A Story for Valentine’s Day

19 years ago, Jana and I met. We danced. I asked her out. I washed her hair. We fell in love.

18 years ago, we kissed. Then we kissed a lot more. I left for my mission in Japan. We didn’t promise to wait for each other.

17 years ago, we wrote to each other every week. I knocked on doors proclaiming the gospel according to Joseph Smith. She started a sorority and dated around.

16 years ago, I returned to California and proposed to Jana. She accepted. We married five months later. We had lots of sex.

15 years ago, we lived in student housing. We conceived our first child. We went to class and we went to church.

14 years ago, Jana took finals on the week she was due. Our son entered our world. I greeted customers at a Japanese restaurant as the maître’d, filed legal documents as a clerk, and dug through Japanese archives as a research assistant. Jana’s father lost his fight to cancer.

13 years ago, we moved to Salt Lake City. I started grad school. We slept on the plush carpet of our rented duplex apartment near Liberty Park and played with the Box Elder beetles.

12 years ago (to the day), we conceived our daughter. I left grad school and entered the corporate world. I ran my first marathon. I played a lot of street hockey. We slept on a convertible futon bed in a cinderblock apartment. Jana managed our complex of student apartments.

11 years ago, we experienced one of the roughest years of our marriage. Jana struggled with post-partum depression. I entered an MBA program. I hated it. I quit the program. I realized that I no longer believed in Jesus.

10 years ago, I worked for the LDS Church. Jana’s brother-in-law was diagnosed with an aggressive melanoma. We moved back to California. We lived in Bakersfield for two months.

9 years ago, we moved back to Irvine. I began database administration. We lived in an apartment complex with a continually babbling stream and an occasional great blue heron.

8 years ago, I realized that I was mostly atheist. I shared this with Jana. She was not happy. I began working at a dot com. I had the best year of my work life. We had the worst year of our marriage. Jana began taking classes at the community college.

7 years ago, I was laid off by my dot com. I began working for UCI. I created this blog using my own code. We conceived of a new, shared dream of returning to school and getting PhDs. I began taking classes at UCI.

6 years ago, Jana began taking classes at UCI. We moved back on campus less than fifty yards away from the apartment we lived in when we first were married. I started walking to work under the eucalyptus trees.

5 years ago, we both happily attended classes at UCI while I worked on campus. I enrolled in courses on atheism and Japanese ghosts. Jana began developing a passion for 19th century America. I bled away much of my idealism by protesting the war in Iraq.

4 years ago, Jana and I both applied to graduate schools. I got into Stanford. Jana got into UCI. We made the hard decision to stay in Irvine. In the summer, we ate lots of baguettes and listened to the street musicians in Paris. In the fall, Jana started her PhD in history at UCI.

3 years ago, as I watched Jana thrive in her PhD program, I entered into a six month long depression. I returned to my regular happy self again when I was accepted into the evening masters program in religious studies at CSU Long Beach. We organized our two thousand books using the Library of Congress cataloging system.

2 years ago, we left the LDS Church as a family. We began attending the local Quaker meeting. We made lots of wonderful new friends. We recorded several episodes of a podcast exploring our combined faith/doubt journey.

Last year, we moved to a slightly larger but much healthier and better lit apartment. Jana passed her comprehensive exams. I cooked lots of French meals with vegetables and herbs fresh from Jana’s garden. We traveled to Boston with a friend and stayed at the Beacon Hill Friend’s House. We entertained a lot and played many games of Ticket to Ride.

This year, we continue to move towards our dream of simpler living and creative, cerebral careers. We delight in our books, our projects, our kitties, our friends, our children and, of course, in each other. I delight in almost two decades of Jana. I look forward to what adventures the next few decades will bring.


  1. Mark

    Bravisimo!!! I know the gowth that you two have been through is to be congratulated(?)! Being a life long Catholic, fallen I might add, with two sisters that have been given over to the LDS, I can only imagine the difficulty you two have been through.

  2. I didn’t tear up at all when I read that. (Okay, but not too much.)

    Can I just say that I love you guys so much, and I am so thankful to have met you and to have heard your stories, and witnessed the love in your family. You guys are awesome.

  3. Chili Pepper

    What a great read, and what a great journey of your lives that you so openly share for those interested. Elise and I are glad to be your friends and feel your joys, sorrows, and successes through what you’ve shared. Happy Valentine’s Day to a fabulous pair!


  4. John:
    This is so sweet (and sometimes poignantly bittersweet). I’ve re-read it over and over and over.

    But it’s missing one thing…that “had lots of sex” line from 16 years ago, you should’ve cut and pasted that little blurb on each subsequent year…

  5. Peter

    I thought someone was gonna die at the end of this, ’cause I dont see any other way for it to be bittersweet.
    I dont understand the post at all. Quite bad, in my opinion.

  6. Ah, Peter: if you understood leaving a faith, you’d understand that someone did die. The Mormon John and the Mormon Jana are no longer. The difficulties that they’ve been through make it bitter; the love they still have make it sweet.

    And Jana: I thought the same thing :-p

  7. John

    Peter, point of clarification: you actually wanted someone to die in a love story about real people? As far as the impact of the story on its readers, I guess I can’t please everyone, and I’m ok with that. If you need some understanding, read my beloved Jana’s comment right above yours.

  8. just found your blog through your wife’s. just wanted to say this is an incredible post (i know i’m a bit late to the comment party).
    anyone that’s been in a long term relationship with so many ups and downs and discovered that not only did you outlast all the crap, your relationship is so much stronger for it should be able to appreciate it.
    i read it more as a love letter anyways.

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