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1) I achieved my all-time high score on 3-D Pinball on my computer.
2) I went out for dinner with my girlfriend, went back to help her house-sit at her folks' place, and sat out on their back deck to watch either some cool clouds or a cool sunset, whichever happened.
3) I watched some cool clouds.
4) I got engaged.

I felt, and still feel, really good. It had been a long time coming, really, and after the moment passed, I just sat there smiling and thinking, "Well. So this is how it is. Another of life's major milestones realized." I was strangely calm. Actually, it wasn't all that strange that I should be so calm, because there really hadn't been any suspense. After all, I'd managed 7.7 million points on the first ball alone.

The engagement was good, too. The place we went for dinner was the pizza place we went to on our first date seven years ago. We'd been talking about getting married for some months now, and had decided the time had come. There was actually no spontaneity at all- we planned to formalize the engagement Saturday night exactly where and how we did, so we had dressed ourselves respectably, she'd brought along a camera and prepared the house with a dozen roses and wine for toasting, etc. We watched the clouds and faint traces of a sunset for a while, stood up just before dusk to take a "before" picture, I took both of her hands in mine and asked her to marry me, she said "Yes," and we were officially engaged.

This, too, has been a long time coming. Specifically, since a church singles group camping trip in October 1994. Pretty much the entire group had made the two-hour drive to the state park and set up the campsites, except for two friends of mine and the relative newcomer to the group who one of them was dating. They pulled into the campsite after the rest of us had been there a couple of hours, and not three, but four people got out of the car. The fourth turned out to be a close friend and former college roommate of the newcomer. She was definitely cute and seemed very pleasant. Later that night, as we all sat around the campfire under a dark autumn sky, one of those magic moments occurred: After a long lull in the group's conversation, the cute, pleasant friend spoke up: "Did anybody bring a star chart?"

Science geek that I am, I had brought a star chart.

We did a little stargazing and constellation finding, and then everybody retired for the night. The next day, as we were hiking, I tracked down my fellow science geek, and we began talking. I quickly learned that she was an electrical engineer, which was fabulous, inasmuch as I've always thought that female engineers were really desirable. As the conversation went on, we discovered a weird array of commonalities, both large and small. We both drove 1993 Saturn sports coupes. We belonged to the same Protestant denomination. We both had, and wanted to learn how to throw, boomerangs. We had both played the trombone in our respective college marching bands, and in fact had been in the same room together twice when the University of Texas and Rice bands had gotten together for post-football game camaraderie and mocking of the Texas A&M band.

We dated for three years, but split up amicably over her intention to leave the state for several years of grad school and my reluctance to leave a city I loved and the many, many friends I had here. She wanted it to continue anyway, while I wondered why she couldn't just go to school at U.T. Ultimately she made a very late change of plans and did apply to U.T. after all, but by this time I was looking elsewhere, and feeling like I was her "Plan B," the option she would take if what she really wanted- one of the two very competitive programs to which she applied but, in the end, was not accepted- didn't work out. We stayed friends, though, and as the next few years went by, we found ourselves very gradually seeing more and more of each other. Somewhere along the line I realized that I did, in fact, want her back in my life, but it took a while longer for that desire to outweigh my lingering frustration over being "Plan B." Finally, though, these trend lines passed each other, and I decided it was ridiculous not to get back together with her- after all, she was right here in front of me, we were still friends, we still had all kinds of things in common, she was still beautiful, and we still seemed like a perfect match. So, on the night before I left for my Christmas trip to my hometown, I suggested that we declare ourselves a couple again. We started talking about marriage a couple of months later and continued right up until...

Saturday, when I passed the anxious hours until my impending engagement playing computer pinball.

7.7 million on the just the first ball.

I'm thinking I did pretty well for myself.


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When Life Gives You Lemons
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