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How We Met

We were both students at the University of Pennsylvania Graduate School of Education during the 2009-2010 academic year. Andrea was studying education policy, and Josh was studying teaching, learning, and curriculum.

During the fall semester of 2009, we both elected to enroll in a course on assessment theory. On the first day, the professor asked his students to volunteer to give a team presentation on the weekly readings, one presentation per week of the course.

Sitting near each other at the time, we happened to volunteer to give a presentation together on the same week in the early-middle of the semester. When our turn to develop the presentation arrived, we held a planning meeting outdoors on a breezy and crisp autumn day at a coffee shop on Penn's campus. (As far as we can recall, Andrea had asked to meet outdoors to enjoy some of the remaining pleasant weather of the fall.)

As we introduced ourselves to each other, we were surprised to find common backgrounds of mathematics teaching and running track. We also discovered common interests in good food and Phillies' baseball. (It may be difficult to believe, but at the time, the Phillies were then a decent team.)

Andrea invited Josh to join in her growing Quizo team, "Team Arne" (don't ask him about the origin of the name), at New Deck Tavern. Yes, Quizo at New Deck is spelled with one "z." Why? Because it's humble and doesn't need all that pizzazz.

Nowadays, incidentally, we find ourselves playing midweek Quizzo (two "z's") occasionally with Johnny Goodtimes. Join us, sometime!

Quizo is a Philadelphia staple, a form of a weekly "pub quiz" on general knowledge trivia, and Andrea and her classmates participated weekly as a regular social event. Andrea thought Josh might know a lot. And Josh is really good at pretending to know a lot.

Team Arne was good, as--among our burgeoning group of new friends--we had expertise in sports, music, the humanities, corporate logos, the names of Taylor Swift songs, and so on. But it wasn't dominant. The Penn Athletics Department fielded a long-standing championship team, The Log-Jammers, that consistently beat Team Arne (and everyone else).

Our breakthrough win occurred in January 2009 (or so), when Josh first met Andrea's sister, Kate. Admittedly, Josh was initially a bit intimidated by Kate and her encyclopedic knowledge of wine, as she had just arrived at New Deck from one of her classes at the Wine School. He somehow mustered the courage to provide the correct tiebreaking answer, to send The Log-Jammers to their first of several Arne-sponsored defeats, about the Tennessee Williams play "Cat on a Hot Tin Roof."

Here's some additional trivia about Team Arne and its members from PennGSE's Fall 2009 Assessment Theory class: There was a duo who presented in the week immediately prior to Andrea's and Josh's class presentation. The prior week's presentation was delivered by Andrea's roommate and another of Andrea's friends (with whom she was training for the Philadelphia Marathon).

We believe they will both be in attendance at our wedding, arriving together as a married couple with their three beautiful children.

How We Got Engaged

Cutting to the chase, we became engaged--quite some time ago--while on a trip to Germany. The trip was Josh's first overseas adventure, as he had somehow won a scholarship to attend an international mathematics education conference (ICME-13).

Ever the procrastinator, several weeks beforehand, Josh had asked Andrea's family (Mr. DiMola, Mrs. DiMola, Kate, and Liz [via remote communication]) for their approval while in Connecticut attending the baptism of one of Andrea's cousin's children. And he and Kate went ring shopping at an ethical and sustainable, woman-owned, jewelry shop in South Philadelphia, Bario Neal, soon thereafter.

But the delivery date for the ring was to occur well after the planned trip to Germany, and Josh didn't want to lose the opportunity to become engaged to his beloved Andrea while on vacation in Europe. He was crestfallen! But Mrs. DiMola surreptitiously loaned Josh a ring, slipping it into his hand without explanation, while the family was celebrating at a Father's Day dinner. (Keeping the loaner ring secure while traveling was, in a word, terrifying.)

We landed in Frankfurt, Germany after an exhausting red-eye flight in late July 2016. Josh took 24 hours to try to compose himself, and he had planned to ask Andrea to marry him during a river cruise after a casual vegan dinner in the heart of Frankfurt's business district.

Soon after arriving at dinner, the skies opened up and it began to storm. Fortunately, as they soon learned, Germans love to hold luxuriously long dinners--and so there was still a chance that the rain would stop before the evening cruise departed.

But, alas, it did not. The storm continued, furiously and unabated. So they stayed at the restaurant and had dessert.

An improvisor by training and experience (as one has to be while teaching and as a graduate student investigating improvisation in teaching), Josh sought to adapt his plan and furiously searched on his phone for an appropriate backup location, while Andrea wasn't looking. He remembered a gorgeous plaza in Frankfurt that the two had encountered the day before, at which Frankfurt's famous opera house (Der Alten Oper) was located.

He thought he could navigate there once the rain stopped. After dinner, he asked Andrea to go on a walk with him, but suspiciously, didn't tell Andrea where they would be going. She immediately knew something was strange, because, well, Josh wasn't exactly the most confident traveler and certainly not in a foreign city where he couldn't read the street signs.

Nonetheless, they managed to find a woodsy pathway in one of Frankfurt's parks that propitiously traversed from near the restaurant to the Alte Oper. As if it were a scene from a Hollywood romance, number of rabbits hopped alongside them, as they walked.

Though it was wet from rain, they sat near a stone fountain before the Alte Oper.

Employing a Survivor-style reflection (a show that, at the time, they both enjoyed), Josh then played several videos on his phone that he had solicited from Andrea's family and friends--first-person videos they shared, telling her how much they loved her and why. With streetlights gleaming, he then got down on one knee, explained why he loved (loves!) her, and offered her the borrowed ring.

She said yes, at just about 11:55p (Frankfurt time) on her birthday, July 23, 2016. We returned to the hotel and made several long-distance phone calls to tell our family members the good news.

What We've Been Doing Since

Ever competitive, Josh and Andrea immediately sought to break the Guinness Book of World Records for the longest recorded engagement in history. They had, after all, competed in many road races against each other including running marathons together after their engagement.

So stamina, competitiveness, and procrastination were all in their favor. But waiting another 60-odd years to break the record has proven to be a prohibitive challenge.

No, as John Lennon famously said, "Life is what happens when you're busy making other plans." And they both took highly-demanding leadership jobs, her at the Mayor's Office of Education and him at The School District of Philadelphia, bought a house together, and then faced the realities of a global pandemic together.

We've long wanted to celebrate our engagement and wedding with friends and family. Now that the world is starting to reemerge from its cocoon, the timing feels appropriate. We hope you can join us or else celebrate with us in spirit from afar!