love umbrella

Project Alice: An Engagement Story

Maybe you'll get what you wanted
Maybe you'll stumble upon it
Everything you ever wanted
In a permanent state

Some days I feel like I'm living in my own personal fairy tale, and I've started into the final chapter, the happily ever after. The last few days after my engagement have felt more like that than ever. I am thrilled to be wearing a shining symbol of everlasting love on my body, because my spirit shines with it. I am glowing with love, every moment, all the time. I am marrying the most creative, organized, thoughtful, unique and handsome man. Before the event he told me that his mother and sisters had declared his plan "Plausible." He told me after all of this happened that he had wanted it to be epic. He told me he wanted a story we could tell. This is our story. A true story.

For those of you who may be strangers, I will tell you a very brief story of Paul and I. I noticed Paul long before I met him when he was an actor in a group of people dedicated to dramatic re-enactments involving swordfighting and weaponry of ancient times. The first time I saw Paul he had long hair and was playing a barbarian who wielded a mace. Good first impresson. Later we met via mutual friends, likely at a card games night involving Dutch Blitz. At my friend Jay's going away party, we ended up in our own conversation about theology and music that lasted for hours - neither of us wanted to leave. I asked for his phone number and called him the following day, inviting him to a choral concert that I thought he'd enjoy. The concert itself turned out to be a little awkward, but we kept up, he called me just to talk about a week and a half later. On January 24th, we ended up at McNally Robinson, a really awesome bookstore in our city. We walked through the entire store, talking about all the different areas. We went up to the comic section, and he did a dramatic reading of A Nauseous Nocturne from Calvin and Hobbes. I remember the ecstasy of listening to him reading and thinking without jest, "I'm going to marry this man." He remembers being shocked at how much pleasure I got from him reading, so instead of stopping at that first page, he kept going and read the whole thing. After this day we became much better friends. We even had (and still have) a spreadsheet to record all the things we wanted to experience together, or wanted the other person to look into. Things progressed from there, and a beautiful and deep friendship was born - a friendship that for a long time appeared to be stuck there, even though both of us were hoping it would move to that next level. Despite that, we were journeying together and healing each other - both of our self-esteem problems began to evaporate, and we were healed more every time we saw each other. There was just one problem, a missing piece of the puzzle: Paul had never felt physical attraction for me. And I was recovering from an eating disorder. That should have been a disaster - but he was falling in love with me anyway, and I could see it. Then one day this July there was a spark. After a long and deep conversation I hugged him, and saw him looking at my lips. I thought, "That's new." Mere hours later after having been up all night, holding hands under the blanket, he asked me out officially. Dating felt perfect, perfectly right. And because we're both out of school and all either of us has ever really wanted was to marry our best friend, we both figured there was no reason to wait. Our lives already felt symbiotic. I knew we'd be married next year, but I was waiting for a ring.

It all started with spreadsheets and secrets - we shared those between us in our relationship. Fitting then, that those two elements should be such a large part of our plans to become one. After having had secret plans for months - the only secrets between us, and terribly hard to keep though he never really slipped - I finally saw where all the plans were after all this went down. He'd put it the files in his laptop on a folder named New Folder - sneaky! There was a spreadsheet called Alice and a spreadsheet called Bob to reference a Physics joke he'd told me about. There were lots of other innocuous looking files. All of them were password protected with my name. The Alice spreadsheet was extremely elaborate, containing tabs like, "Twyla's Favourite Things" and other incredibly elaborate planning spreadsheets. (Indeed there is a column that begins thus: Items Required: Tiburon. Apparently he was listing the hardest stuff first.) Paul actually refers to Alice in the gendered first person when he talks about that spreadsheet, leading me to suggest in great jest that he might have been cheating on me with a spreadsheet all this time. All three parts of his plan were outlined - technically there were two lead-up days - or, if you prefer - fakeouts.
The first day of secret plans, he took me out to his friend's Dad's Llama farm and I got to make my first time shooting a gun really count by shooting a shotgun with awesome kickback and ringing in my ears. After that we cooked supper in his Mom's backyard over a fire. He gave me a wrapped box that night - a pair of labradorite earrings from the jewellery store I work for. A two-part day.

   

The next week that Secret Plans were put into action there were three main parts to the day. First, a trip to my dear friend Mark's house to make goat's milk ice cream with liquid nitrogen. (And liquid oxygen, but that's a detail from the longer story!) Paul had brought a smorgasboard of toppings. (Mark referred to his haul as the Grocery Store.) Why is this so special? Because of a milk allergy I developed, I can't have ice cream (or butter, or milk, or anything containing the above - that's right, no cheese but feta) anymore. The only hope for relief from this ice creamless state was an antidote made from the fruits of the goat.

 

The ice cream was amazing and I was thrilled. The idea of the liquid nitrogen party was also wonderful for me, because once I had thrown someone else a liquid nitrogen party and it had been a sad event for me, a letting go, and seemed quite thankless. That someone would do the same project for me was perfect gesture of love, even though Paul didn't know my liquid nitrogen history. (Mark did. He'd helped me with it that time.) After the ice cream party, Paul took me to a fancy restaurant I had always wanted to go to where the food was delectable called Weczeria, then took me for a walk down by the river - we went down to the red plaza by the Mendel Art Gallery and suddenly music began to play - in a perfect moment he led me in a tango by the river. You might be able to imagine how much that would mean to someone whose chief hobby is ballroom dancing... He then gave me another wrapped box - the matching pendant for my earrings. Technically this is a three-part day.

You are elements combined
Earth, Air, Fire, Wine
Someday you'll be mine


The main show, however, was the third day of secret plans, on our dating anniversary, and that's the story I'm telling here. Everyone is, of course, welcome to share this story. I am posting it publicly for that purpose! Go ahead and spread the love if you like. If you're here by invitation, welcome to my story.

At 11:30am on the 24th of October, Paul arrives at my condo and I catch a glimpse out my window of a blue car parked in visitor parking with flowers on top. I'm not paying any attention to the car, however, because the hottest man in the world is wearing a suit with his shiny blue shirt that he tried on (and I made him buy) in Regina when we went for a road trip there. This is awesome. VERY awesome. (The first time I saw him in that shirt I nearly stopped breathing.)

He buzzes to come up because his arms are full of flowers. When he gets upstairs and I greet him at the door there are two bouquets - one with white and red roses, gerbera daisies, white mini flowers, and bird of paradise flowers. The other has three gerbera daisies, exotic leaves, and a flower like nothing I've ever seen before called a ginger.

 

There is a white rose and a card on the smaller package - the card reads, "Twyla, my darling, You have also filled my life with colour." Paul explained to me that he had to buy me extra flowers because I always split the bouquets he buys me so there can be flowers in my bedroom as well as on the kitchen table. So in a move that bears striking resemblance to his birthday surprise in August when I put flowers in every room of his house and put the note on his pillow that said he'd filled my life with color and I couldn't help but do the same, he filled my house with flowers too. We snap a few photos and then leave the house and walk to visitor parking.

As we near the vehicle, I stop walking and say, "Wait a minute." In the parking spot is not Paul's electric blue 2004 Hyundai Elantra, but the much sexier 2007 Hyundai Tiburon in the same color. I have an immediate moment of utter ecstasy. I love cars. I love driving. I plonk into the driver's seat, much lower than the average car, and note that it's a standard. Apparently Paul's insistence on a standard driving lesson with his friend Andrew the previous week was all about this - the only Tiburon he could find was a friend of a friend's, it was a standard that just happened to be the same color as his to complete the illusion, and the person who owned it was thrilled to participate. So in what I think was my grand total of 6th time driving standard, I got to drive my favourite modern sports car. (Well, I mean, it's not a Corvette Stingray, or a classic Mustang, but it's an achievable goal.)

Paul popped a CD labeled "Tiburon 1" into the CD player and it began with a couple of worship songs we both like, and then continued to some of our mutual favourite love songs - two CDs full. Lyric snippets from that collection will appear throughout this account. At the end of the day he told me that it was the story of our relationship - it began and ended with God and worship music, and the rest was the story of us and our feelings. And it was wonderful.

If I kiss you where it's sore
Will you feel better, better, better
Will you feel anything at all


Paul informed me that there was a lot of downtime built into the day, which he had told me before. But the downtime was built in for the express purpose of taking this beautiful car out on the road. I had decided that at some point during the day, I wanted to insert my own secret plans. I'm pretty creative too, and Paul had been doing all the crazy secret planning for weeks. This desire worked out beautifully. I took Paul down to the West Side riverside, poked around the ViaRail office for a minute and carefully spun the car on the gravel a little in an empty parking lot. Then I took him down to the train bridge, to the little spot where couples always park... We proceeded to... um... fog up the car a bit, and then the train went over. It was bliss. Fantasy fulfillment for me - I'd come down there on my own quite a few times, sometimes with a girlfriend, but just for the view. I finally got to do something I had always wanted to do - kiss while a train went over.

From there Paul and I went to Bliss, a restaurant on Broadway, for lunch. The food was blissfully good, and we had a wonderful time eating there. I can't actually remember what we ate specifically, though I do remember enjoying the food and the conversation. We played with the camera a bit. I have a fantastic picture of my man! Isn't he stunning in that shirt? Rawr. And I look pretty snazzy too.

 

Paul informed me after lunch that we had three hours to drive and that we were going to take a certain route out of town. As we cleared the city he said he had sent a scout driving ahead of us to ensure that there weren't any police or speed traps and that if I found a good stretch of open prairie highway and provided nobody was there, I could just let loose. Let's just say that at some point during that trip, I may or may not have found the limiter. Unfortunately there was active construction for a good stretch of road. This might have been a letdown, but they were actively working on it so there were gigantic machines everywhere at different stages of the paving process, and it was entertaining to watch.

If I lay here, if I just lay here
Would you lie with me and
just forget the world?


At about the halfway mark to our driving time I stopped in a little cove of abandoned buildings and we took some photos. I've always loved the rustic prairie photo look, and so I was really excited. We may have been adding trespassing to our list of illegalities for the day - a guy came snooping around to make sure we weren't up to any shenanigans. I believe that was the word he used, too. We assured him we just wanted to take a couple of snapshots and we were about to leave anyway. I took a bunch of shots of us and of nifty junk, and Paul took a really sexy shot of the car with my camera. He learns fast, I've been teaching him to use it since we went out to Emma Lake in September.

   

We headed back through the construction and into the city, and Paul informed me that we were scheduled for going to the 5pm Mass at Holy Spirit Parish. When we arrived his Mom and both his sisters showed up, and I assumed his Mom had just known we were planning to be there. She invited us over to her place and Paul said to me that we had enough time to go. After Mass, we drove to his Mom's house and parked in front of her renter's driveway.

I entered the house and dispensed with coat and shoes, then went into the kitchen. I squealed, "CHRISTMAS TREE!" and made a beeline for the dining room, which was decked out for Christmas with candles and tablecloth and full of Paul's immediate family. There was one gift under the tree. It was a big copy-paper size box wrapped in shiny green paper with red ribbons. I took a couple of pictures of the tree and gift. I just stared at the tree for a long time. I wanted to hug it.



During this entire time it did not once dawn on me that it was strange that his Mom had decorated for Christmas for October 24th. Honestly, I'd been listening to Christmas tunes since the beginning of October, so that went right over my head and I bought it hook, line, and sinker. What also did not dawn on me was that the gift under the tree was for me. I may have been a bit tired by this point...

Paul flipped over the name tag and announced it and I suddenly realized that this was all part of the plan - the gift anyway. I took the box, shook it dutifully - one must shake all ridiculously awesome looking Christmas gifts - and pulled off the top. On the very top were flowers, all my favourites - lilies and such. Underneath there were fake flower petals and paper filler... And the box was full of rolled up pieces of handmade paper with flower petals embedded inside. I took out the first one, and in Paul's calligraphy script were the words, "I love you." At one point in our relationship I'd filled his house with such notes, but as I read each of these notes individually, there were others. I found three that said, "I love you." The next one said, "I will protect you" and then there were more and more. I adore you. You are so beautiful. I want you. I want to marry you. I want to raise a family with you. You will be a wonderful mother. This is your life now. You are safe with me.

I'm falling even more in love with you
Letting go of all I've held onto
And I'm not sure what I'm diving into
Just hanging by a moment here with you


As you may imagine, I began to weep. It was right around the first copy of "You are safe with me" that I did. It was a moment I will never forget, surrounded by his family. I poked around and found them all, then found a wrapped ring box. Paul knelt beside me and waited. I opened the box to find the Cherry Amber pendant I'd been drooling over at work literally since I started working there in May. I was so thrilled about it that I didn't do as my friend Ricki had suggested and punch him for yet another fakeout, though I did give him a dirty look. I still figured it was coming, and I was right. (Four events later!) He said, "Happy Birthday" to me, because the pendant was my Birthday gift.



At this point the renter came in to ask us to move out from in front of their driveway and I may or may not have scratched the shiny new car on the liscence plate screw mount of a neighbor's car because I didn't have a good handle on how long it was. Oops. Hey, at least I was backing up REALLY slowly. Thankfully the owner of the Tiburon didn't mind at all and there was no damage to the other car. Paul did a good job of calming me down, because I was a little panicked. Okay, I was devastated that I'd scratched the pretty car and could only find solace in the fact that it could have been much worse. My love made heroic attempts to console me and made good headway, but it was the next event that helped me to forget.

After this Paul directed me to Holy Resurrection Orthodox Church, the venue that my good friend Michael had helped him procure for the event. As I walked up I noted the parking spaces nearby were filled with familiar cars. Jessie met us at the door and ushered us downstairs, where a table for two was set up in front of a lit-up stage. The table was all in red and white and black, the napkins had been stamped with our initials and an ornate key. There were beeswax candles, which Paul knew I liked the smell of, wine served in his crystal glasses from Prague, and the food came in waves. First there was an appetizer made by our friend Micah, a spicy chicken dish that came with coconut rice they'd bought from Earls especially for me because it's my favourite. (I guessed that it was Micah's handiwork as soon as they gave it to me. Paul asked if I was sweating yet after a few bites and my response was, "I have three guesses who made this. Micah, Micah, and Micah.) Then my Grandma's home baked buns and goat butter to go with them. Then because Paul knew someone with chef's training who had been thrilled to help out, there were other dishes, both beautiful and tasty. A salad, a raspberry milkshake from Paul's Mom, a main course of Feta pizza with hamburger meat, dessert of plum mousse - a German pudding made with pears and berries that Moira had made. I ate bits of everything, but I was heartily distracted by the entertainment as well as the man across the table - Paul had organized an elaborate multi-faceted dinner theatre complete with my friends and his in all their talented glory.

Your skin, oh yeah
Your skin and bones
Turning into something beautiful
You know for you I'd bleed myself dry
For you I'd bleed myself dry

But that's not all! There were two main purposes to this event. Entertainment was the most obvious, but it soon became clear that this was much more - Paul's way of showing me just how loved and valued I am by everyone around me. Since we have so many friends, Paul had them each contribute something to the evening from their talents. Jessie hosted and made the decorations. Other friends did other things. Here's the program, as I remember it, certainly not in perfect order, but I'm not as concerned with being even loosely correct as attempting to remember all the awesome things that happened.

Chantal came out with dry ice and said, as scripted, "They told me to come out and be awesome!" Then she spread the dry ice on the floor. Paul and I put some in our water and watched the magic. Then the water was all gross and carbonated...

Mark came out with a hefty pile of books and sat down. The first book was thick and read "Walt Whitman" on the spine. Mark began by saying he'd known me a long time, and so when he was asked to share, he'd thought about all the things he could. He opened the Walt Whitman volume, said, "Nahhhh!" and threw it on the floor. He then stood up and said what he was going to read for us required him to be more dignified, more respectable. He began in perfect deadpan and intensity:

They've put a brassiere on a camel,
She wasn't dressed proper, you know.
They've put a brassiere on a camel,
So that her humps wouldn't show.
And they're making other respectable plans,
They're even even insisting the pigs should wear pants,
They'll dress up the ducks if we give them the chance
Since they've put a brassiere on a camel.
They've put a brassiere on a camel,
They claim she's more decent that way.
They've put a brassiere on a camel,
The camel had nothing to say.
They squeezed her into it, i'll never know how,
They say that she looks more respectable now,
Lord knows what they've got in mind for the cow,
Since they've put a brassiere on a camel.

This is, of course, an excellent piece by Shel Silverstein and I absolutely love it. I believe he read another poem, but I can't remember it well enough to track it down online.

Jay came out with a guitar and played and sang Power of Your Love, Hanging By A Moment, and Son of God (by Starfield). He was also the first to share why he valued me as a friend. He told me that he considered me an intelligent Christian, that he was happy for Paul and I. I was touched by what he had to say, and it was only the beginning.

I believe the first appearance of the rutabaga was also our friend Jay, running across the stage with it and saying rutabaga repeatedly. Yes, that's right. A rutabaga. I'll explain.

When Paul and I took a road trip to Emma Lake, one of our conversations on the way home degenerated into what words we thought were the funniest-sounding, and after some discussion, I proposed the word rutabaga, saying that the rutabaga was an odd looking vegetable as well, and the word itself was definitely one of the best. In an attempt to combine three of the funniest things in the world (men, rutabagas, and YouTube videos) we decided that we should start a website for the promotion of absurdist humor called ManHoldingaRutabaga.com and populate it with YouTube videos of men holding rutabagas and attempting to explain why they were holding the rutabaga. We agreed that it would start out with our friends - Brennan would play the melodramatic, there would have to be at least one woman with a feminist rant, someone would have to espouse the nutritional content of the rutabaga... I toyed with the idea of actually doing this and said if it took off, we might even manage to get John Cleese or better yet, Hugh Jackman to hold a rutabaga for us. The conversation ended there, but later a rutabaga appeared in Paul's fridge and there was further discussion.

Well. Making the impossible possible seems to be a hobby of ours. Even our relationship itself was making the impossible possible. And now, with the exception of the YouTube videos, the plan was realized.

So after the first appearance of the rutabaga, I laughed, thinking it was a little reference to the in-joke we had. It got better. Chantal came out and complained that women could hold rutabagas as well or better than men could and demonstrated her rutabaga holding prowess. A little later she also played a song she'd written for me that talked about how much she appreciated our friendship. There may have been something in there about my ability to understand her when she talks really fast... =)



Brennan came out, turned on Enya - Only Time, and in fabulously melodramatic form, began to say that he was holding this rutabaga that he'd named Harold and taking very good care of it in hopes that someone would finally love him. The skit ended when he fell to the ground in tears. (Brilliant!) My dear friend Ken came out in Groucho Marx glasses, with Groucho Marx glasses on his rutabaga, and expounded on the excellent dietary fiber and the rutabaga's resemblance to Groucho Marx. (He then proceeded to invite his wife Helen out and say how much they valued me. He then poked me and asked if I was for real - something I'm sure he'd been setting up for weeks by doing that to Paul in my presence.) Galen, a very interesting personality, came on stage with a beer, a knife, a pizza box, and a rutabaga. He took a swig of beer, threw the rutabaga on the floor, and began to hack it to bits. He then stuck his knife in the pizza box, took another swig of beer, and walked off the stage.

   

Mark came on playing a crazy old janitor with a mop and shoved the bits rutabaga off the stage towards us, grunting in displeasure at the mess.

You are my sweetest downfall
I loved you first, I loved you first
Beneath the stars came fallin' on our heads
But they're just old light, they're just old light
Your hair was long when we first met


Since my first time ever seeing Paul long before we were friends was while he performed as a long-haired barbarian with a group of actors whose joy was in choreographing swordplay and ancient times, Vikings, Romans, and the like, this fact had to be observed.

There was a great moment when Brennan came in dressed for battle. He called Paul a "peasant swine" (which garnered a violent objection, but no more manly reaction) and said I could easily do better, proposing himself by reading an Ode he'd written for me that espoused all my graces with terrible, terrible rhymes. He even changed the word photography to rhyme with something and rhymed something else with my last name to end the ode. With that he said he'd done his part and was about to come and claim me, when Philip burst in with a rutabaga on his sword, proclaiming that I was taken and insulting Brennan's poetry as effeminate.  He ended his speech by challenging him, threatening to put Brennan's head on a pike, just like the rutabaga. Brennan asked me if I thought it was fair that whoever won the fight would win me. I said it seemed fair, that's certainly the way we do things around here. They fought a choreographed sequence that was wondrous, but then Brennan killed Philip. This provided an excellent opportunity for Paul to, rather unsurprisingly, pull a sword out from where it was hidden under our table and after a brief skirmish, kill his opponent with a flourish. He then came to me and knelt to offer his sword, "My lady."

It was definitely one of my favourite moments of the night.

Zach and Jessie performed Who's On First to my great pleasure. I've always loved that skit, all wordplay and great acting.

Ricki came out and read a LiveJournal post I'd made a long time ago after having been to a wedding, a reconstitution of the Psalms and said how much our friendship meant to her.

There were a lot of really touching moments as letters written by my friends in far lands or who couldn't be at the party were read, and two videos were shown. Ashleigh, Kori, Janta, and Mike all made me feel very loved with their kind words. Janta's video began with saying that Paul's instructions were to prepare something like the sort of thing people wouldn't say unless someone had died. She had thought that inadvisable and said, "So as soon as I stopped thinking of you as a carcass, I came up with this video." I both laughed and cried. So many people, so precious to me, all showing and telling how much I mean to them. It was a perfect backdrop for what was to happen at the end of the evening.

Felipe played Spanish Classical guitar with great skill and the mesmerizing tone of an artist. The last song he sang for us was in Spanish. In response to my request, he sent me the lyrics. Paul and I held hands and stared into each other's eyes when he translated it for us that night - many of the lyrics are perfect for us.



I lived in sadness, as if covered by shadows.
Not even able to conceive, that life could really exist.
But now, the moment has come to me, and at the age that I have, love has come to life within me.
She has in her gaze, the very rays of the sun,
and on her lips, a beautiful sincerity.
 She has in her gaze and on her mouth the breath of life.
She has that which no one else has, and it is what makes her beautiful.
She is young, 17 years cross the path of her life which now (because of me) is in frenzy.
For I kiss her lips—full of candor and loveliness. May she be blessed by God.


Around this point I had to take off and go to the washroom. When I came back, there was music playing and all of my friends had a chair against the wall. I sat down again, but Jessie said it wasn't time to sit, it was time to dance! So Paul led me in a Cha Cha that got lots of catcalls and whistles and a few cries of, "Paul has MOVES!" Afterwards I said I hadn't known that we were going to be the entertainment, to which comment a number of clinking glasses gave me an opportunity to kiss him, which I was very pleased about. The other side of the table was a long ways away!

I may have missed some aspect of the evening, if anyone who was there remembers something else, kindly remind me and I'll put it in!

My dear friend Jessie capped off the evening with a song that actually made me cry as Paul and I held hands and stared into each other's eyes. The song is called "A Nuptual Blessing" and goes like this:

May God bless you, hold and keep you. May God's mercy shine on you.
Guide your work and guard your resting. Make your love forever new.
May God join your hopeful spirits. Fill your hearts with truth and courage.
Trust to share both joy and tears. Teach love to your children's children.
Make your household learn to witness living faith through all your years.
May God make your home a refuge where you warmly welcome strangers, and the lowly find a place.
Make your caring kind and patient, help you meet the needs of neighbors, finding Christ in every face.
May God bless you, hold and keep you. May God's mercy shine on you.
Guide your work and guard your resting. Make your love forever new.

I had the opportunity to hug and thank all the lovely people who were involved, and then I was asked to explain the rutabagas, because our friends hadn't known the inside joke and were doing it all blind. I enjoyed explaining it to everyone. I was glowing with happiness. We headed off to the car and I was a little dismayed at having to drive again because the emotional rollercoaster of the dinner theatre had taken almost all the energy I had left. I was tired already at his Mom's place. I was a bit irritated with the car. I was really flagging and asked Paul to arrange someone else to drive us home that night because I was feeling like my driving might be dangerous if I continued much longer. We then went down to the river and parked in a good spot to look at the lights of the Victoria Bridge. We talked a little about the evening. Paul then said we should continue. We went back to his Mom's place to change from our nice duds to stuff for the outdoors.  At some point after we left I realized that part of the reason I was tired and irritable is that after having driven standard all day and being unfamiliar with it my body had been on high alert for many hours and I was actually in a lot of muscle pain. I had Advil with me, but no liquids.

Of course, no day with a sexy car would be complete without a trip through the McDonald's Drive Thru.  So since it was on our way, that's what we did.

I got an orange juice and popped some pain medication, and we were back on the road, going out of town West. There was a car waiting for us at a little gravel intersection, and we followed them into the bush into a little parking area. Ken and Paul's friend Andrew got out, Ken took the car and Andrew got out a flashlight and led us on. We walked down the hill and came to the river, a canoe waiting by the shore. Andrew was there to paddle for us, and Paul and I crammed into the front section of the canoe together. Paul gave me a couple of little handwarmer things because he knew I wouldn't have brought mittens. (Yet another way in which he thought of everything.) Paul also knew that the water would be very peaceful for me after a packed day. Water always has a calming effect on me, and a strong one. I relaxed utterly. We hit a couple of sandbars because the river was down, but Andrew expertly guided us around them. After about ten minutes, we rounded a corner to see the glow of a really big bonfire, flames shooting to over six or seven feet.

We landed the canoe and walked over to the bonfire. There were a lot of footprints, but we were alone, Andrew had disappeared. Paul left me staring at the fire and started scavenging around (apparently there were supposed to have been walkie-talkies. One of the few glitches in this enormous plan), but then as he was coming back to me, the fireworks started. Paul had arranged for Mark to put on a private fireworks show for us, a couple of minutes long. There was even one really big one. Paul turned me around afterwards and I was exclaiming how much I'd enjoyed it and we hugged. He then said, "Dear, why don't you close your eyes?"

This was it, I knew it. I closed my eyes and he moved away from me a little bit. I heard a lot of shuffling. I heard Chantal's "Owww!" as she tripped over something... which really improved the moment, as I stood there giggling. And then the shuffling died down a bit. And I heard his sweet voice.

"You can open your eyes, dear."

I opened my eyes to see him kneeling on a convenient palatte, holding out the open ring box. And he spoke the words I was longing to hear.

"Twyla, my love, you are so beautiful, and I am utterly and completely and entirely in love with you. You are everything I've ever wanted in a woman, and I thank God every day for the gift of being with you. I want to spend the rest of my life with you and serve you as Christ serves his Church. Twyla, will you marry me?"

I was utterly touched, and I said it clearly so I thought people could here it. "Yes."

Cheers broke out. Mark complained he hadn't heard me so I loudly exclaimed it again and then yelled it to the sky. At this point my cry dislodged a flock of geese who flew over us noisily. Paul came up behind me and put his arms around my waist as I examined the ring by the firelight. He said, "It's classic, with a twist. Just like us." This is how it looks, at near actual size.



He then pointed out that my friend Leah had been able to come out to this and I sprang to hug her. She told me how crazy it had been to listen to me talk about the riverside tango and say how much I liked the song, because she had picked it. It was beginning to dawn on me that almost all of my friends had been in on this for months and had been merrily listening to me complain that Paul was faking me out every week. As a consequence of her secret-keeping, I came up to my best friend Ricki who had been Paul's right hand woman, and I punched her. (I don't think she was very surprised.) She demanded that Paul unpunch her and I told him he wasn't allowed. Paul and I went around hugging people and enjoying everyone's company for the next 20 minutes or so.

People began being awesome as they always are. Brennan began searching for giant pieces of driftwood to haul up looking like a powerful giant and throw into the fire. His brother Galen began digging. When asked what he was doing he said he was digging a grave for his brother. Brennan called out from 100 meters away, "Galen, come here and help me with this." He groaned, got dutifully out of the by now giant hole and went to help him, hauling a monstrous dry tree root to the fire. He then went back to digging. Just another day in the life of two brothers. Brennan told everyone the story of how, when they were kids, Galen was about 2 and he was about 5, and Galen had this shovel that he'd valued deeply and he proudly used it in the backyard sandbox. One day Brennan had come home with a friend and seen a big pile of sand. He didn't think much of it, and he kicked it. He said he only saw two things - Galen crying, and a shovel coming at his face. The next thing he knew, Galen was horrified and apologizing, and when he caught his reflection he could see that his face was covered in blood - his little brother had broken his nose. The kerfuffle brought their Mom out of the house. Ever since then, he said, the war continued...

I noted that there was starry sky above us and pointed it out to Paul. He suggested in response to another conversation at Emma that we choose a star for ourselves in Casseiopeia. The one beneath the far right point. So whenever any of you see it, you can remember that it's our chosen star.

It's true, look how they shine for you
Look how they shine
Look at the stars,
Look how they shine for you
And everything you do

We trekked through the mud back to the car, and Ken gave us a ride home, clearly enjoying his driving experience as well. Paul and I lounged together in the backseat, enjoying each other, and I kept staring at my ring. It's very beautiful, exactly my style.

I am so in love. My man is crazy - crazy enough to pull off the impossible, the most romantic and elaborate thing he could imagine. And he loves me. Enough to listen to everything I say and try to provide me with it. Enough to track down cars to borrow against all odds and lucky enough to find the one that actually matched his car in color. I guess they say love makes a person do crazy things.

I could never have imagined this. In all my wildest dreams of passionate, deep, intimate, joyous love, I could not have imagined a man like Paul. He is everything I have ever wanted and all the things I never knew to want. He is my soulmate, my everything, my dearest best friend. I pray that everyone finds this kind of bliss. I know that I will always be in love with him.

I saw a lady the other day, a former co-worker. She congratulated me and told me that she's been married for 52 years, she's still blissfully happy, in fact it just keeps getting better and better. I am looking forward to the same.

Love exists, and it might be closer than you think.

Maybe you'll know when you see it
Maybe if you say it you'll mean it
And when you find it you'll keep it
In a permanent state, a permanent state

Swimmin' on a sea of faces
The tide of the human races, oh
An answer now is what I need
I see it in the new sun rising and
See it break on your horizon, oh
Come on love, stay with me

My happily ever after exists in each and every moment since he asked me to be his. I can't wait to marry this man, to raise a family with him knowing what a wonderful Father he'll be to our children. I thank God every day that I've found what I was looking for. I am blessed beyond anything I could have hoped. I am marrying my best friend, who cares deeply about my every desire and need.

I hope you enjoyed seeing a part of my journey. The remaining good photographs I took from all three days of the proposal process are here for your viewing pleasure. LOTS of them, and more are coming, but I had to get this up eventually!

Paul, my dearest love. You're crazy! I can't believe how elaborate this all was, especially in retrospect. But I love you. I love you forever, my future husband.
  • Current Location: Canada, Saskatoon
  • Current Mood: beautiful
  • Current Music: Coldplay - White Shadows
That shirt IS sexy. So is the man, if you don't mind me saying since I am taken :)

Is that the pendant on you in that one picture? First of all, you are looking amazing and second, I WANT THAT PENDANT. I mean, it's really awesome ;)

Also, happy birthday!

Wow, you have such wonderful friends. Rutabaga? Wow.

Wow, the swordfight. i wish I could have seen that!!!

That is incredible. What a wonderful story. What an amazing man you have. What an AWESOME proposal!! Holy cow, I think this tops the list of best Proposal Stories EVER.

The only thing I don't like is that I wasn't able to participate.

Twyla, I know we've never met in person and knowing someone exclusively through the Internet is a little wonky. But you are truly one of the most amazing people I have ever known. You are such an example to me and an inspiration. I truly love you and feel like we are long lost sisters :) I think of you a lot and truly hope for the day when we can get together for realz. I know Paul is a wonderful man and I am so happy that everything has worked out for you this way. I wish only for your happiness (and that sounds kinda weird but I know what I mean.) You are incredible, a wonderful, wonderful woman and a beautiful daughter of God. I love you, and I am again, so happy for you.

Thank you for sharing your story.
The man is sexy, and I'm glad you think so!
Yes, that is the pendant, and it is gorgeous, isn't it?
Thanks for the Birthday wishes!
Rutabaga! The swordfight was ridiculously cool.
I'm pretty sure Paul could win a proposal story contest, that's for sure.

Thanks SO much for all your kind words. I'd love to meet you, too.

You're welcome for the story! It was a joy to share it!
I started crying when I was reading all of messages on the notes in the box. This is truly the best engagement story I have ever heard. You and Paul are so perfectly suited for one another, and I couldn't be happier for you :)
Ah, Twyla, that was beautiful! I'm so glad "The Plan" worked out so well and I'm so happy for you guys! :D
That is such a beautiful story! Thanks for sharing :)

I wish you and Paul all the happiness in the world! God bless.
Oh my! That sounds so spectacular, I wish I could have been there to see it all! I'm very happy for you both! :D
That was really beautiful. I swear, this entire journey was like a movie. A wonderful fairy tale, and it couldn't have happened to someone more deserving of such :-)
I love the photos of you two at Bliss! You both look so happy and so photogenic! :D :D Wow, and the one with you two kissing with the prairies and the house! That is a GREAT shot.

I liked when Philip delivered his challenge and said something about how Brennan was a churl and his poetry made Philip hurl. Tee hee.

I could never have imagined this. In all my wildest dreams of passionate, deep, intimate, joyous love, I could not have imagined a man like Paul. He is everything I have ever wanted and all the things I never knew to want.

This is what I always hoped for, what I always believed in for you. I am so happy for you. So very, very happy. And I understand. :D
Yeah that story basically trumps my engagement story.
one day, your daddy said to your mommy, hey why don't we just get married? and mommy said okay!