Day 1: Mike Garner gets a surprise in a bottle on Oct. 1. It's a barrel-aged oat wine made by Minnesota-based Surly Brewing Company.
"He loves beer, so I bought him a really good one," says his wife, Anita Garner.
On Thursday, Nov. 29, Mike will turn 60. It's one of those milestones that can beat up on a person. Sixty? No freakin' way. It doesn't really bother Mike, though. He doesn't think about it much. He does realize that in a few years, he will qualify for Social Security and Medicare. He doesn't feel old enough.
The idea of aging bothers Anita maybe a bit more. But she has a plan. She loves Mike, so much it makes her tear up. They've been married for 31 years and their three kids are all grown up and living on their own.
Her plan is this: Every day, for 60 days, she is going to do something wonderful for Mike.
She's been planning it for a year.
The Surly wine-style beer is the first.
Day 2: A wooden chessboard.
"It's something we've talked a lot about learning," Anita explains.
She has decided to document every day of this amazing 60-day declaration of love for the guy she calls "my big beautiful man."
After 31 years, some couples might despise being in the same room together. These two even have a joint Facebook account. They first met in Wadena, when he was assigned to be her electronics tutor at college.
Day 3: Anita takes Mike to St. Paul's Lutheran Church in Lowry for a church meatball dinner with a pair of good friends.
Day 4: This one is kind of a joke. It commemorates the many moves the family made over the years. Mike's job as an IT project manager brought them to Saudi Arabia, to Denmark, to California, to Fargo and Minneapolis and multiple other homes. It was 2006 when they moved to Alexandria. To remember all those moves, Anita arranged for him to help her dad move to a new apartment.
"Thank you Mike," she tells him online.
Day 5: Anita and Mike do adult foster care in their Alexandria home. When they leave town, they line up a skilled caregiver to step in for them. In the morning, Anita tells Mike to get ready. They're going to a Lynyrd Skynyrd concert at the Xcel Energy Center in St. Paul.
Mike is shocked. As a musician who performs locally, he's been playing Skynyrd songs for years but has never been to one of their concerts.
The days click by. Mike gets a DQ treat, homemade soup, the day off to do whatever he wants, a new hairstyle with blonde highlights. "Like I'm in a boy band," he jokes.
Day 13 delivers a whopper: the TV of Mike's dreams, a 70-inch high definition 4K television.
The next day Anita makes Mike a pan of homemade lasagna. This is something of a stunner since Mike does most of the cooking.
Day 15: To thank Mike for all the times he's created wonderful bath experiences for her, Anita turns the tables, bringing together Epsom salts, candles and beer on ice for his own soaker.
The days that follow are filled with dinners, outings with friends and family, a hike up Inspiration Peak. One day, to commemorate the many times Anita shoveled the walks while Mike was out of town for work, she gave him about a half dozen pairs of gloves, some of which were perfect for-you guessed it-shoveling.
"Some of them are emotional and some of them are funny," she says.
One gift intended to be funny really wasn't: An expensive eye cream. Mike had eye surgery to correct droopy eyelids. Afterward, the last thing he wanted was to dab eye cream on his sore, swollen eyes.
Day 21: A Nut Goodie and a peanut butter cup. As a kid, Mike would spend his allowance at the nearby corner store, getting himself a 5-cent peanut butter cup. His mom would give him a dime to buy her a 10-cent Nut Goodie, her favorite candy. "The good stuff," she called it. Anita never met Mike's mom, who died when Mike was 19. She didn't meet Mike until he was 26.
Day 25: A white Pyrex cup with a decorative scroll around the top. Mike's go-to cup for years disappeared during one of their many moves. Anita scoured antique shops and thrift stores around Alexandria and Sauk Centre before finally finding its exact match online.
Day 27: A set of seven books arrives for Mike. They are classics and include stories of Sherlock Holmes, one of his all-time favorite reads.
Day 29: Amazon delivers a Donny Osmond record. Back when Anita and Mike were dating, he and a buddy would teasingly sing "Puppy Love" for her. She was a big Donny Osmond fan.
Day 30: Thanks to Facebook, the world now knows that Mike is not great about removing guitar picks from his pockets. Anita returns 73 that she has collected over the years from the wash.
Day 31: Halloween. Anita and Mike don hot dog vendor costumes she made and head downtown to hand out candy on Broadway. Mike has never done much volunteering, but discovers he loves it and wants to do more. A couple weeks later, they show up at the Echo Press, bringing items for the newspaper's Mitten Tree. All items will go to people who need mittens, hats and scarves. An astute employee hurries back to alert the news team.
Anita and Mike are into a fitness program called CrossFit. On Day 37, a pair of matching Nobull training shoes arrive, one for him and one for her. She snaps a photo of Mike kissing his pair. Nine days later, she arranges an hour-and-a-half personal training session for him with a weight training coach. For nearly the whole time, they worked on techniques that will help Mike lift more weight. That, he says, was one his favorite gifts.
"For an old man like me," he says, "you have to be careful."
The spoiling doesn't stop. Mike spends a weekend in Connecticut with their youngest daughter, Anna, and their grandson. It's a few days of yoga, beer and shopping.
Anita gets Mike's Jeep detailed. She gives him warm winter boots. He gets a 3,000-piece jigsaw puzzle of Amsterdam, where work frequently took them. Anita and their grandson, Jayden, make him mini-pies to honor the ones Mike used to make with his grandmother. Neighbors bring over a cake. Anita gets his piano professionally tuned, the first time in 25 years. He goes shooting with his sons.
Day 56: Mike receives a Vikings football jersey with Garner and the number 60 on the back. He knows what's ahead, because Anita told him the day before. They're heading to the Vikings-Packers game, where she has gotten them awesome seats at U.S. Bank Stadium.
She's told him because the constant surprises were "getting a little too much," she concedes. Never knowing what the day would hold was proving somewhat stressful for him. In fact, she has spilled the beans on everything else she has planned.
Now they get to see the Vikings defeat the Packers 24-17. It was, they agree, a "fantastic experience."
Day 60: Thursday is Mike's 60th birthday. They'll meet friends for a mutual birthday. And the bar is officially raised for every other spouse in the area.