It was Memorial Day weekend several years ago. They both happened to go to the same local restaurant to hang out on the outdoor patio and enjoy the spring air. They were each there with their own groups of friends, but, as luck would have it, there were mutual connections in their separate groups and it wasn’t long before they all combined into one big group. Catie & Justin immediately connected after being introduced since they are both teachers and had both decided to take a year off. “Our conversation quickly turned to our love of languages and our love of travel. Fate would make it that both just so happened to be taking a sabbatical from our teaching careers and were going to travel for a year. I was going to California and Catie was going to France. We shared our excitement but also our fears about moving away from home and living somewhere new.”
Their first date was about a week later. Since school was out, they were in a unique situation of having an entire summer free before packing and moving away. “Normally that is not ideal circumstances to start dating someone new who will end up being the love of your life,” Justin says. “But it worked out great for us! I knew Catie was the one sometime that first summer. We clicked immediately. I wanted to spend all of my time with her. I had initially planned to move to California in August, but decided to stay and wait until Catie left for France. I wanted to shorten the time we were going to be apart. When I decided to move to California, I didn’t know when I would come back to Iowa. However, I remember late July that summer I decided I was coming back to Iowa when Catie came back.”
Catie also knew very quickly that this was a forever relationship. “I knew almost right away. I was definitely nervous for our first couple of dates, but I always felt comfortable with him. We had some deep conversations right off the bat because our time together in the same state was limited. Before I met Justin, I was very content with my wanderlust and was really open to staying in France for multiple years and not coming back to Iowa. As we spent time together that summer, my entire picture of how I envisioned my future changed and, even before I left for France, I was excited to return to be together.”
The proposal came this past summer. By this time, both had been back in Iowa for a couple of years teaching Spanish and French. They had planned to go to Mexico that summer and most people assumed Justin would was going to propose while they were there so he knew he wanted to do it beforehand. “I tried to spin the weekend as a fun kayaking trip that we could take. I had bought an inflatable kayak when I was in California and Catie and I had went kayaking a couple of times. I heard that the Upper Iowa River near Decorah was a beautiful place to kayak so I asked Catie if she would want to go with me.
“The float was spectacular. It could not have been a better day. There wasn’t a cloud in the sky. It was hot, but we cooled off on the water. The sights and sounds were amazing. We stopped to explore a natural waterfall and enjoyed a little picnic. We were continually awed by the wildlife that stopped to say hi.
“I researched that one of the best views of Decorah was from Palisades Park. So, after a delicious dinner at the Rubaiyat Restaurant that evening, Catie and I drove up to the top of Palisades Park. I was happy we didn’t have to hike because I was still so full from dinner. We made it to the top about 20 minutes before sunset. It was beautiful. The sun was setting in the background and we had a view of the quaint town of Decorah. Deer were beginning to come out from their hiding to feed and were scattered below. At this point my heart started to beat uncontrollably fast. I was so nervous. I kept rehearsing in my head what I was going to say and trying to figure out the best way to start the proposal. I grabbed Catie’s hand and told her how much I loved her and wanted to spend the rest of my life with her. I got down on one knee opened up the ring box, and asked her if she would marry me. She said yes! We hugged and kissed and smiled! It was perfect!”
They both speak so highly of each other. Justin describes Catie as an intelligent decision maker, then jokes that she chose him so, obviously. “She is very careful and considerate when she makes decisions, and always takes others into account. Every decision that she makes is the right one, because she is so thoughtful and precise when weighing the decision. I wish I had more of her patience. Catie is also one of the most caring people that I know. She goes out of the way to care for me. She cares for her school and her students, she cares for her family, and she cares for people she doesn’t even know. She goes out of her way to make everyone feel loved. She’s very empathetic. She has a great ability to put herself in other’s shoes and has an understanding of what other’s are feeling. Finally, Catie is independent. We work great together as a team, but she also very capable of solving any problem on her own if needed. She does not rely on others to do things for her, nor does not let outside or societal pressures try to influence her.”
Catie loves Justin’s work ethic and the way he interacts with people. “He can go into any room or situation and talk to anyone about anything. To go side by side with his work ethic, he will do just about anything for the people that he loves. I am lucky to be on the receiving end of this often. He’s hardworking; I don’t think Justin has a stop button or that he ever runs out of gas. Also, he can fall asleep in seconds and I am so jealous of this trait.”
It is obvious by now that we had the most gorgeous winter snowfall during their engagement session! We were so lucky because, leading up to that Saturday, it was cold and barren. We had been talking about how awesome it would be to have snow, but knew we’d go ahead even if we didn’t get any. The morning the snow started and it didn’t let up all day. Most of Kent Park was empty so we were making the first tracks in the snow we walked in! What you don’t see in the photos, thankfully, is how cold it was! But Catie & Justin were on board for it and I knew their photos would be worth every shiver and all the numbness. Perhaps the most fun part of this is that their wedding is this coming July so they’ll have photos in two extremes; winter snow and summer heat!