Our love story started long before Matthew and I ever actually met.
And when you think about it, most love stories start that way. Every moment leading up to the one in which you meet your future husband or wife somehow shapes you and prepares you for that person you were fated for. Any previous heartbreaks or dark days or lonely nights can be crucially important in the grand scheme of things—sometimes we need to know what something feels like when it’s wrong before we can ever really know it when another thing is RIGHT.
So that’s why I need to start the story with a little bit of background. The whole “girl meets boy, boy and girl fall in love, boy and girl get married” model is a little too simplistic for my needs. You people want details, don’t you? Of course you do.
When I was 18 years old and working as a waitress at a little family restaurant, I met a guy who was 10 years older than me. He was the one who came before Matthew. We dated for three and half years, and even lived together during the last year and half of that relationship. We moved into a tiny little house and owned Gracie and Cooper together and our relationship was never a terrible one. He was a good guy, I was a good girl, and we really did love each other.
But for every moment of those three and a half years, I had a nagging, itching, aching feeling that he would never be the right one for me. Despite his great heart, he lacked ambition and drive and handled his finances very poorly and, at the heart of it all, was very insecure despite being a bright and attractive guy. I understood him, though. I understood that his family had never prepared him for LIFE, and the poor decisions he had made as a younger man had him caught in a sticky web and a hole he just couldn’t seem to dig himself out of.
As the years went by, he could give me less and less of what I needed. Things became strained between us. I was a terrible nag, and I see that now. But the problem was that there were just too many things about him that I wanted to change. And as I began to realize that I could never change him and shouldn’t have to, I struggled SO much with what the right thing to do was. It ate away at me day and night, because I honestly couldn’t imagine my life without him. And being alone TERRIFIED me.
Somewhere during all this, I read the book The Secret which is all about the law of attraction. I really, really believed in what it said. It inspired me. I realized that I had not arranged my life in a way that allowed for all the things I so desired. I hate to skim over this because it’s so important, but let’s just say that I KNEW I had to decide what I wanted my future to look like and start taking active steps towards attracting that future. And staying in my current relationship at the time was a major roadblock. I knew in my heart that if I stayed where I was, life would always be a struggle.
So one day the breakup finally happened. We talked and cried for hours and finally decided that we could never truly work. He decided to move out and let me stay in the house and keep the dogs because, on his income alone, he couldn’t afford to live there (I made enough waiting tables to cover the bills if pennies were tightly pinched).
I can honestly say that the 48 hours after that break up were the toughest of all my life. I ugly-cried those kind of tears that come from somewhere inside you didn’t even know existed—a place of fear and sudden awareness that you are completely alone.
And that’s the place I was in when I met Matthew. We met a mere 48 hours after the ex and I called it quits, which could either be considered really terrible timing or really great timing. I choose to believe the timing was perfect.
But let’s back up again for just a minute.
Remember how I was working at that little restaurant? Well, for a couple of years I’d been waiting on my future in-laws without even knowing it. We’ll just call them Mr. and Mrs. D for our purposes here today.
They were an odd couple. Mrs. D was a beautiful blonde and friendly as can be, and Mr. D was quiet, reserved, and hard to read. I really enjoyed waiting on them, though, and I found it amusing when Mrs. D would occasionally mention their son in California and how perfect he and I would be for each other. She mentioned this to me on at least two or three occasions, but I always laughed and just politely reminded her that I had a boyfriend. I came to find out later that, in actuality, Mrs. D talked a whole lot more about Matthew and I one day meeting than I ever knew at the time; Mr. D now says he had to hear about it every single time they came to the restaurant, and Matthew, when he was in town, would always go to eat there and would hear about me then, too. But for some reason, I was never working when Matthew happened to stop in with his parents, and our paths never crossed.
But then one day, on January 19, 2009, our paths DID cross. And to make it all the more strange, I wasn’t even working that day—the encounter was, TRULY, by chance.
Little did I know when I woke up that morning, Martin Luther King Day and a university holiday, that my life was about to be turned upside down.
It was a Saturday that the ex and I had broken up, and by Monday morning, though I was by NO means “over” the breakup, I was feeling ever so slightly hopeful; or at least looking forward to a fun breakfast with a friend.
One of my male coworkers was (is) like a brother to me; we were hired on at the restaurant around the same time, and over the six and a half years until this point in the story, he and I had become close and occasionally planned a breakfast outing to catch up on the events of each other’s lives. A week prior to this aforementioned Monday, he and I had planned to meet for breakfast at the restaurant where we worked – only I got called into work when another waitress went home sick. I didn’t know it at the time, but this was a game-changing move. One of those moments where the Universe intervenes because that particular event wasn’t in keeping with the greater plan.
Truth be told, if I had met my friend for breakfast on that previously planned date, or if I had shown up to the restaurant even a single moment later on the day we DID end up meeting, Matthew and I would have never met. My life would be drastically different right now. Funny how the smallest little decisions and changes of course can alter the entire plot of your life.
So on that Monday morning, January 19 of 2009, I woke up, got showered and dressed, and headed out to a 9:00 AM breakfast with my friend. Like usual, I was running a couple minutes late.
Once I arrived, I parked my car and walked across the lot and into the little diner where my friend Chris was already waiting in the line to be seated. We chatted for maybe thirty seconds before the outside door of the restaurant swung open and, to my surprise, there was Mrs. D! She seemed excited to see me and exclaimed, “Jenni! I know this might seem strange, and I know you have a boyfriend, but my son is here in town—we were just leaving, and I saw you walking up—I’d love for you to come out and meet him!”
I gave her a hug and laughed, saying, “Well, actually, me and my boyfriend just broke up, so it’s ok.”
I thought I’d humor her. Many proud mamas had bragged on their sons to me before, and if or when I ever did end up meeting these “handsome” princes, things were usually awkward and anything but a match made in heaven.
Mrs. D led me just outside the little foyer where we’d been waiting. Her car was a few feet away, and the driver’s side door was still open where she had gotten out. I peered into the car and there he was: the infamous son.
I’d be lying if I said I heard a choir of angels singing, or if I said a bright light shone upon him like some supernatural vision from God, but there truly was instant attraction. He reached over from the passenger side seat to shake my hand and said, “Hey! Nice to finally meet you!”
He had the bluest eyes I’d ever seen, and from then on I was in somewhat of a stupor, which is not unusual for me when faced with awkward social situations (especially involving shockingly attractive members of the opposite sex).
I said something along the lines of, “It’s really nice to meet you too! I’ve heard a lot of good things about you, and I just love your Mom!”
Mrs. D mentioned then that Matthew was going home to California the next morning but would be back in a couple weeks. I replied saying maybe we would see each other again when he returned, and the conversation wrapped up.
But in typical Jenni fashion, I had to say at least one ridiculous thing before going along my merry way, so just as I turned around to walk back into the diner, I decided to poke my head in the car one more time and say, “oh, excuse me SIR? What did you say your name was again? I already forgot!” Yes, I called him SIR. And as soon as that word flew off my tongue I was mortified with myself. Why the !@#$ did I just call him “sir?” What an idiot!
He just laughed and said “Matthew.”
“Ok, thanks!” I replied. “Maybe I’ll see you again soon!”
They left, and I went back into the restaurant where my friend was waiting.
And just a couple moments later we were inside and seated at our table near the back of the little one room diner.
We ordered our breakfast and, after a few more minutes, the hostess walked up to our table and slipped me a little note. “That guy just came back in and told me to give this to you. He saw you sitting with Chris and didn’t want to be rude and interrupt,” she told me.
My heart skipped a beat. I unfolded the little note. Matthew had written his name and phone number and the message: Be back in two weeks. Would be great to hear from you!
I was shaking. I can’t explain it, but I felt like I was dreaming. My mind was racing with thoughts of how completely serendipitous this encounter was, but how completely awful it felt to be entertaining thoughts of another relationship so soon after my last one ended.
One of the waitresses at the restaurant, a good friend and mother-type figure to me, stopped by our table and read the note. She had seen the whole thing unfold, and the way Matthew had come back in and stared back at me as I chatted obliviously with my friend. With a knowing look on her face, she said “Jenni, it’s a God thing.”
And she turned out to be very, very right.
Mrs. D and Matthew both corroborate the story that, when they had left the restaurant after our initial meeting, Matthew matter of factly told his mother that I was the one. That he knew it. And she said she had always known it. She told him what I said about my boyfriend and I breaking up, and Matthew demanded she turn around. They came back, he scribbled his note on that little piece of paper, and he went back in to find me.
And I COULD just say “the rest is history,” but that really wouldn’t be doing the story justice. The part that comes next is half the fun! I suppose that sometimes fate might whisper, but in our case, it screamed.
Three full days passed after that fateful encounter, and the little note Matthew had left for me remained tucked away inside my wallet. I certainly wasn’t following any rule on how many days to wait before calling a guy; rather, I was feeling pretty terrible about calling him at ALL, given my still VERY freshly single status. My ex-boyfriend hadn’t even moved out of our house yet, and although I remained fully aware of that note and secretly wanted to call the number on it, I refrained. It just seemed so wrong to be having thoughts about another guy so soon.
Then, on the afternoon of the fourth day, I went to work and, as I clocked in on the register, I noticed a bright blue, folded sticky note with my name on it taped to the window beside me. I pulled it off and opened it, and there was Matthew’s name and number again, but this time in the handwriting of one the hostesses who answers the phone.
I turned to my manager and asked what it was all about. “This guy already gave me his number!” I said, confused. “What is it doing here again?”
My manager gravely told me that Matthew had called the restaurant and asked for me the day before, but since I wasn’t there, he simply left his name and number with the hostess. “Is this guy stalking you? Do you want me to call him?” he asked with concern.
I laughed and said I didn’t think so. But secretly, I was impressed with Matthew’s tenacity. He was interested, and he wasn’t beating around the bush about it. I liked that.
I texted him that afternoon and apologized for not calling. I told him that I’d wanted to, but it had only been several days since my ex and I had broken up and it felt a little irreverent to be calling another guy so soon. I said that I’d call him when I got off work that night.
The reply I received went something like this: Ok, little miss four days later! Good thing I remain optimistic, ‘cause it was beginning to look like I wasn’t going to hear from you!
Matthew later told me that those were the most torturous four days of his life. He kept his phone within an arm’s reach and pondered whether or not I was playing hard to get or something. When he didn’t hear from me right away, he had called the restaurant (from California!) in case I had “lost his number.” Patience is not this man’s greatest virtue; I can definitely attest to that now!
I don’t want to skim over anything, but I also don’t want to drag this out for weeks. So let’s just say that I called Matthew that evening, and by the end of about a one hour conversation, I knew I had just met the man who would one day be my husband. I called my best friend the next day and told her so, which, naturally, was met with a somewhat apprehensive “umm… ok?”
Truth be told, the relationship encountered quite a bit of trepidation from my friends and family, and understandably so. Everything happened so fast and so furious and so SOON after the end of my previous relationship.
Matthew was almost seven years older than me, had a successful career in insurance and financial services, lived states away, and still seemed dead set on ME. People didn’t trust him, and even I had my moments of doubt as things moved along at lightning speed.
During the week after our first phone call, we talked for hours every night. I learned that he was a huge fan of the book The Secret, just like I was, and he told me that he, too, tried to live his life by the principles of the law of attraction. Coincidence? I think not.
He also told me he had moved his trip back to Texas up a few days so he could spend more time with me, and our first date was scheduled for less than two weeks after our initial meeting. I remember getting a text from him just a couple days before he flew back down to Texas, and it said that he “couldn’t wait to have me in his arms.” I was a little alarmed by this, given that we hadn’t even had our first date yet, but I sort of loved it all at once. It was nice to feel wanted without that veil of pretense and cautious, “acceptable” behavior. Matthew is one of the few people in this world who throws themselves shamelessly and without hesitation at whatever they desire.
So we had our first date. I wore a little black dress with heels and a bright green sweater, and he wore jeans and a black button up shirt. We met at Starbucks, we hugged like old friends, he led me to the car he’d borrowed from his dad, and he opened my door for me like a true gentleman. He started the car and a CD began to play – all my favorite songs, one after another. I demanded that he admit he’d stalked my Facebook and made a CD from all my listed favorite artists, but he denies it to this day. Either he’s lying, or we just have identical taste in music. Either way, it was perfect.
And that evening began a week of “first dates.” We had dinner together several times, went to the movies, visited the nearby Natural Bridge Caverns and Natural Bridge Wildlife Ranch in San Antonio, spent his birthday with his parents and grandparents, and then said a very bittersweet goodbye before he headed back to California.
I think it was on the third date that week that I really fell in love. We were deep under the ground in the chilly caverns and listening to the tour guide as she lectured on stalactites and stalagmites, when Matthew wrapped his arms around me from behind and just held me there as we stood. I can’t explain it, but it just felt… RIGHT.
A few days after he went home to California, on Valentine’s Day 2009, I received a very special delivery while I was at work – a gift that would turn out to be one of the most amazing and romantic things I’ve ever been given.
In part three, the story left off just after our week of first dates and Matthew’s return home from California, and just before Valentine’s Day two years ago. I was at work that Valentine’s Day evening when a special delivery arrived for me via Matthew’s mom! I was too busy to chat with her much when she arrived, but she dropped off my gifts along with a gorgeous dozen white and red roses from Matthew. He had arranged all this before he left!
I waited to open my gifts until the restaurant was closed for the evening, but believe me, I thought about them ALL NIGHT LONG! Once the last customer had finally left, I sat down at a table with my roses, a large yellow manila envelope, and a wrapped gift. A note on the outside of a card instructed that I open the wrapped gift first.
In order to understand the significance of what comes next, you have to first understand my obsession with New York City. During those few weeks that we had know each other up until this point, Matthew and I had discussed how much we both loved it there, and how it is my absolute favorite place on Earth. So I opened my gift and found this adorable New York picture that Matthew had hand decaled with romantic little words:
I was tickled by that, of course, but what was in the big manila envelope was the real kicker.
Matthew had created this full page invitation (with a beautiful photo of a bridge in Central Park faded in the background), and it read:
You are hereby cordially invited to
“The City of Lights”
On Monday, the Ninth of March,
Two Thousand and Nine
The Ritz Carlton New York, Central Plaza
Enchantment will start promptly at 8:00 PM,
Romance will begin at first site,
…..Falling in Love will last a lifetime
Host: Matthew (Last Name)
Price of Admission: Your Company, Your Smile, and Your Grace
Please RSVP by February 16th, 2009
We apologize for any inconvenience,
Kisses are the only form of payment accepted at this time
Ummm, yeah. CAN WE SAY EVERY GIRL’S DREAM COME TRUE?!?! And Matthew had also created a fake airline boarding pass with the assigned seat “next to your man” and with flight and confirmation numbers matching the days of our first two dates. I know. Sickening! I’m here to tell you that not every man is completely clueless when it comes to romance!
So needless to say, I accepted the invitation, and that trip to New York City with my future husband turned out to be the most fabulous few days of my life. The Ritz Carlton ruined me for all eternity. I will compare all hotel experiences to that one, and nothing will ever match up. Matthew convinced the poor fellow at the front desk to upgrade our stay from a basic room to a two room, two bathroom suite, at no extra charge (the guy is a sweet-talker, what can I say?), and from our room on the seventh floor (my lucky number) you could sit on the window seat and gaze down at sixth avenue and central park below. I spent many teary moments on that window seat, wondering when I would wake up from this lovely dream.
Thankfully, I never did.
Matthew had brought along the movie Serendipity for us to watch while there in New York, and the next day after watching the movie in our cozy room, Matthew surprised me with lunch at Serendipity 3. Appropriate, yes? Here we were inside the restaurant:
After that New York trip, Matthew and I continued a long distance relationship. We would see each other every 3-5 weeks on average, he flying down to San Antonio where I lived at the time, or me flying up to Huntington Beach, California where he lived at the time.
In June of that same year, we took yet another trip, but this time to Maui, Hawaii. Mind you, we had only been dating four and half months at this point, but I had a feeling a proposal was imminent.
A couple of days into our stay, Matthew surprised me with a limo ride to a location away from our hotel, where we found a small table set up near the beach, complete with white linens, a candle, and a little vase of fresh flowers. We had our own private chef, who was arranged about 10 yards away, cook us one of the most delicious meals I’ve ever eaten (some type of grilled Hawaiian fish – whatever it was, it was amazing!).
BUT. Things really did not go as Matthew had planned for them to or at all how he had envisioned. We laugh about it now, but our romantic and private little dinner table was smack dab in the middle of a grassy clearing between another hotel and an enormous ugly apartment complex with hundreds of balconies overlooking our little spectacle. We were also within about 15 feet of an outdoor shower spicket which people were coming up to from the beach to shower off under! It was awkward to say the least, and Matthew was pissed. At one point he went over to the chef to “check on our meal,” but he was really asking for the ring back – it was supposed to be “served” to me with the dessert, but Matthew was so displeased with the atmosphere that he decided to postpone the proposal.
The meal wrapped up, and I was feeling anxious. Knowing Matthew, I had a feeling he wouldn’t propose under these imperfect circumstances, but I wasn’t sure!
We ended up taking our limo back to our resort – and BY THE WAY. The limo was 1980’s style Uncle Guido GREEN, inside and out, which was another scenario Matthew had not planned for! The whole ordeal was definitely laughable.
So when we got back to our hotel, Matthew suggested we take a walk before the sun set. Mmm-hmm, “a walk.” Ok, buddy! I thought to myself.
As we walked along beside the gorgeous floury-soft sand beach, we suddenly reached a little clearing where there was a patch of green grass beside the sand, and Matthew stopped. My heart skipped a beat, and before I knew it, he was on one knee, saying something about loving me a whole lot and wanting to spend the rest of forever with me, et cetera, et cetera. Honestly, and sadly, I might add, I don’t remember his exact words. Even though I expected this proposal, I was still in some sort of weird shock. Maybe it had something to do with the gorgeous shiny rock that was sparkling up at me as he spoke – just sayin’!
Obviously, my answer was YES. And I believe they usually end these little fairytales with “happily ever after.”
man, I miss that tan.
But the truth is, things haven’t always been super easy; living states away from each other for that year before our wedding was really tough. Once we DID get married and moved into our home together, we had to learn to live as a couple – but I can honestly say that when you are deeply and unselfishly in love, things aren’t that hard. And I wish each and every one of you, if you haven’t found it already, a love story just like ours – not because our relationship is perfect (because it isn’t – honest), but because we have found a way to love one another despite. Despite our imperfections, despite our quirks and idiosyncrasies, and despite a sometimes uncertain future.
This first year of marriage has taught me a lot, and I can’t wait to share our journey with all of YOU. This life can be a beautiful thing – sometimes sad, sometimes tragic, sometimes full of sorrow and suffering and pain – but ALWAYS full of love.
I’ll leave you with something I wrote on a private blog on Valentine’s Day two years ago, just after receiving those gifts from Matthew:
I have learned to listen to my heart. I have learned that if you never make room for better things and better ways to be, if you never clear out the things in your life that stand in the way of your happiness, then you are not aligning your universe to allow for amazing things. In this life, you don’t find yourself. You create yourself. And the same goes for love: you don’t find love, you create a road for love to travel and wait for it to come.