The thief of joy

rockiesI’m off to the national conference of Romance Writers of America this week, gang! I’ve never been to Colorado, and I’m wicked excited to see it. McIrish is coming to the conference this year, because he loves the Rocky Mountains, and we’re staying a few extra days to see some elk, hopefully. Maybe a grizzly bear, too. I’ve already planned how to save McIrish, so don’t worry about us. : )

teddyI’ve been thinking a lot about the writing community, and mostly how wonderful it is and how I can’t wait to see so many of my friends. But it’s also a time when comparison kicks in. There are some of the bestselling authors in the world there, and some who’ve been working away for decades without ever breaking out. There are household names, and there are folks who won’t ever finish a manuscript, and there’s everyone in between. Comparison, as Teddy Roosevelt said, is the thief of joy, and it can be hard not to feel down about the writing game—or life—from time to time.

Recently, one of my wise friends gave us some great advice on one of our girls nights. Instead of saying, “My career isn’t nearly as good as hers,” add on a little word. Yet.  Or right now. It puts things in a better perspective, doesn’t it? And it’s not just for career stuff…it could be anything. I am in a horrible depression…right now.Right now says it’s temporary. That it’s not a life sentence. I’ve never found the one sounds so final. Change that to I haven’t found the one yet, and it feels like much more of a real possibility, doesn’t it? Attitude, as I tell my kids, opens a lot of doors.

A few years ago, an author friend of mine was so frustrated. She’d written a really gorgeous book, and it just wasn’t selling, and she didn’t know why. It had everything going for it a book should…except sales. She told me she felt like she was shouting into the wind, and all she wanted was for people to read the book and let it touch their hearts. I commiserated; been there, done that. Some things are out of our control, I told her. Try to let it go.

TheTemporaryWifeWhat I should’ve said was, “The book’s not a bestseller yet, Jeannie.” Because lo and behold, a few years later, the book, which had been out for years now, suddenly hit a nerve, and landed on the USA TODAY bestseller list. Jeannie had kept at it. She’d kept writing. She hadn’t given up. For the rest of her life, she’ll have that title, and that’s a pretty great title to have: USA TODAY bestselling author.

Try not to compare yourself to other people and let yourself to feel small. There’s always a path to finding your way. You can do it. I know you can.

(To order Jeannie’s book, which is absolutely fantastic, visit www.jeanniemoon.com.)

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Mean girls

 

The other day, I was at a block party, talking to a person I only see once a year or so. She’s very pleasant, and we were just chatting when her daughters came up and demanded the car keys, which she didn’t have.

angry-1296476_640Without going into details, suffice it to say that the resulting exchange demonstrated these girls, both older than sixteen, to be the rudest, nastiest girls I’ve ever encountered. I haven’t been able to stop thinking about them. I felt so bad for their mother for A) having to live with them; B) being humiliated in public by them; and C) having raised them in such a way that they felt this was okay. Their disgust for her, their lack of respect, and what even seemed like hatred was just horrible to witness. These girls were not sullen or hormonal or sassy—they were cruel. Nasty, careless and snotty. In my experience, their parents are not any of those things. They’ve always seemed quite nice, but the girls have long had a reputation as being utterly horrible.

Had they been my children, I would’ve taken their phones, tossed them in the pond, told them they could walk home, kicked them out of my house and stopped paying college tuition. I recognize that the girls talked that way because they knew they could get away with it, which is sad and distressing. What kind of people will they be in society when they treat their own mother that way? Crappy people, that’s what.

Mostly, I felt like hugging the mom. “I’m sorry your daughters are so hateful and horrible,” I wanted to say. “I’m sure you did your best. This must hurt so much.”

IMG_6755McIrish and I have been blessed with our kids. We know that. They have an innate goodness, and we poured our hearts into raising them to be decent, kind people. However it happened, luck or hard work or both, it worked. They are good people, working to make the world better.

But I know more than one parent who has to deal with a wretched child, who is confounded by what to do now, who apologizes for their kids, who feels helpless and humiliated and ashamed. A parent who did their best, who maybe didn’t have the tools or knowledge to rein that kid in when it would’ve done some good.

baby-17327_640It’s so sad. When you give birth or adopt your baby, when you cuddle them close and read them books, you never imagine the day that they’d break your heart without so much as a second glance.

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Can’t beat the heat

porch of porchesThe heat makes me grouchy. Don’t get me wrong; I love summer, sitting on the porch morning and night. Where I live, it rarely goes above 90, and almost never above 95. We have what I call “Yankee air conditioning,” which means we have window fans. In the mornings, when the night air has been blowing into our house for hours, I close all the windows if the forecast is for temps over 85, then draw the curtains and pull the shades. I love my dim, cool house in the summer. Most days, this is sufficient, and around 6:30 or so, we open the windows. We live in the woods, and there’s almost always a breeze.

My parents didn’t believe in air conditioning when I was a kid. Nor window fans. We just suffered. I’d go into the cellar and read, emerging hours later, smelling slightly of mold, the only kid who got whiter in the summer. The library didn’t have AC either, nor our schools. When it was hot, a teacher might tell us to put our heads down on our desks. She’d turn out the lights and we’d just sit there, dozing. I loved that.

barn kittyMy Pop-Pop told me to run my wrists under cold water when I was hot. That way, he said, my blood would cool off. It probably didn’t, but it felt good. My sister and I would dampen paper towels and put them in the freezer, then lie strewn on couches with the stiff, thin cloths on our foreheads, like wealthy Victorian women suffering heat stroke. We’d go into the woods and sit under trees, or sometimes climb them so we could be closer to the breeze. Later, when we got a pop-up camper, we’d sit there, though it was hotter, and play cards with our friend, Beth, three tweens sweating and dealing like old pros. “One-eyed jacks are wild. How many to you, Hilly?”

The barn always felt cool. My sister and I would sit on the edge of the feed barrel and push our feet into the cracked corn, which felt good. The horse would stroll around and sigh, flicking flies with her tail, and the goat would nuzzle my sister. Our barn kitty would appear from somewhere unexpected, yawning from a nap.

When it was unbearably hot in our adolescent minds, we’d call our friend, Mr. Curtis, and ask if we could come for a swim. He had a beautiful pool, and he always said yes, and it was bliss.

When I was 17, my dad “surprised” my mom by putting in a swimming pool while she was away. She was not happy to see a back hoe digging up her yard, but what was done was done. Mom didn’t swim in that pool for years out of protest, but we kids had no such qualms. Unfortunately, we were kind of old by then. Or so it felt. I tended to stick to being a cellar-dweller with a dish of ice cream and a book.

leavesSummers are hotter these days. When McIrish and I built out little house in the woods, we didn’t see the need for central air conditioning. But you know how it is; we can stand the heat, but the damp sheets and furniture are yucky. Now, when a heat wave starts its inexorable plod from Chicago, we sigh and go to the basement and haul up a window unit and count the days till a few good thunderstorms will clear us out and bring back the lovely, clean air of a New England summer.

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Father’s Day, a fireman and a cat

Our dark lord and master

Our dark lord and master

Sometimes, our cat, who had been a semi-feral stray before we adopted him, likes to sleep in the barn, rather than come in at night. He’s mostly an indoor cat, but because of his origins, he was wretched at being kept in a hundred percent of the time. So we let him out, and he follows McIrish in the garden, or sleeps on the porch, flicking his tail, watching the hummingbirds with one eye. The barn is full of strange napping places (and mice), and he loves it in there as well. We often find him sleeping in the middle of a patch of flowers, crushing them, the only creature McIrish tolerates messing with his garden.

Deciding what we watch and when…

Deciding what we watch and when…

Last night, McIrish checked to see if Huck was on the porch, gave him a call and thought he was spending the night in the barn. (I was unaware of this…I always get him in, no matter how long it takes).

Around 3:00 a.m., McIrish bolted out of bed saying, “Huck! Huck!” and dashed outside in his boxers. I caught the end sounds of a cat in distress.“No!” I wailed and followed, taking the time to put on my boots and a jacket. McIrish was already in the valley with a flashlight, calling our cat’s name. Our woods are thick and go on forever, and my heart was already sinking.

Who's your daddy?

Who’s your daddy?

We have coyotes in our woods, and fisher cats, and owls. In fact, an owl was hooting, and I thought maybe the owl had tried to swoop up Huck, then dropped him somewhere, so I was heading toward the sound, hoping to find my kitty. Hoping my flashlight would catch the patch of Huck’s white fur in the darkness, or the gleam of his eyes. I was already picturing his injuries, and imagining how long it would take us to get to the 24-hour vet in the next town…or if it would be too late.

After ten or fifteen minutes of tromping around, I decided to change directions.

“He’s gone, honey,” McIrish called from another part of the valley.

“Was it a coyote?” I asked.

“I think so.”

Here's a good place to nap...

Here’s a good place to nap…

I could hear the sadness in my husband’s voice. Huck likes him best, and not one evening passes without the cat sitting on his lap, purring. Only when McIrish isn’t home are the kids and I graced with Huck’s presence. If it was a coyote, Huck was dead already.

The kids would be so sad. We would all be so sad. I started to cry.

And then… “Huck!” McIrish called. “He’s here! I got him!”

By the time I had thrashed my way back to our yard, McIrish and Huck were inside. Our kitty wasn’t hurt at all. Apparently, he’d been sleeping on the porch, right outside our bedroom window, and a coyote ambled past. Huck had growled, then yowled, and when McIrish dashed out, the coyote ran one way, and Huck ran another. His fur was still all puffed up, and he tried to wriggle away as I checked him for injuries.

“No more sleeping outside!” I said to both husband and cat.

“No,” McIrish agreed sheepishly. “I did tryto get him in.”

Terribly spoiled.

Terribly spoiled.

Huck jumped up on his lap and started to purr. “He’s thanking his hero,” I said, watching the pair, feeling slightly snubbed. “There’s no A for effort where Huck is concerned.” But McIrish had been the one to hear our kitty, had been the first one out, scaring off the coyote, had been the one to find Huck crouched in the underbrush.

“You were great,” McIrish said generously, petting his little buddy. Outside, the birds started to sing. We put Huck in the cellar on his kitty bed and went back to sleep (eventually).

firefighter daddy

Firefighter Daddy

I’m so glad on this Father’s Day we didn’t have to deal with the loss of our friend. I’m glad we didn’t have to tell the kids our cat was gone. I’m glad to have the type of husband who will charge out into the dark woods in boxer shorts to save the cat. Imagine what he’d do to protect our kids.

Way back when, on our first date, I asked McIrish if he had any pets. He did, he said—a kitten named Joe, who had approached him in the streets of Greenpoint, Brooklyn during a thunderstorm, tiny and soaking wet, mewing. “If you come inside,” McIrish had told him, “you can be my cat.” Joe agreed.

I think that was when I knew we’d get married.

 

Happy Father’s Day, honey—from me, the kids, the dogs, and Huck especially this year.

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You’ve got a friend

 

 

I think a lot of us, especially us women, know how to be a great friend to each other. It’s something we pride ourselves on, and a subject Joss Dey and I discuss at length in our podcast, Crappy Friends(currently on hiatus, but tune in and listen to our first season!).

But being good to ourselves is harder. I recently wrote an essay about how easy it is to find fault with our physical selves, but it’s not limited to that, is it? I should’ve been smarter. Worked harder. Done more. It can be rare that we sit back and say, “Nice work, you!”

So I’ve been thinking about ways to be better to ourselves, to turn away from the negative voices in our heads and sometimes, in society, and really take good care of us. Here are a few things I’ve found that work for me. I hope they work for you, too, and that you have a whole bunch of ways to make yourselves feel good and healthy and at peace.

bikeRide a bike. I’m of the meandering through the streets kind mindset when it comes to bike riding, rather than the Tour de France wannabes. I never regret riding a bike. There’s something special about being faster than a walk, slower than a car. You see things you might miss, and the ease of pedaling is peaceful. I love a bike trail. I often ride my bike while wearing a dress, since I love summer dresses. It’s very breezy and pleasant.

cat's eyeMake yourself over. Late at night, when McIrish is at work, I like to watch YouTube videos and try new stuff. Do I look silly in a cat’s eye? Sure do! But it’s fun just the same, and maybe I learn a new trick or two. If nothing else, I’m doing it just for me, just for fun.

Plan a night of sheer laziness. PJs on at 6:00, dinner of Annie’s Macaroni and Cheese and an oaky Chardonnay, Netflix or a movie or whatever. But plan that night. Don’t revert to it because you have nothing else to do. Say to yourself, “Tonight is mine.” It feels different.

Get off social media. Listen. I love social media. I’m glad you’re on social media, too! But when Twitter becomes an echo chamber of anger and despair, or you’re unfriending people on Facebook because of their politics, or you’re crying because their lives look so awesome…it’s time to read a book.

flowersBuy or pick yourself some flowers, just because they’re pretty. When you see them, so cheerful and bright, their only job to make you happy…that’s nice, isn’t it? Do that more.

Visit your elders or volunteer with the elderly. They’re usually so happy to see you, aren’t they? You’ve made their day. The Princess worked at a nursing home last summer, and she was told she had the prettiest teeth. Patients would pat her cheek, marveling at her firm skin. My skin isn’t so firm, but no one seems to mind. Dearest Son would wear a tie when he volunteered during a memoir-writing project, and boy, did that go over well. He always felt kind of heroic in those sessions.

Look in the mirror and say something nice to yourself. Consider those words. Don’t find reasons to deflect them. Own it. You have many wonderful qualities. It’s good to remind yourself of that.

It’s a tough world out there, folks. Take care of yourself, and take care of others. We all have the power of kindness. Sometimes, we have to use that on ourselves.

I’ll be off for two weeks while I’m on vacation with my family, gang. See you soon!

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Mama Bear

Not Kristan

Not Kristan

When I was in sixth grade, my best friend was this wonderful girl named Amy. She was everything I wasn’t: adorable, petite, a snappy dresser…and a gifted gymnast. We were definitely the odd couple, me with my thick glasses and bad hair, awkward at best. Nevertheless, we were besties.

Gymnastics were very in at that time, and with Amy, who could do back flips and full splits, I found myself doing cartwheels on the front lawn. I never mastered a back walkover, but with Amy’s help, I improved a little bit.

Our gym teacher came up with the idea of having a gymnastics demonstration for the entire school. You’d have to audition to be in the demonstration; Mrs. Goldfarb didn’t want an afternoon of somersaults and ineptitude.

A word about Mrs. Goldfarb.

You may have noticed a few gym teachers in my books, and how they don’t like children. Mrs. Goldfarb, I’m looking at you.

Nope.

Nope.

She wore her whistle like a weapon. She was rail-thin and intolerant of awkward, overweight, bookish children (me, for example). We played dodgeball far too often, and we geeks often left gym class with red marks from balls whipped at our exposed legs and arms. She had no patience for the kids who weren’t athletically inclined, and indeed, often made fun of us.

In sixth grade, I was already five-foot-seven and wore a C cup bra. I towered over Mrs. Goldfarb, outweighed her, and already I knew that I would never be lean and athletic and coordinated. I felt incredibly wrong around her, with her cool stare and impatient voice. Auditioning to perform in front of the entire middle school? In a leotard? I’m getting hives just typing this.

Still nope.

Still nope.

But Amy was my friend, and very optimistic and upbeat about me participating (love you, Amy!). She helped me design a gymastics routine, and we practiced and practiced in my front yard after school for weeks. In the end, I still couldn’t do a back walkover, but I could do a diving somersault, and I thought that was pretty good.

The day of the auditions came. Amy was a shoe-in, obviously. Same with my friend Laurie, who could do a back and front walk-over. Mrs. Goldfarb called us girls to try out, watching with her shark-like eyes, and made notes on her clipboard. I waited and waited for my turn to audition. But the hour grew late, and finally, she blew her whistle and said, “That’s it. We’re out of time. We have too many people as it is.” Ten or twelve of us hadn’t auditioned yet.

In a rare show of spine, I left Mrs. Goldfarb a note, which I remember almost word-for-word still. “I practiced for weeks and you didn’t even give me a chance. THANKS A LOT!!! Kristan Higgins.” She came into the locker room while I was still there, read the note and looked at me. “Too bad,” she said. With that, she left.

Never.

Never.

When I got home, my mom asked how things went. “I didn’t get to try out,” I said, and burst into tears. “There were too many girls.”

My mom was then and is still a pretty mellow person. Her advice to her kids was generally, “Work it out.” She was as opposite a helicopter parent as could be. If she couldn’t see or hear us and we weren’t lying in a puddle of arterial blood, she’d assume we were fine. We played in the woods, talked to strangers, inflicted physical harm upon each other and rode bikes and horses without helmets. Mom didn’t care if we had a mean teacher, because our mean teachers weren’t as mean as the mean nuns shehad as a kid. If there was a bully on the school bus, we were told to avoid him. Fail a test? Study harder next time. I didn’t expect a lot of sympathy about the gymnastics things.

If I hadn’t made the cut, I think Mom would’ve patted my hand and told me “Good try.” But she’d seen me out there with my much more talented friend, working on those cartwheels and pikes. She knew exactly how untalented I was.

Without another word, Mom picked up the phone, called the school and proceeded to tear Mrs. Goldfarb another orifice. How dare she deprive a dozen girls the chance even to try? How was that fair? Her poor time management skills were her own problem. What kind of a message was she sending?

The next day, Mrs. Goldfarb did something completely unexpected. She apologized. Of course, every girl would get a chance to audition for the demonstration. There would be another afternoon of try-outs. It was her own mistake; she had underestimated the amount of interest, and she was very sorry if anyone felt bad. She met my eyes, and I knew: my gentle, funny, hippie-style mother had kicked some serious ass.

That's more like it.

That’s more like it.

The rest of us got to audition. I made the cut. The day of the demonstration, my mom came to school and watched from the back. I was terrified (why had I wanted to do this? why?). When my turn came, I was pretty bad. Amy was magnificent.

As she drove me home, my mom said, “I thought you were the best one there.”

Thanks, Mom. Thanks for lying, but even more, thanks for sticking up for me.

 

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Lovely Canada

 

elk!I’m leaving Alberta today after five lovely days here…three on my own in Banff National Park, and two with the Calgary Romance Writers.

I love Canada. I’d move here, I think, though I’m attached to the US in all its messy glory. But Canada feels easier, and more relaxed. People are happier, it seems. There’s less overt racism. National health care, which saves households a lot of money. It’s a cleaner nation, and Canadians take a civic pride in making sure it’s that way. Today, for example, schoolchildren were picking up trash along the highways in Alberta. People don’t speed, because fines are whopping huge. We should do that in the U.S., I think. Really enforce those speed limits. It’s much nicer driving in Canada without maniacs and trash on the road.

hotelCanadians are really proud of being Canadian, whether they immigrated or were born here. All are delighted that I was visiting. I imagine tourism is a huge economic contributor, but even more than that, it felt like every Canadian was saying, “It’s great here, eh?”

I did love the accent, and found myself sounding more and more Canadian as the days passed. My vowel sounds rounded, and yes, I said aboot a couple of times.

The natural beauty is utterly glorious, and something that Canadians might take for granted. When I told one woman about my love of elk, she said, “They’re like mice to us…everywhere and kind of a nuisance.” When I admired the Rockies, another said, “Oh, yeah, if you like white, they’re beautiful.” But she smiled and winked, almost as if she knew how lucky she was to live in such an area, but it would unCanadian to brag about it.

sheep!

Canadians these days view us Americans as unfortunate, with our political division, gun violence and racism issues. A lot of people asked me how I voted in the last election. Not all of them are thrilled with their Mr. Trudeau, but there’s not the polarity and anger we see in America. (Everyone agrees that Justin is super handsome.)

There are so many Aussies in Canada! Being part of the British Commonwealth, they have an easy time getting a two-year work visa. You’re just as likely to hear an Oz accent as you are a Canadian. Irish, too. No complaints here! At my hotel, the staff wore kilts. I liked that a lot.

mooseThe air was so clean and pure in the mountains, and I filled my lungs as much as possible, feeling like it would make me healthier.  When I finally saw my first elk, I got a little teary-eyed, and sat there, watching them for a good hour or so. They’re really big. Mellow at this time of year, but don’t get near them in October, I was told. More elk kill people than grizzly bears. If a black bear attacks you, it’s decided to kill you, whereas if a grizzly attacks you, it “might only want to maul you.” Moose are the most dangerous. Go figure. If you see a big footprint without claws, it’s a cat. Look up. Mountain lions like to pounce from above.

Everyone wanted to know how I liked their country. They were all pretty confident of the answer.

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Unsung talents

 

Even the cat was impressed.

Even the cat was impressed.

This morning, as I was heading out for the porch with my laptop, phone and coffee whilst also negotiating the in-and-out of three animals, I closed the door with my foot, timing it perfectly so no human or animal or electronic device was harmed. Not one drop of coffee was spilled.

This, my friends, takes talent. And since I’ve been sitting in a chair or sleeping the past three days, sidelined with a disgusting stomach virus McIrish lovingly passed onto me, I figured I’d write about underappreciated talents. In other words, my life has been really quiet and I have nothing to tell you. : )

And so, my unsung talents.

My patronus (right)

My patronus (right)

Carrying in all the grocery bags at once and also unlocking the door without putting anything down. I am the human pack mule (see above). Bonus points: I can do this with a baby on my hip as well.

Psychically knowing who’s calling. Sure, it’s not as fun as in the days of yore, when there was no caller ID, but when the phone rings and I tell McIrish, “It’s your mother!” there is still a deep satisfaction in hearing him say, “Hi, Mom” seconds later.

Finding lost items. The kids and I used to have an agreement. If they lost something and couldn’t find it, they’d have to pay me a dollar if I could find it in under a minute.

"Mommy? Where's my--" "Found it!"

“Mommy? Where’s my–“
“Found it!”

Boom! Mommy’s rich! I can still find the cell phone charger when all hope is gone.

Waking up without an alarm. If I have to get up at a designated time, I will, without fail, wake up two minutes before that time, lie smugly in bed and wait for the alarm to go off 120 seconds later. I also don’t require a timer when baking. And speaking of…

Baking without measuring stuff. “Baking is precise,” people say. “You have to be so exacting.” I do not understand these words. To me, baking is all about the hallowed advice of my grandmother—until it’s right. No recipe is ever made exactly the same way twice, and yet I never fail (unless I’m using gluten-free flour, which doesn’t count).

Time for more saltines and ginger ale! Thanks for tuning in, gang.

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Eating Out Alone

steve martinBecause I travel a lot, I often eat out alone. This habit began a long time ago, back in the days when I was single. I’d bring a book and ask for a table for one and sit back and read, eat and eavesdrop. Hey. It’s kind of how I make a living.

I remember a Steve Martin movie called The Lonely Guy…he goes out to eat by himself and feels so self-conscious, like all the other people are looking at him. An imaginary spotlight shines on him, and he doesn’t enjoy the meal.

new friendI’ve never felt like that. Instead, I feel happy, kind of cool and slightly invisible, but in the best way. I love watching the interaction of the servers, since I used to be a waitress, and I make up stories for them—she’s in love with the bartender, but he’s got a honey, and she sits at the bar, glaring. The maître d’ hates the rude customer who just demanded a different table and whispers to a server. Foolish customer! These people are in charge of your food. Be nice! Some of the customers give me the best ideas for books. The older couple still so in love. The younger couple not speaking, both staring at their phones. Mental notes are taken by this author.

happy and aloneSometimes, I have to open my laptop while I’m eating alone, to check a flight or, say, write a blog. I’d rather read, but it’s fine. Kind of lovely, to have that convenience. While I might take a picture of my meal (see last night’s dessert), I don’t text or check social media while I’m eating. I’d rather try to enjoy the moment.

On this book club tour I’ve been on for GOOD LUCK WITH THAT, a lot of us have talked about things we’ve felt too self conscious to do, and how it’s time to get over that. Several readers have said eating out alone was one of them, and after reading the book, and talking with other readers, they’re going out alone, damn it. And eating dessert. And loving it.

That’s what I’m talking about. Girl power. Not letting social conventions tell you what you should and shouldn’t do. Ladies, I hope you pick a fabulous restaurant, and have the best time!

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Ten Ways to be a Good Wife

I’ve waxed poetic about McIrish’s excellence as a husband many times, and there will undoubtedly be more of the same, because he is the love of my life. But today, I thought I’d share some of the ways I try to give that love back. And so…

loveKristan’s List of Wifely Devotions

(Note to my children: feel free to stop reading here.)

Be happy to see your spouse when you or he or she walks through the door. Get off the phone, put the kids down, stop staring at your laptop and give your honey a hug and a kiss. Even if your day has been hellish, remember that you have someone to come home to, which isn’t a blessing everyone has.

Compliments. “You look very handsome today.” “This is the best broccoli I’ve ever had.” “Your butt looks great in those jeans.” It’s always a wonderful feeling to know you’ve been seen—make sure your partner gets that.

cookiesSpontaneity. The other day I left the house and was just thinking about my sweetie and how much I loved him, and even though I had seen him seven minutes before, I called him and told him I loved him. No other reason for the call. He was quite delighted. Maybe you bake a cake or cookies for no reason. Maybe you fold the laundry whilst unclothed. Just throwing out ideas.

Nooky. (Sorry, Princess and Dearest Son, but I told you to stop reading!) This is a major reason you got married, right? As the years pass, don’t forget to connect this way. It’s the thing that sets marriage apart from all your other relationships.

flowersMake sure your home is a pleasant place to spend time. I’m not talking about neatness or home décor, though yes, yes, I’m a clean freak and we all know it. What I mean is, this is the place where you two have built your life. Have that place reflect your happiness. I’m a big fan of flowers, photos of the family and good smells (and Clorox Cleanup, but I’ll stop now).

Respect the aging process. When McIrish and I met, he had a full head of the most beautiful black hair you’ve ever seen. Now, it’s silver, and he has what I call the lucky bald spot. I love that bald spot. I love his silver hair, because it means we’ve spent 26+ years together. Is he the young hottie I married? Nope. He’s the middle aged hottie I married.

toesBe confident. This is something that just popped out of my fingertips as I was writing. I guess what I mean is, don’t be an insecure wreck in constant need of validation. Own your intelligence, humor, good heart, adorable toes. Be your best self with your best person more than half of the time. You’re fabulous. Own it.

Make time for each other. If you don’t, you’ll end up divorced. Date night, whether it’s home or in a restaurant or taking a walk, is you showing your honey that you love spending time, just the two of you.

hugCompromise. Here’s a secret: I hate all the Jason Bourne movies. Guess how many times I’ve watched them? 10,853, that’s how many. I don’t even complain. I let my honey watch his man-crush because it makes him happy.

Believe in your honey. When they’re feeling insecure, blue, frustrated, be the person who reminds them just how wonderful they are. Look them in the eye and say, “I love you.”

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