Two hundred and thirty-seven years ago, this month, our United States leaders created the Continental Army, beginning a rich heritage of successfully defending the U.S. and my fellow citizens. Today, we appreciate the continued honor, loyalty and bravery of soldiers with an ‘Army Strong’ commitment to America’s core values and beliefs.
I’ve been around military men all of my life. My family tree is filled with dedicated mavericks that served in the U.S. Air Force, fearless leaders that served in the U.S. Marines, and brave warriors that served in the U.S. Army. (And if I have a relative that enlisted in the U.S. Navy that I’m not aware of I’ll let you know. I’m still working on the genealogy on my father’s side. :) )
Have you ever talked to a veteran about their loved ones? How about ask a military couple how they met and fell in love with each other? Well, I had the pleasure to meeting a few young at heart veterans and they had a lot to say about love and marriage. As a romance writer, I really enjoyed spending time helping them walk back down memory lane. (Yes, my creative mind happily went into overdrive plotting possible storylines with each conversation.)
It happened a few weeks ago when I attended an event honoring community leaders. I enjoyed picking the brains of some military couples but it wasn’t until an elderly man joined our table that the conversation became completely memorable.
He was in his nineties and asked me why I hadn’t taken a turn around the dance floor yet. I politely explained, “I’m unescorted, besides this table is too interesting to leave.”
He glanced around at my table mates and pulled up a chair. It was then that I learned everyone knew Earl and wanted him to tell me his love story too. At first he refused, stating it wasn’t a big deal, until one of the ladies stated,“C’mon
she’s an author like that Nicholas Sparks guy.”
Before I could state that I’m not as accomplished as Mr. Sparks, Earl cleared his throat and gave me a hard stare over his glasses. It reminded me of the look my grandfather gave me when he caught me, at age ten, poking around his garage. It was piercing and incredibly intense. “You really want to know about me and Sara Mae.”
“Only what you care to share.” I stated.
Earl sat back in his seat, folded his arms, and revealed his story of love and heartbreak. It was the summer of 1941, Earl and Sara Mae were high school sweethearts. She planned to attend classes at a university down south and he planned to enter the Army. He gave her a promise ring to seal his vow to marry her when he returned. She accepted. They wrote every week for the first eight months until her letters stopped.
His Army buddies told him his girl probably found a college man to spend her time with so he’d better worry about doing his job instead of nursing a heartache. Distracted soldiers easily get people killed. Earl embraced the advice, stopped openly fixating on Sara Mae, and became a leader of his company.
The next six months Earl’s family and friends tried to piece together what happened between Earl and Sara Mae. His parents reported Sara’s family moved closer to her university. His friends wrote that Sara had cut off contact with them too. All information seem to reveal his sweetheart had a change of heart and wanted to be left alone.
When Earl was granted a furlough he did the unthinkable. He headed to Georgia
to find his Sara Mae. He hadn’t accepted the fact that she didn’t want to speak to him and he couldn’t stop thinking about her until he knew she was with someone else. See, in his mind no one could love her the way he loved her. They never
had any big arguments, did nice things for each other, and always spoke the truth with loving kindness. So for her to just stop contact without an explanation was, well …cruel. Seeing her was the only way he could let go of the residue of their breakup.
He went to Agnes Scott College in Decatur before Christmas break and learned Sara was moved off campus to her parents' new house on the outskirts of town. He got the address and raced to her home.
Her father answered and remembered him the moment he removed his hat. They spoke in hush tones until Earl was asked to leave. Earl refused and told Sara’s father the police would have to forcibly remove him from the home because he’d traveled too far not to get answers.
Her father acquiesced and retreated upstairs. A few moments later Earl heard Sara descending slowly down the stairs and his heart quicken with each step. When she came into view he noticed she wasn’t wearing her brunette hair the way he remembered and her movements were shaky.
It was at this point in the story that Earl paused his account and shook his head before continuing. Then he stated, she walked towards him and meekly met his questioning gaze. As much as he tried to act like he wasn’t taken aback, the change in her appearance mystified him.
Sara Mae’s mother helped her to a seat and said, “Sara is doing better after the accident but it’ll be a few more months until she can attend classes on campus again.” Her father stood protectively beside his daughter.
Sara had been in a car accident that badly injury her right side and greatly scarred the side of her face. Earl walked over to Sara’s chair, kneeled before her, and pushed her hair away so he could see her facial scars clearly. He had seen many gruesome sights of war so there was very little that could make him flinch but all he could think was "how could God let this happen to his sweetheart?"
When his eyes began to moisten, Sara began to remove the promise ring from her finger. “You aren’t obligated,” she whispered. That’s when he covered her hands with his own.
“When I think of home, I always think of you, Sara Mae. No one knows my dreams better. My love for you was never conditional, it’s eternal.” He said, as he lowered his head and kissed her hands.
Earl recalled that they talked for a long time that evening and decided to married that same week. “It wasn’t out of pity or obligation. It was out of love.”
Sara’s mother helped her write letters again when he returned to his military assignment. As the years passed, physical and emotional scars faded and Sara Mae’s beauty returned but according to Earl, it was always there. They were married for fifty one years. What an inspiration!
The veterans and their spouses I’ve spoke to that evening told me many things about love and marriage. Here’s some of their relationship wisdom:
1. Reneging on a promise is cowardly. Think long and hard before making a commitment, then keep your word at all costs.
2. Don’t turn away from your partner. Nothing will erode a marriage quicker than seeking another person for emotional and/or physical gratification
3. Think before you speak, text, or email. Words can uplift and destroy if you can stop before you response and have empathy for the other person’s viewpoint your relationship will flourish.
4. Treat your partner better than anyone else. View your spouse with the utmost respect and lots of affection. There should never be a question in anyone’s mind how you feel about your partner.
5. Forgive each other. Don’t hold grudges and remember no one is perfect.
This will help you to move on from disagreements and appreciate each other.
6. Don’t give up. Marriage is an incubator for self-growth and self-awareness. There will be ebbs and flows in affection, good times and bad times, and seasons of couple activity and inactivity. The more you stick to it, the easier it will get and the more connection you’ll feel toward your spouse.
For people that care about U.S. troops, you can show your support by sending care packages and letters:
Select a soldier to receive your care packages at http://www.anysoldier.com/
Donate to Operation Troop Appreciation at http://www.operationtroopappreciation.org/
And for all of military couples and families waiting to be reunited, please know you’re in my thoughts and prayers. I appreciate your sacrifice.
Before internet-assisted social media connections and online dating, people met and fell in love the old fashioned way… in person. Sometimes family members would intervened with their dating recommendation or family member would try to play matchmaker but for the most part you knew you had to get out of your comfort zone and make yourself meet people that shared some of your interests. It’s the only way fate could orchestrate a chance meeting with someone special.
Yesterday, on the way home from work, I stopped at my favorite mega bookstore and had the pleasure of being asked to take a survey by a group of college students. Seeing that most people were in a hurry to take their purchases home and get out of the summer heat, I stopped and decided to see what kind of data they were gathering. They were asking questions about love and dating in today’s world.
Once the group realized I was a romance author, they began picking my brain like I was some kind of romance savant. I reassured them that I was just a normal woman that had my ups and down with love like anyone else but that didn’t deter them from getting my views on life and love.
We talked about romance, long-distance relationships, gay marriage and even unrequited love. I must say the last topic threw me a little. Especially when an overly confident young man stated people with secret love infatuations are abnormal. I had to stop the fallacy before he made a lasting imprint on his companions’ brains.
I reminded this small group that it’s nerve racking to experience a strong attraction towards a person you just met. And many people like to take their time before they unveil their true feelings. I had to take it easy on the young people because for their generation unrequited love involves stalking someone on Facebook and Twitter, confronting someone’s former companion in public and leaving several disturbing voicemail messages that could be considered harassment.
Such a totally different world from Generation Xers.
Then one of the young ladies asked me, can unrequited love become reciprocated love? I told her, "Yes, but it takes honesty, emotional nakedness, and God’s grace for the object of your affection to be open enough to feel the same way. The whole course of love is not really in your hands."
In my own life, I met someone and the moment our eyes locked my heart leaped. It was exhilarating and unnerving at the same time because his gaze unnerved me. Love at first sight? Maybe, maybe not… but I’ll never deny the feeling I felt; it was the kind of knowing only felt in the spirit.
One of the girls asked me if I’ll ever reveal my feelings and I answered, “Sure if our paths cross again.”
Then another of the student asked, “Why don’t you just Facebook him and ask him to call you?”
It seemed logical and simple enough until Carly Rae Jepsen’s summer hit, ‘Call Me Maybe’ came into my mind. I shook my head. Not my style. “We’ll connect. That’s one thing romance writers believe in –- overcoming the odds.”
“That sounds impossible.”
“I don’t believe that. Improbability isn’t in my spiritual DNA.” I gathered my purchases, thanked them for the nice chat, and exited the bookstore.
When I got into my car, part of me wondered if I sounded like some fairytale-filled Pollyanna. Then I thought about many couples I’ve met over the years and their wonderful love stories. Love happens when it’s meant to occur, when both parties are open and ready. That’s the beauty of real love and romance… the possibilities are endless. :)
Some people think about romancing their partner when a special occasion is quickly approaching, a sexual drought needs to end, or a relationship mistake needs to be remedied. But real romance isn’t based on a reactionary deed requiring a Goggle search for some romance tips; it’s based on knowledge, love and spontaneity.
My maternal grandparents were married for 59 years and knew the meaning of love, romance and devotion. I’m so thankful for the roadmap they’ve laid and the wisdom they gave. For a time during my young adult years, my family shared a home with them so I saw their relationship up close and personal. (Being the youngest of three children, I was known for finding places to sit with a book and not move until…ah, how should I say this? Well, until I found myself carefully listening to privileged adult conversations.)
Often I overheard the way my grandfather and grandmother spoke to each other when they thought no one was around. Their voices held a quiet tenderness that I never heard them utter around the family. Grandpa knew how to make my strong, feisty grandmother turn into a bashful young woman that covered her face when she blushed. And when she sat next to him and lean her head on his shoulder, he cupped her hands tenderly when he brought them to his lips to kiss.
One day my grandfather became keen to one of my favorite ‘book-reading’ spots and promptly asked me to join him on the front porch. And with my mother busy working and my siblings away from the house, I couldn’t give one excuse not to do what he asked. So I sat next to him as he watched his neighbors walk past our property in the Florida sun.
“You know, there’s better light out here for reading, Girl.”
“Yes, Sir. I know.” I stated humbly as I studied his profile.
“This is where you should read so you can be comfortable and enjoy the breeze. I read my newspapers right here every morning so if it’s good enough for me, it’ll be fine for you. Understand?”
“Yes, Sir. Are you going to tell Mom?”
I watched as my grandfather processed the question. We had a close relationship and spent every afternoon talking about whatever he cared to share with a middle school student. He knew his daughter’s new job was stressful and the last thing we both need was to hear her lecturing me during dinner at the family table.
“No, not today, just tell me why you didn’t excuse yourself or make your presence known?
“I just wanted to see how you and Grandma get along. She’s always watching Victor and Vicki on Young and the Restless, and talking about soap opera characters with her friends, so I wanted see if you two were like that.”
“Umph. Well, how we do?”
Looking puzzled I said, “You guys are nothing like the show.”
My grandfather laughed and then gave me a lesson on relationships I’ll never forget. He said romance isn’t a special occasion thing, like some present you get on Valentine’s Day. It’s more like a vitamin. You need some romance every day for a healthy relationship. And just like our bodies can’t exist on one vitamin, our relationships can’t last on one type of romance. Sometimes it’s a romantic gesture, other times it will be a romantic act, and other moments may require that you change your tone of voice or the way you look at the person you love. The key is to remember that romance is the only emotional vitamin you can’t consume on your own. No way. Your partner has to diagnose and dispense what you need, and you in turn must do the same. It’s the only way the relationship can thrive.
So, think about making romance a daily part of your interacts with your mate. And don’t let what is written in romance novels or what is acted out in romantic movies supersede the beauty of real-life love and genuine devotion. Get to know your loved one and find out what they consider romantic. And once you learn the things that make them happy concoct a 'romance vitamin' that they’ll want to take every day…only from you.
Enjoy this summer everyone and makes some wonderful memories.
RIP Grandpa, I know you and your bride are dancing up a storm in Heaven but there isn't a week that goes by that I don't rely on your wisdom. I'm truly blessed and I wish you a very Happy early Father's Day.
I’ve met some very interesting people during my research for Wild West and learn some wonderful love stories at the same time. At one point in my research a group of single ladies explained to me how hard it is to find a man that could
appreciate a good woman.
So I said to them, "You know what happens when you get all dressed up to attend some club or singles events? Everybody is looking for items on their external checklist.
They are looking for an attractive person, but I can assure you that there will always be somebody more handsome and beautiful than whom they'll find. They are looking for someone very intelligent, and I can assure you that there is always going to be someone more intelligent. They are looking for someone funny, but that there is somebody even funnier just around the corner. They are looking for someone successful, and I can guarantee you that there is someone even more successful. So the checklist won’t get you closer to love. You just need to take a chance and talk to people.”
When you size up people externally, I explained to the ladies, you will always find someone better looking, more intelligent, funnier or more successful. But when you look at someone on the inside, when you look at their true self, their soul, you will never find anyone who can compare. And if you let people see your spirit then they will never find anyone who can compare with you.
God made all of us unique and incomparable. And when you relate as a soul to another soul, your true self will radiate a brilliant divine light. The more that you can reveal yourself as a soul, the easier it will be to find your true life partner (your soul mate, a bashert or a zivug). People are not looking for their body mate; they are looking for their soul mate. But we delude ourselves and put on psychological clothing that doesn't fit. Personal growth begins with being real about who you are so you can become the person you want to be.
Besides, how many times have we met someone that was nice-looking and the longer we talked to them the more attractive they became during our interactions? We need to open our heart to God’s intentions for our lives and receive our
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