Puddles’ Weekend Adventure! Part 1

Hello, everyone!  Many of you know by now that I have proposed to my girlfriend, Olwen,  of nearly 17 months.  I’ve thankfully received plenty of messages and Facebook postings from friends and family.  Now that the holidays are over, I can start posting the details.  I’ll probably end up breaking the story down into parts for easier reading.

Now where do I start?  Around August, I had made up my mind that I was going to propose to Olwen.  We knew that we would eventually marry, and it was only a matter of time when I would pop the question.  Even though she will be expecting a proposal, I wanted to catch her off her guard.  I started brainstorming for an idea through the next month, but it wasn’t until mid September that it finally hit me.

One night as I was driving home, I thought back to my Toronto visit last May.   During my week-long stay, I slept in Olwen’s room at her parents’ house while she stayed in her sister’s room.  In the corner of the room was a variety of stuffed animals and toys she had accumulated over the years.  That’s when I thought, what if I brought all of those stuffed animals back to Seattle?  And then I thought, what if I made a stuffed animal version of her favorite polar burtle, Puddles?  She wouldn’t see it coming, this could work!

There was a problem though.  I had wanted to meet her parents in person to ask for permission.  While it would enable me to go and retrieve the animals myself, I still had to make the trip to Toronto without Olwen knowing.  Olwen and I talk just about every day, and if I had to be gone for a weekend, it would be near impossible that she wouldn’t notice.  That’s when opportunity presented itself from an unlikely source.

During this time, Olwen was busy working on a project in Rwanda for a non-profit client.  Her firm was responsible for designing a campus for an all-girls boarding school.  The construction crew had recently begun breaking ground on the site  and needed supervision from the firm.  Turns out that Olwen was going to be sent over for a site visit for 10 days.  That only gave me one weekend to work with.  At first I hesitated at the thought of flying cross country by myself, asking her dad for permission, stealing her stuffed animals, and coming back without Olwen knowing.  It was a daunting task, but the timing could not have been any better.

I emailed her sisters, Olga and Olvie, and told them of my master plan.  I wanted to make this a surprise for the parents as well, but I need to make sure the parents were going to be there when I arrived.  Olvie was at school and was going to visit home that the same weekend I was visiting Toronto.   Since she was going to be staying with her parents, I instructed her to tell them that an unknown friend of hers was coming by to stay the weekend.  I also emailed a good friend of Olwen, Candy, to let her know that I was going to be in town and needed lodging for the night.

Meanwhile, I was wrestling with the how to make the stuffed animal.  I’m a lousy seamstress, and the last time I ever sewed anything together was a football I made in my Home Economics class back in 8th grade.  How in the world was I going to get a stuffed bear done?  I also asked others for any recommendations on a seamstress, but was unable to find anyone I could really trust.  Meanwhile, I kept revising the proposal.  I was contemplating bringing a stuffed Puddles with me to Toronto and having her Canadian friends take pictures with it.  But that required having the bear done before I left, and that would be difficult and expensive to find a professional seamstress who could accommodate.

By now, my proposal involved a stuffed animal, a flight to Toronto, and a photo book containing all the pictures of the stuffed animal with Olwen’s friends.  The plan was pretty elaborate for what it was, but for some reason, I still felt something was missing.  There had to be something more.  Something else unexpected.  Something totally ridiculous.  And that’s when I had my next idea: proposing to Olwen in a full-sized mascot suit of Puddles.


It’s a pretty nutso idea, and, well, it’s still a pretty nutso idea.  So not only did I need a stuffed bear done by the time I leave for my trip, I also needed to get a mascot suit done in time for the proposal AND find someone crazy enough to get it all done in time.

Enter Sammy…

During a party I was chatting with Oliver in the kitchen corner, and my proposal plans came up.  I told him that I was having trouble with the stuffed animal.  He paused for a second, and then brought one of Olwen’s friends, Sammy, who he said was a talented seamstress.  I didn’t have any other options at that point, so I asked if he could contact her for a favor.  By then, I only have a week left until Toronto and time was getting short.  Oliver also forwarded me a link to her portfolio which had a few decent pieces of work.  Who knows, I thought, maybe she can help me out.

A couple of days later, I received an email from Sammy.  I told her that I needed a bear, a bear suit, and have all of that finished by the end of the week and before the proposal, respectively.  It was a tall order, and I thought it would be too much to ask last minute.  She said she would work on it later in the day, but I was expecting the bear to be done after I got back from Toronto.  Later that evening, I receive these pics:


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“Holy cow, she’s fast!”  That was my first thought when I saw the pictures.  My second thought was, “This plan can work!”  Getting this bear done in time was cutting it close, but it was doable.  There were a couple minor changes, but nothing significant.  Sammy went right back to work, and by the night before my flight, she had it done .  Here’s the finished bear minus the red boots:

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Pretty sweet, huh?  I think that’s an understatement.  This bear is AWESOME.  I mean, compare it to the original:

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By Friday, the stage was set:  Olwen was in Rwanda; my ticket was booked; my rental car reserved; and I had Puddles.  I booked my ticket to leave from Vancouver (YVR) because it was cheaper than flying out from Seattle, so I needed to wake up early the next day to make my 1:00pm flight.  I had a big day tomorrow and so far everything was coming into place.  So far so good.

To be continued…