Last week I blogged about the debut of my friend Matt Logelin’s memoir, Two Kisses for Maddy. What a treat I have for you today—an exclusive interview with his live-in girlfriend, Brooke, who has been quite a mystery to many of Matt’s fans over the past year. (Not to me—we’re texting buddies!) Here, she sheds light on what it’s like to go from being a single lady to dating a widower with a pre-schooler.
Name: Brooke Gullikson
Hometown: Anoka, Minnesota
Current Location: Los Angeles, California
Favorite Color: Purple
Favorite Food: Red velvet cupcakes!
Show that Maddy watches that makes you want to jump out the window (It’s Oswald
on Nick Jr. for me): She doesn’t watch a lot that really bothers me, but man, sometimes those Yo Gabba Gabba songs get stuck in my head and won’t leave… (I feel ya, girl! Don't bite your friends, Brooke!)
CC: How did you initially meet Matt? You were volunteering with the Liz Logelin foundation, right?
BG: Yes. I started volunteering with the foundation in 2008 after attending the first 5K, where Matt and I met for the first time, albeit briefly! We met again at the foundation’s 5K and gala in 2009 and that’s when our friendship started.
CC: Tell me about the first date. Deeeeeee-tails! Haha!
BG: Matt came back to Minnesota over Thanksgiving 2009 and asked me to meet him for a drink, I was more than happy to accept. I didn’t know that he wanted to be anything more than friends, but I was happy just to be able to spend time with him. I will never forget walking into the dive bar in Minneapolis where we decided to meet and watching him stand to greet me. My heart was racing. We closed down the bar that night in the back booth as we talked until the early hours of the morning. That’s when we began.
CC: How long before you knew Matt was the one?
BG: It was a few days after we met at the dive bar. We'd had an incredible time together in Minneapolis and it was the night before he left to go back to Los Angeles. He invited me out with some of his family and friends- none of them yet knew about us; I was introduced as a friend. As I watched him recall a childhood story, laughing in the candlelight of the little French café, I looked at him and thought, “I am so proud to be with this man.” As a friend, as a girlfriend—he just made me proud. I wanted him by my side forever. I felt so incredibly lucky that he felt the same way about me.
CC: When did you and Maddy formally meet and what was that like? Were you nervous?
BG: The first time Matt introduced me to Maddy after we started our relationship was Christmas Day 2009. I was so incredibly nervous—Matt and I were serious. I knew he wouldn’t be taking this step unless there was a future for all of us involved. Our meeting was so sweet and simple. Maddy makes it all easy.
CC: Matt told me you have a great relationship with Liz’s parents—were you nervous to meet them?
BG: I remember shaking as we walked into the restaurant to meet them for the first time—quite possibly one of the most nerve-wracking things I’ve ever done! But as soon as we walked in and they hugged me, the nerves disappeared. And for anyone who knows Tom and Candee, you know it’s absolutely impossible to feel anything but love and joy around them. These people went through the absolute worst thing imaginable—the death of a daughter and a sister. Yet their love of life—and living it to the absolute fullest—is contagious. The love they have for me is something that evokes tears every time I think about it. This year, my beloved football team, the Packers, went to the Superbowl. Because of my new job, I was unable to be at home with my crazy, Packers-loving family for the game. I was bummed about it. Tom, Candee and Deb all flew out that weekend—and brought with them eight bags of cheese curds shipped from Wisconsin, Packers t-shirts for everyone to wear, and a plethora of green and gold accessories for all of us to wear. They go above and beyond for me, for Matt, for Maddy—all the time. They are amazing.
CC: Do you ever feel like the “other woman” or a replacement mom?
BG: I’ll be honest—that’s something I’ve definitely struggled with in the last year and a half. Matt has never once made me feel that way. He has such a good way of looking at his “two lives,” as he says, and he’s never made me feel anything other than special, unique and loved. But sometimes it can be hard for me to stop my mind from comparing myself to Liz, especially with everything surrounding Matt, Liz and Maddy. I’ve had many difficult moments. There are so many little issues that come along with dating a widower I wasn’t prepared for. I’m still learning to deal with them—but I’m also learning that while Matt still loves and cherishes Liz, he also loves and cherishes me. He didn’t remove Liz from his heart for me—his heart just grew to make space.
CC: How long were you and Matt long-distance dating before you moved into his home in California with him and Maddy?
BG: We had what you might call a “whirlwind romance”— we met and fell in love in November, and by the time we left for Paris the following March, we knew we’d be coming back home and I’d be jumping in the car with my dad to drive my belongings from Minnesota to LA. For the few months we were long-distance, the three of us would Skype constantly. Looking back, I can’t remember what we talked about to fill that amount of time, but we were just so damn happy to be spending time together, albeit virtually. While we moved quickly in the beginning, this past year has been all about slowing down, spending time together and learning how to be a family.
CC: Matt told me Maddy doesn’t call you mom—she calls you, “Brookie.” (Can I call you “Brookie,” too) Did she ever slip and call you mom or mommy—how did you feel? Did you correct her?
BG: Funny, “Brookie” was a childhood nickname I worked so long to get rid of and it seemed that the moment I did, it was the nickname Maddy coined for me! And now the name is music to my ears. As Maddy grows, so does her curiosity about mommies and daddies—not just her mommy and daddy, but everyone’s. We have lots of conversations about families. We read this book regularly to her, to remind her that all families are different and special. Maybe someday I’ll be Mommy to her; maybe I’ll always be Brookie. I like to tell her, “I love you just like a mommy would.” As long as she knows that, whatever I am to her in name doesn’t really matter.
CC: Matt told me you are very proactive about telling Maddy about her mom, Liz. Share a tidbit you’ve shared and how it came up.
BG: We have two pictures that hang side by side in our entry way. One is of Matt and a pregnant Liz, just a few days before she entered the hospital. The other is of Matt, Maddy and me. Maddy is always very quick to point out to visitors the picture of her with “her daddy and her Brookie.” I always like to also remind her of the picture next to ours—the one of her daddy and her mommy, with her tucked safely in her mommy’s tummy. I love that these two pictures hang side by side—it’s a reminder to us all of our family, which Liz is and always will be very much a part of. I want Maddy to know that she has a daddy, a mommy and “a Brookie,” and that we all have a tremendous amount of love for her.
CC: Let’s be honest, whether Maddy calls you “Brookie” or “Mommy” you are executing parental duties daily—how has the transition from single girl to mom-figure been for you? (I mean, I kind of know! I was Rattled!)
BG: In a matter of months, I went from living alone and spending my weekends sleeping in, shopping and yes, bar-hopping—to living with my boyfriend and his two-year-old daughter! All of a sudden, sleeping in until 10am was replaced by a child calling out for me at 7am—talk about an awakening! Bar-hopping was no longer an option, as I quickly learned that no one wants to change a filled diaper with a hangover. And when we bought a carseat for my car, I sat in the driver’s seat and stared at it for a good 10 minutes, thinking to myself, “holy sh*t, there’s a carseat in here.” It’s been a huge transition and a big adjustment—not only for me learning to become a parent, but for Matt learning to become a co-parent. I’m not perfect and I definitely make mistakes—but I wouldn’t trade being her parent for all the bar-hopping in the world. The other day, we were in the car. At a stoplight, I turned to look at her. She smiled her huge, beautiful grin and said, “I love you, you’re my Brookie!” Life doesn’t get any better than that.
CC: Matt and Maddy are world-travelers. Where have you been with them and can you share any advice for traveling with a pre-schooler?
BG: Besides the Caribbean and Canada, I’d never traveled outside of the country before I met Matt and Maddy—and within a matter of months, I was wandering through Paris by myself with a two-year-old looking for contact solution! (Jet lag had Matt fast asleep and lost luggage had me desperate for some immediate relief for my eyes.) Somehow, Maddy and I found that contact solution—and then treated ourselves to ice cream as a reward. (What can I say—I was proud of us!) Flexibility is key. Don’t go anywhere with an itinerary. When we left for Paris, I knew the only thing I had to see was Notre Dame—and even then, we had to take turns touring it! (Turns out the big cathedral with walls that echoed was too much temptation for Maddy—she started happily screaming as soon as we walked in.) Since Paris, the three of us have been to San Francisco, San Diego, Hawaii, Mexico and back and forth to Minnesota a number of times. There is still a lot of world left out there for all of us to explore…
CC: Do you and Matt have kid-free date nights? What do you do?
BG: Our date nights in LA mostly consist of an outdoor dinner, a bottle of wine and good conversation. We’ve also been able to get away on our own for a few trips (thanks to our wonderful family)—we’ve been to Vegas, to Palm Springs and over the new year, we took an amazing trip to Istanbul together.
CC: What advice can you lend to women in your position who are dating a widower with a
BG: When Matt and I first moved in together, I read “The Year of Magical Thinking” by Joan Didion to get another perspective on widowhood and how one moves through. It was a tough read, knowing all of the anguish and pain someone—and particularly my someone—goes through when their partner dies.
For anyone dating a widow/er, I suggest getting as much perspective from their point of view as you can, whether it’s through books like Joan’s, blogs like Matt’s or websites, or talking with other widow/ers. Find someone in your position, someone who “gets it.” When Matt first blogged about me, a woman reached out to him—she told him she was married to a widower and that if I ever needed to talk, she was there. A year later and she’s become one of my best friends. She understands what I’m going through in a way no one else in my life does. She gets it. That is priceless, especially on those tough days. Know that things will happen that you could never prepare yourself for—and grow some thick skin! Above all, understand that, in most cases, because someone has loved deeply before, they have the ability to do so again. The love Matt has for me—and the love I have for him—is something I never could have imagined having in my life. All the tough days, all the tears and the complications—that love, our love, is worth it all.
Thanks for sharing Brooke! I mean, Brookie, hehe.