So, I’ve never much bought into the #MCM thing. When I say that, I mean I’ve never participated in posting on social media, or any related type of site, with that hashtag. I’ve never had a #MCM moment, maybe because I’m an adult woman and try only to use hashtags sarcastically or as part of my marketing job.

This post is about the person who made me rethink that.

Last summer, I was going through this whole thing. The year 2015 wasn’t super great. I felt like I was underwater for a long time, and burst through the surface, in June, gasping for air and completely disoriented.

Once I caught my breath, I internally declared a rebuilding year and wrote out some goals for the next six months.

It was a fairly short list.

I had this plan to get out of Nevada, since Hunter had graduated in May. As far as relocating, the only place that spoke to me was the Springfield area. The reason was based on my brother’s 15-year residency there and lots of visits that made me really fall for the vibe in the Ozark area (plus, Krispy Kreme AND Hurts Donuts were located there).

However, my brother was moving to Rolla, and the job market in Springfield as compared to Kansas City seemed dismal. It made more sense to move to the Kansas City region. But thinking about actually doing that made me feel sulky. I needed to figure it out, and quickly, since our house was under contract and I had to be out of it by July 1. Beyond that, I set a rough deadline to be out of Nevada altogether by 2016, got a temporary, sweet-ass loft rental from my friend Corey, and settled into my new life as someone who lived completely alone.

It was basically awesome. I loved it, a lot. Several of my friends were entering a similar rebuilding phase, and we had an amazing time. Repeatedly. Oh, man.

But I digress.

I had been trying to encourage two of my friends who had recently gotten divorced that they needed to get out there if they wanted to actually meet someone. “Getting out there” in Nevada is kind of a joke, so I suggested dating apps as a way to do so. What’s the harm?, I figured. You don’t have to ACTUALLY meet the person, you can get acclimated to the flirty banter, and then if you want to take it further at that point, you totally can. Or not. What’s not to like?

They both got set up on their respective apps, and we had several super entertaining lunches looking over the prospects for each. Then one day I noticed that one of my app buddies had all of these great-looking guys from which to choose. AND the app was free. Seriously!?

I started to think that I wanted to try this experience for myself. The only catch was, I definitely didn’t want to actually meet someone. I didn’t want to worry about what to wear, or say, or do with my hands or facial expression during the (almost certainly) awkward initial date. I wanted an escape hatch. It seemed safest just not to meet the people at all, and use the app as a fun distraction at most. I needed to focus more on my Springfield job search, and where I would live, and just soak up more time on my own before I thought about making forced small talk face to face with a virtual stranger.

Day one: I set up my profile, wrote something short and glib that made me sound incredibly awesome and not crazy, chose pictures that made me look like I was blessed with good hair (that was the hardest part, believe me), and boom, I went live.

As far as the process from that point went, it was super easy…just view the person and swipe left or right depending on whether or not you liked them. If they liked you, too, then it was a match, and you could move forward with contacting them.

It really was like a game. I think I had close to 90 matches on day one. And that’s when I realized that I really didn’t want to talk to any of those matches. Like, literally zero. I received messages, answered them halfheartedly, and moved on. The swiping was definitely entertaining, as were some of the pictures people chose for publication.

Day two: more perusing and swiping. I got to one profile, and read the short bio (I had started reading those before I absorbed the accompanying picture). And then I laughed. And then I read it again. And then I looked at the picture. It was this guy in a brown t-shirt, taken from a distance. I could not really tell what he looked like. He had his feet up on an ottoman and wasn’t facing the camera. The bio read that he liked to grill assorted meats and needed someone who could help him get the canoe off of his truck.

That was it. That was the whole thing. And boom, I was intrigued. For the first time, I wanted to be the one to send the initial message. I just loved the idea of someone who wasn’t using the bio section to talk about how great he was. And I loved assorted grilled meats. And, while I was far from adept at canoeing, I WAS able to lift and move things, and I loved the water.

So I clicked on the green check mark, and was rewarded with the message that we liked each other. It was a message I was pretty familiar with at that point…but THIS time, reading it set off this weird, fluttery feeling in my stomach. Grilled Meat Guy liked me, too.

That was the first sign of danger.

I did what I usually do when my body warns me of danger…ignored it. I had a message to compose, but the words were not coming to me. It had to be perfect, obviously…the right mix between casual and funny and intelligent and the greatest opener in all of time and space.

Luckily, Grilled Meat Guy messaged me before I could talk myself right out of the whole situation.While I don’t remember what those first messages said, I do remember that they were awesome. He was very intelligent, and knew his way around sarcasm.

He also knew his way around music…a lot. The danger signs grew in intensity. This was supposed to be a fun distraction. I hadn’t really planned on bonding with anyone. In fact, that was the last thing I needed.

We messaged for a day? A day and a half? And then my phone rang the second evening, and it was him.

I hate talking on the phone. It was a big part of my daily job at that time, and the last thing I wanted to do when I got off work was spend more time on the damned thing.

But I talked to him anyway, for over two hours. Straight. I liked his voice. And I liked the words that he used with it. He made me laugh. He made me realize how lazy I had gotten with my own intelligence. This guy was smart. He was smart AND he was quick. And that musical knowledge…oh, man. We talked so much about music. I had never been in a situation with a guy who checked ALL of those boxes – music, extreme intelligence, AND the perfect mix of sarcasm in his humor. I didn’t even know that was a combination I could wish for, frankly. The only thing that gave me pause was that he was younger than I was. Thirteen months, to put a number to it. But we were just having fun communicating. It’s not like it was going to turn into anything more, right?


The danger signs were shooting off in earnest at this point. My gut feeling was that I really, really liked him. Only more than that. And that was something that I just didn’t know if I could accept. This fun little experiment was getting too real. I had kind of thought that the super-compatible relationship was something that I just wasn’t destined to have in my lifetime, and I was pretty much fine with it. This…this was something I hadn’t prepared for, and didn’t know how to reconcile in my mind.

AND he wanted to meet me…soon. He had gotten us tickets to the opening night of Grease, and wanted to eat at a Peruvian restaurant beforehand. That was a real date. I for sure wasn’t ready for that. Because what if I liked him? What if I really, really liked him? Then what?

Or, worse, what if I didn’t? What if I had it built up in my mind, and it was all for naught? It seemed safer just never to ever meet him. Ever. And maybe just get a box of donuts instead, settle in for a series of nights of Netflix, and call it good.

The thing is, though, I have always been terrible at taking my own advice. I couldn’t stop communicating with him. It was kind of one of the best things ever. I looked forward to it. I frequently checked my phone, hoping he had sent a text.

I thought about him more than food. Anyone who knows me knows what a huge, huge deal that is. I had always thought about food more than anything, including my education, my own child, and balancing my checkbook. To have those thoughts pushed aside by another person…by anything, honestly…I mean, just, what? Who was I? What was happening?

Even though I was nervous at the prospect of meeting Grilled Meat Guy, I agreed to go on the proposed date. He told me I’d better not change my mind.

It was like he already knew me.

The date was to take place on September 11…which was eight days away. He mentioned that it was a long time to wait. He was going to be doing something that Saturday and Sunday, but thought he would be free by Sunday night, and that we could hang out Sunday night and Monday.

That was Labor Day weekend, and I was also on call that Saturday and Sunday, so I thought maybe it would be better to wait. I had friends who were supposed to be in town that I didn’t see very often, and didn’t want to blow them off. Also, every time I thought about meeting him so quickly, or at all, my heart felt like it was going to beat out of my chest. It wasn’t an altogether unpleasant feeling, but it was an unfamiliar one.

So I decided no way could this happen. Not yet. And as I was deciding that, I was telling him that maybe it COULD happen. My friends didn’t make the trip after all. I was off late afternoon Sunday until Tuesday morning. All signs pointed to this being the perfect time to meet him.

My friends were nervous on my behalf. They reminded me that he could very possibly put me in a wood chipper, and that I didn’t even know him. The prospect of death by wood chipper sounded almost better than actually meeting him. I was usually pretty confident about new people, but this was the exception.

I took a mental gulp and told him I was going to drive to meet him Sunday, after all. No turning back. It was happening.

Just so I would be good and ready, I prepared from scratch and ate almost an entire strawberry rhubarb pie and most of a family-size amount of chicken fajita pasta late Saturday night/early Sunday morning. That way I could focus more on not dying from a literal stomach explosion than what I would be facing that evening.

It worked for a long time. I got off work, grabbed swimwear (he liked to kayak, and I had never kayaked…another worry for Future Jen) and headed toward Nixa.

And I did well all the way there. Really well, in fact…right up to the point where I pulled into his driveway. As I got out of the car, walking on legs that were losing more feeling with each step, I saw him through his front windows. That’s the moment that all the real-ness hit me. I seriously don’t know how I got to the front steps from that point, but the next thing I registered was him opening the door, my newly-rubber legs propelling me forward into the house, and the moment I looked into his eyes for the first time.

They were really nice eyes. And he was smiling. And he was really, really cute. And – wait, was there potentially a possible time in the future in which I would weigh more than him? – but there was no time to think, because we were speaking.

He was very calming. He handed me a glass of wine and showed me around the house. He spoke confidently and matter-of-factly, and I remembered that this was the incredible, all-boxes-checked guy that I had been communicating with for the last several days.

It was also the moment I realized (consciously) that I loved him. I tried to shuck that feeling off like an itchy prom dress, but it didn’t work, so I gulped the wine instead.

And with my wine clarity came the realization that there was no reason for the nerves. There was no reason for self-doubt. From the beginning, it felt like I’d always known him.

The real test began with the kayaking trip the next day. A couple of his friends from work, fellow salespeople, were coming to the house, then we were all going together. I wasn’t a math person,  but it didn’t take much to combine the facts.

1. Not only would I be trying a new activity that I had never come close to trying before, but

2. I would also be meeting two people who were important enough for him to kayak with. Oh, and

3. they were all experienced kayak-type people. And, lest I should forget,

4. I had only just met Josh, too. So, quick add, carry the two, and yeah.

Challenge(s) accepted.

I put on my chosen first-time-kayaking apparel, and, as I finished transforming into a river goddess, Josh told me that breakfast was ready.

When I got into the kitchen, there were perfect scrambled eggs, heavenly bacon, and MIMOSAS. The dining room table overlooked the French doors, which were open to a tree-dappled yard complete with patio. Was this even real?

The breakfast was perfect, and distracted me for about 12 minutes from my eventual fate on the wild river rapids.

Luckily, I tend to overthink things only when there is nothing I can do about them. What I had going for me in this situation was that I loved all things water (with the exception of waterboarding, because c’mon).  I just had to do enough to not end up stuck on a bank, or in a fallen tree, or in a nest of peevish, flying water moccasins, and I would be fine. Never mind that the last time I manned a boat, I broke it.

And besides, the people who were going with us had just pulled into the driveway and exited their vehicle, so one super-important test at a time.

The first thing I noticed about the friends was that they were extremely attractive and fit people who looked like they could lead a successful video series on mastering the kayak. As the female part of the couple approached me, things just got worse. She was like, flawless. I suddenly felt like maybe I was made up of equal parts awkward and sweaty palms and did I just gain 17 pounds and what do I even do with my face right now.

And then she started to speak, and all was right with the world again. What was it with these people that made me feel like I had always known them? Her boyfriend was quieter, but then again, he was helping Josh rope or bungee cord or whatever people do with lashing kayaks to the top of the vehicle, so there was that. The important thing was, I didn’t have to perform that maneuver on top of everything else I had going on. Which, judging by my awkward hands, was very little.

The great part about meeting Emily was that it was a distraction from looking at Josh. Well, the first great part. We bonded instantly. I was able to forgive her for looking like the product of a supermodel and an angel having a baby, and we just moved right on from there.

But, all too quickly, we were at water’s edge with the kayaks. And then I was getting in one. By myself, because it was a kayak. With a paddle, because that’s what people do so that they can maneuver a kayak.

And, miracle of miracles, I pulled all of my paddling experience from that one canoe trip in 1995 to the forefront of my mind and was able to, after a couple of false starts, steer in the right direction.

It was an amazing day, and not just because of the moonshine cherries that Emily brought. By the end of it, I knew that I really, really wanted to be around Josh as a new general rule of my life. I headed back to Nevada Tuesday morning feeling generally depressed about having to head back to Nevada on Tuesday morning.

But then, that night and the next, Josh came to Nevada. He reasoned that we hadn’t spent a night apart since we met, so why start now? It checked out, so I went with it. He was at Hunter’s birthday party Wednesday, and although my loving and fiercely protective sister cut him no slack, he fit right in with my people. And, when they all left, he proposed that I move in with him.


At 40, I wasn’t getting any younger. My son was grown and out of the house. And, though it didn’t make sense, though I used to make fun of people for claiming to love someone from day one, I knew that I didn’t want to spend any more time in my life without him right there with me. I said yes, and it felt like one of the best choices I had ever made (which isn’t saying a lot, but shut up and give me this one).

I went back to Springfield Thursday and Friday…Friday being our originally scheduled first date.

That DATE. Oh, man. It was indescribably great. Josh wore a charcoal suit jacket and a black button down shirt. He looked so amazing, and carried himself so well, that I had a small setback. He was TOO incredible. I snuck a picture of him at dinner and sent it to my best friend Kori with an accompanying text indicating that I was not up to the challenge of being with someone so intimidatingly beautiful in all of the ways.

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I don’t recall verbatim, but I think she told me to shut up.

The food was great (he went with rabbit, I had goat). Grease was an amazing live show. Afterward, we saw our first band performance, at Patton Alley, sharing a table for two and holding hands like the saps that we were.

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The next night, we saw our second band together, but in the traditional concert format of everyone standing in front of the stage. He was the ideal concert partner…nearby, but not clingy; appreciative of the music,  but right there if anything untoward should happen. Later that night, he told me that he was taking me to Mexico in February to see his favorite band, Widespread Panic.

Uh-huh. Sure you are.

He sent a text to one of his friends who was going on that same vacation, telling him that he was going to take me to Mexico with him. The friend responded in much the same way that I internally did, but I believe the words were, “You’ll find somebody else by then.”

After that, it was a series of introductions to each other’s family and friends, none of whom seemed willing or able to accept the fact that we had met and moved in together virtually the same day (my favorite reaction was Hunter’s: “_______, Mom, why do you have to be such a __________ free spirit?”).

I couldn’t even be mad. I would have reacted with the same cautionary incredulity as they did had the roles been reversed. Josh kept reassuring me, though, that eventually they would all understand. And “they all” was a lot of people to win over, by the way. I may not have mentioned this, but Josh has roughly 600-1250 very close, personal friends, and it is only now that I’m reasonably sure that I have met most of them.

I really only had two tests for him, and he had passed one of them when he got Hunter’s stamp of approval. The other one was even more important.

In late September, I took him to a Royals game.

He nailed it, another box was checked (sports fan? A must), and I felt pretty sure we had this thing locked.



Although we didn’t spend nights apart (we tried it twice and it was just awful), it took a month after we had agreed to live together before we made it official by moving in all of my stuff. I cleared out of my loft and became a Nixa resident in early October.

Our furniture even matched.

The only thing that really sucked in that time was my daily commute from Nixa to Nevada. But, once again, Josh was an absolute champion. He sent me encouraging texts. He had incredible meals waiting for me when I got home. He told me how amazing I was.

But the commute couldn’t last forever. I turned in my three-week notice the same weekend I officially moved. It was bittersweet realizing that my off-and-on-but-mostly-on, 13.5-year run at Heartland was coming to an end.

My last day there was October 30. On November 3, I accepted a position at Missouri Sun Solar, and the final hurdle was cleared.

This is not to imply that I didn’t have moments of doubt along the way, but the moments of doubt were not associated with Josh and I. Rather, the idea that I was actually cutting ties with the town where I’d spent pretty much all of my years, the idea that I was dealing with an empty nest PLUS a new house PLUS a new town PLUS a lot of new people PLUS none of the old people PLUS the fact that my job was largely based on networking in an area and population entirely unfamiliar to me made things seem, at times, really, really surreal. I had already dealt with my share of changes the first half of 2015…with these additions, it had to be some kind of record.

But every time the surreal hit, Josh was right there. He always knew what to say, but the difference with him was that I could tell he actually meant it. He was very calming. Very reassuring.

He always believed in me, and, more importantly, in us.

We went through our first set of holidays as a couple. He greeted me on Thanksgiving morning with “Happy first Thanksgiving together!”

And then he made me a mimosa, because he totally gets who I am as a person.

We made it through all of the less-pleasant firsts: the first cry. The first illness. We didn’t fight, not in the sense to which I had previously long been accustomed. We just…talked. We talked, calmly, like adults, and brought the situations to resolution.

It was so. damn. cool.

So it was that we got to the first of February with one more test ahead of us…and believe me, I was nervous. We were going to knock out the most serious challenge to date.

We were going to Mexico.

Sounds super simple, right? Dream vacation, warm weather, beach?

It wasn’t. Because, the thing is, when I previously mentioned Josh’s favorite band, Widespread Panic, I did not elaborate.

He’s seen over 100 of their shows, dating back to 1997.

He has a circle of friends who also attend these shows, and they were firmly entrenched in a tight-knit subculture. Most of those friends would also be there.

I had never seen a Panic show. Never. Not ever. Worse, I had never even heard of them before I met Josh. I was officially an outsider. And, as someone who loves ethnography, I knew that I had my work cut out for me on this one. It was the ultimate sink or swim.

We had been counting down regularly for at least three months. And then there was a week left. And then a weekend.

And then it was time.

We got there, and boarded the bus to the Hard Rock Resort in Riviera Maya. It was a Panic-themed vacation…they would be playing from 8-12 every night, with a sunset show prior and an after-show of assorted guest players.

We were the first two on our bus. As people trickled in, they greeted each other like they were old friends. At first I actually wondered if they knew each other from other shows, but quickly realized they were from all over the country and had never met prior to this day.

It was so cool. Josh told all of the people around us that this was my first show, and, once again, I had nothing to worry about. They were all instantly welcoming and gracious, without exception.

I still had to make it through the shows, though. It had been a long, long, long time since I’d hit a multi-day concert situation (specifically Woodstock ’94), and I frankly doubted I had the stamina necessary to pull off active listening AND dancing for that many hours, no matter who the band was. Josh was a dancer. I’d seen it with my own eyes on numerous occasions. Plus, a mass audience at a concert usually equaled a lot of jockeying for position and at least one fight.

But I felt ready. Nervous though I was, especially when the other Springfield pro-level Panic fans joined us, I felt like I could do it. I may not have known all the songs yet, but I knew a lot more than I had five months prior.

We checked out the resort, got to the stage, took some pictures. People started to arrive. Weirdly, even though the area was packed, I had plenty of room…and I was in the front. That had never happened.

And then…it was them. Widespread Panic, in the flesh. On the stage. In position and ready.

Song One started. It was not only one I knew, but one I really loved. I looked at Josh. He was ecstatic and already dancing. When the chorus came, he sang it to me.

That song relaxed me for the whole vacation, which ended up being the best one I ever took, incidentally. The weather was beautiful. We had the best time, all the time. The crowds were respectful, allowing each other space and treating each other like best friends/long lost family.

Here are the lyrics that summed up, well…everything.

You can hear it comin’
Like a train out of control
Surely leaves you wonderin’
Exactly where your ticket goes
You scream to the conductor
But he’s been deaf for twenty years
Hear the other people laughin’
As he grinds through every gear

Go to grab your nerve, you find that it is missin’
Seems you’ve lost your faith in everyone you know
And I surely hope that you don’t plan on winnin’
Better start payin’ more attention to the ones that throw you clear
You are seconds from the impact, and you’re movin’ way too slow

Time will surely mold you
Into something you don’t like
Get you runnin’ like a rabbit
Stick your finger in the dike

Look around your room you find the paint is peelin’
Your reflective skin is fallin’ off your bones
Well, I must admit I know just how you’re feelin’
We must grab each others collar, we must rise out of the water
And you know as well as I do it’s no fun to die alone

Climb to safety
After all that I’ve been through, you’re the only one that matters
Climb to safety
You never left me in the dark here on my own
Climb to safety
Feel the water rising. Let me be your ladder
Climb to safety
I promise you’ll be dry and never be alone

Love has always scared you
Like the things under your bed
Baby, we can walk on water
Like some junkies swore they did

You call me on the phone, you say that it is crucial
You stick your fingers in your ears ’til they explode
I guess the business will be goin’ on as usual
We must grab each others collar, we must rise out of the water
‘Cause you know as well as I do that it’s no fun to die alone

Climb to safety
After all that I’ve been through, you’re the only one that matters
Climb to safety
You never left me in the dark here on my own
Climb to safety
Feel the water rising. Let me be your ladder
Climb to safety
I promise you’ll be dry and never be alone

Read more: Widespread Panic – Climb To Safety Lyrics | MetroLyrics

And that leads us to today, and my first #mcm, and, coincidentally, six months since the day we met/moved in together.

I know you always say you want to hear all of my stories, just not right now, baby, and I know that this one is a hell of a long one, but it’s my super-expansion-pack way of saying thank you. For, well, everything.

You’re my favorite.

SO much.






I start every day vowing to become healthier and end every day by zeroing out my fridge.
That's the kind of self-sabotage that forms the core of my being.
You know what I'm good at, though? Spinning words into a magical skein that envelopes you in success. Let's talk about that first, and if snacks end up happening, so be it.

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