Jackie and Nick

happiness

How We Met

We met at Fort Riley, Kansas. I roadtripped over from graduate school in Urbana, Illinois to celebrate my brother’s birthday with him at a weekend long country concert called “Country Stampede.” At the time, I was far from into country music, but jumped at the chance to hang out with Tom as he had just returned home from a deployment in Afghanistan.

The night I arrived I was introduced to Nick (my fiance), who had been deployed with Tom. He was sitting on my brother’s bed, methodically reciting several creeds for his upcoming Army board. Honestly at the time he seemed a bit intense (but who isn’t the night before a massive exam?)

That weekend, a large group of us hung out at the concert and I got to see Nick’s true goofball nature. He is kind and sweet and it felt like I had known him for years. We were practically inseparable that entire weekend (sorry, Tom).

We stayed together and over the next few years, spend many weekends road-tripping to see each other as I was wrapping up graduate school in Illinois, and he was stationed in Kansas. Long-distance doesn’t work for many couples, but I found it to be an incredible experience that I wouldn’t change for the world. We are both career driven people, and the level of respect that he showed me – even when I had to spend months in North Carolina doing fieldwork – let me know that he’d always be my biggest fan and greatest supporter, helping me flourish in all my endevours. Also, when the only way the relationship can develop outside of the weekends together is through communication (text/phone/Skype), the bond felt very deep, very quickly.

About a year and a half into our relationship, Nick was slated for his second deployment to Afghanistan, this time as a military working dog handler. That year was harrowing. I’m immensely proud of him, and his duty to service and this country. Also, can I just say thank you to the creators of Skype? I can’t imagine what it was like for loved ones of service members before the advent of the internet.

While he was deployed, I was able to land a job as an environmental consultant for a company servicing the oil and gas industry in Kansas City. When he returned home (Hallelujah!) our visits were able to be more frequent, and our relationship was stronger than ever. Upon his retirement from the Army, we took the opportunity to move together to northern California so we could both be near family and start to put down some roots. We’ve fallen in love with the Sierra Nevada region and the multitude of hiking trails, outdoor activities, and wineries this area has to offer. We’ve only been here a short time, and it’s feeling like home already!

How He Asked

Nick’s absolute favorite holiday has always been Christmas. Ever since we’ve met I’ve heard tales of the epic meals, and family togetherness that he experienced during this youth. After being in the military for so long, and having to work though (or be deployed during) so many holidays, that sense of desiring family time and celebration just intensified over the years.

About a month before Christmas, he started to lay out a plan that we would go to the mountains to see snow so I could have a white Christmas Eve (as any good Wisconsin girl would want). I was beyond excited! And since this was the first Christmas we could actually celebrate together, he said it would be the start to a wonderful tradition we could do yearly. He even planned to have his sister and sister-in-law come, so that we could all get photos playing in the snow. We’d then be able to print some photos out and put it in our “2015” picture frame ornament. I’m a sucker for family and traditions so I was completely on board.

A few days before Christmas Eve, his excitement for our adventure to the snow to build a snowman appreciably increased. That sly dude played off his jitters as being super amped about Christmas. And I ate it up, hook, line, and sinker, because as I said this dude loves Christmas! Like, set up our Christmas tree weeks before Thanksgiving type of love.

We planned to get up at 6am to get ready, grab some coffee, and be able to pick up his sister and sister-in-law (Sam and Katie) on time. Now, I’m the opposite of a morning person. Opposite. It takes hours and a pot of coffee to make me seem human. So when Nick bolted into the room from the kitchen, all excited and jumped on the bed, and I figured was “this dude is smart, anything less than acting like a puppy on speed would not roust me from my slumbers.”

So we got ready and bundled up in our winter layers and went to go collect Sam and Katie. We headed up the Sierra Nevada’s to a little town called Pollock Pines. This area has some phenomenal back-roads where the pines grow tall, and there is little to no traffic. We followed “Mormon Emigrant Pass” for a few miles, where we found the perfect spot to build a snowman and have a little snowball fight.

Sam in the snow

^ Nick’s sister-in-law, Sam.

Katie in the snow

^ Nick’s sister Katie getting the perfect Instagram shot.

Katie and me in the snow

^ Me having totally epic balance.

Our snowman is more aptly called a “snowmerican.” Our goal is to have a theme each year, and this year with his American flag arms and Army cap, we went very patriotic.

snowmerican 2

^ Nick and the “snowmerican.”

Once the “Snowmerican” was done being built, we each took turns taking photos in front of him. When it got to Nick and I, we took a couple photos, and then Nick started telling me how happy he was and how much he loved me. Then he got down on one knee!

Proposal!

Proposal!

Yes! Yes! Yes!

Yes! Yes! Yes!

And I got to say yes, to the man of my dreams and the love of my life :)

A bottle of Chardonnay from our favorite winery (Narrow Gates)

He had wine and wine glasses ready for us to toast to our new adventure! He got it all from our most favorite winery – Narrow Gates in El Dorado County.

The perfect Christmas Eve

I can’t explain how perfect it all was, and to have all these beautiful photos from the day, is incredible (thank you, Sam)! He did such a phenomenal job planning – it’s the perfect story for us – and I can’t wait for many more years of our snowman tradition :)

Now we get to plan our ideal wedding, and I hope it highlights what makes use love the Sierra Nevada’s so much – nature and wine!

 

Special Thanks

Sam Hicks