My Thai Teacher Gets Married

On the day after Christmas, my Thai teacher of the last four and a half years finally tied the knot.  There’s no doubt she’s a patient person – continuing to tutor me after all these years is all the evidence of patience you would ever need – and her patience finally paid off as she married a handsome, decent, and loving man.  Tawn and I were very honored to be invited to the ceremony and I thought I would share some of the photos with you.

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Above, photos of Khru Kitiya (“Khru” means “teacher” in Thai) and her husband, Khun Por.  It is common for Thai couples to go for professional wedding portraits weeks or months in advance of their wedding.  These portraits are often elaborately staged in specialized studios, many of which are located in our neighborhood.  The photos are then displayed at the wedding reception for guests to enjoy.

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The wedding ceremonies were held at a facility on the north side of the city that is built in a traditional Thai style.  This main building is part of a rooftop reception area with open-air pavilions on either side of the deck.  Because it was a very bright day, although pleasantly breezy, most guests were hiding in the shade.  Notice all the shoes of the guests who are inside the main building.

The day consisted of three distinct events, of which we took part in the second two.  The first began at 7:30, when the monks arrived to conduct a traditional Buddhist ceremony, complete with chanting and the splashing of holy water.  The families of the couple then feed the monks in order to make merit for the newlyweds.

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The second event was the Rot Nam (“water pouring”) ceremony.  Family members and friends bless the groom and bride by pouring a small amount of water on their hands, which are held in a prayer-like position, while wishing them happiness in their marriage.  You will notice that both the groom and bride are in more traditional outfits, symbolically joined by a string, and have additional blessing marks on their foreheads.

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The third event was a Chinese style luncheon banquet, held downstairs from the pavilions.  There were probably 200 guests and we enjoyed dish after dish of tasty food while listening to speeches by Phuu Yai (“big people”, or guests of honor) and teasing by the two masters of ceremonies.

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One special treat after the speeches was that Khun Por and Khru Kitiya performed a duet for the guests.  Singing in front of a crowd is always a little scary but doing that on your wedding day just raises the stakes!

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After the cake was cut, Khru Kitiya did something unconventional for a Thai wedding: she threw her bouquet to the crowd of unmarried women.  This is something borrowed from American style weddings and I’ve never seen it at a Thai wedding before.  Unfortunately, her aim was a bit wide and the bouquet ended up in the hands of a young lady, recently married and expecting her first child!

It was a very fun celebration and we were glad to have been invited to be a part of it.  I hope Khun Por and Khru Kitiya have a long and happy life together!

 

Happy First Anniversary

Coming hot on the heels of Federal District Court judge Vaughn Walker’s ruling that California’s Proposition 8 unfairly discriminates against gay men and women in their right to marry the partner of their choosing, the timing of my first anniversary of marriage to Tawn seems quite appropriate.  Yes, it was a year ago today that a group of family and friends gathered in a courtroom in Iowa and Tawn and I exchanged vows and started our life together as spouses. 

Not wanting to get into a tangent about legal issues, as I’ve written on the topic of same-sex marriage rights many times before, I’ll simply say that I agree with the gist of the 136-page ruling: My having the right to marry Tawn does nothing to diminish the value of any different-sex marriages, but denying me the right does me grievous harm while doing nothing to benefit the interests of the state.

Having just celebrated my grandparents’ 67th anniversary, I am hopeful that medical technology will progress to the point that Tawn and I, too, have the opportunity to reach such a milestone.  Realistically, of course, I’ll be happy if we get thirty or forty years.  Most importantly, though, I will focus on just enjoying each day we have together.

Happy anniversary, Tawn!

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The full entry about that wedding is here, for those who didn’t see it and are interested. 

 

Publishing a Children’s Book

There’s a software product called Booksmart from www.blurb.com that allows you to create and print your own books.  Since moving here and blogging, I’ve created “yearbooks” to summarize each year’s experiences, based in large part on my blog entries.  The first year I used Shutterfly to print the books (two volumes covering 14 months) but the binding quality was so poor that pages started to come loose the first day I looked at them.

My cousin Alex suggested Booksmart, which she had used to create guest registration books for her wedding, putting portraits of her and her husband Bill on one side of the page and then having the facing page blank.  She was impressed with the quality and the costs were much lower than at Shutterfly and many other sites.

Since then I’ve used Booksmart to not only create yearbooks but also customized books for my nieces.  I can incorporate pictures, text and backgrounds into many different shapes and sizes of both hardcover and softcover books.  The software is easy to use and allows full manipulation of all layout templates, so you have complete control over the look.

My most recent book is titled “Ava’s Uncles Get Married”.  As you might guess, it is a twenty-page tome about our wedding this past summer written for my youngest niece, who will turn four this Spring.  I thought I’d share it with you here.  You’ve seen most of the pictures and read much of the story already if you’ve been following this blog for a while, so I apologize to any of you who feel this is just a rehash, but I am very proud of this book.  I think it is the type of thing that Ava will treasure.

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While I’ve done a little scrap-booking in my life, I think this comes out looking a lot nicer.  If you’ve been thinking about doing something with your pictures and/or your blog entries, may I suggest you check out Booksmart at www.blurb.com?

Oh, and yes, I did used to be the high school yearbook editor.

Video – Our Wedding Ceremony

3810387085_7a25877a5e_b This may be of limited interest, but some people have enquired about video from our wedding ceremony.  I’ve edited it together along with some pictures from our more than nine years together. 

The audio isn’t perfect – why didn’t I think to pack lavalier mics for everyone and a mixer? – but you’ll get the sense of what a humble, midwestern civil ceremony looks like.

The vows we exchanged were our own, the same ones we used for our commitment ceremony in September, 2004.  Very cool that the justice agreed to use them.

Warning: Shocking footage of a same-sex couple enjoying equal rights. 

 

 

The Reception

IMG_0254 Friday evening after returning to Kansas City, Tawn and I met my cousins (one local and two visiting) as well as a few KC-based friends at Cafe Trio.  Trio is a nice restaurant/bar right on the Country Club Plaza shopping center with a nice deck that overlooks JC Nichols Memorial Fountain.  Of course, they couldn’t handle seating for a dozen so we just occupied the bar area, slowly expanding as adjacent drinkers left.

Eventually, one of the owners came over to see if we were planning on eating dinner.  I explained that we wanted a table but the maitre d’ had said they couldn’t accommodate us.  Telling him that it was our wedding night (my gaydar went off when speaking with him, so I figured it couldn’t hurt to mention it) and we wanted a table, he was accommodating and a few minutes later we were sitting at a group of tables on the deck.  Sitting on it was a complimentary bottle of champagne.  Nothing like pulling family strings, huh?

Saturday was the big reception.  We opted for an afternoon reception since our guests included several young children and some older adults for whom a late night event might be tiring.  The site was Lidia’s Kansas City, the first restaurant in Lidia Bastianich’s small chain.  You may know Lidia from her Public Television cooking shows.  The restaurant location is a former freight building across the tracks from Union Station.  It is beautifully designed and their upstairs reception area has lots of light.  We enjoyed great service from our two servers, who really went out of their way to make it a special event.

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Above, Albert makes a very nice toast to our health and happiness. 

It was a lovely reception with lots of family members, family friends and a few close friends who came in for the event.  These included three high school friends who have been close to my family over the decades.

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The meal was a three course menu with a choice of entrees: either a lovely lemon chicken or a trio of homemade pasta with included a wild mushroom ravioli, seafood fettucini and a rigatoni with Italian sausage and broccoli rabe.  Dessert was a lemon olive oil cake with basil sauce.  It was really nice.  All their pasta is freshly made on site, which makes all the difference in the taste and texture.

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In addition to a very thoughtful toast by Albert, a long-time family friend, my mother made a beautiful speech:

Chris and Tawn:

We never thought we would be able to celebrate this occasion of your wedding.  How much joy we feel that it is a reality for the two of you and for our family.

One of the realities of being parents of a gay or lesbian child is that the child is not the only one who much “come out of the closet”.  To continue with our relationship as your parents, we had to come out as well.  We had to grow into the understanding that this is who you are and that it is necessary for us to continue loving you and supporting you in your life because you are our child and everything else is secondary to that fact.  For us, that means sharing your activities with extended family members and friends with the same openness that we share Jennifer and Kevin’s activities.

A similar growth has occurred for your sister, her husband, and more recently their daughters.  Likewise, your grandparents have grown in their understanding of this aspect of who you are.  Aunts, uncles and cousins, to widen the circle, have also experienced a growth of understanding.

This understanding is: You are of us and we are of you and that will never change.

Today the family has gathered around you, both physically and in spirit, to celebrate this road of your life’s journey.  We welcomed Tawn with open arms nine years ago, loving him as your choice of a life partner.   Now, Tawn, we welcome you as Chris’ husband and Chris as your husband.  We love you both with all our hearts and pray that your life together will be strong.

How lucky am I to have such supportive parents and such a supportive family? 

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Knowing that we were heading to New York City next, most of our guests had chipped in to make our visit there very memorable.  The gift bag, which we are opening below, contained a one night’s stay at the Marriott Marquis Hotel in Times Square, two tickets to see the Tony Award-winning show Billy Elliot, and reservations at Eric Ripert’s Le Bernardin, which Restaurant magazine rated the 15th best restaurant in the world this year. 

Such a thoughtful gift!  Something we will really enjoy and, an added benefit, it certainly packs easily!

Saturday evening my sister and brother-in-law hosted an open house, with pretty much all the same guests gathering for further visiting and home-smoked barbecue.  It was nice to have several more hours to visit with everyone, especially since several people flew or drove a long way to visit.

Yes, it was small and not nearly as fancy as many weddings and receptions I’ve been to, but I think it was very nicely suited to who we are and what we value as a couple.

 

We’re Married! (Now with Photos)

Thanks for your patience as Tawn and I went through a weekend’s worth of wedding celebrations and then tried to sort through pictures in order to share them, and the associated stories, with you.  We were fortunate to have several guests with cameras and had the opportunity to gather the pictures before the weekend ended.  Another friend, Ryan, shot with a digital SLR and hopefully we’ll have some even nicer pictures to share with you in a few weeks.

Thanks also to the dozens of congratulatory comments and well-wishes.  More than ever, this trip in which we’ve met several Xangans, has reinforced what a community this site really is.  We appreciate all your thoughts and greetings.

On Thursday morning we headed north to Council Bluffs, Iowa, about three hours from Kansas City.  While my sister, brother-in-law and the nieces went to the zoo, Tawn and I took a nap then picked up guests from the airport.

Along the way, we had a rather blogable moment as my brother-in-law borrowed the keys for the sedan in order to remove something from the trunk.  He then kept the keys in his pocket as they headed off to the zoo, something I didn’t discover until thirty minutes before Lilian and Anita’s flight was scheduled to arrive.

We ended up taking a taxi across the river to the airport, what ended up being a $50 round trip!  Thankfully, though, Lilian and Anita were easily found at the baggage claim and the timing worked well.

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Above: Tawn, Anita and Lilian at La Mesa Restaurant.

After dinner at a Mexican restaurant (I realize I’m repeating a bit of a previous entry, so my apologies), we headed to the Cass County (Nebraska) Fair to enjoy the rides on the midway, a taste of cotton candy, and the roar of the crowd at the tractor pull.

Top: Tawn, Lilian and Anita in the grandstands at the tractor pull.  Middle left: The same trio buying some cotton candy.  Middle right: A single passenger spins round and round as the sun dips below the western horizon.  Bottom: Tawn, Chris, Sugi and Andy.

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Driving home along the country roads, Lilian and Tawn dozed as Anita chatted with me to help keep my eyes open.  After dropping them off at the hotel, I headed back out to the Omaha airport as Ryan’s flight arrived at 11:30.  After stopping by a local diner so he could order dinner (six hours on Southwest with only peanuts – but that is to be expected), I called it a night.

Bight and early on Friday morning, we were showered and dressed and ready for breakfast.  The obvious choice: the Cracker Barrel.  Below, Anita and Tawn wait for their grits.

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We arrived at the courthouse at 10:30 and went to the County Recorder’s office to pick up the license.  The clerk, who had been grumpy on Tuesday morning when we first applied, seemed a little less so this morning.  Maybe she’s more of a Friday person?  In either case, we reviewed the document, signed it to attest to the accuracy, and then headed upstairs to the Court Clerk’s office.

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Above, waiting at the Court Clerk’s window with our witnesses, Anita and Ryan.

Thankfully, there weren’t any cases in session so the waiting area outside the courtrooms weren’t filled with the scraggly assortment of people who were there Tuesday morning.  Still, there were a few people around, looking on with curiosity as the dozen or so friends and family members filled the room.

Below, pre-wedding picture with my family members who had made the trip.  Note the bemused lawyer getting into the elevator in the background!

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This whole bureaucratic process reinforced for me that marriage is, more than anything, a civil function: a legal recognition by the state of the relationship between two adults.  I believe more than ever that all “marriages” should be identified by the state only as “civil unions” and that the churches should be allowed to do whatever additional ceremonies they see fit.  Separation of church and state.  Anyhow, let’s not get into the political aspect of this issue here.

While we were taking pictures, the judge came out of his courtroom and called us in.  He was very friendly and invited people to walk in front of the bar if they wanted to take pictures from the area in front of the bench.  Oddly, though, everyone respected the institution and stayed in the viewing gallery.

We asked the judge whether we could use our vows from the commitment ceremony we did in 2004 as part of the wedding.  He reviewed them and decided they complied with whatever requirements for wedding vows that the state of Iowa has, so agreed to use them instead.

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Here they are:  (Video of us saying our vows here)

(Chris/Tawn), I choose you to spend my life with,
to grow with, and to make my life with.
I will honor and respect you and be by your side
as we build a life together.

You are the love of my life.
Through the challenges and joys,
the brightest peaks and darkest valleys,
the sunny days and stormy nights,
I pledge my love to you
until the last day of my life.

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We then exchanged rings and continued:

(Chris/Tawn), I give you this ring as a symbol
of my love, joy and fidelity.
Wear it as a reminder of my vows to you
and your vows to me.

With that, five minutes after we started, the judge pronounced us legally married.

It is worth noting that during the ceremony, I had a view over Tawn’s shoulder of the window in the courtroom door.  I noticed two faces in it during the proceedings:  One was that of a redheaded teenage boy wearing a baseball cap, who had a confused and slightly disgusted look on his face.  The other was of the grumpy clerk from the County Recorder, whose face was beaming with a wide smile.

After the witnesses signed the license and the judge congratulated us, we headed downstairs to the adjacent park for some pictures.  Council Bluffs, a town that is perhaps a bit lost in the shadows of its larger neighbor, Omaha, still has a cute historic center and they have done a very nice job on the remodel of the park.

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Above, Tawn and I pose in front of the fountain.  Below, posing with my parents, who drove in the previous day from Indiana.

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After pictures, we drove to a local barbeque restaurant (C’mon, this is a midwestern wedding.  What did you expect us to eat after an important family event?) for lunch.  No pictures there as once you get your fingers wet with barbeque sauce, you don’t want to be handling your camera!

Filled up with good food and flushed with the excitement of finally being legally recognized as a couple, we loaded back into the car and headed back to Kansas City.

Reception covered in the next entry.  Once again, thanks for your good wishes.  I’m glad to be able to share this special event with you.

Tractor Pull Bachelor Party

It is Friday morning.  A loud thunderstorm passed through at 4:00, waking us up in our room at the Days Inn.  We will head to the courthouse in three hours.  Last night was our defacto bachelor party.  We drove up to Council Bluffs in the morning with my sister, brother-in-law and nieces.  My parents arrived mid afternoon and we picked Lilian and Anita up at the airport before dinner.

Dinner was at La Mesa Mexican Restaurant, whose hearty portions deserve an entry of their own. 

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Three generations of the family: my mother, sister and nieces.

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Lilian and Anita join us at dinner.

After dinner, Anita, Lilian, Tawn and I drove to the Cass County Fair (about 18 miles south of Omaha), an idyllic fair with games, rides, cotton candy and a tractor pull.  We met up with Andy and Sugi, enjoyed some Bud Light, and watched souped-up tractors pull a weight-carrying sled as far as they could down the field.

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It was lots of fun and I have some loud video to share with you later.  Stay tuned.

Well, time to shower, shave and get ready to get married.