Sunday, January 30, 2011

Moments of Focus Amidst the Blur

This process is a strange one. A whirlwind of activity. A torrent of planning. All leading to a one-day performance of a well-rehearsed show. That makes it sound disingenuous , but somehow it feels pretty authentic. It's a production, but it's one into which you're injecting your desires and personality and preferences.

There are plenty of days that you're so mired in the to-dos, you lose track of what you're even to-doing. You find yourself mindlessly pressing a stamp into gold ink. Tap. Hit paper. Repeat. You find yourself swimming in a sea of dish towels and cheese platters and ribbons you can't break during the un-wrap because they'll represent the babies you're supposed to have. You'll smile and say thank you to the avalanche of well wishes. You're not used to being in this position—there at the center with all eyes upon you. You do better as the one-liner sarcastic-remarker a the back of the room. The guest of honor isn't a role you've played in the past.

And in your unfamiliarity with the situation, everything will start to blur.

It'll come at you faster and faster until you've 48 days to go and you can't seem to keep the dishes clean because you keep getting new ones that need to be washed. Every weekend will include the smashing of boxes and discard of tissue.

But every now and then, you'll catch yourself in a moment and time will stop. The blur will sharpen and you'll remember what awaits you.

Driving in your car, you'll hear a disco song and your mind will wander to an image of yourself wearing the gorgeous gown, dancing on a parquet floor. You picture your nieces gathered around you, taking turns holding your hand, spinning, grinning from ear to ear. And suddenly, there in your car, you'll be crying. Sobbing in sweet anticipation of what's to come.

Or maybe you'll be buried under mounds of cards with veils and blenders on them. Thoughtful messages from caring women in your life. Wrapping paper and torn envelopes will surround your sandaled feet. And you'll get to a particular gift from your mom. A poem attached to a handkerchief with a small angel charm sewn to it. A message from your two grandmas who are no longer with you. A message channeled through your mom that could have been written by these two women as if they were sitting at the kitchen table all together. It'll stop you dead in your tracks. It'll fill you with love and longing. Gratitude for what you had in them and what you will have in 48 days with your new husband. And you'll wish so much that you could talk to them and see the joy in their faces during this time. But you'll feel them. And you'll know that when you dab your eyes on that day with that hanky, it'll be their hands wiping your face clean.

Things will continue to go in and out of focus. Surely, even after every single to-do has been done and every scene perfectly rehearsed, it will still feel like a blur. But those moments when the fog clears and the feelings are crisp—those are what will make it all worthwhile. Those are what will define this time.

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

A Peek into the Neuroses of a DIY Bride

When I was a kid, I had a particular friend who loved to come in my room and move things a quarter of an inch. She knew that I had everything arranged just so and that I would be able to tell if she scooted anything out of its place.

Even back then, I was a card-holding control freak.

I actually come from a long line of control freaks. My grandma threatened to call my sister's baby (or was it her I can't remember) a different name because she liked it better than the chosen one. My mother will not let anyone else host Thanksgiving or Christmas because only she knows how to do it "just right." And then there's me: the girl who still carries a check register and keeps her account balanced to the penny at all times.

Given how thrilling it is for me to wield my organizational and decision-making power, it should be no surprise that I decided to DIY so much of my wedding stuff. The budget was also a huge consideration. I just can't see why I'd want to spend hundreds of dollars paying someone else to do what I can do myself. (And maybe do it better, says the control freak...)

The other upside of DIYing is that no one else anywhere will have the exact same details I have. My wedding will have totally unique elements, and to me that makes it feel even more special.

The first things I started working on after Mr. Wonderful greenlit the project were my invitations. Was it a bit of a pain to make 80 of them? You bet. But it was extremely gratifying to pack them up and mail them last week. I had to conceal Mr. W's identity on the one below so that there's no temptation on your part to stalk him...

The next big endeavor was the shoes. It was so much fun sewing the pearls and crystals to the first one. The second was a pain in the ass.

This weekend, I wired pearls and crystals onto a vintage hair barrette I bought on Etsy. I couldn't believe how well it turned out, or how easy it was to do.

And also this weekend, I hit the Los Angeles flower mart with my food and flower expert friend so we could practice assembling bouquets and centerpieces. It looks like I'll be able to buy all the flowers I need for a mere $250. I cannot understand why anyone would want to pay a florist when it's so easy to put together pretty arrangements on a shoestring! Pardon my un-ironed tablecloth.

All the crafty projects I've been working on have been a real mix of joy and frustration. At times, they've felt like burdens. Other times, they were the perfect escape.

In the end, I know they'll make my wedding exactly the way I've dreamed it to be. And that makes the control freak inside a very, very happy bride.

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Latitudes of Gratitude

Okay fine, I admit it—I took the lazy man's approach to that headline. Rhyming is always my go-to when I'm in a hurry. And these days, I'm in a hurry almost every moment of the day. Even when I'm sleeping, I think I'm probably rushing through REM so I can wake up and get stuff done.

I did find a few free moments Monday night, however. And I used them to attend my very first meditation class.

It was quite fascinating, listening to the teacher's lecture on shedding self consciousness; attempting to stay serene for 30 whole minutes when the most I've really ever tried to meditate is about 120 seconds; hearing questions people had regarding their personal meditation practices.

But the highlight of the night for me was a quote the teacher recited.

Acceptance culminates in gratitude.

Perhaps this is a core Buddhist principle and I'm just too far removed from that philosophy to know it. But oh the power of that statement. Imagine if by accepting different things in our lives, we could actually become grateful for them.

The idea of this appeals to me greatly, and also seems like the biggest struggle in the world. I am very good at accepting certain things—waiting in traffic for example. Often, it allows me to listen to great music or just have quiet down time. So even though it can be frustrating, there are may instances in which I end up being thankful for it.

Other things—people, rules, ways of thinking—are nearly impossible for me to accept, let alone be thankful for.

As I pondered the quote after class, I realized that just like meditation, gratitude must be practiced to be perfected. You almost have to force yourself to feel grateful for it to start coming naturally. Force yourself to look at the positives; to find reasons to say thanks. "Force" is probably a terrible word to be using here, considering we're talking about acceptance... But I think in some situations, a gratitude journal or ongoing list of upsides is the only way one can reach a point where they really accept something and see it for its goodness.

It's even harder for me than usual to adopt this way of thinking right now. I am swamped at work, carrying the Giant Wedding To Do list with every muscle in my mind, trying not to count the days that Mr. W has been gone, looking for breathers in my over-booked social calendar. Frustration feels a lot more comfortable right now than gratitude does. But I guess that just means it's that much more important for me to try to cultivate gratitude every day...

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Aren't We All Just Looking for Our Sleepless in Seattle?

I'm listening to my ipod on shuffle right now where Nat King Cole is crooning "Stardust"—one of my favorites from the Sleepless in Seattle soundtrack.

That movie wrecked me when I was a teenager.

The way it so expertly proposed the possibility that there is magical love out there just waiting for us to find it.

I remember lying on the roof of my parents' motorhome one night during a camping trip, staring at the stars, wishing with every fiber of my adolescent being that I would find real love. The kind that made me want to use words like "magic" and "incredible" and "unconditional." My yearning felt as big as the sky. My fear that I would never actually find that kind of love felt equally as big.

I carried that fear with me through my 20s like a heavy cloak that hid me from the light of a Sleepless in Seattle love affair.

Thinking I wouldn't find it perpetuated the lack of it in my life. Then I turned 30. And went to therapy. And got cheated on.

Suddenly I realized I didn't just deserve the very best kind of love, I was going to find it. I was like a detective who was two clues away from solving the case. I was so close.

It didn't arrive at the top of the Empire State building, but Love did arrive. And it was better than I had imagined that night on the roof. Better than Sleepless in Seattle. And the best part about it is that the script is still playing itself out.

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Getting Done the Farewell To Dos

We had a lot to check off the list before yesterday.

We tore up, tilled and replanted the entire front yard. Then potted the miniature olive tree we bought. A reminder of our trip to Greece and the Tuscan-style vineyard we hope to own one day.

We got our marriage license.

We chose wedding rings—me a band of diamonds that matches my engagement ring; him a brushed Tungsten band.

We put stamps on all of our wedding invitations so that I can mail them today.

We discussed important house details, like how to turn the sprinklers on and off, how to reset the wireless Internet, which buttons on the remote control different functions on the stereo.

We kissed each other extra times, trying to stockpile the sensation so it would last us through the next 60 days.

We practiced the dance steps we learned. I forgot most of them, but he reminded me and we vowed to run through them many more times in that final week when he comes home.

We touched-up paint.

We plowed through DVDs we wanted to watch together.

We IMed each other while he sat in the Virgin Atlantic lounge and I sat in the dim corner of our living room.

And now there's an ocean smack dab in the middle of us.

I'm looking forward to putting "cross that ocean" at the top of the To Do List.

Thursday, January 6, 2011

So Over the Whelming

I just looked up the word "whelm" to see if it was in fact a word on its own. Here's what had to say about it:

whelm: to turn (as a dish or vessel) upside-down usually to cover something : cover or engulf completely with usually disastrous effect.

I am the dish. I am the vessel.

But the funny thing is that I keep turning—so one minute I pop up out of the water and dry off, then the next I'm upside-down again, covered over. Whelmed.

The past six months have included more milestones and transitions than I've experienced in the past six years. There was the engagement. And the beginning of the planning. And the offer on the house. Then the moving of the roommate. And the moving of me. And Christmas. And wine-tasting after Christmas (which was fun at the time, but man could I have used those two days more productively). And the relandscape.

And now we are quickly approaching the part where Mr. Wonderful leaves me for London for two months and I climb into the saddle of house guardianship, while trying to keep all the wedding plates spinning at the right speed.

Last night I was trying to finish a slideshow we're putting together to run behind the bar at the reception and Mr. W came to tell me he was going to bed...and I melted down. My vessel capsized and the next thing I knew, I was drowning in tears.

I don't like to ask for help. I am a control freak to my core. So I usually take on too much, thinking I can handle it all (even when I'm already overcome by other things, like for example the fact that my fiance leaving town and not returning until the week before our wedding). And it always leads me to the same end spot: Stress. Overwhelm. Bathroom blubbering.

Mr. Wonderful told me I need to seek out assistance. I need to communicate to him—or family or friends or strangers in line at the grocery store—that I need help.

I'm going to try. Maybe I'll start by asking you guys to help me remember that I'm supposed to be doing this...

Sunday, January 2, 2011

Gay, White Guys Don't Make the Best Manual Laborers

New Year's Eve of 2005 was probably my wildest. I was single, carefree, and open to kissing anyone who came my way at midnight. I got myself dolled up in a tight shirt, went to a friend's house party, drank wine, scoped out my prospects. When the clock struck 12, I must have smacked lips with a dozen different boys. That last year of my twenties was one I wholly dedicated to living life to its fullest. I sowed oats. Maybe acted a little scandalously here and there.

Thank goodness I got that out because this New Year's Eve, I shoveled dirt.

Mr. Wonderful and I have spent the past 3 days relandscaping the front yard. I've never done such hard labor. Nearly 8 hours of turning soil, digging up rocks, pulling old ivy roots. I've helped him in the yard before, but nothing like this. My back hurts. My calves hurt. My arms hurt. My fingers hurt. Seriously.

We spent New Year's evening making sugar cookies in our robes. We didn't even make it until midnight—we hit the pillows at 11:00 and slept like the rocks we'd collected in the front yard.

Earlier in the night I told him I couldn't handle another day like that one. I needed him to get some help in the yard. So he put an ad on Craigslist.

Now, generally when Mr. W gets people to help in the yard, it's nice, quiet, young Hispanic guys. They hang around Home Depot looking for work and they've been quick to respond to his ads online. This time, he said the guy sounded white on the phone. Artie. I wondered why anyone—of any ethnicity—would want to work New Year's Day.

We were in the trenches early that morning. I was trying to pull up thick roots left from some hedges near the driveway. Mr. W was beginning to help me when a navy BMW sped up into the cul de sac.

"That Artie?" I asked, laughing.

"Yeah right," Mr. W laughed back.

The next thing we knew, a mustached guy was walking towards us asking if it was Mr. W in the dirt. It was Artie. I almost fell over.

He seemed a little flamboyant to me. When he took off his long-sleeved shirt my suspicion he might be gay was confirmed. There on his bicep in simple, san-serif type was one word: "Chad."

A gay, white man who wants to do yard work on New Year's Day?

I spent the next several hours creating a mental list of reasons Artie may have answered our ad. Maybe he was a writer and he was doing a story on landscaping. Maybe he lost a bet. Maybe it was some sort of foreplay with his buddy who accompanied him (Jeff, not Chad. And he left after about 30 minutes because he didn't feel well.) Or maybe he was a serial killer and he was going to use that shovel to bury me and Mr. W somewhere under the new avocado tree.

When he finished (earlier than we wanted him to...) he asked if he could leave his shovel and get it later. Creepy deepy. Mr. W told me I was over-reacting. He said he himself might start answering Craigslist ads and helping people do work in their yards on the weekend.

I just hope he doesn't come home with a tattoo for Chad.

Happy New Year everyone!