Our Love Languages

Is Valentines Day a big deal to you? It is to retailers around the globe. It’s definitely muy significante to new love birds.Y quizas it’s a huge deal when you’re single? Singleness is extra on Valentines Day, verdad? I remember bien clarito the dread of the upcoming Valentines Day.. I always imagined que todo el mundo was out on a romantic date but me. Single Awareness Day is February 15, Pero hijole! It was on the 14th that I was really SAD. Gracias a Dios that I’ve got my amor, I am the wife of his youth. After 3 decades we rejoice, knowing that God has kept us one. We fight, sometimes, pero mostly we contend hard to practice the way of true love.  To some people this kind of love is a difficult foreign language to acquire, y pues, I’m still learning it.

Do you know of the Five Love languages that Dr. Gary Chapman writes about? Aye te va, my interpretations. 

Words of affirmation: It’s my love language. He’s gonna tell me how good, great and wonderful I am. BUT he’s not just going to flatter me, or tell me a lie. He’s going to find something good that he sees in me and tell me. That will lift me up and encourage me. Pues! What can I say, my Cold Blooded Englishman is a man of few words. I’ve learned how to read his words of affirmation from his touch. My son always jokes “I told her that I loved her when I married her!” 

Acts of Service– This is my other love language. I get up and fix his lunch and make him breakfast before he leaves for work. He gets up and makes my coffee. I try to make his favorite food, hijole! He loves fish and I can’t even stand the smell of it! I’m glad we didn’t have that in the fine print of the wedding vows. He’s satisfied with a back rub. Hmmm… in our culturally mixed marriage, I am speaking his love language in my dialect? 

Receiving Gifts:  Dr. Chapman writes that the person who speaks this love language will feel loved when they get a nice gift from their spouse. Segun, it’s neither of our primary languages, but we definitely enjoy receiving gifts. Ben is a thoughtful gifter and he is generous. Our kids know that “the good gifts” come from their dad and the needed gifts come from their mother. Honestly, roses on Valentine’s day are not that critical to me, especially when our budget is tight! Pero, one day while he was at work, the owner of the house had some beautiful yellow roses and my Flaco  took a pic and sent it to me with those much desired words of affirmation “I thought of you when I saw this rose” Yes! Alleluia!  It was a beautiful yellow rose, now that I think about it, I don’t know that I’ve ever seen one so beautiful again. Needless to say I was en las nubes that afternoon, sitting cozy on that cloud of happy thoughts. 

Quality Time: This one is tricky. Quality? As in lets have a deep conversation y un cafecito. Let’s walk around the neighborhood and talk. Let’s use lots of words, please. Or, let’s get the fire going and pick up our current books. Cozy, quiet and calm reading time, while the fire crackles. Ben drinks up this quality time. Pero, my absolute favorite is when the familia gangs up on us and plans a family night and since it’s our house they include us.

Physical Touch: Calmense! Not that kind of touch…only, but the sweet touch of everyday reaching out to put your hand on your spouse. This is not my love language but, what I would do if Ben ever stopped reaching out for me during our worship time in the middle of church. One hand over my shoulder and the other lifted to God in adoration. It’s Ben’s prominent love language and he demonstrates it generously. 

En Conclusion:

Just last night in our marriage seminar I heard these words again “practice makes perfect.” Valentines weekend, asi es, milk it, take all that is your portion, and enjoy “El Dia del Amor” while practicing God’s love language.

Esperate,  Wise King Solomon warned 

I charge you, O daughters of Jerusalem, that ye stir not up nor awake my love, until he please.” (Song of Solomon 8:4)

Taking His Name

When I get a chance to listen to Dennis Prager on good old fashioned radio, our San Diego’s 1170 am station, I enjoy it. The 2nd hour on Wednesday is called the Male-Female Hour. The hot topic this week was about taking your husband’s name when you marry: Did you? Did you not?  Why or why not?

I did it in a hyphenated fashion, like a true latina. 

Mrs. Benjamin Walter Greene

Of course, como siempre it sparked a memory. After the decision to marry my Benjamin came the realization that my name was going to change. Honestly it wasn’t even a question of would I? Taking his name in this traditional fashion is what I wanted, it connected me to him and I felt that it covered me, in the biblical sense “for this reason a man shall leave his father and his mother and the two shall become one flesh” Mrs. Benjamin Walter Greene.

I know that young girls  in their little dreamland fantasy world, dream about getting married. I can’t say I did that, but I definitely remember playing around with my childhood crush’s last name next to mine. Two latino names went well together for the most part. Pero, when it came time to marry my gringo, I was going to put on his name. His old English name. Hijole!

I examined the name change with a microscopic lens! 

I would no longer be the last person on the list or the last person called. However, the change meant I would take off my mothers maiden name.  No longer would I be Rosalba Flores Zepeda.

Then, I figured since Zepeda would be my middle name I would no longer have to make the needed pronunciation corrections: Not Zeepeeda, not Zepayda or Zepahda. Just Zepeda, like this, Cehpehdah, in spanish, soft c sound, short e’s, short a.  Not a big deal to anyone else I’m sure. 

I practiced writing my married name. Rosalba Zepeda Greene Hijole! I was comforted by the fact that it was still long. It is a well known fact, latinas have long or several names, verdad?. My greatest concern became how my new name combo would sound! (hand over face Emoji) It sounds odd, unmatched. This Spanglish speaking girl had no problem rolling out the Spanish name with the English one, but I knew it would be destroyed by others…and it has been. Spanish only speakers say Green-ee and english speakers drawl out the “sal” part of Rosalba and after 33 years I find myself correcting the pronunciation of my name still… “It’s Greene, like the color, with an ‘e’ at the end.” To the spanish speakers I say “no es Grini” (pronounced in spanish) es Green (pronounced in english) Did that confuse you? Welcome to my Spanglish world.

The idea of how unmatched or odd it sounded did make me nervous. A reminder that we were embarking into a whole new world. Sometimes we love the mixture of spices and other times things are quite bland. We leave the rolling “Rs to me.” 

I’m not going to pretend, 33 years of practice hasn’t helped  my name flow smoothly. Imaginate the shock I felt the first time I heard my son’s Spanish immersion teacher say “Buenos dias Senora Greene” My name in it’s various versions is  like going on a 30mph road and having to slow down suddenly because were not actually going 30mph, and the speed bump whacks us. I can hear myself saying “Aye Ben! be careful.” I have embraced my hyphenated Spanglish name, but to make things easier, I don’t mind if you just call me Rosie.

Your name or his name? or Both?

Did you take your husband’s name? Did you keep your own or mesh the two? Maybe you kept your mothers maiden name as well and just added his name to the list, like a true latina! Tell me about it in the comments.

My Wedding Day Planning

Maybe this post should be titled “How Not To Plan Your Wedding.” As Jane Eyre cried “Gentle reader, may you never feel what I felt then”  It was an excruciatingly, emotional, anxiety filled season. Que exagerada verdad? Little did I know that that was easy-peasy, compared to the weddings out there in the big wide world beyond my life. After assisting a daughter, and a daughter in law in their preparations, I can see that I barely scratched the surface of all the complex wedding planning details that are out there.

The days after I was engaged to my cold blooded Englishman I didn’t even think about the wedding, I thought about my flaco, he was gone on Westpac and I was sad and lonely, pobrecita noviecita. I wasn’t a child bride, but I certainly felt like a little girl who had lost her favorite teddy bear.  I stared at my engagement ring and wondered if I really would be married to Benjamin Walter one day. In front of the mirror I sounded out what would be my married name, Rosalba Greene. That sounded weird. I think it was supposed to be Rosalba Zepeda Greene. Hmmm? Would I ever get used to this new name?

My days were busy with work and church, still no planning. Some of the families at church might have been feeling sorry for me because I was getting many dinner invites and I was truly appreciating my friends. Soon I was getting letters from mi fiancé and we were counting down the days for his return. Talking about married life, wondering what our kids would look like, but no mention of a wedding day. Three months into engagement, I was feeling like I could make it, especially since I was truly enjoying all that home cooking, so much so that I was putting on weight.  

Wake Up Call

My roommate, who was my bestie and my appointed maid of honor, came home from a long trip overseas. She took one look at me and said something about my weight. She was shocked and I was…. Hijole! I was sad? Mad? Definitely no longer glad to see her! Gorda?! Is that what she called me? Had I really gained that much weight? Unbeknownst to me, I had gained 25lbs in 4 months. Imaginate!!

The drive home from L.A. airport was not a happy one, I was sullen and she was tired and she had more to ask. 

How’s your wedding planning going? Que? Wedding Planning?  That opened up the floodgates that would remain open probably until my wedding day.  I didn’t know what I was doing. I didn’t know what I wanted. Are you kidding?! It took 2 years to sort out my emotions and heart about marrying my gringo, how was I supposed to know what color scheme my wedding should have? The dress is supposed to be white right? We would have enough color variety in our lives in marriage! For the next 2 hours she drilled me about the wedding date, my wedding dress, our invitations, the ceremony and reception. What kind of bouquet would I have? What about her dress? What did I want her to wear? Dios mio, what was going on? I had to choose a dress for her? After the barrage of questions, like a true maid of honor she walked me through a simple plan, bueno, it was supposed to be simple. 

The race was on now. The first real ceremony and reception I would ever plan and I discovered that planning a beautiful reception of any kind wasn’t my calling. Thankfully, marriage is about life after the wedding (porque, I can cook a delicious meal for a beautiful reception).. I figured out my wedding date. That was a tricky because we wanted to be married as soon as he got off the boat from WestPac in July, but we had to settle for a day in September.

I had my dress, and after a tedious time of choosing paper and envelopes my invitations were printed in both Spanish and English. I breathed a bit easier when they were all mailed out. My color scheme was settled (colors I don’t even like, I don’t know why I chose them?) Someone helped me with a plan for my flower arrangements and bouquet. My wedding cake was ordered. Ben bought his suit overseas and his wedding ring. Those are the big parts, and that pretty much sums up wedding planning.

Vamos , Let’s go to the week before the wedding day. My Benjamin had been home over a month, we hadn’t rested, he was getting fidgety, his mom and brothers were coming to town just before the weekend, just the thought of meeting my future in-laws for the first time made my stomach churn. Did I mention that the stress of planning my muy sencilla wedding  had knocked off those 25 lbs.? That was a Romans 8:28 situation for me! Asi es, I was my skinny size. That Sunday the week before my life changed and I would become Mrs. Benjamin Greene, I was tired and anxious but I was looking forward to my life with Ben. 

Stop The Wedding

Then I got the call. Mi ama, she was in the hospital, she had had a stroke. We didn’t know much else, so I packed my bag and waited for my sis Marina to pick me up. This would be the beginning of a long relationship with Pioneers Memorial Hospital in Brawley Ca. 

It was a quick 2 1/2 hour drive, but they were also the longest 2 1/2 hours of my young life. I had never seen what a stroke could do. My family was in the waiting room. My ama was stable, but resting, I could tell she was different.

The next couple of days were fuzzy and confusing. I had to be at work and what about my wedding? Marina and I drove back and forth a couple of times, so tired and blurry eyed,  and in those times I barely saw Ben, we were both feeling the weight of this. Then I got a call from the person taking care of my wedding flowers. She said the whole deal was off, she said I wouldn’t be getting flowers from that vendor. There would be no flowers for my wedding. Would there be a wedding? I cried, I didn’t know what to do. I had to talk to Ben. 

I calmed down and was alone with both my parents in that hospital room. My ama’s expressions were marred by the stroke. She knew she wouldn’t be at my wedding and she was sad, I didn’t want her to miss my wedding. It was hard to see her like this, I told her I would postpone it until she was better. She wasn’t speaking, she really couldn’t. My dad spoke for them. They had talked after the doctor had talked to them. Mom would be at least another week in the hospital before they could transfer her. They didn’t know how long her recovery would be. They didn’t know where she would go for recovery. I think we both remembered my graduation day, we both cried. Ama had missed my graduation day, she had been in the hospital then too. I still didn’t know what to do. As my mother held my hand, Dad explained that I must go on with the plans for my wedding, he talked about them being old and me starting my life. He assured me that he would be at my wedding for both of them. I am a person of many words but I couldn’t speak the words I had within. Of course I wanted dad there, but how does a girl get married knowing her mother wouldn’t wear the pretty dress she bought for the wedding. No flowers and no mama on my wedding day. There is a chasm of forgotten feelings, I truly don’t recall how I moved forward.

Ben was much relieved to know that the wedding was still set for September 25.  Y asi paso, we were married that day.

I was able to order a bouquet, guess where? A big chain grocery store! Besides not knowing what I was doing I was in a daze on so many different levels. The grocery store flower shop had flowers in my color scheme peach and teal, (ya se, peach and teal??? maybe it was popular in the 80s?) and the florist seemed excited to put together a bouquet for such an important occasion.

So I married my Benjamin and shared a meal with our guests. Then we rushed to the hospital, like I had done on my graduation day and got on the elevator with my esposo y apa. There was ama all by herself on that hospital bed and her face lit up when she saw us come in, the stroke couldn’t hide her joy.  I leaned on her as she laid there. My beautiful ama welcomed my Benjamin into her life. We both leaned into her as the nurse took our picture. I wish I knew what my mother was thinking that day, maybe like a mother does she felt anxious for my happiness, no se, she couldn’t really speak. I was different again, now I was a married woman. De veras? A married woman! 

When we got back from our honeymoon, I went straight to visit mom at her rehab here in San Diego. Now I would be able to be with mom everyday and help as much as possible in her recovery. Her stroke recovery was difficult for her, she never quite fully recovered, she went home to be with Jesus a few months after she went back home with my apa.

Lost Treasure

I cried again as I remembered these days, I cried harder when I couldn’t find my pictures with my ama. I felt the loss all over again and I have to tell myself just now that I’ll see her again one day in my wedding dress. My treasures weren’t completely lost, my Benjamin uncovered my most important picture after some digging and praying, “Oh God, help my wife find this picture, in Jesus name”.

With 33 years behind us we have many many pictures.

Our Cord of Three Strands – 33 Years of Destiny

A marriage contract can sound so serious, verdad? How about a wedding vow, a heartfelt promise, a covenant, I remember using all these to consider the weight of marriage.

I just got back from a sweet country wedding in the beautiful state if Oregon. My bestie’s son was married. Oh how I appreciated the “Cord of Three Strands” tradition, a beautiful picture of marriage with God in the mix.  As it always happens when I am at a wedding, I am pulled back into the  memories of my own love story. 

Watching the young couple, I caught my breath, as I remembered the butterflies that  grabbed me on my own wedding day. Today marks 33 years of marriage with my Benjamin, my flaco, my orejónel amor de mi vida. For Ben, I wanted to shine and I did. It was a simple wedding, no embellishments, no glitter except what comes from pure and genuine love.

The Truest Love

I come from the 80s, and I come from dysfunction. Marriage wasn’t something I wanted or cared for. Having a boyfriend was cool, but I saw too much heartbreak in marriage to hope for any good to come from it. My 18 year old self felt a strong conviction that marriage was for the blind.

Pero una noche, on a clear hot dessert night, the truest love came. I gave myself completely to the only one who could heal my heart. Imaginate! I was a new girl and I began to view marriage differently.  In His hands my broken heart would be mended and one day I would marry the right one, at the right time. 

Then came Ben. Otra vez me enamore, I fell in love again, but we came from different worlds. It’s true, opposites do attract. He liked me, I liked him, he was cute, but he was too quiet. I couldn’t figure him out.

I wish I could say it was a lovely transition, a beautiful dance of courting. It wasn’t, neither of us can dance. Ya se, how can a Mexican have no rhythm? My desire was there, I liked that foreigner from the East coast; un gringo! My heart fluttered whenever I looked at Ben.  He couldn’t be the one. White wasn’t on my radar, I wasn’t trying to choose him. Ben had chosen me and when his gaze lingered on me, I could not deny what was unfolding. I needed time, I needed assurance, and I needed God in the mix of it all. We took our time. Have I told you that Ben is a patient man?

Marriage was a serious matter for me, I was apprehensive about the “embellishments” of a mixed marriage. As usual, I sorted out my thoughts, worries, and emotions and I clung to my terapista (my journal)!  I laid everything out, all the intricate parts of my thoughts, what I considered pros and cons, and ALL the differences… It helped me come to a good conclusion and move forward. I’ve never played with legos, pero, if you have kids then you have seen and felt the intricate pieces of a “lego work” when it’s laid out. Ouch!  That’s how writing can be, words thrown onto the pages of my journal or notebook, for later use. Saco todo, I just kind of unpack everything in my journals, eventually I circle around to it again. (37 years of journaling books do take up space pero ni modo, I’m old school, I’ve got to have the hard copy!)

When the time came to say those precious vows, my whole heart was ready.

I, Rosalba Zepeda, take thee Benjamin Walter Greene, to be my wedded husband from this day forward…. Oh what sweet love….

I wrote this poem a few years ago about that journey to the altar, remembering those promises I made as a starry eyed young bride. Here’s a glimpse of that walk down the aisle to my Benjamin. 


He wasn’t my first love, or even my choice

As I walked in my new life, I happened upon him

Two different worlds, the East and the West

A cold-blooded Englishman was calling on me?

As I walked in my new life, I happened upon him

He seemed not to notice my very brown skin.

A cold-blooded Englishman was calling on me?

He weathered the time and my chaos within

His strong white hand covered my young brown skin

As I poised for the battle, he watched with few words

He weathered the time and my chaos within

 God lighted the path that I carefully took

As I poised for the battle, he watched with few words

An array of bright colors our differences made

Our God lighted path we joyfully walked

He wasn’t my first love but with time he was my choice

Our Cord of Three Strands

More than three decades might not seem that long, but it is most of my adult life, more than half my lifetime. Mira nomas!  God’s hand has been on our marriage covenant. 

I don’t want to discourage anyone, especially my two bachelor sons but, some of those 12,045 days of the last 33 years were lived in reverse and the only one who could push us forward was the third person in our marriage cord, Christ. Through Him, with Him I can confidently say “I do” again and a again. I’ve seen the blessing of him holding us together.

The echoes of laughter resound in my mind as I remember our moped drive around the city of Mazatlan Mexico. Young, inexperienced and without credit cards, Mr. and Mrs. Greene moved along the busy streets to see what we could see, enjoying each other more than the beautiful beaches surrounding us. Life came hard and fast. As a young wife, I felt the gape of loss when my ama passed into eternity, who would guide through the early years in my kitchen? Y mi amor, my quiet Benjamin never left my side. I still hear Ben’s calm voice  saying, soothing my fearful cries, “It’s ok, it’s gonna be ok,” when the doctor told us he would have to do a C-section to deliver our first baby. Then I was there again on that operating table, ready to receive our second boy. Imaginate el gozo! When our little bundle was a wee little girl!

Oh how I felt the chasm of east to the west when Ben had to leave me to be with his mother as she finished her days here on earth. I had to be strong, I couldn’t be needy, Bens mama was dying. Pero que feo sentí esa separación. Separations were and are hard for me.  Again I say, hats off to the Navy wife. A heartfelt appreciation and salute for our military families

These are only a few recuerdos, highlights  from the first decade of our life together. God has given us an abundant life together. It wasn’t perfect or painless, but it was beautiful. A marriage covenant with Jesus in it, is the way to go.