Monday, December 30, 2013

She said, "Wait, are you serious?"

Then she said yes.

On Saturday, I had planned a special date night for Sara.  All Sara knew was to wear comfortable shoes.  We started the night by walking to a near-by bar for a fancy cocktail.  We then continued on our evening for an early dinner at Zaytinya, a small-plates restaurant that I had wanted to try for quite a few years.  At dinner, which was delicious, I gave Sara part of her Christmas present, which was a copy of A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens and two tickets to see the production performed that night at Ford's Theatre. 

Throughout the evening and the play, I was so nervous.  My hand kept reaching into the pocket where the ring was hidden to make sure I hadn't lost it.  I didn't feel I could concentrate on anything because my mind just wandered back to what I wanted to say and how I wanted to propose.  After the show, we both stopped at the bathroom and while I waited for her to come out from the ladies room my heart beat out of my chest.  My pulse raced.  In the gift shop, I found a Christmas ornament with Ford's Theatre and 2013 on one side and A Christmas Carol on the other side and just had to purchase it (all the ornaments on our Christmas tree come from vacations or have special meaning).  As I paced nervously around the lobby waiting, I saw Sara, she smiled, and my heart melted.  She suggested we take a picture outside and I readily agreed.

We took a couple of selfies with the theatre sign behind us and then I spotted a couple walking down the street.  I asked them loudly to take a picture, then quietly told them I was about to propose and asked them to film it.  As Sara tossed her hair to get ready for the picture, I kissed her on the cheek and then dropped down to one knee.  Sara saw me and said, "What are you doing?" and then gasped.  I mumbled through something - anything I had pre-planned flew out my of head in my nervousness - and asked her if she would marry me.  She responded, "Wait, are you serious?"  When I told her I was she said yes and we hugged and kissed.  I put the ring on her finger (I started to put it on the wrong hand at first) and we embraced once again.  My legs shook from excitement and happiness. 

Captured from the video

We stayed outside the theatre for a half hour.  A couple of women in a car yelled out the window, asking if we just got engaged.  When we responded that we had, they cheered for us and honked the car horn.  We called our parents (who already knew - I asked Sara's mom for her blessing a few days earlier) and Sara's sister.  Apparently, Kristin and Kathy had spent the whole day texting each other, wondering what was taking me so long.  We decided to walk over to RFD - the bar where we had our first date - for a few drinks to end the night. 

I am so happy and excited.  We have no idea when or where we will get married or whether Sara will move to Germany or what will happen over the next two years.  But, I have found the woman I want to share the rest of my life and all of these crazy adventures with.  I am so excited and can't wait until I get to wake up every morning next to her.  I love her and she loves me.

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Christmas Markets

One of the true joys of Germany is the holiday Christmas market.  For five months, I heard people whisper about the wonderful Christmas markets.  They were absolutely right, the Christmas markets are fantastic.  The best part about the Christmas markets isn't the shopping or the Gluhwein (hot spiced wine) or even the Feuerzangenbowle (literally "fire tongue bowl").  The food's great and there are even some rides.  No, the best part is just the general atmosphere.  Friends chatting with friends, lovers walking together holding hands, co-workers sneaking out of work early for a couple mugs of gluhwein.  The Christmas cheer permeating the market.
Small but picturesque Christmas Market in Eberheim


Christmas pyramid in Wiesbaden

Nativity Scene in Wiesbaden (I thought it odd that the baby Jesus was already there.  In Italy, the baby Jesus doesn't appear until Christmas Day).

Skating Rink in Wiesbaden

Christmas pyramid in Heidelberg

Saturday, December 7, 2013

Remember the Alamo (even if it's a bit disappointing)

My trip to the US concluded with a Thanksgiving celebration in Sara's hometown of San Antonio.  I had met Sara's mom and sister before, but only briefly.  So this trip was a chance to get to know them better and also for our families to meet, as my family also came in to celebrate Thanksgiving.

Some of the highlights (in no particular order)
  • Mexican food - oh my god, the food was so good.  I had Mexican three different times, including breakfast tacos (didn't even know this existed).  Delicious.
  • Discovering the source of some of Sara's habits.  I don't think I went more than a few hours without realizing that some random habit of Sara's comes from her Mom or sister.  The list making.  The 1,001 options on where to eat.  Lots of little things.
  • A bunch of us signed up for the 5k Turkey Trot on Thanksgiving morning so we could eat without guilt all day.  More importantly, Shelley and I were both racing and I really wanted to beat her.  We started together and she took off out of the gate, sprinting ahead.  I kept her in my sights and worked over the next two miles to catch up.  As we passed the second mile marker, I caught up and we ran neck and neck for the next mile.  I would go ahead 10 feet and she would catch up, then she would surge ahead and I would keep pace.  With about 500 meters to go, I sprinted for the finish and didn't stop until I crossed the finish line, beating her by about 6 seconds.  My parents met us at the finish line (having missed seeing us finish by just seconds).  Shelley and I both set personal records.
  • Thanksgiving food.  Mmmmmm.
  • That Alabama-Auburn game.
  • Sara's aunt and uncle's house. This house was amazing.  Especially the man cave which featured a projection TV that, I swear, rivaled the screen in Jerryworld in Dallas.
  • Gambling on Thanksgiving.  Sara's family does a football pool for the Cowboys and my Dad managed to win both the halftime pot and the final pot in the Cowboys game.  Then Sara, Shelley, and my Dad all won some other games.  The Caniglia/Kusiak clan fleeced everyone else at the party.
  • Meeting the rest of Sara's family.  I got to meet Sara's dad, which was important to me.  I really enjoyed meeting her extended family as well.  Lots of fun people.
  • Watching football with my family - even though Nebraska lost, it was great to watch the game with my family.
  • The riverwalk - seriously cool place with tons of restaurants lining the shallow canal.  We took a boat taxi down the river and it was just awesome.  We also ate the best nachos ever while watching Auburn stun Alabama.
  • I should say the Alamo, but I was pretty disappointed in the historic monument.  It was small, dingy, crowded and not really worth all the fuss.

Wednesday, December 4, 2013

Penn State game

One of the highlights of my recently completed vacation was a trip to State College, PA to see my Huskers play the Penn State Nittany Lions.  I've always wanted to go to a game in State College, but it is incredibly hard to do.  State College is in the middle of nowhere.  Actually, it is about two hours away from the middle of nowhere.  It's a four hour drive from DC and after hanging out with some of Sara's friends, we didn't leave DC until after 10.  We pulled into town and found the house where we were renting an apartment and were immediately greeted by this.  Clearly, we were in enemy territory.

The next morning, we went out to eat breakfast at a popular place called, "The Original Waffle Shop."  Once again, practically everything and everyone was covered in navy blue and white.  I've been to a number of Nebraska away games and I have never seen so little red.  All of the Penn State fans were beyond friendly and courteous.  After brunch, we walked down to the tailgating area and sought out friendly faces.
We wandered around and found a few Husker tailgates, but the highlight of tailgating (and perhaps the highlight of the whole damn trip) was witnessing my very first game of "Stump."  Stump is a ridiculous and ridiculously awesome game.  All the players stand around a sawed off tree stump, passing around a hammer.  On his turn, the player tosses the hammer in the air, catches it, and attempts to hammer one of his opponents nails.  More tosses are awarded if the player tosses the hammer under his leg (2) or behind his back (3).  A player loses when his nail is hammered all the way into the stump.  Mysteriously, there are no drinking penalties involved.  It's not a drinking game.  What astounds me about this non-drinking game is how much preparation it requires.  Most drinking games involve some solo cups, a table, a deck of cards or perhaps some ping pong balls.  This game requires (a) a tree stump, (b) a hammer, and (c) numerous nails.  Seriously, this is why I love America.  (Also, the guy tossing the hammer in the picture was wearing a Penn State honors college sweatshirt.)  I miss college.

The game was freezing cold.  We never warmed up the entire game.  It snowed off and on.  The game itself was a back and forth affair, with Nebraska prevailing in overtime.  My favorite part of the game came in the third quarter.  Penn State scored a TD following a Nebraska fumble to take the lead.  As the television broadcast went into commercial, the snow picked up and began to swirl around the stadium.  They began to play Neil Diamond's "Sweet Caroline" and the raucous crowd sang along and shook the stadium.  The snow continued to swirl, the crowd chanted the final, "Bah, bah, bah" and Penn State kicked off to Kenny Bell standing on the 1- yard line.  Kenny Bell, Sara and my favorite player, then proceeded to run the kick off back 99 yards, hurdling the kicker and silencing the crowd.  The snow stopped.  The magic was over.  But those were a fun three minutes.

After the game, we walked downtown to do a bit of bar hopping.  I, however, was still a bit jet lagged and kept nodding off into my beer.  Sadly, I had no second wind, no rally within me.  We called it an early night and took a cab back (best $6 I've ever spent to not walk back in that cold).  The next day, we woke up late and went for lunch downtown, before driving out of the middle of nowhere and back into civilization.