Thursday, January 19, 2012

Chapter 1: Sequins and Sunsets

Everyone loves a good love story.  Well, there are those people who like horror movies and stories with strange, unresolved endings, but that's not me.  I love happy endings.  Maybe it's the Disney movies I grew up with, but I assure you, I never believed a white knight was going to rescue me from my ivory tower or evil stepmother (maybe because I didn't have either of those).

When I was a younger woman, I believed that once you fall in love, that's it.  You're done.  Committed to making it work no matter what.  Unfortunately, the first time, for me, the "no matter what" included a progressively more abusive relationship and a dogged determination to make it work through circumstances that should have indicated an end to that relationship much earlier than it did.  Even so, I promised myself I wouldn't be bitter, because there is no point.  There is so much love to be had. 

That's me: Vanna Kristin
My true love story begins at the annual sales meeting at Lanier, which is now Ricoh, in Atlanta. As the Corporate Communications Manager for the company, it was my job to write speeches for the executives, create endless Power Point presentations, and write the daily newsletter for the event.  In 2003, I was also to host the evening game show for 500+ attendees, in full costume.  That would be: sequined mermaid pageant gown, blonde bouffant wig, silver elbow-length gloves, and sunglasses.  It was in this outfit that I met my future husband.  It's not often that you have the opportunity to relive this fateful moment with 500 people bearing witness.

In the photo above, you can see how I looked to the audience, and to the left, you get the full effect of the grand entrance.  I was truly pretty nervous, but in sunglasses I felt like I could be someone else.

My job was to draw three names from each fishbowl for the sales managers; district managers; and VP and above categories.  The "winners" of the draw had to get up on stage and recite, from memory, a three-page sales script, and the one who did the best job would win a prize.  The very first name I drew was a young sales manager named Craig.   He stood up, steeled himself, and chugged his beer as the crowd cheered, and then he approached the stage.  The second name was drawn, and the third draw was someone named Will Shaw, whom I didn't know.

The first two guys faltered, and couldn't make it through the script.  Trust me, I don't know who came up with this nutso contest - although I think it was resident mad professor Gary Benner - but memorizing a three-page script is not easy.  Add beer and you have a low level of success.

Will took his turn, and was calm and cool.  He started off strong, and was really rocking it as the executive team in the front row held their breath.  As he reached the middle of page 2, he slowed down and we could see his wheels turning as he recalled the words.  "Bring him some water!" my boss, Chris, stage-whispered to our colleague Melissa, sitting nearby.  She ran a glass of water up to Will, and he gratefully took a sip, and then another, eyes heavenward as he collected his thoughts.  Drinking slowly, he held up a finger to pause, and the crowd laughed again.  Triumphantly, he put down his glass and finished the script, nearly word for word.  The VP of sales erupted from his seat.  The CEO beamed.  And for one horrible moment, those of us in the communications department believed that we would have to repeat this crazy contest next year.

Will took his winnings - a 55" projection TV - and returned home to Dallas.  I interviewed him at the event for the newsletter, and then I didn't see him again or give it another thought, honestly, until the sales meeting the following year, in 2004.  By then, I was newly single and Will had taken a new job within the company as a dealer manager, living in Phoenix.  I remembered him from the contest and we chatted briefly, and then I asked him to be on camera for the event TV show I was producing on site.  He was charming and happy to help.

Between the sales meeting and the dealer meeting a few weeks later, I noticed that Will was always nearby.   Soon after the meeting in June of that year, he started corresponding with me via email, and then phone, and then began his photo campaign of sunsets in Phoenix to lure me out west for a visit.  After a summer of phone calls, we had our first date over pizza and a movie when he came to Atlanta, and then he asked me to come to Phoenix for Labor Day weekend.  I bit my nails, I twirled my hair, I squeezed the space between my eyebrows.  Was I ready?  In the meantime, Will continued to call me when he said he would;  he sent me sweet email messages; he told me that he thought I was beautiful, and smart, and fun... in the past, I would have run from someone who so obviously liked me. 

When all else fails, call Mom.  My mother said to me, "Go.  What do you have to lose?  You've been talking to him all summer, and it's a great opportunity for a trip.  Go."  (Now, she likes to take more than her fair share of credit for this romance.)   I went.

Next week I'll tell you more about the flight, and how I got over my fears of starting over, and our first weekend date, in Sedona.  

Read the whole story, chapter by chapter, right here.


  1. Awwww Kristin.... I absolutely LOVED this!!! What a fun story. I just love hearing about how people met. :) You two certainly had a unique circumstance... the game show and costumes is pretty dang hilarious! Thanks for sharing this with me!!! I'll have to tune in for part 2 as well! :)

  2. Thanks, Jenni! I have read yours multiple times just because it makes me happy. Love is out there when you're willing to go out on a limb a little bit sometimes. :)

  3. Ahhh, that is such a nice story! Thanks for sharing!

  4. Alecia, thank you! It's so fun to retell it.

  5. The script -- The cast -- The competition -- The fun -- The contest -- this is what it takes to have a winning sales meeting and team ! Yep --- and you --- WOW !

    Gary Benner

  6. The script -- The cast -- The competition -- The fun -- The contest -- this is what it takes to have a winning sales meeting and team ! Yep --- and you --- WOW !

    Gary Benner


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