Marriage? Seniors? Who Knew?

I recently submitted this to the Huffington Post where I have a sporadic column. Enjoy!

Senior in Age Only — Thoughts on a 50th Wedding Anniversary

I’ll say it up front: I never thought I’d be married to the same man for 50 years. According to Google (and it must be true!), only 5-6 percent of marriages last that long. By anyone’s calculations, it’s a long time. Think about it. That’s half a century. Good grief!

I’m on the very early end — might even be fudging a year or two — of the baby boomer group. Many of that era’s marriages ended in divorce, at times because women wanted “to find themselves.” I remember when one of my friends came over and said she had to find herself. My son, who was about three at the time, overheard her and told me he could help her, “I can find Carol. She’s right there in the bathroom.” I wonder if truer words were ever spoken.

“Finding oneself” was a pretty common buzzword during those years. I was one of those who decided to “find myself,” but for whatever reason, I was able to search in ways that were socially acceptable and didn’t upend the family unit. Not that there weren’t thoughts of it from time to time. I tease my husband that the only reason we didn’t get divorced was that one of us always had the sense to talk the other one out of it. And I’m glad we did.

There’s pros and cons to being married this long. A pro is a shared history. He knows who I’m talking about or what my reference to a band or event is. The downside — he’s not only heard my stories — he’s lived them. So much for being the glamorous mystery woman. Fifty years of waking up to me without make-up is a huge leap of faith!

It really never occurred to me that I’d be married 50 years. I thought that was for old people and I certainly wasn’t that old. And that’s been a lesson to me in and of itself. I wonder if the reason I never thought about it was that then everyone would have a pretty good idea of how old I was. It’s not that I ever tried to hide my age. I just didn’t think about it. I always thought age was a relative thing, not all that important. But is it? I’m active, healthy, and don’t think I look or act “old.” But when you’ve been married 50 years, it probably needs to be addressed.

Wherever we went in the months leading up to the anniversary, my husband would tell everyone, “In June, we will have been married 50 years.” Swell. I told people he was really into smart 2 year olds who just happened to be in college when he was there. No one challenged me, but I don’t think they bought it.

Then what to do on the actual day? A couple of years ago family members asked where we wanted the party and how many should be invited and how many could we put up at our house. As a boomer who really wasn’t into conformity, the mere thought of wearing a menopausal purple dress and corsage while our guests gathered at some local hall and congratulated us made my stomach turn. I politely thanked everyone for their well wishes and told my husband I’d rather go on a trip, just the two of us. Well, yes, I told him, the dog could probably accompany us.

He graciously acquiesced to my strong objections for the big party and found a fabulous rental house right on the beach in Carmel, California. Now that’s my kind of a party. The two of us with a good bottle of wine, a fire and roaring surf in the background! Yup, guess we earned it and deserved it. What made it even more special was the appearance of our son and daughter-in-law who flew in from Seattle to be with us. (Wonder if they wanted to just make sure we’d make it to the big day?) We spent a week at the cottage, watching seals and birds and listening to the surf. I could not have asked for a better anniversary, topped off by a wonderful dinner at a Carmel restaurant.

Am I glad we stuck it out? Oh yes. Probably didn’t mention, sappy as it sounds, that he still is my best friend. And to think the naysayers said it wouldn’t last. We got married six weeks after we met. We actually decided to get married 2.5 weeks after we met. To say our parents were not happy would be the understatement of the half-century. We did have a proper church wedding, but everyone in the wedding party is now divorced. You just never know how life’s going to turn out! And even though everyone knows approximately how old I am, I’m glad it turned out this way!

A Book’s Beginnings

I’m thrilled to be the Guest Author on Vanessa Ryan’s blog. Her blog is excellent as is her new book, A Blue Moon. Here’s her link. Enjoy! http://vanessaryanwriter.blogspot.com/2013/07/guest-author-dianne-harman-mixes.html

Guest Author: Dianne Harman Mixes Romance And Politics In Her Latest Novel

Today, as part of my new Guest Author Series, I am highlighting the work of Dianne Harman. Here is the scoop on Tea Party Teddy by Dianne Harman:

THE MAKING OF TEA PARTY TEDDY

 

My husband was a California State Senator and I spent the majority of twelve years living in Sacramento, California, the capital of the state. Every night there were numerous receptions and fundraisers. I remember a lobbyist telling me she had fifteen fundraisers to attend that evening alone! The lobbyists well knew the perils of eating and drinking too much at events. The food is generally appetizers that are salty and fried – they play well against alcohol. But the interesting thing is that while the lobbyists were very careful about what they ate and drank; to new Legislators it was like a candy store. They could have about anything they wanted and no one would tell them they couldn’t. Many a Legislator was known for imbibing a little too freely at these events.

Tea Party Teddy came about because of two dinners my husband and I attended. Serendipitously, I was seated next to the most biased, bigoted person I had ever met. He was a Legislator and he was my seatmate two nights in a row. I kept wondering how a man like that could be elected, and then became even more interested in the story about him that began to form in my mind.

What caused him to be so biased? What was his wife like? What was his home life like? Did he have children? I’d heard rumors that he was succumbing to the powers of the office – the thinking in Sacramento is “I didn’t make the rules, but I can play by them.”

Divorces were pretty common among Legislators. It may be a simplistic answer as to why there were so many divorces, but I knew a lot of legislators who came to the capitol full of dreams of the good works they planned on doing. After a few years they started believing they were as fabulous as people told them they were. What they didn’t take into account was that the people telling them how fabulous they were generally wanted something from them. I often wondered how the families of these people dealt with the egos that returned to them when Session was over on Thursday only to leave again the following week .And so Teddy was born.

I know that many authors carefully plan out their books, how many chapters will be in it, outlines for each chapter, and the final ending. Writing doesn’t work that way for me.

When I write I have a general idea, actually more of an idea what will happen to a few characters, and then hey dictate how the book will be written. So it was with Teddy. The more I wrote about him, the more I wondered why his wife would stay with him. He was consumed with getting rid of all the illegal immigrants and anyone else associated with them. And at what point would his wife realize she was simply an accessory? And when she found out she was just an accessory, how would she handle it? What would she do? Would she leave him? A lot of wives stay; they like being the wife of an “in” politician.

Teddy’s wife told me she needed romance in her life. I agreed with her. And how fitting it would be if the romance was with the founder of the Republicans for Latinos!  The ending came about because the characters decided that’s what had to happen. I love it when I get to read a book while I’m writing it. I would have missed out on a wonderful experience if I’d carefully scripted it and stuck to it! I love the romance that develops between Nina and Bob and knowing what I know of politicians, a lot of women would be very amenable to having someone like Bob pay attention to them. And yes, there is a happy ending, a prerequisite in the romance genre!

There’s such a thing called “Beta readers.” These are people who read the rough draft of a book and give the author feedback. My Beta readers told me a couple of things: (1) I needed to make it even clearer just how despicable Teddy was and so there is a Cinco de Mayo scene which shows how intense his hatred is of the illegal immigrants and by extension, Latinos; (2) I needed to tone down the book. This person was afraid I’d get sued. (A good friend of mine thought that would be terrific; what great publicity for the book, but she wouldn’t be paying the attorneys’ fees!) I took out the innuendos and rumors. I knew that so-and-so was having an affair with so-and-so, but it hadn’t been made public, so I eliminated those scenes.

I’ve been asked if the novel is a “roman á clef.” Yes, there are certainly people in it that will be recognized, but what they did was publicly well-documented. The names have been changed to protect the not-so-innocent!

I never set out to write a series, but the Beta readers wanted to know what was going to happen after the book ended. The same thing happened in my first novel, Blue Coyote Motel. Everyone wanted to know what happened to Maria. The Teddy Saga will encompass three novels, Teddy and two more. The second is being edited and I’m writing the third. The next two novels in the Blue Coyote series have been written and will be out in the next few months. And yes, romance is alive and well!

Want to know more about Dianne Harman and her work? Check out her links below:

Blue Coyote Motel:  http://amzn.to/SO8uIj  Tea Party Teddy:  http://amzn.to/ZgKwIB

Website:  www.DianneHarman.com             Blog: http://dianneharman.com/blog/