A Love Story in Letters…and Pizza


In honor of the Big Red Holiday, Shauna asked her readers to post their love stories. The beginning of our relationship goes so far back it feels more like a faded photograph of distant relatives than the roots of our lives together…yet on the 16th Valentine’s Day we share, reviewing ancient history is a sweet assignment.

Mark and I met in 8th grade Honors English. We were casual friends through high school, and when the all-important senior prom approached, I needed a date. Doing what girlfriends do best, Katie and I assessed the options for hours over the phone. We had our target. I would stop by the grocery store where Mark and Katie both worked, and Katie would casually offer that Mark and I should go to prom together – as friends. It was a total set-up, but it worked.
Two young kids at high school graduation.

It took me a couple more months to move beyond “just friends”…Mark had already enlisted in the Army, and his Lt. Colonel Uncle’s #1 tip was not to go in with a girlfriend. Being the dutiful nephew, Mark tried to follow orders. I’m thankful he finally disobeyed. The tearful day Mark left for Basic Training is where our love story truly begins.

Most college students spend their first year of school getting crazy and testing the boundaries of their new freedom. I was sitting at my dorm desk writing love letters every single day to my beloved. We got to know each other more deeply through those letters, full of our days’ events as well as dripping with young, gooey love and anticipation of our holiday reunion. He wooed me via letter – stories of 2am guard shifts turned loopy and funny in his hands. I learned just how GOOD a writer this man was…in truth, he should be the blog writer, not me. Rereading the letters 15 years later still makes me blush and smile. I’m so grateful that we found love before the age of texting and tweeting which you cannot hold in your hand years later.

My Army hunk at Basic Training graduation, 1995.

Mark later joined me at Michigan State. Real life was more challenging than love letters – juggling work, studies, roommates, and the roller-coaster of family life with my mom very ill with cancer. Mark stuck with me, though sometimes I’ve no idea why, as my moods could go from sunny to stormy in an instant. We now know those mood swings were a gluten side effect, but it wasn’t always a pretty picture. Throughout, Mark’s patience, gentle heart and sense of humor got me through.

After I graduated, we parted again when I moved to Holden Village, a remote retreat community with no phones or internet…and once again the letters flowed between us. The four years had matured our relationship and Mark’s letters were a lifeline to home and our life together, which could feel so distant living in the beautiful Cascade Mountains. I may have stayed there, were it not for his words pulling my heart back home.

My homecoming quickly moved us to Chicago, where we’ve built our life together for the last 11 years. He is my husband, the holder of my heart, the patient engineer who balances my penchant for making life decisions on intuition alone. Moving through this complicated world together is so much easier with Mark at my side. Happy Valentine’s Day, my Love.

Since Shauna asked us to write swooning words, it seems only fitting to celebrate our love with Shauna’s gluten-free whole grain pizza…not just because this is the best pizza I’ve ever made, but because pizza is a symbol of the food life that every celiac I know initially mourns losing. Like my relationship with Mark, pizza has been reborn in our post-gluten lives…and I don’t miss the gluten at all.  Make this pizza for someone you love.

Our Valentine’s pizza: crumbled chorizo, salsa, caramelized onions, cilantro and Jack cheese.

Get Shauna’s Whole Grain Pizza Recipe

What food makes your heart sing? Share your favorites in the comments below!

10 thoughts on “A Love Story in Letters…and Pizza

  1. All together now: Awwww…..

    Thanks for sharing your sweet love story. And you’re right: there’s something magical about building a relationship through letters. The words on paper, the anticipation, the joy of finding one in the mailbox. When I lived in Hungary, I traded increasingly-frequent letters with the boy who eventually became my high school boyfriend. After things soured, I shredded them. I wish I still had them today. I do have my grandmother’s love letters from when my grandpa was in the Navy – fantastic family history. What will future generations do? Save an external hard drive full of emails and tweets? Not the same.

    Happy Valentine’s Day, Jenn & Mark!

    • Thanks, Crysta. I knew you’d appreciate the value of building a relationship with words…even if writing a sticky-sweet post was perhaps the hardest thing I’ve written in a very long time. I fear for future generations with their saved emails & tweets…sitting down with a pen makes you pause and think about the effects of what you’re writing, and digital prose does not have that same weightiness. I fear its a fading art.

      Letters between my grapndparents during the war are definitely family heirlooms for us, too…doubly so when you read the letters from my grandpa to his sister vs what he sent his new bride, and you realize how much he protected my grandma from the realities of his wartime experiences. Amazing stuff. Letters from 1995 Basic Training to MSU are not nearly so harrowing.😉

    • Thanks, Erin! The pizza truly was the best crust I’ve made in my gluten-free years. Shauna’s genius knows no bounds. Wish I were having it tonight…our romantic dinner may be weekend leftovers after yet another sleepless night with the new hound.😉

  2. My eyes are all watery right now Jenn. I once read this somewhere: “To love someone deeply gives you strength.
    Being loved by someone deeply gives you courage”. You and Mark are fortunate you have both🙂 God Bless you and Happy Valentine’s day!

  3. Jen—There was just a story on NPR the other day about the beauty of love letters and how would they be ending with the internet and texting. I certainly think the personal closeness of a letter is gone with an email and texting….oh jeez! Your love story is just beautiful!!!!

    Happy Valentine’s Day to you both!
    Colleen

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