Paradise Found

If you have to take a business trip during the dreariest part of early spring, Hawaii is just about the best place on the planet to do that.

 

John and I flew to Oahu April 12 to attend events surrounding the premiere of the movie The Islands, which I co-wrote. This was our first trip to Hawaii and we instantly fell in love with this beautiful state and the beautiful people who live there.

 

We stayed at the Ambassador Hotel which was a five-minute walk from the beach. The hotel has seen better days but with its location a bit off of the main drag, it was really relaxing. We were able to sleep at night with the patio door open (no screens) to catch the ocean breeze. For some reason, there seems to be very few bugs on the island. We had the sweetest older Filipino cleaning lady who brightened our day every time we saw her. (Traveling tip: If you give a tip to your housekeeper at the beginning of your stay, rather than the end, they will be your BFF the entire time you’re staying at their property!)

 

Our first evening in Hawaii we were treated to an awesome dinner at Orchids at Halekulani, courtesy of Tim Chey, the director of The Islands. About a dozen people connected with the film were there and we enjoyed outstanding food and a breathtaking view of the Pacific Ocean.

 

Escaping the cold Wisconsin weather (and a record-setting blizzard that struck while we were gone), we made a point to walk to the beach every day. After our beach walk Friday we took The Waikiki Trolley Pink Line over to Ala Moana, the largest open air shopping center in the world. We enjoyed window shopping and a lunch there at a Japanese restaurant and we topped off our visit with a tasty bubble tea.

 

That evening we were invited to a cast party for The Islands in Aiea. We met so many wonderful people who were either actors or extras in the film, a part of the crew, or on the production team. Being in the mountain area, we got to witness a torrential downpour which caused some mudslides. We waited out the storm to head back to Waikiki but did experience delays on the trip back as the roads were being cleared from debris.

 

Saturday morning we were treated to a home-cooked breakfast by our friends Cynthia Briganti and her partner Dr. Dale. Cynthia is the top of the top in Enagic Corporation (the company we are distributors for, check out KangenWisconsin.com), so it was quite an honor for them to host us at their hotel. John and I spent the day after that exploring Waikiki Beach on foot. Waikiki is a bustling city with countless places to shop and eat. It’s probably the cleanest city I can remember visiting and it felt very safe to walk around. People refer to it as Las Vegas on an island — the fun keeps going until about 4:00 every morning.

 

That evening was the premiere of The Islands. It was a thrill to walk the red carpet, have our picture taken in front of The Islands banner, and be presented with gorgeous leis. We got to experience this beautiful film with about 1,000 other people. The movie got tremendous feedback from the audience. The Islands is the story of a real life Wonder Woman, Chiefess Kapi’olani, who reigned in Hawaii in the 1800s and performed a legendary act of bravery that ushered in religious freedom to her kingdom. The movie opens nationwide on November 9, 2018. Go see it!

 

Sunday started out for us with 7:00 a.m. Mass at Sts. Peter and Paul Parish in Honolulu. Then we got to spend a memorable day with Cynthia and Dale exploring Oahu by car. We drove to the North Shore and had numerous stops on the way there and back including Waimea Falls, Old Sugar Mill Waialua Coffee, Valley of the Temples, a hole-in-the-wall open air diner that had delicious pesto Eggs Benedict (best ever!), and a roadside market where we got to enjoy fresh coconut juice served in the shell, homemade banana bread, and fresh fruit native to the island. We finished the afternoon at Max’s Restaurant in Honolulu where we enjoyed a taste of the Philippines, including crispy pata (crispy pork hock), fried rice, pork sinigana soup, and a yummy dessert called halo-halo.

 

Monday morning Cynthia and Dale put their culinary skills to work again on the leftovers and made us another filling breakfast. Afterwards we went with them to the Honolulu Enagic office where they did a presentation on Kangen Water and team building. It was an amazing opportunity to learn from the masters. Cynthia lives her life by the ACTS prayer (adoration, contrition, thanksgiving and supplication) and is one of the most successful, motivated and dynamic people we’ve ever met. To top it off she is a servant leader, generous, and genuine. It was truly a pleasure to spend as much time with her and Dr. Dale as we did.

 

We spent the rest of Monday walking around the beach area and indulged in a manicure and pedicure (for me), a couple’s massage and some excellent gelato at Café Glace. Tuesday and Wednesday we toured Honolulu and spent time absorbing as much of Hawaii and its culture that we could. The highlight was visiting Pearl Harbor. What a moving and memorable site. It made us so grateful for the people who gave the ultimate sacrifice so we can enjoy the freedom and lifestyle that we live today.

 

No trip to Hawaii would be complete without a luau. They are somewhat commercial but we enjoyed our trip to Paradise Cove. We were greeted with shell necklaces and Mai Tais, enjoyed a hula show before dinner, played some traditional Hawaiian games, watched some demonstrations, had a feast fit for a chief or chiefess, and ended the night with the main hula performance including male and female hula dancers performing dances from various islands, plus a fire dance. I even got to try my hula skills on stage (no video available).

 

Our last night in Waikiki we made the trek to Leonard’s Bakery for malasada — Portuguese donuts, otherwise known as Hawaii’s favorite fried treat. It was totally worth the walk. Other memorable food places on the island were Teddy’s Bigger Burgers, GOOFY Café & Dine (where I got to experience my first ahi tuna poke bowl), and Eggs ‘n Things, where we actually ate twice (the guava and coconut syrups were the perfect topping for waffles and pancakes). We had Dole Whip at the Galleria which was so light and refreshing. I should also mention the Honolulu Cookie Company where we stopped for samples on almost a daily basis before finally buying a box of cookies to take home.

 

One last farewell from Waikiki Beach was a beautiful round of fireworks Wednesday night. I don’t know how they knew I was such a big fan, but thank you! We had prime seating on the balcony of our hotel!

 

Our trip to Hawaii was something we’ll never forget! Even the flights were bearable with all the great movies we finally had time to watch… The Darkest Hour, Casablanca, Wonder, 27 Dresses, The Disaster Artist, and Breathe. The weather in Hawaii is perfect (70-80 degrees every day), I loved all the open air shops and restaurants (with no freezing air conditioning), we got to hear Somewhere Over the Rainbow by IZ Kamakawiw’ole multiple times, I got to ditch my cool-weather wear for sundresses and sandals, we got to see countless tourist families from Japan, China and Australia with their adorable children, had the chance to do earthing by walking barefoot most anywhere and anytime we wanted, we were greeted with the shaka (hang loose) sign more times than we could count, saw the most brilliant rainbows ever, got to experience liquid sunshine several times every day, and most importantly felt welcomed by the friendly and laid back Hawaiian natives.

 

We came home to Wisconsin to see our yard covered in two feet of snow. My day was brightened by the 100 copies of my newest novel, A Life Such as Heaven Intended, which arrived while we were gone.

 

As a gift to our friends and family at home we brought back sunshine and warm temperatures and have been enjoying them ever since. It’s finally spring!

 

We had always heard of the wonders of Hawaii but now that John and I have experienced it for ourselves, we appreciate Hawaii so much more. Aloha Hawaii and mahalo for making us feel so welcome. We look forward to visiting you again!

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‘Til the Season Comes Round Again

 

Watching Amy Grant perform “Til the Season Comes ‘Round Again” live with Michael W. Smith and Jordan Smith this past December 15 left tears running down my cheeks. I felt so blessed to be watching that performance in Columbus, Ohio with our three daughters, our son-in-law and our grandson and granddaughter.

 

Normally I may not have had that much of an emotional reaction to a song but that concert represented the beginning of the precious Christmas season with our family and the start of wrapping up 2017 — which was one of the most stressful years of my life.

 

Mind you, there’s good stress and there’s not good stress and I had my share of both of them this past year. On the good side there were the travels John and I took together — Mexico, L.A., San Diego, Columbus, Ohio (multiple times), San Antonio and Austin, Texas, Spring Green, Wisconsin and the birth of our beautiful fourth grandchild, Evelyn on September 7.

 

Then there was the huge updating project on our house which lasted the whole summer and entailed moving the entire household into our basement in June and then back into the main two stories in September. It took countless hours of work and shopping to make the house the industrial country home of my Pinterest dreams.

 

My career had challenges which led to growth and expansion into new endeavors. I had the opportunity to copy edit a movie script and eventually earned billing as the co-writer (check out The Islands when it comes to a theater near you in November, 2018). I copy edited a business book by Cheri Tree called Why They Buy that has turned out to be a best seller. In November I wrote the third book in my Heaven Intended Civil War series (Book #2, A Life Such as Heaven Intended, comes out April 2, 2018).

 

The biggest news in my career is that my first novel, A World Such as Heaven Intended, is under contract to make it into a movie. It’s exciting and surreal to enter the film business as a movie producer. The director, Michael Sajbel, and I are in the process of securing investors for production of the movie and once we hit a certain threshold, everything begins. (If you have an interest in investing — or learning about investing— in a movie that will be engaging, entertaining and profitable, contact me.)

 

On the less-than-stellar stress side, for the past five months we’ve been dealing with physical and mental health issues with my mom. She went from a healthy, active 80-year-old to incapacitated overnight. On August 15 her colon ruptured which led to emergency surgery. The trauma of the surgery, combined with medication and other factors brought on a form of PTSD called hospital delirium. She has been either hospitalized or under 24/7 rehab care for five months.

 

Those months were traumatic not only for her but for me, her primary caregiver, as well. The good news is she is regaining her health, strength and mind. It’s not a quick or easy process. The next step will be bringing her back to her home. We have no idea how that will turn out but we’re very grateful to still have her with us.

 

We’re starting out 2018 with a clean slate and are looking forward to what the year holds for us. We know the highlights will be the time spent with our children, grandchildren, parents, siblings and friends. We’ll have adventures and trials and tribulations (or growth opportunities as we like to say) as well but we’ll take each day one at a time and enjoy the highs and do our best to learn from the lows.

 

For our family and friends, new and old, we can’t really say it any better than Amy Grant did…

“May the New Year be blessed with good tidings, ‘til the next time I see you again. If we must say goodbye, let the spirit go with you, And we’ll love and we’ll laugh in the time that we had, ‘Til the season comes round again.”

The Best Laid Plans of Mice and Men

This past summer and early fall has been one for the books, that’s for sure. John and I did our own personal version of Love It or List It. We decided to update our house top to bottom and bring it from 1993 to 2017. The idea was either we would love the house and stay here or downsize and build an executive ranch in a different part of town.

 

This required moving our entire two-story home into our basement where we dwelt from Memorial Day weekend until Labor Day weekend. Overall the project went very well, there were delays here and there and some contractor issues, but as the general contractor I had most things moving along as they should.

 

The goal was to have a Pinterest-worthy modern country industrial farmhouse when we were done. It took a ton of research, shopping online and in local retail stores, pouring over Pinterest pages, consulting with numerous folks in the industry, and a boatload of hands-on work but in end everything turned out even better than we could have imagined.

 

We ended up coming in under budget and under the original timeframe. Just kidding! Like every project on every HGTV home-improvement show, we came in over budget (about double what we estimated) and weeks later than we anticipated.

 

Our summer was spent working every day at our jobs — since I’m self-employed that meant being holed up in the basement day in and day out. BTW, how was the weather this summer? All I could see of the outside was our window wells and some grass. Every night we were either working on projects in the house or yard, or at one of the local hardware stores buying or returning things. (Here’s a shout out to the crew at Menard’s, we were there an average of once a day.)

 

To make it even more interesting, I took on two substantial copy editing jobs early in the summer. So, in addition to writing for two newspapers, educating folks about Kangen water at various events, a big R&D project, attending the CMN convention in Chicago, and taking care of our grandson as needed, I copy edited a business book (with a 48-hour deadline) that has since gone on to be a best seller (check out Why They Buy — it’s a fantastic book for anyone in sales, and really, who isn’t in sales?), and I took on the job of script supervisor for a $40 million movie that is being shot this fall.

 

I was managing to keep all the balls in the air until I got blindsided. My mom had the misfortune of having her colon rupture which required emergency surgery. At 80 years old, she’s one tough cookie. She made it through surgery, spent 10 days in the hospital, then 30 days in post-acute care. Physically she recovered well, but she went into a state of confusion that worsened as the weeks went by.

 

While I thought I’d spend a couple nights with her after she was released until she got acclimated to being on her own again it turned out to be a 24/7 job with me taking care of all of her personal  and medical needs. I had to learn on the spot such things as how to replace an ostomy bag and how to dress an abdominal wound.

 

Two-and-a-half weeks into that I was physically and mentally exhausted. I took my mom back to the ER and she was admitted to the hospital where she spent 10 days undergoing every test in the books to try to figure out what caused the confusion and memory loss. Nothing conclusive was found so it was back to a rehabilitation facility. She’s been there a week now and some days we see glimpses of the real mom and other days are pretty discouraging.

 

My friend sent me a text today that said, “You know the Lord has all the authority, He’s the one in control. Take your hands off it and let Him take care of her. It’s not your will what’s to be done but His. Sometimes we tend to get too much in the way and try to make things our way, not His. It’s hard when we’re used to controlling things and making sure everything is in order. But life is much easier when you take the control off of things.”

 

Like everything that happens in life, there’s a lesson to be learned from this. Maybe that’s it.

Keep Your Eyes on the Prize

They say if you want something done, give it to a busy person. I’ll attest to that. Our oldest child was 6 when baby No. 4 came along. Having four children in that short of a time span made for a busy life for a full-time mom but I was committed to being an active volunteer not only in our children’s school but in the community as well.

 

As life evolved and the kids got older, I began taking on various jobs that could be worked around my husband’s schedule so that for the most part, one of us could be in charge of the kiddos while the other one was working.

 

I did a brief stint working outside of the home part time when our youngest child entered second grade. Two years later when the business closed its doors, I made the decision to be in charge of my own destiny and work from home as a freelance writer/Jack-of-all-trades.

 

That led to a multi-faceted career which included writing for numerous magazines and newspapers, proofreading for various entities — including a local college, doing product testing for a major corporation, becoming a distributor for a network marketing company, writing product reviews online for big box retailer, copy editing books, acting in commercials and films, writing novels, and my latest foray — script supervisor for a major motion picture.

 

There’s been a lot of press lately about choosing one area in your life or career and giving it your complete, undivided focus if you truly want to succeed in that arena. My husband recently encouraged me to read the book, The One Thing: The Surprisingly Simple Truth Behind Extraordinary Results.

 

The concept is fantastic and I agree with the premise. The problem for me is that I’m juggling a lot of balls right now but, to be honest, I don’t want to let go of anything at this point. So, what I’m striving to do is to give my undivided attention to the task at hand and to keep in mind each day what my top priorities are.

 

That’s not to say I won’t have several projects I’ll be working on during any given day, it’s just that I am determined to set aside chunks of time to work on the most pressing task, get a few minutes of downtime in between, and then move onto the next project.

 

The struggle lies in staying on task for 45 minutes or an hour on a project. Focusing has been an issue for me — I tend to get bored rather easily. At times it reminds me of The Family Circus cartoon when Billy is sent on an errand by his parents and he keeps getting distracted by the shiny objects. Yup, that’s pretty much me.

 

While I am succeeding in my ventures, chances are I could achieve more in any of these endeavors if it was my absolute focus. Who knows, maybe at some point I’ll push everything aside and devote several months to work on one project. But, for the time being, I’ll keep all these balls up in the air as long as I can. I’m enjoying my life, every day is different, I get to experience all sorts of interesting opportunities and if I’m willing to put the work and the hours in, good things will continue to come my way. Besides, I’ve got a pretty strong competitive nature — if anyone can defy the odds and see major success in more than one area of their life, it will be me. Stay tuned, I’ll let you know how things pan out!

Bring it on 2017!

Today is the Feast of the Three Kings, so we’ll be taking down the Christmas tree and decorations this weekend. (Or in the words of Curtis the elf from Santa Clause 2, “The desantaclausification process has begun!”) My snowmen collection will be rearranged and kept up until the end of February or until the snow’s gone (April? May?).

This is a good time to reflect on 2016 and look forward to 2017. Every year I write a traditional Christmas letter that gets tucked into each Christmas card we send. Some of the highlights noted in this year’s letter include

  • meeting our first granddaughter in Ohio this past January and celebrating her big brother’s 3rd birthday while we were there
  • watching the Super Bowl in Minnesota at our son and daughter-in-law’s house and getting lots of cuddle time with our newborn grandson son
  • celebrating seven years of sharing true health through Kangen water  (KangenWisconsin.com)
  • baptism day for our two youngest grandchildren on Mother’s Day
  • the end of my softball career (thanks to a collision on a softball field with another player that sent me to the ICU for 21 hours with a concussion)
  • getting 4th row seats to see Frankie Valli and the Four Seasons in Chicago and getting to meet Mr. Valli backstage after the show!
  • 4th of July visit in Wisconsin with our children and grandchildren
  • traveling to Las Vegas with our two younger daughters and our son for Enagic’s global convention in July where John, Nick and I were honored for rank advancements in the company
  • receiving the  CALA award (Catholic Arts and Letters Award) for my novel A World Such as Heaven Intended — it was the top Catholic young adult novel for 2015-2016
  • having our son, daughter-in-law and grandson move from Minnesota back to Wisconsin — they bought a house less than five miles away from our house!
  • watching the play Wicked in Ohio with our daughters, son-in-law and grandson — it was awesome!
  • celebrating 35 years of marriage to John with a trip to Colorado
  • taking a quick vacation to Galena, Illinois and Dubuque, Iowa
  • completing the NANOWRIMO (National Novel Writing Month) challenge and writing the sequel to my book — look for A Life Such as Heaven Intended in book stores and online this spring

As it happens in any given year, there were sad moments too as we lost some people in our lives. But the good definitely outweighed the bad. Now it’s time to look forward to all the promises 2017 holds in store for us.

Unlike most years, I haven’t come up with any New Year’s Resolutions yet. Not sure if I’m going to set any this year, I’m thinking of just working on completing my Top 10 goal list from 2016. Actually, now that I think of it, there’s still some things on the 2015 list I can work on, no need to come up with any new ones! So if all goes well, by the end of 2017 I will weigh less, be able to do one pull up, have run a half marathon, have a new car, rank advance in Enagic to 6A2-2, have two books published, hit the best-seller list on Amazon again, get more involved in church and spend quality time with our family.

Guess I better get going on that! Happy New Year! May 2017 be your best year yet — a year filled with health, happiness and hope!

 

Yes, No or Not Yet

Last week was quite the week in our household. Well, maybe a lot of households with that whole presidential election thing going on. We, and apparently a whole bunch of other Americans, had no idea how it would turn out, but there was one thing I did know. Regardless of who won the presidential election, several hours after it was finally called, the sun was still going to rise and we’d get back to our regularly scheduled lives.

I called that one right. How nice was it to finally stop obsessing over the polls, YouTube videos, WikiLeaks, the nightly news, and the never-ending arguing on Facebook. Lucky for me, I have a huge project I’m working on to occupy those vacant hours now that I won’t be perusing the Internet day in and day out.

One thought before I go onto the next topic, there were undoubtedly a lot of prayers going up to the heavens the week before the presidential election. Now that it is done and over with, half the people in the United States are filled with gratitude for prayers answered and the other half are probably wondering why their prayers weren’t answered.

From my perspective — no matter what the outcome of the election was, all the prayers were answered. God either answered yes, no or not yet. He sees the big picture — we’re not privy to that. Through the years I’ve read a lot of books on spirituality and religion ranging from Conversations with God by Neale Donald Walsch to the works of Dynamic Catholic founder Matthew Kelly.

We’re here on the Earth at this place and this time for a reason. The words of Roy Smith sum up it up one way — “We come to earth school to have physical experiences, and from these experiences we learn valuable lessons that enable us to evolve spiritually.”

Matthew Kelly talks about the importance of having the goal while we’re alive to “become the best versions of ourselves.”

As hard as it can be to accept, we grow more from the challenges we face in life than from the times when life was smooth sailing. So no matter how things turned out, this could be the ideal opportunity for us to grow, put our differences aside, and to do what we can to make the best with the hand we’ve been dealt. Everything is happening for a reason, and as they say, it’s not what happens to you, it’s how you handle it that makes the difference.

I’m vowing to disengage somewhat from social media and to turn towards other things. One of those things happens to be NANOWRIMO (National Novel Writing Month), the project I referenced earlier. This is a challenge to aspiring authors worldwide to write a 50,000-word novel in the month of November. That breaks down to writing at least 1,667 words every day for 30 days. This is the third year in a row that I’ve signed on. It’s an arduous task, I’ve been spending up to six hours each day writing so that I stay on pace and hit my personal goal of producing one chapter per day.

Since this book is a sequel to my novel A World Such as Heaven Intended, the plan is to have it published by our same publishing team and released in the first or second quarter of 2017. This writing challenge has been exactly what I needed to get moving forward on this project — otherwise it could have sat on the back burner for months.

To add to the busyness of this month we spent the first two weeks helping our son, daughter-in-law and 11-month-old grandson move from our house, where they’ve been living the last four months, to their new house. It’s been quite the process because there were a number of projects that needed to be done before the actual moving process could happen. We’re going to miss having that sweet little baby around but the good news is they have a beautiful home that’s only 4.9 miles from our house.

We’re looking forward to hosting our first Thanksgiving in several years. It will be a small crowd so it shouldn’t be too overwhelming. There’s nothing like smelling the turkey roasting while we watch the Thanksgiving Day Parade and look at all the ads for Black Friday. By then I will be all done Christmas shopping but it’s always fun to see what the specials are. We’ll be sleeping in when folks are lining up at 4:00 in the morning for the door busters.

The plan is to complete my novel before November 24 so I can really relax and enjoy the holiday. We have so much to be thankful for this year, it will be great to set aside a day to reflect on all of our blessings.

Happy Thanksgiving to all of you! Have fun and safe travels!

 

Coral or Jade? After 35 years, it’s all good!

For a 35th wedding anniversary, the traditional gift is coral, and the modern gift is jade. Since John and I consider every day we’re together a gift, we decided to skip exchanging presents and instead took a trip to Colorado to celebrate our momentous occasion. Spending five days together in that beautiful state gave us a lot of time to reflect on how this whole journey began.

 

For two kids getting married on that hot early fall day, September 11, 1981, there would have been no way we could have guessed how the next 35 years would unfold. When I say kids, I’m not kidding. I was 19 and John was 20. We met when I was a 17-year-old senior in high school. We dated nine months, were engaged nine months, and had our first child… three-and-a-half years later.

 

It’s kind of crazy looking back now because we thought we knew everything at the time but 19 and 20 is pretty young. But things were different back then. There really wasn’t the hook-up culture that we see now — for most of us as teens, the idea of dating was to begin the sorting process to find the person you’d eventually want to spend the rest of your life with.

 

This was back before the days when the vast majority of kids headed to college right out of high school. I would guess that less than 10 percent of our friends made the decision to further their education at a four-year university. Most people went into a trade after high school graduation.

 

It wasn’t quite that cut and dried for us. For John, being the 10th youngest of 12 children in his family, he never gave serious consideration to going onto college. Instead, he followed his dad’s footsteps and went into the industry his dad worked in. For me, when I was a senior in high school, my two older brothers were in college and my dad was encouraging me to go onto school and get a degree in engineering (following his passion) because as a woman I could “write my ticket to the world by having a degree in a male-dominated field.”

 

I was accepted at Marquette University and UW-Madison and enrolled at Wisconsin. My path looked clear until that fateful night, March 8, 1980 (which by chance happened to be five years to the day before our first child was born). It was a Saturday night and I was at a nightclub with my girlfriends (who all were 18, the legal drinking age at the time, I’ll admit I was the one sneaking past the bouncer).

 

We were sitting in a corner booth at The Regency when in walked a couple of guys, one of whom immediately caught my eye. I’ll admit it — it was John’s good looks that got my attention! My job the rest of the night was to catch his eye when my friends and I hit the floor dancing to the disco tunes.

 

My plan worked. A slow song came on and John came over to our booth and asked me to dance. We introduced each other and started telling a little about ourselves as we danced. When John mentioned he had 11 brothers and sisters I said, “Awesome, you’re Catholic!”

 

Well, that slow dance led to many more slow dances over the course of the next few weeks and then on April 19 John asked if he could drive me home. That night, in my dad’s driveway, he asked if I would go on a date with him to see a movie the next night, April 20, 1980.

 

Of course I said yes. I couldn’t wait to see him the next day and as the time he was supposed to pick me up came and went, he wasn’t there. He did get there eventually. Apparently he had been playing football with his brothers and cousins and went home afterwards to take a shower and catch a quick nap and ended up oversleeping. Not sure how impressed my dad was with this guy when he came to the door but the date was on, we got to the theater before the movie started and halfway through “Die Laughing,” John grabbed my hand in his. From that moment on we were pretty much inseparable.

 

That was until I left for college in late August. That was a sad day. I threw my suitcase and a record player in my dad’s sedan (that was before the extreme packing that college kids go through in this day and age). I wondered when we’d see each other again.

 

It turned out, it wasn’t too long. I got Badger season tickets so John came down for one of the first home games. After that we knew we wanted to see each other as much as possible so I either arranged to get a ride home for the weekend or grab a bus home or John would drive down and pick me up or come down to Madison to spend his weekends there.

 

School was going well, probably because I did more studying than socializing. I was studying chemical engineering but I was beginning to wonder about my major. It didn’t seem like engineering had a lot of flexibility and if John and I were going to get married and have a family someday, I really didn’t see myself devoting 50 to 60 hours to that career every week and missing our kids growing up.

 

One of those weekends when John was in Madison we went to a mall and picked out an engagement ring. At the end of the semester, several days before Christmas, John picked me up from school and we packed everything I had brought down to Madison into the trunk of his Chevy Nova. It was at that point that we knew I wouldn’t be going back.

 

On Christmas Eve John picked me up at my dad’s and was driving over to his parent’s house for their celebration and on the way there pulled into the parking lot at a park and stopped the car. He pulled out a box from his pocket and opened it to reveal the ring we had picked out. He asked me if I would marry him. Of course I said yes!

 

After the holidays I gave notice at UW-Madison that I would not be returning for the next semester of school. I applied for jobs and got a job as a proofreader at Home Mutual Insurance. The next several months went by fast as we planned our wedding. It was fun because several of the girls I worked with were engaged as well so a number of us were in the middle of wedding plans.

 

September 11 dawned bright and beautiful. It was an unseasonably warm day — nearly 100 degrees. It was warm with my long-sleeved Victorian style wedding gown and for John and his groomsmen in their black tuxedos. The day turned out perfectly and was a beautiful start to our lives together. We were young, definitely didn’t have a lot of money, but with some frugal decisions were able to put on our entire wedding (including the meal for 125, beer, my wedding dress, our rings, hall rental, etc.) for less than $1,500. I still find that pretty amazing.

 

The future certainly was as bright at the clear blue sky that day. We would have never been able to predict the trials and tribulations we would be faced with over the next three decades but we also wouldn’t have been able to imagine the joy and fun our lives would bring (particularly because of our four children and our three grandchildren).

 

It’s been quite the adventure! I wouldn’t go back and change a thing! Like they say, what didn’t kill us made us stronger. I can happily say that meeting John 36 years ago was the best day of my life. I must have done something good to have a man like him choose to be my life partner. We are best friends, there is no one on this planet I’d rather spend time with than him. Every day it is such a joy to wake up next to him. I can’t wait to see what the next 35 years brings!