Monday, April 7, 2014

Kate and Pete: Chapter 6 - The Infinite Game


Chapter 6 gets the "last word" in the Kate-Pete story! It's not because there aren't a million more little lovely moments we could share (double pinky swear promise: Kate and Pete's story will make future appearances as postscripts). This is the perfect last chapter because it punctuates the story of all relationship, and does so with a big old beautiful exclamation point then ellipse (because there is always more, right? ...). Marriage/partnership isn't ever about getting "happy"and then expecting it to be so always. No big newsflash here: Relationships take a lot of work; and just when you think things are working well, the wheels fall off again. And again. And we have to keep putting them back on. The news, and rather intensely interesting to me at least, is how couples go about the sometimes ugly/sometimes beautiful (fighting, arms flailing, relationship flat tires, voices raised) work. Here's how Kate and Pete see it:


Fighting for Us

by Kate Woodman Middlecamp

My previous “chapters” in this series have primarily focused on the highlights of our relationship: the many ways Peter and I celebrate, reconnect and strive to be fully engaged and truly happy partners. We are indeed happy, and gratefully so. But even the happiest of us twosomes have good days and bad, and the reality of our marriage - like most - is that it takes a whole lot of work, everyday, to make it work.

More often than not, the daily work for us is fun: love notes, garden time, artistic endeavors, puppy snuggles and bouts of "stop-I-can't-breath" laughter. This playful foundation is really the heart of "us," and each joke, song, new ritual or nickname gets added to our store of love and happiness. In the rough moments, we rely on them all to find our way back to each other—to reconnection. Often, all it takes is a small reference to a long-running joke, or that simplest of all endearing signs: a loving smile. The small, often quiet actions re-affirm our affection and remind us of our playful core.

But sometimes the foundation of loving fun isn't enough, and the stress, hurt, or frustration we feel might lead to a fight (yep--happy couples fight!). For Peter and me, these challenging, emotionally-charged, and sometimes downright exhausting moments are where the work of marriage really feels like work. And even as playful, ritual-laden and overall happy as we are, it is a struggle at times to keep these conflicts from devolving into negativity. It’s hard—like it is for every couple on the planet – to remain true to a kind and loving core. We are passionate, highly charged, expressive and sensitive individuals; when we fight, we fight hard. And sometimes loud. And I flail my arms. A lot.

But although it may not always look, or sound it—and in the heat of the moment it might take us a few minutes to remember it—we are always, ALWAYS, fighting for us.  Fighting to get back to a place of connection; fighting to be better partners; fighting to be heard and to listen; fighting through failed repair attempts (sometimes searching to simply find the one that works!); fighting because, even in face of the harshest conflict, we would still choose each other. And we do. Over and over.

Years ago, before Peter and I were married, we read the book Finite and Infinite Games by James P. Carse–an exploration of the difference between games played to win and games played to ensure infinite play. His writing has given us a transformative awareness not only in life, but for sure in marriage. We’ve come back time and again to his idea of the "infinite game"-- a metaphor for our marriage, especially the "I'm so mad at you I could flail my arms all day" part. We’ve decided we want to play the game of marriage/conflict/fighting to ensure infinite play – a lifetime of it (marriage), in fact.

There is no winner in this ever-changing, ultimately-loving game of ours; and there is no end. Our marriage rule: that we just keep playing.

And like most games I’ve ever played, it requires practice and patience--plus a big dose of kindness. The outcome? Our marriage will not just survive; it will thrive! ...



Thursday, March 13, 2014

Kate and Pete: Chapter 5 - Place-Making

Happy couples co-create "place" in the world. Chapter 5 of Kate and Pete's story is about doing just that (plus a nod to a most beautiful thing couples can make: compromise).

Home Sweet Home Grown
by Kate Woodman Middlecamp

Three years ago, while searching for our first home, Peter and I quickly realized our joint vision of the future might require - as many things in a happy marriage do - a bit of loving compromise.

I wanted an old house: built-ins and hardwood floors, a lovely staircase and leaded piano windows.  I was less concerned about the yard, at least initially, and wanted to stay in St. Paul.  For me, it was really about the interior space and the light. I dreamed of art on the walls and tea in a sunny kitchen, of children running down the staircase on Christmas morning, and of a fireplace to cozy up to on chilly winter’s nights.  I fell in love, hard and fast, with at least 4 of the houses we visited in the first few weeks.  
Peter wanted a yard, as big as we could afford, and had an open and flexible vision of what the house could/would/should be: made of shipping containers, a 100 sq foot tiny home, or even, an old converted school bus.  He searched for the biggest yards, with the most sun and space to grow and we visited vast properties that more often than not featured less-than-desirable houses.  While I struggled to look past the issues with the homes, Peter could fully envision the future yards, filled with love and grown goodness.  He fell every bit as hard for those open spaces as I fell for the old houses with piano windows. 

The problem was, big yards and old houses with piano windows don’t necessarily go together in St. Paul (at least not in our price range) and we found ourselves in the midst of a few intense marital discussions.  We realized that we had to put aside what felt important to us as individuals, and try to define what was truly important to us as a couple.  The yard, it turns out, was very important to us both – space to grow food and let children and puppies play.  But the house was equally important; one filled with beauty and light – or at the very least, the potential for both.

When we first visited the house that was eventually to become ours, I wasn’t impressed.  It was certainly an old house, but not of the style I had dreamed, and was in need of some serious cosmetic upgrades.  The bones were solid, however, and the yard simply amazing.  Under the shadow of a 60 year old Black Walnut tree, planted the year the previous owners purchased the house, we observed a glorious and massive space, with an existing garden in full bloom, and Peter’s vision of “our home” became real to me for the first time.  I understood what he saw, and why he was so in love with it, and realized that deep down, I was in love with it too - I just needed to see it to know. 

So piano windows took a back seat to vegetables and garden parties, and we haven’t looked back.  Our little house has had the necessary cosmetic upgrades, complete with refinished original hardwood floors, and yes, a sunny kitchen to have tea in. There isn't a fireplace, nor is it made of shipping containers, but there is art on the walls and the rooms are indeed filled with beauty and light.

The garden, in turn, has become the true center of our life together. It is ever-increasing in size, close to 11,000 square feet this past season, and is now home to fish ponds and chicken coops as well as endless, delicious produce. We grow organically, and as sustainably as possible, and that mindful and purposeful attitude has spread into all areas of our life - including our relationship with each other.  We are healthier, kinder, more patient and more generous partners as gardeners than we were before. 

Our favorite part of our new life as gardeners, and that which has become our most beloved ritual, is simply sharing it with others: doorstep drops of vegetable goodness, dinner parties under the garden pergola with salad picked by guests and dessert wandering the raspberry patch, soups filled with goodness and love brought to those who need it most, neighbors who never leave empty-handed.  Even now, in the midst of this bitter winter, we still have squash and potatoes in cold storage to share, and mason jars filled with preserves sparkling in the pantry. 
And as our garden sleeps under a blanket of snow, we snuggle under blankets of down in our adorable, slightly drafty half-story bedroom - dreaming of green leaves, and dinner parties, and tomatoes eaten from the vine, still warm from the sun.  Dreams of spring, and of garden goodness, and above all, of love.


Monday, February 24, 2014

(Sidebar to Kate and Pete) "The All-or-Nothing Marriage"

Don't worry, there are more chapters to come in the Kate and Pete story. But, I'm interrupting our regularly-scheduled programming to offer a seriously-appropriate sidebar to Kate and Pete's story, one that so perfectly emerged in the New York Times last week and made me think precisely about the thoughtful, intentional work Kate and Pete and every other really happy couple in the 21st century is doing -- must be doing -- to enjoy the kind of happy marriage that was not a goal, and thus usually not a possibility, in centuries past.

But it is now (hint: if you put in the time and energy), and there is much interesting research and theorizing to explain how and why, most of it summarized quite perfectly in this recent piece. Enjoy! (... and then get back to working on your marriage; it's worth it, as this piece will remind us, yet again!). P.S. Don't overlook the parts where, basically, the research is saying engage in more rituals of connection. Whoop. Whoop!!

The All-or-Nothing Marriage by Eli J. Finkel

http://www.nytimes.com/2014/02/15/opinion/sunday/the-all-or-nothing-marriage.html?emc=eta1&_r=0

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Kate and Pete: Chapter 4 -- The ART of the Matter

Thanks to Kate, my beloved guest blogger kicking off 2014 here on WHCD blogspot -- and doing so with great style, don't you think? -- my blogging job has been quite simple lately. Thank you, Great Kate!! And today, even more so since she's built right into her blog an introduction and some context which means, well, I don't need to. Oh, wait, I guess I just did by saying that she did. But anyway. Here's another beauty, this one so perfectly reminding all of us that our relationships are, indeed, co-created, mini works-of-art. Enjoy!

The ART of the Matter

By Kate Woodman Middlecamp

In the WHCD blog post Sew Sweet (October 2012), Carol writes about the simple-yet-brilliant, love-affirming, spirit-lifting, relationship-boosting magic that can occur when "appreciating and acknowledging something your sweet partner or even friend does, loves or appreciates...just because it is indeed what he/she does, loves or appreciates..."
Reading her lovingly vivid recollection of just such an experience, I found myself pondering the
presence and potential of this relationship magic in my own happy marriage.  After all, Peter and I are both artists, and our mutually crazy-creativity is one of the reasons we fell for each other, and have continued to fall for each other.  Surely we must fully, and frequently, express our appreciation of each other's endeavors, interests and achievements as artists?! Or do we?!? It's a question we thought would be well worth pondering.

When we first met, I was fully immersed in my life as an artist, living in the Tilsner Artist Lofts of St. Paul, MN, in a remarkable space: 15 foot ceilings, 10 foot windows, exposed brick and beams, art in every corner, and even (our first furniture!) a rope swing in the kitchen. Peter refers to me at that time and in that space as his Art Girl, and speaks passionately of the impact my art had on his growing love for me in those early days. As I work now to re-establish my studio space in the basement of our lovely little home, he is thrilled to catch glimpses of his beloved Art Girl once more.

And although I haven't yet come up a moniker for Peter as he continues to immerse himself in his craft as an actor and singer - perhaps because his roles are ever-changing - my appreciation and respect for his work is as deep as his for mine. I love, love, love watching Peter work. At home reading lines, researching a role, or, my favorite of all, working on music. His talent; his depth; his voice: they, quite simply, undo me. And as each show comes together, I can barely wait to take my seat opening night. No matter how many times I've seen a show, my heart leaps when Peter takes the stage and sooner or later, the joy I feel in my heart overwhelms my body and those oh-so-happy tears fill my eyes.

But is our honest and abundant artistic appreciation of each other the love-affirming, spirit-lifting, relationship-boost Dr. Bruess so beautifully suggests? We've been discussing and observing and have discovered that yes, in many wonderful and truly magically ways, it is! There is a simple and profound happiness in doing what you love, and knowing that the one you love is right behind you (or in row G, seat 11).  Making art helps us to be happier and stronger as individuals, and as our individual artistic endeavors become ever-more-fully parts of our life together, we are more aware of how powerful, and bliss-inspiring, a little appreciation can be.

Thursday, February 13, 2014

Kate and Pete: Chapter 3 -- An Envy-Worthy Anniversary Ritual (a Valentine's Day all their own)

People often think I -- the marriage researcher and happy-couple-writer/blogger/practicer/advocate -- must LOVE the season of St. Valentine! Well, not so much. I mean, I like it. And appreciate any opportunity to pour out the love, kindness and goodness into any and all relationships in the world. Of course ... duh ... expressions of adoration and I HEART YOU and BE MINE and YOU'RE CUTE?! Those messages aren't something at which I will ever scoff nor discourage. Bring on the love! Share it! Valentine it. Be it! Shout it, write it, blog it, sky-write it. But not ONLY on Valentine's day. You know my motto: make every day one worthy of celebrating the core (CORE - shout it!) goodness in the world: warm human connections.
Chapter three of Kate and Pete's story is so much about that kind of celebration ... and in their case it's about the organic growth of their ever-emerging anniversary ritual, a time (spread over all of the ups and downs of their year) to re-declare their goodness and commitment to warm human connection with each other, deeply and satisfyingly in like and love with each other and the lives they are constructing. So, if that's Valentine's day for you, have at it. And if it's a random Wednesday in October - even better. And again on a mundane Monday in March, go for it. For Kate and Pete, it begins in late summer and stretches well into their anniversary, and beyond. 

Maybe Kate and Pete Chapter Three will get you thinking about how you, too, can continue to shape your life into one that is, well, perfectly and always wonderfully under-construction (aka, inspire you to make your relationship something you, TOO, would be willing to blog about!).


Anniversary Ritual: Forever (Perfectly) Under Construction
By Kate Woodman Middlecamp
On our first anniversary, Peter and I returned to the suite where we spent our wedding night: The Covington Inn, a converted tugboat B&B just a short walk down the river from the site of our carnival wedding on Harriet Island in St. Paul, MN.  We walked arm in arm from the site of our vows, and once again climbed the tiny, twisting staircase to the two-story pilothouse suite - albeit a little more steadily this time.  It was a night nearly as perfect as our first, and as we signed the guest book for the second time, we vowed to return each year to celebrate and remember.  Over-looking the park at sunset -- remembering our overflowing, loving, crazy carnival and guests -- we enjoyed a picnic of fruits and cheeses, and a bottle of what has become our ritual anniversary scotch, Balvenie Doublewood.  
But as it tends to do, life got busy and complicated, and in the months leading up to our second anniversary, we found that we - and the suite - would be otherwise occupied on Sept 20th.  Initially disappointed, we realized that what we really loved about idea of annually returning to the Covington was simply that it was our ritual, and that the possibilities of other such loving, lovely, romantic and ridiculously "us" rituals were endless.  So we opened our hearts and minds, bought a bottle of scotch, and waited for anniversary inspiration to hit.       

And hit it did, in late August - my birthday, in fact - which happens to fall almost exactly a month before our anniversary.  Peter and I were at the Mall of America enjoying a few roller coaster rides and skee-ball, and while breaking for lunch we happened to walk into a little inexpensive jewelry store.  Drawn to the stainless steel rings, we tried on some matching sets for fun and a few very inspired moments later, we walked out with our original wedding rings in boxes, sparkly new rings on our fingers and huge grins on our faces.

It was a simple thing at the time, a spontaneous and giddy act of love.  But as we neared our anniversary, we realized that the new rings were also a perfect addition to the ritual anniversary celebration of "us" that had begun at the Covington.  Not a night on a tugboat, but still so very, perfectly, Kate and Pete.    

And so our unique and ever-changing anniversary ritual was born.  In the months leading up to our September anniversary, we research and discuss the traditional and modern gifts for the year, decide what is most "us" and if or how it might relate to a new ring or a similarly fabulous – often simple – symbol of our love.

Last year, for example, was our third anniversary and our chosen gift theme was leather - beautiful, natural, and made to last a lifetime.  As leather was an impractical material for new rings, we selected simple matching bands of titanium. Desiring a worthy place to house our previous rings, I crafted leather bracelets for each of us using both our original wedding bands, and the oh-so-inspirational stainless steel rings.  Peter also selected a practical use of leather: he had gorgeous matching bags crafted for us by an artisan in Santa Fe. The sight of these little wonders, to this day, forever brings a smile to our faces as they hang together in the entryway of our little house.

This year marked our fourth anniversary, and we chose gifts of wood and flowers - a combination of the “traditional” anniversary gifts prescribed for years four and five.  In early fall, Peter surprised me with a huge new anniversary bed, in our already massive garden, dedicated to growing flowers for a lifetime - perennial wildflowers, herbs and flowering tea plants.  Even through the bitter months of this winter, he has collected and spread seed on the bed almost daily.  I, in turn, will be crafting our new rings out of black walnut this spring, from downed limbs of the 60 plus year old tree in our yard; I’ll start them as soon as the wood is cured and ready to carve.      

As in the beginning, it is now our ritual to acquire, or plan to create, the new rings, and decide what the anniversary theme will be as part of my August birthday celebration.  It is, essentially, our opportunity to say “we choose each other again!” Every year, then, when the special day does arrive - a month later - we are totally free to celebrate who we are now and who we have been. We are free, each time, to rejoice in our unique two-ness.  And, most importantly, we are ready to toast who we hope to be in the next year – whatever that might bring - together.






Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Kate and Pete: Chapter 2 (hint - there might be Love Letters!)

As promised: Chapter 2 of the great-Kate and neat-Pete happy couple 2014 feature!

Here, Kate reveals the very beginnings of the just-keeps-getting-better Kate-Pete story (the part before the can't-top-it-carnival-celebration). As surely it will in you too, their sweet beginnings inspired in me a big, juicy "awwww" (right after I thought, of course only to myself, which now is not going to be private because I'm saying it without hesitation to thousands of readers: "Hey - I'd sure like to read a few of those saucy letters!" But then I recalled my unwavering commitment to keeping this a PG13 blog. Shucks). Anyway ... on to the ever-sweet-and-love-letter-filled-life, chapter 2, of Kate and Pete. Enjoy!

"The Story of Us"
- by Kate Woodman Middlecamp

Whenever Peter and I befriend someone new, it isn't long before the question is asked of us: "How DID you two meet?!"  To which we invariably reply, with poorly concealed glee: "We actually met online," and chuckle as the jaws drop. It is, I think, the absolute LAST place people would expect the two of us - with all our crazy loves, quirks and hobbies - to have connected.  In all honesty, it was the last place either of us thought it would happen as well … until it did.

Peter had been on Match.com (this during the Dr. Phil "Mind. Find. Bind." era of Match) for awhile before I joined.  Working through the end of a very complicated relationship, he was looking for someone worthy of moving on with and had been on a few dates - dates worthy of a few good stories, but not much more.  When I found his profile through a search - we were not, funnily enough, matched by the website automatically - I was taken aback.  Like my own freshly written profile, Peter chose to acknowledge the quirkiness that is online dating with humor and wit; a fake interview with himself, in fact. I read his profile, laughed harder than I had in months, and a little
flutter started in my heart.

I must admit, I thought then (and still do) that he was WAY out of my league, and so, initially I didn't reach out.  I just waited.  And re-read his profile 20 times a day. For days.  And then got sick of myself and summoned the courage to send him a simple message of gratitude for the laughs.  To my delight, he wrote back almost immediately and the real story of Kate and Pete began.

We exchanged e-letters a few times a week, which quickly progressed to a few times a day.  Letters every bit as witty and funny as the online profiles we had worked so hard to perfect.  And, as we got to know each other better, letters that were sweet, and vulnerable, and yes, even a bit saucy at times. We crafted whimsical and silly stories for each other that illuminated - in a magical way - who we really were, and who we wanted to be, and hinted at who we might become together. I think, even then, we knew somewhere deep down that our stories might be best told as one.

As a married couple, just now a few months past our 4th anniversary, we still use written word as a way to express, celebrate and reconnect.  It is not unusual, after a particularly glorious string of
The real deal: Kate + Pete + the written word = deep-in-love connection.
days, for one or both of us to send a silly, gushing love e-letter or text message of gratitude. The same goes for the less glorious times, the times when the real work of marriage takes place, after an argument or in a time of stress.  We return to the written word because it forces us to literally spell out our feelings; to be specific, to be honest, to be loving.  Also, we write because written words "keep" -- as physical, visual reminders of our love, our promises, our desires -- in a way spoken words do not.  I have copies of our "Top 20" e-letters from when we first met in my inbox, and when re-reading them, it’s ever most clear: Our stories, truly, are best told as one.

Monday, January 20, 2014

A Host of Happy Couples (2014): Introducing Kate and Pete!

It was a pretty dull but beautiful summer day in my life: wrangling email, running errands, weeding a tad in the garden, being on time for some necessary appointments, and generally keeping life/work running smoothly (or so I was attempting, and was rather enjoying the mundaneness). At the desk where I had one of those appointments sat Kate, someone I've only lightly known for many years, and only even that much because I go to that office twice a year and get done what I need to get done. Unfortunately, I didn't really "know"Kate ...  at least not until this day. Lucky me, I took an extra minute on this full-with-stuff-to-do afternoon to ask the always-smiling and warm-spirited woman behind the desk that typically-phatic-but-not-so-on-this-occasion question: "So ... what's new with you, Kate?"

My silly little rock garden that was
needing a tad of weeding on this
mundane summer day.
Her answer opened the door to a new and budding friendship with a pal I now call "Great Kate." And as part of that friendship, I'm privy (lucky me!) to a peek into Kate's world, which is situated fully and lovingly with her amazing partner Pete. Their relationship -- as you're about to read in a series of upcoming posts -- is precisely the ritual-rich, play-full, kind-and-then-some, intentionally-happy couple-creating life this blog has always and will always be about. And it was during one of Kate's high-energy tellings about their crazy-wonderful-cool wedding that I had what I think is a rather crazy-wonderful-cool idea: to feature a series of uber-happy couples who are, you guessed it, doing precisely what happy couples could, should and can DO ... and actually ARE doing!

And thus "A Host of Happy Couples (2014)" is born. The first installment is this one, and features - of course - Kate and Pete, a couple I know you're going to love getting to know. 

One of the best parts of this series -- which begins in about 10 seconds -- is that you're going to hear from the couple in their own happy words and images, each post an explanation of how the pair is working to live the authentic life of a really happy couple (and we all know work is always part of the equation, as each couple will, for sure, reveal in their tellings).

So now ... drum roll please ... meet super-great Kate and equally-neat Pete! Where to begin? She decided to start with a part of their early story, the significant and signature day our culture calls "the wedding." In Kate and Pete's case, I'd call it, well, something completely so-much-more, and fully so-much-THEM ...




A Crazy Big Day
- by Kate Woodman Middlecamp

It all began with a pocket-sized, orange, spiral-bound notebook.  
A few weeks after returning from our engagement trip, during our first official wedding planning session, my husband-to-be grabbed the little book from atop the drafting table and we set to work jotting ideas.  For the next year, it was a constant. Wherever we went and whatever we did, the little orange notebook tagged along.  

There was only one rule: anything goes.  No edits, no limits, no judgements, no preconceptions; every silly, ridiculous, outrageous, happy, loving idea had a place in the notebook.  And after a year of the little book getting tossed about in pockets and purses, stowed in camping gear, and joining us on more than a few roller coaster rides, it was literally bursting with signature notions of our love.

In the end, one of the most difficult parts of wedding planning was sorting through our little orange book, saying goodbye to ideas that were - for lack of time, space, or money - beyond our reach.  It was particularly hard for us to let go of the idea of "Free Soup" signs around the reception, the lovely dream of feeding anyone in the area who was hungry on that special day, and of invitations in the form of custom chocolate bars with golden tickets (golden tickets did make the day, after all, but I'm getting ahead of myself...!).
While sifting through the ideas, a theme became apparent: Our little orange notebook read an awful lot like the description of a carnival.  In fact, it read EXACTLY like a carnival. The more we thought about it, the more a carnival wedding seemed the perfect celebration of our love and life together. 

And it was. Blissful. Beautiful. Hilarious. Loving. And perfectly, completely, “us.” 








We secured the Clarence W. Wigington Pavilion, a vast and gorgeous historic building on Harriet Island in St. Paul, Minnesota, and a portion of the surrounding park - the only space large enough and flexible enough to host a true carnival for our nearly 350 guests.  With such a large party, and not-so-large budget, DIY was a necessity, and our apartment essentially became a temporary print shop. Giddy, often frantic, hours were spent together cranking out custom bags, event posters, popcorn boxes and, of course, Wonka Bar-esque invitations complete with, you guessed it, Golden Tickets.  




Agates collected over years of dating tumbled noisily in the garage, being polished to receive guests' blessings on the day. Skee-ball, volleyball, and mini-disc golf games were envisioned and customized. A photo booth and wedding photographer were hired, and photo props collected. Literal pounds of lollipops were arranged, in centerpieces, bouquets and boutineers.  A mini-donut machine was purchased, used to make the wedding cake, and to serve treats on the day along with popcorn, cotton candy, hand-dipped corn dogs, and snow cones. We had a veritable horde of family and friends volunteering to “man” the machines. 

Entertainers were lined up, many from the same horde of supportive friends and family: “Sprinkles” the clown making balloon creations; a professional yo-yo'er; a singer-songwriter who serenaded us in a spontaneous first dance; belly dancers; and even a surprise song by the bride and groom, the very happy couple. 

A simple white dress was tailored, as was a classic black tux. And, to pay homage to our mutual love of all things vintage, Cary Grant/Katharine Hepburn-inspired his and her suits (each designed for dancing the day away) were tailored too. 

The ceremony took place overlooking the river, with our dear friend James, the man who counseled us in the months prior to the wedding, and who passed a few months after, presiding over the affair with his dog “Prints” by his side. A simple melody on guitar accompanied the my  walk down the aisle; my mother and father flanked my sides. The clearest memory I have of our signature day is this moment: walking out, into the sun and a mass of people, and seeing Peter waiting for me. My heart, and my eyes, overfilled - as did his - and together we knew a shimmering moment of perfect and utter joy, and of absolute gratitude for this day. This love. This life. 

There was laughter and tears and readings … but not readings from scripture (ours came from a stash of our crazy-wonderful love letters). Next was more perfect and shimmering joy as we recited our vows, kissed the best kiss, and giddily danced our way back up the aisle as husband and wife, ready to kick off the carnival of a lifetime. 

And the best part? We haven't stopped ... (editor:  ... stories about which you’ll read in upcoming installments over the next 4 weeks of Kate and Pete, a very happy couple guest-writing for the very happy-couple-inspired What Happy Couples Do blog). 




Friday, December 13, 2013

Friday the (most lovely) 13th

Today is my 22nd wedding anniversary. Yes, it's Friday the 13th, and we chose a Friday (the 13th) in December 1991 to make public and official our happy-couple-status. So many people say "but why?" Because we knew what was ahead wasn't anything about luck. It was going to be all about focus and hard work.

And I've never been more in love.

My beloved and life-long partner (who reports that he should indeed receive 1.5 years of credit for each year of our marriage because his "marriage is a petrie dish; I'm married to a marriage researcher!") is still today my best pal, my confidant, my hero and my rock. That was actually his nickname in high school some 30 years ago: "Rock." I thought I understood why over the past 27 years of knowing him. Yet each day since, as I witness him sore in his profession, impress as a fully-engaged parent, light up a room of strangers and friends alike with his effervescent ways, and (the most impressive part of him) embrace and adore my quirky, emotional, highly-charged, on-the-go, sensitive, empathic (to a fault), often cranky self, I know more fully the depth of the moniker donned on him long ago. He IS a rock, in the most glorious sense of the word. Solid. Steady. Always. Forever.

And he's all mine. Which makes me the luckiest gal alive.
A page (literally) right out
of our wedding album,
the best Friday the 13th ever.
Nice puffy sleeves, I know.

May your Friday the 13th be as absolutely-mysteriously-perfect-and-lovely as mine and my honey's. XXOX to you all. We just returned from our ritual "anniversary day off" together (during which we made sure at least one of us was in seat 13, of course, at the theatre. We're now off to look for a bottle of wine to take to a holiday party, which has to cost exactly $13, and then to see if we can get from the store to the party in exactly 13 minutes. You get the silly picture ...).

P.S. ...

While I have and always will keep my promise to my dearest hubby to be true and faithful and forever quirky and emotional and cranky and stubborn in my love for him, I have NOT kept my promise to all of you to be a diligent, weekly blogger this fall during this absolutely lovely sabbatical! Oh my. Interesting how promises work: so easy to make, so hard to keep. If you enjoy this blog, I hope you'll forgive me. While I haven't been blogging much here, I have been studying, writing, researching and reading a TON and then some about couples and families in the digital age. Which means there is much to share in future blogs, and I pray you'll check back and see when I finally do so!

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Happy to Brag ...

... ours has been named among top 10 blogs for couples, issued by Datingadvice.com! Whoop. Party! Yay us. While we're not talking Pulitzer, it's somethin', eh? And as such, I'm one happy little blogger.

Now truth be disclosed: as a member of a 2-decade plus married couple, I'm quite obviously not dating advice.com's best user. But tens of thousands of their readers are, and they are liking (literally, on Facebook) the 5+ years of good stuff filling up the WHCD blog. Another whoop! Check it out:

http://www.datingadvice.com/for-men/10-best-blogs-for-couples














Ironically (or not), like positive affirmations are elixirs of couple happiness and love, positive and public blog affirmations seem to immediately motivate one to post better and more often. As always, come back soon readers! I'm currently crafting a post on couples and their much beloved (and/or bemoaned) communication technologies: are they for better or worse? I'll share what the current research suggests.

Thursday, September 5, 2013

Natural Health Magazine + Happy Couples + Leslie Goldman + Cover Story!

Add all those things up and you have one really cool bit of news to share!


Fabulous and fantastic author (and I want to call "friend," although we've never actually met, but that's beside the point) Leslie Goldman http://www.lesliegoldmanwrites.com/ has the lead cover story in this month's (sept/oct, 2013) Natural Health Magazine. "Get Closer" presents 12 smart, expert-endorsed explanations for boosting your health via boosting the closeness of your relationships. "Research shows strong relationships = better health. It's that simple," she writes. AMEN, I write. And guess who and what is featured in tip #8? Psssst ... maybe a little What Happy Couples Do, that's who. I know, right? FUN! Bravo, Leslie, for the fabulous information written in your ever-fresh, always-smart style.

Wanna know more? Of course you do or you wouldn't be subscribed to this blog. So get yourself to a newsstand pronto! Both the information in the story (and that cute orange dress on the cover - eh?) are must-haves. Credits reveal it's a Kate Spade dress and H&M cardigan. Die! I also happened to love the very last page in this issue about being a "qualitarian," which is kind of, all of a sudden, inspiring a future and possible happy couple post ... hmmm ... check back soon.

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Wrangling

Wrangling (as in to round up; to take charge of). I've been doing that with an idea -- trying to articulate the point of this post -- in my mind the majority of this short but beautiful summer.

My point is a somewhat long-ish, but I hope thought-provoking-ish, story involving a wedding, a happy couple named Lindsay and Brad (right), some former gang-members (not pictured), a priest, a high school gymnasium, a few tattoos, fancy french fries, kindness, some donuts, gentleness ...  and ... well ... here goes.

In early June I attended the graduation ceremonies of one of my favorite organizations in the twin cities: Cristo Rey High School. I believe I've written about them before; they've touched my heart in a way that I won't even try again to articulate (always sounds trite). But, fact is: Cristo Rey is an innovative college-prep HS (it's a network of schools, actually, nation-wide - SO FAB!) serving some of our most under-served youth. Not at all trite, they have a very cool concept and are demonstrating very real results. As I have many other Junes since they opened, I showed up to cheer on this year's superstar set of seniors pass over the stage, and on into their next stage of life.

Their commencement speaker was Fr. Greg Boyle, author of Tattoos On The Heart and founder of Homeboy Industries. If either of the above are new to you, google them. As in now. Because you'll commence being wildly inspired. Homeboy and its social enterprises work with thousands of high-risk, formerly gang-involved men and women, giving them a chance for job training, tattoo removal and a new life. (E.g., Homeboy Bakery. What a concept! I need a donut.) Fr. Boyle is the mastermind.



You didn't have to share the faith beliefs of Fr. Boyle to nod in agreement with his primary message that warm summer day in CR's large gymnasium in S. Minneapolis: "Cristo Rey is not a place you come to, but a place you go from." 

Indeed, the 100+ graduating students enrolled and worked incredibly hard. For four years. Learning more than 4 years worth of material and facts and social skills and college-readiness. Each is beating the odds society set up for him/her. But who cares, basically? (Of course we do). But Fr. Boyle was saying: it's now what you do with what you've been given, and where you go from here.

His point, made many times over with mind-blowing stories of gang members turned successful leaders, and of former prison inmates turned highly-competent parents, partners and community members, was clear: you are just beginning! And what a beginning you have. You will make good, if you choose. And now go on and show us. And while you do, be sure to give generously and with goodness to the world. And to yourselves. And always to others. (My interpretations, not his exact words.)

Not a single person in that large high school gymnasium (my husband and I among them) didn't walk out feeling ultra-inspired. 

In contrast (but not really): the very next week I found myself (lucky me!) at the wedding of the loveliest and most adorable couple. Set in a most gracious and historic of downtown St. Paul landmarks, Lindsay and Brad were married. And I was thrilled to be witness. They are two of the kindest people -- the most authentically and beautifully gentle and gracious couples -- I've met in a long-ish time.


Basically, in 10 words or less, their wow-worthy wedding was [don't count inside parentheses]: Simple, elegant, gentle, meaningful, understated, stylish, warm (in the loving sense) and (gosh darn it, it must be said), plain old FUN. Oh, and absolutely lovely. It's worth saying twice: pure lovely!

Their celebration had an authenticity - a beauty from within - that so many lack. And believe me, I've been to a LOT of weddings. Over my short 43 years. In many states. Wearing a lot of LBD's and/or taffeta (80's - cringe). Listening to a lot of hefty and holy hymns. And soloists. And trumpets. Plus a few organs (okay, a gaggle of organs if we could collect in one space). And generic vows. And chicken dances (not that there's anything wrong with that. Nor is there anything wrong with a cold Bud Light in a plastic cup. I'm just sayin').

Lindsay and Brad's celebration was signature Lindsay and Brad, who have an admirable, loving and gentle (also, perfectly stylish - without trying too hard) way of being in the world. And it instilled in me a sense that, no question, they didn't just plan their wedding as the big event to which they came. Rather, they seem to know exactly where they are going from that day forward and where they were going to: into a healthy, loving and kind life-long partnership.

From the perfectly appointed invitation to the contemporary and supra-fabulous french fry buffet, their celebration oozed simplicity and beauty ... a thoughtful but relaxed, classy, not-trying-to-impress sensibility ... one I felt deep in my happy-couple-core is going to serve them perfectly (and everyone they meet) as they go from that day, into the life of the hard-won, yet totally worth it, shared-existence of a happy, respectful, and uber-cool (in the "we are enough" sense) couple.  

The point of this lenghty-ish, summer-long-conceived, but hopefully worth it post? If you haven't figured it out already:

We're all on a journey from what was or is to what is next. What will you choose to do and be (especially in your relationships)? Of course, I invite you to select, wherever you're headed, kindness and gentleness. And pure authenticity - whatever that looks like in your soul. Like Fr. Boyle. Like Lindsay and Brad. And like the gang members making donuts and fluffy iced cakes. The other choice is, well, not so attractive. I'm committing (not always succeeding, but at least trying) to choose as much. Join me?



Wednesday, August 14, 2013

New (Academic) Year Resolution!

Yes, yes, yes. It's that time of year for academics to make a clean start! We head into fall with great optimism, a renewed sense of "let's get on with the learnin'," clean desks, sharp pencils and a fresh perspective on the year ahead. A significant part of my "back to school" pledge to you, loyal happy couple readers (insert big HEART), is at least one post per week for the next 10 months.

I know - wow. That's a big promise. Especially after nearly abandoning you for the past 5 months. But, alas, I owe it to you followers and, well, to myself; your comments - both in person and via email/post/reply - make me a happier person! And, truth revealed, this year is looking quite sweet in the world of this happy academic: I'm on a one-year sabbatical from teaching to work on new books (stay tuned) and new research (all about happy relationships, of course). As such, I'm dedicated to a (re)newed focus on blogging about all the fabulous findings about relating I'm reviewing as I go about my projects. Let's get to it, eh? ...

And why not start with that oh-so-dreaded-emotion -- when it's coming at us -- anger.

I'm linking below to one of those "ah ... stinkin' smart!" explanations about basic communication between couples. A dear friend sent this along the other day. Her subject line: "Thought of you." My thought when I read the April 23rd post by Peter Bergman ("What to do when you've made someone angry"): "Must share with Happy Couple readers! Like pronto." 

Don't skip this one; it's a wicked smart and crazy simple (but brilliant) explanation and formula. I'm actually looking forward to my next argument so I can test drive the rock solid advice of Ken Hardy, marriage therapist featured in the piece.





And to all you readers, I hope you're happy I'm back in the WHCD saddle. Giddy up!