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 ;)