Martha and I have apparently been orbiting around each other for quite some time; however, we never spent time together until 2015 and then it took almost another year for us to go on our first date. Martha swears this didn't happen, but I maintain that we met during Camp Trinity's Adventurers Camp the summer before I moved to Raleigh. We spent some time together that first year but I was nervous about ruining my welcome with the Christ Church Youth Program so I waited for not-so-subtle prodding to finally ask her out. We went to Cantina 18-- even though I got a flat tire during an afternoon bike ride and had to delay our dinner-- Martha was kind and didn't hold that against me.
Our next major milestone came as I took a job out in the Outer Banks as an intern at the FRF. I worked there for two months and Martha stole a long weekend to come and visit. I knew she liked me for real when she braved all 200 stairs of the Hatteras Lighthouse in spite of her fear of heights. Our selfie at the top was our first picture together and still sits beside our bed. Around that time our world's started to collide in a swirl of Camp-based, Episcopalian-tinged, North Carolina soup. My childhood friends were her college roommates and my triathlon and teacher friend in Warren County was a frequent lunch-buddy during her college years. We continue to find more interesting connections every single day.
Otherwise, I would say that the rest of our dating was uneventful: Martha got a dog, Cotter, I abandoned Industrial Engineering for specialty coffee and a bike shop, Martha was promoted to the Director of Youth Ministry, and then I found my way into medical school at UNC. If you know anything about Martha and I, we both have our particularities and both understand there are often right and wrong ways. Fortunately we agree (or don't get involved) in the other person's "expertise" so we have fallen into a symbiotic partnership. So as we turn our partnership into a marriage, I could not be happier to have found someone like Martha with whom to embark on this journey.
Honestly, there are about a million ways to start this story. There's no right answer! It's always hard to tell when people ask, but I'll do my best. There's a lot of connections (North Carolina is a small place apparently). Tucker moved to Raleigh in 2015 to start grad school at NC State and started volunteering at Christ Church, where I work. He got connected through Camp Trinity and childhood friends. Two of my best college friends and roommates were friends with him growing up, and immediately were on me about hanging out with him. "Subtle" hints like telling me he was moving there and asking if we had hung out, you know. We also determined that I'm pretty sure we crossed paths at a church event in high school, but neither of us could remember that, so who knows! The EYC leader group has a lot of young adults which sustained our friend group for the first 6 months we really knew each other. There are also some hilarious back stories from people with a vested interest in us working out. We hung out plenty in groups, did activities like going to the state fair and Christmas parties, and more. It wasn't until the wedding of some of those friends in April 2016, and some prodding of friends, that some extra interest was noted. Ten days after that wedding he called to ask me to dinner, and here we are!
Some entertaining highlights along the early road include my inability to play it cool when asked if I wanted lunch at the office when we were in fact (secretly) supposed to go on a lunch date that day, the confusion over whether I believed in dinosaurs (feel free to ask about the story), visiting the OBX and by some miracle making it up that lighthouse, intentionally ignoring each other at Virginia's baptism (now flower girl!) because we hadn't told anyone yet, even though I dropped off his suit from Raleigh at his parent's house in Wilmington and chatted with his mom about it... And then obviously getting the Cotterman, which was heavily contested by both Tucker and my parents and now I'm certain no one would have it any other way!
Our engagement story almost started with spoiled surprises. It was almost spoiled due to Martha's insatiable love for planning and the future limitations of a first year medical student's schedule. We knew we wanted to get married at Christ Church and, on inspection, our calendars dictated that December 2018 or July 2019 were our two only options. With the approval of Martha's family, we found that Christ Church was available (when I saw "we" I mean Martha snooping in the church calendar independently, but at the same time, as her mother snooping in the altar guild calendar) at both times so we opted for 2019. (and thank goodness... what ever possessed me to think a wedding right after Christmas would be an ideal time, especially as someone who works in a church!?!? -Martha)
All that was left to me was to find a time where our families could join to celebrate and, of course, get a ring. There were some general parameters we had causally discussed over the months (most importantly "please do not do this in a super-public place, I will die" -Martha) but having our families as part of the celebration was always understood. Our families settled on a summer weekend in July so plane tickets were booked, hotel rooms reserved, and a large dinner reservation was made. We are so lucky that nearly everyone was able to come (missed you Louisa!), and are so grateful for their efforts to make it so special. Unfortunately for Martha, that meant a "free" weekend in mid-July couldn't become a get-away. I did my darnedest to grovel about "wanting to be with my things" after a few weeks away from Raleigh and had to collude with her parents to sabotage what would have been a great weekend at Sunset Beach so that we were casually available on the weekend of July 14th.
My plan was to propose out in Umstead Park while hiking along our favorite section of the "Lollipop" Trail with Cotter, her (now our) dog, presenting the ring. It was the perfect way to incorporate something that wouldn't tip her off but also that we love doing together already and would be able to return to anytime for great memories (and puppin'). There was no Plan B. Fortunately, the weather cooperated and with a few highlighted maps and scouting missions, our families knew their part too. As mentioned above, I had sabotaged all other fun for the weekend, so we packed my apartment that morning (which obviously I actually loved and had no idea it was a place holder -Martha). Martha almost discovered the ring while packing, she even opened the original hiding place, but she didn't suspect a thing and agreed to a casual afternoon walk with Cotter. On the trail, with the ring on a locking carabiner tied to my waistband, we let Cotter run free. As Cotter and I beat Martha down a hill, I hooked the locking carabiner onto his collar. He ran out, ran back, and decided to do a perfect sit with the sun glinting just right to catch Martha's eye. Initially confused about what "got stuck" on Cotter's collar, Martha eventually realized it was the ring, turned right and I had dropped to one knee, she said yes, and we were engaged. All the while, our families had been setting up in a clearing off the side of the trail out of Umstead so when we rounded the corner towards the car, they waved and we celebrated with champagne and, of course, cookies. Luckily, Cotter waited until after delivering the ring to roll in mud... literally.
Despite her drive to plan, that weekend's engagement was a surprise to Martha. She might have suspected something but the dinosaur tattoos on her left hand convinced me that she wasn't expecting any hand-based photography anytime soon. I still haven't lived down "wanting to be with my things" but a dramatic excuse was necessary to keep the surprise weekend available. Then between the almost-spoiled surprise of the ring's hiding spot, the luckily-cooperative weather, and the number of family activities happening in Raleigh without her knowledge, have left me sufficiently convinced that that weekend was supposed to happen this way.