Immortalizing International Love through Photographs-An Engagement Pictorial (2 of 2)

Who doesn’t Adore Audrey Hepburn? With her elegance, grace, and unique gamine beauty, Ms. Hepburn embodies timeless charm, classic style, unquestionable taste, and enviable poise. Yet even bigger than this lovely Brit’s celebrity and glam is her humanitarian heart. Unlike most celebrity personalities who are normally caught up in their bubbles, Audrey Hepburn was unrelenting in her efforts to give back and contribute to the good of mankind. As a UNICEF Goodwill Ambassador, she utilized whatever influence she had to support and boost her philanthropic endeavors.

Read more: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Audrey_Hepburn#Humanitarian_career

More so, Ms. Hepburn had a healthy dose of optimism-the kind that is viral especially when one is constantly exposed to it. Her words of wisdom, which reflected her positive attitude towards life, altruistic undertakings and carefree spirit, have become my life compass. She is my icon and one of my role models. So, even way before I found the love of my life, I was very sure that if I ever decide to get married, one of my wedding themes would be in honor of my darling Audrey.

Thus, our Breakfast at Tiffany’s-inspired photo-shoot. I admit, it was through my manipulations that I actually got my laid-back, metal shirt and jeans-wearing fiancé to pose ala fashion magazine cover-style and I love him more for indulging me . When he said yes to my idea, I felt like the happiest girl in the world. Seeing the photos later on, even Ian agreed that my insistence was well worth it. Below are some of the shots taken for our engagement session. I hope you enjoy our version of “Breakfast” as much as we did. Bon appetit!

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If you liked what you saw, here’s a glimpse of what happened behind the scenes:

THE INSPIRATION

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THE LOCATION

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THE MAKING AND OUTTAKES

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Unretouched photos by RJ Protacio

Words to Live By from Audrey Hepburn

To view the complete set for this photo session, click here:

http://www.facebook.com/media/set/?set=a.411157965640497.95111.150758515013778&type=1

Our Compliments and Special Thanks
Photo Credits:
RJ Protacio and RJ Protacio Photography
Jared Villegas Teves
Hair and Make-up Artists:
Kittikoon Khinkhajorn
Auyjung Naja
Co-stylists:
Clint Lopez
Jan Jay Espino
Production Assistant:
Karl Castillon

Immortalizing International Love through Photographs-An Engagement Pictorial (1 of 2)

It’s wedding season for my age bracket! Lately when I’m on social media networks, I’ve been seeing my comrades getting engaged, marrying, and having babies. Love is in the online air!

It’s amazing what modern-day communication affords us. I can truly attest to this. My mind is blown because of how with one click, I am able to talk to old friends I haven’t even touched base with for a while… people I would otherwise only see again in the pages of old yearbooks, class pictures or night-out photographs of years past.

I remember frolicking under the sun with as kids with some of these old friends. Others were high school girl friends that I used to share colognes and crushes with. The rest were either colleagues from previous workplaces or someone I knew through somebody. Now in our mid-twenties, discussing wedding plans with them after several years of inconsistent communication is both unexpected and refreshing.

“We are at this stage, huh!?” we would comment to each other. Yes – it seems like we are not getting any younger.

On the subject of weddings, it is usual for brides-to-be to share and compare wedding plans with each other. Crucial topics such as the ceremony venue, reception, cake and catering services, florists, and for some, preferred officiating ministers or priests are thoroughly discussed.  Then they fuss about invitation printers, save- the- date ideas, table cards, giveaways, and of course the entourage’s outfits and the bridal couture! Ah, and the wedding dress!

To my dearest grooms – keep in mind that holding everything together is difficult enough for the bride to do even with her bridesmaids in assistance…and for an occasion as big as this, the ladies always put their best foot forward so that absolutely nothing goes wrong and everything is perfect come the big day. Minor glitches are not even tolerated. Women plan for and organize their weddings like a platoon strategizes before battle. It’s do or die. But in terms of wedding planning, women are even more feral and unforgiving when they don’t get their way and/or things don’t go as planned. Hell hath no fury than a bride and her entourage scorned. It’s like “Bridezillas Unite!” and you, poor little groom, don’t want to end up as collateral damage. So if you value your life, DON’T EVER commit the crime of ripping even just a teeny-tiny portion of the train of her dress on your way home from picking it up from the couturier. I’m telling you, she will definitely lose it. You’re a dead man walking. I can’t even begin to tell you how justice will be served…

(Yes, Ian. The whole paragraph about keeping the wedding dress safe and secure is essential to this entry and so you must not edit it out. ;-))

So, a few weeks back, I started talking to my ladies about wedding planning. Gentlemen, when we ladies talk weddings, this includes the blow-by-blow scrutiny of each one’s grooms: how helpful and participative they are with the organizing process, do they go to food tasting sessions, have they picked out their suits, were they aware the guest list just ballooned to 200..what??!!?, etc. Luckily for my darling Ian, I’m not quite in that Crazy Bride mindset (yet…that would be later, baby…hehe). I explained to my girls that since we are in a not-so-traditional circumstance, we can’t really do the whole big wedding thing (yet). Ian and I will say our vows in front of a Justice Of The Peace. Or, a city mayor – I  am not certain. I am not even sure when I’ll get my visa or when I’m leaving.

Naturally, this plan was met with raised eyebrows.  People gab about getting married as being a once in a lifetime deal (true for some people), and that couples are supposed to make it as memorable as possible. And so they ask me, “Why aren’t you throwing a big wedding? Don’t you want your friends and relatives to celebrate this occasion with you? Don’t you want your loved ones’ blessings?”

It’s not that we don’t want it – of course we do. But we can’t just yet. Basically, the plan is for me to leave for the US as soon as possible after my visa is approved. After I step foot on American soil, I intend to marry Ian as soon as we can.  After all of this exhausting bureaucratic work and the agonizing longing and waiting that came with it, I doubt I will have the time and energy for any kind of wedding planning.

So, civil courthouse ceremony it is.

Of course, that was not how I imagined my dream wedding would be. And this is absolutely not my mother’s dream wedding for me. But as I told you in my earlier entry, we make do with what we have. If there is anything my love journey with Ian taught me, it is to prioritize the things that are truly valuable in life and let go of all of those things that are material, temporary, and unnecessary. As for the two of us, to be in each other’s arms forever is blessing enough.

Besides, it’s not the wedding but the marriage. I know it’s not an original thing to declare, but it is certainly true. How many extravagant weddings have you been to and later found out that the couple split or that the bride ran away with another man? In 1974, Ian’s parents, Bob and Ellena, were married by a Justice Of The Peace too. Forty years later, they are still together, very much in love, and renewing their vows over the coming (American) summer.

Oh well, who knows? Maybe Ian and I will have a nice wedding in the future…we are certainly dreaming of it. Don’t be upset if we require guests to wear cloaks, tunics or kilts, because what we are imagining is a unique Game of Thrones inspired medieval-style wedding in honor of the circumstances of our first meeting. DIBS!!!! Dare duplicate my theme and my dragons will be after you!

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But for the time being, we have our minds focused on priorities.  We are taking it one step at a time. Among the important details we carefully planned for and arranged was our pre-wedding pictorial.  I believe the engagement photoshoot is as important as the marriage ceremony itself. It says a lot about the couple and their love story. Also, it is sentimental because it is both a formal declaration of the couple’s betrothal and probably the last formal portraits of the couple as unmarried individuals.

Some people make an effort to come up with unique themes for their shoot. Some go with the customary and pose in bridal couture. Either way, the theme selection process is never easy.  Yet for Ian and I, our love story and our theme were a match made in heaven. Our theme had always been there since we first knew each other. We chose to channel The Wind-up Girl by Paolo Bacigalupi, a novel which is very close to our hearts. You do remember me telling you about Emiko and Anderson Lake, right?

 For my first-time readers, and for those who have forgotten, here’s a link to one of my earlier entries:

https://theglobalfilipina.wordpress.com/2013/01/15/rewinding-to-the-windup-girl-epiphany/

This riveting novel, although fictional, had repeatedly tugged on our heartstrings as if it were real. We were moved by the harrowing possible future reality presented by the author. We empathized with the characters, and in our imaginings, they became alive. When we were deciding on a concept, there was no doubt in our minds. This had to be it.

After rigorous research, we found out that no individual or group has thus far done a detailed interpretation of The Wind-up Girl, either through stills or film. Good! We wanted to be the first.  With the help of our hardworking team, we breathed life into the pages of the bestselling book.  So to Paolo Bacigalupi and to the many sci-fi/dystopian future fans out there, here’s our offering. We do hope that our version is close to how you imagined these characters.

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Also, we would like to share an exclusive sneak peek of some behind the scenes activity.

THE INSPIRATION

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THE MAKING

A day prior to the shoot, we met with our team to finalize the details of our endeavor. Like us, our photographer and stylists had done intensive research on the concept. We were all eager to make this shoot an unforgettable one.

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(Notice the photo of Audrey Hepburn on my laptop? More of it on Part 2 of this entry)

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Also, we did a pre-photoshoot location visit so that our team could become acquainted with the surroundings.

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Finally, here we are in action on the day of the shoot.

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Earlier that day, Ian and I encountered an inconvenience. His parents were worried and so they were calling him from the States. That’s him picking up his phone.

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Our team was eager to start and so they were waiting on us.

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This was me asking them to give us a minute. They did.

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Minutes later, Ian was still on the phone.

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 And still on the phone….So we waited.

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“Baby, they want to start”

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Ian was so stressed he needed re-touching…

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And some more last minute touch-ups…

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Me too, apparently…

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Then, our main photographer RJ gave us instructions…

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And more instructions…

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Finally we are ready to roll…

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The first few shots were awkward of course!

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But then they just kept taking photos….

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And more photos….until we were both exhausted.

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And so they gave us some break time

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(The Windup Girl photoshoot location was just outside the Champs Elysees Condominium compound, where my parents live. We shot the remainder of the photos inside….Stay tuned for Part 2)

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More retouching for me….and Ian was back on the phone!

It turns out; it wasn’t very easy to solve our dilemma that day.  Lucky us, Ian’s parents were to the rescue. They were very supportive even from thousands of miles away. From afar, they ended up saving the day. Thanks B + E.

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Back to work! RJ was relentless in motivating us.

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He did well at taking charge

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This time, the more intense shots….

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And finally, we shot the last set.  Everyone was quiet while these pictures were being taken. The scene was so solemn and so moving that I swear I saw my uncle shed a tear. Personally, I was being emotional. The stress of what happened earlier finally got to me…but what helped the most was when I was internalizing Ian’s impending departure the following day…It was a heartbreaking thought and maybe you can tell when viewing the final published photos how somber I was….

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But all is well that ends well. We finished the first part of our pictorial session right before lunch. Relief! Also, food was waiting for us back in my mother’s place. So, we had the perfect excuse to be playful in this photo.

There you have it folks, the first part of this photoshoot entry. Stay tuned for the next installment. I promise I will publish ASAP!

To view the complete set for this photo session, click here:

http://www.facebook.com/media/set/?set=a.411157965640497.95111.150758515013778&type=1

Our Compliments and Special Thanks
Photo Credits:
RJ Protacio and RJ Protacio Photography
Jared Villegas Teves
Hair and Make-up Artists:
Kittikoon Khinkhajorn
Auyjung Naja
Co-stylists:
Clint Lopez
Jan Jay Espino
Production Assistant:
Karl Castillon

I’ve been thinking a lot about this too. My conflict is that the American name format:

First Name Middle Name Last Name

is different from what we normally do in the Philippines:

First Name Middle Name (which actually means Mother’s Maiden Name for men and single women), Last Name

So let’s say a Filipino woman named Clarissa/ Paulino/ Cortez marries an American national with the Last Name Walker.

In the Philippines, her full name is to become Clarissa/ Cortez /Walker (her last name becomes her middle name ).

Recently, Filipina women have gotten into the trend of hyphenating their last names to keep all their names including their mother’s maiden name.

It’s less complicated for a woman without a second name.

Let’s say, like me, Clarissa has a second name Leila. For sentimental reasons, like me, she wants to keep at least her former last name. In the Philippines, it’s easier. She can just write Clarissa Leila/ Cortez/Walker.

I don’t know how it’s going to be in the US though because there are only three spaces for the names . Maybe she can write Clarissa (First Name) Leila (Middle Name) Cortez-Walker (hyphenated Last Name)?

Tell me your thoughts 🙂

TEN FLEETING DAYS and My After-Musings Part 3: Fidanzamento a Prego Trattoria (Betrothal at Prego Trattoria)

It was 30 minutes past the scheduled dinner time and my parents and brother were nowhere in sight. Our invited friends were already seated and I was as anxious as any bride-to-be could be on her engagement dinner night.  Ian, my ever active and supportive fiancé, was busy supervising some last minutes details such as instructing the restaurant staff, while also being a gracious host by greeting and mingling with our guests.

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Like a Boss.  My fiancé was doing such a superb job of supervising the staff that he might as well have been running the place.

45 minutes. My young uncle Clint wondered aloud: “Where are they?”

Exactly my question. Where are they?

Is it possible my family has decided to ditch my engagement dinner?

Were they upset enough about me marrying so quickly that they decided they didn’t want to show up?

The phone ringing disrupted the million thoughts racing through my mind.

Arjay, my brother’s close friend who had arrived earlier, picked it up.

“What? I can’t hear you. What happened?”

Reflexively, I turned my head to where the voice was coming as my heart skipped a beat.

“Is that them?”, I mouthed to Arjay.

“Yes. I’m already here”. Arjay kept talking to the caller who I assumed by now was one of my family members.

“You may go down in front of the main entrance, pass through the hotel lobby, and take the left door going to the restaurant”.

I was overhearing the one-sided conversation amidst the almost synchronized clatter of china and cutlery coming from the restaurant kitchen. It was my mother on the other end of the line asking for directions. Apparently, they had some trouble finding the place. Seriously? She helped me choose this restaurant and she can’t remember where it is!? And for the love of God, where were they?!?

“Baby, she’s asking you what drink you would like.” Ian, calm and in control, pointed to the waitress who was awaiting my order. “She will have a beer,” Ian, sensing my stress level increasing, informed her when I didn’t answer.

“Yes please, beer would be perfect!” I managed to respond after a delay. Dear Lord, it was a long night ahead of us…

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It wasn’t so long ago that Ian’s path crossed with mine on that fateful day when we stumbled upon each other online, of all places. It wasn’t so long ago when he traversed the International Date Line to see me, alive and breathing, for the first time, and when we went on an adventure together, exploring The Land of Smiles’ cities, provinces, islands, rivers, seas, villages,  railways, streets -every nook and cranny . It seemed only yesterday when we spontaneously fell in love…

Yet it had already been days, weeks, months since Ian and I decided we wanted to spend every day of the rest of our lives with each other.

And so there we were, all dressed and decked out on a night that could have been just any night only that it was not. It was a time that meant more to us than any night ever had.

It seemed surreal to be surrounded by a familiar crowd, some family members and close friends I would otherwise spend regular Sunday nights with. But there isn’t a minute to spare for second-guessing. We have finally arrived at the moment that Ian and I have rehearsed for several times in our heads and I’d be damned if we weren’t ready.   It was the night we vowed to celebrate the promise of our unwavering commitment. It was our chance to toast to and savor our little victory: We came to claim what we have toiled for, what our hearts have desired for in the first place- validation, acceptance and joy in the arms of the person we truly cherish and adore. We came to venerate a love so sincere it can cleanse even the most impure of souls, a love so pure it undoes human errors, it forgives mistakes. It is real, unadulterated, proud, defiant, unbent. We wanted it. We willed it. We have it. We paused for a moment to marvel at our masterpiece, borne out of sacrifice, patience and lots of hope. What wonderful music we have created, he and I!

Like artists at our gala, we basked in accolades. We indulged critiques. We smiled at each other secretly. We knew only one truth. Whatever may be, nothing can change anything, for our love is unbowed. We are unyielding.

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It was our night and not even my pamilya’s “Filipino time” arrival could have rained on our parade. Finally, at 7 o’clock, my mother, who was dressed to the nines and could have been mistaken for my sister, showed up with my father and brother in tow.

Ian politely greeted and thanked them for coming. Meanwhile, I motioned for the appetizers. The night was just beginning.

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Our engagement dinner was somehow designed to make up for the fact that my family and friends didn’t and won’t have enough opportunity to spend time with my fiancé to get to know him better. And since I barely discuss our future plans with anybody, it was also their chance to ask questions, verify information, and clarify anything and everything they’d want. Needless to say, everyone in attendance was thrilled, curious, and participative at the same time. If it was to be their only chance, they wanted to make the most of it. Arjay, my brother’s friend, former college roommate, and our “adoptive family member” was our impromptu master of ceremonies and facilitator. My brother Karl said grace before meal, and while pasta was being served, Ian showed off the ring on my finger and retold its compelling history. Our table echoed with oohs and aahs.

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Unretouched photo by RJ Protacio Photography
The Motherlode. A true Weinstein treasure, this ring previously belonged to Regina, Ian’s paternal grandmother.  He explained that the center stone was  the solitaire diamond on his grandmother’s original engagement ring which was given to her by his grandfather, Benjamin, in 1933. Then, in the 1950’s Benjamin had the engagement diamond re-fit as the center stone in a new ring featuring 6 smaller diamonds arranged into a bow shape; he gave this to Regina as an anniversary present.  After Ian’s grandparents passed away, it was decided that this heirloom should be passed to the next Weinstein male to get engaged, and over a decade later, this beautiful ring is fulfilling its destiny.

As encouraged by Arjay, everyone took turns in wishing us well. I held my breath when it was my parents’ turn to speak. I kept waiting for signs of bombs dropping but thankfully they never came. Phew! It wasn’t until later that I found out, upon returning from the powder room, surprised like an unsuspecting mother bear who went to hunt for her children’s food only to come back to find her cub surrounded by a pack of hungry wolves,  a horde had pounced on my Ian! Sneaky, sneaky, sneaky.

To lighten up the mood, our Uncle Clint and Cousin Jan Jay prepared a “How Well Do You Know Each Other” game to test our couple acumen during dessert. It was supposed to be a quiz but it actually did well to soothe my nerves. After all, we had nothing to fear: we knew each other well. All too well.

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Here Comes Mrs. “See? I’m Right”.  What is/are Ian’s favorite book/s and who is his favorite author?

Added to my relief, the food was good, the ambiance both classy and cozy, and the restaurant staff offered their best kind of service.  I’d say it was a wonderfully fun time overall.

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I’ll Stop the World and Melt With You. Molten lava cake for the lovers.

However, the ambiance, the food, the service, etc. was not the heart of it all. We were happy that everyone was gastronomically satisfied and there was laughter here and there during the night. But more than ever, Ian and I were glad that when they left the restaurant that night, we knew that they felt in their hearts that Ian and I know what we were doing and that we’re doing it as fairly and rightly as we can.

It’s no secret that what we have is a less than traditional courtship. Both of our families would have wanted more than Skype meetings, virtual greetings and overseas gift-giving sessions.  Ian and I want to give our parents and siblings experiences as close to the customary ones as we can. Even with the limitations, we labor to give our best. It would have been better if we could actually do more.

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Heads Up! The men in my family didn’t seem impressed, LOL!

It would have been a happier occasion if Ian’s side of the family were there in attendance. Instead, they got a full report over Skype on the following day. Later this year, Ian and I will be married in a civil courthouse ceremony with his family in attendance. My family will probably be watching the ceremony via live feed. They are not happy about it.

My parents prefer that I be wed before I leave for the States. As any parent would, of course. I assume that just as Ian’s clan would want to witness a marriage of a Weinstein man after several years of not having a wedding in the family, my parents and siblings would also want to see me struggling, er, walking down the aisle in a white poufy dress. They might even have hinted so to Ian when I excused myself for a few minutes to go to the powder room (along with the many other strong hints). I personally have been dreaming of my wedding since I was a little girl.

But for those of you who are familiar with the K1 visa, you’re aware that the rule is for the fiancée to travel to the US unmarried and to then marry on American soil. Any such violation on our part could jeopardize my eligibility to marry Ian in the future.  The way I look at it, my chances of being with the man I love for the rest of my life is entirely in the hands of a bureaucracy. I will not risk pissing them off.

My fiancé and I are in a challenging circumstance.  Honestly, we don’t like it either. We want to please everybody but there’s only so much we can do at the moment.  I can only tell you – and you must believe me – that we really try. In this crucial time, we need all of the support we can get. To all of our well-wishers, you must know that we really appreciate your kind words. We cherish your approval. We find comfort in your acquiescence. For without those, it almost feels as if it’s just us against the world.    Ian and I, we make do with what we have. We can only hope it’s enough.

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On the way home, I could tell that my family and friends felt better after having their queries answered. We felt better knowing that we were able to be transparent to them. People who love us have worried and will worry more for us. It’s human nature to care for one’s flock. Ian and I knew from the start that we are going to be okay. Now, they know that too. Going home, they had heavier stomachs and lighter hearts, more information and lesser worries, a better frame of mind and reduced anxiety. We couldn’t ask for more.

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A Walk to Remember

 

Gallery

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Her Perfectly-Styled Hair. It took longer to style my mother’s hair than for me to put together my entire look. She went to the salon. I did mine on my own. She wanted to look parfait, and so they were late! (It doesn’t rhyme…grrr!)

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Anything for Ms. Castillon? A name change is in order.

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Practice Makes Perfect. I’d like this pose for our wedding pictures too. Good rehearsal!

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The Couple flanked by the Board of Inquisitors

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BROck on!

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Bro Backing Us Up

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MAFIAmily. Er…My Family
Compliments to the staff of Prego Trattoria Italian Restaurant @ Novotel Hotel
http://www.facebook.com/pages/The-Prego-Trattoria-Italian-Restaurant/269051753122091

TEN FLEETING DAYS and My After-Musings Part 2: Mothers, Lovers, and A Daughter’s Prayer for Peace

16th February 2013, Saturday, 11:30am. Ian and I returned to our Baiyoke Tower suite 30 minutes before check-out time. We had just gotten engaged on the top of Thailand’s Tallest Tower and what we really wanted to do was to turn off our phones, no internet and stay cooped up in our room until who knows when, if you know what I mean. But hotels here in Bangkok are particularly strict about check-out time because of the tourist traffic. Besides, we had obligations to fulfill such as Ian’s courtesy call to my family upon arrival and some more errands to do such as changing hotel rooms, getting ready for our engagement dinner on the following day, etc. So we scrambled to gather all of our things, pack our luggage and head to the hotel lobby for check-out…

It took some time for us to get settled into our new hotel room. Also, we had to travel to the suburbs where our previously chosen accommodation is located. My family lives in the area so in the interest of accessibility and convenience, we chose both this hotel and the restaurant for our engagement dinner to be in that vicinity.

We had plans to meet my mom and my brother in the afternoon to help Ian and I find clothes and accessories for our engagement dinner and pre-wedding photo-shoot. I had done my personal shopping with my stylist-cousins beforehand so technically this shopping trip was for Ian. I really appreciate my mom for agreeing to do this with us. I would say I am fashion-savvy; When it comes to men’s clothes, I may be able tell if it looks nice but I’m not an expert. My mom has three men/boys in the family and over the years she has gotten really good at shopping for males. So I intended to rely on her expertise. Besides, I thought it would be a good bonding opportunity for her and Ian (including my brother of course) because they had the chance to talk/get to know each other on only a few occasions before.

Admittedly, in the beginning of my relationship with Ian, it might have seemed difficult for my mother to process what was happening. To her, Ian could be just another “farang” (Thai term for foreigners particularly Westerners) with “yellow fever”. My mom was brought up a conservative and is very prudent in romantic relationships. She advocates a long courtship more than anything else and prefers two families of the couple to also know each other well before venturing into a “merger”.  As you know, it’s not very easy in our situation because our families are separated by miles, mountains and seas. As my mother, it’s understandable for her to have some qualms and hesitations about my impending marriage to a Cano (Filipino slang term for American man as in AmeriCANO) I have known for 7 months.

It doesn’t help that she hears horror stories from friends and colleagues about Filipina/Asian women who were into terrible circumstances while being involved with a white guy. I couldn’t blame her. Unlike me, she didn’t have the chance to interact with Ian on a regular basis. But I know that when she gets the opportunity, Ian’s charm, innate kindness, intelligence and obvious sincerity has the power to possibly win her over – as he did with me – and make her an instant convert.

My mother has been the primary constant in my life, good times or bad. I always treasure my fondest memories of my mother and I, such as her combing my hair and doing my hairstyle (I think she does the best braids and pontytails), putting night creams on my face and lotion on my skin while I’m sleeping because I’m too lazy to do it myself and I hate the sticky feeling. I seek her advice about even the simplest of things such as clothing and food options. To this day, she still calls me when she sees a lovely dress in the mall and thinks it would look nice on me. She would ask me if I’d like for her to get it for me.  My mom is my valiant protector; when I am hurt, she hurts more. When I had my heart broken in the past, it seemed to pain her more so than it did me.

I know that she wants the best for me.

So, in the cab on the way to the shopping center, I was crossing my fingers for good luck. Ian asked if I’m okay and I knew he could tell I’m a bit anxious.   I relied heavily on this shopping date for Ian and my mom to establish better ties.  Needless to say, my mom’s acceptance of my future husband matters to me. More so, I thought it would be great if the two people I love the most actually get along. At that point, I prayed to Mother Mary to intercede for me. Maybe she can warm my own mother’s  heart.

So we arrived at the mall and my mom was just finishing her grocery shopping. As I approached her, she asked me if Ian would like some pasta. My brother has perfected his version of spaghetti since we demand for his cooking every weekend. Apparently, she has been bugging Karl to cook so we’ll have something on the table when entertaining Ian.  I smiled secretly. Not a bad start.

To keep the friendly mood, I asked if anybody would like to eat. Everyone agreed that they were hungry so we headed over to one of the Thai restaurants for merienda (afternoon snack time) which was actually a late lunch for Ian and I. Over Pad Thai (stir-fried Pho noodles), spring rolls, chicken wings, Khao Pad Moo (pork fried rice), etc., my mother asked about Ian’s flight, his parents and sister which launched them to the eventual conversation about Ian’s family tree. Ian’s missionary aunt who was in Asia (particularly in the Philippines and China) for several years was mentioned and this captured my mom’s attention. My mother, who was raised a Catholic by her devoted aunts and was sent to Catholic schools from kindergarten to college pleasantly welcomed stories about Ian’s relatives who went into priesthood and nunhood. Ian’s maternal grandmother is Scottish Catholic. Many of his grandmother’s siblings lived as nuns, priests, missionaries and monks…. I interjected in the middle of their exciting convent-sation that my mother always wanted one of her sons and daughters to “respond to the calling” which ultimately lead to the mention of my brother Karl, who was enjoying the last piece of chicken wing, being a seminarian back in college. He finished Philosophy and just like Ian, he loves the big talks relating to theology, existentialism, physics and the purpose of life. Besides that, my brother plays the guitar and is into metal. Additionally, he very well liked Ian’s present during his last visit: a New York Yankees baseball cap. That being said, I don’t have any worries about my brother and his future brother-in-law getting along.  And the way the conservation between my mom and husband-to-be was going, it seemed I would have one less worry too…very soon. I prayed for my mother’s saints to watch over my cause. I could only hope they weren’t sleeping.

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Two brothers and a mom

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My Men. Enjoying Häagen-Dazs chocolate truffle ice cream for dessert

Someone mentioned that it was getting late, so we picked up the bill and started heading down to the department stores. Did I mention we were in Thailand? So that meant endless choices at ridiculously cheap prices for good quality garments. Evidently, my mother and my brother had already started scouring the mall for shops on sale before we got here so as to save time once we finally arrived. So in a systematic fashion – carefully supervised by my shopping expert mother –  Ian started his “ordeal” of trying on shirts, blazers, suits, etc., beginning with the brand Pierre Cardin which thankfully was at 50-70% off! (Oh Ian, aren’t you glad you’re marrying me?!) Halfway through the marathon, sweat began trickling down Ian’s forehead and my mother promptly motioned to me to wipe my darling fiancé’s forehead. At the fourth long-sleeved shirt, I couldn’t hide my frustration for the lack of available sizes for Ian. In Thailand, when you say large, it means American small or something. No kidding!  I am convinced it’s another one of the government’s grand schemes of regulating this aesthetically-motivated and figure-conscious country’s citizen’s weight.  As soon as I started with my tsk-tsks, my mother started with her disapproving stares: “Don’t be like that. Be patient”. Those were her words of wisdom followed by orders of “Wait for him outside the dressing room”, “Don’t leave him” and more. My mother was barking like the How- to- be –a- Good -Wife -101 professor.  After 25 years of marriage, I guess my mother has earned for herself a master’s degree in Wifehood.

We finally agreed on a light blue striped long-sleeved shirt for Anderson Lake (The Wind-up Girl),  a gray suit with matching skinny tie for Paul Varjak (Breakfast at Tiffany’s) and a black suit and white long sleeved shirt for our engagement dinner. Phew! Done at last! Male shopping is definitely not my favorite sport. After a tiring three hours or so, we called it a day. My mom thought Ian looked really tired so she ordered us back to our hotel to get some rest in preparation for the dinner the following day. Riding the cab on the way back, I was in lost in my silent reverie. Generally, I was happy with the outcome of that day: My mom was gracious and I knew she was making her best effort to show that she is reaching out. Although with my mom, it is not very difficult for her to appear welcoming because she is naturally a thoughtful person-she genuinely cares about and is very mindful of people’s needs. I was really hoping that Ian felt welcomed because I knew in my heart that if I were in his situation, my mother would also like me to be welcomed by my in-laws to be. This memory brought me back to our non-traditional Skype “pamamanhikan” two months back:

Our families were scheduled to teleconference at 8 o’clock breakfast time in Bangkok. Meanwhile, in Katonah, New York, Bob and Ellena – Ian’s parents – had just finished their dinner at home. At one point in the conversation, my mother expressed her apprehensions about my move to America:  She was telling Ian’s parents that she is very worried because I don’t have aunts or uncles or any close relatives in the US and so she wouldn’t know where to refer me to in case something happens to me. In response, Ellena recounted her own experience back in 1974 when she was only 20 years old. (Ian has told me that she came to the States with nothing but the clothes on her back). Coming to America for the first time, Ian’s mom said the only person she knew in all 50 states was her husband, Bob.  But Regina, Bob’s mother (and the original owner of my engagement ring) welcomed her with open arms and let her into their family and hearts like a true daughter.

“Juvy, that I will do for Cecille, too”.

Observing this genuine and poignant exchange between two mothers sent a shiver down my spine. I swear I saw my mother become teary-eyed. Thousands and thousands of miles away, Ellena was able to project through an LCD screen connected to various wires and microchips powered by technology, a sentiment as old as time—human empathy, loosely defined as “caring for other people and having a desire to help them, to experiencing emotions that match another person’s emotions, to knowing what the other person is thinking or feeling, to blurring the line between self and other”.

To me, it translates as “Juvy, I feel you. I am a mother too”.

Thousands and thousands of miles away, Ellena struck me in the heart and in that instant I believed that everything is going to be okay. I will be okay in a foreign land away from home because I will have a second family. Across all of these thousands of miles, I felt a sentiment so much older than me but  so rarely experienced by many these day:  Faith in humanity.

I know I was supposed to tell our story, mine and Ian’s. Yet it is said that a good story is one that tells another story within. This story is not solely mine but also that of my mother, Ian’s mother, and of all the mothers, parents and families who are taking a gamble at letting a “stranger” claim their children as being theirs too (“stranger”: referring to fiancés or fiancées). Isn’t this difficult for parents to do? They are supposed to welcome into their homes and into their hearts the person who is about to take their child away from them and claim to have responsibility over them from then on. As parents who cared for their children from the time they were fragile babies, to naughty children, to troubled teens, and finally to present day adults, it is almost impossible to believe that yet another person could possibly care for their respective little prince or princess better than they have.  Again, faith in humanity –  so mainstream, but also so scarce. It is a tragedy of life that these days it is a stretch for a person to bring himself to put his trust into the hands of another man. That is why it is unavoidable for parents to quiz the future new family member about his background, circumstance, upbringing, viewpoint and opinion on things that they think matter. They want to know whether their future son or daughter- in- law can protect their interest.

I am proud of my Ian. I think I couldn’t have chosen a better man. Had I been an FBI agent’s daughter, my father would be disappointed to see Ian’s dossier to be so clean that he doesn’t have a bone to pick with him.  He would even be more disappointed to find that my Ian is a man about it: he looks forward to the interrogation with cool, respectful, confidence. He is not arrogant but he is also not intimidated.

The logical next step is then for my FBI agent father to take is to assume I am crazy, and that I do not know what I am doing getting married so soon. Surely, he knows me better than I know myself. Surprise, surprise!

It is very common to hear from parents the words: “No one else knows you better than us”. Maybe they do. But also, maybe they don’t anymore. With all due respect:

This is the sad truth for our dear Parents. Yes, once your children were little kids running around freely without any sense of direction other than what you had set for them. However, children grow to become adults just like you with jobs, responsibilities, and plans. Children, too, eventually mature to build a life and family of their own.

I do not mean for this to come across as being negative. Rather, I would like to bridge the gap there is between future in-laws from both sides (although this may not be applicable to everybody). Maybe, the marriage of your son and daughter must not be seen as another person taking your child away from you, but instead as one more person loving and caring for your child as much as you do. Maybe having a son or daughter in-law is not a burden, but instead a happy addition to your growing family, regardless of said son or daughter in-law’s color, race or creed. Maybe negative perceptions must be changed.   Perhaps the strict concept of exclusivity must be loosened a little bit.

The family is the basic unit of society. And wouldn’t it be a wonderful thing if in our society there is harmony amidst diversity?  Wouldn’t it be wonderful if we all just get along, despite our differences? This should apply especially when different parties have a common stake: to secure the lifetime happiness of the one they claim to love. Case in point: Me.

That is my opinion.  My parents, just like any other parents, also wanted to air a piece of their minds. Ian and I promised they will have a chance at the engagement dinner. That was only 12 hours later after we said our goodbyes in front of Central Chaengwattana mall.

As we bade each other farewell, my mother gave my darling Ian a “beso-beso”. I prayed to God it wasn’t a Judas kiss. Maybe this time God listened.

To be continued…

TEN FLEETING DAYS and My After-musings Part 1: An Engagement Recap and More

48 hours after I said my teary farewells to my dearest Ian at Suvarnabhumi Airport, I finally re-visited my blog. I stopped writing anything/updating it since the day Ian arrived. I had so much going on, and besides, I wanted every minute of my spare time to be spent with my new fiancé since we don’t get to do this a lot.

The first thing I did was to view my statistics: 3 views, 3 visitors after 10 days of not posting anything. My blog page felt as lonely as I was. On the day Ian arrived I still had 45 views and about 50 visitors. Now I only had 3, probably my three most loyal followers: Ian, his mom and my mom.

Anyway, since Ian is back in New York, I’m trying with difficulty to settle back into my old routine. I so miss being with him. Saying that life is different without him around is an understatement. Life isn’t exactly life without my baby. Those ten days flew by so quickly and the only way I could get a grip on them is to write down my memories.

Work, nap, talk to Ian, sleep, wake-up, talk to Ian then work again and the cycle continues. With the exception of weekend visits to my family in the suburbs, English tutorials on the side, dinner dates with my dear friend Pui and work-out sessions if I feel like it, there’s nothing much going on with me. Besides, work takes so much of my energy that I feel exhausted when I get home. My me-time is spent mostly on reading fiction, watching re-runs of my favorite series until I fall asleep (they’re basically my sleeping pills- a habit I learned from a previous relationship hahaha) and researching  topics for my blog if I’m not writing entries.

Going back to my blog, I started writing a few entries but they are not yet ready to be published. Mostly, they are about my sadness because of Ian’s return to the States and my longing for him to be back again. There are a lot of emotions in me that I need to process before I could say that I am satisfied with what I have written. Maybe I am being uber-melodramatic, but who cares? I want to feel what I feel. I never want to get used to him being away from me. I cherish the pain of his absence, the sensation of burning in my eyes as I cry my heart out for him, the heaviness in my chest as if my heart was torn from it…All these only make me determined to do everything for us to be finally together. Yes, I am hurting. And I feel alive. What gift to taste both the bliss and melancholies of life. What blessing and curse it is to be in love!

On to a lighter note, Ian and I were very busy while he was here. As most of you, my dear readers, already know, Ian and I got officially engaged this month (February). His formal proposal was followed by a flurry of activities. We had to do everything in 10 days because we don’t have the luxury to be together physically every day. So as a special offering to you all, Ian and I are sharing our engagement highlights (some of them are on Facebook, but here, we will give you an exclusive on the behind the scenes happenings):

Ian proposed to me on the 16th of February, Saturday. We were checked in a Superior Suite (we got upgraded) on the 74th floor (Sky Zone) of Baiyoke Sky Hotel, Thailand’s Tallest Tower.

Baiyoke

We had a late breakfast in one of the tower’s restaurants which offered a varied selection of gastronomic fares such as European, American, Indian, Chinese, Japanese, and Thai food of course.

Ian’s choice was, predictably, what Thais would call “blandly American” without so much attention to an assortment of flavors. Waffles, a croissant, strips of bacon, two ham slices and coffee. At least he had some omelette (which he didn’t finish by the way).

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As for me, I had Thai Kway Teow Soup (Thai Noodle soup) which prompted one of Ian’s usual: “For breakfast?” It was followed by my nonchalant ready reply “Oh we Asians eat anything, anytime”.  I shared some of his waffles, bacon and omelette and he got me a glass of mixed fruit and vegetable fresh-squeezed juice. Such a darling, my Ian. He really knows what I like. At that point, I thought his sweet gesture was the best part of my morning.

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Breakfast overlooking Bangkok
 

In gratitude, I offered him this:

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Three pieces of mangosteens for three words=I LOVE YOU!

(Mangosteen is an exotic and very expensive fruit, and depending on the season, its cost could range from B400-600/kilo. True story! )

He had never tried mangosteen before and he indulged me in tasting it. He appreciated it and I was happy. Little did I know, there was so much more in store after that hearty breakfast.

As guests in the Sky Suites, we earned access to the famous observatory deck which offers a 360-degree view of the city skyline. We decided to take a stroll after our good meal and feast our eyes this time on the city’s visual delights.

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The view didn’t disappoint. It was indeed breathtaking, as observed by those who have been here before us.

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A view of the Victory Monument – that’s when you know you’re in Central Bangkok
 

It was a bit scary too! If not for the secure railings, I would never even dare get close to the edge.

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Ian and I taking turns with the camera…
 
 
Until a polite, young US Marine stationed here in Thailand took a photo of us together.
 

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In another section of the tower, there’s a viewing telescope,

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lots of Baiyoke Tower miniatures,

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Thai tuk-tuks,

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     A Thai cop statue,

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A Snow White standee,

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And there in one corner, Rapunzel’s tower.

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I am not a big fan of fairytales, but to tell you the truth, Rapunzel’s story helped in the realization of our own story.

Ian once used the Rapunzel story as a metaphor explaining how I could help him before we actually met.  Although we had spoken very often and had gotten to know each other well before we met for the first time, we did not take this plan lightly; while we couldn’t predict the outcome of our meeting, his gesture of coming alone to a foreign country he had never been to, to spend time with someone he hadn’t ever met, was akin to a leap of faith.  And while he was absolutely willing to do what it would take to find out what “this” was all about, he recognized that this was a two-way street; while he was willing to make the effort to see me, he wanted some support and security along the way.

Enter the Rapunzel allegory: he would tell me, “I’m willing to be brave, and to climb that tower to get to you…but please, let down your hair. Help me out here…give me something to grab onto, keep your hair strong so that I can count on your help to get me up to you.” He wanted to know that despite my misgivings, my skepticism about love, my fear of commitment after recently rising out of the ashes of my longest relationship, that I would be “ready” to receive him, strong enough emotionally to give this guy a fair chance if he would make all of that effort to meet and spend time with me.

Keeping my “hair strong” through this wasn’t always easy…but Ian knew and acknowledged this, and would tell me that “the best things in life rarely ever come easily”.  It’s true; he may have been the one taking the journey, but I had to play my part as well if we were to have a good chance at success.

And that is what I like most about Rapunzel and her story. If I could identify with a fairy tale character, it’s her. Like me, she was an active participant in the realization of their dream-come true. We are so accustomed to the theme of the knight in shining armor rescuing the damsel in distress. There’s nothing really wrong with that. Yet Rapunzel is a refreshing showcase of some girl power, of a woman knowing what she wants in life and love and working towards achieving it. And It matches me and Ian’s story perfectly because obviously, I am not some Cinderella or Sleeping Beauty, enslaved or asleep! I am taking the leap with eyes wide open, awake and very aware of what’s happening around me. Ian and I made this decision out of our own free will, with no coercive forces around us and the only powers to contend with are the bureaucratic ones. LOL!

And so it was only appropriate that Ian once again professed his love and devotion and then proposed to me under “Rapunzel’s tower”… (Coincidentally, since it was Love Month, the hotel-wide theme is Fairy Tale Romance hence the presence of storybook set-ups, pumpkin carriages, magic mirrors and the Snow White standee I showed you earlier.)

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Inside that pink and purple creation, there were two small “stair” steps leading up to Rapunzel’s “window”. Ian invited me to sit on the top step while he assumed a semi-kneeling position on the second step.

He started by reading to me a poem that he wrote while on the plane and on the way to see me…

Under shine of eternal stars
We tread on ground of
Countless fleeting lives
Their echoes behind,
Their echoes ahead
And though our journeys may
be short,
a hiccup in time, the twinkle
of a distant sun, the
sigh of shifting sands and seas
To us: a lifetime,
and the universe only exhales
There’s only one truth
that makes my existence more
than a blink from God:
Your love.
Your love lets me flirt with eternity,
taste the epiphanies,
and breach the boundaries of time and
space.
It’s only with this essence,
Your gift to me,
that I can truly be free.
With it,
With your heart bound to me,
I can live beyond the skin
boundary of my own mortality.
I’ll always be grateful
if you go there with me
and treasure our union’s new reality
Don’t be afraid. I’m with you.
I’m for you
I’m yours
Come,
Take my hand, forever.

“Cecille, will you marry me?”

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“Cecille, will you marry me?”. Ian had to ask me twice because I was too dumbstruck to utter a reply when he first asked me. Ha! Blabbermouth me silent for once in my life.

The second time, he took my hand, put the ring on my finger and kissed it with so much tenderness and loving I felt my heart was about to burst.

I managed to croak a reply. “Yes, of course I will marry you.”  There I was, both a woman and a little girl reduced to those 7 words (which are actually a fitting reply to the Weinstein family’s offering of 7 diamonds).

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Me being  completely “blown-away”
 

But I tell you my dear readers, my voice may have failed me but my mind, heart and soul are unwavering in conviction.  In that moment, I was sure, more than ever, that the man kneeling in front of me, baring his own mind, heart and soul (?), is the person I want to spend the rest of my life with. Long hair or not.  Death metal-playing, poetry-writing, sometimes  awkward and dorky Ian Weinstein, the love of my life and my good medicine.

My fiancé.

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Just Engaged
 

 My fiancé. Wow! The word rolls off my tongue so perfectly that I can’t stop saying it. During the first few minutes of us being engaged, I felt like I was on a high or something. My head was in the clouds.  I was floating, dazed and I couldn’t take my eyes off my gorgeous sparkly ring. It must be true to some degree – I was “stoned”.  Still stunned and smiling silly to myself, Ian guided me on the way back to our suite.

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 Wearing that ring on my finger made me feel really special. In a way, I felt invincible, like I could do whatever I wanted to. You know how it is when you ride the elevator – it’s eerily quiet. You nod politely to your fellow passengers, but rarely do you try to engage in conversation. Yet today was different.

“We just got engaged!!!” Ooops! I guess I was thinking aloud. Wayyy too loud, as it disrupted the deafening silence inside that metal box. Good thing it was well received by this family who were our fellow passengers and congratulated us in their Scandinavian accent. For a couple of minutes there everyone was laughing.  And that’s how I got away with it. Invincible!

Ian thanked them and gave them brief details of his proposal just a few moments ago as I showed off my ring to the two cute little girls who in turn eyed it intently. “Isn’t it pretty?” And they nodded in agreement.

The girls carried some kind of fairy tale props, possibly giveaways from the hotel in relation to their theme. In my mind, I was wondering what these girls were thinking. Not so long ago, I was once like them. I was a girl who believed in happy endings. Until life happened and scratched and scarred me, making me a skeptic in the process.

Then along came Ian.

I would say his greatest gift to me is not even the ring, but the gift of believing. With him, I can trust and love freely because I know he will always be there for me. That I can believe in fairy tales because Ian will put out. He will not fail me.

I am not naïve. I’m aware of the harsh realities of life. I even know that the original versions of the fairy tales I grew up with were actually gory and terrifying. But none of that matters once you have found your respective rightful knight or maiden. As in Ian’s poem, I need not be afraid. I will never be alone. For he will be my partner and we will face life together. Ever after.