I met my husband while I was working in the To-Go room at Outback Steakhouse in Jacksonville, Florida. I had just ended my relationship with Brynn’s biological dad (it was a short, but real three month relationship that we both tried to make work for her sake, but ultimately decided we were better as friends…super drama free, I assure you!) and was definitely *not* looking for another boyfriend. I was in college full time while working two jobs, raising a toddler and also loving the strong group of friends I was a part of.
I can distinctly remember the second that I saw him. Cheesy, I know. Something out of a movie, right? Honestly, I can’t remember *anything* in my life as vividly as I remember that moment. He was leaning against the back half wall at Outback, a new employee, wearing a crisp blue Outback shirt (before they went all swanky and now wear all black!) and chatting with another employee. My heart stopped, but 21 year old Rachel had programmed herself to write off men *that* attractive. Not because he looked like a smooth talker, but more because I was so insecure about myself that I just *knew* that guys who looked like him, didn’t look twice at girls who looked like me. I had curves, crazy brown hair and freckles (not to mention post-baby loose skin). He looked more like the kind of guy who could get any girl he wanted. So when my pretty, blonde and distinctly kid-free friend/co-worker came up behind me at that moment and nudged me saying, “Shotgun on the new guy” — it was no big deal. I had no intentions of even trying to go after this hottie.
But something happened, this new dreamy guy actually started trying to start up conversations with me…and lo and behold, he was sincerely *nice*. We built a friendship at work (again–Rachel here was so not interested in dating) but I knew that I was really starting to like this guy. He then started to show up to a couple of after work get togethers, and I started to fall hard. Then, the other shoe that I just *knew* was going to drop, dropped. He told me that he had a girlfriend, and that they had been together for over two years. He told me point blank that he had no intentions of breaking up with her for me. I’m not sure what he was expecting, but I don’t think it was for me to shrug and say, “Okay! Well I don’t want to break anyone up, and there’s this bartender at work whose been wanting to take me out, so until/unless you’re single, I’m off the market for you.”
A week later, after an incredibly hard breakup, Nick and I officially started dating in July of 2005.
(Don’t hate me ‘cuz you’re jealous of my Picasa skillz)
Next came the question on how to move forward with Brynn. I had her when I just had turned 20, and then dated her biological dad from the time she was 12 months to 15 months, so I wasn’t exactly sure how to proceed with introducing a new man in her life. She was my everything, so it was impossible to just not have him meet her, and since 50% of my friends at that time were male, it wasn’t a big deal to just add him to the mix. We decided early on that we wouldn’t show signs of affection around her until we knew it was a serious “thing”.
Well, a month after we started dating, Nick told me that he loved me, and for my birthday gave me a date and put in effort that I only read about in romantic drivel. He didn’t tell me where we were going and took me to Sea World! Since I was little, I always wished I could work with marine animals, so again, I couldn’t believe I was actually dating this man!
Obligatory “Sit on Shamu” awkwardness.
Nick’s mom told me once that while all other little boys were dreaming of becoming football players or police officers, her son wanted to be a dad. And as he got older, he was always the guy at family get togethers who would be covered in kids hanging on his arms and out back playing tag. That translated to a truly beautiful thing to see with Brynn…the beginnings of a daddy in her life. I can’t tell you what it felt to simply go for a walk to the park and have his strong arms carrying my chunky monkey 2 year old. It was the simple moments like that, when I began allowing myself to believe that he might actually be the one.
By the beginning of November we had already went ring shopping. A few weeks later, on the first night of the Nights of Lights in St. Augustine, Nick literally pulled me through shrubbery to get to the middle of a courtyard and dropped to one knee. Neither of us has a clue what he said, or promised or asked. I just know I’ve never been more excited about anything as I was looking down into his hopeful face, and those dimples, and what was going to be.
A whirlwind 4 months later, he had taken a job with a new company in Indiana, and flew down for our morning wedding in Orange Park, Florida.
We were happy.
We were young.
We were essentially strangers.
It was hard.
There were good times…
Nick’s happy dance in our first home, an apartment in Lafayette, Indiana. Note we had no blanket for our bed, just two throws we had taken from our parents’ homes!
…but there were bad times.
Our first *week* home from the wedding, we both had a, “What have we done?!” moment. We were arguing about something stupid. The way all newlyweds argue. I was leaving cabinet doors open in the kitchen. He was playing too many video games. But it was bad. Neither of us had any friends or family nearby in Indiana, we had a two year old to parent, he had never BEEN a parent and I had been doing it on my own for 2 years, PLUS he was working a job that wasn’t made for him.
Sounds like a good time to get pregnant, right?
Welcome to the world, Nicholas Patrick! Born almost exactly one year after we got married. We waited a whole whopping three months. Yeah.
We ate Ramen Noodles.
Nick sold his car to buy groceries.
We borrowed when we were forced to, but always repaid as soon as we could.
I thought about leaving many times.
I’m sure Nick did too.
I’m glad we stayed, even when that 500 square foot apartment felt like our very own personal jail cell. And we couldn’t get away from each other because we literally couldn’t afford to waste gas just to drive away from an argument.
Can I tell you how thankful I am for those years? We learned to fight fair, because at first we didn’t. We learned not to cut each other down ever, but especially not in front of other people–even as jokes. We learned that just because you have a kid or two, you don’t let time with each other take a backseat to your children. And most importantly, we learned how crazy in love we were…to take that insane hand of cards we were dealt and still surface at the end of it all and want nothing more than to grow old together.
We moved to Indianapolis in 2007, a promotion for Nick, a new house with an actual yard, a chubby baby boy…a fresh start.
It has been a wild seven years since I stood up in front of our family and friends that warm February day…my mouth shaking from smiling..I was so nervous. I still have to pinch myself, Nick is more than I ever imagined a husband could be.
I just love him <3
Happy Anniversary, babe. I’m still the luckiest woman in the world.
Just some randoms of us from 2007-2012 🙂