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Work It: Love

Finding love can be elusive. This week on Work It, we're talking to an elopement planner, therapist and veterinarian, all of whom spend their working hours with people experiencing the ins and outs of love.

On the third episode of the Work It podcast, we’re taking a deeper look at love by introducing you to a wedding planner, therapist and veterinarian.

Everyone has a "Work It" story (whether it involves love or not). Who should we interview next? Submit your guest idea in the box below or leave us a comment on Facebook.com/WorkItPodcast.

Receive the Work It podcast as soon as it's available: subscribe for free (and leave a rating/review) on Apple Podcasts, NPR One or on your favorite podcast app.


Episode 3: Love

Stephanie Hale: Hey work it listeners, want to hear something funny?

Torgny Bjers: Hey babe, what’s up?

Jill Bjers: I’m just out. Do you need me to get you anything while I’m out?

Torgny: Yeah, could you pick me up some Oreos? That would be awesome.

Jill: Okay, I’ll be home soon. I love you.

Torgny: I love you too.

Stephanie: That’s Jill talking on the phone to her husband, Torgny. The first time I heard her on the phone with him, I thought she had been body snatched by aliens. Her face got all girlish and her voice raised 3 octaves, and she literally started rocking back and forth like she was cradling a baby while she talked to him. Jill’s got it bad for him.

Jill: Whatever. You can tease me. I can take it.

Stephanie: No, it's cute, it really is. It's just so foreign to me. I have loved people of course, but I don’t think I’ve ever been in that kind of cutesy, kissy love that lasted for more than a few months. Then it kind of mellows out to friendship or just disintegrates all together for me. So to see this twitterpated kind of love when you guys have been together for how long?

Jill: We just had the 10th anniversary of our first date. And yes, we celebrate the anniversary of our first date.

Stephanie: Wow, to be that in love for that long, seems impossible to me. I know I’m not the only one who has some questions about love so in our episode today, let’s talk to some people whose jobs make them experts in love.

Jill: Today we'll introduce you to an elopement planner, a marriage and family therapist and a veterinarian, all of whom spend their working hours with people experiencing the ins and outs of love. That’s coming up... on the Work It podcast.

Act 1: Charity & Gene

Jill: So, I’m not sure about the term “true love”, it comes with a lot of unrealistic expectations. Finding love can be elusive. And if you *do* find it, you may want to connect with our first guest, Charity, the elopement planner. For Charity, focusing on love isn’t just her job, it’s who she is.

Episode 3 - Charity Parrish.png
Charity Parrish
Charity Parrish is a micro-wedding and elopement planner based in Charlotte.

Charity Parrish: My name is Charity Parish. I run a company that plans and photographs elopements and micro weddings.

Stephanie: I met Charity at the co-working space where she goes every day to run her business. She has that artsy vibe. Not quite naturally red hair, arms covered with cute and meaningful tattoos and a bubbly warmth that makes me wish she was one of my girlfriends. If you’ve seen any of the media coverage about micro weddings, you may recognize Charity. She got her big break 6 months after starting her business when she got the media placement of a lifetime.

Charity: I launched officially my business in November of 2016. I got a few inquiries. Because I have an IT background, I knew enough to get my website up and running and do enough to research SEO. Are you familiar with what SEO is?

Jill: For those listeners that don’t know, SEO means search engine optimization. It's used to help businesses stay at the top of online searches.

Charity: At the time, because I had so few clients and I needed to get out of the house, I was actually working at a horse barn up in Huntersville a couple days a week. I was shoveling horse manure, and I kept getting this phone call from New York, and I was annoyed because I thought it was a spam call, which I get all the time.

Stephanie: And so she thought…

Charity I'm just going to answer and tell him to go away, stop bothering me. And I answered and I'm literally holding a shovel full of horse crap in my hand and she introduces herself, “This is Suzanne Yu from Good Morning America…”

Jill: Good Morning America wanted to do a story on elopements. So, one quick Google search, and Charity’s company is right at the top. But that’s not all. They also wanted her to organize an elopement to take place on live TV. There was just one problem...

Charity: I had sweet, sweet friends who were like, “I didn't really want to get married, but I'll do it if you need someone!” Long story short, we put together an elopement in two days for Good Morning America.

Stephanie: Good strategy and serendipity collide setting up Charity’s company for fast success. You probably know what an elopement is, but if you’re like me, the term micro wedding is new to you. Charity will explain.

Charity: So for me, the rules we've put down are basically five guests or fewer, we consider an elopement. And then six to 15 is our soft limit. Twenty is our hard limit that we consider a micro wedding.

Jill: Twenty people? That is small. And I thought we stayed small with less than 50 people at my wedding.

Stephanie: I was the fourth daughter to get married and my mom had the guest list down to a science. Family, church members, important clients, neighborhood friends and then people I knew. I was just 19 and had no idea about what I wanted in a wedding, in a husband, or for my life so, I just let my mom run the program and everything was simple, beautiful and not at all personal.

Jill: Like you Steph, Charity’s wedding was not exactly what she wanted. But that experience became a key factor into how she’s designed her career and by extension her client’s weddings.

Stephanie: Wait Jill, we can’t jump right into the wedding! You remember how it goes, first comes love, then comes marriage.

Jill: Oh, duh. Let's hear Charity’s love story.

Charity: We were both still very much religious at that point in our lives. And we met through friends at a church. And then a few days later there was a youth group activity, and he picked me up from my friend's house. And his sisters were all in the car with us, and we dominated the car conversation the entire way there and the entire way back. And we were talking about all of the artists that we both were super into at the time. That was almost the entire conversation. I think I made fun of his driving once, and he still talks about that to this day.

Stephanie: Charity’s girlish giggle makes it very easy to imagine her flirting and teasing a young man in the back of a minivan. It's so funny to me how simple real love stories are. A little flirtation, vibing over the same music, meeting up in chat rooms to stay connected while going to school in different states. It's nothing like the big romance stories of the movies. But there it is nonetheless, undeniable love.

Jill: Now comes the marriage.

Charity: So this is actually part of why I'm really passionate about what I do now is because I don't remember almost anything from that wedding fondly. We had almost no money to put towards things. And so, you know, I had these visions of what I was supposed to have, this grandiose wedding that I thought you were supposed to do. And turns out I couldn't really afford to do any of those things. So I cut so many corners that it ended up being nothing like what I really wanted. It was just kind of like, “Okay, well I'm accepting all of these different things,” and I didn't really know that there was any other way. I didn’t know there was another option. Some people love the traditional wedding, and they love the big thing and they have the means to make that happen. And that's totally fine. But I think for people who don't, it's important to know that there's an alternative, and that you can still do something that's wonderful and beautiful and sweet and a great experience, and it doesn't have to look like your traditional wedding.

Jill: Charity is clearly soaked in the expression of love. So why doesn’t she work with large, grandiose weddings?

Charity: Traditional weddings are a very high stress environment, and I don't handle stress well. I just don't. It comes at me, and instead of being able to deflect it and make the situation better, I absorb it, and then I vomit it out on everyone

Stephanie: Since big weddings weren’t her thing, she needed to find something else. She experimented with other types of photography.

Charity: It's very typical of photographers. We tried the babies and the seniors and the families and all of it. I found a lot of things I did not like. I'm not a fan of trying to work with kids, it's very difficult. But I loved couples.

Jill: So a friend gave her the idea to photograph couples at the courthouse.

Charity: It was truly a leap of faith when I did it. I had this idea, I thought that this could work, threw it out to the universe, and it did work.

Stephanie: “It did work” is an understatement. Charity’s business has been growing faster than she could have imagined. When I sat down with her at a coworking space in 2019, she was a one-woman shop. By early 2020, she had 3 employees and a network of associate photographers and officiants supporting her.

Jill: I think I might know what her secret is...she loves love. Like, the word just rolls off her tongue. Guess how many times she said love during your conversation, Steph.

Stephanie: Twenty-five?

Jill: More.

Stephanie: Forty?

Jill: Try 53 times.

Stephanie: Woah. That is a lot. Let’s let Charity give us some insight on why she is so in love with love.

Charity: I think partially because I have such a wonderful relationship with my husband. I love love. I love happy couples. I love couples that aren't yelling at each other and that are actually trying to work together and be cohesive and um, treat each other well. I love seeing that.

Jill: So since every aspect of her life is infused in love. What does she notice about it?

Stephanie: Oh, good question. At one point in our interview she said about her husband...

Charity: It quickly just became obvious that this was the person I was always going to be with.

Stephanie: And I’m looking at her like, “What? It was obvious? Explain please, because I have never had the experience of that being obvious.” And then she shared this little gem of wisdom with me.

Charity: I don't know how to put that feeling into words other than it was so comfortable. It was such a, “I always want to be around this person. This isn't a person I ever want to be without. This isn't something that I have to question. This is easy.” You know, people talk about how opposites attract and fighting is good, and I kind of disagree. And I can only speak from my own circumstances, but it shouldn't be hard work to want to be together. That's not to say it doesn't take hard work to stay together. It absolutely does. And there's going to be things that come up that are hard that you have to work through.

Stephanie: So while that may seem obvious to some, for others like me, the idea that love should be easy at the start is kind of new. I was taught to find a person who fits my parent’s criteria, and if they check off all the boxes, then you make it work. So I’m going to start looking for easy now and I wonder what other insight I could glean from someone who sees over 40 weddings a year.

Charity: The couples that focus on their relationship, it's obvious. The ones that plan it together and are honestly truly into the entire process together, nothing about this is just going through the motions. And those are the ones that you're like, “Man, they're going to be great.”

Jill: Charity really gets a rush from seeing couples have their perfect special day and that matters more to her than anything else.

Stephanie: You’re right. She told me a story that illustrates this so well.

Charity: I had one particular couple who came to me. They wanted to elope because they were just sure that their families were not going to be on board.

Jill: Their relationship hadn’t received much support from their families, so they thought they needed to have a small ceremony. They hired Charity and started the planning. However, as their wedding day approached, they began to share their plans with their families.

Charity: And it ended up that once they told their families, a lot of them actually wanted to come and support them. So we ended up canceling our agreement, and I let them just like move on to someone else because I want them to have that traditional wedding if that's what they want. You know, they were coming to me because they thought they had to have something small because they didn't have people to support them. And it turns out people did want to support them, and I am just overjoyed for them.

Jill: Charity says that getting together should be easy but staying together, that’s what takes work.

Stephanie: When staying together is getting tough, that’s when it's time to call in an expert like our next guest, Gene the marriage therapist.

Gene Haas: Well, this is the weirdness about mental health. There's so many titles, names, and alphabets. It's a little confusing: counselor, therapist, psychotherapist, psychologist. I can wear any of those hats.

Jill: Gene loves his work so much that he has indefinitely postponed his retirement. He plans to work as long as possible.

Episode 3 - Gene Haas.jpg
Gene Haas
Gene Haas is a marriage therapist based in the Charlotte-area.

Gene I'm 74. I do, most weeks, 30 to 40 sessions. I enjoy it. It keeps me going. But I'm not going to be doing this a whole lot longer at this rate. Eventually they close the office here and just do video sessions, which is becoming much more highly used around the country.

Stephanie: Gene was interviewed before the coronavirus pandemic pushed all therapists to try video sessions, so he was an early adopter of the telehealth model. But I didn’t see him on video, I interviewed Gene Haas in his office in Concord. The room is cozy, feels more like a living room than an office. The walls are covered in images of the American southwest and his coffee table has a large jar of candy on it that honestly calls my name through the entire interview. Gene is the same age as my dad, but he looks much younger than 74. His full head of hair and bushy mustache are still mostly brown with a sprinkling of grey in both. He sits in a rocking chair, quickly swiveling his Surface pro and attending to a couple of tasks before we go further. He handles that thing with the speed and comfort of a teenager.

Jill: Despite his obvious dedication to his work, counselling was not his first love. Or even his second…

Gene: This is my third career. I consider myself to be kind of example of God's sense of humor. Because I started out as an electrical engineering major in college working for IBM and, for all purposes, I figured that would be my career.

Jill: But life has a lot of twists and turns.

Gene: It’s a long story. The short version is, Vietnam War was going on when I was in college, and you were going to be drafted at some point. I'm a conscientious objector on religious purposes or reasons. So I decided I'd volunteer for the draft to end my junior year and get the two years of service out of the way.

Stephanie: Gene was a member of the Brethren in Christ, which he describes as a kissing cousin to the Mennonites. So his religious beliefs prohibited engaging in combat but did not exempt him from participating in the military so he and many others were given non-combat service assignments.

Gene: That was the beginning of a route which landed me in New Mexico on the Navajo reservation, and I was there to do construction and wiring and help out with the hospital and some things like that. They had a boarding school there, and they were shorthanded on staff, and so they pulled me in to be a teaching assistant. And that was a mistake because I got bit by the teaching bug, and I found that created much more passion in me than engineering.

Jill: So after the service, he went back to school to become a teacher and began teaching in New Mexico.

Stephanie: And so that was career number two.

Gene: I was having a conversation with the Lord, and I said, “It doesn't get any better than this. I could just retire from this job, stay at this school and this community.” I felt a part of it. It was great. Then everything sorta proverbially went to hell in handbasket The short version of that long story is we ended up in Durango, Colorado, working in a group home and soon discovered that although it was a great program for the kids, it wasn't very effective for the families, and that led us to get into graduate school and psychology.

Stephanie: Gene is the quintessential engineer, continually looking for the root of the problem. He saw that troubled kids weren’t the problem, but the symptom of struggling families. So he went to work on solving the system’s issue.

Jill: Hey, did you notice the casual way that Gene went from me to us?

Stephanie: Yes, he met his wife while he was working in New Mexico about the same time he was falling in love with teaching. Get ready to hear another sweet and simple love story.

Gene: I’d been dating my now wife, and I was coming back from a summer camp. I had helped out with some Navajo boys up in the mountains and had some time to contemplate and it just sorta hit me like a bolt of lightning: I'm in love with her. It was like shocking. It was like, “Yeah, I really am.”

Jill: A bolt of lightning? Is that like a thought or a feeling or what?

Gene It was a realization. And a conclusion. Which turns into a determination with people like me. So the next time we were together, we rode our bikes out into the desert to one of our favorite spots we called “the trees” overlooking this canyon. And um, I said to her, I think I love you. She laughed so hard, she almost fell off the rock. “What? You have to think about it!?” To me, having thought it through and concluded it was carved in rock and you could take it to the bank. To her, if there isn't emotional feeling there, the motivation somehow is lacking.

Stephanie: Gene and his wife are both counsellors and celebrated their 50th wedding anniversary in the summer of 2019

Jill: So he is an expert in making love last. What’s his secret?

Stephanie: He does have a couple of secrets. The first one is good old-fashioned self-awareness. When he sees clients, he often asks himself what he can learn from them that could improve his own ability to be healthy in relationships. He also has a special tactic he employs.

Gene: A warp speed nanoscience version of courtship

Stephanie: It’s a special technique he learned in the 80s and has been sharing with couples for decades. He says he practices it himself too.

Gene: Back in the 80s, I read a book about bonding and the writer talked about couples when they're apart for a day or longer, when they come back together, they have to re-bond. And we often don't, which leads to a rough evening and all kinds of problems. So it's a technique where you teach a couple to really check in with each other

Jill: Ooh, sounds like something the husband and I could use. What else does Gene know?

Stephanie: He knows that what the rest of us think we know, is basically wrong.

Gene: Well, I think a lot of stuff about love that floats around is pretty bogus, and that's why people are so disappointed because they're dealing with some kind of fantasy.

Jill: According to Gene, all the stuff we see in movies, including meet cutes and torrid romances... that’s not love.

Gene: I think M. Scott Peck had a pretty good definition. He talked about when you love someone, you're motivated to do anything that will help the other person's spiritual growth. So it's altruistic: you see the other person, and you want what's best for them.

Stephanie: And what is perhaps surprising is that despite all the talk of social media ruining relationships and the decline of the family, his 40 years of practicing counselling shows a trend towards more love, not less.

Gene: A lot of things have changed. The current generation of like high school and college kids, I've noticed, it's like you're abnormal if you're not compassionate. Hmm. I think 40-50 years ago, in the post-World War II era and Cold War era, people were not as overt about their emotions. They didn't reach out quite so overtly. I mean, obviously you had people who were kind and compassionate, so forth, but in this generation, if you aren't, you're considered weird. And so that's positive. The other thing I've noticed is people care more about their marriages now than they did in 1970. They'll work at it. They've also been educated that just because you run into a roadblock or obstacle in your relationship, doesn't mean you're doomed.

Jill: That’s a really optimistic outlook. Maybe love can conquer all.

Stephanie: Not so fast, he’s not saying that. In fact, he even dispels a common myth about true love being unconditional.

Gene: I don't think it exists. I'm cynical. I think there are conditions under which people, at least if you mean staying together means love. No, because if someone's abusive or they’re hurtful to you, if they're toxic in some way, you might care about them, but you can't stay in a relationship with them. So I don't think it's a human capability to be unconditional. I think we all have some conditions.

Jill: That’s kind of depressing, no unconditional love? I like to think that someone loves me no matter what.

Stephanie: Yeah, he says “no matter what” probably doesn’t exist. But he is optimistic.

Gene: I think the kind of love that most of us need is a sense of emotional security. We can cope with a mate or a partner or a friend or a child that has foibles or weaknesses or blind spots or bad habits or whatever. And it's easier to cope with that. When that person cares enough not to injure us emotionally, they understand what our fears are, they protect us against those, they take us into consideration. That kind of love, if we're able to love in that way, goes a long way in a relationship.

Stephanie: And that’s really good news for me. Because I have to tell you, I’m so tired of people feeling sorry for me because I’m not coupled up. When you’re single you bump into this assumption often that romantic love is the most important kind of love and without it your life is basically pathetic. But I have lots of people in my life giving me that sense of emotional security.

Jill: You’re right. Often our first thought about love is really pretty tied to sex. But like you said, lots of people experience love without romance. Sometimes that love comes from friends or family or children, sometimes it comes from creatures that aren’t even human. After the break, we’ll hear from Sonia, a veterinarian whose work with *all our fur babies* has taught her a thing or two about love. That’s coming up on the Work It podcast.

Act 2: Sonia

Stephanie: Before the break we were talking about the bias toward romantic love, and how much it bugs me.

Jill: It’s a really narrow view of what love really is. So we wanted to include in this conversation someone who focuses on love that is definitely not romantic.

Stephanie: And boy do people love their pets. To be clear, I am not an animal mom. In this segment, Jill, you are more likely to relate. In fact, by interviewing Sonia, I found out something new about you.

Sonia Borrell: Cat people… Usually the general rule within the industry is two or less, and you’re okay. Over two, and you’re a crazy cat lady at that point.

Stephanie: Hear that Jill? When I met you, you had three cats, so that means you are officially a crazy cat lady.

Jill: Oh I’m totally a crazy cat lady, no matter how many cats I have. My Instagram is mostly my cat. Christmas cards are my cat. Me and my cat have deep, intellectual conversations. I’m even teaching him Spanish. He’s a natural.

Stephanie: And according to Dr. Sonia Burrell, you’re in good company. So the sound that is intermittently in the background of this interview might be familiar to you, Jill, but for the rest of us...

Sonia: That is Bronson. That is the sound that a very desperate Bronson makes because he wants you to think that he's dying so that you will come rescue him and give him attention and love.

Jill: Cats are relentless. Mine yell at me all the time to get what they want.

Episode 3 - Dr. Sonia Burrell.jpeg
Sonia Burrell
Dr. Sonia Burrell is a veterinarian based in Waxhaw.

Stephanie: I met Sonia in her veterinarian hospital in Waxhaw one afternoon after her shift, and she brought me to her office and locked Bronson out. At one point, this cat put his paw under the door and opened and closed it like a human would do when gesturing, “Come here.” It's hilarious. No wonder animals were Sonia’s first love.

Sonia: I actually had an imaginary cat named Penelope when I was little. My grandmother never let me have a cat. I always kind of wanted a cat. But, I did grow up Hispanic that meant we had dogs. We had lots of animals. Nothing was allowed inside the house. But I loved my dogs, and I spent as much time as I could with them. My grandpa used to sneak my dogs in, like he'd open the door when I wouldn't wake up early enough to run to my room and wake me up. So that love of animals was there from the beginning. I always grew up around them.

Jill: Sonia’s family situation also made her connection to the animal stronger.

Sonia: Since I was an only child, and my mom was diagnosed with MS when I was very, very young, I was essentially raised by my grandparents and an older generation. So you have that feeling of no one understanding you. I mean, I talked to the horses, I talked to my dog, I'd talked to whatever animals were out there. I was kind of a nerd. So I would sit outside and read my book with my dog.

Stephanie: When Sonia says she was a nerd, what she really means is that she is very smart. Her whole life she imagined herself as a lawyer.

Sonia: Debate club, mock trial. I was law school-bound. I took my LSATs. I did everything. I was ready to go. And I worked for the DA in Miami, and I hated it. I absolutely hated it. And on the day that I quit, someone came in for his third DUI, and he was hitting on me. And I'm sitting there and going, “Okay, the last thing I want to do is get in a car and go somewhere with you.” And then there was an ugly case, like a pretty much straight-forward murder, but it was like, “Hey, we had a great D.A. in court today! We got it down to manslaughter,” and I was like, “I'm out. I cannot do this.” And so here I am, 20 or 21, having an existential crisis going, “What am I going to do with my life? Since I was six years old, I wanted to be an attorney."

Stephanie: A friend encouraged her to consider veterinary school and the rest is history.

Jill: Sonia loves her job and has found that her childhood desire to find truth is as helpful for a vet as it is for a lawyer. Because it turns out, animals don’t always confess what they’ve been up to and their owners are usually no better.

Sonia: So if you don't bring your A-game, it's not going to be a good day because when they come in, whatever they tell the receptionist is different from what they tell our assistant to what they tell me. So it's always going to be something different, and you always have to make sure you're kind of navigating through what they're telling you. A lot of it is kind of investigative and intuitive work. So, it's like a puzzle.

Stephanie: One of the things that really struck me about my conversation with Sonia is how much people love their pets and how that influences the way doctors care for them.

Jill: Oh yeah, people and their pets are like people and their kids. I read an article the other day in the City Journal that basically said that people in cities can’t afford kids anymore, so they are opting for pets instead. Get this: in San Francisco there are 150 thousand dogs and only 115 thousand kids under 18! The same is true of cats in Seattle.

Sonia: To them, this is their whole world. Sometimes, we'll bring a dog back to get a weight and to get a temperature and I will have a four-year-old crying hysterically because we took their puppy. And I'm like, “I'm just taking him to get a weight. That's it. I promise I will bring you back your puppy.” And they're like, “Please, please don't hurt my puppy.” I would never hurt your puppy. And this is part of their family, and we get to go through the ups and downs.

Jill: And its not just the little kids that cry about their pets going to the doctor.

Sonia: I have grown men and grown women who must leave the room when I give a vaccine because they don't want to see their baby get hurt. They'll cry if the animal cries. And it's kind of hard to let them know, “You know, we're doing what's best for your pet.” And I feel like we see that less in humans than we do in pets.

Stephanie: So Sonia tries to make the visit easy on the pets and therefore easier for the pet parents too.

Sonia: There are certain things dogs like. Some dogs love squeeze cheese. Some will go crazy for peanut butter. We have all sorts of stuff down there. I'm like, “Oh, this is the peanut butter dog.” So when I give vaccines, I always put something in front so that they don't notice. I think it'd be nice, like if they offered me a brownie while they were giving me my flu shot, I can only think I'd bought it would bother me that much, but I'll give him like squeeze cheese or something like that. And the owners appreciate that the dog appreciates that.

Jill: I seriously want a brownie with my next flu shot.

Stephanie: Right? But in all seriousness, this extra dose of care and concern shows up in big things like end of life considerations...

Sonia: It sucks at the end, but I honestly think when it comes time that that pet has to be put down, I want to be part of it. If I was part of it from the beginning to the end, I would like for me to be able to give that pet my last gift: that it doesn't need to suffer anymore.

Stephanie: And that care shows up in small things like pet products.

Sonia: They want me to go to the store and buy pet wipes, which is essentially a baby wipe, but only an eighth of it, and it has a picture of a dog for twice the price. So I tell my clients all the time, “If it's good enough for your baby's bottom and your bottom, I guarantee you it's pretty much good for your pets.”

Stephanie: Sonia sees this philosophical tug of war with her clients all the time.

Sonia: They've taken the love that we have for these animals, and a lot of people consider them they're fur babies. So I feel like we're walking this weird line where we want them to be our fur children, but at the same time realize that they are not children, not self-sufficient, not any of these things.

Jill: I never thought about it like that. But I totally agree. My favorite thing is when my cat sits at the kitchen counter, like a human, and eats breakfast with me. We raise our kids to grow up and move away. And we are proud of them for that accomplishment. But our fur babies? Not so much. I remember crying and freaking out when my cat got adventurous and went exploring.

Sonia: I do feel pets fill a void in us that I don't think you know you have until you've had a pet, which may sound very controversial, but once you've had that bond, once you’ve had that pet that was there for you when you had really hard times in your life, when you had no one else.

Stephanie: I’m hearing so much overlap here with what Gene says about relationships that are loving and supportive.

Sonia: It's a bond that you're with someone for 24/7, who's not going to tell you to do something, who's not gonna yell at you, who's not gonna argue with you. It's like a perfect, it's a perfect relationship.

Stephanie: She weighs in on the idea of unconditional love with a little different perspective than the one Gene offered.

Sonia: I think that animals are the only beings that are really capable of unconditional love. I think they're the epitome of unconditional love. They have taught me that you can forgive someone and move on, that you can show someone that something's not okay by a little growl or a snip here or there. I would like to see that more translated in my life. I think I'd be a happier person, if that makes sense.

Jill: Wow, yeah. I think we would all be a little happier if we loved people like we love animals.

Stephanie: Our three stories today really bring something forward for me. Gene is right: so much of what we are taught about love, is just wrong. The three guests work with people in their most vulnerable moments, whether it's making a lifelong commitment to love, struggling with hurt and disappointment in love, or caring for those we care about most.

Jill: And the way they see it, love isn’t about expensive weddings or high-end pet toys. It's about spending time together, building trust and companionship.

Stephanie: And being a soft spot for people to land where they know you aren’t going to hurt them.

Jill: That’s exactly why I would argue that the purest analogy for love is cuddling a cat. A wildly independent creature who chooses to be close to you. Who could hurt you and you could hurt it but you both choose closeness instead. So for the record Steph, we crazy cat ladies... we’re not so crazy.

Stephanie: Hmmm. You’re still crazy.


Jill: The Work It podcast is a production of WFAE. This episode was hosted by Stephanie Hale who feels loved when her kids empty the dishwasher without being asked.

Stephanie: ...and Jill Bjers (who feels loved when her cat sleeps with her paw on her).

Jill: Our producer is Joni Deutsch who feels love when she spends time making home-made calzones and cookies with her fiancé. Our editor is Greg Collard who most recently felt love when popping the question to his fiancé. And a special thanks to our guests for today’s episode: Charity, Gene and Sonia.

Stephanie: We heard their stories. And now, we want to hear yours!

Jill: Yes, you, listening right now, we want your story.

Stephanie: Go to WFAE.org/WorkIt or leave us a comment on Facebook.com/WorkItPodcast and share with us why we should interview you for an upcoming episode.

Jill: And while you’re at it, make sure to subscribe to the Work It Podcast so you can hear the next episode as soon as it’s released! You can subscribe to Work It on NPR One, Apple Podcasts or wherever you listen to podcasts.

Stephanie: Until next time, keep on working it.

Stephanie Hales's fascination with people, their work, and the things that drive them is central to her work as a leadership development consultant in her adopted hometown of Charlotte, North Carolina. Hale lives in the University City area in Charlotte, North Carolina. She is a graduate of Brigham Young University and obtained her master’s degree from Queens University.
A true Jill-of-all-trades: mother, wife, author/playwright, organizer, and travel junkie. Jill Bjers is originally from Salt Lake City, Utah. She currently lives in Seversville area in Charlotte, North Carolina. She is a graduate of the University of Utah.