Chris and Ashley: Proposal Story

By: Chris O’Brien and Ashley Burns

A proposal is a monster to plan.

First comes the ring. I was lucky enough to have Jason Jenkins meet with Ashley, talk about what she wanted in a ring and proceed to build her the perfect creation. All I had to do was keep my Cheetoey fingers away until the big day.

Not that easy. For those who haven’t proposed yet, I advise keeping the time between picking up the ring and proposal date to as few days as possible. Actually, keep it to a few hours. I had two weeks. I think after three I would have lost my mind.

Nothing will bring out the paranoia faster in a man than having an engagement ring hidden in your apartment. I couldn’t hide it in too smart of a spot because then I’d run the risk of forgetting where I put it. I couldn’t use a safe because 2:1 odds I’d forget the combination. I’m the kind of guy who could find a way to lose the ring if it were hidden in my pocket.

The top drawer of my dresser, right by my bed, ended up being the top secret location. Every night I would open up the box, make sure it was still there and go to sleep hoping those hooded horsemen from Lord of the Rings weren’t making a late night appearance.

Then came the actual proposal plan. For those who know Ashley, either now or at Hope, you’ll understand that finding a gap in her schedule is on par with trying to set up a meeting with Barack Obama. She works at Lululemon for 30+ hours, dances for Inaside, teaches dance, teaches dance again, and puts in four or five hours of sleep. She lives in the suburbs. I live in the city. If she comes over, the time it takes to park on the street can range from 10 to 30 minutes.

A time specific plan seemed impossible to pull off. To combat this, I decided I would make a photo slideshow highlighting the top 100 moments of our relationship. I’d put some music to it, show her the movie, propose at the end. Seemed good on paper.

Now it’s time to schedule the event. From what I’ve learned watching movies, the proposal needs to be somewhat of a surprise. Well, surprise and Ashley’s schedule do not mix. What you are about to read will probably be the least romantic paragraph in proposal history.

Ashley knew that the ring had been built. She knew that I would either have to drive to Midland to get the ring or Jenkins would have to come to Chicago. Meaning, it’s safe to say that when I went on a trip to Bowling Green to meet up with all the guys, including Jenkins, she almost certainly knew I had come back with a ring. Which then means she knew that any specific hangouts could be the potential night. Knowing it was coming and knowing how difficult scheduling a night would be for me, Ashley went a step further and gave me the password to her Gmail. With this password, I went in to her calendar and put two blocks of ‘Chris Time.’ This gave enough of a suspense element. The proposal could be Wednesday night. It could be Friday night.

Then came the, “I don’t like this plan anymore” meltdown. Photo slideshow didn’t seem big enough. A proposal is the moment a girl shares for the rest of her life. I started feeling like mine was the, “Hey, I made you a mix CD” proposal plan equivalent. For days I experienced a sort of writer’s block and could not come up with anything.

On a drive to work, the final idea hit me all at once. I would use the photo slideshow, but it would be a decoy. The whole proposal would be a series of built in decoys. Yeah, decoys, alright, good, we’re getting somewhere. I would invite her over and cook a steak dinner. She might think it was coming then, but no, sometime before or after I would have her watch the photo slideshow. At the No. 1 of the Top 100 moments, the text on the screen would be to check the closet. Opens closet, hanging there is a dress, the dress she bought in Kansas City for graduation. Good, sentimental stuff, all sounds good. But think bigger. Bigger. Alright, got it, so taxi shows up shortly after she puts on dress and takes us to a romantic fondue place. She thinks it’s going to happen there, but it doesn’t. We come back and, unbeknownst to her, my roommate will have set up candles and rose pedals in my room. Open door, drop to a knee, pop the question.

I looked up and I had missed my exit by about five miles.

The paranoia of the nightly ring check spills over to the proposal planning. You share the proposal idea to a cousin or Ashley’s best friend and they say, “It sounds great, but what if she hasn’t shaved her legs?” I didn’t even think about that part. How do I address that? “Hey Ashley, can you come over tomorrow night, and this is a normal hang out not like a proposal or anything. Oh by the way, make sure to shave your legs.” I wanted to get real candles, but I have wooden floors. In came the slightly irrational fears of either smoke alarm going off or apartment catching on fire. It’s hard to successfully ask someone to marry you when you have burnt down your place minutes before.

Sure, things could go wrong, but I believed in the plan. I believed in the plan when some random guy outside and I couldn’t figure out how to get the big gas grills to work. I believed in the plan when I rushed upstairs, Googled how to cook steaks in the oven, scrambled, luckily found a broiling pan and popped them in. I believed when I had to try and figure out do I show the slideshow now or after dinner.

Once the steaks were cooking, the slideshow was playing and somewhere the taxi was getting ready to head over, I could relax. Well, not relax, but at least feel like everything was set in motion.

About midway through the slideshow, Ashley was starting to cry.  I had underestimated the power of the slideshow. Inside my head was in panic. I feel like once you get tears you should drop to the knee. But the plan! I couldn’t abandon the plan! Somewhere in my brain the decision was made to just hold her and not reach for the ring.

– From here on out we hop inside Ashley’s head 

This is Ashley finishing up. At the end of the slideshow it read, “Will you….”. I’m thinking, “No way! This is not happening right now! I’m not ready. I can’t read the rest of the sentence with the tears in my eyes anyways.” The sentence finished with, “Dance With Me.” Oh gosh, ok. So I got up and we danced as he held me and I collected myself. I thought this was a nice decoy and now we will have steak dinner. Then he pulls the “Look in the closet” line. I’m like, “No, I don’t want to look in the closet. What’s in the closet?” He repeats for me to look in the closet. It was a dress I wore at graduation and bought in Kansas City. I put it on to play the game.

We have dinner and I’m told a taxi was coming in 20 minutes. I finish getting ready, excited to see where we were going on a Wednesday night. It ended up being the most romantic little place, Geja Cafe on Armitage. It was perfect: quaint, live guitar music right in front of us, cheese flight, wine, and chocolate fondu place. About 10 minutes into being seated I wasn’t engaging in any conversation. I was waiting. Being the patient person that I am, I flat out asked him if there was something in his pocket. He said no as he patted at his pants pocket. I should have known with English Chris I needed to be more specific in my use of words. “Is there anything in your coat pockets?” He replied that if there were something in his pockets he would have probably lost it. Fair. So I gave up thinking it was going to be that night. I had Friday to look forward to and this night to enjoy. It was a great time. For those of you who know I’m allergic to raw fruit and going to a chocolate fondue place, I caved and had half a strawberry and one bite of banana. Thankfully no allergic reaction. Phew.

We took a taxi back to Chris’ place. I asked if he wanted to take a walk or watch a movie to finish off the night. He casually said, “We’d figure it out.” As we walked into his place, to my honest surprise, there were rose petals and (battery-powered) candles with a picture of us from my 21st birthday. There were so many decoys I didn’t know if this was going to actually be it or not until he got down on his knee and grabbed the box. My first response was, “This is real!”, then “Mhmmm”, then “Yes!”. It was a writer’s storybook proposal made a reality complete with suspense, romance, and all.

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Chip-N-Dip Episode 5

w/ special record recommendation from Boomstick:

Beef:  Here we go!! fresh off a bye week!

Crab:  And we needed it. We had some sore muscles, needed to get back to the playbook a little bit, but here we are ready to get things moving again!

Beef:  Great to be back crab!

Crab:  And good to have you back Beef. How’s the whole moving into new home process coming?

Beef: It’s great! Just about settled in. Home ownership is a big step. There are lots of things that can come up but its so rewarding in the long run. I mean there is no better feeling than just relaxing in the living room and thinking to yourself, “This is my house, I can do what ever I fricken want!”

Crab: And I want to make this offer right now, cuz I know you’re looking for a plumber, whoever you end up choosing, and if they do a good job, we will have them sponsor the following show, free of charge.

Beef: That’s a great idea! Yeah a lot of stuff with a house you can be like, “Hey, I’ll do this and save 50 bucks, I’ll fix this shower pipe or I’ll replace this window but if you do it wrong, it can really come back to bite you in the end. I’m kinda at a cross roads when it comes to the do-it-yourself or calling in the expert. 

Crab: Right and the obvious danger then, kind of like with car repair, the person coming in knows what they’re doing, we don’t, so they have free reign in setting that price. If I were running public schools I would have a “swap out” plan so whatever subject you just can’t get a handle on, say it’s math or foreign language, whatever, the school says, “That’s fine but you will need to take home repair, auto repair, or understanding what tax and insurance policies mean.”

Beef: Right, call it life’s challenges. “Well you have been pulled out of math now so we enrolled you in life’s challenges.”

Crab: lol exactly! The way it is in schools right now, there’s too much pressure in the autoshop class. Those are all the guys who want to be great at that, be able to build a hot rod from spare parts later in life. They essentially have a .4 autoshop class but nothing for people like me who are allergic to changing their own oil. Under my plan you would have all similarly challenged auto repair students so there’d be less expectations.

Beef:Okay so we switched you out of art and put you in contracts and fine print studies”

Crab: hahah “Lesson 1: Reading Itunes Contract: Safe To Skip Over?”

Beef:  hahaha my answer would be yes, safe to skip. Let’s face it, your buying music instead of illegally downloading/file sharing, that’s safe right? Because really, what do you do if you don’t agree with something apple put in there? I would say close to 99 percent of people just accept without reading. I’ll take that back. Ninety-five percent don’t read it, four percent reads then accepts and theres just that one guy stuck trying to get lime wire to download on his computer.

Crab: See I think contracts as a whole are a scam. If you look at the language it’s just unnecessarily written to try and confuse the person signing it.

Beef: Right. In the case of my house purchase, there was a lady acting as a contract translator, telling us what the pages and pages of different subjects like taxes, mortgage policies meant

Crab: And that’s a great help, but it’s just an extra step that I think could be cut out. But then again I feel like it’s probably even more unsettling to be handed a one-page contract with completely clear language from someone and asked to sign. Imagine if that was the house transaction. “Alright Beef, we got everything settled, now just give me your signature on this napkin.”

Beef: Thats why I think they make those things so long, they are purposely adding on confusion!

Crab: There’s really a target length of a contract. Anything less than 10 pages feels like something fishy is going on and anything over 150 pages you know you’re getting screwed.

Page 127 “If owner adjusts shower head without proper High School Life’s Challenges course certification, mortgage doubles”

Beef:  hahahah that’s right! I say when it comes to contracts, it’s a game of luck and instincts. I could have read all those pages but that would have taken weeks. Legit weeks!

Crab: Now let’s talk for a second about your cat situation

Beef: Oh man. This has been hell for me.

Crab: For our readers, or maybe you put on the Microsoft Word read out loud option for a podcast feel, whatever, point is for those of you that don’t know, Beef has a cat. He loved this cat as a kitten, but the thing has grown into a monster.

Beef: She has pooped in spots in my room as well as my sink and she knocks her food dish over and spills her food all over the place.

Crab: Some sort of new home rebellion?

Beef: I’ve resorted to putting her in my basement with her litter box, food water and kitty home. Now granted, this was the 3rd time in a month that she has been uprooted and put into a new place so I think that she needs to adjust, but pooping in my room was the last straw. Now I’m in this sort of love-hate battle where I want her to stay but at the same time thinking about putting out a Craigslist add if she keeps being a terror. I think that some animals just cant be controlled and those are not meant to be kept as pets. Another option is to let her be like Jeff Brown’s cat nacho and be a hybrid indoor out door cat.

Crab: I think they should have a pet leasing option. Because it seems so taboo to get rid of your pet, get rid of meaning turning it back in, but people have cars for three year leases and move on just fine.

Beef: I think it’s just a matter of how your pet acts around you. Its a deep connection when your cat / dog or what ever pet you have shows you love, is well behaved, and is nice. You form a bond. But when your pet is tearing up your house and pooping in your bed, it’s a little easier to put that damn thing back in the pet lease store. But lets get dirty with some politics talk. What is your opinion on voting, more specific, how do you feel about voters voting with little knowledge about the candidates?

Crab: Well, that’s what makes these elections so interesting. It’s kind of like the Olympics in a way. Comes every four years, millions tune in, get fired up, but when it’s all over no one’s tuning in a few months later to the water polo games on channel 850. So when Obama or Romney says, “No, he’s lying, look up what he said,” it’s kind of lost on us because we have no idea what has happened in the four years since we last cared about an election. What’s interesting about the news is they just try to create a message that lines up with a niche. So as a voter, you really get to pick what you believe and now have a news station to back you up. If you want a world where Obama’s presidency has been tremendous, you just stay plugged in to MSNBC or Current. You want a world where Obama has been the worst president ever, well here’s Fox News.

Beef: Pick your poison America. I love watching the occasional Stephen Colbert and his take on everything. CNN just depresses me

Crab: Allow me to stay on my soapbox a little longer. It’s an interesting information age we live in, cuz it’s really a pick your own reality for everything. Example, I had this weird bump IN my earlobe. Iwent to Google scrolled through some Yahoo Answers until I found, “Eh, don’t worry about it, it’s gonna go away” then I said ok cool, I’m all set. The scarier answers I just brushed off and waited til the one I liked.

Beef: The internet man, you can do so much now just from your home with like Web MD or Youtube how to stuff or the Yahoo answers

Crab: All except do your own plumbing. Well, I think that about wraps things up for this week. You got a song recommendation my good man?

Beef: Yep, try a song called “Night fall” by Booka Shade. It’s a great club like song.

Crab: To go with our song recommendation we also now have Boomstick chime in with an entire vinyl record to try out. This week he suggests: “Sigh No More” by Mumford and Sons. His favorite track: White Blank Page.

Beef: For movie I’m going with Kevin James’s newest movie, “Here Comes the Boom.” This is him as a UFC fighter and it should be interesting how they incorporate that into a comedy style movie.

Crab: Good call Beef. We’ve always supported Kevin James. Well I have yet to explore enough here in Chicago to have my sandwich list ready, but I want to bring things close to Midland with a medium drive over to Bay City to Wanigan’s. Great reuben, great pastrami, awesome toasted bread, this place was a secret to me up until last year and now I try to get there any time I’m back home sailing with my parents. Tell ’em Crab and Beef sent you and maybe get a free pickle. Unless they don’t offer free pickles. Link to menu here: http://www.waniganeatery.com/Sandwiches.html. Well Beef, it’s been great and I wish you the best of luck getting that house in order and finding peace with your cat

Beef: Thanks crab. Good luck in the windy city and with your many interesting articles soon to float around the city and the internet. As always, keep doing big things!

Crab: Good night everyone, see you next week for some more greasy times and medium rhymes

Beef:  yeah baby!! Yeah!