Category Archives: Marriage

Evan Engstrom – 1942-2010

Heaven is richer today for the presence of my former husband and one of my best friends of all time. Evan Emil Engstrom died yesterday after a 26-year battle with cancer. The man was a warrior. 

I first met Evan when we were both struggling to get sober. I knew his sister and she was everything I wanted to be. Shortly thereafter, I met his mom and his kids, and knew this was the family for me. We married, I adopted his two wonderful children, and we set out to have a full life together. Evan was incredibly smart, the master of the one-line zingers, handy and clever, but most of all, he cared. Deeply. About everything, all the time. He wanted to do the right thing in all situations. My honorary Uncle Paul told me to marry “a man I could live up to.” Evan was just such a man, and he provided a moral compass for me from the moment we met, as well as everyone with whom he came into contact.

It wasn’t long after we married that Evan’s dentist found a small lump under his tongue. The surgery to eradicate this squamous cell carcinoma took the floor of his mouth, all the lymph nodes and big muscle on the left side of his neck, and required a skin graft from his thigh. The doctor told me: “The chances of his being here in two years are slim and none.” Well, they didn’t know Evan.

We moved from Maui to Oregon to provide a broader perspective of life for the kids, began to eat organically, raising most of our own food, and for a long time life was good. Eventually, however, we began to see that while we were really good friends, we did not make good mates. We discussed the fact that friendship is eternal while marriages are likely not, and we were in danger of losing our friendship as we toiled to maintain a broken marriage. So we separated, and eventually divorced, still committed to one another, still connected to one another via the heart, forever, in this world and throughout the next.

When I married Al, Evan came to our wedding. His classic comment: “I’ll come to all of your weddings, Liz, if there’s a meal in it for me.” Al had to know that my commitment to Evan was part of my family unit. And when Evan and Sharon discovered each other in a new way, we all became one big happy weird family, impossible to describe, but precious in every way.

Evan’s cancer came back. Again. And again. And yet again. He never gave up the fight against it, not after all the rest of us thought it might be a good idea that he just let go and let God. But he wanted to see his kids grow up. He wanted to see his grandkids grow up. And for the most part, he did. He leaves his two wonderful children, Nicole and Eron, and five grandsons, Luke, age 19, Joey, 17, Edison, 8 and Dean and Davison, both 3.

Evan left us too early. I particularly grieve that he and Sharon had such limited time together to explore their new relationship, to travel the world in happy retirement. But it is what it is, and we are all richer for knowing and loving him for as long as he was on loan to us.

Congratulations on your graduation, Evan. We all look forward to seeing you on the other side.

11 Comments

Filed under Aging, Cancer, Death, Dying, family, Graduation, Marriage, relationships

Have We No Shame?

I haven’t been feeling well lately, so haven’t posted, because I was uncertain as to whether my impatience with Jon and Kate and the whole Letterman affair was due to my feeling low, or if I was really fed up.

Well, the verdict is in. I’m fed up.

Jon and Kate: You should be ashamed of yourselves.

You’ve had your fifteen minutes of fame,  you’ve entertained some folks, your children are adorable, and worth way more than you’re giving them.

Kate: go home. Tend your children. You have EIGHT of them, for cryin’ out loud. What are you doing making the talk show circuit when you should be home being a mom to your kids?

Jon: Go home. Get a job. Forget the television series and all the unearned bucks it throws into your pockets, and act like a father and a provider and a gentleman. We’re sick to bloody death of your spotlight addiction and airing the minutia of your dirty laundry every time I log on or turn on the television. Enough, already.

Mr. Letterman: You broke my heart. I have been such a die-hard fan of yours since the very beginning, and I have cheered for you and celebrated with you and worried over you. And now I find out that you’re just another one of “those guys” who cheats on his woman with sleazy office romances. This is so far beneath you I cannot even express my disappointment.

You’re a victim on top of a victim, and I think that is a shame, but you brought it all on yourself. I hope you can hold your family together for the sake of your young son. At least you’re not rubbing our noses in this distasteful turn of events every time I turn the television on.

No, someone else is doing that. And we watch it.

If we demanded that the talking heads shut up about all of this, perhaps they’d find something else to talk about. Something educational. Something worthwhile, something that would enrich the lives of those of us who watch their programs. Even something entertaining, instead of endlessly slogging through tiny details, twisting and turning them, trying to find a fresh angle.

They do it because we watch it.

Not me. Not any more.

2 Comments

Filed under disappointment, family, Marriage, Promotion, relationships, Resentment, Social Consciousness

Bored in the Kitchen? Not Any More!

Alert: This is a not-quite rave review of a new-to-me product.

The product is e-mealz.

For $5 per month (3 months at a time), I download a weekly 5-dinner meal plan, complete with recipes and a shopping list.  If I shopped at Wal-Mart, they’d even tailor the weekly recipes to Walmart’s sales and include prices. This is pretty incredible.

I don’t shop at Wal-Mart, so that doesn’t apply to me. And, truth be told, not every one of their meals suits us. (I will personally never eat tilapia, no matter how it’s dressed up to look like real fish, but that’s a different blog for a different time.)

What is true is that I’ve been in such a terrible rut when it comes to cooking. For years! It is absolutely the last thing on my priority list. I cook out of necessity, and my poor husband has to eat whatever I put on the table, which isn’t much, and usually isn’t good. And it’s the same thing, week in, week out.

No more.

I’m cooking delicious things now. Things I would never imagine I would prepare, would never think to prepare, recipes that blow my mind with their simplicity and tastiness. There are always leftovers for lunch the next day, and in fact, sometimes we’ll have an evening of leftovers. Of the five recipes per week, I probably make four.

So we’re eating well (and much healthier), my shopping is so efficient that I’m saving at least $15 per week on groceries (probably more), I’m not spending any more time in the kitchen than I was before, and the food is much better and the variety is delightful.

I’ve rediscovered my kitchen, and am surprised to remember at how satisfying it is to put a plate of something good is front of my husband.  So give it a try. If you don’t like it, it’s easy to cancel. But at least give it two weeks before you do that. I was sold after the first week, but the second week really sealed the deal.

E-mealz. What a great idea and for me, a great service.

2 Comments

Filed under Marriage, time

An American Story

I’ve been a big fan of Dave Ramsey’s for some time.

This spring I’m counseling engaged couples before their nuptials, and I’m giving each couple a copy of his book The Total Money Makeover, because kids today have the sex part down, but they’re clueless about money and debt. They’re not even married and they’ve already got “manageable” debt. Whoa.

I’ve been in trouble with credit cards twice in my life: once as a young adult, flush with the newfound power of credit, and another time when I was in a bit of a personal crisis, and I saw credit cards as my only way through the problem. It wasn’t, but I survived. Other than that, debt has been minimal, usually confined to car payments and the occasional vacation, and closely monitored.

For this, I have my parents to thank. They taught me well about saving, investing and credit. I had to make a few mistakes on my own — don’t we all — but I learned my lessons in the process.

The Dave Ramsey Show on television and radio is a sobering glimpse into the lives of  most Americans.  I listen with empathy and astonishment as these people seek financial counseling for the terrible situations they’ve gotten themselves into. And I personally know many people who have piled on debt without a clue as to how to dig themselves out.

On Dave’s website yesterday, I watched this video, and it blew me away. Obviously, it was made a couple of years ago, as his numbers are a little off, considering today’s economic climate, but the point is still the point.

And then I found this blog. It’s not so much a testimony to Dave Ramsey and his techniques as it is an inspirational look at two parents pulling themselves up out of an uncomfortable, untenable, and unsustainable situation. Together, as partners.

Debt is insidious. Al and I talked about our truck payment last night and decided that enough is enough. As quickly as possible, we’re going to dispatch that bastard and never have another’n.  No matter what the car lots would have you believe, car payments are not a requirement for a happy life.  They’re not a requirement, period.

Life is a lot better with money in the bank instead of bills coming through the door.  Dave calls it Financial Peace.

He’s right.

Dave Ramsey is not my guru, but boy, does he speak the truth about many things. If you’re not familiar with his philosophy on money, it’s worth checking out.

1 Comment

Filed under Discipline, goals, Marriage, Money

Essential Stress

I have too much work on my desk. This is a cyclical condition. As with most things, it’s boom or bust; feast or famine. Right now, it’s manageable, but barely. Last week I kind of freaked out, but I knocked out a project and so it’s back to just “seriously intense”.

I like it just a little less intense than this, but I do enjoy my stress. I love my deadlines, love a little pressure. Today I want to get out into the nice day on my bicycle, so I have a little added pressure to get my scheduled “must-do” things done on a timeline that will allow for that.

Last summer I decided to take a couple of months off. No work, no school, no schedule. Just work in the garden, lie about and read. Lunch with the girlfriends. Bad idea. I was miserable, and started manufacturing grand schemes (aka “trouble”) in my mind.

Some day retirement will be an option for me, and I’m one of those who will have to do some serious retirement planning so I don’t drive myself nuts with inactivity. Or inappropriate activity (heh heh). But then does a writer ever really retire?

But for now, I have two research papers to finish, an anthology to edit, a weekend retreat to prepare for, two writing projects to progress, a garden to plant, and a husband and dog to keep happy. That’s a little too much for today, especially if I want my bike ride. Next week, I’ll have finished the anthology, one of the research papers and the retreat planning, and then my stress level will be just right.

As with all things, balance is always the goal, and when it comes to self-imposed stress, balance is particularly crucial.

Will I ever get it right?

Probably not.

2 Comments

Filed under Bicycle, Discipline, Gardening, girlfriends, Marriage, Stress, time, Writing

Finding balance, an elusive sport.

There’s no question that it’s a lot easier to maintain balance in my life with a home, husband and dog. Still yet, it ain’t easy, at least not for me.

First of all, there just isn’t time enough in the day to work, exercise, floss, plan prepare and eat food, play music, veg on the couch, work in the yard, hang with friends, pay attention to family, throw the ball for the dog, do laundry, keep up with schoolwork, take the occasional trip to clear the mind, blog… the list is endless, and most of it is daily.

As a result, I eat too much or not enough. I exercise too much or not enough. I spend too much time on the couch or not enough. Get my drift?

But when I manage my time correctly, and can finish all the “must-do’s” in time to read for leisure, or flip through magazines or gardening catalogs, when I can end the day feeling good about everything I’ve done without putting my foot in my mouth, then I feel good about myself and my life.

But boy, those days are few.

The good news is that it’s almost bicycling weather again. Then my balance will be thrown off further, only  not by the couch.

Leave a comment

Filed under Bicycle, Discipline, Gardening, Marriage, Stress, time

The Sublime Tension

Men and Women. Will we ever understand each other?

I say: No.

I believe this tension of difference is the attraction, and also the frustration. 

This male/female tension has been the stuff of literature, movies, sitcoms and countless cups of coffee and tear-stained napkins throughout the centuries.

But what’s the purpose?

Why couldn’t we just have a meeting of the minds, understand each other and be done with it? We could save so much time, just get on with living our lives conflict-free and easy.

Alas. The self/selfless tension is like the animal/spiritual tension. We’re drawn to one, yet grounded in the other. It takes work to move beyond the one and gain the rewards of the other.

But doing so does have its rewards. One is that we’re forced to hone our creativity in communications to minimize misunderstandings. Stimulating creativity is a good thing.

Another is the benefit of a well-rounded banquet of experiences, because without that yin/yang tension, we would fall into complacency. Complacency is a good treat now and then, but not as a steady diet.

Perhaps the most important is because when we commit to someone of the opposite sex, we’re really committing to better ourselves, to learn to rise above the pettiness, to sincerely endeavor to understand rather than to be understood. Relationships are rife with pettiness and misunderstandings. And yet, that tension of attraction endures.

It’s a mystery.

It is, perhaps, THE mystery.

I love a good mystery.

1 Comment

Filed under connections, family, Marriage, relationships, Spirituality