When you know, you know…






One of the very first pictures taken together.

I’ve been meaning to write this post for a few weeks now but our lives have been so busy! Between work, getting to the gym, finding time to spend with Makenzie when both Brian and I are not working, trips to the grocery store, dishes in the sink, laundry, traveling to see family, making dinner and the list could go on.  So today, here is my attempt to reminisce to 5 years ago….

I remember it like it was yesterday.  I was working at GE Healthcare in Wauwatosa and living (rent free) at home with my parents in Burlington.  I was 25 years old and I felt stuck.  Between commuting 45 minutes into Milwaukee each day and just getting out of a relationship that was obviously going nowhere and seemed more like a friendship, I needed a change.

BK had invited me to Iowa many times before and the timing was never right so I had always declined.  At this point, Brian would interject in the story and tell you that the timing was never right for me as he was always ready and patiently waiting.  So I randomly sent him an email one afternoon in the beginning of June to see if the offer still stood and he said, “Well, it does but it can’t be this weekend, I already have plans for work.”  So we picked a date at the end of June and that was that.

A little background on how Brian and I know each other.  As a young boy, Brian lived in Grafton, across the street from the Robinson family, who also happen to be my Aunt, Uncle, and 4 cousins.  He was 8 the first time I laid my eyes on him and I was boy crazy.  I remember his bright blue eyes shined like the ocean, he had a cute smile, and a soccer style haircut with sandy white hair.  I also remember the little birthmark on his face right below his right eye.  There a few things that stand out in my memory from when we were kids.  The first being when we were all playing outside at dusk and Brian and I ran head first into each other.  I fell over and immediately started crying and Brian ran across the street back to his house.  Thus, my first concussion given to me by my future husband. The second memory I have was when my Aunt Pat had brought out a picture that Brian had drew specifically for me.  It was a stick figure person and on the side he had written “Stacy, the most beautiful girl in the world”.

There wasn’t ever a lot of interaction between Brian and me but I do recall him always being around.  And as long as he lived across the street on Audubon Ave and my Aunt and Uncle lived across from him, every time we went to their house to visit was special for me.  I always remember hoping that I would see him, even if I was too shy to talk to him.

Then the day came that the big FOR SALE sign was put up in Brian’s yard.  How would I ever see him again?! I was 10 and I felt like the world was ending… I was devastated!  Over time, the devastation went away although I did still think about him every time we went to Grafton to visit our family.  It wasn’t until May of 2000 that I saw him again at my cousin’s graduation party.  And after that it was a random night at UW-Whitewater in 2004 while I was a bartender.  He had shown up with my cousin, Jeff, who also went to school there and was a bit intoxicated.  He shouted at me from the bar, “Hey Stacy!! Can I get your number?” Little did he know that my then boyfriend was bartending right next to me at the time.  Oops. 

Fast forward to 2006, eating dinner at Olive Garden with my sister, Jen, and two cousins, Kathi and Krista, I was newly single and all had suggested calling up BK.  I had asked where he was, what he was doing and Kathi said, “I think he lives in Iowa.”  Urgh, Iowa?! I felt like I didn’t have any patience to do a long distance relationship… so I quickly dismissed that idea.  Then, the summer of 2007 rolled around, and I saw him at my cousin Jeff’s wedding.  He was in the wedding as an usher, looking tan and with those gorgeous blue eyes twinkling.   I, of course, was there with my then newest boyfriend.  My sister and cousin, Kathi, decided to take my then boyfriend under their wing to the bar and entertain him while Brian and I snuck off outside to catch up.  We talked for what seemed like 10 minutes but ended up being an hour (!!!).  Something about him just captivated me.  The way he talked, how smart he was, how genuine he seemed and how he had such a sweet, caring, and playful side to him.  On top of that he was gorgeous and that never hurts either.  At that particular wedding venue there was an extravagant split staircase, he went one way and I went the other.  Half way up, he looked at me and said, “Stacy, you really need to give me a chance before you go and get married.”  And with that he gave me the memorable Brian Kopecko smile and turned and walked away.  Those next 9 months we had connected on Facebook and spoke through email every once and a while.  I really could not get him out of my head.  Whenever I thought of him, I smiled and so did my heart. 

Then the next spring, early May of 2008, I got a random text from him.  He said he was coming home from Iowa for the weekend and would love to see me.  I had already had a date with Miller Park and the Milwaukee Brewers for a friend’s birthday but I told him I’d text him after the game to see if he would want to meet us out.  Coincidentally enough, he was going to the game as well.  The next night, while at the Brewer game, I got a text from Brian and he came up to the 300 level and sat with my friends and I for a while.  He and I talked while I ignored the death glances from my friends.  They after all were just being cautious as I did still have a boyfriend (who I never saw) at the time.  I had invited Brian out to Leff’s Lucky Town after the game and he agreed to come. 

That night, at Leff’s, the place was PACKED, standing room only.  But he and I managed to find two seats next to the jukebox and we talked all night long.  We talked, we laughed, we flirted, and we even danced a little bit.  It was amazing to me how little time I had really spent with Brian but the times that I did talk with him, how right everything felt.  I remember an older couple sitting next to us made a comment about how happy we both looked and they could tell there was major chemistry between us.  We both just looked at each other and smiled. 

It was fast approaching bar time when I walked Brian out to his car.  We exchanged small talk both not wanting the other to leave and then came the awkwardness.  More than anything I wanted to kiss him BUT… I still technically had a boyfriend and when the time came for me and Brian to share our first kiss I wanted it to be right and fair for everyone.  So, he leaned in and I stopped him and did the best I could explaining just that.  I wanted to be able to kiss him when the time was right.  So we shared a hug goodbye and with that he left.

Over the next few weeks in May the relationship that I had been in was getting worse and worse and I realized it wasn’t going to go anywhere at all.  He was a great guy but just not for me.

Fast forward a month to Friday, June 19th, 2008:

Friday afternoon at work, I pulled up good old fashioned MapQuest to get directions to his house which was exactly 3 hours away from Milwaukee.  I left at 4 pm and didn’t think twice about it.  I was excited, I was nervous, and I wasn’t sure what I had expected or anticipated that weekend to be like.  2 hours in and I was still cruising on I-88, or Ronald Reagan Memorial Tollway, when I got a text from Brian that said, “what kind of turkey meat do you like? Smoked, honey, regular, buffalo…”  Followed by, “What kind of mustard do you like? Yellow, brown, spicy, dijone, honey, Grey Poupon?”

At this point, I pulled over, texted him back, and filled up the tank.  Which for anyone that has ever drove on RR Memorial Tollway, if your low on gas you better get some at the first station you see. There is a point where there are no gas stations in sight for 40+ miles.  YAWN!

An hour later I was pulling into the Quad Cities, Davenport to be exact, and made one last pit stop.  The butterflies in my stomach seemed to have awakened from their slumber during the long drive on I-88 and were fluttering around full force.  I did a quick makeup check, sprayed some perfume, loaded on more deodorant and started towards Brian’s house.

I remember thinking to myself, I could live here.  And then quickly dismissed the idea and told myself to just settle down and enjoy the weekend, no pressure.  I found my way to Brian’s house and my heart rate elevated as soon as I saw him waiting outside for me.  I did as best as I could to climb out of the car with my wedges on, praying to God I didn’t fall flat on my face.  I looked up and was greeted with a playful smile, a hello, and a hug. 

I walked inside his cute side by side condo and immediately noticed the smell.  It was his scent.  Clean.  Like fresh laundry hanging outside on a warm summer day.  He took me through and showed me the laundry room, kitchen, living room, bathroom, and then proceeded to show me the master bedroom (with a huge walk in closet) and bathroom.  Lastly, he showed me my guest bedroom and where I would be staying, such a gentleman.  

We started the night off with turkey sandwiches, broccoli salad, and chips.  We talked and the conversation flowed like I had been talking to him every day since I was a little girl, when in reality we didn’t really know each other THAT WELL.  It’s a great feeling when you can just sit down and talk with someone without feeling that pressure to be constantly saying something.  Even when there was a silence between us, it was not awkward.

After dinner he looked at me and said, “Ready for a ride on the bike?”  I looked at him with wide eyes and said, “Sure.”  I didn’t want him to think I was a fun hater although the thought of getting on a motorcycle, and a crotch rocket for that matter, scared the living crap out of me.  Thankfully, he had an extra helmet and then my mind automatically wandered to, “Good lord what is this going to do to my hair?!”  I sucked it up and managed to somehow try to get on the back of his bike like an old pro, like I had been doing this for ages, no big deal.  Then came the super important instruction-

“Ok, Stace, when I lean you HAVE to lean with me.  Whatever you do don’t try to counter lean or we’ll tip the bike.” 

WONDERFUL I thought!  He fired up the bike and I thought what or where am I supposed to be holding?!  I think he was reading my mind because he then said “wrap your arms around my waist when you hold on and you can use the tank if you need to balance at all.”  And with that we were off and this is when the exercise of my life began with my inner and outer thighs.  I literally squeezed my legs and thighs together for the ENTIRE BIKE RIDE.  As I was holding on for dear life to his waist and squeezing my thighs like there was no tomorrow, he took me all over the Quad Cities.  He showed me the mighty Mississippi River and the flooding that had taken place from all the previous rain they had gotten.  We made our way through city roads, busy intersections, on ramps, and finally he pulled into a little ice cream shop called Whitey’s.  And that’s where the love began.  My love with Whitey’s ice cream that is.  Amazing.  Ask anyone in the state of Iowa what kind of ice cream they get and they will tell you, Whitey’s without batting an eyelash.

It was a perfect summer night, I had ordered my chocolate chip ice cream in a dish and we had walked outside to sit on one of the benches to talk.  He asked me, “What makes you smile?”  At that point my inner self was screaming, YOU DO!! But I kept calm, told her to settle down, and said, “Easy.  My family and my friends.”  From there we talked about family and close friends.  He told me about his best friends, coincidentally both named Tom.  The first Tom, who was living in Green Bay with his wife Renee and their little boy, Adam.  And the other Tom living in Madison with his soon to be wife, Heather.  I talked to him about my parents and my sister and he seemed genuinely interested in what I had to say.  Asking questions along the way to find out more about them.  After sitting there for a while, the sun had completely set and it was time to make our way back to his place.  The muscles in my thighs were twitching at the mere thought of getting back on the bike. 

Once we got back to his place he poured me a drink that entailed Russian vodka and lemonade and we settled in on the couch and just talked.  Our conversation continued into the early morning hours when finally he asked if I was getting tired.  My inner self woke back up again and said, “No, no, no!” but in reality, “Yes, yes, yes!” I was EXHAUSTED.  I got ready for bed and put on a cute VS PINK t-shirt and shorts I had bought specifically for the occasion.  I couldn’t come rolling into Iowa wearing sweatpants and a ratty old UW-Whitewater t-shirt when it was time for bed!  I gave BK a hug good night and went to my room.  I tossed and turned for a little while, thinking about the night so far and I was so happy and excited.  The feeling I got from seeing Brian and talking with him was something that I had never, ever experienced with anyone ever before.  I then realized, I wanted to talk to him more!  So what does a girl do at 2 a.m.?  Sends him a “are you awake?” text.  After staring at my phone for 10 minutes I realized he was not awake and that it was time for me to get some sleep. 

I woke up the next morning to ting, ting in the kitchen.  I knew that Brian was already awake so I scrambled to my phone hoping that I hadn’t slept till 11 and thankfully it was only 7:30.   I then realized how comfortable this bed was and how great of a sleep I got all things considered.  (i.e. I was sleeping in another state, 3 hours away from my family and friends, staying at a guy’s house that I only had known from my childhood).  Or it could have to do with the fact that I was swimming in 1,000 thred count sheets and my body seemed to have just sunk into the mattress.  I quickly got up and ran into the bathroom to address my biggest concern, morning breath and then stepped into the kitchen and said good morning to Brian.  

After our Honey Nut Cheerio breakfast we hopped on the motorcycle and went to the mall for a few things for Brian.  We then made our way across town for lunch to the Italian restaurant, Biaggi’s, where we continued our conversation from the night before.  It seemed that he wanted to know everything and anything about me and I felt the same about him.  After lunch, we went back to his house and watched the QC Air Show from his backyard.  With vodka lemonades in hand, we spread a blanket out on the grass and laid on our backs for two hours looking up at the near perfect cloudless sky, watching the Blue Angels cruise overhead.

After the show we decided to go inside and get ready for dinner.  The last two hours of being outside with Brian, lying on the grass, looking at the sky, talking, and flirting was something out of a movie for me, Armageddon always comes to mind.  As I was in the living room finishing the last of my drink, Brian suddenly came up to me, grabbed my drink, set it on the coffee table and kissed me.  I’ve always thought that you can tell a lot from a first kiss.  And this first kiss was something that words cannot explain.  I felt dizzy and like I was floating on air.  I did not want it to stop and in that moment I knew that something very special was happening between Brian and I.  I felt like I was on Cloud 9 for the rest of my weekend in the Quad Cities.

That night we met up with Brian’s friend and his friend’s girlfriend.  We ended up going to a cover band in the District of Rock Island (a bunch of bars in one place with a small area outside for cover bands to play) called the “Trippin’ Billies” which is right up my alley since all they sing is Dave Matthews Band songs.  I remember at one point in the night, Brian had introduced me as his “friend” and for some reason that bothered me.  How else was he supposed to have introduced me though?!  I told my inner diva to relax, get a drink and take a seat.  It was after all only the 2nd day!!

The next morning we woke up bright and early and headed north to Dubuque to go boating on his friend, Brad’s, wake boarding boat.   The weather was perfect as the whole weekend had been and I was looking forward to spending more time with Brian and meeting his friends.  We cruised around all day on the boat, listening to music, and watching the guys take turns attempting to land tantrums.  Brian and I sat in the back of the boat and I would randomly steal glances of him or he would shoot me a playful smile and wink, which made my heart beat faster.  The afternoon went by like a flash and as the sun started to get lower and lower in the sky, I knew I needed to start heading back soon. 

We were cruising back to the dock with Journey’s, Don’t Stop Believing, blaring on the boat.  I was smiling thinking about the weekend that we had just had together and deep down I was hoping Brian felt just as happy and excited as I did.  We got off the boat and Brian walked me to my car.  I gave him a big hug goodbye and told him how great of a time I had.  He smiled and he told me how happy he was feeling too.  He asked me to call him to make sure I got home okay and with that I gave him another hug and kiss goodbye and I was on the road back to Wisconsin.

I drove for about 20 minutes and could hardly contain my excitement.  I thought about the entire weekend and how everything just felt so right.  There wasn’t any pressure and our conversation was endless.  He asked what I wanted for my future, where I saw myself 5 years from now, and what kind of partner I was looking for. One of the most important parts of the weekend was how much he made me smile and laugh and how incredibly comfortable I was with him.  I’ve heard the expression that when you know you know and as crazy as it sounds after that weekend, I had known.  The first person I called was my sister and one of the first sentences out of my mouth was, “I’m going to marry him one day…”

And 2 ½ years later… I did. 

3 thoughts on “When you know, you know…

  1. Jen Bauman says:

    Oh my Gosh Stace! I had tears in my eyes the entire time I was reading this. What an amazing love story. Kenzie will just love reading about this someday:-)

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