This month, we celebrate love and relationships, so I thought I’d share a story I haven’t touched on much in this newsletter: how my wife Erin and I first got together. Believe it or not, our relationship has lasted 22 wonderful years — the majority of our lives. Not only does our shared history go way back, but it also started right here in Blain!


“High school sweethearts” would be the best way to describe our relationship. It all started at a mutual friend’s house in 1997, the year of Tamagotchis and “Titanic.” We played a few rounds of pool together and got to talking, eventually deciding to go out on a date to Perkins. Sitting together with that breakfast food between us, I don’t think either of us could ever imagine the future we were setting out for ourselves.

It was a rather unlikely beginning. I was a senior enjoying the relatively new freedoms of having a driver’s license and a cell phone while Erin was a freshman finding her way in the world. And therein lay the first obstacle — while a three-year age difference isn’t much in adulthood, the gap can seem huge for teenagers. We were both operating in very different worlds with one of us adjusting to high school life and the other preparing for his next step in life. And then, of course, there were parents.

Looking back, I certainly don’t blame Erin’s dad for regarding me with some suspicion at first. After all, being an older teen with subwoofers in the back of his car, I probably didn’t make a great first impression. I got used to the sight of him watching me through the window every time I dropped Erin off — and now that I’m a father myself, I can’t say I blame him. But, for what it’s worth, when I came to him nine years later on Christmas Eve to ask for his blessing, he said yes.

I asked Erin to marry me shortly after at Gooseberry Falls. It was the dead of winter, and we’d gone on a careful jaunt through the woods. Despite the snow and ice, I got down on one knee and popped the question. She, in turn, made me the happiest man on earth. We got married the following spring and set out on the new adventure of raising a family.

Being with the same person for 22 years certainly brings its ups and downs. Hurdles come from within and without, but, as long as you face those challenges together, love perseveres. As with any serious commitment, a good marriage takes work, and — believe it or not — being a musician taught me that.

New musicians, like newlyweds, have a bit of a honeymoon period. For three months or so, they make a great amount of progress, mastering new skills as they gain a greater understanding of their instrument. But inevitably, reality sets in and they realize, “Oh, this is hard. This isn’t as fun as it used to be.” In both situations, this is when you’re faced with a very important choice.

Serious commitments have their challenging moments whether it’s a commitment to a person or an art form. Those who can learn to stick with the path they chose during these difficult periods are ultimately the better for it — a lesson better learned sooner than later.

This is one of those life skills music teaches so well. Long before I faced the challenges of becoming a father and a provider to my family, I faced learning the guitar. I’d already experienced the “I’m going to be a rock star” honeymoon period that comes with that instrument, as well as the crushing revelation of just how demanding playing guitar at the highest levels can be. Likewise, when it came time to face the challenges of married life, I’d already proven to myself I could fight through those moments of doubt, learn from them, and overcome any obstacles in my path.

Most importantly, I learned the sweet music that comes with fighting through those challenging moments.

Happy Valentine’s Day,

–Eric Nehring