The last thing on my mind

We'd only just begun: Jeff and me in May, 1978.

We’d only just begun: Jeff and me in May, 1978.

“I don’t understand why Cupid was chosen to represent Valentine’s Day.  When I think about romance, the last thing on my mind is a short, chubby toddler coming at me with a weapon.”  — Author Unknown

Let’s just say I’m not a typically romantic woman.  I’ve tried reading contemporary romance novels, but I can’t seem to finish one; I find them boring, insulting, or both.  I don’t like expensive restaurants, fine wines or pricey jewelry.  I don’t find Tom Cruise or Brad Pitt or George Clooney appealing at all; I much prefer Dustin Hoffman or Gary Sinise.

I had no desire whatsoever for a big wedding, and in fact, I spent as little time as possible planning ours, with every bit of my wedding outfit borrowed from friends.  I couldn’t wait for it to be OVER. I didn’t want a wedding, I wanted a marriage. (OK, and a honeymoon!) 🙂

When it comes to romantic relationships, I’m an oddball.  In fact, until Jeff came along, I wasn’t sure I’d ever really love anyone.  But when I fell, I fell hard, and it stuck.  Our relationship has been far from an easy one, but he’s still my one and only Valentine.

This year, I find myself having come full circle from the time the photo above was taken, nearly 36 years ago.  Now as then, I find myself wishing for many more holidays with Jeff, all too uncertain as to whether I will be granted my wish.  But also, now as then, I am feeling more optimistic each day that these wishes — OUR wishes — will come true.

Yet feelings are notoriously unreliable, aren’t they?  Sometimes.  In this case though, I think my optimism is as well founded as it was then.  Maybe our fairy tale isn’t a typical one, but despite a lot of anxiety and sorrow, it does seem to have more than its share of “happily ever after.” I choose to believe that pattern will continue.  Meanwhile, I celebrate the joy of NOW, and of knowing the odds for Jeff’s survival have improved considerably over the past year.

On this day we associate with hearts and flowers, I wish for you the happiness of HOPE for a future full of love and joy.  Happy Valentine’s Day!  Please click here for a Valentine  and the chance to design (and save) a virtual floral arrangement!

One year ago today

The fullness of peace


  1. Jack

    What a great picture, stylishly 70’s! The temporal nature of my feelings pales in comparison to the hard work of “for better or for worse”. My wife is the very personification of grace, love and perseverance. I need to remember that as I scoff my way through Valentines Day today. Feelings? I’ll take gritty, determined, hopeful commitment any day…from thence comes real love (or maybe I’m just cheap??)

    • Frugal, Jack…NOT cheap, FRUGAL! Seriously, I think the nicest gift a spouse can give is the respect and recognition with which you pay tribute to your wife here. The hardest part (at least for me) is translating that recognition into everyday actions that speak more loudly than my words and thoughts do. But I’m working on it! Thanks for joining in the “I love my spouse!” chorus!

  2. I am a hopeless romantic. Stephen once told me early in our relationship that I was too much “Cinderella”. “You do know there are no knights on white horses?” What a sad world that would be. He has never dulled my intrepid belief that there is magic, that there are white knights and miracles in spite of his practical nature. 🙂 I love this picture of you and Jeff. God bless you both, there are miracles and hope. A line from one of my favorite films, “It could happen!” (Angels in the Outfield) has given me hope in dire times and not so dire. Keep your heart open. God bless you both. Happy Valentines Day.

    • Amy, I love your happy-ever-after mentality. Your line from Angels in the Outfield reminded me of another quote from a movie I wasn’t crazy about overall, but really liked this line:
      “It will be alright.”
      “HOW WILL IT?”
      “I dunno. It’s a mystery.” 🙂

      • P.S. Amy, regarding Stephen’s assertion that there are no knights on white horses: I refer you to the words of my favorite Carly Simon song – one of my favorite songs of all time “The Stuff that Dreams are Made Of”:

        “What if the prince on the horse in your fairy tale
        is right here in disguise?
        And what if the stars you’ve been reaching so high for
        Are shining in his eyes?”

        I wish I could play this song to every disgruntled wife in America. During those Vandenberg years when I was driving up and down the Central Coast with the boys, I would often have this playing on the radio. Drew insists he always thought she was saying “Stuff that green tomato.” 🙂 They were preschoolers; what did they know? Love you.

      • Well it was a silly movie but I love “Shakespeare in Love” and that line is great. The man who says it is such a great character actor. As we said that other day, if it is not alright, it is not the end. What a great song from Carly Simon. I never would have thought to use it but you are right, every one should!!! How true that our knights may be right in front of us. Did you happen to see yesterdays Google font. They had little blips from people about love. One lady said she woke up the day after her wedding and felt she had made a huge mistake. She went out for a walk the whole day and came back very late. Her husband was glad to see her and said how he had worried the whole day. She says now it is 42 years later and she has not every worried again that he was not the one for her. Thanks for sharing. Love ya. PS tell Drew to check out some of the strange things people have thought lyrics were when they could not understand them. It is very funny. Ten Funny Misunderstood Lyrics by Jan Peterson. I am sure he can find it on the internet.

        • Hi Amy, I think you were the one who first pointed out that quote to me. I didn’t see the Google clips but they sound sweet. I will have to look up those funny misunderstood lyrics. I probably will find out about some of the ones I misunderstood. I remember when I was a little girl and we would sing that song “All things are ready, come to the feast” at the end of church on Sunday morning, I always thought they were talking about everybody going home to Sunday dinner because my Mom always fixed such a great meal on Sundays, at least when Daddy was home!

  3. Wishing you & Jeff the same!

    • Thank you! I’m so happy to have you visit us here!

  4. What a beautiful post!
    Happy Valentine’s Day to both of you!
    Love and prayers continue.

    • Thank you Carla, the same to you and George! Thanks especially for the ongoing prayers!

  5. Linda Blackford

    Happy Valentine’s Day, Julia! I’m remembering my Forever Valentine today, with gratitude for the time we had together. I read three devotionals every day, considering Defeat Despair one of them, and today’s offering from Henri Nouwen reminded me of you. Enjoy!

    • Linda, thanks so much for this link. I just love Nouwen’s writing, and he is close to my heart because he chose to live as family with people who have disabilities. I especially noted these words from the link you shared: “Our temptation is to collect all the beauty and goodness surrounding us as helpful information we can use for our projects.” GUILTY! Collecting information is only one step removed (or perhaps NO steps removed) from collecting other things I wrote about recently; I need to learn to appreciate things, even thoughts and ideas, without taking possession of them. That may sound like psychobabble to some people, but those of us who collect information will understand. 🙂 (Acts 17:21 has always had a very familiar ring to me!) Thank you for sharing your Valentine’s Day observation with us; I pray your memories bring you many blessings, much comfort and consolation.

  6. Carolyn

    Loved the card and the picture of the two of you , so sweet. I told my valentine that I was his card and he said he was mine. We always forget to buy cards. Happy Valentines Day to my special friends. Hugs and Love.

    to my special friends.

    • Awww, that’s so sweet! Most years I make a card for Jeff because I have a hard time finding a card that says what I want to say to him, plus I’m cheap frugal, which is a trait that he appreciates, thank goodness! Card stores are like libraries; I have to stay away from them or I’ll waste too much time browsing. This year I’ve left so many little notes for Jeff that he said he didn’t need a card since he is not sure what to do with all these little notes he has been collecting! I told him I would put them all in a little album for him and he laughed and said “like you have time to do that right now!” 🙂 Our gifts to each other this year were typical; a mixture of practical and sentimental. I am so happy just have him with us today, and I am praying for many, many more Valentine’s Days together.

  7. Great picture!

    I love your relationship. My idea of a Valentine is one who will spend all days with me – good and bad. One who is there for celebrations & for heartaches. That’s one of the things about Don that won me over. He told me that we would go through rough times in the years ahead with or without each other — our parents would die, etc. And he said that it would be better to go through these things together.

    Your relationship with Jeff models this excellent idea of loving each other no matter the circumstances.

    • Thanks Barb, I think Don’s words are beautiful. I do believe it’s so much easier to go through these things together. I think one reason Jeff is determined to stay with us as long as he can, is that he can imagine how hard it would have been for either of us to go through all of Matt’s surgeries and illnesses without each other’s support. Interestingly, bad times can drive people apart as often (or more often) than bring them together, if you believe the divorce statistics, but I think often it’s the determination to stay together through it all that makes the difference. Thanks for being here!

  8. Jenelle

    Julia, I am so with you! check out my V-day quote I shared with my online writing group today. “I love being married. It’s so great to find one special person you want to annoy for the rest of your life.” Rita Rudner.

    That is love. Hanging in there when times get tough.

    The picture of you and Jeff is beautiful and happy. Thank you for sharing it with us today 🙂

    • Jenelle, I love that quote. If Jeff read it he would probably say “did you make that up or is it from someone else?” since it would sound so familiar to him! I appreciate your kind words – hope you have a wonderful day today!

      • Jenelle

        Thank you for the lovely Valentine e-card 🙂 I could sit under the tree of hearts for hours.

        • I could too, especially with Chudleigh there to keep me company! I’m so happy you enjoyed it!

  9. Look how young you are, and clearly so happy. What beautiful smiles.

    This is a lovely post, Julia, so full of warmth and light. I love your practical nature. I wish you the same: hope, love and joy. ♥

    • Thank you Alys! Speaking of practical, you would be so proud of how much stuff I’m getting rid of. Slowly, but surely…Thanks for being here!

      • I am proud of you. How does is feel by the way?

        • More and more free; easier to focus on what needs to be done NOW (vs. “I need to get to that soon”) and overall happier. It’s amazing how much just the sight of piled-up stuff can burden our brains. I’m the type of person who leaves things out as a reminder to do something – a piece of clothing that needs mending, a letter to answer or gift to mail, a note about business detail I need to take care of online…pretty soon it gets overwhelming and MESSY. I’m trying to train myself to use lists, with limited success (I find that using a notebook for my lists works better, as I’m less likely to lose them that way.)

          • A notebook is a great idea. You might also try (or perhaps you are already using) one of those five-subject notebooks. Then you can keep sections for shopping, errands, internet, research, action items, etc.

            Another idea: find a set of coordinating baskets that you can place in a central location. Then label them with a cute tag as follows: Mending, Returns (could be library books, borrowed items, things to return to a store, etc.) Recycle, Action, Pending. Recycle as much junk mail, old papers, etc. as it comes in. Action speaks for itself, Pending are things that need action by someone else (i.e. you returned an item to a store, and are awaiting the posted credit on your charge card, OR you’ve wrapped a gift to deliver in person, but won’t be delivering it for a week.

            I hope that helps.

            I am so, so proud of you.

            • Thanks Alys, it always helps to have ideas to organize things with actual daily tasks in mind. A lot of the organizing I’ve done in the past has not been focused on being accessible and practical (out of sight out of mind is a problem for me) so having things out as you describe would be helpful I think. I will keep you posted as I inch along! Slowly but surely…

  10. Julia and Jeff…A lovely couple. 🙂 May you be blessed with many Valentine Days together.
    I’m not one to place people on a pestle. I don’t watch too much TV…but I do like PBS. And don’t read commentary novels…I like books with humor and encouragement.

    • Thank you Merry! I agree, it’s hard on both parties when someone over-idealizes someone else. One person is inevitably disappointed, and the other feels inadequate for disappointing. Much better to go into it with open eyes and a patient, determined heart. Most of us could use a lot more humor and encouragement, so I think you are on the right track there! I appreciate your visits here, and your kind words.

  11. MaryAnn

    How delightful to the senses! A picture of my gorgeous friends (inside & out), virtual fresh fruit & fresh flowers plus beautiful music. Julia, you know how to bring a smile to my face, putting a spring in my step. (Cliches abound!)
    Again, we agree: Gary Sinise is a great actor & a wonderful person. The best gift for me is time spent w/ a loved one, as you state not the “normal” presents that are hawked by advertisers. It fills my heart to overflowing to hear that Jeff is so much better than the doctors had hoped. God’s Hand is evident in this process!
    Love, MaryAnn

    • Mary Ann, I avoid cliches like the plague! 😀 Hee-hee 😀 Thanks so much for rejoicing with us that Jeff is feeling much better and more hopeful. I truly do thank God for every day he and I have, with each other and with Matt. Thanks for being with us all these years!

  12. raynard

    Julia now that I made it through the big snow,you know me. I keep the simple things simple.a home made dinner,a freshly baked cake and a night out to the movies.Besides I have my wedding anniversary in 14 days. Now if they only had the technology to fix my memory card my dog chewed through with my wedding pictures on it lol.If I didn’t have to work tomorrow it would be one of my Smokey and the Bandit\ Cannonball runs down your way weather permitting..Thank you for always sharing can caring. Be. Blessed

    • Raynard, I’m glad you got through the weather. I was praying you and your wife would be safe. Wow, you have to be on your toes with your anniversary coming right after Valentine’s Day! Hey I saw the news about this cake show and wondered if you knew about it. Some of the photos of cakes and cookies from past shows are amazing; I had no idea people could come up with such elaborate designs. I knew people made fancy wedding cakes but had never seen some of the other types; very interesting and unique!

      The roads here are pretty clear right now; most everything melted today except for the drifts that are piled up from all of us out shoveling! It was sunny today and I got so hot while shoveling that I had to take my coat off! Have a great weekend.

  13. Sheila

    Julia and Jeff, I think you’ve changed very little over the years. I’m sure it’s a special Valentine’s Day for y’all. Appreciation for one another really deepens a relationship. I’m so happy to read that Jeff is doing so well! I wish for you many smiles and happiness in the years ahead. Such a lovely post, my friend. 🙂

    • Wow Sheila, thanks! This has been a quiet but meaningful Valentine’s Day for us. So happy to have Jeff feeling well. Of course he is likely to get more tired as the treatments progress, but for now we are grateful and just taking one day at a time. Have a wonderful weekend.

  14. Nancy

    The wedding was lovely, Julia…I remember it so well. You two were so connected then and still are. Happy Love Day today as it is every day for you and Jeff. And thanks for the “love” card…the boys delight in watching them.

    • I’m glad the boys liked the card! Many of our fondest memories of our early years are connected to you and your friendship. You were always so generous to allow Jeff and me to come over to your cozy, quiet apartment whenever we wanted. It gave us a lovely place to spend time together, away from the noise and distractions of campus life. I’m so happy you are still part of our lives after all these years.

  15. Connie Reed

    Beautiful blog Julia! In hindsight, Doug and I, as well as probably you and Jeff, realize what the important things are in life! I always liked the partial quote from Albert Einstein that we “learn from yesterday, live for today, and hope for tomorrow.” Things are just not important. Time is what is important!

    • Connie, I really like that quote. One of the gifts hidden inside adversity, as I know you and Doug must have discovered, is that it really does help us cut through the nonsense and focus with more clarity. For me, it’s an ongoing process, one for which I’m thankful. I appreciate your visits here!

  16. Love this photo! And your perception of what is romantic to you. Love to you all!

    • Thanks Kathy, I’m sure you know me well enough that none of it is surprising to you! 🙂 Love to the Yaccinos too, hope Kevin doesn’t mind my decorating my blog margins with him and Molly.

  17. Anna

    You and Jeff will always look like you do in this picture in my mind 🙂 can it really be 36 years? I love reading your blogs. I am glad to know that the hardships and trials have not dampened your hope nor diminished your optimistic spirit. You are both an inspiration.
    Love You!

    • Thank you Anna, you were a very big part of those years and will always have a special place in our hearts. I’m so happy you like the blog! Thank you for your friendship. Love you too!

  18. Heba

    A very beautiful photo Julia!!!

    I was born on November of that same year! 🙂 I’m married for almost 14 years now, and would say that I’m blessed with a perfect husband and two beautiful children. Thanks God.
    Actually, every day should be a chance to show love, respect and mercy in different ways.

    Wish you a lovely, inspiring life!

    • Thank you, Heba! Among other things, Jeff and I share the same birthday, and we too were born in November. Congratulations on 14 years of happiness – I wish you many, many more. The years will fly by! And as you say, every day we get a new chance to bless others as we have been blessed. Thanks for being here!

      • Heba

        Thank you Julia.. you are such an optimistic and joyful person whom radiates with hope like the sunshine!

        I really pray for your husband Jeff and your whole family, to be blessed with good health and verdure 🙂

        • Thank you so much! 🙂

  19. Sorry it took me a while to visit your post! As I look at you two, I think of my wife and I, and I will say I did tear up! With my wife when I look at her I see Gods blessing to me, and when I think of God I see his love in my wife! As I looked at the two of you I see the same. Life is never perfect but I see perfect love glowing in your faces, and I know it still exists daily for you two, as I see it in my wife’s every day! That is the most consistent treasure of love, its selfless love, its commitment and that…it is long lasting. Julia I know you had a wonderful day because of that love, that bond you both share. God bless you both always my sister! n!

    • Thanks so much Wendell! We did have a wonderful day, for the precise reasons you describe. I am so happy you share that tremendous blessing of a loving spouse. It really is a gift from above. Thanks for being here with us!

  20. And this comment will be the 50th comment here, I believe. I had got a glimpse of this post on the same day, but couldn’t comment. So here I am back.
    Wow! You both look amazing. Loved your smile (or laugh?). Hard to believe it was taken that long back. Glad that you have been there for each other all these years.
    I know the relationships undergo a lot of transformations over the years – our expectations, attitudes, approach everything. The initial years would be the hardest, and if we are patient enough we are blessed.That was how it was with me. Now we (rather ‘I’) try less to impose upon and try more to adjust and accept him for what he is. Shanti!

    • Thanks so much for your kind words about the photo, Bindu. I probably was laughing, because my friend Maggie who was there (I cropped her out of the photo since it was meant to be a “couples” photo for this post) always makes me laugh. I love to get together with her because no matter how many serious topics we talk about — and there are always plenty of those — we still end up laughing at least half of the time we are together. She’s one of those people whose laughter is totally contagious. I need to get an audiotape of her laughing just so I can listen to it when I’m sad!

      I agree with you that part of the secret to a long term relationship is to accept more and impose less. That has been quite a hard lesson for Jeff and me both, but we have gradually adjusted to each other over the years, and have even learned to enjoy (or at least laugh at) each other’s eccentricities. I was unfamiliar with the word “Shanti” but it’s a beautiful concept, and so appropriate for marriage. Both a requirement and a result of a good relationship.

  21. My gosh, look at you two!! Your photo is absolutely adorable Julia 😀 I don’t really think you’ve changed much at all. Being that I would totally recognize you in that photo.

    I’m not much of a fancy pants either, I wear very little jewellery and just yesterday at my Aunts, the girls said, “hey, let’s look at your wedding ring”. I guess it was lost for a while and they’ve never seen it. It’s not like anything most girls would pick out. It’s demure and was right for me. Mr B has said he was surprised I didn’t go for something showier. Your wedding sounded familiar and sensible to me. As you know, I’ve done it twice, but neither time was a giant expense. The first time we had a small luncheon with tea and champagne for about 40 people. With Jim and I, we just went away and hooked up with our friend Mark in Dallas, so it was just 4 of us and a limo. I guess some would go to Vegas but I’m not a Vegas kind of girl.

    It’s so wonderful that you are celebrating 36 years together! That’s inspiring. I hope there are many more stress free days ahead. It’s not easy finding someone with the same goals to share your life with but I think the right guy was worth waiting for. Thank you for the card too, here’s what I designed 😀 xoK

    • AW, thanks for your sweet words! I too hope we will have more stress free days ahead, but as I keep telling Jeff, I’d rather have bad times with him than good times with anyone else. I rarely ever wear my engagement ring or the ring guard he got me later to go with it, or my anniversary ring which I wear on my right had, even though they are all beautiful; I like to have my hands free of jewelry when I’m cleaning and working and so forth. I wear the rings when I go out but don’t travel with them either. My wedding band I never take off. It’s tiny and very lightweight – I told Jeff people who don’t know me probably think I bought it to wear as a fake wedding band, but it’s so small it never gets in my way. I rarely ever take the time to change earrings either, just simple gold ones are what I wear most all the time.

      Your floral arrangement is beautiful! I sent that card to my Aunt Peggy who was a professional floral designer for years – she made a lovely arrangement but could not find the file after she saved it. I need to go back and try making an arrangement myself, I thought that was such a cool idea. Thanks for being here!

      • LOL, I only laugh at your earring comment because I bought a pair of Cubic Zirconia 4 years ago at Walmart and haven’t changed them since. 😀 Low Maintenance girls, that’s us!

        I’m sure you melt Jeff’s heart when you tell him, ‘I’d rather have bad times with him than good times with anyone else’. Every spouse in the world wants to hear that, lucky him, lucky you too 😀 xo

        • Thank you 🙂 for being here with us through all these good and bad times!

        • Tank you K, I really feel that way about Jeff and I agree, it’s a lucky thing to be blessed with a spouse about whom one can say that honestly. Of all the things I would hope to be, “low maintenance” is pretty high on the list! Life is so much less complicated that way. The agencies and people who deal with all the aspects of caring for Matt’s medical and developmental needs might roll their eyes if they heard me claim to be “low maintenance” because I am quite a pest where Matt is concerned! I figure that’s my responsibility in his life, but even that has limits and I’m learning to let a lot of things go. Not everything, though.

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