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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Sunday, March 12, 2006

Love 'blindsided' busy single parents

By Catherine E. Toth
Advertiser Staff Writer

Janel Takasaki, a nurse, and Matt Matsunaga, an attorney, CPA and former state senator, wed Dec. 10 at the Waialae Country Club.

Photo by Eugene Kam

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After just one date, Janel Takasaki and Matt Matsunaga knew this could be serious. After three, they were all but sure.

"It just hit me blindsided," said Takasaki, 30, a registered nurse and patient care coordinator at Kaiser Permanente. "I was like, 'Hey, I wasn't ready for this!' "

Both had recently exited long-term relationships, and jumping into another one wasn't on the agenda. Those first dates including the first lunch, downtown at Palomino in February 2004, changed their minds.

About a week earlier, Takasaki and Matsunaga had attended a friend's birthday party. Matsunaga immediately noticed Takasaki, and when the friend suggested a "blind" date, he jumped at the opportunity.

"I was really excited but very anxious," said Matsunaga, 47, an attorney, CPA and former state senator. "And, of course, I Googled her first."

Takasaki was nervous about meeting Matsunaga, too, but not out of intimidation. She was more worried about dating again.

"Talking to him wasn't a problem," said Takasaki, who has a daughter from her previous marriage. "He's so approachable ... I just didn't know how to date. And with my daughter, I was very cautious."

After their lunch date, they exchanged phone numbers. And after waiting the "mandatory 24 hours," Matsunaga called Takasaki and asked her out on another date that Friday.

They made plans to meet at the Honolulu Club for a workout before heading to Ninnikuya on Wai'alae Avenue for dinner.

After their workout, Matsunaga had to pick up his two daughters from school. So he scheduled an appointment for Takasaki to get a massage while she waited.

"He just really impressed me from the get-go," Takasaki said. "I'm thinking, 'This guy deserves a chance!' "

When he returned to the Honolulu Club to pick her up, Matsunaga sealed the deal with a bouquet of tulips.

"I guess he really wanted to impress me," Takasaki said. "And he did!"

As working single parents, Takasaki and Matsunaga were already juggling their families with their careers. So dating took a back seat. They saw each other at least once a week, finding time late at night after their daughters went to bed to talk on the phone.

"We were just so compatible," Matsunaga said. "Our conversations just flowed so easily. She was interested in things I was interested in ... And she has a wonderful laugh, a wonderful smile. She's just totally enchanting."

They found they had much in common. Both were born here but grew up on the Mainland Takasaki lived in Washington state before moving back to Palolo at age 14 and attending Kamehameha Schools; Matsunaga lived in Washington, D.C., for 22 years. Both played point guard on the basketball teams at their respective high schools. (Matsunaga played for two years in college at Bucknell University.)

But it was their commitment to family and similar sense of humor that drew them closer.

By their third date, Matsunaga had shed his fears about getting involved too quickly and confessed his feelings to Takasaki.

"It was just seeing what a beautiful heart she had," Matsunaga said. "The more I got to know her, the more I realized that she was the one."

Takasaki felt the same way. But before she could take the relationship to the next level, she wanted them to be on the same spiritual page. So Matsunaga started attending her church, New Hope. And a few months later, they were shopping for engagement rings.

Takasaki knew a proposal was coming, but she didn't expect it during dinner at Ruth's Chris Steak House, on Jan. 10, 2005. They were sitting at a booth in the restaurant when Matsunaga pulled the ring out of his pocket and got down on one knee.

"He gave this five-minute speech, but I don't remember any of it," said Takasaki, laughing. "I was so emotional and overwhelmed."

Through their church, the couple attended 10 weeks of premarital counseling, which they said strengthened their relationship. They talked about everything from budgeting to child-rearing.

They exchanged vows on Dec. 10, 2005, at the Wai'alae Country Club, in front of 250 guests.

The couple bought a Wai'alae Iki home together before their wedding, but only after the ceremony did they begin living together. "It definitely took some adjustments," said Matsunaga. "We had to get used to each other's quirks."

They learned new things about each other every day, from Takasaki's need for ample closet space to Matsunaga's affinity for the L.A. Lakers.

With demanding full-time jobs, the biggest challenge for them has been scheduling.

Matsunaga's two daughters, Hannah and Sarah, spend every other weekend with them. Along with Takasaki's daughter, Justise, the couple turns these weekends into quality family time. On alternating weekends, they plan date nights, either taking in a movie or relaxing over dinner.

"It's fun, fruitful and exciting because it's still very new," Takasaki said. "We're still in the honeymoon stage. We'll see what's ahead for us."

Reach Catherine E. Toth at ctoth@honoluluadvertiser.com.