It started innocently enough.
It was 1997, and I had just discovered .mp3's.
I know, all love stories should start this way, right?
I was a regular on ISCA BBS. (For those not quite as old and geeky as I am, a BBS is basically a text based old school internet forum.) A friend of a friend on there had volunteered to help me track down that elusive Alanis Morisette file.
He found it. He also found every other file on my wish list.
We had struck up a quick friendship. He was 19, worked at Kroger's doing night stock, and on computers during the day.
I was 21 at the time, working at Ritz Camera and going to school at Bowling Green State University (GO Falcons!) at night.
The only thing we had in common was our geekiness. But we got along so well. God, could he make me laugh. We had at least a hundred late night conversations, on the phone and online. I hadn't even seen a picture of him at this point, these were the days before scanners and digital cameras were popular. It didn't matter. I was falling for him.
When the opportunity first presented itself, we met.
Fireworks, folks. Shock and Awe style. He was tall. He was really tall. 6'4" at least. He had sandy brown hair, and the most beautiful hazel eyes I had ever seen. He had the most perfect soft lips. And when he would hug me, I found myself being the first one to let go. He was sensitive, and funny, and wise beyond his years. And he got me. He understood me, with all of my quirks. He agreed with me that Mr. Frump in the Iron Lung had to be one of the best Weird Al songs ever.
I was in love.
Shortly after we first met in person, he surprised me by driving three hours to the mall where I was working to surprise me. At this point (before mapquest, google maps and GPS), he had no idea where I lived. He drove three hours, hoping that I was working.
That's when I knew he was in love.
He wanted to take me out. He had brought a friend with him, and a coworker/friend from work came with us. We went out and had a great dinner at a local sports pub. A waitress snapped this lovely picture of us. My apologies for the stellar quality.
I found out he was hired for a job he really wanted. I knew the whole time he'd get it... He was so brilliant when it came to computers, surely they'd see that when he interviewed. If I saw it in him, I knew they would. And they did. He was working on the Ohio EBT project (transitioning Ohio from paper foodstamps to a debit card, basically) at it's earliest stages.
He talked me into applying. It was computer work, something I had never done for a living, but he assured me that I could do the work, and if I had a problem I could always find him for help. The only problem was that I would have to move to Mansfield for the job. A good two hour drive from Toledo. My family. My friends.
"Where will I live? You're the only one I'll know down there...."
"Uhm, with me?"
Was he serious? Oh my GOD he's serious!!!
My response? "Sure, why not."
Yeah. They hired me on the spot. Two months later I would find out it was because the jackass who interviewed me liked the way my boobs looked in the shirt I was wearing, but it didn't matter at that point.
So I had the job, all I needed was money for the move. And I had none. I had to come up with it quickly. I need insurance for my beat up '88 Beretta, something that my mom had previously supplied, but had threatened to pull the second I moved out of the house. I needed to make a few repairs to it as well. The only thing I had of value was my camera equipment. The camera and lenses that my father had purchased for me as a Christmas gift a few years before. With a broken heart, I listed my equipment on Ebay. It sold quickly, and just as quickly I had the money I needed in hand. I made the move. What would be the first of three in just a year.
I quickly found myself one of two female field technicians in the state. And I loved my job. I loved my life, really. Mansfield was a much smaller town than Toledo, but what it lacked in size it made up for in character. I had never seen Amish folks in person before, but in Mansfield I came across them (typically when driving much faster than I should have been) often. And for those of you who have seen The Shawshank Redemption, it was filmed in Mansfield and some of the cities nearby. (The prison itself is in Mansfield, in fact, and is open for tours, one hell of a haunted house, and overnight ghost hunts.)
So I found myself working and living two hours away from what I knew as home. And I loved it. I was with the man I loved, living in a beautiful duplex with plenty of room for us. I was in heaven. Everything was perfect.
Then I hurt my back at work. I didn't just hurt my back, I blew my back out. I was dragged to the local Podunk ER/ED/EC for the Workman's Comp workup. That's when I found out I was pregnant....