Pat’s Musings

Marriage is a work in progress

Posted by on March 3, 2012 in Musings | 0 comments

SUBMITTED – WOMEN CONNECT ONLINE MAGAZINE – MARCH 2012 Marriage is a work in progress no matter if it is a first, second, third or like Elizabeth (as in Taylor, eight times to the altar). Couples who chose to remarry often find themselves with an increased set of issues beyond that of a first marriage: extended family members, additional financial burdens, combining his/her children, and, often, if the remarrying couple is older, they may have aging parents who need them. All, or any, of these situations create strain on a marriage-any marriage, testing the strength of the relationship. As a school counselor for many years, my open door policy brought many unhappy parents and their children to my door. The situation most often discussed, most frustrating was the remarriage of a parent. The task of bringing two families together, his/hers, and sometimes, an “ours”, is a formidable one. A variety of personalities, new to each other, previously parented with another parent-all these differences now living under one roof-difficult for even the most dedicated twosome. Typically, children were not happy about the acquisition of a new stepparent. Their way of retaliation was to be as non-receptive as possible. Children who had never shown disrespectful, non-compliant behaviors suddenly became “problem kids”, acting out in school, throwing tantrums at home. I remember one father who was so astounded at his children’s recent personality change. He had been gifted with a new love, his soul mate, he was in love! To his dismay his two children were making life miserable for him and his new love. This had been a very involved dad, delighted in his father role. He was hurt and dismayed by the behaviors of these “new” children of his. My response to him as he wrenched his hands, commiserating, “you may be in love but your children aren’t”. I went on to explain, “they still have a mother and their loyalty is to her. Give this time, don’t push their acceptance, be patient”. For a while, I think he took my words to task, but after a few years, I heard he and the love of his life had divorced. A very different ending from that of a couple in my book. The couple I interviewed for my book separated five times in four years because of their children. His and her children caused constant disruptions in the home creating strife for everyone. But they had made a commitment at their wedding: no divorce this time; it was to be a forever marriage. Their children, finally, grew up, moved away, married, and these days as empty nesters, they simply, enjoy being together, able to enjoy the love that sustained them. The stories I heard as a counselor and my own failed second marriage, prompted me to write a book, Successful Second Marriages- stories of couples who have experienced the additional baggage brought into a remarriage. How were they able to maintain their marriage while maneuvering through the obstacles? How did they keep their relationship the priority when they were stretched in so many directions? Each couple graciously shared their story on what had worked for them. Their stories are inspiring, encouraging and hopeful, good lessons for first timers or...

read more

A Clean Slate

Posted by on January 19, 2012 in Musings | 0 comments

A Clean Slate

PUBLISHED – 2010 ANTHOLOGY – 2010 Even at this “long in the tooth” stage of life, I get excited at the beginning of a new year. I envision the new calendar with its clean, white pages waiting to be filled with all kinds of new activities: travel, theatre dates, birthdays for beloved grandchildren, summer barbecues, new projects (this year, knitting is on the list), family gatherings, and on and on. Exciting, thinking about all these “good” things that will be occurring, and then, all of a sudden the reality of the first month of this bright new shiny year and what it brings, the event which brings on dread and despondency (albeit, short-lived) for me: my birthday! Now, I do not need to hear, once again, the profound comment of my optimistic friends, “well, Pat, just think of what the alternative is!’ That really does not make me feel any less “aged” or better about the additional number I will be putting on applications and forms. And, the worst, hearing my doctor’s receptionist inquiring, loudly, for all the other waiting patients to hear, “Mrs. Bubash what is your age now?” How covert would it look if instead of giving her a verbal answer, I wrote the number on a piece of paper and slipped it to her? As I sat in church this past week, the words of the minister echoed what I was feeling about beginning this New Year. As with every year, there will be wonderful times of family, fun, and frivolity filling the now clean, empty calendar pages, but, without a doubt, these pages will also contain funerals, hospital visits, events of sadness, loss and grief, it is, as it is, the onward flow of life. I was never more aware of this ongoing current of life than this Christmas. This was one of those rare years when my west coast daughter with her family in tow came to us for the holiday. And, it was understood; my parents would also be staying with us. This was a favorite granddaughter, and great grandson coming to town: a grandson born on my dad’s birthday, a first male after three generations of females! The two Patricks would share the holiday under the same roof. No way would these grandparents/great grandparents be anywhere but here, in my house for the holidays! Nine years had passed since we had all been together for Christmas. We were all looking forward to this shared time. I cherished having my parents with us, but I found myself overcome and saddened by the thought, this could easily be a last Christmas with us as a family of five generations. My parents, like me, were, also, adding years to their calendar. Along with all these emotional wafflings of mine, I, also, found myself getting annoyed at my dad’s constant looking over my shoulder as I cooked, indicating what I wasn’t doing right. He is an excellent cook who tends to “know” how it should be done! And he is not hesitant to tell you even in your kitchen. Although I might wish for less of his kitchen influence, my dad is a positive personality. Not so, with my mother who is very much the epitome of “the cup is half empty” constantly complaining about the...

read more

And Where Did You Go to High School?

Posted by on January 19, 2012 in Musings | 0 comments

And Where Did You Go to High School?

PUBLISHED  -  ST LOUIS REFLECTIONS  -  DECEMBER 2011 Those new to St. Louis are always mystified the first time they are encountered with this question. Regardless of the length of their residency, be it origin of birth or a transplant to our fair, and, highly humid city, they will, without a doubt, eventually be asked the question, “and, where did you go to high school”? The question may evolve as they smooze at a cocktail party, engaged in a casual conversation while waiting in line at the grocery store, attending a parent meeting at their child’s school, posing in downward facing dog at yoga class or even by a wedding guest at their own wedding! Without a doubt at some point everyone who resides in St. Louis will be asked-this question, eventually, and inevitably. Knowing where someone went to high school is integral to a variety of relationships in this city. An aunt visiting from Kansas City initiated a discussion regarding this St Louis phenomenon. Her interest in learning the “why” of the question was brought into conversation the morning after her arrival. We were camped out in my kitchen chugging our much-needed cups of coffee. We were anticipating the desired effect of the caffeine to bring us into some semblance of alertness. Finally, we felt a plateau of wakefulness, enough so, to have a coherent conversation. My aunt spoke beginning our musings on the topic of St. Louis and its quest for where one went to high school. Days before her visit to my house, she had read an article in a local Kansas City newspaper. The subject of the article pondering “why” the location of one’s high school was so important to St. Louis citizenry? What information was gleaned from the responder’s answer? Why did anyone care about the geographical setting of someone’s high school years? Rather, wouldn’t more important information be gained by knowing which college or university a person had attended? Wouldn’t the college alma mater provide a better educational profile, suggest the capabilities of the person more so, than the high school alma mater? To the author of the newspaper article the difference in academic expectations of the two settings placed college way above in significance. In his opinion, the professional world of work was more interested in the college not the high school of its employees. This would seem logical, but, then, he had never lived in St. Louis! My aunt surmised that knowing the location of where one’s higher learning i.e.: college education was acquired would give more insight as to the ability of the responder. For example, if a person responds with, “Harvard” or “Duke” or “Princeton”, the one receiving the answer is very impressed! Even, if the college identified is not immediately recognized, a college degree denotes achievement, accomplishment, but high school? Isn’t it almost a given that everyone has a high school diploma? What matters where it came from? Well, maybe not in Kansas City, but in St.Louis, it matters. So, what is the point if this question? What is learned from knowing where someone went to high school? Surprisingly, when I inquired of random persons, not the question of where they went to high school, but why they thought it was so frequently asked by St. Louisans. I...

read more

50 Plus and Still Counting

Posted by on January 19, 2012 in Musings | 0 comments

“You are only as old as you think you are,” It is all in your head,” and the classic, “It is only a number!” I am sure that every one of us has heard one or more of these profound commentaries regarding age as we add pages to our calendar. I am, also confident that the person stating these thoughtful admonishments is attempting to be positive for the listener. And, I would guess, without much success. Many of my friends have expressed their distress upon receiving their first copy of AARP magazine. My female friends are crushed the first time they are referred to as “Ma’am” (this doesn’t apply to women living in the south! Ma’am is applicable to all females, all ages!). Most distressing of all, is the first time the cashier at the movie theatre asks. “ senior rate”? I am confessing that for the first year or two upon acquiring senior status”; I would not accept the senior discount! Those extra two dollars meant nothing to me if the 17year old behind the window knew I was an “oldster”. I was delighted—thrilled when I would, on occasion, find a place that gave discounts at 55. It was not as painful owning up to 55, but 60, that was “tough”. Paying the extra money was worth not admitting to my years. And, why is this an emotionally difficult time for many of us senior citizens? As baby boomers we have worked most of our lives in productive professions; have accrued many years of life experiences, earned college degrees, and many even achieving postgraduate degrees or doctorates. Shouldn’t our endeavors be honored, valued and admired? Should be, but living in a society that worships youth, aging is not considered a “cool’ thing to do. Is there any of us who have not experienced the “youngster’ at work who refers to us as “mom” or “dad”? Younger colleagues often look upon their “older” colleagues as not being quite as savvy, up to date on technology, and oh yes, not appreciative of today’s music! Aren’t we the ones accused of being forgetful? (our minds slipping because we are “older”!) That youngster would never forget his or her turn to bring donuts! What really offended me was when my youngest daughter’s friends decided to affectionately call me “mom” – My issue with their choice of greeting for me was that unless I had given birth at the age of eight, there was no way that I could be this person’s mom! They were right behind me on the calendar. Calling me by my first name made a lot more sense. Certainly, it was more logical. I think addressing me as a mom made them feel younger! The real clincher for me with the age factor happened when I seriously began to write my book. I had subscribed to a writer’s magazine. As I was reading on ways to find editors, how to get their interest in my book, etc., a sentence loomed out at me: “don’t tell the editor that you are retired, and now have time to write. This creates the idea that you are older, and are just dabbling when others have been serious writers for years!” My immediate thought was, so what? I paid my dues, or rather...

read more

Borrowed Husbands

Posted by on August 5, 2008 in Musings | 0 comments

”Hey, can I borrow your husband”? Now, we know a hammer, hedge trimmers, a cup of sugar or an egg is not an unusual item for a friend or neighbor to ask us to lend out, but a husband? This request puts a whole new spin on what one might “borrow”. My good friend and colleague who made this request didn’t need Jim, my hubby, as a strong-armed man to wrestle a heavy piece of furniture up the stairs nor an escort for a holiday party, but, rather, some help with completing insurance forms. She needed his expertise on the subject-and; only for a short amount of time. This was how the request “to borrow”was imitated. Pris is one of a circle of girlfriends I have who are either divorced or widowed. She is quite content in her status as once married, now single. She is well educated, has a profession which she enjoys, and a full social life. She doesn’t need nor is she looking for a permanent male in her household –a borrowed man, is fine, no perfect! She can use him (no abuse) and send him back home to me once he has provided her with the information she needs. I am quite happy that I can loan Jim out to Pris and or other girlfriends who may need some advice regarding house maintenance, websites or other skills for which Jim is known to be highly proficient. His abilities and his graciousness in helping is greatly appreciated. And, that is the key word here, not borrowed, but “appreciated”. As his wife, I, sometimes, no, most of the time, take his ability to do so many things for granted. My friends give him the kudos that, as a wife, I tend to forget. Wives, often see their spouse’s abilities and attributes as part of the package of being a married couple. We do our thing: cooking, the laundry, etc. the husband does his, house maintenance, yard work, etc. In our household, Jim takes on another position: computer “techy”. I mentioned this “borrowing” exchange to a male colleague who was quite surprised that this relationship worked so well for my single friends and, that I was comfortable with it. He commented, “In most situations where there are two women, one male, someone gets jealous. One female feels the attention is being taken away from her.” I guess he is thinking of that old adage, “two’s company, three’s a crowd.” At a young age, girls seem to be in tossed into the role of appealing to the opposite sex. Attracting and wanting male attention was quickly learned. I have even noticed how girl infants seem more attracted to male voices, attending to the lower vocal tones of whatever man is in the room. As females, we grow up learning what it takes to win over the men in our lives. I am sure each of us has experienced women who are so relentless in acquiring a male, they lose valuable female friendships. Early on, I valued my long lasting female relationships, treating them equally as important as the relationships with the men in my life. Entering this mature phase of my life, I find these friendships even more valuable. We have had years to share good and difficult experiences,...

read more

Liberating and Empowering: The Ability to Forgive

Posted by on August 5, 2008 in Musings | 0 comments

A compelling account of forgiveness evolved as the result of a horrific crime. The scene of the crime was a remote deserted area of St.Louis. What decades ago had been an amusement park site had been reinvented as a hiking trail. Often it doubled as a gathering spot for lovers or those involved in questionable activities. April 4, 1991 the park and the bridge overhead would become memorable for the atrocities committed that evening. Two young women, sisters, 19 and 20 years of age, and a male cousin had decided to hike up to the top of the bridge. While they were enjoying the nighttime view, the lovely spring air, four young men approached them. The four men robbed the three, then brutally attacked and raped the two women. After the attack the three cousins were forced to jump off the bridge, which spans the Mississippi River, towering 93 feet above the water. Miraculously the cousin survived and was rescued. One sister’s body was later pulled out of the river; her sibling’s body was never recovered. The crime horrified the community, causing even greater animosity between two ethnic groups: the three who had been attacked were white, three of the four attackers, black. The trial resulted in death sentences for two men, a third man received a life sentence, and the youngest of the group, 15 at the time of the crime, served half of his 30 year term, and then was released. Citizens of the St.Louis community had a tough time getting beyond this crime. And, for the family members, there was no comfort. The male cousin felt responsible for not protecting the young women. At the beginning the police even questioned him as a suspect. They couldn’t understand how he was able to survive the jump off the bridge. He was cleared, and later won a lawsuit against the police department. As she observed the emotional pain suffered by her brother, and other members of the family, the sister felt compelled to do something. Everyone was falling apart- how could she help? The answer came in the writing of the story, a catharsis for her and, hopefully, for others. The book, A Rip in Heaven was published in 2004. A few years later as I was scanning the local newspaper I spotted an article that immediately caught my attention. There was a picture of the two sisters followed by an update on one of the convicted attackers. Any time I saw a photo of these two sisters, I would became tearful: they had the same dark eyes and hair of my daughters. So as much as I was abhorred by the story, I was, also, drawn to it. There had been an outcry from people of all rank and file demanding that the execution of this last convicted attacker progress as scheduled. Defense had cited that he was of low mentality, didn’t participate in the crime, and was simply, a frightened observer. . I read on, but the sentence that boldly, glaringly struck me was: the mother of the girls had forgiven this young man! She was part of a group that was asking for clemency, not an execution. Her Christian beliefs had provided her with the ability to work through her pain, and forgive this young...

read more

You May Be In Love, But Your Children Aren’t!

Posted by on August 5, 2008 in Musings | 0 comments

“This is the most wonderful person I have ever met. I know this is my soul mate. Why are my children acting so horrible?” Lamenting words spoken from frustrated, disappointed, and, frequently, angry parents. Having experienced a failed marriage, the thought of a second chance at love, a future filled with the “right” one, was glorious! But, the kids were not on the same path. Behaviors of rudeness, defiance, failing grades, anything that took away from their parent’s ability to enjoy a new love. The kids were at war, and the “most wonderful person in the world” was the enemy! As I listened to these frantic parents who were fearful of losing this second chance at love, I could hardly contain myself. As soon as I could interject a word, I would very calmly say, ‘You may be in love, you may have found your soul mate, but your child (ren) already have a parent, the one you divorced. They already had a life, a family that you were part of before this (most wonderful, amazing, intelligent) person came along.” Typically, this would make the parent pause, ponder, and then pounce! “Well, what am I supposed to do? I don’t want to lose this woman (or man). She is the best thing that ever happened to me!” When I felt I had the full attention of the person sitting in front of me, I gave them some suggestions. Suggestions not only that I had learned through reading, workshops, training, but personally. Often, the personal suggestions are the most meaningful as they have been learned first hand. Out of my understanding of the situation, also, comes my empathy. · Remember this is the person YOU are in love with. Don’t expect your children to feel the same way. · Don’t break dates with your children to spend time with the new love. If you have always gone to your son’s soccer game, never missing one, don’t start now. It will be an immediate competition between your new love and your child. · Don’t insist that your children attend events with you and this new person. Ask if they want to go to the Saturday matinee, and calmly accept a “no” if that is the answer you get back. · Don’t bring her children along every time you have your children. Most children of divorce feel they lose time with the non-custodial parent. Sharing precious time with the children of a parent’s main squeeze typically is resented. · Do discipline your own children! Otherwise you will have resentful children, saying, “You aren’t my boss” to both of you. · Remember you divorced your children’s other parent. Respect that relationship, and speak with regard, not disdain of the ex-spouse. · Time is of essence. Allow your children time to know this person. Don’t rush them to judgment or approval. “I never introduced my children to someone until I knew this person was special. If it was a casual relationship, not something serious, I didn’t feel my children needed to be involved.” This was a message I heard from men and women who were dating. I think it has a lot of merit. Children, who have experienced the disillusion of their parents’ marriage, do not need to be given false hope. It has...

read more

“Sandwiched In”

Posted by on July 17, 2008 in Musings | 0 comments

“We are “the sandwich” generation.” I first heard this term as I was interviewing couples for my book, Successful Second Marriages. I didn’t give the expression much thought then. I was focusing on the details of how my interviewees had kept their marriages intact. My interest was on second marriages rather than “sandwiching”. Months later in conversations with friends who were juggling children and parents at the same time, the term popped into my mind. Listening to the frustrating and stressful words of my friends, the meaning became clear. I, also, realized that four out of the nine couples that I had interviewed for my book were experiencing this role; they were deep into being members of ” the sandwich generation.” Exactly what does this term mean? It is describing a generation that has the dual task of having dependent children coupled with the responsibility of taking care of aging parents. This situation hits many of us in the 50 plus range. We know from statistics that our 50 plus population has, also, experienced a high divorce rate. So, with the combination of needs from children and older parents, it is not difficult to imagine the demand these needs, physically, emotionally, and even financially creates for a couple. This is true for any married couple no matter what number their marriage may be! Marcia and David had not rushed into a second marriage. They had both been single for a number of years. The decision to marry was not made lightly, nor quickly. Within few months after their marriage, David was given a choice; his dad living with them or in a nursing home in Nebraska. Wasting no time, and without complaint, his wife of only a few months, Marcia, firmly said, “he will live with us” They immediately brought David’s eighty six year old dad to live with them. David, did not ask Marcia to do this, but she loved David, and knew how emotionally stressful this choice was for him. Most of the time, Marcia, was the one who spent time with her new father- in-law. She barely knew David’s dad when he came to share quarters with them. Laughing as she shared many positive, humorous anecdotes of “life with dad”, it was obvious Marcia had fallen in love with the dad as she had with the son. As she spoke, David looked on adoringly. ° He stated, “Mary was my dad’s angel”. Anyone could see that Mary’s willingness to care for her father-in-law only increased the love and regard David had for her. Rather than creating extra baggage in this second marriage, the care of his dad had brought them closer. Kevin and Sherry had been married just two years when Kevin approached Sherry with the question, “what can I do for my mom?” Kevin was the only child of a long divorced mother. There was no other family. He was “the” family. His mother was living in Arizona far from St.Louis where he resided. Kevin and Sherry had not entered into this second marriage without a lot of conversation, reflection on their previous marriages, and expectations for this second time. Having a mother-in-law a mile down the road might have made many spouses cringe with dread, first, second or whatever number the mother-in-law was! But...

read more

Sixty Plus years of Incompatibility

Posted by on January 18, 2008 in Musings | 0 comments

Would you describe a marriage of 66 years as one, which exemplifies “compatibility”? I would guess that most people when presented with this question would, without hesitation, respond with a resounding, “of course”! And, in most situations, this response would be accurate. But, I have encountered, and in a very personal, intimate way, an opposite opinion to the above question; the compatibility of such a lengthy union. This personal situation happens to exist in my own family. The couple that I am referring to happens to be MY parents! - My sisters and I have often shared a desire to write our parent’s story. Desiring to do so is the easy part, actually sitting down and writing is the hard part. My parents, do, indeed, have a love story transcending many decades. Their story may be very similar to the story of your parents. I am guessing that if you are reading 50PlusSt.Louis(a good read!) that you may very well have parents such as mine or be a couple like my parents: young teens who married during the years of World War 11 with little to no worldly goods or life experiences. Their wealth was in their relationship. During those years of war, many young couples married right out of high school, or not, like my mother and dad. My dad had been orphaned by the age of 11. His school years were erratic and unfinished. Fortunately, a caring, kind, couple came to his rescue. He lived with this couple and their two sons until his enlistment in the Navy at the age of 18. My mother, the only girl in a family of 8 children, was two months short of finishing high school. The end of her senior year was interrupted with the introduction of a cocky, yet charming, sensitive young man. Less than two months later, they eloped, literally, with only the clothes on their back –no thought of the future, only the moment. The refrain from the disco song, “Love Will Keep Us Together” could have been written for them. Three weeks later, the young, new husband was overseas. The next two decades brought frequent moves, frequent separations and three children. Every three years, my dad would serve a long nine months onboard a ship in the Pacific. The term “single” mom applied decades ago to military wives who stayed behind to maintain their households while their man was away. As difficult as it was when dad was away, the adjustment of having him home again after a nine-month absence, created its own trials and tribulations. The man of the house was back in his castle, and ready to rule! Mother had been a little less strict about everyday routines; a military dad was not. I was a “mature” adult before I came to an understanding of how trying those years were for all of us. With all this history, how surprising how shocking was the following scenario: My husband and I traveled to my parent’s home in southern Missouri to celebrate their 66th anniversary. As we sat there, eating breakfast, my feisty little Irish dad, looked up from his plate of eggs to make an unexpected, emotionless comment, “You know we really are incompatible”! My husband, mother and myself were speechless. How could you respond...

read more

Pursuit of Happiness:

Posted by on September 28, 2006 in Musings | 0 comments

Real Happiness: The Acquiring or the Pursuit? Life in America: everyone wants happiness, everyone should have happiness. Our pursuit for happiness becomes an ongoing continuous task, a search for the one thing that will fill us up, satisfy whatever it is that we think will end search, satisfy our craving- for whatever? Find “the” happiness, and life will be beautiful, perfect. Joe Pfeffer, PhD, has made the observation that it isn’t an object or an emotion that you attain in your pursuit, but, rather, it is the striving for happiness that is the real gift, where the real bonuses are. Stated another way, “The act of striving for happiness may actually be “the” happiness we are seeking, rather, than the tangible or non-tangible object we think we must have. The acquiring isn’t the ticket to happiness, but, in pursuit we are engaged, focused, absorbed in a goal, That is where the happiness lies, the actually working towards what we perceive as happiness. Have you ever found yourself finally getting your hands on something that you just had to have, couldn’t live without, everyone had one, but you: a new Ipod. You saved for it, you waited until it went on sale, got a bit of a discount, and as quickly as you acquired it, the newness wore off, and, you were back to “what now”? Because as we all know, as fast as one high tech product comes onto the market, another one is already lining up for replacement. I see this as a comparison to the adage, “it is not the destination, but the journey that counts? If we concentrate only on the “end” result or desire, we miss the true pleasure – the journey or in this scenario, the pursuit, the act of striving. For most of us, at least once in our lifetime, we craved a new car, knew without a doubt, a new set of wheels would spike our happiness barometer. So, you took out a loan, went shopping for your dream car. It was great. You felt happy every time you got in the driver’s seat, smelled the new car smell all over again. Happy, oh yes! Then the first payment came due, the first scratch appeared on the door, and the leather seats lost their new car smell. . Your happiness slipped a notch or two. As the car gained years, miles, it was nothing special any more. You had to find another source of happiness to strive for-another tangible. Having been a counselor (and a wife) for many years, I have observed how pursuing happiness is not only an individual task, but also, applies to married couples. In the beginning of the relationship, comes the excitement of the “ring”, the thrill of being engaged. Oh, such happiness cannot be contained! Now plans for the event begins, more happiness as the big day arrives. Once married, a couple delights in the joy of being newlyweds, followed by the acquiring of a home (satisfying the American Dream), next, the big screen plasma TV, and, a must, new furniture to go with the new TV. The list goes on, and on. And, briefly, each new dream, each new piece of furniture brings happiness, but, only momentarily. Once all these “things” are acquired, home, TV, furniture,...

read more