Everything is on the table

Our kitchen table is an heirloom in training.

Sitting alone at this table with open notebook, a pen, and a fresh cup of coffee in the early morning light of day I can, with an angular glance, see the extensive preparation and practice for remembrance that it has already put in. At a mere sixteen-years, the table is hardly an antique – yet its smooth, blonde-maple surface is already pockmarked with the memorable nicks and ruts left by stray utensils and homework-prodding pencils – stray treatises to family,  assorted Christmas cards and letters.

All embossed in memory and maple.

My wife and I assembled the table the first night we lived in a rural, southwestern Minnesota Victorian we had just moved into from big-city Minneapolis; a new board-with-legs for our small-town fresh-start. The nondescript table fit perfectly in our new, multi-windowed, breakfast alcove; perfectly seating the four members of our family.  While we read the instructions, inserting the right bolt into the right hole, our boys, then seven and three, were tucked soundly into sleeping bags in the bare living room, as our furniture still in transit. We labored to assemble the table, determined to have a place at which to properly commemorate our first meal together in our new home and community.

The last screw was secured in the final chair leg just after two a.m.

Today, a decade-and-a-half later, when the southern sunlight of our now-home in New Orleans smothers it, you will see the signs of the life the table has nobly earned in service to our family. Worn spots mark each place setting. Plates and bowls of china, paper, and plastic have been repeatedly set down, slid around, eaten upon, picked up again – sometimes dropped. A knot on one end of the table has dried out, a small crack has now settled into a browned notch out of the edge. If you put your face close to the table’s edge and look at its surface, you can trace the hard-scrabble pencil indentations of the two boys who completed their homework each night 100_49891while mom or dad prepared dinner.

Look more closely and you can find a worn two-digit, kindergarten math problem overlaid with something more algebraic, far more recent.  The ancient nine-plus-three-equals-eight-no-twelve is still bold from the pressing of a hot dog-diameter pencil; the more recent equation made by a more elegant and confident ink pen.

The table has made its way south with us.

A million small lines zigzag the surface;  swooping in graceful curves atop the now-worn maple, resembling a vacant skating rink in January. Every member of our family has triple-axeled this table countless times to the ‘oohs’ and ‘ahhs’ of each of the others. It is a spot of triumph, of place of individual and group confession, reflection, renewal. It has hosted countless meals, endless discussions, prompted numerous revelations; it has echoed the laughter of day-to-day  100_4986life, heard the solemnity of nightly prayers of thanksgiving and praise, sorrow and intercession. It has been spilled on, bumped into, lived on, all the while quietly, steadily. Always smoothly supportive.

It has served us well.

Some ten years ago, we uprooted our brood again – this time to New Orleans. The table that once bore mostly pedestrian, traditional Midwestern fare has become attuned to hosting more exotic and at times experimental and quirky meals of gumbo, jambalaya, and crawfish.  I am certain the resulting changes in dietary spills and slops has only served to enhance the preservation and aging process of the maple; it is a seasoned patina – the spice of memories – adding character to the worn, blonde, wood

The table is loyal; it has been almost exclusively devoted to our immediate family; guests have usually necessitated a shift to the more expansive, less lived-on, dining room table.  It, too, has stories to tell, but nothing approaching the quantity of those with that our kitchen table could regale us. And now, our time here is coming to a close; both boys have graduated high school, one has completed college as well,  while the younger begins his collegiate experience. We are headed off on new adventures, different adventures.

Our inexpensive-when-purchased, still not priceless, D.I.Y. table will accompany us.100_4979_00

Boys who once needed help to scootch up their chairs now find little elbow room to spare when we are all together. The table’s chairs creak a bit beneath their more considerable heft. Still, neither of them has asked if we will ever get a new kitchen table, or why we just  can’t eat in the dining room. The table has adapted nicely over the last few years from a haven of group work, to more solo time with family members; a boy with a bowl of cereal and spread out newspapers or school project is now more common than then the full-fledged mealtime family foursomes of the past.

The table also spends more time sheltering two aging dogs seeking the relaxing companionship of their boy’s stocking feet –  adept as each has become at absent-minded, foot petting.  Both dogs are equally content to lay there, just soaking in affection, less time frenetically awaiting dropped crumbs from younger, less observant boys,  who used to provide ample treat-pouncing opportunities.

Mealtimes are cozier than they used to be, though this is just a phase of sorts. Our sons have more hectic schedules, and sporadic all-of-us-home home evenings often find us in the living room, munching pizza and binge-watching Netflix – another family ritual once confined to Friday nights, now preciously savored whenever we can scrounge one up. One son still lives at home; mealtimes for three of us frees up some of that vaunted, and coveted, elbow room, though probably to some occasional chagrin on our part.

Soon, the table’s adaptability will again be tested,  as the term ‘table for two’ will be de rigueur.

Someday the table may serve in an entirely different capacity – maybe a first-apartment-hand-me-down for one of the boys, or maybe someday many years down the road and to the 100_4977puzzlement of a spouse, a much-wanted keepsake for one of them.

Not that they are likely to ask about its eventual fate now, but if they do I can just tell them, to their confusion and my satisfaction, that this little kitchen table is, indeed, our heirloom in training.

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Through different eyes

Another Mardi Gras is in the books.

Friday night before Fat Tuesday, the forty days of revelry preceding Lent are in high gear.  My wife and I hadn’t been to the Friday night parades in a few years, but we had a friend marching in one of them, so we decided it would be a good time to check things out.

IMG_20170224_200001.jpgWe got there about an hour before the first of three parades on the night, located a nice spot in an intersection by a school and set up our lawn chairs and cooler; we like hanging out in an area with families, away from the pockets of rowdy college kids and assorted partiers.  Contrary to much mythology, Mardi Gras is primarily for families. Yes, there are places for rowdy people to be rowdy, and there are a few krewes that roll each year with satirical themes and more adult oriented humor, but for the most part, it’s mostly PG rated stuff at worst.

Our friend Kristin was rolling in Krewe d’Etat, the second of the evening’s extravaganza, and we figured two parades would be plenty for us as we had been to two-of-the-three Thursday night parades.  Just as the evening festivities began, we noticed a multi-generational family sitting next to us.  The grandma and grandpa we had exchanged pleasantries with when we first set up, but a husband, wife and young son had just arrived at ground zero and were ready for action.

It was a toss-up as to whether the kid or the dad seemed more psyched.

We were about four blocks from the start of the parade and by the time the first units started coming into view, the excited little boy and his amped-up dad were inching their way up to the curb, where the dad said “Ready?” before crouching in a frog-squat so his son could climb up on his shoulders.

Then the fun began – theirs and ours.

For the next half-hour, the dad would step into the street, kid on his shoulders, waving for the attention of the float riders and their various throws, while his tentative son, wide-eyed, tried to catch whatever came their way; beads, stuffed animals, trinkets of all sorts.  After the first three-or-four floats, the kid was starting to get into it – waving his arms and yelling along with his dad.  Every time they would get a couple of armfuls of goodies, they would head back to mom, grandpa, and grandma, dump their treasures into a big back, then get back on the street for the next float.

Catch-and-repeat.

img_20170224_201428_burst002The dad, who I pegged as being in his early forties, was working hard at giving his son the true Mardi Gras experience. I guessed from the kid’s body language and facial expressions that this was his first Carnival, and dad was working it; the kid spent probably twenty-five of the first thirty minutes of the parade on dad’s shoulders, briefly dismounting to stand in the street, waving for stuff with other kids and giving dad a (brief) respite to roll his shoulders and neck.  But dad was a gamer; the kid was not on his feet for long.

This routine continued the full hour-plus of the Hermes parade – sans a few short breaks where the mom, whom I also thought to be in her early forties, would take the kid on her shoulders for a minute or two at a stretch.  She was smaller, and the kid was a load, but she, too was in it for keeps. The kid was amassing a fairly impressive haul of stuff – in large part because of the visibility provided by his perch and the fact that he religiously yelled “Thank you!” at anyone and everyone who threw him something.  Float riders I am sure could not hear him, but they can read lips and body language.

And smiles of awe.

The grandparents mostly stayed in their lawn chairs, with looks of wonderment nearly equal to that of the father and son, and a lot of bemusement.  There is a short gap – ten, fifteen minutes –  between parades, and this gave time for the dad and mom to take a breather, and for grandma and grandpa to ooh-and-ahh with grandparental amazement as their grandson observed for himself, then showed them, his accumulated treasures.  Then it was time for Krewe d’Etat, and the craziness (and piggybacking) started all over again.  Different parade, same routine; father and son crazily waving arms, running up to floats, collecting stuff. Dad and son bringing stuff back to mom to put in bag, grandma and grandpa beaming from the cheap seats.

About halfway through the second parade, there was a lull in the action, as a couple of non-goodie-throwing units were cruising by.  The mom of the family we had been having so much fun watching was standing next me, and we exchanged a bit of small talk which turned the father-son spectacle we had been experiencing all evening into something a bit more special.

Her son was four, and as suspected, was experiencing his first Mardi Gras – as was his father, who, while being born here, had been back sporadically to see family, but never during Mardi Gras.  The family currently lives in California, so the whole New Orleans Carnival experience was new to them all, and as she confided to me, “I still cannot tell which one of them is having more fun – neither can my in laws!” She glanced back their way, I waved at them, they chuckled and shook their heads, as their grandson was at the moment waving a prize throw he had nabbed in exultant celebration.  Dad turned our way img_20170224_195514to give his family a big ‘thumbs up’ but you could tell he was running out of gas – but there was still plenty of parading to be done.  The mom was alternately taking pictures and rubbing her (for now) childless neck. “I sure hope you guys can locate his-and-hers chiropractors’ tomorrow.”
“That’s probably not a bad idea” she laughed, rubbing and twisting her neck, “I’ll get some referrals from in-laws!”

Here came more floats. Action time.

Just to my right was another family – a younger couple than the first, with a small boy in a stroller. His vantage point down there was of little use, so his dad had picked him up and was holding him up high enough so he could see what was going on, but the young man, aware of the other kid on his dad’s shoulders, pointed, then taped his own dad on the head.  Dad got the message, and soon the two boys were side by side, perched atop their fathers, and now drawing even more attention from the bead and trinket-tossers on the floats.

Quite the attention-getting pair – or quartet, I suppose.

As with the first family, the newest young man had a look of bewildered glee, indicating that he, too, was experiencing his first Mardi Gras.  The younger man and smaller child (a bit over three, I learned from his mom) had a bit more energy than the first father-son combo, but all four guys were having a blast.  By this time, both moms were wildly recording the craziness with their phones – the younger mom breaking only to answer a quick call or send a text, before returning the camera focus to her husband and son.  Then I heard her mumble, “Incredible!”  I looked up to see that her son had been handed a foam rubber sword, and that the young man on the other dad’s shoulders was also handing her son something: a foam crown that he had been given.  Apparently, the older boy (and/or his dad) thought the younger boy needed to have the whole set.

Awesome.

The mom next to me was shaking her head, mumbling ‘Unbelievable” over and over as she took some video, then stopped to send it to someone. “Going through a lot of your plan data tonight?”  I said with a laugh, which she returned. “You got THAT right!  Between his aunt in Houston, and his grandma in north Louisiana…bye-bye data for this month!”
“His first Mardi Gras?”
“Yep.  His dad’s first one, too. He grew up in Chicago.  I’m from Louisiana, I’ve been to Mardi Gras before, but I didn’t grow up here in New Orleans. This is crazy!” Her phone beeped. “Oh-oh. I guess I am a little slow in feeding video to my sister!” With that, she returned to feeding a live stream to her sister in Houston.

There are worse ways to burn through a data plan.

The parade continued, each boy enthralled as each float rolled by, as every strand of beads was flung, as all the noise, the lights, the music, and the color flooded our little intersection of Napoleon Avenue and Chestnut Street.  With both father-son combos img_20170224_200232.jpgstanding in front of me, I continued to enjoy their interactions; the boys with their respective dads, the boys with each other. A few times I caught the dads looking at each other and shaking their heads in amazement, and though over the tumult I could only catch snippets of their conversation, I am decent at reading lips, eve in profile; “Wow” was their common refrain.

As D’Etat began winding down, so did both kids, and at least the older of the two dads – though in fairness, he had been at it longer – with an older, heavier kid.  The older of the two boys had by now become fairly adept at waving, getting float riders attentions, and catching stuff thrown his way.  He was also becoming increasingly generous with sharing his bounty with his younger friend, who, in his awe, could only look at the older boy in amazement as his father added repeated ‘thank yous’ to the older boy and HIS dad.  The surrounding crowd of mostly adults was now also into the piggy-backed-boys scene, and had taken to cheering every time a float rider made note of the two boys and tossed them both something.

By the time the parade ended, and people started gathering their third wind, my wife had returned, and we were packing up to go, as were both the families with whom we had been interacting.  The three-year-old was returned to his stroller, his eyes transfixed on a pretty elaborate set of beads he had obtained. His mom thanked us for giving them a grocery bag that we had handy, as they had not thought to bring anything of that sort, and had been stuffing stuff in the pouch beneath he stroller. As they said goodbye, the mom smiled at me, adding with a chuckle and a shake of her head, “I have no idea how much overage we’ll be paying on our data, but oh well…”

“Happy Mardi Gras” I laughed in response, waving goodbye.

The other family had come prepared, and they were efficiently exiting in typical New Orleans fashion, with folding chairs and cooler quickly and neatly stashed in a small wagon, goodies in bags stuffed and stacked appropriately.  Grandma and grandpa, it turns out, are seasoned pros at this, with lots of family in the area. But even they seemed to be seeing the whole carnival experience in a new light, via the first timers; their son and grandson.

The crowd began filing toward the street as the final parade was coming, so it was easy to make our way in the opposite direction, back towards our car. We emerged from the crowd walking next to the family from California, and I got a chance to talk to the dad.
“It was a lot of fun watching you and your son.  Your wife said this was your first Mardi Gras?”

“Yeah, I was born here, but we moved away because of my dad’s job. I get back a lot, just haven’t been here for Mardi Gras. We live in California, and now that he is old enough, we had the time and the chance, and I wanted to do this with him.”
“Very cool.”img_20170224_181504
We had reached the end of the block, and we were about to veer left, they were drifting to the right, and the father, who had a now nearly asleep four-year-old using his head for a pillow, grinned at me and said, “You know, I just wanted to give him the experience and have it with him. I’m just trying to be a good dad and give him great experiences, you know?”

“Well, it was very cool to watch.  Made it more fun for me. Enjoy the rest of your stay.”
“Thanks. We will.”

As they turned right at the corner, and we turned left, I could hear the man talking to his son, his voice trailing away; “Hear that buddy?  Other people had fun watching YOU have fun…”

My wife and I had seen our friend dancing in the parade and gotten some pictures; we had enjoyed a date night and got to see Mardi Gras through less-jaded eyes.  It was not a bad way to spend a Friday evening.  Good times all around.

Oh, did I mention that, of the two families in whose orbits we intersected, one was white, and one was black?  I don’t think I did and I guess it doesn’t really matter, but then again, considering the times in which we live, maybe it really does.

Because while I didn’t get many strands of beads that Mardi Gras night, but I did catch a little hope for the future.

Like Son, Like Father, Like Wow, Man

“You young kids and your crazy ideas.”

That’s a phrase my thirteen-year old son Sam uses dryly when a topic comes up and I refer to something from the past, or throw in some sort of archaic phrase like ‘groovy’ into a dinner table conversation.

One of Sam’s favorite treats is a cold Dr.Pepper; so much so that he has, on a few occasions, been given twelve packs of the stuff as a birthday present. We limit his consumption of pop to just a couple a week, usually our Friday night family ‘Pizza Picnic,’ and/or if we are at some special event or gathering, so it really is a treat for him, and a gift that keeps on giving.

The other night at dinner my wife and I were discussing coffee, and Sam got to musing about how when he was an adult, he didn’t think he would drink coffee, and would probably stick to Dr. Pepper and root beer as his beverages of choice, adding, that maybe sometime, somewhere along the line, he would want a hot beverage of some sort, but didn’t think it would be coffee.

“Well” I said, “You could always heat up some Dr. Pepper. It’s pretty good that way.”

“Dad, who would ‘heat up’ Dr. Pepper…or any kind of soda?” as he shook his head dismissively.

“We did with Dr.Pepper. Put it in a pan and heat it up, add a lemon slice.”

An incredulous stare and cocked eyebrow were, for a moment, his only response. Then, “Annnnnnnd why would you do that?”

“Because it seemed like a good idea at the time.”

“This was your idea, I suppose?”

“No. They marketed it like that for a while back in the sixties.”

“They did not.” Sam replied dryly, with just a hint of skepticism. He knows this is dangerous ground, as I had, some time ago, proved to him that the Mr. Potato Head toy of my youth was far superior to the plastic, pre-drilled holes version of today, because you needed to use a real potato. (See my post from last August: https://poetluckerate.wordpress.com/2011/08/19/kids-don%e2%80%99t-try-this-at-home-or-not/ )

“You really made…and drank… hot Dr.Pepper?”

“Yep.”

He furrowed his brow as I continued eating. Before adding a dismissive, “You young kids and your crazy ideas.”

One of the great things about the Internet Age is that things like this don’t have to become ‘because-I-said-it-was’ ‘no-way-I-don’t-believe-you’ things; a few keystrokes on the ol’ laptop, and presto!

Proof. It took all of about forty-five seconds.

As his mom and older brother cleared the dinner table, I went to the computer and summoned Sam. He looked at what I had pulled up, shook his head. “O.K. “You young kids and your crazy ideas.” As he walked away he calmly and defiantly stated, ‘I’M not gonna be trying it.”

I smiled with satisfaction, leaned back in my chair. The Internet: “You young kids and your crazy ideas.”

More memorable (and enticing) than warm Dr. Pepper.

No fine print, just a fine woman.

Nineteen years ago today, I got married. For the second time. There are all sorts of things that I could say here about getting it right this time, first time around is just practice, etcetera – but that is all very cliché – and not all that reflective of the realities of life.

I could also go the ninety-nine cent greeting card route and throw out some platitudes about ‘marrying my soul mate’ or some such, but again – cliché and not really on point.

Getting married nineteen years ago changed the course of some people’s lives, made some lives better, even created new lives that will now perpetuate and reverberate through other lives. That Saturday extravaganza and assorted hoopla pre-and-post made the world, I think, just a little bit better in the process.

At the very least, it made me better.

I met my wife Amy via a personal ad she had placed in a quaint little start-up newsprint tabloid called ‘Single World’ that was available at free newsstands at grocery and convenience stores, hotel lobbies, restaurants, bars, and – where I found my copy and eventual bride – the Laundromat in the Hi-Lake Shopping Center in south Minneapolis.

Ahh, romance before it got all high-tech and ‘matchy.’

At the time, the whole singles-ad thing was still relatively alternative in nature; meaning it was a revenue boon for the Twin Cities alternative newspapers, and were usually just listed just after the display ads for bongs and other paraphernalia and just before the display ads for strip clubs. Good for amusement purposes when hanging out with pals post-bar rush at Perkins, but nobody in my crowd saw them as viable ‘love connection’ reading

What set Single World apart from the other freebie publications of the time was that its stated mission was to be a ‘Christian singles magazine.’ Now while I never saw anything that was in contradiction to the publisher’s stated intention to deliver a high-brow, faith-oriented forum for singles, the primary nod to its Christian underpinnings was a weekly listing of events at area churches: singles dances, special interest Bible and other book studies…and a slew of self-help and twelve-step programs.

Looking for love in all the ‘My name is….’ places?

I have nothing but respect for most such organizations, but whenever I picked up a copy of Single World, I saw that the ‘Weekly calendar of singles events in the Twin Cities’ was an increasing longer alphabet soup heavy on the vowels: AA, NA, ACA, GA , OA, with the occasional TOPS and POS thrown in for good measure.

Know that I am not making fun of any of these organizations or the work that they do; I have had many friends throughout the years that have been helped by them, and the church I belonged to at the time sponsored three different AA groups and a TOPS chapter. Many weeks more than fifty such groups and their respective meeting places and times were listed – all in the name of ‘meeting other eligible singles.’

A novel approach; the antithesis of the bar-pickup scene

But the idea of utilizing that weekly listing as a ‘hangout checklist’ seemed fraught with a variety of issues for a single guy like me, not the least of which being, do I want to actively seek romance with someone who has the same neuroses as mine, or go for someone with completely different issues than my own? Plus simply going to a meeting and pretending to have whatever issue was at hand seemed at best, deceitful.

I avoided that issue entirely by just reading the personal ads.

The first ad you placed was free, so anybody could join in.  As befitting the goal of the magazine, the ads were free of anything overtly sexual, and were divided into just two categories: men seeking women and women seeking men. Aside from that, the formatting and singles language was pretty much the same as in other publications: SWF, DWM, SBM, and so on. The only other thing that set these ads apart from other locales was a predilection of many of them to note, usually as an end line, what twelve-step group(s) they belonged to.

But mostly, they were fairly benign verbal snapshots of women’s likes and dislikes, turn-ons and turn-offs. This being in Minnesota, ‘Land of 10,000 Lakes’ and ten-times that many recalcitrant and reserved Scandinavians, they tended to rely heavily on ‘loves walking around lakes’ proclamations over the proverbial and Playboy-Bunnyesque ‘long walks on the beach’ shtick. Aside from that…

It being Minnesota, the ads were also abundant with ‘quiet evenings’, personal reading lists, and helpful ideas on how to spend long winter nights with that ‘special someone’ – which usually steered back toward the reading lists, with the added ‘in front of a roaring fire.’ It being Minnesota, there were also those who specified their blaze of choice; fireplace or campfire.

No, the personality types are not interchangeable. That’s another post entirely.

All in all, Single World was an entertaining read, good for a few spin-cycle chuckles every week or two. There were only a few ads that ever really enticed me; one that ended up as a lunch date at a suburban Pizza Hut, chosen, I learned only later, because it had a bus stop out front and my lunch date had some lost driver’s license issues stemming from a DUI.

The other ad I responded to with a letter led me to where I am today; very happily married for nineteen years.

The ad Amy placed was, to hear her tell it, strictly to not get left in her roommate Marla’s dating-dust in the summer of ’91. Having discovered Single World and its non-threatening nature and placed an ad, Marla’s potential for a more active social life was all the encouragement Amy needed to place her own romance classified.

Amy’s ad got my attention immediately.

While most of the ads in Single World were fairly commonplace X-and-so seeks companionship with potential for romance, the ones that went (in any way, shape, or form) outside of the basic parameters stood way out.

The ‘home teams’ thing was intriguing to be sure, but more so was the ‘friends call me a woman with a taste for the bizarre.’ In two sentences we had moved from ‘intriguing’ to ‘where’s my Crayon?’ as her ending picture request sealed the gotta-write-this-one-a-letter deal.

Suffice to say, I sent the letter (and Crayola Norman Rockewell), she got it. Phoned me on a weekend I was out of town, and left a couple of messages on my answering machine that I retrieved when I returned home that Sunday night. I called her, we clicked pretty well. We spoke again the next night, and then a third time, racking up some thirteen hours of phone conversation before meeting for our first date, at little restaurant in my neighborhood; The Lake Street Garage.

I was smitten the moment I walked in, and saw her sitting alone at the near end of the bar, nursing a Diet Coke. She was wearing khaki pants and a peach colored blouse; her long, rather curlyon-the-ends blonde hair hung down over her shoulders. She had a white headband holding her hair back from a very attractive face, and the most unique shade of blue eyes I could remember seeing.  A stunning smile….

I immediately discovered that all the cool stuff discovered in over a dozen hours of phone chat was contained in one really fine package. Still is, by-the-way, on all counts.

But the deal was sealed then and there by Amy’s opening comment to me as I walked into the Lake Street Garage. Having spent much of our phone time getting to know each other’s basic likes and dislikes, she turned my way as the bell on the back of the restaurant door announced my arrival, and I stepped inside saying “Amy?”

Her response? “Well I know why you picked THIS place – they serve Coke and not Pepsi!”

We enjoyed dinner, then a lengthy walk around the neighborhood. Stopping for a bit to rest on the vacant plastic-sling swings at Longfellow Park, we sat next to each other, swinging and talking, her hair fluttering in the breeze. Even though she went home that night and told roommate Marla, “Well, I’m sufficiently underwhelmed!” she did agree to see me again. And again.

The rest, as the saying goes, is history.

A couple of interesting footnotes: it took another year or so, but roommate Marla also found her husband via Single World. Oh, and Amy’s pop of choice these days is Diet Coke, not Diet Pepsi.

Nineteen years. Wow.

When we met, Amy was a social worker running a teen center in the basement of a north Minneapolis church, and I was a non-traditional college student working in the hotel business. Eventually, she moved on into the corporate world, I advanced in the hotel business, not completing college.

In the meantime, our family grew; Will was born in 1995, Sam came along in 1999, and Lindsay – who was seven when Amy and I met – remained a constant in our blended clan. Before long, I was working in social services, first at the county, then state, level (sort of the Diet Pepsi/Diet Coke thing, in reverse)while Amy’s career track trended upward, which eventually led us to relocate from the Twin Cities to Marshall, in rural southwestern Minnesota, where Amy was in corporate human resources.

While there, I eventually finished my degree, and after a round of state budget cuts eliminated my employment counseling job that I had transferred to, I joined the corporate ranks as well. During all that, the company I was working for sent me to Louisiana, to help rebuild company operations post-Katrina. While having dinner in an IHOP one night, I read a newspaper article about the TeachNOLA program, which was recruiting people from the business world to come teach and help rebuild the city.

It wasn’t an ad, it was a full-fledged article. Still, there is a certain symmetry to the scent of newsprint…

Here we are, 2011, still happily married, now teachers in New Orleans. Professionally, the most difficult thing we’ve ever tackled, but arguably the most rewarding. The boys continue to thrive, Will having made it to his second year in a high school ranked among the top thirty in the country. Sam wants to follow in his footsteps. Meanwhile, back in Minnesota, Lindsay is about to bless us with our first grandchild.

Life is good. Nineteen years and counting good. The adventure continues.

Happy anniversary to us.