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Life must be rich and full of loving--it’s no good otherwise, no good at all, for anyone. Jack Kerouac, Selected Letters, 1940-1956

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Sue & Steve Smith

My husband and I have been married for 33 wonderful years and this is our love story.

In 1983 I left my home in Ottawa Canada, and boarded a plane for Germany, with a stop in New York  to meet the rest of the team. This was where I said hello to my husband for the 1st time. We were both professional water skiers. Contracted to perform at a theme park in Germany for six months. He came from Boston, Massachusetts and after a very long flight and getting settled in our new homes it was time  to start practicing for opening press day. Steve, my husband and I had been chosen to be doubles partners. 

After hours and hours of practice we just did not work ever well together. We constantly fell and this was Germany in April, the water was really cold and so was the air. Even for a girl from Canada. I went to the show directors and asked to be removed from the act. They said no and explained that they believed we could work it out and we did. We had a wonderful performance on opening press day and both being so excited it led to our 1st kiss.

Over the next 5 months we became best friends performing together and traveling around Germany and surrounding countries. Then our contracts ended, it was time to return home. Steve had already decided to take an extra month and backpack around Europe.  At the last minute, he asked me to join  him and I did not even think twice. So for 30 days we traveled by train, slept in youth hostels, and visited 11 countries.  Traveling north to Ireland and Holland and then south through Italy and Greece. All of our ski friends said that if we made it through 30 days of backpacking we would be together forever. I guess they were correct.

After our travels we returned home, and I moved to the Boston area to give our relationship a chance. A year later we were married during Hurricane Gloria. One of the few hurricanes to hit  Massachusetts, we had no power and roads were closed, but that did not matter.  We were determined to get married.

Several years later we moved to Florida and performed at Cypress Gardens. I skied at the gardens for about 7 years and Steve skied for about a year. He then got into real estate and after my skiing, I joined him as his assistant and we were delighted to be working to together again. We have one son who is married and we have two wonderful grandchildren. 

We are together every day, 24 hours a day and would not change a thing, we love being together.

Recently, though, our love has grown to new depths. Six days  before Christmas I had emergency surgery for a large mass in my abdomen. It turned out to be ovarian cancer. Steve has been my everything. When your husband has to do everything for you it really creates a bond that is unexplainable.  So with 2018 here, we hold each other tighter than  before and start chemo with the understanding that our love for each other and our love for God will get us through the months ahead.

I am sure our relationship will grow even stronger and I am sure he will love me with or without hair this Valentine’s Day.

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Michelle & James Rozar

I was pregnant (due any day) and I had a 2-year old and a 4-year old in my basket at the grocery store when a woman stopped me to tell me that it will get easier. I must have looked rough because she had a look of pity on her face! She then said to me, God is going to send you a husband when he knows you are ready. I immediately cried. My children’s father was an abuser. Of me, and of drugs. She didn’t know that. I left that grocery store that day feeling hopeful that I was still worthy of true love.

I had my daughter, my abuser left and I began healing. 3 months went by and a coworker, a man whom I trained at our job with (while I was 8 months pregnant), started a casual conversation, but I had no interest in anyone at that time. Considering my 2-year old, 4-year old and a newborn, where we both suffered complications during birth, I had zero interest. Anyways, he was leaving to go to the gym one day when I asked him to find out the monthly rate for me. I had never stepped foot in a gym but felt like it was time. He came back and offered a free pass as his guest and as hesitant as I was, I went. A conversation about our life quickly turned into more and more conversation. We clicked and immediately became great friends. He gave me advice and I helped him with some things he was dealing with. Our friendship quickly turned into a crazy love. We moved in together within 6 months and have been happily married ever since. My husband has adopted my 3 children and this year their names are due to be changed to match the man who has raised them and loved them since they were toddlers and an infant. I know my story isn’t a glamorous one but I feel like it’s a story of hope. We were truly matched perfectly and I often think about the day at the grocery store when the woman spoke to me and made me realize I still deserve a real love. We have 5 children. He has 2 that I’ve helped raise since they were toddlers and our 3. Ages 9,10,10,11,13 and my goodness we are blessed.

I might add that we applied for a marriage license and because he just couldn’t wait to marry me, we got married on a whim while I was at work one day. We didn’t have much family so planning a wedding was silly. We are coming up on our 10th Anniversary next year and want to have a vow renewal so that is something exciting for us!

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Cameron and Torin Crittenden

Torin and I met at Theatre Winter Haven during opening night of Almost, Maine. We talked about his upcoming role as Elvis in Million Dollar Quartet at TWH and found out that we both worked downtown - I, at Andy Thornal Company and he, at Carlton Music. Shortly before Christmas that year, he came into Andy Thornal’s to buy gifts (or so he said) and found me at the jewelry counter where I worked. He continued coming into the store during his lunchbreaks and would bring me coffee or chai tea from Richard’s and pretty soon, I was aware of his hot pursuit. New Year’s Eve, he asked to show me around downtown after I got off work that day. I had just moved to Winter Haven the year before so I was pretty unfamiliar with the hotspots. He showed me the shops and restaurants and we found a plain white painted WH Rock and decided to sign our names on it. He took me to the top of the parking garage where we hid our rock and that day was the start of our love story. We started dating shortly after and in July of 2017, Torin proposed to me at the top of the parking garage under a picture perfect rainbow. We got married at Capernaum Lakeside Lodge in Lake Wales on December 9th, 2017 and we could not be happier to begin 2018 as newly weds!

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Beth Koon

Love the One You’re With (Especially With Yourself)!

There is a major difference between being “alone” and being “by yourself.”   I am a single, middle-aged white-collar professional who has enjoyed (and sometimes merely endured) romantic relationships over the years.  I’ve been engaged to marry three times, but never made it down the aisle.  God intervened and saved me from my mistakes, just in time, every time!    Does that make me a failure?  I don’t think so…

Currently, there are no romantic interests in my life.  Does that define me?  No!  I lead a very purposeful, productive and happy life in my profession and in my community.    What keeps me happy and satisfied?   My work, great family and great friends!   It’s my “attitude of gratitude” that helps me to love me.  Yes, I am interested in dating and will celebrate the lucky man with whom I will share my life. 

Many say that the key to a great romance is one’s  own positive self-perception.  If one doesn’t love oneself, then who else will?   One’s own outlook on life starts with self as well.   When looking in the mirror, what do you say to yourself?   What are you grateful for at night and who is responsible for the things in which you are grateful? 

It’s crucial to keep a positive self-view.  When the proverbial glass is half-empty, a single person will feel “alone.”  When that glass is half-full, the single person will celebrate being “by myself.”  When one has a reason to get out of bed in the morning, one tends to like him/herself better than the person with no direction in life.   I know me better than anyone else, so I can please me better than anyone else.   I look forward to the day when this is enhanced by a special gentleman and remain content in the meantime.

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Jody & Scott Moreen

I was one of those college hopefuls back in the Spring of 1973. At the encouragement of my parents I filled out several college applications and every afternoon I nervously went out to my mailbox to check to see if any college letters had arrived. The wait by the mailbox was agonizing for this northwest suburban gal. I was a decent student but would not have considered myself by any means an academic. I often think my high school educated parents were much more interested in me getting my “MRS” degree and finding a nice promising educated young man, than setting their sites on me finishing school with a distinguished degree. I did not do well on my college entrance exams so I was nearly convinced no private college would accept me. And then the long awaited letter came from Chicago, Illinois. I shook as I opened it slowly and I read with disbelief the first line, “Congratulations on your admission to North Park College!” I had to re-read it again to allow the reality to sink in. I was giddy with excitement and disbelief as I dreamed about my college days ahead and over stuffed my bags and suitcases in preparation. 

I arrived in the Windy City, oblivious to what awaited this 5 foot 2 inch suburban brown eyed girl about to embark on a whirlwind journey through academics, elevated trains, biting winter winds, deep dish pizza, Cubs baseball games and true love. Little did I know that the man of my dreams was also arriving at college from the western suburbs of Chicago. In the winter of our freshman semester a fellow classmate connected us, shouting our introductions over the noisy fans cheering at our college gymnasium at a Vikings basketball game. I don’t remember being head-over-heels meeting him to begin with. He towered over me with his 6 foot 4 stance and gorgeous hazel green eyes, but all I could think of was my taller college girl friends repeating to me to “leave the tall guys alone for us” attitudes and their “hands-off” glares at me if I showed up with one. But my heart skipped a beat when Scott asked to walk me back to my college dormitory. I did not hesitate, but blushed a crimson red as I said “Yes.” We sat in the dormitory lounge for hours and chatted with one another. As we were showing each other some family pictures and our driver’s license photos from our wallets, we were surprised to discover that we both were born the same week in January 1955. In my high school days I had dated some fellows but all my dates were younger than I, so was pleased to meet this “older” guy who barely made it by 4 days, but nonetheless he was older. We had a pleasant visit and I wondered if we would see one another again when he left my dormitory that night with no invitation for a future date. My heart sank. But the next day, by surprise, I caught on to his cleverly thought out plan to meet up again. Unknown to me he had “stolen” my college meal ticket card during our visit and it was mandatory to have a meal ticket to gain entrance into the cafeteria. He had left me a cute hand written note on our dorm message board that we gals glanced at whenever we entered or left the dorm. His small note simply read “Are you missing your meal ticket?? Meet me by the entrance to the cafeteria at 8AM- I think I may have found it.” ( with a smiley face symbol and signed, Scott )  This began our four year courtship that morning over bacon, eggs, toast and Folger’s coffee. To my parent’s surprise we both finished our 4 years and earned our Bachelor’s degrees. I was the first in my family to get a college diploma. And YES, I also earned my “MRS” degree in August which thrilled both my parents. We got engaged over a slice of Uno’s deep dish pizza, a John Denver concert and an “el” ride through the loop. I am happy to say that my taller girlfriends forgave me for marrying a tall guy and they fell in love and married the men of their dreams, and yes, they were shorter guys, nonetheless.

We just celebrated our 40th wedding anniversary this past August and we not only rejoiced over our many happy memories through the years, but that our 3 sons all chose to attend and graduate from our alma mater, North Park University, in the Windy City. And one of them also met the girl of his dreams there, his future wife, over Chicago deep dish pizza.

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Kim & Mike Pickett

 

 The Meeting ---  

 My husband, Mike and I met fairly young.  We both lived in small towns twenty miles apart.  I was fifteen, had a couple “boyfriends,” but wasn’t allowed to date until I neared sixteen.  In February, three months before I turned sixteen, my cousin gave me a call. We were close friends, and she had been dating a guy that lived out of town.  Neither one of them drove, and they had met through a basketball game between churches.  Her boyfriend just happened to have a friend who drove.  They concocted a plan that they would set this friend up with someone my cousin knew in her town.  I was actually the one she thought of second.  I had just had a bad breakup, (the way a fifteen year old sees it!) and wasn’t too keen on the idea of meeting anyone. Meanwhile, this friend of his, “Mike” was also hesitating as he hadn’t really dated, and didn’t have the confidence to do so.  He was in his senior year, and stayed busy enough as it was.  But, my cousin’s boyfriend persisted.  It was his only chance at a ride to see his girlfriend, as this friend, “Mike” had wheels!  Saturday came around, and finding himself bored, Mike made the call, and the two jumped in the car and headed out of town.  I also found myself bored on that Saturday.  And, although nervous, decided to jump on my bicycle and make the three mile ride into town to meet this guy.  Well, Mike was shy, but we hit it off, and by the end of the night I just knew this was the one!  And, I was right.  Two and a half years later, when I was just eighteen, and he was twenty we were married.  That wedding day happened nearly thirty-nine years ago.  We went through many hardships, job layoffs, a plant closure, medical issues.  Then, a move 1,100 miles to a paradise called Florida.  And, here we are.  The icing on the cake is our four wonderful adult children, Christopher, April, Bethany and Alyssa.  And, our four beautiful grandchildren, Taylor, Jameson, Dexter, and Owen.  Life just doesn’t get any better.  We were meant to be together, and we are so blessed.  God is good.

 

The Proposal---  

 After nearly two years of dating, Mike and I started dreaming of a future together.  We talked about a family to come, and already had a name picked out for our first child.  If it were to be a boy, he would be little Christopher Michael.  I spent hours pouring over Bride magazines and dreaming of the things to come!  We looked at engagement rings, and I picked out what I liked.  I believe Mike had laid it away, and made payments.  At the time of our proposal, we lived in Ohio.  It was 1978.  Christmas was coming, and I hoped that he would pick the holidays to propose, Christmas Eve, ideally.  After a busy Christmas season, we planned to spend some time at my house Christmas Eve, and then head back to his place for the larger part of the evening.  I was so hoping he would ask me to marry him that night! We had been out shopping all day, eagerly picking out gifts for our loved ones on our meager incomes. The snow outside was getting heavier the later into the evening it crept.  We visited with my family, and I wondered when, or ‘if’ we would be heading out due to the weather.  The news was reporting bad roads, and I feared that my dream of a Christmas eve proposal was dwindling. Money was tight, but had he managed to get the ring out of layaway in time, it would be back at his house, I assumed, and we needed to get there to see my wish fulfilled!  I was almost in tears when we decided that there was no way we could head back, just too dangerous.  To my surprise, Mike pulled a black velvet box out of his pocket.  He got down on his knee there in my living room.  And, he placed that beautiful, yet dainty diamond ring on my finger.  A fairy tale come true that was matched only by the wedding held the following July.  That was over thirty-nine years ago, and although I thought I could not love him more than on that night, time has proved me wrong.  He is my soulmate, my best friend, and the love of my life.  Mike, I am thankful everyday that you are mine.  I love you so much.

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