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 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 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 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.