The Garden That Love Planted

We all want someone who loves us this way.

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What is a Home?

What is a home?

What makes a house a home?  That question may be slightly different for each family, but it is the family that is essential to the home.  The structure could burn down, but the home would survive in the family that took it with them to the new location.

Home is much more than bricks, wood, or mortgage payments.  It is atmosphere, memories, unspoken or unwritten rules, it is essential.  Think about what you remember about your home growing up- you may have concrete memories of activities but those memories are wrapped in emotions.  That is the crucial key- emotions, atmosphere, the spirit of the place.  Was it a loving home, a home filled with fear, a home filled with laughter?  If your home was not a happy one, the good news it that you get a second chance.  You did not get to choose the home your were born in to, but you do get to choose the home you have now.  Now, you get to make your house a home and choose what you want to fill it with- laughter, happiness, good food, warm aromas and certainly the Spirit and peace of God.

To help women understand and to encourage them to make their house a home has been a long time passion for me.  Not that I have all the answers or make no mistakes, but I was fortunate to have a full time mother in my home growing up and she taught me many invaluable lessons.  I took those and with the guidance of the Holy Spirit,  improved upon them and set out to create a home in which my children could hear God speak, could be safe and free to be themselves, and would make many happy memories to look back on when they left home.  Not every home has children in it. Children are not what makes a house a home; however, if they are in the home they become a huge focus for as long as they are in your care.  The most essential element in the making of a home is the marriage.  If the marriage is not healthy, the home will not be, either.

Beginning with the end in mind is probably my mantra. If you want a marriage that stood the test of time, you must begin that journey with the mind set necessary to last the journey. If you want your children to leave home with a certain skill set or mind set or both, you have to begin parenting them when they are toddlers with those attributes that you desire in mind.  So that is what I did, I sought God and what he had in mind for my children and that is where I began.  Now, my four kids are 21, 19, 13, & 11.  I am seeing the fruit of all of our hard work- my husband is most certainly very involved- and it is good.  So, I desire to share what worked for me, what did not, & the lessons I learned as we have been on this journey.

Today, I am updating this post as I turn it from a page to a post. I love what I wrote 6 years ago. Those four kids are now 27, 25, 21, & 19. Two are fantastic mothers and business owners, one is about to graduate and go on to law school and one is currently beginning boot camp to become a United States Marine. What I have written is standing the test of time.

I pray that you will find the information in the pages and articles helpful, informative, and inspiring and I also hope you will laugh at the funny parts!  Without a sense of humor- life, marriage, & parenting will eat you up and spit you out!

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Talk About It! The Biggest Hurdle in a Marriage

On this Marriage Monday, I want to talk about the biggest hurddle you have had to overcome in your marriage.

For me and my love, it has been communication. I am betting, that this has been yours. Even if wasn’t THE biggest hurdle, I can guarantee it was key to you overcoming that hurdle. Communication is key when building a marriage and probably the most challenging aspect early on.

With us, it wasn’t even that one of us didn’t want to communicate, it was that we didn’t understand the other’s communication style. Every person comes from a nuclear family- even if they spent the majority of their childhood in the foster system. That nuclear family, for better or for worse, defined how that person communicated. Mostly, the ways of communication are defined by all the unwritten rules.

The unwrittten rules of communication.

Those little devils can really make communication hard. Its been said that the devil is in the details and the unwritten rules of communication are the details.

Think about it. For those of you that grew up with your mom in the house, what did it mean when she huffed? I know exactly what it means when my mother huffs. I have a whole vocabulary of sighs that my kids and my husband understand. However, a stranger would have no idea.

But this is what we bring into our marriage with us.

In my family, we communicated loud. Like all the time. If you wanted to be heard at a family gathering, you had to be louder than the person sitting next to you. I am telling you, it is an introvert’s nightmare. I married an introvert. I thought for a long time, that he hated my family. He didn’t, he just needed a nap- but that is a topic for another post!

So, in the beginning Tony would say “Stop yelling” and I was like, “I am not yelling. Would you like me to yell so that you can see the difference?” Tony on the other hand is a man of few words. I had to learn what his body language meant. After 28 years, I am pretty good. I still miss it sometimes, so I am still a fan of using your words.

Another example of different communication styles is the phrasing that is used. Tony, being a laid back guy who is, well, nice- would aske me, “Are you ready to go?” To this I would reply, “Yes” or “No”. In the early years this caused problems because in his mind, he just told me he was ready to go. In my mind- he asked me a question. Where I came from, I watched all the men in my family walk in and say, “I am ready to go.” I thought all men did it that way. So, we had to hash that out in the car.

As time went on, I still expected him to be more direct, but I also realized that that wasn’t his way. I needed and loved the steady love he gave me, with that came an indirect approach to communication. I choose to acknowledge that when he aske me if I was ready to go, that he was politely telling me that he was ready. I then showed him love and respect by leaving then, or at least communicating when I would be ready.

It’s funny, but because he didn’t grow up with direct communication- everything that was said had underlying meanings- he didn’t take what I said as what I meant. Trust me- I don’t know any other way to be. If I don’t want to have a conversation or I want to avoid conflict- I just don’t say anything or I make noises of agreement. I don’t speak in veiled meanings because I don’t know how. Now, learning how to phrase things so that it doesn’t sound like you are attacking the other person is important.

How something is said is just as important as what is said when you are communicating with your spouse.

Regardless of where you came from, learning to communicate in your marriage is essential.

On marriagetoday.com, Jimmy Evans shares this:

That’s how you overcome conflicts: You talk through them. Talk about money. Talk about sex. Talk about parenting issues. One study showed that 86 percent of divorced couples admitted they had communication problems in their marriages.

https://marriagetoday.com/the-six-levels-of-communication-in-marriage/

86% of divorces might could have been avoided if they had learned how to communicate. If you are having trouble in your marriage, get some help. There are a plethora of articles online to help improve communication. Apply what you know from communicating with people at work to your spouse. If you wouldn’t call your coworker an idiot, then don’t call your spouse and idiot. If you wouldn’t tell your boss that he was the biggest loser you ever met, don’t tell that to your spouse.

Sometimes, communication is hard because we think we should get to say whatever we want to our spouse. We don’t. That person we promised to love and cherish to death do us part should get the best of what we have to offer- especially our words.

So, what has been your biggest hurdle to overcome in your marriage?

My Leading Man

Every writer has to have an inspiration, a muse, or archetype from which they draw. Because I am an incurable romantic, I write romance. In real life, I WANT everyone to get that happily ever after.

When it comes to the leading man in a story- regardless of the genre- I am only drawn to an Alpha male. I have absolutely no use for anything less. Power is a tricky thing, but one thing that it always is is attractive. I truly believe that is the appeal of a uniform, it represents power and strength.

Now, here is where we get into arguments. So many assume that an Alpha male is a bully, a brute, or abusive. Many book reviews I have read stated that they did not like the male lead characters because they were Alphas and Alphas were toxic. Here is where they are wrong. A true Alpha is a leader, a protector, a warrior, and a good guy. I wouldn’t follow anything less and I wouldn’t trust my future to anything less. This also means, that I wouldn’t write anything less.

Those men that are bullies, brutes, and abusive are actually weak men who act out loudly. They don’t have what it takes to lead and let others around them succeed so they beat them down either emotionally, physically, mentally or all of these above. This is not strength. A fearful man is just as dangerous. A man who shrinks back in fear cannot be trusted to protect or fight for what is important.

I have had the pleasure of being married to an Alpha male for nearly 30 years. When we met, I had a lot of unhealed wounds. He was the safe place for me to heal. He loved me as I was, took my anger (even when he wasn’t the reason I was angry), let me be myself without criticizing who I was. He even took the physical punches I threw, but not for long because he wouldn’t tolerate abusive behaviors. He never raised a hand to me but he scared me good and I never hit him again. That is what an Alpha looks like.

I have also raised an Alpha male. I have seen how the heart of a warrior develops by watching it emerge early on and seeing what it looks like through each stage. My son has a very different personality from my husband, but their hearts are the same.

There is a misconception that Alpha males don’t feel deeply or get attached. This is so wrong. They do feel deeply. They are loyal. They are driven. They love deeply, so deeply that they would sacrifice their own safety or life in order to protect what is theirs and who they love. I have watched Tony do whatever was necessary to ensure that our children had what they needed and I have never had to wonder if I was loved.

Because of their strength of character, they aren’t afraid to get physical. Both my husband and my son will settle an argument with their fists- if it’s needed. However, it is rarely needed. I feel safe knowing that if anything went down, my husband will take care of me. Honestly, I could be as wrong and wrong could be and Tony would defend me. We might have a serious talk when we got home, but he will have my back no matter what.

So, it is easy to see where I get my inspiration for the leading men I write. In each and every one of them, there is a piece of Tony Ross. The characters have different personalities, but that warrior heart is the same. My characters talk a lot more than my husband, so much of what he says is in what he doesn’t say.

He also isn’t very reactive. This is a good thing because I am VERY reactive. But in a good story, people need to react. So, I write scenes that would cause Tony to react. This means that the love interests gets physically attacked or threatened, and/or quite often shot at- but nobody dies because in my world everyone gets the happily ever after.

Everyman needs a battle to fight and beauty to rescue- these are the men I write. I simply write him again and again and thank God that every night I sleep next to Tony Ross.

Don’t let that easy going smile and quiet personality fool you, mess with me or one of his children and he will rain down hell.

I adore him.

A Marine For Christmas- Cover Reveal

As I promised, this is the over reveal!

Well, sort of-

I have two covers and you get to vote on your favorite!

#1

#2

Leave your choice in the comments!

Do This One Thing To Make Your Marriage Stronger

The one thing my husband tells our children and any other young person who askes is this, “Move at least 3 hours from both sets of parents.” I have to say I agree.

Lest you think we hate our parents, let me set the record straight- we don’t.

But, with that said, if parents are close at hand the process of leaving your family of origin and creating your own, new, nuclear family will be greatly thwarted.

I had an overbearing mother and my husband had an over bearing father.

To be clear, neihter was overbearing because they hated us. They loved us dearly. The problem was that they both thought that they knew what was best for us but they didn’t agree on what that was.

So there Tony and I were caught in the middle. This created a lot of stress on our newly born marriage. We hadn’t been “grown” long enough to be comfortable with not doing what we were told by our parents.

I can’t really figure out why either thought we needed to be told what to do. I mean we were all of 19 and 21!

Can you blame them? I am still weighing in heavy on my 19 and 21 year-old children’s lives. They were just being parents and we were just being children.

And that was the problem, we needed to stop being children and be adults.

My second daughter did what her dad said. She left Canton and moved to Galveston TX, 5 hours away, with her new husband. She said that even though we weren’t the meddling kind of parents, she would have continued to depend on us instead of her new husband. The distance caused them to forge a tighter bond faster.

So, do yourself a favor, put some distance between you and your parents so that you can become one.

A Christmas Novella Coming Soon

As you already know, I have been exploring the possibility of self-publishing. As I weighed the pros and cons and read many articles on the subject, I thought how it would be nice if I had a book to experiment with before I pulled the trigger on my novel, Out of the Shadows.

About three weeks ago I woke up with a story idea playing in my head. I thought, “What if I wrote a Christmas Novella and had it drop December 1 on Amazon.”

I liked the idea! If you don’t know, generally a novella is between 17,000 and 40,000 words. I did the math and knew if I averaged 2000 words per day, I could be done in 10 days.

Looking pleased with myself.

So, I sat down and began to write. 14,000 words in, the computer ate 10,000 words. I almost despaired. But, I wanted to meet that goal! So, I kept typing. Turns out, that was just an unexpected edit. I like this version better!

Now, I’m 26,000 words in and should be finished by Friday.

Yay, me!

Stay tuned, a cover reveal is on the way!

What I Wish I Had Known… Two things that would have saved me so much grief.

When I married my husband at the mature age of 19, I had no idea of what I was getting into. Who does? What I also didn’t know, at the time, was that the unrealistic expectations of perfection and “normal” that I carried were going to steal so much joy and make adjusting to married life so much harder.

Here are two things I wish I had known:

  1. I wish I had known that all of these big, hairy, problems I thought we had were just normal challenges that every young couple faces. It is so clear to me now (I am 48 as I write this) that it takes time to blend two different families of origins, two different communication styles, two different sets of needs, and two different approaches to life. Gracious, when you look at what must be done to become “one” its nothing short of a miracle that any marriage survives the first five years.
  2. I wish I had known that we had plenty of time to work things out- it didn’t have to be all done and fixed and perfect by day 27 after we said “I do”. You think I am joking. I kid you not. That is what I mean by unrealistic expectations. I hold myself and all around me to a ridiculous standard of excellence. If I have learned one thing in these 28 years, it is to let go of my timeline and standards and accept what people are capable of and to know that it will work out if I don’t give up. Not giving up and forcing my agenda are two very different things. I had to learn the difference.

So, there it is. If I had known/understood those two things, our first years of marriage would have been much smoother.

What do you wish you had known?

The Key to a Long-lasting Marriage

Who was the person or persons that impacted your marriage the most?

Mine would be my parents. They embodied commitment.

We just celebrated their 50th Wedding Anniversary. I am so proud of them!

They were committed because they made a promise and you keep a promise- through the good and the bad. There was plenty of good. But building a marriage is a hard job and 50 years is a long time. I am grateful for that example. They weren’t committed because it was all good- it wasn’t. They weren’t committed because everyone’s needs were met all the time- they weren’t.

I understood going into my marriage that I was going to be in it for the long haul. It made a difference for me when the dreamy romantic ideas of what marriage would be collided with the reality of unexpected pregnancies, bills and growing up. I made a promise of till death do us part and I would keep it.

My husband made the same promise and his parents had set the same example for him.

We made it through the tough parts and what was on the other side was definitely worth the fight. Now, as we enter new seasons where the kids are gone and what was working isn’t such a good fit any longer, we know that we will make the adjustments. Divorce isn’t even a word in our vocabulary- working through the difficut spots is the ONLY option.

We are committed to making this thing the very best it can be.

I love my husband and my marriage is my most valuable possession. It is the rock my life and my family is built on. So, I take care of it. That relationship is my priority and the rewards of treating it as such are HUGE!

So, tell me- who made the biggest impact on your marriage?

Best Advice I Ever Got

When I was all of 19 years old, I was getting married. Lots of people weighed in on my decision- some welcome, some not. But I had one uncle I was very close to who always said the bold and brave things to me.

He told me to let Tony have sex whenever he wanted it. If I did, I would never have to worry about Tony cheating.

He and my aunt had a great marriage so I took his advice. Best thing I have ever done- other than choosing Tony as my life-long companion.

I have learned a few things over the 28 years that have come and gone.

For one, Tony is not the kind of man to cheat- regardless. Just as the sun rises in the East and sets in the West, Tony Ross is a faithful man.

The other thing is that sex is an easy barometer to the overall health of a marriage. Think about it, it is the one thing that sets a marriage relationship apart from any other relationship. You can’t legally or in good conscience pay for it. You can pay for childcare, housekeeping, therapy and so on- but you can’t pay for sex. Now, you can get it for free but then we cross the moral line.

If I don’t want to be intimate with my husband on a regular basis, or vise versa, then something is wrong down deep in my relationship.

Another benefit to this advice was that I was not swayed by the idiotic idea that I should withhold sex from my husband in order to maintain control or manipulate him. This would have done considerable damage to our relationship. Thank God for an Uncle not afraid to talk about sex!