You know what they say — third time's a charm.
Turns out they were wrong WRONGS I TELLS YA!! as it took me four attempts to successfully pop the question.
Attempt #1: Mission Santa Inés
Before embarking on a 2-hour road trip to Solvang in late December, I had heard of a place called the Mission. My friend Chris told me about the place, and he simply described it as a beautiful Catholic church that I must go and see between wine tours.
He was right — the church was quaint and charming. The surrounding area reminded me of the movie Three Amigos, one of the first movies I ever owned (on VHS, baby). I came "prepared" with a partially-completed homemade wooden ring and a scab-less right knee.
After parking in an empty lot, we made a short walk into a neighboring dirt area overlooking a gorgeous, mountainous view. The sun was playing peek-a-boo above a thin layer of clouds, and at that moment my nerves began to simmer.
The situation seemed ideal, but (ooo, there's the first "but" of this blog post!!) the main road heading into Solvang was a stones throw away, and the sight of 30 nearby cars turned me off.
I wanted to propose in a private setting.
Attempt #2: MADDOX NEIGHBORHOOD PARK
About a week later, I found myself hanging out at Stacy's home in Mira Mesa. Year 2015 was winding down, and I figured it'd be a sure-fire time to get the response I wanted. What better way to ring in the new year than with a status promotion, right?
My plan was to convince Stacy to walk her family dogs with me to a park, the park where we had our first date (this fact is debatable, but not important right now). We would take a friendly stroll to the park, I'd guide her to the tree where we had our first picnic, and then BLAM!! But, it turned out to not be a walk in the park.
In order to be in solitude, I casually waited until the late evening to take the dogs for a walk. Late evenings equal reeeaaally cold weather, and in case you forgot (like I did that night) girls no likey da cold.
I ended up walking the dogs by myself. During our pee-rific time together, the dogs and I discussed when my next opportunity to ask the big question could be.
In regards to this whole proposal thang, January was a down month for me. After failing to alley the oop on two previous occasions, I needed a mental vacation. After all, like every major life decision, proposing for marriage should not be rushed.
I hadn't mentioned this yet, but in addition to being in a private setting, the only other criteria I had was to pop the Q unassisted. Meaning, I didn't want to seek outside help from friends or family to "set-up" the special moment, simply because I didn't want to rely on the coordination of an elaborate plan.
Very much like how we met and how we began dating, I wanted this pivotal moment to be as organic and spontaneous as possible.
Attempt #3: Meditation Gardens
On that note of spontaneity, there were a small handful of times when I'd carry the ring with me JUST IN CASE. I mean, what if an outer space alien named Zoinks teleported in front of us and said:
Propose to her right now, and you shall receive $1 million... plus a golden retriever puppy.
BAM!! Now that would be a win-win-win situation.
So, having that in mind, I had the ring dangling in my khaki shorts when Stacy and I visited the Meditation Gardens in Encinitas. Wow, what a gorgeous + tranquil place!! Upon entering and walking up the steps, I immediately began to feel chills throughout my body... because I didn't have a jacket. But, also because I seriously thought I could be engaged in a matter of minutes.
Minutes pass, and pass, and pass. We are walking through all the maze-like paths in that place, and it's near closing time so the situation is only getting better as people gradually begin to exit.
If you've never been to the Gardens, there are these tiny pockets where only 1-2 people can fit, meant to allow people to reflect in a private area overlooking the ocean. My plan was to squeeze into one of these areas with Stacy, chat it up for a bit, and then ask her right then and there.
Step 1: Success, as we managed to slip into one of those pockets. Step 2: Success, as we talked about random stuff, like 3-hole punches and churros.
Step 3: FAIL
As I put my hand in my huge khaki pocket, and grasped the ring box... out of nowhere a mom and her 2 little girls INVADE our little private area. I COULD NOT EFFING BELIEVE IT. There was literally no room to move; if one of us sneezed, there'd be a body flying into the Pacific Ocean, it was that tiny.
Stacy and I promptly left the area because we feared for our lives.
Attempt #4: Peterson Lecture Hall
The very next day, I asked Stacy if she wanted to check out our old stomping grounds — the UC San Diego campus. It was an odd proposition, because we both hadn't been there since graduating 8 years prior. Nevertheless, I took a shot, and she surprisingly complied with the idea.
So, what was my oh-so-romantic idea? To take her to the lecture hall where we first met at, sit in the same row and seats we were both in, and ask her the question there.
Simple, easy, let's go.
One problem: the Peterson Lecture Hall doors were locked, all three of them!! Sure, it was the weekend, which meant no classes, but some rooms and halls are usually left open. Unfortunately, this one was not. FUDGE!!
I did my best to play it off and proceeded to walk around all the new parts of the school. It was actually kinda sweet, which made me feel better — we reminisced about the years we spent there, good times and the bad. After grabbing some boba drinks (which were nonexistent during our time, pssh!!) we headed back to where we had parked.
Instead of heading straight to the car, I said that I wanted to check out the Native American Photography exhibit which was inside the Peterson Lecture Hall lobby. No offense, but I really didn't — I just needed an excuse to go back in there. If we couldn't be in the same seats in the same row, I at least wanted to be a few feet away from where our friendship first started.
After circling around a bit pretending to examine the photography, I finally knelt down and asked her to marry me.