Prepare yourselves. The cuteness you're about to witness is a bit extreme. I'm about to introduce you to Ted and Trang Lai . . .
I first met this adorable pair (in person) about two months ago in the press room at Expo West. We'd already been connected via social media, but upon meeting them in person, I was blown away by their absolute sweetness, genuineness, joyfulness, and all around fun-ness. After learning they'd been married for so long (and happily so!!!), I just had to include them in this series! Luckily they said yes. And the rest? Well, keep reading for all the cuteness overload details . . .
Tess: How and when did you two meet?
Ted (T1): My first day at college. I was being shown around, and my brother, who was a friend of Trang’s, introduced us. It was an area of Pomona called Walker Beach. We spent a lot of time talking throughout the next two years, but really didn’t begin dating till we spent quite a bit of the summer of 1991 together. Our first real date was August 12, 1991.
Trang (T2): We met in the Summer of '89 when Ted became a college frosh at Pomona College. He was having lunch on the grass with a group of people. I walked by and his older brother who was the same year as me called out to me and introduced us. We started dating on August 12, 1991.
Tess: When did you know it was true love?
Ted (T1): It’s going to sound cheesy, but I thought it was true love Fall 1989 when we had a great conversation on the top of one of the dorms. We were supposed to go to a dance together, but opted not to. However, at the time, I was in a relationship and didn’t do anything. Throughout the years, each and every time we had any time to hang out, I felt like there was something there that was special. This was reinforced when we really began hanging out the summer of ’91. At that time, I was single, but I thought she was in a relationship still… and she wasn’t. Then we began dating, and I knew it pretty quickly after… I just had to convince her. ;-)
Trang (T2): I knew were going to get married four months after we were dating, December 1991. Does that mean that was when I knew it was true love because we were going to be together forever? So, maybe the answer is that I knew it was true love Summer of '91, but I knew it was going to be forever December 1991.
Tess: Who proposed and how did that take place? We want to hear all the gushy, romantic details!
Ted (T1): That would be me. We’d already had multiple conversations about it, but the actual proposal was in June 1993 right after I’d graduated. It’s funny because I don’t even remember the date anymore because I messed up. I’d asked my mom for a lucky day according to the Lunar Calendar, but I totally misunderstood what day it was when I converted to the Solar Calendar, so I had to re-propose to make sure it was lucky. That said, the actual proposal was among some of our closest friends. I cooked homemade pizza and we had fortune cookies for dessert. I carefully cut one of the cookies in half, wrapped the ring in tissue, and put it inside. I also wrote “Will you marry me?” on the back of the fortune. Here’s the funny gross part, to put it back together, I used saliva because it’s stickier and put it outside to dry (don’t worry, I didn’t let Trang eat it). I ended up having to fend off a hungry bird… and ended up baking it in the sun too long, so it was darker than the other cookies for our guests. I then had to unwrap each cookie and bake the in the sun too.
Trang (T2): We talked about marriage, but Ted was the one who proposed Summer '93 after he graduated from college. We were sharing a house with another couple and a friend. He was making dinner which was not unusual. All of the housemates sat down to dinner. For dessert, he brought out these fortune cookies. Unsuspecting, I opened my fortune cookie and said, why did someone stuff tissue in here? Then I felt something in that tissue... it was a jade ring and the fortune said will you marry me? I said yes and cried. Then, he took the ring away from me because he made an error and gave it a day too early. He had asked his mom when would be a lucky day to propose to me according to the Chinese Lunar calendar. Don't worry. After midnight, he proposed again and I still said yes. The funny part was how he got the ring into the fortune cookie. You can read his account for that fun piece.
Tess: Do you have pet names for each other? Care to share?
Ted (T1): Not really… I call Trang “honey” or “darling” a lot though. If I could call her something, it would “my little furnace” because temperature wise, she’s way warmer than me.
Trang (T2): Teddy, Teddy Bear, honey, sweetie, love, pumpkin, Theodoro (Spanish version), Tedifer (like Jenifer but replace Jen with Ted; I use it when I am feeling especially ornery/lively), sweet cheeks, bundt cake (okay, maybe not that one, but I might start using it)
Tess: What are your challenges as a couple? How do you work through them?
Ted (T1): I travel all the time. So finding time for each other makes it difficult. Communication is also sometimes more difficult too. I think the key is to just make sure we actually make time to talk or be together as a couple to recharge our relationship batteries.
Trang (T2): It's a challenge that really should've ended our relationship: communication. He travels a lot, and we both work long hours. I say communication, but it's mostly the communication about things we are going to do withe family or friends. However, I think it hasn't broken up our relationship because the important stuff we do communicate: our endless love for each other, the love for our family, our feelings and thoughts. Those we communicate just fine. The other thing we did when we got married was to take our vows seriously. We went into this partnership knowing that things were not always going to be easy. We promised to each other that we would always find a way to work through the tough spots. We sit down and talk it through and forgive each other and love each other for the imperfections that make us, us. We also spend a lot of time together. This doesn't work for all couples, but we both enjoy being together. We believe in having time away from our daughters too. We call them date nights.
Tess: What do you love most about your spouse?
Ted (T1): I love that Trang is so passionate about protecting those she loves. It’s kind of the Momma Bear instinct.
Trang (T2): Ted loves people. I love that he can connect with virtual strangers. I love that he's our social butterfly and drags us into things that I wouldn't do alone. So, I love that he brings adventure into our lives. I never know what his next big thing will be, and isn't that fun? And, more than that, I love that he loves me.
Tess: How do you keep your relationship fun and fresh? Do you have date nights or other fun things you do to stay connected?
Ted (T1): Role-playing. Just kidding! We both have a quirky sense of humor, so we do little things to make sure we show that we care. We try to experience everything together. People know us as a couple (actually maybe as an entire family) because we’re rarely found apart. So going to new restaurants, experiencing events, traveling… it’s all done together. We don’t have as many date nights as we could, but one thing I always look forward to is “discussion” time. If the girls ask us a question, we often say that “Mom and dad have to discuss it,” and then we take a moment to kiss.
Trang (T2): It always seems like we are trying new things or going to new places. I love the adventure. We have been having more and more date nights as the girls have gotten older. Being vegan has brought us closer together because we like to eat the same kinds of food. We love being foodies and taking photos of food. We also love to travel together. We also always say that it doesn't matter what we do as long as we get to be with each other.
Tess: What do you think the three most important things are in maintaining a loving relationship?
Ted (T1): Kindness, understanding, and physical closeness (hugs, kisses, etc.). Sometimes if you can just be kind to each other and those around you, so many great things happen and you can smooth over mistakes. Listening is great, but taking time to understand each other is even more important. I think it’s what helps develop trust in each other. Finally, physical closeness…affection is important. If we haven’t hugged or kissed or snuggled, I always feel like my day isn’t complete. Also, if I can add a fourth… ability to anticipate. If you can anticipate what your partner needs/wants, then you go a long way to ensuring happiness.
Trang (T2): Knowing a relationship is not 50/50, desire to make the relationship work, humor. I think that if you think that everything in a partnership is going to be 50/50 all the time, then you will be sorely disappointed. Sometimes he takes the lead, and sometimes I take the lead. Sometimes we share the decision making. It's organic and changes over the years. However, one of us cannot be the lead all the time or the subordinate all the time - that would be too unbalanced. Second, I think you also have to want the relationship to work and that you will do what you can to make sure that it does work. You gotta be all in. Last, if you can laugh about it, you can work your way through anything.
Tess: Thank you for being vegan rockstars! What are you currently working on? Where can we find out more about what you do?
Ted (T1): The majority of my food posts are on Instagram as @wokwildside. I’m also one of the hosts of a featured show on the Vegan Food Share YouTube network called Vegan MacGyver where we cook from a hotel room with the iron, hot water pot, and blow dryer. My daughter Genevieve and I have also created the Instagram account @veganmacgyver to showcase some of our hotel cookery. In addition to that, I’ve got my own website that I keep on meaning to update, but I haven’t taken the time to do it. Eventually I’ll post more recipes, reviews, and thoughts.
Trang (T2): You can follow me on Instagram @thisistheveganlife. That's it. Have vegan food? Will consume!
Tess: Is there anything else you’d like to share?
Ted (T1): I never really loved donuts when I was growing up. Now that I’ve become vegan, I may eat more donuts in a month than I did in all my years from birth to 18. There’s something about having found vegan donuts that makes me always want to support the business (unless they’re terrible).
Trang (T2): We do Zumba together. I told Ted that he's setting a trend because it looks like we've increased the number of male participants since he started going with me. Trailblazer! We love vegan food, but we also want to be healthy. We are conscious about how much calories we burn and how many steps we take. It's borderline obsessive. It means enjoy taking fast walks together.... more excuses for time together! We like the raw, the juices, and the green smoothies. We've done juice cleanses together and will probably do it again.