Happy anniversary, honey!

The last few years of my life have been full of so much change and turmoil, it’s hard to remember that it was only three years ago that Rebecca and I tied the knot. In between that momentous and overwhelmingly joyous occasion and today, we’ve all but lost my mother to a dreadful brain disorder, lost my grandmother, my sister has battled (and beaten) cancer, we have had to up sticks and move home at very short notice, and, of course, given birth and reared our active, playful, boisterous and definitely full-on 2-year-old son, Rayven.

Today (April 7) marks our third anniversary. And Rebecca will be the first to tell you — and I will be first to admit — that I am generally bad with cards and presents, while Rebecca excels not only at selecting imaginative and appropriate gifts, but also in fashioning the most creative home-made cards possible. She is the consummate planner and most thoughtful partner.

But I do have a gift, I think, and that’s the gift of words, so this is my message to Rebecca on this day; I hope she gets to read it.

First off, I am grateful that she agreed to marry me in the first place. Our engagement wasn’t much of a success because of me: I fluffed the proposal in spite of having a unique engagement gift in the form of my grandmother’s antique ring. What an idiot, and all through lack of planning and bad execution.

Then we had my parents out in December 2011, a trip they barely survived (partly because of AirAsia’s shabby long-haul service) and which involved them attending an Indonesian-style engagement party that must have been overwhelming to them (it was to me). It’s a testament to Rebecca’s organizational skills and their endurance that we all lived to tell the tale after.

Secondly, I have Rebecca – and only Rebecca – to thank for organizing and executing the wedding. Now that I’ve been in Indonesia for some time and seen how things work, or rather how they don’t work much of the time, it’s all the more impressive that she was able to handle everything from selecting the invites to choosing the catering. I recall that I selected some of the music for the after-party and did some food tasting, but generally I was an observer of the Rebecca-as-professional-planner show.

I still don’t know how much it all cost: I daren’t ask. But Rebecca is CFO of our family unit (see how much I rely on her?) and she balanced it all out so that we paid for our reasonably lavish wedding without having to ask anyone to contribute financially. It was a marvellous day, resplendent in sunshine, smiles and love. From the service sheet to the piano melody of “In My Life” by the Beatles (“our” song) that played as she walked down the aisle, it all went like clockwork. And it was all down to Rebecca – even helping with everything from my best man buying a suit in Bali at the last minute to helping my sister and my nephew with their Bali orientation program.

Since that time, I’ve grown to rely on, and love, Rebecca even more than I did then. She always describes herself as unlikeable, but to me, she is more than likeable: she is a wife and mother to two boys. She is a reliable wing-man; an honest confessor; a trusted advisor; and, of course, a valued co-parent. I have to confess that even though I have spent far more time with Rayven than she has, it’s Rebecca’s influence that has driven most of his accomplishments to date, including calling me “daddy.”

When she accepted her current job, I have to admit that I wasn’t happy with the decision, but she has balanced the role of mother and wife with being a communications director with aplomb. And we couldn’t have survived my recent six months of unemployment if she hadn’t been working. She also took the lead on our two trips to the UK, and organizes every trip we make to Bali, plus my Singapore visa trips, and our fantastic trip to the Gili islands a year or so ago.

So without playing down my role too much, you can see how much Rebecca shoulders in our partnership. She thinks I don’t notice, but that’s only because I am not the most demonstrative partner (although I am getting better). I do notice, appreciate and thank her for all she has done and continues to do, from the bottom of my heart.

Honey, I love you with all my being. Thanks for being there for this flawed, imperfect man. Here’s to three years and to many more happy times ahead.

With love, Matthew (and a kiss from Rayven)

Happiest day of my life so far

Happiest day of my life so far, along with the birth of our son

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On family, friends…

Way, waaaay back, to almost what seems like a thousand years ago now, Rebecca and I visited our family and friend in the UK. The trip was notable for many reasons, chiefly among these being that it was the first time Rebecca had met “the fam” on home turf, and for being possibly the last time I see my mum in a fully functioning state.

There were other notables: a lovely blessing of our wedding at Romsey Abbey, a rainy and cold trip to London, and a wonderful Christmas day. But I am seeing the trip more and more through the lens of what could be the last time I see my family “as was” notwithstanding the fact that my sister was (and is) recovering from a life-threatening illness. And that same illness has clutched its fist around my mum since that time, and has recently led to complications that are ongoing and possibly irreversible.

Time will, as always, tell.

On the Christmas trip itself, well it couldn’t have been better overall. Our flight was with Singapore Airlines and so was made somewhat humane with decent grub and good movies (and during the transits between JKT and SG, we were treated to excellent service courtesy of the ground staff, with Rebecca six months pregnant at that time).

With a 39-degree difference in overall temperature comfort, the UK was its usual dreary self, but somewhat brightened by Christmas cheer. I had forgotten that almost all houses would be warmly lit from the inside with tinsel and tat whatever the drear level outside. I had forgotten the spirit of Christmas; while I don’t believe that Christ was born on December 25, the spirit of forgiveness, of family and of friends and of celebration, should prevail, as should the spirit of giving.

I am especially happy that I was given the opportunity to see all of the four main women in my life in one place: my sister, my grandmother and my mother, all of whom are at varying stages of un-wellness (plus Rebecca, of course). And to see my dad, who, it turns out, is currently our rock—while he and I didn’t actually have a traditionally “difficult” relationship at any time, what we do have has grown much stronger and more personal over the past 20 years as we’ve realized that, indeed, the apple does not fall far from the tree.

In the past few weeks, he has been called on to support the rest of our family and has not been found wanting. He is proving capable and caring.

Happy times late last year.

Happy times late last year.

I wish I could say the same for myself in other respects as regards the UK trip. When I visited there was some attempted manipulation of friends before I went and when I was there, to try to avert what I saw as potential conflicts of interest between friends and myself. Of course, there was no such conflict.

The other potential bone of contention is that I have found faith, while my friends, presumably have not, although for me, this is no deal-breaker since I am not anti-atheist and nor am I a Bible-thumping evangelist. And I would hope that they would know that I’m still, in essence, “me.”

This is why in the first paragraph, I put “family and friend” since I only saw one guy—my best man, whom I’ve known since I was 13. I wish I’d not been so worried about other people and just called them up instead of hiding behind email.

As it turns out, what with things being the way they are, I’m glad to have seen so much of mum and dad and my sister. But in a life in which I’ve seen two major upheavals that involve me changing countries of residence in the past 13 years, friends help to anchor you wherever you are by providing a sense of context and comparison in a life like mine. And without them, there can occasionally be a strong sense of being adrift in a distant land.

So, chin-chin to those reading this. I hope to see you again.

“Good friends are like stars; you don’t always see them, but you know they’re always there.”

Wedding Planning (the sequel)

This week, a year ago, Matthew and I were in massive stress. We were in the middle of a big art exhibition that we were both working on. His company, which held the event, hired my company to manage the media coverage. ALSO, we were at D-4 of our own engagement dinner, which means we had Matthew’s parents coming down from the UK that week. And this is all happening while I was still living in Bali and Matthew just recently moved to Jakarta.

We never (before and since) experience that level of stress and that jam-packed of a schedule. That one only confirmed my decision to quit my job and move to Jakarta, both of which were not desirable at all.

I landed in Jakarta two days before Christmas 2011 and I immediately dived into organizing our destination wedding that was scheduled in 3 months. With the help of three teams of wedding planner (from the chapel, the reception venue, and Bella Donna, bride’s professional little helpers), the party of 200 was a success. Everything went beautifully despite my sudden onset of severe urticaria.

And guess what, this week, I am doing it all over again: destination-wedding planning amidst business trips and events!

“But why? What for?” some of you ask just like my parents and friends did. Well, Matthew’s parents attended the engagement party but had to miss the wedding due to being elderly and frail. They also had to be on stand-by for Matthew’s 95 year-old grandmother since Matthew’s sister and her son will be travelling to Bali with us. So, to be fair to both sides of the family, we decided to do another wedding in Hampshire, UK, next month.

Half of Matthew's entire family!

Half of Matthew’s entire family!

Funny thing is, three of my friends get married these weeks, which means busy weekends for us on top of church activities leading up to Christmas. Also, two of my closest friends recently got engaged and are constantly calling me to consult about their 2013 wedding. So basically, I cannot run away from the whole wedding business.
Again, this wedding is a destination wedding. I am choosing and checking venues, menu, etc. from a far. My in-laws help, of course.

So far I have the church and reception venue booked. We’re going to have the blessing at Romsey Abbey, followed by lunch at The White Horse hotel.

Romsey Abbey exterior

Romsey Abbey exterior

The White Horse Hotel exterior

The White Horse Hotel exterior

My custom-made dress (for pregnant bride) is being made as we speak. The satin white gloves I bought from Amazon arrived at my in-laws house last week.

I will do hair and face myself. (I decided that Caucasian make up artist will not know what to do with my mixed Asian face and complexion)

The photographer is booked and we will just buy the hand bouquet at a local florist. What did I miss?

Oh, right! I need a long thick coat because this is going to be my first proper winter and I am not going to be my own “something blue” 😛

FAQ these days: how’s married life?

I can’t speak for Matthew but my answer is: married life (so far) is so much calmer and so much more fun.

It’s calm because we have had our fair share of fights and necessary friction when we were just engaged. Well, to be fair, we had fights since the first time we had to share a bathroom. But yeah, the disagreements were settled before we’re married.

We’re also blessed to have the opportunity to live together 3 months before the wedding. Some would argue that cohabiting out-of-wedlock would drive the couple to break up or lead to a fail marriage. But we decided to live together after we’re engaged. So 1) there’s no tension for whether or not he was going to propose; 2) living together was not “to test the water” or “an alternative to marriage”.

If you ask me, it was mostly logistical reasons, as I decided to move to Jakarta 3 months before the wedding. It was a bit pointless for me to get my own apartment merely 12 weeks before the big matrimonial move-in. But I will post a separate story on what we think on that subject matter, so let’s skip any questions or judgement on this one ya!

Back to the topic. Yeah it is more fun because we get to do more stuff as husband and wife. We started a bible study group with our pastor and other couples. We have road trips with the extended family. The Indonesian ones first and hopefully in a few months the British ones. Of course, we get to have our own travels together. In April alone, we travelled (back) to Bali for a weekend, to Singapore for a few days and this month we will go to Cebu, Philippines.

M’s first time to see a volcano! At Tangkuban Perahu, West Java.

As much as I enjoyed solo travelling, I love having Matthew by my side, if for no other reason than having someone to kill time with during unreasonable 2-hour wait at the airport. By the way, whoever said “it is not about the destination but the journey” is wrong! Try being delayed from 7PM flight to 5AM only for a 90-minute flight. Or try running for your life through arrival – baggage claim – check in – immigration – gate ONLY because your connection flight is going to leave you ONLY because your first leg flight was delayed. Or simply try sleeping in a security guard post on a deportation episode.

One blurry night at Changi Airport, Singapore.

Anyway, it is always better to have somebody with you. And when s/he is annoying, just move to another row. Hehe.

So, there is your answer: married life is good. Not just because you won’t likely to die alone, but also because you won’t have to LIVE alone.

Alive and scratching!

I caught myself swearing, “Bollocks!” over an accidentally unplugged cable. It was then dawned on me that I am officially a Briton missus.

It’s been a month since we exchanged vows. But it didn’t take long to test Matthew to stay with me in sickness. I’ve developed an autoimmune disease the week before the wedding. I have a chronic case of urticaria and it has been more than 6 weeks now. My case is not fatal, if anything it is a major discomfort and embarrassment.

I have exhausted every antihistamine drug known to men, ones prescribed by doctors and some smuggled from Singapore. I have finished bottles of diphenhydramine smeared all over me. On top of that, Matthew insisted to pour prickly heat powder on me every night before bed. During the day, we put the AC on 16 or 18 degrees and apply ice-cold compress on me.

Anyway, I just wanted to check in with the blog readers, that I am still alive and scratching!

The blotching bride!

Oh, Matthew and I came up with this joke:

What do you give a Latina for her allergic reaction: an antihispanic! XD

The art of giving

Having you at our wedding will already be a treat for us, but for those who want to buy gifts… Well, we mostly want and need cold hard cash, but the following would also be very much appreciated. Some ideas to suit all pockets, and do feel free to pitch together for the bigger-ticket items.

Being specific*

The links given are representative of the sort of thing we’d like. But they’re only a general guide.

• Flat-screen (but not wall-mounted) LED TV (at least 46 inches)

• Decent juicer

• Hi-fi with all-region DVD player

• Macbook Pro with all the trimmings

• iPad(s) — only the latest, please

• Benign bathroom scales (that calculate BMI and other important stuff)

• His n hers long, luxury bathrobes (any, as long as they’re soft, comfy and durable)

• Wifi modem (any, as long as it’s quick and reliable)

• Set of Sabatier chef’s knives for the kitchen

For her:

• Shoes (Christian Louboutin)

• Bags (Birkin and downwards, but best to ask)

For him:

• Briefcase (Montblanc)

• Sunglasses (RayBans but best to ask)

Getting generic

• Gift coupons for luxury stores, hardware shops, that sort of thing

• Spa treatment vouchers

• Hotel stay vouchers (not Thailand or Afghanistan; Europe and Maldives much appreciated)

*DO EMAIL US IF YOU INTEND TO GIVE ANY OF THE SPECIFICS TO AVOID DUPLICATION

Drop us here for about six months. Thanks!