“My best friend, my life partner” ~ inscription inside our wedding bands
I got very lucky when I found my wife Beth. We met in 1995 at a birthday party she crashed. Victor Carlson, the guy on the other side of the cubicle wall told me earlier that day, “Dude, I’m bringing this girl to Thano Chaltas’ party. She just broke up with her boyfriend.”
I asked her out at the party. Our first date was the next day. We took the New York tram from Manhattan to Roosevelt Island. It was one of the first dates I hadn’t choreographed: I’d never been there before, I didn’t know what to expect. We walked to the end of the island and, because I hate backtracking, cut through what I think was a hospital to get to the other side. “Just follow me and act like you’re supposed to be there,” I asked this girl I had met the day before.
Been together ever since.
Two weeks ago Beth asked me to lift my head from the computer screen. “Joey,” she said, “I want your full attention. We should talk.” She told me, “There’s something going on. I can’t put my finger on it but you’ve been a bit self-centered lately. It comes in waves and you’re entering one of them.”
She was right. I had become less receptive to other people’s needs, more focused on my own. This pattern comes in “Joey cycles,” as she calls it. We talked about ways I’ve come out of past cycles and she asked me to take those steps.
Without a second thought I said yes. I said to Beth yesterday, “I know better than to tell you no because you are always right.”
Funniest thing she ever said
We weren’t dating two months when I took her to a party in Long Island thrown by a friend from Wharton. Everybody there, it seemed had an MBA. I don’t know what conversations I got into but apparently they weren’t typical conversations for Beth.
When we got in the car she let me know how she felt relative to the ‘impressive people’ she met at the party.
“I feel like the winner of a pie-eating contest.”
Still makes me laugh.
The first time I sent roses to her office she laughed and laughed. The card, which I dictated over the phone to the florist, read, “I herd you like roses.” Herd. “This is so funny,” she knew, “because of how fanatical you are about language.”
We still have the card.
Beth before kids
Beth worked in the garment industry in Manhattan when we met. She worked at Macy’s out of school, at Nautica, and later as Director of Production for the largest manufacturer of sleepwear for Wal*Mart. Toward the end there in 2000, it wasn’t fun anymore.
The story I best remember illustrated her frustration at work. She told me how she was checking on a shipment that was running late. “The shipment is on the boat” (a third-world equivalent of “the check is in the mail”), the fax read. Later she learned the shipment hadn’t even been produced(!). There was a bountiful rice crop that year – all the workers took higher-paying jobs in the fields.
Wal*Mart wasn’t amused.
I was doing well as Director of Relationship Marketing for 1-800-FLOWERS.COM at the time. “Don’t work,” I told her. “Find something you enjoy doing.” And so, when we returned from a three-week trip to Botswana (oh, the trips we used to take before the boys came), she quit. She took some classes, and ultimately re-discovered her art.
As “Painting with Paper,” Beth makes collage work unlike anything I’ve seen. We have four pieces hanging in our home. She does pieces on commission, mostly for friends and through referrals. A true artist, she loves the creation, not the selling. “I don’t feel right charging my friends too much,” she says. Only after I calculated an hourly rate reasonable for hand-crafted commissioned work did she relent. I posted a few of her pieces on this post about strong positioning. (Want a unique portrait of your own? Email me.)
Beth Hage, mother extraordinaire
I tell her, “Beth, you are the best mother I know.” She has a hard time accepting the compliment.
Our boys have a lot of energy. She’s great with them; knows how to channel their energy more productively. She speculated why Zachary had trouble focusing in class and discovered for him Tomatis (something about the bone conduction in his ear) and, separately, eye therapy (she tells me he could have lost vision in one eye had “we” not caught it). She’s working through some Lucas issues too: It comes naturally to her.
I remember when we were newlyweds. She wondered if she’d be a good mom and thought she’d be a better “girl mom” than a “boy mom.” She realizes now that she was definitely supposed to be a boy mom.
She’s a true soccer mom. She plays in a league for herself AND coaches Zachary’s soccer league. She took him to T-ball, she graduated along with him to junior baseball where she coaches that too. Lucas, who prefers individual sports (biking, scooter, driving anything he’s allowed to drive) gets all the freedom he needs to explore.
She’s a great “doggy mom” too. Brooklyn, our King Charles Cavalier is 100 percent Beth’s dog. He has two people in his life: “Momma” and “Not Momma.” You, me, my kids, we’re all “Not Momma.” I come home from a week away, I get generous tail wagging. Momma comes home from the store and he goes freakin’ nuts: whimpering, climbing on her leg, running around. Sleeping on our bed is insufficient for Brooklyn. Sleeping on Beth is better. When I leave in the morning, I see the back of Beth’s head buried in a pillow, the dog draping her neck like a scarf, checking me out as I leave.
People tell me I’m lucky.
Beth, I love you. I’m grateful for everything we have. She makes me laugh: Last month I noted the 14th anniversary of the day we met.
“14 years. That’s a lot of Beth,” I told her. “That’s a lot more Joey!” she immediately replied.
She’s right. And I’m grateful I have someone so strong to keep me on the straight and narrow.
I love you, Beth. I love you.