Saturday, September 10, 2011

“Blending in Marriage”

            After thirty-two years of marriage, friends often query, “How did you stay together so long? What’s the trick?”
            I usually shrug my shoulders and shake my head, “I don’t know. Lots of love, but sometimes you fall out of synch with each other. The love may not feel as overpowering as it once was; yet if you wait it out, it comes back stronger and better.” I’ll pause for effect, and then continue, “You have to be friends as well as lovers. And you have to be willing to give up some of the things that are important to you as a person in order to reach for what’s best as a couple. Marriage is never easy—but nothing in life is, right? You’ll both feel anger, frustration and hurt. Own the negative as well as the positive. Always pull together when there’s a problem instead of heading in separate directions or relying on someone outside of your marriage to ‘fix’ things when they go wrong.”
            One of the tricks of marriage is taking two separate lives, with different upbringings and experiences, and blending them together into something wonderful and new. In the early years of our marriage, we made conscious choices of the things we liked or disliked about our childhood. For example, I hated that we moved every two or three years. I wanted to settle on a city or town, sink in roots, and build a life in one place. That didn’t matter as much to David at first. Later on, when I started looking for a bigger house, it turned out David rooted more deeply than I did; and so we added on to our home instead of moving.
            Our biggest area of contention those first years? Keeping house. I grew up a clean freak. Baseboards and door trims got a white glove inspection when we lived on base, and I transferred that tidiness into my adult life. Many of our early arguments revolved around housework. David always pitched in, but did such a horrible job that I ended up redoing many of his chores. After one explosion on why he didn’t clean something correctly, he admitted that he rarely did housework growing up. His bungling attempts, which I misinterpreted as a passive-aggressive dodge of chores, turned out to be total lack of knowledge of how to get something spiffy clean.
            When David and I had been married only a few months, he asked one night, “What do you do to the sheets?”
            “Sheets?” I echoed, puzzled.
            “They always feel so smooth. And they always smell good. Do you do something special with them?”
            “No. I just wash them every week."
            David paused, “Oh, that’s it, then. We didn’t wash our sheets every week. Sometimes more than a month would go by.” He made similar comments on the towels that never became cardboard stiff or smelled sour. Although all of David’s clothing when we first married fit into one paper sack, I was shocked to learn that he’d been told to turn dirty underwear inside-out and wear them a second time!
            These differences in upbringing caused friction during those first years. I couldn’t understand why David didn’t just jump in to clean something, often forgetting that he truly didn’t see that something was dirty because his level of tolerance was so much higher than my own.
            Eventually, we divided house cleaning and yard work not by the usual male/female divisions, but by what each of us likes to do most (or least hates to do). David prefers “picking up” or straightening up clutter. He likes to vacuum, cook, and clean the kitchen. I prefer dusting and laundry. We tackled grocery shopping together until recently. Both of us like working in the yard. Usually David will weed-eat while I’ll mow. We team up for clipping hedges, and I love to piddle in the garden
            Blending occurred in many other areas of our lives. Even after all of these years, we’ll sometimes find ourselves discussing a difference (yes, they still exist) and figuring out the best way to fuse two ways of viewing something into one solution. During this past year, we’ve had new challenges and changes that could strain a marriage; yet we seem to have mastered this blending skill. And frankly, it’s the mixing and merging that makes life interesting. 

Copyright 2011 Elizabeth Abrams Chapman 

Friday, September 9, 2011

“Fire and Rain”

Watching the news over the last couple of days, the lyrics to James Taylor’s “Fire and Rain” become a haunting serenade. While the eastern seaboard drowns under deluges from several hurricanes and tropical storms, portions of the south burn in nearly uncontrollable fires. In Texas, we joke about rain dances while we enviously watch weather systems skip around us. Of course, I’m certain my friends in Georgia, Vermont, or New York would love to send some of their downpours this way.

This isn’t just a case of the grass being greener, though. Unfortunately, some politicians heartlessly take advantage of these disastrous conditions to promote their own agendas. Somehow, these people feel it’s necessary to twist their religious fanaticism with their personal ambitions into a knotted rope of discrimination and prejudice.

At this point in time, I hope they’ve created enough rope to hang themselves.

Humankind has not woven the web of life.
We are but one thread within it.
Whatever we do to the web, we do to ourselves.
All things are bound together.
All things connect.

Chief Seattle, 1854

Copyright 2011 Elizabeth Abrams Chapman 

Thursday, September 8, 2011


"Gus" by Paul Chapman

        Eyes that never smile       
        A hurting heart       
        A lost spirit           
        An uncertain soul           
        The truth from all       
         Me from myself   

Copyright 1995 Elizabeth Abrams Chapman

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

“The Metal Box”

As long as I can remember, my parents have had a metal box filled with all of their important papers. I don’t know when they assembled the documents of their lives. Perhaps they’ve always had the box. I do know that the box made an appearance each time my parents evacuated for a hurricane. When my parents and brother made their way up to San Antonio to escape a storm, they tucked the metal box behind the driver’s seat. The papers within this little case provided protection from disaster: life insurance policies on each family member (they still have policies on each of us kids), flood insurance and home insurance, deeds, wills, marriage license, social security cards, birth certificates, military records. My father assembled a list of important phone numbers (like the DOD and Social Security) for us to use either of them died. That way everything would be in one spot in case of an emergency. I’ll never forget the gratitude I felt that my father had taken care of all of this information. Some of the items he had on his check list had to be done within a certain amount of time after he died. We would have been clueless without his thoughtful guidance.
The metal box moved to San Antonio when Mom left League City. Yesterday, I hauled it out in search of the deed to the Leakey property. One of our “neighbors” wants to put in electricity on his acreage, and the electric co-op needs Mom to sign a Utility Easement form. The document’s blanks follow the deed exactly—at least, I think it does. I couldn’t find the deed, or any documentation on the property, in the container. With a phone call to the proper county office, a county official read the deed information to me. It troubled me, though, to find that some important papers have managed to escape their metal home. When I asked my mother about the deed, she recalled changing the form into her name after Dad died, which was ten years ago. She distinctly remembered putting everything pertaining to the property into a manila envelope. She thought she’d returned it all to the box. I imagine she placed the packet in a drawer after receiving the changed title with the idea of dragging out the metal box later. I’m certain, if I made a quick search through the League City home, I’d find the envelope labeled “IMPORTANT” and “DO NOT THROW AWAY” with “LEAKEY, TEXAS” all in bold letters on the front. Anyway, I decided I needed to spend a little time organizing the metal box, putting the papers toward the front that I’ll need once my mother dies. It saddened me to sort through these documents, but I know it’s best to do this now.
It’s natural, of course, that I followed the example set by my parents. My box nestles on the floor of the master bedroom closet. It, too, contains all of the important records from our lives. I feel secure knowing that in an emergency, I can confidently grab the box and have everything we need. I’ve made certain both David and Paul know the content of our container. However, I realized that we’ve stuffed papers and documents into the box carelessly. One day soon, I’ll lug the box out of our closet and do a major reorganization. Perhaps I’ll even make a list of all those important phone numbers and addresses, just as my father had done for us. A metal box will be one more tradition passed through our generations.

Copyright 2011 Elizabeth Abrams Chapman

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

“From Nancy Drew to Stephanie Plum”

            Nothing pleased me more as a child than coming home to find a book-sized box on my twin bed. I always knew that I’d have hours of entertainment from the latest in my Nancy Drew mystery series. My sister hooked me on the young detective by loaning me a copy of The Secret of the Old Clock. By the time I turned seven, my parents decided to join the book club in order to keep up with my demands for the next edition.
            I loved reading the Nancy Drew series for several reasons. Even as a child, I enjoyed to puzzle over things and put together evidence and clues to solve a mystery. My goal with each book? Discover the solution to the crime or mystery before Nancy, of course! I smugly applauded my reasoning every time I put together the pieces of Nancy’s puzzles. Although I liked Nancy quite a bit, I identified more with her best friend, George. I felt George had a little more spunk than Nancy. As I read the books, I never imagined myself at the wheel of the blue roadster. Instead, I sat in the passenger seat, the loyal buddy ready to accompany Nancy on her adventures.
            Thinking back, perhaps Nancy Drew’s perfection put me off as a child. She always wore the perfect outfit, said just the right things, and never bungled nor had a misstep. With her impeccable father and flawless boyfriend, Nancy’s noble determination to help those around her made her an ideal heroine. I, however, needed someone with a little grit.

            As an adult, I still love reading light mysteries. Only now, it’s the latest Janet Evanovich installation that baits me. I hate having to wait for the next adventure of Stephanie Plum. Of course, this character embodies the antithesis of Nancy Drew. That clumsy, gritty, complicated heroine I longed for as a child appeared on the bookshelves in 1994. I identify with Stephanie Plum’s boldness. I love her imperfect family and her bumbling crime solving methodology. Whether she’s pressed against super-hot Morelli, or simmering next to sultry Ranger, Stephanie’s imperfection draws me into her world. As I lose myself into Stephanie’s adventures, I identify with her and not her best friend (which may be fortunate as Lulu’s a humongous, gun toting, ex-ho stuffed into Spandex.)

 Copyright 2011 Elizabeth Abrams Chapman   

Monday, September 5, 2011

“A Quick Walk?”

The temperature dropped last night for the second night in a row. I haven’t checked with the news yet on how “low” we dipped, but this morning’s breeze didn’t slap me in the face with humidity. When David suggested that we take Mom out for a quick walk to the park, I jumped at the idea.
            The moment I pulled out my Skechers, Koi started yipping while Bridget picked up her own momentum by jumping on and off the bed, nudging me with excited joy. David put socks and shoes on Mom while I gathered together her foot rests for the wheelchair, one of her sporty hats she likes to wear outside, and bottled water for all of us. We stalled trying to get out the door because the dogs’ tornado-enthusiasm tangled harnesses and leads.
            And they’re off! I exclaimed as the dogs bolted across the yard, towing David as though he weighed nothing. I maneuvered Mom over to the driveway, following David and dogs at a more sedate pace. Mom and I wished a walk could become part of our daily routine (sans dogs) once reasonable temperatures return to our area.
            Live Oak Park bustled with energy—relay teams running through the back trails, parents pushing strollers, children mastering new bicycles, families staking out picnic areas. Mom and I saluted every jogger and walker as we wandered our way up to the top of the park where we rendezvoused with David, Bridget and Koi.
            “Do you want to loop around the lake?” I asked Mom, not certain if the mile walk tired her. When she nodded affirmative, we zigzagged down the ramps to loop over to our rain thirsty lake. We paused to mourn the lily pads and wondered if the fish survived by retreating to the depths of the lake’s center. Then we began to retrace our steps.
            We ambled on the journey home. The dogs, tongues scraping the pavement, walked with the demure pacing of the best trained dogs. My legs, screaming from pushing Mom and the wheelchair uphill the entire way home, couldn’t muster a faster clip. By the time we walked up the front door ramp, our hike had turned into a forty minute excursion. Mom quickly kicked off her shoes and tossed her hat aside, David hustled to pour us cold glasses of juice, and both dogs sprawled on the floor, looking more dead than alive. As for me? I’m can’t wait for our next quick walk.  

Copyright 2011 Elizabeth Abrams Chapman

Sunday, September 4, 2011

“The Best Nap”

Malahide Castle

Dublin bound for half a day   
with seats in the upright position   
fitfully dozing during the long flight   
as snatches of movies weave into my dreams   
maneuvering through city streets    
in search of Malahide Castle—our first stop in enchantment   
the cobwebs of travel puff away       
catch on the gossamer of history       
we walk hand-in-hand from parlor to pantry       
forgetting our fatigue as we meander through gardens   
we linger, lusting for greener pastures   
hunger nudges us to homemade bread and thick potato soup   
--Clontarf Castle’s soft beds lure us upstairs   
hot showers, cool linens blend with child play   
we stretch on pristine sheets and tumble into perfect slumber   
sleep embraces us soothingly as we spoon together   
glass tinkling, or pixie laughter?   
the voices of Ireland lull us into serenity   

Clontarf Castle

Copyright 2011 Elizabeth Abrams Chapman