Saturday, May 26, 2018
Parenting & Relationships

From This Day: from ice cream aisle to wedding aisle

TAMPA — This town was Robert Soukkala's 40th since he was born in Montana.

He came to Tampa to help out his mom and for about a year divided his time between work and home.

One afternoon in January 2012, he was shopping at the Fresh Market when he spotted something he couldn't ignore.

Cynthia Hernandez stood in the frozen foods section pondering two cartons of ice cream, French silk and rocky road.

"If it's that important, why not just buy both?" he said, gesturing at the flavors she held.

Taken aback but not offended, Cynthia turned to see who exactly was this weird guy talking to her in the grocery store like they were starring in some sort of romantic comedy.

"Then I saw he was cute and thought, 'Maybe I should say hi,' " said the 34-year-old criminal defense lawyer from Tampa.

"She has a really inviting tone and is very down to earth," said Robert, 32, vice president of consumer lending and default services at HSBC in Tampa. "There was no hidden agenda."

Robert and Cynthia talked near the ice cream for 15 minutes before he asked her out for coffee that same day. Both rushed home, put away their groceries and met at a coffee shop at 5 p.m.

Coffee turned to dinner, which turned to drinks, and at 4 a.m. Robert and Cynthia parted ways vowing that that night would not be their last meeting.

"He was new to the area and every place we went was new to him," Cynthia said. "It turned into me showing him around."

Though they are both very independent, their mutual interests and the ones they didn't share had the couple coming together frequently.

"She likes horses, nature, fishing and the outdoors," Robert said. "We were having conversations on various topics and she has a knowledge about things I don't know much about. I'm the guy who knows everything about everything. She kind of filled in that gap."

Nearly a year later, they were talking about moving together into a house Cynthia owned in Beach Park.

"I had renters and they destroyed the place," Cynthia said. "Rob suggested we fix it up and move in after they left. He is really handy in everything construction. So he gutted the house and put it back together. That's when I knew I had to marry him."

Robert used sweat equity and 15 gallons of paint to get the home in some semblance of shape before they moved in in December.

Settled in, the couple went looking for new cars in hopes of finding Cynthia a sports car and Robert his dream, a Shelby Mustang. At the dealership, the salesman said he had something better.

"It was cool Corvette in a special edition color," Robert said.

He asked her opinion. She agreed it was a must-have.

"Then you'll have to marry me," Robert blurted.

"I thought, 'Are you talking about me or the car, silly?' " Cynthia remembers.

The excitement of finding a car had mixed with Robert's feelings that he had definitely found the right woman and erupted in a proposal that he hadn't remotely planned.

Once Cynthia realized he was serious, there were tears and acceptance.

"The salesman came back and we were smiling and I was crying and he was like 'Oh. Okay. I missed something,' " Cynthia said.

On Aug. 10, 30 close friends and family members gathered at the Chart House restaurant overlooking Old Tampa Bay.

Cynthia's best friend, actor Diana Durango, brought her dramatic flair to the role of officiant for the outdoor ceremony. The couple selected Chart House because the venue allowed their chihuahua, Rocky, to serve as the ring bearer.

The outdoor ceremony gave way to an indoor dinner, where the couple spent hours talking about how happy they were to have found one another.

"I'm somebody who has been around, like a gypsy," Robert said. "I had no expectation that I would be here. This is really where I feel complete with my life. That's something I never imagined in my entire life."

Comments
With makeover, ZooTampa at Lowry Park takes a page from the theme parks

With makeover, ZooTampa at Lowry Park takes a page from the theme parks

TAMPA — Behind the construction walls near the carousel at ZooTampa at Lowry Park, hammers, saws and power drills made a racket in the blazing Friday heat. A raft full of 100-pound water jugs took test trips on the new Roaring Springs ride set ...
Updated: 10 hours ago

Tell Me About It: Half sister worries about wedding drama

Half sister worries about wedding drama"target="_blank">Half sister worries about wedding dramaQ: I really want to go to my half-sisterís wedding, but I donít want to start trouble with her dad, who hates me. He might cause a scene if I go.My mom ch...
Published: 05/25/18
An all-ages playlist of the summer songs of 2018? It can be done

An all-ages playlist of the summer songs of 2018? It can be done

Recently I was asked to create a playlist for a summer beach party. An opportunity to procrastinate and mess around on Spotify for a few hours? Yeah, totally, when can I start?I like playlists that are diverse, not just in terms of genre (pop, hip-ho...
Published: 05/24/18
9 things to do indoors on this rainy Memorial Day weekend

9 things to do indoors on this rainy Memorial Day weekend

We've got you covered. Get it?
Published: 05/24/18

Tell Me About It: Busy mom wants to check her priorities

Q: As a mother of three young kids holding a full-time job and with a husband who frequently works late evenings and some weekends, I feel my priorities change according to what is in front of me at the time, then Iím reconsidering my choices later.H...
Published: 05/24/18
Top things to do for Memorial Day weekend in Tampa Bay: Concerts, festivals and memorials

Top things to do for Memorial Day weekend in Tampa Bay: Concerts, festivals and memorials

Our editors' picks for things to do this weekend.
Published: 05/25/18
Top things to do this weekend: Margarita Festival, Rays’ Kiermaier as Star Wars figure, Nintinder

Top things to do this weekend: Margarita Festival, Rays’ Kiermaier as Star Wars figure, Nintinder

LIME TIME: Tampa Bay Margarita Festival This year, there are twice the bartenders and a new RFID wristband system for less waiting at the two-day Tampa Bay Margarita Festival with a margarita flavor for every taste. Music headliners are the Wallflow...
Published: 05/23/18
John Fogerty, coming to Clearwater, isn’t backing down on protest songs, Parkland and #MeToo

John Fogerty, coming to Clearwater, isn’t backing down on protest songs, Parkland and #MeToo

It’s been 50 years since John Fogerty wrote Fortunate Son, one of the most scathing protest songs from the Vietnam War era. Writing another one with that kind of impact has been a challenge ever since. "Back in the ’80s, I had a couple o...
Published: 05/23/18
What's in theaters this week: 'Solo: A Star Wars Story,' Art and Short Film Mini-Fest

What's in theaters this week: 'Solo: A Star Wars Story,' Art and Short Film Mini-Fest

OPENING FRIDAY: SOLO: A STAR WARS STORY Alden Ehrenreich stars as a young Han Solo navigating the underworld and meeting his forever wingman Chewbacca and his scoundrel buddy Lando Calrissian (Donald Glover). With Emilia Clarke, Thandie Newton, Woo...
Published: 05/23/18
A weekend of festivals: Sunset Music Fest, 97X Barbecue, WMNFís US Festival tribute

A weekend of festivals: Sunset Music Fest, 97X Barbecue, WMNFís US Festival tribute

THE BEATS GO ON: Sunset Music FestivalAt last yearís Sunset Music Festival, the focus was all on crowd safety. After two fans died from drug overdoses at Tampaís largest annual rave in 2016, organizers heightened security across the board, yielding a...
Published: 05/23/18