Cathy ZielskeCZ Life61 Comments


I posted last week that Dan, also known as My Better Half or My Partner in Crime and Therapy, spent 11 days visiting his best friend, Christopher, in Ljubljana, Slovenia.

It's been a coon's age since we've had this much time apart. Once in the 1990s he flew out to Santa Cruz for work for three weeks (I know, rough place to be), but that's the only other time we've been apart for any real length of time.

I've written here a few times, admitedly not much, that Dan and I have been working on our, for lack of a better word, shit, for the past few years. We've been a couple since 1989 and that has translated to an awful lot of stuff to work through, understand and figure out.

It has been and continues to be a slow process but a much needed one.


As we planned this getaway for him, part of me thought the time apart would be good for just chilling out, not thinking so much about 'us' all the time and just using the time to simply be. In other words, I thought I would use the time to check out mentally from always trying to work on myself and on us.

If there's one thing I'm learning, however, it's that checking out translates to very little progress ever being made. It's also a great way to avoid reality, something I've done an awful lot in my 46 years of living.


But the exact opposite happened. I wasn't prepared for the depth of the transatlantic communications that ensued. It seemed that by removing ourselves from the grind of everyday life, we were able to connect in a way that has been elusive during the past few years. We were able to lower our defenses and realize that sometimes, the mucky muck of our neurotic selves needs to take a back seat to love and kindess and nurturing and seeing what is right in front of you.


I believe anyone who's tried to work on a relationship knows that it can be incredibly challenging at times and that it can also seem effortless at others. I also believe that making the relationship work is not always the right path for every couple.

For Dan and I, it's the path we've both chosen, together, come Hell or high water or 11 days in Europe.


Or everyday life right here in Saint Paul, Minnesota.

As Dan wrote to me in an email on his fourth or fifth day there, which he sent with the very first picture of this post: "It shouldn't take a trip to Europe to realize how much I love her."

I think for both of us, this trip was exactly what was needed.

Thanks to Christopher and Kjara for providing so many wonderful photos from this adventure.


Cathy ZielskeFonder

61 Comments on “Fonder”

  1. #1
    madeline St onge

    I am so happy to read that last sentence Cathy, makes my heart happy first thing in the morning. Hope he made it home safe and sound

  2. #2

    I loved this and the photos. So happy for both of you, it is tough and I hope you can keep working at being together and enjoying it!! Thanks for keeping it real and sharing with us!!

  3. #3

    Thanks for sharing this post from your heart. It made me feel a little more human and normal. I remember when my husband and I got married (almost 20 yrs. ago) that people kept telling us marriage is hard & asking… isn’t it so hard to adjust to being married???? For us, it wasn’t. It was natural and right. The hard part has been 20 yrs. later. Now, there is tons of effort involved in keeping it fresh and interesting. The “work” at this point has totally taken me by surprise — but it is so worth it! On the good days AND the bad days, we are committed. Thanks for keepin’ it real and sharing your heart. ~Sally

  4. #4

    Thanks for being so candid Cathy. Sitting he on the other side of the screen, it is easy to picture you with the PERFECT life and it is a tough comparision to our own. I think scrapbooking as a whole is like that and it is something I struggle with. All the pages in the galleries about the people with the husbands and the expressions of unending love and romance. My husband is a great man, no mistake, but I definitely wouldn’t say that the way that we communicate is anything close to great (all his fault of course :O) ). Good to get out of the usual rut. Glad you guys had this opportunity!!

  5. #5
    Kendra B

    Thank you so much for sharing this with all of us. Awwwww to what Dan wrote in his email! Its awesome for you guys that this turned out to be more than just a trip to see a friend.

  6. #7

    I appreciate that you share life so candidly on here Cathy! My husband travels weekly for his job and I can agree with your sentiments. My bff says she’s a bit envious of how much alone time I have since she still has children at home. I’ve told her that yes I need alone time but there’s a certain time of the day that I feel lonely!

    I miss him when he’s gone and I now appreciate him more when he’s with me.

  7. #8

    Cathy, my husband and I just had our 23rd wedding anniversary, and a day later, he headed to Germany for another of many business trips.

    Very, very much like you, we were able to really embrace the “distance makes the heart grow fonder” as each of us were able to see life through a different lens, so to speak.

    It is a wonderful, amazing, inspiring thing to see and hear about couples who are forging ahead – hell or high water – to work hard at the most important relationship in our lives. Like you, we’re finding the fight is INDEED worth the effort and that the outcome isn’t the only reward – treading the hills and valleys together is a huge part of the joy.

    But, man, does Slovenia look INCREDIBLE!!! I say, next time, STOWAWAY!

  8. #9
    jacquie d

    Thankyou for sharing your honest post and those beautiful pictures. It is so much easier to ‘throw in the towel’when a marriage hits the rough spots. This I say from experience and can honestly say, 30 years later that I have some regrets. I commend you and Dan for your combined effort to make your marriage work. I believe that for all parties involved that it will be so worth it in the end!

  9. #10

    Wow-great pictures. I had no idea Slovania was so beautiful. And-I’m right there with you on the marriage thing. Been together for 23 years, married for 18 of them. Marriage takes work. Its tough and no fun some times (a lot of times),and is a commitment that is not for the faint-hearted. Thanks for your honesty

  10. #11
    Kelli W

    Thank you for sharing yoiur whole life, not just the sunshiney and happy parts. I try to do the same thing in my scrapbooking and wonder sometimes how many people actually do the same thing

  11. #12

    I agree with those who said how honest you are. From my perspective of 52 years of marriage, you are at about the hardest time. It could be worse if your parents are dying or disagreeable. There are a lot of wonderful times ahead for you and Dan. Here is to the two of you.

    I have fallen off the Project Life. But I am loving reading yours .

  12. #14
    Nicole Hoffman

    Thanks for sharing. It is helpful to learn of couples who are willing to fight to keep a relationship going. Too many out there think it should be happy and easy to be together. Good luck on your journey through life together!

  13. #18

    What a great post and what a great legacy you give to your children. . . not just ‘sticking it out’ but wanting it to be the best it can be. As always, you are an encouragment in the ‘real’ world.

  14. #19

    This is such a valuable perspective to have. I appreciate this comment because yes, this time has been hard because weve chosen to look at stuff and figure out whats not working. Really grateful for a husband who is committed to this process.

  15. #23
    lucky penny love

    Such a moving post! I appreciate your honesty. I’m going on 20 years of marriage next month, and yes, it is hard. But I’m so glad to hear that you both want it. And that you both realize it before it’s too late. Here’s to a happy reunion!

  16. #24

    Nice to know others live our lives – just in different houses. I gave up hope on my first marriage but found my true love the second time around. Cheers to you and Dan!

  17. #25

    Honest words, thoughtful post.
    My husband and I are in it for the long haul too….here’s to hell & happiness and a little Beatles …..

  18. #26

    I can completely relate to this post. As an Army wife, my husband goes on year long, um, “getaways”. It is always during those times apart that we somehow find the ability to connect on a much, much deeper level. The emails and phone calls allow us to spill what’s in our hearts much easier, when we don’t have the day-to-day grind to deal with. I can’t really explain why this happens. It just does. I don’t know how it is that when I see him everyday, we can’t sit down and have the kind of conversation we can have when he’s halfway across the world. I think when you are together all the time, there’s stuff to do … shit gets in the way … life gets in the way. But when you are apart, you have the time to step back and realize that what is/was really important when you are together is that everyday stuff … and you end up missing that everyday stuff when you are apart. Perhaps I’m not making any sense, but I do understand your post. His next “getaway” starts June 26. I can tell it’s coming (not just by looking at a calendar) because I’m getting more emotional. The other night the family went for ice cream after dinner. As we sat on the bench together enjoying our cones, I started to cry. Enough that everyone could see. Happy tears because I was happy to be together, but sad tears because “together” will end in about six or seven weeks. This is his 6th “getaway” and hopefully his last. With so many military marriages ending in divorce, I am SO proud so say that we will celebrate our 20th anniversary this year (of course, we’ll be apart, but he gave me my “bling” early). I SO get your feelings. It IS hard. But it’s the hard that makes it great!

  19. #28

    You constantly amaze and give me something to think about with your completely candid and real posts. THANK YOU! I actually had tears in my eyes as I read, as I was reminded that working through all the hard times is worth it. Sometimes, though, it is difficult to remember that.

  20. #29

    Loved reading this. I will say this time apart has made me think of military wives; of how hard it is to be separated for those chunks of time; to do it all on your own on the home front and then to miss your husbands so much. But I totally hear you. The time apart. It really as given me a clarity. Wishing you your last getaway so he can be back home to you and your family soon.

  21. #31
    Becky @ Pieces of my Life

    Cathy, so glad to read this today. When my husband and I got married almost 24 years ago, we decided that divorce was not an option. Of those 24 he was in the Navy 17 of them. He was out to sea a lot and at the end of his career he was in port only 364 days out of 4 years. The time away does make or break the relationship and as we are reaching our 25th wedding anniversary I find that we have to try a little harder. I have also noticed we have to work harder on us depending on the stage in life our children are going through. We have a 23 year old, 17 year old and an 11 year old all at home now so that is a trial in our marriage all on it’s own. I am so glad to see others out there who realize that to stay happy with yourself and others it take work. Thanks again Cathy and good luck with you and Dan.

  22. #32
    Becky @ Pieces of my Life

    Melissa, I can so relate to you as my husband was in the Navy. I feel that the 2-3 weeks leading up to deployment my husband and I started to already distance ourselves a bit just to prepare for him leaving, but I have to say the Homecomings are the sweetest time ever. Good luck in the coming months.

  23. #33

    Aw Cathy I just welled up πŸ™ My partner of 13 years and I just broke up in March… although we both tried so hard to make it work. I’m so happy that you and Dan get to realise how much you mean to each other. I wish you many long wonderful years together xoxo

  24. #34

    Glad your man is home and that you both missed each other and felt appreciation for each other. My spouse and I have the best conversations over the phone — and we’re both home every night. But somehow it’s easier to “just talk” on the phone.

  25. #35
    Julie MacManus

    wow what a truly touching and honest post – thank you so much for sharing your ‘real life’. Hubby and i are happy enough put being in the middle of raising two full on wee ones who like to wake at 5am takes a toll on our energy levels and paitence for each other. at times when we are tired and quick to snap we are trying to remember that the other is not the enemy – but we know the kids will only be little for a short time and so we need to be united.
    i’m going away for a week soon and it’ll be interesting to see how we connect while im away – thanks , so much :>

  26. #36

    Thank you Cathy Z. for your timely post. This summer will mark the 25 year milestone in our marriage and wow, has it been hard. We are both so committed to each other, but that doesn’t make life any easier nor the “getting along” part that spouses are supposed to do. We too are having to actually face the crap that has built up over a couple dozen decades…but there is nothing in the world like being so connected to another human being that you know that you know he isn’t going anywhere even when dealt a tough hand. Thanks for expressing your tho’ts so well and may you and Dan experience the incredible depth that comes when facing real life together…in the same direction. Blessings.

  27. #37
    Jen W*

    I love that you aren’t afraid to share. I totally understand. My husband and I have been married 19 but been together for 22 years and as my daughter is graduating this year but I’m starting over with our adopted son (he’s turning 5), its keeping me young but we still are going through our midlife crisis of rediscovering ourselves and learning to that change is a good thing to make us better for the next 20-30 years. I have so many regrets from my first 20 years of how I acted and thought I knew it all and now I just want to enjoy life, family and who cares if I’m right or wrong. (well my hubby likes when I’m wrong, lol)
    I recently sent my husband home to the mountains of NC to see his family without me (and just our 4yr old) to get perspective and time alone. It really opened his eyes to what I’ve seen for years in him that isnt truly who he is or wants to be but out of habit has been doing and acting like. Through that I didnt expect me to find MORE things to change about. but I did…I have to learn to keep quiet more, (i’m loud, matter of fact, to the point, no fakeness, lets enjoy life, have fun kinda person), be less opinionated and more complimentary to my husband instead of pointing out what he doesnt do right. I think its a learning curve we all have to go through.
    I’m glad you and Dan had this opp to rediscover your love for one another. Ya have to take time to “miss” each other. (my hubby and I met on blind date and knew from first date we would be married and married 3 yrs later)
    I couldnt imagine facing life without my amazing husband (prickles and all) and I would no longer care about the little things i pick and complain about (i know) so i’m working on that. I always want to live for today with him!So I think we all have CRAP that builds over time and you have to have to take time for the ROYAL FLUSH to clean it all out.


  28. #38
    O. Ortiz

    Just speechless… THANKS CATHY! Your honesty simply touches my heart. It gives me a sense that I’m not alone in this craziness called “marriage”. I married my high school sweetheart, and every time I say that this year in Dec we’re celebrating 22 years of marriage (plus 7 before that!), almost everybody thinks that it is just love… Mistaken! Love is just one of the main ingredients, true. But it’s the type of commitment that you and Dan have to each other (shared by us and so many others) that keeps you going. That keeps you pressing on when it is easier to give up! Thank again!

  29. #40
    laura kate

    And now I’m crying.

    Rock on, Zielskes! You and Dan give me such positive hope as I prepare to get married. Also being someone who is going into this with the “come hell or high water” attitude, it’s so refreshing to not read another post by someone waxing poetic about the flowery lovely perfectness of marriage or just being complacent and walking out on it. You two are real and keep it real. It’s so great.

  30. #41

    So I am crying now. Have been helping my best friend work through the end of her 24 year marriage. She was totally blind sided. So happy to read about a couple doing the work and finding the joy/reward of hanging in there. Keep on keeping on!

  31. #42
    carol in seattle :)

    Such a beautiful post Cathy! I’m living “the other side” of this…my husband travels for work (35-45 weeks a year) and has since before we were married. It’s been an interesting ride and it still amazes me how much and how well we communicate when he’s on the other side of the globe. Sometimes ya just gotta make it work.

  32. #43

    That is so awesome! My husband and I have been through thick and thin for 15 years. When he deployed for a year I wasn’t sure we would make it. But that time apart forced us to focus on how much we loved each other and to express it instead of getting caught up in the humdrum of the daily grind! Here’s to making it work!

  33. #44

    It is so worth hanging in there Cathy! My husband and I have done 26 years married plus a few before hand. We’ve been through three house moves, two parents deaths, one parent’s Parkinsons Disease, two (fabulous) children, one miscarriage, one midlife crisis (his) one brief period of separation and a life time of experiences together. And it is those which make it all worthwhile. Knowing there is someone in the world who has shared, intimate history with you, who has come to understand you, appreciate and respect you and, to paraphrase Susan Sarandon in “Will You Dance With Me” is there to witness your life. What a bummer it would be to do it alone! My husband and I are now so intune with each other we know what the other is thinking, which is scary but at the same time comforting. It seems to me sometimes that people get so hung up on “the wedding” they forget that “the marriage” is what really counts.
    Getting older, more relaxed, learning to be honest and stand up for yourself, but in a positive way, and not in a way that diminishes the other person, has been the most valuable lesson for me.
    It is SO nice to read such and open and honest post because it is easy to believe everyone else is living a better version of life to you!
    Hugs from downunder.

  34. #45

    wow Cathy that’s an amazing post and such lovely photos. I’m an English defence wife living in Melbourne – whilst my husband lives and works in Sydney. Its our first time apart where he has lived somewhere else – usually he is at sea and somehow that makes it easier. But after 20 years of marriage, and now two teenage children who cannot be moved from their schools, we need to live a plane ride apart. Whilst the visits home come every 3 or 4 weeks for just a weekend our life isn’t normal by any stretch of the imagination. Yesterday I found out that having endured this for 16 months, we are very likely to still have another 16 more months ahead of us. I told the children and they cried – they miss their dad and I miss my husband dreadfully. It isn’t what we chose but it is what we need to do having moved the family home across the world on more than one occasion – we are stronger because of it (I think lol) …. and we spend far more quality time on the phone than ever before. Do I hate it when the kids are playing up and I am on my own? Yes of course I do, I hate being the only taxi driver and the one who had to do everything …. but I take my hat off to all single mothers out there. I know this is for a relatively short time – and we will get through this! Thanks for your honesty – and reminder that I love your wit and the way you write and I need to catch up with EWMM xxx

  35. #46

    I know exactly where you are coming from.

    Just remember what you have posted. The first week back may be bumpy. Settling back into routine is always difficult.

  36. #47
    Toni Brockliss

    I am always reminded of the gospel that was Sex and The City 2 (cough) a statement from a poignant scene jammed between shoes and Samantha’s anatomy -“Marriage…it ain’t a job but it’s work.”

    Blind Freddy can see the love and respect you have for one another. The thing I love the most are your family photos. If there is no love there, it will translate.
    This is not a problem in your house, and if it takes work to make it that way, then that is what you have to do.

  37. #48


    Thanks so much for sharing. The fun stuff you do is so awesome and I’m sure it is a humbling experience for you to show us, your public, the more intimate pieces of your life. I’ll be married 8 years this year (yes, for most I’m still a newbie), and my husband and I have been together for 13 years and have seen the good, the bad, the very bad and the ugly. Certainly no different than any other couple out there that is truly committed to making their marriage work. I’ve said since I got married that it is hard, but it’s been so worth it. Keeping a marriage together (especially when children are involved) takes more than the hearts and flowers. It also involves weeding the garden to help the flowers grow and that means getting your hands very dirty sometimes. I love that you and Dan decided to work to make your marriage work. While I agree that most couples should not be together, I believe it is important to try first–I don’t think that happens much anymore. . .

  38. #49

    You ARE AWESOME! Thanks for keeping it real and for working TOGETHER on your relationship. You are an inspiration for A LOT of people!

    I liked your last few paragraphs the best; you put it into perspective wonderfully. πŸ˜‰

  39. #50

    Wow! Awwww….you are amazing and I thank you so much for sharing yourself and your life adventure with all of us (especially me).

  40. #51

    thanks for sharing your wonderfully honest post.

    My DH and I have been married 10yrs and have 3sm children aged 4,3 and 20mths. we’ve just moved internationally and at the moment things are rough and tough. We’ve decided divorce isn’t an option so we are working hard to make this work. Some things about our relationship are very, very right and some are very, very wrong. We are trying to work through the wrong bits while remembering and celebrating the right. I hope we are getting there.

    Good luck to us all. xx

  41. #54
    Missus Wookie

    Thanks for the reminders – as well as great design tips, introducing me to new music and marveling at the fashion sense from your kids ;), I value the reminder that another couple are working through their ‘stuff’.

    Wookie and I have done over a quarter of a century together, heading up to 23 married and occasionally I look around and wonder where all these people got the idea marriage was a short term fling rather than a long haul relationship.

  42. #55

    You know, there is just a lot of competition for our attention at your time of life. But after that settles down, you develop a companion fit. I am, now seeing couples separate by death, and frankly it looks hideous. Now, I am so grateful for that snoring, mass in my bed at night, who takes out the garbage, and now sends meaningful Valentines. My best to you.

  43. #57

    Simply… awesome! What do they say… absence makes the heart grow fonder?? Or maybe realize how special the relationship we have truly is.

    Great pictures too!

  44. #60
    alexandra sirugue-macleod

    What a fantastic post indeed!
    I can relate…like Totally!!! and all I have to say is: Bravo, way to Go!
    Fight on! and also much Love to the both of you!! πŸ˜‰

    from a Franco-American Mama married to a Hoosier!

  45. #61

    Love this post. Love your attitude, and your progress in the Eat less move more (not sure if that is right).

    You are an inspiration.

    My husband and I still have a date night (we adopted and are raising a very bright and energetic active 9yro boy) and this is great to just ask each other what we are looking forward to, vacations, personal projects, new routines, that is separate from all of the family/work business. I always start after a relaxing drink, and just before the meal arrives, by asking, “What are you really looking forward to?”. This kindles our dreams of what we want to accomplish in the way of personal fun. We forget about work, responsibilities or parenthood and think of what we have to look forward to.
    We connect all over again..

    I am glad that you have as well (!!!)
    Kimberly Anne

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