Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Kate and Pete: Chapter 2 (hint - there might be Love Letters!)

As promised: Chapter 2 of the great-Kate and neat-Pete happy couple 2014 feature!

Here, Kate reveals the very beginnings of the just-keeps-getting-better Kate-Pete story (the part before the can't-top-it-carnival-celebration). As surely it will in you too, their sweet beginnings inspired in me a big, juicy "awwww" (right after I thought, of course only to myself, which now is not going to be private because I'm saying it without hesitation to thousands of readers: "Hey - I'd sure like to read a few of those saucy letters!" But then I recalled my unwavering commitment to keeping this a PG13 blog. Shucks). Anyway ... on to the ever-sweet-and-love-letter-filled-life, chapter 2, of Kate and Pete. Enjoy!

"The Story of Us"
- by Kate Woodman Middlecamp

Whenever Peter and I befriend someone new, it isn't long before the question is asked of us: "How DID you two meet?!"  To which we invariably reply, with poorly concealed glee: "We actually met online," and chuckle as the jaws drop. It is, I think, the absolute LAST place people would expect the two of us - with all our crazy loves, quirks and hobbies - to have connected.  In all honesty, it was the last place either of us thought it would happen as well … until it did.

Peter had been on (this during the Dr. Phil "Mind. Find. Bind." era of Match) for awhile before I joined.  Working through the end of a very complicated relationship, he was looking for someone worthy of moving on with and had been on a few dates - dates worthy of a few good stories, but not much more.  When I found his profile through a search - we were not, funnily enough, matched by the website automatically - I was taken aback.  Like my own freshly written profile, Peter chose to acknowledge the quirkiness that is online dating with humor and wit; a fake interview with himself, in fact. I read his profile, laughed harder than I had in months, and a little
flutter started in my heart.

I must admit, I thought then (and still do) that he was WAY out of my league, and so, initially I didn't reach out.  I just waited.  And re-read his profile 20 times a day. For days.  And then got sick of myself and summoned the courage to send him a simple message of gratitude for the laughs.  To my delight, he wrote back almost immediately and the real story of Kate and Pete began.

We exchanged e-letters a few times a week, which quickly progressed to a few times a day.  Letters every bit as witty and funny as the online profiles we had worked so hard to perfect.  And, as we got to know each other better, letters that were sweet, and vulnerable, and yes, even a bit saucy at times. We crafted whimsical and silly stories for each other that illuminated - in a magical way - who we really were, and who we wanted to be, and hinted at who we might become together. I think, even then, we knew somewhere deep down that our stories might be best told as one.

As a married couple, just now a few months past our 4th anniversary, we still use written word as a way to express, celebrate and reconnect.  It is not unusual, after a particularly glorious string of
The real deal: Kate + Pete + the written word = deep-in-love connection.
days, for one or both of us to send a silly, gushing love e-letter or text message of gratitude. The same goes for the less glorious times, the times when the real work of marriage takes place, after an argument or in a time of stress.  We return to the written word because it forces us to literally spell out our feelings; to be specific, to be honest, to be loving.  Also, we write because written words "keep" -- as physical, visual reminders of our love, our promises, our desires -- in a way spoken words do not.  I have copies of our "Top 20" e-letters from when we first met in my inbox, and when re-reading them, it’s ever most clear: Our stories, truly, are best told as one.

Monday, January 20, 2014

A Host of Happy Couples (2014): Introducing Kate and Pete!

It was a pretty dull but beautiful summer day in my life: wrangling email, running errands, weeding a tad in the garden, being on time for some necessary appointments, and generally keeping life/work running smoothly (or so I was attempting, and was rather enjoying the mundaneness). At the desk where I had one of those appointments sat Kate, someone I've only lightly known for many years, and only even that much because I go to that office twice a year and get done what I need to get done. Unfortunately, I didn't really "know"Kate ...  at least not until this day. Lucky me, I took an extra minute on this full-with-stuff-to-do afternoon to ask the always-smiling and warm-spirited woman behind the desk that typically-phatic-but-not-so-on-this-occasion question: "So ... what's new with you, Kate?"

My silly little rock garden that was
needing a tad of weeding on this
mundane summer day.
Her answer opened the door to a new and budding friendship with a pal I now call "Great Kate." And as part of that friendship, I'm privy (lucky me!) to a peek into Kate's world, which is situated fully and lovingly with her amazing partner Pete. Their relationship -- as you're about to read in a series of upcoming posts -- is precisely the ritual-rich, play-full, kind-and-then-some, intentionally-happy couple-creating life this blog has always and will always be about. And it was during one of Kate's high-energy tellings about their crazy-wonderful-cool wedding that I had what I think is a rather crazy-wonderful-cool idea: to feature a series of uber-happy couples who are, you guessed it, doing precisely what happy couples could, should and can DO ... and actually ARE doing!

And thus "A Host of Happy Couples (2014)" is born. The first installment is this one, and features - of course - Kate and Pete, a couple I know you're going to love getting to know. 

One of the best parts of this series -- which begins in about 10 seconds -- is that you're going to hear from the couple in their own happy words and images, each post an explanation of how the pair is working to live the authentic life of a really happy couple (and we all know work is always part of the equation, as each couple will, for sure, reveal in their tellings).

So now ... drum roll please ... meet super-great Kate and equally-neat Pete! Where to begin? She decided to start with a part of their early story, the significant and signature day our culture calls "the wedding." In Kate and Pete's case, I'd call it, well, something completely so-much-more, and fully so-much-THEM ...

A Crazy Big Day
- by Kate Woodman Middlecamp

It all began with a pocket-sized, orange, spiral-bound notebook.  
A few weeks after returning from our engagement trip, during our first official wedding planning session, my husband-to-be grabbed the little book from atop the drafting table and we set to work jotting ideas.  For the next year, it was a constant. Wherever we went and whatever we did, the little orange notebook tagged along.  

There was only one rule: anything goes.  No edits, no limits, no judgements, no preconceptions; every silly, ridiculous, outrageous, happy, loving idea had a place in the notebook.  And after a year of the little book getting tossed about in pockets and purses, stowed in camping gear, and joining us on more than a few roller coaster rides, it was literally bursting with signature notions of our love.

In the end, one of the most difficult parts of wedding planning was sorting through our little orange book, saying goodbye to ideas that were - for lack of time, space, or money - beyond our reach.  It was particularly hard for us to let go of the idea of "Free Soup" signs around the reception, the lovely dream of feeding anyone in the area who was hungry on that special day, and of invitations in the form of custom chocolate bars with golden tickets (golden tickets did make the day, after all, but I'm getting ahead of myself...!).
While sifting through the ideas, a theme became apparent: Our little orange notebook read an awful lot like the description of a carnival.  In fact, it read EXACTLY like a carnival. The more we thought about it, the more a carnival wedding seemed the perfect celebration of our love and life together. 

And it was. Blissful. Beautiful. Hilarious. Loving. And perfectly, completely, “us.” 

We secured the Clarence W. Wigington Pavilion, a vast and gorgeous historic building on Harriet Island in St. Paul, Minnesota, and a portion of the surrounding park - the only space large enough and flexible enough to host a true carnival for our nearly 350 guests.  With such a large party, and not-so-large budget, DIY was a necessity, and our apartment essentially became a temporary print shop. Giddy, often frantic, hours were spent together cranking out custom bags, event posters, popcorn boxes and, of course, Wonka Bar-esque invitations complete with, you guessed it, Golden Tickets.  

Agates collected over years of dating tumbled noisily in the garage, being polished to receive guests' blessings on the day. Skee-ball, volleyball, and mini-disc golf games were envisioned and customized. A photo booth and wedding photographer were hired, and photo props collected. Literal pounds of lollipops were arranged, in centerpieces, bouquets and boutineers.  A mini-donut machine was purchased, used to make the wedding cake, and to serve treats on the day along with popcorn, cotton candy, hand-dipped corn dogs, and snow cones. We had a veritable horde of family and friends volunteering to “man” the machines. 

Entertainers were lined up, many from the same horde of supportive friends and family: “Sprinkles” the clown making balloon creations; a professional yo-yo'er; a singer-songwriter who serenaded us in a spontaneous first dance; belly dancers; and even a surprise song by the bride and groom, the very happy couple. 

A simple white dress was tailored, as was a classic black tux. And, to pay homage to our mutual love of all things vintage, Cary Grant/Katharine Hepburn-inspired his and her suits (each designed for dancing the day away) were tailored too. 

The ceremony took place overlooking the river, with our dear friend James, the man who counseled us in the months prior to the wedding, and who passed a few months after, presiding over the affair with his dog “Prints” by his side. A simple melody on guitar accompanied the my  walk down the aisle; my mother and father flanked my sides. The clearest memory I have of our signature day is this moment: walking out, into the sun and a mass of people, and seeing Peter waiting for me. My heart, and my eyes, overfilled - as did his - and together we knew a shimmering moment of perfect and utter joy, and of absolute gratitude for this day. This love. This life. 

There was laughter and tears and readings … but not readings from scripture (ours came from a stash of our crazy-wonderful love letters). Next was more perfect and shimmering joy as we recited our vows, kissed the best kiss, and giddily danced our way back up the aisle as husband and wife, ready to kick off the carnival of a lifetime. 

And the best part? We haven't stopped ... (editor:  ... stories about which you’ll read in upcoming installments over the next 4 weeks of Kate and Pete, a very happy couple guest-writing for the very happy-couple-inspired What Happy Couples Do blog).