Marriage Teaches Me Something I Should’ve Known About Love

Marriage Teaches Me Something I Should’ve Known About Love

I gave a little prayer of thanks this morning as I walked my dog in the still morning dark.

Thanks that my husband made it home last night.

Was he gone on a business trip?

No.

Pushing limits on a drunken bender?

Oh, that’s a funny one, if you knew him.

So was he somewhere I should’ve been worried about?

Not at all.

He was,

Are you ready for this?

At his first baseball game of the season.

Every Spring he pulls out the bat, mitt, stretchy pants, high socks and baseball hat and joins his men’s baseball league.

Baseball means once a week when he leaves for work I won’t see him until the next morning because he gets home from these games way past my bedtime.

Have I really turned into Her?

Forever single gal, now a couple years into marriage is now Clingy Wife.

Hardly.

I love that he has a thing.

Just for him.

Pure fun.

This is simply another lesson that marriage has taught me about love.

Simply, it’s easier to be the one who leaves.

The one who walks out the door.

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Who gets to go.

For you, too, Dear Reader?

You, who probably knew this even without marriage.

I’m just slower than most figuring this stuff out.

The more you love, the harder it is to see that love walk out the door.

Harder to be the one who watches your kid get on the school bus.

Easier to be the friend who goes on the journey, rather than the one who stays behind to worry.

“Be safe,” Husband will say to me as his final words whenever I leave the house, be it to drive one of the kids across town or meet a girlfriend for coffee.

“How silly,” I think to myself. I feel safe when it’s my turn to be the one who leaves.

I’ve been around the world and back in my days as a news anchor and reporter. Never once worried that I was going to be okay. I do have faint recollection of my parents and friends worrying as I covered a war in the Middle East

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or volunteered at an orphanage in Africa.

I was fine because I could see I was fine.

I was the one who got to go. I had a faint idea that it was harder for the ones left behind.

Now, that I’m married and a mom, I know this to be true.

So, when the neighborhood owl hooted me awake this morning, first thing I did was look over to the other side of the bed.

There he was.

Husband.

Snoozing away, probably dreaming of almost beating the best team in the league last night.

And so I smiled as I walked DarlaDog down our street in the final moments of darkness.

He was just gone for a small thing.

And he made it home.

Safe.

When you love someone, that’s no small thing.

Find more uplifting stories on my website, DarynKagan.com

Please catch my newspaper column each week in the Atlanta Journal Constitution,the Dayton Daily News and other newspapers across Ohio.

Is Husband’s Surprise A Good Thing?

Is Husband’s Surprise A Good Thing?

To be surprised? Or not surprised?

That is the marital question I need your help with this week, Dear Reader.

I’ve shared in previous columns my husband’s rather quirky, geeky hobby.

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Crazy, mad genius obsession, might be a better description.

Husband collects frequent flyer miles without flying.

Millions of them.

It’s all the way we spend our money: mortgage, power bill, grocery store, clothes.

No dollar goes out the door without generating miles. Make that multiples of miles.

We live by spread sheets, blogs, Twitter feeds, all tipping him off to the latest deal to multiply the miles.

Before you ask for more details, let me say, our home is “Crazyland.”

“Never heard back from your friend, Judy,” Husband mentioned after he sent her his introductory single-spaced mad-scientist miles explainer.

“Remember the movie, ‘Jerry Maguire,’” I told him. “’You had me at Hello?’”

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“Sure.”

“You lost her at ‘expect to spend 8-10 hours a week pursing this hobby.”

He still doesn’t get how funny that line is to normal folks.

His craziness does mean we usually take at least two big trips a year.

For this year’s Grown ups only trip, Husband is whisking me off to the Maldives.

Yeah, I had to look it up on a map, too.

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Basically, it’s one of those magical huts over clear blue water kind of places on the other side of the world.

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We’re flying some super luxurious airline over there. I think we get our room or something crazy like that.

The tickets to get there would coast $45,000.

I kid you not.

Husband paid $7 a piece.

Again.

Not kidding.

Seven bucks.

Yep, life with Crazy Husband has its perks.

The challenge is the way back.

We are stopping somewhere on the way home.

Allegedly as fantastic as the Maldives.

Husband doesn’t want to tell me where.

“This will be so romantic,” he insists. “A surprise.”

He laughs when he says this because he also knows it tests my desire, to well, control things.

Gasp!

Husband being great husband doesn’t want to be too tortuous, so this week he made an offer.

“I’ll tell you where we’re going,” he said. “If it will help you relax and have a better time.”

So there it is—offer on the table.

My question to you, Dear Reader, should I find out now? Blow the surprise, but ease my international travel butterflies?

Or do I go with the flow and pretend this is, what’s the word he used, oh that’s right. “Fun.”

Our girls will be with my sister and her wife. They will be so well taken care of and spoiled at “Aunt Camp” that their only worry will be that our trip doesn’t last longer.

And all the aunts, adults outside of me will have an exact itinerary of where we are headed.

To know or not to know?

That is my challenge and question to you this week.

Do you like being surprised by your spouse?

Please weigh in and help me decide.

Find more uplifting stories on my website, DarynKagan.com

For Husband’s tips on how you can get into the crazy miles capturing game, click here.

Please catch my newspaper column each week in the Atlanta Journal Constitution,the Dayton Daily News and other newspapers across Ohio.

My Husband Wants Me To Start Dating

My Husband Wants Me To Start Dating

My husband wants me to start dating.

Wait, it gets better.

He wants me to start dating women.

If this isn’t among his sweetest, most endearing qualities, I don’t know what is.

See, we’re not that wild, exciting swinging couple you might be imagining.

About as far from that as possible.

Look “Boring” up in the dictionary and there are our contented, smiling faces.

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The deal is Husband is worried about one of the greatest treasures of my life: my girlfriends.

Let me tell you, I have some amazing friends.

What I lacked for in a husband and kids all those years of being single, I certainly made up for in friends.

The local gang is unofficially known as, “The Pretty Ladies,” simply because we enjoy the pretty.

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Truth is, when we first started dating, Husband didn’t get all the Pretty Lady gatherings-birthdays, holidays, just because, and more.

“You meet your friends every Sunday morning to go for a run?”

“Yeah, it’s the greatest,” I smiled. “We run, we talk, and have coffee. It’s like our weekly golf game,” I said trying to talk in guy terms.

Thing is, as a single dad raising his daughter alone, my husband didn’t have time for things like golf. And I think he was kind of jealous of my time with my friends.

But a couple years into marriage. He gets it. Boy does he get it.

How my girlfriends energize and motivate me. How they make me happy. How they fill up an entirely different part of my heart than the huge chamber that’s reserved for him.

Husband is freaking out because two of my best friends, my running Pretty Ladies, are moving on.

One moved to Montana.

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One is getting ready to move to the beach full time.

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What do you do, Dear Reader, when your girlfriends move away?

If you’re me, you’re sad and trust that another great Pretty Lady is on her way to fill the void.

If you’re Husband, you freak out.

“We need to get you some new Pretty Ladies!” he declares on a daily basis.

And he’s looking everywhere.

I come back from an exercise class.

“Wow, that was a good workout,” I share.

“More importantly, did you see any potential new Pretty Ladies?” he asks desperate.

No matter where I go, the grocery store, walking the dog, carpool line, “Meet any PL candidates?” he wants to know.

I’m not worried because of all things I’m not good at, making friends is not one of them.

I keep my friends, too.

Still have that same bestie from the first day of kindergarten.

Weekly Sunday runs might not be the same, but we’ll run together when they come to visit.

I might try out coffee with some new friends or fit in an extra girls’ trip this year, just to stretch my Pretty Lady wings.

Whatever it takes to make Husband happy.

Find more uplifting stories on my website, DarynKagan.com

Please catch my newspaper column each week in the Atlanta Journal Constitution, the Dayton Daily News and other newspapers across Ohio.

How I Wish I Could’ve Helped This Man

How I Wish I Could’ve Helped This Man

Please catch my newspaper column each week in the Atlanta Journal Constitution, the Dayton Daily News and other newspapers across Ohio.  Here’s this week’s column:

I hate not being able to help.

The pull to help seems to come as naturally to me as my 14-year-old dog is drawn to her liver-flavored treats.

And yet, there are times when you have to know you can’t. You just can’t.

At least Dear Reader out there understands my frustration.  For this one man, a husband, this ache to help, to change his wife, his pain is magnified a thousand times.

I’ll call him “Ben,” the man who wrote to me last week, explaining that he loves my website, DarynKagan.com, where I feature uplifting and positive news stories.

Surely, I would be able to help, he figured.

Help his wife who is living with cancer, but given a good diagnosis from her doctors.

She’s been sucked in by negative cancer stories, watching them over and over as she surfs online.

He wants it to stop.

Wants it all stop.

The cancer, of course, but also his wife’s attraction to dark, negative news stories and her defeatist attitude.

He’s found he’s powerless.

“No amount of explaining, cajoling, or begging that I do can break this habit of hers,” he writes. “I was hoping that maybe you had at least one ‘good’ cancer story that you could steer me toward that would give her more hope.”

Wish I Could Help

It is an order I would love to fill.

And yet.

Yet, I can’t really help him because of what I know.

I know that no matter how much you long to, you can’t tell someone how they should feel.

I can’t tell his wife how to feel about cancer, about life. And neither can he, no matter how much he loves her.

And yet.

Yet, I so understand this loving husband’s frustration.

Surely, you do, too?

Has there not been that old beau you tried to convince to love you back because you could just be so great together if he only saw what you saw.

Have you never begged someone you know to stop using drugs, alcohol, cigarettes or food before they kill themselves?

Have you never been in this husband’s place wanting your spouse or parent to fight back against a disease? To try. Just simply try?

Ben’s heartfelt response was enough to make me want to run over to this couple’s house and shake this woman. “Do you see how much this man loves you? Some people search forever for that kind of love and devotion! Fight, Woman, Fight!”

And yet, I didn’t.

For one, Ben might’ve been desperate, but he was also smart.  He didn’t include his address. There’s that.

But bigger than was knowing what I had to say.

The best I could do was write him back and tell him what an awesome husband he is for loving his wife so much, wanting so much for her.

And yet.

The Thing Even A Loving Husband Can’t Do

I also told him that I believe he doesn’t get to pick his wife’s feelings. Couldn’t even if we tried together.

I clicked, “Send,” feeling like I hadn’t helped at all.

I was wrong.

He wrote back thanking me.

In the end, maybe he just needed his feeling validated, that he’s not crazy for loving his wife this much.

No indeed, he’s not. He might not get to decide how his wife feels, but she doesn’t get to tell him how to feel either.

That’s the thing about depressive rabbit holes. The one you love can go down theirs, but you don’t have to go along.

So, Ben, here’s to you, to love, to holding hope for your wife even when she can’t see it for herself.

I, for one, hope that love and that feeling never changes.

You’ll Never Guess Who Gave Me My Best Christmas Present

You’ll Never Guess Who Gave Me My Best Christmas Present

Please catch my newspaper column each week in the Atlanta Journal Constitution, the Dayton Daily News and other newspapers across Ohio.  Here’s this week’s column:

You’ll never guess who gave me the best Christmas present this year.

Turns out it wasn’t my husband. He and I actually don’t do traditional gifts, choosing instead to give each other trips and travel.

And no, the best gift did not come from my in-laws, though I am in love with the knee-length denim apron they gave me featuring chicken motif as a salute to my seven pet chickens clucking as we speak in my backyard. This awesome apron also has a pocket on the front. There should be a law, don’t you think, that all aprons should have a pocket?

Nope, wasn’t the apron.

No, the best gift of all this year came from a stranger.

A Stranger Delivers

Somewhere in the middle of the holiday blur I received a letter, an email, actually from a dear reader. She was thinking about her good friend who unexpectedly lost her husband this past summer.

“I was hoping to share one of your columns with her. The one where you wrote about “There’s never enough time when you love someone.”

This lovely lady’s simple request to help her find a copy of that column turned out to be a gift to me.

The best, gift really.

The gift of remembering.

As I posted the copy on my website and sent her the link, I couldn’t help but thinking of this lady’s friend, of her first Christmas without her husband of 46 years, of her friend’s ache and loneliness.

Coming to marriage and parenthood late in life means I will probably never know what it is to have a husband for 46 years, let alone lose him after so many years together.

Some Tough Holidays

But coming to marriage and parenthood late in life, means I have had more than my share of difficult, lonely holidays.  I remember so many years where I put on the happy face, threw parties, accepted invitations from friends and family. Truly, deep down, I longed for my own special someone to share memories and traditions.

And these holidays were indeed everything I had dreamed of: Nothing fancy, but the joy of gathering my husband, our daughter, in-laws and friends.  There wasn’t a single, sad lonely moment in the month of December.

It was this dear reader’s email that pinched me out of my sugar plum fairy holiday scene into an important reality.

My loneliness wasn’t fixed by my meeting the right guy, having the family.

It simply changed my now.

Change Is Coming

And while, yes, my now is pretty wonderful, the truth is, I’m most probably simply between longings.  There was a long stretch before and a good chance there will another time in my life where I long. It won’t be like this last December, where I didn’t worry about my mother who is still kicking, feisty and living independently. Or one of my best friends made it through breast cancer surgery this year. My 14-year-old dog, the 3-legged cat, the chickens—they’re all chugging along. Life is good, but I’m reminded it is simply a moment in time. Things will change because they do. They just do.

For those of you who are in a giant exhale, “Thank goodness the holidays are over, because they were excruciatingly painful,” I send you a belated hug and gift of understanding.  Please know, this is just your now. I can’t say when things will change. But they do. They just do.

Thank You, Dear Reader

And so, Dear Reader, I’m writing this column for you, as a way of saying “Thank you.” By trying to do one kind thing for your friend, you gave a very important gift to me, and any of us who have it good right now.

You made my now all the more precious. For that, I am now and eternally grateful.  I bet I’m not the only one.

It’s Going To Be One Messy Year

It’s Going To Be One Messy Year

Please catch my newspaper column each week in the Atlanta Journal Constitution, the Dayton Daily News and other newspapers across Ohio.  Here’s this week’s column:

Well, hello there, New Year you, who promises to be 12 months, 365 days, 8,766 hours, 525,948,766 of mess.

It’s not that I’m starting the year as a Negative Nelly. It’s actually more about being grateful for what and who I have, which leads to reality, which in my case, and perhaps yours, means accepting life is messy.

Anyone else ever notice that the more of your wishes come true, the messier your life gets?

I didn’t always used to be this way.  See, I used to be perfect.

Well, maybe not perfect, but as a long time single person with only one person to take care of, I had things pretty well buttoned up. My house was clean, my career was zooming, I had all sorts of time for friends and other family members. Oh, and the big one—I remembered everything I was supposed to.

Then, a couple of years ago all these lifelong wishes of mine starting coming true. Now, I have a husband and kids. And there is still all the other stuff I used to take such good care of: jobs, pets, other friends and family.

That’s when things got messy, when the really good stuff showed up.

How messy? For this week’s confession I offer up this wonderful moment: I forgot my kid the other day.

Forgot, as in dropped the ball, left her stranded in the dark, didn’t pick her up when I should’ve known I was supposed to. Yeah, that kind of forgot.

She has started playing on a new volleyball club team and I could’ve sworn I had the new carpool schedule down.

That is, until my husband got that phone call late Thursday night. “Were we supposed to pick up from volleyball tonight?” He asked as I was already half undressed and into my jammies.

“Shoot!” Well, I actually said something much worse that they won’t print in this family newspaper.

Our daughter was on the phone saying she and this other girl were the last ones left at the gym. “She says she tried to call you, but you didn’t answer your phone.”

Even better, I had my phone turned to vibrate.

Keep in mind, I didn’t just forget my kid. Someone else’s, as well. Someone I don’t even know since this is a new carpool.

That was a fun phone call to the other mom.  “Honestly, I don’t usually leave children stranded in the dark,” I heard myself explaining in the messiest of ways.

Who forgets their kids?

Please tell me you’ve forgotten yours at least once.

There were tears all right. No, not my daughter. She was unfazed.

The tears were mine. Who forgets their kids?

Somewhere in the land of TV talk show hosts, Facebook and the back of college alumni magazines there are a lot of perfect women living their lives. Huge careers, perfect children who have never been forgotten. They are training for a triathlon and I bet their houses are spotless. They must have signed up for the 48 hour day. I never saw that option when I went for the marriage license and signed the adoption papers.

Sometimes, I think I miss the perfect, those days when I had it all handled so well.

Then I remember that perfect was never ending and frankly, lonely.

That’s why I go into the new year thankful for my husband, kids, and yes, the mess. I’m going to screw up this year. You heard it here first.

“What are you writing your column about this week?” My daughter just asked as she peered over my shoulder.

“How I left you at volleyball. How I make a mess of so many things,” I shared.

She laughed for a minute thinking of that night. “You don’t mess up a lot,” she just said.  “You do a really good job.”

Oh my goodness. I could go on, but those sweet words, well, they made me a mess.

Messy: No doubt about it–aIt’s the new perfect.

Conversations With My Dog

Conversations With My Dog

Please catch my newspaper column each week in the Atlanta Journal Constitution, the Dayton Daily News and other newspapers across Ohio.  Here’s this week’s column:

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I learned something new about one of my favorite people in the world this week.

    By favorite people, I mean my dog.

    You don’t see dogs as people and think those us who do are on the wrong side of crazy?  Save your time, read no more.

    But if you’re like me and know your dog is a member of your family, your baby, your soul sister, then, yes, read on.

    I heard about this contraption where you soon will be able to speak English with your dog. The device fits on your dog’s head like a telemarketer’s headset. Researchers in Europe believe they can make it analyze your dog’s brain waves and translate those thoughts in language we humans can understand.

    What a  silly premise behind this invention! Ten bucks says the inventor doesn’t have a dog of his own.

    It is indeed true my dog, Darla, has never spoken a human word.

    But what have we been doing these last 14 years since I brought her home from the Humane Society, if not having one long, amazing awesome, life-affirming conversation?

    There are the basics that need to be covered like DarlaDog communicating, “Scratch my ear, please.”  “What’s for dinner?” “There are some awesome smells on our street just waiting for us to take a walk.” “You really don’t want to date that guy.” “The new 3-legged cat is kind of cool. We should keep her.” (Perhaps we should’ve spoken more on that last one. Turns out, the cat is nuts.)

    And then, of course, the best, conversations of all, when I snuggle down close to Darla’s snout and she peers at me with those dark brown eyes. If there are words that express the unconditional, intensely devoted love my dog speaks to me, I have not learned them yet. There is no question in my heart, the conversation has been had.

    I imagine you’ve had equally wonderful conversations with your dog, as well.

    I told my husband about this new device and asked him, “What do you think Darla would say if she could talk?”

    “That’s easy,” he replied in his straightforward manner, “Food, food, food.  Oh, and Mama.”

    He knows us well, that husband of mine, even if he has to learn to speak Dog.

    “I tried to take Darla for a walk,” he complained the other day. “She won’t go.”

    “She wants you to scratch her belly first,” I said from the other room without looking up from book I was reading.

    “How do you know that?” he asked.

    “Dunno. She told me once, I guess.”

    Sure enough, he walked back, Darla rolled over four legs and belly in the air. “Now that we’re clear on that, let’s go for a walk,” she groaned as pushed back on her not so strong old lady back legs.

    “Come here, I’ll put your leash on,” my husband said, expecting Darla to come her way.

    “She doesn’t understand what you’re saying,” I yelled from the other room.

    “How do you know?”

    “Well, for one, she’s almost 14 and she’s deaf,” I explained. “And the way you talk to her just sounds like the ‘Waah Waah’ sound like the teacher in Charlie Brown cartoons.”

“What?” he said totally confused.

Makes perfect sense to me. A year into marriage, I’m still working on learning to speak Husband language fluently.  But Dog? Got that one down.

Think I’ll save my money and not by that Dog Translation contraption when it comes out. Go spend it on dog treats instead. Darla tells me she thinks that’s a fine idea.

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