The way to a woman's heart is through her stomach, though not without a few heart-felt valentines. That, at least, is the recipe for "hopeless romantic" Ryan Bristol who found more than he ever hoped for when he met Jenna Mansker, the woman who christened him a hopeless romantic, but in the most loving way possible. And a quest isn't hopeless when it succeeds.
Ryan is a respiratory therapist from Reno, Nev., whose folks hailed from Sioux City. Respiratory school brought him to St. Luke's College and later employment at St. Luke's Regional Medical Center where he met a registered nurse named Jenna Mansker, a Sioux City native who also worked at St. Luke's.
"We saw each other in the hallway one day and he told one of his respiratory friends that he thought I was hot, and I told one of my nursing colleagues that I thought he was hot," Jenna said. They both work the overnight shift at St. Luke's.
Hotness willed out. So Ryan did a cool thing. He learned that she liked sweets. So he had one of the respiratory therapists bring a cupcake down to Jenna one night, more specifically, a red velvet cupcake from Cold Stone Creamery. It's her favorite.
"That broke the ice and we started talking on Facebook," Jenna said, "and we just started dating, and three months later, we got engaged."
The date was Feb. 6, 2010, which happens to be Jenna's birthday, the perfect time to surprise her, Ryan figured.
Jenna was bummed out because she had to work that night. So Ryan, who got off at 11 p.m., said he would come back with a cake later to help her celebrate her birthday. But he didn't return as fast as she had expected. Two hours later, Jenna was called down to the hospital's fifth floor where she had worked earlier in the evening.
"He came around the corner with a huge heart-shaped cake that said 'JENNA MARIE BRISTOL?' with a question mark. And then he got down on his knee and proposed in front of the whole nursing station. All the nurses were clapping and taking pictures, and he had someone taking pictures with his camera. And I said yes. That time, I said yes," she said.
Ryan said Jenna was always telling him that if he ever popped the question, he'd better do it right. "I knew she would never expect it at work. So I just decided to do it around a bunch of people I had no idea who they were," he said.
"It was kind of fun 'cause that's where we met and everything," she said, "and the whole reason we started talking is because he gave me that red velvet Cold Stone cupcake, and that was a red velvet heart-shaped cake from Cold Stone that he gave me," she said, adding that Ryan is never going to find a birthday gift to match that ring/cake.
They will be married July 28 at Sunnybrook Community Church, with a reception following at the Marina Inn where, 30 years earlier, Ryan's parents held their reception.
And they both know they owe a lot to Ryan's parents. Only when he was about to graduate from the University of Reno at Nevade did Ryan realize he wanted to pursue a career in health care, a field where both of his parents and many of both of their relatives, including Jenna's mother, worked.
With a California school the closest alternative, Ryan said his father talked him into check out the respiratory school in Sioux City, pointing out to his son, "You never know, you might end up finding a hot nurse out there and staying there," Ryan said.
That will never happen, Ryan answered. But sometimes, it seems, Father does know best.
"We fell in love really fast," Jenna said, noting that both had been in long-term relationships before and knew what they wanted.
"I just could relate to her a lot," Ryan said. "She felt real and I could talk to her about anything and I trusted her just from the git-go."
Added Jenna: "We just clicked on levels that I never clicked with anybody before. And he was such a gentleman, and he was so romantic." She then proceeded to catalog all of the little things he did to prove it, like sculpting an "I Love You" into a crispy Rice Krispie treat cake he baked for her.
For their honeymoon, they will be baking in the sun at the Burning Man festival just outside Reno which Jenna has come to love as much as Ryan, a longtime attendee.