Blah, blah, blah, stuff happened, I found myself 24 and single.

My dad (who reads this blog, but I am going to say this anyway) was a super-weirdo about that sort of thing and started immediately panicking that I would become an old maid. He kept trying to find guys with which to set me up on dates. It was horrifying. Mostly to get him off my case, I agreed to go to the young adult volunteer meeting of the youth group that I had attended as a high schooler.

I’ll just take a minute to say here that my parents have a very, very happy marriage. They are really compatible and have always set a beautiful example of love and companionship for my sister and me. Which is why it was always so frustrating to me that the relationships I had been in always seemed like so much work. I had dated guys for months or even years, but I felt like there was always so much miscommunication and even though they were nice guys, it just always seemed hard. Too hard. 

So that’s where I was when I showed up at this volunteer meeting. As I walk in, I pass this guy standing on the front steps and I just get this crazy feeling about him. I’ve never seen him before in my life. He’s got a Marine Corps high and tight and he’s wearing a bright yellow t-shirt and tapered jeans. It was 2000, which was too late for that to be in, and too early for it to be back. So, clearly, no other girl had gotten to this guy and fixed him up. He was still in the original packaging.

And he was very tall and kind of gangly, which I liked, and had very, very blue eyes, which I also liked. But they were looking at me from behind a pair of these:

Marines call them BCGs for Birth Control Glasses, since they apparently keep a guy (well, most guys) from getting any attention from the ladies. Recruits at boot camp have to wear them. Officers who work at the Marine Corps Recruit Depot do not wear them. Except ironically while off-duty, which is what he was doing. (And way before the hipsters, I might add.)

Once the meeting got started, Bob, our youth minister had everyone go around and introduce themselves with their name and where they were from. He said his name was Jim and he was from St. Brigid. Apparently people from Chicago explain which neighborhood they are from by the parish, but people in San Diego do not do that, so I was left wondering if he was some sort of homeless person who lived in a church.

But by that point it wouldn’t have mattered. I knew I was going to marry him. I don’t think I had even spoken to him yet, but I went home feeling really, really strongly that this was the man God intended me to be with. 

I just didn’t know what to do about it. Because, as much as my father was distraught at the idea of my being 24 years old and not having a boyfriend, he had also been very clear my whole life about the fact that nice girls do not call boys.

So, I decided to go ahead and volunteer, obviously, and then I just did my best to get in his way a lot. (I told you guys I was awkward.) So, if he needed to go through a door, he was going to have to go past me, and if he needed to get down an aisle, he was going to have to squeeze past me to do it. It worked somewhat, especially since the youth group was a pretty big time commitment. The meetings were on Mondays, plus there was a prayer group on Thursdays and a teen Mass on Sundays. So, by a couple of weeks in we had at least had a couple of conversations, in which I got to learn that he had made a policy of never dating other young adult volunteers so as to avoid any awkwardness that might interfere with the mission of forming young Catholics. What is this guy’s problem — amiright?

It was time to pull out the big guns. It was the first week of October, maybe a month after that first volunteer meeting. After one of the Thursday nights, I had managed to be in his way again and for lack of anything else to say, blurted out that I was having a pumpkin carving party on Sunday and that he should come. 

I was not having a pumpkin carving party, of course, since that’s not a thing. Also, it was weeks before Halloween and it is HOT in San Diego in the fall and it you carve your pumpkins more than a day or two before Halloween this happens to them:

Seriously, it is really gross. 

So, when he said he would come I had two days to clean my house, which . . . no, I’m not even going to try to describe my failings as a single housekeeper. Suffice to say it needed some work. And I had to find some other people to come to the “party.” And find a place that was selling pumpkins.

But who needs sleep? I tidied up and found some pumpkins and some people AND made my grandfather’s awesome German Spatzele Kartoffel Zuppa.

The people I found to come were these awesome girls who were fellow volunteers and also . . . my parents came. I thought I was being pretty stealthy about it all, but a few weeks later when I brought up Jim to my dad and mentioned that he had met him at my party, my dad said, “Yeah, I kind of got the feeling that was the whole point of that party.” Terrific.

I have to say, I really recommend the fake party route, because it totally worked. Well, not totally. But it helped. The next weekend a bunch of us young adults were supposed to meet up for a beach bonfire, but it was raining (which, as you may have heard, it NEVER does in San Diego, but it was). So I broke the rules and called Jim to ask if he thought it would still be going on, since he lived many, many blocks closer to the ocean than I did. I kept him on the phone for long enough that it became dinner time and after many, many hints about how hungry I was and how I had no food in the house, he suggested that we go get some dinner.

I do not let him call this our first date though, because he had been so reprogrammed by the weird dating culture at Harvard that he didn’t dare offer to pay for my dinner for fear of offending my independent female spirit or whatever. We split the check. I still tease him about it.

But that was pretty much that. The next week he invited me to the Marine Corps Ball. And if I didn’t love him already, but I’m pretty sure I already did, there would have been no resisting a man in his dress blues:

Soon, we were seeing each other every day. I had two cats and (as I mentioned before) poor housekeeping skills and he’s very allergic to cats, so after the fake party he didn’t come over to my house anymore. I’d go hang out at his apartment after work every day and he would cook dinner for us and we’d talk and laugh and it was all so easy and fun. And so much different than it had ever felt spending time with anyone else.

All the while, he was working full time and doing this crazy mandatory Marine Corps martial arts course (in which he broke a rib) and he was studying for and taking the GMAT and applying to business school because he was considering getting out of the Marines.

I had met his family when they came out for the Change of Command in which he took over a company of Marines at MCRD:

  
It was before the fake party and the not-first-date but his mom and I had gotten along swimmingly (we still do!). I already knew he was it for me, but he is the responsible one, he’s the one who thinks things through. So I figured we’d date for a while like people usually do. But he had been thinking about the future. He knew that if he did go to business school the next fall he wanted me to go with him. And he realized that marriage ought to be the priority decision, not one that you make as a result of other things that happen to be going on in your life.

So, a few days before Christmas, 8 weeks after we started dating, he took me down to the steps of the church and asked me if I wanted an early Christmas present. If you know me, you’ll know that I did. I do. I always do. He handed me a very heavy box wrapped in bright blue paper. When I opened it, I found . . . an ammo can. Fortunately for me, I had been on a white water rafting trip, during which I learned how to open ammo cans. And inside, I found a little box with an engagement ring in it.

I was flabbergasted. He got down on one knee and asked me to marry him and, of course, I said “yes!”

His parents, and his brother and sister were in town for Christmas, and they had been in on it and so had my parents and sister. (He had asked my dad for my hand and everything!) So we met up with all of them back at my parents’ house and I reenacted the big box-opening:

There are so many things I found beautiful about the whole thing. I love that we had a whirlwind romance, it’s just so darn romantic. But the thing is, he had been saving up for that ring for years. Long, long before he ever met me, he started putting away money every month — for me. We were able to be spontaneous, because he had been planning for that possibility.

   
So, eight months later, on August 11, 2001 we got married in San Diego:

As soon as we got back from our honeymoon, we moved to Northern California so Jim could start business school. Ten months after that, baby Jack was born. And today, twelve years and six (almost seven) children and three jobs and seven moves and one cancer fight and two beautiful faith journeys and a million laughs and far fewer tears later we are celebrating our wedding anniversary.

I couldn’t imagine my life without him. Not since the moment I first saw him. I know it’s not that way for everyone. But for me, love at first sight was real. I knew that he was my path to heaven and my only hope for happiness here on Earth.

And here we are today:

Same dress as last week, since the husband (and Chicago) hadn’t seen it yet. It’s from Motherhood Maternity, but I can’t find the shrug that goes with it, so this is an old sweater from Gap. I still like that it’s cotton instead of stretch jersey but I did have to iron it this morning. Blerg.
Funny story about that dress, and the shoes (which are from Zappos), you can read about it here. The story about the cross is better. You can’t really see it, but it’s the one I’m wearing in the wedding photo. My grandmother was wearing a silver and pearl cross in her wedding photos and I really wanted to wear hers for my wedding, but when we went looking for it, my grandmother realized that it had been lost in a move. I was really disappointed, then really thrilled when Jim found one almost just like it and gave it to me as a wedding present! (He also gave me the BCGs.) Bump: 24 weeks.
This is what it looked like behind the scenes of this photo shoot!

I’m joining up with Grace’s How We Met link-up, so if you liked this, you’re going to want to head over there and spend the rest of the day tearing up over at least 120 other stories of true love! And I’m also linking up with the ladies at Fine Linen and Purple for yet another What I Wore Sunday (just as soon as that’s possible).

Have a beautiful day!