*If you’re reading this in a reader/have your images turned off, you might want to head to the original post to see the pretty pictures*
It shouldn’t surprise me how many folk have been asking for “The details!” I immensely enjoy how you met, the first time she said “I love you,” how he proposed-esque stories. And so it seems many others also find pleasure in hearing those awwwww moments. And so to placate the billions, er twenty-three, here is how Boyfriend recently morphed into Fiance. If you’d like to read our journey from when we met to when he moved in, relationship backstory here.
Leading Up to the Engagement
Back in December, after an unusual and unsettling stressful period when I was a finger-click away from hightailing it to random Costa Rica, then-Boyfriend and I looked at the upcoming busy months and planned a We know we’ll need this! getaway.
Why we decided on Asheville, North Carolina
- Neither of us had been before
- Everyone who had been shared nothing but glowing reports
- Promise of warmth after a Chicago winter
- Mix of stuff we like: urban activities like shopping and yummy restaurants, nature activities like hiking and biking, craft beer, yoga, quaint neighborhoods, easy to get to and to navigate, old friends [girl I used to work with] and new friends [we’d heard that it was a very friendly, liberal, welcoming, creative community]
And so on December 28th, we booked.
January through April toppled over with goodness. But as can happen when there’s an abundance of something, even if it’s positive as it was for us, tiredness, frustration, not enough hours in the day, and getting caught up in the nitty-gritty at times clouding the big picture, can wear you down.
Fear Experiment began, with thirty-eight strangers challenging themselves to do something they admittedly weren’t great at (in this case, dance or improv), by themselves (no security blanket of signing up with your bestie), and rehearsing for three months in preparation for showcasing their skills at the famous Park West [where the likes of Adele, Tom Petty, and Ricky Gervais perform] in front of 750. For me, this meant the onslaught of spreadsheets, nagging – RSVP! Fill in your tshirt size! Update your contact info! – answering lots and lots of questions, and making sure ticket sales happened so that renting a “This is a bit out of my league, perhaps we should have the show at the YMCA” venue wouldn’t be my professional demise. For him, this meant teaching improv four hours a week to a wide-range of skill-levels, who were not only learning something new but learning each other at the same time [plus he continued to teach the improv group from last year’s Fear Experiment for another three hours of improv a week].
Via my Mac ‘n Cheese Productions, I continued to teach digital media in under-served communities, dialing it down a bit this year by only being in three schools instead of the six, nine, ten of years past, grow CRAVE an organization the supports female entrepreneurs [including hiring two interns and hosting and moderating a talk for fifty the week of our trip], and shoot and edit video for clients.
Via his TeamPete, he continued Bike ‘n Beer Tours, Workplace Improv, and Improv Workshops for Non-Improvisers. He continued his 9 to 5’ness as UIC’s medical school Director of Financial Aid.
Fear Experiment the Show arrived on April 28th, along with his parents from Louisiana.
[Note to self: don’t host guests, especially Boyfriend’s family, the same weekend you’re coordinating a show that encompasses thirty-eight adults, nine students, and an audience of seven hundred and fifty. Dealing with last-minute Staples-runs, folks not following instructions, and ticket requests does not make for a good host.]
[Note to self x2: don’t start a new job four days before a show that has you leading eighteen nervous nellies and MC’ing the evening in front of seven hundred and fifty. Boyfriend started a position as U of C’s business school Director of Financial Aid on April 24th, which also happened to be Dress Rehearsal day, requiring him to be at new job 8AM-5pm, and then at the Park West 6pm-10pm.]
The weekend after the show, two friends from college came in from Boston, which was all sorts of lovely, but prohibited catching up on any of the backlog of work that had amassed over the previous weeks, leaving me with twinges of “I shouldn’t be having fun, I should be at my computer.”
All that said, Fear Experiment and the BC Eagle mini-reunion were fantastic-ness on so many levels, and I loved them both! And then it was off to Asheville for eight full days! Sooooo needed. Hello email vacation-response, voicemail vacation-greeting, and an almost-complete removal of spreadsheets from my life [curating a Mingler, a Potluck!, and a fundraiser all within five days after our return made it impossible for a complete removal]. Boyfriend and I met at O’Hare, jumped on one of those tiny planes, and in two hours, were in the South.
We rented a cream of the crop* car! I didn’t realize this but oh how I missed automatic transmission and new car cleanliness. And oh how I now yearn for a sunroof, a beep-beep door-opener [as opposed to the ol’ key in lock concoction], a USB port, separate driver and passenger temperature controls, and fancy buttons that do what, I have no clue, but that make you feel luxurious and rich.
[*Note to self x3: you fell illogically in love with a Ford Focus. Imagine if it was a BMW. Can’t. Even. Fathom.]
We found awesome lodging for $32 a night! We enjoy staying in homes over hotels, but homes where you have privacy and aren’t sharing the bathroom with other guests or being trapped into afternoon tea with the owners like can happen at bed ‘n breakfasts. Enter Airbnb.com, a community marketplace for people to list, discover, and book unique accommodations around the world. Wonderful experience, from start to finish.
We ate and drank deliciousness!
We were surrounded by beauty!
We got engaged!
It rained for six of the eight days [you know you’re in a good state of mind and with good folk when crappy weather elicits a simple “Ehh” and you revise plans and move on]. On the first day that it looked like it wouldn’t rain [it did, around 5pm, for about thirty minutes; we were indulging at Hershey’s Ice Cream, on a covered outdoor bench, and thus didn’t care], we ventured to Chimney Rock State Park, a forty-five minute drive outside of Asheville.
A random May Wednesday, the Park had some visitors — enough for pleasantry smiles, listening to accents, and Hey, want me to take that photo so you don’t have to do the awkward backwards hold the camera yourself offers along the trails — but not so many that you cursed all things tourist. 80ish degrees. Sunny. Hiking of varying levels of difficulty. We did some easy trails and enjoyed the surroundings. We did some hard trails and second-guessed our decisions. Our last trail of the day was Hickory Nut Falls.
After months of being busy, stressed and neglecting myself physically, I was twenty-ish pounds heavier than I wanted to be [and I think he felt similarly about himself]. After five days of deep Vacation-I could care less mode, my hair was pulled-back and frizzy, my eyebrows unruly, my legs stubbly, my overall appearance a hot-mess. After a morning of stairs, steep rocks, uneven paths, and lizards, we were in athletic-garb and perspiring profusely. The perfect scenario to propose.
Because if you tell someone when she’s fat, sweaty, hairy, and probably smelly that you want to be with her for the rest of your life, that means more to her than any bouquet of roses, five-star restaurant, or ring ever could.
We neared the end of the Hickory Nut Falls trail, rewarded with a gorgeous waterfall. I said something about taking a photo. Mr. I Usually Never Care About Photos said, “Why don’t we go up there?”, pointing to a small fenced-in overlook a bit above where we were standing. I shrugged and said ok.
With the long-lost sun finally radiating down, the calming sound of rippling water, and a breathtaking view of North Carolina from elevation 2450, Boyfriend and I rested our forearms on the wooden banister and silently enjoyed. Then he began looking around, the kind of looking around you do when you’re about to participate in something you don’t want others to know about. Oh great, I thought. He’s about to fart.
He did a few more checks over his shoulder. Over my shoulder.
“I like taking trips with you. Will you take more trips with me?” He smiled his goofy, beautiful smile and pulled out a ring.
I leaned way back, as if the ring was kryptonite and I Superman, unable to say anything, smiling my own goofy smile, my eyes filling but not spilling. I don’t remember if I said yes.
I remember –
- him holding the ring and me recoiling for what seemed forever
- me taking the shiny-ness and putting it on my hand, then in my head cursing “Oh shit, he was supposed to do that…”
- a hug and more goofy smiles
- Hey, can you take this photo so we don’t have to do the awkward backwards hold the camera ourselves inquiry to a couple who had climbed up with us
- joking photos with our Smart Water bottle, chuckling at how great it’d be if they sponsored our self-financed/we have very little money/this may be a potluck/bring your own chair wedding
- walking back down the trail, holding hands, him squeezing, me fiddling
- chattering about when he bought the ring [a few months earlier], when he decided to propose [he put the ring in his pocket that morning and told himself if the moment is right…], when we wanted to have the wedding [sometime Spring to Fall 2013]…
- me in a this is surreal, I didn’t think I could be happier than I was on the walk out here but so am! daze
- joking, but a little less joking, photos with our Eagle Creek bag and REI bag, chuckling (kinda seriously) how great it’d be if they sponsored our self-financed/we have very little money/this may be a potluck/bring your own chair wedding
- lunch at an outdoor cafe, with a menu that offered up Jesus-quotes and a Chicken & Chicken Combo
- wandering along a river path and through cute small-town stores filled with tshirts, birdhouses, beads, and fudge
- the girl at Hershey’s Ice Cream giving me two cheeries on my sundae
- it starting to rain yet again but us not caring because we were eating ice cream, on a covered outdoor bench, in beautiful North Carolina, where we had just gotten engaged