Newlywed at 50

I was 50 and he was 52. It was love at first bifocal.

N@50: Out of Gas!

As you all know, I was single a lot more years than I’ve been married.  And as a single woman, there were certain things that I did for safety reasons.  One of those was keeping a tank full of gas.  When I left home for my first job, my mom made me promise two things: 1) keep a tank full of gas, and 2) keep a blanket in the car in case you break down.  I’m sure she gave me other guidelines but I remember those two, probably because they fit with the situation I’m about to share.

My husband doesn’t have this obsession with the full tank of gas.  In fact, he will sometimes wait until the gas light comes on before filling up.  This I don’t understand.

Our philosophies came to a head yesterday when we had to pick up a colleague from the airport.  Hubby had taken me to the doctor earlier in the day and had commented that he needed to get gas before we left for the airport.  Well, somehow he never got around to doing it.  You can guess the rest of the story.

I was fiddling around on the computer grading papers and the time to leave for the airport sneaked up on me.  In a rush, I got myself together and headed out.  Hubby and I realized as soon as we got in the car that we had not gotten gas.  I suggested stopping at a local gas station before we left town.  Hubby declared that we could make it to the airport.

Though I was anxious about it, he turned out to be right.  We made it to the airport with a little time and very little gas to spare.  So we pulled into a gas station near the airport.  As hubby shut off the ignition, he made that sound he makes when things aren’t going right.  Guess what?  He had forgotten his wallet.  Guess what else? I hadn’t brought my purse.

So here we are at the gas station with no credit cards and no cash.  Well, I didn’t have any cash.  Turns out hubby had $4.50.  So we get $4.50 worth of gas and head to the airport to pick up my colleague.

Our car has a gauge that gives an estimate of how many miles we can get on the remaining gas.  It was close, but the numbers seemed to suggest that we could make it home.   Though my colleague offered to pay for gas for us, we decided to make it home on our fumes.

As we ride down the interstate, I’m watching the miles go down, down, down.  I breathed a sigh of relief when we made it to our exit, knowing my husband would pull into the first gas station and take my colleague up on his offer to pay for gas.

But no.  Hubby decides we can make it to his favorite gas station.  Unfortunately, about this time the mileage gauge reads “****”, not a good sign.  So we end up pulling into the next station (not my hubby’s favorite) and allowing our colleague to buy $10 worth of gas.

At this point, we are less than two miles from home, so we go by the house, pick up some cash and repay my colleague.  So all is well.

This is not the first time hubby and I have found ourselves with no money, no credit cards and no gas.  It happened once after church.  Fortunately, that time we were in town and stopped at hubby’s favorite station.  They know him there so they allowed us to pump and pay later.

So what did we learn from this?  Two things: 1) Men are from Mars and Women are from Venus when he comes to filling up the gas tank, and 2) Keep a $20 bill in the car at all times.

What’s embarrassing about this?  Just this week, hubby and I had been stressing to his daughter the importance of keeping gas in the car.

Another embarrassing thing? That colleague that we picked up at the airport was a job candidate.  Talk about making an impression.



N@50: Home for the Holidays 2

This post continues my earlier post on how we spent the holidays in 2011.

Our second stop was to rescue my husband’s daughter’s car from its resting spot on I-94.  Yes, we had to get the car towed.  Nobody knew we were in town until we showed up, along with the tow truck and the car.   We were greeted with happy smiles.

We still had Christmas gifts for his grandchildren to buy so the next couple of days were spent shopping.  My husband found the toys and I found the educational gifts.  I ended up getting the LeapFrog “My Own Laptop” in violet for his granddaughter and in white for his grandson.

One of my husband’s sisters invited us to her Christmas dinner, which she held on Christmas Eve so her children and grandchildren could spend Christmas Day at their respective homes.  Hubby went over early in the day to help cook.  When he came to pick me up for dinner, he sorta fell asleep.  For a long time.  By the time he woke up and got back over there with his daughters, all the food was gone and so were the people.  He couldn’t believe it and neither could I.  The look on his face when he realized there really was no more food was too funny. I wish I could have captured that look with a camera.  Being the good husband and father he is, he bought his daughters Chinese and gave me the last serving of mac ‘n cheese and dressing.  It was delicious!

After dropping off the gifts for the grandchildren the next day, we had Christmas dinner with my husband’s older brother.  He cooked, we ate, and then we watched football on TV.  And my husband talked to various relatives who called during the day.  There were a lot of calls!

Since my brother-in-law also has grandchildren, he had a beautifully decorated tree and a family room full of toys.  When we got there one grandchild was banging on a drum set and the other was riding on some kind of cart.  I told my B-i-l he’d regret buying that drum set when his ear drums started hurting.  My husband and his brothers are all very good cooks so we ended up with plenty of leftovers to take back to the hotel.

The next day we spent with my husband’s mother.  We don’t get to see her as much as we see my mother so I was happy to spend some time with her.  She’s a sweet woman who has welcomed me with open arms into her family.

She lives in an assisted living building that I think is perfect for seniors.  Her apartment has a small kitchen area, but the facility also has a dining room where they serve breakfast, lunch and dinner.  Residents can cook for themselves, eat in the dining room or have their meals brought to their rooms.  The good thing is that my mother-in-law has made good friends in the building.  While we were there, one friend brought her over some cake the woman had baked.

The next few days were spent with my husband touching base with various family members and spending some time with his kids.  I went along on some of these visits, but not all of them.

On the day we left for home, we went to visit with his son and his family in Detroit.  This gave us a last visit with them and the grandkids.  Guess whose LeapFrog laptop was out of commission?  The grandson’s.

After that stop, we were headed back home.  We drove about five hours to our normal stop at the Holiday Inn Express in Carolton, KY.  Again, we paid with hotel points.

The next morning we began the last eight-hour leg back to Tuscaloosa.  We’d had a great trip but it was good to get back home.

My mom has already planned for us to spend Thanksgiving with her in Atlanta next year so I guess that’s what we’ll do unless we get an invitation from Michigan.  In that case, we’ll have to have a family holiday negotiation session.  Isn’t married life wonderful?

N@50: Home for the Holidays

I could have titled this post, “How I spent my Christmas vacation.”

As newlyweds, we’re still figuring out how to handle holidays.  In the first two years of our marriage, we spent Thanksgiving and Christmas with my family.  This year we spent Thanksgiving with my family and Christmas with his.

That means Thanksgiving was spent in Atlanta with my mother.  We had a good time.  My mom and my cousin and her husband did most of the cooking, with my husband adding the ham.  I’m not usually called on to bring a dish because I’m not much of  a cook.   Things have only gotten worse since our marriage, since George is a much better cook than I am.

My mom is big on family meals so for Thanksgiving we ate in the dining room and we used the good dishes, or should I say, china. I was given the task of saying the Thanksgiving blessing.  Everybody laughed at me when I was done because I went on so long.  I laughed with them, but I stand by my prayer.  We had a lot to be thankful for and I didn’t leave anything out.  My cousin and I both survived breast cancer surgeries, my cousin’s husband had been hospitalized for something, my husband’s daughter had survived a second brain surgery, the rest of the family was thriving, and everybody was now in good health.  I think all that demanded a long Thanksgiving prayer.

The cousins spent the night at mom’s house along with us and we were treated by a visit from my brother from Kansas.  He was without his wife and three daughters this time, since he was on quick trip to take care of his aging father.  My mom was especially grateful to have both her kids under her room for a couple of days.  I should say all three of her kids, since my cousin is like a daughter to her.  We had a lot of fun, laughing and remembering old times, and being grateful for the lives we had.

My husband and I were teased a lot about not getting to places on time.  We have a bad reputation for not arriving at our scheduled time.  When we say we’re going to be somewhere on a certain day, our hosts joke that they’ll see us the following day.  It’s so bad that my mother and cousin debated telling us Thanksgiving dinner was going to be held the day before Thanksgiving.  It didn’t come to that though as we arrived in Atlanta on Wednesday just as we said we would.

We spent Christmas with my husband’s family.  To be honest, this trip came in the midst of some unwelcome long-distance family drama that I can’t rehash on this blog, but that I will certainly explore in a future book.  The good news is that God fixed our hearts so we could overcome the drama.

For our Christmas trip to Michigan, we didn’t tell anyone we were coming.  We just got in the car and headed out.  It’s about a 13-hour drive so we made our usual overnight stop at the Hampton Inn in Franklin, KY, about five hours from our home.  This spot is a regular for us when we’re traveling because we always use Hilton points since it’s only 7500 points a night.

After a restful night, we headed out for the remaining eight hours of our trip.  It went blessedly fast, with hubby doing most of the driving.  We arrived in Ann Arbor around 7:30pm.  Our first task was to check-in at the Sheraton Ann Arbor.  Again, we stayed there because we had hotel points.  Our 8-day stay cost us about $25/night.  We were able to get an upgraded room so we had plenty of space, along with a microwave, refrigerator and 42-inch flat panel television.  We were set for the week.

Our second task was to take care of a disabled car stranded on I-94.  No, it wasn’t our car.

Since this is getting to be a long post, I’ll tell the story of the car and the rest of our trip in a post later this week.

N@50: I’m a Grandma!

Actually, I’m not.  The truth is that my husband is a grandfather, which makes me the wife of a grandfather, not a grandmother.

I’ll bet some of you are wondering why I make the distinction.  Well, it’s because I’m too young to be a grandmother.  Not really.  I make the distinction because as someone married to a man with two adult children, a teenager, two grandchildren and an ex-wife, I’m careful to “stay in my lane.”

My husband’s grandchildren have a grandmother already and I have no desire to usurp that role, or dilute it by staking ownership to the title.  I’m not sure how I’d feel if the roles were reversed.  Would I want my grandchildren calling my ex-husband’s wife, “Grandma?”

At some point, we’re going to have to decide what name the grandchildren use for me, but we have a while for that since they’re still very young.  Maybe they could call me “Angel,” short for Angela.  I sorta like that.  I’m from the South so children addressing adults by their first name is a definite no-no.

What do you think?  How should my husband’s grandchildren address me?  Are any of you in a similar situation?  How have you handled it?


N@50: In Sickness and in Heath

In sickness and in health

I took those words to heart as I contemplated getting married at age 50.  It didn’t take much to figure out that while my hubby and I had a number of good years ahead us, we had probably lived more days than we were going to live.  So when I married my husband, I was well aware that I could become his caretaker and I was willing to take that risk, and if it came to it, that responsibility.  You see, his medicine cabinet contains a lot more prescriptions than mine and he’s two years older so I figured if one of us became ill, it would be him.  Guess what?   He didn’t become ill; I did.  About three months before our first anniversary, I was diagnosed with breast cancer.

Let that sink in:  Three months before our first anniversary, I was diagnosed with breast cancer.

As you can imagine, the honeymoon phase of our marriage turned abruptly into the hospital phase.  A cancer diagnosis means tests, tests and more tests.  It means surgeries — first for the biopsy and then for the cancer removal.  It means treatments — months of chemo followed by months of radiation.  To give you an idea of how long the process lasted, we celebrated our second anniversary a couple of weeks after my radiation treatments ended, but while I still was recovering from them.  That gives you some idea of what the year has been like for us.

I have to give my husband credit and praise for the care he’s taken of me—physically, emotionally, and spiritually–over the last year.  I’ve said to him more than once —  “You didn’t sign up for this, did you?”  And his answer is always, “Sign up for what?  You’re my wife and we take care of each other.”  Such simple words, but you’ll never know how much they’ve meant to me.  Or how much he means to me.  It’s one thing to love somebody when everything is going well; it’s another to love them through life’s challenges.

I know this is strange to say, but I think we’ve grown closer during the past year.  For many years, I’ve worn my independence as a banner.  I didn’t need a man to complete me.  Through this past year, I’ve learned that it’s real nice to have somebody to lean on when your own personal strength seems to be waning.  I learned what it means to work together, to sacrifice for each other, to compromise for the greater good, and to love in practical ways.  Overall, I think I learned what it means to be a wife, a life partner.

I know some of you are saying, “Well, God was with you.”  And, yes, He was and still is.   If I weren’t married, I still wouldn’t be alone; I’m not denying that truth.  What I’m saying is that God was gracious enough to send me someone to go through this time with me.  I thank Him for sending George to me.

This has not been a year of sadness for us though.  I think it has made us both more grateful that we found each other.  And we’ve had some fun memories that we often share with a laugh.  Our first visit to wig shop is one of them.  The owner gave me this Farrah Fawcett thing and told me I looked gorgeous.  Behind her, my husband was vigorously shaking his head, his eyes wide with alarm.  Our attempt to make our own wig out of my sisterlocks is another fun memory.  George went out and bought yarn and needles and we sat down to a pile of what seemed to be hundreds and hundreds of locks.  We looked at the piles, looked at each other, shook our heads, and promptly gave up on the that idea.  Then after we finally settled on a wig, my husband, eyes sparkling, looked at me and said, “I’ve got a new wife.”  Something tells me I’ll be wearing wigs every now and then even after my hair comes back.

I’m now officially a cancer survivor, but hospitals and tests are still a part of our future.  And testing needs to be a part of your life or the lives of people you know and love.  Early detection is important so get those mammograms.

As I close this post, I want to share a Breast Cancer Love Letter with you. It’s written by a survivor to the women she loves.  I share it with you because I love you.

N@50: Loving His Kids

I had planned to re-start the Newlywed at 50 series talking about our second anniversary, but something else is on my heart.  I want to talk about what it means to fall in love with someone who has children.  For the record, I don’t have children of my own.  The closest I’ve come are my nieces, whom I love dearly. But something happened in my heart when I fell in love with George: I fell in love with his kids.

I’m not just saying this. It was actually something that I felt in my heart before I met them, before I got to know them.  I loved them because he loved them.  I wanted, and still want, only the best for the them.  There was, and still is, a ready-made space in my heart for them.

But loving step-children is complicated because there is another parent in the picture.  Believe it or not, there was a place in my heart for her, too.  I was mature enough to realize that because they had kids together, my husband’s ex- would always have a place in our lives, and I had accepted that and her.

So I had envisioned this big, happy blended family.  As you’ve probably guessed, we’re not there yet. The good news is that we’re making progress.

I’m building relationships with husband’s children, but there are challenges and landmines aplenty. The most important thing I’ve learned in the process is that in some way they will always see me as taking a part of their father. I want to say that’s not true, but it is.

Even though my husband had been divorced almost 10 years when I met him, my entrance into his life disturbed the ebb and flow of his relationships with his children. Our lives changed when we got married and so did theirs. Believe me, adjusting to change is not easy.

There are times when I feel I have to bottle up the love I have for my husband’s kids because I don’t know how to show it or feel my attempts to show it will be received as inappropriate. So I love through my husband. I support him as he supports them. We plan to spend time with them together and we also plan for him to spend time with them without me. We owe that much to them.

I’m sensitive, my husband says overly sensitive, to his kids because I was raised by a single mother. I never want to do anything to come between him and them because I know how valuable that relationship is to a child’s development.

My hat goes off to mothers who have seen the fathers of their children re-marry. And my hat goes off to the women, like me, who have married them. Even though we don’t always acknowledge it, our lives will be intertwined for a very long time.

I know I’m not alone in what I’m experiencing so let me hear from you.

By the way, my husband’s kids were 14, 20, and 23 when we married. When you’re my age, everyone under 30 is a kid.

Newlywed at 50 is Back!

I was 50 and he was 52.  It was love at first bifocal.

Yes, my Newlywed at 50 (N@50) posts are back!  I had to stop posting for a while because things were getting a bit too personal.  In telling the story of my first marriage at age 50 I found myself telling other people’s stories as well.  That’s what happens when your husband has an ex-wife and children and you are much too close to your mother and brother.  Well, I realized that some stories were not mine to tell and it was too difficult to figure out what not to write.  That all changed when my husband and I saw his cousin and her daughters on Jerry Springer.  Yes, Jerry Springer, and even though there is a youtube video of the segment I refuse to link to it.  Let’s just say my blog posts don’t come anywhere close to what we saw on Jerry Springer so N@5o is back on.

Another reason that N@50 is back on is because my husband and I celebrate our second anniversary next week.  Yes, that means I’m now 52, but don’t tell anybody.  We’ve had a year of celebrations and challenges.  While I couldn’t share them with you while we were experiencing them, I look forward to sharing them with you now.

In my first post of the re-started series, which will be up on October 20, I write about how my husband earned his hero status during the first year of our marriage.  Stay tuned!

You can catch up on the original N@50 posts HERE.

N@50: The Marriage Penalty

Insurance and taxes. Yes, I’m going there.

In a lot of ways, marriage is not a financial winner. In terms of insurance and taxes, I think, you lose more than you gain.

In our case, our combined health insurance premiums have gone from about $210/month to $360/month. We now pay the family rate, which is the same rate that a couple with children (any number of children) would pay. I don’t really complain about this because I understand that with insurance risk is shared so some families subsidize others. We took the $150/month hit in stride.

Then there are taxes. We’re doing ours now. We’re going to take a hit here, too. It doesn’t matter if we file jointly or separately. We still take a hit.

There are some people who figure out this penalty and decide that marriage is costly. As I understand, there are quite a few folks forgo the bonds of holy matrimony because of the cost.

Marriage is a legal bond and spiritual bond. The legal bond seems to have more value for younger folks. I encourage marriage on legal grounds to everybody know who is in child-bearing age or who has children. You need the legal protections that come with marriage. These protections lessen as you get older, but they’re still of some benefit.

Marriage as a spiritual bond is something totally different. It really does make you one. The other day hubby thought he overheard me telling someone something negative about him. Of course, I wasn’t. I explained to him that doing something like that would be crazy. Talking him down would be talking myself down. It makes no sense and it’s something I would never do. He understood and apologized for even thinking it. Of course, I graciously accepted. 🙂

That said, there are some folks who think that putting down a spouse makes them look bigger. It doesn’t. Even before I married that kind of talk disturbed me. You’re married to him/her. You sleep with him/her. You have a life and maybe kids together. So what’s with the putdowns? If he/she is that bad, what does it say about you?

As women, we tend to share stories about our spouses with our close girlfriends. Well, some of us go too far. I had a girlfriend whose spouse I could barely stand to look at. Why? Because she had told me all the awful things he had done in the marriage. I’ve learned not too listen too closely to those stories because a lot of times they’re exaggerated.  What happens is that she forgives him and I’m still angry at him.  At some point, I also become angry with her because she’s still with him.

I’m not saying that we have to pretend that our husbands are perfect.  But there is a way to lovingly tell a story about your man without dragging him and you through the mud.  And if there are negative things  we need to say, we need to learn to say them to him and not to somebody else about him. Then there are the serious cases where we need help and we need to get it and not be ashamed to tell the truth of what’s going on in our home.

My husband has figured out that I tell my mom everything.  And it’s about the same with my brother.  It’s just something I’ve always done.  Now that he’s in my life I end up telling his business right along with mine.  It’s not like I do it behind his back or with malicious intent.  I just tell my mom and brother what’s going one with us.   I do this on the phone with him in the room.  We are learning to deal with this.  I’m learning that I don’t have to tell everything.  And he’s learning that I’m going to tell some things just out of habit.  We’re a work in progress.

Yes, this post started with insurance and taxes.  How do you like the way it ended?

N@50: A Million Blessings

Yes, this is a Newlywed at 50 post and yes, the title of my latest book is A Million Blessings, an anthology with three novellas. So what’s the connection? My novella, Showers of Blessings, is about an assistant pastor with a gambling addiction. This post is about the gambling habits of me and my new hubby.

Before y’all start praying and laying hands on stuff, I confess that neither one of us are gambling addicts. We have a casino about 40 miles from us that we visit occasionally. In fact, we saw Frankie Beverly and Maze there last year.

Our casino has about 1500 slot machines, no table games, and some type of dog racing activity where the dogs are on tv. I don’t know much about the dogs. We just pass through that area on our way to the buffet. Yes, buffet.

Our casino has the cheapest buffet in the world. Okay, maybe I’m exaggerating, but for $6.50 each we can get a salad, an entree, two sides, corn bread, dessert and a drink. The price is not bad and the food is very tasty. It’s really down-home southern cooking, almost as good as my mom’s. I haven’t decided yet if we go to play the slots or to eat the food. We always make sure we have at least $15 left over from gambling so we can eat.

Now about the gambling. We rarely win. We understand that the odds drastically favor the house. But we play anyway. We started out with the penny machines and now we’re up to two cents. We used to play the minimum but somewhere along the line we learned about progressive slots so now I’ll play the maximum. Not him.

We tend to break even when we go, though there have been times when the house has beaten us soundly. If I’m winning, he’s losing and vice versa. That’s most of the time and that’s a break even night. When we’re both losing it’s a good night for the house. My problem with slot machines is that I don’t like to lose. As long as we’re breaking even, I’m fine but once we get down, I want my money back. So then I try to play to get my money back. A losing proposition if there ever was one. Hubby just shakes his head and lets me lose until I reach our limit and then we go eat or go home, if we’ve already eaten.

How do we justify losing money? Well, our limit is less that we would spend if we went to a concert or show, so we look at it as our entertainment for the evening. Once you throw in that cheap buffet, it really does turn into an inexpensive night out.

My new hubby plays the lottery. We don’t have a lottery in Alabama but if we’re anywhere that there’s a lottery, he buys a couple of tickets. He even played when we were in England. The problem with my husband is that he plays but he rarely checks the numbers to see if he won. Believe it. To be honest, half the time, he can’t remember where he put the tickets. So much for us winning anything. The other day I volunteered to check his tickets for him. He had some as old as May of last year. Some were so faded you couldn’t read the numbers. I gave up.

So those are our gambling habits. Going to the local casino has lost some of its appeal so we haven’t been in a while. It’s sorta hard to sit there stuffing money in those slot machines when you know there are folks in your family who are out work and could use that money.

Another reason we haven’t been in a while is that they’ve changed the machines. You see, gambling is illegal in Alabama so they call the slot machines electronic bingo. There’s actually an electronic bingo card on each machine that flashes when you pull the slot handle. I’m not quite sure why.

Recently, our governor has cracked down on these illegal bingo halls, as they call them, so they have changed the way you play the slots. You have to pull the handle (or press the button) multiple times on each spin. I’m not sure why but some of the fun of it is gone with all the extra presses.

Several casinos (electronic bingo halls) in Alabama have been raided and shut down by our governor’s new task force. However you feel about state-sponsored gambling, for me, it felt very wrong to hear the governor say he was helping people who lost their casino jobs get unemployment and other public assistance. However you feel about gambling, how can you put people out of work when the economy is this bad? Unless, of course, they make more money by not working.

What makes all this so sad is that the states surrounding us–Georgia, Mississippi, Louisiana and Tennessee–all have a lottery, casinos or both. So if folks want to gamble, they only have to drive a little a little longer to do it.

What’s your take on the lottery and casinos? Have you ever been? Do you know any gambling addicts? I really didn’t have a model for my character in A Million Blessings since I don’t know any preachers who are gambling addicts. The idea for Showers of Blessings was a light-hearted one: If you preach against the lottery but you secretly play it, what do you do when you win the jackpot and your face is going to be blasted all over the media?

N@50: We Like to Cruise

We like to cruise. Does that mean we’re an “old” 50? Sometimes I think we are.

Regardless, we just booked our annual Carnival cruise. Telling you that it’s a Carnival cruise tells you what kind of cruisers we are.

We cruise during that low season, between the week after Labor Day and the week before Christmas. We have a strict budget. Our limit is $200/day, including tips. So for a 5-day cruise, the most we’re going to pay is $1000 for the two of us. That’s for a stateroom with a balcony and includes $100 ($20/day) for tips.

We usually wait as late as we can to book, looking for a price drop. We learned our lesson last year when the price went up instead of down so we booked early this year. We’re doing an 8-day Southern Caribbean and we’re within our price window, including tips AND cruise terminal parking. Not bad at all.

A colleague of mine regularly does the Tom Joyner cruise. He paid over $4000 for the trip. I’m hoping that’s for him and his wife but I’m thinking that was per person since he said they had either a suite or a balcony. I almost fainted. That’s a lot of money. He reminded me that a portion of the cost was tax-deductible because it goes to the Tom Joyner Foundation to fund college scholarships. He also said he had a great time so the cruise was worth the cost. I just nodded. By the way, Royal Caribbean calls this year’s cruise an 8-day cruise. Carnival would call it a 7-day cruise since you really come back home on the 8th day.

On our last cruise, we met a couple at one of the tourist sites in Mexico. It was supposed to be a Mayan ruin but I think it was a tourist trap. Anyway, back to this couple. We were sitting (of course) at a bench along one of the paths when they joined us. They were on Royal Caribbean. The wife proceeded to tell us how much better Royal Caribbean was than Carnival and encouraged us to cruise Royal next time. They were on a 6-day cruise and we were on a 5-day cruise; we both had a balcony. Guess what? We cruised on Carnival for less than half the price they paid on Royal. Their eyes widened when they learned that and I got the feeling they’d be checking out Carnival next time.

Price aside, cruising works for us because it cuts down on the decision-making. We don’t have to decide which restaurant to go to or which show to see. We just go. And the variety of activities is so great that we each get to do things we want to do. We also like that they make up our beds twice a day. I know this is a small thing but it’s nice have a freshly made bed in the morning and right before bed, especially if you take a nap during the day the way we do. We also don’t have to cook. Food is always available, which is good and bad.

We also like the different cruise destinations. On our last cruise, which was out of New Orleans, we visited Cozumel and Progresso, Mexico. On our upcoming cruise, we’ll be leaving from Ft. Lauderdale and going to St. Maarten, St. Lucia and St. Kitts. We want to do a South American cruise sometime in the future. Those are about 15-days one way so we have to figure out how to do it.

There are some downsides to cruising. People can be rude. Children can be rowdy. And some people drink too much. That said, a cruise is what you make it. We haven’t had much interaction with the rude, the rowdy or the drunk. You can have a good time on a cruise or you can have a bad time. It’s really up to you.

Does anyone else like to cruise?

N@50: Love and Money

Before my hubby was my hubby, we had the “money” discussion. It wasn’t a difficult discussion to have, but it was a difficult one to schedule. We both knew we needed to do it, but we kept putting it off.

In preparation for this talk, we agreed that we would each pull our credit report and share it with the other person. Talk about feeling naked! When you start looking at your life in terms of those 20+ pages from Equifax it’s a bit unsettling. Once the credit reports were printed, we had to share them. Then we had to look at them. All that took a couple of months!

Once we finally sat down for the talk, things went smoothly. Given that we are both older, we each had made long-term financial commitments to others in our families. He had obligations to his children and I had obligations to my parents. We discussed those and what they would mean to us and our financial future. It wasn’t a painful discussion at all.

Because of that discussion, we were able to plan our budget and individual contributions before we were married. We share expenses but we both keep our individual financial accounts. This has worked out well.

We don’t have his and her money when we vacation; we have vacation money. That led to an interesting “encounter” (I don’t want to call it an argument) during our last vacation. I’ll have to tell you about that in another post.

So did you have the “money” talk before you married? If so, how did it go? If you didn’t have it, do you wish you had?

N@50: It’s Still High School

It’s been a while since I’ve posted one of my Newlywed at 50 posts. I admit that I haven’t posted because I was a bit embarrassed by the incident that I needed to share. Well, today I take the leap and tell the story.

Confession: I’m a 50-year old married woman but sometimes I act like a high school teenager.

There I’ve said it. Guess what caused this bit of insight?

Recently George went on a 10-day out-of-town trip, our first separation since our marriage. Guess what I learned from that trip? It’s good have mutual expectations for calling. You can see where this is going, right? I told you it was high school.

Anyway, the first day he was away, I would guess he called me about one hundred times. Okay, I’m exaggerating, but he did call a lot. A whole lot. At one point, I might have asked, “Why are you calling?” I didn’t add “so much” but I was thinking it.

Well, the next day he called about 4 or 5 times. Guess what? I started wondering why he wasn’t calling me more often. I told you it was high school. The good news is I didn’t comment on this to him.

The next day I had to call him! Now I’m getting angry. Can’t the man pick up the phone?

The next day he called so early he woke me up. What was my first thought? Why is he calling so early?

Lesson learned: He can’t win when it comes to calling me when he’s away because I can’t be satisfied.

Had anyone told me I’d be this silly at this age, I would not have believed them. Somebody please tell me they’ve been just as silly.

N@50: Traveling while Married

I have done a lot of solo traveling in my time. I’ve also travelled a lot with girlfriends. I have to say that traveling with a husband or a fiance is quite different. Traveling with a husband is also different from traveling with a fiance.

George and I stayed with my mom several times while we were dating and during our engagement. It’s nice that when we stay with her now we get to sleep together in the “big bed” in the “big room.” I get the feeling my mom’s glad we’re married. Now she doesn’t have to give up two of her rooms when we visit. I actually felt like a grown-up the first time we stayed with her after we were married. Strange, huh?

In general, traveling is different with my new hubby. That include driving trips. He’s the driver. I automatically get in on the passenger side every time I get in the car. This is a big one for me, but it’s been an easy adjustment. To let you know how little I drive, I got in the car the other day and I’d forgotten where the emergency blinkers were. I’m only the designated driver at night and that’s because my night vision is better than his.

If we’re doing a road trip, we start early with him at the wheel. When he gets tired, I take over. He usually ends up driving 2/3 of the way to my 1/3. It took me a while to get used to his driving though. During our first road trips, I couldn’t sleep while he drove. We are drastically different drivers. He drives slower than I do. I used to watch the speedometer while we were on the interstate and every time his speed dropped below 70 (it would go as low as 60), I’d get anxious and my head would start hurting. He also made more stops at rest stops than I did. As a single woman on the road, I never stopped at rest stops. Wendy’s was my stop since their bathrooms were always clean. Now I’m a rest stop lover.

I’ve gotten used to his driving now, so I tend to sleep when he’s at the wheel. He sleeps when I drive but not easily. He thinks I drive too fast and follow too closely. He used to put on brakes on his side of the car when I was driving. Talk about irritating! He doesn’t do it anymore. At least, I don’t think he does.

Air travel is a real bonus. He carries the bags, all of them. I have to beg to carry my own bag. I’ve given up. If he wants to do it, I let him do it. As my momma told me, “Let the man be nice to you.” So I do.

We like cruising. The details of why I’ll discuss in another post. Anyway, hubby really takes over when we get off the ship at the shore destinations. He negotiates with the cabbies and tour bus drivers. He negotiates with the vendors. This is important because I don’t negotiate. I ask people what they charge and then I pay it. He doesn’t go for that. So when we’re off the ship, he carries all the cash. Why? Because he’s afraid I’m going to pay way too much for something and/or give it all away. He’s probably right.

The result is that I’ve developed a negotiation strategy. I simply tell the vendor, “He’s not going to let me buy that at that price. How low can you go?” Guess what? It works. Well, it works sometimes. One woman told me that the next time I came to Jamaica I needed to bring my own money. I was insulted but it was sorta funny.

He’s also the trip photographer. Left to me, we’d have no pictures from any trip.

By now, you’re probably wondering what value I bring to the travel. To be honest, I’m wondering that myself. Not really. I keep track of each day’s itinerary. Before the GPS, I was also in charge of directions. I guess my job will be to input the addresses in the GPS. We’ll see.

Okay, who does the driving in your house? What’s it like traveling with your significant other?

N@50: Back from the Holidays

I hope you all had a blessed holiday season, enjoying your family and being thankful for what you have.

We spent Christmas with my mother in Atlanta. My cousin and her husband were also there. My mom wanted to prepare everything so nobody brought anything. And she prepared a feast. I would list everything she cooked but it would take the entire post. The preparation was her gift to us, she said, and you could tell how much she enjoyed doing it. My mom’s a young 72 and I thank God everyday for her good health and good spirits.

Given the state of the economy, most of our gifts this year were cash. It was very much appreciated. I just wish we had more to give.

George and I did exchange gifts. We went out on December 23rd and purchased them together. He got a GPS for the car and I got the iPhone (8 GB). He loves the GPS but the iPhone may be going back. The experience is not at all what I expected, though it was nice to return e-mails while sitting for an hour in traffic on Christmas Eve.

About that GPS. I learned early in my relationship with George that the old saying about men and directions was true, but this GPS has brought it home in a brand new way. Guess what? He debates the GPS. I couldn’t believe when he first did it. We decided to use it going out to dinner one night. Well, the GPS said the restaurant was on the right and he said it was on the left. I just looked at him. He was challenging “the lady,” which I how we refer to the GPS.

So now he has a GPS that he has to learn to trust. Men are too funny! My only comment during these GPS debates is “trust the lady” and then I shut up. Hey, if you’re not driving, there’s not too much you can say anyway.

I’d love to hear about your holidays. It’ll be a great way to start the year.

N@50: I need boundaries!

When I started doing these Newlywed at 50 posts, I thought I’d end up with some cute stories about my new husband. Instead, I’m gaining a bit of insight into my own quirks.

When you’re single, your schedule is pretty much your own. For me, there were few boundaries between work and personal life. When I worked in industry, I remember sending e-mail to my boss at 2am in the morning and getting a quick reply! You could say we were workaholics. Or you could say we had jobs with a lot of flexibility. Sure I worked in the evenings, but if I had a personal matter to attend to during the day, I would take the time away to do it and nobody blinked. They didn’t blink because they knew that I (and everybody else) put in more than a 40-hour workweek anyway.

Even now, it’s nothing for me to work in the evenings or on the weekends. I sat on a panel for new faculty at my school recently, and one of the things that I told them was to consider that they had a 24-hour clock each day and not an 8-hour clock. We don’t punch in at 8 and punch out at 5. We meet with students when they can meet. We conduct research and write articles. Some of us do these things better during the day while others of us do them better in the evenings. Some of us do them better in our offices while some of us do them better at home.

Well, things are a bit different when you have spouse. I learned this lesson on a recent trip that hubby and I took. Well, I needed to check my e-mail so we had to find an Internet Cafe so I could do so. Well, by the time we found the Cafe and I conducted my business, we had missed our scheduled tour. He didn’t say anything but the look he gave me spoke volumes.

I’ve got to establish some boundaries, y’all. I can’t plan to spend every weekend or every evening working, whether on my school work or my writing. There have to be “no work” times. I think this is going to be a challenge for me. It’s going to require me to be more structured than I am now. The term “balance” must have meaning for me.

I have a colleague (only one, I think) who has no home office and only works in his school office. He doesn’t send or respond to email from home. He basically has an 8-to-5 job.
I don’t think I’ll ever be that strict in my time allotment but I’m going to try to adopt some of his structure.

How do you all maintain balance in your lives?

N@50: Merging Two Homes

This is the third post in my Newlywed at 50 series.

A close friend recommended that my dear hubby (DH) and I find a new home together rather than moving into his place or mine. We took that advice. My girlfriend’s husband moved into her house and she said it always felt like she was making room for him as opposed to them sharing their space. Wise observation, I thought.

So DH and I found our place together. Interestingly, it’s not a place I would have chosen as a single woman because it’s old (too much might need fixing and I can fix nothing) and it doesn’t have a garage (how do I get in and out without folks seeing me?). But it met our main criteria: large rooms.

Before either of us moved in, we discussed what we would take from our individual homes. I moved in first so that gave me the upper hand a bit since my stuff was placed in the new house first. The big winner in all this though was DH’s oldest daughter, who made out like a bandit. Her new apartment was practically furnished from stuff he wasn’t bringing with him. Lucky girl!

Our first purchase together was a king-sized bed. We both had queen sized beds. Mine ended up in our guest room and his ended up with his daughter.

The most used room in the house, the master bedroom, is where his influence is shown most through two huge recliners and a big-screen TV that are like his close friends. No, the TV is not a plasma or an LCD, which means it’s old and big and clunky, but it shows a great picture. He has a designated recliner and I have one. His is black and sits on the back side of the bed while mine is burgundy and sits on the front side of the bed. His is a rocker recliner; mine is not. I have a funny story about him and his chair that I’ll tell in a later post.

We debated the use of closet space before we moved as well. We both have a closet in the master bedroom, though a few of my things can be found in his. His overflow is in the guest room and mine is in the office. Then we have several of those vacuum storage bags of clothes all over house. I think we should have just given the clothes away. I don’t think we’re ever going to open those bags, especially since we can’t remember what is in which one. We needed towels when my brother and his family visited. Instead of searching those bags for the extra towels, it was easier to buy new ones. That’s sad.

The office is a space we thought we’d share but we were wrong. It’s become his office more than mine. My office floats around the house, but is primarily in the master bedroom in my big burgundy recliner. I do love that chair. I consider it his wedding gift to me.

I thought bathrooms would be an issue, but they weren’t. This house, because it’s older, has very small bathrooms by today’s standards. No double sinks in the master, no whirlpool tubs, no two-person showers. The master has a single sink with cabinet, a commode and a shower. That’s it. The guest bath is about twice as large, with a tub-shower combo. Well, the master bath is my bath and the guest bath is his. We’re both happy.

Merging turned out to be fairly easy. We have one big thing left to do: wall hangings. That’s probably going to take a while. I have mostly family pictures and he has mostly artifacts. And I have no idea where to put them all.

N@50: Give me my remote!

This is the second post in my Newlywed at 50 series. The topic is the television and its remote. In the years that I lived alone as an adult, I have always had several televisions. In my last house — 3 bedrooms — I had four televisions. Yes, that’s overkill, but they were my friends. I would have them all on at the same time, on different channels, too, and could easily tune them all out. I guess I had them on to keep the house from being so quiet.

Now fast forward to life as a married woman sharing a house with a man who has a totally different view of the television. First, my hubby doesn’t work in front of the television. When he has work to do, he goes to our home office. Now since I share that office with him, it does have a TV, but he doesn’t turn it on. Second, I do everything with the TV on. If I’m in the office working, the TV is on. But I’m rarely in the office working these days since I’ve gotten my MAC laptop. It’s the first laptop that I’ve actually used as a laptop. Now I do most of my work in the bedroom in front of the TV. Honestly, the TV doesn’t bother me. I can tune it out to the point that it’s a non-issue.

Or I thought I could. My dear hubby has changed my opinion. I can tune out the television unless you change the channel on me, which DH does often. This threw me at first. I didn’t really understand what was constantly breaking my concentration. Then I realized that every time he changed the channel, I looked up from whatever I was working on. The TV didn’t interrupt my concentration but the channel changing did. Isn’t that fascinating?

So how did we resolve this major issue? Well, it probably would have been easiest had I just stopped working in the bedroom and moved to another room. What did it matter? They all have televisions. But we didn’t go that route. We agreed that when he changed channels he would stay on it for a couple of minutes before he changed again. I’m not sure he’s doing that but the channel flipping no longer bothers me.

I’ve even gotten used to watching football with him as he flips from channel to channel. The problem sneaked up on me at first though. I’d be watching the game and all of a sudden the uniform colors would change. I’m not a football fanatic so it would take me a minute or two to realize this wasn’t the same team I’d been watching a few minutes ago. But all is good. I’m now resolved to watching 2, 3 and 4 games at once.

There is no remote control issue in our house anymore proving once again that you can teach an old dog new tricks. In this case, I’m the one learning the tricks. No way will I call myself an old dog though.

Newlywed at 50

I have lived by myself for most of my adult life. There was a period in my early twenties when I lived in a duplex with a group of folks. That time convinced me that I was not meant for group living.

So here I am at 50 sharing a home with this man who is now my husband. We met in 2004, got engaged in 2007 and married this year, very recently, in fact.

Over the course of our relationship, I have learned a lot. Mostly about myself. I’m a kind person but I do like to have my way and my brother has accused me more than once of having to have the last word in any discussion or argument. This relationship has chilled me out a little, I think, and made me more considerate of others.

Lesson #1. I’ve learned that just because someone does something differently from the way I would have done it, doesn’t mean they did it wrong. It just means they did it differently. Not better or worse, just different. I know that sounds simple, but it’s really a big deal, especially for a woman who’s lived most of her life by herself and done things the way she wanted to do them.

So what if when he cooks, he uses every pot and pan in the kitchen? That’s the way he does it. And he’s a great cook. So I focus on his cooking, and the heart that he has to do it for us (including breakfast in bed for me), and the dirty pots and pans don’t matter at all. I’m just grateful that he doesn’t make me clean up.

So what if he doesn’t open his mail as soon as he gets it out of the mailbox the way I do? That’s his mail and his process. Why do I even have a position on it?

So what if he doesn’t fill up the gas tank every time he stops for gas? Now this was a big one for us because I’d get in the car and have to go for gas. I still don’t think he fills up all the time but I haven’t gotten in the car with a low tank in a while.

I guess the real lesson is “don’t sweat the small stuff.” I’ve grown to trust George over the time I’ve known him so I’ve learned to always give him the benefit of the doubt. Every time I’ve doubted his intentions, he’s proven me wrong. He may do things that irk me at times, but that’s never his intention. His heart is always for my best. Knowing that, it’s easy for me to accept our differences and even appreciate them. We’re a good team and I’m blessed to have him in my life.

For those of you wondering, George and I talked about my blogging about our relationship and he’s on board with it. I think my next post will be about the different ways we use the TV remote control. Now that’s been a trip!