Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Happily Ever After

This post is epic, as all good love-stories are.

The most wonderful man on the planet is snoozing next to me right now. It's all I can do to not wake him up just to tell him how much I love him.

Meet my DH. He's not grumpy here. His own caption for this is "I always get my happy faces mixed up. This is my "I'm smiling on the inside" face. Can't you tell?" I just love this picture. It captures just the tiniest bit of his sassyness.

As I mentioned, last week, we passed 10 years since our first date.

This was a photo of that evening. We didn't realize it was a "date" at the time, but it sort of ended up that way.

But, let's back up.

DH and I were both part of a small honors program at the University we attended. At the time, the program was small enough, that it was pretty easy for everyone to know everyone else, or at least know OF them. In addition, I personally was pretty visible because I was involved in a lot of different activities and it was a small school.

Our first year, one of the professors held a Halloween party. We both attended. I had taken an interest in DH's roommate, and he had taken an interest in some other girl, and we were both there hoping for some social interaction with the objects of our affection. I saw DH walk in with his roommate, and just sort of took notice of him as "So and so's tall roommate." For most of the next year, that's who DH was to me.

Fast forward to the end of the year. The program was putting together a welcoming program for the next year's first year students. I and a friend coordinated the part of the program that would pair a returning student with a new student and I hosted an informational meeting. DH attended and signed up to be a mentor. By this time I'd long lost interest in the first boy. Something DH said or did that night put him on my radar, but not strongly so. But enough that even now I remember where he was sitting and I remember interacting with him, even if I don't remember about what.

We all went home for the summer and came back a week early to welcome the new students. Well, we were allowed in the dorms, but the cafeteria wasn't open. The dorms had kitchens but they weren't stocked with anything, and no cooking (not even toasters or microwaves) was allowed in the rooms, so most people didn't have pots, pans, cooking utensils, etc. Plus, a lot didn't have cars so we quickly we figured out that dinner was going to be a challenge. I volunteered to cook for everyone in our dorm kitchen.

Somehow I got delayed so I put a sign on the kitchen door that told folks I'd be a little late and off I went to the store. I came back with the groceries and discovered that my sign had been hidden and everyone was waiting--patient, but hungry. I felt like a terrible hostess and quickly set to flying around the kitchen. DH came up to me and told me to slow down, chill out, and then he said, "You do so much, you make other people tired!" I thought to myself, "What a jerk! But what an observant jerk!" Something inside me said "has this guy been paying attention to me? I'm flattered and offended at the same time." His honesty and skills of observation were honestly the first two things that impressed me about him, not to mention the fact that he signed up to be a mentor in the first place. Dinner otherwise went off without a hitch.

About that time, his roommate (same one) developed an interest in my roommate. The culture at our small Christian College was definitely one of group activities at the beginning of a relationship, rather than jumping right into dating. So we received lots of invitations from the boys for bonfires, volleyball games, movies, etc. DH's path and mine often had occasion to cross. I discovered that DH was funny, and sweet, and intelligent, and gentle. I wanted to know more!

I began devising ways to "accidentally" bump into DH. Our dorms were at separate ends of the campus, but if I walked the REALLY long way to class, I might pass him. One morning a week we had classes in the same building and I'd happen to "accidentally" walk near his, even though it wasn't at all in my path. We began attending the same church (this part really WAS unintentional on both our parts) but once I discovered that, on Sunday mornings I'd always sit in his eyeline--not conspicuously so, but just close enough that I knew he could see me. At the cafeteria, if I happened to see him, I'd do the same--sit a few tables away, but where he'd have to pass me by to leave. I planned "group" events, and while other people showing up was nice, it was his attendance I was interested in. DH likes to joke that I stalked him. I say, "Hey, it worked, didn't it?" We also ended up together on a team that was going on a missions trip. This one was also unintentional on both our parts--it was with an organization I'd worked with for 5 years already, and his high school buddy was coordinating the trip. But in all the meetings, we also had a lot of time to see each other.

As I said, we attended the same church. He and I were some of the only two with cars, so we often coordinated with each other to shuttle the other students back and forth. As such we ended up back on campus around the same time, and usually the whole gang of us ended up going to lunch together in the cafeteria.

Sunday dinners in the cafeteria were AWFUL. They made this TERRIBLE pizza that no one ate. The next day, it was out as leftovers. The second day, they'd cut it up into pizza breadsticks. Then it would finally show up either in soup or as croutons. Seriously, the stuff was BAD. Anyway, we're sitting around lunch one Sunday afternoon and I mention to my roommates that I can't stomach one more pizza night, and would they like to cook dinner that night? I definitely had an ulterior motive. I wanted Todd to come have dinner. Out of the corner of my eye, I noticed the guys nudging each other with a "hey, maybe we can get in on this." Perfect. My plan was working. I coyly asked "do any of you want to come." Their hands shot up in the air. DH came, along with two other guys, and joined my 2 roommates and me.

The next week, we were doing the lunch thing again, and DH said something like "hey, do you think we could do that dinner thing again tonight?" SURE! Then he asked if he could bring some more guys. Sure! The more, the merrier. I think we had 5 guys that night.

The same thing continued, week after week. Soon, we were up to almost all of his roommates (9 total) and their girlfriends. Cooking for 20ish sounds like torture to most, but I LOVED it. Sunday dinners were the highlight of my week. They went on for more than a year, and they're still one of my favorite college memories.

This is part of the gang--DH and I were a couple by this point.

So by this point, I have tons of interest in DH. So I planned another one of my "group" events. The honors program was having a Convocation. I shot out an email to a bunch of people, inviting them to go out for dessert afterward. We started out with several committed. But the convocation went long. And then the restaurant I planned it for either didn't exist or was closed or something. And then the second restaurant didn't have room for us all or something. For whatever reason, we moved locations several times, and each time, the group dwindled. We finally ended up at Denny's, and there were just 5 of us left (see photo above). We had a nice dessert. Eventually, DH and I ended up alone together talking. It was October 5th, 2000.

I left within the week to go visit family out of state. I remember taking that picture with me and telling my relatives that I thought I'd found "the one."

A couple of weeks later, DH called and asked me if I'd like to go see "Remember the Titans" with him and some friends. I missed the call but he left me a message on my machine. I checked it and was so bummed that I'd missed it, but called him back to see if it was still an option. It was. So, he picked me up in his little Honda Civic. Crammed in the backseat were 3 of his roommates. I found out later that none of them wanted to go--he basically told them they had to because he wanted to take me out, but didn't want it to look too date-ish. They lived in a quad. I joked that you didn't actually date one of the guys, you dated the quad. It's amazing that I remember anything about the movie at all--I was just so tickled pink that I was sitting next to this sweet man in a movie theatre.

We did a lot more of these group activities throughout the fall. We didn't call it dating yet, but it was pretty obvious to the entire rest of the planet that we only had eyes for each other.

Our Missions Trip was over Christmas break. We had borrowed a truck from a friend, and we rented a van. We also weren't leaving until a day or two after the dorms closed, so my mom said we could all stay with them. We had an extra car, and we couldn't leave it on campus over the break, so DH and I made a plan to drive it up the night before we left and drop it off, then ride back down together so that we could bring another car the next day with the rest of the team. Secretly, this was also my plan to get to introduce DH to my family.

He walks in, and I'm literally IN THE PROCESS of introducing him to my mom, when my childhood dog has a heart attack and dies. Talk about the worst timing ever. My mom and I were both distraught so my mom basically apologized for making such a request of a stranger, but would DH be so kind as to pick up the dog and go with her to the vet? I later learned that both DH and I thought it was all over--he thought we'd blame him for killing the dog (or at least forever associate him with the dog's death), and I thought he'd think my mom was crazy for making him pick the dog up. I was sitting in the waiting room. He put his arm around me, I put my head on his shoulder, and 10 seconds later we both pulled back with the "uh, is this allowed?" awkwardness. We went back to school that night, left a few days later for our missions trip. The trip was fruitful and productive, and there were also definitely a lot of sparks flying. We came home and then each went our respective ways for the remaining 5 weeks of vacation. We corresponded a little bit over email during our break but this was 2000 and email wasn't as big of a deal back then.

I came back to campus and a couple of his roommates were already back and invited me to come watch a movie with them. I thought it sounded like fun, so I did. I actually had no idea DH was back yet because he wasn't due for a couple of more days. I remember walking into his dorm lobby and hearing someone call my name from upstairs. I looked up and there he was. It literally took my breath away to see him and dawned on me how much I'd missed him. I was gone, hook, line, and sinker.

But for the life of me, I couldn't figure out why DH wouldn't make things "official." We'd never had a DTR to this point. We were dating--we just weren't calling it that. No one else could have possibly pursued either one of us if they'd wanted to. I later found out that DH told one or two of his roommates to back off when they developed an interest in me. But still we lived in ambiguity.

I remember lying on a couch one night with my head in my best friend's lap just sobbing about DH. I couldn't figure out what was going on with him, and if he really cared for me or not and what his intentions were. I remember saying "I'm probably all worked up over a situation that doesn't exist!" My friend consoled me, but I later found out, was secretly laughing at me. I was really the only one who was unclear about DH's affections for me.

DH's parents came to town and he invited me to go out to lunch with them. I thought it would be them and him and all his friends, but it was just me. I guess either his mom invited them, or they wanted to come or something, and he uninvited them all. Then I was REALLY confused. A "double date" with the parents? Apparently, he wanted me to meet them before making anything "official." The meeting went well and they went back to Arizona.

By that time, I was frustrated and tired of waiting so I decided that I was done waiting and I was moving on. It was now almost February, we'd been doing this "in between thing" since October, and nothing was changing. Apparently, other people decided it was taking too long, too. Some gals in his group from the honors program gave him an earful, and a guy I barely even knew pulled him aside and told him to make a decision and commit, or move on because the in between-ness wasn't fair.

I guess DH decided it was time for action. He invited me to do a puzzle with him--something we'd done before. I agreed, but was only moderately interested in attending at that point--I had mentally begun to divest myself of the situation. We met in the Student Union Building. My office was in the same building and I had a staff meeting that night. We started on the puzzle, worked a while, and I excused myself for my meeting. When I came back, I was surprised at how much of the puzzle he'd completed in my absence. As we were doing the puzzle, I had noticed that the pieces had writing on the back. My dad was an avid puzzle doer when I was growing up and had many double-sided puzzles. I figured this was one of those and didn't think anything of it. We got down to the last piece and DH insisted that I put it in. Then he casually asked, "Do you want to see what's on the back?" Not thinking anything of it, I said something elegant like, "Um, sure. Whatever."

In one swift motion he literally whips the completed puzzle off the table, flips it over and slaps it back down, without any of the pieces falling apart. I later learned that he had done the puzzle several times in his room and practiced this move. He'd also had his roommates come help him finish the puzzle while I was in my meeting so that he could speed the process along.

On the back of the puzzle was a poem, written in french. It's this sweet poem where the author asks his lady friend if she wants to continue down the journey of life hand in hand and see where God will take them. I speak french, but DH doesn't. So, I *honestly* thought that this poem was just something pre-printed on to the puzzle, as maybe a declaration of love from the puzzle's artist to his love or something. And again, by this time I'd already given up hope of DH actually moving our relationship forward. So I read the poem, translate it for DH and then just sort of sit there. I notice that he's looking at me with this really expectant look on his face that says, "Well??" Then the light-bulb goes off. The poem is for me, from DH. I read it again, and I meekly nod my head "yes" to DH.

I said "hold on, I want to write this down." I jumped up from the table and ran back to my office for pen and paper. Little did I know, the roommates are out in the bushes outside, videotaping all of this. Since all they could do was see and not hear, to them it looked like I had read the poem, jumped up, and ran away! They came in upset, ready to tell DH was a jerk I was to trounce his heart like that. He quickly told them all was not how it looked and shooed them back outside. (I've never seen the video and they accidentally recorded over it later).

DH walked me back through campus. I kept running in to people I know, wanting to tell them what had just happened. They all knew! Apparently, his plan took the help of several people (translating the poem was a big one), and additionally, his roommates had essentially barred people from coming into the Student Union, and explained to people what was happening. And again, I was the only one truly clueless as to what DH's intentions were. Most people responded with "I know" or "duh," or "It's about time!" It was February 5, 2001, 4 months to the day exactly after our first "date."

I think this is the first photo I have of us as a couple. This was in March or April sometime, on a group date with the guys from his floor (a University tradition called Get Your Roommate a Date). Not surprisingly, his floor went with a Godfather/Mafia theme. Like I said-you get one, you get them all.

We courted for another year and a half, and he proposed on August 2, 2002. We were married on June 28, 2003. I definitely put myself in his line of sight at the beginning, but left it up to him to actually pursue a relationship. The joke in our family is that I chased him until he caught me.

I thought I loved him then. And I did. But never could I have imagined where our life would be 10 years later.

He is all the things a good man ought to be: godly, loving, kind, generous, gentle, sweet, patient, faithful, humble, honest, protective, and hard working. He walks with the Lord and is upright and of integrity. He's also exceptionally intelligent, industrious, resourceful, insightful, and intuitive. He's gifted with wisdom and his instincts are often correct. And he is the silliest man I know, which I just love. He gives me more deep belly laughs than just about anyone I know. Sometimes it's a clever, witty sort of silly, and other times it's a shamelessly dancing some dance he just made up in the middle of the floor at his best friend's wedding sort of silly. I can't wait for he and Matthew to be silly together.

One of my favorite things about him is how humble he is and how pays attention to the little things in life. It's that same quiet observation that drew me to him in the first place. He's NOT a detail-oriented person, but yet he does the little things, faithfully and quietly. He's always done the "guy" jobs like taking out the trash, maintaining the cars, etc. But these days, he does all the jobs. I can't remember the last time I pumped my own gas. My car "magically," never runs out. He changes the sheets on the bed. He does the laundry. He goes to the grocery store. He mows the grass. He does the dishes. He goes to the bank. He feeds the dog. He cleans the house. All while suggesting to me that I go lie down, and asking if he can bring me anything or do anything for me, and all after working a hard day in a manual-labor job in his own business, in the Arizona sunshine. He's one of only two deacons at our church and the only deacon who can well-attend to the physical aspects of the job. He's also the church treasurer. And until recently when I asked him to step down because he was getting overwhelmed, was an Awana leader. He gives and gives and gives, and then gives some more.

He's all the other things a girl wants too--loving and sappy and romantic and loyal, in addition to possessing of all of the other fruits and character qualities I already mentioned. Lots of guys get the big picture right. But DH gets the little things, too. He just loves well. I love him for who he is as a man in general, and who he is as my husband specifically. You take me out of the equation, and he's still the most lovable person I know. I never want to just love him because of how he loves me. He's perfectly and wholly lovable, completely in his own right.

He is quite literally, the most wonderful man I know. I love you, Hunny! Thank you for being the man you are. Thank you for choosing me.

And thanks to all the rest of you for reading our story and indulging me while I brag all over my DH. :)


  1. You made my morning cup of coffee delightful! Thank you for sharing. God is so good to have designed such a wonderfully perfect mate for you. Can't wait to see what else He has in store for your family. It only gets better and better :))

  2. Ps... you were on my heart last night and hubby and I were praying for you. Hope you have a wonderful day today. :))

  3. Thank you so much for sharing, what a beautiful tribute! God is GOOD!! :)

  4. This was the sweetest thing to read! I never knew your love story and I thoroughly enjoyed reading it.

  5. Wow! What a great story! I'm so glad to get to hear all the back-story of how you all came to be together - love the puzzle idea!!!

  6. Oh my! I told my myself I would start reading this and come back as I needed to start Math lessons with the kiddos, however, I shooed them away to work on something else so I could finish your courtship story! It was BEAUTIFUL Jen. Matthew is blessed to have parents who love and adore each other so very much. Thank you for sharing it with all of us!

  7. Thanks for sharing your love story. You are right... it is epic!

  8. I'd heard most of the parts of this story before, but it was cute to read the whole thing with your commentary.

    "You didn't date one of the guys, you dated the quad." Heehee, so true! And it was even more fun if your significant other then had a brother who lived in the next quad over...

  9. Thanks Jen for making me smile and bringing back so many memories...one of the things I've always loved about you is that you never hid your feelings for Todd and weren't afraid to pine after the one you knew was right for you...I rember hearing on F. retreats the frustration and the joy in your face when you glowingly told the puzzle story, and the photo of him in your room pre-dating where you stroked his face and articulated the many things that made him perfect. Thank you for reminding me of all the things I love about my man in the process of reliving your love story!


  10. Wow! 10 years. I can hardly believe it has been that long since the first time we met and then promptly watched Todd fall head over heels! :)

  11. Thanks for sharing your sweet and beautiful story. Wishing you both a lifetime of happiness together.

  12. Well, that brings back some memories. Was it L. and I that gave him an 'earful'? Sounds familiar...I'm sure we were nice :)

  13. Yep, Jenn! It was you!

    Amie-I don't even remember that!