Tuesday, November 24, 2015

A Proposal Story (with a little history first)

Josh and Jen ~ January 2015 ~ Florida 

In August of 2006 I met Dr. Jen face to face for the first time.  We met for a couple of reasons. A now common close friend, Marcia, had asked Jen if she was reading our blog and if she had seen that I needed help with a horrible rash Noah had during our first summer in Haiti. Marcia invited me to her cabin and I met Jen and Marcia in NW Iowa when I was in the USA for a week.  

(There were dozens of connections between Marcia and Jen and I - friends and acquaintances in common, three special places in our lives in common, adoption, etc, etc.) 

January 2008
Jen and I didn't instantly become besties, but we did instantly really like one-another. 

By the fall of 2007 Marcia's daughter Tess was planning to come to Haiti to help us with our explosion of small children for several months and Jen was working at a hospital in Port au Prince and was being invited for meals at the McHouls house from time to time.  

We heard updates about Jen from Beth McHoul and we looked forward to all being in Haiti at the same time once we were done with getting Britt moved to college and having the grand finale child #7. This photo was taken in January 2008 as Jen headed back to Haiti to work at the hospital after Christmas break and Tess and my kids headed south ahead of new baby Lydia and I because we still needed to say goodbye to Brittany and move her to Baylor University. 

Tess helped us do this.
Lydie, Annie, Phoebe - January 2008 - baby to adult ratio improved with Tess

One day in January 2008 Jen needed to leave the hospital - she called to ask us if we would come get her and I mentioned to her by phone that Lydia was sick.  

Long story short, she asked me to bring Lydia to Port au Prince to pick her up and then she could see how sick Lydia was and we could decide what needed to be done.   The end result of the need Jen had for a ride that day, was that Lydia was correctly diagnosed within 12 hours and hospitalized for bacterial Meningitis. Later that week when Lydia started seizing, Jen was the singular physician around (Friday night seizures in Port au Prince - not a good plan - Doctors go home) that could stop her seizure (speaks Creole!) and save her from hearing or brain damage or worse. 

Paige and her 2008 big sisters, Jen and Tess
Jen moved in with our family out in the village in late January 2008. We lived and worked closely together for five months and opened a clinic in the village in 2008. We also lived together a for a lot of 2010 and 2011.  

Whenever Jen is in Haiti she is with us, an extension of our family and a important part of us.  

We've loved and lived through some pretty rough days and experiences and some pretty amazing miracles and triumphant moments.  We have seen death and destruction and birth and healing together.

We love Jen dearly and count her among our most trusted friends. 

Thank you Internet, and Marcia, for doing your part to make us friends.

*        *         *

NOW ... The REAL reason for this post:

(written and shared with permission)

On October 30th Jen's boyfriend, Josh, got in touch with Troy to ask if we would like to possibly help him to come propose to Jen in Port au Prince.   

(DUH!!!! OF COURSE!!!!! Dumbest question ever.)

When Troy told me that Josh had asked that, we jumped in circles hugging in our bathroom at 5:50am on the 31st ... Because we love Jen and hugging and circles and jumping. 

Josh began by wondering what would be "most meaningful to Jen".  I cannot count how many times he asked and wondered that as we spent about two weeks chatting back and forth, planning, and preparing for the big day, which was set for November 15th.  

Several (dozens and dozens) messages were exchanged between Josh, Marcia, Joanna, and Haiti. 

The paranoia of being the one to mess this up in any number of ways was an excellent diuretic for whole two weeks. 

We are a trim group of friends going into this Thanksgiving meal.  

ring shopping/planning

In the Twin Cities, Marcia and Jen's Mom, Connie, got to go ring shopping with Josh. Joanna and her daughter Cassie decided they needed to be in on the surprise and booked their tickets for Haiti too.

The plans unfolded over voice messages and emails and Jen kept telling KJ and I that she did not know if she would have a hospital shift Sunday the 15th or not. We knew we wanted her in Port au Prince by Sunday afternoon or evening. 

At one point KJ told me that she had heard me ask Jen about Sunday on two occasions and Troy on two occasions.  She suggested that we were not very sneaky if we both hounded Jen about her return to Port au Prince when we would not normally need so much detailed schedule information from her.  

KJ bought tons of candles and I asked Troy to hang paper balls up on the upper patio once we determined with Josh that at our house was where he wanted to ask her.  

Josh let us know his plan included writing a letter to Jen in a book and having the kids involved in some way.  We kept it quiet from the kids until a few days before hand.  Once we told the kids I wondered what was wrong with us because the stress of them spilling the beans caused several extra tummy problems for Troy and I. 

All of our kids were super excited, but Noah and Isaac celebrated with the most zeal.  Noah managed to break his bed while enthusiastically punching his mattress in celebration. 

Sunday morning the 15th - KJ and I were coming off of a birth explosion of the four babies you may have seen on Facebook or Instagram.  I was on edge and KJ was exhausted too. Jen had to get a ride into town because we couldn't go pick her up as we had planned and wanted.  She arrived at our house early on Sunday.

The morning of the proposal, Jen returned to Port au Prince and
was super crazy happy which made us nervous she knew something

Once to Port-au-Prince Jen made my kids breakfast and hung out with them.  I was still at the Maternity Center not wanting to be present when Lydia blurted out that Josh was in the sky or ask "When are Joanna and Cassie getting here?!?!"  Lydia and Isaac were the two we were betting would blow it.  Hope, Phoebe and Noah are stealthy and did not concern us quite as much.

Happy fools, Haiti-and-proposal bound

As it turned out, zero of our kids messed up. These are some happy secret lock-boxes we are raising.  Isaac moved his limbs and eyebrows in an excited and exaggerated way all day, but Jen did not notice it.

I arrived home around eleven in the morning and went upstairs to "nap" which really meant texting with KJ, Marcia, Josh, and Joanna as they all had nervous tummies in their respective locations.  

Around 1:30pm Sunday, Troy said he had to go "to a meeting" and left as Jen was just going swimming with our kids.  

Troy went to the airport and picked up Josh, Joanna, and Cassie. He delivered them to KJ's apartment to rest, shower, and try to chill out for a bit.   

I texted Jen from my room and asked if she would want to go grocery shopping with me later in the afternoon when Troy came back with our truck. No surprise, Jen said yes, she would. We had no plan B on that, so it is good she is so agreeable about grocery shopping.

At 4pm I came downstairs to go to the store with Jen.  I made up a lie about why I needed to go to the store that was further away.  (Can't get good bread just anywhere!)  I grabbed the keys and said to Troy, "Need anything - should I get apples?"  Troy said, "No because J ..."  


He was about to say "Joanna brought us apples" --- but then I overcompensated for him and made it a very awkward moment where Jen determined that we were being very weird about apples and maybe needed psychiatric help.

Jen says I shopped slower than she has ever seen.  It is odd for me to do our shopping in the first place, but to take a long time and be purposefully dragging my feet in order to keep the bride-to-be AWAY from my house while Josh got settled and made his final plans, was the entire point of the trip.  We got finished too quickly, so I asked Jen if we could stop at one more store. The point of going to the other store was made up too, the real thing I was trying to accomplish was to get her back to our house after the sunset for the big moment.

While we shopped KJ moved the Minnesotans into the house and the kids got to reunite with Jo and Cassie and hear from Josh.  I am told that Josh did some practicing his proposal with Lydia during that hour and a half.

We pulled back into our driveway at 5:30pm.  As Jen and I unpacked groceries in the kitchen with Geronne, everyone upstairs was at work. They lit 100 candles and four of the kids (all but Lydie) climbed onto the roof above the patio with confetti in hand. 

Once all the candles were lit, Joanna and KJ and Cassie and Troy hid in our bedroom, which has a window facing the patio. Josh hid around the corner of the patio outside.  

Lydia was tasked with getting Jen upstairs.  

Lyd ran into Jen's room downstairs and said, "JEN JEN - I GOTTA SHOW YOU SOMETHING!!!" Jen was putting something away or being her overly organized self and pushed Lydie off for a second, on the third ask Jen said, "okay okay, I'm coming!"

Lydie led Jen to the lit up patio and holding Jen's hand brought her to the book on the glass table. 

Lydia said, "Here. This is your book. Read it."   Jen said, "WHAT is going on here?"   -  Lydia said, "SOMETHING!!" and ran like a track star out of the scene and into the bedroom with the others. 

Jen sat and read Josh's words for several minutes.  All of us were watching and stalking and being utterly creepy.  

After reading the end of the letter Jen said, "Will you come out here?"   

Then, Josh appeared and got down on one knee.  It was hard for us to hear what was said so we waited until invited to come out.  Once Josh announced, "She said, YES!"  the kids tossed their confetti from above and we started toward our friends for hugs and high fives. I perhaps jumped the gun by a few seconds, but she had in fact already replied to the big question. (Yes, indeed - I was already celebrating with a beer in hand. Not messing up was reason to start celebrating while spying.)


The next part of the surprise was delivered when Geronne came out onto the patio holding baby Cassie.   Jen had a "what tha?!?!" moment and look on her face and then Joanna came waltzing out too.  

We celebrated together with wine and an amazing Haitian meal Geronne made especially for Jen.   

The next day we played hookie from all responsibility and went to the beach together.  

It was truly beautiful to see how hard Josh worked to make it exactly what would mean a lot to Jen  - and it was fun to get to be a part of surprising her. 

all but Troy and Marcia from engagement extravaganza 2015

There are of course, many amazing people doing things to love our world and people.  I get to meet people like this often.  HOWEVER, there is only one Dr. Jen. There is only one person that I have seen save my own child and love and impact the lives of scores of others.

We are so very grateful the Josh and Jen found one another*.  Mr. Dr. Jen is truly wonderful and perfect for Jen and vice versa. We are so so so happy for them and excitedly anticipating the day they make this big commitment.
 *       *       *

Lastly, the top photo on this blog post ... In January we were all at Paige and Michael's wedding in Florida. It was an a busy time, but our kids got to meet Josh and we all wanted to get to know him as best we could in a busy few days. 

Noah and Paige's Pastor, Josh Carney, took this photo. Noah told Josh he would be needing it some day. Right when Noah learned that Josh Dwyer was coming to Haiti to pop the question, Noah asked me to get this photo from Carney. 

*(Josh and Jen were introduced by Joanna and her husband John. If your name starts with something other than J, sorry about your luck.) 

A note from Jen:

I don’t even know how to adequately express my thankfulness to everyone who was involved in this epic surprise, but I will try. 

First to Tara and Troy and the kids—You guys have been like family to me since the very beginning. I honestly can’t imagine my life without y’all in it. We have been through so much together and you have always been so kind and supportive, especially in the hardest times. Thank you for always cheering me on, and making me laugh, even (especially) when life has been shitty. I love you all so much. 

Marcia—You’ve been one of my best friends for more than 15 years. I love that you were such a big part of this surprise and I love knowing that Josh was in contact with you almost every day leading up to it. Your influence shows because you know me so well! Thank you for being such a good listener and for helping me through some really hard years. Love you tons!

Joanna (and Cassie and John)—I will never forget that moment when Geronne walked out onto the porch with Cassie in her arms, and then you walked out after them. As if the shock of getting engaged in Haiti wasn’t already enough! :) I am so honored that you made the trip with Josh and we are so incredibly grateful to have you guys in our lives. Oh, and thanks for that whole introduction thing too! Josh & I as a couple wouldn’t exist if you guys hadn’t told us to just “have the conversation”. Much love to you all!

KJ—It is crazy to think that we only met a couple years ago (and even then it was over Skype). You have been such a perfect addition to the maternity center team and I can’t imagine Haiti life without you there. Thank you so much for coordinating so much of this surprise behind the scenes, and for letting Josh pace around your apartment for a few hours while I was blissfully unaware :). I love you so much! 

Mom and Dad—Thank you so much for all of your love and support over the years and for being so kind and welcoming to Josh. Thank you also for passing on your beautiful engagement ring to us. It is so special to be wearing a ring that you wore for so many years. We love you!

And to Josh—Sometimes you know me better than I even know myself. You knew exactly how to make this whole engagement surprise so special and meaningful. I will never, ever forget the feeling of walking out onto that porch and seeing our journal and the candles and knowing that you were so close by. You are the love of my life and I cannot imagine my life without you in it. Thank you for being so kind, funny, generous, sweet, giving, and all around amazing. I waited a long time to find you. And vice versa. Sometimes I can’t believe how lucky I am that life brought us together (well, life, and Dols…we will always be indebted to him!). I love you so very much. Shit definitely got real :)