Tag Archives: Relationships

I’m the love that you’ve looked for, write to me and escape

A dozen years ago, I nervously dressed for a coffee date. Not too sexy, not too prim. It was a tall order, given the date was in December at a coffee shop in Central Minnesota when down parkas and boots were de rigueur.

I must have pulled it off though because about three sips into my soy latte and small talk, the man who would become My Beloved leaned over the table and kissed me.

I was smitten at that moment. I fell into a deep crevasse, not icy cold but warm and comforting, from which I still haven’t emerged. My Beloved is a big man with a big heart and big dreams. I disappeared, in the greatest possible way, into the whole package. He persuaded me to move away from my home state of Minnesota, he offered me the opportunity to be a mother to his children in a way I hadn’t even realized I would ever want to, he eventually lured me out of a corporate career that had consumed me and he tempts me every day with earthly pleasures like buttery popcorn, bottles—not measly glasses—of wine and juicy steaks (other earthly pleasures, too, but this is a G-rated blog).

My Beloved is a traveler, too, and together we’ve visited so many places. As an international marketing executive, I thought I was well-traveled before I met him. He took me to South America on a cruise; I’d been to every other civilized continent except Antarctica. We marveled at the beauty of the coasts of Croatia, truly one of the most beautiful places on earth. We drove around the Gulf coast from South Padre Island to Fort Myers, Florida, in a 30-year-old RV, and another winter and in another camper, we made our way north from the Florida Keys to Fort Myers over the course of three months. I never spent so many winter days in 80-degree weather as I have since I met him; cold makes him achy, and I benefit when he finds ways to escape it.

More recently, My Beloved used his lion-like fearlessness and beaver-like busyness to rebuild a 127-year-old former Methodist church into our dream home. Renovation projects might spell the end for some marital relationships, but ours is only stronger for persevering through those long dusty days of living in flux and financial juggling.

Back on that first date 12 years ago, we had planned to meet just for coffee, but we ended up walking around the nearby mall, cuddling at a showing of “Casino Royale” and then sharing a table of Thai food. A half-hour commitment turned into a whole day. That great date just flowered without a whole bunch of nail biting and planning and dancing around each other’s predilections.

Our mantra during those early days of our relationship was “If it ain’t easy, it ain’t meant to be.” By easy, I don’t effortless. I mean finding the path with the least hurdles. An extravagant meal, an epic vacation, a whole-house remodel requires effort, for sure, but together, the path has fewer hurdles because we’re headed in the same direction, we bring individual skills to the project and we have each other’s back.

Twelve years ago, I didn’t know I was about to meet a soul mate but I surely did.

And I’m so grateful.

T and me

Practically glowing.

# # #

Todays’ headline is a line from Rupert Holmes’ “Escape (The Pina Colada Song).” Who needs a designer coffee; I think I’ll celebrate the anniversary today of our meeting with a pina colada. 

Ah, ’tis the season for racing fans (and the ones who love them)

In honor of attending my first race night of the season at the local stock car racing track, I’m sharing the post I wrote at the end of the season when my Beloved and his brother raced every weekend (and I cheered in the dirt-covered stands)…

9 things I learned by watching stock car races every weekend and 1 thing I still don’t understand

Grandma’s simple act of writing about her day becomes a 25-year record

When Grandma moved to a senior living community earlier this year, a box of the journals she kept for two and half decades made their way to me.

Grandmas journals

I wrote not long ago about sets of Grandma’s china and flatware that came my way, but these journals were the real treasures.

She wrote about the weather, her walks, visitors and especially good meals in her journals almost every day from 1985 to 2009 (I’m missing a few years, but I assume she was writing her thoughts in those years, too). This means she was recording her retirement years in her 70s, 80s and part of her 90s (she turned 100 in March). Very few of the entries I’ve read are very earth-shattering or particularly private (sound like any bloggers you know?), but the sheer volume of her records are impressive.

As I was inventory the cache, I looked up a few dates with particular importance to me. For instance, on the occasion of my first wedding, she wrote, “It was a very nice wedding and a very good dinner at Pine Cove” without mentioning either my name or the groom’s. It made me laugh. But understand, Grandma wasn’t writing these entries for anyone but herself. I can imagine they were helpful in reminding her the last time she visited the eye doctor or how she celebrated someone’s birthday the previous year.

Still, there are some insightful bits. Here’s what she wrote on Sept. 11, 2001:

Just when the van was ready to come, Jim [her son] came and told me a High Rise Bldg in New York was hit by 2 planes. The highjackers were piloting. It spoiled my whole day. I hate war. … All on TV was about the terrorists. Makes me nervous.

Grandma was 86 in 2001, so she’d seen more than her fair share of American conflicts and, more than a lot of people, could make a judgment about war.

In order to pinpoint some of the more valuable entries and to ask questions, I created a group on Facebook to share and discuss the entries with my aunts and cousins. I anticipate learning more about Grandma but also more about the rest of my extended family, which will be the ultimate gift of these diaries.

Taking to water like a couple of ducks

It’s not secret I’m a big fan of water. I mean there’s the whole hydration aspect of it, and you can’t beat it for getting you clean.

But I was born in the land of sky-blue waters (hello! Minnesota has been the Land of 10,000 Lakes on its license plates as long as Missouri has been the Show-Me State), and I spent many-an afternoon as a junior high schooler getting pruney and water-logged at the Wadena pool.

Despite swimming the crawl at the speed of a crawl, I became a lifeguard and spent two summers teaching 5-year-olds how to swim (thanks, Shannon Whateveryournamewas for assigning me to the role no one else wanted but has served for excellent blog fodder in my golden years).

But as I’ve aged and gotten increasingly protective of my artificially colored hair, I’ve spent a lot less time in the chlorinated waters of a pool.

Until recently.

NOT me and my Beloved. But you get the picture.

NOT me and my Beloved. But you get the picture.

My Beloved and I joined a new gym (goodbye, Snap Fitness, you served me well), and I’ve spent a number of mornings getting my groove on in the pool during water aerobics classes.


Well, it’s not because I’m a fan of green hair (and I’m really hoping I can avoid the inevitability by keeping my ponytail dry — well, dryish).

My Beloved appreciates the lower impact exercise opportunities afforded by a pool of warm water, so I’ve been joining him and the grannies so we can exercise together.

Only here’s the thing: It’s not just grannies. And it’s not a bad workout.

I’ve been walking around all day today fully aware I worked out in the pool this morning. It’s not the same kind of sore as lifting bar bells that were too heavy, but I know I put my arms and legs and heart to work.

Another plus on the pro-and-con list: No one looks sweaty. We’re all just … wet.

Hey, today’s song list even had us underwater grapevining along to Michael Jackson’s “Thriller” and Ray Parker Jr.’s “Ghostbusters.” Oh, wait a minute. I suppose teenagers who were amazed by “Thriller” are grandparents now. But whatever. We weren’t dancing to the oldies. OK, the really old oldies.

It’s not like a summer run as the sun rises over the horizon, but water aerobics are pretty fun.

And splashing around the pool with my sweetie is better than icing on the cake. Because I’m burning calories instead of consuming them.

Birthday kudos to the woman responsible

Today we celebrate a man and the woman who gave him life. After all, shouldn’t we pay our  due to the person responsible for putting the “birth” in “birthday”?


My Beloved commemorates another day on this earth today, and that means I get to party with him all day–singing, opening presents, eating–it’s non-stop celebration around here because, well, every day is a gift. I’ve written about why my Beloved is beloved before, so I won’t bother to reprint here, but to be honest, he deserves a whole book, not just a blog post (or 10).

No, today I write about the woman who gave birth to him many long years ago. My mother-in-law is a great mother-in-law, but first, she’s a great mom. When my Beloved’s dad died 30-something years ago, his mom was the only parent he had, and she lived up to the challenge. She’s a tough cookie–have I mentioned she changed careers midlife to become a registered nurse? She perseveres like that. She has loved my husband–and us now–though all kinds of clear sailing and storms. I can’t tell you how many times she’s lent her creativity and elbow grease in acts of service like painting my Adored stepson’s room, making couch pillows and bed shams, sewing my wedding gown (and more than one of my Beloved’s Halloween costumes), making dog coats and rugs, and probably two dozen other projects I’ve taken for granted. Did you know she lived with us for 10 weeks in a 1983 RV one winter? She was fun, a great cook and I loved getting to know her better. And she’s cleaned my refrigerator more than once. That’s love.

My Beloved’s birthday horoscope from Holiday Mathis seems to echo this sentiment, that a good relationship with Mom is worth more than gold:

What you put your money into is the least of your investments in 2016. You’ll attract support from those who understand that relationships are the true wealth in your life. When your time and attention help your personal life grow in satisfying directions, you’ll be on top of the world.

Happy Birthday, my Beloved! And thanks to my mother-in-law for bringing him into the world!

How is Valentine’s Day like a day at the beach?

sandy heart

Both are pretty sweet. Happy Valentine’s Day!



Off to the supermarket we went to provision ourselves in our new home sweet home. I picked up extra virgin olive oil and yellow mustard and eggs and hamburger. My Beloved stocked up on beer. And fresh flowers.

“Fresh flowers … are like a bundle of sunshine, a gift from nature that glows with good cheer.”

~ Martha Stewart

Halloween psychology test

Halloween costumes are a little like Rorschach tests: You choose a costume that reflects some secret aspect of yourself and what you see in others’ choices says something about you.

Take, for example, my Beloved: He dressed as a king last night when we were trolling the French Quarter in New Orleans. It’s a retread — he dressed as King Henry VIII in the past — but this time, he called himself King of New Orleans.


Does my Beloved see himself as a king? Yes, of all he surveys.

What did other people see?

Some — the well-read ones — saw King Henry. Some bowed down, tipped their hat or professed their allegiance (serfs in past lives, no doubt). Some saw the Burger King (the hungry ones).

Lots of werewolves, zombies and biker chicks asked for pictures with the King (groupies). Vain King Tut recognized a kindred spirit; he put his arm around my Beloved and summoned his entourage to take several shots (“were my eyes open?”).

How did I dress? As a faux jewel-encrusted queen. What did others see?

My king.

You can go home again


There’s a line in a canvas print of life advice I have hanging in my office that sums up a recent visit back home:

“Drink wine, eat great food and spend quality time with good friends.”

I went to Minnesota — by myself, without my Beloved — to take care of a project and wrap up a few loose ends. My Beloved was occupied with other pressing matters, and he’s not just not as enthusiastic about Minnesota as I am (there’s no accounting for taste — he was born in Illinois, go figure). I had a great time.

One of things I had to do was hear about my parents’ 50th anniversary trip to Europe and look at their photos (I could have heard about the trip on the phone, but there’s nothing like looking at travel photos with the travelers). Here’s one of the shots my father captured in Paris:


Eiffel Tower, September 2014

Dad has always been the good photographer in the family. This shot should be a poster. Mom and Dad prepared a delicious dish of grilled salmon for me. And they shared a bottle of wine they carried back from Germany (it was delicious).

“Travel often.”

I also got to catch up with my nephews, including Drew, who celebrates his 15th birthday this week. Ah, 15. Such a tricky year. But because he’s old enough to babysit his younger brothers and still tethered to the house by his lack of a driver’s license, his parents and I had the opportunity to partake in an interesting wine tasting where I learned why acidity in a wine is a good thing.

“Spend time with family.”

My best-friend-since-seventh-grade and I went shopping together and enjoyed a lingering glass of red wine while we caught up until midnight. And then my friend Barb, who can solve almost every problem with a good meal, made a Sweet Potato and Black Bean Soup for me. Just because she thought I’d like it. And I did. It was delicious. With a glass of white wine.

“Spend time with people you admire.”

Coincidentally, I was in town for the annual happy hour for former Creative Memories Employees. Maybe not every workplace carries an air of nostalgia for its former employees, but Creative Memories does. Part of what made it such a great place to work (at least when I was there) was the people. What fun catching up with friends, some of whom I haven’t seen in years (and some of us were drinking wine, too).

“Reminisce about the good old days but look with optimism to the future.”

Just as I was leaving the happy hour get-together, I ran into my ex. He worked at Creative Memories, too (and in the end, I think he stuck it out more years than I did, so he could probably lay more claim to the former workplace than I do; we didn’t specify ownership of that piece of our lives in our divorce decree). I walked up to him and brushed his arm to tell him, “Hey, I’m on my way out the door so you can mingle freely,” and the two people he was chatting with took a step back. I think they might have expected a brawl.

No punches were thrown.

But I found it amusing.

“Be nice to everyone. Be happy.”

The evolution of a stepmother

Da Man has entered the house.

Da Man, otherwise known as the Adored Stepson, turned 20 yesterday. He’s no longer a teenager. He knows it. And he wants everyone else to know it, too. He probably would like to be referred to as “Da Man” ever after on this blog, but he’s forever the Adored Stepson.

When we celebrated his 13th birthday with a new bike and a spaghetti meal at Bucca di Beppos, he was a foreign creature to me, but a friendly one. I suspected he was on the verge of big changes, and I considered myself fortunate he was a boy instead of a girl (I was a pubescent girl once and I never had the, um, honor of living with my stepdaughter during that transition). In fact, it was a gift to witness Adored Stepson’s evolution from boy to man.

The growth chart inside Stepson's closet marks the obvious. The unlabeled mark on the right? I think that's my height. Stepson aspired to be taller than me until suddenly, he was.

The growth chart inside Stepson’s closet marks the obvious. The unlabeled mark on the right? I think that’s my height. Stepson aspired to be taller than me until suddenly, he was.

We could talk about all the ways he’s changed since that momentous birthday seven years ago — the hair, the girls, the muscles, the sense of self — but that is a story told best by the one who experienced them. How, instead, has the stepmother come of age in the dawn to dusk of a teenager?

My Adored Stepson, he is a unique individual, an unexpected component of the Togetherness I endeavored to achieve with my Beloved. I enjoy Stepson’s sense of humor a lot more than I expected to. I liked teaching him about spelling, history and faith. The season he played Little League baseball was pure joy for me.

And I learned I’m a lot better at talking about sex than my parents were.

When he left us at age 15 to live with his mother, I was devastated. Gobsmacked, as a Brit might say. Unexpected grief washed over me in a way that taught me how special he was (is). I might have thought I was immune from such rejection, but, alas, no. We had bonded.

Fortunately, things get better. This is how teenagers are. They change.

What didn’t change was my desire to have a child of my own. Having a stepchild proved my theory that children require a lot of time, effort and emotional investment. And the responsibility! Uff-da! I am, for example, the sole reason Stepson will never enjoy gazpacho (lesson learned: Never force a 13-year-old to eat cold tomato soup).

Now that he is 20, I look back on his teenage years like a mountain climber: “I did it! I survived!”

But of course, like a biological parent, a stepparent’s job is never really finished. It just evolves.