The Engagement Story of Jason and Sara

While the government shutdown has been looming large in my life, another major event has been looming larger, my love for Sara Lee.  869S&J Kayak 2And for those of you that don’t know, I am not declaring my everlasting love to a cheesecake, but rather a wonderful woman who came into my life seven months ago.  We met, as many couple do these days, on the internet.  But while we did spend a couple of days chatting and texting, we were both so intrigued by the person on the other end of the line that we quickly wanted to meet in person.  We realized that we lived within four blocks of each other.  We met on a corner near our houses and walked to our first date, a first date that lasted 6 hours.  Our second date lasted 4 hours and our third date lasted 10, at which point I was smitten.  I was in point of fact, more than smitten, I was in love, although it would take a few more weeks for me to admit it to myself and few more to admit it to Sara.  Sara as it turns out was having very similar feelings.  Over the course of the last few months we’ve met parents and families, road tripped, shopped, sat, ate, and talked together.  IMG_0151In this short time, she has become not just the love of my life but my best friend, and a true partner.  As my apartment lease was ending in August, we decided to look for a place we could live together.  We found an awesome place and in August I moved in, and in late September, after introducing her two cats to Rio, Sara moved in.  It seemed that the next step would be to ask the big question.

Sara and I had been talking about the potential for marriage and a life together for some time.  I had even asked her for some ideas on the types of rings she liked.  Via the wonders of the internet and some fantastic online jewelry shops and, she was able to identify many rings that she liked.  Armed with what seemed occasionally like an overwhelming amount of information on engagement rings (not just from Sara, the internet and everyone I talked to had both advice and opinions) I ventured forth to find the right ring.  What was chosen was simple, yet classic and beautiful (see picture).  I also went with a lab-created diamond, because while they are cheaper, they are created through science, rather than an environmentally destructive and possibly bloody mining process.  I did a lot of research on lab-created diamonds, which unlike other lab created gems are really diamonds.  The only “real” difference is that they are significantly less expensive, it even comes with an accredited certification.

So now that I had things picked out, I needed a plan.  As I was in the process of ordering the diamond a plan started to hatch.  The ring would be shipped from the jeweler to me, but given that Sara and I live together it would require a bit of subterfuge.  While she doesn’t open my packages, a strange package that I won’t divulged the contents of, and must subsequently hid would never do for either keeping things a surprise or for keeping a healthy relationship.  So I had them ship it to my parents’ house.  Since it would take a couple of weeks to produce, which gave me enough time to come up with a good plan (or at least some semblance of plan).  Having thought it through I decided I would use my twenty year high school reunion as a clever ruse to get Sara to Cincinnati, where I would propose to her at the Cincinnati Zoo, a place I love very much, a place that fostered my love of animals and biology.  So thus began my journey to proposing to Sara Lee.

So the story begins as we enter the zoo.

So the story begins as we enter the zoo.

I laid the ground work, by requesting that she journey with me on a road trip to Cincinnati to visit my old high school.  It seemed a bit lame, but she went with it, mostly because she loves me enough to indulge my whims occasionally, and road trips are fun.  I also enlisted the help of my sister in Cincinnati, and Sara’s friends/coworkers, Beth and Lori (to ensure that it would be OK if Sara missed a day or so of work).  One of the sneakier things I did was to tell Sara I had purchased her ring, but not until October 7th, so it wouldn’t be ready for a couple of weeks, and most likely not till after her birthday on the 22nd.  This was a bit tough, as Sara now wanted to know many details about the ring.  She was very persistent, and even looked at the online merchants recently purchased rings to see if she could get a glimpse into her ring (which luckily has yet to show up on the recently purchased lists).  I dropped some hints to throw her off the scent.  I would let little wrong details slip (e.g., it was rose gold, I ordered it from  In the intervening days, Sara was completing her move in, and her parents, Tom and Pat, came up from Eau Claire to help.  I found an opportunity to talk with them, express my deepest love for their daughter, ask if they had any concerns or reservations about me or our relationship, and ask for their blessing to marry Sara.  Her parents were genuinely happy and asked only that I treat Sara with the love, honor, and respect that she deserves, to which I agreed happily.  I also let them in on the plan, that I would be asking Sara to marry me the next week, while we were in Cincinnati.  Now with both parents on board, a plan in the works, and Sara sufficiently unaware we started the road trip that would begin our “official” life together.

Thursday night took us to the LaQuita hotel in Madison, WI, where we realized what we were missing in not having a king size bed.  With a dog who refuses to sleep anywhere but on the bed adjacent to me (often short sheeting Sara) and two kitties who like to find a place on the bed to snuggle in, but is far enough from the dog to make a quick escape a queen size bed can seem quite small.  On Friday we travelled to Cincinnati, where we met up with a few of my friends from high school.  After the game we were able to catch up with Beth (my sister) and Debbie (my sister by-proxy) at the UC Bearcats game and watch a little more football, before heading home for some LaRosa’s and some beer.  Sara, Beth, and I stayed up late chatting.  When Sara went to bed (and was fully asleep – based on snoring) I went out to look at the ring I had yet to see.  As it was 4AM and I was making noise Beth woke up thinking that I was a burglar who for some reason didn’t worry the dogs.  The ring as expected was beautiful and came in a cool wooden box.  Tomorrow would be the day, so after a few minutes of bedazzled wonderment I went back to bed.Jason and Sara Cincinnati engagement 149

Jason and Sara Cincinnati engagement 047

holding hands as we walk

So the plan was for me to leave early and “go play golf” while Sara and Beth would go get their nails done and eat lunch, afterwards we would meet at the zoo.  Beth had done a stellar job of arranging the nail appointment, even going so far as to come up with a major back story as to why they were going to one place versus another.  My plan was to leave early, but come back, get things ready, and be at the zoo, where Beth and Sara would unexpectedly run into me, at which point I would propose, most likely by the bears (one of my favorite places).  After send some misleading texts, and making sure the ladies were gone, I went back to my parents’ house to change and pick up the ring.  As often happens when I’m up till 4AM, I found myself sleepy, and thought I would take a short nap.  This nap ended up being a bit longer than I had anticipated, and I had to hustle if I was going to make it to the zoo before they were done with lunch.  As it turns out, I didn’t make it.  I pulled into the zoo at almost the same time.  I parked and popped some champagne (so I could pour it into a water bottle to take into the zoo).  Thinking I had spent enough time messing around that I could enter the zoo after them and find a place for them to “run into me” I made my way across the parking lot and into the zoo, only to find that 4 people ahead of me were Sara and Beth.  Not wanting to count on my ability to blend into a crowd, I adjusted the plans and got in line with them.  Beth was now very worried as the plan was off book and she wasn’t sure how things were going to go down.  She had been trying very hard to keep things a secret and it was surely stressing her out (but she did an awesome job).  Their nails looked great and they said lunch was good and they had done some bonding.  Myself, I was worried that some of the text messages I’d sent to Sara to keep up the ruse would give me away now that the plan had changed, but based on reactions, Sara gave no indications of knowing that today would be the day.  We went into the zoo and designated Beth the official photographer, getting a number of great shots.  In fact I had asked Beth to bring my good camera, and to document the moment all along.  We visited a number of animals, the square wooden box in my pocket weighted heavily on both my mind and my shorts.  Where and when I would do things was up in the air.  I kept looking for an opportunity where there wasn’t a huge crowd and there was a good back drop for the pictures, but couldn’t find both together.  As we were going through the zoo, Beth and Sara were talking, joking about getting married and how I had said I was going to fake propose as a funny joke, which Sara said was not funny and that I should never, never do.  So when we got to the bear grottos and I saw an opportunity I got down on my knee.  Sara was turned away and Beth had backed up to snap the pictures.

panic moment of shoe tying

panic moment of shoe tying

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Did you just “Fake Propose”

When Sara turned around and saw me on my knee, I wasn’t quite ready, and I panicked and pretended to tie my shoe, only to have Sara scoff and scowl at me, thinking it was me being a “funny guy” and fake proposing.  I got up and we continued on to another exhibit with Sara hopefully mollified that I had really been tying my shoe and not stumbling at the proposal or worse fake proposing.  {In reality as I stood up Sara was able to see the outline of the box in my pocket and knew that it was indeed not fake, and the real thing would perhaps be happening soon}  We went down the Jungle Trails exhibit, which has always been a favorite, and while not really the Amazon, I figured the lush green backdrop would make a good place.  So as we passed the orangutan exhibit, a window opened up, the crowd thinned to nothing, just Sara and me (and Beth who dropped back to snap pictures).  While Sara looked at the exhibit, I got the ring out of my pocket, got down on my knee, and as Sara turned to look at me I told her I had a very important question to ask her.  I asked “Sara will you marry me, will you do me the honor of becoming my wife, my partner, my best friend”.  Actually I only got the first part out, will you marry me, because the look on Sara’s face stopped the rest of the words in my throat; no more words were needed as I saw the love in her eyes (through the tears) and knew that this decision (which I had never really questioned before, was absolutely the right one, and that Sara Catherine Lee felt the same way, that we were now just declaring out loud what we had known in our hearts for months, that we had found our life partner.  The one hitch was that while she was crying and nodding she had yet to say yes, which she did.  There have been few times in my life where I have been happier than I was in that moment.  I put the ring on her finger with joy and elation, and not a little relief.  She was surprised in the best possible way.  We walked into the next exhibit, cracked open the water bottle of champagne, and each had a sip.  We found our way to a picnic area where we called our parents, spreading the good news.  The rest of the afternoon was a blur, I know we ate some Skyline and had a couple of beers, but mostly it was just like living in a cool bubble of joy.  I had booked us a night at the Cincinnatian Hotel downtown, where we again had a king bed (as opposed to the double bed and the dog at home).

Jason and Sara Cincinnati engagement 048

The Orangutan looking down at our proposal spot

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The exact moment the words left my lips and my knee hit the ground

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a moment after

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Laughter and joy from both of us

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The ring fits

Jason and Sara Cincinnati engagement 105 Jason and Sara Cincinnati engagement 100Jason and Sara Cincinnati engagement 133 Jason and Sara Cincinnati engagement 145

The morning was a late breakfast (thanks to Beth) and then back home to watch some football (both Bengals and Packers won) and to be celebrated by family and friends with a nice grill out dinner (thanks Mark).  Mom and Dad (who were out of town at Dad’s college reunion) were there.  Everyone loved the pictures and welcomed Sara into the family.  On Monday we headed back to Duluth and the continuation of our great adventure together.  As Sara was truly surprised about the ring and the engagement, we don’t have a good answer right now as to when and where the wedding will be.  As those detail emerge over the next months I will let everyone know.  Thanks for all the love and support and thanks especially to my co-conspirators who helped me pull this bit of loving subterfuge off.  It is incredibly humbling to feel the love and support from our community of friends and family, on this day and moving forward.

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8 Responses to The Engagement Story of Jason and Sara

  1. Theresa ozimek says:

    Congratulations to you both


  2. jeff says:

    Incredible. Congrats and good luck!


  3. Fran says:

    OMG , Congratulations to you both, this story was awesome,what I could read through the tears we are so happy for you both and Sara I know you will change his diapers too LOL love you 🙂 hope to see ya soon
    love fran


  4. Mary Kaye says:

    Congrats from Mary Kaye and Guito


  5. Bill Garton says:

    Congratulations you two! Great News! I’m very happy for you Sara. Jason, you seem to be a terrific guy. Can’t wait to party!! Love, Uncle Bill


  6. Ellen Mottola says:

    Wonderful love story. Congrats and I live in Columbus.Come see me I’ll take you to an Ohio State game.


  7. Nicole Cisler Stephan says:

    Jason, I also lived with Sara….our freshmen year at UWEC…in the basement of the all-girls dorm….with 2 other women. It was not ideal, but I fell in love with her too. 🙂 She was the best listener and cheerleader. I miss her a lot, but so glad I ran across the facebook post and this story. WOW…what a beautiful story and I am so glad you found each other…four blocks away. That is surely meant to be. I gasped when I saw the ring as it was so incredibly beautiful and very Sara. Congratulations and please give Sara a hug for me :-).


  8. Rita Brophy Raynor says:

    Congrats! Love all your stories!


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