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?


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.


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.


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


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.


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.


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

Find more uplifting stories on my website,

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.

Screen Shot 2015-04-26 at 9.46.51 AM

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?’”

Screen Shot 2015-04-26 at 9.35.03 AM


“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.

Screen Shot 2015-04-26 at 9.51.16 AM

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

Screen Shot 2015-04-26 at 9.43.36 AM

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.


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.


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,

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.

When Divorce Means Losing Your Friend’s Spouse

When Divorce Means Losing Your Friend’s Spouse

Screen Shot 2014-10-19 at 12.44.46 PM

I got a divorce this week.

Thank goodness, no.

Not my husband and I.

I think he would agree that were going pretty darned strong as we cross into our third year of marriage.

Still, I got a divorce.

A friend of mine let me know she and her husband made their split official.

Signed the papers.

Screen Shot 2014-10-19 at 12.44.33 PM



And so I mean I got a divorce, Dear Reader, in the way I know you have, too.

In that divorce doesn’t just happen to the two people ending their marriage.

It happens to everyone in the couple’s world.

Everyone who loves them.

And I do love this couple.

I can’t and won’t lie.

I wouldn’t say that about all my friends’ husbands.

You know how it goes–“The Friend’s Husband Standard” goes—he makes her happy and I get my own time with her.  That’s about all I ask.

But every once in awhile a friend hits it out of the park.

Such was this case.

This was a husband I liked.

I liked them together.

And I loved their story.

When we gathered seven years ago to celebrate their marriage, there was such a joyous sense of “Of course! That’s why it had taken these two so long to find love, because they were destined for each other all along.”

There was a sense of love stories do come true, long before I could see my own unfolding.

In fact, I joked that the toaster that still sits on my kitchen counter was my first wedding present.

This couple received two identical toasters as wedding presents, so I bought one off of them.

Screen Shot 2014-10-19 at 12.59.43 PM

Boom. My first wedding present.

Just like I don’t know exactly what happens inside my fancy toaster, none of us really knows what’s really cooking in someone else’s relationship.

Screen Shot 2014-10-19 at 12.44.56 PM

So, perhaps, this divorce is for the best.

It’s not for me to say.

What is for me to say is the divorce is not theirs alone.

No divorce is.

Not if there are kids, which, it turns out in this case, there are not.

Not if you liked the guy.

Not if you liked them together.

You don’t get to ask me to love your person and then expect me to unlove them just because you guys can’t make the marriage thing work.

I share this divorce news with you, Dear Reader, because I know you’ve gotten one, too.

You’ve felt the loss.

Maybe the loss of your son-in-law who you like better than your own daughter.

Maybe the loss of a good friend.

Maybe just the loss of what was a good love story.

What to do with that?

I’m choosing to celebrate the love that was.

Screen Shot 2014-10-19 at 1.01.47 PM

Maybe it wasn’t meant to be here forever.

But it was here once.

I’m holding onto that as hope that my friend can find that again.

That they both can.

I’ll let go their marriage.

But I won’t let go love for both of them.

I won’t let go hope.

Find more uplifting stories on my website,

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

Change Your Name When You Marry? Your Take!

Change Your Name When You Marry? Your Take!

Well, hello there, brides and wives!

Looks like my column from a couple of weeks ago where I shared my choice not to change my name when I married has touched a nerve.  The responses have been pouring in.

There’s no way I could print all of them, so here are a few.

Tammie Morris represents the majority of women I heard from who chose to take her husband’s last name and make her maiden name her middle name. She writes, “It worked for me and I was able to have both names without the hypen thing.”

Delores Stoner-Woodard does use a hyphen, with a twist.  She is married to her best friend’s husband. Hold on, no scandal here. She and her second husband married after she was widowed and her best friend passed away. How sweet is that? She writes, “I felt strange having the last name as my friend, also, I liked my last name.  My new husband didn’t object, so I kept my name.”

A big “Thank You!” to Caroline Leach who reminds me that there were women pioneers decades ago allowing me to make a personal choice today. “40 years ago, I was almost turned away at the court house when we went to get our ‘official’ license because I would not take the envelope that contained a change of driver’s license and notification to the social security.

The clerk indicated that we might not be legal in the state.

So don’t take this question for granted. There were sisters and brothers who went through a lot so that this generation can even write of the option in a major newspaper today.”

Susan Leafman didn’t change her name and believes it is all a personal choice. She shares, “Now there is a new wrinkle in this subject.  My older daughter is getting married and seems to be wrestling with changing her last name.  My advice to her was don’t do what I did because it’s what I might expect, do what is best for your marriage.”

I even heard from some men, like Arnold Simon. “When my daughter got married last year, the couple decided to keep her last name. It is nice and simple, while the groom’s was one that invited snide remarks. The groom is now experiencing what most brides in the past have dealt with: lots of time-consuming paperwork acquiring new social security card, driver’s license, bank account, etc. The choice itself was the easiest part.”

My favorite responses, as always, involve humor.

Sue Bilkey didn’t change her name and laughs at the consequences. “Our friends have combined our last names (Cobb and Bilkey) and to many of them we are the ‘Cobilkey’s’ and that’s fine with us as well.  At our lake house we have a sign reading ‘Camp Cobilkey.’”

Lois Hertz shares, “I have been married for 30 years. I never seriously entertained the idea of changing my name. On the other hand, I don’t like my first name. Perhaps I could have changed that to his?”

And finally, Beverly Struble offered me this suggestion, “The answer to your name change situation is really simple–Have your husband and daughter change their names to KAGAN!  lol.”

I’ll pass that one one, Bev, but I know he’s quite happy with his last name.  The good news is he doesn’t flinch if someone does call him, “Mr. Kagan.” I love yet another good sign that I found a great guy.

As new bride Jean Love figures as she struggles with changing her name, “In the end, my last name doesn’t matter. We love each other and we’re married. We’re a family. That’s what counts.”

It sure does. Thank you, Dear Readers! I always love hearing from you.

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

When Marriage Means Learning To Love The Ugly

When Marriage Means Learning To Love The Ugly

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 did something this week I swore I would never do, managing to break not one, but two vows in the process.

And it’s all part of the journey I share with you on a regular basis—what many of you have figured out before me—compromises you make as a wife and mother.

For this broken vow story, you and I must go back to my own childhood.

With four Jewish grandparents of varying degrees of observancy, we three Kagan children were raised what I would call, “mildly Jewish.”

Sure, there were candles lit and gifts given on Hanukkah, and my parents saw nothing wrong with our sitting on Santa’s lap or awaking on Christmas morning to find a stash of gifts.

The line of “it’s not religious, if we decide it’s not religious,” stopped abruptly at what we thought was missing from the corner of our living room—a Christmas tree!

“If your grandfather walked in this house and saw a Christmas tree,” our mother warned, “he would drop dead on the spot.”

Nothing like effective parenting of raising your kids with a healthy dose of Jewish guilt.      Not wanting Papa Harry to drop dead on the spot, we’d let the tree begging go until the next year.

Fast forward to my junior year of high school, when our beloved Papa Harry, did, indeed pass away.  Come the next holiday season, we were sure we had the winning Christmas tree argument. “You can’t say Papa Harry would drop dead,” we pointed out so sensitively, “Because he did that last May.”

“If your grandfather knew there was a Christmas tree in this house,” Mom quickly replied, “he would roll over in his grave.”

And so, the Christmas tree conversation appeared to be tabled for all time.

Until it wasn’t.

Until I grew up, became an adult, and could make my own choices.  Rarely, finding a holiday that I didn’t love, I chose to embrace all the bright, shiny pieces of Christmas.  And so yes, I started putting up a tree.  Sometimes small–ornaments hung from a palm tree in my small apartment when I was a newbie TV news reporter in Santa Barbara.

Sometimes over the top big, borrowing my friend Betsy’s Ford F-150 pick up truck to get it home from the lot.

And so I will never forget the early days of dating the man who is now my husband, walking into his home, that first Christmas and seeing a “tree” that almost defies description.

He lost me at artificial.

“What about the wonderful smell from a fresh tree?” I asked.

“What about all the messy needles and the fire hazard?” he countered.

But his tree wasn’t just artificial. It glowed neon branches in colors I didn’t even know existed, bursting out from fake snow encrusted plastic branches.

In a word, his tree was ugly.

“Never in my house,” I vowed that first Christmas.  “Should we marry, we will always have a fresh tree!”

And so here we are, married, living together. Busy lives, so much travel, multiple jobs, children, animals.

The thought of hauling off to the fresh tree lot is overwhelming.

“The messy needles,” I caught myself complaining to no one but me. “The expense,” thinking, “Y’know,there’s that perfectly good tree down in the basement.”

“How about this weekend you haul up your fake tree from the basement?” I asked my husband sweetly early this week.

He looked at me like aliens had invaded my brain.

“I thought you always wanted fresh?” he asked.

“Y’know, the expense, the mess. Besides, no one else in the world has your tree. Truly must be one of a kind.”

Between you and me, I can’t imagine they ever sold more than one of these things.

So, in one hauling of a tree, I’ve managed to offend my late grandfather and break a vow to my long single self. Talk about overachieving.

Once it was up, I did indeed see the ugly fake neon colors. There might be even more than last year.

But now I also see a one-stop shop. Plug it in you’re done. I also see a symbol of how my husband did the best he could as a longtime single dad to the wonderful girl I’m now lucky enough to call my daughter.

That to me makes the world’s ugliest tree a thing of true holiday beauty.

Please tell me you’ve made similar holiday compromises?

See, I need something to tell my daughter.

“I thought you promised we’d have a fresh tree,” she pointed out as she about passed out seeing the glowing plastic up in the corner of the living room.

“Uh, you’re right, I did,” I admitted. “Next year. I promise.”

The Issue That Almost Upended My Marriage Before It Began

The Issue That Almost Upended My Marriage Before It Began

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.

It is the issue that almost upended my marriage before it began.

I can picture you, Dear Reader, nodding your head in understanding. “Yes, it’s tough to agree on religion, money, politics, how to raise our daughter.”

Actually, for two people raised in very different backgrounds, my husband and I are remarkably compatible when it comes to traversing those potential mine fields.

Our issue was and can still be quite a tale. Make that a tail. And fur. Bottom line, we don’t share common values on animals.

My husband didn’t grow up with pets, has no interest in animals, does not get the attraction.

Me? I’m that crazy animal wacko who was well on her way to becoming the eccentric cat lady down the street. Let me add, I was quite content with the idea of that.

He sees shedding, mess, and fleas.

I see unconditional love.

How did this happen? I’ve shared in this column (July 11, 2013: How I Found A Husband) how meticulous I was about making lists of the qualities I was looking for in a man.

I do remember the day we were introduced by mutual friends, this new person said something about not renting a house because “dogs had been living there.”

“Oh, well, not my guy,” I thought to myself.

When he asked me out for coffee a few weeks later, I made sure to out myself. “I have a dog, a 3-legged cat and just last week adopted 4 chickens,” I shared.

He didn’t run for the hills, so I figured his aversion to animals wasn’t that strong. That he liked me for who I was.

That was a mistake.

After a couple years of dating and moving closer and closer to marriage, I could tell he was getting cold paws, er, feet.

“I just can’t imagine living in a house with animals,” he blurted during one emotional conversation. “I thought you had animals only as placeholders until you met, well, humans.”

I hear my fellow animal lovers laughing and shaking their heads.

Not wanting to give up on each other, stubborn like two dogs on a bone, we headed to pre-marital counseling where we came to some agreements. We will always at least have one dog, probably no more cats, as my husband does have a mild allergy.

My big give was no more animals in our bedroom. Our dog, Darla, now sleeps in our daughter’s room. Almost everyone is thrilled with this arrangement, including our daughter who feels secure having a nice-sized protective dog sleeping by the side of her bed. Even Darla is happy, looking so proud at bedtime, prancing in our daughter’s room like she’s one of the big girls. She has a purpose.

Then there is me, who misses the sound of a dog snoring and licking her chops in her sleep as she dreams of dancing cheeseburgers. Sounds that are as soothing to me as ocean waves crashing on a beach.

The sounds that give me joy these days? Eavesdropping on my husband.  A year into our marriage, he’s taken to having conversations with the animals when he thinks I’m  not listening. “D-Dog, you love Daddy more than Mommy, right?” “Good Morning, Cat, you look happy today,” are among the words I never thought he’d say.

Then there was the day a few weeks ago when a couple of my chickens had died. Not knowing how to grieve a chicken, my wonderful husband blurted out, “Honey, you need to go restock.”

Nothing says, “I love you,” to an animal lover like, “Time to go get more chickens.”

As I drove out to the country to pick out the new chicks I couldn’t help but smile. “I get to be the crazy animal lady AND have the husband and kid?” I thought.

Dreams really do come true.

Here’s one our new chickens, a little Polish Maran chick the kids have named, “Nugget,” though Facebook fans and friends think looks more like Phyllis Diller. Whoever she is, clearly loves to play and dig in the mud. What a face!