Go Debbie, It’s Your Birthday!

My wife celebrates another birthday today and I love this life that we share.

Our story is not all that unusual. Small town kids who met and fell in love and according to the experts got married too young. We fell in love and there was no way out! Most of our journey together has been unplanned. I’ve heard it said that man plans and God laughs. But what about us? Stumbling through life and making the most of it without any plans. Sometimes I feel like we’re still those nineteen year-olds rushing down the aisle into the unknown. But here we are (a few years later) still side by side on this crazy ride. We have a saying in our home “funny trumps all!”. We laugh and love and remain grateful for the joy of our life together. Our laughter rings out and it can even drown out our tears. I’m sure we’ve still given God plenty to laugh about, planned or otherwise, but we’re laughing, too.

GlacierThe older I get the more I realize that where we’re headed is nothing compared to being on this journey together. On the darkest of days, when all seems lost, I look beside me and know that everything will be alright. When happiness abounds, I know that it’s because of the love that Deb brings into my life. 

Here’s what you need to know about my birthday girl: If you are in need, she’s the friend/sister/daughter/mother/grandmother to call on. If you need a laugh, she will always deliver. If you need someone to hold or if you need to be held, her arms are always open wide. If you need to cry, she will cry, too. Debbie has this incredible gift of making you feel that when she’s with you, no one else is more important or more needed at that moment than you. You have her complete undivided attention. She gives her entire self.

And as for me, well when Deb walks in the room it’s like everyone else fades into the background. All the light in the space seems to be emanating from her. She just gets to me. So we fell in love and there was no way out. But why would I ever want out?

So go Debbie, it’s your birthday! Thanks for all the love and laughter. It’s been a wild ride.

Love,

Denis

 

 

Happy Birthday

Today is my wife’s birthday. I met Debbie 45 years ago while we were both working part-time at a discount store while attending local colleges. Friendship turned into love and love turned into marriage. And the rest is history; her story; our story. There have been plenty of ups and downs but we’ve held on tight. We have laughed nearly every day of our married life (sometimes through the tears). We’ve raised three kids, had multiple careers, lived on two continents, and traveled the world together. We’ve had grand moments and enjoyed simple pleasures. We’ve worked hard; played hard and taken turns carrying one another along the way.

IMG_3774I’ve often wondered why I’ve been so fortunate. I look at other couples and I sometimes feel a tinge of sadness (or is it pride?); realizing they’ll never experience the profound love I’ve known. I witness all the madness in our world and I’m secure in the knowledge that at home I will always find comfort, peace, and joy. Those of you who know Deb, know that she is the heart of our family; that friendships are lifelong; that her word is her bond; and that I’m the luckiest man on earth. Lots of people love Debbie. And her love for others is boundless. But somehow I was one who got to share this life with her. Through all these years; the good days and the bad; through the joys and sorrows; I’ve had this beautiful hand to hold.

I’m a simple man and I simply love my wife. Today seemed like a good day for me to tell her again.

Happy Birthday Deb!

I love you,

Denis

 

 

Women’s Equality Day

Today is “Women’s Equality Day”. At my house that’s everyday. I suppose I’ve been blessed to have had some extraordinary women in my life, not the least of which is my best friend and soul mate, Debbie. We’ve shared (equally) in good times and bad. Carrying one another or being carried by the other as needed. Our life together has proven time and time again that she is my equal. She is simply unafraid. She is love and pure joy but she is also tough and resilient and relentless when necessary. She has taught me that tears don’t make you weak and laughter is truly the best medicine (especially when you need to laugh at yourself). And she has instilled the same spirit and strength and humor in our daughter.

Of course I’ve known and loved many other strong women. In fact, I believe that in my family the female role models are the ones that stand out as leaders.

women's equality dayMy Mom runs the show at her house. She will be 87 this year and remains in the know about politics, current events, style and fashion trends. For someone not afforded an education she is smarter than most women that I know and Dad knows not to mess with Mom.

My three aunts, Lucida, Noel and Gene Marie, were Sisters of the Most Precious Blood. These were intelligent women who were well-traveled and well-educated, not something to be taken for granted by women born in the 1910’s and 1920’s. They were teachers, administrators, catechists, and persons of authority.

The stories of my great-grandmother Elizabeth are legendary: Coming to this country alone at thirteen from Germany. Marrying and then raising her young family alone after my great-grandfather died. I’m told that she was tough, stubborn and a force to be reckoned with.

My three great aunts Marie, Minnie, and Liddy lived together in the family home that became the base of operations for all Wilhelm family gatherings. Aunt Minnie was a business woman – the County Nurse’s secretary. And she was well-respected in our hometown. I remember walking downtown with her many times and people would greet her very politely as “Miss Wilhelm”. I was always so proud to be with my Aunt Min!

And then of course there was my mother-in-law. She was a tough lady who fought for justice and looked out for the underdogs in our world. She was fiercely loyal to those she loved and protected her children like a lioness. She taught her daughter that real beauty requires confidence, kindness and a sense of humor. Jackie never went down without a fight. I’m not sure if you can “raise hell” in heaven, but if you can I’m sure she’s leading the charge.

Finally there are my four beautiful granddaughters. They each have so much to offer. I can see into the future because of them and I want it to equal and fair.

In the many decades since suffragists organized and mobilized, countless advocates and leaders have picked up the mantle and moved our Nation and our world forward. Today, young women in America grow up knowing an historic truth — that not only can they cast a vote, but they can also run for office and help shape the very democracy that once left them out. For these women, and for generations of women to come, we must keep building a more equal America — whether through the stories we tell about our Nation’s history or the faces we display on our country’s currency. On Women’s Equality Day, as we recognize the accomplishments that so many women fought so hard to achieve, we rededicate ourselves to tackling the challenges that remain and expanding opportunity for women and girls everywhere. ~ Barack Obama

I’m proud of the women in my life and I am a better man because of them.

Peace,

Denis

 

Don’t Be Fooled By Her Size

(After reading about all the hoopla concerning Barbie® and the fact that she now comes in four sizes: regular, petite, tall and curvy I thought I would rerun this post originally published in August 2011.) 

When my wife was a little girl she wanted to be Barbie® – tall and blonde and all the rest. But instead God decided to make her Midge® – Barbie’s best friend. Midge was short and brunette and NOT BARBIE. But even though Midge (Deb) is ‘vertically challenged’ you shouldn’t be fooled by her size. She is larger than life. Her circle of influence is boundless. She dreams big. She has more class in her little finger than most folks have in their entire body. And she has more friends today than I have had in my entire life.

The best things do come in small packages

Most descriptions of her include phrases like: big heart; generous spirit; huge smile; hearty laugh; giving friend, loving mother, and caring daughter. These are hardly the images of a mousey little Midge. And Deb does things in a big way, too. Meals are an event. You’ll never leave her table hungry. Holidays are a time for elegant decorating and grand entertaining, and fabulous food. She works hard and she plays hard, too.

And if you are in need, she’s the friend/sister/daughter/mother to call on. If you need a laugh, she will always deliver. If you need someone to hold or if you need to be held, her arms are always open wide. If you need to cry, she will cry, too. Debbie has this incredible gift of making you feel that when she’s with you, no one else is more important or more needed at that moment than you. You have her complete undivided attention. And she gives her entire self.

Her children and grandchildren will also tell you that she is a ‘force to be reckoned with’. And most importantly, you should NEVER attempt to hurt one of her children or grandchildren – she’s like a lioness in her need to protect them. And I believe that she would “stare down the devil” if the need arose.

And for me, well when Deb walks in the room it’s like everyone else fades into the background. All the light in the space seems to be emanating from her. She just gets to me.  Deb always tells our granddaughters “that you have to be pretty on the inside if you want to be pretty on the outside”. And she lives those words, too. Her beauty shines through.

Barbie, you might be a statuesque blonde but you’re empty on the inside, I’ll take ‘ma femme petite belle’ over you any day!

Even though I’m over a foot taller than she, I know that she stands well above me in terms of heart and soul. But most of you are already aware of this.

Peace,

Denis

Deb, it’s been my pleasure and honor to “look up” to you all these many years. I love this life we share.  I love you, (petite, curvy and all the rest) ~ D

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Cjgav6VXUxc

Conditional Lover (but trying…)

Conditional love is love that is ‘earned’ on the basis of conscious or unconscious conditions. In other words, if you do what I want or behave in a manner that is pleasing to me, I will love you. If not, then my love will be withheld. Sadly this is true for many of us; both those loving and those being loved. I’m not talking so much about romantic love here, although I suppose it works that way sometimes, too. I’m referring to our relationships with friends and colleagues. I’m thinking of work associates, neighbors, classmates, fellow parishioners, and friends.

Capture I often find myself questioning whether or not to spend time with someone because of something that was said or done that “rubbed me the wrong way”. There have been times that I judged someone simply because of who their friends are.  Worse yet, how about those people I avoid just because of their affiliations with certain political or religious groups? Not to mention the folks that I distance myself from simply because of age, race, ethnicity or income level. My justification – “I don’t hate them; I just don’t really like them.” or “I don’t have anything in common with these people.” or “I already have enough friends.”

In truth: My love is conditional. My conditions are simply not being met. And I own this. And it’s a shame.

So I’m   T  R  Y  I  N  G   to love unconditionally. But it’s not easy. Not for me anyway. Unconditional love – such an easy thing to say and such a hard thing to do. Loving without expecting to be loved in return. Kindness given without any expectation of kindness returned. I struggle with this every day.

And yet, I have been given countless examples of unconditional love in my life. Strangers who welcomed me; teachers who guided me; friends and family who have loved me during some pretty un-lovable times.

I think about the year that we lived in England. We were truly foreigners. We tentatively entered our little St. Peter Church in Cirencester for the first time not knowing what to expect. No proof of worthiness or commitment to financial support was required (or ever requested for that matter). Even with our funny American accents, we were loved by our priest “as we were” and embraced by our faith community “just because”.

I have a wife that loves me unconditionally. And I have friends and family that love me unconditionally, too. They’re not looking for anything from me (not that I can offer much anyway). My grandkids love me unconditionally. They just accept me as I am (and they like me this way). Which makes me want to be a better person because of their love.

So I’m going to keep trying to love unconditionally. So don’t be startled if I smile at you for no apparent reason. Don’t be surprised if I am kinder and gentler. And don’t be weirded-out if I give you a hug. And of course sometimes I’ll revert to being a jerk and then if you still love me I’ll know that your love is unconditional.

Loving unconditionally doesn’t guarantee that love will be returned. But it’s all the sweeter if it is.

Peace,

Denis

“You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” Mark 12:31

I Must Have Done Something Good

There’s a song from the musical The Sound of Music with the line “somewhere in my youth or childhood, I must have done something good”. To be honest, I sometimes feel that way. I have received so much in this life that I don’t deserve; that I didn’t earn; that should have been given to someone more worthy. Loving children. Perfect grandchildren. Family and friends that have carried me along on my journey. A comfortable home. A career that I’m proud of. But mostly my beautiful wife.

Deb, “here I am standing here loving you, whether or not I should…”

My wife, my love, my life. We have defied all odds: married too young; too poor; under-educated; having children when we were barely adults ourselves; career disasters; job changes; money troubles; moving out of state and out the country and back again. And yet, here we are still together. Forever.

Your birthday seems like a perfect time to tell you what you mean to me. When I try to put it in to words it all seems too simple; too ordinary. I love you. The end. But it’s so much more that.

BirthdayNo one gets to me the way you do. No one can make me feel as passionate as you. No one can push me to the edge and then pull me back quite like you. No one lights up a room like you. No one can make me laugh at myself harder than you can. You have shared my happiest days and my moments of utter despair. You have held my hand as I have walked through good times and bad. You keep me grounded and you give me wings. I have witnessed your exquisite beauty, your kindness, your gentleness and your strength countless times and I am still in awe.

And you still do that thing to me that no one else can do: You make me want to be a better man. Thank you for loving me all these years.

I must have done something good…

Happy Birthday,

Denis

Run Away With Me

Today I turn 60.

I’ve been thinking lately that my life is best described as a journey. Not so much one long journey but instead it’s been a series of many journeys. Some pleasant. Some mundane. Some exquisite. Some devastating. Some planned. Some unexpected. One journey after another. Another day. Another journey.

The constant in all this journeying is my beautiful wife Deborah. Over 40 years ago I asked if she would run away with me and she said yes. And that’s how it’s been ever since. Always side by side on this crazy ride. Pushing and pulling each other along the way, we’ve made the best of it all and never regretted the journey’s twists and turns. Sometimes holding on to one another in delight or terror. Still we’ve made our way.

I know that there are no guarantees in life (except that it will end one day) so I will take it one day at a time. It’s said that man plans and God laughs. I prefer to think that every step of our journey together, whether planned or unplanned, has been ordained by the mystery of God’s love for us. And I’m sure we’ve given God plenty to laugh about!

boatAll I know is I must have done something good along the way because Deb agreed to run away with me all those years ago and we’ve kept running. And the older I get the more I realize that where we’re headed is nothing compared to journeying there together. On those darkest days, when all seems lost, I look beside me and know that everything will be alright. When happiness abounds, I know that it’s because of the love she brings to my life. And once again I thank God.

I asked her to run away with me and she said yes! And the journey continues…

So today is my birthday but I don’t need to blow out any candles.

Deb, you already know my wish. Let’s go!

Peace,

Denis

 

Macaroons (and other cherished memories)

Three years ago we lived in England. One of the advantages of living there was our ability to travel around Europe. And April in Paris just felt right.

Traveling to Paris was a dream that we had shared for most of our married life. Paris the city of lights; the city of romance. Being there – walking through the streets of Paris is hard to put into words. I just kept being overwhelmed by the sheer beauty of it all. The monuments – Eiffel Tower, Arc de Triomphe, The Obelisk in The Place de la Concorde were all more impressive in person than what I had seen in photos. Notre-Dame Cathedral and The Louvre are simply magnificent. The River Seine was amazing. But my favorite memory of Paris will always be the macaroons.

Let me explain:

LadureeMy beautiful wife loves to cook and loves to watch cooking shows and read cookbooks and cooking magazines. Debbie learned that the place for macaroons in Paris is Laduree. People were literally wrapped around the block waiting to purchase macaroons there. It was a must-do! So we patiently waited and little by little wound our way into the shop. The cases were filled with thousands of macaroons in various and assorted flavors. Deb was thrilled beyond words while I was just coming to the realization that macaroons are cookies – beautiful, colorful cookies but cookies nonetheless. Of course neither of us speak French so, when we finally approached the counter, we panicked and requested an assortment. In broken English the young lady said that 24 macaroons would be 40 euro. Deb was still awestruck and nodded – OUI, OUI! I was quickly doing the math in my head – about $56.oo for 24 tiny macaroons! Now I’m not really a cheapskate, but because I figured that I could eat about three macaroons in one bite, I knew that this was going to be a pretty expensive snack. But as we say in Paris ~ C’est la vie!

When we left Laduree I told Deb I thought that 40 euro was a bit much for 24 macaroons. “Oh no!” “I thought she said 14 euro.” was her reply. We both had a good laugh and I told her it was no big deal that we could eat few each day and take the rest back to our home in England. Deb informed me that macaroons have a very short shelf life and that we would have to eat them pretty quickly. So after a long day of sight-seeing we sat in our hotel room with swollen feet and gorged ourselves on macaroons and laughed about how glamorous our time in Paris had become. God forbid we would waste one morsel of precious macaroon!

So that’s my favorite and most vivid memory of Paris. Laughing with the one I love about the macaroon mix-up while stuffing our faces. Hardly the romantic image of Paris I had expected to carry in my heart but still the one I will always cherish.

My love in Paris

My love in Paris 2012

I’ve traveled to some amazing places. I’ve been fortunate to have toured some magnificent castles and world-renowned museums. But my most cherished memories aren’t places. Instead it’s hearing a heartbeat next to mine, touching newborn skin so soft I could barely feel it, tasting a tomato just pulled off the vine, holding a tiny hand in mine, smelling lilacs in bloom, hugging someone so tightly and never wanting to let go, seeing a sunrise so beautiful it made me cry. It doesn’t matter whether those things happened in royal gardens or grand halls or sacred cathedrals or back alley ways.

You see, it’s not where or when that makes memories special. It’s who and why. And macaroons.

Peace,

Denis

 

 

 

 

From Forty To Forever…

Today is our 40th wedding anniversary. It’s hard to believe that Debbie and I have been married for forty years. In some ways it feels like yesterday that we walked down the aisle and then there are days when it seems that we’ve been together forever. At least I know that we will stay together forever. And always in love.

wedding marriage license

SIGNING OUR MARRIAGE CERTIFICATE ~ Don’t think we had any idea what we were signing up for in 1975

I’m a lucky man. My wife is still as beautiful as the day we married. She still makes me laugh everyday (mostly at myself). She has helped me become the man who I hoped I could be – worthy of her love. She has been by my side through it all. Never behind me; never in front of me; always beside me. Equal partners.

Marriage is supposed to be 50/50 but successful couples will tell you that sometimes it’s 80/20 or 40/60 and that each partner sometimes carries the extra load for the other. In the long run it truly is 50/50 but knowing when you need to give more and take less is the secret to happiness. That and honesty and respect. And of course love.

So we’ve been blessed these forty years with love and respect and honesty and laughter. We have three beautiful children: Tyson who has his mother’s tender heart. Bess who shares Deb’s spirit of fun and adventure and faithfulness. Blake who embraces her caring nature and compassion. They are our jewels; they are our treasures.

The best parts of our married life have made the tough parts worth it all. We’ve carried each other on this journey when necessary but mostly we’ve walked hand in hand. I started out thinking in 1975 that we were somehow headed toward a goal – Financial success? Maturity? Stability? Marital bliss? But through these forty years I’ve come to realize that the journey’s the thing. That’s our legacy. That somehow through good and bad; thick and thin, we’ve made it. We’ve remained side by side. Never behind. Never in front. Always beside.

And I can’t imagine any other life. Any other love. Any other girl.

Peace,

Denis

Love is patient, love is kind. It is not jealous, is not pompous, it is not inflated, it is not rude, it does not seek its own interests, it is not quick-tempered, it does not brood over injury, it does not rejoice over wrongdoing but rejoices with the truth. It bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. 1 Corinthians 13:4-7

 

 

 

The Long and Short of It

My beautiful wife Debbie is 4′-11″ tall. I’m 6′-1″. Height differences have been challenging at times to say the least. Disagreements about where things should be placed (top shelf or bottom shelf; overhead or underneath) have been a source of conflict through the years. Also purchasing furniture, cabinets, and automobiles that fit both of us can be quite challenging. Our daily lives have been consumed with readjusting mirrors, car seats, step stools, computer monitors, and anything else that will allow height accommodations. We are simply physically mismatched.

Deb meOf course our physical differences are just part of the challenge. I’m all – hurry, hurry let’s go! She’s all – slow down; calm down. I need a well thought-out plan. She runs on feelings and often laughs at my plans. I’m an early bird that loves to rise and shine. She’s a night owl who requires silence and coffee in the morning. I’m very linear. She usually colors outside the lines.

Through the years we have learned that differences are not detrimental to a successful relationship. In fact, just the opposite. My wife and I actually complement one another. We fill in each others voids. We carry one another when necessary. I realize that life with another person just like me would be boring. And I also believe that two Debbies could be disaster (or far too much fun depending on your perspective).

Our marriage might serve as an example for others. If we can get along, so can you. And so should nations, political parties, neighborhoods, schools districts, churches, and kids on the playground. Being different from one another needn’t make us enemies. Respecting the talents and gifts that we each share is worth the risk of not always being right.

Deb and I somehow have managed to live together in spite of our 14″ difference in height. Her hand rests perfectly inside mine. And the other differences usually sort themselves out, too. I suppose abundant love and unending patience helps. But I suspect that sometimes it’s just not worth the fight. That’s why God created adjustable car seats and step stools.

 While we were living in England a cabbie once chuckled as we entered his taxi and said, “Well Governor, you two are certainly the long and short of it!” We all shared a good laugh.

Of course he had no idea that we fit so well together…

Peace,

Denis

P.S. Happy Birthday Deb! I love you and I love the fact that we are indeed ‘the long and short of it’.