• This post was written in September at the time of our anniversary. Life got super crazy so I’m just getting to post it now. Love is always a good idea, and right on time. Happy Valentines Day!

This is us.

Not the television show.


Me and him.

We just celebrated 35 years of marriage. 35 happy years of marriage. In this day and age, it’s a feat worthy of noting.

All of us Pickel girls are celebrating milestone wedding anniversaries this year. Between the three of us, we have one hundred years of marital experience.


100 years!

I asked my sisters the same question that my hub and I talk about: What advice for a happy marriage would you give to a newlywed couple? I was eager to see what my sisters and brother–in-laws said. Here is the list they sent me in no particular order:

(Side note: One of my sisters was sitting at the gate at the Atlanta airport getting ready to head to Cabo to celebrate 30 years together as they compiled theirs.)

  1. Lower your expectations. I laughed out loud on this one. It’s really true. The fairy tale idea of marriage has long been debunked, and the institution of marriage has gotten a bad rap because of it. That’s sad, because marriage can be and is supposed to be the singular most satisfying relationship that we have in our life journey. We were created by God to crave intimacy-to know and be known in the depths of our being. But having said all of that…we are all still flawed human beings. It’s bound to spoil paradise from time to time. Remembering that we are flawed as well goes a long way to having realistic expectations for Prince Charming. Life will never be perfect, but even really good is a blessing.
  2. Have friends of your own and couple friends as well. Start planning for life after your kids are gone from the beginning. It will give you a support system during the important season of child rearing, and make the empty nest season AMAZING! There is nothing sadder than a couple that did not build a marriage while they built a family. The grief that can happen when all of the children are out on their own can be intense if this was the focus of the family for 18+ years. For mamas and dads that start childrearing in their 30’s..take note: there is a lot of living left to do when the flock has flown.
  3. Have hobbies you like to do together and separately. Again, the idea is to keep developing as a person and a couple, apart from being parents. Watching your kids play sports does not qualify as a hobby.
  4. Make your spouse a higher priority than your relationship with your children. Your mate is with you for the long haul. Don’t underestimate the power and importance of intimacy. Honor date nights. Have their back in front of the kids during disagreements. Speak well of your spouse to everyone, especially your children. Remember, you are modeling a healthy marriage for them.
  5. Don’t keep secrets. Period. (Unless its about a surprise party for them.)



                     This is us…10 year anniversary 

I agree with every one of the things my sisters and BIL’s said. In addition to these things, this is the advice my hub and I received and have tried to follow since we said “I do.”


  1. Spend the majority of your first year of marriage together. Doing shared activities helps you become anchored in your marital identity to yourselves and others in your life.


  1. Learn to fight fair. (This has 3 rules of its own, thank you, James Dobson.)


  • Once engaged in a conflict, you must stand and fight. You can’t leave the room or get in a car and leave.
  • You must stick to the current offense. Avoid using the following: “You always…”or “You never…” –that is not staying on the current issue.
  • Every spouse knows the one area that the other struggles with in their life. It could be a lifelong issue that brings shame or insecurity. It is an area that should only be broached in a safe time where love is abundant and with kind words and gentle support. NEVER in times of anger to gain the upper hand in an argument. Marriage killing is what that does.


This is us-my sisters and their hubs, my hub and I and our youngest son this past October, We were high in the Tatra Mountains in Slovakia, celebrating our son and daughter-in-law’s 3rd anniversary with her extended family.

I hope this advice is received in the way it is offered. Our experience in marriage has been the single most satisfying relationship of our life.

It is never too late to make a marriage better than it is today.

Even if it’s been 35 years.


This is us…35 years and counting!



Posted in Family, Midlife Maze | 3 Comments

“The Woman Who Prayed a Man Out of Me”

True story.

Right before Christmas I flew to Nashville with my hub for a business trip. While he took the rental car to his appointments, I took the shuttle to our hotel. One of the best things about being in the south is that strangers carry on conversations.

Anywhere. Anytime.

I love that. I have missed that in Maryland these past 37 years, where strangers are HIGHLY RELUCTANT to engage in the briefest of exchanges.

The sweetest guy drove the shuttle, and this was our conversation:

Guy: Hey, good morning!

Me: Hey, how are you?

(In the south we greet each other with “Hey”.)

Guy: Welcome to Nashville. Where did you come in from?

Me: Baltimore

Guy: Is this your first time in Nashville?

Me: No, but it’s been a long time and I’m happy to be back. My husband and I are going to the Ryman to see Vince and Amy tonight.

 (Classic southern oversharing.)

Guy: Do you like country music?

Me: I sure do!

Guy: Well, listen, me and the wife have a video on YouTube of a song we wrote called, “The Woman Who Prayed a Man Out of Me.” I’d appreciate it if you’d check us out sometime.

Me: (As I am pulling up the notes section on my phone) Can you say that again, so I get the words right?

Guy: Sure, it’s called “The Woman Who Prayed a Man Out of Me.”

You can not make this stuff up.

At this point I have two things I’m struggling with:

  1. The overwhelming urge not to laugh
  2. How can I ever tell this correctly?

Me: Well, that’s an interesting title.

Guy: It’s my testimony, cause I used to be a not so nice guy, but she stayed with me and prayed that I would change and I did.

Me: Well thats really great. I’ll look it up when I get on to the hotel WiFi.

Here is the link to his YouTube video, check it out:

By that time we had arrived at the hotel and our meeting was over. I started counting the hours till my hub got to the hotel and I could tell him this story. But he never gets as tickled about these things as I do, so I did the next best thing:

I called my sisters.

They gave me the reaction I was looking for and we all agreed that Nashville does live up to all the hype of struggling country singers everywhere you go.

Later that night, my husband and I had dinner at Merchants (highly recommend the duck fat tater tots) and walked around Broadway looking and listening at all the honkeytonks. Every group that we heard spilling out of the doors of those clubs was good enough to be on the CMA Awards show. Even the bands playing the 6:00pm spots. The better bands were supposedly later in the evening.


On our walk to the Ryman we stopped and did some boot shopping, because if you’re going to spend time in Nashville, you gotta have cool boots. It was hard to stay in those stores too long because the music beckoned us back out to the streets.


The Ryman was everything we had hoped it would be. Hearing Vince and Amy sing the Christmas songs we have loved for so long was magical. Especially Tennessee Christmas, my hub’s favorite.




Bucket list kinda night.

When we came out the street performers were on every corner as we walked to our car. All of them…sounded good enough to be on the CMA Awards show.

I started wondering…if everyone in Nashville sings good enough for the CMA Awards show-how will I ever sing loud in church?

Guess we’ll find out!



Posted in Faith, Midlife Maze, Travel | 3 Comments


It’s been a rough couple of weeks at our house. First the hub started with a raging fever and chills, which finally drove us to a 4am emergency room visit for blood cultures, nasal swabs, breathing treatments and IV fluids.

Followed by (4 days later) a predictable cough, chills and fever for me. In the middle of a family crisis.

H3N2…I hate you.

I never got as raging ill as my hub did. Why not, you ask? Because, I got a little thing called the flu shot. Despite all the hoopla from the CDC about how they were off with the shot this year (it’s always, pretty much a guess as to which strains will be dominate) it was still better than nothing.

Just ask my hub.

104 temps, chills and body aches were his story. For days. Mine lasted 48 hours.

All this to say: be careful out there folks. It’s everywhere. So here’s your PSA for this week as the flu season reaches the peak:

  1. Wash your hands, frequently. MOST IMPORTANT THING YOU CAN DO.
  2. Cover your mouth if you cough. Better yet, practice coughing into your bent arm instead of your hands.
  3. Try to keep your hands away from your nose and eyes.
  4. Use wipes and hand sanitizer sparingly. It’s a balance of wiping bad germs away and wiping our good germs off.
  5. Go get tested immediately if you start having fever, coughing and chills. Tamiflu is only effective if given within first 48 hours of onset of symptoms.
  6. Get next seasons flu shot in midfall, NOT in the spring or summer as some pharmacies advertise. You want maximum coverage during the height of flu season. (The surgery center where I work likes us nurses to delay until the first of November to get ours.)

It’s no fun, my friends.

Here’s hoping to see ya’ll on the other side. (Of the flu season.)



Posted in Uncategorized | 1 Comment

Devil, Thy Name is Hurry

I’m in a hurry to get things done

I rush and rush until life’s no fun*


Or until I slam my finger in a locked car door.

That brought my hurry up life to a screeching halt about 2 weeks ago. Intense pain has a way of getting our attention. The busy, productive day I had planned took a detour that looked a lot like me settling into a position where my hand could be elevated on pillows and I got to continue the book series I have been reading through this summer.

Forced rest.

My least favorite kind.

The whole ordeal made me introspective. How, I asked myself, could such a small injury-one half of one digit on my dominant hand affect every part of my waking hours? I know the answer: our fingertips are jam packed with nerve endings, which allow us to distinguish thousands of different sensations-a wonderful thing. However, the more pain receptors, the more intense the pain, ergo the smallest paper cut can send us howling.

There is no way around this throbbing, swollen finger…I am a captive to time.


I started thinking about other parts of life that cannot be hurried. The kind of things that have their own ebb and flow in life, despite our coaxing, “Hurry up!” We are just along for the ride.


Feeding a baby a bottle is one of those things. It makes us sit down and be present in the task. We can’t hurry a 5 month old into gulping faster. We don’t want to. It’s an honor to be involved in such an important part of their growth and development.

IMG_5645 2

Karalin Grace has reminded me of that. I count the time I spend feeding my little granddaughter her bottle as time I want to stand still. Holy moments as we stare into each other’s eyes. I long to know what she is thinking. Here’s what I am thinking: this time will be gone too fast. Slow down.

57 years of living taught me that.

Healing is another thing that cannot be hurried. Our bodies are amazing. As a nurse, God’s design for how the body heals itself still keeps me in awe. But it takes time. Time that has it’s own pace that we are captive unto. That hits home as I hunt and peck this keyboard, protecting the still sore finger.


It is good to be sidelined sometimes. To be reminded that the world keeps going on without us, just fine. We are not so important as to hold up the universe, even the universe of our lives.

The Bible taught me that.

It says, be still.

“Be still, and know that I am God. I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth!” (Ps 46:10)

“Be still before the Lord and wait patiently for Him…” (Ps 37:7)

We are encouraged by spiritual fathers of the past to look not only to participating in the outward Christian disciplines of worship, service and giving, but seek to incorporate silence and solitude into our practice of faith. In a world that values production and accomplishment, it is sometimes hard to sit and wait. The blessing is in the action of being still on purpose. To wait patiently for Him.

With expectation of meeting the divine.

God desires our attention. And He will have it one way or another. Freely given. Or heaven directed.

As the bruises fade and tenderness subside, I realize I needed to be attentive to what I had put off for too long.

And I am thankful.






* Excerpt from I’m in a Hurry by Randy VanWarmer and Roger Murrah

Posted in Faith, Family | 19 Comments

Minimalist Me

Ok, that’s a stretch.

But I am moving in the right direction. As a follow up to my last post, Defeathering Our Nest, I am proud to report that in this past week I have “dealt with” 23 Rubbermaid boxes in the back part of my attic. The weather was cooler and my mom was visiting -so that was a great combo to spur me on. My mom genuinely enjoys this process. You would think it was like opening packages on Christmas morning for her. She has the opposite problem that I do…she doesn’t hold on to ANYTHING. She even tossed my dad’s love letters to her, long before we ever found out that he had written them!

Honestly, my mom is one of the only people I would let into this process. She passes no judgement on me as I have held on to more than she ever would have drug through the decades. It also helped that I had a very non-sentimental vibe going last week.

I can tell when I feel this way. I wake up and think, “today is a great day to get rid of stuff”. No emotion attached to items. No remembering 3 little boys, who are now grown men with their childhood packed up one floor above me. I steel myself not to dwell of the beautiful past.

Focus on the future. A clean attic. Less work for my boys and their wives. A monumental task completed. And lightness for hub and I if we decide to do something crazy, like live half of our lives in another state.

Once I got through the initial self- loathing for waiting so long to do this task, and that I had left so much stuff to deal with, I was flying through the boxes. Easter baskets, tooth fairy pillows, plastic pumpkins for candy, board games, stuffed animals, baseball cards…I could go on and on ad nauseam. I even came across the box with our wedding momentos. I still have 27 lilac napkins that have our names and wedding date on them.

From our reception.

35 years ago.

Bless my heart.

However, in that same box was a wooden music box that I had bought in Austria when I lived there while I was in college. When you lift the lid it plays Edelweiss, from The Sound of Music. Inside were my hub and I’s high school rings and most exciting, my gold baby bracelet. When our family was complete having 3 boys- I’m sure I thought that was a good place for safe keeping, back in the days before the box got reassigned to the attic.

But I never figured that my middle age brain drain would not remember it was there. Yet, there it was. And now I have someone special to give it to. I polished that little treasure and gave it to my new little treasure that very day.


            My little treasure wearing the my baby bracelet for the first time.

With the 20+ boxes emptied, that is roughly 1/8 of the attic contents. I ended up with 4 pared down boxes, but in each of those boxes is an 8 x11 paper with one of the boys names on it. So when the time comes for the big breaking up of household, each son will take the boxes assigned to them and if I see them again, I will know that they have already been dealt with.

I am so encouraged, and as soon as we get another break in the heat, I’m going back up there to bring another load down. If any of my fellow midlife mamas have had a hard time getting rid of the past, I urge you to start the defeathering process. It can bring such feelings of power and control, at a time of life where that can be in short supply.

 If only losing weight was this easy.




Posted in Family, Midlife Maze | 4 Comments

Defeathering Our Nest

Our Colorado son texted me a couple of months ago, asking if I knew where his lacrosse gear was, and could I send it with his friend who was coming out to ski next week?


Any attempt on their part to take their possessions out of this old farmhouse is welcome. Our attic is divided into 3 sections: One that has my seasonal decorations and extra entertaining supplies, the middle one with all the left over high school/college crap of 3 boys, and the largest section has remains of the life we have lived here for 32 years.

The first section is pristine and the most easily accessible, I use most of that stuff at some point during each year. The largest section is my work alone to do: I have saved every Lego, Playmobiles, stuffed animal, farm tractors and attachments, dinosaurs and all the rest that make up the life of young boys. These items were discarded through every developmental stage of growth. They were carefully and thoughtfully stored (or so I thought). There are also unused items that I decorated with during the years, our boys baby bed, high chairs, beach equipment, camping equipment, coolers, camp stoves.

We are not even campers.

Why didn’t I get rid of all that stuff when I was supposed to, you ask? I don’t really know that answer to that. Maybe thinking about future grandsons (cause heaven knows we never counted on a Harkins girl!)

I am not (by my own estimation) in any way a hoarder. All the attic crap is organized. My mom says that I have a fortune in Rubbermaid containers. She is probably right. When I get the largest attic section defeathered, my kids won’t have to buy storage boxes.


I won’t even address what the hub has in the barn and spring house. You would think that our family motto is “Better save this, might come in handy.” We might have, once or twice, even purchased items that we already owned, sitting in orange Home Depot boxes up in the barn attic.

I won’t point fingers.

But I could. If I wasn’t such a sweet wifey.

Enter: my conviction to start the path to becoming a minimalist. I stumbled upon a blog from an Aussie young chick a couple of years ago, and she made some really astute points, about keeping stuff for the life you used to have, or one that you hope you’ll have in the future. And how that stuff is so cumbersome in the present. She was right!

With that as my charge-I started going through the 2 main floors of our house. Anything that didn’t bring me joy, or have a function (towels) went to Goodwill or our church thrift store. I started with my own closet and with the help of my sister, was ruthless in discarding little worn clothing, shoes and purses.

Ruthless. 3 garbage bags of ruthless.

I tried to do the same to the hub’s closet, but he was having none of that. Besides, as mistress to every other area in the house, I had plenty of other areas to get to- I’d deal with him later.

I went from room to room, culling items that were just collecting space. I had to make second and third passes through the rooms and closets, but finally after a couple of months, things were feeling lighter. More spacious.

While I was purging I was reminding myself that when I’m gone, it will be my sons and daughter in laws having to handle each possession I leave behind. That spurred me on. I need to make that job as easy for them as I can. I can just hear it now: “Why in the world did your mom keep this old thing?”

To offset some of that I have started a Rubbermaid box for my granddaughter. I’m putting in my grandmother’s quilts, my favorite dolls and special keepsakes just for her.

She’s 10 weeks old.

Send help.



Posted in Family, Farm, Midlife Maze | 2 Comments

Changes in Latitudes, Changes in Attitudes

Nothing remains quite the same. Jimmy Buffet was right. Life is full of changes.

Some are predictable: children moving away from home, getting married and the empty nest that ensues. Others, not so much.

We never saw this coming.

Two years ago, my hub’s company was presented with an opportunity for their commercial demolition business to expand into Florida.

Let me put it this way: You don’t say “no” to The Mouse.

Within a couple of months, he had an office in central Florida, and in less than two years, we have a house 20 minutes from Cinderella’s Castle, and he has work all over the state. We watched Frozen. Just the two of us-so that he could wrap his head around their first project at Epcot.

Big life changes that were not even on our radar.

Living between two states means almost weekly travel back and forth between our rural farm and the most popular travel destination in the world.

The whole world.

The Publix and Target that are closest to our house is like the United Nations. Picture scores of foreigners trying to figure out traffic patterns, unfamiliar groceries and currency exchanges. Every language can be heard as I stroll through the aisles looking for Pawley’s Island Pimento Cheese and Blue Bell Butter Pecan ice cream. I don’t have the heart to tell the British lady who came to Target in her sheer cover up, over her string bikini to buy wine (at Target!) that she is woefully underdressed.

It’s only 64 degrees outside.

As opposed to the native Floridian’s who started wearing long sleeves and vests right after Labor Day when it was still 94 degrees. And they break out the Uggs if it gets close to 50.

Which brings me to: I AM IN THE SOUTH AGAIN!!! Thank you, Jesus. I still don’t know how all this happened so fast, but HE works in mysterious ways.


My southern accent is right at home here. No one asks where I am from “originally”. I can end all the sentences I want with a preposition. We have the sweetest neighbors, who look out for our house while we are gone. Without us even asking.

I could list scores of reasons this makes me soooo happy, (more blogs to follow on this account) but for now suffice to say, however we got here, I am deeply thankful.

I love to take long walks around our area, called Celebration. There are miles of wooden walkways through palm forests with a plethora of wildlife that we don’t see in Maryland.




I’m learning how to be on the lookout for these guys, and to remember if I get chased by a gator to run zigzag . I don’t go pulling up weeds in the yard down here, even though it is one of my favorite spring/summer things to do on the farm. I take to heart the warnings on the evening news that with the heat coming earlier than normal the snakes are becoming more active.

Some of our lifelong friends are making the move (gradually) to our area and that makes it feel even more like home.

Well, our half home. We definitely live double lives, which has its own challenges. We still care for my hub’s elderly mom on the weekends and with the arrival of our dear granddaughter, we don’t want to be gone too long lest we miss her growing and changing.

So, we are learning to be flexible-which is a good thing as we navigate these middle years of change and uncertainty.

Especially when The Mouse calls.



Posted in Uncategorized | 5 Comments