From the Archives: A Lesson In Joinery and a Love Story, Too

[Total read time: 4.5 mintues] In honor of my husband’s and my seventh wedding anniversary today, I’ve resurrected a piece I wrote in 2009. It’s already been around the block a few times, so apologies if it’s stale.


mortise and tenon joint
Mortise and tenon joint

Mortise H. and Tenon S. (not their real names) reminisce about their first date: dinner at the Mediterranean Restaurant in early March 2008.

“She arrived a few minutes before I did, and when I walked through the door, she lunged for me and gave me a, uh, ‘substantial’ hug,” Tenon recalls, raising his eyebrows and glancing at Mortise. “She squealed, ‘It’s SO good to finally meet you!’ and I was kind of embarrassed because it was so obvious to the hostess and everybody else that it was a blind date.”

“Ohhhh, you loved it,” Mortise reminds him.

“I didn’t say I didn’t love it, Kitten; I just meant it was kind of…awkward.” 

“Something good is possible. Really!”

Tenon, a self-employed carpenter, and Mortise, a middle school teacher, had few practical opportunities to meet potential dates through their work. So, like a growing number of tech-savvy singles in the aughts, they tapped a popular online resource:

Tenon characterizes himself as having been “grimly determined” in his search for a mate. His improbable online dating history includes an estimated 35 first dates over nearly 5 years. A couple of those dates developed into relationships, but most dissolved into insincere pronouncements of, “I had a great time. We should definitely do this again.”

Proudly independent and protective of her “alone” time, Mortise set the bar high. According to her profile, her most critical requirement for a partner was that ineffable combination of attributes that would “inspire me to be with him more than I want to be by myself.” In three months, she met ~ and was uninspired by ~ five prospective suitors.


Untitled design (9)
Graphics by Creative Stall for the Noun Project


Mortise takes the credit for their connecting. She did a search with specific parameters including age (35-45), location (within 10 miles of Boulder, CO), and lifestyle choices (non-smoker, non- or social drinker, healthy diet, and exercises at least five times per week). From the dozens of profiles that fit her criteria, AX2212’s tagline struck her as charmingly optimistic: “Something good is possible. Really!” After having spent the better part of two years in cardiac rehab after a crushing breakup, she wanted to believe this.

Intrigued, she examined his profile more closely. It stood out not only for the photos of the impossibly handsome runner, cyclist, skier, musician, dog lover, and carpenter, but also by virtue of the descriptors he used: “reliable, honest, forthright, reasonable, hardworking, energetic, very fit, resourceful, and skilled at many things.” Why, he sounded just like her father! She saved his profile to her “Favorites” folder and contacted him the next day.

For his part, Tenon claims to have scanned her profile (screen name: organicfruit) several weeks earlier. He says he quickly dismissed her profile, deeming Mortise “out of my league.”

Where’s the fire?

During that first meal at The Med, each sized up the other and determined together that there was enough interest for a post-dinner stroll. Tenon was immediately unsettled by the pace at which Mortise made her way up and down Pearl Street.

“I practically had to break into a trot to keep up with her!” he recalls.

Today, they refer to brisk walking as “first date pace.”

Tenon’s frustrating search for a heart

More dates followed: another dinner, a hike, a bike ride, and a game of Scrabble that revealed Mortise’s dark side when she lost. Tenon was eager to move forward with the relationship, but Mortise still was not entirely inspired. So she held him at her literal arm’s length, allowing him limited access to her time and affection. Wounded, confused, and disheartened, Tenon typed an email to his best friend:

…My patience is being tested, but I suppose I can endure a while longer. She has a heart in there someplace. 

You won’t BELIEVE what happened next!

A sleep-deprived and frustrated Tenon addressed the email to Mortise by mistake.

Mortise’s hackles are raised as she remembers opening and reading it.

“I was offended. ‘Endure’? ‘A heart in there someplace’? And why would he refer to me in the third person? What a weirdo,” she recounts. “I almost shot back a snide reply, but thankfully, I put it aside until I calmed down. I did some hard thinking then about how I had been treating him and why.”

She returned the email to him later that evening with a brief message: I don’t think you meant for me to read this. Let’s talk.

Turning point

What initially appeared to be a dreadful mistake on Tenon’s part was the catalyst for a pivotal conversation the next night. Her apologies and his humiliation fused in the space between them on the red chenille sofa to evoke a straightforward discussion about intention, expectation, relationships, history, trust ~ and the future. Mortise was overwhelmed with understanding and appreciation for Tenon, and Tenon was over the moon just getting to sit thisclose to her on the sofa. It was the inauguration of something big, something unprecedented, for both of them.

I think a 5/8” drill bit will do the trick

By December, Mortise and Tenon had spent more time together than apart; it was clear she was finally inspired. But while Mortise was content to keep rolling with the status quo, Tenon had his mind set on making it official.

He spent the first week of December in “the lab” (his workshop) applying himself to a mysterious project he would not detail for her. (Mortise adds here that she suspected his intentions when he performed what he thought was a stealthy comparison of her ring finger to his pinky one evening early in the project.) She would learn on December 13 that he had spent hours sculpting a delicate ring made of purple heart, an exotic hardwood, with a mother of pearl inlay and a lacewood ring box.

engagement ring  ring and box

Tenon presented the ring and a proposal to Mortise on the red chenille sofa. Naturally, the ring fit perfectly; his estimation of the 5/8” drill bit to make the hole was spot on. To say that their parents were thrilled to hear the news is an understatement. Their families and friends offered their absolute approval, and the custom-crafted ring drew critical acclaim. By January, a wedding date was confirmed.

Of course this isn’t the end of the story; it’s the beginning!

On July 26, 2009, their families and finest friends convened at a small flower farm for the auspicious occasion. The unusually heavy rainfall that spring had endowed the fields with an extraordinary number and variety of blooms, offering a captivating backdrop for the simple, heartfelt celebration. No witness could deny that like the classic joint, Mortise and Tenon interlock with perfect fit: a simple, strong union, certain to endure the whims of time and fortune.


Rob and Elena announcement for FB
Design by Christine Stoner



9 Comments Add yours

  1. beandog9 says:

    I don’t like. I LOVE. I don’t think I’d heard the whole story.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Yes, it’s a great story. You can’t make this stuff up!


  2. Annie says:

    That’s the best dating/love story I’ve read! Congratulations to both of you
    on your joinery!

    Liked by 1 person

  3. With ALL my heart, I wish you, Mortise and Tenon, an extraordinarily happy 7th wedding anniversary! Will you mark this glorious milestone with dinner at The Med? Followed by a “first date pace” Pearl Street walk in, by 8:00pm, 81º heat? Whatever the venue, I hope that you thoroughly enjoy celebrating the perfect, inseparable bond you two have made. Lover & Kitten = together forever. 💘

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you, Pamela! In fact, we ARE having dinner at The Med on Saturday evening to celebrate! Our pace will be determined by the temperature, for sure.

      Liked by 1 person

  4. Sandra Rhee Ross says:

    Wonderful, Elena! XXOO


  5. Renee Shires says:

    I only question one thing about this relationship…do you still have the red chenille sofa?


    1. We do, but we’re never alone on it. Dash won’t stand for it!


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