Yes, that's right. It's what you've all been waiting for. The amazing story of my life. Actually, compared to a lot of the landmark posts I've read, my life has been quite simple.
I was born and raised in the small town of Lake Wales, Florida in 1967 back when the area was still overwhelmed with citrus groves. You may have heard of Lake Wales for famous landmarks such as Spook Hill and Bok Tower. Much of the groves died during hard freezes in previous decades and were never replanted. They have since been replaced with subdivisions.
Both my parents were teachers, so we used to take long vacations over the summers in our station wagon. This was back when station wagons had those tailgunner seats. So yes, that may have been me looking right at you from the back of the wagon making strange faces. One summer, we headed west to Texas, dropped down into Mexico and back up, stopped at the Grand Canyon, through Death Valley, up to San Fransisco and the redwoods, across the top to Mount Rushmore and back to Florida. Another summer we drove up the east coast all the way to Maine for a month, hopped over to Quebec for a week and came back. Since my Dad was a history teacher, we stopped at every site of historical significance along the way. There seem to be quite a few in New England. I had been to about 40 of the states by car by the time I was 12.
My Mom was a devout Southern Baptist, so I grew up going to church every Sunday and sometimes on Wed, too. It was a big part of my life growing up mainly because that's where most of my best friends were. I was always a good kid right up til the end of my senior year in high school. That was when I got invited to my first party and found out what all the cool kids were doing on the weekends. I still remember being amazed at the fact that I couldn't walk straight after 2 beers.
High school was fairly easy for me as it seems to have been for a lot of you here. Going to the University of Florida right after high school was a major shakeup for me. The very first class I attended (Biology) had about 600 students in it. That was almost 3 times as large as my graduating class. High school did not prepare me at all for college and I had to make large changes to my study habits. I originally planned to major in aeronautical engineering, but then realized how bad the job market was for that. After changing my mind a few other times, I ended up in Civil Engineering. In just a few years, my career path went from designing planes to playing in the dirt.
I stuck around and got a Masters degree for 2 reasons. First, in my profession, you can't go far without it. It's specialized enough to require the extra knowledge and I was told by several employers that I would hit a wall quickly until I got it. Second, I knew the real world was not the same as college life and I thought I would make it last a little longer.
I got a job at one of the best geotech companies in Florida and have been here for 11 years now. I've been priviledged to work on some really cool projects like the Kraken roller coaster at Sea World and the I-4 bridge over the St. Johns River. I am now in charge of all FDOT work out of my office and work with FDOT personnel on a regular basis. If you'd like to know what that is like, walk up to the nearest wall and bang your head into it.
Ny finest achievement was snagging mrs. zgator. Up til her, I had never had a long-term relationship before. Not because of any fear of commitment on my part, it just had never clicked up til that point. I had always had my mind set that "my type" was little petite girls. mrs. zgator was 5'8" and even though she was beautiful, smart, sexy and everything else, I didn't really think about it that way at first. Then a friend mentioned that, thus far, going for "my type" had resulted in absolutely nothing so maybe I should expand my horizons. We started dating and I asked her to marry me in front of the Hope diamond about a year later. We got married 6 months after that and every year since then keeps getting better and better.
Now, after 2 years of trying, my wife is finally pregnant and in 6 months, I'll be a daddy.
Looking back, life has been very good to me for which I am very thankful. Sometimes, I feel like I'm waiting for the other shoe to fall. Things this good can't last forever. Sometimes I wonder how strong my character is since it has never been truly tested. Some of you here have gone through some real trials in life, have come through them and have become wonderful people. To me, that says a lot about who you are.
Anyway, thank you Hatrack. You have become a wonderful respite for me through the work day. Actually, lately it seems more like work is a nice respite for a day on Hatrack. You have opened my mind to new ways of looking at things. You have made me take a look at some of my opinions and ideals and scrutinize them.
Ooh, that is actually a pretty good story. Kristine was going to a conference in Baltimore and had never been to DC, so I flew up to meet her for a long weekend of sight-seeing. I had already started looking at rings, so I decided this would be the perfect opportunity to surprise her.
I met with a wholesale diamond merchant through a friend of a friend of a friend who came to my office to show me his wares. There were many faces plastered to my office window that day watching all the glittering little stones on my desk that day. I made my choice and picked out a really simple setting for it and had to wait to get it.
My flight left early afternoon on a Friday. Friday morning, I had to work in the field with the drillers and was still frantically trying to find a time and place to meet with the diamond guy. Finally, I got hold of him and met him in a Wendy's parking lot on my way to the airport. And yes, I did get appraised later and it was slightly better than what he had told me.
We get to DC and I decide to do it in front of the Hope diamond at the Smithsonian. Up til that point, I'm riding around on the Metro with a diamond ring in my pocket praying that we won't get mugged or something. If you've ever been to the Natural History museum, you know that the diamonds are on the second or third floor. I have never had so much trouble walking up a flight of steps as I did that day. My knees were like jello.
We got to the diamond exhibit and she was joking around about how I could get her this one or that one when I finally proposed. When we got to the Hope diamond, I got down on one knee, pulled out the ring and told her that this one was a bit smaller, but would she wear it. Or something like that. I don't remember what I actually said. It's funny, though, because I thought everyone would notice what was happening. NOBODY seemed to notice what we were doing and there were a lot of people there. Oh well, it wasn't for them anyway.
zgator, it takes a really secure person to propose in front of the Hope Diamond! They say size doesn't matter. I guess we all have proof of that now.
Congratulations on the baby! I bet you and I met somewhere on one of those summer vacations. (Of course, I considered them torture because we didn't have a station wagon and three kids in the back seat of a car driving across the desert screaming, "Will you stop touching me!" and eating 90% of our meals out of a cooler was just not cool. )
You didn't mention anything at all in that post about being admitted to the exclusive Hatrack reptiles club... Hmmmm.... if I didn't know better I would say that you don't really consider that one of the defining moments of your life...
Posts: 4548 | Registered: May 2001
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Jacare, I was only mentioning moments of my life that those here at Hatrack might not have been aware of. Everyone here knows that was a special moment for me. What's that phrase I'm looking for ... Oh yeah, I giggled like a little girl.
Posts: 4625 | Registered: Jul 2002
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Funny...no challenges? Some people would have considered the scary transition to college a challenge, or the time you waited for a long-term relationship to pan out a challenge, or 40 states in a car even, haha. I guess you were so busy being overwhelmingly happy that you didn't notice.
Ditto on all the congrats, and thanks for telling us something about you. Great post.
Great post! And it was so happy. That's great. It just shows the positive way you see life. Congrats on the baby on the way! Oh, and that was so cute the way you proposed to your wife.
Posts: 1261 | Registered: Jun 2002
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I was waiting until I had time to read your post and really savor it. In the short time I've known you, I've learned that you have a very strong character, whether you feel like you've been tested or not.
I really liked your observation about working with FDOT. I think it applies to almost all government. <bangs head on wall> Yep, it applies.
Mrs Gator is a wonderful person too, and you are both lucky to have found each other. I think the littlezgator will be a very lucky kid.
And so, I'd just like to say that it is indeed a pleasure to get to know you more and I hope you'll keep us posted on the real challenges to your character when they come. Like when your kid becomes a teenager.