Wednesday, February 24, 2010


How I Met My Husband

The first time I met my husband was some time in 1986. He and I are not sure whether it was during summer vacation or Christmas vacation or some random weekend. I was with my friend driving around downtown Portland. That was what we used to do to entertain ourselves those nights before we were old enough to go to bars. We’d cruise around, looking for interesting people, playing music loudly in the car.

We were home visiting from college. We attended the University of Oregon in Eugene, about 100 miles south of Portland. Ironically, he wasn't from Portland and neither was his roommate. He isn't even sure why he was in the city that night.

That night, my friend, Kierstin and I were cruising along and looked over and saw two cute guys waving at us. We rolled down the window and recklessly talked to them between cars. One of them kept saying, “you were in my calculus class.” He was really cute; I am not sure how I missed him. We all decided to go to a nearby park to hang out. They were older, college seniors, and had some beer with them. We all sat on a picnic table, drank some beer and hung out.

Apparently, the cute one was in my calculus class. He described the class I had the previous term. Yes, I had been in that class. He even described a sun dress that I had. I wasn’t sure if I should be flattered or creeped out. I chose to be flattered. He had the bluest eyes I had ever seen. They were a nice contrast to his dark hair. The dimples in his cheeks when he smiled were the clincher. He was just my type.

For reasons neither of us can recall, he never got my phone number. I am not even sure I found out his last name. There was no kiss. It seemed to be just a night hanging out with two cute guys. No real connection was made.

Early the next year, I attended a party at the fraternity next to my sorority. The SAEs were known as partying guys and my sorority sisters really didn't like them much. We didn't have a lot of functions with them because we thought they were a bit crude, but there were some politics involved in the Greek society on campus, so you had to make nice with your neighbors. It was at that party, dubbed the “Hello Neighbor” function that I met him… again.

This time he asked me out. There was definitely some chemistry there. Honestly, however, I don’t even remember if we kissed. In fact I don’t remember our first kiss. I remember the kiss that counted, but that comes later.

Our first date was nothing earth-shattering. He took me to a movie that he wanted to see. To this day, he is embarrassed at his choice of movie for our first date: We joke about it. We saw Oliver Stone’s Platoon. I don’t even remember if we had dinner. The only reason I remember the movie is because years later I found the ticket stubs.

He and I dated, on and off, for the next four or five months. It was never really serious. We went to several house dances with each other. I liked him a lot, but never felt like I was in the “girlfriend zone.” He called when he wanted to call and I found myself waiting by the phone more than I liked. We never exchanged intimate thoughts and I found out years later, that he was dating other girls. I knew that he had had serious girlfriends in the past. But it was clear he didn't want that kind of relationship with me. He was a twenty-one year old college senior who didn't want to get tied down and I was the silly nineteen year old girl with a big crush.

Our relationship wasn’t even serious enough for him to invite me to his graduation. He graduated and moved to Portland. I saw him once or twice over that summer of 1987, but I went back to Eugene in the fall and finished my last two years of school. We never broke up. We weren’t committed enough or emotionally involved enough to break up. We just lost touch.

He always was the “one that got away.” He was good looking, charming and smart. Too bad he didn’t know how to treat a girl. I used to fantasize about running into him. When I would go home to Portland for weekends or vacations, I would keep a thought in the back of my mind of running into him in one of the hot spots in the city. The closest I came was running into his roommate one night. He told me that Ken was getting married. Well… that was that.


In 2001, I was an executive at a casino in Topeka, Kansas. My friend, Michele, invited me to go with her to Brazil on vacation and stay with her family. We would be in Rio de Janeiro during Carnival, something I had always wanted to do. We found a few friends to go with us and headed off to Brazil for a trip of a lifetime in late February.

On our second full day, we were rested from our LONG red-eye. We were ready to enjoy the celebrations of Carnival. It was the Saturday before Fat Tuesday, when the entire city was teeming with people. There was such a festive air all around. We were meeting Michele’s cousins in Copacabana Beach at a restaurant/bar right on the beach.

There were thousands of people. We were ready for a fun night. We were all dressed to dance. I wore an outfit that I would never wear in the United States. It was a form-fitting skirt and a cropped halter. It was vacation clothing. I had been working out a lot before that and decided to flaunt what I had in a city where nobody knew me (except my close friends, of course).

As we were walking to the outdoor restaurant, we passed a very crowded nightclub. Hundreds of people were milling around outside. As I glanced through the crowd, I. saw. him. It was my old college crush, Ken, standing with a group of guys. My heart stopped for a moment. We made quick eye contact and I quickly looked away. No. It couldn't be him. “I know that guy,” I said to my friends, “we dated in college.” “No way!” they all said, “we are in a different country, on a different continent, in a different hemisphere! It's impossible!” “You’re right,” I replied, walking with them to meet the rest of our party.

As we were sitting at our table, I kept wondering if that was really Ken. “What if it was him?” I wondered aloud. My buddy, Josh, looked at me as if to say, “duh.” “Lisa, what if you see this guy at some reunion someday and ask him if he was in Rio in 2001 and he says, ‘yeah… why didn't you come over and say hi?’ GO TALK TO HIM.” The insecurities of my nineteen–year-old self came flooding back to me. What if he didn't remember me? But then I remembered that I was a fabulous single woman in her thirties with a successful career and loads of friends. It would be his loss if he didn't remember me, right?

I grabbed Michele, a native Brazilian, to go with me. If these guys were Brazilian and only spoke Portuguese, I would feel twice as stupid. With Michele there, at least I had an interpreter. I walked up to the group of guys (Ken’s back was to me). “Excuse me… are you guys Americans?” I began. He turned right around. “Did you go to University of Oregon?” I asked him. “LISA!!” He smiled broadly. Damn, there were those dimples. “I didn't recognize you until you talked,” he said. It turns out that when he first saw me walking by he had a flicker of recognition, but thought maybe I was someone famous.If you look at the pictures above and the pictures from 2001, I looked completely different.

We invited him and his friends to join us at our table. We all shared drinks and food and had a great time. It turned out that they were down in Brazil for a guy’s trip. Ken had just broken off an engagement and his friends wanted to show him a fun time (I didn't know about the engagement until later). The marriage his former roommate had told me about years before lasted less than a year. We all moved from the restaurant to the beach, where there was music and dancing. We all danced on the beach until close to dawn. We exchanged numbers where we were staying with promises to have lunch. There was no kiss, no indication that there might be a spark there.

On the cab ride back to where we were staying, my friend, Shelly, said to me, “Lisa, you are going to MARRY him!” “No. I don’t think so. He was a bit of a jerk in college and doesn't really do commitment,” I said to her. I didn't want to get my hopes up for anything romantic with him.

We didn't get together for lunch until a few days later. It was the guys’ last day in Brazil. We had nearly two weeks left on our vacation. Shelly, came with me to lunch as did Ken’s friend Lance (who my kids now call Uncle Lance). We enjoyed a great lunch at a churrascaria (Brazilian barbecue) and then went and sat on the beach for a bit.

Shelly lives near Lake Tahoe. We all talked about going skiing and staying at her house. We even went so far to set a date a month or so away. I didn't think the trip would actually happen (it did) since people talk about things like that all the time, especially while on vacation. He wrote my e-mail address on a Brazilian real (money). We still have that bill today.

He had to get back to his hotel to grab his suitcase to head to the airport. At this point, I was disappointed that he hadn't made any move to kiss me. As we hit the intersection where we needed to part ways, I decided to do something completely out of character. I knew that I had one chance and I really had nothing to lose. I may never see him again. Before I crossed the intersection to leave him, I said goodbye and suddenly gave him a quick kiss. I never make the first move. But I was on vacation and, for some reason, I really liked him. All those unresolved feelings from college came back to me. I needed to somehow let him know that I was interested.

It wasn't a particularly romantic kiss. It was quick and could have been with anyone. But, I found out later, that kiss made all the difference in the world. Ken was worried that I held it against him how coldly he treated me in college. Had I not kissed him that afternoon, he may not have initiated contact back home. My bold move to give him a quick, unexpected kiss on the lips changed the course of our lives forever.

Saturday, November 21, 2009

Observations on our daily walk to school...

One of the coolest things about our new home is that it is right around the corner from the elementary school.  It is close enough that it actually takes longer to drive there in the morning.  The road between us and the school tends to get a bit backed up between parents dropping off kids and commuters heading to the freeway.  Thus, we have walked Jackson to school every day since October 12.

The following is a sample of what we experience on our daily walk*:
  • neighbors' roses-- Amelia LOVES flowers, especially roses.  I am so happy that we chose her middle name, Rose.  She feels a special connection.
  • the traffic light-- they both like to push the button for the walk signal.  This is sometimes a trigger for an argument, but we always work it out.
  • the dogs of the park-- Amelia hasn't met a dog she doesn't like.  There is a group of people that walk their dogs every day.  We are now on first-name basis with all of them.  There is Buddy the yellow lab, Foolish the golden retriever, Sam the collie, Yoda the poodle, Vegas the chihuahua, and George and Gracie the Irish Setters.
  • walkers-- we see the same people walking nearly every day.  There is a lone man who wears a cotton t-shirt and shorts, even when it is 40 degrees, the Indian woman, the two couples, an older gentleman with white hair and the middle aged women.
  • the big kids on the playground as we cut through the back way-- Jackson always looks longingly at the "big kid structure."  The other night at a school function, he and his friend played on the upper grade playground and was in heaven!
  • Mrs. Elkins-- Jackson's teacher is really sweet.  I think Amelia likes her as much as Jackson does.  Every day when we drop him off at his classroom, Amelia says "good morning, Mrs. Elkins!"  Mrs. Elkins always responds, "good morning, Amelia."
  • the sun-- inevitably, on the walk back home, Amelia complains about the sun in her eyes and asks me to carry her.  I have tried having her wear hats and sunglasses, but most days I end up carrying her at least a part of the way home.  *sigh*  If it is a cloudy day (which it rarely is), her legs are hurt or tired.   I do need to remember that she is only three and a little less than a half mile each way is actually a long way for her.   At least I get a workout.
I really hope we can find a house to buy somewhere in our neighborhood.  I love our daily walk

*one of these days, I will try to remember to bring the camera and take pictures along the way.

Saturday, August 29, 2009


Kenny and I are having a debate. It sucks when we aren't exactly on the same page. I want his time at home on the weekends to be nothing but fun, but we have serious things to discuss about our future-- both short and long term.

I want to start our new life. This limbo is taking its toll on me. They are asking for volunteers at Jackson's school, but I can't take on something that I can't finish. I want him to be in a school where he can put down roots and make long-term friends. I want to put Amelia in a dance class; she is obsessed with ballet right now. People are asking me to sub for them at Stroller Strides, but it is hard to commit to anything. I also want to start my new business. So many things can't start until we move. Mostly, I want us to be a family every day again. I miss my husband. The kids miss their daddy. He misses us. I had hoped we would move in the beginning of October.

Kenny wants to wait until we rent out this house. Apparently, the rental market is very, very soft. Renting out this house by October 1 might be a tall order. By moving in October, we are risking paying double rent indefinitely. Who knows how long it will take to rent. The last six months were really hard. With no job, we nearly exhausted our reserves and dug ourselves a decent hole. The future is bright, luckily... but making that hole deeper is not what we want to do.

So here is the dilemma... move in October, taking a financial risk OR wait to move until we rent our house, risking my sanity. It is not that simple of a decision.

I just hope that we get a ton of calls on the house this next week and the question is answered for us. So if anyone out there needs a nice 3.5 bed,* 2.5 bath house with an amazing view, community pool and nice neighbors, send me an e-mail at lisagensel at cox dot net.

Monday, August 17, 2009

First Day of School! First Day of School!

I often think of Nemo waking his dad saying, "first day of school...time for school" to his dad, Marlin. That was Jackson today! I'm not sure if there are many kids who were as excited as he was to go to kindergarten. I only got a tear in my eye once. The rest of the drop off (and pick up) I was just happy for him.

He had a great day. I picked him up and he was grinning as much as he was this morning. When I asked him (as I did every day after preschool) what his favorite part of the day was, he replied, "coming here." I said, "but what was your favorite part?" "All of it!" I am so happy.

I was one of those geeky kids that loved school. Heck, I still love school. I think that Jackson might take after me in that regard.

Another right of passage down. A new chapter in our lives stretches before us. On to the next thing.

Friday, August 14, 2009

Kindergarten Orientation!!!

How is that possible??? Last night I took Jackson to meet his teacher and learn all about kindergarten. First this*.......and then kindergarten? What's a mom to do?

It was a tough night emotionally for me. First, by baby is growing up. I am happy and proud, but also a little sad. It flies by, doesn't it? Then I was happy that I had put him in such a great school. The PTA is super involved and the school loves parent involvement. His teacher is AWESOME. Not only does she have 24 years of experience as a kindergarten teacher, but she is passionate about health and fitness. She is an avid runner!! Could there BE a better match for me?

Then I was sad. Really sad. As I started getting excited about the school year and getting involved, I realized that I won't be involved in this school. We are moving in October, and I will be pretty busy until then. Jackson will be spending most of the school year somewhere else. I won't get to hear all about the teacher's style etc. in orientation. He'll be just another "new kid." I am excited about our new life, but now the pressure to find another school just went up. Murdock has set the bar pretty high. At least I know he'll be in good hands for the next six weeks or so.

Lots and lots of changes. I suppose that is life. Bring it on!

*The tooth was lost a couple of weeks ago.

Saturday, August 1, 2009

Remembering to BREATHE...

I can finally breathe. I feel like someone has literally cut strings on a corset and the crushing feeling around my chest has loosened up.

My husband accepted a job last week. It is a great job that pays more than what he was making before. Not only is it a good opportunity for him, but it allows me to potentially start a business in fitness rather than rejoining the corporate jungle. We still have an uphill road ahead of us-- paying credit cards, savings etc. and moving two hours away. However, that uphill road is just a hill after a long run rather than the downward spiral we were feeling only weeks ago.

While thrilled to start a new chapter in our lives, it is all bittersweet. We have come to love living in San Diego. It is really the perfect place to live for us. I am sad to leave the friends that we have here. We have a wonderful network here and it is going to be tough to start over. I remember when I quit my job how hard it was to find moms with kids Jackson's age. Once kids are two or three, all the moms groups are established. I found my group through moms of babies Amelia's age. It will be harder to find mommy friends now that my kids are older. I think the schools will be key. I am sure it will all work out.

Kenny and I spent the last couple of days in Catalina, an island off the coast of Southern California. It was wonderful. We rode our bikes everywhere and spent a lot of time relaxing. Catalina is so laid back. We had a fabulous dinner in a fine dining restaurant in our biking clothes! We both feel relaxed and recharged. We are closer than ever, having come through some bleak times. We are looking forward to the future.

Our next steps are 1) getting this house ready to rent 2) figuring out where we are going to live. Kenny starts on Monday. He will be staying with his parents during the week and coming home on the weekends. I will be a single mom five days a week. Deep is going to be a long few weeks.

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Karma is a bitch...

What kind of karmic retribution is there for someone who is evil and doesn't know it? Some people are so narcissistic that they don't realize that their actions are as bad as someone who knowingly does evil, yet they go through life believing that they are "good" people.

Something happened last night that set me off. It made steam come out of my ears. I am glad I wasn't with Kenny last night. While I am normally very averse to conflict, I may have said something. Kenny was at an event with some former colleagues. Everyone was very cordial and friendly. After all, bygones are bygones, right? So Kenny was chatting with a particular person and he mentioned that he had recently completed a triathlon. The other person said, "Wow... that's great. So being unemployed isn't so bad!" W.T.F??????? Um... that's like saying to a guy with no legs that he is lucky that he couldn't run that marathon because it was really hard. Seriously? Unless you have the kind of relationship where that kind of interaction is common (it is not in this case), that sort of comment is not appropriate. It is especially not appropriate when you are the person responsible for the unemployment and a good deal of the stress associated with it.

Kenny said that many of his former colleagues were surprised that he hadn't found a job yet. We're surprised, too. This economy is far worse than a lot of people think. When Kenny and I have been laid off in the past, we found employment within weeks. We aren't even getting call backs for interviews this time. This has been an incredibly difficult time for us. It has been hard on our marriage, hard on our family and we have really tried to make the best of it (by doing things like competing in triathlons). For someone to make light of our circumstances is hurtful. It makes it worse when that person seems oblivious to our stress and complains about his (he has to work and doesn't have time to train for a triathlon). I choose to believe that this person is not malicious. He just doesn't think about how is words and actions affect other people. I think that is the definition of narcissist.

This post was originally a specific attack on the individual who said the hurtful comment (with names, links and pictures designed to trigger search engines). I realized that nothing good can come out of putting negative things on the internet about a specific person. I feel a bit better now. I know that the comment by itself doesn't seem like much. However, combined with ALL the things that this person has done (even without knowing), I had had enough. Since this is a somewhat private vent about this person will stay right here on this blog.