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Ode to Sian Defren

Please excuse this break from our usual programming as I celebrate a banner day.

497158097_0457b83410_mToday is a day that has been eagerly anticipated for 8 long years: the last day of Nursing school for my beautiful bride!  Hallelujah! 

Let me take a moment to tell you about my wife — and why it took 8 years to reach this important goal.

Sian has a pretty crazy life story.  On both sides of her family she is the daughter of sea captains — stretching all the way back to the 1600’s, where family lore suggests direct kinship with one of the most fabled admirals of the Netherlands.  Her paternal grandfather was a Jew who resisted the Nazis in Holland; miraculously survived; and went on to reap a fortune as a European industrialist. Sian’s earliest memories involve indoor swimming IStock_000005811520XSmallpools in Swiss mansions.

Growing up, Sian was something of a violin prodigy.  By the time she was 12, as part of the famed Suzuki School, Sian had played in concerts across the world, including Carnegie Hall and the chamber halls of Munich.  She even played for President Carter!

Then the fortunes were lost.  Sian’s parents — now in San Francisco — were destitute.  At the tender age of 13 she was shipped off to stay with rich friends in upstate New York … who promptly put her to work, mucking the horse stables every day.

IStock_000005294403XSmallShe subsequently fell in with a boy who convinced her to ditch it all and live with his family in New York City.  But this wasn’t just any dingy apartment in a city of 8M people:  this particular pad overlooked Central Park.  The boy’s father owned a posh NYC nightclub, where Sian routinely met “regular folks” like Ozzy Osbourne, Keith Richards, etc. 

Pretty wild so far, right?

Then Sian went to Bard College and met me, and I’ve screwed things up for her ever since.  You’ve read before about how we got pregnant way-too-young, about starting out on welfare, etc.  What you haven’t heard about is Sian’s amazing patience and self-sacrifice.  She spent the first 7 years of our marriage as a stay-at-home mom.  Then, in 1999, when our kids were 7 and 5 years old, she decided to go back to school for nursing.

Sian felt strongly that she didn’t want to go back to school full-time; she wanted to raise our kids, too.  So she went back part-time, and for almost 18 months gunned her way through the scientific and medical pre-requisite courses that needed to be completed before applying to Nursing School. 

IStock_000005878839XSmallThen, I went nuts.  Threw a wrench in the works.

The Internet craze was — well, it was crazy — and I got caught up in it.  I convinced my patient bride to raise up stakes and move from Boston to San Francisco.  “Don’t worry,” I said.  “I’m sure you can just transfer all your credits to a new college in the Bay Area.”

OMFG, was I wrong.  Most of the credits did not transfer.  Sian would have to re-take many of the pre-req classes she had just completed in Massachusetts.  Worse, the California community college system was overwhelmed by a crush of post-bubble expatriates looking for safe havens in the healthcare field.  So Sian would sometimes have to miss-out on an entire semester, simply waiting for an opening to take a class she’d already aced a year earlier!

Meanwhile, business sucked.  My dreams of conquest were dashed on the rocks.  “It was a stressful time,” would be an understatement.

IStock_000004367007XSmallBut Sian prevailed.  She’s inherited the good ol’ fashioned grit of her sea captain forebears.  When we moved back to Boston in 2005, she reclaimed a spot in her old nursing school; kept her head down; and aced class after class after class.  She routinely nabbed the best grade on every test — but convinced her teachers to stop posting the grades publicly, because she didn’t want to upset anyone else in class who hadn’t fared as well.

My bride is beautiful, brilliant, kind, modest, funny — and luckily for me, she is also endlessly patient and loving.  Twenty years later, I’m still smitten.  “Sian” is Welsh for “gift,” and that’s a perfect way to describe how blessed I feel every time I see her smile.

Congratulations, honey!  You’ve definitely earned it!


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» Twitter Comment by @prblogs (prblogs) from prblogs
PRSquared: Ode to Sian Defren: Please excuse this break from our usual programming as I celebrate a ba.. [link to post]

- http://twitter.com/prblogs/statuses/1060886698

- Posted using Chat Catcher (http://www.chatcatcher.com/) [Read More]

» Twitter Comment by @DaveBenjamin (David Benjamin) from DaveBenjamin
RT @TDefren: A very, very, super-duper personal post. [link to post] You are a lucky man ur wife is patient. Great story!

- http://twitter.com/DaveBenjamin/statuses/1060897441

- Posted using Chat Catcher (http://www.chatcatch... [Read More]

» Twitter Comment by @lisahoffmann (Lisa Hoffmann) from lisahoffmann
A beautiful tribute to @TDefren's most precious gift: [link to post]

- http://twitter.com/lisahoffmann/statuses/1060905312

- Posted using Chat Catcher (http://www.chatcatcher.com/) [Read More]

» Twitter Comment by @skaufman24 (Scott Kaufman) from skaufman24
@MikeMoran split but I realize it's in many ways futile and I like personal posts a la [link to post] but am reluctant myself

- http://twitter.com/skaufman24/statuses/1061266063

- Posted using Chat Catcher (http://www.chatcatche... [Read More]

» Twitter Comment by @prjack (prjack) from prjack
@TDefren I'll double up on the Congrats to Sian here as well. And to anyone who didn't read it, you should! [link to post]

- http://twitter.com/prjack/statuses/1061548967

- Posted using Chat Catcher (http://www.chatcatcher.com/) [Read More]

» Twitter Comment by @JessDennis (Jessica Dennis) from JessDennis
I have to RT this I thought it was amazing [link to post]

- http://twitter.com/JessDennis/statuses/1061628244

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» Twitter Comment by @AmberCadabra (Amber Naslund) from AmberCadabra
I love that @tdefren posted this. See, it's not all about this internet crap all the time. [link to post]

- http://twitter.com/AmberCadabra/statuses/1062812107

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» Twitter Comment by @msomustek (Kimberly James) from msomustek
Totally awesome story: Ode to Sian Defren. [link to post] RT @AmberCadabra & @tdefren

- http://twitter.com/msomustek/statuses/1062918902

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» Twitter Comment by @thebetsy (Betsy) from thebetsy
@TDefren's ode to bride: reallly sweet-- Bully for Sian! [link to post]

- http://twitter.com/thebetsy/statuses/1063317267

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» Twitter Comment by @DomesticBecky (DomesticBecky) from DomesticBecky
inspiring post on PR-Squared today [link to post] surprisingly not about PR, but about his wife.

- http://twitter.com/DomesticBecky/statuses/1063539361

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Eloquent and heart-warming. Very nice, Todd.

Todd, what a great story! Sian seems like a real-life Cinderella, and congrats to her for making it through nursing school! I've heard from friends and relatives that it's tough stuff, so I'm very impressed that she stuck with it.

Congratulations to the two of you!

Thank you so much for including this beautiful, memorable post on PR Squared. Not only is it enlightening to get a glimpse of your personal side after reading so many of your recent PR posts, but it is also a very inspiring story. As a young professional trying to find my footing alongside a husband and family, it's always very hopeful to hear of others who have persevered and with enough determination, reached career goals AND maintained healthy/happy relationships.

Congratulations to Sian!

What a beautiful testament to your partnership, Todd. Thank you for sharing a peek into your inspiring marriage.

WOW! What an inspiring story of love and dedication. I wish you all the happiness and success together. Live your dreams...

Quite the journey and story. Thank you so much for sharing. Always nice to peer behind the curtain a bit and get a feel for the life that you don't blog about that often.

She sounds like an amazing woman and you're a very lucky man.


Congratulations and well done. What a great lesson this is for your children, too. Never ever give up on a dream :)

Aw, what a woman! Todd you are one lucky guy. Thanks for sharing your story. It took me 15 years to graduate from college, and know what a struggle it can be to have a family and go to school at the same time.

Wow. At long last!

Very happy for Sian and you, Todd. I know it's been a tough slog, and that Sian's been quietly plugging away at this since George W. Bush was sworn into office.

Yes, it's been THAT long.

Very happy for both of you.

Partnership - that's what it is all about. Give and take and 20 years later (in my case 36) you still look across the table and smile at a true love and friend.

I love everything about this post... I know how hard Sian has worked to get here and I'm so happy for you both that she's finally done! Congratulations!!

Congrats to you and Sian! And thanks for sharing some of your history.

Absolutely wonderful story! Thanks so much for a good news story in the midst of the daily doom and gloom. May you have many more blessed years together!


Congratulations Sian! That is quite an accomplishment on a dream you've worked hard to achieve.

As a married, working mom myself, this post reminds me that every marriage is a true partnership, and that to survive in this crazy world you need a true partner - someone who will support you every step of the way personally and professionally - and someone you commit to (and want to!) give unwavering support to every step of the way.

And it's not always easy, because life isn't easy. But that's what makes the reward and success that much sweeter.

WOW !!! That's VERY cool....And such a poetic delivery..I'm proud to know both of you guys....On a business note your post reinforces the INCREDIBLE power of storytelling..The best copy in the world can't compete with a true story deep from within the heart...This is one of the best I've experienced in a long time.

Congrats Sian...and a lifetime of continued success and happiness to the entire family...

Warm regards,

Congratulations Sian! My wife is a Nurse so I know what kind of a special person it takes to take on that role. Trust me, I do not say that glibly. My Mom was a nurse, as was my sister and one of my nieces (now a lawyer!). I have the utmost respect for Nurses. They take so much flack, yet they do what they do because they truly care. Well done indeed.

And now Todd has someone to put on his band-aids! ;)

Congratualtions Sian!

I'm glad you stuck with it, training and kids sounds like a nightmare, not to mention the dot com thing.

I'm sure Todd can't be easy, but he sounds like a keeper to me.

Thank you all so much for the outpouring of warm support. Sian is truly thankful (and wowed!), as well. She's off to take her FINAL EXAM as I write this, and I know all your kind words put her in the right frame of mind. Thank you!!!

Congrats, Sian - both for your persistence in getting through nursing school and for training your man to be so eloquent in stating his love for you. Awesome all around! :)

That story made me smile.

Congrats to Sian and to you for being so lucky.

Todd, that's a great story! My wife has been working on her bachelor's for 10 (yes 10) years. She moved to the US from France when she was 18, marrying a guy she hardly knew. When we met, she was raising her daughter in a trailer park. She finally moved out and went back to school, but was of course raising my step-daughter and working full time. Unfortunately, unlike Sian, she didn't know what she wanted to study exactly. After several changes she settled on French literature.

Now, several years and school and major changes later, she's finally a senior! It should be about 3 more semesters for her to finish...and we are going to throw the party of a lifetime!

Wow congrats to both or you. Todd your wife is a saint! Great and inspiring post. Thank you for writing!

This is truly an American story of hard work, dedication to one's goals and belief in one's partner. It's the whole 'I believe', 'I have a dream' and 'Give me your tired' all rolled into one.

Thank you for telling it and you are quite a man to be so honest about your learning opportunities. Sian is quite a woman.

Telling these stories is so imperative for our children.

From my deeply touched heart, thank you again!

Congrats to you both, fellow Bard alumni! Behind every good man is a woman (and for those of us who are fortunate, vice versa) and behind every good doc is a nurse! Dr. PR's found his nurse. Sounds like she's the perfect prescription for the Defren household!

Congrats to one spectacular, hard working, remarkable woman. Your hard work & perseverance are finally paying off & so well deserved. I know she won't admit it, but Sian aced her way through each & every semester. All the while raising two bright beautiful well adjusted kids. Sian is the bright star at the top of the tree. And she can cook too!

Note to Susanna: You're wrong, T really is easy.


Thank you so much for trumpeting your wife's achievement in this very public space. I, too, got pregnant way too young and took slightly longer than usual to finish school. I graduated with a double major in May and my daughter will turn 7 tomorrow. What your wife has accomplished is no small feat. Thank you also for being willing to share your personal stories with this community. You remind us all that it's great to be "wicked smaht" but important to also be human.



I love posts that make me smile.

I hope Sian got at least some of her credits back when she came back to Boston.

Good for her for going to school part time.

I read an interesting Newsweek article recently on how few people in the medical field take time for themselves: http://www.newsweek.com/id/170379

Congratulations Sian and thanks, Todd, for sharing the moment with us. Nice to put depth to all this 2D stuff we do.

And Sian, I promise to *try* to not need treatment when/if I'm ever in Boston again. (Don't let your husband have cocktails with me. It could get ugly.)


A wonderful post. Thanks for sharing this with us, Sian is really inspiring, especially for us moms trying to do the balancing act.
Merry Christmas to you both!

Wow, what an outpouring! And all of it well-deserved. Todd has always been so proud of Sian, and this post is a perfect example of why. Congratulations Sian, for finding a way to accomplish so much and still keep our guy on his toes.

Todd, I've always respected the heck out of you, but now I'm convinced that you're a hell of an awesome guy, and your lovely wife is the kind of woman that I admire down to my toes. Thanks for taking the real estate on your blog to share with your readers and colleagues. It's nice to remember what happens beyond these firewalls sometimes.

Cheers to you both.

What a fantastic story and a big congratulations to Sian and yourself for the ride you both have endured - and now with your wife finishing nursing school.

Appreciate the peek into your life and happy for the both of you!

Dear Todd,

I loved your ode to our wonderful daughter-in-law. She is "all that" and more. Dad and I are proud of you as a husband and the father to our "perfect" grandchildren. Congratulations Sian-you deserve all the good things life has to offer-you're the best and we love you all very much.


I'm not sure what to say except "wow." The kind of story you just recounted is so rare and such a tribute to you both. Thanks for letting us peek into your "real" life. Congrats to you both.
Melissa Flynn

Uh oh. I got a tough comment act to follow: "Todd's Mom." :)

Todd, Thanks for sharing! I appreciated your heartwarming story - a rare find these days. I can also relate to the journey. Heh

Sian, Congratulations! Sounds like you could start a blog of your own and have plenty of stories to share. I would be the first to subscribe. :)

Both of you: You're lucky to have each other. Even better: You know it! How cool. If you ever want to share Part 2 of "How We Met," I wouldn't hold it against you. ;-)


It's nice to happen across some genuine good news in the blogosphere for a change.

Congratulations to you and yours.


Sian, I feel like you have been in school as long as I have known you!!!!! CONGRATULATIONS, WONDERFUL SISTER-N-LAW!!! We are so very proud of you. And I have to admit, it's comforting to know we have a caretaker in the family. You have given wonderful advice to our family throughout the years. If someone has a boo boo - ask Sian - she will no how to fix it.

You are a beautiful woman and probably the most modest person I have ever met!! I love you a lot and I am proud of my brother for keeping you happy enough to stick around!!!

You're awesome Sian! Great job, Todd!! I love you all!!!!

What can I say, Todd, except thanks for sharing such a beautiful story. Thanks for breaking from your usual programming to tell us about Sian.


Now,how in the world could I possibly write anything that hasn't been said by all these extremely verbose individuals? So, I will not try.

As for the emotions evoked; not a shot.

Because our relationship has been so long distance for all these years, I can not even say that I was aware of all that has gone on.

But, I CAN say that I am not not even vaguely surprised. The day that Aunt Lydia & I met Sian for the first time, we knew! Little of the details and none of the personal and family history, but, we knew!

And, now, we are absolutely delighted. Hearty congratulations and tons of love and a kiss.

Uncle Artie


Congratulations to Sian on reaching her goal.

And, Todd, what a wonderful way to honor her effort. Your dad forwarded this blog to me. I'm glad to be a member of your clan.

When are you coming back to California?

Love to you and yours,
Great Aunt Berta

You know its funny, I just opened up this box of old high school stuff and there was this address book that had the married name of my best friend in high school. Sian, it's Dizzy Lizzy. I have been thinking about you for the longest and I tried to find you, but under your maiden name. So I googled your married name and here it is. WRITE ME!!! I live on Long Island. chemmrsn@aol.com Yes the name means I teach high school chemistry...picture that

And THAT is the power of SEO. ;)

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