"Do not ask what the world needs. Ask what makes you come alive, and go do that. For what the world needs is more people who have come alive."
-Howard Thurman

Friday, November 20, 2015

Our Proposal Story

"Sometimes, right in the middle of an ordinary life,
love gives us a fairytale."

June 29th: With my boyfriend
Every year my entire family on my mom's side vacations at Litchfield beach. It's a very special tradition for us and a special place for our family. I have gone every year since I was born, and Paul has become part of that tradition the past several years. Every year at the beach is special- it's a sort of charmed place- a little piece of heaven for my family and I where I have always found peace and the joy of being surrounded by family. It is a place that has retained the magic it always had for me growing up, and has become even more sentimental for me as I have gotten older and realized what a treasure it is to share this tradition with a big loving family that I couldn't be more grateful for, and to watch as the next generation of our family grows up spending summers together just like my cousins and I all did. But this year, something extra special happened in this special place.

July 1st: With my fiancé (and a very special sparkler ;)
My fireworks definitely came early this year!
Paul wanted to propose at the beach because of the meaning it held and so that my whole family would be there, so he was planning to propose on the beach that Friday evening and had a photographer hired to capture the moment and everything. Meanwhile, with no idea what he was planning, I was planning a surprise photo shoot on the beach for the two of us for that Wednesday as an anniversary present. Just like him, I thought that capturing photos of us in a place that held such a special meaning would be precious. So essentially, we were planning the same surprise for each other at the same time, except his surprise came with a little extra sparkle ;) When my mom found out about the surprise I was planning, she already knew what Paul was planning, and so she told him about my surprise. With me still thinking the photo shoot was a complete surprise, Paul secretly contacted my photographers and made arrangements with them to hijack my photo shoot without me knowing.

I "surprised" Paul and we went to the studio (where everyone played off very well that they were all meeting for the first time- so sneaky!). Paul left me at Carter Studios to get my hair and makeup done (and put the final touches on his plan!) and met up with Jonathan and Heather Carter and me at Huntington State Park.

Our proposal story began at Atalaya Castle, the historic estate of Anna and Archer Huntington, perched on the edge of the dunes, overlooking the beach. Archer Huntington built Atalaya for his wife, Anna. It was her dream home and an escape for her where she could enjoy the beauty of nature and sit in the courtyard working on the art she so dearly loved to create. Today, the eighty-year-old castle stands as a tribute to their love story and a symbol of enduring romance. As a little girl who lived in princess dress-ups growing up, a real life castle was the perfect setting for our fairytale to begin. Little did I know my own prince charming was about to sweep me off my feet.

We took photos all around the grounds of Atalaya. Paul was noticeably sweating, which is completely unlike him, so of course I kept teasing him. "You are sweating!" "It's hot!" "It's not that hot!' haha. Heather Carter chimed in "aw he's just nervous being in front of the camera." I didn't suspect a thing at the time, but later it became pretty clear what all that sweating was really about :p

As the sun began to hang lower in the sky, we decided to head down to the beach. Jonathan and
Heather Carter told us they would go set up on the beach and pointed out a beautiful little path draped by branches from overhanging trees which created a sort of arch over it. They told us to head down that path to join them on the beach when we were ready. I had a dress I wanted to change into, so I changed, and Paul and I began walking out the beach. As we were walking, Paul began talking. I will never forget the moment I realized he was about to propose. In that moment, it was as if time froze momentarily as the entire world around us shifted into this dreamlike state that didn't feel like reality.

Quite honestly, I sort of blacked out and everything seemed like a surreal blur...but I will never forget the beautiful things Paul said to me. We emerged onto the dunes and Paul dropped down to one knee, pulled out a shell which was holding the most gorgeous ring I had ever seen, and asked me to marry him. I was shaking and crying and unable to process everything. It was an indescribable feeling, a beautiful state of shock and joy- I just couldn't believe this was really happening!

We both aren't sure if I even said yes, but, as the video confirms, I definitely did give him the wrong hand (luckily, one of us knew what was going on and the ring made it on the correct finger). I kept joking afterwards that I had only one job in that scenario and I literally did everything wrong. But it was perfect.

As the sun set, we spent a few moments just the two of us soaking in what had just happened. When we got back to our timeshare, my entire family (30+ aunts, uncles, and cousins) was waiting (and surprised me again!) with champagne and cake and had the whole apartment decorated with photos of us. It was so special.

The most beautiful part was that my sweet granny had just passed away a couple months prior, and her and my Pop (who is shown at the beginning of the video) had started the beach tradition which meant so much to her. Paul had Granny's diamond re-set into my engagement ring, and so although she was missing from the celebration, she was truly at the center of it. It couldn't have been any more perfect.

Monday, January 12, 2015

Are Pageants Really for Thinking People? My Response

"BOSTONIANS ARE thinking people; in fact, according to demographer Joel Kotkin, Greater Boston is the smartest metropolis in the nation. So why is there still a Miss Boston, and even more alarmingly, why do we have a Miss Cambridge?

Thinking people, after all, give prizes to people who’re the smartest, not women who’re the prettiest. And for all of pageantry’s insistence that looks don’t matter (wink, wink), that it’s about poise, talent, and the ability to be articulate under bright lights on a stage, the swimsuit competition staggers on, a triceratops in stilettos..." (excerpt from Boston Times article).

Earlier this evening, my aunt e-mailed me this article, "Are pageants really for thinking people?" from today's Boston Globe and asked me if I cared to counter? My response:

"So the ironic thing is, I would, but I'm too busy studying for my course...in Cambridge...that Miss America is paying for.  So essentially, I'm too busy  being a "thinking person," facilitated by my involvement in the Miss America Organization.  Oh well :p"

I will say, however, that I would argue that true "thinking people" understand that there is value in a multitude of talents and attributes- intelligence being one, but also commitment to something greater than oneself and service to others, as well as personal growth, informed engagement with relevant social and political issues, commitment and discipline, actively fostering healthy minds and bodies, and so on- all of which Miss America encourages and rewards. Yes, pretty women may be rewarded, but what is more important is that these women display true beauty through lifestyles characterized by compassion for others, dedication to furthering social causes of personal and societal importance, and by using their voices, talents, and yes, maybe even perceived outward beauty, to make a positive impact- to do something that matters ....oh and the "prizes" they earn, are scholarships...as in educational scholarships...as in college and university scholarships...you know, the places where most "thinking people" go to, among many other things....think ;)

Also, in direct response to the swimsuit competition comment- yes the swimsuit competition is designed to display fitness, but yes, it is also designed to showcase beauty- to celebrate a woman's pride in her body and confidence derived from living a healthy lifestyle.  In a world filled with photoshopped images, where young women are constantly inundated with illusions of the "perfect" female form that doesn't even exist in real life, I would argue that celebrating real womens' bodies and teaching young women to feel confident in their own bodies is not such a bad thing...and at the end of the day, the contestant may appear in a swimsuit for 30 seconds, but the growth she experiences through holding a title and serving her community, and the knowledge- both self-knowledge and more broad knowledge, gained through both her experiences while participating in the organization, as well as afforded to her through her scholastic endeavors, facilitated by the scholarships she receives from the organization- last a lifetime.  

And let me tell you- there is a lot to be learned through being involved in the Miss America organization.  I learned perspective from visiting wounded warriors; grace, strength, and the power of a positive outlook from visiting children in Children's Miracle Network Hospitals; the power of community and service through the volunteers and Miss Virginia family; diversity through travelling across the commonwealth and meeting people from a variety of walks of life...just to name a few.  And, perhaps the greatest gift of all- I discovered power within myself and gained a confidence that comes from witnessing your own ability to affect lives and to do something positive that truly matters (not to mention challenging and stretching myself in numerous ways and proving to myself I am capable of many things that were personally relevant and powerful). 

Pageants are not for everyone and every pageant organization is different, but they are a valuable activity and resource for many young women and instrumental in positively shaping many young womens' lives, providing them with opportunities to not only further their educations, but to further themselves personally and professionally and to express themselves in a multitude of ways.  The mentorship, meaningful friendships, experiences, and empowerment I experienced are lasting gifts that have benefited me since my involvement.  I am certain I would not be where I am today had I not been involved in the Miss America Organization...and where I am just so happens to be in Cambridge, specifically for the purpose of gaining a meaningful education and broadening my depth and scope of thought...because I am a "thinking person."  

Instead of forming opinions about something based on common misconceptions and stereotypes, which I don't believe takes a great deal of "thinking," I would encourage someone who is genuinely curious as to why pageants still exist, to investigate- try to see things from multiple perspectives and gain a more well rounded, deeper understanding.  In short, truly THINK about it.

...Okay maybe that counts as a counter :p