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Feb
27
2012
Want Some Cold Duck?

Grampa started in early with offers of Cold Duck. The same Cold Duck he had obviously already been enjoying. Even my Dad didn’t want any of that swill. Instinctively, I shrunk back, standing behind my Mom.

Although Mom and Dad assured Grampa no one wanted any Cold Duck, he would check in with us on this point every few minutes anyway with a barrage of “Want some Cold Duck? You sure? Cold Duck?”

While nudging each other and repeatedly asking, “want some Cold Duck” would eventually become a running joke in our family, at that moment we were trapped in a loop of Cold Duck offers. Would we ever be able to leave without drinking Cold Duck? 

Perhaps he was so drunk, he thought he was funny. Or perhaps he was so drunk he kept forgetting he had already checked on our desire for some Cold Duck. Or perhaps he was so drunk, he didn’t realize how inappropriate it was to offer his grandchildren Cold Duck.

The only thing I knew for sure…he was so drunk.

Luckily, he snapped out of his Cold Duck obsession long enough to remember he had ice cream.

“Do you want some Metropolitan ice cream?”

I shot a look at my Mom. Did I? We were all wary. What the heck was Metropolitan ice cream?

“What’s Metropolitan, Grampa?”

“You know, chocolate, vanilla, and strawberry…Metropolitan.”

“Oh, you mean Neapolitan?”

“No, it’s called Metropolitan.”

We went back and forth on this until Grampa was good and pissed. He insisted he was right and said, “I’ll show you.”

We dutifully followed him to the kitchen, dreading the moment when he realized his error.

But instead, we watched in disbelief as he held up the carton of ice cream and said, “see, it’s Metropolitan” while simultaneously pointing to the word “Neapolitan.”

Grampa did not need any more Cold Duck.

This post was inspired by the Write on Edge RemembeRED writing prompt to write a memoir piece in which wine, coffee, or chocolate features prominently.

My Dad’s parents were a real treat…but making fun of Grampa was usually good for a laugh. Neapolitan isn’t very common anymore, but whenever I see it, I still call it “metropolitan.” And I still don’t want any Cold Duck, thanks for asking.


Write on Edge: RemembeRED

Jan
24
2012
Run to the Hills

The alarm sounded, music uploaded onto the clock interrupting their sleep.

Honest to God, she’s never going to change that music, he thought. At least “Run to the Hills” accurately reflects the annoyance of waking up this way.

I hate when she lets the alarm go on and on, it’s so inconsiderate. Doesn’t she realize how exhausted I am?

He rolled around with his anger for a bit and toyed with the idea of turning off the alarm before she got up, but that would really piss her off. He considered an escape from the room, but he didn’t have the energy to right himself. His movements always felt awkward in the morning.

He tried one last time to roll over, but felt like he waded through thick brush. After about 30 seconds, he gave up and allowed himself to roll over onto his back. Positioned just right, he could muffle the sound of the alarm and rest.

He dreaded the days she slept through the alarm. She would check the time, panic, and start spewing profanities about the alarm’s uselessness, making him wince. Yeah, blame it on the clock. Why can’t you just go to bed earlier, woman?

After about a year of this torture, he couldn’t take it anymore. He cracked. Fuck this noise, he thought.

He made sure the alarm would never sound again. It didn’t help her get out of bed anyway. Silence, blessed silence, and rest awaited. 

 

This post was inspired by the Write on Edge RemembeRED writing prompt on personification: “tell a piece of your story from the point of view of an object who bore witness.”

This post is written in memory of my Tocky, who tried to roll around (as you can see from the video, pretty half-heartedly) and play music (only three songs worth, though it held many more) to wake me up for about a year, and then decided he’d had enough of my nonsense and my thick shag carpet and died an untimely death. After much back and forth with the company, they promised to send me a new one. We’ll see how Tocky2 fares.


Write on Edge: RemembeRED

Jan
17
2012
Title and Tagline

Under Construction: Brussels, the European Union, and Me

This post was inspired by the Write on Edge RemembeRED writing prompt:

“Imagine your life, or a part of your life, as a title and tagline. That’s it. Give us the title, and give us the tagline.”

You know I can’t leave it at that. This prompt and my oldest nephew’s recent arrival in France has me thinking of my own study abroad experience in 1994. I have a whole separate post brewing about this. Here I’ll just say the whole city felt as if it were under construction. The fountain in the picture above did not exist when I arrived. I walked by a mess of cranes building something day after day. During the last two weeks of my stay, the cranes were replaced by a small park complete with trees, benches, and that fountain, ironically (defiantly?) crane-like.

Write on Edge: RemembeRED

Jan
10
2012
Breaking My Stride

I knew what I wanted. I had pictured tears of relief and pride at the finish line of my first half marathon, but my eyes stayed dry. My words were salty instead. “If I ever talk about doing that again, punch me in the face.”

I also muttered obscenities regarding the measurement accuracy of the infinite last tenth of a mile. Several of my toes burned, a painful reminder of my idiotic decision to walk on the beach in my running shoes the day before.

But mostly, I felt an exhaustion that said, two hours, 34 minutes, and 27 seconds is too long to do anything not involving popcorn or a horizontal position. I didn’t want to quit running, but I wanted to be faster, to release my inner cheetah. While I’d never run a pace even close, I set a goal of a 30-minute 5K.

On my speed-work days, I worried my inner cheetah was a tortoise. But the race I’d chosen was perfect:  on the trail where I usually run, night-owl friendly start time (11:30am!), and fall weather (I’m a delicate flower).

Keeping my pace felt effortless the entire first half. At the turnaround point, I thought, I have this. Then I learned something new about my trail. It’s not completely flat. The second mile and a half was all uphill. I’d never noticed the incline before, but pushing this foreign pace made it obvious.

Running began to feel like wading through mud. I wondered if I’d be able to finish, let alone beat my goal time. As I wrestled with myself, I noticed my husband on the side of the trail, my dog sitting at his side. I hadn’t expected to see them until the finish line. Chuck’s tail started wagging when he saw me approach. I felt a burst of adrenaline and my pace quickened. I prepared to give them a wave as I passed. I had no time to spare.

Then Chuck darted right into my path, plopped himself down, and looked up expectantly at me for the obligatory doting.

Although I did have to slow down to avoid crushing my dog, I didn’t have to stop, shouldn’t have stopped. But I couldn’t resist my fluffy muffin.

I missed my goal by 28 seconds. I like to blame it on Chuck. He broke-a my stride.

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Seriously, could you resist that face?

This post was inspired by the RemembeRED writing prompt: to write, in 400 words or less, about an unfulfilled goal beginning with the words, “I knew what I wanted.”

I’ve run four more 5K races since Chuck’s anti-Matthew Wilder interference and the trend is going in the wrong direction. I bought Run Less, Run Faster since I want to run faster and I can also totally get behind running less. I’m hoping it helps.

Write on Edge: RemembeRED

Dec
19
2011
Old Friends

A Gift

The song didn’t exist and then, as if by magic, it did. He sensed it could be his greatest work. 

When Paul Simon said, “I think you should sing Bridge Over Troubled Water,” although Art Garfunkel obviously did sing it (and Paul ironically resented how the song came to be associated with Art), his original response was reportedly, “Nah, you go ahead and sing it.”

Ouch.

Simon & Garfunkel did not record another album after Bridge Over Troubled Water. If childhood friends who built their relationship over years and blended their voices together so beautifully couldn’t maintain a harmonious friendship, what hope is there for the rest of us?

The Harmony Game

Last year was the 40th anniversary of Bridge Over Troubled Water and I recently saw “The Harmony Game,” a documentary about the making of the album. The documentary reignited my college obsession with Simon & Garfunkel’s music. And their friendship.

I enjoyed the documentary as much for the old footage of Paul and Art interacting at the height of their partnership as for the more recent commentary on the music by them and the other players. The ease and bond between them back then came across clearly and poignantly. However, by the end of their partnership, Paul’s lyrics gave powerful voice to the abandonment, rejection, and regret he felt in his friendship. Those feelings resonate with me more than I’d like to admit.

I discovered the Simon & Garfunkel catalog and read their biography at a time of unwelcome changes in some of my friendships, some fading with distance and others damaged by regretful  behavior. From sitting in my tiny dorm room trying to work out Art’s harmonies, to shedding a tear 20 years later realizing I don’t sing very much anymore partly because I no longer have anyone to sing with, their music both soothes and unsettles me.

Obviously I don’t know the status of Simon and Garfunkel’s relationship today, nor is it any of my business. There was friendship, partnership, estrangement. There were reunions and rejections (like Art having to be talked into singing Paul’s masterpiece or when Paul decided to strip Art’s vocals from what was supposed to be their reunion album). The interviews did not focus on the friendship and Art, in particular, focused on how wonderful his memories were. Neither man mentioned any debate about who would sing “Bridge,” and Art only said how much he enjoyed “delivering Paul’s intentions.”

Both men danced around the obvious questions about friendship. Art said: “I don’t want to play my friendship with Paul on camera. It’s very deep, very private, and full of love. But yeah, those songs are about friendship.” Paul said: “If there’s a theme that runs through Bridge about leaving, it was certainly unintentional.”

This discussion centered around the most obvious abandonment song, “The Only Living Boy in New York” (one of three songs Paul did in concert this year that made me cry). But when Art heaped praise on what he called Paul’s “under-appreciated gem,” “Song for the Asking,” I couldn’t help but (probably) misinterpret this “love song” to be about his friendship with Art too. 

During the discussion of this song, Paul said, “Notes of apology that show up in album after album, that’s just to say I haven’t forgotten what I did to various people.”

“Thinking it over, I’ve been sad. Thinking it over, I’d be more than glad to change my ways, for the asking. Ask me and I will play all the love that I hold inside.”

Friendship

I’ve been hurt by people I thought were my friends. And I’ve done really dumb things when I’ve felt a friend slipping away. It’s like my subconscious tried to avoid the pain of loss by, ironically, causing me to behave in a way that would speed up the loss. People say marriages require work, but friendship is more difficult for me. Without the commitment of marriage, the close proximity of shared space, and physical intimacy, what binds one to a friend?

One of the goals I set for 2011 was to be more social–a euphemism if ever there was one. It had become easier to believe I didn’t need friendship than to put forth effort, since that effort often exhausted me and left me feeling empty and rejected. And while it is daunting to feel that way, I decided to stop pretending I don’t need friendship or that a happy marriage negates that need. So I’m trying what for me is heavy lifting in the friend area. Like making some. And being a better one to those I have. I toy with the idea of trying to make amends to those I’ve hurt even though I worry those scabs are better left unpicked.

The jury is still out on how I’m doing, but I’m trying. In the year when both Simon and Garfunkel turned 70 (how terribly strange!), I wish for them the same thing I wish for myself, to have a cherished old friend sharing that park bench.

————

I haven’t even scratched the surface on the actual music. I’d love to write about my favorite songs, but haven’t been able to whittle my list down to fewer than 20. I might as well just say, “I really, really like Simon & Garfunkel” and leave it at that! Do you have a favorite Simon & Garfunkel song?

Have you ever reached out to an estranged friend? Or an old friend with whom you’ve lost touch? How did that go?

Dec
16
2011
Photo Friday: Christmas Card Retrospective

It’s the holiday season (so whoop-dee-doo and hickory dock) which means I’m down to one blog post a week. I haven’t run since Saturday either. Merry Christmas!

Our annual Christmas card photo shoot is a wrap, but it seems a little early to post it. So this week, I thought I’d share the history of our little tradition. Are you ready for 11 years of Christmas card photos?

Living in the D.C. metro area, there are shitloads of cool statues and I suggested we include a picture of us with a different statue in our Christmas cards each year. Dave suggested putting a Santa hat on the statue’s head. Brilliant. Let’s do this thing!

2000 – Fala

Fala is my all-time favorite presidential pet. He’s probably in my top five favorite dogs ever. Love him. When the FDR Memorial opened, I visited with a friend who kept going on about FDR and his four terms and bandying about phrases like “our greatest president,” and I was all, “Look! Doggy!” Sorry, Mr. President, but your dog is the best part of your memorial.

Santa hat difficulty: easy

2001 – Albert Einstein

This statue, outside the National Academy of Sciences, is awesome. And you are supposed to climb all over it. Also great because Dave’s a physicist and because as we all know, Einstein was never wrong. This was the first time I remember creating a little scene with our photo shoot (think this was the year some bystanders asked to us to borrow our hat so they could take a picture with Einstein-Santa too).

Santa hat difficulty: slightly challenging

2002 – Party Animals

This was the only year we did the photo shoot during summer. And since we were traipsing all over the city taking pictures of this public art project anyway (there were 100 elephants and 100 donkeys), we decided to take and use multiple shots. Here are a couple of favorites.

Santa hat difficulty: easy

2003 – Kermit

This statue was our first outside D.C. Kermit is actually part of the Jim Henson Memorial at the University of Maryland in College Park. We took many shots with us and the whole statue, but the best, by far, were of us and Kermit. Sorry, Jim. This year is my favorite.

Santa hat difficulty: easy

2004 – George Mason

Who’s a fluffy muffin? This was our first Christmas with Chuck. Chuck is the prettiest member of our family, but he’s not always the most cooperative model. This year also marked our switch from film to digital. I had never heard of George Mason before moving to Virginia. But down here, everything is named after him (if it isn’t named after Lee).

Santa hat difficulty: easy

2005 – Screw Propeller Guy (John Ericsson)

Dave started pitching the “Screw Propeller Guy” as an option right after Fala. I held Dave off as long as possible, because a.) who the hell was going to care about Screw Propeller Guy and b.) I wasn’t sure we could do it. I couldn’t come up with a better idea in 2005, so Screw Propeller Guy it was! Getting up to his level was interesting. We learned Chuck doesn’t like to be picked up.

Santa hat difficulty: challenging

2006 – Teddy Roosevelt

We had Teddy on our radar for years and actually visited his island several times to practice. He’s pretty fucking big. Had to Photoshop the hat and it was so painful I vowed never to do that again. Decree: all future statue heads must be theoretically reachable by tall husband, possibly with gopher grabbing device and step stool assistance. This was our depth of field masterpiece. Getting statue and us all in focus would be a nightmare every year after.

Santa hat difficulty: impossible

2007 – The Awakening

We took this mere months before this statue was moved from Hains Point in D.C. to National Harbor in Maryland, which might as well be the moon given how inconveniently located it is. So I’m glad we fit this in while the statue was still in the city. I hated all of the shots of us with the head. I loved the hand shot, but that didn’t convey the statue. So this was the only year we printed a double-photo card.

Santa hat difficulty: easy

2008 – Winston Churchill

Mr. Churchill stands astride the boundary between U.S. property and the British Embassy. So I felt reasonably assured the British wouldn’t come running out with guns when we stuck a Santa hat on Mr. Churchill’s head. Of the many photos we took, Dave, Chuck, and I were in focus in exactly none of them. I took the best shot and did my best to sharpen us in Photoshop.

Santa hat difficulty: moderately challenging

2009 – Charles Buls

Our first international entry! We took the Santa hat and a mini tripod (explaining the awkward angle for this one) on our trip to Belgium. The only bummer is that Chuck couldn’t be in it. Buls was a former mayor of Brussels and there is a dog with him but it’s very hard to tell from this weird angle and once you see the dog it sort of looks like he’s humping the mayor’s leg. Oops.

Santa hat difficulty: technically easy, but pretty embarrassing (some older Belgian ladies seemed amused by us)

2010 – George Washington

We took this while visiting my family last Thanksgiving. The statue is next to the Eagle Hotel in Waterford, PA. I had always thought this was the only statue of Washington wearing a British uniform but I just found something arguing he’s actually in the militia uniform of Virginia. Whatever, he’s carrying out a British order, so there. 

Santa hat difficulty: challenging

2011 – ?????

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Care to make a guess about this year’s Christmas card photo subject? Hints: he’s in D.C. and is very close to a previous subject.

I’d love to hear any suggestions for photos in the D.C. area or elsewhere (I’m still kicking myself that we didn’t do Jimi Hendrix while on vacation in Seattle). Tune in next Friday for our 2011 photo and holiday greeting.

Nov
10
2011
M.Y.O.B on O.P.P.

With apologies to Jane Austen, the writers of He’s Just Not That Into You, and Naughty By Nature.

What makes people think they have special psychic powers on the topic of other people’s feelings? If you are really psychic, I think I’d rather know what stock is really going to take off next week, not who you think likes me.

It starts early when your Mom tells you boys pick on you because they “like” you. Why do we try to convince girls that appalling/indifferent/conflicting behavior is a sign of love? Not helpful.

I think people are just bored. Who doesn’t crave a little drama now and then? Even better if the drama doesn’t directly affect us. In other words, we are all down with O.P.P. (Other People’s Pursuits), particularly those of a romantic nature.

So friends, family, and random passers-by love to talk smack and try to plant seeds of romance, most of which have about as much chance of blooming as…something that usually doesn’t bloom (Dave’s annual failed tomato container gardens, perhaps?). While possibly well-meaning, these thoughts are based on no special insight whatsoever and, in the case of your loved ones, a completely biased sense of how appealing you are to whichever sex you are trying to attract.

Of course, your worst enemy in the game of O.P.P. is you. We can be vulnerable to this unsolicited matchmaking because everyone believes, or at least hopes, they are worth liking.

Exhibit A: “Project Fox” or “From Disinterest to Devastation”

My high school allowed Exhibit A and I to attend classes at the college downtown. He offered me a ride. My friends nudged each other and exchanged knowing glances. I bristled with embarrassment and actually considered saying no.

“We’re going to the same place and he has a car. He’s just being nice,” I insisted.

An over excited friend, let’s call her Miss Woodhouse, decided this offer meant something deeper. Watching for signs in every little move he made became her pet project. Like all pets, she insisted on naming it: “Project Fox.” Project Fox would, of course, culminate in Exhibit A asking me out. My feelings on the subject (disinterest) were immaterial.

One afternoon, he locked his keys in the car. By the time we broke in, we were too late for class, which led to a string of afternoons spent ditching class and hanging out. Even my most cynical friend became down with O.P.P., “I totally think he locked his keys in the car on purpose.” (Editor’s Note: Show of hands, who thought the same thing when you got to that part? Who’s down with O.P.P.? Suckers!)

I felt the excitement of getting away with something. I also felt the excitement of making a new friend. My friends felt the excitement of O.P.P.

Miss Woodhouse believed Exhibit A’s not asking me to the upcoming dance was a sign, not of his disinterest, but only that I would have to ask him. Although I wasn’t really up for it, the Project Fox matchmaking manipulation was a success. Inexplicably he said yes and we spent an awkward evening together during which I carried myself as if I were made of glass. When we said good night without a kiss, I was both disappointed and relieved.

Project Fox ended in a standoff in an empty classroom where I demanded an explanation of why we weren’t friends anymore. He squirmed like an animal in a trap and insisted we were still friends. But we weren’t and that stung. People, sometimes a ride is just a ride.

You don’t need a Cruise Director for your love life. Relationships engineered by the Miss Woodhouses of your life are doomed.

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This was inspired by this week’s RemembeRED memoir prompt (“Write about a relationship you knew was doomed from the start.”), but since I’m over the word limit, I didn’t officially link up.

Have you ever let a Miss Woodhouse convince you to pursue someone you otherwise wouldn’t have? How’d that turn out?

Write on Edge: RemembeRED

Nov
1
2011
Winter Cauliflower

It was a delicacy we had only once, but my family still speaks of it decades later. Mom’s cauliflower goo was before its time. Today she could call it “cauliflower mash,” an ingenious carb substitute!

In my pre-FoodTV youth, overcooked (and/or canned) vegetables were the norm. My family hadn’t even tried Chinese take-out yet. But my Dad, brother, and I knew something was wrong with this cauliflower. While the florets on our plates looked in tact, they dissolved on contact with the butter knife.

“What’s up with this cauliflower,” we asked.

“I don’t know. It must be winter cauliflower,” Mom replied.

She’s still trying to live down that creative excuse.

Over the years, we’ve added other stories to the lore of Mom’s innovative cooking. She hates cooking. Cooking wasn’t going to get much attention.

Salads consisted of lettuce leaves barely cut or ripped, often too large to shove in your mouth. I haven’t eaten a salad made by my mother in almost twenty years, but I still call non-bite size pieces of lettuce “Mumsie lettuce,” an obnoxious yet amusing phrase coined by my Dad. Even my husband says it now, which really fries Mom’s ass. Once again, she was before her time. Today, countless restaurants cut iceberg into huge wedges, throw some blue cheese on top, and call it cuisine. Annoying, because if I wanted to have to cut my salad, I’d eat at Mom’s.

Mom can cook. I still remember her mac and cheese fondly. She makes good stuffing too. I look forward to her (green-frosted) orange cookies every Christmas (probably the only reason I avoided contracting scurvy as a picky child). No matter what the proliferation of cooking shows implies, we can’t all be accomplished chefs. I don’t like to cook either. The kitchen in our temporary rental house during high school probably still smells like the burned Rice-A-Roni I forgot I was making one afternoon. I took the saying about pots literally. Who can be bothered to watch a pot boil anyway?

Photo credit

RECIPE

Winter Cauliflower

Remove outer leaves and core from a head of cauliflower. Cut into florets.

Add 3 quarts of salted water to a saucepan and bring water to a boil. Add cauliflower florets to the boiling water.

Boil florets for 10-20 minutes or until cauliflower no longer has mass.

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This week’s RemembeRED memoir prompt:

“Take me back…whether to a month ago or decades ago.

Share with me a special recipe, but don’t just list out ingredients.

Take me there…in 500 words or less.”

Write on Edge: RemembeRED

Oct
17
2011
A Fresh Start

By the end of each school year, I was spent. My notes, so carefully written in the beginning, were barely legible by the last pages of my notebooks. The freedom of summer was not only about time, but also baggage. Before I left school, I had to give back all of my textbooks. I gladly tossed my notebooks too.  Next year I would study something else.

Each fall brought the excitement of change with almost no risk. I would be safe in the cocoon of my school, but I could start fresh. My new teachers would ask me to open my textbook to the first page. I would write on the blank pages of my notebooks using pens in need of a shake to make their unused ink flow. My new shoes would squeak on shined floors. Each year had the potential to be my best year ever.

Sixteen years since my last first day of school, fall is different. I still delight in the explosion of color on the trees and the relief of crisp air. But fall no longer brings a new beginning.

Outside my office window, students re-populate the law school across the street. New books weigh down their messenger bags as they walk to class. This could be their best year ever.

I wonder if they will someday sit in an office like mine. Will they wish their new projects weren’t piled on top of ongoing ones? Will they have trouble marking the passage of time like I do? Will they miss starting over each fall?

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This week’s RemembeRED memoir prompt:

Delicious autumn!  My very soul is wedded to it, and if I were a bird I would fly about the earth seeking the successive
autumns. ~George Eliot

For you, what does autumn evoke?

Show us in 300 words or less.

Oct
10
2011
The A.D. (After Dave) Years

Dave and I got married 12 years ago today. We kept it simple and got married as close to our dating anniversary as possible. So on Wednesday, we will have been together 19 years.

Nineteen years sounds like a long time to me. It’s exactly half my life. And it’s gone by at an alarming speed.

In addition to random chance, there were three possible ways I could have met Dave. I guess there was no escaping him.

I told him I loved him the first time we met. He lived with some friends of mine his senior year and I met him at a party. I felt giddy and decided to flirt by telling all the guys I loved them. I told everyone I loved them and I’d never said that to another man before. I inserted each person’s name so I wasn’t lying. I’ve always been big on the truth. Obnoxious, sure. Liar, no.

Thank god my friend Dave had a nickname everyone used, so when I met the Dave I was able to truthfully say, “I love you, Dave, and I’ve never said that to another man before.” That got his attention.

So we’ve just established that I loved him right away (see this post for the plethora of reasons I love him) and luckily he was smitten with me too. We only had about seven months to build something before we’d live in different cities for six years. Those six long-distance years were the only ones that felt like they passed slowly to me.

Somehow our relationship lasted even as the long-distance relationships of all my friends did not. I’m still not sure I know why.

We like each other. Maybe it’s just as simple as that.

I often find it hard to think of things to say to people, depending on my mood, even close friends and family. It’s funny, I can go out with friends and not say very much, but I always come home to Dave and chatter without taking a breath for 20 minutes. He is my home.

I can pinpoint the first moment I thought Dave was the one for me. We’d only been dating for about a month and he took me in his arms for a goodbye hug after a date. We could not extract ourselves and we stood with our arms wrapped around each other for a really long time. I felt such warmth and peace and comfort and love. I felt I could have stayed that way forever. I still do.

Now that I’ve learned how to create a video from pictures (see Chuck’s birthday video and Dave’s birthday video), I had to make an anniversary video too. Don’t worry, I’m running out of occasions/unused pictures.