Monday, December 1, 2008

Showcase Minnesota on NBC

Watch the interview which aired today, December 1, on our local NBC affiliate, KARE 11:

Tis' always the season for talking about parenting and partnering.

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Shout Out to Steve Deger

If you've read any of our blogs you "know" Steve. He's our endearing, smart and oh-so-adorable editor at Fairview Press. And thanks to Steve - who is also a marketing/PR guru of the literature world - What Happy Parents Do has received all sorts of media attention lately. For that, and for Steve, we give much thanks on this eve of the national holiday for such gratitude.

Deger-Dude, you rock!

And to all of my friends and family out there, please know I'm incredibly thankful for you too. And even though I might have been ignoring you lately, it's only because I've been taking calls from all of the reporters and radio DJ's that call at all hours of the day and night. For that you can blame Steve. Last name Deger. Of Fairview Press. Of Minneapolis, MN. He likes oatmeal and raisin cookies more than wine or flowers. Be sure they are from Lunds or homemade.

Want to buy a copy of What Happy Parents Do? We're thrilled that WHPD is available at your favorite gift or bookstore, including all Patina, Bibelot, and Hot Mama locations in the Twin Cities. It's at most Barnes and Noble locations too. Or, for an autographed copy, simply call my office: 651-962-5829. I'm happy to send you one. Or many. Signed to whomever you'd like. Great holiday gift idea, no?

Here's the media list as of today, 11/26/2008:

Anna and/or I have done interviews with and are thrilled What Happy Parents Do has been featured, or will soon be featured, in the following media outlets:

National Magazines & Industry News
Cosmopolitan, January, 2009
Library Bookwatch, October, 2008

Regional Magazines
Florida Today
Minnesota Parent

Local Television
KARE 11 Showcase Minnesota, 12/01/08

National Radio & TV
"Mornings with Lorri & Friends", FamilyNet Radio and TV, 10/20/2008
"Something You Should Know", Strand Media Group, 10/08/2008

Local Radio
Northridge, CA, KCSN-FM, ”Full Circle”, 09/25/2008
St. Cloud, MN, WJON-AM , ”Jay Caldwell Show”, 09/26/2008
Minneapolis, MN, WCCO-AM, ”Mondale and Jones”, 09/29/2008
Washington, DC, WMET-AM, ”Lunchtime Talk”, 09/29/2008
Oxford, NC, WCBQ-AM/WHNC-AM, "Alvin Augustus Jones Show", 10/01/2008
Mankato, MN, KMSU-FM, "Minnesota Morning", 10/01/2008
Morehead City, NC, WTKF-FM/WJNC-AM, "Coastal Daybreak", 10/03/2008
Osage Beach, MO, KRMS-AM/KOZQ-AM. "The 411", 10/08/2008
Philadelphia, PA, WWDB-AM, "Wellness, Wholeness and Wisdom", 10/10/2008
St. Louis, MO, KLPW-AM, ”Diane Jones Show”, 10/13/2008
Shreveport, LA, KEEL-AM, ”Strategies for Living”, 10/16/2008
Brockton, MA, WXBR-AM, ”Ron Van Dam Show”, 10/20/2008
Moberly, MO, KIRK-FM, ”Morning Show with Stephanie”, 10/20/2008
Colorado Springs, CO, KCMN-AM, ”Tron Talk”, 10/29/2008
Denver, CO, KOA-AM, "Your Kids", 11/06/2008
Seattle, WA, KKNW-AM, ”Chat with Women”, 11/07/2008
Rolla, MO, KMST-FM ”Life Skills”, 11/10/2008
Bridgeport, CT, WICC-AM, "Coffee Break Chat", 11/12/2008
Newport, RI, WPRO-AM "Talkzone", 12/15/08
Amherst, VA, WAMV-AM "Bob Langstaff Show" 11/17/08
Ocala, FL , WOCA-AM / AM "Ocala Live With Larry Whitler" 11/24/08
Boston, MA, WNTN-AM / 1550 Today. 12/08/08
Newport, RI, WPRO-AM "TalkZone" 12/15/08

Local Newspapers
Worcester Telegram and Gazette (MA), 10/21/2008
St. Paul Pioneer Press (MN) Date TDB
Sioux Falls Argus Leader (SD) 11/09/2008
Poughkeepsie Journal (NY) 11/09/08
Alexandria: The Town Talk (LA) 11/09/08
Palm Springs Desert Sun (CA) 11/09/08
Palm Springs Desert Sun (CA) 11/09/08
Wilmington News Journal (DE) 11/10/08
Lansing State Journal (MI) 11/11/08
Clarksville Leaf-Chronicle (TN) 11/11/08
Newark Advocate (NJ) 11/12/08
Springfield Sunday News-Leader (MO) 11/16/08
Lafayette Journal and Courier (IN) 11/09/08
Montgomery Advertiser (AL) 11/09/08
Burlington Free Press (VT) 11/09/08
Carroll County Times (MD) 11/09/08
St. Cloud Times (MN) 11/09/08
Jackson Clarion-Ledger (MO) 11/10/08
Rochester Democrat and Chronicle (NY) 11/13/08
Indianapolis Star (IN) 11/10/08
Palm Springs Desert Sun (CA) 11/09/08
Lafayette Daily Advertiser (LA) 11/24/08

Internet Media

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Giving Thanks for Sistas

In this week of giving thanks, I've been thinking an awful lot about the blessings of sistas/sisters/sistahs (those fiercely fabulous female friends so many of us count on like food and water). As Anna and I have been collecting stories for our 3rd book in the "Happy ..." series, we are indeed focusing on sistas.

This past week we've received some downright moving tales. I can't get one out of my mind so maybe if I share it here I will be released from its grip. Probably not. But here it goes:

Remembering Cathe

A little more than five years ago, a dear friend from college, Catherine, died after an on-again, off-again battle (she called it "inconvenient") with breast cancer for years. She was 49. Her little boy was 11. It broke our hearts.

Cathe had a way of collecting friends like some people collect coins. She polished all of us and scooped us together in a pile. Lo and behold, we became friends, good friends who gather several times a year to flirt with Italian waiters, eat too much and drink a bunch of wine. Sometimes we top it off with a forbidden cigarette, just because Cathe liked being a bit of a rebel.

After she died we had a tree planted in her honor on the campus of her alma mater, the College of St. Catherine. Each spring it boasts pink blooms, and a bench now graces the site, too. On July 31, the anniversary of her death, I sat there again, drinking in a kind of silence almost antithetical to Cathe's nature: She was Irish and never shut up, except sometimes in church, and even then she usually found something to whisper and giggle about.

As I sat there thinking about Cathe, I hoped there is, indeed, the afterlife to which we Christians cling. I have some good gossip I need to tell her and I need to feel again the special kind of exhaustion that endless laughter brings. I need her to tell me a story. I miss her "cackle."

Suddenly, my reverie was interrupted. Someone walking to his car after a campus summer music conference had burst into a perfect-pitch rendition of "Amazing Grace." Thanks, Cathe.

If anyone wants to read more from the author of this moving short story, check out Pat's blog linked in the right column: Madwoman of the Preserve Path. Thanks, Pat, for sharing your sista story of Cathe with us.

If you want your sista/sister story included in our forthcoming book, send them in now! We're in the final stages of writing but can't pass up a funny, serious or seriously funny story. Send them directly to: All identifying information will be changed to protect your identity. Come on. Do tell.

Sunday, November 16, 2008

A Mess

Those two little words release cortisol (that ugly stress hormone) into my (Carol's) bloodstream. Lord knows I have plenty of that already. For anyone who knows me well, this won't come as much of a surprise: I like things tidy and neat. My shoes are kept in boxes with photos of each shoe on the outside. Ironing is one of my favorite chores (sheer nirvana when the wrinkles disappear). A broom is a the most fabulous invention, no?

Yet, I've been reflecting on the value of "messiness" in many corners of my life lately. And what I've been realizing is that while I adore order and ultimate structure in so many aspects of my life, I embrace and actually encourage messiness in so many others. I even work hard to create it because (gulp) it has value. It's true.

Example: One of my pet teaching strategies (we call them "pedagogies") is service-learning, also known as community-based learning. In service-learning you meet a course objective (like helping students become better intercultural communicators) by having them help meet a community need (like partnering with local immigrant students who desire English language practice). I've chosen to use community-based learning in almost all of my classes for over 13 years. And strangely enough, the best service-learning is always messy. Argh! I don't get to control the learning in the traditional way. I don't get to structure it like I do most days in class. I have to embrace and expect messiness. And, oddly enough, I LOVE it! True, I probably love it most when the messiness morphs - which it always does - into learning. But still, a mess is necessary and good to get us to that great place of valuable growth.

And then there are relationships. I'm often heard lecturing about theories and principles of healthy relationships. Many of those "theories" are simply the reality that relationships are messy. They're not linear, predictable, neat, orderly systems. Rather, our relationships - especially the healthy ones - are messy. Unpredictable. Up and down. And seriously, who would really want it any other way? Out of the mess emerges something more "real." Real interesting. At times really challenging. But that's what relationships are: Growing, changing, adapting, transformative systems. Beautiful idea, isn't it? Just think how boring our lives might be if everything were neat and tidy. Ho hum.

I'm think I'm writing this blog to encourage all of us (okay, saying something out loud is the best form of self-persuasion!) to believe a mess might be a great thing. Where are some of the messes in your life and relationships? Might they be leading to additional clarity? More creativity? Elevated motivation? Greater growth?

Try embracing and accepting the messiness in at least one aspect of your life and see what happens. What is the result when when you work with the mess instead of against it?

Do tell!

For now, I'm feeling an urge to go iron a shirt or two.

Saturday, November 15, 2008

The Message Transforms

That's what we've been hearing lately. The message of our books has been transforming the way people view their relationships. Yahoo! For instance, a few weeks ago Carol and I gave a speech in honor of domestic violence awareness month. The organizers of AnnaMarie's Women's Shelter in St. Cloud, MN, thought it'd be helpful to promote healthy relationships rather than speaking about the dark side of violence with which most of us are, fortunately, rather familiar. While we focused primarily on romantic relationships in our talk, many audience members have been telling us how our book's message is altering the way they view all kinds of relationships. We've had audience members say things like: "I have applied your message to my relationships with colleagues!" and "I was thinking about how that speech relates to the relationship I have with my grandma." Another gracious audience member ( husband) even quotes our talk back to me in conversations about work, family, and friends (now that's gratifying!). Then, today I received this message in my inbox from a long-lost high school friend:

Anna- How are you?!?!?!...its been soo long!!! So I was at [a friend]'s house the other day and she was showing me your book, What Happy Couples Do..... I loved it and bought a couple copies for family and friends! I also bought a copy of your new book as well! [She] was telling me that you had a book signing a few months ago here in town and I was just curious if you plan on having another one here anytime soon? I would love to come and see you! Anyway, I hope all is well with you!

Indeed these quotes and messages make our day. Our week. Ok, our month! And they also remind us that we need to do more speaking events so we can talk to you. And to get the word out about healthy relationships. Because if you're going to have them, you might as well know how, eh?

If your school, church, parenting group or community would like us to speak on healthy relationships, communication, happy marriage, family rituals and/or related 'happy' topics, we'd love to do so. No charge! Our mission is simply to get the word out there. We're educators at heart. Feel free to pass along our contact info to any groups who might enjoy an engaging lecture/discussion. They can contact us at: and/or

Thursday, November 6, 2008

A Kentucky Update

I (Anna) have been in Kentucky for almost three months now and I love it more each day, minus missing my loved one(s) back home and my newfound caffeine addiction (I never thought I'd succumb, but hey, desperate times...). My classmates continue to amaze me with their kindness and intelligence and my professors inspire and challenge me. School is even more refreshing than a bottle of Ale-8-1, a classic Kentucky ginger ale that I've fallen in love with. In an effort to do all things "Kentucky," I'm also trying to enjoy the occasional bourbon on the rocks. So far I like the idea of bourbon more than the taste. When my dear friend, Ryan, came to visit, we spent a perfect fall afternoon learning about how bourbon comes to be at the Woodford Reserve distillery. Thanks, Ry, for coming to visit me! Check out these pics of our fun day.

Monday, October 27, 2008

A Witch

Isn't that what all 8 year olds want to be for Halloween? Funny, but my daughter crafted her costume for the upcoming Halloween holiday weeks ago. And as I was recently digging through old family photos, much to my delight I was reminded of the costume my mom crafted for me when I was 8 (I'm the one on the far right, next to my "scary" sister and "hunchy" brother). My students might say I haven't quite outgrown that persona. I remind them: everyone has their role.

What persona are you taking on this week? If not one that involves a costume, why not take on a new persona at home or in your most loving relationship? For instance, if you're often unkind, try being sugary sweet and gentle. If you're grumpy, try being extra pleasant. If you frequently act indifferently to the ones you love, try expressing outward interest in their daily work. If someone asks why you're acting strangely, simply use the upcoming Halloween holiday as an excuse. Then feel free to simply keep up with the new role long after Oct 31 comes and goes. Your marriage and family will be long-after happy you did.


Monday, October 20, 2008

Toot Toot

... the sound of us tooting our own little horns!


Because What Happy Couples Do was selected as a finalist in the National Best Books Awards 2008!

Check it out! We were honored in the Self-Help: Relationships category:

And here's the official press release, for all of you news-hounds:

Toot toot!

Monday, October 13, 2008

He took a serious look

Below I've cut and paste, word for word, an e-mail from a reader. His words and actions are both serious and inspiring. Read on.

Monhegan Island, Maine


I found your book, believe it or not, in a small store on Monhegan Island, a remote and beautiful island about 12 miles off the coast of Maine where my wife Nancy and I were celebrating our 20th anniversary. It was a trip I didnt think would actually happen. You see, back in May, Nancy told me that she wanted to end our marriage. It was a shock to me (although it shouldnt have been), and I felt that my life had come to an end. I have loved Nancy since the second I saw her in college about 25 yrs ago. But after 20 yrs of marriage, and three challenging children, including one with Autism and one with Depression, and me a recovering alcoholic with anger issues, Nancy had decided she had enough and gave up hope that I could change.

My life had never been shaken like that, and it caused me to re examine how I had treated Nancy. It became obvious to me that although I have always been a faithful and loyal husband, I had also failed on a daily basis to commnicate to her clearly by both words and actions, that I appreciated her for the amazing and loving wife and mother that she is. She came to feel unloved, unappreciated and her self esteem was severely damaged. Despite the love and admiration I have always had for her, I almost NEVER communicated it to her, and I missed so many chances to pitch in and help her out and be a true "life partner" to her, like she needed so badly.

As our 20th anniversary approached this year, and our future very much in doubt, while praying for guidance, I was given a wonderful inspiration to tell nancy just how much I appreciated her in so many ways. I came up with alist of 20 things I loved and appreciated about Nancy and that I was grateful for. Starting 20 days before our 20th aniversary date, at 4:00 a.m., after my morning prayers, I wrote a two page note detailing one thing that I appreciated about her,and left it for her in the bathroom along with a single red rose on top of the note. Some examples of the things on my list were serious things like: her care of our children when they were in the womb (we had several difficult pregrnancies and miscrriages) and her patience wth me as I quit drinking, and funny things such as my gratefulness that she is so sexy and that we have always been able to be goofy together. I did this each and every day for 20 days. It was such a wonderful thing or BOTH of us. She appreciated it so much and looked forward to what I would be writing each day, and I looked forward to my daily trip to he florist, my secret care and storage of the roses, and the early morning note-writing. It made me for the first time, really and truly appreciate her and to take a serious look at how I had neglected to care and appreciate her as she deserves to be. On the 20th day, I got each of 7 different kinds of roses, all of which mean differen things (yellow= joy; pink= gratefulness; white= heavenly; purple= desire, etc) and I wrote a short note on each of those topics to finish it off.

It was an amazing 20 days, and something that God willng, I will have the chance to repeat each and every year for the rest of my life. I do not know where things will end up with us, although I have many reasons for hope, and your wonderful book has given me many other great ideas and I thank you for that!! I just wanted to share my idea and tell other husbands- life is too short to think of the things hat annoy or bug you about your wife and it is too short not to live every day dedicated to her happiness. Celebrate the wonderful gift that she is and do it NOW and do it each and every day, without fail. Live one day at a time, and commit yourself to making your wife know every day by our words (say I love you) and actions (take out the trash, do the dishes, do the laundry), that she is # 1 in your heart

thanks for taking the time to read this

Warm regards,


Whoa ...

... it's been a couple of weeks since our last posting! Whoa ... life can speed up without us taking the time to even notice. Whoa ... slow down, nelly.

Maybe the little article linked below will encourage you pause and reflect - as it did me (Carol) - on the everyday moments in your own marriage, life or family. Yes, the article just happens to offer a blush-worthy review of What Happy Parents Do. But I adored it more so because the author points out the many loving little ways we create connection even in our forgetful, mindless and ever-so-irritating ways. Take five minutes, five breathes and/or five miniature moments to pause and reflect. And then another 5 blinks to post a comment below. We adore hearing from our readers.

Sunday, September 28, 2008

You are invited ...

... to an Art Open House in St. Paul, MN featuring locally and nationally known artists, photographers, authors (yes, that's us), culinary artists and more. Bring your friends. Tell your neighbors. Anyone who collects original art, enjoys great wine and thrives in the company of creative people will be in open-house-(think holiday shopping) -heaven. Come early. Most are one-of-a-kind creations!

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Fully Engaged

Meet "Jillybean" and Dustin. They're engaged. They're in love. You can just see it in their smiles. And in their engagement photo.

No matter your age or stage of couplehood, you can rekindle the sure and pure giddiness of your new love. Be fully engaged in what your partner is saying. Laugh hardily at his jokes. Smile for no reason in her direction. Hire a photographer (or ask your neighbor with the camera) to capture you looking longingly at each other. Seriously. When is the last time the two of you - without your children - have had your photo taken on purpose? Try it. Seriously. You'll be thrilled you did.

(Note to Jillybean and Dustin: Did I tell you that if I - Carol - take your photos, I get to blog about how adorable you two are? Oops. Maybe I forgot to mention that part).

Sunday, September 21, 2008

I love Mango just posted a juicy and funny book review of our second child: What Happy Parents Do.

Here's an excerpt. Link above for the full and "fluffy" version:

"A few publishers have contacted me to review books on theMangoTimes. Most of the time, I respond that the topic or subject of the book is contrary to what we believe, but they always insist on sending me a free book to read and consider (even if I have told them I am going to disagree from cover to cover…but hey…it’s a free book!). The first several books never made it to theMT, but this one I actually found to be enjoyable and was willing to tell you about it."

Saturday, September 20, 2008

Snail Mail

Isn't it the best? Since being in Kentucky I've received care packages and cute cards from many friends and family members. Mike and Jill (my brother and sis-in-law) sent brownies and cookies to me (and to Brent in MN, too). Kelsey (sis-in-law), Betsy, and Emily sent me such sweet cards of encouragement. And just last week I received a box full of treats from my mom and dad. I think I better start returning the favor! Today is Kelsey's 22nd birthday and I never seem to get cards off in time. Happy Birthday, Kels. Love you! Forgive me for being even more of a snail than the mail system itself.

Thursday, September 18, 2008

Our Time in Colorado

Last weekend we got to (finally) meet our new nephew, six week old Joshua John (or Joshy Bear, as we tend to call him), and spend time with nearly 3 year old nephew Jacob (as you can see, he, like my brother, is a big fan of the Packers). Aren't my three favorite men adorable? We had the best time hanging out with Jeff and Julie, my brother and sister-in-law. I miss the new family of four already! We were able to see some of our favorite friends, too.

Brent, or "Baby Hog," as I began calling him, set a timer for 15 minutes when it was my turn to hold the baby! That way, he figured, Joshy would return to his cradled arms quicker. Not fair, I say! But, nonetheless, very cute. Another highlight was taking Jacob to Wash Park, a very cool and beautiful area--one we'd consider living near, if we ever moved to Denver--where he frolicked in the flower garden and we slid down the slide together. They're both at such fun ages. We can't wait to take another trip out there!

Monday, September 15, 2008

Overheard ...

... by my dear and oh-so-adorable friend Molly while she was shopping at one of our favorite local and oh-so-adorable gift shops (Patina - check it out), was the conversation of a vintage-chic 50-something couple obviously trying to purchase an engagement or wedding gift for a young couple (they said as much). They were milling around the "couple-romantic-wedding" section and settled into a debate between three weddingish-coupeish-romanticish books. Yes, What Happy Couples Do was one of the finalists. [insert tear drop and sigh]. After much discussion and a rather thorough paging through of each book - according to inconspicuous observer friend Molly - they unanimously stated out loud, for all eavesdroppers to hear, that What Happy Couples Do is not only the cutest of the three, but the smartest, has those "adorable real-life stories" and ... mumble, mumble ... Darn it! They walked out of reach so Molly couldn't hear all of the other wonderful things they were surely saying about our book. Last she saw was them purchasing a copy and having it gift wrapped. [insert more tears of joy].

Amen for friends who are willing to eavesdrop at Patina. And for readers who are willing to let us to be a bit proud of our loving little book in the hands of loving little couples.

Happy Monday, all.

Monday, September 8, 2008

It feels a bit like bragging ...

... but worth the risk.

Tonight (close your eyes and take in the aromas of a cherished Indian restaurant as you read) we enjoyed Curried Indian Potato Wraps. yuuuuuum. Find the recipe in the Moosewood Restaurant Classics. Seriously. Indian heaven on our plates. Get a copy and wrap yourself one right now. You'll be saying "Yum ... I'm so lucky" (and hopefully, as you fill your tummy with this warm goodness, feeling that way about reading this blog, too!)

If you're new to our blogging, go back a few entries for context.

Saturday, September 6, 2008

The Juicy Details

One of my best friends of life - we grew up just steps from one another and have maintained connection over miles and years - just celebrated her 15th wedding anniversary this week. In an e-mail this morning she shared the juicy and inspiring details of what she and her hubby did to honor what has not always an easy road, to say the least. But, check it out: They know how to reconnect, celebrate, and embrace their long history (which involves a shared love of all things vino, european ... and many kinds of european vinos!)

Received Sept 6, 2008 [my commentary and editorials in brackets]

Hey Ugly! [that's our nickname for one another]
Yesterday we celebrated 15 years of marriage. All of them wonderful. ahem. My husband, who must have been in a competition for husband of the year award, planned a perfect short getaway. If I ever had a doubt, I now know he understands the simple things I love. We arrived at the Abbey resort near Lake Geneva late yesterday afternoon. I found 5 packages on the bed, all containing nice sweaters, shirts, skirts that are exactly my style and size. (as you know I rarely buy any clothes for myself). (I might have to return only 2). He then opened a bottle of wine (Malbec from Argentina) and we sat on the deck overlooking the lake. Then we went to dinner at a very cool European feeling restaurant. More wine. Back to the hotel. More wine. [I had to delete the next sentence to honor blogspot's rules and regs] (Did I just say that outloud?) This morning we each had a one hour full body massage (separate rooms) after soaking in the hot tub together. Then we went out for lunch. Then on to a wine seminar featuring the wines from Argentina! We meandered home via a pottery shop. Then we stopped to buy some of the good wine we were just introduced to. I was very impressed and felt very spoiled! And I love it!
Are you back at work? Or do you get another year off to research something?!
See ya,
Uglier (but more relaxed after that massage)

- end e-mail -

Okay, husbands, wives, and partners of life: DO something to celebrate your love. Remember where you started. Remind yourself what the OTHER person loves. Take a step back. Take a time out of your daily grind. Your marriage is up to you (have you heard that before)? It's worth repeating. And advice worth heeding.

Okay. So, I think I'll go get 2 gallons of gas for our little fishing boat and take my husband for a surprise trip to the mississippi river today. How, though, can I sneak out and visit his favorite bait shop? I'll figure something out. Because nothing gets him more excited that a fresh container of juicy nightcrawlers and seeing me - ewwww - stick one on a big pokey hook.

Wish me (and, more importantly, those innocent little crawlers) luck, eh?

Tuesday, September 2, 2008

"Yum ... we're so lucky."

... was recited with big smiles and warm hearts & tummies tonight at dinner (read yesterday's post if you're uttering "huh?")

Yes, I was greeted home by the delightful aroma of Sweet Corn Chowder (#37) simmering and butternut squash quesadillas (#46) toasting (thanks to Brianna, our once-in-a-lifetime-oh-so-amazing-after-school-sitter! and my oh-so-talented-positive-helpful-delightful kids).

I'm so lucky.

Sunday, August 31, 2008

Will it stick?

It's Sunday. The last weekend day of summer. Yes, we have labor day tomorrow - another "day off." But if you have kids you know - first hand - that labor day is very much full of labor. Getting kids' school clothes folded or hung. Tossing the chewed up flip flops and grass stained shorts in the Goodwill bag. Making sure you have lunch bags. Water bottles (no plastic, please!). White socks. Underwear that actually fits your kids. And, of course, new shoes. Who doesn't love new shoes on the first day of school?! We all do, but it means moms and dads schlepping kids in and out of many stores finding ones that don't feel "weird" "tight" "short" "just not right" "odd" "ummm" "yuck" "flat" "spongy" or "ugly" (a sampling of descriptors I recently overheard by children who will remain unnamed).

My last-sunday-of-summer was NOT spent in a kid's shoe department, thank goodness. It was dedicated to what I deem an even more "important" task as we prepare for me (Carol) and my darling dumplings (7th and 3rd grade this year!) to head back to school.

My task emerged from a vow I made to never - ever! - in the coming year to utter the dreadful question: "what the heck should we have for dinner?" while simultaneously ending the spending of my entire 401k on Davanni's Pizza (the Bruess usual: solo traditional crust cheese for 3rd grader, 3-cheese calzone for 7th grader, and turkey hoagie for hubby and me).

It started in early July with a sorting of my favorite recipes, most of them torn pages plucked over the years from Cooking Light, MSLiving, Real Simple, Bon Appetite, the Star Trib, notes jotted from friends' kitchens, mailings from realtor postcards, and miscellaney printings from my fav recipe sites (what did we do before I also flagged all the yummy-sounding recipes in my Moosewood Restaurant Classics, my 500 Soups Compendium, and my tiny little treasured panini resource manual. All recipes are assigned a number. Numbers are assigned to days. Days are collated into weekly grocery shopping lists. On October 28th, 2008 we'll be enjoying baked pasta with spinach, ricotta and prosciutto. On November 4th? Butternut squash soup with ginger and veggie burgers. On January 19th: Big bowl quinoa salad and on Feb 5th:" Chicken curry in a hurry." Sound delicious? I agree. But - why am I surprised? - my kids didn't think so. After a number of "ewww"s and "grossssss" came the question: "how much butternut squash can you expect a kid to eat in a year?"

So, I decided that while developing a new recipe/menu plan, I should also implement a new family dinner ritual. I'm not sure if it will stick, but the beauty of trying intentionally to develop a new ritual is that no harm done if it fails; no sense in not trying if you think it serves a purpose; and no worries if it doesn't make it because you can always change it.

The new rule (ritual) at the Bruess house this year: When a meal is cooking or placed lovingly on the dinner table, everyone has to say (not in unison): "Yum. We're so lucky."

We are, truly. And so why not say it out loud every single night, eh kids?

Friday, August 29, 2008

A Growing Family

Jeff and Julie, my (Anna's) brother and sister-in-law, welcomed a new addition to their family a few weeks ago. Isn't Joshua John adorable? We get to go see him in a couple of weeks and I can't wait! His older brother, Jacob, proudly promised to introduce us to Joshua as soon as we land in Denver. Jeff and Julie - like the loving couples we write about in "What Happy Parents Do" - are deeply committed to modeling a healthy relationship for their children. I can't wait to see them in action with their not one but two sweet children.

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Meet Gwynnie

For those of you who don't know, I'm living with a super cool family in Kentucky. While I've only known them a little over a week, I feel like I've known them my whole life. Eating meals and spending time with them makes life so much more enjoyable when I start to feel lonesome for Brent. Gwynnie (my Kentuckian "sister") and I have already developed our own rituals! Before turning in for the night, we sit on my bed and watch an episode of "Friends" together while eating a few dark chocolate M&M's. It's like a slumber party each night! Here she is finishing a little math homework while I do some work on my computer.

First day of classes tomorrow. Will update soon!

Sunday, August 24, 2008

The new girl on the block ...

... is snowy white, fluffy soft, has the pinkest tongue and the cutest tail.

Her name is Kitty Davis (that's her first name) and she's not only "the cutest dog in the universe" (according to Lori of the Lori and Julia show, FM 107.1, who happens also to be a neighbor), but Kitty D. is Fred's new girlfriend! He is, literally, dating the girl next door. Ah, we're in love.

Fred + Kitty Davis: A heavenly dog-loving match made on Portland Avenue.

Saturday, August 23, 2008

I Miss Anna

It's true. I cried deep inside when she left.

But then I smiled.

Because I, like she, knows this is her path right now. Trust that a Kentucky Ph.D. is what she deserves right now. Love the fact that she is willing to go for it. Smartly. Thoughtfully. Willingly. Always mindfully.

Anna, my friend and partner: Study hard. Text and call often (during orientation, a boring lecture, and/or late on a lonely Kentucky evening .... )

And come home soon, will ya already.

(p.s. I can feel a next book coming on: What Happy Long-Distance Authors Do: The Silly Little Rituals of Super-Sappy Sistahs)

Friday, August 22, 2008

I love Kentucky

I really do. Can you blame me? Just look at that library. Libraries are my weakness. While Carol's favorite smell is cleaning solution, mine is the scent of old, musty books. UK's library, I learned during orientation, is the 2nd largest in the country. I'm dying to find my own little corner of this lovely space.

More perks? My professors are equally as brilliant as they are supportive and professional. My classmates are both fun and smart. It's truly all I could have hoped for. And, while it's tough saying goodnight to my sweetie over the telephone, I know it's only temporary. The timing couldn't have been more perfect, too. You see, Dr. Laura Stafford, one of the top five scholars in our area of communication, has recently been researching long-distance relationships. And, like me, this is her first year at the University of Kentucky (she was recruited away from Ohio State). It was meant to be, wasn't it? If you're ever doing the long distance thing (not that I'd wish it upon you), you should definitely check out her book, "Maintaining Long-Distance and Cross-Residential Relationships."

Whew. It was a long week for Carol and me. Soon the undergrads will be knocking at our doors (or flooding our inboxes, I should say). Summer was good, but so is university life. Let the classes begin!

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Max Turns One

Seriously, are there bigger cheeks (exemption: Carol's) anywhere in St. Paul?

Happy Birthday, Max. Thanks - a billion cheeks - for letting me document your first year.

Natalie and Doug: You should have another, just to make sure a human being can't get any cuter.

Wednesday, August 6, 2008

Kentucky Bound

Well, as some of you know, I (Anna) am off to the University of Kentucky to finish up my Ph.D. It'll be a dream come true to be supported and nurtured by some of the best scholars in our discipline as I further develop my research line on marriage and family rituals. UK is home to some of the top "applied" researchers in the world and I can't wait to be surrounded and invigorated by them.

It'll be quite an abrupt change, though, being away from my loving hubby and all. But, thankfully, he is my number one fan and supports my pursuits and dreams. He loves my goals. And I love him for loving me and my goals equally, even when they take me half way across the country. We'll be crafting some "loving little rituals" as a long-distance couple for the next nine months, I'm sure.

Other big supporters? My best friend from grad school, Jen, and her four month old son, Hayden. I went to visit her in Duluth last month and Hayden was sporting a UK shirt. I'm so thankful for Jen's encouragement! And for Hayden's public display of support, too. I'll be sure to send the whole family some UK gear once I arrive next week. Jen, LL.

Tuesday, August 5, 2008

In Summary ...

... above is a word-art depicting key themes from our blog over the last many months (created for all of you who haven't been keeping up, have a short memory, have a 'give-me-the-gist-kind-of-personality' or, like me, crave things in mini-version). Cool, eh?

I thought so. And you can create your own "wordle" at with whatever words you like! For instance, students of all ages and grades: Think about putting a wordle on the title page of an upcoming essay? Copy and paste your original manuscript into, select a template, and wordle will identify and design, in seconds, your key words into a workle (my term) of art, sure to get the attention of your teacher or prof! (note: If any of my -- Bruess' -- students are reading, I'm impressed already).

A+ for wordle.

Sunday, August 3, 2008

Making It Lovely

Two things: I (Carol) have an obsession with making "it" lovely (my house, my office, my toes, my dog's hair, my marriage ... everything. Except my handwriting. I produce the scratchiest, sloppiest notes. Not sure why).

Anyway, today, as I was enjoy the last hours of the PERFECT summer day (cloudy, warm, wanting-to-rain and ... the most important detail: my dear groom and beautiful children left me home alone for the weekend while they went to the cabin). Alone! All by myself. Ahhh. Alone to grow the Zen in my soul, scrub floors and toilets, and just sit - with nothing more than the Star Tribune and the latest issue of Scientific American Mind (ok, Martha Stewart Living too) on the screen porch. Did I mention I was all by myself? Ahhh, again.

At one point this weekend, while all by myself enjoying the sounds of my peaceful garden fountain, I came across two of the greatest little sights (one was actually a "site"). First was the lovely little sight of three precious gems out my pixy urban garden. They greet you at the front door where you rest your keys. Second was the most lovely little website, called, the blog spot of some woman who created and owns a papergood/gifty company called Pink Loves Brown, Rush to it. I have no idea who she is, but she has an enviable design sense and illustrates the loveliest greeting cards, note pads and other adorable and oh-so-(not really, but really indeed) necessary products for a lovely little life.

So, the real inspiration for this blog was to reflect on how we each might make our marriages a bit more lovely. Have you done anything this week to make life even a little more lovely for you and/or your spouse?

Tell us about it! Seriously. Post a response and share a lovely little gesture you've made for or toward your partner recently.

I'll start: While cleaning today (all by myself) I arranged my husband's contact solution, case and extra little bottles in the shape of a smile. Hope he notices. If not, I'll smile anyway.

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

101 nights of a very happy couple

Surely you've heard of the recent book "101 Nights" in which a couple, who intentionally tried to change their marriage by having sex 101 nights in a row, recounts their fun yet exhausting little experiment (hint: it does indeed change their marriage)!

Their story and strategy remind all of us that marriage is really about intentionality. Effort. Patterns. And how we create, change, or perpetuate them (the patterns, that is). And it's not really at all about sex (although many couples agree more sex can't hurt). What it's about is making a choice to redirect your energy and enthusiasm back at one another. It's so easy NOT to do so, isn't it?

Carol recently was interviewed about the 101-night-couple's attempt to change their marriage by having a bit o' fun with themselves. The best part: During the interview they gave What Happy Couples Do a HUGE plug. Thanks, Frank Vascellaro of WCCO, CBS affiliate in Minneapolis. You rock!

View it here:

Monday, July 21, 2008

Happy Families ... drive a "Peace Van"?

Maybe some of them do. And last week, we did too, thanks to our dear friends and neighbors who insisted we try out their Eurocamper for our annual journey to Northern Minnesota (Ely). How do we look? (keep in mind, if you answer, that this photo was taken after 6 days of not showering, sharing an outhouse with 17 extended family members, and fighting off flies, ticks, deadly mosquitoes, spiders, otters, bears, bats, deer, and 13 of our loving extended family members).

Peace out, everyone, and get yourself a VW van (absent the hub caps) if you can. Or, if you don't actually want to own one, move in next to someone who does! Thanks, "Great Man," for the loaner. You are the peaciest guy I know.

P.S. Arrived home to find boxes of What Happy Parents Do greeting me at my doorstep! Want a signed copy? Just let us know ( and we'll have them inscribed to all of the happy parenting couples in your lives. Peace, all.

Friday, July 18, 2008

While Carol is Away...

Fred and Anna will play! We're puppy-sitting for the Bruess family while they spend a week at the lake with family. Carol, you know I adore having you around. But feel free to take off for extended periods of time more often. We love the little guy!

It's been especially nice having Fred during a big week in the Kudak family. Brent's grandmother passed away early Wednesday morning. Having a four-legged friend, we've found, can certainly put a healing smile on your face. Plus, Kyle (my little bro-in-law) gets back from his canoe trip tomorrow and Fred will be there to greet him! Can't wait to see a bronzed Kyle tell his tales from the trail.

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

4th o' July past ...

The Rifle Twirling Squad. It was all the rage when I (Carol) was in high school (can you guess which one is me? Answer is at the end of this blog post).

It was hard work being a rifle twirler: The practice, the drills, the tryouts, the blisters, the occasional knock on the forehead when attempting a new move, the demanding captain (her name was Polly), the hot sun, and - oh my - the white vinyl boots with red tassels. They were SO comfortable. Like wearing a pair of easy spirits. Ha. But they look cute, don't they? Especially with the white hat.

Yes, this was my life as a 14 year old. And I'm proud to say that the invaluable skills I learned then are still serving me well today. You should see me twirl an umbrella. And a broom. And - when I can get my hands on one - a marshmallow roasting stick. It's frighteningly awe-inspiring.

Who, me? Second from the left. Polly is far left (darn it, Polly. You were always one-up-ing me).

bottom-bottom-top-top-bottom-bottom-top-top (my preferred right-hand drill). I'll show you sometime.

Monday, July 7, 2008

The Stork

... has landed, delivering to the warehouses our precious second "baby":

What Happy Parents Do: The Loving Little Rituals of a Child-Proof Marriage - Ninety-Three Cents and a Little Humpty-Dumpty. Should be in stores and on soon!

And just in time for it's arrival, our first dabble of press, an article at!

Then brace yourself for what's coming next to our blog: Photos and stories from a good-old-small-town independence day celebration (including rifle twirling, plant-based bug spray that actually works, and reflections on summertime stomach flu).

Oh, and video excerpts from a delightful summer wedding during which the priest delivered a little surprise during his homily!

Stay tuned. Lots to share.

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

We're talkin' Turkey (as in the country)

... actually, they speak Turkish in Turkey, the language in which What Happy Couples Do is going to be published (translated) next!

Yes, you're reading this correctly. A publisher in Turkey is publishing our sweet little WHCD for the loving couples of Turkey! Of all the places in the world, who ever would of thought partners in Turkey are into belly button fuzz and bare-chested hugs. Or, maybe they aren't ... but will be soon! We don't know many other details yet, except the publisher's name (which we can't pronounce, of course) and the fact that we can now say: "What Happy Couples Do, now in 2 languages and available all over the globe." Seriously. That is a fun sentence to utter. And because we've had inquires from a Brazilian press as well as a Spanish press, that number might soon grow. We'll keep you (cross-culturally) posted, as always.

Finally, doesn't this news give your soul a little boost, reminding all of us that love and happiness know no boundaries and are - quite certainly - universal quests?

For now, a little author-love needs to go out yet again to Steve who makes all these deals seem like 'aint nothin' but a day's work." Gotta love ya, Deger.

And, at last, a toast to the estimated 60 million people of the world who speak Turkish! May you all read lots of books ...

Friday, June 20, 2008

All the Sweeter

For those of you regular readers of our blog (bless you), it's not news that volume two, What Happy Parents Do: Ninety-Three Cents and A Little Humpty-Dumpty -- The Loving Little Rituals of a Childproof Marriage is about to launch! On its way from the printers, it will be arriving soon in stores everywhere. [A quick little aside: Speaking of "every where," anyone have an intimate connection with the buyers at Target in books and/or wedding gifts? Wouldn't our little pair be just perfect in their new section featuring wedding/baby/engagement showers/gifts/events?!]

Back to the topic at hand:

To make the soon-to-be release of WHPD all the sweeter (is that possible?), our delectable editor Steve Deger has just hired Jane Wesman Public Relations of NYC to handle the press, focusing this time around on big media (Today Show, NPR, USA Today, NYTimes, iVillage, etc!)

Seriously, check out the books Jane Wesman Agency has represented! Holy cow. Authors like Stephen Covey (The 8th Habit) and other impressive dudes (and dudettes) we admire for making a splash with their concepts and writing.

That's the news for today. Hopefully the news tomorrow (and during August-December) will be about What Happy Parents Do!

Thursday, June 19, 2008

Calling All Sisters ... !

This is my amazing sister, Lynn! Can you tell how much my kids love her, their dear "aunt lynny" (!)

We know there are gagillions of other sister-pairs/trios/quads/quints out there who share unique ways of loving and staying bonded like only sisters can!

If you are one of them ....

... call us, e-mail us, and/or post a blog comment, telling us about the really cool, creative, and special activities you and your sister(s) share.

Do you get together regularly?

Do crazy things repeatedly?

Have your own language?

Have an annual get away?

Have an inside joke? (be sure to tell us the punch line!)

Have a favorite treat?

Do something unique for birthdays or celebrating?

Do something only the two of you know about?

Have a unique way to stay connected, time and again, over the years and miles?

We want to hear from all you sister out there who embrace each other (in small or big ways), over and over again, as if you were your own little culture ... of 2, 3 or 4. Calling all sisters, sistas (best girlfriends), and sistahs (however you define those women in your life who are precious like sisters are designed to be)!!! Talk to us!

Another Voyageur

When I (Anna) was 17, I had the thrilling opportunity to spend a month canoeing in the Canadian wilderness--300 miles north of the boundary waters--with eight other young women. Whenever summer rolls around, I crave an early morning paddle, the warmth of the campfire, the smell of the woods, and even putting on those wet boots each morning. I'm so glad I shared this experience with some of my dearest friends, Kelsi and Maureen, who are also like sisters to me (pictured with me above).

Brent and I decided to be guides for the program after our sophomore year of college. We each went on separate journeys with 16 and 17 year olds in tow. That experience was also incredible; sincerely one of my proudest moments. The picture above represents the first time we'd seen each other after coming off trail. We were stinky. My eyebrows hadn't been groomed in a month. And I soon learned Brent hadn't even washed his hair during the whole trip. Eeeeew. But this was definitely one of the most romantic moments of my life!

My sweet, 16 year old brother-in-law, Kyle, will leave on his voyage this Sunday. As I was writing Kyle's care package letter (for him to read in the middle of the trip), I dug out one of my favorite books, Paddle Whispers, by Douglas Wood. While reading, I became so lonesome for the woods it made my heart literally ache. This particular passage really struck me this morning, before I bathe for the day:

"But if I have it figured right, there are only about two hundred and ninety steps to go on this portage trail, and at the end of it is a cold, blue lake that's going to feel about one thousand times better than the best shower I've ever had."

I'm so excited for Kyle to experience this feeling!

Monday, June 16, 2008

A little inspiration

A number of our friends and family tell us they have been gifting What Happy Couples Do to every newly-married and engaged couple they know. One family friend of Anna's has given dozens of our books in the past few months alone. It's wedding season, our favorite time of year!

In response, this particular woman we speak of has received many thank you notes, like the one above applauding our book for it's "source of inspiration" for the recipient-couple as they journey into married life.

The feeling is mutual; each couple who shares their story is inspiring to us!

Thank you readers, fans, supporters, interviewees, website-submitters, ritual-doers ... all of you creative and loving couples that keep us wanting to know more, write more, and learn more about marriage and what makes us - as couples - stay happily connected.

Monday, June 9, 2008

French Toast at the Swannie Cafe

You know those friends who are like family? The friends who love you unconditionally, even though they don't have to. I (Anna) am fortunate to have many of them. Michelle
(pictured with me above) and I are definitely like sisters. Two main things Michelle and I have in common: 1. We love to laugh and 2. We're pretty laid back.

We share many rituals, but one of our favorites is french toast at the Swannie Cafe (which happens to be located in her parents' kitchen!). Michelle's dad, Rick, has been making us his famous french toast since high school. No matter how hard I try to replicate it, it never tastes the same. Whenever I come home I ask Michelle when our "reservations" are. Michelle's mom, Ann, sets the table so it's special each time. And, without fail, we take a picture like the one above. Predictability. Stability. Fun. What more could I ask for in a friendship (or a ritual)?

Monday, June 2, 2008

Short Leash Indeed

My (Anna's) friend Tom emailed me this article today: I can't stop thinking about it, so I thought I'd share it with all of you. Inspired by a recent NY Times article about a Buddhist couple who, in their ten years of marriage, have never been more than 15 feet apart, another happily married couple decided to give it a whirl. The article details their one day experiment of being 15 feet apart or less. My favorite part was when Dave wrote, "We're only 8 feet apart—way within the rules—but I can't see her. It freaks me out. I've been looking at her nonstop for nine hours: Not seeing her for five minutes makes me jittery. What's she doing over there?"

It might not be practical for us to do this every day, but it might be an interesting experiment for couples to try. My husband and I live in a pretty small house, so there are days when we are approximately 15 feet apart the whole day. That said, being at work or school together EVERY day, all day would be a whole different story. Maybe we'll have to try it out! Hunny .... ?

Thursday, May 29, 2008

Gold Ribbons

Once again, Carol and I have been spoiled by our editor, Steve! He surprised us with advance copies of our new book, What Happy Parents Do (coming to stores in August). Nestled in the package was another surprise: A custom-printed gold ribbon with the inscription "What Happy Parents Do 1st Place (tie) Author Award!"

That Steve, he never misses an expression or nuance! You see, when he told us, many months ago, that the Parents edition would sport a gold ribbon page marker, Carol's spontaneous e-mail response was: "Funny, but when you (Steve) said 'gold ribbon', I pictured 'first place'! It must be the old competitive swimmer in me, always hoping for winning more ribbons."

Thanks Steve, for honoring the ribbon-seeking side of our souls. How many times will you make us remark, "We're the luckiest authors on the planet!"?

And the book? It's another work of art, thanks to Fairview Press. Can't wait for it to be on the shelves so you can enjoy it too!

Monday, May 19, 2008


We're thrilled if you're saying "Whew. A new blog post finally!"

We've been saying "whew ... the semester is finally over!" Don't mistake the sentiment; we love what we do. Shaping young minds, educating the future, discussing dialectical theory & relational messages & the circumplex model of family functioning to a captive audience of 18 year olds. It's beautiful. But also beautiful are cycles, including the magical academic calendar and yearly cycle (translation: Summer vacation!) With spring comes last day of classes, final exams, graduation, receptions, parties, happy hours, and many sweet notes from students thanking us for making an impact. And with spring comes a collective "whew" as we - students and professors - transition into a collective summer mood, enjoying up-close time with our gardens, children, friends ... back porches, front stoops, neighbors ... books, beach bags, and laptop computers (working on some new books ... TBA soon!)

Can you see the "whew" on my face in this photo as I pose happily (front row, green clogs, pencil in my hand ready to grade all of those final papers). This was the last day of class in COMM222 (Interpersonal Communication). Loved this group. And my group of family communication students (although we forgot the camera on our last day). In case you're wondering: Yes, that is a big Fat Lorenzo's pizza box in the back row. You have to have a final-day-of-class-pizza-party. I love college.

Monday, May 12, 2008

Pete's Pizza

While Carol was receiving sweet gifts from her children, I spent Mother's Day with my mom at my brother's restaurant, "Pete's Pizza." She requested to spend the day side-by-side, mother and son, at the restaurant he's owned for nearly a year. My dad made her an apron that said, "Pete's Mom" and she made two batches of her famous lasagna for the lucky customers (and workers!). It was so fun for us to see my brother in business mode. He's hosted two Brownie Troops teaching them how to make pizza and he proudly displays their thank you notes on the wall. If you call Pete's Pizza, you'll be greeted by the friendliest voice, followed by efficient service and delicious pizza. I may be a proud sister, but I never lie about my pizza. Check them out!

Pete's Pizza
4902 Highway 12
Maple Plain, MN 55359
(763) 479-2221

Mother's Day is "Hear"

That was the title of the book my 8-year-old authored for and about me, presented lovingly next to a bowl of oatmeal and a chocolate chip scone in bed yesterday morning. Also on the tray were 3 homemade gift certificates (from the whole gang): 1) a certificate to spend an entire day with said 8 year old (doing whatever she wants); 2) a certificate to go to a spa (I like the sounds of that); and 3) while at the spa, my husband and son will hire a professional "mouse extractor" (the child-friendly way to say mouse-killer) to "extract" the little guys who have made our home theirs this winter ... and now spring ... and forever more if we don't get a professional in here soon.

Back to the book. Here it is in total (no edits):

Title: Mother's Day is Hear!

Mother's day is hear. The big parade is hear! And my mom is the leader and the baton twirler.

Finally it's time to go to church, the special mothers day saramony. All the moms are dressed so nice. My mom is the nicest.

Mothers day is over and I wish it was still going on. But my mom is a vary happy mom just like she always is.

The End.

[Translation: My mom used to be in the rifle twirling squad and so naturally she could lead a parade while twirling a baton. And my mom spends a lot of her lame salary on clothes. And my mom is always smiling, even when she's crabby.]

Hope you found a way to honor your unique and lovely mother, whatever her special talents (or disposition)!

Monday, May 5, 2008

You know that table ...

... the first one you see when you walk into Barnes and Noble? It says, in strong yet inviting letters: "New Arrivals." The table you always glance at first; where you check out what's hot; where you discern what thousands of other people must be reading (because if B&N puts it on THAT table it MUST be a hot new book, no?)

Of course it must be. Which is exactly where our volume II in the Happy series will be in August! What Happy Parents Do was just selected to take its place beside the other hot new books below the "New Arrivals" table sign at B&N stores all over the country!

And can you even believe that we forgot to tell you that our dear second child (What Happy Parents Do) is currently in Hong Kong, with all sorts of adorable little chinese characters in the margins, getting printed, bound, and its beautiful self all ready to make its debut back here in the U.S. in August. Ah, giving birth to a book. It's such a glorious process.

Stay tuned for news of the 3rd child in the Happy family of books .... ?

Wednesday, April 30, 2008

My Kitchen Aid Mixer

I (Anna) love to cook and bake. After many months of saving my "allowance," I have purchased a Kitchen Aid Stand Mixer! Oh my gosh. How did I ever live without it?

My husband is studying for the most important test of his life, the first-step medical school boards (no pressure, Hunny!). Last night I wanted to do a little something for him so I made him a treat. If you're a chocolate lover, you've GOT to try this recipe (link below). I swear, you won't regret it. They're the easiest, most delectable chocoloate molten cakes you'll ever make at home. I didn't need to use my new mixer (a whisk would have done the trick), but I'm using every excuse to marvel at its efficiency!

Also, for those of you who don't know, Carol made Gracie's communion dress in the picture below. What a talent!

Monday, April 28, 2008

First Communion ...

... is one of the long-standing rituals in our family and faith, one that we celebrated yesterday in St. Paul. Quote of the day from one of the 2nd graders in Gracie's class of 62 first communicants: "I think I had just a little too much wine!"

Sister, I know what you mean.

We've Been Podcasted

Yes, it's true: Another milestone. Another first. Another great resource for us and (hopefully) millions of others! (NOTE: A quick link to the Wedding Podcast Network can be found in the "our favorite sites" list at the right/top of this blog page).

Check out Wedding Podcast Network, the #1 wedding talk show on the Internet. Their latest lovecast features us (yes, Carol and Anna) talking about what we all can learn by practicing loving little rituals, learning positive communication patterns, and taking cues from "what happy couples do" to keep their love alive and energized.

To listen, click here.

After listening, tune into the Wedding Podcast Network's hundreds of other podcasts about love, marriage, relationships, and weddings. As we revealed in an earlier blog, Holli and Robert, the founders/creators of Wedding Podcast Network are so incredibly cool. And incredibly amazing at what they do. Share their priceless resource with all of your friends! Once you start listening you no doubt -- like us -- will find it hard to stop. And you'll be so much smarter and inspired for it.

Thursday, April 24, 2008

Light Bulbs

I (Anna) had the most rewarding teaching experience this semester. I taught family communication for the first time at Metropolitan State University. The students were friendly, fun, and eager to learn. And it's over already. I never thought I'd say this, but I think the semester was too short! The last class session was such a joyful celebration, though. We had a pot-luck while they reported what they learned from their service-learning experience. Watching students' light bulbs go on is the greatest part of this gig. I'm so lucky Carol turned on mine some four years ago when she taught me family communication!

Sunday, April 20, 2008


While Anna's husband is a lover of technology, I (Carol) am a lover of my Canon Digital Rebel XT 10 megapixel digital camera with the combo 28-300 zoom. My favorite subject? Not lice or casts or dog barf. Just kids. I know, not very original. But kids are kind of like lice; they capture your attention and are oh so fleeting. And although I adore my own children, I love capturing the moments of others' kids (with permission, of course).

Here's Max who I've been documenting since age 3 months. His 9 month birthday is today! Can you even stand those cheeks?

Happy 270 days old today, Max.

The New/Old Keyboard

My (Anna's) husband is a geek, a coveted title he enjoys having earned, like a badge of honor.

Don't get me wrong, I like technology as much as the next person (can you say iPhone), but I'm nowhere near geek status. So, you should have seen the look on my face when I walked into our office and noticed an old, ugly, bisque-colored keyboard in front of his beautiful, white iMac. I asked, "What is this?" He responded with excitement, "It's a superior keyboard! It's the Apple Extended Keyboard II and it has mechanical key switches." (Translation: The new/old keyboard is not only ugly, it's also loud).

And get this, he bought a $20 adaptor to make the ugly thing work! Yes, my sweet, smart, cute, funny, geeky husband actually spent money on a new/old keyboard when he had a gleeming white one that matched his iMac. A year ago, a purchase like this could have caused a bit of a spat between us love birds. You see, Brent is in medical school and I'm an adjunct professor. That $20 could have been a night at the movies, a near full gas tank, a happy hour with friends, the list goes on...

It was just this type of thing that made us find a new solution for money about a year ago. Now, we have what we call "allowance." We each get a set amount of money per week to spend on whatever we please. No questions asked. No bickering. No sqaubbles over money for us anymore! Sometimes we separately save our allowance for something bigger that we've been dreaming of. Sometimes we pool our allowance and get something we can enjoy together that might otherwise be out of our budget.

When I first saw the new/old keyboard I thought, "what a waste!" And then I smiled and remembered how much I love his geekiness. And, even more, our allowance.

Thursday, April 17, 2008

Head Lice + Dog Flu + Broken Leg = ?

According to Social Exchange Theory, we often calculate the "worth" of our relationships by calculating - usually subconsciously - the costs and rewards of said relationships.

In the past 2 weeks, I (Carol) have been calculating the the literal, social, and psychological costs and (I keep telling myself) "rewards" of being a dog lover with a pup who is puking and pooping dark liquid all over my wool rugs, a mom whose beautiful daughter acquired a case of head lice, and a loyal wife whose husband who comes in from the back yard and announces: "I've got a little problem" (translation: "I just broke my leg"):

1. Licemister Comb: $2.89
2. Gallon Extra Virgin Olive Oil: $17.99 (the "natural" way to kill a louse)
3. Shower caps (to contain the dripping olive oil): $1.09
4. 3 rolls of paper towels: $3.33
5. PetSmart Rug deodorizer/cleaner: $8.99
6. Trip to Vet: $148.00
7. Rx for the dog: $39
8. Gallon of Bleach: $1.49
9. Trip to Urgent Care (including X-rays of broken fibula): $769.00
10. Set of 6' 4" chrome crutches: $89.00
11. Rx for husband (20 ct. Vicadin): $6.04
12. Loving your family so much that you don't even think twice about the above "costs" = Priceless.

Thanks for listening. I'd write more, but I'm off to go do a little more "nit picking," "rug doctoring," and "nursing" of my patients.

Saturday, April 12, 2008

"I'm Not Too Busy"

The above is actually the title of an adorable little book you must go out and buy right now (by Jodi Hills, Tristan Publishing, Minneapolis). In fact, buy many and pass them around, especially if you find that you've never actually uttered such a phrase.

The author reminds us that we're too often too busy ...

"To pay attention

to notice people,

to care,

to have relationships,

to see the present,

to enjoy the given time

as a gift that is given..."

This book is one of our new little treasures, given to us by one of its creators (Thank you, Brett)! We both have already slowed down and noticed what's around.

Try it. Try saying, believing AND living: "I'm Not Too Busy."

More Disgusting Than Belly Button Fuzz

... is the story of two sisters, just told to us via our website's "share your stories" feature.

Really. This IS totally true:

"My sister really likes to tweeze out body hair, especially on legs. So she was always tweezing her arm hair and leg hair out. And not only did she take care of her hair, but also my hair. Almost every time I was watching TV in the living room with my sister, she started to tweeze my leg hair to just like monkeys grooming each other. That was our everyday ritual. I miss her and need her. My leg hair has grown now!"

Remember: Relationships are really just mini, private cultures, not meant for outsiders to fully understand or comprehend (thank goodness).

Monday, April 7, 2008

me and them

Rituals, as you know, come in all shapes and sizes. Exist between all members of friendship groups and family groups. And are sustained with nearly anyone and everyone to whom we'd like to pay homage.

Here's a great story of how one mom pays homage to her children and their unique mother-child bond, in an on-going storytelling ritual that not only commemorates each child's birthday, but, in so many ways, the process of becoming.

A mom (age 46, mother of a 13 year old boy and 10 year old girl) wrote:

"Each year on the night before my children's birthday, I tell them the story of the day they were born. They have come to look forward to this ritual! As I tuck them into bed, I give them the play-by-play of everything I did the day they were born. I tell them about what I did, how it felt going into labor, getting ready to go to the hospital, what their dad was doing, arriving at the hospital, the actual delivery, who came to visit, how we picked their name, and finally the day we brought them home. They both love to hear all the details. It is a special time between me and them. I love telling the story and reliving the excitement of bringing a new life into this world!"

Isn't this purely wonderful? Positively adorable? Absolutely worth stealing and doing with your own kids? Yes. Yes. Yes!

Sunday, March 30, 2008

Giddy and Quippy

Well, I (Carol) love celebrating others' birthdays. Especially my kids. And although I've implemented a rather-new "no-birthday-party" rule at our house (no "over the top" birthday parties for us anymore), we have been sustaining (with great effort, you're about to learn) the "birthday week" ritual at our house.

Birthday week consists of the birthday girl/boy/man/woman receiving a solid 7 days of adoring treatment. Surprises. Dinners. Treats. Compliments. Bed making. Friends over. Notes. Signs. Singing telegrams. Funny voice mails. Pet-visits to school. All that and more. Problem is, each year I try to out-do myself, coming up with the most creative, cost-effective, and environmentally-friendly, yet still inspiring and delightful surprise(s) for the birthday-week receiver.

Window paint! I thought I had stumbled upon this year's simple-little surprise. But not on the windows at home; we already had constructed and hung the yearly hand-made sign facing streetward for all our loving neighbors to see. I planned on painting the windows of the car. Even better! A sign on wheels.

All it took was a quick stop at Hobby Lobby, $6.78, and I was on my way. I felt giddy applying the quippy sayings to the front and sides of our station wagon, driving in the much-welcome sunshine of our first spring-like day in Minnesota to my daughter's school. I then sat eagerly as my birthday girl came skipping down the sidewalk with her best friend Celie.

They both stared at the car. Celie smiled wide and giggled. Gracie, however, walked around the car slowly. Glancing without expression at my handwritten flowers, puffy number 8's, and exclamations of how great it is to be 8! I was announcing to the entire city that Gracie is having a birthday. That 8 is SO GREAT! Isn't it?

But she didn't appear to think my surprise (something I had thought for sure would become a new ritual in our family) was all that great. Hmmmm. I was not phased. She was so delighted, I assured myself, that she wasn't sure how to express herself. That must be it.

Fast forward to our bedtime snuggle; mom and birthday girl cozied up for our nighttime chat: "Did you like the car-painting today? Were you surprised?!" "I did," my little Gracie responded with the similar veiled enthusiasm I sensed earlier. "Except it was kind of embarrassing."

Yikes! My 8 year old - literally over night - transformed from "EVERYONE - LOOK AT ME!" to "DON'T LOOK NOW - MY MOM IS EMBARRASSING ME!" She finally uttered those famous words. Ones that I expected to hear some day, but not for about 4 more years. Embarrassed! I've succeed at embarrassing my little darling.

Darn it. And I hadn't even tried.

Oh well. At least I still have some leftover window paints, so when my soon-to-be-12-year-old (boy!) has birthday week, I can "try" not to "embarrass" him too painfully (by sprawling some of the other quippy birthday sayings that wouldn't fit onto my car's windows this week). Stay tuned; his big week is at the end of May.

Anna was at B&N this afternoon ...

and took this photo.

Yes, it's our little baby, snuggling up to a book we actually looked to for inspiration when in the process of birthing our own (the orange one on the left: Live the Life You Love).

Why NOT live the life you love? As I am oft heard saying to my students: "You're going to be somewhere in 10 years; why not be where you want to be?" Over 10 years ago I began dreaming of a book just like What Happy Couples Do. Really. And then I found Anna. And then Anna and I found Steve Deger. It's been such a joyful process.

Speaking of process: More soon on the birth process of our second baby (What Happy Parents Do). She's off to the printers in 2 days ...!

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Oh, and while you're at it ...

.... read the comments posted by two VERY smart women under NOTE THE GOOD (a post about 4 before this one).

Simply inspiring.

Thanks for sharing, blog-readers!

Happy Couples Make Change

Think about it:

Being a long-term, happy couple - whatever your age, stage, or relationship status - requires that you adjust. Adapt. Acquire a sensibility for flexibility. And when things aren't going well, you MAKE sure they change. For the better.

Many happy couples also use their strength as a twosome to make change in the world around them. They combine their efforts and goodwill to mentor others. Serve others. Be with others when they most need a boost.

In the next few days, we'll share a few stories of couples who have - through their loving little rituals - found ways to make change in and around their relationships.

In the meantime, identify what you can DO to make even a tiny change in your own marriage. Such as: Say thank you. Fold the laundry WOBA (without being asked). Call unexpectedly. Point out how much you love his toes.

Positive change is contagious. Infect your relationship with a little right now!

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Best Thing About Being an Academic?

Spring Break!

We're on it.

We're enjoying it.

And we are, while catching up on sleep and going to matinees, appreciating our meager salaries. A week off in the middle of March: It's priceless!

And even though we're not spending the week tanning (amen). Or traveling (who needs the added stress of crowded beaches and sidewalk cafes?) We are doing a (very tiny) bit of touring to further promote What Happy Couples Do: Carol's hometown coffee shop, Books & Brew in Milton, Wisconsin is hosting a book signing on Saturday. Come one. Come all, Milton-ites! If not for the book, come on over for some brew.

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Happy Birthday, Fred.

Yes, I (Carol) am a dog lover ... a very newly discovered and rather shocking (to all of my closest friends and colleagues) part of my personality.

As many of you know, we adopted Fred, the sweetest little guy, about 8 months ago. And he turned one yesterday. We sang. Made him doggie-cup cakes. And had his brother Romeo (who lives right across the street) over for a party. But since they were too busy trying to pee on things and jump for joy, I could only capture the photo of Fred. Photos of Romeo (yes, he's got a big red heart dog tag) will be posted soon.

Happy Birthday, dear Fred!

Clean Car, Dirty Words

We just received a submission on our website about a really creative - and beautifully metaphorical - family ritual submitted anonymously by a mom of two kids. It is a must-share!

The mom explains that when her children were at the age where they were starting to pick up on swear words, she had a brilliant idea one day as she was waiting in line for the car wash, kids happily buckled in the back seat. She instructed her kids: As soon as we're in the car wash, you can spout and shout out as many swear words as you wish! But when we emerge, there is no swearing. Ever (until our next wash).

At first, she writes, the kids were dead silent in the back seat, likely wondering if she was serious or not. Then, to her delight, one of them tried out a rather mild word. No reaction from mom. Quickly, each kid began saying as many swear words as he or she knew. But it all stopped once the water stopped and the door to the wash lifted.

To this day, this family uses the car wash as a safe time, place, and space to cleanse themselves of all the bad words they might like to say at other times!

Creative, practical, and proactive, don't you agree?

And yet another reasons for getting that car of yours nice and shiny clean ....

Friday, March 7, 2008

Note The Good

Although maybe not true in your marriage or partnership, many of us tend to only note what's wrong: With how the dishes are stacked, the shirts folded, the car parked, the bed (un)made, or the lunches packed.

Consider how your relationship would feel if you decided to "Note The Good."

How? Write a note in which you point out a "good." Recognize something done right. Acknowledge a small task done well (or just done at all). Or simply say something good out loud: "Thanks for picking up your socks" ... "For coming home a little early" ... "for being positive with the kids" ... "for being a great pal."

So simple. Yet so powerful when all of us are so rushed that we usually only find time to note the bad.

Try it. And then tell us the results.