A Radical Love - Our Story

Sometimes I think we're so conservative we're radical.  Happy anniversary to us!
Said Quilt to the Potato, "Seams that you have your eye on me!"

Our lives could have been written so, so differently, if not for one night long ago:

A friend of mine at college had locked herself in her room, threatening to commit suicide.  She finally let me in.  I talked to her for hours in that dark room that night.  No one told me I couldn't counsel in a life or death situation, so I did.  Everything turned out fine.  My dorm mother, who didn't really know me before this, suggested that I apply for a Resident Assistant position that was opening up for the Fall Semester. I did, and I was hired.   That night was a turning point for my friend, but it also changed the course of my life, and that one special guy that I didn't even know yet.

In the second week of September, at the beginning of my Junior year in Child Development, I, an antique dealer's daughter, met my "husband to be", a potato farmer's son.  He was a Senior in Electrical Engineering, and we were both Resident Assistants in neighboring dorms.  We met at the first Resident Assistants' orientation meeting the week before the rest of the students arrived.  He saw me and decided to ask me for a date. I was seeing someone else at the time, but decided to get to know this farmer.  I broke up with the someone else a few days after meeting my future husband.

By Christmas we were engaged.  We were going to wait to get married after I graduated, but decided in July that we'd get married before school started again in September.  We figure it was pretty nearly a year to the day after we first met, that we married.  No one told us that it couldn't or shouldn't be done in that amount of time. No one said you should get to know them longer before you get married.  We knew each other just fine. We decided on September 9th, a week before classes started again, to get married in a little church we'd never even attended, but was near the campus.  It looked nice, so we went with it.

I found a pattern and made my wedding dress and veil, and helped bridesmaids make their dresses using the same pattern in different colors.  No one told me you didn't make your dresses, especially your wedding gown, so I did it.

We ordered three marble cakes - round, in different sizes - from the local bakery.
I stacked the cakes and decorated them myself, though I'd never done a layer cake and had never decorated anything but family birthday cakes, kind of.  But no one told me that I needed a professional, so I did it.

I hand-wrote my 100 wedding invitations, envelopes and reply cards. I learned basic calligraphy so they would look nice.  We didn't have computers and printers.  I didn't know it would be too much work for one person, so I did it.

I carried a single yellow rose for a bouquet, and made candles for the bridesmaids to carry for our evening ceremony.  Not much of a bouquet, but just right, and candle making was big back then.  So "ta-da"!  Did it.

We had tuna, chicken and ham finger sandwiches and chips and pickles and olives and fruit punch that the ladies of the church prepared.  No one told us that wasn't fancy wedding food, so we ate it.  Everyone sat in folding chairs and held their plates in their laps and set their cups on the floor.  No one told me that we should be sitting at tables, so everyone was able to mingle and chat and move about happily.

Except for paying the preacher (which we'd totally not thought about, and my father did), we paid for the whole thing out of our own pocket.  No one told us that the bride's parents typically paid for the wedding.  I did not expect them to, and I would not have wanted them to.  So we did it out of our summer job earnings. Including my dress, invitations, candles, cake and food, I think our wedding cost almost $200 back in 1972 (which was still not much back then for a wedding - maybe two months' apartment rental payments).

We lived apart for almost a year, during the gas crisis, while my husband finished his Master's degree and then started his first job, and I taught my first year of school up in northern Maine in his potato farming hometown.  We'd meet on Friday nights at a motel halfway between our two apartments - each of us driving about 2 hours - and head back home early Sunday morning.  There were no gas sales after 5 pm Saturday, and all gas stations were closed on Sundays, so we had to be careful not to drive around too much so  we'd have enough gas in our tanks to get to our respective apartments again.  We got a good deal at the motel where we'd meet for Saturday.  I'm sure we looked questionable with the name of Smith, meeting for the weekend, two cars, no real luggage...

I quit my first teaching job mid-year, so I could go with my husband out to Wisconsin where he'd gotten another job, after quitting his first.  No one told us it would be a bad idea to quit jobs.  When we got to Wisconsin, we got new jobs and bought our first home - a little ranch with attached garage in a little development.  It had heat, water, carpet, 1200 sq.ft, 3 bedrooms, a garage and a nice big basement.  We sold it in less than a year.  No one told us it would be best to live in your new home for a lot of years and build up equity before you sold it.

Instead of the ranch home, we now had a 40 acre farm with a 600 sq.ft. unheated one bedroom stone and stucco home on it (well, there was electric heat in the uninsulated shag carpeted kitchen).  We heated the house with wood after finding out how expensive it was to heat the kitchen with the electric baseboard. There was only an electric space heater in the bathroom.  Sometimes, if we came home late, there was an ice skim on the water in the toilet.  Those nights I slept with my down jacket on until my husband could start the woodstove and get it a little warmer than the evidently 32 degrees it was.  I wonder how we didn't freeze the pipes?  Oh, yeah.  No one told us it was a bad idea to let the house get so cold.

Do we even need to discuss the scritch-scratchy bats living upstairs between the ceiling and roof, the mouse droppings in the kitchen cupboards, those cute mouse-sized (with just as much hair as a mouse) spiders and the transparent snake skins in the basement...it was a very, very old German farmhouse.

No one seemed as impressed with this home as we were.  It had 40 acres!  It had a barn!  We could have horses!  And we did.  We didn't know anything about horses, except that I liked them and had always wanted one.  So we had ten.  And some rabbits.  And a few dogs and a couple of cats.  My mother-in-law was worried that she would never have pictures of  grandchildren.  I'm sure my parents were concerned, too, but they never said a word.  No one told us we should hurry, so we didn't.

When we were about to have our 1st child in our 7th year of marriage, we built a new home on the same property, about 100 feet from the old house.  This new house was "taken" by a twister when it was framed in and roof on, scattered around the county in the valley below us.  We thanked God we hadn't been ahead of schedule.  We rebuilt it.  The day after we moved out of the old house, the chimney collapsed onto the floor right where our bed pillows used to be.  We thanked God we were not behind schedule.

I had two totally natural childbirth experiences.  We were in the hospital, but in a low key, natural birthing room - brass bed, sheets with yellow roses - no meds at all.  And finally baby pictures instead of cat pictures for our parents.

We moved shortly after our second child, a daughter, was born.  We again quit good jobs.  Would it have mattered if someone had told us you shouldn't quit jobs with two little children?  Probably not. Though we loved Minnesota (just across the Mississippi from our jobs in Wisconsin), we wanted to be closer to family.  We ended up in NH for a bit, and then RI.  When our home was broken into in the middle of the day and my husband was out of town and I was taking our youngest to preschool, we determined that we would move out of RI and go straight  to Maine, where family was and where our roots were.

We bought a home in a fairly busy neighborhood.  We liked the house, but it wasn't ideal.  We would live there while we looked for a better place to settle down.  Then we proceeded to live there for 10 years!  Yikes!  We hadn't realized that time was marching on.  We bought a 5 acre parcel in a rural, wooded  development close to the ocean.  Then we planned out how to accomplish this next build and move.

We decided on a log home, which we chose to build when we were describing our two options for homes to our teens.  As I described the houses, I told them option 1 was a log home, with huge windows and cathedral ceiling, and option 2 would be very much like the house we were in at the time, a cape...as soon as the words came out of my mouth "very much like this house", my husband and I looked at each other, and we knew that would not be the house we would build.  It was time for different than anything we'd done before.

Living in this spot, in this house has been wonderful...even with the year (well, 11 months) that we had to leave it while a major soot cleaning was done after a fire.  We lived in a motel for all that time, and realized that our little stone house in Minnesota had been big, and that we didn't need half the stuff we had.  Okay, more than half the stuff we had wasn't necessary.  With one three-foot wide closet that housed our clothes, an ironing board and an iron...oh, and a 1 foot tall Christmas tree... we realized that we had too many clothes in our life, and too large a Christmas tree in our garage.  Life was about life, not stuff.

And now we are about the business of doing something totally different again 14 years after building. We are renovating an old house, not much bigger than that old farmhouse in Wisconsin.  When we first saw the house, it was being used for storage.  It had no heat, no bathroom, no insulation, no chimney.   It had old paneling that was rippled and falling off.  We have given it new everything, except the skeleton.  It is no longer a gray cedar shake exterior, but sporting cheerful yellow cedar shakes with a touch of green in the peak, and a vibrant day lily orange-red front door.  We have included some radical new ideas for the inside.  First, there will be no falling down chimney...no chimney at all with propane and radiant in-floor heat.

Other radical ideas: two dishwashers (one for clean, one for dirty, no intermediate cabinet storage), toilet tanks in the wall, toilets mounted to the wall (for easy under and around cleaning), a washer/dryer combo unit (no, not one up, one down - one unit that does both).  Then for ambiance all wood floors of full 20' length fir, rejuvenated interior doors and hardware, stained glass ceiling and sconce lighting.  I am excited to be able to live there.

I have retired.  My husband will be retired in another year and a half.  We have two wonderful grown offspring.  Our son has bought a house and it's so exciting to see him working on it.  My daughter and her husband are living in a home pretty much like the old one we lived in, but are looking ahead to a larger house now that Grandson is moving around - a lot.  Oh, and they are expecting their second child in May.

Happy anniversary!  I'm glad my husband-to-be, became a husband-to-me!  I pray that things move along not too fast and not too slow...that we are always in the right place at the right time in our lives.
So far, so good.
41 years is a long time if you are miserable,
but oh, so short
when you are radically in love.
No one told us it wouldn't last, so we are forever together.
Quilt and Potato - a few years ago...

In radical love,
Unlike peas in a pod,
But still both green,
A shared path trod.
Unseen likenesses
Burst to the fore
And we continued
In love some more.
Through years of days
And days of hours
We trod our path
Of sun and showers
Feet and eyes set
Toward the goal
The prize of Life
Names on the role.
Renewed, relieved,
Redeemed, reborn -
In Radical Love
We'll meet that morn.


  1. While I knew quite a lot, I learned some new things. I think you, your husband and we (my husband & I) would have made good neighbors! It's your lovely writing again, loved reading every bit, Donna, your 'nobody told us' & 'so we did' & the funny along with the serious. Congratulations on the anniversary & the coming grandchild! And best wishes for many more years together! I can't wait till you move into your wonderful new place!

    1. I think you are right. I'll bet we would have had some great barbecues! That being said, though we were never neighbors, it's nice to have you as a part of my story now!

  2. What a beautiful story - exciting in its events, descriptive in its telling. I loved this part: "41 years is a long time if you are miserable, but oh, so short when you are radically in love." Happy Anniversary to you! And there is so much to look forward to now that you have those first 41 years behind you!

    1. It's been a pretty nice 41 years. Wouldn't trade any of the events of our lives for something different - even the rougher ones.

  3. Sooo sweet. I honestly wish sometimes that people wouldn't tell us what we can and can't do, so we can stretch ourselves and truly grow into our potential. Happy anniversary!

    1. I love that we got to do so much on our own right away. We lived too far away from family to have them give much advice, so we just went along our merry way! It's been, and still is, a great path.

  4. Now, that's a story!
    But I don't get the two dishwashers...

    1. I know, sometimes I just stand at my current kitchen sink and dishwasher and pretend that I have two smaller washers and fewer cupboards. Here's my thought process. We have a small space, and I hate unloading the dishwasher. Soooo - I thought, "why not use my dishwasher as cupboard space. I will get enough dishes to mostly fill one dw, with a bit of space for a couple of serving bowls or a pan. Then, as I need a plate and fork, etc. I will just pull them from the CLEAN dw, use them and put them in the empty DIRTY dw. As plates and utensils are used the CLEAN one gets emptied and the DIRTY dw gets filled. I wash the DIRTY dishes and now that becomes the CLEAN dw/cupboard. If there are any clean dishes left in the other machine still, I'd take them out and put those few either in the cupboard or in the CLEAN dw - so there's only a few dishes to move. I am not positive it would work, but looking at my countertops right now....I think it would. I have clean dishes in the dw and dirty on the counter. Who is going to take the dishes out of the dw? Sigh.


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