First, a very well deserved HAPPY BIRTHDAY to my sister. Goober turned 24 on Tuesday. I was just thrilled I was able to help celebrate her birthday this past weekend (more on that in a minute). She has graduated from her masters program and will be working on an interim basis at Dook Children's Hospital in Durham. I am hoping, if this is her wish, they will open up a full-time gig for her, but if she has to look elsewhere I know something good will open. Goober is unbelievable ... smart, pretty, funny, a joy to be around ... I'd fight to say she is the best sister in the world. So happy birthday, young lady. Only one more year for a quarter century!
Now for some other news.
The beautiful ring you will see below is now on the beautiful left ring finger of my fiancée, Courtney. Yes, after 29 long years I've finally found my future wife. I consider myself a very lucky man, and Courtney has been great about things throughout the two years we've known each other. Our relationship has its roots in Athens, GA. We are both graduates of the University of Georgia, however I was long graduated when she and I both met. Really, I love our story. I told Courtney this after the proposal festivities. It is our story, and it was one with some challenges, a break up and then a reunion which brought us to May 27th, 2006. I wouldn't have had it any other way.
So before I get into more detail (and this will be long, so stop now if you actually need to get some work done), I will separate this into two parts: our story and the engagement.
Just about every May, Athens plays host to the NCAA tennis championships. The past three years I've been down there around my birthday, May 24th, to enjoy the town and the tennis. Athens is a great venue for college tennis, and also just a wonderful town. I loved going to school there and will always love visiting. So in 2004, I ventured down to volunteer at the tennis championships. The way it was scheduled, the men's team championship was held on Sunday, May 23rd. My intention was to leave Sunday and return to Nashville. However, my good friends Matt, Doug and Tom talked me into staying one more night in order to celebrate my birthday. So after an "is this ok?" call to my old boss MK, we all ventured out to Mexicalli for dinner.
At the time Doug was dating Lindsay whose best friend is Courtney. So Courtney was invited to dinner in an effort to not make Lindsay feel left out. At dinner, we may have said hello. It wasn't until we all ended up downtown at Harry Bissett's that she and I actually had a conversation. It was great too. I remember thinking, wow not only is this girl beautiful, but she is intelligent and driven. This was something which was lacking in many of the other women I had met.
So after asking for her phone number, which to this day she swears she thought I'd never call, we began a phone friendship. I came down to Athens several weeks later, and we spent some time together. A few weeks later she was in Nashville celebrating 4th of July with me and some friends. It was around that time we were knew we really liked each other. As the distance remained, Courtney and I spent time on the phone and tried to visit each other as much as possible. We had some fun trips to Chattanooga and St. Simons, but around the holidays, things started to get a little tricky. I had applied for a job at Kansas. It was a great job with a nice salary. In other words it would have been difficult to turn down. That caused some stress on me, as I thought if I moved to Kansas, Courtney and I would be in trouble. At times I was probably a prick to her, but before the interview, we broke up. It was a very difficult brake up for both of us. Part of me didn't want to make this woman move to Lawrence, KS, just for me, another part of me remembered looking at that picture in her apartment of when she was a kid and saying to myself, "I hope our daughter would be that cute."
So we broke up, I interviewed for the job and KU thought I wasn't ready. So there I was, without Courtney and employed at Vanderbilt. I was fine with Nashville and my place here at work, and honestly I felt I needed the time away from Courtney to grow. I've always been a hopeless romantic, but I was having trouble becoming a romantic man.
We remained in contact ... the occasional phone call ... mostly through email and on IM. In what somewhat took my breath away, Courtney decided to spend the summer in Wyoming. I was happy for her, as I figured she'd learn a lot about herself out there, but also disappointed I wouldn't be able to see her.
The summer months came and went, as I was trying to live out the "Summer of Jay," Courtney was fly fishing and meeting cowboys. Despite all of this, we spoke very often. It was nice to hear her enjoying her life. Although, I remember one time she was talking about staying out there. Another time she spoke of moving to Arizona for a job. I kept telling her to do what made her happy, but really I wanted her to return to the southeast.
In September, she did just that. She returned to Georgia, and one month later she ventured up to Nashville with Doug and Lindsay. It was great seeing her again. We connected, but we both were very cautious. I think we were scared. Who wouldn't be? A couple weeks later, the four of us returned to St. Simons for the Georgia/Florida football game. It was this weekend I realized something I had been afraid to admit, I loved Courtney. So I told her, not knowing what to expect. After the trip, I returned to Nashville and wrote her a letter explaining how I felt. I told her she was right, I was scared when we broke up earlier that year. I was afraid to let my guard down, so I just became a jerk. It was something I regretted, but I felt so fortunate she allowed me to remain a part of her life. A week or so later, she came to Nashville for a visit.
What has been transpiring over these past months has been beautiful. We communicate so very well. She knows me, and I certainly know her. Our journey to this point was bumpy, but it has made me realize how much I absolutely adore and love Courtney. This is our story, and I will always stick to it.
Unbeknownst to Courtney until Saturday around 6:30pm, I had planned for her parents and my parents to witness the proposal. I've been working on this for a few months and laid out a decent plan. Courtney moves to Nashville the first of June, so I had all intentions of proposing before she moved. With my busy work schedule, I had to squeeze in all of the proper guy things … the ring shopping, the blessing from the parents. But I knew I wanted to never forget the day, and I certainly never wanted Courtney to forget.
With Courtney's imminent move, I figured I could use the guise of a "girl's night out," to lure her to Athens. Her best friends agreed to serve as tremendous accomplices, and I had her and my parents agree to meet us in Athens. I figured I needed a few days to settle myself down there, so I left on Thursday and spent a couple of nights hanging out with my good friend Doug and my family, who came in on Friday.
So Saturday rolls around and Courtney thinks I'm at the SEC baseball tournament in Hoover, AL. I actually was watching the games on Doug's TV, but just didn't have to deal with the hot as hell temperatures. At one point I thought Doug's dogs gave everything away. I was watching the UGA/VU game Saturday morning, and as I was talking with Courtney Doug's dogs started barking. I had no idea what to do, so I told her I had to go. Her great friend Melanie called me about 15 minutes later saying "Courtney is starting to get a little suspicious." So I did what any other good natured man would do … I didn't call her back and ignored two of her phone calls. I knew if she asked me about it, I'd get myself in trouble. Better to play it low key.
Doug and I hung out the rest of the day, and I met all of the parents for drinks at Harry's Bissett's in downtown Athens. As my heart was sprinting laps, I started to receive text messages from Claire, Courtney's sister. They were getting closer. So we made our way to the fountain, and waited there for about 10 minutes. The girls finally arrived, and as they walked up I stepped out with the families. Despite Bo and Beemer's desire to park at the mailman, Courtney was still surprised.
So I said a few things to her and got down on the trusty right knee. She said yes, and then had a nice ring on her finger right after. It was emotional, but also perfect. I couldn't have imagined proposing any other way. Courtney was taken aback, we had friends and family there and we were both smiling ear to ear.
All 13 of us headed back to Bissett's for dinner. I have no idea how many bottles of wine we went through, but it was just nice to sit down and have a meal with a bunch of great people. I really enjoyed the fact her parents and mine were able to meet on such a special day. I think normally people would freak out about that, but our parents are amazing people. They are all very loving and caring, which makes things so much easier.
The parents left the kids to play, and we all went out for drinks. Courtney is not a big dancer, but even she broke it down Saturday night with me.
I just loved the entire day … even the part where my stomach was turning with nerves. It is something I hope we will always have the pleasure of remembering.