holoholo photo

A Decent Proposal

“Surround yourself with people who make you happy. People who make you laugh, who help you when you’re in need. People who genuinely care. They are the ones worth keeping in your life. Everyone else is just passing through.” – Karl Marx

I am a very lucky person when it comes to my friends.  I have always surrounded myself with good people and it shows when I ask for help (and in this case when I did not ask for help).  Without such great friends, this blog about my proposal to Emily would not exist (or at the very least would not be so eloquent and full of rich detail).

Let us begin from the beginning.

I had the idea of proposing to Emily on our trip to Ireland in June long before we left Maui.  I did not have the ring or a solid plan on how or when I would ask her, but I had a vague idea of how I saw it coming together in my head (boy, was my vision blurry).  I mentioned to my good friend June Harper that I was planning on asking Emily to marry me during our trip to Ireland.  She was so happy to hear this news, that before I could finish my sentence, she wanted to know the details of when and how it was all going to go down.  Not realizing my answer was going to change the course of many lives (including people I had never met before) I sheepishly told her I was just going to improvise it and figure it out as we went on our vacation.

For anyone thinking of going this route of proposing to your loved one, a brief word of caution: DO NOT GO THIS ROUTE.  Find a good friend, a confidant, a perfect stranger, heck, even a homeless person and explain your idea to them and they will make you realize how bad this idea truly is.

Looking back now, I should have realized how naive I was being.

June, who is married, very creative, and has an abundance of love in her life, quickly decided that my plan was no good and she instantly came up with an alternative for me.  What she suggested was that I use her husband’s (Jon) cousin’s (Dougie) castle on his family farm in Ireland as the location.  She even had a picture of the castle on her phone, which led me to believe that this was more of a dream of hers than mine (eventually I came to came to realize that almost all girls want to be proposed to in a castle).  Not wanting to impose on a friend, let alone his cousin whom I had never met, I dismissed the idea as “too much trouble.”  After our conversation, I thought about it more and more and realized what a brilliant idea it truly was.

Not wanting ruin our friendship, I delicately asked Jon if this idea was even possible and gave him an opening to back out and remove himself from becoming the middle-man in the planning stage.  Jon didn’t bat an eye and said he would look into whether his cousin or the castle would be available.

Eventually, the castle was volunteered, Jon was removed from being the middle-man, and Dougie (Jon’s cousin) and I began communicating via Facebook and email.  The proposal took on a new life, but it was exciting and nerve-wracking all at the same time.

Location, check.

Now that I had a better idea of where this momentous deed was going to take place it was time to decide on a ring.  I had the romantic idea of buying a token ring to use for the proposal, something simple, and then the two of us would find a beautiful engagement ring while over in Ireland.  We could pick out one together and it would be old and beautiful and have an amazing backstory of how it came to be in a quaint little jewelry shop in a small town in Ireland.  I had the wonderful idea of buying a Claddagh ring as the temporary engagement ring, since we were going to be in Ireland.  It would not only be a token of my affection, but it would be relevant to our Irish adventure.  For those of you unfamiliar with a Claddagh ring, please educate yourselves via the interwebs here.

I tried multiple times to explain this concept to my friend Dotti, every time I explained my intentions she looked at me with pity which is normally reserved for people in wheelchairs or motorized scooters confronted with stairs.  It’s the same look you receive when you pull a push door and people see you or you get in the elevator when it’s going down, but you wanted to go up.

Dotti is a strong, independent woman who can be very convincing when she wants to be.  Fortunately for me, she wanted to convince me that my idea was terrible, although she would never, ever say that.  Suggesting that we go and see what kind of options are out there in the engagement ring market, Dotti and I went ring browsing together.  Well, browsing led to shopping and a few weeks later shopping led to ownership of a bona fide engagement ring.

Location, check.  Ring, check.

Thanks to my resourceful and insightful friends I now had a place to propose and a ring to place on a finger during the act of proposing.  The next part of the plan would be on me and me alone, no friend could save me from myself with this one…I would have to ask Emily’s father for permission to marry his daughter all by myself.

I’m likable.  I live by the Golden Rule.  I don’t do drugs.  I open doors for people.  I don’t drive too fast.  I use my turn signals.  I don’t litter.  I eat my veggies.

I thought all of these traits would be an asset when asking Emily’s father for his daughter’s hand in marriage, over a car bomb lemonade someday.  Unfortunately, due to the distance between our homes Steve and I have never met face to face, so that made asking him over the phone even more awkward than it should have been.  I briefly thought of Skype or Facetime as an option, but I would have hated to ask him and have the computer freeze or shut down before he gave me an answer.  I made the call one morning and we had a nice conversation, at the end of which he gave me his blessing as well as his promise to keep it a secret until I proposed.

Location, check.  Ring, check.  Permission, check.

Now that you are caught up with the backstory, let’s move closer to the present, but still in the past, to the actual proposal.

After carrying the engagement ring in my pocket for over two weeks through the tough streets of New York City and Dublin, we finally arrived in the charming city of Kilkenny, Ireland.  Dougie Harper drove into town and picked us up under the guise of giving us a private tour of the castle ruins on his farm.  We arrived at his home, met his parents and brother, picked up a pair of dogs, and began our walk to the ruins.

Our Kilkenny chauffeur, tour guide, cattle wrangler, historian, photographer, host and most wonderful man, Dougie Harper.

Our Kilkenny chauffeur, tour guide, cattle wrangler, historian, photographer, host, toastmaster and most wonderful person we met on our trip, Dougie Harper.

Our castle guides and cow bouncers.

Our castle guides and cow bouncers.

To get to the castle, we had to cross a few fields filled with grazing cows.  Ever since an incident involving cows, a dog, and two gifted photographers (David Schoonover and Vicky Juarez), I have become leery of cows and their mob mentality.  I thought we would be slightly safer with the two dogs at our side, but this proved to be more nerve-wracking than walking down a bad street in Dublin.

An una-moo-sed crowd of onlookers.

An una-moo-sed crowd of onlookers.

The dogs would play a fun game with the group of cows.  First, they would lie down, get as low as they could to the ground and attract the cows closer to them.  As soon as most of the cows were within paws’ reach, the dogs would jump up and chase them causing a stampede in our general direction.

The curious cows of Kilkenny...seconds away from being the cowardly cows of Kilkenny.

The curious cows of Kilkenny…seconds away from being the cowardly cows of Kilkenny.

The dogs repeated this game until we made it through the first field and came upon the castle.  The castle, built before the 1600s, is known as Cantwell’s Castle, and it, like many of the countless castles throughout the Irish countryside has been in disrepair for hundreds of years.  Yet it still stands tall, a testament to the skill and craftsmanship of its builders.  It was originally a three-story castle, but the roof and third floor are gone and the second floor is exposed to the elements.  Dougie was kind enough to let us in and allowed us to walk up the stairs to explore the second story and take in the view from up there.

Cantwell's Castle, Kilkenny.

Cantwell’s Castle, Kilkenny.

As he showed us the castle, he gave me a nudge and whispered that he had hidden a bouquet of flowers on a length of twine, tied to a stone and hanging halfway down the medieval toilet chute.  This was a feat of ingeniousness even I wouldn’t have thought of.  First off, who’s going to examine the toilet chute to any great length and even if they did, the flowers were hung where the light disappeared, so they were hidden in the shadows.

Dougie knew when the time was right, and he did a fantastic job of distracting Emily while I made a bee-line to the bathroom. I pulled up the bouquet of flowers and immediately found myself struggling with untying the twine.  I was already nervous and the cellophane crinkling seemed louder than thunder to me.  I thought for sure my cover was blown. I ripped the flowers free from the twine and tried to retrieve the ring from my pocket.  I had trouble with that as well, but eventually removed it from my pocket and the suede pouch it had been kept in for so long.

When Emily turned around, I was standing there, in Ireland, in a private castle, with flowers in one hand a ring in the other.

Photo courtesy of Dougie Harper.

Photo courtesy of Dougie Harper.

I got down on one knee, took her hand in mine, put the ring on the wrong hand (nobody said it would be easy), and asked her if she would marry me.

Notice which hand I am putting the ring on. Photo courtesy of Dougie Harper.

Notice which hand I am putting the ring on. Photo courtesy of Dougie Harper.

She said yes.

...and they lived happily ever after. Photo courtesy of Dougie Harper.

…and they lived happily ever after. Photo courtesy of Dougie Harper.

Dougie took pictures of us and then produced a bucket of ice, a chilled bottle of champagne and three glasses for us to celebrate.  What an amazing host we had.  He even offered the use of the castle if we decided to get married in Ireland.

Cantwell's Castle. Forever in our hearts.

Cantwell’s Castle. Forever in our hearts.

I could never thank all of you who had a part to play with this proposal. Everyone has been so kind and so generous that I can only hope to give them as much as they gave me during this special time in our lives.

Stay tuned for wedding plans.