About a week ago I found myself having to admit that I’d been acting irrationally for many years. I was diagnosed 20 years ago as a Type 2 diabetic, and the fact that I got the disease was completely my fault. Too much weight and too little exercise eventually resulted in a substantial rise in my blood sugar caused by the inability of my body to properly use insulin.

A normal healthy teenager could eat a big package of Skittles, four glazed donuts, a baked potato the size of a gunboat, and wash it all down with a liter of Dr. Pepper and it wouldn’t be a problem. His body would release a surge of insulin which would, in short order, bring the teen’s blood sugar back to normal.

Something as simple as a cup of rice or a couple slices of bread will cause my blood sugar to spike, and even though I have insulin in my blood stream, it does little to lower my blood glucose level because my system is now insulin resistant.

High blood sugar has a variety of unpleasant effects. For me, the most visible is a greatly increased thirst. Long before I was a diabetic I was thirstier than most people, and the disease has made that even worse. In addition, two of the anti-diabetic medications I’m on have the side effect of increased thirst. That is why you rarely see me without something to drink.

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I started this series after our 37th wedding anniversary and I began it with the best marriage advice I could offer. In part two I discussed the need to show love and respect in marriage. Yesterday, I wrote about being your spouse’s cheerleader. Which brings me to my last rule.

Rule #4: Look for things to celebrate

Long before MP3 downloads, CDs or even cassette tapes we bought our music on vinyl records. (This is a bit of nostalgia for many readers and a lesson in nearly ancient history for others.) Vinyl records came in 2 primary forms. They were 45s and LPs.

45s, also known as singles, played on a record player set to spin at 45 rotations per minute. LPs (short for long playing) were full albums and played at 33 1/3 RPM.

In our 33rd year of marriage it occurred to me one day that we were approaching 1/3 of a century of marriage. In considering this I knew 2 things:

First, that Becky would have no clue of this upcoming anniversary, and second, this was a good reason to celebrate.

I believe that one key to the success of our marriage is that we look for things to celebrate.  Birthdays, holidays, and vacations are great occasions for celebration, but if I find them few and far between in the course of a long year, how much more so in a very long marriage.

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Rule #3: Be Your Spouse’s Cheerleader

Remember what a big deal football games were in high school? Students would decorate the hallways. There would be pep rallies and announcements to rally around the team in anticipation of a great victory.

Then Friday night comes and the game proves to be an unmitigated disaster. Nothing goes right. Your opponent seems to score at will, but your team fumbles the snap on a field goal attempt as time runs out on the first half. When the gun sounds to put temporary end to the misery, the scoreboard shows your team down 31-0.

Considering the embarrassing score, your team’s inept performance and the bleak prospects for the second half, an appropriate halftime show would feature the band and drill team in mourning attire with a processional of black veiled cheerleaders slowly carrying a football-filled casket down the field to the lamenting sounds of a funeral home’s greatest hits.

No, that would never happen. Whatever the circumstances of the game, the show on the field would be colorful and upbeat with
bonafide smiles on the faces of the performers. Despite the disillusioned crowd, the cheerleaders would come out in the second half and cheer like the team was on the cusp of a mighty victory in an attempt to lift the fortunes of the team and the spirits of its fans.

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Rule # 2: Love and Respect Each Other

I remember the feeling of standing in front of the church and reciting our marriage vows to each other. There were probably 150 people in the church that Friday night in 1980, but as far as I was concerned they might as well have been painted cardboard cutouts during the service. Nothing seemed real or the least bit important to me from the time I saw that white blur coming down the aisle. (At the last minute, my brothers convinced me to take my glasses off before the ceremony, so it wasn’t until Becky got within a few feet of me that I could clearly see her. I was later told by people sitting at the front of the church that my reaction to finally seeing her was an astonished “WOW.”)

When the service was over, and with the processional music ringing in our ears, we walked down the aisle arm in arm, and just as we were about to leave the sanctuary I experienced a feeling akin to winning an Olympic gold medal.

Being very young, I thought that our triumphant wedding was just the staging ground for the life we envisioned, one that was close, unselfish, and harmonious, and it was, for a good 2 days.

As we were loading our luggage into the car to make the drive home, the winds were picking up and the skies looked ominous. We didn’t even make it out of the hotel’s parking lot before the torrential downpour began.  The heavy traffic moved at a snail’s pace and 30 minutes into the awful drive home we realized that we had left half of our clothing in the hotel room. Those frustrations were the kindling for of our first fight as husband and wife, and over the next year there would be many more.

On the day of our wedding there was no way I could have imagined us having a contentious marriage, but often the only way we learn is by going through the laborious classroom of life, and for me that meant repeating several grades more than once.

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Following up on yesterday’s post about how we met, I thought I’d address some of the reasons I think we’ve made it to 37 years of marriage.

These will be more or less, what I passed on to my sons before they got married and what I’ll share with my daughter and future son in law before they marry in December. Some of these may be directed more at husbands, but most are relevant to both sides of a marriage.

In economics, the most foundational principles are referred to as laws, but calling my suggestions the Laws of Marriage just sounds too heavy-handed. Instead, I’m going to refer to them as rules because I believe they have proved to be valid under a variety of conditions and over a long periods of time.

When you talk about rules one of the first things that is often expressed is the tired old expression “rules are made to be broken.” A better, more thoughtful guideline comes a Brit named Douglas Bader*,

“Rules are for the obedience of fools and the guidance of wise men.”

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Sometimes not knowing how crazy something is, is a good thing

–     Steve Wozniak, The Pirates of Silicon Valley

A few days ago, I mentioned the accident I had at my parents’ house in 1978.  It was August 19, a Saturday, and my parents had left the house for one more grocery store bargain run, leaving me to watch after my younger brother, Frank and little nephew, David.

Oilers and Cowboys

Minutes before the accident I was sitting in the living room, reading the sports section of the Houston Post which had many stories about that night’s Houston Oilers – Dallas Cowboy game. To people outside of Texas it was just another preseason game, but not to Cowboy and Oiler fans.  Since it was the only time the rivals would play each other that year, it was a game for bragging rights.

My brother, who was about 11, was running around the house making noise, and I was afraid he was going to wake up my nephew who had just gone down for a nap. I wanted to read the paper in peace, not deal with loud brothers or cranky toddlers deprived of their nap.

The Accident

I was trying to get my brother to quiet down when he went out into the garage pushing the door open as far as the pneumatic closer would allow. Knowing that the slamming door would wake the sleeping child, I went to catch the door, but ended up putting my hand through the window in the door.

In the movies, horrific accidents are often shown in slow motion, and in fact, that is what I experienced. I could see the glass falling in ever so slow motion to the floor and my first reaction to breaking the glass was “Oh no, my father’s going to kill me.”

Pulling my arm back through the window opening I saw the thinnest ribbon of blood on the outside of my wrist, and thought, “Great, on top of my father being mad at me, I’ve cut myself too.”’

Turning my wrist over to look at the what I assumed to be a little cut, I instead beheld a gaping hole in my wrist and at that moment the slow motion ended. Blood was coursing out of me at an alarming rate, and I instinctively ran out the front door of the house.

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Like a lot of small children, I idolized my father. I couldn’t wait for him to get home from work at the end of his day.  He wasn’t exactly the Norman Rockwell image of a father, but he was special. He was my daddy.

As I got into my teenage years I started noticing things about my father that bothered me. For one thing, I noticed that my family didn’t have a lot of the things that all the neighbors had. I didn’t know why. I just knew we didn’t have them and learned that it was pointless to ask for them.

Despite the miserably hot humid summers, we never had air conditioning in our house in Pasadena. Instead we had an old attic fan in the hallway, one that wouldn’t even start on its own. For years we had to turn the wall switch on and then poke an old broomstick through the opening in the ceiling to give the blade a nudge in the right direction before it started moving air around our little house.

We also never had a color television. Instead my father would buy a “big” 19 inch black and white television, and we’d use it until it was thoroughly worn out. Long before touch controls and remotes, TVs used big, clunky mechanical tuning knobs. When the plastic knobs finally broke from years of use my father would set a pair of pliers by the television so we could still change channels. As a teenager, it was always awkward for new friends to come to our house. We weren’t the Clampett family, but we were awkwardly different.

In short, we were so far behind the times.

I’d hear of my friends’ family vacations and the other luxuries that were completely foreign to us. I saw friends get new coats each year when it turned cold, but I often ended up wearing coats that were hand-me-downs from my older brothers. The fact that they were 6 or 7 years old and looked like something from a previous generation was never a concern to my father. It was a cardinal rule to him that he would not buy something new when the old was still serviceable.

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About 3 months after I graduated from high school in 1978 I suffered a very serious accident in the home where I grew up. My brother had run out into the garage, and in doing so, had pushed the kitchen door open as wide as it would go. This door had a heavy spring closer on it, and pushing the door that far open meant a house rattling slam was coming unless I could stop the door first. I instinctively reached out my hand to catch the door, but instead of my palm contacting the door’s wooden frame, it impacted the pane of glass in the center of the door.

Over the 18 years I lived in that house I had probably done that hundreds of times, but this time my hand shattered the glass and even ripped through the wire screen on the other side of the window. The glass ripped open the underside of my wrist and severed the ulnar nerves, tendons, and arteries. Thanks to a quick-thinking neighbor I didn’t bleed to death before the EMS arrived.

I’ll save the details of this for another day, but suffice it to say that this event sent my life in a very different direction, or perhaps it would be more accurate to say that the accident sent Becky in my direction. Less than 2 years after my accident we were married. I was 20, she was 19, and we thought we were grownups.

Over the next 12 years I worked in industrial and commercial sales. The money was enough to live on and our economic future looked promising, but it wasn’t. (Had I been a real grownup I would have known that.)

The 1980s were a time when many once profitable businesses started closing their doors which resulted in many people like me finding themselves out of work. Having just a high school diploma at a time of rising unemployment meant my earning potential was very limited.

In 1992 I met some college students that were older than me. In talking to them about their experience of going back to school a crazy idea began to form in my head.

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ne of the most frustrating things about teaching is seeing students that are perfectly capable of doing an assignment just sitting there. I am not talking about students that are phone addicts, non-stop talkers, or sleepers. The kids I’m referring to are ones who do nothing more than occupy space.

Somehow when I think about this I am reminded of a scene in a kid’s movie, The Neverending Story. In this scene a character known as Rockbiter discusses the nothingness:

Rockbiter: Near my home there used to be a beautiful lake, but then it was gone.

Tiny: Did the lake dry up?

Rockbiter: No, it just wasn’t there anymore. Nothing was there anymore. Not even a dried-up lake.

Tiny: A hole?

Rockbiter: No, a hole would be something. Nah, it was nothing. And it got bigger and bigger.  First there was no lake anymore and then finally, no rocks.

The students in my class that actively engaged in off-task behavior are doing something. Those students are in some sense using skills that may well prove to be valuable in their ultimate careers. Some notable high-tech entrepreneurs got their start playing around with gadgets.

People who have the gift of gab may become great teachers, sales representatives, or counselors, and economics class sleepers might be preparing themselves for a lucrative career as sleep study participants.

The ones who really do nothing are a constant concern. What does the future hold for them?

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In addition to sharing our home with our soon to be married daughter, Kelsey, we live with 4 animals, all of them very different. The oldest is a 17-year-old rat terrier named Randy. We were not looking for a second dog when he became a member of the family. The night we got him we…

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