A smile is an invitation for a friend.  It can open a conversation.  It is a way that you can say without words that you are friendly.   A person’s face can tell you what is going on inside. 

My personality is mostly serious.  So this is not an easy task for me.  I have to remind myself to put on a smile.  I look at pictures where I am not smiling and I look like a grump.  In my recent unsmiling passport picture, I look like a criminal. This is a little bit alarming for sure.  Is this what people see when a smile is not on my face?  Some people are natural at smiling, and they usually have lots of friends. : )

When I am out and about with a smile on my face, I can tell that more strangers will strike up a conversation.  I am hoping that the conversation will bring joy to their day.  It is not about me, but how can I show kindness to someone that I meet. Smile, and see for yourself how this works.  It really does. 

I think back to Covid and mask-wearing.  I did not feel friendly at all.  I couldn’t wait to run out of a store to get it off.  I couldn’t understand anyone’s conversation either.  No one looked friendly.  I feel there were not many congenial conversations during this time.  I remember hearing some say, “But, you can see the smile with their eyes.”  This didn’t work for me.  No wonder we had a mental health crisis.

Smiling can be an invitation to a friend.  Try it out and see what unfolds.

God’s Word-Proverbs 15:13

 A cheerful heart brings a smile to your face;
    a sad heart makes it hard to get through the day. (The Message)

Closer with Friends

Our marriage will benefit from having friendships.  Having healthy friendships as a couple and as an individual is essential.  This will bring much wellness into our marriage.  It will bring joy.

Dan and I have been blessed with many friends throughout the years.  It did not happen automatically.  It takes effort.  It takes planning.  It takes forgiveness.  It takes being vulnerable.  It is not easy to get friendships started. But it is well worth it.   

Having close healthy friendships will keep us emotionally well.  This goes a long way toward keeping our marriages closer.  With technology, we can find many reasons not to leave our homes.   We are social beings and we were never meant to do life alone.  We need each other.  

Our friends are there when we need encouragement.  They are there in times of need.  They are there when we have personal crises.  But if we have not spent the time building those relationships, we will go through life alone.  Life will be much harder.  

Ask yourself, how long has it been since you have spent time with friends?  If it has been a while, how about planning a dinner night out.   Invite them to your home.  Think of an activity you enjoy and invite friends to go with you. 

Grow with friends-grow in your marriage. 

God’s Word-Ecclesiastes 4:12 

By yourself, you’re unprotected. With a friend, you can face the worst.

Can you round up a third? A three-stranded rope isn’t easily snapped.

2018 Winter Hiking-Bill, Carol, Lori, and Dan

The Trio

The Trio.  This is what we were called.  Our youngest daughter gave us this name.  The trio was made up of three couples.  They were John and Alice, Ken and Mary, and Dan and I.  We met both couples through Ballroom dancing.  Once we met John and Alice, they introduced us to many friends in the ballroom dance world.   One couple was Ken and Mary.  I remember when John introduced us to Ken and Mary. They mentioned how they also had two daughters about the same ages as ours.  They were in the early stages as empty nesters as we were.   We had many things in common which made it easier to get to know them better.  

Ballroom dancing is as much social as it is dancing.  You can only dance for so long.  You take a break from dancing and sit at a table or stand with others.   You really are in an atmosphere to socialize.   You talk life with those you meet and you begin to develop deeper relationships.  It’s not just meeting someone in passing, with the phrase, “Hi!  How are you today?”  It’s much more, especially if you reach out and put the effort into getting to know someone.   I feel that technology is a stumbling block to our socialization.   There are many things keeping us from leaving our house.   This is not healthy for us.  

What began as an introduction turned into deeper friendships with the trio.  Not only ballroom dancing.  We went on weekend getaways.  We biked together.  We went out for dinner.   We had dinner at each other’s houses.  We went to a wedding in Colorado.  We went hiking.    We felt very blessed to have this relationship in our early years of doing ballroom together.  

With John’s passing, we are no longer a trio, but the memories we share are ones to treasure.  You have to get out there to build these types of relationships. 

The Trio-Dan, Lori, Mary, Ken, Alice, and John-2012

Our Dance Teachers

Jim and Joy were our very first dance teachers.  They taught dance through our local community college.  Dan and I loved them as we began learning how to Ballroom dance.  We took multiple group dance lessons from them.  We also did weekend getaways to their private studio to learn specific dance patterns.  Jim and Joy were excellent teachers and dancers.  We along with many other ballroom dancers have learned so much from them.  

Dan and I not only learned ballroom dancing from them but the importance of social friendships.  Especially during those empty nest years.  Every week they would go out dancing with their friends.  Sometimes it would be multiple times a week.  The friendships they put time and effort into made it easier to enjoy the empty nest years of their lives.  For many of us, our children move away after leaving the nest.  This makes friendships even more valuable.  More precious. 

We admire Jim and Joy for their great dancing ability.   We admire them for their teaching skills and for spreading the love of Ballroom dancing to others.  But most of all we admire them for how they place a great value on the importance of friendships.  

Covid and health conditions have been difficult for Jim and Joy these last few years.  It has been more difficult to get out with others.  But the example they left to those who know them will forever live.  Thank you, Jim and Joy.

(I am sad to say, Jim Mote passed away on February 18, 2023. Our deepest sympathy to Joy and the family. You will be greatly missed. )

Jim, Joy, Lori, and Dan-2009

John’s Magic

Hundreds of dances together.  Hundreds of hours of carpooling.  You get to know someone well through time spent together.  This was our ballroom dance life with John and Alice.  

As I write this, tears fill my eyes.  You see John is no longer with us.  He died from cancer in the summer of 2016.  No more carpooling or dances together.   We are so thankful that our friendship is one that brings tears of joy thinking of all the wonderful times we had together.  

My favorite memories of John were watching him do his magic each week at the dances we attended together.  I sat back and watched John at work.  Every dance he did his rounds.  He would go introduce himself to anyone he did not know.  He would make them feel welcome.   He wanted to know their name.  He would make them feel important.  He would invite a couple sitting alone to our table. He would invite them to other dances.  This is what John did-  every week.  He would introduce us to new couples all the time.  He would find something you would have in common to help with the conversation.  He made it look easy.  He was a pro.  

I would like to say that I do the same as Dan and I continue to attend dances.  But more than not, I don’t get out of my comfort zone and make my rounds to make someone feel welcome.  It’s not easy and many times I just don’t want to take the effort.  I think about my life, not someone else’s.  It’s the selfishness inside me.   I wish I could work a room like John did.  I know John did the same at his church.  His church was fortunate to have him.  I know churches would be filled to the brim with welcoming people like him.   Remaining in our comfort zone will keep us from friendships and kindness from unfolding.

When Dan and I attend dances, we try to introduce ourselves to at least one couple we don’t know.  We say we are doing the ‘John magic’ in our effort to do what he made look effortless.  I say to myself, “ Will this ever get easier?”  I am challenged by John’s example.  Practice, practice, and more practice.   I am praying for the good Lord’s help and direction.  I need help to make couples feel loved and important as John did.  This is my goal.  This is what we are all called to do. 

Your life and others depend on it.

Thank you John for showing us how it’s done.   Miss you, dear friend!

John, Alice, Dan and Lori-2012

The Runaway Car

A runaway car, a dented Honda Accord, and insurance claims don’t sound like a good day.  This is where our story begins.  Our youngest daughter was in high school at the time and was parked on a side street while attending class.  A family nearby had just put their young children in their safety seats and ran into the house with the car running.  The unmanned idle car started going backward down their driveway. The runaway car hit our daughter’s parked Honda Accord.  Thank goodness the children were fine and the family was very happy to work with us.

Dan took the morning off of work and we took her car to the insurance company.  While waiting for the claim to be settled, Dan and I went to a nearby Panera Bread for breakfast and a cup of coffee.  As we waited, we looked over and saw a couple at a table whose smile and wave invited us over for a visit.  We discovered this was John and Alice.  John and Alice had recently been in our first ballroom dance class through our community college’s continuing education program.  We never really talked to each other in class but now the opportunity arose to get to know them better. 

This was the fall of 2008, and Dan and I had taken a pause in our dancing activities.  We had just finished a major home remodel, a year-long foreign exchange student stay, and the passing of my father.   We were not sure we would continue with Ballroom dancing.   John and Alice changed that.  

John and Alice invited us that morning to join them for an upcoming Ballroom dance event.  We found out that we were neighbors.  They said they would be happy to pick us up for the dance.  

What began as a runaway car was a blessing about to unfold.  We started going to weekly dance events with John and Alice.  Carpooling together.  Dancing together. Weeks turned into months and months turned into years.   Many dances were out of town.  We began to draw closer as friends and enjoyed having someone to do the dance journey with us.  It was nice to always know someone at the dances.  

Dances turned into biking, hiking, and snowshoeing together.  We enjoyed dinners at each other’s homes.  We did weekend dances and overnight activities together.  We celebrated weddings, birthdays, and anniversaries. We met many friends through John and Alice.  We loved every moment of our time together.  

Friendships like this are hard to come by.  They are hard to find.  Maybe you can say one in a million.  All it took was a runaway car.  


Dan, Lori, Alice, and John-2009


In 2009, when Dan and I  began our first class of Dance with Me Ministries, we grew closer to the couples attending.  Dan and I wanted to continue building these friendships.  We thought dance events outside of our class time would be nice.  We knew that staying connected for empty nesters was a lifeline.  We began to plan. 

In our first year of class, we had a Christmas Ball.  As I write this, we are ready to celebrate our thirteenth annual Christmas Ball.  We have had many different venues and a dance playlist just with Christmas songs.  This is the time when our present class gets to try out the dance steps they have learned in the 8-week course.  It is super festive. 

A couple from our first-year class lives on Lake McBride.  They have a beautiful lake-view venue they share with us in the summer.  Everyone brings a dish to share and much socializing is done. We are celebrating over 10 years of summer once-a-month dances.  Many full moons and pontoon rides have added for a wonderful evening together.

Another dance couple lives on a Christmas tree farm.  A fall dance in a barn is the venue for this event.  Food, hot apple cider, a bonfire, a stroll through the Christmas trees, and friendly kittens add to the evening.  

A Valentine’s Dance has been planned at a local coffee chop.  A very cozy venue along with cakes and coffee.  

Other social events we have planned are a backyard garden dance, garden coffees, and game nights. More ways to bring couples together.  

Dan and I plan these events to keep us socially engaged with others.  We know it is good for our health.  It is good for our marriage.  It takes planning and dedication.  We are all busy, but if we plan on ways to keep socially connected it will happen. 

Dancing is what brought us together. 

Deeper Friendships are what will keep us connected

Christmas Ball-2022

Social Dancing

Ballroom dancing has been a great way of meeting new friends for Dan and I.  We have been in the ballroom dance world for over 15 years now.  We have met the most amazing people in those 15 years.  Thank you out there if you are one of them.  : )  We have also grown closer to friends that we already knew but joined us with ‘Dance with Me Ministries’.  Dan and I feel so blessed by those friendships.  

When Dan and I began the empty nest stage, so much was happening in our world.  Not only have our children left the nest, but so have the friendships we had built around our children’s activities.  Our girls were in sports and we became friends with many of their friends’ parents.  It was a wonderful experience.  But after those busy times were over, we either had to make an effort to continue to keep those relationships, or we would become more isolated and alone.  Dan and I had built friendships through our church, so we still had those friendships to keep us connected.  But I can imagine if you don’t have your faith connections, it can be challenging to be an empty-nester socially.  

With the upcoming wedding of our oldest daughter, we thought dance lessons would be helpful to learn.  This is where our ballroom dance journey begins.  This is where new friends were about to immerge.  At the time, I thought it was about the ballroom dance steps, but it has been so much more. 

We have built close friendships through ballroom dance by:

  • Attending weekly dances-even when tired
  • Introducing friends to others-a great network
  • Taking dance lessons
  • Carpooling
  • Overnight dances
  • Dinner together before dances

In the many weeks to come, I will share our different social dance, marriage stories, and experiences through my writings.   My heart in writing is to encourage you and share ways you can grow in your life and marriage. 

Friendships are a huge part. 

The Trio

I Just Want You

As I finish my blog series on healthy living, I felt there was no better way to end this time than by sharing the most essential beneficial aspect, our soul.  Our soul is our heart and mind that makes us who we are.  It is the part of us that needs a relationship with our Creator.  We cannot be completely healthy without it.  Without it, we will continue to hunger for something to make us find rest within ourselves.   

We need Him!

To find the peace within, it all comes down to us accepting the gift given to us, our Savior Jesus. We can have a one-on-one relationship with Him.  He loves us and wants this with us.  To worship and praise Him for all He has done.   We have the gift of His Word to draw near.  This is the ultimate health. This is our hope. 

As we go through life we will search.  Many times the answer is what the world has to offer.  Many times it is not good for us.   It is not healthy for our minds, body, and soul.  It will affect every part of our being. It will bring death.

Search instead for soul health. It will give life.  All we have to do is accept it.   

Just tell Him, “I want You.” 

God’s Word-Psalms 42:11 

Why, my soul, are you downcast?

    Why so disturbed within me?

Put your hope in God,

    for I will yet praise him,

    my Savior and my God.

We Are One

Part Eleven

When you get married, you become one.  So if I am not healthy in my body, mind, or spirit, then either is Dan.  If Dan is not healthy body, mind, or spirit, then I am not healthy either.  Keeping yourself healthy will keep your marriage healthy.  

Keeping healthy as an individual will take effort.  It will take work.  It’s not easy, especially as we grow older.  Added pounds and stresses of life can take their toll.  We have to do all we can to be healthy to keep our relationship strong.  

You might be saying, “Well sometimes being healthy is out of our control.”   This is true, but putting effort into what we can do will go a long way.  They say stress alone can contribute to up to 80-90% of all illnesses.   Our mental health is much harder to keep healthy.

We live in such a technology-driven world that can do almost everything for us.  We don’t have to move or think.  This doesn’t sound good, does it?   

A healthy marriage:

  • allows you to do more activities together
  • relieve stress and tension
  • keeps your sex life healthy
  • brings more laughter and joy
  • keeps us looking good for each other

We all have areas we can work on to stay healthy.  It won’t be easy but will be worth it in the long run.   

In what ways can we take steps on being healthier for ourselves?  For our marriage? 

We are one.

God’s Word-3 John 1:2

Dear friend, I pray that you may enjoy good health and that all may go well with you, even as your soul is getting along well.

Oak Alley-2007