Happy Panera Day! No, it’s not an official holiday, but around our house it’s very important. This is the day, eight years ago, that Jon and I first met, face to face.
That may not seem to be a huge event under normal circumstances, but in our case, it most definitely was. To me, it was a sign that we were meant to be on this journey together. To me, it spoke volumes.
Jon and I ‘met’ in modern fashion- online. I had been separated/divorced for almost three years. I had shied away from any serious commitments and openly confessed that I didn’t think I’d ever get married again. I was afraid of meeting someone new because I didn’t want to have to work at getting to know someone, especially without knowing if it would last. It felt like too much, too exhausting. It was leaving myself too open to being hurt and disappointed, and I wasn’t sure I could go through that again.
But in April 2008, I felt ready, and I was encouraged that my older sister had met someone on eHarmony. So I took a chance. You didn’t have to pay unless you decided to communicate with someone (or see their pictures), so I figured it wasn’t a big risk. For the first two days, I wasn’t interested in any of the matches. But on April 6, that all changed. He requested communication with me, and he sounded great. I was curious. I wanted to see what he looked like. I wanted to ‘talk.’ So I decided I’d pay for a month and see what happened.
We quickly worked our way through the eHarmony process and eventually exchanged our real email addresses. We would send long emails; we always had so much to talk about! We had our first phone conversation in later April, and we would exchange text messages frequently. I knew soon one of us would decide to suggest “meeting.” The thought of that made me nervous! And the one thing that made me hesitate with the whole online meeting thing from the beginning was that we wouldn’t have a story of how we met. Or at least not an interesting one. A silly concern, but it was still a concern.
On May 4, 2008, everything changed. It was a Sunday, and I decided to take the boys to Panera for dinner. It was a warm day, so we sat outside on the patio. As we giggled and ate our dinner, I saw a man walk by on the sidewalk. He was Asian and wearing sunglasses. I had one of those flickers of hope, one of those moments where you wish for a movie kind of experience. I then remembered that he had said earlier he was going to study somewhere with unlimited coffee. My heart jumped!
I couldn’t see his face clearly, so I didn’t know if it was him, but I couldn’t help but think… What if it was him? How cool would that be? He was on the phone, so I subtly checked mine to see if I had a message. Nothing. I chided myself for being so silly. These kinds of things never really happen. But I stopped eating my sandwich. I had braces then and didn’t want food stuck in them. Just in case.
I saw him walk back down the sidewalk, and I figured I was being silly. Until he turned into the patio and came up to our table. I still didn’t believe any of this was happening until he said, “I’m sorry to bother you, but are you Heidi?”
We probably stood there on the patio and talked for an hour. The boys of course took that as their cue to run all over the place. It was perfect. We were at ease. We hugged goodbye. And three days later, we had our first date. Without any of the first date jitters!
That day, I knew. I knew we were meant to be. I had an inkling that we would be good together just from our many emails and phone conversations. That fateful meeting was the universe reminding me to trust!
After that day, I didn’t look back, never questioned. We moved quickly- we each had more than enough life experience to know what we wanted when we found it. We moved in together in September, bought a house in November, got engaged (on that same patio!) in December, and were married in April.
Eight years ago today we jumped. I’m certain we had no idea what we were about to get into when it came to blending our two families. We had no idea how hard it was going to be, the challenges we’d face, or the moments when it felt like we were battling insurmountable odds; all we knew was we couldn’t wait to spend forever together– our second chances. And now eight years later, we’ve figured so much out, walked through many fires, and still find ourselves just as much in love as we were at the beginning, but now it comes with a beautiful family, a wonderful life, and so much to always be grateful for. People seem to believe that second marriages and blended families are usually doomed. I’m so glad we are proof otherwise.
So Happy Panera Day! Have a bagel! Get some coffee! And believe in fate. <3