just so sad to me….those handsome boys, standing in the exact place where their mother’s funeral had been held years before…returning for the eldest son’s long-awaited marriage.  On a day of joy and hope and celebration, I was a blubbering mess of maternal madness.  The very thought of missing my daughters’ milestone moments scares me to pieces, but on that morning, it sort of scared me straight.

Now, I know that I won’t perish in the backseat of a  Mercedes Benz in a tunnel underneath the streets of Paris, a result of a high-speed chase to shake off a pack of paparazzi wolves.  However, mothers die in automobile accidents all the time.  I doubt a Mommyhood blog hater will run my SUV off the South Side Bridge, but someone driving under the influence of alcohol could.

I could also die of breast cancer or suffer  a massive stroke.  Anything could happen to  me — anyone — at anytime.  Therefore, I felt as though I needed to get my act together in a few areas to make sure those morbid possibilities didn’t become realities by my own doing. So, I made a list of things I wanted to correct in my life, staritng with:

1) Diet and Exercise:  I know, I know.  Isn’t this what everyone says when they get a wake-up call? Well, I decided that my “baby weight” would have to come off once and for all.  I started a low carb/good carb/protein plan of eating that focused on clean, whole foods.  I invested in a pair of Sketcher Shape-Up shoes (ugly as sin), and I started walking and “jogging” in the evenings.

2) Health Screenings:  I suffer from White Coat Syndrome, so just scheduling doctor appointments made me sick to my stomach. I wanted to be checked out from head to toe and teeth to ta-tas, and I requested all of the labwork that went along with it.  Searching for any and every possible glitch in my health, I gave more blood and gave up more modesty than I thought possible.  But I did it. And yes, I cried from embarassment in the hospital elevator.

3) Stress Management: I’d be a complete hypocrite if I said that I had my anxieties under control (just read this blog to figure that out), but I’m working on it.  Through journaling and blogging (thank you!), I have found a creative way to rid my mind of troublesome thoughts.

4) Legal and Medical Directives:   When we received the news that I was expecting our first baby, Mike and I had wills drawn up by an attorney who specialized in estates and trusts.  He also drew up paperwork for a Living Will, Medical Power of Attorney and Durable Power of Attorney.  It took a few hours (and a few weeks to solidify), but our wishes were granted.  But when we had to decide who would become legal guardians of our children, I hesitated.  I had no parents, no siblings and no grandparents.  And when we did make the brutally difficult choice, we were asked to choose backups to the backup.  Again, more tears. There wasn’t anyone left to willingly take on that responsibility.  That’s when it occured to me that I simply couldn’t die.

But since that time, priorities and interests have changed, and we needed to have our wills updated.  When I called our attorney to request edits, he informed me of the hourly rate, which had changed in the past few years.  I really sobbed then.

5) Insurance:  Suddenly, there were new expenses to consider in the event of an emergency — paying off the house, securing the girls’ college funds, and providing a nest egg for anything that might be needed in days or years to come.  While I certainly won’t get into that here, we revisited our financial health, too, making adjustments to the long-term plans that we established at marriage and after the births of our daughters.

Getting my own “house”  in order took some effort, but it gave me peace of mind.  We are reminded that every one of our hairs is numbered (which is increasingly upsetting because mine is falling out like crazy), and to live each day to the fullest.  But with that mentality also comes a requirement of restraint and discipline, of limits and boundaries — to guard those precious boys and girls in our lives, and God willing, to be present for all that is in store for them.

Finally, at 4:00 in the morning, I made a promise to myself to get more rest. Going around crying all the time is bloody exhausting!

Tickled Pink and Blue

Monday, April 4, 2011
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CORRECTION: Meet our bouncing baby BOY.

Last month, I blogged about our new arrival — a beagle pup to be named Betty.  As you may recall, I went all out for this pup… special food and water bowls, a pretty collar and leash, and a tartan plaid bed with her name prominently monogrammed on the side.

Well, Betty turned out to be…a boy.

A very long story short, we simply came up short.  There were several girls to choose from, but our deposit held a selection spot, not necessarily a particular puppy.  The night before we were scheduled to pick up Betty, we were informed a few pups in the litter developed pneumonia and died, and only three girls survived.  Based on our place on the list, we’d have to take a boy if we still wanted one.

When I told my husband that the pup, which I had branded as Betty the Beagle since Christmas Eve, wasn’t coming to live with us, his eyes lit up like blue C9 bulbs.  “Ha!” he exclaimed. “Outnumbered no more!”

I wasn’t upset, because I had said up front that I didn’t care about gender as long as the pup was healthy.  My reaction was also due to experiencing something like this before.  As Yogi Berra once said, it was déjà vu all over again.

During my second pregnancy, I went through quite a few ultrasounds to make sure everything was progressing normally.  During one of the first scans, the technician turned to us and said, “I know what that is, and that means you’re carrying a little boy.”

Off the table I jumped and down the road I drove… to Lowe’s… for blue paint.  I had it all planned: blue walls, chambray and red linens, and a giant stuffed moose head for the wall above his dark cherry crib.  I had planned a wild animal theme… lions, tigers and bears, oh my… and a pair of denim overalls from Gap.  Twenty-four hours later, I was trying on baby names from my favorite mini-series, The Thorn Birds.

My husband was not impressed with my source of creativity.

“You’re not going to name our son Stuart. He got killed by a wild boar.  And you are not naming him Dane, either, because he drowned in the ocean. And you can forget about the other brother who died when a burning tree fell on him,” Mike spat.

What about Ralph? He was sitting in the rose garden when he slumped over.  Does that make you feel better?

Three appointments later, a different technician scanned again to check the baby’s development.  “How’s he doing?” I asked nervously. “He?” the technician replied. “You mean SHE? She looks good so far.”

But… but… we were told we were having a boy! What happened to that certain something the other technician was so convinced of?  “I have no idea, but this is a little girl for sure.”

A few months later our second daughter, Maryn, was carried into a bedroom painted a pale, spring green (to be on the safe side).  And, I’m pleased to report that she’s 100% all girl.

BUT, getting back to my story about our beagle blooper:  Since Betty would not be joining us, I had to find a name within 24 hours for our baby boy.  And, if you hadn’t already guessed, I pulled The Thorn Birds novel off the shelf and began flipping through pages.

Paddy? Hal? Luddie? Bob? Jack? Hughie? Rainer?

Mike, proving to be the alpha in the family, took the book and gave it a toss.  “His name is Copper,” he stated.  From The Fox and the Hound?  A Disney movie?

After an hour of debate, I realized that I didn’t have a dog in this fight.  The story of a deep friendship between an unlikely pair (also true of a Roman Catholic priest and his mistress) would serve as the inspiration for our little “surprise”. Copper the Beagle has become man’s best friend.  Sometimes, that’s simply ‘howl’ the ball bounces.