Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Marriage counseling (featuring Lil Wayne)


What a week. What a week.

I flew to Chicago via Munich for Brian's wedding last week. I've never flown from Germany before, and so didn't think about the fact that we'd be further north when crossing the Atlantic. Got to see lots of icebergs as we approached and passed Greenland, and got to see Greenland, which was a most impressive desert of snow dunes. Wowza. The elderly German man sitting next to me took this photo of the icebergs. I didn't have the heart to ask him if I could try it myself after seeing that this one didn't turn out so well. Anyway, I'll always have the memories, or at least until I go senile.

I arrived in Chicago on Wednesday afternoon where my parents picked me up from the airport. They're cute. We had a nice dinner at home with my bro and I enjoyed hanging out with them without Lily and Oli. We actually talked. Whoa.

Dad and mom are now unemployed. They are no longer partners in Family Security Door and Window and, man, the difference in that household is PALPABLE. Mom is still giving yoga classes most days of the week, but it's more dramatic to say they're unemployed. Anyway, they're collecting government funds and will be ok for some months. In the meantime, Dad is investigating an idea he's had for a looong time: opening a healthy hotdog restaurant, basically, somewhere you can get a beef sandwich or a garbanzo bean salad. The name he's had in mind for a long time is Yoga Dog and Oli and I LOVE this. Oli does a great impression of my dad saying 'Hm, I'm just a yoga dog.' Although, I don't think my dad has ever uttered these words.

For those of you who don't know, my dad can COOK and he's learned his skills almost exclusively from watching TV. It's pretty awesome. Anyway, his thought is to have a place with a limited menu, half Chicago meat stuff and half lighter healthier fare, plus some soup-and-sandwich-of-the-day. If he can offer people something healthy, fresh, homey and inexpensive in these poor economic times during which places like McDonald's and WalMart are thriving, he thinks he'll have filled a niche. He's found the location below near my sister's house. It looks a bit crazy now but is actually really perfect in that it's like a little old cottage with indoor and outdoor seating. It's fully equipped, he can rent to own, and the owner is keen to help him out in this poor economy. Dad's also been out picking the brains of other area restauranteurs. Who knows what will come of it, but my niece and nephew already picture themselves working there weekends.

Thursday afternoon I went with my sister to pick my niece and nephew up from school. They're little adults. Jeez, old people are right when they say time flies. It's pretty cool actually because Jake and Marisa are adult-like in their conversational abilities, a mixture of adult-like and childlike in their reasoning, and childlike in their propensity for jumping on me. Overall, a good mix.

Thursday night it was off to Brian's for the bachelor/ette party and to reconnect with everyone. The whole gang was there! It was just like that song. A great part about Thursday was getting to know Liz better and listening to her and Brian's baby plans and concerns. Megan and I both teared up when at the end of a long list of concerns, Liz sighed and said offhandedly something to the effect of, 'Oh, but Brian's said we'll just do whatever we need to...that everything will be ok." Such a little statement, but to find out your friend is a good husband is really quite touching.

Liz also humored us by drinking a lot (Hey, the woman had an intense week!), the highlight of which was when she couldn't remember her hotmail password so several of us girls could see the photos of her wedding dress. She kept saying, "I'm working so hard!" and finally Megan gently suggested, "I think you're looking for the 'Have you forgotten your password' link?" By the end of it, there were like five of us cheering her on, letting out a big "Hoorah!" when we finally got to take a gander. Well worth it since Liz chose a truly flattering gown.

After the party it was off to MegaMart's where Dave and Mendy were also staying, having taken some time out from their round-the-world travels to attend the wedding. Megan and Marty are living in a highrise downtown for the following very good reasons: 1) They've just returned to Chicago from living in London and hope that moving to a different part of the city to where they lived before will make it not feel like a step backward (I hear you!), 2) Why not when you don't have kids, and 3) They don't want a car and in fewer and fewer neighborhoods now in Chicago can you live without a car; surprisingly it's like downtown or 53rd and the Dan Ryan. This fact seriously depresses me since it is a MAJOR deterrent to my return to Chicago. I understand big box stores bring big tax revenue, but man, even if we can't allow mom and pop corner supermarkets that people can walk to from their homes to survive, can Jewel and Co start developing small store-front supermarkets within neighborhoods? If they don't soon, I hope Tesco will and will teach 'em all a lesson. They're already opening some Tesco Metros in California.......

Megan, Marty, Mendy, Dave and I certainly broke lots of stereotypes about married people. Do married people start fires?! The morning after the bachelor/ette party Megan was going to make us some blueberry pancakes. While heating the oil in a pan, it burst into massive flames. Mendy was in the kitchen with her and while Megan lifted the flaming pan off the stove, Mendy uttered a quiet, "Help." All they knew was you don't put water on grease fires, but what do you put? In the end pancake mix was used and Mendy and I later divulged that we both felt a little weak at the prospect of wasting pancake mix. Megan made another attempt and this one, too, almost caught fire. I went to the bathroom to do my hair thinking I wouldn't interfere and tell Megan to quit while she was ahead. She was a big girl who would probably come to that conclusion on her own, but wasn't ready to at the moment. To my surprise, 30 minutes later we had the most stunningly exquisite blueberry pancakes, made with real blueberries! We engorged ourselves while Mendy and Dave regaled us with tales of Russia. Ah, Russia.

Friday night was the rehearsal dinner, which Brian and Liz were cool enough to invite key non-wedding-party members to. This little gesture, and about 50 other things, all indicated that Brian and Liz have a firm grasp of what will be important to them later, when looking back on the wedding. I did NOT have a firm grasp on what would be on this list when we planned our wedding. My mother and mother-in-law tried to help, but I was a stubborn pregnant child. Sigh. In any case, well done. Such a good job on their part.

On the way to the dinner, we were listening to 103.5 and the Lil Wayne song Mrs Officer came on, and man, did we take to it. We worked out the lyrics so that by half-way through the song we were already singing along and we were really pleased with ourselves when we worked out how appropriate it was, being in town for a cop wedding and all, to listen to a song about a guy who fantasizes about sleeping with the female officer that just pulled him over. Definitely the theme song for the trip.

After the dinner, it was off to I-Bar, a most appropriate choice hatched by Kevin and Megan. It was really nice to see everyone together, although I got a bit grumpy because I get overwhelmed at big gatherings now (you know, in my old age), finding that I get caught up in the usual jokes thrown about amongst our friends and forget to ask people real things and listen to them. Sometimes when I leave I feel like I've not actually spoken to anyone. Oh well, it was I-Bar and the night before Brian's wedding; what more did you want, grumpasaurus???

"It's the day of the show, y'all!" Remember that classic line uttered by Parker Posey in Waiting for Guffman? No? Well it was really appropriate on Saturday morning. After a sloooow morning complete with Marty Omelettes, the married people got prepared to induct two new members into the club.

I have almost no pictures from the wedding! Had too good of a time. Quickly decided it wasn't worth it. What I do have are the photos the already-married people took in the photo booth at the reception (what a cool idea!) and pasted into a memory book for the bride and groom. Motivations for photos: Surprised, confused, kicked in the crotch, happy.

I cried on Brian on the dance floor. The night before the wedding I was up from 3:00-6:00 (By the way, yeah, I stayed on Spanish time during the visit so each night I got about 4 hours of sleep made up of 3 hours crashed out, a 2-3 hour awake gap and then another hour or so.), watching the lights on the top of the Wrigley Building change color, thinking about how I didn't want to leave without making sure Brian knew how happy I was for him and Liz, what a good job they're doing, what an important friend he is even though we hardly see each other, and that as we get older and need more from our friends, I'll be there. I know we're all friends, but I also know I rarely say the mushy stuff, and as I get older, it seems more important to say it than assume it. Thus, a slow dance Brian invited me for turned into happy waterworks, and I promise, I wasn't even drunk! In any case, this little episode made me feel reaallllly good.

In fact, the whole trip was like therapy, therapy made possible by Liz and Brian's wedding. I know this post should be all about the newlyweds, but this visit meant a lot to me personally, because I felt like I actually listened to people, asked them the things I wonder about them when I'm away, and felt understood by people who know where I'm from. It's enough to make one feel truly alive. It's a shame I didn't get to really talk with everyone, and I am bummed I saw the Hartrichs for what seemed all of two minutes, but I'll put a lid on it. In a nutshell, we're all changing and trying new things in our lives, but I think it's official: we weren't just college drinking buddies, we'll actually be there for each other in all the ways adulthood requires, despite the change and challenges ahead. Sounds obvious, but it doesn't hurt to say it.

Sunday after a farewell brunch with everyone at the hotel, it was off to a lunch with my family, including all grandparents, and my dad's sister and brother-in-law. We ate at Mama Luigi's in Bridgeview. Talk about old school, but that's how the Ruiters do things. My grandpa (mom's dad) and uncle (dad's brother-in-law) are incorrigible. My aunt and grandmothers, lovely.

14 or so hours later, it was back to these faces:


Colin said...

I really enjoyed this post. Love you and miss you!

Caleb said...

It was great to see you and hope you come back soon.

kristin said...

i'm sad that i didn't get a chance to talk to you more this weekend and get to know you better but your post is lovely. i feel so lucky to have been introduced to such a wonderful group of friends.

p.s. i just found out today that i'm definitely going to madrid in late april or early may so...

Jay M. said...

You're right Angela, it doesn't hurt to say it. Hope to see you again real soon.

Talk about some good faces to come home to.

Megan said...

What a great synopsis of the week! I'm stealing these photos. Also, I love you for describing my cooking attempt as "stunningly exquisite blueberry pancakes."

I've had Ms. Officer in my head so much sleeping with a lady cop is now a top goal of mine.

You know you and the fam are always welcome and wanted at our place. We'll see you soon, for sure.

Maiasaura said...

Angela, I'm so glad you had such a meaningful trip. Wish we could've spent more time with you.

I think Yoga Dog sounds brilliant. The name is awesome. I hope your dad can live this dream.

Finally, I'm sorry to have caused you any sadness when you had to rsvp no to our February event. I wasn't trying to be mean when I sent the invitation. I knew you probably couldn't come, but wanted to make sure you knew you were welcome, in case some magic happened and made it possible for you to fly across the ocean to us.