Category Archives: Relationships

9 Tips for Planning a Wedding

Unless you’re brand spankin’ new to Generation grannY– in which case, hello! Welcome!– you probably know I got married this past December. I wasn’t exactly shy about filling my social media feeds, and maybe yours, with updates and pictures during our four month engagement.

Not to toot my own horn or anything, but our wedding was pretty awesome. Despite a very short planning period, most everything went off without a hitch. Feel free to read about some of the details HERE.

I can speak from experience when I say that weddings still remain absolutely whimsical and fascinating even after you’re married. So whether you’re more single than a one dollar bill, in a new relationship, or have been married for a few decades, I think you’ll enjoy this post. And if you’re currently planning your wedding, which applies to about 75% of my friends, then you’ll REALLY enjoy this post.

Here are some friendly pointers to help avoid unnecessary stress or awkward moments on your wedding day:

1. Clearly mark “plus ones” on the invitations

Wedding plus ones are tricky. Where do you draw the line? How do you tell your friend that the guy she met on Tinder last weekend is not worth your $80? What if your cousin shows up with that girl you think he hires just to be his date at family events? I’m telling you right now, it’s amazing how many wedding guests think it’s their own decision whether or not they get to bring a plus one to a wedding. I did not want to deal with awkward questions (or demands), so I specified how many people were invited on the RSVP card. Very few people will mistake “We have reserved 2 seats in your honor” as “Feel free to bring all 6 of your small children.”

wedding RSVP

 

2. Speaking of invitations, don’t trust the post office

I got this delightful “return to sender” envelope exactly four months after I sent it. FOUR MONTHS. Luckily, Aaron and I followed up with each of our guests to make sure they received their invitations, or else a handful of them never would have known they were invited. You’re not being a pain in the butt if you ask someone for their RSVP– you’re ensuring that they know their presence is wanted.

post office fail

 

3. Do a walk through of your reception hall after you finalize the table layout

Our table layout looked fantastic on paper, but my wedding coordinator suggested we go back to the venue and measure things in person the Sunday before the wedding– just to be sure. I was confident that everything was good to go since I trusted our venue had created layouts a million times before, but it’s a good thing we triple checked. As it turned out, our band stage was going to take up the entire dance floor. What was drawn on paper was completely disproportionate in reality. Luckily, we were able to push a few tables closer to the bar and slide the stage into a corner, and everything still looked beautiful. All’s well that ends well, but I was very close to showing up at our reception only to find that we didn’t have a dance floor. (Shout out to my wedding coordinator, Lindsey Hocker with Simply Perfect Events, for saving the day with that one.)

dance floor wedding

 

4. Give very specific information to your vendors

I might be a little Type A, but I gave a down-to-the-minute, personalized schedule to each of my vendors, which included instructions in bold red lettering that were specific to each vendor’s responsibilities. This included certain wording I wanted when the band announced us, how to pronounce names, and exact moments that were important to capture. Hopefully you trust your vendors– and definitely don’t hinder their creativity, but it never hurts to say exactly what you want. Trust me– they want to know!

abby grace

Here we are with our ridiculously amazing photographer, Abby Grace (black dress), and our couple friends who have used/are using her for their weddings, too!

 

5. Don’t expect your trial hair and makeup to look the same on your wedding day

I didn’t do any trial hair and makeup appointments before my wedding, because all of my married friends told me that their hair and makeup looked considerably different on their wedding day than during the test runs. It’s pretty much impossible to duplicate a look, so just brace yourself! If you’re going for a very simple look like I did, my advice is to find really professional, highly-rated beauty vendors that you can trust, and skip the $100 trials. That way, you’re not comparing the day-of look to what you saw in the mirror the first time.

wedding hair

 

6. Test your spray tan

While I don’t believe trial runs are always necessary for hair and makeup, I strongly believe in testing out your spray tan. A great time to try one is for your bachelorette party. Spray tans are very easy to recreate if you like the color they give you, or you can request to go a little lighter or darker on your big day. The most important part of the trial is making sure you’ve found a studio that doesn’t turn you orange, and doesn’t use a formula that will make you look like you have a skin disease when it begins to fade. Not a cute look on your honeymoon. Whatever you do– don’t use a machine. In Virginia Beach, you can get a custom spray tan for $40, which lasts about one week.

Spray tans are weird, yes, but they also trim off about five pounds for the camera, and are a whole lot healthier than baking your skin in the sun or a tanning bed. Even if you don’t want to look super tan, they can give you just enough color that you don’t look translucent in your pictures. I personally loved mine from Sun Buni Brown Custom Airbrush Tans.

spray tan wedding

 

7. Pack a snack

This tip is often talked about, but I’m going to reiterate common knowledge: You’ll be too excited and nervous in the morning to eat very much, and way too distracted at the reception to enjoy the food you so carefully picked from the catering menu. Give your coordinator or Maid of Honor a protein bar to protect with their life until after the ceremony, then quickly scarf it down before pictures. I ate mine in Aaron’s pickup truck on our way to the reception venue for portraits. You’ll thank me for this reminder, I promise.

pick up truck

 

8. Don’t undervalue the honeymoon

When you’re planning, it’s easy to focus all of your energy and money on the wedding day, but if it’s at all possible– make room in the budget for an immediate honeymoon. It doesn’t have to be a two week tour of Europe or an all-inclusive stay at a tropical resort (though ours certainly was the dreamiest of all dreams), but do something.

I can’t begin to express the value in spending serious alone time with your new spouse in the wake of the wedding. It’s tempting to put off the honeymoon a few months to save money and accrue more time off of work, but I promise you that no level of grandeur can compare to the first few days of wedding bliss. If all you can manage is 3-4 days on a limited budget, then by all means, drive to a nearby town, rent a little room at a bed & breakfast, and roll over each morning saying “Hey, husband!”

Aaron and I learned the power of marriage in that one week following our wedding– it truly is different than dating or being engaged. Giving that bond the full attention it deserves in its first few days of life is something that will carry your marriage for a very long time (i.e. forever).

honeymoon blog pic

 

9. Understand the power of your bridal energy

As our premarital counselors reminded me over and over again, the vibe on the wedding day always matches the bride. If she is focused on the love and lifetime commitment– not the tiny details of the event– then guests will, too, be full of joy. If the bride is letting loose on the dance floor, the guests will also boogie the night away. If the bride doesn’t care when something goes wrong, nobody else will notice or care either. On the flip side, if the bride is upset when something veers off course (it will– you can’t avoid it), everyone else will feel tense and awkward. If the bride is drinking too much and gets messy, guests will start getting out of hand, as well. If the bride isn’t smiling, neither will the rest of the crowd.

[Ex: My bustle completely broke after a dancing foot ripped off all the ties. I could’ve let it distract me from dancing, or worried about the condition of my dress, but I was very aware that my reaction would set a tone. Besides, I was too elated with life to mind carrying my train around the rest of the night!]

No pressure, ladies, but basically the entire success of your wedding rides on your shoulders– so mentally prepare yourselves. The good news, though, is that “success” has nothing to do with how pretty your centerpieces are, how nice your hair looks, or the how white your dress is by the end of the night. Success is achieved by spreading the love you feel for your spouse like a lightning bolt that surges through all of your friends and family. That’s the kind of wedding that will not only lift you onto Cloud 9, but inspire everyone in attendance to live a life full of love.

dance floor

broken train wedding

 

Aw, man, I want to do it all again! Still with Aaron, of course. I guess that’s what vow renewals are for!

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Filed under Lists, Relationships

Stop Saying “It’s Not That Bad”

Everyone endures hardships. To view a personal challenge as better or worse than those of others is extremely egocentric. Similarly, no experience is worthy or unworthy of eliciting certain emotions. While you may view something as a minor inconvenience, another person might view it as an agonizing struggle– and vice versa. I think we’ve all felt the frustration, confusion, and self-doubt that emerges after admitting to a hard time, only to be met with a lack of understanding. Comparison and disapproval serve no purpose in providing comfort.

Because of the unique individuality that characterizes our species, perspectives and reactions inevitably differ. You’ve heard it before, but I’ll say it again: There’s no such thing as an “appropriate” or “right” way to feel.

One of my best friends (a Guest of Honor at Aaron’s and my wedding) often uses the phrase “All feelings are valid.” Whenever I spout logical reasons for why I “shouldn’t” feel the way I’m feeling, she always simply states, “Your feelings are valid.” As in, “Don’t let outsiders tell you what is ‘normal,’ and don’t suppress how you actually feel just because you think it’s illogical.” How you naturally react to something is valid. It’s acceptable. It’s real, reasonable, and an important part of who you are.

The part that can be advised and guided by others (and by your own discernment) is how you act upon your feelings. Don’t lash out. Don’t wallow. Don’t be unforgiving. Don’t avoid productive confrontation. Don’t forget to lean on your support system. Don’t forget that God loves you. The list of ways we can manage our behavior, which should eventually curb the emotions themselves, is endless. However, we must first recognize that whatever we’re feeling is not “wrong.”

The books Aaron and I read during our premarital counseling addressed this concept in terms of the male mind. My book was titled For Women Only, and Aaron’s book was For Men Only (highly recommended, for any couples out there). In For Women Only, the author explains that men are physical beings. Obviously. But the book really delves into the details and extremities of male wiring that makes it nearly impossible for women to relate. From a Christian’s perspective, we can’t blame our [male] spouse if an attractive woman crosses his path, and his mind suddenly goes to a sexual place. We can, howeverexpect him to not look again, and to immediately, intentionally fill his mind with a different image (understanding it may take a while for him to get the hang of this). Temptation is not sin. Jesus himself was tempted. The important part is what happens after the temptation. Same goes for feelings. Any feeling itself is not wrong. How you address the feeling is what matters.

This blog post is on my heart because of how difficult I’ve found separation from my husband. He is deployed on a ship for two months, so we can only talk every 2-3 weeks…if we’re lucky. Sometimes I don’t hear his voice for longer than that, and I don’t know when these sporadic calls will happen. Other than those sparse conversations, brief emails are our only form of communication. Every single day, my heart feels pain, sadness, and anxiety. I miss him! His absence hasn’t proven to be taxing on our relationship, but it’s definitely been taxing on me.

Apparently, I’m not supposed to feel so worn. From what I’ve been told over and over again, it’s “not that bad” to be separated for nine weeks from someone with whom you’ve chosen to share your life. Who knew?

Nearly every single person who has asked how long Aaron is gone has reacted to “two months” with one of the following retorts:

“Oh, that’s not bad.”

“At least it’s not nine months.”

“Breaks from each other are good.”

At first, these responses made me feel defective. And perplexed. How does the thought of nine months make the reality of two months any easier? Is being apart really “not bad”? Because I wouldn’t say it’s good. Am I supposed to want a break from my husband? Do most married couples not like each other? I’m pretty sure my stepmom really misses my dad when he travels for work…and they’ve been married for 14 years. But maybe I’m oversensitive? Am I one of those people who is too dependent on another person for my happiness? What’s wrong with me??

emotional gif

The first week Aaron was gone, I stayed to myself because I was so tired of people telling me that I shouldn’t be sad. I had quite a few friends try to check in on me, but I ignored their calls to avoid the redundant “words of comfort” that actually made things worse. I knew that I should be stronger. That being honest about my distress would come across unsupportive, when in reality, I am so proud of Aaron. That they would remind me that other military wives have it harder than I do. (DUH.) That they would somehow view my heartache as annoying, unnecessary, and dramatic.

Eventually, the name of my aforementioned Your-Feelings-Are-Valid friend popped up on my neglected, buzzing phone. I almost didn’t answer, but I knew I needed to stop bottling everything up…and who better to consult than someone who has spent the last eight years drilling into my brain that my feelings matter? Within the first two minutes of our conversation, I was already hiccup-crying and apologizing and telling her all the reasons why I knew it was “stupid” to be sad. She said, “Duh, you’re sad, silly. That’s why I called. It’s completely normal that this is hard on you.” For once, I didn’t hear, “Hey now, two months isn’t that bad.” Her simple acknowledgment of my feelings felt like a burst of air into my depleted lungs.

Naturally, this friend helped me think of ways to make the most of my time apart from Aaron, but she never said it was “a good thing” or “not too hard.” She challenged me to react to my emotions a little differently, but she never blamed me for faltering in my weakness.

Any hardship deserves attention and validation. Whether it’s in response to a hurtful comment or a reaction to death, no feeling is inappropriate or unnatural. If you feel it, it’s acceptable.

When my mom died, people– myself included– compared her suffering to that of others. At least it was a 5 month battle, not 5 years. At least I had the chance to say goodbye. At least we had a healthy relationship. At least it didn’t happen when I was a kid. At least I have a loving family and friends to support me. Everyone did a good job telling me that whatever I felt was valid, but looking back, I spent a lot of time internally justifying why my struggle wasn’t so bad.

Yes, worse things have happened, but I still lost my mother. Viewing that loss in a positive, grateful light was and is very important, but that doesn’t mean it wasn’t hard, or won’t continue to be hard throughout my life.

By unapologetically acknowledging sorrow over my mom’s death or Aaron’s deployment– without comparing them to what other people face, or how other people might react– I’m able to live in far less pain, which is the whole objective in the first place. Only after I legitimize those struggles am I ready to react in a way that actually helps my happiness level. If I were still in the stage of suppression, frustration with how I feel, or bitterness towards insensitive remarks, all of my reactive energy would be unavailable. Trying to ward off “wrong” emotions completely paralyzes our ability to actually move forward.

Accepting our hardships for what they are is the first step to emotional recovery– and if not recovery, then at least stability. Sweeping things under the rug doesn’t clean up the mess. Neither does trying to convince yourself that the mess is not actually a mess. With that, it’s important to surround yourself with people who validate (not to be confused with “perpetuate”) your feelings. Whether it’s anger, sadness, fear, or regret, all negative emotions are okay to feel. The goal is just to prevent them from overwhelming your life or leading you to poor decisions. Of course we should continually strive to foster peaceful souls with the help of solid friendships, trust in God, and learned wisdom, but by no means should we categorize internal struggles as “right” or “wrong.”

After saying all of that, I should point out that most people have the best of intentions when they tell you something “isn’t that bad,” or if they try to point out all of the reasons you have to be happy. I’ve done it a million times to my friends. So don’t dump those people in your lives and tell them it’s because Shanny the Granny told you to do so. Trust me, they actually want to help and are just trying to get your head in a better place. But my hope is that we can all take it upon ourselves to be the kind of supporters who validate the emotions of others, and therefore truly become useful in helping them walk in confidence, fortitude, and intentional joy. Everyone will fall short of a perfect walk, but those who know it’s normal to fall tend to have an easier time getting back up.

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Filed under General Musings, Relationships

Red Flags in Relationships

I’m 95% sure that our A.C./heating units are broken. Correct: No central air. The bedroom is set to 61 degrees, but I woke up last night in a panic, suffocating from the fire that was my own skin, and proceeded to strip off my clothes so fast that you’d think Aaron…well, I won’t go there. My dad reads this blog. Anyway, then there’s the living room, which is set to 77 degrees, but I’m currently on the couch, wrapped in a blanket, wearing wool socks, a sweatshirt, and a heavy scarf. I’m exposing my hands to the elements only so that I can type. You’re welcome.

The problem is that I still haven’t managed to clean our apartment to a point that I’d feel comfortable letting our landlord inside to take a look at the faulty machines. Besides my basic pride that would be crushed by anyone laying eyes on the disaster, our landlord also happens to be my dad’s private Spanish teacher (random, I’m aware), so I don’t want word to get back to him that his hija es muy inmundo. (Dad, if you’re reading this, it’s uh, really not that bad…) If worse comes to worse, I can always throw on my 80lb wedding dress that’s currently draped over some boxes near the window. That should keep me warm. Or maybe I should just continue cleaning…as my mom always said, “If you’re cold, come help me in the kitchen.” Solid advice, which I never, ever took.

So, now that you know everything you need to know about the state of my apartment (exciting stuff), I’m going to tell you everything you need to know about red flags in relationships. Not that I’m an expert or anything, but I do have my fair share of experience pre-Aaron. Plus I just finished lunch with a girlfriend I haven’t seen in a few years, and she told me that her ex-boyfriend, whom she moved halfway across America to be with, cheated on her with a stripper. Come on, pal. At least keep it interesting. A stripper? That’s like cheating with your secretary. Give me a break. [Disclaimer: All cheating is bad, occupations aside.]

cheating gif

As I’ve mentioned before on this blog, my single-days dating strategy was to “cast a wide net.” From age 18-26, I had in the range of 10-15 exclusive “relationships” (title included for only 3) that lasted anywhere from one month to two years. Each one taught me a ton about myself and what I wanted from a significant other– both the good and the bad. I think it’s why I knew so quickly that Aaron was the one.

Many, if not all of you have probably gone through a break up. They’re never fun, whether you’re the instigator or the victim. Even if you both know that “it’s just not right,” you always wish you could have seen the ending coming from the beginning. It would’ve been nice to have been spared the heartbreak, or even simply the time. Learning from and enjoying someone for a while can be great and all, but the real goal is to learn from and enjoy someone without end.

Sometimes it’s not at the very beginning of a relationship, but there is always some sort of opportunity to realize someone isn’t right for you– long before you become totally miserable or indifferent. The easy, happy stages are actually when we ignore red flags the most. This makes sense, given that we’d rather enjoy the high of new attraction than accept concerns that are often abstract, or just “pesky” intuition. After all, no one is perfect, right? This is great on paper, right? Relationships are about compromise, right? This fear of the future is just paranoia, right?

just no gif

With most failed relationships, we can look back and pinpoint all of the reasons it never would have worked in the long run with those people. The person I was *convinced* was “my person” a year before meeting Aaron was a sports junkie (me: go sports, do the thing, win the points), didn’t particularly like the outdoors (um), and couldn’t talk about his feelings to save his life (have you met me..?). He didn’t want me to meet his parents, was always “jokingly” threatening the future of our relationship, and didn’t want to get to know my friends. Naturally I made up good excuses for all of those things, so I was *surprised* when he nonchalantly ended things at a bar “out of the blue” in front of nearly everyone we knew, the night before we were supposed to honor my mother’s memory at a fundraising walk for bladder cancer. Not his finest choice…but I probably could have avoided all of the pain and embarrassment had I not ignored the red flags in favor of my emotions.

I have too many stories similar to the example above, not just from my own life, but from basically every person I know. For instance, many people don’t know that Aaron was engaged almost 9 years ago, but the wedding never came to fruition. For years, he wore rose-colored glasses, even ignoring a memorable twinge of “Why do I kind of wish I could get out of this thing…?” before proposing, but was so invested in what he had pictured for their future that he kept his plans. Over the years, there were ample red flags and warnings from friends and family, but– like so many of us do– he continued to try to make things work. Because of the idealization– similar to when my ex “abruptly” ended things at the bar– Aaron was *surprised* when things culminated with his ex having relations with not one, but two other men while they were on vacation together. That ending was coming a mile away, but relationships are addicting, so we ignore the flags until they slap us across the face. And sometimes we ignore them then, too.

Side note: I checked with Aaron that I could share his story as a lesson for readers, and he agreed. I lerve him.

terrible mistake

Even if things aren’t glaringly obvious like in those examples, red flags can still exist. I remember not being able to visualize someday standing at the altar with my longterm college boyfriend, but I was so set on the idea of marrying him that we just kept going and going until the red flags– you guessed it– slapped us both in the face. Neither of us stabbed each other in the heart with a final low blow, but all the little issues in our relationship eventually washed ashore in one giant wave. We broke up after 2.5 years, he fell in love with someone else less than a month later (to whom he’s now engaged), and I basically grew into a completely different person within a few weeks. (Why I changed so much is a different story for a different time.)

To reference yet another story, one of my best friends was absolutely heartbroken when her live-in boyfriend broke up with her a few years ago. He gave her no warning, refused to talk about his decision at length, and simply stated “something is off.” At the time, she was horribly confused and devastated. Now, she looks back and sees all of the flags that she ignored until he “abruptly” left her. He didn’t have strong preferences or pursuits, while she’s a very engaged, passionate person. His family seemed to disapprove of her ethnicity, so he never wanted to take pictures together. Their general social interests didn’t align. The list goes on and on (as they always do), proving that red flags are always there– no matter how subtle.

Before relationships get messy, we have the choice to listen to the inkling that the person won’t make us happy down the road. Instead, many of us choose to convince ourselves that the heart matters more than the mind, the mind matters more than the heart, red flags are just bumps in the roads, or we need to change in order for things to get better. None of it is true. The mind matters as much as the heart (and vice versa), red flags wave for a reason, and changing is only beneficial when it’s not motivated by getting another person to love you.

Most of us look back at failed relationships with gratitude that they ended. We can see all of the reasons why they were wrong, even if we couldn’t see them at the time. I don’t hold anything against my exes who ended things– even the ones who broke my heart– because, while most of them couldn’t verbalize their reasoning, or perhaps chose the wrong venue, they decided to listen to the red flags. I hope the ones I’ve ended things with feel the same, because we’ll all end up (and some of us already have) with people that make us a whole lot happier, healthier, and able to move through life with far more ease. I mean– come on, how could I end up with someone who doesn’t like wine?? What was I thinking??

yikes gif

Now that I’m in a relationship where red flags simply don’t exist, I can say wholeheartedly that it’s worth waiting for the right person. That’s not to say that there won’t be bumps along the way, but bumps are different from flags…and usually, you can use your friends and family to help you tell the difference. 🙂

I can’t possibly write this post without providing a little list of red flags. Take a look at them, and remember that just because someone isn’t right for you, doesn’t mean they’re a horrible person (though sometimes they might do horrible things…or have a lot of room to grow when it comes to how they treat people). Instead, it just means you haven’t found the right person yet. Someone who will bring out the best in you…and vice versa. Someone who makes life easy, not tumultuous. Someone who captures your mind, heart, logic, and emotions equally, with careful consideration and respect for your wellbeing.

Red flags:

  1. If one of you has the power (i.e. decides when you see each other, how often, and where your relationship “stands”)
  2. If the thought of forever with them doesn’t sit well with you– with or without good reason
  3. If you constantly make excuses for their behavior
  4. If your friends and family are wary of the person
  5. If you convince yourself that you’re changing to be better, when really you’re changing for them
  6. If you don’t know anything about their spiritual life
  7. If you are never satisfied with them
  8. If you cry or feel frustrated more often than you feel happy
  9. If your happy times with them are like a drug– something you crave and live for (steady happiness is much better, trust me– and it can still be passionate)
  10. If you know you don’t want the same things for your future (family, lifestyles, etc.)
  11. If you don’t miss them very much
  12. If they don’t miss you very much
  13. If their friends aren’t people you respect
  14. If you don’t think they’re gorgeous/handsome (sounds shallow, but attraction is very important)
  15. If you don’t enjoy the same things (at least a majority of things!)
  16. If they don’t like wine. 😉

Of course there are exceptions, and some people have experienced things on this list, only to find that the person they are with is the person with whom they’ll be happiest. But in general, let people speak with their actions, and use your gut and your brain. (Usually one is stronger than the other when things aren’t right.)

Finally, let’s all remember that most exes aren’t horrible people. Your chemical makeup just didn’t bring out their best, and vice versa. Sure, some people may have further to go in their journey towards being kind and morally/ethically sound, but we’ve all hurt people and done things we regret. Make the hard, yet wise choice to listen to red flags, but in turn, try not to harbor resentment.

To wrap things up–this was a long one, I know– I want to make it clear that I was the worst at at moving on, and flip-flopped between trying to be too buddy-buddy with exes vs. harboring resentment bred by hurt. But that’s why I have so many stories to offer and advice to give! Take advantage of my mistakes and use this post about red flags as one big white flag– offering peace towards your own soul if you know you need to end something, towards someone who ended things with you, and towards the people who make your ex happier now or made your current partner discontented in the past.white flag gif We all have plenty to offer, and have made plenty of mistakes, so lets pay attention to the red flags, but wave a new, prettier white one.

 

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Filed under Lists, Relationships

The Leyko Wedding: A Tale of Minivans, Corsets, & Hijacked Ubers

I said I would write a post about our wedding, so this is me following through on my word. Take note, 2016 presidential candidates.

I’m going to tackle this wedding review in Question & Answer format, because organization is hard.

View More: http://abbygracephotography.pass.us/leyko-wedding

Q: What time did you start getting ready, and what did you do before the ceremony?

A: I always thought I’d wake up extremely early on my wedding day, like a kid on Christmas morning, but I underestimated Wedding Week Exhaustion. Therefore, I groggily woke up to my alarm at 7:30 a.m. and stayed in bed for about half an hour to read the 500 congratulatory texts I’d already received. Around 8:00, I showered and headed to the hair salon with two of my bridesmaids. Our hair stylist was a wizard, so all three of us were done in 45 minutes flat.

We were back to my parents’ house by 10:00 for makeup and brunch with the rest of the bridal clan. After downing more brie than one should consume on the morning of her wedding, I slipped into my dress, waited for my stepmom to graciously button all 999 buttons, and climbed into my parents’ very fancy minivan, which then took me to the church. You’ll learn during wedding planning that some things are just not worth $350. To me, a limo was one of those things. Throw me in a soccer mom’s dream car with my hilarious family and some show tunes, and I’m livin’ the conjugal dream. A little dog hair never hurt anyone.

View More: http://abbygracephotography.pass.us/leyko-wedding

 

Q: What was your favorite part of the ceremony?

A: Aaron’s vows and communion. Stay tuned– you’ll get to hear the vows on our wedding video, which should show up in my inbox in the next 2-4 weeks. Communion was incredibly special because I felt like Aaron and I got a chance to silently and privately contemplate the depth of our commitment, and dedicate our marriage to God because of His grace.

View More: http://abbygracephotography.pass.us/leyko-wedding

 

Q: Did anything go wrong?

A: The string quartet did not play my bridal music when I walked down the aisle. They were supposed to play Pachelbel’s Canon, but instead repeated the bridal party music (unclear why), which was How Great Thou Art. HGTA is my favorite song, though– and I was too busy staring at Aaron/trying not to cry, so I didn’t care.

wedding blog 7

 

Q: What did you and Aaron do after your ceremony?

A: While guests gathered outside to await the sword arch exit (another favorite part), Aaron and I went into a private room and exclaimed “We’re married!!” over and over. I also took out my contact lens and tried to clean makeup off of it.

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Q: Were you cold during pictures?

A: No, it was 75 degrees in December. Amazing. I did almost pass out, though. I had prepared myself for overexertion and stashed a Nature’s Valley granola bar in Aaron’s pickup truck to eat on the way to take portraits (food=priority), but turns out, hunger was not the primary issue (for once in my life). I only began to feel better once my wedding coordinator undressed me in the parking lot and loosened my corset. Apparently, the corset’s only purpose was to keep me from breathing, since– according to pictures– I looked the EXACT same in my dress during the reception, when my innards were allowed in their rightful places.

I’d also be remiss not to mention The Great Shoe Disintegration of 2015. Aaron’s white uniform shoes were so rotted that they literally started falling to pieces during pictures. He made a trail of white powder and tiny fragments until his right sole was completely nonexistent. Luckily, one of the guys in the sword arch was only half a size larger than Aaron, so he gave Aaron his shoes to wear for the rest of the night. I’m still uncertain what the shoeless man wore on his feet during the reception, but– if you read this, sir– many thanks.

wedding blog 9

 

Q: What was your favorite part of the reception?

A: I cannot possibly choose. I loved eating dinner alone with Aaron at our sweetheart table, overlooking all of our loved ones and seeing what a great time everyone was having. I loved listening to my dad sing, watching Aaron dance with his mom, and laughing/crying during the Best Man/MOH speeches. I couldn’t get enough of dancing with my friends, dancing with Aaron, and soaking in all of the joy. At one point, Aaron and I went into the Bride & Groom suite for a quiet moment to ourselves, which was one of the most beautiful experiences of my life. We expressed to each other how in love we were (are), why we were (are) so grateful, and reminded ourselves that this was IT. It was all happening, right outside those doors. Basically, it was the best night ever.

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Q: Did anything crazy happen?

A: Apparently a blonde girl threw up on the dance floor at the very beginning of the night…but no one could point her out afterwards, and we’ve exhausted the possibilities on the guest list to no avail. Aaron thinks the story is a myth. I think we had a wedding crasher. Oh, also– my Phi Mu sisters lifted me onto their shoulders in an adrenaline-induced act of brute strength. That was pretty nuts, in my book. Especially since my wedding dress alone weighed more than any of the girls who picked me up.

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Q: What is one thing you would have done differently?

A: Honestly, nothing. Everything went weirdly perfectly, and I’m so happy Aaron and I had a short engagement. I got stressed out for about two minutes at the reception when I was overwhelmed by all of the picture-taking, but I had roughly 15 friends immediately recognize my “I need wine” face, and was presented with a smorgasbord of wine glasses at an impressive rate of delivery. They all looked at each other in amusement when they flanked me at the same time with wine in tow. I LOVE MY FRIENDS.

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Q: Did you and Aaron go to the after party?

A: Yep. I highly recommend designating an official after party venue for weddings, because the party kept rolling, and we did not want the night to end. After lots of beer, nachos, and general tomfoolery at our designated bar (open beer tab included– thanks for the amazing deal, O’Leary’s!), Aaron and I stole our friend’s Uber and made our way home. I only knew it was my friend’s Uber car because the driver answered her call on speaker phone, and I recognized her voice saying, “Um…it says you’re here, but I don’t think I see you..” Me: “HI LINDSEY IT’S SHANNON SORRY I STOLE YOUR UBER LOVE YOU THANKS FOR COMING.” Don’t worry, I Venmo’d her the next day.

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Q: What did you and Aaron do when you got home?

lips zipped gif

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The Reason I’m Getting Married

I haven’t written a post in over two weeks, which is awful, but holy wedding crunch. Anyone who has had a big wedding knows that the final few weeks are insane with things you simply cannot do until the end, once you have a final guest count and subsequent names. I won’t bore you with the details, but you should know that I have two major blisters on my hands from a hot glue gun, the cases of wine for the rehearsal dinner may or may not show up in time, and the table layout is still in process for its 123rd revision. C’est la vie!

In much better news, I’m obsessed with Aaron and can’t wait to marry him. Although I try not to write many posts that are solely about me, myself, and I, Wedding Week calls for something personal. So I’m going to tell you why I’m so excited and ready to marry Aaron. A lot of people have asked, “How do you know he’s the one?” Well, here’s my answer, and hopefully it will give my single ladies something to hold out for, as well as remind my married readers of their own love.

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From the very start of our relationship, Aaron has given me no reason to worry. He has never ignored a text, acted questionably, or seemed unsure. He was open with me from day one about his past and kept me in the loop every step of the way (as much as was necessary) with the process of transitioning a long-time on-again, off-again ex out of his life. I bring this up only because I have so many friends who tell me of their insecurities with a the guy they’re dating, whom they think is interested in someone else or is still holding onto a different relationship. I’ve been there, too. It’s horrible, and makes the girl feel second best, crazy, and unsatisfied.

Aaron’s transparency from the get-go– not to mention how clear he was about his intentions with me– set our foundation on trust, openness, and pure devotion. I’ve never had to be anxious over what he’s thinking, wonder how he feels about me, or overanalyze his actions. The ease I’ve felt from day one is something I’d never, ever experienced, and is the reason I finally understand the sentiment “when you know, you know.” I used to think that phrase was simply describing an electric chemistry, but in reality, it’s describing an unwavering peace. The way he treats me gives me full confidence in our commitment, which is something I’m grateful for every single day.

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But we can’t ignore the chemistry. It’s ridiculous. I mean, have you seen the man? He’s hot. Beyond the physical, we understand each other so well that it feels like he’s an extension of me. Whether it’s laughing until it hurts at some obscure thing that comes out of one of our mouths, him holding me as I cry because American Sniper is the saddest movie ever (and that turns into a cryfest about missing my mom because I simply cannot separate my emotions—I’ve tried), or talking about world issues and spirituality, we’re constantly bonding. I’ve never been more myself, and at my best. He’s my favorite person to hang out with, but I also want to kiss him all the time. It’s really fun.

Compatibility is key, too. We both love to travel, so I can fully support him in the Coast Guard because I understand military life, plus I love living in new places and meeting new people. I also love seeing how much he enjoys his career, and am excited to support him in that—which includes encouraging his decision to accept a new position that he’s been wanting for years, but means he will now deploy for two months just one week after we return from our honeymoon. Gulp.

On top of that, Aaron and I have the same dreams and goals for our future family, both love adventures, both tackle our relationship with direct intention and regular conversations about how we can be better for each other, and both really like sushi. And wine. And Singapore rice noodles. And New Girl. We’ve learned where the other stands with God and found a church that can help us both grow. We have developed guidelines for our behavior so that temptations never tear us apart. We’ve invested in friendships that we know are good for us as a couple and as individuals, including our wise, esteemed, and giving mentors who facilitated our premarital counseling. Basically, we like the same things and approach life the same way, which is just amazing.

Aaron also simply loves me for who I am without asking me to change, yet challenges me to be better. It’s a balancing act that he manages so perfectly. He is passionate about my passions, constantly pushing me to invest more time and resources into writing and singing, never tiring (at least on the surface) of listening to me practice or hearing ideas I have about a blog post. Also, my sassiness (my friends know I’m just a littleeeee Type A and kind of a firecracker) doesn’t upset him because A) he’s insanely even-keeled, and B) he claims that my sassiness is intertwined with my creativity and passion for life, which are two things he says he loves most about me. He dreams big, and so do I. Whenever I’m apologizing profusely for snapping at him or freaking out over something dumb (which I do try to curb, I promise), he just hugs me and says he thinks it’s funny and that it’s why he loves me so much. “Sassiness comes with the territory of someone artistic and invested in the world.” Am I lucky, or am I lucky?

Plus he never makes me feel “crazy.” He lets me scroll through his Instagram or Facebook feed when I get bored of my own, and even gives me his phone to answer texts for him while he’s driving. Total trust. No secrets. Complete unity. And even when I do do something I feel guilty about, like look at old pictures of his out of curiosity, I always tell him what I did, because I know instead of being mad and defensive, he’ll just say, “I mean, curiosity is natural. I don’t blame you. Just know that if I’m ever planning a surprise for you through my phone, you’ll probably ruin it.” Yeah. I’ll keep him.

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I adore Aaron for who he is, too. He is kind, open, and enthusiastic. He has a unique and impressive way of seeing past exteriors and getting to know people for their souls…almost to the point that I’m concerned for his safety. [Ex: A week or two into getting to know each other, he was driving back from a quick trip to Philly, and we talked on the phone his whole drive home. While talking, he picked up a hitchhiker and told me he’d call me back in 5 minutes or less once he dropped the hitchhiker off, only 2 miles away. Twenty minutes later, I thought he had been murdered, so I called him back. He said he was stopping for gas and getting some food, taking his sweet time– meanwhile I’m in the hot tub thinking that a hitchhiker just dismembered the potential love of my life.] But I love how he so naturally exemplifies the message I work hard to spread in terms of breaking stereotypes and embracing differences.

Then there’s the fact that Aaron is as intelligent as he is open, with an engineering degree from the Coast Guard Academy, and a master’s in mechanical engineering from the University of Maryland. This comes in very useful, like when we were measuring and cutting our escort cards at Kinkos, or when our fridge didn’t fit into its wall slot. 🙂

I’m in love with a well-trained handyman who can fix anything, feels strongly about supporting our family, and is just an all-around respectable husband-to-be. Not to mention he’s a renaissance man who taught himself to make jewelry, supports the arts, and owns a Ferrari (casual). And nothing is below him or “out of his comfort zone.” He has been an equal partner in planning our wedding, never wanting to miss a vendor meeting, getting excited about making decorations (it’s truly amazing to witness), and even returning the swimsuits I bought for our honeymoon once I realized that they were way too expensive, but I was too embarrassed to go back to the boutique and return them. He’s a real gem.

I could go on and on…about how he gives me a massage almost every day (and has read books on how to make them professional-grade), is an amazing cook, how much fun we have during mundane errands, the way that he just scoops me up in his strong, manly arms to kiss me when I’m in the middle of cleaning, how any little argument or disagreement is solved incredibly fast due to our mutual dedication to deliberate communication, the way he finishes my sentences, how he always calls me “the littlest”– which is both false and my favorite thing ever, and how he texts me randomly throughout the day just to say “I love you.” But I need to stop myself at some point, I guess. Let’s just say it’s good. It really is as good as it sounds.

I don’t know how interesting or beneficial all of this will be to my readers, but I wanted to write it all down for me, as well. Something I can come back to when we inevitably go through a hard time, or when I miss him while he’s out to sea. I am so honored, blessed, excited, and ready to marry Aaron this Saturday. I love him wholly, and can’t wait to take his name and call him my family.

Happy Wedding Week!

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Dress to Impress [Him] (Sometimes)

Remember gauchos? Yeah, sorry to bring that up. I vaguely remember them trying to make a comeback last year by disguising themselves under the new name “culottes,” and everyone responded with “lololololol NO.” It was the equivalent of someone wearing a Groucho Marx mask and thinking they could legitimately get away with it.

groucho marx

I’m no fashionista, but I like to think I have a decent eye. You may not be able to tell by my wardrobe choices, but you’ll just have to trust me when I say my outfits reflect my bank account, not my fashion sense. The last time I had extra spending money was 2009 (thanks, Busch Gardens Entertainment!), so I’ve chosen skip any trend that high schoolers wear, including, but not limited to, flannel shirts tied around my waist, hippie headbands, and high wasted diapers jean shorts. Looking at 16-year-olds to find out what will only be “hip” for one season is a flawless savings plan. Us practical grannies need to stretch our incomes with purchases that will be socially acceptable for more than a few months.

Although my closet only gains 1-2 new items a year, I earnestly try to avoid wearing anything that screams “I’m from 8 years ago!” Re: Gauchos, American Eagle flares, baby tees, anything that requires a cami underneath, etc. But here’s the catch:

We tend to dress not only for ourselves, but for who we want to attract. And [most] men have no clue what is “in.” They just like what they like.

Last week, my fiancé told me he’s really into girls wearing one shoulder tops. So was I! In 2010. The occasional one shouder cocktail dress these days is fine, but shirt versions just remind me of going to TGIF’s for a drink after a long night of work at Cheeseburger in Paradise during my first year out of college. This is nothing against any of you still showing off your right shoulder like it’s a third boob, sticking it in the faces of bartenders to get a drink, but that’s just something I can’t do in good conscience.

What do you do, then, when your boyfriend/fiancé/husband tells you he is really attracted to a style that brings you back to a time of Yellow Tail wine and The Black Eyed Peas? Or what if your boy toy thinks he’s “fashion forward,” so he buys you futuristic platform shoes and says “these will look really hot on you”? In both cases, you want to respect his wishes…without losing respect for yourself. Because no self-respecting woman will wear one of these (in public):

choker

I should take a moment to clarify that a good man won’t dictate what you wear, and you never need to dress a certain way just to make someone like you. I’m simply saying that, if you’re like me, you like to take your man’s opinion into account because it’s fun to make him happy. That’s all.

Anyway, the key to respecting his opinions while also respecting your reputation is setting boundaries. If he likes velvet animal print, maybe find some jewelry that subtly pays homage to The Lion King without making you look like an 1980s sex worker. Or if he’s into white eyeliner circa 2001, use some white eyeshadow on your lid (blended into something less aggressive at the crease) as a grown up version of his middle school fantasy. If he requests jean capris with no pockets on the butt, look him square in the eye and say, “Absolutely not.”

Something like my fiance’s affinity for one shoulder shirts is a manageable dilemma. I can’t promise I’ll wear them on a regular basis, but for a Tuesday night dinner date when there’s only a 5% chance we’ll Instagram the experience, I’m happy to throw on one of my old tops and let him take a long, hard look at my left collar bone. You’re welcome, sweetie.

Maybe you have no idea what “looks” your straight, male counterpart enjoys. I highly suggest asking– if not for fashion ideas, then simply for entertainment. Besides the normal stuff that all guys can’t help but like (v-necks, bandage dresses, daisy dukes– not to be confused with the diapers shorts I mentioned earlier), you may be surprised at what he finds attractive. Who knows? He could think messy buns are the hottest thing of all time. In that case, congratulations on the easy road ahead of you. But maybe he’s into dark purple lipstick. Or Jesus sandals. These are things you should know, and maybe—just maybe—you can work with them.

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I Don’t Want to Die Alone

Ninety percent of the single, female population is worried they will end up alone. Maybe the other tenth is completely unconcerned about their romantic futures—and society clings to these emotionally blessed women to tell the other 90% how they are “supposed” to feel—but realistically, most women over the age of 25 want a steady, loving relationship. (I said most—not all. Don’t freak out.) And if they don’t have one, they’re concerned that something is wrong with them. One of my single friends is convinced that a troll lives in her lady parts, another thinks she’s doomed because she doesn’t like wearing bright colors (?), and I was the girl who was sure I had a chip missing—the one that makes people lovable.SIM card

I imagined the shape and size of this Love Chip. It was gold and looked exactly like those SIM cards in your smart phones. When creating me, God was supposed to insert it somewhere between my Frontal Lobe and Parietal Lobe, but He decided I could live without it. The exclusion was not a mistake. God does not make mistakes. He purposefully omitted this chip so that I would become an independent spinster who could channel all of her energy into writing books about some unidentified important subject that would inspire the masses. God knew I would learn to be okay with this, mostly because I’d have no other choice.

Every relationship I entered ended with the words, “I think you’re perfect and here are all the reasons why you’re the greatest, but I don’t know why something is missing.” Okay, not every relationship ended this way. Only, like, five. And by relationship, I just mean people I dated for two months or more. Details aside, the red flag during these conversations was the laundry list of all of the reasons these guys said they “should” want to be with me. Anyone who has seen the real me (i.e. the hangry girl listening to unsolicited career advice from my father), knows that the word “perfect” should never, ever, under any circumstance be used to describe me. Obviously, I was trying too hard to compensate for the missing chip, so bachelors never saw my bad side, and therefore could not pinpoint the reason why they were ending things. I should have known that any behavioral efforts to be more lovable would be futile, however. No amount of determination can replace a Love Chip. Since the men were so perplexed about the break ups, themselves, the only closure I ever received was self-acknowledgment of this missing chip.

When Aaron told me that he loves me only two months after meeting each other, and two weeks after he first called me his girlfriend, I thought he was confused. This was partly because it accidentally slipped out when he was telling a random story over Mexican food, and partly because of my Love Chip predicament. With Aaron, I had not behaved in a way I thought to be ideal. Since I knew things would not work out in the long run—how else would I end up alone?—I gave in to my less than perfect ways. I rudely complained that he needed to pay for more meals because I was poor, I didn’t shave my legs every day, and I openly told him that my friends and I looked at pictures of his ex-girlfriend. I also told him that sometimes his wardrobe choices come across kind of gay. These are not tactics I would suggest to anyone looking to nail down a solid relationship.

Here we are, 68 days from getting married, and I’m beginning to believe that I have the Love Chip, after all. The right person just needed to flip the “on” switch. Aaron really, really loves me (and I really, really love him). He makes me a sandwich every morning before work and always puts my keys somewhere I can easily find them. He gives me a professional-grade massage once a day, forces me to go to the gym with him when I’m too lazy to motivate myself, and keeps a bag of potato chips in the car for emergency situations of unforeseen hanger. One time when I was stressed out, he pulled into a Rite Aid parking lot and asked me questions about pageants because he knew that would distract me from my angry tirade at the cars around us. I regret to report that it worked. Last night, he selflessly let me watch Dancing with the Stars as he fed me chocolate cake. Today, he’s taking my car to get re-inspected while I’m at work…oh, and he handily fixed all of the parts that failed the original inspection so that I wouldn’t have to pay those stupidly high labor rates. Honestly, I thank God that all of those other guys bailed. Aaron is an enigma, and a gift you unwrap for life. (Yes, I just quoted Ian from Kaitlyn’s season of The Bachelorette.)

bachkaitlyn

Don’t worry, I do nice things for him, too. I squeeze his biceps and encourage him in his career and ignore the fact that he has 23 squirrel carcasses in his freezer. (That is not a joke.) But this post isn’t about whether or not I’m capable of loving. It’s about the feeling so many women get when they’re single—the dread that plagues their hearts with fear of never being loved back.

I use Aaron’s love as an example of why you can never assume the worst. I can’t promise that every single woman will find a really hot guy who makes the best biscuits and gravy ever and also happens to be a gifted engineer who protects our country, but I can promise that everyone’s story is different. In a good way. Sure, it may sound more appealing to meet someone when you’re 23, therefore avoiding years of third-wheeling couple friends and escaping the dark hole that is online dating. But women who are deeply happy in their marriages all have one thing in common: they are happy to have waited as long as they did for the right person. I was 26 when I met Aaron. My sister-in-law’s sister-in-law met my sister-in-law’s brother when she was 29 (you follow?). My stepmom met my dad when she was 36. I know tons of couples who met in their 40s. Some met in their 50s. And I’ve read Chicken Soup for the Soul stories about couples that met at nursing homes in their 80s. I really hope you don’t have to wait until you’re 80, but at least we know that love feels just as magical at any age and any stage of life.

I hated when people told me “your time will come.” How do you know?? I know plenty of middle-aged women who are awesome and wanted marriage, yet never met the right person. Here’s the truth: We don’t really know if or when our time for love will come. Everyone has a Love Chip (activated or not), though, so instead of believing that God intended for you to be single forever, try believing that He is doing what is best for you. That could mean your love story doesn’t pan out as you imagined, but you can still be happy.

I’ll tell you this: Even though my “time has come,” as they say, I am not instantly without fear for my future. Now, I fear losing Aaron. What if he gets cancer when we’re 40? What if he gets hit by a car and forgets who I am? What if he stops enjoying sushi and is not the man I thought he was? Being engaged or married without trust in God is just as scary as being single without trust in God. Because—news flash—we will never know the future. We’ll never know if or when we’ll find someone, if or when we’ll lose someone, or if or when we’ll even see tomorrow. So, just as I wrestled with surrendering to a life of being single each time I was dumped or had no prospects, I wrestle with surrendering to a life without Aaron, in case that is God’s will.

The only thing that can possibly give us comfort during any stage of life and love is trusting in a greater plan. One that allows us to feel joy for eternity, not just in this blink-of-an-eye lifetime. That may sound depressing—but it’s not. We can’t do anything about the fact that the future is out of our control, so how fortunate are we that there is a consistent way to find peace? This isn’t to say that you won’t feel pain if you live your life alone, or that I wouldn’t feel despair if I lost Aaron, but at least there is always a way to find the light.

If you’re single, there is nothing inherently wrong with you. (Still keep working on yourself—it can’t hurt.) And great guys do exist. Even if you don’t believe in God, I can assure you that those two statements are true. Cling to stories like mine or my sister-in-law’s sister-in-law or the 80-year-olds at the nursing home to keep your hope alive. Hoping for love is not a bad thing. Just remember that there is a greater purpose to everyone’s story. Sometimes we’ll see that purpose clearly, and sometimes it won’t be revealed to us at all, but it’s our choice to believe that it’s for some sort of good. It may be easier for me to say these words now, when I’m on a love high, but I also aim to believe them if and when I’m at a love low.

The most important thing when it comes to love is simply to acknowledge that we are not in control—and to stop fearing the worst about ourselves (or the dating pool). Instead, embrace your story. As long as you continuously strive for a positive mindset and faith, it’ll be a good one.

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Learning How to Miss Someone

Eleven days have passed since Aaron proposed. In that period of time, I have booked/bought the following:

  • Church
  • Reception Venue
  • Photographer
  • Pastor
  • Wedding Planner
  • Band
  • String Quartet
  • Flowers/Linens
  • Booze
  • Caterer
  • Hotel
  • Wedding Dress

These are things I have not done in the last 11 days:

  • Unpacked my apartment, which I moved into over a month ago
  • Made copies of the key to my apartment, which my dad asked me to do over a month ago because he knows I’m irresponsible out of town a lot
  • Cleaned out a single piece of trash that is accumulating in my car
  • Scheduled a dentist appointment
  • Scheduled a doctor’s appointment
  • Consumed a vegetable, unless you count the carrot sticks I dipped in hummus as my entire dinner last Monday
  • Laundry
  • Saved money

The good news is that it looks like our wedding will go off without a hitch with only four months to plan (unless you call exceeding my budget a hitch…). The bad news is that I will continue to wear the same seven outfits for the next month until my boxes are unpacked, and I cannot take passengers in my car as of right now. Not that concerned about it.

Since Aaron is in Scotland and is also the energizer bunny’s cousin, he and I have been FaceTiming every night before bed. Honestly, the time difference kind of works out perfectly because we both get to go to bed at our preferred time: Me at 10:00 p.m. and him at 3:00 a.m. My favorite quote so far came out of his mouth last night after he had consumed most of the scotch in Scotland. While pointing at his screen– and occasionally trying to reach through it– he said the following, verbatim:

“Nobody can love through electrons the way I love you through these electrons.”

I’m going to go ahead and assume we should replace “electrons” with “electronic device,” but I’m really taking artistic liberty with that interpretation.

As you might be able to tell by my wedding-only schedule and Facetime stories, I miss my fiancé. The feeling is akin to how I feel about oversized sweaters in August, or thinking about the laundry mat in Manhattan, where I’d drop off my clothes once a week and come back to find them perfectly clean and folded, all for $11. Or $19 if I hadn’t done laundry in weeks. So usually $19. Anyway, missing Aaron is like missing those things, except about 80,000 times worse.

As the first few days he was gone turned into a week, and one week has reached almost two, I’ve seen my emotional reaction to missing him shift. I think the best way to describe the stages of separation is to think of it as a new workout routine. For the first few days, you’re mentally prepared and feel like you’ve got this. By one week in, you’ve lost a little steam, but remind yourself that it’s important to stay strong. Out of nowhere, around day 10, you’re suddenly angry. The world is out to get you and the elliptical is the devil and also shouldn’t someone love me for what’s on the inside? Pass the French onion dip. On day 12, you feel pretty fat and like a whiney kid at a baseball game who throws a fit just because he missed one fly ball, so you force yourself to go back to the gym to adult (v.). Two weeks pass, and all of a sudden it’s not so bad. The routine becomes a habit. You’ll probably get angsty about the gym every once in a while after that, but generally, you’ve adjusted to the new lifestyle.

Yesterday was day 10 since Aaron left for Scotland. I ate a LOT of French onion dip.

chips

This photograph is not staged. It is, in fact, the moment I was caught eating chips off my belly while wrapped in a mink stole with pearls by my side. Casual. You should probably know that I was Miss New York at the time and surrounded by my favorite gay men in Manhattan. Basically, this is how I wish every single one of my Day 10 binges looked like. #bringmeback

I think we can all agree that missing someone stinks. I, however, used to have an extreme fear of missing people. In seventh grade, I went on an Alaskan cruise with my aunt, uncle, and cousin. After our return, I spent two full months researching upcoming courses of the ship I’d been on because I needed to go back and see the crew. I missed my waiters and waitresses so much that I really thought I’d combust from sadness if I didn’t see them again.

I have issues.

In my twenties, my fear of not being around someone I love manifested in relationships and friendships, making it both my biggest strength and most debilitating weakness. We’ll start with the weakness side of the coin. I held onto relationships long past the point of “happy” because I was so scared of having to miss the person. The healthiness of my relationships fell somewhere on the spectrum between a chili dog and a Double Whopper With Cheese– kind of appealing at the time, but mostly horrible to think about in retrospect. In contrast, the I’ll-Miss-You-Too-Much Complex was (and is) a strength in friendships, because I became really great at staying connected. I took trips to see people, began planning an annual retreat for my a cappella girls, and basically did everything possible to create the dilemma I’m in today: How to cut down a wedding guest list. Gulp.

As you might imagine, when my mom got sick, my fear of losing her was the ultimate nightmare– as it would be for most people, but particularly for someone with such fear of missing people. Death is the ultimate form of saying goodbye, because you know you can never, ever see that person again. No amount of travel, money, or technology can reunite you (at least on earth). When my mom passed, and in the days, weeks, months, and years following, one of the many lessons I learned was that when missing someone is out of your control, you have no option but to live each day. The tears will happen, and that’s fine. The longing to see them and sadness will come in waves, but there’s literally nothing you can do except wake up each day and live.

One day, I hope to see my mom in Heaven. I want to see her now, but that’s not really an option (unless God decides to take me as I sit in this deck chair, in which case, bye—love all of you, please be kind to people, and someone please clean up my apartment before my dad sees it). Since it’s not an option, I’ve woken up every day for the past 2 years and 11 months and gone about laughing with friends, struggling with work, continuing my love-hate relationship with carbs, and reading teen novels. I think about her every day, I cry occasionally, and I still avoid certain places so potent with her memory that I’m not ready to visit. But generally, I’ve adjusted. I haven’t had a choice—and I’ve reached the point that I’m okay with that fact.

As missing Aaron this week has shifted from fine to sad to angry to annoyed with myself to now “kind of okay” (though not yet reached the final adjustment stage), I almost find comfort in knowing that there’s nothing I can do about it. All I can do is enjoy the weekend at the beach with family, read For the Right Reasons by The Bachelor Sean Lowe without the plastic cover so that no one can see what I’m reading, and get ready for another day of work tomorrow. Eventually, Aaron’s return on Wednesday will come. Just like, eventually, Heaven will come.

Missing people is a beautiful thing when you boil it down. It means you’ve loved. I’ve come a long way in the learning process of how to handle it– with still a long way to go– but I keep telling myself that it’s better for me to be learning about this process than learning how to fully love someone. I’d rather love abundantly and let the sadness of separation be a symptom of that love, rather than struggle with finding depth in relationships.

From a practical standpoint, this is good practice for when Aaron gets on a ship (reminder: Coast Guard) and is out to sea for months at a time! Practice makes perfect…right? 🙂 My personal situation aside, though, I hope we can all remember to find beauty in missing people, joy in our days without them, surrender in our helplessness, wisdom in the learning process, and strength in our Creator.

Now I’m off to hit the sand and enjoy this gorgeous day, even if it is still three days shy of Wednesday!

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Our Engagement Story!

“Fiancé” is my new favorite word. It used to be “Lariam,” the drug you have to take to avoid getting malaria (that’s another story for another time), but now it’s definitely “fiancé.”

For those of you with whom I’m not friends on Facebook, A.) I love you for randomly finding my blog and consistently reading it (extra props to you amazing people who private message me to introduce yourselves!!), B.) I’m engaged.

Now that everyone is all caught up, I need to tell the story! So many people have texted or Facebooked (it’s a real verb) Aaron (the fiancé) and me asking for details, so I think the best way to reach the masses is via this blog! Honestly, did you expect me to give the story any other way…?

Grab a drink and a large buttered popcorn, because I don’t plan on being short-winded. I give you fair warning: One of my girlfriends responded after I texted her the story, saying “Reading now, be back in a year.” Obviously none of my friends are sarcastic or dramatic at all.

Even though we haven’t been together long (in case you hadn’t noticed…), this was definitely a “when you know, you know” situation. We met in April, became “official” in June, and by July, we knew we wanted to marry each other and talked at length about what that meant. He is the most loving, committed, and enthusiastic person I’ve ever met, so I wanted to be sure that he didn’t see himself with me forever simply because he was so happy to finally be in an easy, healthy relationship into which he could pour his passion! I had to question myself, too—am I just being crazy?? Is this just the wine talking? Am I compromising in any sort of way? Been there, done that, and no thanks.

However, after discussing every angle of marriage and making sure that we weren’t simply running on high emotions, we both came to the conclusion that this is it. I’ve never believed in soulmates, but for the first time, it feels like someone was handcrafted just for me. From the first night we met, it was clear that we had that “spark,” but on top of that, we both love doing the same things, socialize the same way, have the same philosophies and beliefs, communicate authentically and respectfully, have the same dreams and priorities in life, and are on the same page about seemingly everything. Except for black licorice. It’s gross, and Aaron doesn’t understand that.

Anyhoo, I knew the engagement would happen relatively quickly because we wanted to become family as soon as possible. There’s really no explanation for the progression of things other than that. We just want to be family and united in every way possible! Knowing that it could happen in the next month or two, we told our closest friends so that none of them would be blindsided. Their reactions were SO amazing and SO positive—particularly the ones who have spent a lot of time around us, which only further solidified that Aaron and I are perfect for each other.

I didn’t feel the need to be overly surprised in a conventional fashion, so from talking to him, I thought the proposal would probably happen at the end of August or early September. I didn’t want to know exactly how it would happen or anything, but I did know that he felt strongly about getting the ring from the same tiny mom and pop diamond shop in Brooklyn where my brother got my sister-in-law’s ring, and also where my dad got my bonus mom’s 10 year anniversary ring. Material possessions aren’t really highly valuable to me, so I assured him that anything was fine and he didn’t need to go all the way to Brooklyn, but he insisted that it be special, perfect, and personalized. He’s wonderful. That being said, he went to New York last weekend and I pretty much knew what he was up to…same goes for when he had drinks with my dad last Thursday. 🙂

Even with all of that exciting action going on, I was 100% positive that he wouldn’t propose until after his trip to Scotland. He left yesterday to be over there for two weeks, and the thought never even crossed my mind that anything would happen before the trip. After all, he JUST went to New York, and I knew the ring thing would be a process. It just wasn’t possible for anything to happen for at least a few weeks. Duh.

All of my friends who are engaged or married say they almost ruined the guy’s plan without realizing it…count me in as one of those girls. There I was, thinking I knew the basic timeline, happy as a clam and just enjoying the relationship for where it stood as of that day. As we did our usual morning commute to work with him behind the wheel and me slapping on some makeup, I said, “Babe, you’re not going to like this, but I don’t think we should go to the wine/birthday thing tonight. There’s so much to get done before you leave for Scotland, plus we told ourselves we’d be better with saving money. We just saw all of our friends last night, so I don’t think we’ll be too missed. Also, I want a night with just you since you’ll be gone for two weeks!”

This was Wednesday morning. The day he planned on proposing. At the wine/birthday thing.

Somehow, he didn’t let on to anything and after a few back-and-forth moments, we “compromised” that we could go for just an hour, not drink, and only order an appetizer. I made him promise we would leave by 8 p.m., to which he happily agreed. The poor guy just had to get me there! After work, we had errands to run before the party, and ended up not arriving until 7:30 p.m. (100% because of me). Everyone else had arrived at 6:30, but how was I to know that we were the guests of honor? He’d managed to somehow get me in a nice dress even though I hadn’t showered that day by suavely reminding me that The Cellars was a dressy restaurant, so I hastily pinned back my greasy hair that had been in a braid all day and applied some eye shadow. I kept asking him if I looked like a dog with my hair pulled back on both sides as though I was a cockerspaniel with long, shaggy ears, and he assured me that I looked great, but also said “You can bring a hairbrush in the car and do something else if you don’t feel pretty. You should feel pretty!” This should’ve been my first hint. When does a guy ever suggest that you re-do your hair in the car?

When we arrived, I remember thinking, “Wow! I didn’t know all of our friends were also such good friends with Matt.” (The birthday boy who was totally in on Aaron’s plan.) Still, I was clueless. I suggested to Aaron that we get prosecco or champagne to start (it’d been a long day…I’d changed my mind about drinking), and he said, “Why don’t we do that with dessert?” I did not understand. A) who said anything about dessert, B) I’ll just have prosecco now and you can have wine, mister. I’m in the mood for sparkling! He then said, “Okay, then lets do sparkling now, wine with dinner, and more sparkling after!” He liked fooling with me and dropping hints, knowing I wouldn’t catch on. I just thought he was being picky about what he wanted to drink with dessert since he’s such a sweets guy, and thought, “Um, okay, you sound like a man who knows he wants prosecco with dessert. You do you.”

We were all in the private room in the back with gorgeous brick walls since the restaurant is actually a wine cellar (the perfect place for me to get engaged, obviously), so we all ate dinner around little high top round tables. We managed to squeeze five or six of us around our table, but as the food was clearing, I noticed that all of our dinner companions had left Aaron and I alone at our table. I figured that they were just bored with us since we were doing the thing we always do when we talk two inches from each other’s faces because we’re, you know, in love and—as our friends say—shmoopy. I actually did call attention to one of our friends who ditched us, because she had not even finished eating and straight up brought her plate to a different table. As she was eating at the other table, I said something like, “Gee, thanks, Alisha…guess we really know how to clear a table.”

Not thirty seconds later, the server brought out the “cake” for Matt. We all started singing “Happy Birthday,” and I was in full out music mode thinking, “Wow, nobody was even CLOSE to choosing the same key…” when the server started putting the “cake” in front of me. I didn’t look at it, but instead said “No, no, no! It’s not for me! The birthday boy is over there!” Meanwhile, the birthday singing was tapering off…and Aaron stood up…and I looked at the plate. On the plate was “Will you marry me?” written in chocolate, along with a gorgeous wooden ring box, flowers, and ice cream. (I still have no idea what happened to the ice cream. Did anyone eat it? Was it good? Someone let me know.)**

I was so confused.

The first words out of my mouth after I stared at it for a second and then looked at him was, “What are you doing??” Of course, I don’t remember saying that, but there is video evidence. He then grabbed my hand and started talking in a low voice as though no one else was in the room. He didn’t care if anyone heard but me (which I love), and it was like we were in some time warp where everything else around us froze. I only remember him saying the words “adventure” and “energy,” and that’s about it. I do remember him getting on one knee with the box and saying “Shannon Marie Oliver, this is only temporary…” and that’s when the room came back into focus because everyone started cracking up. “Ahhh! No! Not the engagement! Just the ring!!” Aaron exclaimed. He then said some other words that I will need to watch the video to remember…I seriously blacked out when this was happening…and then said, “Will you marry me?” I cried. And when I cry, I cover my face. But I kept telling myself I had to say “yes” because so many of my friends had warned me that they had forgotten to answer the poor guy during their engagements. With my hands over my face, I said “yes,” but in that split second also realized I should say it while he could actually see me, so I said it a few times as I removed my hands, just to make sure the bases were covered and I’d said it the appropriate way.

I think I was even shocked that I was so shocked. We’d talked about it, after all. But as my dad had explained to Aaron when they spoke, there is “tactical surprise” and “strategic surprise.” The strategic surprise is long term, so Aaron would really have to hit me with a strong tactical surprise. He nailed it.

You’re probably wondering about the ring. Or maybe you’re not, but I’m going to explain it anyway. It’s AMAZING. We’ve already been instructed to not tell the wives of some of his friends because they’ll be too jealous and then his friends will be in trouble. I hope they don’t read this.

Aaron knew that if he waited for the diamond ring from New York to be completed after his trip to Scotland, I wouldn’t be as surprised when he proposed. So Aaron, being a romantic renaissance man, decided to MAKE me a ring as a stand-in until the diamond ring arrives. As in, he ordered materials and instruction books and created a welding station at his desk at work and HAND MADE a gorgeous silver ring. Not just any silver ring. It is the sailor’s love knot, which represents unity between two strands—a historical tradition of nineteenth century sailors to give their sweethearts when they went out to sea. Often times couples include a knot-tying ceremony in their weddings, and the ring’s knot is the same that is tied during weddings to signify unbreakable unity. Aaron is an officer in the Coast Guard, giving the sailor’s love knot on the ring that much more meaning. I still can’t believe he made it…I mean, that is some next level stuff, as I’m constantly reminded by girls who look at it with stars in their eyes and guys who comment about having to step up their game when they hear the story. His hands did not escape unscathed by acid burns and scrapes…apparently making fine jewelry is quite a process. (Thanks to the amazing friends in his office who helped him knot the silver strands and find the box!)

Speaking of the box, it, too is incredibly personal and special. It is a wooden box with an anchor on the top (Coast Guard!), and was originally holding a shot glass (HAH!), so he had to create the cushion. He cut out the back of a spare shirt he wears with his uniform, and rolled two pieces into cushions for the ring. I LOVE that his uniform is part of it! Just so special. Okay, fine, I’ll show you the picture…

ring

When the diamond ring comes in, I’ll switch this ring to wear on my right hand for the rest of my life, and he’ll put the diamond on my left. We plan on doing a special dinner when that happens…yet one more thing to look forward to!

So, when is the date? I’m not saying here, but I will say that my last name will be Leyko by 2016. ❤

Thanks to EVERYONE who has reached out with such love and excitement! We are beyond excited and feel completely overwhelmed in the best way by the support we’ve received. Words really don’t do our happiness justice. God has put so much joy in our lives and we don’t take it for granted for a second! I can only imagine my mom beaming. She would love him, as will all of you who have not yet had the pleasure of meeting him!

Aaron and I absolutely can’t wait for the wedding day, so get ready to #PartyLeykoRockstar!

**Update 8/7/15: The birthday boy ate the ice cream. And it wasn’t ice cream, it was chocolate mousse.

———————————————————————

The facial sequence during the proposal:

7

What’s happening.

6

What are you doing.

4

Full on black out.

3

The moment he asked!

2

Yes!

5

I have to sit back down.

9

Did that just happen.

aaron 1

We had champagne at the end of the night, just like he wanted!

8

The display minus the ring box. Hope someone enjoyed that ice cream…

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Tell Me Everything

I wonder what it’d be like to be a private person. I have no desire to share intimate details of my life with the entire world on social media or this blog, but when it comes to my friends, nothing is off limits. Last week, I asked a girl how her roommate/close friend felt about a certain dating situation, and she said, “I don’t really know. She’s a pretty private person.”

…Help me understand.

How can you be “close friends” with someone if you don’t tell them about sometimes trying to look at your own Facebook profile as though you’re a stranger, or admit that you haven’t showered in three full days? If you are close friends with someone, shouldn’t they know the details of your boyfriend’s chest hair and that you ate both Chipotle and Five Guys for lunch? What is friendship if not discussing that weird dream you had about Victoria Grayson or a graphic account of your visit to the doctor?

In my little world, “privacy” and “friendship” don’t belong in the same sentence. All of my close girlfriends have seen me sans-clothing so many times that they don’t even seem to notice anymore when I strip down to change in the middle of a serious conversation. Most continue eye contact. And at this point, they think something is severely wrong if 72 hours have passed and I haven’t told them a dramatic story about a simple visit to the grocery store or about the cougars of Virginia Beach attacking my obliviously friendly boyfriend. I get concerned phone calls if I answer a text with one word, plus I sense disappointment when I say “hello” without following it with “ugh I have SO much to tell you.”

I like it this way.

best friends

Not saying that people who keep their waxing experiences to themselves are lonely or shallow, but I’ve found that when there are no boundaries, friendships become more authentic. The more I share, the more my friends share, and the more we can read each other’s minds to understand how to uplift the other person. Even if what we talk about is ridiculous and seemingly meaningless, those exchanges keep the door wide open for deeply serious conversations. If we can discuss the pros and cons of thong underwear, then there are no walls keeping us from discussing our greatest fears, genuine emotions about difficulties in life, and experiences during which we fall short and feel guilt. Topics that would normally be bottled up out of fear of what another person might think are more easily brought to the surface by someone who knows what the combination of sushi and tequila does to your body.

Talking through how to handle hurt, getting advice about poor decisions, and simply venting about something that is bothering us is healthy. It lightens the load and decompresses our souls. Having a trusted source that you know will never judge is a priceless gift. For me, I have about 30 of those trusted sources, so my soul generally feels incredibly supported. That support is how I got (and get) through losing my mother, how I deal with remnants of negativity from my past, and handle the feeling of failure that periodically pops up in the mind of any mid-twenty-year-old (except Taylor Swift and Emma Watson). Although nearly all 30 of my trusted sources also share with me about their lives, I never feel overwhelmed. I only feel joy that we can mutually absorb one another’s pain, embarrassment, concerns, and successes.

Speaking of successes, being unconditionally close with someone isn’t simply all silliness mixed with seriousness. It also means getting to unapologetically share triumphs and excitement. I LOVE that my girlfriends know that I won’t think they’re being stuck up or self-absorbed when they accomplish something awesome or are overjoyed by an event. Your boss told you that your input was incredibly valuable in the meeting this morning? You’re the smartest, best employee ever! A guy at a bar told you that you’re the most gorgeous girl he’s ever seen? DUH! It’s because you are! You ran three miles after work? Whatttt you are so inspirational! It’s never a fake reaction…I sincerely feel joy when my friends are proud of themselves or tell me about a situation that made them feel special. I love knowing that they feel comfortable telling me about those things instead of buying into the whole concept that we should remain humble all the time. Their happiness makes me happy! Plus, I know that I can tell them when I’m excited about an essay I wrote or that I finally taught myself how to french braid!

tina fey amy poehler

Quality always beats quantity, but a high quantity of high quality friends certainly makes life feel incredibly full and satisfying—at least in my experience. I am so grateful that I was born with no shame and a desire to be close with other people. And I urge anyone who might be a little more reserved in their friendships to really let their friends in. Not Facebook friends…this isn’t about oversharing in statuses or being vulgar in public, rather it means choosing to develop an unequivocal closeness to specifically designated people in your life. Or if you’re me, with the random girl at a party that seems cool and nice. (To read exactly how I feel about oversharing on social media, I bring you way back to my first blog, Shannon’s NYC.)

Knowing that so many of my insanely supportive friends read my blog on the reg and even challenge me to write more often out of love and encouragement of my future, I’ll end by saying thanks to you! I hope our weird level of openness encourages other readers of this post. You’re my favorite part of life. Love you long time!

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