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July 30, 2001
So you are probably all wondering, what was the story of our engagement? How did it all happen? Pull up a chair, sit down, grab your favorite carbonated beverage, and let us tell you a tale.

As many of you know, Amy began graduate school in the fall of 2001, pursuing a Master's degree in social work. The week of July 29-August 4 was her last at the agency she had served for three years, Evangelical Child and Family Agency (Wheaton, Ill.). The staff planned a breakfast for Amy, as a sort of "going away" party at the Wheaton office (even though Amy was based out of the Chicago office).
Knowing that this day was a sentimental one (it was the 7 year anniversary of our first date), Steve began planning a creative way to "pop the question" that tied into this point in history. It began with many phone calls to Amy's supervisor, where the two discussed how to "influence" Amy to take the rest of the day off after the breakfast. But since Amy had so much work to finish during her final week (as she is extremely dedicated to the kids and families she serves), she wouldn't hear of giving up that time.

Eventually, Steve volunteered to take some time off work to attend the going-away breakfast with Amy (with the blessings of his superiors at work). Amy, thinking that it would be nice to celebrate the first date anniversary with the man of her dreams, eventually rearranged her schedule to free up the afternoon.

After the going-away breakfast, we prepared to leave Wheaton and head back into the city. However, a momentary flash of creativity flowed from Steve's backpack. It consisted of a stack of 12 index cards, each one listing an event/activity for us to do together. Amy was to select a card and then we would continue on, working through the deck.

This choice of game was sentimental because it paralleled a similar event experienced during our first and second dates together back in 1994 (it was a crazy date idea by Steve... it's still crazy today!). In a way, we were walking through history at each of the places we visited. At each of these stops, we would take photos commemorating the event (however, many people thought we were quite odd, as in order to both get into the shot, we set up the camera on a tripod with a timer... what can we say... it was about making a memory!). Combine this unique aspect with the fact that the heat index was pushing 95+ degrees, and you have the makings of quite an interesting day.

As we visited numerous locations, it was refreshing to share stories and experiences that we had forgot about in more recent years. Sometimes when you are working full time and caught up with today, you forget about why you were together in the first place.

One thing that Amy found amazing was how she kept randomly pulling cards, yet they all seemed to conveniently fall into pattern (for example, it was quite "lucky" that she pulled all the Wheaton events during our time in that suburb, without pulling a Chicago-related activity first... more on how this was accomplished later).

Our travels took us to many memorable locations throughout Wheaton (a place Amy lived for many years), and then into Chicago to various sites of interest from our early times together, including Wrigley Field, a local ice cream shop, and a nostalgic hot dog drive-thru where they still serve you at your car window.


As the day wore on and the heat intensified, Amy thought something might be up. Nevertheless, the couple eventually found themselves at the Chicago Botanical Gardens (which actually isn't in Chicago, but rather in northern Glencoe... go figure). This place has held many memories for us, as we've had numerous conversations and walks over the years. The Gardens were undergoing a very large capital improvement project, involving many new areas slated to open in late 2002. To make this all possible, the large lagoon that surrounded the Garden was drained, and many surrounding areas were undergoing redevelopment. Included in these areas was one special hill that we spent much time at over the years. It was "our hill". At the time, however, it seemed a bulldozer preferred to call it home.

Out of nostalgia, we hiked around the empty lagoon to get as close as possible to "our spot". When we reached a large fence preventing us from proceeding into the construction area, we found a nice plot of grass under the shade of a tree and just reflected on the moment.

It was at this point that Steve had Amy draw the final card from the deck... and it read "Daily Double" (referring to our similar date many years past, where upon drawing this card, Steve presented Amy with a gift). At this moment, Steve whipped out a poem he wrote, oddly titled "Old Lip Balm" (you'll have to ask Amy about that one some time). The poem tied in how even though we have had such a great history at "our spot" in the Gardens, that area was now being prepared and nutured for a very exciting future - much like our relationship. Eventually, the poem asked the question "will you be my wife?" Before he could really get the ring out of the box, she said "yes!" (Amy was waiting for this moment for a L - O - N - G time). Eventually the ring was on the finger, and there was much merriment in the land.
Thankfully, the temperature turned cooler, and we sat and talked as the sun set, all the while listening to a bell tower concert played on the Carillon at the Gardens. It was quite delightful.

We returned to the city to play a round of mini golf (also an event celebrated from their earlier dates together -- by the way, Amy won... but Steve swears the course was fixed). By then it was late evening, and we were quite exhausted after "Steve and Amy's Engagement Adventure". However, we capped off the evening by coloring with crayons back at the Tanner's house (the final event marked in history). Steve then drove Amy home, and we each slept blissfully through the night.

That's our story and we are sticking to it!
One thing that Amy didn't realize was that up until noon, Steve didn't actually have the ring with him. Due to a shipping error, the diamond was sent to the wrong jeweler, pushing back the preparation time. Although they were rushing to get the ring completed in time, the jeweler couldn't assure it would be ready until mid-day. It was at this point where Steve's sister played "ring courier", checking on the ring status as Steve and Amy continued their adventure around Chicagoland. Eventually, Steve and his sister connected (right under Amy's nose too.. he he), and the secret ring handoff was made. Talk about cutting it close!

Also, you may be wondering how it seemed that Amy always pulled the "right" card out of the deck. What she didn't know was that each time Steve held out the deck for her to draw a new card, it was a brand new deck. Steve actually had prepared 12 different decks of cards, decreasing in number each time, but with each card listing THE SAME ACTIVITY. Thus, no matter what card Amy selected, it was always the "right" destination. Sneaky, we know... :)


Card 1
Billy Graham Center

Card 2
The Stupe @ Wheaton College
Billy Graham Center
The Stupe @ Wheaton College

Card 3
Popcorn Store

Card 4
The Vowel Game
Popcorn Store
"Find 5 each for
A, E, I, O, U"

Card 5

Card 6
Wrigley Field
"Pray Together"
Wrigley Field

Card 7
SuperDawg Drive-In

Card 8
Toots Drive Thru
SuperDawg Drive-In
Toots Drive Thru

Card 9
Chicago Botanical Gardens:
Evening Island under construction

Card 10
Chicago Botanical Gardens:
Poem, Ring & Chap Stick
Chicago Botanical Gardens: Evening Island under construction
Chicago Botanical Gardens: Poem, Ring & Chap Stick

Card 10
Chicago Botanical Gardens:
The Ring on the Finger

Card 11
Mini Golf Scorecard (and a ring!)
Chicago Botanical Gardens: The Ring on the Finger
Mini Golf Scorecard (and a ring!)

Card 12
Coloring at the end of the day

Coloring at the end of the day
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