A mere nineteen years ago…

The Dagens, November 19, 1994
The Dagens, November 19, 1994, perfect except for my unfortunate choice of a hairstyle that day…

Most people call me a saint.

Nineteen years ago I married a widow and his four children. At the time, people who knew just me thought it a perfect arrangement, as I had been widowed myself and always had desired to have a bunch of children. An instant family was a perfect solution. People who knew my husband and his children were relieved — they didn’t have to worry about Steve anymore. They had to have questioned my sanity… but they certainly didn’t intervene or issue any warnings…

A couple of days ago, my husband and I were discussing our niece’s use of an online dating service. He seemed to think it crazy, “meeting” someone online and then getting together in some safe, neutral place for the first time face to face. In the middle of his judgmental musings, I interjected:

“You mean, a place like Ivey’s Grill?”

Because that was where my husband and I had our first date — a blind date, by the way, that followed a phone call that followed a chance meeting with a mutual friend. (Thank you, Becky Richburg, our Yenta.)

In my husband’s favor back in 1994 was the fact that the two prospective romances in my life had been eliminated the night before. (No, I am not part of the Mafia or anything; one moved, the other chose my roommate. I am so glad God was and is in control.) What girl in her right mind would choose to marry a widower with four children, ages 9, 8, 5, and 3? You got it. This girl!

“God tried to save you,” my dear husband pointed out.

In fact, as I left work to meet him for our blind luncheon, my car wouldn’t start. My boss kindly allowed me the use of hers. If preventing my car from starting was God’s way of closing the window of opportunity, I reopened it. And kept it open.

“I could have been saved if I weren’t so doggone competitive,” I retorted.

For our first date was like a job interview. Though I didn’t see a paper and pencil checklist in the works, I’m fairly certain my future husband was going through at least a mental list of questions — and I was determined to land the job. He flipped through a stack of photos, as if seeing his children could put me off him. Ha!

Plus he ordered unsweetened iced tea with extra, extra lemon. As did I. We were so alike! (Except I actually smiled.)

By the time I got home from work that day, Steve had already called to invite me over to dinner to meet his children. 

Score! I had landed the job!

After that first meeting with the children (over grilled London broil), we went to the YMCA swimming pool that weekend — all together. He was smiling and playful, and he referred to feet as “dogs.” He was much cuter when he smiled — and I thought I had something to do with making him smile. I was enchanted — and I thought I could make a difference in this family’s life. I don’t think I was in love, yet, but rather readying myself for the challenge, which he later called “a perfect opportunity for personal growth.”

He wasn’t kidding.

Six weeks later, he proposed. Actually, he asked me if I wanted to see his gun collection, and when he brought out a small box with an engagement ring instead, I was too afraid to say no.

That’s my story, and I’m sticking to it.

Shortly after, he asked me what I thought he wanted for his upcoming birthday. I pointed to myself, questioningly.


We got married on November 19, just two and a half months later. I became a birthday gift and a wife and a mother of four instantly.

Clearly, I had no idea what I was getting into when I said yes. But I’m glad I did.

Nineteen years later, I still hear people refer to me as a saint. I know better.

I thought I could make a difference in this family’s life; they have certainly made a difference in mine. Marriage to this man, his four original children and the one we added together has been an opportunity for personal growth. It’s definitely been a perfect lens through which to see my need for growth. I’m willing to keep on growing and happy to grow where God — not my competitive nature — has planted me.

Happy anniversary and happy birthday, Steve Dagen!

10 thoughts on “A mere nineteen years ago…

    1. Thanks! And five children, actually, as we added one to the mix! It is a course of life I would never recommend to anyone, but I would never change my path, either. 🙂


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