I was super excited to interview my good friends Bryan (BJ) and Danielle (Tootie) for the blog. Bryan and Danielle met during their Freshman year at Grant High School. They reestablished their relationship Senior year, and maintained that relationship as they entered college in Atlanta, GA. Bryan attended Morehouse College, and Danielle attended Spelman College. During those four years they didn’t pressure themselves to stay together, which proved that their young love had a chance to be something real. Following their collegiate experience, they continued developing their love story through a long distance relationship. Bryan started teaching in New York while Danielle taught in the Dominican Republic. After two years of long phone calls and week-long trips across the country, they decided to take the next step. Ultimately, they reunited and wed in Montego Bay, Jamaica on July 18, 2015. Currently, they live in Vancouver, WA with their twin two-year-old sons, Easton and Nash. Each day brings something new and they value being able to experience life with each other.
When and where did you meet?
Bryan: We first met freshman year at Grant High School. We were together freshmen and sophomore year. Danielle dumped me and then we got back together senior year.
What was your first date?
Danielle: He took me to McDonald’s at lunch. He told me I could “buy the menu.”
B: That was the first date when we got back together. The second time what did the playa do for you?
D: You took me to the movies. We went and saw American Gangster.
When did you know she was the one?
Bryan: I knew I wanted to marry Danielle when we got out of college. Me being in New York and Danielle in Portland or the Dominican Republic and me thinking we truly fought for each other to stay together through a long distance relationship. That was my grown up understanding that Danielle was the one. All the way from high school to college I always knew that she held me to a different standard as far as being a boyfriend and that is why I was attracted to her.
When did you know he was the one?
Danielle: Towards the end of college I was like “Okay he probably was going to be sticking around.” By the time we were doing long distance and he was teaching in New York and I was between Portland and the Dominican Republic, I was thinking he was probably going to be my husband.
How did you propose?
Bryan: I was still living in New York. I had come home from New York to interview for a job at Portland Public Schools. I told Danielle I was leaving earlier than when I actually was leaving so we had to spend the last day together and hang out with our friends. I reserved a movie theatre at McMenamins and told both of our families and the closest people in our lives to be at McMenamins in the seats. Danielle thought we were going to see a movie and when we walked in she realized all of our family and friends were there and I made that little proposal and made it official.
What dating advice would you give your younger self?
Bryan: I would say especially being in college and early adulthood I wish we would have explored more. I think we always knew we liked to travel but I think it was one of those things that got away from us. Now we look back and wish we would have traveled overseas more.
Danielle: I’m trying to think about what I would have done differently dating you. It is hard because I feel like I was very intentional from the beginning. I never wanted the fact that we were high school sweethearts or had all these “relationships goals” or titles to keep me in the relationship. I wanted to make sure that we continue to grow and challenge each other and we enjoy each other’s company. Of course I laugh all time thinking that when Easton and Nash get older and start dating I’m going to be like “Do not fall for your high school sweetheart.” Yeah maybe you will…thats cute but let’s be realistic. My dating advice is to remain open. Explore. Make sure it’s organic.
B: I think if me and Danielle had to hit the dating scene again we would be terrible. We had the advantage of knowing each other from high school and having that insight on what somebody is like. We were blessed with the luxury of knowing each other. We can sit down and laugh about shallow stuff or get right to the deep stuff.
Aasha: Dating is trash. I think social media tarnishes relationships. We had MySpace back in the day. Now everything is so instant. Everything is being posted and compared.
D: I agree. If I had the pressure of posting my first date and being like “look where he took me y’all” and people commenting. It might have changed my outcome.
B: True or I might not have taken you to McDonald’s because I would have known the pressure of taking someone on a date. I’m being genuine and I’m just taking someone I like to a place to have a good time.
D: I’m glad we snuck right in-between the social media age. Thank you Jesus.
What is some marriage advice you would give?
Danielle: Realizing that marriage is for a lifetime. People grow and evolve and they change. Who BJ married at 25 is not Danielle at 30. I think being intentional in pursuing who that person is now, dating them and getting to know them. Dating who they are today, not who they were or who they hope to be.
Bryan: Recognize marriage is a new role and spend some time in that before changing (to parents) …if you can. Don’t lose the role that you are individually and don’t lose the role that you are with your friends. We had the experience of being married 2 or 3 years before having children and I think that made our relationship stronger.
D: Another thing about marriage is that we really tried to be the best Danielle and to be the best Bryan. Making sure that you are fully whole. I can’t expect BJ (my partner) in the marriage to be my all, to be my happiness and my fulfillment. He can’t be that, he shouldn’t be that and he is not that. We want to make sure we are the best version of ourselves.
What is something you are proud of?
Danielle: I am proud of always remaining true to myself. No matter where I am I come as my authentic self.
Bryan: I am proud of the relationships I’ve built with people and growing with them. I am proud of the ability to be reflective. I am proud of being empathic and genuine with people. I value relationships and how we treat people.
What song always gets you out on the dance floor?
Bryan: I like doing the Electric Slide. I always participate in the Wobble. I enjoy that time with people and doing a line dance. We are the sing-a-long crew. I could do “All Gold Everything” or a good Ja Rule song.
Danielle: Juvenile. I could do a good Electric Slide playing “Candy” by Cameo. Beyonce “Before I Let Go” or Beyonce “Party”.
What makes you feel at peace?
Danielle: People know I loved having me time before marriage and before kids. I would go to my dorm room and just be. Sometimes it can be me and the boys laying on the couch and I’m just zoning out. I like finding those moments of stillness and being in meditation. When I am in meditation or prayer with God that is when I’m at peace.
Bryan: This is a difficult question because I try to stay calm and collected. I think about peace like not many worries and I think that comes after prayer or devotion. Going to church on Sunday and having that full experience or counting all the things to be grateful for. That gives me the time to reflect and see I’ve been blessed in my life and I’m grateful for it. When I can be still and be grateful that is when I feel at peace. If I need to quiet myself, I like to clean. I will clean the whole kitchen or organize the garage. I am not a still person. I like to keep moving.
D: We are opposites in that way.
What career advice would you give to your younger self?
Danielle: I would tell my younger self to just relax girl. You don’t need to be in a rush to try and figure it out. Just breathe and take time. There is no timeline. See what you are passionate about. I wish I had more variety too. Take the time to explore.
Bryan: Gravitate towards a veteran (in your field). Someone who you can bounce ideas off of and soak up game. Find a hobby to take a break from work. Make sure you treat your whole self. Don’t feel limited in the space that you are in.
D: Try to expand and be okay with that. College will always be there.
B: I am an educator, but I would tell the twins: When you turn 18 and if you aren’t ready for college, take that gap year. You don’t have to take the college path; take whatever path that will lead you to being successful because debt sucks.
What is your biggest pet peeve – what gets on your last nerve?
Danielle: Inconsiderate people really bother me. When people say opinions and don’t consider how people may take it. People who pull out in front of me fast and then slow down. Keep that same energy and do 50 or 60 in front of me. On a small pet peeve level BJ puts dishes in the sink. Why don’t you put them in the dishwasher?
Bryan: I can’t stand when someone projects something about you. “You look tired. You have a long day?” That drives me insane. I don’t need you to tell me. Just ask me. When people move my things and touch my stuff. I can’t sleep in a messy room. Putting your hands in the chip/popcorn bag/bowl! Oooh I can’t stand that.
What’s your go to midnight snack?
Danielle: Kettle Corn, a candy medley of Mike n Ike, Hot Tamales, Sour Patch Kids and a glass of water.
Bryan: Kettle Corn is the go to. Candy. I can’t go to bed hungry. I might eat some chips, a Cup O’ Noodles or a Hot Pocket.
Danielle’s 5 favorite things
4. Pampering- massage, lotions and creams
5. Food /Water
& Vacations and experiences
Bryan’s 5 favorite things
3.Being a dad
4.Long conversations with Tootie and talking about the Lord (reading scripture)