Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Love affair accelerates

When Baby Boomers make public displays of affection, they don't have to turn younger people's stomachs. People don't have to yell at you, "Get a room!" We put the pedal to the metal with our 9-10-11 special license plates on the Prius. The license plates are a public statement of how important this date is to us. They are also a statement that the road of the relationship, while it may sometimes be rocky, will lead us to a wonderful place. Now when I drive over the Blue Mountains to the beach condo for the weekend, my car will be publicly announcing the song in my heart.

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Shared vocabulary

Teri and I are getting a head start in learning the vocabulary of marriage. Sure, we won't tie the knot for 10 more months. But we are already trying to learn to say not your house or my house but our beach condo and our mountain cabin. Habits die hard. Each time we bet a dinner out on who will slip up first. It focuses the mind. The thought of pulling out that Visa card grabs the attention and then some.

We also have a bet on who will remember to say happy anniversary first on the 12th and 26th when we celebrate, respectively, our first connection by e-mail and our first date. This also focuses the mind. Lots of times I will have good intentions. I will remember the anniversary several days before and send Teri a colorful bouquet of flowers, on the 12th anyway. That's my routine. The night before I will remember the anniversary and be ready to do the right thing, first thing in the morning. The next morning, though, the actual date of the anniversary, my mind will be on completing my exercise routine, a storm moving in, finishing out shopping for the Christmas list, catching up on Facebook, finishing the laundry, any number of things. Teri will beat me to the punch. Now, with the new bet in place, I have extra incentive to remember our anniversaries.

Even after marriage, we may go several years before we live together full time. That's not ideal. But we're OK with that if that is necessary, thanks to job and family obligations. We are just glad to share what time we can, and also to promote a vocabulary of sharing.

Thursday, October 28, 2010


Some couples get married in the first throes of euphoria. Other couples wait a long time and make sure mature love works before they tie the knot. No way is the right way. Teri and I are taking our sweet time before getting married on 9-10-11. We are even taking long enough to establish family traditions -- before the wedding.

One example is the river walk. We enjoyed a river walk along the Umatilla in Pendleton on our first date, Oct. 26, 2008. A year later found us celebrating our anniversary in Bend, where we just happened on a great river walk along the Deschutes. A tradition was born. This year we had less time off from work and decided to go to Richland and the Tri-Cities for a river walk along the Columbia. It was terrific. Rainy weather was predicted, but we got sun bursts and even rented single-speed biycles for a 10-mile roundtrip. Later, we walked to a nice seafood restaurant with a river view for great food and conversation. The accomodations were great too with an upgrade to a suite with a harbor view -- for no extra cost.

Traditions are important, no matter if you are celebrating for the second time or the 50th time. The annual RiverWalk gives us something to plan for and look forward to. It gives us a chance to remember what is right with our relationship, and commit ourselves to another year of fun , learning and love.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Ready for some football?

One of the many amazing things about Teri is she loves to watch football. She caught the bug from her mom, Helen, who gave her family generous helpings of TLC all year long. But when New Year's Day rolled about, it was her day off to watch football. No ifs, and or huge linemen's butts about it.

Teri roots on her beloved Seattle Seahawks of the NFL and the Oregon State Beavers of college ranks. She'll even occasionally root for Jeff's alma mater. the Oregon Ducks. With their high-powered offense, and No. 1 ranking in the nation midway through the 2011 season, it's hard not to dance around the house every time they score. In the Ducks' come-from-behind win over Stanford, we danced up a storm.

I'm already looking ahead to the next time we are lucky enough to share the same TV screen or, better yet, be at a Duck game in person. When Oregon scores a touchdown, I'll ask Teri to do the Duck Dance with me. It's easy to learn. Just let the inhibitions run free. Twist in circles like a little kid and raise both arms high in the air. Spin until you're dizzy and giggling.

Guaranteed, you'll feel 40 years younger in no time.

Friday, October 1, 2010

Live well

There are as many different definitions of living well as there are people on this earth. But to me (this is Jeff speaking) "live well" means to be a Braveheart, not a Faintheart. It means pursuing your dreams because of what can be, not selling yourself short by thinking about the odds stacked up against success.

"Live well" is about looking for opportunities to give, knowing that the more we give, the more that will be given back to us. "Live well" is about choosing to be happy. As Abraham Lincoln said, "Most folks are about as happy as they make up their minds to be."

"Live well" is also about making good choices about lifestyle. It's turning 30-year lifestyle problems into 30-year lifestyle solutions, about building good habits into each day, week, month and year and reaping over time the cumulative benefits. For example, taking lunch to work and having a good mix of complex carbohydrates, fats and proteins with each meal or snack, grazing not gorging. "Live well" is a choice and an adventure that Teri and I share.


Teri and I both love Heart. Nancy and Ann Wilson rock. And we especially love their song "Mistral Wind" that refers to the "crazy dreamer." We both have a little of the crazy dreamer in us. At the same time, we've both been through enough heartbreak and challenging times that we have our feet firmly planted on terra firma. At first, Teri's propensity to be a crazy dreamer had me worried. But as I got to know her better, I began to see that Teri is also well grounded. We can dream, whether it is about a beach house or a European vacation, and I hope we keep dreaming until the day we die. It is a much better way to live than with regrets for what we did not do. But at the same time we can also be happy owning our own little slice of heaven and for the gift of just being able to dream together of what can and will be.

Thursday, September 30, 2010

Love Much

Even the best of relationships evolve over time. Love deepens. Change is inevitable, even for the best of snugglers and cuddlers. But if we can guide that change toward a loving place, one that regenerates itself daily, weekly, monthly, yearly, it bodes well for the future of our relationship.

Part of loving much is saying I love you, a lot, in speaking, in writing. Say what you mean and mean what you say.

Whether we're together or apart, in the beach condo and the mountain cabin, we say I love you when we get up in the morning and when we go to bed at night and many times in between. Just because.

Oz 7

Among the many elements that make up a good Groundhog Day is Oz 7. Teri discovered this stretching regimen while watching the Dr. Oz show on TV. The regimen involves stretching, Relaxing. Rejuvenating.

Our time together, though, is limited. Some mornings we are busy doing other things, maybe even sleeping -- or driving 75 miles to work. The phone rings. An unexpected visitor arrives at the door. Excuses. Excuses.

In these cases, we can revert to the Oz 1. That's just one major stretch done back to back. It brings us together, like a reverse energy hug, and helps us get a good start on the day.

Laugh often

One of the things I enjoy most about Teri is her ability to make me laugh. OK, she can also make me giggle, guffaw and roll on the floor holding my gut until I start to cry. She is Gilda Radner, Lisa Landry and Lily Tomlin all wrapped into one appealing, bigger than life package. She can turn an ordinary situation -- say grocery shopping -- into the extraordinary with her great sense of humor.

On her Yahoo.com personals site, she mentioned she liked stories with twists. Humor is all about doing the twist. It's a dance with words, situations. And Teri knows how to do the twist with the best of them.

A trip to the store with Teri can have all the entertainment value as a trip to Disneyland. You just have to be ready for the unexpected. The only thing you can be sure of is you will have a good, healthy laugh when she hip-checks you into the bananas.


The person we call our Cupid steered me toward Yahoo.com personals when my year of recovery from grief was complete and I was ready to begin dating again. Give it a try, she suggested. What have you got to lose? At the time, I was thinking what could go right. I was not thinking the myriad of things about online dating that could go wrong.

Life is a daring adventure or nothing, Helen Keller said. Signing up for Yahoo was the first step of the biggest adventure of my life, and I'm eternally grateful to Cupid for giving me the courage to try.

Thursday, September 16, 2010


The number 4 is important to us. It symbolizes being practical and "down-to-earth," and is linked to the idea of independent, "out-of-the-box" thinking. It's a great number for contrarians like Teri and me. When the clock strikes 4:44, either in the morning or the afternoon, we take a minute to put our full attention on each other. When we're together, we'll give each other an energy hug and a kiss. When we're apart, we know each of us is saying I love you and want only the best for you. It's a connection.

This small action can have big consequences as just one more part of building a relationship that will flourish not just today, this week, this month or this year but for a lifetime.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010


Providing encouragement to help our partner reach their goal is important. Whether that goal is a 10-pound weight loss over the next year, or riding back to back century rides over the Blue Mountains on a bicycle, Teri and I are not shy about being cheerleaders for each other. We know whatever the goal there will be setbacks. We know there will be times inspiration will lag. But when we encourage each other on a daily basis, we help smooth over some of the potholes on the road of life. Such encouragement makes any goal, not matter how formidable, seem less daunting.


Creativity is another key aspect of Teri and my relationship. We create positive ruts, as in a Groundhog Day that continues to evolve. Having been in a marriage for 24 years, I am aware of how ruts can take hold and suck some of the life out of a relationship. For this reason Teri and I continually give our ruts twists from time to time to keep them engaging. Among other things, we've introduced to the relationship such concepts as 4:44, family meetings, gifts for no reason, nightly walks, weekly cards just because, monthly flowers and more. This repertoire continues to evolve. The true test, of course, will be to see where our Groundhog Day is 10 or 20 years from now. Because of our combined creativity, though, and Teri's propensity for improvisation, I have great faith that what we come up with will be special indeed.


One of our heroes, Albert Einstein, said, "Imagination is more important than knowledge." Being imaginative, we've found, does wonders for a relationship. Routines have less chance of going stale. Often, Teri will introduce new aspects to old routines and I will run with them. She is the instigator. I am the perpetuator. For example, she came up with the 4:44 concept where twice a day, at 4:44 a.m. and 4:44 p.m., we have the opportunity to drop everything, to stop everything, and give each other a hug and a kiss. Or, if we're not together, we can know the other person might be sending us special thoughts at that moment. Such imagination with 4:44 and many other concepts bodes well for the strength of our relationship 10, 20 and even 30 years into the future.


One thing that worried me and intrigued me when I first met Teri was her propensity to be, as the Heart song "Mistral Wind" goes, a "crazy dreamer." But as time went on I found out the truth. As we got to know each other better, I began to see that Teri is also well grounded. We can dream about the beach house. The European vacation. Jetting off to the Caribbean. But we also be happy, as one of our favorite sayings goes, blooming where we are planted. We can be happy owning our own little slice of heaven and the gift of just being together.

On Second Thought

One of the great joys of my life is writing a weekly column for the La Grande (Oregon) Observer. The column has provided good therapy to help me get through some tough times. Sometimes with humor, sometimes with poignancy, occasionally with both, I've written about anything and everything. Writing the column helped me get through late wife Tina's untimely death at age 48 due to complications of diabetes and autoimmune inner ear disease. Writing the column also helped me get through my own diagnosis with the chronic condition, neurogenic bladder. Figuring other people face similar challenges and may learn from my experience, I've written about recovery from grief and about beginning to date again after a 25-year hiatus. I've written about becoming engaged to Teri and all the special challenges and joys that involved. Go to lagrandeobserver.com and click on "opinion." Then click on "columnists," and then on "Jeff Petersen's columns." Then scroll down to Feb. 18 and click on "Yes!!!!!"

But mostly I've written about what people can do, ways they can think about things and solve problems, how they can reduce stress and put things in perspective, to make their own lives better, more enriching. If I can sprinkle on a little humor to help the medicine go down, it's all good.

Terms of Engagement

Picking just the right date to be married was easy. We just put on a blindfold and threw a dart at a 2011 calendar. Just kidding. Actually, Teri and I had several criteria that helped us decide. First, we didn't want a date that was too close to a major holiday. I had previously been married on Christmas Eve 1983 and saw how the anniversary celebration got lost in all the other holiday festivities. Being contrarians, we also didn't want to get married in the most popular marriage month, June. We didn't want the weather to be too hot or cold, or too wet. That pretty much narrowed our choices down to, well, September.

Teri studied the calendar and suddenly popped up, "How about 9-10-11? It's on a Saturday, and will be easy for people to remember." I immediately felt that was a good idea, especially since it would give us an 18-month engagement. There was no rush. We needed time to plan the wedding, and save money to pay for it. We also needed time to continue building the relationship.

Besides, it's not like, just as soon as we get married, we'll be offered great jobs in the same town and be able to live full-time in the same house. Could happen. But it's not likely. Of course, living together full-time is our ultimate goal. How we get there, however, might be quite unusual. Stay tuned.

Sunday, September 5, 2010

Let's Get Physical

Part of Teri's allure, for me, was her knowledge of nutrition. Due to various health issues she's become attuned to taking good care of her body, and that includes physical exercise. Together we like to share restaurant meals and often we choose to graze, not gorge. That means eating six half-size meals a day, keeping the blood sugar rock steady. We also like to take walks together. Ride bicycle. Someday we hope to add cross-country skiing and snowshoeing to our regimen. It's great to be out in the elements together, to work up at least a little sweat, to feel our muscles burn a slight bit, knowing we are boosting our metabolism and that it will run 24 hours a day, burning that wonderful fuel, fat, even while we sleep.

We want to stay active. That way we will feel young. That might mean something as simple as parking to car at the far end of the lot at Walmart. In the long run, this habitual behavior will help us be sharper, clearer, more optimistic, happier.

I have taken the fitness regimen a step further with the Younger Next Year program, which I began in earnest on Aug. 1, 2009. It's a major commitment. It involves 45 minutes of aerobics four times a week, 45 minutes of weight training two times a week. The results have been remarkable. It's a small investment in time for such big dividends.

Teri, between work and family obligations, is not on board yet with the Younger Next Year program and may never be. That's fine. As long as most of the time we make good choices regarding fitness and nutrition, we will be OK. By supporting each other in getting fit and maintaining fitness, our relationships grows ever stronger.

It's the Money, Honey

All sorts of issues can derail a relationship. There's sex. In-laws. Outlaws. Money. Time spent on honey-dos. Money. Beer goggles. Dogs eating the sofa. Money.

Many couples get into money wars. Of course, sometimes it's laughable how little ammunition they have in their arsenal. The man will go hunting. The woman will go shopping. In retaliation, the man will buy a new set of graphite golf clubs. The woman will go on a Girls Weekend to the Coast. Or they'll shop until the man drops.

Teri and I came into the relationship both as survivors of layoffs from dream jobs. We know what it's like to lose almost everything and start over financially, to be frugal, to be thrifty, to repair a pair of pants three times rather than to throw them away. But that's not enough to stop us from getting in a big fight over money. So what we've done is to come up with a family meeting to discuss all purchases of more than $100. It's a work in progress, sure. But we're confident that while we may still have a skirmish from time to time, we'll avoid the biggest episodes of passive aggression, the biggest battles where both sides dig in and can see no way out.

And our peace talks, we've determined, won't be words only. We won't just make idle apologies and move on as if all is OK. We'll agree in our family meetings to specific actions to take that will help us to grow closer over time.

Saturday, August 28, 2010

Decades Behind in Wedding Anniversaries

By the time 9.10.11 arrives and Jeff and I get married, as a first-time-bride I will be decades behind my parents and brothers and several years behind one of my nieces on the wedding anniversary scale.

Next August 29 - 2011 - my brother and sister-in-law celebrate their 30th wedding anniversary. His daughter, my niece, has already celebrated her 6th wedding anniversary. My younger brother and sister-in-law have been married nearly 20 years... see, I have lost count... but I know they have managed to survive the test of time,

My parents would have celebrated their 50th wedding anniversary in 2006, except for the fact that my mother passed away all too soon in 2003. Mom and Dad had been together since 1951 and they married in 1956. All of these married members of my family have enjoyed such happy times, persevered life's struggles and endured mutual heartache. The thing is... they got through all this together.

I find it amazing that my two younger brothers will have celebrated decades of marriage and family life and my oldest niece will have celebrated seven anniversaries ALL before I have been married one minute.

I know that with this kind of track record and me finding THE right person for me, I will eventually celebrate anniversaries, even ones marking a decade or two or three. :)

Robbing the Cradle

When I first thought about dating again, after my year of grieving and recovery, as a 51-year-old widower, something strange happened. I went right back to being 25. That was the last time I had dated. The women I found attractive happened to be half my age. They could be my daughter. Silly me. I was delusional.

I figurtively slapped myself in the face. Wake up, moron! No robbing the cradle. If I was going to date, I would have to find someone if not my own age at least residing in the same zip code, as in 50-something zip. A quarter century had passed, and women my age now had wrinkles, body fat, dyed hair. Some had grandkids. Yikes! Then I looked in the mirror and made an honest evaluation of what i saw. I had wrinkles too. My hair was turning a lovely shade of silver. I had lost my metabolism years earlier and was fighting the battle of the bulge.

I had to retrain my brain to look for a companion my own age. I needed to find someone who had seen life in the trenches, who had recovered from layoffs and illnesses, who had lost people close to them and who had recovered to come back stronger than ever. I needed to find a character with character.

When I went on Yahoo personals, in late September 2008, I was absolutely delighted when two weeks later I found a person, Teri, almost exactly my age. It was uncanny. A miracle. A bit of unexpected synchronicity. As we got to know each other better, we discovered we had even more in common than first imagined. We had both seen life in the trenches. We had both recovered from severe challenges and come back stronger than ever.

OK, so Teri is seven weeks older. At least it's not me who is "robbing the cradle."

The Grande Experiment

We all have any number of second chances in life. After my wife died in September 2007, and after a year of grieving and recovery, a lonely time spent soul searching in my beloved Grande Ronde Valley, I had to contemplate whether I wanted to spend the rest of my life alone or if I wanted a companion for the journey, for the adventure. I chose companionship and it has made all the difference.

I had a second chance at romance and wanted to make the most of my opportunity. I contemplated what had worked and what could have been better in my 24-year marriage. I thought about how, even in the best of relationships, couples begin taking each other for granted. Perhaps I could find a way to circumvent that.

I thought about the what ifs. What if I took an average day, my Groundhog Day, and added features that kept the relationship nurtured? A morning and evening kiss? An evening walk? A family meeting when needed? What if I found a woman who wanted to be the subject of this Grande Experiment? What if she wanted to join me as this lifestyle adventure evolved?

Some relationships implode because of 30-year lifestyle problems. Many more relationships thrive, because a healthy lifestyle is part of the template. I wanted to build that template, one that could evolve for the rest of our lives.

Teri turned out to be the kind of intensely creative soulmate I needed to find to make the Grande Experiment a reality. If life is a rut, why not make it the best rut possible? That's the challenge ahead for Teri and I. The Grande Experiment continues.

Always Have a Trip Planned

Part of a good groundhog Day is to have a future trip -- whether that be a full-scale vacation or a mini-vacation -- in the planning stages. The Oregon Coast. Puget Sound. Canada. Central Oregon. Timberline Lodge. Crater Lake. The Wallowas. Yellowstone National Park. Wherever.

A big part of the fun of any trip is the planning. What to do. Who to do it with. Finding a great place to stay. Finding great bookends -- beginning and ending events to cap the trip, to give it definition.

The full-scale vacation is more expensive. It's a chance to get away for a week, to visit friends and relatives, to walk on the beach through huge flocks of pelicans, seagulls and cormorants. To see an OSU football game or go to a Heart concert. To wander through the Painted Hills, and marvel over the lunar-like landscape of McKenzie Pass.

The mini-vacation can be and should be taken more frequently. We aim to take a mini-vacation once a month. This might involve a long weekend where we go on a photo expedition to restock opportunities for Teri's Oregon desk calendar. It's a chance to get refreshed, see new faces and places and be energized by the endless variety of Oregon scenery.

Regardless of where we go, Teri and I are firm believers that it's the journey that is important, not the destination, although in the Northwest there are many great destinations to contemplate. Some moments of each trip will be more poignant than others. Yet if we keep going, if we keep traveling, sparks will eventually fly, and forever memories will be forged.

Evening walks

Come rain, come snow, come hail or high water, Teri and I are in the habit of going on evening walks. OK, so we are fair weather strollers. Still, there is nothing like a stroll in the moonlight on a warm summer's night. The crickets are chirping. Somewhere about a million chiuauas are barking. The lights of the Walla Walla or Grande Ronde Valley flicker off in the distance like diamonds.

Sprinklers hiss on in people's yards. We watch praying mantises make flight plans. We hear owls off in the distance questioning our identity. We say hi to other strollers out enjoying the evening ambiance. Sometimes we even stop to enjoy blackberries along the roadside.

Sometimes we go for a walk earlier, when it is still daylight. Together, in silence, we watch the sky change color. Mother Nature's fireworks prove to be endlessly fascinating.

Other times we go for a walk after dark. We hold hands, We talk about our 9-10-11 Wedding of the Century. Family barbecues. Future vacation trips. Future mini-vacations. Home designs. Whatever strikes our fancy. It's a great way to reconnect while getting fresh air and exercise. We strengthen our legs and our relationship under the full moon.

Hold the phone

Part of a good Groundhog Day, at least when Teri and I are apart, by necessity, me in my mountain cabin, she in her beach cabin, is the nightly phone call. It gives us a chance to share the highlights of the day. Who brightened our day. The challenges we faced. Funny moments. Times we needed "adult supervision."

A sign on my living room wall encourages us to live well, laugh often and love much. The phone calls reflect this mantra. They let Teri know that I'm thinking about her and wanting to spend quality time with her. Sure, there are some dull moments, some awkward pauses, some harebrained utterances. But it's important to not hang up before the miracle. If we talk long enough, good things invariably happen. We strike a chord. We hit a nerve. We make progress in our relationship building.

It's amazing to think that at one point, before Teri came into my life, I was phone phobic. My blood pressure would shoot up every time the phone rang. I would have to work up the courage, give myself a pep talk, before answering the phone. Some of this still runs in my family. We are hermits by nature, and would rather eat onions raw, walk on a bed of hot coals barefoot or wrestle badgers than talk on the phone.

Teri and I have made great strides in helping me overcome these tendencies. We have permission to talk about anything. We can even have family meetings on the phone, where we solve tough problems by defining the knowns and unknowns. Defining the problem in depth implies a solution. This way, we don't allow problems to fester or grudges to take hold.

Before we part we share a phone hug and kiss and wish each other blissful sleep and sweet dreams. We may not be able to share physical space, some evenings, but we are able to remain important parts of each other's lives, even when we are 90 miles apart. We hang up figuratively having tucked each other into bed, another day behind us well lived.

Best Man

The first time I got married, in December 1983, the wedding took place in my bride's rental home, and I pretty much had the best man appointed for me. Martin did a great job. I think we stayed in touch through nearly the end of the ceremony.

The second time, this time, for Teri and my September 2011 wedding, I wanted to do things differently. Perhaps there is no right way. Still, I wanted to do things in a more traditional manner -- and not rush anything. I wanted to show more gumption and pick a friend of character who could help guide me through the challenges of engagement, relationship building and marriage. Ernie fit the bill. He is my golf partner, and I know through our time on the links that he can deal with the frustrations golf deals out and still see the bigger picture of what's important -- enjoying the day, being outdoors, getting exercise and socializing. Ernie is also a retired yet still practicing Methodist minister, but I won't hold that against him. He delivers meals on wheels and helps people get to hospital appointments. He helped me immensely during leg and neurogenic bladder surgeries, when I was all alone and desperately needed help.

Equally important, Ernie knows how to make a relationship work through personal experience in his 18-year marriage with Neva -- and through counseling others. He has performed many weddings, provided pre-marital counseling. He has watched a few marriages disintegrate and many others that stand the test of time.

Sometimes I agree immediately with Ernie's advice. Other times what he says takes a while to sink in and make sense. The point is, asking for help of any kind is a challenge for me. I have evolved, somewhat. I can get poignant advice from my best man, and it will make all the difference as Teri and I go forward in building our relationship.

Sunday, August 8, 2010

Be happy

Some people wait until the economy is just right to be happy. They think when they get the big promotion at work, the big house, the fancy new car, lose 20 pounds, adopt the Siberian tiger for a pet -- then they'll be happy.

Happiness, though, is not a destination. It's a way of life. If Teri and I waited for things to be just perfect before we got married, we might wait forever. We live 90 miles apart. The gas price has risen to $3.05 a gallon. The economy is in the toilet. The house market is reeling. No matter. As Abraham Lincoln said, "Most people are about as happy as they make up their minds to be." And as elaborate surveys say, above the poverty level, happiness is not dependent on more money.

Of course, we'd love a big house, all paid for, that we could live in together. But because we are contrarians we can enjoy the challenges thrust upon us. Even after we get married, on 9-10-11, we may be forced to live a nontraditional life. We will make the best of each day. We will know that each problem implies a solution.

Both of us survived layoffs from great jobs, and landed on our feet, me through moving 2,000 miles from a dream house in Wisconsin back to our beloved Oregon, Teri from going back to school and retraining to become a graphic designer, a job she loves. Both of us survived devastating losses of family members -- my dad, her mom. Both of us survived health crises.

We know that no matter what life throws at us, we can survive and thrive. Everything happens for a reason, and that is to make us stronger. If we step through whatever windows of opportunity open, we will be fine.

Saturday, August 7, 2010

Swallowtail blessings

When Teri's mom, Helen, died of leukemia in 2003, it was an extremely difficult time. Among other things, Teri adopted the swallowtail, Oregon's state butterfly, as a symbol of her mom still being around and watching over things. It was reassuring to see these graceful butterflies and know deep in her heart that her mom was nearby and proud of what she was accomplishing.

Since meeting Teri, I, too, have adopted the swallowtail and seek out Helen's blessings. Swallowtails, like Santa Claus, seem to know when I've been good or bad. Now when I go for a lunchtime walk at work, or on one of my four times a week aerobic bike rides, I sometimes see swallowtails and think of Helen giving a thumb's-up or a blessing for that activity. The graceful swallowtails never seem to appear when I am eating ice cream right out of the container, or downing a whole order of starchy, salty fries. The swallowtails never appear when I am munching an apple fritter or contemplating mayhem on another driver who has cut me off in traffic.

Now when I go out for an aerobic bike ride, or when Teri and I go for walks or bike rides together, we keep an eye peeled for a swallowtail flitting from flower to flower or tree to tree. They are magnificent fliers. As Teri does, they love color. They love darting to and fro on the summer breezes.

And when I hold a door open for a stranger, or say hello just because, and a butterfly cruises past right there and then, I think of Helen and feel she is blessing our relationship. She is telling me "Well done, young man," and "Take good care of my Teri." The swallowtail is just one more element that makes our relationship stronger.

Friday, August 6, 2010

Blue heron revisited

2010 has been the year of the heron, at least in the Cove area. Persistent spring rains brought widespread flooding in the bottomland along Catherine Creek. Remnants of the flooding remained all the way through July. And the flooded farm fields attracted many blue herons. The heron became an important bird in our relationship on our first date, which included the Pendleton river walk. As we strolled along the Umatilla River, we looked up, as Teri is wont to do. Being a big fan of sunrises and sunsets, she is also a sky watcher, and this time was rewarded in a big way when a magnificent heron flew a perfect circle over our heads and then continued on his adventures. We were awestruck. We took the sighting as a good omen for the future of our relationship, as a blessing from on high.

More positive energy comes from this summer's nearly daily interaction with blue herons along my drive to work. On one magical day, I spotted 19 blue herons. That included one group of 13, a lucky number for us contrarians, taking off into the brilliant morning sky.

Even more positive energy came from a closeup spotting of a heron on my April vacation to the westside of Washington. My mom and I were hiking the trails at the Nisqually Nature Preserve near Olympia, and I came across a blue heron totally entranced with fishing opportunities and unaware of my presence. Usually, blue herons are extremely shy. I took the opportunity and got a spectacular closeup photograph that even includes the heron's top knot shadowed on its back.

Blue herons inspire dreams, promote creativity, instill energy. They give our relationship the Power of Blue.

Sunday, August 1, 2010

Oz 7 and Tea Time

Teri and I are both big fans of Dr. Oz, the medicine man. One day on his TV show he was talking about his own daily routine of seven minutes of stretching to start the day. Teri took note and suggested it might be something we'd like to try, on our own and as a couple. It turned out to be a great way to set the tone for the day, and now has become a part of our Groundhog Day. Having experienced a 24-year marriage, I know that the days can start to all blend together, so why not come up with a healthy, positive "rut," one that automatically builds the relationship day after day?

The Oz 7 and now Tea Time with Teri serves as bookends on the day. Tea is relaxing and contributes to good health. When we are living apart, I try to call Teri each evening about 9 so we can stay in touch and build the relationship. At the same time I try to have several cups of tea to start winding down on the day. When we are together, on weekends and during vacations, we get to do the Oz 7 and have Tea Time together.

Both Oz 7 and Tea Time are works in progress. We are still incorporating them into what is evolving into, slowly but surely, a great Groundhog Day.

Someday Oz 7 and Tea Time could be as much a part of our day as enjoying the sunrise and the sunset.

Monday, July 26, 2010

Happy Anniversary Baby.....

This is the anniversary of the day we met face-to-face. That day was October 26, 2008. Twenty-one months ago. What a great day that was. Did we know that would actually be the start of our new life together... maybe we did, who really knows. It seemed to be just that.

Nearly two years together, so far....
....and our wedding is less than 14 months away.

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

What I've done on my "summer vacation", so far.

Well, as you can see, we all know who the writer/journal keeper is in our "family"... ah, that would be and is Jeff. I have good intentions, yet just don't seem to keep up too well.

A lot of gatherings, events, mini-vacations have taken place since I last posted. I'd like to think that was in MAY, but I have found out it was in late APRIL.

Well, since then, we've celebrated Jeff's birthday with a family dinner at a local restaurant and a trip for us to Hood River for a photo shoot and exploration. We had great weather, discovered some micro-brews at Full Sail and Big Horse Brew Pubs. We thoroughly enjoyed the area. A place we'll visit again.

We celebrated Father's Day with my Dad in grand style. We made him breakfast, took him to a movie and later had a wonderful strawberry shortcake with homemade biscuits like my Mom made and fresh strawberries. YUM.... OMG were we full!!!

We took a bike trip... loaded up the bikes and headed to a nearby town to ride on their river path.

We attended a high school graduation where my Dad awards a scholarship in memory of Mom. Later that day, we were guests at a beautiful garden wedding. Yes, we took notes, besides had a great time.

We again took a mini-vacation to the Columbia River Gorge... Yes, I'll post a few photos... that's what this is for, right. See... I did post a photo.... :)

I finally got to go spend a few days with Jeff at his home in Cove. What a retreat. That was the 4th of July weekend. Can you say BBQ... each evening meal was cooked over the coals. YUM... the leftovers were great too. That very weekend we got the news we were hoping and praying for. My nieces husband, yes, my nephew, arrived home from a one-year tour of duty in Afghanistan. Talk about a great day to come HOME! We heard their 2-year-old daughter follows him around a lot... even to the bathroom door. "Daddy, are you in there?" She just does not want him to get away.

Last weekend, we went to Athena to take in the sights and sounds of the Caledonian Games, a very Scottish celebration. Both Jeff and I are of some Scottish ancestry which made it all the more fun. While in the park enjoying the shade we saw my cousin walking through to go assist his wife with some tasks related to the celebration. We stopped him...and was greeted in his usual manner... a joyous smile and a big warm hug. I had the pleasure of introducing Jeff to Delbert and Kayla... two of my favorite people, three including Jeff of course. We asked to meet them at their church later. You see, Delbert is a minister, besides being a wonderful man and an oh-so-terrific cousin. They showed us the church and the amenities and we asked Delbert if he officiate our wedding... and the steps it would take for us to make this happen. With formalities out of the way, we commenced to having a most enjoyable and fun visit, but that's how it is with wonderful people who just happen to be family. Jeff had just met Delbert and Kayla and felt right at home.

Sunday, July 11, 2010

Celebrating Pre-Anniversaries

We may not be wealthy people, except in spirit, but each day we celebrate the spirit of abundance. That may explain all the various special days we celebrate. That and making up for a half century of lost time it took us to meet each other. Sure, we enjoyed those 50 years. We had many wonderful experiences, learned a lot, laughed a lot, cried a lot. But knowing at best we will only be together for 30 or 40 years, if health blesses us richly, as a couple we need to make each day, each month, each year count.

We celebrate the day Teri responded by e-mail to my first wink (the 12th), the day of our first (10 hour) date (the 26th) and now also the 10th. That's our Pre-Anniversary. At this writing, we are 14 months away from the wedding day. What makes the July 10, 2010, Pre-Anniversary celebration more special is that we met with Teri's cousin, Delbert, and tentatively chose a wedding venue, the church where he preaches in Athena, a small town named for the Goddess of Nearly Everything. I'm especially excited, as a person dedicated to lifelong learning, about Delbert's requirement of six pre-marital counseling sessions. We both enjoy his company. We'll be entertained as well as enlightened. We have done a good job already establishing a family meeting structure where we can talk about anything and everything, especially the tough issues, and come up with satisfactory compromises. We also are realistic enough at this late stage to know puppy love and a crush from a deeper form of love, and we also know that our relationship needs constant nurturing and will continue to evolve. But an objective outside voice of wisdom can help supply other building blocks for a foundation that will make the marriage more storm proof.

Saturday, June 26, 2010

Monthly Getaway

One of the things we are working to establish as part of our Groundhog Month is a mini vacation. At least once a month we'll try to get out of town from Teri's "Beach Cabin" and my "Mountain Cabin" to a nice getaway. It doesn't even have to involve any days off work. For example, one month we escaped to one of our favorite nearby destinations, the Columbia River Gorge. We had a nice picnic at Stonehenge in the east end of the Gorge, enjoying our favorite healthy fruits and vegetables plus some cheese for protein and some orange juice to cap off the feast. Then after a interesting hilly drive through oak savannah and sights of Mount Adams and Mount Hood from The Dalles to Mosier, we made it to our ultimate destination, Hood River. Next we enjoyed favorite beverages, artichoke dip and pita bread at Full Sail and later dinner out at the Big Horse Pub. The following morning we stopped off for four hours touring the Columbia River Discovery Center and its treasure trove of wonders.

When I proposed, I suggested to Teri that being creative people we could continually evolve our Groundhog Day, Groundhog Weekend, Groundhog Week, Groundhog Month and Groundhog Year into something special. After all, a long-term relationship involves one day at a time. You get up each morning and do it all over again. The challenge is adding some diversity and variety into the mix. Teri is big into twists. I knew with both of our contrarian spirits we could keep things fresh and interesting. We could make a trip to the grocery store into a grand adventure. We could make watching an OPB special on penguins into a party. It's all a matter of perspective, of choosing each day, as Abraham Lincoln suggested, to be happy and have fun.

The same is true of our monthly adventures. Whether they are close to home, or many miles away, we can make the most of whatever environment we find ourselves in to keep the relationship fresh and lively.

Saturday, June 12, 2010

Groundhog Day revisited

A long-term relationship is all about getting into a great routine. Even before I met Teri, I knew, from 24 years of marriage, the importance of establishing a good Groundhog Day. Like in the movie starring Bill Murray, it's all about doing things over and over again and seeking better results. It's about making each day your masterpiece.

Our Groundhog Day is constantly evolving. When we are apart, in our separate homes 90 miles distant, we e-mail throughout the day from work, and each evening I try to call Teri and check in. We share the highlights and lowlights of our days, discuss pressing issues and laugh a lot. We share the same moon, and are close in our hearts.

When we are together, Groundhog Day can start with pillow talk, a whispered I love you, a 44-second energy hug, a special moment at 4:44, our lucky number, an OZ 7 stretching/Yoga routine to start the day, a 20-minute-plus energy walk to end the day and so on.

Groundhog Day involves making good nutrition choices, most of the time, sharing chores whenever possible to make the work go quicker, having fun in the grocery store hip-checking each other into the bananas and checking out the other shoppers and some of their more peculiar choices. It involves being present in the moment.

Groundhog Day is about nurturing the relationship and making it fresh squeezed daily. With our combined creativity, our Groundhog Day holds promise to continue evolving forever.

Saturday, June 5, 2010

Separation Anxiety

A good test for any relationship, as the romance novels will let you know, is a long separation. Teri and I got our chance when I ran off to Iowa for two weeks in July 2009. The occasion? RAGBRAI, the biggest bicycle ride in America. My friend, Bill, who will also be an usher in my wedding, suggested the trip, and I couldn't say no. It involved riding from west to east across Iowa with 20,000 of my new close, personal friends. Bike riders of all ages, shapes, sizes, colors, religious preferences headed out each day for rides of from 46 to 77 miles as we crossed a corn-intensive bit of paradise. Each evening from my tent I would call Teri on my cell phone and give her an update on our progress and find out about her day. It was sweet. I remember one night in particular. It was raining cats and pigs, and I felt like I was soaked to the soul. I had lost my neurogenic bladder kit out of the back pack on my bicycle due to not shutting the lid properly, and had had to make an emergency dash for a drug store to resupply. Part of the challenge was to see how I could do this ride and not exacerbate symptoms of neurogenic bladder, so the ride was a special challenge for me. I needed my sweetie's encouragement, especially now, in the cold and wet, as the rain continued to pour down outside. And she was there for me.

I missed Teri a lot, during the ride. But it was a good test to see if our relationship could endure more than just our normal weekly separation at our homes 90 miles apart. The answer was a resounding yes.

Maybe someday I will get Teri to ride a big adventure trip with me. Maybe not. Either way, we are happy in encouraging each other to pursue our dreams. We are close together in our hearts whether we are in the same room or 1,500 miles apart but under the same moon.

Friday, May 21, 2010

Catching the wave

Ask anybody who knows her. Teri is an entirely different person within sight or smell of the beach. She absolutely, positively loves the rugged beauty and power of the Oregon coast. On our first trip together, Valentine's 2009, she caught her first glimpse of the ocean and was instantly energized. It was a phenomenon to behold.

Right away, Teri needed to get a fresh crab fix. She urgently needed to walk on a beach. Visit a lighthouse. Look for whales. Take enough pictures to fill the Tillamook Cheese factory.

We engaged in a potlatch of gifts that weekend. It's an old Native American tradition where each person tries to outgive the next. The more you give, the better you feel. Among other gifts, Teri gave me the blog classic, "The Daily Coyote," a book written about a young photographer raising a coyote from puphood in northwestern Wyoming, where coyotes are not exactly held in high esteem.

That weekend helped our love grow up to a stronger level, like that of the Pacific, the world's largest ocean.

Family Meeting

There's nothing more entertaining than watching an old couple quibble their way through a grocery store. You can just hear the announcement on the store intercom: food fight in aisle 5. Bring Pepto-Bismal, stat.

A concept I wanted to introduce early on into Teri and my relationship was that of the family meeting. It's not a new idea, certainly. But it is a one that can spell the difference between a functional and dysfunctional relationship.

Teri agreed that we needed a forum where we could talk about anything, bring up any issue that was troubling us, without fear of retribution. My idea? Set aside a few minutes. Get a snack and a beverage. Make the family meeting part of our tradition. Topics can range from vacation planning to boundary issues. The possibilities are infinite.

I wanted to avoid a relationship where passive aggression rules, where the parties stay quiet just to keep the relationship alive, and everyone is tiptoeing on eggshells. Regular family meetings can help a couple avoid food fights.

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Flashback: The game plan

It's a man's dream: having the whole house to himself. Belching at will. Drinking beer whenever he pleases. Taking a bath once a year whether he needs it or not.

I was miserable for a long time dealing with grief after my wife, Tina's death in September 2007. Sometimes I felt as if I would never crawl out from under that cloud.

Still, I enjoyed as time went on reinventing the house in a way where it would run most efficiently. Everything in its place. Order rules after years of chaos.

And I did begin to enjoy my newspaper job again, after months of going through the motions like a journalistic zombie. Finally, I saw the light at the end of a long tunnel. I saw hope.

I knew I wanted more. I needed a companion that didn't bark or meow. I needed someone to do things for, to do things with. I knew I might live another 30 years. It was too long a time to spend alone. Life is meant to be shared.

Friday, May 14, 2010

Hold the phone

Part of a good Groundhog Day, I decided early on, especially considering the time Teri and I had to spend 90 miles apart, was nightly phone calls. Or maybe I should call it a good Groundhog Night. We could share laughs, tears, tease each other, make plans, help the relationship grow over time.

At first, though, all I had were a landline phone and a calling card with an extremely cheap rate per minute. I was a technophobe stuck in the 20th century. Even at my "cheap rate," costs mounted. Teri, who is much more techno savvy, came to the rescue. One day in February 2009 she, her dad Al and I went to the phone store, geared up and joined a cost-effective cell phone family plan. Now we could call anytime we wanted, and talk as long as we wanted, for the same low rate. The two-year contract we signed was our first contract together, but it held promise, for me at least, that our relationship was secure until far into the future.

I thanked my lucky stars that a cell phone tower had been built on the ridge near my house shortly before Teri and I met, in October 2008. Some might complain that the tower desecrated the natural beauty. For me, the tower brought much joy.

Sunday, May 9, 2010

Personal Space

"Preparation makes the master" is the German expression. I prefer it to the American version, "Practice makes perfect." Nothing is perfect. The longer a person is on this planet, the more he or she realizes that it is a game of slight misses and imperfections, but miracles do happen.

Sure, it's good to dream big. But it's equally wise not to form unrealistic expectations and then be disappointed at less than optimum outcomes.

Preparing for my first "date" in 25 years, and as one of the 40 percent of Americans classified as "shy," I decided it would be a healthy distraction to take along some props. Mine was a tape measure I carried in my pocket. I had joked in our e-mails about Danish Americans' need for extraordinary personal space. While researching this topic, I discovered the following rules of thumb: acquaintance space, up to 8 feet; friend space, up to 4 feet; intimate space, up to 2 feet. That way, a person can gauge how they're doing based on comfortableness when inside those circles.

What would be my own comfort zone with Teri? We had developed such good rapport through miles of e-mails and rivers of phone calls that our immediate comfort zone, when we arrived at the Tamástslikt museum, put us within the friend/intimate range. Sure, there was no need to rush intimacy. Being close and comfortable, though, seemed natural from our first face-to-face meeting.

Saturday, May 1, 2010

The First Thanksgiving

Forty percent of the world's people are shy, and Teri and I are to varying degrees among this population. It's an endearing quality in a little kid. Yet it's less appealing in a 50-something person. Living several hundred miles away from my mom's, and working at a newspaper with limited time off for holidays, I was happy to have a new family to share Thanksgiving 2008 with. Still, I worried about meeting new people. I worried if I would make a good impression and get a thumb's up for continuing to share space with their daughter, sister and friend.

As we drove up to brother Stuart's country home, my apprehensiveness over crowd dynamics was palpable. Where would I sit, or would I need to mingle? Who would I talk to? Who would talk to me? Would I have to go out to a field and shoot targets to prove my manliness? Would there be drinking? Dancing? Irrational exuberance?

Their welcome was warm and comfortable. As it turned out I had nothing to fear but my own phobias.

Still, for every hour with people, the rule of thumb for shy people goes, we need to spend two hours alone or in quiet company decompressing. We need to recharge our batteries. I have learned, as Kahlil Gibran advised, to put spaces in our togetherness, so that Teri and I both have enough quiet moments to recover.

We love family and are dedicated to them, and at that First Thanksgiving I felt fortunate to be welcomed into the fold.

Friday, April 30, 2010

Balancing Act

As you may know, Jeff and I live 90 miles apart. Trust me; the distance is only in the location of our homes and employment. We feel we are closer than many same-residence couples. The days apart, we e-mail at intervals throughout the day, talk via cell phone each night, send and receive cards through the mail. Most weekends you can find us at one of our homes, or, on a trip somewhere making the most of our time together.

Both employed in different towns and not wanting to give up our day jobs we need to live apart during the week, for now. We both have plenty of responsibility at work and at home. We both have projects and outside interests. We both have family, friends and neighbors. We both have quite a few distractions and tasks that require our time. Our respective days can be long ones, yet we still make the time to remain in close contact every day. We manage to get in some quiet time to talk, laugh, discuss and share. We know that we are both ‘there for’ each other and can be counted on for anything.

We help each other work through various things – health, family relationships, work matters and our own journey. There are times when one of us takes up the slack, keeping things in perspective so we can keep things in balance. Other times, it is the other one of us tipping the scales back to center. There have even been times when we drop everything and simply ‘get away’… whether it be for a walk, a hike, bicycle ride, drive or a mini-vacation. Sometimes to keep things together you need to turn away, to revitalize, clear you mind.

Regardless, we are doing all that we can to keep our balance.

Opposites Attract: Cold Weather, Warm Family

Jeff’s trip over the mountains was quite the adventure… not one for the faint-of-heart. The below freezing temperatures and icy road conditions made for a treacherous trip, but Jeff was determined to share the holidays with me and my family; Jeff’s new family.

While the weather and road conditions were cold and icy; the reception Jeff received from me and my family was quite the opposite, warm and friendly.

My family truly enjoys Jeff. They see his goodness, appreciate his wit and humor. They know of his kind thoughtful ways. Yet, my family especially appreciates how he treats me, with all the warmth and caring anyone could wish for.

Saturday, April 17, 2010

Meeting the Parents

Even when you're in your fifties, meeting the parents can be a harrowing experience. I knew Teri's dad, Al, was Old School. He was still working as a parts man at age 76. He had been a mechanic. An Army veteran. A hunter and fisherman. I was afraid there would be a test. I would have to shoot a deer, fix a transmission and survive in the wild for a week on just fruits and berries. I'd have to clean a fish, wave a flag and know when to salute. We met for the first time at Ron's, a family diner in Milton-Freewater, for hamburgers and conversation. What I found was a man of character who had raised a daughter who knew how to connect with people, commit to projects and care. What better legacy? Just to be safe, though, I began vigorously practicing marksmanship with my Red Ryder bb gun.

The Birthday Challenge

Birthdays can be such a challenge. One year I caught grief when I bought my wife a Dirt Devil hand vacuum. The next year I tried to atone for my sins by buying her a Shop Vac. Now I know better. I try to get a romantic gift that says, I love you, Sweetheart. Huggy Bear. Misty Lips. This year, on her birthday, April 6, also known as Twinkies Day, I got Teri a bicycle. Not just any bicycle, mind you, but a hot pink one. It's a bicycle that brings back fond memories of tooling around the old neighborhood and screaming down the street without an adults' Big Bag O' Worries. No, it's not jewelry or dark chocolate, which are both good birthday gifts. The bike, though, is a gift that keeps on giving through the years. A person can ride bicycle into his or her 90s if he or she is lucky enough to live that long, and it can profoundly improve the quality of the years one is given. We'll ride together, forever. And it will be fine as long as we can remember where home is.

Friday, April 16, 2010

The Great Divide

Dating someone who lives 90 miles away can be a challenge. That's especially true when a mountain range separates your two homes, and winter descends with storms lining up over the Pacific Ocean like planes circling a major metropolitan airport, just waiting to come ashore and blast said mountains with a fresh covering of snow. One particularly memorable drive occurred on Christmas Eve 2008. It was to be our first Christmas together as a couple. I got over the Blue Mountains OK and down Cabbage Hill, one of the most memorable declines in the American interstate system — six miles of 6 percent grade. The snowstorm, though, was just cranking up. It turned into a near blizzard the closer I got to Teri's. As I bumped along over snowdrifts, following the lights of the rig ahead of me, I thought about all the turmoil I had gone through to get to this point in my life and the joy a future with Teri promised. The storm intensified. Finally I descended into Milton-Freewater. I was home. A few minutes later the state closed the road behind me for lack of visibility. My best gift that year was to be safe and secure with my new family.

Oregon is for lovers

Our first Valentine's Day together just happened to be Feb. 14, 2009, Oregon's 150th birthday. On our way to the Oregon coast, our first big trip together in the state we both love, we serendipitously came across big doings in Salem, the state capital. It was a mob scene. A regular lovefest. And one of the guests who just about ran us over was former Governor Barbara Roberts.

Thousands of people had converged under the gold pioneer man who stands atop the capitol building, and there was even a wedding under way in a nearby gazebo. Just down the street was the magnificent church where Teri's dad and mom had got married. Love was in the air. The sprinkles failed to dampen the mood of the thousands gathered to salute a state of infinite diversity, a geographic wonderland that Teri memorializes each year in her calendar. Teri's excitement at being involved in this historical day in a state she loves with all her heart was contagious.

Flashback: Going through hell

A favorite saying of ours goes like this: "When you're going through hell, keep going." I always thought I'd be married to one woman forever. I had a house. A job. A steady relationship designed to last a lifetime. Life, though, throws curveballs. My wife, Tina, suffered through a devastating illness, diabetes complicated by autoimmune inner ear disease, and in September of 2007, at age 48, she died. Suddenly I was alone. I grieved. I was under a cloud for a long, long time. I went to therapy (paid for by my work) and read all sorts of books that said grieve fully. Don't delay it. Don't postpone it. They also warned about getting stuck in 2007. Today, if she were alive, my wife would be honored, even though her halo was somewhat tarnished, that I thought so highly of her this many years later. Then she would say, in her bull in the china shop sort of way, "Move on. Honor me by living a rich, rewarding life. Take the initiative. Don't wait for someone to rescue you. And for God sakes, get off the pity potty. Get out there and live."

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Blue Heron

On our first date, the Pendleton River Walk along the Umatilla River Oct. 26, 2008, Teri and I saw a beautiful Blue Heron make a perfect circle in the sky above us. My mentor, Sandy, is a firm believer in the spiritual language of nature. She believes the animal world has a lot to teach us. She looked up Blue Heron in a book to see what it means if a Blue Heron crosses a couple's path. Here's what she found: Teri and Jeff are unique people who like to be alone but also enjoy other people's company. They're adaptable and enjoy exploring new and different avenues in their life paths. They both are strong in character and always take responsibility for their own actions. The Blue Heron reflects the innate wisdom of being able to maneuver through life. They both know what is best for them and follow it rather than listening to the prompting of others. They possess great self reliance. They are very observant and always stand on their own two feet. They dance to their own drummer.

Flashback to Cupid

After my wife Tina's untimely death at age 48 from complications of diabetes, I spent a year wondering if I'd ever feel normal again. Things that concerned other people -- restaurant service, lousy drivers, yo-yoing stocks -- didn't matter to me. The books advised me to make sure I grieved fully, and not to look for a relationship while I was still on the rebound. There is no correct timing. But I waited a year just the same before I even thought about dating. Well, I did think about it a little, as in planning for how I would approach a relationship differently, what worked with Tina, what didn't. I was not a bar hound. A church goer. A club member or back-slapping socializer. And I really didn't want a work relationship. That is how Tina and I met, but I wanted something totally different this time. Then a co-worker advised me to try Yahoo.com personals. It was totally out of my comfort zone. It was like nothing I had ever done before. It sounded like a great adventure. What did I have to lose? My Cupid assured me I could do it and it would work. If the other person was telling the truth on their profile, I could learn a lot about them before I even asked for a first date. I could decide, rather scientifically, if we had enough in common to make a relationship work. It sounded scary. It sounded promising. In late September 2008 I signed up for a half-year's subscription. It turned out to be the best thing I ever did. Pure luck, sure. But I was due.

Saturday, April 10, 2010

Dating a contrarian

The online dating experts recommend keeping the first date short. Aim for no more than an hour. Meet for coffee, they suggest. Always keep the Exit Sign within sight, in case the once sparking chemistry experiment begins emitting smoke.

The experts also recommend meeting in a public place for safety. That's so if the person you're dating turns out to be a Dumpster diver with huge intestinal parasites, you can leave in a hurry.

Teri and I did meet in a public place -- Tamastslikt Cultural Institute. Otherwise, though, we broke all the dating rules. Being contrarians, we would have had it no other way.

Our first date -- October 26, 2008 -- turned out to be a four-in-one special, a marathon. The cultural institute proved to be only the first leg. Instead of an hour, the date lasted 10 hours, and left us eager for more.

Friday, April 9, 2010

Our first date… or should I say Marathon.

We made our way into the Tamastslikt Cultural Center Institute. In the lobby we looked at the exhibits and chatted with the attendant on duty. Jeff asked him to take a photo of us together – the first of many over the course of our relationship. Being a journalist, Jeff in well accustomed to documenting events, gatherings, journeys and our first date was no exception.

As with our letters and phone calls, our in-person visit was quite involved too. We chatted all the way through the Tamastslikt Museum, the art gallery and the gift shop. These venues were each of great interest to us, but apparently no match for our wish to communicate and share with each other. While in the gift shop, Jeff made sure that I chose something so that I would have ‘a souvenir of our first date’ – I chose a beautiful coffee/tea cup. Every time I use that cup I remember that wonderful time, and I am so glad that my journalist urged me to allow him to get me something.

After the museum, gallery and gift shop, we went to brunch. This, my friends was no ordinary brunch… oh, I am not talking about the grand selection of food or the delightful surroundings and views we had – oh, no, I am talking about the conversation. Can you believe; we still had more things to communicate and share – one topic lead to another and another. We finally decided we had better leave, after we got another photo taken, of course. After all, we had been there for about three/three and one-half hours.

And… we were not done yet. Since we live 90 miles apart and had such great weather, Jeff suggested we go into town and go on the River Walk. We each drove our own cars to Pendleton and I followed Jeff to a parking lot near the Umatilla River. We walked down the river a ways, walked up the hill to a residential part of town to see one of the homes he live in while in college and to get another view of the city. Then we walked back down the hill and resumed our River Walk. There we shared a beautiful afternoon. The sound of the river, the gentle breeze, the beautiful trees and birds… and the Great Blue Heron that flew along the river, then circled back – Jeff describes this better than I, but I do remember this and hopefully always will. We’d walk for a while, sit on one of the many benches or on some rocks closer to the river, we took more photos (duh, that should be expected of two photographers.) The sun was then going down and the air bringing on a chill. We got back to our cars and decided we needed some tea, coffee or hot chocolate to warm ourselves up… so we took off for a nearby restaurant……….yes, more of this marathon!

Thursday, April 8, 2010

Relief at last.

Thankfully, Jeff was not arrested by the Tribal Police, and I was not pulled over and questioned as I pulled into the parking lot. In fact, I really doubt they were even concerned we were there.

Our first meeting. Jeff was nearly as I had pictured and as he had presented himself online and during our phone conversations. I learned then, and keep learning, how much more kind, considerate and thoughtful he truly is. That day he had an endearing child-like enthusiasm and still does. He had stated to me, prior to our rendezvous that he was and would be more than a bit nervous. I had thought that I might be too – with one exception. It seemed to me that we already knew each other pretty well. I told Jeff that while I thought I might be a bit nervous too, I looked at this as the fact that I was going to meet a great friend of mine and spend some time with him. So, when we met, I treated him as I do all my good friends, I gave him a hug. That could have been quite the demonstrative greeting for some, but for me it was normal.

We chatted for a short while, “How was your trip”, “Have you been here long?”, “Beautiful day for this late in October.” You get the idea. Jeff recovered nicely from my hug and then presented me with some gifts… the one I remember most…. a container of Oreos. Since that’s how this all got started, how fitting for our first date.

Thursday, April 1, 2010

Arresting development

After miles of e-mails and hours of phone calls, it was time, at last, to meet face to face. The book recommended meeting in a public place, for safety, and planning a short date, in case something went dreadfully, knuckle-draggingly wrong. I was looking everywhere for good omens as I drove the 60 miles to Wildhorse. It was an ideal Indian Summer day, Oct. 26, 2008. I had the radio on and as I got to the crest of the Blue Mountains, I heard Joe Cocker singing, "My Baby, She Wrote Me a Letter." That buoyed my confidence. It's meant to be, I thought. I was first to arrive at the deserted Tamastkalikt Cultural Center parking lot. We were to meet at 10:30 a.m. Soon after several patrol cars drove up. I thought, What in the world is going on? My anxiety ratcheted up a notch. Was I doing something illegal? This was my first crack at Internet dating. Had something gone terribly wrong? Turned out the tribal police had picked this Sunday morning, of all Sunday mornings, to conduct drills. Soon after Teri showed up in her Dodge Caliber. When we weren't both instantly arrested, I let out a big sigh of relief.

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Perchance to meet, but where?

When Jeff and I decided to meet for the first time, face-to-face, we anticipated a brief discussion selecting the time and place - short and sweet. 

Wait just a minute.... not long after making that decision our plans hit a bump in the road. You see, we live about 90 miles apart. We had decided that a good meeting place would be somewhere in between. Well, there are mountain passes in between us. I live on the west side of the Blue Mountains and Jeff lives on the east side. The place we chose for our first meeting was a mountain cabin restaurant near a ski resort. I called to confirm the hours that they were open only to learn that the phone had been disconnected. I found more information on a web site, called that number and was told that "The Chalet" had been Closed.

Now, some might think this a bad omen, but not us. We took this on as a challenge. We had another discussion and made another selection. This time we chose a Native American Cultural Center, nearly in between our communities. We could meet there, go through the museum and go to brunch. Hoping to not be surprised, I called to confirm the museum hours and this time the location we chose was open when we wanted to be there. It was open on the Sunday we wanted to meet. It was the last Sunday to be open for the season, but open nonetheless. 

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

First phone call

After e-mailing back and forth at an increasingly feverish pace for a week and a half, we decided it was time for the first phone call. Back in 1990, I finished the Grandma's Marathon in Duluth, Minn., in four hours. The 26-mile-plus race involved a half year of training. Our first phone call lasted nearly as long, 3 1/2 hours, and required even more intense training. For a year I had not dated and prepared for when this opportunity arose. I was not disappointed. Teri is easy to talk to. She's funny and intelligent. She makes me laugh and makes me think, a lot. Understand, I was not always so talkative. My late wife Tina, before she died an untimely death from complications of diabetes at age 48, used to joke that the first two months I knew her, back in 1983, I never said a word. I just nodded. I was the strong, silent type, and I don't mean strong smelling. Teri and I had built a foundation of trust through e-mails, but I still worried that my voice, or perhaps my laugh, would be a deal-breaker. Teri, though, helped me to relax, or at least not hyperventilate. From the beginning I felt as if I could share my hopes, dreams and silliness. It was a phone marathon to remember.

Monday, March 22, 2010

Groundhog Day

One of my goals, going into this relationship, was to come up with a good Groundhog Day, Groundhog Week, Groundhog Month, Groundhog Year. Perhaps you remember the movie "Groundhog Day." The main character keeps living the same day over and over again until he gets it right. Being a veteran of nearly a quarter-century marriage, I came to realize how after a few years of marriage each day begins to resemble the last. Why not, I thought, make each day as good as possible so that at least if you are going to have a Groundhog Day scenario, it is a good if not a great one? Since that time Teri and I have come up with "I love yous" coming and going, the "more later" e-mails, the nightly calls when we're apart, the one-minute +++ energy hugs, the pillow talk and much more. Sometimes Groundhog Day grows by incremental improvement, sometimes by quantum leaps. We're creative people. We can find a way to give each day extra sparkle. Oh yeah, did I mention the daily "Sparkle Eye," inspired by the movie "Men Who Stare at Goats"? Life is rich. Invest in it.

Friday, March 19, 2010

More later

The "more later" sign-off to e-mails has endless possibilities. It all started with an e-mail Teri wrote on Oct. 18, 2008, a little more than a week before our first date. I followed her lead, and the rest is history. In the year and a half since, we've used "more later" to end e-mails in infinite ways -- for example, more adventures later, more hugs later, more sunsets later, more interesting conversation later, more encouragement later and so on. For two people with engaging minds, "more later" is a challenge. It's also a promise. And when Teri promises something, she delivers. That's that character with character thing. Now that we are in blog mode, it is more blogs later. Some blogs will be serious. Some will be goofy. All will be entertaining and enlightening. That's a promise. More later. :)

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Solitary confinement

A couple of things spurred me on to seek a new relationship. One was a co-worker who was married to his job. I could see myself going that route and being totally unsatisfied with the hugs and kisses that a newspaper can provide. The second was hearing co-workers running around the office saying "My husband this ..." or "My wife that ..." I missed the team aspect of a relationship, the adventure, the sharing.

After my wife died, Sept. 22, 2007, from complications of diabetes and autoimmune inner ear disease, I gave myself a year before I even thought of pursuing another relationship. Grief takes time. No two people in grief take exactly the same route or the same time. I wanted to be fully healed before I gave a new relationship a try. I didn't want to be on the rebound, as so many men are, looking for a woman to heal their pain.

By the time of my first date with Teri, Oct. 26, 2008, I had received the three free therapy sessions from work and joined six weekly sessions of group therapy put on through a local hospice. I had read five books on grieving and wrote down what had gone so very right in my relationship with Tina and what I would do differently. I knew the best compliment to Tina would be to want another relationship with a strong woman, and that's just what I got with Teri, a character with character. While Teri and Tina are both incredibly intelligent, they are polar opposites in personality. I thought it was important that we got to know each other very, very well before Teri and I pursued the physical aspects of a relationship. And that's exactly what we did.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Let's grow young together

The title of my Yahoo Personals page was "Let's grow young together." Under the heading "Me and My Ideal Match," I had written, "Like golf, bicycling, photography, dogs (most of the time), cats, reading, writing, mountain hiking, watching "Seinfeld" and football on TV, hot tubbing, sharing and caring, wind chimes. Honest, values sense of humor, frugal but not tightwad, homebody. Likes quiet life, loyalty, good work ethic, balance between work, play and home. Dislikes traffic jams, tail-gaters, loud people, rap, blowhards, fighting, hypocritical behavior, excessive materialism. Not a male mystique fix-it handyman but try my best. Seeks partner who is intelligent, adventurous, loving of people and animals and a good cook for sharing accomplishments, challenges, outdoor activities, fun. Make the ordinary extraordinary. Enjoy the little things of life. Let's love, cherish and annoy the heck out of each other."

Ten days into Teri and I's e-mail correspondence, my honesty in asking for exactly what I wanted, and being extremely honest in who I was, foibles and all, was beginning to pay dividends. Teri's e-mail, written during lunch at work, struck a chord with me. The Oreos dunked in beer is a reference to Teri's initial response to my wink. The happy insomniac zombies refers to our tendency to write each other at all hours of the day or night and being extremely happy about our prospects regardless of sleep deprivation. The next Sunday we would have our first date.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008 1:43 p.m.
Subject: Lunch recess stuff ... ;)

Jeff --
Your "let's grow young together" is taking shape. You're right, the future is wide open and ours to explore. What with Oreos (albeit dunked in beer), "happy insomniac zombies," the feeling of a "crush," which I already told my friend Helen, "Oh, no, this is so not a 'crush,' this is definitely something more -- even if nothing beyond what we have right now becomes of it, I feel we have made a deep connection and at the very least we will both have a wonderful friend. Talk about a life-altering event. Seems like we have one of those "if I only knew then what I know now" situations, a true chance to push back time with a far better chance to "get it right." I feel like a grown-up kid, if that makes sense, and it feels awesome.

Rain on Me......

After our initial communcation by e-mail, the messages became greater in volume and frequency. Like sprinkles building up to a deluge; our communications began with a few e-mails sprinkled between us, then they led to a continual rain shower of e-mails resulting in a cloudburst of thoughts and sharing between the Jeff and me. I could not believe how the e-mails progressed; short notes became a couple of paragrahs, then longer essays, then short novels. I am not a writer, but I could not wait to write to Jeff... me, getting up EARLY to write him a letter after staying up late to write to him was not in my character, yet I could not wait to communicate with Jeff. My goodness. We were swimming in thoughts...........sharing our stories.

Then, the phone calls began... we should have bought stock in a major phone card distributor.

We had no protection from the deluge yet did not need any... we found out we both like dancing in the rain.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Timing is Everything

After my initial wink and Teri's reply, we e-mailed back and forth for two weeks at an increasingly feverish pace before we got together for a first face-to-face date. It wasn't puppy love. But it was sniffing around at the possibilities and liking what we saw.

One of my favorite letters arrived at an ungodly hour of the morning several days before our first date, Oct. 26, 2008. The letter shows just how close we had grown in a short time thanks to being extremely honest and telling each other exactly what we were looking for in a partner. The letter shows the value of Teri's creative visualization and my belief that all the bad in life is eventually balanced out by good.

Thursday, Oct. 23, 6:38 a.m.

My dear Jeff: I have to tell you I so enjoy calling you Sweetheart. It feels so very right. I can't imagine a better man for me. In fact, I feel that I made a wish and you finally came true for me.

You inspire me to be better,
you encourage me to do more,
you challenge me to reach farther ...
to visualize all is possible.

You share my passion for Oregon, nature, painting an image -- no matter in words or photography. You have a wonderful sense of humor ... and somehow you "get" me. I am amazed, as I truly did not think this would ever happen to me ... and out of the blue here you are, here I am. Proves that "Timing is everything" and if you "Change your Attitude" you can "Change Your Life," and this is the best life-altering event I have ever experienced.

I hope you are having a great day. I know we have an awesome future. Please take extra good care of yourself, we have quite an adventure ahead of us.

More later, Sweetheart,


Thursday, March 11, 2010

On March 11 we celebrate MENTOR DAY

Actually we are celebrating across many miles the birthday of our wonderful friend, Sandy. She lives in Washington DC and mentored Jeff when he needed a mentor the most. By grace she came into his life and has been a beacon for him ever since. She helped him to heal and become whole again after the death of his wife, Tina. Sandy is patient, loving, kind, young-at-heart, intelligent and possesses a great sense of humor and tremendous insight.

Neither of us have met Sandy in person, yet both Jeff and I thank her for all she has done for of us, but mostly for "being there" for Jeff during a painful time.

Very HAPPY Birthday Sandy.... and many more!!!
We love you!
Jeff and Teri :)

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Jeff's First Impressions of Teri

When I first saw Teri's profile on Yahoo Personals, I was struck with how much we had in common. My only reservation was that it listed her as being from Milton-Freewater, Washington, when anyone with brussell's sprouts for brains knows her hometown is in Oregon. That and the fact that gas had been hovering in the $4.50 per gallon range all the previous summer, and I wanted to meet people within a 50-mile radius of my home -- and Teri lived 90 miles away from Cove. I was lucky, though. I had spent a year recovering from my wife's death from complications of diabetes at age 48, and now I was ready to try dating again for the first time in a quarter century. Teri seemed exotic -- 5-foot-8, blue eyes, dark hair. But I was mainly struck by her words. She could spell and said she had an engaging mind capable of interesting conversation, something beyond "The dog rolled over again. And my, look at that stock car on TV go round and round." That is no small achievement in the world of Yahoo Personals. I wondered how someone so beautiful inside and out could be "single, never married." I ran Teri's profile past my mentor and good friend, Sandy, in Washington, D.C., a person who had been encouraging and coaching me daily for most of a year. Sandy said Teri seemed intense yet a good person. I had never sent anyone on Yahoo Personals a wink before much less asked for a date. But Teri said she liked stories with unexpected twists, and I was about to give her one of them.

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Teri's First Impressions of Jeff

Well.... I saw his profile, photos and content. I liked his rugged good looks and was impressed by what he had to say. Jeff noted that he was a widower. Now, he was seeking a partner who was intelligent, adventurous, loving of people and animals and a good cook for sharing accomplishments, challenges, outdoor activities and fun. "Make the ordinary extraordinary. Enjoy the little things of life. Let's love, cherish and annoy the heck out of each other." Seeing his words made me think... 'This man had a wonderful marriage that sadly ended tragically, yet he had such a deep connection and loving relationship with his wife that he now wants to try again. She was a lucky woman.' I thought being around him, as a friend, could be a great adventure and more than likely a lot of fun. He was open, honest, smart and funny. He nearly seemed too good to be true. I thought about contacting him, yet did not... then he sent me the ;) letting me know that he thought we had a lot in common, after he had read my profile. I reviewed his profile again and again, looked at his photos and I thought about his statement of 'drinks regularly' and even though I was not exactly sure of his definition, that still made me hesitate. Besides; he was good looking and that along with all his other qualities, someone else would contact him and my chance would be over anyway. I nearly did not reply to his ;)... you see I had met some not-so upstanding men along with some matches that actually were not even close. I was ready to stop looking... yet I was urged on to make just one more contact.... give THIS man a chance.... see if he was for real, as good as his profile led me to believe he was. If nothing else, maybe, just maybe I'd have another person in my life to call a friend. I sent a reply... a reply with a twist, but a reply nonetheless.

Monday, March 8, 2010

Of Character and Chemistry

I may be the first man in Yahoo Personals history to admit to being a regular beer drinker. I wanted to be honest and let whoever answered my personal ad know exactly what they were getting into. Here's who I am, some flaws, many strengths, and what I want. I wanted to find that special someone and not waste a lot of time on dates that were going nowhere. Teri's Yahoo Personals page was titled "Change your attitude, change your life." Right off the bat I could tell she was a character with character. She talked about lots of deep things - being a graphic artist and photographer, about enjoying sunsets and the power of the ocean, and she also mentioned fair play, an engaging mind, a young-at-heart maturity, interesting conversation. She talked about light things, wanting to find someone with a sense of humor. Best of all, she could write. And spell. That, my friends, is not guaranteed in Yahoo Land. We began exchanging e-mails and an amazing thing happened. We began filling in our back stories, pouring out our hearts and souls, getting to know each other well without ever having talked on the phone or met face to face. An amazing chemistry was developing - and fast.

Now here's a twist....

After reading over Jeff's profile many times, I decided to send him a reply to the ;) he sent me. He seemed open, honest, down-to-earth, kind and intelligent..... all great qualities in a person. His profile included quite a few photos with captions that revealed more of his personality and his current view of his life and his age. My ONLY hesitation was the fact that he stated that he drank beer regularly. His definition of "regularly" was any one's guess. In the past I had been involved with men who drank "regularly" and that was a situation I did not want to repeat. Yet, I decided to give this man a chance.... which, we all deserve.... and figured I could get to know him and learn his definition of "regularly" and go from there. Or not.

I answered Jeff, stating, "It seems we do have a lot in common. And I bet there is more twinkle in those eyes of yours than you realize. Even at 51 I'll guess that you still twist open Oreos.... well, at least you still dunk them in milk... OMG, don't tell me you dunk them in beer! :)"

Now, mind you I realize that might sound like a crazy thing to write to someone, but to me it was funny and I thought, "What have I got to lose? He'll either think it is funny and I'll get a response or I won't, and that will be the end of it." Well, Jeff did think it was funny, I guess in an "eeewwwww" sort of way, yet he wrote back regardless.

Sunday, March 7, 2010

What's a wink?

I sent a "wink" on Oct. 3, 2008, a kind of Hallmark greeting from the friendly folks at Yahoo Personals that said, it seems we have a lot in common.

After a lot of soul searching, musing about my admission about liking a favorite beverage (beer) a bit too well but impressed with my candor, Teri responded with an e-mail. I wrote back. She wrote back. We clicked.

It all started with a ;)

Yes, you saw that correctly... the couple known as "Jeff and Teri" all started with a ;)