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Love Story: Cathy Stapinski and Terry Erb, Bay Shore

When the Manhattan travel agency I was working for got Internet access in 1998, I became fascinated with the Web, particularly the singles' sites. I was 33 years old, divorced and living in Manhattan. Not having a computer at home, I would come to work early or stay late and browse the sites. The guys I corresponded with were nice but from out-of-state.

I was browsing a new site one evening before going home, when an instant message popped up from "Jeff." He said he was from Long Island. We made some small talk. He seemed nice enough, so I gave him my phone number. When I got to my apartment, my phone was ringing. It was "Jeff." He said, "You can hang up the phone. I have three children." Not a deal breaker for me, and we continued to talk. He was 39 and had also gone through a divorce. He seemed sincere, so I agreed to meet him. I chose a busy public street corner in Manhattan.

On April 1, the night of the date, I was awkwardly waiting on the corner when a cute guy passed by looking at me. "Jeff?" I asked. He shook his head "no" and continued walking, then turned and came back. And so began my playful life with Terry Erb, alias "Jeff." We decided to go to a tapas bar in the West Village. On the way, I stumbled in a pothole. Terry was quick to throw himself down on the ground to lessen my embarrassment. I laughed. Not many guys had made me laugh in the past several years. I was completely comfortable with Terry. I knew he was a good man who wasn't afraid to put himself out there, even if he appeared foolish.

On our second date, I met Terry and his children -- ages 3, 9 and 10 -- for lunch. They were beautiful, well-mannered and smart. After Terry took them home to Seaford, he surprised me by coming back into the city. I told him I had laundry to do, but he didn't mind. He just wanted to spend time with me. How could a girl resist that!

A few months later, we went to the island of Jamaica for his 40th birthday. He smuggled a ring down and proposed to me. Exactly one year after we met, on April 1, 1999, we got married at Tapastry, the tapas bar where we had our first date. Since it was April Fools' Day, we had a hard time convincing our guests that this wedding was for real.

My stepchildren have their father's good character and open heart. They made it easy to be their stepmom. Terry and I also have two children together. I am an only child, and he likes to say, "We met and he filled my life with people!" So true! I am a lucky woman with so many blessings! For our 15th anniversary this year, we treated ourselves to a Willie Nelson concert at Radio City Music Hall. After all these years, Terry still makes me laugh every

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