Happy Valentine’s Day! I hope you let your heart-light shine with intention, devotion, and compassion on someone or something you love today. It’s OK if that’s a pet, child, friend, or project. Love is love, after all. Why limit it to romantic partners?

If you don’t, because you believe you don’t have someone or something that rises to the merit of a Hallmark holiday, that’s OK, too. Will you do something nice for yourself? Because you deserve it.

I hope the day of red-satin boxes and floral bouquets doesn’t cause you too much dismay; angst and expectation often accompany such culturally-scripted occasions. But that didn’t stopped the Coastal Journal from participating in it with our 2018 Valentine’s Day Date Contest.

Grand prize winners, Mike Gaudet and Kim Wessel, of Brunswick, and runner-up winners, Clare and Russ Shumaker, of Bath, likely are glad we did.

Mike didn’t just answer the questions on the handy cut-out form we published in the paper. He emailed a two-page love story that started with an online dating site nine months ago and quickly progressed to a romantic relationship.

Sure, sure; lots of people meet this way these days. What made Mike and Kim’s story special is that they figured out their paths have crossed many times in the last 20 or so years – friends in common, familiar places – but they never met until they agreed the time was just right to do so.

The couple also has an interesting compatibility point that you won’t find a box for on your Match.com profile: They both have brain disorders.

Kim has chronic severe migraines.

“How do you say to someone you are just getting to know, ‘Oh, by the way, I might be out of commission for four or five days every so often,’” Kim said, when they picked up their prizes at the CJ office.

But Mike had no problem with it. He suffers from a complex seizure disorder. In fact, it took me several days to get in touch with him to let him know they won because the couple was in Waterville undergoing a seizure study.

“Most people would not put up with it,” Mike wrote, “But … we both understand our disabilities and have supported each other through it all.

“I support her when she’s down with her migraines and she has been a big support for me as I go through my testing to solve my seizures. She is my world and I would not even imagine it without her, even though we’ve only been together for nine months.

“I tell her almost every day that she is my ANGEL. I believe we both were put together for a reason.”

Kim Wessel and Mike Gaudet are the winners of the Coastal Journal’s 2018 Date Night Contest. Raye Leonard - Coastal Journal

I shared Mike’s entry with everyone in the office. When the couple stopped by Tuesday to pick up their flowers and gift certificate, there were no dry eyes as they thanked us.

The Coastal Journal extends its thanks to Mike and Kim for sharing their story, and to the Hampton Inn of Bath, JR Maxwell’s, and Flowers by Louis Doe for donating prizes.

While Mike and Kim are just getting started on their journey together, Clare and Russ Shumaker have spent the last 34 years together. They stopped by the office on Saturday to pick up their prizes, since Russ was headed out of town.

The couple met at the Chicago USO. Clare was a volunteer and Russ was an electronics tech in the Navy. What struck me about this entry is that there were “no sparks” when they first met in March 1982.

As much as I adore a good expectation-laden, culturally-scripted, excuse-to-eat-a-lot-of-chocolate holiday, I also cherish a quirky, script-busting love story.

“The chemistry was right by July” that year, Clare said, after listening to her friends call him a “big teddy bear” for a few months.

“He was extremely polite and he has a sense of humor,” she wrote. “I was a city girl and he was from Maine – one of my mom’s dream spots.”

Thirty-four years, five kids, and four grandchildren later, Russ still makes her laugh.

Russ and Clare Shumaker are runners-up in the Coastal Journal’s 2018 Date Night Contest. Raye Leonard - Coastal Journal

Thank you Clare and Russ for sharing their love story, and to Moody’s Seafood and Maine Street Sweets in Brunswick for donating prizes.

And thank you to everyone who entered Date Night 2018.

Happy Valentine’s Day!

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