Thursday, February 28, 2008

I'm always the last person to see these things, plus PSA

I'm not usually big on linking to youtube videos, but this and this totally made my morning.

Also, my annual public service announcement:

My friend Jonathan went to Africa last year, spent several months in Europe, and is now in India.

Every year or two, he travels around the world for several months. He is also a writer. And, for the past four years, he has sponsored a writing contest, the prize being a roundtrip ticket to anywhere in the world (!) Jonathan has asked people to get the word out, so if you like to write and you'd like to travel, here's a link to the contest details.

You can write poetry, fiction, non-fiction, or prose, ten thousand words max, and (along with your writing sample) you have to submit a little thing about yourself and why you want to travel (you have to specify which country, it's not an open-ended thing). Your entry cannot have been previously published. If you win, you have to go to a country you've never been before. And he gets to publish your winning entry online.

That's it! So what are you waiting for?

Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Wednesday Wedding Day: Stuff I'm not writing about

I'm not going to write about my dad, why the email he sent me today (RSVPing yes) made me cry (and not in a good way).

I'm not going to write about how annoying it is that the hotel still doesn't seem to have their act together, and different people seem to have different counts of how many rooms in our block are booked. It shouldn't be my job to figure out who booked in our block, that's what the hotel is supposed to do!

I'm not going to write about how scared I am that two weeks of not working out very much is going to leave me too big for my dress, even though I know it's irrational.

Or about how much there is still to do (small stuff, mostly), or how I wish I could think about something else besides The Wedding.

Or the post that I've wanted to write for a long time about Dan's original groomspeople, what we did for them for their wedding, and how/why they are not coming to ours.

Instead, I'll write about how glad I am that so many people we invited are able to attend, some people coming from Florida and Kentucky and even China. How happy people were with the invitations (all Dan's doing!), how excited I am to be able to see so many of our friends and family in one place at one time, how lucky we are that so many people support us and love us and are coming out to provide the community atmosphere for our event, a very important thing to both of us. How someone was awesome enough to buy the sporks we requested on the REI registry (can't wait to see who that is!), how glad I am that we are able to have our party in such a beautiful place, and how triumphant I felt when I managed to get the tent rental company to knock a hundred bucks off the price because I went to preschool with the owners' kids. How many of our friends and family members who live in the area have offered assistance, listened to kvetching over the phone and email, and still speak to us after a whole year of Wedding Crap. How almost everyone involved in the process has been supportive and excited for us, even though it's not anyone's job but ours to be excited about our wedding.

I promise that after this is all over, one month and one day from now, I will stop writing about weddings. Though I may switch to writing about my sister's wedding, since hers is next, or maybe about my other sister's graduation, or my mom's upcoming major birthday, or Dan's graduation (we hope) in December. 2008 is a big year for us and the wedding is only the beginning.

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

A letter to my body

Dear body,

We've been a team for, oh, nearly 29 years now. We went through a lot together when we were young (ear infections, surgery, all kinds of unpleasant stuff), and you performed beautifully when I started learning ballet at age 3. You were flexible and did whatever I told you to do, even when it was painful. You stayed smaller than average until we hit about 9, and then you started to grow wider before you grew taller. I was a little concerned, but it all worked out in the end and eventually you grew boobs (though they weren't very big, and damn, did growing boobs have to hurt so much?) and hips and though I didn't realize it at the time, you were pretty impressive. You could do all manner of swimming, and difficult ballet positions, and you never let me down no matter what I made you do. Even when I jumped off the roof to impress a boy and sprained our ankle, you healed and forgave me my transgression.

We went through a summer together when I decided you were too big in the wrong places, so I stopped feeding you more than a few hundred calories a day, and made you swim for hours. You responded by giving me my first taste of low blood sugar, getting smaller, and you still forgave me for not feeding you and even gamely participated in all the activity I forced you into. Again, I didn't realize until years later how good you looked and only focused on the flaws I saw. Your genetic proclivity toward spinal injury first showed up at a swim meet when we were sixteen, and I'd never understood what kind of pain my mom was in when she said her "neck was out", nor why my uncle had become a chiropractor after seeing what his mother went through, until I spent three days unable to move after geting fished out of the pool after a flipturn that somehow went wrong. I took you to a doctor who eventually helped you get better and I even sacrificed what little coolness factor I had in order to wear my backpack on both shoulders, because it just wasn't worth the pain to wear it on one like everybody else. I think I learned that lesson earlier than many people do, because comfort became more important than style. This is also why I've never made you wear skinny-heeled shoes; while they may be high, they're always stable.

You spent years telling me to stop doing ballet but I didn't listen to you. In fact, I pushed you through years of pain because I loved dancing, and you loved dancing, and we just took some tylenol when the pain got bad. It wasn't until college, when my boyfriend told me I *HAD* to go to the doctor because he couldn't stand me waking up in the night in tears anymore. I quit ballet because the doctor told me I needed to choose between giving up dance and installing new hips in you before we turned thirty. That really opened my eyes, body, and I only danced once more after that, a swan song. I should have listened to you all those years, because then we could still maybe dance jazz or contemporary/modern, but we'll never be able to do even that because the cartiledge in our hips is gone. I'm sorry I didn't believe you when you told me for years that I was pushing you too far.

It took me a while to figure out what else I could do to keep you occupied. I figured out that running didn't make you hurt anymore, so we did that, and I also regressed a few times back to malnourishing you, because I didn't want to gain weight. More than one guy told me that I was the largest size of woman he would ever be interested in, and I really took that to heart and told you to shut up when you were hungry because you needed to stay at least that size, or preferably get smaller. Those were dark times, body, because honestly? You were totally gorgeous. I took you to Europe and you walked all over the place and the person I traveled with made me feed you because sometimes I forgot, or didn't want to spend the money to do so. But eventually I learned another important lesson, that I have to feed you regularly for you to stay happy, and when I do that we get along like peas and carrots.

We got to the point where we could run and feel good, and then I started going to a gym and taking Pilates classes that helped you get strong and lean and reminded me of some of the things I loved about ballet. I made you lift weights for the first time and you responded by toning up really quickly. I learned that our enormous calves weren't just a product of ballet but that all of you would bulk up (unlike most women) if I lifted a lot of weight, so I learned to be judicious about which parts of you lifted how much weight, because neither of us want to look like a linebacker. We found a guy who loved us no matter what we looked like; when we met him our boobs were tiny and we had almost no body fat, and now we weigh a lot more but we're also curvier and more feminine, and all of our bras are filled out nicely. He likes that, too. He likes it that you are strong and capable of lifting him even if it's only with your legs and only just a little bit. We're going to marry him in a month.

You've rarely let me down, body. We were hit by a car a while back, and got whiplash, and I've spent the last 18 months rehabilitating you back to where you were before, lifting weights and doing physical therapy exercises, strengthening you and toning you and calming you with yoga. I've fed you well and made sure we got enough sleep whenever I could. So why now, body? Why did you have to regress back to car-accident-level of pain and limited mobility? Don't you like being pain-free, body? There's no reason for this silliness, and no reason for you to be all recalcitrant and contrary. I didn't do anything to you that I can think of other than plan a wedding in another state, and it's about time you start responding to the things I'm doing to make you better. Because I've been taking good care of you, body, and I would like to be able to count on you to do what I need you to do to get through the next month. So let's just stop with the pain-for-no-reason and get better, OK? Because we need our beauty sleep and we need to let off steam at the gym and it's really difficult to do these things when we can't move.


Monday, February 25, 2008

Our weekend, in numbers

Awesome tri-level Mexi-mullets encountered: 1, and the bottom part went halfway down his back

Times I woke up in horrible neck pain on Friday and Saturday nights: Approximately 8 times each night. It's getting worse, not better, so I'm going to back to the chiropractor this afternoon. Last night wasn't as bad, but today I feel less good than I did yesterday.

Number of bridesmaid dresses finished: 0. I really wanted to work on them, but pain plus limited range of motion equals difficult to sew.

Cases of wine purchased for wedding: 4, for far less money than the same California wine costs in California. Go figure. (There will also be beer.)

Sexy unmentionables purchased for wearing under wedding dress: Yes.

Pairs of shoes I fell in love with: 2, one of which was $70 and the other of which was $30. I bought the $30 ones for the rehearsal dinner and sighed fondly at the $70 ones.

Pieces of homemade sushi I ate last night: 8, plus one tofu bag filled with sushi rice. And seaweed salad. We have discovered a fantastic Asian market; too bad it's way out in Aurora.

Time spent in suburbia: Far too much

Number of enclosed shopping malls circled: Two, the ritzy one and the "racetrack" one.

Times I wanted to cry because it hurt so much to try to move: Lots
Times I actually cried: Once, at 3 AM between Saturday and Sunday

Times Dan had to help me pick my head up because I literally could not do it: 3 (I think)

Number of 200 mg advil I consumed this weekend: approximately 16
Amount it helped decrease neck/back pain: minimal

Number of RSVPs we are missing: fewer than ten, so I'm going to start sending emails and making phone calls

Number of my relatives who won Academy Awards: Zero this year, he wasn't even nominated

Thursday, February 21, 2008

It was nicer when my work was paying for it

Nearly two years ago, I got into a car accident while driving a state car. I ended up with a relatively mild case of whiplash (it was painful, but the guy who hit me wasn't driving that fast) and spent a few weeks going to the doctor and the chiropractor, all paid for by Workman's Comp. Since then I've kept up with my weight lifting, pilates, and started doing yoga, all of which have helped rehabilitate my back and neck and shoulder nearly to their pre-accident state (I had previous injuries that probably don't help with the issue).

I mentioned in my previous post that my neck and shoulder started to hurt seemingly for no reason on Tuesday, and yoga didn't help. It wasn't any better yesterday, and today I woke up and it was worse, bad enough that I couldn't ignore it. Aleve and advil haven't helped enough, plus my range of motion is really limited. So this morning when I got to work I called the chiropractor that I'd seen after the accident and told them I needed a tune-up. My choices were an appointment that started 20 minutes after I called, or Wednesday. I called Dan and luckily he was able to drive me over there, since taking the bus would take at least an hour (I hope he wasn't late to work! He is so good to me).

The chiropractor checked me out, did some poking and prodding, left me on some heat to help relax the muscles, and then manipulated my bones back into the right spots. He told me that I could have done any number of small things - slept on it wrong, sat up abruptly, maybe it was because the neck muscles were cold while I was sleeping, who knows? But he said the stress I'm under because of this whole wedding thing was enough to make those muscles say no way am I going to move, in fact, I'd rather stiffen up and cause pain. He gave me some stretches and other small things to do, said if I didn't feel 80% better by Monday to give him a call, and charged me $55. My insurance doesn't cover chiropractic, so it was out of pocket. If I get better in the next day or two and I can get back to the gym I will consider it worthwhile, but it sure was nice to have all those visits paid for by work lo these many moons ago. I can't afford ongoing treatment at $55/pop. I took a leftover Ibuprofen 800mg my dentist gave me when I had my teeth cleaned a few weeks ago when I was still getting over my sinus infection, and that plus the aleve I took this morning I was sure would make the pain at least diminish significantly. No such luck. I missed my pilates class and I'd like to go to the spin class but I'd also like my neck to feel better more, so instead I'm going to go home after work and lay on a rolled up towel. Bleah.

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Wednesday Wedding Day: STRESS

We spent Saturday cleaning the house because my mom was coming and the house was absolutely disasterous from various wedding projects. The most offensive room was Petra's Room, as we call our tiny second bedroom that is our project room/office, and it needed to be really clean in order to fit the full-sized blowup matresses. On the one hand, it feels really nice to have a clean house again. On the other hand, I know it's going to get messy with projects because we have a lot of stuff and not a lot of space to put said stuff.

I didn't realize how much having stuff still to do at the six-week (and counting down) mark would stress me out. I started breaking out in hives on my face on Friday, and they got worse over the weekend. While I wished my mom and Oldest Friend could have stayed longer, I was really looking forward to having Monday to myself - Dan had class, and the only thing on my plate, other than enjoying the clean house and waiting around for the UPS guy, was to make bridesmaid dresses. I started with the one for Middle Sister, since her measurements were the most straightforward. I spent an hour or so figuring out how best to cut the fabric. I spread it out on our living room floor and only had to shoo cats off it once or twice, measured carefully and did some calculations to figure out the best way to cut the pieces for the skirt and waistband. The straps took some more doing, as I had enough fabric to make them double-layered (necessary for such a thin fabric) but realized what a pain in the ass it is to work with stretch fabric. Eventually I figured it out and spent a few minutes playing with my sewing machine to determine the best way to sew stretchy fabric so the seams stay stretchy. I sewed the straps, then put the dress together. It didn't turn out quite like I'd expected and I had to do some hand sewing to get it to work, and it still needs a few finishing touches.

Start to finish, the dress took me about four hours (I took a break to eat leftover Syrian food for lunch, YUM), which was a lot longer than I'd expected. I was tired. But I soldiered on and made the dress for my other sister. Hers was far less complicated since I didn't have to double the straps (thicker fabric) and I'd already learned from making the first dress, so it took about an hour and a half. I considered making the dress for Oldest Friend at that point but I knew it would take more effort than I had in me (her straps need doubling, plus her fabric is only two-way stretch so I have to get creative about how I use it). I'm planning to work on hers when I get home from work today. I still need a zipper for QIR's dress (yes, it does need a zipper the way I'm constructing it, QIR).

My face was still pretty itchy and hive-y yesterday so rather than doing cardio at the gym I opted for a vinyasa yoga class, which I thought would help relax me or at least take my mind off everything we still have to do, but just before class my neck started to hurt like I'd tweaked it somehow or triggered my old injury from the car accident. I figured it was some sort of fluke, but my neck didn't feel any better when the yoga class was over (I usually feel great and very zen at the end of a yoga class). I couldn't imagine what I had done to hurt it, and then I started thinking maybe it's a stress reaction. So great. Hives and a stiff neck. I thought it might be better today, but it's not, really.

One of the really fun parts about wedding-planning recently has been working with a local jewelry artist to design our rings. She's completely independant, working out of her husband's office, and has a love for colored stones just like I do. She managed to come up with a wedding ring for me that fits perfectly with my engagement ring (not that easy to do, considering it's a claddagh) and incorporated the stones I bought at the gem show a few months ago in a way I'd never seen in a ring before. I got the ring a week ago and I lurve it. Dan's ring took a little longer, since it was designed in CAD and she had to have someone else do the wax cast, but his is ready today and she'll be dropping it by our house this evening. I will say that it's a little frustrating working with someone who does jewelry on the side rather than as a full-time thing (she has other stuff going on, like kids and work and such that makes scheduling more difficult) but we get along really well and I think she had fun doing something a bit more offbeat than traditional wedding bands.

Two more things have cropped up this week that have added to the wedding stress. First, the hotel where we set up the block of rooms seems to have a hard time getting their act together. We know that many people have made their reservations under our room block (and we hope that the entire block gets used, since we're responsible for 80% of it being filled, and the deadline to book within the block is the 27th), but the sales manager who I worked with is on materinity leave so the person who picked up the slack while she's gone emailed us yesterday to say that nobody had booked in our block. I know for a fact that isn't true, so I think something wonky is going on betweeen Reservations and Sales. It's really frustrating to have to deal with this at a distance, especially since you'd think because it's a nice hotel that they'd have this stuff figured out. All I gotta say is that they'd better give us credit for everyone who has booked in our block! Second, our RSVP deadline date is tomorrow, and we're still missing quite a few RSVPs. We gave people the option of RSVPing online or with cards that we stamped, and we've gotten a lot of both kinds, but there are quite a few people who have yet to let us know one way or the other whether they're coming or not. I think I'm going to start emailing people next week, because we need some time after we get the final headcount to do things like escort cards and seating charts and have to give final numbers to the caterer. Plus, three people have plus-oned us. Argh. If you're reading this, and you got an invitation to our wedding, and you haven't RSVP'd, PLEASE DO SO SOON. Thank you.

So we still have to do some administrative things that kind of suck, like finalizing the tent rental (have to talk to one company to try to get them to bring their price quote down a bit) and getting event insurance (required by the venue). We have to get wine and beer. We have to figure out the gifts for the attendants and our parents, print the thank-you cards (using a lino block and the letterpress at Dan's school), and I have to write all the thank-yous for the shower gifts. Everyone was very generous and I was touched that people cared that much. Someone at work is organizing a work shower for me (it's part of my work's culture, and I've participated in showers for a lot of other people so I don't feel as odd about this one) and we still have to send out lots of large checks to the various people we're paying to pull this thing off. Plus, there's all the stuff that's last minute by necessity, like the flowers and the cake and getting our marriage license. Oh yeah, and we still have to figure out a good chunk of the ceremony.

So much stuff still to do, only a few weeks to get it all done, and Dan's got five classes and works 20 hours a week. I think most of this is going to be up to me. And I realized today that my most-reliable physical sign of stress has shown up - I've lost my appetite. Maybe for some people this would be a good thing, since many brides are trying to lose weight for the wedding. Me, I'm trying to stay the same size - and I have to eat to keep my blood sugar stable. If anyone has advice, or dirty jokes to share, please feel free to share in the comments.

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

My Valentine's Day Present

On Thursday when he came home from school, Dan told me he'd gotten me a Valentine's Day gift but that it would be showing up in a few days. I said "You didn't have to do that!" since all I did was cook him a dinner that it took him hours to eat because he was still feeling sick from the food poisoning. (Turkey-instead-of-beef stroganoff from scratch, with veggies and bread).

On Saturday night, my mom flew in for a whirlwind visit. She came out to attend the shower Dan's aunt threw for me on Sunday. I was a little apprehensive about the situation, since a) I'm not especially comfortable being the center of attention, and b) my friends who were invited couldn't make it. Dan told me "I guarantee you will have a good time at the shower, and if I don't you can brand an Oakland Raiders logo on my butt." (I told him, "Why would I want to do that? Then I'd have to look at an Oakland Raiders logo on your butt for the rest of our lives.") My mom brought some beads along with her that I'll be using for yet another wedding project, and we had a nice evening chatting.

So on Sunday it was me, my mom and Dan's female relatives. His aunt went all out and had a lovely tea party complete with little tea sandwiches and cream puffs, beautiful decor and some interesting games (guess the spice!). About twenty minutes into the shower, the doorbell rang. In walked Oldest Friend.


Dan had arranged for her to fly out to attend the shower (she'd told me weeks before she wouldn't be able to come). Luckily she has other friends who live in the area so she stayed with them on Saturday night, then they drove her to the shower on Sunday and she stayed with us and my mom Sunday night (then Dan drove them to the airport at the buttcrack of dawn on Monday morning). I was sooooo happy to see her! I hadn't seen her since I attended a wedding in San Diego in September of 06. And she seemed to have a good time, and was especially happy to be part of such a great surprise for me. Dan likes to surprise me, and it had been a year since he pulled the last one off. I wonder what I'll get for Valentine's Day next year.

Friday, February 15, 2008


One year ago today, Dan planned a surprise.

I said yes.

Here's the story, told in two pages of our wedding invitation/comic book.

Here's a webcomic that makes me think of Dan whenever I see it.

Happy engage-aversary, psychic twin! *VAPT*

Thursday, February 14, 2008

A love letter in honor of v-day

Dear real-life internet peeps,

I love Dan because he hugs me whenever I ask for one.

I love Leah and Simon because they know how to be silly.

I love Jane because she volunteers to help kitties.

I love Cagey because she has no qualms talking about her boobs.

I love Cil for her sense of adventure.

I love EEK because she's totally going to marry us.

I love the Holla for his willingness to wear a kilt and chucks.

I love Monkey for listening to me blab about wedding stuff for hours on Sunday and never once telling me to shut up already.

I love QIR for finishing something, for starting something, and for always being there. And also, for her grab-able butt.

I love Sara even though she is going to cut me.

I love Eden for her cowboy boots and for breaking pie with us.

I love Todd because he always looks on the bright side of life.

I love Yank in Texas for posting pictures of her kittes. POST MORE.


Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Wednesday Wedding Day: If I had a million dollars

Last year before we were engaged I wrote a post describing what I would want for a hypothetical wedding. Luckily, I think I'm going to get everything I want - or at least most of it. There won't be polaroids or silly clothes because we just didn't get around to that part (plus, our friends did that in September). And I have no idea if peonies will be possible because we're going with whatever's in my mom's yard or at the wholesale place (and I doubt there will be peonies at Trader Joe's). Regardless, I'm pretty happy that just about everything on my list of what I wanted a year ago will be a part of our wedding which is just over six weeks from now. (SIX WEEKS AAAAH!!!)

For the past few days I've been thinking about what I would want if money were no object, if we could have any fantasy our hearts desired. I thought and thought, and came up with some things that would be nice to have but by no means necessary, and so they didn't make the cut. But oh, if we had umpteen amounts to spend...

First, we'd pay for everyone's airfare and lodging and transportation so money wouldn't keep people from coming. I don't know that we'd have it in a different place (I love the place where we're getting married) but we'd definitely have a full bar instead of just wine and beer. And prosecco, because it's yummy. There would be both lunch and dinner, and maybe even a midnight snack, all made from locally grown or sourced comestibles. We'd rent a bunch of paddleboats so people could go out on the lake if they'd like, and also rent a photobooth, the kind that prints out a strip of four photos, so people could have silly photos to take home. We'd have a live satellite video feed so the people who couldn't attend could watch at home on the internets. And I'd hire my favorite wedding photographer who both grew up in and lives in Sonoma County and was an indiebride herself (which is how I learned of her). I spent a few hours yesterday reading her blog and drooling over her photos. Don't get me wrong, I love our photographer and I'm so excited to see what he comes up with, but if we'd had an extra four grand to drop on wedding photos, it would have been with Jessamyn Harris. She deserves every penny she gets, I think.

We'd have a party that lasted all day and into the night, with a live band that played every song we wanted to hear and kept the crowd going. Heck, if money were no object whatsoever we'd hire the Barenaked Ladies. I'd have found someone to make us a cake that looks like this or this or some other nerdy thing. Or maybe I'd just hire Charm City Cakes to make something unique - they made a hairy coo for someone's wedding this one time, I saw it on TV. Of course, then we'd have to have the wedding within driving distance of Baltimore, so I guess that wouldn't work.

Instead of renting, we would have had the full Scottish dress (kilt and Prince Charlie and accessories) handmade (in Scotland! and we'd go there in person so it would fit perfectly) to fit Dan and his groomsmen, and my dress would have probably looked similar but handmade by someone in silk (maybe even hand-dyed silk!), and it would be two shades of green rather than white and green. My bridesminions would have similar, in dresses they'd all designed so they'd like them enough to wear again. And after the wedding, we'd give away everything we'd bought (gorgeous linens, china, glassware, decor, etc.) to someone else who needed that stuff, to save them from having to rent or buy it.

Reading back over my little fantasies, I am reminded how lucky we are that we're able to have the wedding we want for as little as it is costing us. We could spend tens of thousands more (or even hundreds of thousands) and it wouldn't make us any more married, or any happier at the end of the day. Because it's still just a party, a one-day event, and I think it's going to turn out pretty well. (But I do kinda wish we could afford that photo booth.)

A virtue I do not posess (take 3)

Back when Dan and I were first together, he made me several mix CDs, the first in response to a mix tape I made him before we had even met in person. One on of the CDs he made me was an audio version of a comedy sketch called "Tae Kwon Leep." In the sketch, several students are learning a martial art from a guru-type, including one named Ed Gruberman who attends the class in order to learn how to "beat people up." I knew right away why he'd put the sketch on the mix CD, since by that point he'd already quoted from it on multiple occasions. "You must learn patience, Ed Gruberman," says the guru-type, and Ed responds, "Yeah, yeah, yeah, patience. How long will that take?"

This is entirely a relevant thing to quote for me, because in nobody's opinion could I ever be considered a patient person. I'm just not. It's most obvious when I'm in the car - Dan frequently makes jokes about other drivers and what countries they must be from (and about what green lights mean in said countries) because I have such a habit of telling people in front of us that GREEN MEANS GO. There are many other occasions in which I'm noticeably impatient, particularly when it comes to punctuality. One of my biggest pet peeves is when people are late. I hate it when other people are late; I hate it when I am late through no fault of my own (traffic, slowdowns in public transit, etc.). To me, being on time to an event is a matter of respect and when someone is late, I feel like they've disrespected me (especially if they don't call or something to let me know they'll be late). But it's not just about respect, it's also that I don't have patience for other people to do things. I hate to wait for other people.

My impatience also comes out when it involves illness. Specifically, in the instance the illness of people I am close to, especially the person with whom I share a bed. Instead of being sympathetic, my first inclination is to be impatient. I can't really explain it. Case in point: Dan was sick for the first week of our Italy trip, while I didn't get sick until about 5 days in. By day 4 I was really tired of listening to him cough and sniff and watching him blow his nose. I got annoyed with myself when I ended up with the same illness, because dammit, we were in Italy and there was Stuff I Wanted To Do that both of us being sick prevented us from doing. I feel terrible about this now, but I totally made Dan hike 3 of the 5 towns of Cinque Terre on one of the two nice days we had on the trip, even though he was still really sick. I had been waiting for years to share it with him, and he gamely wheezed and coughed his way through the hike. The whole time I was feeling like STOP BEING SICK SO YOU CAN ENJOY THIS BECAUSE IT IS AWESOME. NO MORE SICK! And he was probably feeling like WHY IS SHE MAKING ME DO THIS, I FEEL LIKE POO. And then after the hours of hiking he fell down the stairs. I'm a horrible fiance.

The other night (when I originally wrote this, I wrote last night, but now it was two nights ago) Dan was sick again. Except this time, it was the kind of sick you get when you eat something bad and your digestive system revolts and decides to cause great pain and also divest itself of its contents from both ends at the same time. He was totally miserable. I felt awful, because I couldn't do anything for him. He told me later that he was up six times in the night, but I only remember once so I must have slept through most of his ordeal. At one point, I was reading out loud to him in bed because I thought it might help take his mind off his misery, and he started to cough. Then he coughed some more. Instead of thinking to myself, oh, poor guy has to cough on top of feeling so awful, I thought to myself, STOP COUGHING WHEN I AM TRYING TO READ TO YOU BECAUSE YOU CAN'T HEAR ME IF YOU ARE COUGHING. When I asked him why he didn't try to alleviate the cough by drinking some of the water on his bedside table, he told me that he didn't want to put anything else in his stomach. Duh, Emily. I felt so bad for him, and was really angry at myself for being annoyed that he was coughing rather than being sympathetic and trying to make him more comfortable.

As I lay in bed awake after he'd fallen asleep, I started to think about why it is that I have so little patience for illness, particularly the illness of the person I love most, the person I am lucky enough to be marrying in just over six weeks (SIX WEEKS AAAAHHHH!!). It came to me that when it comes to injury, I know how to help. I can clean and bandage a deep cut, pull out a splinter, massage away a charlie horse or a bad sinus headache. But a cough? Vomiting? A runny nose? There's absolutely nothing I can do, and I hate the way that makes me feel. I hate feeling helpless in a situation. I think it's the same for many of the instances of my impatience, because I am the most impatient in situations where I have the least amount of control. I really should be channeling that into constructive energy rather than wasting it on being annoyed with the person who is sick. Everyone has faults, and this is one of mine. I hearby resolve to work on it. Next time we're stopped behind a bunch of people at a green light, I'm going to think about something else. And next time Dan gets sick, I'm going to do my best to help him feel better rather than get annoyed with the situation, because it's not his fault either.

Tuesday, February 12, 2008


Blogger just ate a post I wrote, even though it told me it was SAVED.


I hope I can recreate it.

Friday, February 08, 2008

They run around with bare legs and bash each other with sticks

Many years ago, I took a trip to Toronto to visit some friends and explore a new city. Toronto was a great city, cosmopolitan and with an almost-European feel. During my few days there, I went to the museum of Modern Art, the Science Museum, and Medieval Times. I climbed the CN Tower. I shopped with one friend, danced with another, and took a group photo showing off my muscular legs that I sent to Dan before we met in person that caught his attention (luckily, he likes the ladies with the gams). One evening, my friend Reanne told me some of her friends had tickets to a lacrosse game that night, and would I like to go?

At that point in my life, I'd only attended two professional sports events - both baseball games - and didn't realize there was such a thing as professional lacrosse. I knew absolutely nothing about the game. We got to the arena and it turned out the tickets were for a private box, complete with free snacks and drinks of an adult nature. More than anything, I thought it was really cool that I got to hang out in a box.

The game started, and I watched halfheartedly, expecting it to be a hurry up and wait sort of event like baseball or football. But the action was immediate and compelling. Here were two teams of guys with day jobs, wearing a minimum of safety equipment, running like crazy, tossing a tiny ball between nets on the ends of sticks, and quite frequently, happily, and legally beating on each other with those sticks.

I was enthralled. This was way better than watching any sports on TV, far more interesting and exciting than baseball, and I could ogle the bare athletic legs of the men on the field. Legs! Beating with sticks! Scoring was exciting; the goalies were very talented and every score was a singular victory, yet it was more interesting than hockey because there were more scoring opportunities. It was a really fun experience and I was still hyped up from the energy of the crowd and the game when we went clubbing later that night.

I kind of forgot about lacrosse by the time I came home, because I've never been a fan of sports of any kind. In January of 2004 we were invited by Dan's parents to attend a pro lacrosse game in Denver. We went to dinner beforehand and ended up in seats at the very top of the stadium. It was "free beer and hot dog" night, and I gave mine to Dan because I don't drink beer or eat hot dogs. The team was relatively new to Denver, so as the game was played, the display monitor above the field flashed lacrosse terms and definitions and told us about different field positions and different sorts of plays, which was really helpful to all of us because none of us were especially familiar with the game. Again, I enjoyed the fast pace, the legs, and the cross-checking. Unfortunately, Dan and I both ended up with food poisoning the next day (we suspected the ranch dressing from the restaurant) so the fun evening was marred by the evaculation of the contents of our stomachs.

Last week, Dan asked me if I wanted to go to a lacrosse game. "I can get us tickets for ten bucks each, since they're doing a promotion with my school," he told me. (Legs. Action. Sticks. Legs.) "Sure!" I responded. It had been quite a while since we'd been to a professional sporting event (the races in Louisville didn't count) and I was looking forward both to seeing the game and observing the fans, since that tends to be my favorite part of any professional sports contest.

Game night was last night, so we met for some Illegal Pete's (mmmm, burritos) at 6:15 and then walked over to the Pepsi Center. We ended up with great seats in the lower level behind one of the goals, and were close enough to the field to see most of the action without needing to watch the game on the monitors. The game was very well-attended (announced attendance was nearly 16,000 people) by a young crowd. Lacrosse tickets are far less expensive than hockey or basketball tickts, so it stood to reason that the lower price might appeal to younger people. The Mammoth have been in Denver long enough that people seem to understand the game pretty well. Now the team has cheerleaders (not especially talented dancers, but they've got impressive abs and a lot of enthusiasm) and the crowd got really loud and excited. The Mammoth's record this season was 4-0 before last night's game, and everyone was cheering them on to another victory (against the Portland Lumberjax. Boo!)

The game was every bit as exciting as I'd hoped, and for the first time at a pro game of any type I felt truly as invested in the outcome of the game as the rest of the crowd. It was really, really fun to forget about the rest of the world, to not think about work or weddings or the election, to just lose my self in the athleticism and great legs on the field in front of me. I cheered, got revved up by the crowd. I even briefly contemplated the idea of becoming a derby girl when I saw the Denver RollerDolls in the hallway before the game - I'm strong, coordinated, and in good shape - but it would be a big commitment and would also mean accepting a certain level of risk of injury. Also, I don't have nearly enough tattoos or piercings and am not interested in dying my hair. But they looked really cute in their short skirts and leg warmers.

The Colorado Mammoth won their fifth game of the season 15-11. The game was great and so was the crowd. I let the energy of the win, the enthusiasm of the young boys with lacrosse sticks in the hallways, the satisfaction of the crowd convinced of their role in the team's victory carry me down the stairs and outside through the cold Colorado winter night.

Wednesday, February 06, 2008

Wednesday Wedding Day: A budget wedding in an age of excess

For anyone out there who has planned (or been involved in the planning of) a wedding in the last five or ten years, you know the woe that is the wedding industry. The WIC (Wedding Industrial Complex) thrives on telling people they aren't good enough, and if they just spent money on this or bought that, their weddings would be better than all the other ones and ooh isn't that pretty? Weddings these days are EXPENSIVE, no matter how you look at it, especially if you want to have an actual party and not just cake and punch. Large costs and small costs add up to a whole lot of cost, and people in big cities or popular destination sites (NYC, Boston, SF, Sonoma County (where we're getting married)) get taken for a ride because everything costs even more there. When we first started talking about getting married (this was a good year before the official engagement) we did a little research into possible sites in both Colorado and northern California, and ended up with sticker shock. The ideas I had to keep things affordable in terms of site fee turned out to be just as espensive as or more than a hotel. Sites used as weddings can charge huge fees - for example, the winery where my sister used to work charged a $6000 site fee just for the privilege of getting married on site (this fee didn't include tables/chairs/etc or any food - just the site fee) back in 2001 and I'm sure the price has only increased.

And that's just for the site! You add in catering (dinner usually costs more than lunch, sit-down costs more than buffet, and the costs of renting things like linens and plates and paying for waitstaff), booze (usually you have to buy it through the caterer), and the wedding dress (it's hard to get away with spending less than $700 on an actual wedding dress these days, and even bridesmaids dresses can be expensive if you ask for white or ivory), and that's a great big chunk of change. Florals are spendy. Live music (band) is more expensive than a DJ, but even a DJ costs money. In order to have a wedding (meaning, ceremony plus reception) just a step up from making all the food yourself, you pretty much have to shell out some dough. And then there's photography! If you want a seasoned professional who will take photos that don't look like they were taken in a portrait studio in 1982, photography can cost many thousands, depending on location and how in-demand a photographer happens to be. All in all, just the basics for the reception (location, food, beverage, photography, music, flowers) often add up to huge sums, especially in places where the WIC has a firm grasp on What's Done. And I haven't even begun to discuss the costs of invitations or that of an officiant, church, organist, etc. for many people who want their nuptuals to take place in a house of God (even if it's just for the pretty factor). Really, if you read the magazines or The Knot or any number of wedding-planning resources, you'll discover that someone needs to shell out buckets of cash to have even a halfway-decent event.

Luckily for us, we're not interested in What's Done. When we truly started planning our wedding, we thought about what was important to us (our guests, and the comfort/entertainment thereof) and decided to spend money in those areas, and save money on the things we didn't care about. We were really lucky in that my Oldest Friend/Best Woman's parents offered to sponsor us at the neighborhood club where we're getting married, and the member rates for what we get (ten hours time, including set-up and clean-up time, tables, chairs, dishes, glassware, flatware, picnic tables and benches, use of kitchen/grill, etc.) turned out to be a complete steal when you compare it to other places, especially other places in Sonoma County. Of course with that came the stipulation that we had to buy event insurance and have a licensed caterer (so no food trays from the deli, must have waitstaff and licensed bartender), which added to our cost. We both decided it was better that our friends/family not have to work, so we're willing to pay people to do these things for us. Again, we were very lucky to find a caterer we loved, willing to make the kind of food we wanted at a price we could afford, and our only rental cost is linens. I thought about making them myself, but ultimately decided it would be worth the extra money not to have to worry about that (plus, buying fabric and making them might not have been much cheaper). We're also paying for a tent to keep any possible bad weather from bothering our guests as the main room isn't big enough for everyone to sit at tables at once. We decided it's better not to tempt fate and be prepared for the worst, so were willing to pay for some peace of mind.

Our caterer is also awesome in that she has a lot of ideas for how we can save money. She was perfectly willing for us to provide our own beverages of all sorts (both alcoholic and non), for us to find our own cake, and where we might get wholesale flowers. We could tell from the first meeting with her that she understood the sort of wedding we were interested in having, and worked with us to come up with a plan that was agreeable for everyone. The cake(s) are coming from local bakeries and Costco, wine/beer may actually be purchased here and driven out to California, and we have a hookup with Glaceau products so people will be drinking smartwater and vitaminwater that we got for free. And flowers will come from my mom's yard (if anything is blooming), Trader Joes, and/or the wholesale flower place.

I didn't start out wanting a real wedding dress - I was trying to find a bridesmaid's dress that would work, or really any other sort of dress, but couldn't find what I was looking for (green) so settled on the next best thing (white with green). My dress was relatively inexpensive as far as "wedding" dresses go, and my mom really wanted to buy it for me. I'm not wearing a veil, bought my shoes for $30 at DSW last June, and a friend is making me some jewelry from pearls I bought in China. Dan has always wanted to get married in a kilt, so he found a place that rents full Scottish dress for a not-too-bad price in his family tartan, so we'll be renting those for Dan and his best man and groomsman. Rather than make my bridesminions buy dresses they may never wear again, I'm making them and they can wear again or not as they choose.

Since neither of us was interested in getting married in a church, the ceremony will be at the same site as the reception and we don't have to pay any associated fees. Music is ipod playlists and some rented/borrowed equipment. And our rockstar officiant was already ordained by the Universal Life Church. Dan designed/drew/etc. our invitations himself, and we printed them at my work so that only cost us postage and envelopes. And we found a photographer who is just getting started in the business, so we're getting everything we wanted (plus an album!) for less than half of the low-end rate for decent photography in Northern California.

Really, in the grand scheme of things, our wedding is going to cost a lot of money - more than I'd initially wanted to spend, in fact. But when you compare it to the average cost of weddings in the county, our wedding pales in comparison (the average for the area is about five times what we're spending). We could have done it for less - found a restaurant with a catering license and done setup/cleanup ourselves, made our attendants pay for their outfits, foregone the tent and just hoped for sun. But the areas in which we decided to spend money were what we felt are the important parts of a wedding - our friends and family are traveling (some for great distances, some not so much) to be there to support us and celebrate with us, so we want to make sure they had a good time. We certainly plan to do so.

Tuesday, February 05, 2008

Civic duty

"We have to go vote," says my mother. We walk into the fire station and go behind a curtain. I can't see what my mother is doing, but I know that it's very important. I am very young, so it's probably an off-year election.

Two presidential elections happen in which I am vaguely aware of the displeasure of my parents at the outcome.

It's 1992, and I am excited to see what might happen in the country. The war in Iraq has ended and my parents are fired up about the election. People in town display signs promoting various candidates on their lawns, including a small but vocal faction in favor of the independant blowhard candidate with large ears. My dad votes for the large-eared candidate just to make my mom angry. In my head, I call the candidate "Pee rot." The charismatic Democratic governor beats the incumbent and my dad's record of never voting for a winning candidate is upheld.

I am a senior in high school, and thoroughly disgusted that I don't turn 18 until four months after the presidential election. We study civics (called American Problems by my high school) and I have strong personal opinions about various candidates. Then I start college, and campus is brimming with political activity. The charismatic incumbent handily beats the old raisin from Kansas.

The first election in which I can actually vote is an off-year election. It is 1998 and the governorship for California is up for election. I am thoroughly excited to help vote out the incumbent party's incompetant jerk and cast a winning vote for Gray Davis, who at the time was quite well-liked. He is recalled as governor in 2003 and California's second actor/celebrity governor is voted in. My sisters are disgusted.

It is the fall of 2000. I am thoroughly excited to see the outcome of the election, and have great hope that the current vice president will win (though I am personally more interested in ideology and cast my vote for a third-party candidate). I know that my vote won't effect the outcome of the election, as California's electoral votes go to the democratic candidate in a landslide. People in other states misguidedly vote the same way and their votes, in some small part, cost him the election. There are hanging chads and disenfranchisement and discussions of voting machine tampering and fraud. The entire system appears to have broken and the United States becomes a laughingstock. The Supreme Court decides to hand the election to the chimp.

Four years later, I am thoroughly disgusted with the country. Iraq War Two, Patriot Act, a "conservative" president spending and spending resulting in huge debt. The entire election season is filthy and horrible. The democrats fail to come up with a viable candidate, though the election is another squeaker and there are more questions about voting fraud and voting machine tampering, as the company that makes the voting machines in many places is hand-in-hand with the incumbent president. Most people I know hold their nose and vote "not-Chimp" rather than voting for someone they think will be a good president.

I stand in line for four hours after spending all day in the mountains (and before driving to Stepford Springs) in order to vote in a new governor and new senator. I am not pleased with the election problems, but am thoroughly pleased with the results of the election, though I'm kind of bummed for the people in the northern part of the state who continue to be represented by a crazed harridan who cares more about unborn people than people who already exist.

Now this election, today, I am feeling some hope again, a sensation not unlike that of 1992. The incumbent can't run again, and the frontrunners in both parties seem like good candidates for each party, respectively (though I find myself surprised by the results of the campaigns. How did Giuliani have to drop out so early?) For the first time in my life, the two most viable candidates within the Democratic party both represent minorities and would be making history if either were to be elected president. Today is Super Tuesday, and people voting around the country will help decide who continues with their candidacies, and ultimately who we'll be voting for in November. This state is weird in that there is both a caucus and a primary; today is the Caucus and because I am not a registered Democrat (forgot to change my affiliation beforehand) I can't participate. I know who I will vote for in the primary, even if the contest is already decided by then, because I am excited about one candidate and would be not disappointed if the other gets the nomination. Today I feel a little more hope than I have in a long time about the future of our country.

Monday, February 04, 2008

What's in a name?

I wrote last week about our decision to change to a new last name, and that, coupled with a thread on a message board I read about how people judge others by their names, got me thinking about names in general and judgment in particular. The thread on the message board specifically dealt with "made-up" names, and several people mentioned how if they were hiring for a McJob, and resumes were equally qualified, they'd be more likely to interview a person with a standard name rather than one that was probably a "made-up" name (specifically referring to a subset of the African-American community).

I read the book Freakonomics last year, and in that book is a chapter on names, naming trends, and how naming your child something completely off-the-wall might contribute to his or her success (or lack thereof). Though blatantly racist discrimination is illegal in this country, there's no way to prove someone didn't interview you or hire you because of your name (though they might judge your name and choose not to interview/hire you because your name sounds ethnic in some way). Names are not a protected class. While I don't think it's my place to be the arbiter of naming, I am not in favor of many recent baby-naming trends (the -aiden proliferation for boys, the McMadyssynalynn-type names for girls, and who can forget Nevaeh?), as a parent it's your right to name your kid anything you please. I would never name my kid something I made up or use kreeyativ spelling to make my kid seem youneeq, but if it's something you want to do, I say go for it. I just wonder sometimes whether parents realize what they're saddling little McKaighleigh or Graysen (or Shaniquiah) with and how it might result in an older child or an adult not being taken seriously, treated differently by teachers and potential employers than if the name were more culturally commonplace.

I was also thinking about how names can sometimes specifically refer to a person's nationality or ethnic background, and how you might expect a person to look based on his or her name. Last night I remembered a high school classmate who, based on her name, should be German, French, and/or Latina-looking, but instead looks quite a bit like her ethnically Chinese mother. If I didn't know her, and was asked to pick out 'Gabrielle Werner' (not her real name) I wouldn't pick her photo out of a lineup. The woman making our wedding rings looks every bit as Irish as her name, though I would have pinned her a bit older based on her first name. I wonder how many people make judgments every day about people's names, guessing age, class, and ethnicity from just a first and last name. My name, for example, was not super uncommon but was also not especially popular back in 1979 (I've only known a few other Emilys my age) but ten years later it hit the charts and was the most popular girl's name for several years. I can't go anywhere in public where there are young children without hearing my first (and sometimes middle) name being called. I wonder if, fifteen years from now when the slew of Emilys are entering the workforce, people will guess I'm significantly younger than I am because of my name.

I find naming trends to be endlessly fascinating, and am specifically interested in names and identity. (If you'd like to waste some time, go here and check out the widget that tells you the popularity of any name over the past 100+ years). I don't know what an Emily is supposed to be or feel like, but I'm pretty glad that my mom didn't name me Elizabeth, Jessica, or Heather (no offense to any Elizabeths, Jessicas, or Heathers out there, but these names were super popular among people my age). I like that my name, while trendy now, isn't the kind of name that ages badly (imagine what it will be like when all the Jennas and Jennifers and Krystals are 80 years old!). It passes the "stripper or Supreme Court Justice" test. What's really interesting to me is when I meet people who have decided at some point to change their (first) names, deciding that they don't really feel like a Paul but would rather be called by their middle name, Evan. How do people decide they don't feel like a Paul? I've met people whose names I thought were beautiful but that they didn't like so much because in their culture, that name is an "old-person" name. I find the process of how nicknames come into being to be fascinating as well. How do people come up with nicknames for their children/friends/family? What makes a nickname stick? My dad has four sisters, and none of the five of them was called by their given names as children (or even now, as adults, by family).

I don't really have any answers, only questions. Names and naming are cool. Naming your kid Azpen is a bad idea, IMHO. It's a sad fact that people are judged by their names, oftentimes unfairly as they didn't choose their own name (though some people do!) And I don't know if I'll ever fully grok nicknames and how they work.

One of my favorite bloggers had a baby today. I wholeheartedly love his name. Welcome to the world, Dylan Emmett.