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 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!