Being in a relationship sometimes means doing things that aren’t exactly your jam.  For example, here I am writing my first blog post for our new website.  Although figuring out what to write about wasn’t really too difficult because I basically get 2 questions nowadays. 

1.  How did you and Nichole meet?

2.  How did you pop the question?

I know you’ve already heard Nichole’s version to both of these questions, however now it’s my turn to tell the rest of the story behind the story.

Let’s back up to right around August 2012.  I had been back in our beautiful mid-city, Grand Rapids, for almost a year.  I was a bachelor in every sense of the word.  I lived in a basement, had 2 major food groups – fast food and microwaveable, and was always on the lookout for where my next date would come from. 

For all the great things that this lifestyle had to offer, I could tell I was ready for a change.  I was dating to try to have fun, but I was really looking for something to stick.  My philosophy for asking girls on dates has always been “what’s the worst that can happen?”  In my mind the worst thing that can happen is that she says “No.”  Maybe in some cases a little more emphatically than others and some slight humiliation and hurt pride come along with it, but really it can’t be any worse than that. 

Luckily for me this philosophy paid off, especially because Nichole doesn’t even remember the first 2 times we met.  They both happened in the span of just over a week.  The first was at a Start Garden happy hour and the second was at a #saturDAZE party in the legendary Harris building.  In her defense, she was hosting both of these events and was meeting large numbers of people, while I was really only interested in meeting her.  Because she was hosting I never truly got the opportunity to talk to her individually and therefore also never had a real chance to ask her out (or maybe I was a little scared, but I’ll let you decide).  I was feeling optimistic, however, because we had met twice in that week and I figured that meant we were bound to run into each other again.  I also didn’t know that she had no idea who I was at this point, so that helps. 

Of course what happened next is that 2 months went by without me getting so much as a glimpse of Nichole.  At this point I swallowed my pride and only now will I admit what I did next, following philosophy of “what’s the worst that can happen?” 

I looked her up on Facebook…

I sent her a private message…

I asked her out…

Of course she shot me down…


Did I read that right?...

She didn’t shoot me down?  She said yes?....

 She said yes! …

I can’t believe that worked!

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Fast forward a quick 6 months to the next time I needed her to say yes and I was quite a bit more confident in what the answer would be.

We had talked and I received the e-mail from Nichole telling me what she “generally likes” in a ring, which as you know for her, is a very detailed and specific list.  Once I got this information I quickly took it upon myself to go and find the next place I knew I could find more help, my step-mom, Mari Kladder.

I called her up, told her that I needed to do a little shopping, and sent over the list of what I was looking for.

The next day Mari called back and told me that she had already seen her friends at 6 jewelry stores and she thinks she knows where we should go.  I said “that sounds great, let’s go with that one.  Wait, what’s the name of it and where is it?”

I met Mari at DeVries Jewelry on Leonard Street and constructed a ring I hoped Nichole would like.  3 weeks later I had the ring in my possession and felt like Gollum from the Lord of the Rings every time I opened it just to make sure it was still there.

Now that I had the ring I decided it would be a good idea to try and develop a plan on how I was going to give it away.

First thing’s first, I knew that I had to find a time to talk with Mr. Smith and let him know exactly what my intentions were.  This is a little easier said than done because he often works out of state and their house is about an hour away, so I couldn’t exactly just swing by to see if he’s home.

So I figured I had to give him a call and ask him.  When he heard who was calling I’m sure he knew what the reason was. He told me that I’d want to talk to him in person.  I said I completely agree, but I just need to know when you’ll be in town next.  Lucky for me, it was the very next weekend.  Even more lucky for me was that Nichole had just sold her Jeep and needed a ride down to Kalamazoo that very same weekend. 

Long story short, I dropped Nichole off to continue on to her girls’ weekend in Chicago and went to meet-up with my future father and mother-in-law, Chris & Mary, at the Old Dog Tavern.  We talked for a few hours and had a few brews and I left feeling pretty good about things.  I also left feeling like I needed to pop the question soon because Mary was pretty excited and I wasn’t sure she wouldn’t let it slip to Nichole during one of their phone calls. (Sorry if you’re reading this, I’m sure you wouldn’t have said anything!)

On the ride home I started seriously thinking about how I was going to do it.  I knew a few things:

1.  I didn’t want to do it in a public place, i.e restaurant.

2.  I wanted to surprise her.

3.  I wanted do it in the next week.

From there I figured the only place that I could realistically pull off those 3 things was at her apartment.  I was originally planning to surprise her immediately on getting home from work, but lo and behold, she had something planned every day that week and I was heading to Detroit for a Tiger’s game with the guys that weekend.  I asked a few more questions about when things were getting done that week and decided I could pull off Wednesday night after her event at the GRAM which would finish around 8:30pm.  Bonus points because our first date was on a Wednesday and no one really expects anything crazy to happen on a Wednesday.

I started thinking hard about what I had to work with in her apartment, was kicking around the idea of notes on the door or somewhere inside, when my mind went to the graffiti wall that I had consistently refused to sign.  Now, I never refused to sign it with grandiose ideas of using it in a proposal later on, but rather, I didn’t sign it because I’m not artistic and I figured I’d screw it up and have to look at it all the time.  You’ll hear how I wasn’t really that far off.

A little more thinking and I had to figure out how I was going to get her to the wall when she walked in. 

Answer, a trail.  Specifically, a trail of t-lights and rose petals leading to a bottle of Champagne with a note telling her “I finally figured out what I wanted to write on the wall.”

From there I had to figure out where I could be hiding when she walked in.  There aren’t many places to hide in an apartment.  I basically had either the bathroom or the upstairs loft to choose from.  I went with the loft and decided I would extend my trail upwards.

Wednesday rolls around and I’m getting a little jittery, not questioning, just nervous.  I still had to pick up all my supplies to make my plan happen.  I kept telling myself that I would have plenty of time after work since Nichole has her Kate Spade event right after work and won’t be back until 8:30.  Of course, right about then Nichole sends me a text that says “Laura and I decided to skip the cocktail hour before hand and go to GRBC, want to join?”  I say “yes” because I don’t want anything to seem amiss and internally watch an hour tick off my preparation time.

I stay for one beer, trying to seem relaxed while also making sure I don’t shit my pants, and then practically run out the door at 6pm.  I have 2 hours to get this set-up.

I head out to Michael’s on Alpine and don’t even bother looking myself.  I find the first person working there and say “rose petals & t-lights.”  I think I set a world record, couldn’t have been in the store more than 5 minutes. 

From there it’s off to Meijer for a bottle of Champagne and an ice bucket.  I forget about the need to I.D. at the self-scanner and get annoyed when the employee doesn’t immediately recognize the blinking red light above my checkout.

I’m back in the apartment by 6:45pm.

I start with scattering the rose petals and setting up the trail of unlit t-lights. 7:05pm.

Now it’s time to face the dreaded board.  I pull out all the white paint markers and find the one that looks like it has the best tip.  I give it a good shake.  I steady my hand and begin to write.  I finish.  I step back to look at it.  I say out loud “oh shit, that looks horrible.”

I panic. 7:15pm.

Now I know that Nichole has black spray paint in the apartment because she has one rule and one rule only for the Graffiti wall.  No Penises.  This rule was broken.  She painted over it.  I need to find this spray paint.

I look everywhere.  I don’t find it.  I look again.  I find it in the most obvious spot.  I don’t know why I looked anywhere else because Nichole doesn’t put things in random spots.  7:30pm.

I spray paint over my first rendition.  I look up how to make spray paint dry faster. 7:40pm.

I pull out Nichole’s hair dryer and blow dry the paint on the graffiti wall.  8:00pm.

I re-draw the emblem and write “Will you marry me?” underneath.

I step back and it’s slightly slanted and off center from where I wanted it.  No time to spray paint again, it’ll do.  8:15pm.

I put away the spray paint.  I put the Champagne on ice.  8:20pm

Why won’t these t-light stay lit?!? Slight panic. 8:25pm

I realize that I have to bend the wicks up.  I bend all the wicks up. 8:29pm

I receive a text message telling me she’s walking back.  Slightly more panic. 8:30pm

I get all the lights off, t-lights lit, and on a knee up to my hiding spot in the loft no more than 30 seconds to a minute before she walks in.

I hear her open the door and call out “Jeff??”  I didn’t respond and tried to make sure I remembered to breathe.

I hear her walk to the board.  I hear her slowly walk up the stairs.  I see her standing in front of me.  I ask her to marry me.  She says “Yes.”  We hug.  We cry.  We pop the Champagne.  We go Mangiamo! for drinks, appetizers, and live jazz, which is where it all started on a Wednesday night 6 months ago after she said “yes” the first time to the best Facebook message I’ve ever sent. 

{  JMK  }