Finalist Number 4 – Anything is Possible

Anything is possible

My story begins about ten years ago when I met Cecilia (my wife). She was 21 and I was 24. Because we had both just come out of failed marriages, her family and mine opposed of our relationship. No matter how difficult it was she never gave up on us. She stood up for us and went against all odds. Years later we had a son. Cecilia wanted my parents to meet our son. At the time my father was sick with cancer. He never got to meet Jonas. My mother lived all her life with Scleroderma. After my father’s passing, my mother became very ill. Cecilia wanted to meet my mother regardless of how my mother felt about her. The day my mother met Cecilia and Jonas, it changed her whole perception. My mother loved them both. She died shortly after. The title of my story is Anything is Possible because our lives have changed so much. When we first moved in together we had nothing. We didn’t even have a vehicle. Once in a while I would use my work van to take us out!

We had a tiny apartment with no furniture and just a bunch of sheets to sleep on the floor. We didn’t have much but we were happy, we were in love. Little by little, together we have worked so hard and 4 years ago we bought a house. Cecilia and I got married in 2008 ( I have yet to buy her a wedding ring). We went to the justice of the peace and there in the judge’s office we got married. Jonas, our son, was our witness. Together we have 5 kids in the house (2 from her previous marriage, 2 from mine and together 1). Cecilia works full time, goes to school, takes care of our home, kids and myself. She wakes up at 4am to make me breakfast and lunch so I can take it to work. She comes home from work and makes dinner and still makes time for the kids and myself. She will be finishing her MBA in April of 2010. She works so hard to make us all happy and never thinks of herself. She never gave up on our relationship, she never gave up on meeting my mother and she never gives up now. I have always told everybody, she is the rock that holds our home together. Our life is simple but yet we both know how much it has cost us to be where we’re at and we cherish every bit of it. Her love for us is so immense that she sacrifices every bit of energy she’s got to make sure we are all happy. I wish my parents were here to see how far we have come. But I know they are in heaven watching over me. My father always taught me that family comes first. No matter how hard things may get, I know I have a strong woman by my side and that my parents would be so proud of us. Every day I thank the lord for putting Cecilia in my path. Ten years have flown by, yet we love each other more than ever. We have conquered every obstacle, every bump on the road and we’re still strong. This isn’t a fairy tale, this is real life. I’m so lucky to have my wife in my life. The love we have for each other is so strong and we have proved to everybody that together anything is possible!

Finalist Number 3 – It only took 28 years

It only took 28 years…

In 1981 I was a 19 year old Front Desk Clerk at the St. Moritz Hotel on Central Park South in Manhattan.

One night the most gorgeous man I had ever seen walked up to the desk and asked me to go out to dinner with him. He was a Swedish Tour Guide named Mats. We went out to restaurants and clubs and laughed and danced and fell in love.

One night while we were having dinner at Un Deux Trois, Mats proclaimed that we would be married within a year. We were both radiantly happy and completely in love.

Then Mats decided that he wanted to finish his studies in Stockholm and that he wasn’t sure if we should get married. He went back to Sweden and left me heartbroken.

I was an undergraduate at Hunter College with a Double Major in Chinese and Latin and poured myself into my studies to recover.

THEN, In 1984 Mats called me at my apartment on the Upper West Side and said, “Louise, it’s me, Mats. Please come to Sweden, I have finished my studies and am ready for us to get married now.”

I hopped on the next flight to Stockholm. Mats and I bought our wedding bands and then traveled all over Europe. We laughed and danced all over France, Germany, Belgium, Holland, Luxembourg, Denmark, and Sweden.

THEN, when we were supposed to get married, Mats decided that he wasn’t ready.

I went home, heartbroken again.

When I got back to New York I mailed my ring back to him in Sweden. That was THAT!

THEN, in 1986 I went to live in Taipei, Taiwan for a year to complete my studies in Chinese Language and Literature. I had sublet my apartment in Manhattan.

In 1987, when I returned from Taipei, they guy who was staying at my apartment gave me a piece of paper and said, “This guy Mats called you about 2 weeks after you left.”

I called Mats back immediately and said, “Hey! It’s me, Louise, what did you want when you called? I’ve been in Taiwan for a year.”

Mats said, “Louise, I was calling you to ask you to come to Sweden and marry me!”

I said, “I still love you and I’ll take the next flight to Stockholm.”

Mats: “But I called you a year ago!”

Me: “So what”

Mats: “Well, I met somebody else.”

Well, you can imagine…that was the end of that.

I ended up buying a house on a mountain top in North Carolina and went on to become an International Hotel Accounting Consultant.

I have been a Financial Controller or Consultant in Barbados, Philadelphia, Manhattan, Antigua, Taiwan, Peter Island, Key West, Miami, Durham, Aruba, Marco Island, St. Louis, and Puerto Rico.

NOW, on November 11, 2009 my telephone in “The Middle of Nowhere Next to a Cow Pasture,” North Carolina rang.

You guessed it!

Mats: “Louise, it’s me, Mats is Sweden. I have been looking for you for ten years. Please come to Sweden and marry me. You are the only woman I have ever loved.”

Well!

After I was over the shock, I told Mats that he had to convince me.

Mats HAS convinced me and we are to be married, FINALLY! in January 2010 in North Carolina.

We are both as happy and as in love as we were 28 years ago in 1981.

We have both had full and interesting lives and now, as Mats say, “It is finally time for us.”

So, for all those people who have been alone and wondering what happened to their one true love. I wish you the courage to pick up the phone, hire a detective, do an internet search, ANYTHING to find him or her, because they may be out there missing you, too.

This Thanksgiving I have even more for which to be thankful.

Finalist Number 2 – My Mother Always Says

My Mother Always Says…

…that everything happens for a reason. So, in the middle of a tumultuous divorce in January ’92, as I arrived home to a pile of ashes on Sargent Beach, Texas, I wondered how this would play out to her standard doctrine. All that was most cherished and dear to me, a fine ornate iron bed I bought 20 years ago from Benny Luckenbach, pictures of my kids, old dishes from my great grandma, etc. was now ashes or melted. (Luckily, my sister had insisted on confiscating my gun collection, with the divorce drama going on) It took a week to locate another rental, this time I settled in Surfside. Given the recent loss, this time it seemed a good idea to get renter’s insurance. Over the phone I got coverage from a local agent, and felt like a clean new start with a new tv, futon, and microwave oven just in time for the Super Bowl. It had been a long week, staying at my mother’s. By mid summer, the deal was done on the divorce, and I carried on, with weekend visitations with my two young daughters. By September, I was told by a girl at work that her agent sent a message to me via her, about my coverage; turns out we were both her accounts. I asked if she looked as good as she had sounded on the phone, and was quickly informed that was the case, and that she was also single. I then decided it was time for me to hand deliver my monthly payment, and was needless to say speechless when I did so. Suddenly, I was a 41 year old teenager, alive again! We later had good exchanges on the phone, and eventually I finally asked her out… Well, suffice it to say I was elated when she accepted, but thought I blew it when we went out and, to get a feel for her age I popped off that I recall being in the 5th grade at school when John F. Kennedy was shot and we all went out by the flagpole and prayed, where were you? She said she was born the year after that…I could have died right there…but she laughed, and we continued to see each other…and my 6 year old and 18 month old daughters played well with her 5 year old daughter…Everything seemed to be so perfect with Regina, life was really good again! That pile of ashes from my rented burned out beach-house led to me getting insurance on the next one, and meeting Regina!! Mother’s prophecy did play out with that total loss. As our hearts melded more and more, I had my 6 year old help me pick out a pave wedding band for Regina, and I wrote the following to surprise her with:

“Enamored” is the term I think,
for what we seem to be.
I know this thing is wonderful
between my you and me…
It seems this thing is much beyond
my sense of self control,
This way I think and feel for you
from deep within my soul…
I know to have you close beside,
and in my arms is sweet…
My love you are my heart’s desire,
my love for you complete.
So let’s enjoy this love we share
and savor life so sweet,
And worry not what ‘morrow brings
’till we, the tomorrow meet…
If then we find we’re still this way,
so smitten with our love…
Then us as family evermore,
is what I’m thinking of!!

As it was Easter, I put this and the ring into a small plastic Easter egg, then that egg into a larger one, and those into a larger one, etc. and my oldest daughter placed it high in a hanging plant as I held her up. I assured Bogie the Easter Bunny needed help with the diamond ring, but he will be along later to hide more eggs for you girls, his limit is chocolate…and Easter morning after the girls found all the eggs that E.B. left for them, Bogie told Regina to look in the hanging plant. When she opened the egg, and finally got to the smallest egg, she beamed when she found the ring…and waterworks followed when she read the poem. It looked like a favorable reception, so I dropped to my knee and the girls cheered when I proposed and Regina made me the happiest man alive with her answer. Ok, so maybe there was a little pressure with the girls as witness, but hey-I knew I needed all the help I could get! We set the date for July, Regina got the printed napkins, matchbooks, invitations were sent out, 3 matching dresses for the kids that were same color as her wedding dress for the procession, reserved the Ima Hogg plantation mansion in West Columbia for the ceremony-EVERYTHING…

Then in June, she had a seizure. It had happened in the middle of the night and scared her and her daughter badly; when she told me about it the next day I urged her to see her doctor…as a matter of procedure, he had her undergo an MRI. Two days later she called me, very upset. I left work in the Dow plant to meet her at her parent’s home in nearby Lake Jackson, and learned her doctor told her she had a massive brain tumor, and she needed to see a specialist right away. We made arrangements to meet with a brain surgeon at Methodist Hospital in Houston, bringing the MRI’s with us…He advised us to have it removed immediately, and showed us the mass was the size of a large bar of soap in her left frontal lobe, but appeared to be operable. He recommended proceeding with surgery asap- she asked about our pending wedding the next month, but he said to not worry about that, to delay this surgery longer for the ceremony would be life threatening. IF she survived the surgery, there could be loss of speech or blindness or partial paralysis-deal with the wedding later. How could this happen to a beautiful 29 year old girl? Needless to say, we were in shock. He said we’d hear from his office for the scheduled surgery date. As we drove back to her parent’s, I suggested we elope IMMEDIATELY. I convinced her we’d blow off the wedding, and just cruise the Texas hill country that we both love, and get away from it all. We stopped off at the courthouse in Angleton, got a marriage license, packed and took off. I showed her my great grandparent’s old abandoned house in Sabinal, my high hill country stompin grounds through Leakey, Hunt, Luckenbach, etc…stopped by my home town of Cameron, Texas a few days later and did a quick ceremony at the Magnolia House. I called an old family friend, Mrs. Edna von Rosenberg ahead of time and she arranged for her Reverend Don Hogg to perform the service, while she served as the entire wedding party…best man, bridesmaid, ring bearer, everything! (we just went to her 100th birthday party this October). I have pictures since I placed my Nikon camera on a tripod and used the timer…

I must say, although this was not my first time to make the vow, I had forgotten until I was told to repeat the passage “till death do we part..” How I kept my composure as I said those words I’ll never know. My guts were ripping apart, yet happy at the same time.Mr. and Mrs. Bo Durr returned to the coast the next day, with a message awaiting us…her surgery was scheduled to be in 3 days. Three of the longest days of my life surpassed in length only by the 12 hours it took for her surgery. I last saw her in pre-op as they prepared to shave half her head for surgery. Finally, when they wheeled her out of surgery, Dr. Jerry Bob told me it went well. To prove it, he asked my semi-conscious Regina what her name was. Though wed for just 3 days, she was able to say REGINA DURR!!!

After enduring the intensive radiation treatments 3 times a day for 6 weeks, and chemotherapy, she made the transition of having thick auburn hair to mid back, to being bald as a golf ball, to now once again having her hair back. Her badge of honor is her scarves she wears to cover the 25% bald spot on the left front-those 3 titanium plates do not allow hair growth. But my darling bride is the best mother and homemaker on the planet. We are still as blissfully in love and trusting as we were 16 years ago when we wed. At this time I would like to nominate my bride as the recipient of this ring contest. I do believe it was our strong love and the Good Lord was willing, that got us through all of this, and for her to receive $25,000 in jewelry would finally be a reason she could wear!

Finalist Number 1 – Our 25

Our 25

Every love story has a great beginning. This is ours. When least expected, our soul mate can walk into our lives and change things forever. Such is the case with us, Scott and Leanna.

June of 1982, I was living in the greater Los Angeles area and working for one of the first sexual fantasy phone services, a funky little place called Lips International. Far away in Seattle, Washington, my true love was working for a travel agency at the Sea Tac airport. It would seem impossible for two such people to meet, but never underestimate the power of love.

Since most calls came at night, I was working swing/graveyard shift. Scott worked graveyard. Like most guys, Scott read the current men’s magazines of the time, and like most sexual fantasy businesses, Lips advertised in those magazines with an 800 number no less! Scott would often call our number, but since he didn’t meet the criteria for a paying fantasy (no credit card), he would just chat with some of the girls, including me. One night he called and, being the manager of that shift, the girls passed his call to me. You are such a nice guy, but we can’t keep talking to you for free, was my response. Unbeknownst to Scott, I was planning to meet one of my customers in Seattle the next night. A gentleman I had been talking to for some time, wanted to meet me and was willing to pay for plane fair from LA to Seattle. Recently divorced from my first husband, I figured I had nothing to lose by meeting this guy. So, I told Scott that I would be in! Seattle the next night and I promised to call him. He gave me his work number and we said goodbye for now.

The next evening I arrived at LAX to take the red eye mail flight from LA to Seattle with a stop in San Francisco. I was 28 years old and had never flown on a commercial flight. Sure enough, my ticket was paid for and ready for me to pickup at check in. I settled into a seat and tried to prepare myself for this meeting with my customer. Growing up in the Missouri Ozarks, the distance from LA to Seattle really did not register. It also never occurred to me that the man I was about to meet might be some kind of psycho creep, or worse. I had a one way ticket, $40 bucks, and an ATM card in my purse and I was off on an adventure!

Two hours, five cigarettes (yes, that’s when you could smoke on a plane), and several drinks later I arrived in Seattle. As expected, I met my customer. We were in the process of impressing each other when he announced that he would get his car and drive around to the United terminal entrance. I could get my belongings out of baggage claim and meet him out front. With a few minutes to myself, I thought I could dash to the ladies room and then call Scott, as I had promised. I grabbed my bag, hit the ladies room, and ran to the bank of pay phones. I dialed the number Scott gave me the night before and a nice voice told me that he wasn’t there at the moment. Oh, well, I tried. After all, I promised I would try, I thought. About that same time, it occurred to me that my rendezvous neglected to mention what kind of car he drove.

No big deal, by now it was 1:00am and not too many people at the airport. I walked out the terminal doors and waited by the curb. 30 minutes passed and no car. I went inside and had him paged. No answer. 30 more minutes passed, another page, and still no car or answer. By now, the only people in the airport terminal were me, a clerk at the United counter and a guy pushing a broom. Had I been in a movie, this is where the music would sound very ominous. After waiting for two hours, the gravity of the situation came pressing down hard. What did I get into? Tears were starting to slide down my cheek. I reached into my purse for a Kleenex and saw the slip of paper with Scott’s number. Trying not to panic, I walked back into the terminal and approaching a pay phone, took out the number and once again called Scott’s work. Oh yes, he’s here said the nice voice from before. Hello, this is Scott. I’ve been stood up; I started and then came the tears. And I don’t mean the little ladylike drops, but the big boo hoo kind.

Where are you at, he asked. I’m at the United terminal. Don’t move. I’ll be right there. I hung up and stood right where I was facing the pay phone, not moving. Within a few minutes, Scott came waking around the corner. Leanna? The voice belonged to a young man with kind, brown eyes, a tee shirt and a pair of jeans. Scott, I blubbered? And yes, the stars aligned, time stood still, and two young people looking for, but never expecting it, found each other and an everlasting love. My customer disappeared into the night and only later did I learn than he was using another guy’s credit card to pay for his calls and was afraid he would get caught in the fraud. 24 hours later, I was on a plane back to LA and Scott were back to work. But oh, those 24 hours! The attraction was instant and mutual, and not knowing if we would ever see each other again, we acted on it, becoming each other’s fantasy. As Scott put me on a plane the next night, he looked into my eyes and said I will see you again. That summer I flew back to Seattle twice and drove up once. The romance was on and our phone bills became astronomical. By October, Scott was laid off, and I convinced him to move to Los Angeles.

When people say they started off with nothing, I have always wondered how you have nothing. Looking back, I realize we had literally nothing. We did have a television, although a few years later when the TV died, we went a long time without one. Scott had his stereo and a pillow he swiped from a Motel 6 on his way down to LA. I had a bed (my settlement from my first marriage) and some dishes. Didn’t matter, we had each other. After a short period of living together, I looked Scott straight into his eyes and told him If you want to marry me, don’t just expect it to happen. You will have to ask. Christmas of 1984, he did, on one knee, and with a diamond ring. I said yes and finally my parents stopped referring to him as that guy and started calling Scott by name.

September 7, 1985, we were married on a sunny day in Port Orchard, Washington. The sparkling water of Puget Sound and the sky line of Seattle served as a backdrop to a very happy day. So now the story is supposed to go and they lived happily ever after. Not exactly. It was the 80’s, in Los Angeles, and before long we were living life in the fast lane. Now say what you want and remember what you’ve heard about drugs, but until you live through an addiction, keep your judgment to yourself. Cocaine became our drug of choice and soon snorting wasn’t enough, so free basing took over. As good as the high was and the great sex that came with the altered state of being, the depression and low that followed were abysmal. One day, after spending the rent money and whatever else was in our meager bank account, we took a paper bag and put all the drug paraphernalia inside, grabbed a hammer and smashed everything. You would think that action alone would have broken the habit and for a time it did, but within months we replaced cocaine with another drug crystal meth. At this time in Southern California, meth was making the scene. It’s a wicked little drug that makes one believe you are invincible and able to multi task like the Tasmanian Devil. In truth, you are very vulnerable and running around in circles with one foot tied down. It didn’t take long for the daily use to change our lives completely.

By 1990, during this time of drug abuse, the best friend I will ever have died of AIDS. The loss fueled my drug abuse ever more. Soon, I lost my job, making money even tighter. I became a consummate dumpster diver, hustling cans and bottles to recycle for cash. The next year we had to file bankruptcy and with that came the repo of our car, the loss of our residence, and a huge strain on our relationship. Scott kept up a brave front at his job, but the drugs were taking their toll. Soon we could no longer afford our own place and we moved in with a friend and took up residence in her garage. Scott was still working and I was selling things I would find in dumpsters at the local swap meets. It was spring of 1993 and in Texas, my oldest nephew was planning his wedding. We managed to scrounge up enough money for me to fly to Houston to attend. That separation started a change in our lives we never anticipated. Could there be life away from LA?

The next month my niece was also married in Houston. This time we both came to Texas and so did our little secret. No one in our families really knew what we were going through. They knew we were experiencing some hard times due to job loss and my friend’s death. But no one knew the extent . Later I would learn that this was about the time my sister started praying that someone would come into our lives and help us.

When we came back to LA after the wedding, we began to talk about changing our lives. By September my sister became involved in a writing project that required all of her time. So she invited me to come to Texas for six weeks and help her with the housework and her day to day stuff so she could concentrate on her project. I came and it was the longest time Scott and I had ever spent apart. During those six weeks Scott mailed me enough meth to keep going, but when I returned home, I knew things had to change. How were we going to survive? God responded to the prayers lifted up in our name and doors began to open. That Christmas we flew to Washington to be with Scott’s family and his parents agreed to give us the money to move. Ultimately we knew that the only way to break our addiction was to completely move from California. We could go north to Washington to be close to Scott’s family or east to Texas to be with mine. The U-Haul went east and we became Texans.

Everything we owned went into that U-Haul and our car was hitched behind. Somewhere in the sorting, packing and snorting, my wedding ring was lost.

I cried inconsolably, but I still had Scott. So what’s a ring? Any woman will tell you that her wedding ring is just as much a part of her as her soul. Losing mine was like losing one of the best parts of myself. The diamond wasn’t large, but it was mine, just like the man who gave it to me. When you look into the brilliance of a diamond, you can lose yourself. A jeweler may tell you that it all is in the cut, clarity, and color, but the beauty lies in what each sparkle represents. I would stare into my ring and with each flash of refracted light I could see the possibility of good things to come in our lives together. It was a constant reminder that I truly belonged to someone who loved me. Something inside me still believes that I will find it one day, tucked away in a box long forgotten. Someday . . .

It took four long driving days to reach Texas from California. Compared to starting over in every detail of our lives, the time it took to move was very short. We had no jobs, no money, except the deposit for returning the U-Haul, and no clue what to expect. My sister lovingly opened her home to us and within six weeks we both had jobs and an apartment of our own. Now, you’re thinking, comes the happily ever after. Not quite.

Come this February it will be sixteen years since we came to Texas. In that time, so much has happened. We renewed our wedding vows on our 10th anniversary. We have lost loved ones and gained new members in our families. We have struggled with finances and still have been blessed with abundance. We have enjoyed good times and endured bad times. In short, we have lived life and everything that comes with it. I don’t know if anyone ever lives happily ever after, but I do know that our relationship has survived and flourished. We find the love and commitment we share grows every day by serving others; through our church, our community, and our work. I could list all the things we don’t have, but the reality is that we have everything we need and more. In a quiet moment, sitting on the couch, I can reach out, touch Scott’s arm, and just the feel of his skin on my fingertips stirs feelings of passion and comfort.

For better, for worse, for richer, for poorer, in sickness and in health, these are the things we promised and have experienced them all. We were given an extraordinary gift; each other. Through God’s love and mercy we will continue to cherish and culture this great gift.

Congratulations, Diamond Cutters International. We know what twenty-five years is all about. It’s a journey every day. Our story is not complete because we are not finished yet. The next chapter is waiting to be written. One thing, I know for a certainty. When we are really old, we will look back on the improbable beginning of our relationship and through tears and laughter, we will know that this love was truly meant to be.