Welcome to The Family . . .

Dear Erin -

Congrats on your decision to join the Amore family. As you know Ryan is one of my two favorite brothers in the whole wide world. Despite his hairy feet, balding head and no-doubt cholesterol clogged circulation system he is quite the catch and I can verify that he adores you. For realllz (as the kids are Tweeting).

While I am very, very excited to have a new sister to make fun of, verbally harass and otherwise botch a relationship with I do feel compelled to give you a few tips and suggestions as you navigate your way fully in to the family - for the rest of your life. However quickly you pray it goes once the real madness of being "an Amore" sets in.

In no particular order - here are the 10 things you NEED to know to survive. If you don't believe any of these tips . . . ask my lovely wife. Or Patrick's should-be wife. Or my mom (even though, at this point, she is part of the problem).

1 - You're family now. The walls come down. Honest communication begins. No longer do any of us have to pretend to be overly polite or really interested in the crap you are witnessing. You can say whatever you want. As long as it is not critical enough that anyone will actually cry. Chin quiver? Fine. Voice breaking. 2 points for accuracy. But no actual tears. That should go the same for the rest of us as we talk with you.

2 - I am the worst brother ever. I don't know why. None of the five mental health professionals that have done tours of duty with me on their couches has been able to really help in the last 25 years. It is my wiring or my choices in life or the deep scars that come from both of my brothers knowing that I played with myself, a LOT, as a teen. My failings as a brother do NOT mean I do not love my brothers. I do. I adore them. I also, by extension, adore the women in their lives (you, Joyell, Jocelyn, etc.). I promise to love you as much as possible while maintaining an aloof vibe and nearly dismissive tone. Don't take that personally - it breaks my heart all the more when people do. This point echoes itself on to the way we all tend to treat each other and each other's "woman folk."

3 - Sit my parents down. ASAP. Tell them you and Ryan are getting married. You do (or do not) need some financial help to make sure the day is as magical as humanly possible and that you hope they will help you as much as appropriate. Have them write you a check. And then deposit in an account. And don't touch it. As your wedding plans come together they are going to want to invite their former colleagues and remote family members that you barely know. They are all LOVELY people. Trust me - they were at my wedding and I love them all. The point is that this is YOUR wedding and you should only have people there that really mean something to YOU and RYAN. If the pressure gets absurd - write a check back to my parents. You'll have to cancel the monogram ice sculpture or the Beyonce "Single Ladies" dance troupe but you'll have YOUR wedding. And that is all that matters. Have this rule apply to everything in your new life as a couple and as parents, if that is your path. My parents are amazing people. They mean so, so, so well. But sometimes. Oh sometimes . . .

4 - Mojitos are a fad drink. The gin rickey. That is forever. Be timeless. Be faithful. Be dutiful. Be dilligent. Be patient. Be the gin rickey. Or come up with an analogy that doesn't involve an alcoholic beverage. We Amores don't really need the amount of alcohol that tends to slosh around our lives anyway.

5 - Ryan is going to challenge you and aggravate you and weigh on you and make you crazy. He's also going to move mountains, fight off evil and melt plastic coat hangers for you (as appropriate). Don't let his bark be confused for bite. Don't let his crap get higher than a pair of hip waders and don't ever let him think you aren't willing to fight the good fight when it comes to ensuring a HAPPY life together. He'll do the same for you. The minute you lose that perspective - you lose the point of this adventure anyway. Always arriving . . . that is the married life.

6 - We are all bat. shit. crazy. This goes for you too. It is okay. Really. It is what bonds us, what makes us want to be better people. What makes us honestly believe we can mock, judge and dismiss others. We're Amores. That is rare-friggin'-air, my sister. You earned it. Let it go to your head. With all the rest of the crazy thoughts.

7 - The Big Lebowski is an American cinematic treasure. If you don't believe that - do NOT walk down that aisle and meet him for the ceremony. Leave a letter and have one of your bridesmaids deliver it. He'll understand. Eventually. After all, the dude abides.

8 - Call the 'rents "Joe" and "Sue" unless you really need something, are in Dutch or want to immediately get them to agree with you and only you on any given debate. You let "mom" and "dad" or the overly quaint "ma" and "pa" enter your vocabulary now . . . you're screwed. You must keep some powder dry.

9 - Patrick takes two minutes to poop. Ryan and I considerably longer. There is no real rhyme or reason for this. It is interesting to note that, conversely, it takes just two minutes for Ryan and I to reach the very dicey, crumbly edge of our patience and it takes Patrick far, far longer. There is a moral there. I just don't know what it is.

10 - Our Uncle Phil Coyle is the poo. We Amores of this generation (all three of us) really, truly wish we were actually Coyles and we wish we were Phil Coyle (Senior for Ryan and I or Junior (aka Tuffy) for Patrick) more specifically. If Ryan ever finds himself at a loss for whatever - have him call Uncle Phil. It will get better nearly immediately. I've placed many a call to Angola, New York and have never regretted even 30 seconds on the phone with the man. His voice alone calms the waters.

So there you have it. Enjoy the next 13 months or so of wedding planning and the 50-plus years of married life that should follow. Being an Amore is not an easy life but it is the life that chooses some of us . . . and that some of us choose.

Much love -

Your Brother (in marriage and mission) Sean