February 13, 2011

Me and My Valentine

Me and M on our wedding day
What you have to know about me and M is that our life together is based on one fundamental concept- the joy of randomness.  If it wasn't for pure coincidence, absurdity, and silliness, we never would have gotten together.

Me in my studio- note the real-life Tetris
We first met online in 2003, on a website called OKCupid.  It was the newest incarnation of the recently re-purposed Sparkx.  It had a hilarious and fairly accurate personality test, and endless user-created quizzes.  I was living in a bizarre artists collective, in a tiny studio apartment filled with WAY too much stuff that I only managed to squeeze in through my expertise at real-life Tetris.  I kept my bed in the closet, and much of the kitchen (an absurdly small hallway filled with aging appliances) was filled with my ferret cage.  My couch was made of unsturdy foam, my dresser was also my desk, and the only thing that really allowed me to squeeze in was the shared studio space the next building over.  I was always burning incense and sage, cooking with whole spices from the local Indian and Ethiopian markets, and working with turpentine and linseed oil inside my studio, but it never quite masked the ferret musk.  My studio was a strange, strange place.

The costume that started it all
Being an insomniac, I would stay up into the wee hours taking trivia quizzes about Harry Potter, The Lord of the Rings, or The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy.  Of course, the site was aimed vaguely around dating, so whenever you logged in the site would show you pictures of people it recommended for you to send a romantic note or something.  Or a "wink," whatever the hell that was.  One day I got tired of seeing the same faces on my homepage every day, and made two changes to my criteria.  I unchecked the "Jewish" box, and I widened my area of interest to include the Chicago suburbs.  Immediately, a picture of a man wearing a big blue suit appeared on my home page.  A simple mouse click revealed that he was dressed as SuperGrover.  I was intrigued.

His profile seemed standard enough.  He was living in Evanston, attending Northwestern University for engineering, and he had good taste in music, cinema, and literature.  Aside from that, he seemed a bit boring.  Until the very last sentence.  OKCupid prompted, "You should message me if..." and he responded, "You appreciate randomness for the art that it truly is."

Well, I figured he was asking for it.  It was three in the morning, I had nothing better to do, and I felt that I had just been personally challenged to prove to this stranger that I was more random than him.  I didn't think this would be too difficult.

Me and M in 2006
I sent him a three page long email, entitled, "The Art of Random."  In this email, I mused that the orange clouds at sunset would probably taste like strawberry instead of orange sherbert, that pirates would be decimated by zombies, that dolmades were the world's most perfect food, and that my sock puppets (for which I had created an entire quiz on OKCupid- "Which Sock Puppet are You?") would one day rise up against the still functional clothing in the closet.

I figured either he would change his profile so that I wouldn't be tempted to harass him again, he would tell me I was crazy and to leave him alone, or he would report me to the OKCupid authorities.

What I did not expect was a line by line response, a full three pages long, either agreeing or disagreeing with everything that I said.  We sent this email back and forth for months and months, until finally I convinced him to come visit me for dinner in my studio apartment.

The day before M proposed
He was so out of his element.  He had never met a ferret.  He had never been in an artists' collective.  He had never eaten dolmades.  He had never taken the train alone into the city to meet a strange internet person.

We had a lovely evening, and didn't see each other again for two years, when he graduated from Northwestern, got a job, and moved into the city.  Where suddenly I was one of only a few people that he sort of knew.  He became a regular fixture at parties at my (new and much less terrifying and small) apartment.  Before you knew it, we were officially dating.

M played hard to get.  He has since told me that he was reluctant to make any move because he though there were only two outcomes- I would leave him a shattered hull of a man unfit for life, or we would end up living happily ever after.  Turns out he was completely right.

An outtake from our Save the Date shoot
We moved in together in the spring of 2007, and on Independence Day he popped the question.  We had been scheduled to go on vacation on Friday (it was Wednesday), and he had this master plan.  We were going to my childhood home of Guppy Lake, and he was going to bring a ring, a bottle of champagne, and get me on my own in my favorite picnic spot.  It was a lovely plan, but he hadn't gotten the champagne or ring.  And time was running out.  Our Fourth of July was so romantic and wonderful... we'd had a gigantic california benedict breakfast at home, spent much of the day walking around in Pilsen (sort of like a Little Mexico) with fireworks and music everywhere, had food and drinks at a friend's rooftop party, and made love off and on all day.  That evening he just asked me, no prelude, no planning.  Just asked me to marry him.  And I said yes.  What else could I possibly say?
Me and M, New Year's 2008

The very next day he was playing in a company softball game and had a grand mal seizure.  He was rushed to the ER, where I had the distinct pleasure of referring to him as my fiancĂ© for the first time.  Over the next ten hours we waiting and waited, and finally learned that there were several large masses in his brain.  By the time we went home, he had been scheduled for brain surgery five days later to diagnose the masses.  Turned out they were cancerous- astrocytoma.  The prognosis was very, very bad.  Within two weeks he was admitted to a clinical trial to use arsenic to penetrate the blood-brain barrier (to aid the chemotherapy) and began treatments of chemotherapy (including arsenic) and radiation.

Our Wedding Day
As the months wore on, every MRI showed that he was improving.  His doctors were so helpful in arranging his treatments around our life- he was able to keep working all through the chemo, and we even managed to shift his treatments in the spring so that he wouldn't be taking chemo the week of our wedding.  It was a wonderful wedding- not only because we were so in love and happy, but because it signified a triumph over cancer as well.

We were married on a rooftop, with a spectacular view of downtown Chicago.  My friend, the amazing writer C.S.E. Cooney (of the artists' collective) officiated the ceremony.  M's grandfather, a Lutheran minister, delivered the shevat bruchot- the Seven Blessings.  We used my father's tallis and boughs of birch from my childhood home as our chuppah.
M's toast brought down the house

I have never been to a happier, more joyful event.  All our friends and family came out with their love and support, and despite all the drama and the fear and the chaos in the year that led up to the happy day, and despite the fact that it was an outdoor wedding in bizarrely unseasonable cold in LATE MAY, it was truly the most magical day of our lives.

We honeymooned in New Zealand, again around M's chemotherapy schedule, and had a wonderful time.  When it rained, we stayed in and watched "Dune," and when it was sunny we swam in the Pacific and Tasmanian seas.  We would love to go back again someday.

M continued on chemotherapy for a full twelve months, with unprecedented success.  At the end, we decided that it was time for us to start a family.  Like so much else in our lives, M's cancer really changed the way we looked at our priorities.  Having children was important to us, and if (God forbid) something should happen to M, we wanted as much time as a family- all of us together- as we could possibly get.  We tried IVF, as M's chemotherapy caused damage to his *ahem* genetic materials, and on our first attempt we became pregnant with SI and DD.

Me and M at Hokianga Harbor
Through it all, the most important thing has been our ability to laugh, always.  No matter how bleak or frustrating things may seem, we always laugh.  Because really, our whole relationship is pretty much based on a joke, or a dare.  "How silly and random can YOU be?"

All this time has passed, or maybe so little time has passed and we are still best friends, and completely in love with one another.  Each day we seem to be happier, more crazy about each other, and more in love with our little family.  And every single day is filled with laughter, with unceasing random nonsense, and with so much love.

M and I- the happiest day of our lives


  1. Beautifully written story and gorgeous wedding pictures!
    Every day we also seem to be happier and more in love with each other and our family - I'm not afraid of finally hitting a plateau, as this is how things should be.
    I just need more laughter, and to learn real-life Tetris.

  2. Hi, while I was reading this story, I felt so moved, I had goosebumps, and my eyes were starting to get wet. I simply fell in love with your love story. Thank you so much for sharing this at Olah Momma!

    Best wishes to you and your family!

  3. What a lovely post. I'm glad you found one another. Happy Valentines Day!

  4. What a wonderful post! I'm so glad you wrote it down. I'd love to hear your Valentine's take on it as well. :)

    PS- I've been impressed with the stuff down your side bar...especially that picture of you wearing your girls. I used to do that with my boys too! Off to read more of your blog. :)

  5. Beautiful. A reminder for me to laugh, love, and live! And stop freakin' complaining :P

  6. first time I popped in & love you already :)

  7. ooooh, i just loooooove your story! congratulations to you both...for so many reasons!

  8. What a sweet, and yet quirky, love story! You too are true originals, living your lives and celebrating your love on your own terms. Cancer be damned. I just love the photos, too. Thanks for letting me know about your story.

  9. What a beautiful story. Love truly triumphs. #ProjectMarriage

  10. Wow this really is an amazing story. I got goosebumps...thank you for sharing and for linking up! #projectmarriage

  11. Beautifully told and totally obvious you are soulmates! I loved your story, thank you so much for linking up to Project Marriage!

  12. This is really beautiful. Thanks for being the one ("The One") for my ol' roommate.

  13. Awww! Love it. Not sure which is better, the words or the pics. You do really have a way w/words... :)

  14. Where was I the past two years that I didn't read this? I know I haven't said this enough but I am very grateful that you two found each other. Someone needed to truly understand M's love of the random. Now I am having a flashback to that OKCupid test, I should take that now for kicks.



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