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Engagement Story

Almalfi CoastLet’s take a trip back in time to May 2009. On a leisurely Sunday stroll down Chicago’s Michigan Avenue, Ash and I found ourselves talking about our post round-the-world-trip lives. Among the obvious questions, we wondered what city we would call home. Then a round item that goes on a girl’s finger took over the circuitous conversation. Next thing I know, Ash had seemingly tricked me into a detour down Chicago’s most expensive street full of clothing, hand bags, and jewelery boutiques. There on Oak Street, Ash had designed her dream engagement ring after two hours. My mental camera took a flurry of photographs and visions of living like a pauper clouded my vision.

Our Vessel View from Positano from Harbour Bryce Showing Off His Abs

Throughout that Summer, I exchanged several emails with my Brother’s talented jeweler in the City of Seven Hills. During our Cincinnati farewell tour, I was able to sneak away for an engagement ring design meeting with Rachel. With the size four platinum setting and accompanying precious stones created one month later, I patiently waited for the perfect round-brilliant diamond to present itself. Jeff (my brother) took a trip to inspect one potential winner in October 2009, but it did not past muster. But in November, I smashed my piggy bank and purchased a stunning example of Earth’s toughest mineral. It has been said that once a man buys a ring, the proclivity to exchange it for a “yes!” is nearly insurmountable (seems like a fair trade). Gladly, I faced no such difficulty with the ring locked in the Franklin Savings & Loan safe deposit.

Capri's Tunnel of Love Cathy Reading the Inscription

Ash's Engagement RingEight months passed and my only route to see the finished product was a heavily guarded online photo. With the assistance of two covert collaborators (Sue, my mother and Cathy, Ashley’s lovely mom), a plan was hatched to discreetly ship the goods to Kansas then subsequently flown to Zurich, Switzerland with the Miller family. To mask Operation Taxes, all emails related to the mission were held under the subject of “Taxes.” This ensured Ashley’s prying eyes were never awakened. A white lie to throw Cathy off the scent was told when I informed her the extraordinary moment would take place in Greece. While in our villa on Italy’s Almafi Coast, I took possession of the ring and got my first look at it. I was blown away… it was precisely what Ashley desired. I couldn’t wait to pop the question!

I Think She Likes It! An Engaged Couple's Embrace

June 14, 2010 was a brilliantly sunny day along the Almafi Coast, perfect for an all day boat adventure to the island sanctuary of Capri. Once on board the 33 foot vessel, I alerted Captain Antonio and First Mate Barbara of my prearranged plan. A basket of shells was arranged with the ring box buried under the eight envelopes containing pictures with meaningful inscriptions. Barbara informed me that two hours would pass before we reached the natural rock feature, the Tunnel of Love (cliche, I know). Nursing a few Peroni beers and my heart pounding, I did my best to absorb the beautiful coastline as the minutes ticked by. When the obvious rock formation came into focus, my nerves turned to excitement. Antonio, a masterful boat Captain, rocked the vessel into a shaded position just short of the watery tunnel. Barbara snuck around port side and delivered the goods. The Millers, Ashley included, were clueless to the gravity of the event ahead when the envelopes were disseminated. But once Kiley began reading her picture’s testimonial to love, the situation became clear. One by one, each Miller read aloud and as the final moment drew closer, tears welled up in my previously determined eyes. Once Ash fought through the terrible handwriting, my rehearsed speech turned into a jumbled mess of emotions. Then I spun around until I rested on one knee. With a flurry of tears and grins on board, Ash and I embraced for the first time as an engaged couple!

Braden's Dance with Death Capri's Blue Gratto Game Over

This video says it all:

The rest of the day was unforgettable including Capri’s luminous blue gratto, Braden’s tango with a jellyfish, and celebratory toasts!

Ash's RingSo how did I hatch this elaborate plan? It was not easy to say the least. Plan A (Winter 2010 execution): Place the engagement ring in a clean diaper of my nephew Michael and tell Ash he needs to be changed. I jokingly ran this one by Ash and she wasn’t buying what I was selling. Contrary to what you may be thinking, this was a serious idea. Plan B (July 2010 execution): Hire a donkey peasant in Santorini, Greece to tie the ring around the animal’s neck and meet us on a bluff overlooking the Mediterranean Sea. This wouldn’t work because there was no way I would carry such precious cargo in a backpack for months. Plan C (June 2010 execution): Incorporate Ashley’s five siblings and parents in a hands-on moment near the island of Capri on Italy’s Almalfi Coast. Bingo was his Name-o.

After perusing thousands of photos, no joke, I settled on eight that told our story while exemplifying one of Ashley’s traits that I adore. While Ash was having her blond locks sheared, I snuck away to have a strange man at a Hong Kong Kodak film shop print 4×6 copies and cut them to the proper size. Then on three early mornings in Dubai, I penned the inscriptions below on the back of each photo that I had typed out one month earlier while in China.

Aboard the thirty-three foot pleasure boat, each Miller opened their personalized envelope, displayed the photo, then read the printed text. Here are the photos and the corresponding inscription.

1) Falling in Love – Reader: Kiley (oldest sister) – Photo dated: July 31, 2009

Falling in LoveThis picture is from the British Virgin Islands. We may have met in Chicago, but the moment I fell in love with Ashley Elizabeth Miller was on February 17, 2008 aboard the ferry from Tortola to St. Thomas. Through all the mayhem of that listing ship, my feelings for you were steadfast. My heart and life became entwined with you and you alone. Like most things I enjoy in life, I have given you 100% of me since that moment and you have returned that love in an incredible fashion. My love for you will never end.

2) Overcoming Fears – Reader: Remington (middle brother) – Photo dated: January 17, 2010

Overcome FearsOne thing I truly admire about you is your willingness to overcome your fears. This picture from our extraordinary night dive on the Great Barrier Reef exemplifies your desire to confront things that make you sweat. It took some real soul searching for you to jump into the black abyss with sharks, but you did it! Your #1 fear of scuba diving, while it continues to test you, is just one example. New Zealand’s tallest bungee jump, stinky tofu, and downright horrifying guesthouses are others. We will confront and discover new fears and trials in the years ahead, but I am confident in our ability to triumph together.

3) Beautiful In Every Way – Reader: Bailee (youngest sister) – Photo dated: April 23, 2010

Beautiful in Every WayOuch. This picture after our moto crash in Laos may not show off your beautiful face, per se. But what it does show is that your beauty encompasses your whole self, not just your exquisite exterior. Your loyalty to friends, fierce defense of your family’s well being, and your selflessness are among the things that make you beautiful. In my heart, mind, and eyes, there couldn’t be a prettier girl. I find myself being taken aback by your beauty at the strangest of times: bleary eyed after a transcontinental flight, bamboo rafting, or hiking in Patagonia.

4) Common Interests – Reader: Braden (oldest brother) – Photo dated: August 31, 2009

Things in CommonThis is the very first picture taken by us on foreign soil during our Round The World jouney. The Lima International Airport, taken on August 31, 2009. The list of interests we share are too long to list, but sushi, travel, and adventure come to mind. I couldn’t think of a better person to share the experiences we have had around the world. But our differences are what make our relationship strong and lasting. You can educate me on fashion, pen all notes, and urge me to sleep more. I will take care of details, push the envelope of fun, and annoy you about the Reds and Bengals. The Jayhawks versus Hoosiers argument could be the only divider.

5) Values & Family Fusing – Reader: Cathy (mother) – Photo dated: July 30, 2009

Importance of FamilyOur folks are going to love this picture from the life sized Jenga game. You and I would be a great tandem alone. But we are far from being solo. We are both blessed with caring, giving, and loving families. And oh, the future is bright, what with the way our families already interact. Underlying all this is the fact we share the same values. Family is #1 to both of us and that will never change. Your excitement about Jeff and Kim’s first child is palpable. And I find myself grilling you with questions about your extended family, siblings, and parents. Both of these examples exhibit how we each care for each other’s family.

6) Chicago and Great Times Together – Reader: Brad (father) – Photo dated: Autumn 2009

Having Fun in ChitownAh, the Windy City. Where it all began. This picture was chosen because it features many things, including Jacalu, our mutual and dear friend whom, in a roundabout way, introduced us to each other. Also featured in the picture is the fact that I have so much darn fun with you. Be it the Recession Pub Crawl, a cheap bottle of red coupled with a terrible romantic comedy of your choosing, or hiking SouthWest China’s Tiger Leaping Gorge. Knowing that you and I can laugh with each other and at ourselves / odd situations makes the future alluring.

7) Future Family – Reader: Bryce (youngest brother) – Photo dated: December 12, 2009

Future FamilyHow many times have we talked about a return visit to New Zealand? But the next visit will be with our own young family. This picture of Bazils at Lake Moke reminds me of our #1 goal for the future together. That is to raise a beautiful family of our own. Three kisses for three healthy babies, that is how we go to bed each night. I would be honored if some day in the future you are the Mother of my children. And what a great mother you will be! I am thankful to have met someone who shares the same ultimate life goal.

8 ) Big Heart – Reader: Ashley (bride-to-be) – Photo dated: April 3, 2010

BIG HeartNala, the thing I love about you the most is your BIG heart. Your love rubs off on everyone, even orphaned Cambodian children as seen with Poun’s sincere embrace. Even while you were getting your cheek stitched up in Laos, your heart was with the grieving people that lost their family member. This picture couldn’t do a better job describing your big heart. If your friends and family could only know how much you truly care for them, they would blush for eternity. You say sometimes that you love people so much it nearly hurts. I don’t doubt that with your big heart. And I know your love for me is unconditional. Please know that mine is too.


Greg & Ashley

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