I wanted to make a special section on my website of how I proposed to my now wife Meagen. Be warned, it is quite long

Here is the story:

For the many years we have been dating I have always joked about buying her an engagement ring with the smallest diamond the store would sell me, a speck. I went to a jewelry store to have her two-year anniversary diamond cleaned and decided I would buy the ring. I told them I wanted the simplest ring they would sell me, and the smallest diamond they have. The look I got was memorable, like "you cheap SOB!" After a few weeks, I now had one part of the puzzle, but how was I going to make it memorable and us.

I set out to make the second puzzle piece a patch. My wife has always helped me organize, sort and admire (look for the pretty ones with lots of colors) the patches I buy. I knew that I wanted one with lots of colors and be perfect in every way. She is a HUGE Disney fan, and I wanted to incorporate something Disney into the design. I am fairly good with Adobe Photoshop, so I started thinking of many ideas; some were horrible, others were ok, but finally everything started coming together. I found a picture of Mickey and Minnie Mouse sitting on a crescent moon with stars all around them and I knew that was the picture. I took a sample patch design and made it into a design that could work for me. Since I wanted the patch to have words like a police patch, I wanted to make sure they did not stick out. On the top I had the words "Meagen & Justin VanHalanger" and on the bottom "Will You Marry Me?" Now that I had my design, I was in the predicament of having a patch company make one.

Since anything Disney is copyrighted, every company I talked with would not even THINK about making a patch, even just one. I must have emailed every company online and kept getting the same answer of "No!" My mom then brought up the idea of using her embroidery machine to make the patch. I did not know what she was talking about and thought she was crazy. She then started explaining digitizing to me and how the embroidery machine cannot read a standard picture image and that it must be converted to something the machine could read. I thought to myself, I am good with comptuers, it cannot be that difficult to digitize an image. I was completely wrong. After reading for a few days on different forums and specialty websites I found a free program that would digitize, and began trying to figure it all out. I was lost from the beginning and decided that there has to be an easier way to this. After spending more time reading about digitizing I found that companies actually digitize images for embroidery machines, cha-ching! After emailing about five different companies, all with the answer "No!" (see the pattern), I found a company in Pakistan that would do it! After 24 hours, I had a digitized version of my patch ready to be made. The battle was just about to be in its first head-to-head fight.

I never used an embroidery machine before in my life. I was reading the manual cover-to-cover trying to figure it thing out. After many attempts at fighting with it, I finally mastered the machine enough to start making a patch. The machine shows the different colors and alerts me when I have to change them and when the bobbin is empty and needs to be replaced (which is a HUGE pain to replace in the middle of the design). After breaking the thread over 200 times, changing the needle five times, countless bottles of water and pop, and one replacing three bobbins I had my first patch made. It looked horrible…just pathetic! I was so angry that I walked away from the machine for a few days and emailed the digitizing company and complained the design they made was faulty. They told me to check the upper and lower thread tension and that could be my problem. Back to the user manual I went. After reading how to change and adjust that, I figured that to be the problem (I felt so bad about compaining to the digitizing company), and now with this new enthusiasm, I started a new patch. I was pumped, I got about half way through and the needle broke sticking a HUGE hole in middle of the patch! I was so mad I yelled at the machine for 10 minutes. That patch was ruined.

This all was happening in the middle of August and our final year of college was just about to begin, so patch making had to be put on hold while I went to college. I only had time to make the patches on weekends when I came home, which was not very often. I worked feverishly every weekend until 5:00 AM making patches, sometimes I would do two patches a night trying to find one I like. Each patch took on average four hours to make!

One weekend I was working on a patch and my mom came down to talk with me. I was just doing my normal routine, changing colors and making sure the bobbin did not run out half-way through, and I heard the familiar beep, the machine thread broke. At first glance, it looked horrible, and that nothing could fix it. I took it out and looked to see if I there was anything I could do. My mom picked it up, who is a wizard with threads and said she will work with it and not to worry and finish it. So I did. I finished the patch and after my mom worked her magic, it looked pretty near perfect, and this was the one I proposed with. In the process of making the patch I had over 35 or so prototypes ranging from a patch border to completely done patches. I only started saving the last few of them, and the rest were thrown away. I now wish I would have saved them to show my wife my struggles!

Now that I had this brilliant patch made I had to think about an idea on how to actually propose. This was harder than making the patch! I was lucky that I just bought a collection of patches and knew that this was the perfect opportunity. I brought a box of sheriff patches, simple patches with only browns and yellows, and one patch with a whole lot of blue, her patch, down to school. I kept telling her that one day we'll sit down and organize them, and she kept telling me that she'll help when she has time. Well, after about having them down at school for two weeks I decided on a random Tuesday that this would be the day. After I nervously drove her to night class, I went back to our apartment and called her Dad and said, "today is the day," and informed him that he will have a happy daughter calling him later. I then called my parents and infomed them that today is the day.

I set everything up, put the patch in the bottom of the box, made a plan and sat around and waited and watching Law and Order, weird show to watch when you're extremely nervous by the way, and I put the ring in my pocket. After her night class was over, she called and asked me to pick her up. I knew that she likes to call her family after class. I think I drove 80 MPH to get there right as she hung up the phone so she did not have time to call them! Luckily she was talking with a friend after class and did not get around to call them, whew!

When she got in my car, I would swear that I have never seen her in such a bad mood, she was complaining about some of her classmates and started yelling at me, mind you I was so nervous I was shaking and the car was swerving. When we arrived back to the apartment I had trouble walking, but I did not want it to seem like anything was different about this day, which was not easy. We normally wait for each other to eat dinner on classes either of us had night class so when we came back we started pre-heating the oven for corn dogs. This is where my nerves really started getting bad. I asked her if she wanted to sort some of the patches with me while the corn dogs were cooking, and of course she had something important due the next day and had to work on that. So I started pressuring her to help sort them just a little, she got even angrier at everything and started yelling at me saying she was busy. After some persuasion, I asked her to find the prettiest patch and that is all she has to do for the night.

As she is sitting down with multiple patches all over her legs and table I started hovering over her, watching her every move…big mistake on my part. She looked at me and asked me why I was hovering and to step back, at which my mouth was so dry I had to get a glass of water. I walked back over and saw the patch started to come to light and my legs almost gave out at that point. I had to hold onto the refrigerator handle to keep from falling. When she finally came across the patch she glanced at it quickly and said "What is this?" I responded "Did you read it?" When she did, the tears started forming and she just looked at me and wanted to know if this was for real. When I took the "just kidding" ring out she jumped from the couch to me, never touching the ground, and hugged me. She never officially said 'yes', so I must have asked 50 times in three seconds if that was a 'yes', and through the tears she finally said the 'yes' I was waiting to hear. The nervousness I was feeling was starting to subside and my months of planning finally came together.

The excitement and happiness in her face at that point is something I enjoyed seeing so much that all the problems I had with getting a company to make a patch, having a company digitize the patch, the embroidery machine, finding the time to make the patch and all the yelling that night didn't matter to me. I knew that this person was with going to be with me until the end and that I was going to spend the rest of my life with someone so incredible that words could not even begin to describe. After many phone calls to our parents and all our friends, we sat on the couch, both so emotional we had a hard time talking.Below you will see both a picture of the patch and a picture that was taken during our engagement picture session.

To a very special person in my life, Meagen, you are the world to me. I Love You.


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