Thursday, June 30, 2011

The newest happy couple

... my sister Lynn and her new husband Jim!

Ah ... happy couples made in Jamaica, mahn. Grand joy and a sunny, magical beginning to a brilliant new chapter in their lives!

Congrats, sis. Welcome to our crazy family, Jim.

P.S. As my dad told my husband within an hour after our wedding 19.75 years ago: Jim, there is a no-return/no-backs (period) policy on Sessler gals. 100% satisfaction "guaranteed!" It's a great deal. I know, right?

Here's to you! Enjoy each moment (and many loving little rituals - of course).

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

What Happy Couples Do: In Italia!

Just a few steps from St. Peter's Square, here I sit (Carol) in awe of the depth, beauty and profundity of the Roman experience. I share my location and sense of awesomeness about Roma not to inspire envious drools of romantic getaways. Instead, context situates my fast-appreciation over the last many days of an Italian way: an embracing of the oft-Europen long view on, well, everything. What a stark contrast from the brief and short-view we U.S. American's often take on, er, just about everything (architecture, faith, large cars, meals, etc etc).

What I will say quickly (so I can get on with our evening stroll, wine, pasta and gelato) is a quick and embarrassingly-brief summary of an informal 'interview' (okay, gregarious chat) with Andrea and Erica, the soon-to-be-married Italian/American couple found running a restaurant in the heart of Rome.

He, Andrea (on-dray-ah), comes from the Trastavere region of Roma. She's from a small town outside of Detriot. He and she run a zero-impact Italian restaurant with a goal of only local, uber-healthy ingredients. Oh, and he's an educator ... both in his restaurant and at a local university.

Did we think such a place existed in Roma? You might have. But not me.

Happily situated in a nearly zero-tourist zone of Rome, La Fete Restaurant entered my life yesterday through a series of, yes, more fortunate events: a 5-hour cooking class in which I was the happiest of all ten giddy students. If this were a cooking or travel blog, I'd tell you all about the 5-course meal we joyfully prepared over a short 4 hours in this tiny, hot, glorious kitchen. And then I'd describe each delicioso bite consumed over the next two (wine pairings guided by our teacher? Of course). But this is a different blog, so I'll resist.

What I will bullet are five intriguing insights about the "typical" Italian couple which, Andrea and Erica assure me, they are not:
1. Most couples have babies and cohabit well before marriage.
2. Most wait until theit mid/late 30's to wed. Too expensive, they say. And maybe a few other variables (mammas, sons,???)
3. When they do marry, most cheat. Super common. Women don't like it. But, well, it's what they do.
4. Divorce is rare. "Too expensive. A very long process." The no-fault divorce? Ha. Not a chance. And cheating must be a "fault?" Another ha. You need many more reasons than that, silly American researchers (my words, not theirs).
5. Communication in the Italian marriage? Lots of yelling! But that's okay. You just have to know what it means (passion ... excitement ... caring ... interest? That and more ... just like Roma provides all of us, travelers and residents).

Happy couples: they're everywhere! How lucky am I to have met yet another one in this divine and eternal city.

Ciao ... and "Cin Cin!" to you, Andrea and Erica, and to all happy couples, everywhere.

(check back soon for photo of beautiful Andrea & Erica ... and Carol who - ugh - doesn't look so much so after sweating over that once-in-a-lifetime meal).

Sunday, June 12, 2011

A Series of Fortunate Events

A series of fortunate events led me to Cristo Rey Jesuit High School Twin Cities' 2011 first-ever graduation ceremonies yesterday. If you don't know about Cristo Rey, look 'em up. You'll be inspired and awed, just as am I (Carol) each time I walk through their doors and work side-by-side with the uber-talented and always-hope-filled students. As one of the inspiring teachers at CR once said: Cristo Rey is one of those places that seems to "find you" … you don't necessarily find them. So true.

For the first graduating class at CRJHSTC, Immaculee Ilibagiza was invited to speak. She gets an A+ from this usually-critical public speaking instructor. Immaculee has a story, and she knows how to tell it. She left me wondering … with those silly little bumps all over my skin as her words filled me with emotion: "How can I be a better ______ (human, wife, friend, neighbor, community member, employee, stranger …?)"

The author of "Left to Tell," Immaculee has written about, and enraptured us yesterday with the story of, how she and 7 other women hid in a 3x4' bathroom for 91 days, surviving in utter silence the genocide in Rawanda. She emerged after those dark, hungry, frightening months to discover the unthinkable. Each member of her family had been killed. Most of her friends were dead too.

She had only profound things to say (yes, I'll be buying her book and sharing her story with everyone who will listen). She speaks about forgiveness and hope and generosity and faith. About otherness, kindness and presence.

In her address yesterday, she also said something absolutely and perfectly pointed to us happy couple readers/inspire-ees .. those of us mindfully and urgently striving to be hopeful and faithful and kind in our ever-challenging personal relationships: marriage, long-term love, profound friendship, functional families, neighbor/community/global goodness (etc etc etc etc etc).

Her simple lesson and words: "Learn to fight, but without the intention to wound."

Ah, the ultimate challenge. Fight for what is right and just and believed. Leave no one harmed in the wake of your passions, words and motivations.

Thank you, Cristo Rey Jesuit High School Twin Cities for teaching ME .. for teaching the world .. how to be better.

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Always Learning: Marriage, Happiness, Selfishness and More

My friend Tom (Carol writing here) pointed me yesterday to the May 30, 2011 NYTimes piece of David Brooks. I adore Brooks. He's so dang smart.

Tom knew I'd enjoy Brooks' thoughts (as I usually do) not only because he writes in the piece about college students -- the lifeblood of both our life's work -- but probably because he writes about humans and their relationships with, well, other humans. You know, us tricky, emotional, happiness-seeking, sorta-crazy, always-seeking, usually-striving, oft-dissatisfied people.

What Brooks has to say surely did get me thinking about relationships (... and marriage .. and partnerships ... and happiness and self-centeredness and defensiveness). His take on the current generation got me thinking more about what we all - no matter age or generation - must (yes, must!) consider about who we are, what we need, and how we (of course I throw this one in here) go about finding "happy couple-ness."

While you might not like what Brooks has to say, might it be because we don't want to believe about ourselves what he says?

Below I've excerpted a few points from Brooks' editorial "It's Not About You." Toggle on over to for the entire read. You won't be sorry you spent the extra time getting there. Either way, consider the happy couple question of the day: what can "I" learn about how "I" go about "my" marriage/partnership/relationship given that "I" (okay, we) live in a culture of "ME and MY HAPPINESS FIRST, please and thank you."

His thesis sure got me thinking. What about you?

May 30, 2011
It’s Not About You
Over the past few weeks, America’s colleges have sent another class of graduates off into the world. These graduates possess something of inestimable value. Nearly every sensible middle-aged person would give away all their money to be able to go back to age 22 and begin adulthood anew. But, especially this year, one is conscious of the many ways in which this year’s graduating class has been ill served by their elders. They enter a bad job market, the hangover from decades of excessive borrowing. They inherit a ruinous federal debt. More important, their lives have been perversely structured.

... Through their childhoods and teenage years, they have been monitored, tutored, coached and honed to an unprecedented degree. ... Yet upon graduation they will enter a world that is unprecedentedly wide open and unstructured. Most of them will not quickly get married, buy a home and have kids, as previous generations did. Instead, they will confront amazingly diverse job markets, social landscapes and lifestyle niches. Most will spend a decade wandering from job to job and clique to clique, searching for a role.

... If you sample some of the commencement addresses being broadcast on C-Span these days, you see that many graduates are told to: Follow your passion, chart your own course, march to the beat of your own drummer, follow your dreams and find yourself. This is the litany of expressive individualism, which is still the dominant note in American culture.

But, of course, this mantra misleads on nearly every front.

College grads are often sent out into the world amid rapturous talk of limitless possibilities. But this talk is of no help to the central business of adulthood, finding serious things to tie yourself down to. The successful young adult is beginning to make sacred commitments — to a spouse, a community and calling — yet mostly hears about freedom and autonomy. ...

... Today’s grads enter a cultural climate that preaches the self as the center of a life. But, of course, as they age, they’ll discover that the tasks of a life are at the center. Fulfillment is a byproduct of how people engage their tasks, and can’t be pursued directly. Most of us are egotistical and most are self-concerned most of the time, but it’s nonetheless true that life comes to a point only in those moments when the self dissolves into some task. The purpose in life is not to find yourself. It’s to lose yourself.