>Back in my past life we had a very active social life within our church group.  About once a month a whole group of us (about 10 – 15 couples) would go up to Columbia and have dinner at the Olive Garden.  It was fun.  These same couples would gather together on most Friday nights and play volleyball at the church.  We got to know quite a few people, which was nice because I hadn’t lived in Missouri very long and really didn’t have very many friends.  One Valentine’s Day this whole group was at the Olive Garden waiting for a table.  It turns out that the wait for a table large enough for all of us would take over an hour, but if we didn’t mind being split up into smaller groups they could seat us more quickly.  It didn’t matter to me whether we sat at a large table with the whole group or whether we broke up into chunks.  Sometimes conversation is difficult in a large group anyway.  So we kind of waited around for our turn to be seated.  Pretty random process.  Basically in the order that we all arrived.  It just so happened that the couple we were seated with was one of the guys who played volleyball at the church on Friday nights, so I kind of knew him but had not ever really talked to him much more than trash talk across the net.  Turns out, he played on a city league volleyball team and was looking for a girl to play because one of the girls on his team had just quit.  I jumped at the chance to play.  I had substituted a little bit on a team for another guy at church, but really couldn’t stand him so I was glad for the chance to play with someone nice.  When I said that I’d play, he looked at my then-husband and then at me and said, “Shouldn’t you ask your husband for permission?”  X rolled his eyes and goes, “Yeh, right!!”  Everyone laughed because I’m sure they already suspected that I wasn’t really an “Ask permission from the hubby” kind of girl.  We laughed and joked the whole evening and it was quite enjoyable; pleasant conversation and a lot of fun.  When I say “we” I mean to say “Mark and me.”  X and Cray-Cray sat there and hardly said a word.  I was used to get-togethers like this because X usually just sat back and watched the party go by.  He was always fairly socially inept. 

Never in my wildest dreams could I have foreseen where that dinner would take me.

The first “official” game that Mark and I played in he nearly broke my back.  He didn’t realize how competitive I was.  He didn’t realize that I actually knew what I was doing on the volleyball court.  He was used to playing with women who would take up the “setter” position and not ever be aggressive at the net.  One of the guys on the other team (probably that damned Dale) went up to hit the ball and I went up to block.  Mark was not expecting me to be there and came barreling over to block and knocked me under the net.  It was like being hit by a ton of bricks.  My back was sore for weeks.

The first tournament we played in we started off with a bang.  First serve of the first match Mark and I both went to return the serve.  But the only thing I got was Mark’s elbow in my eyebrow.  You know how head wounds are.  They bleed like nobodies business.  The game stopped, I went into the bathroom to clean it up and put a steri strip over the inch long gash in my eyebrow and then went back out to play in the tournament.  When we were on lunch break he was just looking at the bandaid over my brow and starts shaking his head, “You’re the toughest woman I know.”  He was pretty much in awe.  His son, Matt, was there and he couldn’t believe I could take a hit like that and continue playing.  I was a big hit.

To spare you all the gory details, we’ll just suffice it to say that I’m very glad I went on to that dinner.  I have had many happy Valentine’s Days since then.

I hope you all have a great Valentine’s Day.  Even those of you who despise the concept of the day.

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