Category Archives: Essay Contest Entry

Essay Contest Winner is announced

The votes are in and the counting is complete. We have a winner in our first ever essay contest!

Before I announce the winner, I want to personally thank everybody that submitted a story for our contest. I hope everyone enjoyed reading these stories as much as I did. I was inspired and touched by them all.

It was also fun to see just how many people are learning about the Anniversary Inn Reminder. We had email votes coming in from all over the world; some as far away as Ireland, South Africa, and New Zealand.

Not bad for a little hometown blog.

The winner of last months essay contest is: Michael Smith – Band of Love.

Thank you again to all who participated in our little contest. We would love to do more of these.

While we’re on the topic, what other type of things would you like to see here in the Anniversary Inn Reminder?

We are always looking for great ways to encourage and inspire people to work on their personal relationships. There is nothing more important than keeping our marriages and families strong and healthy.

Essay Contest Finalists – Vote for your favorite!

The five finalists have been chosen, please read the entries below and vote for your favorite by March 31, 2009!

We wanted to thank everyone who submitted entries to our First Annual (or semi-annual, or however often we decide to do this…) Essay Contest. What a fun opportunity to read the many different stories and submissions.

We hope this will become a fun forum for many of you to share your own stories of inspiration and committment to marriage and close family relationships. For those of you who would still like to submit entries, please do so as we would love to post your stories as “Guest” contributors to The Anniversary Inn Reminder.

Here are the five finalists for this latest contest:

Karen Bork
Amber Williams
Stuart McGraw
Lanette Nelson
Michael Smith

Each of these individuals will be receiving a cash-value Gift Certificate worth $100.00 at any Anniversary Inn location and they have now been entered into the Grand Prize round. For this Grand Prize finale we need everyone’s help to vote for their favorite submission.

Please take a moment to read the following submissions and then vote for your favorite by sending an email to listing the title of your favorite story. Voting will end March 31, 2009!

The submission who receives the highest number of votes via email will receive a free night stay good at ANY of our locations for ANY night of the week. Plus, they will win a dinner for two at one of our Select Partner locations.

Please help us select the winner by voting for your favorite!

Band Of Love

This is a guest submission by Michael Smith.


Georgia slipped the band of gold around my finger, looked into my eyes and completed her vows. We were husband and wife.

A week later, I sat in my chair, mindlessly watching television. I twirled the unfamiliar band of gold circling my ring finger. It was the first piece of jewelry I’d ever worn. It made me feel different.

My life changed. I no longer thought of “me”. I thought of “us”. I had a wife. The band of gold proved it. From that day forward, people saw it and knew I was committed to another. It became a part of me. Whenever I sat idle, my right handwould reach to play with it. Other times, my left thumb would polish it – savoring the symbol of love.


“Michael?” Georgia asked?

I looked across our dining room table at her. Her brown eyes sparkled.”What, Hun?”

“I’m pregnant.” She smiled.

“You are? Are you sure?” I rose from my chair.

“Do you feel OK? Do you need anything?”

I had an expectant mother to take care of.

“The doctor confirmed it today. And yes, I am OK. Now sit and finish your dinner.”

“But?” I stammered. “This calls for a toast. I’ll get that bottle of champagne.”

I rushed from the table.

“Michael!” she reached for my hand. She rested her other hand on her stomach.

“I can’t. The baby! Remember?”

I stared at her and frowned. “Why.”

I paused. “Oh right! The baby! I forgot – no drinking.”

“Relax. I’m OK. Sit and finish your dinner.”

We sat and ate. Afterward, I reached across the table and held her left hand in mine. I looked into those sparkling brown eyes.

“Thank you, Hun. Thank you for wanting to be the mother of our children.”

I looked down at the table where I still held her hand. The flickering candle reflected off our bands of gold.

“I love you, future Mama.”

I lifted her hand and kissed her ring.


“It hurts so bad!” Georgia screamed.

“Pant!” I screamed back. “Pant! Puff, puff, puff, pufffff!”

“Stop blowing in my face!” She yelled at me.

Another contraction ripped through her body.

“Mrs. Smith!” the doctor said. “I need one more big push.”

“You can do it, Hun!”

I held her hand, or rather; she gripped mine in a vice. I saw our hands. My fingers were white from the lack of circulation.

The lights above the table reflected off our rings.


“Look at her eyes, Michael! She’s so alert.” Georgia was in the recovery room. She cradled our little Vanessa in her left arm. I stroked Georgia’s hair.

My ring twinkled as her hair polished it.

“She’s beautiful, Hun. Thank you.”

She looked up at me. “That wasn’t so bad. I could do it again?”

Tears streamed down my cheeks. “Honey, you mean you would go through this again? You had so much pain!”

“I want our dream of a girl and a boy.”

Her hand rested on the blankets warming our new daughter – the gold of her band accented by the white cloth.


“Mr. Smith, meet your new son.”

The nurse smiled and placed him in my arms.

“Hi, Justin!” He cried and waved his tiny arms in response. I placed our new son in Georgia’s arms.

“Thank you! Thank you so much!” I bent and kissed her.

My left hand stroked her cheek. The gold band sparkled with her perspiration.

“I love you.”


We sat across the table from each other. A candle burned between us. Hushed voices from other tables filtered through my thoughts. I looked into those brown eyes, as I so often did.

“Happy anniversary, Georgia.”

“Happy anniversary, Michael.”

“Ten years! Can you believe it?”

“I hope the kids are OK.”

“Hun, they’re fine. This is our night.”

I reached for her hand and held it in mine. Like the bands in a tree trunk, our skin had begun to show the wrinkles of life. The fire of the candle reflected off our rings, reminding me of a night long ago, when she smiled and said, “I’m pregnant.”


I sat on our sofa playing with my ring. I remembered forgetting to put it on after Georgia cleaned it one day. At work, I kept reaching for it with my thumb. I felt empty without it. I looked at Georgia’s picture on the TV stand. I was alone. Our children were in their rooms, grieving in their own way. Georgia’s urn rested on the credenza in the dining room. We’d brought her home from the service that afternoon. Her ring rested in my left palm. I had a decision to make.

“When do I take mine off?” I asked no one.

I was afraid. If I took it off, would it mean the love we shared was gone? The band of gold stayed on my finger. When my thumb touched it, my thoughts drifted to past times and not to the future and the life we planned.

“When do I take it off?” I asked myself again.

It was with me from the day we’d married more than nineteen years earlier. It’d been on my finger when I changed my children’s diapers. When we took drives, my hand held the steering wheel. The ring reflected the sunshine. The day she took her last breath, I held her hand and the ring reflected the machines that had kept her alive. I reached behind my neck and undid the clasp of the gold chain.

She’d given it to me on our first Christmas together.

I threaded her ring onto it and started to put it back around my neck. I paused and put it down. The fingers of my right hand reached for my ring a final time. I twirled it around like old times and then slipped it off. I held it to the light. It was scratched and dented from the rigors of living. It joined Georgia’s ring on the chain. My hand felt empty without its comforting weight, but the combined rings hanging around my neck soothed me – a reminder of our years together.


Almost a year later, I stood with Ginny in a New York City court house. She took my hand and placed a new band of gold around my finger.

The Justice of the Peace smiled.

“I pronounce you man and wife. Michael, you may now kiss the bride.

“Ginny slipped into my arms. Our lips met. I hugged her to me. On her shoulder, I saw my hand and the ring on my finger – a band of love.


Ginny and I sat on our deck reading. I held my book in my righthand. My left hand rested on my lap. A sparkle caused me to blink. I looked down. The new band reflected the sun. Ginny looked up at me, “I love you.”

“Love you more.”

“Love you too.”

We played our game. She turned back to her book. I stared at my ring again. It meant more than marriage. Like life, it had a beginning and an end. I started one journey with Georgia.

“Until death do we part.” we repeated – a beginning and an end.

We followed the band of gold to her end.

“Gin?” She looked up from her book. “Yes?”

“I need to do something.” She looked puzzled.

“What?” I reached up, unclipped my chain, and removed the two rings.

“Michael, what are you doing?”

“It’s time to let go, Gin.”

“But they mean so much to you.”

“Yes they do, but it is time to move forward. It’s like starting a new year. I need to let go of the old and enjoy the new. “

She stood, walked over and sat in my lap. She wrapped her arms around me.

“I understand.”

I held up my left hand. “Look!”

She stared at my hand. “What?”

“See how the sun reflects off it? I’ve been blessed to have you in my life. I have a new band of love, a new life, a new beginning, a new year and you. It’s time to move forward with you.”

Soul Mates

This is a guest submission by Lanette Nelson


He walked into the house rather sheepishly, hoping she wouldn’t fuss over the fiery tiger lilies too much but also hoping she’d like them. She loved them, and the two shared a swift kiss. To an outsider it may look like an ordinary peck. But to the wide brown eyes of the on-looking little girl, it was the essence of true love, and she hoped someday she would find someone as great as her daddy to bring her flowers and make her a queen.


When I was nineteen I believed in soul mates—like when two people are made for each other and are destined to be happy forever because they are so meant to be. After my first year of college I came home and helped my grandma watch my siblings while my parents went to Wales. One day while talking to Grandma about wanting to find my own soul mate, I was horrified to learn that she didn’t believe in such nonsense. She said you can marry anyone and choose your happiness. The logic of this certainly overshadowed my own Hollywood-based ideals, and I was devastated to think that the stars did not have a predetermined course for me.

After a few weeks my parents came home, and for the first time I wondered if they were really “soul mates” as I always assumed they were. I never thought of them as wildly romantic and yet I never doubted, even for a nanosecond, that my parents were perfect for each other. It was an undeniable truth. I watched them closely at this time, and noticed a tender, loyal and gentle love that truly seemed to be the stuff of soul mates. But I also knew that my grandma was right—the stars aren’t going to make us marry someone—it’s up to us to choose. We can choose who we marry. Maybe we can choose our soul mates, I decided.


She was angry with her mother. Deep down the little girl knew her reasoning was silly, but she could not suppress her bitter retort and the mean words that spewed from her lips. But her mother didn’t fight back. She just sat, all composure and poise. It was her daddy who appeared from the shadows and scolded her. Her eyes shamefully met his, and she realized that she’d hurt him as well when she hurt her mother. It was like they were connected—like they were one. As she apologized it seemed only right that she say sorry not only to her mother, but also her father.


Neither of my parents are what Hollywood defines as “romantics,” and yet their marital happiness touches others. I’ve felt it touch my own marriage when times are tough—my parents are less showy about their love for each other—at least when it comes to things like jewelry and making-out during movies. But in other ways their love is very distinct and obvious. They are best friends, and think very much alike. They defend each other mightily and are the most loyal pair you will ever meet.


The wide brown eyes were older now, and rather than watching her parents she was watching a tall boy fumble awkwardly with his keys at her door. The two stepped into the warm summer night toward his truck. She reached the passenger side and realized he was already sitting in the driver’s side. She struggled with her door and he chuckled. She remembered her dad, so tender and sweet with her mother, and knew that nothing would come of this date. This boy did not seem the tiger lily giving, unconditional love and loyalty radiating type.
She kept looking for someone who would bring her tiger lilies, and one snowy night years later she found him. He would fight off anything threatening her and she felt the same way about him. It was now that the wide-eyed girl realized that soul mates are real after all.


I still believe in soul mates, just like my nineteen year-old self, but I suppose my definition of the term is different now. Soul mates are potentially everywhere. You need to work to become soul mates with the one you love most, and you need to work to stay soul mates forever. But the work is worth all of the stress and the sweat, and the result is amazingly sweet. I’m still learning from my parents in my young marriage—they teach me so much. The most important lesson they taught me was how to love—the real kind of love—and how to find my real-life soul mate (rather than the Hollywood type) because the real stuff is what wide-eyed little girls really dream of.

The Day My Life Changed

This is a guest submission by Stuart McGraw


I was one of those driven boys who was determined to be the next Donald Trump. I knew from an early age that I wanted to be a bazillionaire and I even had a pretty good idea as to how I was going to get there. College was critical, so was living in New York City and landing a job with a big Wall Street financial firm. Dating was fun, but I had determined early on that I wouldn’t even entertain the idea of a serious relationship until I was settled in New York working towards my second Million.

After three years of college, I was working on my next milestone… New York City. My degree was in Business, and I wanted to supplement that with an internship on Wall Street. My plan was to get a paid summer internship with a Wall Street firm and then while working in the Big Apple during that summer I would focus on networking and meeting as many people as I could to understand each of the different companies, what job functions were available at each, and which ones I would then follow up with once I actually finished my degree.

I was able to find the perfect summer job working with one of the top-three brokerage firms in the country. I couldn’t afford to actually live in the city, so I found a roommate to split rent with and we found a small apartment over somebody’s garage up in Westchester County. This was going to be the best summer ever, I would get the full New York City experience of riding the train in every morning to Grand Central Station, then I would either take a quick subway ride, or take a brisk walk, if the weather was good, to my office up on Madison Avenue.

This was going to be great! Plans were all set and ready to go by Thanksgiving and now it was just a matter of finishing winter term and then I’d be flying to New York by the end of April.

Then one day in January, my whole life changed. What was so important before suddenly wasn’t. There is absolutely no way of even anticipating something so traumatic and life-altering as what happened to me that day.

I had driven home for the weekend to visit my parents and as I pulled into the driveway another car pulled in behind mine. I didn’t recognize the girl who stepped out of the car, I’d never met her before, but I couldn’t stop staring. She cheerfully introduced herself and asked if my parents were home because she had been asked to pick something up from them.

As we walked into the house together we chatted briefly, I found it difficult to concentrate and I was stuttering and sputtering the entire time and I was getting angry with myself because of my reaction. I was not one to get tongue-tied around women and this was very frustrating for me, but I could not stop staring at this girl. Her voice was hypnotic, her smile was magnetic and I could not concentrate. It was obvious I had contracted something, and it was fatal.

Then, just as quickly as she had arrived, she retrieved the item and she was gone. I must have stared out the front window a bit too long as my mother noticed that I wasn’t quite myself.

(The only thing worse than totally reacting like a schoolboy with a silly crush in front of a woman is having your parents witness as you react like a schoolboy with a silly crush in front of a woman.)

With a smile on her face she asked me if I would like her to track down the girl’s phone number since she knew her parents. After a failed effort at trying to shrug it off as no big deal, I got her number and I spent the next couple of days working up the courage to ask her out. (Plus, I didn’t want to call too soon and act desperate, did I?)

To make a very long story a bit shorter, we went on our first date that next weekend. By Valentine’s Day I knew I was in serious trouble and I was starting to think crazy thoughts about not going to New York. By March, I was thinking more crazy thoughts and trying to figure out how to tell this girl how I was really feeling about her and by April I was entertaining the idea of actually marrying her. I was a mess!

One day in April, I drummed up the courage to let this girl know how I felt about her. We talked for several hours and she shared with me that she was feeling the same way, but she made it very clear that she did not want me to change my mind about New York because she did not want me to someday regret having missed that opportunity. It was only for a few months and it would not hurt either of us to slow things down a little bit.

Well, I did go to New York and it was a good experience, but not for any of the reasons that I had originally intended. My ambition and my goals of living in New York and making all that money suddenly just didn’t seem that important any longer. What I learned in New York was that I was miserable without her. I could not stop thinking about her. I had never considered that I could be so hopelessly and helplessly in love with someone else that it would make me physically ill not to be around her. After a few months of trying to stay focused on my dream, I finally accepted the reality that my dream and my goals had changed. Now, what I wanted more than anything else in the world was to be married to this woman and share the rest of my life with her.

I didn’t care about the money anymore, I didn’t care about the fame or notoriety, I only cared that I wanted to make her happy. I wanted to tell her I loved her every single morning as I left to work and I wanted to kiss her goodnight every night of my life.

What I learned by going away to New York is that without someone to love, any other success has no real value.

I recently celebrated 20 years of marriage with this wonderful woman. I think I love her more today than ever before, and she is certainly more beautiful now to me than that first day in my parents’ driveway. We have four children and I cannot imagine living one day without her. I don’t live in New York, and I don’t have a lot of money, but I am wealthier than any banker on Wall Street.

I love you sweetheart.

Never Give Up

This is a guest submission by Amber Williams


They were married May 6, 2004. It was an unseasonably cold day. All of the guests were forced to stand outside in the wind and cold to take pictures with this young couple about to start their journey into what would hopefully be wedded bliss. Little did this couple know what they would have to face together as they started their journey.

About a week into their new lives together Dan started to feel weak and sick. He noticed that he was bleeding every time he went to the bathroom. His brand new wife Danika (they both believe it wasn’t a coincidence their names were similiar) unsure and worried about what was going on took Dan to the doctor. After many tests it was decided that Dan had ulcerative colitis which is severe inflammation in the colon. The doctor warned that if they weren’t careful ulcerative colitis could turn into colon cancer within 10 years. This news broke Danika’s heart because she had lost her father to colon cancer when she was 15 years old.

The next couple of weeks were spent trying to find a way to get Dan feeling better. Medication the doctors prescribed seemed to be doing more harm then good so they went searching for alternatives. They tried water treatment, colon massages, herbal medications, and many many different diets. Nothing seemed to be working and Dan seemed to be getting weaker. He would wake in the night with severe headaches and he would get out of bed and there would be a pool of blood underneath him. Danika was scared and unsure of what to do. They were both attending a wonderful university and were looking forward to graduation. Dan had to miss many days of school and Danika had to work to support them and finish up her schooling. As soon as she was finished for the day she would race home to their small apartment to make sure Dan was okay. There were many days she was unsure of what she would come home to.

One day after a brief period of Dan feeling well enough to get out of bed they decided to hang out with friends. They were having a great time until Dan looked at Danika and he couldn’t speak. His words were slurring and he looked as if he were having a stroke. Danika rushed him to the emergency room with tears in her eyes, praying that everything would be alright. In the ER they learned that Dan wasn’t absorbing any of the nutrients he was eating and toxins had built up so much in his body that it had caused stroke like symptoms.

Later that night Danika brought Dan home from the hospital thankful he was alright. Her husband had lost so much weight and he could hardly keep anything down. Danika’s schooling was suffering and her meager $5.15 an hour she was making at her job on the college campus was hardly enough to pay for rent let alone all of their medical bills and medications. Here she was 20 years old with a very sick husband, mountains of homework and bills that needed to be paid. She had no idea what she would do and she got discouraged and wondered if she had married to quickly and if she had made the wrong decision. Her life seemed to be falling apart.

That night she tiptoed into her room where her husband was sleeping. She looked at her home that was in complete disarray, her homework and the bills. She was thinking to herself this is crazy when a picture on the wall caught her eye.

It was a picture of their wedding. She looked at the picture long and hard and then looked at her sleeping husband and she realized she had made covenants with this wonderful man and he loved her. Despite everything she had gone through she knew she loved him and that together they could face this challenge. Life has not always been easy in the few short years since Dan and Danika have been married but they have faced their challenges together and held on to one another. When times get tough for Danika she remembers that dark night when she vowed to herself she would never give up on her husband or their marriage.