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Shy by
(34 Stories)

Prompted By Drive-Ins

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“There were several drive-ins around Spokane from the 1940s to the 1980s. A few lasted until the early 1990s. A family could take a fussy baby to the drive-in and no one complained. You could park near your friends and chat. Kids could play on a swing set near the screen. And, of course, a young couple could find some window-fogged privacy. It was a short walk to the concession stand for popcorn and soda….Ticket sellers at drive-in theaters tried to spot which carful of teens was trying to avoid paying. An employee, who lived across the street from the East Sprague Drive-In, said someone in his family often saw teens stop and hide their friends in the trunk before rolling up to the ticket window. Then he or someone in his family would call the ticket booth with the info. He was known to tell cheaters: “That’ll be six bucks. Two for you and $4 for the four guys in the trunk.”

from the Spokesman-Review March 24, 2014

I have several fun memories of drive-ins that I could share, but rather I’ll choose the one that stands out as the most…uncomfortable.  My first boyfriend was a guy from another high school in town, and neither of us had a car. So, unbelievably in hindsight, his father took us to a drive-in movie. John was a “bonus baby,” his father was a fair bit older and pretty gruff. Of course it was Dad in the front, and us in the back.  And every so often John would be bold and start smooching with me. How ridiculous with his Dad in the front seat, yes? And every so often when he figured enough was enough, Dad would clear his throat or wiggle around in his seat and we’d break apart.

Now the strangest part of it was, I needed to use the rest room fairly early in the show. But I was decidedly shy and exceedingly modest at that age. So I was embarrassed to even admit it, and just get out of the car and walk over to the restroom. Instead I sat there with the urgency increasing. My mind was a whirling dervish of discomfort from body and emotions. I thought the movie would never end, not to mention the drive home from the theatre.  Happily there isn’t some traumatic final scene to this story. I simply got dropped off at home, with none the wiser about my misery. I outgrew the shy, but a measure of the modesty remains.

Club 50 by
(34 Stories)

Prompted By Friendship

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Spoiler: this story won’t be much of a fun read for Retrospect friends, since it’s full of inside jokes that are ten years old.

Celebrated the milestone with my own "Cool Girls Are 50" club.

Being a rather controlling individual, I decided not to leave anything to chance and organized my own 50th birthday party. Ahem, a decade ago by now. Girls’ getaway weekend in beautiful Mendocino, CA. Guests included:

-my boss.  Crazy, right? But she’s a bestie. Years before we had similar jobs in different parts of Stanford, and would call each other of a morning to try to answer the existential questions of why are we here? what is our purpose? what are you doing today? I retired twice from the university — and each time she has called me back for another fun job.

-my longest work friendship that transferred into a lifelong bond. She and I met in our first jobs at Stanford, and she has stayed true through good times and bad and over long distances. Godmother to both my sons.

-college roommate. Back together after a long separation of distance and busy-ness, we picked up right where we left off.

Each of these friends has a treasured and unique relationship with me — and they share some common traits. One of which is the love of a good turn of phrase, and rollicking good humour.  In celebration of my birthday, my roommate wrote the following future “press release” to be read out when I turn 75 (a ways in the distance even yet.) The picture is of one of the girls’ weekend participants reacting when she is mentioned in the release. Shared here for the amusement mainly of friends and family, full of in jokes.




May 26, 2031 –  PALO ALTO  Mrs. Susan Hansen, Professor and Corporate and Foundation Relations Director Emeritus at Stanford University, will turn 75 on Saturday in a special celebration, Stanford University President Donna Lawrence announced today.

After retiring from Stanford as a successful fundraiser for the School of Engineering in 2006, Mrs. Hansen went into the importing business. Co-founder of the ubiquitous  RH Pumpkin, Mrs. Hansen grew the business internationally and eventually bought out Gumps, See’s Candies and luxury textile producer, Matteo.  Ten years ago, Hansen’s eldest son, Jay, was persuaded to take over as CEO of RH Pumpkin, adding to his duties as owner of J Tequila.  He has since grown the business to include the wildly popular pumpkin-shaped tequila bottles.

While her empire grew, Mrs. Hansen earned her MA in Environmental Studies, and a  PhD in Khymer. She then started the first School of Cambodian Imports (SCI) at Stanford and was its only tenured professor for the first 2 years.  The school is now located in the Susan Crain Hansen building at Stanford, which was erected in 2028. The architecture of the building has long been the subject of debate among students, as to whether is it shaped like a pumpkin or a tomato.

“Susan has been a great friend over the years,” remarked President Lawrence, who was recently persuaded to join Stanford as President, after having served as President of the US Olympics, and the PGA (after the merger with the LPGA).

US Secretary of Agriculture, Linelle Russ, will be the keynote speaker at Mrs. Hansen’s birthday bash. A longtime friend of the “birthday girl”, Ms. Russ worked closely with Mrs. Hansen on the development of the hybrid Linelle “tomatkin”, and was the chief landscape architect of the tomato and pumpkin patches surrounding the SCH building.

Also speaking at the event will be co-founder of RH Pumpkin, Deborah Reno. Ms. Reno will be arriving from her Alpaca Ranch in Argentina where she lives with her husband, Luc Reno, son of actor Jean Reno.

It is expected that the Hansens’ youngest son, Chris, will perform his latest hit, “Backpacker’s Hovel” at the ceremony, accompanied by his Grammy® Awarding winning jazz band, Spud.

Following the celebration, Mrs. Hansen will join her husband, Stephen Hansen, at their vineyard in southern France.  Mr. Hansen, after having a successful career in computer engineering, is known for resurrecting the fledgling “Goats do Roam” varietal to international acclaim.  Mr. Hansen was named honorary mayor of Nice, after initiating Wi Fi access throughout the city.  The Hansens will be joined in France by close friends Meg Ryan, Kevin Kline and A. Gauche Louise.

Skippy and Chester by
(34 Stories)

Prompted By Pets

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To put it delicately, both my father and my father-in-law liked their drink.

Alcohol and pet adoption shouldn't mix.


When I was about 10 years old, my dad slunk home after a poker game during which some adult beverages had clearly been consumed. My mother met him at the kitchen door. In a long drawn-out way delivered with a warning tone that would have lit up a sober man’s defense mechanisms, she said “Waaaren…”.  “Oh but, I won tonight!” said dad, tragically misreading her cues. He opened his coat slightly, and a little brown nose appeared. Brown nose attached to little brown dog. “Isn’t he great?! He’s a manchester/chihuahua mix (huh?) and his name is Skippy. I won him off of Shorty in the last hand.”  Well isn’t that just great.
Of course Skippy wasn’t culpable in any of these goings-on. He looked more chihuahua than anything else, and the poor dear was so traumatized by the transfer of ownership that he announced his new place in our household by puking on the floor four separate times. Again, not his fault.

The next morning my mom came into my sister’s and my bedroom with the solemn news that Skippy had apparently already gotten lost. She had looked all over the house for him, no luck. Sister piped up and said “here he is!” He had burrowed under the covers and slept his first night as her personal footwarmer. Dear little Skippy continued to be high strung and prone to the occasional upchuck to prove it. But as most little pet dogs do, he edged into our laps and hearts.


The first time I met my future father-in-law was an Easter weekend. My fiance and I had driven to his parents’ home to introduce me, and we arrived late Thursday. FIL apparently went out drinking with his banking buddies for Good Friday. As I heard the story later, for a prank on one of their buddies they stopped somewhere and bought a baby bunny for the guy’s kids. A few cocktails made it seem like a really funny idea to get a baby bunny for me too.  Mind you I was a college student living in a dorm at the time. So, Bill comes home and in a long drawn-out way delivered with a warning tone that would have lit up a sober man’s defense mechanisms, my future mother-in-law said “Biilll…..”  “Yeah, isn’t he cute? We named him Chester. Where’s Susan?”

By this time we were late to leave for dinner with some friends. So Chester got a little bed made for him in the bathroom, where he was closed in for the duration of the evening. MIL fumed all through dinner and I tried to keep up a cheerful appearance. To his eternal credit, my fiance was chagrined and probably wondered if this was the end before it began.

It wasn’t. To make the story short, we are still blissfully married. My father and father-in-law have both passed away, after leaving us with many additional funny stories to tell. Skippy lived a long and pampered life. And Chester? To their eternal credit, my cousins didn’t object when we drove by their rural homestead at the end of that Easter weekend and basically foisted a bunny on them. In fact – adding to the stars in their crown – Chester turned out to be Chestette. Which they discovered once they added “him” to their hutch.

Who Doesn’t Want a Wife? by
(34 Stories)

Prompted By Women's Lib

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In the fall of 1974 I arrived as an incoming freshwoman at Mills College in Oakland, California. We were each assigned a “zipper,” an upperclasswoman who helped orient us to the college, the Bay Area, and the particularities of language in the heyday of feminism. My college essay included something about how comfortable I expected I would be at an all-women’s college, given that I was raised in what I referred to as a female-dominated household. My mother had a beauty salon in the house and the place was like an all-day sorority party.  I don’t imagine my father even read my application so he had no opportunity to take offense.

When I arrived at the dorm I entered the small library off the main lounge. On the table was a printed copy of the then-fresh essay by Judy Brady that had been published in Ms. magazine in 1972. It rattled me to the soles of my shoes. Through the years I returned to it occasionally, almost as a measure of how well I was doing keeping the equality of the sexes uppermost in my mind. Thankfully my delightful husband has equality deeply imprinted (thank you dear mother-in-law,) so nontraditional divisions of labor came naturally to us through the years. One of my favorite birthday presents from him, for instance, was a gas-powered lawnmower with a catcher bag, which I happily pushed around the yard while he prepared dinner.



Originally published in Ms. magazine in 1972

Reprinted as “Why I [Still] Want a Wife” in the same magazine in 1990.


I belong to that classification of people known as wives. I am A Wife. And, not altogether incidentally, I am a mother.

Not too long ago a male friend of mine appeared on the scene fresh from a recent divorce. He had one child, who is, of course, with his ex-wife. He is looking for another wife. As I thought about him while I was ironing one evening, it suddenly occurred to me that I, too, would like to have a wife. Why do I want a wife?

I would like to go back to school so that I can become economically independent, support myself, and, if need be, support those dependent upon me. I want a wife who will work and send me to school. And while I am going to school, I want a wife to take care of my children. I want a wife to keep track of the children’s doctor and dentist appointments. And to keep track of mine, too. I want a wife to make sure my children eat properly and are kept clean. I want a wife who will wash the children’s clothes and keep them mended. I want a wife who is a good nurturant attendant to my children, who arranges for their schooling, makes sure that they have an adequate social life with their peers, takes them to the park, the zoo, etc. I want a wife who takes care of the children when they are sick, a wife who arranges to be around when the children need special care, because, of course, I cannot miss classes at school. My wife must arrange to lose time at work and not lose the job. It may mean a small cut in my wife’s income from time to time, but I guess I can tolerate that. Needless to say, my wife will arrange and pay for the care of the children while my wife is working.

I want a wife who will take care of my physical needs. I want a wife who will keep my house clean. A wife who will pick up after my children, a wife who will pick up after me. I want a wife who will keep my clothes clean, ironed, mended, replaced when need be, and who will see to it that my personal things are kept in their proper place so that I can find what I need the minute I need it. I want a wife who cooks the meals, a wife who is a good cook. I want a wife who will plan the menus, do the necessary grocery shopping, prepare the meals, serve them pleasantly, and then do the cleaning up while I do my studying. I want a wife who will care for me when I am sick and sympathize with my pain and loss of time from school. I want a wife to go along when our family takes a vacation so that someone can continue to care for me and my children when I need a rest and change of scene.

I want a wife who will not bother me with rambling complaints about a wife’s duties. But I want a wife who will listen to me when I feel the need to explain a rather difficult point I have come across in my course studies. And I want a wife who will type my papers for me when I have written them.

I want a wife who will take care of the details of my social life. When my wife and I are invited out by my friends, I want a wife who will take care of the baby-sitting arrangements. When I meet people at school that I like and want to entertain, I want a wife who will have the house clean, will prepare a special meal, serve it to me and my friends, and not interrupt when I talk about things that interest me and my friends. I want a wife who will have arranged that the children are fed and ready for bed before my guests arrive so that the children do not bother us. I want a wife who takes care of the needs of my guests so that they feel comfortable, who makes sure that they have an ashtray, that they are passed the hors d’oeuvres, that they are offered a second helping of the food, that their wine glasses are replenished when necessary, that their coffee is served to them as they like it. And I want a wife who knows that sometimes I need a night out by myself.

I want a wife who is sensitive to my sexual needs, a wife who makes love passionately and eagerly when I feel like it, a wife who makes sure that I am satisfied. And, of course, I want a wife who will not demand sexual attention when I am not in the mood for it. I want a wife who assumes the complete responsibility for birth control, because I do not want more children. I want a wife who will remain sexually faithful to me so that I do not have to clutter up my intellectual life with jealousies. And I want a wife who understands that my sexual needs may entail more than strict adherence to monogamy. I must, after all, be able to relate to people as fully as possible.

If, by chance, I find another person more suitable as a wife than the wife I already have, I want the liberty to replace my present wife with another one. Naturally, I will expect a fresh, new life; my wife will take the children and be solely responsible for them so that I am left free.

When I am through with school and have a job, I want my wife to quit working and remain at home so that my wife can more fully and completely take care of a wife’s duties. My God, who wouldn’t want a wife?

Ice and Snow by
(34 Stories)

Prompted By Snow

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Winter in Spokane is an unpredictable thing.  There is usually at least one really good snowfall each year, and months of cold weather.  But there are some years where there can be a serious snow accumulation, followed by a warming trend to get things melting, then another cold snap.  And that could result in epic icicles.

Our old house had a “daylight basement”, meaning the main floor was several feet above ground level.  Added to that, the ceilings inside were tall.  So the deep eaves that wrapped all around the house were nearly ten feet off the ground.  My sister and I would sometimes amuse ourselves by taking a shovel and knocking the icicles off the edges of the eaves. It’s a wonder we didn’t take portions of the roof off with this maneuver.

This photo is from 1974. My mom is gazing up at the icicle that got away from us, from the edge of the roof and down through the tree to the ground. At that point there was nothing to do but wait for the warm weather to melt the whole thing.

Dad took a break one day and we made a snowman. He used to spend hours in what would now be called his “man cave.”  Pretty primitive — it was the last bay in the four-car garage, to the right of that classy blue ’57 Chevy. He put a potbellied stove in there and burned trash to keep it warm enough in winter to escape a houseful of women for a few hours.  On this particular day he ventured out and we spent some fun times putting together a snowman and as I recall capping the day with a good snowball fight.

I went to college in California, and have lived here ever since. And very glad I am not to have the challenges of the homeowner who has to deal with ice and snow.




The Return of Hair by
(34 Stories)

Prompted By Hair

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Nope, the title does not reflect some marketing slogan for Rogaine.

Imagine his mortification when the performers assemble on stage completely naked.

This is in response to another Retrospect author’s mention that she saw the musical Hair during its original showing in Manhattan in 1968.  Fast forward to 2011. My youngest son is graduating from The New School for Jazz and Contemporary Music in Manhattan. He’s a drummer. One of his instructors is in the pit orchestra for this reproduction of Hair. So my husband and I get tickets and accompany our son to the performance. He is seated between us. Of course he’s just a kid, might know some of the lyrics to some of the songs, but never saw the original, right? Imagine his mortification at the close of the first act, when the performers assemble on stage completely naked for a few breathtaking moments before the houselights shut down.

House lights come up for intermission.  Silence from our son, who is pointedly staring straight ahead to avoid making eye contact with either parent.  “Oh. Well. Yeah. Guess I’ll go back and see if I can talk to my professor.” As he disappears backstage, my husband and I burst out laughing, sharing a moment of boomer’s revenge.




The Dead Relatives Tour by
(34 Stories)

Prompted By The Great Beyond

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My new car had 100 miles on the odometer when we headed east from California.  Dear husband is a devoted genealogist. He knows his family members back 7 generations: when and where they were born and lived, when they died and where they are buried.  It was a driving trip whose purpose was to visit the graves of all his America-buried grandparents back 4 generations, and mine back 3.

They were set aside as my Cemetery Shoes.

This wasn’t our first dead relatives rodeo. When visiting our son in Brooklyn we rented a car for a side trip to Connecticut. The tall grass in the ancient church graveyard soaked my shoes, which have ever since been set aside as my Cemetery Shoes. I can pinpoint the ages (well, within a century) of grave markers based on the very distinctive art that has adorned them through the years.  I particularly love the seventeenth-century death’s head often combined with wings and crossed bones.  And our kids think they invented skulls as an art motif!

Greenwood. Forest Lawn. Mount Auburn. Exquisitely beautiful, manicured icons of landscaped public spaces. These were not our destinations.

In farm country across America, large parcels of agricultural acreage are crisscrossed by roads that only see traffic from the pickup trucks of the owners. And sometimes at the most remote and unlikely crossroads, you’ll come across a small pocket cemetery. Now even though these sacred places are out in the boondocks, they are far from unplotted or forgotten.  Because also in farm country across America there are farm families and locals who take the care of their dead folk very seriously.  There is a remarkable searchable online database called Find a Grave. Volunteers have uploaded photos of every gravestone in a cemetery and entered the particulars written thereon. Before we set out on the Dead Relatives Tour, dear husband had pinpointed by GPS the exact longitude and latitude of everyone we were going to visit.

A typical stop on the tour would be 20120928_092406a small local cemetery where a great-great-grandparent was buried.  We would drive out into corn or wheat fields, narrowing in on our location until we saw a handmade sign marking the place. Nobody around as far as one could see. The quiet, the wind, the timeless feeling would slow us think, to breathe, and to wonder about the daily lives of these hardy folk who homesteaded here.

The care of big-city cemeteries with lush green lawns is paid for by endowments. But local volunteers are the unsung heroes of our road trip experience. One day the GPS failed us, and we drove down a rutted road in a last attempt to find a particular grave that day. We came upon a nicely kept house. The owner’s cows were greeting us over the fence with curiosity and the hope of a meal.  Since the only vehicle out that-a-way was likely the pickup truck with feed. Anyway, said owner answered our knock and was already heading for his pickup as we were describing where we were headed and how we got turned around at that crossing back a mile, and excuse our interruption but if he could please just us give us directions..  “Oh yes, oh yes, I’ll take you right there.  I’m the caretaker.  Gosh, I wish I’d known you were coming. I would have mowed the grass down.  It’s a little seedy looking right now.  Gosh…”

Three weeks and three thousand miles later we pulled back into our driveway.  Now all we need is the t-shirt.











Quick Take on Halloween by
(34 Stories)

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My favorite candy?   Sugar Babies. Circus peanuts a close second.

Apples? Bah humbug.

My least favorite treat?  Apples.  Bah humbug.

My best costume?  Went out with two other friends and the three of us were dressed as Three Blind Mice.  Sunglasses; black leotards, tights, and tutus; canes; and candy sacks.

Trick or treating?  We lived outside of town and houses were far apart, so my mom drove us.

How long to eat my candy?  My mom wasn’t one of those who made us ration our take, so the good stuff was often gone the next day.  The clunkers (Good and Plenty) eventually got thrown out.

What’s different for my kids?  Living “in town” they could go house to house and collect a pillowcase full of loot in a short period of time! And there doesn’t seem to be an upward age limit to trick-or-treating.  Teens come to our house now, but we would have been mortified to be participating after about age ten.



Leading the Band by
(34 Stories)

Prompted By In the Band

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Conferring with the majorette in anticipation of the parade.

In high school I was elected Drum Major.  Humbly I also submit that in senior year I was voted president not just of band but also of choir.  Because, you know, I was destined for greatness like that.  Or shall we say, the One Most Likely to Volunteer for Everything.  Setting a lifelong precedent, hmm.

I paraded down Main Street with the highest hair and highest hemline I could muster.

Two big jobs for drum major.  The first was to lead the band in the annual Lilac Parade.  Each of the city’s junior high and high school bands marched in the parade.  We always hoped we would be placed in the lineup ahead of the mounted horse patrols.  Groups of guys dressed as clowns followed each of the equestrian groups, with little pans and brooms.  But they usually missed a few stray calling cards.  And when marching you weren’t supposed to look down.  Mostly we came through the 2 mile parade route with clean shoes.

My mother sewed my outfit.  The school colors were purple and gold, and my dress was gold satin.  Ours was a very religious household and I was painfully modest.  So it surprised me, when it was completed, to realize how short the skirt was on this little number.  It sported a little stand-up collar and in the front she sewed on rickrack in a square pattern to simulate a military style.  This was also an era when we experimented with clip-in hairpieces.  So I paraded down Main Street with the highest hair and highest hemline I could muster.

The other job for drum major was leading the band at football games in the stadium just outside town. The band would be seated close to the field, and I would spend much the game standing on the bottom bleacher looking up at the band with my back to the field.  I was so proud the first time I directed the school fight song, getting everyone’s attention and leading successfully with the baton.  At the end our band director tapped me on the shoulder and looked at me with half a smile.  Expecting to be congratulated, instead he said “you know, when you’re standing near the edge of a football field during a game, you probably shouldn’t blow your whistle to get people’s attention.”  We didn’t use the expression then, but…duh.

Band was a wonderful theme for my life, from the third grade when I picked up a flute, to the end of my college years majorirogers-bandng in music.  It was my musical outlet but far more important was the social group it provided.




It was a fraternity party. (Shhh.) by
(34 Stories)

Prompted By How We Met

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Two years later, a luau at the fraternity.

I attended a women’s college in the ’70s.  That meant in addition to the work of defining our identities as young adults, we were also struggling to help define this social movement called feminism.

"It's a dance. Well, it's a hoedown."

One of the women in our dorm was dating a guy at Stanford.  On a Thursday at breakfast, she approached a small group of us thusly.

“Mark’s fraternity is having a party on Saturday night.  Come along, they need more women who aren’t Stanford students.”

“Uh, excuse me, it’s a *fraternity*.”

“C’mon, it’ll be fun. It’s a dance. Well, it’s a hoedown.”

“Huh?  So, these guys are either really cool or really hopeless.  (Skeptically..) which is it?”

“They’ll have free food and booze.”

“OK, we’re in.”

We were savvy enough not to get stuck at a frat party at the mercy of potentially desperately hormonal square dancers.  So five of us went in together and rented a car.  The agency gave us this big ol’ maroon beast of a Lincoln, all they had available that was big enough.  I had a driver’s license and wasn’t much of a drinker, so before it was a social concept, I became the designated driver.

So here we are, curious to see the inside of a real live frat house. Greeted at the door by cute and nice guys — and I’m giving the story away to admit, are among my best friends to this day.  Walk through the entry of this beautiful old home. Collect a Velvet Hammer in the dining room, which was being served from a five gallon cooler. Shouldn’t that have been a clue? Out the door to the back yard decorated in a surplus of hay bales. And I saw Him. Forever after I have believed in Love at First Sight.

He was already talking to one of the other women from my group.  I got nearer, assessed the situation, and as I recall it, I unceremoniously hip checked her off that hay bale and latched on to this guy who changed the course of my life. My college was hosting its own dance on a boat on the bay the following weekend. So in good feminist style, I invited him out for our first date.  This required exchanging phone numbers. I got out my check book (!) and tore my address and phone number off the corner of a deposit slip.

A lasting memory from the evening doesn’t even involve Himself. The drive home required crossing an old, four-lane drawbridge that just skimmed the surface of San Francisco Bay. In the backseat was a freshwoman who had imbibed several too many of the notorious Velvet Hammers.  About halfway across the bay, this head appears in the rear view mirror and an unhappy voice commands “Pull over!”  There is no “over.”  “Over” is choppy salt water – granted, not too deep at the south end of the bay, but still. A cooler head in the back seat recommends opening the window, which was very nearly successful.  Much of the projectile probably landed on the windshield of any car unfortunate enough to be tailgaiting us that night.  But a memento of the hoedown landed in the back seat to the deep consternation of all.

So the morning after I met the man of my dreams I was cleaning out the inside of a rental car. It took me years to admit publicly that I met my husband at a fraternity party.



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