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After over six years, long distance, shorter distance, thousands of miles, dozens of airport goodbyes and hellos, three different homes together, a lot of hard times and a lot more joyous ones, we are engaged to be married. We don’t have a date set yet, but I do have a gorgeous ring and a promise from a boy who’s had my attention since I was twelve years old.

Our six-and-a-half-year anniversary was Saturday, 03-02-2013 (two’s and thirteen’s are kind of important to us (N also later informed me that 6.5 x 2 = 13)), and Nat told me a while ago that he wanted to do something neat that day. We’ve had a relationship full of little trips and weekend outings to nearby, quirky towns (well, at least the half of our relationship that we’ve spent actually living in the same state), and we drove west for about three hours Friday night before I knew we were staying in a historic railroad hotel in central Kansas. We got ready to go before any of the places he wanted to go to were open Saturday morning, so we had time to drive to the Sternberg Museum of Natural History at Fort Hays State University. The Sternberg has a 40,000-specimen mammal collection, but it’s not on display, so we arranged to come back sometime for a collections tour. And then we drove to Wilson Lake, where Nathaniel said he wanted to give me a present.

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I kept bugging him, “But it’s a half-anniversary! Why did you get me a present? And it’s right in between Valentine’s Day and your birthday! Are you expecting a present from me? Oh crap!” But when we got to the lake (deep blue, snow all around, no one else in sight, birds circling and landing on the water), all he brought with us to the rock ledge of the lake was an envelope. We sat on the rocky edge of the water (Wilson Lake is “The Clearest in Kansas!”) and talked and Nathaniel handed me this envelope. Inside was a note with another envelope inside, and inside that was a note with a smaller envelope inside, and inside that was another… and at the end of the last note was a message with an ellipses, and when I looked over, Nat asked me if I would marry him. And I said yes (of course!). I love that my dad was the only one who knew, because Nathaniel had called him the day before. And when I called my mom, she reminded me that March 2 is the wedding anniversary of my grandparents, who were very treasured to me.

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We drove to Lucas, Kansas (and stopped at “Kansas Originals” on the way to grab some crafts and food and drinks made by Kansans), to go to Garden of Eden, which we always see signs for when we drive back and forth from Colorado. We also read about the (Kansas-) famous Brant’s Meat Market and were so glad we went. We snacked on sausage and cheese before touring Garden of Eden, which is unbelievable, even cooler than it looks just from the outside. Nat told me we were spending the night at another special place, a bed and breakfast in Council Grove. We got there just before dark, checked into our beautiful room (the bridal suite!), and had dinner at this awesome historic home and cafe restored by a sweet couple who formed a non-profit organization just to preserve the space and surrounding buildings. We had a delicious, home-cooked meal and wonderful conversation (and our breakfast where we were staying was also home-cooked!) and headed home Sunday morning. I am so uncomfortable talking on the phone, but I made sure to call each of my closest friends on the drive. We are lucky to have some amazing people in our life. You really feel the love your friends have for you when you give them news that makes you so happy, and that is a refreshing feeling.

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It was just the kind of things N and I love to do, off the beaten path, meeting and talking with some of the sweetest, most wholesome and hardworking people in the West/Midwest. I honestly couldn’t be happier, and I am so blessed with a love that is furious, intentional, inexhaustible.

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On top of all this, in the morning on Saturday, on the way to the lake, Nathaniel got an email from his parents letting us know that they had booked our flight. We are going to Italy with Nathaniel’s parents in May! I have wanted to go to Italy since I was in middle school and saw The Talented Mr. Ripley for the first time and fell in love with “Mangiabello.” Nat has known this for a long time, and that this dream is coming true with him (read: his incredibly gracious family) is nothing out of the ordinary for my life.

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Winter is cold and my workdays are long, but my heart is so, so full.

See more pictures and March so far