Archive for December, 2011

Premarital Counseling

December 25, 2011

One of the reasons that I love Sylvia so much is that she’s always willing to communicate what’s going on in her head and communication has always been a number one priority for the two of us. We’re both pretty forward about what it is that we want and what it is we’re thinking which is great as I’ve always stressed that I work better in a relationship when I don’t have to guess all the time. Thankfully, Sylvia is fine with that and we both work really well when we keep everything out in the open even if sometimes we inadvertently hurt each other’s feelings when we’re throwing something out there. Ultimately, whenever we have issues, we are able to figure out whatever it is that’s a problem for us and work through it, which is great and generally ends up having the both of us thinking that we’re functional human beings and a great couple. That said, Sylvia and I were of the same mind when it came to getting premarital counseling. It was essential.

While she was off in India, I told her that I’d do some research so that when she got home, we could sit down and figure out who and where we’d like to go to get premarital counseling. For us, anything that can give us an edge or insight into how to work better as a team is like the greatest thing ever. Having grown up with divorced and then remarried parents where we moved every once in a while, it was difficult feeling like life wasn’t always consistent or I wasn’t sure who to trust or talk to just because there were so many people in our family that I never felt like there was anyone that I could completely confide in or rely on. It may sound harsh, but it is what it is and I still have some trust issues where I might think a friend is the greatest person ever, but when it comes to trusting anyone, it’s just really hard for me. I’m working through it, but the one thing I know I can always count on is that Sylvia’s got my back and for me, that comes out of us communicating and just keeping each other informed about what’s going on in our heads. Anything that can potentially enhance that bond? Hell yes, sign us up!

We did have some basic requirements in the sense that we didn’t want a priest as we’re pretty secular and most premarital counseling sessions are handled by religious figures with a heavy bent on religion, Christianity in particular. Sylvia does have a spiritual side to her, but she’s not really following much in the way of a Christian path/lifestyle. There’s more to it that I don’t fully understand, but I don’t think she does either and I’m all for her figuring it out as it comes to her, just not in the middle of a session about how to be a be better prepared for married life. And yes, I’m aware that there can be issues with differing spirituality in the home, but I know in my bones that we’ll be able to reconcile any differences in our own way. For me, once I heard the ULC’s statement of “Do only that which is right”, that’s all I needed as it was so simple and really encapsulated how I felt what most religions were trying to get at anyway. I just skirt around the middleman so to speak and follow that idea as best as I can. The other requirement which I didn’t even consider until I started looking was that we wanted a premarital counselor that didn’t necessarily have an interest in being our officiant. Sylvia and I figured that out not too long after we got engaged and apparently a lot of premarital counselors work with you to the point that they end up being your officiant. It’s not required generally, but it seems like it’s stressed a fair amount, at least in the research that I did.

With those two factors in mind, there ended up being only a handful of options that seemed to fit the bill, which seems insane to me considering this is Chicago for crying out loud, but who am I to play armchair philosopher with regards to the state of premarital counselors? I mean, I’m sure there are more than enough people who go to priests either because they want to or there’s a family influence involved or any number of reasons. Anyway, with all of the feelers I sent out, I only heard back from a few people. One wasn’t taking new patients, one seemed kind of standoffish, which was weird from a potential counselor and the last, Couple’s Counseling Associates, was thankfully really nice and informative. They have multiple people to work with and they all have profiles so you can pick someone that you think you’d work best with, which is something you can’t get if the counselor is just an individual doing their thing. Sylvia and I booked our first appointment for January and as a bonus, it turns out that they’re covered under my health insurance too, so it’s going to be pretty inexpensive as well. Not that it was going to be expensive in the first place, but I’ll take any edge I can get with the wedding budget and all.

I’m a bit terrified to go to the first session, but only because I’ve never had anything to do with the mental wellness field before. I think I’m afraid I’m going to be told that I’m completely nuts and how have I made it so long without causing serious harm to everyone I’m around, even though I know that fear is unfounded and I’ll probably end up finding out that the opposite is actually true. Or maybe not, I don’t know. I think I’m a bit nuts anyway.


Talking about the Honeymoon

December 21, 2011

While she was studying in England, Sylvia picked up this really neat scratch map. She’s traveled a ton already and traveling is something she loves to do. She’s passed a bit of the bug on to me too, but I’ll probably never have the wanderlust like she does. Anyway, once she came home, we decided to have the map mounted and framed so we could hang it up and keep track of everywhere that we (she) had traveled and it’s had a few amusing side effects.

Once she’d scratched off all of the places she’d been to, Sylvia convinced herself that she’s never traveled anywhere based on the fact that all of Western Europe is really small geographically. Even when she scratched off India (which is not a small country), she felt like the rest of the world was looming and taunting her. This has bled into the second side effect of deciding on where we’re going for our honeymoon. I’ve already said I don’t want to do Hawaii because it seems too conventional and I’d rather go there on an a vacation and not a honeymoon. I know this seems probably a bit backward and all, but even if it is 4 time zones away from Chicago, it doesn’t seem like a long enough journey or foreign enough. A honeymoon to me is the chance to go on a wild adventure somewhere and quite possibly get into situations where you don’t speak the language and make your way however you can regardless how good or bad the situation. You know, adventure! That’s not something I see happening in Hawaii only because it’s technically part of the States, even if it isn’t continental.

Sylvia thinks I’m a bit nuts about it, but at least we both ultimately agree that we want to travel somewhere & somewhere far. Because of the scratch map though, she’s starting to get ideas on places to go for the honeymoon that do meet the requirement of being far away and potentially adventurous, but also meet her secondary requirement of being really large countries. She denied wanting to go to Russia when I suggested it sarcastically, but I could see in her eyes that what she really wanted to say was, “don’t make me out to be that predictable.” Brazil is certainly big enough for her map and I wouldn’t mind going, but the one thing that came up was Antarctica. It was kind of a joke and for about an hour, I took it seriously because, come on, who goes to Antarctica for their honeymoon?! Then I started looking at what it cost to fly, much less do an expedition in Antarctica & I don’t think we’d be able to swing from $25,000 per person to go to the South Pole no matter how effing rad that would be. It’s bad though because even though I know we’d never be able to afford that, once I found this website, I’ve been checking out each ship to see if there’s even a cruise that started at less than $4,000, but no. That is so not happening. Soooooo not happening.

Patagonia could be a lot of fun too and that would also scratch off a pretty large section of South America. I’ve always wanted to see Machu Picchu which we could do as part of the trip. The food would be good, there’s plenty of room for adventure, I think it could fulfill all of our requirements and the stories from that region would be awesome. I’m not going to bother looking at what it’d cost because that’d probably just be disheartening and I’d rather that happen later rather than just after finding out that Antarctica is out.

Oh well. I’m not entirely sure where we’ll end up going because it’s kind of early to be booking anything for next Fall, but it is kind of fun talking about it now. I’m sure I’ll have to follow up whenever we figure out where we’re going. Hopefully it won’t be super anti-climactic or anything. You know, I’d hate to write about how awesome it would be to go to Antarctica or Patagonia and then be all, “we’re going to Canada.” Actually, this thing in British Columbia does sound kind of fun though…

Posting Schedule

December 18, 2011

I’ve been writing posts twice a week, which has been good to get a lot of backlog out of my head regarding what I’m thinking, but I was doing some math earlier today and realized that posting twice a week all the way up to the wedding is going to require at least 72 separate posts, which is a bit exhausting to think about as it feels a bit excessive. If I hit points where I have a huge outpouring of thoughts and ideas to write about, I’ll throw them out there more frequently, but outside of that, I’m going to pull back and make sure I’m posting at least once a week. I can’t think of 72 different things regarding my life period, much less my impending wedding. That’s just daunting to think about for too long.


December 18, 2011

I have a particular disdain for wedding DJs. I feel like most of the time they tend to get it right, bringing a fair amount of energy, flair and cheese appropriate to a couple embarking on that great adventure called marriage. The remaining small percentage entails absolute garbage like the Chicken Dance. I hate the Chicken Dance. Let me emphasize that further.

I. Hate. The. Chicken. Dance.

I know people think it’s fun and harmless, but some visceral part of my being is convinced it’s actually the cause of societal decay, no matter what you might hear from any other news source/pundit/old guy in a rocking chair on a porch. Sylvia can’t stand it either, but she doesn’t have nearly the rabid contempt for it that I do. Having a DJ means there’s a non-zero chance of having the Chicken Dance played at the wedding, which I’m not okay with at all. Sylvia is more practical about it and cited the cost of hiring one as her objection to the idea of a DJ. She is also more thoughtful and got me on board with the idea that if we just do it ourselves with an iPod, we get exactly what we want and it doesn’t cost us anything.

We’re both aware that with the reduced cost of creating your own iPod wedding playlist, there’s a significant increase in the amount of work going on. Since we have about 9 months or so till the big day, we’ve made it a part of our general routine where we reach out and listen to music and then write it down if we think it’s a good candidate. It leads to some pretty entertaining sessions where we suggest totally offbeat songs for the wedding, but we also manage to find a lot of really nice ones too. I have a feeling that we’re going to have a really hard time narrowing down the actual playlist when it comes time because there are just so many good songs out there for not just the reception, but the wedding itself as well.

I know some of the ideas that we’ve come up with are terrible (mostly mine just because they’re so silly), but some of them really are great (mostly Sylvia’s because she actually knows music). I really like some of the ideas we’ve thrown around, regardless of how dumb or silly they might sound. I mean, wouldn’t it be rad as hell if you watched everyone coming in and/or walking down the aisle to RuPaul’s Cover Girl or if the recessional consisted of Booker T & the MGs version of Hang ‘Em High? What about the Commodore’s Brick House? That would fit in anywhere! Hell, I’d love a whole Motown wedding if I were allowed. I could go on and and on really. We still laugh about somehow shoehorning in Herman Hermit’s Mother in Law as some sort of dance, which would be fun except that we don’t dance. All in all, it’s a lot of fun trying to figure out what we want and that’s not something we’d be able to do if we had a DJ. If we had a DJ, we’d probably be constantly reminding them not to play the Chicken Dance to the point that they’d probably play it out of spite just to see me have a total meltdown. Probably.

Sylvia wants to get married multiple times to wear all the dresses she’s fallen in love with, but I want to get married multiple times just because of how many songs I want playing during the day itself. I’ve already joked about us renewing our vows 6 months after the wedding just to get to all of the stuff we couldn’t with the wedding. I’m pretty sure it’ll be vetoed, but I can’t be certain.

Having an Opinion & Wedding Dresses

December 14, 2011

Sylvia gave me an out at the very beginning of planning the wedding that if there was anything I didn’t care about with regards to the event, then let her know. She didn’t want me making stuff up just to have an opinion and I’m really grateful for that even though there has only been maybe one instance so far where my eyes glazed over and it was clear that I had no idea what I was being asked and very likely didn’t have an opinion either.

Honestly though, there could be some totally awesome epic miscommunication if I did that. “Sylvia, why do we have a tie-dyed cake with flashing lasers on top?” “You told me you thought it was a great idea and even convinced me to go along with it!” “Oh, I probably just zoned out and said a bunch of stuff.” “Aaaaaaaaaarggggggh!” The newly minted marital strife would be totally worth it because eventually there would be kids/grand kids and they would think mom/dad/grandma/grandpa were totally awesome and bonkers when they saw the photos.

Anyway, I like having the option to at least have a say even if most of the brilliant ideas, work and planning are coming from Sylvia. I’m sure she appreciates being in a situation knowing that there’s generally a second brain floating around that she can bounce ideas off of. It’s a pretty symbiotic situation because I’m not trying to exert any control  or sabotage anything and she gets to be a font of ideas that might get tempered by a completely different viewpoint. It works, or at least it seems like it in my mind.

However, the one thing I want nothing to do with and have been quite vocal about not having a say is the dress. I don’t want to have any particular influence on how she looks on the day itself. I feel this way for two reasons primarily.

First, I don’t want to unintentionally pressure her into looking or being a certain way on our wedding. I feel like it’d be tainting the spirit of it if she ends up wearing something she’s not 100% comfortable and happy with all because she thinks I want to see her in something in particular. I know she’ll look great regardless so I want her to look great as she herself wants to express it. She’s got enough bombardment coming from the monster that is the wedding industry as well as everything else; the last thing she needs is a little voice from me that says, “suspenders, tulle, gold lamé & shoe polish are so charming all at the same time”. That could cause some serious confusion. I’ve got a totally open mind about what she could wear too and it’s kind of fun guessing. If she showed up down the aisle wearing a frog suit, I’d be laughing and crying at the same time because it would be hilarious and a wedding is a time for joy, right? Also, I’m sure she could pull it off. Let me take a moment to state, Sylvia, don’t take that as a hint that you should necessarily wear a frog suit to our wedding. Wear what you want, I’ll be delighted regardless. Just don’t dress up in a chicken costume. I think that’s my only request.

Secondly, and along the lines of guessing, I want to not know going in. I can’t really put my finger on why, but my best guess is that there’s some small part of me that remembers my roots and wants desperately to cling to some semblance of tradition no matter how small. And seriously, there’s something really awesome about not knowing what she’s going to look like. I like surprises. Most people like surprises, especially the kind that everyone looks forward to, but I really like surprises of anything that’s a not-work variety. Also, I’m the king of being surprised by everything, but only if I have no clue or hint as to what’s going on. Granted, that’s more often than I’d probably like to admit, but I have a feeling I have more fun in general because of it.

Even given all that and how I feel about it, Sylvia’s still having a rough time of it and I’m actually starting to think that she wants to tell her what to wear just so she doesn’t have to consider so many options anymore. She bought some fabric in India in case she wanted to go the custom route with a dress, but the last time it came up in conversation, she had four vastly different dresses that she’s fallen in love with she has no idea what to do about it. I can’t fathom what that’s like and it makes me feel bad that I feel the way that I do about it, but I don’t think I’d be of any real use in helping her pick out a dress even if I wanted to. I probably would end up Mr. Magoo-ing my way into picking something with suspenders, tulle, gold lamé with a today-only special of shoe polish on the side.

I feel like a total cheater in comparison. You know what I’m wearing to the wedding? A suit. I have no sense of personal style and am kind of colorblind, so I’ll get some help picking everything out, but it’ll be easy and there won’t be a million styles to choose from. I’m going to guess right now that the color will likely be a shade of brown because I love earth tones and have already been told I look good in them. If that changes, I won’t be worried because it’s a suit and a tailored suit nearly always looks damned good. Suits really are kind of cheating though just because of the reduced hassle and the fact that they don’t make suits that cost $2,000+ for a one time occasion unless you’re super fashionable, rich or both. The worst part of it is that knowing Sylvia and her great sense of style, I’ll end up getting a suit that I will actually wear outside of my wedding. It’s a shame that we’re told that the same can’t be said about the dress. I know there are movements to reclaim wedding dresses and do all kinds of fun stuff with them, but they’re not visible enough as far as I’ve noticed. I’d say at least you could giant-shadowbox your dress and call it art, but that makes me think of Beetlejuice for some reason. I have no idea what that says about my subconscious.

Guest Lists & Focusing

December 11, 2011

I am not one who can multitask effectively in an immediate sense. It’s something that I know I need to work on in the long term because whenever Sylvia and I have a kid, I’d better be able to multitask or I’m going to spend about two decades in a stupor not knowing what’s going on and fighting the world to let me catch up. Sylvia though, has the opposite problem. She’s so good at multitasking that she stretches herself almost too broad and she can have a hard time getting individual things done because maintaining the big picture about anything is a lot of work in and of itself and focusing on one particular detail is about as perilous as turning a fan on a house of cards. It stresses her out and whenever I try to get her to slow down and simplify things a bit to make her life easier, I sometimes get a look and she says, “you make things sound too easy!” I do think we over-complicate things a lot of the time, but it’s hard getting what feels like anyone to acknowledge that.

Right now in life, I approach tasks or obstacles like a lumberjack with an axe. Give me an axe and a tree and I know what needs to be done. However, I can only cut one tree down at a time and to try otherwise is to risk my mental and physical health as well as any tools that I use to get the job done. To overextend a stupid metaphor further, if I’m really good at it, I can make it look like I’ve cut down a couple trees at once, even though to me, I’m just focusing on one thing at a time.

Wedding planning isn’t something that is something that lends itself to my generally singular approach, but Sylvia and her capacity for juggling untold amounts of events/information is a great manager. She gives me something to do, I clarify a bit just so I have clear guidelines or throw out any ideas I have and get to it. It works for us and I hope that it’ll keep us happy through the whole process of planning the wedding.

I’ve been recently working on a spreadsheet with the data for the guest list and it’s an upfront pain just because of the sheer size, but when it’s done and we have everything in there, it’ll make life really easy. We won’t have a bunch of email or physical addresses all over the place and the site we’re using for organizing everything (glosite) is amazing in that it will let us upload that data in a handy template so that we can have households and everything in one place so if we want to email everyone and let them know anything, we can just click, click, click, “hey guys, ignore the horse in the hotel lobby” or whatever random thing. We can just do it in one easy stroke. It’ll be amazing.

To further note how I approach things, Sylvia emailed me a list with contact info for people last night and it was sitting in my email inbox the next morning. My email inbox is only for things that are pertinent to immediate things and everything else is either archived or deleted once it’s no longer needed. I have one email exempt from that rule, but otherwise, I will move heaven and earth to keep that inbox empty because otherwise it’s overwhelming and makes me cranky.

So, I see this email and I immediately start working on adding that data so that I can archive that bastard and get my inbox to as close to single digits if I can because it’s an obstacle to keeping my email organized and what do with obstacles? I remove them because they’re in my way of a happy and sane life. I certainly don’t attack them with an axe, because that’d be psychotic and I’m done with that metaphor.

Names and Families

December 7, 2011

One of the things that’s come up during the wedding planning is the issue of names and name changes. I don’t particularly care if Sylvia changes her name or not because when it comes to last/family names, I don’t really have an authority as Riley wasn’t the name that my dad was born with. His biological father abandoned him and his sister and his mother went on to marry into the Riley family and have two more kids. It kind of sucks as I can’t fathom that it’s a situation that anyone would ever want to be in, especially in the 1950s, but you know what? I don’t think it’s ever been a point of contention or strife or anything. They’re all Riley’s, regardless of who they started out as. People go on and on about family and names and blood and lineage, but really when it comes down to it, I’m not a Riley by blood, I’m a Riley by family. Blood may be thicker than water, but family just so happens to be thicker than blood.

When I consider all of that history and the impact of it all, the issue of a family name, while important to many, just isn’t important to me. I don’t think of my family in terms of what name they go by, they’re all family regardless. My aunt Debbie married and changed her name, which is fine because, *gasp*, she’s still just as much of the family as she always was. She didn’t take a different name and become a different person because, really who does that? Same thing with my aunt Bunny. She’s Bunny, not Bunny Powers or Riley. Hell, the story of how she got her first name is far more hilarious (short version, she was born on Easter and my dad thought the Easter bunny brought her). I’m pretty sure that had either of them not taken the names of their husbands, the world would have still revolved around the sun and life would have continued to go on regardless. There might have been “talk” because we’re from the South and that’s what people like to do, but fundamentally things would have been the same. Everything would have been fine and I can’t stress that enough.

So, when the idea was thrown out there if Sylvia would take my name or not, I told her that it’s her decision and if she doesn’t want my name, that’s totally fine. I’m pretty sure that my ego can handle it. I’m pretty sure my family’s ego can handle it. I’m pretty sure that the universe as a whole can handle it just fine because we’ll still be Ryan and Sylvia at the end of the day. The family name really is just a label of where you come from, not necessarily where you’re going or who you are. Being a family isn’t bound by your family name, it’s bound by being a family.

First and middle names though? Those are a whole different story.


December 5, 2011

I think people would generally be a lot happier if they were able to stop for a few minutes a day and actively remember that most of the time that someone is trying to get you to do or buy something, it’s not necessarily about any interest they have for you, but there is a sale going on. Even if money isn’t involved, we all are trying to sell something, perhaps and idea or a perspective, either to each other. It sounds cynical, and it is, but honestly in this day and age, I credit some of the remaining sanity that I have with being actively aware that someone is likely trying to sell me something probably at any given time on any given day. Sometimes I don’t mind or even like it because the art of the sale isn’t just about the sale itself, but the act/art of communication is so fiercely intertwined that really interesting conversations and friendships can come from a really good sale.

Other times though, it’s just annoying and stepping back and saying, “really, I’m supposed to have what colored what at my wedding?” or “what do you mean I’m supposed to buy this thing? Is it really necessary? Yeesh, please.” If someone is trying to sell me what fun is, I always end up wondering who thought those shoes were fun, how they enable that fun and how did they convince that lady to smile like that at that angle when she’s on a blank background? I’d be worried I was tumbling through a blank universe. And that is the exact kind or reasoning that distracts me long enough to remember that fun can’t really be sold so I shouldn’t buy into something without being aware of just what the hell I’m doing.

You know what is fun though? Food. I always know where I am with that, especially if I’m cooking it myself. That’s right, I’m a total domestic and you know what? It’s fun.

Wedding Planning

December 4, 2011

I’ve always been more for the written word and Sylvia’s always been an auditory person and it’s funny how our preferred methods of expression make themselves known the longer we know each other. I write really long emails to Sylvia nearly every day and she talks through everything even though sometimes I’m confused what she’s talking about since I’m not always part of her inner/outer monologue until she clues me in. Thankfully I’ve learned and continue to understand how not to be overwhelmed by constant ideas or suggestions as they happen and she’s become far more understanding regarding the fact that sometimes I really just don’t have anything to say or that I might not have anything in particular on my mind. It’s not that I don’t necessarily have anything on my mind either, I just don’t have anything that I feel necessary to bring up as I like to be economical with my verbal communication, especially since I’m convinced I have a genetic disorder that encourages everyone to interrupt me when I’m trying to say something. I’m not kidding. Seriously. Ask anyone I know and they’ll laugh and nod their heads.

We recently went to brunch with our friend Dan Hickey, and a brilliant idea was hatched. Sylvia loves to read what I have to say as she likes to be able to see what’s in my head without having to drag it out of me. I also like to write. I have plenty of opinions and thoughts about our upcoming wedding and so I’m going to try and put down whatever I can with regards to what’s on my mind through the whole process. It really is kind of rare that we as guys have no actual thoughts or opinions about getting married. Unfortunately though, we’re sort of told growing up that it’s not really our day (which is garbage) and that we’re not supposed to be interested in the wedding planning itself (also garbage). I would wager that plenty of guys either already do have some significant input on their engagements/weddings and just don’t have an interest in voicing it or there just isn’t any visibility about it. I’m not really sure why why that is, but basically that’s the point I’m getting to. I want to put my ideas down so that down the road or even next week, myself or anyone else can say, “hey, that’s a great idea, I didn’t realize there was this thing I could be vocal about!”

So yeah, I started this thing up to have something to say and right now this is it. I didn’t anticipate using it as a sounding board for ideas about a wedding or getting/being married, but there you go. Sometimes we’re in control of our destinies and sometimes our blogs just dictate them for us. I wish that didn’t sound so ridiculous, but ridiculous is a pretty common part of my mental state. If anyone actually has an idea or suggestion that they want to hear me ramble on about, by all means let me know.

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