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Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Family Ties

I don't think I have talked much here about my family structure, but I think it will be helpful overall in understanding some of the complications.
I have three genetic siblings, and we all have the same mother and father: AJ (26), Alex (23), and Sarah (20).
AJ got married last year, so now I have a sister-in-law: Amanda.
My parents are now both re-married: Aaron (my Dad) and his wife Noel; Lisa (my Mom) and her husband David.
Noel has two children: Catrina (20), and Dominic (17).
And that's just the immediate family.
Each of my parents has 5 siblings.  They all have children.  I have more than 30 first cousins.  Three of them are named Michael.  All of my grandparents are currently living (although some are in poor health at the moment).  There has also been some tension amongst some extended family members on both sides of the family.
Also, Chris and I live in the same geographical area as my parents and all of my siblings (save one who lives in Ireland).
So that is where we begin...before we even add in my sister-in-law's family who lives close and Chris' family (who live far away).
I know this isn't a particularly exciting post, but I think for some it may lend some ease for understanding why, for us, this whole this is complicated when considering who gets an invitation.  To wit, there is one family member who I would choose not to invite, but I must balance that desire with the uproar that would almost surely occur if I were to snub said individual.

Don't get me wrong, I love my family dearly.  My siblings are the best in the world and they crack me up all the time.   My family, as a whole, yearns to be loving and supportive and good.  I am thankful in a million ways for their help and support.
This fact, however, does not stop them from - at times - making missteps or simply doing things that bother me.  Same for me; as well-intentioned as I am, I can be obnoxious or do the wrong thing regarding their desires or needs.
More than anything, though, I am thankful for them and their support in general.  I am also thankful, specifically, for the love and support they have shown for me and Chris as we continue planning; I know that they are genuinely glad for me, and that makes the frustrations easier to manage.

Sunday, June 27, 2010

The Day After: Successes and Failures

First, a failure: liveblogging.  I tried, I really did, but the internet at the hotel wasn't working and when I posted from my phone (even though I'm supposed to be able to do so) it ended up as gibberish.  So, although I'm pretty sure no one really noticed, I feel sheepish; I don't like saying I'll do something and then not following through.

Second, a very important SUCCESS:  It happened; my mother got married yesterday.  All important people showed up (the wedding party, all vendors, and most of the guests), everyone was clothed, fed, and danced.  The ceremony happened, I signed the wedding certificate myself.

While the bottom-line necessities went as needed, there we hiccups along the way:

  1. Friday, it took my sister and I (with my delightful fiance driving) more than an hour to drive 17 miles...on the freeway.
  2. During this drive, we could not get a hold of my mom, so we had no idea what was going on....so we just kind of did what we supposed we should.
  3. We still had many, many errands and tasks to complete Friday evening AND yesterday.
  4. My mom's hair and makeup appointments were in another city, and she was gone for more than 4 hours in the middle of the day....without answering her phone.
  5. My mom and the third bridesmaid arrived back at the hotel about an hour before we needed to leave for the venue.
  6. A surprise cake for the groom's parents in honor of their 50th wedding anniversary was melted in the 85-degree heat.
  7. My dress was extremely uncomfortable and the three bridesmaids were all wary of having a wardrobe malfunction in the chestal region. (None happened, though, thank goodness!)
  8. Some of the personal touches that the bride and groom wanted to have didn't happen at all.
  9. The groom forgot his wedding band (we had a stand in available, though).
  10. There wasn't enough lighting for the end of the evening.
Because of all of this, and because of all the frustration that overshadowed some of what I'll list below.  For me, the stress and irritation I had been feeling was so overwhelming at different points over the past two weeks, that I felt relief that the event was happening and then over.  Knowing this makes me sad.  I wanted to enjoy the event with abandon, rather than with this unfortunate sheen laying over it.  

More importantly, though, many things went right:
  1. My mother looked beautiful.
  2. The groom choked back tears while reciting his vows.
  3. The toasts were well-received (I was pretty proud of my short-and-sweet toast, given the amount of time I had to prepare).
  4. No nasty scenes happened, despite some close calls.
  5. People seemed to have a good time.
  6. The food was good.
  7. The booze was good.
  8. There was lots of leftover booze. (My brother took home four cases of Sierra Nevada, my sister took home two).
  9. The flowers were beautiful.
  10. I have two new grandparents, who are just lovely (one of whom performed the wedding ceremony).
  11. There are bound to be some amazing photos from the beautiful setting.
  12. My siblings and I danced our asses off; we're pretty impressive dancers, busting out some cabbage patches and altogether looking a bit like this.
  13. The music was good.
  14. Mom and her new husband looked very happy.
  15. I got to spend time with my former babysitter - the third bridesmaid - which was wonderful.
  16. I got to dance with my very own fiance.
  17. Everyone seemed genuinely happy for the bride and groom.
  18. I got to meet some of my new extended family members.
Altogether, the event itself was and overall success, thankfully.

So, here's to my mother and her new husband:
CONGRATULATIONS MOM AND DAVID!!


Friday, June 25, 2010

Promoted?

MOM'S WEDDING IS TOMORROW!

Written yesterday (Thursday, 6/24) at 1:00pm:
Today makes me feel like I could definitely make a career out of being a wedding coordinator or fashion stylist. So far, I have worked on making the escort cards and table cards, been to Macy's to pull options for mom's reception dress, and am currently in search of a bra the will not only fit properly but actually do what I neeed it to for this event.

Cut to the next morning and I haven't even been able to finish the above blog entry.

I don't want to try and explain everything at this moment, while I sit in my car waiting for the doors on the building for my practicum to be unlocked - it's not yet 7:30am.

About yesterday, suffice to say I nearly cried in a Nordstrom's dressing room as yet another bra - probably my 20th that day - was not going to work, and, by the time bedtime rolled around, many tasks had been done...but many had not.

In good news, I have been officially promoted to Maid of Honor as of last night's rehearsal dinner. Which means writing a speech, but that's totally cake for me.

I love my mother AND I will not allow myself to be in my current state of disrepair on the eve of my own wedding (for which we are now under the 11-month mark).

I am so thoroughly looking forward to 12:30. That's haircut and blow-out time.  I have a family friend do my hair, so it's nice that I don't have to fake chatter with a semi-stranger or sit in uncomfortable silence; I can just talk to a person that I care to talk to.

My mind seems to have scattered itself into a piecemeal of related thoughts, but without segues among them.

Also, just because it seems like a good idea right now, I plan to liveblog tomorrow; updates will come as they happen (or not, if things are too crazed).

Now it's time to shift gears into thinking about a young girl and her intellectual capabilities, so that I can finish my report about same and provide recommendations to this family about bolstering the academic functioning of a girl with low to average abilities.

Monday, June 21, 2010

Crumble and Rebuild

MY MOTHER'S WEDDING IS IN 5 DAYS.

Several days ago, I made plans with my mother, her fiance, my sister, and my younger brother to get together at my apartment this morning for wedding planning.

I got a call from her fiance at 10am (the agreed-upon meeting time) telling me that they had not yet left. It's a 45-minute drive from there to here.  They left after 10:30.  My siblings and I waited at my apartment.  When my mother arrived, it was clear that we would not be starting wedding planning just yet; my mother was not feeling well.  In respect for her privacy, I will leave out many details saying only this about her state of mind: something external to the wedding triggered a series of intense and upsetting feelings which rendered it difficult for her to see past same.

Fortunately, I threw my therapist hat on and spent some time figuring out what it is we could do to help my mother, in about a hundred senses.
Once she was stabilized feeling better, I went about the task of first trying to understand what needed to be done, organizing same, and delegating what could be delegated.

It took a lot of my energy to move things forward so that my mother's wedding is set up for success.  While eventually a fair amount got done and I feel ok about how it all turned out, the ordeal morning has left me with a lot of leftover feelings, the preponderance of which are not fun.
Even as I write, I am conscious of whether or not my mother will read this (probably not).
I want to be completely honest.
I do not want to hurt feelings.
At the moment, I'm not sure I can effectuate both.

Here is what tomorrow's schedule looks like:
10:00 am - Go to the mall and pick up mine and my sister's bridesmaid dresses.
10:05 am - Argue (I'm predicting) with the tailor about what was and was not done to the dresses and attempt to be refunded about half of what we have pre-paid for the alterations.
10:30 am  - Shop for more things I need for the wedding.
11:30 am - Drive from Pleasanton to Richmond (at least 45 minutes)
12:45 pm - Terminate with client #1
01:35 pm - Terminate with client #2
02:25 pm - Tell client #3 that we are NOT terminating; we have 4 "bonus" sessions
03:15 pm - Terminate with client #4
04:20 pm - Tell client #5 that we are NOT terminating; we also have 4 "bonus" sessions
05:05 pm - Terminate with client #6
06:00 pm - Begin termination paperwork
08:00 pm - Leave from Richmond for home (at least 35 minute drive)
09:00 pm - Being my task of creating the escort cards for the wedding and following-up with my mother and sister about how things are progressing.

SUMMARY: a long flipping day full of emotional drainage.

I am hoping that this is the end of the line for major disruptions related to my mother's wedding.
Wish us luck!

Friday, June 18, 2010

Trials, Schedules, and Check - Oh My!

*Programming Alert: For the next week, I will be posting exclusively - and hopefully more prolifically - about my mother's upcoming nuptials*

My Mother's Wedding Countdown: EIGHT DAYS!

At the last minute yesterday afternoon, I was invited to join my mother and sister for my mom's trial hair appointment.

For those who do not know, a trial hair appointment is when you meet with the hairstylist you will or may have on your wedding day, and they do your hair just as they plan to for the big day.  This way, you can make any comments or adjustments before a day where you're already overwhelmed and trying not to worry about a hundred (or a million) details.

Anyhow, knowing how my mother sometimes has difficulty making a decision without validation, I agreed to go.  It also doesn't hurt that, since my classes have ended, I have a freer schedule than I am used to.  So I went, leaving my house 15 minutes later than I would have liked to and arriving 10 minutes after the appointment was meant to begin.  I was the first of the three of us to arrive.  Delightful.  Regardless, everyone did arrive, my mother's hair was tried, and it looked beautiful.


During the course of this event, I learned that there were other wedding-planning errands to be run during the rest of the afternoon.  Many items needed to be checked off a list and my mother needed to change her mind and second-guess things a few times.  We booked mom's makeup artist and scheduled her makeup trial, made trips to a bridal salon to look for jewelry (we didn't find what we wanted) and to a party rental place to change about 50% of the order and decide on changing many other things.  Ultimately, my sister and I ended up wrangling my mother's vacillation - much to the relief of her fiance, who was along for all but the hair trial.  We ended up also having many conversations about people who haven't yet RSVP'd, my sister's and my hair, whether or not the men will have boutineers, and about a hundred other small but important details.


This seems to be an infinitesimal taste of what is slated for the next 8 days.  Lots of my mother feeling harried, lots of her fiance being clueless as to what she's talking about (mostly not his fault, either), and me and my sister jumping in to stop her from spinning out of orbit in her hurry to get things done.

At this moment, there are still about three hundred things that need to be settled and decided.  Partly, this was purposeful; being a teacher, my mom finished her school year on Monday and thus has had 100% "free time" since then and all the way until the wedding.  Still, organization has never been her strength (might I have mentioned that before??) and, in my selfish way, I certainly do not want to be drowning in details the day before or day of the wedding.

Right now, my task is to make sure that my mom meets with me and my sister to lay everything out and get all the To-Do's organized.  And that is task enough to contemplate for now.

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Bachelorette

My sister, Sarah, and I have been planning our mother's bachelorette party, and the day finally came!
We picked out a "fairy tale" theme that we hoped the guests - most of whom are near our mother's age - will enjoy the whimsy and fun of such a child-like theme. Especially because, to go with the theme of both "fairy tale" and "bachelorette," my sister and I have gotten a very silly amount of decorations that include dragons, swords, lots of pink, tiaras, and about a hundred other items of silliness.


I really enjoy planning parties. Particularly parties in honor of something or someone in particular - other than myself. In this case, it is both. Planning parties provides me with an opportunity to create something that I hope the guest(s) of honor will enjoy and that will relieve them of stress.
There is something that, for me, is soothing and prideful about selecting silly decorations and deciding on what food and drink to serve.

When the day came, however, it was rather miserable to get everything finished. A series of small, but manageable disasters, not the least of which was the weather - nearly 90-degree heat - in a house where we were cooking and which has no air conditioning. During the getting-ready that morning and afternoon (guests were scheduled to arrive at 6pm) we had difficulties with the food prep, with guests' choices, with retrieving needed items, moving furniture, dropping heavy bottles on my toe, among other things. In part, I underestimated how long things would take, and I had let it slide about what needed to get done the night before.

We also had fewer guests attend than who had RSVP'd and some guests who stayed for a shorter amount of time than I had expected. Wanting to have provided my mother with an enjoyable party, I felt responsible for this, somehow (even though some people couldn't make it due to illness and other perfectly acceptable reasons for not coming to a party...some peoples' reasons I didn't quite understand).

At the end of the night, however, everyone had eaten and drank their fill of appetizers, fruit, candy, wine, champagne, and beer. They also seemed to have a blast. We played games, got a little silly and risque, made everyone sing karaoke on my new karaoke machine.

Ultimately, it turned out well, even though it definitely did not turn out like I wanted.
My mom tells me that she had a great time and was thankful for what my sister and I had given her (and yes, my sister did help -- I did the preponderance of the planning, but she was great about doing what I asked of her).

Now it's my job to believe my mom and be glad that she is happy...especially about marrying her fiance in less than 10 days. (WOW! 10 days!!).

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

So Close

This morning, I checked the countdown clock I have running now on my phone and I realized that my mother's wedding is coming up in two and a half weeks. That feels so close, and, the closer we get to it, the more excited I become. (We also have her bachelorette party this weekend -- more about that in another post.)

It has truly been joyful to watch my mother become so excited about her impending nuptials. While planning and organization is not necessarily her strongest skill set, things seem to mostly be coming together and I feel less and less like I need to be guiding her along in getting things accomplished.

I must admit, when the engagement was first announced - a few days after Christmas - I was wary about whether or not this was truly what my mother wanted. In making the announcement, my mother's new fiance was clearly excited and proud about the development, but my mother was subdued and contributed little to the conversation.
Concerned, I asked her about this at a later date and my fears were assuaged; it seems that her reticence was primarily due to nerves at making such a large announcement to her children. Even more, over the past several months, I have been able to see her more relaxed and excited about her relationship with her fiance and any lingering concerns thankfully dissolved.

It is such a blessing to see my mother so happy with her relationship and her life in general. Most people know that my relationship with my mom has not always been sunshine and roses; frankly, things between us have been difficult for a very long time. Over the past few years, however, I have seen a change in her that has led to consistent and steady improvement in our relationship. And now, with helping her plan her wedding and being able to share in her joy, I find it much easier to relate to her and to be genuinely happy for her.
I suppose what I mean to say is that, while I am definitely happy for my mother's happiness for its own sake, I am also very glad that her happiness has acted as a salve to the rifts in our relationship.

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

All Sized Up

By the way, I know I'm late and this post comes out of order.

When I started shopping for my wedding dress - like, really shopping...in stores and everything! - I read that wedding dress sizes are very different from standard U.S. women's sizes. That is, compared to my 'regular' dress size, my 'bridal' dress size is an additional 2-3 sizes....UP.

Thus, before I went shopping, I did my best to mentally prepare myself for not fitting into the sample sizes. Even so, when I went and tried with vigor to make my body fit into dresses some many inches too small, it was hard not to let it psych me out. Well, to be completely honest, it helped when the attendants cooed over how I looked, even with rolls of fat pouring out the back.

Fortunately, bridal sample dresses are larger than 'fashion' sample sizes (usually 0 or 2), so some of the samples actually fit me. In fact, THE dress, when I tried it on, actually fit very well. (Maybe that's why I picked it!)

Still, the whole ordeal got me thinking about brides and the whole 'bridal fitness' thing. And about body image more generally. See, I have had the good fortune of growing up with a family who regularly told me that they believe I am beautiful. I furthered this good fortune by finding a man who not only loves me, but who tells me I am beautiful at all times of the day, even if I have last night's makeup all over my face and I'm wearing smelly pajamas (that's a pretty mental image, isn't it?).

Even so, that doesn't stop the feeling from snaking up; you know, that feeling that I get every so often, the one I try to push back down and rationalize away...the one that tells me that I'm fat and ugly. This is the message that I have learned after decades of exposure to the general media...the media that fails to make known - at least not to adolescents - that the women on billboards and the covers of magazines not only don't look like that every day, the photo itself is not an accurate representation of the woman in the photo (hence: Photoshopping!). Even as an adult, knowing about how these images are made, I still see the message that NO ONE - not even those held as standards of beauty- is beautiful enough.

I know that this is turning into a bit of a rant, but this issue cannot be separated from the dramas of getting married. Brides are urged to look their best in the dress; that is not something I disagree with. What frustrates me is the perpetuated idea that I, as I am today, am not good enough to marry unless I lose 15 pounds before the big day. I love who I am and I work pretty hard at loving how I look, including how I feel about my body.

Yes, I want to look my best on my wedding day and I do want to feel that I look beautiful in the photos, but I want the reason I that I look beautiful to be centered on how blissfully happy I am that day. I want to look MY best. And I don't want to feel like there is anyone who thinks that MY best isn't enough. I know that Chris won't think so. He always thinks I'm beautiful.