Monday, December 29, 2014

With This Ring, I Thee Wed

The Wedding of Chuck and Denise Bennorth
Saturday, December 27, 2014
Saint Charles, Illinois

We just returned from our honeymoon in Lake Geneva, and before time gets away from us any more than it has, I would like to get these photographs, and our wedding vows into my blog to share with faraway family and friends who could not attend the ceremony in person. We shared our special day via YouTube, and while it was better than nothing, we know that the technology was not perfect. So here are my vows, and a link to Chuck's blog which contains his vows, and his heartfelt words about our marriage, along with some of my favorite pictures from the day, taken by our friend Jim Frazier.

Chuck, I choose you
as my one and only,
my always and forever.

I love who you are, and trust in who you are becoming.
I welcome this opportunity to
unite our families.

Katie, Matt, Denise, Chuck, Zack, Jeanette, Chris, Amy in Illinois
Jamie, Dylan, Sierra, Jason, Bridger, Denise, Chuck in Utah

I love the father you are, and respect the relationship
you have with your sons.

The Bennorths: Matt, Chuck, Zack, and Chris
You are my soft spot to land
when life gets hard.
You are my safe harbor
when the seas of life get stormy.

Your voice and laughter make each day special.
Your love makes me happier.
I will love and honor you,
respect and cherish you.

When trials come,
I will face them with you,
and I will suffer with you.
I will be with you in good times and bad, 
in sickness and in health. 

I will never leave you.
I will share my words, my talents, my belongings, 
my heart, and my love with you. 
Everything I have is now ours.

I won't make you guess my thoughts.
I promise to speak to you with honesty
from a peaceful place, and with love,
to deepen our understanding of each other.
I am yours forever.

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

A Circle Story of My Own, A Fairy Tale of Sorts

It was a warm October day just a couple of months ago that I stood in front of my second grade classroom in rural Utah, and pointed to a colorful map of the United States surrounded by photographs of my students.

"54 years ago, I was born in Chicago, Cook County, Illinois," I told the children, as I pointed just west of Lake Michigan."The following spring, when I was still a baby, my parents moved our little family to Amherst, Virginia." My finger moved eastward on the map, by the Atlantic Ocean, to the heart of the state of Virginia. "When I moved to Utah after high school to get a college education," I told my little ones, moving my finger almost all the way across the U.S., "I ended up staying in Utah, and I raised my children here. Now I find myself getting ready to return to Illinois, where I will marry my best friend, Chuck Bennorth."

"It's a circle story!" one of the children exclaimed! I smiled. Yes, it is, indeed a circle story, one that ends in the same place it began. And this particular circle story does not only take a circular path geographically speaking, but emotionally, as well.

When I was a little girl, laughter came easily. I believed in fairy tales and happily ever afters. Over the years, my life lessons shook my beliefs more than slightly, and I began to lose faith in ever finding a Prince Charming of my own. 

It wasn't long after I met Chuck that I knew I had met someone special. I could be myself with him, and I felt safe enough to be vulnerable. We were soon caught up in each another's stories, and knew our hearts had found a safe place to call home in one another.

Someone was asking about my plans to move to Illinois. "Aren't you a little scared of moving so far away?" 

Without hesitation, I answered, "Not at all. I am confident I'm doing the right thing for me."

"You've always been kind of adventurous, though."

Yes, I suppose I have been adventurous, although I'd lost sight of that for awhile, it seems. Moving 2300 miles away from my girlhood home to go to college took a sense of adventure. Deciding to settle down in Utah to raise my family, so far from my parents, required a bit of bravery. As I look back on my life, I can see where I have wandered from my adventurous path, attempting to do the right thing or the safe thing, but I have always been happiest when I follow my heart. 

It does feel like a fairy tale, at times. The timing was perfect, if not quite a bit later than either of us would have desired, but everything just seemed to fall into place once we found each other. We can see that we have something special together, and it never would have worked with anyone else.

All of my life, I've been a bit of a chameleon, trying to fit in, and blend into environments where I may not have exactly belonged. It wasn't until I read Brené Brown's book Daring Greatly that I began to know the difference between fitting in and belonging. Finally, I feel like I can be who I am meant to be; an occasionally serious, and sometimes silly, woman, who loves children and words and baking and hiking, someone who loves to laugh, and who has the best of intentions of living her life fully present. Chuck loves me in all of my moods, and can appreciate my quirkiness, and he loves me in such a way that I feel completely safe being myself. I belong. I no longer feel like the square peg trying to fit into the round hole.

I found this quote by Kirsten Smith from her book, The Geography of Girlhood, and I thought it went perfectly with this picture of Chuck and me. "And we laugh and laugh and all I know is at this moment I feel like I can do anything I want and be anyone I want and go anywhere on the globe and call it home." I know that with Chuck's love and support, I can do anything I want and be myself, and as long as I am with him, I will know that I am home.

I am returning to the land of my birth, and my spirit is settling back into a comfortable spot of loving and living fully, just as it used to when I was a young girl. Yes, my life has come full circle, and I am the princess who has finally found her prince in this circular story. My sweet prince and I are planning to live out our days, happily ever after, forever and ever. 


Thursday, December 11, 2014

Our Teacher's Getting Married!

When I entered my principal's office at the end of last summer vacation, he had a smirk on his face. "What name am I going to put on the plaque outside your classroom door this year?"

It was a legitimate question. Throughout my thirty years, I've been called many things (some appropriate to list here, and some not so appropriate). I've been Miss Beidler. I've been Mrs. Waters. And I've been Mrs. Jackson. When my principal asked me that question, I was coming out of retirement, and my divorce had been final in February. I decided on Ms. Jackson. 

In my second graders' vast experience with adult women, they were a little confused when they stumbled upon my name in our morning message. ALL of their previous teachers, all TWO of them, had been a Mrs. Something-or-Other. 

At the bottom of my morning message that first day with my seven and eight-year-olds, I had signed my letter, "Love, Ms. J."

"Ms. J?" Caitlin questioned me. "Your name is Mrs. Jackson." 

"Caitlin, I'm not married any more. I'm single. I get to choose my title, and I'm asking you to call me Ms. Jackson or Ms. J."

She was having none of that. "Well, your name is Mrs. Jackson, and I'm going to call you Mrs. Jackson." Whatever. I learned quickly to pick my battles with this little miss. 

Fast forward a couple of months into the school year. Most of the kids had agreed to call me Ms. J, and Caitlin even slipped every once in awhile and called me that, too. 

Then on October 7, a beautiful bouquet of Gerber daisies arrived at school for me. A small group of children gathered at my desk as I arranged the daisies in the vase.

"Who sent you those?" Caitlin wanted to know.

"My boyfriend."

"Why do you have a boyfriend? Gross. What are you going to do with a boyfriend?"

"Oh, you know, go on dates, take long drives together, go out for dinner," and considering my little tomboy's perspective, I tossed in, "Play games and go in the mountains for hikes."

When the kids started asking about this new man in my life, they wanted to know his name and see his picture.
The Famous Chuck

"He has a mustache?" Caitlin asked with an obvious scowl, when she saw Chuck's picture. "That's just disgusting."

The kids finally settled back down at their desks, but their little hands kept shooting into the air to keep the discussion going. They shared their knowledge of boyfriends and dating.

"If a boy asks a girl to marry him, he is her fiançé," one of them piped up.

Ryker's hand went up next. "I know what a fiançé is! It's someone you can go to parties with."

If this relationship moved along as quickly as it began, Chuck and I would have to look for some parties soon, apparently.

As it turns out, we did get engaged. Chuck has become an honorary member of "Ms. J's Second Grade Classroom" on Facebook. 

It took some fast talking and explanations to satisfy Nate's
questions about why I was moving to Illinois. "Is Chuck's job more important than yours?" I had to be careful with that one because I knew what he really wanted to know was if I believed teaching our class was important. 

When I asked Nate if his mom and dad would want to live apart, he got an impish grin on his face, and said that they would. He seemed to understand a little better after that, but it took awhile for him to stop coming up with alternative plans for Chuck and me.

My students practiced writing open-ended questions so they could interview Chuck during a Google Hangout session. 

When we were practicing our questions, the kids learned that we find out more about a person if we ask them a broader question than one that simply requires a yes or no answer. The kids wanted to know his favorite foods, where he lives, and what he likes to do. They asked about his kids, and then he asked them some questions. 
Our Google Hangout with Chuck
After our Google Hangout session ended, Caitlin said, "What I really wanted to ask Chuck is why he's taking our teacher away." As she walked back to her desk, I just wanted to give her a big hug, but Caitlin isn't much of a hugger. I'll have to settle for a high five on my last day with the kids.

Yes, we've had some tough emotions to get through after the reality set in that I would not be finishing this school year with my littles. Some were grumpy, some were sad, and some seemed remarkably mature about the whole thing. When they found out that their new teacher would be Stacey Roberts, the overall mood of the class improved considerably. She's like a rock star to these kids. I know I'm leaving them in good hands, and it helps lessen the guilt I feel about leaving mid-year.

When Chuck came to visit during the Thanksgiving holiday, we stopped by my classroom before heading to the airport in Salt Lake City so he could read a story to the class.

Some of my children, especially some of my little girls, are very interested in my love life. Brooklyn is constantly drawing wedding cakes, and pictures of Chuck and me as a bride and groom, or as a prince and princess. Dreagan is fascinated with a Christmas story she discovered that included a winter wedding. 

Today I noticed Caitlin does actually call me Ms. J now. Hmm...wonder how hard it will be to get a Mrs. B out of her when I come back to visit in February? I'll decide if that battle is worth fighting then; for now, I'm just happy for the progress we've made so far.

I would like to thank all of my second grader's parents for your congratulations and good wishes on our upcoming marriage. You have such wonderful children, and I love them all. 

If Chuck weren't such a wonderful man, I would have had a much harder time making my decision to marry him during the middle of the school year, but when you meet him, you'll know I'm making the right decision. I can't wait to be Mrs. Bennorth!

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Chuck and Denise: We Clicked from the Beginning

September 29, 2014. That's when this whole Chuck and Denise thing started. Chuck took notice when I posted this cartoon on a Facebook page for older single adults to which we both belonged. 

My accompanying comment was something like, "And this, folks, is the reason why I am willing to give online dating and long-distance relationships a chance." 

The comic generated a little conversation among the regulars of the bunch, but I noticed a comment from someone I'd never noticed before. Who was this Chuck Bennorth? He must have been new because I'd never seen him online before.  He wanted to know how the long-distance relationship thing was working for me. We took our conversation to a private chat.

I nearly blew it by mentioning I finally had a third date to look forward to...a first for me. He assumed it was serious, but I was just excited to be having a third date.

HE nearly blew it by posting a joke on his Facebook page about smoking:

"This electronic cigarette is a waste of money. It melts every time I light it."

He was a smoker? I kept stalking checking out his profile. He didn't LOOK like a smoker. (Don't ask. I have no idea what a smoker LOOKS like either. I just know that I don't like the smell of cigarette smoke.) I loved his profile picture, but couldn't really see his face, so I looked further, and found pictures of a very handsome man with silver hair and a warm smile. Yes, I was impressed.

Love his boyish charm.
So handsome in a suit.

We started chatting on Facebook about photography, dating, and our kids. I will be the first to admit that I was intrigued by his profile picture. Immediately, I could tell he was handsome, creative, and a photographer. What I learned in a very short time is how compassionate and gentle he is. Then I searched his profile page, and the first thing I noticed were the interactions he had with his friends and family. Everyone was so warm and kind. There was friendly banter and good-natured teasing. And I finally asked directly about the smoking. Big sigh of relief. He doesn't smoke, or drink, even.  

Within a couple of days of meeting Chuck online, I dropped out of the online dating world. I cancelled my date for the weekend. Both of us left the singles group on Facebook. I just knew that I needed to trust my instincts with this one. He was a keeper, and I didn't want to take a chance of losing him.       

Every possible opportunity, Chuck and I were chatting, texting, and Skyping. The first weekend available to us, we Skyped nearly every waking moment. When we weren't Skyping, we were talking on the cell phone while we took our cameras for walks in our respective neighborhoods. While I baked cookies for Bridger's homecoming group, Chuck cleaned out his closet. We wrote poetry together, and for each other. We talked late into the night, and resumed our Skyping session early the next morning. 

Honestly, I knew he was the man I had dreamed of ever since I was a little girl. He wants to love, honor, and protect me, but he's not stuffy about it, and he makes me laugh. I mean, he makes me throw my head back and laugh, and I get to be who I am without apology or excuse. Chuck was willing to invest his time, resources, and energy in getting to know me. For once in my life, I got it right. No more unrequited love. No more trying to prove I'm worthy of someone's attention. We both believe we have found our lifelong dreams come true in each other. 
Chuck says when I canceled that third date, and posted this little camera with the word "SMILE" on his Facebook page, he knew I was really interested in him. He says he had been flirting and trying to get my attention from the beginning. He told me he'd been looking for me all of his life. (Well, not the first year. He says he was busy eating and sleeping then, but after that...) 

This is the first time I have ever felt like I was loved as much as I was loving. It is an amazing feeling to be desired, cherished, and loved, just as I am. No matter what, we know our hearts are home, and we have found our soft spots to land when the life gets tough. 

This summer, my friend Tonia bought this bumper sticker for me: "Everything in your life has led to this moment." I can see how true that phrase is now. I had certain lessons I had to learn, certain tasks I had to do, and certain people I had to meet. Every heartache, every tear, every trial has all been worth it, and I would endure everything again, if I could be assured my journey would bring me to this place in time with this wonderful man. 

As I approach the winter of 2014, it is with a happy heart and a smile on my face. Winter has never looked so inviting and warm. The future is full of promise and love. I couldn't be happier.

Sunday, November 9, 2014

A Double Nickel's Worth of Facts about Chuck

This blog post features a guest blogger, my fiançe. Many of you have been curious about this man who has won my heart. I present to you, my best friend and future husband, in his own words, on the celebration of his 55th birthday.

A Double Nickel's Worth 

of Facts about Chuck

written by Chuck, October 2014 

Photo by Denise

1.  I live in the town I was born in. I was born in Delnor Hospital in Saint Charles, Illinois. I was raised out east in Wheaton, 20 minutes from here, spent time in the south in Warrenville, 15 minutes from here, and now have been back in St. Charles for the past 24 years. 

2.  I have had only two fields of work, if you don't count cutting grass. I worked in tennis in high school and college and in I.T. (information technology) since then. 
3.  I was raised in a family of three sons and have a family of three sons. Never spent any time in the Barbie aisle. 
The Bennorth Boys: Matt, Chris, and Zack

4. I had hoped to become a professional tennis player, then a tennis instructor. I was never even close on the player side, though I was the head instructor for the park district for 2 summers. 

Note from Denise: I would have had the biggest crush on the boy on the far left when I was 16 in 1977.

5. I don't acquire a taste for any special food. If I don't like it, it stays that way, even if I have never tried it. 
6. I thoroughly enjoy photography. It is a hobby that became a passion that I started about 14 years ago, near as I can figure. 
Chuck in the Great Smoky Mountains

7. I have been to the local Renaissance Faire at least once a summer for the past 17 years. And many more times than that in the past few summers, as my photography desires grew. 
Photo by Chuck

8. I really enjoy instrumental music, especially classical music. Songs that i know the words for that are played with no singing do not count as instrumentals. 
9. I enjoy watching movies. Particularly good dramas that can really draw me in or witty comedies. Dumb and Dumber does not qualify as a witty comedy. 
10. I am a big reader and have been since my pre-teens. Many times I will have two books going on at once. 
11. I am not a goal-oriented person. There are not things that I set out to accomplish in life, but I enjoy seeing where each new day will take me. 
12. While I don't set goals, I very much look forward to things that are coming up. Plans and events are fun for me. 
13. I enjoy exercise and physical activity, but prefer it to come as part of something else. Pick up games, walks with the camera, hiking, etc. 
14. I am very competitive. It is always fun to try to do better than myself or another. 
15. I like making a game out of many things. Taking out the recycle plastic bottles, boring; seeing if I can toss them into the recycle bin from across the garage, much more fun. (See item 14)
16. Sudoku on my iPhone is not as much fun anymore because they have a timer on it. Because of item 14, I can't just enjoy completing the game, I have to complete it quickly according to the timer. 
17. I see the world in mental pictures due to my passion of photography. I often will look at something, and think about how it would look as a photo. 
Photo by Chuck
18. I love to laugh and make others laugh. 
19. Love is not a word that I apply to many things. I don't love a car, or pizza, or dessert. I save that word for those very special to me, or to a few select other things in life. See item 18
20. I am attracted to poetry where the poet is writing of things personal in their life. I like the depth of emotion and openness that can be found there. 
21. When I write poetry, it is nearly always as a form of self-expression, a way of expressing my feelings or emotions. 
22. I adapt quickly to new situations. Once I find the new parameters, I accept them as my new reality. My job has a 90 mile round trip commute each day. Once I started that job, the commute was just part of my new life, not a frustration or bother. 
23. I am a man of routines. I settle into routines of things in my life, and am pretty good with most of them day after day. Though I do look forward to breaks like weekends and vacations. 
24. I usually wear size extra-large shirts and sweatshirts. I could be close to large, but like the extra shoulder and arm room. 
25. I am a thinker about things. I do not do much by impulse, but think things over and analyze them before doing them, especially in purchases. 
26. I don't like attention drawn to myself, but do like to be recognized for things I have done. The battle of my shyness versus my desire to be respected. 
27. My middle brother and I are very different inside but similar enough outside that my mom even confused us at my son's wedding. 
28. I love being a dad. That special, unconditional love relationship with my sons is very special to me. 
29. Chris and I share time very athletically. He is the one person I don't mind losing to, though I have never let him beat me. Any time he does, and there are many times, he has earned it. 
30. I enjoy the simple things of life. I don't need the latest, fanciest, newest. I don't keep up with the latest shows, movies, etc. 
31. I am not much of a TV watcher. There are a few shows that I have watched on Netflix, but my TV, for the most part, remains off, and I am content with that. 
32. There is a soft side to me. Seeing people hurt or seeing people caring for others and giving of themselves for others is very tender for me. 
33. I throw myself into things I want to accomplish. Once it is on my mental list, I work hard at completing it. 
34. Matt and I connect intellectually. Discussions of movies, life and things are what he and I do best. He is the most like me in the area of responsibility and making the right choice. 
35. Zack and I have the silliest fun of the three. Little fun games can keep us entertained and provide fun as we are together. 
36. I get headaches at times. I have found that taking a migraine formula Excedrin, and resting on the couch will relax it. And it is a good time for me to relax, and write about 55 facts about me. 
37. I was divorced 15 plus years ago. I assumed then that I would marry again soon, but just never did. It took me all these years to find the one that I am meant to be with. Thank you, Denise, for choosing me, and for saying yes. 
Mingo Falls, Great Smoky Mountains National Park, October 24, 2014
Photo by some unknown tourist. We thank you.

38. I use very little caffeine. On a bad day at work, I will have the energy boost of a few M&Ms, but generally if I am tired, I will just take a quick power nap 
39. I can read books and watch movies over and over. If I like the characters, I can go back again to revisit them. 
40. I do enjoy sports and watching them. I just don't set aside the time to do that. I would rather be doing other things. I follow some pro teams but rarely college, because I can keep track of the athletes in the pros. The college teams change too much year after year. 
41. I am not a perfectionist. I work in terms of better and improvement, rather than perfection. 
42. I have learned that I enjoy travel and photography. I really enjoy seeing the beauty of nature and settings from around the country.  
Great Smoky Mountains, October 2014 (Photo by Chuck)

43. I like to relate to places and things. I find things, places, etc. that I am comfortable with and enjoy and then am willing to include in my world. The Smoky Mountains and San Diego are two such places. 
44. I enjoy deep and meaningful conversations, getting to really know someone. That is one thing that I really appreciate about Denise, her openness to talk with me about everything. 
45. I became a Christian in my early twenties. Understanding God's desire to be personal and real in my life was amazing and I wanted that. 
46. When it comes to home and garden, I don't have a vision to what could be relative to changes and improvements. I see and try to keep up with things, but don't often see where something could be. 
47. Blue is my favorite color. All different shades of it. 
48. I like American, Italian and Mexican food the most. My favorite restaurant is Front Street Cocina. I get the ground beef chimichanga nearly every time. I like many other dishes as well, but I go with the favorites. 
49. I eat 5 smaller meals each day, spreading the food out instead of three larger ones. Part of this is spending out the carbs due to type 2 diabetes. 
50. I snack too much when at work at my desk. It is situation and location basses snacking. If I am working from home or not working, I snack much much less. 
51. While I am 55 on the outside, I still feel like I am a young adult on the inside. This can cause problems athletically, when my inside age calls on my outside body to do something. 
52. I am learning to slow down and enjoy the simple, do little or nothing moments, to appreciate the beauty around me and the warmth of the sun. 
53. Little things can be very special to me, the special things that are part of a relationship or celebration. Denise and I share many of those. She is the other half of me. 
Photo of Denise by Chuck

I had a 54 in mind when I was typing 53. I wonder what it was. 
54. Being respected is very important to me. In my work, photography, opinions, writing, life. I want to live worthy of other's respect. 
55. I am humbled and amazed at the way others care for me, think of me, encourage me. They see things in me that I don't. The kindness that is shown me by others touches me very deeply.

Did you know Chuck has a blog of his own? Check it out HERE!

If you're wondering how I met this wonderful specimen of a man, you can read about how "We Clicked from the Beginning."

Ten of my favorite Randomocity blog posts featuring Chuck can be found below:

With This Ring, I Thee Wed

The Bachelor Takes a Wife

Good Morning, Beautiful

Country Mouse, City Mouse

He Calls Me Little Mouse

My Brave Little Toaster

I Fell in Love with His Words

Sworn to Secrecy

What Rhymes with 'Olonoscopy?

The Male Version of Myself