Kristopher & Michelle

Forever and Always

Watercolor Highlight

Kristopher Strunk


Michelle Shields


August 12, 2023

La Selva Beach, CA
133 days133 d14 hours14 h23 minutes23 min51 seconds51 s

How We Met

The Cabrillo College Pool Deck, February 2013

Michelle swam for the Cabrillo Seahawks and Kris would drop in to heckle Josh Thomas - the infamous women's water polo coach and Kris's mini man crush at that point in time. Oh, and he'd swim because he wanted to keep the temple sculpted ;) On this day, Josh had the team swimming what seemed to feel like an endless set 50’s on the minute. Hard, moderate. Kris noticed that Shell was by far the fastest (and loudest) woman on the team. Faster than most of the men, she was strong, tanned and he thought she had a cute butt. Michelle even wore a white J.O.’s cap with an American flag. Like she was important. (Side note - she actually was. Shell went on to set records that still stand today… Josh called her The Gilroy Flash). Naturally, Kris felt the attraction and thus, weaseled his way into an adjacent lane. He pushed himself to swim fast enough to keep up (something he was proud of). But he could not execute a functional flip turn to save his life. Up until this point in time, Kris spent his days in the ocean, not a pool - so, he could hang, but it was by no means graceful. As it happened, during this set of grueling 50’s, with every flip turn Kris would spread his wings like an uncoordinated bird trying to swim underwater, and summersault. Sometimes on the wall, awkwardly self inflicting injury, sometimes too far from the wall to use as a push (the goal of a flip turn). In the midst of these awkward episodes he’d have every time he reached either end of the pool, Kris would end up whacking Michelle who was in the lane next to him. After each 50, Kris would apologize to Michelle. “My bad, you okay? Sorry I keep smacking you, haha”… etc. Sort of funny at first… But Shell soon reached a point of irritation after the 10th, 11th, 12th time - she came up with the conclusion that Kris was not the best swimmer by any means. After all, she was The Gilroy Flash. So, being the nicest Flash there ever was, Shell offered some advice. She explained and even demonstrated the flip turn - all tucking, no wings. And in the end, Kris’s master plan had worked. He got to know Michelle and became so interested in “swimming” that he decided to join the swim team and “hone his skills”. The rest is history.

The Proposal

Año Nuevo, July 2021

Their first date - 2013, Año Nuevo. Shell wanted to be taken somewhere Kris had never taken anyone else. Just south of his favorite surf spot was a stretch of beach that he'd spent much of his youth surfing and chilling, just solo. Loving life. Fast forward to 2021 - a beautiful day at their now shared, and favorite beach. The ocean like glass, sand warm under the feet, and nobody to be seen in any direction. A cold beer and a cold rose in hand ;) ...Perfect. Kris kept fondling the pocket of his boardshorts… like weird. Did he have a problem down there? Unbeknownst to her, he was stressing… Trying not to blow the day, and worrying that he’d loose this small, 15.6 mm circle of white gold and diamond in the damn sandbox. (Oh and not to mention the second option for ‘ol ShellBell - an equally as tiny golden ring, kissed with several white diamonds, that Michelle’s great grandmother had left Ray to pass along when it came time… yes, that’s correct.. the girl had options this day). Finally, Kris asked Shell if she wanted to walk down the beach and look for shells - something they loved to do on days like these. About a hundred yards in. Kris asked Michelle “do you remember us coming here over 8 years ago on that freezing foggy day?” Shell, now picking up a seashell with her back turned. “Of course, you refused to admit you were cold and wanted to go.”… Kris knelt down, her back still turned. “Well, my love, I want to make sure we come back here, together, over and over, for the rest of our lives.” Shell now turning around to see Kris on a knee with a sparkling symbol of his love at his fingertips. “Michelle, I love you to Pluto and passed (inside joke), will you come back here every year with me until death do us part? Will you marry me?” Michelle didn’t believe it… no, like she actually didn’t believe it. Today was just a normal couples day… not too out of the ordinary. “Where did you find that!?”… She literally thought he found a ring in the sand… really? Like he’d find a ring and spontaneously ask for a marriage after 8+ years of dating… no. “That’s for me, really? Oh my god!”, she said. Long story short, she cried. He teared up. Michelle overwhelmingly said yes, and Kris brought out the second ring, explaining the significance and letting her choose… And thus, they were on to the next chapter in life!

The Little Secret

Santa Cruz, December 2021

Unusual circumstances... Kris and Michelle soon realized they'd have to wait a long while to get married in the traditional sense. You see, there was this little issue called SARS-CoV-2... a microscopic bug that somehow made it impossible to find a wedding venue, let alone trust that a future gathering would be allowed by the powers that be. So, characteristic of the couple’s personality, Michelle and Kris quickly grew impatient and annoyed with the uncertainties and the likely timeline to events. (Not to mention, the couple had been going strong for nearly 9 years at this point. So why wait!?) Therefore, the Santa Cruz County’s Superior Court began to look like a cozy venue option for the couple. (Kidding, but not kidding) And thusly, as casual as could be, Michelle and Kris tied the knot with the required endorsements and consent of the great state of California. The plan was to keep it a secret and get married in front of friends and family a couple years later - when times would hopefully be better. (But in the end, this secret-stuff didn’t really work and mostly everyone came to know what was up)… Cut to current - Michelle and Kris are beyond stoked to now hold their take on a more traditional celebration of their sorta-secret marriage, actualized back on the first Wednesday of December, in the year 2021.