First of all, I really want to thank everyone who has taken the time to post planning journals and wedding trip reports and planning session reports. Everything is so helpful to see and to hear about. And I have enjoyed reading everyone's PJ's so much, that it inspired me to start mine now, rather than a month from now, when a lot of details will be ironed out. Wow! Where to start? I have read so many wonderful and entertaining planning sessions that I am completely intimidated and worried about boring all of you! And this will probably be so much more information than anyone wants, and I am sorry for all the background and the NOVEL, but it is all very relevant to understanding what we're doing, why we're doing it, and how it is all going to play out. A little about me and my dream for happily ever after: From the time I was a little girl, I had no self-esteem. I was just the most pathetic thing. Looking back now, I feel sorry for the child I was, nearly blind, very overweight, long braids to my knees, and just not cute. But for as far back as I can remember, I dreamed of having someone fall in love with me. It's funny how I didn't wish to fall in love. I wished for someone to love me. For as far back as I can remember, every single star I wished on and every single candle I blew out, the wish was the same -- "Please God, let me find someone who will love me for me." Howard is truly the answer to every wish I ever wished and is my every dream come true. I am still in awe that this truly good person, this amazing, generous, gorgeous, loving man is crazy about me. I used to joke that I thought he'd get tired of me at some point, but I thank God for him every day and he continues to love me. Not a day goes by that he doesn't tell me that he loves me or that I am his world. I've grown into his love. I'm a better and more confident person because he loves me. I would marry him all over again, with every heartbeat, every day. How we met: Howard and I met while at different Pennsylvania colleges in October 1982. We were both involved with Circle K International, a co-ed college service organization affiliated with Kiwanis (both our clubs worked with Special Olympics and the organization is still very important in our lives). He was at college in the Pittsburgh area and I was college at the eastern-most part of the state and, as officers at our respective clubs, we both attended a leadership training conference at a retreat center mid-state. When we walked into the lodge to register Friday night, the conversation with my friend Liza went something like this: Me: Oh, my God. Who is that guy? (across the room) Liza: Kevin ___? Me: No, I know Kevin. The other guy. The really cute guy with the baseball cap. Liza: Howie? You think Howie is cute? Me: Yeah, he has the greatest smile! (He had just laughed at something Kevin said). Liza: He has braces and glasses! Me: I dont care. He has the greatest smile. You know what, Liza? Im going to marry him. Liza: What about C___? (my unofficial no-ring-yet fiancé) Me: C who? Liza introduced us and apparently Howard asked to have me assigned to the group he was leading that weekend. We ended up dancing the last slow dance at the Saturday night party and I literally knew what it was to tremble in someone's arms. Someone happened to take a picture of us at some point that weekend, when we were doing a team-building exercise where you rub the persons shoulders in front of you and ask three questions. I cant remember the questions, but I remember having goosebumps being near him. At the end of the weekend, we exchanged addresses and started a penpal relationship that lasted until we got married. In the meantime, I went home the next weekend on fall break and C and I looked at rings, though always intending that hed finish college and med school and Id finish college and law school and THEN wed marry. It took me until February to break up with him (we'd been best friends since I was in 7th grade and he was in 8th grade and we'd sort of evolved into being the couple everyone assumed we'd end up being). By that point, I was completely convinced that my penpal was the one and if I could wait more than 8 years to marry C, then he definitely was NOT the one. In the interim, Howard wrote to me constantly and was way over the top about me. So much so that I even broke up with him fro a while that spring because I thought he was "too over the top" about me. We only saw each other at three conventions and state organization meetings that spring and summer, but the time we spent together was wonderful. Unfortunately, I started to doubt us and I wasnt sure I wanted someone who was so seemingly infatuated with me. I had no self-esteem and didnt trust that his feelings were real or warranted. I broke up with him in early fall. But I got to missing him so much by November that I called to say hi. His step-Dad told me he was in Texas interviewing for a job, had just accepted it and was coming home to get his stuff and then moving to Texas. I left a message for him to call me and I thank God that it was Dave (his step-Dad) that took the message and passed it along. I am not confident anyone else in his family would have. When he called me when he got home from the interview, I congratulated him on the job, but persuaded him to visit me at my campus for a weekend - -after all, well probably never see each other again. Kissing him that weekend convinced me we belonged together. Apparently, he had been convinced all along. This is us that weekend: He moved to Texas but didnt stay long. By the end of Thanksgiving weekend, he was back in Western PA and we talked a lot about how wed support ourselves for the next several years if we decided to marry rather than wait. We saw each other a couple times during the spring semester and he came to visit me when I went home late May. At that point, wed been together a grand total of 18 days between conventions, state officer meetings and other visits when we could afford a bus ticket for him. Wed exchanged easily more than a hundred letters, and I was convinced we knew each other better than if wed been best friends since childhood. So, my parents finally met him that May and they were seriously prejudiced against him (too ugly to get into here) because of his family background. My father begrudgingly gave permission for us to marry but did the Old-World Italian not-so-veiled-threat thing. Thank God Howard didnt take him seriously. Howard proposed at Six Flags Great Adventure on the sky ride on 5/26/84 and I settled in to enjoy a long engagement. This is our engagement picture: I met his family in October 1984 and Im not so sure they liked me. As far as they were concerned it seemed, I was a spoiled girl who had persuaded their Howard to give up a great opportunity in Texas and then Pittsburgh for the possibility of us getting married. In the interim we were 325 miles apart, burning up the phone lines and killing a lot of trees writing letters and spending pennies neither of us had buying stamps. By December 7, I decided all I wanted for Christmas was to begin my life with Howard. Whewwwwww. .... that is SUCH a long introduction. Coming up next "How I survived my mothers dream wedding."