Tuesday, December 1, 2015

We did the... deed

The day I got out the military, my new life was supposed to begin. Linda and I drove from Mississippi through Alabama and Georgia before stopping overnight in South Carolina, a tribute to the first part of my military career. On day 2 we hurtled up I-95 through the more northern of the Carolinas, Virginia, the outer edge of our nation’s capitol, Maryland, the tiny sliver we call Delaware and the home stretch of our home state New Jersey.

After almost 24 hours of driving and an end-to-end time of almost 36 hours, my car came to rest in our new home in Jersey City. It was a 900 square foot, 2 bedroom palace, owned by my parents and a perfect stop gap as Linda and I figured out what comes next. After all, I had big plans and big interviews lined up. I’d be back in business in no time and we’d find the house of our dreams.

Unfortunately, none of that last part was true. As a near 20 year veteran in technology and a true 10 year veteran of the military, I couldn’t find a job. So in June of 2013 we decided I was going to follow another long-term dream… becoming an entrepreneur and for 2 years I ran JayVig Media. The important part of that story is that, like most entrepreneurs, I made no money for a substantial period of time. And our plans got put on hold… well some of them did. We had 3 big agenda items - buy a house, get married, start a family. As everyone knows, our first adventure of getting married, and all the associated planning, culminated on June 12th of 2015. Check.

Shortly before that mega-party, I decided to go back to work full-time and started at Olapic. And so began our rise to where we intended to be after the long, slow slog through the entrepreneurial mud. And that was the way it was to be for the foreseeable future. And then we had a sudden change. We were in Mississippi, visiting very dear friends of ours when one of them told Linda she was pregnant, confirmed only be her own motherly intuition. We nervously laughed it off until we got home.

As everyone knows, Linda found out that she is, in fact, pregnant. With that, our escape from Jersey City became priority #1. 2 bedrooms, 2 adults, 3 cats and an infant sounded like a terrible sitcom that wouldn’t make it beyond the pilot episode. Not to mention the congestion of Jersey City and the 2 person event it is to go to the bank. So, we thought it wise to start our hunt for a new place to lay our heads.

We found a very cool looking townhouse in Whippany, NJ - our first choice town for a multitude of reasons. Oddly enough, we knew the owner selling it. She’s the one that did Linda’s makeup at the wedding just a few months ago. Unsatisfied by what it offered, we spoke with the listing agent to see what else was available. She mentioned a community called Oak Ridge. As fate would have it, we both know it. I had a friend that lived there years ago, as did Linda. We actually discussed moving there early on after my return, but it was well out of reach during the entrepreneurial years.

It was no longer out of reach and there were more than a half a dozen units open. We went through them one by one. Green walls and flowery wallpaper, the smoker’s home, the gaudy 90s mauve, the beautiful yet small unit with the young couple asking too much money, and… finally… the unoccupied, newly refurbished, larger unit - ripe for the picking. We knew immediately we found our home. There was an open house that day. We returned with my parents to get their stamps of approval. That night we called the realtor and told her it was time to make a move. Our 2nd day searching and we were hooked.

That was the 3rd week of September. Since that point we’ve been working through the mortgage, offer, inspection, appraisal and contract processes. We got pre-approved, negotiated an offer, went under contract, had some things fixed, negotiated some more, finalized the mortgage and, just yesterday, we walked into our attorney’s office with full pens and either signed or initialed over 100 sheets of paper.

75 minutes later we walked out with our semi-full pens and a set of keys. Nothing was fuller than our hearts. Hurriedly, we drove back to our empty home and walked around, just as we had earlier that day, for no reason at all other than we could. We hugged, we kissed, we cried. I told our little baby in Linda’s tummy that mommy and daddy got him/her a nice new house to come home to.

After we got engaged, I said it was the next chapter of The Adventures of Jason and Linda. After she got pregnant, I said it was the next chapter of The Adventures of Jason and Linda. And now that we have a house, I’m telling you it’s the next chapter of The Adventures of Jason and Linda. And all 3 are true, we are just doing them concurrently instead of in succession.

And now I present to you, not our house, but our home. It’s empty of furniture, but it’s already full of love.

Sunday, October 11, 2015

3 really is a magic number

By now, most of you have seen our little announcement. That announcement is about an inch and a half long and most closely resembles a lime - according to one of the many apps on Linda's phone. If you haven't seen it, the big news is that we are going to be parents. We're newlyweds and expectant parents. WOW! That was quick, right?

Just 121 days after our nuptials, we tell the world that she's pregnant (not we're pregnant). We so badly want to be parents and our dream has come true - or is in the process of coming true, at least.

Here's the announcement video

So now the countdown begins, which is at 200 days as of this post.

Some of our friends commented on how we win the award for "adulting" the most lately. The one slide in that video that most often gets overlooked is the 3rd to last. The photo is this:

For those that know we bought this townhouse, it seemed isolated and independent of anything else. In reality, the baby news came first, it just went public later. Our 910 sq ft palace in congested Jersey City just won't cut it anymore and it was time to upgrade. So after 2 whole days of looking and seeing a whopping 8 places, we were in love and it was settled. We crunched the numbers and made an offer. As of right now, the offer has been accepted, lawyers did their reviews and we're under contract. Once the inspector double checks, we'll be on our way to closing - slated for Thanksgiving week. We certainly have lots to be thankful for.

I'm just glad that I get to bring my new little meatball into a much nicer and bigger home. He or she will have his or her own room and plenty of space to play. Our little family is ready to begin!

A question we get so much is about Linda's travel. It's no secret that she's been traveling about 15 business days per month. There are only about 20. She's been gone a lot. Doing that while pregnant and with a newborn would be difficult, if not impossible. And it would be, in no way, pleasant. 

So in one last announcement, I want to congratulate my beautiful bride and our little meatball's mom-to-be on a brand new job. It requires almost no travel (maybe 15 days a year), It is within the health and beauty industry still (but skin care, not hair). It is for a large corporation. It is located on Wall Street in downtown Manhattan (and a few blocks from where my office is moving to). It's more responsibility and way more money. She has really achieved something special and I couldn't be more proud of her. The icing on the cake? They found her! She was recruited via LinkedIn because she's truly THAT awesome! Congratulations my love! You deserve it.

So just when we thought our happiness had culminated with our beautiful and perfect wedding - the recruiter came knocking, our offer got accepted, and 2 pink lines showed in that tiny window. Everything I've ever hoped for is happening and who better to do it all with than my best friend on the planet?

Saturday, June 13, 2015

The real reason why

I could tell you all about the day of the wedding and explain every last detail, but I'll let the photos all over social media do the talking. Just look up #JayLynnWedding on Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram and you'll see for yourself.

Of course there are parts that need to be mentioned.

  1. The weather more than cooperated and it was a sunny day.
  2. Everything was perfectly on time
  3. The priest has known my family for over 2 decades and gave a wonderful, personalized ceremony.
  4. The DJ crew made last minute changes to accommodate some requests and had the party jumping all night long
  5. The food was amazing from start to finish and unique - who really has a coney island hot dog and slider bar at a cocktail hour? We did.
  6. I surprised Linda with a special first dance, in addition to what we had planned. 
  7. My brother delivered a viral YouTube worthy best man speech.
  8. Friends and family from all over the country came in to party and celebrate with us.
That list could go on for days. But there was a moment that stands out. It wasn't part of the agenda. It was a comment that was made to me, on the side, by a friend. Her and her husband are both friends of ours, as is another couple - all of of whom were at the wedding. She mentioned how each of the men in that circle certainly love their wives. They are good husbands, and loving men. 

Then she said that watching my bride and I that night - sitting together, dancing together, walking around the room, etc, she has never seen two people so in love in her entire life as she had that day.

And that was the point of all of it. The party was fun, everyone likes getting gifts, and making it official is an evolution in the relationship. However, professing that love to the world is just necessary. We can't keep it in. It's too much. It's too big. There's not enough room. And so we shared it with our world.

Of all the compliments on the place, food, DJ, photographer, music, etc, I don't know that anything could top those words. If there was ever a moment of doubt about the purpose of a grandiose event, it is no more. Those words will stay with me forever.

Monday, June 8, 2015

Your e-invite

Last week I made a post that said

Linda and I would have everyone we've ever met at the wedding if we could. We all know that's just not possible, unfortunately.
Hint: I am working on a way to give everyone a glimpse into the day, even if you're not present. All I'll say is that I'm pulling from 20 years of technology experience to do it. More soon...
Tonight I'm here to tell you what that means. It is true that we just cannot invite everyone. Everyone understands this. Everyone married truly understands this. As someone in tech and social media for so many years, I have been thinking about how to gather all the photos taken that day to keep forever. I've also been wondering how to share that awesome day with people all over the world that I've met throughout my life.

We found an app called WedPics. Our friends have used it and it seemed like a great "collector." So we downloaded it onto our phones and set it up. There were some barriers that I didn't like.

  1. Everyone has to download the app
  2. Everyone has to make an account
  3. The app is dreadfully slow (and while we want pics, we don't want people wasting time waiting for an app when they could be enjoying the wedding)
  4.  Every picture has to go into an album
  5. There's no good way to get the pics back out later
  6. Anyone not at the wedding can go to wedpics.com and type in JayLynnWedding, but then they have to make an account
  7. Most importantly, people share to Instagram, Twitter and Facebook constantly and we would have to make people avoid what is most comfortable for them.
So down with WedPics I say! But what do we do instead? Hmmm... well I know HTML and CSS. I have space on a web server. I know how to route traffic around the web and I know how to customize names. So I can make a webpage around this. Oh wait... how will I collect the images? Don't I work for a visual marketing company now that does exactly that? Why on Earth would I use a prepackaged solution like WedPics? Great question!

So here's how it works. We will ask our guests to take photos and post to Instagram or Twitter (Facebook says collecting like this is a no-no, but I have about 72 hours to find a workaround). When they post them, all they have to do is tag them with #JayLynnWedding. That's it!

I have a nifty little javascript that will look at that hashtag 24/7 and collect all the images tagged with it. Then it will display them in a gallery. That gallery is publicly accessible from a link. Now it's not exactly in real-time. Instagram and Twitter get mad if you ask them for photos too often. So every 30 minutes or less (could be as low as every 10), the gallery will populate and build itself.

So if you can't be at the wedding, you can watch it all unfold in as close to real-time as I could get. The link to watch is: http://live.jaylynnwedding.com. There is one photo there waiting for you right now.

If you'll be in physical attendance and you're reading this, I hope you'll participate and make this day special because it'll be saved for posterity. What makes it fun is that we get to see it through your eyes. And you get to help others view it.

So consider this your e-invite to our wedding. We hope you'll digitally join us. 

Friday, May 29, 2015

Permission granted

Today, Linda and I spent the morning in court. In truth, it was only about 20 minutes. In more truth, it wasn't really court as much as it was the clerk. Come to think of it, the woman we spoke with was the city clerk and not even a court clerk. Although we did have to raise our right hands and agree to some things. The last time I did that, I ended up in boot camp.

All silliness aside, we went through one of a series of steps to bring the wedding (legally) closer. We applied for our wedding license. On Monday we'll pick it up. On June 12th, we'll sign it with the priest and eventually that will be turned into a wedding certificate. It was an unceremonious hoop that nonetheless required us to jump through it.

The fun part about the whole thing was that it was today, 2 weeks to the day before the actual ceremony is to be performed. We could have done it any day (within 30 days) and today just happened to work out. What made it even funner is that our witness was our friend Tim. If you don't know, Tim is the responsible party for Linda and I knowing each other. He's in my wedding party as well. I asked him if he'd like to be out witness and he jumped at the chance. It was only fitting that the long time friend that introduced us raised his right hand to help us get this union on paper.

One more checkbox checked. One day closer. One more little piece of our puzzle.

Monday, May 4, 2015

Party like a bachelor (kinda)

My groomsmen took me out for my bachelor party this last Saturday. At 36 years old, it's a little more low key. We started at Churrascaria Plataforma​ (a carnivore's paradise), where we ate every kind of meat known to man. If you're not familiar with a place like this, churrascaria is Brazilian barbecue and the rodizio style of eating was created just for me. It is all-you-can-eat-meat. You get a paper disc, one side red and the other green. Stop and go. It's as simple as that. Green side up meant men with 2-foot swords with skewered hunks of seared animal carve off charred deliciousness onto your plate. It had been many years since I was last at Plataforma, but my brother knew it was a favorite of mine and lined it up.


I arrived with him (he's also my Best Man) and found waiting for me the rest of my groomsmen - Alan, Jim, Brian and Tim - as well as my father and soon-to-be father-in-law. Eight men devoured a barnyard's worth of animals

I recall having chorizo, chicken, flank steak, top sirloin, filet mignon, ham, lamb, and bacon wrapped turkey, but I know I'm forgetting stuff. My plate looked like a battleground containing the remnants of vanquished foes. I occasionally shoved some yucca fries into my mouth to wash it down along with wine. The maƮtre d' heard about the reason we were out there and came out with a chocolate cake impaled by a sparkler and to the tune of "happy birthday" he sang, "happy sorry to you." I'm not sure if he was being funny or sending a message (I found out he's on his 3rd marriage). All-you-can-eat must include cheesecake, espresso, some strange after dinner drink that was somewhere in between a port wine and chocolate. I recommend the tableside angioplasty as well!

The boys all look at their watches and nod in agreement. The synchronicity and organization led me to believe we were all going on a jewelry heist of some sort. As it turns out, we left the patriarchs behind and the 6 of us continued on to The Carnegie Club. Across the street from the world famous Carnegie Hall, the Carnegie Club is a dark, oaky cigar bar with 18th century book cases and singer who channels the spirit (and exact tone) of Frank Sinatra. We got smokes and whiskey and discussed our well-sated bellies, the fun to come in 6 weeks and we time traveled through all the days and nights we've all spent together over decades of friendship.

After the show we walked the streets and happened on one more bar/lounge for a few more drinks and that is where we closed out the evening. It wasn't crazy. We all survived, save for a few "meat headaches," that we are sure are a real thing. But it was hours and hours with most of the closest people in my life with the longest history all celebrating. We weren't celebrating the wedding as much as how happy we are to a part of each other's lives during major events like the wedding.

I'm lucky to have each of them in my life and can only hope I continue to stay that lucky for many years to come.

Monday, March 23, 2015

A day about value, not price

From the moment I met Linda, our relationship has been very transparent. One of the things that aligns us so well is our sense of adventure. As you've read, some of our adventures include us driving through 9 states and some are no more than pretending to be tourists in our own NYC backyard. We haven't even scratched the surface on the adventures we plan to take.

513 days ago we embarked on an adventure. It was the day we got engaged. We spent 2 months just enjoying the fact that we'd one day be married. And then the starting gun went off and the marathon began. Every day since, there has been some wedding based discussion. We had no idea the monumental undertaking this project would be. We sure learned how many moving parts go into this as time goes by. We thought the hard parts would be finding all the major parts such as the venue, photographer and entertainment. As it turns out, those were the easy parts. All of the nuts and bolts are where the challenges are.

Early on we adopted a method for choosing things and it has worked out well. Some people like to look at 20 of everything to narrow it down. That works really well for many people and in most part of life, that's how I operate. However, this was different. Each time we had to make a choice, Linda would listen to the presentation and I'd watch Linda. When we met with our pal Travis who runs the show at the Wilshire Grand Hotel, he ran down the list of things and Linda lit up from head to toe. Her eyes got wide, her smile beamed, her whole body tensed so she should nearly bounce in place; and I melted. That was a done deal. The same for the DJ and the photographer.

If these vendors were smart, they would promptly double their prices on the spot because it's obvious, I'd agree to anything that elicits that happiness. It is at that moment when the burden of cost ceases to exist. So her process is finding what makes her happy and my process is obtaining that for her. We've been going with our gut and it's been working out.

It's not all roses (in our case, it's phalaenopsis orchids). There are a million things to think about and pay for. There are rules about timing and invitations and seating. There is so much protocol, etiquette, "just the way it's done." And boy oh boy, have we really missed the mark on some of it. That's ok. We've learned about the process and each other along the way.

In jest I say that we are spending the GDP of a small island nation on 8 hours. That's obviously an exaggeration and part of the role I play as the husband to be being dragged into stationary stores and beaten with fabric swatches. The other side of the coin is that Linda is off melting debit cards and I'm left home to balance the checkbook. Also an obvious exaggeration. The truth lies somewhere in between. I was very much interested in the venue and the photographer. I was partially interested in the DJ. I couldn't possible give less of a shit about flowers. And I was wholly opposed to save the dates. As long as the prices were in reason, Linda was left to her own devices to do whatever made her happiest. And she had help. It wasn't like she was abandoned. Honestly, I'd be more of a hindrance than a help when it comes to flowers (I had to Google the name above). All in all, I've been as present as I know how for all of these, which is arguably more than the average groom (I knew enough about the flowers to even attempt to Google the name).

What I've really learned is about the value of all of this in aggregate. And I've learned it based on the reactions of other people. When you look at the event as each piece, it is easy to be overwhelmed. It is easy to wonder why we need every little piece to be so perfect, when so many seem so silly. It's like looking at an impressionist painting from an inch away. As you back up, it starts to come into focus. You realize that one seemingly stupid piece would create a gaping hole if missing. A mosaic isn't a mosaic if it doesn't have all the tiles.

Too often we are advised by people to take the money and run. Do a destination wedding. Go to the justice of the peace. Fly to vegas. Save the money for a house. Take an amazing vacation. Don't waste the money.

I blew it off for a long time as jaded cynics or sarcasm, but lately I've been taking it to heart. We are north Jersey Italian Catholics - well Linda is a bit diluted with Irish but we love her anyway. A gigantic party and celebration is in our DNA. We are foodies as a hobby so serving delicious food sounds like a blast. We come from very large families that have been shrinking severely with each generation and bringing them all together as our families merge is joyous. As for the money, we both work hard and if you can't put your pennies together for a wedding, then what the hell are you working for? Not to mention that we're both smart adults who know if this is a smart spend.

We aren't wasting money on one day. We are investing in starting the next chapter of our life journey with people we love and care about us that have been with us for a long time. In our eyes, 30 minutes at the justice of the peace doesn't reflect our personalities, culture, hobbies, families or the size of our love. All of that cynical "advice" chipped away at the value until today. I started a blog so the whole world would know how much I love her and I'll be damned if the biggest day of our lives so far is not done in the most grandiose reflection of our happiness.

I won't argue that the wedding is expensive. We know it is. I won't argue that it's hard. We know it is. I won't even argue some of it is a little frivolous. We know it is. But a wedding isn't about cost, is it? I won't bargain hunt. I'm not looking to get off cheap. I'm looking to properly celebrate a momentous step with the single most important person in my life. And that's not something you can put a price on.

Friday, February 27, 2015

On this day in our history...

People always love "on this day..." items. We've seen them on TV and in the newspaper for a long time. Timehop is the app that shows you your history year after year. Facebook does a great job of reminding you about monumental moments, but so often the real moments happen when you're not really paying attention. Luckily for me, my beautiful bride has recorded some of them.

I'm not going to share them with you because they are our little private moments of distinction so posting the list would be contrary to the point. However, the record of them is interesting, in and of itself. Clearly, we have this blog where I chronicle the silliness and the love and share it with the world. We don't know who reads this, if anyone. For me, it's about the inability to contain myself so I share with the world.

I had no idea Linda was compiling such a list. However, 1 year after the date we first met I got an email. In it was the composite list of all the little things that had made her smile over the last 12 months. I saw this list again today and it made me smile because our wedding is 105 or so days away and all the silly things we did in the first year, we still do.

I think about our life and with the impending wedding I'm drawn to think about that event and buying a house and starting a family and providing and all that stuff. I think about the big stuff. To paraphrase my father's words once; I think about the small stuff to plan around the house - repairs, upgrades, renovations. I think about the bigger stuff like seeing places around the world with her. I think about the life stuff like I mentioned.

Linda helped me remember that life happens in between all that stuff. She reminded me of the time on the first weekend we were together in person; she asked me if I wanted a cookie and I said no. She came back with one cookie for herself and sat on the couch. I promptly grabbed her hand and ate the entire cookie from it like a ravenous animal. She got really mad for a minute and, unsurprisingly, the more I laughed, the madder she got.

Or the time she proposed to me - only to ensure she gets a lifetime supply of that baked potato salad. Or the time she met Matt, one of my closest friends and confidants; and how more than the excitement of meeting him, she enjoyed watching me spend time with him and how happy it made me to have both of them around.

I've said stuff like this before but sometimes the adventure is a particular event and sometimes the adventure is the life in between all of it. There were many more moments she mentioned in that email to me and I'd relive every one of them again and again if I could. I'm thankful that I don't have to because there are many more ahead for us. Still, it make me smile to look back on them between us.

Tuesday, January 27, 2015

I'm not ready to get married

It is 136 days until Linda and I are wed. Actually, by this time on the 136th day, the ceremony will have already taken place. I realized today that I'm so not ready for this.

I apologize in advance for the clickbait title, but I couldn't help myself. Let me explain.

Many years ago I was in the wedding of a friend and I remember when his bride walked through the door, he saw her and got emotional immediately. This is someone that's not quick to show emotion.

Late last year I was in another wedding and the same thing happened. This time it was from someone that is a little quicker to show emotion in general.

Today I was on the phone with my mother and we were talking wedding logistics and the topic of the rehearsal came up. I hadn't given it much thought until now. It's just the rehearsal, not the wedding. Who cares, right? I was so wrong. I started to picture it.

I told my mom that I don't even want to do the rehearsal. I know I have to because I need to know where to stand and she needs to know which aisle is the middle and we need to practice saying "i do." And then we get the super fun rehearsal dinner where I get to spend time with all the travelers in an intimate setting not afforded us by a 200 person wedding. So all in all it's good.

Here's the real thing for me that I didn't know existed until today. I'm not ready for any of it. When I spoke to my mom today about the rehearsal itself, for the first time I envisioned what happens. It was always some nebulous event, but today it was real. And for the very first time, I picture my bride-to-be walking up the aisle to meet me, if even in practice. The thought was more than I could handle.

And at 2pm on a regular chilly January Tuesday I stood in my living room, talking to my mom with tears streaming down my face at the mere imagined situation of the practice for the wedding. Maybe the rehearsal is in place to help me inure myself to the sight of my bride arriving to pledge her life to me, but I doubt it'll work.

No matter how you slice it, I will be a wreck on the day of my wedding. When the doors open and she walks in, it's all over for me. No matter how much I prepare, the emotions will win. So, again, I apologize for the title that baited you here. I'm ready to be married. I'm just not even remotely close to being emotionally ready to get married.