Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Here Comes Happily Ever After...

The pursuit of happiness.

Four years ago I was sitting in a bar with some amazing friends who had kidnapped me because my roller coaster of a relationship had ended -- more like crash landed with a really loud thud...a Die Hard kind of explosion. I was fading into a peaceful oblivion, silently swearing off relationships and saying to myself "This is my year to be alone--to figure it out."

Suddenly, in walked the woman who would become the love of my life and show me that everything I thought I knew about love was only a mere fraction of the story we would write together.

Our circle of friends came together that night, though neither of us had intended to be there. Looking back, I can see that there was a much bigger purpose.

A greater force was at play.
Stars aligned.
It was serendipitous.

She was smart, witty, funny, flirty...and openly gay -- huge bonus. We didn't exchange numbers but there was something about this girl.  As I watched her walk away at the end of the night, I honestly thought I would never see her again.  But the possibility of how a relationship could be stayed with me. The best conversation of my life began that night...and it never stopped.

From the very beginning, we were different. We'd both been through the relationship nightmare(s) and were determined to not take for granted that one little gift that every relationship begins We were better partners than we'd ever been before. Better friends. With more understanding. More patience. More of everything. We encountered so many obstacles, from exes who randomly drunk texted or showed up, to friends we lost along the way because they were more interested in the sadder version of who we once were. But with the bad came an enormous amount of good in the form of unwavering support from family and friends who could see that we were genuinely happy.

For the first time in my life, I was thinking about marriage--an idea I had let go of a long time ago not only because it wasn't legal for same sex couples, but because I never had the desire to be married. With more than 60% ending in divorce, it's easy to just say people are crazy for trying.  But I get it now...and I have since the first time I said "I love you."  My good friend Beth would say "To love someone is to risk knowing what it is like to be them." I honestly can't say it any better than that.

It's hard to plan a proposal that lives up to how special you want the most special person in your entire world to feel.  It took months of planning and thankfully, it all came together perfectly.  So this is for the friends and family that have been there with us along the way, many of whom have asked, "'d you ask?"


I solicited the help of our good friends, Ashlee and Katie, to pick Amanda up.  I was "running late" and going to meet them at brunch.  When she got into the car, they gave her a gift -- a popup book I made for her about our relationship...(see video).

(If the video comes in blurry, let it play to :15 seconds and then restart it. It will load a little clearer the next time you play it. You can also enlarge the view in the bottom right corner of the video player.)

Direct video link:

While Amanda read the book, Katie and Ashlee drove her to meet me at a gallery nearby.  When she arrived, there was a window display that featured some favorite moments of our very first conversations back and forth to each other...the beginning of our love story.
(I love this picture because you can see the reflection of my accomplices capturing her reaction for me. Thanks Ash!)
(More photos from my accomplices)
As she entered, there was music playing overhead. I made a playlist for her called "Marry Me" that had been on my iPhone for months.  The nights leading up to the proposal I spent listening to it...annoyingly so to Amanda who had no idea why I suddenly liked listening to my headphones while the TV was on.  But I just wanted to make sure it would play without a hitch.

There were stations set up with candles that guided her along a path.  Each had a note from me and something relevant to that note.
Stop #1: Our very first Christmas, we made nearly the exact same gift for each other.  I made her a typography book and she gave me a scrapbook of our conversations / emails / notes which were more like "top 10" lists back and forth to each other.
Stop #2: This was one of my favorites.  Friends and family sent in advice on love, friendship and marriage.  They said things like:

"Marriage is like a never-ending slumber party with your best friend."
"Happiness is a loving 50/50 relationship with your soul mate. (giggle) Okay, how about 60/40?"
"The secret to a happy marriage is separate bathrooms."  
Who couldn't agree with that?
Stop #3: Amanda writes me letters.  These were a few of my favorites from our very first month of dating to our 3 year anniversary.  I wanted her to read them so she could remember how she felt and reflect on how far we've come.
Stop #4:  Cards I've drawn for her.  Everything from our first fight (which wasn't really a fight) to stick figures that say things like "If we dated in the 80s, I would totally pull a Lloyd Dobbler in your driveway." (Say Anything reference)  

She didn't read all of was just another reminder. I wanted her to know how much I love dating her and made a promise to always up my woo game with little reminders of how ooey gooey I feel about her. 
Stop #5:  Our weird little happy family and things that have meaning to us.
Stop #6:  A quote from Dolly Parton, "If you want the rainbow, you gotta put up with the rain."  

Dolly holds a special place in Amanda's heart for many reasons.  We've only had two "some day" wishes.  One was to move west and get married (legally) and the other was to have Amanda's favorite artist, Jota Leal, commission a Dolly painting for us.  We're big art lovers and this was truly the ultimate "some day" piece.  

The last note told Amanda to turn the corner.  When she did, she found me standing in front of the Dolly painting that Jota painted...just for her.
(Jota Leal with our finished Dolly Parton commission)
I love this pic of Amanda looking at the painting after the proposal.
It's hard to explain the amazing lighting in this space, but it was one reason I chose it. The skylights open and close with cool old cranks. Only one was open that day shining perfectly down. 
What followed?  A lot of tears, a beautiful exchange of words, laughing, ugly crying, and of course the ultimate question on bended knee, "Will you marry me?"  Followed by a choked up "Yes!"  It was a day and a moment I will never forget, asking the girl of my dreams to marry me.  And now, we're on to the next fun part -- wedding planning.  

So to the friends and family that have supported us along the way, words can't express how much you mean to us.  Thank you for being part of our happily ever after.  This is only the beginning...


P.S. to my girlfriend -- scratch that, my fiancé: you can no longer sing "if you like it then you shouldaputaringonit!" but I will truly miss the cute dance and hand wagging that always accompanied those infamous Beyonce lyrics :)


Jota Leal and James Cowan of Morpheus Fine Art ( and for conspiring with me on the Dolly painting and delivering something that surpassed our expectations.

Ashlee & Katie for letting me steal part of your Sunday and for being really great sports about it!  We love you guys!

As another surprise for Amanda, I had our dog sitter and her friend (both amazing singers) record our 2 favorite songs.  Download their song covers with these links:
Heavenly Day Cover: CLICK HERE
Somewhere Over the Rainbow Cover: CLICK HERE

Kelly & Mindi - amazing friends who made me go out with them on the evening that Amanda and I met.  Sometimes, your friends really do know what's best for you :)

Friends & Family near and far away: being in Seattle is tough because we no longer have the luxury of being close in proximity to celebrate when we have good news...but we're thinking of you and loving you from afar.

Our parents: for your unconditional love, support and blessing. Thank you for loving us without question.

Aaron Draplin and the Field Notes Crew:  I could be wrong, but I think I may have just launched the world's first pop up proposal book and wouldn't have done it with anything but my favorite FIELD NOTES ( and

Sara Bareilles: Credit for the song in the video.  It is one of our favorites from her new album, The Blessed Unrest, called "I Choose You." ( or

Sharpie: Oh, how I love your Ultra Fine Point Marker.  I use them for...well, everything.

Lucca Great Finds: Amazing paper and where I buy FIELD NOTES locally.  I also bought the cool time capsule, and the 4 year sparkler there.  The staff was awesome on the phone and even more helpful in the store. (

Marriage Equality: To the 16 states that have legalized same sex marriage, and those who will hopefully follow, thanks for believing that #loveislove

"And even better...I get to be the other half of you."
Love that line from our Sara Bareilles song -- it pretty much sums up how I feel.
I am beyond excited to marry this beautiful woman. Lucky me!

Friday, May 10, 2013


de.cide   /di'sid/   v.   [instrans.]   to come to a resolution in the mind as a result of consideration.

re.set  [transitive verb]  to set again or anew; to change the reading of often to zero.

change  [verb]  to become transformed or different; to make the form, nature, content or future course of (something) different from what it is or from what it would be if left alone.

Amanda and I left KC on a Saturday morning.  It was bittersweet to see the skyline in our rearview mirror.  Sad to leave the people we love but excited at the unknown possibilities that lie ahead for our weird little happy family.

It seems rare.  Those moments in life that ask you to step outside of your routine.  The moments that challenge you to make a decision to change or continue to stay the same.  Coming face to face with that very opportunity, we decided to take the more adventurous route: CHANGE.

"Change is good."  A trite but true cliche, depending on how you choose to see it.

I'm a Kansas City native.  It's the place I'll always consider to be my home.  We were lucky enough to spend the last two years in a cozy little nest in the Columbus Park area.  Calling a weird, funky little neighborhood our home made us fall in love with the city we grew up in in an entirely new way.  Our neighbor was a, a real one at a real restaurant.  We had a favorite Saturday morning brunch hangout where we loved the staff and became regulars to the point that they would hug us when we came in.  We loved waking up to church bells, sirens, and the whisper of city noise.  We loved Monday night nerd shenanigans where laptops & entrepreneurial ideas dominated trendy locally owned bars, also known to a select group as Geek Night.  We loved spending time with our friends and family and watching our nieces and nephews grow from tiny little people into miniature adults.  We love Kansas City.  It will always be home.

Our adventure took us from KC to Breckenridge, CO to Sundance, UT to Boise, ID and finally to Seattle.  Four days in a car should test your relationship but the cross-country road trip was exactly what we needed to reconnect.  The fields, the blue sky, the hundreds of miles of farmland, mountains, vineyards, sharing the road with people in airstream trailers.  I'd forgotten how much I truly love being on a road trip.  It never seemed like we had time for one...but I'm pretty sure it's going to become a new tradition, in smaller doses of course.

Some people probably think we're crazy.  Afterall, we traded our cushy healthcare jobs in and replaced our 2400 sq ft 2-car garage townhome for an almost 900 sq ft apartment in a great location with amazing views and no a/c (because apparently you don't need that here).

It's all in perception.  What's crazy to some makes perfect sense to us.  This was the opportunity to downsize and to change -- to make the future course of our lives different from what it would have been if left alone.  It's the opportunity to reinvent whatever we want our lives to look like.

So here's to change and the rediscovery that lies ahead...

Friday, March 1, 2013

How Screenland's Popcorn Turned Into A Kernel of Collaboration

A few months ago, I had the opportunity to meet with Butch Rigby, owner of Screenland Theatres. Screenland is launching a line of new gourmet popcorn that will be released in Kansas City later this year and Butch and I were kicking around ideas. He talked about popcorn like you might talk about buying a new car--you know, the one you've always dreamed of. Listening to Butch talk about a passion project is always exciting and fun. I was fascinated by the history lesson I received (yes, popcorn actually has one).  In fact, just talking to him made me reflect on some of my favorite memories involving popcorn.  If you think about it, you'll probably have a few of your own.

Screenland is all about the details.  From the murals on the sidewalls to Rosco the robot opening the curtains, Butch always uses local artists to add finishing touches to his theatres.  Its those details that make movie-watching at Screenland a unique experience.  And so it follows that the brand for Screenland's new popcorn must adhere to the same recipe -- unique, exciting, engaging, different.

Somewhere in the mix of popcorn chatting, collaborating at Geek Night with my buddies Chris Morris & Albert Tong, and winning a rooster from a recent hackathon, an idea presented itself:

Brand Lab.  >> Queue the Back to the Future scene where Doc Brown hit his head on the toilet and drew the flux capacitor. <<

The idea behind Brand Lab in its simplest form is to connect local business with local creatives to build a local only 24 hours.  Brand Lab is a partnership that aims to take the hackathon concept and apply it directly to businesses in our community.  Businesses will receive direct access to local creatives. Creatives gain the opportunity to work on a real case study while showing off their skills and competing for cash prizes. The overall goal is to use collaboration to apply innovative applications of creative, design and technology to existing local businesses -- businesses that make our communities thrive.

Will it work?  We're going to find out.  Brand Lab for Screenland will be held the weekend of March 22nd (more info here: or  This is an open call for creatives of all types to help us build a local brand for Screenland's new gourmet popcorn.  Cash prizes, food & drinks provided, an evening movie break, milk & cookies at midnight, and even guest speakers like Danny O'Neill, founder of The Roasterie -- an amazing local business celebrating its 20th anniversary this year.

With a small idea that started just a few months ago, I've been overwhelmed by the support we're receiving.  From participants who are excited to groups like KC Design Core lending their support, guest judges like local rock star of all things social (and good friend) Ramsey Mohsen, mentors like Jon Kohrs with Stand Up for Good, the team at Local Ruckus giving us shout outs...and the list goes on.  This is why I love Kansas City -- people are always eager to collaborate and work on projects that benefit our community.

For more info on Brand Lab, checkout the website or watch the intro video with Butch Rigby below.  His passion is contagious -- you'll see what I mean.  And if you're intrigued enough, maybe you'll even signup to be a part of something really special.

If video does not appear, use this link: