It seems only fitting to end the 26 blogs of 25 years with our trip to Twinsburg Ohio in 1999.
Barb graduated from Social Work school with a masters in Social Work in 2011 (right before we moved) she was awarded highest honors. It was a struggle and a dream for her. She began the quest to gain education and find her place in the Suma Kum Laud Psychology/television major. She spent the first part of her early career as a service professional (while in college). She built the training system for new waitresses and was a lot more than a waitress at the restaurant. She spent the next part of her career in advertising. She was great at both but the calling to do more was always there. To be someone that helped others. She worked on a number of projects during the time she was “home” most of them full time jobs. She took them on and delivered them with aplomb and dispatch. Her willingness as a person to take on both the low (hard) and the high (praised) jobs made her invaluable. But always in the back of her mind was the thought that she wanted to help others. It takes guts to go from school to school, adding a masters to your life. It takes even more guts to take 10 years, start a family and still finish your bachelors degree. Many who do that fail. More fail than succeed once you get to the 7/8 year range for a bachelors degree. But Barb did it. She kept driving along her dream path.
Twinsburg Ohio, Twins festival 1999.
That passion is who Barb is. When her mother died it came back to her. She knew that even though she was older than almost all the other students (I think there were three her age or around her age when she started) she was going to do it. She was going to get her masters in Social Work. They say its 10,000 hours to master your profession, but there is a spark, a wonder a joy and a level of natural ability that you need as well. Barb works with dying children. If you can image, working with those who are dying (she does that as well) is tough. You are preparing a family to let go of a family member. She often has families that aren’t happy with each other or families that want to communicate. Add to that that she goes to help children that are dying. I struggle each time she mentions that she has 4 patients or 5. I can’t deal with the thought of dying children. But Barb not only deals with it, but helps make the transition better for the families losing this wonderful gift. To be amazed by something or someone at my age happens all the time. I find myself watching my children and being with pride. I am proud of my sisters and their husbands. My am proud of my mother. I am proud of my nieces and nephews. I am always proud of my caring, loving and giving wife. She finds the good in every thing that happens.
26 of 25
I cannot say in words what it meant to me that day you said “let’s get married.” Except to say that I had written the words that shared what I felt then. Fittingly I didn’t share those for 15 years. Now here on our 25th thank you, for everything.
Turkey Run State Park Indiana.
Barb’s mom and dad moved to Indiana to a retirement place near us in Franklyn Indiana. They lived there for a few years. It was nice having them for holidays (Thanksgiving and the others). Barb’s mom passed away in 2007 her dad in 2009. Barb is adopted so these were her adoptive parents. I know that it was devastating for her losing both of them. She really struggled with who she was and what would come next. Barb met her biological mother before she and I met, and her biological mother and one of her 1/2 siblings attended our wedding (it was her younger half sister). But Joan and Les Ralstin were mom and dad. They were there through Barb’s growing up and becoming the person she is. Barb grieved for a couple of years trying to reconcile all of what was going on. Out of that grieving she realized that she watned to become a social worker. She wanted to help other people struggling with similar loses, with the loss of family and friends. So she went back to school to get her Master’s degree.
Turkey Run state park. I always thought it should have been named Run, TURKEY, RUN!!! Park. But that’s just me.
So, Barb enrolled in the Masters program at IUPUI. She was one of the older students in her group (and graduated with the highest possible honors). The student that struggled to finish her bachelors in 10 years (but never stopped, never quit and got it) started on her Masters. Barb is a person that sets goals, just like me. So when our goals are aligned we move very quickly. I would love to say that we were fully aligned on her going back to school, we weren’t for awhile so the startup period was a lot harder than it had to be. We were trying to find our path and way forward. We did eventually reach our equilibrium. As Barb worked through the various roles that social workers take she decided that her calling was in Hospice. She wanted to help people going through what she had gone through, the pain of losing a loved one (or more than one loved one). She actually works with dying children as well as traditional hospice patients. It takes a great deal of caring for others, to be a hospice person. Like teachers they are not paid enough. Barb finished her Masters in 4.5 years. The final coursework was done after we moved to Maryland. She actually got her final practicum at a great Hospice here in Maryland and when the practicum was done, they hired her!
23 of 25
Image from our 2000 spring vacation.
By 2000 we had moved back to Indiana and we had transitioned from me primarily being at home to me traveling. Starting in 1999 and lasting until 2011 (when we moved east) I traveled at least 20 weeks of the year or more. We stopped paying for vacations (the points and mileage paid for the vacations) but I was gone a lot of the time. Barb was no longer working outside the house but she picked up a lot of my responsibilities around the house. It was a really hard transition. On September 11, 2001 I hopped on an airplane at 6 am bound for Chicago. I got off the plane at 7 am central time and went to the car rental place. My old boss was also on the plane so he hitched a ride with me to downtown Chicago. Along the way in we heard the news of the 9/11 attack in New York City. In all the years I traveled, all the places I was and would be, I can remember the sound of Barb’s voice that day. I talked to her when I landed (right before the attack) and then she called me again after turning on the TV. She just said “please come home.” So I did (driving the entire Indianapolis Microsoft crew that was in Chicago home with me in the Rental car). That day changed travel forever. I have in the 10 years before that day and the 15 years after that day never heard that terror, that fear in Barb’s voice. Many bad things have happened since that event both to us (we lost both of Barb’s parents, we lost my father, bad things have happened in the world) but that day day and that voice stays with me. I will never forget “please come home.”
Spring vacation 2000, just wondering if in fact you were crazy.
We found a new church shortly after 9/11 Barb threw herself into being a huge part of the church for the next 10 years (until we moved to Maryland). She helped design all the materials used for the marketing of the new Church building campaign. She served on the Vestry and was the Senior Warden. Barb is someone with a lot of skills. When she gets involved in something she throws veering she has at it. The church welcomed that, it was a small southern Indiana church and it needed all the help it could get. Barb was the answer for a few years. It is one of the things about her that is amazing. She has a dedication to what she is doing, to get it done right. That ability allows her to focus on the success at hand. Sometimes she forgets how amazing that is, and looks around wistfully at what she may have missed. As her partner sometimes I just have to give her a hug and say “you didn’t miss anything.” She really doesn’t miss it, she is there. She just forgets sometimes, maybe she just likes hugs.
22 of 25
Springmill Indiana. A favorite stop from my childhood and as an adult. A recreated pioneer village.
My father loved taking historical trips around wherever we were. So, do I, so we made a lot of these trips to various places in Indiana, Illinois and Ohio over the years. Barb is not as big a history buff as I am (we live now in the land of Civil War battles). Barb attended a conference in Manassas Virginia one time. She called me to say that there were a lot of monuments and trails all around the city. Why was that? she wondered. I mentioned there may have been a couple of critical civil war battles there in Manassas Virginia. She didn’t really care. History in her eyes is the past, fun to read about or wander a park reviewing, but not something you spend hours trying to get to. I did manage to get her to go occasionally but not often. Now, an art museum and she is there. On her tour of New York City she took the kids to every major downtown New York museum. She would have gone twice but once was all she could get them to let her do. Jakki also loves museums, the boys not so much!
Most of Barb and all of Nick .
Another thing Barb is always up for is trying new restaurants. Spice palate must be controlled however. She isn’t into heavily spiced food. The time we spent in Paris she was happy to wander the city and try food from various places. We had coffee in the Latin Quarter and she was happy munching on a banqueted for lunch. In Thailand she struggled a little but made a valiant effort to try everything. Most things were beyond her “spice safe point” though. Just like a spoonful of fresh horseradish that was choked down the first time she met my father. There after when he handed her food to try she always started with “what is it” first. Barb’s very favorite food circle is Mediterranean. She loves the mix of flavors and spices that are served in that food. Luckily we have several really good Greek restaurants around the house now. Although we do make an annual pilgrimage to Trojan Horse in Bloomington Indiana. Barb actually worked there for more than 10 years. She was working there when I met her. We love the Trojan Horse. It was our Friday night date spot. Barb was working, so she would order Greek salad and a gyros for me. The Greek salad always came with big chunks of feta cheese that I don’t like. But when I was done eating my salad was always gone. Because Barb would wander by and nibble off my plate as she was working. I don’t know why but I remember those date nights to this day.
In the words of Charlie Brown love means never having to say you are sorry (it actually becomes having to mean you are sorry). But if you are lucky love also means you don’t have to eat things you don’t like because your partner loves them!!!!
22 of 25
From our visit to XCarate (on Cancun in Mexico).
Barb and I had our first official date at a series of one act plays. They were preformed at the little Blackbox Theater in Bloomington Indiana. We have since then been to plays in a number of different venues and cities. We’ve been in Cincinnati Ohio, Greenwood Indiana (and a regional theater in Downtown Indianapolis) as well as the theater in our old neighborhood in Maryland. My personal favorite has been our wandering over to Olney Maryland for the professional theater group that is there. We’ve seen a number of plays there and each of them has been fantastic. I love going to plays with Barb. Afterwards riding home we talk about the play, discuss and argue and just connect. Plays have always been a point of connection for us, as have movies. We have different tastes in many movies (I love super hero movies) but we both like Rom Coms. Marriage is an evolution. How you evolve measures where you end up. In 25 years you can cover a lot of ground.
Still in Cancun Mexico.
Moving the to east coast Barb gets to indulge her Beach vacations more. It isn’t an indulgence in that she wants to spend a week in a 5 star resort and look over the ocean on occasion. She wants to actually be on the beach, relaxing in the sun. Barb is a beach person. So we have wandered a few of the east coast beaches. Several years ago I was working on a project in New York City. The family came to stay with me on Spring Break and Barb and the kids wandered New York City for the week. Barb got to see everything she wanted to see except for the Statue of Liberty. That one is still a bone of contention in the house between Barb and the kids. They were cold and didn’t want to go out to the Island the Statue is on. So they didn’t go. Barb and I need to head up to NYC and catch a Broadway show. It is on the list, timing the is the only limiter now. I guess based on 25 years you take the long approach to marriage not the short approach. It is probably not the right answer. Always do today what you can. Yesterday is passed, and tomorrow isn’t guaranteed.
21 of 25
The Bean, at the start of her Wander Indiana Project. Marengo Cave in Southern Indiana.
When we returned to Indiana, my folks were close enough to watch the kids for the weekend. So Barb and I took a few long weekends to Chicago and both of our favorite, French Lick Indiana. We loved going to the grand old Hotel there and spending a quiet weekend just the two of us. In 2004 I was asked to represent the Central Region of the US and the global knowledge management system in a meeting in Paris. My folks were able to watch the kids and so Barb came along with me. She got 6 days in Paris (4 on her own) to wander the city of lights and see the sights. That weekend we wandered the city and explored even further. We had dinner on same street as the Arc de Triumph (Champ De Lessee sp I know). We rode to the top of the Eiffel Tower. There are pictures of Barb with the Eiffel tower coming out of her head (classic pose I know). We rode the Seine on the boat tours and wandered through Notre Dame. We marveled at the beautiful books sold by the street vendors. For a couple of days we were young and in Paris free of all cares.
Part of Jake’s wander Indiana project.
My parents (before the boys were born) would rent a house boat near French Lick Indiana and we would have a family vacation there. We did that two or three times. Spending a week on the lake hanging out on the houseboat. It would have been around 1996, 1997 range. Before Barb left Optimum Group and before the boys were born. The last one of those was hardest on Barb. She had a project at work that wasn’t done, so Jakki and I came over first, and Barb joined us on Wednesday. Those days were hard on her. Later that year or possibly the next we were at my folks house for an event. Jakki fell down and hurt her knee just a little bit of blood. My mom, my sisters and Barb were all on the end of the deck near where she fell. Jakki ran right past them to find me (I was on the other side). That was when Barb decided (in fact she told me on the way home from that event) that she couldn’t work at OG anymore. She was gone often and worked unbelievable hours. But she wasn’t going to have her children growing up running to daddy to fix all their bumps and bruises. Sometimes, you have to run to mom to. It was a hard decision for Barb. She is independent and wants to control her own destiny. But Jakki running past her hurt a lot.
20 of 25
Another trip to Louisville (and Corydon the first Capital of Indiana). Hiding from the waterfall.
Our first dates, ones that would last two or three hours, were long walks ending up at the Red Chair bakery with Chocolate Chip cookies. Later date night became a little harder (need a baby sitter) and more expensive. Barb and I enjoy going out now for a quiet dinner. Or occasionally just sitting on the back patio and relaxing with no children around. The quiet is amazing. Sometimes, dates are simply us sitting down in the same room now and talking. Just talking about what we are doing, hat we are thinking about and what is worrying us. That connection time is so important and Barb is really good about making sure we don’t miss that time. When I was a school teacher I knew school teachers were underpaid. I have argued that for years. But I can now say that while we do not pay those who start us off on the path of life enough, we also don’t pay those who make sure the final journey is secure enough either. Hospice and the amazing people who spend time making the process of dying easier, are simply amazing people that are horribly underpaid. The work they do, providing comfort and a path to a dignified passing from this world is beyond words. Barb is a hero every day as she goes out into the world to help those leaving the world.
The Ohio river between Indiana and Kentucky.
Barb is not afraid of technology but she doesn’t leap forward as quickly as I do. I already shared the story of her first laptop and how she would never use it. The story ending with her looking at me and saying “you can’t take my laptop away.” The same was true of film cameras. Barb had a point and shoot film camera loaded that she used until 2008. She uses her phone now to take pictures. She made the complete conversion. She also wears a Fit bit and a Pebble smart watch. The transformation is nearly complete. She embraces technology as it makes her life easier. In many cases I can test out the value of a technology (and an idea I have) on Barb because in many ways she represents the average market person. She thinks carefully about adopting technology, looking for the value in it. Of course, once she adopts something you darn tooting better not take it away. You can upgrade her, but sometimes she doesn’t like upgrades unless they give her value. The one piece of technology Barb has that is always state of the art for her job is the printer. She always has high speed printers. She has to print fairly often and hates waiting for crappy output from a low end printer!
19 of 25 (I think I’ve lost count again)
Day trip to Louisville Kentucky 2004.
Barb has a sense of style (I do not). So over the past 25 years she has tried to introduce color into my wardrobe. Mostly because for years I wore white oxford shirts and blue oxford shirts. Now she has introduced Hawaiian shirts, pink shirts, red shirts and any other color she thinks she can sneak past me. Barb likes colors.
Its funny sometimes. She loves bright colors. Her favorite color is blue. Over the years I have evolved (according to Barb) so that Blue is my favorite color (actually its still silver but Blue is 2nd). Everything Barb can get in a blue color is blue in our house. Except couches. In all the years we’ve been married we’ve never had blue furniture. I guess you don’t sit on blue. We’ve had blue cars (we have one now, the car Barb drives to work every day is a beautiful dark blue Mini-Cooper). Our house has no blue outside and the walls are not blue inside. But hanging on the walls of our bedroom are lots of scarves and many have at least some blue in them.
Louisville Slugger Museum Louisville Kentucky 2004.
The very first boat and second boat Barb and I bought had blue trim. (The new one does not have blue trim). We have had a number of blue cars (7 in all). The ugliest blue car (even Barb didn’t like the color) was a Neon Blue (look at the van driving geek!!!!!) Chevy Venture van. We really needed a mini-van. So we were willing to deal with the dealership and take the one they had that had the features we watned, at the price we could afford.
We’ve only had one blue van since. A Chrysler Town and Country that was a nicer blue than the Venture was but that was a few years later. For a time we moved from mini-vans to Mini-Entertainment vans. Where the back seat and front seats of the car had separate entertainment systems. We (Barb and I) could argue about the radio station to play on SiriusXM. The kids could watch a movie. The compromise station for Barb and I has always been classical!
19 of 25
In the time before digital cameras we got picture disks with our copies of our pictures. This is a picture of Sean the man that introduced me to Barb in our house in Greenwood Indiana.
Moving day, October 1999. We picked the entire family up and moved from Cincinnati Ohio to Greenwood Indiana. I had transitioned two months before so had stayed in a Residence Inn on the North Side. Barb and the kids came in October. I will never forget how organized she was with that massive move. She sat in the front yard of our new house with a clipboard and sent the movers to the right rooms with every box. The unpacking process was also Barb’s specialty. But seeing her there organized and managing that entire process was reassuring. She has done that for our family now several times, the last time when we moved from Greenwood to Gaithersburg Maryland. That move was a little larger and with the kids a little older the last move we were moving a lot more stuff than we had previously. But Barb is amazing at project management. Anyway, October 1999 about a week and a half from Halloween we moved into our house in Greenwood.
Someone’s birthday celebration in the kitchen of the house in Greenwood Indiana.
Marriage, or at least our marriage, isn’t just about the big happy celebrations like in this picture. It is about pulling together, about setting dreams and goals and then as a team driving to them. During the process of getting there we don’t always get along. We are both first born children, long story, stubborn and wanting to run things our way. But our marriage is about those small moments when we can stop and remember why we are married. Not the big flashy moments or the sometimes awful fights that couples have. Yes we have fights. But we have moments where it is just us, where we have each other and memories. 25 years produces a lot of memoires. A lot of moments that you can reflect upon and smile about. Sometimes its not about the grand gestures. The sweeping romantic things people do. Its about sitting together and watching movie. Talking the movie and discussing why the movie impacts you. Its about caring about the impact the movie has on your partner. That is the power of marriage in 25 years or more. Not that you watched the movie, but that you cared more how your partner perceived that movie.
There are movies that Barb and I have watched together that I can’t separate the movie and watching it with Barb. When Harry met Sally, Mrs. Doubt fire, even the new Man from Uncle. Those are moments that are wound around being with Barb and a treasure them.
18 of 25 (I miss counted a couple of day’s ago) April 4 to April 29 2016
Preparing to leave (early am) for a trip to Holiday World in 2000. Preparing when the boys were little took time.
There is a moment in a long term relationship that you move from the original relationship to a newer version of that relationship. Barb and I moved to being best friends while we were in Cincinnati Ohio. At first we had long ranging arguments that would last weeks. But as we grew over time we slowed down on the big arguments. She and I still disagree on several things, but we agree now on many more. We have a path forward, a plan. As we transitioned back to Indiana in 1999 we began a different phase of our lives. Cincinnati was the early years of our marriage. The first period. The honeymoon and the resulting changes that occur. Barb went from being a students/waitress to being a full time video producer. Barb is a kind person and it took her many years in her first “professional” job (in quotes because frankly she has done many jobs professionally, this was just the first one that used her college degree). She learned how to read the tea leaves of politics. Barb is trusting by nature, so she has to be aware of the politics around her. But I think the thing her old employer missed the most when she finally left after 5 years was her willingness to do anything to help the company. Barb doesn’t have the concept of station, she has the concept of equal. So if job needs to be done, you might as well just get it done.
Somewhere near Holiday World in Santa Claus Indiana.
In the story of Barb that I am writing there is of course a lens, a filter that I apply. I see her through my eyes, not her own. For example the pictures used for this series of blogs are limited. Barb has an image of herself and those are the pictures she wants visible to the world. In a way (huge way) so much like my father. She doesn’t mind having her picture taken, just not posted on the blog.
But you cannot capture the full essence of a person on paper, or this blog or with a million pictures. It is the sound of her laugh. The goofy face she makes when she thinks she has pulled a fast one. The way she looks at her children (all of them) when they aren’t looking at her. The fact that she is willing and committed to helping them succeed no matter what. When Barb is on your side, in your corner, she will always be there. She will tell you when she thinks you have drifted away from your goal or gone off course. But even in telling you she will still get water out of the boat and keep you on the course you set.
She is an amazing person.
16 of 25