Birthday, parenting, relationships, Uncategorized

A Birthday Tribute to My Bride

Sara in Snowville NH

My favorite picture of Sara, B & B in Snowville N.H. 2008

It is Sara’s birthday today, my beloved wife.  Before I ever laid eyes on Sara, we had talked on the phone about 4 times.  She was in Moline, IL and I was spending a long weekend in Des Moines, where I worked in the intensive care unit at Mercy Capitol Hospital–the former osteopathic hospital and red-headed stepchild of Mercy Main.  Sara and I had been set up by her sister, Amy, who was pinch-hitting for her big sister in the game of life.  After a mere 40 minutes of talking with me outside of the State Farm office in Maquoketa, IA, Amy was certain I was the life-mate for her sis–“I just met the father of your children.  Don’t eff this up!” came the edict.

DSM half marathon

Budding romance at 1 month, DSM marathon 2004

Before either of us knew it, Sara had quit a hateful job working for Cruella DeVille at a poisonous hospital in the Quad Cities and had become my personal groupie.  This was no easy task and has just grown more complex, more difficult, and more physically taxing since those early days.  I met Sara at the Border’s bookstore in Davenport on Tuesday, September 21st at 5:30 pm.  I was engrossed in the first pages of Ann Coulter’s Treason when a soft voice said “Erik?” A tall drink of water with brown hair and soulful brown eyes looked down at me as I sat there.  I had not imagined or dreamed about what Sara would look like–I was, however, in the mood for someone to be kind to me.  If she couldn’t muster that, our time together would be brief.


Newton IA with Baby Noah 2006

I was still reeling from the break up of my marriage to a woman who appeared to think of marriage like a complicated date–an exit strategy always in hand the moment things got hard.  Perhaps I even told Sara that I just wanted someone to be kind to me, and I wanted that more than anything else another human being could offer me. I had very fresh scars from my marriage, ones that if Sara was to win me over she would unfortunately have to tend…and nurture.  She got this.


Sara’s labor, our blessings

I remember our first argument.  I was perturbed with her and probably wanted my way.  I don’t even remember what the argument was over–I just remember the punch line.  I said “I sure hope you ski!”  As if this activity could save us, I might be willing to tolerate not getting my way if Sara could ski and would ski with me wherever I wished to go.  At that time, I had a matronly friend at the hospital who urged me to go on a vacation “just for yourself.”  I looked into skiing in South America, but the reviews on were horrible and echoed that the conditions were au natural and the accommodations poorly developed.  I had just recently met Sara and wasn’t crazy about going by myself.  Tuesday nights lessons at Chestnut Mountain in Galena, IL for six weeks with her future husband as instructor gave Sara the skills she needed to ski in Spain and Andorra.  KLM lost our luggage flying into Toulouse, France so we had to come up with a plan B that now excluded skiing in France.  We rented a BMW 525 xi and were left to tour the foothills of the Pyrenees for the day until our luggage caught up with us.  Poor us.  A couple of days later, a blizzard blew into the Pyrenees after the lifts had delivered us to Beret, Spain. Suddenly they closed the lifts for safety and we had no choice but to ski the 7 kilometers back to our resort in Baquiera. That evening we asked Spanish Sally, our hostess at the hotel, where there was a nice restaurant in the area.  She seemed to understand and replied “Ohh…romantica?!”

Sara and Erik skiing MT

My Snow Bunny!

Sara and I married about nine months after meeting, in July 2005.  Each of us was old hat at the marriage thing, and knew what we wanted and had to have.  Our wedding was held on my brother’s farm, in a barn built in 1902 by my great great grandfather Andrew.  The temperature that day was about 78 F with a gentle breeze blowing, the sun filtering through the slats in the barn walls, and some of our city friends asking if we had piped in the sound of birds chirping outside during the ceremony.  We had a patriotic theme wedding, Famous Dave’s catered in (a huge hit with our guests), and we honeymooned in Cozumel a short time later.

our wedding invite

Our Wedding Invitation

Sara is once (Noah), twice (Jonah), and three times (Eli) a lady to me, giving me 3 strapping sons who will one day dwarf their “regular” dad. There is not a cooler woman on the planet to me.  I can be an ogre, a real grizzly bear to live with…yet Sara endures.  Sara looks on with disdain while our boys look at me like I am a rock star and often regard her as chopped liver, unaware or unconvinced of just how the magic really happens in the Hanson household. Yet Sara endures…being well, Sara.

Our reality

Halloween 2013–how it really is!

divorce, higher education, medical school

The Practice Wife


Reading the F seeking M ads one day, I came across an ad by a 6th grade social studies teacher who had placed an ad on a dare. The ad made her seem normal enough. Returning to Johnson County Community College for afternoon classes, I couldn’t shake the words from that ad out of my mind. When I returned home that evening, I began drafting my response. I was in nursing administration at a local hospital, looking for a life partner who also liked to breathe, drink water, et cetera, etc. Soon we were seeing other daily, cohabiting in the 1950’s style by maintaining two separate residences.


Although I had always enjoyed running, Michelle soon showed me how to train for and complete a marathon. In return, I taught her how to ski and we skied in 6 countries. Our true passion, however, was making a fine art of getting into medical school. Almost two years after we met, she would have a seat in the Des Moines University class of 2005. I had been unconditionally accepted at the allopathic (MD) program at Kansas University on February 8th of 2001 and Michelle and I were notified by phone from DMU on February 22nd, 2001 that we were both accepted to DMU’s osteopathic program. But…I already had the golden ticket! I had been trying to gain a seat in KU’s program for 4 years, then suddenly I had one.

downhill skier

No way was I not going to be an MD like my little brother. Soon I was waiting for Michelle to be woman enough to say “you are my husband, we both have a ticket to DMU–you belong with me in Des Moines.” She was waiting for me to man up and do the right thing by joining her at DMU. We failed each other…and convinced ourselves that we could keep our marriage strong and study together on the weekends. How could I have known then that I married a woman like my mother’s mother La Verne–a social climber who would inevitably reject me when I got the boot from KU’s program and therefore would not become a physician?  I had been an RN for five years at KU–I knew it was a poisonous, unfriendly campus–but I wanted the MD degree anyway.  It makes me sick to my stomach to think that I missed some little cue that would have told me who she was and who she turned out to be.

Des Moines U

Michelle and I had fun.  We danced, ran, skied, and enjoyed being young and having too much money.  But that was all just a stage, a practice run at the institution that is marriage.  Michelle bailed on our marriage the moment the fun and easy part was over.  At that time of my life I was working in Des Moines on the weekends, staying at the Holiday Inn between shifts, and then returning to our marital home in eastern Iowa three hours away.  Lesson number one for thick-headed Norsemen: don’t choose a different medical school to attend than your young wife, 3 hours away.  Lesson number two for thick-headed Norsemen: don’t gut an entire home and then start the renovation over from that point–covering and uncovering the marital bed each day is a great way not to stress a marriage.  I was an idiot, and worse, I had invested in the wrong woman.

money pit      One September day in 2004, I returned home in eastern Iowa from my brother’s farm in SW Wisconsin to a manila envelope from Michelle.  She had moved out three weeks earlier and had sent me the divorce papers with a note asking me to attend to this because her clinicals demanded her time each day during normal business hours. I made a list of 12 errands to run that day, the last being to remove Michelle from my life insurance as the benefactor–keeping her in that position no longer seemed prudent.  I was standing in the doorway of the State Farm office in Maquoketa, IA making an off-handed remark to the secretary about going through a divorce when a young couple with a small child came through the door. I remarked what a big, beautiful girl she was and her father replied “yeah, you’d never know she got the start in life that she had.”  Sensing he was wanting to talk more about this, I took the bait.  We got started talking about little Lucy and Tetrology of Fallot, when her mother remarked about my ‘divorce’ comment.


“So, you’re going through a divorce, Eh? Well, I just happen to have this sister…” I cut her off.  “No, you don’t understand–I just came from the judge’s office right before coming here.  I am in NO WAY ready for this!” I protested.  Amy would not back down.  “Oh, she’s a good cook, she’s tall, comes from a good family.”  State Farm closed and pushed us out onto the sidewalk where Amy continued planning my future.  It was a heated election year and I knew 2/3rds of the registered voters in the county drank the blue Kool-Aid.  “Well, I am a Republican.  A staunch conservative, to be even more precise!”  I bellowed, hoping she would give up and walk away in disgust.  Instead, Amy’s face lit up and said “Well, so are we!  I mean, so is she!”  “Ah, crap” I thought.  Finally Amy added “wouldn’t it be nice at the end of a long day of renovating that old house if you had a friend in this area to go see a movie with?”  Bam.  She had me.  I was mighty lonely, reeling from the biggest, most personal type of rejection a human being can suffer.  “Okay, when do you plan to talk with her next?”  Amy, being Amy, said “oh, I’m gonna step around the corner and call her right now!” Many months later Sara would enlighten me to the real content of that conversation: Amy called Sara and said “I just met the father of your children.  Don’t eff this up!”

first date 2

The amazing part of this exchange is that after only about forty minutes of talking to me, Amy could discern that I was a suitable mate for her older sister.  Not just a suitable mate, but a life partner.  Wow.  That still makes me shake my head in wonder.  Later that same night I had three hours of windshield time with which to call Sara.  Although it started on an awkward note (Hi, I’m Erik–some random dude your sis was totally crunching on for you earlier at the State Farm), soon each of us loosened up and we arranged to talk again on the phone Saturday morning, Sunday, and then even Monday evening when I picked up an extra shift due to an ill call.  By the time I ever laid eyes on her, Sara and I had spent about 8 hours talking on the phone, sharing values, dreams, hopes, desires.  We agreed to meet in Davenport at the Border’s bookstore on 53rd at 5:30 p.m, 9/24/2004.  I was perusing Ann Coulter’s new book Treason when a tall drink of water with short brown hair and brown eyes came up to me and softly said “Erik?”  She bought my coffee, she insisted, because she didn’t want to feel ‘beholden’ to me at the end of the evening. I sat there, enjoying adult conversation with a kind woman with big, soulful brown eyes. It was great to not be so lonely, if only for a little while.  There were a handful of patrons sitting there when we sat down.  Three solid hours later, deep in conversation, we looked up and noticed older women quilting at every single table–as if a flash quilting mob had enveloped us.  We chuckled in wonderment at where they all had come from, us so completely unaware.

quilting bee