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40 Day Love Fest: Daily Marriage Practices for Easy Living

Forty years is made up of a whole lot of individual days.

It is what happens routinely in those days that add up to make a life, or a marriage. Sure, vacations are nice, breaks from the routine, opportunities to do some different things and see some different places. But vacations are just that – temporarily vacating the familiar. Then it is back to the familiar. One of our philosophies of creating a happy life, and marriage, is to make the familiar – the everyday days with the everyday tasks – to be as good as they can be. Here are a few of the things we have always tried – and continue to try – to get as many of these as we can into every day:

Walking: Any day with a walk is better than a day without a walk.

One of the reasons we so love living dhvmshadowwalkwhere we do in Beulah is the easy opportunities for walking. We walk in all seasons, and know that even in the coldest of conditions, all it takes is the right warm clothes to make for a good walk.

But in every walk with Nature one receives far more than he seeks. ~John Muir








Music: When we made a living making music, this was easy.

Now that we have different jobs, it sometimes takes a bit more of an effort to get a good hit of music each day – we mean something more than just background music. Sometimes a day of meetings, appointments, work tasks, and other activities requires a deliberate effort to incorporate some good music time – closely listening, dancing, kicking back, singing. But whenever we do, we are glad we did.



Talking: We have always loved talking – just plain old talking – to each other. It helps us feel connected, up-to-date, closer.

Our talks include planning and strategizing, as well as sharing gratitudes, interesting stories or facts we read or heard, things that are “up” for one of us, something that needs “getting clear” on… We usually try to separate out our work talks from our personal talks, although so much of our work is so tied to our personal interests and values, so these two often bleed into each other. Our talks do include a lot of listening which may be one of our ‘secrets’.

IMG_7629Eating together: When the kids were little, eating together was an important part of our family life.

As they got older, sharing breakfast and lunch was not always possible, but we always made a point to eat dinner together. No TV, no eating in their rooms – we ate together at the table. Always. This also contributed to keeping our small cabin clean. And this has carried into our empty nest – breakfast and lunch are often on our own, but we almost always eat dinner together.


December harvest from the greenhouse.

Preparing food together:  Helene is certainly better and more confident when it comes to cooking, but that hasn’t stopped us from preparing our meals together.

We’ve lately noticed that we have evolved this very pleasant flow when we cook together, knowing without having to say what comes next, what needs to be done…

IMG_1476Chores: We find doing chores together makes the work easier.

So when it works for our schedules, we often put on some music and do a tornado clean of the house, or a part of the house. We both like things to be organized and uncluttered so together we meet up to accomplish what needs to be done. And…we have learned to not tell each other how to do things…or micro-manage each other.



Making the bed together in the morning: There is something about making the bed together, right after we get up, that feels good – like we start the day, right off the bat, with a completion.

It is also a way that we connect to each other across the bed and creates a pause to nurture each other in the moment. Sometimes we talk; sometimes it is in quiet; sometimes while listening to the NPR morning news. But it is a symbolic action that mirrors how to attend to our marriage. And then the pleasant payoff: getting into a beautifully made bed together each evening. Now that brings luxury to our relationship.

Going to bed at the same time: Most of the time we do.

Naturally there are times when our schedules are busy and our needs for rest vary, but getting into bed together is a sweetness that can’t be beat for us. And the cuddling is a part of the healing connection that our relationship is based on.

sept 2011 wise women walking retreat 019

Helping each other:  It’s pretty great to have your best friend to walk through your days with.

We always seek to help make each other’s life easier; high on the list of what we are to each other is help-mates.  It works for us and infuses our marriage with mutual support, along with the joy and the fun!  And…when we built our greenhouse our great family all came and helped in this learning experience.  We are the lucky ones for certain.


 dhvm smoothies

Dave and Helene Van Manen know the secret to their 40 years of loving and it includes green smoothies, making the bed together and falling into bed laughing each night. They share their journey as they honor for 40 days their relationship started back in the 70’s when they were teens. Today they live and teach in the mountains of Colorado.




40 Day Love Fest: Kindness Guides Our Days

This song sums up what we strive for…in our day to day connection.

ps Let us know if you love this song by David Wilcox as much as we do.

dhvmlakeDave and Helene Van Manen celebrate living intentionally together for 40 years with honoring 40 days during the summer of 2016. They have joined forces to raise children, create music, build a community non-profit and more. Kindness is one of the secret ingredients in their recipe for loving.

40 Day Love Fest: Books That Taught & Inspired Our Marriage – The Early Years


We love books! Sometimes a book can change your life – after you read it, you can’t see or do things the same way you saw or did them before.

In our early years we found books that helped shape our shared interests, values and ultimately our life together. Some books can be that powerful, and here is a short list of some of the books that have had such an influence on our lives:

goodlifeLiving the Good Life by Helen & Scott Nearing Living close to the land, growing food, simplifying, minimizing energy consumption – ways of living that have more recently become known as “reducing your ecological footprint” – are values that have guided our marriage since the very early years. The Nearings were role models for us – they left NYC in the 30s to homestead in Vermont, and later in Maine.

Mother Earth News OK, this was not a book, it was – and still is – a magazine, but we learned much about rural living through many articles in this down-to-earth publication.



diet-for-a-small-planet-84973l2Diet for a Small Planet by Frances Moore Lappe Connecting global food scarcity, food policy, meat production, and a plant-based diet, this book had a huge influence on the way we fed our family, and still feed ourselves. It helped guide us to starting a food coop, learning how to cook beans at 6600′ altitude (hello pressure cooker), doing a garden, and deepened our understanding of the relationship between a healthy planet and the choices that we all make each day.

Along with “Diet,” Laurel’s Kitchen helped us fall in love with food and how to prepare with intention.  And of course the Moosewood Cookbook inspired us to make healthy meals that delighted our guests and infused our meals with love and joy. We would have loved to visit the Moosewood Cafe in upstate NY and still hope to do so someday (a bucket list item for us).

Spiritual MidwiferyInaMayGaskin by Ina May Gaskin Early on, we were unwilling to accept at face-value ways of doing things that were the norm. When having a baby hit our radar screen (which happened in 1978, two years after we married), we had lots of questions about how childbirth was being handled through the dominant medical/corporate establishment. The amazing stories in Spiritual Midwifery led to our having both of our children at home in Beulah. We were not into thwarting the “dominant paradigm” indiscriminately or just to do it; but, if after educating ourselves about a choice to make, if the right choice for us did thwart the dominant paradigm, that was just fine with us. Having homebirths put us on the path to becoming certified childbirth educators through Informed Birth and Parenting (originally, Informed Homebirth), a nonprofit started by Rahima Baldwin that provided parents with information about alternatives in birth, parenting, and early childhood.

This book is revolutionary because it is our basic belief that the sacrament of birth belongs to the people and that is should not be usurped by a profit-oriented hospital system. ~ Spiritual Midwifery

Helene Van Manen pregnant with sierra 1976

Helene a couple of weeks before Sierra was born, 1979


how children learnHow Children Learn, How Children Fail and others by John Holt Boston-based educator and author John Holt‘s insights into what is and isn’t effective education had a huge influence on our own education as parents, educators, and education activists. Since we were sometimes on the road as traveling musicians and we didn’t want to leave our kids, home-schooling fit well into our music careers as well as our beliefs about raising and educating our children.



Play is how children learn. Real tools inspire children. Our son loved to build things.

We could go on and on, as books continue to inspire and teach us. Who knows – we may find a book next week that could speak to us the way these books did and influence another chapter in our try-to-make-a-difference, stand-up-for-what’s-right, vote-with-our-lives way of living.


dhvm canyonlands Dave and Helene Van Manen are celebrating their 40 years of marriage by celebrating one year for each day of their years together. They call it a “40 Day Love Fest” and invite you to follow along their blog posts where they are sharing their story of navigating making a life out of loving each other. 

Read more at The 40 Day Love Fest


40 Day Love Fest – Our Magical Mystery Marriage

40daylovefest1We’ve been talking about how to honor and celebrate our 40 year wedding anniversary (which we cannot even believe we are saying “forty”). We originally thought we would take 40 days off (one for each year), but that did not work out with our work schedules. So we grew that idea into creating the “40-Day LoveFest,” which will consist of doing something special each day for 40 days to celebrate these 40 magical years, including taking time each day to remember the years, the ups and downs, the memorable moments and more!
dhvmjuly10201640yearanniversaryHelene and Dave on July 10, 2016 in Wild Rivers National Monument in northern New Mexico.

“We do not remember days, we remember moments.”~ Annie Dillard

Looking back on those forty years, the statement by Annie Dillard, “We do not remember days, we remember moments,” rings true for us. We got married as kids in Queens, New York (Dave was 20, Helene 17) on July 10, 1976 – a bicentennial wedding. A few days later, we headed West in a Chevy van to find our place to live the life of our dreams. Our wealth is our shared lives, our family, our love for the natural world, our mountainside home, and the wonderful work we have been able to do. It all is centered on making our day-to-day actions reflect our shared value of “making a difference”.  Leaving NYC and settling somewhere in the West was a dream-come-true in and of itself; since then we have had many many other dreams come true.

Dave 0046

Journey with us these next 40 days as we share some of the moments we remember, along with thoughts about being married to the same person for all these years and what it feels like to wake up and have the calendar say, “Hey kids, it’s been 40 years!”