Tag Archives: memorial day

The Beauty of Family and Holidays

27 May

English: Picture of graves decorated with flag...

This is Memorial Day.  It’s a day that many people get off from work.  It’s when most pools open, and the unofficial start of summer.  Much more importantly, though, it’s a day to remember all of the fallen men and women who died defending our country.  I haven’t personally had anyone close to me pass away in a war, but I know those who have.  It is an ultimate sacrifice.  It is also what enables me to enjoy a day like this with my family close by.  I count myself very lucky to have so many people I love and to be able to spend holidays with them.

Today, though, our family gathering was a little smaller than usual.  My brother and sister both had to work.  My grandma just had surgery on her foot Thursday and wasn’t up for visiting.  That meant I spent time with my new family – my step-Dad, his daughters, and the husband and children of his youngest (his oldest is a single gal like myself).  My Mom was there, too, of course.

It’s a bit odd when you inherit a family through marriage, but it’s also a wonderful thing.  In addition to a step father, I now have two older sisters, a niece and nephew, and new aunts and uncles.  They’re all great.  My step-Dad is 20 years older than my Mom, but they really make the best match I’ve ever seen.  They’re wonderful together and compliment each other in every way.  That means my new sisters are in their early 40s and my niece and nephew are in their tweens.

Today we had a little cookout.  We had burgers and hotdogs and grilled chicken, watermelon, cherries, sweet potatoes, and all sorts of snacky things, brownies, and chocolate chip cookies.  You would have thought they were cooking for an army instead of eight.  My Mom and I exchanged some clothes their neither of us are wearing much (we often do that kind of swap).  I got several new-to-me tops, a basically brand new pair of shoes, and a skirt.  My Mom got a few dresses and new nail polish.  I also got my gel manicure redone.  My nails are a brilliant shade of pink with a hint of blue shimmer that you can see in the sunlight.  We talked and congregated, played some cornhole (ahhh, what an attractive name for a game, huh?), and watched baseball.

It was a nice little gathering.  It reminded me of all that I have to be thankful for, and how much love I have in my life.  Everyone dissipated a few hours after we finished our meal.  The kids went to the (rather chilly) pool, one sister went for a nap, the other to trim trees, and now I’m back home writing this instead of the paper I have due tonight.  Any excuse to procrastinate.  🙂

What struck me is not just the family I have gained, but also the family that I lost and the family that he lost.  While my ex had a large family, they hardly ever got together for things like this.  Holidays came and went with no gatherings and not even a phone call.  It always struck me as so very strange.  To have everyone within a 20 mile radius and yet fail to reach out at all.  I can now recognize that as part of their dysfunction.  They didn’t spend holidays together except the obligatory family reunion around Christmas time, which not everyone even showed up for, because they didn’t have the close bond that I have with my family.

My family connections bring so many tangible and intangible things into my life.  Not just the food or the manicures or the clothes swapping.  No, what I mean is the really important stuff – the support, laughter, stories, hugs, and feeling that I am part of something bigger, something truly special.  It really is the love that makes a family what it is.  It’s the ability to be open and true to yourself, and to be accepted and embraced as you are.  It’s receiving encouragement to grow, understanding when you need it, and to laugh so hard that you cry.

Most days I wasn’t sure if my ex’s family even liked each other.  They spent so much time talking poorly about each other, tearing each other down to feel better about themselves, and gossiping behind people’s backs only to be fake to their faces.  Overall it was a mess.  There are many, many good people in his family.  His sisters are smart and engaging, his older brother is very funny, and the aunts, uncles, nieces and nephews are quite sweet.  Instead of seeing the good qualities in one another, they honed in on the bad ones.  His intelligent, hilarious, and adventurous oldest sister was called a busybody or a bitch.  His gentle, caring, and big-hearted youngest sister was called a failure or an idiot for loving her pets so much.  The list goes on and on.  It’s sad, really.

I know that wherever I end up and whoever with I will make family a priority.  I want to leave a family tradition like that one I came from – one that is built around love and respect and kindness.  One that isn’t afraid to laugh loud, play hard, eat well, and cherish one another.  Although I miss some of the family that I lost, I don’t miss that dynamic.  We may have some straight-talking, tell-it-like-it-is types in my family, but they’ll tell you to your face and give you a big hug when they do.  I will carry that honesty, love, and integrity with me always.  I count myself very fortunate to have that kind of family tradition, and I will make sure it continues on.

 

Being Connected

29 May

This weekend was an extended, holiday weekend for both of us.  It was really nice to have that extra day to relax and connect.  We were able to have some fun together and experience a few new things.  It reminded me of how great it is to just hang out with my husband.

On Saturday morning we had our couple’s therapy appointment.  It was the first one after our big blow-out fight.  It was a little uncomfortable going through all of those details again and seeing all of the ways we went wrong.  We were able to turn it into a positive like I was hoping, though.  All in all by the end we both felt more understood.

The best part of Saturday happened after that, though.  We had tickets to see Bodies The Exhibition.  On our way there we stopped at Friendly’s to have lunch and some ice cream.  It was fun picking out our toppings and enjoying a carefree, junk-food type meal.  Once we got to where the exhibit was we looked around in the gift shop a bit before it was time to head on in.  Although we only spent about 15 minutes or so browsing around, we did open up some neat anatomy books.  It was really great to talk about something non- sex-addiction or relationship related.  We laughed at ourselves and our less-than-fantastic knowledge of where all of the organs are located.  Let’s just say neither one of us could be doctors.  It’s a good thing we have never, ever had the urge.

The actual exhibit itself was wonderful.  I had seen it once about 7 years ago or so.  This one had a lot of the same stuff, but some news things as well.  Plus, I could see that exhibit 100 more times before I could retain all of the information.  There were cases and cases of bones, plasticized organs, joints, and various body parts.  They also had full human skeletons arranged in different positions – like ice skating, playing baseball, dancing, etc. – with various degrees of muscles, skin, bones, and nerves showing.  They had an entire display on brains, memory, and nerve-endings.  It was amazing.

They also had a very interesting part of the exhibit showing the amount of food and average weekly cost for families around the world.  It was thought-provoking to see what the average family in various countries eats in one week.  The photos had the entire spread laid out across their kitchen or dining room with the cost in U.S. dollars.  We weren’t the worst of the bunch, surprisingly, but we were terrible gluttons compared to families in some African countries whose entire weekly meal consisted of a few bags of rice, corn, and some other dried substances totaling only $1.93 in cost.  Obviously, there were extremes on either side of the spectrum.  The most intriguing were countries whose weekly meals consisted mostly of fruits, vegetables, small amounts of meat, and no processed junk food.  It is cheaper and more nutritious to eat that way.  I just wish it was easier.  It definitely made me think about ways to change our diet to make it healthier.

We spent almost 2 hours in the exhibit looking at everything together.  We talked about some of the stuff, especially the several completely blackened and cancerous smoker’s lungs.  I am so incredibly glad that Mr. Mess stopped smoking 2 years ago.  I know it is not the only danger out there, but it certainly is at the very top of the list of destructive things that people do to themselves.  The whole experience is something that I highly recommend to anyone who has the opportunity to visit one of those exhibits.  It was a great way to lose ourselves in one another and learn new and stimulating things.  When else will you get such an opportunity to see real human anatomy inside and out, up close, in detail, with explanations and comprehensive descriptions?  Nowhere outside of medical school.

After that we headed home for some relaxation.  During one of our couple’s exercises in the book we do together every week the topic of favorite movies came up.  We have talked about movies and television a lot.  Our tastes are very similar, however, there are a few places where we definitely divert.  One reason is the age difference.  He was watching movies for years that were made before I was even born.  A few of them are favorites of his that I have never seen.  One example is Alien.  I admit that I have never seen any of the movies – not even the more recent ones.

So we decided to make this weekend a movie weekend.  We went out shopping, picked up a few of his favorites, and I raided my movie collection for favorites of mine that he hadn’t seen.  We made sure to get Alien and Aliens (the first and second movies).  We also bought Highlander.  I re-arranged all of my DVDs and Blu-rays after getting rid of my really old VHSs – since I don’t even have a VCR anymore.  We then picked out a few movies and watched away.

I have to admit that the Alien movie was really great, especially for something made so long ago.  He warned me that the special effects wouldn’t really be that great, but I didn’t see a problem with them at all.  I love horror movies that make you jump, and boy did this one!  I do consider myself a nerd, and even a little bit of a geek, especially after I met my husband (and yes, there is a difference).  I previously would have just flat-out refused to watch anything set in outer space…  I was not interested at all.  Since meeting Mr. Mess I have opened myself up quite a bit to different movie genres.  This is one movie that I’m glad I saw.  I think the whole thing was really well done.

I absolutely cannot say the same thing about Highlander.  I really don’t understand how him (or anyone for that matter) could find that movie good in any sense of the word.  It blows me away that he likes it and has watched it a lot.  Like over 10 times.  Are you kidding me?  It was awful.  Truly.  Excruciatingly so.  I get the whole sword-fighting appeal (but in a high-rise building in the 20th century?), and I know that he is into the whole fantasy genre (immortals, and the whole 9 yards).  But wow…  This movie had a plot that made absolutely no sense, horrible acting, worse “special effects,” no real premise that was interesting in the least, and to top it all off it was horribly predictable and treated the audience like they are morons (you do not have to spell out every single little thing).  And don’t get me started on the horrible 80s music and outfits…

Still, I watched it.  I do know that I complained more than I should have.  More than I told myself I would.  I had committed in my brain that I wouldn’t say anything negative at all.  That I would do my absolute best to understand the movie and why my husband liked it.  I failed miserably at that.  I even tried asking him what he liked about it, but he couldn’t really tell me.  Probably because I had already approached things in a damaging manner.  I will have to do better next time.  I just really wasn’t expecting anything that bad.

Mr. Mess watched Spanglish and The Terminal with me, mostly because it seemed too depressing to watch House of Sand and Fog or Schindler’s List (I realized that I tend to like things on the serious side).  I remember both of those as really good movies the first time I watched them, with just a touch of comedy in a realistic storyline.  It had been several years since I watched either one, and I have to say that I was a bit disappointed.  I still think the actors and stories were great, but I hadn’t remembered that BOTH of them deal with infidelity to some degree.  Talk about a bummer.  Spanglish was tough, especially when Tea Leoni’s character revealed her affair…  The whole thing was a little too real.  They were easier to watch than I thought they would be, though.  I think it’s because we are in such a better place.

We also had a Criminal Minds marathon – we went through a few discs of the second season and are almost into the third.  The best part was all the lying around eating yummy food, though.  We had dinner from my favorite Thai restaurant, takeout from Mexico (really their cheese dip is perhaps the best thing in the world), donuts, a hot fudge sundae from McDonald’s, and steaks on the grill with baked potatoes and lima beans.  That thing about healthy eating that I mentioned earlier?  That didn’t start this weekend.

We also did some (minimal) house work, and took all 3 of our dogs to the groomers.  Add in a new dog bed, some treats, and a few extras and that was a painful bill.  Having all of the dogs freshly washed, smelling good, and devoid of hair to shed everywhere was worth it, though.  We let them all in with us and had a puppy pile while we were watching Criminal Minds.  It had such a happy, normal feel to it.  I wish every day could be that relaxing.

I enjoyed our low-key holiday weekend, especially because I barely had to get dressed.  😉  It was really nice to just spend time together connecting and enjoying one another’s company.  We were able to find our great chemistry again and just laugh, lounge, and love each other.  I think it was my favorite Memorial Day weekend ever.  I look forward to more time like that in the future.

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