Our Story

How We Met: At Church

Just kidding, we met on Tinder.

Who are you people, anyway?

Some basic info for our extended family and friends from afar who may not know us as a couple yet:

Kirsten grew up in Burnsville, a suburb of Minneapolis. After finishing undergrad at U of MN, she lived in Texas (Austin and Houston) for 10 years before returning to Minneapolis to be closer to family. Her career in communications and PR has run the gamut from Democratic politics to foreign diplomacy, and now in academia at the good 'ol U of MN. Kirsten loves parties, dining, dogs, and Pete.

Pete grew up in Port Washington, Wisconsin, a suburb of Millwaukee. He went to U of MN for his BS and his Master of Architecture. Pete works as an architect in Saint Paul where he designs schools for his firm, Wold. Previously, he lived in Tanzania and Liberia while designing houses, and prior to that worked as a store designer for Best Buy. He dreams of one day designing a cabin for his future family. Pete loves cooking, biking, technology, and Kirsten.

Our First Date (by Pete)

I remember walking to the restaurant thinking I had been here before. I knew what I was getting myself into. I was familiar with Northbound Smokehouse. I knew the layout, the best tables, the patio. I had been on a few first dates in the recent past so the anxiety, the beating in my chest, felt weirdly normal. I sat down feeling slightly annoyed the waitress couldn't have put us in a more private location. The table was near the entrance, surrounded on all sides by other patrons engaging in revelry. Not entirely ideal for a first date but there was energy to the space which was nice. She sent me a text apologizing for being a few minutes late (something I would later learn was more common than not) and my calmness started to erode. Five minutes passed. I remember my leg began shaking faster and faster. 

Then she arrived. But I wasn't looking.

I had brought some work to do while I waited and had my head down when she passed through the doors. Suddenly I was greeted by a cheerful voice, "Hi!" I was startled and looked up quickly. Her smile instantly hit me followed closely by her hair. It was brown and in all pictures I had seen it was blonde. I momentarily lost control of my facial expressions and let out more of a confused look than I ever intended to. But regardless of color, I remember clearly thinking how beautiful this woman standing before me was. 
She was still standing so I quickly rose and offered a hug and a greeting. We sat down, ordered a beer, and began the awkward first date conversations. We had messaged a few times about dinosaurs (really me just writing short stories about long ago journal entries) so I'm pretty sure I made a terrible triceratops joke or two. Thankfully her personality was so warm and friendly that it settled any nerves I might have had before I could finish half my pint. 

For the life of me I couldn't tell you how long we sat at that small table. Previous experiences had taught me not to have any expectations for how long the date should last so I didn't have a backup plan beyond the first beer. Maybe two. Thankfully she was way ahead of me. 

"Do you know the Cardinal? It's just down the street."

I had heard of it before but never stepped foot inside. But I had been so taken by our initial interactions that I would have followed her just about anywhere (something that would also become commonplace). We walked down the block and through the front door. The Cardinal is certainly a departure, aesthetically, from Northbound. It is far more a dive bar than a trendy brewpub; the place where regulars might have assigned seats and drink orders. We settled into a couple of bar stools and continued our conversations over Grain Belts. We ran the gamut from traveling stories to favorite bands. At one point, and it pains me to admit I can't remember the build-up to this, she admitted to me she knew every word from TLC's "CrazySexyCool." I asked her to prove it. Within seconds I was treated to a near flawless rendering of Left Eye's solo from 'Waterfalls.' Simply put, I couldn't stop smiling. We were having a fantastic time as if we had been long friends and my mind lost track of anything approximating time. 

But, like all good things, the night eventually had to close. We left and began walking down the block to her car. I remember specifically her hand reaching into mine and a smile began across my face. As we approached the vehicle my mind began racing thinking about the appropriate way to end the night. I had a spectacular evening, the best first date of my life. Do I go in for the kiss or would that be too forward and potentially ruin my chances of another date? But if I don't try and kiss her will she think I'm not interested? Sometimes I curse my mind for thinking too much. Thankfully, the answer came easily. We hugged and leaned in for a kiss underneath the moonlight. I couldn't tell you how long it was. In my mind, it felt like minutes. Regardless, it seemed perfect.

I reassured her I was parked down another block (conveniently omitting the fact I didn't actually own a car - that was clearly fifth date material) and watched her drive off just hoping I'd have a chance to see her again. Little did I know at that time, we would one day decide to spend the rest of our lives together.

More Stuff That Happened (by Kirsten)

  • We went back to the Cardinal for our second date to play trivia. I knew every question in the fashion category, and Pete knew everything else.
  • I dragged Pete to a 90s hip hop dance party at the 331 Club. Pete busted out his moves. I decided not to suggest dancing again. 
  • I learned that Pete is an incredibly talented cook. I forgot all about his dancing.
  • Pete took me to the Art-a-Whirl studio tour. We rode our bikes and I learned that Pete is really good at navigating Minneapolis via bike. Late that night we biked home in the rain singing Bruce Springsteen hits.
  • We met up at the Turf Club after work and I made an offhand comment that I wished I had tickets to that night's Beyonce show at TCF Stadium. Pete said I was going to see her. He took me on the train to just outside the stadium and located a grassy spot from which we could hear the show and see the jumbotron.
  • "Peter" comes from the Latin "petra," meaning "stone" or "rock." I didn't learn this factoid until months later. But when my mom passed away, Pete was truly my rock. I was really sad for a while but there was just so much to do, so I was also really tired. Pete's apartment became this safe little cocoon for me. He would invite me over, cook a meal, rub my feet and feed me whiskey. I will remember those weeks forever.
  • We planned my mom's memorial service and Pete lent his excellent photography skills, giving my family the gift of beautifully preserved memories of that day.
  • I decided to put down roots in Minnesota by way of buying my first house. Pete agreed to come along looking at homes and offer an architect's perspective. When I found "the one" Pete and my dad were both there and we all knew it was perfect. We drew up the offer just down the street at Northbound, the place where Pete and I began our first date just two months before.
  • Our first summer together was flying by. We went camping, to friends' weddings, to the Minneapolis gay pride parade, the State Fair, and up to Duluth for a weekend.
  • Pete's family convened in Minneapolis to celebrate his mom's birthday. Over a leisurely weekend, I got to know his sweet parents, sister and brother-in-law and adorable niece. They were also able to meet my dad. This was an important intro to make because I was pretty sure at this point that Pete was it for me. 
  • The following Friday we were having a beer after work at Town Hall Lanes and we decided we wanted to live together and we didn't want to wait. Pete and the cats moved in that Sunday. 
  • Every day since, I have looked forward to coming home to Pete. He makes everything easier and better.

Proposal Story (By Pete)

I had picked up the ring the Thursday before Valentine’s Day. Kirsten knew I was going but, still racing through my mind, I didn’t actually know when or even how I was going to propose. We were headed to New Orleans that weekend but given it would be my first time there and we had no history in the city it didn’t feel right. But then, knowing she knew I had it in my possession, I didn’t want to wait too long. We both knew it was going to happen but I wanted to ensure that even still the proposal wouldn’t feel overlooked. Or taken for granted. It was the least she deserved. So I drove back from the jeweler, mind swirling with possibilities and options. Somehow I felt like I wasn’t the only man to experience this dilemma.
We spent the next three days wandering through late night streets, sipping on drinks, eating an exquisite buffet of gulf coast specialties, diving in and out of various establishments to listen to a note or two of some jazz, and generally enjoying the unseasonably -- for two seasoned Minnesotans -- warm weather. I couldn't have been more excited that it was her I got to share my first experience in that city with. We returned back to our home on the 13th and quickly retreated into our daily lives; Kirsten had to study for her class and I, for my first Licensing Exam. After a couple hours we decided to take a break, eat dinner, and catch the last few minutes of The Bachelor (one of our favorite guilty pleasures). Sitting there, on the couch, my mind still raced back to thoughts of a proposal. I kept thinking about how much fun the previous days had been and how easily and comfortable it had been to return to our home life. And it hit me, so clearly, that I didn’t want to wait anymore. Our relationship is what I had been searching for and what I wanted. So I made my decision to act.
“I’m going to get up, can I get you anything?”
“Sure, my computer and a drink.”
I brought the computer and a tequila and made an excuse to go into the back hall as if I were innocuously grabbing something from the dresser. Which I was, just probably nothing like what she could have imagined right then. I remember my footsteps walking down the hall. My breathing began to get a little heavier. In my mind, I remember thinking about the weight of the decision I was about to make and how, despite my anxiety, I couldn’t be more sure this was the right thing to do.
I walked out into the living room and sat down next to her on the couch. I think I managed to get out at least three or four solid sentences before she may have realized what was happening. I had no speech prepared. I wanted to speak directly from my heart and mind. I knew I wanted to convey to her just how essential she had become to my life and how I couldn’t imagine not spending the rest of my life with her. But, truthfully, I can’t remember what actually came out of my mouth that night. Thankfully, whatever words I did say resonated with her and, after falling to my knee, she responded with a resounding yes.
To which I responded by immediately flinging the ring box to the other side of the couch.
“You know, you still need to put that on my finger...”
Whoops. Good thing she’s learned to be patient with my excitement.
Petra Kern