Category Archives: family

The Wedding

So I may have mentioned I was getting married a while back… a looooong while back, since the wedding itself was 2 months ago.

Here’s the story of that week.

Wednesday.  T-3 days
My fiancé C has been off since Friday and this is my first day off.  I have to run downtown to pick up my glasses… there was an issue with my bank card the night before, so the woman who helped me set it all up with her manager than I could come in today and pay for them and then they’d be ready in an hour.  I really want new glasses before the wedding because one lens still has a huge scratch in it (I almost took my eye out with a paint scraper helping my alderman’s office remove signs from light poles the year before) and I want new prescription sunglasses before my awesome honeymoon in California.  I get to the eyeglass store and the glasses ring up as almost $100 more expensive than last night.  There’s no way I can afford that.  I freak out.  I cry a little.  I leave angrily, determined to come back tomorrow.   I start getting a headache at this time, obviously due to stress.  I’m sure the sore throat is due to stress too.  They’ll both go away with some rest.  I meet C for breakfast and we head out to look at some flowers we want for decorations…. We get tired of looking and I need to get down to my mom’s house to check a sweater I bought against the flower girl dresses.  I drive 45 miles to their house.  The sweaters that looked off-white in the store are obviously yellow against the off-white dresses.  Great.  Luckily, while I’m down here, I find the perfect green dancin’ shoes for the reception at a store down here and for cheap!  While I’m at the store, I also pick up some cough drops and aspirin to fend off this pesky stress headache and stress sore throat.  Especially since I’m also starting to get some stress joint stiffness and stress back pain.   I get home and realize that I’m actually feeling pretty crappy.  C goes to have dinner with his dad who’s flown in for the wedding, while I curl up on the couch.  I’m starting to have some stress chills, so we pile on the blankets (bad idea!) and I fall asleep.  When I wake up a couple hours later, I am BURNING.  My temperature, which is usually a bit below normal, is up over 100.  I text C and tell him I’m headed to bed because I have a stress-fever (Yeah, I was still in denial… it didn’t last much longer).  After lying in bed for a while, I take my temperature again and it’s over 103.  I start googling “dangerous temperature for adults”.  It doesn’t make me feel better.

Thursday.  T-2 days
I wake up today and feel like hell. The fever seems to have broken overnight, so at least I’m in less danger of cooking my brain.  I text my sister, who is in town and coming in for an awesome sister fun day we’ve planned, where we were going to get her hair cut, and then mani/pedis, and then a bachelorette party with my closest lady friends: dinner at a vegetarian diner and bowling afterwards.  I tell my sister I will promise not to touch her, but that we might have to cancel the festivities tonight.  I still plan on hanging out with her today because I am Not That Sick.  I then get texts from both my sister and my mom telling me to go to the doctor and cancel all other things I had to do before Saturday.  Sadly, I realize they are right and email my friends to say the party’s canceled.  Then I call my doctor and the earliest I can get in is tomorrow.  I lay on the couch all day, feeling like death and getting a fever again that night (not as bad though, whew!)  Poor C is running around all day trying to finish up all the things I’d been working on for the wedding.  I try and work on the tables some more and make place tags, but I keep falling asleep.   C takes my glasses in to get replaced and then comes back to get me an hour later to pick them up.  Then I go back to sleep.

Friday.  T-1 day
I wake up feeling like the side of my head is going to EXPLODE.  The pain and the constant ringing in my right ear are pretty good indicators that this is the worst ear infection I’ve had in 20 years.   I can barely move it hurts so bad.  I just want to claw the side of my head off and keep pathetically swiping at my ear.  C drives me to the doctor and drops me off because he still needs to get a haircut and was busy taking care of me and my stuff yesterday.  The doctor looks in my ear and sucks in her breath.  Not really a thing you want to hear.  She tells me I have a horrible ear infection and she’s putting me on antibiotics.
Me:  So, here’s the thing.  I’m getting married tomorrow.
Her: Congratulations!
Me:  Yeah.  So, I’m getting on a plane to California for my honeymoon on Monday… is that going to be a problem?
Her:  Is there anyway you can postpone it?
Me:  By a day?
Her:  More like a couple weeks.

Wah wahhhhh.  Yeah.  That’s not possible.  She gives me a prescription and a promise to write a letter if the airlines need it.  C picks me up and I break the news: the wonderful honeymoon he has carefully planned has to be completely scrapped.  I would cry if it wouldn’t just make me hurt even more.   We get home and I lay down on the couch while C starts calling the airlines and hotels.   I feel like I’m dying.  A few hours later, he has to drive to pick up my college friend at the train – she’s the pastor officiating our wedding and is driving the 45 miles down with us tonight for the rehearsal.   I try and pack, but I’m in so much pain and have taken Sudafed so I can’t even function.  I end up forgetting at least 6 things.  Including the flower crowns for the flower girls that my awesome cousin went back to get for us.

Rehearsal time: We are more than 30 minutes late, due to massive traffic back-ups.  We hold the rehearsal in record time, since it’s outside and about 45 degrees out.  We keep assuring our family that the weather reports I was reading said it would be in the 60s the next day.  After the rehearsal dinner, which I barely remember, we make a necessary trip to Target for forgotten toiletries as well as both pajamas and clean underwear, both of which I’ve forgotten.   Then we fold programs and start on the place tags.  I fall asleep while C is writing out names.

Saturday.  Wedding Day

I wake up around 9 am, about 2 hours before we need to leave to be at the site to help get it ready.  Aaaaand….. I have no voice.  I literally cannot speak at all.  I try taking a hot shower and it barely works, but at least I can squeak out a few syllables.  The weather report says it’s in the upper 30s and I see snowflakes in the air when I look out the window.   We reluctantly make the decision to move the ceremony inside and try and contact let everyone possible know, so they know they don’t have to wear long underwear under their dress clothes.  C also calls his mom to ask her to pick up a guestbook, and a friend of his to ask him to pick up some numbers for the tables… all of which we’ve forgotten to do.

I sit down to finalize the playlists for the reception, one of several tasks that was supposed to get down while I was off work, before I got too sick to move.  And they’re gone.  Everything is gone.  Apparently I’d built them while my phone was plugged into the laptop to charge, and some of the music was on my phone and some was on the computer.  Everything is completely messed up.  At this point I just start crying, except it sounds sorta like a squirrel crying because I can barely make any noise.  I can’t talk.  The extra decorations we had wanted to get we didn’t have time to get with me being sick.  The Sudafed is making me delirious and I can’t function.  We had to move the ceremony indoors.  I didn’t get to have my sister day or my bachelorette party.  We’re running late.  The music is all gone.  I have a huge pimple on my chin.  I’m just completely overwhelmed and stressed out and it feels like EVERYTHING is going wrong.

All along, I’d been saying, “It doesn’t matter what happens the day of the wedding, as long as we end up married at the end”.  I guess it’s time to put my money where my mouth is.  C hugs me, tells me he loves me and that it’s all going to be alright.  And then my crying turns into a coughing fit and we have to keep getting ready because we really are running late.  C runs the stuff we had over to the site while I build up 90 minutes of music from scratch.  The woman who works at the Forest Preserve where we were holding the wedding actually ended up assigning table numbers to our guests, since we’d divided them up but forgotten to number them.  We would end up plugging C’s phone into our speakers and giving our friend who was MC-ing free rein to download music and build a reception playlist.

And then it was a whirlwind of getting ready and adorable little girls and tears with my mom and laughter with my sister and my future sister-in-law helping me put on makeup so I look a little less dead.


My mom helps me put on my great-great-grandmother’s necklace, which my mom also wore when she got married

My veil is made out of my mom's veil from the 70's

My veil is made out of my mom’s veil from the 70’s

Pinning the veil in place

Pinning the veil in place

My amaaaazing peacock shoes!

My amaaaazing peacock shoes!

C preparing

C preparing

C's boutonniere

C’s boutonniere

We line up to walk in, with me in the back so C can’t see me.   My sister, the best woman, has a stash of Kleenexes not only for my tears but also because the Sudafed is really cleaning me out.

And then I step into the makeshift aisle, in the hall where the reception tables are already set up, flanked by my parents, Yo-Yo Ma and James Taylor playing “Here Comes the Sun” playing on the speakers.  And when I lock eyes with my husband-to-be, everything else disappears.  Not just from my thoughts, but literally, from sight.  The rest of the room is out of focus compared to him and I know that this is the most right I have ever been.

We may have had to move it inside, but what an inside it was.

We may have had to move it inside, but what an inside it was.

The wedding went off without a hitch.  I managed to squeak out my vows… most people thought I was overcome with emotion, so even that worked out okay.

Fancy shoes for the both of us

Fancy shoes for the both of us



The reception was also pretty fantastic, with great food, great company, great dancing.   We did actually run out of food, but the servers felt bad and ordered a few pizzas for us.  And now we have great stories to tell and amazing memories and amazing pictures of all the love that surrounded us that day

Last dance of the night

Last dance of the night

It was a day where everything went wrong…. And everything turned out completely right.


A Lesson that Pierogi Always Lead to Good Things

Back in November, I signed up for online dating.  I wasn’t super excited about the prospect, but figured I’d get at least a few blog posts out of it.

A couple weeks later, I went to my cousin’s place for a pierogi-making party.  My cousins and siblings and I make pierogi every year for Christmas Eve.  They’re delicious and a vital part of the holiday meal, but they do take a LOT of work.  So assembly line parties are held.

My cousin had offered to set me up with a friend a couple times, which I always declined.  Set-ups are so awkward.  Not only do you have first-date awkwardness, but also the pressure of someone else’s expectations that you should like this person.  Not that I doubted my cousin’s taste.  He is a pretty terrific person, and I had no doubt that he would set me up with someone who was not a murderer, stalker, or rapist.  But still… awkwardness.

So there I was, teaching a few n00bs how to make pierogi, wearing an apron, a pair of old jeans and an aldermanic campaign t-shirt, hair up in a messy bun, and Chuck walked in.  My first thought?  I really hope he’s one of the single friends.  He made an effort to talk to me several times, and I naturally assumed that he felt sorry for me for barely knowing anyone there.  Every time he stood next to me, I got butterflies in my stomach.  After that party, I told some of my friends that there was this cute, nerdy dude there who seemed to be into me, but I didn’t know for sure.

The next week, my cousin had a fruitcake-making party (my cousin likes cooking with his friends).  I went pretty much because I knew Chuck was going to be there.  I may have worn cuter clothes this time.  He took forever to show up and I was worried he wouldn’t.  When he finally did, did I reciprocate his interest?  Of course not… because I am totes awkward and also weirdly analytical.  I performed a little “experiment” where I’d move around the condo to talk to other people to see if he followed me (in hindsight, not my best decision).  Naturally, he thought I wasn’t interested.   I am so awkward.

A week or so later, I emailed my cousin and asked if it would be weird if I asked his friend out.  I continued to tell myself I wasn’t looking for a relationship, but he was smart and funny and cute and he seemed to like me.  Cousin said it wouldn’t be weird.  So I sent him a Facebook message (oh social media… giving me multiple ways to be socially awkward).  The actual message is just for us, but essentially I invited him out for cheap beer and $5 pizza (hey, I was unemployed at the time).  He said yes, but offered to upgrade to someplace a little less dive-y.  By the end of the first date, I was done for.  We went out again.  And again.  And some more.  I met his family.  He met mine.  The cat let him pet her.  We went on an out-of-state trip to a friend’s wedding.

And on June 2, 2012, while sitting on my couch, just hanging out like we do, he asked me to marry him.  And I said yes.  And then we cried.  And laughed.  And talked about our future.  And walked  to dinner, where I told the waiter.   I probably skipped down the sidewalk.  We came home and called our families and close friends.  And never stopped smiling.

I just showed up to make pierogi.  And I met my future husband.   I still can’t stop smiling.

On the Lam

When I was seven years old, I made my First Communion.  It was very good day, despite the fact that we walked into the church in order of height and I was made to go first even though I was not the shortest one in my class – my friend Jerry was quite obviously shorter than me.  But I made it through the indignity of my perceived status as “smallest”, made it through wearing incredibly itchy tights (there are multiple pictures of me standing around the altar with the other kids, and I’m scratching one leg with my foot), made it through being forced to give my younger brother a kiss in thanks for flowers he gave me…

After church, the whole family headed back to our place for the party… and I got a bunch of gifts: the usual rosary, bible, and other religious-themed things appropriate for one’s First Communion.  Being a huge fan of sheep, there were also some sheep dolls in there as well (which are also totally religious, if you happen to be Christian).  Finally, there was a card from my parents that said that I would shortly be receiving two live sheep of my very own!!!!!amillion!!

SO EXCITING!  Big Brother had his pigs, Big Sister had her chickens.  And now I was totally one of the big kids with animals of my very own to care for!  I couldn’t wait.

The day my sheep arrived, I did what any newly pious 7-year-old Catholic girl would do: I named them after Greek mythological characters.  Io and Persephone.  What can I say?  I was kind of a weird kid.

I took care of those sheep every day, so pleased to be trusted with this great responsibility.  One day, while we were sitting at the dining room table doing homeschool, my mom looked out the window to see Grandma’s giant dog tearing off behind the barn.

“Mairin, did you leave the gate open?”
“What?  No!  I shut it, I know I did…. I’m pretty sure I did… I think it was shut all the way…”

Mom, T (big sister), J (big brother), and I ran out the door, past the open gate (SHIT!), and behind the barn to see what Buddy was chasing.  And what Buddy was chasing…. was sheep.

Double shit.

Now, if the sheep had simply gotten out and started wandering by themselves, we might’ve been able to corner and capture them.  But by this point, they’ve been chased around by this guy:

Buddy and I are about four years younger here than we were for the Great Sheep Chase, but still... big ol' dog.

And they are thoroughly freaked out.  They took off in opposite directions: Io toward the road and beyond with Mom and 13-year-old T giving chase, and Persephone into the tangled mess of our wooded, brambled property while 11-year-old J and I (age 8 by then) tried to keep up.

J and I had absolutely no chance of catching Persephone.  All we tried to do is stay close behind her as she made her way through the brush until Mom and T could catch up to us.

Speaking of Mom and T, they were chasing Io across a neighboring field, down the highway, with cars stopping to watch and truckers singing Mary Had a Little Lamb and Baa Baa Black Sheep out their windows.

They saw the terrified sheep run into our neighbor’s barn and breathed a sigh of relief: she was cornered. 

They were sure to catch her now; they followed her into the barn and saw her… on a rug by a couch and a TV.  Because the neighbors rented the barn out and someone was living there. 

Poor Io did what all scared, cornered animals do… she peed.  All over the rug.  And then the renter walked in, demanding to know what Mom and T were doing in his home.  And then he saw the sheep.  Peeing in his living room.

While he sputtered out his confusion (and I’m sure disgust), Mom apologized, gathered up woolly boolly Io in her arms and walked out the door.  Then she walked almost a mile home, carrying my sheep, while truckers sang nursery rhymes along the highway.   (correction, thanks to my mom)  My mom did what any reasonable person would do: asked the neighbor to sit on the sheep until she could go get the truck and load it up to bring home.  My mother really, REALLY loves me (although I’m pretty sure she wasn’t feeling it just then).

Mom and T locked Io in her stall and came to find me and J.  I was sent back briefly in an attempt to calm Io, who was freaking out and all but running up the walls of the barn.  However, it was quickly noted that we needed 4 people to corner poor, exhausted, terrified Persephone and I was summoned once again.

If I remember correctly (it was the end of summer and very hot that day, it’s possible I’m entirely wrong), Persephone didn’t actually get that far.  J and I managed to get her to go around in circles instead of a straight line out across the cornfields and it didn’t take that long for Mom and T to find us.

It finally came to an end hours after Buddy ran behind the bard, in the middle of a massive stand of what we would later realize was poison ivy.  We had a pie tin, filled with water from our creek, that we slid in toward Persephone.  I was talking to her to try to keep her calm and drinking while Mom snuck up behind her and wrapped her arms around her.  And then carried the limp, exhausted sheep almost a mile through the brambles and bushes to put her in the stall with Io. 

Poor Mom had not had allergic reactions to poison ivy prior to that day.  But it turns out, when you’re sweating a lot, it opens up your pores and all the poison can really get into your skin.  She had it over most of her body for days afterwards, and actually got really sick from it.  Have I mentioned lately how much I really, REALLY love my mom?  She’s really the best mom ever.

Mom recovered, Io and Persephone recovered, and I never accidentally left the barn gate open again.  I did however, once leave the door to the stall where we kept the feed open.  Someday I’ll tell you how my mom and dad stayed up all night burping the sheep after they got into the malted grain.

Garlic Mustard and the Great Outdoors

Garlic mustard… Sounds delicious, doesn’t it?  I wouldn’t know… but I did spend the whole day pulling it off my family’s property today.

First, a little explanation:  I know this may come as a shock, because I seem so sophisticated, but I was not born and bred in Chicago.  I’m a transplant from the relatively rural Midwest.  Home-schooled until high school, my siblings and I took care of a menagerie of various animals… sort of like a 4H explosion… chickens, turkeys, ducks, geese, a couple of sheep, some pigs, and a pair of goats (who had a couple sets of kids).  Did I forget anything?  Dogs and cats.  There were always dogs and cats.

My parents, grandma, sister, brother-in-law, and niece live in two houses on the property, which is mostly wooded over at this point.  Because of tax credits the state gives conservation areas, we are in the process of clearing out invasive species, pruning apple trees, planting native prairie plants, restoring the pond and creek, etc etc…

So, I have lots of friends who are born and bred city-folk and they can usually be bribed to do things by offering them free beer and food.  In an effort to get some free workers, my family’s been offering free food, beer, and homemade cookies in exchange for hard labor.

Today, we cleared garlic mustard.  Luckily, this is a pretty distinctive plant, because when you’re standing in the woods, surrounded by green things, attempting to pull a very specific kind of green thing, things can get a little confusing.  We spread out, hefty bags in gloved hands, ducking under tree branches, and clambering over fallen bushes, feet getting wet and muddy.

And tramping around in the hidden parts of the family land, listening to the creek gurgle beneath me and birds sing above me… I am home.  No matter where I move in the world and how completely I move my life into the City…. this is home.  And I am 10 years old again, making homes out of bushes, using cast-off dishes, wading in the creek in my bare feet, writing 10-year-old girl poetry in my notebook.  I am Laura Ingalls, Anne Shirley, Susan Pevensie, and Jay Berry Lee.  I am high up in a tree, sitting under the bushes, hiding from the world with my dreams…

I am not grown-up there.  It’s awesome.