I hope you enjoy this!:) This first story is an article I was going to submit to a magazine, but never did.
My Fiancee and I Met on the Internet
Believe me, I think I've heard every possible response to the statement, "We met on the Internet." Friends, relatives, strangers, customers. All seem to have something along the lines of the following to say about us: "Wow, really? I've heard of that happening, but I've never actually met anyone who met on the Net." "Aren't you scared of what kind of person he might be?" "You're on the cutting edge of romance in the 90s!" "Did you actually meet in person before you got engaged?" "Don't you think it all happened too fast?!"
Ken and I met on America Online in November, 1995. We met in a chat room called Christianity Online Fellowship Hall 1. The chat rooms are places people go to discuss all sorts of things, make new friends, and - let's be realistic! - meet members of the opposite sex.
Ken had been online for over a year. Newly divorced, Ken was looking for friends. And, truthfully, if he found a relationship, he wasn't going to complain. But he was not seeking one at the time. Ken lived in Central Oregon,owned a store, and was going through some rough times. His screen name when I met him was Ken4hugs. I recall thinking, "Nice screen name," but not too much else.
I was pretty new to all this. I had discovered the chat rooms on my father's computer in Michigan, and now I was back in Indiana going online on my OWN account. I'd discovered these Christianity chat rooms, and decided I liked the people I could meet there - after all, the name was reassuring, and I thought I could trust anyone I met. Boy, was THAT the wrong idea! There are always people one can't trust, I've found.
Well, I'm rather a social butterfly. I like to meet people online, be their friends, listen to them when they want to talk about their problems, and just have fun in general. I try to stay away from any theological debates, or denominational squabbles, or any kind of confrontation. Ken is just the opposite. Ken LOVES to discuss theological differences, and has an incredibly logical mind. You can see that we shouldn't have met in the first place. But we did.
One evening, it just so happened that the discussion in the room was rather light-hearted, and somehow it came out that I did community theater - a lot of it. In AOL, there is a way that people can chat one-on-one while staying in a room for conversation. It's called an Instant Message. So, Ken sends me an IM, telling me that he's a playwright, has had a play performed professionally, and that he still does theater where he lives. Interesting, I thought. So, I asked him about what kinds of theater work he'd done, and we spent about 45 minutes chatting away in Ims and talking to our friends in Fellowship Hall.
Ken's pattern of being online was rather sporadic. Whenever customers would come in to his store, all we'd see from him is, "Customers. Bye!" - if that much. So, being in a time zone two hours ahead, it was always a chance on whether the two of us would get to do much chatting, but our friendship grew over the next few weeks. It finally got to the point where I felt comfortable enough with him to give him my phone number, so we could chat "in person".
Ken was not the first person I had given my phone number to, nor did I have any other attraction to him as other than a friend. I have my degree in speech communication, and I like to her how people respond - keystrokes are hard to interpret. So, the first evening Ken called, he was stuck in line. I had at least three other callers before it was his turn, and was HE ever nervous by the time we talked!
I am a very shy person, which I always warn people about before I meet or talk with them. That first conversation probably lasted about 15 minutes, with ten of them spent by Ken talking about the Christmas lights reflecting on the water across from his apartment. The phone calls eventually got easier, until I was talking as much as he was. Our friendship continued to grow, but it was only friendship.
I thought I was in love with another person I'd met on AOL. For propriety's sake, we'll call him Sam, although at this time I'd rather call him another name. Anyway. Sam and I had been talking on the phone for a little longer than Ken and I, and by Christmas, we had ourselves convinced that it might be more than friendship. Sam sent me gifts for Christmas, called me at least four times a day, and we finally set a date for him to fly to Indiana and meet me. In the meantime, I'd told Ken that Sam was my "online significant other". Sam and Ken did NOT get along well; their theology was as distant from each other's as possible. Ken, however, was very gracious, although by this time he was beginning to realize that he had feelings for me that were more than friendship - and told me as much, accepting responsibility for his feelings, a thing I'd been told no man ever did. Sam was scheduled to arrive February, 9, and I told Ken that he shouldn't call while Sam was here for the weekend, but that I'd call him. His last "allowed" phone call before Sam arrived was at 4:45 p.m., just before I left work. Some things in our relationship had started to come together, but I still didn't think of Ken as any more than a friend. When Ken got ready to hang up, the last thing he said to me was, "You're my adrenaline." As I hung up the phone, something inside seemed a little shaken, as I realized that what he'd just said meant something to me. What was going on? Sam was supposed to be at his hotel by then, and this was going to be a very special weekend for us! I put the thought of that phone call out of my mind, left for home, and got ready to go meet Sam for the first time in person.
I am not anyone's idea of beautiful, and I was really dreading having to see Sam's face as we met. I dressed to the nines, and I felt as good about myself as I possibly could as I walked across the street from my house to the hotel. Sam met me in the parking lot, and gave me a hug. We got into his rented car, and drove off to meet some friends for dinner.
I thought everything went OK, and we had a good time with my friends. After dinner, we drove back to my apartment to talk for a few hours. As Sam headed back to the hotel for the night, I got ready to go to bed. I went into the bedroom, turned off the lights, and called Ken as I'd promised. He was absolutely amazed that I had actually called him; I found out later that he had told several of our online friends that he probably wouldn't hear from me until Sunday or so. We talked for about an hour and a half, and had a great time. Ken and I always did, and I started to realize that I was actually feeling more than friendship for him - what about Sam, sleeping across the parking lot? Well, I loved HIM, and that was all I could tell myself.
Sam called an hour later, having trouble sleeping. For one reason and another, he decided he needed to cut his visit short. Sam left for home the next day at noon. The first thing I did was call Ken, who was sincerely sorry to hear how things had turned out. Of course, Sam and I hadn't made any decision about our relationship, but Ken felt awful about his leaving so soon. We continued talking off and on the remainder of that day, and then Sunday a lot.
By Sunday afternoon, Ken finally said, "So, I guess things are different between us now, aren't they." I had to agree; Ken was so different from Sam, and loved me in such a different way! I did a lot of soul-searching that weekend, and by Monday night, called Sam and told him that it was over, and that Ken and I were together. Sam didn't take it very well, and called every night the rest of the week trying to convince me I was wrong. Meanwhile, Ken and I were on the phone hours upon hours, far into the night. We finally decided that he should fly to Indiana to meet me - a personal sacrifice I may never know the extent of, since Ken hates to fly. We would meet in person for the first time March 1st. Ken wanted to propose to me over the phone, that week. He said he knew that I was the person he wanted to spend the rest of his life with - yet he'd never even seen a picture of me. I wouldn't let him ask me until we met in person, because I KNEW that I wasn't beautiful, that there was always the chance that Ken would think I was not good enough in person, or that some personality quirk one of us had would turn the other off. And, I priority-mailed him a picture. I think I had scared him, because he was very uneasy when he called and said he'd received it, should he open it now? I said yes, and waited breathlessly to hear the verdict.
Ken actually said I was beautiful. He still does.
I booked Ken into the same hotel across the street from my apartment that Sam had stayed in, but I controlled the situation this time. Some friends of the family went to the airport and picked Ken up, and brought him to the hotel. Meanwhile, I got all cleaned up from a day at the office, but didn't get too dressy this time. I sat by the window that faced the door of the hotel, waiting to see the van drop him off. I must've called the front desk five times before he actually arrived to see if he'd checked in yet. When he finally called to say he was there, I told him to take his time getting cleaned up, and I'd meet him in the lobby. I had put fresh flowers and balloons in his room, and that made a great impression on him. This hotel is one of the oldest buildings in town, and has a grand three-story open lobby, very elegant and warm. What a perfect place to meet the man who wanted to marry me! But I was SCARED.
I was sitting in front of the grand fireplace, in a beautiful overstuffed tapestry chair, praying my heart out when I heard someone coming down the central staircase. I couldn't open my eyes - until I heard a man's voice I knew very well say, "Hi, there." As I looked up, I saw the most dazzling pair of blue-gray eyes it's ever been my privilege to see staring back at me. Fifteen minutes later, as we walked into the local Chinese restaurant, I knew that I wanted to spend the rest of my life with this man. As we left about a half-hour later, we kissed for the first time - that parking lot and Chinese restaurant hold a very special place in my heart.
The rest of the weekend was a blur. The next day, we went shopping together, and I had a great time showing all the houses I'd lived in, introducing him to the farm where I'd spent most of my growing-up years. Ken formally proposed to me standing in the middle of my living room around 2:00 in the afternoon. Then, we called my parents. They had only an inkling of what was going on; I told them that I had met a man, that we were talking about getting married, and we wanted to meet with them on Sunday. Ken is 20 years older than I, and a year older than my mother. I was afraid that they would have a problem with that, but they absolutely love Ken. From that first meeting to this time, they have been nothing but 200% supportive of all of our decisions. We met them in a Ponderosa that was about ½ the distance between where they live and where I lived, and talked for three hours. It was a wonderful time of getting to see how Ken would act with my family, and vice-versa, and I have to say that the fit is perfect. Ken left to go back to Oregon very early Monday morning. As I watched him pull away in that taxi, I can honestly say that I felt that I should go with him right then. Our plans were to be married on September 7, and during the summer I would fly up to see where the store was, where I would be moving to, etc., and he might come visit me. However, after that first phone bill arrived, we decided that we would be saving money if I went ahead and moved out to Oregon. And that's what I did.
There have been lots of changes in our plans and our lives over the last six months, including losing some so-called friends because they felt like I was rushing this relationship and crazy to move out here. If I had to do it all over again, the only thing I would change is waiting until September to get married to this wonderful man. It's only a few weeks away as I write this, and I am counting down the days until I become Mrs. Lori Stilger. Nice ring to it, I think. My answer to those people who think I'm crazy, or worry about whether it's the safe thing for me to do, is that I trust myself, that I can take responsibility for my actions, and that if I waited until I was 100% sure about things before I did them, I would never do anything. Life is not perfect for anyone, but Ken and I are happy together, and our love for each other grows more every day. I know I did the right thing.
Oh, yeah. AOL still plays a huge part in our lives. As a matter of fact, one of the two groomsmen is Ken's best buddy from AOL. My screen name is Pooh, and Ken's friend's is Tigger. Tigger is going to be in Pooh's wedding. How perfect!
Here's my version of the wedding.:)
Ken said he wanted to start this from the rehearsal, so I will. Just a word before I start, however: If you were to ask me what the hardest thing about a wedding is, I would, without hesitation, tell you it's the OTHER people involved. It's not all the planning, the hard work, or any nervousness - which I had none of, THANK you very much! Rather, it's all the other people involved - mostly family - who want to make sure that everything gets done the way you want. THAT means 150 questions every twenty minutes you are with a certain group of people. They ALL mean well, but I don't think they realize the amount of stress they add. So, consider yourself informed.:)
On the day of the rehearsal, we moved almost everything out of my old apartment into storage, and started greeting members of the wedding party as they arrived. My matron of honor, Rhonda, and her husband, Jay, had been with us since Wednesday. Ken's best man, Arthur, arrived in town around 10:30 in the morning, having taken the red-eye from Oregon. There were relatives seemingly everywhere! Ken and I did the last trip to the storage area, then ate lunch at the apartment - Mom had fixed enough spaghetti for an army, God love her! - and then took Kaisa, Ken's step-daughter, and Arthur's plate of spaghetti to the hotel. We decided that Ken and Arthur would go do some errands while Kaisa and I went swimming. It was awfully nice to be able to RELAX a little bit!!!! So, we swam, Dad came down to the pool to tell me that he'd left Ken's vows at home in Michigan, and Kaisa and I went back to the room to watch TV and take showers, to get ready for the rehearsal. When Ken and Arthur came back, I greeted Ken with a saying he'd been throwing at me all week long: "Ken, dear, we have something that needs a solution." ("There are no problems, only solutions." Yeah, whatever.) When I told him about Dad forgetting his vows, he really took it well, and said it was probably for the better, anyway. I was surprised!:)
Arthur decided to go back and lay down until we were scheduled to leave for the church. Ken and Kaisa watched TV while I took a shower, and when I came out, I saw one of my relatives walking by. I ducked out to say hi to her, then came back in to start getting ready. The next person to walk by was my favorite uncle, so of COURSE I had to say hello to him! While I was out there, I happened to see the woman whose job I'd taken over when she had moved to New York - her daughter was getting married on the same day we were, just a few hours before! So, of course WE had to chat.
Eventually, I did get ready. However, the groomsman from Alabama, Jack - AKA Tigger - hadn't arrived yet. When I was ready, Ken suggested that I call my answering machine to see if he'd left any messages. He had, telling me that he was cutting it close, but planned on being in Richmond in time for the rehearsal. The only problem was, he hadn't gotten the time of rehearsal right: he thought it was 6:30, not 6:00! Oh, bother. Here we go.
So, off we went to the church, knowing that we had PLENTY of time to get everything taken care of.
What I did not know was that my parents had planned something big for the rehearsal decorations. Mom had volunteered to do the rehearsal dinner for us - Ken calls her a saint, and for good reason! - and wanted to make it special. Unfortunately, no one had bothered to tell me that it meant I wasn't going to have free access to the Fellowship Hall, where we were going to give the gifts after dinner. So, I was not REALLY happy about that, and had to sit and cool off for a second. Little did I realize that this was only the beginning of having to work around OTHER people's schedules, rather than vice-versa.:) Eventually, word came to me that it was OK to go into the Fellowship Hall, and when I did, I was greeted with all sorts of Pooh decorations. Dad and my sister and cousin had worked on putting these things together all afternoon; there were two tables decorated with Pooh toys, like a treehouse and a picnic birthday party. (These were kept as Christmas presents for my niece.:)) The head table was decorated with a foam brick surrounded by a wooden picket fence, with Pooh, Piglet, and Tigger (stuffed!) sitting on floral moss inside. My family really loves me!!!! For those of you who don't know, I've been Pooh since I can remember; Dad, especially, still calls me Pooh.:)
Since we had plenty of time, I started to arrange the unity candles on the altar table, making sure they were placed just so. Next, I took pictures. Lots of pictures. Ken doesn't deal very well with waiting, but I thought he did extremely well not getting too antsy while we were waiting. We waited until 6:45, then decided to go over some scheduling stuff for Saturday. Ken started us off, leading into allowing me to tell everyone what they needed to know. But first, I decided, everyone needed to be introduced.
We started with our musician, John, who is a wonderful friend of mine from the theater back home. John is now a freshman in college, majoring in musical theater. Next was the minister, Kevin, from the church of Christ we were getting married in. He is a very sweet person, and the whole church was excited for me. My parents were next; what could I possibly say about them that could express everything I felt??? I tried, but I think I failed miserably.
Kaisa, Ken's daughter, came next. Kaisa had driven all the way from Oregon with Ken, and came just to be in our wedding as a junior bridesmaid. Kaisa is very shy, and very sweet. She and my cousin, Amanda, really hit it off. Rachel, my 19-month-old niece, was also a big hit with Kaisa - and everyone else!
Next came my little sister, Kelli. Kelli was my maid of honor, and has been one of my best friends all her life. I truly love her, and don't think I could find a better person, or one with a better head on her shoulders. My other attendant, Rhonda, was my matron of honor, and her husband, Jay, came with her (to be an usher). Rhonda and I have known each other for about 9 years, we finally figured out, and used to cry on one another's shoulders about not having anyone to love. Now we're both married. I was her maid of honor, and it was so wonderful to have her with me!
About this time, Jack - AKA Tigger - and his wife, Karan, walked into the church. It was the first time I met him, and let me tell you, he is every bit as sweet as his online persona. He took a seat, and introductions continued with our junior groomsman, Blaine. I actually picked Blaine to play this role; he and I worked together in the theater at Brookville, OH, and he had become "my kid" from the very beginning. He looked so sharp in his tux! But I'm getting ahead of myself. Next came Arthur, Ken's best man, all the way from Oregon. Arthur is not only Ken's best friend, but our accountant as well. He's a great guy, and a good Christian man.
Just as we were beginning to introduce Tigger, our second minister came in. This young man's name is Dan, and he is my "bestest buddy". Dan and I have been through a LOT together, and love each other as brother and sister. Just a year ago, Dan married a wonderful young woman whose name is Pam. This couple walked through the door, and I had to stop everything and go greet them - these two are incredibly special to me, and it was a wonderful blessing to have them involved in our wedding.
Tigger finally got introduced, then Dan and Pam, and the scheduling for the next day was discussed. Now, it was time to practice this puppy.:)
I took on the role of director at this point, consulting with Pam and my mom as to how things looked, placement, etc., and we ran through the ceremony's major points and cues. With a little practice of the walking up and down the aisles, we got to go eat - finally.:)
Mom had done a bagel bar and veggie tray for dinner, and it was wonderful. We then gave presents to everyone, including each other. I had had a problem not handing Ken's to him as soon as they arrived in town, but I managed to restrain until this moment. I had wrapped them days before he got there, so it would be easier to wait.:) The first one he opened was My Utmost For His Highest, in today's English. Then, a Bible that is separated into 365 daily readings. Finally, he opened the BIG one: a genuine leather-bound Thompson's Chain Reference Bible in a Bible cover, with "thumb thingies" as Ken put it.
He had me open one of mine first. It was a necklace by a designer we carry in the store, a heart that contains a cross. Then, he handed me another box, which was a pair of diamond-cut sterling earrings, crosses.
Finally, rehearsal was over! We'd chatted with everyone, gotten to know everyone a little better, and made plans for that evening. Wow. This wedding thing just might happen.
The rest of the evening was spent in relaxing: the men went to the restaurant in the hotel they were staying in, and had a wonderful time getting to know each other better. Kaisa and I went swimming, and Mom, Rhonda, Karan, my two sisters, and my cousin Mandy came out to talk. that group broke up around 11, and Rhonda came back to Ken's room to chat with me until the guys' party broke up.
Ken and Jay showed up around midnight, so Rhonda and I said good night and they left. Kaisa had fallen asleep somewhere around 11:15.:) Ken and I did our devotions and chatted just a little bit before he took me back to my apartment. After a passionate kiss - OK, I'll admit it, I could HARDLY wait to be married to this wonderful man - Ken left. It was 1 a.m.
Ken called about 15 minutes later, to make sure I was OK.:) I assured him I was, then said good night to take a bath, do devotions, etc. I went to bed at 2:30.
THE WEDDING DAY The phone rang at 6:45. Any guesses as to who it was? Yup, my Love. Ken hadn't slept at all that night, thinking about what he wanted to say with his vows, and thinking about what this marriage meant to him. I think I was on the phone about the next hour, then took my bath and got ready for this day - or so I thought. I had about another hour by myself, then EVERYONE started coming. Dad and I had arranged to meet around 11:30 at the apartment to go do the last-minute running - pick up the flowers, the mints, etc. The flowers were done by a wonderful friend at Kroger's, and were absolutely gorgeous. Then, of course, we had to deliver everything - and I had forgotten some things at the house, so we had to run back there. Unfortunately. Here's where more problems with relatives came into it. Ken met me downstairs, and told me they needed the big suitcase to be ready, so they could pack the rest of the stuff into the van around it. So, I ran up the stairs, saying, "If you will all leave me alone and stay out of my way for five minutes, I'll be nice and say hi to everyone then." Well, that DIDN'T WORK. Nope, everyone wanted to CHAT, and get in my way. So, I was flustered and ready to YELL, but people like my mom and Kelli and Dad were good about trying to get everyone out of my way, so I got out of there without yelling - but also wasn't very congenial. Dad and I tried to get away, but one of my aunts came running over to the car to give ME the presents that she' brought for us. I looked at Dad, and he said, "Put them in the back seat. I'll take them to the reception for you." Lucky Dad was treated to a diatribe on what I've already told you: it's not the planning, it's the dealing with PEOPLE that is the major pain involved in a wedding. Poor Dad. Good thing he loves me!:)
So, off we went: grocery, hotel, church. Only, when we got to the church, there had been a miscommunication, and Ken hadn't picked up the candelabra. Good thing HE loves me, too!:) AND we ran into the relatives again - same aunt asking all sorts of questions, basically getting in my face. We were running behind schedule - not because I'd done anything wrong, but because other people kept delaying me!!!:)
Off to the apartment, where Kelli was waiting for me. She took me to the hotel Ken and I were staying at that evening, and I took my shower and did my hair in a huge hurry. I knew that by the time we got to the church, everything was basically scheduled. We had to get there, though.:) She came back to pick me up, and I did my nails on the drive to the church.
At the church, the girls took longer getting ready than I did, and they started before me!!!:) I had to put the climbing roses on the candelabra Ken was unloading, just trying to get everything perfect.:) And off we went to get into our "fancy duds."
The men were scheduled to do photos first. Then, the girls were scheduled to go out and do them together with the men while Ken got to see me in the dress. And I got to see HIM in his tails. Pardon me, everyone, but I have to tell you that Ken looked SO FINE in his tails!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! I've never, EVER seen anyone more handsome. I can hardly wait to have a picture of him.
So, we went out to show off to the rest of the group, and to do the rest of the pictures. I had scheduled LOTS of time, and we had LOTS of time left over.:) But I had also told everyone that once they got to the church, not to plan on leaving. We fed everyone - once everyone who wanted to got out of their fancy duds.:) I KNEW that I had to - I'm a mess, and in WHITE???? puhLEASE.....:) We ate, and then took our time getting ready again. Personally, I didn't want to get trapped in the nursery for a LONG time, so I was still running around in my shorts when the first guests arrived.:)
The wedding went just as I hoped. Dan's exhortation was wonderful, and everyone seemed to enjoy listening to our vows that we had written. The unity candle, the traditional vows, and the ring vows were done by Kevin, and went smooth as silk. The wedding LOOKED like I'd dreamed, went like I'd dreamed, and we were MARRIED!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! Praise GOD, we were actually MAN & WIFE!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
We walked down the aisle to the Hallelujah Chorus - a surprise I'd planned for months!:) - and right out to Arthur's car. He drove us to the reception, and the hall looked WONDERFUL. I wanted it to be simple but elegant, and it looked JUST THAT WAY. Lots of silver, candles, and mirror tiles, with a little heart confetti.:) And the cakes were great.
Pretty much, the reception was normal. We didn't do the bouquet throwaway, or a garter. We did feed each other cake and toast each other, and the groomsmen and my father made elegant toasts - my dad told Ken to take care of his little girl, and made me cry. We opened presents, and chatted with friends and relatives. Arthur drove us off - in a decorated, balloon-filled rental car - around 11:15.
No more details, but for everyone's information, everything about our wedding night went the way I'd always dreamed. I can't begin to tell you how proud I am to be Mrs. Kenneth Stilger. Ken is a wonderful man, kind, gentle, compassionate. We are still looking at each other every once in a while to say, "We're married!!!!" God has truly blessed me with Ken, and I am praising Him continually.
PO Box 2633
Florence, OR 997439