Sunday, July 29, 2012

We're Engaged!

Dear Readers,

I'm so sorry for my silence over the past few weeks. Between job searching, working a temp job (which I love), spending as much time as possible with Frank between our separate summer travels and keeping up the busy summer social calendar of barbecues and various fiestas, I haven't been much for blogging lately. But yesterday my life changed forever and I couldn't let something this big go by without writing about it.

I had suspected for some time that Frank might propose this week. Early in our relationship, I had established a rule that we couldn't talk seriously about marriage until we had been dating for six months. Frank was pretty terrible at keeping this rule (as you can guess from the fact that I had to make the rule at all) - so bad at it, in fact, that I invented what we called "the marriage jar." Any time one of us mentioned marriage, we would have to put a dollar in the imaginary jar. Needless to say I soon became just as bad at it as he was and the jar was quickly forgotten after several months, but the six-month rule still stood. Thursday July 26th was our six-month anniversary so I figured he would ask me some time around then.

Starting a day or two before the 26th, something ridiculous began to happen. I began to suffer from a completely silly form of insomnia. Each night as I lay in bed, I would think, Maybe tomorrow is the day he's going to propose! This thought would get me so excited, like a little kid on Christmas Eve, that I couldn't fall asleep for hours. After several nights of this, I was pretty sleep-deprived but still very excited and happy since I knew it would happen soon.

Frank had called my dad several weeks before to ask his blessing before proposing. I didn't know about it at the time but it seems that, after they got off the phone, my dad pulled out a celebratory Cuban cigar and went for a walk with my mom to tell her. Then they came home and told my siblings, the youngest of whom were so excited they began jumping on their beds. I'm the first in my family to get engaged so you can imagine.

Despite my suspicions that he might propose this week, I began to doubt my instincts as time went on. Frank was going to be leaving today for the First Principles seminar at the wonderful Witherspoon Institute (I did the same seminar three years ago) and he spent all day yesterday convincing me that he wouldn't propose until he got back. First he dropped a comment or two over the past few days about how he would need to "go on a big shopping trip" after the seminar. Then he invited me to spend yesterday with him at a beautiful art museum downtown with a gorgeous inner garden. I wondered if he would propose there, but he clearly didn't have a jewelry box hidden in his pockets and my hopes wore down as the day grew later and later and we finally left the museum. At that point it was so late in the day that I began to think he really wouldn't propose until he got back.

Then the last nail went in the coffin of my suspicions. My friend Maggie (whose wedding is next week!) had warned me to get my nails done before getting engaged, since everyone would be looking at my hand, and I had told Frank about her advice. So Frank earnestly entreated me after  we left the art museum, "Darling, why don't you go get your nails done while I'm gone?" I was surprised and said, "I don't have a full-time job right now so I probably shouldn't spend money on something like that." But he was very persistent and said, "No you really should. Why don't you go with Serena next week?" That did it. I was completely convinced that it wouldn't happen that day. He played it really cool and acted so calm and normal that until 10 seconds before it happened I didn't suspect a thing.

After the art museum we drove to a local Catholic bookstore that Frank really likes so he could use up a gift certificate there. To our surprise, the store had closed early that day. My twin Lillian and her boyfriend Matt were in town, supposedly for a work conference (but really for the proposal), and we were supposed to be meeting them in an hour. Since the store was closed Frank very nonchalantly suggested that we kill some time stopping by the lovely Franciscan Monastery of the Holy Land that's around the corner from the bookstore.

The monastery has a gorgeous garden with a lifesize replica of the Lourdes grotto so we walked down and sat near it. The setting could not have been more perfect - we were on a little bench surrounded by colorful flowers with lovely images of Our Lady and the saints nearby. There was a family walking around with a cute toddler who we waved at as he ran past. Spotting a statue of St. Bernadette, I asked Frank if he knew the story of Our Lady of Lourdes. He said "Yes, I know it," but since he just converted in April I figured he couldn't know it very well. In my typical efforts to be helpful, I said "Well let me tell you about it" and launched into the story.

Little did I know that the garden was closing in 15 minutes and Frank was waiting for me to stop talking so he could propose. He was being really quiet so I thought he must be exhausted from our long day and I figured I was being helpful by carrying on the conversation with my incredibly detailed rendition of the life of St. Bernadette. He waited patiently while I inflicted my little history lesson upon him. Finally I concluded with, "And I've always wanted to go see the shrine of Lourdes in France." He took this as his cue and said, "Isn't there a replica of it at Notre Dame that looks a lot like this one?" I said, "Yes there is, and it's so pretty, filled with candles inside." He said, "Isn't that where all the couples get engaged?" And I was like "Yes... why?" And he said, "Well, we couldn't be at Notre Dame, but I figured this was the closest thing," and got down on one knee. He knew that I had always dreamed of getting engaged at the Grotto and he made that dream come true.

Frank didn't go into any speeches or anything but just said very simply, "Theresa, will you marry me?" I said "Yes!" and put on the ring, which was a perfect fit. The family with the toddler had seen the whole thing and they clapped for us a little bit. And just like that, we were engaged.  I couldn't believe how fast it happened. I felt like I had built up this moment my whole life and then it was over in seconds. Isn't it funny that the moments that really change your life - a question, an answer - take no more time to happen than a single heartbeat?

After that Lillian and Matt showed up with a camera and took a bunch of pictures, including reenacting the proposal scene. We called our parents and siblings and grandparents and I texted scads of friends. We went back to my apartment, drank some champagne and changed our statuses on Facebook. Then we went to dinner with a few friends at Cheesecake Factory, which put a bit of a damper on things since they made us wait almost two hours for a table after promising us one in 35 minutes. But the dinner was fun, although very late, and afterwards we stopped by two parties to say hi to more people. It was a crazy whirlwind and I was exhausted! But when I finally got in bed at two in the morning, I again couldn't fall asleep. I lay there thinking, with a sense of surprise and wonder, I'm engaged. I still couldn't quite believe it.

This morning Frank and I went to Mass at St. John's as we usually do. After Mass we said hello to a few friends and told our beloved pastor we were engaged. He gave us a special blessing in honor of the occasion. After that Frank took me to the ring store so we could make sure the ring was the right size (we thought so but wanted to be sure). He bought it at a charming local jeweler's shop after encountering some unhelpful service at larger, more generic stores. A very sweet older lady named Lisa works at the jeweler's shop and she had walked Frank through the whole process, meeting with him for three days in a row to help him choose and even giving him a discount when she found out he's putting himself through law school. He was really hoping I could meet her and fortunately she was in the store so she chatted with us for a while and even showed us some wedding bands. It was really fun to find out about Frank's side of the story - all the hard work he put into choosing and purchasing my ring. The ring is simple and classic with the prettiest sparkly diamond in a "Tiffany setting." Frank said it's a "perfect diamond" and that he "fell in love with it the minute he saw it." I had no idea all the little sacrifices he's been making to afford it and now that I know it makes the ring infinitely more precious. I remembered my mom telling me that my dad took a job as a security guard at Harvard while he was an undergrad so he could save up money to buy her engagement ring. The old story repeats itself and the cycle goes on. 

After leaving the jeweler's shop we went to Frank's house so he could finish packing for Witherspoon. I made a smoothie and sat in his room sipping it while he packed up his books and supplies for the seminar. That little space of time actually ended up being my favorite thing we've done since getting engaged. It was just the two of us, talking and laughing, planning for the future and teasing each other about silly things. It finally hit me for the first time that we are really going to get married and I was so excited I started jumping up and down, which made Frank laugh. Then he drove me back to my place and I'm happily decompressing from the craziness of last night by writing this blog post.

So there you have it! The whole story. I'll be putting up pictures as soon as Lillian sends them. A lot of people have asked me, "How are you? How do you feel?" and I feel very, very happy. I know there's a lot more work to be done and wedding planning is no picnic (although I hope to make it easier by keeping things simple and small). But what matters at the end of the day is that I'm going to be marrying this man. The man who fascinates me and intrigues me and makes me laugh every day, and the man who swept me off my feet. That's all that matters. Nothing in the world could make me happier than that.

Thank you for reading all of this! I hope you enjoyed it.




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  2. Oh my goodness! I am so excited for y'all! I have just loved reading and following y'alls relationship from the beginning and I was just waiting to see when y'all would be engaged! I am looking forward to lots of wedding posts. This is such a happy time!!

  3. Congratulations! I've been meaning to find your blog ever since Kelly told me about it while we were in Princeton one summer, and now that Grace linked to you, I have. Hooray!

    ~Your old camp counselor, Nova

  4. Congratulations, Tess and Frank, and many, many blessings. When I first started reading your account and mentioned July 26, I got excited because that's the feast of St. Anne and Joachim (also my feast day). Then you mentioned the Franciscan Monastery and I got even more excited since everything Franciscan is so important to me. I wish you both every blessing!.

  5. Congrats to you both! May God bless you! (=

  6. Congratulations and God bless you guys! I loved reading your post - everything seemed so exciting, as I'm sure it was! I actually just stopped by to let you know I have tagged you for the Liebster blog award xx

  7. Once again, best wishes! Thanks for sharing your sweet, sweet story. Maybe once you get a couple pictures you can let the girls at CYW know about the new happenings? *hint hint* God bless you both, and many happy hugs and prayers going your way!

  8. I KNEW IT! ;) Heehee! But really, for the last two weeks, I honestly kept thinking to myself, "Surely in her next post Tess will announce she's engaged . . ." :)

    Heartiest congratulations, dearie, and I'll be keeping you and your new fiance in my prayers! All the best to you, and may God shower you two with His mercies and blessings!

  9. Oh, and I second Clare . . . do please let the CYW girls know about it, I'm sure they'd be delighted by the news! :)

  10. Oh Tess, what happy news. I have so enjoyed reading your lovely story; thank you for sharing it and for edifying your readers. All the best to you and Frank.

    I will keep you both in my prayers.

  11. Thank you so much for such kind, lovely comments! Frank and I really appreciate all the good wishes. I'm excited to blog about this next exciting phase in our lives!

  12. May God bless both of you and be with you as you prepare for this wonderful and so very important sacrament! Your story made me tear up with joy it is so refreshing to see the author of all love so very important to the two of you. In this way I know that your marriage will truly be a witness to God's goodness. As much as we need more people entering relgious life- we desperately need more holy couples venturing to the altar!!! Keep focused on our Lord and Blessed Mother as you journey toward your big day.
    Blessings :)

  13. What a beautiful story! I love that he really did surprise you by causing you to think he'd propose after he returned. Too sweet! Congratulations, Tess! You'll make such a beautiful bride!

  14. Congratulations! What a beautiful story! I'm so happy for you! :)