Tag Archive | marriage

my balanced life (or my frozen lungs)


Grandma and Grandpa Banis on their Hawaiian vacation

Grandma and Grandpa in Hawaii

My chest feels like someone has been beating on it with a ball peen hammer.  Like someone is trying to get in.  Or get out.

Bang.  Bang.  Bang. 

 

Each deep breath is punctuated by face-reddening, uncontrollable coughing.

Hack. Hack. Hack.

 

I am sick.

Bronchitis, I think.  The good doctor who loaded me up with steroids, cough syrup with codeine and antibiotics didn’t say, specifically.  But he talked about reducing swelling in my lungs.  Sounds like bronchitis to me.

Ancient Chinese Medicine teaches that each major organ in your body relates to an emotion.  The lungs represent grief.

As I lay in bed, feeling the effects of the ever-present tapping on my breastplate, I wonder which grief has frozen my lungs.

The death of a marriage.

The disappointment of a lying boyfriend.

The literal death of my grandmother.  My last living grandparent.

Grandma Banis stood next to me that summer day I pulled in more than my share of fish.  She loved telling the story over the years, imitating my girlish delight with each caught-fish. Wheeee!”

She taught me to sew, a meticulous taskmaster who still managed to make it fun.  I remember scouring through patterns and fabrics with her for hours.  Picking blouse and skirt patterns that would be easy enough.  Choosing different fabrics so that once I had a pattern set to my measurements, I could make it over and over.

I remember my first lesson on zippers.  I think I ripped it out six times, because as Grandma said, “We don’t do no half-ass work around here, Gina.”

After that first lesson, I never ripped out another zipper.  I wish all of my life-lessons were as effective as her lesson on zippers.

Grandma’s passing wasn’t a surprise.  Over three years in a nursing home left her a shell of her former sassy self.  I don’t like to remember her like that, and hate some of the pictures posted of her with her face sunken because the nursing home lost her teeth.  I prefer remembering her with her hair just so, make-up carefully applied, smart pantsuits (that she most likely whipped up on her trusty sewing machine.)

A widow-woman for the last ten years or so, as far as I know she never dated or even entertained the notion of being involved with another man.  I think she was content to wait to reunite with Grandpa Banis.

And now she has.

Good-bye, Grandma.

adventures in dating (or there is none like you)


I struggle with the desire to find the perfect mate.  The perfect person to understand me, touch me, love me.

Dance with God and He will let the perfect man cut in.

A soul mate, if you will.  The one.

That perfect person to be by my side, through life’s ups and downs.

This is a struggle I share with many of my single friends.

As I was getting ready for church last Sunday morning, I turned Pandora on to the Praise and Worship Radio.  Before the music started playing, a song popped into my head.

“There is none like you.  No one else can touch my heart like you do.  I could search for all eternity Lord, and find there is none like you.”

A scant second later, Michael W. Smith sang the echoing refrain to my heart’s song.

“There is none like you.  No one else can touch my heart like you do.  I could search for all eternity Lord, and find there is none like you.”

They say the Holy Spirit speaks to you if you’re listening.  I haven’t had many of those moments in my life.  As soon as I heard those words surrounding me in perfect harmony, I felt God’s presence, heard God’s message.

I can search for all eternity, and there’s only one man who can touch my heart the way I need it to be touched.

Only one man who understands me.

Loves me unconditionally.

I stood in my shower that morning and sobbed.  Tears of grief for all the years I tried to make my husband that soul mate.  Tears of frustration for all the men I’ve cried for because they weren’t who I needed or wanted.

Sobbed with the realization that God is my soul mate.  Or at least, He wants to be.  If I’ll only let him.

Question:  Has God ever spoken to you?  How did His words come through to your heart?

adventures in dating (or am I ready yet)


hot pink daisy

I keep receiving the same piece of dating advice.  It comes in a few different forms.

  • Are you ready yet?

 

  • Maybe you’re just not ready.

 

  • Don’t focus on finding the right one – focus on being the right one.

 

I appreciate the advice.  I really do.  But sometimes I wonder if my advisors really mean:

  • You’re not ready.

 

  • If you were better, you’d find someone.

 

  • There’s something wrong with you.

 

The people giving me this advice are friends who love me.  Because I know that’s true, I try to interpret their advice in the best light.

  • You aren’t strong enough yet to withstand the rejection inherent in dating.

 

  • You can’t control when the “Right One” will find you, but you can control yourself – spending time in ways that prepare yourself to be a great partner.

 

But honestly, even those interpretations sting a little.

For over twenty years, I read every self-help, marriage-saving book I could put my hands on.  The ones recommended by friends and the ones I found meandering through Barnes & Nobles.

The recurring theme in all these books was, “You can’t change anyone but yourself.  So quit trying to change your spouse.  Change yourself and save your marriage!”

I admit that is a simplification.  I agree that you can’t make anyone else change.

I took the message from these books to heart.  Did my best to be a better wife.  But none of it was enough to save my marriage.  That knowledge haunts me, even three years later.  Because whatever I did, it wasn’t enough.  I wasn’t enough.

After more than twenty years, I’m single.  Happily single, truthfully.  I have a good life filled with love, children of my flesh and of my heart, family who are friends and friends who are family.  A seemingly unending supply of Team A boys to date.

Just because he broke my heart doesn’t mean I’m broken.  I am whole and happy.  Funny and sweet.  I walk through life with my mind and my heart open, ready to love the people God and life sends to me.

Is it wrong to wish that one of those people would be a man who would love me beyond measure?  Someone to stand by me during life’s crises?  Someone to wake up next to at 3:00 a.m.?

Am I ready?  Do my friends see something in me I don’t?  I wish there were a test to take to see if you’re “ready” or not.  I’m an excellent test taker!  I wish there were a course to take to get “ready”.  I love courses!

When I am ready, will I stop feeling like a giant love failure?  When I am ready, will I open up like a daisy in full bloom?  My heart as wide open as the daisy’s petals?

Question:  If you’ve found The One, did you have an epiphany of readiness before you met them?

adventures in dating (or a love like that)


Sufi poet Hafiz

I adore love stories.  Sometimes I’m lucky enough to meet someone who shares their love story with me, like George and Faye.  Sometimes I get to watch a love story in action, no words or explanations needed.

My beautiful friend and yoga guru, Carrie, is braving Stage IV ovarian cancer.  Her path has been littered with obstacles since her diagnosis.  Blood clots.  Unsuccessful chemo treatments.  Bowel blockages.

Overriding everything is the strength and love of her husband, Herman.

Carrie was hospitalized two hours away from home for a month.  Herman was there every day until he had to return to work.  Then he commuted back and forth each day after work.

Their love story has had the same highs and lows that all long-term relationships have.  But where the rubber met the road, there’s Herman, standing tall, a gentle giant.

Now that Carrie’s back home, Herman works full time then performs home inspections in the evening and on weekends.  The full-time job provides health insurance and living money.  The home inspections pay for Carrie’s medication, which are averaging a thousand dollars a month.

Carrie is the original outdoor girl.  She was raised in rural Pennsylvania on 100 acres in the mountains.  She’s more at home in a kayak on the river than in a store.

She sells Arbonne, whose sign of success is a white Mercedes.

Since Carrie’s diagnosis, Herman bought a previously-owned, white Mercedes SUV, lovingly restored it and outfitted it with a rack for Carrie’s kayak and stand-up paddle board.

I’ve talked to Herman a few times.  Asked him how he’s doing. Whether it’s standing outside her hospital room, or meeting at the now-closed yoga studio, or talking on the phone to coordinate visits, the answer never changes.

It doesn’t matter how I am.  Nothing matters but Carrie.

Carrie and Herman having a loving moment in happier times

I want a love like that.  The selfless love of Sufi poet Hafiz’s poetry.  The selfless love I see in Herman when he talks about Carrie.

Sunday was a special day for Carrie.  A day of fasting, prayer, healing thoughts and positive energy.

In Matthew 18:19-20, Jesus tells us, “Again, truly I tell you that if two of you on earth agree about anything they ask for, it will be done for them by my Father in heaven. For where two or three gather in my name, there am I with them.”

Carrie’s friends each did something Sunday for her healing. Some friends fasted.  Some prayed.  Some sent Reiki.  Others sent positive thoughts of healing – imagining Carrie whole and well, her smile lighting up the room. All sent love.  None more than Herman.

adventures in dating (or one brave heart)


“Expose yourself to your deepest fear; after that, fear has no power, and the fear of freedom shrinks and vanishes. You are free.”

Jim Morrison

I’ve never considered myself to be brave.  But I’ve had an epiphany this week.  I am brave.  Brave enough to risk my heart.  Over and over again.

be brave banner

When I meet someone I feel a connection with, whatever you want to call that connection, I risk my heart.  Willingly.  Gladly.

Sometimes, like with Coach, that connection makes sense.  Coach has a master’s degree.  He’s a nationally known strength and conditioning coach.  Respected by his peers.  He’s smart and educated, an optimistic people-person.  On the surface, he was a perfect match for me.

Sometimes, like with Nature Boy, that connection makes no sense at all.  Educationally and professionally, Nature Boy and I are on completely different levels.  I’m a tried-and-true Type A.  He’s more Type Hawaii.  I plan my life five years in advance.  I’m not even sure he plans his life five hours in advance.  But the connection I felt when I was with him was so strong, I didn’t care about any of those things.

As opposite as they are, the one thing they have in common is the connection I felt when I was with them.

It is easier to go out with people I have no connection to.  You aren’t risking anything when you don’t care.  Your heart is safe when it has no connection to the person you’re seeing.

Maybe because my heart was thoroughly shattered when my marriage collapsed, I can’t imagine any other relationship destroying me.  I faced soul-crushing heartache.  And I came out on the other side.  Stronger and braver than I ever imagined I could be.

I love.  Freely.  Easily.  Without reservation.  That quality attracts people to me.  Children sense the unconditional love that flows through my heart to theirs.  They know I love them just the way they are.

Unfortunately, men sense that same quality and run away.  Nature Boy ran away, rather than acknowledging his feelings for me.  Rather than letting my heart heal his.

I don’t blame him.  He’s been hurt and doesn’t want to be hurt again.  His choice is to play it safe.  Protect his heart.  I might have made that same choice once upon a time, a long time ago.

I can’t play it safe anymore.  I would rather have a few months of something special than years of nothing special.  Even if that means I might get hurt.  Hurt doesn’t last forever.  Beautiful memories do.

swan soul mates

One day, my heart will find my soul mate.  He’ll be brave enough to risk loving me back.  My unconditional love will be met with unconditional love.  We will have a connection that lasts for an eternity.

Until then, I am brave enough to put myself out there, put my heart out there, as many times as it takes to find him.

adventures in dating (or a pretty good catch)


Love stories have always been my favorite.  Especially the stories that aren’t stories at all.  It tickles me to listen to other people’s love stories.  It encourages me to know love finds people, whether it’s late in life like my client Meredith who found a beau at 70.    Or whether they found it thirty-three years ago, like Linda and Fernando.

sun setting on the intercoastal waterway

Linda told me about how she and Fernando found each other as we floated on the intercoastal waterway.  The sun was a slowly sinking red ball as she told me about how she met Fernando when her son was ten years old.  She’d been divorced since he was two.  She dated but she didn’t introduce men to her son.  She swore she’d never be married again.

There was something different about Fernando.  They met at a party.  By the time she realized he was a younger man, it was too late.  They were smitten with each other.

Linda had been dating another man for about three years when she met Fernando.  It didn’t take her long to realize Fernando was the one.  She says that other fella told her he’d never been dumped so fast in his life.

Fernando is half Cuban and half Colombian.  Linda is West Virginia country girl.  Fernando is younger and had never been married.  Linda was a divorcee with a child.

His family didn’t want him to marry her because she was a Gringa.  Her family didn’t want her to marry him because he was Latino.

In spite of that, they’ve been married thirty-three years now.  They have two beautiful daughters.  Fernando has been a father to Linda’s son.

Fernando is quiet and exact.  An architect by trade and personality.  Linda is vivacious and outgoing.

They are a testament to the saying that opposites attract.

Linda and Fernando

Linda and Fernando

As the sun set, we looked toward the back of the boat, admiring her handsome man.

He’s a pretty good catch,” she commented.

I wholeheartedly agree.

Question:  Have you found your Fernando yet?  Did he sneak in when you least suspected it?

adventures in dating (or miss independence)



lit sparklers

Three years ago this month I leapt madly toward independence.  It was like jumping out of a tenth floor window of a burning building.  Sometimes, it doesn’t matter if there is something waiting to break your fall.  Where you are is so bad, you have to take that leap of faith.

Asking for a divorce was the scariest thing I’ve ever done.  I tortured myself with self-doubt.  What if I was wrong?  What if he was right, and we were supposed to stay together?  What if the separation destroyed our kids?

What if I went through all the pain of the separation and then ended up with someone else exactly like the one I left?

What if I ended up ALONE?  I couldn’t imagine a fate worse than being alone.

I found a dead Monarch butterfly on my back patio around that time.  I saved it, wrapped in tissue in a Premier Jewelry box.  Whenever I was tempted to call my ex, I’d pull the box out.  I’d remind myself that if I stayed in my marriage, my soul would be as dead as that little butterfly.

Three years later, I look back on the woman I was like she’s a character in a book I read. Her grief is a distant memory, more like something I’ve watched on TV than lived firsthand.

Her anger and bitterness a distasteful chapter in a book I never want to read again.

power to choose

I’m thankful for my beautiful children, who worried about me and took care of me as much as I took care of them.  We grieved together.  For a family lost.  A husband and father absent.  For what could have been.  And never was.

As I write these words, tears pour down my cheeks.  A reminder that maybe the pain isn’t as distant as I thought.

I’m thankful for my friends who remind me of Jeremiah 40:31.  But those who hope in the Lord will renew their strength. 
They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint.” 

My friends stood next to me.  They soared with me when I could.  They ran with me when I couldn’t.  They walked with me when that’s all I had left.

A couple of times in the last few months, I’ve thought to myself, I love being single.  Or, I like being single more than I ever liked being married.  It’s taken most of the three years to get to this point.

Being alone doesn’t scare me anymore.  I know there will always be people in my life.  Family to love.  Friends to lean on.  Boys to play with.

It takes time to get to this place.  And it’s a good place.

Maybe it’s because I’m in this place that Nature Boy finally found me.

Nature Boy is my biggest surprise.  He drifts in and out of my life like an unanchored boat.  When he’s around, he brings peace and stillness.  He soothes my soul.  As I soothe his.

Five years before I met him, I pointed out his sailboat to my photographer sister.  She snapped the pic and it’s been hanging in my office ever since.  From my desk, if I look left, there’s a picture of Sweetness.  If I look right, there’s a picture of Nature Boy’s sailboat.

Serendipity?  Fate?  Whatever brought Nature Boy to me now, I’m in a good place to enjoy it.  Enjoy him.

Question:  Have you declared your independence yet?  Or are you happily dependent?