Tuesday, March 13, 2012

An Anniversary Tribute to KJ

I've written here several times before that I think of this blog as a way to share my thoughts and the events of my life without getting too personal. These stories are usually wrapped around adventures—as I like to call them—frequently related to my three main interests: baseball, music and craft beer. In doing so, there have been many, many references to my better half, of course.

So, I thought on the occasion of our second wedding anniversary, I'd write a little post about KJ and why she is the best wife I could ask for.

Don't worry, this is not going to be me telling you why my wife is the best in the world, in effect saying mine is better than yours. No, this will be more about how my wife is the best woman for me. So, your spouse may very well be the best possible partner for you, because you and I are different people, of course. In an ideal world, that would be the way it works.

I also don't plan to stray too far from the philosophy about this blog I just mentioned, and get all mushy and sentimental. I just thought I'd share a little about our history together, and in some cases, the brief stories will have a connection to this blog's typical subject matter.

I met KJ in October of 2008. I still have a pretty vivid picture etched in my brain of that moment and the first time she smiled at me, because I'm reminded of it each time she's done so since. In addition to her thoughtful and generous nature—which, if you're not aware of, you'll learn about shortly—her smile is right up there among her best qualities.

As you can imagine, we hit it off pretty much instantly. There was really little doubt that things would continue, so fairly quickly, there was a second date, third date, a party where she met a lot of my friends, etc.

Only a couple months later, Christmas was approaching. Christmas presents are a difficult proposition when you've only been dating someone for two months. But, KJ had the perfect plan.

Disguised by a mid-December evening out to dinner and to get a taste of the season by checking out some Christmas lights, KJ sprung an early Christmas gift on me. At the restaurant, I opened a box that contained a piece of paper. Mind you, this was not an ordinary sheet of paper, but rather it was email confirmation of two tickets to a Neil Young concert that was to take place that very evening. On it were written the words "WANNA GO?"

Now, as I just mentioned, KJ and I had been together barely two months at this point. She had already been exposed to many of my obsessions, but for some reason, I had yet to reveal that Neil Young was my absolute favorite musical artist. At some point prior to that she had learned I liked Neil Young, but she really had no idea to what extent.

Needless to say, I was shocked, excited and impressed all at the same time. You could say that meeting her was fate, but if you did based on just this story, you too would have no idea to what extent.

A couple months later, we were discussing Cooperstown and the fact she'd never been, but had always wanted to go. Since I'd visited Cooperstown over 20 times up to that point, I suggested we should make it a weekend getaway. There was a three-day weekend coming up (Presidents Day), so that seemed as good a time as any. Except, it happened to coincide with Valentine's Day.

This, it turns out, was not a problem. The woman of my dreams was happy to spend our first Valentine's Day together in Cooperstown. We booked a cozy B&B and spent the long weekend exploring the quaint upstate New York village. This adventure, of course, included three consecutive days inside the Baseball Hall of Fame & Museum, and visits to two breweries. Needless to say, virtually every male I know was envious.

Another three months later, my birthday gift was a trip to New York City and my first visit to the new Yankee Stadium. You could probably say I was getting spoiled by the gifts at this point, especially since I neglected to mention another Christmas gift was labels for my latest home brew.

Now, let's fast forward another five months or so. With our first anniversary approaching, it was time for me to try and see if I could even come close to matching the fantastic surprises she had previously sprung on me.

I got her to agree to let me plan our anniversary trip, and keep the entire four-day excursion a surprise.

When we embarked on our journey and headed north from Boston, she pretty much knew our destination was either New Hampshire or Maine, since I hadn't instructed her to bring along her passport. Of course, that suspense wouldn't last long, as just an hour later we beared right around Portsmouth, meaning we were headed to the state that likes to refer to itself as "Vacationland."

But, Maine's a big place, so there was still some surprise left. An hour or so later, I exited the highway at Portland and drove into the downtown area of the state's largest city. I kept her in the dark a little longer, though, as we headed to Gritty McDuff's, New England's oldest brewpub, for lunch.

After our meal, we walked around the port city, enjoying a misty, overcast day on the ocean and taking a few photos in the process. After a several-hour stop-off, I broke the news that this wasn't our final destination. That, in fact, we weren't going to get there until tomorrow, so she'd have to continue in suspense for another day.

We spent the evening at the home of an old friend of mine and her family in Freeport, just north of Portland. KJ was loving the idea that she still didn't know where we were headed, but the following morning the secret was kind of spoiled when a friend of our friend (a complete stranger to us) off-handedly mentioned our ultimate destination to KJ.

In her defense, she didn't know the information she'd been made privy to was to be kept a secret. KJ brushed it off anyway, and we continued on our journey pretending there was still a surprise in order.

A couple hours further north (or northeast, actually) and it was time to take a hard right and head south to Mount Desert Island and Bar Harbor. Since she basically knew where we were headed, I decided it was time to give up the ruse and admit the information our friend's friend revealed was correct.

We arrived at the Shore Path Cottage, our Bar Harbor B&B, for a two-night stay, but the weekend's surprise didn't end there.

Of course, KJ—as she always does—let me devote part of our weekend to visiting a brewery, or rather the in-town tasting room of the Bar Harbor Brewing Company. But, it's not as if she's just submissively allowing me to do whatever the hell I want either. You see, KJ is a craft beer fan as I am, just as she shares my love for baseball and music (although her taste for the latter has been somewhat influenced by yours truly).

But, as I said earlier, the weekend's surprise wasn't over just because we'd arrived at our destination. Our actual anniversary was the following weekend, but our good friends were getting married then, so we chose the Sunday night of this particular weekend for our anniversary dinner.

Afterwards, I popped the CD I had made for the occasion into our car's stereo and we went for a moonlight drive. KJ's always had a thing for the ocean, and she'd previously remarked that the Maine coastline kind of reminds her of her native Oregon. At least, as far as east coast beaches go.

So, we drove south towards Acadia National Park, or so I thought. My memory was a little foggy from the times I'd been there over ten years prior, so I forgot that, to enter Acadia, you actually have to take an exit off the main drag. So, while the park was on both sides of us as we drove, we weren't actually within its boundaries.

That detail didn't really matter, except the plan was to check out the shore at night, and I was counting on Acadia's east coach beaches. But, before I realized I'd missed the park's entrance, we reached the island's southern shore, and were lucky to find a small beach with a well-lit parking lot just across the street.

We were kind of dressed up as we went for a walk on the beach of Seal Harbor, but that was kind of by design. I asked KJ if she'd been sufficiently surprised by my plans for our weekend. She answered yes, to which I replied that she hadn't seen anything yet as I got down on one knee and reached into my jacket pocket.

You can probably guess what happened next, and that it's the reason I'm writing this little story to commemorate our two years of marriage so far.

It took me a long time to find someone so perfect for me, a woman who complements me as much as KJ does. Honestly, I had previously thought I found that person a couple times, even almost settled for someone I knew wasn't. But, a friend who's more religious than I'll ever be once said to me that things seem to work out for a reason. In this case, I truly believe that, and I think our soon-to-be four-month-old son is pretty good evidence of that.

So, on this occasion of our second anniversary, I can say that I'm happy that my life's journey has led me to this place. Because today, and every day, I consider myself the luckiest man on the face of the earth.

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