How we met:
I had just found my way into another luxurious and spacious college town apartment known famously as The 53 Maxwell Project. I set up a couple of fish tanks and picked up a cushy night job two nights a week at a local restaurant/bar working at the door, so I figured that I would have no problem keeping myself occupied during my free time. At the restaurant I was just 'that guy at the door,' I never really had to get involved with the going ons of the restaurant and the people who worked inside and never thought much about any thing but getting paid at the end of the night. Every once in a while employees from the restaurant would come up to the front and chat with me a bit about this and that. I got to know most of the people who work there but I was still there to get paid at the end of the night.

Of course everyone was very nice and friendly, and I even got to know one of the servers who had been working there all summer. She had the coolest glasses that seem to fit her very well. I guess its one of those things you just notice. Those glasses just made her seem so neat, alternative and interesting, turns out two of the three where right. Which worked out well for me since everyone who knows me knows that a pair of airwalks and a CD of a small Massachusetts band is as alternative as I get. I digress, this girl with the glasses introduced herself to me one night by saying, "can I stand here 'till that guy goes away, he always comes by when I'm here." "Why of course," I said, I had no reason not to help someone who seemed in such distress. Time went by and I spoke to the girl with the glasses from time to time while I was at work, and got to know her a bit. She was very energetic, happy and seemed pretty darn cute. Well during one of our brief conversations between when she got off of work and I started, she mentioned that she had a desk for her room that she wanted to refinish and not knowing how to go about it she mentioned something about going to Home Depot and, "just asking the guy there."

And there it was, my opportunity to get to know her, see it just so happens I really enjoy that kind of thing and in the past have done many little projects like that for myself. So I said calmly and collectively, "You don't want to go to Home Depot, you want to go to Lowe's, they are much better."

Oh, and I said, "Hey, you know I know how to do that kind of thing, I could help you if you'd like."

Since the refinishing of that desk the girl with those cool glasses mostly wears her contacts and as it turns out, that girl who was pretty darn cute… is beautiful. It's funny really, I never thought that I would meet someone who could share my enjoyment and intrigue for everything, including pet stores and flea markets. Much to her parents surprise, since I have meet Court I have had a brackish fish tank with an eel and puffer fish, two 55gallon fish tanks with 3 large pacus, and an assortment of other fish, four turtles, two sugar gliders and their many babies and our first child about 1 year old now and weighing in at 115lbs who has her fathers hands and her mothers eyes… and all of these things are Courtney's and I happily help with the upkeep.

The Engagement:
About six months prior to Dec. 20 2003 I had become a student of gems and had tried to become quite learned about the four C's. A friend of mine who was working as a jewelry designer had given me a few ideas about styles and designs, and through all my research and frustration, and frustration being a lot of grief over time and shipment. I found the perfect ring, one that would fit Courtney perfectly. The plan was originally set to take place in Arizona after the new year. A hike up the mountains at sunset yadda yadda and so on and so forth. Well the decision was made to propose before Christmas so that Court would have the whole "did you see me ring," and "your really glowing." Which worked out well for me since it would mean less time for me to foster the ring. The ring arrived on over night Saturday delivery at 12:30 on the door step. Having that ring in my possession for too long wasn't worth anything to anybody so here it began.

Courtney and I love to go to downtown St. Augustine with our dog. We go as often as 3 times a week and always walk down St. George Street, along the bay front and in front of the Bridge of Lions, which has two rather large stone statues of lions adorning the entrance to the bridge. While down town with the largest purchase of my life to date just sitting there in the bottom of my pocket I had convinced Courtney to climb on top of the lion statue to take her picture. This turned out to be more difficult that one would think due to the sign at the base of the statue reading, "DO NOT CLIMB ON STATUE BY ORDER OF ST. AUGUSTINE POLICE DEPT." As I bent down to take her picture while she was on top of the statue I brought forth her ring, this marking 2 and a half hours in my possession, and with the ring in my hand I asked her to marry me. She responded with the only words a man would want to hear in that situation, "are you serious?" Immediately followed by "help me get down from this lion."

How we met:

The summer of 2001 I was working at Lucy's Restaurant in Chapel Hill, NC enjoying my recent graduation from UNC and looking forward to starting my graduate program at UNC. I decided to stay in Chapel Hill and waitress that summer to make money and enjoy the summer with my friends. One day while working at Lucy's I noticed the new bouncer outside. He was extremely handsome and immediately caught my eye. I gradually got to know Tom while working at Lucy's because when I was leaving work at night, he was coming to work. We would chat for a few minutes and then go our merry way. After visiting my family and going to the beach in late July, I returned to Chapel Hill with an old, rundown desk. The next night at work I was telling Tom about my plans to refinish this desk when he mentioned that he enjoys building things and making furniture and he would be happy to help me with my desk. Hmmm…I eventually got up the nerve to ask Tom to help me and "refinishing the desk" was my excuse for calling him and seeing him over the next few weeks. Needless to say, we finished the desk (it looks great!) and Tom and I started hanging out. Before I knew it, I graduated from UNC (again) and moved to sunny Florida to be with Tom. I'm the happiest I have ever been and am looking forward to October and the rest of my life with Tom. (Oh, and I still have the desk…)

The Engagement:
Christmas was quickly approaching and I was busy trying to finish my shopping for Tom, my family, and his family. On Saturday morning, December 20, 2003 I was feeling the pressure to finish my shopping before Tom and I drove to North Carolina two days later for Christmas. I met Tom and Richard for breakfast at Stephanie's (it is our Saturday morning ritual…) and then headed to Home Depot to get Tom a gift. I had not had a shower and was wearing a baseball cap…I was on a mission! I got Tom an angle grinder and then called his mom to share my new purchase with her (I'm not very good at hiding my excitement when I buy people gifts). I talked to Tom's mom for a while and told her that Tom and I were planning to go take pictures at the Bridge of Lions later that day because it was going to be torn down and rebuilt in the near future (or so I was told that morning by Tom). I told her I hadn't had a shower yet that day, but hopefully Tom be taking pictures of the bridge, the intercoastal, and Saige and not me. I distinctly remember her telling me; if you want to take a shower, take a shower! He will wait for you. But, by the time I got back from shopping, Tom was ready to go downtown and he was ready to go right then. So, I decided to forego the shower and just go downtown.

Tom and I loaded Saige into the car and headed downtown. We walked down St. George Street with Saige (we had to take her by the "treat lady" who always gives her a ton of treats) and then went by the fort and the intercoastal towards the Bridge of Lions. Tom started talking about the Bridge of Lions and how he couldn't believe they were going to tear it down. Then he got this big smile on his face and said he had a favor to ask me. (I knew this was leading to trouble…) He said he and Clint had taken pictures of them sitting on one of the lions in front of the Bridge of Lions and he wanted to take a picture of me on a lion too. (Sidenote: There large signs on both sides of the lion stating, "Do not climb on statue by order of St. Augustine Police Department".) Those of you who know me know that I am not much of a risk-taker, not one to push my limits, and not comfortable going against an order by the local police department. So, it took some serious convincing by Tom to get me to even consider the idea. I started by standing on the post behind the lion because there was no sign there. Tom kept saying, "it would just be a lot better if you were sitting on the lion." I finally said I would sit on the lion, but under one condition…Tom had to boost me up there, take the picture, and get me down in less than 3 minutes (as well as talk to the police if they were to show up). He agreed to 3 minutes, so we tied up Saige to the flag pole and he boosted me up on the lion. He took one picture and then got on his knee to take another picture…or so I thought. He pulled a box out of his pocket and then said, "Courtney Lynn Duke, will you marry me?" (Flashback: A while back Tom had told me that he would never give me an engagement ring as a birthday or Christmas present.) So, the thought of him asking me to marry him 5 days before Christmas had never crossed my mind and I responded automatically and very unromantically, "Are you serious?" After Tom "popped the question" AGAIN, I asked him to come get me off the lion so I could tell him "yes." I am the happiest girl in the world to be marrying Tom.