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On the Side - July 2016

Bad Books and Pickled Fish
Carol Mason Shrader

The book wasn’t that memorable. I picked it up because it was set in Louisiana and I kept reading because well, honestly because I always think I have to finish a book once I start it. Always. But no, I would not bother mentioning this one except for the clever tactic the author used for establishing time -- real life historical events from my generation.
 
I nodded as the scene was set in a classroom watching the Space Shuttle Challenger launch. I understood the emotions evoked and felt like this was a book I might eventually enjoy. A journalist by trade, I have been a newshound as long as I can remember. I could identify each and every event mentioned and remember vividly where and when I received the news.
 
But then the book threw me for a loop. The author mentioned an event – a horrible serial killer being uncovered and his subsequent arrest and trial. I knew the name. I knew the history. But I couldn’t place myself in the setting. You know, “Where were you when?”…and I had nothing. I couldn’t remember where I was when this happened. I couldn’t envision the news. I couldn’t conjure any emotions I might have experienced. I had nothing.
 
And so I asked my husband: do you remember when this happened? Sure, he said, I think we were in Minnesota.
 
No. Actually, we moved to Minnesota almost ten years AFTER this news broke.
 
But he had proven the theory developing in my mind…neither of us remembered the news breaking because we were two months into our marriage then. We were not spending our evenings glued to the television. We didn’t have social media. We were young and excited to be married and as completely absorbed with each other as I can imagine being.
 
I was spending my days looking for a job in our new hometown and – don’t laugh – thinking of creative ways to celebrate each MONTHLY anniversary. In June, our first month of marriage, I left clues to my whereabouts that eventually led my groom to the apartment complex swimming pool to float around with me. In July, our second month of marriage, I planned an elaborate picnic at one of Huntsville, Alabama’s beautiful parks – and by elaborate, I mean I made his favorite Peanut Butter sandwich and put in iced tea with our best china and crystal.
 
I planned elaborate meals – from breakfasts of pancakes, bacon, sausage, biscuits, to suppers of every casserole I could get a recipe for! Wade eventually assured me that he loved me, but coffee was plenty in the morning! Ha And I learned to move away from the casserole section of my cookbooks, though he never once complained.
 
We celebrated 25 years of marriage last month. We had a beautiful dinner out. We took a lovely trip together.
 
But guess what, even on that trip, I was plugged in enough to know all the news from every news outlet possible and more often than not, I also knew the opinions of a lot of my friends regarding said news events.
 
And so as I read through the scene in my book, and even went so far as to research the information to make sure the author had his dates correct, I couldn’t help but feel a bit nostalgic for the young me that put so much energy into her marriage. And goodness, if I miss her, how much must my husband wish she would reappear periodically.
 
We talk a lot here about making our husbands a priority over our children, of finding ways to establish healthy boundaries that leave our children feeling assured in the love of their parents.
 
We talk a lot here about supporting our men in their role as physicians, and we offer prayer, support, love, to our sisters as they hold each other up so we can hold up our men.
 
But perhaps I have been remiss by not encouraging you to periodically step away from immersive media, to back up from Facebook, Twitter, Instagram (all of which I love), and whatever new thing I might not know about yet. Perhaps, we need to grab a float and head to a pool to wait for our guys. Or maybe just turn to face him on the couch, looking eye-to-eye and remembering what true face time really means.
 
Oooh, I know. Many of you are reading and rolling your eyes. The baby has kept you up for the last four forevers, and the toddler would throw his spaghetti on the floor if you so much as step away from the high chair to make eye-contact with your man. Or more realistically, by the time he walks in the door from the hospital, you are just flat-out exhausted from your role of single-motherhood in whatever season your family currently resides.
 
I get it. Me too.
 
But I had my 25th wedding anniversary last month. Oh ladies, the years fly by. They fly. And while we reached that milestone even though I have forgotten often to disconnect and engage face-to-face with my guy,I can also tell you that I absolutely see a marked difference when I remember.
 
Last week, Wade’s partner’s wife commented that her husband said Wade came back from our time away refreshed, refocused and re-energized. I just smiled to myself.
 
We were in Stockholm, Sweden and besides the fact that Wade gave FIVE lectures during the trip and the sun only set for three hours at night causing me to NEVER sleep….he came back rested and refreshed! I don’t think the trip had the least bit to do with it. Logic dictates that 24 hours of travel both ways, and a wife that fights the bed all night long for a week, because it is bright as day outside, keeping you up does not leave you refreshed.
 
But you know what does? Your wife focusing all her attention on you. Your wife sitting across the table from you at every meal and making eye contact and conversation (even if the pickled fish is not her favorite thing!)!
 
The trip wasn’t the key, ladies. The priority was.
 
And we know this. I knew it when I was planning those elaborate anniversary celebrations. And I knew it during residency and fellowship and in all the years since. The key is whether or not we are willing to take the time – to make the time.
 
This month, I am praying you will have discernment to know when to walk away from your computer, when to lay your phone across the room and when to turn your eyes to some real face time with your man. God will bless it. He promises.
 
“Whoever would foster love covers over an offense but whoever repeats the matter separates close friends.” Proverbs 17:9 NIV
 
Oh dear ones, I am praying for you to foster love this month. I searched Song of Solomon for an appropriate verse but decided that perhaps you should read that on your own – that author certainly knew a thing or two about fostering love!
 
Blessings,
Carol
 
Carol Mason Shrader lives in Mississippi where her wonderful Wade is Chief of Pediatric Orthopedics at Children’s of Mississippi. They have four amazing distractions children -- triplets who have just finished their freshman year at college and a 10-year-old redhead who promises to keep them on their toes. They are in discussions about pool building….anyone know where to buy a cute float?