Meet me under the tallest Christmas tree

I woke up in a hotel in River North the morning after Brian’s work holiday party. I had brought a coule outfits but after the wild night, I was leaning toward a pair of tie-dye yoga pants and a hoodie. Brian steered me away from super comfort and suggested I try something else.

“Okay, ya weirdo.”

He had apparently made reservations at a restaurant called Brunch, where we would soon eat ourselves stupid. “You can’t leave brunch to chance,” said the man who rarely makes reservations for anything.

“Okay, ya weirdo.”

Breakfast nachos at Brunch: a plate of waffle fries, cheese, bacon, and eggs.

And so we went to brunch at Brunch, where they served breakfast appetizers (nachos made from waffle fries and topped with eggs—are you drooling yet?), coffee in thrifted mugs, and the most perfectly poached egg on the planet.

Sleeping Beauty coffee mug

And I thought this was going to be the highlight of my day…

I was slightly suspicious, of course, partially because I had booked the hotel with the hopes that Brian would take the hint and partially because of a group text exchange of some friends who must have forgotten I was in the chat.

I defer to the other two guys: Brian because he has some pretty big plans today...

Oh does, he, Eric?…Big plans, huh? What kind of big plans?

But I had no idea the wild ride I was in for. At Brunch, Brian was distracted. Staring at his phone (which is unusual for him). Furiously texting. I asked who he was talking to and he kinda  brushed it off.

“Okay, ya weirdo.”

As we finished our meal, making tentative plans to go to one of the museums, Brian jumped up quickly, stating he had to go to the bathroom as if it were there first time he’d ever done it.

“Okay, ya weirdo.”

I spent my time wisely, screwing around on social media, bragging about the best poached eggs ever on Instagram and showing off last night’s makeup like a rockstar on Snapchat.

Just a selfie of me bragging that I was still wearing last night's makeup.

And then I waited.

And waited. And it got a little weird.

And then it got a lot weird when I looked up to see two of our friends, Eric and Brooke (one of my Something Blue girls). And Brooke had her video camera.

All I could think was, Okay, so it’s happening here. An interesting choice, Brian.

I never expected a big scene or anything. I figured it would be quiet, somewhere nice/special, but mostly quiet. And never on video.

Eric slid in next to me, and Brooke sat down where Brian had been sitting.

“So where’s Brian?”

“Ummmm…the bathroom?”

“I don’t think he’s coming back,” her words were drawn, full of excitement.

“Where’s his jacket?”

“You’re sitting on it.”

Brooke reached into his coat pocket and pulled out an envelope.

Inside the envelope was a note, an Android-compatible usb reader, and a cryptex.

For those of you unsure of what a cryptex is, go back to the The DaVinci Code. That puzzley thing Langdon had to solve? That’s a cryptex.

The note from was a clue to open the cryptex. Eric had the answer (and additional clues), so he could provide hints. Brooke knew nothing, so she could help me solve it.

As we spent an embarrassingly long time trying to solve this puzzle, I figured out how to get the answer, and was about to work it into the cryptex, when I realized, the cryptex numerical combination was still taped to the bottom of the device.

Nailed it!

Inside the cryptex, was a usb memory thingy (which plugged into the cable which plugged into my phone). It was a video from Brian, in which he told me that he planned an adventure and gave me a clue to another location.

This led us to The Looking Glass Theater near Water Tower Place. Upon our arrival, several really excited attendants handed me another cryptex and another clue. I solved this one in approximately 37 seconds, and inside this bigger cryptex was another clue to another location.

Again, it took me an embarrassing amount of time to figure out the location, which I knew was at Navy Pier, but had no idea where to go once we got there. As we were walking through the entrance, I mentioned The Crystal Gardens, having gone to an even there years ago. And Eric was like, BOOM.

We made our way up the escalator, and as I looked through the windows,

Oh fuck, my parents are here!

My parents were sitting at a table inside the garden with another cryptex. They also knew the answers and had additional clues for me. Eventually, Brooke solved it, because holy crap it was hard.

Inside the cryptex was a final location clue (and a flower hair clip, because as you can see, there’s room for a flower inside) in which Brian told me to meet him under tallest tree.

I knew immediately we were going to Winter Wonderfest at the end of the pier. My mom had wristbands for all of us to get in, so she led the charge. And we made our way through the restaurants and shops, twisting and turning to avoid crowds.

As we drew closer to the fest, Eric received some intel, and was told to find the man in the blue suit before coming in.

When we arrived an elf in a blue suit greeted us.

“Welcome! Welcome! You must be Chrissy! We’ve been waiting for you! I am the mayor of Winter Wonderfest! Welcome!”

A few other elves, including what appeared to be a reporter elf, appeared, but I looked past them to see Brian, wearing a suit under the giant Christmas tree in the center of the hall.

The mayor took my arm and walked me toward Brian while the other elves cried, “Make way! Make way! Chrissy’s coming through!”

As I walked up to Brian, he pulled out a velvet box with my grandmother’s ring inside it and got down on one knee.

Behind me, I heard someone yell out, “Oh shit! He goin’ to propose!”

Proposal under the Christmas tree at Winter Wonderfest

He asked me to be his bride, and of course I said yes. We hugged and kissed and then hugged my parents, his brother, amd our freakin’ awesome friends who had joined me on the scavenger hunt.

And then we needed some good pictures, of course. Brian got down on one knee, again, and asked me to marry him, again. And I said yes, again. It was perfect.

After wandering around the indoor fest for a while, the six of us went for champagne and snacks at Riva, a Navy Pier restaurant Brian and I had been to a few years earlier on my birthday.

We even kept the empty champagne bottle until fittingly, our wedding day, when it managed to get tossed out with other bottles in the mass insanity that was my house the morning of the wedding.

And now, a year later, I can look back on that memory my wonderful husband created for us before he was my husband. And Christmas will forever be better than it was before.

What was your proposal like?

Hey! Did you know you can buy my book on Amazon? 37 women wrote about the struggle for perfection, and I'm one of 'em. Go check it out!

I’m Not Normal

“You’re not normal.”

“I know.”

“That’s why you love me.”

“It really is.”

I’m so lucky, you guys, to have someone like Brian who not only loves how weird and me I am, but encourages me to let my freak flag fly.

adorable engagement photo with board games and a picnic

Photo credit: Being Joy Photography

I wasn’t always this sparkly, shiny ray of positivity that make my coworkers think I’m in my early to mid twenties (bless their wonderful hearts-and not in a sarcastic way). But something about Brian (who is not sparkly or shiny, by the way) makes me want to be better. Makes me see the world from another angle. It gives me hope. It puts my faith in humans. It helps me believe in magic when most would say that magic isn’t possible.

My dad used to say to me, “Christine, you’re really book smart, but sometimes your common sense could use a little help from your brain.” I never took offense at this, because, let’s be honest, I’m a little bit flighty. I walk into no parking signs when I’m too busy looking at my phone. I drive my car into the middle of a snow bank. It took me three months to realize I had gotten my period. But you have to be flighty if you’re ever going to fly. Too much logic can kill imagination. And I happen to love my imagination. My little world, where skies are pink and I’m a cool girl. Where I create a snow beach in my parents’ front yard. Or where I cry at Disney World because I’m so happy and overwhelmed with memories that I can’t think straight.

Brian was baffled when I told him he was partially to blame for my rose colored glasses. “But I’m not that happy or positive.”

He doesn’t realize it’s not his demeanor that emboldens me to dream big and picture all the wonderful magical things I can do. It’s how he sees me. It’s how he tells me that I can do all these amazing things. He believes in me. He thinks I’m adorable. He encourages me, and he inspires me. And he’s everything I ever wanted or needed in a partner.

Hey! Did you know you can buy my book on Amazon? 37 women wrote about the struggle for perfection, and I'm one of 'em. Go check it out!

Frolicking in the Park

Sometimes, it amazes me, the beauty that surrounds us. A few weeks ago, Brian and I took a stroll down the Fox River in Geneva, Illinois with a lovely photographer and her assistant. We had a little picnic, played some games, and frolicked (yes, frolicked) around the playground surrounded by tiny humans. Our photographer captured some of the suburban Chicago beauty of spring, and I’d like to share that with you.

We weren’t planning on having an engagement session, but when I stumbled across a contest (and YOU helped me win 3rd place), we received a complimentary photo shoot with the lovely and talented Joy.

All photos are from Being Joy Photography. If you can’t get enough, you can check out her Chrissy and Brian blog post (and more of our engagement photos).

We began the session with a walk along the river, where we sat on a park bench and told bad jokes while Joy took lovely shots of us in the background.

Engagement photo shoot at a park with cherry blossom trees

Then we got up close and personal with this cherry blossom tree. Because look at it!

beautiful plus size engagement photos

When Joy asked how I felt about laying on the ground, I informed her I’d do whatever she wanted; she was the professional. I was secretly hoping she’d take advantage of this and make me do some crazy incredible feat so that I’d fall down and have some truly epic photos…but she was kind.

beautiful plus size engagement photos in a park

We brought props. All the props. Edible props. Playable props. Toys. Games. You name it. We brought it. Obviously, cheese was the star of the show. But this game, Mice and Mystics, is our game. While it can play up to four players, it’s the game Brian and I play on our at-home date nights. The game plays through an entire campaign, so we’ve been working our way through it slowly. Savoring it, if you will. My favorite part? The currency in the game is CHEESE.

Engagement photo session with cheese and board games

In fact, we had a whole picnic with some of our cough my cough favorite things. Board games. Cheese. Champagne. It was glorious. And fun. I totally ate a ton of cheese that day too.

engagement photo shoot picnic with cheese, champagne, and games in a park

Of course, I won The Game of Life (for the first time ever), and Brian was less than pleased. So he flipped that shit upside down. I tried to explain to him, “BRIAN, I never win this game. Can’t I win just this once?”

engagement photo shoot with the game of life throwing the game in the air

He wasn’t having any of that nonsense. So we walked away. We had a wardrobe change and took some silhouette photos under this super cool archway. My grandpa, the brick layer, would have been proud.

black and white silhouette engagement photo under archway

There’s this really cool looking foot bridge over the Fox River that I really loved photos on, and Joy was happy to oblige. This is one of my favorite photos from the whole shoot.

engagement photo session on a bridge, sitting indian style kissing

Across from the bridge, which is underneath the train bridge, Joy decided she wanted a shot of us in the support dealie (any one have any idea what this is called?). It turned out pretty cool!engagement photo session under a train bridge around the corner from each other

And then we made our way to the playground, where there were dozens of tiny humans running around on the unseasonably warm April day. We had to get creative. Joy seemed to really appreciate our facial expressions. Brian called this my zombie face. He’s not wrong.engagement photo session at a playground on the slide

Maybe one day, I’ll show you all the picture of Brian falling off the swings…but for now, you can see us being all lovey and adorable.

engagement photo session at a playground on the swings

We concluded our photo shoot with a picture of us taking a selfie. Because I’m kind of a selfie queen. It’s a thing.

engagement photo session on a park bench taking a selfie

Did you have an engagement photo session when you got married? If you’re not married yet, do you want an engagement sesh? Can you believe we’re getting married in three and a half months?

No one paid me to write nice things about Joy, but I did win a contest in which the prize was the photo shoot. We paid for all prints and products.

Hey! Did you know you can buy my book on Amazon? 37 women wrote about the struggle for perfection, and I'm one of 'em. Go check it out!

Reasons I’m Going to Marry Brian

Brian and I are getting married on September 16. For those of you not interested in mathing that out, it’s approximately 4.5 months  (or exactly 142 days) from today.

We had our engagement photos last weekend, and they were ridiculous,  just like us. For those of you not following on social media, here’s a sneak peek:

adorable engagement photos at a playground

Photo credit: Being Joy Photography

That guy right there? Is my favorite. And soon, he will upgrade from handsome boyfriend to handsome husband. Here’s why:

  • He makes me laugh. So much. If you can believe it, he’s actually way funnier than me. And he can keep me laughing all day long.
  • He keeps me grounded. I was out with some girlfriends last night and we were talking about how WHEEEEEE!!! Out of control we can sometimes be, and Brian can bring me right back down to earth when I need to be there. But he also holds on tight as I flutter free(ish) in the breeze. Never let go, Jack Brian. Never let go.
  • He’s so fucking smart. I learn something new every day. He also understands things about the world and can try to rationalize them for me when social injustices make me cry.
  • He’s so generous. He lets me warm my cold hands and feet with his human space heater body…at night. When he’s trying to go to sleep. And then he laughs with me (see the first bullet).
adorable engagement photos at a park with board games

Photo credit: Being Joy Photography

God, he’s the best.

 

via GIPHY

 

Are you married? Got any marriage advice? Why do you love your partner or best friend? Is your person as awesome as Brian?

Hey! Did you know you can buy my book on Amazon? 37 women wrote about the struggle for perfection, and I'm one of 'em. Go check it out!

I Didn’t Want Him to Buy an Engagement Ring

After a certain point in your relationship, people start asking questions. They ask if wedding bells will be ringing in the near future. They start grabbing your hand every time they see you, hunting for a giant, sparkly rock. They address invitations, thank-you cards, and holiday greetings to “Mr. and Mrs. _____” in an attempt to get a rise out of your male counterpart.

For me, this started about three years ago. His family. My family. Our friends. Everyone kept asking, “When is he going to buy you a ring?” For a long time, I laughed it off, showed them my empty ring finger and shrugged nonchalantly. A few months ago, I started answering with the truth.

I didn’t want a ring.

I didn't want an engagement ring

This is not to say that I didn’t want to get married. I just didn’t want an engagement ring. I love pretty jewelry, but I rarely wear it. In the first couple years of dating, Brian bought me necklaces and earrings that fit my personality perfectly. When I’m wearing these beautiful accessories, I think, oh, this is so nice. Maybe I’ll start wearing jewelry more often. Maybe I’ll be the girl who always wears fine jewelry.

Here’s my actual MO: I’ll wear the jewelry for a few weeks until I forget to put it on in the morning. I leave it sitting on the coffee table when I paint my nails. It gets left in the bathroom after I shower. Eventually, the necklaces, accent rings and earrings retire to my jewelry box, where they sit, collecting dust and waiting for some TLC. When I remember them, I pull them out for special occasions – weddings, special date nights and fancy parties, but then they go back to the jewelry box for another couple of months.

After nearly five years in a relationship, Brian and I have built a life together. We purchased a house and established our own little family of two. We talk about the future, marriage and babies. As a proposal drew closer, I’d begun hinting at not wanting a ring, but I wasn’t convinced he believed me.

We finally had a conversation about engagement rings, and I told him I’ve never had strong feelings about my dream engagement ring. I’ve fantasized about the ceremony, cocktail-hour cheese display, reception, honeymoon, and marriage, but never about the ring. It just wasn’t important to me.

I asked him if it was important to him that he buys me a ring. He wasn’t entirely sure. You know what worried him most? What other people thought. He didn’t want to disappoint anyone. I told him that we were probably going to disappoint a lot of people when we started heading down that path of wedding and marriage bliss. Not everyone will agree with our decisions for the wedding, how we choose to raise babies and God only knows what else.

I realized that his concern was mostly with social conventions, and I started thinking about my heirloom jewelry collection of rings passed down from my parents. I told him, “Just steal my great-grandma’s ring from my jewelry box, and we’ll be cool.”

He didn’t look swayed. We locked eyes and I explained I have a beautiful heirloom ring that belonged to my great-grandmother. I would be honored to wear it and have my family be a part of our wedding.

We considered the financial implications of buying a ring. To fit the industry standard, he was supposed to spend about $4,000, and so we talked about the things we could do with that money. From remodeling the bathroom to finishing the basement, planning a big wedding with our family and friends or paying for the honeymoon of our dreams, it seemed to me that stretching $4K further than a size 8 ring would be a wiser investment. And let’s be honest. A four thousand dollar piece of jewelry that I may wear for a year at most? My soul cries for the amount of cheese I could buy with that kind of money.

Sure, he could buy me an inexpensive ring, but I’m perfectly content with an heirloom piece that represents tradition and family. How cool is that? After I made my case, Brian finally understood and was on board with the plan to use my great-grandmother’s ring to signify our engagement. To hell with what everyone else thinks about buying a fancy new diamond. The ring I wear for however many months we’re engaged will be super pretty. And won’t have cost either of us a dime.

A week before we got engaged, he asked me one more time, “Are you sure you don’t want me to buy you a ring?”

I responded with a very confident “yes.”

I wanted to shift the focus from showing off the ring to sharing the excitement about committing ourselves to each other. And so, when my best friend silently pilfered a ring from my dusty, rarely opened jewelry box and asked me to be his wife, I promised to try and wear that ring every day. But for better or worse, when I forget to put the ring back on after washing the dishes or taking a shower, it can live safely in my jewelry box (I hope) while that four grand remains untouched in our savings account.

How do you feel about engagement rings? Do you have one/want one/not want one? Am I just a weirdo?

Hey! Did you know you can buy my book on Amazon? 37 women wrote about the struggle for perfection, and I'm one of 'em. Go check it out!

Worth the Wait: The End of an Era

It’s been five months since I last wrote about The Handsome Grown Up that you came to know and love this spring. If you don’t feel like reading through the whole story just yet (you will soon, if you haven’t already), we met on this very day many years ago. We flirted, we dated, I worked like hell to fuck it all up, and yet he still stuck around. When last I spoke of The Grown Up, he was driving away from my house as I drunk cried myself to sleep. Make no mistake – I was the one being an idiot. It was the drunkest I ever got in the presence of The Grown Up…and we dated for a long-ass time. He called the next night, after I panicked like a teenage girl for about 12 hours, and all was fine (except for the lost wallet from my fall at the bar).

I’m going to fast-forward a little bit though because dating life is pretty much, you know, normalcy, and I can’t imagine you wanting to sit through all the ins and outs of a relationship from yesteryear…and quite frankly, it’s time we brought this story to an end.

The Grown Up and I dated solidly for many years. We met each other’s families. We traveled a bit. We fell madly in love. He made me laugh more than anyone on the planet, and I was surprised how much time I could spend with him and not want to kill him. After that first date, I never went home, much to the chagrin of his incredibly understanding roommate. He always told me, “Home is where your cheese is” because after our first weekend together, he bought me a bag full of fancy cheese. But he was wrong. Home was where he was. He was everything.

I waited a long time for this. And now it's the End of an era

He is everything.

He is the first page of my book and the last. He captured my heart and never once dropped it. He encourages me to follow every last one of my dreams, no matter how ridiculous. He pushes me to be my better self. He IS my better half, and without him, I wouldn’t be where I am.

So when he asked me to be his bride, the only answer I had for him was, “Yes!”

When he asked me to be his bride...I said yes.

Hey! Did you know you can buy my book on Amazon? 37 women wrote about the struggle for perfection, and I'm one of 'em. Go check it out!

The Rock

This is a continuation of a fiction story. You can find the first parts here:

Broken

The Failure

The Letters

Those eyes. Those chocolate brown eyes. With gold flecks. And lashes that went on for days. He couldn’t help but think about those eyes seeing through him. Do they know? Can she read me like an open book? Does she know that I am not strong? What would she do if she knew. If those eyes could speak. The volumes they could write. She smiled at him. Her eyes lit up more brightly than the Florida sun. He didn’t think that her eyes could look any brighter…until he saw her smile. Her full, naturally pink lips extended from one blushing cheek to the next,  with a dimple on the left side (but somehow not the right). God, she’s beautiful.

“I love you.” The words came out as a whisper that hit him like a ton of bricks. He thought he was smiling, but he couldn’t be sure. His breath quickened. Did she just…does she expect me…? What do I do? Seconds seemed like hours. He almost said nothing…he wanted to say nothing. She didn’t look at him expectantly. She looked away, embarrassed, her cheeks emblazoned with bright red clouds. She hadn’t expected to say the words. He worried for her. But he wasn’t…he didn’t…know.

“I don’t know what love is.” Crap! That is the last thing I should have said to her. What the fuck was I thinking.He envisioned her walking away, out of his life forever.What the hell, Jack? Are you a moron? This girl just fucking said she loved you. This beautiful woman, who you’ve fooled into loving you…and you don’t know what love is? Jack chided himself for his error. In his effort to say something, it seemed he always said the wrong something.

She looked at him with sadness in her eyes, touched his cheek,  and responded, “Yes, you do. When you’re ready, you’ll tell me. I don’t expect you to say it. I don’twant you to say it now. If you said it now, the meaning would be lost. When you’re ready, you’ll know.” She pulled him into her, kissing him gently. He wrapped his arms around her and it was at that moment that he knew he loved Claire, but couldn’t say it. Not yet.


“Claire, I love you so much. Will you marry me?” It wasn’t an elaborate proposal by any stretch of the imagination. He didn’t take her on some fancy trip, or make some huge crazy gesture. It wasn’t one of those obnoxious public proposals that Claire silently judged people for. It was perfect. They were at home. Just the two of them. He didn’t even have a ring. He just did it. And she said yes. Of course, she said yes.

Claire started crying, and Jack wondered if it wasn’t the typical sort of engagement crying. It’s because I don’t have a ring. And I didn’t do anything particularly special. It just…came out…I’m so stupid! What was I thinking? I wasn’t thinking. That’s the trouble with you, Jackie, you don’t think. Claire deserves more than that. More than you.

“Claire, I’m so sorry. I didn’t mean to make you cry.”

“You sob didn’t.” She stared down, breathing heavily between sobs. The tears slid down her cheek, dripped onto her tee shirt, and left small wet splotches on the gray material.

“What’s wrong? Is it because of the ring?”

“Jack…sob I have to tell…you…something…” She looked so ashamed, her cheeks redder than he had ever seen. When she cried, his world stopped. He wanted to make everything better for her. What could she be so embarrassed about? We’ve been together for so long. We live together. What could be so bad? Jack pulled her into his arms, petting her hair. He hushed her with soothing sounds until she pulled away.

“I…oh, Jack…” Claire was clearly distraught. Jack wanted so much to make it better.

“Claire, it will be okay. Whatever it is. I’m here. We’re in this together. Is this about getting married? Do you want to get married?”

“More than anything. This…isn’t about sob getting married…I… I always dreamed… sob I always thought about marriage…and babies…and I want sob them with…you…Jack…I never…told you…” Jack’s mind began delving into worst possible scenarios. She’s pregnant. She’s sick. She’s dying. She’s got cancer…She’s got a secret child somewhere…

Claire could sense his panic, which only made her sobs louder and her words fewer and farther in between.  “Claire, whatever it is, we will get through this.”

She mustered all of the strength that she could to tell him. Her dark little secret. The one she’s always been so terrified to reveal.

“Jack, I will never be able to have babies. I’m an empty shell.” Afterwards she became inconsolable. Her tears swallowed her tee shirt whole. Jack held her for hours. He rocked her. He told her it would be okay. He was…surprised at his strength. This was the only time that Claire ever broke down as hard as she did. While she was usually HIS rock; today he could be hers. And he was.


This fiction series is inspired by the prompts created by Molly of Grass Oil. You can read the next part here:

Wandering Thoughts

Hey! Did you know you can buy my book on Amazon? 37 women wrote about the struggle for perfection, and I'm one of 'em. Go check it out!