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What is Love?


The plastic blue three-ring binder has been on our bookshelf for years, among picture albums from the days when a roll of film was developed and pictures were placed in plastic sleeves.  Inside the blue notebook are newspaper clippings glued on blue-lined notebook paper.  Clippings that Mom saved during the winter of 1975-76. 

A pictorial review tells of the troubles of 1975.  Other editorial cartoons show hope for 1976, Dennis the Menace tracks mud through his house, and Dagwood gobbles a humongous sandwich. The single panel cartoons Mom saved that I most appreciate are love is… (always written in small letters and followed by three periods.)

Remember the cute boy and girl with big round heads and eyes, up-turned noses, and no clothes?  Mom’s love is… clippings are yellowed, showing their age, but as true today as thirty-five years ago.

            Love is…lots of giving and taking.  Knowing when to count your blessings.  Carrying your share of the load.  Not turning your back on his problems.  Best when played straight. What makes you feel a whole lot younger than you are.  Love is trusting and having faith in each other.

            And love is… can be specific.  Learning the words to his favorite song.  Not keeping him waiting too long.  Seeing it’s not a perfect job but it’s still all right.  Not using his last razor blade to shave your legs. Smelling good just for him.  Not making loud noises in the morning. 

            The first love is… cartoon was printed in the Los Angeles Times in 1970 and continues in some print forms today, but don’t we all have our own ideas of what love is?  Some of my friends shared.  Love is having special friends.  Cooking for a month while your wife is sick.  The coffee my husband brings me before I get out of bed.  A cream horn and glazed donut from Ralph’s Donut Shop.  A thank you note under your pillow.  Folding back her sheet at bedtime.

            And third grade students shared their thoughts.  Love is being kind and helpful. Giving hugs and not being rude or mean.  Someone who cares for you and you can trust. To feel happy and bright.  Something you do to be kind and you give something to someone. 

            One eight-year-old said, “Love is action not a word.”  A friend shared that one of her favorite quotes, ‘Work is love made visible.’   Turn that around: love is work made visible.  Action.  Work.  Love.  Those three words go together. 

            As I flip through Mom’s collection of clippings, I think of my parents at this time of their lives: nearing retirement, their first two grandchildren were toddlers, and they enjoyed playing cards and golf with friends.  They showed their love to each other and those they loved.              I’m glad Mom saved love is… clippings, and she marked a favorite one.  Love is … never getting enough of that wonderful stuff.  It seems to me that love is ageless.


More Heart Tugs

Valentine’s Day. A time to show love. I promised myself to be mindful of Heart Tugs, to remember and appreciate loving moments.

I sat in my reading chair with paper and pen and read a short devotion early one morning while the house was quiet. Soon three young Grands and Son and Daughter 2 (aka Daughter-in-Law,) who were visiting for a few days, would awaken and be ready for juice, coffee, and breakfast. I closed my eyes and then heard a patter of footsteps. Five-year-old Neil stuck his head around the living room corner wall. I motioned for him to come to me.

My Grand, wearing only his ‘unders’ as he calls his underwear, ran across the room and snuggled onto my lap. He laid his head against my chest and wrapped his arms around himself. I covered him with a knitted afghan and in hushed voices we talked and agreed that we’d slept well and we weren’t hungry and we liked being the first ones awake. “Gran, tell me last night’s Purple Cow story,” Neil said.  I repeated, with Neil’s help, the one I’d made-up as I sat beside him on his bed the night before.

“I have a story,” said Neil and he spun a tale. A big black bear wandered away from home. He fell into a creek. He climbed out of the water and walked up a bank. “How do you like my made-up story?” he asked. I loved it, but most I loved those few minutes with my Grand, just the two of us together.

All our Grands and their parents gathered around Husband’s and my dining room table for brunch. Eight children, ages 3-13, and six adults. Last to fill my plate from the buffet served meal, I thought ‘this is as good as life gets.’ A cliché, but my thought. Jesse, who was seated, said, “Gran, come sit by me.” My four-year old Grand reached his hand toward mine. While holding his wiggling fingers as we all recited our family prayer, life got a little better.

Sometimes Heart Tugs happen when not holding hands or hugging or even touching the person who makes the heartstrings tighten. I posted a picture of an empty plastic popcorn bottle on Facebook and asked if anyone knew where I could buy it. “I bought it locally, but I don’t remember where. After looking at several stores (I listed five), I can’t find it,” I wrote. Friends’ comments gave suggestions of other brands and online links to order my favorite popcorn. Daughter 2 sent a text that read, “Tomorrow a box will be delivered on your porch. Enjoy. Love you!” From miles and miles across country, Daughter 2 sent a hug, masked as popcorn.

After Husband returned home from running errands, a box of chocolate covered cherries appeared on our kitchen counter. For no reason, except he knows what I like: surprises, chocolate, and cherries.

Heart Tugs. I’m catching all I can.


When You knew it was Love

searchWhen did you know you were in love? My Facebook friends shared their stories for this column. Stories of love at first sight. Of confirmed love.

On our first date. He took me out for a nice dinner, told me I was beautiful, and made me feel like no one ever had.

I saw him leaning against a brick wall. Shades. Sullen. Looking all James Dean.

He jumped over my front porch railing and ran to me when I came home from work. I didn’t know he was on leave from the Navy.

While at a movie night at a friend’s house, he walked across the room and handed me his popcorn bowl with only half-popped kernels. He remembered my favorite popcorn.

When I saw him with his family, he was gentle, loving, and showed respect.

Coming home from a trip to Chattanooga sealed the deal. Ruby Falls is so romantic.

He kissed me in my parents’ kitchen when we were teenagers. I knew I’d marry him one day.

In 7th grade, I saw her for the first time and a lightning bolt struck. We were a parent-take-us-couple. To the movies, skating rink, a friend’s house. Then we went to different high schools, but reconnected in 10th grade. She called me on her birthday at 11:00 p.m. because her family had forgotten her birthday. That was it!

Our eyes locked across the room at our high school reunion. I’d had a crush on him in high school and he “picked” on me. I called him the day after the reunion and he sent me flowers. Three weeks later we began a long-distance courtship.

On our first date. He held my hand during the movie and walked, rather than drove, me home.

Six months into dating, we were slow dancing and the thought popped into my head, “I’m in love with this guy!” I wasn’t happy about it because I was 14 and had big plans. He went away to college and called me every Sunday afternoon. When I received a scholarship at a college close to him, I knew it was meant to be.

I heard a tiny bell chime when I first saw him. It was like heaven said, “Finally, they meet!”

When going to college badminton class wasn’t as important as going to lunch with him. I made a D in badminton.

Our wedding was only weeks away when our rescue boxer died. Phillip wrapped his body in a quilt and dug a grave at my grandparent’s farm. I realized that if I could endure such a sad time with Phillip by my side and still feel hopeful about the future, I had chosen the right partner for life.

Thank you, friends, for your mini-love stories.   I was swayed when he brought Ralph’s chocolate-covered cream-filled donuts and drove me from my college dormitory to 8:00 chemistry classes in the dead of winter. I hated early cold mornings and chemistry class. I loved Boyfriend, now Husband, and donuts. And still do.


A Love Story


They were 19 and in love and wanted to marry.  Doris planned to tell her dad while she cut his hair, but the scissors slipped and nipped his ear.  It bled.  She couldn’t say, “Hugh and I are getting married!” while her father wiped blood off his neck.

The year was 1943.  A time when couples were often married by an elected official.  A few days later, Doris told her father and mother about her wedding plans.  They gave their blessings, and her sister made her a new dress.

Doris and Hugh had known each other all their lives and started dating during their last year of high school.  She worked in a local restaurant and Hugh stopped by every day to see her.  After high school graduation, she rode the bus to Nashville with a cousin to be trained for a factory job.  A job left vacant by men who were fighting a war.  After three days of training, Doris said, “I’m going home.  I want to be where Hugh is.”

They dated for fifteen months and on March 13, 1943, Doris and Hugh travelled from their homes in Byrdstown, Tennessee, to Rossville, Georgia where Judge A. L. Ellis performed their wedding ceremony in his office.  Doris and Hugh lived with his parents for six weeks – long enough for him to learn that he was denied enlistment in the Armed Forces because he had a perforated eardrum.

Hugh found work in Akron, Ohio, at the Goodyear Rubber Plant and lived with an uncle until he found housing for himself and his bride.  As she rode the bus from Tennessee to Ohio she imagined their new home.  A white cottage with a white picket fence.   Hugh took her, by city bus, to their first home – a one bedroom, small upstairs apartment.  It didn’t matter.  Doris was happy to keep house and cook for her husband.

For the next seventy years, Aunt Doris kept house and cooked for Uncle Hugh.  They lived in Ohio for sixteen years and then bought a farm back home, in Tennessee, where they moved with their only child, a son, fifteen years old.  Hugh became a dairy farmer, and she worked in retail businesses.  And she was well known for her chocolate pies and dried apple fried pies.

Along the way, family and friends and laughter filled their home.  They hosted hamburger cookouts, card parties, Christmas dinners, spaghetti suppers, church meetings.  Their family grew.  Two grandsons, three great-grandchildren.  All loved to visit their Pa and Granny’s house – a home filled with acceptance and love and hugs.

When they reached retirement age, life barely slowed down.  He hit the golf course and neither missed a trip.  Together they followed their favorite sports teams and politicians.  And they kissed good-bye when either left the house – even for a few hours.

Last month, Aunt Doris and Uncle Hugh were honored at a anniversary reception.  Two weeks later, Uncle Hugh slid onto the floor and his heart stopped.  Two weeks after that, Aunt Doris suffered a major stroke and passed away.  Both at home.  Both living their normal daily lives just hours before.

One of their grandsons wrote the following:  If you are going to write the Great American Love Story from beginning to end, this is how it ends.  A celebration of their 70th wedding anniversary with most of their dear friends, Pa heads out to get the permanent house ready, and then Granny comes home.

They were 89 and in love.



Hugs for Heatlh


“A pick-up hug!” my Grand says.  Lou, almost six years old, stands in front of her Pop, looks up, and raises her arms.  Pop lifts her high above his head.  Her arms come down to encircle his neck and she wraps her legs around his waist.  What a hug!

Ruth, almost four years old, is famous for her good-bye hugs.  As I walk toward her family’s back door, her mother calls,  “Ruth, Gran is leaving.”  My Grand comes running.  Her arms open wide.  Eyes wider and an open-mouth smile.  If I don’t get down to her level immediately, she wraps both arms around my legs and plants a kiss right on my knee.  Because I prefer neck hugs, I move fast to sit or lean over.  Her arms hold my neck like a vise and she lays her head on my shoulder.  “Um, Um!”  she says and kisses my cheek.  Then she looks me eye to eye.  “Bye, Gran!”  Her hug carries me through the day.

Our Grands don’t know that they are making Pop and me healthier, both physically and mentally.  It’s been proven.  A University of North Carolina study showed that hugs increase the levels of the hormone oxytocin and reduce blood pressure.  This hormone triggers a caring and bonding response in both men and women, and a daily dose of oxytocin from hugging can help protect us from heart disease.  Hugs also lower cortisol, the stress hormone responsible for high blood pressure.  And it’s also been proven that the production of hemoglobin, which carries oxygen throughout our entire body, increases when we hug so we feel healthy and full of energy.

A proper hug, where the hearts are pressing together, relaxes muscles and releases tension.  Hugs balance out the nervous system.  Build trust and help foster honest and open communication.  Teach us to give and receive.  Hugging boosts self-esteem.

Much has been written and said about hugs.  When you give a hug, you get a hug.  A hug makes you feel loved and special.  A hug takes a few seconds – lasts for hours.  A hug is free and the supply is endless.  Dr. Dorothy M. Neddermeyer even liken hugs to food:  organic, naturally sweet, no pesticides, non-fattening, no carbohydrates, no preservatives, no artificial ingredients and 100 % wholesome.  How many hugs a day to we need?  Virginia Satir, a family therapist said, “We need four hugs a day for survival.  We need eight hugs a day for maintenance.  We need twelve hugs a day for growth.”

The only requirement to give a hug is a willing spirit.  Lou and Ruth’s little 21-month-old sister Elaine watches as Ruth hugs me.  “Gan, ugh!”  Elaine says.  I lift her into my arms for a pick-up hug.  Her hands grab my shoulders.  She swipes her face across my cheek and wiggles.  She’ll get it.  It just takes practice.  And I’m happy to participate in her training.