She was right
I was not sure about the future, but she was, and it has been wonderful. I was reluctant to have children, but she said I would love it. She was right! I did not want to travel and do adventurous things. She told me to get over myself and enjoy it. She was right. I said I was sorry, and she said everyone makes a mistake. She has been the perfect COVID partner. So much more, but all because she said yes over 47 years ago. Jesse McDonald

A blind date
Blind dates never work out, right? Wrong! My blind date drove himself to pick me up, got out of his car with sunglasses, a white cane and in a Cubs jersey. When I answered the door, he said, "Hi, I'm your BLIND date!" For just a second, I was very concerned, then I burst into laughter. He took off his glasses and presented me with a gift of memorabilia of my favorite team, the St. Louis Cardinals. Almost 37 years later he still makes me laugh, and we're still disagreeing on which is the better baseball team! Jean Oesterreich

Inspiring women
My little love story is about a lady who writes poetry, shares family stories, enlightens us, inspires us and who recently surprised me with a book I received in the mail. This lady reminds me of another amazing woman, my grandmother, Martha Jane (Adams) Hawthorne, and also of my dear friend, Kay LeSeure, who passed away unexpectedly last summer. I am grateful for clever and funny women who have enriched my life and I count Ms. Jacqueline D. Jackson among them. Happy Valentine's Day!
Carol Mullen

It started at the theater
How lucky I am that our paths crossed. I met Michael Frye nine years ago at a local theater. I was onstage and he worked in the sound booth. I followed him around and we snuck kisses backstage. Warm summer nights were spent laughing under the stars and cold winter nights were spent cuddled up under blankets. He followed me away to college, and after graduating, he proposed to me at the same theater where it all started. Now married and still deeply in love, I can't imagine a day without him, his kindness, his immeasurable love. I am forever grateful to be his.
Amy Cantrall Frye

A faded orchid
My parents were married in an Army chapel in Texas, six weeks before my father shipped out for World War II. My mother had taken the train – traveling by herself for two days from northern Illinois to Texas. My father, her high school sweetheart, met her holding an orchid corsage. For an officer on training pay, that was expensive! She was married in the same clothes she had worn on the trip. Only the orchid showed that she was the bride. In 2020, I was to have been the bride again after many years, and then COVID intervened. It was hard to give up my plans. I remembered my mother's faded orchid, pinned to the edge of her dressing table mirror. If she could do it, I could. We were married by a judge.
Sara L. Lieber

Shared adventures
He came to talk with students at Ursuline Academy about his time as a journalist in Central America and visited the faculty room. I was there, researching a play I was directing based on George Orwell's 1984. We had dinner together that night. More dates, filled with wonderful conversations, led to a proposal, followed by a wedding and receptions in four different places with four different groups of relatives and friends. We celebrated our first anniversary in Guatemala, and we returned to the site of one of those wedding receptions for our 10th and 25th anniversaries to revel with life-long friends. We visit that same inn every fall.
Sheila Walk

An ice cream cone
This love story started over 80 years ago between my grandparents, Vic and LuLu Lanzotti, who celebrated their 80th wedding anniversary on Feb. 1 of this year. LuLu asked Vic to buy her an ice cream cone 82 years ago and they have been together ever since. They still live together, he still calls her baby and she still talks about how handsome he is (he turned 100 on Feb. 10). They had three perfect children, nine grandchildren and 13 great-grandchildren (and counting). A picture of them should be in the dictionary to define lovebirds.
Victor Lanzotti

Dandelion hair
My 3-year-old son had just come in from playing in the snow and I couldn't stop staring at his hair. Filled with static from his stocking cap, it stuck out in a million directions. Watching him, my heart exploded with love. I wanted to freeze time and remember exactly how I felt, sitting beside him and his fuzzy little boy hair, for the rest of my life. When we think about love, we often think about grand gestures and moments, but for me it's always the little moments that find a way to settle deep inside my heart.
Lana Shovlin

Sibling love
I love my sister, Cecilia, because she is adventurous, outgoing and I know she will always be a friend to me as we grow up. I love my brother, Leo, because he makes me laugh when he closes his eyes and purposely runs into things.
Grace Shovlin, age 10

I love my sister, Grace, because she helps me make my bed. Also, she is sometimes nice to me. I love my brother, Leo, because he shares his toys with me. He makes me laugh when he puts pants on his head and runs around the house.
Cecilia Shovlin, age 6

Cuckoo clock
Opal and Stanley were my neighbors, and their house was filled with delightful toys bought for grandchildren who did not visit. But I visited. They welcomed me with soda and candy. I played the piano and with the toys. Stanley always set the time on the cuckoo clock to 12 p.m., while Opal would send me home with fragile knickknacks. Stanley died shortly after we moved, and when I got my driver's license, I went to see if Opal might still be alive. She welcomed me with soda and candy and pressed the cuckoo clock into my hands as I departed.
Carey Smith

The COVID cupid
COVID was our cupid. We were introduced by acquaintances, liked each other, but remained friends as our lives were going in different directions. Dinners and lively conversations for companionship at each other's house ensued – our only pandemic meeting option. We discussed everything and laughed often. During one dinner, she said her life plans changed and she wanted a relationship; I professed wanting to continue my online dating. The awkwardness of these revelations led to laughter, the baring of souls and an acceleration out of the "friend zone" by the end of the evening. We've avoided COVID, but it still brought us together.
David Blanchette




Abraham Lincoln & Ann Rutledge
A forlorn face - a plodding gait ... In solitary form ... Eluding fate - to contemplate ... An unrelenting storm ...

Remorseful gaze upon the plight ... An unforgiving role ... A desperate pause in calm of night ... To soothe a weary soul ...

Peers longingly toward stars above ... Life's mirrors stilled in rhyme ... Reflections of a long-lost love ... Warm memories steeped in time.
Joseph Mason

Religion and politics
Religion and politics – two topics to avoid in polite conversation. Apparently, my parents didn't abide by that rule. When they married in their late 20s, my dad was an ardent Democrat and Methodist. My mom came from a long line of staunch Republican Lutherans. What to do? As a mark of true love, my dad became a faithful Lutheran and my mom, one of the most devoted Democrats around. I always marveled at that compromise, one that served them well during their nearly 60 years of marriage. Mary Bohlen

Full of sunshine
Today, it has been exactly one year since we said goodbye to our happy, golden, goofy girl. Some might say she was only a dog, but to know Bernie was to love her. She never knew a stranger, and we joked that she would be useless against a robber, bringing them toys instead of teeth. She was my running buddy, my husband's hiking buddy and everyone who knew her was her very best friend. Not everyone gets to know a pure soul, but she was the color of sunshine, and she was sunshine, and who doesn't love sunshine? Rexann Whorton

The ancestors
In 1868, my great-grandparents emigrated from England with their large family; my grandma was a baby. They brought along two large portraits of the parents they were leaving. Where these were for the next 100 years I don't know, but I found them in my parents' attic. They promptly went on my walls and now look down with disapproval on those who venture into my living room. I love these old, forbidding ancestors – at least their pictures; they probably had good sides, not captured by the artist. My problem now is to find homes for John and Maria Trever as I downsize. What gr-gr-gr-grandchild will cherish them? "They wouldn't be much fun at a party," one has already remarked.
Jackie Jackson

An eternal sun
The photo of the young family pops up in my phone's memories. The man and woman grin in the golden light of the setting sun. The baby sleeps peacefully. The man's beard is grayer now. The woman's face has a few more lines. The baby is a long, lean colt of a boy. But the gleam in their eyes is the same, as is the joy in their hearts. Together, wherever they are, they are home. At the end of my life, my best idea of heaven will be for us to meet on the beach in the light of an eternal sun once more. Erika Holst

Calvin and Hobbes
Can you love a comic strip? Calvin, his wildness and plotting schemes I tolerate, while his evil snowmen I admire. But I love how his dad takes with equanimity, say, Calvin's poll of 6-year-olds who find Dad scores low in the bedtime and allowance divisions. And, Dad's occasional remark that Calvin was a "special" at Sears, so they got him cheap. Hobbes, though, I love best. He goes along with Calvin's escapades, but most often with rolling eyes and twiddling thumbs, his advice ignored. Though often he turns Calvin's tricks back on to the perpetrator! What's not to love?
Gillian Jackson Ferranto

We persevered
2020 was frustrating and scary. It was also inspiring and uplifting. I lost my job, my daughter missed 45 days of school, my wife's schedule got changed to the point that she was basically only seeing us on the weekends. We found out our daughter had a lesion on her brain. 2020 made our relationships stronger. We all made it through a very tough year. Our daughter's lesion is gone. She is back in school. My wife's job is back to normal. I have a growing photography business, and all this showed us that as a family we can make it through anything!
Zach Adams


PJ (Possum Junior)
Oh PJ, where do we begin? You are the sweetest kitten, always longing for attention and love, but when the presence of food is sensed, that is all you can think about. Jumping on countertops and climbing up legs just to get a little piece of chicken or beef has always been your way. I love you with all my heart, but wonder if you love me or just want a little sneaky snack?
Karen Stroemer

Lots of love
Our cats love me. Our dogs love me. Our pig, not so much; our chickens, sort of; our donkeys and goats like me (I feed them), but our turkeys are enamored with me. Toodles sits on the porch with me, leans on me, talks to me and shares snacks with me. Oakley loves hugs, grape tomatoes, laying his wattled head on my shoulder and dancing for me. They come to the door, look in the windows and follow me around the yard. It feels like love, but maybe it's just a state of comfort, knowing we aren't serving them for dinner!

Karen Stroemer

A life of love
Walter Lee Flood and Annize Marie Matern were married Feb. 24, 1934. She, a green-eyed girl who'd just celebrated her 18th birthday. He, a tall, eager youth of 20. What does she dream of in her gown and flowing veil? What are his expectations, this dapper fellow in his new suit and boutonnière? Children of the Great Depression, they surely dream of better days. First comes hard work and good times, then the conflagration that was World War II. Surviving that, they then raised two daughters and lived to see great-grandchildren. What the photo cannot show is a love that lasts 61 years until death separates them.
Nancy Flood-Golemback

Twenty-five years later
I was out with my friend on my 21st birthday. At midnight, at the last place, I was shocked to see it was a biker bar. We went up the steps, through the heavy doors, and I was overwhelmed. The music blared while people showed IDs to several bouncers. My friend explained to them that it was my birthday as my eyes fell on the love of my life. I knew he was my soulmate, but he wasn't convinced. It was months before he'd even buy me dinner. Twenty-five years later we're still together, and I'm still always right!
Tiffany Lapp

How lucky am I?
How lucky am I to be in love with my best friend, my wife, Lisa Tomasino? We have an amazing life with a daughter who is our pride and joy, adorable furry babies and friends who are like family. We are truly blessed. For so long I took life for granted, but your battle with cancer has made me realize just how precious every day is. There is nothing more important than every minute I have with you. I reflect on our 20-plus years together and I pray for 20 more. Always remember – just breathe.
Jonna J. Cooley

Fifi the wild cat
If cats have nine lives, you certainly lived yours to the fullest. You had multiple names before you made me your companion. You carried an untold amount of histories. I knew you were wild from the beginning. You were a skilled escapee who looked out windows most longingly. But you always came back, sometimes with battle scars. For a brute, you were also soft and tender. And while I couldn't have known your age, I am so grateful you shared your last 12 years with me. Wherever you are now, beyond the veil, may you be still wild and well.
Rachel Otwell

Roasted chickpeas
My favorite childhood treat, roasted chickpeas, could only be found in the kitchen of a local widow. We children would trade raw chickpeas for her roasted ones. She profited because the roasted chickpeas, after she soaked them in water overnight, would double in size and had more volume than raw chickpeas. She carefully piled up the raw ones in a cup until they formed a neat pyramid. But when she measured out roasted chickpeas, she filled the cup quickly and a few would fall out. If you tried to intervene to get more chickpeas, she would slap your hand and cuss you out. Even now, those roasted chickpeas remain a favorite memory.
Eliseo Aznarte

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  • "Voices and Votes"

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