The Black Dog that Lurks

black dog

For over a hundred years, people have used black dog as a metaphor for clinical depression. Winston Churchill said it. So did Sheryl Crow. Poets and writers mention it. Do a little research and you’ll find there is such a thing as the Black Dog Institute and the Black Dog Campaign. I was curious about the origin of this expression, so I read an essay about it that went (I believe) completely overboard to prove that our ancestors had a superstitious fear of man’s best friend, and that there were negative connotations to the color black (duh).

I think there’s a much simpler reason why so many people hit on the very same image to describe depression: because that’s what it feels like. It’s a dark creature lurking just outside your place of safety. You don’t claim him or want him. You didn’t ask for him to come and you don’t set out food for him. He comes anyway, though,  and paces up and down in front of your door. If you stay very still and quiet, locked inside your house, he might not get you. But he is blocking your path to the rest of the world, and to life.

I distinctly remember my first episode of depression. I was eighteen years old and a senior in high school. I had a new boyfriend. Nothing was wrong. And yet one day in French class, my favorite class, I put my head down on my desk and cried for the whole class period. About nothing. While never suicidal or overly dramatic, that day started me down a life path that included a lot of sighing, a lot of shrugging, a lot of staring at people blankly for a moment too long after they asked me a question. A lot of saying, “I’m tired.” It’s funny how negative things can occasionally work in your favor, because many times at work I was described as “calm, cool, and collected,” or “even-tempered.” People remarked about how I failed to get upset or take offense at various aggravations that occurred on the job. Well, folks, here’s my secret….it was because I didn’t care. I was so insulated in my own numb world that  daily squabbles and work-related crises barely made a ripple in my consciousness.

Times like that, the black dog is not lurking outside, he has come in and made himself at home. And just like a real dog, you get used to living with him. You might not like  him, but he is so firmly entrenched that you don’t remember what life was like before and you don’t know how to get him out. For years I tried to explain to people, “I get depressed the way you get a migraine. There is not necessarily a why. It comes to me and I am stuck with it until it goes away.” I’m sure I was never much fun to live with, and there were a couple of times when my frame of mind dipped so severely that I sought medication for a while, but in general I was just sort of an Eeyore every day, dragging through life.


And then a few years ago, there was a crisis. First of all, excuse me for mentioning it, but I started to have severe PMS, which I’d never suffered from in my life. Several months in a row, I threw a screaming fit at my husband without realizing the cause until afterward.  I eventually learned to watch for times when I was very angry about something that seemed perfectly rational to me at the moment and only later proved inconsequential. But before I could figure that out, there came a particular week that changed our lives.

We were already dealing with some trouble and some drama. Things were going on in our personal life…and he was out of a job at the time, so I was feeling the strain of that…plus my supervisor at work had been fired and then replaced with a recent college grad who had to learn everything from the ground up…just a lot going on. Every day that week, I spent my lunch hour on the phone with my husband, sobbing like my heart would break (and ordinarily, I’m not a crier). Long story really short: I quit my job, we burned our bridges behind us and moved to a new state where promptly everything went even further down the tubes…for a while.

But in the midst of the wondering-how-we’ll-survive strife, I noticed an interesting thing…the black dog had wandered off. I was worried, all right, and stressed and a lot of other things, but I was not depressed.  Maybe the Lord was saying to me, like a  parent says to a whining child, “You keep that up and I’ll give you something to cry about.”  I did have plenty to cry about for a year or so. But while dealing with real problems, real regret, real grief…the lingering malaise that had followed me around most of my life disappeared. And while we’ve since regained our equilibrium in our personal life, it hasn’t returned.

Advice about depression has limited usefulness. Going back to my comparison to a migraine, I might tell you a hundred ways to avoid a migraine, but that doesn’t mean it’s  your fault if one shows up anyway. You can, however, do your best to avoid known triggers.  I find it best to steer clear of tear-jerker movies, for example. I avoid news stories that sound especially disturbing. The Bible tells us to dwell on what is pure and good and lovely, not to wallow around in what’s sad and horrible, so I try to do that. And also, now that the black dog no longer lives with me, I’m better able to discern when he comes around, scratching at the door, trying to get inside. I recognize him for what he is, and do my best to run him off before he gets any ideas about staying. He’s not my dog, and I don’t want him around.

Buy at
Black Dog Canoe
Buy From




Trapped in the Wrong Church



Forgive me for that rather sensational title. It’s a bit harsh, especially when I think of a pastor who has been so very kind to us, and people who became our community when we had not one friend in the entire state of Florida. That’s a lonely feeling, folks, when you know that for hundreds of miles in any direction, there is not one door you could knock on and not one face that’s familiar.

But I’m getting ahead of the story, so let me backtrack.

As I’ve alluded to in so many posts, we left our home in Georgia and moved here several years ago, in about as haphazard and unwise a fashion as you could imagine. Drowning in regret brought about by our own foolishness and so weary we could barely face each new day, we decided to find a church. Here’s where it gets complicated.

I am a Baptist. I was born into a family of Methodists and attended church regularly as a child. My limited exposure to the Baptist church was during vacation Bible school each summer. And yet, even before the age of twelve, I read my Bible, I listened to preachers, and what rang true in my soul was what the Baptists believed and practiced. I was baptized by immersion as an adult and was a member (though not an active one) of a Baptist church until we moved here. At that time, we hadn’t been to church for a long time and were feeling disillusioned in general, but let me just say that if I had my way, when we got ready to find a church in Florida, I’d have chosen a Baptist church.

The hubby had other ideas. He who was born into a Baptist family, joined the Methodist church as an adult! (Though he seldom actually attended it.) I don’t want to speak on his behalf, but if I had to, I would venture to guess that he has an impression of Baptists as country, corn-pone, poorly educated, foot-washing, Amen-hollering, pulpit-pounding fire and brimstone types. All of which he abhors (especially the notion that he could be in any way associated with something country. He’s stuck-up like that. :-) )

He was on board with the idea of our finding a church, as long as it was not a Baptist church. So, after visiting a few local assemblies, we settled on, let’s call it, Denomination X. I am choosing not to name it because I certainly don’t think it is a bad place; most of the members clearly enjoy it and are loyal to it. But me, I find myself feeling like a stranger in a strange land. Let’s say I moved to Denmark, for example. No doubt Denmark is a lovely place, well understood and enjoyed by people who’ve been raised there. But no matter how friendly the natives may be, it would never be my home…I would never understand their culture, their music, their ways of doing things. In my heart I would always long for the dear old USA, and that’s exactly how I feel about our church.

But here’s the thing. 1) For the good of our marriage, our family, and our lives in general, I want my husband to stay in church.  And 2) He likes this church. Don’t get me wrong, he didn’t twist my arm. I liked it at first, too. But once I got past the getting-to-know-you stage and began to really pay more attention to the service, I realized I did not agree with much of it.

So now, every time I walk in the door of Denomination X, I am practicing submission. (Not always beautifully, I’m afraid…sometimes my boredom is hard to conceal.) I sit through the service, touched by no part of it, wishing for a Sunday when I could come away inspired and uplifted; or instructed at least. But my formerly unbelieving husband is beside me, holding my hand, listening to a pastor he respects, and I know that to do anything other than what I’m doing would be detrimental. It is his place to be the spiritual leader of our family, and for that matter–how am I to know he isn’t right? He says our lives turned around when we joined this church, and I admit there is truth to that statement.  I have considered asking him if he’d mind my seeking out a Baptist church to attend on Wednesday or Sunday nights, but I always decide against bringing it up. I don’t want our family going in two different directions, and I feel that if we don’t stick together, our church attendance might wither and die altogether. Better for me to be bored than for us both to be unchurched again.

But I do look forward to our trips back to Georgia. When we visit, we attend church with his parents, where–admittedly–the congregants might not be the most erudite group you ever met. But the words I hear there ring true in my heart, and at the end of the preaching when the pianist plays “Just As I Am” and the repentant are invited to come forward to the altar…no, it’s not sophisticated. But it’s home.

Buy at
Autumn Colors and First Baptist Churc…
Buy From


My Friend and the False Prophet


Jeremiah 23:16
This is what the LORD Almighty says: “Do not listen to what the prophets are prophesying to you; they fill you with false hopes. They speak visions from their own minds, not from the mouth of the LORD.


I have a friend who has led a rather unfulfilled life. Yes, that’s my opinion as an observer, but I think she’d agree. I first encountered her in middle school,  and from the very day she joined us, she was the classic scapegoat. She is a sweet person of normal intelligence. But her look was wrong. Her clothes were wrong. Her social skills (probably undeveloped due to general lack of acceptance) were awkward. She was one of those kids that other kids look at with an attitude that almost seems to say, “How dare you even be here amongst us?”

As a teenager, she developed passions and talents for things that most people might find rather dark. Heavy metal and  horror movies, to name a couple. Interest in things like that kept her going for many years, because she lost her parents early on and has worked hard to eke out a living with no mom and dad to turn  to when things got rough. No husband, either–she’s never married, and time has closed the door on her chance to give birth. Even close friends have been few and far between. Oh, we’re all happy enough to chat on social media, but when she needs a ride someplace, or expresses how much she’d love a friend to join her for a special movie or show, it gets awfully quiet. We’re busy with our own lives, most of us. We’re married, we have kids and commitments. All these years, she’s been alone, filling up her mind with ghouls and monsters. She’d been so scarred by a religious relative’s attempt to wrest from her the few things she enjoyed that up until recently she was an atheist, refusing to even spell “God” with a capital G.

And then she discovered…HIM. No, unfortunately I do not refer to Jesus. She discovered someone I am choosing not to name, but I think you may recognize him if I refer to him as America’s number one purveyor of the prosperity gospel. He of television fame, with his ever-present grin and his slick words. My friend is feeling hopeful lately, or trying to, at least. She talks about how she knows something awesome is just around the corner for her.

A few months ago, I stepped on her toes accidentally. Not realizing her newfound interest, I casually mentioned that I did not like this particular preacher, and her reaction was vehemently defensive. I was criticizing the person who had (in her opinion) SAVED HER LIFE. It was obvious that she (hate to use this word, but–) idolized the man, and would tolerate no negativity about him. He had opened a door for her that no one else had ever opened.

I shut up. I left the subject alone, and I have never mentioned it again, despite my low opinion of the man in question. I shut up because knowing my friend’s history, I could not bear to crush any spark of hope in her soul. I keep thinking about it, though. The Bible tells us to beware false prophets, but are we commanded to warn others about them as well? After all, I don’t know anything about the man’s character for a fact. I merely have an opinion that he preaches sunshine and rainbows to people exactly like my friend. For my friend, is hearing his preaching better than hearing none at all, or is it worse? I’m not sure, but I’ll say this much: my friend bought a Bible recently. I hope she reads it and discerns for herself a bit more about her hero’s version of the gospel. Meanwhile…someone once told me that if God could speak through a donkey, even the worst preacher might say something helpful.


When a Tightwad Marries a Spender

cash hand

When I married my husband, I was more than happy to hand over the management of our newly- formed family’s finances to him. We both worked full-time and earned a similar amount, but I was never too terribly concerned about balancing my checkbook. Brian, on the other hand, was well-known for his sharp attention to such matters, so it seemed like a no-brainer that he would handle the bank account.

The results of this plan were unexpected. Although he certainly never tried to restrict my access to the money, his new position as the family comptroller gave me the feeling that I was broke and had to ask for handouts. What was even worse was that on his end, looking at a suddenly-doubled bank balance evidently gave him the feeling that he was rich.

What we learned from this experiment was that although I may handle money casually, I don’t like to spend it. I am a low-maintenance woman who does not need or care anything at all for designer purses, clothes, or shoes. Jewelry is something that others might give me for my birthday. “Impulse buying” is not a concept I’m familiar with, because I keep those impulses very well under control. I know the difference between my wants and my needs, and I can tell myself  “no” to a want quicker than most people can whip out a credit card. Without giving you a rundown of all the ways that I found my new husband to be in direct opposition to this way of thinking, let’s just say that we went back to separate checking accounts very quickly, and that’s the way it stayed for probably fifteen years.

Maybe because we’re both “only” children, this approach wasn’t really too bad for a while. We split up the household bills so that they were relatively equivalent. We wrote two mortgage checks–each for half the mortgage, like roommates. You wanna laugh? We went to the grocery store together, and each threw what we wanted into the cart. When it was time to check out, he placed his chosen items on the belt and swiped his debit card, and I did the same with mine. (Bag boys were invariably confused when we assured them that all of the groceries were actually going to the same house!) We put gas in our own cars and each paid for our own insurance and medical expenses, as well as personal expenses like haircuts. The best benefit, in my opinion, was when Brian wanted to make a major purchase (for example, our first flat screen TV). It was always his option to pay for the whole thing himself. But if he wanted me to chip in, I had to first agree to the expenditure. After that I would have some say-so in how much we spent and when I felt I could afford to let go of the sum we had agreed on.

It wasn’t a bad arrangement in many ways. I had control of my own salary, so if I ran a little short, I’d put the brakes on any unnecessary spending, but if I had a surplus I could do with it whatever I chose. I could even save up for things.

There were a couple of disadvantages, though. One was that whenever we went to a restaurant as a couple or a family, I felt embarrassed and, strangely enough, disrespected at having to dig through my purse to pay my share. Even though I knew what our arrangement was, I imagined that onlookers felt sorry for me. Plus, this took the fun right out of “date night.” Nothing makes a woman feel less special than splitting the check after a romantic dinner. (That may be unfair, but it’s true!)

The other  and more serious disadvantage was that an arrangement like this was detrimental to any feeling of unity in our marriage. We did not operate as a team.  Mine was mine and his was his, and we lived like cordial business partners, cooperative and yet each looking primarily to his own interests.

Now let’s skip to 2011. For various reasons not pertinent to this story about our finances,  we left Georgia and a life where we’d once had good stable jobs, and moved to Florida to start a new chapter of our lives. We did the best we could, but our first year was an unmitigated disaster, and we were poor as church mice. Once a week our big treat was to get a $5 pizza from Little Caesar’s for us and our son (then 9) to share.  One pizza was not enough. Our son, not realizing, would eat his fill, while Brian left the table hungry. For the first time ever in our marriage, we were poor and we were humbled. We decided the time was right to join forces again, to live like a family, and to have one (pitifully meager) bank account.

The Lord has blessed us amazingly since that time. (Not necessarily because we put our money back in one pot, I’m just saying that we’ve been blessed.) I’ve had a steady job for over two years, while Brian hit the jackpot with a job that he loves and that is far, I say FAR, more lucrative than mine. We’re extremely thankful that in only three years we’ve returned to approximately the same income level we had back home, but things are interesting now that 2/3 of it is earned by the spender in the family, now once again reinstated as the finance manager.

I feel a bit unsure of things. All the bills get paid and we seem to be able to do or have whatever we want…but how are we doing, really? What about that set of tires we had to finance when times were bad–have we paid off that Firestone card yet? Well, no. There’s just a difference in philosophies going on here. If I were the one running this show, I would have continued living in relative deprivation until every last debt was paid for, and then I would have felt able to enjoy the surplus. Brian prefers to enjoy the fruits of his labors today, and work on outstanding balances as he gets around to it.

It’s not the way I’d do things, but the rewards, I think, are to be found in our relationship. Not everyone will agree with me, but I subscribe to the belief that men and women have certain preordained roles they are hard-wired to fulfill in a marriage. I think my husband is proud to earn the lion’s share (even though our net income is about the same) and I think being in charge of how it gets spent taps into a sense of responsibility that makes him stand a little taller. I can’t help but think that a man who can make purchases at his own discretion is happier than one whose wife is in control of the purse strings. I have chosen to submit to him in this area, because while I care about the actual money, control of the money means so much to him on a deeper level. Being in charge says something to him about who he is.

So now…I’m just like a lily of the field. I worry for nothing, not what I’ll eat or what I’ll wear. In the past, I could not bear to have to get my husband’s approval to buy something, but now when he tells me it’s fine to buy a pair of sandals or when he takes me out to a nice dinner, I just say “Thank you, sweetie.”  He says, “What are you thanking me for? You work, too.” I say, “I know. But you take care of everything.”

It seems to be working.

Buy at
“No Money for Her Soda,” …
Buy From

My Body, My Husband



I am not usually a person who likes to call attention to anything negative about myself. It’s not that I don’t criticize myself internally for countless things; it’s just that I see no benefit in pointing them out to other people. So this post will be a departure from my usual ways while I try to express something that’s been on my mind for quite a while now.

I am five feet tall. As a teenager and young adult, I had a great figure and wore a size five. But with my first pregnancy, I was so excited about it and so anxious to “show” that I allowed myself to gain without even attempting to keep it under control, and weight has been a struggle for me ever since. I’d say right now I’m about sixty pounds too heavy.

When I met my husband, I had already had two children (one who passed away and another who was a toddler then, a young adult now). So Brian never saw me at my best. He first knew me as an chubby 30-year-old with an especially ugly vertical c-section scar. I was so in dread of him seeing my ruined body for the first time, but he loved me then and he still loves me today. He has never once called me a name (not even passed off as a joke), made a cutting remark, or suggested a diet. He accepts me exactly as I am, even though the aging process is contributing even more unattractive components to my physical self.

But so often, when I’m alone, about to step into the shower, I catch sight of myself in the bathroom mirror and I want to say to him, “I’m so sorry.” I’m not anything so nice as “curvy;” I’m misshapen with a rear end (formerly my favorite body part) like a wad of chewed bubble gum. Brian’s usually not home at the time of morning when this happens, so I have thoughts of emailing him or calling him to apologize for myself.  I don’t do it only because he’d scoff and tell me I was crazy and point out that he is imperfect as well.  But you who are not involved, I hope you can understand me. This mirror-moment is not a moment of self-pity or of me wanting him to assure me that I look fine. I really don’t look fine, and I know it, and for the man who made a promise to be intimate with nobody else but me, I am sincerely so sorry that this is the body I have to offer him.

Some of you, right now, are yelling at your screen, “Then DO something about it!” I know; it sounds so simple, doesn’t it? I feel the exact same way when I look at people who can’t manage their houses—oh my gosh, how simple is it to keep up with laundry, take the trash out and make the bed? It’s easy! Or, hmm, maybe it’s just easy to me because the effort expended leads so quickly to a consequence that gives me great enjoyment. I like to look around and see a tidy house, so I clean up. Maybe some people feel great after eating a salad and climbing the stairmaster, whereas I’d just be irritable and exhausted.

So it seems pretty clear that I am not naturally drawn to being a gym rat, and i’m so far past my prime now that if I were single, I’d probably just buy myself some big ol’ clothes and just say “forget it!” But I care about Brian and what I am to him. I know he loves my heart and soul, but shouldn’t it be worth any amount of sacrifice and effort for me to put them in a prettier package?  I often think about this: if anything (God forbid) were to happen to him, I know my emotional makeup well enough to know that the first thing I would do is lose interest in eating, and all the weight would drop off. If I could do it then, why not do it while he’s alive and with me to enjoy it? I also sometimes think, (not that he would, but) suppose he got himself a girlfriend. The stress, the anxiety, the maddening fear of “what’s she got that I ain’t got” would have me wearing out the treadmills all over town. So why not do it now, before something like that happens? I don’t understand it myself.

I’ll end with an anecdote from a TV show… it may have been Dr. Phil from a while back. There was a husband who was just slightly overweight, but his wife was absolutely livid about it. It was brought to her attention that he had eaten a doughnut at work, and I was shocked at how infuriated she was with the poor, hapless guy. Her face suggested that she hated and was utterly disgusted by him. “How could you do that?” she demanded. When I try to get into that woman’s head and understand what was the huge deal about a doughnut, the only comparison I can come up with is to think how I might react in a financial crisis. If we were flat broke, desperate, counting every nickel, and Brian came home after making some fairly innocent but totally unnecessary purchase, I might feel a bit like the doughnut wife. It’s not the doughnut that counts…it’s the idea that she was trying so hard to move him in one direction and he deliberately went in the other one. It made her crazy.

So I’m wondering if I could refocus my thinking somehow…to get myself to believe that every calorie is important…not in and of itself, so much, but in relation to the direction I want to go. I’d like my husband to be not just content with me, but excited about me. Proud of me, even.

I do have one bit of news to share: this fall, I expect to be a participant in a clinical weight loss study, using an experimental drug. Sounds scary, I know. But maybe it will be a good thing. Comments are welcome, and prayers even more so.



18 Years of Getting Through the Day


The photo above is of my beautiful only daughter, Bliss, who is so named because that was exactly what I felt when she came into the world. I had dreamed all my life of having a little girl, and she was that precious dream come true–a gorgeous infant and then an adorable toddler. I couldn’t leave the house without strangers remarking about her. She was better than a doll come to life, and I loved being her mama. I still do.

Early childhood brought some challenges, though. I had married Brian (her step-father) and the two of them didn’t get along. Also, though her preschool teacher had felt that she was gifted, within the next few years we learned that sitting quietly and focusing on reading and writing was a near impossibility for Bliss. At the end of a day I would come to pick her up from after-school care, wanting only to hug her, but so many times, some conflict would intrude. Some misbehavior would be reported. Or if not that, we’d make it home and work our way through dinner and bath time and bedtime in a house with a man who seemed to wish this annoying kid would just go away and stop needing his wife’s attention. (Note: that’s my take on how it felt–Brian would surely express something different–and I only mention it now because they have worked out their differences and the past has been forgiven.) What I’m trying to say is that in spite of my immense love for my daughter, I wasn’t able to hold hands with her and skip through a rose-garden life. There were those extra challenges, on top of the ordinary adult responsibilities of working, paying bills, keeping the house, caring for pets, planning time with grandparents, and trying to give our marriage its fair share of attention, among other things.

Middle and high school were variations on the same theme. Though she and I both love to sing, I was never enthused about attending chorus concerts at the end of a long day. The expenditure of my time and resources for science projects and the like was so irksome. Ferrying her back and forth to drama club commitments (though the high school was just a few minutes down the road) was just an annoying pain. I want you to understand that I didn’t berate her about these things; I merely sighed and displayed my reluctance. It breaks my heart now to realize that she asked for so little and demanded absolutely nothing.

Several years ago, we decided to move to a different state. Bliss, then eighteen,  didn’t want to leave her boyfriend, and as it turned out, she had a final angry confrontation with her stepfather and unceremoniously showed up with a truck and some friends to move her things out, just days after her high school graduation. I didn’t even know that her last night at home had been her last. She and I were not angry with each other, but there was no heartfelt goodbye scene, either. I had already known she didn’t plan to move with us, and I didn’t blame her for wanting to get out of the war zone of living with Brian.  I didn’t let myself get emotional; I had enough drama already at that moment. I kissed her when she left, and that was that.

Some days after her departure, as I continued with the task of packing up the house to move and sorting through what we wanted to sell or donate, I was culling through my lifetime collection of books. I ran across my Little House books and some other ones from my childhood that had special sentimental value, and I started to cry. I had saved these books, even while I was still a child myself, with the thought of sharing them someday with my little girl.  It suddenly struck me so hard that this imaginary dream-girl had actually been born, and she had lived with me for eighteen years, and now it was all over–my time of raising her was ended, and she was gone. I didn’t remember if I had read her those books, or offered them to her. I didn’t know if she even realized they were there in the house, because I had spent eighteen years just getting through the day.

I was so wrapped up in my own to-do list. I loved Bliss–I loved her–but it had always seemed to me that my job was the main responsibility of my life–the non-negotiable thing that I had to do–followed by all those other responsibilities (including, eventually, a little brother) that had to be attended to. I had so much on my plate that I wanted only to get through the work day, get through the week, get through the winter–whatever. I was constantly focused on getting something over with, reaching some vague goal that moved away whenever I got near it.

That day on the floor of my office with the books, I realized with grief that I had truly “gotten it over with, the very thing I had dreamed of and looked forward to all my life: the raising of a little girl. That season of my life is finished now, and though I would give everything I have to go back and start over again–to do it differently, to do it better– I cannot have one day of it back.

KB Tenn

Can There Be Too Much Trust in a Marriage?


Quick simple answer to the above question: YES. But please journey with me through a post rife with personal examples from a long marriage, and let me explain.

I’ll begin with a anecdote that features my mother-in-law. Her only child, my husband, was born in 1971, so she progressed from being a stay-at-home-mother to being a stay-at-home wife, but the point is that she stayed at home. One weekly trip to the grocery store was the only time she was out of the house with any regularity. Meanwhile, she had a neighbor lady who was more of what we’d consider “normal.” This neighbor was a SAHM too, but she came and went as she pleased, running errands, shopping, volunteering, and so forth. One day my mother-in-law happened to tell me that the neighbor had dropped over and mentioned that later that night, she and a bunch of her 50-ish girlfriends were meeting for dinner and a movie.  Although of course he said nothing to the neighbor, my father-in-law had voiced his disapproval after she’d gone. “Granddaddy doesn’t think it looks right,” my mother-in-law confided. “A bunch of women running around without their husbands.”

Wow, right? How old-timey. It’s almost laughable if it weren’t pathetic…or so I thought when it first happened. Now don’t worry…I’m not about to declare it a sin for women-friends to go to the movies unescorted by male chaperones. Of course it’s fine for anyone to go about their day and accomplish whatever they need to do. But bear with me a moment while I talk about how things went in my marriage.

Brian and I got married in 1994, and we were as much in love, as sure of each other, and as bonded as we ever hoped to be. Besides that, I’d never been the jealous type. Near Christmas of our first year, he had a desire to make peace with his ex-girlfriend of several years (the one I stole his heart from). With my full knowledge and approval, he contacted her and they met for lunch. Things seemed to go as he hoped, assuring him that this person who had been important to his life could still be cordial and they could be at peace with one another. I guess she was curious to meet me, so, soon afterward, she came over to our home one evening. We invited a male friend as well. We had some drinks and played Scrabble. We still have a photo that the male friend snapped that night, of Brian on the sofa with me on one side and his ex-girlfriend on the other.  It was no big deal, really. It was fine.

But his family was shocked. His grandmother was scandalized. “You don’t do that,” they said, while we chuckled.

But a precedent had been set, and over the years, this sort of thing (with both of us–I have some ex-boyfriends and male friends myself) occurred with regularity. He went to lunch with female coworkers. He went out to play trivia with them. He texted and emailed and Facebooked with absolute freedom, and so did I. My ex-boyfriend from high school would invite me to lunch whenever he was near my workplace.  I went to a business seminar with some old bandmates of mine. I could give ten thousand examples, but the point here is that we had no boundaries, and we were proud of ourselves for it. We were so very modern and so very trusting that we felt perfectly secure and comfortable with our partner having platonic relationships with people of the opposite sex.

Can you guess how it all turned out? Sure you can…but some of us have to learn the hard way. In 2000, one of us became emotionally entangled with a “friend.”  This incident raised the caution flag for a while (that’s an understatement), but eventually everything died down, the threat passed, and we relaxed back into our old habits. A full decade later, the other one of us was unexpectedly tempted, and got into an even more unfortunate situation with a so-called “friend,” (from childhood!) who didn’t give a moment’s thought to wrecking the lives of others for sheer amusement.

We–Brian and I–take responsibility for our own actions, and since we moved to Florida and began a new page in 2011, we have changed up the game. We have (finally!) learned the lesson of how simple life can be if you keep your partying self at home, and limit your friendships to same-sex ones, or shared friendships with other couples.

The Bible has many wise things to say on the topic of keeping your spouse to yourself and yourself to your spouse, but the one that stands out in my mind the most right now is this:

 Proverbs 5:15 -17: “Drink water from your own cistern, running water from your own well. Should your springs overflow in the streets, your streams of water in the public squares? Let them be yours alone, never to be shared with strangers.”

Can you have too much trust in a marriage? Yes. Just as a teenager will go off the rails if no caring adult is watching over their behavior, so will a spouse. I think it’s better all around to have some parameters. Depending on your personal convictions, they need not be terribly stringent–maybe just an agreement not to be alone with the opposite sex would be enough. Maybe you and your husband should agree that your phones are available for inspection anytime. Do whatever it takes for you both to feel respected and secure. Just remember that too much trust, while it may sound very loving, can actually leave your partner more vulnerable to temptation. It’s healthy for all of us to know that someone who places the utmost value on us is, shall we say, keeping an eye on the valuables.

Homeschooling Moms: Spelling and Grammar


My friends call me a grammar nazi, but that’s not true. I’m not a stickler for perfect schoolmarm grammar in casual situations. I am actually a spelling nazi, because in my opinion, there’s never ever a time when bad spelling is acceptable. No, not even when you text. Definitely not when you’re on Facebook…not that I call individual people out about their spelling. No, I just make general posts about how annoyed I am by the illiteracy in the world today, and those who know themselves to be functionally illiterate  naturally respond and say things like, “I’m on here to relax, I’m not worried about all that.” Apparently they consider spelling words correctly to be quite an effort; something to be done when making a good appearance is an absolute requirement.. like dressing up for a job interview requires wearing pantyhose and heels instead of comfy flip-flops.

I’m afraid I don’t buy it, though. How to spell the common, everyday words in our language is something that should already be stored in the brain of every adult, and if the words are there, you will use them no matter whether you’re writing a letter to the President or scribbling a grocery list. If the words are not in your brain,  you will not know them no matter how formal the occasion might be, so please don’t try to pretend that you knew the right way and just didn’t bother to get fancy.

Now these are just my broad complaints about the world in general, but today I am particularly concerned with parents who homeschool. I read the blogs of many of these ladies, and by the way, I’m by no means a homeschool basher. I always did think it was an interesting idea and I would love to have taught my children at home, had my life situation been favorable to that. Additionally, I have no doubt that your children, by and large, probably finish up with a better general education than the average public school student. (Public schools are mired in silliness nowadays, and I think plenty of kids spend the days just shuffling from one class to another, waiting for the time to pass by.) So anyway, homeschool moms, I like you. I’m your fan. But I read a lot of your blogs and I am worried about your spelling and (although I’m not a nazi) your grammar. I see a lot of mistakes that are not typos. I see that some of you don’t know when to use your and you’re, loose and lose, their and there. I see  you writing about scarfs and roofs. You don’t know where apostrophes go. You talk about floors that “need vacuumed.” It worries me so much I want to put  my head down on my desk.

Because, you see, you are so much of your child’s universe. My own mother, for example, always said “stoled” instead of “stole.” This was a mistake on her part, but I had the chance to hear so many other people using the word correctly that I never picked up her mistake or carried it into adulthood. Your children hear (or read, or learn) the same mistakes from both their teacher and their mother, and if you have a large family, likely from all their peers! If you’re doing it wrong, there’s no one to point it out. Your child simply learns it wrong.

The problem is that of course we all think we’re doing it right. (Believe me, I proofread the work of a number of people at my job, and even after these smart professionals do their very best to hand in a perfect document, many times errors still exist.) The mistakes that are most deeply ingrained in you are probably the ones you’re least aware of. So what can you do to make sure your spelling and grammar are up to par? Well, I can’t personally check all your work (though secretly I would really love to!). But do you have a friend who has that grammar/spelling nazi reputation? That is the very person you should ask. It’s not enough for the person to be bright or to have a college degree. (One of my aforementioned coworkers is a college graduate who spells such words as “leesh,” “debrie,” and “nusicance.”) College means little in this circumstance, when what you need is simply a real stickler. Find that person and let him or her know how important it is to you that errors on your part are not passed on to your students, and I’m sure they will be overjoyed to help. If they’re like me, they’ve been dying to correct you already. :-)


Buy at
“Parent – Teacher Conference”, Decemb…
Buy From


Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 48 other followers