Domestic Bliss

Back when Steve and I made the offer to purchase the house we now live in, our contract negotiations included the requisite home inspection. On a sunny spring day we met our realtor and the inspector at the house for a walk-through. I was taking measurements in the living room when Steve followed the inspector outside to look at the gutters, leaving the front door open behind him. Within moments a pretty calico who we’d seen lounging on the porch a few times pranced up the steps and marched right through the door into the foyer as if she owned the place.

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Our realtor shooed the cat before she could get very far, but the incident made me wonder if the calico had belonged to the people who’d lived in the home before us. There was a cat door in the kitchen, and anytime we’d been by to look at the house, she was camped out in a sunny spot somewhere on the property. The last two times I’d moved into a new home, it had come with a cat. It was looking like this one would, too.

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Sweet Dreams

Valentine pillowcaseFor Valentine’s Day this year, my mother sent hubby Steve and me a set of handmade holiday pillowcases. She’d instructed us to open the package the first of February so we could enjoy them all month. As I pulled them from the wrapping paper, Steve raised his eyebrows.

“They’re very, um. . .pink,” he said.

“Yes, they are,” I replied. “They’re for Valentine’s Day.”

I wondered for a moment myself how well the pastel palette would blend with the red, white, and turquoise wedding ring quilt we keep on the chest at the foot of the bed. But it would be a stretch to say we have anything approaching a “color scheme” in the bedroom at the moment, and the cases are cheery and cute. The primary (pink) fabric, trimmed in a wide band of green, features candy conversation hearts proclaiming sweet nothings: “Love me.” “Be mine.” “Say yes.” All quite fitting for our first married Valentine’s Day.

When I called my mom to thank her, I asked if she’d pre-washed the material as she usually did, or if I needed to run them through the laundry before putting them on the bed.

“Well, I think so, but I’ve had those put away for a while, so I don’t really remember,” she replied. “I made them years ago.” She told me she’d made a set for my brother and sister-and-law, too, and she’d sent those out right away. “But I held on to yours. I just knew you’d find the love of your life eventually. And see, I was right—you did!” Continue reading

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The Proposal

One year ago today, Steve asked me to be his wife, and I said yes.

In honor of that occasion, I’m revisiting the story of our proposal. Just 4 months to go!

Forty-Something First Time Bride

The last thing I expected was that the proposal would take me by surprise.

For one thing, Steve and I had already spent an afternoon looking at rings online; he’d waited until he thought I was distracted and tapped the name of the style I liked (not so) surreptitiously into his phone. More importantly, Steve, who teaches GIS mapping in forestry, is a self-described “map guy” and “math man.” While it’s true that stats are less straightforward than they seem and a few rogue numbers can even be irrational, Steve possesses all the qualities you might imagine of someone whose life is guided by algorithms and accuracy adjustments: he is solid and stable, a planner, practical, somewhat predictable. I love these things about him, as they balance out my more, shall we say, whimsical approach to the world. Since he’s also a conventional romantic—opening doors for me, spoiling me with…

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The Other Love of My Life

Two years ago, on Good Friday 2013, I lost my sweet Roscoe kitty. Roscoe, a tuxedo tomcat, was fifteen when he died: fourteen years after I brought him home from the shelter, thirteen months beyond the vets’ predictions for his lifespan, and one month and five days after I met my now-fiancé Steve.

The timing, I’ve long felt, was no accident.

Meeting Cute

Roscoe had been my buddy since January 1998, when he adopted me at Cat Welfare, a no-kill cat shelter in Columbus, Ohio. I’d lost my cat Tiko to mouth cancer in December, and though I was buoyed through the holidays by travel and the presence of family, when I returned to the Midwest winter and an empty apartment, the loneliness was all-encompassing. I’d thought I might wait a while longer to find a new feline, but I was bereft.

Tiko had been solid black, and I knew it would be too hard to have another black cat; he’d been older when I took him in, too, and losing him after only six years broke my heart. So the plan was to find a kitten, black-and-white. When I arrived at Cat Welfare, they didn’t have any kittens. Some cats there roamed freely, having earned their floor privileges, while the newer additions resided in cages. I visited with most every black-and-white cat I saw, but I really wanted a kitten. As I readied to leave, thinking I’d try the Humane Society, the woman at the front desk asked if I’d seen the tuxedo cat in the second room. I hadn’t—he was sound asleep, curled up in the back of his cage. Oh, he’s a sweetheart, she said, and only about a year or year-and-half old. He’d been caught in one of their traps—sometimes, when the shelter was full, people dropped animals off outside anyway, hoping the shelter would find and take them in. This tuxedo kitty had been so lucky.

She pulled the sleepy cat from his cage and put him in my arms. Almost immediately, he rolled back into the crook of my left elbow so that I held him like a baby. He wore a slightly askew black mask and had a soft white belly, his clear green eyes framed by white whiskers. The pads of his paws were multi-toned, some gray, some pink. He began purring and gave me a long, slow blink, then reached his chin up and rubbed my chin with his.

Oh, boy. Continue reading

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Better Late Than Any Other Ever

Earlier this week I was walking across campus when a group of maybe eight or ten students approached from a crossing pathway. The afternoon was warm and sunny—the kind of weather we hadn’t seen in quite a while—and their high spirits were obvious, even from twenty feet away. The young men and women laughed and joshed one another, and as they eventually passed behind me, one guy began whooping and calling out, razzing his friend, clearly holding court within the crowd.

I smiled at their exuberance. But as the young man’s performance escalated in volume and bravado, my thoughts did the following hop, skip, and jump:

  • Even when I was young, I wasn’t one to hoot and holler my way across the quad or cavort with my friends at top volume in public places.
  • Actually, I’ve always found that kind of boisterous behavior a little off-putting, especially in men. Attention-seeking at best, overtly aggressive at worst.
  • I wonder if Steve ever walked across campus in a clump of his buddies, whooping and hollering and causing a ruckus?
  • I can’t picture it.
  • I like that about him.
  • I bet I would have liked the man he was while he was in college.

That last piece got me to thinking about the importance of timing. Steve and I have had several conversations about how we met at just the right time, the precise moment in our adult lives when we were ready and right for each other. That statement—and its opposite, the eye-roll-inducing “it’s just bad timing” breakup line—sound like hackneyed romantic clichés. But timing matters. Continue reading

Once Upon a Traditional-Fairy-Tale Takedown: Readers’ Love Stories

shoes 1b captionThe week before Valentine’s Day, I initiated the “Traditional Fairytale Takedown Challenge,” asking readers to eschew standard romantic narratives and write some alternative fairy tales, real-world love stories that reflect the rich and varied ways we fall and stay in love. You answered the call with tales that capture the beautiful, complex, occasionally frustrating, perfectly imperfect ways we love one another, and ourselves. Thank you, readers!

This collection gives me more hope than any Cinderella story that love does indeed win.

There are the romantic realists, those whose stories show us that humans are fragile and imperfect, that loving someone deeply requires vulnerability and negotiating differences.

Once upon a time there was a broken fair lady. Her heart was shattered beyond repair. One fateful night, in a night full of despair, a not so shining knight stepped forth. He bravely picked up a fragile shard and began to help the fair lady try to piece together what once had been broken. Though the process was not without pain and anger, the outcome healed the fair lady. She was blessed with a most beautiful son and a not so shining knight who, to this day, remains by her side protecting her fragile heart. –Lora Jarrett

Another take:

“A Short Fairy Tale of My Own,” Oui Depuis‘s honest fairy tale about day-to-day love.

There are surprise entrances. Love does seem to show up when and where you least expect to find it.

Once upon a time a divorced mother of 2 went to her high school reunion and met a friend she hadn’t seen in years. Although they had never dated before there was an instant spark now. He fell in love with her kids as well. A year later they were married and have been for 14 years, adding another prince along the way. — Michelle P.T.

A surprise that reminds us to focus on the fun from Twenty7zero3:

Once upon a time a girl asked if her bum looked big,
Her friend told her indeed it did,
but there was no time to change
As the taxi had been arranged,
for a night on the tiles,
So they left with smiles,
And that’s the night she met her prince!

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Steve Speaks: From the Other Side of the Table

Fiancé Steve chimes in with his take on our first meeting (and makes me blush).


You’ve heard from Sandee about how we were introduced through a mutual friend and became acquainted on Facebook before meeting in person. Indeed, Steve R. told me about Sandee on February 21st (isn’t e-mail archiving great?), and I contacted her that evening. We traded a few e-mails, scrutinized each other’s Facebook pages, learned what Google seemed to know, and set up a brunch date for February 24th.

We’d agreed on a nice restaurant in her neck of the woods, so I had plenty of time to reflect during the 45-minute drive in. As I motored along the interstate in light Sunday morning traffic, I tallied up what I knew about this woman. Steve R. had introduced her as smart, adventurous, really nice, and single. Excellent qualifications! He never mentioned her beauty, letting the photos I saw on Facebook speak for themselves.

Driving through gray, tree-bristled mountains, I mused that one positive sign was her active outdoor lifestyle. She hiked, ran mud runs, backpacked and mountain-biked—things I also enjoyed doing in the beautiful forests surrounding us. She held an academic position, which meant we’d made some similar choices, had some similar experiences. College professors always seem to have plenty to talk about, even if it’s only commiserating on the elegant dysfunction of so many academic departments.

I’d found an essay she’d written, so I knew she was skilled at expressing herself with grace and humor. And I knew she was witty—in one of her first e-mails, she implied Steve R. told her I had a Marie Osmond doll collection. What a great icebreaker! It poked fun at those red-flag oddities most Internet daters eventually tell stories about.

I knew she was comfortable in her own skin. I’d read with interest (bordering on awe) about her nude modeling on Valentine’s Day. Mind on the road, Steve, this is your exit!

I obediently followed the directions of my car navigation system to the restaurant, arriving early, as I usually do. (My Navy captain father instilled an almost obsessive attention to punctuality and efficiency, and academia has not quite beaten it out of me). By the time I sat down in the restaurant, eyes on the door, I’d catalogued a fair bit of knowledge about the woman who would soon walk through it. Things seemed promising.

However, I’d also endured six years of mid-life dating. I’d discovered how someone looks “on paper” does not necessarily translate to real-world compatibility. I was getting much better at restraining my optimism. I was hopeful, but not confident.

She walked into the restaurant.

The sun did not illuminate her hair like a halo from behind, nor did the camera switch to slow motion as she crossed the room, unfurled her scarf and tossed her hair. I didn’t look into her eyes and see inevitable love.

I saw a beautiful woman, a friend of a friend, someone willing to spend part of her day with me.

I don’t remember what she wore. I don’t remember what we ordered. I don’t even remember what we talked about. I do remember the time passing far more quickly than it usually does, the awkwardness of a first date melting gradually into the easy conversation of a pair of like-minded individuals. Once the bill had been paid, the waiter was more ready for our date to be over than we were, so we headed outside and sat a bit longer in the rare, warm, February sunshine.

For too long, I’d been a daydreamer, and I tended to let my mind skip to the future so quickly that I failed to savor the present. I’d often made the mistake of anticipating what might be rather than fully enjoying what is. It was so much better to enter a first date with no expectations other than “maybe I’ll make a new friend.” It allowed me to see what was really there before me: I had, indeed, just made a new friend. And without all those expectations and imaginings occupying my head, there was time and space simply to let things unfold.

I e-mailed her that evening to ask her on a second date.

Dinner celebrating our first dating anniversary, Seattle

Dinner celebrating our first dating anniversary, Seattle 2014