How to treat a lady: Tying the knot

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Shana and I before the Kansas-Missouri game in November 2011.

The No. 1 question after you announce an engagement: When and where is the wedding? No. 2: How did you propose?

I put a considerable amount of thought into popping the question. I figured something romantic and private was appropriate. Of course, the Romeo in me planned to do with it flair.

One idea was to write a blog and propose at the end. I suddenly missed having a newspaper column. That would have been perfect, if not somewhat cliché. Another was to include the three kids, each with a sign that read “Will you marry me?”

Imagine my hesitation – about the timing, not the asking – when we were talking last Friday night and shared a wonderful unspoken moment. It hit me, as Shana looked at me, just how deeply in love I am with this amazing woman. It was her look, which said the same, that led to the moment …

I asked her to close her eyes, thinking it was the perfect time to act. I went to our closet, where I’d been hiding the ring, and told her to open her eyes when I returned.

“Is this what I think it is?” she asked.

“Yes, will you marry me?” I replied.

Ever the crier, she cried. After a few seconds to gather herself, she said yes.

Simple, yet perfect.

How we began ….

I could tell this story all day.

Shana and I met in 1990. She was a senior during my freshman year of high school. I knew she was A-list. She was an athlete, smart, on the drill team, gorgeous and hot. The kind of girl all the guys dream about. The kind a freshman has no shot at.

I often joke that she wouldn’t give me the time of day back then. I was pretty much a baby, all of 5-foot and 125 pounds. I was also painfully shy and she had an A-list boyfriend who had a bit of a jealousy issue.

In other words, Shana and I never said a word to each other. She did smile at me once, on my first day of high school, a reassuring one that she probably doesn’t remember. Otherwise, I admired her anonymously from afar.

All in the family …

It’s amazing how everything fits together in this world. How the smallest thing can be the glue. For us, the glue was her mother.

Shana’s mom was (still is) a high school English and journalism teacher. She’s also my mentor. Through the years, she’s been a constant, keeping track of what I’m up to. That proved essential in the 20 years my fiancée and I embarked on lives far apart, sometimes thousands of miles.

Unbeknownst to me, Shana’s mom talked about me often through the years. “Ernie’s running for school board. He won this writing award. He’s an assistant sports editor in Virginia.” Without those subtle, brief words, Shana has no clue who I am.

All these years later, it’s fascinating that even though I was her mom’s “star pupil” and her sister a fairly close friend (she was a sophomore my freshman year), we didn’t speak until 2010.

It’s also fascinating that a few words built the foundation of a wonderful love story.

Building …

Romantics have the memories of elephants. It’s one of our quirks. So it shouldn’t come as much of a surprise that I remember the day Shana accepted my friend request on Facebook. It was Jan. 4, 2009. She lived in Kansas City, Mo. I lived in Williamsburg, Va.

She did not accept the request immediately. It sat there for a few days. Ultimately, even though we still hadn’t said a word to one another, she accepted my request. Why? Because she felt like she knew me after conversations through the years with her mother. Thanks mom!

We didn’t start chatting until 18 months later, when I moved from Tulsa to Melvern to be closer to home. Jobless, I had plenty of time on my hands. If not for that, I may not have seen the post that kick-started this adventure.

She was considering whether to move with her kids to Overland Park, Kan., and asking for opinions from Facebook friends. Of course, I sent her a message telling her about my gamble to move home and how I felt taking risks was important in life. I also sent her the song “Live and Learn,” a Darius Rucker tune about taking risks.

Two years later, I live in the apartment she moved to.

Tying loose ends …

Though we exchanged messages on Facebook, we both were going through the motions of relationships that took months to end. We did speak briefly at a high school football game in September 2010, and I insisted on a hug (I am a hugger, but come on, I am a man).

Naturally, she gave me a hug that screamed “Come and get me.” Oblivious and, well, stupid, I did not hear said scream. And on we went for the next few months.

Finally, after exchanging text messages for hours on Christmas Eve, Shana had had enough of the subtle hints. On Jan. 4, 2011, two years after accepting my friend request, she texted: “I want to hang out. Beer and basketball Saturday.”

The rest is history …

I could fill hundreds of pages about the last 18 months. About how we were adamantly opposed to marriage (we both have bad marriages on the resume) at the beginning. About the tools she’s giving me to go from obese to strong and healthy. About her kids and how I love being a male role model.

Instead, I’ll just say everything happens for a reason. I’ve always believed in fate. That waned a bit after moving from Tulsa and because of relationships that didn’t work out. But I wouldn’t trade any of that now.

Who we are is what we’ve been through and how we’ve grown. I’m truly grateful to share my life with the woman I see as the most beautiful on the planet. That’s how it should be when you find the person you’re meant to be with.

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