how we met
Jena and I met the evening of December 21, 2012. That’s always been easy to remember because that’s the end of the Mayan Calendar. 12-21-12; the day the world would end, according to them. Fortunately they were wrong and we didn’t go full black-hole, but it was seriously a crazy night. Crazy fun and just crazy how fate has something in store for you when you least expect it.
My friend, Luke, decided to throw an end of the world party. I met Luke by pure chance about 8 months prior downtown. We had this obvious chemistry and ended up being extremely close friends, and someday, business partners. In the video, he is helping me handle the dozens of hand-painted foam board posters. So! He hosted the party where fairy tales began for us.
At the time, I was very happily single and enjoying myself. I was about a year out of a relationship that was just never going to end up in marriage, so we ended it and I knew I had made the right choice. I was dating again and thrilled to keep it that way, although, to this point in my life, I had never experienced the kind of love that exists in dreams it seemed like, but was still open to it. Just not looking for it so much.
At this to-be-legendary party, with a couple other friends at my side, I employed my most notorious wingman gimmick and was an Australian man “owel noight”. It is truly impeccable and I kind of look the part, too. It’s kind of strictly a ‘get a foot in the door for your friends’ kind of thing because the Aussie eventually has to turn into GJ again, but it’s staggeringly believable and has always been a lot of fun and very useful in my late 20’s. Most women really are suckers for an accent of some kind. Luckily I hardly knew a person there, so was unsuspected and just killing it for a solid hour before we actually met.
Luke’s back porch is a large, 1/2 grassed and 1/2 wood planked deck that covers about half of his basement floor that protrude/swallows his little backyard. The deck is complete with a canvased gazebo, firepit, tiki torches and some of the best sky viewing in that neighborhood; a very serene place. It’s cold, so naturally the mini-kegs are outside, and that’s the best place to meet people, so that’s where I was with my single man crew. As I am talking to 3 other women about to introduce my “mates”, out of the corner of my periphery, I see this GODDESS. She is 20 feet away and seemingly marching towards me, one foot in front of the other, slow-motion, she is glowing. Her hair, waving in her stride like a shampoo commercial, her eyes, like diamonds trapped inside the bluest water you can imagine, her smile, sexy and decorated with very red lipstick. She is wearing a gold sequin skit with black stockings, an Abercrombie style tight cardigan, has an oversize gold Lemay bow shooting slightly to the side of her radiant head, and a single, knitted, green, fingerless christmas glove. None of this struck me as odd. Clearly she had no taste or mistook this for a tacky Christmas sweater party. It ended up being the latter.
Even with this rush of “oh my GOD”, it took a little effort to pretend I didn’t notice her but I didn’t miss a beat and continued schmoozing the trio with whatever crap I could about my country of kangaroos. I don’t think I’ll ever remember what those girls were even talking about or asking, but I will never forget what happens next. Jena does march up to me, stops 12 inches away, looking up at my face over my left shoulder. I can feel her judging me. After she had heard enough, she pipes up and says, “Ladies, every would of what this man is saying is absolute bollocks.” … Jena … is … British… …. …. SO … HOT…. ” She continues, ” I have been oll ova the wold, and can assure you he is not from he pretends to be. You may want to have the police escort you home so as not to end up in a psycho’s trunk, eh? Toodles!” Somehow in her Great Britain born experience, she can spot a faker. She finishes her sentence, spins so fast her hair has to catch up, and off she trots happily, leaving me with three women who think they have now been speaking to a Dexter. Little does she know I am very experienced with near exposures, so quickly I say, “Oi dunnao what her prublem wuz, oi thank she moightta heed a leetle toe much to droink.” Back to the games and eventually I send my two friends off with those girls so I can maybe grab a moment with the swimsuit model who just tried to blow my cover. So now it’s my turn; I walk up to her.
“Excuse me, do you moind eef oi heave a wood with you? Loike, proivetley, aovah heah? Boi ourseelves?”
“Whatevah” she says in the beautiful, hot accent. NEVER known a british girl before. Better check her teeth.
We end up alone, or at least far enough away so I can’t be heard by anyone else and the music’s not drowning me out. I look both ways to make sure the coast is clear, no one around, and I say, in my real voice, “All right, you caught me. I’m not Australian, it’s just this thing I do to help my friends meet…” She interjects almost too loudly, “I knew it! But my god I thought you was mocking me! That’s hoooiighly offensive!” Her feelings actually were a little hurt.
“No, no, I’m actually a really good guy, I wouldn’t..”
“Yes, I see… you’re obviously just a really straight shooter then aren’t you?” She says sarcastically, but still playfully. “Since you’re such a stand up, guy, I’m going to give you a little dose of honesty, okay? What you are doing is honestly one of the most…. stuuuupit, embarrassing, unattractive, pathetic, and really just sorry things I have ever seen in my life.” …
I wasn’t mad but I thought to myself, wow, you don’t have a shot. It was definitely time to walk away. “Okay, lady, take it easy. I apologize for offending you, okay? I’m going to let you get back to your friends and I’m going to jump off the deck, now okay?” I’m saying all of this backing away, with my hands out in front like ‘don’t shoot’ i turn to walk away to leave her alone, forever. Then I hear her say, “Come back here… I grew up down the street, I went to Tates Creek High School, I’m not British.” Her accent had changed to a more familiar one. I turned around, slowly, eyes wide, mouth open. “You’re … not … BRITISH?!?!”
“Not even a little, but I really thought it would surprise you the least, Crocodile Dundee.”
A serious dose of my own medicine and I didn’t even know I was taking it. Slowly, I walk up to her. Now my face is 12 inches from her face, I ask quietly but firmly, “What…. is your name…”
The rest of that night, we were inseparable. She came back to my place downtown and nothing physical happened at all, not even a kiss. But we were up getting to know the other until 5am and I knew immediately, this is the one. Thirty years old, and had almost just given up on looking for the perfect woman for me, like it was a unicorn or something, and out of no where, there she was. After about a month of hanging out, we two commitment-phobes decided to make it official boyfriend/girlfriend status, and have only spent about 5 days apart ever since. These have been the best 4 years of my entire life, and they just keep getting better.
how they asked
This proposal was an incredible undertaking and was worth every bit of effort and struggle it took. 9 months of planning for 9 minutes. I knew exactly how I wanted to do it and nothing was going to get in my way.
The first thing I did was get in touch with Reed’s Jewelers, who is the real underdog of the existing diamond retailers. Almost all of the major jewelry stores, Kay, Zale’s, Jared, etc., all owned by the same company, except Reed’s. Figuring they might appreciate an inspired proposal that could easily be used as a heart-warming advertisement, I pursued them to do this with me and we could both get what we wanted. They loved the idea, and for a day they were very excited about it, but ultimately they felt that it had the potential to be amazingly impactful locally, but as a whole, could hurt their company for doing it with me, but not doing it everyone else who would ask for the same miracle after me, as I was the first to ever pitch something quite like this. So they said no, but that wasn’t going to stop me.
After I had figured out how I was going to do it my way, on my own now, first I found a composer to prepare the music so that it could be played at practices, which we certainly would need. When I did, she was excited and willing but wanted to see permission from the record label to make sure she wouldn’t be sued or anything. So I got with RCA, who sent me to Sony, who did give me permission to use the song in any way except for the actual studio recording, which was perfect for what I was doing. She got the sheet music to me and I was on my way.
Meanwhile, as far as permission goes, I also had to get permission from Rupp Arena to do this during a basketball game, and to get permission from Sheila Bayes fine jewelers, who is also located in Rupp Arena and who I purchased the ring from and was very encouraging and excited to be part of this day. So far so good.
Then the really hard part: securing all of the musical talent I would need. 9 brass players, a rock band and a gospel choir. THIS was the real challenge. At first, I had contacted a producer locally to orchestrate the rock band, which he did not. Just fell off the Earth. Still haven’t heard from him, actually. Luckily the videographer (and savior) Jeremiah Oschwald got me connected to Coralee and the Townies, a great local band who fit the bill perfectly. On a Saturday, with my dear friend Luke, who is seen in the video helping me keep control of the 30+ hand painted posters I made, who is also responsible for Jena and I meeting, together we canvassed the UK band campus introducing ourselves to person after person trying to find enough brass players to pull this off. We were not successful, but because we did that, the Director of Brass at UK, Dr. Skip Gray, heard of what we were doing and took his time to recruit everyone I needed, including a childhood friend who also helped him, Dr. Ryan Moore, who directed the practices and also was a big part of making this happen. Dr. Moore also introduced me to Dee Walker, an impassioned gospel singer who thankfully and seemingly effortlessly assembled my gospel choir for me, although I had spent weeks on craigslist and various other places with no success. Truly none of this would have been possible without the kindness of all of these people making it happen. Also, not to mention 200 of her friends and family being a part of it; it was a lot.
The day of, even after 3 different practices and meeting everyone at Rupp IN SECRET nonetheless, it still was stressful. When we came early to set-up, the face painters had already put their booth right where we needed to be. They were not excited to move, but fortunately, just this one time, they did. Coming inside I accidentally broke the easel I had improvised to hold all the painted boards, which I had to make an unplanned extra trip back to my shop to fix. Man, I was stressed. On top of that, Jena was wondering where the hell I was. After all, she thought she was going to the game to accept a check at halftime with her mother, who is the CFO of a local non-profit. This was a big day for her and she was justifiably frustrated I had been so distracted and absent for most of that month. Juggle, juggle, juggle.
But, on the day of, everything went just like a dream. We walked in together, and I suddenly, “needed to go to the restroom”, my excuse to get to my position. So I disappeared out of sight to go change into my suit while the whole thing unfolded in front of her gorgeous eyes.
As I was running through the lines of our friends to get ready, I could hear the trumpet player starting it all off. I wish I could have seen it with my own eyes but the video is amazing and probably my favorite thing in the world, and does me just fine.
In the end, when I picked her up, my suit pants split from the crotch to the belt, but I didn’t care. It was all perfect. I would have had it no other way.
I didn’t do all this because I wanted to exactly, although I did want to, but more because I needed to. Not “needed to” in the sense that she wouldn’t have said yes unless it was a big production, but because 1) I have always wanted to craft a moment like this to change someone’s life and I had waited a long time. and 2) When I was young, one magical day, i understood that I, too, would have a wife someday. And in that moment, your head can’t help but to explode with imagination and hopes and dreams of what it would be like. I can assure you that even my wildest dreams have been surpassed by the reality of what I have been lucky enough to find and hold dear. She is better than anything I had ever hoped for. And likewise, when she was a little girl, she also found out that someday, she would have a husband, and similarly I’m sure she dreamt of a man who was charming, sensitive, thoughtful, handsome, courageous, funny, and kind beyond measure. There was no way that I would let her dream be anywhere near as good as I am going to be for her. So when I say I needed to, that’s what I mean. She deserves every dream to come true, and if its in my control, I will make sure that they do.