How We Met
Michael and I met in November of 2013. He was studying at the University of Missouri’s journalism school, and I was getting my undergraduate degree from Kennesaw State University in Georgia. However, we are from the same area of Georgia, and hit it off at a mutual friend’s party and connected on social media shortly after he went back to school.
That winter break, we talked and talked about a seemingly endless amount of subjects, from weird and nerdy to fun and imaginative. I didn’t know at the time, though, that he was recovering from a surgery on a torn ACL and was on pain meds for many of our first conversations. Thankfully, the weird, fun and imaginative conversations didn’t go away after he recovered. We continued to talk even though he was back in Missouri, 700+ miles away. The next spring break we decided to meet up again.
I wasn’t sure if it was technically a date until, during the middle of teasing each other about our poor mini-golf skills, he kissed me and the rest of the evening was an absolute dream. I’d never had so much fun or laughed so much or connected with someone right away the way we had. When he came back over the summer to intern for CNN, we continued to date and I fell deeply in love with him.
Because of the distance between our schools, though, we decided to, at least outwardly, take things slowly. The next year, he would graduate from Mizzou and could go anywhere in the country to be a TV reporter, (which could have meant the end of our budding romance). We continued to text each other every day and FaceTime at least once a week, saying to our friends that we weren’t really dating, but we both knew that something truly special was growing. I constantly worried that I would lose him and was in a horrible state of anxiety and sadness during his job search in the spring of 2014.
I consider it an act of God’s grace and undeserved favor on me that he was offered a job in Montgomery, Alabama as a political reporter and took it. Over the next three years, he would have opportunities in his career that he was incredibly blessed to come by, I would graduate from college only to enroll in a Master’s program for a degree that was opposite to my undergraduate degree, and we would see each other almost every weekend. We gave ourselves the freedom to fall in love, built a solid foundation and became inseparable, the best of friends and soulmates. This year his contract ended, and he took another TV reporting job in Phoenix, Arizona (one of the top 15 media markets in the nation). By the time he moved, we both had known for a long time that we wanted to spend the rest of our lives together.
How They Asked
I live in Atlanta, so Michael and I only get to see each other about once a month. This December, it was his turn to visit, and I got him for a whole week.
He had mentioned that he wanted to redo our first three dates on Thursday, Friday and Saturday, so I was convinced that he would propose at the end of our third date. The issue with this is that we started dating in the summer and Atlanta was experiencing nasty wintery weather, so our three dates would be spent *outside* playing mini golf, *outside* walking around Centennial Park and then Piedmont Park and finally, *outside* hiking Stone Mountain, which is currently Snow Mountain.
Right away, I was a bit apprehensive about spending so much time out in the cold (I can hear the Northerners laughing, but I’m not used to being out in 25 degree weather all day, so give me a break, LOL!), but I was determined to go along with Michael’s suggestions and not screw up anything he might have planned.
Thursday rolled around, and thankfully, we ended up heading to TopGolf. The heaters are endlessly warm and the beer cheese dip is 75 percent of the reason I like going there. However, now I worried about looking and feeling gross and cold for when he inevitably proposed to me after the third date on Snow Mountain. Imagine how much better the surprise was on Friday.
I work as an engineer at a software company and had invited him to lunch to meet several of my coworkers about a week before, since he wouldn’t be around for the company holiday party. When it was time to leave, Michael addressed my coworkers and said that they should all go, but he followed it up with, “Except for you. I have permission to take you out for the rest of the day.”
My heart dropped into my stomach and I was in absolute disbelief. “No way!” I argued with him. He told me he’d called my supervisor for permission, but I didn’t believe him, so I made us walk back to the office to make sure. Bless my people-pleasing heart.
He didn’t lie, the supervisor gave me a smirk telling me that I did, in-fact, have permission to go. We climbed into his car and drove the few miles in Atlanta traffic for almost an hour to Centennial Park, during which I felt sure that I was going to throw up, and during which I kept noticing Michael acting more impulsively and nervously than he normally does (random outbursts of noise, which is more of a *me* thing, higher impatience with traffic than usual, etc.) At some point, I calmed down, convinced myself it wouldn’t happen at Centennial Park with tons of people around and a bunch of construction going on, and made myself relax and enjoy my time with him. Who cared if he proposed that day or not? I was off from work, my favorite person was with me, and we had the whole evening together.
See, on our second date ever, we spent the day going to the CNN Center (where he would start his internship the following week), followed by an evening in Piedmont park laying on a hillside, talking and laughing for hours. However, we decided to go to the same area (Centennial Park) but go to a different attraction we had never been to, the World of Coke.
When we arrived, we found World of Coke swarming with buses and buses of children on field trips. The tour through the museum would have taken too long for Michael’s taste, he said, so instead, we rented some Bird motor scooters and zoomed up to the Atlanta SkyView ferris wheel (by the way, those scooters are terrifying if you’re clumsy and haven’t ridden one before). The SkyView ride probably only took fifteen minutes, so we spent the remaining hour or so walking around Centennial Park, taking photos, checking out the under-construction CNN Center, and waiting for hot chocolate for about 20 minutes. I had completely forgotten we planned on going to Piedmont Park, but was excited to see the beautiful fall colors and quiet scenery of the place where we first started to fall in love.
Aside from Michael: So this was plan C for me. Traffic took too long to go to the famous aquarium.. we didn’t have time with all the children to tour the World of Coke… so we essentially had to kill time… right when we were ready to go to the location… I get a text from the photographer asking me to stall for another 20 minutes for so they could find a lighter they dropped for the candles… sooooooooo yeah… had to become “cold” and get hot chocolate… not my smoothest moment.
We arrived at the park and it had begun to mist. Michael grabbed the umbrella and we began walking (after he randomly put on a suit jacket, which I definitely thought was weird, since he doesn’t normally wear one over his casual clothes). Huddled under the umbrella, I was enjoying the stroll and the scenery. We came across the place where on our second date, he and I sat on a hill overlooking the park, talking and laughing for hours. Since the ground was wet and muddy, we continued past that spot toward Piedmont Park’s lake, scenic bridge and stone gazebo.
I noticed a photographer far ahead of us on the bridge, but she was photographing another couple, so I didn’t think she could be there for us. We strolled along the bridge, and moments later, I looked over the edge of the stone gazebo and my heart stopped. I could see a large bouquet of stargazer lilies, my favorite flower, poking out from the floor of the gazebo. At that moment, my brain immediately short-circuited and I felt myself tearing up and heard myself wailing, “Michaaaaeeelllll….is thissss for meeee???”
Michael pulled me closer to him as we crossed the footbridge into the gazebo, where a beautiful picnic with champagne, the lilies, cheese and crackers was waiting for us. “Do you remember what we both said to each other after our second date?” he asked.
I, in my spastic, sobbing state, couldn’t remember anything, so I choked out, “No…what?”
We stepped into the gazebo and Michael set down the umbrella and pulled me close to him. I was shaking so badly that I held onto him for dear life. He was getting choked up, but he looked into my eyes and said, “It was the first time…we both admitted we had butterflies for each other…”
I was definitely blacking out, but he continued, “Even when plans go wrong, like today, when it’s raining out and we have to change things, when we have to sit out in traffic for an hour… you still find a way to make me laugh and smile and somehow have a good time so…” he pulled away from me and got down on one knee, and pulled a ring box from his pocket. He opened it and said, “Will you marry me?”
I was weeping, but as soon as I could draw a breath, I burst out, “Yes!” He placed the ring on my badly trembling finger, and I took the opportunity to attack him in a hug. At some point I registered camera clicks and was immediately grateful that (a) I’d worn a cute outfit, (b) I’d taken the time to put on makeup properly that day, and (c) that we would have memories of this moment forever.
Michael Aside no 2: Again, this all was plan B at Piedmont. The weather was pretty miserable… the original plan was to propose at a spot near the gazebo with a view of the lake and Skyline… then after the proposal, head to the setup of lilies, champagne, etc. at the exact spot where we spent our second date. Sadly, the rain foiled the plans. I did a practice run of the proposal on the Tuesday before… finding the location… waiting in Centennial Park until the time we would leave to drive to the right location… to figure out how long it took to drive/walk everything. The weather was beautiful then, traffic a breeze, but best laid plans make you have to go to another option.
The photographer then spent an hour with us taking photos, helping us celebrate with more precious memories. We then went to the car, Michael gave me the whole speech again, I cried again, and then we called all of our family and friends to share the good news, while Michael surprised me again with a celebratory dinner with his parents, my parents, my youngest sister, my middle sister FaceTiming in from the other side of the world, and two dear friends of ours.
It was long-awaited, but it was so much more than I could have dreamed. I’m overjoyed to be engaged to my most favorite person in the world, and I get to move to the front of the alphabet when I take his name!